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December in Review

Pipelines approved, posties perplexed, Prime Minister panders

by Media Co-op Editorial Collective

The Santas of Anarchy delivered a holiday message to stop a massive coal port expansion in Vancouver. Photo by murray bush - flux photo
The Santas of Anarchy delivered a holiday message to stop a massive coal port expansion in Vancouver. Photo by murray bush - flux photo
A cop appears impressed by the message that no one is illegal, outside the occupation of Quebec's Education Minister's office. Photo by Arij Riahi
A cop appears impressed by the message that no one is illegal, outside the occupation of Quebec's Education Minister's office. Photo by Arij Riahi

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and a leader in the country’s decades-long anti-apartheid movement, died on December 5th at the age of 95.

Stephen Harper and former prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Kim Campbell and Brian Mulroney visited South Africa to pay their solemn respects--and, some say, to gloss over their own sketchy history of support for anti-apartheid struggles.

In 1989, Harper was a member of Northern Foundation, which pressured the Mulroney government to withdraw its support for the anti-apartheid movement, which at the time was fighting to have Nelson Mandela released from prison. Montreal’s CKUT radio interviewed Noam Chomsky on the legacy of Mandela.

Canada implemented Bill C-31, new immigration legislation which migrant justice organizers are calling the Refugee Exclusion Act. Among other things, the bill increases the number of migrants who will face mandatory detention upon arrival in Canada.

In Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories, No One Is Illegal celebrated and reflected on ten years of migrant justice organizing.

In Lindsay, near Toronto, No One Is Illegal rallied outside the maximum-security Central East Correctional Centre, where as many as 191 migrants had been on strike since September 17th. In what may be the largest migrant prison strike in Canadian history, two detainees went without food for 65 days.

About forty people occupied the offices of Quebec education minister Marie Malavoy as part of Solidarity Across Borders’ “Education For All” campaign to give non-status children access to primary and secondary education in Quebec. Currently, children must provide proof of status in order to obtain a permanent code, without which their families face bills of up to $6000 per year to access the public education system.

Quebec’s National Assembly adopted a new Mining Act after approving a motion to limit debate on the bill. The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) has threatened a legal challenge to the new law, which they say fails to require adequate consultation with First Nations.

The Barriere Lake First Nation established a land protection camp within the La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve to protest clear-cut logging on sensitive areas of their land. In response, Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources has agreed to respect a previously negotiated process to harmonize forestry operations with the community’s traditional activities.

The Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition, worried about problems with the province’s review of hydraulic fracturing, sent a letter to the province’s new Liberal premier Stephen McNeil and the ministers of energy and environment. The HMC interviewed David Wheeler, the man at the helm of the controversial review.

Residents in Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia, found contamination in their wells connected to nearby construction waste processing--yet the Halifax Regional Municipality has continued to license the dirty operation.

On the other side of the country, the National Energy Board (NEB) approved Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal to transport tar sands oil across northern BC to the coast for export. The Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation vowed to continue to defend their traditional territories, saying that they will not remove their camp and gateway which stand in the path of the proposed pipeline.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation said in a press release that the NEB’s pipeline approval process is deeply flawed. This same process will now be used to evaluate Kinder Morgan’s 15,000-page Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion application.

In Vancouver, the Santas of Anarchy delivered bags of coal to the offices of Port Metro Vancouver. Spokespeople from Rising Tide said that the port authority has been very “naughty” with its Fraser Surrey Docks expansion plan, which aims to make the port into the continent’s largest coal exporter. Port Metro Vancouver released a statement calling the visit “violent” and saying that the bags contained an “unknown substance.”

Four days before Christmas saw a group of homeless tent campers in Abbotsford packing up their belongings in the snow. The city had called in police to enforce a court order to dismantle the tent village, which had occupied an empty parking lot since October. The campers had faced a relentless campaign of attacks from the city, including one in which city crews dumped chicken manure on a campsite.

In response to growing concerns over a “communication lockdown”, Environment Canada sent a letter to its staff in which it acknowledged that the department had declined 22 per cent of interview requests in the past year. The letter came in the context of an on-going federal investigation into the Harper government’s muzzling of scientists.

Canada Post announced the end of home mail delivery over the next five years, with a plan to deliver mail to local “superboxes” instead and to increase postage prices. Many have voiced concerns about the potential impacts on seniors and others with limited mobility, on mail security, and on postal workers who may face massive lay-offs.

BC residents got a second surprise when BC Hydro announced a rate increase of 25.5% over the next five years.

Canada’s Supreme Court struck down three major prostitution laws as unconstitutional. The court’s decision argued that, since prostitution is legal, the laws banning brothels, publicly communicating with clients, or living “off the avails” of prostitution place sex workers in unnecessary danger and violate their charter rights to “security of the person.”

Pivot Legal Society, which was granted intervenor status in the court hearing, said,  “This decision marks a huge step forward for sex workers’ rights and human rights in Canada.” Other groups, like Indigenous Women against the Sex Industry, continue to push for the total abolition of sex work.  The court suspended their ruling for one year, during which the federal government can re-write the country’s prostitution laws.

The Supreme Court delivered another important ruling just before the holidays. In Wood v. Schaeffer, the court ruled that police are not allowed to have lawyers vet their notes when they witness killings or other acts of violence by fellow police officers. Six of the nine judges agreed that: "Permitting police officers to consult with counsel before their notes are prepared is anathema to the very transparency that the legislative scheme aims to promote."

Who are these Supreme Court Justices anyway? In the holiday spirit, the Media Co-op invited readers to meet Canada’s highest-paid Santas. Canada’s top 100 richest people got 15% richer this year, with a net worth greater than the GDP of Ireland, Portugal or New Zealand.

Anti-gentrification protesters in San Francisco’s Mission District blocked a Google bus transporting white-collar employees to work. The Google buses have become a symbol of the eviction and gentrification crisis occurring throughout the Bay Area, as technology sector workers for companies like Google and Twitter--unable to afford the astronomical prices in SF proper--take advantage of cheaper prices in lower-income, often predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods.

Elections in Honduras saw the National Party beat out the social movement linked Libre Party by a small margin. Accusations of election day fraud combined with violence against candidates and supporters led to a contestation of the election results, which have been accepted by the international community. The new government of President-elect Juan Orlando Hernández has promised to have military patrolling the streets and increase foreign investment in the Central American country.

Disgruntled cabin crew working for Asia’s largest passenger airline threatened their employers with an unusual strike tactic this holiday season: withholding smiles. With the prospect of a sour-faced strike and other industrial actions, Cathay Pacific reached a settlement with the union just days before the holidays.


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Supreme Court decision

Just clarifying that the December in Review piece  on the Supreme Court sex workers victory mistakenly identifies the Pivot Legal Society as representing the three Toronto sex workers - Terri JeanBedfod, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott -  who brought the case forward. Allan Young, a Toronto lawyer who specialzes in constitutional law, represented the three sex workers. Pivot was able to get intervenor status at the hearing because of its work on behalf of Vancouver's Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) on a separate, but similiar,  Charter-based sex worker rights case. Katrina Pacey, a Pivot lawyer who has been working for sex worker rights for years now,  intervened on behalf of SWUAV at the June Supreme Court hearing. 


Thanks for clarifying!

Thanks for pointing out the error. I've updated the reference to Pivot Legal Society to reflect their intervenor status. For those who don't know what an intervenor is, Pivot describes it this way: "An intervention is a process through which an individual or a group who is not a party to a particular piece of litigation can play a role in the hearing of the case."

sex worker victory

Thanks for updating the article, Nat

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