Canada’s newest political prisoners

April 7, 2008

Canada’s newest political prisoners

Indigenous leaders jailed for protesting mining exploration on their lands

The government’s actions are narrowing options down to

make resistance the only option.


Two Important Upcoming Events, April 9 & 12…

April 7, 2008

There are two important upcoming events in Toronto this week:

1. Event at Ryerson: Land Rights Not Mining Rights
2. CAIA Fundraiser in Support of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
DATE: Wednesday April 9th, 6 pm
PLACE: Ryerson Student’s Union, 55 Gould St (between Victoria and Church)
Featuring: Ovide Mercredi, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and members of the KI and Ardoch First Nations.

In a travesty of justice and a grave assault on Aboriginal rights, seven
Aboriginal leaders are in jail today for upholding indigenous and Canadian
law. In March, Robert Lovelace from Ardoch and Chief Donny Morris of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) community, four councillors and one community member were jailed for six months for contempt of court. In two separate cases, they refused mining exploration on their traditional lands without their permission. Additionally, Robert Lovelace and his community have been hit with huge fines.

These Aboriginal leaders were not only protecting indigenous laws, they
were also protecting the Canadian constitution as interpreted by the
Supreme Court of Canada, which says that governments must consult with Aboriginal Nations before licensing mining exploration on their lands.

The KI Six arguments that the Ontario government has a constitutional
responsibility to consult with them before issuing a mining permit in
their traditional territories were rejected by the court. The judge in the Ardoch case threw out Robert Lovelace’s testimony that he was defending Algonquin Law and responsibilities with respect to human activity in their territory.

“I’m prepared to go to jail for my belief in the land,” said KI Chief Donny Morris. “This is a land issue based on our sovereignty and I’m prepared to give myself up if the court decides I’ve disrespected the November ruling to allow Platinex on our land…”

They should not have to go to jail! Premier Dalton McGuinty should withdraw the licenses issued to these mining companies and free Robert Lovelace and the KI 6. The jailing of these leaders is causing terrible suffering and fear in their communities. KI is a remote northern community that has just lost the majority of its leadership and the Ardoch community is facing fines of $50,000. These leaders are also in jail because their communities are poor and cannot afford fines.

“The message delivered through this court decision is one of domination
and oppression,” said Chief Paula Sherman of the Ardoch decision.

Support the right of a community to say NO to mineral exploration and
mining projects that threaten the health of people and ecosystems. Replace the antiquated ‘free entry’ system of mining and exploration with a process that grants exploration permits only after consultation with affected First Nations communities, and consideration of competing land uses and values.

Join us to show support for the Ardoch and KI communities, to protest these harsh court decisions, and to demand action from Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Co-sponsors include:

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation
Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University
Ryerson Students’ Union
Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win North-South Partnership for Children

Ryerson Aboriginal Students Services
Christian Peacemaker Teams Canda
CPAWS Wildlands League
Indigenous Environmental Network
Mining Watch Canada
Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment
*************Please distribute widely**************************


Date: Saturday April 12
Time: 7 pm – Door opens at 6:30

Place: Cervejaria – 842 College St. (W of Ossington), Toronto

Suggested donation: $10
Featuring: LAL, DJ NO CAPITALISTA and others. Silent auction and 50/50 draw

To coincide with Palestine Political Prisoners Day, the Coalition Against
Israeli Apartheid ( CAIA), is organising a fundraiser in support of the struggle of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN )against uranium mining on their land. All proceeds will go to the AAFN On February 15 2008, in a travesty of justice, AAFN Spokesperson Robert Lovelace was sentenced in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Kingston to 6 months incarceration and fines amounting to $25,000 for refusing to comply with an injunction that would prevent him from protesting against uranium mining on land that is part of a 25-year-old Algonquin land claim.. In addition, the community was fined $10,000 and Chief Paula Sherman $15,000. The AAFN and the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation started their blockade of the uranium exploration in the area in June 2007.

The highly politicized nature of these sentences further underscores the
on-going criminalization of indigenous people’s basic rights to self-determination and the free use of their lands and resources. Just as
Israel refuses to fulfill its obligations under international law with respect to the basic rights of the Palestinian people (including the incarceration of over 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners), the Canadian government has decisively rejected its obligations under the ‘UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ and continues to incarcerate indigenous leaders who defend the basic rights of their peoples to self-determination. Such a right includes the right of indigenous peoples to: “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development” (Article 3, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).

The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) is a grassroots Palestine-solidarity organization which understands Israeli apartheid as one element of a system of global apartheid and therefore stands in solidarity with all oppressed groups around the world, in particular, the indigenous peoples of North America.

For more information on this fundraiser or to find out more about CAIA
please email or go to


April 7, 2008
(Monday April 7 at 10pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld)
Meet the POWs who refused to return home. At the end of the Korean War in 1954, captured UN soldiers held in POW camps were free to return home. Those soldiers who refused repatriation to their homeland were transferred to a neutral zone and given 90 days to reconsider their decision. Surprisingly, among them are 21 American soldiers who defiantly decided to stay in China. They Chose China recounts these soldiers’ stories.

Tomgram: Ira Chernus, The General and the Trap

April 7, 2008

They came, they saw, they… deserted.

That, in short form, is the story of the Iraqi government “offensive” in Basra (and Baghdad). It took a few days, but the headlines on stories out of Iraq (“Can Iraq’s Soldiers Fight?”) are now telling a grim tale and the information in them is worse yet. Stephen Farrell and James Glanz of the New York Times estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen, or more than 4% of the force sent into Basra, “abandoned their posts” during the fighting, including “dozens of officers” and “at least two senior field commanders.”

Other pieces offer even more devastating numbers. For instance, Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post suggest that perhaps 30% of government troops had “abandoned the fight before a cease-fire was reached.” Tina Susman of the Los Angeles Times offers 50% as an estimate for police desertions in the midst of battle in Baghdad’s vast Sadr City slum, a stronghold of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.

In other words, after years of intensive training by American advisors and an investment of $22 billion dollars, U.S. military spokesmen are once again left trying to put the best face on a strategic disaster (from which they were rescued thanks to negotiations between Muqtada al-Sadr and advisors to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, brokered in Iran by General Qassem Suleimani, a man on the U.S. Treasury Department’s terrorist watch list). Think irony. “From what we understand,” goes the lame American explanation, “the bulk of these [deserters] were from fairly fresh troops who had only just gotten out of basic training and were probably pushed into the fight too soon.”

This week, with surge commander General David Petraeus back from Baghdad’s ever redder, ever more dangerous “Green Zone,” here are a few realities to keep in mind as he testifies before Congress:

1. The situation in Iraq is getting worse: Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. The surge-ified, “less violent” Iraq that the general has presided over so confidently is, in fact, a chaotic, violent tinderbox of city states, proliferating militias armed to the teeth, competing regions armed to the teeth, and competing religious factions armed to the teeth. Worse yet, under Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the U.S. has been the great proliferator. It has armed and funded close to 100,000 Sunnis organized into militias reportedly intent on someday destroying “the Iranians” (i.e. the Maliki government). It has also supported Shiite militias (aka the Iraqi army). In the recent offensive, it took sides in a churning Shiite civil war. As Nir Rosen recently summed matters up in a typically brilliant piece in the Nation magazine, Baghdad today is but a set of “fiefdoms run by warlo! rds and militiamen,” a pattern the rest of the country reflects as well. “The Bush administration,” he adds, “and the U.S. military have stopped talking of Iraq as a grand project of nation-building, and the U.S. media have dutifully done the same.” Meanwhile, in the little noticed north of the country, an Arab/Kurdish civil war over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly Mosul as well is brewing. This, reports Pepe Escobar of Asia Times, could be explosive. Think nightmare.

2. The Bush administration has no learning curve. Its top officials, military and civilian, are unable to absorb the realities of Iraq (or the region) and so, like the generals of World War I, simply send their soldiers surging “over the top” again and again, with minor changes in tactics, to the same dismal end.’s Tony Karon, at his Rootless Cosmopolitan blog, caught this phenomenon strikingly, writing that Maliki’s failed offensive “shared the fate of pretty much every similar initiative by the Bush Administration and its allies and proxies since the onset of the ‘war on terror.'”

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: The Natives of Planet Earth

April 7, 2008

[Note to Tomdispatch Readers: Last week, I appealed to you to consider writing your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and workmates to suggest that they go to the “sign up” window at the upper right of the Tomdispatch main screen, put in their e-addresses, and sign on for an email notifying them whenever a post goes up. (Word of mouth is, of course, the only kind of publicity this site can afford.) A number of you did so and TD got a flood of new subscribers. So, many thanks indeed! If some of you meant to do this and didn’t quite get around to it, now’s a perfect time. Plenty of exciting material, including new pieces by Ira Chernus, Rebecca Solnit, Patrick Cockburn, and Michael Klare in the coming weeks!

I also wanted to add a note of appreciation for all your letters. I now think of the Tomdispatch email in-box as the university of my later life. Your tips, your encouragement, your descriptions of worlds I would otherwise never encounter, and even your fierce critiques have been most welcome. I read everything that arrives with care and try, as best I can, to respond, at least briefly, if only to acknowledge that I have indeed seen them. Sometimes, however, being but one person, I get swept away and simply can’t respond. For that, my apologies. Tom]

American Grand Delusions

Why the Testimony of General Petraeus Will Be Delusional
By Tom Engelhardt

Yes, their defensive zone is the planet and they patrol it regularly. As ever, their planes and drones have been in the skies these last weeks. They struck a village in Somalia, tribal areas in Pakistan, rural areas in Afghanistan, and urban neighborhoods in Iraq. Their troops are training and advising the Iraqi army and police as well as the new Afghan army, while their Special Operations forces are planning to train Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in that country’s wild, mountainous borderlands.

Their Vice President arrived in Baghdad not long before the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched its recent (failed) offensive against cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in the southern oil city of Basra. To “discuss” their needs in their President’s eternal War on Terror, two of their top diplomats, a deputy secretary of state and an assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, arrived in Pakistan — to the helpless outrage of the local press — on the very day newly elected Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani was being given the oath of office. (“I don’t think it is a good idea for them to be here on this particular day… right here in Islamabad, meeting with senior politicians in the new government, trying to dictate terms…” was the way Zaffar Abbas, editor of the newspaper Dawn, put it.)

At home, their politicians have nationally televised debates in which they fervently discuss just how quickly they would launch air assaults against Pakistan’s tribal areas, without permission from the Pakistani government but based on “actionable intelligence” on terrorists. Their drones cruise the skies of the world looking for terrorist suspects to — in the phrase of the hour — “take out.” Agents from their intelligence services have, these last years, roamed the planet, kidnapping terrorist suspects directly off the streets of major cities and transporting them to their own secret prisons, or those of other countries willing to employ torture methods. Their spy satellites circle the globe listening in on conversations wherever they please, while their military has divided the whole planet into “commands,” the last of which, Africom, was just formed.

As far as they are concerned, nowhere do their interests not come into play; nowhere, in fact, are they not paramount. As their President put it recently, “If [our] strategic interests are not in Iraq — the convergence point for the twin threats of al Qaeda and Iran, the nation Osama bin Laden’s deputy has called ‘the place for the greatest battle,’ the country at the heart of the most volatile region on Earth — then where are they?” (And you could easily substitute the names of other countries for Iraq.)

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: Howard Zinn, The End of Empire?

April 7, 2008

In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and at home, the position of the globe’s “sole superpower” is visibly fraying. The country that was once proclaimed an “empire lite” has proven increasingly light-headed. The country once hailed as a power greater than that of imperial Rome or imperial Britain, a dominating force beyond anything ever seen on the planet, now can’t seem to make a move in its own interest that isn’t a disaster. The Iraq government’s recent offensive in Basra is but the latest example with — we can be sure — more to come.

In the meantime, the fate of that empire, lite or otherwise, is the subject of Howard Zinn today at Tomdispatch, and of a new addition to his famed People’s History of the United States. The new book represents a surprise breakthrough into cartoon format. It’s a rollicking graphic history, illustrated by cartoonist Mike Konopacki, that takes us from the Indian Wars to the Iraqi “frontier” (with some striking autobiographical asides from Zinn’s own life). It’s called A People’s History of American Empire. It’s a gem and it’s being published today.

In honor of publication day, Tomdispatch offers the equivalent of a little online extravaganza. Below, you can read Zinn’s essay on how he first learned about the American Empire; and you can also click here for two special treats. You can view an animated video, using some of the book’s art, with voiceover by none other than Viggo Mortensen. (Think of it as Lord of the Rings, Part IV: The American Mordor Chronicles.) Finally, if you look below the video on that same page, you’ll see an autobiographical section of the new book, focusing on Zinn’s early years. (Click on each illustration to view a single page of text.) Have fun. Tom

Empire or Humanity?

What the Classroom Didn’t Teach Me About the American Empire
By Howard Zinn

With an occupying army waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with military bases and corporate bullying in every part of the world, there is hardly a question any more of the existence of an American Empire. Indeed, the once fervent denials have turned into a boastful, unashamed embrace of the idea.

However the very idea that the United States was an empire did not occur to me until after I finished my work as a bombardier with the Eighth Air Force in the Second World War, and came home. Even as I began to have second thoughts about the purity of the “Good War,” even after being horrified by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even after rethinking my own bombing of towns in Europe, I still did not put all that together in the context of an American “Empire.”

I was conscious, like everyone, of the British Empire and the other imperial powers of Europe, but the United States was not seen in the same way. When, after the war, I went to college under the G.I. Bill of Rights and took courses in U.S. history, I usually found a chapter in the history texts called “The Age of Imperialism.” It invariably referred to the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the conquest of the Philippines that followed. It seemed that American imperialism lasted only a relatively few years. There was no overarching view of U.S. expansion that might lead to the idea of a more far-ranging empire — or period — of “imperialism.”

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

For Immediate Release: List of Mass Graves at Residential Schools to be Issued this Thursday at Vancouver press conference

April 7, 2008
For Immediate Release:

List of Mass Graves at Residential Schools to be Issued this Thursday, April 10

Monday, April 7, 2008 – 12:30 pm, PST


A comprehensive list of mass graves of children at dozens of former Indian Residential Schools across Canada will be released to the media and the public this Thursday, April 10 at 12 noon at a special ceremony at the Indian Affairs office at 1138 Melville street in downtown Vancouver.

At the same event, an independent, non-governmental inquiry into crimes in Indian residential schools will be formally launched by aboriginal elders, including Squamish Hereditary Chief Kiapilano and Chief Red Jacket.

The event is sponsored by The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD).

For more information:

FRD spokesperson Rev. Kevin Annett

pager: 1-888-265-1007