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.


Harper government presses Obama to approve Keystone XL pipeline

Harper government presses Obama to approve Keystone XL pipeline |
Keystone XL protest in Washington, D.C. last year. (Photo:
Today, on this Presidents Day weekend, tens of thousands are set to converge on the White House in what organizers are promoting as "the largest climate rally in U.S. history." The protesters will be calling on Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. For the first time in its 120 year history, the million member Sierra Club has endorsed civil disobedience actions on that day.
Alongside one of this country's biggest corporations, Stephen Harper's government has entangled Canada in one of the most controversial decisions of Obama's presidency. The Conservatives have lobbied vigorously in support of Calgary-based TransCanada's plan to build a $7 billion pipeline to take up to 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The prime minister has pressed Obama to approve Keystone XL while his ministers have visited Washington to pursue the matter with the Secretary of State. During two visits to Washington in recent weeks foreign minister John Baird said Keystone XL was his main priority.
Canada's ambassador in Washington, Gary Doer, has also spent a large amount of his time pushing the pipeline, prompting TransCanada to send him a "thank you" note on August 30, 2011. "Gary," reads an email from the pipeline firm, "I just wanted to send a quick note to thank you and your team for all of the hard work and perseverance in helping get us this far, I know it has made a big difference."
The ambassador responded to critical media commentary and pressed state officials to support the pipeline. When Nebraska's Republican governor Dave Heineman initially came out against the project Doer visited him in Omaha. Similarly, the 28 members of Congress who urged the State Department to consider the "major environmental and health hazards" posed by Keystone XL received an immediate letter from Canada’s ambassador and Alberta's minister of intergovernmental relations. "I believe it necessary to address several points in your letter," Doer wrote. The ambassador's letter trumpeted Canada's plan to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. "[This is] a benchmark we intend to meet," Doer wrote, even though planned tar sands expansion will make this objective impossible to reach.
Canada's 22 consular offices in the US have also been ordered to take up the cause. When the New York Times ran an editorial titled "Say No to the Keystone XL" Canada's consul general in New York wrote a letter supporting the project.

Environmental Activists Pose Security Threat: Canadian Government |

Environmental Activists Pose Security Threat: Canadian Government | Common Dreams

Canadians going to Keystone XL protest 'better take precautions'

The environmental activist movement in Canada has been targeted by the Canadian government as a threat to national security, according to documents recently released under a freedom of information law, the Guardian reports.
(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) According to Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Center at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, who obtained the previously unreleased government documents, security and police forces have been closely surveilling peaceful environmental activists, including many who are planning to attend the Washington DC Keystone XL Pipeline protest on Sunday.
"Any Canadians going to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday had better take precautions," Monaghan told the Guardian.
"It's the new normal now for Canada's security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organizations," he added.
"Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organize petitions, protest and question government policies," Steven Leahy reports at the Guardian.
Canada's national police force and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) say activists engage in "forms of attack" through acts of civil disobedience such as blocking access to roads or buildings.
Monaghan added that in particular, protests in opposition to Canada's oil and gas industry are viewed as threats by Canadian authorities.


Malian women raped, stoned, lashed and forced to marry amid intense fighting - AlertNet

Malian women raped, stoned, lashed and forced to marry amid intense fighting - AlertNet
By Kate Thomas   (this is from Trustlaw, a very credible source)

Despite the taboo associated with rape in northern Mali, some women are pursuing justice against their aggressors. Dozens have agreed to document their stories with Toure and have lodged official complaints with police in Bamako. In the midst of the French intervention, there has not yet been any response.
“We hope that will change when things are calmer,” Toure said. “Still, these women are brave. Launching an official complaint carries high stakes. If the community finds out you've been raped, you risk being alone for the rest of your life.”

BAMAKO, Mali (AlertNet) – When armed Islamist fighters arrived in the northeastern Malian village of Haribomo near Timbuktu, one of the first things they did was sip sweet tea with the local imam. They then told him how they expected the village women to behave.
“The Islamists met with the imam and they said, ‘Let us tell you our rules’,” said Adane Djiffiey Djallo, a coordinator at Aide et Developpement au Mali, a Timbuktu-based non-governmental organisation. “They said women would no longer be allowed to go to work, to the market or wash in the river.”
But the imam turned to the Islamists and said: “‘Let me tell you my rules’”.
He explained many women headed up households or had jobs of their own while their husbands worked on farms. ‘“I can't stop you forcing them to cover their heads – but I won't allow you to ban them from carrying out their daily activities’,” the imam said, according to Djallo.
At first, the women of Haribomo were relieved.
Tuareg fighters from the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) had seized Haribomo and other parts of northern Mali following a March 2012 military coup that plunged the previously stable West African state into chaos. But better-armed and wealthier Islamist groups had chased Tuareg fighters out of town.
Under the Tuareg occupation, there were cases of gang rape and an increase in forced marriage. The Haribomo women hoped things would improve.
But the Islamists brought Sharia law, with its brutal punishments such as lashing and stoning. They forced the women of Haribomo to cover up from head to toe and they outlawed sex before marriage – only to commit acts of sexual violence against the women themselves.
Fatoumata Cisse, a teacher from Gao, said the daughter of a friend was forced into marriage with a member of Mujao – the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, an Al-Qaida splinter and one of the five groups of Islamist fighters present in northern Mali.
“He forced her to have sex with him, and when she became pregnant, he told her she must name the baby Mujao,” Cisse told AlertNet. “Fortunately, he was gone before the baby was born.”
Cisse's story is one of hundreds of accounts of sexual violence emerging in the wake of the French and African intervention to liberate northern Mali.
There have been at least 200 cases of forced marriage and sexual violence – including against men – since March 2012, according to the Gao-based non-government organisation GREFFA, citing a report by the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. GREFFA saw the report but it has not been made public.
Meanwhile, a joint initiative by U.N. Women and GREFFA has collected the testimonies of 52 girls and women who suffered gender-based violence in the towns of Gao and Menaka since April last year.
But while there are credible accounts of violence carried out by Islamist fighters, most of the testimonies cite Tuareg rebels as the aggressors, said GREFFA director Fatimata Toure, who has been hearing from victims and documenting cases of sexual abuse.
“In Gao, members of the MNLA took girls as they walked along the streets, or lifted them from their own homes and drove them to the abandoned barracks of the Malian army,” said Toure.
“We heard how they were sometimes handcuffed and locked inside rooms there – for 48 or 72 hours – and raped collectively by as many as four men at a time,” she added.
Toure said the worst atrocities were committed in Menaka, a dusty town in the shadow of the Ader Douchi hills in northeastern Mali.
“We heard how a daughter was raped together with her mother, while her father was tied down and forced to watch. Girls under 12 years old were attacked, as were women over 60. One woman lost an eye when the rapist beat her,” said Toure.
Sexual violence carried out by members of the MNLA mostly targeted women and girls from the noble Songhai and slave caste Bella ethnic groups. Although wealthy Tuaregs use Bella women and girls as slaves and servants, Toure said there were few acts of sexual violence against them before March.
After the Malian army fled from the Gao area, the MNLA no longer had an enemy to fight so they turned on the local population, Toure explained....

Despite the taboo associated with rape in northern Mali, some women are pursuing justice against their aggressors. Dozens have agreed to document their stories with Toure and have lodged official complaints with police in Bamako. In the midst of the French intervention, there has not yet been any response.
“We hope that will change when things are calmer,” Toure said. “Still, these women are brave. Launching an official complaint carries high stakes. If the community finds out you've been raped, you risk being alone for the rest of your life.”


Four Essential Steps to End Female Genital Mutilation

Yasmeen Hassan: Four Essential Steps to End Female Genital Mutilation
In the last few decades, tireless efforts by activists around the world to end female genital mutilation (FGM) have slowly but surely borne fruit.
The recent United Nations Global Ban, an African-led resolution calling on all member states to criminalize FGM, signals the aspiration for international consensus on ending FGM at the highest level. This was preceded by the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, a regional treaty currently ratified by 36 African States that calls for governments to ban FGM. Nineteen out of 28 countries in Africa where FGM is practiced have banned it in addition to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Laws against the practice also exist in at least 12 countries with immigrant populations from countries that practice FGM. Very recently, the United States passed a federal law making it illegal for girls to be taken out of the United States for the purpose of performing FGM. Funding for efforts to end FGM has also increased--from less than one percent of UNICEF's budget in 1993, when Equality Now started a campaign calling on UN agencies to address this serious violation of human rights--to millions of dollars today.
While recognition of FGM as a violation of human rights at the highest levels is a big step in the right direction, much more is needed to make positive change in the lives of girls. At least three million girls continue to be at risk of undergoing FGM every year in Africa alone.
To make lasting change for girls, first, governments need the political will to match their words with action. Enactment of laws against FGM is only the first step. Too many governments are failing to properly implement their laws or to educate their citizens about the laws. Kenya's lack of enforcement of its anti-FGM law led to the death of 12 year old Sasiano, a Maasai girl who bled to death as a result of FGM in 2008. It was only due to persistent advocacy from Kenyan organization the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative and Equality Now that law enforcement pursued the case. On April 1, 2010, the accused--the circumciser and Sasiano's father--both pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to ten years' imprisonment each. Similarly, the government of Niger has failed to follow the minimum sentencing requirements in its FGM law, and in several cases, perpetrators have been let off with a suspended sentence, sending the message that FGM will be tolerated.
Second, the efforts of grassroots activists fighting against FGM must be supported. Activists know the change that is needed within their communities and the ways to achieve the change. Agnes Pareyio, who heads the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative, Equality Now's partner in Kenya, campaigns widely against FGM in the Maasai community and has established a safe house for girls that run away from home to avoid FGM. Agnes was forced to undergo circumcision as a girl in Kenya and resolved that she would not let her daughters go through the same experience. She supports the implementation of the anti-FGM law, including through training local police and other community leaders.
There is a dangerous trend, including among international organizations, towards cultural relativism that threatens to impede true activism against FGM as human rights violation. In 2010, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement on FGM that appeared to endorse a ritual nicking of the clitoris by pediatricians to satisfy "cultural" requirements of parents and reversed the AAP's previous unconditional condemnation of this harmful practice. It was only through concerted pressure by Equality Now and our partners that the AAP reversed its policy position.
Third, efforts to end FGM must be rooted in the recognition that FGM arises due to gender inequality and the lower status of women in society. As such, anti-FGM efforts must include work to create equality between men and women, girls and boys. Efforts to medicalize FGM in order make it safer, as seen recently in Indonesia, show a lack of understanding of the complexity of the issue and its ties to gender inequality.
Lastly, and most importantly, greater donor resources have to be committed to the work to end FGM and a major share of these resources must be invested in those at risk--adolescent girls. To help prevent FGM, there must be investment in building the assets of girls, so that they themselves become agents of change.
On this International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, we must stand steadfast in our collective duty to make ending FGM a reality for girls who continue to be at risk. We have reached key agreements both at the international and African regional levels. We must now work on making sure that these agreements influence the lives of girls, so that no girl is subjected to this practice and FGM becomes something to be read about in history books.


Council of Canadians opposes west-to-east oil pipeline plan

[08-Feb-13] Council of Canadians opposes west-to-east oil pipeline plan
OTTAWA – The Council of Canadians is opposed to a west-to-east oil pipeline plan being proposed by TransCanada Corp., which is supported in principle by the Harper government, and enthusiastically backed by the Alberta and New Brunswick provincial governments. The pipeline – which could move upwards of one million barrels of oil from Alberta per day – would run to the Irving refinery in Saint John, as well as to the deep water port in that city.
While TransCanada – the builders behind the Keystone XL pipeline to be decided on by US President Barack Obama in the coming months –- has not formally submitted a proposal to the National Energy Board, the energy industry is showing “almost unprecedented interest” in proceeding with the pipeline, according to Alberta premier Alison Redford. TransCanada’s plan also does not involve a massive construction project, but rather conversion of an existing, but underused natural gas line.
“This pipeline would pose serious threats to local water supplies and communities along the route,” says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. “The option then to export to the much larger and more profitable markets of India, China and Europe with massive tankers from the deep water port is also a major concern of ours.”
Analysts have noted that it is a shorter route to reach India's west coast refining hub from the Atlantic coast than from British Columbia. It is also possible to reach China from Atlantic Canada by moving oil tankers through the Straight of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia and then north through the South China Sea. Shipping oil to major refineries in Europe would also be possible. Just this week Premier Redford emphasized that Alberta oil reaching world markets is crucial.
“Export tankers would pose a real threat to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy,” says Atlantic regional organizer Angela Giles. “The water bodies must be protected as part of the commons and a public trust, not as a highway for oil exports.”
Redford has also framed moving Alberta oil east to New Brunswick as part of a Canadian Energy Strategy. But this is not a strategy that ensures stability of supply, protection of the environment, and that sets out a plan to wean the country off its dependence on non-renewable fuel sources.
“We have the capacity, to come up with better solutions for our energy needs,” says energy campaigner Maryam Adrangi. “We can create sustainable, local, and permanent jobs while respecting the health and safety of communities. To do this, we need to transition off of fossil fuels.”


Tunisia: Urgent need for investigation into Chokri Belaid’s killing | Amnesty International

Tunisia: Urgent need for investigation into Chokri Belaid’s killing | Amnesty International
The killing today of Tunisian opposition politician Chokri Belaid, outside his home must prompt a thorough, independent and impartial investigation by the Tunisian authorities, Amnesty International has said.

Chokri Belaid, a leading figure of the leftist opposition in Tunisia, was shot in the neck and head as he was leaving his home in Tunis this morning. He was the Secretary General of the Democratic Patriots party, and a vocal critic of the government. He denounced political violence and called for democratic values to be upheld in Tunisia. It is the first time that such a killing has taken place in Tunisia. So far, no one has claimed responsibility.

Chokri Belaid’s death has occurred in a context of increasing polarization between political parties in Tunisia. Members of the opposition have reported they are targeted in attacks by individuals and that the authorities are not doing enough to protect them.

In recent months, there have been a number of incidents of violence against political activists, premises of political parties and gatherings, including a meeting which Chokri Belaid attended as recently as last Saturday. He had reportedly been receiving threats.

“The Tunisian authorities should be under no illusion that they can condemn the killing and move on. Only a fully independent and transparent investigation can help shed light on the circumstances of the killing of Chokri Belaid. There is a need, today more than ever, for justice to be done and to be seen to be done”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

Kenyan Men Turning the Tide Against FGM | Inter Press Service

IPS – Kenyan Men Turning the Tide Against FGM | Inter Press Service
Nimo Omar, now 17, escaped the “cut” at 6 years old when her elder brother intervened. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS
NAIROBI, Feb 6 2013 (IPS) - For the Samburu community in northern Kenya it was bad enough that Julius Lekupe had not sired a son – it was even worse that his eldest daughter refused to be “cut”.
“Women are like property here. We circumcise them and marry them off – some as young as 10 years old,” Lekupe told IPS.He knew it was only a matter of time before his 16-year-old daughter, too, was going to have to undergo the ritual against her will.“She begged me to support and protect her. It was a tough decision, but I agreed. I sent her to Nairobi to live with a friend,” Lekupe recalled.
He is among an increasing number of men belonging to ethnic groups that practice Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) who have begun to speak out against the now-illegal practice in this East African nation.
Legally, the tide turned in Kenya in 2010, when parliament adopted the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, which stipulates that offenders serve up to seven years in prison and can be fined up to 5,800 dollars – a huge sum in a country where the average monthly wage is 250 dollars.
The combination of national legislation and shifting attitudes at the community level seems to bare fruit.
On Wednesday Feb. 6, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), together released new numbers that show FGM/C is becoming less prevalent on the continent and particularly among the younger generation of girls.
In a joint statement, the agencies highlighted Kenya as an example of sharp decline in the region, saying that “women aged 45 to 49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15 to 19.”
“This progress shows it is possible to end FGM/C,” underlined UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake, adding that “we can and must end it to help millions of girls and women lead healthier lives.”
Increasingly, men are assuming active roles in initiating this cultural shift, as UNFPA’s 2012 report “Accelerating Change” points out. In addition to fathers like Lekupe, who wish to protect their daughters, young men across Kenya are speaking out publicly to announce their preference to marry uncut girls, according to the report – a significant development in a country where FGM continues to be a prerequisite for marriage in some communities.
What’s more, over two dozen male Muslim leaders made public declarations to fight FGM/C in 2011, UNFPA said.“We had been misled into believing that FGM/C is the practice of the Prophet, and that His followers must follow it,” Abdi Omar, a husband and father from Garissa in northern Kenya, told IPS. “But all over northern Kenya we have Muslim leaders telling us that it is not. Why should I support it if it isn’t the practice of the Prophet?”
According to Ibrahim Shabo, an FGM/C activist from Isiolo — a town in northern Kenya where the pastoralist community is notorious for practicing FGM/C  – this stance by Muslim leaders is particularly significant when it comes to influencing Kenyan Somalis in northern Kenya, who have a FGM/C prevalence rate of 98 percent.
In Kapenguria, Rift Valley, the local council of elders has joined the growing chorus against FGM/C by making a public declaration to abandon the practice in 2011.
“This is a community that is known to practice extremely brutal forms of FGM/C,” Philipo Lotimari, a community leader in the town, told IPS. He went on to describe the practice that involves opening up a girl’s vagina with the horn of a cow the first time she has sex following her circumcision.

IPS – Traditional Farming Holds All the Aces |

IPS – Traditional Farming Holds All the Aces | Inter Press Service
KORAPUT, India, Feb 1 2013 (IPS) - Last monsoon season, 65-year-old Sunadhar Ramaparia, a member of the Bhumia tribe in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, mixed indigenous crops like ‘para’ paddy, foxtail millet and oil seeds in his upland plot.
The rains came, then played truant for 23 days and in the scorching heat even lowland farmers’ hybrid paddy saplings burnt to dust. But Ramaparia harvested a full crop.
Deforestation and climate change have resulted in erratic rainfall, shrinking water bodies and severe soil degradation in Ramaparia’s hamlet of Tentulipar, located in the Eastern Ghat region of Odisha’s Koraput province, leaving scores of farmers vulnerable to extreme hunger.
But the Bhumia tribe is simply falling back on the wisdom of their 3,000-year-old traditional farming systems to ensure a year-round supply of healthy food.
The tribe uses local seeds from the biodiversity-rich Eastern Ghats, a discontinuous mountain range that runs parallel to the Bay of Bengal along India’s eastern coast at an average of 900 metres above mean sea level.
The agricultural system here has adapted to the intensely hilly terrain, built resilience to the changing climate, and developed a natural pest-control mechanism. Tribal farmers grow hardy crops on the highlands, and more water-intensive crops on the midland and low-lying areas.
Though the government of India has offered the tribe subsidised hybrid paddy, which yields about 3,700 to 4,800 kilogrammes per hectare – a much larger haul than the 2,400 to 3,300 kilogrammes farmers can expect from traditional seeds – Ramaparia and his 20-member family have no intention of abandoning their indigenous crops.
“The rice from government seeds not only has no taste or aroma, they demand a lot of costly medicine (chemical fertiliser and pesticides), and they give diseases to those who consume them,” Ramaparia told IPS.

Agricultural festivals are a uniquely local mechanism for promoting seed preservation.
Forty-one-year-old Chandrama Bhumia, who owns just half a hectare of land but has never gone hungry, told IPS, “In April, we have the ‘Bali Jatra’ (Sand Festival), where households collect the sandy topsoil from river banks in leaf containers and sow in it sample seeds that will be planted in June.”
Nine days later, nearly ten thousand people congregate with their geminated seeds and the ‘dasari’, or medicine man, assesses the saplings’ health before rejecting them or giving the go-ahead for cultivation.

For those whose saplings are found to be unsuitable for planting, the event gives an opportunity for seed exchanges. "A lifetime of eating our own grains has kept an old man like me strong, let any young man try arm wrestling with me,” he challenged jovially, looking around at the assembled villagers.
This is not an isolated example of a single tribe holding out against chemically altered seeds.
According to the 2003 India National Sample Survey — based on which the National Policy for Farmers (NPF 2007) and the agricultural programmes of the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) evolved — 69 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people are rural. Tribal communities constitute 10 percent of the total rural population; of this, roughly eight percent follow traditional agricultural practices.
According to the National Sample Survey, 46 percent of farmers use the government’s hybrid seeds, while 47 percent use “saved” seeds


Take Action Now - Amnesty International

Take Action Now - Amnesty International USA

Release Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo and Wife Liu Xia

... one of the few hurried exchanges between Liu Xia and fellow activists who temporarily breached more than two years of house arrest imposed by Chinese authorities.
Their meeting was brief, just three minutes long. The activists knew that back-up security would arrive at any second.

Her "crime"? Being married to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo.
His "crime"? Helping to write Charter '08, a political manifesto calling for greater respect for fundamental human rights in China through peaceful, democratic reforms.

The real crime -- that the couple was ever detained at all.

Take Action On This Issue Liu Xiaobo is a prominent Chinese intellectual, democracy activist and the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. He received an 11-year prison sentence in 2009 after he helped write Charter ’08, a political manifesto, which promoted peaceful democratic reform and called for greater respect for fundamental human rights in China and an end to one party rule.

Shortly after Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize, Chinese police placed his wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest without any charges or legal due process.

They both continue to be held against their will for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. Take action now to demand their release!


Julian Fantino's kiss of death to NGOs |

Julian Fantino's kiss of death to NGOs |
It just keeps getting worse.,..

The Conservative government has in the past two or three years forced the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to shift funding away from long-established development partners such as the Mennonite Central Committee and the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. CIDA money has instead began to flow to Canadian corporations, particularly to mining companies active in the global South. Julian Fantino, the minister in charge of CIDA, thinks that’s a great idea but his agenda may actually be a kiss of death for those non-government organizations (NGOs) who have become involved in joint projects with the mining industry. The Toronto Star reports that many loyal donors to those NGOs are upset and they are keeping their wallets in their pockets....
Abandoning ship?
A story in The Star says that Plan Canada, one of several organizations involved in projects that link CIDA, NGOs and mining companies may abandon its partnership with Iamgold in Burkina Faso. CIDA is providing Plan Canada $5.6 million to operate an educational program in the West African country. Iamgold, which operates a gold mine there, is committed to spending another $1 million per year to the project and Plan has also committed $1 million. The project is to offer job-skills training for 6,400 children.
Rosemary McCarney is Plan’s president. In an interview with The Star, she was quoted as saying: “Would we try it again? Probably not. It’s upsetting to donors.”
The Star writes, “Some Plan donors have complained the mining companies have enough money to fund their own social programs and that Plan shouldn’t be partnering with them.”
In fact, research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives indicates that the CEOs of mining companies are among the highest paid of Canadian corporate executives, who in 2011 pocketed an average of $ 7.6, which was 235 times the average Canadian wage of $45,488. Those optics are not good.
An unidentified CIDA spokesperson quoted in The Star story claimed the projects “are rolling out as planned” and said that “CIDA is pleased that these projects mobilized additional support from private sector companies.”

By early 2012 it had become apparent that a seismic shift was underway. While long-term CIDA partners were anxiously awaiting their fate, Bev Oda was signing contracts worth $26 million with Canadian mining companies and select NGOs to undertake a number of “corporate responsibility” projects.
A reporter for The Ottawa Citizen newspaper asked CIDA Minister Bev Oda how she separates Canada’s trade and foreign policy interests from development goals in these cases. Her response: “I really don’t separate them.”That is probably all one needs to know about the government’s new priorities as they relate to development.
Fantino’s folly
In July 2012, Oda left politics just ahead of a likely demotion from cabinet. The new minister in charge of CIDA, the gaff-prone Julian Fantino, has chosen to justify the new policy by taking an unprovoked swipe at CIDA’s long term partners.
While on a trip to Haiti in December 2012, Fantino was quoted as telling journalists in a teleconference call: “I think some people believe that [the Canadian International Development Agency] only exists to keep NGOs afloat and to keep them working and that we will fund them for life. It’s not going to be the case.”
That gratuitous put down came less than a week after Fantino had delivered a speech to the Economic Club of Canada outlining CIDA’s plans to align itself more closely with the private sector to promote Canadian interests abroad. Fantino also announced $25-million in CIDA funding for a new extractive industry institute, to be hosted by the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. The institute is expected to provide policy advice to developing countries with mining industries.


Enbridge eliminates islands on its publicity map - SumofUs

Background: Canadian oil company Enbridge is trying to build a 700-mile-long pipeline through gorgeous wilderness and waterways terminating at a bay filled with over a dozen islands. In order to sell this dangerous plan to the public, Enbridge -- which has a long history of oil spills -- erased almost all of the islands from its public-facing map and video, making the route appear safer than it actually is.
What we want: We demanded that Enbridge pull its misleading ads.
Current status: We delivered over 45,000 petitions to Enbridge HQ in Vancouver, where an Enbridge employee promised to respond to our concerns about his company's misleading ads. We doubled our impact by also delivering petitions to Enbridge execs and the media at the Joint Review Panel hearings in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Stephen Harper to reject CNOOC's takeover.

What we want: For Stephen Harper to reject CNOOC's takeover.
Current status: The SumOfUs community put this issue front and center. 37,000 of you signed our petition within 48 hours, and together with LeadNow we sent tens of thousands of messages to MPs and Prime Minister Harper. The pressure split the Conservative caucus, and while Harper green-lighted the Nexen deal, he now knows he can't quietly pursue his energy agenda without Canadians standing up to hold him accountable.
To date, the Harper government still hasn't passed the secretive and extreme Canada-China FIPA. Experts thought the investor deal would be passed quietly on November 2nd, but your pressure has delayed ratification and given Canadians a fighting chance to stop this terrible agreement.
Read More: The original petition | Our ad in the Hill Times

Pepsi: Speak out against the Uganda Kill the Gays bill

MARKED PROGRESS! Pepsi: Speak out against the Uganda Kill the Gays bill
Background: Ugandan legislators are considering legislation that would institute the death penalty for gays and lesbians, and allies in Uganda felt that if multinational companies spoke out publicly against the bill, it would sway Members of Parliament (MPs) on the fence to vote against it. Pepsi has a history of supporting equality and has a massive presence in Uganda.
Partners: Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law and Health GAP
What we want: We asked Pepsi to publicly oppose the bill and communicate its opposition to MPs in the Ugandan Parliament.
Current status: Over 116,000 signatures were delivered to Pepsi HQ in December, and, we took out an ad in Advertising Age, an industry publication, to get Pepsi's attention. Just this week, Pepsi's VP of Global Policy and Government Affairs met with Kaytee, our Campaign Manager. He heard our concerns, and agreed to continue watching the situation closely, and ensure Pepsi uses its voice effectively to stop passage of the bill. To that end, we are putting Pepsi executives in touch with LGBTI groups in Uganda so they can coordinate opposition on the ground.
As far as the bill itself, thankfully it did not pass before the Ugandan Parliament disbanded for Christmas. But allies in Uganda warn that there is a good chance the bill will be considered when Parliament reconvenes next week, so we will stay in touch with allies in Uganda and make sure Pepsi keeps its word to help stop this horrible law.

Rape Victims Must Sign Away Rights to Get Remedy from Barrick | MiningWatch

Rape Victims Must Sign Away Rights to Get Remedy from Barrick | MiningWatch
Ottawa – Washington, D.C. - Oxford – January 30, 2013. Following years of denial, Barrick Gold is implementing a remedy program for victims of rape by employees of its Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
In order to receive a remedy package, women must enter into an agreement in which “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement.”
Included in the remedy options offered to women are “access to phychosocial/trauma counseling” and “access to health care.” “We do not believe women should have to sign away rights to possible future legal action in order to access the types of remedy Barrick is offering these victims of rape and gang rape,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “this requirement is not best practice in cases of non-judicial remedy.”
"We are also concerned that Barrick is not offering remedy to those women who have been raped and gang raped by members of police Mobile Squads who are being housed, fed and supported by PJV on PJV property" says Tricia Feeney, Executive Director of Rights & Accountability in Development.
"Barrick appears to be rushing women through the claims process," says Rick Herz, Litigation Coordinator for EarthRights International, which has brought several transnational lawsuits in U.S. courts against extractive companies for similar abuses. "Women should not be coerced into giving up their legal rights and, at a minimum, Barrick should allow women to keep the remedial offers made to them open long enough for them to seek legal counsel and evaluate their options."
MiningWatch Canada, Rights & Accountability in Development and EarthRights International are currently engaged in mediated discussions with Barrick Gold as a result of a complaint filed with the Canadian National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines. The information and related documents provided in this release were obtained outside of that process.


Barlow and RLA Laureates mourn the killing of Cicero Guedes

UPDATE: Barlow and RLA Laureates mourn the killing of Cicero Guedes
In a media release issued today, “The Right Livelihood Award Foundation strongly condemns the murder of Cícero Guedes, a leader of the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement MST. The MST received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) in 1991. Cícero Guedes dos Santos, coordinator of the Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra, MST) of Brazil was killed by gunmen on Friday, January 25th. He received some twelve shots to the head while he was bicycling away from a settlement of landless families in the vicinity of the Cambahyba sugar plant, in the municipality of Campos dos Goytacazes in Rio de Janeiro. It is yet unclear who is responsible for the murder.”
“Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award from all over the world expressed their solidarity and support to the family and colleagues of the murdered activist. The Paraguayan educator and human rights advocate Martín Almada (RLA 2002), lamented that ‘violent actions continue to claim the lives of Latin American leaders and advocates for the environment and sustainability.’”

In 2005, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, along with Polaris Institute executive director Tony Clarke, received the Right Livelihood Award for their exemplary and longstanding worldwide work for trade justice and the recognition of the fundamental human right to water. Barlow says, “To lose a cherished colleague in this terrible way reminds us that, to fight for justice, some people put their lives on the line every day. We mourn the loss of Cicero Guedes and share the grief of his family and comrades. Once I had the great fortune to visit a settlement of the landless movement in Brazil and thought I had perhaps found heaven. It was one of the loveliest places I had ever seen and the true antidote to our world of greed and unlimited growth. We will carry on our work in Cicero’s name.”


Construction of Giant Dam in Brazil Threatens Part of Amazon Region - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Construction of Giant Dam in Brazil Threatens Part of Amazon Region - SPIEGEL ONLINE
The construction of a giant dam in the Amazon region of Brazil is threatening parts of the world's largest rainforest. But the indigenous tribes living here are keeping quiet in return for millions of dollars in promises.
They search for dead meat, and rummage through the trash. They come from the forest and live on the city's waste. They're called "urubus" in northern Brazil, black vultures with curved beaks and lizard-like heads.
The old people say the birds bring bad luck. There are now thousands in the city of Altamira, more than ever before. They blacken the sky when seen from a distance, and at closer range their silence is unsettling. Black vultures, lacking the vocal organ found in birds, the syrinx, rarely make any noise at all. "The urubus," says Bishop Erwin Kräutler, "are an unmistakable sign that the city is in chaos." Kräutler, a native Austrian, is the bishop of one of the world's large prelatures, which is larger than Germany. He talks about chaos, speaking into every camera that's pointed at him, and he speaks loudly -- too loudly for the big landowners, the corporations and the government. His enemies have placed a bounty on the bishop's head for the equivalent of almost €400,000 ($543,000), and even the largest newspaper in northern Brazil wrote that it was time to "eliminate" him.
Bishop Kräutler is now 73. He's been living in Altamira, on the edge of the rainforest and in the middle of the Amazon region, for almost 50 years. For the last 30 years, he has been fighting the construction of the dam directly adjacent to the city, a project that is financially lucrative for many in the area.
He and his friends from environmental organizations advise the victims, file lawsuits against government agencies and plan rallies. He has spoken with prosecutors and the country's supreme court, has met with the president twice and was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize, but all to little avail.
'Beautiful Mountain'
Altamira's population is expected to reach 300,000 soon, up from only 100,000 not too long ago. The developers call the dam Belo Monte, or "beautiful mountain," while the dam's opponents call it Belo Monte de Merde, or "beautiful mountain of shit." The dam attracts workers, causing the city and its garbage dumps to grow, which in turn attracts black vultures from the jungle.
Kräutler's fight is a struggle against the biggest construction site in the largest rainforest on earth. The first of 24 turbines is expected to be up and running in 2015. Starting in 2019, the dam will have as much generating capacity as 11 nuclear power plants. To achieve this, 18,000 workers are moving as much earth as was moved to build the Panama Canal. They are creating a reservoir larger than Lake Constance to build the world's third-largest dam, which is also expected to become a symbol of Brazil's motto "Ordem e Progresso," or "Order and Progress."

Infected salmon declared fit for human consumption by Canadian Food Inspection Agency | Toronto Star

Infected salmon declared fit for human consumption by Canadian Food Inspection Agency | Toronto Star
For the first time, Canada’s food safety regulator is allowing Nova Scotia salmon infected with a flu-like virus to be processed for supermarkets and restaurants.
Last week the Canadian Food Inspection Agency declared fit for human consumption 240,000 Atlantic salmon with infectious salmon anemia — a disease it says poses no risk to human heath. The ruling is the first time the CFIA has opted not to destroy fish carrying the virus since it started regulating the fish farming industry in 2005.
Because the U.S. won’t import fish with the virus, the fresh whole salmon, fillets and steaks will have to find dinner plates to land on somewhere in Canada.
At least one supermarket chain here says it will not stock the infected fish.
Alexandra Morton, a marine biologist, says infectious salmon anemia is an influenza-type virus and can mutate in unpredictable ways, especially if it comes into contact with another flu virus in a human being.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for people to be eating it,” said Morton, who has worked as a government fisheries scientist and was a visiting lecturer at Dalhousie University last year. “We know that pathogens are becoming more virulent all the time and it’s events like this that I believe really risk human health safety.”
On its website, the CFIA describes how the virus can kill up to 90 per cent of infected salmon, causing them to slow their swimming, lose their appetite and gasp at the surface. Infected fish may have grey gills, a swollen abdomen and areas of bleeding along their belly and sides.
“Infectious salmon anemia poses no human health or food safety risk, and there is strong scientific proof of this,” the agency wrote in an email to the Star.
In 2010, a team from the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University published a study on the virus and concluded it poses no threat to humans because it is deactivated at our body temperature.