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U.N. Probes Canada’s Neglect of Aboriginal Women #Vaw

By Sally Armstrong

WeNews guest author

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The first CEDAW investigation in a developed country is a “big black eye for Canada,” says one activist. The findings may not produce government action, but can stir activism, says Sally Armstrong in this excerpt from the book “Uprising.”

A placard in Vancouver with faces of some of the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
A placard in Vancouver with faces of some of the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.


Credit: M-J Milloy on Flickr, under Creative Commons

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Canada, the United States, Scandinavia, Europe and Australia all made significant strides in equality rights for women in the second half of the 20th century. But along the way, the rights of aboriginal women were ignored, just as aboriginal people themselves were left out of equality equations in nation-building.Uprising: A New Age Is Dawning for Every Mother's Daughter

When Amnesty International accused Canada of overlooking the possible serial killing of aboriginal women in two reports, one written in 2003 and the next in 2009, they reminded Canadians that violence against aboriginal women is a long-held and nasty secret. Their plight was the theme of George Ryga‘s brilliant play, “The Ecstasy of Rita Joe,” first performed at the Vancouver Play house in 1967. Later adapted as a ballet and translated into French, the play focused on violence perpetrated against the young Rita Joe at the hands of an entitled white society. When she was killed, nobody paid attention–which rang all too true in Canada.

So in 2003, when Amnesty International released its first report, “Stolen Sisters,”no one was really surprised that it addressed the fact that too many aboriginal women were missing in western Canada and not enough attention was being paid by the Canadian government. The report opened with the story of a woman whose name had become a symbol of struggle and the miscarriage of justice for the country’s aboriginal women.

Helen Betty Osborne was a 19-year-old Cree student from northern Manitoba who dreamed of becoming a teacher. On Nov. 13, 1971, she was abducted by four white men in the town of The Pas and then sexually assaulted and brutally murdered. A provincial inquiry subsequently concluded that Canadian authorities had failed Osborne. The inquiry criticized the sloppy and racially biased police investigation that took more than 15 years to bring one of the four men to justice. Most disturbingly, the inquiry concluded that police had long been aware of white men sexually preying on indigenous women and girls in The Pas but “did not feel that the practice necessitated any particular vigilance.” The 67-page report ended with a pointed demand that the government do something about it.

Official Obligations

Canadian officials have a clear and inescapable obligation to ensure the safety of indigenous women, to bring those responsible for attacks against them to justice and to address the deeper problems of marginalization, dispossession and impoverishment that have placed so many indigenous women in harm’s way.

Amnesty International included a petition with the report and encouraged all Canadians to sign it on behalf of the Stolen Sisters. It reads:

“Young aboriginal women in Canada are at least five times more likely than other women inCanada to die as a result of violence. Not enough is being done to ensure that these crimes are adequately investigated, or to address the discrimination and impoverishment that put so many aboriginal women in harm’s way. We, the undersigned, urge the Government of Canadato work with aboriginal women and aboriginal peoples’ organizations to develop a national plan of action to stop violence against indigenous women.”

It said such a plan of action must:

    • Recognize the high levels of violence faced by aboriginal women because they are aboriginal women.


    • Ensure effective, unbiased police response through appropriate training, resources and coordination.


    • Improve public awareness and accountability through the consistent collection and publication of comprehensive national statistics on violent crime against aboriginal women.


    • Reduce the risk to aboriginal women by closing the economic and social gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada.


The petition got plenty of signatures. But successive governments failed to take action, instead obfuscating, delaying and basically ignoring the issue. For instance, when the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women released its final report on violence against aboriginal women in December 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government completely ignored the report, as well as the input of the aboriginal women who had appeared before the committee.

Inquiry Launched

The Native Women’s Association of Canada, along with the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, took their complaint to the U.N. And the U.N., in keeping with the resolutions it has written (and rarely acted on) on violence against women, decided in December 2011 to send a team to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of hundreds of aboriginal women and girls in Canada, based on violations of the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. (Like most countries,Canada is a signatory to CEDAW and also to the Optional Protocol, which outlines a process for initiating an inquiry when the CEDAW Committee receives “reliable information indicating grave or systemic violations.”)

Relying on the Amnesty International reports, the CEDAW Committee noted that in 2008 the Canadian government had failed to live up to its obligations, and had failed again in 2010, stating, “The Committee considers that its recommendation [regarding missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls] has not been implemented and it requests the Canadian authorities to urgently provide further information on measures undertaken to address such concerns.” No information was forthcoming. So CEDAW called for its own investigation into a situation that Canada had refused to acknowledge.

‘Big Black Eye’

When 23 independent experts from around the world came to Canada, a country that prides itself on being a defender of human rights, to investigate a national tragedy that the federal government had ignored, it was strong medicine for “the true north.” Mary Eberts, who acts as legal counsel for the Native Women’s Association of Canada says, “This is the first time CEDAW has done an investigation in a developed country. It’s a big black eye for Canada.”

The inquiry wasn’t a criminal investigation; it was more about asking questions and writing a report for the U.N. It is already known that aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence three and a half times higher than non-aboriginal women, and young aboriginal women are five times more likely to die by violence. Aboriginal women in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and much of Central America also suffer from increased violence as well as poorer health and more poverty.

Eberts has no hope for government action even with the release of the U.N. report, which took place late last year, because “officials are woefully bad at doing due diligence. Nothing happens because of indifference.” But that doesn’t mean the report won’t have an effect, she says. “Women have to stop relying on governments to make change. Politicians love to talk about change; they talk for years about water quality, about aboriginals, about the environment. But the resistance to change is endemic. CEDAW doesn’t have the clout to make Canada do anything. But this report will build awareness with Canadians.”

Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, is preparing for action. “Within the hierarchy of First Nations, women have one of the most sacred roles– we are the life givers. With every generation there comes a chance to make the world anew. We have the possibility as women to truly shape the future, the future of humanity.”

Read the  from Human Rights Watch saying that a landmark Canadian parliamentary report released on March 7, 2014, failed to recommend needed steps to stem violence against indigenous women.

From “Uprising: The New Age is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter” by Sally Armstrong. Copyright © 2014by Sally Armstrong and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books.

Sally Armstrong is a three-time Amnesty International Canada award winner, a member of the Order of Canada, the holder of seven honorary degrees, a journalist and a humanitarian activist. She was a member of the International Women’s Commission, a U.N. body that consists of 20 Palestinian women, 20 Israeli women and 12 internationals whose mandate is assisting with the path to peace in the Middle East.

For More Information:


Buy the Book, “Uprising: A New Age Is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter”:


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Canada: Violence Against Indigenous Women #Vaw

Set National Inquiry, Investigate Police Misconduct
January 31, 2014

(Ottawa) – The Canadian government should set up an independent national inquiry into the violence experienced by indigenous women and girls and create a system for greater accountability for police misconduct, Human Rights Watch said today. Representatives from Human Rights Watch testified [2] on January 30, 2014, before the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women in the Canadian House of Commons. They also urged officials to hold police responsible for misconduct.

“When police abuse happens or when the police fail to provide adequate protection, women, girls, and their families have limited recourse,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The gravity of the crisis of violence against indigenous women inCanada [3] demands a national inquiry.”

Human Rights Watch research published in February 2013 documented [4] the Royal Canadian Mounted Police failure in northern British Columbia to protect indigenous women and girls from violence. Human Rights Watch also documented abusive police behavior against indigenous women and girls, including excessive use of force, and physical and sexual assault. Canada has inadequate police complaint mechanisms and oversight procedures, and has no requirement for independent civilian investigations into all reported incidents of serious police misconduct.

Parliament established the special all-party committee in February 2013 to hold hearings on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and to propose solutions to address root causes of the violence against indigenous women.


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Sex Work no longer crime in Canada #goodnews #womenrights

Supreme Court strikes down Canada‘s prostitution laws

Parliament has 1 year to bring in new law as Criminal Code provisions remain in place

CBC News Posted: Dec 20, 2013 9:53 AM ET Last Updated: Dec 20, 2013 10:40 PM ET

Prostitution laws struck down

Prostitution laws struck down

decision, and given Parliament one year to come up with new legislation — should it choose to do so. 

‘It is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money.’– Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, Supreme Court of Canada

In striking down laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients, the top court ruled Friday that the laws were over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.”

“Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the 9-0 decision that noted “it is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money.”

The ruling was in response to a court challenge by women with experience in the sex trade, Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott that had resulted in an Ontario court ruling that overturned the laws.

The Ontario Court of Appeal later upheld the law against communicating in public, but sided with the lower court in overturning the provisions against living off the avails and keeping a common bawdy house or brothel.

SCOC Bawdy House ChallengeSex workers advocate Valerie Scott, left, and Terri-Jean Bedford brought the case against Canada’s prostitution laws. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

“These appeals and the cross-appeal are not about whether prostitution should be legal or not. They are about whether the laws Parliament has enacted on how prostitution may be carried out pass constitutional muster. I conclude that they do not,” McLachlin wrote.

“I would therefore make a suspended declaration of invalidity, returning the question of how to deal with prostitution to Parliament.”

That means the provisions stay in the Criminal Code for the next year while the government decides what to do.

In a statement, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government would take the time to decide how to address “this very complex matter.”

“We are reviewing the decision and are exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution and vulnerable persons,” his statement said.

MacKay also said there are “a number of other Criminal Code provisions” in place to protect sex-trade workers “and to address the negative effects prostitution has on communities.”

The women in the case had argued that the law prevented them from safely conducting their business as sex-trade workers, arguing that hiring bodyguards and drivers, and being able to work in private homes or talk with potential clients in public were important to their safety.

“Now the government must tell Canadians, all consenting adults, what we can and cannot do in the privacy of our home for money or not. And they must write laws that are fair,” Bedford told reporters gathered in the foyer of the Supreme Court building in Ottawa on Friday.

One of her co-respondents in the appeal said a new law won’t work.

“The thing here is politicians, though they may know us as clients, they do not understand how sex work works,” said Scott. “They won’t be able to write a half-decent law. It will fail. That’s why you must bring sex workers to the table in a meaningful way.”

‘Sky’s not going to fall in’

Scott says new laws should be up to municipalities, not the federal government.

“If the Harper government rewrites laws, they will fail and the next generation of sex workers will be right back here. So let’s not be stupid, federal government. Let’s do something progressive, actually.”

Scott added that “the sky’s not going to fall in” with Friday’s ruling.

“People said that when women got the right to vote, equal pay, equal rights, and same sex marriage — all of those things, every single one, people said the sky would fall in. It did not. Society is the better for it and society will be the better for sex workers having proper civil and occupational rights.”

The women’s lawyer, Alan Young, said it was important to understand the ruling affects “one of the most under-enforced laws in the Canadian Criminal Code.

“The fact that people are crying that the law’s been invalidated, [they] don’t understand that the law’s been ineffective and largely just used in a discriminatory way.”

“We’re not really going to see any change tomorrow. It’s going to be business as usual,” Young said.

Others condemned the ruling.

“It’s a sad day that we’ve now had confirmed that it’s OK to buy and sell women and girls in this country. I think generations to come — our daughters, their granddaughters and on — will look back and say, ‘What were they thinking?,'” said Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and a member of the Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution.

“To say that [prostitution] is a choice when you’re talking about the women we work with is to say that in fact it’s OK to just exploit them,” Pate said.

“We’ve never seen men criminalized for buying and selling women and girls. We’ve always seen women criminalized for selling themselves. We absolutely object to the criminalization of women. Our position would not interfere with those women who truly have made their choices.”

Worry about ‘open season’ for prostitution

Don Hutchinson, vice-president and general legal counsel for Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said his group wants Parliament to come back with a new law that would “criminalize the purchase of sex and provide support services for those who wish to exit the sex trade.

“What we’re suggesting is that for the first time in Canada, prostitution would be illegal. The purchase of sexual services or the rental of somebody’s body would become illegal,” Hutchinson said.

“If there’s no replacement legislative scheme, then it’s open season in regard to prostitution.”

Lebovitch, however, said the decision will help protect sex-trade workers.

“I am shocked and amazed that sex work and the sex work laws that affect our lives on a daily basis will within a year not cause us harm any more.”

“It’s a huge victory for all the people in Vancouver, all my sisters out there who are going to be safe. It’s just a huge, huge victory. I’m so happy,” added Lorna Bird of the advocacy group Sex Workers United Against Violence.

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Canada needs to recognize caste-based oppression as a form of Racism

by GURPREET SINGH on OCT 26, 2013 at 11:16 AM

The Dalits, also known as Untouchables, continue facing discrimination in India and in Canada.

IT IS HIGH time that Canada, which claims to be a leader in human rights, follow the European Parliament and recognize caste-based oppression as a form of racism.

In a major victory for Dalits—or so-called untouchables across the world—the European Parliament has acknowledged that caste-based discrimination is a global evil. The move follows a consistent campaign by the Dalit activists in the U.K. and elsewhere to get international recognition of this age-old crime against humanity.

Dalits, who have been repeatedly humiliated and abused in caste-ridden Indian society, continue to face oppression, even in the South Asian diaspora.

The caste system has prevailed in India for centuries and its roots can be traced to Hindu religion. There are four distinct caste groups: Brahmins (priests) on the top, followed by Kshatriyas (rulers), Vaishyas (agriculturists and artisans), and Shudras (those who do menial jobs).

Though the supporters of this inhuman system claim that it was the creation of the gods, it was clearly man-made and brought into practice by those who had the power and desire to bring the less privileged under subjugation. As a result, Dalits have been forced since time immemorial to indulge in menial and lowly jobs, such as manual scavenging and serving the rich as bonded labourers.

Since the European Parliament has admitted that this problem is not just confined to South Asia, Canada should also look into this question seriously. Dalits have a significant presence in certain areas of Canada and have their own Sikh temples, while many others follow Christianity and Buddhism.

There are numerous instances of caste-based discrimination against Dalits in the culturally diverse Greater Vancouver area. As a result some Dalit activists are contemplating pushing this issue through tthe Canadian parliament.

Legislative changes could provide protection for Dalits from hate crimes in the name of caste. However, the main challenge is likely to come from their own compatriots from the Indo Canadian community. No MPs who trace their roots back to India belong to the Dalit community. And most Indo Canadian elected representatives are from dominant caste groups.

In India, Dalits are often denied entry to the temples and other public places in accordance with an orthodox Hindu tradition that prohibits those on the lowest ladder of the caste system from mingling with those on the top. Recently, when Indians were celebrating the 66th Independence Day across the world, an 80-year-old Dalit was stoned to death by the so-called upper-caste goons in Bihar.

His fault was that he and others like him dared to hoist the national flag of their country, defying illegitimate dictates of the “upper caste” people asking them not to do so.

It was not the first time that the Dalits faced such brutality for defying the dictates of the privileged group who had imposed this system on “Untouchables” for their own convenience.

Even the elected members of the village councils from the Dalit community have faced such violence in the past for unfurling the national flag. All this goes on in a country known to be the world’s largest secular democracy, decades after it had gained freedom from the British occupation.

The political leadership of India has clearly failed to keep up its commitment for a true secular republic in spite of stringent laws against untouchability, which has its roots in the Hindu religion. If India is a secular state, then why does it lack a political will to eradicate this inhumane practice sanctioned by the oldest and the most dominant religious faith once and for all?

In the states governed by the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party, anti-conversion laws have been passed to prevent people from changing their religion. This has occurred without addressing the caste issue, which is the root cause behind religious conversions.

Often, people from the Dalit community are compelled to become Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, or Buddhists. These conversions are actually an act of resistance against this barbarity. It is a separate matter that their social conditions do not change with religious conversions either. The caste system continues to haunt Dalits in other faiths alike. For instance, Sikhism, which is a very modern and progressive religion of India, also faces this problem.

The birth of Sikhism in Punjab was of great significance. That’s because this religion vehemently defied the caste system by allowing Dalits to come into its fold without fear.

The holy scripture of the Sikhs include hymns by Dalit saints, and Sikh temples are open to all the caste groups. The 10th and the last master of the Sikh faith, Guru Gobind Singh, laid the foundation of the Khalsa Panth—the militant arm of the Sikh religion that took Dalits under its wings.

This force was created to challenge the might of Islamic imperialism by bringing the marginalized section of the society under its umbrella. Guru Gobind Singh understood the power of people’s unity. Bringing Dalits into the Khalsa Panth was a revolutionary act of its time, and quickly came under attack from the fundamentalist Hindu chieftains, who could not tolerate any amount of equality to the oppressed classes.

It is equally important to note that degeneration in adherence to the original Sikh religion resulted in similar caste divisions within the Sikh community. This degeneration started showing its signs when the British rulers annexed Punjab in 1849.

The pro-British Sikh clergy openly connived with foreign rulers and allowed casteism to be practised even in Sikh temples. It is for this reason that Dalit Sikhs started getting marginalized and were attracted to other progressive breakaway sects, such as Namdharis.

The caste-based oppression within the Sikh faith has created conditions in which we see mushrooming of many other breakaway sects, as well as segregation on the basis of caste within Sikh temples both in India and outside the country.

Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Canada’s 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings. He has a Facebook page called We Are All Untouchables!!! 
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Canada has NO place for poor Activists from India #discrimination #mustread


Monday, 07 October 2013 | Moushumi Basu | New Delhi

It was a moment of rare honour for Sabitri Patra and Gopal Chandra Mandal — two conservationists from remote villages near Niyamgiri hills and Sunderbans in Odisha and West Bengal respectively. They were invited by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and officially registered by its Secretariat to participate in its meetings in Montreal from October 7 to October 18. 

As per the agreement between the CBD Secretariat and the Canadian Government, the visa of the participants is to be promptly processed free of cost. To their surprise, the duo had to pay for their visa applications, which were rejected on grounds that they possessed insufficient funds in their personal account.

While Gopal is actively involved in restoration of mangrove ecology and developing community-owned mangrove forests in the vicinity of local villages, Sabitri had been working with the Kutia Kondh communities (particularly vulnerable tribal Group) near Niyamgiri hills. She had even participated in the 2012 CBD summit in Hyderabad.

“I was all set to board my flight on Thursday, but just a day before I got a letter from Canada Citizenship and Immigration office saying my application had been rejected,” Gopal said. “I was told I did not have sufficient funds, income or assets… to maintain myself in Canada,” he added.

While the visa officer also considered that the application had not clarified the “Purpose of Visit,” Gopal had a registration letter signed by the Executive Secretary of the CBD confirming that he “has been officially nominated to attend” the concerned CBD meetings.

He also had another letter from a sponsor confirming to cover all his expenses during his stay in Canada. Further, even the return air ticket was furnished along with the application. However, in spite of all these documents, they rejected the visa.

For her part, Sabitri also faced a similar plight. “Poor persons like us cannot hope to go to Canada,” an upset Sabitri said.S Faizi, ecologist, chairing the Board of CBD Alliance and specialising in International Environmental Policy, said, “Canada has breached the headquarters’ Agreement it has signed at the highest level with the United Nations Environment Programme for hosting the CBD Secretariat.”


Read more –


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Canada’s ‘Honor’ Crime Funding Decried as Biased #Vaw #Justice

By Sadiya Ansari

WeNews correspondent

Critics say the government’s targeting of anti-violence funds on specific groups of women–such as those from Muslim and South Asian communities–worsens victims’ isolation and undermines a wider push for women’s safety.

Children hold their flags at a Canadian Islamic Cultural Expo.
Children hold their flags at a Canadian Islamic Cultural Expo.



Credit: By Shazron on Flickr, under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


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VANCOUVER, Canada (WOMENSENEWS)–Federal funding to combat “honor-based violence” is isolating immigrant women from other victims of gender-based violence by creating a different “ethnic” category of violence, critics say.

“When a white woman is killed by her domestic partner or family we ask very individual questions about the circumstances,” said Itrath Syed, a former shelter worker in Vancouver who is now pursuing a doctoral degree examining Islamophobia. “When women of color are killed, we ask these larger questions around their culture. We ask what’s wrong with their entire people — their culture, their religion — instead of a particular person.”

The Canadian media have intensely covered two cases of fatal domestic violence in Muslim families.

Crown prosecutors called the murder of Aqsa Parvez an “honor killing.” The 16-year-old was killed by her father and brother, Muhammed Parvez and Waqas Parvez, in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga in 2007.

In 2008, three teens and the first wife of Mohammed Shafia were killed in Kingston, Ontario, by Shafia, his second wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed. When all three were convicted of first-degree murder in 2012, the presiding judge said the crime was based on “a completely twisted concept of honor . . . that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”

Crimes widely labeled “honor killings” are the type of violence that Status of Women, a government agency created to advance women’s issues, aims to target.

“The terminology is used in order to highlight that this form of violence is sometimes associated with unique risk factors and requires a specialized response,” the agency said in a September statement.

‘Harmful Cultural Practices’

Since 2007, Status of Women has provided $2.8 million for projects that “address harmful cultural practices.”

Ninu Kang is director of family programs for MOSAIC, an immigrant services organization in Vancouver that received $200,000 of that funding for a two-year project to prevent honor-based violence.

The project will conduct focus groups with men and women in the South Asian community and then create targeted approaches to crime prevention based on this assessment.

Kang said her organization identifies the issue as honor crimes because of special cultural dimensions to the violence and fear that women in this community suffer. Some women, for instance, will not want to leave a marriage because it will shame the family and because no one had ever been divorced before.

“We could see there was an undertone of honor,” Kang said.

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women also has funding to prevent honor-based violence, but it prefers not to use the term in its own programming.

Executive Director Alia Hogben said she prefers the term femicide. She doesn’t agree with Status of Womenthat there are “unique risk factors” in certain communities.

Risks Tied to Power, Control

“These murders are happening, but I don’t think there are unique risk factors,” Hogben said in a phone interview. “I think there are some things that happen that have to do with fundamentally, the control and power men want to have over women: daughters, wives, mothers.”

The organization applied to this pot of funding to develop toolkits on forced marriages, female genital mutilation and femicide for its local chapters

Rubaiyat Karim is an advocate with 10 years’ experience working with women who have suffered domestic violence. She is now the program manager of the York Region Center for Community Safety just outsideToronto. She challenges a rarified view of honor crimes, saying all forms of violence against women have an element of honor.

“I think honor is tied to masculinity,” said Karim.

She compares a man getting jealous over his female partner texting another man to be about ego — in essence, honor. For her, this label creates a false choice for organizations; having to choose between racism and sexism.

“Immigration policy can be very inclusionary and preach the language of multi-culturalism,” Karim said. “But if we really want to talk about multiculturalism, we need to address the Orientalist mentality of government.”

Karim said the agency’s funding method encourages organizations to say their communities in particular have major problems. “What we really need is a larger federal policy on gender equality.”

Gender Equality‘ Disappeared

Political advocacy was cut from the listed activities eligible for funding by Status of Women by the Conservative government in 2011 and the terminology “advancing gender equality” disappeared from the agency’s mandate.

When the Conservatives first took power in 2006, 12 out of 16 Status of Women offices were shut down across the country, cutting 61 jobs out of the 131 positions that existed at the agency at the time.

The targeted use of depleted resources in ethnic communities is deliberate, said Sunera Thobani, aprofessor of women’s studies at the University of British Columbia and former president of president of theNational Action Committee on the Status of Women, Canada‘s largest feminist organization.

“I really consider this an attempt by the Canadian state to shape feminist politics in the country,” Thobani said. “In a perverse kind of way, it blames women for the violence they experience because in a way, it says it’s sanctioned by your culture.”

Thobani also sees the continuation of a longstanding government practice to separate immigrant women from the mainstream. In the 1990s the issues were different, for example dowries, but the implication of exclusion was very similar.

Sadiya Ansari is a Pakistani-Canadian journalist based in Vancouver and a former Women’s eNews intern.

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Canada – Every Year Nestlé Waters extracts 265 million litres of fresh water for free #WTFnews

The price of a litre of bottled water in B.C. is often higher than a litre of gasoline.

However, the price paid by the world’s largest bottled water company for taking 265 million litres of fresh water every year from a well in the Fraser Valley — not a cent.

Because of B.C.’s lack of groundwater regulation, Nestlé Waters Canada — a division of the multi-billion-dollar Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, the world’s largest food company — is not required to measure, report, or pay a penny for the millions of litres of water it draws from Hope and then sells across Western Canada.

According to the provincial Ministry of Environment, “B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn’t regulate groundwater use.”


“The province does not license groundwater, charge a rental for groundwater withdrawals or track how much bottled water companies are taking from wells,” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson in an email to The Province.

This isn’t new. Critics have been calling for change for years now, saying the lack of groundwater regulation is just one outdated example from the century-old Water Act.

The Ministry of Environment has said they plan — in the 2014 legislature sitting — to introduce groundwater regulation with the proposed Water Sustainability Act, which would update and replace the existing Water Act, established in 1909. But experts note that successive governments have been talking about modernizing water for decades, but the issue keeps falling off the agenda.

This time, many hope it will be different.

“It’s really the Wild West out here in terms of groundwater. And it’s been going on for over 20 years, that the Ministry of Environment, the provincial government has been saying that they’re going to make these changes, and it just hasn’t gone through yet,” said Linda Nowlan, conservation director from World Wildlife Fund Canada.


In the District of Hope, Nestlé’s well draws from the same aquifer relied upon by about 6,000 nearby residents, and some of them are concerned.

“We have water that’s so clean and so pure, it’s amazing. And then they take it and sell it back to us in plastic bottles,” said Hope resident Sharlene Harrison-Hinds.

Sheila Muxlow lives in nearby Chilliwack, downstream the Fraser River from Hope. As campaign director for the WaterWealth Project, she often hears from Hope residents who worry about the government’s lack of oversight with Nestlé’s operations there.

“It’s unsettling,” Muxlow said. “What’s going to happen in the long term, if Nestlé keeps taking and taking and taking?”

While Nestlé is the largest bottled water seller in B.C., others, including Whistler Water and Mountain Spring Water, also draw groundwater from B.C.

When asked by The Province, those companies declined to release the volume of their withdrawals.

RELATED STORY  – Nestlé’s – Cut back on water take during droughts is not in the public interest.


Nestlé is one of the largest employers in the District of Hope, providing about 75 jobs, said District of Hope chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky. Though Nestlé is not required to measure and report their water withdrawals to the government, the company voluntarily reports to the District of Hope, said a Nestlé Waters Canada executive, reached in Guelph, Ont. last week.

“What we do in Hope exceeds what is proposed by the province of British Columbia,” said John Challinor, Nestlé Waters Canada’s director of corporate affairs. Nestle keeps records of water quality and the company’s mapping of the underground water resources in the area exceeds what government scientists have done, Challinor said.

“We do these annual reports … We’re doing it voluntarily with (the local government). If we are asked to provide it as a condition of a new permit, that’s easy to do, because we’re already doing it,” Challinor said.


But the fact that Nestlé’s reports are internal and voluntary is the very issue of concern, said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“There’s a big, big difference between voluntary reporting and mandatory,” said Parfitt. “If it’s voluntary, there’s nothing to stop a company or major water user from choosing not to report … That is absolutely critical. You can’t run a system like this on a voluntary basis.”

Since groundwater remains unregulated in B.C., Nestle does not require a permit for the water they withdraw.

“No permit, no reporting, no tracking, no nothing,” said David Slade, co-owner of Drillwell Enterprises, a Vancouver Island well-drilling company. “So you could drill a well on your property, and drill it right next to your neighbour’s well, and you could pump that well at 100 gallons a minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and waste all the water, pour it on the ground if you wanted to … As far as depleting the resource, or abusing the resource, there is no regulation. So it is the Wild, Wild West.”


The Council of Canadians, a national citizen advocacy group, takes the position that water should be treated as apublic trust, a valuable resource protected for the benefit of all Canadians.

But when the government allows a multi-billion dollar, international corporation to withdraw water for free to sell back to us, this doesn’t seem to serve the public good, said Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, reached in Ottawa. Compared with the rest of the country, Lui said, “When you look at all these different factors, B.C. actually is doing quite poorly: that they don’t include groundwater (in their water licensing system), they don’t have any sort of public registry of who’s taking groundwater, they don’t charge.”

Nestlé is far from the only large company withdrawing B.C.’s groundwater for free, and Challinor said Nestlé is

HOPE, BC -- August  12,  2013 --  Sheila Muxlow has concerns about Nestle withdrawing millions of litres of water without payment, outside Nestle's bottling plant near Hope on August 12, 2013.

“largely supportive of what the government is trying to do” with modernizing the Water Act. He said he plans to sit down with B.C.’s new environment minister Mary Polak in the fall, to discuss these issues. Nestle supports the government moving toward increased regulation, monitoring and reporting.

As far as the government charging for groundwater, Challinor said “We have no problem with paying for water, as long as the price is based on the actual cost of regulating the program.”

If you walk into Cooper’s Foods in downtown Hope — less than 5 km away from Nestlé’s bottling plant — and buy a 1.5 litre bottle of Nestlé Pure Life water, it will set you back $1.19.

That’s $1.19 more than Nestle paid to the government last year for withdrawing more than 265 million litres of fresh water from the well.

Nestlé’s other water bottling plant in Canada is in Wellington County, Ont., where the province requires them to buy a licence and pay for the water they extract. Some critics, including Lui and Parfitt, feel that Ontario’s charge of $3.71 per million litres is still too paltry. But still, they say, it’s more fair than B.C. charging nothing.


ALSO READ: Nestle-is-sucking-an-ontario-town-dry-for-bottled-water/

AND READ: Harper’s water privatization

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Canada -10 years in prison if you wear a ‘mask” at a protest #WTFnews

By Jeff Blagdon on June 20, 2013 


Gallery Photo:

Canada’s controversial Concealment of Identity Act banning the wearing of masks during riots and “unlawful assemblies” has just gone into law, carrying with it a 10-year maximum sentence, reports CBC News. The private member’s bill was introduced in 2011 by MP Blake Richards in response to the increasing prevalence of vandalism at political protests and sporting events.




It’s noteworthy that there is already a federal law in Canada that prohibits wearing a disguise “with intent to commit an indictable offence” and carries the same 10-year maximum. The distinction in language is deliberate: Richards has criticized the existing law for its high burden of proof. Now, instead of requiring intent to commit a criminal act in order to charge a protester, he or she only needs to be in attendance at an unlawful assembly. Richards has insisted that the law is necessary for dealing with protesters “pre-emptively,” before a protest escalates. And what distinguishes an unlawful assembly from a lawful one? The CBC points out that it’s “an assembly of three or more persons who, with intent to carry out any common purpose, assemble in such a manner… as to cause persons in the neighbourhood… to fear… that they will disturb the peace tumultuously.”

Many, such as Osgoode Hall Law School Professor James Stribopoulos, have pointed to the possible “chilling effects” posed by making it unlawful to disguise one’s identity at a protest, say to prevent against reprisals from your boss or coworkers, or to avoid facial recognition software. The CBC notes that exceptions can be made for “lawful excuses” for face covergings, like religion or medical conditions, but Stribopoulos has countered that most judgments about an excuse’s “lawfulness” will fall to police in the field.

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Canada:”Significance Level 1 “incident at nuke reactor–Public not Alerted!!

Title: Atomic Energy of Canada says no danger during nuclear ‘near-miss’
Date: May 15, 2013
h/t Anonymous tip

[…] a Chalk River nuclear operator mistakenly closed a vital pumping system that cools the immense heat generated within the NRU reactor’s core […]

[…] the Crown corporation said the Feb. 27 event — which the official report characterized as a “near-miss” — needs to be taken very seriously. […]

[Randy Lesco, vice-president of operations and chief nuclear officer for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd] said that further categorizing the incident as at “Significance Level 1,” the highest order, means AECL is treating it with appropriate importance […]

CNSC President Michael Binder questioned why AECL and CNSC staff did not alert the public to the incident, which the Citizen first reported on May 8. […]

Full report here



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A Song of Protest from Northeast – #India, Your Constitution Has Nothing for Me #AFSPA

Ronid Chingangbam

© Divya Adusumilli 2013
Pic courtesy- Divya Adusumilli 2013

Blood soaked streets

That’s my ground
That’s where i play around
Sound of gunshots
That’s my song
That’s my lulla- lullaby

Your revolution has snatched away
My right to education

Te te tenouwa
Kangleipakki tenouwa
angang na mullaga
tenouwa na haraoiwi
oooooh ooooooohhhh
Uhdei saba nongmeini
mana pangba makhoini

Blood soaked body
That’s my daddy
You just shot him
You just killed him…………………
We dont need your guns and bombs
We just need songs of love

Your constitution has nothing for me
All you do is kill my innocence

Te te tenouwa
Kangleipakki tenouwa
angang na mullaga
tenouwa na haraoiwi
oooooh ooooooohhhh
Uhdei saba nongmeini
mana pangba makhoini

Fallen bodies like
Fallen leaves of October
But you don’t care
You bomb a town
That’s my town
That’s where i play around

Don’t fill our lives with throes of pain
Share a smile so we can bloom again

Listen to the song

Ronid Chingangbam (Akhu) is a singer/songwriter from Imphal. He also leads the folk rock band Imphal Talkies. He holds a PhD degree in Physics from Jamia Millia Islamia.Original post-


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