Northern Lights — News and Views from SA Canada

by Barry Weisleder


Pan-Canadian Week of Action to Condemn Sham Elections in Haiti, November 12–20, 2005

The Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN) is conducting a cross-country Week of Action to demonstrate the growing opposition to the Canadian government’s disastrous policies in Haiti. Starting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa at 1 p.m. on November 12, Haiti solidarity organizers in at least six cities (Halifax, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver) will hold demonstrations and other activities called to condemn the Canada-backed sham elections in Haiti.

CHAN demands that the government of Canada:

  • Withdraw the support of Elections Canada and all other bodies from any elections held under the current conditions of repression, which include hundreds of political prisoners, police killings and terror, and the exclusion of the poor from electoral participation;
  • Demand the immediate release of Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Father Gérard Jean-Juste, former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, the folk singer Annette “S Ann” Auguste, and all other political prisoners;
  • Discontinue all RCMP training and logistical support for the human rights-abusing Haitian National Police, and withdraw all Canadian logistical support for the UN “peacekeeping” mission-turned repression operation;
  • Support the position of the governments of the Caribbean community countries (CARICOM) and the African Union, both of which are demanding an investigation into the circumstances of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s removal;
  • Withdraw and withhold recognition of Haiti’s coup government until President Aristide is returned to oversee the holding of fair elections without repression.

Canada’s Role in Haiti’s Human Rights Crisis

Deeply-impoverished Haiti is in the midst of a major human rights crisis, following the coup d’état sponsored by Canada, the US, and France on February 29, 2004. The cost of living has skyrocketed. Repression and social turmoil has left the population far worse off than they were before the coup. The Haitian puppet government and the World Bank are working to turn the country into an even more easily exploited sweatshop zone, where Canadian and American corporations can extract even greater profits without fear of interference from a Haitian government interested in protecting its population. A few Canadian companies, such as Gildan Activewear and SNC-Lavalin, have already begun to cash-in on the new, more business-friendly environment established following the coup. Share prices for these companies are flying while Haitians are dying. Canada’s own Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley leads the “monitoring mission” appointed to bless this sham election in the same way that sham occupation elections were blessed by Kingsley in Iraq earlier this year. Kingsley is in a clear conflict of interest, given his position on the Board of Directors of IFES, a US-funded NGO with direct links to the International Republican Institute and other groups that worked to undermine Haiti’s elected government and to foment the military coup. All organizations interested in endorsing this pan-Canadian Week of Action, please contact Canada Haiti Action Network at (613) 864-1590, or email kskerrett@cupe.ca.

For more information on Canada’s role in Haiti, and updates on this Week of Action, please see or

NDP dumps bigot MP

With a Canadian federal election expected within six months, New Democratic Party members in northern Manitoba’s Churchill constituency took the rare step of denying the nomination for the next election to their sitting NDP Member of Parliament (MP) Bev Desjarlais.

Desjarlais, who has held the riding since 1997, was the only member of the labour-based NDP to vote against the same-sex marriage bill, which was passed by Parliament last Spring. After losing the nomination to Niki Ashton, 24, Desjarlais announced that she will sit as an Independent MP, and run in the next election.

Coincidentally, former leftist NDP MP Svend Robinson, who did not seek re-election in 2004 after being convicted of theft (committed due to mental distress, he claimed), announced he is making a political come-back.

Robinson, the first openly-gay MP in Canada, will seek the NDP nomination in British Columbia’s Vancouver Centre constituency, currently held by Liberal Heddy Fry, and not far from the Burnaby Douglas seat Robinson held for over twenty-five years.

Vancouver Centre is home to Canada’s largest gay population. Among his accomplishments, Robinson succeeded in winning House of Common's approval for a private-member's bill extending hate crimes protection to gays and lesbians.

Meanwhile, the federal Liberal government, bending to pressure from big business, and seeking to divert attention from festering scandals, is planning a November economic statement to Parliament which will likely feature tax cuts, rather than investing most of the huge federal surplus (over $60 billion over the past eight years) into long starved areas of social expenditure.

According to an October public opinion survey by Decima, the Liberals held 34 per cent support, the Conservatives 29 per cent, the NDP 18 per cent, and the Bloc Québécois, which runs only in Québec, is poised to sweep in that province. If these figures hold, another minority government in Ottawa would likely be the result.

Exploit Seniors Longer — the corporate answer to baby bust

The solution to an aging population (and the “fear” of declining productivity) is not more immigrants or more babies, says the big business-based Conference Board of Canada. The answer is forcing people to work longer.

How? By legislating later retirement, by increasing the eligibility age for government pension plans, and by reducing unemployment and disability benefits to prevent workers from using social security programmes as a route to early retirement.

Most provincial governments have already passed laws eliminating mandatory retirement, with Ontario soon to follow suite. (Ironically, in the field of education, this has increased under-employment as retired teachers receiving pension are able to “double dip” by returning to occasional teaching, leaving veteran and new substitute teachers with less work and income. Could this happen in other fields?)

The Conference Board has in mind more “work incentives,” like flexible hours, more re-training and job placement assistance, plus government subsidies to firms to hire and retain older workers, to offset higher salaries that often go with seniority.

But as most Wal-Mart greeters can tell you, that shouldn’t be necessary. Hunger is usually a sufficient incentive to work for poverty wages.

And what about “declining productivity”? That is nothing more than an ancient ruse for bosses to raise the rate of exploitation. In reality, productivity is crippled by the waste and anarchy inherent in the capitalist mode of production. The solution is to replace competition with cooperation, to replace private profit with public, democratic planning. The answer is to end war production in favour of meeting human needs by way of environment-friendly industrial practices. That, in essence, is a prescription for socialism — which is not exactly the Conference Board’s cup of tea.

Ontario Liberals move to quash welfare supplement

As Liberal Minister of Community and Social Services, Sandra Pupatello, is preparing a major cut to the $250 Special Diet Supplement to basic welfare rates, protest actions against the move are growing.

In October, local Ontario Common Front groups in Guelph, Sudbury and Ottawa held protest actions at offices of provincial politicians. In Ottawa, a rally was held at the constituency office of Premier Dalton McGuinty. The Tenant Action Group in Belleville marched eighty of its supporters to a local Liberal MPP hosted event and confronted Minister Pupatello who unwisely decided to visit their community. Pupatello also got a visit from a sizeable Ontario Coalition Against Poverty delegation at her Ministry offices in Toronto. OCAP reported the event as follows: “Overcoming the controlled entry system at the Ministry, we were able to take over a plush boardroom for several hours. We forced a meeting with Ministry bureaucrats during which our delegation, made up overwhelmingly of mothers from poor communities who have been the backbone of the fight in Toronto, removed any hopes Pupatello may have had that her operation to restore hunger will go smoothly.”

OCAP goes on to say, “[These are] only the first few moves to challenge the attack on the Special Diet Supplement. Tens of thousands have accessed this means of removing hunger from the lives of their families, and hundreds of thousands more are hopeful they can obtain it. The allies who will support our defence of the Supplement will be many and varied but, most of all, it will be communities under attack that will take on this Government. Welfare and disability rates are an assault on health and dignity and the Supplement will not be surrendered without a fight.”

OCAP demands that welfare rates by restored to their 1995 levels with a 40% increase, or that the Supplement be given to everyone on social assistance.

So, what say the heads of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which meets in convention in Toronto, November 21–25? What say the leaders of the Ontario NDP?

The silence is deafening.

Big Nickel merger threatens jobs

The $12.5 billion takeover bid by nickel giant Inco Ltd. for Falconbridge Ltd. thwarts a move by Switzerland-based Xstrata PLC to gain control of a Canadian name- brand company.

The merger may give Canadian nationalists a vicarious thrill, but it threatens jobs in Sudbury, Ontario. Commenting on the Inco - Falconbridge overlap, Wayne Fraser, Steelworkers’ union director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, said “When there’s synergies, there’s usually loss of employment.”

If the deal gets regulatory approval in Canada, the United States and the European Union, Inco will become the world’s fifth largest mining company. The new powerhouse, headquartered in Toronto, will have an estimated nickel output annually of 738 million pounds, with forecasts of 1 billion pounds by 2009, and an estimated 1.33 billion pounds of copper, with forecasts of 2.4 billion pounds by 2009.

Company executives are looking to meet the growing demand for nickel and copper in China. Alas, meeting the needs of miners, present and future, does not rank very high in the mineral giants’ business plan.

Fight mould with walkout, OPSEU says

Ontario public service workers may have to walk off the job to get the government to repair unsafe, aged buildings, said Leah Casselman, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union.

Speaking to a news conference in Toronto in late August, Casselman described the decrepit state of many of the 6,000 provincially owned buildings which presents a health and safety threat. The result is that government workers endure serious fluctuating environmental conditions, substandard electrical wiring, unsafe elevators, and most of all mould. It took worker walk outs at courthouses in west end Toronto (Etobicoke) and Newmarket (north of Toronto) to force closure of substandard buildings.

Casselman said one of the worst buildings is the Ontario Archives, where she said mould not only threatens employees but the history of the province. The state of Ontario’s jails is deplorable, reported Daryl Pitfield, an OPSEU health and safety rep. The biggest complaint from correctional workers is air quality.

An earlier Toronto Star story revealed that Ontario government buildings need at least $500 million in repairs because of decades of neglect and lack of funding. Some governments will do anything, other than tax the rich, to appear to balance a budget.

Measuring Poverty

lt’s all about how you slice the, uh, crumbs.

The World Bank says the number of people living on less than $1 a day fell to 1.1 billion in 2001 from 1.5 billion in 1981.

But it also revealed that the number living on less than $2 a day increased to 2.7 billion from 2.4 billion in 1981.

More to the point, the United Nations Development Program said another 1.7 billion people could be living on $2 a day by 2015 if current trends continue. (For the expression “current trends,” just substitute the words “global capitalism.”)

Israel: “a bulwark against barbarism” in Asia?

The state renown (or infamous) for defying United Nations’ resolutions on withdrawal from occupied territories, and for its apartheid-like separation wall in the West Bank, is now seeking a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Consider it a step in line with United States’ renovation plans for the world body, or call it sheer chutzpah, Israel has for the first time applied for a seat on the council that votes on war and peace.

By U.N. definition, Israel falls within Asia, where it does not get much regional backing. In fact, it is customary for Israel to be on the losing end of lopsided votes in the U.N. General Assembly. But diplomats of the Zionist state are working on a plan.

In May of 2000, Israel accepted a geo-political move to the “West European and others” category, to which Canada and the United States belong. In 2004, Israel’s temporary membership there was indefinitely extended.

And if possession of nuclear weapons of mass destruction count for anything, its prospects for promotion could be on the rise.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, wrote early in the twentieth century, “For Europe, we would constitute a bulwark against Asia down there, we would be the advance post of civilization against barbarism.”

Obviously, the next step is simply to formalize it, at the U.N.