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Archive for August, 2007

Hundreds turn out for strike rally
Tire slashed on city vehicle that union members stopped on street near city hall

Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2007

VANCOUVER – The city is trying to break its unions by delaying a deal and not coming to the bargaining table, the B.C. head of the Canadian Union of Public Employees alleged Wednesday.

“If there has ever been a battle in British Columbia against the public sector that talks about the words ‘union busting’ we are in the middle of one right now,” Barry O’Neill told about 1,000 strikers workers at a rally outside city hall.

“I think there is really a move to at least push the union down or push the union aside,” he said later, speaking to reporters.

“Since I can’t figure out any other reason why we would be out for six weeks on issues that have been settled across the region [all I can figure] is that the city wants to get rid of us,” he added.

City spokesman Tom Timm said there is no truth to the allegation.

“We are dealing with some very difficult issues they have put to us, that they can’t seem to drop and we haven’t come to grips with accepting, so it’s a difficult round of bargaining,” he said. “But there is nothing in it in terms of us trying to break the union.”

Timm said the city is still considering a counter-offer put forward by CUPE Local 15.

Coun. Peter Ladner also said O’Neill’s union-busting accusation was “entirely wrong.”

“We want to end this thing soon,” Ladner said in an interview. “The difficulty in settling it is in what the union is asking for rather than the process of negotiations.” He said the union has been making unreasonable demands, especially regarding job security.

“I think it is going to take a recognition by the unions that we can’t agree to a situation where the management of the city is in the hands of the union.”

Hundreds of workers from Vancouver’s three striking CUPE locals marched from Science World to city hall on Wednesday morning for a rally.

As the parade moved through the streets, people danced in circles as a pickup truck with large speakers blasted songs such as Respect and Raise a Little Hell.

On the sidewalks, people emerged from businesses to watch, some yelling in support.

As the group reached city hall, an unidentified person slashed the right front tire of a city vehicle that union members had stopped on 12th Avenue.

Police took no action. The truck was eventually removed so it didn’t block traffic.

“Is anybody here ready to quit?” B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair asked from a podium at city hall, receiving a loud “No!” in response.

Sinclair pointed to the upper floors of the building and said: “Well then up there, it’s your turn, buddy, to get back to the table and get a collective agreement,” a reference to Mayor Sam Sullivan.

Many in the rally wore placards bearing the familiar: “Sam’s Strike.”

“Why the hell, Sam, does your civil city not include pay equity?” Alex Youngberg, president of CUPE Local 391 said during the rally, referring to a major issue in negotiations with striking librarians.

“It’s not a lot to ask for a little respect,” she said.

Ladner said he was disappointed union members have chosen to personalize the dispute.

“It is a very distressing sign that there is a political campaign going on here that really has no place in a negotiation,” he said.

“People are personalizing this around Sam Sullivan and that’s not the issue.”

STRIKERS SPEAK OUT ON THE DISPUTE

Asked at the rally: What is the most important issue for you in this dispute?

“The contract language. I’m a whistle-blower and I want to know that’s respected. . . Without whistle-blowers, you end up with poisoned environments. You end up with accidents on sites.”

John McElroy
Resident attendant, CUPE Local 15

“Pay equity for the librarians. It’s been a really long, long time coming. It just seems ridiculous it hasn’t been addressed yet.”

Ingrid Coughlin
Librarian assistant, CUPE Local 391

“Privatization of jobs. We’ve seen it already in the Hospital Employees’ Union with janitorial staff. There are several sectors of the city they could easily privatize out.”

Lloyd Pearson
Building inspector, CUPE Local 15

“Going back to work. That’s it. I’ve been ready to go back since the first day.”

Ron Krywiak
Park board worker,
CUPE Local 1004″Pay equity and job security. I’m a part-time worker myself. [It’s] mostly about hiring from outside the library rather than internally. Moving up would be a lot harder for us.”

Joseph Chan
Library assistant, CUPE Local 391

“The issue is clearly about process. It’s about honourable process. It’s coming to engage in a way to actually discuss things that are of concern.”

Scot Hein
Senior urban designer,
CUPE Local 15

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Robson Bight fuel cleanup irks chief

Matthew Kruchak, Times Colonist
Published: Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Chief of the Namgis First Nation is upset with the way the fuel spill in Robson Bight Ecological Reserve waters was handled, saying his community was shown a lack of respect by officials.

Chief Bill Cranmer said he was provided with little information about the barge that spilled logging equipment and diesel fuel into ecological-reserve waters on Monday.

In the treaty they’re currently negotiating, Robson Bight is at the south end of their claim, he said.

“They didn’t really talk to us right from the start,” he said. “It made us a little bit angry.”

B.C. Parks staff notified the community Monday and have been working with them since the spill, said Kate Thompson, spokeswomen for B.C. Ministry of Environment. The command team has been providing updates too, she said.

But for Cranmer, updates aren’t enough. He wanted someone from the First Nation to be part of the process.

“We have a lot of knowledge of the area,” he said.

“We’d also like to know what’s happening and what could be improved.”

But Thompson said they had the necessary response groups in place. “The First Nations were notified and they had what they needed on site.”

Cranmer would like to see a response team set up on the North Island to deal with future spills because response time was poor, he said.

“Just imagine if there was a bigger spill; it would be a disaster.”

B.C. Parks was on site immediately but various crews had to travel from Port Hardy, Nanaimo and Victoria, Thompson said.

Cranmer said he had people inspect the site and take photos of the barge owned by LeRoy Trucking.

“It looked like the barge shouldn’t have been in the water,” he said, after inspecting a photograph. “It was just a rusting hulk of a barge.”

LeRoy Trucking, which owns the now submerged equipment, which included a fuel truck, is organizing and paying for the cleanup.

Transport Canada is continuing to look into potential violations of the Canada Shipping Act.

Officials said they’ve moved from the spill-response phase to the monitoring process because of the high evaporation rate of diesel fuel.

An overflight of the site was made yesterday and quarter-sized droplets of diesel fuel were spotted rising to the surface and evaporating, said Dan Bate, spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

They were being released slowly at a rate of four an hour, he said.

It is likely that the tanks imploded on descent, releasing the fuel, which evaporated on the water’s surface, officials reported.

Environment Canada, the Ministry of Environment and the Canadian Coast Guard are reporting that no sheen or oil made it to the shoreline.

The 26-year-old ecological reserve was created to protect pods of northern resident killer whales that gather in the area over the summer.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada have reported that whales in the area appear to be behaving normally and protective booms were removed because they may affect the natural behaviors of the whales.

According to the Ministry of Environment, reports of distressed birds have been received but none of the sightings have been confirmed.

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Is Robson Bight ‘protected’ in word alone?
Two levels of gov’t need to fix commercial ‘safety’ loopholes

Michael Smyth, The Province
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, the Vancouver Aquarium’s resident killer-whale expert, spent yesterday nervously counting orcas at the site of Monday’s barge accident around the protected waters of Robson Bight.

To his relief, he found all the whales accounted for and none exhibiting signs of immediate distress from the diesel fuel that spilled into their environment. “They appear to be fine — for now,” he said.

But as marine mammal toxicologist Peter Ross explained, breathing and swallowing the diesel can have immediate, though unapparent impacts — such as lung irritation — and worse effects later, such as infection and disease.

Most of the light sheen of fuel had evaporated by yesterday afternoon, though, yielding hope that B.C.’s most iconic and beloved animals had escaped the danger.

But the entire episode left Barrett-Lennard wondering just how “protected” Robson Bight really is.

The bight contains a broad pebble beach where the whales gather and exhibit the extraordinary behaviour of rubbing their bodies along the gravelly bottom. It’s one of the few places in the world where they do this and it makes perfect sense that it should be strictly protected.

Just one problem: Robson Bight is a provincial ecological reserve, while the movement of commercial shipping and fishing vessels through the area is a federal responsibility. The two levels of government have a committee to work out the jurisdictional overlap, but that doesn’t always prevent haphazard interventions into the whales’ sanctuary.

During the commercial fishing season, for example, up to 100 boats enter the bight to compete with the whales for salmon.

And, while the province does a good job of keeping kayakers and whale-watching tourist boats out of the bight, there is considerable tolerance for tugs and other commercial vessels to duck into the area, for safety reasons in poor weather or because of heavy two-way marine traffic in Johnstone Strait.

That has many critics alleging that commercial vessels abuse the “safety” loophole: Imagine a “safety-first” cruise ship entering the area, while giving oohing-and-aahing passengers a free killer-whale show, and you get the idea.

The bight is also sheltered from the strait’s strong currents, tempting tug boats to cut in close to shore for “safety” while simultaneously riding a convenient back-eddy to cut their journey short and save on gas.

It begs the question: Is Robson Bight protected or not?

Meanwhile, NDP environment critic Shane Simpson wonders why the government doesn’t have a local quick-response team and on-site oil-spill kits for emergencies such as Monday’s.

“If they did, you might have contained the spill within three or four hours instead of a day,” he said.

The bright side — if there is one — is that the accident should put pressure on governments to respond to some obvious problems.

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City police deny man’s claim they fired at him without cause

Chantal Eustace, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Even as four police officers stood facing him, guns cocked and pointed, 28-year-old Vancouver bartender Robbie Currie said, he didn’t really think they were aiming at him.

“I actually recall looking over my shoulder,” he said, thinking they must be pointing their guns at someone else.

Police dispute Currie’s version of the story.

He said he had been walking down Hornby Street towards Nelson Street just before 3 a.m. Monday, cellphone in hand, a few steps behind a group of friends. They had been out drinking.

Suddenly, he said, there were four police officers behind him yelling:

“Drop your weapon, drop your weapon.”

He said he turned around to face them. “I put my hands up in the air and screamed, ‘I don’t have a weapon. I don’t have a weapon,’ ” he said in an interview Tuesday.

That’s when one of them fired, he said, hitting him in the left thigh with a bean-bag bullet. He fell to his knees.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Currie, taking his pants down to reveal a watermelon-sized bruise curved across the top of his leg. “They shot me.”

Next, he said, four officers “dogpiled” on his back, knocking his head to the ground in the process. He points to a scratch on his cheek where he said it hit the street.

Currie said he began to feel dizzy soon after and headed to Vancouver General Hospital where he said he was diagnosed with a mild concussion.

It was only after he’d been tackled, handcuffed face-down on the pavement and searched, he said, that he learned it was a case of mistaken identity.

Currie said a cab driver had told police that he had seen someone fitting his description carrying a gun.

Currie planned to file an official complaint. But the police had a different version of the story. “They told him to drop what was in his hands,” said police spokesman Const. Howard Chow.

“He’s got a bottle of booze in his hands. He puts that on the ground,” said Chow. “They give him a number of requests. . . . He refuses. He’s resistant to what they tell him to do.”

Chow said Currie was reported to have put his hands in his pockets against police instructions, prompting an officer to use the bean-bag gun.

“It’s a non-lethal level of force,” Chow said. “It’s one of these situations, if you disregard a request . . . you’re taking a risk.”

Chow added: “You’ve got to err on the side of caution.”

Since Currie was found to be unarmed, he was uncuffed and released without charges.

Currie disputed Chow’s version, saying he just heard the police telling him to drop a weapon that he didn’t have.

After he was released, he said, he went to his friend Ian Moore’s nearby apartment.

Moore, who had been walking ahead of Currie when the incident occurred, said he left the area after the shot was fired.

“I could see him have his hands up. I wasn’t even 100-per-cent sure it was even him,” said Moore, 29, a Vancouver store manager. “I thought, there’s no way it’s him.”

Moore said Currie arrived at his apartment soon after, describing him as an “absolute mess.”

Currie pointed to a bandage on his elbow. The elbow was strained, he said, when one officer pulled him up to his feet by his handcuffs.

He’s still shocked about the whole thing, he said, holding up his cellphone.

“I don’t think it looks like a gun, does it? If it does, I’m going to change my phone,” he said. “They could have easily had two of them walk up to me and say, ‘Keep your hands in the air,’ put my hands behind my back and search me first.”

After spending most of Monday feeling sick and vomiting, Currie said, he decided to consult lawyer Don Morrison, who said he plans to ask the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to review the incident.

“I don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” Currie said, shaking his head. “To just pull the trigger like that, it really scares me.”

The incident occurred a week after police near Granville and 16th Avenue in Vancouver shot dead a 39-year-old man, who they said attacked two officers with a metal chain and was approaching three more.

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Police clash with protesters at summit gate
Police use gas against demonstrators’ rocks

ANDREW THOMSON, CanWest News Service
Montreal Gazette
Published: Tuesday, August 21

Riot police used tear gas, pepper spray and plastic bullets outside the Chateau Montebello yesterday as they went face-to-face with protesters rallying against North American integration.

Both sides were trying to hold their ground at the heavily-fortified resort for the two-day summit involving Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and U.S. President George W. Bush. The three leaders are meeting as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership – an initiative aimed at deepening the integration of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The afternoon-long demonstration ended at 6 p.m. in clouds of greenish-white smoke as hundreds of Sûreté du Quebec, RCMP and OPP officers, armed with batons, shields and gas masks faced a belligerent faction of the more than 1,000 protesters on site. Many protesters took direct hits to their eyes, staggering back for medical attention.

Several more tear gas canisters exploded as the crowd began retreating back towards the village. In response, protesters in gas masks, goggles, and balaclavas hurled rocks, tomatoes, and bottles filled with stones at the police, who blocked a highway and an adjacent cemetery.

Two large bonfires burned in the middle of the street as the protest’s last vestiges withdrew into Montebello.

Five police officers suffered minor injuries. Two men and two women were arrested, said RCMP Cpl. Elaine Lavergne, adding police considered the day an overall success without serious injuries.

The riot squad had earlier prevented Council of Canadians chairwoman Maude Barlow from delivering a 10,000-signature petition to the gate. Council officials claimed this violated a prior arrangement with summit organizers. “We are not going to be stopped,” Barlow said. “We are going to get our petition through.”

Montebello’s main roads were closed by police soon after most of the protesters – estimated at about 1,000 people – arrived yesterday.

Faced with police resistance, most front-line protesters opted for an impromptu sit-in. Others began dousing bandannas with vinegar in anticipation of the tear gas attacks.

The Council of Canadians and certain other groups pulled back from the front line about 300 metres, for fear of escalation of violence. Some protesters threw rocks and sticks at police.A U.S flag was burned atop a lamppost.

The American president arrived in the early afternoon and was first greeted at Ottawa International Airport by Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean.

Bush’s departure from Ottawa was slightly delayed when a U.S. Marine guard collapsed, apparently from the heat on the tarmac, near one of Bush’s helicopters while he met Jean inside the hangar.

The American president arrived at the historic Montebello resort at around 2:15 p.m. and mingled with the crowd of hotel employees who were outside to greet him. He was then driven around the grounds by limousine and walked down a pathway to meet Harper.

The two men, dressed casually in shirts and jackets, were to have a bilateral meeting before the Mexican president joined them later in the afternoon.

As Bush was walking towards him, Harper was asked by a reporter what he thought of the protesters. “I’ve heard it’s nothing. It’s sad,” he said.

Video of the outside events was played on two monitors inside the lobby of the chateau, but a Canadian official said the prime minister had barely had time to glance at it.

Hundreds of police officers are keeping a watchful eye on the protesters, who condemn the SPP as secretive and anti-democratic.

Behind the security fence around the resort, RCMP officers were stationed about every 20 metres. Hundreds more lined the road into the resort, along with officers from the Quebec police force. Police were also patrolling the adjacent Ottawa River by boat.

Residents and business owners in Montebello are hoping for the same tone over the next two days but have braced themselves for the worst. Some businesses are closing until tomorrow and have boarded up their storefronts to try and protect against any disturbance.

Boat owners mooring at the small marina next to the resort were told to move their vessels to make room for helicopters.

Hotel staff were expected to go through police scanners before boarding special shuttles provided to transport them work. Two protest zones have been set up outside the perimeter of the resort grounds to accommodate the demonstrators.

The leaders meet this morning with the North American Competitiveness Council, a collection of 30 business leaders, 10 appointed by each country, who advise the leaders. The Council was created in 2006 and is one of the only tangible results of the SPP process to date.

The group, whose Canadian executives include Dominic D’Alessandro of Manulife Financial, Paul Desmarais Jr. of Power Corporation, and Michael Sabia of Bell Canada, will present a progress report to the leaders.

It is the Council that is a main source of contention for critics of the SPP, who argue the North American governments are consulting only corporate leaders and ignoring labour leaders, human rights experts, environmentalists and even legislators.

“The problem with this process is that there has been no public consultation, and no parliamentary debate in any of our three countries,” says Meera Karunananthan, a spokeswoman for the Council of Canadians.

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton have both been critical of the SPP and its degree of transparency.

With the backing of the Liberals and the Bloc, NDP trade critic Peter Julian successfully pushed for three days of committee hearings on the SPP this spring.

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Halifax Solidarity Actions Against SPP

[Contributed anonymously to news.infoshop.org, published August 19, 2007]

The following was posted on a Halifax Independent News website by an anonymous user.

In the late hours of August 18 a CIBC was vandalized and stenciled ‘Big Brother is Watching You’. Later, two parking lot security cameras were vandalized and a third camera destroyed with fire. A wall was tagged ‘Fuck the SPP’. The actions were taken with the intention of deepening attacks against security hysteria and in solidarity with individuals engaging in sabotage against the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

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Anarchists Attack Bell Canada Enterprises in Ottawa!!

[Contributed anonymously to ottawa.indymedia.org, published August 19, 2007]

Saturday morning, august 19th, a group of anarchists attacked a Bell Canada Enterprises building on Bank St south of Beaumont. Windows were smashed out because of Bell’s involvement in the Security and Prosperity Partnership as a North American Competitiveness Council Member. This action was also done in solidarity with the anti-capitalists and communities struggling against the Olympics in 2010.

Bell Canada’s president and CEO is Michael J. Sabia, with his history as CEO for the Canadian National Railway (CN), it is no surprise that he is shaping Bell with the same colonial behaviors as CN. Both Bell Canada and CN rail are NACC members and are directly involved in the dispossession of Native peoples, the normalization of new repression in our lives, and the reduction of our relationships with each other and the world to the precariousness of a capitalist social context: a context devoid of mutual aid, a context of exploitative exchange.

We can and must take the fate of our lives into our own hands and organize ourselves.
Sabotage! Attack! Insurge!

No Olympics on Stolen Land!
Smash the State!
Destroy the SPP!
Abolish Capitalism!

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No SPP – CN’s sabotage in Mtl.

[Contributed anonymously to ottawa.indymedia.org, published August 19, 2007]

Montreal, August 19, 2007

Tonight, at around 3:10am, a group of autonomous individuals claiming no association, in solidarity with the actions and demonstrations which are set to take place in Montebello, blocked a pair of train tracks belonging to Canadian National (CN) with cement blocks. The tracks were blocked near the Outremont train yard. We chose to carry out this act of sabotage because we openly oppose the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America, and we express our direct solidarity with indigenous peoples in their struggle for self-determination and the defense of their lands. We believe as well that the tactics of choice of coalitions and convergence groups have a limited impact in the face of intense economic, political, state, social, and police repression under which we live, and we firmly assert that the time has come to pass to action.

The history of the CN corporation clearly demonstrates its racist and colonialist attitudes in creating pressure to obtain land which was clearly stolen from indigenous people. This pattern continues to reproduce itself year to year throughout the ages.

Let us not forget that the Canadian and Quebecois ‘nations’ were built on the genocide of entire populations. This ongoing genocide continues with our current capitalist system today. Now more than ever, CN is persuing its expansion and that of the greed of Western imperialist societies. Its current CEO, Hunter Harrison, now sits on the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), the main advisory body and lobby to develop the SPP. The NACC is in the middle of developing a plan behind closed doors to enrich the rich and marginalize the most oppressed.

The SPP is no surprise. It seeks to deepen the process of global economic integration while accentuating the repression and militarization against those who unite and raise their voices more than ever against the globalization of poverty. We denounce the fact that the rich and powerful are securing ‘their commerce’, while demolishing all existing barriers, and that they’re creating ‘security’ and ‘prosperity’ plans for the free circulation of goods while closing the borders to human beings. They are creating a complex system of border militarization, creating an entire sub-class of people, marginalization, and devastating repression.

Down with CN!
Down with the SPP!
Free movement for all people!
Freedom and automomy for all indigenous people!

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