April 13, 2019 - No. 13

Matters of Concern to the Polity

Alberta Election 2019

Working People Are Fighting for a Pro-Social Direction for Alberta

Stop Paying the Rich and Increase Funding for Social Programs

Education Is a Right!

Alberta Teachers and Students Demand Working and Learning Conditions that Guarantee Education as a Right for All

- Kevan Hunter -

United Conservative Party Uses Straw Men to Attack
Alberta's Curriculum Reform

- Dougal MacDonald -

Class Size Matters

Defending Public Health and Seniors' Care

Health Care Unions Speak Out

Medical Lab Workers Say No! to Scrapping New Public Facilities

Alberta Seniors Deserve Better Campaign

Protecting Water -- An Election Issue

Residents Organize to Protect the Clearwater River

Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive Continues in Ontario

Mass Actions Militantly Reject Ford Government's
Attacks on Education

Hands Off Venezuela!

Illegal Manouevres and Impotent Demands to
Support Regime Change Rebuffed

Selling or Saving the Soul of the OAS

- Sir Ronald Sanders, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda
to the OAS -

Intervention of Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada
Before the United Nations Security Council

The Brexit Fiasco

Solutions Require the People Speaking in Their Own Name

Palestinian People Will Not Back Down

Great March of Return Protests Continue as Israel Targets Youth

Important Anniversaries

80th Anniversary of the End of the Spanish Civil War
100 Anniversary of Jallianwalla Massacre in Punjab

Alberta Election 2019

Working People Are Fighting for a Pro-Social Direction for Alberta

Alberta has a population of 4.3 million, a million people are next door in Saskatchewan and another million in Manitoba, all interconnected with the Prairie. A natural region perhaps, which could even include the north.

Just imagine the human and natural resources this region possesses: vast agriculture, oil, natural gas, coking coal for steel, uranium, timber, diamonds, potash, wind and sun galore and who knows what else replete with an educated working class. Why the recurring crises? Who or what is blocking the development of the New and why? The possibilities are endless for the region to develop an independent diverse economy with resource extraction, manufacturing, social programs, public services and modern infrastructure, an economy that has as its motive to guarantee the well-being and security of the people and the humanization of the social and natural environment.

This is not the agenda in the provincial election scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 16. On the contrary, the agenda has been set by the ruling elite and the people are supposed to take sides for one version or another of an agenda which they do not set and which does not represent their interests and claims on society. For instance, the ruling elite in Alberta persist in privatizing health care despite the broad opposition of the people. They refuse to increase public investments in health care, which would resolve persistent problems of wait times in acute care and the lack of a modern and humane seniors' care system with adequate staffing.

Health care and other public sector workers continue to face wage freezes, growing workloads and the refusal of the ruling elite to recognize that their working conditions are the living conditions of patients and seniors in their care.

The working people have long laid their claim to health care as a right. Despite massive disinformation campaigns over balancing budgets, pushing private control and ownership of health care, the expansion of two-tier medicine, and putting all economic eggs in the same old resource extraction sector, the ruling circles have failed to blunt the working people's demand for a pro-social alternative. The people of Alberta have always met the anti-social campaigns with resistance. They are facing the problem of how to empower themselves politically to build the New in a decisive way with no turning back.

The long-standing demand of the working people is that those in government must take up their social responsibility to organize the productive forces to guarantee the right of all to the highest quality health care and seniors' care, as well as education and other aspects of public services which affect their lives. Albertans reject policy objectives and electoral platforms full of platitudes from the cartel parties, or the obscurantism of balancing a budget through austerity where those in power control what is being balanced or not balanced and who benefits.

Albertans do not let up on their demand for concrete results, beginning with increased investments in social programs in the here and now. More broadly, they require a new direction for the economy away from reliance on natural resources controlled by outside forces not interested in building a modern all-sided Albertan economy based on manufacturing, resource extraction, agriculture, public services and social programs to meet the needs of all and guarantee their rights and well-being.

Albertans demand accountability from governments as to what is being done to restrict and eliminate private control and ownership of social programs where enterprise and interest profit sap the lifeblood of the health and education sectors. The aim of private ownership and control is not the well-being of the people but enriching wealthy private interests and taking value out of the economy to be used elsewhere. Value produced in Alberta must remain in the economy and be invested in ways that build its self-reliance in opposition to the destructive grip of the global oligarchs, in particular the oil barons.

A Pro-Social Alternative Is Right Before Our Eyes

The cartel parties vying for power in the Alberta election all represent to one degree or another the neo-liberal line that the right to health care cannot be guaranteed because of a "lack of money." The budget plans of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the United Conservative Party (UCP) both reject increased investments in social programs and public services. Instead they call for cuts to spending on social programs and public services with only the degree marking any difference. The working people are told that the only choice is to accept "compassionate austerity" or be faced later with massive cuts, two-tier medicine, and more privatization to serve the rich.

The alternative of mobilizing the modern productive forces in a pro-social direction is staring us in the face. It can be seen in the fight of health care workers and professionals and teachers and education workers who know what is needed to guarantee health care and education as a right. They raise the real issues they and the people face which puts the lie to the neo-liberal jargon of experts who make a mystery of everything. One example is the refrain of "throwing more money at it does not guarantee a solution." Of course, when money is thrown at something not to solve problems but to line the pockets of private interests this guarantees failure.

In this issue of TML Weekly, several articles testify to the people's struggles in defence of the rights of all which will be pursued irrespective of who wins the Alberta election.

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Stop Paying the Rich and Increase
Funding for Social Programs

The electoral programs of the Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) and the United Conservative Party (UCP) both call for cuts to spending on social programs and public services. These anti-social programs are said to be necessary to eliminate the existing annual deficit in the provincial budget, bring expenditures and revenue into balance and reduce the provincial debt. This talk of balancing the budget is all the rage across the country with Alberta and Ontario leading the charge. It is a farce. A person can balance or not balance anything when the person controls what is being balanced. What does this balancing of provincial revenue and expenditures have to do with solving the problem of guaranteeing health care and education as a right for all? Nothing! It is medieval obscurantism of the worst kind, a trick to throw the working class into confusion and have it give up fighting for its rights.

At the end of the four years of the proposed NDP and UCP budgets, what problem will they have solved? Certainly not the problem of guaranteeing health care and education for all as a right. Even their budgets remain unbalanced with the NDP deficit only slightly greater than that of the UCP and the overall provincial debt not much different. The UCP cuts revenue by decreasing corporate taxation while at the same time more severely cutting expenditures for social programs and public services. The NDP cuts expenditures on social programs and public services as well but with not much change in revenue. The end result for the two cartel parties in terms of their balancing act is a saw-off, while problems in the health care and education sectors remain unresolved.[1]

Increased funding for social programs and public services is a pro-social response to solve a problem. By doing so, a program is undertaken to bring social and public services into the twenty-first century in conformity with the socialized productive forces generally. This opens the door to solving the problem of guaranteeing the right of all to education and health care.

The productive forces need healthy and educated working people. The value educated and healthy workers bring to the productive forces in all sectors spurs them forward to produce greater value and raise up the entire society. Private ownership with the motive of making enterprise and interest profit robs the health care and education systems of much needed resources and revenue to expand and humanize them. The problem of private ownership taking value out of the sector and even the economy altogether is compounded with the refusal of other sectors to realize (pay for) the full social value they consume when buying the capacity to work of working people.

Science and technology have made enormous advances making it possible for people to live longer and healthier lives. Fifty years ago treatment for a heart attack was very crude with one in three people dying compared with one in 20 today. Hip replacement surgery was rare until the late 1980s, with little alternative to pain and disability.

Increased funding for health care and education reflects these and many more profound changes to the quality of people's lives and to longevity. To see this advance as a drain on society is the most inhuman, anti-social outlook possible. To increase funding for social programs and public services is a positive direction for the economy.

Funding of Health Care and Education

How should health care and education be funded? Solutions to this problem are restricted to those available within the neo-liberal agenda and what it considers acceptable for discussion. Those that declare funding of social programs a problem of a lack of general tax revenue suggest that working people should be willing to pay higher taxes to have better social programs, and to pay carbon taxes if they are concerned about climate change. Another suggestion is that Alberta should institute a sales tax, a regressive tax that hits the working class and poor the hardest.

Other neo-liberal solutions are the suggestion that government spending on social programs is too much and should be cut back. With layoffs and cutbacks more public money can go directly into the hands of the rich, which they say will then trickle down to the working people when in fact all that trickles down is the blood, sweat and tears of working people.

The ruling elite deem that the forms of taxation that came into being in the twentieth century such as income tax both personal and corporate, property taxes and user fees for public services are all necessary and beyond question or even discussion. In contrast, many working people consider general taxation to fund social programs a fraud to obscure the refusal of company oligarchs to pay for the public value they receive from social programs and public services.

The problem is not lack of money to invest in social programs and public services but the lack of realization by other sectors of the economy of the value those programs produce and the return of that value to those public institutions that produced it. In the modern, interconnected economy of industrial mass production, the different parts of the economy must realize the value they consume from other sectors including the value from social programs and public services. The refusal of the ruling elite in control to recognize and realize the full value their companies consume from social programs and public services greatly weakens the economy.

The refusal to pay the full social value of the capacity to work of healthy and educated workers over their lifetime is a glaring example. This extends to the refusal of the big companies to pay for the value they receive from public transit, roads, highways, bridges, airports, research carried out at public institutions and all else that is necessary for a modern society and its integrated economy of industrial mass production.

The oligopolies demand that the state provide them with healthy educated workers, public infrastructure and services they require without realizing the full social value. Never mind that many oligopolies do not even pay taxes or what they pay is far below the posted rate because of tax breaks of various kinds. Never mind the billions they receive in pay-the-rich schemes and in infrastructure and services that have become normal practice for big business. The end result is recurring economic crises and insecurity for working people.

The block to increasing investments in social programs and public services is not a problem of lack of money but of the social, economic and political power and control the financial oligarchy exerts over the economy to make it serve its private interests, and the absence of social responsibility in their aim. This is countered by the striving of the people for empowerment so that they can control the decisions which affect their lives. It is their struggles in defence of the rights of all which make the difference, not the election promises or policy objectives of the cartel parties vying to form the next government.


1. "At the end of the four-year budget period, the projected deficits are $3.2 billion for the 2018 NDP budget plan and $1.4 billion for the UCP plan [...] [T]he UCP's fiscal strategy is not to address the deficit or debt, since the UCP's stated debt load after four years of $86 billion is not far off from the NDP projection of $95 billion." -- From: The Employment Impact of Election Promises: Analysis of budgetary scenarios of UCP and NDP platforms, prepared for the Alberta Federation of Labour (April 2019).

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Education Is a Right!

Alberta Teachers and Students Demand Working
and Learning Conditions that Guarantee
Education as a Right for All

Teachers are using the Alberta election as an opportunity to take to a new level their ongoing battle to provide the right to education with a guarantee. Teachers are making class size and classroom composition issues in the election. The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) has stepped up its Class Size Matters campaign and is also providing information and materials on other important issues in education. The ATA has produced thousands of postcards that highlight the issue of unacceptably large classes.

In its own words, the ATA is a "fiercely non-partisan" organization. It does not support or oppose any political party but intervenes politically in and out of elections to advocate for conditions in education that will allow students to flourish and meet their full potential. These include the practical conditions teachers require to do their work in support of their students.

Teachers are going door to door and speaking with their neighbours about their concerns with the present conditions in the education system. The refusal of governments to provide the necessary investments to solve the problem of class sizes violates the demands not only of students and teachers but of the entire polity. Based on teachers' door-to-door experience so far, it is clear that people are concerned about the state of education and express a sentiment that something must be done.

For years, chronic underfunding of the education system has resulted in deteriorating conditions in schools. When asked what problems they face in classrooms, teachers overwhelmingly state that class sizes are the biggest cause for concern. Secondly, they are seeing an increasing number of students with special needs being integrated into regular classrooms without the additional supports they require to be successful. Also of concern is the fact that wages have been frozen for six of the last seven years, with a raise of about 2.5 per cent (varying slightly for each school board) in 2015. When the cost of living is considered, this means teachers' salaries have been cut by about 7.5 per cent since 2012.

The 2003 Alberta Commission on Learning (ACOL) report included guidelines for classroom sizes, which suggested 17 students for K-3. The ATA reports: "Last school year, 81 per cent of K-3 classes were larger than the [ACOL] guidelines and all but five school jurisdictions exceeded the target set by ACOL. These averages also don't fairly represent the large number of classes that are significantly larger than the average. Since 2002, the proportion of core classes with 40 or more students has grown by 600 per cent."

Teachers' actions in this election build on the campaign launched last year when teachers sent postcards to Members of the Legislative Assembly informing them of conditions in classrooms, and posted those images widely on social media as well. The ATA also declared April 9 a candidate contact blitz day, encouraging teachers to be in touch with candidates and ask them how they plan to uphold the right to education by ensuring that schools have adequate resources to meet the needs of students and teachers.

Another very serious concern is the gaping hole separating general high school completion rates in Alberta and those of Indigenous students. Overall, 80 per cent of students complete high school within five years, while only 60 per cent of Indigenous students do so.

The NDP government's policy says it funds education according to the increase in population. This means the per capita amount per student remains the same. The PC government, which was defeated in 2015, advocated no funding for population increases. In the NDP's last government budget, the education operations and maintenance budget was cut, and student transportation remained the same despite the increase in student numbers, as did the governance and system administration budget. The NDP budget contained no funding to meet the claims of teachers who are moving up the salary grid, and the funding for students with identified special needs falls far below what school boards actually allocate. The result has been a shortfall in other areas leading to further increases in class sizes.

For example, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) states that it requires an additional $21 million in funding just to maintain its existing level of service, even without adding more students. The CBE also points out that government funding in all areas falls short of what is required. It states that $136 million in allocated funding goes to support the 21,000 students with identified special needs, while actual government funding only accounts for $78 million. Similarly, support targeted at the 29,000 English Language Learners in the CBE totals $31 million, while government grants in this area total only $23.5 million.

Teachers are discussing why this is the case. Is it true that the problem is "lack of money?" Such an argument does not hold any water because education is not a cost to society. Education is essential to the functioning of a modern society and adds immense value. The younger generation must acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be active citizens. Investments in education are realized over and over in the form of value transferred into the economy and society. This value is embedded within their students and transferred into the service or goods they produce when they work.

A problem occurs with the refusal of companies to realize (pay for) the value they receive from social programs such as education and the refusal of governments to force them to do so. The refusal to realize the value of education within the economy is responsible for the continued underfunding of education. Far from contributing to a vibrant economy organized to meet the needs of the people, the refusal of companies and government to realize the value of education contributes to the deepening of the economic crisis and collapse of the living and working conditions of the people.

Education is a right. This principle of a modern society forms the basis of the claims of students to have their right to education guaranteed and the right of teachers to be accorded the tools and conditions to fulfil this right. Students and teachers have broad support from the working people to guarantee education as a right for all. The people are concerned with providing a bright future for the youth and meeting the needs of society. For governments to deprive the people and society of this right is to abdicate their social responsibility and render them unfit to govern.

Teachers have not abandoned the fight taken up in 2002 to bring their working conditions and students' learning conditions up to a level necessary to guarantee education as a right for all in the twenty-first century. The need is clear for teachers to strengthen their organization and independent stand in defence of public education and increased funding for all social programs. The youth today together with their teachers and all education workers are determined to build the New. They declare with one voice that those political forces that refuse to uphold their social responsibility towards the youth and society will be cast aside in favour of the New.

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United Conservative Party Uses Straw Men to
Attack Alberta's Curriculum Reform

Alberta's United Conservative Party (UCP), run by former Harper federal Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney, has released its political platform for the Alberta provincial election. One of the platform statements about education reads: "End the focus on so-called 'discovery' or 'inquiry' learning, also known as constructivism." Not surprisingly, this is complete disinformation, not to mention verbal nonsense. The UCP platform-makers are either being deliberately obtuse to push their own agenda or they know very little, if anything, about teaching and learning.

The context for the UCP's attacks on education is the current process of curriculum reform by the NDP government. This reform is an urgent need; with a number of curricula now well beyond their best-before date. The elementary science curriculum for example is 23 years old. The elementary art curriculum is 34 years old. This is the result of 44 years of Conservative governments that continuously starved education of funds and directed public money as pay-the-rich schemes to the mostly foreign-owned energy companies, which continue to dominate Alberta.

For starters, "discovery," "inquiry," and "constructivism" are three different things. Discovery and inquiry are teaching strategies. Constructivism is a theory of learning. The reason the UCP is referencing discovery, inquiry and constructivism in its attacks on education is that they serve as convenient "straw men" for the UCP claim that education in Alberta is in a terrible state because irresponsible teachers are not doing their job properly and that the "cure" is to turn teaching into straightforward indoctrination, the very thing they accuse others of doing.

The term "discovery" came to the fore in the 1960s when North American science curricula were undergoing major changes sparked by the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellite. This led to the ruling elite being concerned about "being behind." As a new focus for science education, "discovery" science emerged in the 1960s in reaction to the dominance of behaviourism in educational learning theory, which had conceived of students as passive assimilators of what they were taught. The main proponent of "discovery" was Jerome Bruner who was also known as "Dr. Discovery."

Bruner conceived of the learner as an active sense-making participant instead of a passive recipient of knowledge. This was an advance, a part of the slow transition from behaviourist to more cognitivist views of learning. What became important was not just what students could do but what they thought. It soon became clear that "discovery" science paid too little attention to the role of the teacher in introducing students to important scientific ideas and hence was long ago discarded by most science educators. As one science educator, Charles Anderson, put it: "Left to their own devices students may discover many interesting things about plants or light, but they will develop scientific ideas about photosynthesis or vision as rapidly as the human race. In other words, not in a single lifetime."

"Inquiry" or "scientific inquiry," not "discovery," is currently the main teaching strategy in science education. It did not fall from the sky but is based on what practicing scientists actually do to pursue scientific investigations. Students are encouraged to act like "little scientists" and to conduct scientific investigations using methodologies similar to what scientists use, e.g., controlled experiments. Conclusions about the world of nature are based as much as possible on student findings, which are discussed and interpreted using arguments based on evidence and reason, often first in a small group setting then as a whole class.

Again, when carrying out "scientific inquiry," students do not discover everything by themselves as teachers play an active role. Teachers participate by organizing lessons, assisting student learning, introducing students to current scientific knowledge and so on. The guiding slogan is not just "Hands-on" but, "Hands-on, minds-on." Currently, a strong consensus exists among science educators and many scientists that at present there is no better strategy than "scientific inquiry" for teaching science to students.

"Constructivism" is a theory of learning that became popular in the 1980s. "Constructivism" is based on the premise that students make sense of what they are taught in light of what they already know. Many science educators now include a lesson stage where they formally survey the ideas about the natural world that students have before the teaching takes place, i.e., students' pre-existing ideas. This is because research has shown that students (and adults) are likely to have non-scientific ideas, which can impede their learning of scientific ideas, again in contrast to the behaviourist notion that the mind is a blank slate to be written upon. An example of a pre-existing idea could be, "Gravity in space is zero."

"Constructivism" has its weaknesses but has led to important new science teaching strategies that take into account students' pre-existing ideas, which have proven to be more effective than previous strategies in terms of students advancing their understanding of scientific concepts. As one educator said, it helps teachers "make the science plausible in the context of a meaningful experience."

Teachers' implementation of "constructivism" has not weakened science learning but strengthened it. Of importance in this regard is to keep in mind that ideas about teaching and learning are always works in progress. They are tested in practice and upon implementation can be revised and/or discarded based on the evidence gathered from trying them out with students in the classroom.

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For Your Information

Class Size Matters

Striking teachers rally outside the Alberta Legislature, Edmonton, February 7, 2002.

In February 2002, 21,000 teachers in Alberta went on strike calling for increased funding for education. They demanded classroom conditions that allow them to do their best work with children. They also laid claim for wages and benefits they consider acceptable, in particular claims that meet the needs of younger teachers. Jonathan Techtmeyer described the situation in a recent post on the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) website as follows:

"On February 4, 2002 the largest teachers strike in the history of Alberta commenced. Teacher discontent was boiling over after years of education cutbacks, (including funding cuts, lost teaching positions, lost resources and salary reductions) followed by ongoing underfunding through the 1990s. Teachers sought through collective bargaining to improve long-standing concerns about deficient classroom conditions. Large class sizes were a key concern."

Instead of taking up its social responsibility and providing the needed increased funding for education, the Klein government used its police powers to declare an "emergency" ordering the teachers back to work 19 days after the strike began. Two weeks later the Alberta Chief Justice ruled that the government had not demonstrated an "emergency" and declared both the back-to-work order and the arbitration process contained in the decree null and void.

What followed is called "rule of law" in Canada. The government quickly brought in Bill 12, described by then-ATA President Larry Booi as "one of the most gratuitous and draconian pieces of labour legislation in Canadian history, rushed through the legislature in only a few days." The legislation imposed a rigged arbitration process and stripped existing clauses from collective agreements protecting hours of work and class size, prohibited strikes by teachers for an extended period, and banned activities that could be deemed to be promoting labour action.

Teachers responded by challenging the legislation in court, withdrawing voluntary services, and carrying out a vigorous campaign to inform Albertans of what was at stake. Outrage at the government's actions and broad support for the teachers forced the government to amend the arbitration process and agree to establish a Learning Commission to shine a light on classroom conditions.

The final report of Alberta's Commission on Learning (ACOL) was released on October 7, 2003. The report, Every Child Learns, Every Child Succeeds, listed 95 recommendations for achieving the commission's vision for education and identified the increased investment needed at $600 million. It established province-wide guidelines for average class sizes across each school jurisdiction, but no recommendation that would require school boards to meet those sizes.

The report identified class size as one of the most studied areas in education and stated that "a wealth of research" backed up views supporting smaller classes: "The critical point in all of the research reviewed by the Commission is that class size matters." This conclusion has been reinforced by all legitimate studies since that time, and is particularly true where the student population faces poverty, discrimination and marginalization.

The ACOL's suggested guidelines are: 17 students for K-3; 23 students for Grades 4-6; 25 students for Grades 7-9; and 27 students at the high school level. Class composition was also to be considered, for example classes with special needs and English language learners or at-risk students should be smaller than those set out in the guidelines.

Where does class size stand 17 years after the Learning Commission's report was released? According to the Alberta Auditor-General, by 2017-18, the number of jurisdictions meeting the targets was actually lower than when the class size initiatives began. The Auditor-General's office concluded that class size funding had essentially become another layer of base instructional funding.

The ATA points out that using averages is a way of obscuring the actual conditions of students and teachers. The ATA's analysis of Alberta government data found that 80 per cent of division one classes (K-3) are above the ACOL recommendation and, on average, the oversized classes are nearly 30 per cent larger than the recommendation. In total, nearly 17,000 Alberta division one classrooms are oversized by more than 20 per cent. In higher grades, 11,000 classes are 20 per cent larger than recommended.

An investigation conducted by Edmonton Journal reporter Janet French in 2018 obtained hard data from six Alberta school jurisdictions (two in each of Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer). The finding: more than 85 per cent of K-3 classes in these districts were oversized. French's investigation found a Grade 10 math class with 45 students, a Grade 11 science class with 47 students and a junior high physical education class with 67. In Red Deer, one Grade 5 class had 37 students, the ATA notes. Edmonton Public had 457 classes with between 36 and 40 kids and Red Deer Catholic had three classes in division one with 35 or more students.

The ATA concludes: "Sixteen years have passed since Alberta's largest ever teachers strike, and the biggest issue in that dispute, class size in Alberta's schools, is as bad as ever. Teachers, and their supportive parents, were taking a principled stand to protect the quality of education for Alberta's students. Unfortunately those students never got to enjoy the small class sizes they were promised. The students that were entering kindergarten in 2002 are now graduating from university, and a generation of children have missed out on the benefits of small classes."

Teachers have had fidelity to their demands for better teaching conditions, which are students' learning conditions, and it is clear that they will continue their fight in the coming years. By getting together, thinking things through, and speaking out, they are sure to find a way forward.

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Defending Public Health and Seniors' Care

Health Care Unions Speak Out

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) has been carrying out its Health Matters campaign for over a year. The HSAA campaign highlights the experience and knowledge of its members who along with other public sector workers are the front line of defending public health care and other social programs and people's right to have such programs in a modern society. Health sciences members work in the labs, in diagnostic imaging, in emergency medicine, in therapy, in addictions and many other professions.

HSAA also carried out a campaign to increase the number of ambulances and paramedics in 2018 which resulted in increased funding for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). At that time, HSAA pointed out that while the number of EMS calls had increased by nearly 20 per cent since 2010, the number of paramedics was up by only 3.4 per cent.

"As experts, we know health-care cuts will cause immense damage. The risk to health care -- and to Albertans -- is too great for us to stay silent. As your trusted health-care experts, we felt we had to speak out. Alberta needs to invest in a health-care system that's already stretched, not cut it," HSAA says.

"Alberta needs to stop the increased privatization of care so that every dollar is spent on patients, not diverted to boost profits for large corporations. No one needing health care should have to worry about whether or not they can afford care."

HSAA urges everyone to make health care an election issue.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees issued a press release on March 27, responding to the NDP government's announcement that it would create 2,000 long-term care beds throughout the province if elected.

"While more long-term care beds are sorely needed in Alberta, they can't continue to be funded by taxpayer dollars and delivered by private, for-profit providers more focused on revenues than providing quality care," said AUPE Vice-President Susan Slade.

"The NDP knows public long-term care spaces provide the best care possible to seniors and residents. That's why in its 2015 election platform, it promised to create 2,000 public long-term care beds over four years. "The party also called out the former PC government for its 'costly experiments in privatization' and called for funds to be redirected to publicly delivered services in that same platform.

"Unfortunately, the private long-term care experiments have continued since 2015 and today we're seeing ‘public' completely removed from the NDP's 2,000 long-term care beds promise," said Slade. AUPE called on all political parties to support and invest in publicly funded and delivered health care.

The demands of the health care workers are just. Increase Funding for Health, Seniors' Care and Social Programs!

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Medical Lab Workers Say No! to Scrapping
New Public Facilities

The question of who decides the direction of the economy, including health care and other public services has come to the fore again with UCP leader Jason Kenney's announcement that he would scrap the new publicly owned medical lab facilities to be built in Edmonton. Kenney said a UCP government would "save" $650 million by scrapping the new facility, calling it a "bureaucratic empire."

All Albertans have a stake and therefore the right to a say when it comes to handing over such a crucial public asset to private interests. Dedicated, knowledgeable and experienced lab workers and professionals should be on the front line when it comes to decision-making regarding their sector of work.

In 2015, Alberta Health Services announced it would contract an Australian company which started as a penny-stock mining company to build a new lab in Edmonton to serve northern Alberta. The decision was made after the group established to make recommendations was ordered not to consider a public lab. The ensuing decision was broadly opposed and the NDP government reversed it through a process which permitted all options to be considered.

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) President Mike Parker explained that this process concluded that a publicly owned and operated province-wide laboratory operation was the best, most efficient way to go. HSAA represents medical lab staff.

"UCP leader Jason Kenney demonstrated an appalling ignorance over how health care works in his statement on laboratory services in Alberta," Parker said."It's hard to believe that someone with so little understanding wants to be trusted with running our vital health-care service. Kenney's plans for lab services reveals so many misconceptions, mistakes, misleading statements and insults to health-care experts that it's hard to know where to begin when analysing what he said...," Parker added.

"He says that labs don't heal people. What on earth does he think we do in labs? We do the tests that provide the diagnosis so people can be treated. Labs and the trusted health-care experts who work in them are a vital part of the health-care system. Without their skills, doctors are just guessing." Parker also pointed out that the claims that a new lab are not needed are ill-informed, and that lab facilities are stretched to the breaking point. A new lab will have to be built, he pointed out. The only issue is whether it will be based on the motive of private profit or be publicly owned and operated.

Facts show that far from "saving money" Kenney is proposing to seize more of the social wealth to line the pockets of the rich. Under the deal made with the private company Sonic in 2015, Sonic would finance the land and building for a new lab. They would be repaid the fixed investment of social wealth with interest and guaranteed a profit from operating the enterprise. Alberta Health Services would have to buy the facility and equipment if the contract was not renewed after 15 years, even though Sonic would have already been repaid its invested social wealth with interest, not to speak of the operating profit, which is lost to the public.

Scrapping the public lab would be the first step in reviving the schemes for a lab built with the motive of private profit. Such schemes should be recognized for what they are -- a form of corruption -- and banned by law. Instead, the value generated within social programs and public services such as lab services must stay within the public health care sector or be used to enhance other public services and social and material infrastructure and be available to protect the well-being of health care workers.

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Alberta Seniors Deserve Better Campaign

Friends of Medicare (FOM) and Public Interest Alberta (PIA) launched a joint campaign, Alberta Seniors Deserve Better, in March 2019 to put forward solutions to the problems facing seniors in the continuing care system. The campaign calls on the government to get profits out of seniors' care, and to enact patient-staff ratios to deal with the unsustainable workloads which lead to burnout for the staff, and degrade the quality of care and attention for seniors in care. The campaign was launched with four videos as well as a petition calling on all parties to make strengthening seniors' care a top priority.

"Albertans value public services, and they need to be strengthened, not cut" said Joel French, PIA Executive Director. "Our seniors deserve a robust public system that provides high quality care. Some politicians are promising tax cuts to large corporations and the wealthy, but our government should be focussed on investing in proper care for Alberta's seniors who have worked hard their entire lives to contribute to our province."

Noel Somerville, Vice Chair of PIA's Seniors' Task Force, who appears in one of the videos, stressed the importance of creating an easier-to-navigate continuing care system. "There are so many barriers to families seeking proper care for their loved ones, including a complex system of referrals. We need to build a system that is easy to access," he said.

"Staff in the seniors' care system are stretched incredibly thin. In some facilities, one staff person can be responsible for up to 30 residents," said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of FOM. "Working conditions are care conditions. We need legislated staff-to-patient ratios to ensure quality care. Furthermore, we need to take the profit motive out of seniors' care. Private health care providers are putting more and more stress on seniors and their families by piling on out-of-pocket costs for essentials. Every dollar that goes into profit is one that's taken away from quality care for seniors. Alberta Seniors Deserve Better," Azocar said.

PIA points out that in the area of seniors' care, Alberta's seniors have long faced accessibility issues and increased privatization of care sold to the public under the guise of offering "choice" to patients and their families. "Rather than building or upgrading publicly operated long term care, the long-standing trend in Alberta has been to close public long term care facilities. This renders the promise of "choice" a mere illusion. Previous governments turned seniors' care into a hospitality industry, in which companies profit from those that need a hand. Slowly, we have transitioned to a system where more and more of the cost is passed down to the residents and their families."

Referring to Premier Notley's announcement that the NDP would add 2,000 new beds if re-elected, PIA pointed out that there has been no assurance that the beds would be publicly, not privately operated. Of 2,000 beds added since 2015, 1,700 are privately owned and operated.[1]

"We are calling for a fundamental cultural change in seniors' care, a move away from the culture of corporatization." says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "We are calling for changes in provincial policy to reflect the values of public health care, to embrace clear provincial standards that will improve access to care, and to establish ways of assessing quality of care that our seniors receive."

The videos can be seen at www.abseniors.ca


1. Many of these beds were built under a program where private interests receive grants to subsidize the building of privately owned and operated supportive-living facilities. Others are private facilities which were not built by the government.

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Protecting Water -- An Election Issue

Residents Organize to Protect the Clearwater River

Well-digging taking place near the Clearwater River.

Residents of Clearwater County in Alberta have been waging a fight to protect the Clearwater River, a tributary of the North Saskatchewan River which supplies drinking water for the prairies. The Clearwater River is located near Rocky Mountain House in central Alberta.

The global energy giant Repsol Oil and Gas Inc.[1] applied to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in March 2018 for a 10 year licence to divert up to 1.8 billion litres of water per year, not including other temporary licences from the Clearwater River. The water will be used for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with 280 wells drilled over 18 years. This is more water than the total amount used by all current fracking operations in the county, residents point out.

Organizers of the group formed to protect the water point out that their community was not even notified about the application because they were not considered "direct stakeholders." This shows how the conception of public interest has been stripped from legislation governing the regulatory bodies, and the arbitrary powers of the regulator to decide when and whom to inform of an application before it.

Two women who have lived in the area for many years decided to knock on doors and inform their neighbours when they became aware of Repsol's application. As a result of their efforts, more than fifty residents came together to oppose the application, and to urge the province to require Repsol to use recycled wastewater.

Organizers stress that they are uniting in action irrespective of their "political stripe" to protect an important water supply and aquifer. They explain that they are not opposing the oil and gas industry, and indeed include people who have worked in the industry all their lives. "I never said I was against oil. I just know that we can't live without fresh water," one activist said.

The regulator dismissed the residents' concerns and approved Repsol's application in January 2019. Alberta Environment defended the decision, stating that "water diversion licences are granted to applicants when sufficient water is available to meet both ecosystem requirements and the rights of existing licence holders."

The term "water diversion" is extremely misleading. Fresh water used for fracking is injected deep into the ground to displace the oil and gas that is being drilled and most of the water remains there. A study conducted at the University of Alberta and funded by Natural Resources Canada concluded that most water used in fracking is not recovered. The study states, "It was determined that up to 30 per cent of water injected during hydraulic fracturing can be recovered to the surface after flowback operations. The remaining water appears to be trapped in the rock matrix and complex fracture network."[2] At minimum, 70 per cent of the fresh water used will not be recovered.

This is what is so concerning to residents. The water is not only being withdrawn from the river, but from hydrologic cycle.[3] Water that does return to the surface is contaminated with fracking fluid and very expensive to remediate. This water is hazardous to humans if it contaminates drinking water, as well as to aquatic life.

Clearwater residents are continuing and expanding their fight and speaking to other communities in Alberta to alert people to the dangers and the need to protect the water supply for the prairies. Most recently, citizens active in the Clearwater Coalition made a presentation sponsored by the Warburg Pembina Surface Rights Group in Warburg, a community southwest of Edmonton.

Fracking and Earthquakes

Another serious concern about fracking is that it is causing small and medium-sized earthquakes. Repsol shut down its fracking operations near Fox Creek in 2016 due to a 4.6 magnitude earthquake caused by hydraulic fracturing near a fault system which was not previously identified. Hundreds of small and moderately-sized earthquakes have taken place in the Fox Creek area in recent years since fracking operations began.

A study published in the journal Science, shows that small earthquakes can continue to occur months after fracking has stopped, occurrences which are not addressed anywhere in Alberta regulations.

"Balancing the Economy and the Environment"

The energy regulator has made the well-worn claim that it is balancing the economy and the environment. In fact neither the problems of the economy or the need to defend Mother Earth are being addressed.

The outlook that taking care of Mother Earth including water and development of the socialized economy are innately in conflict is nonsense. Humanity is part of nature, not separate. Humans depend on nature and through work, transform nature to serve their needs. But the relationship between humans and nature is reduced to what the oligopolies like Repsol have decided suits their private interest and motive for maximum private profit.

The stranglehold of the oligarchs over decision-making and the motive of production for private profit is harmful to humans and to Mother Earth. Both Mother Earth and human beings who are part of nature require a solution to this problem. The block is the domination by the financial oligarchy and capitalist system under which Mother Earth and human beings become collateral damage to greed and the pursuit of private interests.

The people must become the decision-makers and set the direction of the economy in a manner that protects the environment and affirms the right to be of the peoples of the entire world.


1. Repsol Oil and Gas Canada Inc. is a subsidiary of the Spanish global corporation Repsol S.A. Originally known as B.P. Canada Ltd., the company was renamed Talisman Energy when B.P. sold off its majority ownership in a public offering. Talisman became one of Canada's largest independent oil and gas companies. In turn, Talisman was bought out by Repsol for approximately U.S.$13 billion in 2015. Repsol had net income of CDN $2.319 billion in the first half of 2018.

2. Understanding the Fate of Non-recovered Fracturing Water and the Source of Produced Salts for Optimizing Fracking Operations, University of Alberta, 2017, Natural Resources Canada.

3. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the hydrologic cycle as: "the sequence of conditions through which water passes from vapour in the atmosphere through precipitation upon land or water surfaces and ultimately back into the atmosphere as a result of evaporation and transpiration."

(With files from the Narwal and CBC.)

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Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive Continues in Ontario

Mass Actions Militantly Reject Ford
Government's Attacks on Education

Queen's Park rally April 6, 2019 says No! to Ford government's cuts to education.

Two mass actions were recently held in Ontario by those concerned about the direction of public education. On April 6, a mass rally of teachers and education workers and their supporters was held at Queen's Park to defend the public education system. This was preceded by a province-wide walkout on April 4 organized by students to clearly express their No! to the Ford government's retrogressive changes to K-12 and post-secondary education.

Rally for Education at Queen's Park

On April 6, more than 34,000 teachers and education workers, students, parents, children and the general public converged on Queen's Park for a rally to express a clear No! to the Ford government's anti-social attacks on education. From as far north as North Bay and as far south as Windsor, buses poured into Toronto while Torontonians and those in the GTA drove in or flooded into public transit. Everywhere red shirts symbolizing the slogan #RedforED could be seen. Like the province-wide walkouts, the rally had a jubilant fighting spirit making it clear that the people were speaking for themselves and putting to rest any claim that the direction proposed by the Ford government has any form of broad support. Organizers report that this was the most buses they had seen at Queen's Park in many years.

The rally opened with representatives of high school students who organized the walkouts who rebuked Premier Ford's provocative claim that the walkouts were organized by teachers' unions, whom he called "thugs." The students openly declared not only that it was their initiative but that they are not asking but demanding a real say in the direction of the education system that educates them and that they support the same for all those who work in public education. Representatives of families with children who have autism also spoke of their confidence in the movement that was being built and that they stand as one with everyone who wants to improve public education. Representatives of the main Ontario education unions also spoke affirming that their members' working conditions are students' learning conditions and that this is the basis upon which they support the students. The entire caucus of the NDP joined the rally with NDP leader Andrea Horwath stating that they would fight up until the next provincial election when she said they would defeat the PCs and form the government. Chris Buckley of the Ontario Federation of Labour addressed participants as did Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff. Both rebuked the Ford government for its attacks on unions labeling them "thugs," affirming that the trade union movement would not be threatened or intimidated.

The stands of the people of Ontario affirming education as a right and the modern view that education is an investment rather than a cost were clearly expressed in the thousands of homemade signs in the rally. What has clearly been established in the minds of those gathered was that the direction the Ford government intends to take Ontario is not acceptable and must be challenged. The rally and the walkouts have further strengthened the sentiment that it is up to the working people themselves to hold governments to account and how to do this begins by saying No!

Province-Wide Student Walkout

Students from all parts of the province walked out en masse on April 4 in an enthusiastic expression of their determination to have their voices heard.

Many school boards across the province deliberately did not intimidate or seek to threaten students into not participating. In some cases school board administrations facilitated students expressing themselves by establishing time frames for the walkout within which students would not be marked truant. As a result, students were not forced to defy administrators and instead were able to walk out together in a calm and jubilant atmosphere.

Photo Review: April 6 Rally for Education

Photo Review: April 4 Student Walkout



Wellborne Ave Public School, Kingston

VP Carswell Elementary, Trenton



Codrington Public School, Barrie

Innisdale Secondary School, Barrie

Harbord Collegiate, Toronto

Spadina-Fort York, Toronto

Lakeshore Collegiate, Etobicoke

Richview Collegiate, Etobicoke


Port Credit Secondary School, Mississauga

Fort Erie

Vincent Massey Secondary School, Windsor

Essex District High School



Blind River

Elliot Lake

Sault Ste. Marie

Thunder Bay

(Photos: TML, A.D. Labelle, C. Burns-LeBlanc, K. Graves, A. Trotter, C. Davey, M. Owens, A. Jofnson-Ford, blog TO, C. Glover, R. Harvey, L. McAlpine, M. Mount, M. Manthra, T. Pozzo, R. Fleming)

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Hands Off Venezuela!

Illegal Manouevres and Impotent Demands to
Support Regime Change Rebuffed

President Nicolás Maduro addresses a mass rally, April 6, 2019, congratulating the Venezuelan people on their defence of their motherland.

With the continuing failure of the U.S. to bring its coup d'état against the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to a successful conclusion in spite of the dirty multi-faceted war it has been waging for that purpose, it is going to new extremes to try and legitimate its illegitimate activities and shore up support internationally for the hapless self-proclaimed "president" Juan Guaidó.

On April 9 at an extraordinary session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), requested the day before by seven Lima Group members including Canada, a resolution was approved by a simple majority of 18 votes[1] that called on the OAS to accept an individual designated by the disempowered National Assembly as Venezuela's permanent representative to the OAS, "pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government." The resolution further instructed the OAS Secretary General to transmit the text that had been approved to the Secretary General of the United Nations, in keeping with the concerted effort of the U.S. to get the Security Council to act against Venezuela.

It was pointed out emphatically by the representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and others who voted against the resolution, and even by some who abstained, that the Permanent Council had no authority under the OAS Charter to determine who should represent any of its member states, that this was a decision belonging to the member state itself.

Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's Ambassador to the OAS pointed out that "in international law and practice, who represents a state is based on the test of "who is in charge of the country, who administers its affairs, [and] who controls its borders." Given that a fictitious parallel "government" headed by a self-declared "president" without any real power obviously does not fulfil these requirements, he said that essential test of international law had been ignored, and requested that his remarks be included as a footnote to the resolution.

The response of Venezuela's representative Asbina Marín Sevilla and of certain others who objected to the resolution also appeared as footnotes to the resolution that appeared on the OAS website. In her remarks Marín Sevilla stated:

"The only measure provided for in the rules of the OAS is the suspension of a member state, decided on at a special General Assembly by a two-thirds vote of the foreign ministers. There is no other way. The power to withdraw recognition does not exist, much less the power to change governments. Any improvisation or manipulation that allows other actions to be taken by a lower body and with a voting threshold below two-thirds is illegal.... We are thus facing two coups d'état: one committed against all the principles of the OAS, and another committed from within the OAS against a state that is facing intervention and upon which a representative is being imposed from abroad."

The OAS "has been turned into an empty shell, powerless to defend its own principles," said Marín Sevilla, proving that her government's decision to withdraw from it was correct. Venezuela is due to leave the OAS on April 27, two years after giving notice of its intention to do so.

Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco of Mexico who voted against the resolution called its adoption "a pyrrhic victory for a group of countries, without real effect." Saying the decision had been taken "irresponsibly and without legal grounds," he expressed concern about its implications. Similar concerns were expressed by representatives of countries that abstained on the vote as well, including Nicaragua and Guyana.

Caracas, Venezuela, April 6, 2019.

At the UN Security Council

On April 10 the U.S. moved its regime change sideshow to the UN Security Council where it demanded that an emergency session be convoked allegedly to consider the "humanitarian problems" in Venezuela -- the third such meeting it has forced in less than a year.

The meeting began with reports by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration for Venezuelans, Eduardo Stein,[2] and Dr. Kathleen Page, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine who reported on a study carried out by her university in conjunction with the U.S. government-financed agency Human Rights Watch. All of them painted a dire picture about the "humanitarian situation" in Venezuela without mentioning a single word about the role of the economic war the U.S. has been waging aimed precisely at creating a crisis in the country.

Pence then took the floor in the style of a self-appointed prosecutor, calling Venezuela a failed state and its government "illegitimate," making sure to include that Venezuela represented "a threat to the peace and security of the region," emphasizing that it was time for the UN to "act" -- a dishonest attempt to make the case for an eventual military intervention like the U.S. has been threatening, and which Pence made sure to say was still "on the table." He announced that the United States was drafting a resolution calling for the UN credentials of the Bolivarian government to be revoked and assigned instead to the coup forces it sponsors, and called on all states to support it, presumably at a future meeting of the General Assembly even though not even a third of its members have recognized its puppet Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's president.

After issuing his uncouth threats and demands at the Security Council, Pence made a show of walking out of the meeting, not bothering even to hear what Venezuela or other members of the Security Council had to say in response. Speaking to reporters outside he blustered impotently, "This is our neighborhood and the president has made it clear that whether it be Russia, or whether it be other nations, that they need to step aside. They need to cease efforts to stand in the way of economic and diplomatic pressure, and they need to cease supporting the Maduro regime."

At a press conference he held after the meeting, Venezuela's Permanent Ambassador to the UN Samuel Moncada said it is no secret that the U.S. has been running a high pressure campaign for some time to try and get more of the 193 UN members to buy into its regime change agenda by recognizing its puppet Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. While that might work in the OAS, whose Secretary General openly calls for war against Venezuela, he said, it's not the same at the UN which is not just "a corral of the U.S. and its friends." Moncada said Venezuela had also been engaged in a vigorous campaign with members of the Non-Aligned Movement for the last six months to counter U.S. attempts to unseat its delegation at the UN and that this would continue.


1. The resolution was approved by Argentina, The Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia and the United States. Nine countries voted against it -- Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Grenada, Mexico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela, and six abstained -- Barbados, El Salvador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. Belize was absent.

2. Eduardo Stein is a former vice president (2004-2008) and foreign minister (1996-2000) of Guatemala. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. Of note is that Stein was a member of the International Commission on State Sovereignty and Intervention (ICISS) established by Canada in 2000 after NATO’s precedent-setting bombing of Yugoslavia. The Commission came up with "the responsibility to protect" (R2P) to justify foreign intervention against sovereign states -- a violation of the UN Charter. In its report to then-Secretary General Kofi Annan the Commission recommended the UN adopt R2P as official policy. Stein is said to remain an  advocate of that imperialist doctrine which the likes of Luis Almagro and members of the US-financed opposition in Venezuela have called for utilizing today against Venezuela.

(With files from Misión Verdad, Grayzone, Whitehouse.gov)

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Selling or Saving the Soul of the OAS

The organization of American States (OAS), already a broken institution, was shattered even more April 9 at a meeting of its permanent council. It is now an organization whose membership is deeply divided and amongst whom mistrust, and bitterness now predominate.

Sir Ronald Sanders, (right), at OAS meeting.

How this huge problem will be fixed -- if it can be fixed at all -- is the paramount challenge that now confronts its 33 and a half members. I will return to the half-member later in this commentary.

Nothing that I say in this commentary is a secret. The permanent council meeting of April 9 was played out in a live webcast on the OAS' website.

The meeting was held, after weeks of efforts by the United States and most of the members of the so-called Lima group, to secure the adoption of a resolution that would unseat the representative of the Nicolás Maduro government and replace him with the nominee of Juan Guaidó. Guaidó is the self-proclaimed "interim president" of Venezuela, so recognized by roughly 50 of the more than 200 governments in the world.

The manoeuvrings behind the scenes had a single purpose, and that was to procure 18 votes, constituting a simple majority of the 34 member-states, to impose Guaidó's nominee as Venezuela's representative.

It took some time for the core 14 countries to woo the support of 4 others, not least because the manner of pushing the resolution through the permanent council defied international law and the charter and rules of the OAS. Governments had to dig deep to balance disregard for the integrity of the OAS as an institution and a desire to help those countries that were determined to seat Guaidó's representative.

The meeting was summoned for high noon April 9, and all delegations were cautioned to be on time for a prompt start. As it turned out delegates were forced to wait until after 1:00 pm to start the meeting because, at the last minute, Jamaica -- one of the faithful 18 -- insisted on new language, causing a commotion among the group and threatening to derail its entire effort.

Even when the resolution was presented to the permanent council meeting and was being debated, it was unclear what text was being considered. What was before the meeting was the original text, omitting the Jamaica language. A request from me, as the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, for clarification, resulted in a break in the meeting's proceedings to produce the final text of the resolution. Its primary purpose remained to accept the appointment of "the national assembly's designated permanent representative."

There was much solemn and serious debate about the entire proceedings, but in the end, 18 countries, using their razor-thin majority, forced the vote through.

Some self-interested governments have characterised the April 9 meeting as a clash of support for or against the contending forces in Venezuela. Sections of the media have followed that line.

However, far from being about Maduro/Guaidó and Venezuela, the meeting was about selling or saving the soul of the OAS; it was about disregarding international norms and ignoring the institutional framework of the organization for the short term political purposes of a few; and it was about arguing for the retention of the OAS' integrity.

At the end of the vote, passed by a simple majority, the ambassador of Mexico, Jorge Lomónaco Tonda, summed-up the meeting well. He said: "There were no winners or losers; only losers." Moreover, the biggest loser was the OAS itself.

Nowhere in the charter of the OAS, or its rules, does the permanent council have the authority to decide on the recognition of a government. Further, as was stated repeatedly at the meeting, the recognition of a government is the sovereign right of states and cannot be determined or imposed by a multilateral organization. At the very least, the matter, given its high political importance, should have been considered by a special session of the general assembly, the highest organ of the OAS.

What the hasty, ill-considered process succeeded in doing is damaging the OAS as an institution, tainting its structure and governance, harming relations between its member states and rendering it unfit for anything but achieving the purposes of a willful majority of 18 countries.

The vote on recognition of the national assembly's representative was really about the de-recognition of the Maduro government's representative. While that may have been achieved within the OAS, it has changed nothing in the international community. Countries that recognize Maduro or Guaidó as president of Venezuela continue to do so.

Nothing has changed in Venezuela either. This vote has achieved no new negotiations and no solution to the humanitarian situation. If anything, it has served only to harden the opposing sides in the political conflict, closing the door to solutions.

To return now to the 33 and a half members of the OAS. The national assembly's representative may be seated in front of the Venezuelan flag, but he cannot speak for the government that is in charge of Venezuela. A vital test of recognition of a government, in international law and practice, is whether it exercises effective control of the affairs of the country. The national assembly does not have effective control of Venezuela, and its representative cannot speak, in the OAS, for the de facto government.

There is a further question regarding the authenticity of the representative's credentials which appear to have been overlooked, deliberately or otherwise by the OAS Secretariat.

The national assembly nominated a "special" representative to the OAS, but there is no such category of representation. Further, as pointed out in the meeting by the ambassador of Guyana, Riyad Insanally, the letter to the Secretary-General from Guaidó, signed as "interim president of Venezuela," designating the "permanent" representative, was dated January 22, 2019. However, his proclamation as "interim president" took place on January 23, 2019. In other circumstances, these discrepancies would not have been accepted.

The OAS is now in many ways a sadly compromised organization. The fight on April 9, 2019, to sell or save its soul defines it now and can limit its effectiveness in the future.

Why should we care? Because it is the only hemispheric organization in which all countries (except Cuba) sit, and which had the mandate and the opportunity to keep the region peaceful and to pursue cooperation that could make a difference to the lives of all its people. All that is now corrupted.

(Caribbean News Now, April 12, 2019)

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Intervention of Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada Before the United Nations Security Council

UN Security Council meeting, April 10, 2019.

Mr. President.

Pence is misleading the United Nations. Yesterday the Organization of American States (OAS) did not accept the designation of a new representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. What happened yesterday was that they accepted the designation of a representative of the National Assembly, but it is not clear what that person can do, as the OAS is an Organization of States, represented by National Government, and not of National Assemblies. This legal absurdity took place as a result of the desires of Mr. Pence's government to carry out a coup d'état in the OAS and another in Venezuela. As such, we suggested that all parties become well-informed over what was adopted yesterday in Washington. We warn that Mr. Pence's government will try the same trick here, within the General Assembly, and we trust that it will fail.

Mr. President.

Ambassador Samuel Moncada speaks at press briefing at the UN, April 10, 2019.

The humanitarian situation in Venezuela needs to be resolved, but if we err in the diagnosis, we will also err in the treatment. The situation, as has been affirmed here, is the result of human actions. But what has not been said is that these actions are part of a plan for economic destruction designed by the government of the United States and its ally, the United Kingdom, with the goal of strangling the national economy, causing maximum social suffering, eroding the capabilities of our nation to sustain itself and, ultimately, to spark an implosion that will allow for a foreign military intervention based on the nefarious notion of the responsibility to protect, which has been used as an excuse for colonial invasions of countries that have oil.

This is a gigantic, inhumane experiment of unconventional warfare. A policy of calculated cruelty that violates human rights on a massive scale, reaching the point of committing crimes against humanity, all with the goal of justifying pillaging and looting, imposing a local, subordinate government and, in our case, using a racist ideology that arose over 200 years ago, when the United States was a slave-owning nation, which today they promote in violation of international law. We refer to the infamous Monroe Doctrine. Listen to their own words.

On January 9, 2018, spokespersons from the State Department declared: "The pressure campaign is working And what we are seeing is a total economic collapse in Venezuela. So our policy is working, our strategy is working and we're going to keep it."

On October 12, 2018, Ambassador William Brownfield said: "We must treat this as an agony, a tragedy that will continue until it finally reaches an end ( ) and if we can do something to accelerate it, we must do it, but we must do it understanding that this is going to have an impact on millions of people who are already having difficulties in finding food and medicines ( ) We cannot do this and pretend that it will not have an impact, we have to make a hard decision, the desired end justifies this severe punishment."

On March 7, 2019, Senator Marco Rubio stated that "Over the next few weeks, Venezuela is going to enter a period of suffering no nation in our hemisphere has confronted in modern history."

On March 22, 2019, John Bolton noted, "It's sort of like in Star Wars when Darth Vader chokes someone, that's what we are doing to the regime economically."

This is about deliberate economic destruction; it is the systematic application of aggression with the use of financial instruments, undue pressure, and the use of dominant market positions to influence the banking sector, private businesses and other nations that engage in legal trade with Venezuela, including even U.N. agencies. All with the goal of isolating the country from international trade and financial systems. If it were true that the Venezuelan government is killing its people, why would they need a massive wave of extortion to increase suffering? The interest in a social implosion is not ours; it is of those who wish to invade us.

It is a plan in which banks, insurance agencies and ships are used with a destructive power comparable to weapons of mass destruction, but without having those responsible face justice and without them suffering the moral sanctions they deserve. On January 30, 2019, John Bolton said: "My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don't deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities," while on March 29, 2019, Elliott Abrams said: "We impose our sanctions. What does the regime do? The regime tries to figure out other ways to get around them. It tries to find new customers. It tries to find new sources of imports. So, what do we do? We watch carefully, and we can see ships moving and we can see new contracts with new companies, and when we do, we talk to shippers or we talk to refiners or we talk to governments and we say you should not be doing that. That's what we're doing."

A repugnant aspect of this criminal policy of mass destruction is that it is accompanied by theft and pillaging that has cost our nation over $137 billion. While they deprive our people of essential goods, provoking maximum suffering, they rob the Venezuelan people of over one hundred billion dollars. The profits from our refineries are used to pay debts to oil companies friendly to the Trump administration. Its friends with Venezuelan sovereign debt bonds receive special licenses to collect their profits from money stolen from our people. They announced a plan to put the country into debt by $70 billion and to use that money to pay for non-certified debts in suspicious financial dealings. We cannot forget that the Bank of England, which stole $1.2 billion in old from our people using the excuses that they do not recognize President Nicolás Maduro and that they are complying with the Trump sanctions. The Bank of England is not an independent institution, as its government affirms; rather it acts as the enforcement arm of policies of conquest and pillage of the governments of Trump and Theresa May. It is the same colonial policy of the British Empire of over 200 years ago.

Mr. President.

This is the true cause of the Venezuelan situation; there is no other. Certainly, our people our suffering and our government, as the Secretary General can certify, is working intensely with the United Nations system to increase both the number of cooperation projects as well as the volume and capacities of those projects, particularly in the health, food, education, electricity and transportation sectors. The same is happening with regards to cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose president met yesterday in Caracas with our Head of State to move forward with a direct mechanism that facilitates true neutral, impartial and independent aid. The same can be said of friendly countries who have provided assistance in peace and in respect for our sovereignty.

Anti-imperialist march in Caracas, Venezuela, March 30, 2019.

An element that can not be underestimated by those who wage war on Venezuela is the strength of our national spirit, which is growing in the midst of these difficulties. The macabre experiment of destruction is aiming to prove that economic crime does work, that peoples can be broken and will surrender in the face of an oppressive foreign power. However, they got it wrong in Venezuela. The induced collective suffering is being resisted with the growing organization of our people. Our National Bolivarian Armed Force has not fractured and is more united than ever. Our workers are reacting to the attacks against our vital infrastructure with a discipline that the aggressors had never seen. Yes, there are troubles, but they are not leading to a civil war. Today, our people are setting an example for the world on how to fight for peace.

It would be logical to think that the efforts of our government to overcome the difficulties caused by aggression would be recognized and supported by the international community interested in alleviating suffering. However, what we are witnessing is a new wave of economic extortion that severs our country's financial flows abroad and impedes action by the United Nation's own agencies, which at this time have not found a way to receive our money and process the purchases required to meet the needs of our population. Do you know why? Because the Trump administration is waging a terror campaign against commercial and financial agents that touch Venezuelan money. What the United States has attempted to do so far is not humanitarian aid, but a covert operation without the consent of Venezuela, violating our territorial integrity, with a continuous threat of the use of force, and openly inciting a military uprising and civil war. This is Mr. Abrams' specialty.

Mr. President.

This Security Council, according to the provisions of Articles 24, 34 and 39 of the Charter, has the responsibility to maintain international peace and security and to determine the existence of threats to peace or acts of aggression. As such, we request that it determine:

The legal basis on which the United States and United Kingdom apply a program of economic destruction on Venezuela, without the express authorization of this Council.

The legal authority to apply the so-called secondary sanctions on countries that legally trade with Venezuela.

The legal basis on which the United States threatens Venezuela with the use of force.

The legal authority on which the United States and United Kingdom can appropriate our riches, making profits through extortion with the mass violation of the human rights of our people.

The legal basis on which the United States can intervene in affairs that are essentially under the internal jurisdiction of Venezuela.

To conclude, the diagnosis for the current situation is the result of a campaign of aggression by the United States and United Kingdom. The treatment cannot be a new dose of aggressive interventionism with a humanitarian façade. The solution is not found in donations from those criminals who wish to portray themselves as saviors; it is not in corridors of humanitarian aid designed to provoke armed conflicts; it is not in Donor Conferences that obscure the looting of our nation. The treatment is in returning the money stolen from Venezuela; in the end of the commercial and financial blockade of our people; in the end of the sabotage to our infrastructure through covert operations; in the end of threats of military intervention; and in the end of threats against Venezuelans who wish to engage in dialogue. We must stop Trump's war. This Security Council must fulfill its mission, guaranteeing Venezuela its right to peace.

Thank you.

Right to reply to the address by the delegation of Peru to the United Nations on the issue of Venezuelan refugees and migrants:

Even when they are surprisingly ignored by reports referred to here in this session, including those drafted by U.N. agencies, the criminal, unilateral sanctions have also resulted in an irrefutable increase in the migratory flow of Venezuelans, although we differ on the number mentioned here, considering that there has been a lack of due rigorousness in the methods to acquire such information, nor the timely and verifiable provision of migration data by receiving country.

We should note, fortunately, that Venezuela has not been a recent victim of either a natural catastrophe or an armed conflict. The migration that we see today in the region, which is encouraged by extremist statements and by a psychological war that instills terror regarding the certainty of the future in Venezuela with the goal of weakening the morale of our people, is of an economic kind and is the direct result of a plan for the programmatic destruction of our economy.

We cannot allow a human right like freedom of movement to be securitized or politicized. On the country, this very Security Council would be engaging in a double standard in not promptly convening a session on the humanitarian and security crisis on the border, as declared by Trump on March 15, 2019.

(April 10, 2019. Ministry of People's Power for Foreign Relations of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Slightly edited for grammar and style by TML.)

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The Brexit Fiasco

Solutions Require the People Speaking
in Their Own Name

With every move she makes, British Prime Minister Theresa May has deepened the political crisis over Brexit. But the underlying crisis is something much more profound than May's politics of self-harm, denial and plain irrationality. In other words, even if May were to be replaced as Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister, the crisis is not going to be resolved, certainly not within the Tory Party and in the House of Commons as a whole, or even within the parameters of a cartel party system in which the people have no say over the decisions which affect their lives. Far from it. Objectively, the way out of the crisis is the one which genuinely empowers the people to have a say in those decisions. Already, the peoples of the entire country from all walks of life are very vocal as to what they want but nobody listens despite everyone speaking in their own name. This is what has to be made to change.

Demonstration, October 20, 2018.

It does not matter which option is taken, Remain or Leave, or indeed the different varieties that MPs are voting for with indicative votes, in the sense that they are not solutions to the political crisis. That was an inescapable component of the problem with the referendum in the first place. The question facing the polity did not pose itself as Remain versus Leave. The truth is and has been that workers themselves have to start dealing with the issue of resolving the crisis in their favour by having their independent program based on their own vantage point.

Within the circumstances of this crisis, no matter what position MPs take on the European Union, it is not likely that the solutions on offer will settle the matter for those with differing opinions and indeed different interests, on Brexit. Indeed, the experience of MPs as a whole, rather than the government, and Executive, "taking control" of the business program or the House of Commons suggests the opposite.

As passions are stoked up, and especially as the frustration and disillusion with the impasse over Brexit take hold, how the working people work out how they can intervene in the situation in a manner which favours them continues to be key to the outcome. Theresa May is hopelessly stuck in irrational rhetoric such as saying that she sides with the people against the Legislature. While this is a definite admission that "the people" are not in the Legislature -- that the Legislature of not "of the people" -- it seeks to get the people to forget that the Westminster system is anachronistic, incorrigibly dysfunctional and in need of a fundamental rehaul so that those elected answer to the people, not a relic from medieval times. Current arrangements which are the product of the English Civil War 1642-1651 which created a state to combine medieval privileges, a definition of rights based on ownership of property and of sovereignty based on territoriality are not conducive to the conditions today, which have surpassed those limitations. Who does the British Parliament represent in this current civil war raging in Britain? Why would the English, Scottish and Welsh working class side pro or con any of the contending interests rather than speak in their own name and elaborate their own interests?

Workers' Weekly, the newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), points out the options the people are offered. It is said that "to support Brexit is to be xenophobic and courting economic disaster, or that to favour Remain is to be indifferent to the interests of the working class; while on the other hand, it is said that a 'people's Brexit' would stop the European monopolies dictating to the British economy and exploiting cheap imported labour, while revoking Article 50 would safeguard rights which are supposedly guaranteed by the EU and enable people to freely travel throughout Europe."

What the people of Britain sorely need, Workers' Weekly points out, is to work out their own vantage points within the situation which will empower them to set the direction of the economy and politics of the society. "This is the common issue facing the whole polity and indicates what perspective to take in providing a solution to the Brexit crisis which favours the people. New forms are required, forms which translate the people's voices into the determining factor," Workers' Weekly writes.

"The reality of Britain, its ruling elite and its role in the world must be taken into consideration. This is the crucial question taking precedence over whether the EU's relationship to Britain is one of benefactor or dictator. Indeed, it can be said that the overall neo-liberal agenda of the Westminster government is consistent with that of the oligarchs of the EU. What must be recognized is that British imperialism is responsible for many, many crimes since this parasitic stage of capitalism came into being. And before that the British colonialists built their empire on which 'the sun never set' and enslaved and devastated the peoples of this empire, extracting fabulous wealth from their peoples and resources," Workers' Weekly points out.

It is clear that what is at stake is how to control and expand the spoils of a "Great" Britain. "In particular, the City has been built up as the hub of financial markets the world over. This is parasitic finance capital par excellence, and one which Brexit or no Brexit the ruling elite jealously attempts to guard for themselves," Workers' Weekly writes.

"[T]he fierce and ongoing dogfights in the ruling circles also represent the differing calculations within their ranks over the future of NATO, for instance, over the defence and the militarization of the economy, cloaked in declarations over the national interest, and over which direction the economy should take," Workers' Weekly says and adds:

"Britain owes it to the Irish people too to settle things in line with the aspirations and struggles of the people of Ireland. The ruling class of England has dominated the island of Ireland for centuries. In the midst of the inter-imperialist First World War, the Irish heroically fought for their independence, and were brutally slaughtered by the British. But it lit a spark, and in the course of the Irish people attaining their independence the British manoeuvred so as to annex six counties in the north of Ireland. The Downing Street Declaration affirmed that the whole people of the island of Ireland must decide their future, and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 represented a major political development and a binding peace treaty involving the British and Irish parties. It is this agreement which the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] is prepared to flout and Theresa May is willing to tear up in maniacal pursuit of her Deal.

Thousands march in London in support of the NHS, March 4, 2017

"A further indispensable ingredient to the solution of the political crisis into which the various factions of the ruling elite have led Britain, and which the Brexit referendum has cruelly exacerbated, is to build the unity of the people of Scotland, Wales and England, one working class, one programme. This requires entirely different arrangements between the three countries, not to mention Ireland itself, on the basis that Scotland and Wales need their own nation-building projects, while the colonialist nation-building project in England has long since had its day, and under the rubric of the Mother of Parliamentary Democracy has a toxic legacy which betrays its colonialist roots and history."

Workers' Weekly decries the attempt to set people at each other's throats based on the claim that justice and progress rests with one side or another of the Brexit fiasco. And a fiasco it is -- "a thing that is a complete failure, especially in a ludicrous or humiliating way."

The working class in England, Scotland and Wales, comprised of their own nationality and peoples of all nationalities from the world over, constitute one working class which is indeed speaking out on its own behalf against the anti-social offensive, in support of a pro-social program which upholds the dignity of labour and puts human beings at the centre of all development. "The two strands of this demand, relating to the collective of the working class and to the rights and well-being of all sections of the people, are part of the one whole of a Brexit solution. The unity of the people must be safeguarded, Brexiteers and Remainers alike. The right to conscience demands that each has the right to push for their positions on the basis of how they serve to resolve the crisis. Naturally, no-one should have the right to organize on the basis of treating other human beings as not worthy of rights. The resolution of this apparent conundrum is to affirm that all the positions from whatever side are well and fine, and that everyone is entitled to speak up and organise to garner support, but this must be done within the politics of social responsibility as opposed to the irresponsible politicization of vested interests."

Workers' Weekly says attention should be paid to asking those who put forward this or that position to strive to answer the question as to how problems facing the people are to be provided with solutions and how the positions taken on Brexit will contribute to that cause. The solutions must be justifiable.

Workers' Weekly points out that within this discussion, it has to be recognized that the political set-up is one in which the people are not empowered to implement or even arrive at decisions which affect society, and that the economic set-up is dictated by narrow private interests. Deal-making has given rise to many proposed variants of Remain/Leave, whether it be a Customs Union, full membership of the EU, exiting on WTO rules, or some other proposition, many of which refer to institutions and arrangements which are themselves racked in crisis and irrationality.

"The goings-on in the House of Commons have not only been unseemly and have lowered the level of politics, but are not directed at resolving the problems created by the results of the Referendum so as to provide a way forward." The set-up of a party-in-power and a party-in-opposition is not capable of negotiating anything because of the absence of a pro-social aim. Cabinet government and its prerogative powers are dysfunctional and lie in tatters. Parliamentary votes have ceased to mean anything at all whether 'meaningful,' 'indicative,' based on motions presented to MPs through their twitter accounts or other social media. To even try to give a rational explanation to irrational proceedings is to become irrational oneself. To hold up the Westminster system of rule as the paradigm of democracy and a civilized world is to not see that the sun has already set and preparations must be made for a new dawn.

Workers' Weekly calls for attention to be paid to the fact that today, "the budget goes to war production, instead of going on hospitals and social programmes, and every justification is given to promoting austerity. Deals are struck behind closed doors. Big business and the City rule the roost."

Rational deliberations are required on these issues, the newspaper points out. Instead, people "are being deprived of the conditions to form rational and informed conclusions and unite around them. It can be said with confidence that the issue facing the working class and people is not the issue of Brexit or no Brexit. It is not such a false binary issue. The issue facing them is how to bring the wisdom of the peoples of Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England into play."

"Whether or not Britain remains in or leaves the European Union, itself beset with crises and with growing disunity between the component states and with unaccountable decision-making, and on what date it leaves, there is a demand for turning things around in a manner which favours the working class and people, in a manner which settles scores with all that is being demonstrated as so rotten with the old way of doing things. New arrangements are required. How else can such issues as international trade on the basis of mutual benefit, the respect for the sovereignty of all nations, the settling of international issues through peaceful means, the implementation of the rule of law -- how else can they be achieved?"

"In the face of the all-round crisis, the alternative that is required is to empower the peoples to have a decisive say on all those matters which affect their lives," Workers' Weekly concludes.

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Palestinian People Will Not Back Down

Great March of Return Protests Continue
as Israel Targets Youth

On Land Day, March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinian rallied at the Israel-Gaza fence to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return, weekly protest marches that began on Land Day last year to affirm the right of return of all those brutally displaced from their homeland by the creation of Israel in 1948 and the ongoing occupation, and also to call for an end to Israel's and Egypt's 12-year blockade of Gaza. The vitality of the protests across the West Bank and Gaza show that the Palestinians remain determined and undaunted. The protestors faced off against Israeli tanks and troops massed on the fortified perimeter, who attacked them with live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. Three 17-year-old boys were killed and at least 207 people were wounded, according to Gaza's health ministry.

"We will move towards the borders even if we die," said Yusef Ziyada, 21. "We are not leaving. We are returning to our land." Mohammed Ridwan, 34, told Al Jazeera the huge turnout on March 30 was "ample proof that our people will not back down until they gain their legitimate rights." Bahaa Abu Shammal, a 26-year-old activist, said he was at a protest site "very far away from the separation fence," but still, nearly "suffocated due to Israeli tear gas." He said, "We need to break the brutal siege we suffer from. We want to return to our lands."

News reports indicate that at least 49 children have been killed at the protests at the Gaza border fence since the protests began last year. According to the UN, more than 6,000 children have also been injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas. According to the UN's World Health Organization (WHO), 2,980 children were so badly wounded that they required hospital care. Thousands have sustained serious wounds, including blindness, head injuries, and amputations. Twenty-one children have had upper or lower limbs amputated following injuries inflicted by Israeli troops as they participated in weekly demonstrations, according to the WHO.

Many of those who survived have suffered life-changing injuries and have been denied, or been unable to access, adequate medical care to address their needs. The demand for specialist medical support has far exceeded Gaza's health system, which has been undermined by years of the U.S.-backed blockade. According to the WHO, 80 per cent of children injured at the protests who applied to leave Gaza to receive emergency medical treatment in Israel over the last year have had their permits rejected or delayed.

According to the UN, Israeli violence at the March of Return demonstrations injured more than 20,000 adults between March 30, 2018 and January 31, 2019, and many more have occurred since then. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports the deaths of nearly 200 Palestinian protesters shot by Israeli sharpshooters. In contrast, four Israeli soldiers are reported to have been injured in the same period.

Westbank, Palestine


Toronto, Ontario


Actions Around the World

Tel Aviv, Israel

Amman, Jordan

Sydney, Australia

Iwo, Nigeria



Syracuse, USA

New York City, USA

Boston, USA

San Francisco, USA

Belfast, Ireland

London, England

Manchester, England

Amsterdam, Netherlands


(With files from Al Jazeera)

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