Sunday, July 28, 2019

Muskrat Falls Emergency Solidarity Chain Fast, August 7 to October 21, 2019

Stop the Poisoning and Drowning of Labrador’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous People at Muskrat Falls

A crime unfolding in Labrador is set to escalate on August 7, when the wholly preventable methylmercury poisoning of an Indigenous country food web that has existed since time immemorial will begin downstream of Muskrat Falls.

Colonial powers have always relied on the poisoning and destruction of Indigenous food supplies as part of a genocidal agenda, and it is no different in Labrador, where the Trudeau government has invested a whopping $9.2 billion into the lethal Muskrat Falls megadam.

Despite pleas from the United Nations and the Indigenous government of Nunatsiavut, as well as the clear violation of Canada's legally binding commitments under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the provincial government of Dwight Ball and its federal government backers are refusing to take any measures to stop the methylmercury poisoning, forcing many to either go hungry or consume foods that contain a neurotoxin that contributes to the deadly Minamata Disease, an affliction all too familiar to the people of Grassy Narrows.

This dam, which will produce "blood megawatts" for sales abroad, threatens an act of cultural genocide via methylmercury poisoning and the additional risk of catastrophic dam break. Indeed, mass casualty flash floods are a real possibility since a significant portion of the dam reservoir is slated to be held back by a natural formation known as the North Spur, composed of quick clay (sand that liquefies and moves under pressure). No proper, independent engineering study has been performed to confirm the stability of the North Spur.

Like any number of megaprojects, all Indigenous people affected have not provided free, prior and informed consent to be poisoned and drowned by this megadam. Non-Indigenous residents also face similar threats from a project that could eventually cost as much as $78 billion and bankrupt the province, forcing further austerity on the most vulnerable of the province's residents.

Why We’re Fasting

During the period leading up to and including the federal election, when all parties will put forward "green plans," we will fast to continue raising awareness of and building resistance to the dangerous Muskrat Falls project which, like all megadams, is NOT green energy. The fast is also an opportunity to demand of anyone who runs for public office that they must speak out against and discuss how they will stop the poisoning of an Indigenous country food web that has existed since time immemorial

We will fast for one or more days during the months between August 7 – when the waters in the reservoir will begin to rise and submerge uncleared vegetation, brush, trees, and soil, thus kicking off the methylmercury bioaccumulation that threatens future generations – and the expected date of the federal election, October 21.

This fast is in support of the Labrador Land Protectors (some of whom still face court proceedings for being on their own land), all those living at risk downstream of the Muskrat Falls megadam, and the poorest and most vulnerable residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, who will face severe cutbacks to desperately needed social programs to pay for this disaster.

We fast because we recognize that if Muskrat Falls goes online without any changes, the largely Indigenous downstream population will be faced with either going hungry or eating a country food web dangerously poisoned by the neurotoxin methylmercury.  

We fast because we recognize the hungering for justice of people who have never been properly consulted about a project that threatens their lives.

We fast because we recognize that all of us undertaking small sacrifices together can help awaken the sleeping conscience of a country that has yet to take seriously the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the cornerstone principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The fast will continue from August 7 to October 21 with three demands:

1.   An immediate halt to impoundment of the Muskrat Falls reservoir, and immediate implementation of the original recommendations from a joint 2011 provincial-federal environmental assessment (seconded by a major 2016 Harvard University study and further echoed by an Independent Experts Advisory Committee) for full clearance of brush, trees, and topsoil, along with the capping of the wetlands, at the Muskrat Falls reservoir to prevent the bioaccumulation of the neurotoxin methylmercury.

2.  Immediate appointment of an independent inquiry into the instability of the North Spur, because no study has proven that it is secure enough to prevent a catastrophic dam break and mass drowning.

3.   The federal government, provincial government, and Nalcor (the crown corporation behind the dam) must halt all work on the dam until they have received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous peoples affected by the dam, as well as that of non-Indigenous downstream residents.

Failing all of these demands, Muskrat Falls must be decommissioned and returned to its natural state.

How to participate in the Chain Fast

Pick a day (or a series of days) to fast throughout the summer season and email your name and town to A list of open dates and names is below. More than one person can fast on the same date.

Fast according to your preferred tradition (a full 24 hours, liquids only, sun up to sun down).

The fast is open to anyone (you can join even if you are not living in the land known as Canada)

On the day they fast we encourage you to:

a.  take a selfie with a simple message (ie, #ShutMuskratDown, Stop Poisoning Indigenous People in Labrador, Respect Indigenous Rights, etc) and share that image via social media, explaining why you are fasting on that day

b.   Write an email to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Stolen Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, and Colonial Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett federally, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball and Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall (the crown corporation behind the project), to explain why you are fasting and reinforce the three demands listed above. Emails are:

c. Write a letter to a local newspaper about why they are fasting, and perhaps link your fast to land and water protection struggles taking place in your territory.

d. If you have the time, make a sign and vigil for an hour or two in public at a federal building or MP’s office to mark your fast and the reasons behind it (we can provide flyers to hand out).

Thanks for your support!

The Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition

Wednesday, August 7: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL; Angela Giles, Halifax; Sabrina Bell & Ronnie Villeneuve; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, August 8:  David Heap, London, ON
Friday, August 9: Lori Borthwick, Belleville, ON
Saturday, August 10: Brian Burch, Toronto, ON
Sunday, August 11: Brian Burch, Toronto, ON
Monday, August 12: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, August 13: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Wednesday, August 14: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, August 15:  Ella Pegan, Ottawa, ON
Friday, August 16: Lesley Anne Paveling, Ottawa, ON
Saturday, August 17: Liz White, Edmonton, AB
Sunday, August 18: Jozef Konyari, Toronto, ON
Monday, August 19: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, August 20: Belinda Cole, Toronto
Wednesday, August 21: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL;
Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, August 22:  
Friday, August 23: 
Saturday, August 24:
Sunday, August 25:
Monday, August 26: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, August 27:
Wednesday, August 28: Sylvia Smith, Ottawa, ON, Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, August 29:  Luke Stocking, Toronto, ON
Friday, August 30: 
Saturday, August 31:
Sunday, September 1:
Monday, September 2: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, September 3:
Wednesday, September 4: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, September 5:
Friday, September 6: kathrin winkler, Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People
Saturday, September 7:
Sunday, September 8: Caitlin Hewitt-White, Toronto
Monday, September 9: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, September 10: Randal Hadland   Dawson Creek, BC  (near the Site C destruction)
Wednesday, September 11: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, September 12:
Friday, September 13:
Saturday, September 14:
Sunday, September 15: Farista Sairuv, Edmonton, AB
Monday, September 16: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, September 17: Dorene Bernard, Grassroots Grandmother, Mi'kmaki Treaty Truck House on the Shubenacadie River
Wednesday, September 18: Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL
Thursday, September 19:
Friday, September 20:
Saturday, September 21:
Sunday, September 22:
Monday, September 23: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, September 24:
Wednesday, September 25: Sylvia Smith, Ottawa, ON, Peggy Skinner, Goose Bay, NL, Lini Hutchings, Vancouver, BC; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, September 26:
Friday, September 27: Rita Monias, Pimicikamak
Saturday, September 28:
Sunday, September 29:
Monday, September 30: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, October 1:
Wednesday, October 2:
Thursday, October 3: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON, Carolyn (Lynn) Smart, Toronto. ON
Friday, October 4:
Saturday, October 5:
Sunday, October 6:
Monday, October 7: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC; Ria Heynen, Ottawa, ON
Tuesday, October 8:
Wednesday, October 9:
Thursday, October 10: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Friday, October 11:
Saturday, October 12:
Sunday, October 13:
Monday, October 14: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC
Tuesday, October 15:
Wednesday, October 16: Sylvia Smith, Ottawa, ON; Catherine McLean, London, ON
Thursday, October 17: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON
Friday, October 18:
Saturday, October 19:
Sunday, October 20: Michelle Bush St. John’s, NL
Monday, October 21: Liz Chisholm, Chilliwack, BC

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Indigenous Land and Water Defenders Arrive in Ottawa to Demand End to Large Hydro Dams

Thursday's release of preliminary findings by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes paints a damning picture of environmental racism and, at Muskrat Falls, a very real threat of methylmercury poisoning from a project that failed to receive free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people. Front-line land defenders from Labrador are currently travelling over 3000 km to get to Ottawa for the events below, as is a delegation of Indigenous women from hydro-impacted communities in Manitoba. 

Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition, (613) 267-3998, (613) 300-9536,

Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities, (204) 474-9316.

For Immediate Release, June 8,  2019

Indigenous Land and Water Defenders Arrive in Ottawa to Demand End to Large Hydro Dams

Press Conference Highlights Concerns About Methylmercury Poisoning, Biodiversity Loss, Lack of Consent from Muskrat Falls to Manitoba Hydro to Site C

Where: Room 135-B in the West Block

When: Monday, June 10, 9 am

Why: As 1,100 delegates to a large dams conference gather in Ottawa, Indigenous people adversely impacted by large dams, along with supporters, will spend the day involved in peaceful protests against the dams while presenting Catherine McKenna with a petition signed by over 15,000 people


Amy Norman, Nunatsiavummiuk, Labrador Land Protector, Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Dr. Ramona Neckaway, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House, Manitoba)

Carol Kobliski, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House, Manitoba)

Rita Monias, Pimicikamak Okimawin (Cross Lake, Manitoba)

Matthew Behrens, Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition

Meg Sheehan, North American Megadams Resistance Alliance, New Hampshire

Ottawa, ON (Unceded, Unsurrendered Algonquin Territory) – Representatives of a number of Indigenous communities adversely impacted by large hydro dams and their supporters will converge on Ottawa June 10 to hold a 9 am press conference in Room 135-B (West Block) and a series of peaceful protests to call on all federal parties to address their concerns about communities seriously damaged by megaprojects that have never received their free, prior and informed consent.

            Following the press conference, the land and water defenders will be joined by supporters outside the massive gathering of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), whose 1,100 members are holding a week-long conference at the Shaw Centre (55 Colonel By Drive). There, they will try and share their experiences of large dams’ negative impacts on their communities with conference attendees, starting at 10 am.

    The gathering follows on the release of preliminary findings from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes yesterday in Ottawa, including his recommendation that the federal government "use its leverage as the largest investor in the [Muskrat Falls] project to review whether UNDRIP compatible procedures were followed for all affected indigenous peoples,  and to prevent the release of methyl mercury.”

            Amy Norman, who for almost three years faced criminal and civil charges for peacefully protesting the Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador (which is backed by $9.2 billion in federal loan guarantees), will then lead a delegation to Parliament Hill during the noon hour to try and present a petition with 15,000 signatures calling on Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to take immediate measures to stop the impending methylmercury poisoning of the Inuit and Innu peoples’ traditional food web. A similar presentation will take place in St. John's, Newfoundland on June 10 as well.

            “So many people downstream of Muskrat Falls rely on country food for their diet, and with Harvard University clearly showing that this food web will be poisoned with the neurotoxin methylmercury, people are incredibly anxious and afraid for their future and that of their children and grandchildren,” says Norman, who has travelled over 3,000 km to Ottawa.

             Among those who have also traveled significant distances are a delegation from Northern Manitoba as part of the Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities. They want to draw attention to the devastating socio-economic, cultural and environmental impacts associated with mega-hydro and to address delegates at the ICOLD gathering. Dr. Ramona Neckoway, Chair of Aboriginal and Northern Studies at University College of the North and member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House) states that “the cumulative and extensive impacts of mega-hydro are poorly understood and are ignored by industry, governments and regulators. In northern Manitoba, many of us were born into damaged landscapes and fresh water has been sacrificed for mega-hydro. I am here to stand in solidarity with other hydro-affected communities who share similar experiences and concerns” she explains. She and other northern Manitoba Cree recently addressed the United Nations about these concerns.           

    "We're fed up with what's going on, and how we're left out and how things are just fast-tracked in regards to our lands,” explains Carol Kobliski, also of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. “There's not proper consultation, and these dams are just coming up all over the place."

            Pimicikamak Okimawin elder Rita Monias, who was arrested in a peaceful protest last fall on Parliament Hill, will be part of that delegation as well.

“ “We have seen major displacement, a loss of cultural knowledge, reduced access to traditional foods and medicines and far fewer opportunities to take part in our traditional economy, destruction of our burial grounds and cultural sites, the fear of eating our traditional foods because of methylmercury poisoning, injury and death due to hazardous navigation on the waters, and major changes and reductions in the wildlife whose patterns have been disrupted by the dams,” says Monias. “We cannot allow any more environmental devastation on our Mother Earth. We have to protect it.”

Notably, this week’s report of the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for a public inquiry into another of big hydro’s ill effects: sexual assault and racism by residents of man camps at remote Manitoba facilities like the Keeyask dam.

Meanwhile, Meg Sheehan, traveling to Ottawa from New Hampshire, says she has a message for the Canadian government:  “We don’t want your dirty Canadian hydropower in the U.S. It is the equivalent of blood diamonds from Africa. There are unacceptable impacts on local communities and Indigenous rights. In the U.S. we are cutting off the markets for Canadian hydropower by stopping the seven transmission corridors planned through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.”

To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact: Matthew Behrens, Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition, (613) 300-9536 or Kelly Janz, Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities, (204) 474-9316.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

United Nations Calls on Trudeau Government to Take Immediate Action on Muskrat Falls Methylmercury Concerns


June 6, 2019

Ottawa, ON (Unceded, Unsurrendered Algonquin Territory) – In an end-of-visit statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak today called on the federal government to use its leverage to address concerns about lack of proper consultation with Indigenous people (especially with respect to the parameters outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as the impending threat of methylmercury poisoning downstream of the massive Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador.

            “I urge the Federal Government to use its leverage as the largest investor in the project to review whether UNDRIP compatible procedures were followed for all affected indigenous peoples, and to prevent the release of methyl mercury,” the Rapporteur told a news conference on Parliament Hill. The federal government backs the megaproject with $9.2 billion in loan guarantees despite well-documented concerns about dire ecological impacts and adverse affects on the lives of Indigenous people downstream. Both the Harper and Trudeau governments have supported the Muskrat Falls megadam.

            During the Rapporteur’s visit to Canada, he met with Labrador Land Protectors including Nunatsiavummiuk Amy Norman and Nunatukavut elder James G Learning, along with Grand Riverkeeper's Roberta Frampton Benefiel and the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition's Matthew Behrens.

They shared a brief outlining their position that “Core to any study of Muskrat Falls is an understanding that Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by a megaproject that has never received the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous affected. The key project supporters – provincial crown corporation Nalcor, the federal government (which backs the megadam with $9.2 billion in federal loan guarantees), and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador – sit at negotiating tables that are grossly unequal and weighted in their favour,” adding “as with many megaprojects in Canada, federal and provincial governments have relied on their own impoverished, colonial definition of consultation at Muskrat Falls… discounting the often dissenting concerns expressed by elders, traditional title holders, and grassroots voices” instead of employing the UNDRIP’s foundational guidelines of free, prior and informed consent.

            In his statement today, the Rapporteur noted that “Concerns were raised regarding the absence of meaningful consultation afforded to two affected First Nations, the risk of methyl mercury releases contaminating traditional foods and impacting health, the unaddressed risk of dam failure, and the flooding of sites containing toxic military waste. It was alleged that the vast majority of the affected community would either suffer from extreme food insecurity or be forced to eat contaminated food if the dam is constructed without proper clearance of the reservoir.”

            The risk of dam failure is a major concern for those downstream of Muskrat Falls, since a large natural formation, The North Spur, composed of quick clay (which liquefies under pressure), is being relied upon to hold back a full reservoir of water. The world’s leading quick clay expert, Dr. Stig Bernander, has studied the issue and found no independent study has shown this to be feasible.

            Today’s statement was a significant moment in the ongoing battle over the almost $13 billion megaproject in Labrador which its own CEO has derided as a “boondoggle.”

 “The ongoing abuses at Muskrat Falls, and the threat of cultural genocide being committed against Indigenous people whose traditional country food web is set to be poisoned with a lethal neurotoxin, methylmercury, is finally on the world stage with this recognition of serious concerns expressed by the United Nations’ Rapporteur,” explains Matthew Behrens of the Ontario-Muskrat Solidarity Coalition.

            “Despite years of promises, no action whatsoever has been taken to clear the reservoir of the material that will result in the bioaccumulation of methylmercury in the fish, seals, and other country food, as documented by a peer-reviewed, four-year study by Harvard University. As always, the federal and provincial governments are treating Indigenous people as a national sacrifice zone, continuing the genocide that, ironically, Trudeau visited Labrador last year to apologize for with respect to residential schools.”

            “So many people downstream of Muskrat Falls rely on country food for their diet, and with Harvard University clearly showing that this food web will be poisoned with the neurotoxin methylmercury, people are incredibly anxious and afraid for their future and that of their children and grandchildren,” says Nunatsiavummiuk Amy Norman.

            On Monday, Labrador Land Protectors who have journeyed thousands of kilometres will address the national media at 9 am in the Parliamentary Press room 135-B (where the Rapporteur delivered his remarks today), attend a protest outside a major gathering of the International Commission of Large Dams at 10 am at the Shaw Centre, and then attempt to present a petition to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna  with over 15,000 signatures demanding she take action to halt the threat of methylmercury poisoning. They will be joined by  members of communities who for years have suffered the ill effects of similar large mega dams.

Among those who also will have traveled significant distances are a delegation from Northern Manitoba as part of the Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities. They want to draw attention to the devastating socio-economic, cultural and environmental impacts associated with mega-hydro and to address delegates at the ICOLD gathering. Dr. Ramona Neckoway, Chair of Aboriginal and Northern Studies at University College of the North and member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House) states that “the cumulative and extensive impacts of mega-hydro are poorly understood and are ignored by industry, governments and regulators. In northern Manitoba, many of us were born into damaged landscapes and fresh water has been sacrificed for mega-hydro. I am here to stand in solidarity with other hydro-affected communities who share similar experiences and concerns” she explains. She and other northern Manitoba Cree recently addressed the United Nations about these concerns.            

"We're fed up with what's going on, and how we're left out and how things are just fast-tracked in regards to our lands,” explains Carol Kobliski, also of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. “There's not proper consultation, and these dams are just coming up all over the place."

            Pimicikamak Okimawin elder Rita Monias, who was arrested in a peaceful protest last fall on Parliament Hill, will be part of that delegation as well.

“We have seen major displacement, a loss of cultural knowledge, reduced access to traditional foods and medicines and far fewer opportunities to take part in our traditional economy, destruction of our burial grounds and cultural sites, the fear of eating our traditional foods because of methylmercury poisoning, injury and death due to hazardous navigation on the waters, and major changes and reductions in the wildlife whose patterns have been disrupted by the dams,” says Monias. “We cannot allow any more environmental devastation on our Mother Earth. We have to protect it.”

Notably, this week’s report of the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for a public inquiry into another of big hydro’s ill effects: sexual assault and racism by residents of man camps at remote Manitoba facilities like the Keeyask dam.

Meanwhile, Meg Sheehan, traveling to Ottawa from New Hampshire, says she has a message for the Canadian government:  “We don’t want your dirty Canadian hydropower in the U.S. It is the equivalent of blood diamonds from Africa. There are unacceptable impacts on local communities and Indigenous rights. In the U.S. we are cutting off the markets for Canadian hydropower by stopping the seven transmission corridors planned through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.”


Saturday, February 16, 2019

SNC-Lavalin Declares War on Homes not Bombs!

Dozens of Police, Mounted Units, Police Wagons Greet Toronto Vigil of 10 People Protesting Production of Canadian Bullets for U.S. Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan....

 TORONTO, MARCH 21, 2005 -- All the 10 or so members of Homes not Bombs wanted to do today was have a dialogue on ending SNC-Lavalin's participation in the war crimes being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. SNC-Lavalin profits handily from its Quebec-based SNC-TEC subsidiary, which is providing hundreds of millions of bullets to U.S. occupation forces across the globe.

But SNC-Lavalin management would have none of it, preferring to treat Homes not Bombs as a security threat. In their largest display of force yet, some three dozen Metro Police, eight wearing riot visors and riding horses -- backed up with two police wagons ready to cart folks away -- were on hand early today at the Etobicoke offices of the firm, which has been the site of two prior, peaceful protests.
   All this for a group of ten people with placards and flyers calling for an end to the profits being made from war crimes. And just to make sure we got the point, police immediately accosted the small group as we walked towards the western driveway to the offices. The officer in charge told us that the company had pre-issued trespass notices against us "that would be enforced," and another officer took it upon himself to single out one demonstrator, grabbing him by the arm, without explanation, and proceeding to shove him around. The officer then threatened to attack another demonstrator for standing on the sidewalk.

"Move, how many times do I have to tell you, you're blocking the driveway!" he thundered at her.

She reminded him that his police cars were in fact blocking the driveway and that she was simply standing on the sidewalk. Despite his repeated thundering at her, she stood her ground, staring him down until he backed off.

Indeed, police cars blocked both entrances, and a row of squad cars was lined up at the front entrance to the building, perhaps to prevent a repeat of the scene on Martin Luther King Day, when a group of about 50 people, including some recently returned from first-hand witnessing in Iraq, had paraded around the grounds and a smaller group of about 10 had tried to enter the building for a dialogue. That day, police had seemed unprepared, and made no arrests.
Why was there such a display of force today? Were the police simply embarrassed by their lack of preparation last time out (only to be made even more embarrassed with today's show of firepower for the small vigil)? Or has the campaign to get SNC-Lavalin to divest itself of its bulletmaker or, better yet, transform itself into something socially useful, begun to have an effect inside corporate boardrooms?

Bullet production certainly has been cause for a great deal of dialogue inside the building, according to employees who ventured out for lunch and discussed the issue with the demonstrators.

And if SNC-Lavalin was trying to deflect attention away from itself because of its unsavoury practices, this was certainly not the way to do it.The huge police presence also meant many passersby slowed down to see what was going on and, having found out, honked enthusiastically their support for our vigil.
    While some employees refused to look at us, others nodded in silent support, and a few were vocal in their words of encouragement. Some said they were unaware there was to be a protest, so there was concern when police on horseback started circling the building this morning. Once that occurred, the company did much of the work for us, by explaining once again in an internal email that SNC's profiting from bullets was the cause of our demo.

Some employees stood out on the front porch for a short time while we called out to them to have a dialogue on divestment, but apparently a senior manager ordered them back inside. It is that kind of treatment--not even allowing employees the right on their break to speak with us--that has contributed to a certain amount of discomfort within the company.

Indeed, one employee told us of a personal decision to give notice in a few weeks time, declaring that the bullet contract was one more reason to leave the company, in addition to concerns about what the individual described as shoddy environmental practices by the firm in its engineering and mining projects and poor treatment of employees.

As we left the armed encampment that was SNC-Lavalin this afternoon, we vowed to return, to once again expose the lie that Canada is not involved in the crimes taking place in Iraq, and to challenge a complacent population which seems to have bought that lie in much the same way as many have swallowed the line that Paul Martin's announcement on star wars means Canada is not involved in space warfare (when in fact it is official Canadian government policy to view space as the fourth medium of warfare).

Stay tuned. Better yet, if you are one of those people who has enough money to have investments, make sure none of your money is going to SNC-Lavalin. If it is, divestment provides a perfect way to express your displeasure at their profiting from war crimes.

(report from Matthew Behrens of Homes not Bombs; photos by John Bonnar)

NOTE: This campaign proved successful. SNC-Lavalin was forced to divest itself of its bullet division.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Canada ignores national security threat posed by femicide


By Matthew Behrens
            Every other day in 2018, a woman in Canada was murdered, almost exclusively  by men. Sexual assault crisis centres reported a record numbers of calls last year. And according to a new report, male violence against women has claimed the lives of at least 10,495 women and girls in Canada since 1961, an average of 184 femicides per year. 

            Femicide is recognized internationally by the United Nations as the most extreme form of violence and discrimination against women and girls,” according to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. “Its definition varies across disciplines and world regions, but broadly captures the killing of females, primarily by men, because they are female.”

            Despite such massacre-scale figures, successive federal and provincial governments have refused to recognize and act upon the scale and severity of a national security threat that daily targets more than half the population. It’s certainly not news to those who courageously – and almost always without the necessary funding and resources they need to do their jobs – staff the shelters and sexual violence hotlines counseling the targets of hundreds of thousands of daily acts of male violence. 

            While the Trudeau government has thumbed its nose at a United Nations commitment to enact and properly fund a National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Girls, its Public Safety Minister also refuses to recognize the national security implications of male violence. Indeed, when a man inspired by extremist misogynist ideology (the so-called incel movement) went on a murderous Yonge Street rampage in 2018, Ralph Goodale had the audacity to declare the terrorist act did “not appear to be connected in any way to national security.”

            Instead of naming and addressing this major national security threat, the Canadian government continues to rely on racist tropes generated by white supremacist state security agencies to imagine threats that are minimal at worst but which, when parroted by a compliant media, actually make life even more dangerous for anyone who does not enjoy the protective shield of white privilege.

A Flimsy Terror Plot
            Nowhere was that more clear than in the arrests last week of two people in Kingston on an alleged terror plot. While one of those arrested was released without charge, the media continue to spout inflammatory lines about the non-charged individual being part of a refugee family fleeing Syrian violence. Needless to say, that irresponsible reportage was immediately picked up by Donald Trump’s Canadian Tweet Deputy, Andrew Scheer, who reinforced the utterly nonexistent notion that falsely equates refugees with terrorism. (Indeed, research concludes that new immigrant communities have lower crimes rates than those who came before them).

            While we have yet to learn the details about this alleged plot, its timing is, as with all so-called terror arrests, curious, coming as it does as the Senate is set to renew hearings on the dangerous new state security powers being debated in Bill C-59. Its substance is also open to some very reasonable questioning. A tip from the FBI – an organization with a remarkable record of initiating and planning terror plots that are then pinned on vulnerable individuals – led some 300 Canadian agents into high-octane motion, even though there was  no specific target identified”; the superintendent in charge confirmed there was “no specific time, date or location affixed to” the alleged plot of the 16-year-old; there were only “elements and trace elements” of a “potentially” explosive substance allegedly found in one of the houses raided by police; and the superintendent in charge declared: “At no time was the city of Kingston or any Canadian area under direct threat.” It appears there was some vague talk of “facilitating” someone setting off a non-existent explosive device at a place and time that had not been determined, which sounds a lot like the kind of plots that are cooked up by eager FBI and RCMP informants who fish the internet to find vulnerable individuals who might take the bait.

            The arrests also play into what will likely be a significant racist narrative during the 2019 federal election: Canada’s allegedly “porous” borders and equating refugees with security threats. Evidence of this trend was a lazy and fear-mongering CBC piece that read more like a press release from CSIS than the work of a responsible news organization. In reporting on a heavily redacted government document entitled “Subject of national security concern granted permanent residency,” CBC took great pains to point out, adding fuel to the fire, that the granting of landed status here “means the person is entitled to most social benefits —including health care — can live, work and study anywhere in Canada, and is protected by Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but isn't considered a Canadian citizen.”
While the document allegedly could not detail why the individual was considered a threat because to detail CSIS’s “derogatory information” would allegedly harm “the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada,” the CBC failed to properly contextualize the consistent pattern of state security agencies claiming “national security confidentiality”  as a means of covering up anything that could prove embarrassing to the government. Such rationalizations are also employed to cover up the fact that “derogatory information” in the hands of CSIS is often the product of torture or other forms of mistreatment that Canada’s spy agency  eagerly  receives from some of the world’s worst dictatorships.
 The CBC also failed to question what it meant to declare that CSIS had “derogatory information” against this individual, especially given the spy agency’s lengthy historical record of falsely naming individuals security threats (often leading to torture, as we have seen in the cases of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad ElMaati, Muayyed Nureddin, and Abousfian Abdelrazik, among others).
In addition, CBC failed to place this allegedly bombshell document within a long history of Canada using overly broad definitions of security threats to declare individuals  inadmissible to Canada.  That includes, for example, thoe who were involved in struggles against South African apartheid or death squad dictatorships in Central America. The overly broad interpretation of what it means to be a member of an organization – membership being a ground to make one inadmissible to Canada on security grounds – is so broad that it can encompass someone who wrote for a party newspaper or provided catering services to a political meeting. Ottawa fails to consider, for example, whether someone joined a group before it took up arms or after it eschewed violence. It also fails to distinguish between membership in groups with a single brutal purpose -- the employment of violence without regard to civilian casualties -- and multi-faceted organizations that, while possessing a military wing, also act as de facto governments that provide social services (such as the Palestine Liberation Organization).
The Tunnel Vision of State Security
That Canada’s state security agencies would not focus on real threats to security and instead pin blame on individual targeted communities is understandable. They have always demonized Indigenous people, immigrant communities, and anyone who threatens an unequal status quo. It's in their DNA, reflected recently in a 2017 lawsuit by a group of CSIS employees who declared they had been “harassed and discriminated against by CSIS management and colleagues, on the basis of religion, race, ethnic and/or national origin, and/or sexual orientation." That lawsuit was quietly settled with the usual promise to “do better.”
Meanwhile, the 2018  “Terrorist Threat to Canada” report, issued just before the December holiday season, proved a significant dose of cognitive dissonance on steroids. While Ralph Goodale inaccurately described it as “a balanced and frank assessment of the current threat environment,” it is in reality a recycled hash of racist nonsense produced by a nation that Goodale describes as “being a collaborative force for good in the world”. While the 2017 public report declared, without substantiation, that “the principal terrorist threat to Canada continues to be that posed by violent extremists who are inspired by violent Islamist ideology, and terrorist groups such as Daesh and al-Qaida,” the 2018 report returns to the tired evil Muslims nostrum of “violent Sunni Islamist ideology.”
The basis for such conclusions is a timeline dating back to 2006 that features a series of incidents that almost exclusively relied on the role of highly-paid RCMP and CSIS agents in creating and organizing various plots, leading vulnerable individuals right into lengthy prison terms via elaborate entrapment schemes. Others – single individual incidents – were carried out by people with serious mental health challenges but, given their ancestry, were translated into so-called terrorist acts.
In the check-box virtue-signalling and faux political correctness that defines the Trudeau regime, some space is devoted to Right-Wing Extremism. But it is seriously downplayed, noting in a major affront to the lived reality of millions that  “while racism, bigotry, and misogyny may undermine the fabric of Canadian society, ultimately they do not usually result in criminal behavior or threats to national security.” It’s a remarkable statement – not only because racism, bigotry, and misogyny actually make up the fabric of Canadian society – but also because it flies in the face of readily available public figures.
Indeed, whether it’s the epidemic of male violence against women – perhaps most dramatically illustrated in 2018 by the Yonge Street misogynist massacre – or racism (January 29 marks the second anniversary of the terrorist attack that murdered six and injured 19 Muslim worshippers in Quebec City), there is clearly a growing threat from white supremacists that’s been well documented by researchers Barbara Perry and Ryan Scrivens.
Downplaying White Supremacist Violence
Indeed, as the Toronto Star reports: “Between 2015 and 2018, researcher Barbara Perry said she’s observed a 20 to 25 per cent jump in the number of right-wing extremist groups active in Canada. Based on Perry’s previous estimates, that would mean anywhere between 100 to 125 active right-wing extremist groups operating from coast to coast.   Between 1980 and 2014, there have been more than 120 incidents involving right-wing extremist groups in Canada, according to Perry and co-author Ryan Scrivens’s 2015 research. The ‘incidents’ range from drug offences to attempted assassinations, firebombings and attacks.” The researchers noted, by comparison, only seven incidents during the same time period that could possibly be described under the government’s definition of “Islamist” ideology.
(Notably, a recently released report from the Anti-Defamation League also confirms that every single extremist killing in the USA in 2018 was committed by right-wing extremists.)
Despite such readily available figures, it remains controversial within the Canadian government to mention this reality. Indeed, an initial muted reference to right-wing extremism in the 2017 Canadian terrorism report almost didn't make it given the objections of CSIS.
According to documents obtained by Global News, CSIS originally proposed that the 2017 report would include the claim that  “Within the broader context of extremism in Canada, the number of right-wing extremists who promote or are willing to engage in politically-motivated violence is extremely small.”  (This false claim would be consistent with CSIS behaviour:  the spy agency’s review committee  found that CSIS dropped an investigation into Canada’s far-right in 2016 because Canada’s spies felt these groups did not represent a national security threat.) Global News continues that while Public Safety Canada initially included the CSIS statement on the far fight, it was later changed from “extremely small” to “quite small,” and then cut altogether.  CSIS also disputed that right-wing extremism was “a growing concern in Canada,” saying that was a “subjective statement” and demanding, “What is your facting for this?”

CSIS could have easily found that “facting” via a search engine that most 2nd graders know about called Google. They would have discovered a rigorous academic study by the  Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security & Society (whose partners include CSIS and Public Safety Canada) that concluded the right-wing extremist movement in Canada “is more extensive and more active than public rhetoric would suggest.” They noted there were over 100 groups, some of which “were actively engaged in brutal acts of violence directed at an array of targets” including Muslims, Jews, Indigenous people, LGBTQ communities, and “people of color, such as Afro-Canadians, Asians, and South Asians.”

            Significantly, their research confirmed that “a key factor enabling the emergence and sustainability of right-wing groups was a weak law enforcement response. Typically, activities of the far right have not been monitored or taken seriously…there was a tendency for officials to deny or trivialize the presence and threat.”

            Still, Canadian officials tried to soft pedal right wing extremism, questioning why it was listed as a Principal Threat to Canada. “Is far-right a ‘principal threat’ to Canada?” asked an official in the released documents obtained by Global News.  “Good that it is outlined in this document, but may want to revisit how this is framed.”

Naming New Unsubstantiated Threats
            The unwillingness of Canadian state security agencies to develop threat profiles based on readily available public information is another reason why CBC’s abovementioned reportage of alleged security threats receiving permanent landing in Canada is so irresponsible. Indeed, the CBC’s preferential option for the powerful assumes that CSIS and the CBSA actually know what they are doing. Notably, these terrorism threat reports are produced by the same agencies that treat as security risks land and water defenders from Wet'suwet'en to Muskrat Falls (a chilling but consistent historical practice well documented in the excellent book, Policing Indigenous Movements). 

            The 2018 public report on terror threats also suddenly raised out of the blue alleged “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism,” pointing to events that happened over 30 years ago as part of its rationale. It also backs up this claim by declaring that two Sikh organizations were listed as terrorist entities in Canada, but that is old news that dates back to 2003. This understandably upset Sikh groups, prompting Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to say he would look into tweaking the language of the report because “words matter and being precise matters,” but six weeks later, the libelous reference remains on the website. 

            And because Canada’s state security agencies are equal opportunity Islamophobes, they also bring in alleged “Shia Extremism” with the very lazy, vague claims that some people in Canada “may sympathize with [Hizballah] for political reasons” and that individuals in Canada send material and financial support to the group, without providing any evidence. Hizballah was listed as a terrorist entity in 2002 by Canada. 

            The largest amount of space in the report is dedicated to “Canadian Extremist Travellers,” even though the report notes that “Canada has not experienced, and does not expect to experience, a significant influx of returning Daesh-affiliated extremist travellers.” While the report claims that these travellers pose a threat because they return with the “capability to conduct unsophisticated attacks, such as with knives and vehicles,” it completely ignores the fact that white Canadian men are perfectly capable of conducting such attacks against women with no need for overseas training, as reports from hospital emergency rooms and women’s shelters will bear out. Indeed, a December, 2018 report from the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative found that the most common means of men murdering women in Canada was by knifing, all carried out without the support and inspiration of Daesh or Al-Qaeda. 

            The report offers an extensive explanation of initiatives being undertaken to counter what it already admits is not much of a threat – those who have travelled overseas – while completely failing to list any efforts being undertaken to counter right-wing extremism and misogynistic attacks.

Will Canada Acknowledge an Epidemic?
            As billions of dollars continue to be poured into state agencies chasing almost non-existent threats (including the commityment to purchase warships at a staggering cost of anywhere from $62 to $100 billion) , those whose lives are on the line from racism and misogyny are left out in the cold. But with a federal election on the horizon, there is an opportunity to push all political parties on the epidemic of misogyny in Canada. 

            Former NDP Women’s Critic Sheila Malcolmson pointed out that direct federal funding to women’s organizations represents less than 0.01% of total federal program spending; only about $1 for every woman in Canada,” and that proper core funding for said groups should be a cornerstone commitment that would allow Canada to live up to international and domestic constitutional obligations ensuring women’s equality.
When she testified before a Parliamentary Committee last fall, Megan Walker of the London Abused Women's Centre reminded MPS that any program going forward must consider that “male violence against women is an epidemic. If we were talking about violence in any other format except against women and we knew that 106 women were murdered this year, largely by men, with 33 murdered by their intimate partners, all bells and whistles would be going off. If it were an epidemic with respect to a flu or SARS or anything like that, we would be taking immediate action, yet for some reason we still continue to minimize the lived experiences of women and pretend it doesn't happen.

It's time to get our heads out of the sand and realize that we all have a role to play, especially government, in preventing women across this country from being murdered, particularly when they're being murdered by a man who is supposed to love them, and in their homes, which for most of us is the safest place we can be. That's our first recommendation: we want the Government of Canada to recognize this as the epidemic it is.

Further, we want the government to respond to this epidemic by including full core funding for all services that are helping women live their lives free from violence and abuse. We want to see major public awareness and education programs so that future generations of girls and boys grow up knowing that this is wrong, that the value women and girls have is not from the attention paid to them by boys and men, but in fact from who they are as people.

We also want to see a heavy investment in prevention. As I say, I think if we can see the results of one woman being alive today because of preventive action, we've done our job. We need to do that with much more frequency and with a much greater investment.”

(originally published at