International Day of the Disappeared 2022, Canada still isn’t party to the Convention on Enforced Disappearances

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One of the most insidious forms of human rights violations and state terrorism involves enforced and involuntary disappearance. Enforced disappearance requires consent, conspiracy, and impunity of government forces. It sends a chill through opposition political movements which it is intended to suppress and launches a nightmare existence for the families of the victims.

The 30th August is designated as the International Day of the Disappeared.

Due to the repressive nature of this human rights crime on nonviolent civil movements, Nonviolence International is a member organization of the The International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED). ICAED is a global network of organizations of families of disappeared and NGO’s whose principal objective is maximizing impact of the activities carried out by its members in favour of ratification by governments, and effective implementation, of the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and other measures to end the human rights crime of enforced disappearances.

Nonviolence International Canada has advocated for the Canadian government to join the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances at its soonest opportunity. As of 2022, the Canadian government is still not a state party to this important human rights convention.

As well as enforced disappearances, thousands are missing due to armed conflict and migration. To mark the Day of the Disappeared, the International Committee of the Red Cross marks this difficult day with a beautiful tribute, which can be watched here.

Also read the Nonviolence International publication: Justice Disappeared: Exploring the Links of Arms Trade, Impunity and Political Disappearances in Asia [2007]

Nonviolence International (NVI)-Ukraine has worked for years to promote peace & reconciliation in Ukraine.

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NVI-Ukraine has worked for years to promote peace & reconciliation in Ukraine.

1) NVI-Ukraine serves as the coordinator of the Eastern European Network for the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). GPPAC is the longstanding network of peace groups in the region. GPPAC has long worked to ameliorate internal ethnic, religious and community conflicts in Ukraine and the region. You can see statements from GPPAC below on the current war.

2) NVI-Ukraine hosts a nascent Ukrainian Stop the War Coalition. This is a network of groups in Ukraine working to nonviolently resist the Russian invasion and to support the Russian anti-war movement. See below for details on its membership.

3) NVI-Ukraine is currently focusing on how to address ordinary Russian citizen with anti-war messaging. Although Russia is a dictatorship – public opinion does matter a lot. In fact, the Russian government is not able to currently sell to its own population the concept of an all-out war against Ukraine, thus it uses euphemisms such as a “special military operation” etc. Due to this – the government cannot announce a full mobilization, it does not have the legal instruments to send people to the battle zone against their will and so on.

As the war drags on, Russia’s key military objectives remain unfulfilled. The Russian government is tempted to carry out more and more measures which will gradually put the entire country in a de-facto state of war, even if war is never officially announced. This cannot be done without significantly increasing pressure and demands on all of society. Our hope is that if anti-war attitudes and resistance will continue to grow, while the motivation of those who support the government remains insufficient, this will put the country’s leadership in a situation where it will have no other option as to seek peace and discontinue its imperialist policies.  You can see NVI’s internal public opinion and messaging reports here.

4) NVI-Ukraine continues to work closely with a variety if international efforts to facilitate visits, meetings, delegations, humanitarian efforts, and project explorations. We would like to draw attention the work of Nonviolent Peaceforce, Patrir, and PAX. We also speak out to the media on nonviolent alternatives in Ukraine, Russia, and the region. See below for media interviews.


Ukrainian Stop the War Coalition

Nonviolence International-Ukraine is supporting the Ukrainian Stop the War Coalition (USWC) which is building a network of activists and groups to resist the Russian invasion and to support peacebuilding efforts that can provide a platform for future reconciliation. The USWC is focusing on

1) supporting nonviolent resistance to Russian occupation,

2) promoting war-resistance, both passive and active, in Russia and Belarus,

3) strengthening the social fabric in Ukraine created by the war, such as between internally displaced people and their host communities.

NVI is asking for supporters to donate generously. Nonviolence International, based in DC, will provide administration and fiscal sponsorship support.

Steering Committee

Andre Kamenshikov, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), regional network coordinator for Eastern Europe, 30 years of practical experience in civil peacebuilding and humanitarian work in Russia, Ukraine and post-soviet states. Based in Kyiv.

Olha Zaiarna, GPPAC regional liaison officer, researcher with experience in both government and public institutions working on peacebuilding and conflict management. (Based in Kyiv)

Dmitro Zvonok, socio-psychologist, trainer at the Ukrainian Peacebuilding School initiative, dialogue facilitator, developer of a number of educational games for dealing with conflicts on a community level, internally displaced person from eastern Ukraine.

Igor Semivolos, Head of Association for Middle Eastern Studies of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, founder of the Ukrainian Peacebuilding School initiative.

The USWC will focus its efforts in the following 3 areas. However, given the fast-moving events on the ground, priorities may understandably shift.


Nonviolence International is proud that Andre Kamenshikov, NVI Ukraine director, was part of this impressive gathering.

Civil Resistance in Ukraine and the Region

How does civil resistance work and what can it achieve? This panel shares how civilians are using strategic civil resistance to diminish the power and impact of the Russian military.

In Ukraine, civilians replace road signs to confuse Russian military vehicles, they block roads with cement blocks and iron pins, and they have set up a complex humanitarian aid system with neighboring countries. Within Russia, protests and resignations by universities, media outlets, and professionals denounce the military invasion. Join us to learn more about the strategy of civil resistance in Ukraine and the region.

Panelists include leading experts in civil resistance, some joining us from the frontlines in Kyiv.


As a member of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), Nonviolence International supports and endorses the following statement made by GPPAC. We note that the tensions around Ukraine and the potential for war will have destructive consequences for all citizens and all nations involved. Now more than ever do we stand for diplomacy in a coalition with other nonviolent actors. We hope you do the same.

Demonstrators for Peace (Source – Dmitry Serebryakov/AP Photo)


GPPAC Statement on the situation around Ukraine, February 24, 2022

As a global network of peacebuilders, GPPAC is gravely concerned by the situation around Ukraine. We condemn the military operations launched by Russia today on February 24, in violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. We call for an immediate cessation of all military actions which threaten the lives and livelihoods of citizens of all countries involved. In particular, we urge:

  • All parties to uphold obligations under international humanitarian law regarding conduct during wartime.
  • The international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine.
  • Third parties, especially EU countries, to provide safe haven for those people who do not wish to take part in wars of aggression.

The international community must pursue all possible efforts urgently to resolve this crisis through non-violent, diplomatic means, and support antiwar and humanitarian efforts of civil society as well as do everything possible to guarantee the safety and security of the people of Ukraine.


Please see NVI’s database of Nonviolent Tactics. 

There is enormous civilian resistance to this war around the world. In Russia, hundreds of thousands of people have protested with signs and chanting in the streets and more than 7000 have been arrested. In Ukraine we see enormous civil resistance with tactics including various kinds of blockades, mutual aid, changing streets signs, boycotting Russian products, direct appeals to soldiers, singing. Please visit our database of 350 tactics that can inspire people around the world to do something at this time.


Below you will find a collection of our current resources on Ukraine including press releases, media appearances, statements we support, and shared perspectives. We hope that these not only inform you about Ukraine and nonviolence efforts surrounding it but also that it inspires you to walk with us in nonviolence and support peace activists bravely taking on this stand.

 

Police Officers Arresting Protesters in St.Petersburg (Source: Aljazeera)

Nonviolence International calls for asylum for war resisters, Feb 24, 2022

Nonviolence International supports the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict calling on peace-loving countries around the world to offer asylum to war resisters to help alleviate suffering and potential injury and destruction in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Countries should announce that they will provide asylum for people who refuse to fight in the war. War resistance defections could happen in large numbers and serve as a deterrent to escalating warfare. The status of war resister should include those who refuse to cross borders to wage war in another country.  If soldiers request asylum because they conscientiously object to military orders or service, they should not be treated as prisoners of war but swiftly transferred to a 3rd country that will provide them safety.  This status will not be provided to those that fight and subsequently surrender. They should be treated as prisoners of war and treated humanely as per the Geneva Conventions.

We call on Belarus, Russia and Ukraine (and all countries in the world) to honor the conscientious objection of their own citizens and of those in the opposing military forces. We call on Belarus, Russia and Ukraine to cooperate with 3rd countries and swiftly transfer them abroad if the resisters so request.

If countries would like to be more generous to these courageous war resisters, then they should offer asylum to their immediate families as well.

We believe there are many who will not want to fight in this war. People who refuse to use violence must be protected. Nonviolence International stands in solidarity with all conscientious objectors around the world and supports the work of War Resisters’ International to end all war.  If the soldiers do not fight, then wars cannot be fought.

# # #


Media Releases

February 25, 2022: English-Speaking Expert Available to Speak to Media from Ukraine. 

February 18, 2022: A Chance for Peace: OSCE Must Strengthen the Ukraine Peace Monitoring Mission. The US Must Reverse Its Withdrawal of OSCE Peace Observers.


Media Appearances

Michael Beer speaks with Metta Spencer about reaching out to Russians to end the war. https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-459-reach-out-to-russians/

Michael Beer speaks on February 23, 2022: WBAI News with Paul DeRienzo: Biden Sanctions Russia, Peacekeeping Troops Arrive, Ukraine Defiant ( Michael speaks at 13:40-18:38)


Andre Kamenshikov, NVI Ukraine Director, speaks on March 2, 2022 Democracy Now!: Nonviolence Int’l in Kyiv: Resistance Mounts to Russian Invasion as 2,000 Civilian Deaths Reported


Andre Kamenshikov speaks with NVI intern Paige Wright on March 7, 2022: Interview with Andre Kamenshikov: Violence in Ukraine and a Call for Peace


Andre Kamenshikov speaks on WORT radio on March 9, 2022: Kamenshikov on Russia’s 8 Year War in Ukraine


Shared Perspectives

Below is a collection NVI’s press releases and statements from other organizations we support.

The Humanitarian Disarmament website launched a new Ukraine War and Disarmament Resources page to increase public understanding of the humanitarian disarmament issues raised by the war in Ukraine and to serve as an information center for advocates, journalists, and others.

Former NVI Intern now teaching English in Prague shares her perspective as war refugees are welcomed.

Our friends at the Metta Center for Nonviolence have created this impressive list of relevant resources.

Don’t miss this collection from the Transnational Institute.

Statement from over 100 peace groups.

Daniel Hunter says Ukraine’s Secret Weapon may prove to be Nonviolent Direct Action.

Peace Direct’ Statement on Ukraine and Russia

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’ Condemnation of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Stephen Zunes calls on us to Support International Law Everywhere

John Feffer asks that we Support Diplomacy and the OSCE

Joanne Sheehan notes that war is a crime against humanity on the Metta Center’s podcast.

Move On Petition

Examining Peace in Canada 2022

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How do we measure peace? The 2022 Global Peace Index (GPI) released in June 2022 and has the un-enviable task of determining the peacefulness in our globally diverse societies.

Compared to other countries, Canada’s has been dropping in the ranks. We were near the top in sixth position 2020 and 2019.

For smugness, yes, we rate far above our southern neighbour, who came in at 129 (out of 163 countries measured).

The ranking across countries takes into account governance types, claims that its indicators cover 99.7 per cent of the global population, and uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators in three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.

The GPI also seeks to identify trends in Positive Peace: the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies, and examines the relationship between the actual peace of a country, as measured by the GPI, and Positive Peace, and how a deficit of Positive Peace can be a predictor of future increases in violent conflict.

The indicators are: External Conflicts Fought; Perceptions of Criminality; Internal Conflicts Fought; Incarceration Rate; Intensity of Internal Conflict; Violent Demonstrations; Terrorism Impact; Nuclear and Heavy Weapons; Deaths from External Conflict; Weapons Imports; Violent Crime; Political Instability; Neighbouring Countries Relations; Access to Small Arms; Police Rate; Armed Services Personnel Rate; Weapons Exports; Homicide Rate; Military Expenditure (% GDP); Refugees and IDPs; Political Terror Scale; Deaths from Internal Conflict; UN Peacekeeping Funding.

According to the 2022 GPI, “Canada recorded the largest deterioration in score in the North America region in 2022. Significant deterioration in the Safety and Security domain in 2022 led to Canada falling four places in the GPI 2022 to 12th place, a 4.8 per cent deterioration. Anti-government sentiment in response to measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 coincided with significant deteriorations in violent demonstrations, perceptions of criminality and political terror indicators. Despite this fall in peacefulness, Canada continues to be the most peaceful nation in the region with notable reductions in the terrorism impact and nuclear and heavy weapons indicators.”

There are subsections of the GPI which look at each of the above indicators in itself and regionally. Specific changes, either positive or negative for individual countries can be found. The report is important reading for everyone concerned with the building of more peaceful societies. That should be all of us….

Global Peace Index 2022, June 2022

Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP). IEP is headquartered in Sydney, with offices in New York, The Hague, Mexico City, Brussels and Harare.

World Peace Congress in Barcelona 15-17 October 2021 online

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The Second IPB World Congress will provide a space for gathering and sharing experiences for all involved in international peace and justice movements.

A place where we can foster synergies between organizations and individuals, and between interconnected social movements fighting for global justice: peace and disarmament advocates, feminist and LGBTQIA+ campaigners, ecologists and climate activists, antiracists and indigenous people, human rights defenders and trade unionists.

We promote the inclusion of a peace perspective within these movements, in order to better confront the global challenges of our time: climate change and environmental collapse, gender, racial and economic inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic, mass migrations, refugee crisis, humanitarian emergencies caused by war and repression, and more.

The Second IPB World Congress is an opportunity for diverse people, groups and causes to share strategies and to articulate alternatives together. A space to create and renovate tools

and discourse, to mobilize citizens from all across the globe in favor of peace and disarmament. A place where we can (re) imagine our world, and take action for peace and justice. We invite you to join us at the Second World Peace Congress in Barcelona, organized by the International Peace Bureau.

Agenda and Registration

Nonviolence International is a Board member organization of the International Peace Bureau.

Nonviolence International will be represented by Ms. Roisin Putti at the session on military spending on 16 October at 15:00 CET.

UN International Day of Nonviolence

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The United Nations International Day of Non-Violence is observed on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

The General Assembly resolution, A/RES/61/271 of 15 June 2007, which established the  the International Day is an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence”.

Mahatma Gandhi, who helped lead India to independence, has been the inspiration for non-violent movements for civil rights and social change across the world. Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to his belief in non-violence even under oppressive conditions and in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Gandhi believed that the means and the ends are indivisible, and that it is irrational to try to use violence to achieve a peaceful society.

The principle of non-violence — also known as non-violent resistance or political struggle — rejects the use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change. Often described as “the politics of ordinary people”, this form of social struggle has been adopted by mass populations all over the world in campaigns for social justice.

The late Gene Sharp, a leading scholar on non-violent resistance, provided the following definition in his publication, The Politics of Nonviolent Action: “Nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence. Nonviolent action is not an attempt to avoid or ignore conflict. It is one response to the problem of how to act effectively in politics, especially how to wield powers effectively.”

Non-violence has been adopted by many movements for social change which do not focus on opposition to war. One key tenet of the theory of non-violence is that the power of rulers depends on the consent of the population, and non-violence therefore seeks to undermine such power through withdrawal of the consent and cooperation of the populace.

Nonviolence International was founded by practitioners of nonviolence to further human understanding and use of nonviolent methods to solve human problems. We encourage everyone to honour this UN Day of Nonviolence by studying the works of key nonviolent theorists.

Nonviolence International has a variety of publications which assess nonviolent movements and methods.

[section of the above material are quoted from the UN notice for the Day of Nonviolence]

Global solidarity must remain engaged for the long haul to support the civil resistance to military rule in Myanmar/Burma.

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On 1 February in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, elected members of the national parliament were prepared to take their seats for the first time since the November 2020 election. On that morning an ‘interim president’ invited the head of the military to take all power in the country- judicial, legislative and executive.

This was not a spur of the moment action, but one for which the military had well planned. Within the coming hours you could practically keep beat with the passing minutes as notice after notice was issued by the military Commander in Chief dismissed national and local government officials, and judges. These in turn were followed by notice after notice of new appointments to those positions, appointed solely by the Commander in Chief of Myanmar’s armed forces.

In the following days, the military formed a council which was half civilian, including members of some ethnic groups as the core of government. The military seizure of power was endorsed by 23 existing political parties (most of whom had not captured seats in the November elections). Before even a week had gone by, the military appointed government’s Foreign Minister had held his first briefing with the diplomatic corps within the country to explain the legal nature of the transfer of power.

The events of 1 February reveal a well prepared and thought out action by the military to seize total control, again, of Myanmar. They have taken pains to avoid international censure by cloaking the power grab in legal clauses in the 2008 Constitution. Clauses the military wrote, which allowed it transfer to itself all state powers when vague, undefined circumstances were met.

All the actions of the military reveal that they need one thing that all their military power cannot seize for them. Legitimacy. International solidarity actions must make sure they never obtain it.

Civil Resistance

The seizure of state institutions by the military has not been welcomed by the majority of the citizenry who have for the past days gathered in the tens of thousands to say one thing to the military- it isn’t you who we elected.

A campaign of civil disobedience was launched on 3rd February, when hundreds of doctors and nurses from the government hospitals launched a civil disobedience movement calling for the release of those arrested since the coup, and called for parliament to convene with the parliamentarians democratically elected in the Nov. 8 general election.

Civil servants walked off the job or wore a red-ribbon campaign to show their defiance against the coup while continuing to work.

More broadly, citizens have banged pots and pans at 8pm every night since Tuesday to oppose military rule. By 5th February thousands of government staff, doctors, nurses, students, professors and teachers at 91 government hospitals, 18 universities and colleges and 12 government departments in 79 townships across the country were on strike.

The citizenry have urged police in Myanmar’s major cities to disobey any orders to repress them and to join the citizens in rejecting military rule.

Myanmar’s veteran activists from 1988 uprising, the 88 Generation for Peace and Open Society, called for people to take multiple approaches, including a boycott of military-run businesses, to oppose military rule. People must find other ways to reduce military revenue, they said in a statement. The military is involved in areas like banking, breweries, buses, telecoms, tobacco and TV channels. “People should stop using their services and boycott shops where their products are sold,”

Officially recognize the non-military government

Some parliamentarians did not obey the military order to ‘go home’, and remained in the capital of Naypyitaw. Three days after the military seized power they held a ceremony to swear themselves into the parliament, despite the military order to leave. They are now acting on their own as elected people’s representatives. 70 lawmakers from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) took parliamentary oaths of office at an improvised swearing-in ceremony on 4th February at the government housing, where lawmakers normally stay during parliamentary sessions. One elected representative stated that they were “convening of the Parliament”, saying the venue didn’t matter as long as there were lawmakers in attendance. “No one can take away the legitimacy of the MP status granted to us by the people. That’s why we took oaths as parliamentarians-for the people,” Other MPs who had obeyed military orders to leave were to take their oaths online.

All governments who care about democratic values should immediately state that they officially recognize the parliamentarians who were elected by the people, not the military government. They should ask any diplomatic staff of a Myanmar embassy in their country which group they will represent. If they say they represent the elected officials support them. If they say they represent the military regime, expel them. This is the sole way by which nations can withhold legitimacy from the military formed government.

Financial Pressure and sanctions

Telenor is a Norwegian telecoms company in which the Government of Norway is the major share holderª. It is one of 4 major telecoms providers in Myanmar (the other 3 are Myanmar Post and Telecommunications, a joint venture between the Vietnames and Myanmar Army, and Qatari based telecom company.

Telenor has blocked social media (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram) on its mobile internet at the request of the Myanmar military. It notes on its website that this request is ‘legal under Myanmar law’, but states that it said to the authorities that the order contravenes international human rights law.

Telenor’s actions demonstrate that it is willing to accept that the military government is a legitimate by stating that its laws are legitimate. Telnor agreement to act against human rights norms legitimizes the military regime, despite a 5 February UN Security Council statement which urged “respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law” in Myanmar.

Telenor is not the only company engaged with the military in Myanmar, but it is the one whose actions allow repression of dissent at this critical time, which the United Nations Security Council stated must be protected. The U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) identified at least 120 businesses involved in everything from construction to pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, insurance, tourism and banking being owned by two military owned business conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). The FFM called for imposition of an arms embargo, citing at least 14 foreign firms from seven nations that have supplied fighter jets, armored combat vehicles, warships, missiles and missile launchers to Myanmar since 2016.

Illegitimate laws must never be obeyed. The military regime has kept colonial laws, or written new ones with which it controls, oppresses or punishes the population. Like Burma’s former colonial rulers, it rules by law. There is no rule of law.

Without legitimacy, the military government will not be able to normalize its rule. This will undercut the main power of the military regime, as they need the international community to treat the situation as normal and themselves as legitimate. To stand in solidarity with the struggle in Myanmar, international citizens should persuade or pressure their governments to withhold that legitimacy.

ªCaisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec is Telenor’s third largest institutional investor.

See also: Speaking truth to power: Methods of Nonviolent Struggle in Burma

Nonviolence in Asia Series Number 2,

Nonviolence International, 2005

22 January 2021 Nuclear Weapons Are Banned

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Today, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons becomes international law.

Civil society has struggled for decades to bring about a global convention banning nuclear weapons, the last weapon of mass destruction now to have a treaty which comprehensively prohibits the use, production stockpiling or trade of the weapon.

This is an enormous achievement in which we can all celebrate. The civil society network which coordinated global action to bring this treaty into being is the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Nonviolence International is part of this campaign, as it is other humanitarian disarmament movements (see Humanitarian Disarmament)

While Canada does not possess any nuclear weapons, and while many Canadian provinces have passed resolution declaring themselves nuclear weapons free (and many Canadian municipalities have signed the ICAN cities pledge), our neighbour to the immediate south has many.

British Columbia shares the Salish Sea with the US state of Washington, and the channel through which it sails its largest fleet of nuclear armed vessels, the Trident nuclear weapon submarine fleet. It also houses the world’s largest known arsenal of nuclear weapons just 50 mi. off the BC coastline.

Residents of both BC and Washington State who live along this waterway joined together to proclaim today that nuclear weapons are now banned.

This photo action was produced in cooperation with Washington Against Nuclear Weapons and Mines Action Canada.

Old Growth Blockade at Western Forest Products, Observations

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About 20 citizens from various corners of southern Vancouver Island gathered on the morning of 2 December at the entrance to the Western Forest Products log yard in Ladysmith, southerm Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I took part as a legal observer.


Background- Despite significant public opposition to further cutting in Vancouver Islands remaining old growth, or ancient, forests, the BC government has been slow to implement any decision on the future of the timber industry. People who valued the old growth as an irreplaceable habitat had asked for the government to halt further cutting, and to demand transition to second growth as a sustainable forest product. As early as 1995, the timber industry agreed with environmentalist that a transition plan away from old growth cutting should be put in place, however successive BC governments have not done so. Most recently, the current government delayed publication of a government mandated review on old growth forestry until near the end of the timber season for the year. The review has, as one of its suggestions, government-to-government negotiations on old growth, meaning until agreements are reached with all of the many first nations in BC, no plan will go forward.

Frustrated at a lack of action while remaining forests are cut, some Vancouver Island local residents organized a one day blockade of trucks carrying old growth from southern Vancouver Island to a log yard.

When the activists arrived, they kept to local pandemic protocols with everyone wearing masks and anyone outside of a shared household remaining 2 meters apart. Long banners were used which allowed 2 meter spacing to block the road.

Shortly after the road into the log yard was blocked by these citizens, a company representative came out and asked people to move off the roadway of the entrance to the log yard. The blockade was announced to him, to which the company representative responded, “I’ll call the RCMP if that’s what you want. Of course its what you want. You want the media here.” He then walked away. Clearly in his mind there was no need for dialogue or negotiation, as there was nothing to negotiate- the protesters could not possibly have legitimate grievances, and were just publicity seeking.

The blockade was at a 4 way intersection. Cars were free to travel on any of the other roads without hindrance, including all trucks going to areas other than the log yard. Also workers vehicles going to the log yard were not prevented from entry, although the protesters did try to engage workers in dialogue. None did. One aggressively and very dangerously rammed his vehicle through the citizens and banner on the entrance to the log yard.

Ordinary passersby on other roads and side walks generally expressed support for the blockade with its clearly stated message of saving old growth. However, workers at the saw mill generally made rude gestures and calls.

The first 2 logging trucks carrying old growth approached the intersection, saw the banners blocking access to the log yar and instead of turning into the log yard, turned into an adjacent open lot and stopped.

The RCMP arrived and asked for the groups intention. He stressed his respect for their right to protest and claimed his main interest was public safety. He asked that the blockade be removed and stand to the side and ‘then you can protest all you want as long as you do not hinder traffic into the work place’.

These were extremely revealing comments, whilst affirming a right to protest, he also wanted to marginalize any effect of it. This shows a breathtaking lack of understanding about what protest is, despite the affirmation a right to do so. In essence what he was telling the protesters is ‘we really don’t want to know what you have to say, so stand out of the way so we can go about our business and completely ignore you’.

After offering this supposed compromise, which apparently the officer thought was reasonable, came the threats. He stated that with the pandemic gatherings above a certain number are prohibited and observing that the gathered citizens was larger than that stated he could levy a $2,300 fine on the group. Whilst the group pointed out that they were observing pandemic protocols with mask and distance, the officer stated this is something he would consider doing. [Note, this is a discretionary fine, not mandatory, the officer has to determine that the group is posing a public health risk. This would be difficult, but it wouldn’t necessarily stop the officer from doing so. The activists would have to later take it to court to have it overturned. Also it is not clear how he arrived at the $2300 figure, as the Order states $2000 for an organizer of an event or $200 for participants.]

The RCMP then left to speak with company officials.

Some time later, two more logging trucks arrived and were met in the middle of the roadway by a WFP company representative. Each truck pulled forward, into the intersection, effectively blocking the intersection to all traffic on the adjoining roads.

While the RCMP had warned the group that they may be cited for blocking public roads, they were blocking only the entrance to the log yard, not the public roadway, but that roadway was effectively closed by the logging company trucks pulling across it diagonally.

This led to some hostility by local traffic who had to try to get through the intersection. One driver became aggressive and plowed through the intersection driving erratically and at high speed. Bad luck for him, he did this directly in front of an RCMP officers who was speaking to the protesters, and the RCMP went after the driver, it is unknown if he received a citation.  Some logging company employees who had gathered on an adjacent lot had laughed and cheered as the car became aggressive. One driver sitting in the truck blocking the intersection shouted obscenities at the protesters in front of him. All this in video below.

More RCMP officers subsequently arrived and said that anyone who remained on the blockade would be subject to prosecution. The charge was criminal mischief for blocking a road. Anyone so charged would have additional conditions on them, such as no return to the area where the charge occurred. The threat of a criminal offense was quite a high penalty with lots or possible long term ramifications for anyone so cited.

One of the arriving RCMP officers said, echoing the first one “you can stand to the side and protest but you can’t prohibit someone from doing their work”. A very strange statement since just now during the pandemic, many businesses have been ordered shut for the public good. They have been ‘prohibited from working’. A lot of them. No one has a right to work, it is a privilege and comes with responsibilities, and if a job is no longer considered to be good for the society it becomes prohibited. Happens all the time. Many government policies result in both job creation and job elimination. Also, unfortunate shouts from company workers at the protesters to “get a job”. I can’t believe people still shout this, but it again shows a mind state which does not accept that these people could have any form of legitimate grievance. Of course, some of them may well be very afraid that this would negatively affect their work, despite the fact that the blockade activists attempted to make clear by their signs that was not logging they they were opposed to, only old growth logging.

Negotiations dragged on for some time on this, and a set of people willing to be arrested separated from those unwilling to be arrested that day. As negotiations continued until the time when the blockade was to end, everyone then left after notifying the RCMP and company that they were ending the blockade for that day.

As a legal observer, I maintained neutrality and stood away from the group of people forming the blockade or holding signs and banners. I only came close when there were interactions between either the blockade participants and the RCMP or the company representatives so I could fairly record the interaction.

Standing on the side I overheard the company employees who were gathered in the yard where the earlier logging trucks had parked, who said “What is taking the police so long? It is a no-brainer! Just bring a truck and haul all these protesters away!” From these remarks it is apparent that they believed the role of the police is to remove inconveniences.

The RCMP for its part, could have taken a stance of non-interference in the protest and just routed traffic to assure public safety. They didn’t do much of that, but focused their attention on trying to remove the protest instead. If the RCMP had not interfered, it would have led to a situation where the company would need to decide if it wanted to suspend operations for the blockade or perhaps negotiate with the protest.

I wonder if any of them watched CBC news the previous day. In India, a group of farmers were blocking roads to the capital New Delhi and being harassed and persecuted by police for doing so. The only foreign leader to give them support was the Prime Minister of Canada, who stated, “Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protest. Healthy democracies allow peaceful protest. I urge those involved to uphold this fundamental right.

Currently, old growth forests can be legally cut down. This could continue until none are left standing in British Columbia. A very few ancient forests continue to live happily in a very few protected areas. And virtually all those enclaves of old forest have only been established after citizen action, frequently involving blockades. Blockades are a peaceful form of free of expression guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They may be inconvenient, but they are peaceful.
The RCMP should uphold the free expression bringing up moral issues of public policy, however in Ladysmith the RCMP instead demonstrated they seek play the role of the blunt instrument for the financial interests which profit off ancient forest destruction.

A further observation is that the blocking of the public intersection by the WFP trucks, which escalated action by the RCMP in their threats of legal sanctions on the blockade participants, occurred immediately after the RCMP went to speak with the company representatives, one of whom went to the intersection and instructed the arriving trucks to pull forward to that spot. All subsequent RCMP activity was solely focused on the blockade, not traffic management.

The RCMP is not the enforcement arm of the forest industry. Their officers should be trained to adapt a policy of strict non-interference and public safety and allow social interests to be expressed and pursued freely.

 

Note: Nonviolence International Canada has supported the training of legal observers at public demonstrations. Legal observers should know law relevant to public gatherings, rights and freedoms and local ordinances and remain strictly outside the activities of events which they monitor and be prepared to report clearly on any infractions observed from by any party.

Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a challenge to all permanent members of the U.N. (In)Security Council

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On 24 January 1946, the first resolution of the newly created United Nations General Assembly established a commission with a mandate to make specific proposals for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Today, seventy four years later, on 24 October 2020 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into force when the 50th state ratified it.

To repeat the words uttered yesterday by Setsuko Thurlow, a Hibakusha who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”

This is a victory for citizen action, led by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of almost 60 civil society groups around the planet. States are only following where citizen action has led. Now, for the first time, people on whom nuclear weapons were tested will now have rights.

The nine nations, who terrorize us all with omnicide, and who have kept the entire world and all its citizens hostage for the past 75 years are now being called out on their actions. Their nuclear weapons are not just immoral now but illegal.

The TPNW bans development, testing, production, manufacture, transfer, possession, stockpiling of nuclear weapons. It bans the use, or threatened use of nuclear weapons. It prohibits any state party to the treaty from allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits states party to the treaty from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities.

States party to the convention are obliged to provide assistance to all victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons and to take measures for the remediation of contaminated environments.

The preamble acknowledges the harm suffered as a result of nuclear weapons, including the disproportionate impact on women and girls, and on indigenous peoples around the world.

States which join the convention must agree to destroy any nuclear weapons in their possession with a legally binding, time-bound plan. Any state which joins the convention and has another states nuclear weapons on their territory must agree to have them removed by a specified time.

The obligation to universalize the Treaty can have profound impact.

Following the 50th needed ratification, the convention enters into legal force in 90 days time, on 21 January 2021.

The embrace of the TPNW by the global community stands in stark contrast to the United States where just a few days ago it sentenced one of its citizens to almost 3 years in prison for protesting the continued existence and threat of use of nuclear weapons by the US.

Nonviolence International webinars: People Power in Sudan

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We hope everyone has been well since the last webinar on the collaborative work of our partners, the Palestinian Holy Land Trust, and the Center For Jewish Nonviolence. Our webinar series entitled, We are All Part of One Another, brings diverse nonviolent campaigns and voices directly to you. We are excited to host another on People Power in Sudan. You can register using this link.

Sudan’s revolution in 2019 was truly remarkable: A successful removal of a 30-year Islamist dictatorship by a secular revolution with nation-wide support and major leadership from women. Sudan has an exciting future, but also tremendous challenges. They are not getting the full support from the US and other nations that they need and deserve.

One year after the successful overthrow of the al-Bashir dictatorship, NVI will host Sudanese leaders and a US congresswoman in a webinar about the revolution and the current situation of the Sudanese people and government. Our Sudanese speakers will share their hopes and plans for Sudan’s future and articulate ways in which the international community and specifically the USA can help.

Our speakers will include Khartoum-based experts: Asma Ismail Ahmed – a well known civil society activist, Anthony Haggar – a prominent businessman and influential leader, as well as Jalelah Sophia Ahmed – a leader in the Sudanese diaspora in Washington DC. We will also have US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal speak about what US and global citizens can do to help get the US government to de-list Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism and provide more support for the fledgling democracy.

Our host will be Michael Beer, NVI Director, who provided much needed support for the Sudanese people during the uprising.

Please help us spread the word about this global conversation on Wednesday, July 1st at 10:30 AM EDT. Again, you can register here.

Peace,

Mubarak Awad

President, Nonviolence International

P.S.  As you know, Nonviolence International provides resources to movements all around the world. These tools are needed now more than ever. Check out our growing database of  Nonviolent Tactics, and our NV Training Archive, which is a partnership between NVI and Rutgers University International Institute for Peace.

http://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/