Battle of Seattle nearly forgotten 10 years later By Inderjit Bansal
By Brett Throop
Last Monday during question period, in a complete role reversal, the House of Commons fell silent while the public gallery took centre stage as Indigenous, labour and youth activists came together to draw connections between and attention to the tar sands, colonialism, Indigenous rights and the current government’s climate change policy. Video footage shows Members of Parliament and House Speaker Peter Milliken falling silent as the gallery erupts with shouting. “The Canadian government needs to sign the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights,” protesters shouted. “The Canadian government needs to sign Bill C-311.” Canada, along with the US and Australia, has not signed the UN declaration. Meanwhile, First Nations charge that tar sands development is destroying their lands. NDP-sponsored Bill C-311 would set greenhouse gas reduction targets based on the research of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The bill passed second reading before the House in April; now stalled, it likely won’t be passed before a major UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December. Activist Jessy Grass noted that the 200 people filling the gallery were Indigenous rights and environmental justice activists who were in Ottawa attending Power Shift, a national youth conference on climate change. Power Shift Canada has, however, been quick to distance itself from the protest
and issued a press release later the same day saying it had not “directed or endorsed the actions.” The participants included youth (among them high school students), as well as workers (representing unions such as the Canadian Auto Workers), and Indigenous activists. Many have charged that the protesters were under some direction from the NDP but Grass was quick to emphasize that the protest was organized independently of any political party. Over the weekend, nearly 1,000 people came together in what Power Shift Canada describes as “the largest ever gathering of young Canadians on climate change in history.” The conference coincided with the October 24 International Day of Action on Climate Change. That day saw thousands of events around the world calling for strong government action to curb emissions. As the Copenhagen conference draws near, environmental organizations intend to keep the pressure on the federal government. More “flash mob Mondays” are being planned each week leading up to the December 17 conference. That conference will see 150 nations converge to strike a climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. With only a month to go before the conference, consensus seems to be that the final details of a new international climate treaty will not be finalized in Copenha-
gen. Top UN climate official, Yvo de Boer has stated that instead of an agreement he hopes the principles of the deal will at least be agreed upon there. Environment minister Jim Prentice, who has also stated that a final treaty coming out of the conference is unlikely, will lead Canada’s Copenhagen delegation. Still, activists at home and even governments abroad are demanding more action from the Canadian government. A French government paper recently stated, “Canada and the United States need to raise their level of ambition... in order to prevent dangerous effects of climate change,” reported Reuters in June. Defending his government’s emission reduction targets of 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020, Minister Prentice told Reuters, “We continue to take the position that, given our industrial base, our climate and our geography, these are realistic targets, but they are very ambitious (and) reflect what we are able to do in our country.” Canada’s targets don’t stack up with those of the European Union, which pledged a 30 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 if a deal can be struck in Copenhagen. Major emitters China and the U.S. have yet to commit to targets. The tar sands are Canada’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not planning to attend negotiations in Copenhagen.
United States to lift HIV Entry Ban By Brett Throop
Announced by President Obama on October 30, the U.S. will lift a 22-year-old entry ban on people living with HIV come January. Until then, that country remains one of a dozen which bars entry to visitors and immigrants living with HIV. In 2008, President Bush signed a bill which eliminated the statutory ban, though it remained in Department of Health and Human Services regulations. A new regulation, eliminating the restrictions Obama called “based on fear rather than fact,” is now being implemented. “It will also take an effort to end the stigma that has stopped people from getting tested, that has stopped people from facing their own illness and that has sped the spread of this disease for far too long,” Obama said. According to a 2009 Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) report, the entry
City on April 2001. Other protests also took place from Melbourne, Australia to London, UK. Then 10 years after the Seattle protest, the world has seen the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, the War in Iraq, almost facing another depression similar to the Great Depression, and most recently electing the first Black American president. Has this movement made any difference in the world? Due to the Seattle protest, more people decided to inform themselves about the problems of international trade. Also, finance ministers now needed to defend their policies before the public, rather than having private meetings. Companies needed to start showing awareness of the social impacts of their business operations. NGOs suddenly gained more influence. Also, this protest went as far as changing the policies of trade. More people became interested in the activities of the large global organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Economic Forum, and the large national treasury banks. In 2005, many of the wealthiest countries moved to cancel the debt of the less-developed countries, causing $1 billion in resources to shift into the southern countries. This money helped build infrastructure, fund education, and better the health care, just to name a few. The protest in Seattle lasted for about 5 days. It managed to successfully postpone the trade negotiations, prevent the representatives from coming to a conclusion, raise media awareness on these types of organizations, and begin the anti-globalization movement. However, only a few people still remember this protest and it becomes difficult to determine whether this event still affects the everyday people around the world. Its mark was faded by the other catastrophes we’ve experienced within the short period of ten years.
Justice activists take parliament
10 years ago, on November 30, 1999, large crowds of people gathered around the World Trade Organization in Seattle to protest and began what is now known as the Battle of Seattle. Within these past ten years, we have witnessed many historic moments, which have quietly buried this event in the eyes of many people. On that Tuesday ten years ago, there was going to be a summit where negotiations were about to take place on new trade agreements. It was supposed to help increase globalization. However, this meeting was quickly interrupted by the protestors demonstrating against a broad range of issues from the social issues of capitalism to environmental concerns. The basic issue that the people seemed to be concerned with was the domination of the large multinational corporations over working class citizens. They believed that free trade would harm them. Also, many believed that the model of trading is unfair. Over 50,000 people showed up to protest for their various issues despite the numerous police crackdowns, including hundreds of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Sections of the city needed to be blocked off. Then some decided to turn it into a violent protest where from then it became a state of emergency and law enforcement even considered Martial Law. Armored police cars needed to be called in, officers in riot clothes, and officers on horseback. They used whatever they could from tear gas to arrests to plastic bullets. Total damages were estimated to be approximately $20 million. This protest helped spark several anti-capitalist movements around the world. On January 2000, the groups of people arrived at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Sweden. Then on April 2000 in Washington DC, 10,000 people came to protest during the meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This movement also hit here in Canada in Quebec
ban has contributed to that stigma. “Our report documents the devastating impact of the discriminatory U.S. travel and immigration ban that has for decades contributed to HIV-related stigma and the proliferation of HIV in immigrant communities,” said Marjorie J. Hill, head of GMHC. Using New York City Health Department data, the report concludes that while immigrants have a higher incidence of HIV and AIDS than non-immigrants, they are more likely to contract the disease after entering the U.S. The report’s authors point to both late diagnosis and poor access to healthcare as culprits behind higher rates of HIV/AIDS among immigrants. In the same announcement, Obama confirmed that The Ryan White Act will be extended. That act provides HIV treatment and support for about 500,000 people.
In “Manufacturing crisis,” published in our last issue, Devon Monkhouse was misidentified as Andrew Monkhouse, his brother. His current student status was also misidentified. The Ryerson Free Press regrets the error.
Photo: Ben Powless
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