Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for August, 2011

“So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” Thanks, Jack.

Posted by strattof on August 25, 2011

July 2 2009


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Posted by strattof on August 25, 2011

“After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.”–Dr James Hansen, NASA climate scientist, from Storms of My Grandchildren


Oilsands Quest, a Calgary-based company, already has a lease on 651,565 acres in north western Saskatchewan. It plans to start developing Saskatchewan’s first commercial tar sands project in the very near future.


In early 2011, having discovered that Canada’s tar sands are viewed as an environmental scourge outside of the country, the Canadian government began to promote tar sands oil as “ethical oil.” As Prime Minister Stephen Harper put it, “Canada is a very ethical society and a safe source for the United States in comparison to other sources of energy.”

 But there is nothing ethical about tar sands oil. Indeed, it is an environmental, human, and ethical catastrophe.  


  • Tar sands production generates as much as 20% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. It accounts for 5% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the single biggest contributor to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
  • It takes 3-7 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil. That’s between 230-530 million cubic metres a year.
  • Enough natural gas is used in the tar sands every day to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes for 24 hours. That’s over 25% of Canadian homes.
  • The tar sands are carving huge gashes in the world’s largest intact forest, which serves as a vital absorber of carbon dioxide.  The tar sands are the source of the 2nd fastest rate of deforestation on the planet.
  • The tar sands generate 6,500 barrels of toxic waste every day. This waste is stored in massive unlined tailings ponds that occupy 140 square km of forest along the Athabasca River. These ponds of toxic sludge are so poisonous that birds which accidentally land on them die instantly.


These toxic ponds leak into the Athabasca River at a rate of at least 11 million litres a day. As a result, the river’s levels of toxic chemicals, which include arsenic, cyanide, and naphthenic acids, are steadily rising.

At Fort Chipewyan, a downstream First Nations community, the increase in cancer is 30% higher than in other communities, an increase that coincided with the development of the tar sands. 

In the tar sands region, workers and local residents breathe in pollutant emissions, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and benzene. In 2009, tar sands companies breached Alberta’s air pollution targets 1,556 times or more than 4 times every day.

The federal government subsidizes the tar sands industry to the tune of $1 billion per year.


Two pipelines have been proposed to expand Canadian tar sands exports. One, TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to oil refineries in Texas. The other, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, would carry tar sands oil to the BC coast for shipment to Asia. The Canadian government supports both projects.     

A major concern of those who oppose the pipelines are land and water contamination resulting from pipeline leaks. Although TransCanada claims its pipelines are safe, its first Keystone pipeline, constructed in 2010, has already had 12 leaks in 12 months.

An even greater concern is the further expansion of Canadian tar sands, the source of the world’s most carbon-laden oil. Tar Sands Action, the group organizing the “Stop the Keystone Pipeline” sit-in currently taking place at the White House, puts it this way: Such pipelines are “a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.” In other words, our only chance of stabilizing the climate is to leave the tar sands in the ground.   

“Oil has never been about ethics. It has always been about money. Those who argue the case for ‘ethical oil’ should work to ensure that our energy needs are met in a truly ethical way, now and into the future. In the end, the only truly ethical solution is to phase out oil.” –David Suzuki


Posted in climate, environment, justice | 1 Comment »


Posted by strattof on August 20, 2011

Islamophobia, noun: hostility toward Islam and Muslims; prejudice against or fear of Islam and Muslims; anti-Muslim racism.

In 1997, the Runnymede Trust, a British anti-racist research institute, published a report on Islamophobia, which it defined as ‘an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims.’ The report shows how Islamophobia has four distinct, but inter-connected and mutually reinforcing aspects: social exclusion, violence, prejudice, and discrimination.

The 2001 Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance recognized Islamophobia as a form of racism alongside xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

In 2004, Kofi Annan told a UN conference on Islamophobia that ‘when the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.’


  • The ideas of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-Muslim, anti-immigration right wing extremist who carried out the killings in Norway: Breivik believed his killing spree would set off a civil war in Europe which would culminate in the expulsion of Muslims. Will Nordic-looking males now receive extra scrutiny at Canadian airports? 
  • The initial assumption of many western news outlets that the attacks in Norway were carried out by Islamic extremists: Even after Breivik had admitted to the killings, the Leader-Post ran an opinion piece singling out radical Islam as the real source of violence (‘Canada is just as vulnerable,’ July 26 2011). As a point of fact, only 3 out of 249 terrorist attacks in Europe in 2010 were perpetrated by Islamist groups. None of the acts of terrorism that have occurred on Canadian soil have been carried out by Muslims.  
  • Canadian writer Mark Steyn’s ideas about Muslims and Islam: According to Steyn, Europe is becoming a ‘Eurabia,’ overrun by Muslims. In fact, less than 5% of Europe’s population is Muslim. (Less than 3% of Canadians are Muslim.) In his manifesto, Breivik cites Steyn as one of his influences. Will Mark Steyn soon find himself under CSIS surveillance, his name on a no-fly list? 
  • Media reporting on ‘honour crimes’: The media sensationalize such crimes and at the same time fail to place them in the broader context of violence against women. The result is to stigmatize a minority group as having an immoral culture. Violence against women is not just a Muslim problem. It is a serious problem throughout Canadian society. According to Statistics Canada, 51% of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
  • The hullabaloo over veils: Why are so many non-Muslim Canadians upset or even angry when we see women veiled?  Canadian women who claim to be feminists seem to be particularly disturbed. Does the veil threaten ‘our freedom’? But freedom to do what? Wear a bikini but not a niqab? Why are so many of us calling for a burqa ban? Strict decrees either way deny Muslim women autonomy and agency. Why would a Muslim woman choose to wear a veil? Here’s how Erum Hasan, a social justice advocate based in Toronto, answers that question: ‘for identity, cultural values, political symbolism, anti-consumerism, protection, countering the hyper-sexualization of women or religious belief.’  


The Runnymede report associates eight views of Islam and Muslims with Islamophobia

1.   Islam is seen as a single monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to new realities.

2.   Islam is seen as separate and other–not having any aims or values in common with other cultures.

3.   Islam is seen as inferior to the West–barbaric, irrational, sexist.

4.   Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, engaged in ‘a clash of civilizations.’

5.   Islam is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.

6.   Criticisms made of ‘the West’ by Muslims are rejected out of hand.

7.   Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.

8.   Anti-Muslim hostility is accepted as natural and normal.


1.   The oppressed Muslim woman: The media focuses almost exclusively on the abuse of Muslim women’s rights, while rarely making mention of the accomplishments of Muslim women. Here are the names of four Muslim Canadian women we should all be familiar with but probably aren’t: Zarqa Nawaz, Monia Mazigh, Rukhsana Khan, Sheema Khan. 

 2.   The inherently violent Muslim man: Like most non-Muslim men, most Muslim men hold ordinary jobs and value family and friends. They are not any more violent than non-Muslim men. Much of the violence in today’s world is directed at Muslims by non-Muslims. In 2009, anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada rose by 38%.

These stereotypes are mobilized to justify western wars in Muslim countries. Hence, we were told that Canada is fighting in Afghanistan in order to liberate Afghan women.

The falseness of such claims is quite evident. For example, Canada clearly did not go to war over women’s status. ●No one ever has. ●The Canadian military does not have a feminist agenda. ●Nor does the Canadian government. At the time it was making the claim about liberating Afghan women, the government was also busy shutting down Status of Women offices across Canada and withdrawing funding from Sisters in Spirit, a research initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada that was documenting cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.


Our culture is saturated with Islamophobia. What can we do about it?

  • Think critically. Question our own assumptions.
  • Read against the grain. Look for contradictions. Why, for example, does the west support tyranny in the Arab world and only reluctantly, if at all, recognize the democratic rights of Arab peoples?
  • Raise the subject of Islamophobia with family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Speak out against incidents of Islamophobia.
  • Seek out progressive voices.



Books, Newspapers, and Magazines

  • Rukhsana Khan, Wanting Mor: a novel suitable for ages 15-90, available at Regina Public Library (RPL).
  •  Monia Mazigh, Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar: A book available at the RPL.
  • Sheema Kahn’s articles in the Globe and Mail, many of which have been collected in a book: Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman, available at the RPL.
  • Sumayya Kassamli, ‘Solidarity in Islamophobia: Holding the State and the Left Accountable,’ Briarpatch, January/February 2011: Available online. Google title and author.
  • Erun Hasan, ‘Blanket Condemnations: Contested Feminisms and the Politics of the Burqa,’ Briarpatch, March/April 2010: Available online. Google title and author.

Essays on the Internet

  • Mohammad Fadel, ‘Islam, Gender and the Future of Multicultural Citizenship’:
  • Glen Greenwald, ‘The Omnipotence of Al Qaeda and Meaninglessness of Terrorism’: Google title and author.
  • Naheed Mustafa, ‘My Body Is My Own Business’: Google title and author.

Books for Children

  • Rukhsana Khan, The Roses In My Carpets and Big Red Lollipops: Suitable for 5-9 year olds and available at the RPL.

Television and Movies

  • Little Mosque on the Prairies, by Zarqa Nawaz: Weekly on CBC TV.
  • Me and the Mosque, by Zarqa Nawaz, National Film Board, available at the RPL.  
  • My Name Is Khan: A feature film available on DVD at the RPL.

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Posted by strattof on August 11, 2011

The federal Conservative government intends to pass an Omnibus Crime Bill as part of its US-style law-and-order agenda. The bill includes several pieces of legislation that will have a damaging effect on youth incarceration rates. One of these is Bill C-4, which will expand the types of crimes youth can be charged with. Another is Bill S-10, which includes mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug charges. 

The result will be more youths will be spending more time in prison. It also means large increases in public spending on federal and provincial prison systems.


  • Canada’s crime rate has been falling steadily for the past 20 years and is now at its lowest level since 1973. Is the government ignoring facts at taxpayers’ expense as it pursues its “tough on crime” legislation?
  • “The budget for the Correctional Service of Canada has already increased 86.7 per cent, from $1.597-billion annually since 2006 when the Conservatives took office, and is expected to climb to $3.147-billion by 2013-14” (Globe and Mail, July 21, 2011: “Crime falls to 1973 levels”). 
  • In anticipation of prison population increases, the provinces are expanding or replacing jails. The estimated price tag for building the new and expanded facilities is $2.724 billion. Operating costs to maintain the added beds are likely to be more than $300 million annually. 
  • The average daily cost of keeping an inmate incarcerated in a federal prison is $322.51. That’s $117,716.15 a year. When the offender is maintained in the community the annual cost is about $25,000. That’s savings of 75%. 
  • 78% of inmates in Canadian prisons are non-violent. Only 22% are violent. Non-violent offenders do not need to be in prison. They can be maintained in the community. 
  • “Canada has the highest youth incarceration rate in the Western world, including the United States” (Department of Justice website: 
  • Saskatchewan has the highest youth incarceration rate of any province in Canada. In 2007, 26.2 per 10,000 youth were incarcerated in Saskatchewan, which is more than double the Canadian average of 10.9 per 10,000 youth. 
  • Young people who are put behind bars are 11% less likely to get a job once they get out, compared with those who don’t go to prison. 
  • 81% of the prison population in Saskatchewan is Aboriginal, compared with 11% of the general population.

August is Prisoners’ Justice Month, a time to reflect on Canadian judicial and prison systems.


  • “The omnibus bill’s jail-intensive emphasis confounds criminologists on both sides of the border: as Canada goes the tough-on-crime route when it comes to youth, many US states are going in the opposite direction. They’ve found this strategy doesn’t work and, moreover, it’s bankrupting them” (Globe and Mail, July 18, 2011: “Time to lead”). 
  • When evidence shows that the things that actually reduce crime are education, anti-poverty initiatives, affordable housing, and mental health centres, why does the government choose to put money into prison infrastructure? Who is benefitting from billion dollar prison investments? 
  • What accounts for the high rate of incarceration of Aboriginal people?
    1. Because of excessive surveillance by police and other authorities, Aboriginal people are more likely than non-Aboriginals to be arrested on minor drug-related offences. There is no evidence that Aboriginal people are more likely to use drugs than non-Aboriginals.
    2. A history of colonization and ongoing systemic racism limits and suppresses economic and social opportunities, resulting in many cases in extreme poverty.
    3. In 2010, the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people, aged 25-64, was almost three times that for non-Aboriginals: 16% vs 5%.
    4. The legacy of the residential school system lives on in First Nations communities. The current education system continues to fail Aboriginal students. Only 17% of First Nations have a post-secondary education, as compared to 40% of non-Aboriginal Canadians.
  • When do the media use the word gang? Is it used in relation to non-Aboriginal young men who hang out together? Or is the term reserved for Aboriginal youth? Does racism play a role in perceptions of who is guilty and who is innocent?   
  • If even half of the money Canada spends on imprisoning people were to be invested in education, affordable housing, and healthcare, all Canadians would benefit enormously.


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Posted by strattof on August 4, 2011

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Posted by strattof on August 4, 2011

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a city of 350,000. The bomb instantly killed a third of the population, most of them civilians. Three days later, it dropped another atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki. It too killed tens of thousands of people. In both cities, many more would be dead by the year’s end, as a result of injuries and radiation poisoning.


Canada has never produced an atomic bomb itself, despite having the technical ability to do so. However, Canada’s nuclear record is not innocent. Indeed, Canada has been very much involved in the nuclear arms industry from the beginning.

1942–1969: TRADING ATOMS

  • Canada started trading atoms in 1942 when it joined the US nuclear bomb effort known as the Manhattan Project, providing scientific skill and uranium to US weapons laboratories.  
  • Canada was the primary source of the uranium used in making the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The uranium came from Port Radium, North West Territories.
  •  Between 1945 and 1969, Canada was the main supplier of uranium for the Cold War atomic arsenals of the US and Britain. According to one estimate, Saskatchewan uranium alone was used to produce 27,000 American nuclear weapons.
  •  In 1970, Canada signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Officially, Canada now exports uranium exclusively for the generation of electricity. However, much of that uranium, whether exported raw or as fuel in a nuclear reactor, ends up being used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.


  • In 1974, India used a Canadian nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for its first atomic bomb. The reactor, a forerunner of the CANDU reactor, was a gift to India from Canada. India now has between 40 and 95 nuclear weapons.
  •  India’s nuclear success set off a nuclear arms race with Pakistan. In 1998, Pakistan was able to detonate its first atomic explosion also using plutonium from a Canadian nuclear reactor. The on-going tension between India and Pakistan poses one of the greatest risks of nuclear war in the world today.
  •  Canada has already sold CANDU nuclear reactors to Argentina, China, India, Pakistan, Romania, and South Korea. CANDU produces larger volumes of plutonium than other commercial reactors. Every CANDU reactor that has been sold has been heavily subsidized by Canadian taxpayers.


  • Canada exports 7.3 million kilograms of uranium annually, all of it coming from Saskatchewan and most of it going to the US.
  • This uranium is the initial source of much, if not all, of the depleted uranium currently being used by the US military for the production of depleted uranium weaponry–bullets and rockets coated with depleted uranium, making them dense enough to penetrate tank armour and concrete underground bunkers. 
  • On impact, depleted uranium bursts into flame, releasing tiny radiation particles that contaminate all living things and the environment with deadly radiation with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
  •  A form of low-level nuclear warfare, depleted uranium weapons are classified as weapons of mass destruction under international law. Their demonstrated public health effects include cancer, immune system failings, kidney damage, infertility, and birth defects.
  • The US has used depleted uranium weaponry in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo.  Although both NATO and the US deny it, there are reports of the use of depleted uranium weaponry in the bombing of Libya.


66 years after the nuclear desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues. This is despite the fact that all but 4 countries (India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) are parties to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  

By exporting uranium and nuclear reactors, Canada, one of the original signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has played a key role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Here are two other ways in which Canada undermines the logic of the treaty:   

  • Canada is never critical of US use of depleted uranium in wars, not even those wars in which Canada is also involved as an ally.
  • Hypocritically, Canada regularly calls for new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, but it never asks Israel to give up its sizable, undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons or to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.


With us at the vigil today are the Singers of the Sacred Web.

We invite you to join in the Elm Dance.

From its Latvian roots this intimate folk song has grown into the Elm Dance and is danced by circles of activists around the world, from Novozybkov, 100 miles downwind from Chernobyl, to the uranium mines of northern Saskatchewan.  

Danced with reverence for human and more than human life, and in solidarity with trees who breathe in what we breathe out, the dance begins always with the dancers saying together this statement of intention: ’We do this dance as a way of strengthening our intention to participate in the healing of this beloved planet,  its humans and all beings.’  

On this anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima we dedicate this dance to all places and beings damaged by uranium mining, nuclear weapons, and nuclear power generation, including most recently Fukushima, Japan. 


The Committee For Future Generations is a group from Northern Saskatchewan which is raising awareness about the possibility of a nuclear waste dump coming to this province. The Committee has organized an 820 kilometre walk from Pinehouse to Regina. The purpose of the walk is to wake people up to the reality that northern Saskatchewan is being targeted to store millions of used nuclear bundles which would be highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. 

The walkers will be in Regina on August 16. You are invited to join them on the last leg of their journey down the Green Mile to the Legislative Building. Meet the walkers at about 11 am at 11th Avenue and Albert Street.

Posted in environment, justice | 3 Comments »


Posted by strattof on August 2, 2011

Last month the Canadian parliament voted to extend Canada’s involvement in the NATO military operation in Libya to the end of September. Even the NDP and the Bloc, political parties that sometimes claim to be on the side of peace, voted for the extension. The only dissenting MP was Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party.

The stated goal of the NATO campaign, now in its 5th month, is to protect Libyan civilians from Muammar Qaddafi’s security forces. However, as is indicated by the relentless bombing of government buildings in Tripoli–airstrikes that have already killed one of Colonial Qaddafi’s sons and three of his young grandchildren–the real goal of the mission is “regime change”: to eliminate Colonel Qaddafi.

The recognition by the US and other western nations, including Canada, of the Transitional National Council, an anti-Qaddafi political body based in Benghazi, as Libya’s “legitimate governing authority” is a further indication that getting rid of Colonel Qaddafi is the real goal of the NATO campaign.  


How can we account for the difference in the response of western nations to the uprising in Libya, as compared to the uprisings in other Arab countries, such as Egypt or Yemen? There was no talk in Ottawa about helping the people of Egypt overthrow their dictatorial ruler. Indeed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper continued to back President Hosni Mubarak up until the very last moment. Similarly, western nations have been almost entirely silent in the face of Yemeni government forces gunning down their own citizens. Yet these same nations all clamoured first for sanctions and then for military action against Libya.

OIL: Western countries wish to gain more control over Libya’s energy sector. While Libya only produces about 2% of the world’s oil, it has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves. Libyan oil is also easy to access and high in quality, so production and refinery costs are low.

COMPLIANCE: In contrast to the leaders of many Arab nations, including Egypt and Yemen, Colonel Qaddafi does not always do the bidding of western nations.

When he overthrew the US puppet government of King Idris in 1969, Colonel Qaddafi nationalized Libyan oil resources, thus making sure that Libyans benefited from their country’s oil wealth. He also closed the US military air base in Libya, the biggest in the region.

In 2003, after the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign that leveled so much of Baghdad, Colonel Qaddafi, in a bid to save Libya from such devastation, opened up the Libyan oil industry to western investors. More recently, he began to threaten to renationalize it or to replace western businesses with companies from China, India, Russia, and Brazil.

At no point has Colonel Qaddafi been willing to allow the US to establish a military base in Libya. Following the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and their overthrow of US puppet regimes, Washington became particularly anxious to have a military base in Libya.



The declared goal of the Libyan campaign is to protect civilians from attacks by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. But, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate, aerial bombings pose an enormous danger to civilian populations.

As of mid-July, NATO had carried out about 5,600 airstrikes. According to Libya’s prosecutor general, these airstrikes have been responsible for the death of 1,108 civilians and the wounding of 4,500 more. So far, NATO has only accepted responsibility for 9 civilian deaths.

There are, however, credible reports of many more civilian casualties resulting from NATO airstrikes. For example, the Vatican news agency reported that, in Tripoli alone, at least 40 civilians died as a result of airstrikes in the first two days of the bombing campaign.

While NATO forces have suffered no casualties, many rebel fighters have been killed, some of them by misguided NATO airstrikes. Many members of Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces have also been killed.

In other words, NATO is killing Libyans in the name of protecting Libyans.


As of June 2, the Libyan campaign had cost Canadian taxpayers $26 million. According to Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, the price tag by the end of September will more than double to $60 million.


What $60 million will get us:

  • 261 affordable housing units
  •  5,569 regulated childcare spaces


Colonel Qaddafi used much of Libya’s oil money to build schools, hospitals, roads, power stations, water treatment plants, and communication centres. Much of this infrastructure, the fundamental basis of civilian life, has been destroyed by NATO bombs.


  • The Canadian parliament was not consulted until after Canada had gone to war against Libya, an undermining of democratic principles.
  • Targeted killings are in violation of international law.
  • It is against international law to intervene in a civil war.


  • Let Prime Minister Stephen Harper know you don’t want Canadians killing Libyans in the name of protecting Libyans; you don’t want any more of your tax dollars spent on the war in Libya; you want Canada out of Libya now: or 613-992-4211.



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