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Archive for April, 2015

CANADA AT W AR

Posted by strattof on April 23, 2015

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the first Canadian engagement in the battlefields of World War I, “the war to end all wars.” Fought for control of the strategic town of Ypres Belgium, the Second Battle of Ypres saw the first large-scale use of poison gas on the battlefield. Employed first by Germany, poison gas was soon being used widely by the Allies, with Canadians becoming particularly adept at deploying it. By the end of the war, there were about one million gas casualties, 12,000 of them Canadian.

Anniversaries provide an opportunity for reflection. The First World War caused terrible loss and suffering, claiming the lives of more than 9 million combatants, including 61,000 Canadians. 7 million civilians also died as a direct result of the war.

Sadly, Canada is not using World War I centenaries to promote peace. Rather, our government is utilizing them to glorify war and promote militarism.

G L O R I F Y I N G   W A R

According to the Harper government, Canada is a nation founded in war.

  • In 2012, the Harper government spent $30 million marketing the claim that the War of 1812 was Canada’s founding moment.
  • Now it is spending millions making the same claim about World War I.

This version of Canadian history has three major problems:

  1. It omits the actual founding of Canada in a series of atrocities designed to terrorize First Nations peoples into submission.
  2. Every war Canada has fought has been divisive and led to domestic conflict. World War I led to Quebec separatism.
  3. The invention of a Canadian tradition of militarism is designed to serve present political purposes: to generate support for current wars.

CANADA AT WAR: 2015 

Last month, the Harper government, passed a motion to extend Canada’s military mission in Iraq for another 12 months and to expand it into Syria. Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens all voted against the motion, expressing concern about mission creep, the safety of Canadian soldiers, the support the mission might offer Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, the lack of UN or NATO authorization, and the lack of an exit strategy.

At no point did either side of the House express concern for Iraqi or Syrian civilians. Living in countries already afflicted by the nightmare of never-ending war, how will they be affected by western airstrikes?

Here are figures taken from Body Count, a new report published in the US by Physicians for Social Responsibility: In the first 12 years of the so-called “war on terror,”

  • about a million people were killed in Iraq, and
  • 220,000 people in Afghanistan.

The Canadian government should have considered this report before extending and expanding Canada’s military mission.

T H E   C O S T S   O F   W A R

The costs paid by people in the war zone are horrendous: death, injury, bereavement, displacement, destabilization, trauma, poverty.

We in Canada also pay a cost:

  • 162 Canadians lost their lives in Afghanistan.
  • Many more have returned with wounds visible and invisible and are not getting the help they need from veteran’s services.
  • One Canadian soldier has already been killed in Iraq.
  • The war in Afghanistan cost Canadians at least $18 billion. This is money that could have been spent on education, affordable housing, and healthcare.
  • According to the Harper government, the war in Iraq and Syria will cost Canadians at least $528 million.

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

  • War is big business. It is very profitable for Canadian arms manufacturers, making them $12.6 billion in annual revenues, approximately 50% of which comes from international sales. 
  • There is an all-too-cozy mutually beneficial relationship between governments and armaments industries, a relationship that includes donations to political parties, on the one hand, and approval of military spending, on the other. 
  • Who loses? Ordinary citizens everywhere. 

“We ask for peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn their living with the blood of men and women.”—Pope Francis

M A K I N G   P E A C E

Many Canadians, including Canadians in uniform, know that there is no honour or glory in war and that war is a catastrophe for everyone who experiences it.

What can we do for peace?

  • Tell the Harper government to celebrate peace, not war; to get Canada out of the Middle East; and to seek non-violent negotiated resolutions to conflicts.
  • Mark the 100th anniversary of Canadian engagement in World War I by attending a screening of All Quiet on the Western Front, an anti-war film about World War I: Friday April 24, 7 pm, Knox Met, 2340 Victoria Avenue.
  • Participate in the Peace Walk, part of the Regina Jane’s Walks: Saturday May 2, 1 pm, meet at the Peace Fountain in front of City Hall.

E N D  A L L  W A R S !

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EARTH DAY APRIL 22 2015

Posted by strattof on April 17, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, is EARTH DAY, a time to reflect on the catastrophic damage we are doing to the earth systems that give us life, and a time to start taking action to reverse that damage. 

CLIMATE FACTS

  • The upper safety limit for CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. Today the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 400.26 ppm, well over the safety limit.
  • The leading cause of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Rising CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere are the main cause of climate change.
  • Average global temperature has already risen by .85° C.
  • A global rise in average temperature of 2° C must be avoided if catastrophic consequences for human, animal, and plant life are not to follow.

TAR SANDS OIL COMING TO A PIPELINE NEAR YOU

ENERGY EAST HARBOUR LANDING REGINA 6

Site of proposed Energy East pipeline, Harbour Landing

TransCanada Pipelines wants to ship tar sands oil from Alberta to eastern Canada, mainly for export. Energy East is its proposed method: a 4,400 Km stretch of pipeline—the largest oil pipeline ever built in North America.

To save money, TransCanada plans to convert an already existing natural gas pipeline, originally built in the 1970s, for the Saskatchewan and Manitoba portions of the pipeline. This pipeline cuts right through Regina in the Harbour Landing area.  

The metal structure near the centre of the photograph above marks the pipeline, which comes into Harbour Landing from the west and then turns south at the drainage ditch. The photograph, taken from James Hill Road, shows how close the pipeline is to people’s homes in Harbour Landing.

Energy East will carry 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil a day, putting the communities it passes through at great risk.

TRANSCANADA’S POOR SAFETY RECORD

TransCanada claims its pipelines are safe. Its safety record tells a different story. In its initial year of operation, TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline, constructed in 2010, had 12 spills, including one that spilled 79,493 litres of oil in North Dakota.

The Energy East pipeline plan is extra risky:

  • The Saskatchewan portion of the pipeline is 43 years old.
  • This pipeline was constructed to carry natural gas, not tar sands oil, which is much thicker and more acidic and corrosive and must be pumped at a higher pressure.

Should Energy East be approved, the question is not if, but when there will be pipeline leaks and spills.

This could happen in Regina

On March 29 2013, the citizens of Mayflower Arkansas woke to find their streets flooded with tar sands oil. An old Exxon pipeline had ruptured, spilling more than 1 million litres of tar sands oil in community neighbourhoods and waterways.

ENERGY EAST: AN ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD

  • Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada.
  • Over the last 25 years, Canada’s CO2 emissions have increased by 18%.
  • Climate scientists warn that, if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must leave at least 80% of tar sands oil in the ground.

TAR SANDS MADNESS

  • The Harper government subsidizes the tar sands industry to the tune of $1.3 billion per year. It also supports Energy East, along with every other tar sands pipeline project.
  • Premier Brad Wall is a vocal champion of Energy East.
  • Even though it endangers his city, Regina’s Mayor, Michael Fougere, thinks Energy East is none of his business.

TAKE ACTION FOR EARTH DAY 

Join the People’s Intervention. Go to http://350.org/stop-the-energy-east pipeline/  

Tell Mayor Michael Fougere you want Regina to follow the good example of Toronto and ban the transport of tar sands oil through the city by rail or pipeline: 306-777-7339 or mayor@regina.ca

Tell Premier Brad Wall you don’t want Energy East running through your community or province: 306-787-9433 or premier@gov.sk.ca

2015 is a federal election year. Tell the candidates in your electoral district you want the government to stop subsidizing the tar sands industry and to start investing in clean energy.

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SPEAKING TRUTH ABOUT WAR

Posted by strattof on April 10, 2015

SPEAKING TRUTH ABOUT WAR

Last week, the Harper government passed a motion to extend Canada’s military mission in Iraq for another 12 months and to expand it into Syria. Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens all voted against the motion, expressing concern about mission creep, the safety of Canadian soldiers, the support the mission might offer Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, the lack of UN or NATO authorization, and the lack of an exit strategy.

At no point did either side of the House express concern for Iraqi or Syrian civilians. Living in countries already afflicted by the nightmare of never-ending war, how will they be affected by western airstrikes?

Here are figures taken from Body Count, a new report published in the US by Physicians for Social Responsibility: In the first 12 years of the so-called “war on terror,”

  • about a million people were killed in Iraq, and
  • 220,000 people in Afghanistan.

The Canadian government should have considered this report before extending and expanding Canada’s military mission.

T H E   C O S T S   O F   W A R

The costs paid by the people in the war zone are horrendous: death, injury, bereavement, displacement, destabilization, trauma, poverty.

We in Canada also pay a cost:

  • 162 Canadians lost their lives in Afghanistan.
  • Many more have returned with wounds visible and invisible and are not getting the help they need from veteran’s services.
  • One Canadian solider has already been killed in Iraq.
  • The war in Afghanistan cost Canadians at least $18 billion. This is money that could have been spent on education, affordable housing, and healthcare.
  • According to the Harper government, the war in Iraq and Syria will cost Canadians at least $528 million.

DIRE CONSEQUENCES

Will western military operations against ISIS bring about any good outcome? Have the first 13 years of the so-called “war on terror” had a beneficial outcome?

  • Descent into chaos and violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya: Where is the promised freedom and democracy?
  • The emergence of ISIS in Iraq, a direct result of the 2003 US-led occupation of Iraq.
  • Endless war in the whole Middle East region.
  • Violence in western countries, including Canada ‒ which should not surprise us: To inflict violence on other countries is to invite retaliation. How many Muslim countries has Canada inflicted violence on recently? 

“War begets violence and hatred that only begets more violence and hatred.”—Archbishop Desmond Tutu

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

  • War is big business. It is very profitable for Canadian arms manufacturers, making them $12.6 billion in annual revenues, approximately 50% of which comes from international sales. 
  • There is an all-too-cozy mutually beneficial relationship between governments and armaments industries, a relationship that includes donations to political parties, on the one hand, and approval of military spending, on the other. 
  • Who loses? Ordinary citizens everywhere. 

“We ask for peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn their living with the blood of men and women.”—Pope Francis

M A K I N G   W A R

The Harper government likes war.

  • It celebrates every war anniversary it can get its hands on: the War of 1812, the Boer War, each and every World War I and II battle Canadians engaged in.
  • Rather than remembering the horror and misery of war, the Harper government speaks of war’s honour and glory. Only people who have not fought in a war think war is glorious.
  • All too eagerly, the Harper government marches us off to war, justifying military action by demonizing one of the combatants (ISIS in the case of Iraq and Syria).
  • Double standards are another of the Harper government’s tactics. For example, what it labels “terrorism” has killed a miniscule number of Canadians. How many Afghans, Libyans, Iraqis, and Syrians have our guns and bombs killed?

M A K I N G   P E A C E

Many Canadians, including Canadians in uniform, know that there is no honour or glory in war and that war is a catastrophe for everyone who experiences it.

What can we do for peace?

  • We can tell the Harper government to get Canada out of the Middle East.
  • We can also tell the Harper government that we want Canada to seek non-violent negotiated resolutions to conflicts.
  • On an on-going basis, we must work to avoid being swayed in irrational directions by the warmongers.
  • We must also ensure that our definition of “terrorism” includes the atrocities committed by the west.

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ISLAMOPHOBIA

Posted by strattof on April 2, 2015

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.

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.’

In 2011, the Center for American Progress published a report on Islamophobia, which it defined as “an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility towards Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from…social, political, and civic life.

ISLAMOPHOBIA: CANADIAN STYLE

  • DEMONIZING MUSLIMS: In contrast to other western governments, the Harper government goes out of its way to identify Islam and Muslims with terrorism. By regularly using terms such as “Islamic terrorism,” it demonizes an entire religion and promotes hatred and fear of those who follow the religion.
  • FOREIGN WARS: Approximately 140 Canadian Muslims have joined Islamic State or other militant groups in the eastern Mediterranean. About the same number of Canadians joined Israel in its brutal attack on Gaza in 2014. Members of the first group have been labelled “terrorists.” Members of the second group have not been so labeled.
  • “LONE WOLF” ATTACKS: In 2014, there were three “lone wolf” attacks in Canada.  Two ‒ the fatal shooting of a policemen in Quebec and the attack on Parliament Hill ‒ were carried out by “recent converts to Islam.” A third ­‒ the fatal shooting of three Mounties in Moncton ‒ was the act of a young man from “a good Christian family.” The Harper government, along with the media, labelled the first two attacks “terrorist.” Neither the Harper government nor the media used the term “terrorist” or “Christian terrorism” in relation to the third attack. In our society, terrorist = Muslim.
  • THE GERMANWINGS CRASH (MASS MURDER): If the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had been a Muslim would the crash have been called an act of terrorism?
  • MORE DOUBLE STANDARDS: Islamic State has killed a number of captives by beheading them. Undoubtedly, these are, as Prime Minister Harper says, “brutal and barbaric” acts. But are they any worse than dismembering people by dropping bombs on them?

WHO’S ANTI-WOMEN?

In 2011, the Harper government banned the wearing of the niqab, a face veil, from citizenship ceremonies. Earlier this year, a federal judge struck down the ban as unlawful. The Harper government intends to appeal the ruling.

According to Stephen Harper, wearing a niqab at citizenship ceremonies is “offensive,” “contrary to our own values,” and “rooted in a culture that is anti-women.”

When will men stop telling women what they can and cannot wear!

Harper also seems to be projecting his own anti-women values on to Muslims. ●In 2006, the Harper government shut down Status of Women offices across Canada. ●In 2010, the Harper government withdrew funding from Sisters in Spirit, a research initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada that was documenting cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. ●The Harper government continues to refuse to hold a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

ISLAMOPHOBIA: CONSEQUENCES

Promoting anti-Muslim fear and hatred, Islamophobic views lay the groundwork for:

  • Western wars in Muslim countries: Earlier this week, the Harper government passed a motion to extend Canada’s military mission in Iraq for a year and expand it into Syria.
  • “None is too many” immigration policies: The Harper government says it plans to resettle up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years, giving priority to “persecuted ethnic and religious minorities.” This means Canada will offer refuge preferentially to Christians and other minority commu-nities. The majority of those affected by the war in Syria are Sunni Muslims who make up 75% of Syria’s population.
  • Bill C-51, the so-called Anti-Terrorism Act: This bill jeopardizes Canadian rights and freedoms, including the right to privacy and freedom of speech. Those most likely to be targeted are Canadian Muslims, Indigenous peoples, and environmental groups. However, we are all at risk.

CHECK YOUR ISLAMOPHOBIA

Canadian culture is saturated with Islamophobia. Almost all of us are infected with it. What can we do about it?

  1. Think critically. Question our own assumptions.
  2. Read against the grain. Look for contradictions. Why, for example, does the Harper government regularly condemn Iran for its supposed nuclear weapons program and never raise the issue of Israel’s undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons?
  3. Raise the subject of Islamophobia with family, friends, and colleagues.
  4. Call out Islamophobic statements and assumptions wherever we encounter them. Learn to do so in a manner that provokes thought rather than anger.
  5. Seek out progressive voices: Regina’s own Zarqa Nawaz, Sheema Kahn, Monia Mazigh, Chris Hedges, Robert Fisk, Glen Greenwald, the late Edward Said.

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