Making Peace Vigil

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Archive for February, 2013


Posted by strattof on February 7, 2013


  • Mali was under French colonial rule from 1892 – 1960.
  • From the time of Mali’s independence in 1960, the Tuareg people of the north have been struggling for an independent Tuareg state.
  • In January 2012, this conflict accelerated, with the Tuareg liberation movement using arms that came from Libya where the ousting of Colonel Qaddafii unleashed massive stores of weapons.
  •  In March, the Malian military seized power in a coup, citing government failure to put down the northern rebellion.
  • In April, the Tuareg liberation movement declared independence in northern Mali.
  • In June, Islamic insurgents who had helped in the struggle for Tuareg independence turned on the Tuareg and took over the north.
  • In January 2013, the French, with logistical support from the US, Canada, and other European countries, intervened at the request of Mali’s government.


  • Colonial Boundaries: The French created Mali by combining two very distinct geographical regions, the Sahara desert in the north, with Tuaregs making up the majority of the population, and a savannah zone in the south, dominated by the Bambara. The boundaries European colonial powers imposed on Africa ignored pre-existing African boundaries and forms of governance and were intended to benefit European powers.
  • Toppling of Colonel Qaddafi: Military interventions often have unintended consequences. The intervention of NATO forces in the civil war in Libya led to the downfall of Colonel Qaddafi. NATO did nothing to safeguard the cache of arms left over from the Qaddafi regime and from western arms supplied to Libyan rebels. These weapons ended up in the north of Mali, in the hands of both Tuareg independence fighters and Islamic insurgents. 
  • Western attacks on Muslim countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya: Western wars against Muslim countries = a proliferation of Islamic insurgents.
  • Post-Independence Regional Inequality: Although resources are concentrated in northern Mali, the north is the poorest region in the country. As a result of climate change, the north is also experiencing increasingly long and severe droughts.
  • Poverty in Mali: This is the main reason for the civil war in Mali. 51% of Malians live on less than $1.25 a day. Mali is the 10th poorest country in the world. In the centuries prior to French colonization, Mali was very wealthy.


Mali shouldn’t be poor. It has an abundance of natural resources, including uranium and gold. There are two main reasons for Mali’s poverty:

1.   68 years of exploitation by the French during the colonial era

2.   Decades of exploitation by corporations in the era of globalization


  • Northern Mali is rich in uranium.
  • France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power and is a major exporter of nuclear power.


In support of the French intervention in Mali, Canada has sent a C-17 transport plane and an unspecified number of special forces soldiers. Mali is also the third biggest recipient of Canadian assistance in Africa. In 2010-11, Canada provided Mali $110 million in aid. Why is Canada paying so much attention to Mali?

  • Economic Interests: Like France, Canada has economic interests in northern Mali, which, in addition to uranium, has huge deposits of gold. A number of Canadian gold mining companies are operating in Mali, the biggest of which is Toronto-based Iamgold Corp.
  • Increasing Western Influence in Africa and Containing China: These are US policies which Canada supports in order to bolster its own economic activities in Africa. Begun in the Bush era, these policies use the pretext of fighting terror to provide military assistance to African governments that safeguard western economic interests. The US has troops in 35 African countries. China is Africa’s biggest trading partner. Canada has more mines in Africa than China.


French and Malian troops have taken back the main urban centres of northern Mali. However, like the intervention of NATO forces in Libya, the intervention in Mali is having, and will continue to have, unintended consequences:

  • The death of civilians, killed by French aerial bombardments
  • The displacement of 1000s of people, creating a humanitarian crisis
  • Human rights abuses committed by both sides in the conflict
  • Hostage taking at a gas field in Algeria by Islamic insurgents in direct response to French intervention in Mali
  • The creation of more Islamic insurgents


  • The intervention will not address the root issues of Malian poverty and regional inequality. Hence civil war will break out again.
  • We need only to think of Afghanistan and Iraq to understand the likely outcome of intervention in Mali.

You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb the world to peace. —Michael Franti


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Posted by strattof on February 1, 2013


Idle No More started as a response to the Harper government’s second omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45. An omnibus bill is a proposed law that packages together a number of different bills or measures into one piece of legislation to be accepted in a single vote.

Omnibus bills are not illegal. However, if an omnibus bill is lengthy and puts together many unrelated measures, it becomes an affront to and an assault on democracy. 

Bill C-45 is 457 pages long and combines 60 different measures. As a result, MPs – not to mention ordinary Canadians – will have had difficulty knowing what is in the bill. The scale and scope of the bill also means that the measures were not subject to the usual detailed clause-by-clause analysis by committees or parliament.

In short, omnibus bills, such as Bill C-45, are a stealthy way to slip legislation past the Canadian public and to force it unscrutinized through parliament. 


Bill C-45 radically alters the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canada’s first environmental law, passed by Parliament in 1882. The changes drastically weaken the environmental protection of Canada’s waterways, excluding 99% of Canadian lakes and rivers from federal environmental oversight. The bill also exempts pipelines from the act.

These changes will have a negative impact on all Canadians:

  • They put clean drinking water at risk.
  • They will negatively affect fish and fisheries.
  • They violate First Nations Treaty rights. Waterways were never surrendered. The changes were made without consultation or consent.

Who will benefit from these changes? Natural resource industries. Projects, such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, will now have free reign to disrupt and impact Canadian waterways with no regard for the environment or human health.

Bill C-45 is not the Harper government’s first attack on environmental regulations. Since 2006, it has been working to dismantle environmental monitoring systems that stand in the way of resource development.


All Canadians, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, benefit from the Treaties. The Scarth Street Mall, where we stand every Thursday, is on Treaty 4 land. So too are Taylor Field and Wascana Park.

First Nations have kept their side of the Treaty agreements. The Canadian government, on the other hand, has frequently failed to recognize its Treaty commitments.

These failures include:

  • Education: A child who attends school on a reserve receives on average 25% less in government funding than other Canadian children.
  • Housing: On-reserve housing is a Treaty right. Reserve housing has been chronically underfunded since at least the 1950s.
  • Resource sharing: Much of Canada’s wealth comes from the exploitation of natural resources, many of which are on First Nations land. Wealth derived from these resources is not being shared, as spelled out in Treaty agreements.

These failures are the reason First Nations live in poverty more than any other people in Canada.




  • October 28 2011: Chief Theresa Spence declared a state of emergency on Attawapiskat First Nation.
  • On December 11 2012, Chief Spence started a liquids-only hunger strike that lasted 44 days.


Reports by the Auditor General, Amnesty International, and the United Nations all show that First Nations live in much worse conditions than any other people in Canada.

Chief Spence’s actions are a desperate attempt to make the Canadian government pay attention to the deplorable living conditions of First Nations and start the Treaty implementation process.    


  • In both instances, the Harper government’s response has been to accuse Chief Spence of financial mismanagement.
  • In the first instance, the government placed Attawapiskat under third party management. A federal court found the arrangement an “unreasonable” response to a humanitarian crisis.
  • In the second instance, the government leaked an audit of Attawapiskat, finding substantial documentation lacking for the $104 million the reserve received from the federal government between April 1 2005 and November 30 2011. 


  • Chief Spence was not elected Chief of Attawapiskat until August 10 2010. She was chief for only 16 months of the 6.5 year-period the audit covers.   
  • The audit does not accuse Chief Spence of corruption, but of not providing adequate paperwork for some transactions.
  • $104 million over a 6.5 year period works out to $16 million a year. Much of it is used to cover services, such as education and water, provided by provincial and municipal governments in non-reserve communities.
  • Attawapiskat has a population of about 2,000. $16 million a year works out to $8,000 per person, less than half of what governments spend on non-Indigenous people.
  • Attawapiskat has been under co-management with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs since 2001. If funds have been mismanaged, it will have been under the watch of the federal government.


“I get asked as I go around, ‘what is Theresa Spence doing?’ I don’t answer that because she can speak for herself. What I do say is, ‘Do you really think that she wants to sit in a teepee on an island on a hunger strike?’ She is doing this because everything else has been taken away. There aren’t any other alternatives.” – Thomas King, author of Medicine River and The Inconvenient Indian.

“To be Indian in Canada today is to see your children suffer. On reserves, in Métis communities and in the cities, Aboriginal children go hungry, lack warm clothing and solid educational resources, die as infants at a rate two to four times the national average and endure immunization rates 20 times lower than the general population.” – Richard Wagamese, author of Keeper ‘n Me and Indian Horse.

“By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, Indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis.” – Amnesty International, December 2012

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