OpEd: ‘The Bad and the Rad’ A weekly damage report

Meagan Wohlberg | Contributor

Welcome! This is the first installment of what will be a series of weekly collections of Bad and Rad News from Turtle Island and around the world. I want to hear your comments and any other links or ideas you have to add. I’ll be around this time next week with more bad and rad news from above and below.

In the spirit of global justice and local radness,
Meagan W.

Canadian Anti-smuggling bill C-49 continues to receive opposition from human rights groups and migrant solidarity organizations who say the provisions target refugees, not smugglers. Members of the Canadian Jewish community are the latest to come out in opposition to bill C-49. It comes at a perfect time, as the UN just released a report saying that migrants suffer the worst racism, globally, pointing to xenophobic policies in Europe and North America as examples (for a recent one, look to Florida). The Independent’s blogger Nathalie Rothschild has published her take on the anti-trafficking industry and why it hurts migrants.

Calgary anti-racist activists Jason and Bonnie Devine were beaten with bats and hammers after 5 masked men broke into their house late Sunday night. Their children, who were sleeping, were unharmed but a friend who was staying there suffered a broken arm. Devine and police are saying it was a targeted attack, most likely by the white supremacist group the Aryan Guard (aka Blood and Honour). Calgary is host to at least two neo-nazi gangs who have attacked the Devine residence in the past with bricks and Molotov cocktails. In a bizarre twist, Social Services is now threatening to take the Devine children into care because of their parents’ activism.

Once again, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is likening any criticism of Israel’s policies toward Palestine with anti-Semitism. At an inter-parliamentary conference on combating anti-Semitism on Monday, he blamed Canada’s recent failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council on their pro-Israeli stance (despite blaming it on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff just weeks before) and said that another Holocaust was surely on the horizon. In response to the conference, the Independent Jewish Voices declared yesterday the Day of Action to Defend Free Speech and released a video featuring prominent human rights activists denouncing the government’s attempt to stifle criticisms of Israeli policy, calling it the new McCarthyism.

The end is here for the national Sisters in Spirit campaign. The database, which put 583 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada on the map for the first time, is now being opposed by the Conservative government, who are threatening the Native Women’s Association of Canada with stopping funding if the name “Sisters in Spirit” – and its research – continues to be used. The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs says that the project is complete and that government money is not to be used for research and policy work. In March, $10 million was promised to deal with the shocking levels of murdered or missing Aboriginal women in Canada. The new proposed strategy includes more money for policing, which is being criticized by front-line workers and victims’ families. NWAC says they were left out of any discussions on how the money was going to be used. Actions are being planned for February 2011.

Vancouver construction worker Shawn Woodward has been sentenced to 6 years in jail for “sucker punching” a gay man in a gay bar. The judge ruled that hate was a factor in the crime.  Victim Richard Dowrey suffered a brain injury upon hitting the floor and has not been able to feed or dress himself since.

The city of Edmonton is sponsoring a campaign to address “white privilege” that is causing conservative opponents to be up in arms over what they say is a “singling out” of white people. It comes as part of the Racism-Free Edmonton campaign.

The Camas Educational Book Store in Victoria, B.C. was raided by police officers on Monday on a warrant to search and seize computer equipment and documents. The store is volunteer-run with a focus on social justice issues. They have received no information from the police as to why they were raided.

George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points comes out on sale Tuesday. In it, he reveals inside information on wars he led (and others he almost led) and admits to having approved the water-boarding of 9/11 suspects, but does not consider it torture.

Conflict around the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement continues. The CBFA is being opposed by First Nations groups who say they were left out of the negotiations. The pact between environmental NGOs and industry claims to suspend logging on 29 million hectares of Boreal forest and caribou habitat for 3 years in exchange for an end to the environmentalists’ global boycott campaigns against the industry. Most of the land in question is indigenous territory. This is one instance in a trend of ENGOs making deals with industry without consulting Indigenous groups implicated in the agreements.

Image credit Associated Press

The first election in 20 years took place in military-controlled Burma on Sunday. The elections were widely regarded as a sham, resulting in worldwide protests and an eruption of conflict along the Thai border. Restrictions on campaigning, the forgery of ballots, bribery, and intimidation guaranteed the ruling generals would retain control of parliament. There are fears that a civil war could break out between ethnic rebels and the Burmese army.

Protests are taking place in Seoul, Korea leading up to the next G20 summit beginning on Thursday. Union workers and civic groups are opposing a free trade deal between South Korea and the U.S. Some Montreal groups are planning a solidarity protest for this Friday to oppose the G20 and denounce the global fiscal policies that hurt the poor.

Nearly everything we hear from Haiti is coming from the capital Port-au-Prince. But in a recent piece from Truthout, reporter Beverly Bell talks to Haitian peasant group Tet Kole (Heads Together) about the additional difficulties peasant farmers face, like access to education, health care, and a living wage.

Assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell has been fired for attacks on University of Michigan student president Chris Armstrong. Shirvell published scathing attacks on the gay student and even went so far as to protest outside Armstrong’s house, calling him a “radical homosexual,” a Nazi, and Satan’s representative. While Shirvell claims he was exercising his free-speech rights, Attorney General said Shirvell’s behaviour was “unbecoming” of a state employee and was “borderline stalking behaviour.”

Human rights protections are close to being extended to trans-identified people in Canada, where bill C-389, which aims to add Gender Identity and Gender Expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and to hate crime provisions of the Criminal Code, sailed through parliament.

Anti-abortion activist Flip Benham has been found guilty on 2 counts of criminal stalking with intent to cause emotional distress and disruption of domestic tranquility for residential picketing. Benham was responsible for putting up wild-west style “wanted” posters, featuring doctors who perform abortions, which were seen as threatening in nature.

The transit cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was sleeping on a train platform, has received the minimum sentence of 2 years in jail for involuntary manslaughter. The family is outraged with the sentencing. Riots took place earlier this year after the conviction in Oakland, where tensions between police and the black community is longstanding.

Tuesday, November 9 will be the deciding day for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the black journalist and political prisoner who has been on death row for the last 28 years in Philadelphia. The court will decide whether he is executed or receives a new sentencing trial. Witness recantations, a confession from another person, and photographic evidence of the crime scene indicate that Abu-Jamal may not be guilty of the murder of the police officer in 1982. Supporters are saying that his being an outspoken opponent of war, racism, police brutality and corruption has prevented him from receiving a fair trial.

G20 defendant and Indigenous activist Ryan Rainville was released on bail after 3 months of being locked up on charges of assaulting a police officer, which he denies. His bail conditions include non-associations with community organizers and other G20 defendants.

The “Ethical Mining Bill” meant to encourage Canadian mining companies to act ethically abroad was defeated in parliament after fierce lobbying by industry. Environmental justice activist Harsha Walia recently wrote an article for the Vancouver Sun describing Canada as the “world’s miner,” which discusses many of Canada’s recent mining engagements.

New York lawyer Chase Madar has written a lengthy criticism of the American justice system. He says the trial and treatment of child soldier Omar Khadr at Guantanamo is not an exception to the rule, but distinctly American. This op-ed is full of facts about what goes on behind bars in American prisons.

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