CP of Canada, PEOPLE'S VOICE - Issue of OCTOBER 1-15, 2019

9/30/19 3:49 PM
  • Canada, Communist Party of Canada En North America Communist and workers' parties

The following articles are from the October 1-15, 2019, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.

 

  1. Federal Election Coverage: Closing the Gender Wage Gap
  2. Support builds for labour leader attacked for solidarity with Syria
  3. Will Pallister’s 100-Day Action Plan spark a labour fightback plan?
  4. What impact would Proportional Rep have had in Manitoba?
  5. Don’t waste your vote!
  6. Blackface can’t mask deeper racism
  7. “A whole system needs to be confronted”
  8. Global climate strike just the beginning
  1. Put People and Nature Before Profits – Vote Communist
  2. Cuba vs Trump: Standing Tall
  1. Call for peace and human rights in Colombia
  2. Venezuela: Investigation into Guaidó - Duque narco-paramilitary ties
  3. Nurses sit-in at Gatineau Hospital
  4. François Legault: 500,000 public sector workers “not Quebecers"
  5. Music Notes: This land is whose land? Questions on Woody Guthrie’s most celebrated song
  6. Beautifully shot, but film of 1919 strike a missed opportunity (Film review)

 

 

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Federal Election Coverage: Closing the Gender Wage Gap

The mainstream parties in the 2019 federal election are all, it seems, claiming to be feminist. But are they really committed to implementing programs that will help achieve equality for women and gender oppressed people?

Here, we look at the gender wage gap and ask, “Why hasn’t this been closed?”

On International Women’s Day in 2016, Justin Trudeau famously declared, “I myself am a feminist.” When Andrew Scheer was asked by Maclean’s magazine, shortly after winning the Conservative Party leadership, if he was a feminist, he responded, “Yeah, absolutely!” Elizabeth May regularly seasons her tweets with the phrase, “as a feminist…” Jagmeet Singh has identifed himself as a “feminist ally.”

So, with all this feminism, regardless of who gets elected should we expect to see great strides toward women’s equality and equality for all gender oppressed people? That hardly seems likely.

But to think scientifically about election promises for achieving gender equality, we can start by confronting one of the key measures of inequality.

Wage inequity

One of the most widely recognized indicators of inequality for women is the gender wage gap. Also called the gender pay gap or the gender earnings gap, it is the difference between what women and men are paid. Despite the fact that pay equity has been part of the law in Canada since the 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act, women continue to be paid significantly less than men.

How much less depends on how the wage gap is measured.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has noted that there are three main ways of measuring the gender wage gap. These can be summarized as follows:

Compare the hourly wages of full-time working women to those of men. This measurement shows that women earn roughly 87 cents for every dollar earned by a man (2015 data). This method deliberately excludes part-time working women; Statistics Canada argues that full-time working women tend to work fewer hours than men, so this measurement provides a more precise picture of the wage gap.

Compare the annual earnings of full-time workers. Using this method, women workers earn approximately 75 cents for every dollar earned by men (2016 data). This is a more inclusive measurement than the first method, by looking at annual earnings. However, it still excludes part-time women workers, which is a particularly large group.

Compare the annual earnings for both full-time and part-time workers. By this measurement, women earned an average of 69 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2016. This method is the most comprehensive of the three, because it includes the reality that more women work part-time, and that part-time workers are generally lower paid that their full-time equivalents.

Notably, regardless of the comparison method used women experience a wage gap of at least 13% and as high as 31%. More importantly, as the measurement becomes more comprehensive – by including a more inclusive scope of women’s work experience – the gap gets much larger.

A report from Statistics Canada noted that from 1981 to 2018, the gender wage gap decreased by 21%.  This means it took 37 years for the wage gap to decrease by one-fifth – at this rate, it will take 139 years for the gap to be closed. And this is only the gap for full-time working women.

Internationally, Canada is doing terribly at closing the wage gap. A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that, out of 35 OECD countries Canada ranks 30th, sixth last.

Putting a dollar figure on the gender wage gap is a bit tricky, but there are statistics we can use. According to StatsCan, there were 15.8 million people working in Canada in 2018, of whom 7.8 million were women. That same year, the average weekly wage was $984 or $51,168 per year. This means that total annual earnings among all workers were somewhere around $808 billion. Using the overall annual earnings gap of 31%, we can calculate that men earned around $478 billion of this amount and women earned around $330 billion.

That’s $148 billion in lost wages for women. Every year.

Of this amount, roughly $112 billion is from the private sector, where 76% of workers are employed. This suggests that the gender wage gap provides over $100 billion in annual corporate profit. It’s an indication of how deeply the gender wage gap is rooted in, and reinforces, the gender division of labour within capitalism.

All of the above reflects a simplified gender binary approach – men and women – which illustrates the general trends but misses the experience of specific groups. Indigenous women working full-time are paid only 65 cents for every dollar paid to non-Indigenous man, and full-time racialized women receive 67% of the pay of non-racialized men (2016 data). A 2012 survey found that the wage gap experienced by disabled women working full- or part-time was an enormous 54%. Transgender and gender nonconforming folks also experience increased wage discrimination: data from 2012 indicates that the average earnings of a transgender woman decrease by over 30% after she transitions. In examining the pay gap, it’s important to recognize the layering of gender, racialization, homophobia and transphobia, and disability injustice.

The wage gap has long-ranging effects. Immediately, it contributes directly to the disproportionate number of women who live in poverty – a 2018 study showed that of the nearly 6 million people who are struggling financially in Canada, 60% are women. This, in turn, tends to affect child poverty, as the number of lone-parent families is increasing and over 80% of such families are headed by women. Lower pay also means lower contributions to retirement plans, including the Canada Pension Plan, which leaves a disproportionate number of senior women living in poverty.

Low income and poverty also affect women’s safety. Studies show that women who are in abusive relationships will sometimes stay in those relationship because of economic precarity. It is a fact that women who leave a relationship and raise children on their own are much more likely to end up living in poverty.

Waiting another 139 years is simply unacceptable – closing the gender wage gap requires decisive government intervention. Consider that while Canada’s military budget, used to enforce US-NATO economic and political interests across the globe, is approach $32 billion per year, the total budget for the Human Rights Commission, of which pay equity enforcement is a component, is only $28 million. Or compare the amount of public resources that are committed to enforcing individual taxation, whether through income or sales taxes, with the meagre effort dedicated to stopping the $148 billion annual wage theft from working women.

There is no comparison. Wage equity is simply not a priority for the government. Why? Because inequality pays.

Women’s organizations have fought for decades to close the gender wage gap. Their struggles have won gains, but it will take the whole working class, united with its allies, to win this fight.

We can start by making concrete and uncompromising demands on candidates and parties in this federal election.

Elizabeth Rowley, leader of the Communist Party, says that one of the first tasks is to create good jobs. “Adopting a full-employment strategy, and replacing precarious work with well-paid permanent jobs, is an urgent necessity. Combining this with a $20 minimum wage and increased EI benefits, along with real action to close the gender wage gap, would mean a huge step forward in terms of women’s equality and equality for all gender oppressed people.”

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Support builds for labour leader attacked for solidarity with Syria

One hundred trade union delegations from around the world gathered in Damascus on September 8-9, for the Third International Trade Union Forum in Solidarity with Syrian Workers. The purpose of the meeting was to build opposition to imperialist intervention against Syria and the economic sanctions against Syria.

The forum was organized on the initiative of Syria’s General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), in cooperation with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) and World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). Among the trade unions who participated were the Arab Labor Organization (ALO), the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), and several national labour organizations from throughout the world.

The war and sanctions have caused over $90 billion USD in damages and losses to Syria. More than 9000 Syrian workers have been killed by terrorist attacks, with another 14000 wounded and 3000 kidnapped. The Trade Union Forum agreed to develop a worldwide campaign to confront those governments and organizations that support terrorism and sanctions against Syria and the Syrian people. This includes exposing the corporate media, which the forum statement noted use “false slogans to justify the policies of imperialist intervention, domination, aggression and terrorism.”

The forum also expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle and demanded an end to the Saudi aggression against Yemen. Participants saluted the resistance of the peoples of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia against imperialist attacks and provocations.

Canadian labour participant attacked

Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress, attended the meeting and spoke to Telesur TV. “The sanctions on Syria are completely unacceptable. The Canadian labour movement does support the people in Syria and we’re here to put pressure to take the sanctions away.”

Almost immediately, Lafleur was attacked in the mainstream media in Canada, who questioned why a Canadian labour representative was calling for an end to sanctions. CBC News claimed the forum was “organized by the Assad regime” and repeated the usual US-NATO narrative that the Syrian government is clinging to power despite its “authoritarianism” and “crimes against humanity.” Postmedia’s Terry Glavin went further, calling Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad a “mass murderer and war criminal” and claiming that the forum was made up of false trade unions from “fictional” countries.

Lafleur’s comments were principled – he simply said that workers in Canada support workers in Syria, that the sanctions were unacceptable, that the purpose of the forum was to build pressure to end them. He could have also pointed out that Bashar Al-Assad is the legitimate president of Syria, that the Syrian working class and trade union movement is strongly united behind the Syrian Armed Forces and the defense of the country against imperialist intervention, or that an estimated 90% of anti-government “freedom fighters” are foreign mercenaries and conscripts who have been recruited and armed by the US and its allies in NATO and reactionary Gulf governments. He could have said all of these very true and provable things, but he did not. What he gave was nothing more than a minimal – yet very welcome – expression of solidarity.

Following the media attacks, the CLC stated that the union central “had no interest in being represented there [at the Trade Union Forum]” and said they were going to investigate Lafleur’s participation. Subsequently, CLC President Hassan Yussuff suspended Lafleur from his responsibilities.

Solidarity with Lafleur

Labour and solidarity activists have been quick to respond, calling for Yussuff to reinstate Lafleur and demanding that the CLC take a stand against the sanctions.

The Communist Party of Canada issued a statement, calling the media attacks “McCarthyist” and criticizing the CLC for its “clear support for the imperialist aggression” against Syria.

That statement follows:

“The news that the Canadian Labour Congress has stripped Vice-President Donald Lafleur of his duties and put him on administrative leave raises many troubling questions. This action runs counter to the urgent need for labour to adopt a more militant fightback strategy, to strengthen the role of trade unions in the struggles for peace and international solidarity, and to promote a more democratic and inclusive leadership style, from the top levels of the CLC down to the provincial federations, labour councils, and union locals.

“The Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Canada joins with other progressive activists calling for the reinstatement of Brother Donald Lafleur to his elected position in the CLC leadership. Despite the vicious media attacks and lies in recent days, Lafleur attended the Third International Trade Union Forum in Solidarity with Syrian Workers at his own expense, during his vacation time, and he did not address this forum or claim to be representing the CLC.

“To his credit, Brother Lafleur took the courageous step of attending this conference in Damascus, “to listen and learn.” Convened to build opposition to imperialist intervention and economic sanctions, the event was organized by Syria’s General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), in cooperation with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) and World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). Other participating bodies included the Arab Labor Organization (ALO), the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), and several national labour organizations from various countries.

“We note that since 2011, the war and sanctions have caused over $90 billion USD in damages and losses to Syria. More than 9000 Syrian workers have been killed by terrorist attacks, with another 14000 wounded and 3000 kidnapped. The Trade Union Forum agreed to develop a worldwide solidarity campaign to confront those governments and organizations that support terrorism and sanctions against Syria and the Syrian people.

“The McCarthyist attacks against Donald Lafleur in Canada’s mainstream media began almost immediately. CBC News and Postmedia’s bitterly reactionary Terry Glavin falsely claimed that the forum was “organized by the Assad regime,” and both condemned the forum’s call for an end to the deadly sanctions against Syria.

“By throwing Donald Lafleur under the bus and repeating the media attacks against the elected government of Syria, the CLC leadership has indicated its clear support for the imperialist aggression aimed at forcing “regime change.” As we have seen in other countries in the region, this would not lead to democracy and social justice - it only opens the door for terrorist organizations to seize control. We urge labour activists to reject the CLC’s statements which closely reflect the US-NATO storyline, and to call on the Congress to change course - reinstate Brother Donald Lafleur and begin building true solidarity with the trade unions and working class of Syria.”

Shortly after the CLC launched its criticism of Lafleur, a group of trade unionists in the United States launched a campaign to get labour organizations in the US to send letters to Yussuff, encouraging the Canadian union central to defend Lafleur and, in the process, take a stand for peace and international solidarity.

Labour and solidarity activists in Canada, part of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop War and the Syria Solidarity Movement, have started a petition campaign at change.org, calling for Lafleur’s full reinstatement. A link to that petition is available at peoplesvoice.ca.

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Will Pallister’s 100-Day Action Plansparka labour fightback plan?

PV Manitoba Bureau

Working class Manitobans are in for the fight of their lives, against 4 more years of neoliberal austerityfrom Brian Pallister’s Conservatives.

Fresh from winning a majority in the provincial election, Pallister announced on September 18 his “100-Day Action Plan” and issued a list of one hundred priorities for his cabinet ministers. It’s a sweeping plan, aimed directly at increasing corporate access, influence and profit in virtually every sector of Manitoba life.

In agriculture, the government will open the Crown Lands grazing lease system to an auction process instead of the current points system. It’s a move that producers fear will greatly benefit agribusiness corporations at the expense of smaller farmers, and which will make it particularly difficult for young farmers. The Tories will also attack “regulatory barriers that restrict the ability of farmers to produce for local markets,” code for removing restrictions on pesticides, weakening legislation that protects the environment, and removing nearly $1 billion in public education funds from farm property tax.

Public service workers will continue to be a target for downsizing, contracting out, and extra workloads, as Pallister seeks to accelerate and widen his civil service transformation strategy. The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) has opposed this strategy since it was first announced last year, on the basis that it is a plan for underfunding, privatization, and cuts to services and jobs. Public entities like Manitoba Public Insurance, Manitoba Hydroand the province’s school boards will face increased privatization, either directly through full or partial, or indirectly through deeper use of private-sector corporate management.

The government plans major changes to education funding – in addition to phasing out nearly $1 billion in public school revenue from farm property taxes, the Tories will reintroduce legislation that redefines private schools as “independent” schools, opening the door to public funding of private and for-profit schools. Funding to post-secondary institutions will be linked to “student outcomes and financial accountability,” a scheme that has been used elsewhere to diminish liberal arts programs, increase precarious employment in academic work, and expand corporate influence in post-secondary education.

The same approach will apply in healthcare, where Shared Health will have an expanded mandate to implement funding cuts through centralized procurement and administration under its “Super Agency” structure. An April 2019 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, called “The Valley of Despair in Manitoba Health Care,” states that the results of Shared Health’s overhaul will be erosion and worsening of health services across the province.

The 100-Day Action Plan also weakens health and safety legislation by eliminating the position of Chief Prevention Officer and giving the Minister power to dismiss “frivolous or vexatious” appeals of health and safety decisions. The government will also create a separate support program for disabled people, removing with from Employment Income Assistance (EIA) and reducing the range and amount of available assistance.

The Tories will steamroll ahead with privatization of public land and property, by creating “an inventory of [public] land and property no longer usable or required by government” and by introducing a Crown Lands Disposition Act. They have also specifically committed to privatizing infrastructure and municipal services in Winnipeg and Brandon.

In response to the climate crisis, Pallister vows to continue with the Made in Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, which has been roundly condemned as a non-response to the issue. Manitoba writer Mark Hudson has called the plan “utterly devoid of significance or effect,” and said it “represents an epic, even catastrophic failure of leadership. If we are in a fight with climate change, we’re sending a kindergartener out against a title fighter, and should only expect a beating.”

While the 100-Day Action Plan is sweeping, it’s not at all unexpected. Pallister’s first term was spent slashing social programs and public services, including cancelling close to $1 billion in healthcare infrastructure and closing hospital emergency rooms. They also introduced a two-year wage freeze for public sector workers, capped child care funding, and increased public school class sizes. During the election campaign, the Tories were clear that they intended to continue a hard-core austerity and privatization agenda. None of that is in question.

What is in question, though, is whether Pallister’s onslaught will be met with a coordinated, escalating fightback.

There are signs that this could happen, as there are already several struggles that a broader fightback could build upon. Prior to the provincial election, the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) mobilized continually to oppose funding cuts and ER closures, including organizing a large “Put Patients First!” rally at the Legislature on May 1. In 2017, the MNU joined with the MGEU, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE), and other public sector unions in opposing Pallister’s wage freeze legislation. During the election campaign, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) organized a large rally at Winnipeg City Hall to oppose austerity policies and demand adequate funding for public transit in the city.

To develop a fight on the foundation of these and other examples of labour and progressive resistance, the trade union movement will need to move into high gear. As is the case elsewhere in English-speaking Canada, the bulk of the Manitoba labour movement spent most of the provincial election stumping for the NDP; now that a federal election has been called, they have simply shifted their focus from provincial to federal social democrats.

Elections are important, but they don’t define the parameters of class struggle. The trade union movement needs to always project and organize around its own political program, based on working class demands. During elections, this provides a benchmark for candidates and parties seeking labour endorsements and support. More importantly, beyond elections, it provides a concrete framework for labour’s political work, helping lay the foundation for the ongoing struggles of the working class in (and against) capitalist society.

This understanding is steadily taking hold. Communist Party candidate and Winnipeg organizer Andy Taylor noted the positive response to the Communist provincial campaign. “We focused our efforts in five core Winnipeg ridings, and the results were outstanding when you consider our size. We won new young applicants to the Communist Party, and our platform forced left-leaningNDPers to adopt a more progressive agenda. It’s a sign of people's increasing demand for fundamental change, and their willingness to organize around that demand. Winnipeg Communists were in the forefront of that push for economic democracy throughout the provincial campaign, and we’re continuing it now.”

With a re-elected Pallister majority, Manitoba labour has little option but to respond with a similar militant spirit.

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What impact would Proportional Rep have had in Manitoba?

The September 10 provincial election in Manitoba had a near record low turnout, at just over 55%.

Of those who voted, 47% voted for Brian Pallister’s Conservatives, just over 31% for WabKinew’s NDP, 14.5% for the Liberals, and around 6.5% Green. Other parties gathered about .5% of the vote.

The seat distribution, though, defies the popular vote. The Tories won a large majority, with 36 out of 57 seats, or 63%. The NDP won 18 seats, which reflects its 31% vote, but the Liberals only gathered 3 seats or 5%. The Greens were shut out of the legislature.

So, this means that Pallister’s party won nearly two-thirds of the seats in the legislature, based on around 26% support by the electorate. It’s a situation that has occurred repeatedly across the country – in both provincial and federal elections – and it should raise the question, “What would the outcome look like if we had proportional representation?”

Voting patterns would be different under PR, and different PR schemes yield different seat distribution, but the following graphs give a good comparison of how things might be different if Manitoba had a more representative voting system.

Under PR, Manitoba would still have a Conservative government, but it would be a minority. The NDP would have roughly the same number of seats, but the Liberals would have more than double (all at the expense of the Tories) and the Greens would have representation. There’s even the possibility that one of the smaller parties would also have a seat.

This matters – not just in Manitoba, but across the country. If workers are going to be able to demand that governments intervene in the economy on their behalf – for jobs, wages, climate justice, services – then we need to have an electoral system that allocates seats based on popular will.

Introducing proportional representation would be a big step in the right direction for the working class.

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Don’t waste your vote!

Editorial

One constant refrain during any election is that we shouldn’t vote for smaller parties or campaigns because it is a “wasted vote.” The reasoning is that a candidate who doesn’t stand to be elected doesn’t warrant support. Better to make sure you vote for the guy (and, more often than, not it is a guy) in the lead, so you can say had an impact on the outcome.

It’s a perverse narrative, and one that doesn’t serve working class interests – or even the broad interests of electoral democracy – in the slightest.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to realize that elections are bought and sold in this country. The campaign expense limit in the vast majority of ridings is over $100,000 per candidate. That just includes money that was spent by the candidate, during the campaign period. It doesn’t include advertising in the year leading up to the election, and it also excludes spending by third parties who typically shill for a particular campaign.

Working class candidates typically cannot raise this kind of money unless they are prepared to campaign to a different class base – in which case their policies cease to wholeheartedly reflect working class interests and demands. Those who do adhere to their principles suffer the consequences of being financially marginalized right from the get-go.

So, we find ourselves in a vicious little circle. Campaign expenses increase, so candidates and parties position themselves to raise sufficient funds, so they jettison more and more radical and working class demands, so there’s less progressive input into the public debate, so the rules continue to shift in favour of “monied interests.”

All so that the candidate can be considered “electable” and the vote not considered wasted.

We need a conceptual shift in how we understand political campaigning during elections. In the first place, there are many victories to be won that don’t involve being elected. Both from the left and (unfortunately) from the right, there are many examples of smaller parties scoring big wins during elections, even if they don’t win any seats. They have helped frame the parameters of the debate, they have promoted new approaches to public policy, and they have often raised the profile of marginalized, oppressed or underrepresented groups of people.

Beyond this, though, smaller parties provide a key vehicle for gauging public opinion. Think about it this way – if a candidate from one of the mainstream parties saw a 1000-vote increase on election night, it would hardly be remarkable; but if, say, the Communist Party candidate received 1000 votes, everyone would take serious notice. A vote for a smaller party can send a signal to government, media, and the community that is far more powerful than the vote for a mainstream party.

Corporate and ruling class interests understand this, so they have a huge interest in telling you which (of their) candidates is worthy of support and which would be an abnegation of your civic responsibility.

But really, the surest way to waste your vote is to cast it for someone who doesn’t reflect your interests.

And when you think of the interests that are at stake in this election – climate crisis, global war, economic recession, resurgent fascism and hate – doesn’t it make a lot more sense to vote for what you believe in?

People’s Voice is endorsing the Communist Party of Canada in this election, as we’ve done in every election since we started publishing. The Communists have the most comprehensive and consistent plan for winning radical immediate reforms and connecting that to the struggle for socialism. Where there is no Communist candidate, we encourage readers to press all other candidates on whether or not they will fight for real change that puts people and nature before profit.

Workers need a strong progressive bloc in Parliament. Voting for that is surely not a wasted vote.

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Blackface can’t mask deeper racism

Communist Party of Canada

Images of the Prime Minister in blackface have exposed what most racialized, Indigenous and progressive people have long suspected. This incident points to the real, intertwined issues of individual and systemic racism in Canada. Justin Trudeau is part of the ruling class, and – in politics or not – has greatly benefitted from a political system built on racism and exploitation. The Liberals and Tories – which have formed all the federal governments since Confederation – are the defenders and propagators of capitalism, and are responsible for the policies and actions that have caused such misery and death for Indigenous and racialized people in Canada, and facilitated the massive accumulation of wealth by the corporations operating here.

Canada’s racist and genocidal policies against Indigenous Peoples were enacted to steal their land and the vast mineral and natural wealth on and under it. The impoverished conditions on First Nation reserves and other Indigenous communities are deliberate, not accidental, and are the result of deliberate under-funding by federal governments. The Trudeau government’s ongoing legal appeals against court decisions which have ordered it to end the discriminatory underfunding of health, education and social programs for Indigenous children can only be seen as deliberate and racist. 

Likewise the government’s refusal to enact the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples to economic developments affecting them, such as the current mega-projects for pipelines and dams which are being jointly driven by the Liberals and Tories and by the NDP government in BC and the former NDP government in Alberta.  Other examples include deliberate delays in negotiating just settlement of land claims, the residential schools, the 60s scoop, and the current seizures of Indigenous children from their families.

The treatment and exploitation of racialized peoples in Canada is equally appalling, but also the result of policies intended to provide cheap labour based on colour and place of origin that directly benefited corporations and employers. A de facto tiered wage system was not illegal and was in place across Canada until very recently, based on colour and gender. Now it is illegal, but it is still in place as statistics for wages and incomes for racialized workers as compared to non-racialized workers show.

This is a country built on the brutal exploitation of immigrant workers who were used to break up the land and open up the country for capitalist development and profiteering. These were people who came to Canada from all over the world to escape poverty, war, and persecution, to build a better life.

The racist, anti-immigrant record of both Liberal and Tory governments includes the Chinese head tax, the Komagata Maru incident, the Japanese internment camps, the refusal to accept Jews and others escaping the Holocaust, and the current attack on immigrants by the Conservatives and so-called ‘People’s Party’ of Maxime Bernier. This is the real history of Canadian governments, including current and aspiring contenders for Parliament.

The Communist Party of Canada condemns the racism so clearly exposed in the blackface photos of Prime Minister Trudeau. We also condemn the racism expressed in the hate speech of Maxime Bernier’s anti-People Party and Scheer’s Conservative Party, and in the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic and hate-filled speech in social media, on billboards, and on the hustings by leaders, organizers, and candidates of all these parties.   

We note with deep alarm the growth of racist and fascist movements in Canada, and the links that the Tories and People’s Party have with these forces through individuals such as Faith Goldy, Charles McVety, Ezra Levant, and through media such as Rebel News. It is the increased activities of these organizations, promoted by right-wing politicians and media, that led to the deaths of Muslims at prayer in Ste-Foy, Quebec, and to the increase in hate crimes daily across Canada. It is these links which make the Conservative and anti-People’s parties the greatest threat to democracy and to working people today.

The Liberals’ decision to vote for Harpers’ racist and vicious Barbaric Cultural Practices Act is not forgotten. 

The Communist Party calls for strict enforcement of hate speech laws now, and for legislation that recognizes hate groups as criminal organizations that perpetrate hate crimes against racialized groups, women, and visible minorities.

We call for enactment of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, for swift and just settlement of Indigenous land claims without extinguishment of inherent rights, for immediate action to raise living standards on and off reserve including equitable or better funding for healthcare, education, social programs, job creation, housing, infrastructure including clean water and sewage systems.

We also call for an immediate end to racial profiling and for public, civilian control over police forces; for enforcement of laws against discrimination in housing and employment; for pay and employment equity to be legislated and universally enforced; for abrogation of the misnamed Safe Third Country Act which forces refugees from the US to enter Canada through dangerous routes; for an end to the Temporary Foreign Workers’ Program which strips foreign workers of labour rights and is effectively forced labour.  

Canada should welcome immigrants and refugees and transform into a country that stands for equality in life, as well as in law. Working people and all those who care about equality and democracy should make sure that the next government, and Parliament, act accordingly.

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“A whole system needs to be confronted”

Matthew Behrens

Wow, the white fragility and attempts to defend Trudeau racism are remarkable.

Even worse is the silence of so many over the past four years as his structurally racist policies rolled out one after another. The lives of Yemenis and tortured Saudi women? Not worth ending the Saudi arms deal. The Indigenous communities in Guatemala and Honduras threatened by Canadian corporations? No action other than financial support for those murderous companies.

Trudeau, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Carolyn Bennett, and Jane Philpott spent all their time in office refusing to comply with an order to end racist discrimination against 165,000 Indigenous children. They utterly failed to treat the boil water crisis as a crisis, and refused to adopt the Spirit Bear Plan for equitable funding of all Indigenous children.

Team Trudeau refused to adopt the free, prior and informed consent test of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and essentially stated what Andrew Scheer was criticized for being forthright about: that pipelines, megadams, mines, and fracking would go ahead regardless of whether Indigenous consent was received.

Team Trudeau bombed Iraqis and Syrians and exported billions in weapons to be used against those in the Global South.

NDP partisans should not by clapping with joy, however, because their party is bound by a similar racism: support for the $110 billion warship purchase and $25 billion fighter bomber purchase, which will be used to repress people who are not white halfway around the world while those communities who do not enjoy white skin privilege will continue to be underfunded and subject to repression at the hands of local police forces, the RCMP, and the Canadian military.

While I reflect on our (and by “our” I mean white people) role in ending white supremacy and the violence that we benefit from (are we willing to admit and act upon the fact that we are part of a colonial system built on this institutionalized racism?), I think of the racism I saw first-hand from white “brothers and sisters” at NDP HQ in Ottawa, when I tried to get answers on why the NDP is downright refusing to break its shameful silence over the poisoning of the Indigenous food supply downstream of Muskrat Falls, the harm being caused by Site C and Keeyask and other Manitoba Hydro projects, and the two dozen other megadams that threaten Indigenous communities with methylmercury poisoning. Your smirks, your self-important “we don’t have time for this” comments, your “we have an important meeting” rejoinders, and your refusal to spend five minutes on how to help front-line Inuit and Innu get a meeting with Jagmeet Singh to talk about their threatened future spoke to the kind of institutional racism that needs addressing.

It’s more than personal behaviour: it’s a whole system we have to confront. Are we willing to do so?

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Global climate strike just the beginning

Brent Patterson (republished from rabble.ca)

The global climate strike wasn’t intended to “amaze” so-called leaders about “the kids” and allow them to make generic statements about climate change to conceal their pro-fossil fuel industry policies and actions.

The Canadian environment minister whose government bought an 890,000-barrel-per-day tar sands pipeline patronizingly tweeted, “The kids demanding climate action in New York, across Canada, and around the world have it right -- It is about their future.”

The prime minister retweeted a local Liberal MP’s tweet, “Climate change affects us all. But nobody will be affected more than our youth. Proud of our community’s youth for speaking up about what matters to them.”

The climate strike wasn’t intended to make MPs proud about “our youth” (sigh); it was meant to spur action at the United Nations Climate Action Summit this week.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government isn’t about to take a whole new Green New Deal agenda to the UN this week.

There’s no indication that the Liberals are about to phase out the $3.3 billion in annual subsidies to the oil and gas industry (as promised in 2015) or cancel the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline and redirect that $4.5 billion into renewable energy programs.

Nor does it seem they are about to increase the ambition of the carbon emission reduction target they adopted from the previous Conservative government. There’s not even a truly credible plan from them that they’ll meet that weak target.

And while Trudeau apologized for his racist blackface actions, he hasn’t made amends for his government’s systemic racism of violating the Indigenous right to free, prior and informed consent (if he did the pipeline route wouldn’t include the Secwepemc Nation and other nations).

Across the pond, the British newspaper The Telegraph stated, “This climate strike is a joke. Childish socialism won’t help the environment.”

George Monbiot had the perfect succinct reply to this: “You don’t have to look far to see where the problem lies. The Telegraph is owned by two billionaires. For the sake of their own, immediate interests they seem prepared to sacrifice a habitable planet.”

And while the Trudeau government’s response may have sounded different than The Telegraph’s view, it wasn’t, not really.

The Telegraph may be owned by two billionaires, but we have a millionaire prime minister who has not retracted his statement to a roomful of other millionaires that, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

The global climate strike was a wonderful accomplishment of on the ground organizing. It truly was. And while we should celebrate the massive mobilization that took place on Friday, September 20, we can simultaneously commiserate that the march wasn’t an end in of itself.

How we make the needed change happen is a big question, but it starts with confronting a few systemic realities.

First, there’s the massive obstacle of transnational corporations

One hundred companies have been the source of more than 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 and more than half of global industrial emissions are produced by just 25 corporate and state-owned entities.

ExxonMobil spends about $41 million a year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding legislation to avert climate breakdown and is gearing up to spend $167 billion on oil and gas capital expenditures in new fields between 2020 and 2029.

There’s also the not small matter of our economic system.

This past April, Monbiot commented on a BBC-TV program, “We have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth. We’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it.”

Let’s keep marching, but let’s also acknowledge there are limitations to marches, even global marches.

On February 15 and 16, 2003, between 6 and 10 million people took part in marches around the world against the imminent war against Iraq. That was a larger turnout than the 4 million people who took part in this past week’s global climate strike. But the war began three weeks later on March 20, 2003, and hundreds of thousands of people would be killed or wounded.

Climate change is already killing 400,000 people a year, so what do we do?

Greta Thunberg tweeted, “If you belong to the small number of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you: This is just the beginning.”

Now those are heartening words.

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Put People and Nature Before Profits – Vote Communist

Election message from Communist Party of Canada

As voters head to the polls, Canada is headed into a new and deep global recession, facing the growing global danger of nuclear and conventional war, and a climate change crisis with irreversible and devastating consequences to the environment and the world’s peoples.

This is the result of unbridled capitalist globalization and profiteering, and the growth of far-right populist and fascist political movements, which are leading our planet and our country towards catastrophe. But this drive to the right can be stopped and reversed, with a mass turnout of progressive voters at the polls and, after the election, in the streets.

Dump the Liberals, Block the Tories and the Right

Four years of Liberal government have shown that Liberal and Tory foreign and economic policies are both bound to US interests. The result is free trade deals that bankrupt small farmers, close plants, lay off workers, privatize public services, drive down wages and living standards, and undermine labour, democratic and equality rights. 

While Trudeau talks about peace, he’s increased military spending by 73%, and his Foreign Minister has involved Canada in regime change operations in Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, Syria, and now China. When Trump says, “Do It!” both Trudeau and Scheer jump to it.

And while we face a climate crisis with average temperatures rising two and a half times faster in Canada than the global average, Liberals and Tories are fighting over a carbon tax that won’t come close to stopping climate change.  

The SNC Lavalin affair exposed the Liberals and Tories as enablers for the biggest corporations.  Both support Deferred Prosecution Agreements that allow corporations to avoid prosecution for criminal activities. Both are Big Business parties that delivered huge corporate tax cuts, privatization, and austerity.

But the Tories – and their cousins in the Bloc Quebecois and in the far-right People’s Party – pose the greatest danger with their anti-immigrant, anti-labour, and anti-people policies.

While they have some useful ideas, the NDP and Greens support ‘capitalism with a human face.’  But capitalism is fundamentally exploitative and profit-driven, the source of war and main danger to peace, climate justice, and fundamental social and economic change.

In the final analysis, only socialism can build a society where the needs of people and nature are in harmony and where working people are in the driver’s seat.  A socialist Canada is the aim of the Communist Party – fundamental social change that’s possible, urgent, and worth fighting for.

Elect a Large Progressive Bloc Including Communists

In this election, the best outcome would be the election of large progressive bloc, including Communists and others committed to a People’s Agenda, that would deny the Big Business parties a majority and – with strong public pressure – enable important parts of a People’s Agenda to be implemented, including proportional representation and electoral reform.

A Peoples Agenda: People’s Needs Not Corporate Greed! 

Working people need a new government with new policies that put people before profits, that will cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, and slash military spending by 75%. We need to double corporate taxes and use those revenues to create good jobs, raise wages, pensions and living standards, and build social housing stock across the country. We need government that will deliver a universal, quality, free public childcare system, free post-secondary education, expand Medicare and enforce the Canada Health Act, and reverse privatization. 

We need government that recognizes the right to national self-determination and fights for a new equal and voluntary partnership of Indigenous Peoples, Quebec, Acadia and English-speaking Canada. This should start with the repeal of the Clarity Act, just settlement of Indigenous land claims, and meaningful recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We need government that welcomes immigrants and refugees, and opposes militarism and wars of aggression that cause global mass migrations.

Build the fight inside and outside of Parliament

Electing Communists will help strengthen the fight inside and outside Parliament for policies that will put people and nature before profits, will curb corporate power and bring about fundamental change that can open the door to socialism.

Elections are not about “who will win” as manufactured by Big Business media.

Don’t waste your vote! Vote for candidates and a party that will defend your interests.Vote Communist.

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Cuba vs Trump: Standing Tall

Roger Keeran (republished from mltoday.com)

On June 1, just days before President Donald Trump banned most American travel to Cuba, I returned from an eleven-day tour sponsored by Hostos College in the Bronx, New York in conjunction with El Centro De EstudiosMartianos (the Center for José Marti Studies) in Havana.

In Cuba, I visited Havana, Trinidad, and Santa Clara, heard lectures by academics and professionals, and had conversations with government and former government officials including Manuel Yepe, the Chief of Protocol after the revolution. I also had the honor of talking with Ramon Labañino, one of the Cuban Five, a Hero of the Cuban Revolution, and now a leader of the largest Cuban non-governmental organization —Associación Nacional De Economistas y Contadores.

Many of my observations and conversations pointed to the new policies of President Donald Trump that are tightening the nearly 60-year U.S. blockade of Cuba and threatening the Cuban economy and living standards. To discuss these changes, I will pose three questions:

What is new in Trump’s policies?

What effects are these new policies having?

What are the responses of the Cuban leaders and people?

What is new in Trump’s policies?

Much is not new in American policy. To be sure, its purpose remains the same: regime change and the end of Cuban socialism. Trump and the nine previous presidents, including Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have embraced this goal. The American economic blockade remains, including the Obama administration’s appalling prohibition on selling equipment to diagnose cancer, and medications for cancer and epilepsy.

Trump is giving new twists to the knife. Most damaging is Trump’s unprecedented decision to invoke Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. In March 1968, Congressional Republicans and Democrats joined together, as they usually do on foreign policy, to pass this legislation, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Helms-Burton extended the blockade in many ways, but Trump did something that all previous presidents had not. In 2019 he rejected the option used by preceding presidents of suspending Title III. Title III authorizes U.S. nationals to sue any persons “trafficking,” i.e. profiting, from property confiscated, i.e. nationalized, by the Cuban government. Under the act, American nationals immediately sued the cruise line, Carnival Cruise.

In March 2019, the State Department said that companies covered by Title III included 200 Cuban enterprises controlled by the security forces, many of them part of the tourist industry.  Other companies are likewise under threat. Lawsuits against nationalized entities have little chance of succeeding, since these suits have no standing in international law, which recognizes the right of governments to nationalize property, a right that countries worldwide, including the United States, have exercised. Nevertheless, defending oneself against lawsuits cost companies time and money, and the threat of liability and exposure to paying damages creates instability and uncertainty thereby frightening away investors.

On June 5, 2019, Trump banned all American tourism to Cuba as well as the people-to-people visits for educational or cultural activities, a category that embraced most Americans who visited Cuba. Trump’s ban does not touch some previous categories of permitted travel, but what remains is very specific and narrow.

Yet another line of attack aims at reducing the hard currency from abroad that Cuba desperately needs. The money that Cuban-Americans send to their relatives in Cuba constitutes a major source of such money. Under Obama these remittances had no monetary limits. On April 17, 2019, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that henceforth remittances could not exceed $1000 every three months.

Trump has also tried to undermine the Cuban practice of providing doctors and other humanitarian aid to countries. For example, in Venezuela, Cuba has 20,000 doctors, nurses, and other humanitarian workers. Likewise, in Brazil, Cuba (until recently) had 8,517 doctors.  Without any evidence, or at best dubious evidence, the Trump administration has accused the Cuban aid workers of being military operatives, slaves, and revolutionary agents. Since Cuba receives hard currency and oil in exchange for its humanitarian aid, the Trump administration is trying directly to weaken another facet of the Cuban economy.

Trump has also indirectly hurt the Cuban economy. By placing economic sanctions on Iran, Venezuela and Russia, he has weakened their economies and hence made their aid to Cuba and trade with Cuba difficult.

Trump’s actions and threats have been diplomatic as well as economic. The Trump administration accused the Cuban government of using biological or technological warfare to sicken employees in the U.S. Embassy in Havana. No evidence substantiates these allegations, and only some, not all, employees complained of headaches or other ills. Nonetheless in March 2018, the Trump administration used this allegation as a pretext to drastically reduce the embassy staff.  This entailed expense and inconvenience for Cubans seeking visas. In the same month on the same pretext, Trump expelled 17 diplomatic personnel of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Every Washington administration has used the media and technology to try to undermine the Cuban government. Trump has continued past efforts and added one of his own. Following a June 16, 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum called “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba” the State Department created the Internet Task Force. Its task was “to examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding Internet access and freedom of expression in Cuba.” In reality these were code words for the use of the internet to promote dissension and create instability.

The effects of these new policies

From a short visit and a few lectures and conversations, it is impossible to get a thorough sense of the impact of the new policies and threats. Gauging the impact is difficult because Trump’s moves have occurred only in the last two years, and in some cases the last two months. Still, the likely impact remains clear and grave.

Compared with six years ago, the time of my last visit, Cuba appears much the same or improved, particularly with regard to conditions for tourists. No signs of dire poverty, homelessness, or unemployment exist. New hotels are rising. Renovations and restorations are occurring, though maybe not at the rate needed. The buildings along the Prado look great.  Even the famous Copelia ice cream emporium is undergoing refurbishing. Tourists still fill the hotels and restaurants that are stocked with quality goods and provide great service. Tourists fill the commercial streets of Old Havana. The museums are open and well-kept.

Nevertheless, the consensus of the Cubans with whom I met is that Trump’s impact has been serious and will get worse. People mentioned the deleterious effects that are not obvious or not yet manifest. The invocation of Title III of Helms-Burton, for example, is scaring off investors, causing problems with foreign bank loans and other transactions and impeding the flow of oil. The effects appear indirectly in various shortages in the marketplace. The oil shortage is apparent. Compared with six years ago, fewer cars navigate the streets of Havana, and they are mainly taxis. A drive from Havana to Trinidad on a modern highway encountered few other vehicles.

Cuba is also suffering from Trump’s economic sanctions against Venezuela. Since 2014 Venezuela’s economy has contracted by 50 percent and oil production by 65 percent. According to Ricardo Torres, a professor of economics and the Cuban economy at the University of Havana, Venezuelan oil delivered to Cuba “will fall by a similar percentage.” Writing in May of this year, Torres said shortages are not limited to oil. “The fact of shortages of various kinds of products is not new in the Cuban context, but they’ve accentuated substantially in the last quarter.  And no improvement can be expected in the short term.”

As stated before, sources of hard currency are shrinking. Since the right-wing government of Trump’s ally, Jair Bolsonaro, came to power in Brazil, Cuba has had to withdraw 8,517 doctors, who were serving 28 million people and for whom Brazil was paying Cuba substantial amounts of money. Trump is now pressuring Venezuela to expel 20,000 Cuban doctors and other humanitarian workers.

Trump’s travel restrictions will hurt the tourist industry, and tourism represents over 10 percent of the Cuban economy. In 2018, almost 5 million people including 650,000 Americans visited Cuba. Cubans noted that the travel ban would entail not only the loss of the money that Americans spend for meals, travel and lodging but also the big tips Americans typically leave.  After Trump announced the travel ban, the cruise ship lines, Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian canceled trips that will affect 800,000 bookings. The limitation on remittances from abroad will not only reduce the hard currency coming into the country but will also hurt those Cubans who want to use the remittances to buy or renovate houses or start the small businesses that the Cuban government has permitted since the 2011 “Guidelines.”

Whether all of these challenges and hardships amount to a new Special Period remains to be seen. It is doubtful. It is hard to imagine a catastrophe or hardships worse than what Cuba faced after 1990.  At that time, the Soviet Union was buying 90 percent of Cuban sugar at four times the world market price, was supplying Cuba with thirty-year loans at 2-3 percent interest, and was sending military and professional experts to Cuba at no cost. Because of Mikhail Gorbachev, all of this vanished overnight, and living conditions plummeted.

Nonetheless, Cuba’s ability to respond to the current crisis is complicated by new circumstances. In 1990, Cuba had an economy that was almost completely nationalized. Centralized ownership and control had many advantages when it came to deal with national crises, whether generated by other countries or by hurricanes. At that time, only a few thousand of the 11 million Cubans worked in what remained of the private sector. Today, under the “Guidelines,” Cuba is in the middle of a transition designed to reduce the public sector and increase productivity. This involves allowing an increase in the private sector.

Between 2010 and 2018, 1.1 million public sector jobs disappeared, while between 2007 and 2018 private sector jobs increased from 800,000 to 1.4 million. This transition poses its own challenges, namely assuring that this privatization benefits rather than harms the Cuban people and socialism. Added to these challenges are now added the ones created by Trump. It is little wonder that the economist Torres thinks the problems will be more difficult to solve now than they were in 1990. Torres thinks much can still be done to cope with the challenges, but he also thinks Cuba is “at this abyss.”

Cuban leaders and people respond

How destructive Trump’s policies will be depends on how effectively the Cubans respond. In this the Cubans have great experience and human reserves. Some observers may share Torres’s gloom, but on my recent visit that is far from the sentiment I encountered. Some citizens acknowledge the seriousness of the current situation. Some people compare the current situation to the dire times of Special Period, when shortages of food and other vital supplies contracted, and everyone suffered terrible deprivation. Some contrast the current situation with the more positive time of the Obama years, when overall Cuban-American relations improved. Most citizens from whom I heard, expressed an outlook something like this:  We have been through similar challenges before. We survived them, and we will survive these. Our needs are not great. We take care of each other. We are unified and disciplined. We will not give into U.S. pressure to give up international solidarity, socialism, or independence.

Cuban leaders express a similar determination and confidence. In response to American Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying he was “worried” about Cuba destabilizing Latin America, Army General Raul Castro said that what Mnuchin should be worried about is “the example of Cuba before the world, a small island that for more than 60 years has resisted the greatest empire history has known, and it extends its solidarity to all peoples in need, sharing not what we have left over, but even what we lack.” After the June travel restrictions imposed by Trump, the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla said, “They intend to strangle the economy and damage Cubans’ standard of living, to wrest political concessions from us. They will fail once again.” Similarly, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-CanelBermúdez said that his country would not be intimidated or distracted by the new threats and restrictions. “Work, creativity, effort, and resistance is our answer. They have not been able to asphyxiate us. This cannot stop us. We will live and triumph.”

The current situation may or may not lead to hardships as grave as the Special Period, but one thing remains sure, the Cuban people and leaders are as united, committed, and determined now as they were then.

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Call for peace and human rights in Colombia

A group of nearly 50 organizations from across Canada have issued an open letter expressing concern over the weakened peace process in Colombia, which has been consistently undermined by President Ivan Duque.

The group – representing labour, faith, human rights and international solidarity organizations – is calling on the Canadian government to pressure the Colombian government to respect human rights and uphold its obligations under the peace agreement.

“On the eve of the International Day of Peace, the undersigned Canadian organizations are joining to express their profound concern over an escalating human rights crisis in Colombia and continued threats to the Colombian peace process.

“In 2016, a historic peace agreement was reached between the Government of Colombia and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), with great hope of bringing an end to 52 years of armed conflict. Less than one month ago, the peace process was dealt a serious blow when several former commanders and now dissidents of the demobilized FARC announced their return to arms. They cited a lack of compliance by the Colombian state with the peace agreement and the systematic killing of social leaders and demobilized FARC members.

“By all accounts, President Duque and his political party have systematically undermined the peace agreement. They have consistently underfunded several of its key components; openly attacked the transitional justice system, and moved slowly on reintegration of ex-combatants into civilian life. Disturbingly, they have promoted and enacted legislation that is in direct opposition to the agreement, in particular with respect to the provisions related to agrarian reform and rural development – issues that gave rise to the armed conflict and that are vital to a sustained peace. Prodded by the United States administration, the Duque government has also abandoned the agreements related to crop substitution. All of these measures have had a disproportionate impact on rural women, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations.

“We are deeply concerned that little or no action has been taken to constrain paramilitary death squads that continue to threaten and kill community leaders with impunity. Since the peace agreement was signed in December 2016, at least 700 social movement leaders and 142 demobilized insurgents have been murdered. During the same period, an additional 260,000 Colombians were forcibly displaced, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons

(IDPs) in Colombia to approximately 7.8 million – the highest number of IDPs in the world. In June of this year the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions, Agnes Callamard, called on the Colombian government to “cease inciting violence” against demobilized FARC members.

“As Canadian organizations, we reiterate our solidarity with the people of Colombia and their desire to build a country where peace and justice prevail, and where deeply entrenched political, economic and social inequalities are addressed. We share their conviction that the peace agreement is an important step in this process and that it must be vigorously defended.

“We call on the Government of Canada to use its close relationship with Colombia to:

  • Speak out forcefully to condemn the killings and the dangerous backsliding on implementation of the peace agreement.
  • Press the Colombian government to uphold its obligations to protect the lives and rights of social leaders, human rights defenders and demobilized insurgents.
  • Press the Colombian government to comply with its obligations under the peace agreement and to advance without further delay on its full implementation.
  • Insist on the resumption of the negotiation table between the National Government and the ELN guerrilla, understanding that the only way out of the conflict is through dialogue.

“We urge the Government of Canada to redouble its political and economic support for peacebuilding initiatives in Colombia and ensure that Canadian trade and investment interests in Colombia are in no way undermining the peace process.”

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Venezuela: Investigation into Guaidó - Duque narco-paramilitary ties

Oscar H. Avellaneda (Republished from pacocol.org)

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has urged Colombia to open an investigation, based on new evidence that demonstrates ties between Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed president, and the Los Rastrojos narco-paramilitary cartel.

He indicated he has all necessary evidence, and that “the Colombian authorities may come to Venezuela to interrogate witnesses recognized as criminals in the Republic of Colombia.”

He said that the self-proclaimed president held meetings with the gang in a “picket house” located in the Colombian-Venezuelan border territory, where more than 500 people have been dismembered.

“If an impartial, objective investigation were carried out, the rot in the government of Iván Duque’s relationship with the paramilitaries and drug traffickers and the criminal conscious relationship of Juan Guaidó with these criminal groups would be discovered,” he said.

According to Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab, it is certain that these actions were “coordinated by the president of Colombia, Iván Duque.”

A member of the cartel, Iván PossoPedrozo (alias Nandito), was captured by Venezuelan authorities in Zulia state. During his testimony, he told how the transfer of Guaidó to Colombia was planned and executed on February 23, with the coordination and assistance of Ivan Duque’s administration.

Henry Navas, a national security expert, said in an interview conducted by Venezolana de Televisión, that the Colombian government protects these armed groups, which “are a kind of extension of their armed force.”

Duque daily accuses Venezuela of drug trafficking without showing any evidence. In fact, as a result of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces’ “Venezuela Sovereignty and Peace” operation, two members of the paramilitary group were confronted in mid-September by the Bolivarian military, who dismantled the cartel’s telecommunications base in the Loma del Viento sector in San Cristóbal, seizing drugs, weapons and transmission equipment.

They also dismantled four laboratories in the Mirador sector, in the Jesús María Semprún municipality of Zulia state, very close to the border with Colombia, where illicit drugs were being processed. They seized 3.5 tons of cocaine and more than 7 tons of chemical products.

The Venezuelan government is committed to keeping illicit drug trafficking at bay and preventing the spread of illicit crops in Colombia.

Last August, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces stopped and neutralized two aircraft with illicit substances, from Colombia, in the airspace of Venezuela.

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Nurses sit-in at Gatineau Hospital

Fed up with being short-staffed and forced to work overtime, nurses at the Gatineau Hospital staged their second sit-in in two days on Sept. 17. Nurses from the hospital’s emergency room and fifth-floor psychiatric ward began the sit-in at 4 p.m. Three hours later, a manager and union representative reached an agreement to end the demonstration, which followed two previous actions in recent weeks.

Representatives from the nurses’ union met with the regional health authority, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO), shortly after the latest sit-in began.

“We had frank discussions and we had clear and firm commitments from the regional health authority to work on projects that will be positive for all of our members, but also for the Outaouais region,” said Patrick Guay, acting president of the Syndicat des professionnellesensoins de l’Outaouais (SPSO) in a French-language interview.

Another meeting between the health authority and the SPSO was scheduled, with a mediator from the Tribunal administratif du travail, the province’s labour tribunal.

Guay said the idea for the sit-ins didn’t come from the union.

“The sit-ins are organized by the care professionals when they arrive in their department and see that the situation is untenable and that it will be impossible to provide adequate care. It is they who make the decision at that time to demonstrate,” he said.

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François Legault: 500,000 public sector workers “not Quebecers"

Translated and reprinted from Clarté

In a press conference at the end of the CAQ [Coalition Avenir Québec] caucus on Friday, September 13, Prime Minister Legault declared that "the surplus belongs to Quebecers, they do not belong to pressure groups, they do not belong to the unions."

According to Legault, despite budget surpluses that the government has accumulated for some time, if it is to respect its election promises there will be nothing left for the workers, despite their suffering through many lean years and decreases in real wages. For the next collective agreement, "we will have to be limited by the rate of inflation," he ruled.

"Public service workers are also Quebecers,” countered union organizations, who condemned the bad faith and bullying of the government for intervening publicly in negotiations before they have officially begun and while the consultation process for formulating demands is still underway.

This round of public sector negotiations will undoubtedly be difficult becausethe fundamental mission of a government like CAQ is to keep wages low and drive down workers, in order to ensure hefty corporate profits. Its anti-immigrant and minority-based laws draw and build upon prejudice, and are nothing but an effort to win sympathy from those it is about to rob.

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Music Notes

Wally Brooker

This land is whose land? Questions on Woody Guthrie’s most celebrated song

Folksinger Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) is widely acclaimed as the great bard of the American working class. More than fifty years after his death, his songs are still performed around the world. Guthrie grew up in Okemah, Oklahoma, in the heart of Cherokee territory. So, when a young Indigenous musician raises questions about Woody’s most celebrated song, “This Land Is Your Land,” it’s an invitation to think about his life and examine the assumptions of earlier generations of progressive artists. Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940 as a riposte to popular singer Kate Smith’s recording of Irving Berlin’s jingoistic World War I song, “God Bless America.”  Rather than a flag-waving, patriotic song, Woody, who was a communist, wanted a song that celebrated working people and criticized the capitalist system.

Indigenous singer Mali Obomsawin, a member of the Abenaki First Nation, criticized the song in a June 14 article, “This Land Is Whose Land?” published by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (www.folklife.si.edu). For Obomsawin, “This Land” falls flat. “In the context of America, a nation-state built by settler colonialism, Woody Guthrie’s protest anthem exemplifies the particular blind spot that Americans have in regard to Natives: American patriotism erases us, even if it comes in the form of a leftist protest song.”

Obomsawin also states that “since its conception, the song’s more radical verses critiquing capitalism and exclusionism have fallen by the wayside,” leaving it “merely patriotic.” She’s right about that. Guthrie’s original recording contains anti-capitalist verses, but those lines never made it into the schoolbooks when the song became canonized: As I went walking, I saw a sign there / And on the sign it said, “No Trespassing.” / But on the other side it didn’t say nothing / That side was made for you and me / In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple / By the relief office, I’d seen my people / As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking / Is this land made for you and me? / Nobody living can ever stop me / As I go walking that freedom highway / Nobody living can ever make me turn back / This land was made for you and me.

Will Kaufman, Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire, and author of three books on Woody Guthrie, responded to Obomsawin in an August 20 article, “The Misguided Attacks on ‘This Land Is Your Land’,” originally published at The Conversation (www.theconversation.com). Kaufman maintains that Guthrie was outraged by America’s genocidal history. He informs us that Woody was angry with his cousin, country singer “Oklahoma Jack” Guthrie, not only for claiming credit for Woody’s song “Oklahoma Hills”, but for cutting out “the best parts of the whole song” - the names of “the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole” who had prior claim to the lands of Oklahoma. In a 1949 live recording, Guthrie tells his audience, “They used dope, they used opium, they used every kind of trick to get [Indigenous people] to sign over their lands.”

Woody’s friend, Pete Seeger was in later years sensitive to criticisms of the song. He would sometimes add a verse written by activist Carolyn “Cappy” Israel: This land is your land, but it once was my land / Before we sold you Manhattan Island / You pushed my nation to the reservation / This land was stole by you from me. Perhaps in time Woody might himself have composed verses for “This Land Is Your Land” that addressed the dispossession issue. But he did not have much time left; by the early 1950’s a debilitating and deadly disease - Huntington’s Chorea - had sidelined and effectively silenced him.

Kaufman cites several Indigenous artists who have recorded Guthrie’s songs in recent years. In 2006, Blackfire, a Navaho band from Arizona, recorded two previously unpublished Guthrie songs - “Indian Corn Song” and “Mean Things Happenin’ in This World.” In 2007, Anishinaabe singer Keith Secola recorded an Ojibwa version of “This Land” on his album “Native Americana – A Coup Stick,” and acknowledged in an interview the songwriting lessons he had learned by listening to Woody’s songs. Indigenous artists like Secola and Blackfire, Kaufman suggests, are essentially saying “Woody Guthrie might not have been perfect, but we don’t need to “cancel” him. We’ll work with him instead.”

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Beautifully shot, but film of 1919 strikea missed opportunity

Stand! (2019)

Director: Robert Adetuyi

Writers: Rick Chafe, Danny Schur

Reviewed by Stephen Seaborn

Stand!, the feature length drama about the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, charmed audiences with its world première at this month's Toronto International Film Festival. It is beautifully shot and cleverly scripted, with a tender romance central to its storyline.

The film’s producers clearly understood the addition of romance to be essential for a historical fiction designed to reach a broad, and perhaps jaded, 21st century audience. However, Stand! will likely not thrill students of labour history or union activists hoping to learnmore about what went down in Winnipeg 100 years ago. Not to be a Donnie Downer but we're left wondering about the details – What was the actual nature of workers' engagement with this act of defiance?

The portrayal of a totally unified workforce over 30 days in Winnipeg is surely a glorification of the strike. Were there, for example, no class collaborators who succumbed to Winnipeg's Titans of Industry?  The storyline suggests not, except for that one hardline fellow who, late in the film,is revealed to be one of those scumbag class-traitor types in the pay of the employers' committee.

Perhaps such historicaldetails are contained in scenes lying on the cutting room floor, but not likely. I'm pretty certain such scenes were never shot.

This is likely because Stand!,themovie, is an on-screen adaptation of Stand!, the stage musical. So, drama? Yes. Plotline? Certainly. But soon it’s time for the dialog to morph into the next song, so details get dropped.

A lingering downside of the film (and, I presume, its predecessor stage production in Winnipeg) is how poorly the Bolsheviks are depicted. The father of the young, romance-rattled machinist is seriously bitter about his life in Ukraine, where the Bolsheviks tormented him and eventually killed his wife and kids.

And as the film proceedsthis characterremains the sole holdout in the illegal walkout. He becomes the one and only scab after all the machinists walk off the job.

Soon after, in a not too surprising development, we see Daddy scowling at the strikers as wave after wave of garment workers, labourers, spouses and families stream by him. Yet somehow, the lovelorn son swiftly coaxes the father to abandon his scabbing and join the strikers, who are just then striding purposely along with Winnipeg's streets.

Really?

To be fair, both the writer of the screenplay and the playwright of the original musical production of Stand! tell us the Winnipeg General Strike was an incredible act of resistance which shouldn't slip by unnoticed. They both, along with the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg's city council went out on a limb to bring this project to fruition.In the Q&A following the TIFF screening, the screenplay writer described the 30-day strike as “the most important event, after the Russian revolution, in the last 100 years.”

Stand! has already been picked up by teachers' unions for classroom use. Cineplex has signed on for Canada-wide distribution, and negotiations with US and international distributors are underway.

Making working class history accessible to a broad contemporary audience is a tall order. But ignoring the nuances of our history surely weakens any film's credibility. Stand! is charming and worth seeing when it comes to your area. But it is a missed opportunity.

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