ALSO INSIDE: -Queen’s Park Riot - 10 Years On (P.3)
-Italian Maoists Beat Back Anti-Immigrant Gangs (P.5) -More Fed Money for Prisons (P.6) and Military (P.7) -Iroquois Lacrosse Team Blocked From World Champs (P.8)
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BASICS #22, SEP / OCT 2010
Look beyond the hype Kiilu Nyasha and Charlie Hinton
The Oka Standoff - 20 Years Later Steve da Silva
This summer marks 20 years since the armed standoff between Mohawk Warriors and the Canadian Armed Forces near Oka, Quebec, a small Quebec town whose mayor at the time, Jean Ouellette, was trying to push through plans for the expansion of a golf course and the construction of condominiums. The land in question, however, had for decades, if not centuries, been the subject of a land claim upheld by the Mohawk nation of Kanehsatake, whose ancestral graves and grove of pine trees held to be sacred were situated on the land. Upon announcement of the development plans, the Mohawks set up a peaceful blockade on a
secondary road through the pine forest. After disobeying an injunction passed against them and holding the lines, on July 11, 1990 the Sûreté du Québec went on the attack against those maintaining the blockade, losing Corporal Marcel Lemay to an unknown bullet in the mix. In a gesture of solidarity at a moment when the situation was dangerously escalating, the Mohawks of Kahnawake set up a blockade on the Mercier Bridge that joins Montreal Island to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, shutting down traffic on a bridge that would see 65,000 cars a day move over it. It was planned as an act of peaceful civil disobedience to bring to a speedy
end the negotiations over the land - an action that presumed the government could be brought to the table in good faith. With these acts, the small town of Oka and the struggle of the Mohawks were thrust into international attention for the course of the 78-day standoff. While the media focused in the inconveniences faced by non-natives during the blockade, fueling hostility against the Mohawks, on August 14 Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa invoked the Emergencies Act and called in the Canadian Armed Forces, consisting of over 2500 troops, with tanks and reconnaissance aircraft. The most serious attempt at a
resolution made by the Progressive Conservative Federal Government of Brian Mulroney was to offer to buy the land to halt the development, without resolving the question of Mohawks entitlement to the land. Meanwhile, with the racist corporate media fueling anti-native sentiments, from August 11-15 anti-native actions in the city of Chateauguay (near the Mercier bridge) reached a dangerous crescendo, with as many as 7000 people rioting. Chateauguay was itself home to a federal Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament who suggested that the natives should be shipped off to Labrador “if they wanted their >> continued, pg. 3
Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Violations Produced Tamil Refugees Pragash Pio The August 13 arrival of the MV Sun Sea, with 492 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka—380 men, 63 women and 49 children—has been met by a wave of racism and xenophobic hostility in Canada. Unfounded accusations of terrorism and human trafficking spread by the Government of Sri Lanka and regurgitated by Canadian officials have further confused the matter, leading many to question the legitimacy of the refugees’ claims. However, Canada has a long history of racism against all types of asylum seekers and migrants of colour (for one example, see Sikander Panag’s article on the Komagata Maru on pg. 3), which is now being played off by the Sri Lankan government. Last year, the MV Ocean Lady arrived with another group of 76 Tamil asylum seekers. The Sri Lankan government accused them of being Tamil Tiger militants, a claim parroted by Canadian authorities. All these
accusations were discredited as unfounded after a series of long and costly legal battles. The refugees were cleared by Canadian authorities and allowed to begin their refugee claims. It was clear that the government’s “guilty until proven innocent” approach was a farce, but less then a year later, the same Conservative government continues its racist attacks, goaded by a politically astute Sri Lankan state. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, border guard spokespersons, and the mainstream media have preferred to paint the refugees broadly as ‘human smugglers’, opportunistic ‘queue jumpers’, and potential ‘terrorists’. Almost all have avoided discussion of the hundreds of thousands of Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka. Ignored is the fact that the 492 MV Sun Sea asylum seekers represent only a tiny fraction of the 4 million people that have already been internally and externally displaced by the Sri Lankan state, and make up
less then 2 percent of the 30,000 shrapnel wounds and missing overall refugee claims seen by limbs consistent with the bomCanada annually. Also ignored bardment. is that 90 percent of Sri Lankan Currently the UN is investiTamil refugees’ claims to asylum gating war crimes; and many in Canada have been judged as human rights organizations have genuine by experts. condemned Sri Lanka for wideIt is troubling to see Canada so spread disappearances, extrastaunchly behind the Sri Lankan judicial killings, illegal detention, regime, notorious internation- mass rape, massacres and ethnic ally for its human rights record, cleansing in the Tamil areas of particularly against the island’s the island. Tamil ethnic minority. The Sri The Canadian government Lankan civil war ended in May >> continued, pg. 7 2009 with a massacre of an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians by the current Sri Lankan government. Many of the MV Sun Sea asylum seekers, including children, ALSO SEE P.3 FOR ARTICLE ON KOMAGATA MARU have
Reprinted with permission from the authors. First appeared in the August 2010 edition of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper.
To cut to the chase, no election in Haiti, and no candidate in those elections, will be considered legitimate by the majority of Haiti’s population, unless it includes the full and fair participation of the Fanmi Lavalas Party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fanmi Lavalas is unquestionably the most popular party in the country, yet the “international community,” led by the United States, France, and Canada, has done everything possible to undermine Aristide and Lavalas, overthrowing him twice by military coups in 1991 and 2004, and banishing Aristide, who now lives in South Africa with his family, from the Americas. A United Nations army, led by Brazil, still occupies Haiti 5 years after the coup. Their unstated mission, under the name of “peacekeeping,” is to suppress the popular movement and prevent the return to power of Aristide’s Lavalas Party. One must understand a Wyclef Jean candidacy, first of all, in this context. Every election since the 67% majority first brought Aristide to power in 1990 has demonstrated the enormous popularity of the Lavalas movement. When Lavalas could run, they won overwhelmingly. In 2006, when security conditions did not permit them to run candidates, they voted and demonstrated to make sure Rene Preval, a former Lavalas president, was re-elected. Preval, however, turned against those who voted for him. He scheduled elections for 12 Senate seats in 2009, and supported the Electoral Council’s rejection of all Lavalas candidates. Lavalas called for a boycott, and as few as 3% of Haitians voted, with fewer than 1% voting in the runoff, once again demonstrating the people’s love and respect for President Aristide. Fanmi Lavalas has already been banned from the next round of elections, so enter Wyclef Jean. Jean comes from a prominent Haitian family that has virulently opposed Lavalas since the 1990 elections. His uncle is Raymond Joseph (also a rumored presidential candidate,) who became Haitian ambassador to the United States under the coup government and remains so today. Kevin Pina writes in “It’s not All about That!: Wyclef Jean is fronting in Haiti,” Joseph is “the co-publisher of Haiti Observateur, a right-wing rag that has >> continued, pg. 5
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BASICS #22, SEP / OCT 2010
Police Arresting Organizers in Toronto: Criminalizing Dissent? School Closures: The Struggle Continues Noaman G. Ali On the night of July 23, 2010, Farshad Azadian, an organizer with the Esplanade Community Group, was arrested on charges of obstruction of a police officer. In fact, Farshad was simply observing police rounding up on a friend and fellow activist near the site of a shooting that had occurred that night. But just because there may have been a crime in the neighbourhood “doesn’t mean that every youth ought to lose their civil rights,” said Farshad. According to him, police in the neighbourhood know well that there is a group of “activist kids” moving on issues affecting the community. “It’s true that there are problems in the community, but when people in the community rise up to tackle these issues, those in power try to block them, including through the police,” Farshad told BASICS. Previously the police attempted to stop the Esplanade Community Group from booking space in a community centre, until community pressure reversed this block .
Esplanade community organizers Farshad Azadian (front) and Solomon Muyobuke (rear).
Leaders of G20 countries are concerned about how working classes will respond to planned austerity measures. Much of the equipment purchased during G20 will be used against working-class and racialized communities, who daily face violence at the hands of the police. By specifically targeting organizers, the state signals its commitment to criminalizing dissent. Two days before Farshad’s arrest, on July 21, when activists at a rally organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) walked in to the provincial Liberal party headquarters with an invoice to show how much the government owed poor people due to regressive social assistance cuts. Without warning, police arrested eleven activists for trespassing. Usually, this results in a ticket, but the police took nine of the activists to the police station and elevated the charges to mischief and forcible entry. Along with Farshad, these activists must take valuable time and resources from agitating for social change to put them toward legal defence. On August 17, the Toronto Community Mobilization Network held an event at the University of Toronto concerning the arrests of several organizers during the G20 summit weekend and actions that preceded it in Toronto. Over the course of June 21–27, over a thousand people were arrested. The majority were released without charge. On August 23, the charges of several hundred were dropped and prosecutors attempted to get rid of many oth-
ers without any serious scrutiny. Far more serious charges and conditions were levelled against community organizers, including S.K. Hussan of No One Is Illegal–Toronto, who along with others argued at the event attended by nearly 200 people that the arrests and targeting of organizers were an attempt to undermine organizing in the city. Hussan and others also noted that the kind of indiscriminate arrests and use of violence by police used in downtown Toronto over the G20 summit weekend are routinely used against working-class and racialized neighbourhoods in Toronto, as well as against immigrants and refugees. Using the police to arrest workingclass and racialized people, whether in their day-to-day roles or when they are also community organizers, shows that police violence is necessary to maintain an oppressive power structure. For instance, native people account for 2.7% of Canada’s population, but 18.5% of federal prisons—not because they commit more crimes, but because they are more heavily policed, arrested and convicted by a racist legal system. Organizers and people in workingclass, racialized and indigenous communities must unite to resist repression of the state and its police force. Free all state prisoners! Contribute to the legal defence of Farshad by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, to the OCAP activists defence by visiting http://ocap.ca, and to the G20 arrests by visiting http://g20.torontomobilize.org/support
CARIBANA: A golden goose for gov’t and business, crumbs for African community Ajamu Nangwaya
While the April 2010 news of the $438 million economic impact of Caribana is worthy of celebration and all the media attention that it has generated, I hope that as Canadians we will open our eyes to the monumental failure of government funding of this phenomenal cultural festival. An Ipsos Reid Economic Impact Study clearly established that Caribana is the most lucrative festival in all of Canada. Yet the Calgary Stampede which attracts millions of dollars in annual government funding is touted as the largest “Canadian” festival with its $173 economic impact over ten days. It is estimated that Ontario’s cultural institutions bring in a yearly income of $4.5 billion, while attracting 3 million patrons. About 1.2 million people participated in the 2009 edition of Caribana and over 300,000 of these revelers came from abroad. It ought to be clear that dollar-for-dollar, Caribana’s economic performance leaves its more favoured cultural competitors in the dust. In April 2009, the Government of Ontario announced $43 million in funding to six cultural organizations that were reflective of AngloCanadian cultural dominance. The Arts Gallery of Ontario received a $10 million operational grant and an additional one-off gift of $8.6 million. The Royal Ontario Museum received an operational grant of $9 million and a one-time funding support of $7.2 million. Yet in April 2010, it was an-
A scene from Caribana 2010.
nounced that the Ontario Liberals will give its Cinderella of a cash cow, Caribana, an insulting grant of $484,000. In 2009, the provincial government in Alberta gave a $10 million operating grant to the Calgary Stampede, which sent a bold message of the festival’s status as a part of that province’s cultural infrastructure. The City of Toronto will be offering a grant of about $500,000. Last year the federal government ponied up $415,000, but got back over $108 million dollars in tax receipts from this cultural golden goose. Yet this same federal government gave $5 million to the Calgary Stampede from its Western Economic Diversification funds. This allotment of resources to this Western festival was in addition to $1,819,234 from the Marquee Tourism Events Program. In my judgment, the miserly level of funding from the City of To-
ronto, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada and the business sector has much to do with the perception of Caribana as a cultural outsider; the multicultural Other. Further, the people who are the driving force behind the festival are themselves culturally peripheral to the Canadian cultural-cum-political project. If the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Botanical Gardens and Ontario Heritage Trust could received grant funding of between $2.5 to $3 million in April 2009, certainly Caribana with its huge cultural, social and economic footprint doesn’t merit being treated like the “black sheep” of the artistic family. African and Caribbean peoples, the creators of the Caribana festival, are minor economic beneficiaries. But their countless volunteer hours are indispensable to the >> continued, pg. 8
but staff and parents opposed and stopped the cuts in its tracks. In addition, there are the quiet cuts that we do not hear about. School cuts are happening bit by bit each year as programs like libraries, outdoor education, gyms, and music are reduced and facilities deteriorate. What we don’t hear about, we can’t protest against. This upcoming year, the TDSB is planning more school closures, in spite of it being an election year. The TDSB is committed to closing over 100 schools in the next decade. Because the board plans to sell school property to developers, communities are at risk of losing a valuable community resource and local green space. While the provincial government and the TDSB are making more and more cuts to public education, the federal government is shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars into the prison system (see article in this issue “Canadian Government to Build More Prisons” by Mike Brito). So stay vigilant and organize.
Errol Young The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has decided to close 11 schools in the next two years. These schools are primarily in working class, racialized areas. The board targeted numerous schools in working-class, racialized communities, presumably because they figured that working-class parents and communities would have less ability to resist the school closure process. But Jane and Finch proved otherwise, where parents, teachers, and community members stood up against the TDSB’s proposed school closures. People from Jane and Finch who were already organized around issues of poverty were able to raise awareness throughout the community and, in the end, force the board to back down (see BASICS Issue #20). The decision by the TDSB to close 11 schools is just the most visible reduction to school services for working people. Last year, the TDSB tried to cut over 250 teaching assistants,
« Caires’s Art, from PG. 8 food and drink. She did everything herself, including fixing the heritage plumbing, and the custom computer POS system. The interiors seem casual, but everything was hand crafted to be comfortable, warm and inviting. The Bookworm was an inspired personal creation over decades, not a quickie corporate chain store design. But today, recent tax increases, retail rents and city services costs have pressed the margins out of the local restaurant business.More and more, the restaurant’s profits go to rent, taxes, suppliers, wages, and the Ontario liquor monopoly. The independent restaurant is at risk of disappearing from Toronto streets. We face a Queen Street West Heritage Conservation District full of Starbucks, Jack Astor’s, Milestones, and Macdonald’s. The object of these spots, is to “turn tables” as many times as possible. Hanging out for five hours with a coffee, while writing a U of T paper won’t cut it anymore. Will local community, art, urban history, and political ideas fuse with commerce, or be swallowed up by it? The drama continues. Join others to bring your support, have a drink or a meal with a friend, and see this important photographic show by a new up-and-coming Canadian photographer. Jeff Caires’s Art Show opens on August 1st, ongoing for the month at Tequila Bookworm Cafe, 512 Queen Street West, Toronto. 416-603-7335.
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People’s history Queen’s Park Riot, 10 Years Later
From the Komagata Maru to the MV Sun Sea Sikander Panag
Mike Brito This summer marked the 10year anniversary of a protest outside the Ontario Provincial Legislature that has come to be known as the “Queen’s Park Riot”, which happened on June 15th, 2000 after a march organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). At the time, the provincial Progressive Conservatives, led by Mike Harris, were implementing changes that would go on to have huge impacts on the lives of people across the province. While in power, the Harris Conservatives cut social spending, changed laws to benefit landlords, cut back on public spending for education, offloaded provincial responsibilities to municipalities, and basically did everything that they could to ensure that Ontario was open for business, describing their efforts as “The Common Sense Revolution”. In the months leading up to the protest, 22 homeless people died on Toronto’s streets, and all over the province communities were bearing the weight of the Conservatives’ cutbacks and policies. The June 15th protest was organized around several demands including a restoration of the 21.5% that was cut from social assistance, and investments in social housing. They also called for a repeal of the so-called ‘Safe Streets Act’, a law that criminalized panhandling, and the socalled ‘Tenant Protection Act’, which did little to protect tenants and afforded landlords new powers to raise rents. This protest was part of a larger initiative to build a province-wide, ongoing campaign against the Harris Conservatives that eventually grew into the Ontario Common Front. On June 15th, over 1500 protesters marched with OCAP to Queen’s Park, with the intention of having a small delegation of mostly homeless people and supporters address the provincial legislature.
BASICS #22, SEP / OCT 2010
The 1500-strong OCAP march on Queen’s Park ended in a riot after police charged the crowd, attacking with batons, horses, pepper spray, sparking a huge fight and leaving dozens injured. This demand was denied by police. Shortly after, protesters pushed through one line of barricades and began to approach the front door of Queen’s Park. It was later revealed that police intelligence only anticipated 200-300 people to participate in this protest, and they were not prepared to deal with the crowd. The police scrambled to take control of the situation, using horses, pepper spray and batons and charged the crowd many times, both with mounted units and officers in riot gear. Dozens of protesters were injured, some suffering broken bones and concussions. Some protesters also fought back, using anything that they could find. After the protest, Toronto Police Staff Sergeant Brian O`Connor said that, “There was a fury in these people, an intensity, that I`ve never experienced.” In the months leading up to the protest, Toronto police intelligence units routinely infiltrated OCAP meetings, harassed members and their families, and monitored the movements of OCAP supporters. Similar surveillance continued after the protest, and people continued to be arrested at other demonstrations throughout the summer. On June 15th, and in the weeks and months following, over 40 people were arrested and charged in relation to the protest, many of them homeless people, activists and some OCAP members. For many of the folks living on
the street, it was difficult to get bail. One man spent over 7 months in the Don Jail following the protest. Three OCAP organizers were arrested as “ringleaders” and faced charges including participating in a riot, and council to assault police. The case against the three leaders was eventually declared a mistrial after the hung jury failed to deliver a verdict. The crown elected to go to trial again – with only one defendant, John Clarke – but was again defeated, this time because of a ruling of unfair delay. Many of the court cases took over 2 years to even get started. As we saw at Queen’s Park 10 years ago, when pushed into a corner, people will resist and fight back, even if it means going against the police with their riot gear, batons, horses and pepper spray. Ten years later we are in different situation. Now we have a Federal government implementing similar policies across the whole country. Internationally we are seeing governments enacting austerity measures that follow the same logic as Harris’ Conservatives, and all over the world people are resisting. At the recent G20 meetings in Toronto, people took to the street in protest, only this time the police arrested over 1000 people, almost as many people as there were at Queen’s Park 10 years ago. It seems they won’t be able to build enough jails to stop people’s resistance.
In 1914, the Komagata Maru, a Japanese cargo ship, was en route to Canada carrying 376 Indian migrant workers. Of the passengers, 340 were Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all of whom were British subjects and many veterans of the British Army. Upon arriving in Vancouver’s harbour, the passengers were not allowed entry onto the land and the ship was greeted with hostility by Canadian officials. A similar situation is currently unfolding with the arrival of the MV Sun Sea, a freighter that arrived on Canada’s west coast on August 13, 2010 carrying nearly 500 Tamil refugees. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews called the passengers “suspected human smugglers and terrorists”. In 1914, only a few thousand Indian immigrants were called Canadian. They were barred from running for public office, serving on juries, and working as professionals in many fields, such as accounting, law and pharmacy. The government passed laws specifically intended to discourage South Asian immigration, such as the ‘Continuous Journey’ regulation. This law prohibited the landing of migrants on ships that made stopovers on the long voyage to Canada from India, a difficult feat considering the distance. Political figures at the time were open about their whiteonly, racist views, including Vancouver’s mayor Truman Baxter, who helped organize anti-Asian rallies, which targeted peoples from East Asia as well. Following the arrival of the Komagata Maru, Van-
couver’s newspaper headlines warned of a “Hindu invasion”. After two months of waiting aboard the ship in deficient conditions, the Indian refugees were forced out of Canadian waters and sent back to India. Upon arrival in Calcutta, the British government labeled the men as political agitators: 19 were killed while many of the rest were imprisoned. The terms being used by Canadian officials to refer to the Tamil refugees of the MV Sun Sea today strikingly resemble the past. Terms like “human smugglers”, “terrorists”, “queue-jumpers”, and “bogus refugees” are drumming up a lot of fear amongst other Canadians, creating a callous and indifferent attitude towards the condition of the refugees. On May 23, 2008, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia passed a resolution “that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed.” Two years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper also uttered an apology in front of a B.C. crowd at an Indian festival, in an attempt to drum up Conservative support amongst Canadian Sikhs. But what does that apology amount to when the exact same drama is unfolding today? Currently, the 490 Tamil refugee migrants, 40 of whom >> continued, pg. 5
« The Oka Standoff, 20 Years Later from PG. 1 own country so much”. With fears mounting that the Canadian army would make an aggressive move on Kanehsatake, on August 28 local authorities encouraged Oka residents to evacuate. Meanwhile, the same day an evacuating convoy of natives from Kahnawake was attacked by an anti-native mob, leading one elderly man dead of a heart attack and others with injuries. On August 29, the Mercier Bridge blockade would be brought to an end by the Mohawks of Kahnawake, but the blockage at Oka would continue for nearly another month. On September 26, facing a stalemate in negotiations, the Mohawks decided to burn their guns, recognizing that while the long-term struggle for the land was not over, they had won a significant amount of attention for their struggle. It is highly significant to note rather than step in to negotiate a peaceful settlement, all levels of government at the time conceded nearly three months of negative attention to the world’s eye for
the sake of a golf course and some condos – a project that was unpopular even amongst non-Native Oka residents to begin with. Twenty years on, the land question is far from being resolved at Kanehsatake. Mining and construction interests are currently eyeing this Mohawk territory, just the same as with the some 700+ other outstanding land claims that exist across Canada. Just an hour from Toronto, a similar if more protracted drama has played itself out at Six Nations (near Caledonia, Ontario) since April 2006. The lack of resolve by Provincial and Federal governments to seriously address land disputes in Canada is no accident or oversight. At the centre of this centuries-old, wornout, predictable drama is a colonial question. Unmitigated access to the resources of these lands is what Canada’s big corporations, especially the extractive industries, are after. Indigenous people and their traditional relationship to the land stands in the way of these objectives. These corporations are also the enemies
of non-native working people; and so few of us stand to benefit from a world as plundered and polluted as these corporations are leaving it. So, 20 years later, let the standoff at Oka remind us of how important the struggle for self-determination of indigenous peoples is to the struggle of the working class and all progressive people, a struggle that persists whether we recognize it or not. A Mohawk warrior mounts an abandoned police cruiser at the scene of the blockage at Kanehsatake.
The nearly 400 Indian migrant workers of the Komagata maru - all citizens of the British Empire who were led to believe they had equal rights of travel and emigration as other British subjects - were blocked from landing by Canada’s white supremacist immigration laws. Many were killed upon their return to India, as the British Empire feared that their experiences with discrimination would destabilize British rule in India.
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How ‘Natural’ is the Disaster in Pakistan? Who is Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson? Noaman G. Ali & N. Zahra One cannot deny that the floods that have devastated Pakistan since July 2010 have a basis in nature. However, to ascribe the death and displacement of tens of millions of people to something ‘natural’ obscures how American imperialism and the Pakistani ruling classes’ objectives have influenced the situation. A scandal has recently emerged in Pakistan as reports claimed that in order to save a U.S. airbase in Sindh province, flood waters were diverted, consequently displacing 800,000 people and destroying hundreds of homes. According to reports, Pakistan’s Minister of Sports, Mr. Ejaz Jakhrani, along with soldiers and provincial government officials, entered the area in the middle of the night between August 13 and 14 in order to divert the flood waters from the base that has been in U.S. military hands since the so-called ‘War on Terror’ began in 2001. In further disregard for the humanitarian needs of the Pakistani people, the U.S. has continued its unmanned drone attacks on Pakistan, killing 12 people and injuring many more, including women and children, in an attack
on the Dandy Derpakhel area of North Waziristan on August 23, 2010. What’s more, allegations also abound about large feudal landlords breaching embankments to preserve all of their own tremendous landholdings, and thus completely flooding those of smaller landholders or neighbouring provinces. Many government ministers other than Jakhrani are alleged to have participated in such flood diversions. These allegations must be investigated, but they point to the similarity of tactics used by U.S. imperialism and their local allies—the industrialists and feudal landlords of Pakistan—to protect their interests in the case of flooding. But the flooding merely intensifies the people of Pakistan’s suffering from widespread poverty, illiteracy and disease. The flooding was as bad as it was because Pakistan’s infrastructure is so underdeveloped. What is key to understand is that Pakistan’s underdevelopment has been maintained over the past 63 years by the alliance of U.S. imperialism and local exploiters. Traders and industrialists exploit the people of Pakistan through hoarding essential goods, raising prices and paying substandard
wages for work. Large landlords exploit landless labourers and peasants. Meanwhile, they are deeply linked with the military elites. All of these are supported by the U.S. It is because funds are diverted from social services and infrastructure development to military spending and the corruption of generals and politicians that the masses of Pakistan have had to suffer. For the ‘international community’ to call for ‘aid’ and ‘generosity’ on the one hand, while doing nothing to expose or oppose the imperialist aggression at the hands of the U.S., and Pakistani ruling classes’ collusion with imperialism, keeps us from understanding how a disaster of such epic proportions could be allowed to occur. It will be up to the Pakistani people, and the Pakistani people alone, to rebuild after the devastation that has visited them. The current Pakistani ruling classes and their imperialist backer, the United States, have proved to bring nothing but economic stagnation, oppression, and war. The most important thing people of the world who are concerned with the sufferings of the Pakistani people can do is to expose U.S. imperialism and its support by the Pakistani ruling classes.
Italian Maoists Beat Back Anti-Immigrant Patrols ...and mobilize against Berlusconi regime’s attempts to criminalize their work Steve da Silva
What are people supposed to do when fascist and racist gangs are multiplying in society, at the instigation, and with the tacit approval. of the political regime? Is this not the prelude to fascism, the political regime experimenting with blends and species of racism and bigotry to see which best achieves the reactionary mobilization of the population behind war, state terror, repression, and xenophobia? This is the situation in contemporary Italy (and of course, many other countries), where the racist and reactionary political regime of Silvio Berlusconi - Italy’s billionaire Prime Minister - has utilized racist, criminal, and fascist organizations to split the ranks of working-class at a time when their interests are under serious attack. One such manifestation of this brewing fascism was the recent emergence of fascist anti-immigrant patrols throughout Italy. In response to fascist organizing in 2009, Maoist-communists of the ‘Party of Committees to Support Resistance - for Communism’ – or the CARC – began organizing “proletarian and anti-fascist” patrols in the city of Massa to defend working-class people and immigrants. The anti-fascist patrols inevitably clashed with the anti-immigrant patrols and the police who supported them, leading to the arrest, indictment, temporary incarceration, and repressive conditions against many anti-fascists and other leading members of the CARC, including Juri Bartolozzi, Vittorio Colombo, Selvaggio Casella, Alessandro Cipolli, Elisabetta Orfani, and Federal Secretary of Tuscany for the CARC Alessandro della Malva. In July 2009, after nation-wide
mobilizations, including sit-ins, demonstrations, railway blockades, and international solidarity, most of the anti-fascists were released from incarceration, but not without repressive conditions that kept them from their political organizing. But a major victory was realized when popular pressure generated by the CARC led the Mayor of Massa to ban the fascist gangs from carrying out their patrols. Constitutionally, fascist organizations are already illegal in Italy, thanks to the armed struggle of the working-class and anti-fascists during the Partisan Resistance against Benito Mussolini’s fascism in the 1940s. However, the work of the CARC demonstrated that this right must be constantly defended against the resurgence and reorganization of the fascists, especially when they are backed by the state. Since the late 1990s, the Berlusconi regime has been trying to outlaw the CARC, and other genuine communist and socialist organizations associated with them, namely, the (new) Communist Party of Italy and the Association for Proletarian Solidarity. Under the guise of the ‘War on Terror’ and using legal instruments that resemble the special courts established by Mussolini in the 1930s to jail thousands of communists, Italy’s Supreme Court has allowed proceedings against “subversive associations” like the CARC, which they have labelled the new ‘Red Brigades’. But in the legal realm, a second major victory came to the CARC this past July, when the Court of Review of Florence removed the restrictive measures against della Malva and other anti-fascists. Consequently, the Public Prosecutor Boccia, who led the attack
An image of Alessandro della Malva, Secretary of Tuscany for the CARC, who was persecuted for his role in leading the ‘Proletarian Patrols’ against the anti-immigrant, fascist gangs.
“For maximum effectiveness of the Counterintelligence Program, and to prevent wasted effort, long range goals are…[to] prevent the rise of a “messiah” who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.” Excerpt from COINTELPRO document (1967-1971).
N. Zahra If one were to read the writings or gaze upon the art of prisoner and revolutionary Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson today, one would surely know the type of leader that the quote above is referring to. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, headed by J. Edgar Hoover, laid out a program to destroy the rise of revolutionary movement amongst the oppressed masses of American society. Far from being a relic of the past, similar tactics are being used today to undermine the organizing efforts of today’s New Afrikan Black Panther Party (a black or ‘New Afrikan’ revolutionary communist organization, not to be confused with the cultural nationalist so-called ‘New Black Panther Party’). Rashid, the party’s Minister of Defense, is currently being held at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia in sub-human conditions. As in the past, the state and its repression ‘correctional’ arm, are doing everything in their power to cow the revolutionary spirit of Rashid and isolate him from his fellow prisoners. Some of the things that Rashid has to endure on a daily basis include the confiscation and monitoring of his mail
Kevin ‘Rashid Johnsona,
and communication, 24hr closerange video surveillance, frequent cell searches where contraband materials are planted by guards, frequent food poisoning, and having to eat and exercise separately from other prisoners. One might pose the question, why is Rashid receiving such attention from the state? Why are they targeting him and those associated with the party specifically? Because the New Afrikan Black Panther Party has managed to organize and raise the consciousness of black, white, brown, and indigenous prisoners and supporters on the outside through their struggle to unite America’s most oppressed into an organized, revolutionary force. Just recently, one of Rashid’s comrades at Red Onion State, Khaysi, was shot three times by a guard while in a prison yard, with a bullet grazing his skull and almost killing him. The New Afrikan Black Panther Party is one of the first organizations to reemerge in the U.S., since the destruction of the Black Panther Party in the 1970s, that fully embraces the original program of the BPP and >> continued, pg. 5
Prisons and Prison Labour, U.S. to Canada: The search for cheaper labour M. Lau against the anti-fascists, resigned. In a statement responding to the legal victory, the CARC wrote: In Italy there are forces trying to restore fascism, against which we can and must fight, against which we can win, like we won today with the release of anti-fascists and the resignation of PM Boccia... In Italy there is no fascism but there are trials to restore it, and this is one aspect of the undeclared war of the bourgeoisie against the masses. To reject this [sic] trials is not only nor mainly resistance, but it is war of the popular masses against the imperialist bourgeoisie. The situation in Italy is similar to other imperialist countries. As the economic crisis deepens, the working-class is coming under greater attack. The largest mass arrest in Canadian history, during the G20 Summit in Toronto, may be the Canadian ruling-class’s way of testing out greater forms of repression they have in store for us in the future. Are we prepared to beat back the repression? If so, with what ultimate goal in mind? Are our struggles merely defensive? These are questions that will press themselves more forcefully as the crisis intensifies.
As a source of cheap labour, prisons are a blessing for corporations. Under the Welfare to Work legislation in the U.S., BP has been earning a tax credit of $2,400 for every prisoner they have hired to help clean up the ecological disaster it created in the Gulf. Without being required to supply health benefits or workers’ compensation, BP has been able to put prisoners to work in a most toxic setting for up to twelve hours a day, six days a week. BP has also been able to force prisoners to sign documents that prohibit them from discussing work conditions. Prison labour is a growing industry in the United States. Since the 1980s, the prison population in the U.S. has quadrupled. Why did the inmate population grow so drastically? It wasn’t because of a rise of violent crime. Instead, it was due to public policy changes, particularly, the rise of “tough-on-crime” mandatory sentencing laws. Today, the U.S. has the highest prison population in the world. “Tough-on-crime” policies create a massive pool of essentially slave labourers for cor-
porate profit. In fact, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – which most people believe to have officially abolished slavery – allows for it “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”. Prison labour has proven to be highly lucrative for big corporations in past decades in the U.S., and more and more the practice is being implemented in Canada. Deena Rymhs, who conducted a study on Canadian prisoners, has pointed out that one only needs to look at how corporations view prison labour to realize what is going on. Orosz Outdoors, one of Correctional Services of Canada (CORCAN)’s corporate partners, praised the CORCAN program as “an excellent return on investment.” As Rymhs rightly points out, if corporations “regard such an industry as an investment, stakeholders would want to ensure the continuance of that industry.” Since coming into power, the Harper government has implemented many tough-oncrime reforms. It is expected that within the next five years, there will be an influx of up to >> continued, pg. 5
BASICS #22, SEP / OCT 2010
Colombia-Venezuela: Confrontation averted, or confrontation delayed? Scene of the mass grave in Macarena, Colombia with 2000 unidentified bodies.
Jeremias DeCastero Since 1946, Colombia has been in a state of civil war. Violence is routinely deployed against trade unionists (since 1996 almost 3000 unionists have been killed), leftwing political parties (well over 3000 people including 3 Presidential candidates were killed from one party alone), indigenous, AfroColombians, women, peasants, students, workers, community orga-
nizers, and of course, the guerrillas in the countryside. In 2009, a mass grave of civilians was discovered that is without a doubt the product of killings committed by the military (see photo). Recently, Colombia signed an agreement with the U.S., granting it usage of 7 Colombian bases, supposedly for the ‘War on Drugs’, but most certainly to be directed against the guerrilla groups and any future war with Venezuela.
« Komagata Maru to MV Sun Sea, from PG. 3 are children, are being detained in British Colombia. The media has begun flirting with the concept of revoking refugee status from current refugees. This time around, those in need are given health care and food, and officials say that if any security threats or ties with terrorism can be determined, it will be the last straw. By ‘terrorism’, Canadian officials are referring to any ties with the defeated national liberation group, the Tamil Tigers. But if Canadian officials did not want to deal with increased refugee flows in the first place, they should not have backed the Sri Lankan government in their genocidal war against the
Tamils to begin with. Just as the 300,000 Tamils who have made Canada their home are no threat to other Canadians, neither will the current refugees be if they are granted refugee status in Canada. We must not let the history of the Komagata Maru repeat itself today. Many migrant workers of the Komagata Maru were sent to their death in British India in 1914, and any Tamils sent back to Canada-backed Sri Lanka today are sure to face a similar fate. Canada must not only let the refugees stay, but more importantly stop providing critical support for refugee-producing regimes like Sri Lanka.
« Wyclef Jean, from PG. 1
been an apologist for the killers in the Haitian military going back as far as the brutal coup against Aristide in 1991. “On October 26th  Haitian police entered the proAristide slum of Fort Nationale and summarily executed 13 young men. Wyclef Jean said nothing. On October 28th the Haitian police executed five young men, babies really, in the pro-Aristide slum of Bel Air. Wyclef said nothing. If Wyclef really wants to be part of Haiti’s political dialogue he would acknowledge these facts. Unfortunately, Wyclef is fronting.” As if to prove it, the Miami Herald reported on 2/28/10, “secret polling by foreign
powers in search of a new face to lead Haiti’s reconstruction . . .” might favor Jean’s candidacy, as someone with sufficient name recognition who could draw enough votes to overcome another Lavalas electoral boycott. Wyclef Jean supported the 2004 coup. When gun-running former army and death squad members trained by the CIA were overrunning Haiti’s north on February 25, 2004, MTV’s Gideon Yago wrote, “Wyclef Jean voiced his support for Haitian rebels on Wednesday, calling on embattled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to step down and telling his fans in Haiti to ‘keep their head up’ as the country braces
Venezuela, which borders Colombia, has been undergoing a process of popular mobilization over the past decade. In 1998, Hugo Chávez Frías was elected President on the promise to launch a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution through a referendum. In 2002, there was a coup against Chávez and he was kidnapped. But the masses rose up in rebellion to defend their president and the new constitution. Since 2003, popular ‘Misiónes’ – community run programs directed towards feeding, educating, and providing healthcare to people who previously did not receive such services – have mushroomed across the country; and Community Councils and Cooperatives have emerged as part of the democratic basis of the new Venezuelan society. These divergent histories in Colombia and Venezuela have strained the relationship between the neighbours. Chávez has been accused of supporting the FARC
guerilla movement in Colombia, an accusation that he has always vehemently denied. Colombia, on the other hand, has repeatedly violated Venezuela’s sovereignty, flagrantly breaching international law. It continues to threaten its neighbours. War has almost broken out between the two countries three times in the past three years. The latest incident took place in July 2010, when Colombia began mobilizing its army on the Venezuelan border. Chávez responded by curtailing trade with Colombia from late July to early August, but brought the two countries back from the brink of war when he visited his counterpart in Colombia in early August. Was this simply a flare up between neighbours? The Colombian state, including new president Juan Manual Santos, backed by Canada and the U.S., are eager to destroy the popular power that is growing in Venezuela. The popular power developing in Venezuela threatens corporate interests in the
« Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson, from PG. 4 has clearly stated its intention to organize oppressed people for socialist revolution. Claiming the ideology of ‘Pantherism’, which they indicate to be “illuminated by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism”, it is not surprising that the state is so harshly targeting one of the Party’s ideological leaders as prolific as Rashid. People on the outside have yet to come to the aid of Rashid, for the most part because Rashid is not yet familiar to many on the outside. As Rashid has written, “Folks like Sundiata [Acoli], Mumia [Abu-Jamal], [Russell] Maroon [Shoats], etc…would never be left open like this by their supporters.” We need to come together and do our best to expose the state’s efforts to repress the resurgence of itself for possible civil war.” During the Obama inaugural celebration, Jean famously and perversely serenaded Colin Powell, the Bush administration Secretary of State during the US destabilization campaign and eventual coup against Aristide, with Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. Jean also produced the movie “The Ghosts of Cite Soleil,” an anti-Aristide and Lavalas hit piece, which tells us that President Aristide left voluntarily, without mention of his kidnapping by the U.S. military, and presents the main coup leaders in a favorable light. It features interviews with sweatshop owners Andy Apaid and Charles Henry Baker without telling us they hate Aristide, because he raised the minimum wage and sought to give all Haitians a seat at the table by democratizing Haiti’s economy, a program opposed by the rich in Haiti. It uncritically interviews coup leader Louis Jodel Chamblain, without telling us he worked with the Duvalier dictatorship’s brutal militia, the Tonton Macoutes, in the 1980s; that following the coup against Aristide in 1991, he was the “operations guy” for the FRAPH paramilitary death squad, accused of murdering uncounted numbers of Aristide supporters
revolutionary organizing projects in the world’s number one imperialist state, America. The revolutionary rising of the oppressed nationalities and working-class people in America would aid all
U.S. and Canada. Part of the issue is that Venezuela sits upon an abundance of oil, and any changing internal relationships in that country will affect external relations with other countries. But the prospect of revolution anywhere in Latin America has always threatened North American imperialists. The U.S. remains Colombia’s biggest backer, Canada has signed a free trade deal with Colombia’s murderous government, and Colombia’s new president has openly displayed his disdain for the sovereignty of other nations. Canadian workers have more in common with the people of Venezuela than they do with the Colombian regime. Any future war against the masses of Venezuela would signal a major offensive, not only on the masses of Latin American, but on the workingclass of North America, which the U.S. and Canada want to prevent from have any examples of revolution to emulate. people in the world fighting for national and social liberation. For more information about the NABPP, or to subscribe to their many journals, write to: Rising Sun Press, P.O. BOX 4362, Allentown, PA, 18101, U.S.A.
« Prisons and Prison Labour, from PG. 4 4,000 male prisoners across Canadian prisons. In early August, Stockwell Day announced that the government would raise the amount that Canada currently spends on its jails from $4.4 billion per year to an estimated $9.5 billion. Why such an increase on prison spending when the government is looking to curb the deficit and cut spending? For instance, the New Brunswick government has been pressing
Ottawa to consider expanding its Renous prison to help deal with the larger prison population expected from Harper’s “tough-on-crime” legislation. According to a Statistics Canada study, the reported ‘crime’ rate in 2009 is 17% lower than it was a decade earlier. But statistics aren’t enough to convince a government that represents corporate interests in search of cheaper, more exploitable labour.
and introducing gang rape into Haiti as a military weapon. The documentary also uncritically interviews coup leader Guy Phillipe, without telling us that he’s a former Haitian police chief who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s, or that the U.S. embassy admitted that Phillipe was involved in the transhipment of narcotics, one of the key sources of funds for paramilitary attacks on the poor in Haiti. Currently, Wyclef runs the Yele Haiti Foundation, which the Washington Post reported on January 16, 2010 is under fiscal scrutiny, because “It seems clear that a significant amount of the monies that this charity raises go for costs other than providing benefits to Haitians in need . . . In 2006, Yele Haiti had about $1 million in revenue, according to tax documents. More than a third of the money went to payments to related parties, said lawyer James Joseph . . . (T) he charity recorded a payment of $250,000 to Telemax, a TV station and production company in Haiti in which Jean and Jerry Duplessis, both members of Yele Haiti’s board of directors, had a controlling interest. The charity paid about $31,000 in rent to Platinum Sound, a
Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Duplessis. And it spent an additional $100,000 for Jean’s performance at a benefit concert in Monaco.” A foundation spokesperson “said the group hopes to spend a higher percentage of its budget on services as it gains experience.” Please spread the news! Wyclef Jean is not a friend of the people’s democratic movement in Haiti.” The floating of his candidacy is just one more effort by the international forces, desperate to put a smiley face on a murderous military occupation, to undermine the will of the Haitian majority by making Wyclef Jean the Ronald Reagan of Haiti. Let us be clear. Jean and his uncle, the Haitian Ambassador to the U.S., are both cozy with the self-appointed czar of Haiti, Bill Clinton, whose plans for the Caribbean nation are to make it a neo-colony for a reconstructed tourist industry and a pool of cheap labor for U.S. factories. Wyclef Jean is the perfect front man. The Haitian elite and its U.S./U.N. sponsors are counting on his appeal to the youth to derail the people’s movement for democracy and their call for the return of President Aristide. Most Haitians will not be hoodwinked by the likes of Wyclef Jean.
BASICS #22, SEP / OCT 2010
Canada Rejecting Science-Based Research Canadian Gov’t to Build More Prisons
in the Fight Against the AIDS Epidemic Mike Brito
At the International AIDS conference in Vienna last month, a group of Canadians protested Canada’s lack of support for the Vienna Declaration. At least 50 activists closed down the Canadian government booth at the conference exhibition hall, wrapping it in tape and covering it with signs and copies of the Vienna Declaration, chanting “The war on drugs is a war on us” and “Shame on Canada.” The Vienna Declaration is the official declaration of the 28th International AIDS conference. The statement is a call to improve community health and safety and to ensure illicit drug policies are based on scientific evidence. The declaration was drafted by a team of international experts, including some of the world’s leading scientific bodies dealing with HIV and drug policy. The declaration has received over 20,000 endorsements including AIDS activist Stephen Lewis, and the former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, as well as a range of experts in science, medicine and law. The protest responded to Federal Health Minister Leona
Aglukkaq’s refusal to support both the Vienna Declaration and the adoption of evidencebased drug policies. Instead, the Federal Health Minister reiterated Stephen Harper’s policies of criminalizing drug users and his contempt for harm reduction, an internationally recognized strategy that includes provision of sterile needles and safe places to inject. While countries all over the world are moving to adopt harm reduction, the federal government continues to threaten Insite in Vancouver, Canada’s only safe injection site. According to Zoe Dodd, a Canadian harm reduction activist, “There is overwhelming evidence that harm reduction strategies are effective in combating HIV transmission. Canadian criminalization of drug use is fanning the flames of the AIDS epidemic.” While other countries are evolving to regard drug use as a social and health issue, Canada is simply following in line behind the U.S. and their so-called “War on Drugs”. Dodd says, “Canada has missed an important opportunity to show leadership in the struggle against HIV and AIDS. People are dying because of it.” Dr. Julio Montaner, president of the International Aids
Society argues that, “these policies fuel the AIDS epidemic and result in violence, increased crime rates and destabilization of entire states – yet there is no evidence they have reduced rates of drug use or drug supply.” He went on to promote evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that recognize addiction as a medical condition rather than a crime. “It’s time to accept the War on Drugs’ has failed to create drug policies that can meaningfully protect community health and safety using evidence, not ideology.” In our communities we also understand that a “War on Drugs” approach will translate into a war on some of our most marginalized people. Drug policies based on law enforcement have only served to fill the prisons and swell police budgets, a trend that will continue until we take control of our communities and begin to adopt strategies to deal with drug use that are based on the best science and medicine that we have available. To read the Vienna Declaration visit viennadeclaration.com For more background about harm reduction visit www.canadianharmreduction.com
Barriere Lake Algonquins Mount Boycott of Canadian Government-imposed Election Louisa Worrell Press Release - Kitiganik, Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory. (Updated with permission by BASICS Correspondent Louisa Worrell) On August 12, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake protested and boycotted a nomination poll for Indian Act band elections that the Department of Indian Affairs is unilaterally forcing on their community. The Quebec Police, the Sûreté du Québec, have threatened to guard the polling stations in the community’s territory and arrest anyone who tries to interfere or set up blockades. After community members peacefully blockaded a federal government electoral officer from entering the reserve on July 22, the Department of Indian Affairs rescheduled the nomination poll for August 12. Once the polling station was set up and no one cast a vote in protest, the community confronted Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) officials, asking them to leave. As the INAC officials left, community members got the representatives to confirm that the vote was invalid. A couple days later, Casey Ratt was notified that he was the appointed Chief and counsel of the community by 6 mail-in votes that INAC had received. Mr. Ratt refused to take this role as he felt the election was illegitimate and its imposition showed no respect for the cus-
tomary method of leadership selection in Barriere Lake. “The Canadian and Quebec Governments are shamefully treating our community like criminals for peacefully protecting our inherent right to govern ourselves according to our customs,” says Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson. “The Canadian government is attempting to unconstitutionally abolish our traditional leadership selection. They claim imposing this regime is a democratic move, but the overwhelming majority of our community members are opposed and want instead to maintain our own system of government.” The government officer was seeking nominations for a Chief and Council that would be voted for in an election the Department of Indian Affairs has planned for September 26, 2010. Barriere Lake is one of the few First Nations in the country who have never been under the Indian Act’s electoral system, continuing instead to operate under a Customary Governance Code that they have used for generations. During the July 22nd nomination meeting, only 4 nominations were sent by mail-in-ballot – and all from individuals who have never lived within Barriere Lake’s traditional territory. “The Canadian government claims they are imposing Indian Act elections because our traditional system doesn’t work, but it’s in fact the government’s interference in our internal
affairs that has destabilized our governance,” says Marylynn Poucachiche, another community spokesperson. “The real reason they are imposing band elections is to sever our connection to the land, which is maintained by our traditional political system. They don’t want to deal with a strong leadership and a community that demands the governments honour signed agreements regarding the exploitation of our lands and resources.” Barriere Lake’s inherent right to customary self-government is protected by section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and is
The Commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), Don Head, recently stated that there will be “major construction initiatives” in the Canadian prison system. Although the Harper cabinet has refused to publicize the cost of their plans to imprison more people, government spending estimates confirm that capital costs for penitentiaries are scheduled to increase by 43% next year. Estimates released earlier this year show that the prison system’s capital expenditures would increase from $230.8 million for 2009-10 to $329.4 million in 2010-11. It is not clear whether the money will be used to build new prisons or renovate the old. Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, asserted that the money would be spent only on “updating and improving” existing
facilities. Research conducted at Carleton University has confirmed that there is also a “building spree” at the provincial level, with plans to spend more than $2.8 billion on new facilities and expanding older institutions. The CSC commissioner announced changes to the prison system, citing “several pieces of legislation that will result in a growth of our inmate population.” He referred to one bill that recently became law, which put an end to a judicial practice of allowing “two-forone” credit on sentences for every day spent in pre-trial custody, or “dead time.” The federal government has also proposed and passed legislation to impose mandatory minimums on a range of crimes, including drug possession, and have stated their intention to make it harder for prisoners to get parole. During a time of falling crime rates and government cutbacks, the Harper Conservatives are committed to building prisons, despite the fact that there is no evidence that longer sentences decrease crime. The Executive Director of The John Howard Society, Craig Jones, says that this construction “is basically pouring money down a rat hole” and predicted that the prison service will become “the largest building contractor in Canada.”
enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A May 2010 report by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples affirmed that First Nations have the right to maintain control over their internal affairs and be free to pursue their vision of customary government. The Assembly of First Nations has passed a unanimously-
backed resolution condemning the government and demanding that the Minister of Indian Affairs rescind the band elections, imposed through section 74 of the Indian Act. Under Barriere Lake’s customary governance code, participation in leadership selections is open only to those band members who live in the traditional territory and have knowledge of and connection to the land.
This flag, the Three-Figure Wampum belt dating back to around 1760, is an agreement between Barriere Lake Algonquine, the Church, and European settlers. The belt depicts an acknowledgement that there would be no interference into native customs and rights of self-determination.
BASICS #22, SEP / OCT 2010
Canada implicated in death of Afghan children “For a militant global women’s Tim Groves Toronto Media Co-Op
Two children were killed and another two hospitalized after playing with unexploded ordinance that was believed to be found in a Canadian firing range in Afghanistan, in February 2009, according to classified document leaked by the website Wikileaks. The account differs drastically from those made by residents in the area shortly after the children were killed. “A mortar round, fired from the direction of a Canadian forward operating base to the west of the village, landed among the children, who were on their way back from a local madrassa” read a story in Canadian Press [CP] from February 23rd 2009. Abdul Wahid, a resident of the area told CP “This is disgusting, firing these kind of mortars on civilians.” The Official report placed more of the blame on the children, but still suggested Canada may have played a role in the children’s death. “The children reportedly brought the [unexploded ordnance] home from the [Canadian] Range and were playing with it. Their parents told them to get rid of it and they took it out of the house and began beating it with a rock until it detonated.” The Children lived in a community known as `the handicapped village” , a community financed in part by Mohammed Bin Rashid , the ruler of Dubai. It is a community built to house
Afghan children look on as occupation soldiers pass by near Shigal village in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan (Dec. 7, ‘09).
movement in the 21st century”
International Women’s Alliance formed in Montreal Ashley Matthew & Pet Cleto
those seriously injured by war. US Forces took note of the incident when residents of the area began a protest chanting “Death to the Canadians” and parading the bodies of the two boys who appeared to be younger than teenagers. At first US forces kept their distance filing only a brief report. Later they filed a longer report on the incident. The reports were part of the 76,900 classified documents to be released to the public by the whistle blower website, Wikileaks.org. The report did acknowledge that Canada had been test firing mortars and other ammunition as large as 120mm in the area. However it suggested that Afghan police may also be to blame as they too had been firing ammunition in the vicinity. Military Police’s National Investigation Service were sent to the area, but it is unclear what their investigation revealed.
“Canadian Forces, we do have very strict policies in place to prohibit leaving behind any unexploded ordnance and make every effort insure that the safety of Afghan Civilians and our own personnel while we conduct those ranges or after we conduct those ranges” Major Mario Couture, of the Canadian Forces told CP, shortly after the devastating explosion took place. Unexploded ordinances are more problem in Afghanistan. In 2007 the UN Mine Action Center for Afghanistan, said that land mines and unexploded ordnance, kill and injure about 60 people every month and almost half of those are children. “At least 5,978 civilians were killed and injured in 2009” according to a UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. This is the highest number of civilian casualties since the start of the war.
August 16, 2010 now marks the formation of the International Women’s Alliance. On that sunny historic day in Montreal, over 300 women representing some 130 countries together declared the creation of a global anti-imperialist alliance of feminist and women’s groups. Through the International Women’s Conference workshops that were held over the course of that weekend, avenues were opened for delegates to discuss several topics, and then convened to declare the birth of the alliance, agree on its bases of unity, and form an action plan. In doing so, the International Women’s Alliance began to adopt, at the outset of the second century of the International Women’s Day (declared by an international body of women workers in 1911), a highly critical role: guiding women’s groups aspiring to forge a militant anti-imperialist women’s movement. The workshop themes addressed timely topics: women workers; migration; combating racism, discrimination and genocide; the struggles of indigenous women; resisting wars of imperialist aggression; religion; sexual orientation and identities; health; violence; socialist and national liberation
movements; resisting developmental aggression; women from peasantry/rural lands; and women’s experiences in parliaments and legislative bodies. Each workshop gave opportunity for women to share their stories and experiences, analyze the roots of their various conditions, and ignite the passion that all shared, in relation to their specific struggles and victories. When organizers of the conference presented for the body’s discussion a draft of the alliance’s bases of unity, the document was eagerly discussed and debated. A committee will now write and consolidate a revision for deliberation and feedback from the members and member-groups of the now international body. The document will be finalized at the coming general assembly of the International Women’s Alliance. This incredible alliance marks and formalizes the global unity of women organizing against imperialism. Some women leaders present at the conference were asked what they envisioned as the work and impact of this alliance on women around the world, and they all stated that women now have greater potential of realizing goals in their areas of concern, in every sector and every field of endeavour.
$16 bn for Fighter Jets Reveals Gov’t Priorities Steve da Silva Less than three weeks after the Canadian government staged the G20 Summit, where world leaders pledged to half their deficits by 2013, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the largest single military purchase in Canadian history. On July 16, 2010, MacKay announced that the military would purchase 65 F35 Joint Strike Fighters from Lockheed Martin, amounting to $9 billion for the purchase and another $7 billion over 20 years for maintenance and repairs. While most working-class Canadians may be wondering why the government would spend record amounts on the military in the “era of austerity”, while cuts are being sustained across the board on social spending, and pensions are collapsing, the criticisms raised by the opposition parties and certain NGOs have been limited to the question of whether the military purchase was the right one, and if the procurement process was competitive enough. The day the purchase was announced, New Democrat Defence critic Jack Harris asked “Why is this huge expenditure so vital to Canada’s defence when we can’t even properly patrol our coastline?” Harris added: “The lack of transparency in this procurement is just the latest example of the secretive way that Stephen Harper tries to run the show.” So, are we to believe that the NDP’s alterna-
Minister of ‘Defense’, Peter MacKay, walks away from a mock-up of the new F35s Canada is going to purchase after his announcement on July 16, 2010. tive would have been to ensure that the other vendors would have had a fair shot at the contract? Do most Canadians really care whether the contract goes to the $68 billion firm (Boeing) or the $45 billion firm (Lockheed Martin) - the company that ranks 91 on the Global Fortune 500 versus the one that ranks 159? Or rather, should the central issue be, for Canada’s supposed “labour party”, that this massive spending on militarism constitutes an attack on the working class in Canada, given the massive shifts in spending priorities the procurement necessitates. And this is to say nothing about the future wars of aggression for which these jets will be used. For their part, the Liberals defended massive companies like Boeing and Airbus when they raised concerns that the F-35 procurement process was not competitive enough, and that “solesourced contracts” have been handed out too often since the Conservatives took power in 2006.
Thanks Liberals! Who would protect the interests of the rich from the rich without you? Sadly, even NGOs have joined in the chorus. In a report released on August 10, 2010 by Project Ploughshares, an agency of the Canadian Council of Churches, its author Kenneth Epps advised Harper that “Transparent and balanced security goals should drive procurement decisions.” The majority of Canadians are opposed to Harper’s militarism, and the NDP and Liberals are capitalizing on this opposition with their pseudo-criticisms that amount to little more than oneupping the Conservatives when it comes to neoliberal principles and geopolitical strategy. Canada’s new record military spending reveals that all the talk of “austerity” applies to the working-class only, and not government spending generally. And for now, working-class Canadians have not a single political force to fight for them when the attacks are coming the hardest.
« Tamil Refugees, from PG. 1 ought to condemn the Sri Lankan state’s policies and not criminalize the desperate refugees these policies create. Six boats full of refugees have already been reported lost on the high seas. Yet, the public conversation continues to focus on fear and control over borders, citizenship and immigration. We must not let Canada’s legal humanitarian obligations be forgotten. According to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, to which Canada is a party, there are no penalties on refugees who arrive without pre-authorization and irregularly. In fact, there is no ‘queue’ for refugee claimants in Canada. People arrive on boats, planes and on foot all the time to seek justice, dignity, and a chance at a better life. Further, the Canadian government, which would like to pretend that the Tamil refugees are not its problem, must account for its backing of the Sri Lankan regime, to which they sent millions in ‘aid’ in 2009 at the height of the regime’s onslaught against the Tamil people. The Sri Lankan regime would never have been able to get away
with the crimes against humanity committed against the Tamils had the ‘international community’ not turned a blind eye to the genocide. Since the arrival of the MV Sun Sea, various government officials are promising a further militarization of Canadian borders, vowing to end the entrance of refugees. Leading Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford has, in effect, said that he would like to see Toronto a refugee-free zone. But as much as rightwing politicians and pundits are whipping up xenophobia and fear and aversion to immigrants and refugees, Canada remains a country that heavily relies on the exploitation of immigrants and temporary foreign workers for the sake of big business. So what these attacks really amount to is a climate of fear and hostility that allows these strata of workers to be even more oppressed and exploited. So, this is why we must collectively struggle to ensure that all migrants aboard the MV Sun Sea, as well others entering and living in Canada, with or without status, are treated with dignity and given full immigration status.
Arts and Culture
BASICS #22, SEP / OCT 2010
Passport Dispute Robs Powerhouse Lacrosse Team of Chance to Compete Iroquois Nationals kept out of World Championships for a sport their ancestors invented J.D. Benjamin
The 23-member Iroquois Nationals team was forced to miss out on playing the Lacrosse World Championships in Manchester last month after British, American, and Canadian officials refused to recognize the sovereign right of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to issue their own passports. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also known as the Six Nations or Iroquois, includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora nations and has territory on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. The Haudenosaunee first issued their own passport in the 1920s for one of their members to attend a League of Nations conference in Geneva. In 1977, the Confederacy reached an agreement with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries to accept the passports as valid travel documents. Since then, delegations and individual members of the Haudenosaunee have traveled to various countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia using the passports. The British refused to issue the team travel visas, stranding the team in New York. The Brit-
ish demanded guarantees that the team would be allowed back into the United States with the Haudenosaunee passports. The United States government offered the team American passports, but the team refused. To accept American or Canadian passports, the team members would be surrendering the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and accepting the authority of an entity they hold to be a foreign power. “That border has been imposed on us right in the middle of our territory. We are not U.S. nor Canadian citizens,” Confederacy secretary Jessica Shenandoah said in a National Post interview. “By doing this [not recognizing Haudenosaunee passports], we are not recognized as people, the people that we are.” At the World Championships, the United States defeated Canada 12-10 in the gold medal game, taking their ninth victory. The Iroquois Nationals were expected to be top contenders at the tournament, having secured fourth place at the last World Championships in 2006, 2002, and 1998; 2nd place at the last two World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in 2003 and 2007; and 3rd place in the first ever Under-19 World Lacrosse Championships in 2008. These are impressive results for a team that recruits from a nation of only approximately 125,000. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy expects to have new, high-tech passports available by 2011. Until then, Canadian and American officials should
honour their treaty obligations with the Haudenosaunee and stop violating their right to travel internationally under their own passports.
Tequila Bookworm’s Jeffery Caires’s art a critical take on urban history, politics and business Gary Erickson
Showing at Tequila Bookworm from August 1-31, a viewer can stop for a drink and a bite, surrounded by recent memories of Queen West’s past. Jeff Caires’s computer manipulation of local street panoramas offers an intelligent and critical perspective on Toronto’s urban life. As art, a level of commodification is present in glossy objects and mirror finishes, in contrast with the gritty nature of the Queen West views. The subject becomes clarified in the frame, made accessible by the selling price. As urban history, the works are preservation, in ancient amber, of our Queen West neighborhood on the edge of condo destruction. The glossy photo records are a token of our momentary melodrama, before the violent shift to the next scene in Toronto time. As political ideas, a big box retail store, with “eco boho flaming feather boa champagne legend lofts” on top, is violently growing across the street, well watered by developer money. The afternoon shadow of the beast throws the sidewalk patio of the city housing project on Portland Street into the cold and
A familiar face to Queen St. West - barrista, bartender, co-owner, and now a resident artist-photographer at Tequila Bookworm, Jeff Caires,
dark. The tenants yell: Congratulations condo owners! Congratulations city! Soon the glare of the three storey windows of a Loblaws will blast the heritage facades all around. Barely adhering to the guidelines of the planning department’s Queen Street West Heritage Conservation District Plan, such mega projects may further frame our at risk artistic community. Is our pathos for sale? Yes, congratulations city! Congratulations! More notable in Jeff’s panoramic works is the imbedded nature of the photographer in a close community of prolific artists, musicians, writers and designers. As a participant in the Tequila Bookworm Café’s longstanding artistic community,
Jeff’s particular contribution to this group of owners, regulars and staff, is his full commitment of talent, education, resources, wage labor and creative spirit. As the Tequila Bookworm bartender since 2006, Jeff was already well known on the Toronto café circuit as the most consistent face and voice of Tequila Bookworm Cafe. Now he has partnered up with friends and expanded his role into full co-owner, financier and operator. As a small business, the Tequila Bookworm Café brand was created by the enterprising Cynthia Kipling in the early 1990’s after a physics degree from UBC. She had a passion for business, books, and food. Cynthia had a real knack for getting people to hang out in her
« CARIBANA, from PG. 2 enormous income that goes into the Canadian economy. It is high time that Caribana be given millions of dollars in annual operational and project funding so as to enable it to operate as a yearround cultural institution. Further, this festival should contribute to the economic and social vitality of the African and Caribbean community. It is high time for Caribana to not be treated as an economic resource that is exploited for the benefit of the corporate interests and the government. The three levels of government and large corporate sponsors have a neocolonial relationship or a system of indirect rule with Caribana through the Festival Management Committee (smacks of British colonialism in Africa). In 2006, the City of Toronto threatened to defund Caribana. It made this move, because of concerns about how the festival was being managed by the Caribbean Cultural Committee. This community-based group was pushed to the sidelines and the Festival Management Committee was elevated to the status of organizerin-chief. The city’s action sent a clear message about who had de facto control and “ownership” of this summer cultural extravaganza. That act of brinksmanship by the city and other funders
affirmed the notion that “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” The state through its funding of the festival has an effective veto over the people from within the African and Caribbean community who are deemed fit to organize this festival. Yet, if we become better politically organized as a community and with Caribana’s economic impact, we have the ability to make this festival one that benefits its creators and be under our effective control. The benefits should be largely channeled through communitycontrolled programmes and institutions such as community centres, educational scholarships, museums, arts centres and initiatives that will generate employment and other opportunities. It is time for us to force the different levels of government in Canada to move beyond anti-racist and equity policy pronouncements and empty promises and live up to the ideals of equity for all. The inequitable funding of Caribana has effectively demonstrated that political hypocrisy is at work in the cultural policy of the political directorates.
space. People loved the accepting community atmosphere, free in-
ternet, and affordable high quality >> continued, pg. 2
Ajamu Nangwaya is a trade unionist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). He is a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto.
Feature stories on Oka, 20 Years Later; the hype around Wyclef Jean - Haiti's Ronald Reagan?; and the back story to the Tamil refugees aboar...
Published on Sep 1, 2010
Feature stories on Oka, 20 Years Later; the hype around Wyclef Jean - Haiti's Ronald Reagan?; and the back story to the Tamil refugees aboar...