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Friday

UN human rights committee slams Canada's record on women - Canada - CBC News

UN human rights committee slams Canada's record on women - Canada - CBC News

The UN human rights committee is accusing the Canadian government of failing to act on missing and murdered aboriginal women, violence against women generally, and numerous other matters, ranging from refugees to Bill C-51, the new anti-terror law.

The UN's first report card on Canada in 10 years was released Thursday, and measures whether the country has met its human rights obligations.
At least 26 human rights organizations, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch, submitted their own separate reports to the 18-member independent committee on the various issues.

The UN human rights committee says a national inquiry should be called into the fact that 'indigenous women and girls are disproportionately affected by life-threatening forms of violence, homicides and disappearances.' (CBC) Overall, the report took exception to Canada's failure to set up a way to implement some of the committee's recommendations.

"It should take all necessary measures to establish mechanisms and appropriate procedures to give full effect to the committee's views so as to guarantee an effective remedy when there has been a violation of the covenant," the report said.

Here's a list of some of the UN committee's criticisms and recommendations:
  • Business: "Human rights abuses by Canadian  companies operating abroad, in particular mining corporations," should  be addressed by an independent authority and a framework that give  victims the possibility of legal remedies.
  • Gender equality: The committee notes "persisting  inequalities between women and men" in Canada and wants better equal pay legislation across the country," with a special focus on minority and  indigenous women."
  • Violence against women: Continued violence against women in Canada, and the "the lack of statistical data on domestic  violence," led the committee to call for better legal protections for  victims, and for more shelters and services.
  • Missing and murdered aboriginal women: In the wake of reports on murdered and missing women, the committee said "indigenous women and girls are disproportionately  affected by life-threatening forms of violence, homicides and  disappearances." It said there should be a national inquiry.
  • Bill C-51: Canada's new anti-terror law allows  mass surveillance, too much information-sharing, and a no-fly list that  lacks proper governance and appeal, the committee says. It suggests  Canada should review the act and allow for better legal safeguards.
  • Police use of force: The committee notes excessive force during protests such as those at the G20  in 2010 and recommends  prompt, impartial investigations, along with prosecutions of those  responsible where warranted
  • Refugees and immigration: The committee worries  "that individuals who are nationals of designated 'safe' countries are  denied an appeal hearing against a rejected refugee claim before the  Refugee Appeal Division and are only allowed judicial review before the  Federal Court" — increasing the risk they may be sent back.
Other recommendations cover prison conditions in Canada, freedom of expression, native land titles, the Indian Act and the condition of indigenous people generally.

It asks for a response from Canada five years from now on what improvements and implementations have been made as a result of its recommendations

Tuesday

Starbucks: adopt a sustainable palm oil policy. | SumOfUs

Starbucks: adopt a sustainable palm oil policy. | SumOfUs

Your Starbucks coffee break is likely to be contributing to  deforestation, extinction of endangered tigers and orangutans, and  abuses of workers and communities. While other industry giants such as McDonald's, KFC, Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme have committed to cutting conflict palm oil from their supply chains, Starbucks is taking an ostrich-like approach -- sticking its head in the ground and ignoring this growing emergency, and the concerns of its consumers.

In 2013, facing public pressure, Starbucks announced that it would be sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil by 2015. That deadline has come and gone, and Starbucks needs to hear from us that we won't wait any longer for responsible palm oil.

Starbucks is a recent member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), but the coffee giant has already failed to report mandatory data on its palm oil sourcing to the overseeing body.

And unfortunately, even if Starbucks met RSPO criteria, it wouldn't mean it had achieved gold standards. The RSPO can't guarantee that the palm oil it certifies is deforestation-free. Deforestation is happening in palm oil plantations owned by RSPO members, and NGOs and consumer companies also criticize RSPO's inability to regulate peatland destruction and greenhouse gas emissions.

What's most remarkable about Starbucks' lack of progress on palm oil is that it's in stark contrast to the company's work on coffee. Earlier this year, Starbucks announced that 99 percent of its coffee is now ethically sourced, which it accomplished by developing and implementing the Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices (CAFE), a third-party verified program for farmers to ensure certain human rights and environmental standards are met. Through its CAFE initiative, Starbucks actually reduced  deforestation in its coffee supply chain. Why is it so hard to do the  same for palm oil?

Friday

A sobering look at Canada’s human rights record - The Globe and Mail

A sobering look at Canada’s human rights record - The Globe and Mail

Sir Nigel Rodley, a law professor and chair of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, was referring to the deteriorating space for human rights advocacy, protest and dissent in Canada. He noted it was almost unbelievable that the UN committee felt compelled to raise these sorts of concerns with Canada. Sir Nigel highlighted research by the Voices coalition, which pointed to astonishing levels of fear and intimidation felt by Canadian activists and civil society groups, and referred to the disquiet expressed by the UN’s leading expert on the freedoms of assembly and association. He dismissed the Canadian government’s initial response to questions about the crackdown as “thin.”

t was a powerful moment that came near the end of six hours of back-and-forth, over two days, between committee members (drawn from countries around the world) and a sizable Canadian delegation from various federal departments and the province of Quebec. And it captured wider concerns about the range of troubling issues explored in the review.

Canada’s human rights record has been on display, and the range of shortcomings and violations that have been probed has been sobering. Some are long-standing, such as concerns about sex discrimination under the federal Indian Act. Others are more recent, such as many references to Bill C-51, the new Anti-Terrorism Act. Some of the issues, certainly violence against indigenous women, have an impact on hundreds of thousands of people.
The point of the review is not that Canada is among the worst human-rights violators in the world. Of course not. It is a regular review that comes around for all countries that have signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The point, rather, is that all signatories are obliged to protect all rights – and that there is an expectation that a signatory with all the resources and strong institutions that Canada has will set a high example for other countries to follow.
That is not the picture that emerged during the review, however. Instead, it was of entrenched problems in Canada, such as the failure to have an effective process for recognizing and protecting aboriginal land rights. And of new and troubling developments that take Canada in the wrong direction, such as the battle over federal cuts to health care for refugees.
All of this against a backdrop of increasing Canadian disregard for many aspects of the international human rights system. Canada was still dismissive of the important UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – which the government asserted is not binding, not law, only aspirational. Committee members were not impressed, for example, when Canada implied that it has no human rights responsibilities under the covenant when Canadian mining companies operate abroad....

Monday

Gordon Brown: 2015 a year of fear for refugee children

2015 a year of fear for refugee children-average time away from home in exile at around 17 years

CNN: Ten million of the world's 30 million displaced boys and girls are now refugees from their home country. With the average time away from home in exile at around 17 years,
children could go through their entire school-age years, from birth to adulthood, without ever entering a classroom. And rising refugee numbers explain why, according to a new UNESCO report published Monday, 124 million never go to school at all, 59 million of them being primary age boys and girls. While shelter, food and health care are vital to survival, it is education -- and the idea that you can prepare and plan for your future -- that, if curtailed or neglected, deprives young people of hope.

Currently, only about 1% of humanitarian budgets go to education. The educational needs of refugees are forgotten, trapped between development aid and humanitarian assistance that understandably focuses on health care, food and shelter, while standard aid budgets are allocated years in advance and take little account of unplanned-for crises.

Sunday

Climate activists call for greener economy - Toronto - CBC News

Climate activists call for greener economy - Toronto - CBC News

Demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown Toronto onSunday afternoon, calling for an economy that works for both the people and the planet.
Environmentalist David Suzuki, actress Jane Fonda, author Naomi Klein and former diplomat Stephen Lewis were among the notable names in the crowd, which will also included members of First Nations, UNIFOR, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, Toronto Regional Labour Council and Greenpeace Canada.

Pretty good coverage of the climate justice march today.  I'm actually in the video, marching near the front with the Indigenous group (with my Turtle Island sign :-)

Friday

The Council of Canadians - water protection petition

Campaigns | The Council of Canadians

Did you know there are 2.5 million lakes and rivers across Canada? Not long ago, every one of them was protected by federal legislation. Today, only 159 are protected.

You can change this.

Sign the national petition

You may remember Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill the Harper Conservatives rammed through Parliament in 2012 without any public consultations.

Quietly tucked into that bill were sweeping changes to Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act, which stripped 99% of our lakes and rivers of federal environmental protections.

Why would the Conservatives do such a thing? The day their new law came into effect it cancelled environmental reviews for 3,000 energy projects – including tar sands pipelines, fracking and mining – greasing the wheels to fast-track federal approval.

Against the will of the public, the Harper Conservatives have put a higher value on dirty fossil fuels than the safety of our water.

As a direct result, they have put the health of millions of Canadians and Indigenous people at risk and left 99% of our lakes and rivers exposed to devastating contamination.

This Canada Day, let's come together  to restore these protections.
#Pledge2Protect our lakes and rivers 99 per cent of Canada’s lakes and rivers no longer have federal protection.  These environmental and cultural treasures must be kept clean and safe from industry, such as the tar sands, fracking and mining. I call upon  you and your MPs to pledge to protect our lakes and rivers if elected in 2015. Our natural heritage, and that of our children, depends on it.

Tuesday

A strong democracy needs strong science | Evidence For Democracy

A strong democracy needs strong science | Evidence For Democracy

"I believe that all Canadians benefit when governments solicit,  collect and use the evidence and expertise needed to make smart policy  decisions that safeguard the health, safety and prosperity of Canadians. I will support/vote for actions that invest in public-interest science; ensure open, honest and timely communication of scientific information; and make public the evidence considered in government decisions."

 Canada's commitment to making decisions based on evidence, not politics, helped to build our prosperity and make our country one of the safest, healthiest, best educated and most compassionate countries in the world. Making evidence-based decisions requires investing in the science and research upon which they are founded but in recent years, our federal government has turned away from science, putting at risk the foundation of what makes Canada great.

We have seen drastic funding cuts to both federal government and academic research and the scrapping of many important evidence gathering institutions, most notably the long-form census. Government scientists are working under increasingly restrictive rules limiting their ability to openly communicate their research. Perhaps what is most alarming is that many recent public policy decisions disregard all available evidence.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to highlight science and smart-decision making in the upcoming federal election. For the first time in Canadian history there is momentum to get political parties and candidates to commit to science and evidence-based decision-making!

This is your opportunity to restore the science needed for a strong democracy by taking our pledge.

Thursday

Raif Badawi| Amnesty International Canada

Take action for human rights | Amnesty International Canada
UPDATE: JUNE 7, 2015: Saudi Supreme Court upholds cruel and unjust sentence. Raif remains at risk of flogging as long as this sentence remains in  place.
Authorities arrested Raif Badawi  on 17 June 2012. They charged him with insulting Islam and creating the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website for social and political debate. Th charges related to articles Raif wrote criticizing religious figures.

Raif Badawi’s case bounced back and forth between courts until 7 May 2014.On that day, the Criminal Court pronounced a sentence of 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals After he serves a decade in jail, he is also forbidden to travel for the following decade and from participating in the media.

While international pressure appears to have brought a halt to the flogging after the first 50 of 1,000 lashes, Raif Badawi remains behind bars facing an uncertain future. By the end of April 2015 his case had been transferred from the Criminal Court back to the Supreme Court.

Since March 2011 the authorities have  continued a relentless campaign of repression in the name of security.  The authorities have cracked down on peaceful activists calling for reforms and on demonstrators protesting against human rights violations. Those who express dissent face arrest and imprisonment whether they are critics, bloggers, activists or academics. Raif Badawi is just one of many.

Wednesday

Ontario first in North America to curb bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides | Toronto Star

Ontario first in North America to curb bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides | Toronto Star

Ontario is moving to take the sting out of pesticides that are killing bees. On July 1, the province will become the first jurisdiction in North America to begin reducing the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-coated corn and soybean seeds. Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal said by 2017, the new rules should curb the acreage planted with such seeds by 80 per cent.
“Farmers are environmental stewards of their land and this regulation will enable our province’s farmers to strengthen their approach to protecting their crops,” Leal said in a statement Tuesday.
The pesticide hinders the ability of bees — and 400 other pollinator species like birds and butterflies — to navigate, feed, or reproduce. It’s also blamed for making them more susceptible to illness.
In the winter of 2013-14, Ontario beekeepers lost a staggering 58 per cent of the province’s honey bees — well above the 15 per cent depletion considered sustainable.
As of July, new rules will be in place to track the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds. For next year’s planting season, farmers will be allowed to use the seeds on up to 50 per cent of their corn and soybean fields with exceptions being granted only to those who can provide evidence of pest problems.
In 2017, all farmers wanting to use any neonicotinoid- treated seeds will have to prove they have pests.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray said the government must take “necessary action to protect these vitally important species and the ecosystems they support from the effects of neurotoxic neonicotinoids.”
Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Don McCabe said farmers “worked closely” with the province to ensure the rules work for everyone.
“The OFA supports the need for a complete pollinator policy (and) . . . will continue to work with the government toward the successful implementation of this regulation, keeping the concerns of farmers top of mind as part of a pollinator strategy,” said McCabe.
Tibor Szabo, president of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, said “while the new regs may not be perfect, in the end, the Ontario government did the right thing.” “Our bees continue to die from the overuse of neonicotinoids,” said Szabo. “We hope Ontario farmers will now take it on themselves to go beyond 50 per cent reduction and only use neonicotinoids when there’s a real need to control pests.”
The phase-out will be a challenge — almost all the corn seed and 60 per cent of soybean seed sold in Ontario is currently treated with the insecticides.
CropLife Canada, a manufacturer of neonicotinoids, has maintained their product is “one of the safest
insecticides ever developed.” Last year, two major beekeeping firms launched a $450-million class-action lawsuit against two pesticide manufacturers, alleging their products have decimated bee colonies.

Monday

Bring public science back to the public! MOTION TO BE VOTED ON MAY 26

Bring public science back to the public! | Evidence For Democracy

Thanks to all of the attention last week to the challenges government scientists are facing, MPs will debate a motion to bring science integrity back to government scientists tomorrow.
Liberal Science and Technology critic, Ted Hsu, has put forward a motion to:
  1. end the government’s silencing of government scientists;
  2. create a new portal to allow publicly-funded science to get to the public; and
  3. create a new Chief Science Officer.

Passing this motion would be huge step in the right direction!

Federal government scientists play an important role in keeping
Canadians safe and healthy by providing their expertise to both the
public and decision-makers. When scientists communicate directly with
the media, we all gain a better understanding of how science is being
used for government decision-making, are better able to hold our
government accountable, and are able to make informed decisions in our
day-to-day lives.

Over the past several years, Canadian scientists working in the
federal government have experienced a substantial shift in the way they
can communicate their research. Reports
of widespread censorship and delayed access to Canadian government
scientists have been covered in prominent national and international
media
. Extensive coverage and concern has even prompted the
Information Commissioner of Canada to pursue an investigation, currently
ongoing, into the alleged muzzling of scientists.

This motion will keep this issue in the national spotlight and, if it
passes, will go a long way to improve government science and make sure
it is openly communicated to the public.

Here is the full text of the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House:

(a) the government has constrained the ability of federal scientists to
share their research and to collaborate with their peers; (b) federal
scientists have been muzzled and prevented from speaking to the media
about their work; (c) research is paid for by taxpayers and must be done
in the public interest in order to protect the environment and the
health and safety of Canadians; and, therefore, (d) the government
should immediately rescind all rules and regulations that muzzle
government scientists, consolidate government-funded or -created science
so that it is easily available to the public at large through a central
portal, create a Chief Science Officer whose mandate would include
ensuring that government science is freely available to those who are
paying for it, namely, the public, and allow scientists to be able to
speak freely on their work with limited and publicly stated exceptions.

Sunday

Amnesty Petition, Bill C-51

Take action for human rights | Amnesty International Canada

Bill C-51, The Anti-Terrorism Act, forms the core of the most comprehensive reforms to the Canada ’s national security laws since 2001. Widely expanded powers and new criminal offences raise serious human rights concerns including:

  1. A vague definition of “threats” that could include a wide range of protest activity that may not be lawful, but is certainly not criminal.
  2. Asking Federal Court judges to authorize CSIS “threat reduction” activities that could include human rights violations in Canada and in other countries.
  3. Suppressing freedom of expression by making it a crime to advocate or promote the commission of terrorism offences “in general”.
  4. Lowering the threshold for, and extending the duration of, preventative detention without charge.
  5. Expanded information-sharing without sufficient safeguards to prevent the sharing of unreliable,
    inaccurate, or inflammatory information domestically and
    internationally.

  6. Inadequate appeal procedures for individuals who find their names on no-fly lists. 
  7. No increased review or oversight of increasingly complex national security activities.
Read Amnesty International's Brief submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security

Governments have not only the right, but the responsibility to respond to concerns  about threats and attacks – including terrorism – and protect their  citizens.
But not at any cost. 

Recent history is all too full of  examples on every continent of what can happen when security laws and  practices disregard human rights: torture and ill-treatment, indefinite  detention, unfair trials, unlawful killings, irresponsible arms  transfers, civilian casualties, profiling and other forms of  discrimination, and crackdowns on protest and dissent.

Canada’s own complicity in a  number of cases including Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, Muayyed Nureddin, Omar Khadr, Abousfian Abdelrazik, and Benamar Benatta remains unresolved.

Monday

WIN! Ontario bill banning fracking passes second reading | The Council of Canadians

WIN! Ontario bill banning fracking passes second reading | The Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians supports Bill 82, legislation that would place a moratorium on fracking in Ontario.

In March, the Canadian Press reported, "An NDP private member's bill to ban high volume hydraulic fracking to produce natural gas from shale in Ontario was quickly shot down by the Liberal government [on March 25]. NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns introduced a private member's bill to have Ontario follow the lead of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New York and ban fracking. Tabuns said fracking poses substantial risks to ground water, which is combined with toxic chemicals under extreme pressure to fracture shale deposits to free up natural gas for extraction."

At that time, "Natural Resources Minister Bill Mauro said the Liberal government will not impose a ban on fracking. [Mauro says,] 'We won't be going forward with a moratorium."

But yesterday, in surprising turnaround, the Liberals joined the NDP in voting 28-19 in favour of the bill. All Progressive Conservative MPPs and one Liberal voted against the bill.

That means the legislation survives and will proceed on to third and final reading at Queen's Park. Please – now more than ever – be sure to take action to support a moratorium on fracking in Ontario by sending a message to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne through our action alert Don't Frack Ontario!