Praying for a toxic end?

This editorial in The Times of India says almost everything that no one in power wants to talk about:

Nuclear energy is toxic
21 Nov 2007, 0001 hrs IST,S H VENKATRAMANI

Amidst the chest-thumping over signing the Indo-US nuclear deal, we have turned a blind eye to the dangers of nuclear energy. We are celebrating our success in persuading the US to rescind its earlier sanctions against India.

The deal will give us access to state-of-the-art nuclear reactor technology. But we have forgotten that there is a very thin line separating nuclear reactor technology and nuclear weapons technology. We need to understand the dangers of using nuclear reactors.

Developed countries, particularly the US, are worried about growing international suspicion that North Korea and Iran are close to making their own nuclear bombs. If countries and sovereign governments cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons, we cannot ignore the possible threat of extremists and radical elements accessing nuclear reactor technology and making their own nuclear bombs. The present political crisis in Pakistan, for instance, opens up the possibility of such groups acquiring access to nuclear bombs.

What makes nuclear energy itself so dangerous is that every commercial nuclear reactor produces 400-500 pounds of plutonium in a year, along with other nuclear waste material. Just 10-20 pounds of plutonium is needed to make a bomb. An average nuclear reactor, therefore, produces enough plutonium waste to make 50 nuclear bombs in a year.

Lethally radioactive plutonium thus brings nuclear reactor technology dangerously close to nuclear weapons technology.

 

In Australia, a political candidate is urging voters to:

Pray for more uranium use: Tollner

An election forum in the marginal Top End seat of Solomon has heard that people should be praying Australia sells huge amounts of uranium to China.Incumbent Coalition candidate Dave Tollner used the forum to claim nuclear power is the only way to effectively tackle global warming. He was scathing about any policy that would see Australia reduce its uranium mining.

“We should be praying that China and India take as much of our uranium as possible to reduce their reliance on coal power. The fact is, the only way that we are going to produce ongoing baseload power… is to export as much of our uranium to them as possible.”

Ignorance and greed really do go hand in hand, don’t they?

And, finally, is DU the way out?

Can anything be done to halt the use of these genocidal weapons? Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois and author of The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, thinks so. He has launched a campaign for a global pact against uranium weapons.

Boyle points out that the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices.” Clearly, he says, DU is “analogous” to poison gas.

The government of France is the official depository for the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Boyle contends that rather than aiming for an international treaty prohibiting the use of DU, which would probably take years, pressure should be put on every state to submit a letter to the French government to enforce a ban.

“All that needs to be done is for anti-DU citizens, activists and NGOs in every country to pressure their foreign minister to write to their French counterpart, drawing attention to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 17th June 1925, prohibiting uses as above.”

The letter should add that this Protocol is believed to “already prohibit the use in war of depleted uranium ammunition, uranium armor plate and all other uranium weapons.” A request should be made that the letter be circulated to all other High Contracting Parties to the 1925 Protocol and addressed to:

His Excellency,

The Foreign Minister,

Republic of France,

37, Quai d’Orsay,

75351 Paris, France.

Or Fax: 33-1-43-17-4275.

Professor Boyle points out, “As the Land Mines Treaty demonstrates, it is possible for a coalition of determined activists and NGOs, acting in concert with at least one sympathetic state, to bring into being an international treaty to address humanitarian concerns.”

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Canada is the Honourable Maxime Bernier [Bernier.M@parl.gc.ca].

Nuclear Guardianship: We Need to Know

What we need to know as responsible citizens and what we need our politicians, the law-makers, to know

The Nuclear Guardianship Library

is intended to contribute to the political, technical and moral understandings required to keep radioactive materials from further contaminating the biosphere, in order to protect present and future generations.  We hope to provide opportunities for ongoing, in-depth discussion among citizens, specialists, and policy makers on the responsible care of radioactive materials.

The moral issues remain the same.

 Our most enduring legacy to future generations will be the radioactive materials generated over the last fifty years by nuclear power and weapons production, including structures and equipment contaminated at every step of the fuel cycle as well as all categories of waste. The toxicity of these materials, with their proven capacity to cause cancers, immune diseases, birth disorders, and genetic mutation, constitutes an unprecedented and monumental assault on organic life. To safeguard ourselves and future generations, all these contaminants must be kept out of the biosphere now and for thousands of years.

We who are living now, whether “pro-nuclear” or “anti-nuclear,” need to consider together how we are to isolate the radioactive materials we have produced. We need to consider our responsibility for their ongoing containment, and the immediate steps this guardianship requires of us.

A People’s Policy on Radioactive Waste  (Draft July 23, 2002)

PREAMBLE

The amount and danger of long-lasting environmental poisons produced in recent decades is unprecedented in human history. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, policy regarding all levels of radioactive waste has been set by the nuclear industry, the military and governments. Monetary gain, secrecy and militarism have consistently taken precedent over concerns about intergenerational equity, environmental and public health and spiritual well-being.

Any policy regarding nuclear waste must begin with an immediate halt to its production.

Future survival requires that we take full responsibility for nuclear waste and keep it within our sphere of control. Policy decisions must consider the health, safety and habitat of ALL living things and recognize the need for this most dangerous substance to be completely isolated from the environment for as long as it remains hazardous.

Presently, there is no scientifically sound, environmentally just or democratically defined solution to the disposal or storage of radioactive waste. Yet each day approximately ten tons of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) is generated, which is one million times more radioactive than the original fuel. It is insanity to continue to use nuclear reactor technology that benefits only one or two generations while creating poisons that will threaten the next 12,000.

Regressive Cons

Over here you’ll find Law Prof Lorraine Weinrib’s piece, reprinted with permission from the Law Times. It’s an article about Harper and his Justice Minister addressing the Charter’s 25th anniversary. Here’s a sample from it:

Conservatives cling to the old Bill of Rights

Stephen Harper overlooks courts’ role in interpreting Charter.

Dateline: Tuesday, May 15, 2007

by Lorraine Weinrib

Monday, 14 May 2007 The 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Charter, in mid-April, presented the rare opportunity for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to join with many others in expressing their views of the Charter, its place in our constitutional order, and the effect it has had on Canada in its first quarter century.

Neither took advantage of invitations to the formal academic and professional events held to mark the occasion, where they might have presented an expansive account of their views. Their limited comments in the House of Commons in question period are therefore all we have. These statements, despite their brevity, reveal quite a lot.

2475ad.jpgBoth Harper and Nicholson offered partisan responses to questions seeking a comment marking the occasion. Nicholson, for example, stressed that the Conservative party “has an enviable record with respect to human rights in our country” and needed no “lessons from anybody in this Parliament on the subject of human rights.”

He cited the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights and the extension of the franchise by Conservative governments to women and Aboriginal Canadians, indeed the full extension of the franchise, as elements of that “proud history.”

As to his own government’s accomplishments, he noted the federal victims’ ombudsman, stable funding for legal aid, and action on the Chinese head tax. He concluded by noting, “We did things that the Liberal party was never able to get done.”

Harper also took a partisan stance. He stressed the difference between his government, which actually promoted rights, and the Liberal record, which he described as catering to lawyers’ concerns and pocketbooks.

Like his minister of justice, the prime minister referred to the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights as the legislated beginning of Canadian human rights protection. He then cited a long list of his own government’s accomplishments and summed up in these words: “The government is acting on rights, unlike the record of that government which did not get the job done.”

His examples were noteworthy: protecting the rights of women and children from acts of criminality, extending the right to vote for the Senate, fixing the historic injustice of the Chinese head tax, the Air India inquiry, the residential schools agreement, and signing on to the United Nations declaration on the rights of the disabled.

These statements tell us a lot about the government’s official position on the Charter.

First and foremost, according to Harper and Nicholson, the Charter fulfils itself through legislation and government action, not through Charter litigation and judicial rulings. Many of the comments described were made in response to criticism of the government’s cancellation of the Court Challenges Program. In that context, the emphasis on this government’s aversion to lawyers’ concerns and lawyers’ work is significant.

Second, Harper and Nicholson consider the Charter’s subject matter to be “human rights” broadly conceived, rather than “constitutional rights” as embodied in its particular guarantees, principles and institutional arrangements….

SK MP stalls new Kyoto legislation

One of our SK Members of Parliament, Tom Lukiwski, stalled the House Environment Committee for an hour and a half, effectively stopping debate on the Liberal’s new Kyoto bill. From Macleans.ca:

Saskatchewan Tory MP Tom Lukiwski delivered a 120-minute monologue on alleged procedural transgressions by the committee as it prepared to debate a Liberal bill on Kyoto – one supported by all opposition parties and the vast majority of MPs.

Opposition MPs didn’t even pretend to listen to Lukiwski who, under the Commons rules on points of order, was allowed to carry on at will.

Their eyes glazed over. They joked amongst themselves. And they muttered their complaints about Lukiwski’s filibustering performance.

“It was a historic performance, yes,” said Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, author of the Kyoto bill. “But it’s one they should be ashamed of – not proud.”

Jack and Gilles aren’t very impressed either.  They have nothing good to say.  And, quite frankly, what good is there to say when a Government stalls the process of governing?  And in a minority government situation?  Talk about rebranding?!?  This is truly bizarre!

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the Tories are worse in government than the Liberals because they’re not only arrogant, but incompetent as well.

“I would say they’re paralyzing themselves,” Duceppe told a news conference.

“(Stephen) Harper was telling us – Jack and I – at the time we were in opposition that the Liberals were arrogant in not speaking to us.

“He’s doing worse than them. And since they have almost no experience in the House, they’re worse than the Liberals in the procedures because they’re acting like amateurs.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton also blamed Harper.

“He has an arrogant and controlling attitude to his caucus, to the media, to the Canadian public, and also to the representatives (in opposition) of a majority of the Canadian people.

“This is why we’re seeing a logjam in the House of Commons. There is no desire on the part of his government to work with other parties.”

He suggested it’s about time for an election to solve the deadlock.

Yup.  It’s time.  Harper now has enough rope and seems to be using it well enough.

Thanks to Robert at My Blahg for the lead.

Death by a thousand cuts

A New Brunswick perspective on Harper’s round of cuts, with an excellent analysis of why. I can’t get to it online (even though it was published in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal on Sat. Oct. 14) so I’m reproducing it here.

DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
by Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, Chairperson of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women

There is a brand of politics – shall we call it sniper politics – where groups are picked off one by one.

It’s done carefully so that – it is hoped – no broad segment of the population or one region is hit hard enough that a critical mass can form to fight back. The damage in citizen protest is calculated and deemed acceptable because the gains are assured.

It buys the loyalty of those party faithful whose vote depends on such actions and on nothing else.

That’s what happened to certain groups of Canadians this past couple of weeks. Without having mentioned it neither in the recent election campaign, nor in the Speech from the throne a few months ago, and at the same time as it announced a 13 billion dollar surplus, the federal government picked off citizen voices it does not agree with. Here are a few of the changes that will affect New Brunswick harshly.

The federal government abolished the Court Challenges program mostly because, let’s say it, the program had helped gays and lesbians go to court to get the same rights other Canadians have under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

No matter that the $5-million Program also well served seniors and handicapped Canadians, victims of sexual assault, communities concerned by obscenity and official language minorities (including English-language rights in Quebec, and P.E.I. Acadians’ right to schools in French), among others.

No matter that a few months ago, the federal government was in Geneva bragging to a United Nations Committee that the Court Challenges was a “uniquely Canadian” program that has been successful, that a recent evaluation found that there remains work for the program and so it was extended to March 2009.

No matter that Canadians of all sexual orientations have a right to access the courts and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The official reason for cancelling the Program given by the Treasury Board president is that it didn’t make sense to him for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government’s own laws in court. It is rather disturbing that a government minister does not respect the system and the checks and balances he is sworn to uphold.

In a constitutional democracy, laws can be measured against the constitution. Laws are not perfect, as some eminent jurists have said in response to these cuts, and those who need to point out the imperfections in our laws, in order that they may live on an equal footing with others, deserve to be heard. Now only those who can pay their way to court in Canada will get to challenge laws or seek protection of the Charter.

About a year ago, Stephen Harper was telling Canadians that if he were elected, the courts would hold him in check. What was not said was that people most affected would not be able to get to court.

Another recent change by the government was to the funding rules for community groups. Advocacy and lobbying will not be allowed. In other words, help the victims but don’t try changing the conditions that creates victims – and don’t bother us. If women’s history teaches us anything, it is that nothing ever changed without advocacy and lobbying. As the New Brunswick groups that came together to fight these cuts say, it is thanks to advocacy efforts that women now have access to wage parity, maternity leave benefits and transition houses.

The community groups in New Brunswick that share about $300,000 per year in grants from one affected program, Status of Women Canada, include the Coalition for Pay Equity, the New Brunswick Coalition of Transition Houses, Saint John’s Urban Core Support Network and several others. The change will be devastating for them and for New Brunswick.

The new rules will also eliminate any Status of Women Canada funding for work towards equality. While – for now – leaving intact the amount that is available for grants, the federal government has made such huge changes to the program that it no longer funds what it was created to do, advance women’s equality. You’ve come far enough, baby, as humourist Rick Mercer said last week.

The promise of equality is written in the Charter and Canadian governments have up to now felt some responsibility towards making that promise real, by assisting groups working to end violence, discrimination and poverty, for example.

The federal government also cut $10 million from the Canadian Volunteerism Initiative, designed to support the volunteers who run thousands of services across Canada.

Earlier this year, candidate Stephen Harper assured Canadian women that, if elected, he would “take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations, to ensure that Canada fully upholds its commitments to women”.

Nine months later, the concrete and immediate measures that Prime Minister Harper announced are mean and unnecessary and will set back equality among Canadians. The equality-seeking groups, one could say, help governments do their job: they work to end violence, poverty and discrimination, they help adults become literate and they even the playing field by giving discriminated groups access to the courts.

New Brunswickers doing equality work, including adult literacy – another abolished program – are stunned by these cuts. This is not the Canada they know. Why is this possible when this is a minority government? Where are the opposition parties? In reality, a large protest movement is building.

These cuts to some pet peeves of some Conservative party faithfuls is likely an attempt to ensure their support, since the party had to follow a moderate road to gain popular support. The cuts are carefully planned to not awaken the general population. But what is scary about snipers is that we don’t know where they will strike next.


			

Evidence demands Oda’s resignation

This should be enough evidence to demand Bev Oda‘s resignation from her responsibility for the Status of Women in Canada. First, examine this, from her opening statement to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on the Status of Women:

…Canada’s new Government fundamentally believes that women are equal.

As this New Government of Canada has demonstrated, it is very good at ignoring the facts.  Now, get a load of this load of dung:

…As far as capacity building goes, we believe there are a number of organizations that have had many years to establish themselves. On a going forward basis, we’ve made a commitment. We made a commitment prior to coming into office, and we’re fulfilling the commitment that we will make sure taxpayer dollars…. They’re hard-earned dollars.

They are not vulnerable and weak; they are taxpayers. They work very hard for their taxes, not only as women but as citizens of this country. Consequently, we believe and we know they support more direct action to help overcome the identified barriers. After years of identifying the issues and the problems, we are now committed to doing something.

First, what does it mean for organizations to “establish themselves?”  Is she suggesting that women’s groups should be self-sufficient, even though women continue to earn less than their male counterparts and even though more women than men live in poverty in their senior years?  Is she suggesting that women’s groups should cosy up to the corporate sector that needs that cheap labour pool and that feeds off women’s inequality?

Second, who said that women are vulnerable and weak? Not a single feminist I know or have read calls women vulnerable and weak. It is only the Conservative supporters and (un)R.E.A.L. women who use that language. So, why is the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women in this country using such discriminatory language? Why is she pitting women as taxpayers against women as equality-seekers? Is it that she’s trying to divide women, just as Bush & Co. divided U.S. citizens? Is this yet another attempt to win that Harper Majority? It smells desperately like Bush’s, you’re either with us or you’re against us rhetoric.

Third, Status of Women Canada is doing something. Or was until the New Government of Canada took office. The research and programming within SWC and collaboration with women across the country brought gender-based analysis to the federal government. SWC’s response to our nation’s grief after the Montreal Massacre brought the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The work SWC does to highlight statistics on violence against women, for example, is crucial to making our society a safer place for all.

To suggest that SWC does nothing is to ignore its almost 30 years of working to improve the status of women in Canada.  It is also a lie.  And, worst of all, it degrades the work that women and women’s organizations in this country have done to improve the lives of women living and working here.

I suggest Canadian women are too smart to fall for Oda’s kind of nasty politicking. Canadian women know there is a power imbalance in this country and though we desperately want to feel equal and to be treated as equals, we know we are not.

Minister Oda has demonstrated that very clearly.  She must now do the right thing and resign.