From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stand Up, Fight Back

Earlier this evening, I came across this slick video, USW The Fighting Spirit, put out by the Steelworkers that I can only describe as kickass. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

No Wonder Harper Wants Us Kept In The Dark On CETA

While our government continues to refuse to let the Canadian public in on the details of the current negotiations toward finalizing the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU, they have no such qualms when it comes to Business and it's lobbyists. In late July they sent a representative to a luncheon held by the  European Union Chamber of Commerce in Toronto to brief them on the status of the talks.

Thanks to this luncheon we now have a better picture of what is in play and it isn't a pretty one. For instance it appears that they have reached an agreement on local procurement meaning local content provisions in government purchases and programs such as Ontario's green energy initiative will be barred. No surprise here as this is an issue the EU is very hawkish on, having already referred the issue to the WTO

Exports from the EU into Canada in wind power and photovoltaic power generation equipment are significant, ranging from 300 to 600 million € in 2007-2009. These figures could be higher should the local content requirements be removed from the legislation in question. The EU is also increasingly concerned by such measures taken by other trading partners.

The EU is also very keen on gaining favourble access to the urban transit systems and power generating equipment sectors as well.

Pharmaceuticals are another area of keen interest by Europe, wanting increased intellectual property (IP) protection for patents and pharmaceutical exclusivity periods,hence the Harper governments desire to pass updated copyright laws currently before Parliament. This will cost governments and employers that provide prescription drug coverage to their employees dearly.

Canada has also taken the position that provisions in CETA regarding the services and investment sectors including financial services  need to move beyond those in NAFTA 

Our government is also interested in garnering an agreement on labour mobility making it easier for professionals to gain temporary entry. Given the extent with which the Harper government has expanded temporary workers programs,we can guess where that one is headed.

There does appear to be some areas that they are having difficulty coming to terms on, for the EU it's Canada's  proposal for a negative-list trade approach in which all sectors and services will be automatically included unless explicitly excluded in the agreement. The EU appears more comfortable with the  traditional positive-list system in which only those sectors and services actually cited in the agreement would be included.

They are also having some difficulty coming to terms on rules surrounding the of origin of goods, especially those in the auto sector. Canada wants an agreement that reflect the reality of North American wide sourcing. For the EU, their  focus is on agriculture and fish plus wine and spirits. 

“We hope to get through the most difficult and sensitive issues by year end,” says the official. “There will be last-minute issues to be resolved.  But we expect to mop them up by early 2012.

“Both sides want to get this agreement done.”

The next round is slated to be held in Ottawa sometime in October.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where Have We Seen This Before

When I look at Canada today I see many disturbing issues,among them I see high unemployment, massive income inequity,increasing poverty,hunger and homelessness. I also see higher education being priced out of the range of most.

We have seen these conditions in Canada before most notably in the early twentieth century.Each time we have been presented with this combination of issues our governments have to varying degrees reacted the same way. One way they have consistency reacted is by bringing in austerity measures which only served to exacerbate the problem.Perhaps more troubling they have reacted by becoming draconian in nature.

Violently putting down citizen protest,criminalizing decent,increasing detentions,demonizing immigrants,War mongering,ramping up deportations,manufacturing an enemy (Commies Muslims Jews Gays) are some of the tools they use to maintain the status quo so favoured by those who profit from these conditions.

However there is another constant and that is invariably the people of this nation reach a point where they've had enough and rise up in protest. In 1918 and 1919 we saw this manifested in the Vancouver and Winnipeg general strikes and in the On To Ottawa Trek of 1935. ( Know Your Roots Video) While each of these events ended in seeming defeat, they each served to galvanized the general public into action,creating the conditions for improvement in the lives of Canadians.

Each of these movements grew out of the labour movement,hence the Conservative government's current all out assault on not just organized labour but all workers. There is nothing they fear more than the organizing power of Unions and labour in general for they have learned history's lessons well.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

An Open Letter To Harper From The Women Of Honduras

Choloma, Cort├ęs, August 12, 2011
The Right Honourable Stephen Joseph Harper, Prime Minister of Canada;
Mr. Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of Honduras;
Mr. Africo Madrid, Secretary of State for the Interior;
The International Community;
Especially to the Honduran people:

The Honduran Women’s Collective, CODEMUH, has continually and systematically produced information about the vulnerable position faced by workers in the maquila industry in Honduras, about the violation of human and labour rights, and the damages done to the health of workers by their work activities, especially in the company Gildan Activewear, a transnational company owned by Canadians. This information has been given to governments and the entities responsible for labour law enforcement in Honduras; national and international social movements and organizations; human rights protection systems; and the Fair Labour Association (FLA).

We have taken our cases to judicial bodies, both national and international, using legal channels in a responsible way. We have used international and inter-American systems, investigating, documenting, informing, publicizing, raising awareness and presenting proposals so that the entities responsible for applying justice would act. These entities should implement monitoring, follow up and prevention actions for effective protection that ensures human and labour rights for the working population. In addition, we have alerted these bodies to the fact that Gildan Activewear is violating the Constitution of the Honduran Republic and other labour laws, by implementing long workdays and a system of unachievable production quotas.

Prime Minister Harper, there have been constant reports of Canadian company Gildan Activewear’s anti-organizing and anti-union policies, among other labour violations. For example, Gildan El Progreso in Honduras closed in 2004 to avoid the certification of a union, and recently in the Dominican Republic there have been reports of the same policies with regards to the trade union there. Other reports have surfaced of violations of other human and labour rights of workers, such as the right to live without violence, the right to work, health and life.
                                                                                                                                                                      Presently, Gildan Activewear is contravening the legal regulations for labour, with regards to treaties and
international conventions that protect occupational health and safety, by implementing 4x4 shifts in their factories, where workers work for 4 days straight, 11.5 hours per day, and then have 4 days off. With this system, it’s common that on their days off, workers do extra hours, up to 2 day shifts or 2 night shifts. This means that the work week can be 69 hours long, with a salary of $89.99 US Dollars (L$1700 Lempiras)per week.                                                                                                                                                                                     
The production goals or quotas imposed by Gildan Activewear are the highest in the industry in Honduras. To earn $89.99 per week, workers have to produce 550 dozen pieces every day, and are exposed to awkward postures, executing up to 40,000 repetitive movements in their joints, tendons, and muscles per day. These conditions produce Occupational Musculoskeletal Injuries (MSI). There is clear exploitation of workers in poor countries, juxtaposed with reporting that sales have been high during the 2011 fiscal year. In Honduras, Gildan does not pay taxes because they are exempt, so it is absurd when we see that a company with such a high level of exploitation of the work force has been applauded as one of the 50 best Canadian corporations and one of the 20 most responsible companies.

Based on these problems, workers from Gildan Activewear who are members of CODEMUH have presented proposals, and have asked the national authorities of the Labour and Social Security Secretariat to do an ergonomic inspection and evaluation of the textile and clothing manufacturing companies.
                                                                                                                                                                           CODEMUH has also presented thematic reports to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Rights to Highest Attainable Standard of Physical, Mental Health. We have also presented a complaint to the Fair Labour Association, denouncing the dangerous conditions for safety, hygiene, lack of ergonomics and work organization, low salaries, lack of pay for overtime and other benefits, as well as discrimination and workplace harassment.

.CODEMUH has received complaints from more than 100 workers at Gildan Activewear. Of this group, 20 workers have rulings for a change in workstations, recommending a prohibition of repetitive movements in their shoulders, ifting their arms above shoulder level, alternating seated and standing postures, and performance of exercises every 2 hours. As well, 15 workers have received rulings qualifying their Occupational Risks with a Partial Damage Percentage given as a result of an occupational injury, all of them with MSIs. These rulings have been given by the Honduran Social Security Institute. This shows that work conditions and work organization damage the health of workers, especially with relation to the length of the work day and production goal system.
                                                                                                                                                                            Given these facts, Mr. Prime Minister, and considering that your visit to Honduras is to promote a bilateral Free Trade Agreement between Honduras and Canada, we propose the following:
1. The Free Trade agreements that Honduras has signed with “first world” or “developed” countries, especially North American countries, have only brought higher levels of discrimination, labour exploitation, accidents and occupational illnesses, as well as making the working population poorer, especially young women.

2. Free Trade Agreements are conceived and designed fundamentally so that transnational companies and their registered brands can exploit the working population and produce huge profits, totally oblivious to the fact that in order to obtain their production and profits, there are people, women and men, who risk their lives, and that there are labour and human rights laws that must be respected. We demand that you ask promptly for a report on labour and human rights conditions for the women and men who work at Gildan Activewear installations in Honduras; and that the Canadian government monitors working conditions for workers with Canadian transnationals.

The Canadian government must force companies to comply with national laws, international conventions and international treaties to do with human and labour rights and corporate social responsibility. As well, companies must perform ergonomic studies of work stations with the active participation of workers and organizations with experience in occupational health and safety, such as CODEMUH, with the objective of correcting any deficiencies.

Taking into account that for Honduras, Free Trade Agreements have meant higher levels of exploitation, of labour nd human rights violations, loss of job sources, higher labour risks, deepening of poverty and other problems: we denounce and condemn that Honduras is proceeding to ratify a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Canada without even studying the impacts of CAFTA.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Jobs Yes, BUT WITH DIGNITY!

For more information:
CODEMUH: 011-504-2669-1180
Maria Luisa Regalado, General Coordinator, mobile: 011-504-9620-2032 or 011-504-3314-9354

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Canada's Free Trade in Oppression

On June 28th 2009 the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya government was overthrown by the Honduran military.Zelaya was preparing to rewrite Honduras' constitution that was drafted by a previous US backed military dictatorship and institute land reforms granting land titles to the nations poor farmers known as the Campesinos. Both moves were opposed by the nations ultra rich palm plantation owners, who have laid claim to this land.

The coup and subsequent fraudulent elections has lead to a popular movement to restore democracy, redraft the constitution,and enact land reform the very things Zelaya was elected to do. The government and the wealthy plantation owners of course have reacted violently to put down the peoples movement. In fact last year Honduras was ranked as the most dangerous nation for journalists. Plantation owners have openly murdered Campesinos and movement leaders with legally mandated impunity.

More at The Real News

This is where Canada enters the picture.Along with the US,Canada is one of the leading nations in the whitewashing of the coup.But it's involvement doesn't stop there, Canada helps provide training and funding to the Honduran National police who burn crops and destroy whole Campesino villages clearing the way for the plantation owners to reclaim the land.

More at The Real News

But wait it gets worse,Canada is holding out $700 million in economic development and a possible free trade deal with one of the poorest nations in South America in exchange for favourable changes in Honduras' mining laws which will benefit Canadian mining companies who have a brutal record of polluting the countryside with such poisons as cyanide.

Canadian tourism interests are also in the violent land grab business. Kidnapping, threats murder and the odd massacre are being used to clear the to way build a $15 million port in the coastal city of Trujillo to receive cruise ships and to build a four-park tourist attraction that includes hotels, a shopping centre, and more.

In November 2009, 5 months after the military coup, Rights Action reported on a letter writing campaign initiated by pro-coup North Americans living on Honduras’ north coast and the Bay Islands – including Roatan -, to pressure the US and Canadian governments to effectively support the coup, by legitimizing the post-coup regime led by Roberto Micheletti. (See Rights Action’s Alert #89 “Pro-Coup North Americans in Honduras”,

Wait there's more,Gildan Activewear of Montreal, a major supplier to Canadian and American universities operates sweatshops in Honduras where workers toil under horrendous conditions. Crippling injuries are common among the women who toil there, once injured they are cast out to fend for themselves,often no longer able to work in order to feed their families.

Tomorrow Our incontinent PM visits Honduras in the hope of expanding this relationship,sure hard to be a proud Canadian these days isn't it.

For more info on Harper's visit to Honduras and what's at stake see Rights Action - August 8, 2011 HONDURAS - Canadian Investment & Business Alert

UPDATE: On Aug. 4, the Lobo government of Honduras approved the entry of Canadian soldiers into the country to take part in a joint training exercise, as such we will be sending 150 soldiers to work alongside the military of one of the most illegitimate and oppressive regimes in the world

On Friday August 12,2011, While on a state visit to Honduras,the first by any leader since the coup, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the signing of a free trade deal with  the Lobos government . This deal still needs to be ratified, however that is a mere formality. One more consequence of giving Harper a majority government

An Open Letter To Harper From The Women Of Honduras

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hassan Diab and the Keystone Kops er RCMP

 Hassan Diab, Accused of terrorism, followed for more than a year,police attempting to break into his condo, ordered deported based on flimsy if not outright falsified evidence, welcome to the new Canada.

In his judgement ordering Diabs extradition Justice Robert Maranger decribed the case against him as weak and if tried in Canada likely would not end in conviction.

"I found the French expert report convoluted, very confusing, with conclusions that are suspect," he said, adding that the entire French case against Diab is a weak one with the prospects of a conviction in the context of a fair trial unlikely.

Despite his views Maranger stated he felt his hands were tied by our extradition laws ,"it matters not that I hold this view."

In an interview with the Ottawa citizen Mr Diab describes the more than year long surveillance of him and of his rebuffed efforts to co-operate with Canadian authourities.

Exclusive: Hassan Diab speaks Offer to take polygraph test snubbed by RCMP; Tailed by Mounties for a year before his arrest; Suspicious break-in attempt interrupted at couple’s condo

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kim Jin-suk and her Hope Riders

If you feel that one person can't make a difference then you haven't met Kim Jin-suk yet

On January 6, Kim Jin-suk began her sit-in against her employers plans to shed 400 workers, in the control room of crane No. 85. This was the same place where in October 2003 her co-worker Kim Ju-ik ended his 129-day sit-in protesting 600 job cuts by committing suicide.Two hundred and nine days later she still remains perched atop the crane some 115 feet above the ground.

The company has tried starving her out,cutting off electricity and limiting her ability to communicate with her supporters and the media yet she soldiers on,even in spite of the fact that her union has caved and made a deal with the company to allow a few more workers to retire.

Her supporters who have dubbed themselves the Hope Riders are growing in numbers with each protest, protests by the way that are violently suppressed by the police and company goons, something reminiscent of early 20th century North America.

During a July 10 march, the police used water cannons to blast protesters with PAVA—a new and particularly dangerous form of pepper spray—leaving many collapsing.

This week the Hope Riders were successful in reaching the base of the crane where Kim was able to address them
“Until tonight, we could not envision getting off the bus of despair that is crashing towards corruption, destruction and barbarism. Now, we have built a bus on our own. On the bus bound for hope and bound for the future, we are all drivers. Kim Jin-suk
Supporters flew 200 sky lanterns, lighting up the night.

Here is an excellent report fom AJStream that includes a brief interview with Kim Jin-suk

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rewriting History

 We Canadians just love believing fictions about ourselves especially when they allow us to climb up on high and sneeringly look down on others from a position of perceived  superiority.

Well we can now officially add to our long list of delusions the fiction that Canadian Banks were not "bailed out" during the financial crisis. This is yet another example of a lie when repeated often enough, perversely becoming accepted as reality.

The "Best banking system in the world" in fact received at least $236 billion from the Canadian and US governments in bail out funds, of that total Canada chipped in $125B and the US $111B

One could argue whether or not they needed to be bailed out,however the fact that they were is a reality.The mere fact that our money was used to shelter these institutions from the consequences of their risky and perhaps fraudulent practices was in my opinion criminal, particularly so if one chooses to believe that they didn't actually need to be bailed out at all.