Indigenous rights groups in Canada honoured with top Amnesty International award

(April 2017) – Celebrated global music artist and activist Alicia Keys and the inspirational movement of Indigenous Peoples fighting for their rights in Canada have been honoured with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2017.

The award will be officially presented at a ceremony in Montréal, Canada, on May 27.

Accepting the award recognizing the Indigenous rights movement of Canada will be six individuals representing the strength and diversity of the movement, which has bravely fought to end discrimination and ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous families and communities. They are Cindy Blackstock, Delilah Saunders, Melanie Morrison, Senator Murray Sinclair, Melissa Mollen Dupuis and Widia Larivière.

“The Ambassador of Conscience Award is Amnesty International’s highest honour, celebrating those who have shown exceptional leadership and courage in championing human rights,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Both Alicia Keys and the Indigenous rights movement of Canada have in their own ways made inspirational and meaningful contributions to advancing human rights and towards ensuring brighter possibilities for future generations. Crucially, they remind us never to underestimate how far passion and creativity can take us in fighting injustice.”

Alicia Keys: From music to activism

Alicia Keys has used her career and platform as a 15-time Grammy award-winning artist to inspire and campaign for change.

“To be given this great honour, and to be in the presence of the Indigenous rights movement is a humbling experience,” said Alicia Keys. “It encourages me to continue to speak out against injustice and use my platform to draw attention to the issues that matter to me.”

Often referred to as the “Queen of R&B”, Ms. Keys has increasingly interwoven her activism with her art. Her extensive philanthropic work includes co-founding Keep a Child Alive (KCA), a non-profit organization providing treatment and care to children and families affected by HIV in Africa and India. KCA identifies and partners with local leaders in grassroots organizations to design, implement and share innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in the fight against AIDS. KCA has raised more than $60 million to provide AIDS care to hundreds of thousands of children and their families, as well as advocate for more understanding and support.

In 2014, she co-founded the We Are Here Movement to encourage young people to mobilize for change, asking the question “Why are you here?” as a call to action. Through the movement she has sought to galvanize her audience to take action on issues such as criminal justice reform and ending gun violence.

Stunned by the fact that there are now more refugees in the world today than at any other point in history, the musician helped create and appeared in a short film entitled “Let Me In” to mark last year’s World Refugee Day. With her song, “Hallelujah” at its center, the film brings the issue of the refugee crisis home to viewers by telling the powerful story of a young American family forced to flee to the US-Mexico border.

“Our conscience is something we are all gifted with at birth, no matter who we are,” said Alicia Keys. “That little voice that speaks to you and tells you when something is not right, I always use as my guide. Since I was a small girl my inner voice would yell at me! Now I just say, okay, what can I do? That is a question we can ask ourselves and then act upon.”

Shining a light for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Despite living in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, Indigenous women, men and children are consistently among the most marginalized members of society in Canada. Now, after decades of public silence and apathy, a vibrant and diverse movement of Indigenous activists has captured the public attention.

 Canadian Indigenous Rights Groups are a recipient of the 2017 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award for their courage in leading important Indigenous Rights battles. 

This year the Ambassador of Conscience Award will be shared between leaders and activists from the movement who have shown remarkable courage in leading important legal equality rights battles, defending land rights and inspiring non-Indigenous and Indigenous people to action.

Since December 2012, the grassroots “Idle No More” movement has helped to shine a light on Indigenous peoples’ ongoing struggle to be able to make their own decisions about their lands, resources and environment. At the forefront of this protest were Melissa Mollen Dupuis and Widia Larivière, the co-founders of the movement in Québec.

Mainly led by women, the movement represents a new wave of Indigenous mobilization that gives a platform for grassroots activists, fosters the cultural pride of Indigenous youth and brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada closer together on common issues such as the environment and the economy.

On learning of the announcement, Melissa Mollen Dupuis and Widia Larivière said in a joint statement: “Receiving such a prestigious international award is an acknowledgement of the work done by thousands of people who have, in their own way, stood up every day for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in a spontaneous and peaceful citizens’ movement.

“In a society that encourages the pursuit of power and profit over the well-being of the community as a whole, the words and actions of the community – and of the members of it who are most at risk of experiencing social injustice and discrimination – are one of the most effective tools we have in combatting the effects of colonization in Canada.”

Cindy Blackstock hopes that the award will help to focus global attention on the injustices still prevalent in Canada today.

As head of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, she led a decade-long legal battle against the underfunding of social services for First Nations children. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a landmark ruling calling on the federal government to take immediate action to end its discriminatory practices.

However the Canadian government has continued to drag its feet in fully complying with the ruling, meaning that First Nations children are still suffering discrimination.

“The conscience of the people is awakening to the Canadian government’s ongoing racial discrimination towards First Nations children and their families,” said Cindy Blackstock. “Now the question is: What are we going to do about it? Are we going to allow Canada to celebrate its 150th birthday while it bathes in racism, or will we speak up and demand the discrimination stops?”

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Somebody just put a price tag on the 2016 election. It’s a doozy.

The final price tag for the 2016 election is in: $6.5 billion for the presidential and congressional elections combined, according to campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets.org.

The presidential contest — primaries and all — accounts for $2.4 billion of that total. The other $4 billion or so went to congressional races. The tally includes spending by campaigns, party committees and outside sources. It’s actually down, slightly, in inflation-adjusted terms from 2012 and 2008.

$6.5 billion is a staggering sum. With that much money you could fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for 15 years, fix the Flint, Mich., lead pipe problem 30 times over or give every public school teacher a $2,000 raise.

Instead, Americans used that money to fuel a 596-day political contest that most of us were ‘disgusted’ by well before it was over.

Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign ($768 million in spending) outspent Trump’s successful one ($398 million) by nearly 2 to 1. The Democratic National Committee and left-leaning outside groups also outspent their Republican counterparts by considerable margins.

But Trump benefited immensely from “earned media” — the free TV time he got by virtue of being an unconventional candidate who frequently said outlandish and offensive things. Trump received about $5 billion in free media, according to an estimate by media analysis firm MediaQuant, compared with only $3.24 billion for Clinton. Those figures aren’t included in OpenSecrets’ tally of direct spending.

The amount of money we spend on candidates stands in sharp contrast with how much we like them once they actually get in office. Despite spending $4 billion on House and Senate candidates, for instance, less than a quarter of us actually approve of how Congress is doing its job, according to Gallup.

Similarly, we spent $2.4 billion on the presidential race to elect a man who most people now consider to be dishonest (61 percent), lacking in leadership skills (55 percent), indifferent to the plight of normal Americans (57 percent), hotheaded (66 percent) and, broadly speaking, embarrassing (52 percent).

This disconnect is partly a consequence of our polarized politics. 86 percent of Republicans view Trump favorably, while 87 percent of Democrats dislike him, according to the Pew Research Center. People who spent money on Trump during the campaign are still likely to be pleased with the return on their “investment,” in other words. But people who gave to Clinton, or to any losing candidate for that matter, essentially threw their money away.

Much of political campaign spending is wasted, in other words — the people who give to a winning candidate get to put their candidate of choice in office. The people who give to a losing candidate get nothing in return.

This stands in sharp contrast with other democracies, where governments often place strict limits on how much spending campaigns can do. In Britain, for instance, political parties can only spend $29.5 million in the year before an election and televised campaign ads are banned.

Similarly, spending limits in Canada mean that the typical candidate for the country’s Parliament spent between $12,000 and $90,000, on average, during the 2015 election. By contrast, American candidates for the House spent close to $500,000 in 2016, while Senate candidates spent around $1.5 million.

Overseas elections are typically much shorter than ours. Britain’s 2015 election lasted 139 days. Canada’s longest election lasted just 78. In Japan, campaigns are limited to 12 days by law.

Here in the States we’re wedded to the idea that money is speech. In a 2010 Gallup survey 57 percent of respondents said that money given to a candidate is a form of free speech, while only 37 percent disagreed.

But if money is speech, then giving it to a losing candidate is akin to shouting into the void.

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Explore Canada’s diversity through dance with Dance Canada: A Celebration of International Dance Day in Richmond

Richmond, BC – Celebrate Canada’s rich multicultural diversity with Dance Canada: A Celebration of International Dance Day in Richmond, BC on April 28 and 29, 2017.

 

Richmond residents and those in neighbouring communities are invited to celebrate Richmond’s rich cultural and artistic diversity through dance workshops and performances as part of Dance Canada: A Celebration of International Dance Day. This two-day celebration of dance and diversity offers free community workshops on Friday, April 28 and a free dance showcase on Saturday, April 29.

“Canada, and in particular, Richmond, is renowned for its cultural diversity” states Sudnya Mulye, the event’s Artistic Director. “With our International Dance Day celebrations in Richmond, we proudly showcase our city’s diversity by engaging the community through the experience of different dance styles”.

International Dance Day is celebrated around the world on April 29 to bring attention to and celebrate the accomplishments of dance. Since 2015, Sudnya Dance Academy and Clarkson Events, two Richmond-based businesses, have spearheaded bringing these celebrations to Richmond. The community’s support of these events has been tremendous, allowing the event organizers to grow the offerings each year.

“It’s truly amazing to see how much our event has grown since 2015” observes Reena Clarkson, the Event Coordinator. “The collaboration between Richmond businesses and artists has enabled us to grow a grassroots event into an annual celebration for our hometown of Richmond”.

To commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, the 2017 International Dance Day Richmond celebrations are free for the community to enjoy, thanks to venue sponsor, Aberdeen Centre, who has partnered with Sudnya Dance Academy and Clarkson Events to host this year’s celebration.

The community is invited to learn a variety of culturally diverse dances through free workshops on Friday, April 28 from 1:00-2:30pm and a free performance showcasing dance traditions from around the world will take place on Saturday, April 29 from 1:30-3:00pm. Both events are open to people of all ages and abilities and will take place in the Central Atrium at Aberdeen Centre.

For more information about Dance Canada: A Celebration of International Dance Day in Richmond, please visit iddrichmond.wixsite.com/iddrichmondbc.

Canada’s oil industry ponders its fate as the threat of electric cars looms in the …

CALGARY –  Canada’s energy industry gathered at a petroleum museum Monday to consider how electric cars threaten oil, the country’s biggest export, especially if battery-powered cars make up 50 per cent of vehicles on the road by 2050 as projected.

Peter Tertzakian, executive director of ARC Energy Research Institute  — which organized the event — said even a slow or modest adoption rate for electric vehicles over petroleum-burning vehicles could cause pain for oil producers because “when demand moves, the price of oil moves,” which could result in large losses for higher cost oil producers.

Cars and trucks currently account for 40 per cent of the worldwide demand for oil, meaning electric vehicles could represent a large market share threat to the oil and gas industry depending on how quickly consumers replace their conventional cars with hybrids or electric vehicles.

Tertzakian said there are currently more than 1 billion cars and trucks in the world – a quarter of those are on the roads in the U.S. – and electric vehicles make up less than one per cent of the mix, but the proportion is projected to grow.

On Saturday, Tesla Inc. said it shipped a record 25,000 cars in the first quarter, exceeding analyst expectations.

Tertazakian says his team organized the conference as there are too many oil conferences that disregard how electric vehicles are challenging their market, while attendees at electric vehicle conferences “drink their own bathwater.”

Oil and gas companies have attempted to forecast the rise of electric vehicles in recent years to determine the threat to their market. ExxonMobil Corp, for example, issued one of the more conservative estimates that 10 per cent of cars on the road in 2040 will be electric, but analysts at the conference say the transition may be quicker.

Keynote speaker Steve Koonin, former under secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy and New York University professor, predicts that 50 per cent of the vehicles on the road in 2050 would be electric, meaning the threat to the conventional oil and gas business is large but not immediately imminent.

The adoption rate for electric vehicles is relatively slow, but is projected to ramp up over time and with regulations.

“It takes a long time to penetrate the fleet,” Koonin said, adding that the pace of adoption of electric vehicles will depend on battery technology.

Larry Burns, a former General Motors executive who has consulted for energy producer Hess Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car subsidiary Waymo, said the threat to the oil and gas industry is more near-term. “If you’re not prepared for this inevitability, I think you’re in trouble,” he told conference attendees.

“It takes a long time to penetrate the fleet”

Burns said fuel efficiency regulations in the U.S. could hamper the demand for petroleum in North America by between 30 and 45 per cent by 2025.

He said car manufacturers across the board are working to boost efficiency by reducing the weight of their cars, building electric cars or hybrids and also by engineering more driverless cars, which are being designed to be lighter than conventional vehicles and therefore more fuel efficient.

“Just over 1 per cent of the gas being burned (in your car) is moving you, the rest is being used to move the machine,” Burns said.

At present, ARC Energy Research Institute director of research Jackie Forrest, one of the biggest impediments to electric vehicle adoption is price, as electric cars are twice or three times as expensive as gasoline-burning cars.

“They do have lower operating costs but it’s hard to justify the initial capital cost,” Forrest said.

Another impediment to electric vehicle adoption is car dealerships, which frequently do not keep an inventory of electric vehicles so it’s difficult for consumers to test-drive a battery-powered car before making the decision to switch, said Bruce Power vice-president, corporate affairs and environment James Scongack said during one panel.

“We think there’s a big group of people who, despite the price, want to buy electric vehicles,” Scongack said.

Another challenge was managing the electric grid, and output from power plants, if cars were fuelled electrically rather than with gasoline. Scongack said power producers were preparing for the transition and provinces, which regulate Canada’s electricity markets, need to prepare long-term plans as well.

Encana Corp. president and CEO Doug Suttles said his company has worked to become more efficient and lower its costs to compete with cheaper sources of energy.

For example, Suttles said Encana is now running crews 24 hours per day, fracking multiple wells at the same time, and using highly-automated drilling rigs to drill and finish a well as fast as possible.

“I think these trends are not going to slow down,” Suttles said. “You’re going to find these innovations moving to field application is happening in weeks now.”

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Maintaining and building a successful towing and recovery business

Considered by many to be Canada’s number 1 towing, roadside assistance, vehicle transport and commercial towing service organization, Abrams Towing Services’ Hamilton location has never been complacent about this attribution. As a company, Abrams examines its business and its relationships daily, always in an effort to present its customers — and employees — with an upbeat impression.

This means receiving consistent positive feedback from customers, which continues to demonstrate the company’s exemplary towing and recovery services. Great testimonials and reviews help customers determine whether they can trust you or not.

In the towing world, Abrams tow truck drivers are the ones whom customers will be dealing with every day. This translates into ensuring each driver treats every customer with respect and care. It’s all too easy for one frustrated customer to turn things upside down.

From the beginning of every call received by dispatch, the Abrams team kicks into action. Dispatch will be polite and helpful, all the while reassuring the troubled customer that professional help will soon be at the scene. The tow truck driver dispatched will then greet the customer with a smile and introduce themselves. As a result of this dialogue, and if the issue is relatively minor, the tow truck driver may offer a repair solution on the spot. Such minor repairs might include changing a flat tire, topping off the gas tank, providing a jump to a dead battery or retrieving a set of locked-in keys.

If, however, the operator determines that the repair required is beyond their capabilities, the vehicle must then be prepped for tow. The highly trained tow driver will be responsible for securing the vehicle for transport in a safe and timely fashion via wheel straps and hooks and chains. The Abrams employee may, if asked, refer the customer to local service shops they know they can trust for efficient repairs.

Abrams Towing Services makes a point of keeping their red-and-white branded trucks in excellent repair and in a clean state. Before heading out for the day, maintenance workers, and often the driver, too, will make sure a truck’s appearance as well as its basic mechanics are consistently kept up. This includes checking the oil and all fluids as well as the tire pressure.

Abrams Towing Services is the largest certified towing company in Canada — your towing resource in the region, regardless of your circumstances. Call 905-304-9387 or toll-free at 1-800-267-4594. Follow the company on Facebook and Twitter.

Donald Trump mocked by Canadian beer-maker with ‘Fake News Ale’

A craft brewery slated to open shop in Toronto this summer plans to pay tribute to President Trump with its first beer: “Fake News Ale.”

Northern Maverick said Monday that “Fake News Ale” will be available at its Toronto brewery when it opens to the public in the coming weeks in addition to being soon available to beer drinkers across Ontario.

Each can boasts an image of Mr. Trump, and a portion of proceeds will be given to a yet-to-be-determined charity “to help reverse a questionable policy,” Northern Maverick said.

The brewery said the beverage was developed “to offer a respite from the bleak political developments of late” and is “an easy-drinking beer that lends itself to long discussions over world events with friends.”

“With tongue firmly in cheek, the beer was found to pair well with small hands, striking comb overs, huge egos and all things Mexican,” the company added.

The expression “fake news” entered the American vernacular last fall as the internet exploded with bogus but legitimate-looking articles boasting blatantly false and misleading claims concerning Mr. Trump and his White House opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Companies including Facebook have notably taken steps in the months since to purge so-called “fake news” from social networking services as concerns linger over the phenomenon’s potential affect on elections abroad.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has managed to make the phrase much his own. Days before taking office in January he decried CNN as “fake news,” and has continued since to criticize the journalistic integrity of multiple members of the Fourth Estate.

The president likely won’t be poised to endorse “Fake News Ale,” even if each can bears his likeness: Mr. Trump claims he’s never had alcohol in all his life.

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CanadaMALCOLM: Canadians are right to be concerned about border security

Candice Malcolm

, Last Updated: 6:38 PM ET

There is a crisis on our southern border. And Canadian officials seem woefully unprepared to deal with the ongoing flow of migrants illegally crossing into Canada.

These illegal crossings create a real security threat, and Canadians are not happy about it.

An Angus Reid poll is the latest to convey this, finding that nearly three-quarters of Canadians prefer a focus on border security rather than providing aid to those illegally crossing into Canada.

There is near unanimous agreement on the fact that these migrants pose a threat to our national security. Of those surveyed, half say the risk of dangerous people entering Canada is ‘significant’ or ‘huge,’ while 93% agreed there is some level of risk.

Canadians are right to be concerned about the self-proclaimed and self-selected refugees coming in through the back door.

A remarkable video by Faith Goldy of The Rebel Media reveals part of the problem.

On a rural road in upstate New York, Goldy’s video captures the moment when a taxi pulls up and drops off a would-be asylum seeker near the border.

“Sir, where are you from?” she asks. “Syria,” he replies as he proceeds towards the border. An RCMP officer can be seen trying to deter the man from crossing illegally.

“Please stop, you cannot enter here,” says the officer. “If you enter here, sir, you will be arrested and criminal charges can be pressed against you.”

“I’m not safe. I’m a refugee,” says the man, repeatedly, as he ignores instructions from police and continues towards Canada.

The RCMP officer instructs the man to report to the Canadian border, three miles away, but the man insists the police do it his way instead.

“Arrest me from here. We will phone them,” he says, and the police finally follow his command. “You’re under arrest” they can be heard saying, as they escort him away while helping carry his luggage.

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It’s an unbelievable exchange, and it shows the docile attitude towards protecting our borders.

This asylum seeker knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that if he entered Canada at an official crossing, he would be met by a CBSA officer. The CBSA guard would be able to determine his admissibility to Canada, and has the power to reject him on the spot.

At a land crossing away from a border station, however, there are no CBSA guards – just RCMP officers who have been sent to patrol the border.

This man has clearly been coached. Someone told him exactly where to go and what to say to enter Canada. And it worked. Not only did this man circumvent our immigration laws, he also bypassed our Syrian refugee program.

Under Justin Trudeau, Canada has generously accepted nearly 50,000 Syrian refugees from the war-torn region.

But to address the security risks – the valid concerns about our ability to screen and vet individuals from a hot bed of Islamist terrorism – the Trudeau government limited the program.

Canada only accepts women, children and families from Syria. The program explicitly excludes single men.

That’s because our security officers believe that admitting single, unaccompanied men from Syria is simply too dangerous.

Yet, somehow, a single, unaccompanied man claiming to be from Syria was able to walk right into Canada — without so much as showing his ID.

No wonder Canadians are concerned. These illegal migrants are acting as though our rules and our laws don’t exist. And, shockingly, our officials are too.

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