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People’s Voice January 1-31, 2018
Volume 26- Number 01   $1

CONTENTS

1) “VANCOUVER GROUP SUMMIT”: ESCALATING IMPERIALIST THREATS OF SANCTIONS AND WAR

2) "INDEPENDENCE AND A CONVENTION TO ARRANGE DETAILS!"

3) AJAX DEFEATED, SITE C GOES AHEAD

4) OCEANEX CHALLENGES MARINE ATLANTIC AS "UNFAIR COMPETITION"

5) SOLIDARITY, NOT SANCTIONS - Editorial

6) THE BEYAK SCANDAL AND BEYOND - Editorial

7) LONGSHORE UNION, CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS FIGHT C-23

8) SITE C APPROVAL PUTS CORPORATE PROFITS OVER PEOPLE’S INTERESTS

9) ICELAND LEGISLATES PAY EQUALITY

10) TRUMP’S JERUSALEM STATEMENT IS A DECLARATION OF WAR

11) WOMEN’S MARCH ON CANADA RETURNS FOR 2018

12) THE US MEDIA BIAS AGAINST VENEZUELA

13) “LET RUSSIAN TEAM COMPETE AT PYEONGCHANG WINTER OLYMPICS”

14) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker


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PEOPLE’S VOICE  January 1-31, 2018 (pdf)

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 (The following articles are from the January 1-31, 2018, 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) “VANCOUVER GROUP SUMMIT”: ESCALATING IMPERIALIST THREATS OF SANCTIONS AND WAR

 

            The so-called "Vancouver Group" Summit on January 16 will bring together the 14 countries which waged war against Korea in 1950, plus South Korea and Japan - invited by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, allegedly to seek "a diplomatic solution to the Korean crisis." The Communist Party of Canada condemns this reunion of warmakers as a further step towards new imperialist military aggression against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

 

            The North American media has portrayed the Vancouver Group Summit as a "reasonable alternative" to Donald Trump's threat to annihilate the entire population of the DPRK. Such a US attack would be the most shocking war crime in history, violating every international law which bans military aggression against other countries. It would mean the deaths of millions of people across the region, and could easily spark a nuclear exchange threatening the entire planet. Trump's latest boasts about his "bigger nuclear button" are a warning that the possibility of such a devastating catastrophe is quite real.

 

            But the Tillerson-Freeland "good cop-bad cop" scenario is not a path away from war. Rather, it is a cover for the ongoing imperialist strategy to bring the people of the DPRK to their knees, by escalating economic and diplomatic sanctions with the aim of forcing their government to end to its nuclear programme. Both approaches are based on the premise that the US has the right to “punish” any country which refuses to accept the dictates of imperialism. Both Trump's threats of mass murder, and the Tillerson-Freeland strategy, include the continued presence of tens of thousands of US troops at bases and vessels in and around the Korean peninsula, and regular war exercises to remind the DPRK that a new imperialist aggression could be launched at any moment.

 

            The US is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in war, and possesses the largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. The US continues to develop and promote nuclear weapons technology and is poised to spend an additional $1 trillion on its nuclear arsenal, through its current Nuclear Posture Review. The DPRK, on the other hand, was almost totally destroyed and impoverished by the "Korean War" waged by the US and its allies, a war which artificially divided the peninsula along the 1953 ceasefire demarcation line – for the crime of defending itself against threats of foreign invasion and coup d’état. While the US and NATO maintain a policy of "first use" for nuclear weapons, the DPRK committed to no first use in 2016.

 

            We demand: the US must end its provocations, withdraw its massive military forces in South Korea and east Asia, sign a peace agreement, and allow reunification to proceed on the Korean Peninsula according to the right of the Korean people to self-determination and sovereignty free of external threats and provocations. This remains the only road to long-term peace and security.

 

            As the Vancouver Group Summit nears, we call on the labour and democratic movements, and the peace movement in the first place, to say NO to sanctions and war against the DPRK – and YES to peace, peaceful coexistence, mutual security and to global nuclear disarmament, beginning with the arsenals of the United States and NATO.

 

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2) "INDEPENDENCE AND A CONVENTION TO ARRANGE DETAILS!"

 

By Adrien Welsh, Montréal

 

            "Independence and a Convention to arrange details!" Such was the call of William Lyon McKenzie who, in December 1837, led hundreds of men to take up arms and initiate the Reformers’ Rebellion, English-Speaking Canada’s bourgeois revolution against British rule. However, this same phrase also sums up pretty well the outcome of the Congress of Québec Solidaire, held last December 2nd and 3rd.

            This meeting was officially aimed to update the programme of the progressive organisation for the upcoming Québec elections next fall. However, the main debate was around the merger of QS with another political party, Option Nationale.

            Option Nationale was created by Jean-Martin Aussant, a former trader who made his career – and his money, no doubts about that – in London, before recycling his active life into politics as a Parti Québecois National Assembly member, before resigning because he found it to tepid in the promotion of independence. His newly created party adopted a programme similar to QS on many social aspects, and presented itself as an independentist organisation, stating that ON prioritizes a "regime change" (i.e. independence) over  "social transformation".

 

             One could speculate a lot on ON’s real purpose and what actual forces were behind its creation. But its bottom line effect was to split the progressive vote, and contribute to pressure on Québec Solidaire to adopt a more pro-independence stance from the left, which objectively favours the  Parti Québécois agenda.

 

            On the national question, Québec Solidaire was also a sovereigntist party in favour of Independence. Unlike ON and PQ though, it called for a Constituent Assembly that would have the mandate of writing a Constitution, of which the outcome wouldn’t necessarily be separation. In other words, it kept a door open to other proposals to be evaluated by the Assembly, including the Parti Communiste Quebecois (PCQ) proposal of an equal and voluntary partnership of all nations in Canada.

 

            This position was the fruit of a series of debates in which PCQ’s interventions were decisive. Indeed, when the ancestor of Québec Solidaire, the Union des forces progressistes (UFP) was created, the PCQ’s proposal regarding the new organisation’s position on the national question was that there would be a majority position (in favour of independence) and a minority position not necessarily in favour. Both stances would agree that in any case, independence should be a means to achieve a social programme, rather than a goal in itself. This compromise was eventually adopted, allowing QS to

achieve the unity of the left beyond the national question, a position that one could see as historic in the political landscape of present-day Québec.

 

            From the beginning however, this compromise was constantly attacked. Pressures from a more independentist (and opportunist) fringe of the organisation, to "clarify" the QS position on the outcome of the Constituent Assembly, became more frequent as the party grew, electing three MNAs and hitting 20% in vote intentions.

 

            During the 2016 Congress, a proposal was put on the table to revise the position on the Constituent Assembly, trying to have the delegates accept that its mandate would be closed to any other proposal than independence regarding the national question. The PCQ, along with other voices that included a strong statement by openly independentist and famous trade-unionist Paul Cliche, worked at different levels to convince the membership to maintain the initial position. In the end, delegates rejected the proposal of a closed mandate for the Assembly, reiterating their attachment to the initial goal of the party, unity of the left and progressive forces beyond the national question.

 

            One year later, in May 2017, the leadership of QS tried to force through once again this debate, despite the clear outcome of the previous year’s congress. This time however, the plan was better tailored, presented through the possibility of an anti-austerity/anti-Liberal electoral alliance between the Parti Québécois, Québec Solidaire and Option Nationale. This idea was also rejected by the delegates, but another motion to negotiate the possibility of a merger between Québec Solidaire and Option Nationale was approved.

 

            This proved to be the bombshell that the leadership of QS crafted to sabotage the party’s internal democracy, and bypass the decision of two successive Congresses that clearly reaffirmed the party's founding principles of a Constituent Assembly with an open mandate, and of independence being a tool to achieve social justice, to "move beyond» capitalism". The merger in itself was not the objective, the goal was to change the political line of QS.

 

            Indeed, when the negotiating committee presented its report, it basically asked the membership to adopt a "take it or leave it" proposal. On pretty much all aspects, QS literally capitulated to Option Nationale’s demands – including the one on independence and the necessity to adopt a closed mandate for the Constituent Assembly. To many delegates, who sometimes were not even against the merger in principle, this was comparable to an "omnibus bill". The merger however, was finally approved by over 80% of the delegates.

 

            This new development in Québec Solidaire’s political line is not just a small change, as the leadership tried to present it. It is a significant qualitative change, that will impact not only the politics of the party, but politics in Québec in general. The leadership mobilised tremendous resources to ensure that what was presented as a merger between two “progressive and independentist” forces was adopted by the Congress. Some members were kept away from pre-Congress discussions, and ridings where members were tempted to vote against the merger were visited by famous leaders. As we heard from a young woman’s testimony during the Congress’ sessions, even intimidation was used against strong opponents of the merger.

 

            This marks a fundamental break with the practices of the organisation, but more profoundly, it means that the right-wing has won the battle in Québec Solidaire. These forces are now in a good position to pretend to be a "PQ 2.0", a new version of the Parti Québécois, which it would not oppose on social issues, but on the fact that QS-ON is now the "real" independentist force in Québec, since the actual PQ does not call for independence in the short term.

 

            More importantly, it means that the equation between independence and the left forces, which was a very handy tool for the bourgeoisie, will not be challenged anymore. This idea that progressive people have to first fight for independence and support the PQ in all circumstances led to disaster for Québec’s working class: it even led the labour movement to sign on to the ultra-liberal deficit zero deal proposed by Lucien Bouchard that ended up in massive cutbacks in public services (mainly health and education), adding up to almost $4 billion. In a cruel twist of irony, it was precisely against this concept that Québec Solidaire was formed at the end of the 1990s at the initiative of the PCQ and other left forces, and was starting to be successful at breaking through as an influential force amongst social movements.

 

            However, now that independence is the number one priority of the Constituent Assembly, and the goal in itself of the new formation, and that the social issues are "details" to be arranged by the Assembly, now that the new paradigm is the union of independentist forces rather than the union of progressive forces, we can ask ourselves: will QS-ON continue to challenge with the same strength the PQ’s record in terms of austerity measures and racist projects such as the Charter of Values? Or could it be tempted, in a case where it held the balance of power, to collaborate with the PQ’s orientation against the Liberals or CAQ?

 

            Pierre Fontaine, leader of the PCQ, has said that "a major red line was crossed. By basically imposing independence on the Constituent Assembly, without any previous discussion, this new position closes all possibility to nation-to-nation dialogue with Québec’s Indigenous nations. It also means that QS cannot be the vehicle for a truly democratic solution to the national question, a proposal that would break with the status quo while defending the unity of the working class across the country, instead of its division by promoting independence. This will certainly have an impact on the next electoral campaign, which is likely to be polarised around identitarian politics, and more likely so if QS-ON doesn’t take on the challenge of opposing all islamophobic, xenophobic and racist measures. We shouldn’t forget that Option Nationale is clearly in favour of the ban of religious signs on public servants, including for teachers."

 

            "This is a sad outcome," he adds. "Communists though should take pride in the work the PCQ achieved in UFP and Québec Solidaire over the past 20 years: the creation of a rather strong political force challenging the PQ from the left, organising the campaign of the first Indigenous candidate in a Québec election, etc."

 

            For now, says Fontaine, "it is obvious that our relationship with QS will have to be debated during our next National Congress to be organised next spring. It is obvious that we will have to change our policy towards QS-ON and focus on how to consolidate our basis and strengthen the PCQ. At the same time, despite the questions we have about the new policies of QS-ON and its role in Québec’s political landscape – which is in a process of recomposition – we will still be called to work with QS-ON. After all, it still is much more to the left than any other parliamentary force in Canada, and a lot of strong activists are still members of this organisation."

 

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3) AJAX DEFEATED, SITE C GOES AHEAD

 

By Peter Kerek, Kamloops

 

            BC’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Action Strategy, George Heyman, recently announced that the KGHM AJAX mine proposal, located within metres of the southern municipal boundary of Kamloops, has not received approval from the BC government to proceed with what would have been one of the largest open-pit mines in the world ever to be built right next to an urban centre.

 

            Heyman stated that part of the reason the project was rejected was because of the opposition the project faced from local indigenous groups. It’s puzzling to see that Site C would be approved, however, despite an equal level of indigenous opposition. Of course there were notable differences between the two projects, especially where each drew its support and opposition.

 

            The AJAX pit would have been within three kilometers of the nearest elementary school and within ten kilometers of several other schools, old age facilities, a university, a major hospital and all of Kamloops’ downtown core of businesses and residences. It would have also been upwind from all these places.

 

            AJAX began splitting the Kamloops community when it was first being seriously bandied about in 2011. Many folks saw job opportunities and spin-off economic benefits. Many others saw potentially catastrophic environmental degradation and health impacts. Most progressives thought it was a terrible ecological step backwards and most conservatives proclaimed it as necessary economic growth for the area. The ruling class, however, was split – too many were vested in the status quo and not willing to change Kamloops’ business landscape for the sake of some foreign-owned mine.

 

            Major opponents to AJAX included the Kamloops and District Labour Council (representing 13,000 workers) and nearly every environmentalist and doctor in the area. By 2014 there were a handful of grassroots organizations formed in opposition; among them were the Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Code Blue (a collection of former miners and university professors), and the Kamloops Area Preservation Association (a collection of lifelong environmentalists), and nearly all indigenous peoples and nations in the area.

 

            The major proponents did not coalesce into any particular group, but, they didn’t need to.

 

            KGHM, the Poland-based billion-dollar international mining corporation, began hosting arena-sized pro-AJAX rallies and throwing tens of thousands of dollars around the community, slowly building alliances and silence from would-be opponents who were co-opted through KGHM’s “charitable” gifts.

 

            KGHM gained some support, though not official, from the construction community, some Afton Mine miners (the smaller non-union underground mine also just south of Kamloops), and a mish-mash of industrial workers related to some of the local heavy industries, including the railways. Most importantly, however, was the support of the Liberal Party itself. KGHM was among the biggest donors to the BC Liberal Party, including a donation so large that it would nearly cover the entire cost of Liberal Party MLA Todd Stone’s 2017 re-election bid in the Kamloops-South Thompson riding, which is the riding in which AJAX would have been developed.

 

            The Chamber of Commerce and the business improvement associations, although very closely tied, financially and ideologically, to the BC Liberals, didn’t take any formal position to support AJAX. Why not? Well, while Kamloops’ biggest employers are its hospital, schools, government services and university, its business-friendly city councils and mayors have largely re-branded Kamloops, over the last couple decades, as a tourist and tournament town with a busy airport, travel-train hub, and world-class ski hill only 30 minutes away. The pollution coming from AJAX, even under the most ideal circumstances, would surely have destroyed Kamloops’ claims to be a “nice weather - clean air” type of place to host events and tournaments as athletes and travelers would be receiving occasional “stay indoors” warnings on breezy days. It wouldn’t be long before other communities in BC easily took away Kamloops’ “Tournament Capital” brand thereby bankrupting the many tourist-catering businesses in Kamloops.

 

            Fast-forward to BC’s provincial election of 2017 where AJAX remained a major issue in the Kamloops area: both North and South Thompson ridings had candidates from the Liberals, NDP, Greens and the Communist Party of BC (there was also a last minute Libertarian candidate in the South). Of all the parties only the Communist Party took an official stand against AJAX and even included it in their platform. The Greens hung their local candidates out-to-dry and refused to take a position, allowing their two candidates, alone, to take their own personal positions against AJAX.

 

            While the Liberals won both ridings with over 50% support, the Greens and NDP split, almost evenly, the rest of the votes.

 

            Many opponents of AJAX took note that the Green Party didn’t actually oppose AJAX, but, more importantly, many noted that the NDP were taking the same fence-sitting position that the mine’s active and closet proponents had been taking for all these years. The proponents and the NDP candidates said, “Let’s let the Environmental Assessment Process run its course,” despite the EAP’s fundamental flaws and opportunity for political interference in the final decision-making process.

 

            The NDP, prone to the failures of social democracy, were not willing to stand with local activists on a clearly divisive issue that pitted the health and environmental interests of ordinary citizens against the demands of capital to exploit resources at any cost.

 

            The Liberals were clearly in the pocket of the mining industry but could not build a consensus among its local business class to make it worth going one way or the other before the election; opposition from local activists had created many delays in the approval process and there was no way the Liberals could approve AJAX before the election without significant legal and political risk.

 

            The Greens had no desire to interfere with industry’s desires if it meant raising some flags about their ability to shill for the corporate class – even in the face of something as outrageous as AJAX – which drew the ire of the vast majority of Kamloops’ activists - including their own party’s candidates.

 

            Over the summer of 2017 the NDP and Greens agreed to a coalition of sorts with the NDP forming a minority government and the Greens agreeing to support them on confidence votes.

 

            During that summer Kamloops’ city council also finally took a formal position against AJAX citing the many problems that KGHM failed to address in their most recent approval application to the provincial government. A few months later the NDP quashed the AJAX project.

 

            But, when we look north to Site C, we see a lot of unanimity among the big and small business classes as well as from some well-paid trades workers in their support for that dam. Opposition is really only seen among locals who are having their land expropriated against their will, indigenous groups, food security advocates and environmentalists.

 

            Premier John Horgan stated that they can’t afford not to build the dam – that they would lose up to $4 billion if they cancelled it rather than proceeding. And it was well known that AJAX would generate $1.3 billion during its 23-year lifespan.

 

            So, what’s it worth to walk all over your commitment to work towards reconciliation as John Horgan did during the recent election? Apparently the $1.3 billion dollar loss of canceling AJAX was enough to absorb - especially given the opposition from people from all walks of life - including half the business class.

 

            But the business class is not divided on Site C.

 

            While the NDP has tried to create an arbitrary cost on what is affordable ($1.3 billion), and unaffordable ($4 billion), in terms of canceling a project and subsequently respecting indigenous opposition, what we really see is a pandering to the united business class backing Site C, disguised as a “too costly to not complete” argument, with clear contradictions in its own claims that they will respect indigenous communities and work towards real reconciliation.

 

            Now we can look forward to Site C’s naming contest; I’ll suggest to Horgan we call it the “John A. MacDonald Dam” in recognition of all previous imperialist politicians who walked all over indigenous peoples and lands using the Crown’s so-called right to expropriate for the sake of capital’s demands for economic growth.

 

            (Kerek is the organizer of the Kamloops Club of the Communist Party.)

 

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4) OCEANEX CHALLENGES MARINE ATLANTIC AS "UNFAIR COMPETITION"

 

By Sean Burton, December 2017

 

            A privately-owned shipping company in Newfoundland and Labrador is challenging federal crown corporation Marine Atlantic in court. St. John's-based Oceanex is one of the two major carriers of freight to and from the island of Newfoundland. Marine Atlantic is the other major carrier, and operates the ferry services from the island to Nova Scotia.

 

            Oceanex has gone to provincial court arguing the government subsidies to Marine Atlantic cease because they constitute "unfair competition". Oceanex has been especially vocal on the matter since early 2016 when they requested that the minister of transport review the matter of commercial freight rates for Marine Atlantic. Since then, Oceanex has developed a campaign to promote its position, including taking advertisements on social media.

 

            Oceanex's actions are an attack on a vital public service. Newfoundland and Labrador's Terms of Union with Canada specifically state that the federal government would take over and assume the cost of operating "the Newfoundland Railway, including steamship and other marine services" and more specifically that Canada will "maintain... a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques". Oceanex is attempting to argue that the wording of the Terms of Union do not necessarily entail that such a service be subsidized. In any case, Marine Atlantic's ferries are absolutely vital for the people of the province as they serve as an extension of the region's highway network and large volumes of road freight from the mainland depend on that service. So dependent is Newfoundland on mainland freight, particularly food, that delays in ferry service are often quickly reflected by shortages and higher prices.

 

            Oceanex is framing itself as the victim, and its propaganda webpage "A Level Playing Field" states that subsidies to Marine Atlantic are a threat to its long-term viability and to the livelihood of its nearly four hundred employees. That is nothing less than a threat to lay off workers if business is not good for them. Oceanex has already shut down its operations in the west-coast city of Corner Brook as of the spring of 2014, citing that they could not compete with Marine Atlantic. Eight jobs at their facility were terminated and Corner Brook's port is underused, catering to summer cruise ships or utility vessels. 

 

            Similar arguments were made in the 1980s by private trucking companies against the then publically owned Canadian National (CN). When CN was deregulated in mid-80s in the process that eventually led to its privatization in 1996, CN immediately began to cut rail services in unprofitable areas. The railway in Newfoundland was badly in need of improvements by the 1980s, but the environment of neoliberal deregulation and privatization signalled its termination in the autumn of 1988 in favour of a federal payout for highway improvements for increased truck traffic. Thus were hundreds of good jobs lost along with had been a significant component of Newfoundland's transportation infrastructure.

 

            Oceanex's efforts have not gone unopposed. The town of Port aux Basques is a main beneficiary of Marine Atlantic's presence. Port aux Basques resident Jamie Greene says that the issue of Marine Atlantic's importance repeatedly comes up in town council meetings and what Oceanex CEO Sid Hynes is proposing would be "the death blow for a relatively large town in Newfoundland- it's not like there are many other employment opportunities here". Even the region's chamber of commerce has expressed its concerns for the future of the town and for the province in general, a sentiment that is being echoed in other communities who are rightly fearful of price increases in a time when Newfoundlanders and Labradorians

are already being asked to tighten the belt and expect less. In the Port aux Basques area alone are many small communities along the coast from Codroy to Rose Blanche, a distance of about one hundred kilometers with Port aux Basques roughly in between, and they depend on the stores in Port aux Basques for most grocery items and other daily necessities. A downturn in the Port would most certainly be negative for those small communities.

 

            Oceanex's actions are in fact a clear demonstration of the need for transportation in the province and Canada in general to be publicly owned and democratically controlled. Instead of allowing Oceanex to undermine a vital public utility, that utility should instead be strengthened and expanded. If Oceanex cannot compete with Marine Atlantic now, it ought to do better when it is nationalized and serving the people instead of profit.

 

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5) SOLIDARITY, NOT SANCTIONS

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            A world-wide wave of solidarity for the courageous working people of Iran has emerged, as they protest for improved living standards and expanded democratic freedoms. We extend full support to the Iranian popular movements, as they struggle for a better future, against the reactionary fundamentalist regime.

 

            At the same time, we insist that US imperialism and its allies must never be allowed to “IraqIran. This strategy has actually been underway for several years, as the US tries to ratchet up sanctions against Iran, just as it did against Iraq during the 1990s. Those sanctions softened up Iraq for the illegal war of occupation launched by George Bush and Tony Blair in 2003, on the grounds that Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” and that the Iraqi people needed to be “rescued” by foreign military intervention.

 

            The first lie was ludicrous, and no such weapons were ever found following the imperialist occupation. The second argument essentially states that any number of civilian deaths related to the sanctions and the war - over a million so far in Iraq - is a small price to knock off a critic of US imperialism.

 

            Now, the western media and Donald Trump are again demanding stronger sanctions and US military intervention. But only the people of Iran can liberate their own country, with the true solidarity of all friends who stand for freedom, social justice, peace and human rights. What they do not need is the involvement of a country which has brought chaos and devastation to the entire Middle East and central Asia region over the past three decades. At this historic but potentially dangerous moment, the peace movement in North America must be quite clear: yes to solidarity with the people of Iran, no to imperialist sanctions and war threats!

 

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6) THE BEYAK SCANDAL AND BEYOND

 

People’s Voice Editorial

 

            The eviction of Lynn Beyak from the Conservative Party’s Senate caucus is both long overdue, and totally insufficient. Her expulsion from caucus does nothing to remove her annual salary of $157,000, or to get her kicked out of the Senate before the age of 75.

 

            Sen. Beyak had become a political liability for right-wing Tory leader Andrew Scheer, who was conveniently “shocked” in early January to learn that her website contains a variety of deeply racist “support” messages. These emails back Beyak’s claim that residential schools provided important “benefits” for Indigenous children, in particular education about the Bible and Jesus. Such “education” was a form of genocide, which includes conscious attempts to assimilate Indigenous peoples through destruction of their traditional cultures, languages and spiritual beliefs.

 

            This was well-known long before Stephen Harper appointed Beyak to the Senate as a reward for her efforts on behalf of their party - a move which came after his forced apology to Indigenous peoples for the terrible impact of the residential school system. And despite Scheer’s lame explanations, his office had been contacted repeatedly last year about the racist content on Beyak’s website.

 

            The Conservative party was a key player in establishing the racist Canadian state upon the theft of indigenous territories, using the ideology that this is a “white man’s country.” The Tories to this day include a large number of unrepentant racists in their membership. But it is also a fact that other major parties still treat the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an “aspirational” document, stubbornly refusing to accept that a truly equal “nation to nation” relationship means fully accepting the terms of the Declaration. Racism in this country is a deeply rooted historical problem, not just a case of a few bad apples like Lynn Beyak.

 

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7) LONGSHORE UNION, CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS FIGHT C-23

 

            Just before Christmas, the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) and the BC Civil Liberties Association rallied in Vancouver against Bill C-23, which replaces the federal "Preclearance Act" by a new statute based on the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance, which expands the preclearance program to other forms of transportation. As the union and its allies warn, the new rules give expanded powers to U.S. preclearance officers, and raise concerns about the expanded sharing of private information with the US.

 

            The ILWU argues that "all processes should comply with Canadian laws, standards, and values. Any sharing of information for foreign agencies must respect the privacy of Canadian workers and travelers."

 

            Here is the union's view on some of the key issues around C-23, which received royal assent in mid-December.

 

Loss of Canadian Sovereignty: U.S. officials are required to respect Canadian law on Canadian soil, but there is no mechanism in the Bill for enforcing human rights violations, including discrimination, racial profiling or violations of legal rights that fall short of the extreme consequences that would be actionable under the State Immunity Act. Granting new and expanded powers to foreign officials on Canadian soil undermines Canadian sovereignty. The government that is elected and accountable to Canadians loses a degree of control over what occurs, despite the assurances and legal protections in place. These legal protections would also only provide remedial options to pursue, and are therefore only capable of being reactive.

 

Democracy and Equality: Given the U.S. attempts to implement a travel ban from select majority-Muslim countries, future attempts by the U.S. to introduce policies that discriminate based on religion, national origin, or dual citizenship are an ongoing concern.

 

Civil Liberties: The Bill effectively limits Canadians’ ability to choose to use preclearance services once the traveler has entered the preclearance area. Canadian citizens are exposed to having their decision to withdraw be treated as potentially suspicious, giving rise to the possibility of being questioned, detained, or strip searched.

 

Reduced Mobility Rights and Disincentive to Travel: One of the main aspects of a human rights violation is the inherent insult to the dignity of the victim. By supporting this Bill, the Canadian government is putting itself in a position where it could be seen as facilitating human rights violations perpetrated on Canadian soil by a foreign State with no meaningful access to any remedy.

 

The Trump Effect: The fear of abuse or misuse of these powers, given the shift in the U.S. political climate, has created considerable discomfort for many in any notion of handing over more significant powers to the Trump administration, especially on Canadian soil. Canada had been looking into the enforceability of Trump’s original travel ban in Canada, and would certainly have to do the same for any future policies of a similar nature.

 

State Immunity: U.S. preclearance officers are immune from civil suits for actions committed in the performance of their duties and their decisions are not reviewable by Canadian courts. The main defense offered by the Liberal government, including by Prime Minister Trudeau himself, is that Canadian laws, including the Charter, would still apply to protect Canadians. However, Charter or human rights challenges could face many hurdles, not the least of which is state immunity.

 

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8) SITE C APPROVAL PUTS CORPORATE PROFITS OVER PEOPLE’S INTERESTS

 

Statement from the Communist Party of BC, Dec. 12, 2017

 

            The Communist Party of BC (CPBC) believes that the Dec. 11 decision by the provincial government to approve the completion of the Site C dam was a monumental error, and we will support both grassroots resistance and the ongoing legal and political efforts to block this project.

 

            The feeble argument by Premier Horgan – that the decision was a difficult one, forced by circumstances beyond his control – simply does not stand up to close examination. Along with organized resistance by local activists, which brought hundreds and thousands of people to the streets countless times to protest Site C, many members of the NDP government have also long supported the campaign to stop Site C for a wide range of important reasons, including the need to respect the inherent rights of First Nations peoples, the importance of preserving valuableagricultural land and the natural environment, and the combination of inflated projections of future revenues and consistently underestimated construction costs. Moreover, when First Nations communities expressed strong opposition to the NDP’s decision to approve Site C, Premier Horgan simply responded by stating that they are “not the first to disappoint” indigenous peoples. Approving Site C is not solely a “disappointment” to First Nations, but rather reflects the ongoing colonization of indigenous lands, which will now continue being extracted for the profit of big corporations. Stopping Site C is a necessary step towards fighting colonization, which is why our Party stands in solidarity with indigenous nations across the province who have struggled hard to prevent Site C developments.

 

            Essentially, opponents of Site C (including our Party) believe that the government’s decision is a surrender to powerful political pressures from right-wing forces. This decision puts the interests of corporations and the capitalist class over the interests of the majority of people in B.C., particularly indigenous nations and youth, who will lose much more than they will ever gain as a result of environmental damage. As such, the approval of Site C has bitterly disappointed huge numbers of British Columbians, including some NDP supporters, who had hoped that the defeat of Christy Clark’s Liberals made cancellation possible.

 

            Those hopes received an initial blow last summer when the government did not put an immediate moratorium on Site C, allowing the project to proceed as the Liberals had planned, costing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars with the aim of making cancellation unfeasible. Then, the BC Utilities Commission hearings into the project raised hopes again by agreeing to receive input on the wider social and environmental impacts of Site C. The information released during in September and October about the ballooning costs of the project should have been the final, conclusive evidence to scrap Site C. Instead, alarmist warnings about BC Hydro utility rate increases in the event of cancellation became the deciding factor, indicating that the government chose to put the enormous costs of completing this boondoggle onto future generations of British Columbians rather than face short term political heat.

 

            How much this decision will cost the NDP in political terms at the next election remains to be seen, but the government has certainly lost credibility among British Columbians who prioritize Indigenous rights and environmental sustainability. Site C approval has bitterly disappointed advocates of a shift away from the short-sighted policies of profit-driven corporate mega-projects and export of energy and raw materials, towards pro-people strategies such as developing the green energy sector, investing in public transit, expanding social programs, health care and education, and implementing a shorter work week with no loss in take home pay. Those who argue that the government’s decision was necessary to save jobs should be reminded forcefully that the billions of dollars poured into this speculative project would have created far more employment if invested in crucial infrastructure needs and social programs.

 

            The Communist Party of BC urges ongoing resistance to Site C, and a decisive shift away from economic policies based on corporate-driven resource extraction megaprojects. It’s time to put the needs of people and the environment ahead of corporate greed!

 

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9) ICELAND LEGISLATES PAY EQUALITY

 

PV Vancouver Bureau

 

Iceland is not waiting for the gender pay gap to fix itself.

 

            Starting January 1, 2018, it is now illegal for employers to pay women less than men. In Iceland, both public and private employers with 25 employees or more will need obtain government certification of equal pay policies. Organizations that fail to obtain the certification will face fines.

 

            The country, according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, already has the most gender equity of any country. The report examines the gender gap across four dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

 

            The United States ranks 49th, just ahead of Kazakhstan but behind Uganda. American women earn about 73% of what men earn, compared to just 68% in Canada. The U.S. gap has been narrowing for several decades — but very slowly. If the gender pay gaps narrows at the same rate as between 2001 and the present, women will not achieve pay equity until 2119.

 

            Iceland wants to accelerate the process. “We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera.

 

            The legislation was supported by Iceland’s center-right ruling part and the opposition. A notable factor in Iceland’s decision: almost 50 percent of Iceland’s parliament is female. Iceland ranks first in “political empowerment” in the Global Gender Gap Report.

 

            The United States ranks 96th in political empowerment of women, behind Nepal, Algeria and Pakistan. Women make up just 19 percent of Congress. Canada ranks 20th in overall political empowerment, due mostly to the Trudeau government's gender-equal federal cabinet, but only 56th in terms of the percentage of women in parliament.

 

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10) TRUMP’S JERUSALEM STATEMENT IS A DECLARATION OF WAR

 

            The Communist Party of Canada condemns the statement by US President Trump, declaring US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and directing the US Embassy to move to Jerusalem from its present location in Tel Aviv.

 

            The US statement is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people, and complete support and endorsement of the Zionist and expansionist policies of the Israeli government, including expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements, the continuing illegal blockade of Gaza, and the imprisonment and torture of Palestinian people fighting to protect their land and national sovereignty.

 

            The US actions have not only ended the peace process, flying in the face of UN resolutions aimed to find a peaceful political solution, but the US has declared war on all the progressive peoples and states of the Middle East who seek peaceful political solutions to complex political problems in the region.  Trump’s actions are an endorsement of Israeli militarism and aggression against the Palestinians, and others in the Middle East.

 

            Trump’s actions are a threat to global peace and security, because of his actions in the Middle East, because of his actions and threats to DPRK, to Syria, to Venezuela, to Cuba, and because of his administration’s decisions to abandon the UN and assign itself to the role of the world’s policeman.

 

            This is the road to calamity and global destruction.

 

            We call on the government of Canada, and the UN to clearly and unequivocally condemn this latest US provocation and act of war, and to take immediate action to reaffirm UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as the capital, based on the 1967 boundaries, and guaranteeing the right of return to Palestinians now living abroad, which is the internationally recognized framework for a peaceful political solution.

 

            We further call on the labour and democratic movements in Canada to oppose Trump’s criminal acts of war, to demand their retraction, and to step up the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, pending the ending of the occupation, the dismantlement of the “security” wall, full equality for Arab Palestinian Israelis and the realization of the rights of refugees including the right to return.

 

           The Communist Party of Canada will continue to support the just cause of the Palestinian People for sovereignty and independence in their homeland, free from Israeli and US aggression and expansionism.  Their brave resistance is supported by all who value peace, democracy and sovereignty in the Middle East.

 

            - Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Dec. 9, 2017

 

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11) WOMEN’S MARCH ON CANADA RETURNS FOR 2018

 

            One year after the historic Women’s March on Washington signalled the emergence of mass people’s resistance against the far-right, patriarchal agenda of Donald Trump and his fascist supporters, dozens of rallies and actions across the country will be held as part of a 2018 “Women’s March on Canada.” Details of local times and places can be found on Facebook.

 

            Since then, women’s equality issues have remained in the headlines, such as the #MeToo movement, making it clear that men in positions of power will be challenged for their harassing, abusive and violent acts.

 

            The Vision Statement and Guiding Principles of the 2018 Women’s March on Canada raise issues and demands which are just as vital today as they were twelve months ago.

 

VISION STATEMENT

 

            Making the equality of women in Canada the new norm. The work that we do, our vision and values can be explained in a unifying framework called H.E.R.S., which spells out the women’s rights priorities of: Health, Economic Security, Representation, and Safety:

 

HEALTH — Healthcare is the foundation of women’s well-being and economic stability. Women’s March Canada advocates for access to affordable and inclusive women’s healthcare regardless of nationality, age, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

 

ECONOMIC SECURITY — Women are powerful drivers of economic growth, and their economic empowerment benefits all nations. Women’s March Canada supports the dismantling of economic barriers that obstruct women’s full and equal access to local, national, and global economic systems.

 

REPRESENTATION — Women are under-represented globally, adversely affecting our collective health, safety, and economic security. Women’s March Canada seeks fair and just representation of women locally, nationally, and internationally.

 

SAFETY — Every woman has the need and right to feel physically secure, and security for women should be assured through sound legal practices. Women’s March Canada stands behind the principle that women are not to be held accountable for actions that are outside their control — particularly regarding all forms of assault — and that fair legal action must be applied to prevent these crimes.”

 

GUIDING PRINCIPLES —Women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability. We practice empathy with the intent to learn about the intersecting identities of each other. We will suspend our first judgement and do our best to lead without ego. We follow the principles of Kingian nonviolence...

 

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12) THE US MEDIA BIAS AGAINST VENEZUELA

 

By Nino Pagliccia

 

           On December 16 the New York Times (NYT) posted online an unusually long article pretending to show how children in Venezuela suffer from “severe malnutrition” and are “dying of hunger”. One sensationalist statement says, “Hunger has gripped the nation for years. Now, it’s killing children.” It includes several photos (assuming they were taken in Venezuela) likely underexposed in order to add a dramatic effect to the story. What gives away the underlying bias is when it says, the “Venezuelan government knows, but won’t admit it.” [1]

 

            That is not the Venezuela I know. What I also know is that discrediting the Bolivarian Revolution has become a US mainstream media favourite pastime, in accordance with the dictat of the US government’s determination for regime change in Venezuela.

 

            An earlier article in The Guardian refers to an increase in infant mortality rate in Venezuela in 2016, but it cites “neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, respiratory distress syndrome, and prematurity as the main causes.” This is quite understandable in a country that is under siege with sanctions and a financial blockade. [2]

 

            Once the cause of deaths is debunked, hardly anything else can be trusted in the article, including the photos. Therefore, I will not waste my time trying to disprove fake news. However, just to provide some perspective, consider this. According to the CIA World Factbook (I never thought I would reference the CIA) Venezuela’s infant mortality rate for 2016 (infants who died in their first year for every 1,000 live births) was 12.2. That is, out of 1000 new babies being born in 2016, slightly more than 12 on average died within the first year of their lives. Compare that with the following Latin American countries: Guatemala 21.3, Peru 18.5, Paraguay 18.7, Brazil 17.5, Honduras 17.2, El Salvador 16.8, and Colombia 13.6. [3]

 

            If we use a better indicator of a nation’s wellbeing, the Human Development Index, which is a comparative measure of life expectancy, education, and standard of living, the UN Development Program 2016 report ranks Venezuela 71st out of the 188 countries examined. The index ranges from 0 (lowest) to 1 (highest). [4] In fact, the index for Venezuela was measured at 0.767, higher than the average index for Latin America and the Caribbean at 0.751, and “better than Brazil's 0.754, Peru's 0.740 and Colombia's 0.727 …, and significantly higher than its ranking of 0.677 in 2000, just as President Hugo Chavez came to power and initiated his Bolivarian Revolution.” [5]

 

            Interestingly, on December 15 another article appeared, not in the NYT but in the Guardian, not about Venezuela but about the US. The article summarizes an official report prepared by a UN rapporteur who refers to the “persistence of extreme poverty in America.” One sentence gives the main idea of the findings: “The United States is one of the world’s richest and most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.” [6]

 

            I tend to believe this report as being more objective, in part because I have read similar reports before in my capacity as a researcher on Global Health. Let me just quote one sentence from it: “US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.”

 

            To all the gullible readers of the NYT I will only ask, why is it a story to spread unproven deaths in a country that admittedly is in “crisis” (caused by the US government), but it is not a real story that 40 million people live in poverty with many children dying in the “world’s richest country”?

 

            We are only left to say, “the US government knows, but it won’t admit it.”

 

[1] www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/17/world/americas/venezuela-children-starving.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

 

[2] www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/09/venezuela-public-health-crisis-infant-mortality-maternal-malaria

 

[3] www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2091.html

 

[4] http://hdr.undp.org/en/2016-report

 

[5] www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuela-Maintains-High-Human-Development-UN-20170325-0003.html

 

[6] www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/15/extreme-poverty-america-un-special-monitor-report

 

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13) “LET RUSSIAN TEAM COMPETE AT PYEONGCHANG WINTER OLYMPICS”

 

The Communist Party of Canada says the International Olympic Committee’s decision to bar Russia from officially taking part in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics was likely influenced by political motivations, with negative consequences for international sport and friendship.

 

A Dec. 20 statement from the Party's Central Executive says, "The CPC gives full support to the ongoing efforts to reach an agreement which would allow Russian athletes to compete in PyeongChang under the flag of their own country.

 

"We have to note that far from being outside the realm of politics or untainted by social pressures, the Olympic movement, like many other high-level international sporting events, has long been the scene of various forms of political interference, corruption, nepotism, racism, sexism and attempts to influence competitive results. Hundreds of examples could be given: the unjust removal of Jim Thorpe's Olympic medals, the ban on female athletes competing in certain events, the stripping of medals won by Tommie Smith and John Carlos for their Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics, the infamous US-led boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics in 1980. For most of its history, the IOC has been dominated by a small clique of royal family members and wealthy millionaires, often reaching arbitrary and secretive decisions about which athletes should be allowed to compete and which should be punished for violations of doping rules or other regulations. Top US track and field athletes, for example, often avoided punishment despite strong evidence of their use of banned substances. In the latest situation, while Russian athletes have been banned for using meldonium, some non-Russians taking similar medicines have not faced any sanctions.

 

"The IOC has no consistent track record in these matters, leaving its intentions open to question. Given the current political atmosphere of rampant Russophobia in western Europe and North America, the ban against the Russian team certainly aligns with the NATO-US strategy of encircling and isolating Russia and stationing troops and bases along its borders. The current demonization of Russia is a pretext for expanding the new Cold War, and for the vast expansion of military spending by the US and NATO (including Canada). The ban also comes shortly before upcoming presidential elections in Russia, possibly with a view to influencing public opinion.

 

"We also find it strange that the ban has been imposed after Russia has taken important steps in this area, and without any definitive proof about allegations of state-institutional involvement. Despite such accusations, the IOC commission, led by Samuel Schmid, found no confirmation. Not least, we note that the impartiality of some influential western figures involved in the attempt to ban the Russian team is suspect, such as Canada's Dick Pound, who has a long record of antagonistic attitudes towards the USSR and then Russia.

 

"Russian Prime Minister Medvedev, among other leading public figures in his country, have freely acknowledged that some Russian sports federations did have problems with doping, including at the Sochi Games. Since then, the government has initiated important corrective measures. An independent public anti-doping commission was set up some time ago, and a national plan for fight against doping was approved along with a set of measures to implement this plan. The government has made amendments to the Russian Criminal Code and to the relevant administrative legislation to fight doping, and information and educational programs have been set up to prevent violations by athletes and the personnel of national teams.

 

"These measures have already had a positive impact, and the situation in Russia is now similar to other countries. The recent 1,500 samples taken from Russian athletes were proved to be clean. But the western media campaign has tarred all Russian athletes with the accusations, which stem largely from one individual who has himself committed criminal acts by doping athletes. At the same time, some non-Russian athletes with a range of health problems are allowed to participate in competitions and take various medicines, including those considered to be doping.

 

"The Olympic movement is intended to provide a venue for peaceful sporting competitions at the highest levels of skill, speed and strength. The Communist Party of Canada calls for an end to the wildly exaggerated attacks against Russia's participation, particularly since that country's sports programs have been improved sharply in recent years, but also because these attacks are clearly motivated at least in part by pro-imperialist political considerations. Let the athletes of all countries which take part in winter sports come to PyeongChang for free and fair competition!"

 

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14) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

 

Spanish Civil War songs for today

 

Eighty years ago, a bitter civil war was raging in Spain, pitting the forces defending the democratic republic - including 35,000 volunteers of the International Brigades - against  the fascist rebel army of General Franco, with military support from Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. Last month, an album of songs of resistance from that war, For Those Who Came After, was released by Important Records. It features ten famous songs from that noble, but unequal struggle, including Viva

 

La Quince Brigada, L'Internationale, and Freiheit. They're interpreted by Barbez, a crack seven-piece ensemble from Brooklyn, with guest vocalist, soprano Velina Brown. The eclectic lineup includes clarinet, guitar, marimba, vibraphone, violin, bass, drums, and that haunting electronic instrument invented in the USSR, the theremin. The album is supported by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), a non-profit dedicated to teaching the legacy of that U.S. component of the International Brigade. Older readers will remember Songs of the Spanish Civil War (Folkways), an album featuring, among others, a young Pete Seeger and the German singer Ernst Busch. For Those Who Came Later offers those timeless songs to a new anti-fascist generation.  

 

Lorde honours BDS, cancels Israel gig

 

BDS movement won a major victory in December when New Zealand superstar, Lorde, currently riding high in the charts with her new album, Melodrama,  cancelled an upcoming show in Israel. After engaging in an online conversation with fans, the singer concluded that her decision, just a week before, to book a June concert in Tel Aviv had not been the "right call". Two young New Zealand fans, Nadia Abu-Shanab (a Palestinian), and Justine Sachs (who is Jewish), had politely engaged her in an open letter. In a Tweet published soon afterwards, Lorde wrote: "Hey guys, so about the Israel show - I've received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show." It was welcome news for BDS activists. Lorde's decision is seen by some as a hopeful sign that a younger generation of artists will resist pressure from powerful oppressors. Time and Forbes magazines have called the 21-year-old Lorde one of the most influential young persons in the world.

 

AFM tackles music streaming giants

 

Ray Hair, President of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), has written two informative articles on the growth of streaming in the music industry, and the efforts of his union (representing more than 75,000 musicians in the U.S. and Canada) to defend its members against the negative effects of technological change. The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) reports that retail revenue from streaming now represents 62% of its total income. The streaming trend is affecting digital downloads as well, with that format experiencing a 24% decline during the same period. We're talking here of subscription streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, radio services like Sirius XM and Pandora, and ad-supported on-demand streaming services like YouTube and Vevo. The AFM's 2017 deal with sound recording industry major labels earmarks a percentage of streaming revenue to the AFM Pension Fund, the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, and the Musicians Performance Trust Fund. This year, the union is seeking streaming agreements with the TV and film industry, where similar dramatic changes are taking place, as traditional cable TV and cinemas give way to "Smart TV" and Netflix. For more info: www.internationalmusician.com.

 

Thinking about those "Kumbaya moments"

 

Folksinger David Newland, whose comments on Stan Rogers's "Northwest Passage" were discussed here last month, asks us now to reconsider another iconic folk song: Kumbaya. The African American spiritual from the Georgia Sea Islands, popularized by Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, was an anthem during the civil rights era. In an opinion piece in roots music magazine Penguin Eggs, Newland deplores the mindset that has turned a song of solidarity into a pejorative cliché. President Obama, for example, referring to problems brokering a peace deal with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, said, "this can't be reduced to 'let's all hold hands and sing Kumbaya'". Toronto folksinger Eve Goldberg suggests that Kumbaya (Come By Here) is a song that has been severed from its history, and hence, may sound  insincere. But is the problem with the song, or with our times? The Urban Dictionary accurately defines a "Kumbaya Law": "In any conversation where some of the participants hold an opinion to the left of other participants, someone with the more conservative position will compare said person's opinion to the naivete of sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya". Toronto's Ken Whiteley, who recorded Kumbaya with Raffi on a children's album, gets to the heart of the matter: "When people use it as a pejorative... they are in fact criticizing the entire idea of people coming together, singing together."

 

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