May 23, 2020 - No. 18

Our Security Lies in the Fight
for the Rights of All!

Self-Serving Imperialist Definition of
"Systemically Important and Viable Businesses"

• State Funding for "Systemically Important"
Privately-Owned Businesses

From "Too Big To Fail" to "Systemically Important Businesses"

- K.C. Adams -

State Financial Help for Private Airlines

Crisis at Air Canada and WestJet

Layoffs at Air Canada

- Garnet Colly -

Avoidable Consequences of Spring Flooding in Northern Alberta

Social Irresponsibility Once Again Forces Working People
to Suffer Great Losses

- Peggy Askin -

Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

COVID-19 Pandemic on Reserves and in Off-Reserve Communities

Manitoba First Nations' Justified Blockade of Keeyask Dam Site
- Barbara Biley -

• Statement of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Supreme Court of Canada's Decision to Deny
Taseko Mines Limited's Appeal

- Tŝilhqot’in Nation -

Stepped Up War Exercises During COVID-19

Crash of the Snowbird

- Tony Seed -

Opposition to Imperialist Sanctions and Blockades

High-Level Representatives of Affected Countries Call for
Lifting of Economic Sanctions

• Canadian Labour Congress Letter to Foreign Affairs Minister 

Terrorist Attack on Venezuela

• Statement by Venezuelan Delegation at Virtual Public Session
of United Nations Security Council


• COVID-19 Update

Self-Serving Imperialist Definition of
"Systemically Important and Viable Businesses"

State Funding for "Systemically Important"
Privately-Owned Businesses

The amount of debt the federal and other governments are incurring under the conditions of the pandemic is alarming as both the lenders and the government expect it to be paid back with interest. The brutal neo-liberal anti-social offensive unleashed in the early nineties after free trade was launched in the mid-eighties has always been justified under the claim that there is no alternative to paying the rich. In the beginning of the wave of anti-social measures taken under neo-liberalism, the claim to justify paying the rich was that deficits and the resulting debts were incurred due to bad policies of governments that were on a spending binge to finance the social welfare state and the time had come to get rid of deficits and debt. The logic was that Canadians were "living high off the hog" and that, as a result, they now had to pay for their sins. Today, the conditions of pandemic are cited to justify massive borrowing from private lenders which will take a huge toll on the society. Not a few are fooled into believing that the borrowing by the state makes it "public spending on social programs" but the public authority has long-since been destroyed as narrow private interests have directly usurped the public institutions and turned them into their exclusive purview.

The fact is that deficits and borrowing were incurred in the past to pay the rich and programs to "eliminate the deficit and pay down the debt" had the same aim. Now, the lenders consider the current crisis a windfall of unprecedented proportions for which they believe the people will happily pay. The state is at their disposal as are the ministries of the Trudeau government, working furiously to rationalize pay-the-rich schemes to support "private enterprise."

Pay-the-rich schemes have long been rationalized as supporting private companies that are "too big to fail," not only for their own sake but that of the economy, workers and country. In the present context of the global pandemic, the governing elite are giving huge sums of money borrowed from private lenders to privately-owned companies and, in particular, to those they consider "systemically important" to the economy and country, which they say must be "publicly supported."

In the not so distant past, the capitalist mythology was that the competition in the market would sort out winners and losers amongst companies. Some would win and become bigger while others would be either swallowed up or go bankrupt and disappear. This was considered efficient even though it gave rise to anarchy of production, regular economic crises and suffering amongst the working people who lost their jobs.

Under imperialism where the financial oligarchy dominates all political, economic and social affairs, the ruling elite have adjusted the mythology to serve their private interests. They contend the competition of the market is no longer sufficient to sort out winners and losers and that those in control of the state should do that by deciding which big companies are vital to the economy and viable and should receive funds from the state when in trouble or even just to expand under the banner of becoming competitive in the global imperialist economy. The private companies chosen to receive funds from the state are often labelled "systemically important businesses," as if this makes it proper and just and not gross corruption and pandering to the rich and powerful.

What should the working people think of this imperialist mythology? If the state is going to fund these "systemically important private businesses" should the people not have a say in their subsequent aim and in addition exercise control over their activities and how the value that their workers produce is distributed? Should not some mechanism and form be developed to make these "systemically important private businesses" serve nation-building and the people, and be held to account for their activities? Or should it just be business as usual with the rich becoming richer, the poor poorer and the economy suffering its regular crises, with festering social problems remaining unresolved and working people blocked from political empowerment.

Why should the working people, who are the human factor in creating social product, agree to fund these "systemically important private businesses" with public value that workers have produced and which is now supposedly under public/government control. Why should they agree if the aim of these companies remains the making of maximum private profit for a privileged few who may live anywhere within the imperialist system of states and use the money from profit to favour themselves? This makes no sense. Having their companies saved or enlarged through state funding, these private enterprises and their global owners will not and do not change their stripes and outlook. They do not now reject their imperialist outlook and aim and suddenly become concerned with the people's welfare and nation-building. They still want to expropriate the new value workers produce and will not allow it to be used to finance social programs and public services and enterprise that favour the people. They declare legal and just that the value they expropriate is their own to use as they see fit, whether for their private enjoyment or in competition with other oligarchs and enterprises within the imperialist system of states. Within this position of strength of private ownership of the productive forces and the value workers produce, they receive the complete support of the cartel political parties in government and the agencies, police and military forces of the imperialist state.

Also, workers are told the existing one-sided unjust social relation will remain between the imperialist oligarchs who buy workers' capacity to work and those who sell it. Why should this be? If the state is doling out money to save these "systemically important" private enterprises and others, workers at least have the expectation of a change to equilibrium in the social relation with those who buy their capacity to work and not a continuation of the one-sided unjust state-supported dictate they now endure.

The money to pay the rich through bailouts, loans and other means comes from the new value workers produce. It may seem to come from taxes but that is a deceptive illusion. The value arises from what workers produce. No other source exists within the modern economy. Whether the value is seized through taxes or some other means does not change the fact that the working people have produced the value to be handed over to these "systemically important private businesses" and others.

The working class has the expectation that the value they have produced which goes to governments, should play a positive public role and not a narrow private one to sustain the class privilege of the rich global oligarchs. Governments do not make this clear nor do they put forms and mechanisms in place to ensure the proper use of state funds.

Increased investments in social programs and public services and enterprises that serve the people and economy are badly needed. The pandemic has made this perfectly clear. The owners, from their social position as those in control of the private enterprises that receive funding from the state, are still in a position to expropriate the new value workers produce and to use it anywhere in the world according to their narrow private interests. This is not right!

If the state is going to fund these "systemically important" private businesses and others, then the outcome and aim must favour the public representing the majority who are the producers and the workers who produce the new value, and not favour the privileged few, the minority who are not the producers. If those in control refuse to accept an arrangement that favours the people and nation-building and equilibrium between those who sell their capacity to work and those who buy it, then those private enterprises should not receive any state funding and should survive or die on their own. Funds are needed to increase investments in social programs and public services and enterprise, they are needed to look after laid-off workers and find them employment in public enterprise and to strengthen the needed tendency within the economy towards a new aim to serve the well-being of all and nation-building with the development of a diverse planned economy that becomes a bulwark against economic and other crises.

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From "Too Big To Fail" to
"Systemically Important Businesses"

The imperialist oligarchs have promoted yet another term to explain their plunder of state revenue to pay the rich. During the last economic crisis in 2008, they professed the necessity to funnel state/public money into private industrial and financial monopolies because they were "too big to fail." If their industrial and financial global empires were to fail, the world as we know it would collapse and something unthinkable would replace it. The unthinkable for the imperialist oligarchs would be their loss of control and privilege to exploit the working class and a possible resurgence of a mass movement of working people towards a pro-social direction and aim for the economy.

The pay-the-rich schemes over the years to hand out state funds to those entities deemed "too big to fail" and others consolidated even further the power and control of the global oligarchs leading to greater concentration of wealth in fewer hands and growing poverty and unresolved social problems. The diversion of state funding to GM, the banks and other global industrial and financial powers during the last decades led to starving of funds for social programs, including importantly the health care and long-term care sectors. The rich became richer and the poor poorer and more vulnerable worldwide, and the anarchy of production and exploitation of the working people intensified.

With even greater wealth concentrated in fewer hands, the oligarchs became ever bolder and more violent in their competition to plunder the world with war preparations, sanctions, boycotts, blockades, interference, regime change, regional wars and threats of wider wars amongst themselves for power. The imperialist world became exposed and vulnerable to a global health crisis for which it was unprepared, laying bare its underlying economic contradiction between a modern socialized economy and its outmoded private control by competing gangs of imperialist oligarchs interested primarily in their private wealth and power.

During the pandemic, in country after country within the imperialist system of states, the health care and long-term care sectors have been exposed as incapable of dealing with the public health crisis. In addition, an economic crisis has exploded and those imperialist enterprises deemed too big to fail in 2008 and propped up with state funds are back begging for more public money to save their private empires, this time with the moniker "systemically important and viable businesses."

The imperialist think tank C.D. Howe Institute writes in its pandemic communiqué #5: Viable Businesses Need Access to Capital[1]:

"The group's focus at the meeting was on the recovery phase and how to ensure companies with viable business models can make the types of investments needed to adapt to the changing structure of the economy, avoid unsustainable debt, and replenish their working capital....

"There are steps governments can take to facilitate business access to both short-term working capital and new sources of patient capital without propping up businesses that would have failed anyway, or whose models will not work post-pandemic. [...]

"On this front, the Bank of Canada has supported financial institutions with plenty of liquidity through the pandemic. Therefore, as long as companies have viable business models, financial institutions should be there to help companies restore their working capital....

"Members did feel that some companies are likely too systemically important, as judged by their knock-on effects in the rest of the economy, to be able to go through the bankruptcy and insolvency process. The challenge is determining which companies are truly systemically important.

"Governments need to be clear on the criteria they will use to make this determination....

"Actual government intervention might be necessary in the more immediate term. One option for government intervention involves incentivized loans, where government provides favourable terms to companies in exchange for them making specific investments.... [Another option would be] government or Crown lenders taking a mezzanine debt or preferred equity position, which would allow companies themselves to determine the appropriate investment.... While no perfect option exists, members did favour the preferred equity approach. The group ... noted that the government might want to consider tax measures that facilitate the flow of patient equity capital....

"Policymakers and regulators should take the following steps to ensure capital is flowing efficiently to businesses best placed to drive economic growth during the recovery: Reduce regulatory impediments to capital flow; [Incent] more investment in companies and infrastructure projects that do not have public credit ratings; Encourage companies to take advantage of Canada's bankruptcy and insolvency programs, which give companies with viable business models a second chance through negotiations with creditors; Be upfront about the criteria that will determine systemically important Canadian businesses. If government is forced to invest, lean towards preferred equity."

The imperialist oligarchs fashion their pay-the-rich schemes to "systemically important and viable businesses" and others for the lofty purpose of supporting the jobs of ordinary working people and saving the economy from collapse. Companies need workers to operate, whether they are "systemically important businesses" or not, and if the largest companies collapse then this heralds the collapse of the broader economy and the need for public enterprise with a new pro-social aim and direction.

The imperialists want working people to ignore the aim of the systemically important businesses, which receive public money, and the private investors who profit from the value the workers produce. The aim of the "systemically important businesses" is not nation-building and the security and well-being of the people; the aim is to expropriate as much value as possible for those in control and ownership. Those in control or ownership of "systemically important businesses" in Canada are more than likely not even residents of the country. They may be equity owners living on their private island or powerful shareholders in New York, London, Frankfurt or possibly Toronto. They are obsessed with the return on their private investment within the "systemically important businesses" they own.

Working people need to pose for themselves the question: why are public funds and government institutions supporting this aim and passion for private profit? Doing so is precisely the "business as usual" which must be ended if a way forward is to be found for society. This obsession stands in opposition to nation-building, it stands in opposition to moving the country forward in a new direction to solve the problems and social relations of a modern socialized economy of industrial mass production to meet the needs of the people and to humanize the social and natural environment.

For the imperialist oligarchs the "systemically important businesses" are crucial for their private interests because they own and control them. They are not viewed as crucial for the broad public interests and nation-building. The structure and aim of the private businesses, the social relations with their workers and the state institutions supporting the whole are what they do not want to change. They are terrified of change to bring in new "systemically important and viable businesses" with a new aim and direction that serve the people and nation-building. They are terrified of the working people and any questioning of the unjust one-sided social relation with them, which centres on buying workers' capacity to work so their "systemically important businesses" can function and the imperialist system can continue expropriating the value workers produce and block any resolution of its internal contradictions to open a path forward.

Of note is C.D. Howe Institute writing of the importance to "Encourage companies to take advantage of Canada's bankruptcy and insolvency programs." These cruel programs target the working class, its jobs, savings and pensions. Workers in Canada have bitter experience with "Canada's bankruptcy and insolvency programs," in particular the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) for large companies that has been used extensively to save the investments of the rich oligarchs and steal what belongs to workers by right.

The working class cannot allow the imperialist oligarchy to escape this crisis without challenging its authority. Obviously, the ruling elite are not going to change a system that gives them private profit, privilege and the power to exploit. They are determined to keep the status quo, to keep business as usual and not allow the working class to just waltz in and take over. The working class has to bring in change through its own organized efforts and actions, through determined struggles to claim what belongs to it by right, which includes the right to determine the direction of those economic and political affairs that affect their lives.

The "systemically important businesses" must serve the people and nation-building and not the narrow private interests of the global rich. That much must be made clear and enforced. Canada and the rest of the imperialist world need a new aim and direction and the organized working people have the social responsibility to bring it into being.


1. Members of the Monetary and Financial Measures Working Group of the C.D. Howe Institute include:

- David Dodge, Co-Chair, former Governor of the Bank of Canada
- Mark Zelmer, Co-Chair, former Deputy Superintendent of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, an agency of the Government of Canada reporting to the Minister of Finance
- Riaz Ahmed, TD Bank
- Steve Ambler, Université du Québec à Montréal
- Dwight Duncan, McMillan LLP (Global business law firm with 400 lawyers under contract)
- Paul Jenkins, Former Senior Deputy Governor, Bank of Canada
- Phil Howell, Former Superintendent, Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario
- Thor Koeppl, Queen's University
- Andrew Moor, Equitable Bank
- Tamara Vrooman, CEO VanCity (Credit Union), former BC Deputy Minister of Finance under Liberal Party government, assuming position of CEO Vancouver Airport (YVR) on July 1
- Jeremy Kronick, C.D. Howe Institute
- Duncan Munn, C.D. Howe Institute

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State Financial Help for Private Airlines

Crisis at Air Canada and WestJet

The government is moving to declare Air Canada and WestJet "Systemically Important Businesses" that will receive more public funds in one way or another.

Both companies have announced massive downsizing of their workforces since March. Air Canada has already taken advantage of the 75 per cent federal wage subsidy with the rehiring of 16,000 laid-off employees. In spite of this assistance, Air Canada announced it will lay off more than half of its 38,000 employees starting June 7. The layoffs will affect a minimum of 19,000 staff and could go as high as 22,800. Air Canada said those furloughed workers will no longer receive the wage subsidy but instead will have to apply for other federal assistance even though the government extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy through to the end of August. Air Canada has grounded some 225 airplanes and slashed flight capacity by 95 per cent. WestJet has taken similar measures.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is having discussions with the airlines regarding further public financial help. Trudeau said on May 15, "We will have conversations with Air Canada as we will with airlines across the sector to try and see how the best way to get through this particular pandemic is."

Trudeau would not elaborate on the form of the aid, if it would be a bailout, a federal stake in the company's equity or whether the federal government would help with the company's pension and health benefit obligations. Trudeau also noted the airlines and other big employers can also access the newly announced bridge financing program being made available to companies with at least $300 million in revenues so they can stay open, keep employees on their payrolls and avoid bankruptcies.

How should active, laid-off and retired airline workers respond to this situation? What would they like the government to do?

Should they agree to a public bailout of Air Canada and WestJet even though these are private enterprises that answer to their owners and serve their private interests? The imperialist investment cartel ONEX is the majority owner of WestJet.

If the airlines are "systemically important businesses" for the economy and nation should they not fall under the control of a public authority and be accountable to the people? Does this not require a change in the aim of the current authority from one taken over by narrow private interests to ones where the people constitute the decision-making power? Does it not require giving priority to businesses which the working people define as "systemically important and viable"? Such businesses would not have making private profit for private owners their raison d'être but be guided by an aim of serving the country, people and nation-building. This in turn would require a change in how public opinion is created and who controls the process of decision-making. How that is accomplished begins with speaking out about the developments based on what serves the people, not what pays the rich. The situation calls for airline workers and others to respond to this situation and lay their own claims on what is needed at this time.

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Layoffs at Air Canada

After two months of uncertainty and instability, Air Canada on May 15 announced massive layoffs of up to 60 per cent of its workforce -- as many as 20,000 employees.

With the spread of COVID-19, airline travel was one of the sectors of the economy that was affected quickly and seriously. Passenger traffic to various destinations dropped off immediately, followed by countries closing their borders to international flights. It has reached the point that airlines in Canada are declaring that they are operating at five per cent of the capacity they had last year. This, along with the cancellation of a multitude of flights, has led to increasing insecurity among airline workers in all departments.

In March, Air Canada already laid off 16,500 flight attendants, mechanics and customer service agents who they rehired in April under the federal government's Canada Emergency Wage Supplement (CEWS), with the government paying 75 per cent of the wages to a maximum of $847 per week, which would apply only for those at the top of the wage scale having worked the maximum hours. New hires and those lower down on the wage scale were already having a difficult time making ends meet with 100 per cent of their wages when they were working full time.

Companies are "free" to top up the CEWS, yet despite it being called a supplement, the companies have all declared that they cannot afford to pay the other 25 per cent. And while this program has now been extended to August 29, so far Air Canada appears to have decided that it will not continue with the program beyond June 6.

Regarding upcoming flights, not only has Air Canada not yet informed workers of its flight schedule for June, but it has not made any definitive announcement as to what, if any, mitigation measures it will put in place over and above the fundamentals in the collective agreement. For In-Flight Service, these include a "Resignation Program" with continuing, but lower priority travel privileges; a Special Leave of Absence Program, with no loss of seniority or accumulated service for retirement considerations, and with leaves being offered for six, 12, 18 and 24 month periods; and a Reduced Flying Program, allowing flight attendants to work approximately half the standard number of hours, while maintaining their benefits but having to contribute to top up pension contributions and the insurance plan covering loss of wages in case of long-term disability.

The Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing the flight attendants had also presented the idea of voluntary separation packages, pension bridging and financial separation incentives along the lines of what management and the pilots have received. The company advised that this was not possible, "due to the financial crisis and liability the company currently has." Oddly this was not an obstacle when it came to offers made to management to reduce their numbers.

The unions representing the workers in the various departments have been reaching out to the company with suggestions for reducing the numbers of layoffs -- including continued participation in CEWS until it expires -- but it is clear that the company is determined to maintain the old way of doing things, namely, finding a way for the major shareholders to continue making a profit rather than attending to the well-being of those who create the wealth. While admitting publicly that the CEWS does not represent a large sum of money, the company chose to abandon the program in order not to have to contribute to the pensions, insurance and other marginal benefits that were its responsibility under the CEWS.

This situation has affected workers at all of Canada's airlines. Sunwing and Air Transat have suspended operations, except for a handful of management employees on the CEWS. WestJet, which was recently bought by ONEX, also announced massive workforce reductions in April, over and above those it had announced in March. WestJet has extended the CEWS program until August but is currently down to only 35 flight attendants.

It is well-known that the airlines are working together, lobbying the federal government for some sort of "bailout." There is intense speculation that this declaration by Air Canada to lay off more than half its work force, despite the federal assistance program, is an effort to "up the ante" and increase pressure on the federal government.

This situation is creating insecurity and anxiety among the employees as to their future. Without being given the numbers of employees who will actually be needed, nor without numbers for those who will take advantage of any mitigation programs being offered, thousands are actually left wondering about the challenges they will be facing in the coming weeks, months and years. Of course, this has been the fate of airline workers for decades because of the boom and bust cycles of the unplanned economy over which we have no control. Nothing has ever been done to ensure that workers can weather the storms. This must change. There is no better time than now to demand a new direction for the economy.

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Avoidable Consequences of Spring Flooding in Northern Alberta

Social Irresponsibility Once Again Forces
Working People to Suffer Great Losses

Photo of flooding in downtown Fort McMurray from uncredited facebook post.

The working people of Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region are once again suffering the consequences of spring flooding due to the refusal of the private interests which control governments to build in a manner that brings spring flooding under the control of human beings.[1] This year's flooding comes when many in Fort McMurray have yet to overcome the damages from the 2016 wildfires which forced the evacuation of the entire city, with 2,400 homes and buildings destroyed and another 2,000 people displaced because their homes were unsafe. Since the oil price crash in 2014, close to one in 10 jobs in the oil sands has been eliminated despite increased production. The pandemic has now severely cut demand for oil at a time when contention among the imperialists in the energy sector has become increasingly sharp. Now the workers and small businesses in Fort McMurray must deal with the destruction left behind by a devastating flood.

Working people should stand with the hard-working people of Fort McMurray and region, who have once again been left to fend for themselves by governments that serve private interests.

Fort McMurray is located at the confluence of the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers. On April 26, a massive ice jam in the Athabasca River caused the Clearwater River to reverse course, overflow its banks and flood Fort McMurray's downtown and several surrounding neighbourhoods. Over 13,000 people were immediately evacuated from their homes. Four hundred and fifty people were evacuated from the Fort Vermillion and Tall Cree First Nations due to flooding of the Peace River in Mackenzie County. Tragically, a member of the Fort McKay First Nation, located 55 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, died from injuries after being caught in the floodwaters of the Athabasca River. Thousands of people were forced from their homes, and about 2,500 are still living in work camps, hotels and other temporary housing.

This is the second time since 2016 that many residents of Fort McMurray have had to deal with either a severely damaged or destroyed home. Reports indicate that an estimated 1,230 structures have been damaged by the flooding. Many people had just finished building new homes to replace those destroyed in the 2016 wildfires. With forest fire season looming, there is further anxiety about what that might bring.

One week after the flood, Don Scott, Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, told CBC that without long-term financial assistance many people will face financial ruin. He said that most evacuees do not have overland flood insurance, which is not included in regular home insurance policies. Homeowners may not be eligible because of a high risk of flooding, and if they are, the cost is prohibitive, about $10,000 a year. The Mayor called on the federal and provincial governments to extend disaster relief funding to the close to 13,000 people who have been forced from their homes. At this point the Alberta government has made one-time payments of $1,250 per adult and $500 per child, to cover some expenses for those affected by the flood.

Downtown Fort McMurray, including the hospital and major grocery stores, are built on a flood plain, as are neighbouring communities. While many Albertans now have overland flood insurance and insurers have come out with products over the last five years, a spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada said overland flood insurance is relatively new and this option is complicated for people who live on flood plains or in high risk areas.

"Flood insurance there is usually much more limited or restricted because the likelihood of flood is so much higher. The policy would be unaffordable," she said.

All of this begs the question, how in the 21st century is it not possible to protect towns and communities from flooding and wild fires if the required attention is paid to where and how building takes place? Yet once again -- as was the case with the fires that destroyed their homes in 2016 when homeowners reported protracted battles with their insurance companies -- those affected will be fighting for compensation while their expenses and debts mount. Why is this happening again? Why is this disaster considered each individual homeowner's responsibility?

The provincial government has announced that it will make $147 million available from the Disaster Recovery Program. This is a complete hoax, because the program explicitly excludes damage from overland flooding on the basis that homeowners can now obtain insurance to cover such damages. In this cozy arrangement between insurance companies and the government, the insurance companies offer a product people cannot afford, and governments then wash their hands of any responsibility, claiming people "chose" not to obtain coverage.

The Alberta government has responsibility for releasing land in the oil sands region for housing development. Workers in the region had no say in how Fort McMurray was developed, or in the decision to build housing on a flood plain, with no consideration given to flood mitigation or measures to safeguard the community from wildfires. Governments serve narrow private interests so they declare that the consequences of their decisions are not their problem. It exposes the real meaning of Premier Jason Kenney's praise for the people of Fort McMurray and other communities as displaying "northern resilience," as if fending for oneself is a rite of passage to declare oneself Albertan.

Ice jams are a frequent occurrence which raises the legitimate question why is more not done to mitigate the damage they cause? They mostly form at locations where the rivers are constricted such as sharp bends, narrow sections, islands, shallow bars, bridges, or where a change in the channel bed has formed. How to carry out preventative measures is a known science. However, the aim of the economy is not based on taking responsibility to look after the people and mitigate flooding. Along with the insurance companies, the Alberta government washes its hands by declaring such calamities to be "acts of god."

In the same way, governments take no responsibility for the immense difficulties facing the working people, including those of Fort McMurray, or for the consequences of an economy dependent on providing energy resources to serve U.S. imperialism and its war machine. Governments refuse to recognize the need for a new direction for the economy, and instead lash out with warmongering vitriol against China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and others so as to distract attention that the problem lies with their defence of the rule and control of the global energy oligarchs.

The majority of people in Fort McMurray and region either work in the oil sands, or service the oil and gas industry. Their hard work adds tremendous value to the economy. It is the corporations that own and control the oil sands and the provincial and federal governments that enable them that should provide immediate and adequate living expenses to the evacuees and full immediate compensation to clean up, repair and rebuild their homes. Whether we are dealing with floods, fires or economic disaster caused by the stranglehold of the financial oligarchy pursuing its own narrow interest, the most important question is, how are we going to deal with achieving decision-making power so as to exercise control over the matters that affect our lives?


1. The Lower Townsite, Waterways and Ptarmigan Court areas of Fort McMurray have a long history of flooding. There have been at least 15 notable floods since 1835, 14 of which were due to ice jams.

(With files from local sources, TML Archives, CBC News, Fort McMurray Today and Oil Sands Magazine.)

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Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

COVID-19 Pandemic on Reserves and
in Off-Reserve Communities

On May 22, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) reported, "On First Nations reserves in provinces, as of May 22, ISC is aware of 209 confirmed positive COVID-19; 18 hospitalizations; four deaths." It gives the following case numbers by province: British Columbia: 41; Alberta: 38; Saskatchewan: 49; Ontario: 46; Quebec: 35. What ISC does not say is that this number of infections on reserves where Indigenous populations are very small, is devastating. As well, negligence by the Canadian state on reserves has created conditions where health care is limited and other health issues are common, a situation that makes people more vulnerable to COVID-19.

As concerns Indigenous peoples who are not part of the reserve system, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples -- which represents the interests of off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Métis and Southern Inuit Aboriginal peoples -- filed a federal court application on May 13 alleging the federal government's COVID-19 assistance has been "inadequate and discriminatory," compared to other groups. In mid-March, the government created the $305 million Indigenous Community Support Fund, of which $15 million went to support groups that work with Indigenous peoples who are not part of the reserve system, even though they make up more than half of the Indigenous peoples living in Canada.

In its press release regarding this filing, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples states:

"The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) and its Provincial and Territorial Organizations (PTOs) today filed an urgent court application over the federal government's inadequate and discriminatory funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shocking lack of funding and discrimination impacts the most vulnerable and disadvantaged Indigenous peoples in Canada.

"National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Robert Bertrand stated, 'The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and our provincial and territorial partners provide critically needed support and deliver services to many of the most susceptible Canadians. The federal government has abandoned its fiduciary responsibility towards a significant number of Indigenous peoples during this pandemic.'

"The urgent court application filed today in the Federal Court of Canada challenges the funding allocation under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ("Charter"). The application seeks to address the fact that despite the federal government's laudable goals, the funding allocations have been discriminatory and at the expense of the doubly-disadvantaged Indigenous populations served by CAP.

"As a result, it is simply not possible for CAP and its PTOs to provide any meaningful relief both to the many thousands of off-reserve Indigenous peoples it actively supports or to the hundreds of thousands of off-reserve Indigenous peoples that CAP has been advocating support for. These Indigenous people are included within federal responsibility in the Supreme Court's CAP-Daniels Decision.[1] This urgent support must address Elders and others, health care, inadequate housing, food insecurity, educational and other support for children, mental health services, and COVID-19 preparedness.

"The legal action comes after the federal government ignored CAP's repeated efforts and preference to work with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to rectify the problem without litigation. The large majority of Canada's Indigenous population lives off-reserve and this court action addresses the needs of this population.

"Chief and President Lorraine Augustine of the Native Council of Nova Scotia concluded, 'There is a long history of underservicing, neglect, and discrimination towards off-reserve Indigenous peoples. The Supreme Court recognized this and now the Federal government is discriminating against the most vulnerable Canadians at the worst possible time. We had no choice but to go to court to save lives.'"

In response to the determined fight of the Congress of Aboriginal People and others, Trudeau announced, on May 21, "$75 million in new funding for organizations that address the critical needs of the over a million Indigenous people living in urban centers and off reserve." In a statement issued the same day by the Congress of Aboriginal People, National Chief Robert Bertrand said "This funding is an improvement over the previously announced funding that was beyond inadequate. As the National Chief I am glad to see some recognition from the federal government that they have an obligation to support the needs of off-reserve Indigenous peoples."


1. On April 14, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Daniels v. Canada that the federal government, rather than provincial governments, holds the legal responsibility to legislate on issues related to Métis and Non-Status Indians. In a unanimous decision, the court found that Métis and Non-Status peoples are considered Indians under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 -- a section that concerns the federal government's exclusive legislative powers. (Canadian Encyclopedia)

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Manitoba First Nations' Justified Blockade
of Keeyask Dam Site

May 21, 2020, Tataskweyak Cree Nation continues to blockade Provincial Road 280 to protect the community from exposure to COVID-19.   

Four Manitoba First Nations, partners with Manitoba Hydro in the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP), are supporting actions taken by the Tataskweyak Cree Nation on May 14 to block Provincial Road 280 and the main gate and north access point to Keeyask. Keeyask is a 695-megawatt hydroelectric generating station being built on the Nelson River, 725 kilometres north of Winnipeg, scheduled for completion in 2021. The four First Nations in the partnership with Manitoba Hydro are Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, and York Factory Cree Nation. 

The blockade was set up with the aim of stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus to their community. On May 18, Manitoba Hydro served the Tataskweyak Cree Nation with a ten-day injunction issued by Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench to remove the blockade. The following day, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc., which represents 26 First Nations who are signatories to Treaties 4, 5, 6 and 10, issued a statement of support for the blockade. Also on May 19, the Fox Lake Cree Nation issued a state of emergency and locked down its community and established another blockade at the south access road to the construction site. 

On May 20, over a hundred people gathered on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature to protest the injunction, joining activists who have been camping on the grounds since May 14 in solidarity with the blockade.

The action of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation was prompted by the decision of Manitoba Hydro to bring in up to 1,200 new workers to the site over the next month, including workers from across Canada and some from the U.S. The arrival of these workers will allow the 600 to 700 workers who have been on the site since March to leave. Those workers volunteered to stay so that the normal rotation of workers into and out of the site would stop in the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with the approval of Manitoba's Chief Medical Health Officer, Manitoba Hydro intends to resume regular work rotations, in spite of the fact that Northern Manitoba remains closed to non-essential travel.

The First Nations partners in the KHLP have never agreed with the decision to continue construction. They have proposed that Keeyask be put into 'care and maintenance' mode which would require about 250 workers. York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant is quoted in an APTN report of May 19 saying, "We have been discussing these issues for weeks, but it seems that our partners at Manitoba Hydro are not interested in hearing our concerns. This is not how a partnership is supposed to operate ... If Manitoba Hydro was to reduce the number of people working at the project while we come to terms with this pandemic, it would show respect for the concerns we have for our people's health and wellness."

Northern Manitoba First Nations have taken action to protect their communities by managing access to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19. They should be supported by federal and provincial government leaders and health authorities but in Manitoba, as in other provinces, major construction projects have been exempted from travel restrictions and deemed "essential" work. Concerns about the consequences of this decision have been borne out by the transmission of COVID-19 through travel from the Kearl Lake oilsands project near Fort McMurray in Alberta. According to Alberta Health Services, as of May 20, the Kearl Lake site outbreak has been linked to 84 patients in Alberta, 19 in BC and one in each of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergency measures taken by provincial governments to restrict travel and close all but essential services and production, First Nations and remote communities have acted in accordance with their particular circumstances, including the level of health care services and conditions that increase the vulnerability of the people in these communities. Concerns about the 'essential' designation of industrial camps with hundreds of workers on projects like Kearl Lake and others in Alberta, Keeyask in Manitoba, Site C, LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink in BC, Muskrat Falls in Labrador, and others have been raised by Indigenous organizations, health care professionals, and unions, including Building Trades Unions which represent some of the workers in the camps.

On April 29, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs issued a statement entitled " Governments must respect First Nations Jurisdiction," in which the First Nations Leadership Council urges "all levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, to recognize and respect First Nations jurisdiction and decisions as they take actions to protect their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical for all levels of governments to include and work collaboratively with neighbouring First Nations in our collective efforts in the fight against COVID-19."

(Photos: Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, L. Beardy, N. Neckoway)

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Statement of Manitoba
Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.

Gathering at blockade, Tataskweyak Cree Nation, May 21, 2020.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement along with the four Cree Nations that have entered into a partnership with Manitoba Hydro in the construction and operation of the Keeyask Generating Station in Northern Manitoba. The four First Nations are: Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, and York Factory Cree Nation.

MKO First Nations have been expressing concerns about Manitoba Hydro's plans for the Keeyask construction site since March. Manitoba Hydro plans to implement a shift transition starting today, May 19, when 700 current employees at Keeyask will be allowed to leave the site to return home. Manitoba Hydro is starting to bring in up to 1,200 new workers to the site. Staff will come from various parts of Canada and the United States, including regions hit hard by COVID-19 such as Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.

The Tataskweyak Cree Nation, a community of 2,500 people, announced on May 14 that it planned to shut down the Provincial Road (PR) #280 and enforce a lock down with the aim of stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus to their community. The First Nation is also blocking the main gate and north access point to Keeyask. On May 18, Manitoba Hydro served the Tataskweyak Cree Nation with an injunction to end the community's blockade of PR #280.

The Fox Lake Cree Nation has also issued a State of Emergency and enforced a lock down of the community. Fox Lake Cree Nation is restricting access to Keeyask on the South Access Road until Manitoba Hydro properly addresses community concerns about the risk to communities and the safety of their people during the COVID-19 pandemic.


MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee, said "Corporate interests do not trump the safety of First Nations peoples in Northern Manitoba." "As leaders, our role is to protect our people, this is our foundational concern. The provincial government deems the Keeyask construction site as essential, critical infrastructure and yet this construction site is not providing any hydro-electric power at this point so it doesn't make sense that it's deemed as essential. MKO asserts that the Keeyask project be classified as being non-essential infrastructure at this time."

"Other jurisdictions have placed resource development projects on hold until the risk of COVID-19 passes. We are urging the Province of Manitoba to place this construction site into 'care and maintenance mode.' First Nations have undertaken many actions to restrict the transmission of COVID-19, including closing our borders to ensure our communities are safe. We urge the province to do their utmost to protect our people as well," stated Chief Doreen Spence of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation.

"By allowing over one thousand people to travel to Northern Manitoba, the actions undertaken by Manitoba Hydro are inconsistent and contradict public health orders shared by the Province of Manitoba," stated Chief Betsy Kennedy of War Lake First Nation. "The 1,000 plus people are coming from Manitoba, as well as numerous jurisdictions across Canada and the United States. We are told that the workers coming to Northern Manitoba are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in their home province prior to travel. How do we know these people are truly self-isolating? There is no way we can actually know this as Manitoba Hydro has not shared information on how self-isolation is being monitored, if at all. Also, workers from other provinces will be tested for COVID-19 upon arriving in Winnipeg and, if negative, will be allowed to immediately travel north to start working. If a worker was infected during travel to Winnipeg, the COVID-19 test is not sufficiently sensitive to identify infection after such a short incubation period. It is noteworthy that, unlike workers from other provinces, all Manitobans returning from out of province must isolate here for 14 days following travel."

"As First Nations leaders, we are extremely frustrated," said Chief Leroy Constant of York Factory First Nation. "We have been discussing these issues for weeks, but it seems that our partners at Manitoba Hydro are not interested in hearing our concerns. This is not how a partnership is supposed to operate. We have raised the issue of putting Keeyask into 'care and maintenance mode,' which would mean the operation is reduced to 250 workers without advancing construction. If Manitoba Hydro was to reduce the number of people working at the project while we come to terms with this pandemic, it would show respect for the concerns we have for our people's health and wellness."

"We are calling on the CEO of Manitoba Hydro to meet with the four First Nations that are supposed to be partners in the Keeyask construction project," stated Chief Billy Beardy of the Fox Lake Cree Nation. "Despite multiple and ongoing calls for action, Manitoba Hydro continues to ignore the concerns expressed by First Nations. This is a flagrant violation of how they should be carrying out a mutually respectful and cooperative partnership. We absolutely should be working together in the best interests of the people who call Northern Manitoba home since time immemorial."

(May 19, 2020. Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB. Photo: N. Neena, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc.)

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Supreme Court of Canada's Decision to Deny
Taseko Mines Limited's Appeal

Protest against Taseko Mines project outside Federal Court hearing in 2014.

The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is celebrating the Supreme Court of Canada's denial of Taseko Mines Limited's  application to appeal the rejection of the New Prosperity Mine proposal by the Government of Canada in 2014. New Prosperity Mine threatened a sacred area of profound cultural importance to the Tŝilhqot’in peoples, with a destructive open pit gold and copper mine that did not have the consent of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation.

In October 2013, an independent federal panel of experts concluded, in its environmental assessment report, that New Prosperity would have significant and immitigable impacts on water quality, fisheries and Tŝilhqot’in cultural heritage, rights and traditional practices. This New Prosperity Panel affirmed the importance of Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabaŝ? as "unique and of special significance" for the Tŝilhqot’in peoples. The Federal Panel noted that Taseko Mines was unable to even meet "proof of concept" for its unprecedented, unproven, entire-lake recirculation proposal and that Teẑtan Biny would be contaminated over time, despite mitigation efforts.

In February 2014, the Government of Canada accepted the conclusions of the Federal Panel Report and rejected the New Prosperity Mine. In response, Taseko Mines filed legal challenges to both the Federal Panel Report and the decision of the Government of Canada rejecting the New Prosperity Mine. The Federal Court rejected both of Taseko Mines' legal challenges in December 2017 and the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed Taseko Mines' appeals in December 2019. Both levels of court affirmed the position of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation that the Government of Canada made the eminently reasonable and fair decision to reject this destructive project.

Today [May 14], the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Taseko's application to hear a further appeal. This means Taseko has no further legal avenues to appeal the rejection of the New Prosperity Mine. The New Prosperity Mine is now dead -- it cannot be legally built.

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tŝilhqot’in National Government:

"This decision has been a long time coming. We are celebrating the Supreme Court of Canada's decision today, and taking the time to reflect on the immense sacrifices made by our communities and members to finally have their voices heard and respected. Now we call on Taseko Mines to accept that this is the end of the road for them. It's time to move on and protect this sacred area for the survival of our way of life. We look forward to turning our focus and energy to supporting responsible economic projects in appropriate areas of our Territory, as we move towards building a regional economy that respects our culture, our spirituality and our Aboriginal Rights and Title. BC should finally recognize the importance of this area to the Tŝilhqot’in and support the Dasiqox Nexwagwezʔan. The Nation should never have to face the burden of an industrial threat to this sacred area ever again."

Chief Russell Myers Ross, Vice-Chair, Tŝilhqot’in National Government:

"We are relieved and welcome this news. The last 30 years has been challenging and onerous on our communities and people. Today's decision is another step in our journey to reimagine a more respectful relationship with the Crown, grounded in recognition of our Aboriginal Rights and Title. We continue to invest our energy into such a future, and in the case of Teẑtan Biny and Nabaŝ?, we are pursuing an alternative vision called the Dasiqox Nexwagwezʔan ('It is there for us'). We are hopeful that now we can finally move forward with those plans and bring that vision to completion."

Chief Jimmy Lulua, Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government:

"Today we celebrate the courts' recognition of Aboriginal rights and title. Further, we celebrate the resiliency and the perseverance of our people. Yes, the courts delivered justice, but that required our communities to remain vigilant and strong throughout this entire process, at an immense cost of our time and resources. Without the leadership shown by our communities and Nation, we would have lost the integrity of a sacred place in our territory, and our lands, water and wildlife would be at further risk. The government and the courts needed to be educated on Aboriginal rights and title to arrive at this decision. We will continue to protect our culture and our sacred places from threats like Taseko Mines and we will never stop standing up for ourselves, our rights and for our future generations."

(Photos: A. Palframan)

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Stepped Up War Exercises During COVID-19

Crash of the Snowbird

On May 17, a Royal Canadian Air Force Tutor jet crashed in a residential area near Kamloops, BC. It was part of a cross-country public relations aerial show of the aerobatic Royal Canadian Air Force demonstration squadron, known as the Snowbirds. Code named Operation Inspiration, the tour began in Nova Scotia on May 2, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic immediately after Operation America Strong of the USAF Thunderbirds that began in mid-April over the state of Colorado, headquarters of NORAD.[1]

The crash took the life of a young public relations officer, Capt. Jennifer Casey, with the Canadian Armed Forces and NORAD, while the pilot survived after ejecting safely. On May 24, the RCAF is staging a public memorial procession through the streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia, her home province. No such public tributes have been organized for the fifty seniors who have died of COVID-19 at Northwood Manor, the for-profit long-term care residence located in the same city.

The nine-plane tour organized by the Department of National Defence was to be a "mood-making" distraction. On April 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared: "As we watch the Snowbirds fly over our homes, let's remember that we are all in this together." The tour was enthusiastically pushed by the monopoly media. It featured live in-plane video on CBC-TV when it began in Halifax on May 2. But, according to the Department of National Defence and contrary to what the Prime Minister said, the Snowbirds are primarily an "important public relations and recruiting tool."

On April 22, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a program of air shows featuring the USAF Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels to cross the United States. "What we're doing is we're paying tribute to our front-line health care workers confronting COVID. And it's really a signal to all Americans to remain vigilant during the outbreak. This is a tribute to them, to our warriors. Because they are equal warriors to those incredible pilots and all of the fighters that we have for the more traditional fights that we win and we win." 

In parallel, U.S. and Canadian fighter jets under the command of NORAD conducted a war exercise over Greater Toronto, a centre of the virus, on April 27. On April 29 Canadian Press acknowledged “Some Canadians took to social media on Wednesday to ask whether the flyovers are necessary, given many people are continuing to struggle and die from COVID-19. That echoed criticisms of the U.S. military’s decision to deploy its Blue Angels and Thunderbirds teams.”

NORAD is under Northern Command of the Pentagon, part of U.S. Homeland Security. To give a sense of how sensitive the deployment of U.S. military forces is, even though they are allegedly operating under "bi-national control," NORAD still found it necessary to go out of its way to assure the public that it was independent of any Canadian program. "This NORAD training event is not related in any way to the Government of Canada's response to COVID-19," it announced in a press release, encouraging residents to look up in awe and watch the fighter jets in action.

NORAD said the U.S. fighters were working with the Canadian Air Defence Sector at 22 Wing North Bay, ON, and civilian air traffic control in the Toronto area to "practice response procedures in high-density airspace." It was conducted under Operation Noble Eagle, which places emphasis on the surveillance and control of airspace over Canada and the United States, and ran 10:00 am to 11:30 am "By ensuring the airspace was clear, NORAD was able to conduct training in what is normally high-density airspace."

Why this was so, why during this period, or why at high noon over the largest city in Canada is not explained.[2]

Their CF-18 Hornets departed 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec and flew to Toronto. NAV CANADA controllers at Toronto Air Control Centre cleared the way for the fighter jets in a process that involves separating all other aircraft from the Restricted Operating Area. "This area is pre-determined airspace that allows NORAD aircraft to conduct military missions such as air-to-air refuelling, surveillance, and training scenarios, without interference."

The exercise was one of a little-publicized series. On April 23, NORAD conducted "a bi-national air defence exercise near the U.S. and Canadian border to reinforce interoperability and maintain our rapid reaction capabilities amid the #COVID response." The border area was not revealed and the exercise followed loud Canadian government objections by deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland on March 26 asserting sovereignty and objections to the stationing of U.S. troops along the border proposed by Trump. "What we have said is, 'We really do not believe at all that there would be a public health justification for you to take this action.'" And "We do not take orders from anyone," she said.

Such breast-beating had no real meaning except to serve as a cover for other trans-border military exercises. On May 13, CF-18 Hornets and a CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refueller "conducted a patrol in Canada's north," without again revealing the location or rationale let alone any "public health justification."

Trump also announced that he is planning to hold an air show similar to those conducted in April, on July 4. The event he planned last year featured a military display that cost $2.5 million.

The extensive range of deployments of the military during a public health crisis of which the airshows by the Snowbirds were an integral part, includes repeated use of the "at war" metaphor by Trudeau and Trump, in which military personnel are deliberately equated with health care professionals as "heroes" and "warriors." In this regard, the military is included as a lead agency in the public health crisis in both the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. some 64,000 troops have been deployed. In Canada troops have been deployed into seniors' homes -- some 1,700 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are deployed in around 30 long-term care homes, 25 in Quebec and five in Ontario, up from the original 1,400 -- and Indigenous communities. Furthermore, some 2,000 armed forces personnel are deployed in 20 overseas military missions while Canada continues to participate in provocative NATO military exercises in Europe and the Mediterranean. The disaster of the crash of Sikorsky Cyclone helicopter from the HMCS Fredericton in the Ionian Sea on April 28 and the spread of the coronavirus in the armed forces has passed relatively unreported, as has the decision to deploy Canadian warships to participate in the RIMPAC war games to be held around Hawaii and in the Pacific this coming August, the largest naval war exercise in the world.

The propaganda around Operation Inspiration is aimed at the ranks of the military as much as the public, as is the pledge for inspections of the 57-year old aircraft used by the Snowbirds. Concerns about the safety of armed forces personnel from the coronavirus have been mounting, especially in the navy where the legitimate and just demand to bring the troops home has now found expression.[3] Seven personnel have needlessly died in a two-week period and another soldier last June in a U.S. parachute drop in a NATO exercise in Bulgaria. At that time too an inquiry was promised. The culture of secrecy is such that both the Pentagon and then Canada's Department of National Defence in lock step instituted a draconian lock down on the release of statistics of infections in the ranks of the armed forces. This is coupled with an ideological offensive directed at both armed forces personnel and the public that they are maintaining the "balance between health and safety and security" as war preparations and insecurity for the people of the world are accelerated. The premise underlying all the calls for the complete integration of Canada's armed forces into the U.S. war machine is that security means "securing" the North American "Homeland" as "free and prosperous" -- that is, against any threat to the rule of the oligopolies under the sway of the U.S. imperialists. It is completely devoid of a modern and human-centred concept of security.

This is very dangerous. The statements of President Trump about using the military to distribute vaccines suggests the possible enactment of Martial Law in the case of the coronavirus. Martial Law could also be established, using the pretext of the outbreak of COVID-19 in China and other foreign countries and its continuing potential impacts on the U.S. during the U.S. election. In other words, the military rather than the country's civilian health authorities would be put in charge, which is in part already underway. Notably, the Trudeau government in March had been reviewing the powers contained in the Emergencies Act, legislation that permits the unfettered use of military and police powers, in the name of protecting the public from the pandemic.

Despite broad concerns about the safety of the Snowbird program, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan proclaims that he is eager to continue it.[4]

This is a time to draw warranted conclusions about the nature of Canada's integration into the U.S. war machine. The military alliance NORAD is always described as being responsible for the defence of North America but, like NATO, it is an aggressive military alliance.


1. Until recently, we heard that NORAD is the "strongest bi-national military organization in the world" (and not only military). The NORAD website openly preens that it defends "the continental United States" and "the homeland as its sacred mission." NORAD defines our country as "the Canadian region." NORAD specifically comes under Northern Command, part of U.S. Homeland Security; its website boasts that it is the "lead" in the U.S. deployment of 19,000 troops along with 45,000 National Guards. Every state, three territories and Washington D.C. have activated Army and Air National Guard personnel. By the U.S. Constitution, all U.S. military commanders are subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces, the U.S. President. In fact, this means that through the NORAD treaty it is Donald Trump who is the commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces -- the man whom the media claim the Trudeau policy is different from, or even directed against!

For an in-depth history, see "62nd anniversary of NORAD -- The Demand to Dismantle NORAD Is More Urgent than Ever," TML Weekly, Supplement, June 2, 2018.

2. Noble Eagle was launched following 9/11. In a departure from military tradition, the perception managers took over the naming of the war. Military code names were originally chosen for reasons of security. In current U.S. warfare, however, military code names have become "part of the marketing." Along with Operation Noble Eagle there was Operation Valiant Strike, Operation Provide Comfort, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Uphold Democracy, Operation Iraqi Freedom and, now, Operation Reassurance, Operation America Strong and Operation Inspiration.

3. Referring to the case of the USS Roosevelt, where some 1,000 sailors tested positive, Scott Taylor, editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps, wrote on April 22, "There is a lesson the Royal Canadian Navy can learn from this incident, and that is that since we are not at war and the virus is real, the safety of our sailors must take priority over operational duties."

"Make personnel safety during coronavirus crisis the top priority," he was quoted saying by the Hill Times, April 22, 2020.

4. As long ago as 2003, a Department of National Defence study warned that "With each passing year, the technical, safety and financial risk associated with extending the Tutor into its fifth decade and beyond, will escalate. These risks are significant." Cited by Michael Byers, "Snowbirds -- grounded," National Post, May 12, 2014.

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Opposition to Imperialist Sanctions and Blockades

High-Level Representatives of Affected Countries Call for Lifting of Economic Sanctions

On May 9, as part of an international campaign calling for the lifting of sanctions and blockades everywhere, a webinar sponsored by the U.S.-based Sanctions Kill coalition provided a platform for representatives of six countries subjected to U.S. economic sanctions to speak about how this form of warfare is affecting their countries, in particular their ability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar was viewed by over 1,000 people from around the world, with another 4,000 watching it livestreamed on Facebook.

There are 39 of the 193 member states of the United Nations currently subjected to economic warfare in the form of unilateral coercive measures, also referred to as economic sanctions. The only sanctions considered legal under international law are those endorsed by the UN Security Council. All others, such as those the U.S. has put in place unilaterally against more than 30 countries and a host of individuals and organizations under various pretexts, are in violation of the UN Charter and the norms of international law and diplomacy. They are illegal and amount to acts of war aimed at the people of targeted countries, despite being presented cynically by those who impose and support this type of coercion as "non-violent" and "peaceful." The U.S. maintains unilateral coercive measures of different types, including those that are called comprehensive in that they broadly target the people in countries or whole regions with whom almost any kind of U.S.-linked dealings are prohibited. Such measures currently apply to Iran, Syria, Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Crimea.[1]

The U.S. and some of its allies, that include governments in Europe and Canada, also apply what they call targeted sanctions against individuals and entities with whom their citizens, residents and others inside the country are prohibited from having financial or other dealings of all sorts. Targeted sanctions also involve such things as prohibitions on travel to, or the targeted persons' "inadmissibility" to the country applying the sanctions, the freezing or seizure of property or assets such individuals or entities might have in the country, and more. 

What Representatives of Sanctioned Countries Had to Say

Deputy Permanent Representative of Cuba to the UN Ana Silvia Rodríguez opened the program. She stated that the economic, financial and commercial blockade the U.S. has imposed on Cuba since 1962 has been strengthened by an array of restrictions and laws signed over the years. Over the past year in particular the U.S. has stepped up its aggression, targeting the tourism industry and preventing shipments of fuel, medical equipment and other supplies necessary to combat the pandemic from reaching Cuba, she said. Rodríguez said multilateralism and anti-imperialist solidarity are needed to counter the blockade.

A statement read on behalf of Dr. Frank Guni, a representative of ZANU-PF in North America, said Zimbabwe had been subjected to unilateral coercive measures aimed at forcing regime change since 2001. Dr. Guni said the U.S. set out to destroy the country's economy because Zimbabwe's struggle for independence and for the return of the land to the people represents a bad example for Namibia and other countries in the region, to the U.S. and others intent on recolonizing Africa. He said that due to prior experience in dealing with natural disasters and epidemics, Zimbabwe has been able to limit the impact of COVID-19. He called the sanctions against Zimbabwe a declaration of war, adding that it is "a war we must win."

Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S. Francisco Campbell said the U.S. was using its international influence to restrict Nicaragua's access to loans in violation of international law. He said that in spite of U.S. sanctions impacting Nicaragua's health care system and ability to deal with COVID-19, the work of its public health care brigades in communities, implementation of policies related to social distancing and contact tracing, border control agreements with neighbouring countries and the assistance provided by China, Cuba and others had greatly limited the virus's spread.

Syria's Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, pointed out that two billion people -- almost 20 per cent of humanity -- are affected by unilateral coercive measures right at a time when combatting the coronavirus pandemic requires all governments to work cooperatively. Instead, the U.S. and others following its lead, in applying unilateral coercive measures are wreaking havoc with people's basic rights to such things as health care and education, he said. Ja'afari said all Syria's basic economic sectors are affected by unlawful and illegitimate sanctions. "The central bank of Syria is unable to access our own funds, frozen by sanctions and U.S. pressure on international banks. The sanctions amount to health terrorism, on top of political, economic, financial, media and military terrorism by the U.S.," he stated.

Ja'afari said the so-called humanitarian exemptions granted by the U.S. Treasury Department were and still are subject to politicized considerations so that this aid, which he said includes weapons, is delivered exclusively to areas under the control of armed terrorist groups.

Ja'afari expressed appreciation for recent statements made at the UN Security Council against unilateral coercive measures and by UN Secretary General António Guterres who called for the lifting of sanctions, but noted that several draft resolutions and declarations put foward by "dozens" of UN member states lacked any reference to Guterres' call because of infiltration by those he called phony Western humanitarians.

The Deputy Foreign Minister for North America of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Carlos Ron, said his country has been subjected to unilateral coercive measures since 2006 but that these spiked in 2014 just before Obama issued his spurious Executive Order of 2015 declaring Venezuela "an unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S. national security." He also made it clear that all Venezuela's attempts to import food and medical products, which the U.S. says are exempt from its sanctions, are in fact blocked, typically by banks that refuse to receive payments from Venezuela, given U.S. domination of the international financial system. As in the case of Syria, Iran and Cuba, he said the illegal U.S. punitive measures targeted all sectors of Venezuela's economy. Suppliers either will not sell to Venezuela fearing penalties from the U.S. or they charge two or three times the price for their goods. The same applies to insurers of shipments and shippers.

Ron said Venezuela has a case before the International Criminal Court against the U.S. for its acts of collective punishment and extermination against the Venezuelan people. He also denounced the fact that, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. was holding its biggest military exercises in 30 years in the Caribbean not far from Venezuela's shores. In the face of all this, he reported that with the solidarity of Cuba, China and Russia, assistance from the World Health Organization, and relying on its personalized public health measures and the efforts of the people's organizations, Venezuela was successfully managing the pandemic, administering the most tests per capita in the region.

Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. Majid Takht-Ravanchi said the unilateral coercive measures applied against Iran were the most drastic ever imposed on a country, inhibiting its ability to treat those afflicted with COVID-19 despite the high professional level of Iran's medical personnel. He also emphasized it was untrue that U.S. sanctions do not apply to medical supplies. He said the Swiss channel Iran has been using for international transactions is subject to fierce pressure from the U.S. and that several medical suppliers recently stopped shipping to Iran because the U.S. had made it virtually impossible. Everyone fears accidentally getting caught in the web of the U.S. sanctions because of the breadth of their reach, he pointed out.

Sanctions Kill has announced that it will sponsor webinars and other efforts and actions on sanctions during the COVID-19 crisis and build toward an International Week of Actions Against U.S.-Imposed Sanctions and Economic War from May 25-31. Further information, as well as links to view the webinar, can be found at


1. Gibson Dunn, one of the many law firms that have proliferated around the world to advise businesses in particular about how to avoid falling afoul of U.S. unilateral coercive measures of all types, states in its Year-End Sanctions Update for 2019:

Sanctions promulgated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") have become an increasingly prominent part of U.S. foreign policy under the Trump administration. For the third year in a row, OFAC blacklisted more entities than it had under any previous administration, adding an average of 1,000 names to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons ("SDN") List each year -- more than twice the annual average increase seen under either President Barack Obama or President George W. Bush. Targets included major state-owned oil companies such as Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. ("PdVSA"), ostensible U.S. allies such as Turkey (and -- almost -- Iraq), major shipping lines, foreign officials implicated in allegations of corruption and abuse, drug traffickers, sanctions evaders, and more. As if one blacklisting was not enough, some entities had the misfortune of being designated multiple times under different regulatory authorities -- each new announcement resulting in widespread media coverage if little practical impact. At last count, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC") has been sanctioned under seven separate sanctions authorities. Eager to exert its own authorities in what has traditionally been a solely presidential prerogative, in 2019 the U.S. Congress proposed dozens of bills to increase the use of sanctions. Compounding the impact of expansive new sanctions, OFAC's enforcement penalties hit a record of more than U.S.$1.2 billion.

While President Obama described his sanctions team as his favorite "combatant command" (likening it to the traditional military forces employed by the United States), President Trump has truly unleashed the power of OFAC sanctions -- employing them frequently, quickly, and unilaterally. The Trump administration announced new sanctions 82 times in 2019 -- eclipsing the previous record set in 2018.

In its update, Gibson Dunn refers to OFAC's "compliance guidelines" for the sanctions it administers, showing how the U.S. blockades targeted countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and others by taking extraterritorial punitive measures against non-sanctioned countries and entities for violating its illegal economic and other sanctions against countries and individuals it has targeted for attack. These pernicious measures are also referred to as secondary sanctions. To avoid penalities for violating U.S. sanctions, OFAC advises organizations and individuals against such things as "facilitating transactions by non-U.S. persons; exporting or re-exporting U.S.-origin goods, technology or services to OFAC-sanctioned persons or countries; and utilizing non-standard payment or commercial practices."

(With files from International Action Center.)

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 Canadian Labour Congress
Letter to Foreign Affairs Minister

Dear Minister François-Philippe Champagne:

I write to you today to raise concerns with the particular situation in Cuba as it struggles to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic while struggling under the unjust and illegal blockade imposed by the Government of the United States.

The decades-long economic, commercial and financial sanctions have had a significant negative impact on the Cuban economy and, consequently, have severely damaged the basic living conditions of the Cuban people. Furthermore, due to their extraterritorial reach, they affect Cuba's trade and external economic and financial relations and have a detrimental impact on legitimate business interests and trade relations of other countries with Cuba, since these nations try to avoid falling afoul of U.S. legislation.

On November 7, 2019, for the 28th consecutive year, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted by a vote of 187 countries (including Canada) to 3, the Resolution that demands the United States put an end to the blockade imposed on Cuba.

However, the United States has ignored this worldwide demand and has continued to tighten unilateral sanctions, the effects of which are felt much more now, when Cuba is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The blockade has become a major impediment to purchasing much-needed medicines, equipment and materials to deal with the pandemic, as well as to receiving and providing international aid.

Additionally, the restrictions imposed by the blockade on banks, shipping companies and airlines to prevent them from having any dealings with Cuba hinder the arrival of medical supplies and donations to the country.

Likewise, the fuel shortage, due to the blockade, damages the operation and the rapid response capacity of the national health system.

In the face of the global pandemic, there have been outspoken condemnations of this policy, from, among others, the UN Secretary-General, who has called for "the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support."

This crisis is a time for solidarity. We call on the Government of Canada to work with members of the United Nations to resolve the U.S. blockade imposed on Cuba. 

Hassan Yussuff, President

(May 11, 2020)

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Terrorist Attack on Venezuela

Statement by Venezuelan Delegation at Virtual Public Session of United Nations Security Council 

Delivered by Samuel Moncada, Permanent Representative of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations, May 20, 2020.

Mr. President,

1. I thank you for convening this meeting to discuss the latest events in Venezuela, especially those that occurred on May 3, as well as the imminent threat of an armed attack, an imminent breach of peace in my country and of all the region if the aggression continues.

Mr. President,

2. By signing the Charter of the United Nations we all pledged to "take effective collective measures to prevent and eliminate threats to peace, suppress acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and achieve by peaceful means, and in accordance with the principles of justice and international law, the settlement of disputes or international situations that may lead to breaches of the peace." Today, this provision has been violated, with impunity, and with full contempt for the Charter.

3. In a letter to the Security Council, dated May 13, 2020, we demonstrated to the world the armed aggression against my country,[1] which, according to public and irrefutable evidence shared at that time, demonstrated that the governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Colombia provided planning, training, financing and, still today, they are protecting groups of mercenaries and terrorists, who carried out an armed attack with the objective of perpetrating 1) indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians; 2) selective murders against high officials of my government; and 3) the assassination of President Nicolás Maduro.

4. This is an evident violation of the Charter of the United Nations, of international law and of multiple resolutions of this Security Council, which are legally binding on all Member States. The governments of Colombia and the United States of America violated their relevant obligations under international law, in particular those provided for in the following four (04) resolutions:

a. Security Council resolution 239 (1967), which condemns any State that allows or tolerates "the recruitment of mercenaries and the granting of facilities to them in order to overthrow the governments of the Member States of the United Nations."

b. Security Council resolution 1269 (1999), in which States are called upon to "prevent and suppress in their territories, by all lawful means, the preparation and financing of any act of terrorism."

c. Security Council resolution 1373 (2001), in which it is decided that all States should refrain from providing any type of support to entities or persons participating in acts of terrorism, including by repressing their recruitment and the supply of weapons to terrorists, and deny asylum to those who finance, plan, support or commit acts of terrorism.

d. Security Council resolution 1456 (2003), in which States are called upon to "provide mutual assistance, to the greatest extent possible, to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish acts of terrorism, wherever they occur," while stressing that "States must bring to justice those who finance, plan, support or commit acts of terrorism or provide safe haven, in accordance with international law, in particular on the basis of the principle to extradite or prosecute."

5. To this day, the governments of the United States of America and Colombia continue to deny any assistance and cooperation to the competent Venezuelan authorities, in order to establish the facts and avoid impunity by ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice. As a result, these governments violate their obligations under existing bilateral treaties on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. Furthermore, as of today, the United States government continues to provide a safe haven for people who blatantly claimed to be the leaders of the last armed incursion against Venezuela.

Mr. President,

6. Today I must report that operations to capture the individuals who participated in this armed aggression are ongoing, as we are aware of the existence of other groups of mercenaries and terrorists who were trying to carry out their criminal plans in other regions of our country. In fact, on May 14 there was an attack against our National Water Supply System, which in addition to constituting a clear violation of Security Council resolution 2341 (2017) on the protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks, confirms the veracity of the public statements of the criminals who remain at large, in connection with the preparations for a new attack and the training of new groups of mercenaries and terrorists. All this occurs while new evidence continues to be obtained that clearly points to both Washington and Bogotá, as the main conspirators behind the aggression.

7. In addition, there are at least three (3) additional events of great concern that I must also report today, since they are part of the continuous and systematic campaign of aggression against my country:

a. First, on May 13, the United States government included Venezuela on an illegal and unilateral list to falsely blame my country for not cooperating fully with efforts to fight terrorism. Nothing is more cynical than an accusation of this type, which comes only days after the perpetration of an armed attack with mercenaries and terrorists, with the full support from U.S. government officials and the direct participation of U.S. citizens and companies. In addition, the next day, on May 14, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters that the designation as "terrorist organizations" was being considered for several Venezuelan security agencies. This is an obvious threat to the peace and security of my country, since the United States government is trying to fabricate a narrative which, according to its supremacist notions, declares its national laws as universal, that it can take "decisive defensive action" and assassinate high-ranking officials of the Venezuelan security and intelligence agencies, and, using its propaganda machinery, later twist the crime to present it as an anti-terrorist operation. It is a sad fact of our times that the U.S. government hopes to openly get away with normalizing the illegal murder of top national officials around the world through the use of brute force.

b. Second, as we have denounced in previous letters to the Security Council, the United States government has openly admitted that it is pressuring companies to refrain from supplying gasoline to Venezuela, which has led to the current shortage that exists today across the country. In this context, let me pose the following question: What if, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City was deliberately deprived of gas? This, undoubtedly, would count as a crime against humanity, which is precisely what the government of President Donald Trump is currently perpetrating against thirty (30) million Venezuelans. Today, coercion is coupled with a new danger: the threat of the use of military force against five (5) Iranian oil tankers with fuel that are headed to Venezuela, violating, among other things, the freedom of commerce and navigation. Should the threat materialize, it would constitute actual armed aggression against an Iranian civilian ship and against the Venezuelan people as a whole. The government of the United States insists on presenting itself as our "saviour", claiming to be the "main donor" of humanitarian assistance to Venezuela and now even dares to accuse our government of obstructing the provision of U.S. assistance, when the truth is that all those who are willing to support our country at this time have been able to do so, through the relevant United Nations agencies.

c. And third, just under a week ago, on May 13, the international media revealed the existence of a "Venezuelan Reconstruction Unit" within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the British Commonwealth, through which conversations were held between United Kingdom officials, Venezuelan opposition figures and the conspirators of the recent armed incursion, promoting the need for guarantees of preferential status to be given to British companies in my country after the act of aggression was successfully carried out. This new evidence that has now come to light, along with the looting of more than $1.7 billion in Venezuelan gold by the Bank of England, demonstrates once again that the British government is an opportunistic accomplice in the colonial looting of Venezuela's riches. Furthermore, British warships remain outside our territorial waters, in a hostile and confrontational attitude, along with Dutch, French and U.S. warships, conveniently disguised as anti-drug operations, but actually intended to illegally establish a naval blockade against our nation. The combination of military provocations with information operations is a repeat of the old plausible denial trick used in covert aggression.

Mr. President,

8. On December 14, 1974, the General Assembly unanimously approved resolution 3314 (XXIX), which defines aggression as "the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other way incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations," and includes as such acts both "the blockade of the ports or the coasts of one State by the armed forces of another State" and "the sending by or on behalf of a State, of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State." This text, which perfectly fits the description of the most recent events in Venezuela, also recognizes that no consideration of whatever nature may serve as justification for an act of aggression.

9. For this reason, while urging the Security Council to fulfill the duties and responsibilities entrusted to it by the Charter of the United Nations in relation to the maintenance of international peace and security, we ask it to determine once and for all not only the threat that the warmongering policies of the governments of Colombia and the United States of America pose to the peace of both Venezuela and the entire region, but also to recognize the acts of aggression that have been committed against my country and demand that the perpetrators put an immediate end to their criminal practices, including the use or threat of the use of force and the commission of new armed attacks, including through the use of mercenaries and terrorists.

10. The United States government and its allies are creating a lawless space in international relations where they can disregard their obligations under international law and impose tyrannical, arbitrary, and colonial practices on the rest of the world. Thus, the supremacy of their national interest justifies the most abominable crimes, such as the case of protecting the "good terrorists and mercenaries" who attacked Venezuela if they serve the expansion of U.S. power. The Security Council must enforce the notions of morality and legality in international relations, under the principle that "no consideration of any nature, be it political, economic, military or otherwise, can serve as justification for aggression." That is the only way to promote peace and security among nations.

11. Today, in the midst of a deadly pandemic that affects all of humanity and that requires the full attention of our national government to protect the lives of our people, we are also facing an imminent armed attack that, due to its genocidal effects, is equivalent to a crime against humanity. Given the gravity of the situation and its potential escalation, the inaction of the Security Council at this juncture will embolden those governments to continue with their warmongering and criminal plans, as has been the case so far, considering the fact that the Governments of Colombia and the United States have doubled their aggression against Venezuela, in contempt of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, and in a demonstration of its unrepentant and repeated nature.

12. Let me conclude by insisting that our country does not pose a threat to anyone and hopes that everyone will learn this lesson: Venezuela is not for sale, it will never be a colony and our people, with serenity and determination, will fulfil our duty to be free.

Thank you very much, Mr. President


1. To read the Letter to the President of the Security Council from Samuel Moncada, Permanent Representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations, click here.

(Translated from the original Spanish by TML.)


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