Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above.

Friday

As cobalt demand booms, companies must do more to protect Congolese miners

As cobalt demand booms, companies must do more to protect Congolese miners

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the major source of some of the minerals used to manufacture components in household appliances, mobile phones, electric vehicles and jewellery.
The mineral extraction industry is the backbone of the Congolese economy. Copper and cobalt, which is a by-product of copper, accounts for 85% of the country’s exports. Because of the huge mineral deposits available in the country, it is often the only sourcing option for companies.
Cobalt is an essential mineral for the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, laptops and smart phones. It offers the highest energy density and is key for boosting battery life.
The Katanga region in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to more than half of the world’s cobalt resources, and over 70% of the current cobalt production worldwide takes place in the country. Demand for cobalt is projected to surge fourfold by 2030 in pace with the electric vehicle boom.
However, mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo is risky because of the prevalence of artisanal small-scale mining. Artisanal mining is often carried out by hand, using basic equipment. It’s a largely informal and labour-intensive activity on which more than two million Congolese miners depend for income.
And this mining method comes with major human rights risks such as child labour and dangerous working conditions. Fatal accidents in unsafe tunnels occur frequently. And there are detailed reports such as the one by Amnesty International on the prevalence of child labour in these operations.
Because artisanal miners frequently extract cobalt illegally on industrial mining sites, human rights issues cannot be excluded from industrial production. Artisanally mined cobalt also often gets mixed with the industrial production when it is sold to intermediaries in the open market. Typically, it is then shipped to refineries in China for further processing and then sold to battery manufacturers around the world. In this complex supply chain, separating, tracking and tracing artisanally mined cobalt is almost impossible.
International human rights organisations have flagged human rights abuses, putting pressure on multinational corporations that buy Congolese cobalt. In response to these pressures, some automotive and electronics companies are currently not sourcing cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo because they want to avoid tainting their brand image.
But that strategy won’t work for long, as no other country will be able to satisfy the rising demand for cobalt. The production of other cobalt-exporting countries such as Russia, Canada, Australia and the Philippines accounts for less than 5% of the global production.
How companies in the cobalt supply chain can source responsible cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid these human rights risks is a question worth exploring. We address this question in a recent study, in which we suggest companies should acknowledge the need for common standards for responsibly mined cobalt.

Currently, there is no common understanding of what “responsible” artisanal cobalt should entail. The quest for responsible mineral sourcing is not a cobalt-specific challenge. The Congolese mining code establishes certain basic standards such as the prohibition of miners under the age of 18. There are also requirements to register as an artisanal miner and become a member of a mining cooperative.
One approach towards common standards is to mount “artisanal and small-scale mining formalisation projects”. The few existing projects establish rules for the mining site that are defined and enforced by the project partners. These usually consist of cooperatives, mine operators and buyers.
One of us visited two active formalisation projects in Kolwezi in Katanga province. Based on the observations during the September 2019 visit, we believe that formalisation is a viable path to making artisanal mining safe and fair.
Formalisation works because operational measures are put in place to mitigate safety risks. For example, the extraction is supervised by mining engineers. Also, the project site is fenced off and has exit and entry controls. This ensures that no underage, pregnant or drunk miners can work on site.
But for formalisation projects to yield “responsible” artisanal cobalt, common standards and consistent enforcement are necessary. Currently, formalisation means different things in different sites.
National standards for mine safety exist, but they need to be enforced uniformly. Where current standards fall short of reassuring buyers, further measures need to be developed by a consortium of the key players. This should involve mining cooperatives, concession holders, the government, civil society organisations, and other companies along the battery supply chain.
The 2018 amendments to the mining code introduced a legal basis for the subcontracting of artisanal miners by industrial mining companies. In January 2020, the Congolese government created an entity that will oversee artisanal and small-scale mining activities. These are positive steps.
The development of artisanal mining standards through a process involving key players needs to build on and strengthen these existing national laws and strategies. Furthermore, private actors should support government efforts by identifying parameters and means of evaluation to ensure the consistent enforcement of these standards. A discussion about responsible sourcing strategies and practices is indispensable for all brands that care about the human rights implications of their operations.

To illustrate how a multi-stakeholder discussion over responsible sourcing standards translates into practice, we can examine tunnel construction to extract the ores underground at artisanal and small-scale mining sites.
The first issue is whether tunnels should be allowed at all or whether responsible artisanal cobalt should take place exclusively from open pits. Open pits are considered significantly safer. If only open pits are considered responsible, who will pay for the earth-moving machines needed to create open pits?  If tunnels are allowed, how deep can they be? While relevant mining regulations limit tunnel depth to 30 metres and tunnel inclination to 15%, international buyers of cobalt do not consider this safe.  Given that horizontal tunnel construction is particularly dangerous, should horizontal tunnels be banned entirely from sites? If tunnels are permitted, should miners receive training on construction safety, and if so, who will pay for these programmes?
These processes and regulations must be standardised and widely adopted. Only when this happens will automotive and electronics companies be reassured that they are not contributing to human rights violations. And only then will they feel confident buying Congolese cobalt.

Thursday

Environmental Defence Canada - Blue box targets too low

Environmental Defence Canada
The Ontario government is proposing amendments to the Blue Box program. But the draft regulation misses the mark – especially when it comes to plastics. Without serious reform, the proposed regulation will mean more of the same: growing amounts of plastic pollution in our landfills, rivers, and parks. We can’t let that happen.
 
The draft Blue Box regulation proposes to shift the cost and management of the recycling program from municipalities to producers. This policy approach is called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and is a step in the right direction. 
 
But EPR is only effective when high, material specific recycling targets are established and enforced. Without high targets and strict penalties, companies aren’t incentivized to make the kinds of investments needed to improve recycling in Ontario.
 
The draft regulation includes dismal plastic recycling targets. In 2030 producers will still be sending 60 per cent of their plastic bags, films, and pouches to landfills and incinerators; and 40 per cent of their plastic bottles, tubs, and jars. This is unacceptable.
 
Reforming the Blue Box program is a huge opportunity to clean up Ontario’s plastic waste. But the province’s proposal is a miss. Fortunately, you still have a chance to help the province get it right. 

 

Take action today! Tell Ontario to fix its draft Blue Box regulation and make one that puts the environment first.

 

Your letter will be sent to: Hon. Jeff Yurek , Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
CC'd: Jamelia Alleyne, Senior Policy Analyst and your MPP

MZOs: Help stop Ontario from bulldozing nature - David Suzuki Foundation

Help stop Ontario from bulldozing nature - David Suzuki Foundation:

Help stop Ontario from bulldozing nature The Government of Ontario is moving ahead in its frenzy to get rid of environmental protect

The Government of Ontario is moving ahead in its frenzy to get rid of environmental protection rules.

It recently overrode a mechanism to protect provincially significant wetlands (PSWs) in Vaughan by allowing, under a minister’s zoning order (MZO), three PSWs to be destroyed for a new Walmart distribution center. It also approved the destruction of a large, rare coastal PSW in Pickering, to make way for the construction of a warehouse. More than 30 MZOs have been issued this year.

Conservation authorities (CAs) have the mandate to ensure conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats. They play a critical role at the municipal level as storehouses of in-depth knowledge and data about local watersheds, and by managing ecological services delivered to municipal residents.

The Pickering CA did not agree to the permit needed for the warehouse development. Now the province is taking aim at their ability of CAs to safeguard regional ecosystems.

Stripping conservation authorities’ decision-making ability drastically increases developers’ free rein in the province.

Please take a moment to let the province know that:

  • The use of MZOs to derail protection measures must be stopped; 
  • Recently issued MZOs that do so must be revoked; and 
  • Conservation authorities must maintain their current powers. 
Petition at the link above.

Sunday

CBC Tandem must be cancelled

https://friends.ca/campaigns/tandem-must-be-cancelled/

The CBC's credibility is not for sale!
A few months ago, the CBC announced the launch of Tandem, its new branded content initiative. "Branded content" is a euphemism for secret advertising: articles, podcasts, and other programming that look and feel like CBC content but are actually bought and paid-for by private companies.

Tandem will hinder Canadians' trust in our public broadcaster. We have to stop it.

Now more than ever, we need a trustworthy, dependable CBC to bring us news and entertainment that serve our interest – that is, the public interest. Big Tech platforms like Facebook sell us out to advertisers all day every day. The CBC should be a citizens' oasis from such predatory commercialization. Tandem puts that oasis at risk.

We know times are tough. The pandemic has hit the CBC hard, and government support for our public broadcaster is woefully insufficient. But sponsored content is not an acceptable answer to the CBC's problems. We can't save the CBC by killing its soul.

Please join us and hundreds of current and past CBC employees by telling the CBC's Board to drop Tandem now. Sign our letter.

Saturday

Retain the Current Mandate of the Province’s 36 Conservation Authorities | Conservation Authorities Under Fire

Retain the Current Mandate of the Province’s 36 Conservation Authorities | Conservation Authorities Under Fire:
On November 5th, the Government of Ontario revealed its plans to severely curtail the role of Conservation Authorities in watershed planning and management. Schedule 6 of omnibus Budget Bill 229 proposes numerous changes to the Conservation Authorities Act (CAA) that will undermine efforts to conserve biodiversity and build community resilience to climate change.
 The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) has prepared a preliminary analysis of Schedule 6, outlining the proposed changes and their implications. Among the key concerns identified are: Narrowing of the scope and powers of Conservation Authorities, impeding the achievement of the overall purpose of the CAA, which is to “provide for the organization and delivery of programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario;”
Restricting the duties of Conservation Authorities’ members so that they no longer must act to further the watershed-based mandates of the Conservation Authorities, but rather can act only on behalf of the narrower interests of their respective municipalities; Reducing the ability of Conservation Authorities to act as independent public bodies in land use planning, including removing their ability to seek to appeal municipal planning decisions; Introducing new rights for developers to force fast-tracking of development approvals and to appeal decisions they do not like, without providing the same opportunity to citizens who may wish to challenge decisions that damage the environment; and Giving the Minister new power to overturn a conservation authority’s decision to refuse to issue a permit for development.
Alarmingly, the proposed changes were introduced as part of a budget bill, which means that the public’s right to comment under the Environmental Bill of Rights is over-ridden, as explained in the Environmental Registry of Ontario notice (ERO # 019-2646). Ontario’s Conservation Authorities are a unique and widely respected innovation.
 The vital role of our Conservation Authorities in watershed-based land use planning and permitting must be retained to prevent unchecked development that puts communities at risk from flooding and other climate change impacts through loss of wetlands, woodlands and farmland. Please join Ontario Nature in asking the government to withdraw Schedule 6 in its entirety from Bill 229.

Tuesday

ONTARIO: Demand greater public accountability and enhanced community resilience to climate change | Steamrolling the way for development, behind closed doors

Demand greater public accountability and enhanced community resilience to climate change | Steamrolling the way for development, behind closed doors: While Ontarians grapple with the social and economic impacts of a global pandemic, the Government of Ontario is quietly setting the stage for development projects to proceed without public consultation or the right to appeal. Without alerting the public through notices on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO), the government has been issuing and revoking Minister’s Zoning Orders – effectively eliminating public participation in each planning decision.

Letter on this page.  
Examples on website of other communities. 

Sunday

Poland to withdraw from EU treaty on Violence Against Women

Poland will take steps next week to withdraw from a European treaty on violence against women, which the rightwing cabinet has said violates parents’ rights by requiring schools to teach children about gender.

The justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, told a news conference on Saturday his ministry would submit a request to the labour and families ministry on Monday to begin the process of withdrawing from the treaty, known as the Istanbul convention.
“It contains elements of an ideological nature, which we consider harmful,” Ziobro said.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and its coalition partners closely align themselves with the Catholic church and promote a conservative social agenda. Hostility to gay rights was one of the main issues promoted by President Andrzej Duda during a successful re-election campaign this month.
On Friday, thousands of people, mostly women, protested in Warsaw and other cities against proposals to reject the treaty.
“The aim is to legalise domestic violence,” Marta Lempart, one of the protest organisers, said on Friday at a march in Warsaw. Some protesters carried banners saying “PiS is the women’s hell“.

Thursday

Government Runs Roughshod Over Environmental Protection and Democracy | Ontario Nature

Government Runs Roughshod Over Environmental Protection and Democracy | Ontario Nature: Queen’s Park, Ontario, July 22, 2020 – Yesterday the Government of Ontario passed Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, a law that reflects neither the values nor the long-term interests of Ontarians who understand the importance of a healthy environment and democratic process.

While Ontarians grapple with the social and economic shocks of a global pandemic, the Government of Ontario fast-tracked omnibus Bill 197 through the Legislature, amending 20 pieces of legislation and allotting only the bare minimum of time required for debate. With scornful disregard, the government ignored its legal obligation, under the Environmental Bill of Rights, to provide at least a 30-day public consultation on changes to Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act (EAA), one of our oldest and most important environmental laws.

 Bill 197 holds true to an insidious pattern of environmental deregulation set, for example, by three other omnibus bills that the government has passed since it came into power two years ago. While Bill 197 takes a hammer to the EAA, previous bills gutted the Endangered Species Act, repealed the Toxic Reductions Act and weakened environmental protections under the Pesticides Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Aggregate Resources Act. Like the other omnibus bills, the promising title of Bill 197 poorly conveys the actual content of the bill and hides its negative environmental, social and economic implications. These changes will negatively impact the health and prosperity of our communities and the environment for years to come.

Ontario Humanist Society Supports Racial Justice - Ontario Humanist Society

Ontario Humanist Society Supports Racial Justice - Ontario Humanist Society: The Ontario Humanist Society stands in solidarity with the Black community. There is no room for hatred or bigotry in our lives. We have an ethical duty to one another, as fellow human beings, and as members of our communities, to combat racism and discrimination in all forms. Every individual should hold themselves accountable for their personal past. Each of us is responsible for our actions moving forward.
 We ask OHS members and fellow Humanists to work with, but more importantly, listen to the Black community.  By hearing and supporting the Black community, we can help to fight racial hatred, discrimination, and injustice, with meaningful action towards making the world a better place.
 Change does not happen unless we all make it happen together.   Sev Derghazarian President, Ontario Humanist Society

Ontario Humanist Society Opposes Illegal Annexation of the Palestinian West Bank - Ontario Humanist Society

Ontario Humanist Society Opposes Illegal Annexation of the Palestinian West Bank -
The Ontario Humanist Society strongly opposes Israel’s plan to illegally annex West Bank lands as part of agreement signed by the new coalition government. Annexing Palestinian land under occupation violates the Charter of the United Nations and the principle established by the UN Security Council that “the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible.” Further annexation of occupied lands by Israel woul be the opposite of achieving peace and bringing justice to Palestinians and Israelis.
Palestinians deserve to live in peace, without fear that their homes and lands will be demolished or confiscated for the benefit of a different ethnic group. As a secular and rationally-minded group concerned with universal human rights, the Ontario Humanist Society opposes the idea that one religious group or ethnicity should have elevated rights & privileges over another. Instead, the OHS believes that all people should live together with equal human rights and have tolerance for all cultural and religious differences. The Ontario Humanist Society is strongly opposed to apartheid and ethnic cleansing anywhere.
For further information, please see this statement released recently at the United Nations: https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25960&LangID=E

Friday

Nestlé Waters leaving Canada is a community success | The Council of Canadians

Nestlé Waters leaving Canada is a community success | The Council of Canadians: This afternoon, Nestlé Canada Inc. announced it will leave the Canadian bottled water market and sell its bottled water brand, Nestlé Pure Life, to Ice River Springs.

This is a significant win for communities across Canada, and everyone who has been fighting the bottled water giant. “Community groups, First Nations, residents across the country and Council of Canadian supporters have persistently challenged Nestlé’s water takings in Wellington County, Ontario and Hope, British Columbia.

This is their victory against the multi-national giant,” says Vi Bui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

The Council of Canadians’ supporters and chapters joined with community groups on the ground to mobilize opposition and deny Nestlé’s many attempts to expand its operations, push for a moratorium on water taking permits, and boycott Nestlé products. Today’s announcement follows a decline in the volume of water Nestlé extracts and bottles, thanks to the groundswell of community opposition, public education and our national Boycott Nestlé campaign.
We know that Nestlé’s departure will not end water takings in Canada, and our work continues to oppose any commodification of water for profit, whether by a multi-national corporation or a Canadian-owned one.

Thursday

Amnesty: Corporate Human Rights abuses in Canada's MIning Industry

ACTION: Amnesty Link
Canadian companies operate mining, energy and hydro-electric projects across Canada and in over 100 countries around the world. Many of these projects have been associated with serious human rights and environmental abuses, prompting the Canadian government to establish voluntary initiatives to encourage companies to respect human rights. However, Canada’s active promotion of oil, gas, mining and hydro projects coupled with an alarming lack of corporate respect for human rights has led to wide-spread impunity for corporate human rights abuses.   
During the global COVID19 pandemic, this is especially concerning. Many countries – including Canada – have declared mining, energy and construction as essential services, allowing companies to continue operating.  Communities are concerned that their governments are not taking the additional risks to workers and communities seriously enough.  
While some companies are taking appropriate measures, inadequate sanitation, physical distancing, and sleeping arrangements in work camps and on job sites are frequently reported by workers. As of June 1, available data shows infection transmission at nearly two-dozen Canadian operated mine sites in Canada and the Americas alone, resulting in hundreds of sick workers and community transmission of the virus.  
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where much of the world’s copper and cobalt are mined, workers have been pressured to accept shifts of up to two months or risk losing their jobs. They can’t leave the site to be with their families and are forced to sleep in dorms with other workers, are not provided with adequate handwashing facilities, food, or water, and receive very little extra pay – only $2 per day. In Guatemala, community members have accused a Canadian mining company of taking advantage of the health and economic crisis to garner support by handing out food and other aid in exchange for people’s names and ID numbers. They say this will lead to more tension between community members once pandemic response measures are lifted.  
The situation for human rights and earth defenders, especially those who oppose resource exploitation, is dire: their freedom of mobility has been severely curtailed by lockdown measures, putting them at ever greater risk of harm by those who wish to silence them. In Colombia alone, more than 28 human rights defenders have been murdered since March, including people killed in their homes while they complied with quarantine measures. Colombia continues to be one of the most dangerous places on earth to undertake this work.   
CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA TO PROTECT THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF WORKERS, AND COMMUNITIES AT CANADIAN-OPERATED RESOURCE EXTRACTION PROJECTS AND TO DEDICATE RESOURCES TO ADDRESS THE INCREASED RISKS FACED BY EARTH DEFENDERS DURING THE PANDEMIC.

Friday

Rescind Margaret Wente's Massey College Appointment

Rescind Margaret Wente's Massey College Appointment:

We — the undersigned students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors of the University of Toronto — call on Massey College to immediately rescind their appointment of Margaret Wente as a Senior Fellow and Member of the Quadrangle Society.

 In her career as a journalist, Margaret Wente published racist pseudoscience and was repeatedly investigated for plagiarism(1).

We believe this disqualifies Margaret Wente from serving in a group of “people who demonstrate the ethical pursuit of the public good that we want to model for our Junior Fellowship”(2).

 Dr. Rinaldo Walcott and Dr. Minelle Mahtani said in a 2014 article that “journalists like […] Wente are committed to telling stories about race where a cast of stereotypes of the worst kind is rolled out, masquerading as insightful queries.”(3) speaking about her article promoting the claims of Nicholas Wade, a heavily criticized pseudo-scientist.(4)

 In the same week where Massey College made a public commitment to addressing Anti-Black racism and held a talk on Anti-Black racism, we feel it is greatly disappointing that Governing Board did not back up these words with their actions. BIPOC Fellows, academics, and staff deserve to feel safe at Massey College.

Allowing Margaret Wente’s appointment to stand will make the College a less safe place for them. We stand in solidarity with the Fellows and academics who have already spoken out.

Black lives matter | The Council of Canadians

Black lives matter | The Council of Canadians:

I endorse this statement.  Mary Beaty, editor, Ethical Action.

BLACK LIVES MATTER Statement Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 16:00 The Council of Canadians are in solidarity with our Black members and supporters, and all Black leaders and individuals working for an end to police brutality and killings in their communities. We recognize the existence of systemic racism in our society and we are committed to eradicating it. We believe in the power of protest, and condemn the use of force against protests across the U.S. and Canada. Anti-Black racism, like anti-Indigenous racism, stems directly from the history of Canadian colonization. We must work together to dismantle systems that sustain discrimination in Canada and build something new in their place. We encourage Council supporters to learn about organizations led by people of colour in Canada who are doing anti-racism work.   We must also ensure that all people in Canada have access to the necessary resources for getting through the COVID-19 pandemic in a healthy way. In Toronto, early data indicates that the neighbourhoods most deeply impacted by COVID-19 are more likely to be low-income, and home to a higher percentage of newcomers and racialized people.

The Council of Canadians is committed to addressing the inequality that means Black communities continue to face death and sickness at higher rates than others. We encourage all Council supporters to take action today to fight against racism and anti-Black violence. Follow Black leaders, as well as Indigenous leaders and other people of colour, on social media, read their writing, and if you are able, please support Black and Indigenous-led groups with a financial donation.

Sunday

On day against homophobia, UN officials urge respect for sexual and gender diversity | | UN News

On day against homophobia, UN officials urge respect for sexual and gender diversity | | UN News:

Marking the international day against homophobia, senior United Nations officials today called for respect for sexual and gender diversity and urged the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from discrimination and harm.

 “Today, I am deeply concerned by the excessive trivialization of insults, sexist and homophobic remarks in the media, in everyday life, on social networks, even from political leaders,” said UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova in her message for the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), commemorated annually on 17 May.

 She recalled the situation of homosexuals under the Nazi regime, interned in "re-education" camps, and killed. The UN was created to prevent such crimes from happening again, she stressed, noting that UNESCO is committed to protecting the rights of homosexual and transgender people by drawing across its mandate to advance education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. “These are powerful tools to fight the prejudice, verbal violence and stigmatization that foreshadow physical violence and that violate the equality and inherent dignity of all. This work for reason and tolerance begins on the benches of school,” she said.

 Research by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found that workplace policies, often designed from a hetero-normative perspective, may fall short of addressing the issues and concerns of LGBTI workers. For example, LGBTI workers may be excluded from leave and benefit entitlements, such as parental leave, because their families do not fit traditional norms.

 “In keeping with the principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, no LGBTI worker should be left behind. Today let us stand in solidarity for the rights of LGBTI workers and their families,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. Gender identity and sexual orientation can have an impact on a migrant's journey, unfortunately often in a negative and even dangerous way, warns the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Wednesday

COVID-19: Divest, Demilitarise, and Disarm – WILPF

COVID-19: Divest, Demilitarise, and Disarm – WILPF:

$1,917,000,000,000,000. Or $1.9 trillion. Any way you write it, that’s a lot of money. All of which has been spent on militarism: on weapons production and development, on soldiers, on wars, on bases, on command and support systems, on repression.

This number, released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, constitutes a 3.6 per cent increase from 2018, which is the largest annual growth in spending since 2010.

We are spending more on militarism and weapons and pretending it brings security when we know people are fleeing from relentless bombing of their towns and cities, when we know the devastating radioactive violence of nuclear weapons lasts for generations, when we know that domestic violence victims are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner if there is a gun in the home, when we know that armed drones have killed thousands of civilians indiscriminately, when we know that the so-called threats that all this militarism is supposed to prevent just leads to more and more violence.

Yet the culture of militarism runs deep and holds fast. 105 years ago, WILPF’s founders saw that those who manufactured weapons were at the heart of a grave, deeply gendered racket, in which myths such as “security through violence” and “peace through war” are peddled in order to justify ever-increasing extravagant military budgets and profits.

Its embeddedness in our culture is why, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the military-industrialcomplex has done so well for itself. In many countries, arms producershave been deemed essential services. Boeing, a major military contractor, successfully pushed for billions in aid to the arms industry in the $2 trillion US stimulus bill. Part of the triumph of the military industry in the United States is due to the revolving door between arms contractors and the government. The industry also portrays itself as a great employer, from soldiering to weapons manufacturing to base building—even though as veterans and economists have pointed out, this is not the case.

The jobs argument just does not hold water. But the profits for these companies certainly does. About 90 per cent of Lockheed Martin’s budget, for example, comes from the US government—or rather, from US taxpayers. Its CEO earns between $21 and 34 million per year.

These corporations also profit from the international arms trade—which, despite the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, has also continued unabated during the pandemic. In Libya, for example, where several actors have called for a ceasefire, in particular during Ramadan, and where there is an official UN arms embargo in place, fighting has not only intensified but it has turned into what the UN acting special envoy called “an experimental field for all types of new weapons systems” due to arms shipments from supporters of the warring parties.

As noted in a previous blog, governments are also experimenting with new technologies of violence, surveillance, and repression during the pandemic, risking violation of human rights now and in the future. The military contractors involved in the development of these technologies include many of the usual suspects but also involve a growing number of tech firms including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and many more.

It’s important to note here that Amazon, which is suing the US government over not choosing it for its military cloud computing contract, has profited wildly from the coronavirus. At least, its CEO
has. Jeff Bezos’ net worth has increased by $24 million during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Amazon workers are striking because the company has not provided them with proper protective gear or been transparent about the number of positive cases in itsfacilities. Amazon is also using surveillance technology to identify union organising activities at its Whole Foods facilities.
This a prime example of various strands of militarism, capitalism, andrepression coming together to exploit moments of crisis for the personal gain of those at the very top of the money chain.

Making more than violence
Despite the stranglehold that militarism and its material realities seem to have over our politics and economics, this pandemic is starting to create some cracks and shifts in the official narrative. This week in New York, for example, where doctors and nurses are wearing raincoats and bandanas instead of proper protective gear, the military did a fly-over with their $20 million jets to “thank” front-line medicalworkers, additionally wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars of fuel. New Yorkers were not impressed.

Around the world, people are starting to ask, how could our governments have been so unprepared for this crisis? They are looking at where their tax dollars have been going, towards weapons, war, and militarised “security”. They are asking, what else could this money have been spent on?

The Global Campaign on Military Spending has shown that one F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft could pay for 3244 intensive care unit beds, or that one submarine could pay for over 9000 fully-equipped ambulances. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has shown that a years’ worth of current investments in nuclear weapons in each country that has them could pay for hundreds of thousands of medical workers, ventilators, protective gear, and more. We know that more jobs could be created through investments in a Green New Deal and a Red Deal than are currently created by military spending, and that such investments would help us mitigate the climate crisis and improve thelives of billions of people and everyone else living on our planet.

So what do we need to do shift our culture and economics away from militarism and towards peace, solidarity, and social well-being?

Cut military spending now
We can start by cutting military spending. Mikhail Gorbachev, former premier of the Soviet Union, has called for an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly to revise the “entire global agenda,” including by committing states to cut military spending by 10–15 per cent.

WILPF welcomes this call. But we also do not believe that a 15 per cent cut in military spending gets us to where we need to be. Fifteen per cent of $1.9 trillion is $285 billion. Yes, that is a lot of money! It could be put to immediate good use on multiple fronts, from health care to employment and wages to housing to education to food and shelter, during this crisis and beyond.

But when we consider that the United States alone spent $732 billion last year on militarism, or when we consider that the nuclear weapon maintenance and modernisation programmes are going to cost over $1 trillion, or when we consider the annual costs of operating foreign military bases or the single unit prices of jet fighters, battle tanks, and submarines, we can clearly see a much greater cut is not only possible but absolutely necessary.

Disarm and demilitarise
To achieve this, the UN General Assembly needs to take additional actions, including taking over implementation of Article 26 of the UN Charter. This article gives the UN Security Council and the (now-defunct) Military Staff Committee the responsibility for creating a plan for regulating armaments and reducing military spending. These bodies have completely reneged on this responsibility. The UN General Assembly should take it up and negotiate a concrete programme for militarydivestment, demilitarisation, and disarmament.

The UN General Assembly has already negotiated and adopted the international Arms Trade Treaty, which is a good first step. But as a tool that is supposed to prevent arms transfers that lead to human suffering, it has not lived up to itspromise or potential. Much more is needed. Because many of the ATT’s champions are major arms producers and exporters, the Treaty has been used since its adoption as a tool to legitimise their production of and profits from weapons. While beneficial to certain governments and corporations, it has meant that people around the world continue to die from bombs and bullets on a daily basis.

We need an international system that deals directly with the production of weapons, as well as their sale, trade, trafficking, and with war profiteering. We need a programme for general and complete disarmament, building on the prohibitions, divestments, and elimination of specific weapon systems that we already have, taking the economic and political incentives out of arms manufacturing.

As part of this project of disarmament, divestment, and demilitarisation, we need to consider how to hold states to account for their commitments. Interim measures could include, for example, the establishment of an international monitoring body to track investmentsin weapons production and purchase, profits from sale and trade, with the objective of imposing taxes or other penalties for crossing agreed thresholds. The funds from this system of taxation could be deployed to assist with disarmament programmes, to retool arms production facilitates to other socially progressive purposes, and for disarmament and demilitarisation education

The role that bilateral and multilateral development assistance, aswell as international financial institutions (IFIs), must be examined as to whether they are incentivising or directly contributing to increases in military spending. The US government, for example, stipulates that recipients of its “foreign aid” must use part of the funds to purchase military equipment or training. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, parts of the funding made available by European Union for the country’s response to the increase in migration flows have gone into purchasing surveillance and other equipment for the police forces.

Indirectly, conditionalities attached to IFI loans and grants that inter alia require privatisations, weakening of labour laws, and cuts in public spending, lead to increasing inequality and poverty. This often prompts governments to spend more on militarism, including by equipping police forces with army-grade weapons, to better protect private interests and resist opposition. These entities should be actively fostering policies for demilitarisation and disarmament, not increasing the availability of weapons and the risks of repression, violence, and war.

Self-evidently, the UN Security Council cannot maintain its current mandate of making executive decisions on matters of international peace and security when its five permanent members, each of which has a veto over every resolution and decision, all profit massively from international arms trafficking and the violence it facilitates in conflicts around the world.

Outside of the UN Security Council, various UN bodies have in the past undertaken serious efforts to reduce military spending. In 1959 the UN General Assembly reached consensus on the objective of general and complete disarmament, which prompted several efforts for disarmament, divestment, and demilitarisation within the UN system.

Essentially none of this work is ongoing now. Routine resolutions areadopted every year at the UN General Assembly about disarmament anddevelopment and about transparency in armaments, and mechanisms such as the UN Register of Conventional Weapons and Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures continue to exist. But the momentum and energy have dissipated. This work should be resurrected and recharged.

Deconstruct power and re-centre reality
The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs is attempting to spark some interest, with its release last year of a paper providing a historical overview of past efforts, followed this year by the publication of a volume of activist perspectives on military spending.

This new publication includes a chapter from WILPF on feminist perspectives on military spending, in which we argue that military spending has consequences for ordering our societies and international relations and has thus far condemned us to live within systems of violence and exploitation. We highlight that the harms caused by militarism are levelled disproportionately by and against men in the immediate term, but are inflicted differentially and devastatingly upon those who have the least to do with creating this system: including women, Indigenous groups, LGBTQ+ people, ethnic and religious minorities, the poor and disenfranchised. Such populations tend to have no or little role in shaping the discourse on military spending, let alone establishing the limits or creating the budgets.

From this context, we reiterate WILPF’s call from 1915 for an end to the privatisation of military production and for outlawing the influence of corporate interest over national policies that undermine disarmament and preclude a rational analysis of weapons and war. We need to centre instead those whose lives have been harmed by the weaponisation of our world; centring a feminist practice and policy that exposes the dominant militaristic narrative as a perspective, not the only credible perspective; and dismantling systems that privilege the militarised voices in our midst.

This project of deconstructing and reconstructing power also means we need to deal with violent masculinities. Not only does the construct of militarised masculinity, as described previously, limit our ability to see past militarism as solution and saviour to all of our problems even while it is the cause of those problems, but it also portrays disarmament or conceptions of human security as “effeminate” and weak. Those perpetuating the dominant systems of thought posit that proponents of alternatives to militarism are emotional, unrealistic, and irrational. As the argument goes, there will always be those who want the capacity to wield power through violence; therefore, the “rational” actors need to retain the weapons for protection against the irrational others. This attitude not only undermines disarmament and reductions of military spending, but also perpetuates a social acceptance of human beings as expendable, in stark contrast to the principles that form the bedrock of human rights law.

Take an integrated approach
This work also requires better integration and coordination among UN and other international mechanisms, including those related to disarmament, human rights, and women, peace, and security. For many years, WILPF has been amplifying the voices of women from around the world whose rights and security have been negatively impacted by the arms trade and the use of weapons in conflict, post-conflict, and in times of “peace”. We have made submissions about arms production and trade to human rights bodies and have talked about women’s rights in disarmament forums. Some governments and elements of the UN system are taking a more integrated approach to some of these issues but are categorically falling short of undertaking actions that will introduce the transformative changes we need in our structures of economic and political power. Adding women and stirring is just not enough, folks.

The UN’s human rights mechanisms have already been stepping up during this crisis. As mentioned in our blog about multilateralism, statements and guidelines from the High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees, some UN special rapporteurs, and at least ten human rights treaty bodies and committees, have been urging governments to ensure respect for human rights during the pandemic. Many of these have accounted for the intersectionality of sex, gender, race, class, disability, and other experiences and identities in their suggestions for how to prevent repression of various populations, including when it comes to using surveillance technologies. This work should be continued and taken up in a coordinated way by other aspects of the multilateral machinery, and must also look at the ways in which militarism impacts human rights during this crisis and beyond.

Evolve and adapt  
The connections between military spending, human rights, and the health of people and planet have never been clearer. We are what we spend our money on. Right now, we are armed to our teeth without a face mask to spare. If we are to survive this crisis, and the next one—crises of our own making because of our choices in investment in militarism, fossil fuels, and the capitalist economy we absolutely must learn and adapt. In this case, adaptation means divestment, demilitarisation, and disarmament. This is entirely possible, if we choose to act. Now.

Friday

Oscar-winner Emma Thompson stars in new Extinction Rebellion film | Living

Oscar-winner Emma Thompson stars in new Extinction Rebellion film | Living:
Release of a new short film starring Emma Thompson about Extinction Rebellion. The film depicts a fictionalised version of the protests held by the activist group last April, which culminated in the UK becoming the first country to formally declare a climate emergency.

 The double Academy Award winner took part in last year’s climate protests, which saw parts of the UK’s capital grind to a halt during a fortnight of continuous civil disobedience. It was during this time that the short film, entitled Extinction, was shot. The 12-minute production tells the story of a group of climate activists meeting with the Environment Minister in the midst of an ongoing rebellion. The film will be available to view online, for free, from 12:00pm BST tomorrow.

Thursday

Urge Ottawa to support a green recovery - David Suzuki Foundation

Urge Ottawa to support a green recovery - David Suzuki Foundation:
We are facing a crisis unparalleled in recent history. Strangely, in a period when we are stressed, concerned and physically isolated, we also feel united and connected as never before. Let there be no doubt: we will get through this pandemic together. And, we will come out of it with more confidence in our capacity to meet the most daunting challenges together. The federal government’s response to the crisis has focused, necessarily, on limiting the virus’s spread and emergency economic measures. The government will also likely announce a package to jump-start economic recovery once the public health threat is under control.
We identified some great near-term projects to include in this package that can put people back to work, build our collective resilience and position us to respond to the biodiversity and climate crises. We have shared our recommendations with government.
Now we need your help to demonstrate public support for a green recovery by signing this petition now.  They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn. Let’s make sure the new day that follows is a greener one.

ACT NOW: Stop Site-C Dam Construction Amidst COVID-19 | Amnesty International Canada

ACT NOW: Stop Site-C Dam Construction Amidst COVID-19 | Amnesty International Canada
Call on BC authorities to take immediate action to close the construction on the Site C dam in response to government guidelines on COVID-19
Construction has been designated an essential service by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry as of March 26, as part of a lengthy list of activities ordered to continue by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. 
Last week, both the community of Fort St. John and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called for a stop to the ongoing construction of the Site C dam citing the threat to public safety and health caused by the 1,600-worker site.
Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nation has told Amnesty, “we find it very irresponsible/unconscionable for them not to shut down." He highlights that continued work puts the whole of North East BC at extreme risk.

Friday

Dollarama respect pandemic rules and give workers protective gear

Dollarama respect pandemic rules and give workers protective gear
Hey, it's a Montreal company.  Shame.
DOLLARAMA has been deemed an essential service during this COVID-19 pandemic. 
But the multi-billion dollar company is refusing to provide workers with gloves and masks and many of the cashiers don’t even have a glass partition separating them from customers. 
Workers are endangering their lives for minimum wage.
Walmart, Loblaws and most major retailers equipped their workers with appropriate protective equipment weeks ago and provided them with an increased danger pay, to try to make up for the risks involved in showing up day-in and day-out for work. 
No worker should have to put their life on the line to put a roof over their head and DOLLARAMA stands alone in its industry in its complete disregard for its workers. Now is the perfect time to support frontline workers at DOLLARAMA who deserve danger pay and safe working conditions.

Here's a petition.


Thursday

UN Human Rights is joining forces with Wikimedia for the #IStandWithHer campaign | Stand up for human rights | UN Human Rights

UN Human Rights is joining forces with Wikimedia for the #IStandWithHer campaign | Stand up for human rights | UN Human Rights

This collaboration is a continuation of an ongoing partnership announced in 2019 focused on adding and improving content about human rights, gender equality, and the work of women human rights defenders onWikipedia.

During the year, we will collaborate on the following initiatives:
  • Global call to action to improve knowledge about women human rights defenders and gender equality on Wikipedia. This call is part of the #WikiHerStory initiative launched for Women’s History Month. UN Human Rights is joining these  efforts to help #ChangeTheStory and promote a fair and non-stereotyped portrayal of women online and in the media.
  • WikiGapChallenge: a public writing competition  to create and improve articles to strengthen Wikipedia's coverage of  women and related topics into as many languages as possible. The
    challenge is organized as part of the global WikiGap campaign, led by Wikimedia Sverige. This year, UN Human Rights developed a list of names of important women in human rights with few or no articles on  Wikipedia. The winner will have the opportunity to participate in some  events organized by UN Human Rights on the margins of the June session  of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • Regional events: UN Human Rights and the  Wikimedia Foundation will collaborate with contributors from Wikimedia  communities worldwide to edit and create content in different languages  through various regional events.

Students shut down St. George street in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders | The Varsity

Students shut down St. George street in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders | The Varsity

Over 150 student activists blocked off a segment of St. George street during the afternoon of March 4 as part of a national student walkout in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en land defenders. The segment of St. George street from Harbord Street to Wilcocks Street was blocked off by Campus Police
during the walkout, which lasted from approximately 12:00–3:30 pm.

The Wet’suwet’en land defenders and  their supporters have engaged in rail blockades since December in an  attempt to stop a Coastal GasLink pipeline that was proposed on unceded
Wet’suwet’en territory. These protests are only the most recent actions  that have taken place as part of a decade-long movement against the  pipeline.


Protests in recent months were in response to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s raids in Wet’suwet’en territory. 

Students shut down St. George street in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders

Wednesday

UNDRIP petition re Truth and Reconciliation

Sign this Petition - Petitions

e-2396



Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

Whereas:
  • Canadian constitutional law is accountable to the human rights obligations outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP);
  • Canada has also committed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report "Calls to Action";
  • The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada to: immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline until free, prior, and informed consent is obtained from Indigenous Peoples; immediately cease the forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en Peoples; prohibit the use of lethal weapons against Indigenous Peoples and guarantee no force will be used against them; withdraw the RCMP and associated security and policing services from traditional lands;
  • Hereditary Chiefs have the right to grant consent, or not, for activities on their territories; and
  • The Coastal GasLink project has the potential to release massive amounts of methane through the extraction, transport, liquefaction and regasification processes.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action by immediately:
— Halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet’suwet’en territory;
— Ordering the RCMP to dismantle their exclusion zone and stand down;— Schedule nation-to-nation talks between the Wet’suwet’en Nation and federal and provincial governments; and— Prioritize the real implementation of the UNDRIP.

Tuesday

Open letter: Amnesty International visits Tyendinaga, urges Trudeau to act on reconciliation | Amnesty International Canada

Open letter: Amnesty International visits Tyendinaga, urges Trudeau to act on reconciliation | Amnesty International Canada

The past several weeks have brought the deeply disappointing state of reconciliation and regard for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada to the fore with a degree of urgency rarely witnessed. Right across the country, protests of resistance and of solidarity by Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous communities, sparked by deep concern about the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline through Wet’suwet’en Territory in British Columbia, have led to a national conversation about rights, reconciliation, the economy and the environment, that has been both troubling and encouraging.
We write to urge that your government demonstrate the leadership that is very much needed at this critical and potentially pivotal moment, working closely with Indigenous peoples’ leadership and organizations and with provincial and territorial governments, to advance foundational change to truly progress with meaningful reconciliation and full respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. 
It is unacceptable and untenable to rely primarily on a strategy of responding one-by-one to the mounting number of instances of barricades, injunctions, and law enforcement. Instead, there is a pressing need for comprehensive and concrete action, beyond the aspirational words and lofty promises that are usually offered, that will build confidence that the journey of reconciliation is truly underway.
Amnesty International visited Tyendinaga today, in the aftermath of the Ontario Provincial Police’s enforcement action which has reportedly resulted in the arrest of ten protesters. It was notable to us that all community members we spoke with described a feeling of betrayal and broken trust, particularly given the dialogue that had begun with Minister Miller on February 15th, reiterated in his assurance to Tyendinaga leadership the following day, in his letter of February 16th, that he “welcome[s] the invitation to talk again in the near future to continue our open and respectful dialogue.” What happened today was not consistent with that assurance.
We should be ashamed as a country that we find ourselves in the current situation.  
  • Measures should have been adopted long ago to ensure proper respect for Indigenous rights in Canada.
  • We should have in place a fair, accessible, non-adversarial and expeditious process for resolving land claims.  
  • Legal reforms should have been enacted, years ago, to ensure that the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is part of our national fabric. 
  • The vital human rights safeguard of free, prior and informed consent should by now have been embraced by all governments in Canada as the blueprint for a nation-to-nation relationship rooted in respect and justice; rather than the scaremongering talk of it being a veto that stands in the way of Canadian prosperity.
We appreciated the restraint that your government demonstrated in the initial phases of the blockades and demonstrations that have been organized, highlighting how important it is to pursue dialogue and not rush to the use of police force as a response. That is of vital importance given that there is a long historical context of unrelenting human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, going back hundreds of years, that give shape to the realities that are at the root of contemporary concerns.
Many politicians and commentators have rashly and often aggressively insisted that Indigenous peoples must exhibit patience. It is time to recognize that the contrary is the case. Indigenous peoples have shown nothing but patience, for far too long, in the face of racist laws, unjust policies and unspeakably cruel violence, as their rights have been violated, dismissed and ignored. If anything, it is time for governments across Canada, businesses and the Canadian public to be the ones expected to be patient.  
As many have noted, the call for patience is particularly inappropriate with respect to the Wet’suwet’en people, who have waited for 23 years for their land rights to be recognized following the groundbreaking 1997 Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision; and for the Tyendinga Mohawks who have waited for over 170 years for the return of their lands taken as part of the Culbertson Tract.    
While your government did initially show remarkable restraint, you have of course in the end given a nod to enforcement action, which is now being pursued by national, provincial and municipal police forces across the country. That enforcement will not bring resolution to the deep concerns that underly these rights struggles and protests. For many communities it only adds to decades of trauma associated with violent and repressive police and judicial action that has been at the heart of the most shameful and upsetting chapters of Canadian history.
We have written to you previously urging that at a minimum Canada comply with the decision of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with respect to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, TransMountain Pipeline Expansion and Site C dam. The importance of governments in Canada living up to the country’s international human rights obligations in those three situations and many others has been frequently reiterated by Indigenous peoples across Canada, yet your government has not shown any intention to do so.
We therefore call on you to take the following steps:
  • Ensure that land defenders are not criminalized and that people who have been arrested for defending the land and who have not engaged in acts of criminal violence are released unconditionally.  
  • Respond immediately to the December 2019 ruling of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, including suspending construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in the absence of the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en people and the withdrawal of the RCMP from their traditional territory.
  • Move immediately on longpromised legal reforms, notably a legislative framework for implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Engage directly and personally in discussions with Indigenous chiefs, elected and hereditary, so as to demonstrate that you recognize that these are not simply matters of barricades and law enforcement, but are the very essence of a respectful and rights regarding nation-to-nation relationship.
Prime Minister, you face an unprecedented opportunity to break with decades of failure when it comes to the relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada. To do so means putting rights first, embracing the full complexity of reconciliation and making it clear to all Canadians that while the road ahead will not always be easy, it is the only path to a just and sustainable future for our country. 
We are available to meet with you at your convenience to discuss these concerns and recommendations further. 
Sincerely, Alex Neve                                                           France-Isabelle Langlois