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Archive for November, 2013

CANADIAN MINING COMPANIES: HUMAN RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS

Posted by strattof on November 30, 2013

CANADA, A MINING SUPERPOWER

Canada is a superpower in the global mining industry, with 60% of the world’s mining companies based in Canada, generating $50 billion a year for Canadians.

Some of these mining companies have been implicated in major human rights violations and environmental degradation in countries of the Global South. Their practices include:

  • Developing mines without adequate consultation and in violation of the rights of Indigenous peoples
  • Doing irreparable environmental damage
  • Engaging in corrupt practices and intimidation tactics
  • Contributing directly or indirectly to violence
  • Plundering resources without adequate compensation

TESTIMONIALS: VOICES FOR JUSTICE

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has initiated a campaign to make Canadian mining companies more accountable. The goal of the campaign is the creation of an independent mining ombudsman to receive and investigate complaints and assess compliance with corporate accountability standards.

To help raise awareness in Canada, Development and Peace has collected testimonials from communities in Honduras, Madagascar, Peru, and the Philippines. What these voices for justice tell us is that the revenues from mining are not leading to long-term development for their communities, and, in many cases, communities are facing gross injustices.  

MADAGASCAR

The arrival of a Canadian mine in Moramanga, Madagascar brought with it a wave of hope for the community. The mine, they imagined, would contribute to the development of the community, reduce the unemployment rate, especially amongst youth, and improve the quality of life of the residents. Their optimism, however, was quickly replaced by disenchantment and apprehension.

Since the arrival of the mine, I have not seen any improvements in the quality of life of my children or my grandchildren. On the contrary, we are becoming more impoverished by the day because the mining company forbids us from expanding our fields.” – Village Chief Mr. Rakotoarimanana

PHILIPPINES

In 1996, the island of Marinduque in the Philippines was the site of one of the worst environmental disasters in the country, when the dam of a Canadian-owned mine collapsed, launching 1.6 million cubic metres of toxic chemicals and heavy sediment into the Boac River. The river has never been rehabilitated. 

Before the mine, we were worry-free. But now, the river is polluted and we are very afraid of flooding. I really don’t want to live a life full of fear every time it rains.” – Eliza Hernandez who lives near the contaminated Boac River

HONDURAS

“I am concerned by the open-pit mines that are being established in our region. They consume huge quantities of water, cause riverbeds to dry up, and contaminate the rivers with cyanide, which affects the surrounding communities…. In the end, the mining companies have won over the government, who lets them do whatever they want and gives concessions to everyone. So, I am calling on Canadians to react, to write to the government so that there is justice and respect for the environment. The Earth was given by God and we must exploit it, but in a way that makes it all the more beautiful, not that destroys it.”Bishop Guy Charbonneau, Choluteca, Honduras

CAMPAIGNS FOR MINING JUSTICE

The current Development and Peace campaign is not the first campaign calling for mining justice.

2010, Bill C-300: Many Canadians supported a private member’s bill on responsible mining, Bill C-300. The bill was defeated on second reading as a result of intense lobbying by mining companies. If passed, the bill would have held Canadian mining companies responsible for human rights and environmental violations in other countries.  

2010, Development and Peace campaign for more accountable mining companies, including the establishment of an independent mining ombudsman: The campaign collected half a million signatures. However, instead of appointing an independent ombudsman, the Harper government created the office of the Extractive Sector for Corporate Social Responsibility. Since the participation of mining companies is voluntary, the office has been ineffective at resolving conflicts.  

2013, Development and Peace campaign for an independent mining ombudsman: Let’s make sure this campaign is successful. Turn to the back page of this flyer and find out how you can be a voice for mining justice.

TAKE ACTION: BE A VOICE FOR JUSTICE

  • Google “development and peace take action,” click on “Take action! Write your MP,” and send a message to your MP.
  • For more information on the actions of Canadian mining companies, go to www.miningwatch.ca  

The information in this pamphlet is taken from the Fall Education Campaign of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

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HONOURING VETERANS OF WAR

Posted by strattof on November 21, 2013

F A C T  S H E E T 

  • 750,000: Approximate number of veterans of all wars in Canada 
  • 39,000:  Number of Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan 
  • 8,026: Number of Canadian soldiers released from  the military because of injury or illness between 2006 and 2011 
  • 3,900: Number of Afghanistan veterans the Canadian forces estimate will be diagnosed with some form of occupational stress injury     

Earlier this month, on November 11th, Canadians honoured our veterans of war at Remembrance Day services. Surely the best way to honour ill and injured veterans would be for our government to offer them adequate compensation for their often horrific and life-changing injuries. But that is not happening in Canada.

THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER

In 2006, the Harper government replaced the Pension Act, used since the First World War, with the New Veterans Charter. Under the Charter, Canadian soldiers making an application for disability benefits are awarded a one-time, workers-compensation-style lump sum payout, rather than life-time pension.

Studies show the Charter is a financial disaster for many disabled soldiers. ●For those severely disabled, it can mean a 40% reduction from what they would have received under the Pension Act. ●It can also mean receiving 90% less than what other Canadian workers would receive for the same injuries.   

REACTIONS TO THE CHARTER

Veterans Ombudsman: Charter Failing Veterans

In his June 2013 report, Canada’s veterans ombudsman, Guy Parent, found that the New Veterans Charter is failing many veterans and the Canadian government needs to take “urgent action.” According to the report:

  • More than 400 of the most severely wounded and disabled veterans are at risk of spending their retirement years in poverty.
  • 53% of veterans assessed as “totally and permanently incapacitated” have not been awarded impairment benefits.
  •  Benefits meant to help veterans transition from a military to civilian career are inadequate.
  • Compensation for pain and suffering is lacking.

Afghanistan War Vets Take Charter To Court

  • In 2012, a group of wounded Afghanistan war veterans filed a class-action lawsuit in B.C. against the federal government over the lump-sum disability payment under the Charter, arguing that it is meagre in comparison with the lifetime disability pension and that it violates the Canadian Charter.  
  • Federal lawyers argued for a dismissal of the veterans’ class-action lawsuit, saying Ottawa has no moral obligation to care for veterans.
  • Last month, a B.C. Supreme Court ruling allowed the case to proceed.
  • The Harper government says it will appeal the ruling, a stalling tactic that could delay the case for years.

VETERANS FURTHER DISHONOURED 

Injured Soldiers Booted From Military  

  • To qualify for an indexed pension, a Canadian soldier must serve in the military for 10 years.
  • To remain in service, a soldier must be fit to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
  • In a bid to balance the budget, the Harper government is not allowing wounded soldiers who are unable to meet the deployment rule to remain in service long enough to reach pension eligibility.

Veterans Affairs Offices Shut Down

In another cost-saving move, the Harper government is closing 9 Veterans Affairs offices by February 2014. In the words of a veteran who depends on the services of a soon-to-be closed office: “It’s just going to kill us…,They couldn’t do it on the battlefield so they’re going to do it right here in Ottawa” (CTV Atlantic).

Dignified Funeral Applications Denied

Since 2006, a federal fund meant to ensure veterans have a dignified funeral has rejected 20,147 applications submitted by families of low-income soldiers for a funeral stipend. The rejections represent 66% of the requests received.

T A K E   A C T I O N

  • Tell Stephen Harper the Government of Canada has made a commitment to provide care to all veterans and you want his government to meet that commitment. Remind Mr. Harper of the words he spoke at last month’s Conservative Party convention: “Let’s never forget that only this party takes to heart the debt owed to our brave men and women in uniform.” pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  • Send the same message to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Julian Fantino: julian.fantino@parl.gc.ca or 613-996-4971.
  • Sign the petition calling on the Canadian government to provide life-long support for wounded veterans. Google “change.org Canadian veterans” or go to  www.change.org/petitions/government-of-canada-our-wounded-veterans-deserve-life-long-support 

P U T   A N   E N D   T O   W A R

Another way to honour ill and injured veterans would be to avoid creating new generations of wounded and dead soldiers.

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GREY CUP SPECIAL

Posted by strattof on November 21, 2013

The Riders did it! We’re in the Grey Cup!! GO RIDERS!!! As we celebrate the Riders’ big win in Calgary, it might also be a good time to review some of the gains and losses in the fields of peace and social justice.  First, let’s CELEBRATE GAINS.

TOUCHDOWN, SYRIAAgreement to dismantle chemical weapons. After questionable calls for war by the United States, a great block by the British Parliament who refused to go along. Stars of this game: Russia and the United States, who negotiated and resolved differences without war, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its work. Unfortunately the civil war goes on, continuing to inflict terrible suffering on the people of Syria.

FIRST DOWN, CANADIAN SENIORS Programs reduce poverty. Starring the Canada Pension Plan, with support from OAS and GIS.  While the outcome was in doubt for many years, these programs have dramatically reduced poverty for seniors.  But in recent years there has been a small, worrisome increase in senior poverty that threatens this great gain.

5 YARD GAIN, HOUSING Housing First. The Mayor’s Housing Commission supports a Housing First approach that aims to reduce homelessness in the City. There is $1.5 million per year in federal funding for this program.

NO GAINS

ARMED CONFLICTS: In 2012, there were 26 armed conflicts in 23 countries and none of the conflicts that were ongoing in 2011 ended. The Syrian civil war was the most deadly in 2012.

CHILD POVERTY: Canada has not eliminated child poverty. 14 per cent of Canadian children are in poverty, a rate that is in the bottom third for well-off, industrialized countries.

PUBLIC TRANSIT: No increase in the 2013 Regina Transit budget even with a 9% increase in ridership in 2012. The $600,000 in surplus revenue from ticket sales went back into general revenues. One bus load of passengers takes the equivalent of 40 vehicles off the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15,000 tonnes a year.

LOSSES

CLIMATE: Earlier this year, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. The safe threshold for atmospheric CO2 is 350 parts per million. The leading cause of increase in atmospheric CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels. Rising CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere are a major cause of climate change. Climate change has dramatically increased the risk of extreme weather events, such as the super typhoon which has wrecked such devastation on the Philippines.

PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS (P3s): The loss of the referendum permits the City of Regina to provide wastewater treatment through a P3. It is a blow to those who support provision of essential services by the City. The provincial government appears intent on pursuing a P3 model for schools. Adoption of this model threatens the quality of schooling in the province.

DEPORTATION OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS: After more than a year in sanctuary, two University of Regina students who mistakenly worked off campus at Walmart were deported from Canada on October 18 2013.  Walmart has not been held accountable.

A SOCIAL JUSTICE COACH’S PLAY CHART FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING

1   A short pass to start a long downfield march: A rent control program for the province, with rent rollbacks for those at low incomes. 

2   Another first down straight ahead: A City of Regina program to provide adequate housing for the homeless and hidden homeless – those couch-surfing, doubling up, living in vehicles, or staying in shelters. A Housing First policy for the city is a good start.

3   A long run almost to the goal line: A provincial and City of Regina program to create affordable rental housing.   

4   Touchdown, game, and Cup winner: A program to create and maintain affordable housing for all Canadians, including those at middle and lower income, as well as seniors, renters, and homeless people. This program needs to be well funded, with an ongoing commitment by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, as well as the construction and housing industry.

WE ARE THE 13th WOMAN AND MAN

Just as a loud crowd of Rider fans can influence the outcome of a Rider game, so a loud crowd of citizens can help shape or even change government policy. Be the 13th person for housing justice.

Let Prime Minister Stephen Harper know you want the federal government to develop an adequately funded, long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.

Let Premier Brad Wall know you want the provincial government to pass rent control legislation: bwall@mla.legassembly.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.

Let Mayor Michael Fougere know you want the City of Regina to require all developers to include truly affordable housing in their plans or pay a fee into an affordable housing account: mfougere@regina.ca or 306-777-7339. 

FUMBLE ALERT, Somerset – Building housing on land between Evraz steel plant and the Co-op refinery could create an unsafe neighbourhood. Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, and the Co-op are concerned about air quality in the proposed Somerset development.  Access and proximity to a rail line are further problems. Don’t let the City fumble the ball on this one. 

Tell Mayor Fougere and City Council to postpone approval of building plans until a full environmental assessment can be done.  

G  O    R  I  D  E  R  S !

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