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February 16, 2018

Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?

By Joyce Nelson

Photo by Eden, Janine and Jim | CC BY 2.0

With a U.S.-backed military coup or invasion in Venezuela looking ever more likely, Canada’s progressive leftists are pushing for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) to abandon its “reactionary” foreign policy position on that country. As well, at the annual NDP convention (February 15 – 18), the NDP Socialist Caucus will present a motion requesting the removal of NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Helene Laverdiere from that role.

In December, the Canadian Dimension published a lengthy Open Letter from Dr. John Ryan, a retired University of Winnipeg professor, documenting the “reactionary foreign policy positions” on a variety of issues that the NDP has adopted in recent years, especially through Laverdiere’s role.

Regarding Venezuela, Dr. Ryan wrote, “One would think that Canada’s NDP, as a social democratic party, would be supportive of the progressive policies that have been enacted in Venezuela. Surely the bulk of the people who vote NDP would be far more supportive of Venezuela than they would be of U.S. policies to undermine that country. So how is it that the NDP’s maverick foreign affairs critic is capable of aligning herself with American imperialist reactionary policies? There wasn’t a word from her when President Trump threatened to invade Venezuela and she has yet to criticize the recently announced Canadian sanctions” by the federal Liberal government.

On February 12, Canadian writer Yves Engler extensively documented Helene Laverdiere’s stance toward Venezuela in recent years, and he noted: “In what may be the first ever resolution to an NDP convention calling for the removal of a party critic, the NDP Socialist Caucus has submitted a motion to next weekend’s convention titled ‘Hands Off Venezuela, Remove Helene Laverdiere as NDP Foreign Affairs Critic.’ It notes: ‘Be It Resolved that the NDP actively oppose foreign interference in Venezuela, defend Venezuela’s right to self-determination, reject alignment with U.S. policy in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and beyond, and request the immediate removal of MP Helene Laverdiere as NDP Foreign Affairs Critic.”

Engler wrote that Laverdiere recently failed to criticize “Canada’s role in the so-called Lima Group of anti-Venezuelan foreign ministers. Laverdiere remained silent when foreign minister Chrystia Freeland organized a meeting of the Lima Group in Toronto four months ago.”

-read the entire article on

February 13, 2018

Modelo extractivo canadiense afecta a comunidades indígenas y campesinas en México

Por Pablo Gómez Barrios

Una delegación de activistas mexicanos se encuentra actualmente de gira en Canadá, para denunciar ante el gobierno y la opinión pública canadiense el asesinato del ambientalista Mariano Abarca Roblero en Chicomosuelo, Chiapas.

Los activistas que forman parte de esta gira denuncian también el papel que jugó la embajada de Canadá en México con respecto a la industria minera canadiense en ese país.

Organizaciones civiles de México y Canadá que apoyan la denuncia de la delegación mexicana, obtuvieron documentos bajo la ley de la transparencia en Canadá, que demuestran que a pesar del conocimiento que tenía la embajada del conflicto entre Abarca y la minera canadiense Blackfire, en Chiapas y de las amenazas de muerte que estaba enfrentando, prefirió acudir al gobierno estatal de Chiapas para solicitarle que controlara las protestas contra la minera en la comunidad.

Este caso pone nuevamente sobre el tapete la triste situación que viven las comunidades en donde las compañías mineras se han implantado. En Canadá, la delegación mexicana ha participado en eventos públicos en Ottawa, Montreal y Toronto para explicar la situación que están viviendo.


February 12, 2018

Five ways to transform our economies

By Sam Cossar-Gilbert

We need a new economics for the 21st century.
Here are five potential pillars.


We live in a world that’s facing many destructive and entwined crises including growing inequality, climate change, poverty, pollution and human rights violations. Our current economic system is perpetuating and exacerbating these crises.

Over the last thirty years, neoliberal fundamentalism has put corporate and financial interests ahead of social and environmental standards through policies like privatisation, trade liberalisation and deregulation. If economics is about the allocation and distribution of scarce resources as many first year university text books claim, then 30 years of these policies have failed. We have created more wealth than ever before but have been unable to share it equitably, and in doing so we are destroying our common home.

We need a new economics for the 21st century. To protect our fragile planet, we need to listen to communities and social movements across the world who are already creating just and sustainable economic solutions to social and environmental challenges. Here are five of them.

1. Public services for all through tax justice.

From health clinics in South Africa to and public transport in Vienna, public services provide necessities to hundreds of millions of people around the world. They also drive economic activity and so can play a leading role in the shift towards a more sustainable economy.

To do so, they must ensure the meaningful participation of communities through systems like participatory budgeting, greater transparency, stricter environmental standards in relation to functioning and procurement, and mandatory universal access.

Fair and redistributive tax policies are required to pay for these services. Rather than more tax cuts we need more taxation of multinational corporations, financial transactions, capital gains and wealthy individuals.

Tax havens are costing governments hundreds of billions of dollars. Saving our planet from global warming is possible, but it requires tax justice to finance the necessary energy alternatives. For example, Friends of the Earth International calculates that revenue lost between 2015 and 2030 to tax havens could power half the world with 100 per cent socially controlled renewable energy.

-read the entire article

Sam Cossar-Gilbert is a campaigner for economic justice and resisting neoliberalism at Friends of the Earth International, and co-author of the 2018 report Transforming our economy: Scaling up the solutions.

February 6, 2018

Mexican Delegation Questions Role Of Embassy In Complaint To Integrity Commissioner


OTTAWA, MONTREAL, TORONTO – 6 February 2018 -- Mexican community leader Mariano Abarca was killed in 2009 for fighting to defend human rights and the environment in the small town of Chicomuselo, Chiapas where Calgary-based mining company Blackfire operated with close communication and support from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico.

On Monday, Mr. Abarca’s son, José Luis, along with supporting organizations from Mexico and Canada, filed a complaint with the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) formally requesting an investigation into the embassy’s acts and omissions, which they believe heightened the danger faced by Mr. Abarca and others.

“My father appealed directly to the Canadian Embassy for support when he and others were being threatened by Blackfire employees,” says José Luis Abarca. “Shortly after, he was detained on false accusations made by the company. The embassy knew all this, but it supported the company, pressuring Chiapas state authorities to protect Blackfire’s interests.”

Information released through an Access to Information request shows that, despite the Canadian Embassy’s considerable knowledge about the conflict over Blackfire’s operations, including threats faced by Mr. Abarca, it lobbied the Chiapas state government to quell protests against the mine. In so doing, the complaint argues that the embassy violated policies aimed at protecting human rights and its own stated role to “facilitate an open and informed dialogue between all the parties”.

“The Canadian Embassy could have used its influence to protect the life and wellbeing of Mr. Abarca and other residents of Chicomuselo, but it did the opposite,” says lawyer Miguel Angel De Los Santos from the Human Rights Centre at the Autonomous University of Chiapas. “The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner should investigate the embassy, which we believe contributed to putting Mr. Abarca’s life in danger, and issue corresponding recommendations so this will not happen again.”

Days after Mr. Abarca’s murder, Blackfire’s barite mine was closed on environmental grounds, lending credence to the struggle that Mr. Abarca and others had been fighting. Still, the embassy continued its support for the company, advising it to sue Mexico under the terms of the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Persecution, threats and violence against land and environment defenders has only intensified in Mexico since the time of Mr. Abarca’s murder,” says Libertad Díaz from Otros Mundos Chiapas. “Given the importance of Canadian investment in the Mexican mining sector, we are deeply concerned about the role of Canadian authorities in cases where communities are struggling to protect their land and water from the negative impacts of Canadian mining operations.”

Miguel Mijangos of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA in Spanish) adds that Canadian mining has been booming in some of the most violence-ridden parts of Mexico, with public support from the Canadian Embassy.

“It is urgent that Mariano Abarca’s case be thoroughly investigated, and measures be taken to prevent the lives and wellbeing of communities in Mexico from being sacrificed for Canadian profits,” said Mr. Mijangos.

The complaint to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner was prepared by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a volunteer initiative based at Osgoode Hall Law School and Thompson Rivers University.

While in Canada, the Mexican delegation will participate in public events in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto:

  • Tues Feb 6, 7-9 p.m., Carleton University, Senate Room, 608 Robertson Hall, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa;
  • Wed Feb 7, 5-9:30 p.m., Chaufferie de Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), 175, avenue du Président-Kennedy, Montréal;
  • Thurs Feb 8, 7-9:30 p.m., OCAD University, Room 330, 113 McCaul Street, Toronto.

The Mexican delegation is supported by MiningWatch Canada, the United Steelworkers Humanity Fund, Common Frontiers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Council of Canadians, the Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Inter Pares, KAIROS, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), and others.

Jen Moore (Mining Watch Canada)
613.569.3439 Shin Imai (Justice and Corporate Accountability Project)

See for up-to-date information about events.

February 2, 2018

Letter from NDP re Detainment Of Edwin Robelo Espinal By Honduran Authorities

To: The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs

From Cheryl Hardcastle, NDP Critic for International Human Rights

Dear Minister Freeland

It is deeply upsetting that I must write to you again on a matter about which I have already written two other communiqués to you in recent weeks: the human rights situation in Honduras.

The first statement outlined my concerns with the growing body of evidence detailing irregularities during the recent Honduras General Election, including voter intimidation and voter fraud that favoured the incumbent National Party candidate, President Juan Orlando Hernández.

The second expressed the extreme disappointment New Democrats and civil society groups around the world felt at the Government of Canada’s silence during these events. While we were happy to see the official statement released around this time by your office, where you expressed your concern with the escalating violence in Honduras, post-election, we could not help but notice your glaring omission as to why this violence was occurring—it being a direct result of President Juan Orlando Hernández having blatantly stolen the election. Even the Organization of American States has called for new presidential elections in Honduras after finding copious irregularities in its electoral process.

I therefore find myself once again writing to you on a matter of great urgency. Long-time Honduran human rights activist Edwin Espinal has been jailed on charges related to protests against election fraud in Honduras. For years he has been subject to state harassment, violence, and threats since the 2009 coup d’état.

Edwin faces a laundry list of charges: arson; property damage; and use of homemade explosive material related to damages to the Marriott Hotel, a multi-billion dollar US chain, during a January 12 protest in Tegucigalpa.

Yet thousands of Hondurans from all walks of life attended the January 12 demonstration to protest not only election fraud, but also the killings of more than 30 anti-fraud protesters and bystanders by state security forces; and the arrests of dozens of political prisoners during the ongoing post-electoral crisis.

Edwin is currently in pretrial detention. Although the case has been appealed by respected Honduran human rights organization COFADEH (Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras), Edwin could remain in detention for two or more years waiting trial.

-read the entire letter

January 30, 2018


-see Facebook listing for more details

-More information on the Justice4Mariano tour

January 29, 2018

Letter from 85 faculty members at Canadian universities to Canadian government

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs

We, 85 faculty members at Canadian universities, encourage the Canadian government to boycott the inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernández as president of Honduras on January 27, 2018.

Canada should rescind its overly hasty acceptance of the fraudulent election results of November 26, 2017 and withhold recognition until such time that new general elections are conducted under international supervision, as recommended by the Organization of American States (OAS).

The profound political crisis in Honduras is reflected in: the multiple acts of fraud that led OAS observers to conclude that the November electoral process was of “poor quality”, marked by “irregularities, mistakes and systemic problems”; the suspension of constitutional guarantees as part of the violent police and military repression of peaceful national protests by tens of thousands of Hondurans who did not accept the questionable official count; the persecution and imprisonment of people who participated in those protests; and the killing of an estimated forty persons since the end of November, in addition to the hundreds of injuries, some permanent, inflicted during protest events.

These facts have been broadly circulated by both mainstream media and human rights organizations around the world.

However, this crisis did not begin with the fraudulent November 26 elections. The recent abusive acts of the Honduran government result from a corrupt, repressive recent history in which, most unfortunately, Canada has played a part that must be brought to light in order to frame better government policies for the future.

Last fall’s fraudulent elections were the inheritance of a government that came out of a coup d’etat in 2009. The OAS and most Hondurans rejected both the 2009 coup and the recent ‘government approved’ vote count of 2017. Yet, instead of promoting democratic rights, the Canadian government supported the coup and has tacitly endorsed the Honduran state’s 2017 vote count.

Maintaining themselves in power through a series of fraudulent elections in 2009, 2013 and now in 2017, Honduras’ post 2009 coup governments have pursued policies that favor foreign corporate and investor interests while using repression against community protests that result from promoting mining expansion that contaminates water sources; dam construction that infringes on indigenous lands; agro export industries and tourism enclaves that lead to land grabbing by the big and powerful; and sweatshop garment industries where unions are not welcome. Canadian companies are invested in these sectors and Ottawa even signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2013 although evidence pointed to high-level corruption and links to narcotics trafficking in both the private and public sectors.

As in the case of the dubious 2017 election results, the corrupt and repressive policies of the post coup governments have been reported by a variety of news outlets and research institutions, among them the distinguished Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research where economics Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz is a member of the Advisory Board.

New Canadian policies are needed to respond to the fraud, corruption, and repression. Without a legitimate popularly elected government that respects its own citizens’ rights, social and political conflict, human rights abuses, and the impunity of the perpetrators of abuse will only increase in the coming years, as will the refugee outflows that result from ongoing crisis.

The fraudulent and repressive re-election of Juan Orlando Hernández must not be legitimized by Canada’s presence at his inauguration. Nor should Canada continue to provide any form of assistance to his discredited regime.

Respectfully yours,
Liisa North
Emeritus, CERLAC/York University

With 84 faculty members from departments of economics, international development studies, history, sociology, anthropology, environmental studies, geography, literature/languages, and other disciplines at Canadian universities.

January 26, 2018

Brazil’s Democracy Pushed Toward the Abyss


The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are fragile achievements in many countries — and susceptible to sharp reversals.

Brazil, the last country in the Wessstern world to abolish slavery, is a fairly young democracy, having emerged from dictatorship just three decades ago. In the past two years, what could have been a historic advancement ― the Workers’ Party government granted autonomy to the judiciary to investigate and prosecute official corruption ― has turned into its opposite. As a result, Brazil’s democracy is now weaker than it has been since military rule ended.

This week, that democracy may be further eroded as a three-judge appellate court decides whether the most popular political figure in the country, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party, will be barred from competing in the 2018 presidential election, or even jailed.

There is not much pretense that the court will be impartial. The presiding judge of the appellate panel has already praised the trial judge’s decision to convict Mr. da Silva for corruption as “technically irreproachable,” and the judge’s chief of staff posted on her Facebook page a petition calling for Mr. da Silva’s imprisonment.

-read the rest on

January 19, 2018

Activities during the 6th round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal

NAFTA, in crisis for better or for worse?


March for A Better NAFTA
Unifor is organizing a demonstration and march, demanding a trade deal that delivers stronger labour rights, the protection of good jobs and higher living standards for all.
When: Tuesday January 23rd @ 11am (lunch will be provided on site)
Where: Gathering at Dorchester Square (on Metcalfe, North of René-Lévesque)
Organized by: Unifor

NAFTA Confronting Contemporary Challenges: Assessment and Perspectives
When: Friday, January 26 @ 9:30 am
Where: L'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Room A-1715
Chairperson: Christian Deblock
Mathieu Arès: Canada and Mexico face the new American deal
Maria Lourdes Zea Rosales, Secretary of the Workers' Syndicate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (STUNAM)
Celeste Drake, Specialized, Trade Policy Specialist, AFL-CIO
Organized by: the Center for Studies on Integration and Globalization (CEMED)

NAFTA, Trade and Related Issues
When: Friday, January 26 @ 10:45 am
Where: L'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Room A-1715
Chairperson: Mathieu Arès
Destiny Tcheoualy and Michèle Rioux: NAFTA and the trade and culture debate
Sylvain Zini: NAFTA and respect for workers' rights
Sharon Treat (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, United States): NAFTA and Regulatory Cooperation

Social event:
When: 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Where: Café Parvis, 433 Mayor Street.
Organized by: Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Trade Justice Network

To allow workers, activists from civil society organizations and citizens from the Ottawa area to participate, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is giving you the opportunity to get on a bus to Montreal that will take us to the rally and bring us back afterwards.
DEPARTURE: Saturday, January 27 @ 9:00 A.M.
RETURN: 4:00 P.M. from Montreal
A light meal will be served following the demonstration at UQAM (Université du Quebec in Montreal) and information sessions will take place in the afternoon.
Joanne Louisseize
Phone number: 613-236-9449

Citizen Rally: People and the planet before profit
When: Saturday 27th January 2017 @ 12:00 – 1 :00 pm
Where: In front of the Bonaventure Hotel, 900 Rue de la Gauchetière O
Organized by: the Quebec Network on Continental Integration with support from the Canadian Coalition on NAFTA (Common Frontiers, Trade Justice Network and Council of Canadians)

When: Saturday 1:00 pm Lunch
Where: L'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) à la cafétéria du Pavillon Hubert-Aquin.

People and Planet Before Profit Forum
Is it possible to have a trade agreement that respects the environment and the planet?
What are the conditions to make this happen?
When: Saturday @ 1:45- 3:00
Where: Metro Corridor of Management Sciences – UQAM - Room R-M130.
Chairperson: Shirley Dorismond, Vice President FIQ;
Ben Beachy (USA),
Juan Carlos Salamanca GreenPeace-Mexico,
Interventions from Quebec and Canada (TBD).
Organized by: the Quebec Network on Continental Integration with support from the Canadian Coalition on NAFTA (Common Frontiers, Trade Justice Network and Council of Canadians)

3 pm Break

Solidarity Resolution with Mexican Workers
When: 3:10 pm - 3:30 pm
Where: Metro Corridor of Management Sciences – UQAM - Room R-M130.
Presentation by Benedicto Martínez, National Coordinator of Frente Autóntico del Trabajo (FAT); and resolution by Amélie Nguyen (CISO).

Does the NAFTA have a future?
When: 3:30 - 4:45 pm
Where: Metro Corridor of Management Sciences – UQAM - Room R-M130
Animation: Stephen Léger, Vice President APTS; Lori Wallach (Public Citizen - USA); Arthur Stamoulis (Citizen Trade Campaign - USA); Vitoria Alfredo Acedo of the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA); Larry Brown (NUPGE - TJN); Quebec (to be confirmed).
Organized by: the Quebec Network on Continental Integration with support from the Canadian Coalition on NAFTA (Common Frontiers, Trade Justice Network and Council of Canadians)

4:45 pm Closing remarks

-voir la version française des activités

January 19, 2018

Solidarity Message from the Good Jobs for All Coalition (Toronto):

We want Trade Deals that Build
Good Jobs, Solidarity and Development
The Current Corporate-Led Free Trade Deals Betray those Goals!

On behalf of the Good Jobs for All Coalition representing more than 30 community and labour organizations in the Toronto area, we extend our solidarity to those demonstrating in Montreal for trade agreements based on a people’s agenda of justice and solidarity. Your mobilization will inspire others.

On December 4 our Coalition sponsored a Public Forum and Teach-In on NAFTA. It was agreed that current Free Trade deals are too focused on the interests of investors and corporations and our economy has suffered as a result.

What’s missing is a progressive vision of trade that’s centred on people’s interests. This will mean New Priorities and Enforceable Conditions such as:

  • Enforceable obligations on investors and corporations, to guarantee social responsibility at home and abroad;
  • Local procurement policies that respect our sovereignty and help us create better jobs for all. In Toronto we fought hard to secure Community Benefit Agreements that prioritize equity measures for training and hiring of racialized communities, youth and women.
  • Stronger protections for both public and private sector service jobs. This is where most people work now, including some of the most vulnerable.
  • Enforceable development objectives - for higher living standards, indigenous rights and similar social goals.
  • Effective environmental protections, support for the development of green jobs and emergency measures in response to global climate change.

We believe there’s a better way to encourage trade, solidarity and development… by giving priority to the public interest.

January 19, 2018

Public Rally - NAFTA Negotiations in Montreal


WHEN? Saturday, January 27, 2018 at noon
WHERE? In front of Bonaventure Hotel


To allow workers, activists from civil society organizations and citizens from the Ottawa area to participate, CUPW is giving you the opportunity to get on a bus to Montreal that will take us to the rally and bring us back afterwards.

RETURN: 4:00 P.M. from Montreal

A light meal will be served following the demonstration at UQAM (Université du Quebec in Montreal) and information sessions will take place in the afternoon.

Joanne Louisseize
Phone number: 613-236-9449


-voir cette annonce en français

January 19, 2018


PosterCondena generalizada ha provocado la iniciativa de reforma a la Ley Federal del Trabajo presentada en diciembre pasado por los senadores del PRI, Isaías González Cuevas (CROC) y Tereso Medina (CTM) con evidente encargo del Ejecutivo Federal actual y su candidato presidencial, José Antonio Meade.

-Haga clic en la imagen a la derecha para ver más sobre esta historia.






January 19, 2018


-Voir en français

January 15, 2018

Whither Canadian Diplomacy - Enabling Mining Companies or Land and Environment Defenders?


Monday, 5 February 2018
1:30 PM to 5:00 PM (EST)

Human Rights Research and Education Centre
University of Ottawa

In light of the government’s recently developed Voices at Risk: Guidelines for supporting human rights defenders, this roundtable discussion proposes to examine the conflicts that arise between Canada’s ‘economic diplomacy’ to facilitate the operations of Canadian mining companies abroad and its human rights obligations to land and water defenders speaking out about the harms they are experiencing - or trying to avoid - from the operations of many of these very same companies. With visiting guests from Mexico and Thompson Rivers University, B.C., this discussion aims to deepen debate, research and action towards consistent compliance with Canada's human rights obligations, which includes the duty to protect human rights from abuse by state and non-state parties.

-more information and to RSVP

January 10, 2018

Trump’s Trade Chief Lashes Out After Canada Broadens WTO Fight


Robert Lighthizer
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer - Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Canada is escalating its trade fight with Donald Trump, mounting what the U.S. calls a “broad and ill-advised attack” just as Nafta talks are set to resume.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government launched a wide-ranging World Trade Organization dispute with the U.S. over how it applies countervailing and anti-dumping duties. The paperwork was filed Dec. 20, days after a mini-round of North American Free Trade Agreement talks ended in Washington, and made public Wednesday.

It drew a harshly worded response from Trump’s trade czar. “Canada’s claims are unfounded and could only lower U.S. confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

The trade fight already affects plane-makers like Boeing Co. and Bombardier Inc.; lumber producers like West Fraser Timber Co. and Canfor Corp.; and auto companies whose supply chains rely on Nafta, a pact whose fate is uncertain. Canada has launched WTO complaints over softwood and supercalendered paper, and criticized another round of duties applied in a spat over newsprint this week as “unjustified.”

Canada’s WTO claim cites U.S. measures against several of its biggest trading partners, including Canada itself, China, Germany, Japan and all but one of its fellow Group of 20 nations. “It’s almost as if Canada is taking up the cause of the international trading system,” said Mark Warner, a Toronto-based trade lawyer with MAAW Law who practices in the U.S. and Canada. “It seems very aggressive.”

Nafta talks resume in Montreal on Jan. 23. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is Trudeau’s lead minister on the file, met in Washington Tuesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and several Republican senators who’ve voiced support for the deal.

Freeland, in a statement Wednesday, indicated the WTO challenge stemmed from the softwood lumber dispute. “This WTO action is part of our broader litigation to defend the hundreds of thousands of good, middle class forestry jobs across our country,” she said. “We continue to engage our American counterparts to encourage them to come to a durable negotiated agreement on softwood lumber.”

Lighthizer called Canada’s WTO claims “groundless” and said they “threaten the ability of all countries to defend their workers against unfair trade.”

Warning signs about Nafta are mounting. Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer David McKay, who heads the country’s second-largest lender by assets, said this week the chances of a formal withdrawal notice are increasing, while North America’s largest auto parts maker Magna International Inc. warned against current proposals for the sector that amount to a “lose-lose-lose.”

January 2, 2018

Call for Action during NAFTA’s Sixth Round of Negotiations

People and the planet before profit!

With the next round of The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations set for Montréal from January 23rd to 27th 2018,  it is important for organized labor, environmentalists, family farmer groups, and other civil society organizations to show their united opposition to corporate trade deals as we did in our efforts to defeat the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas in the 1990s. Common Frontiers, the Trade Justice Network, the Council of Canadians and Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale have joined forces to demonstrate their opposition to market liberalization at the detriment of human rights and the environment.

These four networks coordinate a pan-Canadian coalition consisting of labour unions, environmental groups, farmers, Indigenous groups, women’s groups, digital rights activists, social justice organizations as well as other activist and civil society groups. The coalition was formed during the Mexico City civil society meeting in May 2017 to voice concerns of social movements and the public about NAFTA renegotiations throughout English-speaking Canada and Québec.
We invite other organizations and civil society from across English Canada and Quebec to initiate actions and mobilize on January 23rd to 27th to coincide with the sixth round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal, Quebec.  

We invite organizations to share details of their actions and any photos or videos with us.  We commit to sharing them as we coordinate these days of action. Send info. about your event to 

During the week of January 22nd to the 27th, we encourage everyone to take action and participate in diverse ways in their own city.

We invite organizations to share details of their actions and any photos or videos with us.  We commit to sharing them as we coordinate these days of action.

Montréal rally on NAFTA and the Paris Climate Agreement - January 27, 2018

The pan-Canadian coordinating group invites Québec and Canadian organizations to participate in a rally to be held in Montreal on Saturday January 27, organized by Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale.  The theme of the rally will be NAFTA against the Paris climate agreement, and will be followed by a social gathering.

Where are NAFTA negotiations going?

Invitation to participate in a Montreal strategy meeting

To all organizations belonging to the North American coordinating group on NAFTA

The pan-Canadian civil society coordinating group on NAFTA — composed of Common Frontiers, the Trade Justice Network, the Council of Canadians and Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale — invites you to participate in a North American strategy meeting in Montreal, Quebec on January 27th, during the sixth round of NAFTA negotiations.

Will there be enough time to reach an agreement in the first half of January? How will the negotiations evolve? Will they be delayed again?  How much longer will they be delayed given the upcoming elections and the difficulties of reaching an agreement?

Since the beginning of the negotiations, organizations from the pan-Canadian coalition on NAFTA have worked with allies in the U.S. and Mexico. A joint declaration adopted in May of 2017 is the basis of understanding of the group.

This is why the Canadian coalition would like to hold a strategic meeting for all of the Canadian, Quebec, American and Mexican network representatives.  The goal of this meeting is to evaluate the negotiations thus far, discuss the current state of negotiations and what we have to do in that context.

-Download a copy of this mobilization in English    En español    En français

December 22, 2017

The Effects of Free Trade on Colombia


December 20, 2017

Statement from the UN Office on Human Rights

End Mission Statement by the Independent Expert
on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred-Maurice de Zayas to Venezuela and Ecuador
from 26 November to 9 December 2017

As the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, I have had the opportunity of defining the mandate and the methodology. I have produced six reports for the Human Rights Council and six reports for the General Assembly, all covering issues of international order including tax havens, investor-state-dispute settlement, bilateral investment treaties, free trade agreements, World Bank projects, the International Monetary Fund and its loan conditionalities, disarmament for development, the self-determination of peoples and the reform of the Security Council. The object and purpose of my mandate is laid down in resolution 18/6 of the Human Rights Council, and the parameters of my visit are described in a media statement issued on 27 November 20171.

The function of rapporteurs and independent experts is to ask questions, listen to all stakeholders, evaluate documents, and issue constructive recommendations to States.  We come in order to help populations better realize their human rights.  In order to do so, we try to convince governments that it is in their own interest to cooperate with the United Nations, and we offer them our advisory services and technical assistance.  Our function cannot be reduced to condemning governments. 

As one of the few Special Procedures given access to Venezuela and Ecuador, expectations for my visit were high. While I could not fulfil the expectations of some sectors of civil society and remain within the parameters of my mandate, I did assure my interlocutors that I would transmit their concerns to the pertinent rapporteurs.  In particular, issues have been raised which could be examined in more depth by the rapporteurs on freedom of expression, on the right of peaceful assembly and association, on the independence of judges and lawyers, on food, health and on arbitrary detention. I also endeavoured to incorporate some of the concerns mentioned into the narrative of my preliminary recommendations to the States.  Where relevant, I will reflect their input in the final report to the submitted to the Council in 2018.

-Read the entire report on the OHCHR website

December 14, 2017

Urgent Action: Human Rights Crisis in Honduras

Call on Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland to take a strong stand concerning electoral fraud, repression and violence in Honduras.

This online action is supported by Atlantic Region Solidarity Network, Breaking the Silence, Common Frontiers, the Committee for Human Rights in Latin America, CoDevelopment Canada and Miningwatch Canada.

CoDev partner in Honduras CODEMUH at the protests

Since national elections on November 26, numerous examples of irregularities and electoral fraud have been documented by national and international observers. These irregularities and fraudulent activities favour the incumbent National Party candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, who had been trailing Salvador Nasralla of the Opposition Alliance by a significant amount, late in the vote count on the 26th. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which lacked representation from the opposition parties and whose president is closely aligned with the incumbent candidate, has lost all legitimacy with the Honduran population.

Fearful that democracy in Honduras will continue to be undermined, as it was with the 2009 military coup, tens of thousands of Hondurans have taken to the streets across the country to demand that the will of the electorate be respected with many calling for Juan Orlando Hernández’ immediate resignation, seeing his centralization of power in the country and efforts at reelection as further entrenchment of the coup.

-Follow this link to read more details and send your own online action to the minister

December 12, 2017

Canada calls on Honduras to reinstate constitutional rights

Salvador Nasralla, candidate of the opposition alliance, holds a rally in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Photo Credit: Fernando Antonio

By Levon Sevunts
Radio Canada International

Canada is closely following the crisis that has gripped Honduras following the disputed presidential election and is calling upon the Honduran authorities to reinstate constitutional rights and guarantees without delay, said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“Democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law must be upheld,” Freeland said in a statement as thousands of opposition supporters flooded the streets in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa and other cities.

However, Canadian civil society groups are calling on the Trudeau government to take a harder line with the Honduran authorities.

“We call on the Canadian government to stop all political and economic support for the Honduran government until election results can be scrutinized by international observers and declared free and fair, and until the human rights situation in the country improves,” said a statement by Common Frontiers, a working group of Canadian labour and civil rights organizations.

The Americas Policy Group (APG), a regional working group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, called on Freeland to support an independent international commission to undertake a vote count and to conduct an investigation of the electoral process.

Honduras has been plunged into political uncertainty since the November 26 election, with repeated delays and concerns over inconsistencies plaguing the vote.

-Read the entire story at RCI

December 11, 2017

Progressive trade requires more than just titles and talking points

By Mark Hancock
Opinion, Toronto Star

Canadians deserve fair trade agreements that will stand the test of time, and our leaders must do more than simply slap the word “progressive” into titles and talking points. We need real accountable and transparent practices when our government negotiates deals, and we deserve respect for, and real responsiveness to, public input.

Look in any direction on Canada’s international trade landscape today, and you’ll find a situation in barely controlled chaos — whether that’s renegotiations on NAFTA, where the United States effectively holds all the cards, a new attempt at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or a potential trade deal with China — talks that our prime minister has rather dramatically walked away from in recent weeks.

There is plenty in play, and a lot at stake, for Canada. We live in a global economy, where strong trading relationships are essential, but too often our political leaders lock us into trade agreements that set our country back instead of bringing it forward.

Across the country, ordinary folks and even mainstream economists are starting to recognize that we don’t have to agree to bad trade deals, and that walking away from a deal that doesn’t benefit Canadian workers, and the Canadian economy, isn’t going to cause the sky to fall.

NAFTA is the perfect example. Since the adoption of NAFTA, almost 25 years ago, Canada has become the most-sued government in the developed world. We’ve been sued almost 40 times under NAFTA’s Chapter 11, dishing out close to $250 million in public money to private corporations.

That’s a serious assault on the public purse, but more importantly on the right of governments in Canada to exercise and uphold their own democratic decision-making. (The U.S., by contrast, has never been successfully sued under Chapter 11.)

NAFTA has also cost us countless manufacturing jobs and put public resources like water, and our environment, in serious jeopardy.

During the negotiation of NAFTA, and in the years since, countless organizations and individuals raised the alarm about these very issues. While CUPE and groups like the Council of Canadians and Alternative for the Americas were calling for robust consultation, improved protections for workers, measures to address inequality, and the inclusion of environmental protections in trade agreements, our concerns were largely ignored in favour of more powerful corporate voices.

Those that promote unfettered free trade tend to fearmonger about all-but-certain economic Armageddon when voices raise concerns about things like labour rights and environmental protection. And up until now, they have managed to drown out those voices.

But last week’s report from BMO titled “The Day After NAFTA” tells a pretty different story. Pulling out of NAFTA would have some economic downsides in the short term, but realigning trade priorities and shifting monetary policy “would work to mitigate the economic damage”, according to BMO Chief Economist Doug Porter. In other words, the sky wouldn’t fall after all.

That’s pretty much what organizations like CUPE have been saying since the 1990s. And, in fact, it proves Canada is in a position to walk away from NAFTA if we can’t get a deal that respects workers, communities, and the environment.

-Read the rest at The Toronto Star

December 10, 2017

Democracy North: Focus on Latin America: Chile, Colombia, Venezuela

Common Frontiers coordinator Raul Burbano was interivewed recently by independent radio station Democracy North, as part of their special report on Latin America. To listen to the podcast, click on the link below, which will take you to the interview listing.

-Listen to Democracy North's focu on Latin America podcast

December 7, 2017

Is another coup under way in Honduras?

Canada has been complicit with repressive regimes
since 2009 overthrow of President Zelaya

Recent days have seen violent repression of mass protests against perceived electoral fraud in Honduras. Resistance to the heavy-handed government response has come from unexpected places, with one elite division of the police forces refusing orders to suppress demonstrations. The Canadian government’s hands are not clean in Honduras, having played a significant role in this Central American country since a coup in 2009 overthrew President Manuel Zelaya.

By Steve Stewart

On June 26, 2009, I received a curious email from the Canadian consulate in Honduras. It urged Canadians in Honduras to stay off the streets the following Sunday, June 28. Although I was safely ensconced in an office in Vancouver at the time, I had met with officials at the consulate earlier that year, so I assumed that they thought I was stationed in the country.

What was strange about the message was that the only event of note planned in Honduras for June 28 was a non-binding consultation to ask citizens if they favoured including on the ballot in the November national elections a referendum question on electing a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution. Hardly, I thought, a reason for foreigners to hide in their homes.

The consultation was never held. Early on June 28, soldiers stormed the presidential palace, arrested progressive president Manuel Zelaya and forced him, still in his pajamas, on a plane and into exile. The coup ushered in what has now been eight years of repression of social activists, environmental defenders and marginalized groups, skyrocketing murder rates, and the increased penetration of organized crime into higher and higher levels of the state, while opening the country to foreign investment and the expansion of mining, agro-industry and infrastructure.

Back in 2009, Canadian diplomats joined the U.S. in blocking efforts in the Organization of American States and the United Nations to restore the constitutional order immediately after the coup.

The violent suppression in Honduras of the popular uprising that has followed this year’s elections is a result of the unfinished business of the 2009 coup.

Disputed election

The presidential election saw incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party — principal vehicle of the country’s traditional oligarchy — face off against Salvador Nasralla, candidate of a coalition calling itself the “Alliance Against the Dictatorship.” The alliance is comprised of the left-wing Libre party, formed by supporters of ousted president Zelaya, and the centre-right Anticorruption Party.

Hours after the polls closed, with 58 per cent of the votes counted, results gave Nasralla a strong lead of 45 per cent to Orlando’s 40 per cent. The count was suddenly halted (The electoral tribunal blamed a “computer glitch”), and when it began again on Nov. 27 Nasralla’s advantage had almost disappeared. Counting proceeded at a snail’s pace for the next couple of days and gradually, Hernández replaced Nasralla’s lead.

The Honduran national congress backed the 2009 coup that overthrew Zelaya, arguing that his planned consultation would violate the constitution, which prohibits re-election of presidents. The consultation, congressional leaders argued, could lead to a referendum that might approve the election of a constituent assembly, which might have modified the constitution to allow for re-election.

Juan Orlando Hernández presided over the National Congress in the first post-coup government. Now it is Orlando Hernández himself who stands for re-election, bypassing the constitutional articles prohibited this by replacing Supreme Court judges with more malleable ones, who ruled last year that the ban on re-election violates Hernández’s civic rights.

-read the rest of this article on

December 7, 2017

Putting Mexican energy privatization beyond the reach of voters

Pemex gas station in Mexico City, January 13, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

By Raul Burbano, Gordon Laxer and Anna Zalik

A new round of talks to renegotiate NAFTA is being held in Montreal City January 23rd to 27th 2018. Canada and Mexico should discuss the  energy proportionality rule in NAFTA’s chapter 6 that requires a member country to make available for export the  same percentage of energy as it has in the past three years. It removes a member country’s sovereignty to  determine its level of carbon fuel exports, the price at which it sells its oil to its own people and hinders climate  change action.

Jean Chretien ran his winning election campaign in 1993 on the Liberal Red Book that promised to renegotiate  NAFTA to get “the same energy protection as Mexico”. Mexico rejected NAFTA’s energy proportionality rule then  on sovereignty grounds, got an exemption from it, but wants to accept it in NAFTA 2.0. Chretien buckled when  he was rebuffed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Ottawa and Mexico City were right then, and should jointly  eliminate proportionality now.
At the behest of Washington, Alberta and Big Oil, Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government inserted energy  proportionality into the 1989 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The aim was to prevent the next Liberal  government from implementing another national energy program (NEP) like that of Pierre Trudeau’s government.  The NEP cut oil exports to the U.S. in the west so the oil could be supplied to eastern Canadians who relied on  oil imports, putting them at the risk of international oil supply crises.
Putting proportionality into an international trade agreement is like constitutionalizing it. It’s hard for the next  government to undo it no matter how much it and the voters wish to do so.   The proportionality rule was folded into NAFTA. It obliges Canada to make available to the U.S. 52 percent of our natural gas output, 74 percent of our oil production and 11 percent of our electricity.
No other industrial country has given another country first access to its energy resources. But Mexico may now do so.
Under proportionality, Canadian oil and gas exports can rise or fall through "market" changes — essentially decisions by Big Oil — but Ottawa cannot, as a matter of policy, reduce carbon energy exports to cut greenhouse gases (GHGs), or redirect domestic oil to displace oil imports to eastern Canadians.
Now oil interests want Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Nieto to use Mulroney’s ploy to lock in the 
privatization of Mexico’s oil and electricity industries. This runs counter to the pledges of opposition candidates Andrés Manuel López Obrador of MORENA & María de Jesús Patricio of the Zapatista movement’s National Indigenous Council. Currently, López Obrador is leading in the polls for Mexico’s 2018 presidential election. By signing onto proportionality Mexico could be stuck with privatization, no matter what the voters say. This is a major issue in Mexico, a country that historically nationalized the foreign-owned oil industry in 1938.
In the past five years, Export Development Canada provided billions of dollars to finance the recently privatized Mexican energy sector. To pave the way for the denationalization of the energy sector, workers were displaced in a range of national energy industries, sparking much protest. In 2009, 40,000 workers in Mexico's energy utility were laid off in one day.
Export Development Canada also helped finance the seven natural gas pipelines TransCanada built or is building in Mexico. TransCanada delivers sharply increased imports of U.S. natural gas to Mexico’s electricity grid. This has gone hand in glove with reduced Mexican energy sovereignty, fewer jobs in producing energy, and the potential displacement of infrastructure for renewable energy.
These changes have brought misery and sparked mass protests against the removal of subsidies on Mexican fuel. Rising gas prices, known as the 'gasolinazo', prompted price rises on basic commodities earlier this year.

Energy proportionality is bad for Mexico and Canada. It undermines the ability of both countries to take control over their production of greenhouse gases and their own energy sources. During current NAFTA talks, both countries should demand an end to the proportionality rule and create conditions for energy sovereignty.
NAFTA is supposed to aid trade among the three North American countries, not derail democracy. If Mexicans wish to elect López Obrador to reverse the denationalization of Mexico’s energy sector, that should be their right.

Raul Burbano is the Program Director for Common Frontiers Canada.
Gordon Laxer is author of “After the Sands. Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians” and the founding Director of Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta.
Anna Zalik is a Professor the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University

-Versión en Español

December 6, 2017

The real question on NAFTA and agriculture

fieldsBy Karen Hansen-Kuhn
From The Hill

Agribusinesses and commodity groups have been raising alarms lately about the potential impacts of withdrawal from NAFTA, at a time when farmers are already reeling from low prices and falling incomes. Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration has not yet conducted any analysis of what NAFTA withdrawal would mean for agriculture or other sectors. Instead, we are left to wonder if the threat of withdrawal is a bluff or a real possibility. The focus should be on the rules we need for fair and sustainable trade and food systems.

The companies are worried that Mexico would raise tariffs to levels that would make U.S. exports more expensive than similar goods from competitors in Brazil, Argentina or elsewhere. It is also possible that ending NAFTA would disrupt the highly integrated supply chains for meat and feed and generally lead to greater uncertainty over investment decisions.

These are real concerns, but the focus on increasing exports to solve the ongoing farm crisis is dangerously incomplete. NAFTA began just before the game-changing 1996 Farm Bill. U.S. farmers were promised that past policies that set floor prices and managed supply were no longer necessary: Instead, they were encouraged to expand production and export their way to prosperity. Crop prices plunged almost immediately following the ’96 Farm Bill, and since then prices have been volatile, but mostly low. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has calculated the extent of dumping of major commodity crops, i.e., exports at below the cost of production. As of 2015, U.S. corn was exported at 12 percent below the cost of production. Since NAFTA, more than 2 million Mexican farmers, unable to compete with these cheap imports, have been driven off their land. At the same time, more than 200,000 small and medium scale U.S. farmers have left agriculture since NAFTA, while corporate concentration in seeds, processing and other aspects of production increased dramatically.

The disruption of NAFTA withdrawal could affect family farmers on both sides of the border. Under WTO rules, Mexico has the right to raise tariffs substantially on many farm goods. The U.S. has mostly committed to lower tariff ceilings, but there are some exceptions, such as imports of red meat, for which the U.S. currently applies a 18 percent tariff on imports from non-NAFTA countries. However, both countries could decide to apply tariff rates (which would apply to all trading partners) that are much lower than the ceilings they have committed to under the global trade rules.

-read the entire article

December 6, 2017

Fuera JOH!!! Desde Montreal

Fuera JOH!!! Desde Montreal from Miguel Sorto on Vimeo.

December 5, 2017

Communiqué de Québec Solidaire face à la situation au Honduras

Le dimanche 26 novembre 2017, le Honduras a organisé des élections pour le président, l’Assemblée nationale et les maires. En prévision des élections, le Honduras a connu une escalade de la militarisation et de l’intimidation visant à faire peur aux partisans de la coalition de l’opposition.

Au milieu des allégations de fraude, le TSE (Tribunal électoral suprême ), qui est responsable de la supervision des élections, n’a toujours pas déclaré de vainqueur du scrutin présidentiel de dimanche.

Avec 60% des bulletins de votes comptabilisés, le TSE a annoncé dimanche les premiers résultats en faveur du candidat à la présidence de l’Alliance d’opposition à la dictature, Salvador Nasralla, en tête de 5% par rapport au candidat sortant Juan Orlando Hernandez. Deux membres du Tribunal électoral suprême (TSE), Marco Lobo et Eric Mejia, ont déclaré que le candidat à l’élection de l’Alliance de l’opposition, Salvador Nasralla, était irréversible.

Inexplicablement, les autorités électorales ont alors cessé de donner des résultats pendant plus de 24 heures. La longue pause dans les résultats a conduit de nombreux membres du parti de Nasralla à soupçonner une fraude et ses partisans sont descendus dans la rue en signe de protestation.

Mardi, le TSE a finalement commencé à publier des totaux de votes qui ont montré que la chute rapide de Nasralla, et les résultats de mercredi matin ont montré qu’il a diminué d’environ 1%.

Plusieurs observateurs internationaux des élections dans le pays ont déclaré que les irrégularités lors du dépouillement des votes pourraient être une fraude potentielle au profit de Juan Orlando Hernandez. De même, d’éminents groupes de la société civile au Honduras ont accusé la TSE de ralentir la publication des comptes, car il semblait que le président sortant se dirigeait vers une défaite.

Il est proposé que Québec solidaire:

  • Demande au gouvernement canadien de rompre le silence sur la répression, la corruption et l’impunité qui a été systématique au Honduras depuis le coup d’État de 2009.
  • Appelle le gouvernement canadien à cesser tout soutien politique et économique au gouvernement hondurien jusqu’à ce que les résultats des élections puissent être examinés par des observateurs internationaux et déclarés libres et équitables, et jusqu’à ce que la situation des droits humains s’améliore dans le pays.

-lien vers le site web    View in English

December 4, 2017

Local Events to Denounce the Electoral Coup in Honduras

demonstratorsCacerolazo Denouncing Electoral Coup D'état in Honduras

Ottawa, ON
Wednesday Dec 6 @ 6-8 pm 
130 Albert St

-More Details on Facebook

Toronto, ON
Wednesday Dec 6 @ 6 pm
Yonge-Dundas Square

-More Details on Facebook

December 1, 2017

Media Advisory

Public Forum - What's Up with NAFTA?
The Impacts on Jobs and Equity

Date: Monday, December 4, 2017
Time: 7 pm
Place: Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street, Toronto
Keynote Speakers:
    - Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress
    - Armine Yalnizyan, Economist

On December 11, 2017, the next round of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) re-negotiation talks commence in Washington. There has been considerable public debate about President Trump's agenda and what it might mean for some Canadian industries including auto manufacturing and provisions such as the dispute settlement mechanism. However, little attention has been paid to issues such as: the potential impact on jobs in the other manufacturing sectors and the huge service sectors of our economy, both public and private services, and what this means for women, racialized workers and others employed in these sectors.

The Good Jobs for All Coalition is presenting this timely public forum on the NAFTA talks and the potential impacts on jobs and equity. Following the keynote speakers, respondents will link the trade talks to mobilizing for alternatives and an agenda of good jobs for all:

  • Deena Ladd, Coordinator, Workers Action Centre
  • Natasha Allen, Toronto Community Benefits Network
  • Raul Burbano, Coordinator, Common Frontiers

Founded in 2008, the Good Jobs for All Coalition is a broad based coalition of more than 30 community, labour and environmental organizations in the GTA.


Susan McMurray: 416.882.2247
Laurell Ritchie: 416.917.0047
Winnie Ng: 647.291.3511

November 30, 2017

Concerns about election tampering 
during Honduran Presidential election

Photo Credit -- Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle

Common Frontiers expresses profound concern over the environment of intimidation in Honduras leading up to the elections and the electoral process itself, which has been plagued by delays and a lack of transparency during the vote tally.  We are also concerned by allegations of election tampering and falsification of elections results. 

On Sunday November 26, 2017, Honduras held elections for president, the National Assembly, and mayors.  Leading up to the elections, Honduras experienced escalating militarization and intimidation intended to strike fear in opposition coalition supporters.  

Former President Manuel Zelaya's leftist Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) and Salvador Nasralla’s centrist Anticorruption Party (PAC) had joined to form the Alliance Against Dictatorship coalition to run in the elections.

Hernandez’ National Party has control over many of the country’s institutions, including the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and the Supreme Court, that eliminated terms limits so he could run for re-election.

Amid allegations of fraud, the TSE, which is responsible for overseeing elections, still has not declared a winner in Sunday’s presidential vote.

With 60% of ballots counted, the TSE announced initial results on Sunday showing Alliance Against the Dictatorship's presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla leading by 5% over incumbent National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez. Two members of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Marco Lobo and Eric Mejia, stated the Opposition Alliance candidate Salvador Nasralla's lead in the vote was irreversible. 

Inexplicably, election authorities then stopped giving results for more than 24 hours. The long pause in results have led many in Nasralla's party to suspect fraud and his supporters have taken to the streets in protest.

On Tuesday, the TSE finally began releasing vote totals which showed, Nasralla’s lead dropping rapidly, and by Wednesday morning results showed that it has shrunk to about 1%.

The European Union election monitoring delegation has criticized the TSE for lack of transparency and for failure to document where the votes tallies were coming from. 

Several international elections observers in the country have said irregularities during the vote counting could be potential fraud intended to benefit Juan Orlando Hernandez. As well, prominent civil society groups in Honduras accused the TSE of slowing its release of tallies because it appeared the incumbent president was headed toward a loss.

Hernandez has increasingly militarized the Honduran police and adopted a military style approach to the problem of migration, drugs and crime, an approach favoured by the White House administration - the steady increase of U.S. assistance to the Honduran armed forces is an indicator of tacit U.S. support.

We call on the Canadian government to break its silence about repression, corruption and impunity that have been systematic in Honduras since the 2009 coup. 

 We call on the Canadian government to stop all political and economic support for the Honduran government until election results can be scrutinized by international observers and declared free and fair, and until the human rights situation in the country improves. 

We call on the international community to stay vigilant in order to ensure the democratic will of the Honduran people is respected without repression, fear or violence.

-download the Statement From Common Frontiers    -télécharger en espagnol

November 29, 2017

Respect the Plebiscite of November 26

Mariano Abarca

As a human rights organization, the Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras, COFADEH, respectful of the truth and a promoter of justice, informs the world of the following:

On November 26, the people of Honduras transformed the general elections for public office into a Plebiscite that said NO to re-election, continusim, the coup de’ tat and corruption This collective voice must be respected.

In the next few hours, the only actor responsible for any disturbance of the public order is the cartel of organized crime forcing a negotiation of impunity with the irrefutable winners of Sunday’s plebiscite, because they need a pardon in the future.

Those indirectly responsible will be the governments and multilateral organizations that recognize any imposter government that proclaims triumph based on adulterated data, and the Armed Forces, churches and media that endorse this tragedy that the spurious Electoral Tribunal is attempting to legalize. 

We call on the international community to demand the demilitarization of the streets of Honduras, a ridiculous spectacle of brute force that only confirms the partiality of those who supported the 2009 coup de’ tat with the  losers of 2017, and to permit freedom of expression for the people of Honduras without repression, fear or violence. 

As members of the Citizens Convergence against Re-election and Fraud, we call its national leadership to urgently convene, this very Wednesday, in order to define the actions to be taken in the critical hours of this national context. 

This is not about an electoral duel between urban and rural Honduras, impoverished by the criminals and corrupt, it is about an assault on the will of the people of Honduras expressed in the PINU, LIBRE and Liberal Party, and has said no to the construction of a dictatorship of terror on the part of criminals and the murderers of the 80’s converted into members of Congress.

Of the acts and the actors, on the eve of our 35th anniversary: 
!!!ni olvido ni perdón!!!


November 27, 2017

Justice Now! Eight Years of Impunity Since the Murder of Mariano Abarca in Chiapas, Mexico

Mariano AbarcaEight years ago today, Mariano Abarca was assassinated in front of his family restaurant in Chicomuselo, Chiapas. A father of four and founding member of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA), Mariano Abarca was killed in connection with his leadership in the fight against the social and environmental impacts of Blackfire Exploration’s barite mine that operated for two years in Chiapas. Prior to his murder, Mariano received threats and attempts to intimidate him, including being imprisoned without charge for eight days on trumped up allegations filed by company representatives. All of the suspects in his murder have some connection to the Calgary-based mining company, but the Abarca family has yet to obtain justice in Mexico or in Canada.

In June of this year, the Abarca family along with the Human Rights Centre at the Autonomous University of Chiapas, Otros Mundos Chiapas and REMA, presented a complaint against Mexico to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. They allege that the Mexican state is responsible for failing to take the necessary measures to protect Abarca’s life and for not carrying out a serious, objective, and impartial investigation into his murder. The petition further argues that the Mexican state let itself be influenced by repeated Canadian Embassy interventions on behalf of the company. The petition cites information obtained under an access to information request and reported on by the United Steelworkers, Common Frontiers and MiningWatch Canada that showed how Embassy support for the company was essential for putting the mine into operation and managing the conflict that quickly emerged as local residents became upset with the environmental and social impacts from the project. According to the documentation obtained, the Embassy closely monitored the growing conflict, and yet disregarded complaints raised by Mariano Abarca and others, not only about environmental impacts from the mine, but also about armed workers acting as shock troops for the company. When Mariano was detained for eight days without charge, the Embassy received 1,400 letters from Canada and across Latin America expressing dire concern for his safety. But its communications with Mexican state officials, as revealed in the access to information release, were instead oriented toward protecting the company’s interests. Even after Mariano’s murder and after the mine was shut down on environmental grounds, the documentation shows that the Embassy still provided support to the company, advising it about how to sue the Mexican state under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The situation in Mexico and the region has only worsened since Mariano’s murder: land and environment protectors face ever more dangerous circumstances in which to defend their lives and wellbeing, and are frequently subject to legal persecution and demonization in the press. Research undertaken by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project has found that between 2000 and 2015, there were at least 44 deaths, over 400 people injured, and over 700 cases of criminalization in connection with 28 Canadian mining companies operating in 13 countries in Latin America. In this study, Mexico was found to be one of the most dangerous; and just this month, Victor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Peña were murdered in the context of a labour dispute at Torex Gold’s mine in Guerrero.

The undersigned organizations wish to extend our ongoing solidarity with the efforts of the Abarca family, Otros Mundos Chiapas, the Human Rights Centre at the Autonomous University of Chiapas and REMA to seek justice for the criminalization and murder of Mariano Abarca and all those who have been murdered, threatened, violently displaced, legally persecuted, demonized or dispossessed of their land, water or livelihoods as a result of the context of impunity in which Canadian mining companies are operating in Mexico and much of the region, as well as all of those who are working to defend their water, land, lives and wellbeing to prevent such harms from taking place.

In this vein, we urge the Canadian government to stop intervening on behalf of companies operating abroad and to respect Canada's commitment to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by replacing its corporate social responsibility strategy for the extractive sector with measures to ensure fundamental respect for peoples’ right to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent before any mining activities occur. This must be accompanied by effective access to Canadian courts for personal and collective damages, criminal prosecution of serious abuses, and an independent human rights ombudsman office with robust powers to undertake effective investigations to help redress and deter harm. The existing model of trade and investment protection agreements that allows companies to sue governments in international tribunals must also be replaced by a new model of cooperation and exchange among nations that puts people, workers, and the environment first.

#JusticiaParaMariano    #Justice4Mariano

Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network
British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU)
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
Common Frontiers
Council of Canadians
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
L’Entraide Missionnaire
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
Mining Justice Alliance
MiningWatch Canada
PBI Canada
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
United for Mining Justice
United Steelworkers

Download this letter:  in English   en español   en français


short clip from José Luis Abarca on youtube in Spanish

Otros Mundos’ webpage with the solidarity statement that they have put out today with the family, REMA, and UNACH

Add your name

Add your voice to an online action that individuals can sign in English and Spanish

November 23, 2017

Letter requesting Canadian government collaboration with Costa Rican investigation

Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Ministers:

We, the undersigned, are requesting that the Canadian government respond to any and all requests for information that may be submitted to Canada by Costa Rica’s new Attorney General, Emilia Navas, with regard to an alleged transfer of funds in 2008 from Canada to Costa Rica. This is related to a previously closed case involving the ex-President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, which has been re-opened by Attorney General Navas. Arias is being investigated for possible malfeasance with regard to a possible transfer of $200,000 to the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress just prior to the issuance of an Executive Decree by then-President Arias to permit Canadian mining company, Infinito Gold, to proceed with an open-pit gold mine, despite an existing prohibition against open-pit gold mining in Costa Rica.

The former Attorney General for Costa Rica, Jorge Chavarria, has recently had to step down from this post under a cloud of suspicion, and the new interim Attorney General, Emilia Navas, has moved to re-open several of the cases closed down during Chavarria’s time. Prime among these is file 12-000124-0621-PE (or File) to investigate the motivation behind Arias’ sudden 2008 Decree declaring the immediate development of the Crucitas mining project to be "in the public interest and of national convenience".

When the Arias/Infinito File was closed in 2015, former Attorney General Chavarria stated that the case against Arias lacked sufficient evidence because Canada had not provided Costa Rica with the requested documentation regarding a possible transfer of funds in 2008, after Infinito Gold’s major shareholder visited the Arias Foundation in San Jose. Through two Freedom of Information requests in Canada (#3214-00572 and #3213-00966) in 2013 and 2014, we were able to ascertain that the RCMP had been in touch with Interpol about this case. Despite its significance to the Costa Rican request, any information they may have assembled and passed on to Canada’s Department of Justice was never shared by Canada with Costa Rican officials. This apparent unwillingness of Canadian authorities to supply the requested documentation allowed Chavarria with an excuse to suggest closing down the investigation and Arias did not go to trial. It is worth mentioning, however, that Arias’ Minister of the Environment, Roberto Dobles, who co-signed Arias’ 2008 Decree of National Convenience, was found guilty of malfeasance and received a three year prison sentence (under appeal).

The recent request from Costa Rica’s Public Prosecutor to re-open this File states: "Following the recent juridical analysis done of the case, it has been determined that it is necessary to deepen the search for new evidence that, at the time, was not incorporated into the investigation’s file." In order for the new Attorney General of Costa Rica to get to the bottom of this case it is vital that she gain access to the information that Canada’s Department of Justice gathered previously, but never shared with the Costa Rican authorities.

Canada’s current government has stated an interest in reversing the ‘bad neighbour’ image projected by the previous Canadian administration. In light of this, we urge the Canadian government to cooperate with the appropriate Costa Rican authorities to provide the necessary documentation in a complete and timely manner that will allow them to adequately judge the merits of this case.

Thank you for your attention in this important matter.


Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada

Brent Patterson, Political Director of the Council of Canadians

Raul Burbano, Program Director, Common Frontiers

November 13, 2017


Click on the image for larger view of poster

Join in on an International Week of Vigils for Indigenous, Afrodescendent, Rural Communities and Social Movement Leaders in "Post Accord" Colombia, November 12-18, 2017

Organize a vigil alongside those planned in Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal, Sault Ste. Marie, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Barcelona, London and other cities.  Details for each city are being added as they develop.

Afrocolombian, indigenous, social leaders and activists in “post accord” Colombia are under continued threat of death, displacement and exclusion even as the peace accords with FARC are being implemented. 

In only the month of October, there were three massacres of Indigenous and Afro-descendant people in Tumaco, Meta and Cauca. There have also been targeted killings of Black, indigenous and rural leaders, occurring at an alarming rate. According to Colombia's Ombudsperson, over 186 social leaders have been assassinated since 2016. Sources estimate that over 80 leaders have been killed since the peace accords were signed in November last year.

Wear black and light a candle in honour of those who have lost their lives defending peace, their communities, political and territorial rights.

Upcoming Events

Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Sacred Fire Vigil for Peace for All in Times of Violence in Post-Accord Colombia.
Tuesday, Nov. 14 @ 10 AM
Sacred Fire: Arbour; 12 PM Feast and Dialogue with Creative Display: The Speakeasy.
Organizers: Algoma Community Collective

Nashville Tenesee:
November 15, 6-7:30pm
Flatrock Coffee
Colombia Solidarity Vigil and talk!
Organizer: Witness for Peace

Toronto ON
Wednesday, Nov. 15 @ 6-7 pm.
393 Bloor St. West  
@ Matt Cohen Park (South-East corner of Bloor and Spadina)
Organizers: Colombian Action Solidarity Alliance – CASA; Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network – LACSN; Colombia Working Group and Common Frontiers.

Toronto ON
Book reading “Bienaventurados lxs que hacen la Paz: Peregrinaje en el Bosque del Norte de Colombia”
Friday, Nov. 17 @ 7 pm.
Friends House, 60 Lowther Avenue (St. George Sbwy Station)
Organizers: All for Guatemala, Guatemala Community Network.
Endorsers: CASA, LACSN and CASA Maiz.

Quebec City QC:
Messe Dominicale "Que la paix soit avec eux"
Dimanche, le 19 novembre, À 14H00.
Église Notre Dame de Foy, 820 rue Chanoine-Martin, Québec.
Organizers: Conseil Diocésain de Développement et Paix de Québec et la Pastoral Catholique Latinoamericaine; L’Association des Victimes du Conflit Arme Colombien au Canada – ASOVICA.

End violence now!

The Colombian government must implement the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Accords!
End foreign investment that continues to exacerbate violence and undermine human rights!  
Ensure an indigenous, afrocolombian and gendered perspective on peace!

Peace needs to be guaranteed for those most affected by war!

#SinPueblosEtnicosNoHayPaz (without ethnic peoples there is no peace)

Send your planned date and location of a vigil or event in support of peace in Colombia to:

November 12, 2017

OPINION: Association Concerning the Situation in Venezuela - a party of two

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro AP PHOTO


The Trudeau cabinet, on the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, recently made a regulation that said all Canadians have to boycott 40 named individuals in Venezuela.

The government purported to act under the Special Economic Measures Act which gives it authority to make such regulations. That act gives two grounds for the government to do so.

The first one is easily understood: When there is a serious international crisis as a result of a grave breach of international peace and security. Canada has passed such regulations regarding various countries: Burma, 2007; Zimbabwe, 2008; Iran, 2010; Syria and North Korea, 2011; and South Sudan, Russia, and the Ukraine, 2014.

Whether or not all Canadians would have agreed with each of these regulations, it is fair to assume that all would have understood why they were made.

The second ground is more difficult to understand. It is the one that was used against the Venezuelan individuals because there is no obvious evidence that the domestic violence in Venezuela would lead to a serious international crisis.

Under this second ground, it is still possible to make such a regulation when Canada wants to act in solidarity with an international organization of states or association of states of which it is a member.

If the association of nation states feels that the principles of law by which a nation state ought to abide have been torn apart, it can call on its members to take economic measures against that foreign state.

What is most peculiar is that in the case of the Organization of American States, a major organization of which both Canada and Venezuela are members, there was no such consensus against Venezuela.

So, in order to rely on the second ground, Canada had to find another association of nation states. This raises the question whether Canada is acting as a country that adheres to the rule of law or subjugates itself to the wishes of the United States.

On Sept. 5, 2017, Canada and the United States purported to form the Association Concerning the Situation in Venezuela. That very same day this newly formed “association” decided to call on its members, Canada and the United States, to boycott Venezuela and Venezuelan individuals.

Yet, the United States already had instituted a boycott against a number of Venezuelan individuals, many of whom were among those boycotted by Canada when it later made its own regulation.

The rule of law arises because we know there is no evidence against these 40 Venezuelans that they are precipitating a crisis of any kind and none is offered in the regulation itself. Nor do they have a right to challenge their inclusion in the regulation by way of an independent administrative process conducted in a transparent and fair manner.

Among those identified as enemies of democracy without any proof are the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Venezuela and seven other supreme court judges, as well as Venezuela’s comptroller general, a senior Venezuelan diplomat, the country’s president, vice-president, two government ministers and attorney general who had been the country’s ombudsperson, and the president and vice-president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council.

This is an issue of great concern to our own Parliament because it believes in the rule of law. One of its committees has expressed serious concerns about not giving boycotted individuals or firms a sufficient chance to contest such a boycott. The Trudeau government did not heed this caution.

It bodes ill for our claim to be an actor for human rights on the international stage.

— Andrew Dekany is a lawyer who has practised in social welfare and civil rights at all levels of the judicial system.

-This article originally appeared at on November 5, 2017

November 7, 2017

Realities Facing Ethnic Communities in Post Accord Colombia- Webinar

poster Link to information page

-Register for webinar

November 1, 2017

NAFTA Change Could Affect Northumberland Agriculture

By Valerie MacDonald
Northumberland Today

NORTHUMBERLAND -- Published reports detail a number of concerns Canada's Foreign Minister is having with some U.S. proposals for updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and some of these are shared by the Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

In Monday's news report, Minister Chrystia Freeland, who heads up Canada's negotiations, laid out her concerns that included arbitration panels and termination of the trade deal if it isn't renewed every five years.

The U.S. proposal "would allow countries to bypass nation courts in tariff disputes," one report states.

Even before taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump was taking shots at NAFTA but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau maintains talks will go ahead in good faith.

"Nothing will distract us from the positive approach we're taking to those negotiations," Trudeau is quoted as saying in a published report.

NAFTA talks are to continue into 2018 after another round this month, although they were initially to conclude this year.

The local Council of Canadians Northumberland Chapter are continuing to watch NAFTA negotiations, and recently talked with local riding MP Kim Rudd about details they want to see included.

"I had a fruitful and in-depth discussion regarding NAFTA with members of the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, and have met with this organization several times since being elected," confirmed MP Kim Rudd after the most recent sitdown.

"I was happy to have their concerns raised to me directly. They are always knowledgeable, and provide an excellent resource to me in these matters."

Rick Arnold is a member of the local Council of Canadians' trade committee who attended a parallel event by civil organizations in September during the NAFTA negotiations in Ottawa.

The meeting between the local CofC and MP Rudd took place recently, and he provided the following overview of the concerns they discussed, and which was also sent to MP Rudd for her comments.

Among the CofC concerns discussed in the CofC summary were:

1. "The need to protect Canadian farmers, and local control over food and farm policies. This would mean protecting Supply Management presently existing in the dairy, egg, turkey, and chicken sectors. We noted that both Minister Freeland, and Prime Minister Trudeau had stated they would defend supply management.

"Ms. Rudd assured us that the Liberal government was firm in its resolve to protect supply management and that she personally supported supply management. She was aware of the significant economic contribution the farming industry made to Northumberland County and Canada. She also conveyed that she supported the need to protect food sovereignty and local control over food."

2. "The need to eliminate NAFTA Chapter 11, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) component. ISDS makes it less risky and expensive for corporations to invest abroad, and empowers them to sue governments over domestic policies that protect (for example) public health and the environment. This is done by going before an international tribunal of three corporate lawyers who can order that unlimited compensation be paid to the corporations by taxpayers.

"Ms. Rudd said that she understood that the Liberal government is seeking some amendments to the existing ISDS clause in NAFTA but did not know what they were."

3. "Have better representation from the Indigenous Peoples at the main negotiating table.

"That one place for the leader of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in a 13 person 'consultative committee' does not accord the respect that indigenous people are due by virtue of being the original inhabitants of North America.

"Ms. Rudd explained that this was more difficult than it initially appears since the "different First Nations do not feel represented by one body. For example, not all the First Nations feel represented by the AFN;" and

4. And better transparency about the outcome of the various rounds of negotiations.

While local groups like the Northumberland Chapter of Council of Canadians want the Liberals to push for gains through NAFTA, Trump continues to at least posture about walking away from the trade deal altogether.

-read the complete article at

October 24, 2017

Workers Say NAFTA’s Neoliberal Foundations Need to Be Dismantled from the Left—Not the Right

By Jeff Schuhrke


Workers gathered in Chicago to call for transnational labor solidarity in the fact of NAFTA. (Jeff Schuhrke)

Rejecting both economic nationalism and free-market fundamentalism, workers across North America are building transnational solidarity and demanding labor rights for all.

Last week, nearly 60 representatives of unions and civil society organizations from Mexico, Canada and the United States gathered in Chicago for a two-day meeting to discuss strategies for collaboration as their governments renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The meeting was coordinated by the United Electrical Workers (UE), UCLA Labor Center and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, an international civic education institution affiliated with Germany’s Left Party. While many Mexican unions are dominated by the government, only the country’s more independent and democratically run labor organizations attended.

“We’re discussing what kinds of relationships can be built, either bi-nationally or tri-nationally,” Benedicto Martínez, a national co-coordinator of Mexico’s Frente Auténtico del Trabajo, or Authentic Labor Front (FAT), told In These Times. “At the forefront of our vision would be the rights of people, including better wages, better education, better healthcare and immigration rights.”

Critics argue that NAFTA has accelerated the global “race to the bottom,” where governments dismantle workplace and environmental protections in order to attract capital investment.

“NAFTA has had many negative impacts. Big companies come to Mexico accommodated by the government as workers’ rights are constantly violated,” Julia Quiñones, coordinator of the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s, or Border Workers’ Committee (CFO), told In These Times.

CFO organizes maquiladora workers in the northern Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Chihuahua. The foreign-owned maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexico border, which produce goods for export, embody the most pernicious aspects of “free trade”: exploiting low-paid, majority-women workers and polluting their surroundings.

Quiñones explained that maquila workers often face sexual violence from their managers, are exposed to dangerous chemicals, work 12- to 14-hour days and are frequently fired or blacklisted for trying to organize.

“Nobody benefits from these trade deals other than corporations,” said Kari Thompson, UE’s director of international strategies, in an interview with In These Times. “Not working people, not the environment, not women, not people of color, not farmers.”

The tri-national participants in last week’s Chicago gathering protested outside the Mexican Consulate Friday afternoon, calling on the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto to listen to the demands of Mexico’s workers in the NAFTA renegotiations. Adhering to neoliberal orthodoxy, Peña Nieto’s negotiators say that more trade, not more labor protections, will benefit workers.

“We’re denouncing the fact that independent, democratic unions like the ones we represent are not being heard,” Víctor Enrique Fabela Rocha of the Sindicato de Telefonistas (Telephone Operators Union) told In These Times. “We want a strong labor component in NAFTA. We want decent work as expressed by the International Labor Organization.”

-read the complete article from

October 23, 2017

What's Up With NAFTA?
The Impacts on Jobs & Equity


October 20, 2017

Toeing Trump's line, Canada backs baseless fraud allegations in Venezuela

By José Luis Granados Ceja

In the span of only few months, the Canadian government has issued at least 14 statements aimed at undermining the democratically-elected government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

The latest statement, issued on October 17 by the Global Affairs Canada, was a deliberate attempt to cast doubt on the results of the October 15 regional elections, which saw the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela win a majority of 18 out of 23 governorships, with 54 per cent of the votes.

After the results were announced, the Venezuelan opposition predictably cried fraud, as they have after nearly every election in the country, with the only exceptions being the elections where the opposition won.

Echoing the baseless allegations made by both the opposition and the Trump regime in the United States, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the "elections were characterized by many irregularities that raise significant and credible concerns regarding the validity of the results."

However, neither the opposition nor the Canadian government has been able to provide any proof that the elections were fraudulent.

When contacted, Global Affairs Canada did not provide any evidence to back their claim that any alleged irregularities were significant enough to undermine the results.

Meanwhile, international electoral observers with the The Latin American Council of Electoral Experts, known as CEELA, were unambiguous in their statements, affirming the legitimacy of the vote.

"The vote took place peacefully and without problems… the vote reflects the will of citizens," said CEELA President Nicanor Moscoso during a press conference Monday.

Venezuela's voting system is robust and virtually impossible to circumvent. Voters must present their voting credentials and have their fingerprints scanned before the electronic machine allows them to cast their ballot. After indicating their preference, a paper ballot is produced and deposited in a secure receptacle, their finger is then stained with indelible ink as an added security measure to ensure no one can cast more than one vote.

Mainstream outlets framed the result as a surprise, pointing to opinion polls that suggested the opposition was set to secure a resounding victory. However, polling throughout Latin America, and particularly in Venezuela, is infamously unreliable.

The election results have left the notoriously divided opposition even further divided. While some continue to cry fraud, others have castigated their colleagues for their strategy. Over the past year, the opposition pursued an "insurrection" ­with violent street protests that left over a hundred dead. This strategy ultimately failed to oust the Maduro government and left the opposition and their supporters exhausted and demoralized. Some elements chose to freely participate, while others called for abstention.

Opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup conceded that the abstention of their supporters cost them many votes and ultimately many of the governorships. In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, opposition supporter Francisco Toro was forced to begrudgingly accept that the election results were indeed accurate.

Some nonetheless maintain that the election was fraudulent, pointing to "irregularities" such as the relocation of 201 polling centres. These polling centres were moved as a result of violence during Constituent Assembly elections in July, and comprised less than two percent of the 13,559 polling stations throughout the country. International observers have noted that other complaints, such as the late opening of some polling centres, ultimately had no impact on the result.

So why does the Canadian government maintain that these alleged irregularities were sufficient enough to lead them to question the legitimacy of the vote? Canada's position can be explained by their ideological drive to pursue regime change in Venezuela.

Under the leadership of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian government of Justin Trudeau has been a major player in the Lima Group, comprised of governments in the region who oppose the Maduro government. The Lima Group was only formed after these same governments failed to achieve consensus at the Organization of American States, despite the fact that the body is lead by Luis Almagro, who has taken a hardline stance against the Venezuelan government. The Lima Group has been criticized for undermining regional integration efforts and the work of the UNASUR, which has been working to promote dialogue in Venezuela.

In a statement issued after the regional elections, the Lima Group also questioned the legitimacy of the vote and called for an audit of the results. President Maduro has expressed his support for a full audit of the elections.

Global Affairs Canada also refused to say whether they would recognize the results if the audit showed that the election results were indeed a reflection of the will of the Venezuelan people.

Canada is set to host the next gathering of the Lima Group in Toronto and Global Affairs Canada is the sponsor of a panel talk by the Canadian Council for the Americas that features a veritable who's who of opponents of the Venezuelan government. The event is also supported by several Canadian mining companies who are interested in once again exploiting Venezuela's natural resources, revealing the deep collusion between the Canadian state and Canadian mining interests abroad.

-See the complete article on

October 19, 2017

Common Frontiers raises concern over the Canadian Government support for hardline opposition in Venezuela

Common Frontiers congratulates the Venezuelan people for holding democratic, free and fair regional elections on October 15, 2017. Since 1998, the Bolivarian process has deepened democracy in Venezuela, the government has consistently gone to the polls and to seek approval for its mandate.

We are however deeply troubled by the Canadian government’s hostile position towards Venezuela which was evident in the statement by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, expressing concern over the October 15th elections. Freeland’s statement called into question the election as “characterized by many irregularities that raise significant and credible concerns regarding the validity of the results”. 

The Canadian government echoes the claims of the hard-line sectors of the Venezuelan opposition, which have failed to present any evidence to back up their accusations.  With the governing coalition winning 17 of the country’s 23 governorships in the October 15 polls and a 61% voter turnout, the opposition suffered a political defeat.  The main opposition coalition has a track record of making unsubstantiated claims against democratic institutions and the electoral process when the results do not favour them.    Freeland’s narrative runs counter to reports from international observers on the ground. The Latin American Council of Electoral Experts, composed of 1300 observers, stated that the elections were clean and transparent, with Council president, Nicanor Moscoso, stating “the vote reflects the will of Venezuelan citizens.”

It also contrasts with statements from some prominent opposition figures who recognized the legitimacy of the election results. They blame their electoral loss on a “failed strategy“ by the opposition leadership, many of whom led violent street protests this year that resulted in over one hundred deaths. 

"What did not work was the leadership! The leadership has to accept that it was not successful,” said Jesus Torrealba, former Executive Secretary of the main opposition coalition MUD. “The insurrection failed, they failed at these past elections, and on top of that they don't like dialogue,” he said of MUD’s current leadership. “We lost, I say it responsibly," said Henri Falcon, outgoing MUD governor of Lara. "We need courage to recognize truth in adversity." 

By unconditionally supporting the opposition, the Canadian government is adding fuel to the politicization in Venezuela that contributes to the conflict.    

We again congratulate the Venezuelan people and recognize the solution to the present crisis in Venezuela can only come through their continued commitment to democracy, a policy of non-intervention, dialogue, and support for the country’s democratic institutions by foreign governments.

For more information contact:
Raul Burbano -,  416-522-8615

October 14, 2017

List of #Rallies for a Better NAFTA on October 20



October 13, 2017

The impact of Venezuela’s surging inflation rate

CTV News has an interview with Common Frontiers' Jim Hodgson to talk about Sunday's election in Venezuela and the economic impact it might have on that country. Jim Hodgson is Jim Hodgson is Latin America Program Co-ordinator at the United Church of Canada.

-Click on the image below to view the interview on the CTV website.


Jim Hodgson is Jim Hodgson is Latin America Program Co-ordinator at the United Church of Canada and has been involved with Common Frontiers since 1999.

October 10, 2017

Hands Off Venezuela!

No Canadian intervention under the guise of “humanitarian aid"

Poster(Toronto) On Monday, October 16 at 3:30 p.m. The Toronto Venezuela Solidarity Committee will undertake an action outside the Toronto office of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, 344 Bloor St. West, at Spadina Ave.

Common Frontiers and The Toronto Venezuela Solidarity Committee will be mobilizing against Canadian intervention in Venezuela. Recently, Canada imposed sanctions against 40 officials associated with the government of Venezuela, including President Nicolas Maduro, for allegedly “undermining democratic institutions.” The gov. has also passed M-128, a private members’ motion put forward by Conservative MP Peter Kent. The motion, supported by the Liberals urges the Government of Canada to intervene in the internal affairs of Venezuela under the pretext of providing “humanitarian aid.” Experience shows that such actions are a pretext for foreign military intervention.

The organizers demand an end to attempts at 'regime change' in Venezuela, and say No to the Canadian government's complicity in Washington’s efforts to overthrow the progressive, democratic government of that country. The solution to the present crisis in Venezuela can only come through a policy of non-intervention, dialogue and support for the country’s democratic institutions. Monday’s action takes place on the heels of municipal elections in Venezuela, which opposition parties are freely participating in.

The event against foreign interference in Venezuela is part of an International Day of Action.

-For more information see Facebook event

October 6, 2017

Understanding Venezuela’s Crisis

WHEN: October 16, 2017 @ 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
WHERE: Kaneff Tower 519
               4700 Keele St
               Toronto, ON

Click on picture for complete details


October 4, 2017

‘There is no peace here’: Colombia’s ethnic communities search for promised peace

street sceneBy Atticus Ballesteros

Dozens of international human rights organizations published an open letter to President Juan Manuel Santos Tuesday, calling on Colombia’s leader to deliver peace to Afrodescendant and indigenous communities.

In a press release, the organizations behind the letter said the request comes in “response to a call for support” from ethnic communities in Colombia.

Many of these communities live in the country’s Pacific and Amazonian regions where armed groups are vying for territorial control after the demobilization of the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC.

“Since the peace accord took effect late last year,” the organizations write, “Afro-Colombian and indigenous [communities] have witnessed an increase in human rights violations, including displacement.”

Protecting Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples’ territorial and other collective rights is fundamental to ensuring lasting peace in Colombia. Our survival as Peoples depends on the protection of these rights and our meaningful participation in peace implementation.

Charo Mina-Rojas (Black Communities’Process)

Leaders in ethnic communities in Colombia affirm that the situation on the ground is dire. They say FARC dissident groups, those rebels who abandoned the peace process, are responsible for much of the violence against ethnic communities. They also blame the government for failing to adequately take on the criminal groups.

“There is no peace here,” Fredy Lopez, a social leader in Colombia’s port city Buenaventura, told Colombia Reports.

There will be no peace until the national government, as the international community has demanded, resolves the problems it has promised to fix.

Buenaventura social leader Fredy Lopez

For Lopez, that means improving the security situation for ethnic communities around the country.

Since the FARC began the process of laying down their weapons and reintegrating into society earlier this year, certain sectors of Colombian society, especially in areas near FARC demobilization zones, have reported an increase in violence as other criminal groups compete for control over territory and abandoned criminal enterprises.

According to the Final Peace Accord with the FARC, the government was supposed to secure these areas while the FARC handed in their weapons.

Recently, the United Nations claimed the government’s fulfilling of its commitment to implement urgent peace policies has been “deficient.”

Colombia’s Ombudsman has also questioned the government’s commitment to security. The Ombudsman released a report Tuesday criticizing government efforts to secure areas previously controlled by the FARC, many of which are inhabited by majority black and indigenous peoples.

It calls our attention that the National Government has classified the security situation surrounding [FARC demobilization zones] as it has. Especially given that certain zones categorized as ‘low [risk]’ like Tumaco, Riosucio, Puerto Asis, Planadas, Caldono and La Paz have exhibited violent conflict… and possible human rights violations.

Office of the Ombudsman

The resulting situation has led to violent confrontations between FARC dissident groups, the ELN, and the paramilitary group AGC, as well as increasing threats against social leaders and human rights defenders.

“In the grand majority of zones, [there are] other risk factors that also need to be taken into account by the government,” said the Ombudsman in their report. “This includes illicit economies, unemployment, socioeconomic inequality, and tensions related to electoral practices.”

Social leaders like Fredy Lopez agree with the Ombudsman’s assessment.

In a territory where we have the richest natural water sources in the country, but water only comes for two hours a day. In a territory where there is no hospital and they send people to their homes to die. In a territory where they kill, burn, and threaten our community because they need our land for industry. In a territory where many go to bed hungry, there is no peace here.

Fredy Lopez

Officials from the national government could not be reached for comment on the Ombudsman report or the letter signed by international organizations.

Over 150 organizations and individuals signed the letter to the Colombian head of state, including entities from the Congo, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Norway, and the United States.

Some of the major signatories include the Colombia-based Black Communities’ Process (PCN), the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), distinguished Colombian academic Arturo Escobar, and even the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

-read the original article here

September 29, 2017

Letter to President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia

President Juan Manuel Santos
Members of the Commission to Monitor, Promote, and Verify Implementation of Colombia’s Peace Accord (CSIVI)

Dear President Santos and CSIVI Members,

The undersigned gender, racial, social and environmental justice organizations and advocates from around the world applaud the inclusion of the Ethnic Chapter and other racial and gender rights measures in Colombia’s Peace Accord. If implemented, these provisions will allow Colombia to set a global example of holistic peacebuilding—one that meaningfully addresses the social inequalities that help fuel conflict. We are, however, deeply concerned about the inadequate consultation with and recognition of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous authorities in peace implementation activities to date, and the ways in which this endangers the lives, security, and territorial and human rights of Afro-Descendant and Indigenous Peoples, including women and girls. We encourage the Government to act in good faith to ensure that Indigenous and Afro- Descendant Peoples’ rights are maintained and furthered in peace implementation.

It is crucial that the framework plan for implementing the Peace Accord contain indicators to measure the progress and outcomes of policies, programs and reforms in a manner that corresponds to the needs, values, and rights of Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples, including their gender-based rights. These can only be developed with meaningful participation of their respective authorities and organizations. We understand that the Government and CSIVI recently agreed to a work agenda with the Special High-Level Body for Ethnic Peoples to develop and include such indicators and to assign resources and provide conditions for meaningful participation of Afro-Descendant and Indigenous Peoples in implementation. This is positive news, as we believe inclusiveness at the outset of the framework plan will help ensure structural advances for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples, who have disproportionately born the consequences of the armed conflict, and whose communities suffer the greatest levels of poverty and least access to health and educational infrastructure in Colombia.

While it is cause for hope that the Government and CSIVI agreed to this agenda of work, a broader pattern of exclusion keeps us vigilant. For example, while the Peace Accord requires the Government to include an ethnic and cultural perspective in implementing its Security and Protection Program, the parties have failed to meaningfully consult with and support Afro- Colombian and Indigenous authorities and communities in the design and implementation of community based self-protection plans, and to ensure adequate security overall in their territories. As FARC fighters demobilized, paramilitaries and other armed actors have filled power vacuum in many areas, as was predicted by parties to the Accord, which named these actors the “greatest threat” to peace. The site of the majority of fighting during the conflict, these areas heavily overlap with Afro-Colombian and Indigenous territories. Because of the lack of consultation and ensuing insecurity, entire Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities are again facing displacement, as violence, forced disappearances, attacks on human rights defenders, threats, and kidnappings increase. The forced displacement rate increased in the first half of 2017, as compared with the first half of 2016, with Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples comprising 94% of those displaced in the first months of 2017.

-read the full text of the letter

Document sponsored and signed by:

Black Alliance for Peace
Common Frontiers
Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic- CUNY School of Law
NORDIK Institute at Algoma University
Washington Office on Latin America

September 28, 2017 launches giant blimp over NAFTA negotiations in Ottawa

September 26, 2017

Open Statement on NAFTA, Environment and Climate

Since the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed more than two decades ago, our awareness of climate change has dramatically changed and our window of time for addressing it has shortened. NAFTA and other agreements that are part of the global trade regime have been used to undermine critical actions needed to respond to the climate crisis that help rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.

We need a fundamental shift in how we approach trade – one that puts the needs of people and the planet first.

Canada has signaled its intention to bring climate into NAFTA talks. As leading environmental, climate, health, labour and faith organizations, we urge the federal government to address the environmental failings of NAFTA in the upcoming renegotiation process.

We call on the federal government to do the following:

1. Remove NAFTA’s Chapter 11 Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. This chapter gives private investors the right to sue the government of another country if it introduces new laws, regulations or practices – be they environmental, health or human rights – that cause corporations to lose money on their investments.

Canada has faced 38 NAFTA Chapter 11 investor-state suits, two-thirds of them over environmental protection laws. This includes bans on environmentally harmful additives to gasoline, exports of hazardous PCBs and lawn pesticides, as well as a moratorium on fracking. Canada is currently facing nine ISDS claims where foreign investors are seeking more than $6 billion in damages from the Canadian government.

2. Eliminate NAFTA’s energy chapter. The climate crisis requires governments to have a full range of policy and regulatory options to reduce climate pollution as quickly and as equitably as possible. The proportional sharing clause in the energy chapter requires Canada to export a locked-in percentage of our energy production to the U.S. This limits Canada’s ability to restrict climate-polluting fossil fuels, including tar sands (oil sands) crude.

NAFTA rules stand in the way of fostering solutions to the climate crisis. NAFTA national treatment rules threaten policy options such as renewable portfolio standards, low carbon fuel standards, and other climate-friendly energy regulations perceived as impeding business for foreign fossil fuel firms. NAFTA’s procurement rules limit governments’ ability to use “green purchasing” requirements that ensure government contracts support renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable goods.

Instead of protecting corporate interests in ongoing fossil fuel exploitation, trade agreements should shield public interest policies. Trade deals must create a fair playing field by requiring each participating country to adopt, maintain, and implement policies to ensure compliance with domestic environmental laws and important international environmental and labour agreements. These include the Paris Climate Agreement and treaties protecting Indigenous rights such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Strong enforceable environmental and labour standards should be part of the core text of NAFTA.

  • Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
  • Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)
  • Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)
  • Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
  • Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice (CUSJ)
  • Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac Canada)
  • Climate Change in Focus
  • Common Frontiers
  • Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)
  • Council of Canadians
  • Ecology Action Centre
  • Ecology Ottawa
  • For Our Grandchildren
  • Friends of the Earth Canada
  • Glasswaters Foundation
  • Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, Inc.
  • Greenpeace Canada
  • KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • LeadNow
  • Mining Watch
  • Mobilisation environnement Ahuntsic-Cartierville (MEAC)
  • Montréal pour tous
  • National Farmers Union (NFU)
  • National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
  • Ontario Rivers Alliance
  • People’s Climate Movement (Canada)
  • Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec (RVHQ)
  • Sierra Club BC
  • Sierra Club Canada Foundation
  • Trade Justice Network (TJN)
  • Transition Initiative Kenora (TIK)
  • The Leap
  • Unifor
  • Watershed Environmental Educational Society (WSES)
  • Windfall Ecology Centre

-read news release  in english   en français

September 19, 2017

Agenda for NAFTA Civil Society Summit

We are excited to finally share with you the completed schedule for the NAFTA Civil Society Summit coming up onthis Friday and Saturday (Sept. 22-23)!

The Trade Justice Network is working together with Common Frontiers, the Council of Canadians, RQIC and other representatives from labour, social justice and civil society groups to organize a Civil Society Summit to coincide with the NAFTA negotiations in Ottawa, beginning Sept. 23. The two-day summit will involve civil society meetings, a public action on Parliament Hill and public education events to discuss: Does NAFTA Serve the Public Interest? We are thrilled to have both politicians and leading civil society figures from Quebec, English-speaking Canada, the US and Mexico joining us for the summit.

Please note that Friday's events are open to the public, while the Saturday events (civll society strategy meetings and technical workshops) are invite-only.

There is a Facebook event for the Friday events of the summit, which you are encouraged to share widely as well.

-Download a PDF of Friday's events

August 30, 2017

Rally Outside Public Canadian Broadcaster Demands it Cover Venezuela ‘Truthfully’

Report from teleSUR

Protesters at the rally. | Photo: Jay Watts

Nearly 150 people have joined a protest in Toronto, Canada in front of the offices of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s national public radio and television broadcaster, demanding that “CBC tell the truth about Venezuela.”

The rally was organized by a broad coalition of groups “frustrated and angry with the coverage around Venezuela” by the outlet, Raul Burbano, an activist from Common Frontiers, told teleSUR.

“CBC is a publicly-funded institution that’s not meeting journalistic standards and norms with its one-sided coverage,” he said.

Burbano said CBC provides the opposition with unprecedented coverage, presenting their narrative as "defacto truth", an opposition that has "undertaken violence, and is responsible for many deaths and the destruction of public property" all while “seeking to overthrow the democratically-elected” president.

Marta Paloma, from the city’s chapter of the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, who spoke at the rally, agreed, telling teleSUR that Canadian media coverage of the situation is “very one-sided.”

Paloma said that when Lilian Tintori — the wife of the Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez — visited Canada to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, media outlets had fawning coverage of her.

The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network at the rally. | Photo: Jay Watts

“(We want to) raise our voice against acts of aggression against Venezuela,” Paloma said, explaining why she spoke at the rally. “(Including) against the sanctions by the U.S. that strike at the heart of Venezuela’s economy.”

In 2014, Leoplodo Lopez was convicted and charged with plotting and promoting the violent street blockades, also known as “guarimbas”, in Venezuela. The widespread violence led to the death of 43 people 

For Juan Restrepo, a member of the city’s Venezuela Solidarity Committee, as well as the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, confronting CBC was important “as a Latin American” and to “defend the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela”, in the wake of the images CBC and other mass media publish on the issue.

-read the complete report from teleSUR here

August 29, 2017

Media Release

NAFTA: Canada out-Trumps the U.S. on Chapter 11

Despite a proposal from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) suggesting that countries be able to opt-out of Chapter 11’s corporate tribunals in NAFTA, media reports indicate the Canadian government says this is not negotiable. The USTR proposal would effectively end the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system.

“We expected this appalling position from Trump, not from the Canadian side. Trudeau should listen to Canadians and put an end to this offensive and undemocratic process,” says Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. 

The Trudeau government is arguing for the version of corporate tribunals found in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

“Modeling NAFTA 2.0 on CETA’s ISDS system wouldn’t change much: All the egregious suits that Canada has faced would continue,” says Barlow. “It would still be a system built on the primacy of investors’ rights over our democracies.”

Canada has faced 38 NAFTA Chapter 11 suits, two thirds-of them over environmental protections making Canada the most sued country in the developed world. At the moment, Canada is facing $2.6 billion in cases. Over 10,000 Canadians have written to the government demanding Chapter 11 be jettisoned.

“You cannot protect climate and labour rights, and still give corporations this powerful right to undermine public legislation,” says Sujata Dey, Trade Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Trudeau’s negotiating position makes it clearer than ever that his government’s claims that it wants a ‘progressive’ NAFTA with ‘environment’ and ‘labour’ standards is nothing more than pretty words.”

For more information on the Council’s NAFTA campaign, visit

August 24, 2017

A pink tide turns red

This article is from the forthcoming issue of the Monitor, a bimonthly magazine put out by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

By Jim Hodgson

You may have seen Beatríz at Dinner, a new film that stars Salma Hayak as an unexpected guest of some California one-per-centers. “All your pleasures are built on others' pain,” Beatríz says to her hosts. In good storytelling style, a personal conflict stands in for a profound social one: the relationship between power and wealth on the one hand, and vulnerability and poverty on the other. In the face of a monster, the film shows Beatríz making a choice: to kill or to die. 

But there is a third choice (readers of The Monitor probably made this choice long ago): to join with others in working for social and ecological justice.

With the election of Hugo Chávez as president in December 1998, Venezuelans embarked on a decades-long effort to wrest control of the country from the tiny elite that had always run everything for their own benefit. Under the old rules, elite-backed parties would make promises and dole out favours, but nothing really changed for the impoverished majority. The government owned the oil company, but benefits accrued to senior managers, not the state. 

Every step along Venezuela’s now 19-year-old transformation has been met with resistance. The old elites, together with middle class sectors that identify with them, were (perhaps predictably) unwilling to commit class suicide; they found powerful allies among foreign powers, including much of the international media. What is playing out now in Venezuela, with almost daily demonstrations, some of them violent, is resistance by those whose pleasure once depended on the pain of others.

In this piece, I want to share some thoughts about what has happened and why, together with some guesses as to what may happen now, and some lessons that might be useful in considering social change processes elsewhere. 


For many of us in Common Frontiers—the coalition of Canadian labour, human rights and religious groups working for trade justice in the Americas—our first contact with the new Venezuelan government came in November 1999 in Toronto. In those days, just a few weeks before the mass protests around the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, and less than 18 months ahead of similar protests at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas, it was still possible to gather civil society representatives and trade ministers into a room for a conversation. Most of the government representatives talked proudly of “putting a human face on globalization,” but the minister representing Venezuela drew applause for saying that concern for the rights of the poor needed to be central in trade talks and public policy-making.

In those years, Common Frontiers was working with other groups throughout the Americas in the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA) to develop a different approach to trade and international relations. Latin Americans had lived through successive (and failed) “decades of development,” and then through neoliberal dogma about restraint that was justified by a need to repay foreign debt. 

In spaces like the World Social Forum and the HSA, new ideas emerged. A series of proposals that came to be known as Alternatives for the Americas were instrumental in eventually defeating the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) in 2005, and some proposals were adopted by some of the new “pink tide” governments that were elected in Latin America and the Caribbean in the years after the election of Chávez.

One of the first moves by the new Chávez government was to rewrite the national constitution. It came into effect following a plebiscite in December 1999, even giving the country a new name: the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The new constitution expanded civil rights and included socioeconomic rights, such as the right to employment, housing and health care, while also expanding minority rights (notably those of Indigenous peoples) and the rights of women. In 2001, some 49 laws were passed to redistribute land and wealth. Land reform continued in early 2005 with the abolition of large estates for the benefit of the rural poor.

-read the entire article 

Jim Hodgson is Latin America Program Co-ordinator at the United Church of Canada. He has been involved in Common Frontiers since 1999.

August 16, 2017

Media Release

Family farm groups from three countries slam NAFTA reboot based on TPP

As the formal talks to renegotiate NAFTA begin in Washington, DC this week, family farm organizations from Canada, the United States and Mexico denounce the direction of the talks. Despite repeated demands by civil society organizations in all three countries, the governments have refused to open the talks to the public or to publish proposed negotiating texts. All signs point to negotiations designed to increase agribusiness exports and corporate control over the food system rather than to support fair and sustainable trade and farming systems. 

The Trump administration has stated its clear intention to continue its trend of putting multinational corporations’ narrow interests first by using the same blueprint that shaped the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A review of submissions on the talks includes proposals to dismantle Canada’s successful dairy supply management program and eliminate restrictions on trade in GMOs and other agricultural biotechnology. 

“Under NAFTA and its forerunner, the Canada-US FTA, farm input costs have gone up and inflation-adjusted commodity prices have dropped, yet the farmer’s share of the grocery dollar is smaller. We export more, but imports have increased faster, which means our share of our own domestic market is actually shrinking,” said Jan Slomp, President of Canada’s National Farmers Union. “NAFTA and the FTA have not helped farmers. Since 1988 we have seen one in every five of our farms disappear and we’ve lost over 70% of our young farmers, even though Canada’s population has increased.” 

“The USA cannot solve its dairy crisis by taking over the Canadian dairy market and putting our farmers out of business,” said Slomp. “We need Canada to stand firm against any temptation to negotiate away supply management. Our system ensures farmers are paid the cost of production, processing plants are able to run at full capacity and consumers have a reliable, wholesome and affordable supply of dairy, poultry and eggs – all without any government subsidies.”

Jim Goodman, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and member of the National Family Farm Coalition, agreed. “Federal and State Governments and Land Grant Universities, at the behest of the dairy industry, have done all they can to encourage U.S. dairy farmers to produce more milk, never questioning how much milk might be too much or how the subsequent cheap prices affect farmers. We cannot expect Canada, at the expense of their dairy farmers, to bail us out. Farmers - whether U.S. or Canadian - are nothing more than parts of the machine to the industry and NAFTA. That's the way free trade works."

Ben Burkett, National Family Farm Coalition board president and Mississippi farmer, noted that simply increasing exports will not replace ​the need for ​ fair prices. "U.S. family farmers and ranchers have demanded that the administration restores Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat, which would provide more accurate information to consumers while improving our access to markets."​

Mexican family farmers, who have been devastated by NAFTA’s existing provisions that flooded their markets with cheap grains, will join thousands of labor, environmental and other activists in Mexico City tomorrow to denounce the talks and demand a completely different approach based on complementarity and cooperation. On agriculture, they insist that, “Mexico must guarantee food sovereignty and security and exclude basic grains, especially corn. Transgenic crops should be excluded and the ability of national states to promote sustainable agriculture intact. Likewise, Mexico must maintain its adhesion the UPOV [International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants] Act of 1978 and to reject the commitment to accede to the UPOV Act 1991, as it was intended in the TPP.”

Victor Suarez, Executive Director of the Mexican National Association of Rural Producers (ANEC) added that, “This whole process should begin with a thorough, independent evaluation of NAFTA's economic, social, environmental and governance impacts. The goal should be to restore national sovereignty over food and farm policy, and to support local farming communities."

“For many years, Rural Coalition has advocated for a 'people-to-peoples NAFTA' linking rural communities in all three countries to collaborate to improve their local economies and food sovereignty. A renegotiation of NAFTA that further helps transnational corporations while diminishing community self-determination will only hasten rural economic collapse --exactly the wrong way to go," said John Zippert, Rural Coalition Chairperson and longtime Federation of Southern Cooperatives staff member in Alabama.

“NAFTA has woven our economies together in ways that hurt family farmers, workers and our environments,” said Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director of International Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “We need a new approach to trade that promotes local and regional food systems, including providing for mechanisms in all three countries to shelter food crops from volatile markets and dumping. Simplistic calls to expand exports won’t get us to the fair and sustainable food and farm system we need.”

As an ongoing tool for understanding NAFTA, IATP has released a primer paper, “NAFTA Renegotiation: What's at stake for food, farmers and the land?” as well as collecting 25 years’ worth of research in a NAFTA portal accessible at 

Based in Minneapolis with offices in Washington, D.C. and Berlin, Germany, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy connects the dots of global justice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

Josh Wise, 952-818-5474,
Quinton Robinson, 703-975-4466,
Jan Slomp, 403-704-4364,
Victor Suarez Carrera

August 14, 2017

Media Release

Ad targeting NAFTA to air on The National starting tonight

Ottawa – An ad highlighting the Council of Canadians’ top three priorities for NAFTA’s negotiation will begin a four-day run on CBC’s The National tonight, coinciding with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland promoting Canada’s NAFTA negotiating plans today before the House of Commons Committee on International Trade.

“The Liberal government needs to go back to the drawing board on its NAFTA position. Unless a renegotiated NAFTA contains real penalties, and sets standards, these talks may just replicate the dangerous provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” says Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and veteran NAFTA critic. “If Trudeau’s government is truly concerned about the environment, labour and public protection, it should look at the glaring problem: Chapter 11, which has made Canada vulnerable to billions of dollars of corporate lawsuits over our environmental and public policy decisions. Trudeau should be fixing NAFTA’s existing problems, instead of creating new ones.”

The Council of Canadians argues that major changes are needed to protect people and the environment in NAFTA. As the Council has cautioned before, modelling NAFTA’s Chapter 11 on the investor state system of CETA (the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) doesn’t alter the substance of this problematic provision.

“It is very dangerous that the Liberal government is going to put CETA procurement provisions in NAFTA, which will get rid of buy local policies,” says Sujata Dey, Trade Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Instead, Trudeau should be mirroring Buy American policies so that public money stays in the local economy. We also encourage the government to hold the line on in keeping NAFTA’s cultural exemption and our supply management program.”

The Council of Canadians’ priorities for NAFTA are: 

The Council’s campaign includes handimations in English, French and Spanish like the one airing on The National, fact sheets, and reports which encourage citizens to do their own lobbying on NAFTA 

For more information on the campaign, please see:

August 13, 2017

Report puts human rights in Honduras and Canada at risk, say civil society organizations

Letter to François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of International Trade

We, the undersigned Canadian civil society organizations, have worked in solidarity with human and environmental rights defenders around the world for many years, including in Honduras and other Latin American countries. We are writing to express our profound concern regarding a recent report produced by the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor which, we believe, places Canadian and Honduran human and environmental rights defenders at risk.

Last month, the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor issued its report of a 2016 visit to Honduras. According to the report, the visit was structured to enable the Counsellor “to meet with a range of stakeholders and permit an open exchange of views, concerns and aspirations.” While the report’s analysis of the situation in Honduras warrants a more thorough critical response, we would like to raise our deep concern with regard to one specific section of the report, entitled “The Canada NGO Connection”. In this section, the Counsellor makes a series of sweeping, unsubstantiated, biased and irresponsible accusations against Canadian CSOs. The Counsellor describes them as having “framed much of the discourse in Honduras”, contributing to the “strained and tense situation” concerning extractive activities in Honduras. Providing no substantiation, the report characterizes Canadian CSOs as being “ideologically positioned against mining,” leading to “confrontational and adversarial approaches when dealing with companies and the Honduran government.”

The CSR Counsellor minimizes the agency of entire communities, local civil society leaders and organizations in Honduras. These actors have long expressed their legitimate concerns about the impact of the extractive sector in that country, regularly mobilizing in defence of their rights and the environment. Through his misrepresentation of the role of Canadian CSOs in Honduras, the Counsellor exposes his fundamental lack of understanding regarding the nature of solidarity relationships between Canadian organizations and local actors.

The report goes a step further by naming specific Canadian organizations that the Counsellor considers problematic, specifically MiningWatch Canada and Rights Action. He suggests that these and other international CSOs could be aggravating or blocking resolution to conflict, manipulating local actors and setting the discourse around mining in Honduras. These serious, unsubstantiated accusations threaten to undermine important solidarity work that facilitates information sharing with mining-affected communities and supports efforts to have their legitimate concerns addressed. The importance of this work in the context of environmental conflicts has been underscored by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment who identifies the need to protect speech relating to environmental issues: “[a]ll persons have the right to hold and express opinions and to disseminate ideas and information regarding the environment.”

-Read the entire letter    en français

List of signatories:

Above Ground
Atlantic Region Solidarity Network
Amnesty International Canada
The British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Jesuits International
CoDevelopment Canada
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine/Committee for Human Rights in Latin America
Common Frontiers
Development and Peace
Entraide missionnaire
Friends of the Earth Canada
Horizons of Friendship
Inter Pares
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
MiningWatch Canada
Mining Justice Action Committee
Nobel Women’s Initiative
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Rights Action
Solidarité Laurentides Amérique centrale
United Church of Canada

August 4, 2017

Venezuela: Target of Economic Warfare

Economic Warfare – Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Pfc. Andrya Hill / U.S. Army, Lomo-Cam

By Joyce Nelson

Most people are horrified to watch Venezuela seemingly on the verge of outright civil war, or worse, an invasion by U.S. military forces. The death toll continues to rise in the violent street protests led by the right-wing opposition, following the July 30 vote on a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution. U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened to take further, unspecified “economic actions” if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro went ahead with the vote, and Trump added that the U.S. would not stand idly by “as Venezuela crumbles.”

The Canadian Peace Congress issued a statement (July 29) that said, “If the attempt at internal counter-revolution fails, plans are being put in place for direct military intervention by the United States, possibly under the cover of the Organization of American States (OAS).”

Maduro had hoped that the July 30 vote would help to bring dialogue and peace to the country, which has been wracked by violence for more than four months.

According to sociologist Maria Paez Victor, the opposition had been demanding that the Maduro government negotiate with them, so early in 2017 “a Peace and Dialogue Table was set up, facilitated by 2 former presidents of Latin America and one of Spain. They then refused to negotiate, demanding the presence of the Vatican. When the Nuncio arrived, they still refused to dialogue. Pope Francis himself stated the dialogue failed because the opposition would not participate. President Maduro then concluded that if the opposition would not negotiate with the government, they would have to negotiate directly with the people – and called for a Constitutional Assembly to amend the constitution.”

Maduro’s call triggered months of violence in the streets, with more than 100 people killed in the lead-up to the July 30 vote.

In advance of that vote, Raul Burbano, Program Director of the Canadian NGO Common Frontiers, told me by email, “The people of Venezuela will elect 540 constituents who will decide what changes to make to the constitution. These constituents will be elected via sector – i.e., workers, students, peasants, business folks, etc. and also territorially,” thereby broadening the members beyond the elite politicians. Burbano added that the Maduro government would likely want to see constitutional changes such as making the state “less bureaucratic” and “enshrining in the constitution the social programs” created over the past years.

Venezuelan electoral authorities announced a voter turnout of 41.53 per cent, or more than 8 million people on July 30. The opposition claimed fewer than half that figure turned out, and say that the Maduro government is becoming “dictatorial” and “consolidating power” through the Constituent Assembly.

-read the complete article

July 28, 2017

Beats 4 Peace: A Cultural Event

PosterTo bring attention to the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean we are throwing a solidarity party - Beats 4 Peace a cultural event at on Sunday July 30th from 6-10 pm at Luanda House. The themes of the show are Peace, sovereignty, and democracy in Venezuela, Brazil, and Colombia. For more information see Facebook event here

Join us for an evening of art, music, poetry and dance weaving together different themes into an interactive cultural show of solidarity. Music will includes  Brazilian artists, Zeca Polina and Mari Palhares, Mohammad Ali @socialisthiphop, Pablo & Ernesto Latin American musicians, Dj siez swift, and many more artists.

A decade ago a tide of progressive governments, defying Washington and its neoliberal polices took power across Latin American and the Caribbean through democratic means. Today that tide is receding and Latin America shifting towards more conservative neoliberal governments closely linked to Washington. This has led to an increased militarization of the region, support for right-wing coups and return to neoliberal austerity policies.

In Brazil the senate approved neoliberal labour reforms never before seen on the continent that seek to push back workers’ rights for generations. These policies are being imposed through state violence as the Armed Forces were recently used to repress massive street protests clamoring for the resignation of defacto president, Temer.

In Colombia months after signing a historic peace agreement and the FARC rebels turning in all their weapons yet paramilitarism and violence against social movement leaders is on the rise . More than 156 social leaders were killed in the past 14 months. The United Nations said Colombia’s government was undermining the country’s peace process by failing to release imprisoned FARC members and protect disarmed guerrillas as promised.

In Venezuela, U.S imperialism aligned with violent local elites are trying to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro. For the past three months the opposition have undertaken constant and violent street protests that have resulted in the deaths of over 100 people. The international media with its biased coverage of the conflict in Venezuela is fueling a possible civil war. The Chavistas have responded with a proposal for peace, through a democratic and participatory Constituent Assembly.

On July 30th Venezuelans will elected representatives to help write a new constitution that will determine the path forward for their country.

Fora Temer!

Constituyente por la Paz y por la Vida!

Peace with social justice!

July 26, 2017

Videos on NAFTA from the Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians (CoC) has produced two NAFTA videos on issues in the upcoming treaty renegotiations with the US: one on the Chapter 11 Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and another on energy.  Namely, on the proportionality provision which forces Canada to export an assured percentage of energy to Mexico.  There is pressure in the negotiations that Mexico signs on to the same clause.  The narrator is Maude Barlow, the CoC honorary president, and former senior advisor to the UN on water. 

July 14, 2017

Why Can’t the U.S. Left Get Venezuela Right?

by Shamus Cooke

As Venezuela’s fascist-minded oligarchy conspires with U.S. imperialism to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro, few in the U.S. seem to care.

Instead of denouncing rightwing violence that aims at regime change, many on the U.S. left have stayed silent, or opted to give an evenhanded analysis that supports neither the Maduro government nor the oligarchy trying to violently overthrow it. Rather, the left prioritizes its energy on lecturing on Maduro’s “authoritarianism” and the failures of “Chavismo.”

This approach allows leftists a cool emotional detachment to the fate of the poor in Venezuela, and clean hands that would otherwise be soiled by engaging with the messy, real life class struggle that is the Venezuelan revolution.

A “pox on both houses” analysis omits the U.S. government’s role in collaborating with Venezuela’s oligarchs. The decades-long crimes of imperialism against Venezuela is aided and abetted by the silence of the left, or by its murky analysis that minimizes the perpetrator’s actions, focusing negative attention on the victim precisely at the moment of attack.

Any analysis of a former colonial country that doesn’t begin with the struggle of self-determination against imperialism is a dead letter, since the x-factor of imperialism has always been a dominant variable in the Venezuelan equation, as books by Eva Gollinger and others have thoroughly explained, and further demonstrated by the ongoing intervention in Latin America by an endless succession of U.S. presidents.

The Venezuelan-initiated anti-imperialist movement was strong enough that a new gravitational center was created, that pushed most of Latin America out of the grasp of U.S. domination for the first time in nearly a hundred years. This historic achievement remains minimized for much of the U.S. left, who remain indifferent or uneducated about the revolutionary significance of self-determination for oppressed nations abroad, as well as oppressed peoples inside of the U.S.

A thousand valid criticisms can be made of Chavez, but he chose sides in the class fault lines and took bold action at critical junctures. Posters of Chavez remain in the homes of Venezuela’s poorest barrios because he proved in action that he was a champion for the poor, while fighting and winning many pitched battles against the oligarchy who wildly celebrated his death

And while it’s necessary to deeply critique the Maduro government, the present situation requires the political clarity to take a bold, unqualified stance against the U.S.-backed opposition, rather than a rambling “nonpartisan” analysis that pretends a life or death struggle isn’t currently taking place.

Yes, a growing number of Venezuelans are incredibly frustrated by Maduro, and yes, his policies have exacerbated the current crisis, but while an active counter-revolutionary offensive continues the political priority needs to be aimed squarely against the oligarchy, not Maduro. There remains a mass movement of revolutionaries in Venezuela dedicated to Chavismo and to defending Maduro’s government against the violent anti-regime tactics, but it’s these labor and community groups that the U.S. left never mentions, as it would pollute their analysis.

The U.S. left seems blissfully unaware of the consequences of the oligarchy stepping into the power vacuum if Maduro was successfully ousted. Such a shoddy analysis can be found in Jacobin’s recent article, Being Honest About Venezuela, which focuses on the problems of Maduro’s government while ignoring the honest reality of the terror the oligarchy would unleash if it returned to power.

How did the U.S. left get it so wrong?

They’ve allowed themselves to get distracted by the zig-zags at the political surface, rather than the rupturing fault lines of class struggle below. They see only leaders and are blinded to how the masses have engaged with them.

Regardless of Maduro’s many stumbles, it’s the rich who are revolting in Venezuela, and if they’re successful it will be the workers and poor who suffer a terrible fate. An analysis of Venezuela that ignores this basic fact belongs either in the trash bin or in the newspapers of the oligarchy. Confusing class interests, or mistaking counter-revolution for revolution in politics is as disorienting as mistaking up for down, night for day.

The overarching issue remains the same since the Venezuelan revolution erupted in 1989’s Caracazo uprising, which initiated a revolutionary movement of working and poor people spurred to action by IMF austerity measures. How did Venezuela’s oligarchy respond to the 1989 protests? By killing hundreds if not thousands of people. Their return to power would unleash similar if not bloodier statistics.

-read the entire article on

July 4, 2017

Case of Murdered Mexican Environmental Activist Moves to International Sphere

In 2009, Mariano Abarca was murdered for his activism against a Canadian mining project. Tired of waiting for justice from the Mexican State, his family is taking the case to the Organization of American States

By Simon Schatzberg

Seven years and seven months have passed since Mariano Abarca joined the ranks of the dozens of environmental defenders that have been killed in Mexico for resisting the destructive mining projects that are tearing apart the Mexican countryside.

In that time, the Mexican government has not brought anyone to justice for the murder. On June 26, Abarca’s family, having lost all faith in the Mexican justice system to prosecute the case, sent a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The petition accuses the Mexican government of violating Abarca’s right to life, his right to judicial protection and several other rights included in the American Convention on Human Rights.

If the IACHR admits the case, the Mexican government will need to respond to the petition, and there may be a hearing before the Commission. The Abarca family is optimistic that the case will be admitted.

“It’s indisputable that there was a violation of the right to life, that there has been no serious, deep investigation, and that no one has been punished, so in this sense the responsibility of the Mexican state is clear,” said Miguel Ángel de los Santos, a professor at the Autonomous University of Chiapas (UNACH) and legal representative for the Abarca family, in an interview with the Americas Program.

“It’s also clear that the state didn’t fulfill its obligations to guarantee Mariano’s rights, and that the rights of the family are still being violated. Their search for justice has not ended, and that represents frustration, anguish, which also constitutes a violation of human rights.”

“A Death Foretold”

The Abarca family is joined by three co-petitioners: the Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Communities (REMA), of which Abarca was a founding member, Otros Mundos Chiapas, and the UNACH human rights center.

As a member of REMA, Abarca was on the front lines of a battle against a barite mine operated by the Canadian company Blackfire Exploration in his hometown of Chicomuselo, Chiapas.

A series of investigations from 2013 by Mining Watch Canada and the United Steel Workers tell the story of the conflict over the mine, showing the complicity of the government of Chiapas, Blackfire Exploration and the Canadian Embassy in the events that lead to Abarca’s death.

Blackfire Exploration, a small, privately-held company based in Calgary, Alberta, obtained mining concessions in the Chicomuselo municipality of Chiapas in 2005.  The concession overlapped with the territory of two ejidos, Ejido Nueva Morelia and Ejido Grecia, which both initially opposed to the project. Officials from the Canadian Embassy traveled to Chiapas several times before the mine went into production, and managed to help Blackfire negotiate land-use agreements with the Ejidos, although many ejidatarios still felt that they had not consented to the project. In late 2007, Blackfire started extracting barite, a mineral used in oil and gas exploration.

Over the next two years, the mine’s operation led to a series of conflicts, relating to barite being extracted from along an access road that the company had built through Ejido Nueva Morelia, in violation of the land-use agreement between the company and the ejido. Abarca, as a leader of REMA in Chicomuselo, organized ejitadarios to defend their territory, and began investigating the company’s connections to local government and the Canadian Embassy.

-read the entire article on

June 30, 2017

Canada’s Lamentable Double Standard Towards Venezuela

TrudeauBy Sheldon BirkettResearch Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)

In Ottawa, on May 1st, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on the phone with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo

Kuczynski, affirming a commitment to encourage dialogue between the government of Venezuela and the opposition, Mesa Unidad Democrática (MUD). Trudeau offered his support for a democratic resolution on the political and economic crisis in Venezuela. The rumors of an initiative for Trudeau to lead an Organization of American States (OAS) Venezuela mediation effort came from Peru’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Luna, after stating that the liberal-minded Trudeau holds a “global power role.” However, on May 16, 2017, Trudeau met with Lilian Tintori in Ottawa. Tintori is the wife of the leader of the right wing opposition party Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo López, who was imprisoned in 2015 for inciting violence in the “guarimbas.” At the meeting with Tintori, Trudeau committed to restoring dialogue “as enshrined in the OAS’s Inter-American Democratic charter.” Though the Canadian government continues to push for talks on the Venezuelan crisis through the OAS, a fair and impartial Latin American mediation process ought to exclude the involvement of Canada and United States. Canada and the United States should be excluded because they have been outspoken partisans in this conflict and form part of a bloc of countries lead by a strong supporter of the Venezuelan opposition, who is the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro.

There is little prospect for talks coming out of the partisan efforts of the Almagro bloc, that seeks to halt the constituent assembly election process in Venezuela, in comparison to the more open-ended call for dialogue advanced by the CARICOM and ALBA countries. This is apparent as the OAS was unable to reach a resolution on the Venezuelan crisis at the meeting in Cancún, Mexico on June 19th. The push for an international commission on Venezuela, initially proposed by Peruvian President Kuczynski, backed by the United States, and headed by Canadian negotiators, shows that Trudeau is only being used to do Washington’s “dirty work” on Venezuela. Certainly, for a Canadian Prime Minister who won the 2015 election on a platform of “Real Change,” Canada’s one-sided pro-U.S. role in the Venezuelan negotiations reflects anything but “Real Change.”

-read the entire article on the COHA website

-download a PDF version of this article

June 23, 2017

Canada’s policy in Venezuela is ‘anything but neutral,’ says national labour coalition

A protester holds a national flag as a bank branch, housed in the magistracy of the Supreme Court of Justice, burns during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela June 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Levon Sevunts
Radio Canada International

The Liberal government’s approach to championing human rights and security in the Americas is one-sided and selective, says a Canadian labour and civil society coalition.

Common Frontiers, an umbrella group of labour and civil society organizations, says Canada needs to play a more even-handed role in trying to promote human rights in the Americas and resolve the political crisis in Venezuela.

More than 70 people have died in 12 weeks of street protests across the country, which began after Venezuela’s Supreme Court, dominated by supporters of left-wing President Nicolas Maduro, ruled to strip the opposition-dominated parliament of its powers, accusing lawmakers of “contempt” after allegations of irregularities by three opposition lawmakers during the 2015 elections.

The ruling, which was denounced as a coup by the opposition, was later reversed but massive street protests against Maduro government continued.

As Venezuela’s crisis has deepened, with triple-digit inflation, record shortages of food and medicine and rising crime rates, Maduro has sought to rebuild his popular support by calling for a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s “anti-capitalist” constitution crafted by his political godfather, the late President Hugo Chavez.

Critics fear this could allow Maduro to postpone the 2018 elections that many think he has good chance of losing amid the economic crisis that has gripped Venezuela. Maduro, however, has vowed that presidential elections will be held in 2018 “come rain, thunder or lightning in Venezuela.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who participated at the Organization of American States general assembly in Cancun, Mexico, on Monday and Tuesday, “reiterated Canada’s unequivocal calls for the Government of Venezuela to restore the rule of law and respect the Venezuelan people’s democratic and human rights,” Global Affairs said in a statement.

She has also said that Canada has been instrumental in the passing of several statements and resolutions at the OAS supporting the Venezuelan opposition in their efforts to achieve political and economic reforms.

“Chrystia Freeland’s comments surrounding Venezuela demonstrate an alarming trend that Canada is anything but neutral when it comes to the situation in Venezuela or human rights in the region,” said Raul Burbano, program director at Common Frontiers.

“While the government of Canada takes a hard stance against the democratically elected government of Venezuela over its human rights record, it turns a blind eye to the violence, and violation of human rights perpetrated by some opposition protestors during violent street protest in Venezuela.”

Burbano cited the example of Orlando Figuera, a 21-year-old government supporter who was doused with gasoline and set alight last month at an anti-government protest in Venezuela’s capital Caracas. He died of his injuries on June 5.

While Canada has been very outspoken on the situation in Venezuela it has stayed silent on the “egregious violations of human rights” in Honduras, Mexico and Brazil, where President Michel Temer’s deeply unpopular government faces serious allegations of massive corruption, amid growing  authoritarianism and the use of violence against peaceful protesters, Burbano said.

-read the rest of the story here

June 22, 2017

CTV and Your Morning news segment on Venezuela

Common Frontiers' Raul Burbano was interviewed about Canada's possible role in the Venezuelan Peace Process. Watch the interview below or, if the video box isn't appearing in your browser, use this link to go directly to the CTV News site.

June 17, 2017

Declaración política del encuentro de organizaciones sociales de Canadá, Estados Unidos y México:
Por nuevas formas de cooperación internacional

Por La Jornada del Campo

SierraLas y los participantes en el Encuentro de Organizaciones Sociales de Canadá, Estados Unidos y México, ante el inminente proceso de renegociación del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN), condenamos este modelo porque ha afectado gravemente el desarrollo nacional, siendo contrario a los intereses de los pueblos, del medio ambiente y de nuestro sistema democrático. Además, los tratados de libre comercio han fracasado políticamente por no haber cumplido con las promesas y expectativas de prosperidad anunciadas para los trabajadores del campo y la ciudad, detonando una severa crisis social.

Apostamos por la construcción de un nuevo modelo de integración, cooperación e intercambio entre los países, que garantice la participación democrática de la sociedad en la negociación de cualquier acuerdo, que sea transparente en todos sus términos y condiciones y que, con base, en la cooperación internacional y la soberanía de cada país, promueva la reconstrucción de las cadenas productivas nacionales, regionales y locales, con pleno respeto a los derechos humanos, políticos, económicos, sociales, culturales y del medio ambiente. Además, debe garantizar el trabajo digno y el salario remunerador, independiente- mente del origen o condición migratoria. 

Ya que desde la implementación del TLCAN en 1994, los trabajadores, las comunidades y el medio ambiente en los tres países han sufrido, mientras que los inversionistas ricos, las grandes corporaciones y sus ejecutivos han cosechado más ganancias y han adquirido más derechos y poder. Ese poder ha tenido un efecto negativo en nuestras democracias. 

Cualquier tratado comercial debe revertir estas tendencias innegables y conducir hacia un desarrollo sustentable, sostenible y ampliamente compartido en toda América del Norte. 

Hasta ahora, no son alentadores los signos de que un nuevo TLCAN contribuya a las necesidades de las personas y las comunidades de América del Norte y al medio ambiente que todos compartimos. Varios funcionarios en Estados Unidos han mencionado utilizar el Acuerdo Transpacífico de Cooperación Económica (TPP) como punto de partida, para su revisión, aunque los trabajadores y las comunidades se oponen ampliamente al TPP con argumentos concretos y buenas razones. 

Las organizaciones, los movimientos de la sociedad civil y las comunidades originarias rechazamos no sólo los detalles técnicos del actual TLCAN y los posteriores acuerdos comerciales dirigidos por Estados Unidos en las Américas, sino también las posiciones beligerantes, militaristas, xenófobas y misóginas del presidente Trump. Por lo que exigimos la plena vigencia del derecho internacional y la no intervención para garantizar la paz mundial. 

Nos oponemos a los muros fronterizos en América del Norte y defendemos los derechos humanos y laborales de las personas que emigran, así como su derecho a no ser obligados a emigrar por la pobreza y la inseguridad.

-leer el resto del artículo

June 13, 2017

Sierra Club Responsible Trade Summit
Ottawa - June 23

SierraOttawa, ON - Sierra Club Canada Foundation is hosting an event to discuss implications of trade agreements on our ability to protect the environment and to formulate a model for sustainable and successful trade agreements of the future. 

Experts attending the event include:

  • Ben Beachy - senior policy advisor for the Sierra Club US’s Responsible Trade Program.
  • Scott Sinclair - senior research fellow with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, director of Trade and Investment Research Project.
  • Claude Vaillancourt  - president of ATTAC Québec
  • Ronald Labonté - Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Health Equity at the School of Epidemiology, Public Health and Preventative Medicine.
  • Anthony Torres - Associate Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club US's Responsible Trade Program
  • Sujata Dey - Trade campaigner with Council of Canadians
  • Angella MacEwen  - Senior Economist, Social and Economic Policy, Canadian Labour Congress, and Policy Fellow with the Broadbent Institute
  • Jesse Colorado Swanhuyser  - co-founder of the California Coalition for Fair Trade and Human Rights, serves as Chair of the Sierra Club US’s Committee on International Trade and Human Rights, and is the managing attorney at Voice for the People (V4P). 

WHEN: Friday, June 23, 9 – 4 pm
WHERE: Ottawa Public Library, Main Branch, 120 Metcalf Ave., Ottawa

TICKETS:  $10 or by Donation.

June 13, 2017

Trump launches NAFTA renegotiations

by Bruce Campbell
June 13 2017

On May 18, U.S. President Donald Trump sent a letter to Congress announcing his intention to renegotiate NAFTA, starting a 90-day waiting period before North American trade negotiators can formally sit down to figure out what a new deal should look like. Policy-makers and big business groups in all three countries have called for a "modernization" of the 23-year-old agreement, though Trump has threatened to walk away from the table, and even tear up NAFTA, if an America-first solution cannot be found. On June 5, the Canadian government launched a public consultation on the matter, presumably to inform its negotiating position, but clearly all three countries hope to have a NAFTA-plus framework in place before the talks officially begin later this summer.

NAFTA transformed the economic and social landscape of North America. That much we can agree on. But views diverge significantly on whether or not the transformation has been for the better. The elite consensus is that NAFTA has greatly benefited Canada and its partners, since a major increase in cross-border trade produced millions of jobs. Implied here is that without NAFTA, supply chains would rupture, trade would collapse, jobs would disappear. There is substantial evidence this isn’t the case.

NAFTA has also played an important role in the growth of job insecurity and precarious work; in the dramatic increase in income and wealth inequality; in wage stagnation and the hollowing out of the middle class; in the weakening of public services and shrinking of Canada's social safety net. NAFTA is not solely responsible for these changes, but it was a key strand in a web of mutually reinforcing policies that have facilitated the "structural adjustment" of the Canadian state in line with the demands of the "new global reality."

Some former government insiders saw it coming. The late Mel Clark, Canada's former deputy negotiator for the GATT (the forerunner of the World Trade Organization), warned that NAFTA was most importantly an investment agreement, reflecting the ascendance of the forces driving the corporate globalization project. The deal’s key provisions protect and enhance the private property rights of internationally mobile corporations, impose constraints on policy flexibility, allow corporations to directly sue governments, and lock these and sibling policies prior to NAFTA in a treaty to prevent future governments from backsliding. 

-read the rest of the article

Bruce Campbell is the former director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The CCPA will be submitting comments to the government’s public consultation on a NAFTA renegotiation, which you will be able to find at

June 10, 2017

Trade Justice Network participates in tri-national NAFTA meetings in Mexico City

Mexican declarationMEXICO CITY — On May 25-27th, the Trade Justice Network (TJN) participated in a tri-national meeting of social organizations from Canada, Quebec, the US and Mexico ahead of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations. 

Over 300 people gathered in the stunning Palacio de Medicina in the heart of Mexico City to discuss the impacts of NAFTA and to develop coordinated strategies for moving forward. Participants included representatives of labour, environmental, agricultural/farming, Indigenous, migrant, feminist, education, human rights, social justice and other civil society organizations. 

The Canada and Quebec delegation included representatives from Common Frontiers, the Council of Canadians, Réseau Québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC), the Canadian Labour Congress, Unifor, the Canadian Union of Public and General Employees (CUPE) National, the United Steelworkers, Public Service Alliance of Canada, BC Teachers Federation, Fonds de solidarité (FTQ), Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Centro international de solidarité ouvrière (CiSO), the National Farmers Union, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, many of which are member organizations of the TJN. Elected officials lent their support to the meetings of the tri-national coalition, including MP and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (via video), Amir Khadir of the National Assembly of Quebec, and Ana Collins (representing MP Romeo Saganash).

During the public portion of the meetings, including a press conference, we heard from both expert researchers and on-the-ground organizers and workers on the effects of NAFTA in all three countries. While NAFTA has had negative impacts on workers, farmers, and the environment across the continent, there is no question that Mexico has suffered most greatly. A statement by Mexican social movement organizations noted that “NAFTA has been a source of poverty and inequality, deprivation of natural resources and loss of land of campesinos and Indigenous peoples.”

Beyond simply criticizing NAFTA, a common sentiment in the civil society meetings was the need to oppose the current model of international trade and the neoliberal political economic model which underlies it. However, in opposing (or calling for alternatives to) NAFTA, participants—particularly those from Mexico—were sure to emphasize that they did not espouse isolationism or nationalism. Instead, many proposed an alternative model for economic integration to the current one represented by NAFTA. 

Such an alternative model must be based on principles that have largely disappeared from the current international trade regime: democratic participation, transparency and the guarantee of the rights of workers, the environment and all peoples. 

Constituting a strong and diverse delegation, representatives of Canadian and Quebec organizations called for the protection of labour rights (including those of migrant workers), human rights, farmers and rural communities, public education, public services, Indigenous rights and knowledge, and the environment in any new agreement.

Although there were different perspectives on whether to participate in the NAFTA renegotiation process or to call for eliminating the agreement altogether, there was consensus on a vital point: the need for tri-national solidarity. This involves denouncing the nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric that has resurfaced with Donald Trump and recognizing that it is the current model of international trade—which expands investor/corporate rights at the expense of workers, public services, Indigenous sovereignty, the environment and democracy—that has harmed peoples across the continent; it is not our neighbours who should be the target of our frustration. 

Rather than falling into an us-versus-them dynamic, we must come together at this important political juncture to demand a trade relationship that puts people and the environment at the centre. We must work together across sectors and across borders to form a political movement that is diverse, inclusive and unified. 

In a joint statement that came out of the three days of meetings, participants declared a commitment to tri-national solidarity and the implementation of a tri-national action plan, the seeds of which were sown during the meetings. The coordinated action plan, including strategies for mobilization, campaigns, political action, and proposals, aims to effect change in the international trade regime and develop alternatives for fairer economic integration and sustainable development.

Read the full text of the tri-national declaration here: Tri-national Declaration

June 8, 2017

NAFTA Renegotiations Must Be Done Through The Lens Of Climate Change

By John Dillon

Canada, and not just Mexico, may be in for a rough ride when it renegotiates NAFTA with the United States. A draft letter from the U.S. Trade Representative to Congress outlining renegotiation objectives, which was leaked on March 30, reveals that the U.S. agenda goes far beyond the modest tweaking implied earlier by President Trump.

When it comes to fighting climate change, however, the ride will be rougher. Trade provisions will likely continue to be a stumbling block in any efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Observers note that the U.S. has no intention of doing away with the notorious investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions that allow corporations to sue governments when they deem public policies -- such as those aimed at fighting climate change -- to be a threat to their profits. Corporations, chiefly chemical and resource extraction companies, sued Canada 39 times under this mechanism, collecting more than $215 million in compensation. Ottawa will likely not push for the elimination of ISDS from NAFTA since it has agreed to a slightly modified ISDS system in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union.

Additionally, a crucial chapter incorporated into the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and now part of NAFTA, has escaped notice in current debate. Chapter Six on energy gives the U.S. unfettered access to Canadian energy resources. 

During the 1993 election campaign Jean Chrétien promised that a Liberal government would renegotiate both the FTA and NAFTA and abrogate both agreements unless Canada were to obtain "the same energy protection as Mexico." 

A careful reading of the energy chapter in NAFTA shows that the only significant difference in the treatment of Mexico and Canada is the former's exemption from the application of the proportional sharing clause (Article 605). This provision obliges Canada, under certain circumstances, to continue exporting oil and gas to the U.S. in the same proportion as in the previous three years, even if such exports cause domestic shortages. 

After Chrétien won a majority government some perfunctory talks were held with the U.S. before this campaign promise was quietly shelved allowing the proportional sharing clause to remain unchanged.

While this clause has yet to be invoked, it very well could be in the near future if Canada fulfills its commitments under the Paris climate agreement. If Canada is serious about keeping the increase in global temperatures below 2.00 C, and as close as possible to 1.50 C, it will have to curb the unfettered growth of fossil fuel exports and carefully allocate remaining reserves of conventional oil for domestic use as part of a planned transition to a low-carbon economy.

Measures to conserve exhaustible natural resources for domestic use are permitted under Article XX of the GATT, which is now part of the World Trade Organization's provisions. But they would run afoul of the proportional sharing clause.

Will the current Liberal government include the withdrawal of the proportional sharing clause in its agenda for the renegotiation of NAFTA? Not likely. During his visit to the White House, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did his utmost to assure President Trump that it is in U.S. interests to continue the current trading relationship with Canada. 

In Trump's mind Canadian oil is not "foreign oil." Consider the president's words, spoken in the oval office in the presence of Russ Girling, TransCanada's president, as he issued the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline:

"It's a great day for American jobs and a historic moment for North American ... energy independence. This announcement is part of a new era of American energy policy that will lower costs for American families -- and very significantly -- reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

The additional emissions that would occur within Canada as a result of four recently approved fossil fuel export projects -- Enbridge's Line 3, TransCanada's Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipelines as well as the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal -- would nullify all the emission reductions that could be achieved through the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change announced last December by federal, provincial and territorial first ministers. The emissions that would occur abroad from combustion of the oil and gas exported by these four projects would not be counted as "Canadian" emissions. Nevertheless, they would add two times as many GHGs to the atmosphere as the amount emitted within Canada.

The time frame during which Canada can continue to emit GHGs at current rates and still keep temperature increases near 1.50 C is quickly narrowing. If Canada continues to extract fossil fuels at 2014 levels it will exhaust its share of a global carbon budget in just 11 years if the goal is to keep temperature increases below 1.50 C. According to Marc Lee, a senior economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in this scenario, there is only a 50 per cent chance of keeping increases below 1.50 C. For a 50 percent chance of staying below a 2.00 C increase, Canada could extract fossil fuels at the 2014 rate for 32 years. Any new hydrocarbon export projects would shorten these time frames.

While no one was thinking much about climate change back in the eighties when the FTA was negotiated, today the threat it poses to life on Earth must be a lens through which any new deal is evaluated.

John Dillon is Ecological Economy Program Coordinator at KAIROS Canada.

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