December 1-31, 2006
Volume 14 - Number 21
$1

Prolétaires de tous les pays, unissez-vous!
Otatoskewak ota kitaskinahk mamawestotan!
Workers of all lands, unite!

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CONTENTS
1. Women's equality groups call for action
2. The refusal to adopt federal pay equity legislation
3. Right-wing smear unseats Hill, Nemiroff
4. Resistance and unity at MFL Convention
5. Greetings to BC Fed convention delegates

6. The real water scandal in Canada
7. Water, war and racism - Editorial
8. CPC 35: Capitalism: the ugly contradictions remain
9. NGOs expose Harper complicity with U.S. "Rogue State"
10. Sparrow campaign wins wide support in Hamilton
11. Peace Alliance urges foreign policy focus
12. USA: Carrying the victory forward
13. UAE construction workers face employer abuse
14. "Warning" strike against Korean labour bills
15. Big lead for Chavez in Venezuela
16. "Struggles are drawing millions into action"
17. There were three; now there are two
18. New terrorism by Israel - Editorial
19. The Blood on Canada's Corporate Doorstep:

War Profiteer L-3 Wescam
20. U.S. peace movement tells new Congress: being the troops home!
21. Put the Communist Party on your gift list
22. 2007 Anti-War Calendar
23. What's Left
Podcast of People's Voice Articles
Clarté (en français)

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People's Voice

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Women's equality groups call for action

(The following article is from the December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Kimball Cariou

ON NOVEMBER 1, after 27 years of service to women and their families in and around the central BC city of Kamloops, the local women's centre closed its doors. Hit with a 100% cut to its $47,000 annual provincial government funding, the Kamloops Women's Resource Centre was unable to keep operating, and its members gathered on that day to pack up the KWRC's files and furniture.

     It's a story repeated across Canada in recent years. With a paltry amount of government support, thousands of women in cities and towns in every province and territory provided crucial services through such centres. After decades of hard work, they are turning out the lights. Kitimat and Fort Nelson closed recently in British Columbia, with Victoria apparently up next.

     The Kamloops centre had acted on behalf of about 3,000 women and children per year, offering support groups, one-to-one support, crisis intervention, advocacy, and many other services.

     The need for those services has not disappeared. Women in Kamloops - and every other part of Canada - still face gender-based violence, poverty, and discrimination. Genuine pay equity seems as far away as ever, and the numbers of women in elected office are not growing. The KWRC, like other women's centres and organizations, played a vital role in advocating for systemic changes to help achieve a more equal and just society for all, regardless of gender. Their voices are being silenced by provincial governments which refuse to hear the views of working class and poor women, Aboriginal women, and other women of colour.

     But this attack is also accelerating at the federal level. Even under the former Liberal government, cutbacks crippled and eventually shut down the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. NAC's annual lobby on Parliament Hill was apparently too much for the politicians to endure during Paul Martin's drastic social cuts of the mid-1990s. It was the federal minister in charge of women's issues at the time, Hedy Fry - not one of the "social conservatives" around Stephen Harper's cabinet table - who began the process of slashing NAC's core funding.

     The lack of progress towards gender equality in Canada was addressed in 2003 by a committee of the United Nations, which drew attention to the issues of pay equity, childcare, the Court Challenges Program, and the need for better government consultation with equality-seeking groups.

     The Committee recommended that Canada accelerate efforts to eliminate the persistent and systemic discrimination faced

by Aboriginal women, combat high levels of poverty among particular groups of women, fund civil legal aid, effectively address violence against women, improve maternity and parental benefits, change immigration laws to respect the rights of live-in caregivers, and ensure a more equitable participation of women in political institutions.

     But with the election of the Tory minority government last January, things took another turn for the worse. Anti-equality groups such as "REAL Women" now have the ear of the government. Despite lacking any genuine popular mandate, the Harper Tories have taken actions to eliminate any commitment to gender equality.

     These steps include changes to the funding criteria for women's groups, such as removal of the word "equality" and barring use of federal funds for advocacy and lobbying. Status of Women Canada faces cuts of about 40% to its operating budget, and the Court Challenges Program has been cancelled. The Tories refuse to adopt improved pay equity legislation, and their cancellation of the pan-Canadian child care program meant cuts of $1.2 billion annually to provinces and territories for child care services.

     The impact of these decisions is already being felt. In Golden, BC, a 30% reduction in Status of Women Canada funding means the local Women's Resource Centre will no longer be open on Tuesdays, and staff time will be cut by one-third. In sharp contrast, Vision femmes Beauce-Sartigan will receive a grant of $23,820 from Status of Women Canada for an initiative to promote female entrepreneurship and business ownership in the Beauce-Sartigan region of Quebec.
   
Now, an ad hoc group of nationally and regionally based organizations is challenging the federal government to immediately improve its record on women's equality and human rights, and to encourage all MPs to speak up on behalf of women.


     The campaign began on November 13 and runs until Sunday, December 10, International Human Rights Day. The organizations taking part have asked supporters to lobby Members of Parliament, send messages to Prime Minister Harper, and hold local mobilizations before December 10 (on Friday, Dec. 8, if possible). The campaign will build towards a rally in Ottawa on December 10.

     A wide range of materials have been prepared to assist local activists, including sample letters, news releases, and lobbying guides, as well as fact sheets on pay equity, childcare, cuts to Status of Women Canada, and other issues. This information is available on the Web at www.criaw-icref.ca.

     The appeal issued by the groups says, "This campaign is important because we need to protect and advance the rights and freedoms that we have won after patient and determined struggle throughout the 20th Century. Women in Canada can not afford to have further setbacks and our country has the wealth and know-how to honour and respect women's equality and human rights. It is a question of choices."

     The coalition can be contacted by email at: womenactionfemmes@gmail.com.

     Participating groups include:
Website for women's equality

A new website has been launched to rally support for Status of Women Canada (SWC) and related issues. Statusreport.ca will house objective information about the federal agency, along with tools and motivation for people to lobby the federal government to revisit changes made to the agency's funding and objectives
http://www.statusreport.ca/


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Right-wing smear unseats Hill, Nemiroff

(The following article is from the December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Liz Rowley

Toronto - The Nov. 13 school board election was supposed to defeat a slate of progressive candidates and bust up the Campaign for Public Education, a coalition of parents, unions, and Trustees that has challenged provincial funding cuts, pushed for a new funding formula, and endorsed slates of candidates for the third election in a row.

     At least that was the plan put forward by Paul Christie in a Toronto Sun interview in September. Christie was named Supervisor of the Toronto District School Board when the Harris government took over the TDSB in 2002 after Trustees refused to make $90 million in cuts. Key to that refusal was Trustee Stan Nemiroff, whose mid-term by-election win changed the balance of forces on the Board from 12-10 to 11-11, frustrating the cutters and gutters.

     In the Sun interview, Christie noted the new Liberal government was in the same position as the Tories four years earlier, facing a Board that refused to make more cuts. The "problem in Toronto" he said, was that the janitors (CUPE 4400) and the Communists ran the School Board.

     This vicious call to arms clearly identified the right-wing's targets: smash the CPE, bash the unions, and remove the Board's most progressive core.  

     The 2006 cutback budget was finally adopted at an October meeting of the TDSB, where right-wing Trustees led by Tory Patrick Rutledge staged a slanderous attack on CUPE and CPE. After Board chair Sheila Ward threatened to clear the room if even one person heckled, Rutledge asserted that opposition to budget cuts was spearheaded by CUPE's opposition to job cuts, and backed by CPE-endorsed candidates who were "beholden to labour" because of labour donations and participation in CPE. Viewers of televised news reports saw only the allegations, not the response of angry parents, Trustees or CUPE.

     By the early hours of the morning, right wing (Tory and Liberal) Trustees had pressured the Board's progressive Liberals and one NDPer to join them in passing the budget with $84 million in cuts. Only seven were opposed: Board vice-chair Stan Nemiroff, Elizabeth Hill, Irene Atkinson, Stephnie Payne, Chris Bolton, Maria Rodrigues, and Rick Telfer. Among those who capitulated were three candidates endorsed by the CPE and the Toronto & York Labour Council.

     In the campaign, the city's right wing united around Liberal Chris Tonks (son of former Metro Toronto Chair Alan Tonks) in York South Weston, to defeat 18-year veteran Trustee Hill. Likewise, the right backed former Harris Tory MPP John Hastings (supported by Councillor Rob Ford, son of a Harris Tory MPP) against Nemiroff in Etobicoke North. Payne, the only Black Trustee in Toronto, was re-elected by a slim margin of 136 votes, and Maria Rodrigues had to fend off a major challenge by former Liberal Trustee Nellie Pedro. Only Atkinson and Bolton were elected with large majorities.

     Former OSSTF Toronto Branch President Jim McQueen ran in affluent Ward 13 against increasingly unpopular right wing incumbent Gerry Gershon. Missing by just a few hundred votes, McQueen might have won if not for the anti-union smear.

     Throughout the campaign, the media referred to the CPE candidates as bought-and-paid-for by the trade union movement, adding that Hill and Nemiroff were also "Communist Party supported." A poll conducted by the Labour Council two weeks before the vote showed the attack had some legs, but not enough to overturn the Board.

     Three days before the vote, the (socially progressive, but anti-union and anti-communist) Toronto Star devoted half its front page to Rutledge's assertions that CUPE and the teacher federations were on the verge of taking over the Board. The slanderous "story" was also prominent in the Toronto Sun and National Post, which again singled out Hill and Nemiroff as "Communist Party supported."

     The results were predictable. The Liberal and Tory machines overwhelmed the grassroots candidates. With campaigns run from a strip mall and a kitchen, the community base of Nemiroff and Hill was strong and deep enough that it took the combined efforts of three national newspapers, and the very deep pockets of Liberal and Tory backrooms, to defeat them.

     As Nemiroff told supporters on election night, "This is one battle. There will be others. And soon. We need to get back into the community and continue to fight for the things we fought for in this election. I'll be working hard in the Campaign for Public Education, and I'll be here in Etobicoke North - I'm not going anywhere."

     Elizabeth Hill, who served a combined 18 years on the York Board of Education and then the TDSB, also served as a Vice-President of the Ontario Public School Boards Association. On election night, she feared for at-risk students, and for families who need the services and supports for which she fought so hard.

     "Parents and students in York South Weston have high expectations based on their experience. Chris Tonks will have to work hard," she said, noting he will receive five times the salary she was paid as a full-time Trustee.

     "I have a lot of free time now, and I'll be using it to organize `Grannies for a new funding formula!'", she said. "I'll be busy in the CPE. Nothing's changed. The fight for quality public education and democracy will continue stronger than ever."

     Eleven of the incoming Trustees have CPE endorsements, though three voted to balance the budget with cuts. If this group sticks together, the right-wing can be blocked. Some of the eleven are new, including People for Education's Cathy Dandy, who has a long record as a parent activist. Others, particularly those from Scarborough, are less well known. The election of the Board's chair, vice chair, and committee heads at the Inaugural meeting in December will reveal the voting strength of each side. It's to be hoped veteran Sheila Cary-Meagher will remember which team she's on in this contest of agendas.

     In hindsight, CPE's decision to run a full slate of candidates may have unintentionally fed the anti-union, anti-worker frenzy stirred up by Rutledge. The full slate also led to embarrassment when three of the endorsed incumbents voted for cuts. What will other new Trustees do now that they are in the drivers seat?

     The full slate also lead to thin resources on the ground. Many of those who had worked in previous elections for Nemiroff and Hill were elsewhere, stretched over the city's 22 federal constituency-sized wards.

     Hill and Nemiroff will be badly missed by the defenders of public education. Each has received scores of phone calls from distressed parents and students who fear what the future will bring.

     At the Board table, the focus in governance of public education in Toronto, their role was vital and unique. Together they were the goalposts for the progressive forces on the Board, and through OPSBA in the province. Not the most photogenic or the quickest with a media sound-bite, they were the immovable objects who incensed the Toronto Sun by "objecting to any and all cuts". They didn't blink. Liz Hill in particular worked long hours over many years to build a broad-based united front for public education. And in was Nemiroff's election in 2002 that enabled the Board to take an historic stand against provincial cuts and privatization.

     That 2002 Board meeting, which voted to be accountable to parents, students, staff and community, had the sweet heady smell of local autonomy and democracy. They were the only level of government with clean hands that day, as Kathleen Wynn (then a rebel Trustee) said, not long after making a substantial donation to Nemiroff's by-election campaign.

     Today, as the Liberal Education Minister, Wynn is bullying School Boards across the province into making ever deeper cuts. She is in process of putting two Catholic Boards under Trusteeship for refusing to balance their budgets on the backs of kids.

     But Wynn's tenure may be short. Tory leader John Tory will run against her next October, attacking the government for over-spending, for being "soft" on School Boards and unions, and for "discrimination" - refusing to fund private and religious schools.   On the other side, the public will remember the Liberals' unfilled promise to fix the (under)funding formula, the 30% dropout rate, crumbling schools, and cancelled programs and services. Crimes which used to be laid at the Tories' door will be held against the Liberals, Wynn and Premier McGuinty in the first place.     In this scenario, the public could be penned up in the debate between worse and worst.

     Or, a new scenario can be created, in which the decisive question is not "which party", but urgent new policies for better education and public healthcare, child care, affordable housing, jobs, a higher minimum wage, democratic and civil rights, and electoral reform (to name a few), and the need for a government (majority or minority, single party or coalition) to deliver those new policies.

     The struggle continues. In the next issue of People's Voice, we'll look at changes on Toronto City Council and its new powers.

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Resistance and unity at MFL Convention

(The following article is from the December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Darrell Rankin

"We need to get rid of (Prime Minister) Harper and his sexist, homophobic, war loving, freedom hating bunch of mean spirited, nasty, religious-right nut bars," said Manitoba Federation of Labour president Darlene Dziewit in her keynote speech.

     The speech set the tone for the rest of the November 2-4 MFL convention attended by about 450 delegates. Delegates were reminded that if elections are called as expected, labour activists in Manitoba will have to campaign to defeat the Tories both provincially and federally in the next half year.

     The three years since the last MFL convention were marked by growing attacks on workers in Manitoba. The long period between conventions is stalling political action by labour here in a number of areas, and much work remains to be done to increase the level of political organization and action.

     Delegates gave standing ovations to three NDP politicians, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer, Labour Minister Nancy Allan and MP Bill Blaikie, who reinforced the need for workers to defeat the Tories, but did not call for independent political action by Labour.

     Challenging certain resolutions, some delegates said that "meeting with governments" or "lobbying" was not enough. The MFL needed to educate the public. One delegate urged the MFL to "be on the streets" to defend public health care.

     Delegates passed an emergency resolution supporting the demands of grain farmers for a referendum on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board and encouraging affiliates to support the campaign to save the CWB.

     They also adopted an emergency resolution calling on the provincial government to intervene and prevent the privatization of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's payroll, human resources, financial administration and supply chain management sections.

     Debate on health care resolutions sparked the strongest criticism of the provincial NDP government. One delegate said the privatization of health care administration "makes it difficult to support" the NDP. MGEU president Peter Olfert urged delegates to speak directly to politicians to raise concerns, noting that hundreds of MGEU members had attended public budget meetings in the last year.

     The provincial NDP's privatizations and tax cuts, its failures to narrow social divisions or effectively resolve inequalities, have already alienated many workers and the needy. That makes it even more important to escalate political resistance against the corporate agenda, something that many felt needed more emphasis at the MFL convention.

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The real water scandal in Canada

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Kimball Cariou

WHEN A BOIL WATER ADVISORY was issued for the B.C. Lower Mainland on Nov. 16, it was big news. Days later, as this issue goes to press, almost a million people in the Vancouver area are still unable to drink unboiled tap water. Many residents consider the situation a crisis, and violent scuffles have broken out over bottled water deliveries at supermarkets.

     There are plenty of questions about this episode, such as the regional government's controversial move some years ago to allow logging of the Capilano watershed. That brought about a million dollars in revenue to the region, but almost certainly contributed to the dramatic jump in dirt and debris sliding into mountain reservoirs in the wake of a huge Nov. 15 storm.

     Fortunately, this emergency will soon be over, just as it was after the Walkerton and North Battleford tragedies in 2000-2001. But for dozens of First Nations and other northern and rural communities across Canada, the drinking water crisis has been here for a very long time, and it's not going away. Sometimes one of these situations becomes so terrible that it hits the news, such as Kashechewan in northern Ontario, where the water was contaminated by E-coli bacteria late last year. Mostly it's just ignored in the corporate media.

     The numbers fluctuate, but as of November 10, 2006, were 86 drinking water advisories in First Nation communities across Canada. It's harder to find similar numbers for largely Métis communities scattered across the prairies.

     The federal government has identified a number of First Nations communities with "high risk" drinking water systems. These include: Woodstock and Pabineau (New Brunswick); Kitigan Zibi in Quebec; the Ontario communities of Shoal Lake No. 40, Moose Deer Point, Northwest Angle, Ochiichagwe'babigo-ining, Kingfisher, Muskrat Dam Lake, and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway; Dene Tha', Driftpile, and Frog Lake (Alberta); and seven in B.C. - Shuswap, Toosey, Toquaht, Lake Babine (Fort Babine), Canoe Creek, Semiahmoo, and Taku River Tlingit.

     Previously under the Liberals, and today under Stephen Harper's Tories, federal governments have continued to claim that providing clean, safe and secure drinking water to residents of First Nations communities is a top priority. "Considerable advancements have been made to improve water quality in First Nations reserves," says a typical government website, but "much remains to be done."

     Between 1995 and 2001, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada says it invested over $560 million to address urgent water and wastewater system upgrades and to train system operators. More investments have been made in recent years. But these measures are falling far short. Health Canada reports that 8% of the total First Nations drinking water distribution systems south of the 60th parallel are under a Boil Water Advisory.

     The government's most recent review of the situation found that of the 740 water systems that were assessed, 29 per cent (218) posed "potential high risk that may negatively impact water quality." In other words, the water may be drinkable, but not consistently. Of the 462 wastewater systems that were assessed, 16 per cent (74), posed a potential high risk due to sewage discharge problems.

     On October 6, Sierra Legal released "Waterproof 2: Canada's Drinking Water Report Card," a follow-up to its 2001 Waterproof report after the tragedy in Walkerton, Ontario.

     Waterproof 2 slams the federal government for "lack of leadership in providing clean and safe drinking water to all Canadians." While most provinces have taken some positive steps in recent years, the federal government gets an "F" for "failing to enact binding national standards for drinking water, failure to ensure safe drinking water for First Nations or properly regulate bottled water, and continuing to permit the use of toxic chemicals - banned in the US and Europe - which are entering Canadian drinking water."

     The report notes that Health Canada estimates that unsafe drinking water causes 90 deaths and 90,000 illnesses each year in Canada.

     The crisis continues to hit aboriginal peoples the hardest. Prime Minister Harper told the media that he was monitoring the Vancouver situation closely while he took part in the APEC Summit in Vietnam, even while news reports indicated that 19 out of 49 First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario still lack safe drinking water.

     Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy, who speaks for the Kashechewan First Nation, told the media recently that he is shocked Ottawa's stance. "If the Government of Canada can't even commit to working with the provincial minister responsible for Aboriginal issues to address the issues facing First Nations in terms of safe drinking water and land claims (Caledonia), how can we expect [federal Indian and Northern Affairs] Minister [Jim] Prentice to work directly with First Nation leadership," asked Beardy, demanding short- and long-term solutions to water emergencies in an area covering two-thirds of Ontario.

     Beardy's comments come after Prentice cancelled a pre-scheduled meeting with Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay to discuss the land reclamation in Caledonia and First Nation water problems.

     "Being a resident of Ontario, I'm entitled to some basic, universal rights like everyone else," Beardy told the Canadian Press. "One of those universal rights is that I should have access to clean drinking water just like everybody else. We're talking about basic human rights here."

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Water, war and racism - Editorial

The following editorial is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

People's Voice Editorial, Dec. 1-31, 2006

Several seemingly unrelated events in November are actually closely tied together - the war in Afghanistan, the boil water advisory in Vancouver, and Canada's racist treatment of aboriginal peoples.

     As noted on page 3, it's major news when one residents of the biggest urban centres in Canada have to boil their tap water for a few days, but not when a First Nations reserve lacks clean drinking water for years on end. Governments in the Vancouver area are spending $600 million for a new water filtration plant, which might not have been necessary if regional politicians had simply upheld a previous ban on logging in the North Shore mountain watersheds.

     That kind of money could go a long way to help meet the needs of impoverished aboriginal communities, including the shocking 8% of reserves "south of 60" which face inadequate water systems. The federal government says that it has spent almost one billion dollars to upgrade these systems in the past decade, but the problem remains acute.

     And the Afghan link to this crisis? The latest news is that the total cost of Canada's role in the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan will reach almost $10 billion by 2009. As of last May, the cost had already hit $2.3 billion, of which over $1.8 billion was for military activities, while just $466 million went to development aid, such as digging wells.

     The Harper Tory government seems to have very deep pockets when it comes to tax breaks for the rich or the so-called "war on terror"; it's time to force them to spend less on killing people and more on providing clean water, here at home and in Afghanistan.

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NGOs expose Harper complicity with U.S. "Rogue State"

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Ottawa - The Council of Canadians and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to oppose the draconian Military Commissions Act and discontinue all ongoing efforts to increase security and intelligence collaboration between Canada and the U.S.

     Signed by President Bush on Nov. 14, the Military Commissions Act would enable U.S. authorities to permanently detain foreign terrorism suspects, including Canadians, in the U.S. without charges. Even when tried, these foreign suspects would be denied the safeguards enshrined in the U.S. constitution.

     "This is a severe assault on the fundamental principles that define democracy such as the rule of law, political accountability and respect for basic human dignity," says Roch Tassé of ICLMG. "It raises serious questions about the implications of Canada's collaboration with a state that is prepared to violate international law to an extent that threatens the human rights and civil liberties of Canadians themselves."

     "After Maher Arar's horrific experience with the United States and Syria it is shocking that the Canadian government would remain silent on the Military Commissions Act," says Brent Patterson, director of organizing for the Council of Canadians. "Given the level of collaboration between our governments, this silence is tantamount to complicity. Even Tony Blair's government has said that this Act is unacceptable."

     The Council of Canadians opposes the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which calls for greater cooperation between U.S. and Canadian security and intelligence services. The citizens' advocacy organization argues that the Military Commission Act makes an even stronger case for Canada to end talks aimed at harmonizing policies with a rogue state that violates international law.

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Sparrow campaign wins wide support in Hamilton

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

PV Ontario Bureau

THE NOV. 13 civic elections in Hamilton, Ontario, are over. First-time candidate Ryan Sparrow, a member of the Young Communist League and supported by the Hamilton Wentworth Elementary Teachers Union, was not elected.

     However, the campaign was widely seen as a huge success. A 20-year-old candidate received over 17% of the vote, made the best presence at the only public meeting of regional candidates for school board, and impressed most listeners.

     Sparrow's campaign was waged from Solidarity House in the midst of Hamilton's working class Ward 3. His jump start campaign and the favourable voter response bodes very well for the next round in four years. In the meantime, the policies that won teacher support will be an ongoing presence in Ward 3. The fight for a new funding formula and against the Tory-Liberal provincial education plans will continue and set the pace for activists. These issues won't wait four years.

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Peace Alliance urges foreign policy focus

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Darrell Rankin


ABOUT 70 DELEGATES and participants focused on strategy to get the troops out of Afghanistan at the Canadian Peace Alliance's biannual convention, held November 10-12 in Ottawa. Other campaigns were not forgotten, such as nuclear disarmament and opposing higher military spending.

     With a federal election expected next year, delegates called for public hearings and other actions to ensure that foreign policy issues remain front and centre.

     Work remains to be done to focus some of the larger CPA member groups on foreign policy. For example, the "Five Priorities" for working people raised by the Canadian Labour Congress campaigned for "Five Priorities" during the last federal election did not include peace.

     That may change, as the CLC and several key CPA affiliates played an important role in the October 28 cross-Canada day of action to get Canada out of Afghanistan. Delegates heard that 40 cities and towns participated.

     Another "round" of troops will be deployed in February, and delegates agreed to support protests by member groups at that time. Workshops on war resisters, media, lobbying, election preparations all helped to round out a comprehensive efforts to mobilize people against the occupation of Afghanistan.

     March 17 was selected as a cross-Canada day of action to pull foreign troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories also sparked much discussion. The Palestinian people's right of return, as opposed to urging member groups to discuss the issue, was supported by most delegates.

     The CPA Steering Committee reported there are now 154 member groups, up from around 120 at the last convention. Many are municipal labour councils, and several of the delegates were Labour activists.

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USA: Carrying the victory forward

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Joelle Fishman, People's Weekly World Newspaper

U.S. VOTERS MADE history Nov. 7. Exhausted and angered from a record number of deaths in Iraq, an economic recovery benefiting millionaires but not workers, and unchecked corruption, the voter upsurge rejected the Bush administration and its right-wing agenda.

     Placing hope above fear, voters in all parts of the country stood up to defend democracy. The dramatic results present new opportunities for the grass roots to move forward a people's agenda and oust the right wing from the White House in 2008.

     After months of conversation with union brothers and sisters on the job, at their doors and on the phone, a resounding 74 percent of union members and their families, one in four voters, joined 88 percent of African Americans, 69 percent of Latinos and record numbers of women and youth voters to end right-wing Republican majority rule of Congress. The wave carried many state and local candidates to victory.

     As voting day arrived across the country, electricity was in the air, with the sense that an upsurge "change" vote to end the war in Iraq and reject the Bush policies was about to sweep the nation.

     It was an upsurge vote big enough and powerful enough to overcome long lines, faulty machines and dirty tricks meant to suppress the vote in many working-class precincts. It was made possible by shifts among independent voters and in some traditionally Republican areas.

     Ten months earlier most analysts predicted that Democrats could not take the 15 seats needed to control the House and certainly not the six seats needed to win the Senate.

     In the end, Democrats picked up at least 28 seats in the House plus the six Senate seats. No Democratic incumbents were defeated. Overall, those Democrats who took strong stands against the war and for universal health care and raising the minimum wage won the biggest confidence of voters.

     When peace candidate Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary, it sent a signal to candidates across the country that withdrawal from Iraq was a winning issue. Lieberman, who formed his own party to run in the general election, got 70 percent of the Republican vote by quietly sticking with Bush, but had to claim to favour ending the war in order to win by garnering some Democratic votes (30 percent).

     Republicans in close races were forced to distance themselves from Bush. Some joined in the Democratic chorus for Rumsfeld to resign. With some exceptions, the most extreme anti-immigrant and terrorist-baiting attack ads, the ugliest ever seen, lost votes for the Republicans.

     Prominent Republicans mired in corruption scandals went down to defeat while others held on by only razor-thin margins. Some of the most right-wing Republicans will not be returning to Congress, including Rep. J.D. Hayworth (Ariz.) and nine other members of the anti-immigrant caucus in the House, plus Sens. Rick Santorum, James Talent and George Allen.

     The media are attempting to minimize the people's election victory, continuing the biased role they played throughout the election. Claiming there has not been a real shift in public opinion on the issues, they dismiss the election results as a momentary reaction to scandals. Their spotlight on conservative Democrats who won election is an effort to undermine the ability of Nancy Pelosi, who will become the first woman speaker of the House, to advance a progressive agenda.

     To the contrary, this election was a far-reaching rejection of the policies of Bush, whose performance ratings plummeted to 31 percent post-election (Newsweek). This election was a call for a change in direction. The victory gives hope to minimum wage workers, military families, students, seniors, immigrants and all democratic-minded people.

     But the war in Iraq will not end, health care will not become universal, and workers will not achieve the right to organize just because Democrats won control of Congress.

     Their majority in Congress is not large enough or united enough to be veto-proof. There is an ongoing struggle between the conservative and progressive sections of the Democratic Party. The Republican presence remains sizeable, and George W. Bush remains in the White House.

     Yet the new Congress should be greeted because it greatly improves the playing field on which labour and allies can fight.  In large part it will be up to labour and allies, the core forces of the alliance against the ultra-right that delivered the election, to build grassroots pressure for Congress to be partisan to the needs of working families. Expanding the shift of independent voters in a progressive direction to win on the issues will require a strong rejection of the divisive anti-affirmative-action, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, anti-GLBT tactics of the ultra-right.

     Inspired by the election results, the union movement and women's, youth, civil rights and peace groups who pulled out the winning vote in this election are already in motion.

     Military Families Speak Out has called on the new Congress to support withdrawal of troops from Iraq as soon as possible. In response to voter turnout against the war and 162 ballot measures for withdrawal which passed overwhelmingly, Senate Democrats have come out for phased troop withdrawal beginning in a few months. The Bush administration says no. This will be the first big test of the new Congress and the ability of the peace and people's movements to mobilize support.

     For six years in the Republican-controlled House, it was impossible to get debate on any issue that did not have the support of the right-wing "majority of the majority." The change in leadership opens new possibilities.

     The largest ideological caucus in the new Congress will be the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Over half of all House committees and subcommittees will be chaired by members of the Progressive, Black, Hispanic or Asian Pacific Caucuses.

     Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who helped found the Out of Iraq Caucus, says this election is "a vindication of our work - to change the direction of our Iraq policy and bring our troops home."

     In a message the day after the election, she emphasized that oversight of the executive branch will be restored. "The administration will now have to answer some tough questions on its rush to war, its failed arms control and broader foreign policies, its abuse of our constitutional rights and its failed economic and budgetary policies."

     Lee said the Progressive and Black Caucuses will prioritize "helping Katrina survivors return home and rebuild their community and their lives and insisting on a national plan to eradicate poverty ... and creating a government that works for all Americans, not just the privileged few."

     The emergency agenda projected by Pelosi for the first 100 hours of the new Congress includes modest proposals that impact people's lives. It has strong support from labour and allies, from Democrats across the board, and from some Republicans.

     The six points include breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation, passing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, raising the minimum wage, cutting the interest rate on student loans in half, lowering drug prices for Medicare patients, and rolling back the multibillion-dollar subsidies for Big Oil companies and investing instead in energy independence.

     If enacted, this modest beginning can provide the momentum for demanding more far-reaching measures. At the top of the agenda is the Employee Free Choice Act, which would remove barriers for workers to form a union.

     The high union member turnout to elect pro-labour candidates makes labour a key force not only in significantly raising workers' living standards, but in completing the task of defeating the ultra-right.

     This historic election is just the beginning. The struggle now is to organize a grassroots groundswell for a people's needs agenda, and develop tactics in collaboration with the progressives in Congress to pass legislation that is partisan to working people. Winning victories for the people is the best way to assure defeat of the Republican ultra-right in 2008.

     (Joelle Fishman is chair of the Communist Party USA's Political Action Commission.)

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Big lead for Chavez in Venezuela

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Miguel Figueroa

AS THE CRUCIAL Dec. 3 election approaches, it seems certain that the Bolivarian Revolution will take yet another stride forward in Venezuela. Recent polls indicate that President Hugo Chavez Frias has a commanding lead in popular support (anywhere from 25-30%) over his nearest opponent, the right-wing candidate Manuel Rosales.

     The campaign has been marred by dirty tricks, including the publication of wildly bogus polls in El Universal and other corporate-controlled media. Rosales has run a cunning, duplicitous campaign, making promises such as issuing a "black" debit card ("mi negra") which would provide every Venezuelan with a stipend of between $250 and $450 per month. He has also tried to conceal his ties to the ruling elite locally and to the Bush Administration, while attacking Venezuela's growing cooperation with Cuba, Bolivia and other progressive and anti-imperialist forces in Latin America.

     But the big majority of the people, especially workers and the extreme poor, have not been taken in by the populist campaign of the right-wing forces. Another overwhelming mandate for President Chavez and the Bolivarian process will mark the twelfth straight electoral victory of the progressive forces since Chavez was first elected in 1998.

     The depth and breadth of public support for the Bolivarian Revolution springs from the sweeping progressive reforms and services which have been initiated in recent years to benefit the working class and the most impoverished sections of working people. Special "missions" have been set up to raise adult literacy rates, to provide free community-based health services, to build much needed housing and community facilities, especially in the poorest, previously neglected neighbourhoods, and to provide basic foodstuffs to the people at prices up to 40% below those at private, commercial grocery stores.

     These initiatives have had a profound effect. According to the most recent census, the number of households living in poverty has dropped from 42.8 percent in 1998, to 33.9 percent in early 2006. Households living in extreme poverty dropped from 17.1 percent to 10.6 percent during the same period. The poorest quintile of the population has seen its consumption power more than double, and official unemployment has been cut by more than half, to around 10 percent.

     Rumours and speculation abound about how Washington and the local counter-revolutionary forces will respond to yet another humiliating defeat at the polls. SUMATE, an imperialist-controlled "NGO" financed by the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and other opposition groups have been trying to discredit the legitimacy of the official electoral system. They are reportedly setting up a "parallel" vote-counting apparatus (based on "exit polling") which will later be used to claim that the Chavez victory was fraudulent.

     There may subsequently be a move to unilaterally and illegally declare the secession of the oil-rich province of Zulia (where Rosales is the sitting governor). US Ambassador William Brownfield has reportedly even dubbed the planned breakaway the "Independent and Eastern Republic of Zulia", which in turn will spur a sharp conflict with the national government and perhaps even provide a pretext for U.S. military intervention.

     In the view of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), the key to frustrating this or any other counter-revolutionary manoeuvre will be the iron unity of the Venezuelan working class and people, together with the solidarity with the friends of the Bolivarian evolution around the world.

     The PCV is one of four parties in the governing coalition which also includes the Movement for the Fifth Republic (Chavez's party), PODEMOS, and Patria Para los Todos. The smallest of the four, the PCV is also the fastest growing, increasing 10-fold in size since 2002.

     In the view of the PCV, the coming victory will mark a landmark in the deepening of the revolutionary process, further opening the door to building a "21st century socialism", the stated goal of Chavez, the PCV and the most advanced section of the Bolivarian process.

     (Miguel Figueroa attended the 12th Congress of the PCV held in Caracas, July 2006, on behalf of the Communist Party of Canada.)

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There were three; now there are two

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Sam Hammond

THE CREATION of a new international trade union centre at the beginning of November has stirred up a lot of interest and hope. Questions have been flying around and nobody here in Canada seems to be "in the know," perhaps because the preparations were not much publicized in this country. Some prominent observers have called this unexpected phenomenon the invisible trade union merger.

     The final congresses of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Congress of Labour took place on October 31 in Vienna, followed immediately by the founding congress of the International Trade Union Confederation which they parented.

     It may be useful to recall the origins of the players in this merger. The World Congress of Labour was founded in 1920 in the Hague (Holland), originally called the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions. This was hardly a radical organization, but nevertheless was seriously mauled by German and Italian fascism and emerged from the Second World War in rather shaky condition.

     In 1945, before the guns had stopped firing, the World Trade Union Conference took place in London as a preparatory step for a meeting later that year. After the fall of fascism, the First World Trade Union Congress, held in Paris, October 3-8, 1945, established the World Federation of Trade Unions as a product of the working class unity forged in the struggle against fascism.

     The WFTU was, and remains, a class oriented federation. In 1945 it recognized that many of the countries in the United Nations Alliance against fascism had themselves nurtured fascism early on, and had imperialist and colonial possessions. The liberation of colonies and the national independence of peoples was an essential core issue for the WFTU right from the start.

     But the World Congress of Labour (WCL) could not parallel their own "Christian values" with those of the new and historic WFTU. Instead, the WCL decided to pursue an independent course and expand outside Europe. It succeeded in Canada (the origins of CLAC) and South Africa (white-only apartheid unions). Is anyone getting the picture?

     The WFTU may have been better off without the participation of the WCL, but its next challenge was more serious and persists to this day. It may be wise to quote the words of explanation from the present web page of the WFTU:

     "The anti-fascist alliance of states was split and was soon replaced by armed confrontation between two powerful military blocs. The United Nations and all international organizations were seriously affected by the politics of confrontation.

     "Within the WFTU, following the positions taken by the different national trade union centres, acute policy differences arose on important questions. This related to the role of the International Trade Secretariats, attitude to the Marshall Plan, etc.

     "Analyzing the developments of that period, Louis Saillant, the then WFTU General Secretary, wrote: `One must not try to foist the views of a national trade union centre on to a united international trade union organization, as the American unions wanted to do with regard to the Marshall Plan.' We proposed at the time, since we had different points of view, that we should simply take note of the existence of the Marshall Plan, and that the WFTU should not be put in the position of having to adopt a decision for or against. This attempt was made, in spite of everything, to impose a decision, even though there was a majority against the Marshall Plan in the WFTU. We did not ask for this majority to be used. But there were some people who were seeking to see the majority vote used in order to provoke a split."

     The split came in the shape of a letter from the British TUC, read out by its President Arthur Deakin at the WFTU Executive Bureau meeting in Paris on 19 January 1949, demanding "suspension of all WFTU activities for a period of 12 months". If this was not accepted, he warned, the British TUC would withdraw from the WFTU. James B. Carey from the United States was more blunt: "It is no use pretending that the WFTU is anything but a corpse. Let us bury it."

     The motion was rejected as it did not fall within the competence of the Executive Bureau. The matter was referred to the Executive Committee and to the next WFTU Congress. Following this, Deakin, Carey and E. Kupers (Netherlands) walked out of the meeting.

     Soon afterwards, several organizations withdrew from the WFTU. The split was formalized. In December 1949, those who withdrew met in London and formed the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

     The organizations which now constitute the WFTU never intended to divide the world trade union movement. They have always been striving to promote the unity of workers the world over.

     But the Cold War victimized international trade union solidarity. The McCarthyite spin-offs in the United States and Canada were a crippling influence on workers' organizations and their ability to find unity in the face of capitalist exploitation and attack. Born out of this split, the ICFTU has historically been identified among anti-capitalist trade unionists for its compliance with capitalism.

     However, this does not preclude the ability of the international working class to struggle in any environment or to forge new alliances in the face of adversity. Many people in this world are better-looking than their parents. The fact is that this new formation was top-created with very little grassroots involvement. But the leadership of the "Christian" and social-democratic global unions are not immune from the immense pressure building everywhere for unity in the face of global exploitation, the neo-liberal agenda, war, and the wonders of "free market" misery.

     From the new web page of the new global trade union organization, we quote:

     "The Confederation is inspired by the profound conviction that organization in democratic and independent trade unions and collective bargaining are crucial to achieving the well-being of working people and their families and to security, social progress and sustainable development for all.

     "It has been the historic role of trade unionism, and remains its mission, to better the conditions of work and life of working women and men and their families, and to strive for human rights, social justice, gender equality, peace, freedom and democracy.

     "More than ever in its history, confronted by unbridled capitalist globalization, effective internationalism is essential to the future strength of trade unionism and its capacity to realize that mission.

     "The Confederation calls on the workers of the world to unite in its ranks, to make of it the instrument needed to call forth a better future for them and for all humanity."

     It is of interest to note in this lofty message that the call is not quite for the workers of the world to unite, but rather to "unite in its ranks". Is this an ominous call to further isolate the WFTU? Hasty judgement might be unwise at this time.

     By the way, the new ITUC is not merely a merger. It includes about ten national labour centres who were previously not affiliated to any international body. Perhaps we need an article dedicated to the forming convention, its resolutions, officers, affiliations and stated policies.

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New terrorism by Israel - Editorial

(The following editorial is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

People's Voice Editorial, Dec. 1-31, 2006

CONTINUING ITS POLICY of official state terrorism, the Israeli occupation government has carried out yet another slaughter of eighteen civilian women and children at Beit Hanoun in Gaza. Despite its "explanation" that the killing of Palestinians by tank fire was a "technical failure," the latest massacre is part and parcel of Israel's continuous aggression against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

     Proof of this reality is Israel's warning that it will continue its military operations against Palestinian militants, which Prime Minister Olmert freely admits will likely result in further "mistakes."

     Between the start of the new Israeli war against Gaza on June 28 and the end of October, Physicians for Human rights reported 155 civilian deaths in the territory, including 57 children, and another 996 people wounded, with 337 of those being children.

     Many countries have condemned Israel's escalation of hostilities. Even Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary of Tony Blair's pro-Israel government said it was "hard to justify" the Israeli action in Beit Hanoun. But here in North America, the blame the victim game continues. The White House calls for "restraint" from Palestinians under bombardment from Israel, and Canada's Conservative government refuses to express any criticism of the Zionist regime.

     Once again, we demand that the Harper government end its policy of complete support for Israeli aggression, and its shameful participation in the boycott of the elected government of the Palestinian Authority, a policy which brings death and destruction, not peace and justice. There will never be peace in the Middle East until Israel is compelled to withdraw from all territories occupied during and since the 1967 war, tears down its apartheid wall, and accepts the United Nations resolutions which can become the basis for ending its criminal occupation of Palestinian territories.

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What's Left

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

VANCOUVER, BC

Political Prisoner's Art: Jacobo Silva and Gloria Arenas - Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, Gallery Gachet, 88 E. Cordova, Wed. thru Sundays, noon to 6 pm.

Left Film Night - 7 pm, Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Dogwood Centre, 706 Clark Drive, "A State of Mind", 2004 documentary on North Korea. Co-sponsored by Centre for Socialist Education, Young Communist League, Vancouver East Club CPC, call 255-2041 for details.

StopWar.ca - peace coalition meetings on 2nd & 4th Wednesdays, 5:30 pm, Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph St., see http://www.stopwar.ca for updates.

TORONTO, ON

Defending Medicare, Ontario Health Coalition forum - Friday, Dec. 1, 7 pm, St. Andrew’s Church (King and Simcoe Streets), with Maude Barlow, Naomi Klein, and Natalie Mehra. Info: 416-441-2502.

Fair Trade Holiday Shopping Festival - Thursday, Nov. 30, 10 am to 3 pm, Fleck Atrium, Rotman School of Management, 105 St. George St., call 416-946-3818.

Six Nations Benefit Concert - Friday, Dec. 1, 8 pm, NOW Lounge, 189 Church St., $12 door ($10 with a camp donation), presented by Humanist Centre of Cultures and Songwriters Unite to support Six Nations reclamation camp in Caledonia.

Housing, Homelessness, and Health - Thur., Dec. 7, 10 am-Noon, St. Joseph's Health Centre, 30 the Queensway, Education Centre A&B - 1st floor Barnicke Wing, call Sandi, 416-530-6000 ext. 3596.

Picket of Canada Pension Plan HQ - Wed., Dec. 13, 5-6 pm, 1 Queen Street East (at Yonge), to protest CPP investment in militarist and unethical corporations, contact ACT for the Earth, 647-438-7068.

MONTREAL, QC

Vigil against occupation of Palestine - every Friday, noon to 1 pm, at Israeli Consulate, corner of Peel and Rene Levesque. For info: Palestinians and Jews United, 961-3928.

HAMILTON, ON

"We Can't Afford Private Healthcare" Tour - organized by Ontario Health Coalition, Monday, Dec. 4, 7-9 pm, Lakelands Centre, 180 Van Wagner's Beach Road.

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Put the Communist Party on your holiday gift list

(The following article is from the December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

A donation to the Communist Party is the best gift you can give for Peace this holiday season.

The Communist Party is campaigning to stop the war in Iraq, to pull our forces out of Afghanistan and Haiti, and to win an independent Canadian foreign policy of peace and disarmament. We stand in solidarity with workers resisting the corporate attack on wages and working conditions, and with the crucial battle to defend Medicare.

You can help the CPC spread this message with a tax creditable donation, that will generate a tax rebate of 75% on the first $400 donated, a further 50% on the next $350, and another 33.3% on the next $550 donated.

  • Your donation of $400 will cost you just $100, because Revenue Canada will grant you a political tax credit of $300 when you file your taxes next spring.
  • Your donation of $750 will cost you $275, with a political tax credit of $475.
  • Your donation of $1000 will cost $441.65, with a political tax credit of $558.35.

Your donation can help extend the Communist Party's struggles for peace, jobs, democracy and sovereignty long after you've been reimbursed by Revenue Canada. Tax credits ensure that your donation will stretch to three times its face value!

Help us reach young workers and trade unionists, Aboriginal peoples, new Canadians, women, students and seniors, with the message that a better world is possible - and necessary!

Any donation, from $50 (costing you just $12.50) to $5,000 (costing you $3,108), will strengthen the Communist Party's campaigns for Peace, Progress and Socialism.

Send donations to: CPC, 290A Danforth Ave., Toronto, ON, M4K 1N6. For  more information, call the Party's central office at 416-469-2446)

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The refusal to adopt federal pay equity legislation

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Information from the ad-hoc coalition of equality-seeking organizations pressing the Harper government on women's rights:

In September, the federal government announced that it will not introduce a new pay equity law. This is a bad decision for women. It is a giant step backwards on the question of equal pay for work of equal value.

Women still earn less than men regardless of their occupation, age or education. There is a wage gap in Canada. According to Statistics Canada's most (recent) report on Women, on average women working full-time full-year earn 72 cents for every dollar a full-time full-year male worker earns.

The wage gap is not the result of lower educational levels. Women with university degrees still earn 74% of what university educated men earn. Women earn less than men working the same sectors or even in the same jobs. Except for babysitters and nannies, there are no occupations in which women's average earnings exceed men's. Canada has one of the largest wage gaps out of the world's 29 most developed countries - only Spain, Portugal, Japan and Korea have larger wage gaps.

This wage gap persists despite the fact that in the federal sector, for almost 30 years, equal pay for work of equal value has been the law, as part of the Canadian Human Rights Act - and it clearly doesn't work.

In 2001 the government established the Pay Equity Task Force. After extensive consultation and research they recommended a new proactive pay equity law in May 2004. Employers, unions and women's groups all agreed that a new effective, accessible law which requires positive employer action, provides clear standards and allows access to an expert independent adjudicative body, is needed.

Proactive pay ... (missing portion) ... Canadian context. Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick all introduced such legislation for their public sector in the early 80s. Ontario and Quebec both have proactive laws covering both the public and private sectors. In all these jurisdictions, these laws have been more effective than the current federal complaint based model.

We need government action that will bring Canada's pay equity regime into line with its national and international human rights commitments. We need government action that recognizes the contribution women employees make to our economy. The Conservative government is saying that women will just have to live with a status quo that doesn't work. They want us to rely on education, more mediation and wage rate inspections. All of these initiatives have repeatedly proven inadequate.

Let the federal government and your MP know that Canadian women need a new pay equity law, based on the Pay Equity Task Force recommendations.

For  more information:
http://www.nawl.ca

http://www.canadianlabour.ca

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Greetings to BC Fed convention delegates

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Greetings to B.C. Federation of Labour delegates, from George Gidora, British Columbia leader of the Communist Party of Canada


Delegates at the BC Federation of Labour's Nov.27-Dec. 1 convention must use this opportunity to lay out a program of action that puts forward important challenges for workers in this province. Most pressing is the need to block the election of Conservative politicians in BC if a federal election is called next year.

It is equally important to step up to the plate and hold the BC Liberal government accountable  for the deterioration in our health care, education and social services. The temporary economic upswing brought about by construction projects for the 2010 Winter Olympics and high oil and gas prices, will come to an end, and with it a corresponding and perhaps devastating economic downswing. In the upcoming period, a concerted and united effort by the labour movement and its social and community allies can put pressure on the government to restore funding for women's centres, health care, education and other priorities.

Full protection  and collective bargaining rights for foreign workers need to be enshrined, along with a liveable minimum wage for young and marginalized workers. It's also time to put an end to P3 projects and to reverse the Liberals' traitorous privatization program.

There is a growing and vibrant movement in BC for peace, and labour organizations are playing a large role in its success. We all know that workers and their families bear the full brunt of warfare, and that war serves no purpose in our fight for a better world. Passing convention resolutions calling for Canada to get out of Afghanistan and for peace in the Middle East is only a part of the equation. Full mobilization and participation of the organized working class is a powerful tool in the struggle for peace everywhere in the world.

To fulfill these objectives, the BC Federation of Labour must be more than just a clearing house for labour politics. This convention must function as a true parliament of the labour movement, an opportunity to move beyond a one dimensional approach of only responding to protect the economic interests of workers.

In our hands is placed a power greater than the hoarded gold,
Greater than the mighty armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old,
For the union makes us strong."

So says our labour anthem Solidarity Forever. We need to understand the message of this song, which calls on workers to use the enormous power of unity in action to make a fundamental change in our society.

The BC Federation of Labour has a responsibility not only to represent the narrower economic interests of its members, but also to take positive independent political action to win changes in our social and economic fabric which will benefit all workers and therefore all of society.

The Communist Party wishes delegates a productive convention.

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CPC 35: Capitalism: the ugly contradictions remain

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Canadians are constantly told that "we live in the best country in the world." But millions still live in poverty, and everything positive that working people have struggled to achieve is being wiped out by corporations and rightwing governments. This excerpt from the Communist party of Canada's Draft Resolution for its upcoming 35th Central Central Convention presents the CPC's views on this stark contradiction.

Despite bourgeois claims to the contrary, capitalism remains the same crisis-ridden economic system it has always been. The Canadian economy continues to be hit by cycles of boom and bust, recovery and crisis. The long-term trend is towards further concentration of wealth and ownership at the top, and increasing desperation and poverty at the bottom.... Even at the height of this economic upturn, over one million Canadians are officially counted as jobless. In some parts of the country, the spike in resource prices has led to a shortage of certain skilled trades and some limited wage gains. But the bigger picture remains - an overall decline in manufacturing employment, cuts in the public sector, and a long-term trend towards low-wage, part-time and precarious employment. There are ominous signs of a new economic crisis, such as the downturn in US housing prices which may foretell a collapse with severe consequences for Canadian working people. There will be another recession here - the only question is how soon, and how deep.

The real winners in today's economy are the corporations. Profits are at record levels, yet wages are falling as a share of the overall economy, and inequality is growing wider. Over the past fifteen years, productivity in Canada has advanced by close to 2% per year, while the real wages of the bottom half of the workforce have barely increased....

Corporate pre-tax profits now account for a record-high share of Canada's national income - 14.6% of GDP compared to a twenty-five year average of 10%. Pre-tax corporate profits in the second quarter of 2006 were $196.1 billion, compared to $183.7 billion in the same quarter of 2005. Yet the corporate tax-rate was cut from 28% in 2000, to 23% in 2006....

Taking account of inflation, minimum wages and social assistance rates are far below the levels of the 1980s, driving millions of Canadians deeper into poverty. One fifth of Canadian children live below the poverty line, making a mockery of Parliament's vow to end child poverty by the year 2000. Homelessness is skyrocketing; in Vancouver, the number of people living on the streets is projected to nearly triple by the year 2010, as low-income housing is closed down leading up to the Winter Olympics.

There is a sharp racist edge to poverty in Canada. Right across the country, Aboriginal peoples remain by far the poorest section of the population, with the highest school dropout, unemployment, and incarceration rates. On many reserves and other Aboriginal communities, residents lack clean drinking water, and health conditions are abysmal.

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UAE construction workers face employer abuse

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

About half a million migrant workers employed in the construction sector in the United Arab Emirates are suffering from facing weak enforcement laws and lack of labour reforms, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The abuses include extremely low wages, routine two-month delays of wage payments, and withholding of passports to stop workers from leaving. Hazardous working conditions cause high death and injury rates among the workers, most of whom are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"Building towers, cheating workers," the 71-page report released on Nov. 12, says the UAE's labour laws are "relatively good on paper" but poorly enforced.

Welcoming the recent decree issued by Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum on labour reforms as a "step in the right direction," Human Rights Watch is sceptical of its implementation. "Unless the Government starts to hold employers accountable for breaking the law, the UAE's colossal new sky-scrapers will be known for monumental labour violations," said Sarah Leah Whitson, West Asia Director of HRW.

Migrant construction workers in the UAE often take two to three years to clear the $2000-$3000 loan recruiters "unlawfully" claim for travel, visas, government fees and their own services.

Hundreds die each year under unexplained circumstances. In 2004 alone, the embassies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh sent the bodies of 880 construction workers back to their home countries.

UAE news agencies report that a special court to resolve labour disputes will be set up, and the number of inspectors to evaluate the living conditions of workers is to be raised from 80 to 2,000. Health insurance is to become compulsory and a "mandatory" mechanism for prompt payment of salaries will be established.

HRW has urged the governments of the U.S., the EU and Australia, which are engaging the UAE in free trade negotiations, to ensure that any new agreement is premised on respect for the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and the right to strike.

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"Warning" strike against Korean labour bills

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Tens of thousands of South Korean workers joined a four-hour strike called on Nov. 15 in protest of the government's "labour reform" bills.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions threatened to escalate their industrial action if the government fails to scrap new regulations that threaten job security.

About 57,000 members of the KCTU, the more radical of the country's two umbrella unions, stopped work nationwide for four hours from 1 pm. The unions held a demonstration in front of the National Assembly in Seoul and marched down Yeoido, western Seoul, until the end of the strike.

About 140 unions at companies including Hyundai Motors, the nation's largest carmaker, its affiliate Kia Motors, and unionized dump truck and taxi drivers participated in the walkout. Several factories had to suspend production. Hyundai Motors said the strike would cost about 1,500 vehicles in lost production.

The KCTU also demands that the government halt free trade talks with the United States and secure the rights of temporary workers. Unless the government and political parties offer satisfactory answers by Nov. 20, the union said it will launch an indefinite strike starting on Nov. 22.

On Sept. 11, employers and the government struck an agreement on a package of labour bills with the more moderate Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) in tri-partite negotiations. The FKTU signed the deal after the government agreed to delay two controversial measures - dropping full-time union officers from company payrolls, and permitting multiple trade unions at a single company - for three years until the end of 2009.

The KCTU wants immediate implementation of the multiple union system, and insists that the issue of paying full-time union officers should be left to individual companies.

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"Struggles are drawing millions into action"

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

From the contribution by Communist Party of Canada leader Miguel Figueroa to the International Meeting of Communist & Workers' parties in Lisbon
.

The widespread class, democratic and anti-imperialist struggles which are emerging today, despite their still largely defensive character, are drawing millions upon millions into political organization and action. The task of the left forces and particularly the Communists is to help build these mass struggles, to unite them in common action, and to infuse them with a revolutionary perspective and content, opening the door to the socialist alternative.

The fightback against imperialist domination and aggression finds clearest expression today in Latin America. Inspired by the example of socialist Cuba, and driven to struggle by the consequences of the imposed "Washington consensus", popular resistance is mounting virtually everywhere across that continent. The deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the democratic and progressive initiatives of the Morales government in Bolivia and the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, the recent election victories in Brazil and Nicaragua, the growing insurgency in Colombia led by the FARC-EP, and the spread of mass labour, indigenous, democratic and social struggles in Mexico and elsewhere - all these unmistakably point to a rising tide of anti-imperialist resistance and change.

Anti-imperialist struggles are growing elsewhere as well, reflected not least in the heroic resistance of the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples against U.S. imperialism and Zionist aggression and occupation. The Congressional elections in the U.S. this week show that even in the belly of imperialism, working people are increasingly rejecting the reactionary policies of the Bush Administration.

Allow me here to say a few words about Canada's changing role within the imperialist system in general, and in particular about the accelerated drive for all-sided subordination of and "deep integration" with US imperialism.

Since January 2006, the Canadian people have been saddled with the most right-wing, militarist and pro-U.S. imperialist government in our history, in the form of the minority Conservative Party Government of PM Stephen Harper.

In less than one year, the Harper government has doubled the military budget, attacked equality rights, ripped up agreements with Canada's Aboriginal peoples, and reneged on our country's commitment to the Kyoto emission targets. At the behest of the Bush Administration, Canadian military involvement in the bloody, unjust occupation of Afghanistan has been beefed up and given even more aggressive front-line assignments in the Kandahar region, resulting in heavy casualties. The Tories have also transformed Canada's Middle East policy, shamelessly endorsing Israel's war crimes against the peoples of Palestine and Lebanon.

All of these dangerous developments reflect an underlying process which is relentlessly drawing Canada into lockstep with the interests of U.S. imperialism and accelerating the erosion of Canadian sovereignty in favour of all-sided integration into "Fortress America," despite broad opposition and resistance from the Canadian people.

For much of the last century, the relations between Canadian monopoly circles and U.S. capital were characterized by what we termed an "antagonistic partnership" wherein Canadian monopoly was prepared to cede large sectors of the domestic economy, especially in resource extraction and some areas of manufacturing, to U.S. penetration, while maintaining Canadian monopoly control over the financial sector, transportation, utilities, services, and so on. But since the late 1980s, when the Canada-US free trade and later NAFTA treaties were imposed, the dominant sections of the Canadian ruling class are now prepared to sell out what remains of the country's economic and political sovereignty, so long as it is permitted a reasonable share of the plunder of Canada's natural resources and domestic market, while expanding access to the U.S., hemispheric and global markets.

As a result, negotiations aimed at "harmonizing" and integrating Canada's foreign, defence, immigration, energy and social policies with that of the U.S. have been intensified, while the penetration of U.S. (and to a lesser extent European and Japanese) capital into all sectors of the national economy has increased exponentially, giving Canada the dubious and unwanted distinction of having the highest level of foreign ownership of any "developed" imperialist country in the world.

Consider energy, for example, a decisive sector which is largely dominated by U.S. capital. Canada is the tenth-largest producer of conventional oil and third-largest producer of natural gas in the world, more than 60% of which is exported, primarily to the U.S. market. Canada is also a large exporter of coal, and of huge amounts of hydroelectric power - all of which makes Canada by far the single largest source of U.S. energy imports. Under the terms of NAFTA, our country is locked into maintaining these massive exports forever, even when domestic supplies are exhausted. Now, the Bush Administration, with the collusion of the Harper government, is seeking to impose a new continental energy "perimeter" which will further alienate control of our energy and natural resources.

This is why our Party firmly believes that the struggle against U.S. domination and for genuine Canadian independence is both a fundamental democratic issue and a necessary and integral component of the Canadian revolutionary process, and contributes to the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization, imperialist aggression and war.

 It is precisely because of the need to counter the demobilizing effect of bourgeois and reformist ideology about the pre-eminence of finance capital and of the powerlessness of the masses to defeat that power and forge a fundamentally different, socialist society, that it is vital for the Communists to strengthen our movement internationally, both in terms of our unity in action, and in a qualitative sense, based on our Marxist revolutionary convictions and analysis. That is why we welcome the recent initiatives which we have collectively taken to strengthen coordination and joint action among our Parties through these forums, and we are fully prepared to contribute to their further development.

ENCONTRO INTERNACIONAL
DE PARTIDOS COMUNISTAS E OPERÀRIOS

INTERNATIONAL MEETING
OF COMMUNIST AND WORKERS' PARTIES


Sixty-three parties, including the Communist Party of Canada, took part in this year's International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, held on Nov. 10-12 in Lisbon. Hosted by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), the theme of the conference was "Dangers and potentialities of the international situation. The strategy of imperialism and the energy issue, the struggle of peoples and the Latin America experience, the prospect of socialism."

 In a statement assessing the event, the PCP said participants warned of the great threats posed by imperialism, but also "expressed confidence in the capacity of peoples to force imperialism to retreat in is hegemonic designs and achieve new advances, on the path of social progress, peace and socialism."

The statement listed some of the topics which drew attention: the struggle for control and distribution of energy supplies; the wastage of resources by the unbridled consumption that characterizes capitalist societies; the need to intensify the struggle against militarism and occupation; the extreme-right attack against democratic freedoms; the spread of xenophobia, racism, religious fanaticism and anticommunism.

As the PCP statement said, "The exchange of opinions demonstrated the incapacity of capitalism to provide solutions for the urgent problems confronting the workers and peoples, and the threats to which capitalism exposes the future of the planet. Socialism increasingly emerges as an alternative to capitalism and as a condition for the survival of Humanity itself."

Various initiatives were proposed  to strengthen the solidarity and joint action of the Communist and Workers' Parties, and other progressive and revolutionary forces, including: campaigns to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, to dissolve NATO, and to abolish foreign military bases; missions of solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples; a week of joint actions in solidarity with Bolivia; struggles against the whitewashing of fascism around significant dates such as September 11, 1973, in Chile; and stronger resistance against the neo-liberal offensive to dismantle workers' rights and achievement.

Participants agreed on the importance of using international events to hold meetings and coordinate the activity of Communists, and to stimulate cooperation on a regional basis and on specific issues.

In the spring of 2007, the PCP will host a European meeting of Communist Parties, in connection with the Portuguese presidency of the European Union.

The documents of the Lisbon Conference are available on the international communist website, http://www.solidnet.org.



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U.S. peace movement tells new Congress: bring the troops home!

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Within hours of the U.S. mid-term elections on November 7, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was fired and the Bush Administration was looking for ways to save its imperialist agenda. But the unmistakable anti-war message delivered by the voters continues to resonate across the country and around the globe.

The U.S. peace  movement did not waste a moment celebrating the defeat of the Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives. United for Peace and Justice, the broad anti-war coalition, immediately held a rally at the offices of Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who will be the new Speaker of the House.

Now, UFPJ has issued a call for a massive march on Washington, to call on Congress to take immediate action to end the war.

"Now it's time for action," said the UFPJ. "On Saturday, January 27, we will converge from all around the country in Washington, D.C. to send a strong, clear message to Congress and the Bush Administration: The people of this country want the war and occupation in Iraq to end and we want the troops brought home now!

"Congress has the power to end this war through legislation. We call on people from every congressional district in the country to gather in Washington, DC - to express support for those members of Congress who are prepared to take immediate action against the war; to pressure those who are hesitant to act; and to speak out against those who remain tied to a failed policy.

"The peace and justice movement helped make ending the war in Iraq the primary issue in this last election. The actions we take do make a difference, and now there is a new opportunity for us to move our work forward. On Election Day people took individual action by voting. On January 27 we will take collective action, as we march in Washington, DC, to make sure Congress understands the urgency of this moment."

The dramatic election results led United for Peace and Justice to rethink earlier plans for a national demonstration next March 17 in Washington, to mark the 4th anniversary of the war in Iraq. Because of the decision to organize the January 27 mobilization, UFPJ is instead now calling for local and regional anti-war actions on the March 17 weekend.

For more information, see http://www.unitedforpeace.org.
 
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The Blood on Canada's Corporate Doorstep:
War Profiteer L-3 Wescam

(The following article is from the
December 1-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Matthew Behrens of Homes not Bombs, http://www.homesnotbombs.ca

It appears that Canadian technology built in Burlington, Ontario, contributed to another cowardly act of mass murder from the skies last month. Some 80 Pakistani school kids, most under the age of 15, were murdered October 30 when, according to numerous on-the-ground reports, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone, employing a targetting device designed and manufactured at Burlington's L-3 Wescam, shot a Hellfire missile into the students' school.

The destructive power of a Hellfire hitting your local school is best illustrated by the fact that Hellfires are meant to slice through heavily armoured tanks. The rationale used for the attack was that a "bad guy," a "legitimate target," was in the area, and that if civilians don't want to get hurt, they should just stay away from bad guys. It is no small irony that Wescam, which might be considered a legitimate military target or bad guy by any country at war with Canada, is located right next door to an elementary school.

The October 30 missile strike was another illegal act in the endless wars (the Hague Convention's Article 25 states: "The attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited."). Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, to name a few are simply like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and so many others before them, testing labs for warfare, and all the new hi-tech gimmickry coming out of the "aerospace" market is being honed and refined "in theatre," as the generals like to say.

"We are going to kill the wrong people sometimes"

And what of those murdered kids? As then White House deputy counter-terrorism director Roger Cressey told UPI in 2001: "We are going to make mistakes. We are even going to kill the wrong people sometimes. That's the inherent risk of an aggressive counter-terrorism program."

This latest atrocity provided one more compelling reason for folks in Ontario to attend rallies and nonviolent civil disobedience at the entrance to L-3 Wescam.

Burlington police recently told Homes not Bombs organizers that Wescam executives have been ordered by their corporate masters at L-3 Communications in New York to refuse our request for dialogue. A refusal to speak with us, however, will not deter us from trying to bring evidence of war crimes complicity to the front door of Burlington's biggest war manufacturer.

Evidence of the October 30 attack would not represent the first time that the blood of Afghanis or Iraqis could be laid at Wescam's doorstep. On February 4, 2002, a Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile at "three tall men" believed to be Al Qaeda members because they were wearing long robes. Despite Pentagon insistence that the men were "suspected militants," they were in fact poor folks scavenging for metal. The Afghan Islamic Press identified the three dead men as Munir Ahmad, Jehangir Khan and Daraz Khan. "They were standing and chatting when hit by the missile," said village elders.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark, when confronted with that reality, stated: "We're convinced that it was an appropriate target... [although] we do not yet know exactly who it was."

According to Professor Marc Herold - who has diligently documented atrocities the Pentagon would just as soon forget - on May 6, 2002, a Predator fired a Lockheed missile at a convoy of cars in Kunar province, seeking to assassinate an Afghan "warlord," but succeeded only in destroying a school and killing at least 10 nearby civilians.

Extrajudicial executions

Perhaps most famously, the U.S. carried out an extrajudicial execution using Wescam technology when six "suspected extremists" were blown to bits while driving in Yemen in November, 2002. There were no arrests, no charges, no trial, no appeal. Just silence, then death. U.S. officials have admitted that on other occasions the Predator has been used to attack people mistakenly thought to be Osama bin Laden.

In an age when concepts like international law are viewed as an antiquated nuisance for those who would wage war, such incidents are becoming quite common.

On January 31, 2006, Amnesty International wrote a letter of protest to George W. Bush "to express its concern that between 13 and 18 people were killed on 13 January 2006," when Hellfire missiles were fired into three houses in Damadola in Bajaur Agency from an unmanned Predator drone probably operated by the CIA. As per usual, the excuse for the terrorist bombing was that a high-ranking Al-Qaeda official was "in the area."

In the related press release, Amnesty International said it was concerned that a pattern of killings carried out with these weapons appeared "to reflect a US government policy condoning extrajudicial executions. Amnesty International reiterated to the US President that extrajudicial executions are strictly prohibited under international human rights law. Anyone accused of an offense, however serious, has the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty and to have their guilt or innocence established in a regular court of law in a fair trial."

Amnesty also pointed out that "the fact that air surveillance, witnessed by local people, took place for several days before the attack indicates that those ordering the attack on the basis of this information were very likely to have been aware of the presence of women and children and others unconnected with political violence in the area of the attack."

L-3 now Canada's #1 warmaker

While hundreds upon hundreds of Canadian companies are reaping huge profits by enabling the murder of human beings in these testing grounds for war (supplying everything from the bullets, machine guns, and grenade launchers to the base material for depleted uranium bullets and light-armoured vehicles), L-3 Communications Canada (Wescam's parent) was recently named the #1 military firm by the Canadian Defence Review.

L-3, which has grown into one of the largest weapons firms in the world, plays a major role in all parts of the so-called war on terror: interdiction of refugees seeking safety, supply of interrogation teams implicated in torture of Iraqi detainees, provision of the tools of repression utilized by police to smash demonstrations, and key components for major weapons systems.

Here in Canada, two of those major systems rely on L-3 Canada technology; the unmanned aerial vehicle Predator, and the Stryker Light armoured Vehicle.

According to the U.S. Air Force's strategic vision planning document, the future of warfare is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, naming the Predator as a system that "evolved into a formidable combat support and was involved in every major military operation" between 1996 and 2004. Armed with Hellfire missiles, the Predator is described as "one of the military's most requested systems, assisting in the execution of the global war on terror by finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging, and assessing suspected terrorist locations."

The UAV is viewed as a "major component of the Army Future Combat System," especially since unmanned vehicles mean increased air time, hovering time, and an ability to operate in "environments contaminated by chemical, biological, or radioactive agents." The Pentagon admits that politically, using UAV's piloted with video screens based on the US cuts the domestic cost created by bodies coming home.

"arming the RQ-1 Predator with hellfire missiles can be compared to the mounting of guns on biplanes early in the last century," gushes the Air Force document.

Increased lethality

L-3 Canada has also taken over the old Rexdale, Ontario, Litton plant, infamous for 1980s cruise missile production. Now called L-3 Electronic Systems, the division is currently manufacturing for General Dynamics Land Systems multiple assemblies for the Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT)."

General Dynamics describes the Stryker as "the Army's highest-priority production combat vehicle program and the centerpiece of the ongoing Army Transformation.... Stryker is an eight-wheel armored vehicle that is changing the way warfare is conducted on the battlefield.... Stryker is an essential element of the Army's effort to transform itself into a more agile, deployable, survivable and lethal force... Stryker fulfills an immediate requirement to equip a strategically deployable and operationally deployable brigade capable of rapid movement anywhere on the globe in a combat-ready configuration."

So while a majority of Canadians oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is little doubt that they will continue until we confront the economic engine that is driving these wars, the corporations that make a living from killing (along with the many other tentacles of the war complex, from recruiting in schools to the investment of public pension funds in war profiteers).

The workers at these factories need not lose their jobs. War must become as socially unacceptable as smoking. Both are profitable, and both kill. But now that smoking has been recognized for the grave health hazard it poses (along with huge health care bills), governments now subsidize farmers who used to grow tobacco to plant something else. And so it can be in the hi-tech sector - instead of pumping billions into bombs, why not provide funding to transform their operations, so that the warlords of the world, from General Hillier on down, are forced to disarm and seek nonviolent means of conflict resolution?

One step in that process is continued pressure on corporations like L-3. Drop a line to Wescam President John Dehne, urging that he meet with Homes not Bombs representatives to transform his business. His fax is 9905) 633j-4100, or send an email from this site: http://www.wescam.com/contacts_1_sales.asp.

(Slightly abridged)

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