People’s Voice August 1-31, 2017

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(The following articles are from the August 1-31, 2017, 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.)




Submission to Global Affairs Canada’s NAFTA Consultations, by the Communist Party of Canada


            The Communist Party of Canada was among the first organizations in Canada to oppose the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement proposed by the Mulroney government in 1988 just months before that year’s federal election. Our opposition was based on our view that Canada’s sovereignty and independence was at stake with Canada’s escalated absorption into the US political, economic, and cultural orbit as the key feature and consequence of the FTA.


            Most Canadians were unaware and surprised by the Tories’ support for the FTA, as Mulroney had opposed free trade in an earlier election campaign. But the extraordinary efforts of the labour  and democratic movements, the Communist Party, the NDP, and some others to expose the real impact that the deal would have on Canada, nearly defeated the deal in the court of public opinion, in the few short months leading up to the election.


            Mulroney’s victory in 1988 was based on his unfounded promises that free trade would create thousands of new, well-paid jobs in industry and manufacturing, would raise wages and living standards across the country, and would open a new era of prosperity for Canada, as a result of expanded access to the US market.


            In 1992, the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was expanded to include Mexico, and new sections to the Agreement including, most importantly, Chapter 11: the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which allows corporations to sue governments for lost profits. As a direct result, Canada is now the most sued country in the developed world.


            In 1993, five years later, after a deep recession and massive job losses in Canada, the Tory government was defeated – crushed - electing just two MPs to the House of Commons.


            The reasons: the free trade agreements, corporate tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, and attacks on labour and democratic rights which, combined, had opened up Canada like a sardine can for large national and transnational corporations to maximize profits at the expense of Canada’s sovereignty and independence, of permanent, well-paid and unionized jobs in industry and manufacturing, of cultural and environmental protections, labour and democratic rights, and more.


            NAFTA was exposed as a North American corporate constitution which was not about trade, but about corporate control of the continent, including the hobbling of national and local governments, control over resources and the environment, the workforce, culture and education, healthcare and every other aspect of our sovereignty and independence.


            NAFTA also provided the transnational oil companies with sweeping new powers. The energy proportionality agreement embedded in NAFTA ensures that Canada maintains oil and gas exports to the US, irrespective of changing public policies and priorities. This agreement, written by the oil monopolies, has made it next to impossible for Canada to take the action necessary to meet its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by for example, closing the tarsands, nationalizing energy, and developing alternative energy sources under public ownership and democratic control.


            Free trade opened a period of unprecedented corporate greed, impoverishing millions of people across the continent, driving down wages and pensions, destroying more than half a million value added manufacturing jobs and the domestic steel industry in Canada, stripping the country of manufacturing sectors such as appliance and agricultural implements, the garment and footwear industries, among many others, and eviscerating public services and social programs with government mandated austerity programs. 


            Free trade and the apocalyptic, concomitant policies of tax cuts, privatization, and deregulation enabled the redistribution of wealth into the pockets of the 1% and the biggest corporations, banks and hedge-funds, eventually leading to the 2008 crisis which rocked the capitalist system around the world.


            In the nine years since, the banks and the corporations have recovered very well, with new corporate trade deals and sky-rocketing profits the order of the day, while working people continue to suffer mass unemployment, precarious work, increasing attacks on their wages and pensions, public services and social programs, growing household debt, and continuing attacks on their labour, civil and democratic rights.


            This is capitalist globalization, and it is accompanied every step of the way by militarization, reaction, and war.


            The Canadian government’s proposed renegotiation of NAFTA takes place in the context of a US administration committed to slash corporate taxes by 20% (or more), to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act and consequently speed-up the next global financial crisis brought on by deregulation and unfettered corporate greed.


            The renegotiation takes places with a US administration whose xenophobic policies threaten US citizens and residents, and the world. This administration’s continuing attacks on civil and democratic rights, on the rights of women, Muslims, Black and Indigenous peoples, on immigrants, on the LGBTQi community, and on organized labour are a threat to democracy. This administration’s strong and well-documented connections to white supremacist and fascist organizations in the US and globally are chilling, and a demonstrated threat to democracy and to peace loving people everywhere.


           The renegotiation takes place in the context of US aggression and acts of war in Syria, Afghanistan, and DPRK. These US crimes and provocations endanger global peace, security and stability. This renegotiation takes place in the wake of US demands that Canada greatly increase its financial and military support for NATO, and for deployments of Canadian soldiers to US hotspots around the world.


            The US enters these renegotiations with threats and ultimatums, including a 20% tax on BC softwood lumber. As the PM has made very clear by his actions over the last six months, Canada will be responding to US demands for more access and more control over Canada’s economy, natural and energy resources, manufacturing and secondary industry, environmental, labour and social policies, and over our political decision-making, and over civil, labour, and democratic rights.


            What the US wants in particular is for Canada to yield on softwood lumber, food sovereignty and supply management policies in agriculture, the single payer system in Medicare , public delivery of public services and social programs, culture, and  education.;  rules of origin on automobile parts and assembly and on other products  manufactured in Canada. They want those manufacturing jobs to slide south to the US rust belt states which all have right to work laws and the much lower wages and poorer conditions that go with it. 


            They want a free hand to export and sell US goods in Canada even if it will hurt Canadian producers and workers. This includes the over-supply of milk in the US dairy states just south of Quebec and Ontario, where supply management doesn’t exist, and farmers are left to fend for themselves against the vagaries of the “market”.


            They want a free hand for US corporations to invest in every sector including state owned enterprises, and in banking. They want Canada to adopt the same deregulation measures as the US, ensuring that Canada will not escape the next US triggered financial crisis. Regulation of Canada’s financial institutions that provided some insulation from the 2008 meltdown, won’t be there in the future.   


            They want to eliminate the NAFTA trade dispute panels contained in Chapter 19, where Canada has consistently won in the long-standing fight with the US over softwood lumber. They don’t like the panels’ softwood rulings, and therefore propose to get rid of the panels.


            In previous negotiations side deals and agreements on labour standards, environmental standards were negotiated to meet the demands of the labour and environmental movements, and to eliminate opposition to these trade deals.  However it’s now clear that none of the side agreements was of any use, because all of them were toothless and none of them were enforceable.


            Now the US wants to include the side deals on labour and the environment to be included in the main NAFTA agreement. But only if they continue to be toothless and useless to defend workers’ rights and protect the environment. This is another pretty obvious effort to quiet widespread concerns in Canada and Mexico about NAFTA’s devastating impact on the environment and on labour rights and standards, and on democratic and human rights.


            Canada’s relationship with the US has always been that of the mouse and the elephant. When the US catches a cold, Canada catches pneumonia. Today it could be reasonably said that the US has pneumonia.  


            Why would we want to get in bed with our politically and economically sick neighbour to the south?


            Instead of getting in deeper, losing ever bigger chunks of our sovereignty and independence, Canada should get out of NAFTA now while we can. Mexico has also expressed serious concerns about both NAFTA and the current US administration, and has publicly discussed pulling out of NAFTA. Canada should do likewise, and open up discussions on bi-lateral trade with Mexico on a mutually beneficial basis.


            Instead of virtually unilateral trade with the US, which is our trading partner for 80% of our exports, Canada needs a new trade policy, based on multi-lateral and mutually beneficial trade with the world. This should include providing long-term credits to the developing countries, including Cuba and Vietnam.


            Along with a fair and democratic trade policy, Canada should adopt a foreign policy of peace and disarmament, cutting our defence spending – not increasing it – and redirecting it to civilian spending. Canada should also adopt a tax policy based on ability to pay, which would increase taxes on corporations and decrease the tax load on working people and the unemployed. We should use the Bank of Canada to fund investments in the creation of good jobs and full employment, public healthcare, public and post secondary education, quality public childcare and affordable housing to help build a genuine and long-lasting recovery for working people across Canada, including hundreds of thousands of young people trying to get a foot in the door.


            Rebuilding Canada’s manufacturing and secondary industry, developing an environmentally sustainable industrial strategy, a transportation policy that invests in mass public transit in cities and inter urban rail transit, in social housing at rents and prices people can afford, expanding Medicare to include dental and vision care, long term care and pharmacare; and developing an environmental policy that will create new green jobs and build up alternative energy sources within the publicly owned energy sector.


            This is the way to a future worth having in Canada today. The alternative is to succumb to US political and economic demands, and transform Canada into the 51st US state, with all that entails.  


            We say NO to NAFTA, Get Out Now!  We say YES to Canadian Sovereignty, Democracy, Peace and Jobs!


            - Central Executive Committee CPC, July 18, 2018


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By Meagan Gillmore, Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM)


            British Columbia's unions are hopeful for increases to minimum wage and improved workers' rights with John Horgan's NDP-Green coalition government.


            Horgan and his cabinet were sworn in on Tuesday, July 18..


            Irene Lanzinger, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said she hopes this new government will raise minimum wage to $15 an hour by sometime in 2019, a timeline consistent with announced changes in Alberta and Ontario. Alberta's minimum wage is set to increase to $15 an hour in October 2018. Ontario is considering legislation that would see that same wage become effective in January 2019. The NDP and the Green Party both support the increased minimum wage, she said.


            Lanzinger called the increases a way to "immediately" improve the lives of the working poor. The province also needs to follow suit with nearby jurisdictions like Alberta and Seattle, where the minimum wage is already $15. It isn't fair that British Columbians have a lower minimum wage when their cost of living is so high, she said.


            But it can't stop there, she said. Eventually, the minimum wage should be the same as the living wage. How that happens is a "completely appropriate and a good discussion to have," Lanzinger said. She said the federation is looking forward to working with the Fair Wages Commission, which will study the issue.


            The provincial Green party had named the establishment of such a commission as an election promise.


            But Lanzinger also wants the government to tackle concerns that are "less on the public radar," like changing the labour code to make it easier for people to join unions, calling unions the "key to reducing the gap between rich and poor."


            Lanzinger would also like to see stiffer penalties, including criminal charges and jail time, for employers whose negligence causes the injury or death of workers. Drivers face prison time when their negligence causes injury or death, she said. It should be the same for employers.


            The new cabinet includes many ministers with past labour experience. Judy Darcy, former president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), was named to the newly created ministry of mental health and addictions. George Heyman, former president of the B.C. Government and Services Employees' Union (BCGEU) was named minister of environment and climate change strategy. Minister of Citizens' Services Jinny Sims was previously president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF).


            While Lanzinger says the "deep knowledge" about labour these ministers will bring is helpful, it's not necessary for advancing the rights of workers. It's more important that government officials recognize the importance of unions, she said.


            A former teacher, Lanzinger said she was pleased to see Rob Fleming appointed minister of education. Fleming was previously the education critic.


            Glen Hansman, president of the BCTF, echoed Lanzinger's approval. Fleming "doesn't need to come up to speed" about the issues facing the education system, said Hansman.


            The first priority needs to be making sure the B.C. government implements last November's Supreme Court of Canada decision. The country's highest court ruled against a 2002 law that removed language about class size and composition from teachers' collective bargaining agreements, and forbade teachers from negotiating about those issues in the future. As part of the settlement, the government was supposed to provide money for districts to hire more teachers.


            But that hasn't happened, said Hansman. Many districts were "scrambling" in June when they learned they weren't going to receive the money they had expected, he said. This includes large districts, like the Vancouver District School Board, that Hansman said didn't find out about what they weren't getting until the second-last week of school. This has thrown school organization into "disarray."


            Districts need that staff immediately, said Lanzinger.


            "It is not optional," she said. "It must be implemented and it must be implemented quickly. Frankly, that's the best thing for kids in the province. And it's also the law."


            Hansman also said he hopes the new government will have a less "adversarial" relationship with unions. The Liberals were known to "use the legislative hammer" to get things done, he said, calling their relationship with labour a "dark cloud" hanging over the province. He said he hopes this changes -- especially as teachers' collective bargaining agreement expires in 2019. Preparations for negotiations will begin soon, he said.


            Hansman wasn't the only union leader calling on the government to take action on education.


            Paul Faoro, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) BC said in a release he is looking forward to working with Minister Fleming to "restore" the system after 16 years of what Faoro called "cuts and neglect."


            Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU, said in a release the union is hopeful to work with a new government "forged in a spirit of cooperation." The release singles out the need for the ministry of education to provide better services in time for the next school year.


            The government also needs to re-evaluate long-term educational goals, said Hansman. The government has spent years changing the curriculum. The federation supports many of those changes, he said. But other changes, like those to assessment and reporting, has caused a lot of stress for teachers.


            Teachers are "faced with a lot of changes all at once without the resources in place in schools to make them successful," he said. "It's a lot of scrambling."


            The last government seemed to make decisions at "random," he said. It spent millions of dollars implementing electronic databases for student information, without always explaining the purpose for this, how information will be used or how long it will be stored, or giving teachers adequate training about privacy.


            Hansman said he hopes to meet with Education Minister Fleming soon to discuss priorities.


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PV Vancouver Bureau


            On July 18, the new B.C. NDP cabinet, led by Premier John Horgan, was sworn in at the Legislature, marking the first time in 16 years the province has seen a change in leadership.


            Horgan made several key appointments from among the trade union members and activists in his 41-member NDP caucus, including George Heyman as the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Heyman is the former President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), and National Executive Board member of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUGPE), until 2008, when he accepted the role as executive director of the Sierra Club B.C., a prominent national and grassroots non-profit organization committed to protecting the environment.


            The new ministry of Mental Health and Addictions will be led by Judy Darcy, former National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and MLA since 2013. Darcy has a track record in advocating for universal, accessible, affordable public health care. Adrian Dix, long-time MLA will be responsible for the Ministry of Health. Both Darcy and Dix have previously served as health critic while in opposition.


            Harry Bains, who has served as an MLA since 2005, will now serve as the Minister of Labour. Prior to running for office, Bains was a member of the Board of Governors at Kwantlen University College from 1993 to 1999, serving as vice chair for 3 years. He was also an elected officer of Steelworkers-IWA Canada Local 2171 for over 15 years. He served most recently as vice-president of his local, where he led negotiations and engaged in bargaining for better working conditions for working people. In opposition, Bains was the NDP critic for Jobs, Employment, Labour and Worksafe BC in the legislature.


            Mabel Elmore has served 3 terms as an MLA for the riding of Vancouver-Kensington. Previously she worked as a transit operator for 10 years, where she became active in her union, the Canadian Auto Workers, Local 111 – and led successful campaigns as a transit advocate. Her new role is as Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction.


            Melanie Mark, the new Advanced Education Minister, is the first female Indigenous cabinet minister in British Columbia. Mark's portfolio will focus on eliminating interest rates on post-secondary loans, and finding other ways to improve affordability.


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Statement by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, July 2017


            The Communist Party of Canada condemns the federal Liberal government’s June announcement of its plan to increase military spending by 70% over the next ten years. This massive militarization means the government is committing to increase its already significant role in military interventions and full-scale wars around the world, further escalating imperialism’s drive towards world war.


            The Trudeau government’s plan is to add 5,000 regular and reserve personnel to the Canadian Armed Forces, buy a bigger than expected fleet of 88 new fighter jets (with an estimated cost of $15-19 billion), pay for 15 war ships (with an estimated cost of $60 billion), increase the size of Canada’s secretive special forces by 600, and purchase armed drones, all the while increasing annual expenditures by $14 billion to over $32 billion a year within ten years. This is far beyond what the previous Harper Conservative government attempted or had planned.


            The military spending plan is being sold as a move towards Canadian sovereignty and away from reliance on the United States. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, the granddaughter of a Nazi collaborator and herself responsible for war-mongering against Russia, said just before the report was issued: “To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state”.


            This ignores the fact that U.S. President Trump and NATO have been lobbying for Canada to increase military spending. This ignores that Canada’s military is already totally tied into the U.S. and NATO’s military power. This is in fact an effort for the Canadian government to become an even bigger partner in the U.S. dirty war machine. The United States has waged a long series of offensive wars since the end of World War II, and for the last sixteen years has been engaged in a permanent “war on terror” that has led to the deaths of millions of people in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Freeland and Trudeau’s use of Canadian sovereignty in order to justify massive military expenditures actually continues to undermine the sovereignty of the peoples of Canada and blocks the path of a truly independent foreign policy of peace and disarmament. In order for this to be possible Canada must immediately withdraw from NATO.


            Already under the Harper government Canada helped to lead the regime change operation in Libya, which has resulted in the destruction and ruin of that country. Canadian warships and troops are currently in the Baltic and the Middle East, enhancing US and NATO power. These operations have nothing to do with defence and any increase in military spending will only ensure that Canadian participation in these bloody, dangerous and often illegal wars is drastically increased.


            Trudeau’s election victory in 2015 was based on “sunny ways” against the Conservative government’s agenda of war and austerity. He campaigned on more “peacekeeping” and less involvement in the U.S.’s wars in countries like Syria. Now, Trudeau and Defence Minister Sajjan are saying that militarization and war preparations are necessary. In late June, Trudeau announced that Canadians should be proud of a Canadian sniper in Iraq for killing someone from a long distance away. This took place in the context of Canada’s supposedly non-combat role in Iraq. The people that voted Liberal in 2015 did not vote for more war and occupation.


            Part of the cynical political spin of this announcement is that Canada needs to play a bigger role on the world stage as the United States “retreats”. Just days before the Trump administration announced that it would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Putting aside the fact that Canada should not play a bigger role in wars around the world, in terms of climate change, increasing the size of the military will also drastically increase Canada’s carbon emissions. The Department of National Defense is already one of Canada’s biggest emitters of carbon, and 88 new jets and 15 new warships makes the military an even larger climate criminal.


            For working people in Canada, further militarization means more killing and being killed around the world. It means more military recruitment of our precarious young people, desperate for decent work at home.


            Who will pay the tens of billions in increased expenditures? The government has not made any mention of how they intend to fund their ambitious war plan. Those that can afford it won’t be the ones that pay: the corporations and the wealthy. The Liberals have ruled out corporate tax increases. The only options are increased taxes on working people, through sales taxes, user fees and other regressive taxation schemes. Undoubtedly this will mean more attacks on social programs and services: more cuts to Medicare, the privatization of public services and assets, the further privatization of education, and much more.


            The priorities of the Liberal government and of Bay Street are seen clearly by comparing the current debate on federal health and social service funding to Indigenous children and the government’s military increase plan. The federal government is in a prolonged legal fight to avoid making the funding to these services equitable between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. But somehow there are tens of billions of dollars available for war.


            The Communist Party of Canada demands that the federal government cut the existing military budget by 75% and use these funds to create good jobs across Canada; build affordable housing and infrastructure; develop a sustainable industrial strategy and expand value-added manufacturing and secondary industry to create jobs; expand and improve Medicare, including a public pharmacare program; address the housing crisis by building social housing across Canada; introduce a universal, accessible, affordable public childcare system; invest in public renewable energy to transition from fossil fuels and pay climate reparations to over-exploited countries to avoid climate catastrophe; fully fund public and post-secondary education and eliminate tuition fees and student debt; increase the minimum wage and pensions; and deliver on promises made to Indigenous peoples for urgent and long-term funding to raise living standards on and off reserve in order to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


            Trump’s prescription for economic recovery is war: huge profits for the arms industry and total hegemony over the land, labour and resources of the world. We need to fight for a recovery for people. An urgent part of this fight is building the anti-war movement across Canada, with the immediate task of stopping this drive to war.


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From the Union of BC Indian Chiefs


            An assembly of Tribal leaders of the Great Sioux Nation along with leaders of the Ponca Nation in Nebraska and Oklahoma met (on July 4), in the sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, with a large delegation of Chiefs of First Nations from Canada who have signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. The tribal leaders and chiefs sent a clear message on this July 4th US “Independence Day” about their independence as Sovereign Indigenous Nations and to announce a new cross-border alliance to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. The historic gathering challenging the power of Canada and the US to harm their lands and pollute their water comes on the heels of widespread Indigenous resistance in Canada challenging the July 1st celebrations of Canada’s “150th anniversary”.


            The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, after the signing today of the 10 Tribes and First Nations from the Great Sioux Nation, Ponca Nation and Blackfoot Confederacy, now counts over 130 First Nations and Tribes who have signed the Indigenous Treaty barring the passage of each of the four pipelines that the Tar Sands industry of Alberta is hoping to build in order to expand production: TransCanada’s Keystone XL, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion through British Columbia and TransCanada’s Energy East.


            “If you don’t think we’re nations, if you think we’re isolated remnants of a bygone era, just watch us exercise our sovereign right to protect our land and our people by stopping these pipeline abominations from threatening our water and our very future,” said Casey Camp-Horinek on behalf of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, who will in fact be organizing a similar type ceremony in Nebraska in the coming weeks where the broad cross-section of opponents of the Keystone XL will be invited to sign a declaration against KXL first signed on May, 17 in Calgary, AB. “Today is not just about our independence as Nations, but also everyone’s much needed independence from the shackles of oil, and especially Keystone’s dirty tar sands oil.”


            Present for the formation of this cross-border Indigenous alliance against Keystone XL were most of the Tribes whose lands the pipeline would cross, from Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy at the start of the pipeline in Canada to the Great Sioux Nation and then finally the Ponca Nation in Nebraska and Oklahoma where the pipeline would end.


            Also signed on this day was The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, an Indigenous Treaty spearheaded by the Piikani Nation in Alberta which now also counts over 130 signatory First Nations and Tribes from across the continent. The leaders present at the ceremony today pledged to work together to safeguard the sacred Grizzly Bear and combat the recent move by the Trump administration to delist the grizzly of Greater Yellowstone from the Endangered Species Act.


            “Indigenous People in Canada, led by our women and youth grassroots water protectors, just finished crashing the July 1st ‘Canada 150’ celebrations, letting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all of Canada know that not only can they not whitewash history, but they cannot continue to run roughshod over our Nations by looking to ram pipelines like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion through our lands,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. “We were honoured to be invited to come support Tribes in the US as they likewise reclaim this July 4th national anniversary to mark their own independence as sovereign nations.”


            “The Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation are gathered here today on this most historic occasion on this most sacred of sites, surrounded by our trusted allies, to make it clear, in honor of Crazy Horse, that we, as a sovereign nations, have not consented to and will all together fight to the end some of President Trump’s most grotesque actions, including illegally ramming through the Dakota Access Pipeline, trying to raise Keystone XL pipeline from the dead and just recently, trying to get away with delisting our sacred Grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List,” said Chair Brandon Sazue of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe who invited leaders to the event in the spirit of “Remaking of the Sacred Hoop”, a rekindling of the alliance between the Great Sioux Nations and the Blackfoot Confederacy.


            “These tar sand pipeline fights like Keystone XL, or Enbridge’s Line 3 which passes through our lands in Manitoba, are about protecting our Mother but will also end up being the turning point for relations between our Nations and state powers – the point where we say no more,” noted Kevin Hart, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for Manitoba, on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. “These are more than pipelines: they are lines in the sand for our Nations.”


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People’s Voice Editorial


            The nauseating campaign to whip up hatred against Omar Khadr is a signal of the direction the Conservative party intends to take leading up to the 2019 federal election. Aping the racist rhetoric of Donald Trump and other demagogues, Tory leader Andrew Scheer and his colleagues are playing a classic bait and switch game, falsely appealing to the public on completely irrelevant grounds. Their true intention is not to force the federal government to reverse the Supreme Court ruling in the Khadr case - which would be utterly illegal - but to create a more reactionary political and social terrain for the next election, making it easier for the Tories to regain a majority.


            This hate campaign is not about whether military veterans should receive adequate pensions, or whether Indigenous communities should have clean drinking water, to give just two examples. The Conservative Party had a decade in office to address these and many other issues. Instead, they chose to relentlessly slash taxes for the big corporations and the rich, making it “necessary” to chop public services.


            Who is really at fault here? The young boy thrown into a US war of occupation, wounded in battle, and then jailed and tortured until he reluctantly signed a “confession” so that he could eventually return home? Or the politicians who refused to lift a finger while this child soldier’s human rights were stripped away?


            The torrent of hate against Omar Khadr is a sickening foretaste of one frightening future - a society in which racialized peoples, women, and other sections of the population are turned into second class citizens, denied their fundamental rights. But this strategy can be defeated, starting by speaking out in support of the compensation agreement, and against the vicious bigots who use the Conservative party to advance their agenda.


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People’s Voice Editorial


            More than two months after voters cast their ballots for change in Victoria, the Liberal era in B.C. expired on July 18, with few tears shed. One of Christy Clark’s bizarre tactics to cling to office was her final throne speech, plagiarizing from the NDP and Green platforms in the May 9 election. Her gambit showed that public opinion in B.C. has swung against letting the big resource corporations run the province, even among Liberal voters. The question is whether the NDP will act on its campaign promises, and how quickly.


            The BC Federation of Labour has called on the new government to improve labour rights and raise the minimum wage. It seems likely that the NDP pledge to implement a $15/hour minimum wage by 2019 will be kept, despite sharp resistance from the big fast food monopolies and other corporate interests. Even $15 is far from a living wage in the most expensive province in Canada, and we urge the labour movement to press for higher increases. Changes to the Labour Code are also needed, to make it easier for employees to join unions, which are vital to help narrow the enormous gap between rich and poor. Struggles around bread and butter issues will continue, no matter which party is in office.


            Anti-poverty activists and poor people welcomed the NDP’s move to raise social assistance and disability rates by $100 per month. But these increases still tail the skyrocketing costs of rent, food and other necessities. Unless the new government reverses the huge tax breaks given by the Liberals to upper income brackets and the corporations, the one-percent in British Columbia will keep getting richer, while the poor get poorer - but maybe at a slightly slower pace.


            Our advice in this remarkable situation? Celebrate the positive gains, but keep the heat on the Horgan government.


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            The  head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL), representing thousands of union members and workers in the province, is joining the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) call to premiers to recommit to establishing a single-payer, universal prescription drug plan in Canada.


            “In Newfoundland and Labrador, public spending covers less than half the cost of prescription medicines,” said NLFL president Mary Shortall. “Of the 236,200 workers in this province, an estimated one in three — over 78,000 — don’t have health benefits.”


            The St. John’s Telegram reports that the CLC gathered in Alberta in July for events that ran concurrently with a meeting of premiers of Canada’s provinces and territories — the Council of the Federation.


            Labour leaders used that opportunity to prompt premiers to lobby the federal government for a national pharmacare plan to ensure all Canadians have access to life-saving medications and to bring down the costs of the increasingly “out-of-control system.”


            According to the NLFL, evidence shows Canadians who rely on prescription drugs don’t have the money to cover costs, and instead are splitting pills, skipping dosages to stretch prescriptions, sharing medicines or going deep into debt to make ends meet.


            A survey by Angus Reid, in 2015, found 26 per cent of Atlantic-Canadians don’t take their medications as prescribed because they can’t afford to. This can cause serious health complications, Shortall said.


            “When people skip their medications or otherwise ignore doctors’ orders, because of costs, additional burdens to the health-care system actually cost everyone more,” she said.


            The federation pointed out that Canada’s public per capita prescription drug spending in 2014 was second highest among countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, at US$772  per person, far above the OECD average.


            Canada is the only country with universal health care that does not have a universal program for prescription drug coverage, despite the stated goal of universal coverage in the 2004-14 Health Accord.


            “Canadians know bulk buying is the smart option,” Shortall said. “In public opinion surveys, over 90 per cent of both citizens and employers believe a universal prescription drug plan is important to Canadian health-care coverage. Pharmacare is the type of smart policy Canadians are looking for from our political leaders.”


            She said by adopting a single-payer program, Canadians would benefit from bulk purchasing power, giving them the power to obtain competitively priced prescription drugs. She said through aggressive pharmaceutical company competition for Canadian business, a single-payer, universal prescription drug program could save Canadians approximately $7.3 billion a year, based on an additional $1 billion in public sector spending.


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By Nino Pagliccia


            July 5 marked the 206th anniversary of Venezuela's independence. For any country the commemoration of such an event is of great historical importance and pride. The term "independence" has occupied centre stage in the last 18 years, during the Bolivarian Revolution. Former President Hugo Chávez and current President Nicolás Maduro have made independence and sovereignty the pillars on which Socialism of the 21st Century of the Bolivarian Revolution rests.


            But can we draw parallels between Venezuelan independence of 1811 that gave birth to the First Republic, and the Venezuelan independence of today’s Fifth Republic? Are there lessons to be learned? More than we think.


            The attempts of independence in Venezuela go back to the first armed rebellion in 1795 - exactly one hundred years before the death in combat of José Martí in another independence movement in Cuba.


            Francisco de Miranda, considered a precursor of Venezuelan independence, tried twice to reach the Venezuelan territory with an armed expedition from Haiti in 1806. Those incursions ended in failures, due to the negative influence of the clergy that was in favour of the Spanish colonial power, and the indifference of the population that was not ready for freedom.


            Miranda proposed total independence from Spain. However by 1808, the Venezuelan oligarchy was divided. Some wanted a certain degree of autonomy that allowed them more political control, but within the Spanish empire, while others were supporters of full independence. Neither group prevailed.


            The origins of the movement that culminated in the 1811 declaration of independence and started the First Republic rest on the events of April 19, 1810.


            On that date a local governing board (Junta Suprema) was established formally in Caracas. This was a transitional government, not independent but still in favour of the Spanish Crown. However, this board carried out internal reforms; abolished the slave trade, tried to unify the provinces and strengthen its autonomy, and made efforts abroad to obtain the solidarity of other colonies and the recognition and help of foreign nations.


            The character of this government did not allow it to go beyond the autonomy that had been proclaimed on April 19. For this reason, the governing board resolved to convene elections and set up a General Congress, before which it would decline its powers and decide the future fate of the Venezuelan provinces. The call for elections ensured the transformation of the de facto government into an independent constitutional government. This early example of entrusting power to a constituent assembly is what gives this date, April 19, 1810, a prominent place in the Venezuelan coat of arms.


            Following the elections, the first session of the newly created Venezuelan Congress took place on March 2, 1811. On July 3, lively debates started among the deputies around the issue of full independence. Among those in favour was Simón Bolívar who pronounced the famous question: "Three hundred years of calm, is it not enough?” in reference to the Spanish domination. On July 5, with independence being approved with forty votes in favour, representing seven of the ten provinces, the President of the Congress announced that it was "Solemnly Declared Venezuela's Absolute Independence". The Declaration is the first case of a Spanish colony of America declaring its absolute independence.


            This leadership role of Venezuela and its independence movement in 1811 is evocative of today’s movement for the creation of the Patria Grande (Great Homeland) of Latin America initiated by Simón Bolívar and resumed by Hugo Chávez.


            The Act of Independence established a new nation, the United States of Venezuela, based on republican and federal principles, forever abolishing the Monarchy under the values of the equality of individuals, the prohibition of censorship, and freedom of expression. It enshrined the constitutional principle and was radically opposed to the political, cultural and social practices that had existed for 300 years in Spanish America. These values coincide with those that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela espouses today.


            A paragraph from the Venezuelan Act of Independence reveals the reasons given by the deputies for the need to cut ties with Spain: “Notwithstanding our protests, our moderation, generosity, and the inviolability of our principles, contrary to the wishes of our brethren in Europe, we were declared in a state of rebellion; we were blockaded; war was declared against us; agents were sent amongst us, to excite us one against the other, endeavoring to take away our credit with the other Nations of Europe, by imploring their assistance to oppress us.” [1]


            Simply by adding the U.S. and some OAS countries to Europe, this statement might well have been written by the Maduro government in response to current threats to the Bolivarian Revolution. The similarity of aggression tactics over 200 years apart is striking, including the reference to foreign intervention.


            The First Republic of Venezuela only lasted one year, giving lessons for the Fifth Republic. Bolívar himself analyzed the causes of the fall in his Manifiesto de Cartagena document in 1812.[2]


            Popular hostility. This was a hostile resistance to the independence movement by people who preferred to remain a Spanish colony. This lack of internal solidarity gave strength to the colonialist powers to bring down the First Republic. Today we see a similar hostile resistance by rightwing groups in Venezuela and the effort that Chavismo is exerting to strengthen internal solidarity.


            Economic crisis. The crisis was triggered by the loss of international trade, the flight of capital and the rising cost of staples, which resulted in a negative popular reaction against the authorities. This was not because independence was a “failed” system, just as today Chavismo is not a failed system. The crisis is manufactured in order to create unrest among the population.


            Mistrust between military power and oligarchy. When Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda was given powers to support independence in 1811, the oligarchy was afraid of a military dictatorship, so Congress did not support executive measures. This has been a recurrent situation in Latin America. Today Chavismo has brought trust and a strong civilian-military alliance that the Venezuelan opposition is intent in breaking in order to achieve a regime change.


            Tolerance system. The idea that reactionary movements could be carried out without bloodshed was widespread among many supporters of independence. However, the lack of a firm hand was also seen as a weakness leading to the loss of the first republic. Bolivar, for one, said: "Under cover of this pious doctrine, to each conspiracy happened a pardon, and to each pardon happened another conspiracy that was forgiven again". This final cause of the fall of the First Republic raises an interesting question with respect to the restraint shown by the Maduro administration vis-à-vis the high level of violence from the rightwing opposition.


            It would take 187 more years until 1999 before Hugo Chávez resumed the building of true Venezuelan independence, on the foundations of that First Republic, learning from those historical lessons. Not only did Chávez restore the true meaning of independence, but he broadened it to encompass sovereignty and popular government or democracy.


            Chávez achieved the true self-determination of Venezuela, and extended it to all of Latin America. To do this, he clearly understood that it was necessary to consolidate the internal unity of the country and the continent. Internally, he created a united party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), gathering the scattered political forces; in foreign policy, he created ALBA as the core alliance for the Patria Grande.


            The 1810-1811 independence movement remains alive with the government of Nicolás Maduro. Today we see the possibility of further consolidation of the Bolivarian dream with the process to elect the individuals and sectoral members of the National Constituent Assembly that will reexamine the Venezuelan constitution. [3] This is necessary as the only peaceful, legitimate, constitutional and democratic process for all Venezuelans to participate in without exclusion, to achieve the Venezuela they want.








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By Jonathan Palameda, The Guardian (Australia)


            In 2013, I travelled to Cuba as a part of a study abroad program on the history of Cuban socialism in the context of economic reforms that allowed for limited free enterprise. The financial changes were certainly discernible on the streets of Havana; an enormous private art market sat in the shadow of La Cabaña, the old Spanish citadel at which Ché Guevara oversaw the trials of Batista war criminals in 1959. But there was also another profound change occurring in Havana when we arrived in mid-June, at the height of Pride Month.


            Havana was frequented by parades and public displays of LGBTQ+ pride during our time there. Rainbow flags flew next to Cuban and July 26th flags and marchers chanted “Respect! Include! Accept!” as they made their way through Old Havana. Those marches were the aftershocks of the massive International Day Against Homophobia March in May of that year.


            These open displays of pride were spearheaded by Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Raul Castro and Vilma Espín, and head of the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education. The reactions of onlookers to the march reflected the conflicted past on which Cuba is building. Fidel Castro openly acknowledged in his autobiography My Life that Cuba had mistreated LGBTQ+ populations during its revolution and socialist construction, something he called “a great injustice.”


            As in many other sectors, though, Cuba’s struggle for LGBTQ+ rights proceeds dialectically. Same-sex marriage is illegal, yet sex reassignment surgeries are covered under Cuba’s outstanding national healthcare service, a transgender woman sits on the National Assembly of People’s Power, and Cuba has strong codes against discrimination based on sexual orientation (though gender identity is not mentioned in the code, something for which Mariela Castro continues to fight).


            In this environment of great change on the streets and in the halls of Cuban government, our group had the privilege to meet with Mariela Castro at a newly built CENESEX clinic providing sexual health services to the surrounding neighbourhood. She spoke briefly on what CENESEX was doing, particularly its sponsorship of those marches we had seen a few days before.


            Castro acknowledged at the end of her talk that we as Americans faced challenges she did not, particularly the corporate influence on the American pride movement. She suggested in our circumstances “tangible support to your communities,” referencing the educational seminars, informal discussion/support groups, and material support offered by CENESEX. Several communist organisations including the American Party of Labor have pursued such an approach in Serve the People campaigns since 2013, and the concept of material support continues to garner multi-tendency support.


            The floor was then opened for questions. Several in the group asked about the history of Cuban machismo and that “great injustice” mentioned earlier. Castro did not hide from the realities of the Cuban past, calling it “terrible and unscientific.” She did seek to contextualise the history, though, underlining that “revolutions are popular events – they cannot transcend the minds of revolutionaries.”


            The Cuban Communist Party in the past failed to incorporate LGTBQ+ narratives into its decision making, and in doing so limited its ability practically and intellectually to agitate against homophobia and transphobia. “That has changed,” she concluded, highlighting that the PCC now plays a central role in CENESEX’s work.


            Given what she had just highlighted, I asked her how she counteracted anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry within the Communist Party, how she had, in her words, changed the minds of revolutionaries. Her answer was significant then, in a year that saw several incidents of sexism, rape-apologism, homophobia, and transphobia in various left groups, and remains relevant today as these issues and debates continue.


            “It’s an ongoing challenge,” she said with a laugh, before highlighting the similar barriers her mother, Cuban revolutionary icon Vilma Espín, faced in the early 1970s during the push for a domestic labour equality law that eventually passed. The answer then as now for Castro was not in supplementing Marxism but appealing to it. “Challenge those people in your parties to consider why they are socialists. What is the goal of socialism?”


            Answering these questions made bigotry against LGBTQ+ an untenable position for Marxists according to Castro, as the goal of socialism “is to establish a society in which all people can prosper, no matter who they are. Socialism and prejudice are contradictory.”


            Castro thus attacked homophobia and transphobia in Cuba in two ways. First, her organisation reached out at the local level to support the LGBTQ+ community with practical, legal, social and medical support. Second, she and like-minded Communists agitated in the Cuban Communist Party by challenging the coherence of a Marxist society and thought system coexistent with base prejudices.


            In building a movement for LGBTQ+ liberation and equality, Castro asserted that the most important concerns for Communists lay first in the community they are serving and second amongst themselves. The focus in each case is not on conversion or confrontation with reactionaries, but on building a revolutionary cadre that serves the people, is ideologically disciplined, and is capable of winning converts and confrontations.


           Developing and educating a cadre is a daunting yet increasingly important task in the era of resurgent fascism, but the challenges do not exceed those of 1959, 1949, or 1917. Following Castro’s lead through establishing campaigns for community support and having difficult debates within the confines of a democratic centralist organisation provides a useful foundation from which to move forward for those working in what Ché Guevara called “the heart of the beast.”


            Castro herself was optimistic as our session came to an end, bidding us goodbye with a not entirely sarcastic “si se puede” before heading to another CENESEX clinic for another speaking engagement.


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By W. T. Whitney, Jr. (abridged)


            “Report Card 14,” released June 15 by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF), shows that many children in well-resourced nations are developing poorly and are vulnerable. The document is the latest in a series of periodic reports issued by UNICEF’s Office of Research on the performances of economically advanced countries in securing the rights of children. The current title is: “Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries.”


            This UNICEF survey ranks the performance of 41 countries belonging to the European Union, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or both. Report Card 14 documents the disadvantage weighing on children of working-class and marginalized families living in capitalist societies.


            The report’s author, Chris Brazier, utilized nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) elaborated by the United Nations in 2015, particularly those “with most direct relevance to the well-being of children in high-income settings [and to] income and wealth, health and educational opportunity.” He indicates that the SDGs generally “represent an ambitious effort to set a global agenda for development that is both equitable and sustainable, in social, economic and environmental terms.” They bring attention to “the consequences of wealth accumulation by the richest.”


            SDGs are one set of tools used in UNICEF’s Report Card for assessing whether or not wealthy societies are meeting the needs of children. The other is a conglomeration of dozens of “indicators” of their success or not in meeting particular SDGs. The indicators utilize data from 2014 and 2015.


            The SDGs and indicators appearing here are those selected specifically for pointing to outcomes for children that vary according to their social class. In fact, Report Card 14 presents information covering a wide range of childhood experience, not all of it having to do with class differences. As a result, many of the SDGs and indicators found in the Report Card aren’t mentioned here.


            One method for presenting the survey’s results was to evaluate the progress of individual countries in terms of specific SDGs, through an assigned rating reflecting the combined findings from relevant indicators. Those results are displayed in a listing that extends both above and below the average country performance for the indicator.


            Some commendable and not so commendable results are presented here. They apply to these SDGs: “End poverty,” “End hunger and food insecurity,” “Ensure healthy lives, promote well-being,” “Inclusive education,” “Reduce inequality,” and lastly “Promote peaceful and inclusive society.” The performances of these countries are at the top in the various categories: Norway, Japan, Portugal, Finland, Iceland, and Iceland, respectively. The United Stated lags. Its rankings among the 41 countries, in order, are: 33rd place, 36th place, 36th place, 32nd place, 35th place, and 40th place, respectively.


            The other way Report Card 14 displays its findings is by ranking performance of the countries as signalled by individual indicators, expressed as percentages or rates. Again, performances are recorded as ranking above or below average performances by the countries. What with data for an indicator not always being available, some rankings don’t include all 41 countries. Examples follow of countries ranked according to single indicators:


            One indicator relating to “End poverty” is “Relative [family] income.” It’s the percentage of children 17 years of age or younger living in households with incomes less than 60 percent of their country’s median income. The average for all countries is 21 percent. Denmark is tops at 9.2 percent. The United States ranks in 35th place with a percentage of 29.4 percent.


            Another such indicator is “Percentage of reduction in childhood poverty as the result of social transfers.” The country average is 37.5 percent, Finland’s 66 percent is the most favorable, and the United States is in 32nd place (of 37) with 18 percent. “Social transfers” include taxation for reducing inequalities and provision of benefits.


            The indicator “Percentage of children 15 years old or younger living with a food-insecure family” relates to the “End hunger” SDG. The country average for this indicator is 12.7 percent; Japan, the most favorable, stands at 1.4 percent; and the United States ranks in 36th place with 19.6 percent.


            The indicator designated as “Neonatal Mortality” relates to the SDG “Ensure healthy lives.” The neonatal mortality rate is the number of infants per 1000 births who die in their first 28 days. The country average is 2.8 deaths. Japan’s rate is the most favorable at 0.9 deaths. The United States lags in 32nd place (of 36) with 4.0 deaths.


            One indicator for the “Reducing Inequality” SDG is the ratio of income share of the top 10 percent and bottom 40 percent of the population in income distribution. The country average is 1.17. Iceland surpasses at 0.70 percent. The United States places 35th with 1.64.


            Another indicator for the same goal is: “the relative gap between the median income and that of the bottom 10 percent of households with children.” The country average is 51.2 percent. Iceland exceeds all at 34.2 percent. The United States places 30th with 58.9 percent.


            One of the indicators for the SDG “Ensure education” is revealing. Its designation is: “percentage of children under 15 years of age achieving basic learning proficiency.” The country average performance is only 68.6 percent. Estonia is in first place with 83.1 percent, and the United States ranks in 26th place (out of 38) with 66.4 percent.


            The indicator “Child murder rate” (age 0-19), associated with the SGD “Promote peaceful and inclusive Society,” also deserves a look. The country average is 0.65 child murders per 100,000 persons. No Maltese children were murdered in 2015, and in second place, Luxemburg’s rate was 0.01. The United States registered 2.6 murders, ranking 36th among 37 countries.


            Report Card 14 says little about racial oppression of children, particularly in the United States. Here are some facts. Reflecting varying criteria, estimates of the poverty rate for all U. S. children range from 21 percent (according to to 29.4 percent, as per Report Card 14. But 36 percent of African American children 0–18 years of age live in poverty. And, the infant mortality rate (number of infants dying in their first year, per 1000 live births) for all U. S. babies in 2015 was 5.9 – 25th place in the world; for African-American babies the figure was 11.4.


            The report’s conclusion is that a sizable portion of children in well-resourced nations are deprived, neglected, or endangered. They belong to the single social class of people who work or who are marginalized.


            Evidence for their class identification lies in the documentation the Report Card provides of families being subjected to scanty income, hunger, violence, flimsy health care, and poor schooling for children. Affected children live in capitalist societies where profiteering and protecting the status quo come first. Their fate is no accident.


            In theory the working class has a mission of anti-capitalistic struggle. Children, however, can’t engage very well. So who speaks and acts for them?


            Adult family members and left-leaning political organizations are their proxy warriors. But these parties may have priorities far removed from those of children. Importantly, children are not little adults; their task of personal development often requires repair measures applying to them as individuals.


            But any rescue effort has to encompass all endangered children, together. The need arises, therefore, for new thinking.


            Preparation for political struggle ideally begins in childhood with education, good health, and emulation of any self-confidence, resilience, and optimism displayed by adult family members. But under stressful conditions like those portrayed in this survey, adults may be distracted, fearful, out of money, isolated, and/or fixated on short-term survival. Incapacitation of children fits with the priorities of those in charge, as they plan their future.


            The essential need now is for advocates for children to confront power-brokers and to lead. Maybe the time is right for parents and especially women, and women as mothers, to assert themselves. Children are with women, and women know the realities of children’s lives. They are used to defending their own rights and those of children. Together these rights make up a lion’s share of social and economic rights generally.


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12) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker


Rebel music from Canadian Reds


Canadian communists are producing some vital music these days, with comrades in Nova Scotia and B.C. notifying People's Voice of recording projects. Ryan Barry (aka Red Opera), a member of the CPC's Halifax Club, who stood as a candidate in last year's federal election, has just released "Lifestyles of the Bourgeoisie". It's a five-song EP of revolutionary hip-hop with lyrics composed and performed by Barry, over beats created by his cousin Thagodzombie. The two will be releasing an album, "The Velvet Glove and the Iron Fist", in the fall. Meanwhile, the EP is available on Bandcamp for $7. Comrade Ryan will match the proceeds with a donation to the CPC.  Meanwhile, Kamloops rocker and CPC member Peter Kerek, a candidate in the recent B.C. provincial election, has released a single with his band Better Red Than Dead. "Shills n Dupes" explores "the greasy relationship between endless consumerism, corporate deception, political corruption and the violation of indigenous rights and lands". It was inspired by the struggle against the Ajax Mine development in Kamloops.  Dan Hansen and Eli Jordan are the other members of this hard-rockin' outfit. Better Red Than Dead is set to make a full-length release later this year. "Shills n Dupes" is available for 99 cents at iTunes. 


Stirring messages from DeMent & Gilkyson


Singers Iris DeMent and Eliza Gilkyson, both outstanding contemporary folk artists, have  released new works with powerful political messages. Iris DeMent is a folk, country, and gospel artist who resides in rural Iowa. She possesses one of the most unforgettable voices in American music. In her 25-year career she's released just six albums, but they're all worth hearing. DeMent's latest release, "We Won't Keep Quiet", is a timely protest song. It was published on March 2 as a video on YouTube, and dedicated to the members of the Iowa City community who sang with her in the video, as well as to all who participated in the historic January 21 Women's March on Washington. "We Won't Keep Quiet" is a singalong anthem that needs to be heard. Eliza Gilkyson's "The Great Correction" is a poignant video newly created to accompany the song of the same name previously released on her 2008 album Beautiful World.  It's clear from the images and quotations in this thoughtful video that the "Great Correction" she's talking about is not simply the revenge of nature against a rapacious capitalist system, but a people's revolution. Gilkyson resides in Austin, Texas, where she's a well-known social justice activist.


Greece pays tribute to Theodorakis


The irony of being feted as "the musical conscience of Greece" by a parliament, most of whose members have acquiesced to the austerity demands of foreign capital, must not have been lost on composer Mikis Theodorakis, as he took in the gigantic tribute to his life and work on June 19 in Athens. 50,000 people attended the concert at Panathinaic Stadium, which featured 1,000 choral singers from 30 cities, a full orchestra, and dozens of other performers. Theodorakis, 91, is universally recognized as the country's greatest living artist, so Greece's rulers were compelled to join in the tribute, despite the artist's criticisms of their capitulation to E.U. austerity and U.S. imperialism. Theodorakis has written more than 1,000 songs, and many acclaimed orchestral works, but he's best known in North America as a composer of film scores like Zorba the Greek (1964), and Serpico (1973).  During World War II, Theodorakis fought in the anti-fascist resistance. During the military dictatorship of 1967-74, his music was banned and he was forced to live in exile. At the June 19 tribute, Theodorakis conducted two of his popular songs, after which he rose from his wheelchair and tearfully accepted a prolonged ovation.


Rosie Sorrels: 1933-2017


American singer-songwriter and storyteller Rosalie Sorrels died on June 11 in Reno, Nevada. Sorrels was born and raised in Boise, Idaho. Her first album (for Folkways in 1959) was a collection of folk songs from her home state. In the mid-sixties, Rosalie split up with her husband, and became an itinerant folksinger. She played at clubs, coffee houses, and all the big North American folk festivals, often with radical troubadour Utah Phillips, a long-time friend and collaborator.  Rosalie left behind 36 albums, a personal memoir, a collection of songs and stories from Idaho, and an anthology of poems and songs about women's experiences. In her later years, Rosalie recorded for the Red House label, which released her tribute to Utah Phillips, "Strangers in Another Country" in 2008. It includes an excellent rendition of Louise Scruggs's ballad "Starlight on the Rails". Look for it on YouTube.  A good mid-career album to check out is "Always a Lady" (1976), the liner notes of which include a droll dedication to her mother, who taught Rosalie "that a lady is someone who never does anything unintentionally vulgar".  


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