People’s Voice August 1-31, 2016
Volume 24 – Number 12   $1














13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker



PEOPLE'S VOICE      AUGUST 1-31, 2016 (pdf)


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 (The articles below are from the August 1-31, 2016, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)


Statement from the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, July 2016

            In the lead up to the June 23 Brexit vote, Canadian media reported almost daily on the line-up of right-wing,  anti-immigrant, racist and fascist organizations that were campaigning  in support of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union:  the Brexit referendum.

            The message to Canadians was clear:  Brexit is dangerous; the European Union is safe.  To nail down that assessment with working people, the leader of Britain’s TUC, Frances O’Grady, confirmed that  maintaining Britain’s labour rights and standards hinged on enforcement by the European Union -  not the British government which she said, would first erode and then eliminate workers’ rights and standards.

The Tories and the EU: divisions in the ruling class

            In fact both the British government and the EU have been working for decades to slash workers’ rights and standards. It was Margaret Thatcher who brought neo-liberal economics and social and trade policies to Britain, and Tony Blair who took Britain into the dirty wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and severely restricted civil and democratic rights in the post 9/11 ‘security state’.

            The EU is a supra-national  body that represents the interests of the largest European, German and transnational corporations.  Financed by the privately owned European banks, with the enforcement powers of the European Commission, it has single-handedly subjugated the national sovereignty and independence of states across the continent, waged war on the African states and refugees trying to escape wars in Africa and the Middle East, while also waging war on the working class and peoples of Europe with the imposition of austerity, mass impoverishment,  joblessness, and harsh restrictions on  labour, democratic, civil and social rights.   The EU has also fanned the flames of racism, xenophobia, and hatred, leading to the growth of fascist parties and movements in every part of Europe.  And these parties, as in the 1930s, continue to act as the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.

            The division in the ruling class over the EU, was not about content, but about the pace of capitalist globalization in Europe. German capital, and the German banks, were pushing for more concentrated and centralized economic and political power in the EU, which conflicted with the interests of big capital in Britain and in some other EU countries. As US President Obama observed, the German efforts to “deepen” the EU , meant the EU “was moving too fast” for some of the European monopolies (including some in Britain).

            Urging governments and corporations to “avoid hysteria” following the Brexit vote, Obama reminded his audience that “NATO and the transatlantic alliance still exist”.  To enforce capitalist globalization, exploitation and continuing super-profits.

            The EU is an opponent of the working class and working people, and its complete break up would be an important step in curbing the power of the monopolies and the big corporations in Europe, and in creating the conditions for an effective struggle to restore national sovereignty and democracy to the peoples of Europe. 

A victory for the working class

            And so the decision of the British working class, by a margin of just 2%, to “leave” the European Union was an important and courageous decision in face of a massive “remain” campaign led by Tory PM David Cameron. The Communist Party of Britain and other left and progressive organizations campaigned hard for Britain’s withdrawal, while advocating an agenda for fundamental economic and social change in Britain, contained in the “Lexit” (exit Left). This included massive job creation, higher wages and living standards, investments in education, healthcare, housing and social programs, an open immigration policy providing safe haven for refugees and new immigrants, a foreign policy of peace and disarmament, and a trade policy of fair trade with all countries based on mutual benefit.

            The Communists argued that the Brexit opened the door for the working class to take on the IMF and the World Bank, and to expand the Lexit to include an exit from all supra-national capitalist blocs and trade deals.

            However the immediate job is to prevent the betrayal of the Brexit vote: by Conservatives bent on transforming the referendum result into “advice” that Parliament can accept or reject; and by the Labour Party caucus which is attempting to dump its Leader Jeremy Corbyn for his socialist views and his unwillingness to campaign to overturn the referendum result. Scottish nationalists, hoping to re-open the issue of a referendum on Scottish independence, are campaigning to keep Scotland in the EU.

            British Communists are demanding that the government trigger the 2-year exit negotiations by informing the EU that Britain is leaving the EU, and then call an election so that new MPs, committed to negotiating Britain’s exit, can be elected. British Communists are also demanding that the trade union movement and the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, regain leadership of the anti EU campaign, linking Britain’s sovereignty and independence from the EU with an open immigration policy for refugees and immigrants. In the process they aim to push back the fascists, racists and xenophobia so prevalent in the UK today.

Canada and the Brexit / Lexit

            Pulling Britain out of the EU raises important new questions and possibilities for Canada to also break free of the corporate trade deals and blocs that have cost this country its sovereignty and independence, a million jobs, a large part of its manufacturing base, and transformed its multilateral trade policy into a unilateral trade deal with the US; and a foreign policy made in the USA, putting Canada on a permanent war footing, waist deep in US dirty wars.

               The British working class has shown that another way is possible, necessary, and urgent.

            In the US elections, both Trump and Clinton are committed to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership, campaigning on protectionist policies and blaming previous trade deals for massive job losses and declining living standards and wages. Trump is also campaigning on anti-immigrant, racist and xenophobic policies that promote isolationism.

Move the TPP to the garbage heap

            The Liberals’ commitment to the TPP may well be waning as a result of the Brexit and the US elections, which means that mass independent political action by labour and the democratic movements before November could decisively move the TPP off the government’s agenda, and onto the garbage heap of history where the MAI and FTAA already lie.

            For Canadian workers, the most important response to the Brexit would be to kill the TPP, and knock another block out of the imperialist fortress in North America

            The tide is starting to turn.

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Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, July 5, 2016

            Since the United States-orchestrated coup d’état in Ukraine in February 2014, NATO has escalated its campaign of aggression against Russia, to the point that there is currently a very real risk of open war between nuclear weapons states. NATO’s current Anakonda 2016 war games – its largest military training exercises in more than two decades – combined with the push to deploy a large multinational military force in Latvia, are the latest steps in this dangerous warmongering march that threatens the survival of the entire planet.

            The Communist Party of Canada denounces the Canadian government’s decision to deploy and command Canadian military as part of NATO’s permanent anti-Russia contingent in Latvia. We demand that the Canadian government immediately halt this deployment, withdraw from the Anakonda wargames, and actively oppose NATO’s anti-Russia escalation in Latvia and other areas of Eastern Europe. We further call on Canada to withdraw unilaterally from NATO, as a necessary first step to adopting an independent foreign policy of peace.

            NATO’s military buildup and posturing are part of a comprehensive political and military campaign – including pressure to increase military spending – in the lead-up to NATO’s Warsaw Summit on July 8-9, 2016. Among the stated objectives of this meeting are massive military deployments in the Baltic and Black Sea regions; billions of dollars in increased military spending by all NATO members, including Canada; and expanding NATO’s activity throughout the Middle East region.

            These objectives relate to the overall increased aggressiveness of imperialist countries, in the context of the deepening capitalist crisis and the lingering effects of the 2008 financial meltdown. As the dominant imperialist centres – particularly the US and the European Union – scramble to preserve and advance their individual interests at one another’s expense, they are maneuvering to divide and re-divide the world in a desperate and dangerous rush for profits, resources and markets. This explains the rapid eastward expansion of the EU, and the related expansion of NATO, right up to Russia’s borders.

            In order to justify such a costly and dangerous expansion, Western powers have launched a renewed Cold War as the vehicle to ideologically bombard the people in their own countries. This propaganda aims to demonize Russia, promote huge increases in military spending and an expanded arms trade, and justify US-NATO aggression.

            In Canada, the government and corporate media continuously parrot the view that NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe is necessary to counter Russian aggression. But this message avoids the truth: the aggressiveness of the NATO states, who have allied with fascist and reactionary groups in their effort to impose “regime change” in countries like Ukraine and Syria, is what prompted popular resistance. In the case of Ukraine, that resistance led the people of Crimea to hold a referendum in which an overwhelming majority voted to rejoin Russia. In Syria, that popular resistance prompted the government to invite Russia and Iran to form an alliance against armed foreign intervention.

            The narrative from the Canadian government and corporate media talk about increased Russian military buildup, but this also avoids an unsettling reality: military spending by NATO states accounted for $920 billion USD in 2014, over half of the entire world total. The United States alone spent $610 billion. Some of the largest overall increases were in the current key theatres of NATO aggression:  the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

            Clearly, NATO and its member states are the biggest provocateurs, the most dangerous aggressors, and the fundamental problem when it comes to global militarism and war.

Canada’s decision to send 1000 new troops to the multinational force in Latvia is part of a massive deployment that will directly facilitate increased NATO provocation against Russia. This will draw Canada deeper into a process of escalating tensions, a renewed arms race, aggressive warmongering, and a possible nuclear war.

            But there is an alternative. The people of Canada must oppose this dangerous escalation. The Canadian government must be forced to stay out of the Baltic region, to oppose NATO warmongering, and to withdraw from NATO. NATO, the US and EU must be forced to stand down from their reckless drive to war.

            The Communist Party of Canada calls upon all peace, labour and progressive organizations across the country to oppose Canada’s participation in NATO’s military escalation against Russia. We encourage all peace-supporting people and organizations to work together to educate, organize and mobilize the broadest possible resistance to this disastrous drive to war. 

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By Kimball Cariou

            With public anger growing against the escalating housing crisis in Metro Vancouver, the recent occupation of a walk-up apartment in the Metrotown area of Burnaby has taken the struggle up another notch.

            On July 9, activists from the Stop Demovictions Burnaby Campaign, the Alliance Against Displacement and allied groups occupied an apartment slated for demolition at 5025 Imperial Street, near Metrotown Mall. At 5 am on July 20, about 20-25 RCMP officers smashed windows to enter the building and remove the occupiers. No charges were laid, but the participants were ordered not to enter buildings on that block, which is being flattened for new condo towers. The organizers, who have been working with tenants in the area for the past two years, say the same tactic will be used at another nearby building as part of an ongoing campaign to resist the destruction of relatively affordable housing units.

            In recent years, similar struggles have taken place in Vancouver, particularly in and around the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood which is undergoing massive gentrification. Housing prices - and profits for developers - have skyrocketed, and the tide of demolitions and condo towers is now sweeping east into Burnaby and beyond.

            Both cities have councils dominated by NDP supporters. Vision Vancouver, and the Burnaby Citizens Association have different outlooks on how to address the housing crisis in the region, but both receive huge donations from developers for their election campaigns.

            In Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision took office in 2008 promising aggressive action to eliminate street homelessness by 2015, and to use urban densification as a tool to create “affordable” housing. That term eventually came to mean any housing which a buyer can pay. Some initial successes were gained by expanding shelters, easing restrictions on secondary suites, and other policies. But as housing costs go through the roof, fewer and fewer truly affordable rental options remain. There are now more homeless people on the streets of Vancouver than ever, and thousands of families have left in search of cheaper housing in the suburbs or other parts of the province.

            Next door in Burnaby, Mayor Derek Corrigan and his long-time BCA majority argue that housing is the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments, which have far greater powers of taxation and resources to invest in low-income, cooperative and other forms of affordable housing.

            On that logical basis, the BCA has rejected Vision-style interventionist strategies, with one important exception: backing the push by developers to keep rezoning neighbourhoods for condominiums. In both cases, the result has been a faster pace of destruction of existing housing stock rented by working class families, especially indigenous people and racialized communities, and people on social assistance and disability.

            Governments at all levels are looking for easy scapegoats for this situation, with foreign speculators a favourite target. But the provincial government and municipalities also bring in huge revenues from the boom, making them reluctant to take action, especially since any decline in the housing price bubble could have negative impacts on the economy of British Columbia and even Canada.

            Most of the debate in the corporate media has focused on the unaffordability of homes and condos. Detached houses now sell for an average of nearly $1.3 million in east Vancouver, and over $3 million on the upper-income west side, far beyond the reach of most people.

            But the real crisis is hitting those who could never afford the deposit on a $400,000 condo, let alone a house. Ground zero for this social disaster is now the Metrotown area, where the mega-mall is surrounded by blocks and blocks of relatively affordable walk-up apartments. Many of these decades-old buildings are falling into disrepair, but could easily be upgraded. Instead, the bulldozers are knocking down one after another, with the cranes putting up new high-rises visible in every direction.

            On May 16, the Stop Demovictions Burnaby Campaign presented Burnaby City Council with a detailed report on the demovictions crisis. “A Community Under Attack” documents the effects of displacement on renters facing eviction.

            Three of those buildings are being “demovicted” by corporate developer Amacon in order to build a 30 storey condo tower. The tenants were understandably terrified for their futures, and that fear has been intensified by the subsequent evictions and cut-off of hydro and water services.

            The Stop Demovictions Burnaby Campaign presentation was based on a door-to-door survey of households in fifteen buildings being demovicted from the square block north-east of Dunblane and Imperial Streets in Metrotown.

            The survey found that about 73% of apartments were one-bedrooms, but 28% of units had three or four occupants. With an average of two people per apartment, nearly five hundred people will lose their homes in the Dunblane demovictions. Currently, in Metrotown, 684 apartment units are scheduled to be demolished, affecting about 1,400 people.

            The survey found that 55% of tenants pay more than 30% of their incomes to rent, an indicator of being at-risk of homelessness. About one-quarter of residents have only lived in their apartment for one or two years, and these uprooted tenants tend to come from other demolished or renovicted buildings. One-quarter are long-term residents who have lived in their apartments for five to ten years. Largely seniors or people on pensions or disability, they will be hard-hit by a forced move into a much more expensive housing market.

            Those evicted residents who had found a new place in the Metrotown area were going to be paying 25% more for rent (about $250 more per month). But 62% had still not found a place to live, only two or three weeks prior to eviction day. Most planned to crash on friends’ couches, live in a camper, or move in with family or with a partner with who they would otherwise not cohabitate. Some were filing BC Housing applications, despite waitlists as long as ten-years for social housing.

            The survey found “not one single person who reported receiving support, a visit, or any contact from representatives of the City of Burnaby, an advocate, or service provider.”

            The Community Under Attack report made several recommendations: a moratorium on rezoning properties currently used as residential rentals; municipal action to find housing for those displaced by demovictions; use city funds to buy a building for emergency housing; cancel Burnaby Council’s proposed “downtown” Metrotown plan, and begin a community planning process that involves residents most vulnerable to displacement; and dedicate existing City-owned lands for social housing.

            (For a copy of the report, email, or download it at

            In response, Mayor Corrigan said “Thanks for the report, we’ll send it to staff for their consideration, and they will engage Council in a conversation and a report will be issued, which we’ll pass along to you.”

            Not surprisingly, such comments by the Mayor and the BCA, and the support for Corrigan coming from NDP MLAs and MPs, have been viewed as dismissive and even hostile by residents facing evictions. Some observers speculate that the BCA simply doesn’t care, since voter turnouts in this neighbourhood are usually low. But by choosing to align with developers, both the BCA and Vision Vancouver risk alienating the NDP’s traditional working class voter base just months before the May 2017 provincial election.

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People’s Voice Editorial

            Amid the debates over tactics used by Black Lives Matter activists at this year’s Pride Parade in Toronto, one crucial reality must be recognized: white supremacy remains deeply embedded within the ideological structures upholding the Canadian state. To be meaningful, any wider discussion around the strategies of BLM-Toronto, Idle No More, or any other movement advancing the interests of racialized peoples, must acknowledge that anti-racism starts with listening to their voices of resistance, not with condescending lectures about how oppressed peoples should behave.

            To those who may be uncomfortable with the blunt statement that racism is as Canadian as maple syrup or three-down football, here are a few sobering facts, courtesy of the Canadian Labour Congress and other sources.

            Half of First Nations children live in poverty compared to 17% for other Canadians. Indigenous workers earn an average of $19,000, compared to $33,000 for other Canadians. The infant mortality rate is 1.5 times higher for First Nations than other Canadians. Black males living in Toronto are three times more likely to be stopped and asked for ID by police. While African-Canadians and indigenous peoples make up 3% and 4.3% respectively of the general population in Canada, they account for 10% and 24% of the federal prison population. Employers are about 40% more likely to interview a job applicant with an English-sounding name despite identical education, skills and experience.  In 2011, the unemployment rate for visible minority workers was 9.9% compared to 7.3% for non-racialized workers. Racialized Canadians earn an average of 81 cents to the dollar compared to other Canadians.

            Perhaps unaware of these realities, 55 percent of Canadians are satisfied that we have ”overcome” racial discrimination. It’s time to get over the smug attitude that Canada is “better than the U.S.”, and accept that racism must be challenged relentlessly, not papered over.

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People’s Voice Editorial

            On July 6, seven years after it was commissioned, the report of the Chilcot Inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq war was finally published. The findings are a devastating indictment of imperialist foreign policy: Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat, intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was “presented with unwarranted certainty” (quite the understatement!), peaceful alternatives to war had not been exhausted, the UK and USA undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council, a war in 2003 was unnecessary, etc.

            Without stating it directly, the Chilcot Inquiry provides ample evidence that the Bush and Blair governments were guilty of launching a war of aggression, which the post-WW2 International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg defined as “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

            Of course, leaders of NATO powers still have a free pass to commit war crimes against millions of people; even so, the world must grasp the lessons of this predictable catastrophe, which reverberates today with deadly consequences in all corners of the planet. The roots of the illegal war against Iraq go back decades, to the 1970s when US imperialism reached around the world to stoke internal conflicts in Afghanistan as part of its Cold War attack against socialism. This strategy produced multiple, cascading effects, including the provision of massive weapons stockpiles to groups which formed the basis of ISIS and other fundamentalist forces. The lesson of the Chilcot Inquiry is that attempts to destroy these movements with brute military strength will inevitably escalate the spiral of violence and death. Tragically, the anti-war movement in Canada and most other NATO countries is much weaker today than at its peak before the war against Iraq. Rebuilding this movement is an urgent priority to prevent more such disasters.

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By Nino Pagliccia

            If you can’t fix it, Brexit. This has been at least in part the sentiment that led to the success of the Leave campaign on June 23. Contrary to the nationalist message of the right-wing camp in the UK, many rejected the notion of a EU that operates mostly for the corporate interests with scarce real benefits for the people. Others have shown outrage at those who supported the Leave campaign. How many stopped to think: what has the EU done for Europeans?

            The mainstream media has been reporting that a Leave vote was a vote for racism, xenophobia and against immigration. There may have been some truth there from very conservative sectors of the UK. Others suggested an age factor, with older people voting to leave and younger people voting to remain. But it is also possible that it was used as a scare tactic for the Brexit. In any case, there has been little media introspection on the failures of the EU.

            Suddenly, many Europeans now show a great deal of interest on this issue, including those who usually don’t pay attention to foreign affairs. And they should. Had the vote been for the Remain campaign, two outcomes would have gone unnoticed: the Cameron Conservatives working hand-in-hand with the far-right sector of Boris Johnson, despite differences; and no possibility of a move towards more progressive pro-labour policies in the UK. This would have been a vote for the Remain “status quo”.

            The replacement of Cameron by a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has already pushed a recovery of the speculative financial markets after the doom-and-gloom following the Brexit vote. Everything will go back to normal in the financial world, which highlights the fact that the EU is mainly an economic union.

            Something appears to be different, though. The following statement from a Tory government would have been unthinkable before Brexit. “[Theresa] May announced several policy proposals that were pure Miliband. As reported overnight, she called for workers to be represented on company boards (going slightly further than Labour did in its 2015 manifesto). She also called for action on excessive executive pay and on cartels.” (The Guardian, July 11). Will the Labour party heal its internal differences and push the much-needed reforms for workers now that the pressure from the EU is out of the way?

            However, let’s cross the Atlantic to see a different approach to alliances, coalitions and unions. We must draw a parallel between the European Union dream and the Latin American Union dream, and raise questions.

            Why the obsession about maintaining a EU in spite of its failures, and the determined intent to destroy any attempt of Latin America to form alliances? How can the desire to build coalitions elicit two opposite reactions?

            The Latin American integration vision is as old as the emergence of sovereign states following the wars of independence from Spain in the 19th century. Venezuela today is a constant reminder of Simón Bolívar’s dream of a united Latin America free from foreign domination. Several attempts to form regional trade and political organizations have been made over the decades. Many have failed and new stronger ones have been forged.

            The Organization of American States (OAS) was born at the time of the Cold War in 1948 for the purpose of collective security and reciprocal assistance. The fact that it includes Canada and the United States with headquarters in Washington, DC, the OAS is seen as heavily controlled by the U.S.

            In 2011 the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was created. Excluding Canada and the U.S., CELAC reflects more the vision of an independent Latin American block.

            In 2011 as well, UNASUR became a legal intergovernmental regional organization comprising 12 South American countries.

            But perhaps the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), founded initially by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004 and now with a total of eleven member countries, represents more fully the vision of Simón Bolívar as suggested by its name. (Member states include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. Suriname was admitted as a guest country at a February 2012 summit.) ALBA is an organization for the social, economic and political integration of the Latin American and Caribbean countries established on social welfare, complementarity, mutual aid, and a foreign policy based on solidarity.

            That is quite a different goal from that of the EU, and conceivably the reason why it must not succeed under the U.S. government watch.

            While the U.S. has had a particular preoccupation for the integrity of the EU, it has no similar support for a Latin American integration.

            Margaret Kimberley wrote in her column, “The United States is the invisible senior partner of the EU, making sure that it keeps the international banksters well funded, expands NATO and makes certain that no one steps out of the American orbit.” (See

            The OAS has provided the proper venue for the U.S. to maintain a similar regional preeminence, but the new progressive Latin American countries are trying hard to get out of the American orbit. They know that one way to achieve that is by building the Patria Grande of Hugo Chávez.

            The EU, a creation of corporate interests, has been sold as the ultimate peace guarantor in Europe. But there cannot be Peace without Justice, as we observe from the increasing unrest in Europe and neighbouring countries.

            In contrast, the long-time dream of a Latin American union has been frustrated, because it has a strong popular will to make it come true, based on sincere partnership and solidarity among the member states without foreign interventions.

            In order to undermine the integration attempts, the U.S. is resorting to regime changes in several Latin American countries that are even producing anti-Latin American sentiments. Following the parliamentary coup in Argentina, for example, the new pro-business president Mauricio Macri, during his visit to Spain, suggested that “the leaders of [Latin American] independence must feel anguish for having taken the decision to separate from Spain.” (See

            It’s only when we start contrasting positions such as the EU and the Latin American aspiration for a union that we have a better understanding of the political forces behind them, and reveal the double standards of neoliberal ideology.

            Unions and partnerships are not malicious per se. Only those formed to promote the interests of corporations over the interests of people must be questioned. I will always prefer entities that have blood running through their veins, not cash.

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Statement from the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, July 26, 2016

            The best thing about the federal government’s pension reform is its pending decision to restore the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) to 65. It was Harper who raised the age to 67, citing the OECD countries which had re-set the pension age to 67, and in one case to 68. Canadians were living too long, was the argument, and ought to be working - not retiring at 65 – like the Europeans.

            These are the same governments that imposed vicious austerity measures right across Europe, that in Greece have led to the suicides of pensioners including a pharmacist who said he refused to eat out of garbage cans. 

            In Canada the OAS is a significant amount of money for many retirees without a private plan, and can easily double the CPP payments for low-income workers. Harper’s plan was to force seniors to stay in the workforce, many competing with young workers for low-waged entry level jobs. 

            But the CPP reform, touted by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau as an agreement that will make “a real difference in all our children’s future lives and I hope for many of you…  It’s a historic day”, won’t make any difference at all for today’s pensioners whose incomes won’t rise by a single nickel.

            Nor will it help future retirees who will see a maximum annual benefit rise from $13,110 to $19,900, effective 2065 – that is 49 years from now. And they’ll have to work 40 years before that to qualify, and have an income of $82,700 before retirement to qualify for the maximum $19,900.

            And what will be the purchasing power of $19,900 or $14,500 (based on an income of $54,900) in 2065?

            Canadians know right now that they can’t live on $19,900 a year in 2016. That’s $1,658 a month, before taxes – and it’s the maximum payout. What about the “middle income” pension of $14,500 a year, or $1,208 a month (before taxes)? You can’t eat and pay the rent in Toronto or Vancouver right now on that. 

            The federal government is offering current pensioners nothing at all, and future pensioners a rooming house (provided their pre-retirement income is at least $54,000).

            What this “reform” is really about is to stall and if possible, prevent a real fight for livable pensions from breaking out across the country.  This is a fight the CLC was supposed to lead according to its own statements, though it’s now inexplicably lauding the Liberals for this pension “reform”.

            The hard truth is that only about 25% of workers currently have defined benefit pension plans – that is plans that provide any real old age security, and all of these are under pressure from both private and public employers, as witness the current postal negotiations. Less than half of workers have accumulated any retirement savings at all.

            The ugly truth is that Canadians aged 45 or younger with incomes between $50,000 and $80,000 are going to arrive at pension age, without a defined benefit pension plan from employment, without adequate savings, and unable to retire. This is the current situation for many low-income retirees who never had the opportunity to work in a unionized workplace, or in a job with benefits or a private pension plan.

            The impact on youth will be to substantially increase youth unemployment, and to drive down wages, benefits, and conditions of work, while increasing precarious work everywhere.  

            The impact on seniors will be to force the great majority to work until they die, and – worn out from overwork - to die at a younger age.

            Real pension reform is urgently needed, for this generation of pensioners and for future generations. The Communist Party calls for strengthening of the CPP as a vital universal social program that meets the retirement needs of all Canadians:

* Immediate and substantial increase to pension benefits; CPP benefits must be livable benefits

* reduction of the pension age (CPP, OAS, and GIS) to 60 for access to full benefits

* Pension funds to be non-contributory by workers, and to be fully funded by employers

            Regarding private pension plans, the CPC calls for restoration of defined benefits plans in the private and public sector; pension holidays for corporations to be made illegal; and for pensions to be protected in any corporate bankruptcy, closure or sale.

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Delegates from Americas denounce recent coups, call for increased mobilization

PV Ontario Bureau

            Peace activists representing 12 countries across the western hemisphere met in Toronto on July 18 and 19, for the World Peace Council Meeting for the Americas and the Caribbean Region.

            Participating in the meeting were leading peace activists from the host organization, the Canadian Peace Congress, the Brazilian Peace Council (CEBRAPAZ), the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples (MOVPAZ), the Peace Council of the United States, the Mexican Movement for Peace and Development (MOMPADE), the Peace Movement of El Salvador, the Dominican Union of Journalists for Peace (UDPP), Venezuela's Committee for International Solidarity, the Caribbean Peace and Integration Movement of Barbados, the School of Peace in Colombia, the Jamaican Peace Council and the Committee in Defense of the National Patrimony of Sovereignty and Dignity (CODEPANAL) of Bolivia.

            The World Peace Council's President, Socorro Gomes, and Executive Secretary, Iraklis Tsavdaridis, were present, as was the Americas Regional Coordinator, Silvio Platero.

            The participants noted that the meeting occurred in the context of a complex political situation, both in the world and in the region, that combines the general crisis of capitalism and the aggressive military escalation of the United States, the European Union and NATO in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia. In its renewed drive for political and economic control over Latin America and the Caribbean, the US and its allies are using “soft coup” strategies to interrupt and overturn the progressive and popular democratic changes that is developing in several countries of the continent, and to restore neoliberalism.

            The regional meeting stated its deep concern for the increased political and military interference by US imperialism and its NATO allies in several countries and regions. These interventions are aimed at destabilizing the economies and societies of sovereign countries.

            The meeting identified the recent NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland is an expression of increasingly aggressive policies vision that are aimed at surrounding Russia and extending NATO's military arena to all areas of the world. Participants declared their support for the campaigns of the Canadian Peace Congress and the US Peace Council, calling for the withdrawal of their respective countries  from NATO.

            Several participants spoke of the increased imperialist interventions against the people and governments of Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador, noting that these efforts have already produced concrete setbacks for democratic forces in Argentina. In particular, the meeting strongly denounced the aggressions against the people and Bolivarian Government of Venezuela. Many organizations noted that US government and fascist Venezuelan oligarchy have maintained a campaign of brutal economic sabotage with the clear intention of destroying the Bolivarian Revolution, its social gains and the legacy of Commander Hugo Chávez Frías.

            The Regional Meeting expressed its unwavering solidarity with the peace-loving, patriotic and popular forces who are mobilizing in defense of the social gains they have achieved and of their independence and sovereignty. The participants in the meeting also reiterated their support for the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, which was approved by all Heads of State and Government of the region at the Second CELAC Summit held in Havana, Cuba, in January 2014.

            The meeting expressed its genuine joy at the recent signing of a peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrilla, which is a strong step toward a definitive and sustainable peace for the people of Colombia and for the opening of a new period of democracy in that country.

            The meeting discussed the expansion of foreign military bases, mostly US, throughout the region. They noted that the current trend is toward a smaller overall number of foreign military bases, but with a greater number of host countries. The meeting participants reiterated the WPC's longstanding demand for an end to all foreign bases and military enclaves in the region.

            Participants also discussed the struggles Indigenous peoples against genocide and in defence of their sovereignty, and expressed a commitment to build more effective and visible solidarity.

            The Regional Meeting ended with a report on preparations for the World Peace Council Assembly, to be held in Sao Luis, Marañao, Brazil, on November 17-19, 2016. The meeting agreed that one of its essential tasks for the remainder of the year is to build for this Assembly. Participants agreed to mobilize all possible forces in the region, to strengthen the movement against war and intervention, against the arms race and in favour of disarmament, as well as to promote a world of peace, cooperation, progress and social justice.

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PV Ontario Bureau

            Immediately following the WPC Regional Conference in Toronto, another important  meeting was convened - the Third Trilateral Conference aimed to coordinate actions among the peace councils of North America - Canada, Mexico and the U.S. The Trilateral Conference adopted these proposals for coordinated action.

1 - Prepare a joint statement in the name of the peace movements in the three countries, that exposes the link between current wars and social needs of peoples in all countries; that identifies xenophobia, the militarization of the police, and the widespread and violent repression in Mexico, as components of current war and aggression; and that calls for a joint day of action against war across the three countries.

2) Organize a report-back in all three countries, from the upcoming peace tour to Syria including using video resources.

3) Prepare a declaration against foreign military bases, including reference to policies and programs like Merida Initiative which allow US military to function through national police, and to seek endorsements from broad range of peace and progressive organizations, and to work toward a joint day of action against foreign military bases.

4) Help mobilize youth in three countries for the 2017 World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi, Russia, as a way to build the peace movement among youth and students.

5) Issue a letter, in the name of the Trilateral Peace Conference, to the Canadian government that encourages the government to endorse and support OPANAL and the Zone of Peace in Latin America and the Caribbean.

6) To increase our work, in the name of the Trilateral Peace Conference, for nuclear disarmament – including participation in the Keep Space for Peace Week, October 1-8, 2016; building opposition to NATO; helping to build existing campaigns against nuclear arms and promoting an anti-imperialist analysis to the broader peace movement; and building joint actions for days like the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

7) To work together to oppose colonialism in the Americas, drawing links between colonialism, militarism and economic development, by:

- actively supporting and promoting the struggles of Indigenous peoples against genocide and in defence of their sovereignty;

- exposing and opposing the reality of state violence and repression of human rights in Mexico;

- supporting the struggle of the Puerto Rican people for self-determination; and

- helping to mobilize against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in all three countries, in particular for the November 4, 2016 Continental Day of Action for Democracy and Against Neo-liberalism.

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During the recent 38th Central Convention of the Communist Party of Canada in Toronto, Marxism-Leninism Today editor Greg Godels interviewed Noor Zaheer Zaheer, a leader of the National Federation of Indian Women and a prominent member of the Communist Party of India. The complete interview is online at

What is the situation facing the Indian working class today?

            India has in last two decades turned towards capitalism in its effort to be a part of globalization, open market and free economy and given up on socialism and welfare state policies. This has had a direct impact on the working class; contractual work, no health or medical benefits, no scope for upgrading of ones skills, no pension or provident fund facilities and no hour defined shifts. All this had been guaranteed in the public sector and made mandatory in the private sector as well through the presence of workers representative trade unions.

            The private sector has done away with trade unions and where they are not able to they have brought in puppet trade unions sponsored by the owners. These stooge trade unions function to suppress workers movements and their high handedness has led to violence and rioting in which the workers are at the receiving end. In the Maruti Udyog, about thirty kilometers from the capital Delhi, 350 workers have been on strike, while the owners have resorted to a lockout. The government works hand in glove with the capitalists. To save its revenue it took steps to deprive the working women in the garment industry of withdrawal of their provident fund before they are 58 years. This again led to a general strike in which 15000 women workers came out on the streets protesting this decision and forcing the government to roll back its decision.

            Though it was a victory the government is now in process of making participation of contract workers in strikes illegal. Since most of the workers are now contract workers, pressurizing the employer and making the government aware of the plight of workers through this process is taken away. the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has been rolled back in the last two years. This Act gave 100 days of work in a year to unskilled labour in rural areas thus uplifting their financial status and increasing their bargaining power for the rest of the 260 days. Taking away this support means forcing migration to urban and industrial region for work.

What is your assessment of the Modi government?

            The Modi Government has come to power with the support of the big industrialists of the country. He and his government are thus obliged to pay them back for their support. While land of the small farmers is being confiscated, industrialists are getting millions of dollars of Income Tax exemption, allotment of highly subsidized land for setting up industries, waiver of bills of electricity and other infrastructural costs. This is resulting in a deficit in the national resources which the government is trying to overcome with lowering interests of bank deposit, suspension of pension and Provident Fund, hiking of bank loan interests to small businesses, increase in the number of working hours to boost productivity and most importantly laws that guarantee no workers agitation and protests. In short the government is following a policy of 'support the rich, deprive the poor.'

            Modi himself is travelling round the globe, presumably for trade and business deals but so far no beneficial outcome is visible. The condition of agriculture is particularly worrying with all subsidies on seed, fertilizer, irrigation and electricity being withdrawn, declared drought in 12 provinces out of 29 provinces of the country and genetically modified seeds approved for cash crops for example BT Cotton and GM Mustard. Not having any plan for development as they had promised in their election manifesto the government is inciting violence between communities to divert the attention of the masses from the real issues of the failures of the government and focus it on day to day security and safety. Prices of essential commodities are rising every day, corruption is rampant and the government is sure that it is not going to be elected again so is hurriedly pushing through decisions like relaxing of FDI norms in some key sectors.

What special problems do Indian women face in capitalist India?

            A process of continuous change if it is undertaken would necessarily bring the masses to a level of questioning the society, norms, economic, industrial decisions of the state and a level of rationality which is detrimental to capitalism. Capitalism is always supportive of right wing politics because it propagates conservatism and a policy of 'no change'. To maintain stagnancy in thinking capitalism promotes male dominance in work places and in decision making. The most glaring example of this is the fall in the percentage of elected women representatives in both the house of the Parliament which is the lowest ever in the present regime. Most decision making bodies have a nominal count of women, which reduces their say in the decision to almost negligible.

            As a base for itself capitalism develops religion and gives utmost importance to rituals and traditions. Being patriarchal in its very texture religion [all religions] promotes segregation of women and uphold the patriarchal perception of working women or 'women outside homes'. In the present regime the insecurity of women has grown; there is emphasis on the inherent 'weakness' of the female, the greatness of women who stay at home and look after their husbands and family. In the last two years there has been in a reduction in scholarships and fellowships for women for higher education, fewer  women as heads of institutions, promotion of lesser qualified women to important positions so that they can be manipulated by the powers that be. The best  example is the HRD Minister Smriti Irani who does not possess even a basic degree yet decides the policy for higher education, research and technical institutions.

            Protest is one of the means to initiate change and women have been using it for several decades to put forward their demands and persuade the Government to discuss important issues. But since India has turned towards capitalism, protest as a form of registering ones unhappiness has been taken away. The Government wishes to attract the world capital and one of the assurances given to big capital is its acceptance of 'no strike' policy. Workers cannot protest and to show its uniform policy women are also target of the same repression if they come out on the streets.

How does the National Federation of Indian Women address the question of women's equality and freedom in India?

            India is a country of diverse cultures and every region has its own specific problems regarding the way it perceives equality and freedom of women. The National Federation of Indian Women has its units in 27 of the 29 states [provinces] of India. In NFIW we believe that education and financial independence is the first step towards equality of women. We have been instrumental in fighting against domestic violence and have demanded that it be made punishable. We have won this struggle and now there is a Domestic Violence Act in place that covers all forms of mental and physical torture. For twenty years now we have been fighting for 33% Reservation for Women in Central and State assemblies. This demand was initiated by one of NFIW's leaders and parliamentarians, Gita Mukerjee. Our units are continuously working in organizing women for training towards employment, they run crisis centres that women can approach for help in case of domestic or social violence.

            At the moment NFIW is in the process of preparing the Draft of a Uniform Civil Code that would give equal rights to Muslim and Christian women, who are at the moment covered under the Personal Law of respective religions, depriving them of several benefits of a Common Civil Code. Once this draft is ready we shall circulate it to important lawyers, religious heads, women's groups and initiate a discussion on it. Though several victories have been achieved, the question of equality for women is an ongoing and multi-pronged struggle. In NFIW we base the struggle on discussions on issues, charting out decisions and persuasion of the Government to accept, validate and formalize our recommendations.

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From the July 19 statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Turkey. (Note: PV has made some minor amendments to the initial translation to improve clarity.)

             The July 15th coup attempt involved at least two and even more state cliques, which have identical class identities and ideologies. It is not possible that these cliques would be totally unaware of each other’s plans and actions, just as it is impossible to dissociate them. However, the attempt on 15th of July was not a bloody scenario totally planned by Erdoğan as some claimed, but was a real coup attempt.

            There are two dimensions of the path leading to the coup. First is the “fight for power” between Erdoğan supporters and the Gülen Community [Ed. a liberal Islamic movement led by Turkish theologian and preacher Fethullah Gülen], which has gained a new dimension after the large purge of Gülen followers. This fight is getting deeper in both the political and economic context, and also has an international dimension and different trends within the imperialist centers supporting those factions.

            It is the reality that most of the officers who took part in the coup attempt are members of the Gülen Community (which) has deep and strong connections in USA. Turkey has close military relations with the USA, being a member of NATO; coups in Turkey can not be made without the consent of the USA. The main reason that the high ranking members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) who are not happy with the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] haven’t attempted a coup was the support of the US government to the AKP.

            This support has been reduced recently for various reasons. Some with ties to the USA and some European countries have started to prepare for Erdoğan’s purge. The uprising of the people in 2013 with the participation of millions, the tension created in society by Erdoğan, and the failure of the Syrian policy, deeply effected relations between Erdoğan and some imperialist countries. It is not possible to understand the 15th July coup attempt without taking into account this tension.

            Coup plotters having connections abroad does not make Erdoğan a patriot or anti-imperialist. As a politician, Erdoğan is largely servile to the USA and international monopolies, and now he is sealing alliances and maneuvering to save himself as a politician, losing his grace among the powers that supported him for years. His approach ... doesn’t change his denominational character and his ideological preferences. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a bourgeois politician, he is an enemy of working class, he is a counter revolutionist and he is not different than the coup plotters who want to topple him.

            The coup attempt, the powers behind it, the methods which were used and the ideological fundamentals, do not hold any point of interest for the people. The opinion that the country would have got out of difficulties if the coup had been successful is groundless. It is obvious what a pro-American, anti-people coup would mean.

            It is also nonsense to present the suppression of the coup as a victory for the people and/or celebrate it as a democracy fest. This is approach does not question the legality of the AKP regime and ignores the class fundamentals of events in the country.

            The argument that Erdoğan gained more power after this coup attempt is true to a certain extent. Without doubt, Erdoğan got a chance to inflict a heavy blow to the Gülen Community; showed himself as a victim one more time, consolidated his crowds and tested the power of some organisations associated with him. However he ended up with a seriously damaged state apparatus, and he also had to face that there is no safe bureaucracy anymore because of the transitory nature of integral cliques.

            Under these circumstances Erdoğan may prefer to stick to his own sources within the critical body of the state apparatus, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Judiciary, and to purge not only the Gülen community members but also some Kemalist constituents who used to be in alliance with him. There are serious difficulties to stick totally to one’s own sources in TSK and the Judiciary, even if it is easier than in other parts of the bureaucracy. Erdoğan cannot make this move – which means to decelerate an Islamic state - without avoiding final and absolute revenge on both political and social levels. On the other hand, Erdoğan doesn’t have any other way out to consolidate his own crowds.

            It is possible that Erdoğan will go to great lengths to mend relations with the USA and reduce internal tension after a short period of terror and intimidation. There are already signs he is getting ready for those steps. Also the expectations of CHP [the Republican People's Party, a Kemalist and social-democratic party, with 133 seats in parliament] and HDP [a secular, pro-Kurdish party with 59 seats] are in this direction. The difficulty of this option is Erdoğan will not be able to continue to do politics without tension and opening a space for radical elements. Parliamentary opposition does not cause problems with Erdoğan and AKP.

            In each situation there is a multi-dimensional crisis regarding the dissolution of the hegemony of capital. It’s not this dissolution, but the unorganised state of the working class, which is actually dangerous.

            Another danger is the opinion, which has become popular after the coup attempt, saying Erdoğan is undefeatable. Scary scenarios are emerging and a panic environment is being created with speculative news which are not based in reality. The AKP government has always been dangerous, and they are even more dangerous now. Additionally, the panic environment which is created makes the aggression of AKP legitimate. However, neither the AKP and Erdoğan are as powerful as they claim, nor is Turkey a country which could be destroyed in a moment. For example, during and after the “celebration”, the number of AKP followers were few on the streets in spite of all the calls for celebrations. The right position is to be aware of the danger but not panic, and to evaluate this dissolution from the point of the working classes.

            AKP and the fundamentalist threat must not be underrated. The period started with the AKP claim that “secularism is not in danger” carried the country to the edge of an abyss. There is a mission for a better organised and more effective opposition of the people against that considerable threat. This mission can not be performed by creating panic. It is not acceptable that the opposition is creating panic.

            Under these conditions, the major power of AKP and Erdoğan continues to be his opponents in the political system. The politics of the system formed its policy based on normalising, transforming, convincing the AKP. The attitude of politicians who claim that they are the “left” wing in the parliament is remarkable and worrying.

            Experiences during and after the 15th July exposed how cruel the factions in the government can be. We watched the cruelty of the coup plotters. We saw the barbarism staged by the government. These cannot be handled by the approach of “let them kill each other”. An unknown number of citizens have been killed, and private soldiers who don’t have any idea what is going on have been lynched. People will hold accountable all who perpetrated lawless actions, lynching, torture of suspects and surrendered officers, and how the leaders of the two factions cooperated together for years until now.

            It is not correct to describe these cruelties as “strength”. On the contrary there is dissolution, fear and confusion on the side of the government. Spreading fear can only be surpassed by strong, solid and consistent steps, not with unplanned actions. This dissolution can be turn into an opportunity for the people.

            Turkey can only get out of woods by the united struggle of the working class against the class hegemony presented by dark powers, but not through the dance of dark powers. We refuse all analysis and positioning ignoring this reality. Communists will not give credit to slogans such as, ‘all come together against Erdoğan’ –  ‘followers of sharia will cut our heads off’ –  ‘victory of democratic powers’  – which reveal the many dimensions of confusion. We would never come together with representatives of the capitalist class, USA and NATO–supported coups or agents of colour revolutions. This doesn’t make us weak. What makes us weak is the unorganised state of the working class and pursuing fake solutions.

            ...We can say that everybody who are side with humanitarian ideals, a classless society without exploitation, must work together. To fail to do so is to be an enemy of the people,  legalising carelessness and laziness. It is necessary to organise, improve, empower class struggle, free from religious sects, fundamentalism, capitalist and imperialist centers. The people don’t need politicised reactions of unorganised masses. Those gathered together, aimless and formless under the slogan of “Gezi pluralism,” surely must have been learned their lesson.

            It is the aim of the Communist Party to become an independent revolutionary organisation which can change the balance of power in the country, spoil the game, strangle reactionist lynching campaigns. Our ultimate call is for working people to trust their own power, move together, take the initiative and stop helplessly following this nightmare.

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Working Poverty in Metro Vancouver” is the title of a new report by Iglika Ivanova, a  senior economist and the Public Interest Researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives–BC. We reprint here the summary of the report, which can be read at

            In a province as rich as BC, and in an area as economically diverse as Metro  Vancouver, the contradiction between massive wealth and rising economic insecurity is particularly stark.

            Not only are deep poverty and homelessness highly visible on the streets of Vancouver, hidden poverty and economic insecurity are serious problems across the region. Deep poverty is primarily a story of inadequate welfare rates, which remain stuck at levels far below what people need to survive. But the  majority of British Columbians living in poverty do not rely on welfare.  Fewer than 4 per cent of British Columbians receive social assistance at any given time, a small share of the more than 14 per cent of people living in poverty.

            We are often told that the solution to poverty is for the poor to “get a job” or for various sectors to create more jobs, but the reality is that having a job is not a guaranteed path out of poverty. Increasingly, the story of poverty in BC is becoming a story of low-paid and precarious jobs. Many of the new jobs created since the 2008 recession have been part-time, temporary and  low paid. Metro Vancouver’s booming economy relies on a large group of low-paid workers to provide security, catering, cleaning, administration and other services.

            Canada’s two richest cities, Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver, have the highest working poverty rates in the country. They are outliers among other large urban areas, where working poverty rates are considerably lower. Worse still, Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto’s working poor face extremely high housing costs, which are not captured in these comparisons because this measure of poverty does not account for vastly different costs of living across the country.

            Though this study focuses on Metro Vancouver, working poverty exists elsewhere in BC as well. Our analysis shows that 7.2 per cent of working-age British Columbians living outside of Metro Vancouver are working poor.

            Who are the working poor? In Metro Vancouver in 2012:

• Just over half (54 per cent) of the working poor were married or living common law.

• 42 per cent had dependent children (32 per cent were living in couple families with children and 9 per cent were single parents).

• One in four (24 per cent) was between the ages of 18 and 29.

• The majority (61 per cent) were between the ages of 30 and 54, or what economists consider prime working age.

• 9 per cent received employment insurance (EI) benefits at some point during the year.

            These numbers are similar across the entire province of BC.

            In Metro Vancouver, single parents are the most likely to experience working poverty, followed closely by individuals living alone. A recent Statistics Canada study shows that the poverty rate among Vancouver immigrants who have been in Canada for fewer than 15 years  continues to be double the rate of long-term immigrants and Canadian-born citizens. Poverty rates are even higher for very recent immigrants. 

            Working poverty is not confined to a few municipalities; it is a regional problem in  Metro Vancouver. While the cities of Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam have some of the highest working poverty rates, a number of smaller municipalities like Bowen Island and North Vancouver also have high levels of working poverty. (Data are not available for the Musqueam and Squamish reserve lands.)

            Worse still, working poverty has grown in most municipalities since 2006, with the  largest increases occurring in suburban neighbourhoods in West Vancouver (15 per cent increase), Coquitlam (13 per cent), White Rock (15 per cent), Lions Bay (17 per cent) and District of North Vancouver (13 per cent). Even municipalities generally seen as wealthy have experienced increases in working poverty.

            A look at working poverty by neighbourhood further underlines how widespread it is across Metro Vancouver. By 2012, fewer neighbourhoods had low working poverty rates (less than 5 per cent) than in 2006, and many more neighbourhoods saw rates rise above 10 per cent. The concentration of neighbourhoods with high levels of working poverty increased most notably in Surrey and downtown Vancouver. In addition, Langley, Coquitlam and West Vancouver — which had previously had lower working poverty rates — had neighbourhoods with rates higher than 10 per cent by 2012.

            Working poverty can be reduced and eventually eliminated with a combination of labour market reforms, more generous income supports, and better public services. The report makes detailed policy recommendations for how this can be achieved, including action to:

• increase the minimum wage;

• strengthen employment standards;

• make sure all British Columbians have access to safe, affordable housing;

• provide access to high quality, public child care;

• make training and education more accessible to low-income earners;

• reform employment insurance;

• enhance the Working Income Tax Benefit;

• make all levels of government living wage employers.

            Every level of government has a role to play, but the provincial government is uniquely positioned to take the lead.  In the end, working poverty is only a part of the complex story of poverty in BC. To improve the lives of all poor British Columbians, we need a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with targets and timelines. Reducing poverty will help not just those who are poor. Better public services and income supports enhance quality of life for all British Columbians and build more inclusive, vibrant and healthy communities we can all be proud to LIVE IN.

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13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

Grassy Narrows music video goes viral

A music video written and performed by teenagers from Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario has gone viral, with upwards of 500,000 views. "Home to Me" was released this spring by N'we Jinan, a mobile music studio that seeks to give voice to First Nations communities. It was founded by Montreal musician David Hodges and Joshua Isherhoff, former Grand Chief of the Cree Nation Youth Council of Quebec. Performers from the video were in Toronto in June for a Grassy Narrows rally at Queen's Park. In the 1960's, Reed Paper dumped 10,000 kilograms of mercury into the English-Wabigoon river system. It was never cleaned up. Today Grassy Narrows is further threatened by government-approved clear-cutting, which only exacerbates the mercury poisoning problem. A recent report commissioned by the Government of Ontario concluded that an unknown source of mercury is still leaking into the water system, and calls for action to bring the mercury count down to safe levels. In response, the Wynne Government dispatched cabinet ministers to  Grassy Narrows, but so far no funds have been allocated to implement the report's recommendations. Look for "Home to Me" on YouTube and visit

"Cubanacán: A Revolution of Forms"

DVDs of the first new Cuban opera in 50 years have been sent to American promoters in hope of attracting interest in a U.S. production. "Cubanacán: A Revolution of Forms", with music by  Cuban composer Roberto Valera, and libretto by American writer Charles Koppelman, premiered in Havana in 2015. The story is based upon the 1998 book, "Revolution of Forms: Cuba's Forgotten Arts Schools" by John Loomis. In 1961, Cuban architect Ricardo Porro was commissioned to build arts schools at the Havana Country Club. They were left unfinished because the U.S. embargo forced the Cuban government to make tough decisions about the allocation of resources. Nevertheless, the schools have been in continuous use since opening in 1965, and have produced many of Cuba's finest artists. In an early scene, Fidel and Che are playing golf at the newly-nationalized country club. Fidel proposes turning the club into a peoples' art school. There's a flashback to Porro in exile, determining to return and make his contribution to the new Cuba. Therein lies the tale, as the clash between artistic dreams and political realities halts construction of the schools. Judging by the reviews of last year's production, there should be considerable interest when Cubanacán finally arrives in North America. See the trailer at

Four Tenors all-star game fiasco

When The Canadian Tenors, a Juno-winning vocal quartet that purveys operatic pop music, signed on to perform "O Canada" at the major league baseball all-star game in San Diego on July 12, they surely considered the gig another feather in their cap. But it turned into a disaster after singer Remigo Pereira, without consulting his bandmates, substituted the words "all lives matter" into a portion of the Canadian anthem. Next day, Sandy Hudson, co-founder of  Black Lives Matter Toronto, described Pereira's action as "an attempt to undermine the rallying cry of Black Lives Matter." The phrase "all lives matter", she said, "comes from people who feel threatened by black people demanding justice in their communities". Pereira denied that he was making a political statement, while the other members of the group called his act "shameful" and suspended him. The apologies proffered so far have been for altering Canada's "sacred national anthem" and for expressing "political views". It's unclear whether any of them understand why the phrase "all lives matter" is racist. The phrase implies that all lives are equally at risk, despite the obvious truth that black people are more likely to be killed by police.

Dave Swarbrick 1941-2016

English fiddler Dave Swarbrick,  a key figure in U.K. folk music for more than 50 years, died on June 3rd. He's best remembered for the central role he played in the band Fairport Convention, which launched the U.K. folk-rock movement with its album Liege & Lief in 1969. He remained a prolific, and much-loved, musician for the rest of his life, despite a host of setbacks, including emphysema and a double lung transplant. Swarbrick was an apprentice printer when the U.K. folk revival in the late fifties beckoned him to the life of a full-time musician. By the early sixties he'd recorded with the most important figures in U.K. folk music: A.L. Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, and Peggy Seeger. In 1967 he collaborated with guitarist Martin Carthy on a series of acclaimed albums, including Byker Hill (1967), and in later years, he released three albums with socialist singer-songwriter Alistair Hulett. In all, Swarbrick appeared on some 165 albums. Curious newcomers to this artist are advised to check out his anti-war anthem "Sloth" from the 1970 Fairport Convention album "Full House". Farewell Swarb!

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