Chief Spence Ends Her Hunger Strike, But The Struggle Continues

graphic: Occupy Canada
graphic: Occupy Canada


Chief Theresa Spence has ended her hunger strike today. Here is the press release issued by her and her supporters:

press release.Jan24.2013.Chief Spence*

Daniel Wilson reflects on the legacy of Chief Spence’s hunger strike today on

We can help give success a chance, as Chief Spence and Elder Robinson are now doing by allowing the conversation to move on.

We can refuse to criticize the tactics of those who share our goals and, in so doing, keep the focus on the broader struggle. 

We can refuse to help tear apart what we are only starting to build.

We can mark the end of the hunger strikes as a celebration of the commitment and sacrifice of those involved, and a reaffirmation that the struggle will continue. 

We can stand in unity, for all our relations.  And we will learn what that means.




what is it all about

More links:

Assembly of First Nations: Declaration Of Commitment, January 23, 2013

Miigwetch Chief Spence

Canada Exposed: The Legacy of A Hunger Strike

Eight Ways To Be Idle No More

McCarthyism, Canadian Style

In Tuesday’s Huffington Post Cameron Fenton, National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, wrote an excellent article about the Harper government’s hounding of environmentalists and First Nations opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. In Harper Government Can’t See the Forest For the Trees, Mr. Fenton starts off by describing a repetitive nightmare he is having these days (and he’s not alone):

The light in the hearing room is bright, hot and pointed right at me. The heat is suffocating, and I am visibly sweaty, the senator leans over, taps his microphone and begins to read questions from a typed sheet.

“Mr. Fenton, Have you ever donated to or been a member of the Sierra Club of Canada?”

“Do you own a book or books written by Dr. David Suzuki?”

“Did you or did you not write blog posts that were critical of the oilsands?”

That’s usually about the time I wake up, but instead of relief that my nightmare is over, I make the mistake of turning on the radio or picking up the paper to find my speculative fiction becoming more and more real.

Environmental groups in Canada are in the crosshairs of the government, not simply under investigation for fiscal mismanagement, but the targets of criminalization, misinformation and a smear campaign.

Most recently, Canada’s environment minister started to use the term “money laundering” to criminalize the acceptance of foreign funding by Canadian organizations.

At first I was taken aback by this, but the more I think about it, it’s a great idea. If you will permit me to change metaphors for a moment, it’s high time that we find our own Elliot Ness and unleash a Canadian team of Untouchables to root out this corruption, to find those charitable groups using foreign money, to hijack our legislative processes and hold my generation’s future hostage.

Let’s start with the Fraser Institute.

A recent investigation by the Vancouver Observer showed that the Fraser Institute received half a million dollars from the U.S.- based Koch Foundation. As the philanthropic arm of Tea Party darlings and fossil fuel industry billionaires Charles and David Koch, this foundation has been linked across the globe to campaigns that promote climate denial, lobby against clean energy legislation and stand in the way of global progress on curbing emissions. To read the full article, click here.



More links:

RCMP spied on B.C. natives protesting pipeline plan, documents show

Government Pipeline Rhetoric Reminiscent of Cold War, McCarthyism: Prof

Suzuki Quit Foundation Over Fed ‘Bullying’

If you’re Canadian, you can go to the Lead Now site to sign a petition against the Conservative government’s rush to push through the omnibus budget bill that would strip our environmental protections, silence our environmental watchdogs, and damage our economy: click here.  Or better yet, call your Member of Parliament and tell them enough is enough.

Rick Mercer Explains Our Democratic System

It’s federal election day in Canada, and it has turned out to be a much more interesting election than was expected.  The NDP have had a surprisingly strong showing in the polls over the last 10 days, and this has left both the Harper Conservatives and the Liberals scrambling to change their tactics in the dying days of the campaign.  Canadians, it seems, don’t like Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff that much, but they do trust Jack Layton, leader of the federal NDP.

Unfortunately, I will be traveling all day and won’t be able to easily tune into the election results.  But I thought it would be appropriate on election day to post this Rick Mercer video from two years ago, Canada Explained:


And remember, if you are Canadian, exercise your democratic right and VOTE – other people are dying to.

Environmental Voices Deliberately Barred From Federal Election Discussions

This is the new reality in Canada after five years of Harper’s control; there is now a deliberate and consistent attempt to keep environmental concerns out of the election discussions.  This despite the fact that Canadians consistently rank environmental concerns at the top, or near the top, of their concerns.

Of course, Canadians know that Elizabeth May was barred from participating in the election debate on television, despite the fact that her party garnered nearly 0ne million votes in the last election.  It seems the old boys club felt threatened by her articulate and interesting performance at the last debate.  But it goes beyond just shutting May out of the mainstream media. In an article in today’s Toronto Star, Stephen Bede Scharper from the University of Toronto, discusses how a 4th year student at Guelph University was barred from a Conservative rally after being “flagged” by an RCMP security check.  As Scharper points out,

Joanna is unaffiliated with any political party, has no criminal record, and comes from a dynamic family that I have known for years. Like many Canadians, she is trying to seriously engage in the key issues of this election.

Her unfitness to participate in a democratic rally seems to be based entirely on the fact that Joanna is a member of her university’s environmental group and has attended global climate summits as a youth delegate, although this is just a guess as she has never been told by anyone in the Conservative party why she was barred.

Is this is the kind of Canada we want?  I know I don’t!On May 2nd, I’m voting to get Canada, and democracy, back.  How about you?

Read all of Scharper’s article:  No Welcome Mat For Environmentalists

And from a 2010 column by James Travers, editor and political correspondent at the Toronto Star, who passed away last month.  He was certainly on to Mr. Harper:

Imagine a country where Parliament is padlocked twice in 13 months to frustrate the democratic will of the elected majority. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that slyly relaxes environmental regulations even as its neighbour reels from a catastrophic oil leak blamed on slack controls. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that boasts about prudent financial management while blowing through a $13-billion surplus on the way to a $47-billion deficit. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where a political operative puts fork-tongued words in a top general’s mouth. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that refuses to fund the same safe abortions to poor women abroad as it provides at home. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where the national police commissioner skews a federal election and is never forced to explain. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that writes a covert manual on sabotaging Commons committees. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country dragging its climate change feet as the true north melts. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that silences political debate on the sale of a publicly owned, crown jewel corporation. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that puts higher priority on building super-prisons than keeping people out of them. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where parties that win the most federal seats are dismissed as “losers”. That country is now this country…

And the list, unfortunately, goes on.  To read the entire article go to Changing Canada, One Backward Step At a Time

For more election information that isn’t being covered by the mainstream media, check out these links:

What’s in a Preposition?

Harper’s Goon Squads: Get Used To Them

54 Conservative Candidates Currently Skipping Election Debates

“Threat” of Federal Coalition Greeted With Outrage

And, according to Amnesty International, Canada is now a “country of concern”

And remember George Orwell’s assertion in 1984: “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

Anti-Conservative Media? So Says Stephen Harper, So He Doesn’t Have To Answer Their Questions

It seems there’s still enough Canadians pondering a vote for Stephen Harper on May 2nd to give us another minority Conservative government.  I do wonder where these folks have been over the  last five years as Mr. Harper has steadily eroded our proud democratic traditions.  Here’s George Stroumbolopoulos back in 2007 talking about Harper’s attitude towards the media, and the need for him to control them and their “pesky” questions:


Still not convinced Harper is unfit to govern (except perhaps in North Korea)?  Check out this article about the “Harper Portrait Gallery” in the government lobby in the House of Commons:

“When you walk in the door, all you see are pictures of Stephen Harper…”

“I’d say between every window, in every available space of the wall, at eye level, every available space has a photo of Stephen Harper.”

“You’ve got photos of Stephen Harper, but not of previous prime ministers,” she added. “Photos of Stephen Harper in different costumes, in different settings, dressed as a fireman, in Hudson Bay looking for polar bears, meeting the Dalai Lama, even the portrait of the Queen had to have Stephen Harper, but in a candid, behind her.”

More links:

Harper Gallery Leaves MPs Speechless: Citizens who want a national portrait gallery in Ottawa can rest easy. The government already has one.

Conservative Spin On Killing the Climate Bill: A New Source of Renewable Energy?

Another Day, Another Conservative Lie

Wow – as the Canadian federal election carries on, the whoppers coming out of the Harper camp are starting to really pile up.  Here’s a few of them:

The IPod Tax is Coming! The IPod Tax is Coming!   The Conservatives have been running attack ads claiming that, if elected, the other parties are going to charge Canadians a $75 IPod Tax.  Well, it turns out it’s an outright lie. Read Who Wants To Charge a $75 IPod tax? Uh, no one. (to view the attack ad, scroll to the bottom of this post)

Stephen Harper Knows How To Manage Our Economy!   Harper, an economist, often proudly proclaims that he is, without a doubt, the best fiscal manager for Canada’s economy.  Really, Mr. Harper? When the Conservatives came into power, our country had a healthy budget surplus. Now, Canadians are saddled with a $50 Billion deficit!  We can’t afford much more of Harper’s economic “brilliance”. As Murray Dobbin recently pointed out in The Tyee:

The Conservatives’ only claim to fame is that our financial system did not melt down the way others did. Ironically, the only reason it didn’t is our banks remained regulated, so they could not take the kind of risks that their counterparts in the U.S. and EU did. Even here, Harper and Co. played with financial deregulation in the mortgage industry (allowing 40-year, no down-payment mortgages), and created a bubble that has yet to burst.

And speaking of poor financial management, the G-8 and G-20 summits were the most expensive 72 hours in Canadian history. The total cost was over $1 Billion!  At the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto, Harper spent $1.9 million building a fake lake and nearly $1 Billion on security for the 3 day event. (Incidentally, 1,105 arrests were made during that summit – the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Yet only 99 criminal charges were laid. So everyone else was arrested – why? Certainly not in the name of Canadian democracy!)

But what porkers have the Harper Cons been caught uttering recently?  Turns out they quoted Auditor General Sheila Fraser as praising the Conservative’s management of the summit when in fact the quote they used was taken out of context.  What she was actually doing was praising the Liberals for their spending on security after the 9/11 attacks. Last week, Ms. Fraser responded:

...the Conservatives inserted a 2010 comment she made during a CBC News interview on security spending by a previous Liberal government after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“The comments attributed to me in the [Conservative] report are completely unrelated to G8/G20 spending,” Fraser writes in her letter.

“I would appreciate it if the report could be modified as it is clearly erroneous.”

And with regard to the G-8, it turns out that the Tories may have lied misinformed the Canadian Parliament about their spending on that meeting, and in doing so may have broken the law.  We, the electorate, won’t know before we vote on May 2nd exactly what they were up to, because of the rules of Parliament only permit the release of this report to a sitting parliament.  Hmmm – I wonder if this had anything to do with the timing of this election?

And, of course, Stephen Harper continues to dismiss the finding of “Contempt of Parliament” as a minor issue.  That is the worst lie of all, in my books, because it so clearly shows with how little esteem he holds our entire parliamentary democracy.  Here’s what a few Canadians had to say about Harper and his record:


More links:

Tories Misinformed Parliament on G8 Fund, May Have Broken Law: Auditor General

Tories Used Praise For Liberals To Defend Summit Costs: Fraser

Reckless and Ruinous: Harper’s Economics

Anti-Harper Website Attracts Two Million Hits

Ballot Box Thief A Conservative Staffer. Oh My!


Vote For Harper Cause He Doesn’t Care About “So-Called” Greenhouse Gases

Another response to Rick Mercer’s challenge to the youth of Canada to surprise our politicians and vote – beautiful!


We’ve got a shot to start a movement
We’ve got a chance to make the whole world lose it
We can start a moment of change
An opportunity to keep the pride in our name

We need to wake up and watch what were doing
Bush was a bitch and the whole world knew it
But now we’re just as guilty as him
Environmental crime is good if you’re a crooked PM

But we’ve got a shot to start a movement
And we’ve got a chance to make the whole world lose it
We can choose who’s in demand
And we can change fate with the swipe of a pen

Vote for Harper if you don’t want trees
Vote for Harper if you don’t like green
Vote for Harper ’cause he doesn’t really care about
So-called Greenhouse Gases

Vote for Harper if you don’t want lakes
Vote for Harper if you don’t like change
Vote for Harper ’cause he doesn’t know a thing about
So-called Greenhouse Gases

We’ve got a problem, we’re on a slippery slope
So what’s it gonna take to get the youth to the polls
We’ve got a choice to make ’cause we can sway the vote
And if we want a change we have to take control

We can change every single thing that we hate
We can be the boss and take control of our fate
History will be whatever we wanna make
And we’ll still party at the end of the day

All we gotta do is get ourselves out of bed
All we gotta do is write an X with a pen?
All we really want is a planet to live
A cold beer in our hands and a river to swim

More links:

Deserts in Bloom

Find which party’s values match up with yours:  Vote Compass on

Help Regenerate Canadian politics:

Why Aren’t Canadian Politicians Talking About What’s Real?

Here in Canada, we were plunged into a long-overdue (IMHO) election last week when the Harper Conservative government was found to be in Contempt of Parliament for not providing the elected Members of Parliament with the necessary information on the cost of the purchase of F-35 fighter jets as well as the cost of its proposed crime bills. The Harper government expected MPs to approve spending taxpayer’s money on these Conservative initiatives without having all the facts. It turns out this is against parliamentary law. The Harper Conservatives were also facing an election fraud scandal, and a second contempt motion because of International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda’s “misleading” statements to the House of Parliament about how the cancellation of funding to KAIROS, a Christian aid organization, came about.

What those findings should tell Canadians about our current Prime Minister and his minions MPs is that they flaunt the rules of our parliamentary institutions, fail to disclose the information necessary for our elected representatives to make informed decisions, and (per Minister Oda) play fast and loose with the truth.  They are not team players.  For the last three years, the Conservatives have been allowed to run a minority parliament as if they have a majority.  Less than 40 % of Canadians voted for the Harper Cons, and yet they have made decision after decision without consulting any of the other parties who represent the majority of Canadians.  Why the opposition parties have let them get away with it is another blog posting altogether.

In the meantime, Harper has tried to paint a possible coalition or alliance of Liberals/NDP/Bloc parties as a big scarey bogeyman. However, this strategy might be blowing up in his cold, unfeeling face, as both the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have reminded Mr. Harper of his courting of them in 2004 to form a coalition as an alternative to Paul Martin’s minority government.

In the meantime, Murray Dobbin, over at The, asks the question that all Canadians should be asking “Why Can’t Politicians Talk About What is Real?”

In trying to anticipate what a federal election campaign will look like — and it seems increasingly likely that we will be unable to avoid one – it is striking that the biggest issues facing humankind are not even on the radar, yet alone being framed as planks in any party’s campaign platform.

This amounts to whistling past the graveyard with potentially fatal consequences. In our conventional political universe we are talking about jet fighters, corporate tax cuts, growing the economy and abolishing the Senate — and if we are lucky some mention of climate change, poverty and the dire financial straits of seniors.

But the other universe is virtually invisible despite the fact that it is very real and well known. That parallel road that no one in authority wants to acknowledge is one which is taking us over a cliff. That universe tells us that we are rapidly reaching the planet’s limits to growth, that we are well past the start of a global fresh water crisis, that we have already reached peak oil, that climate change will have ever-increasing planet-changing impacts and that rapidly rising food prices will lead to mass starvation in the developing world.

Mr. Dobbin concludes that there has been a successful effort by corporations and the political right to frame every political debate around the economy.  The question “is it good for the economy?” trumps any other consideration these days. As Dobbin points out:

Canadian bureaucrats at international meetings no longer refer to Canada and other nations as countries. They refer to them as “economies.” It is a fundamental change in language that has infected our governing institutions and helped justify the now constricted economic role of governments: they just need to get out of the way of business through deregulation, privatization and tax cuts.

Prime Minister Harper showed Canadians how true this is for him by his comment, leading up to the G8/G20 meetings last year, that the economy trumps everything, “all the rest is noise”.  Dobbin, and others, question this slavish devotion to the economy as if it is unconnected to anything else. Lord Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and author of a report on climate change and economics for the British government, recently stated that the current view that separates the economy and the environment is a basic analytical and intellectual mistake.”  Dobbin concludes that:

Until we reverse this heightened status of the economy as a separate entity, which can act with impunity against the interests of every other institution, including democracy, that parallel universe of the really critical issues we face will be almost impossible to engage. Climate change, environmental degradation, unfettered and unregulated growth, the obscene gap between rich and poor — these are all now the purview of “the economy.”

Until we take control of it, these issues will remain beyond our grasp to change.

Mr. Harper’s thinking on both the economy and coalition governments is fundamentally flawed.  For more of Harper’s record on climate change, check out Climate Action Network Canada’s summary. And check out this Lead Now video, a tribute to the time when Canadian politicians were willing to cooperate for the good of all Canadians:


Take Action:

Complete Lead Now’s Online Values Survey at

Support Elizabeth May’s right to participate in the leaders’ debate: Demand Democratic Debate

More links:

The Government of Canada’s record on climate change (2006 – present)

What Can’t Politicians Talk About What Is Real?

In Contempt of Parliament and the Harper Government

Canada’s Climate Bill Passed By Majority of Parliamentarians May Be Blocked By Unelected Conservative Senators

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long been a proponent of an elected senate.  In the Canadian system, senators are selected by the Prime Minister. Traditionally, the Senate has been referred to as the “chamber of sober second thought”, but it has the same powers as the House of Commons except that it can not introduce legislation related to the raising or spending of money. Although the approval of both the Senate and the House of Commons is necessary for legislation, historically the Senate rarely rejects bills passed by the directly elected Commons.

Now that Mr. Harper finds himself in the position of being able to appoint senators, although he’s the PM of a minority, not a majority, government, he has made over 30 senate appointments, changing the face of the upper chamber.  The Conservatives now hold a plurality in the senate, and are poised to be one senator away from a majority when Harper replaces independent Senator Micheal Pitfield, who retired last week.

And that means Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, which was passed by the majority of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons in May, may be voted down by unelected senators who represent a minority government.  It doesn’t sound very democratic, does it?

If you agree, please take the time to send senators a message about respecting the wishes of Canadians.  A nanos research poll from early May shows that Canadians ranked global warming as the number one issue they wanted addressed at the G8/G20 meetings in Toronto in a few weeks.  Yet we have a minority Prime Minister who says that the economy trumps “everything”, almost as if he doesn’t recognize that we, or more accurately our children, have to live on the planet once we’ve trashed it in the name of “the economy”. And his Senate House Leader, Senator Marjorie LeBreton, has said that the Conservative government isn’t supportive of this bill because they have already addressed concerns about climate change, which is more Conservative PR spin with no substance.

What is a Canadian who is concerned about the environment, and who would like to ensure their children’s future is secure and bright, to do?  The most important thing that you can do right now is to contact Canadian senators, particularly Conservative senators, and let them know you that you want them to pass Bill C311.  For contact info and sample letters, and more steps to take, go to my “Action Not Apathy” page for information and links.

More links:

Ontario Senator Pitfield resigns.

Nanos G8/G20 Poll

Will Conservatives Continue Their Anti-Climate Science Push As Parliament Resumes?

Canadian parliament will resume today, after an unexpected two month break brought on when Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the unprecedented move to “prorogue”, or dismiss, parliament in the middle of a session. The rather dubious reason he gave for this unscheduled holiday was that the minority government needed to “recalibrate” before introducing a new budget.

This week, therefore, one of the government’s first orders of business will be to introduce a new budget.  Those Canadians concerned about climate change will be watching carefully to see if the Harper government restores funding to The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS) that was cut in  the last Conservative budget.  CFCAS is the main funding body for university-based research on climate, atmospheric and related oceanic work in Canada.

A retired MSC scientist puts it this way:

Through the CFCAS a body of expertise and capability has been
built up which is internationally competitive but focused on issues of
importance to Canada. This expertise is presently endangered by a lack of recommitment to fund CFCAS and creating the science necessary for effective environmental policy. In my view, it is very important to support scientific research that is
independent of government in order to forestall any temptation to try to
ignore or worse suppress the scientific knowledge necessary to construct
effective policy.

As reported recently on the Can-West News Service, the result of these cuts is the demolishing of climate-related projects around the country:

The foundation’s projects at universities across the country, which are seen as key to understanding the remarkable change underway in the climate, are already being dismantled. And young scientists, trained at substantial cost to Canadian taxpayers, have begun leaving in the country in search of work.

One project is the Centre for Regional Climate Studies and Simulation, based at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, which involves about a dozen professors, 20 research assistants and 50 graduate students. The team studies interactions governing the climate and how to adapt to coming change that could transform large swaths of Canada.

The project is “about to disappear because of (the) Harper government’s indecisiveness to renew funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences,” say gradate students at the centre, which they liken to an “endangered species.”

It is jaw-dropping that a federal government of a northern nation would cut funding to climate science at this crucial time.  It makes one think that this government doesn’t like what the science is saying, and it working to ensure that Canadians are kept in the dark about it.  For more about the Harper government’s record on climate change go to my What the heck IS Canada’s policy? page.  James Hoggan, from summarizes it this way:

The Canadian government’s climate plan is pure politics – pure public relations. It’s all hot air, with no regulation or legislation to back it up. The government is not passing laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions. It is not setting science-based targets and it’s not financing renewable energy.

If you’d like to send Prime Minister Harper the message that climate science is important, click here to sign a petition being circulated by students at the University of Montreal. The english portion of the petition is underneath the french, and you need to keep scrolling past both to reach the place to sign.

For more information on CFCAS, click here to go to their website.