The Bad and the Rad: a weekly damage report

Hey folks, it’s time (already!) for this week’s damage report, featuring the Canadian government, Aung San Suu Kyi, and thousands of protesters. Not all together, mind you. Enjoy.

Meagan Wohlberg

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Canada finally endorsed the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples last Friday. The document protects the rights of Indigenous peoples and resources within states. While it is not legally binding, many – including the government – say that the endorsement of the declaration signals a willingness to strengthen relations with Aboriginal people in Canada. Others remain skeptical at the Canadian government’s commitment, since within their statement they claimed that “Canada can interpret the principles expressed in the Declaration in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution and legal framework.” The United States is the only country left to sign the declaration.

Just in time to test the Canadian government’s recent endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, native activist Sharon McIvor filed a complaint with the UN about discrimination in Canada against aboriginal women in terms of status. The following was written in the Toronto Sun.

“Canada continues to discriminate against aboriginal women and their descendents in the determination of eligibility for registration as an Indian,” McIvor said in the statement. “Despite amendments made to the Indian Act when the charter came into effect in 1985, aboriginal women are still not treated equally as transmitters of status, and many thousands of descendants of aboriginal women are denied status as a result.”

Suu Kyi is free. Image credit Mizzima News/EPA

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest by the military junta in Burma on Saturday to crowds of cheering supporters. The pro-democracy leader has been under house arrest for 15 of the last 21 years. While a joyous occasion, human rights groups caution that the release is more about public relations than democratic reform, pointing to the remaining 2,200 political prisoners in Burma as evidence. It is not clear yet whether any conditions are going to be attached to her release.

A new psychiatrist’s report reveals that 19-year-old Ashley Smith was restrained and forcibly injected with unnecessary tranquilizers and anti-psychotic drugs while in prison in New Brunswick. The teen was in solitary confinement and on suicide watch when she strangled herself with a piece of cloth in front of onlooking guards in 2007. The Smith family’s lawyer has called the treatment of Ashley “the most outrageous and barbaric example of the mistreatment of a mentally ill person this country has ever witnessed.” The inquest is into the last four years of her life, which she spent in federal custody. CBC’s The Fifth Estate has recently done a short documentary on the issue.

Last Wednesday marked the 15th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian activist who fought against the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. The oil company is accused of causing irreparable environmental devastation and health problems in the Ogoni region. Saro-Wiwa, along with 8 other activists, was hanged by the Nigerian government after what human rights groups say was a flawed trial. You can watch the last interview with Saro-Wiwa here.

Within only 24 hours of being made public, the words “white privilege” were pulled from the Racism-Free Edmonton campaign due to an onslaught of complaints around the following statements: “White privilege refers to all the benefits we get just for being white. Most of us are aware of how racism hurts others, but we’re not aware of how it benefits us.”

Students vs. "Tory scum." Image credit Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

52,000 students protested in London against plans to increase tuition fees while cutting state funding for university teaching last Wednesday. Several hundred occupied and set fire to the Conservative party headquarters. Both police and protesters suffered injuries and 35 people were arrested.

American war resister Joshua Key’s refugee claim was rejected by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. The U.S. Army deserter claims he is haunted by what he saw American soldiers do while fighting in Iraq.

Key wrote The Deserter’s Tale, a book in which he described seeing two civilians decapitated and their bodies desecrated. “There were American soldiers kicking the heads around like soccer balls,” Key wrote.

The rejection means he could be deported back to the United States. Key is appealing the decision.

The Toronto G20 may be over, but public hearings continue. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Union of Public and General Employees began holding a three-day series of public hearings last Wednesday. Some 60 people are testifying about their experiences during the Toronto summit. The Toronto Star has noted several examples of police brutality and degrading treatment of prisoners.

About 400 people protested the police handling of the G20 in Toronto yet again in Montreal last Friday as the summit meetings wrapped up in Seoul, Korea. 1,000 people were arrested in Toronto but only 300 were charged. Of those, at least 100 have had their charges dropped altogether. Montreal activist Jaggi Singh has launched a constitutional challenge against his bail conditions.

British officials are denying that waterboarding helped foil terror plots and saved UK citizens as George W. Bush asserts in his new memoir, Decision Points. While they say the information provided was “extremely valuable,” it was mainly about the structure of al-Qaida – not any terrorist plots – and was not known to have been extracted through torture. A Facebook group has recently emerged asking people to subversively move the book into the “Crime” section at book stores. Amnesty International is urging a criminal investigation into Bush’s use of such “enhanced interrogation techniques” now that he has admitted to using them.

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