People’s Voice February 15-28, 2017
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PEOPLE'S VOICE      February 15-28, 2017 (pdf)


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(The following articles are from the February 15-28, 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.)


JANUARY 31, 2017 - The Communist Party of Canada today condemned the deadly attack by a masked gunman with assault weapons which killed 6 people and injured 19 more, who were at prayers in the Grand Mosque in St. Foy, Quebec Sunday night.

            The Party’s Executive Committee expressed deepest sympathy to the families of those killed and injured in this heinous act of hate, and expressed its determination to unite Canadians to oppose and defeat the racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia being whipped up in the US, Europe and Canada today.

            “This attack is undoubtedly a consequence of the racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia fomented by National Front leader Marine Le Pen who visited Quebec last year, and the new US administration and President Donald Trump, who signed the Executive Order Friday to ban immigration, block refugees, and deny entry to those holding dual citizenship, from seven Muslim majority countries. The Canadian government, while prosecuting this gunman to the fullest extent of the law, must also unequivocally condemn the US government actions which are behind the murders in St. Foy, and those political forces in Canada and abroad which are also fanning the flames of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia in this country,” said Communist Party leader Liz Rowley.

            The Party’s Central Executive Committee is calling on the Canadian government to:

- Officially protest and condemn the US government’s actions, and specifically the ban on Muslim immigration and refugees.

- Open Canada’s borders to immigrants and refugees being refused entry to the US as a result of the ban.

- Substantially increase the number of refugees and immigrants to Canada from Syria, the

Middle East and North Africa, in response to the unprecedented refugee crisis created by US, Canadian and allied policies of aggression, war and “regime change”.

- Rescind the Safe Third Country Agreement which prevents immigrants and refugees refused entry to the US, to enter Canada.

- Eliminate the Designated Country of Origin list, which makes it virtually impossible for US citizens and citizens of forty other countries from claiming asylum in Canada.

- Rescind the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, motivated by Tory leadership candidate Kellie Leitch and passed by the Harper Tories’ majority government in 2015.

- Rescind the draconian, anti-democratic and Islamophobic security state law Bill C-51, and abolish Security Certificates.

- Abolish indefinite immigration detention, and create a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented workers and their families living in Canada.

- Ban racists and fascists such as Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump and others who advocate

hatred based on race, religion and gender, from entering Canada.

            “The US government’s path forward is a quick march to war and global catastrophe,” said Rowley, adding “the Canadian government must stand up to the reign of terror unleashed by the US government, and by President Trump – the most powerful terrorist in the world today. Canadians are making their voices heard in demonstrations and protests from coast to coast to coast. PM Trudeau must take a strong stand against the virulent racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and homophobia, advocated by the fascist Le Pen, by Trump and the US government, and by some political parties and political leaders here in Canada. The time for action is now.”

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By Kimball Cariou

            In the wake of the murder of six men at a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, people in all parts of Canada are holding rallies, vigils and other actions to condemn this terrible crime. Many of these events have linked the mass murder to the political climate created by the new US government’s first steps, especially the executive order banning entry of travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. (But not from Saudi Arabia, where the new President has significant business interests!)

            The full details of the Quebec City accused killer’s background are already coming into focus. The timing of his actions seems likely to be connected with events in the United States, especially considering his expressions of support for anti-immigrant politicians like Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen. But much remains to be discovered about the shooter, who faces six charges of murder and other charges as well.

            Many people in Canada have expressed shock and disbelief that such a tragedy could take place in this country. There is a common view that Canadians are less inclined to gun violence and racist hatred than residents of the United States. But a quick glance at our country’s history shows that Canada is not immune from these problems. Indeed, Canada was founded largely through the imposition of colonial violence against its original peoples, some of whom (the Beothuks of Newfoundland, for example) were literally exterminated by colonizers. From the 1600s onward, most of the lands which comprise the modern Canadian state were forcibly seized from the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, often through the imposition of unfair treaties, but sometimes by the simple tactic of occupation. Most of present day British Columbia, in particular, was never ceded by First Nations to the British or to post-Confederation Canada; it was simply occupied by squatters, as First Nations people were jammed into small pieces of land. It took over a century of legal, political and moral resistance struggles for the First Nations of British Columbia to begin to overturn this illegal occupation, a de-colonization process which is just beginning to take effect.

            One does not have to look far to discover other racist threads running through the carpet of Canadian history: the anti-Asian exclusion laws of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War Two; the terrible living and social conditions under which indigenous peoples live to this very day; the racist treatment of Afro-Canadian immigrants over the past two centuries; the virulent Islamophobia campaigns of recent years; the hate-mongering that is whipped up from time to time against new groups of immigrants. Common to all of these outbreaks of racism and xenophobia is the underlying ideology that Canada is “a white Christian country.”

            This is not surprising, on one level. The Canadian state was mainly the creation of settler-capitalists from the present day British Isles and France, almost exclusively Christian in their religious faith. With some important exceptions, these settlers shared the view that this country was theirs for the taking. The idea of a “white man’s country” was built into the DNA of the Canadian state, even if the concept was flexible enough to accommodate later waves of European migrants. Similarly, Christianity (in its multiple forms) was considered the only “real” religion acceptable in Canada, with other faiths relegated to the status of curiosities or sometimes threats.

            This is a long and complex story, which would be incomplete without reference to the growing understanding that such racist and exclusionist concepts run counter to the idea of human rights and equality for all, and to the fact that indigenous peoples have traditional and inherent rights which cannot simply be wiped out by government edicts. Over time, especially as the ethnic and cultural composition of the population shifted, the majority of Canadians came to reject the view that Canada is a “white Christian country.” Similarly, the majority view has become that women are not the property of men, and should have full legal and social equality, including reproductive rights, pay equity, etc.

            But far from all. There are still large numbers of Canadians who believe that non-white immigrants are ‘stealing our jobs”, or that indigenous peoples should just “be like everyone else.” Without making over-generalizations, such ideas are often widespread in geographic areas where most of the population are of European descent. In central Alberta, where I grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s, it was exceedingly rare to meet non-Europeans, with the exception of some First Nations people. (I still remember vividly the experience of going to high school, where my chemistry teacher was the only South Asian resident in a town of 5,000. She loaned me books on history and politics which helped to open my eyes to the outside world.)

            Racism and white supremacy are also common in urban centres as well, of course. The distribution of KKK leaflets in cities such as Richmond or Abbotsford, or the occasional upsurge in “white power” groups in Calgary or parts of Toronto, is well documented. Quebec City has also seen a rise of anti-immigrant and especially anti-Muslim incidents, sometimes linked to similar developments in France.

            This is part of the background to the Quebec City mosque killings. Add to this toxic mix the element of Donald Trump’s vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric which encourages racist forces, and the result is a higher probability that bigotry will take the ugliest possible form: mass murder. It is not a coincidence that such killers often also hold deeply misogynist views, blaming women for allegedly depriving men of good jobs and educations.

            There is no easy solution to this trend of white supremacist and misogynist violence, but it doesn’t help to make bewildered claims that Canadians are somehow “better” than Americans. To resist and turn back the terrible rise in hatred and violence, people of all backgrounds who reject bigotry must understand the history of Canada, and learn to stand together. We cannot sit quietly when our neighbours or co-workers or family members begin repeating racist mantras taken from Trump speeches or internet sites. When any of us are attacked - racialized communities, LGBTQ people, trade unionists, women, Muslims, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, social justice activists - we need to unite and reject every effort to sow divisions. When we are told that Canadian troops must be sent overseas to “liberate” people in other countries, we need to ask hard questions: what about oppressed and marginalized peoples here in Canada? Why are we waging wars in other countries for the benefit of big energy and resource corporations?

            The tragedy in Quebec City was not the first mass murder in Canadian history, and sadly, it may not be the last. Our responsibility is to do everything possible to turn back the tide of racist violence, and to make our own government speak out against the actions of the new US administration, which is deliberately fanning the flames of hatred.

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By Corinne Benson, Edmonton

            It is hard to understand how with a majority NDP Government we are having labour conflicts like the one with Points West Living in Cold Lake.

            On a very cold Feb. 3 I attended a rally of about l50 strikers and supporters in front of the PWL Office (which had conveniently moved) about their lockout on Dec.16th.

            PWL is one of the most profitable and fastest growing for-profit seniors providers operating in Alberta. They receive millions in taxpayer dollars and retain a portion in profit, but how this money is spent is not disclosed to the public.

            Alberta Union of Provincial Employees represents 160 employees who have been bargaining for a fair contract at four PWL facilities. The facility in Cold Lake joined the union two years ago but still cannot get a first contract. This is an old story in Alberta, where labour laws do not make getting a first contract easy, even with an NDP government.

            The problem can't be credited to a lack of money. According to the AUPE website, “After a sale in 2015 valued at approximately $100 million, all PWL sites are owned by the same Ontario based company. In the year before the sale PWL profits increased 46%, rising from $864,593 to $1,262,636. The company expects to increase its value to $500 million over the next 3 to 5 years. PWL's CEO Doug Mills, and Vice-President of Human Resources and Administration Paul Melanson each own an 8.3 percent share in Points West Inc. profits in addition to their regular salaries and additional compensation. In 2015 these bonuses were set at $175,000 for Rath and Melanson and $250,000 for Mills.”

             Again this is from the AUPE website: “Between 2008 and 2013, PWL received more than $32 million of public funding to build six facilities, as well as operating funding of $25,000-$65,000/per bed and additional funding for medical equipment and facility upgrades.”

            The emphasis at the rally was not on wages, but working conditions. Most staff work part-time or casually, and they want solutions to problems of short staffing, arbitrary scheduling and concerns about training. This includes respect for seniority. The casual nature of the work force does drive wages down, but more seriously offers much degraded care to the seniors. The relationship between staff, and with the residents, is more difficult to maintain. Regulations in this field are in much need of improvement. Because there aren't any strict ratios of staff to residents, staff can be severely overworked, which deteriorates the ability to care well for residents.

            The issue of training and regulations was also brought up. As frontline workers, these are employees who can witness the neglect and abuse of those in great need, and their voices should be heard.

            Union negotiator John Weaver said that most private for-profits have similar problems, and that 60% of senior care facilities are private for-profit. This contract has far-reaching implications for care of seniors, because there are first contracts at the Stettler and Slave Lake sites, as well as re-negotiations at Century Park and Heritage House. Profiteering off both residents and workers should be challenged, along with quality of care. With its profits and taxpayers’ money, the company is housing replacement workers in hotels at great cost, to break the union. Ultimately this will be used against us all, if this is how we will be cared for in our old age.

            For more information, visit; this site will help you to send a letter to the government.

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People’s Voice Editorial

            As politics in the U.S. gets increasingly vicious, working people are regularly told that we only have two choices: first, the racist bigots who portray themselves as “outsiders” and “defenders” of working class interests against a growing array of convenient scapegoats - the “liberal elite,” immigrants, Muslims, China, feminists, LGBTQ people, environmentalists, Black Lives Matter, indigenous land defenders, ad nauseum. The second choice in this limited menu? That would be the traditional “liberal-minded” big business and social-democratic parties which have governed much of Europe and North America while income gaps widen and capitalist economic crises hammer the working class. These parties have also been vigorous advocates of imperialist wars and corporate investment pacts.

            Are there differences between these ruling class groupings? Of course, and some are quite significant. Those who hope that the Trumps and Le Pens of the world will benefit working people by tearing up trade deals should remember that the majority of today’s working class are women who face severe attacks on equity gains and reproductive rights, or who come from racialized communities which are the targets of racist and fascist terror fanned by ultra-right politicians.

            But we do have another choice: the option of building broad coalitions to lead militant resistance struggles, and to campaign for truly fundamental progressive change. Such movements cannot be based on political support for mainstream pro-capitalist parties, but they must reach out to millions of people who vote against ultra-right candidates, and to others who fall temporarily for the false promises of fascist demagogues. This requires unity around policies that put people’s needs ahead of corporate greed, along with environmental justice, labour rights, social equality, civil liberties, and international solidarity rather than imperialist militarism. This alternative will not emerge full-blown, it must be achieved through the hard work of movement-building and outreach. All the more reason to start now!

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People’s Voice Editorial

            The one “silver lining” in the US election was said by some to be reduced tensions between the United States and Russia, an opportunity to end decades of Cold War hostility. Those on the left who reject such a prospect (for example repeating the false claim that Russia “annexed” Crimea - which has historically always been part of Russia), are letting US imperialism off the hook for its role as the primary threat to world peace.

            Early indications are that while the targets may be shifted, the overall foreign policy of the United States remains militaristic, aggressive and dangerous. One of the most serious signals is the escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran. The UK-based Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR), is calling on labour, peace and democratic movements worldwide to be on the alert against a possible conflict between the two countries.

            Trump put Tehran “on notice” after Iran’s recent unsuccessful test of the Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile, imposing new sanctions against Iranian individuals and companies the US claims are linked to the missile programme. As CODIR stresses, the 2015 nuclear energy accord between Iran, the US and other powers prohibited research into nuclear weapons, but not missiles with conventional warheads like the one launched in January. In another ominous development, Defence Secretary James Mattis called Iran “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East,” and sent the destroyer USS Cole to the Yemeni coast to protect warships of the Saudi-led invasion coalition from missiles launched by pro-Iranian coastal defence forces.

            Whatever Donald Trump’s personal intentions may be, US imperialism has not abandoned its drive for global domination, or its militarist foreign policy. This is not a time to “wait and see”- it is urgent to renew and rebuild the anti-war movement.

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By George Gidora, leader of the Communist Party of BC

            Upon taking office, Christy Clark tried to distance herself from the legacy of Gordon Campbell, starting with a temporary reduction of his enormous tax breaks to the rich and the corporations, and the first minimum wage increase in over a decade. But the tax breaks were fully restored after Clark won the 2013 provincial election, and BC has again fallen near the bottom of provincial minimum wage rates. The Premier still refuses to increase taxes on higher income earners or corporate profits, and rejects wide public demands for a $15 minimum wage. Under her government, social cuts continue, living standards have declined, child poverty rates remain among the worst in Canada, rents have skyrocketed, and 150,000 people are officially unemployed (many more have dropped out of the labour force and aren't counted). It took a Supreme Court of Canada ruling to force Clark to restore a fraction of the Liberal cuts to education funding since 2002.

           Until recently, the Premier received a $50,000 annual stipend (on top of her salary) from the proceeds of fundraising dinners attended by big corporate contributors. Her government gives full support to the big business drive for expanded extraction and export of natural resources, while ignoring inherent Indigenous rights and strong community opposition to dangerous projects like the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the Site C dam which will flood valuable agricultural land in the Peace River, and the Ajax open-pit mine which threatens environmental disaster for Kamloops.

            The verdict is clear: despite wearing a hard hat in her glitzy TV ads, BC's Big Business Premier Christy Clark heads a government totally bought and paid for by corporate interests.

            After the 2013 election, the Communist Party of BC made this analysis: "the defeat of the NDP proves yet again that change cannot be won simply through electoral tactics. This is not to dismiss the aspirations of labour and progressive activists who worked so hard to elect a new government. Their courageous efforts over the past twelve years, and during this election, deserved a far better result. But this struggle was not matched by the NDP leadership, which repeatedly dampened any hopes of reversing the damage inflicted by the Liberals, instead calling for "small, realistic" changes. In fact, the NDP (like social democratic parties in other countries) largely accepts the basic premise that the capitalist system can only be adjusted, not challenged. This allowed the Liberals to set the tone for the campaign, falsely pitting "economic growth" against "the environment", when in fact the Liberal record on both issues has been dismal."

            At the time, we also pointed out that "the key struggles over the coming four years will be in workplaces, communities, and wilderness areas across British Columbia. The Liberal attack must be met with a powerful, militant, united response, by working people, First Nations, youth, seniors, women. We cannot allow our movements to be distracted and divided by narrow electoral ambitions, nor by counter-productive tactics of isolated individuals. Only broad, united movements can set the stage for fundamental change in British Columbia. The BC Federation of Labour, and other organized labour groups in the province can play a crucial and positive role in such a struggle..."

            Since then, a few mass struggles have forced the government to pull back for tactical reasons, and the NDP caucus in Victoria has raised some important criticisms about the anti-people and environmentally destructive policies of the Clark Liberals. With the May 9th election just around the corner, the NDP under its new leader, John Horgan, has made a handful of progressive policy announcements, such as support for the campaigns to establish a $10/day child care system, and to legislate a $15 minimum wage.

            But the NDP refuses to directly challenge the austerity policies of the Liberals, or even to roll back Campbell's tax cuts. If anything, the NDP is yet again reaching out to big business, rather than mobilizing the working class and its allies around a platform of far-reaching economic and social reforms. As seen in the 2013 provincial election and the 2015 federal campaign, the underlying strategy is to present the NDP as the best managers of the capitalist system, "ready to govern" without rocking the boat.

            In contrast, the Communist Party of BC gives full support to movements which defend the interests of working people, including for a higher minimum wage, a provincial child care program, truly affordable housing, and doubled social assistance and disability rates. We demand to restore the pre-2001 tax rates, and to block new oil pipelines, the Site C dam, and the Ajax mine. We urge voters to defeat the Liberals in this election, but the struggle for real change will continue after May 9th.

            Communist candidates are campaigning on a platform to win fundamental reforms in British Columbia. A larger vote for Communist candidates will be an important signal that many working people are looking for radical change, not just capitalism with a different face.

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Statement by the Communist Party (BC), Jan. 30, 2017

            With BC’s 2017 election just three months away, anger continues to build at the Liberal government’s consistent record of attacks on public education. The Communist Party (BC) condemns the Clark government for underfunding public schools, transferring taxpayer funding to private and religious schools, and bullying teachers, parents, students, and school trustees who speak out for adequate funding. Despite the Premier’s attempts to whitewash her record in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the government acted unconstitutionally in 2002 by stripping the teachers’ contract, her party’s anti-public education stance is well documented.  

            The government’s policies forced school boards to cut thousands of classroom positions, costing a whole generation of children the quality of education that they deserved. These students will never recover those lost learning opportunities, and society will bear the ongoing costs associated with young people who have been deprived of supports they should have received during their schooling years. That social cost is far greater than the $2.6 million in legal costs of the government’s needless court battle.

            The firing of the Vancouver School Board last fall is one of the most glaring examples of the Liberal government’s contempt for the people of British Columbia. Over many years, well before winning a majority on the VSB in 2002, COPE school trustees in Vancouver were known for defending the interests of students, staff, and parents in the city’s school system. Refusing to succumb to pressures to “just go along” with underfunding, or to refrain from advocacy efforts which challenged governing political parties in Victoria, COPE trustees on the VSB were tireless in their efforts to keep the impact of funding cuts out of the classroom. This principled stand continued with the Vision-COPE majority of trustees elected in 2008, and with the Vision majority of 2011.

            During these terms of majority progressive trustees, the VSB kept up the pressure on the  the Liberals to provide adequate funding for public schools, and cooperated with trustees, teachers, support staff, student and parent groups to advocate for improved public education. As outspoken critics of the government’s policies, Vancouver school trustees played a key role in efforts to inform British Columbians about the realities of the attack on the public school system.

            For this reason, the VSB (like the BCTF) became the target of constant political attacks, first by the government of Premier Gordon Campbell (in which Christy Clark served as Education Minister during a crucial period), and then by the government of Premier Clark herself. On several occasions, both premiers made false allegations about the fiscal policies of the VSB, and wasted huge amounts of taxpayer dollars on witch-hunt investigations into the Board’s budget and management practices. Meanwhile, under both premiers, funding was being shifted towards private, elite, for-profit schools, with the aim of creating a two-tier school system in British Columbia - a fully-funded high-quality system for the wealthy, and a poorer-quality system for the rest of the population. Hundreds of public schools were closed and thousands of teaching and support positions were eliminated by local boards as a result of the government’s policies.

            Underfunding has had a crippling impact in Vancouver schools. Figures provided by the VSB show that the Board’s 2002/03 budget was $415 million. By the year 2015, the amount required to maintain 2002 service levels was an estimated $559.4 million. Yet the VSB budget for 2016 was only $480 million - a shortfall of $79.4 million. This amount would cover the hiring of 810 entry-level teaching positions, and $13.2 million in lost services and supplies.

            Facing growing opposition, and realizing that the Supreme Court of Canada was about to rule yet again in favour of the BC Teachers Federation in the court case over contract-shredding, the Liberals decided to play a classic political game, wrongly blaming the VSB trustees for failing to meet their legal obligations. The Board was fired hours before submitting a balanced budget for the 2016-17 school year, and replaced by a single appointed trustee. After the subsequent SCC ruling, the government finally was compelled to begin negotiating with the BCTF on some funding increases. The first part of this increase was $50 million for the entire province, enough to restore about 1000 teaching positions, with $4.4 million allocated to Vancouver, or 95 positions. This interim relief is welcome, but only a small part of the funding necessary to restore the cuts imposed over the past decade and a half.

            The Communist Party of BC extends full credit to the BCTF for their well-deserved legal and political victory, and to the fired Vancouver trustees for their part in this struggle. We join with all those who demand an immediate byelection for the nine VSB trustee positions, rather than forcing one of the largest school districts in the province to limp along with one appointed trustee until the civic elections scheduled for November 2018. The people of Vancouver should not be punished for electing trustees with the courage and principles to fight for improved public education, even if this stance angered provincial politicians. They deserve the same democratic rights as other citizens of British Columbia, and they need an elected school board to defend the interests of our students, staff and communities.

            When British Columbians go to the polls on May 9, the CPBC also urges voters to support candidates and parties which have demonstrated strong support for fully-funded public education, including complete reversal of the Liberal cuts, and a definitive end to the funding of private and for-profit schools, including the huge tax credits which subsidize parents who send their children to such schools. The CPBC’s candidates will speak out strongly for such policies; we urge other parties to do the same, and to condemn the drive to create a two-tier school system in British Columbia.

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            Canada’s unions are urging the Canadian government to denounce the US Executive Order barring Syrian refugees and discriminating against other travellers of Muslim faith or background. They also want Canada to do more to help those most affected.

            “The measures being implemented by the US administration are based on ignorance, Islamophobia and hate and have nothing to do with protecting national security,” said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff on Jan. 31. “Instead, they inspire violence everywhere and threaten the security of thousands of families desperately fleeing terror in their own countries.”

            Yussuff emphasized that the ban was inconsistent with a long tradition of millions of Americans welcoming asylum seekers and immigrants and celebrating their contributions to their country.

            “President Trump’s divisive policies do not reflect the will of the majority of Americans, a fact borne out by the millions of people who have taken to the streets and social media in protest,” he said.

            He linked the anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies put forward by the US administration to the kind of hate that inspired Sunday night’s attack on Muslim worshippers in Quebec City.

            “We don’t yet know what motivated Sunday night’s attack in Quebec City, but we cannot deny that the kind of racism and Islamophobia reflected in the US administration’s rhetoric and approach to governing perpetuates fear and encourages hate crimes against Muslim communities,” said Yussuff.

            This is why, he said, it was crucial for the Canadian Prime Minister to denounce the US administration’s anti-Muslim travel ban as discriminatory.

            “Our government has already shown international leadership by publicly welcoming refugees and making it clear that we will not discriminate based on faith or ethnicity,” said Yussuff. “Now Canada must send a clear message to the US and to the world by denouncing this blatantly discriminatory approach, and making it clear that the hate and violence it inspires will not be tolerated,” he added.

            Yussuff said that Canada’s labour movement was also adding its voice to those of human rights and refugee organizations across Canada that are calling on the government to take a number of concrete steps to help those affected by the ban. Those steps include:

- Immediately increasing Canada’s refugee resettlement targets and accepting more refugee sponsorship applications. Current targets mean just 7,500 Government Assisted Refugees and 16,000 Privately Sponsored Refugees can be admitted to Canada in 2017. That number must increase. The Canadian government must also reverse measures that limit private refugee sponsorship so that communities can do more to help with resettlement.

- Helping those stranded now by, on an emergency basis, offering asylum to all those who – despite having passed a two-year rigorous screening process – are being denied entry to the US.

- Withdrawing from the Safe Third Country Agreement, which bars anyone entering Canada from the US from claiming refugee status. The US cannot be considered a “safe” country for refugees, and Canada must ensure all would-be claimants know they can safely apply at our border.

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            The Communist Party of Canada has condemned the Liberal government’s decision to abandon its promise to introduce electoral reform, calling it self-serving and anti-democratic.

            “The PM says there ‘s no consensus in the country for electoral reform”, said Communist leader Liz Rowley, “but that’s not true. Seventy percent of electors cast votes for parties that campaigned for electoral reform, including the NDP, Greens, Communists, and the Liberals who promised to make every vote count and to do it in time for the next election. That’s a clear mandate.

            “What’s changed is the consensus in the Liberal Party. A year after winning a majority government with only 39% of the popular vote, the new consensus is that making every vote count would reduce Liberal seats in Parliament, and that can’t be allowed,” said Rowley, noting the Conservatives also oppose electoral reform and for the same reasons.

            The first-past-the-post system has enabled an exclusive monopoly on government by the Liberals and Tories – and the corporations they represent - for 150 years. It has allowed both parties to secure majorities in Parliament with less than 40% of the popular vote, to introduce policies they campaigned against after an election, including Mulroney’s Free Trade Agreement (1988), and Trudeau’s pipelines and climate change policies (2016), on top of devastating austerity policies (introduced by both) that have slashed jobs, wages, and pensions, cut living standards, privatized public services and assets, legislated massive corporate tax cuts, imposed global corporate trade deals, and undermined labour, civil and democratic rights.

            This is the real reason why Liberal and Tory governments refuse to introduce electoral reform. And it’s the reason why many working people feel obliged to vote strategically to block the election of the party with the most dangerous policies, instead of the party with the policies they want to support.

            The Communist Party demands the government carry through its election commitment to deliver electoral reform before the next election, and to introduce legislation enacting Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) which has been the demand of citizens’ assemblies that have studied electoral reform across Canada, and which has the support of large and representative organizations such as the Canadian Labour Congress, Fair Vote Canada, Council of Canadians, and many others.

            The Communist Party of Canada, the second oldest party in Canada, was the first to advocate a system of proportional representation in Canada. We also campaign for:

• Sharply reduced spending ceilings on parties and candidates, during and between elections

• An end to restrictions on financial contributions from trade unions and individuals

• Candidates’ and Leaders debates to include all nominated candidates and Party leaders

• Leaders’ televised debates to be regulated under the Canada Elections Act

• Right to recall legislation

• Comprehensive enumeration at every election

• Lowering the voting age to 16

• Reducing MPs remuneration to the average worker’s wage

            Democracy, including democratic electoral reform, is under threat by right-wing governments and movements around the world, which aim to curb civil and democratic rights, labour rights, social and equality rights. The government’s decision to renege on electoral reform will only encourage those far right forces targeting democracy in Canada. This is the wrong message for Canada to send.

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By David Lazarus, February 3, 2017

             Supporters of healthcare reform may feel disheartened as President Trump and Republican lawmakers prepare to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with … well, something. They can’t even agree among themselves on what the U.S. healthcare system should look like.

            But there’s reason for hope, albeit a long shot. OK, a very long shot.

            Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) has introduced a bill that would expand Medicare to “provide for comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents.” In other words, it would build on the successful single-payer insurance program that already covers more than 55 million people and bring the United States in line with almost all other developed nations in providing taxpayer-funded health coverage for everyone.

            Needless to say, the legislation — HR 676 — has no chance of passage by the Republican-controlled Congress.

            However, the fact that such a bill exists serves as a reminder that there are some in positions of power who understand the pitfalls of the U.S.’s private-sector-dominated health insurance system, and who are willing to place national interest ahead of corporate profits.

            Also, some backers of the legislation think there’s at least one prominent Republican who might come around to their way of thinking.

            “Donald Trump is a businessman, not a lifetime politician,” said Dr. Carol Paris, head of Physicians for a National Health Program, which represents 20,000 doctors who support creation of a U.S. single-payer insurance system. “HR 676 is a formula for good business. It makes good business sense.”

            She’ll get no argument from me. A 2014 study by the Commonwealth Fund compared the U.S. healthcare system to those of 10 other developed countries, including Canada, Germany, France and Britain.

            It found that the United States had by far the most expensive system in the world but trailed its peers in delivering bang for its healthcare bucks. Administrative costs — paperwork, incompatible computer systems, interactions between doctors, hospitals and hundreds of insurers — eat up about 25% of U.S. healthcare spending.

            Meanwhile, at an average of more than $10,000 per person, the United States pays more for healthcare annually than any other developed country without any significant improvement in outcome, such as longer life expectancy. The typical American can expect to live to 79, whereas citizens of other developed nations will live past 80, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

            “International experience shows that single-payer financing systems, like the one described in Rep. Conyers’ bill, are the fairest and most cost-effective way to assure that everyone gets high-quality care,” Paris said.

            Conyers, however, isn’t holding his breath. He told me he doesn’t think Trump — whom he described as “erratic” — will suddenly embrace the common-sense advantages of Medicare for all. Nor does he think House Republicans will be flexible in their thinking.

             “This is not something that they’re going to buy into,” Conyers said, “even though countries with universal healthcare find that it costs less and is healthier for people. We’re just too polarized right now.”

            Nevertheless, he said he’s optimistic about the future. Conyers expects the Republicans’ replacement of Obamacare to be so troublesome that the public will grow increasingly receptive to new ideas. This will allow a case to be made for Medicare expansion.

            “Taking 20 million people out of Obamacare is going to help our cause,” he said. “We’ve got all the arguments on our side.”

            His bill already has 51 co-sponsors, including California’s Judy Chu, Mark DeSaulnier, John Garamendi, Jared Huffman, Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Grace Napolitano, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Mark Takano. No Republicans have signed on.

            Under HR 676, “all individuals residing in the United States (including any territory of the United States) are covered under the Medicare For All Program, entitling them to a universal, best quality standard of care.”

            The bill would cover primary care, emergency care, prescription drugs, medical equipment, long-term care, mental health services, dental services, chiropractic services, basic vision care and other healthcare needs.

            And try this on for size: “No deductibles, copayments, coinsurance or other cost-sharing shall be imposed with respect to covered benefits.” Instead, funding would be made primarily through payroll taxes, as is already the case with Medicare and Social Security.

            A 2013 analysis of an earlier version of Conyers’ legislation by Gerald Friedman, a healthcare economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, found that progressive federal tax payments “would cost less for 95% of households” than the current system of deductibles, premiums and copayments.

            He also concluded that because of huge administrative savings and greater negotiating strength with hospitals, doctors and drug companies, a Medicare-for-all system “would make it possible to provide universal coverage and comprehensive benefits to future generations.”

            This isn’t “socialism” and it isn’t “government-run healthcare.” Doctors would still be free to practice medicine as they see fit. It’s simply a more effective and efficient way of managing healthcare risk for the entire population.

            Private health insurers would battle ferociously to prevent such a change, but they wouldn’t be put out of business. Rather than providing total coverage, they’d simply shift to offering supplemental plans, as they already do. A more competitive market for added coverage would only benefit Americans.

            It’s widely believed that Republican replacements for the Affordable Care Act will include health savings accounts coupled with high-deductible plans from private insurers, as well as high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions that all but guarantee limited coverage and sky-high premiums.

            Think about that. Now think about the broad coverage featured in Conyers’ bill being available for less than what you pay now.

            Think about having the same coverage regardless of your job (or lack thereof). Think about the number of people without insurance dropping to zero.

            Think about Americans finally enjoying the same healthcare benefits as the rest of the developed world.

            What’s not to like?

            David Lazarus is a business columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and a part-time radio host. This column was distributed by the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care--HR 676,

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By Andrew Smith, Morning Star (UK)

            The High Court in London is considering a case that could set a vital precedent and be instrumental in changing British arms export policy.

            On February 7-9, following an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), judges examined the legality of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

            For almost two years now, Saudi forces have inflicted a brutal and devastating bombing campaign on the people of Yemen. Schools, hospitals, and homes have been destroyed in a bombardment that has killed 10,000 people and inflicted a humanitarian catastrophe on one of the poorest countries in the region.

            The appalling consequences have been condemned by the United Nations, the European Parliament, and major aid agencies on the ground, with the Red Cross warning that the country has been left on the edge of famine.

            A harrowing report from UNICEF has found that one child is dying every 10 minutes because of malnutrition, diarrhoea, and respiratory-tract infections in Yemen, with 400,000 at risk of starvation.

            Right at the outset of the bombing, Britain’s then-foreign secretary Philip Hammond pledged to “support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat.” Unfortunately, the British government has stayed true to his word. One major way in which it has done this is through the sale of arms.

            Despite the destruction, and despite its appalling human rights record at home, Saudi Arabia is by far the largest buyer of British arms. The arms sales haven’t slowed down; in fact, Britain has licensed over £3.3 billion (US$4.1 billion) worth of arms since the bombing began. These include Typhoon fighter jets, which have been used in the bombardment, and missiles and bombs that reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have linked to attacks on civilian targets.

            Last month, Saudi forces even admitted to using British-made cluster bombs, one of the cruellest and deadliest weapons that can be used in warfare. When bombs are dropped they open up in mid-air to release hundreds of sub-munitions. Their impact is indiscriminate. Anybody within the striking area is very likely to be killed or seriously injured.

            The bombs were exported in 1988, but the lifespan of weapons is very often longer than that of the political situation they are bought in. How will the billions of pounds’ worth of weapons being sold now be used and who will they be used against?

            If cluster bombs are not considered beyond the pale by the Saudi military, then what is the likelihood that its personnel are doing everything in their power to avoid civilian casualties? It’s not just the bombs that are deadly; it is the mindset which allows their use in the first place.

            British arms export law is very clear. It says that licenses for military equipment should not be granted if there is a “clear risk” that it “might” be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law. By any reasonable interpretation, these criteria should definitely prohibit all arms sales to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen.

            Of course the relationship is nothing new and the problem is institutional rather than party-political. For decades now successive British governments of all political colours have armed and uncritically supported the Saudi regime.

            In 2006, we saw former Prime Minister Tony Blair intervening to stop a corruption investigation into arms deals between Saudi Arabia and BAE Systems. This was quickly followed by another multibillion-pound fighter jet sale. In 2013 and 2014, we saw then-Prime Minister David Cameron and even Prince Charles making visits to the Saudi Kingdom where they posed for fawning photographs and pushed arms sales.

            One outcome of this cosy partnership has been a high level of integration between British and Saudi military programs. There are around 240 British Ministry of Defence civil servants and military personnel working to support the contracts through the Ministry of Defence Saudi Armed Forces Program and the Saudi Arabia National Guard Communications Project.

            The political consensus seems to be shifting though, with the Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat front benches – and many Tory backbench legislators – all calling for arms sales to be suspended while an independent investigation into their legality takes place. This has gone a long way in shifting the terms of the debate.

            But, even if it is taken up, it can not be enough unless it is complemented by an end to future arms sales and a meaningful change in foreign policy.

            Regardless of the outcome in court, it is already clear how weak and broken British arms export controls are. A brutal dictatorship has created a humanitarian catastrophe, killed thousands of civilians, and flouted international law and yet Britain has continued arming and supporting it.

            Instead of following its own rules on arms sales, the government has prioritised arms company profits over human rights. If that’s not enough to stop arms sales, then what more would it take?

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By Nino Pagliccia

            Tuesday, February 4th of 1992 was going to be just another ordinary day for Venezuelans. From early morning hours the traffic in large cities like Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia and Maracay would get congested for most of the day. Students would be going to school. It would be just a normal workday for those who were lucky to have a job.

            Not many knew that Carlos Andrés Pérez, the president of Venezuela, had been away attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and was due to return on that day if not the night before.

            The majority of Venezuelans did not care much about an event that had no immediate relevance for them. Other concerns affected them directly: a stagnant GDP growth, high unemployment, low wages, rampant poverty levels triggered by the IMF neoliberal economic reforms adopted by the Pérez government and the country’s corrupt political establishment. Pérez himself was eventually impeached on charges of embezzlement in 1993. He was sentenced to prison in 1996. Then sentenced again in 1998 on a separate corruption case, but he fled to Florida where he later died.

            However, that February 4th Venezuelans woke up to a different day. A day that put an indelible mark in the history of Venezuela.

            Lieutenant-Colonel Hugo Chávez Frías had built for years among many of his fellow soldiers the conviction that a rebellion was not only necessary but also possible in Venezuela. His ideals were those that motivated the Liberator, Simón Bolívar, to fight for an independent Latin America. Chávez believed that the “Bolivarian project”, as he called it, belonged to the 21st Century. The project had not been completed, since Venezuela and the rest of Latin America were still not independent and were in reality under a neo-colonial domination, albeit by another country.

            Chávez said later that since the beginning of the 20th Century “it’s been the same system, in economics and politics, the same denial of human rights and of the right of the people to determine their own destiny… Venezuela was suffering a terminal crisis, ruled by a dictatorship dressed up in democratic clothing.” [1]

            He had assessed that there was great discontent among Venezuelans, and came to the conclusion that the time was ripe for a military rebellion that would be fully supported by the population.

            Chávez and his close collaborators worked out a detailed plan with military precision that involved the full control of Caracas, the capital city, with battalions, including the air force, coming from Maracay and Valencia. Other large cities like Maracaibo and Barquisimeto would also be taken. Ultimately TV stations would broadcast nationally Chávez’s pre-recorded speech to the population explaining what was happening and asking them to join the rebellion.

            After eliminating other alternative dates for the action, the best opportunity was the night of February 3rd to 4th. Confirmation came that the president was returning from Davos the night of February 3rd. He would be taken prisoner by surprise at the airport and taken to Chávez’s rebel headquarters at the Military History Museum in Caracas. Immediately a National General Council would be formed with military and civilians in order to elect a new president. That was the plan.

            Alas, no masterful plan can survive a treasonous action. A traitor leaked the plan and the president was tipped off, avoiding apprehension at the airport. The rebel air support also failed, and after a few hours the rebellion had no chance of succeeding. In the early morning of February 4th, Chávez surrendered to avoid bloodshed.

            What followed from this initial defeat is the stuff of revolutionary legends that are born from a timely combination of circumstances and presence of mind.

            Not knowing that the main objective in Caracas was not achieved, the rebel forces in Valencia, Maracay and Maracaibo were making advances, controlling the cities with the help of civilians. Chávez weighed the risks and decided that it was futile to continue, since eventually they would be captured and possibly killed by government forces. He suggested to his captors that the only way of communicating with his supporters and asking them to surrender was via a live TV broadcast. They agreed, failing to realize that the whole of Venezuela, now on alert, would have an opportunity to see and hear this audacious Bolivarian soldier.

            In full military fatigue and red beret of the paratroopers, self-assured and in control, Chávez appeared on live national TV that same morning. While his words called his comrades to surrender, his message was a promise that this was not the end of the struggle. He said in part, “Comrades: Unfortunately, for now, the objectives that we had set for ourselves have not been achieved in the capital. That's to say that those of us here in Caracas have not been able to seize power. Where you are, you have performed well, but now is the time for a rethink; new possibilities will arise again, and the country will be able to move definitively toward a better future.” [2]

            Although founded ten years before, Chávez’sMovimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario” had its baptism of fire in the ashes of a failed coup. However, Chávez’s real successful coup on that February 4th materialized - he was able to reach out to the population and deliver a seemingly encrypted message conveying his real intentions. Venezuelans took notice and did not forget. More than 80% of Venezuelans supported the rebellion.

            Reminiscent of Fidel Castro in his famous recognition of José Martí as the author of another attempted takeover of the Moncada military barracks in Cuba, at the end of February, still captive, Chávez declared in an interview, “The true author of the liberation, authentic leader of this rebellion is General Simón Bolívar.” He remained faithful to his Bolivarian mission reflected in the official renaming of the country as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

            Having participated in the multi-party electoral process of 1998, on February 2, 1999 Hugo Chavez was sworn in as President. Breaking protocol, Chavez pronounced his own pledge: “I swear in front of God, in front of the homeland and in front of my people that over this moribund constitution I will push forward the democratic transformations that are necessary so that the new republic will have an adequate magna carta for the times.” [3]

            He was true to his own words.

[1] Bart Jones. The Hugo Chavez Story – from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution. Random House 2008, p. 136.



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Excerpts from a speech by Fred Kowal, President of the United University Professions, to the union’s delegate assembly on January 29, 2017. UUP represents 42,000 professors and other academic faculty and professionals in the State University of New York’s 29 campuses, and is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO. Kowal has taught political science and Native American studies at SUNY’s Cobleskill campus.

             So, here we are. Our nation listened to the words of one who in his life has shown no deep appreciation for the truth. One who has expressed heinous statements regarding how he sees and treats women. One who sought to destroy the legitimacy of the first African American President with lies, in what I call a political hate crime. One who mocked disabled people, referred to all of those in one ethnic group as rapists, and called for the removal of those belonging to a certain religious faith from the Land of the Free. One whose ambition, narcissism and manipulation of peoples’ fears and insecurities through a masterful understanding of the shallowness of so much of the media today have resulted in the rise of a government, elected by a minority of Americans, that will pursue the most extremist agenda in our nation’s history...         Democracy is fragile. As is justice. And equality. The arc of history may bend to a better world, but that arc is also easily bent back to oppression, isolation, mistrust and cynicism. We are seeing it now. A secretary of education who knows nothing about education - certainly not higher education - and rejects the Jeffersonian precept that a democracy demands a public education system to bring forth an enlightened population. A secretary of labor who despises labor, the work we do and the need for just wages. A secretary of energy who doesn’t even know what the department is or does. A secretary of health and human services who opposes science and the right to health care. A director of the environmental protection agency who wants to destroy the agency he would lead. This is a total rejection of the role of government, and thus a rejection of the reality that government is the creation of the people to reflect the highest aspirations of self rule. It is a rejection of democracy. It is fascism...

            The night is dark. And dawn is far off. Some say we should not resist this calamity. Some labor leaders, even some progressives in the Democratic Party say that we must work with Trump where we can, to get what we can, for our constituent groups. Some say that we should simply accept reality and go about our days with the understanding that this man is now the leader of our nation. Get over it, they say. Whiners, they call us. I’m not a whiner. And I refuse to get over it. What is the it? Donald Trump was elected by an 18th century, undemocratic, constitutional provision which southern states insisted upon to defend the racist institution of slavery. Ironic, isn’t it?

            ...To win, we must resist from beginning to end, strategically and consistently. We must through it all remember that we are the majority. We have the power that Trump and his followers only dream of and wish for. We will win because hope always wins. And what will we win? We will win back not “our country,” but everyone’s country: Black, white, red, brown, gay, straight, trans, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, secular - laborers all. This is everyone’s country and we claim it in the cause of justice!

            ...When Native Americans stood their ground on the plains of North Dakota to stop an invasion of their land by oil pipeline companies, an invasion that threatened their water supply and their sacred land, UUP joined them and I was proud to write to the Tribal Chairperson to tell him that THIS union would stand for justice for our sisters and brothers and not be blinded by short term economic benefit for the few. And when Donald Trump announced that he will push for the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline to continue, despite widespread opposition, I readied myself for the inevitable trip to Dakota to stand with our sisters and brothers. We will not back down. No, we will rise up because justice does not discriminate base on race or on power....

            So let the clarion call ring forth. We hear it. We heed its call. We rise up - in the face of the hatred we’ve heard directed at our sisters and brothers. We rise up - in the face of the division we’ve seen sown amongst us. We rise up -- in the dawn of the new day that summons us as few times have summoned us before: To hold high the banner of Justice, Equality, and Peace. Rise up, Today...Tomorrow... and till the end of time in the name of hope and solidarity forever.

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