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2014 Peoples’ Social Forum comes to Ottawa

2014 Peoples’ Social Forum, Ottawa

A Peoples’ Social Forum (PSF) which has been several years in the planning will occur at the University of Ottawa on August 21-24 and organizers are expecting thousands of people to attend. There will be …

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CRA audits of charities politically driven

Conservatives creating 'advocacy chill'

Canada Revenue Agency headquarters in Ottawa

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is auditing at least a dozen environmental, poverty reduction and human rights organizations in what is a thinly-disguised attack by the Conservatives against groups that have dared to oppose …

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Canadian churches and World War I

The Kaiser as mad dog

Canadian war graves at Vimy, France

Canada followed Great Britain into war with Germany and its allied powers 100 years ago this week. Tens of thousands of young Canadians, most of British descent, enlisted either voluntarily or due to …

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The war in Gaza: history does matter

Gaza under attack 2014, Wikipedia image

Israel has launched another bloody invasion into Gaza Strip. In response to rocket attacks by the group Hamas, Israel has shelled and bombed targets in tiny coastal region — including homes, hospitals …

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PeaceQuest wants Peace Tower rededicated

Group promotes 'counter narrative' to militarism

Peace Tower in Ottawa. Dennis Gruending photo

One hundred years ago this month Europe stumbled into a catastrophic war after a Bosnian Serb assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne along with his wife in Sarajevo. The great …

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No to fracking in New Brunswick

Citizens launch “peoples” lawsuit

Anti-fracking protest in New Brunswick, 2013

People in New Brunswick have launched two lawsuits in an attempt to stop shale gas development, commonly known as fracking, in their province. One of the actions was launched against the Crown in the persons of the Health Minister and the Attorney General by individuals who belong to the New Brunswick Anti-shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA), an organization which represents 22 non-profit and community groups.

The second suit is against the provincial and federal governments and Houston-based Southwestern Energy Resources, a company involved in the exploration for shale gas. Popularly called the “peoples lawsuit” involves a group of 18 individuals, including an organic farmer who once lived and worked in Alberta, a Mi’kmaq woman and her Acadian husband, a sound technician, a Maliseet Grand Council leader, and 59-year-old Lorraine Clair, a Mi’kmaq woman who said she was arrested for protesting against SWN and ordered by the courts not to participate in any further demonstrations. Larry Kowalchuk, a lawyer based in Regina, Saskatchewan, is representing both of the New Brunswick groups.

Fracking is the short hand description for a process in which fractures in rocks below the earth’s surface are opened and widened by injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure. Hydraulic fracking is the only way in which shale gas can be mined. The NBASGA argues in its statement of claim that chemicals used in fracking will permanently contaminate the water supply and fresh water aquifers with carcinogens and cause other environmental damage, including air pollution. The group says fracking poses such an extreme threat to human health and the environment that it violates Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees all Canadians the right to security of their person.

The NBASGA points to a long list of organizations in New Brunswick — including doctors and nurses, local governments, First Nations,  environmental, union and church groups — who are calling for a moratorium on fracking until such a time as there is incontrovertible proof that it can be done safely.

The statement of claim says as well that Nova Scotia, Quebec, Newfoundland, the American states of New York and Vermont, as well as several nations including France, have all imposed a moratorium on the process of unconventional exploration for shale oil and gas.

CBC News also cites a recent report by 14 international experts commissioned by Environment Canada, which concluded that “data about potential environmental impacts [of hydraulic fracking] are neither sufficient nor conclusive.”

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Northern Gateway and Aboriginal rights

Poor process and environmental risk

Northern Gateway pipeline route. Sierra Club of Canada image

No one was surprised when the Harper government approved the 1,200-kilometre Northern Gateway pipeline, which would move diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, B.C., along the west coast. There, the product would be loaded onto supertankers that will ply the pristine Douglas Channel and the coast before making its way to export markets in Asia.  This government, like those in other petro states, is close to the oil industry and has acted as its partner and advocate rather than as a guardian of the public interest.

There are many reasons why the pipeline should not be built, and they overlap. One is the danger of a major oil spill from a supertanker. Another is that Enbridge, the major corporate player involved, has a history of pipeline fractures, which spew oil into the lands and waters through which pipelines pass.

Other potent arguments are that the pipeline would run through lands claimed by First Nations and that the oil tankers traveling along the coast would do so adjacent to lands that belong to or are claimed by various First Nations. They have not been consulted in any significant way, even at this late stage when the National Energy Board says — and the government agrees — that the pipeline should go ahead.

Enbridge has been tone deaf in its dealings with First Nations. In one case, workers acting on behalf of the company razed a stand of ancient cedars which had been marked by the Haisla First Nation near Kitimat long before B.C. had even become a British colony. The Haisla have since made it clear that Enbridge employees are not welcome on their land.

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Canadians must respond to Syrian crisis

Accept 10,000 refugees in next two years

Refugee Aurelia Achor has sponsored 29 others. Dennis Gruending photo

Canadians are being urged to respond to Syria’s humanitarian crisis by accepting at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years. In one event calling attention to the issue, a group called The Coalition in Ottawa for Refugees recently held a noon-hour rally at the human rights monument adjacent to city hall. Organizers handed out buttons supporting refugee sponsorship and tags saying “I’ve sponsored, ask me.”

The group heard from Aurelia Achor, who came to Canada as a refugee from South Sudan in 1990. She has sponsored 29 refugees on her own since then and she says they are not just Sudanese but have come from many countries. “I have eight children of my own,” she said, “so if I can sponsor refugees, then all of you can do it. Go home and think about it when you are eating your next meal. You can’t sponsor all refugees but you help who you can.”

Rev. Feras Chamas is a Syrian who arrived in Canada eight months ago. He is now serving as a Presbyterian minister in Morrisburg, a town in Eastern Ontario. Rev. Chamas said there are now nearly three million Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.

“These people have done nothing wrong to deserve this. People in the camps are waiting for our help. We can try to distance ourselves but the minute we get close to them and hear their story it appeals to us on moral and ethical grounds. We cannot wash our hands of this.”

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