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Saturday

Tweet for Write for Rights on Dec 10 Human Rights Day! | Amnesty International Canada

Tweet for Write for Rights on Human Rights Day! | Amnesty International Canada
This Human Rights Day, December 10th, people around the world will be joining Amnesty to write for rights. In this blog post, we are going to share with you how to engage the world and your country in celebrating the power of letter writing and defending human rights. If you have not yet registered with Write for Rights, visit our website and be sure to sign up. You’ll find our featured 2016 cases, and ideas on how to host your own letter-writing parties.

This year, Amnesty International will be using Twitter to create an online wave of speaking out for human rights through YOUR tweets about Write for Rights. Let’s show the world that human rights matter, by making the 2016 Write for Rights hashtag #W4R16 and #Write4Rights appear in conversations online throughout the entire day.

Wednesday

Ontario Government vs Nestle - water as a human right, comment now

The government of Ontario, Canada has announced proposed regulations for local operations of bottled water companies like Nestlé, and is now accepting comments on their proposals.
The proposed regulations are a step in the right direction, but they're not sufficient to ensure that local communities and their resources will be prioritized. Leaders and corporations must transition to thinking about water as a human right and a finite resource that is protected, shared and enjoyed by all of us. 
Right now, the Middlebrook well is under siege by Nestlé, who recently purchased it. We want Nestlé to expropriate this well and give it to the town of Centre Wellington, so the local community can utilize it for drinking water. Expropriation would prevent Nestlé from demanding an obscene price for the well. We’re demanding that this and other key revisions be added to the government's proposals.
The Ontario Government has a stated goal to “improve our understanding of the cumulative impact of water takings on groundwater and how the demands for groundwater are expected to change as Ontario’s communities grow and our climate changes.” Let’s put the pressure on and ensure that local water resources are protected, all proposals for new and expanded water-bottling facilities are rejected, and local indigenous leaders areninvolved in all decision-making concerning local water resources. 
The public comment period on the proposed regulations is open now and will be until December 1st. And you don’t have to be a resident of Ontario to have your voice heard. 
Onward,

Thursday

Polish parliament rejects near-total abortion ban after mass protests

Polish parliament rejects near-total abortion ban after ...
WARSAW, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Poland's parliament overwhelmingly rejected plans for a near-total ban on abortion on Thursday after mass protests by tens of thousands of women, marking an embarrassing setback for the conservative government and the powerful Catholic Church.
The ruling Law and Justice party (PIS) had originally backed the draft proposals drawn up by an independent anti-abortion campaign group but was badly shaken by Monday's protest rallies across Poland attended by up to 100,000 women dressed in black.
Poland already has one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws but the new proposals would have limited it only to cases where the mother's life was in direct danger - a step too far even for many women who helped vote PiS into power a year ago.
Under the rejected plan, women and doctors would have faced up to five years in jail for performing an abortion.
"PiS continues to back the protection of life," party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a devout Catholic, told parliament. "And it will continue to take action in this respect but it will be considered action."
In the vote 352 lawmakers rejected the proposals against 58 in favour, but liberal opposition deputies warned of possible further attempts to tighten the law by the PiS government, which has a big parliamentary majority.
"We have to remain vigilant because we don't know what the future holds for abortion rules in Poland. We can't be sure that PiS won't come up with a new proposal," said Joanna Schmidt, a lawmaker with the new liberal Modern party.
Under current rules, enshrined in a 1993 law that ended the liberal approach of communist times, abortion is allowed in cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother's health or when prenatal tests show serious, irreversible damage to the foetus.
But activists say women are sometimes denied an abortion in such cases when a doctor invokes moral or religious objections.
Poland remains one of Europe's most staunchly Catholic nations, although the clergy has seen its influence steadily eroded by more than two decades of democratisation and market reforms since the 1989 fall of communism.

U.N. Security Council nominates Portugal's Guterres as U.N. Sec General

U.N. Security Council nominates Portugal's Guterres as U.N. ...
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 6 (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Thursday unanimously nominated former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to be the next Secretary-General, recommending that the 193-member General Assembly appoint him for five years from Jan. 1, 2017.
The General Assembly is likely to meet next week to approve the appointment of Guterres, 67, who would replace Ban Ki-moon, 72, of South Korea. Ban will step down at the end of 2016 after serving two terms.
Ban, speaking during a visit to Rome, described Guterres as a "super choice" as his successor.
"I am sure he will carry the torch on the full range of key challenges, from strengthening peace operations to achieving sustainable development, upholding human rights and easing humanitarian suffering," Ban told reporters.
Guterres was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015. Guterres is due to speak to reporters in Lisbon later on Thursday.
"He has great United Nations credentials ... and being High Commissioner for Refugees means traveling the world and seeing some of the most gruesome conflicts we have to deal with and then of course he is a high-level politician," said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the council for October.
"He is a person who talks to everybody, listens to everybody, speaks his mind, a very outgoing, open person so I think it was a great choice and I'm glad that we rallied around Mr Guterres," Churkin told reporters.

Pakistan parliament passes legislation against 'honor killings'

Pakistan parliament passes legislation against 'honor killings' | Reuters

Pakistan's parliament unanimously passed legislation against "honor killings" on Thursday, three months after the murder of an outspoken social media star.
A joint session of the lower and upper houses of parliament, broadcast live on television, approved the new anti-honor killing law, removing a loophole in existing law that allows killers to walk free after being pardoned by family members.
"Laws are supposed to guide better behavior, not allow destructive behavior to continue with impunity," said former senator Sughra Imam, who initially put forward the bill.
Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan at the hands of family members over perceived damage to "honor" that can involve eloping, fraternizing with men or any other infraction against conservative values relating to women.
In most cases, the victim is a woman and the killer is a relative who escapes punishment by seeking forgiveness for the crime from family members.
Under the new law, relatives can forgive convicts in the case of a death sentence, but they would still have to face a mandatory life sentence.
An anti-rape law, which makes it mandatory that a perpetrator gets 25 years in jail, was also passed in the same parliamentary session.
"These bills are hugely important for Pakistani women, where rape conviction rates were almost non-existent, due in large part to various technical obstacles to accessing justice," said Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director at Equality Now.
"We hope that these new laws will help generate a cultural shift in Pakistani society and that women will be able to live their lives in safety," Hassan told Reuters.

Wednesday

Who's Banking on the Dakota Access Pipeline? | Common Dreams

Who's Banking on the Dakota Access Pipeline? | Common Dreams 
In a historic show of unity, over 188 Canadian First Nations and American Indian tribes have come together to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s effort to stop the pipeline.

 the Standing Rock Sioux are not just up against the oil and gas industry and the federal government, as daunting a challenge that alone would be. They are up against the many of the most powerful financial and corporate interests on Wall Street, the profit-driven institutions that are bankrolling this pipeline plan and so many others like it throughout the country.
The pipeline company disrupted the peaceful demonstration this weekend when its security firm unleashed violence on the activists, attacking them with dogs and pepper spray. The tribes are standing strong in their unity, and won’t give up despite these frightening and horrifying developments.

Tuesday

Kathleen Wynne: Stop Nestlé from sucking Ontario dry!

Kathleen Wynne: Stop Nestlé from sucking Ontario dry!

Nestlé is gunning for more of our water -- 3.6 million litres a day to be exact -- from its Aberfoyle plant near Guelph, Ontario. The Swiss-owned megacorporation is applying for a 10-year extension on its contract to suck the Grand River watershed dry. If it succeeds, it will pay just $3.71 per million litres. That’s less than $15 a day!

Unlike other regions in Southwestern Ontario, Wellington County doesn’t get its water from the Great Lakes, it relies on groundwater. This unsustainable water theft must end.

Tell Premier Kathleen Wynne to reject Nestlé’s extension to take Ontario's water.

In the last 4 years, Nestlé upped its dangerous water extraction by over 33% from the Aberfoyle well while water levels at the well dropped by a staggering 1.5 meters. But Nestlé isn’t stopping there. Right now, it is vying for an additional well near Elora in Wellington County, to pump 1.6 million litres a day. This is on top of a neighbouring site in Hillsburgh, Ontario, where it is already permitted to take over 1 million litres of water a day.
At some point -- especially as climate change wreaks havoc across Canada -- the water will run out.
That’s why we’re standing with the Wellington Water Watchers and others across the globe to demand that Nestlé be denied permission to seize our precious water supply for profit.

Friday

Protect every lake, every river | Sign by July 20

Protect every lake, every river | The Council of Canadians
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just announced the start of a major review of our water laws.

Four years ago, the Harper government removed protections from 99% of the lakes and rivers in Canada. Harper gutted the laws that protect freshwater in Canada, including the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and more.

This paved the way for industrial projects that could threaten water. Water sources for municipalities and Indigenous communities are vulnerable to dams, mining, pipelines, logging, fish farms, liquefied fracked gas terminals and more.

Lakes and rivers in Canada must be protected under federal legislation. But Big Oil, which lobbied the Harper government to exempt mega-pipelines from regulation under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, doesn’t want these protections restored. So right now they are using their deep pockets and political connections to lobby our new government to keep things as they were under Harper.

That’s why it’s critical that you speak up now. The federal government is asking for your input on its review of two key pieces of legislation by July 20, 2016.

Here are talking points for the letter:

The Harper omnibus budget bills made changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that resulted in the cancellation of nearly 3,000 environmental assessments. The scope of environmental assessments was also narrowed.

Comprehensive environmental studies no longer need to include information such as:
  •  The impact on navigable waters or any unique or special resources.
  •  The “components of the environment that are likely to be affected by the project and a summary of potential environmental effects” and information relating to the terrain, water bodies, air and vegetation that would give federal authorities a more accurate picture of the environment that may be impacted by the activity.
  •  The name, width and depth of any waterway affected by the project and a description of how the waterway is likely to be affected.
  • Environmental studies must assess the impacts of projects on all waterways.
  • Pipelines were completely exempted from regulation under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Energy East pipeline is an example of a project that is moving forward without scrutiny of how it will impact navigation and waterways. The 4,600-kilometre pipeline would cross and endanger 2,963 identified waterways and countless smaller streams and wetlands along the way.
  •  Restore and enhance water legislation so that waterways are fully protected.
  •  Restore the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to include the impact of projects on waterways. Restore protections for all lakes, rivers and waterways under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was renamed the Navigation Protection Act by the Harper government.
  • Hold public consultations and independent expert panels, and incorporate feedback to strengthen freshwater laws.
  • Consult with Indigenous communities on a nation-to-nation basis and incorporate the obligation to obtain free, prior and consent into water legislation so that Indigenous treaty and water rights are respected.
  • Implement strict safeguards for waterways within the framework of the United Nations-recognized human right to water.
  • Establish a community consultation process that fosters true collaboration between communities and government so regulatory agencies implement community recommendations on an ongoing basis. 

Monday

World Refugee Day, 20 June, petition

World Refugee Day, 20 June

In a world where violence forces hundreds of families to flee each day, the UN Refugee Agency believes now is the time to show world leaders that the global public stands with refugees, and it will launch its #WithRefugees petition on June 20th to send a message to governments that they must work together and do their fair share for refugees.

The #WithRefugees petition will be delivered to UN headquarters in New York ahead of the UN High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants, scheduled for the 19th September. The petition
asks governments to:
  • Ensure every refugee child gets an education.
  • Ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live.
  • Ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.
World Refugee Day has been marked on 20 June, ever since the UN General Assembly, on 4 December 2000, adopted resolution 55/76 where it noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June.

Friday

Tell CPP to explain why you own a fracking oil company

The Canada Pension Plan, our pension plan, spent $900 million of our money to bail out the struggling Canadian oil company Encana by buying its Colorado fracking operation. We own an oil company that fracks in Colorado’s Denver Julesberg (DJ) Basin. Where local communities have been fighting to impose moratoriums on plans to drill 15,000 wells.

It may not end there. Canada Pension Plan Investment Board former CEO, Mark Wiseman said “I don’t think we’d go buy Exxon, but we might buy a piece of Exxon if it were for sale.”  A company that not only contributes to climate change directly but has also been accused of funding climate change deniers.

This is the climate cavalier attitude of Canada’s largest public investor.

An attitude that is costing us and one that we must change. Sign the petition to tell Finance Ministers to climate risk proof your pension.

Friends of the Earth Canada asked Corporate Knights to look into investments of the five biggest public sector pension funds. Turns out they are foregoing $20 billion profit every year by not fully incorporating climate risks into investment decisions. The Canada Pension Plan likely missed out on US$6.5 billion in profits by sticking with climate polluting industries.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has also investigated pension funds and found the CPP is more heavily invested in fossil fuels than other funds. This means the CPP is more exposed to climate risk. Fossil fuel producers or pipeline companies make up about 22% of the CPP’s Canadian investments and about 6% of its foreign investments. In these same investments, CPP owns 34 companies involved in the worst climate polluting industries – coal mining and coal burning utilities.

Thursday

Drones and Killer Robots: Canada's Policy: Free, University College, June 15

Science for Peace Discussion: Drones and Killer Robots: Canada's Policy
"Military operations have increasingly included precision guided munitions and unmanned aircraft known as drones. Under development are unmanned fully autonomous armaments, or ”killer robots’’ that destroy or kill without a human in the decision loop. Now is the time to debate what Canada plans to do about this."

Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 7 pm
Room 261, University College,
15 Kings College Circle, University of Toronto.
All are welcome. No charge.
Speakers:
Michel Duguay, Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Laval University and chair, Science for Peace Working Group on Drones
Walter Dorn, Professor of Defence Studies, Royal Military College and Canadian Forces College
Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director, Project Ploughshare

‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’

‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’ | Inter Press Service
ROME, May 17 2016 (IPS) - “Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels.”
With these one dozen or few words, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, briefly but sharply portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the first ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 this year in Istanbul, Turkey.
Secretary General Ban documented his statement with specific figures: nearly 60 million people, half of them children, have been forced from their homes due to conflict and violence.
“Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific,” O’Brien responded to IPS in an interview. “However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII.”
According to O’Brien, it is clear that the landscape of humanitarian action has changed significantly over the past years and “collectively we have not been able to adequately keep up with and respond to contemporary challenges.”
The UN Under Secretary General then explains to IPS that it is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world.
And that the humanitarian needs have grown exponentially while the resources have not been able to follow suit which has created an ever-widening gap.
 “A core aim of the summit is the reinvigoration of political will and commitment to take forward the Agenda for Humanity.” And adds “The Summit is a launch pad at the highest level: but what is even more important will be a commitment to follow up and make these actions a reality.”
He also says that UN member States and other stakeholders making commitments during the Summit will be asked to update on progress against their implementation. “Follow-up at the inter-governmental level will begin with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Affairs Segment.
O’Brien adds that the UN Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly will address how each of the core responsibilities will be carried forward and will define the vehicles for assessing progress.