June 22, 2012: Russ Diabo and First Nations issues including upcoming elections for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations

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The summer season is upon us and that means also that the House of Commons is on summer recess after  a tumultuous session. The Harper regime has passed its Omnibus bill, the effects of which won’t be felt until all the regulations associated with them are written – probably over the summer.  What kind of a country will be living in by the end of the Harper regime? Why are more Canadians not concerned and vocal about the lawlessness of the Harper regime: and by lawless I am referring to Canada being implicated in torture when our soldiers handed Afghan prisoners over to certain torture, two prorogations of Parliament for the sole purpose of protecting Harper’s then minority government, the contempt of Parliament charge, millions spent on the G8 getaway in the Muskokas, election rigging and spending improprieties, the military spending on weapons and bases overseas, and now, the Omnibus budget clearly designed to circumvent our already shaky democratic system. All of this and in a pivotal election Harper and his Mike Harris reruns like ministers Flaherty, Baird and Clement win a  majority in the House of Commons!

 On top of this is a looming confrontation with Canada’s First Nations people who struggle against mining and oil corporations along with a debilitating process of negotiations over land and funding that never get resolved. June 21 marked another National Aboriginal Day and month – a day not without controversy among First Nations communities and leaders. What is the state of First Nations politics and relations with Canada? Why should non-natives care?  What kind of alliances and which organizations exist to promote the interests of FNs? Since the Harper regime has made no secret about their wish to change Canada forever it’s time to seriously consider that First Nations interests and the interests of the Canadian working class clearly intersect. We all live on this land and rely on the natural environment for our survival. The common enemy we all face is a global economy that relies on the subjugation of peoples’ rights and governments like ours who serve only those global economic interests along with the banks.

 To help us understand First Nations concerns was Russ Diabo who was on this program way back in December. We’ll had a discussion about the results of the Crown/First Nations Gathering in January, on the questions I raised here, and on the coming elections for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Russ Diabo is a First Nations policy adviser and a Mohawk from Kahnawake, in Quebec, and spoke to us from Innisfil, On., He edits and publishes the First Nations Strategic Bulletin.

Here, Diabo describes the aftermath of the Crown First Nations Gathering and outlines what the AFN is and is not:

The Assembly of First Nations was formed as a response to the Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian policy (The White Paper, 1969). Click image to learn more

In this clip Diabo discusses the relevance of the grassroots in influencing events of critical importance to local communities:

I asked why all Canadians should care about First Nations issues and politics:


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June 15, 2012: Richard Fidler on the Quebec student strike and Quebec politics

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The big news on Friday was the bridge announcement. Now that our Beloved Leader has come and gone, we can wait and see what actually develops out of a bridge deal. Honestly, I don’t know if these power brokers realize it yet but the global economy is on a pretty shaky bridge of its own and to spend billions on this crossing instead of moving freight by rail seems the height of delusion. The west ends of both cities have already been devastated by a megalomaniacal billionaire as a bunch of others line up to get rich building a new bridge. Either way we could be in trouble as we’ll be too busy choking on the increased smog, or if there is a drop in traffic and therefore crucial toll revenue, then there will be this multi-billion dollar monument to ego spanning the river and another one falling apart because Matty Maroun will have gone broke. Friday’s announcement was all theatre and who knows what will actually come about. New governments and different investors may prevail with an environmentally sound plan.

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On the program politics was on the agenda – Quebec politics in the context of the student strike that is still a going concern if somewhat petered out. Richard Fidler, a long-time observer of Quebec politics from his vantage in Ottawa is a member of the Socialist Project and a retired lawyer and translator. His writing appears in publications in France and Australia and on his blog, Life on the Left. In a recent post, Fidler wrote about the Quebec strike that “A new challenge to the students and their supporters is posed in a strategic debate now developing in nationalist and progressive circles. Essentially, it involves a clash between those who want to put the student struggle on ice in order to build an electoral coalition behind the Parti québécois (PQ), and the militants who argue that the future of the movement lies primarily in the development of mass action in the extra-parliamentary arena. In recent days this debate has gone public, with opposing polemics in the radical and mass media.” Well this got me to thinking because this is a similar rift of sorts in the Occupy movement. Recent events in Parliament over the Budget bill shows that a government easily argued to be illegitimate because of a lack of popular support can still implement a radical agenda because it has a majority in Parliament. What are we to do? Mass actions in the streets while building a new electoral force to remove right wing ideologues from power? The Quebec debate should serve us all as we confront power in an Age of Assault, not Austerity. 

In this clip Fidler explains that the strike in its current phase id over and provides some insight into Premier Charest’s next move:

Fidler here describes the Quebec Solidaire and its sole member of the National Assembly, Amir Khadir:

There is a legal defense fund set up for those arrested during the strike:

(Photo by Justin Ling)


Are you interested in food politics? Meal Exchange Windsor is a student-run charity aimed at eradicating hunger both locally and internationally through education and fundraising. This year Meal Exchange has some amazing events lined up, such as cooking classes, gardening workshops, movie nights, and can drives. In order to do this they need your help. Meal Exchange currently recruiting new members as well as an executive council. If you are interested in taking part in an awesome volunteer experience, please contact Sara Howie at windsor@mealexchange.com.

CEA State of the Detroit River
Boat Tour 2012

Saturday July 14, Noon – 4pm
Rain or Shine

Includes Lunch and Narrated Tour

Tickets: $30 CAN/US

Expert narration about the Detroit River’s environmental hot spots and unique fish and wildlife habitats. This is an excellent opportunity to see why we must continue to value this special river and do what we can to protect it.

For complete details and ticket purchase information, click here.

Thanks for the sponsorship provided by the
Detroit River Canadian Cleanup.




June 8 2012: Amie Stepanovich and U.S. domestic drones

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Listen to entire program here (slightly truncated):

In the first half hour of the program I had a conversation about domestic drones in the US and the topic is certainly relevant in a border area like ours. U.S. drone policy is Canadian drone policy whether we like it or not and with a right wing law and order gang in Ottawa, we can expect that the government will be only too happy to help the US observe Canadian soil with drones as the Canada-U.S. Ship Rider Program is launched. (The ship-riding program empowers “U.S. vessels … to come into Canadian waters to perform enforcement duties, [and] similarly, Canadians can go into U.S. waters”). Of course security is couched in reasonable terms such as looking out for smugglers and other assorted bad guys and to be sure security is an issue at every border in the world. Whatever happened to the vaunted longest undefended border in the world? 9/11 changed all that and enemies are seen everywhere now.

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Perhaps we’re most familiar with hearing about military drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that issue is a separate and horrific story. However, in the U.S. the way has been cleared for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to operate domestically raising many questions about privacy and the increasing amount of surveillance in public places. According to a recent report by Electronic Privacy Information Center, “Since 2005, the [Federal Aviation Administration] has issued 78 certificates to commercial drones. The FAA has had to increase staffing in order to keep up with the mounting demand for government licenses. In late 2010, there were 273 active government licenses, nearly 100 more than the previous year. Reports in 2012 demonstrate that the FAA has issued more than 300 drone licenses. Only minimal information has been released on the nature and function of these drones.” Several agencies and the media in the U.S. are raising questions about domestic drones and to get an idea of what’s going on I spoke with Amie Stepanovich, Associate Litigation Counselor with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research center in Washington, D.C.

In this clip Stepanovich describes the work of EPIC and provides a description of domestic drones:

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Stepanovich discussed whether domestic drones are really necessary. As well, the issue is not just government surveillance but that private uses of drones are a huge threat.  John Yoo, notorious for writing the legal reasoning allowing the Bush Administration to torture people said about drones: “I predict that private drones will prove a bigger invasion of privacy. I met an inventor a few months ago who showed me a drone that could be made for a few hundred dollars and controlled by an iPhone.The Constitution only limits what the state can do, not what private parties can do. And it is private parties who will be the principle users of domestic drones. I predict that these drones will be used mostly by suspicious spouses and parents, not to mention celebrity gawkers. So more important than worrying about whether the NYPD or DHS uses drones, are what rules our society will choose to govern and constrain the private use of drones. It may ultimately be difficult to control; as drone technology allows for smaller and cheaper drones, the government will have less and less ability to regulate them.”:

Here, Stepanovich outlines hopes the public will put the brakes on surveillance drones and mentions ongoing interventions with the Federal Aviation Administration:

Ten misconceptions of domestic drones

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June 1, 2012: Jack Gibbons Chair of Ontario Clean Air Alliance on power generation in Ontario; live report from teachers’ rally at MPP Theresa Piruzza’s office

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The May 26th issue of the Windsor Star featured an opinion piece by Chris Vander Doelen praising provincial Conservative opposition leader Tim Hudak’s 13 point plan for energy affordability in Ontario.  Among the points that stand out are:  Make clean nuclear power the backbone of Ontario’s power system again; Cancel the feed-in tariff, the FIT subsidy for solar and wind power; Give communities the power to say no to wind and solar projects, and put them out to competitive bidding; End all subsidies for electric cars and charging stations. It sounds like “Who killed the Electric car and China Syndrome all in one package. Jack Gibbons has been on the program in the past and has warned that the nuclear industry is a powerful lobby group likely behind much of the negative coverage of renewable energy. In my opinion, reading Mr Hudak’s plan, one could easily read that he is urging Ontario to go nuclear.

Jack Gibbons explained the realities of the current power generating system in Ontario and also what is really needed to make Ontario energy efficient:

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A rally took place in front of Liberal MPP Theresa Piruzza’s office on June 1 and was attended by everyone in the education sector, from maintenance workers to teachers and educational assistants along with allies in other unions. Brian Hogan is a Unit President with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and he described the rally:

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