People’s Voice April 16-30, 2017
Volume 25 – Number 07   $1

CONTENTS

1) TELL TRUMP - NO TO WAR! HANDS OFF SYRIA!

2) ACT NOW TO CONDEMN US MILITARY STRIKE ON SYRIA! DEMAND CANADA OPPOSE THIS WANTON AGGRESSION!

3) AGAINST THE “ALT-RIGHT” ON CAMPUS

4) DEFEAT THE BC LIBERALS, VOTE FOR FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

5) EARTH DAY AND CLIMATE JUSTICE - Editorial

6) WORKPLACE DEATHS: A CAPITALIST DISEASE - Editorial

7) A CANADIAN SURGE?

8) CORNER BROOKERS RALLY IN DEFENCE OF MEDIA FREEDOM

9) RCMP ADMITS TO “STINGRAY” USAGE

10) SAY NO TO U.S. AGGRESSION AGAINST  DPRK!

11) TIME FOR PRESIDENT ZUMA TO RESIGN, SAYS SACP

12) UK UNIONS WARN TORIES OVER BREXIT

13) CRUISE MISSILE ATTACKS: A NEW STEP IN WASHINGTON’S LONG CLASS WAR ON SYRIA

 

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(The following articles are from the April 16-30, 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.)

 

1) TELL TRUMP - NO TO WAR! HANDS OFF SYRIA!

 

Statement by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, April 7, 2017

 

US President Donald Trump’s illegal bombing of Syria yesterday is a war crime.

 

            Prime Minister Trudeau’s statement this morning, supporting the US airstrikes, makes Canada complicit in these war crimes.

 

            We call on the Liberal government to oppose the US airstrikes, to take a firm position supporting a return to the peace process and a negotiated settlement, and to demand a full investigation into the release of sarin gas which led to the deaths of 80 civilians.

 

            There is no proof – nor any investigation – to determine who is responsible. What is known is that the Pentagon has trained the terrorists in the use of sarin gas, and that the terrorists had stock-piled sarin gas in secret storage facilities that were bombed by government air strikes last week.

 

            Trump’s rush to war suggests the truth is incidental – or inconvenient for the US administration, which has fought to overthrow the Assad government for years, using mercenaries and terrorists recruited and trained to do their dirty work from the most reactionary countries in the Middle East.

 

            Now that the Syrian government is defeating the terrorists, including ISIS, Al’Nusra, and others, the US has no more proxy forces inside the country able to overthrow the government from within.

 

            In fact the peace process was proceeding well at the international level, with peace talks including the Assad government well underway, and the war against the terrorists nearly won. For the democratically elected Assad government, the prospects of a peaceful and negotiated political solution were at hand.  They clearly had no interest in derailing the peace process.

 

            Honest people must ask themselves, who benefits from the sarin gas deaths and the US airstrikes on Syria?

 

            The answer, clearly, is the reactionary states in the region which have called for a no-fly zone and US military intervention to overthrow the Assad government, and a US President and Republican administration in deep trouble at home, unable to move legislation forward in the Congress, with very low public approval ratings and mass opposition growing, including inside the Republican caucuses. Not least, Trump is in trouble because of a budget which shifts $54 billion out of social spending into spending for war.

 

            The terrorist stock-piling of sarin gas and the terrible deaths resulting from its release after the facilities were hit by bombs, has created the incident that the US government has been seeking to directly intervene in Syria. Their aim is to overthrow the Assad government by force, and to distract US public opinion from Trump’s catastrophic foreign and domestic policies including on immigration, healthcare, the EPA, and civil and democratic rights.

 

            Trump claims that US national security interests in the region are threatened and that this gives the US the right to launch a war on Syria, is not credible. This was the justification given by the Bush and Obama administrations in launching their wars on Iraq and on Libya, leaving thousands of civilians dead and those countries in ruins.

 

            The US airstrikes have also escalated the frightening scenario of a direct military confrontation between the US and Russia on the territory of Syria. The world is now facing the horrific possibility of a confrontation between the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals in the world.

 

            The Canadian government must be the voice of reason, and the voice of peace and a political solution, not the weak-kneed echo of Donald Trump and his crimes against the Syrian people.

 

            We call on the labour and democratic movements and all those peace-loving peoples across Canada to speak up and mobilize against the US airstrikes, and against any Canadian support for or involvement in this new US war on Syria.

 

            Canadians must make it clear in every possible way – in protests on the streets, in the media, in Parliament and on the Hill, that war is not an option. The only solution is a negotiated political solution, based in international law.

 

            Hands off Syria! End Canadian complicity in this dirty U.S. war! Bring the troops home!

 

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2) ACT NOW TO CONDEMN US MILITARY STRIKE ON SYRIA! DEMAND CANADA OPPOSE THIS WANTON AGGRESSION!

 

- Executive Committee, Canadian Peace Congress

 

            The April 6th U.S. missile attack on the Shayrat Military Airbase, ostensibly done in response to an alleged chemical attack on a village in Idlib province, Syria, is a blatant act of aggression. At least 14 people were killed in the missile strikes, including five soldiers on the base and nine civilians in neighbourhoods surrounding the facility.

 

            Shayrat is one of the largest and most active Syrian Air Force bases, dedicated primarily to fighting ISIS in central Syria and providing aid to besieged civilians in Deir Ezzor.

 

            This unilateral action, taken without any UN Security Council mandate, is an egregious violation of international law which cannot be justified. Indeed, Washington has failed to provide any evidence proving that the Syrian government and its allies were actually guilty of this chemical attack, and before any independent investigation could be undertaken by UN monitoring bodies to determine responsibility for the Sarin gas attack.

 

            The U.S. missile strike significantly escalates the ‘proxy’ war on Syria, precisely at a time when negotiators from both the government and some of the ‘rebel’ sides are in Geneva attempting to achieve a political solution to end the six-year long conflict. More than that, it increases the possibility of a direct military confrontation between the leading nuclear weapons powers – the U.S. and the Russian Federation – which could ignite a much wider regional conflict, not to mention a global thermonuclear war.

 

            This wanton act of war – and the accompanying justifications given by the Trump Administration – confirm without a shadow of doubt that Washington’s true objective in Syria is not to fight terrorism but rather to impose ‘regime change’ on its people, despite its hollow claims to the contrary.

 

            Canada’s role in this deepening Syrian crisis is no less deplorable. While stating that Canada will not take part in any further military attacks on Syria, the Trudeau government has lent its political support to this illegal and dangerous US bombing.

 

            The Canadian Peace Congress unreservedly condemns this aggression, and demands such attacks cease immediately, and that the over 1,000 U.S. ground troops, already in Syria without any sanction or approval from Damascus, be withdrawn. We further demand that the Canadian government reverse its policy, withdraw its support for this brazen and extremely serious violation of international law, and call instead for a lasting political solution to the conflict in Syria. Canada should remove itself from the US-led coalition in Syria & Iraq, end its punishing economic sanctions against Syria, and to re-establish diplomatic relations with Damascus!

 

Canada must also declare its recognition and respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, end all military flights over Syria (which are to refuel allied warplanes and to identify new targets), and stop selling weapons to countries who are funding and arming the terrorists in Syria. Not least, this should include canceling the $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

 

            We also appeal to all peace organizations and activists, labour, anti-imperialist and international solidarity groups, and peace-loving people across Canada to see through the barrage of imperialist propaganda, and its crass use of the now-discredited “Responsibility-to-Protect” (R2P) doctrine intended to disorient and neutralize organized resistance, and to come together in unity and action against imperialist aggression in Syria.

 

            Hands Off Syria! Canada Out of NATO!

 

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3) AGAINST THE “ALT-RIGHT” ON CAMPUS

 

Commentary by the University of Toronto Club, Communist Party of Canada

 

            With the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, and the current Conservative Party leadership race, bigotry and hate-based politics are on the rise, particularly with the growth of the “alt-right” - a loose coalition of “men’s rights” activists, anti-choicers, racists, anti-Muslim bigots, anti-LGBTQIA+ bigots, social conservatives and reactionaries who use “free speech” as a cover to push an agenda of hate.

 

            “Alt-right” posters have appeared on campuses across the country, promoting hatred towards immigrants, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized people. As the current crises of capitalism continue to magnify the precariousness of life for a great many people, the public’s receptivity to the message of the far-right has also increased. While racism is by no means a US import to Canada (a state founded on the basis of colonial genocide against indigenous peoples, and the brutal exploitation of immigrant workers) , these groups have capitalized on the success of the US far-right, often mimicking their rhetoric with slogans like “Make Canada Great Again”.

 

            At the University of Toronto, much of the “alt-right” activity has centred around professor Jordan Peterson, a vlogger, and self-declared “professor against political correctness” who vocally opposed Bill C-16 (which adds the words “gender identity or expression" to a list of protected classes under the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code) on “free speech” grounds, and notoriously refuses to use non-binary and gender-neutral pronouns.

 

            Shortly after Peterson came into the spotlight, a U of T campus group called “Students in Support of Free Speech” formed to defend him. This group, along with “Generation Screwed”, the student wing of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (a conservative and libertarian-leaning advocacy group financed by big business) hosted Peterson and right-wing pundit Ezra Levant at a conference at U of T in February, which was eventually shut down by police after heavy protest.

 

            U of T has not been the only campus downtown to prove welcome to the “alt-right”. Ryerson University students have filed complaints about instructor Brian Petz (former president of Ryerson’s Campus Conservatives) whose public anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQIA+ comments reference common alt-right talking points. These talking points include scapegoating immigrants for the economic problems created by neoliberal austerity policies, and references to “cultural Marxism”, an alleged leftist conspiracy seeking to erode traditional Western values.

 

            Ryerson has also proven unwilling to protect its campus from anti-choice demonstrators whose use of graphic imagery of aborted fetuses has created a hostile environment on Gould Street and raised indignation amongst students. The Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective has brought the issue before the university, but the university has used “free speech” as a cover, claiming they cannot do anything to protect students as Gould Street is public property.

 

            Free speech does not include hate speech, and no institution is obligated to give a platform to groups who seek to intimidate women, LGBTQIA+ people, immigrants, racialized people, and other people marginalized by systems of oppression. The Communist Party of Canada (U of T) stands in solidarity with all those threatened and under attack. We condemn these groups and call on universities and student unions to refuse these “alt-right” and fascist groups a platform to spread their hate. Only through building broad progressive unity on our campuses and in our communities can we combat and turn back the increasing public climate of hate and fear fostered by these far-right groups.

 

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4) DEFEAT THE BC LIBERALS, VOTE FOR FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

 

A message from Communist Party of BC leader George Gidora

 

            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 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.

 

            Since the 2013 election, 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. NDP 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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5) EARTH DAY AND CLIMATE JUSTICE

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            This year’s Earth Day (April 22) is the first since the White House was taken over by a clique of climate-change deniers heavily funded by Big Energy monopolies. As Noam Chomsky warns, Donald Trump’s stated goal is to maximize the use of fossil fuels, end environmental regulations, and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. This strategy may signal the end of the world, Chomsky says, “even if not quite in the intended sense”.

 

            The release of carbon stored  in plants, soil, etc. into the atmosphere, through burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees, means that today's atmosphere contains 42% more carbon dioxide than during the pre-capitalist era. Extreme weather events are more common, and global surface temperatures have increased by about one degree centigrade since 1880. The 10 warmest years on record (with the exception of 1998) have occurred since 2000. Arctic ice and glaciers have shrunk markedly, and sea levels have risen 15 centimetres over the past century.

 

            Could U.S. withdrawal from even token efforts to limit carbon emissions spell the end of civilization? That is the increasingly common belief among scientists who warn that the tipping point for runaway global warming will arrive soon. The first victims will be island nations and low-lying areas such Bangladesh, already hit by heat waves and rising ocean levels. Working class and poor people everywhere will bear the brunt of climate change, which is truly an issue of global social justice.

 

            As we struggle against the capitalist agenda of austerity, cutbacks, , corporate trade deals, and militarism, the fight for environmental justice must be one of the core issues of our alternative programs. Earth Day is often an occasion for corporate interests to “greenwash” their destructive profiteering; instead, it should become a day for working people to demand a new socialist economic system, based on protection of people and the environment.

 

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6) WORKPLACE DEATHS: A CAPITALIST DISEASE

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            Every year leading up to April 28, the annual Workers Memorial Day, statistics and articles provide ample proof of the epidemic of workplace deaths. On a world-wide scale, every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease, and 153 workers have a work-related accident. Every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year. An estimated 12 million people die as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment each year, nearly 1 in 4 of total global deaths, according to the World Health Organization. More than 300 million accidents occur on the job annually; many resulting in extended absences from work. The economic cost of occupational deaths and injuries, and poor occupational safety and health practices, is estimated at 4 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product.

 

            In many cases, capitalist profiteering is the direct cause of workplace deaths. The most notorious example is the garment industry. The years 2012-2015 saw some of the largest garment industry disasters on global record: the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan in September 2012, the Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh in November 2012, the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013, and the Kentex factory fire in the Philippines in May 2015. These horrific incidents, which could have been prevented with proper health and safety measures, resulted in the deaths of 1,600 garment workers in less than three years.

 

            The lesson is clear: capitalism kills, and the bosses are the culprits. But there is a cure - organized resistance in our workplaces and communities, and at the political level. Stronger trade unions and united political struggles are needed, not more PR campaigns by corporations eager to protect their sales figures.

 

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7) A CANADIAN SURGE?

 

By Paul Bentley

 

            Without a peep from the opposition parties, the Trudeau government announced on March 31st that it will extend Canada’s “military contribution to the fight against Da’esh”, dubbed Operation Impact, until June 30th.

 

            The absence of any objections, or even questions, in Parliament from the NDP is particularly disappointing given that they had originally opposed the war. The only political party in Canada now calling for an end to Canada’s participation is the Communist Party.

 

            When Trudeau recently backtracked on his promise to end the "first-past-the-post" system, on the excuse of protecting against the election of “extremist parties”, presumably he was concerned that he might face hard questions from socialist parties.

 

            Questions like these: "Wouldn’t the Billion dollars you are putting into a dirty oil war be better spent on mental health”?

 

            “Hundreds of soldiers died in the war in Afghanistan. Many more committed suicide or continue to suffer the effects of PTSD. Yet the Taliban now control 60% of the country of Afghanistan. Why should Canadians suffer and die in a losing cause again?”

 

            “If Canada’s role in the war against Da’esh is simply a training mission, why are Canada’s notoriously lethal JTF2 special forces assuming an advance position in the Battle for Mosul?”

 

            “How do you explain CBC reports that a “special forces officer, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said the nature of the Mosul offensive had meant Canadian troops often found themselves in situations where they were required to fire?”

 

            In fact, Trudeau’s introduction of a “Discussion Paper” on Parliament Hill in which he proposes that he should only have to attend Question Period once a week and get Fridays off, suggests that he really doesn’t want to face any questions in Parliament at all!

 

            The gall which Trudeau has shown recently, however, is not limited to matters of Parliamentary procedure. The corporate media’s compartmentalization of the news, designed to disguise the increasingly aggressive nature of Canadian foreign policy, is exposed when the extension of Operation Impact is seen in the context of other recent military moves.

 

            In addition to previously announced plans for the deployment of “heavily armoured” Canadian troops to lead a NATO contingent in Latvia, Canada confirmed on March 25th that its air force will also be deployed in Iceland and Romania to “defend against Russian aggression”; and, on April 3rd, Canada’s right-wing Ukrainian nationalist Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, met with Ukraine Defense Minister Stephen Poltarak to finalize details of the new Canada-Ukraine Defense Cooperation Arrangement.

 

            According to the CBC, Poltorak says his government views the new co-operation agreement as a step towards eventually getting on the automatic firearms country control list, which would allow Canadian exporters to sell the country so-called prohibited weapons: "I do hope this agreement will serve as the foundation for the future dialogue on the possibility of this sort of assistance to Ukraine", Poltorak said.

 

            The anti-Russian sentiment behind Freeland’s policy in Eastern Europe is also implicit in her aggressive remarks regarding the chemical weapons catastrophe in Syria: “Tuesday's horrific attack raises grave questions about the possibility of working with the Assad regime. They are responsible and we have to treat them as responsible”, she said.

 

            We might be surprised that Trudeau, famous for his mockery of former Prime Minister’s Stephen Harper’s desire to “whip out our CF-18s and show how big they are”; would support Freeland’s aggressive foreign policy designs. 

 

            Perhaps Trudeau is just trying to find a way to appease Trump’s bellicose demands that America’s allies foot more of the bill for their own defense. 

 

            On the other hand, if personality inflects politics we might speculate that Trudeau, “le petit” is turning out to be just like his father. Canadians still have very mixed feelings about how Pierre Trudeau, in response to the kidnapping of a minor politician in Quebec, proclaimed the War Measures Act and rolled the tanks into the streets of Montreal.

 

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8) CORNER BROOKERS RALLY IN DEFENCE OF MEDIA FREEDOM

 

By Sean Burton

 

            About thirty people gathered in front of Corner Brook's Sir Richard Squires Building on April 2 to show support for Justin Brake, a journalist for online publication the Independent, who is facing criminal charges from the RCMP over his coverage of protests in central Labrador last fall.

 

            In October 2016, dozens of indigenous people representing Labrador's Innu, Inuit, and Metis along with non-indigenous supporters, occupied the Muskrat Falls hydro plant construction site out of concern for the environmental and social impact of the project.

 

            In the context of widespread aboriginal resistance to environmental exploitation and the struggle against colonization, Justin Brake decided this event was vital to be covered. Brake was in the thick of events at the site and followed the land protectors, as they came to be known, as they occupied offices of crown corporation Nalcor. His coverage of the events was live-streamed on the Independent's social media pages and widely shared.

 

            During the aftermath of the demonstrations, the provincial government placed a temporary hold on the project and met with some community leaders in an attempt to alleviate concerns, but the RCMP announced that it would press charges against a number of people at the site, including Brake. Twenty-eight people in all were charged in connection with violating a court order for protesters to stay off the site as well as "mischief over $5000".

 

            At the Corner Brook rally, Brake was defended by local CUPE representative Ernest Greene, Janice Kennedy of Provincial Action Network on the Status of Women, Sophia Descalzi of the Grenfell Campus Student Union, indigenous artist Melissa Tremblett, Mi'kmaq elder Calvin White, and Michael Martin, a former journalist, Labrador South MHA and creator of the Labrador flag. Martin characterized Canada today as undemocratic and ruled for the interests of rich oligarchs, and said that journalists like Justin Brake must be allowed to do what they do in order to combat social ignorance.

 

            Brake emphasized that he did what any proper journalist should in order to get the story. In his words, "Canadians have a right to know in order to be informed citizens."

 

            The charges against Brake represent a disturbing precedent that can do great harm to journalism in this country. Indeed, comments from Nalcor's lawyer get to the heart of the matter. At court proceedings in February, lawyer Chris King stated, "Journalists have no greater right to trespass on private property than any other individual and a journalist certainly has no greater right to defy a court order ... than any other individual."

 

            If that is so, what is to stop similar arguments from being made against journalists in the future? How could a journalist even pursue a story like this if it means facing criminal charges? It is especially important to remember the context: this was an act of civil disobedience by aboriginal peoples in defence of their land and human rights against a crown corporation and provincial government that use Labrador as a colonial possession for its natural resources. That arrangement is hardly unique to Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is absolutely vital that everyone in this country be aware of the ongoing struggles of First Nations and Inuit if we truly believe in creating a more just society.

 

            For his efforts, Brake was nominated for the province's Human Rights Award in December 2016. Organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, the Canadian Association of Journalists and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) have voiced support, with CJFE director Tom Henheffer pointing out that considering the RCMP's history of brutality towards indigenous protests, it is necessary for journalists to be on hand to observe.

 

            A legal defence fund has been created to support Brake, who must travel to Labrador repeatedly for court appearances. The fund can be viewed at https://donorbox.org/the-independent-legal-defence-fund.

 

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9) RCMP ADMITS TO “STINGRAY” USAGE

 

            For the first time, the RCMP has confirmed it deployed IMSI-catcher phone surveillance devices — commonly known as Stingrays — dozens of times in recent years to identify and locate suspects in criminal investigations. The admission on April 5 comes after years of secrecy about the use of the mass surveillance tools. Even serious criminal charges have been dropped to keep the devices a secret.

 

            A recent CBC News investigation found Stingrays in use in downtown Ottawa and at Montreal’s Trudeau airport. The RCMP said it now obtains a warrant for the use of Stingrays, but on the basis of suspicion of wrongdoing, rather than belief. The force claims it doesn’t collect communications content, but privacy advocates such as OpenMedia warn that the collection of location information and metadata is in itself deeply invasive. OpenMedia says the admission is long overdue, but leaves important questions unaddressed.

 

            “Canadians have been demanding answers about Stingray cell phone surveillance for years, and it’s a pity it took revelations about Stingray use in Ottawa to seemingly prompt this admission. Now that the RCMP has come clean, can we finally have the public debate about privacy and accountability that Canadians deserve?” said OpenMedia’s executive director Laura Tribe, whose complaint last year triggered an ongoing Privacy Commissioner investigation into Stingrays. “The fact that these devices are in widespread use with very few meaningful safeguards should alarm anyone who cares about their privacy and basic democratic rights.”

 

            Tribe continued: “How many innocent Canadians have had their private cellular data captured by the RCMP’s use of Stingrays over the past 10 years? Has any of that data been retained? Have these devices ever been deployed to monitor a political protest or demonstration? Is mere suspicion of wrongdoing enough to justify the use of Stingrays, given the serious privacy implications for law-abiding citizens? It’s also clear that the use of these devices has been going on for years, presumably with the knowledge of Public Safety Canada, despite authorization from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada only being granted this week.”

 

            Among the key points from the RCMP statement are:

 

             The RCMP says it has a total of 10 surveillance devices in its possession, and 24 technicians trained and authorized to deploy them. The devices have been used “scores of times” in recent years, including 19 times last year and 24 times in 2015. The RCMP also said other police forces own and use them too but didn’t name these police forces.

 

            The RCMP used to apply for a general warrant to deploy Stingrays. But for one period of about four months, it did not apply for a warrant for their use at all, based on advice from the Department of Justice.

 

            The force currently applies for a Transmission Data Recorder Warrant to permit its use of Stingrays. Such a warrant can be granted based merely on “reasonable grounds to suspect” an offence has been or will be committed, rather than the stronger “reasonable grounds to believe”.

 

            While the RCMP is tracking the number of warrants it applies for, it is not obliged to report this to Parliament.

 

            These devices can interfere with other mobile phone signals and even interfere with the ability to dial 911 in older phones. As a result, the RCMP says it tries to use the devices only for a few minutes at a time, to minimize unintended disruptions.

 

            Over 45,000 people have signed an online call to implement safeguards to protect innocent individuals from Stingray phone surveillance, at StopStingrays.org

 

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10) SAY NO TO U.S. AGGRESSION AGAINST  DPRK!

 

Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, April 10, 2017

 

            The illegal US airstrikes on Syria combined with ominous threats of similar US action against the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea should raise alarm bells in Ottawa and around the world.

 

            These acts and threats of war and aggression against sovereign states are completely outside the rules of international law, and are a threat to peace and security on a global scale. The US is not the world’s policeman, though it is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and its reckless aggression endangers peoples and states around the globe.

 

            Nuclear tests by DPRK are the result of a relentless US campaign against Korea, including threats to overthrow the government, threats of invasion, sanctions that have contributed to severe shortages in DPRK, and a continuous campaign of disinformation aimed to keep tensions in the region at peak levels. This includes US proposals to re-arm Japan with nuclear weapons, and increasing US interference in the South China Sea including Trump’s decision to send more US warships to the region in February.

 

            It is the US that has prevented all efforts at reunification of North and South Korea through a negotiated political solution to the 1953 ceasefire agreement that has maintained a state of war between north and south ever since. Regime change has been the US motivation since the end of WW II, based on its Cold War determination to dominate the region and “roll-back Communism” in south-east Asia, in Vietnam, China, and in Europe. Today, the overthrow of sovereign governments in south-east Asia is a key part of the US pivot to Asia, and the encirclement and isolation of the USA’s biggest economic and political competitor, China.  

 

            When President Trump calls on “the civilized world” to act against DPRK, he means imperialism and the biggest global corporate interests in the world. He means NATO and the military forces of the US and its allies, including Japan, should attack DPRK.   

 

            It’s in this context that the DPRK is testing its nuclear capacity. An end to US threats of regime change and invasion, and negotiations leading to a political solution are the only way to de-escalate growing tensions and to achieve peace and disarmament in the region. US gun-boat diplomacy in the nuclear age threatens the whole world. No-one is safe.

 

            Parliament, and the government of Canada, must say no to the Trump administration’s declarations of war on Syria and DPRK. The Canadian government has a responsibility to protect Canadians from US aggressions, illegal wars, and crimes against humanity. Canadian government support for US aggression and wars is complicity, and complicity is also a war crime. 

 

            The Communist Party calls on the Canadian government, on Parliament, to oppose US threats and aggression against DPRK and Syria without further delay. We call on the labour and democratic movements, and all those concerned with peace and the growing danger of further illegal US aggression and global confrontations, to mobilize to oppose the US war machine, and to demand that Canada stand up for peace, for international law, and for negotiated political solutions.

 

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11) TIME FOR PRESIDENT ZUMA TO RESIGN, SAYS SACP

 

Statement by the South African Communist Party on the growing political crisis in the country following a cabinet shuffle in which President Jacob Zuma removed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, an SACP member who has been a prominent figure in efforts to eliminate corruption in the government.

 

            The Political Bureau of the South African Communist Party met in Gauteng today [March 31] in the context of the deep crisis into which the reckless actions of President Zuma have once more plunged our ANC-led movement, our hard-won democratic institutions, and our country in general.

 

            The recall from an overseas trip of comrades Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas while on a promotional tour in South Africa’s interests, and now the firing of these comrades and other well-performing ministers is more than regrettable. It is frankly outrageous, particularly while the worst performers in cabinet continue to enjoy presidential protection and even, in some cases, promotion.

 

            This recklessness has provoked widespread concern and anger within the ANC itself, and across all sectors of our society. We have reached a decisive moment in which, in the considered view of the SACP leadership, Zuma must now resign.

 

            The coincidence of the dramatic cabinet events with the desperate application this week in the Pretoria High Court by the Gupta-linked Vardospan company should not be missed. Vardospan brought an urgent application to force the Reserve Bank, the Registrar of Banks, and the Minister of Finance to allow it to take over ownership of the obscure Habib Bank. The current owners had given them a deadline of today, March 31, to settle the matter. Vardospan’s desperation is clearly linked to the closure of Gupta-related bank accounts by the major South African banks, the Bank of China, and now reportedly by their last remaining banking facility, the Indian headquartered Baroda Bank. The Reserve Bank opposed the Vardospan application on the grounds that it has a responsibility to ensure the financial sustainability of the proposed deal. According to the Reserve Bank, Vardospan has failed to provide clarity on the source of their funding and to provide transparency on other Gupta-related companies, including the notorious Tegeta mining company involved in a dodgy deal with former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe.

 

            The timing of Zuma’s cabinet reshuffling and the deepening banking troubles faced by the Guptas is not, therefore, fortuitous. Once more it lays bare a disturbing reality. Increasingly our country is being ruled not from the Union Buildings, but from the Gupta family compound. More and more, critical ANC decisions are being decided not by elected and collective structures in Luthuli House but in Saxonwold.

 

            In the coming days the SACP will be meeting with our provincial structures, all our alliance partners and a wide range of social movements and formations. It is imperative that popular anger is mobilised and organised in constructive ways that unite South Africans of all persuasions and backgrounds in the defence of our country’s interests.

 

            This is not a struggle against an individual. This is not a factional struggle. It is a struggle against a network of parasitism and patronage in defence of our hard-won democratic sovereignty. Let us roll back corporate capture of the state! Let us call for the South African passports and residential rights of the Guptas to be revoked immediately! Let us call for the sacking of General Ntlemeza, an ex-Transkei security policeman, who many allege tortured our own comrades. Let us demand progress on the numerous stalled prosecutions and investigations. What has happened to the civil and criminal prosecutions recommended in regard to the Nkandla scandal? Let us ensure that the dodgy Tegeta deal is exposed. Let us insist that those involved in the whole-sale ripping off of the public broadcaster, the SABC, and of key State Owned Corporations, including PRASA, Eskom, DENEL, and SAA are brought to book. Mainstream corporate outfits like Allan Gray and the Ruperts; Remgro must own up to their profit-driven collusion with Cash Pay Master Services, Net1, and Grindrod in the exploitation of vulnerable social grant beneficiaries. Politicians and officials who have benefited from back-handers in all of this must be exposed.

 

            Inevitably, SACP members who serve in executive positions in government are now being asked if they will resign. The PolitBuro’s instruction to these comrades is: Remain at your posts. This is not because there is any individual entitlement. You are serving in various capacities because of the support you enjoy across the ANC movement, because of your struggle credentials, and because of your performance in government. You have a responsibility to serve a massive constituency and the country at large - now more than ever. If you are fired at the behest of the Gupta network because of the SACP’s stand on these matters - so be it.

 

            - See more at: http://www.sacp.org.za

 

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12) UK UNIONS WARN TORIES OVER BREXIT

 

By Lamiat Sabin, Morning Star

 

            The British Labour Party and trade unions have warned Prime Minister Theresa May against seeking to use EU exit negotiations as an excuse to ditch laws that protect workers, consumers, and the environment as she kick-started the two-year separation process.

 

            The Labour Party’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer attacked former Tory work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith following his call for a “radical root-and-branch” review of EU regulations.

 

            Starmer said these “costly” regulations hated by right-wingers included basic workers’ rights, adding: “It is increasingly clear that rights and protections are seen by many senior Tories, including the Cabinet, as an ‘expensive’ luxury that British workers and consumers can do without. That is why one of Labour’s six tests for the Brexit deal is that it defends hard-fought-for rights and protections and doesn’t lead to a race to the bottom.”

 

            Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said leaving the EU must not become “an excuse for diluting people’s already meagre rights at work,” but said the left should “set its sights on the opportunities the negotiations present.”

 

            Referring to the section of the Lisbon Treaty that allows for unilateral EU exit, Griffiths said, “Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies outside the EU to control capital, raise public funds for infrastructure investment, enforce equal rights for migrant workers, and radically cut or abolish VAT. Such policies would remain unlawful if we stay in the single market.”

 

            The government must also not lose sight of the three million EU nationals who live in Britain and one million British nationals living on the continent, campaigners have said.

 

            Groups reminded May that she has to resist using people as “bargaining chips” in upcoming negotiations with 27 other EU nations.

 

            Frances O’Grady, secretary general of the Trades Union Congress, Britain’s largest labour federation, said: “The best deal will guarantee that hardworking Brits keep their hard-won rights at work – and that in the years to come they won’t miss out on protections that Dutch, Spanish, and German workers get. The best deal has to protect good jobs, with decent wages, by keeping our trade free from tariffs and unnecessary bureaucracy. And it has to end the disgraceful uncertainty for workers from other EU nations who’ve made the UK their home. The Brexit deal will define Britain’s future for a generation. We owe it to ourselves and our children to take the time needed to get it right.”

 

            But Trade Unionists Against the EU’s Doug Nicholls saluted what he characterised as “a great day” for workers in Britain. “Forty years of being controlled by those we don’t elect will soon be over, and we can rebuild a full-employment economy.”

 

            Stand Up to Racism condemned the government for not making rock-solid promises over the residency rights of EU citizens whose families may be separated and whose jobs could be lost.

 

            German national, teacher, and resident in Britain for 28 years Ulrike Schmidt told the anti-fascist group that her 81-year-old EU citizen father has already been questioned by border control officials as to how long he intended to stay in Britain and whether he wants to work here.

 

            She said, “I wonder how many vulnerable people are getting targeted even before Britain has left the EU.”

 

            Global Justice Now said that efforts should go into preventing the Prime Minister from having an “unprecedented” carte blanche to “pick and choose” from existing EU laws.

 

            The group’s director Nick Dearden said, “We don’t have the luxury of sitting around and lamenting the fact that Theresa May has triggered Article 50. Using ‘Henry VIII powers’ could mean ministers making significant changes to important legislation without parliamentary approval – something which many countries would deem unconstitutional.”

 

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13) CRUISE MISSILE ATTACKS: A NEW STEP IN WASHINGTON’S LONG CLASS WAR ON SYRIA

 

By Stephen Gowans, April 8, 2017

 

            Washington has added a new dimension to its long war on Syria: direct military intervention.

 

            Since the mid 1950s, the United States has tried to purge Damascus of an Arab nationalist leadership which has zealously guarded Syria’s freedom from US domination and follows an Arab socialist development path which is at odds with the global free enterprise project advanced by Washington on behalf of its Wall Street patron.

 

            Until now, Washington has refrained from directly attacking Syrian forces, though it has intervened militarily in Syria to hold the Islamic State in check so that the militant group remains strong enough to weaken Syrian forces but not so strong that it captures the Syrian state.

 

            This limited Islamic State-directed US intervention in Syria has involved both airstrikes and an estimated 1,000 boots on the ground. However, the principal modus operandi of Washington’s long war on Syria has been war waged through proxies, both Israel, which annexed Syria’s Golan Heights and has carried out innumerable small-scale attacks since, and Islamist guerrillas, who, from the 1960s, have waged a jihad against what they view as Syria’s heretical government.

 

            The United States contemplated direct military intervention in Syria in 2003, as a follow-up to its invasion of neighbouring Iraq, but found that its resources were strained by efforts to pacify Afghanistan and Iraq and that other means of regime change would have to be pursued.

 

            In place of a muscular boots on the ground strategy, Washington imposed an economic blockade in 2003, which, by 2012, had caused Syria’s economy to buckle, according to the New York Times.

 

            By the spring of 2012, sanctions-induced financial haemorrhaging had “forced Syrian officials to stop providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country.”

 

            By 2016, “US and EU economic sanctions on Syria” were “causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a leaked UN internal report.” (Patrick Cockburn, “US and EU sanctions are ruining ordinary Syrians’ lives, yet Bashar al-Assad hangs on to power,” The Independent, October 7, 2016.) The report revealed that aid agencies were unable to obtain drugs and equipment for hospitals because sanctions prevented foreign firms from conducting commerce with Syria.

 

            Veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote that “the US and EU sanctions” resembled the Iraqi sanctions regime, and were “an economic siege on Syria”—a siege it might be recalled that led to the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children, according to the UN, a death toll greater than that produced by all the weapons of mass destruction in history. Cockburn surmised that the Syrian siege was killing numberless people through illness and malnutrition.

 

            On top of its merciless campaign of economic warfare, Washington enlisted the Arab nationalists’ longstanding foe, the Muslim Brotherhood, to provoke a civil revolt in Syria. The revolt, inaugurated by Islamist-instigated riots in Daraa in mid-March 2011, soon mushroomed into an all-out campaign of guerrilla warfare, fueled by Saudi, Qatari, Turkish, Jordanian and US money. U.S. and Western intelligence services trained thousands of guerrillas in Jordan and Qatar.

 

            In 2012, the US Defense Intelligence Agency reported that the insurgency was Islamist, led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State’s forerunner, and that Western powers and the kings, emirs and sultans who preside tyrannically over Gulf oil states, were the backers. According to the intelligence agency, Turkey’s Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, a man infatuated with dreams of becoming a neo-Ottoman sultan, and himself an Islamist, was also a major backer.

 

            But until Washington ordered cruise missiles to rain down on Shayrat Airfield near Homs on April 6, the United States had relied on proxies and siege to bring about regime change in a country which Moshe Ma’oz had termed “a focus of Arab nationalistic struggle against an American regional presence and interests.”

 

            The Shayrat Airfield attack was presented for world opinion as a response to Syrian forces allegedly gassing civilians at Khan Shaykum on 4 April. The allegations were levelled by blatantly partisan sources.

 

            One source was the White Helmets, which bills itself as a neutral civil defense outfit, but is in reality funded by governments entangled with Washington in its long war on Syria. It is enmeshed, too, or at the very least, cooperates with, al-Qaeda. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a one-person outfit based in the UK which overtly supports the guerrillas, was another source.

 

            Significantly, no one even remotely impartial has investigated the allegations to determine whether (a) chemical agents were indeed used, (b) whether they were used deliberately, and (c) who used them? The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons refuses to weigh in on any of these questions until an investigation has been completed, the only sound course of action.

 

            All the same, Washington and its lickspittle allies, exuding colonial arrogance, immediately pronounced in Olympian fashion that the accusations were beyond dispute, an outcome which was hardly surprising given that the Western champions of neo-colonialism share with the White Helmets and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights a common goal of overthrowing Syria’s Arab nationalist government. Washington can always be counted on to publicize any calumny against its Syrian enemy, no matter how untenable.

 

            Despite assurances that a gas attack had been undertaken at Khan Shaykum on 4 April, and that Syrian forces were responsible, the United States, France and Britain, if they, were not themselves implicated, could have had no certain knowledge of this, since these matters take weeks of on the ground investigation to offer sound judgment, and even then the question of attribution—that is, who did it?—is often unanswerable. The reality, of course, is that Western powers have no idea whether the accusation is valid but seized the opportunity to claim it was to establish a pretext for military action in furtherance of the United States’ long war on Syria.

 

            Mainstream journalists also rushed to judgement in advance of even the barest resemblance of an impartial investigation, their assessments aligning with the assessments, sans evidence, of their own governments.

 

            On top of being predicated on an untested allegation by unquestionably partial sources, the US attack was illegal—and on two levels: internationally, because it was undertaken without UN Security Council assent, and domestically, because it represented an unauthorized act of war. The act of war was ordered unilaterally by the White House, notwithstanding the fact that declarations of war are the exclusive remit of Congress, which did not confer—indeed, was not asked for—its authorization.

 

            But the point is academic.

 

            The United Sates has already amassed a sizable record of crimes in Syria, and an even more sizeable record in the larger Arab world, not the least of which crimes is the intrusion of US military personnel on Syrian soil, an act of war itself.

 

            As a military colossus, the United States is at liberty to violate international law with impunity, since there exists no higher authority capable of enforcing international law through the threat of a force greater than that which the Pentagon itself can wield. Expecting the United States to yield to international law is naïve and therefore any discussion of whether this or that act of the United States violates international law is a discussion of no consequence.

 

            The White House is able to violate US law without punishment by eliciting at least the passive acceptance of the US public and its representatives for its wars of aggression; accordingly, with the Congress and the US public on side, there’s no one to hold the White House to account before the US constitution.

 

            White House efforts to secure the acquiescence of the public, if not its jingoistic support, are facilitated by the measures the Pentagon takes to limit US troop casualties, so that no matter how devastating US military operations are for the victims, the US public is not inconvenienced or traumatized psychologically by an accumulation of US combat casualties.

 

            Equally helpful from the point of view of mobilizing support for war in violation of US law is the demonization of Washington’s targets, an activity in which the news media, which accept the pronouncements of US officials on foreign policy at face value, engage with enthusiasm. Witness how easily the Bush administration and Blair government were able to dupe the Western mainstream media into believing (or if they weren’t duped, to ardently propagate) fairy tales about Arab nationalist Iraq concealing chemical and biological weapons.

 

            Moreover, witness how easily Washington shapes the intellectual environment. It has persuaded the world that chemical and biological weapons (which can kill tens or at most hundreds of people under ideal conditions, and many fewer under typical ones) belong to the same class of weapons as nuclear arms (which can kill tens or hundreds of thousands.) This false conflation of minor weapons with authentic weapons of mass destruction has proved useful in portraying such military non-threats as Arab nationalist Iraq under Saddam as signal threats whose elimination is imperative for the safety of the world.

 

            Demonizing targets—often by accusing them of having, using, or intending to use either falsely classified or genuine weapons of mass destruction—creates, from the vantage point of the public, a moral obligation for the United States to act. The Leftists who have an insatiable appetite for moral lapidation and florid language about “murderous regimes,” brutal dictators,” and “moral disgrace,” in connection with the leaders of former colonies which the United States is endeavouring to re-colonize, contribute to the mobilization of consent for war and to an international class struggle from above...

 

            (The conclusion of Gowans’ article, plus extensive footnotes, can be found at https://gowans.wordpress.com/)

 

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