Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Organizers Needed! Light up the city!

To help coordinate your school for Winnipeg Walkout 2006, look over these starting points, and then get in touch with the coordinating committee at walkoutwinnipeg@yahoo.ca:

  • Make posters with the date, time, and location: Memorial Park, May 1st, 1pm. Let us know if you need posters or leaflets
  • Make sure the whole school knows about it, and try to organize a contingent with likeminded people to spread the word. Come as a group on busses, bikes, skateboards, or foot
  • Make signs, puppets, or whatever expresses your dissent, before the day of action.
  • Write to: walkoutwinnipeg@yahoo.ca about planning in the coming weeks; let the coordinating committee know how things are going in your school
  • Have fun and think big!

Winnipeg Walkout 2006

The following was submitted by a Winnipeg Walkout supporter

On May 1st there will be a Walkout against War. In particular the day will draw attention to Canada’s role in Afghanistan, Haiti, and as a supporter of the U.S. driven war on the world, known as ‘war on terror.’

April 30 through May 6 the army will be in Winnipeg training for a mystery mission in 2008. The walkout is one among several important events throughout the week protesting “Operation Charging Bison,” the name for the urban warfare training.

When I first heard about Walkout 2006, I was reminded of the incredible Winnipeg Walkout of 2003. Protests were exploding around the world at this time, on every continent, and involving millions of people. Hundreds of thousands were marching in the cities of Europe, the Middle East, and America. Even Winnipeg drew a massive mid-Febuary demonstration of 10 000.

Winnipeg Walkout 2003 occurred in this exciting type of atmosphere – where every day the news changed rapidly. With millions of people on the streets of the world, and Winnipeg being a part of this, it made it seem that we were a part of a global movement fighting a global system, and that it could actually stop the war. But as we know now, Bush and his Christian fundamentalist movement were going to invade anyways, and use any excuse to justify it. The world stood in shock.

Winnipeg Walkout 2003 occurred days after the bombs started falling on Iraq. The day of action was organized by World People’s Resistance Movement, and coordinated through students in schools across the city. Hundreds of youth flooded into Memorial Park on the day of action. Almost the entire Gordon Bell high school walked out – taking up the whole street along the way! Other schools marched from far away as a group, or rode the bus together. The result was amazing – the sight of seeing an estimated 3000 youth taking action against something that was so clearly wrong. The atmosphere was electrifying, as anyone who was there can attest to.

Winnipeg Walkout 2006 is in a different time, and with new opportunities and challenges posed by the training of the Canadian imperialist army in our city. Canada’s role in the world is hidden with murky, untruthful distortion of what they are actual doing in Afghanistan, Haiti, and their support for the war in Iraq. As it begins to emerge with the increased deployment in Afghanistan, the progressive forces in Canada are faced with the challenge of exposing Canada’s imperialist nature, of how it is seeking to protect its own interests around the world at the expense of the world’s people.

Canada is deeply divided over the supposed transition from “peacekeeping” to combat roles. Protesting “operation charging bison” has received support across the country, even from people as far away as Japan and Europe! Some from around the country are even planning to join us for these important days of resistance.

The crimes being committed by the Canadian government, in our name, are every bit as horrendous as the invasion of Iraq. Winnipeg Walkout 2006 another critical step in the movement toward justice for the World’s People - with the potential to explode across Canada.

Three years ago no one thought it was possible to bring thousands of youth together for a powerful demonstration – but what started as only a few organizers and coordinators in schools exploded massively. What will the soldiers think when they see a crowd of their own citizens, small or large, opposing what they do? Will they be able to keep on fighting? We have organize, organize, organize, so hopefully they will join with us to oppose Canada’s role in oppressing other countries.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Canada out of Haiti!

Originally printed in Get on the Bus, January 2006

Canada participates in overthrowing elected government: trains death squads to tame protests

On February 29th 2004, US, French, and Canadian troops invaded the caribbean country of Haiti. US marines swept into the capital, Port-au-Prince, and kidnapped the democratically-elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, while Canadian forces took over the country’s main airport. Aristide was then shipped out of the country into exile in the Central African Republic, one of the most isolated countries in the world.
The US claims this was a ‘voluntary’ exile. Aristide has called this a lie, saying he was ousted against his wishes.
Within weeks, the Haitian government was being headed by Gérard Latortue, a pro-US Haitian who had lived in Florida for the past 15 years. This was a coup d’etat – a sudden overthrow of a government by illegal means – orchestrated and carried out with Canada’s direct involvement.
To understand why this happened, a brief look into recent Haitian history will be useful. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a priest, first came to power in the 1990 elections at the head of the popular Lavalas movement, which drew its support primarily from Haiti’s poor. This was a new period for Haiti, which was coming out of decades of imperialist-sponsored dictatorships.
Aristide wasn’t, and isn’t, a revolutionary. He is basically a pro-Western figure who has attempted to make small changes within the overall imperialist framework – ‘poverty with dignity’ according to one of his slogans. This meant using some of Haiti’s meagre budget for things like public education
But even this was considered to be ‘too much’ by Haiti’s imperialist masters. In 1991, Aristide was ousted in a coup sponsored by the CIA and replaced by a military junta. In 1994, Aristide was again brought to power with the aid of the US.
It soon became clear why. Aristide agreed to ‘austerity measures’ imposed by the imperialist-dominated International Monetary Fund. One of the outcomes of these austerity measures, among many, was to flood Haiti with cheap agricultural products which in turn drove thousands of peasants off the land. This was on top of decades of agricultural sabotage directed at Haiti which effectively destroyed any attempt at self-reliance for the Haitian economy.
For example, in the 1970s, agricultural chemicals sent by the US poisoned the rivers and killed fish, cutting off an important food source for peasants. In the late 1990s, Haiti lost 25,000 acres of arable land because of poisoning with defective agricultural chemicals, once again sent by the US.
The result was a destroyed economy. Many Haitians, unable to afford the now-imported food with their now-worthless currency, began to starve. Today Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and the life expectancy, at 52 years, stands among the world’s lowest.
Aristide was re-elected in 2000. Although he had capitulated to most of the imperialist program, he was unwilling to submit completely. Because of this, countries like Canada began plotting against him. Canada cruelly cut off aid to Haiti in 2001 and began throwing funding and support behind anti-Aristide Non-Governmental-Organizations. In 2003 Canada sponsored ‘The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’, the first of many meetings meant to ‘solve’ the Haiti ‘problem’.
The final result was the aforementioned coup d’etat in February 2004. (For a more comprehensive breakup of the lead-up to the coup see Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton’s book, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority.)
Since then Haiti has been plunged into more chaos and violence which carries the stamp of ‘made in Canada’. Immediately after the coup foreign troops gave a free hand to anti-Aristide forces to rampage through Port-au-Prince’s slums, where they killed thousands of mostly poor Lavalas supporters.
Canada has sent 100 million dollars to Haiti’s new government, including millions in military aid, to prop up Haiti’s new armed forces and police. They have also sent the RCMP to train the new Haitian National Police. The HNP has become notorious for firing on unarmed protestors and carrying out massacres in Haiti’s slums. For instance, in October 2004 600 corpses were removed from the slums after an ‘anti-gang’ raid carried out by the HNP (‘gang’ right now is a codeword used by the Haitian government and Canadian media to describe Lavalas and Aristide supporters). It makes you wonder what kind of training the RCMP has been providing. Some sources indicate that Canada, together with France and the US, has been pressuring United Nations forces in Haiti to use even more violence against the slum dwellers.
The Canadian government has been taking these actions because it is in their interests to do so. The new puppet government of Haiti can now grant Canadian mining companies greater access to Haitian copper and gold. They can remove barriers for sweatshops – such as the one run by Gildan International, the Canadian clothing manufacturer which is expanding its stake in Haiti. And Haiti is now taking on a massive debt owed to Canada and other countries. This will increase the flow of profit and wealth out of Haiti to the rich countries.
Meanwhile the Haitian people are being murdered, impoverished, and driven into ever-deepening dependency. It all makes you ‘Proud to be a Canadian”, eh?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thirst For Freedom

Originally published in Get on the Bus, January 2006

Dangerous Drinking Water in 100 Communities

In early November of 2005, hundreds of people were evacuated from their hometown of Kashechewan because their drinking water posed a serious risk to their health. Nearly half of this 1,900-person community was suffering from symptoms caused by dirty, E. coli infested water -- the same bacterium that is blamed for the deaths of five residents in Walkerton, Ontario in the year 2000.

While it may seem that this is not a problem of a country like Canada, Kashechewan is a reserve off James Bay, in northern Ontario, home to a Cree First Nations community. This community along with an alarming 100 more indicates a tragically unequal relationship between native people and the rest of Canada – and is another reason among many others why the government of Canada is not capable of running this country.

The Canadian federal government as well as the Ontario provincial government have known about this problem for a while, as the reserve has been on a “boil-your-water” alert for two years.

Kashechewan’s older, out-of-date water treatment plant was replaced in 1995, however the newer one has apparently failed. It was placed downstream from the community’s sewage lagoon. It was also built too small for a community of Kashechewan’s size.

As a band-aid solution, the Canadian government has evacuated hundreds of people out of this community and has been sending bottled water up to the reserve since April. Many residents still use tap water for cleaning and bathing. Even if the government’s response to the immediate situation were adequate, they have still not procured a means to solve the full scope of the situation and its ongoing present problems.

The Kashechewan community is not the only reserve in Canada with this problem. An alarming amount of one hundred reserves suffer from this epidemic of dirty water. Kwicksutaineuk, a First Nations reserve off the coast of British Colombia has been on a boil-water alert for nine years!

Dangerous levels of E. coli, the source of gastrointestinal health problems, force water treatment plants to shock drinking water with high amounts of chlorine. Generally, this kind of water along with poor living conditions of Reserves is known to cause scabies, chronic diarrhea and impetigo, where bacteria and parasites live under the skin.

The government and opposition continue to stress that no one deserves to be drinking dirty water in Canada as it has the largest fresh water surplus in the world. Yet, very little has been done to actually solve the problem of contaminated water in Canada for northern communities. More water treatment sites are being built full of errors and reserves have been suffering for years. What more will it take to expose this repeated disgusting carelessness of our government? Why is it that Canada, one of the most developed countries in the world, cannot even provide clean water for so many of its citizens? It isn’t because it’s impossible, or because it’s not practical. It’s because First Nations have been systematically oppressed by a certain class of people – a group of people who have never acted in the interests of aboriginal people, and don’t intend to. This class of people who don’t end inequality are not fit to rule – and should be fought continuously in every arena by the multi-national masses.

Now that they have been shamed into acting, the government is attempting some minor improvements. But shouldn’t we be asking why this situation has gone on for so long? And, shouldn’t the government all along be responsible for providing people with disease-free living conditions fit for human beings?

Canada: Secret Trials and Torture

Originally published in Get on the Bus, January 2006

Imagine being held in solitary confinement. Imagine being alone in your cell for 24 hours a day. Imagine being kept in that cell for years. Imagine that you are being kept in prison without having any charges laid against you, without being able to know why you are being held, or even when you will be released, if at all.
For Mahmoud Jaballah, this scenario isn’t just a nightmarish thing to think about, it’s his daily reality. Jaballah, along with four other men, is being held without charge on what is called a “security certificate”. The men have so far spent a combined 223 months behind bars.
Security certificates allow the Canadian government to arrest anyone and hold them indefinitely without any formal charges being brought against them. They also allow for the deportation of non-Canadian citizens. Arresting people without charge is a serious (and frankly scary) act that runs counter to hundreds of years of basic democratic traditions and rights. But it gets worse.
Security certificates allow the government to hold people in prison without even telling them why they have been arrested. Also, all ‘evidence’ against them is kept secret. This means that once arrested, the detainees have no reasonable means of defending themselves, since they do not know what they are being charged with or what, if any, proof exists to back up the charges.
If this sounds insane it’s because it is. The potential for abuse at the hands of the government is huge, and the potential for injustice is practically guaranteed. Take the case of Tarek Khafagy, who was arrested on a security certificate in 2000 by the RCMP. He was accused of plotting to bomb the Israeli consulate and was held for 5 months in prison. It turns out though that the only evidence against him was a tip from a man who owed Mr. Khafagy money and wanted him out of the way so that he wouldn’t have to repay him.
It hardly needs to be emphasized the danger that exists when completely unaccountable police and spies (whose main social role is to protect the basic interests of this system and repress any resistance to the system) have this sort of arbitrary power over anyone in the country.
In the meantime, five men, three of whom have children, continue to be held in jail in conditions so terrible that one of them, Hassan Almrei, launched a hunger strike to draw attention to their plight. And, the spectre of sudden arbitrary kidnapping by the government hangs over us all.
Getting Syria to Do the Dirty Work
The five men in Toronto are not the only ones who have come under police-state attack from the Canadian government. It is worth remembering here the case of Maher Arar. Arar is a Canadian citizen who was deported to Syria by American officials with the consent and knowledge of the Canadian government. While in Syria he was repeatedly tortured with the most horrific and dehumanizing means. All of this despite the fact that he had no links to terrorism. Fortunately Arar has been released and is back in Canada. But shouldn’t Arar’s story have woken up officials to just how unjust the security certificates are? You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. In fact, the Canadian government has shown no interest in abandoning security certificates. (see Maher Arar’s story in his own words in the sidebar)
Several Other Canadians have been tortured in Syria with the complicity of our government: Abdullah Almaki was arrested in Syria in 2003 and was held for 22 months. He faced regular beating and torture. Syrian officials told him they arrested him based on information coming from the Canadian government. Ahmad Al Maati was arrested in Syria based on the information given to them by The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. He was tortured, forced to ‘confess’ to crimes and was then released in Egypt after 790 days’ imprisonment without charge. Muayyed Nureddin was arrested while en route from Iraq to Toronto in Syria. He was tortured in Syria and also released without charge. (source: cbc.ca)

And the Saudis Too…
In 2000, William Sampson was a Canadian citizen working in Saudi Arabia when he was arrested out of the blue. The Saudis wished to frame him and several other Westerners for a string of car bombings in the country. Saudi Arabian police tortured him repeatedly. They beat him with cane and an axe-handle. They stomped on his genitals. They even anally raped him –an account of which is given by Sampson himself in his book, Confessions of an Innocent Man: Torture and Survival in a Saudi Prison. The horror and terror experienced by Sampson is beyond any description. So what did Canadian officials do aid one of their citizens facing this kind of unspeakable abuse? Well, the short answer is not very fucking much. Embassy officials believed what the Saudis told them, and refused to look into many of the obvious signs that indicated Sampson was being tortured. Fortunately, Sampson was eventually released and exonerated of any wrongdoing. He has since renounced his Canadian citizenship.

Let’s Not Forget Iran…
Zahra Kazemi was an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who was arrested in Iran in June of 2003 after taking photos of a student-led protest against the Iranian regime. A little over two weeks later she had died in Iranian police custody. Although Iran originally tried to claim she had died of natural causes, it was later revealed by Shahram Azam, a doctor in Iran’s Defence Ministry that Kazemi suffered torture in various ways: She was brutally raped, beaten to the point of having broken finger, a fractured skull, swelling around her head, multiple body bruises and had deep scratches that were evidence of flogging (whipping). Canadian officials visited Kazemi several times while she was in custody, but once again, no alarm bells were sounded, and nothing was done to prevent her mistreatment. After her death, Canada’s inaction was appalling. Aside from some mild diplomatic censures, Canada has retained normal relations with Iran.

Afghanistan: One Big Jail

Originally published in Get on the Bus, January 2006
Afghanistan: One Big Jail

In early 2002, shortly after the Bush regime launched its global tirade known as the War on Terror, Canadian troops were deployed to Afghanistan with the aims of assisting their American allies carry out Operation Enduring Freedom. And Canada has played a major role in the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, with 2600 troops currently on the ground and another 1000 scheduled to arrive in February of 2006.
In early 2002, shortly after the Bush regime launched its global tirade known as the War on Terror, Canadian troops were deployed to Afghanistan with the aims of assisting their American allies in carrying out Operation Enduring Freedom. And Canada has played a major role in the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, with 2600 troops currently on the ground and another 1000 scheduled to arrive in February of 2006.
But the actual objectives of Operation Enduring Freedom have little to do with freedom for the people of Afghanistan. Rather the campaign is meant to prop up and protect a political system in Afghanistan that serves the needs of the US, Canada, and other western imperialist nations. And it is doing this at the expense of the Afghani people whose needs are being ignored or denied, and who are put down with force when they rise up against the oppressive conditions imposed on them. The initial attack forced food aid agencies to flee Afghanistan, putting millions at risk of starvation, and the ongoing occupation has continued to disrupt food aid in that country.
Why is Canada in Afghanistan?
The campaign in Afghanistan is strategically important to the world’s wealthiest nations, Canada included. Firstly, control of Afghanistan offers a foothold in an oil-rich corner of the world. A puppet regime installed by the US would prove to be a useful tool in controlling the flow of oil in that region. Secondly, an Afghanistan controlled by the US could act as a base from which to launch similar strikes on other uncooperative states in the region (such as Iraq). Thirdly, Afghanistan stands as a warning, like a head on a pike, to other states not to think that they can simply do as they please. Finally, Afghanistan is an enticing site on which to build military run prisons to hold the thousands of prisoners the US led coalition is scooping up.
Canadian Forces’ presence on the ground has helped with every aspect of the US’ list of objectives, and at the same time kept Canadian objectives in perspective. Oil is just as important to Canada as it is to the US, and so a regime friendly to western nations is equally desirable. Canadian firms also stand to profit from the American war machine by providing supplies to them, such as helicopters, combat simulation technology, and weapons components. The Canadian government also invests money into foreign weapons manufacturers to the tune of billions of dollars. Thus, a Canada that is supportive of the US War on Terror is good for \business.
The Terrifying Reality of the Occupation
Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, American troops have been building up a massive prison system meant to detain and interrogate “unlawful combatants” in a manner not unlike that which is happening currently in American run prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Canada’s presence on the ground on the ground in Afghanistan has freed up US soldiers to provide the man-power to build and run these prisons
According to Nader Nadery of the Human Rights Commission, “Afghanistan is being transformed into an enormous US jail. What we have here is a military strategy that has spawned serious human rights abuses, a system of which Afghanistan is but on part.” American officials are not willing to speak about hat goes on inside these prisons and there have been widespread allegations of human rights abuses and torture reminiscent of the atrocities of Abu Ghraib.
Dr. Rafiullah Bidar, regional director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission: “All I do nowadays is chart complaints against the US military…People who have been arrested say they’ve been brutalized – the tactics used are beyond belief.”
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark of the British Guardian filed a story of their investigation of the prisons in Afghanistan in March of this year. In their report they say: “We have obtained prisoner letters, declassified FBI files, legal depositions, witness statements and testimony from US and UK officials, which document the alleged methods deployed in Afghanistan – shackles, hoods, electrocution, whips, mock executions, sexual humiliation and starvation – and suggest they are practiced across the network. Sir Nigel Rodley, a former UN special rapporteur on torture, said, ‘The more hidden detention practices there are, the more likely that all legal and moral constraints on official behaviour will be removed.’”
There have also been numerous reports of prisoners gone missing in Afghanistan, their whereabouts unknown to their family. Allegations are these prisoners are often taken to other countries to be tortured. According to Robert Baer, a CIA case officer in the Middle East until 1997, this is not an uncommon practice. “We pick up a suspect or we arrange for one of our partner countries to do it,” he explains. “Then the suspect is placed on civilian transport to a third country where, let’s make no bones about it, they use torture. If you want a good interrogation, you send someone to Jordan. If you want them to be killed, you send them to Egypt or Syria. Either way, the US cannot be blamed as it is not doing the heavy work.”
In light of this testimony, one shudders to think of the fate that awaited Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian who was arrested and sent to a Syrian prison where he was tortured for 10 months. It also exposes the role that Canada is playing in their participation in the War on terror and in the occupation of Afghanistan.
And while Canada willingly subjects its own civilians and Afghan prisoners (many of hom are detained only to name names) to torture in these prisons, they at the same time willingly subject Afghan civilians to a repressive Islamic government.
In October, 2005, it was reported that the editor of a women’s magazine in Afghanistan was sentenced to two years in prison for writing articles denouncing a law that allows one to be stoned to death for leaving the religioin of Islam, challenging the practice of 100 lashes as punishment for adultery, and arguing for equal rights for women.
“We work together…[we provide] whatever they need. Whatever they as for…We’re here at the behest of the government to provide them with assistance,” said NATO spokesperson, Major Karen Tissot Van Patot (a Canadian) on NATO forces in Afghanistan’s relationship with the Afghani government.
This is what Canada has brought to the people of Afghanistan: an oppressive theocracy, starvation, systemic attacks on women’s fundamental freedoms, abductions, and torture chambers. Canada is a partner in crime, and doesn’t care what kinds of atrocities are committed in its name. Canada’s only concern is that they are a beneficiary of the system that is being set up in Afghanistan, no matter who gets raped and murdered. Rick Hillier, Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff, summed thins up perfectly: “We’re not the public service of Canada, we’re not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able to kill people.”

Caution: Road Blocks Ahead

Originally from March/April 2005 issue of The Applecart

Caution: Road Blocks Ahead

By Revolt fer Brains
In the summer of 1990, the world watched as a group of Mohawk warriors and supporters from Quebec engaged in a 77 day long armed standoff with provincial police and the Canadian military in an effort to assert their land rights and sovereignty as a nation.
It happened in Kanesatake, a Mohawk settlement near the town of Oka, Quebec. Like many other First Nations, the Kanesatake Mohawks have time and time again been denied title to their traditional land. And, like many other First Nations, their outcries and protests were downplayed and ignored, forcing them to take a more direct approach to defending their land, and their lives.
In 1989, the mayor of Oka, Jean Ouellette, unveiled plans to expand the old nine-hole golf course to 18 holes. The plans called for the nine-hole expansion and sixty luxury townhouses to be built on a strip of land reaching into the pine forest that the Mohawk people of Kanesatake claimed to be theirs. Several protests against the expansion were held over the next year, most initiated by the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, but scores of non-Mohawk residents of the town of Oka opposed the plan as well, for a variety of reasons. Many townspeople were angered that the town council had not consulted the Mohawk people about the project, and a petition circulated, gathering nearly nine hundred signatures from residents of Oka and the surrounding area.
Despite widespread opposition, the Oka town council voted in favour of proceeding with the project in early March 1990. On March 10th, the people of Kanesatake set up camp in the Pines. The occupation of the disputed land to prevent the project had begun.
The Mohawk people stayed at the camp day and night to prevent landscapers from beginning their work to expand the golf course. In mid-April the Mohawk people erected a barricade on a road leading to the Pines after their camp was vandalized. Four days later, the Oka town council obtained an injunction against the Mohawk occupants to remove the barricade. The Mohawks did not budge, and on May 1st, the Quebec provincial police, the Surete du Quebec (SQ), attempted to push past the barricade only to be met with resistance by Mohawk warriors and supporters, some of whom had come from nearby Kahnawake to assist with the occupation.
Then, in the early morning of July 11th, the SQ launched a raid on the occupied territory. A gun battle broke out, and SQ officer Marcel Lemay was killed. Beginning that day, in an effort to prevent further potentially violent raids against them, the Mohawk protesters erected a series of new roadblock on Highway 344. The SQ responded with roadblocks of their own. The standoff was on, and tensions mounted.
Across the country, many other aboriginal groups showed their support for the Mohawks of Kanesatake, and at the same time expressed their own frustrations by organizing similar actions. Roadblocks and barricades went up on railway tracks and roads in B.C., Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Rallies, marches, and hunger strikes were held to support the warriors, and some even made the trek to Kanesatake to become warriors and fight with the Mohawk people.
In nearby Kahnawake, Mohawk warriors seized the Mercier Bridge, essentially cutting the Montreal suburb of Chateauguay off from the city itself. Chateauguay residents grew furious, and in mid-August several hundred residents rioted. The Chateauguay riots exposed an underlying racist sentiment toward the Mohawk people of the region. Some radical rightwing groups were involved in the riots, including members of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Many people were threatened for simply looking like a Mohawk. In one case, two young men were beaten by an angry mob who assumed they were Mohawks simply for wearing camouflage pants.
As the standoff dragged on into mid-August without any solution drafted by the negotiating parties representing the various interests in the situation, the prospect of a peaceful solution seemed to be slipping away. On August 17th, Quebec Premier, Robert Bourassa requested that the Canadian military replace the SQ at the frontlines of the standoff, and the change over was complete by August 20th. Seven days later, Bourassa made yet another move.
“We cannot have in Canada or in Quebec this type of democracy or pseudo-democracy that permits citizens, no matter what the value of their ultimate cause, to choose which laws they are going to follow…”. And with that, the Premier requested that the army dismantle the Mohawk barricades. What followed was an escalation that almost guaranteed a violent and potentially bloody end to the situation. The army began moving their roadblocks closer to the Mohawk barricades, pushing the limits, and testing the warriors’ resolve.
On September 1st the army pushed forward past three Mohawk barricades and into Kanesatake, and by the next day they had advanced further to the barricade blocking the entrance to the Pines. Out-manned and out-gunned, the warriors and supporters fell back into the pines and took up defensive positions. Children were taken to a nearby community centre as their parents feared door-to-door raids by the army that could put them in harm’s way.
On September 7th the military breached the final barricade. The warriors and supporters retreated into the nearby drug and alcohol treatment centre that had acted as the Mohawk headquarters throughout the standoff. There, the Mohawk rebels spent 19 days under constant fear of an assault by a much stronger military force, all the while asserting their rights to land and sovereignty. But by September 26th, the rebels realized that there was nowhere left to go. Their bargaining power had fizzled.
That evening, the military was prepared to take the Mohawk rebels into custody. They anticipated the warriors and their supporters would walk down the main route from the Pines and turn themselves over, but the fighting spirit of the Mohawk rebels still burned.
The rebels left the treatment centre at approximately 7:00pm and started down the path toward the frontline. Suddenly, they veered off the path and headed northeast toward the town of Oka. The Canadian soldiers were caught off guard, if only briefly, as the rebels attempted to escape arrest and the abuse that was certain to follow.
Some were able to evade the military and make it to the town. Most, however, did not. The military swarmed the Mohawk rebels, knocking them to the ground, and clubbing them with the butt of their rifles. One soldier stabbed Waneek Horn-Miller, a fourteen-year-old Mohawk girl, in the back with a bayonet as she rushed down the highway toward Oka carrying her four-year-old sister. At 8:00pm, the Mohawk rebels were loaded up and taken away on two military busses.

Though the Mohawk rebels were taken into custody by the military, many Mohwak people saw the events of the summer of 1990 as a victory. They had shown the provincial and federal governments, and the people of Canada that they were no longer content to be marginalized and forgotten, and they inspired a number of other aboriginal communities to stand up for their rights in the process.
Many aboriginal communities have become disenchanted with the federal and provincial governments’ contempt for their claims to land and sovereignty. Recent history is laced with many examples of aboriginal communities resorting to direct action in their fight, after finding little or no help from the legal system.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

International Women's Day

This year WPRM activists worked a table at the University of Manitoba, distributing WPRM literature, buttons, postcards, and T-shirts. Hanging the globe flag from the table, it was visited by many students and faculty throughout the day.

Articles from Li Onesto were distributed, including her open letter of support for the "World Can't Wait - Drive out the Bush Regime" campaign, as well as her article "Taking it Higher: Women's Liberation in Nepal," which many people took.

Also distributed were various WPRM statements, including the call, "Build the World People's Resistance Movement," and statement of support for Women in Iran and the March to the Hague for the Abolition of all Misogynic Laws in Iran. (see below for a report on this march)

By far the most picked up pamphlet was the call to resist Operation Charging Bison. Many who took it expressed support for the resistance being planned against the training of Canadian troops for urban war in Afghanistan and Haiti. Several conversations were held over how to overcome the imperialist system, and about what role Canada is playing in the world and Afghanistan.

European march for Iranian women successful

European march for Iranian women successful

13 March 2006. A World to Win News Service.
“We saw a woman, just for love, condemned to death and stoned.
We saw the plant of hope turn yellow and die, without spring.
As long as we’re shackled, the world will endure the rule of capital, ignorance and religion.
What does the young life whose head is in a noose long for, if not liberation?
We said: what sort of life is that? There’s no time to lose. Yes, the time has come for this campaign.”
With this song called Karzar (Campaign) written especially for the occasion by a group of artists actively supporting this effort, the march for Iranian women organised by the Campaign for the Abolition of All Misogynist, Gender-Based Legislation and Islamic Punitive Laws started in Frankfurt, Germany, 4 March and ended on 8 March, International Women’s Day, in The Hague, Netherlands, where it culminated with a protest front of the International Criminal Court. Some 800-1,000 people, mainly Iranian women from all over the world, participated in the last day of the march.

The determination and enthusiasm of the protestors was such that the cold and heavy rain from early morning until late evening could not hamper their schedule. They felt as if they could see a bright sun shining over them that other people could not see: the emergence of a new women’s movement. If Ayatollah Khomeini and his Islamic regime celebrated their seizure of power by brutally attacking women’s rights, sparking the demonstration of 8 March 1979 in Tehran, this year on 8 March women celebrated the emergence of their movement as one of the most powerful forces threatening the very existence of the medieval Islamic regime. This march was the most important Iranian women’s protest since 8 March 1979.

After Frankfurt, the march went through Mainz, Cologne and Dusseldorf before finally reaching The Hague. About 400 protesters started in Frankfurt, in bitter cold and the heaviest snow in 25 years. A theatre group presented a skit about the oppression of women before or after each march in a different city each of the four days. It featured a group of women covered with a black veil or blue burqa (representing the coverings Iranian and Afghan women are forced to wear) oppressed by a mullah, a symbol of the Islamic regimes. In the course of the short play the women rebel, turn the tide and manage to shackle the mullah. As the women prevailed, loudspeakers played the song Karzar and people enthusiastically sang along.

Following the day’s march in Mainz, Cologne and The Hague, there was a rally with speeches by women activists and those who had come a long way to express their support, solidarity messages, poems and songs and other artistic presentations. In Cologne, a young Iranian woman called Mitra presented “the dance of liberation”, in which an imprisoned young woman manages to free herself. In Dusseldorf, after the march the protestors headed towards The Hague, without a public meeting. However, the hall where the marchers lunched and the bus heading to The Hague served as venues for speeches, discussion, chanting slogans, singing and even dancing. Some people took part in the march just for a day; others joined along the way for the rest of the journey. There were new people in every city. Since 8 March was in the middle of the week, many demonstrators had to go back to work before the end.

The organisers and the main body of the march arrived in The Hague on Tuesday night and were busily occupied through most of the night. Many more arrived Wednesday morning. A minivan came from Denmark, another bus from Cologne, two buses full of women asylum seekers from the northern Netherlands, and carloads of friends and individuals travelled from other cities in Holland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the UK, France and even the US and Canada. A woman flew in from Vancouver in the morning and had to return right after the march that evening. Clearly these women gave a lot of importance to their participation.

Women from Afghanistan were among the most active organisers, seeing a common cause with Iranian women. Other Afghanistani women joined along the way. Dutch women of various ages took part, many expressing their opposition to the invasion of Iraq by the US and their own country. Turkish and Kurdish women and even African women were among the marchers. Others from Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Nepal made the march even more colourful and beautiful. The Iranian women themselves were very diverse. They included political refugees and women who had escaped death by stoning, mothers whose daughters or sons were executed by the Islamic regime, ex-political prisoners, communists and other political activists, women who had lost their job because they refused to wear the hijab, and others who also had fled Iran because of pressure on them as women, and women from Kurdistan who faced anti-woman as well as national oppression by the Tehran regime.

To the beat of drums played by a group of a dozen young Dutch women and men, and cries of “Down with the anti-women regime of the Islamic Republic”, the march wound its way through eight kilometres of city streets in The Hague. People standing in their doorways or at their windows waved in support or flashed the marchers the victory sign.

The marchers shouted “Down with the Islamic regime of Iran” and “No to US invasion” as they headed towards the Iranian embassy, where the anger and rage of demonstrators reached its highest point, and the rainy weather, too, turned most angry. After a short stop in front of the embassy, the march headed towards the International Criminal Court for a rally.

Among the speakers was Mary Lou Greenberg, who had come overseas to express the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA’s support for this march. She denounced the religious fundamentalism of the Bush regime, US imperialism’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and possible American aggression against Iran. She also emphasised the need for the people in the imperialist countries to support the anti-imperialist struggles of the people of Iran and the struggle of Iranian women. Her presence and especially her message were very well received and encouraging, especially when she announced that simultaneous actions in solidarity with the Iranian women’s campaign had been held in 12 cities in the US.

Another speaker from another side of the world, Radha Dsusanfar from India, also spoke of the necessity of supporting Iranian women. She addressed a knotty political problem that concerned many people and held back the participation of a few. She said some people may think that supporting Iranian women against the Islamic regime could mean playing into the hands of imperialism, but the situation was really just the opposite. When the bombs start to rain down on the people, it’s too late to support them because you have lost the initiative. You have to say no to the war now. Now is the time to discuss this with the progressive forces of Iran and support them in their struggle against imperialism.

It was true, as Dsusanfar said, that some progressive forces, particularly in Germany as well as other countries, refused to support this effort because of this same argument, but this could not dilute the internationalist character of the march. Many forces worldwide gave their support. Maoists were in the forefront because they hold that the only way to resist US imperialism in this situation is to support the just struggle of the Iranian people for their democratic rights and against imperialist domination, and not line up with a medieval regime that has suppressed the people and especially women for so long. In addition to the RCP,USA message, statements and other forms of support came from the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan, the Revolutionary Communist Party Organising Committee of Canada and other parties that provided logistical and practical assistance. Many other revolutionary and progressive groups also actively supported the march. WPRM activists came from Berlin. An enthusiastic group of women who had heard about this in a meeting came from Bielefield, Germany, to join the march in Mainz. A number of groups and organisations from Germany and especially the Netherlands sent solidarity messages and took part in the demonstrations in various cities.

During the second day of the march, the campaign received a very special message from a group of women who had celebrated 8 March in the mountains near Tehran, away from the eyes of the Islamic regime. This message tremendously boosted the mood and spirit of the rally. The reading of this short message was interrupted several times by the tears of the moderator and audience applause. It was followed by a solidarity message from the union of the United Bus Company workers in the capital, whose struggle for their rights had rocked the whole country before being crushed by regime security forces, with nearly a thousand union members arrested. This made the cheering overflow. (Later came additional news of two public demonstrations by hundreds of women in Tehran 8 March, one in Student Park and the other in Laleh Park. Both were brutally attacked by security forces.)

One of the strengths of the march was that a fairly large number of the youth were taking part in political activity for the first time. Some had travelled from as far away as Sweden. In fact three generations of women took part.

A young women of Kurdish origin named Bayan played an outstanding role all through the five days. When asked why, she responded, “We don’t have to go far, to Iran, Afghanistan or Iraq – where I live in Germany, women also experience oppression. Even here Kurdish women are oppressed by the society and their father and their husband. But I am concerned about the unequal laws in Iran too. I hope we can do more of this.”

The work of artists was very important in strengthening this campaign. Gisoo Shakeri, with her powerful voice, not only agitated the people but played a vital political role. Mina Asadi wrote the stirring words to the march’s theme song Karzar; her radical stand against imperialism and all reactionaries was also very encouraging. Jamileh Nedai a veteran cinema and theatre artist; Mohamad Shams, who wrote the music for Karzar; Abbas Samakar; Basir Nasibi and many other artists supported and actively participated in the march.

Afghanistani women also brought a distinct strength to this march. Like Iranian women, they, too, have endured especially severe oppression in the last 27 years. In their messages and speeches they made it clear that the American-led invasion of Afghanistan has not liberated women. Instead, it has made the situation even worse in many different ways. They shared with other women some of the pain they are suffering and their hopes for what they could achieve by organising Afghani women on a much broader scale.

At the end of the public indoor meeting that lasted until late, women did not hide their happiness. Women in every corner of the hall were hugging each other excitedly and even crying. Many women were happy and satisfied that they had taken part in this march despite the contradictions they had to face. This was the first time that many of them had left their children and family for more than a week to do something like march with other women. Azadeh, from London, like many other women, had left her young children behind to take part in the march. She told AWTWNS, “I am so happy that I took part in the march. I’m happy that a friend really pushed me. If I had not come I would’ve regretted it later.” Mina Asadi said that these five days of marching, along with the International Women’s Day demonstration of 8 March 1979, had been the best days of her life.

The greatest achievement of this march is that these women were able to organise this successful march by themselves. All this means that the women’s movement attacked by the Islamic regime has been reborn, and is taking on new momentum. Its great potential represents a real threat to the Islamic rulers.