Syria, C-51, Civil Liberties and 9/11: Interview with Media Mornings

This morning I went on Vancouver Co-op Radio and W2Media’s Media Mornings with Irwin Oostindie to talk about our work at Voices-Voix, the federal elections and civil liberties in Canada. We talked about how there’s been little to no focus on refugees and migrants (until this week), C-51, civil liberties, women’s rights or Indigenous issues so far in this federal election campaign. It being the anniversary of 9/11, we talked a bit about that too.

Take a listen to the interview below, or listen to the full show here.

It also made me think of how many resources are appearing to help shed light on these issues throughout the election campaign, but aren’t necessarily receiving the focus they deserve. I meant to mention the incredible site from No One Is Illegal, but ran out of time. Check it out. And I think a future post will be on some of those resources…

Image by David P. Ball, via W2Media

Rescuing migrants and refugees at sea: private efforts vs. government funding

The above is an incredible and moving video from AJ+. As an increasing number of refugees flee the wars in Syria, across the Middle East (and further abroad), the need to provide protection and aid is of primary importance.

A story of a private foundation taking on the role of patrolling waters and saving lives raises questions, though. I can’t help but feel like this shouldn’t be necessary as a private initiative: that the European Union and other governments should be funding these efforts as a public good and necessity. Reading that the EU cut their funding for search and rescue by two-thirds last year leaves a sickening feeling in my stomach.

At the same time, though, the work of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station and the Catrambone family points to what is maybe a deeper truth: that with such fickle governments that can cut funding at any time, perhaps we need to instead be focussing on people-powered initiatives. They may at times be more precarious that publicly funded services, but are not subject to a change in government or the swaying of public opinion polls, presenting a possibly more long-lasting solution.

Either way, it’s an incredible response to a catastrophic situation, and I hope crowdfunding efforts to add another boat yield results.

Montreal Cops Sign Landmark Agreement to Improve Relations with Aboriginal Community

Article originally published by Vice Canada.

Photo by Alan Harrington.

Members of Montreal’s Aboriginal community hope a new agreement with the Montreal police will help reshape their relationship with the city’s cops.

Signed on Thursday, the agreement commits the Montreal police to new practices to better serve the Aboriginal community in Montreal. Elements range from establishing an Aboriginal advisory committee to the Montreal police force (SPVM) to, in a first for municipal police in Canada, develop a protocol for addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

“Our people have inherited a legacy of historical trauma and racism. Through imposed treaties and the Indian Act we lost our land, followed by 200 years of residential schools where our language and culture were practically eliminated. This collaboration will allow the SPVM to gain a better understanding of Aboriginal realities, through education and cultural awareness training,” said Nakuset, the co-chair of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network (MUACSN), which developed the agreement. She signed the agreement on Thursday, along with SPVM Chief Marc Parent.

Continue reading Montreal Cops Sign Landmark Agreement to Improve Relations with Aboriginal Community

Montreal spends $110,000 on private lawyers to fight challenge to anti-protest bylaw

Originally published by the Montreal Media Co-op.

Photo: Darren Ell.

MONTREAL—As the city of Montreal tightens its belt-buckle and is cutting budgets, two Montrealers who are challenging the city’s regulations around demonstrations are questioning the amount of resources the city is putting in to defend the bylaws.

“It seems like there is room for austerity measures around everything except repression,” said Julien Villeneuve, better-known as Anarchopanda, in an interview.

Documents obtained by Villeneuve and Jaggi Singh, both plaintiffs in their own separate court challenges against municipal bylaw P-6, show that the city has decided to turn to private lawyers in order to defend the regulation. The documents were provided to the Montreal Media Co-op for review by Singh and Villeneuve.

Continue reading Montreal spends $110,000 on private lawyers to fight challenge to anti-protest bylaw

Government Inaction Has Led to an Independent Database for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Article originally published by Vice Canada.

Image by Erin Konsmo.

A new online database of missing and murdered Indigenous women, trans women and Two-Spirit people is aiming to not just record numbers, but to fight back by remembering the lives of the women who have been lost.

“The strength of the database will be from how it honours and remembers missing and murdered Indigenous women, Two Spirit, and trans women,” wrote Erin Konsmo, of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), in an email interview with VICE. It Starts With Us – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, a collaboration of NYSHN, Families of Sisters in Spirit and No More Silence, launched in late July. The site already features the names of 72 women who have gone missing, were found dead, or were murdered in Ontario. Another 50 will be added soon. In the coming weeks and months, the names of the hundreds of other native women who have gone missing from other regions of Canada over the last several decades.

Calls for action and public awareness of the epidemic of violence towards Indigenous women has been growing since earlier this year, said Audrey Huntley, one of the organizers with No More Silence. She’s worked to combat violence against Indigenous women for about 20 years, and since February, there’s been media attention like she’s never seen before.

Continue reading Government Inaction Has Led to an Independent Database for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

A New Study Confirms the Tar Sands are Harming the Health of First Nations

This article was originally published by Vice Canada.

The most in-depth study of health concerns among communities downstream from the Alberta tar sands is out, and the results are damning.

The report largely confirms what residents of Fort Chipewyan, home to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), have long been saying: significant increases in illnesses in the communities, including cancer, asthma, diabetes, and mental illness, among others, can be clearly tied back to tar sands development 200 kilometres upstream along the Athabasca River.

The study was lead by Dr. Stéphane McLachlan of the University of Saskatchewan, and carried out in conjunction with the AFCN and MCFN. The study is the first of its kind in working directly with community members in framing the direction of the research. Carried out in two phases over the past three years, McLachlan said the results they found are clear.

“What we found was a decline in health, particularly in relation to cancer. Again, I would argue, the link to the oil sands is incontrovertible,” he told VICE.

Continue reading A New Study Confirms the Tar Sands are Harming the Health of First Nations

These Artist-Activists Projected Anti-Police Brutality Images on Montreal Police Headquarters

This article was originally published by Vice Canada.

Photos by Keith Trace.

In retrospect, it seems pretty obvious: if you project 20-foot-tall anti-cop images on the Montreal police headquarters, they will try and mess with your shit.

Which is exactly what happened when the Illuminator Art Collective pulled up in their discreet white cargo van, flicked on their gas generator, turned the manual crank, and popped out their projector. The silhouette of a protester holding a sign reading “Police partout, justice nulle part” (police everywhere, justice nowhere) appeared on the imposing downtown Montreal building.

It was 11:15 PM on a quiet Sunday night—a few police cars had rolled by earlier, but the street was empty. The group in the van was tense, expecting an immediate reaction from the police, but as none came, they all relaxed. Hugo Genes, one of the Illuminator crew members decked out in their “Project & Serve” shirts, was on the roof, taking his time to adjust the image for the perfect photo op. It didn’t matter that no one was really around to see it. It’s great to get the crowds, the team from New York City told me, but when they can get a good shot on a quiet street, the pictures they take can still reach millions over social media.

Continue reading These Artist-Activists Projected Anti-Police Brutality Images on Montreal Police Headquarters