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Monday, April 4, 2016

Water is a Human Right: Protecting the Antler River

London Council of Canadians Meeting 
March 30, 2016 

 “Water is a Human Right: 
          Protecting the Antler River” 

Blog by Michael Loebach

Chief Leslee Whiteye 
Chippewas of the Thames First Nation 

Chief Whiteye gave her thoughts on the impact of water as essential to all life. Her nation is downstream from London and wishes to act on water issues, but it seeks to develop relationships with the various entities in the stream, as no one can work on this alone, and actions of the different entities impact others in the stream. Complacency is a problem; thinking someone else will take care of this; the results can show as in Flint, Michigan. The different users of water for fishing, recreation, and industry, both in First Nations areas and in urban areas, must consider the impact on safety and the future, of their use of the water, and be accountable for their impact. Recently, her nation has joined with two other local ones to work together with the City of London to develop a policy with respect to sustainable water use. This is how her ancestors did things with neighboring nations in the past. Water’s well-being is critical to our social, cultural and spiritual well-being. Her hope is that the process with the city will be respectful, not just picking sides, as that leads to litigation, costs, and no results; give and take is needed. Her nation respects the municipal structures but needs to be consulted, and the two entities need to problem solve together and to combat complacency and not leave the issue to industry. 

Grandmother Irene Peters 
Munsee Delaware First Nation 

Grandmother Irene described herself as a Great Lakes Water Walker of the Turtle Clan. She said that she did not want to talk negatively, but that water had to be respected and looked after and not have garbage thrown in. The water is a living spirit; life must be respected; no one should take away life, least of all their own; they need to wait to be called. She had a stroke and felt it was her time, but then she saw that she was not being called. She looked to water to heal, going to a sweat lodge to throw water over hot rocks, to connect with her grandparents, to pray, to heal, and to look for help from the water spirit. She drank water to heal from her stroke and to rehabilitate. In the full moon ceremony there is a connection to grandmother moon, who needs to be trusted, who regulates water, looking to women to purify, and to learn; and to grandfather fire to which all goes to life. The young must learn to respect puberty and menstruation and must learn that water is essential to birth and comes before the baby. She tried to join the Water Walker, Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, in her walk around Lake Superior, but she missed her at that time. She then joined her later to walk around other Great Lakes. She learned how water heals; a doctor had given up on life for a baby, but the baby was brought to the water on the walk, and was healed. An older man with a leg problem (he had been hit by a truck) came and was healed, as he believed water could heal. 

Steve Sauder 
Upper Thames River Conservation Authority 

Steve spoke of the Thames River, which has various names, including Antler River. He spoke of his youth when he was curious about nature and spent time at a farm in the countryside and at an outdoor school. Recently he had the opportunity to go to Belize and explored nature, found 115 species of plant and animal life new to him, and was able to connect to nature. He spoke of a 16 year old who was hired by the Authority, who had no formal training in nature, but stood out for his love of nature; he is Scott Dillingwater, and he is now a world-renowned expert on turtles. Scott has headed a project of reproduction of soft shell turtles, which has taken 15 years of work; this year they were able to release 4,000 baby turtles into the river, the survival of which is a strong indicator of river health. Habitat is crucial; they saw that the Avon River banks were barren; there were no tree or plant buffers, but after restoring these they now see brook trout. Wetlands need to be restored, and phosphorous management needs to be more strongly emphasized. They are working on projects in Glen Cairn and Ingersoll. He then showed a video on Scott Dillingwater, which showed soft  shell turtle nests and the release of baby turtles into the river. 

Tom Cull 
Thames River Rally 

Tom spoke about Thames River Rally, a project he started in 2012 with his partner, Miriam, who decided to do a clean up of the river in the Carfrae Park area; in the first year of this project, on the first day they got only one further participant; but with ongoing efforts and a newspaper article, the project has gone on for 5 years, and hundreds have been involved in various cleanup projects in the city. They have learned the links between the environment and social issues, such as poverty, homelessness and addiction, and they see that a strong river leads to a strong community. They have partnered with London Cares, an addiction control agency, and have placed needle bins in many areas, which get up to 4,000 needles per week thrown into them instead of into the river or on the banks. They have, for now, discarded the idea of forming a charity as they see it as too much paperwork, and they prefer using their energy and resources on direct action, in cleanup efforts. They are pursuing a dialogue with first nations and community health organizations. 

Scott Howe 
Grade 8 teacher 
Thames Valley District School Board 

Scott related his experiences with his grade 8 class, which developed Taps On/Taps Off research projects in art, science and math classes, and so became excited and motivated about water issues. At first, the purpose of Taps Off was to advocate shorter showers; then they got interested in broader issues, including the election, the Paris climate summit, and they also learned about First Nations problems with water, in which they had to turn their taps off because of pollution; they learned that the government said it would take ten years to fix, so they did research on the origins of the situation and why it might take that long. They researched the town of Alvinston, Ontario, where there was a water scare, and went to London city hall and spoke to staff for 70 minutes on water issues. They have also contacted David Suzuki to hear what he has to say about solutions to the climate problem. 

Bryan Smith 
OPAL (Oxford People Against the Landfill) 

Bryan spoke about the proposal to put mid-level Toronto garbage into a depleted limestone quarry near Ingersoll. This is an upstream problem (for London) which affects water in the air, on the surface and in the ground. The goals of OPAL are: a) to stop the dump; b) to get the city of Toronto to change its garbage shipment plan. They have held “trashapalooza” events, which are an exchange of used items to prevent them from being put into the garbage stream. 

Question and Answer Session 

Steve Sauder was asked about farm runoff and said that it was getting better and that bigger farms did not necessarily do worse on this. He was asked about phosphorous and said that testing was most important and useful and had to be done right. 

Chief Whiteye spoke about the ongoing efforts to get a friendship agreement between the City of London and First Nations. 

Mark Drewe, our videographer for this event, spoke about his group, which is planning a London-to-Lake St. Clair canoe and kayak trip down the Thames, and stated that Rogers has agreed to do a documentary about the trip.

(Photos courtesy of Mark Drewe)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Remembering Gilbert Blanchette

Gilbert was a powerful human being and an incredible friend. He embodied what the movement is about - strong convictions for social justice, caring for others and empowering people to take action. Gilbert reached out to people everywhere he went. He was a constant community builder. If you met Gilbert, you didn't forget his charm, warmth, openness and passionate manner. He was a mentor to many and was dedicated to supporting women's political leadership.

 Gilbert was an activist long before he joined the Council of Canadians, relentlessly fighting for the rights of handicapped people. Gilbert worked behind the scenes in the London Chapter and was very active with the chapter's trade justice committee. He helped run events like protests, workshops and open mics. Gilbert's warm heart and dedication to the service of others will be remembered.

Gilbert's love and protection of the natural world is an inspiration not just to activists, but to all peoples; he had a deep spiritual connection to all living things. He was abundant in patience, wisdom, discipline and generosity. The London Chapter of the Council of Canadians grieves his passing and celebrates the beautiful and brave life he led. Many blessings to our friend, Gilbert Blanchette.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Notes from the London Council of Canadians potluck on October 21, 2015 (including a letter to Justin re Protecting the Thames)

London Council of Canadians supporters collect water from the Thames River at the Forks.
Twenty two members celebrated the end of the Stephen Harper era at our October 21 potluck meeting held at the Mary Campbell Common Room. The room has a fresh coat of green paint and all chairs are new! It is a beautiful place to meet and we are indebted to Kathy Kaill for reserving it for us to use. Conversation was intense, and about the election of course. Thank you all for bringing such wonderful food to share. 

After we finished eating, the subject for discussion was “Where do we go from here?” Suggestions considered came from, the Council of Canadians, and the Green Party as well as others with proportional representation appearing at the top of most people’s lists. 

Rod Morley volunteered to head up a group which would collect a bottle of Thames River water to deliver to Justin Trudeau on Nov. 7 as part of a “Climate Welcome” gift. 

Rod wrote, and Meg edited, a letter (see below) from our chapter to Prime Minister Trudeau asking him to protect our river from toxic oil spills. Dimitri Lascaris agreed to accept the bottle of water and deliver it and our letter personally when he goes to Ottawa. 

We had a guest, Jim Joyce, formerly from London, who plans to relocate here from Yellowknife and wants to become active with our chapter. In Yellowknife they are opposing fracking. Jim serves as Treasurer for the Yellowknife chapter. 

Upcoming events: 

 1) The next monthly event will be our annual AGM, November 18, with our business meeting at 6:30 pm and our potluck at 7:30. It will be at the Mary Campbell Co-op common room. 

 2) Climate Rally in solidarity with the Paris Climate Conference - Victoria Park - Nov. 29 - 1 - 4pm 

 3) “This Changes Everything” a film by Avi Lewis and Naomi Kline, will have its London debut on Dec. 7 as part of our Cinema Politica program of monthly documentaries. Venue and details will follow. 

Roberta Cory, Chair 
London Chapter, Council of Canadians 


October 26, 2015 

Dear Justin, 

We, the Council of Canadians London Chapter, are writing to you today and sending along a water sample from the former Heritage River known as the Antler/Thames River from Southwestern Ontario. We are providing this gift to you to remind you of your pledge to safeguard Canada’s bodies of water. 

We in Southwestern Ontario are deeply concerned about the possible environmental damage that could occur to Antler/Thames River should the Line 9 pipeline rupture where it crosses this once protected waterway. The Line 9 pipeline is over forty years old and was never purposed to transport the heavy and toxic diluted bitumen that it is now authorized to carry. 

Many of us in Southwestern Ontario do not want to see the repeat of tragedy that occurred near Kalamazoo Michigan just over five years ago when the Line 6B pipeline ruptured, spilling diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. The Line 9 pipeline was built at the same time, and was built with the same materials and safeguards as Line 6B. We wouldn’t want to see the same devastating result here in Canada, and would hold your two new London MPs responsible should they not heed our warnings and work to stop this accident waiting to happen. It isn't a matter of if it happens – it's when.  

The good people of Southwestern Ontario would love to open up a dialogue with a representative of your government to see if we could come up with alternatives to seeing the start of diluted bitumen – dilbit - being transported through this pipeline. We would love to see if we could come up with new ways to power Canada’s prosperity, without destroying the environmental treasure that is Southwestern Ontario. 

Yours in hope,

Council of Canadians London Chapter

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Open Letter to Federal Candidates in the London, Ontario Area re Proportional Representation

Dear Candidate: 

Londoners need to hear about your support for a more proportional voting system. 

Last month, 530 academics, including over 30 Canada Research Chairs, signed an open letter calling on the parties to implement a more proportional voting system.

Supporters of a proportional system for Canada are almost unanimously in agreement that a made-in-Canada, proportional solution means we keep local representation, and all candidates face the voters. PR is not one system, it’s a principle - that no matter where you live, your vote should count, and that 39% of the vote should earn roughly 39% of the seats. The last ten Canadian commissions to study the question have recommended PR and 50 year of evidence from around the world strongly correlates proportional systems with higher voter turnout, policies which better reflect voters, stable governments and better representation for women. 

Party policy on electoral reform is already well known and does not need repeating. What Londoners need to hear now is your personal commitment to advocate for a more proportional voting system if you are elected on October 19. 

Many Londoners will be voting for change on October 19: you and your party stand to benefit from that trend. However that change will not be complete unless we also get a proportional voting system as part of electoral reform as well.  

We need your help to “make every vote count” in future elections. We would like to communicate your personal position on Proportional Representation to our organization’s supporters. Please communicate your position on this important issue to us at your earliest convenience.


Meg Borthwick, Robert Cory, Roberta Cory, Geoff Crealock, Margo Does, David Heap, Celeste Lemire, Paula Marcotte, Julie Picken-Cooper, and Aldous Smith 

on behalf of the Council of Canadians, London Chapter

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Free Trade Shrinks Possibilities for Youth

“Trade agreements do not create jobs. Never have. Never will.” 
-- Michael Hart, Trade Policy, Carleton University 

Family Well-Being

Job security is a serious concern for everyone but especially weighs heavy in the hearts of parents of millennial children. Worry over shrinking opportunities for quality jobs is high here in Southwestern Ontario and throughout North America, particularly in traditional manufacturing regions. Caterpillar, Kellogg’s, Heinz closures come to mind. Your list may differ from mine but the disappearance of community infrastructure since the NAFTA 90’s is a shared experience. You know the story: parent company makes cuts, workers unite to protect a living wage, factory closes then reopens in a cheaper trade zone. NAFTA inspired the era of offshore and North Americans see its signs in their shrinking bank accounts and higher debt. Under free trade regimes that follow the NAFTA template (like the TPP) multitudes have, and will experience more family duress. 

Corporate Trade Creates Job Insecurity

There is a difference between having a job and job security. This difference has been experienced over and over by Canadian, American, and Mexican families under NAFTA. Over two decades into this next generation trade deal and all three signatory countries have seen rising unemployment and the swapping of full-time jobs for part-time work. It’s cause and effect — free trade’s admitted purpose is to send goods and services around the globe with no interference. This encourages corporations to move to where rent is cheaper. Canada has lost over 500 000 manufacturing jobs since factories left in 1989, the start of the new free trade. The closures haven’t stopped. Public Citizen data shows that over 845, 000 people are registered for compensation for job loss from free trade called Trade Adjustment Assistance in the US. The reality for both countries has likely been more undocumented job losses while large corporations abandon community relationships. The redeeming factor of NAFTA should have been the raising of quality of life in Mexico. But Mexico too has experienced lower wages and worse conditions in competitions for the cheapest costs. The Maquiladora free trade factory zones have become heavily concentrated with health and safety violations. Mexico lost over 2 million agriculture jobs because of the US’ subsidized corn industry. These deals lower standards and destroy community-business relations because of their purpose — to remove barriers to investors profits. We can do better with our trade designs but not until people know about their importance. There is more data but do we need it? We know unemployment has risen through the free trade years: we see community members out of work, we see the continual closure of mom–and–pop shops, and we see people desperate, yet hopeful, for job security. 


There are trade and investment deals in negotiation now that are based on the NAFTA model but whose impacts will be broader. The Transpacific Partnership (TPP), a deal between the NAFTA countries and nine other Asia-Pacific nations, if passed, will set NAFTA-style norms for 40% of the world’s economy and include more sectors. That’s a lot of families whose jobs and wealth will be influenced. The TPP will make it easier for companies to offshore in places like Vietnam where minimum wage is approximately 60 cents per hour. We don’t typically think of minimum wage as a trade issue, but in the new deals, labour standards have been framed as an illegal barrier preventing investor profit. Egypt was sued in trade court for raising its minimum wage. Focusing on the cheapest deliverables cheapens society. The problem lies not in particular people or particular corporations but in a system that promotes business at the expense of communities. 

A Caring Economy for Families

There are many opportunities to create diverse trade patterns and raise the quality of society through ethical business. Some of the most popular businesses are becoming those that invest in social relationship and community well-being. Trade structures will need to respond to this change. People are returning to their local roots. We are beginning to emerge from free trade fog and it is every day people beckoning forth the change through what they desire — local food, local history, regional travel, and the emerging consciousness that every community needs to take care of its local fabric and workforce. This keeps us sovereign and fed! Let us continue to incent entrepreneurship in our communities and peel back the aspects of free trade that stifle local infrastructure. We are better than policy that offshores our children’s dreams only to break down communities elsewhere. This is one step forward for a program of trade that is healthy. Our families and children are worth it. Fair trade that nourishes communities could be our legacy.

Jennifer Chesnut

Trade Justice London 
London, Ontario Chapter
Council of Canadians

Originally published here:

The Great Turning – Negotiations for Public Power

Who will control our power in this crucial decade? 

With the race for climate security on, energy is risky (and expensive) business to be run by corporations. We know there has been irreversible damage to the atmosphere, land and waters. We feel shame and we want change. More serious than the carbon impact of one company, the risks of regional management by a fossil fuel cartel are many. A sustainable energy future requires public control. What will it take for the government of Canada to follow the people’s will? 

The Great Turning 

We live in a time of contrast that raises hope and fear. We put our heads in the sand or open our minds to the question – how can I serve? For me the pressure brings both responses: hope inspired by creative localization, and fear and grief from the dismantling of the commons by private interests. David Korten, and other progressives, call this time of tumultuous change: the Great Turning. Trade and investment pacts are mechanisms of the power crisis because they are the long-term platform for the extraction-privatization of nations. With the new deals, city assets and municipal energy bodies are being traded on the free market. In Ontario where I live provincial and municipal energy service is in the process of being privatized. Selling this people’s asset without permission, and hiring private corporations to run it into perpetuity, is a deal breaker for me. In these energy shaky times, I want the next generation to inherit a public system. This knowing is resultant from more than my Tar Sands shame. Privatizing the energy of Canada’s most populous province risks essential stuff, like affordable rates and service quality. In this blog I explore why energy sectors should not privatize, and if they do, never through trade. I also ask questions about the plans to deregulate Ontario energy. 

Extreme Risks 

 What does it mean to have corporations be in charge of energy? Very few of us can survive off the grid – the majority rely on public energy. All day long we employ energy sources in service of our eating, bathing, working, learning. Nearly all our activities are beholden to shared power. Just like water, energy is essential and the quality of our lives depends on its availability. Many problems can arise when energy becomes managed by for-profit interests. With privatization (or p3ing) we frequently see: decreased access, service limitations, job cuts, rate increases, and environmental risks. California saw rolling blackouts when they privatized. Ontario has its own privatization stories that have increased stress and expense like the 407 highway and Hamilton city water. Because of repeated problems, many municipalities are bringing energy (and other life-dependent sectors) back to public hands. Hamburg Germany residents won an energy referendum in 2013 and are in the process of bringing their energy service fully public again. The purpose behind the “Our Hamburg, Our Grid” campaign is to reclaim public authority in order to create a system based in renewables. Under a North American style trade treaty, like CETA-TTIP, this change could be difficult. 

Ontario announces privatization 

Ontario’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, recently announced her intention to sell 60% of the public’s energy shares. Last week, at the London town hall for a public Hydro One, Andrea Horwath, MPP for Hamilton and head of the Ontario NDP party, announced that this number could reach 90% or higher. The transfer of power remains regardless of the percentage, however, Horwath shared this — if Ontario ownership reaches below 10%, the legislation implies that the public will be barred from bringing it back to public control. Why privatize a successful crown corporation that has been generating funds and providing stability since 1906? The government says they will privatize Hydro One to build other public infrastructure – transit lines, roads and bridges with an anticipated 4 billion of the sales, and to pay off debt with the other anticipated 5 billion. This asset makes 300 million a year in dividend income for Ontario people. Why sell it off for small short-term gain when the return is long-term losses forever? The danger for our future is not only the loss of reliable consistent funding but also the ability to shape our energy program and monitor its integrity. The auditor general and provincial ombudsperson have warned that they will no longer be able to monitor a private Hydro One. 

Plausible Future Outcomes 

Big business investors cannot focus on equitable rates and environmental impacts at the expense of their bottom-line. Company survival depends on increasing profit. This does not an-evil-corporation-make, but a dangerous mismatch of public need with private goals. How do energy corporations manage their quarterly profit targets? Increases in rates, decreases in service, or cutting of jobs is likely. What else can do they do to make more money in a context that requires profit growth? In a future Hydro One, we would have no shareholder voice to create renewable infrastructure. The premier knows that we must take care of the climate. She announced a commitment to dealing with climate change this spring. However, encouraging corporations to run Ontario’s energy is fundamentally incongruent with sustainability. Ontario public energy was previously funding renewables until local procurement provisions were banned by the World Trade Organization. Trade law gets in the way of environmental change. 

More of the story can be found here: 

Ontario Energy and Trade Pacts 

The government should not make key policy and structural changes without a public mandate. Doing this behind closed doors and legislating far into the future through trade treaties, like the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), encourages skepticism. For the first time Canadian energy entities of provincial jurisdiction, like Hydro One, and municipal jurisdiction, like Toronto Hydro, will be ruled through international treaty law. According to the CETA text, Ontario’s energy, including Hydro One, the Ontario Energy Board, and major municipal entities are not protected by Annex reservations. On the European side of CETA-TTIP, sustainable energy choices are also not protected. Europeans will lose their ability to favour cleaner energy sources or suffer the threats of ISDS lawsuits. 

Taking Back Power from the CETA-TTIP 

There are many things that work in a profit model, and many that don’t! Corporate energy systems, that put us at risk of going even higher in parts per million, is not on my list of what the generation after us should inherit. What I love about this time is the sweet significance it holds. The Great Turning is abundant with ways to make purpose of our quiet lives. It’s a time of opportunity to think about what we stand for and what we can do to make things better for those coming next. How we power this planet should not be decided by a management team of large corporations nor secretly designed in a trade deal. What you will you do with your power in the Great Turning? What part of story do you feel compelled to voice? Canadian economist Marjorie Griffin Cohen, back in the early days of new trade, in a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study, says this of energy: “It is an industry that provides for human survival in a densely populated and complex world. Electricity is the basic infrastructure for every industry. The significance of who controls its generation and supply cannot be overstated.” After all, energy is an expression of our collective power as a civilization. Right now that power is being taken away. There are so many other possibilities. Let’s shine a light on them.

Jennifer Chesnut

Trade Justice London 
London, Ontario Chapter
Council of Canadians

Originally published here:

Ontario Takes Action on Neonicotinoids

Ontario is to be commended for taking a proactive approach to reduce the use of neonicotinoids by 80 percent by 2017. This proposed partial ban is based on findings of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that showed that the use of neonics has minimal effect on corn and soybean yields. And the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency agrees. 

Executives of industrial agriculture seem to suggest that opposition to neonicotinoids is based on non-science and hysteria. However, scientific researchers around the world have overwhelmingly shown the negative effects of neonics. So let’s look at that evidence. 

Neonicotinoids target early season insect pests like seedcorn maggot, wireworm, and bean leaf beetles. These pests appear sporadically; they are not found everywhere, or every year. So most neonic treatments are applied ‘just in case’. This is like taking antibiotics all winter ‘just in case’ you get sick. 

The EPA has also reported that neonic seed treatments are ineffective against the two major soybean pests - soybean aphids and the bean leaf beetle. “This is because the limited period of (neonic) bioactivity in soybeans (three to four weeks) does not usually align with periods of soybean aphid presence/activity”. “Similarly, neonicotinoid seed treatments are not effective in controlling bean leaf beetles as this pest occurs too late in the season.” 

There is increasing evidence that neonicotinoids decrease populations of insects, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. Scientists from Radboud University in the Netherlands and the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology and Birdlife Netherlands (SOVON) found that in areas where water contained high concentrations of imidacloprid (a common neonicotinoid), bird populations tended to decline by an average of 3.5 percent annually. 

Neonicotinoids affect birds, fish, and other animals in two ways. The first is by ingestion. A 1992 study by the EPA found that House sparrows would only have to eat one and a half beet seeds coated with imidacloprid to die. Even a quarter of a treated seed would have sub-lethal effects, including damage to DNA and the immune system. 

The second way neonicotinoids can affect birds, fish, and other animals is by killing their food sources. This would affect their growth, breeding success and survival. 

We are animals too. The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), reports that recent research suggests that acetamiprid and imidacloprid “may affect the developing human nervous system”. 

And here are a couple of other unintended consequences of neonicotinoid insecticides: Researchers at Penn State University noted in the Journal of Applied Ecology that neonics increase slug populations and the damage they cause. Slugs are kept in check by predatory insects, especially ground-foraging beetles. Neonics have no direct affect on slugs. However, neonics are systemic which means that they permeate all parts of a plant including the leaves that slugs love, so the slugs become contaminated with neonics, too. Essentially, the slugs become the insecticide that kills the beetles and other predatory insects. Without their natural enemies, slugs proliferate. 

Then there’s the spider mites. PLOS (Public Library of Science) reports that applications of neonicotinoids are associated with severe outbreaks of many species of spider mites. 

The neonic issue is bigger than a disagreement between beekeepers and farmers. It’s a plea for the butterflies, beetles and birds. It’s a call for evidence-based decisions. It’s a quest for courage in the face of heavily financed opposition. It’s a wish of our great-great-grandchildren who should be included in this discussion. 

Celeste Lemire is Chair of the Food Diversity Committee of the Council of Canadians, London Chapter

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Corporate Profits Ruled More Valuable Than Dolphin Lives

WTO Rules Against Dolphins – This week’s WTO ruling against a measure to protect dolphins does not reflect the interests of the new generations coming to this beautiful planet. The World Trade Organization (WTO) declared that a labeling program, which allows consumers to identify and choose tuna not implicated in the death of dolphins, is unfair to corporations. The labeling was initiated in the nineties to protect schools of dolphins from being swept into nets during tuna catches. Originally, the program helped decrease their deaths by 97% but was watered down to comply with previous trade rulings. The new labeling program became voluntary for companies and was rejected as illegal in trade law this week.
Protecting Dolphins Called Discriminatory –The WTO, the world’s legal advisory body for free trade, said the dolphin protection measure was discriminatory to business, and a technical trade barrier. If the US keeps the program, the WTO advised Mexico, the complainant country, to impose trade sanctions. This is another example of how the so-called efficiency of the market does not reflect the true value of things, like dolphins, nor synchronize with the values of the public, like honouring the lives of precious species. The dolphin decision follows upon last month’s NAFTA ruling in favour of a corporation over an ecosystem home to endangered whales. The decision to protect this aquatic area was also called discriminatory to business interests.
Trade at All Costs — The market has no capacity to respond to sadness over dolphin slaughter. It only has tools to respond to numbers. Should it be in charge of decisions that are environmental or social? Despite appearances, this is not an Atwood dystopia but simply expected results in the context of present trade rules. As the WTO and ISDS rulings stack up across the globe, there appears to be no area of public interest 100% safe from trade’s imposition on behalf of big business. Whether dolphins, whales, solar panels, or smoking prevention, the free market trade model is unable to respond to social or environmental concern. Modern trade as designed now has one capacity: to protect profit of corporations at all costs.
An economic system distant from public belief but intimate with our lives — This is an economic system that denies basic protections for dolphins in a time when so many care about biodiversity. For dolphins, whales, all endangered species and the inheritance of our children and theirs, let’s shine a light on this type of trade. It is not another symptom, but in fact a foundational structure for exploration if we wish to create the world we want. We can create global treaties that legally protect ecosystems and allow business to prosper, but we need more interests at the trade policy table. As trade has moved into every area of public life, it’s time the dialogue is public. Read about the rising movement for the Rights of Mother Earth, potent medicine for corporate trade. Let the law-makers rise, pressed by you and yours, to protect our most valuable inheritance, the great blue planet and all her creatures!
Further Reading:

Jennifer Chesnut

Trade Justice London 
London, Ontario Chapter
Council of Canadians

Earth day isn’t just for turning off lights.

“The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place, in the family of things.” Mary Oliver
We are the Earth – Where I live in southwestern Ontario, the daffodils have popped their heads above ground and the rains are starting. It’s a relief to be in the fold of spring, and the perfect setting to experience immediate connection with the planet. Corporate culture distracts us from our fundamental reality – that we are made of the earth. With all the bobbles and trinkets, it’s super easy to get distracted from the natural systems we rely on daily. We ourselves are talking and walking thanks to the hydrologic cycle. Commercial globalization creates pretty shiny packages, leaving little trace of earth. The disconnect is obvious in the kneejerk debates pitting the environment against the economy, our community health against jobs. Its most extreme incarnation is international law to protect corporate profits – free trade pacts. These, and the WTO, provide the only international legal plan we have for our collective futures. Scary how far we have ventured from reality.
The Eco-nomy – A constant hum of goods and services zipping around the planet. That’s the dream of corporate globalization, and every new trade deal makes this more of a reality. But can we afford it? Can the Maldives? Haiti? New Orleans? Trade, the way it’s written now, is a competition to extract and sell as much as possible to increase GDP, and it’s pushing our earth systems to the limit. This global orchestration requires continual increases in production which means deeper extraction of the earth. Trade-ables are shipped at dizzying pace, primarily by burning fossil fuels. The more a country does this, the higher their GDP, and the more trading power they are deemed to have. This is the present trajectory under which we live, regardless of how many lights we turn off in our homes or how many lawns we clean of debris.
Earth as Externality — Earth Day isn’t just for turning off lights, though it’s important to model respectful habits. It’s about redressing the greatest myth of this era – that earth is external to the economy. Our whole lives, from the clothes we wear to cover our bare bottoms (plant derived) to the cell-phones we communicate with (mineral base) to food and drink, everything is constructed, albeit sometimes highly processed, from the body of the earth. Earth is not outside the economy, earth is the mother of economy. Even powering a device to read these words requires earth sources. Because trade is based on an externalized model of how life works, the global economy is exponentially expensive when fully calculated. A whole lot of values are rapidly being spent that are never accounted for. Consider the worth of water now in places like California. And, how many millions of years of decomposition does it take to make a fossil fuel patch?
Trade Law Halts Renewable Energy Programs – Trade embraces the concept of “externality” to deal with any concern, environmental or social, that is outside dollar profit. It does so to our great disadvantage because externalities have no power in trade rulings, and trade law supersedes our laws. Energy programs are no exception. Many cases have been made against countries’ fledgling renewable energy programs from China to India, Italy to Greece, and Canada. In 2012, the WTO ruled against Ontario’s Green Energy Act. The act was set to launch Canada’s most populated province off coal and onto clean energy in five years while creating a lot of new jobs. The plan provided feed-in tariffs so companies could earn money back from the grid at secure rates. Twenty-seven billion dollars was invested by a variety of suitors in exchange for supporting local workers and industry. It earned buy-in from labour, business, and the government of Ontario because it provided local jobs in manufacturing. By 2014, it created 31 000 jobs and employed skilled manufacturers like those who lost their jobs under NAFTA. The WTO ruled against Ontario’s sustainable plans because the Green Energy Act required between 40 and 60% of materials and jobs to be local. The WTO said the problem was with the buy-local requirements, not renewable energy. Ontario was charged with discriminating against the international corporations, and pressured to drop the local economy focus.
Sustainable Means Local — The problem with the WTO’s solution for Ontario is that creating new industry does not work without creating local opportunity. New industries are made possible through business buy-in. The energy plan was intended to be fully sustainable – including using local materials and workers. Due to the ruling,the province dropped the local focus, and some of the solar companies collapsed. Economy and ecology are deeply linked because they happen in tandem. Outside of its political troubles, the Green Energy Act is a remnant of its potential. Ontario has certainly not gone fully green yet. Trade policy is driving sad energy outcomes in Ontario, and across the globe in towns and cities, regions and nations.
Treaties for the Earth – There is a legal platform to heal the derelict notion that the earth is an externality. Granting legal rights to the earth, through public trust doctrine and the sanctioning of earth rights (The Rights of Mother Earth), would save our lives and those of the new generations coming to this beautiful planet. The Rights of Mother Earth does not deny global trade but would tame the pathology of its present form. Trade as it exists in the free market has abstracted itself out of our living reality. If its trajectory is not redirected by the people, it will externalize us right off the planet. Our communities will only be well when we know the environment feeds the economy and the economy cares for the earth.
Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Mary Oliver, American Poet

Jennifer Chesnut

Trade Justice London 
London, Ontario Chapter
Council of Canadians

Originally published in:

Monday, March 23, 2015

World Water Day Snake Walk!

The Thames River, actually, the “Askunesippi” or “Antler River,” begins near Tavistock and Mitchell and flows 273 kilometers into Lake St. Clair. Along its course it is polluted by runoff and threatened by leachate from a proposed landfill of Toronto mid level waste into the Beachville Quarry. It flows over Enbridge’s Line 9 pipe just north of Fanshawe Lake and under the CN railway bridges in downtown London. 

On August 14, 2000 it was formally designated a Canadian Heritage River. Forty Five citizens had worked tirelessly for four years to present enough evidence to make that happen, no mean feat. In 2012, the Harper government removed protection for our river with the Omnibus Bill, C–45. Now Alberta bitumen can be shipped east by pipeline and rail without any legal roadblocks. 

On World Water Day, Sunday, March 22, at 3:30 pm, twenty three citizens gathered in Thames Park to walk the thirty foot, blue, sparkly, scaled Water Serpent along Wortley Rd. to its destination next to the river, just north of the Horton St. overpass. Tina Stevens carried the massive blue green head of the Serpent and lead us in the traditional Water Song. Many people brought home made signs proclaiming “Water is a Human Right,” and admonishing us to take heed that an “Oil Spill in the Thames (is) Not Worth the Risk.” 

Everyone is asked to use social media to pass on the photos of the rally, the river, the railroad trestle, and the city of London in the background. We are asking you to tweet your Member of Parliament to reinstate protection for our waterway using the hash tag #Pledge2Protect. 

CTV showed up, to our great surprise, and filmed the Snake Walk. It played a short version, which included parts of the speech by Julie, our Water Committee Chair, and parts of an interview with Roberta, London CoC Chair, on the 6:00 pm news. You can see the film clip here: 

Sources: Upper Thames River Conservation Authority – About Us – Thames Heritage River – Watershed Health – National website – Campaigns – Water 
  • Twitter:  @irenemathyssen 
  •  Twitter:  @SusanTruppe 
  •  Twitter:  @EdHolder_MP

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Battle to Buy Local

Some leaders in government are rejecting a binding treaty that diminishes buy-local and allows corporations to sue us if we don’t comply. Do the rest feel that it’s okay? 

Being able to buy and source locally in goods and services is the heartbeat of a community. People value procurement power — it’s key to community security and happiness. Farmer’s market, post office, city square — local procurement not only secures jobs but it’s the fabric of community relationships. With free trade, local exchange is being shrunk to carve out markets for transnational corporations, and a super-national law system, ISDS, is being erected to enforce this goal. 

Last week, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador took a stand. Premier Paul Davis told the federal Conservatives they would not take part in the CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, without compensation. The province join an ignored group of approximately forty Canadian municipalities who between 2010 and 2014 sent resolutions to upper government requesting exclusion. The concern for the province and the city councils is CETA’s restrictions to buying and processing locally. Newfoundland is refusing to participate because of these impacts on fisheries. Jobs in fish plants are expected to be lost to align with the ban on local standards. The province says that the federal government originally agreed to compensate for the incalculable loss with $280 million in a fisheries fund. The province wanted to use part of the money to help transition lost workers. CETA will nullify sub-national policy. Newfoundland and Labrador’s — Minimal Processing Requirements (MPR) — provincial rules to ensure that a percentage of fish from coastal waters is processed by local workers will be trumped by trade laws. 

Newfoundland is not alone. In 2013 and 2014, Toronto requested the federal and provincial government exclude them because of restrictions imposed on essentials like local food networks. Toronto is unwilling to relinquish job creation initiatives. Some transit vehicles are sourced in the region on purpose. Though more expensive to set up locally, in the end, the jobs created boost Toronto’s economy and community well-being. 

It’s not just the new CETA restrictions, it’s the severity of their enforcement under ISDS. If ignored, the government opens itself to lawsuits from transnational corporations. In this historical moment of developing the long-term rules of relationship between the EU and North America, instead of giving special legal rights to corporations for accessing contracts in our cities, we could rewrite procurement to explicitly protect local decision-making for jobs, environmental protections and social well-being. We could set a precedent for the security of the whole globe by removing ISDS from the CETA; this may be what Germany and France are now pushing for. Forget minimum standards of treatment for a corporation. Appropriate trade would set enforceable standards of treatment for people in Newfoundland and beyond. 

Some sub-national governments are looking at the implications on communities in the future under these multi-decade treaties. It’s time the rest put on their spectacles. We need to source and build locally for jobs, for the climate, for our well-being. A legal system that battles for the rights of corporations to make profit has no business interfering with the ancient exchange of local goods and services. Who next is willing to stand up for local buying, building and being? 

Jennifer Chesnut

Trade Justice London 
London, Ontario Chapter
Council of Canadians

Originally published in:

Further Reading:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

CINEMA POLITICA presents VISIONS OF ABOLITION: 6:30 pm, Monday Jan. 9, 2015

From Critical Resistance to a New Way of Life

6:30 pm, Monday January 9, 2015

Stevenson and Hunt Room 
London Public Library 

Timed to tie in with the Prisoners' Justice Film Festival, our co-sponsor for this film. 

Giselle Dias, who heads the PJFF, will speak and moderate Q and A.

Doors open 6:00 pm for set-up 

After introductory remarks, the film will start at 7:00 sharp.

Late comers please enter through the door at the back of the room. 

Everyone is welcome! 

This is a FREE event offered by Cinema Politica in parternership with the London Public Library.

FRAGRANCE FREE EVENT! Please be respectful of attendees who have serious allergies! 

Organized by the Solidarity Film Coalition under the auspices of the London Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

Cosponsored by the London Public Library, the Prisoner's Justice Film Festival, L.A.C.A.S.A. and Seeds of Hope, 


Visions of Abolition is a feature length documentary about the prison industrial complex and the prison abolition movement. 

Part I 
“Breaking down the Prison Industrial Complex” weaves together the voices of women caught in the criminal justice system, and leading scholars of prison abolition, examining the racial and gendered violence of the prison system. Our film features the work of Susan Burton, a formerly incarcerated mother who established A New Way of Life, a group of transition homes for women coming home from prison in South Los Angeles (39 mins). 

Part II 
“Abolition: Past Present and Future,” documents the recent history of the prison abolition movement through the organizing efforts of Critical Resistance and explores the meaning of abolitionist politics. By focusing on the collaboration between Critical Resistance and A New Way of Life, (known as the L.E.A.D. Project) the second half of the film unfolds a vision of abolition in practice (48 mins). 


‘Visions of Abolition’ documentary linked to Ontario migrant detentions and crisis at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre In conjunction with the London Public Library (, Cinema Politica London ( presents the documentary film Visions of Abolition on Monday February 9, 2015 starting at 7 pm, in the Stevenson and Hunt Room, London Public Library, 251 Dundas St. 

“The reality is that colonialism and racism are still inextricably linked to higher incarceration rates of Indigenous people and People of Colour,” says Giselle Dias of the Prison Justice Film Festival. In the trailer (, Angela Davis makes the connections between slavery, indentured servitude, and prisons. “Canadians must also see the links to the over-incarceration rates of Indigenous people to on-going colonization (reserves, residential schools, 1960's scoop and now prisons).” continues Dias. “Our jails (including the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre outside London) are over-crowded and therefore dangerous because we continue to over-incarcerate people with mental health issues, homeless people, poor people, immigrants and refugees and other marginalized populations. We must start putting resources into housing, mental health services, harm reduction, addressing poverty and most importantly stop considering prisons a solution to social problems.” 

Visions of Abolition is a new feature length documentary about the prison industrial complex and the prison abolition movement, in two parts. 

Part I “Breaking down the Prison Industrial Complex” weaves together the voices of women caught in the criminal justice system, and leading scholars of prison abolition, examining the racial and gendered violence of the prison system. Features the work of Susan Burton, a formerly incarcerated mother who established A New Way of Life, a group of transition homes for women coming home from prison in South Los Angeles. 

Part II “Abolition: Past Present and Future,” documents the recent history of the prison abolition movement through the organizing efforts of Critical Resistance and explores the meaning of abolitionist politics. By focusing on the collaboration between Critical Resistance and A New Way of Life, (known as the L.E.A.D. Project) the second half of the film unfolds a vision of abolition in practice. 

Co-sponsored by the Prisoners' Justice Film Festival ( 

Giselle Dias of the PJFF will be present for a brief moderated Question and Answer session after the film. 

Join us to learn and discuss how our societies could look without prisons, and how communities can resist the Prison Industrial Complex. 

Visions of Abolition will screen in the Stevenson-Hunt rooms (opposite Wolf Hall), London Public Library, 251 Dundas St. 

Doors open at 6:30 pm on Monday February 9. 

Part of a monthly series of screenings by Cinema Politica London in partnership with the London Public Library (see for details). For information about these screenings, please contact or David Heap ( or 519 859 3579). 

For the Prison Justice Film Festival, please contact Giselle Dias (519-282-9291). 

Doors open 6:00 pm for set-up. After introductory remarks, the film will start at 7:00 sharp. Late comers please enter through the door at the back of the room. Everyone is welcome! This is a FREE event offered by Cinema Politica in partnership with the London Public Library. FRAGRANCE FREE EVENT! Please be respectful of attendees who have serious allergies! This film event is free of charge and accessible. 

Underground parking (two hours free) can be validated at the Central Library welcome desk while it is open.