Blog | June 06, 2013

The crowd cheered to the tune of ejecting the filthy rich from Calgary proper, the "most unequal city in the country" according to the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute. Well over a hundred people crowded into a sold out hall at Parkdale United Church on a favorably tepid spring night. The beginning of the 11th Annual Public Interest Alberta Conference, “Fighting For Our Future: People Power versus Corporate Control” opened with investigative journalist Linda McQuaig, author of The Trouble with Billionaires. In a bygone era, the audience would have grabbed pitchforks on their way to Mount Royal Village.McQuaig began by invoking the economic history of Canada. 1940-1980, also known as The Golden Age of Capitalism, when economic growth was widely shared, crystallized in the “social contract” to curb classist polarization through high taxes for social programs. “That’s the period of greatest economic growth in North America that we’ve ever had before or since,” said McQuaig. “Average income was doubling every twenty years.” The result was a society looking forward to increased leisure time.Before tax cuts for the rich became an institutionalized affair, public wealth was palpable. “There was no trickle down,” McQuaig said referring to the propaganda of the 1% in favor of neoconservative economics. “In fact, there was a gushing upwards. All the income gains since 1980 have gone to the top ten percent, and particularly, of course, the top 1% and the top .01%.” Factoring in the inflation, the median income in Canada is lower than it was thirty years ago.Where did leisure time go? The Conservative government of Canada has set the retirement age back two years. “That economic dividend went entirely to the top 10% and the top 1%, that’s where you’re leisure time has gone,” McQuaig pointed out assuredly. “Economic equality, the progress has been stopped dead in its tracks.” One solution is a wealth tax, especially in Alberta where the Heritage Fund is $16 billion in comparison to Norway’s at $700 billion. Federally, Canada saves exactly zero dollars for a rainy day.Research on a “millionaires tax” by The Globe and Mail illustrated how a one percent wealth tax imposed in Canada by 2020 would cover all federal and provincial deficits. The Deloitte Centre for Financial Services projected the number of millionaires in Canada to rise to 2.5 million by 2020. Yet, in contrast to Linda McQuaig’s warning to Albertans that the rich will leave if a wealth tax is implemented effectively, what she did not warn is a far more sobering possibility. “But it’s easier to defer taxable income than to move,” Neil Reynolds wrote on October of 2011 in The Globe and Mail. “When you levy disproportionate taxes on the rich, you serve eviction notices on the poor.”Referring to the income of the American sub-prime mortgage beneficiary John Paulson, “In what moral universe is that hedge fund manager worth 82,000 nurses, in what moral universe is he worth even one nurse?” McQuaig exclaimed to a bright wave of laughter and applause. “Today’s corporate elite and wealthy elite, has not only the power to wreak havoc on our lives, but to actually destroy the planet, because of the modern technology and the human capacity now for destruction.”Sovereignty and Genocide in the AmericasBoth domestically and internationally, Canadian extractive industry has been exhibiting the special human capacity for unabated destruction, not only of the planet itself, but also to human communities who depend on the lands in and around industrial projects. Amazon Watch’s Gregor MacLennan has spearheaded efforts on behalf of the Achuar communities of Peru, and their lands, to petition civil society, corporate employees, and elected officials in Canada to act, and hold local businesses responsible.“It wasn’t up to a handful of individuals who had accepted money from the company to decided the futures for the entire Achuar nation,” said MacLennan at the 2013 Public Interest Alberta conference. The final lesson: when a large corporation’s public image is at stake, people power outmatches corporate control.In the Peruvian Amazon, Indigenous leadership from the Achuar Nation successfully sent Calgary-based big oil corporation Talisman Energy packing after three delegations to build nationwide support in Canada. The success story, effectively preventing Talisman oil exploration in the Amazon – Block 64 – from further ecological ruin and social devastation, is a teardrop in an ocean of tragedy.“Everyday across the globe, society suffers the environmental and social impacts of extractive industries,” said Achuar leader Peas Peas Ayui via video broadcast to an attentive Calgary crowd on April 10. “Our elders have shown us this example, and we will continue fighting.” Ayui, also President of the Achuar Federation of Peru (FENAP), represents 44 Achuar communities located along the Peru-Ecuador border.In May 2009, Talisman Energy provoked violence among Achuar communities, resulting in a standoff over an exploratory drilling site. After the incident, Achuar leadership officially charged Talisman Energy with attempted genocide, setting a legal precedent. Currently, Perupetro lays claim to 40 oil or gas concessions in the Amazon.Indigenous sovereignty in Latin America is an underappreciated security priority. In a recent conference this May at the University of Calgary titled, “Latin American Security: Implications for Canada and International Policy” moderator Susan Franceschet, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary, and panel speaker Major General Michael Day, Director General of International Security Policy for the Department of National Defence, Canada, both stymied questions raised to address the momentous Guatemala genocide trial.Tragically overturned on Monday, May 20, the trial marks the very first time a head of state has been tried for genocide in the Americas, and as a genocide trial held in the home country of the former dictator it is a first for the world.Pablo Policzer, Canada Research Chair in Latin American Politics, stepped down from the final speaker’s panel of day one at the conference to address genocide in Latin America with The Media Co-op. Because ethnicity is a primary identifier in recognizing genocide victims, Guatemala has received global attention. "We hope that can change in Chile," Policzer said to The Media Co-op. With special regard to modern Chilean history, Policzer and other academics identified forms of political victimization as genocidal.In preliminary drafts of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, political victims were recognized, however this was removed from the final draft. After recent civil strife in Argentina, where politically motivated massacres were even more blunt than in Chile, intellectuals began conceiving of genocide as defined by the perpetrators as opposed to victims. Except in Guatemala, genocide is nearly non-existent in Latin American politics. With regard to respecting Indigenous land rights, genocide awareness is a crucial point for reconciliation, towards recognizing the destruction of an environment as interconnected with the people who depend on the local land.“You can’t really claim to be civilized unless you can enforce the law against the most basic taboo: murder,” said Allan Nairn, investigative journalist, covering the recent genocide trial in Guatemala, on Democracy Now! “And when the murders are committed by people at the top, usually they get away with it.” Comparatively, after the shameful suspension of the Peace and Reconciliation Conference in South Sudan, charity founder James Nguen Nyol began a scathing op-ed in South Sudan News Agency with the Aesop axiom, “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.”Genocide victims are most often minorities on the wrong side of economic conflicts
, for example, affluent Jews of post-WWI Germany, traditionally powerful Tutsis of Rwanda, non-Muslims of oil-rich South Sudan, or the ongoing socio-economic discrimination against Ixil Maya.Indigenous voices in North America have long sparked debate and controversy over the legalities of genocide reconciliation across Turtle Island, Peru and Guatemala not outstanding. This April, a traditional delegation from the matriarchal Native American Lakota Sioux, formally the Lakota Oyate, filed an official complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the United States Department of Justice. The U.S. federal government and five state governments are being charged with the continued genocide of six to eight thousand remaining Lakota based on the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.First Nations Treaties and Unconstitutional OilIn Canada, Beaver Lake Cree Nation, 900 people strong, leads international indigenous solidarity in the memory of Al Lameman, chief from 1978-2005 in one of the longest running examples of Aboriginal political leadership in the country. Lameman’s niece, Crystal Lameman, continues to speak out, with the voice of a caring mother, to tens of thousands internationally. Lameman speaks in the name of her people, her lands and her uncle’s vision, which culminated in a 2008 court case to address the unconstitutionality of the Alberta tar sands.The most destructive industrial project on Earth, also referred to as the Oil Sands, spills over onto traditional Beaver Lake Cree Territory in Treaty 6, an Aboriginal land claim consecrated in the name of the Crown. “As long as the grass grows and the river flows,” Crystal Lameman reminded Albertans at the April 10 “Fighting For Our Future” Public Interest Alberta conference. The traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree Nations is overrun with 120 Tar Sands Agreement Holders, with 22 producing and 7 proposed Tar Sands projects.The ‘duty to consult’ is a right of all Treaty First Nations, and is a duty that over nineteen thousand big oil development permits have not fulfilled. Aboriginal treaty rights distinguish Canada as a leader in environmental justice. “In a historic first for Canada,” reads the official court briefing, handed down by the Alberta Court of Appeals on April 20. “The Court instead upheld the right of BLCN to challenge widespread tar sands exploration and extraction, based on the cumulative effects these activities may have on the band’s constitutionally protected treaty rights.” After five years, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation recently overcame appeals by courts representing Alberta and Canada.Along with fostering economic equality, supporting Aboriginal land and treaty rights upholds constitutional order, and seeks socio-economic balance. Canadian documentary, On The Line, charts the overland territories and communities crossed by the proposed Enbridge pipeline from Fort McMurray, AB to Kitimat, B.C. Recently screened at a Project Ploughshares event in Calgary, the film addresses the toxic inconsistencies of future tar sands pipeline and trade developments.“Well, it'serves some pretty narrow interests,” said MP Nathan Cullen for On The Line. “We have a 140 million dollar wild salmon economy up here that would be totally threatened if not ruined by this thing. For 37 jobs, you are going to risk hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs, plus your entire culture and environment.”Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Manager at Forest Ethics Advocacy in B.C., introduced the film, On The Line, with evidence of ten oil spills in two weeks by the beginning of the month of April. Presenting a map of every pipeline in North America, there has not yet been one without a spill.For First Nations in B.C., and around Turtle Island, it is not a question of if, it is a question of when. “This is our only chance at A) Surviving, and B) Rebuilding our culture, and rebuilding the whole economic engine of this area is based on this water,” said Pete Erickson, Nak’Azdli First Nation Band Councilor in On The Line. “Enbridge just doesn’t recognize that. They just look at it as another crossing that’s gonna cost them x amount of dollars extra to cross because, oh, it’s some kind of special river to Indians.”Extractive Industry and Free TradeThe Alberta Tar Sands in Fort McMurray, and its proposed pipeline projects – Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, and Keystone XL – are a focal point for expanding multinational corporate investment. Arguably, every profitable corporation is linked to oil and gas development: the crux of globalization and free trade agreements. The first free trade (FTA) agreement negotiated by U.S. President Obama, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently has 16,383 U.S. corporate affiliates in Canada.A poll conducted by CBC in 2011 indicated that a majority of Canadians (286 out of 584 votes) were against Canada’s entering the TPP trade deal. Early in October 2012, the federal government of Canada confirmed its formal entry into the TPP.The TPP, like NAFTA, is another FTA that enables multinational corporations to sue governments over such unfortunate delays as environmental regulation. Mostly from the consumer and transportation sector, TPP affiliates also include nearly every aspect of the oil and gas industry, from natural gas storage to oilfield waste management services.During the Latin American Security conference at the University of Calgary, notably sponsored by Enbridge, Tim Martin, Canadian Ambassador to Canada, and Peter Hakim, President Emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue, both gave mention of the TPP and its significance. “They have articulated aspirations with a grouping that includes the free movement of goods, the mobility of people among the grouping and the free movement of capital,” Ambassador Martin remarked to The Media Co-op.The TPP has raised suspicions from what Global Research: Centre for Research on Globalization has called, “Secret Negotiations” behind paramilitary security complete with media blackouts. Civil rights, such as intellectual property, and environmental regulation, such as land use, are among many non-trade related spheres of influence. Is the TPP really about economic trade, or the geopolitics of corporate deregulation?Farmers across Japan have formed one of the most visible Asian resistance movements to the TPP, with photos of their demonstrations disseminated internationally, including for the CBC in their 2012 article, “What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?” Japanese media, including Nippon News has covered the demonstrations since October 2011, which support small-scale farms threatened with the loss of tariffs on farm products within the TPP free trade zone.Not only in Japan, but protest communities in five continents are raising awareness about expanded corporate globalization in the wake of the TPP. Negotiations in Lima, Peru from May 15-24 and Cali, Colombia on May 22-23 inspired global resistance, supported by Council of Canadians in solidarity with fair trade activists. The demonstrations set a special precedent for this year’s World Fair Trade Day on May 11.China may be left out of the TPP, however its trade presence has grown from Sinopec’s $100 million early investment in Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in early 2011 to the $15 billion acquisition of Nexen by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) this February. “We were a 200,000 barrel a day company, Canadian company, and are now part of something much, much larger; a million barrels a day,” Nexen Global Security Director Paul Nelson said at the UofC Latin American Security conference. Last January, Greenpeace East Asia identified Canada’s tar sands as one of the projects threatening the future of human life on Earth.The Alberta Tar Sands is no stranger to intern
ational solidarity efforts t
o curb continued investment and extraction. Norwegian climate change organization Four Our Grandchildren (4RG) has petitioned its federal government to withdraw its national oil company, Statoil, from further engagement in the tar sands. The letter by 4RG speaks to upholding First Nation treaty rights; specifically the Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s trial versus the Canadian state, and the complicity of Norway in violating constitutionally sanctioned Canadian First Nations’ land rights.Corporate Intervention and Global MilitarizationIn the TPP free trade zone, foreign investment is leveraged over local economies through what is known as “investor-state” enforcement. Yet, an analysis of leaked information regarding the TPP by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, published on Global Research, unveils more volatile implications:Corporations gain an unimaginable freedom while citizens lose all freedom and the rights that define their freedom. Similarly, foreign countries, which as members of TPP can be exempt from US law, are subject to “pre-emptive” US violation of their air space and borders by drones and troops sent in to assassinate some suspected terrorist, but which also kill citizens of those countries who are merely going about their normal business.Major General Michael Day, Director General of International Security Policy in the Department of National Defence, Canada, spoke about drone warfare during the Latin American Security conference at UofC. Major General Day began describing how Canadian military policy has moved away from “we’re here to help” to “a partnership.”After engaging the audience eloquently by recognizing taxpayers’ concern for responsible military spending, Major General Day answered a question posed by The Media Co-op to address the spread of drone warfare. “I would argue that the difference between using a drone for conflict, for observation, et cetera, is not substantially different than any other tool,” Major General Day answered, invoking the equality of international rule of law for armed conflict.I would challenge anybody in discussing this particular issue, just to get below the superficial treatment of taglines and language, and actually expand or unpack the conversation about armed conflict, to look at more than just the tools and look at the legal constructs, look at the objectives, and allow that to inform the subsequent debate.Recent visiting lecturer to the UofC, Dr. Robert Sparrow, associate professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, conducted extensive research in robotics and artificial intelligence, military and just war theory, media ethics, and environmental ethics among other related topics. Dr. Sparrow published one of the earlier philosophical papers about autonomous weapons. “Planes used in Pakistan and North Africa are remotely operated, but autonomous weapons are the next generation,” Dr. Sparrow told The Media Co-op over the phone. “There are some people who think that drones are inherently problematic because they make it too easy to go to war, or some who see it as a tool.”This is a popular topic. It's not going to go away. The future of U.S. foreign policy is, you offer weapons, training and provide air support with drones. That is probably the way of invasion in future. It is likely to combination of proxy political troops with drones.In what is considered by Dr. Sparrow to be the most important argument about drones, journalist and author Simon Jenkins concluded his January article, “Drones are fools gold: they prolong wars we can’t win” in The Guardian with the resolution, “It is hard to imagine a greater danger to world peace.”“More people die as a result of mostly criminal violence in Latin America, than as a result of civil wars in Africa, which is the next most violent conflict,” Chilean scholar Pablo Policzer presented to the Latin American Security conference. Yet, criminal violence and corruption, while especially rampant in Latin America, are not the greatest obstacles to extractive industry in the region.“Those issues don’t generally bring a mine to the point where we have to stop production, but community conflict will and has,” John Noyes, Director of Corporate Security at Goldcorp, Canada told a weary crowd at the final hours of the conference. “There are often disconnects between the promotion of mining projects by national governments who are looking for the revenues and the resulting negative reaction within local communities.”Anti-mining and social NGOs, social media and mobile devices now propagate near-immediate awareness of social conflicts via inter-American resistance. “According to the Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America, 176 mining projects in Latin America are currently in conflict with 231 communities,” said Noyes. “A good quality mining project is 3-5 billion dollars to get operational. A mine of that size experiencing conflict can realize up to 20 million dollars a week in losses.” The International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 169, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, highlights the continuing and irrevocable damage to Latin America’s First Peoples, exacerbated by negligent or improper consultation by extractive industry.Regardless, most representatives of extractive industry remain as stalwart as a military campaigner, many even noting their experience with the vocabulary of warfare. “We’re on the frontlines,” said Jeff Collins of Grantierra, Canada. “In our area we faced a myriad of exposures, whether it’s things like kidnapping, extortion, bombings.”The military are now flying drones along some of these pipelines to protect them in terms of the released intelligence gathering and knowing what’s going on. But, a lot of this is common sense. Where you have a pipeline blown up and it’s blown up in the same place over and over again, eventually maybe you should change your tactics and look at other ways of protecting the line. And so there’s this evolution that’s going on with various groups within the security forces, military, et cetera.Deep Green Resistance founder Derek Jensen’s co-authored book, Strangely Like War outlines innumerable case studies and terrifying examples of ecological warfare. Atrocities beyond measure are committed everyday far beyond the city limits. Marginalized populations and industry insiders are usually among the first to know, yet industry is usually the first to speak. The marginalized, many historically displaced by national acts of genocide, struggle for their future, for their children’s children, desperately and humbly.Leading First Nations and Allied ResistanceIn September 2011, Jill Crop Eared Wolf was charged with Intimidation Section 243 of the Canadian Criminal Code for participating in a peaceful blockade on the Kainai (Blood) First Nation Reserve in Southern Alberta. Murphy Oil, a multinational corporation, also operating in Malaysia and the Republic of the Congo, officially charged Wolf and two unarmed women with the intimidation of on-site workers. “My purpose was to go and feed the people who were there protesting,” said Wolf to allies at the “Building Alliances for Change” Project Ploughshares workshop in Calgary.When the agreement had been made a lot of our community did not know about this until we read about it in the Lethbridge Herald that there had been a fifty million dollar signing agreement with Bowood and Murphy Oil…We are the largest reserve in all of Canada. This new agreement that they signed would give them access to at least half to two-thirds of our reserve.Resistance arose because free, prior and informed consent was not fully conducted within tribal government. “In fact, many would argue that band councils are inherently designed to fail,” wrote Wolf in a Briarpatch article, Fractured land, published in Febr
2012. “In truth, the Blood Tribe chief and council’s choice to blatantly ignore the health and well-being of our people and our land was an act of violence.”Fracking is ongoing in the largest reserve land in Canada where unemployment is at 80% and social services allocates about $230/month to impoverished families to cover every last living expense. Air and water contaminated by benzene, formaldehyde and methane, along with surprise earthquakes are among the many deleterious side effects of fracking. Domestically, fracking remains unregulated, regardless of the 62% of Canadians reported by Council of Canadians who support a moratorium.“Living in an impacted community, in the frontlines of the Tar Sands, we get so caught up in our own issues that we forget about human beings, Indigenous people on a global level,” Crystal Lameman said ever so passionately at the 2013 Public Interest Alberta Conference. “It’s not easy constantly living in fear because you are speaking out against atrocities.”We, as First Nations people, have support globally in the trials and tribulations we endure on a daily basis, support from the UK, the Achuar People and I could go on and on and on…this destruction of our environment, which ultimately is the destruction of our treaty rights of which our ancestors experienced atrocities for…And as First Nations people and Canadians as a whole our support is globally, and not locally within our governments.Under a clear Calgary sky on May 8, a close-knit demonstration of thirty civil society activists gathered in support of a B.C. delegation to the Enbridge Annual General Meeting (AGM). Chief Na'Moks, Wet'suwet'en hereditary Chief of the Tsayu (Beaver) Clan and Gerald Amos, past elected chief of the Haisla First Nation, board member Friends of Wild Salmon, director of community relations Headwaters Initiative, spoke with media prior to confronting Enbridge CEO Al Monaco at the Metropolitan Conference Centre. About half of local demonstrators represented First Nations people, through songs, drums, and Idle No More banners.An Occupy Calgary activist named Paula, present at the demonstration, lamented the underwhelming turnout. “Canadians need to see that this is an issue that impacts not only them but the world,” Paula told the The Media Co-op. Lack of domestic initiative to address the unsustainable and uncivilized globalized energy industry emphasizes the importance of international resistance alliances. One local demonstrator, Carbon Conservations, led the forum on climate change and carbon tax.First Nations, however, continue to speak of more immediate violations to human life. Gerald Amos, representing Headwaters Initiative, Friends of Wild Salmon and Haisla First Nation, spoke with media outside the AGM about the culture of poverty that exists in his community, and how the Enbridge pipeline threatens seasonal seaweed and wildlife harvests. “Our elders say Enbridge is so poor all they have is money,” Chief Na’Moks said off-the-record after speaking with a CBC newscaster. “You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.”Take Action: Support the TAR SANDS HEALING WALK on July 5-6 in Fort McMurray, AlbertaReferences & Resources:1) (minute 5:30)8)’s-contradictory-military-and-humanitarian-stances/437439) http://www.klew.org22) http://notankers.ca25) http://savethefraser.ca26) http://www.healingwalk.orgRead the article online at MediaCoop