BC Capital paper stigmatizes protest

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On 27 March the Times Colonist of Victoria British Columbia published an opinion piece titled:

Police OT costs rise sharply thanks to protests, rallies” The editorial notes that the costs the police spent in attending to climate protests in the BC capital had increased dramatically. The paper reported that “department had spent $183,000 to police 34 protests, compared with $82,765 on 40 events all of last year…almost as many events as they did in 2019, the department says the protests have been “longer, larger and more resource-intensive” in the first two months of 2020.”

While appearing to be a factual statement of events, the editors appear to lay the blame on the protests for additional costs. Really? While the Times-Colonist wrote that protests are longer and larger than previous, they failed to ask why? The rejection of a policy of environmental exploitation by a ‘larger’ section of the public, which at that particular time was focused on an indigenous land dispute, were the mobilizing factors.

Why not a headline of ‘Public opposition to gas pipeline leads to increased costs for city’? Well one reason may be the ownership of the capital city’s newspaper. It was purchased nine years ago by Glacier Media, whose energy division publish the Daily Oil Bulletin and Oilweek magazine, and the Canoils brand of data products and the Heavy Oil & Oilsands Guidebook. To say that the Times-Colonist ownership is invested in fossil fuels is an understatement, it is a part of the industry. Glacier Media’s purchase of many local newspapers in the metropolitan Vancouver area, especially those through which the Trans-Canada pipeline expansion will pass is something to pause and consider as well.

It has long been noted that the press is free to those who own them, and today they are mostly owned by corporations. They are not a public good which does its reporting without fear or favour any more. Despite the fact that pipeline construction is continuing during the corona virus crisis, the environmental movement is supporting a commitment to public health by practicing the social distancing requested by our health sector and not putting its numbers out on the street.

Soon, however, restrictions on public distancing will be lifted. What will occur then? A British academic made the following prescient observations that the public will have “… a renewed awareness of the fragility of our complex societies, of global interconnectedness, and the benefits of taking heed of scientific warnings and prescriptions. The pandemic occurred against a backdrop of unprecedented concerns about climate change and accumulated impacts of extreme events. Anyone who thinks that Covid-19 has displaced this may be in for a shock: It could be precisely the opposite.”

Bad Optics: Canadian state projects protesters as a danger to the public

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Images and video distributed on the media of highly militarized police personnel used by Canadian authorities to dismantle a protest encampment and arrest the protesters were very disturbing, and certainly problematic from a civil liberties and civil rights perspective.

Encampments have a long history as a civil disobedience tactic, across cultures, as a means of expressing disapproval and defiance.

Civil disobedience is just that, its civil. It does not threaten the existing order by armed insurrection. However it does chose to, temporarily, disregard or disobey some ordinances or laws by a group which does not feel its grievances have been heard, or adequately addressed.

Civil disobedience, also known as nonviolent direct action, may be a path chosen by some citizens if the normal channels of redress do not work satisfactorily, or they feel their concerns are being systematically ignored. Political action, as opposed to violent action, is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter is not always a convenient document for the powerful, especially when their actions put them at odds with it.

There are important questions to be asked, and answers demanded, of why the police felt the need to be so heavily armed. Pleas of self protection are unacceptable. It cannot be that they simply had no intelligence on the make up of the inhabitants of the protest encampment. That would imply incompetence beyond belief. While the author cannot speak to their thinking, their actions do send a clear message to the public, and this may be intentional: protest is a danger to society.

The current demand by the ruling authorities for lawful behaviour is another message: protest is outlawed unless you just stand quietly to the side with a protest sign while the outrage happens. This is both unrealistic and unacceptable.

The encampments and blockades have acted as power equalizers, they have brought the government to the table when they had previously felt comfortable to ignore the grievances. It is not reasonable to expect the movement give up all its power first on the promise of talks later.

The authorities are currently cloaking their demands as obedience to the law. But what they are really practicing represents rule by law rather than the rule of law.

Encampments and blockades are a clear nonviolent tactic, and as such, provide no threat to public what-so-ever, regardless of the inconveniences it causes. Whether the inconveniences will bring allies or enemies to the movement is a separate decision which needs to be assessed, repeatedly, by the organizers. Nonviolent civil disobedience has a rich diversity of methods of engagement and resistance and activists are required to regularly update their political assessment of suitable nonviolent actions according to the stage and status of a struggle for the public imagination.

Highly militarized policing sends the wrong signal, unless the state is an authoritarian one, in which case it just an honest statement of contempt for the ruled.


Canada and the 2019 Global Peace Index

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Canada’s ranking in the 2019 Global Peace Index remains unchanged from 2018. Canada is ranked highest on the peace index for all of the Americas.

Canada ranked number six globally and has been in the top ten since the launch of the index in 2007.

In 2019, global peace, as measured by the index, improved, very slightly, but for the fist times in several years.

The Global Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), ranks 163 countries (99.7% of the world’s population) according to 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators of peace. The Global Peace Index ranks countries by the following criteria.

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.

As for North America, only Canada and the US are comparable and, well, they are in totally different leagues, with Canada ranking No. 6 on the global index and the US at No. 128.

For more see the 2019 Global Peace Index. The same group compiles the Global Terrorism Index as well.

Funding the Green New Deal? Federal Government to spend 533 bil. on the military over next 20 years.

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Former researcher for the International Peace Bureau in Geneva Tamara Lorincz has compiled the following data from the government budget. For a nation for whom war is unlikely in its known form, the Federal government has committed to spending $533 billion on the Canadian military over the next 20 years. The money was proposed under Canada’s 2017 defence policy, Strong Secure Engaged.  According to Ms. Lorincz, “The Canadian military will be recruiting more soldiers and buying more weapons to maintain high-end warfighting.”

Her search of the records reveals that last year, the Canadian military received $32 billion according to the Public Accounts of Canada. Canada, perhaps surprisingly for most Canadians, was ranked 14th highest in the world for military spending according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Canada’s military consumes the largest part of Canada’s budget, by far, and when ranked economically against our provinces would constitute Canada’s 4th largest province.

While this may consume funding necessary to mobilize a Green New Deal, Ms. Lorincz notes that the military is the federal agency that consumes the most fossil fuels, and is one of the biggest producers of hazardous waste in Canada, and is also the agency with the most contaminated sites across the country. Lorincz flags that the carbon emissions from military vehicles and operations are exempted from national greenhouse gas reporting and reduction targets in Canada.

The following chart, compiled by T. Lorincz, provides a view over time of how spending in Canada on the military has been climbing while spending on the environment is basically flat lining. [Chart copyright T. Lorincz 2019, used with permission]

Citizen’s Consultation on Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security in Victoria BC

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Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and an Architecture of Peace

When: Oct. 2, 2019  7 PMWhere: James Bay Library, 385 Menzies St., VictoriaCitizen’s Consultation on the mandate of Canada’s new Ambassador on Women, Peace and Security.

Canada’s newest Ambassador is a step toward peace infrastructure in the government of Canada. While short of a full Department of Peace, it is a step toward one.

Specifically the mandate of this special Ambassador is an expansion of Canada’s mobilization of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

The new Ambassador has welcomed public input on her mandate.

We have framed the following questions to help guide discussion.

  • Canada’s action plan for WPS 2017-2022 calls for increasing the recruitment of women into the armed forces for deployment abroad. Should the Special Ambassador on Women, Peace and Security encourage further inclusion of women in the armed forces?
  • UNSC 1325 calls for ‘increased representation of women at all decision-making levels…in the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.’  How should the Special Ambassador on Women, Peace and Security  pursue this element of Women, Peace and Security?
  • Much of Canada’s action plan focuses on women as victims in armed conflict, and programmes to deal with sexualized violence. What proportion of the Special Ambassador on Women, Peace and Security should be devoted to this, and how should it be approached?
A summary report of this discussion will be sent in to Ottawa to form a part of feedback on the Ambassador’s proposed mandate in a few weeks time.
This citizen’s consultation is a collaboration between World Beyond War, the Canadian Peace Initiative and Nonviolence International Canada Local Chapters.


Nonviolence Training fund available in Canada

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Nonviolence International Canada maintains a training fund today for civil society groups in Canada, and in the rest of the world, for the purpose of training of trainers for nonviolent direct action campaigns, and for leadership and strategy workshops for civil society movements.

Nonviolence International Canada partners with the AJ Muste Institutes International Nonviolent Trainers Fund for assessing and distributing nonviolent direct action training funds outside North America.

Nonviolence International Canada works directly with social movements in Canada to provide training in, or funding for, training in nonviolent direct action and nonviolent leadership and strategy.

Information on how to donate to this fund, or apply to it, is available on the Nonviolence International Canada website under Support Nonviolence.