The Daily GRRR! - Oct. 20, 2014 - Your “Ugh, Monday Morning” Edition

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Welcome back to SoundFM! You are now listening to The Daily GRRR! live on the airwaves at 100.3fm, CKMS in Waterloo, Ontario, and SoundFM.ca on the web. This is Kathryn and I’ll be your host on this Monday morning show for October 20, 2014.

As always, we are broadcasting from the heart of the Haldimand Tract, the occupied Grand River Territory of the Six Nations, which we continue to recognize as Haudenosaunee land.

The Daily GRRR! is a project of the Grand River Media Collective and is supported by the Community Radio Fund of Canada and CKMS.

We will begin today with headlines:
The Daily GRRR!
HEADLINES for Oct. 20, 2014
1. Quebec refuses to approve TransCanada’s seismic testing on environmental grounds
2. Thousands march through Quebec in protest of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline
3. Line 9 opponents plan to “Haunt Bay Street” for Halloween demonstration
4. Cargo ship adrift off BC coast underscores concerns debated in Haida leaders’ AGM
5. Government tries to gag eco-conscious birdwatchers with tax laws
6. Hamilton goes “from understanding to solidarity” on the Syrian revolution
7. UW researchers say new LRT could displace the region’s low-income population

1. Quebec refuses to approve TransCanada’s seismic testing on environmental grounds

As reported by CBC News, Quebec's environment ministry is refusing to allow TransCanada to resume preliminary drilling work at the port of Cacouna on the St. Lawrence River, saying it's not satisfied that the oil-and-gas giant will respect the noise levels set to protect the local and endangered beluga whale population. That decision came down the pipe on Wednesday, after TransCanada had arrogantly said that it expected to resume exploratory work the very next day for its planned construction of a deep-water oil-shipping port at Cacouna, now that a temporary court injunction against the project has expired. Just last Friday, the company claimed that it was complying with the province's demands, even after the ministry issued a non-compliance order insisting that the company take further measures to reduce noise at the work site on the Lower St. Lawrence River. In an all-too-rare move by the provincial government to protect ecosystems’ integrity against corporate interests, the ministry also told the company it had to further restrict boat traffic in the port, in order to limit potential disturbance to the belugas congregating in that part of the St. Lawrence River.

That said, such measures are still a far cry from real protection for the integrated ecosystems of Quebec and, indeed, this country as a whole. In fact, environmental groups rallied in front of Quebec’s National Assembly on Wednesday to protest the project altogether. Protesters hoisted a large, inflatable beluga and presented Quebec’s premier with the results of an online petition against the Cacouna project with 32,000 names.

"What we're showing today is that there's no acceptability for this project in Quebec," said one Greenpeace supporter. The scientific director of the National Institute of Ecotoxicology Saint-Laurent concurred with this, adding that "it should simply be abandoned and the company not allowed to resume drilling." It seems unlikely that the project will be cancelled altogether, though Quebec’s Environment Minister has said the ministry is waiting for a new proposal from TransCanada before it will allow the company to continue drilling.

2. Thousands march through Quebec in protest of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline

As reported by the Council of Canadians, thousands of protesters marched last weekend against the proposed Energy East pipeline, which is set to transport crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to Quebec. A critical part of the Energy East pipeline project is to construct a marine terminal on the eastern shore of the St. Lawrence River to load supertankers with 700,000 to 1.1 million barrels of tar sands bitumen for export. As just explained in our last story, the terminal would be located in a habitat critical for the endangered beluga whale.

Demonstrators gathered from many different areas of the province and the groups present included The Quebec Centre for Environmental Law, the David Suzuki Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and the Society for Nature and Parks Canada (SNAP), who have collectively called for an emergency debate in the National Assembly to decide the fate of this environmentally dangerous project. Surprisingly, quite a number of Quebec politicians participated in the march as well, with representatives from the Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire. On the NGO side, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has also stated her opposition TransCanada’s plans, explaining that, "To protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River we must ban all transport of tar sands bitumen on, under and near the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River." From October 26 to November 6, the Council of Canadians will be visiting communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to talk about why TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline is all risk and little reward for Atlantic Canada, while communities farther west can stay up to date on the issue and events via their website.

3. Line 9 opponents plan to “Haunt Bay Street” for Halloween demonstration

After the National Energy Board put Enbridge’s infamous Line 9 reversal project on hold earlier this month, due to eleventh-hour concerns that the company is failing to meet the so-called “safety conditions” stipulated in the NEB’s approval of the project in principal back in February, tar sands opponents are stepping up their game again. “Renewed efforts are needed to shut down the troubled project completely,” says the Toronto group East End Against Line 9. They’ve issued a call for an anti-Line 9 demonstration on Halloween, festively dubbed “Haunt Bay Street,” where concerned residents will show how scary they think the prospect of a Line 9 spill can be. Demonstrators are encouraged to wear costumes and plan gather at City Hall at noon on October 31.

4. Cargo ship adrift off BC coast underscores concerns debated in Haida leaders’ AGM

As reported by The Globe and Mail, Haida leaders were to gather on Friday for the last day of a four-day annual meeting in Old Massett, British Columbia, with a resolution on marine safety at the top of the agenda. Instead, they woke up to news of a cargo ship foundering in high seas off the coast of Haida Gwaii, an incident that has underscored worries about potential marine accidents and clean-up and rescue capacity along a rugged coast.

“Number one on our agenda today was [a resolution] to ban oil tankers off Haida Territory,” said Haida Nation president Peter Lantin. “It’s kind of ironic that we wake up before we go to have this conversation and this real-life situation is upon us.” The vessel in question is not an oil tanker, but rather a cargo ship carrying mining material. However, its technical difficulties – and the potential for it to run aground with fuel aboard – highlight safety risks that have dominated the debate around Enbridge’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway project.

“It certainly underlines what the Premier and I have been doing with work around the five conditions,” said BC’s Environment Minister Mary Polak. “We brought those to the attention of the federal government precisely because we are concerned that even with the current vessel traffic on the coast of BC, that the response just isn’t sufficient.” A tugboat was on the way from Prince Rupert to help the stranded ship but not expected to reach the scene for hours, prompting sharp criticism about the lack of timely response in such a situation. In a press release from Living Oceans, an environmental non-profit organization on the coast, their executive director Karen Wristen laid down the bottom line, explaining that “the failure to provide for rescue tug capacity on the North Coast puts these incredibly sensitive marine ecosystems at unacceptable risk from shipping.”

5. Government tries to gag eco-conscious birdwatchers with tax laws

As reported by the Huffington Post, a small group of nature lovers in southern Ontario who enjoy watching birds and other wildlife have found themselves under close watch lately — by the Canada Revenue Agency. The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities. Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group's website. Revenue Canada’s warning says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."

Officials in the naturalist group are declining comment, apparently for fear of attracting more attention from the tax agency, but one longtime member is speaking up, saying the issue is about democratic freedom rather than tax rules. According to Roger Suffling, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, the letter arrived just after the club had written directly to two federal cabinet ministers to complain about government-approved chemicals that damage bee colonies. The naturalist group has also had a guest speaker to talk about the tar sands, and has publicly defended the Endangered Species Act from being watered down.
Revenue Canada’s rules state that a charity can devote no more than 10 per cent of its resources to political activities, and none to partisan activities, but critics say the guidelines are fuzzy and absurdly complex. A special squad of 15 auditors has so far targeted some 52 charities, many of them critical of Conservative government policies. Environment groups were hard hit in the first round in 2012-13, but the net has since widened to snare social justice and poverty groups, among others, in what critics are calling an “advocacy chill”.

As Suffling wrote in a recent blog post, "The local naturalists' club was silenced when its views became known to government and it was silenced for voicing public concern, not for breaking the rules.” He has also said that if the government is using the tax agency as a “pit bull to stifle dissent, then there's something very wrong”.

6. Hamilton goes “from understanding to solidarity” on the Syrian revolution

Now well into its fourth year, the Syrian Revolution remains woefully misunderstood in the West. This is not to say that there's no analysis available; from the snarling fascists at Fox News to the left-wing "dissident press", there is no shortage of political pundits willing to project their own ideological interpretations onto the conflict. Yet viewed through the distorting prism of Western Orientalism, most of these explanations of the Syrian Revolution fail to acknowledge a vitally important factor: namely, the agency of the Syrian people, and their courageous struggle for freedom and dignity in the face of the unspeakable brutality of the Assad regime and counter-revolutionary forces.

A public education workshop will be offered on Sunday, October 26th, at 7pm in Hamilton’s new radical social centre space, The Tower, which is located at 281 Cannon Street East in downtown Hamilton. The workshop will attempt to rectify the widespread misunderstandings of this issue by presenting often overlooked details of the Syrian Revolution, and by demonstrating how revolutionaries and activists in Canada can show meaningful support and solidarity to the people of Syria. The workshop will be presented by Nidal Wardi and Rasha El-endari, who are members of the Toronto-based Syria Solidarity Collective (SSC) - a consensus-based, anti-oppression group that strives for social justice for people in Syria, including class justice and gender justice. The SSC actively opposes sectarianism and colonialism, and endeavors to reach out to those Syrians who are struggling both against Assad as well as against the reactionary forces attempting to co-opt their revolution. Its members seek to understand and support representative and participatory institution building, towards a voluntary society that practices citizenship from below, rather than coercion of the state.

7. UW researchers say new LRT could displace the region’s low-income population

As reported by the Kitchener Post, Waterloo Region is three years away from having the first light rail vehicles roll through the streets of uptown Waterloo and downtown Kitchener, where a large percentage of the region’s working poor and low-income families currently live. However, to keep light rail transit from displacing the region’s poor, measures have to be taken now, says Markus Moos, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo. He explains that “it’s difficult to say how it will play out because it is so early, but certainly what we do know is that the new development that is coming in is largely condominium housing...so when you look at the incomes of populations that are currently living there, those (condos) are not within their range of purchasing power or rental.”

Moos and fellow professors Dawn Parker and Jeff Casello are researching the effects of LRT on the region, including the high risk that this development will force lower-income residents away from the downtown area and its access to public transit, when they are the people who need reliable transit service most. This has already happened in Vancouver and, closer to home, in Toronto -- where, as Moos explains, “people often point out now that the lower income population has really been pushed to the inner suburbs — the areas developed...in Etobicoke and Scarborough where transit is just not as frequent or as high a service level.”

Moos also says that this isn’t set in stone, and that the situation could be looked at as an opportunity to make the twin cities more accessible for those living on lower incomes: “What will actually happen likely depends on what government will do,” he says, explaining that, ‘if along with the LRT we are going to invest in social housing or assisted rental...then maybe we won’t see the displacement that’s played out in larger cities.”

Midway Music: All This Costs by The Rebel Spell

Feature: “Emissions Reduction Impossible Without Demilitarizing Foreign Policy” by Tamara Lorincz for The Real News Network

Closing Song: City of Rain by The Fugitives

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