Archive for May, 2009

Springhill prison on lockdown
Guards leave building after bomb threat, return after deadline

Last Updated: Friday, May 29, 2009
CBC News [Nova Scotia]

Guards at a locked down federal prison in Springhill, N.S., are back on the job following a bomb scare.

Earlier this week, Correctional Service Canada was warned there could be an unauthorized device in the building. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which represents the guards, says it was a bomb threat.

The guards left the building after the lockdown was implemented, saying it was not safe for them to be the ones looking for any such device.

A note said the device was supposed to go off Thursday.

The regional president of the union, Paul Harrigan, said the guards returned Friday when the deadline passed without incident — though they’re still refusing to search for any suspicious devices.

Harrigan said the RCMP, military or Canada Border Services Agency is trained to find these kinds of devices, “as opposed to our organization which is trained to deal with people.”

In the meantime, the medium-security facility remains on lockdown.

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Tension rising on the line
City strike turns ugly

By Trevor Wilhelm, The Windsor Star [Ontario]
May 22, 2009

Tempers are boiling over and nerves are wearing thin as the CUPE strike drags into week six, with the frustration manifesting itself in allegations of picket line fights, vandalism, threats and stolen garbage.

Papa Cheney’s owner Alissa Coutts said her business has been one of the most recent targets of striking city workers. She said her employees, who have been removing the bar’s garbage during the strike, are getting “harassed” by pickets.

“I definitely feel that some lines have been crossed,” Coutts said Thursday. “They started by harassing some employees who offered to help. They yelled derogatory comments at them. One comment was they hope maggots crawled in their mouth and out their — I won’t say the word.”

“Just screaming profanities at them. At that point, they told us we were in for it.”

About 1,800 of the city’s inside and outside workers went on strike in April. The long strike appears to be taking its toll, with reports of several incidents from mischief to fighting.

Staff Sgt. Daryl Hall said Thursday night police have been to a few calls, but nothing serious. Members of CUPE and the general public make different claims.

Mayor Eddie Francis said his chiropractor wife Michelle Prince received veiled threats against her business while working a home show booth in late April. Retired Star columnist Gord Henderson, who still contributes a weekly opinion piece to the paper, said his car was vandalized the day he wrote about taking trash to a private service.

There have been reports of people putting clothes hangers in tall grass at city parks to prevent it from being cut. Somebody put crazy glue in the locks of the washrooms outside The Bistro at Dieppe Park.

“That’s not our members,” said CUPE Local 543 president Jean Fox. “Our members have done nothing. We are peaceful. We’re walking pickets and that’s it.”

Rob Delicata, co-owner of the Pillette Transfer Station, said strikers have targeted him since he cleaned up a massive dump site outside the Central Avenue transfer station in April. He said people threw beer bottles at his truck. Last Friday, he said, someone spread a box of nails on the road leading to his waste disposal service.

On Wednesday, someone torched a luxury car in the parking lot of the CUPE building.

Fox said the allegations aren’t true.

“We have no reports of our picketers doing anything,” she said. “There have been no police reports, no charges laid. There has been no vandalism, no damage, no anything. We’ve been accused of bombing a car, which we have nothing to do with. The guy that shares the lot beside us parked his car there and God knows what happened.”

She said CUPE members have been the ones taking the brunt from residents.

“I know that our picketers are being harassed,” said Fox. “We have court injunctions that we are honouring. We are doing our best to inform the public of our position. It’s unfortunate that people treat each other the way they do.”

Last Friday, a striking outside employee said he suffered a broken ankle and cuts to his nose and face after a confrontation with a private contractor mowing grass on Kildare Road. Police said the CUPE member suffered the injuries after somebody threw a punch.

Other pickets have called police after people nudged them with their vehicles. A scuffle broke out Tuesday after a few pickets got hit by a slow-moving car while blocking the road into Dieppe Gardens. Someone apparently took the keys out of the car and a woman who had been riding in it put a picket in a headlock to get them back. No one was hurt.

Earlier this month, the union said a picket was the victim of a hit-and-run at City Hall Square, while other irate motorists shouted obscenities and drove aggressively without regard for the safety of those on the picket line.

Coutts said her employees have had a couple of run-ins with pickets. The bar has received phone calls from someone identifying themselves as a CUPE member.

“They said if we didn’t call them back by 5 p.m., we were going to get it,” said Coutts. “We finally did and no one would take responsibility for the phone call. When we finally did get through to someone, they just started screaming and didn’t want to hear anything about it.”

The day after that, bar employees continued cleaning up garbage. The strikers were back, she said.

“They once again tried to stop us,” said Coutts. “While we were out taking a load to WDS, maybe 15 to 20 of them showed up and took some of our garbage, and apparently took it back down to the waterfront. They were running. Our employees were chasing them down the road. We don’t know what happened with that garbage.”

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Prison uprising halted

Peterborough Examiner [Ontario] ‎
May 22, 2009‎

Prison guards used gas and shotguns to contain an uprising at maximumsecurity Millhaven penitentiary.

The incident began Wednesday night and lasted roughly 16 1/2 hours, until noon yesterday, when the convicts agreed to return to their cells.

Corrections Canada says 48 prisoners remained in an outside recreation yard during the standoff. The inmates have made some complaints to prison managers.

“That’s still being investigated,” said Stephanie Fullerton, a Corrections spokeswoman at the regional headquarters.

“I know that there were some general issues about the institutional routine.”

The inmates refused orders at 7:30 p. m. Wednesday to leave the yard. They tried to break into an adjoining yard but were stopped by prison guards who fired shotguns and gas.

“We were lucky we were able to respond,” said union official Jason Godin, who was at the prison during the uprising.


Collins Bay penitentiary protest is over

The Kingston Whig-Standard [Ontario]‎
May 12, 2009‎

Convicts at medium-security Collins Bay penitentiary have abandoned a protest in which they refused to report to work or programs.

“It was a one-day protest just as a way to raise their issues with the management team,”said Holly Knowles, a spokeswoman for the Correctional Service at its regional headquarters in Kingston.

Yesterday, the prison’s 327 inmates refused to go to their prison jobs and activities because of concern about routines and social development issues.

Knowles said inmates were concerned they were being denied free time out of their cells because clocks in different parts of the institution weren’t in sync.

They also complained that the baseball diamond needed repair and they wanted the option of repairing or replacing appliances they use in their living units.

Knowles said prison managers are working with a committee that represents prisoners to address their concerns.

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Work refusal leads to Matsqui lockdown

Christina Toth, The Abbotsford Times [British Columbia]
Published: Friday, May 22, 2009

Matsqui Institution inmates have been confined to their living units since May 19, in an effort by prison officials to douse potential unrest over new structured work schedules, and in response to threats of assault against some inmates.

Since March 30, inmates at the Abbotsford prison have refused to attend work or programs because they oppose the more stringent hours and restrictions to upper and lower exercise yards, said Gordon Tanner, an assistant warden at the facility.

Threats made by some inmates against other inmates who were willing to return prompted the lockdown.

Tanner said a prisoners’ committee was struck recently and its representatives have been in talks with prison administrators to resolve the situation.

As of April 1, Tanner said Correctional Service Canada began implementing a series of changes nationally that address five themes, including eliminating the presence of drugs in institutions and making inmates more accountable.

Inmates are encouraged to attend their work, classes and other programs during structured morning and afternoon hours, as they would have to do if they weren’t in prison.

“The structured work day is getting closer to the work day they would have in the community. We’re trying to get them accustomed to that,” in preparation for their release, Tanner said.

Until recently, inmates had access to large yards on the prison grounds, but these areas were also where outsiders would regularly toss drugs and cell phones over the fence.

In order to gain control over this entry method of contraband, the prison is changing the landscaping around the fence perimeters and boosting surveillance. Inmates can exercise in the gym or have monitored one-hour sessions in the large yards, said Tanner.

But prisoners want freer access to fresh air. Through negotiations, officials have agreed to give them access to a smaller ‘day yard,’ after staff erect an internal fence.

“I’m hoping that will be done in the next couple of weeks,” Tanner said last week. Talks between inmates and managers continue. No injuries to prison staff or inmates as a result of the work refusal have been reported. Regular scheduled visits and family visits to the facility continue as usual.

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Cab drivers suspended following protest

David Hutton, The StarPhoenix [Saskatchewan]
Published: Friday, May 15, 2009

At least 25 taxi drivers have been suspended by United Cabs after raising allegations of racism and discrimination by their employer at a demonstration Wednesday.

The company denies the allegations and says it moved to lock out the employees for what it called a “wildcat strike.”

Around 50 drivers, mostly of Pakistani descent, gathered Wednesday night at a parking lot near the airport to raise concerns about alleged verbal abuse by company managers and to protest the firing of a co-worker.

Many drivers received messages during the demonstration telling them they were suspended, which was confirmed by United Cabs management on Thursday.

United Group general manager Scott Suppes arrived at the parking lot and tore signs off the windows of several cabs, he said in an interview.

“We have some cars that we own ourselves and I took signs off cars that were ours,” he said. “I think anybody reasonably would have done the same thing. If it was your car and they were putting signs on it claiming things they shouldn’t be claiming, you’d probably take them off, too.”

The drivers took to the streets again Thursday, eventually moving their protest inside the lobby of City Hall, where they stood waiting for several hours while demanding a meeting with Mayor Don Atchison.

“People decided to get together and demonstrate and get their voices heard so their rights wouldn’t be violated,” said Fawad Muzaffar, 33, a United driver who was suspended Thursday.

“This treatment of locking people out (for) making a legal demonstration is not fair,” he said. “We should be treated fairly. There should be a code (under) which people should be fired. . . . Right now, there is no ifs or buts about it.”

The cab drivers allege one of the company’s managers has verbally abused many of the Pakistani and other South Asian employees with racial slurs.

“We are suffering from discrimination and verbal violations,” said driver Sherjeel Butt. “We need justice here. That’s why we approached the mayor. We moved from all over Canada to come to Saskatoon. They fire people for no reason because there are lots of people moving from around Canada to Saskatoon (to do the job).”

Suppes said any comments perceived to be racist were the result of a “misunderstanding” from a manager who “may have said some things that (the Pakistani drivers) may have found offensive.

“She thought it was in good fun and obviously that didn’t happen. We’ve cautioned her and she won’t be doing it any longer.

“We are so far from racist here,” he said. “If we were, why would we hire these people in the first place? We have a multicultural organization here with people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. It’s absolutely not true.”

Suppes said the company “scrambled” to provide service on Wednesday night and again Thursday, but was meeting demand.

“The fortunate part is that we’re getting to a time of the year where it’s getting to be less busy,” he said.

“If we have to, we’ll get some new drivers.”

The drivers had a bevy of complaints ranging from how the taxi industry is regulated to hiring practices to being told to fill up with gas at United Group stations, which Suppes defended as “good business.”

Muzaffar called for a city-run taxi commission made up of company representatives, drivers and members of the public to deal with licensing and enforcement of the industry.

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Tamils’ highway closure was ‘wrong way to protest’: Ont. premier

Last Updated: Monday, May 11, 2009
CBC News [Ontario]

Photo from Toronto Star

Photo: Toronto Star

The protest that shut down one of Toronto’s major roadways on Sunday moved to midtown and to Queen’s Park on Monday, where members of the city’s Tamil community are demanding the federal government do more to help end the civil war in their native Sri Lanka.

Premier Dalton McGuinty assailed the protesters’ tactics, saying the bloodshed in Sri Lanka does not justify blocking streets.

“I understand the passions which are here. But having said that, there is a right way and a wrong way to protest,” said McGuinty.

He said the demonstrators are welcome to protest on the front lawn of the legislature or Parliament Hill.

On Sunday, a protest by thousands of members of the city’s Tamil community, including women and children, blocked and shut down the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto.

For more than five hours protesters jammed the highway demanding the federal government impose sanctions on Sri Lanka until it signs a ceasefire with Tamil rebels.

Toronto Mayor David Miller issued a statement Sunday night saying that while he understood the protesters’ deep concern over what is happening in Sri Lanka, “Endangering public safety by occupying the Gardiner or other public highways is not the right way to make that statement.”

Siva Vimal, a spokesman for the protesters, said they ended the blockade only after receiving a promise from federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s deputy chief of staff that their concerns would be brought up in Parliament, which the Liberals and the NDP did during Monday’s question period.

The protest was mostly peaceful. Police took three people into custody, charging them with assaulting an officer. Police estimate 5,000 people took part in the demonstration, which ended shortly at midnight.

Some protesters then marched to Queen’s Park and by mid-morning another group began demonstrating near the busy corner of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue where the Sri Lankan consulate is located.

In April, Tamil protests shut down a section of University Avenue for more than three days for a protest outside the United States Consulate. Toronto police moved in and forced the demonstrators onto the sidewalk and reopened the street once the crowd dwindled.

On Monday, police shut down University Avenue for several hours from Dundas Street West to Queen Street West, in front of the U.S. Consulate.

At least 50 Tamil Canadians gathered in Calgary at the U.S. Consulate on Monday, pleading that the United Nations intervene in the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka.

Sunday’s Toronto protest was the fourth major Tamil protest in the city this year.

About 200,000 Sri Lankan Canadians live in the Toronto area, which is home to one of the largest Tamil populations outside Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Canadians are calling for foreign governments to help arrange a ceasefire between Sri Lankan government troops and the rebel Tamil Tigers, a rebel group known formally as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In 2006, Canada added the Tamil Tigers to its official list of terrorist organizations.

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Mohawks march on border in protest of arming guards

Posted By Michael Peeling
Cornwall Standard Freeholder [Ontario]
Monday, May 11, 2009

Hundreds of Mohawks marched across the Seaway International Bridge into Canada from the U. S. on Saturday to protest a plan to arm border guards.

And things are taking a more ominous tone as the protesters claim they’ll evict the federal government if necessary over the controversial issue.

The “unity rally,” organized by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, started with residents of the First Nation – which straddles the borders of Ontario, Quebec and New York State – being bused from a tent set up beside the Canada Customs and Immigration office on Cornwall Island (known in Mohawk as Kawehnoke) into the U. S.

The tent is the staging ground for a month-long protest, which began on May 1, of the arming of Canadian Border Services Agency officers across the country on June 1, but particularly at the Cornwall Island crossing.

The protesters returned on foot led by Grand Chief Tim Thompson. They walked over the southern span of the bridge to the island behind a large banner reading “No Guns!” and chanting, “End the occupation of Akwesasne.”

Once the throng reached the yellow line indicating the border, they halted briefly before walking unchecked by CBSA officials into Canada. Many of the marchers made a circuit back around the customs and immigration building to stop by the checkpoint booths and office windows, where they chant, with signs reading: “The consequence of arming is eviction” against the windows and knock on the glass.

The protesters eventually marched back to the tent. An attempt to make a third circuit was met with little support.

MCA District Chief of Kanatakon (St. Regis, Que.) Larry King said the council worked out a safe passage for the protesters with the CBSA before the march.

“We’re marching to tell the federal government how strongly we feel about the message of no guns on our island,” King said. “There’s no need and no reason for the guards to have guns.”

King pointed out that Akwesasne Mohawk Police officers are armed and have an outpost at the border crossing if CBSA officials require assistance.

There are also unarmed Mohawk security officers contracted by the federal government to be stationed in the same building at all times.

The Mohawks of Akwesasne make up more than 70 per cent of the cross-border traffic at the Cornwall Island port of entry and feel they are unfairly singled out by border guards to be harassed and provoked into confrontations.

Community elder John Boots told of how his granddaughter, her boyfriend and their three children were pulled over at the border because the officers did not believe the one, two and four-year-olds were their children. She was still waiting to get their native status identification cards.

“The guards interrogated my great grandchildren to find out if my granddaughter is their mother,” Boots said. “How insensitive is that? One of them can’t even talk.”

Boots also said the CBSA attempted to brand a 14-year-old girl a terrorist and strip-searched her recently.

He added that the community is looking into getting help from the United Nations to address tensions with the CBSA.

MCA spokesman Brendan White says the council has a long list of complaints filed by tribe members over dealings with the CBSA, but none of them have been resolved to the complainants’ satisfaction by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

MCA spokesman Brendan White said the government never consulted with Akwesasne about the arming initiative, which was announced three years ago and is due to be complete by 2016.

White said a letter sent to past Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and requests to meeting current minister Peter Van Loan have been met with little or no response.

Thompson said Day refused to meet with the MCA over the arming issue.

“The time has come to express our displeasure over the arming of the guards,” Thompson said.

The march was not the end of the protest, said Thompson as he addressed the crowd. There are tentative plans for another rally in the coming weeks.

Rick Comerford, director general for the Northern Ontario Region of the CBSA, released a statement Saturday in response to the protest.

“The decision to arm border services officers ensures that they are given the tools they need to improve border security and enhance the safety of officers and the travelling public. Training and arming our officers to respond to potentially dangerous situations helps protect our communities.”

Comerford said he and CBSA president Stephen Rigby have met with the MCA to discuss the arming of border services officers at the Port of Cornwall as recently as May 4.

“We are committed to maintaining this dialogue,” Comerford said.


On the role of Canada’s colonial band councils, such as the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, see the following article:

How the Indian Act Made Indians Act Like Indian Act Indians (Warrior Publications)

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