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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!

Saturday

Lowe's to eliminate pesticides that hurt crop pollinating honeybees | Reuters

Lowe's to eliminate pesticides that hurt crop pollinating honeybees | Reuters

SOMETIMES (rarely) internet activism gets results:

(Reuters) -
Home improvement chain Lowe's Cos Inc will stop selling a type of pesticide suspected of causing a decline in honeybee populations needed to pollinate key American crops, following a few U.S. retailers who have taken similar steps last year.

The class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, are sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops but are also used widely on annual and perennial plants used in lawns and gardens.

Scientists, consumer groups, beekeepers and others say bee deaths are linked to the neonic pesticides. The bee die-off is worrisome for agriculture because honeybees pollinate plants that produce about a fourth of the food consumed by Americans.

Lowe's said it will phase out neonics in shelf products and plants by the spring of 2019, as suitable alternatives become available.

A study released by environment group Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Research Institute in 2014 showed that 51 percent of garden plants purchased at Lowe's, Home Depot and Walmart in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contained neonicotinoid pesticides at levels that could harm or even kill bees.

In 2014, the White House announced a plan to fund new honeybee habitats and to form a task force to study how to reverse the honeybee declines. Last year, BJ's Wholesale Club, a warehouse retailer said it was asking all of its vendors to provide plants free of neonics by the end of 2014 or to label such products.

Home Depot, the largest U.S. home improvement chain, also asked its suppliers to start labeling any plants treated with neonics and that it was running tests in several states to see if suppliers can eliminate neonics in their plant production without hurting plant health.

Wednesday

Supreme Court of Canada rules Saguenay council must drop prayers | Toronto Star

Supreme Court of Canada rules Saguenay council must drop prayers | Toronto Star

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer.
In a unanimous decision today, the country’s top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringeson freedom of conscience and religion.
The ruling puts an end to a nine-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.
In 2011, Quebec’s human rights tribunal ordered an end to the prayers, demanded that a crucifix in the city council chamber be removed and awarded damages to Simoneau.
But the outspoken mayor fought back, raising money from supporters through the city’s website. Tremblay said it was abattle for Quebec’s Roman Catholic heritage.
The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the tribunal in 2013

Monday

Corporate Accountability International - Divestment from Veolia

Corporate Accountability International

Tell the World Bank: Divest from water privatizers!

After months of mounting pressure around the world, the World Bank has divested from global water privatization giant Veolia! This is a huge victory for everyone who believes water is a human right -- and not a commodity to be bought and sold by corporations.

Our team is on the ground in D.C. at the annual World Bank meetings right now to ramp up pressure and ensure the World Bank cuts ties with ALL water privatizers. Join this call and tell World Bank officials: Water is a human right. Divest from ALL water privatizers.

Friday

Take Action: Show your support for open science communication! | Evidence for Democracy

Take Action: Show your support for open science communication! | Evidence for Democracy

A recent survey by Environics Research Group and the Professional
Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) finds similar
sentiments among the scientists themselves, showing that 90% of federal
scientists feel they are not able to speak freely about their research...

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, and are better able to hold our
government accountable.

Informed public debate is the foundation of democracy. This means
having the scientific information that we have paid for through our tax
dollars available for discussion and allowing our publicly-funded
scientists - whose salaries and research costs we pay - to communicate
freely.

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 to the public and the media. Reports of
widespread muzzling and delayed access to Canadian government scientists
have been covered in prominent national and international media.
Extensive coverage and concern prompted the Information Commissioner of
Canada to pursue an investigation, currently ongoing, into the alleged
muzzling of scientists.

If you think that scientists should be able to speak freely, add your
name to our petition calling for new government communication policies
that promote openness and transparency - similar to policies that have
been adopted in the United States and Britain.

You can find a timeline of the censorship of government science here.

Monday

Quaker, adopt a responsible palm oil policy | SumOfUs

Quaker, adopt a responsible palm oil policy | SumOfUs

PepsiCo uses the honest-looking “Quaker man" image to sell breakfast cereals and snacks around the world. But some Quaker products contain palm oil, and the company's safeguards are simply not good enough to ensure that the palm oil it buys isn't contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses.

Quaker is the world's oldest cereal brand, and one of PepsiCo's prized possessions. Quaker products are marketed particularly to families and conscientious consumers, competing with Kellogg's and other brands which have adopted responsible palm oil commitments.

PepsiCo is a $77 billion company, and could be a powerful ally in the struggle to stop deforestation and human rights abuses. Rainforests across Southeast Asia are being destroyed every day to make way for massive palm oil plantations, where workers, even children, are trapped in modern slavery to cultivate the vegetable oil.

MSF and the TPP: Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

FROM MSF:

Canada is participating in international trade talks that could jeopardize what has already been achieved, and put the lives of millions of patients at risk.

On November 13, WikiLeaks released the draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP. Since negotiations began in 2010, they have been shrouded in secrecy. This is the first leak of text from the proposed agreement in more than two years.

The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government is continuing to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines.

It's encouraging to see that some governments, including Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, are pushing back against some aspects of the U.S. position with their own proposal that better protects access to medicines. What is troubling is that the text also shows that some countries are willing to give in to the U.S. government's damaging demands. MSF urges countries to stand strong to ensure that the harmful terms are removed before this deal is finalized

Many countries and treatment providers like Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) rely on affordable quality generic medicines to treat life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. We need to keep prices low so our patients — and millions of others still waiting for treatment in the developing world — can get the medicines they need.

Sign the petition to tell Prime Minister Harper to stand firm against the U.S. position on the TPP, and reject damaging provisions that could make this agreement the most harmful trade pact ever foraccess to medicines.

Saturday

European Humanist Federation - European Parliament commits to gender equality and women sexual and reproductive rights

European Humanist Federation - European Parliament commits to gender equality and women sexual and reproductive rights

Civil society and human rights organisations welcome the adoption of the Report on Equality between women and men in the EU (2013) authored by MEP Marc Tarabella.
Despite numerous falsehoods and emotional manipulation spread by anti-human-rights organisations about the Report, the European Parliament has clearly affirmed its will to combat gender-discrimination in Europe.
Adopted with a comfortable majority of 441 votes in favour and 205 votes against, this report addresses persistent and increasing deadlocks on gender equality and proposes actions on a wide range of issues: developing childcare facilities; combating stereotypes against female employment; reducing gender pay and pension gaps; establishing paid paternity leave to enable men and fathers to achieve a better work-life balance and raising awareness on violence against women with a European year dedicated to this issue.

Importantly also, MEPs have clearly agreed that women must have control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to contraception, legal abortion and sexuality  education - although the EU can only encourage Member States’ policies  on this issue and not initiate policies on its own.

International Women's Day - Womens Rights and Local Journalism

http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/03/the-15-journalists-putting-womens-rights-on-the-front-page/

NEW YORK, Mar 6 2015 (IPS) - Media coverage of maternal, sexual and reproductive health rights is crucial to achieving international development goals, yet journalists covering these issues often face significant challenges.

“When I was a baby, I got sick and some of my family members decided  that I should die because I was not a boy. Decades later, I’m inspired  by the courage of my mother - and countless other women – to expose and  end gender-based violence and inequality.”
-- IPS correspondent Stella  Paul
Recognising the contributions these journalists make to advancing women and girls’ rights, international advocacy organisation Women Deliver have named 15 journalists for their dedication to gender issues ahead of International Women’s Day 2015.Among the journalists Women Deliver
recognised for their work is IPS correspondent Stella Paul from India. Paul was honoured for her reporting on women’s rights abuses through articles on such issues as India’s ‘temple slaves’ and bonded labourers.

Paul’s dedication to women’s rights is not only shown through her journalism. When she interviews communities, she also teaches them how to report abuses to the authorities and hold them accountable for breaking the cycle of violence....

Another journalist honoured was Mae Azango from Liberia. Women Deliver CEO Katja Iversen told IPS, “Mae Azango deserves a Pulitzer. She went undercover to investigate female genital mutilation in Liberia.

“After her story was published she received death threats and [she] and her daughter were forced into hiding. Mae’s bravery paid off though, as her story garnered international attention and encouraged the Liberian government to ban the licensing of institutions where this horrific practice is performed,” Iversen added.

Azango told Women Deliver, “Speaking the truth about female genital cutting in my country has long been a dangerous thing to do. But I thought it was worth risking my life because cutting has claimed the lives of so many women and girls, some as young as two.”

Iversen said that many of the honourees had shown incredible dedication, through their work. “For some of our journalists, simply covering topics deemed culturally taboo – like reproductive rights, domestic violence or sexual assault – can be enough to put them in danger,” she said.

However despite their dedication, journalists still also face obstacles in the newsroom. “One of the questions we asked the journalists was: what will it take to move girls’ and women’s health issues to the front pages?” Iversen said.

“Almost all of them said: we need more female journalists in leadership and decision-making positions in our newsrooms. Journalism, like many other industries, remains a male dominated field, which can be a major obstacle to publishing stories on women’s health and rights.”

But the issue also runs deeper. There is also a lack of recognition that women and girls’ health rights abuses and neglect are also abuses of human rights, and combatting these issues is essential to achieving development for everyone, not just women and girls.

This means that women’s health is often seen as ‘soft news’ not political or economic news worthy of a front-page headline. “Unfortunately women’s health and wellbeing is still, for the most part, treated as ‘soft’ news, despite the fact that when women struggle to survive, so do their families, communities and nations,” Iversen said.

“Every day, an estimated 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth, 31 million girls are not enrolled in primary school and early marriage remains a pervasive problem in many countries. These are not just women’s issues, these are everyone’s issues – and our honorees are helping readers understand this link.”

As journalist Catherine Mwesigwa from Uganda told Women Deliver, “Women’s health issues will make it to the front pages when political leaders and the media make the connection between girls’ and women’s health and socio-economic development and productivity, children’s education outcomes and nations’ political stability.”

Male journalists also have a role to play and two of the fifteen journalists honoured for their contribution to raising awareness on these crucial rights were men. Besides India and Liberia, other honorees hailed from Argentina, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States.

Wednesday

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury - MSF

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

Competition from generic drug companies has reduced the price of HIV drugs by a staggering 99 per cent to less than $140 per patient per year. This has given more HIV patients in the developing world a chance not only to survive, but to lead meaningful lives.

But Canada is participating in international trade talks that could jeopardize what has already been achieved, and put the lives of millions of patients at risk.

Damaging intellectual property rules in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) would give pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies over brand name drugs. Companies would be
able to charge high prices for longer periods of time. And it would be much harder for generic companies to produce cheaper drugs that are vital to people’s health.

On November 13, WikiLeaks released the draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP. Since negotiations began in 2010, they have been shrouded in secrecy. This is the first leak of text from the proposed agreement in more than two years.

The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government is continuing to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines.

It's encouraging to see that some governments, including Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, are pushing back against some aspects of the U.S. position with their own proposal that better protects access to medicines. What is troubling is that the text  also shows that some countries are willing to give in to the U.S.  government's damaging demands. MSF urges countries to stand strong to ensure that the harmful terms are removed before this deal is finalized.

Sign the petition to tell Prime Minister Harper to stand firm against the U.S. position on the TPP, and reject damaging provisions that could make this agreement the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines.