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.


Vision Statement | We Are Power Shift Canada

Vision Statement | We Are Power Shift Canada
Powershift statement - Conference opening today (you can follow events on the blog)
2011 was a year of people’s power. From mass mobilizations in Greece and Spain, throughout North Africa and the Middle East, to Occupy Wall Street and the struggle against the Keystone XL and Gateway pipelines, movements of ordinary people emerged and set the stage for much needed changes to today’s economic, social and political landscape. For many, 2011 spelled a darker and tougher time, with climate change-induced disasters and spiraling economic inequality and misery. But it also re-kindled a fire, an appetite for greater justice, for a more equal and collaborative society.

Youth were at the forefront of these movements. In Canada, too, they are rising to the occasion. Power Shift 2012 will gather young people from across the country to build on this momentum and strengthen the movement for climate and environmental justice. We will be organizing Powershift 2012 while young people face a difficult, uphill battle to create a just and sustainable future. Canada has abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, eliminated energy efficiency programs and continues to subsidize and promote the fossil fuel industry, acts that threaten our air, water, land and the climate. Our present and future economic welfare is also at risk. We see daily reports promising cuts to our public services, the dismantling of our social security, the loss of workers rights, and tax breaks to corporations that don’t need them.

The economic and climate crises we are facing have the same roots — the relentless drive to put short-term economic profits over the interests of our communities and the environment. We can find joint solutions to the climate and economic crisis: by reining in corporate power and its undue influence over our political process, by reviving and strengthening our public sphere, by localizing our economies and our food system. Such long term solutions and alternatives will safeguard our communities and our environment. ....


Recipe for a Big Bang: US Permit Issued to Frack 1 Mile From Nuclear Power Plant |

Recipe for a Big Bang: Permit Issued to Frack 1 Mile From Nuclear Power Plant | Alternet
On Oct. 3, Chesapeake Energy was issued a permit by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to drill for natural gas by  fracking one mile from the Beaver Valley  Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, Pennsylvania.  
This is disturbing news considering in January  evidence proved that Ohio earthquakes  were caused by a fracking wastewater injection well. 
Shockingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) regulation and oversight rules do not cover any related activity off site, including wastewater injection wells, oil and gas drilling—including fracking—or any other types of projects that are in near proximity to nuclear power plants.
So who oversees how drilling for oil and natural gas and related activity might affect the safety of nuclear power plants? Apparently no one.
According to  Shale Reporter , an indendent website that provides an unbiased presentation of information about Marcellus Shale issues:
Pennsylvania DEP spokesperson John Poister said there are no required setbacks specifically relating to a required distance between unconventional wells and nuclear facilities, just a blanket regulation requiring a 500-foot setback from any building to an unconventional well.
You’d think after the  NRC said  in February, “Nuclear reactors in the central and eastern U.S. face previously unrecognized threats from big earthquakes and it needs to require nuclear-plant operators to conduct new seismic studies for all 96 reactors in eastern and central states to determine if the plants could withstand the shaking predicted by the government’s new seismic model”—especially in light of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011—that someone would be monitoring extreme fossil fuel extraction near nuclear power plants.
However, U.S. regulators have allowed nuclear power plants to be built in earthquake zones for decades. Experts have warned that the Diablo Canyon Power Plant on the Pacific Coast of California could become California’s Fukushima.


The Tyee – Recruiters Charging BC-Bound Chinese Temp Miners $12,500

The Tyee – Recruiters Charging BC-Bound Chinese Temp Miners $12,500
Chinese miners being recruited to work in Canada are paying more than $12,500 CAD for the privilege, The Tyee has learned, and their actual wages are less than those advertised.
There has been uproar from unions this week after it was learned more than 2,000 Chinese miners would be on their way to British Columbia to work in mines run by Canadian Dehua International, a Vancouver-based company founded and run by a former Chinese government official, to name one company involved.
Posing as a Chinese miner, The Tyee made contact with two of three companies that placed ads on a Chinese website similar to Craigslist called Bai Xing and discovered the workers are paying the recruiters expensive fees in exchange for jobs in Canada.
The ads were placed on the employment pages of the site for the Chinese provinces of Shanxi, Henan and Sichuan, but agents did not know which mine they were recruiting for, only that they were in Canada.
One of the recruiters, who claimed to be working for a British Columbia-based company called the Canada CIBS Investment and Trade Group said 30,000 yuan ($4,700 CAD) is paid upon a contract being signed in China, and an additional 50,000 yuan ($7,800 CAD) is paid over 20 months after arrival in Canada.
"We are an employment agency and we need to charge you an agent fee," wrote the recruiter in a conversation in Chinese via QQ, a Chinese version of MSN Messenger.
"Before you leave China, you must pay us 30,000 yuan, when you live in Canada, you must pay the rest -- 50,000 yuan."
According to China's state-run media outlet Xinhua, a coal miner in China earns about 1,000 yuan a month, making the upfront agency fee two-and-a-half-year’s salary for workers who accept the offer.
The recruiter said the employer will deduct the remaining recruiter's fee from workers' paycheques, about $400 CAD a month.
Recruiters state lower pay rate than advertised
The advertisement offered miners jobs in Canadian mines at a rate of $25 to $30 per hour, but according to the recruiter the wage is actually between $22 and $25 per hour.
The agent said applicants need a mining certificate or a reference from a company to be accepted, but the training and letter from the company could be provided for an extra 1,000 yuan ($160 CAD).
The miners' presence in Canada is dependent on their employer and they will live in dorms, must be able to speak 100 English words and are allowed to do what they please when not at work.
A recruiting ad translated by The Tyee included the promise of "a possibility of immigrating to Canada" and the ability to "sponsor your family to Canada, too."
Under Canadian law, skilled temporary guest workers can apply to immigrate to Canada after four years, but their families can come over well before then.
"After you work in Canada for six months you can bring your family," said the agent, becoming seemingly irritated with a follow-up question about if families would live in dorms as well.

Meryl Streep Says, 'It's Time To Draw The Line'

Meryl Streep Says, 'It's Time To Draw The Line'
Great ad by Meryl for the US Bill of Reproductiv Rights....


Tell TransCanada to Denounce Torture of Keystone XL Blockaders! | Tell TransCanada to Denounce Torture of Keystone XL Blockaders!
Activists Benjamin Franklin and Shannon Bebe chained themselves to heavy machinery to delay construction on the toxic Keystone XL pipeline. But when a TransCanada supervisor named "John" arrived on the scene and privately huddled with police, things got ugly.
The activists say that officers immediately forced them into stress positions and used chokeholds, violent arm-twisting, pepper spray and even repeated tasering to force them to relent.
Afterwards TransCanada staff congratulated the police for a "job well done."
Sign our petition demanding TransCanada CEO Russ Girling denounce the torture of these peaceful protesters?

Tell Walmart: End Illegal Retaliation Against Workers! | Tell Walmart: End Illegal Retaliation Against Workers!
After Walmart warehouse workers in Elwood, IL successfully struck to end illegal workplace retaliation, others have walked off the job in a dozen locations across the country.
From Texas to Maryland, store associates and warehouse workers share the same demands: an end to the punishment Walmart workers face for standing up against their abysmal working conditions.
Walmart has predictably brushed off the mounting pressure, but we hope to make that increasingly difficult for them.
Stand with Walmart workers: sign our petition demanding an end to the company's illegal workplace retaliation against those speaking out for better treatment.


Europe Worries about Health Hazards of Cheap Food from China - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Europe Worries about Health Hazards of Cheap Food from China - SPIEGEL ONLINE
The diversity of products China has to offer also seems to be unlimited. For example, the country has become the world's largest exporter of honey. It is also starting to produce more and more finished products, a market with even bigger profit margins than food commodities. A significant portion of the world's salmon haul is processed in China, into smoked salmon, for example. The country famous for Peking Duck is now making frozen pizzas for the global market -- at a fifth of German prices.
Farmers Who Don't Eat Their Own Food

The biggest problem with Chinese food products is the local production environment, which includes the excessive use of toxic pesticides for crops and of antibiotics for animals, sometimes coupled with a complete lack of scruples. In 2008, some 300,000 infants in China were harmed by milk and baby formula products adulterated with the chemical melamine. Chinese producers had added the substance, which is especially harmful to the kidneys, to powdered milk.
Chinese producers have also sold peas dyed green, which lost their color when cooked, fake pigs' ears and cabbage containing carcinogenic formaldehyde. Then there was the cooking oil that was captured in restaurant drains, reprocessed, rebottled and resold. ...

Animal products are the most questionable, says Zhou Li, a lecturer at Beijing's Renmin University who studies food safety. Meat is more profitable than vegetables, which only increases the incentive to maximize profits.
Zhou notes that farmers used to eat the same foods they sold. But now that they are aware of the harmful effects of pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics, they still produce a portion of their farm products for the market and a portion for their own families. The only difference is that the food for their families is produced using traditional methods. In fact, many wealthy Chinese have bought their own farms so as not to be dependent on what's available in supermarkets. There are also reports of special plots of land used to produce food exclusively for senior government officials...
By last Friday, 262 reports on Chinese products had been received in Brussels for 2012 alone. They included noodles infested with maggots, shrimp contaminated with antibiotics, foul-smelling peanuts and candied fruit with an excessively high sulfur content .
Ulrich Nöhle is very familiar with food production in China. A professor of food chemistry, Nöhle has worked for many years as an independent auditor in China, where he inspects products for quality on behalf of German retailers. He says that "you get what you order" from China, explaining that German retailers have to "specify how the product is to be grown or what standards are required to label a product as organic, for example." But, he adds, those who order products from China that are the cheapest possible and have not been inspected have only themselves to blame when they don't receive the goods they expected.
In one case, Nöhle discovered that sweeteners ordered in China by German customers had a strong odor of solvents. But when he spoke to the Chinese producers about it, they said: "It always smells like that." Nöhle had to have the production facilities reorganized until the product was up to German standards.


Stop the Keystone XL! - Take Action!: Tar Sands Strip Mine in the Boreal Forest, Alberta

Stop the Keystone XL! - Take Action!: NRDC's Save BioGems
Shell's plan to expand a tar sands strip mine in Alberta, Canada, would fuel even more global warming and drive more destruction of the boreal forest and its abundant wildlife — all to extract filthy tar sands oil that would be funneled to pipelines like the proposed Keystone XL. Tell Shell to withdraw its application for the Jackpine tar sands mine and to develop cleaner sources of energy instead.

Villagers Fight Mafia to Protect Forests |

Villagers Fight Mafia to Protect Forests | Care2 Causes
Organized crime is diversifying beyond drugs and human trafficking into a new business: deforestation.
According to the United Nations, illegal logging in tropical forests is worth big bucks: $30-$100 billion a year. Criminal syndicates net about $11 billion of this, according to the World Bank — close to the $13 billion they bring in from producing drugs.
The Washington Post reports that illegal deforestation accounts for nearly a third of world logging and takes place “in tropical areas such as the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia.”
The deleterious effects of deforestation are well known. “The most dramatic impact is a loss of habitat for millions of species,” according to National Geographic. “Seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes.” It removes trees that form part of the forest canopy, which blocks the sun during the day and holds heat in at night. “This disruption leads to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to” the plants and animals that survive the logging itself.
National Geographic also points out that deforestation “drives climate change. Forest soils are moist, but without protection from sun-blocking tree cover they quickly dry out. Trees also help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees to fill these roles, many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.”
It is the connection with water that led a town in Mexico beset by criminal loggers to fight back. When a criminal syndicate started cutting down the local forests, the residents of Cheran found that the police and government were no help. “The bad men come and we are unprotected,” a town leader told The Washington Post. “Without trees there is no water, the soil erodes and no one can live from the land. So we decided to protect ourselves.”
The town banished the police and the mayor and established a city council. It organized a militia that stops every person who seeks to enter the area at “barricades made of logs.” And it has scared off the illicit loggers.
But the criminals did not leave without a fight. They murdered many residents, but the town stood firm.
Unfortunately, these heroic measures cannot be expected in every forested area of the globe, and in the meantime, the criminals’ logging is fueling global warming. “Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity of global warming,” National Geographic explains. There is no end in sight, as demand for wood is on the increase. “China is set to double its wood consumption by 2020,” reports The Washington Post. “Global demand for timber products is growing massively.”
The U.N.’s report, called “Green Carbon, Black Trade,” makes a number of recommendations for combating illegal deforestation, including “a full-fledged Law Enforcement Assistance to Forests (LEAF)” program that would undertake “coordinated international and improved national law enforcement and investigative efforts to reduce illegal logging, the international trade in illegally felled timber and forest-related corruption including tax fraud and laundering.”
It will indeed take coordinated international efforts to protect the world’s resources from organized crime. The people of Cheran cannot fight this battle alone.


Walmart's historic first strike: American workers are on the move | Amy Goodman

Walmart's historic first strike: American workers are on the move | Amy Goodman | Comment is free |  -
Guardian tells it - no US news, is there?  
he great recession of 2008, this global economic meltdown, has wiped out the life savings of so many people, and created a looming threat of chronic unemployment for millions. This is happening while corporate coffers are brimming with historically high levels of cash on hand, in both the "too big to fail" banks and in non-financial corporations.
Despite unemployment levels that remain high, and the anxiety caused by people living paycheck to paycheck, many workers in the United States are taking matters into their own hands, demanding better working conditions and better pay. These are the workers who are left unmentioned in the presidential debates, who remain uninvited into the corporate news networks' gilded studios. These are the workers at Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States.
These are the tomato pickers from Florida. With scant resources, armed with their courage and the knowledge that they deserve better, they are organizing and getting results.
This week, Walmart workers launched the first strike against the giant retailer in its 50-year history, with protests and picket lines at 28 stores across 12 states. Many of these non-union workers are facing retaliation from their employer, despite the protections that exist on paper through the National Labor Relations Board. The strikers are operating under the banner of Our Walmart: Organization United for Respect at Walmart started with support from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.


Botswana court gives women inheritance rights

Botswana court gives women inheritance rights | The Raw Story
AFP - In a landmark ruling Botswana’s High Court on Friday gave women inheritance rights for the first time, up-ending a male-dominated system that had prevailed in the thriving African nation.
Announcing the ruling, Justice Key Dingake said, “It seems to me that the time has now arisen for the justices of this court to assume the role of the judicial midwife and assist in the birth of a new world struggling to be born.”
The court ruled that a tribal law, giving the youngest-born son rights to inherit the family home was not in line with the country’s constitution, which guarantees gender equality.
The court had been hearing a case brought by three sisters aged over 65, whose claim to family property was being challenged by their nephew.
“This is a significant step forward for women’s rights not only in Botswana but in the southern Africa region, where many countries are addressing similar discriminatory laws,” said Priti Patel of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.


Stand up against the sellout to China | Green Party of Canada

Stand up against the sellout to China | Green Party of Canada

What Has Harper Done?

On September 9th, Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed an agreement with China, the Canada-China Investment Treaty. The agreement was kept from the Canadian public and Parliament until September 26th, 2012, when it was quietly made public, tabled in the House of Commons. No press release. No technical briefing.  The deal is set for automatic approval. No vote or debate will take place in the House.  Once tabled in the House, the clock started ticking.  21 sitting days from September 26 (October 31), this treaty will bind Canada.

Red Carpet for China

So what is the Canada-China Investment Treaty? Simply put, it is the most significant trade agreement signed by Canada since NAFTA. Only this time our “partner” is the communist government in Beijing, an authoritarian regime with an appalling record on human rights –and it isn’t getting better. This deal requires that Chinese government-owned companies be treated exactly the same as Canadian companies operating in Canada. Once in force, it lasts a minimum of 15 years. If a future government wants to get out of it, a one year notice is required – and even once the treaty is cancelled, any existing Chinese operations in Canada are guaranteed another 15 years of the treaty’s benefits.
We at the Green Party of Canada believe there are many flaws in that agreement. And we think Canadians should know about them:

1. Open bar for Chinese state-owned enterprises

The Canada-China Investment Treaty means easier takeovers of Canadian assets, especially in the resource sector. In the context of the possible takeover of Nexen by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), it is crucial that we collectively pause to consider the wisdom of granting Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) such an easy access to our natural resources.

2. The right for China to claim damages over Canadian laws

The Canada-China Investment Treaty allows Chinese companies (including state-owned enterprises) to sue the Government of Canada over decisions that can limit or reduce their expectation of profits. In treaty language, this is called “tantamount to expropriation.”  China can claim damages against Canada for decisions at the municipal, provincial, territorial or federal level.  Even decisions of our courts can give rise to damages. The damage claims start with six months of diplomatic negotiation. If that fails, damage claims move to arbitration – behind closed doors.

3. Secret hearings

The Canada-China Investment Treaty would allow Chinese investors to sue Canada outside of Canadian courts. Special arbitrators would take the decisions. These arbitrators, unlike judges, do not have secure tenures or set salaries. Their decision cannot be subject to judicial review. And the arbitrations are to be secret. Even the fact they are happening is to be secret.

4.Right to be heard

Only the federal government is allowed to take part in the arbitration process. Provincial governments or Canadian companies, even if their interests are affected, do not have the right to voice their concerns during the arbitration process.

5. China’s obsession for secrecy

The Canada-China Investment Agreement makes Chinese lawsuits secret . At any time, we will not know if we are being sued and who will decide the case. We will not know what our government is saying on our behalf. We will not know if Canada has been ordered to change government decisions. This is a complete U-turn for Canada who has always insisted on complete openness in investor-state arbitration, for example when signing the Canada-US-Mexico free trade deal.

6. Restrictions on our use of our own resources

The Canada-China Investment Treaty requires that if, in the future, Canada wants to conserve natural resources (fisheries, water, oil, uranium, forests --  everything is covered), and reduce Chinese access to these resources, we are only allowed to do so to the extent we limit our own use of those natural resources.

US: Darden Restaurants Avoids healthcare by placing more of its workers on part-time status

Olive Garden/Red Lobster placing more of its workers on part-time status
The breadsticks may be unlimited for Olive Garden customers but the Italian restaurant chain’s owner is not so generous towards its employees. Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and also Red Lobster, is placing more of its workers on part-time status in an effort to pay less for health care costs required under President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Darden Restaurants has kept details under wraps other than saying it is testing the plan in four U.S. different markets, including central Florida, across the US. The company operates some 2,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada and employs about 180,000 people, 75 percent of whom are on part-time status and work for less than thirty hours a week.
Darden, it can be argued, is working hard to work its away around the provisions of the health care law. Under the law, companies with fifty or more workers must provide basic coverage for full-time workers and their dependents or incur fines of up to $3,000 per employee. Such penalties are to be enforced after January 1, 2014.


'Superweeds' linked to rising herbicide use in GM crops, study finds

'Superweeds' linked to rising herbicide use in GM crops, study finds
ScienceDaily (Oct. 2, 2012) — A study published this week by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops -- cotton, soybeans and corn -- has actually increased.

This counterintuitive finding is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service. Benbrook's analysis is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant (HT) crops on pesticide use.
In the study, which appeared in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, Benbrook writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory in herbicide use. Marketed as Roundup and other trade names, glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. Approximately 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and more than 85 percent of corn, are planted to varieties genetically modified to be herbicide resistant.
"Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and they are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent," Benbrook said.
The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011.


Trapped in an Abusive Marriage | Human Rights Watch

Trapped in an Abusive Marriage | Human Rights Watch
When Namrata, a Bangladeshi Hindu, asked for a glass of water, her husband instead gave her a glass of acid. Today, with her mouth and throat destroyed, she eats through a feeding tube. Having already spent her life savings, her husband disappeared after the attack.
Yet Namrata cannot legally divorce her husband due to Bangladesh’s archaic Hindu family laws.
Bangladesh’s family laws, which govern marriage, separation, and divorce, were created decades ago – in some cases, more than a century. There are separate laws for Muslims, Hindus, and Christians, but all discriminate against women – often leaving them with virtually no income or assets and nowhere to live when marriages end.
These laws trap women like Namrata in abusive marriages. And if their marriages fall apart, women often fall into poverty, sometimes going homeless and hungry.
Bangladesh is famous as the cradle of microfinance and banking services, like small-business loans, for people with few assets.But what is less well-known is that Bangladesh’s archaic family laws push women into poverty if marriages end. Many families don’t consider that possibility but instead see marriage as a form of economic security for their daughters – part of the reason more than 55 percent of girls and women in Bangladesh over age 10 are married.
Women and girls contribute in many ways to their family home – they cook and clean, raise children and care for in-laws, work in the fields or help run family businesses. But family laws are blind to this. When marriages end, men typically keep homes and family property, while women are forced out with virtually nothing. The United Nations has identified “marital instability” as a key cause of “ultra and extreme” poverty among female-headed households in Bangladesh.
Our report, ‘Will I Get My Dues…Before I Die?’, shows the damage these laws can cause and how they deny women their economic rights.
The majority of Bangladeshis are Muslim. Muslims may legally divorce, but while a man has an automatic right to no-fault divorce, his wife has that right only if the husband asks to have it included in their marriage contract. Alternative routes to divorce are time-consuming, expensive, and difficult. The laws also allow polygamy for men, but not women. If a couple does divorce, the woman can only receive maintenance payments from her former husband for 90 days, and even those payments are hard to secure in family courts.
Shefali S., a Muslim, lived with her husband and in-laws. She worked in the family’s fields and did all the household work. When she was pregnant with their first baby, she learned of her husband’s plan to remarry and confronted him. He kicked her and forced her to stand naked throughout a cold winter night as punishment. He once beat her to the point of unconsciousness. Eventually he abandoned her and remarried. Shefali felt trapped. She knew she had little hope of receiving money from her husband, and her parents couldn’t support her.  She continued living with her in-laws, enduring their beatings.
Seven leading women’s rights and human rights groups issued a strong statement calling for these reforms in September. Together, we are pushing for change with the Bangladesh government, Law Commission, and donor countries.
These laws need to change. It is bad enough that women have little protection if their marriages break down. But it’s even worse if a woman, like Namrata, can’t divorce a husband who destroyed her life.