Canada

Canada's high court upholds aboriginal title

First nations across British Columbia are celebrating a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26 that recognizes aboriginal title to their traditional territories outside reserves. The court upheld the Tsilhqot'in Nation's claim to lands in the Nemiah Valley, some 160 miles north of Vancouver, rejecting the provincial government's argument that aboriginal title should be restricted to actual settlement sites and other places frequently occupied by semi-nomadic native peoples. Joe Alphonse, chief of the Tsilhqot'in Nation, said the ruling is a victory in a struggle that had its roots in deadly conflict with a wave of Gold Rush settlers during the 1860s. He said the communities need more control over resources to support more people living on reserves. "We didn't fight in this case to separate from Canada," Alphonse told a news conference in Vancouver. "We fought in this case to get recognized, to be treated as equals in a meaningful way."

May Day mining disaster in Colombia

An unknown number of miners—perhaps as many as 40—were buried alive as an illegal gold mine collapsed late on the night of April 30 at El Palmar, in Colombia's southern department of Cauca. Local campesinos spent May Day volunteering with Santander de Quilichao municipal brigades in a desperate effort to unearth the victims—none of whom are believed to survive. Thus far, only three bodies have been recovered, according to local Red Cross workers. Local residents said the "owners" of the mine were able to escape, but it is still unlcear exactly who they are.

Lubicon Cree fight injunction on anti-frack protests

The Lubicon Lake Nation of Cree in Alberta, Canada, is appealing a court order prohibiting the indigenous community from blockading gas operations on unceded territory. Calgary-based Penn West Petroleum won the order from an Alberta court last month, barring the blockade set up in December by Lubicon Cree protesters for a period of six months. "The judge denied [us] the opportunity to raise any of the constitutional issues and arguments for the Lubicon," said Garrett Tomlinson, Lubicon Lake Nation communications director. Lubicon Cree leadership argued that Canada has never entered into a treaty with them, which renders permits for oil and gas development on Lubicon land null and void.

Persian Gulf militarized —by drug war

The past year has seen a spate of dangerous brinkmanship in the Persian Gulf, with Iran and US naval forces along with those of the Gulf's oil-rich Arab mini-states playing chicken over the strategic choke-point of the Strait of Hormuz. But in addition to this show-down over a global oil outlet, the Gulf has seen escalating militarization in the guise of narcotics enforcement. Bahrain's Gulf Daily News on Nov. 26 ran a story boasting of the exploits of a 29-nation Combined Maritime Forces group, based at the petro-kingdom's sprawling US Navy base and commanded by Capt. Robert Slaven of the Royal Australian Navy. While it claims to have "considerably reduced the number of terrorist attacks in the region" over the past decade, it's most concrete gains are hashish and heroin seizures.

Native resistance to North American pipeline plans

On Nov. 13, members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota brought representatives TransCanada to the reservation to make the case for the Keystone XL Pipeline—where they met an angry response from many in attendance. Debra White Plume of the Owe Aku International Justice Project told them: "Run home and tell your corporate headquarters in Canada that the Lakota are going to make a stand. Tell them, you're going to have to run over them or throw them in jail.  That's the message you have to take home… So I think you need to leave our land!  We're ready to go to jail to get you out of here NOW, so you can leave on your own or be escorted out now…" A YouTube clip of the meeting shows speaker after speaker echo this sentiment—followed by the TransCanada reps heading for the door, visibly shaken. (Causes.com, Nov. 16)

RCMP attack Mi'kmaq anti-frack protesters

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers on Oct. 17 used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up a protest roadblock by members of the Elsipogtog Mi'kmaq First Nation outisde Rexton, in New Brunswick. An injunction was issued two weeks ago against a blockade in front of a SWN Resources compound, where the oil exploration company is carrying out seismic testing as a precursor to fracking. Elsipogtog Chief Aaren Sock, council members and elders who had been conducting a ceremony at the blockade were among at least 40 arrested by heavily armed police in full riot gear. Some protesters responded by setting police vehicles on fire. Supporters from across Canada are said to be mobilizing a convergence on the area to support the Elsipogtog. (ICTMNCanada.com, Oct. 17)

Ron Paul schmoozes clerical fascists

Ron Paul's connections to the neo-fascist right are already well established, for those who are paying attention. Now it seems his longtime connection to the John Birch Society has led him deeper into the radical right nexus. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog, Paul is scheduled to speak at a confab sponsored by a wing of the "Traditionalist" schism that literally claims to be more Catholic than the Pope and has long been a magnet for sinister reactionaries. In this case, one of the fellow luminaries on the bill is the Italian neo-fascist leader Roberto Fiore

Guatemala: mining companies are dealt setbacks

A panel of Guatemala's Civilian and Mercantile Appeals Court issued a restraining order on July 24 that is likely to keep Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc. from opening its El Escobal silver mine in August as scheduled. The court backed a complaint filed by Kelvin Jiménez, a member of the indigenous Xinka group, that the Energy and Mining Ministry failed to deal with 250 appeals against the operation when it granted a 25-year license for the mine on April 3. The court's decision gave the ministry three days to begin proceedings on the appeals. The Legal and Environmental Action Center (CALAS), a Guatemalan organization that assisted Jiménez in the legal action, said the July 24 decision would suspend operations at the mine; a spokesperson for Tahoe downplayed the ruling, saying the company's Guatemalan subsidiary, Minera San Rafael, would appeal, although the spokesperson admitted that the process might take several weeks.

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