What's Left: 2015-03-15 Volume 4

by Editors (What's Left) last modified 2015-04-06T09:47:45-04:00
Canada used to be known as a country that, more than most, promoted human rights around the world. Of course, this was and is a self-constructed fallacy. The Canadian state’s history of imperialism, oppression, internment, genocide and just straight-up racism is well documented. However, there is something to be said about the importance of promoting a narrative of peace, tolerance and acceptance as part of a cultural identity: it tends to make society a little more compassionate and keeps destructive bigots marginalized.

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Canada as a nightmare and a dream

Canada used to be known as a country that, more than most, promoted human rights around the world. Of course, this was and is a self-constructed fallacy. The Canadian state’s history of imperialism, oppression, internment, genocide and just straight-up racism is well documented. However, there is something to be said about the importance of promoting a narrative of peace, tolerance and acceptance as part of a cultural identity: it tends to make society a little more compassionate and keeps destructive bigots marginalized.

This positive social vision has been consciously undermined by those on the right-wing as they follow a pattern of short-sighted opportunistic politics. The left is finally realizing some victories in its struggle for an economy and society based on compassion and solidarity.

Federal Conservatives continue to deny the rights of Aboriginal peoples

A recently declassified report shows that the Harper Conservatives have identified Aboriginal rights as a threat to their resource extraction agenda. Of course, for the right-wing this is an untenable position. With that understood, it‘s important to realize the potential impacts of Bill C-51. Many Aboriginal leaders see Bill C-51 as a move by the Tories to undermine their ability to resist the government’s agenda of allowing corporations to mine, drill, and ship toxic resources across unceded land.

The failure of the federal government to provide effective water infrastructure in these, and thousands of other communities across Canada remains a major failure. Unless, of course, you’re in the private drinking water racket, or even the resource extraction business. Without clean drinking water, people are more likely to leave their communities and leave their land vulnerable to corporate interests.

The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination has weighed in on a related matter. This week it released a report stating that the government has committed a ”grave violation” of the rights of Aboriginal women by failing to hold an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

More: Aboriginal Rights a threat to Tories’ resource extraction agenda

More: Canada’s failure to effectively address murder and disappearance of Aboriginal women ‘grave rights violation’ - UN experts

Racism in high places

Harper’s Conservatives have been leading the charge to change the culture of Canada, but they seem to have stepped over a line this week. Their portrayal of Islam as an anti-woman culture has come to the forefront. Of course Islam is a religion, not a culture. If anyone is promoting cultural beliefs that are anti-woman and racist, it is the stalwarts of the Conservative Party of Canada. From the racist comments uttered by New Brunswick MP John Williamson, to Harper’s nasty stoking of Islamophobia in the House of commons, to ads that plainly fuel xenophobia, the Tories pushed the envelope so far, it’s hard to believe they are still considered a rational voice, even amongst their base.

Unfortunately, it seems to be working. A recent Ekos poll by paleo-conservative Frank Graves tried to paint Canada as an increasingly intolerant society. While the poll seems to show an increase in racist opinions, it’s important to note that the poll itself was racially biased. For example, the “Other” in the poll was a non-white immigrant. So far, there is no indication of whether Ekos is planning to poll Indigenous peoples to see if they feel that there are too many immigrants.

Of course, this isn't just battle for marginalized communities to fight. All those on the left, including political parties, labour, and broad activist coalitions need to stand in solidarity and defend our rights.

More: Bill C-51 hearings: Diane Ablonczy’s questions to Muslim group ’McCarthyesque’

More: Tolerance Under Pressure?

More: Bill C-51: Labour must confront radical legislation with radical action

Canada

Red-baiting is the new black

From the demonization of basic rights to the re-writing of history; red-baiting is back in style. Whether it comes to linking the current Russian actions to the Soviet Union or linking ISIS tactics to the Bolsheviks, the right-wing will stop at nothing in their contorted logic to support military imperialism. Too bad, it seems that it’s increasingly clear that it is the same old right-wing actors and their spies that are supporting ISIS recruitment. These are the folks the Tories want to give more power, but less oversight.

More: Canada silent on alleged CSIS links to man helping girls go to Syria

Students raise the bar. Again.

Expect a high-level conversation about sexual violence on campus this week. The Canadian Federation of Students will be hosting a National Forum to End Sexual Violence on Campus. This forum will be an opportunity for student activists to gather, share stories of success and struggle, and develop a common vision to combat sexual violence and rape culture. The forum takes place in Ottawa on March 19-20.

Register: Consent Culture: A National Forum to End Sexual Violence on Campus

Follow: @CFSFCEE

Something strong is brewing in Québec, and it’s not coffee

Once again, a popular movement is growing in Québec. Last week, the symbolic minimum of 30,000 students voting to strike was reached – that means that, as of March 21, at least 30,000 students will be on strike. Their demands? No cuts to education, no to the austerity agenda, and no to fossil fuels. The strike is set to culminate on April 2 when the entire province will converge for a rally against austerity. Until then, anti-austerity actions will be happening almost daily.

With the provincial government set to drop its budget on March 26, it is likely that, as has previously been the case, the student strike will develop into a wide-spread popular struggle.

As the Financial Times recently realized, one of the primary reasons tuition fees increase is as a result of a docile student movement. Mass mobilizations, like those in Quebec are how we push back.

Follow: #manif2avril

Follow: @printemps2015

Follow: @ASSEsolidarite

More: L’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante

More: Coalition opposée à la tarification et à la privatisation des services publics

Nova Scotia unions win original demand

In Nova Scotia, the health sector unions got what they first asked of the Liberal Government following the introduction of anti-union Bill 1. After months of protests and arbitration, the response to the new government policy will be a coordinated bargaining platform called a council of unions. All unions get to keep their members but must unite to bargain with the province as a collective. Only time will tell if this battle will reinforce solidarity amongst the various unions or sew divisive and destructive tendencies.

More: Health Care Unions To Maintain Membership, Bargain Collectively Under Councils

CUPE TA strike update

With CUPE 3903 units 1 and 3 rejecting and unit 2 accepting the latest settlement from York University, the intrepid bargainers are back at the table pushing the university farther. There might be another vote this week for those units still out on strike.

At the University of Toronto, CUPE 3902 is still out. Both sides will be returning to the bargaining table this week.

More: CUPE 3903

More: CUPE 3902

Selling Off Ontario’s Hydro One

The campaign against Hydro One‘s privatization is heating up with the establishment of a broad labour-social justice coalition looking likely. The Ontario Liberals are looking to the Conservative playbook and seem intent on privatizing everything they can to offset their mismanagement of the province. Lead by CUPE and The Society of Energy Professionals, the fight is on to stop the privatization of power.

More: Privatizing Ontario’s Hydro One is déjà vu all over again

More: Keep Hydro Public

Elsewhere

Big data isn’t the problem, capitalism is

After revelations that the NSA is intercepting almost all digital communication, there has been a great deal of concern about the Internet’s integrity as a tool for affecting meaningful, progressive social change. With that in mind, Wikipedia and the American Civil Liberties Union have launched a lawsuit against the NSA, arguing that its actions have a chilling effect on free speech and violate people’s fundamental rights to privacy.

The ability of corporations and governments to track, target and manipulate people using this type of data collection has been highlighted by Jacobin magazine. While currently a tool of capitalism, Jacobin articulates that this same data, if harnessed by unions and those on the left, could be used for the benefit of workers and communities.

More: Stop Spying on Wikipedia Users

More: Big Data’s Radical Potential

Let’s fight for all living creatures to be treated compassionately

The way we treat animals says much about how we treat each other. The same systems that marginalize and exploit people actively enslave tens of millions of animals in factory farms around the world. Our dependence on factory farming destroys local agricultural communities, the jobs they provide, and the eco-systems they depend on. It’s important to realize that fighting for humane jobs means fighting for the humane treatment of animals.

More: Love Animals? Support Poverty Eradication and Humane Jobs

Israeli elections could see victory for left

Israelis will go to the polls on Tuesday, with the ousting of the governing right-wing coalition looking likely. The relabeled “Labour Party” – now known as ”Zionist Union“ – is creeping ahead in the polls. This is partly a result of economic issues becoming the primary concern of Israelis, instead of the traditionally hot-button issue of security. That hasn’t stopped Netanyahu from trying to stoke the fears of the electorate much like is being done here by the Conservatives.

More: New poll: Netanyahu’s Likud down to 20 seats

More: Netanyahu denies report he’s backed off two-state solution

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