Category: Uncategorized

Is our EI system broken? Only 46 per cent received unemployment benefits last year, report finds

By admin, November 15, 2011 2:26 pm

Is our EI system broken? Only 46 per cent received unemployment benefits last year, report finds

Published On Tue Nov 15 2011
A new report says the Employment  Insurance system is broken and needs a more transparent, effective and  equitable national framework. A new report says the Employment Insurance system is broken and needs a more transparent, effective and equitable national framework.

Michael Stuparyk/Toronto Star

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A new report says the Employment Insurance system is broken and needs a more transparent, effective and equitable national framework.

The report by a task force from the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre says the EI system is complex, opaque and not easily understood by contributors.

It says the current program has failed to keep up with societal and economic change and it’s widely recognized that there are deep problems at the core of the system.

Too many people, it says, are being left out of the social safety net, too many are carrying an unfair burden and too many are not achieving their potential.

The task force, co-chaired by former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, found only 46 per cent of the country’s unemployed received EI benefits last year, compared with 86 per cent in 1981.

It also says EI is the only federal program that relies on region of residence as a basis for determining benefits — a particularly poor criterion, says the panel.

“Other important federal social programs, like Old Age Security and the National Child Benefit, treat Canadians equally regardless of region of residence,” it notes.

Furthermore, it says many of those who would benefit most from training are not eligible for federally funded programs because they do not meet EI criteria.

The panel also included co-chair Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation and Keith Banting, a leading social-policy scholar who served as its research director.

The group commissioned several independent research papers on EI, each of which addressed a different area of the system and presented possible options for reform.

It identified seven objectives to guide an income-security program for workers, including the need for transparency, fiscal responsibility, sensitivity to economic conditions and changes in employment and to provide adequate support when required.

Its report makes 18 recommendations aimed at making the EI program “more equitable, more transparent, and more consistent with the contemporary labour market.”

“They are designed to be a source of national unity, rather than inter-regional disputes,” it says.

Among its recommendations:

• A single EI entry requirement and benefit duration range for all workers, reducing both region- and industry-specific subsidies, increasing transparency and restoring fairness to the system.

• New federal temporary unemployment assistance for the “substantial number” of unemployed workers who don’t qualify for EI benefits and are ineligible for provincial social-assistance programs.

• More flexibility in special benefits to help the disabled remain in the labour force, more choice for parents when taking parental leave, fair treatment of temporary foreign workers and suggestions for improved financing and management.

“The recommendations should be considered as a package with all proposals adopted simultaneously,” says the report.

“While the recommendations would lead to a modest increase in federal spending, the proposed system could be calibrated to suit governmental preferences on generosity and incentives and to reflect the state of the economy.”

The US and China: One Side is Losing, the Other is Winning

By admin, January 4, 2010 12:14 am

The US and China: One Side is Losing, the Other is Winning

by James Petras / January 3rd, 2010

Asian capitalism, notably China and South Korea are competing with the US for global power. Asian global power is driven by dynamic economic growth, while the US pursues a strategy of military-driven empire building.

One Day’s Read of the Financial Times

Even a cursory read of a single issue of the Financial Times (December 28, 2009) illustrates the divergent strategies toward empire building. On page one, the lead article on the US is on its expanding military conflicts and its ‘war on terror’, entitled “Obama Demands Review of Terror List.” In contrast, there are two page-one articles on China, which describe China’s launching of the world’s fastest long-distance passenger train service and China’s decision to maintain its currency pegged to the US dollar as a mechanism to promote its robust export sector. While Obama turns the US focus on a fourth battle front (Yemen) in the ‘war on terror’ (after Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), the Financial Times reports on the same page that a South Korean consortium has won a $20.4 billion dollar contract to develop civilian nuclear power plants for the United Arab Emirates, beating its US and European competitors.

On page two of the FT there is a longer article elaborating on the new Chinese rail system, highlighting its superiority over the US rail service: The Chinese ultra-modern train takes passengers between two major cities, 1,100 kilometers, in less than 3 hours whereas the US Amtrack ‘Express’ takes 3 ½ hours to cover 300 kilometers between Boston and New York. While the US passenger rail system deteriorates from lack of investment and maintenance, China has spent $17 billion dollars constructing its express line. China plans to construct 18,000 kilometers of new track for its ultra-modern system by 2012, while the US will spend an equivalent amount in financing its ‘military surge’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as opening a new war front in Yemen.

China builds a transport system linking producers and labor markets from the interior provinces with the manufacturing centers and ports on the coast, while on page 4 the Financial Times describes how the US is welded to its policy of confronting the ‘Islamist threat’ with an endless ‘war on terror.’ The decades-long wars and occupations of Moslem countries have diverted hundreds of billions of dollars of public funds to a militarist policy with no benefit to the US, while China modernizes its civilian economy. While the White House and Congress subsidize and pander to the militarist-colonial state of Israel with its insignificant resource base and market, alienating 1.5 billion Moslems,1 China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 10 fold over the past 26 years.2 While the US allocated over $1.4 trillion dollars to Wall Street and the military, increasing the fiscal and current account deficits, doubling unemployment and perpetuating the recession,3 the Chinese government releases a stimulus package directed at its domestic manufacturing and construction sectors, leading to an 8% growth in GDP, a significant reduction of unemployment and ‘re-igniting linked economies’ in Asia, Latin America and Africa.3

While the US was spending time, resources and personnel in running ‘elections’ for its corrupt clients in Afghanistan and Iraq, and participating in pointless mediations between its intransigent Israeli partner and its impotent Palestinian client, the South Korean government backed a consortium headed by the Korea Electric Power Corporation in its successful bid on the $20.4 billion dollar nuclear power deal, opening the way for other billion-dollar contracts in the region.4

While the US was spending over $60 billion dollars on internal policing and multiplying the number and size of its ‘homeland’ security agencies in pursuit of potential ‘terrorists,’ China was investing $25 billion dollars in ‘cementing its energy trading relations’ with Russia.5

The story told by the articles and headlines in a single day’s issue of the Financial Times reflects a deeper reality, one that illustrates the great divide in the world today. The Asian countries, led by China, are reaching world power status on the basis of their massive domestic and foreign investments in manufacturing, transportation, technology and mining and mineral processing. In contrast, the US is a declining world power with a deteriorating society resulting from its military-driven empire building and its financial-speculative centered economy:

1. Washington pursues minor military clients in Asia; while China expands its trading and investment agreements with major economic partners – Russia, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.

2. Washington drains the domestic economy to finance overseas wars. China extracts minerals and energy resources to create its domestic job market in manufacturing.

3. The US invests in military technology to target local insurgents challenging US client regimes; China invests in civilian technology to create competitive exports.

4. China begins to restructure its economy toward developing the country’s interior and allocates greater social spending to redress its gross imbalances and inequalities while the US rescues and reinforces the parasitical financial sector, which plundered industries (strips assets via mergers and acquisitions) and speculates on financial objectives with no impact on employment, productivity or competitiveness.

5. The US multiplies wars and troop build-ups in the Middle East, South Asia, the Horn of Africa and Caribbean; China provides investments and loans of over $25 billion dollars in building infrastructure, mineral extraction, energy production and assembly plants in Africa.

6. China signs multi-billion dollar trade and investment agreements with Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia, securing access to strategic energy, mineral and agricultural resources; Washington provides $6 billion in military aid to Colombia, secures seven military bases from President Uribe (to threaten Venezuela), backs a military coup in tiny Honduras and denounces Brazil and Bolivia for diversifying its economic ties with Iran.

7. China increases economic relations with dynamic Latin American economies, incorporating over 80% of the continent’s population; the US partners with the failed state of Mexico, which has the worst economic performance in the hemisphere and where powerful drug cartels control wide regions and penetrate deep into the state apparatus.


China is not an exceptional capitalist country. Under Chinese capitalism, labor is exploited; inequalities in wealth and access to services are rampant; peasant-farmers are displaced by mega-dam projects and Chinese companies recklessly extract minerals and other natural resources in the Third World. However, China has created scores of millions of manufacturing jobs, reduced poverty faster and for more people in the shortest time span in history. Its banks mostly finance production. China doesn’t bomb, invade, or ravage other countries. In contrast, US capitalism has been harnessed to a monstrous global military machine that drains the domestic economy and lowers the domestic standard of living in order to fund its never-ending foreign wars. Finance, real estate, and commercial capital undermine the manufacturing sector, drawing profits from speculation and cheap imports.

China invests in petroleum-rich countries; the US attacks them. China sells plates and bowls for Afghan wedding feasts; US drone aircraft bomb the celebrations. China invests in extractive industries, but, unlike European colonialists, it builds railroads, ports, airfields and provides easy credit. China does not finance and arm ethnic wars and ‘color rebellions’ like the US CIA. China self-finances its own growth, trade and transportation system; the US sinks under a multi-trillion dollar debt to finance its endless wars, bail out its Wall Street banks, and prop up other non-productive sectors while many millions remain without jobs.

China will grow and exercise power through the market; the US will engage in endless wars on its road to bankruptcy and internal decay. China’s diversified growth is linked to dynamic economic partners; US militarism has tied itself to narco-states, warlord regimes, the overseers of banana republics and the last and worst bona fide racist colonial regime, Israel.

China entices the world’s consumers. US global wars provoke terrorists here and abroad.

China may encounter crises and even workers rebellions, but it has the economic resources to accommodate them. The US is in crisis and may face domestic rebellion, but it has depleted its credit and its factories are all abroad and its overseas bases and military installations are liabilities, not assets. There are fewer factories in the US to re-employ its desperate workers. A social upheaval could see the American workers occupying the empty shells of its former factories.

To become a ‘normal state’ we have to start all over: Close all investment banks and military bases abroad and return to America. We have to begin the long march toward rebuilding industry to serve our domestic needs, to living within our own natural environment and forsake empire building in favor of constructing a democratic socialist republic.

When will we pick up the Financial Times or any other daily and read about our own high-speed rail line carrying American passengers from New York to Boston in less than one hour? When will our own factories supply our hardware stores? When will we build wind, solar and ocean-based energy generators? When will we abandon our military bases and let the world’s warlords, drug traffickers and terrorists face the justice of their own people?

Will we ever read about these in the Financial Times?

In China, it all started with a revolution

  1. Financial Times, page 7. []
  2. FT – page 9. []
  3. FT, page 12. [] []
  4. FT, page 13. []
  5. FT, page 3. []

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: Read other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

This article was posted on Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 at 9:01am and is filed under China/Tibet, Imperialism, Military/Militarism, Revolution.

Tax havens: out of sight, out of mind

By admin, January 1, 2010 12:00 pm

Tax havens: out of sight, out of mind


By Linda McQuaig Columnist
Published On Tue Sep 08 2009

At the root of the public fascination with the fate of Michael Bryant is a question that lies at the heart of democracy: Do the rich and powerful get special treatment?

Preventing the public from answering “yes” to that question will be a challenge for authorities, with the spotlight glaring down on every aspect of the prosecution of the former provincial attorney general for his deadly encounter with a cyclist.

How much easier for authorities to go easy on the rich and powerful when no one’s really watching.

The lack of spotlight is certainly making things easier for officials in Ottawa as they deal with another very different investigation that raises the same question about favouritism toward the rich.

At issue here is the case of 100 wealthy Canadians who may have violated Canada’s tax laws by hiding money in offshore bank accounts in the notorious tax haven Liechtenstein.

No one questions the zeal of Canadian authorities in ensuring that ordinary folks pay every cent of their taxes. Yet the government often doesn’t appear to be equally zealous when it comes to the rich – even though tax experts estimate Canada loses billions of dollars in revenues each year because well-to-do Canadians hide assets in offshore bank accounts.

The 100 wealthy Canadians with Liechtenstein bank accounts only came under investigation because the details of their offshore accounts were handed to Canadian authorities a year and a half ago by German police.

This amazing case – an employee at the Liechtenstein bank provided records of wealthy clients from around the world to German authorities – blew the lid off the usually impenetrable world of tax haven banking. It sparked an uproar in Germany, leading to the tax-evasion conviction of one of the nation’s leading businessmen, 450 other tax-evasion investigations and the resignation of some high-ranking officials. In Italy, the case grabbed headlines when the names of wealthy tax evaders were released to the media.

But here in Canada it’s been a much quieter affair. CRA spokesperson Caitlin Workman told me in an interview last week that CRA’s reassessments of the 100 wealthy Canadians concluded they owed $17 million in taxes, interest and penalties, and that $3 million has so far been collected. She wasn’t aware of any tax-evasion charges.

Ottawa’s somewhat low-key approach to tax haven users has always been puzzling, but never more so than now, when the global financial crisis has toughened the resolve of other Western nations to clamp down on secret offshore banking.

In the U.S., the Internal Revenue Service and Senate investigators have been doggedly tracking down some 52,000 Americans who had offshore accounts with UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank. UBS has been charged $780 million in U.S. fines for helping rich Americans hide assets.

Canadian authorities haven’t shown quite the same energy in going after UBS – even after U.S. investigators unearthed information last year showing that UBS’s “Canada Desk” managed some $5.6 billion in offshore money. (Raoul Weil, who was in charge of the “Canada Desk” as UBS’s head of global wealth management, was indicted in the U.S. last fall.)

The CRA’s Workman said that the CRA met with UBS officials last Wednesday to discuss the bank providing information about offshore operations involving Canadians.

Perhaps the Harper government is working vigorously behind the scenes to make sure wealthy Canadians don’t get away with hiding their money offshore. But, without the glare of the public spotlight, the pace seems rather sluggish.

Linda McQuaig’s column appears every other week.

Black is Back Announces Return of Black Activism to the Political Arena

By ChairExternal, November 21, 2009 12:14 am

Black is Back Announces Return of Black Activism to the Political Arena

Demands from Reparations to End of U.S. Wars and Occupations
Published Nov 6, 2009
The following press statemtent was made by the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC on November 5, 2009. The coalition was represented by Omali Yeshitela, Efia Nwangaza, Imam Mahdi Bray and Glen Ford.

We are here today as representatives of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations.

We are here to announce that on November 7th hundreds of Africans and other people from throughout the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean will be converging on this city for a rally and march in opposition to the U.S. wars and occupations against the peoples of the world and against our own communities in the U.S.

In addition to our U.S. mobilization, African people will demonstrate at the U.S. embassy in London, England under the same slogan of: “Stop U.S. Occupation and War Inside the U.S. and Abroad.”

Some of our concerns are obvious and will be recognized as common to many of the anti-war demands of an assortment of groups that have come to this city in the past.

Like others we are concerned about the growing U.S. aggression against the peoples of the Middle East, including Occupied Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We are also concerned about the announcement that the Obama regime has established a U.S. military presence, supported by hired mercenaries euphemistically referred to as “contractors” in Colombia as a direct threat to the government of Venezuela and other progressive governments of the region.

However, as our name infers, we recognize that the call for peace is empty of meaning if it is not accompanied by a demand for social justice. Therefore, our coalition not only addresses the question of peace, but we endorse the principle of resistance to imperialist aggression and occupation and announce our support for such resistance.

The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations is also concerned with the wars and aggressions, some covertly supported by the U.S., in Africa, the Caribbean and within the U.S. itself.

On November 7th we will also denounce the proxy wars being fought in the Democratic Republic of Congo that have cost the lives of approximately 7 million Africans since 1998 as the U.S. and other Western Imperialist powers drain the territory of natural resources, especially Coltan, necessary for the functioning of cell phones and computers.

We will denounce the establishment of AFRICOM, a military command created to guarantee the continuation of the parasitic relationship between the U.S. and Africa and to contend with imperialist rivals that would challenge U.S. hegemony on the Continent of Africa.

We will demand reparations to Africans within the U.S. who have experienced the brutality of slavery, convict leasing and other forms of terroristic exploitation to the benefit of the general U.S. economy and the continuing emiseration of African people in Africa and the U.S. even up to this day. We have witnessed the trillion-dollar giveaway of taxpayer money to the capitalist thugs who are responsible for the economic crisis currently being experienced in this country and refuse to accept the notion that resolution to the crisis should come at the expense of Africans and other working people. While the Obama regime and various other sectors of the government – federal, state and local – are demanding cutbacks, we say PAYBACK! REPARATIONS NOW!

The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations is also compelled to rally and march on November 7th because of the paralysis being experienced by much of our community and other progressives since the s/election of Barack Obama as president of the U.S.

At a time when many organizations within our oppressed communities would be seeking alternatives to the social system responsible for our historic oppression and exploitation, the s/election of Obama has drawn millions of Africans and their hopes and dreams for a better future back into the safe embrace of the Democratic Party, a bastion of imperialist aggression and domination.

We are compelled to rally and march on November 7th in defense of the proud legacy of resistance to oppression and unjust wars that has historically distinguished our people and community. Notwithstanding the presidency and policies of Barack Hussein Obama, the mass of our people are not war mongers; we are not servants of capital at the expense of the wellbeing of our people and other workers.

Finally, we want to make it clear that while our relatively small coalition is new, having been founded less than two months ago, we are a coalition that is representative of a broad and diverse sector of the African community.

Our membership and leadership range from nationalists, socialists, revolutionaries, civil libertarians, cultural workers, radio personalities, community activists, political prisoners, students, civil rights veterans and an assortment of others who are determined to shatter the silence and the assumption of universal support for U.S. imperialism within our community because white power is now represented to the world in black face.

We denounce the notion of some kind of post racial harmony in the face of the billions of dollars lost to our community through home foreclosures and the subprime mortgage scheme that targeted African and Mexican people within the U.S. We refuse to ignore the mass incarceration of our people, especially young African men and women of childbearing age. We demand the right to return for our people who lost their homes and valuables to Katrina and the other Gulf coast weather systems while the U.S. government and other agencies “dithered” and even contributed to our distress.

Finally we must say that our people have survived the worst things this government has thrown at us to destroy our movement for happiness and a return of the resources stolen from us. The assassinations of our leaders, such as Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton and lesser-known figures have not crushed our fighting spirit. We have survived the criminalization of our freedom fighters, many of whom have been rotting in U.S. prisons far longer than Mandela in South Africa, while others are living furtive existences in exile.

Our statement to our oppressors in the U.S. and the world and, more importantly, to African people everywhere is that November 7th will be our clearest demonstration of the failure of oppression and reaction. BLACK IS BACK!

Photos from Nov. 7 Black is Back mobilization in Washington, DC

Published Nov 19, 2009
Black is Back!

An Urgent Appeal SOPUDEP School In Haiti

By ChairExternal, November 20, 2009 11:52 pm

SOPUDEP School, Haiti

Emergency appeal for SOPUDEP School

November 2nd, 2009 by CHAN | Posted in Uncategorized

|An Urgent Appeal SOPUDEP School In Haiti,

October 29, 2009

To those who believe that education is not a privilege, but rather a right for all, SOPUDEP Public School in Pétion-Ville Haiti needs your attention.

We are writing on behalf of the hardworking and dedicated Haitian educators of SOPUDEP School who wish to empower the most vulnerable children in their community. The children of SOPUDEP cannot afford to go to school because of Haiti’s highly privatized education system. Without SOPUDEP School in their community, these children would never to learn to read or have access to a well-rounded education.

The Sawatzky Family Foundation is a registered Canadian charity that was created in 2008 for the sole purpose of providing financial support and raising awareness about this wonderful local social program.

The Sawatzky Family has personally paid the teachers’ salaries ($26,000 (US) for 47 staff) and the majority of the food program that feeds over 650 students five days a week for close to two years.

We have run short on our own resources and are urgently calling for immediate support. With cuts to teacher salaries, they will be forced to find other work just to get by, thereby reducing SOPUDEP’s effectiveness.  Turning away students would become a very real possibility.

We need a minimum of $6000 (US) to get through the next three months.  We are currently preparing a longer-term financial appeal which will allow us to avoid such shortfalls in the future.

SOPUDEP School is a critical social program in Haiti and is one integral to the future of its people. This is a unique program that serves as an example of what free public education should look like in Haiti. It is one that needs our care and support!

Thank you!

Ryan Sawatzky, President

“PayPal” or “Canada Helps” Internet Payments can be made through:

(at the bottom of the page)

Cheques and Money Orders can be sent to:

The Sawatzky Family Foundation

The Sawatzky Family Foundation
PO Box 626, 25 Peter Street North
Orillia, Ontario, Canada
L3V 6K5

If you wish to contact us for more info or comments:

phone: (705) 345-5593

Public Education In Haiti:
An Appeal For International Support and Solidarity

(To download a full colour .pdf of this appeal, click here)

The following is an appeal from The Sawatzky Family Foundation to teachers, their trade unions and other interested readers in Canada on behalf of an education institution in Haiti that is empowering children and the community in which they live. We hope that a channel of solidarity can be established between you and your counterparts in Haiti serving these children.


(Society of Providence United for the Development of Pétion-Ville) is a school and community project located in Pétion-Ville, on the outskirts of Port au Prince, the capital city of Haiti. There are 650 children enrolled in the 2009/10 school year. The staff numbers 47, all of whom are Haitian. Public education in Haiti is in a state of ongoing crisis because of chronic poverty and few resources at the disposal of the national government. Less than half the country’s children attend school. For these reasons, SOPUDEP depends on international support for its survival.

The school had its beginning in the year 2000 as part of a national literacy campaign funded under then-Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Its first community initiative was a literacy and economic education program designed for adults between 30 and 60 years of age.

Within weeks of starting the literacy program, children were showing up at SOPUDEP with their parents and grandparents in hopes of gleaning some basic reading and math skills. SOPUDEP’s staff decided it would be best if the children had a proper education program of their own. The adult literacy program was being run out of 37 different locations throughout the community. The project’s directors decided that a single location would be better for the children. The mayor of Pétion-Ville of-fered the use of an empty mansion for the establishment of SOPUDEP’s stand-alone school. Initial enrollment was 160 children.

In February 2004, the government of President Aristide was forcibly removed from power. All government funding for SOPUDEP ceased, forcing the demise of a hot lunch program that provided many of the children and staff with their only meal of the day.  Facing threats of attacks on the school from unelected government officials and their militiagroups, many staff members went into hiding, fearing for their lives.  Following international support from journalists, human rights activistsand solidarity groups, the threats ceased and no harm was inflicted on students or staff.

Since 2004, SODUDEP School has survived thanks to the dedication of passionate, hard working teachers and an administration that has often worked for months without compensation. The average teacher salary is only $500 (U.S.) per year. The total salary budget for 47 staff in the 2008/09 school year was $26,957 (U.S.). There are few textbooks; no electricity or running water; poor protection inside the school from windand rain; and most classrooms have dilapidated chalkboards and rough desks made from planks of wood. Despite these obstacles, the schooloffers education from pre-school through to grade 12. Students learn reading, writing, arithmetic and other subjects.

SOPUDEP prides itself on providing free education to the poorest children in the community, children who would otherwise have little or no opportunity for any kind of education. The great majority of schools in Haiti are operated by foreign charities or other private institutions. The public education system reaches only ten percent of school children. Unlike SOPUDEP, public and private schools charge fees that are out of reach for most Haitian families. While the cost of living is close to that in Canada, the average Haitian takes home between 75¢ and $2 US a day.

The expansion of SOPDUEP’s enrollment was made possible by the Sawatzky Family Foundation, a registered charity in Canada.  It was created in 2008 with the specific goal of providing financial aid, sustainability, and growth for SOPUDEP School. Our support began following our irst meeting with school Founder and Director, Réa Dol in early 2008. A little girl, 10 years old and too weak to stand or talk, came into the room where we were meeting and sat beside us on a little bench as the janitor went to get juice and cookies from a vendor. Réa explained to us that this was a regular occurrence because the children’s families can’t afford to eat on a regular basis. For the remainder of the 2008/2009 school year (five months), we resurrected the hot lunch program five days a week. Since then, we have been doing our best to support the hot lunch program and, more importantly, teacher salaries.

SOPUDEP and the Sawatzky Family Foundation believe in public education in Haiti. Currently, the country’s national government can finance only a small portion of the country’s education, health care, social security and food needs.  Decades of economic crisis and political instability have created a situation where most of Haiti’s social services are operated by foreign charities and non-governmental organizations.  This is not a sustainable model for the future of education in Haiti.

SOPUDEP is recognized as a public school by Haiti’s Ministry of Education and adheres to its instructional mandates. But it no longer enjoys full government funding as before 2004.  The Foundation’s objective is to provide assistance to SOPUDEP until the day when Haiti will have a fully functioning public education system.  It is our hope that it will serve as a model of how schools can run in a true public education system.

The number one priority of school administrators today is to ensure salaries for teachers.  Any support that you or your organization can provide to SOPUDEP will express support not only for teachers and the SOPUDEP School but also for the future of public education in Haiti. On SOPUDEP’s behalf, we urge you to consider financial contributions as well as other partnering initiatives such as visits, becoming partnering organizations, or creating shared education projects. We invite you to meet with us in order to learn more about the school.

Thank you!


Ryan Sawatsky, President

For more detailed information on the school and budget breakdowns, please visit

For questions or comments, or for more information:

E mail: sawatzkyfamilyfoundation(at)

Phone: 705-345-5593

R3: A Multimedia Fundraising Event Dedicated To Building Solidarity In Our Movements

By ChairExternal, November 9, 2009 9:07 pm


Performances by:
Ania Soul  
House of Monroe
Amai Kuda
Abstract Random

Speakers from Moyo Wa Africa and Black Action Defence Committee address:
Bridging the Divide Between Straight and Queer Black Communities



DJ Quin spins hip hop, rnb and house

Friday November 13th
9 pm- 3 am
Concord Cafe, 937 Bloor St. West

Minimum $10 Suggested Donation
All Funds Raised go to The African Reparations Fund, Turtle Island Reparations Fund and the R3 Artists’ Collective for details
Guest list spots available by writing to

Speakers from Seven Directions address:
The Importance of Solidarity with Indigenous Struggles


Open Mic




The World Social Forum, A Sustainable Model?

By ChairExternal, November 9, 2009 9:00 pm
Socialist Project - home The   B u l l e t Socialist Project - home
Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 271
November 9, 2009

The World Social Forum,
A Sustainable Model?

Pierre Rousset

After a period of remarkable expansion, the process of the World Social Forum (WSF) has stalled. The balance sheet of the most recent big assemblies turns out to be very contrasting – we can say, simplifying a lot, politically negative in the case of Nairobi (Kenya) in 2007 and positive in the case of Belem (Brazil) two years later.

The question that is raised is not primarily one of numbers: success does not depend (or does not only depend) on the number of participants, it is political: what is the point of the forums? The answer seemed obvious in the early 2000s, but that is not the case today.

In the past there was a lively interrelation between the Forum process, large anti-globalisation mobilisations, social struggles and international campaigns – a synergy that reached its peak with the mobilising and popularising role which the European forums (Florence, Italy) and global (Porto Alegre, Brazil) played in preparing the anti-war day of March 2003. The expansion of the WSF was phenomenal: in only a few years it had taken shape in Europe and Latin America, then in Asia, North America and Africa. It rooted itself in the national and local forums. The network and the Assembly of Social Movements played a dynamic role. The manifold expansion was driven by a dynamic combination of expansion and radicalisation. In the framework of the forums questions were raised which the traditional labour movement had not yet been able to answer.[1]

Today – with some exceptions – the Forum process is largely disconnected from struggles and international campaigns. Other frameworks have been formed to address the climate crisis or the so-called financial crisis, without functional articulation with the WSF. In Malmö (Sweden) in 2008, a large and dynamic anti-globalisation demonstration took place at the time of the European Social Forum(ESF), but with no synergy between the two events. In Europe, the ESF has not been able to play again the role of giving momentum that it had against the Bolkestein directive. It is possible that the process retains its vitality in North America, but it has come to a standstill in Asia and has hardly been able to redefine itself in Europe. Even if the Assembly of the Social Movements still adopts policies whose content is important (Belém), the network is experiencing a protracted crisis of functioning.

Some new features have been tried out in recent years to ensure a more efficient process: meetings of thematic assemblies in the forums, the definition of “axes” around which the initiatives are grouped, proposals for the “clustering” of workshops to increase exchanges between constituents and improve the visibility of the programme, the call for “strategic” reflection, etc… But interesting as these experiments are, a politics which has become out of date cannot be addressed solely by dealing with the operating procedures of the WSF.[2]

The Forum process continues to provide the principal “common” space to a wide range of movements at a global level and in many countries. But for all that in what sense does the WSF provide a “sustainable model”? It has resisted the violent ideological offensive that followed the attacks of September 11 2001, which is not insignificant. But will it resist the impact of the capitalist crisis? Whether it succeeds or not, are there lessons from this experience that should be retained for the future?

The Forum process is not simply passing through a “downturn.” It is threatened by a combination of factors: a strong tendency to institutionalisation, “neutralisation” of activist groups, political differences, questioning of functioning by “dynamic consensus” etc…

The WSF, Seen from Above

The global process of the Social Forum is led by an international council (IC), originally formed by self-cooptation, and then imperfectly expanded by co-option. Given the nature of the movement, it was difficult to elect it on a representative basis or to operate on a global scale in the form of an open assembly. But this mode of structuring was always subject to a separation between the “summit” and the grassroots of the WSF. The main measure designed to prevent this danger has been the limitation of the powers of the council: mainly it decides the date and place of the global forums and organises the framework (the commissions).

The Political Significance of the Debate Within the IC on the Rhythms

The WSF began by meeting annually. The question of the rhythm of meetings was rapidly posed by proliferation of regional or thematic forums. Far from being narrowly “organisational,” this was a political question which concerns the relationship between the WSF and the social mobilisations. Thus Via Campesina was one of the first networks to demand that the global forums meet only every three years, if not every two years alternating with the regional forums. If too frequent they take up the time and financial resources of militants at the expense of preparing struggles, supporting national organisations and developing campaigns. From being a support they can become a brake on the activity of movements engaged in the process.[3]

Of course, the WSF forums are not merely international conferences. Through the number of participants, the involvement of the movements and the continuity of the “process” they constitute a form of resistance to capitalist globalisation. But – also of course – they cannot substitute for the daily struggles taking place elsewhere.

The proposals of the Via Campesina and other movements aimed at preserving the dialectical link between forums and struggles. The argument made good sense, but it has not been understood by all. The decision in this area was blocked until the International Council of Parma (Italy, October 2006). A report was produced on the finances of the WSF, which noted that almost all the organisations surveyed wanted the global Forum to stop meeting annually. It became very difficult to ignore this demand. It was decided that in 2008 there would be a global day of action that would not be labelled “WSF.” Although belated, the resolution of Parma recognised in fact that the global Forum should not necessarily meet every year and it opened itself up to organisations that still remained outside the established process.

Unfortunately, the decision of Parma has progressively unravelled. In the end the global day of January 2008 has again become an annual initiative of the World Social Forum. This day (or week) was a relative success, which reflected the commitment of the movements involved in the WSF to the continuation of the process. But the betrayal of the spirit and letter of the resolution of October 2006 signified that the needs of the militant movements that mobilised at the same time both within and outside the WSF were not taken into account by the IC – even though it is they who first and foremost give the WSF the character of a social forum, in touch with the struggles of the most exploited. The enlargement process was not thought through “from below” but rather “from above.” Who in reality wished to maintain a frenetic pace for the forums? Individuals and organisations for which the intensification of the “process” did not pose problems, either because the WSF had become their principal place of political recognition policy (individuals, small groups) or because they had at their disposal a budget and an apparatus of fulltimers which enabled them to take part without difficulty (“top level” union structures, large NGOs, funding agencies, church movements …), without this necessarily implying a real commitment to build momentum.

The much vaunted functioning by consensus came to a dead end and was replaced by a unilateral war of attrition conducted by a “bloc of interests” at the top.

Parties and Churches

Political parties have not been admitted as “co-sponsors” of the WSF process (a decision which to me seems reasonable). However, for those parties involved in real life in the same mobilisations as the movements, the modalities of their presence in the forums has been defined according to the country (which also seems reasonable). The distinction is important: we are discussing here movements which equally take on a responsibility in the organisation of the forums and the representation of the process within the IC.

There have been extensive debates on the role of parties – but never on that of the (Christian) churches and their various organisations. However, they are not “social movements,” even in the wide definition of the IC of the WSF. Although Caritas is registered as an NGO, its statutes specify that it is under the direct authority of the Vatican (a religious hierarchy and a State!). The issue was raised at the International Council of Parma, taking account of rather alarming information on the weight of the churches in the preparation of the WSF in Nairobi. The World March of Women was concerned about the consequences this might have on the issue of women’s rights or sexual preferences … the Indian representatives recalled how they had carefully protected the Mumbai Forum from the religious conflicts that are rife in their country. However, the debate had barely begun when it was cut short: because organisations like the World Council of Churches and Caritas were members of the IC, the presence of their counterparts in the national committees could not be challenged.

The fears expressed in Parma were unfortunately justified to the extent that a formal declaration was signed by many movements to protest about how the rights of women and homosexuals were attacked within the forum by religious currents – that is to say, evenwithin our own space of liberty.[4] Despite this and some other very serious problems posed by Nairobi, there has been virtually no critical discussion on the critical assessment of this experience at the IC of the WSF that followed in Berlin. “The churches have always been there, so …” This is also true of the parties, which did not prevent their status being discussed. We can bet that if non-Christian religious hierarchies (Muslim, Hindu etc…) asked to be members of the IC there would be a debate! If the (Christian) churches “are there” it is because the forum was born in Brazil and some Brazilian organizers wanted it. The involvement of religious organisations in unitary popular mobilisations varies according to the country (even more than the links between parties and movements). I do not prejudge what would be the conclusion of an international discussion on their place in the process nor deny the progressive commitment of some of them. But which religious organisations are we talking about?

We are no longer in the 1970s, with the currents of liberation theology in Latin America confronting their religious hierarchies, advancing political agendas clearly anchored on the left (except, generally, on issues such as reproductive rights or sexual preference), even joining the armed struggle like the Christians for National Liberation in the Philippines, apostles of the theology of struggle. Some orders and individuals are still involved in resistance. But the movements of which we speak here are not in open rupture with their hierarchies – and these latter are rarely progressive! They are at best in an ambiguous relationship of autonomy-dependence vis-à-vis the church hierarchy. Many Protestant churches are very reactionary, as is the very reactionary Pope and his policy of asserting Catholicism, moral order and anti-atheism.

I do not question the participation in the forums of movements “defined as religious” engaged in mobilisations against the war and for social rights. But the co-opting of church organizations within the IC, which is obliged to organise the “non-confessional” space (to quote the Charter of the WSF) of the forums and ensure their “social” character seems very problematic.

The Centre of Gravity of the IC

The composition of the IC is now less “monocoloured” (whites from Latin America and Europe) than at the beginning. But the weight of the “hierarchical” organisations has continued to grow. We can mention, in addition to religious organisations, major NGOs and funding agencies which are not what they were in the 1980s.[5] The current mechanisms for controlling and allocating funds gives them significant power over grassroots organisations on the ground. A social movement is not a sub-contractor, a service provider or a consultancy – it pursues activities that require continuity. Funding by “projects” represents a totally different logic which places local organisations in a situation of permanent insecurity, and therefore of dependence.

Union representation has also changed. A number of national and international union leaderships have only entered into the WSF process reluctantly. They did not appreciate its radicalism, its unusual diversity and spontaneity. Their integration was a victory for the anti-globalisation movement. But with the weakening of its dynamism the bureaucratic union leaderships have taken over the initiative. They now outweigh the class struggle unions within the IC of the WSF.

The WSF Seen from Below

Seen from below, the view is much more diverse than from above. Indeed, the annual forums reflect the political situation and the dynamic movements of the host country and region, as does the quality of the preparation ensured by the national organising committee.

Mumbai, Nairobi and Belém

The comparison of the three forums of Mumbai (2004), Nairobi (2007) and Belém (2009) illuminates this point. All have common features, starting with the large number of participants and the many militant meetings that these “spaces” enabled. All three illustrate the process of global expansion, from its original countries in Latin America and southern Europe to Asia and West Africa (Bamako, 2006) and East Africa (Nairobi).

More than any other global forum that at Mumbai has earned the name of social forum, because the movements made the space theirs, the collective participation was so great and the most oppressed were so visible. Meeting faced to a hostile city hall, without benefit of government support, with much more rigorously selected sources of international funding than was customary in the WSF, it was on an organisational level totally independent. Its success was made possible by the involvement of a wide range of organisations that often do not work together and by a long period of preparation which enabled trade unions and popular associations to come from every corner of this country-continent.[6]

We can say that the forum in Nairobi was in many ways the antithesis of that of Mumbai. The most institutionalised “entities” (including the churches) dominated the process. It was closely linked to state authorities. The organisation was partly run by large companies. The space was not designed for the poorest (entry costs, expensive food, little free clean water…). The market that we fight was omnipresent. The forum certainly provided a rare opportunity for African movements to meet – and for them to meet with international movements. But it represented a real political backward step.

After Nairobi, the Belém forum appeared as a rebirth of the process.[7] The very strong Brazilian participation showed that it met a need. It raised the question of the immense problem of the fate of the Amazon rainforest. The link between ecological and social issues was more central than had been usual in the previous forums. The rights of indigenous peoples were brilliantly affirmed. It was the opportunity for fundamental debates for the Latin American left around the competing orientations of the governments of Lula and Chavez. However, Belém was far from a replica of Mumbai. The weight of state financing was great and the presence of government authorities obvious. But the dynamism of the regional (Amazonia) and Latin-American movements fuelled the forum with a real militant political content.

The future of the WSF depends in part on the country where it meets, on how national and regional movements are involved, and on the political issues that are raised. In North America and the Middle East, for example, issues like the war and the impact of the global capitalist crisis arise with greater force today than in Brazil. The social forums are built “from below” more than “from above.”

Contrasting Political Evolutions of the Social Movement

Nevertheless, certain global political events affect the dynamic of anti-globalisation. As long as the blows were struck from the outside– after September 11 2001, repression in Gothenburg (Sweden) and Genoa (Italy) – the radicalism of the movement has maintained itself on an international scale. But two major political turning points have undermined it from within.

The WSF activists were first divided in the key countries on the issue of social-liberal governments of the left or the centre-centre left. This was particularly the case in Italy vis-à-vis that of Prodi and the participation in government of the Party of Communist Refoundation (PRC). But it is also true for Brazil (Lula), South Africa (the ANC in power), and in West Bengal, an important Indian state ruled by the CPI-M.

The obvious failure of the Italian experience (return to power of Berlusconi, electoral defeat of the PRC) and the explosion of the financial crisis have not succeeded in restoring the dynamic unity of before. In part, this reflects the continuing weakened state of the social movement, but it also reveals that the differences we face are more profound than temporary disagreements about the policy of the “lesser evil” and support for Prodi against the Berlusconi right.

Anti-liberalism has split under the pressure of the financial crisis, one wing of the movement “globalising” its alternatives, another, in contrast, moderating its ambitions. For example, Peter Wahl, co-founder of ATTAC in Germany and member of the NGO Weed says that we can only choose between different varieties of capitalism. He places his hopes in the reformist sectors of the elites and calls on civil society to influence them so that the capitalism of tomorrow is fairer socially and more sustainable environmentally. He relies on a somewhat expanded G20, a G23, and the UN to lead the reform.[8]

Another example. France experienced a significant wave of radical mobilisations (for example “sequestration of senior executives” also known as “boss-napping”) during the first half of 2009, ranging from universities to car factories, to the point that the elites were concerned about a Greek-style social explosion or a new May 68. It was possible, it was necessary, to take initiatives to facilitate the convergence of these struggles. The fear of it getting out of control, however, pushed the trade union confederations to act together (a fact without precedent in France for a long time) to organise a nationwide day of action every two months! After an undeniable initial success, participation in these repeated days obviously decreased. The desire for trade union unity was used to channel and defuse the movement. The government understood well that it needed to do nothing except wait for the lack of perspectives to demobilise the movement.

The French anti-globalisation movement should have supported the struggles, assisted their synergy. But it was paralysed. A violent controversy arose between the CGT trade union branches in the car factories in struggle and their confederation leadership, accused of inaction. However, it is that same leadership which is represented in the executive committee of the Social Forums (CIFS) not the Continental factory workers.

Certainly we cannot simply counterpose the “base” to the “summit” to judge the choice of the federation leadership. But to put it bluntly, left or union realpolitik often disguises processes of “neutralisation,” of adaptation and social co-option. It must be noted that faced with the crisis the union bureaucracies and other more or less institutionalised movements put on the brakes of politicisation and militant developments. The crisis reinforces their fear of radicalism.

The brief period of unanimous anti-globalisation has closed. How can we continue to build the broadest unity for struggle in these conditions? The answer is not simple – and certainly not identical across countries or regions. It is even less simple because the “spaces” for discussion are sterilised and constrained.

From top to bottom – in the International Council as in many meetings of the anti-globalisation movement – many things are discussed, but not how to build struggles, even though that should be a major concern and that we need, in this area in particular, to exchange analyses and experiences! The IC of the WSF even gives itself the luxury of organising a “strategic” reflection where political disagreements are glossed over. An amazing depoliticisation of strategy – without debate, a dynamic process (the formation of a consensus) is replaced by an insidiously authoritarian way of functioning.

We can thus understand the development of the calls for a response after the capitalist crisis. One of the most radical is also one of the first: that of Beijing.[9] Certain statements follow this line, like that of the assembly of movements at Belém[10] and elsewhere.[11]But in most cases they are bland, whereas one was entitled to expect a deepening of the initial momentum.

Legacy and Future

Is the WSF useful for the struggle? That was and that remains the key issue. The best of statements (and there are good ones!) are useless if they are not translated into mobilisations. The birth of the WSF represented a positive break vis-à-vis the routinised international conferences of NGOs. But the more it disconnects from the social struggles the more it in its turn becomes institutionalised. A process very advanced at the level of the international council, but still partially offset by the dynamism of the movements which participate in some of the forums. The experience of the forums is still usually rewarding for the (new) participants. But the WSF process is extremely costly in terms of financial resources and the energies of militants. These costs become unjustifiable if the struggles do not derive sufficient benefit from them.

Whatever becomes of the WSF, it expressed a historical experience whose positive lessons should not be forgotten. It opened a space of convergences where the whole range of resistance to the commodification of the world could be found. It aided the synergy of struggles when the labour movement or the political-military organisations were no longer playing the centralising role that they did in the last century. It has given shape to anti-globalisation, combining old solidarities (North-South …) with new forms of solidarity (“horizontal”), restoring colour to an internationalism that had lost its lustre.

The experience of the forums can thus help to overcome some strategic impasses. How, for example, can the relationship of forces be improved when massive strikes have not proved sufficient to permanently block the neoliberal counter-reforms? Convergence (including at the local level) allows us to envisage territorial mobilisation: the simultaneous action of an entire population in and outside the workplace (which goes well beyond the solidarity of people with a strike by employees). The “territorial strike” has been tried in many countries of the Third World, but in few countries of the “first world.” But it is not for nothing that “All together” (tous ensemble) became so popular a banner at the time of globalisation. The experience of the forums, a permanent crucible of multilateral solidarity, provides food for thought and concrete reflection on such questions, for the future. •

Pierre Rousset is a member of the executive committee of the Fourth International. This article appeared on Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières website. Translation by Richard Hatcher.


1. See Pierre Rousset, “World Social Forums.”

2. See Walden Bello, “The Forum at the Crossroads.”

3. See João Pedro Stedile, “The WSF Has to Agree On Common Actions Against Common Enemies,” IPS, 24 January 2008.

4. See “Another World is Possible in Diversity: …Affirming the struggle for sexual and reproductive rights,”

5. See Michael Warschawski, “Grassroots Activism and NGOs.”

6. See Kamal Mitra Chenoy, “Making history: the future of the World Social Forum.”

7. Eric Toussaint & Pauline Imbach, “A New Start with the 2009 World Social Forum.”

8. Peter Wahl, “With Realistic Radicalism: Which approach to the upcoming era of reforms?

9. Beijin Call, “The global economic crisis: An historic opportunity for transformation.”

10. Social Movements, Declaration, Bélem, “We won’t pay for the crisis. The rich have to pay for it!.”

11. For example in the Philippines, “People Over Profits, Society Over The Market: The Balay Kalinaw People’s Agenda to Respond to the Economic Crisis.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( The   B u l l e t ))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CUPE 3907 calls on Toronto and York Region Labour Council to promote employment equity

By admin, May 15, 2009 12:42 pm

Action Plan on Employment Equity and Infrastructure Projects

In the context of substantial government investment in infrastructure projects, on May 15, 2009, CUPE 3907 called on the Toronto & York Region Labour Council to develop a campaign to promote the integration of employment equity practices and encourage the entry of equity-seeking groups in the skilled and construction trades. Complete text of the letter is below:

252 Bloor Street West, Room 8-104
Toronto ON M4Y 1R6
(416) 978-2403

Action Plan on Employment Equity and Infrastructure Projects
May 15, 2009

To: The Toronto & York Region Labour Council

Context of the Call for Intervention

The government will spend $32.5 billion dollars on infrastructure projects in
Ontario over the next two years. Further, the province of Ontario has provided $9
billion to the city of Toronto for transportation infrastructure. The building trades
and the road construction sector in Ontario largely employ white men and they
will be the chief beneficiaries of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be
generated from the massive investment in public infrastructure projects.
According to a 2008 StatsCan report on employment in the skilled trades, 97% of
the workers in this sector were men compared to 50% in the non-trades

The Toronto and York Region Labour Council (TYRLC), among others, have
called for good jobs for all and that should apply to the equitable employment of
women, racialized, aboriginal, young workers and workers with disabilities in
these initiatives. With respect to immigrant status and employment in the skilled
trades, 17% of the employees were immigrants while 21% made up non-trades
occupational groups. The problem with the StatsCan report was that it did not
break down the immigrant category by race and gender. We suspect that most of
those immigrant men were White.

Walking the Talk of Equity and Economic Justice

However, equity-seeking groups should be employed to, as least, the level
of their labour market availability in the specific trade categories.
Infrastructure programmes cannot be an unwitting scheme to employ white

The following actions are being recommended to the TYRLC:
1. Develop a campaign to promote the integration of employment equity
practices and encourage the entry of equity-seeking groups in the skilled
and construction trades.
2. Utilize this discussion of employment equity and infrastructure projects as
an opportunity to push for apprenticeships in the trades for diverse
women, people with disabilities, Aboriginals, racialized peoples and young
3. Forward a recommendation to the Good Jobs Coalition for All (or its
relevant committee) the proposal that priority consideration be given to
energizing and taking concrete actions to actualize employment equity in
the stimulus-related and other public infrastructure projects.
4. Submit employment equity and infrastructure-related op-ed proposals to
major daily newspapers within two weeks of the approval of this action.
5. Communicate through written correspondence and telephone calls with
the leadership of affiliated locals and organizations and encourage them to
communicate with elected and appointed provincial and municipal officials
about integrating employment equity guidelines in public infrastructure
6. Develop a trades bridging programme proposal with relevant community
colleges and community partners to prepare internationally trained or
experienced trades-people for employment with public infrastructure
projects. Funding would be sought from the different levels of government
to train and put internationally trained or experienced trades-people to
7. Explore some kind of partnership between labour, community
organizations, the municipality and the province of Ontario advance the
employment of equity-seekers on public infrastructure projects’ worksites.
8. Push for the employment of women and young workers, in their
diversity, on infrastructure initiatives in the communities in which projects
are being implemented.
9. The Labour Council’s executive and/or relevant committee to provide a
monthly status report to the general Council meetings on its employment
equity and infrastructure campaign.

From: CUPE Local 3907
Jagjeet Gill, Chair Internal
Everton Cummings, Chief Steward
Andrew Beecher, Secretary-Treasurer
Ajamu Nangwaya, Chair External

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