Tag Archives: North America

‘Tide Is Turning’: Cheers Erupt for NYC’s Suit Against Fossil Fuel Giants and for Divestment


An article by Andrea Germanos for Common Dreams

Climate advocates hailed what they say is a “watershed” moment on Wednesday following two announcements by New York City: that the city would seek to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels within five years, and that it filed suit against five fossil fuel giants for their role in driving the climate crisis.

New York City on Wedensday announced its plans to divest billions of its pension funds from fossil fuel companies and that it filed a suit against five giants in the industry for billions in damages. (Photo: Rae Breaux/FossilFree.org)

“This is a first-in-the-nation step to protect our future and our planet—for this generation and the next,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

Stringer announced last month that he would soon bring a proposal to the trustees of the pension funds that included divestment. Following through on that promise, a statement from the city released Wednesday says that he and Mayor Bill de Blasio “will submit a joint resolution to pension fund trustees” to begin the steps needed to purge the funds from the dirty industry, which will first entail an analysis on the financial impacts to be carried out by the City Comptroller’s Bureau of Asset Management.

350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said in a tweet responding to the news that it was “One of the biggest days in 30 years of the climate fight.”

The city’s five pension funds hold $189 billion in assets, and roughly $5 billion of that amount are held in the securities of over 190 fossil fuel companies, the city says.

The new lawsuit names BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell and seeks billions of dollars in damages for harm already inflicted on the city as a result of the climate crisis as well for preparing for effects yet to come, including “imminent threats to its property, its infrastructure, and the health and safety of its residents.”

New York’s lawsuit follows similar suits filed by seven cities and counties in California.

The city’s statement references the industry’s deliberate misinformation campaign to cover up the effects of fossil fuels.

“We’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits,” de Blasio said in a statement. “As climate change continues to worsen, it’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient.”

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Question for this article:

Divestment: is it an effective tool to promote sustainable development?

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Daniel Zarrilli, the city’s senior director of Climate Policy and Programs and Chief Resilience Officer, echoed that statement, saying, “Today, after a decades-long pattern of deception and denial by fossil fuel companies, New York City is holding them to account. By seeking damages for the investments necessary to protect New Yorkers from the impacts of climate change, and divesting our pension funds from fossil fuel reserves, we are taking the largest action by any city to confront the growing climate crisis and demonstrate the leadership necessary to win this fight against fossil fuels and the damages they’ve caused.”

Among the state lawmakers praising the city’s action was Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger who said, “Divestment sends the clear message that it is no longer acceptable to support companies whose fundamental business model puts our entire society at risk.”

Climate campaigners heaped praise on the city as well.

McKibben said in a statement, “New York City today becomes a capital of the fight against climate change on this planet.”

“With its communities exceptionally vulnerable to a rising sea, the city is showing the spirit for which it’s famous: it’s not pretending that working with the fossil fuel companies will somehow save the day, but instead standing up to them, in the financial markets and in court,” he added.

The announcements also drew praise from Carroll Muffett, president of Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), who said they marked “a watershed in corporate accountability for climate change and a wake-up call to investors that the risks facing fossil fuel companies are real, material, and rapidly growing.”

The city’s move also follows New York State’s announcement last month that it was putting forth a “a de-carbonization roadmap” that included divesting from fossil fuels.

With NYC becoming the first major U.S. city to call for divestment—a call over 800 institutions have heeded—and a growing number of municipalities filing suit against the industry, climate activists say it’s clear “the global tide is turning.”

According to Betámia Coronel, U.S. reinvestment coordinator at 350.org, “Divesting our city’s pensions from the dirtiest companies is an enormous hard-won first step; holding companies like Exxon accountable for their role in climate deception is next. Today’s announcement is a rallying signal to cities all over the world that the dawn of a fossil free world has arrived.”

“The signal is clear,” McKibben adds in an op-ed. “The oil industry is not the future, it’s the past. And indeed it will be held responsible for what it’s done in the past: namely, push climate denial when it knew the truth.”

“They should light up the Empire State Building in green tonight — for the money the city is going to save, and for the planet it will help protect in the process,” he concludes.

Washington activists launch ‘Climate Countdown’ to push lawmakers for urgent action


An article by Brandon Jordan from Waging Nonviolence

As Washington state senators prepared for the first legislative session of 2018 at the capitol building in Olympia yesterday, their traditional welcome ceremony was disrupted by at least a hundred activists from across the state, who had made their way into the balconies. From there, to the dismay of their elected officials, they delivered a loud message for all in attendance: “We have a climate crisis. You need to act now!”

Climate Countdown activists rallied outside the Washington state capitol building in Olympia on Monday. (Twitter / 350 Seattle / Alexandra Blakely)

The demonstration was part of an effort organizers are calling Climate Countdown, a campaign pressuring Democrats to pass and implement legislation that reduces carbon emissions. With a Democratic majority in both legislative chambers, organizers from a handful of organizations, from local 350.org chapters to indigenous groups, believe this is the perfect — and perhaps the only — opportunity to act.

Since 2013, passing any form of climate-related legislation in Washington was difficult at best. Republicans held a majority in the state Senate and used this advantage to block proposals, such as a cap-and-trade system, from Democrats. Gov. Jay Inslee, considered  the “greenest governor in America” by the League of Conservation Voters, often felt frustrated by Republican opposition to his climate plans.

Yet, on Nov. 8, Democrats succeeded in regaining control of the state Senate with a slim 49-48 majority. Alec Connon, an activist with 350 Seattle, said this victory led to activists discussing a potential plan to ensure lawmakers took responsibility without using Republicans as an excuse.

“It’s about time that the rhetoric we’ve seen from climate leaders in Washington state [translate into] actual meaningful policy,” Connon said.

As part of the campaign, residents are putting forward two demands to lawmakers. First, they want officials to follow a climate test, which are guidelines that determine a project’s approval if it harms the climate. This would reject all fossil fuel proposals.

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Second, activists want lawmakers to pass a bill that ensures the state switches to 100 percent renewable energy by 2028. All sectors under the government’s jurisdiction would move toward using alternative fuels.

The window to do this is short, as Washington lawmakers will only meet for 60 days this session. As 350 Seattle communications coordinator Emily Johnston explained, every minute is precious. She referred to scientists who warned  world leaders last June that we have only three years to reduce greenhouse gases to a point where the Paris climate agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius is still attainable.

“We know what happens beyond that,” she said. “[Climate] acceleration and the disasters we are starting to see become unstoppable.”
Johnston referred the federal government’s refusal to deal with climate change as a major reason for not only Washington, but also other states to focus on the environment.

“If the entire West Coast were to develop laws that were very aggressive on climate then that would have a [massive] impact because the economies of Washington and California are huge,” she said.
Connon used Montgomery County, the largest county in Maryland, as an example of what Washington state could do. Last month, officials there passed a resolution declaring a “climate emergency” and aimed to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2027, and ultimately 100 percent eight years after that.

“The example set by Montgomery County is a commendable example and one we hope Washington state will follow,” Connon said.
Washington does have commitments by law to reduce its greenhouse gases  to 1990 levels by 2020. But Olympic Climate Action member Melanie Greer said Washington will fail to meet that deadline barring a significant policy change.

“I want to see real legislation that matches what scientists say has to be done, as well as demonstrable action — so that the state moves in the right direction,” Greer said.

After the activists in the balconies finished their chant, they were ordered to leave by security guards. Having made their voices heard, they are now planning the next steps of the campaign to ensure officials make climate action a top priority this legislative session.

“The clock is ticking,” Connon said. “We, as a society and as a whole, have to respond to the climate crisis.”

Baltimore, USA: Conference on US foreign military bases


An article by Elliot Swain for Code Pink

On January 12-14, 2018, a conference in Baltimore on US foreign military bases brought together anti-war voices from all over the world. Speakers identified the many threats posed by United States military presence—from national sovereignty to the environment and public health.

US military outposts in foreign nations are vestiges of a shameful history of US imperialism dating back to the Spanish-American War and subsequent US colonization of the Philippines and Cuba. Many more bases were built during World War II and the Korean War, and still exist today. The closure of these bases could signal the twilight of a long history of bloody, costly foreign wars while affirming the principle of self-determination for all peoples. Voices from Japanese, Korean, African, Australian and Puerto Rican resistance movements came together at the conference to draw these connections and plan a peaceful future.

Fittingly, the conference marked the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Demonstrators gathered outside the White House on January 11 to demand the release of the 41 prisoners still detained without charges in the prison that former President Obama had promised to close. But as co-chair of the National Network on Cuba Cheryl LaBash said, “Guantanamo is more than a prison.” In fact, the Guantanamo military base is the oldest outpost of the United States military on foreign soil, with permanent control ceded in 1901 under the neocolonial Platt Amendment.

The campaign to shutter the illegal and abominable Guantanamo prison coincides with the more protracted fight to return the bay to the people of Cuba. The history of Guantanamo shows how the barbarism of the modern war machine follows the dehumanizing logic of a century of US imperialism. 

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Question for this article:

The peace movement in the United States, What are its strengths and weaknesses?

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The conference also devoted a plenary to the abysmal impact of both domestic and foreign military bases on the environment and public health. According to professor of environmental health Patricia Hynes, the majority of global superfund sites—sites the EPA identifies as posing risks to health or environment—are foreign military bases. Pat Elder from the group World Without War demonstrated how the Navy’s Allegheny Ballistic Center in West Virginia regularly leaks trichloroethylene, a known carcinogen, into the groundwater of the Potomac. The Naval War Center in Dahlgren, Virginia has been burning hazardous waste materials for 70 years.

The military’s impunity and recklessness towards public health is cast into sharp relief by the case of Fort Detrick in Maryland. The Army dumped radioactive sludge into the groundwater, which Frederick residents claim is directly linked to a spate of cancer-related deaths in the area. They sued, and the case was dismissed, with the judge citing “sovereign immunity.”

Though those bases are on US soil, “sovereign immunity” is all the more chilling of a verdict for the peoples of foreign nations.. Hynes described Okinawa Island as “the junk heap of the Pacific.” The island has been the dumping ground for extremely toxic defoliants like Agent Orange for several decades. Pollution from the island’s American military bases has caused hundreds of US service members and local Okinawans to become seriously ill.

The people of Okinawa have been tireless in their fight against these deadly bases. While local resistance leader Hiroji Yamashiro awaits trial on trumped-up charges, protesters turn out every single day to oppose the expansion of Marine base Camp Schwab. Indigenous movements like these are the lifeblood of the international opposition to US empire. But fundamentally, it is incumbent upon Americans to rein in the devastating impact of their government’s foreign military presence. 

The conference concluded with a call for an international summit on foreign military bases to be hosted by one of the countries presently fighting against the US military presence on their soil. It also called for the formation of an ongoing international alliance against foreign military bases. For more information and updates, go to www.noforeignbases.org

[Editor’s note: Additional information is available in an earlier CPNN article.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign Reborn


An article by Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan in Democracy Now

Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 89 years old this Jan. 15. Assassinated at the age of 39 on April 4, 1968, his much-too-short life forever changed America. Among the landmarks of his activism are the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, ending segregation in public transportation; leading the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech; the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act; and marching with sanitation workers in Memphis, where he declared in his last speech, delivered on the eve of his death, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” Often overlooked are the increasingly radical policy positions King took in his last years, from speaking out against the Vietnam War to forging a multiracial Poor People’s Campaign that sought, as King said, “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” Now, 50 years later, a coalition has formed anew to organize poor people in the United States into what King called “a new and unsettling force” to fight poverty and forge meaningful change.

Illustration from Nation of Change

This renewal, called “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival,” has an audacious agenda: “to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.” At the forefront is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Born just two days after the famous March on Washington, Barber grew up in the civil-rights movement. For over 10 years he served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, stepping down to lead this new campaign.

Back in 1968, King described the need for the Poor People’s Campaign, saying: “Millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. But there is another America. And this other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair.”

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Question for this article:

Helping the poorest of the poor help themselves, if millions took it up, could it be the foundation of a just world?

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Speaking this week on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, Rev. Barber reflected on how little has truly changed since King’s time: “Fifty years later, we have nearly 100 million poor and working poor people in this country, 14 million poor children. … Fifty years later, we have less voting rights protection than we had on August 6, 1965,” he said. “[Republicans] have filibustered fixing the Voting Rights Act now for over four years, over 1,700 days.”

“Every state where there’s high voter suppression,” Barber continued, “also has high poverty, denial of health care, denial of living wages, denial of labor union rights, attacks on immigrants, attacks on women.”

Barber says the answer is fusion politics: “We have black, we have white, we have brown, young, old, gay, straight, Jewish, Muslim, Christians, people of faith, people not of faith, who are coming together,” creating what he calls the “Third Reconstruction.” Part of this fusion includes reaching out to traditionally conservative Christians, like Minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. From a devout, white evangelical family, as a teen he served as a congressional page under South Carolina Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, one of the fiercest segregationists of the modern era.

Wilson-Hartgrove heard William Barber preach, and has been a follower and a colleague ever since. The renewed Poor People’s Campaign is responding to poor, white evangelicals, Wilson-Hartgrove says: “These people who say, ‘Vote for me because I’m a good Christian leader’ are not serving your interests. You don’t have health care, you don’t have a living wage, because the same people who say they’re standing up for God and righteousness are, when they’re voting, voting against the interests of poor people, whether you’re black, white, brown or whatever.”

Barber sees transformation of the Deep South on the near horizon, but doesn’t claim it will be easy. Recent court victories against both racial and political gerrymandering in North Carolina will further empower African-Americans and other traditionally marginalized groups. But the real work will be done not in the courts, but in the streets.

Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove, along with the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-director of the New York City-based Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and co-chair of the modern-day Poor People’s Campaign, traveled to 15 states around the country in recent months, recruiting, organizing and training over 1,000 people. Barber said: “Our first action will be on the Monday after Mother’s Day. We’re going after 25,000 people engaging in civil disobedience over six weeks to launch a movement.” Their target: the U.S. Capitol and statehouses across the country.

Martin Luther King Jr. was robbed of life by a sniper’s bullet 50 years ago. But on this anniversary of his birth, this national holiday that people fought decades for, his vital work to empower the poor, lives on.

Global Solutions Lab: Eliminating Urban Poverty


An announcement from Medard Gabel, Director, Global Solutions Lab

The 15th Annual Global Solutions Lab is June 17–25, 2017, at the United Nations in New York and Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA. Participants from around the world will be briefed by, interact with, and question UN experts (from UN Habitat, UN Development Program, UN Environmental Program, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, FAO and other UN agencies) and then, working collaboratively in small teams, develop designs, programs and strategies that deal with one of the critical problems facing our world’s urban environments. The participants present their work to a group of UN, corporate and foundation leaders at the end of the program. After this, their work is published in a book.

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Question for this article:

Can UN agencies help eradicate poverty in the world?

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This year’s theme is Eliminating Urban Poverty by 2030. The focus will be on the problems facing the cities of the world— where over 55% of the world’s population currently live (and where 70% are expected to live by 2050). How do we turn sinks into sources? How can we transform urban sinks for food, energy, and water into sources for these valuable resources? How do we do this while simultaneously meeting the needs for housing, education, health care, employment and recreation?

The Global Solutions Lab is a structured learning experience that fosters creativity, disruptive innovations, global perspectives and local solutions. It is intense, fast-paced, and for many, transformative.

If you know any students or others who might be interested in this type of event, have them get in touch with us. They can do this at the Lab’s website, or by emailing us at mg@depaceminterris.org. Further information is also in the link to this PDF flyer.

Conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases , Jan 12-14 in Baltimore, USA


An announcement from United for Peace

Peace, justice and environmental organizations in the United States are collectively organizing a 3-day national conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases on January 12-14, 2018, at the University of Baltimore, Maryland.

Source: Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
(Note: Recently there have been revelations of many more American military bases in Africa.)
(Click on image to enlarge)

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Question for this article:

The peace movement in the United States, What are its strengths and weaknesses?

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Endorsers include: Alliance for Global Justice • Black Alliance for Peace • CODEPINK • Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space • International Action Center • Liberty Tree Foundation • MLK Justice Coalition • Nuclear Age Peace Foundation • Popular Resistance • United National Antiwar Coalition • U.S. Peace Council • Veterans For Peace • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom • World Beyond War • and United for Peace and Justice.

You can join and support this Conference by:

Registering and attending the Conference.
Having your organization endorse the Conference.
Placing an ad or a solidarity message from your group in the Conference Journal.

Click Here for Conference Details, Registration and Endorsement

Canadian Jewish Group Organizes Hanukkah Event to Raise Money for Solar Panels for Palestinians in Gaza


An article from Canada Talks Israel Palestine

A Jewish group in Vancouver is fundraising Saturday night to provide small, practical, hand-held solar lamps to families trapped in the dark in Gaza. Read more….Roughly 2 million people in Gaza have electricity on average only 3~4 hours per day. Independent Jewish Voices Vancouver is partnering with Rebuilding Alliance, a California-based NGO with 15 years experience on the ground in Gaza to help the people of Gaza face their Israeli induced and PA assisted power shortage.  So far, they’ve shipped 27,000 solar lamps and need funds for more.

On Saturday, December 16th, they are using the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah to raise money for this humanitarian cause.

Event details.

See a video.        

About the lights.

At the event, five candles will be lit and dedicated by five different people engaged in five different ways of bringing light into this world.  It is the fifth night of the eight-night Hanukkah holiday celebrated for more than 2,000 years by Jews around the world.  Candles will be lit beginning 7:30 pm by:

▪  Omar Mansour, a young man from Gaza living in Vancouver who has worked with a number of NGOs in Gaza and whose own family is in the dark every night. 

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Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East; Is it important for a culture of peace?

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▪  Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr. of the Ihanktowan Sioux and Chickasaw Nations, who will give the territorial acknowledgement on behalf of the Coastal Salish people.  He will dedicate his candle to indigenous people everywhere who are struggling against foreign domination.

▪  Hilla Kerner of Vancouver Rape Relief and former executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.  She will dedicate her candle to the struggle to end sexual violence against women.

▪  Jack Gates, a tenant organizer in the Regent Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside supporting struggles to end homelessness and addiction.

▪ Valery and Yvon Raoul, long-time Vancouver activists in the struggle for
environmental and social justice.

“We welcome reporters and camera crews to our fundraising party, December 16, at the Peretz Centre, 6184 Ash Street, in Vancouver,” said organizer Rabbi David Mivisair. 

The visually and aurally rich candle-lighting ceremony will be 7:30 – 8 pm. “After the candle-lighting, at about 8 pm, we’ll sing traditional songs and enjoy traditional Hanukkah foods.  The event is open to everyone,” he said.

More info.

A video of the lights in Gaza.

Donations online

Independent Jewish Voices Vancouver is a chapter of a national human rights organization whose mandate is to promote a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for human rights.  More info.

For more information or interview, call Rabbi David Mivasair, at (604) 781-7839.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

16 Days of Activism: Meet Anne Marie Sam, Canada


An article from the Nobel Women’s Initiative

Indigenous leader, councillor. Anne Marie is from Nak’azdli First Nation, in British Columbia, Canada. Anne Marie was first elected as a Councillor for her community of Nak’azdli in 2007. She is a board member of Mining Watch Canada  and a member of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), a group of female chiefs, councillors and former chiefs who are working to reform the mining process in BC to balance the economics of mining developments with respect for First Nations rights and culture.

Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Sam

What is your story?

I was born in to the Lusilyoo frog clan, and our clan’s responsibility is to protect the water. I was also brought in to my dad’s clan, which is the Lhts’umusyoo beaver clan. Their responsibility as a clan is as warriors for the community. I was born into this, the work to protect who we are and to protect the water. So even before I started my work, I think it was already chosen for me. I think the creator and my ancestors led me here and prepared me for this. I’m from the Nak’azdli community and I came to the work I’m doing through the guidance of my environment and through the land I grew up on. It was always instilled in me by my grandparents how important the water and land is.

Your work recently has involved a response to a new mining project in your community. What was your approach?

As a community we didn’t outright oppose economic development or the mine. I wanted to protect the headwaters and the mountain. But the community as a whole could see benefits to economic development. So once we could see that it was going to move ahead, I started learning more about the process of mining and how we could minimize negative impacts. When the project was first considered it was a very big footprint and so we looked at how we could lessen the impact on the water and wildlife, like moose, caribou and bears—and also on the lives of our people. We saw so many flaws in the approval process— it didn’t take into account the impact on the land, wildlife, or the lives of the people who lived there, so we challenged the government’s review approach in court three times. Later, we identified an approach that allows us to work together with the mining company, and my family and the community can still uphold our stewardship responsibilities through environmental monitoring of the mine.

The mining project went ahead, but there are some successes. Please tell us more.

As it was being built, every time I travelled to the mine site I felt very angry and hurt. I knew it wasn’t healthy to carry that with me. I needed a way to let go of the anger and hurt feelings. I encouraged the company and even our governance—our own community—so that we could have a ceremony at the mine site. We need to be up there to let the land know we are not forgetting or giving up on our responsibility to care for it. I bring my children up every year, and we have a ceremony with our community. We put tobacco down and we share our words. We also invite the company employees to take part. They need to provide for their families, and so we pray for the protection of all of the workers that are up there.

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

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Another success that was really important is the environmental monitoring on the ground. Our people—our family—have a responsibility to care for the area. We need to track environmental impact and build capacity. The water and soil sampling shouldn’t be done only by mine workers. We have developed what we call a “guardian program” where our members are learning the skill of environmental monitoring from a western point of view, but they are also teaching the company and the workers what is important to us, what is Indigenous monitoring. 

What other impacts are you trying to mitigate?

Across the country, the impacts to women and communities when industrial activity comes into the area are clear—increases in domestic violence, drug trafficking, prostitution and sex trafficking. It’s also what I’m finding when I talk to women when I travel around the world—the story is the same. Indigenous people are bearing the brunt of impacts, especially Indigenous women. I am an Indigenous woman and my daughters are Indigenous, and we are at higher risk when industry comes to the area. Where it really came to a forefront for me was that when reviewing pipelines being proposed in our area; there were a lot of camps of workers, mostly men. As a community we had to consider developing rape crisis plans because we have to tell our women “we can’t prevent rape from happening, so this is what you do when it does happen”. It is unacceptable that we cannot protect our communities. Somewhere along the way this has to stop. I want to protect my daughters. But there are so many daughters out there, and sisters, aunts, and mothers who are impacted. We live along the Highway of Tears here in northern British Columbia. So many of our women are missing, are injured, and are found murdered. We desperately need change.

What is it like and what challenges have you faced being a woman leader?

It is tough to be an Indigenous woman leader but I also get to have the opportunity to advocate for change. I see strength in being able to live a healthy life, to show that it can be done. I am on a council that elected 50% women—for years we only had one, sometimes two women on council. I think that women bring a different perspective to the table, and I think it’s something that is needed. I ran in the recent provincial election. It was less about winning, though that would have been great, but more about honouring my grandmother and showing my girls and other young Indigenous girls what opportunities are there for them.

What is something that keeps you motivated?

The ability for me to continue our traditions and be with my family on the land keeps me going. I see the successes and opportunities that my son and daughters and nieces have in front of them and that keeps me going. And I see changes in industry and government, so I am optimistic. Looking in the eyes of our young people motivates me.

What do you hope for the future?

I hope my children and grandchildren are not fighting the same fight I am. I hope that we get beyond “us versus them” and understand that we are in this together, and need to find solutions together. I hope that in our community we move away from a place of being told to just forget what has happened. And in 5 to 10 years I hope to see healthier communities that are stronger and upholding each other. 

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article)

16 Days of Activism 2017: Meet Amanda Ghahremani, Canada


An article from the Nobel Women’s Initiative

Lawyer. Amanda is the Legal Director at the Canadian Centre for International Justice. CCIJ supports and assists people seeking justice for serious human rights violations and engages with Canadians through education and awareness programming. Amanda is also Director of the Philippe Kirsch Institute, which provides specialised legal education programmes with a focus on international law, human rights, and international criminal law, among others. In 2016, Amanda successfully spearheaded the international campaign #FREEHOMA to release the Canadian-Iranian political prisoner, Professor Homa Hoodfar, from Evin prison in Iran.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Ghahremani

You work on international human rights law—what motivated you to do this kind of law?

My academic background before law school was in cultural studies and peace and conflict resolution. While spending time in Australia during my master’s degree, I started working on refugee issues and realized that knowledge of law would allow me to have a greater impact on refugee policy. Throughout law school I worked with refugee women who were survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and this experience steered me to the intersection of refugees, conflict, violence and justice. At the Centre, I work on these issues in a manner that has direct impact on survivors, but also empowers survivors to take a leading role in their justice efforts.

What most often hinders you from achieving justice?

Ironically, laws and policies are what most often hinder us from achieving justice for our clients. For example, Canada’s State Immunity Act generally gives foreign governments immunity in Canadian courts, making it very difficult for survivors to seek compensation for torture and other atrocities committed by those governments. Another example has been the reluctance by Canadian courts, until very recently, to allow Canadian corporations to be sued in Canada for the human rights abuses they commit abroad. However, these barriers make my work that much more important, because every success we achieve for our clients sets a precedent that brings us one step closer to achieving justice for many others.

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

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You’ve worked on cases involving political prisoners. Was the case of your aunt, Professor Homa Hoodfar, at all unique?

Homa’s case was not necessarily unique. There is a long-standing track record of academics and intellectuals being imprisoned in Iran, including but not limited to dual nationals. However, what made Homa’s case unique was the the speed at which it was resolved, in very large part a testament to the effectiveness of diplomacy. From the perspective of a lawyer, it was very difficult to navigate the campaign and messaging knowing that Homa’s trial was still unfolding; everything we said and did would be scrutinized and had the potential to impact her case. Ultimately, the success of Homa’s case came from a concerted and collective effort: the United Nations, the Canadian government, other national governments, academics, activists, and individuals, particularly those in the Global South such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia. The campaign really was a global effort.

How have you found the environment for women in the legal world?

Women must work ten times harder to prove their worth and value, whether you are in a large corporate law firm or in a non-governmental organization. I was the keynote speaker at Law Needs Feminism Because Forum in Montreal this year because I strongly believe that women in law need to create spaces to support each other. I was happy to see women law students, law professors, and lawyers uniting to discuss the ongoing challenges we face in this profession, and the opportunities that we have to change these structural inequities. I have also implemented an intersectional feminist policy in CCIJ‘s legal department as I believe it is imperative that we are guided by intersectional feminism not only in our immediate work environment, but also in the work we carry out with clients and in our broader communities. In the context of international justice, I find an intersectional feminist approach poses the question: “How do we make sure that our mission for justice is not in its very process exploiting the stories and experiences of survivors – often racialised, marginalised, and othered people, especially women?”

Could you tell us about Women’s Charters and Declarations. Why did you create this network?

Women’s Charters and Declarations is a project that emerged out of several collaborative meetings with feminists from various backgrounds, emphasizing the need to have an archive of the legal and policy work that has taken place in women’s rights movements across the globe. The project is designed as a resource centre with quick, searchable, and structured access to women’s charters, declarations, and manifestos. My hope is that it will help mobilize and encourage new generations to get inspired by, learn from, and adapt these charters to their own contexts.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article)

USA: The ‘Me Too’ Campaign Was Created By A Black Woman 10 Years Ago


An article from the Huffington Post (reprinted according to principles of “fair use”)

A black woman named Tarana Burke is the original creator of the #MeToo campaign that has recently taken over social media. 

Tarana Burke in the Democracy Now interview

Burke, founder of youth organization Just Be Inc., created the “Me Too” campaign in 2007 long before hashtags even existed. The 44-year-old told Ebony Magazine that she created the campaign as a grass-roots movement to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities. 

“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” Burke told Ebony on Monday. “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

The campaign recently turned into a hashtag after actress Alyssa Milano wrote a call-out on Twitter asking followers to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault using the phrase “Me too.” While Milano did not state that she created the campaign, many media outlets credited the actress for originating the hashtag. 

Burke told Ebony that it’s “powerful” to see the hashtag go viral. “What’s happening now is powerful,” she said. “And I salute it and the women who have disclosed but the power of using ‘me too’ has always been in the fact that it can be a conversation starter or the whole conversation ― but it was us talking to us.” 

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Question related to this article:

Protecting women and girls against violence, Is progress being made?

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On Monday, Milano tweeted that she was “made aware of an earlier #MeToo movement” and linked to Burke’s story. 

Alyssa Milano: “I was just made aware of an earlier #MeToo movement, and the origin story is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring”

In a Tuesday morning interview with Democracy Now, Burke discussed the origins of the “Me Too” movement and why it’s still so relevant today. As a survivor of sexual violence herself, Burke said she used the “me too” phrase as a way to connect with other survivors, specifically young women of color. 

”[I was] trying to find a succinct way to show empathy,” Burke said. “Me too is so powerful because somebody had said it to me and it changed the trajectory of my healing process once I heard that. Me too was about reaching the places that other people wouldn’t go, bringing messages and words and encouragement to survivors of sexual violence where other people wouldn’t be talking about it.” 

Burke tweeted her thoughts about the hashtag going viral on Sunday night, writing: “The point of the work we’ve done over the last decade with the ‘me too movement’ is to let women, particularly young women of color know that they are not alone ― it’s a movement.” . . .

The #MeToo movement highlights a common problem: Feminist movements are often whitewashed when they’re brought into mainstream conversations. Women of color are often overlooked and left out of the very conversations they create.numbers.

As the #MeToo hashtag went viral, many people thanked Burke and tweeted their support of her movement. 

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Alicia Garza thanked Burke, tweeting: “Thank you @TaranaBurke for bringing us this gift of #MeToo almost 10 years ago. Still powerful today.”

Other Twitter users gave credit to Burke for #MeToo and asked media to stop crediting white women for the work of women of color. ”#MeToo was started by Tarana Burke. Stop erasing black women,” Twitter user Aura Bogado wrote.