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Archive for August, 2015

THE RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT: THIS BLUE DOT IS OUR ONLY HOME

Posted by strattof on August 27, 2015

The Blue Dot refers to planet earth, as seen from outer space. The Blue Dot Movement is an initiative of the David Suzuki Foundation. It aims to see the right to a healthy environment enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That right includes: ●breathing clean air ●drinking fresh water ●consuming safe food ●knowing about pollutants released into the local environment ●accessing nature ●participating in government decisions that will affect the environment.

As a first step toward achieving this goal, the Blue Dot Movement is calling on all Canadian municipalities to recognize citizens’ right to a healthy environment by making a declaration. Our contribution as citizens is to sign the Blue Dot petition.

77 Canadian municipal governments have already passed resolutions declaring citizens’ right to a healthy environment.

Please sign the Regina Blue Dot petition: http://bluedot.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Petition.pdf

WHY A MUNICIPAL DECLARATION?

  • Declarations are a commitment by municipalities to address local environmental concerns.
  • Municipal governments make decisions that affect the quality of the environment.
  • A municipal declaration is a commitment to principles that will protect, fulfill, and promote the right to a healthy environment.
  • Such a commitment is critical to changing the Charter and seeing legislation that will protect, fulfill, and promote the right to a healthy environment.

REGINA’S UNHEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Currently, Regina does not have a very healthy environment. Our air is polluted with vehicle exhaust fumes and our parks, lawns, and gardens are contaminated with pesticides.

Some areas of our city—notably Harbour Landing and Somerset—face additional environmental challenges because of their proximity to oil industry operations.

ACHIEVING A HEALTHIER ENVIRONMENT: 5 STEPS REGINA CAN TAKE

  1. Reduce the number of cars on the road.
  • Provide Regina Transit with adequate funding so it can improve service and increase ridership. One bus load of passengers takes the equivalent of 40 vehicles off the road, reducing emissions by more than 12,000 tonnes a year.
  • Increase the number of bike lanes.
  1. Place a city-wide ban on the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes.

Over 170 municipalities have banned the cosmetic use of pesticides. In Regina it is still legal to use dangerous pesticides, like 2,4-D, in parks and on lawns and gardens.The Canadian Cancer Society says “Research linking pesticides to serious health issues is significant and growing.”

  1. Ban the transport of tar sands oil through the city by rail or pipeline.

►TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline runs through Regina in the Harbour Landing area. ►A rail line runs through the centre of our city. ►Both present serious safety hazards.

  1. Halt the Somerset development.

Located north of Uplands, Somerset is adjacent to the Co-op Refinery. Oil refineries release pollutants that are linked to asthma in children and heart and lung disease in adults. Both Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region and the provincial Ministry of the Environment oppose the development.

  1. Stop polluting other people’s environment.

Last summer, Regina released 900,000 litres of untreated sewage into the Qu’Appelle watershed. This summer it released 15 million litres. In so doing, Regina has shown total disregard for the well-being of downstream communities.

T A K E   A C T I O N

  1. Learn more about the Blue Dot Movement. There is lots of information online.
  2. Download a petition and start collecting signatures: http://bluedot.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Petition.pdf
  3. Let Mayor Michael Fougere and your City Councillor know you want Regina City Council to pass a resolution declaring citizens’ right to a healthy environment.
  4. Also tell them you want City Council to take steps to make a healthy environment a reality in Regina.

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NO MORE WAR!

Posted by strattof on August 20, 2015

Rather than working for peace, Canada is now engaging in a military first foreign policy.

  • Since 2003, Canada has been endlessly at war: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq-Syria: Canada has been or is there making war.
  • Today, Canada is directly involved in two international wars—Iraq-Syria and Ukraine—and indirectly in at least one other—Palestine-Israel.
  • Earlier this week, Prime Minister Harper promised to boost the number of military reservists from 24,000 to 30,000 if his party is reelected.
  • Canada has refused to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, a treaty aimed at restricting the global arms trade. The US has signed the treaty, as have 127 other countries.

War is not a natural calamity like a tempest or an earthquake; war is man-made and man can prevent it.”—James Endicott (1898 – 1993) Canadian church and peace movement leader

S T R A T E G I E S   O F   W A R 

DEMONIZATION: the identification with evil of the people your side is intent on slaughtering

  • In each of the conflicts in which Canada is involved, our government has demonized one of the combatants: Islamic State in the case of Iraq-Syria, Palestine in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Russia in Ukraine. In the case of Russia, Prime Minister Harper has even gone so far as to compare Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to Hitler.
  • At the same time, our government has idealized “our side,” identifying the west with freedom and democracy.
  • In fact, there are few, if any, totally good guys or bad guys in any of these conflicts, just many varying shades of gray.
  • For example, according to the Canadian government, the crisis in Ukraine was precipitated by Russian aggression in Crimea in 2014. Left out of this version of events is the role of NATO in initiating the crisis. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO began to court former Soviet republics to join the western military alliance. Many have already done so, including Hungary, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia. Currently Canada is campaigning for Ukrainian membership in NATO.
  • Simplistic notions of good and evil lay the groundwork for war by creating a culture of hate and fear. Demonization also makes the lives of whole populations disposable. 

FEAR-MONGERING: deliberately arousing public fear about a particular group of people.

  • The Harper government never tires of telling Canadians that “Jihadi terrorists are threatening Canada.” In fact, the risk to our personal safety from a terrorist attack is statistically in-significant. We accept a much higher risk when we drive a car.
  • The government used fear-mongering to promote its anti-terror legislation, expanding the powers of CSIS and putting the privacy and freedom of speech of Canadians at risk.
  • The politics of fear are also aimed at scaring people into supporting wars against Muslim countries.
  • By stoking fear of Muslims, the Harper government also provides justification for anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada. Such crimes have more than doubled since 2012.

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, trauma, bereavement, displacement, destabilization, poverty.

We in Canada also pay a price:

  • 162 Canadians lost their lives in Afghanistan.
  • Many more are struggling with physical or mental injuries and not getting the help they need from veterans’ services.
  • There are also financial costs to Canadians: Afghanistan: $18 billion; Libya: $347 million; Iraq-Syria: $528 million for the first year; Ukraine: $16 million for the first year.

That’s a lot of money! It could have been spent instead on education, affordable housing, and healthcare.

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

  • War is big business. It is very profitable for Canadian arms producing companies, 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!

4 THINGS TO DO FOR PEACE  

  1. Visit the Peace Garden on Victoria Avenue and Lorne Street. A joint project of Knox-Met United Church and PeaceQuest Regina, the Peace Garden reminds us of the possibility of peace: Inner peace. Peace in our families and communities. Peace in our city. Peace within and between nations. Peace with the planet and all that dwell on it. 
  2. See Testament of Youth, a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman’s point of view. Showing at Regina Public Library Film Theatre, Thursday August 20 – Sunday August 23: 7 pm Thursday and Saturday; 9 pm Friday and Sunday; 2 pm Saturday. 
  3. Read the Kellogg-Briand Pact, available online. Signed in 1928 by most of the world’s nations, including Canada, the pact renounces war as a means of resolving disputes and calls for the use of diplomacy to mediate between opposing forces. 
  4. Ask candidates in the federal election if the leader of their party will be a Prime Minister for peace. Remind them of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

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REMEMBERING HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI 70 YEARS AFTER

Posted by strattof on August 11, 2015

At least as far back as Woodstock in 1969, history has linked folk festivals to the peace movement. This year’s Regina Folk Festival coincides with the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a uranium bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, it dropped a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki. These bombs instantly killed 225,000 people. Burns, injuries, and radiation poisoning would kill many more by the year’s end.

Canada was the primary source of the uranium for the Hiroshima bomb.

On the 70th anniversary of these horrific events,

  • We remember the victims of the 1945 bombings, as well as all those who have died or been injured since in nuclear accidents or from working in the uranium industry.
  • We call on the Canadian government to ban the mining and export of uranium.

70 YEARS AFTER

70 years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the threat of nuclear weapons still looms over humanity.

Together with climate change, nuclear weapons pose one of the greatest threats to human survival—and the threat is growing.

The world’s nuclear weapons powers—the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea—together possess some 17,000 nuclear warheads. All are expanding or “modernizing” their nuclear weapons programs.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

In April, Canada finalized a nuclear deal with India to ship 3,000 tons of uranium there.

According to the CBC, on the very day the pact was signed, India test-fired a nuclear-capable ballistic missile, signalling its neighbours that “Canada was willing to overlook its obligations under the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and contribute to global nuclear proliferation.”

At a July press conference in Regina, Premier Wall praised Prime Minister Harper’s efforts to secure the deal.

Yet non-proliferation experts have said the nuclear deal with India seriously undermines global efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, and will spur nuclear proliferation worldwide:

“Even if Canadian uranium is used only for civilian purposes, ‘whatever uranium India produces domestically will now be freed up for a military program,’ says Greg Koblentz of George Mason University in Washington.”

Arms control experts also say Canada’s uranium will end up fuelling the Indian-Pakistan arms race, directly or indirectly.

Arms control experts estimate the Indian arsenal at 90 to 110 warheads, and its weapons program is growing, as are those of all the other nuclear powers.

Writing for the Arms Control Association, Hans Kristensen has said that none of the nuclear powers appears willing to eliminate its weapons in the foreseeable future.

SOME NUCLEAR WEAPONS HISTORY

1940s: Canadian uranium and scientific expertise played a crucial role in the Manhattan Project, the top-secret US plan to create the bombs eventually dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

1968: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty committed all nuclear weapons states to eliminate their atomic weapons. Canada signed the treaty. India, together with Israel, Pakistan and North Korea are the lone holdouts.

1974: India used Canadian nuclear technology to create its first nuclear weapon.

Today: Most Saskatchewan uranium goes to the US. This uranium supplies much—if not all—of the US military’s depleted uranium (DU) weaponry. International law calls DU weapons—a form of low-level nuclear warfare—Weapons of Mass Destruction. These weapons cause cancer, immune-system failings, kidney damage, and birth defects. The US has used DU weaponry in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo.

Canada should not be exporting uranium to countries that refuse to abide by the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Period.

NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

70 years after the nuclear desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues.

Exporting uranium and nuclear reactors, Canada—one of the original signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty—has actually helped proliferate nuclear weapons. Here are two other ways in which Canada undermines the treaty:

  • Canada never criticizes US use of depleted uranium weapons, not even in those wars in which Canada serves as a US ally.
  • Hypocritically, Canada never asks Israel to give up its sizable, undeclared arsenal of 80+ nuclear weapons, or to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but continues to call for sanctions on Iran despite the nuclear agreement Iran has reached with major world powers.

ANTI-NUCLEAR FOLKSONGS

I’m only seven although I died

In Hiroshima long ago

I’m seven now as I was then

When children die they do not grow

The Byrds, words by Nazim Hikmet

 

We don’t want no nuclear war

With nuclear war we won’t get far

Peter Tosh

 

Just a little boy standing in the rain,

The gentle rain that falls for years.

And the grass is gone,

The boy disappears,

And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,

And what have they done to the rain?

Malvina Reynolds

HIBAKUSHA WORLDWIDE

The posters some of us are holding are from Hibakusha Worldwide, an exhibition “dedicated to the millions of people whose lives have been affected by the nuclear industry.” For more information, go to: http://www.nuclear-risks.org/en/hibakusha-worldwide.html   

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