Aboriginal needs ignored by Ottawa, G20

by Barry Weisleder

Far from the G20 Summit galas, 2,700 members of Sandy Lake First Nation gathered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 5. In the century since aboriginal people ceded 100,000 square kilometres of land to the British Crown for a few tools and an annual payment of $5 a head, grinding poverty remains the norm.

Sandy Lake is a fly-in-only community 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay (Lake Superior) that survived for centuries on hunting, trapping and fishing. Today, aboriginal teen suicide is five to six times higher for First Nations youth between 10 and 24 years of age than for non-aboriginal youth. Of the 600 young people between 18 and 29 living at Sandy Lake, only about 20 have jobs, according to Chief Adam Fiddler.

Canada has gotten “very wealthy” as a result of many treaty arrangements made, says Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Chief Stan Beardy. NAN represents 49 First Nation communities.

“We are not happy.” Instead of sharing the wealth and resources of the land, European settlers sidelined the natives, says Beardy. He wonders why Canada has so far not signed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. He wonders why Prime Minister Harper talks about a maternal health strategy for the Third World, yet he neglects the problem in his own backyard.

Statistics Canada data shows the aboriginal infant death rate is 1.5 times higher than the Canadian rate. In addition, there are 118 First Nations across Canada where the water is too polluted to drink. According to the Assembly of First Nations, 5,486 of 88,485 houses on-reserve do not have sewage services. Around Sandy Lake, many houses have plastic sheets or cardboard serving as windows. Some homes have no outer walls at all, just insulation.

While the federal government spent $46 million in the Huntsville area to spruce up an already rich part of southern Ontario for a G8 Summit lasting just a few hours, in addition to the $1.2 Billion-plus for ‘security’ for the two-day G20 in Toronto, there’s precious little for aboriginal communities, or for urban aboriginals. Their plight was not even on the agenda when the henchmen of global Capital gathered to plan their future plunder of world resources.

Dental plan has no teeth for Ontario poor

by Barry Weisleder

Ontario’s health minister, Deb Matthews, admitted in June that there is no money to improve the oral health of the province’s 500,000 working poor.

In the 2007 election campaign her Liberal Party promised to introduce dental care for low-income Ontarians, followed up by a budget commitment in 2008 to provide $45 million annually for three years to help half a million impoverished workers unable to afford private insurance coverage. Now, it seems, that is barely enough to cover dental care for children of the poor.

Thirty-two per cent of Canadians do not have dental insurance and 17 per cent of residents across the country avoided seeing a licensed dentist last year because of cost, according Health Canada. As a result, an underground industry of unlicensed and sometimes dangerous dentistry preys upon the poor, and often new immigrants.

Desperation is born of hardship, deepened recently by the Ontario Liberal government’s regressive Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and its heartless elimination of the Special Diet Supplement to welfare ($250 a month for food). After inflation, welfare benefits today have only 55 per cent of the buying power they had in 1993.

Liberals at Queen’s Park smile daggers while they make workers and the poorest folk pay for the bail-out to resource industries and auto giants, pay for the crisis of their profit system.

NDP Socialists hit Afghan war extension, Liberal coalition, attack on Libby Davies

by Barry Weisleder

New Democratic Party activists from Hamilton, Oakville, Mississauga, Thornhill, several Toronto constituencies, and from as far away as Winnipeg, Manitoba gathered at OISE U. of Toronto on June 12 for the Annual NDP Socialist Caucus Federal Conference. Although the next NDP federal convention is June 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia — the NDP Socialists are wasting no time in addressing the big issues that face the working class today.

At the top of the SC agenda is ending the war of occupation in Afghanistan and opposing any coalition, let alone merger, of the NDP with the Liberal Party, or any capitalist party. NDP MPs have been too soft-spoken during the current campaign by the business media and the Liberal Party to extend the imperialist war mission beyond the 2011 Canadian troop removal deadline. One New Democrat MP, Jack Harris, who was part of the infamous Liberal Bob Rae-led junket to Kandahar, has mused about the need for Canadian forces to remain as trainers and to build “institutions” in Afghanistan, which implies a fighting presence there.

That brings us to rumours of a merger with the Liberal Party, the political pillar of Bay Street rule and the whole private profit system of environmental, labour and indigenous injustice. While NDP Leader Jack Layton says ‘no one is authorized to engage in talks’, so-called party ‘saints’ Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow are talking potential ‘deals’ with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and other Liberal honchos. Sadly, the outrageous prospect of such a merger seems credible only because the NDP has moved so far from its CCF and working class roots.
After illuminating presentations and discussions on domestic social policy (John Clarke, OCAP; Alex Johnstone, women’s and children’s rights; Robert Ling, End Prohibition of Cannabis) and foreign policy issues (Michael Skinner, Exiting the Afghanistan Quagmire; and this writer speaking on the campaign for democracy, anti-militarism and international solidarity in the NDP), conference participants got down to work on resolutions.

The gathering reaffirmed policies advanced by the SC in the lead up to the 2009 NDP Federal Convention in Halifax, and added three new ones: Legalize Cannabis, Make CPP Benefits a Decent, Living Income for Retirees, and Support the Cochabamba (Bolivia) Protocols on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

The conference mandated the incoming SC federal steering committee to write a new resolution on ending the Alberta Tar Sands Project.

All current SC policy resolutions are posted on the SC web site: www.ndpsocialists.ca and will be circulated extensively across the country through NDP riding associations, affiliated unions and youth clubs. The aim is to persuade local organizations to discuss, adopt and forward the SC resolutions to the federal NDP convention for debate, vote and, hopefully, adoption there.
Leading this effort will be the newly elected NDP Socialist Caucus federal steering committee consisting of: from Toronto, Carol Bailey, Elizabeth Byce (elected SC treasurer), Judy Koch, Christos Draxl, Hans Modlich, Esther Mwangi, Doug Phillips, Ross Ashley and Barry Weisleder (elected SC chair); from Hamilton, Robert Ling; from Oakville, Sean Cain; from Thornhill, John Orrett; from Montreal, Robbie Mahood; and from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Rosemary Hnatiuk.

NDP activists who agree with SC policies and principles and who are interested in joining the SC federal steering committee, which operates primarily through inter net consultation, should send a message via the web site, or call 416 – 535-8779.

Inside the Ontario NDP, the Socialist Caucus remains the driving force behind grass roots challenges to postponement of the provincial convention by the party establishment and to its ongoing support for public funding for Catholic separate schools. Although the ONDP Provincial Council meeting on May 29 reaffirmed the party’s regressive position on those issues, it was only after a vigorous council debate animated by SC activists. A lively lunch-time forum, attended by thirty ONDP councillors and observers, showed that the NDP Socialists represent the best hope for democracy and the turn to the left so essential to NDP survival in the current neo-liberal climate.

So does the SC defense of NDP federal MP and deputy leader Libby Davies (Vancouver East). She was denounced on July 15 by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae and NDP Leader Jack Layton – simply for stating that the Israeli occupation of Palestine began in 1948. The fact that the Zionist state was founded on the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs, and the ethnic cleansing, killing and incarceration of many more since 1948, is widely recognized worldwide, including by most NDP members. It explains why the global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid has gained the support of many unions, municipalities and leading personalities internationally. Telling the truth should be commended, not condemned. Hands off Libby Davies!

Damned in Afghanistan

by Barry Weisleder

Touted as the Canadian state’s best chance for a lasting legacy in Afghanistan, the $50 million Dahla Dam irrigation project in Kandahar is all but dead in the water.

The Canadian engineering giant SNC Lavalin is losing the battle for control of the project to a violent Afghan security firm loyal to Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family. While Ottawa claims the project is on time and budget, a Toronto Star investigation, including interviews with more than 20 private contractors, government officials, Afghan tribal leaders and others, reveals the opposite is the case.

A nearly deadly showdown on February 20 between Canadian security officials and Afghan mercenaries proved critical. It led to the resignation of Alan Bell, a Toronto-based security consultant hired by SNC Lavalin, who now refuses to discuss the situation.

Watan Risk Management, a company operated by Rashid Popal, a cousin of President Hamid Karzai, who’s largest shareholder is one of the president’s brothers, Qayum Karzai, apparently seeks ‘protection’ money. Watan recently was stripped of the highly lucrative task of escorting NATO convoys on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar. But the removal of Watan and another Afghan firm, Compass Security, lasted barely two weeks.

On the very first day, a NATO supply convoy was attacked, with one truck overturned and burned. Two weeks later, with more than 1000 supply trucks stalled on the highway, the company’s security privileges were restored. U.S. officials are investigating whether the Karzai-linked firm may be colluding with insurgents to maximize profits. While Watan denies this, the mere mention of its name causes Kandahar-based staff with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) “go pale and silent”, according to the Toronto Star.

To date, 20 per cent of the silt blocking canals and sub-canals has been dug out. In other words, 80 per cent of the planned works, including the replacement of neglected hydraulic systems and generators at Dahla Dam itself, remains not done. Canadians involved in the project live like prisoners inside a police compound, unable to move without Watan’s permission.

The fiasco of the Dahla Dam, set against the mounting death toll of foreign soldiers and local civilians, reveals the wages of imperialist occupation — in support of a regime of war lords and drug barons. This is what the Liberal Party openly, and the Conservative government covertly, wish to extend past the 2011 deadline for removal of Canadian troops.

Changeons le systeme! pas le climat!

S’il ne s’agissait que d’une séance de photo des chefs d’État des vingt plus grands pays capitalistes du monde, assortie d’une facture obscène de plus de un milliard de dollars pour la sécurité, ça serait déjà gros. Mais le sommet du G20 à Toronto, les 26 et 27 juin, fait partie d’une campagne continue des bien nantis qui gouvernent la planète pour anéantir un siècle d’efforts déployés en faveur des droits et des avantages de la classe ouvrière, et cela en continuant de saccager l’environnement.
Le Fond monétaire international (FMI), sorte de secrétariat du G20, préconise ouvertement : la hausse de l’âge de la retraite, la diminution du financement des traitements médicaux, le gel des salaires de la fonction publique, l’intégralité des programmes sociaux qui deviennent liés aux ressources, la réduction du soutien aux agriculteurs, la hausse des taxes sur la valeur ajoutée, la hausse des taxes sur l’essence, et l’introduction d’une taxe sur les émissions carboniques responsables des gaz à effet de serre.
Il est clair que ces mesures ne font rien pour contrer les affres de la pauvreté ou du changement climatique qui menace la vie même. De telles mesures forceraient les masses laborieuses de la planète à régler la facture découlant de crises de système que nous n’avons pas contribué à créer. Qu’on se souvienne que les déficits et la dette ont atteint des niveaux stratosphériques lorsque les gouvernements ont décidé de renflouer les grandes banques et les méga entreprises. Le capital a créé un ballon de crédit, conçu littéralement pour dissimuler la contradiction au cœur même du capitalisme : la surproduction acharnée d’articles inutiles.
Les politiciens capitalistes froncent les sourcils dès qu’il est question de réformes, aussi modestes soient-elles, comme la réduction des dépenses militaires, la mise à profit des méga bénéfices des entreprises énergétiques pour la conservation et les alternatives énergétiques écologiques, la taxe appliquée aux riches pour soutenir le système public de soins de santé, l’éducation, l’alimentation saine, les transports en commun et le logement décent abordable.

Le gouvernement conservateur minoritaire à Ottawa, dans sa ferveur envers le « marché libre » dont il fait la promotion à l’échelle mondiale afin de bloquer une taxe spéciale sur la spéculation financière et les profits excessifs des banques, une taxe égoïste colportée par les puissances européennes et Washington pour servir de paratonnerre contre le prochain orage à secouer les banques. Du même souffle, Ottawa met en péril la santé des mères en refusant de financer les avortements sûrs, et légaux, à l’étranger (68 000 femmes meurent d’avortements bâclés chaque année et 5 millions souffrent d’infections et de complications, surtout dans les pays pauvres). Washington et Ottawa sont certes à blâmer pour l’échec de la conférence de Copenhague sur le climat, et aussi pour avoir contrecarré la mise en œuvre du timide accord de Kyoto. Ils continuent le dumping de surplus de grains sur le Mexique, Haïti et d’autres pays moins développés qu’eux. Ils précipitent les agriculteurs pauvres dans le désespoir d’une part, puis de l’autre exposent les travailleurs migrants à l’exploitation, au harcèlement et à la déportation.
Les riches qui mènent le monde craignent par-dessus tout le « mal grec », auquel les capitalistes accolent l’étiquette de « dépenses somptuaires », mais qui, dans la réalité, est un exemple probant de la solidarité de la classe ouvrière contre les programmes dont se dotent les patrons pour répandre l’appauvrissement et l’absence de droits.
Les socialistes saluent la résistance des travailleurs de par l’Europe. Nous sommes solidaires de la vague de grèves actuelle en Chine pour l’obtention d’avantages sociaux et de salaires décents. Nous soutenons la résistance nationale contre l’occupation impérialiste en Afghanistan, en Irak et en Palestine. Nous appuyons de tout cœur la déclaration de la conférence de Cochabamba, en Bolivie, sur le changement climatique et les droits de la Terre-Mère, qui demande la fin du militarisme, du pillage de la planète à des fins de profit (capitalisme), et de la négation des droits des peuples autochtones. Nous nous reconnaissons dans la révolution cubaine et dans la révolte contre le néolibéralisme qui balaie le Venezuela et l’Amérique Latine.
Pour un monde où tous peuvent « vivre bien », les travailleurs et les peuples opprimés doivent exproprier l’industrie et planifier l’économie de manière démocratique, en harmonie avec la nature. Il faut non pas taxer les banques mais nationaliser les banques et les grandes entreprises, sous le contrôle des travailleurs et de la collectivité. Rejoignez-nous dans le combat pour un monde exempt d’exploitation et de guerre. Pour chacun d’entre nous aujourd’hui, l’heure est au choix : Démocratie économique ou tyrannie des caciques ! Écosocialisme ou extinction !

La présente déclaration est faite conjointement par la Ligue pour l’Action socialiste/Socialist Action (État canadien), Socialist Action-États-Unis, et la Liga de Unidad Socialista (LUS)-Mexique.

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste