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Gaza case studies: Weapons use

Qusai al-Habbash, 48, a science teacher and the father of the two girls who died, says the area had been calm and that families along the street had been going about their business as normal.

“Still, I thought of warning my children not to go outside, because of what was happening in other areas,” he says. “But then I told myself that the Israeli weapons were very sophisticated. They can easily see who is a child and who is a militant. But they killed my children anyway.”

Amnesty has listed many cases in which civilians were killed in this manner, including eight secondary school students who were waiting for the school bus to take them home

Sri Lanka: Govt artillery fire into “Safe Zone” kills 2000 civilians

Within past 52 days over 2000 were killed and over 5000 injured when SF continuously shells fired on the government announced “Safe Zone”. Thousands of artillery shells have been fired into the safety zone in what was described as the most inhumane genocidal attacks on civilian population. Over 500 children were among over 2000 civilians killed.

Abu Ghraib prison reopened

Iraq has reopened the notorious Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad.

Brother Omar Fernández Obregón on the Canadian-Colombian Free Trade Agreement

When: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 at 7:00 PM
Where: Conserver House, 180 St. John St., Fredericton

“Great changes are happening in Colombia, where an appalling war of terror against trade unionists, indigenous peoples, and communities has left a people caught up in unimaginable violence. Chain saw massacres, forced disappearances and rape, have been a persistent scourge of the people and villages through 30 years of political violence. Now the government, with its gruesome links to paramilitarism is being challenged by the bulk of society and even in the Colombian courts. This has opened a space for a social movements – a broad coalition which gathers trade unions, peasant organisations, Indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians’ movements, women’s groups and grassroots Christian communities to come together under the banner of the Coalition of Social Movements (CoMoSoc), to raise a world – wide cry for an end to sixty years of slaughter.”

Brother Omar Fernández Obregón is a Franciscan brother, educator and activist, working with some of the most marginalized sectors of Bogota. Omar is active in the Coalition of Social Movements and Organizations of Colombia (CoMoSoc). Internationally, Omar is a trade justice activist and has coordinated and participated in many national and international events and tribunals on human rights both in Colombia and in other countries.

Brother Omar Fernández Obregón is in the Maritimes to share his concerns on the Canadian-Colombian Free Trade Agreement.

On November 21, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced the signing of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Earlier in the year, after conducting a human rights study, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade called on the Canadian government to ensure that an independent human rights impact assessment be carried out and the results dealt with adequately before signing, ratifying or implementing a free trade deal with Colombia. Many Colombian and Canadian organizations are concerned that the free trade agreement has been signed without regard for the widespread and very serious human rights violations that continue to be the daily reality in Colombia.

In Canada, the tour with Brother Omar is being organized by KAIROS, RedLEIDH-York University, United Church of Canada, Americas Policy Group of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking Branch), Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, the Fredericton Peace Coalition, Strax and Amnesty Fredericton.

For more info:

Colombian Coal and New Brunswick Power: A Case of Environmental Racism

A case of environmental racism in New Brunswick concerns the coal extracted from mines in Colombia that is then exported to our province for power generation. Coal from Colombia has been dubbed “Colombian blood coal” because of violent displacement of communities and assassinations of union leaders at the country’s coal mines.

A Daughter of Radon Remembers

While the last mine in Elliot Lake closed in 1996, the toxic legacy of uranium mining lives on in the miners, the majority of whom with their families are scattered across Canada. Any meaningful assessment of the true health impacts of uranium mining on Elliot Lake residents is almost impossible because of the high turnover in the population over the decades. The massive uranium tailing areas are legend. They are the subject of hundreds of studies, documentaries, books, and photos and support an army of scientists and engineers that are trying to figure out how to contain the contamination.

Canada in Africa

In mid December, Robert Fowler, a career Canadian diplomat who is currently the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Niger, and his aide Louis Guay, an official at Foreign Affairs, were abducted in Niger. They were kidnapped not long after visiting a mine operated by Montréal-based SEMAFO (Société d’exploitation minière-Afrique de l’Ouest). The president and CEO of SEMAFO, Benoit La Salle, told the National Post: “Louis [Guay] called me and said he was going down there on a UN mission and that he heard the mine was a Canadian success and he wanted to report this back to Canada.”

At this point there are few other confirmed details regarding the kidnapping. Agence France Presse reported that the federal government, Niger and the UN have all become extremely secretive about the kidnapping. The UN initially denied that Fowler was on an official trip, but then a spokesperson contradicted this earlier statement, admitting that in fact he was on official business.

This event raises some questions about relations between Ottawa and Canadian resource corporations operating abroad. Is it common for diplomats to visit Canadian operated mines in foreign countries? Why was a UN envoy, sent to a country to deal with a conflict largely over natural resources, visiting a Canadian operated mine? Was the visit a message to Niger’s government? The rebels? The UN?

Canada becomes Israel

Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper’s government publicly supported Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza and voted alone at the UN Human Rights Committee in defense of Israel’s actions three weeks ago. Now Canada has taken over Israeli diplomacy. Literally.

In solidarity with Gaza, Venezuela expelled Israel’s ambassador at the start of the bombardment and then broke off all diplomatic relations two weeks later. Israel need not worry since Ottawa plans to help out. On 29 January, The Jerusalem Post reported that “Israel’s interests in Caracas will now be represented by the Canadian Embassy.” This means Canada is officially Israel, at least in Venezuela.

Culture of war must change

When Lockheed Martin, the world’s leading weapons/arms dealer and maker of MKVs (multiple kill vehicles), attempted to recruit students at the University of New Brunswick, on what is still considered by many as hallowed halls of learning, students took action.

Immigration Committee reaffirms support for U.S. war resisters

On February 12, 2009, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration again passed a motion calling on the Government of Canada to immediately stop the deportation of all U.S. Iraq War resisters and their immediate family members. The motion was moved by NDP Immigration Critic Olivia Chow and supported by all opposition party members in the Committee.