People’s Voice March 16-31, 2017
Volume 25 – Number 05   $1

CONTENTS

1) HYDRO ONE: EXPANDING THE PUBLIC SECTOR TO PRIVATIZE IT

2) THE NOVA SCOTIA TEACHERS STRIKE IN PERSPECTIVE

3) BCTF WINS RESTORED COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT LANGUAGE

4) RACISM DISGUISED AS PATERNALISM: THE CASE OF SENATOR BEYAK

5) MOBILIZE TO DEFEAT THE RACIST AGENDA

6) U.S. PUTS “BOOTS ON THE GROUND” - Editorial

7) UNITY CAN BLOCK RACISM -  Editorial

8) MOBILIZE AGAINST MANITOBA HYDRO RATE HIKES

9) STRIKING YORK FOOD SERVICE WORKERS WIN $15 AND FAIRNESS

10) STATSCAN REPORT BREAKS DOWN GENDER PAY AND EMPLOYMENT GAPS

11) MOBILIZATION DEFEATS GERRYMANDERING ATTEMPT BY QUEBEC LIBERALS

12) END CANADIAN COMPLICITY IN THE “DIRTY WAR” - HANDS OFF SYRIA NOW!

13) WHY IS THE TRUDEAU GOVERNMENT ESCALATING ITS BELLIGERENCE TOWARDS RUSSIA?

 

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(The following articles are from the March 16-31, 2017, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

1) HYDRO ONE: EXPANDING THE PUBLIC SECTOR TO PRIVATIZE IT

 

By Dave McKee, leader of the Communist Party (Ontario)

 

            Great Lakes Power Transmission in Sault St. Marie, Orillia Power Distributing Corporation, Peterborough Distribution Inc., Wellington North Power in Mount Forest, Haldimand County Utilities, Guelph Hydro, Toronto Hydro. Over the past three years Hydro One, Ontario’s largest publicly owned electricity transmission and distribution utility, has moved to purchase a wide swath of local utilities, most of them publicly owned.

 

            On the surface, it sounds okay – Hydro One’s public argument has been that the mergers make the public electricity system more efficient and effective, yielding lower costs and greater reliability. Public-to-public takeovers are a win-win deal for everyone, right?

 

            Not so fast.

 

            You don’t have to scratch too far under the surface to see the dangers of Hydro One’s expansion, and the real motivation behind it. The utility itself is in the process of being sold off, in the largest single privatization in Canada’s history. The Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne is defying massive opposition – 83% of the public oppose the sale, and half of the province’s municipalities have passed motions against it – to push the privatization along in a series of share batches. Half of the 60% stake has been sold, but sale of the remaining shares has been delayed through a combination of stalled share price, political pressure, and a lawsuit launched by CUPE Ontario.

 

            The government’s pause in the active sale has allowed them room to make Hydro One more attractive to private buyers, and to try to spin the sale as beneficial to the public. This is where the merger with local utilities really comes in.

 

            On the one hand, the government can make the case to local communities that the merger relieves them of a debt-ridden utility with a huge deferred maintenance bill. Instead of paying to upgrade local transmission infrastructure, communities will benefit from letting the highly capitalized Hydro One do the job. By promising to pass on the savings achieved through “rationalization”, local electricity consumers will enjoy lower rates which will stimulate local economic growth. The discourse moves from Hydro One moves as political maelstrom, to Hydro One as modern, sensible solution.

 

            On the other hand, buying up local utilities extends Hydro One’s operations closer and closer to monopoly status, eliminating competition and further marginalizing public-ownership as an existing alternative. Along the way, jobs are shed, wages and pensions are reduced, local accountability is marginalized, union strength is diminished, and infrastructure upgrades are paid by the public. The whole package looks a lot more attractive to corporate profiteers.

 

            This plan isn’t that new, either. In 2012 the Ontario government created the Ontario Distribution Sector Review Panel, with a mandate to make recommendations for cost savings through consolidation of the province’s 80 local distribution companies. The panel recommended a brief opportunity for voluntary mergers, followed by mandatory mergers that would be concluded within a two-year period. The overwhelming thrust of the panel’s anticipated benefits were in the area of increased competitiveness and efficiency. Notably, the panel stated that it took no view on privatization, but proceeded to outline several sweeping benefits of privatizing at least a portion of the consolidated utility.

 

            Within two years, this “nuanced” proposal for privatization through consolidation had become much more blatant. In 2015 the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets decided to “revise their conclusion about Hydro One” and recommend that a portion of the utility be sold to the private sector. Interestingly, the Council explicitly stated the province should privatize Hydro “whether or not the government needed the revenue to finance infrastructure investments.” Consolidation had opened the door to privatization for the sake of privatization.

 

            While the government, Hydro One and private sector are all pushing hard for further mergers as a way to sweeten the sell-off, labour and community activists are responding with equal fervor. All of the deals mentioned above, whether or not they have been completed yet, have been met with strong local opposition. This fightback is rooted in the province-wide community-labour solidarity that has developed and been sustained in the campaign against the sale of Hydro One. As such, it tends to take a non-parochial approach that relates the privatization of local utilities to bigger provincial economic issues.

 

            A notable example is in Guelph, where opposition to the pending merger of Guelph Hydro with Hydro One includes the local Communist Party organization. In its brief to a special meeting of Guelph City Council, CPC-Guelph noted, “The Hydro One privatization is increasing hydro rates, especially in rural communities, reducing long term revenue for the province of Ontario, and taking away an opportunity for Ontario to democratically plan our energy network and better invest in public green energy. If Guelph Hydro is sold off, there will be similar negative results for people in Guelph.”

 

            The CPC-Guelph brief goes on to expose the reality that provincial tax cuts over the past 20 years, which add up to $18 billion in lost public revenue each year, far outweigh any perceived funding through privatization. It notes that consolidation in the current context of privatization will lead to a loss of local revenue, loss of jobs and wages, reduced infrastructure investments, and loss of transparency and local input.

 

            The real way forward for Ontario’s electricity system is through expanded public ownership and democratic control. This includes all aspects of the electricity industry – production, transmission and distribution.

 

            The level of organized opposition to the sell-off of Hydro One provides a rarely-found concrete basis for mass mobilization that can halt and reverse the privatization process, putting all of the electricity industry under public ownership. This is the only platform from which we can ensure economic, social and environmental stewardship of this key sector in Ontario society.

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2) THE NOVA SCOTIA TEACHERS STRIKE IN PERSPECTIVE

 

By Paul Bentley (Doctor of Education, U of T)

 

            In Canada, the politics of the left are sometimes fought out in court. The recent decision of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) to launch a legal challenge against draconian legislation over-riding the right of its members to collective bargaining, is a case in point. 

 

            The militant strikes of the dirty thirties got particularly rough in Nova Scotia, which in that era led the country in both the frequency of strikes, and in strike related violence. When her coal mining sons and daughters marched for a living wage, the company police opened fire, and the government threw communist leaders, men like J.B. McLachlan, in jail on trumped up charges of “seditious libel”. All the while, the newspapers blamed it on the Russians (sound familiar?).

 

            Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to fight back.

 

            The scene of the battle in Nova Scotia has changed from the coal mines to the classroom, but the dirty tricks played by the business class have not. In a desperate attempt to move an intransigent government, Liette Doucet, President of the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union (NSTU) led her members through a work-to-rule job action and an unprecedented province–wide strike, but to no avail. On February 21, the Liberal Government passed Bill 75, legislating teachers back to work under terrible working conditions and with a loss in pay. 

 

            Despite the representations of Doucet and many teachers to the Law Amendment Committee, neither the government nor the media recognized the real issues of class size that face Nova Scotia schools. In fact, according to Doucet, the Nova Scotia government denied the right of hundreds of teachers to speak to the Committee for the first time in its history. Those Teachers who did make it to the mike could not have stated the problem more clearly. English teacher Tara Arseneau said: “40 students per class is the norm; 35 students is considered a small class”. One parent who spoke to the Committee had asked his son what he would wish for at his school?  His son replied, “to have a class with less than 40 students”!  

 

            All other provinces have either hard caps or targets for class sizes at all levels of public school. At the York Region District School Board where I work as a high school teacher, the maximum class size in grade 12 is 30. But there are no such caps on class size under Bill 75 for Nova Scotia High Schools!

 

            Moreover, according to Doucet, what caps there are for elementary and junior high schools are often pierced so that teachers may face grade five or six classes with 32 or more students. This is an impossible workload, and a very bad learning environment. Bill 75 has set up a teacher-led Council to Improve Classroom Conditions to address these issues but, Doucet complains, there was no consultation with union leaders in the selection of teachers, or in the design of the application process. As a result, regions and subject areas are under-represented. Was it the government’s intention to stack the Council with corporate-climbers, eager to please their superiors?

 

            Of course, increasing workloads is one way to keep down teacher wages, but the Nova Scotia government also had other tricks up its sleeve. Bill 75 rescinds hard-earned “long-term service awards” which amounted to the accumulation of 1% per year of a teacher’s salary to be paid out upon retirement, and which many teachers count on to compensate for the recent de-indexation of their pensions. The Bill also limits wage increases to only 3% over four years, far below the current rate of inflation which sits at 2%.

 

            But why is the Liberal government so committed to austerity measures, even at the expense of the education of its children, when Nova Scotia ranks in the top half of Canadian provinces in terms of account balance, and debts service charges are at a quarter century low, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives?

 

            No doubt the explanation lurks in the Broten Report commissioned by the Liberal Government in 2014, which calls for the current freeze on government spending to be followed by a lowering of personal and corporate tax rates. Broten, a former Ontario Liberal Cabinet Minister, argues that the existing rates say, “We don't want entrepreneurs here. That we don't want people who will take risks, who will build businesses."  In 2015, Broten was appointed head of the Nova Scotia Business Development Agency. Her salary is $210,000 per year.

 

            All of this has left her members feeling demoralized, says Doucet. However, they are determined to pursue the case in court despite the government’s claim that it has bargained in “good faith”, in accordance with recent Supreme Court Decisions on collective bargaining. This is because over a two-year period of negotiations, NSTU members rejected three contract offers recommended by their union leadership. Doucet argues that no genuine negotiations were ever really possible. The Liberal Government held the threat of back-to work legislation over their heads throughout the process, and had already proclaimed its commitment to a wage freeze before negotiations began.

 

            Doucet has been around unions for a long time. In fact, her father was once President of the NSTU. Given the success of the Ontario and British Columbia teachers in similar cases, legal action would seem to have a good chance of progress. However, her father never led a province-wide strike.

 

            Perhaps in these more turbulent times, teachers might benefit from looking further back into the past, to the days when McLachlan sought to strengthen worker militancy. Of course, there was the day McLachlan narrowly escaped with his life by diving behind a desk just in time to avoid a bullet shot by an undercover company saboteur.

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3) BCTF WINS RESTORED COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT LANGUAGE

 

By Kimball Cariou

 

            Less than four months after their historic victory at the Supreme Court of Canada, the BC Teachers’ Federation has won an agreement with the BC Public School Employers' Association  and the provincial government. The BCTF reports that the agreement fully restores all of the substantive collective agreement language that was unconstitutionally stripped in 2002 by then-Education Minister Christy Clark.

 

            BCTF President Glen Hansman said the agreement “will allow the next school year to start with thousands more teachers, smaller class sizes, better class composition, and specialist-teacher ratios. BC teachers have been fighting for 15 years to defend our rights and to restore our working conditions... This agreement will mean the beginning of a new chapter in public education in BC, one in which teachers will once again have the time to give students the individual care and attention they need and deserve. School libraries and counselling offices will be re-opened, shop and lab classes will have safety standards restored, and all classrooms will be properly supported.”

 

            “Now,” said Hansman, “teachers will see full restoration of our working conditions. Schools right across BC will see smaller classes, more specialists like counsellors, special education teachers, and learning assistance teachers, and more support for children with special needs.”

 

            The tentative agreement was approved by the BCPSEA's process, and by BCTF members, who voted March 8-10.

 

            In January, the government agreed to fund 1,100 new full-time teaching positions for the current school year. Many of those positions are now filled and those teachers are already supporting students.

 

            Hansman expressed his gratitude to BC's 41,000 public school teachers for standing with their union in defence of their rights. “Thank you to all of BC's public school teachers, present and past, for all of your support over the years, your tenacity in defending our rights, and commitment to standing up for your students. It took 15 years, but we are on the verge of having our language back and restoring what was wrongfully taken away.”

 

            Meanwhile, however, a new report into last fall’s firing of Vancouver’s nine school trustees raises some disturbing questions for the future of democratic involvement in the public education system of British Columbia.

 

            Written by an appointee of the BC Liberal government, the Goldner Report accuses four Vision Vancouver elected trustees of creating a “toxic work environment” in which School Board management were “bullied and harassed.” The report is based largely on one critical event, a September 26, 2016 public meeting of the VSB at Tupper Secondary School. Attended by hundreds of parents and students, the meeting’s agenda focused on a staff report recommending the closure of eleven elementary and secondary schools on the lower-income east side of the city.

 

            The hugely unpopular recommendation came during a long-running struggle against underfunding by the province. That battle saw a huge victory for teachers, students, parents and school trustees just a month later, when the Supreme Court ruling finally compelled the Liberal government restore a huge chunk of education funding.

 

            Under enormous pressure earlier that year, the Liberals had made some minor announcements of funding increases. Just a week before the Sept. 26 meeting, they finally rescinded an arbitrary rule that major urban centres needed to reach a 95% occupancy target before allocating funds for seismic upgrades of schools. Clearly, the heat was on the government to go much further.

 

            Over the years, a favourite Liberal tactic around this issue has been to divert attention by blaming VSB trustees for leading public campaigns to demand adequate funding. Events during the summer and fall of 2016 lead many observers to believe that Liberal officials were attempting to “create a crisis” in the VSB, giving Education Minister Mike Bernier an excuse to fire the trustees.

 

            At the Sept. 26 meeting, former VSB chair Patti Bacchus put forward a motion to suspend the closure process, and calling on city staff to review the enrollment projections used by board management to justify the school closure recommendations. This calculation would be critical in light of the decision to drop the 95% school occupancy requirement. Bacchus’s motion was clearly welcome to parents and students at the meeting, but the Goldner report calls this a form of “bullying” by the Vision trustees. Within days, much of the management team booked off sick, in a transparent attempt to block the trustees from adopting a balanced budget. When that tactic failed, Bernier stepped in, replacing the nine elected trustees with one appointed person.

 

            Responding to the Goldner report, the Vision trustees - Joy Alexander, Patti Bacchus, Mike Lombardi and Allan Wong - have stated that their “commitment was to ensure accountability in the provision of quality, publicly accessible education and sound fiscal management of the school district. Our priority was to make decisions that met the needs and concerns of students, families and communities. We are proud of our track record of advocacy and community engagement and ensuring communities had a voice in decisions that affected them. We treated all VSB staff with respect and courtesy and we did not participate in or witness workplace bullying or harassment. We are concerned to hear the findings of the report and agree that workplace bullying and harassment are unacceptable. All employees are entitled to a safe and respectful work environment.

 

            “While we were under strong pressure from Education Minister Mike Bernier and our senior management team to move quickly to close schools, we stand by our decision to suspend the process. It was the right thing to do. We continue to be concerned by the political interference in the democratic process by the provincial government as a way to deflect from their neglect of public education.”

 

            The May 9 BC provincial election is now just two months away, and the anti-public education record of Premier Christy Clark will be a major issue. The removal of elected school trustees will be hotly debated during the campaign, in Vancouver at least.

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4) RACISM DISGUISED AS PATERNALISM: THE CASE OF SENATOR BEYAK

 

By Kimball Cariou

 

            Racist ideologies can take many forms, depending on the historical circumstances of the societies concerned, the personal views of individuals, and other factors.

 

            Only the most bigoted white supremacists attempt to argue that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was somehow in the best interests of the millions of Africans kidnapped from their homelands to perform brutal unpaid labour in the plantations of the western hemisphere. Similarly, South African apartheid is almost universally condemned as a racist system which denied non-Whites any meaningful human rights, let alone social or economic equality. But even in these cases, there are still a handful who claim that some Blacks benefitted from the slave trade and apartheid, thanks to the "generosity" of the masters who provided meals or limited access to schools or Christian churches. Such are the views of racists who still believe that non-whites are child-like creatures in need of "guidance".

 

            Some of these racists are die-hard segregationists, struggling to prevent so-called "race mixing" in order to preserve the mythical "purity" of the "white race" - in defiance of scientific knowledge that the concept of a "pure race" is utter nonsense. Others believe in the "assimilationist" strategy - that the best way to "improve the downtrodden races" is to help them overcome backwardness by discarding their shameful dark-skinned status and becoming just as "white" as "mainstream society."

 

            The latter is essentially a paternalistic ideology, dividing society into the superior white category and the inferior peoples who need to accept the "benefits of civilization". Within the context of the history of the Canadian colonial state, this ideology has been the prevailing view of the ruling class for centuries, and elements of such thought remain deeply embedded in Canada to this day. This was the thinking behind the push to make Canada a "white man's country," which included a range of infamous laws targetting immigrants from China, India, Japan and other Asian countries.

 

            The "white man's country" ideology began by depriving indigenous peoples of their traditional territories and other forms of genocide. When such efforts failed to wipe out the indigenous peoples, other tactics were developed, notably the Indian residential school system, which was intended to "take the Indian out of the child" by removing entire generations of children from their homes, punishing them for speaking their own languages, and "educating" them to become "Canadians like everyone else."

 

            After many years of resistance, indigenous peoples finally succeeded in achieving at least partial apologies and compensation for the genocidal residential school system. But true to their views that First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples are "inferior," some apologists for the residential schools continue to claim that despite problems, these institutions "helped" students to obtain the benefits of civilization. And after all, they say, many of the students were not sexually abused or starved or beaten or left to freeze in drafty dormitories. The majority survived their experiences in such schools, learning to read and write English and become good Christians - so why all the fuss?

 

            Sadly, this is the view expressed by Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak, who (according to the CBC) "mounted a defence of the residential school system for Aboriginal children in the Red Chamber (on March 8), lamenting that the good deeds accomplished by well-intentioned religious teachers have been overshadowed by negative reports documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

 

            Having spoken to some indigenous people who are members of Christian churches, Beyak praised the residential school staff, "whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part." She had nothing to say about the findings of the Commission, which found physical, mental and sexual abuse was rampant, and that at least 6,000 children died while in care because of malnourishment or disease. Instead, she expressed disappointment that "the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report didn't focus on the good." In her view, that included learning "valuable teachings about Jesus and the Gospel."

 

            Not surprisingly, Beyak is also a big fan of Pierre Trudeau's 1969 white paper on Indigenous issues, which proposed doing away with the Indian Act, treaties and eliminating a distinct legal Indian status.

 

            "The leaders of the day called it 'forced assimilation,' but I don't believe that was Trudeau's intent," she said. "I think he just wanted us to be Canadians together. The concept was to trade your status card for Canadian citizenship … it was brilliant and revolutionary."

 

            Of course, for those who see European ethnic origins and white skin colour as the ultimate marks of higher status, it is always "brilliant" to tell others that they should just become "white like us." And it is never a good idea to pay any attention to the opinions of the child-like brown people, is it Senator Beyak?

 

            Some racists send in the military to slaughter indigenous peoples who get in the way of capitalist progress. Others establish concentration camps to murder "non-Aryans" by the millions. And some, like Senator Beyak, proudly flaunt their superior status as the guiding fundamentalist Christian parents of non-white peoples. In the end, they are all advocates of a genocidal ideology of white supremacy. Senator Beyak should be compelled to resign immediately. Instead, she will likely continue to receive her annual salary of over $145,000 (plus benefits) courtesy of Canadian taxpayers for spreading these poisonous views.

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5) MOBILIZE TO DEFEAT THE RACIST AGENDA

 

Resolution adopted by the Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, March 4-5, 2017

 

            The Communist Party of Canada condemns the escalation of activities by racist and neo-fascist movements across the country, such as the March 4 anti-Muslim rallies in over 60 cities and towns called by the “Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens”. While the CCCC pose as advocates of “fairness”, in reality they play upon the fears of working people who face the impact of capitalist economic crisis, unemployment, and austerity social cuts, to promote their true agenda of white supremacy.

 

            The current wave of violent xenophobia has been fanned by recent events in the US, but it is also true that the Canadian capitalist state was founded on the basis of colonial genocide against indigenous peoples, brutal exploitation of immigrant workers, and the racist goal of creating a “white man’s country.”

 

            Seen in this historical context, the March 4 CCCC rallies pose a serious threat to racialized communities, as seen by the murder of six Muslim men by a white supremacist in Quebec, and by the growing numbers of arsons, bomb threats, physical assaults against women wearing the hijab, xenophobic graffiti and acts of vandalism, etc. Far-right violence also targets other immigrant groups, indigenous peoples and land defenders, the LGBTQ+ community (especially trans people at this time), the organized labour movement, advocates for women’s equality and reproductive rights, the Jewish community, and the political left – not least the Communist Party and the Young Communist League, which have been the most consistent anti-fascist and anti-racist political voices in this country since the 1920s.

 

            Communists stand in solidarity with all those who are under attack at this critical moment. We extend our full support to the counter-protests against the March 4 Islamophobic actions, and we condemn all attempts by far-right elements to use provocations to divide and weaken the anti-racist forces.  We will continue to work with others to make this resistance movement a broad-based powerful force, including trade unions and all other democratic and people’s organizations. We also call for greater efforts to expose and counter racist and neo-fascist ideologies, through letters to the editor, participation in social media debates, public meetings, etc.

 

            The Communist Party demands that Parliament take immediate steps to counter the growing menace of organized racist violence, including measures to strengthen and enforce existing anti-hate legislation, and swift passage of M-103 (the private member’s motion calling on the government to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear, and to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination).  The refusal of most Conservative leadership candidates to support M-103 is an ominous signal that this party intends to be the vehicle for imposing a Trump-style racist political agenda in Canada.

 

            But such an outcome is not inevitable. It can, and must, be prevented by building broad anti-racist unity in the streets, in our workplaces and campuses, and in all our communities during the critical weeks and months ahead!

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6) U.S. PUTS “BOOTS ON THE GROUND”

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            And so it begins. Despite pledges that the U.S. will not put new “boots on the ground” in Syria, hundreds of Marines have been sent in, supposedly to prevent conflict between U.S. backed militants and Turkish forces. The illegal move has neither Congressional nor UN approval, and it violates Syria’s national sovereignty. Similarly, the Trump administration is preparing to deploy more 1,000 combat troops to Kuwait (currently there are 6,000), to act as a reserve in the “war against terrorism” in Syria and Iraq.

 

            It appears that the Trump regime is projecting a more overtly militarist line, as opposed to Obama’s less bombastic but equally deadly “soft power” approach; in 2016 alone, the U.S. dropped 12,192 bombs on Syria, further destroying infrastructure and killing thousands. The ongoing U.S. sanctions deprive ordinary Syrians of basic necessities of life, and billions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. and Gulf State monarchies to train and arm so-called rebel forces. We’ve seen the results of this strategy before. It was the U.S. invasion of Iraq that gave birth to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to the Islamic State and other terror groups which seek to destroy the secular Syrian state, including so-called “moderate” groups and the “Free Syrian Army.” Going back further, the unintended consequences of U.S. meddling in Afghanistan reverberate to this day.

 

            Well-intentioned progressives who defend western imperialist interventions - such as those who cheered the Oscar win for the “White Helmets” propaganda film - need to ponder these harsh realities. The truth is that any foreign troops fighting in Syria without the invitation or permission of that country’s elected government are invaders. The latest dangerous developments give new urgency to the need for a revitalized anti-war movement in Canada, not more paternalistic cheer-leading for more militarism.

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7) UNITY CAN BLOCK RACISM

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            On March 4th, the so-called “Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens” - a collection of ultra-right racists, immigrant bashers and other fascists and hate-mongers - made a preliminary attempt to rally supporters across the country, calling for demonstrations in over 60 cities and towns against M-103, the private member’s motion calling on Parliament to take action against Islamophobia. The best news from this date was that wherever progressive and democratic people mobilized, the message of the hate movement was rejected by far larger counter-gatherings. By this measure, the attempt of the racists to give an impression of strength failed completely. In many locations, as few as two or three people responded to the CCCC call.

 

            The largest counter-rally was organized by a broad-based coalition including left-wing groups, members of faith groups, and other community activists in Toronto, where the crowd estimated at 1000-1500 far outnumbered a little gathering of a few dozen racists. In Edmonton, the capital of “conservative” Alberta, 150 anti-racists turned out, triple the number of the anti-M103 rally.

 

            However, this political struggle is in its early stages. Several candidates in the Conservative leadership race are pandering to the voices of racism and fascism, encouraging far-right movements to expand their efforts and fan hatred against racialized and indigenous peoples, as well as against women’s equality groups, trade unions, the Jewish community, LGBTQ+ people, and as always, against the Communist Party, the YCL, and other left-wing groups.

 

            This attempt to ride the far-right agenda of racist movements which helped Trump become the US president can be blocked by much wider and stronger unity, creating coalitions which include all progressive forces in this country. Every attempt to splinter the working class by blaming immigrants and other scapegoats for the capitalist economic crisis must be decisively confronted. United we stand, divided we fall!

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8) MOBILIZE AGAINST MANITOBA HYDRO RATE HIKES

 

Darrell Rankin, Leader, Communist Party of Canada - Manitoba

 

            Hydro's hikes are a brake on Manitoba's development. As part of the rising cost of living, they are helping to tilt the economy into recession and decline.

 

            The Pallister government must act to shift Manitoba Hydro's debt burden from workers to those able to pay: the wealthy, high income earners, and corporations.

 

            The Pallister government must not solve the problem of Manitoba Hydro's growing debt by laying off workers or chopping popular cost and energy-saving programs that benefit working people.

 

            Most importantly, Pallister must not privatize any portion of Hydro to reduce his government's deficit or the debt of Hydro itself. Instead, the Pallister government needs to impose new taxes such as on large inheritances, corporate profits, and high income earners to ensure the debt burden is not imposed on the poor, the working poor and small businesses.

 

            Privatisation would spark worse price hikes for consumers and remove the utility from public accountability. It would be a disaster for Manitoba's economy. But we can expect the Pallister government to use Hydro's mounting debt to place the firing of 900 Hydro workers and its pledge to gut the energy-saving Powersmart program in a new light, to justify privatisation. 

Such measures are unnecessary and intended to enrich the corporations.

 

            Privatisation would only benefit a handful of profiteers at the expense of working people. Hydro's growing debt is an expected but too-common occurrence for large construction projects.

 

            There has been no fundamental change in Hydro's business model that justifies privatisation, lay-offs, chopping Powersmart or rising Hydro rates. Manitoba Hydro's debt will now be more than $27 billion in a province of 1.3 million people, a result of considered decisions to build new dams and power lines. The debt will about double. With a full or part time labour force of 675,000 Manitobans, that works out to a debt of $40,000 per worker.

 

            Manitoba Hydro expects that sales to the U.S. market will pay a large portion of the debt. (Such sales are about 20% of production at this time.) That still leaves a large but expected debt for Manitoba workers (the people who create all new wealth) to pay, spread out over many years.

Unions, anti-poverty groups, and other popular movements must speak out and strongly protest against Hydro's rising gas and electricity rates.

 

            Hydro bills could double over the next decade; they are already up nearly 50% since 2004. Most affected are the poor, the working poor and remote communities, especially Indigenous communities. Higher rates are also harming hydro-reliant industries and companies, and smaller businesses in all industries, pushing Manitoba's economy off a cliff.

 

            The risks associated with building the new dams are, we are told by Hydro: declining cost of renewable energy (solar, wind); continued slump in petroleum prices, hampering the hydro market; U.S. protectionist measures that assist U.S. oil production at the expense of hydro imports.

 

            Moving away from carbon-based energy would help make Hydro's plan more viable, but All the major political parties are beholden to the oil corporations, including the NDP which is the governing party in Alberta.

 

            The Communist Party is opposed to the sale or partial sale of Hydro assets to pay for the utility's growing debt. 

 

            If Pallister does chop Powersmart, then hydro and oil use could grow rather than decline.

From an environmental point of view, chopping Powersmart would be reactionary. Most importantly, the Pallister government must intervene to shift Hydro's debt burden from workers using a fair tax system.  Such measures are necessary to avoid economic recession, slow economic growth, and hardship on energy-reliant industries.

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9) STRIKING YORK FOOD SERVICE WORKERS WIN $15 AND FAIRNESS

 

Excerpts from a highly informative report by Alia Karim and David Bush, at the rankandfile.ca website.

 

            On March 6, striking York food service workers, represented by Unite Here Local 75, voted to accept a new contract. The workers went on strike for and won a $15/hour starting wage and fair working conditions. Their victory paves the way for workers right across the province to achieve $15 and fairness.  

 

            The workers won major improvements to their contract in the nearly three week strike. They will see an immediate bump in their starting wage from $12.21 per hour to $13.21, which will apply retroactively back to last September. There will be a further wage increase this coming September and by the end of the first year of the contract the starting wage for all workers will be $15.

 

            The workers won improvements in contract language which will protect union work and breaks. They also achieved a significant victory by getting Aramark to fully cover the dental plan, which the company has never done for any of its workers in North America. By the end of the contract, all workers, both full-time and part-time, will be on the health and dental plan.

 

            The 160 Aramark food service workers at York University had been preparing for this round of contract negotiations since last year. The low pay, bullying, racial discrimination by management, and the poor working conditions bred widespread discontent amongst the workers. They built up the confidence to take on a powerful multinational corporation and the York University administration by marching on their boss, holding demonstrations, and organizing mass meetings with other food service workers across the GTA. Through months of organizing, the workers in the union were able to produce a 100 percent strike ratification vote.

 

            On February 2, the food service workers walked off the job on a one-day strike, shutting down all Aramark locations at York University. The workers marched on campus, held multiple rallies, and demonstrated their strength to the employer and the administration.

 

            Workers then went on indefinite strike on February 16. They held a picket line at the main gate and organized two marches on campus a day. During York’s reading week, which was on the second week of the strike, the union organized a week of actions downtown targeting the company. They were joined by the striking food service workers from UofT Scarborough (who are still on strike).

 

            The workers’ picket line was at the main entrance of the University. Although most of the Aramark locations were shutdown on campus, as the strike proceeded management and a small amount of workers crossing the picket line allowed the company to open a couple of locations.

 

Building support

 

            Food service workers were not engaged in this struggle alone. Other workers and students organized an extensive solidarity campaign to help the workers achieve a victory.

 

            This work did not begin when the strike started or even in the weeks leading up to the strike. In fact, organizing began many months before. The Real Food Real Jobs campaign started in the winter semester of 2016 at York University. The goal of this campaign was to build solidarity with York food service workers and fight for healthier food options on campus. The Fight for $15 and Fairness, a provincial wide campaign to fight for labour law and employment standards reform, formed an active group on the York campus at the end of the 2015, and then joined in the efforts of Real Food Real Jobs last spring.

 

            These groups spent months doing outreach, raising awareness about the food service workers’ struggle, and about the need to improve the minimum standards of work for all workers. They organized a solid routine of tabling, petitioning, class talks, MPP visits, postering, and fun creative actions to raise awareness. The orientation was not to debate or talk to the already converted, but to win over a majority of students and workers on campus to support a $15 minimum wage and fairness at work...

 

            The Cross Campus Alliance (CCA), a coalition with representatives from the main employee associations and student federations on campus, was also a crucial element in the solidarity campaign. The CCA produced thousands of solidarity posters which students put up right across campus. The CCA also helped set up a website, York15.ca, which generated a solidarity letter for all community members to sign on that would automatically be sent to the president, the chair of the Board of Governors, and all of the vice-presidents. Members of the York community filled out the solidarity letter and flooded the administrations’ emails. The CCA was instrumental in preventing the administration from isolating the food service workers from the other trade unions and student unions on campus. The CCA also got amazing videographer to produce a series of videos explaining the issues and documenting the strike and solidarity efforts. These videos were invaluable for class talks and promoting the struggle on social media. 

 

            In the lead up to the strike, these groups helped organize a series of successful demonstrations on campus that travelled to the main cafeteria and other Aramark food service locations...

 

Engaging in solidarity

 

            When the strike was called a wide range of solidarity actions were initiated to get more students and community members involved. As workers walked the picket line they were joined at points by various student and union groups. Some faculty even visited the picket line with their students.

 

            One tactic that proved successful was the solidarity coffee. On campus, management opened a select few locations to break the strike. In an effort to blunt management’s efforts and reinforce the boycott, the CCA, Real Food Real Jobs, $15 and Fairness, and the Osgoode Law Union coordinated a series of coffee stations set up right next to a management-run Tim Horton’s or Starbucks. Everyone entering the location was handed a leaflet, got an explanation about the strike from a volunteer about why they should support the workers, and then was offered free coffee. The solidarity coffee actions were extremely effective and often resulted in little to no business going to Aramark. These actions would not have been possible without the York Federation of Students taking the lead on the logistics.

 

            But providing free coffee six days a week all day while workers walked the picket was expensive and unsustainable. On days and at locations where solidarity coffee wasn’t being provided, mass leafleting at open Aramark locations was organized. While many students knew about the strike, there was some confusion about which sites on campus were on strike and which weren’t. On such a large campus it was mistake to assume that everyone already knew about all the issues. The leafleting provided more opportunities to educate students about the issues.

 

            The goal of the solidarity work was to build a large base of support for the striking workers on campus and to get those supporters to put the heat on the university administration to help settle the strike. The York administration had repeatedly denied that strike had anything to do with them, but they had subcontracted out the work to Aramark and they had essentially created a budget line for food services on campus...

 

            The York administration, feeling the pressure from students and workers and concerned about any hit to potential enrollment, began to get involved informally in the negotiations in the week leading up the settlement. Aramark, which cares little about its already tarnished brand, was upset that its client was being targeted because that could endanger any future contract.

 

Why this matters

 

            The victory is a huge win for racialized workers in low-wage industries who are forced take the hardest and least desirable jobs without basic labour protections. The majority of Aramark food service workers are women of colour. Harassment and intimidation from managers was targeted at women, physically pushing them to work harder and if they didn’t comply they would be disciplined through suspension or a cut in hours. Some female workers were told they are not going to be promoted because they were Muslim and wore a hijab. There were pregnant workers who have bullied and harassed to continue working despite their need for proper breaks.

 

            These women decided to fight back and were very vocal about their experiences at work. They asked for an end to harassment, racism and Islamophobia and for respect and dignity. Their struggle shows that $15 and Fairness is not just about economic justice for workers, but it is also about justice for racialized women who face intersecting exclusion on the basis of class, race, sex, gender, and status. Their demands for respect and dignity were inherently tied to demands for higher wages and fair working conditions. Their victory is a huge win for racialized women who bear the brunt of precarious work and shows how $15 and Fairness demands can effectively push back against systemic inequalities in the labour market.

 

            The victory at York belongs above all to the workers, whose confidence and organizing galvanized the entire York community and the whole Fight for $15 and Fairness movement. The strike was also a victory for the students and other unions on campus. The victory for improved working conditions for the food service workers make it possible to think of fighting to make all of York a $15 and fairness campus. The new networks of students and workers forged in this fight can continue the struggle after the settlement.

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10) STATSCAN REPORT BREAKS DOWN GENDER PAY AND EMPLOYMENT GAPS

 

By Saleh Waziruddin

 

            Even if women worked the same exact same jobs as men, 77% of the gender pay gap would persist, according “Women and Paid Work”, a Statistics Canada report by Melissa Moyser (PhD), published on International Women's Day as part of the series “Women in Canada: A Gender-Based Statistical Report”.

 

            Women are paid 87 cents for every dollar men earn per hour, but this would be as much as 97 cents if women were paid the same as men within the same occupation (not just industry). In manual labour jobs, men are paid $7.24 more per hour, but even in predominantly female jobs women were paid $4.60/hour less than men for the same work.

 

            The report recognizes that most of the gender pay gap is from patriarchy directly, much more than from the gendering of labour under capitalism into predominantly male and female jobs and industries. This is also confirmed by a 2015 study by Tammy Schirle which showed the gender pay gap within provinces was mostly due to the gap within the same occupation in each province, rather than the difference between provinces in industries and jobs.

 

            A 1996 study by Michael Kidd and Michael Shannon showed the more detailed the job classification statistics come from, the greater the gender pay gap. They concluded the gap cannot be explained by the individual or personal characteristics of the workers themselves, suggesting it is due to patriarchy directly.

 

            The Statistics Canada report also shows that in large cities, high day-care costs are directly associated with large employment gaps between men and women. Toronto, with the highest day-care costs in the country, had a gender employment gap of 12.6%, and in Vancouver it was 11.8%. The effect is more obvious when we consider Quebec has a low-cost publicly funded childcare program, with Montreal having an employment gap of 6.4%. In Ottawa the employment gap is 7.3%, but across the river into Quebec the gap is only 2.6% in Gatineau.

 

            Women had twice as many absences from work as men because of family responsibilities. Over the working life this adds up to an average of one and a half years away from work for women, but only eight months for men.

 

            Three-quarters of part-time workers are women, and one-quarter of them said caring for children was the reason, compared to only 3.3% for men. The proportion of workers working more than one job within each gender has flipped from 1976. Workers with multiple jobs went down by almost half from 2.8% to 1.7% for men, but for women this almost doubled from 2.8% to 4.5%. Almost 40% of women with multiple jobs have a part-time as their main job, but this is less than 20% for men.

 

            The report also shows the importance of access to post-secondary education for women's equality. The gap in employment rate between having a high-school vs. a college degree was 13.8% for women but just 8% for men.

 

            Statistics Canada found the gendering of jobs is uneven and has gotten worse. Since 1976, women who work are twice as concentrated into predominantly female jobs than men are into predominantly male jobs. The proportion of women who are in predominantly female jobs has almost doubled since 1976, from 35% in to 60%. In computer science jobs the proportion of women has actually decreased since 1987.

 

            Women are more likely to work in jobs which pay the lowest 20% of wages than in jobs with the top 20% of wages, and the opposite is true for men. Even when they require the same skill level (education and training), predominantly male jobs have higher wages than predominantly female jobs, often by more than $4 an hour.

 

            The report recognizes that men in predominantly female jobs are often in a “glass escalator” (“glass” because it is “invisible”, “escalator” because men are promoted even when they don't need to be). This phenomenon was first recognized in a 1992 paper by Christine Williams. Subsequent research shows this mainly applies to white men, heterosexual or not openly queer, with citizenship. At the other end of the spectrum, the statistics for women's wages don't reflect the lower wages of women of colour, openly queer women, transwomen, and non-citizen women. This means the inequality within predominantly female jobs is higher than appears from statistics which look at gender, without further breaking groups down by race, sexuality, citizenship, or transgender status.

 

            A 1996, comparison of the gender pay gap between Canada and Australia in another paper by Michael Kidd and Michael Shannon, showed that the gap was much narrower in the latter country, both due to its stronger labour movement, but also because equity was driven pro-actively rather than cases-by-case as in Canada. At the time of the study 80% of Australian workers' wages were covered by decisions made by federal tribunals.

 

            A 1994 study by Denise Doiron and Craig Riddell found that the decrease in the gender unionization gap in Canada between 1981 and 1988 prevented an increase in the gender pay gap for all workers (with or without a union) of 7 percent. This means without the increased unionization of women, all women would have a worse gender pay gap today than it was back in the early 1980s.

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11) MOBILIZATION DEFEATS GERRYMANDERING ATTEMPT BY QUEBEC LIBERALS

 

By Adrien Welsh, Montréal

 

            Gerrymandering in Québec and Canada has a long record. One of the first examples was in 1839, when Governor-General Lord Sydenham, knowing that the majority of the population in the former Lower Canada was strongly opposed to a union with Higher Canada, had to manage a way to force the adoption of the Act of Union. He made sure that suburban areas close to Montréal, Québec and Trois-Rivière, all inhabited mainly by French-speaking people, would be attached to rural constituencies instead of urban ones. With this recomposition, not only did the English-speaking minority - which was dominant in urban centre - become over-represented, but the majority of the French-speaking population in the suburbs were denied the right to vote, because tenants had no right to vote in rural districts at that time.

 

            Gerrymandering was an important tool of the Duplessis régime between 1936-1939 and 1944-1959. The electoral map had not been revised between 1853 and 1960. This greatly advantaged the conservative Union Nationale party of Duplessis, since rural to urban migration resulted in the population of Montréal constituencies (generally closer to the Liberal Party) often totalled up to 55,000, whereas in rural areas, generally favourable to the Union Nationale, the average population per constituency would be around 5000.

 

            Another example of gerrymandering in Montréal has to do with the federal riding of Cartier, in which Fred Rose was elected twice. In this riding, the Labour-Progressive (Communist) Party was a dominant force from the 1930s until the beginning of the 1950s, when the constituency was changed to include wealthier areas until its final dismantling in 1968.

 

            These cases show how gerrymandering has been used in a partisan way, always favourable to the elites and to harm progressive people, the working class and the popular masses. All these examples occurred before a specific law regulated the modification of the electoral map, but the adoption of such a law in 1979 in Québec unfortunately didn’t prevent the use of this tactic to help ruling parties hold on to some regions.

 

            This is what almost happened recently with the Québec Liberals’ attempt to suppress the Montreal  riding of Ste-Marie-St-Jacques, currently represented by LGBTQ+ activist Manon Massé under the banner of Québec Solidaire.

 

            (Québec Solidaire was launched in 2006 after the union of Françoise David’s “Option citoyenne” movement and the Union des forces progressistes coalition formed by the Parti communiste du Québec amongst others. This unique formation represents the most progressive elements of the social and labour movements of Québec, and stresses social issues over the national question. QS currently holds three seats in the National Assembly.)

 

            It all started in 2015, when the Chief Electoral Officer was asked to present to the National Assembly a first preliminary report on a project to update the electoral map of Québec. The second version of this report proposed to merge Ste-Marie-St-Jacques with the riding of Westmount-St-Louis, a Liberal fortress.

 

            Both constituencies have nothing in common. Ste-Marie-St-Jacques is historically a French-speaking working class neighbourhood, and is also the area with the highest concentration of LGBTQ+ people in Québec because it includes the “gay village”. On the other hand, Westmount-St-Louis includes the western part of downtown Montréal, part of the financial district, and is inhabited mostly by the Anglophone bourgeoisie.

 

            Of course, this broad socio-economical portrait has to be refined. For example, if Ste-Marie-St-Jacques (or the Faubourg à m’lasse, as Manon Massé presented it in a Feb. 20 press conference) used to be the place where “the first working men and women settled”, it is also true that in recent decades, gentrification has been a dominant trend; in 1963, about 5000 people were expropriated from their homes in this neighbourhood before the construction of Radio-Canada headquarters. This battle has been a key issue which the Québec Solidaire deputy has been fighting. Merging Ste-Marie-St-Jacques with Westmount would have driven the final nail into the coffin for those who oppose gentrification.

 

            In her crusade against this decision to dismantle the riding, Manon Massé has counted on many supporters. The citizens of Ste-Marie-St-Jacques mobilized 400 people for a public meeting, and collected over 14,000 signatures for a petition.

 

            The broad range of supporters included the two opposition parties, some members of the Liberal Party, the Mayor of Montréal, Denis Coderre, along with community and labour groups operating in the area. Dominique Daignault, President of the Montreal Central Council of the CSN, sent a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer demanding that consultations be undertaken before proceeding with the reconfiguration of the electoral map, and stressing that a modification of the electoral system is essential, including a proportional dimension.

 

            After an injunction to reverse the decision of the Chief Electoral Officer was defeated in court on Feb. 21, Manon Massé clearly stated, “now is time for action.” She praised QS members and sympathizers for bringing the struggle to the political level. This was a factor in the final decision on March 2 to merge two other ridings, Outremont and Mont-Royal, instead of dismantling Ste-Marie-St-Jacques.

 

            At the end of the day, whether or not the attempt to dismantle Ste-Marie-St-Jacques was deliberate, this manoeuvre would have suited the Liberals about a year before the 2018 Québec elections. In that context, safeguarding a riding, and throwing some sand into the wheels of Québec Solidaire, would have objectively favoured the Liberals. Even with a small number of deputies, Québec Solidaire has played a positive role in the opposition. as the only voice representing the most progressive forces within the labour and social movements. Since 2014, QS has been the only party opposed to the Liberals austerity agenda.

 

            It is no exaggeration to say that the Liberals tried to infringe the principles of democracy through gerrymandering in a way that suits the interests of big corporations. Ignoring the reality of marginalized people is part of their strategy to put the burden of the economic crisis on the shoulders of the people.

 

            The social and progressive movement won an important battle, to help reinforce the voice of those who fight against the interests of big corporations. Nevertheless, the core of the problem is still to be solved. That is why, during her press conference, Manon Massé made it clear that on a long term basis, adopting a proportional voting system would ensure that “all votes count.”

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12) END CANADIAN COMPLICITY IN THE “DIRTY WAR” - HANDS OFF SYRIA NOW!

 

Resolution adopted by the Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, March 5, 2017

 

            Since its onset in 2011, the devastating conflict in Syria has resulted in a staggering death toll of several hundred thousand, with millions more internally displaced or driven into exile, and with massive destruction to homes, schools, hospitals and national infrastructure. Now in its seventh year, the war has reached a new, critical juncture, and the anti-war movement internationally must do everything possible to demand an immediate end the imperialist interference driving the conflict, and to help bring about a just, negotiated peace.

 

            From its very beginning, the Syrian conflict has never been a ‘civil war’ in any real sense, much less a ‘popular uprising’ or ‘revolution’; rather, it was – and remains today – a proxy war of aggression launched by the U.S. and its NATO imperialist allies, with the active support of Saudi Arabia, the reactionary Gulf States and Israel. Using the 2011 ‘Arab spring’ protests against the elected government in Damascus as an opportunity and convenient cover, imperialism covertly organized, financed and armed extremist groups composed primarily of foreign mercenaries to launch a military insurgency aimed at toppling the Bashir Al-Assad government. The ultimate objective of this ‘regime change’ operation was not only to topple the current (elected) government in Damascus, but also to weaken and eventually split up the country into a number of pliant mini-states divided along religious, sectarian lines. Such a balkanization of Syria would not only strengthen Israeli domination in the region and undermine the Palestinian struggle against the occupation and for national self-determination; it would also further isolate and expose neighbouring Iran as the next target of imperialism and its regional allies.

 

            This ‘proxy war’ strategy however has now become completely unhinged. Ever since the Al-Assad government requested and received military support from the Russian Federation in September 2015, the tables have turned. The assistance rendered by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah forces, combined with the resolute resistance of the Syrian people themselves – the vast majority of whom have rallied in support of the government and army – has dramatically shifted the strategic balance of forces in the country. The defeat and withdrawal of the so-called ‘rebel’ forces from East Aleppo, along with other battleground setbacks for the insurgent forces, including the recent re-liberation of Palmyra by the Syrian army and retreat of ISIS forces in the eastern part of the country, have created a qualitatively new situation.

 

            Some of the ‘rebel’ forces have now been forced to accept a limited ceasefire agreement with the Syrian government, monitored by Russia, Turkey and Iran. Negotiations between the Assad government and at least some of the extremist groups are now also underway in Geneva aimed at achieving a long-term political resolution to the conflict.

 

            There are disturbing signs however that U.S. imperialism is determined to scuttle any possibility of a negotiated peace in Syria that does not serve its interests. It is using various UN agencies and international NGOs, such as Amnesty International, to float wild and unsubstantiated accusations against Syria for using chemical weapons, murdering political prisoners, and committing other ‘crimes against humanity’, in order to further demonize the Assad government and its allies, and prevent any peace agreement.

 

            Washington has also given its official ‘blessing’ to plans announced recently by the Saudi regime to send its troops into Syria to attack both ISIS and government forces and create ‘safe havens’ and ‘liberated zones’ to be handed over to “moderate” extremist forces to administrate and control. This would essentially complete the process of carving up Syria into a patchwork of mini-sectarian states and enclaves.

 

            Already, Turkish ground forces, and US and other NATO special forces, are operating inside Syria without any government sanction or approval. The entry of Saudi forces would further inflame the already dangerous situation, and would likely result in a direct confrontation between Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces on one hand, and US/NATO powers and their state allies on the other, with all of the dire consequences which that might spawn.

 

            Canada remains directly implicated in the Syrian conflict, despite media reports to the contrary. While the Trudeau government reluctantly agreed in 2016 to halt direct Canadian CF-18 air attacks inside Syrian territory, Canadian jets are continuing to provide strategic and intelligence support to the US military campaign, refueling and finding targets for other US "Coalition" aircraft. This is a direct violation of Syrian sovereignty and independence. The Communist Party of Canada condemns this continued collusion with the illegal and dangerous war on Syria, and calls for the immediate halt to this Canadian military involvement.

 

            Instead, Canada must contribute actively and sincerely to the search for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the war, one which guarantees the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Syria. Syria’s future must be determined by the Syrian people themselves, free of foreign interference and intimidation.

 

            As a sign of Canada’s desire to help bring about a genuine peace in Syria, the Canadian government must immediately revoke all economic and other sanctions against that country, re-open the Syrian embassy in Ottawa, and renew Canada’s diplomatic relations with Syria on the basis of full equality and mutual respect for the principles of international law.

 

            The massive misinformation and vilification campaign against Syria and its allies over the years has led to much confusion and division within the broad peace movement, effectively silencing its opposition to this imperialist aggression. Given the ever-increasing danger that the Syrian conflict could spill over and envelop the entire Middle East, and even ignite a globalized confrontation between the leading nuclear powers, the paralysis and resulting silence must be overcome, and peace forces across Canada and around the world need to mobilize against this proxy war, and demand a negotiated political solution. The Communist Party of Canada restates its active support for the efforts of the Canadian Peace Congress, the “Hands Off Syria” Coalition and other peace and solidarity forces working to expose the truth behind the insidious imperialist conspiracy against Syria, and for a just end to this horrendous conflict.

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13) WHY IS THE TRUDEAU GOVERNMENT ESCALATING ITS BELLIGERENCE TOWARDS RUSSIA?

 

This commentary by Yves Engler originally appeared on March 7 in the Huffington Post Canada

 

            Yesterday [March 6] it was confirmed that 200 Canadian troops would remain in the Ukraine for at least two more years. This "training" mission in the Ukraine is on top of 200 troops in Poland, a naval frigate in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and a half-dozen CF-18 fighter jets on their way to locations near Russia's border. Alongside Britain, Germany and the U.S., Canada will soon lead a NATO battlegroup supposed to defend Eastern Europe from Moscow. About 450 Canadian troops are headed to Latvia while the three other NATO countries lead missions in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia. From the Russian point of view it must certainly look like NATO is massing troops at its border.

 

            Canada's military buildup in Eastern Europe is the direct outgrowth of a coup in Kiev. In 2014 the right-wing nationalist EuroMaidan movement ousted Viktor Yanukovych who was oscillating between the European Union and Russia. The U.S.-backed coup divided the Ukraine politically, geographically and linguistically (Russian is the mother tongue of 30 per cent of Ukrainians).

 

            While we hear a great deal about Russia's nefarious influence in the Ukraine, there's little attention given to Canada's role in stoking tensions there. In July 2015 the Canadian Press reported that opposition protesters were camped in the Canadian Embassy for a week during the February 2014 rebellion against Yanukovich. "Canada's embassy in Kyiv was used as a haven for several days by anti-government protesters during the uprising that toppled the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych," the story noted.

 

            Since the mid-2000s Ottawa has actively supported opponents of Russia in the Ukraine. Federal government documents from 2007 explain that Ottawa was trying to be "a visible and effective partner of the United States in Russia, Ukraine and zones of instability in Eastern Europe." During a visit to the Ukraine that year, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said Canada would help provide a "counterbalance" to Russia: "There are outside pressures [on Ukraine], from Russia most notably. ... We want to make sure they feel the support that is there for them in the international community."

 

            As part of Canada's "counterbalance" to Russia, MacKay announced $16 million in aid to support "democratic reform" in the Ukraine. Ottawa played a part in Ukraine's "Orange Revolution." In "Agent Orange: Our secret role in Ukraine" Globe and Mail reporter Mark MacKinnon detailed how Canada funded a leading civil society opposition group and promised Ukraine's lead electoral commissioner Canadian citizenship if he did "the right thing." According to MacKinnon's report, Ottawa also paid for 500 Canadians of Ukrainian descent to observe the 2004-05 elections:

 

            "[Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine, Andrew Robinson] began to organize secret monthly meetings of western ambassadors, presiding over what he called 'donor coordination' sessions among 20 countries interested in seeing Mr. [presidential candidate Viktor] Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group's spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government's heavy-handed media control. Canada also invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine's Razumkov Centre and other groups that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovich [winning]."

 

            For Washington and Ottawa, the Ukraine is a proxy to weaken Russia, which blocked western plans to topple the Assad regime in Syria. As part of this campaign, 1,000 Canadian military personnel, a naval vessel and fighter jets will soon be on Russia's border.

 

            Where will this lead? A new Cold War against a capitalist Russia? Or a much hotter war involving direct confrontation between Canadian and Russian troops? What would the U.S. response be to Russian troops massed on its border? The last time Russian missiles came within 90 miles of American soil, the world came close to nuclear war.

 

            Canada is participating in a "game" of brinksmanship that could end very badly.

 

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