News | International news briefs: September 4-8

The NDP leadership race, flooding in South Asia, and Indigenous resistance from Peru to Palestine

NDP LEADERSHIP RACE HEATS UP IN QUEBEC

The New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) is holding its leadership elections between October 1-15, 2017. The party is selecting a leader to replace Tom Mulcair, and challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party and Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party. Over the summer, the race has narrowed down to four candidates: Niki Ashton, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Churchill, Manitoba; Charlie Angus, MPP for Timmins, Ontario; Guy Caron, MPP for Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques, Quebec; and Jagmeet Singh, MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Ontario.

The race has largely focused on how to win back the support that was won in the 2011 federal election, and subsequently lost to the Liberals in 2015. A huge portion of that loss was suffered in Quebec, where Tom Mulcair’s opposition to Liberal Bill 62 was perceived negatively. Bill 62 is a bill put forward by the Provincial Liberals of Quebec to ban the wearing of face coverings by governmental employees in the province. The bill has been widely described as Islamophobic, as it would target Muslim women who wear the burqa or the niqab.

As the race moves into Quebec the only Quebecois candidate, Caron, has announced his support of the bill. Ashton initially suggested that she too supports it, later tempering her statement after receiving substantial criticism from her base. Angus, meanwhile, has stated that the matter must go to the courts, and that the government cannot infringe upon religious freedoms. Singh, who is Sikh and wears a turban, has not yet commented on the issue.

Polls in Quebec show a massive loss of interest in the NDP, with 68 per cent of the population describing themselves as “not interested” in a poll conducted by Léger. However, debates over religious freedoms are often explosive in Quebec, and the candidate who impresses the most in the province could generate considerable support for the party nationally.

With material from The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and The Huffington Post.


PALESTINIAN SCHOOL DEMOLISHED

On August 23 in Jubbet al-Dhib, a village in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian children ready to attend their first day of school were shocked to find the building demolished. The six-classroom school had been razed to the ground by Israeli military forces the night before, leaving volunteers and teachers scrambling to construct makeshift classrooms for the 64 students. A temporary tent to accommodate the children was pitched to replace the caravan school, which was donated by European Union humanitarian organizations.

In defiance of the destruction, students peacefully protested by singing the national anthem before returning home with new school backpacks.

The building and all school materials had been confiscated and/or demolished by Israeli forces on the grounds that no permit had been issued for the construction of the school. Reports claim local residents threw rocks at the soldiers in protest, while the soldiers used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to clear the area.

The school itself had been a step forward for Palestinian children in Jubbet al-Dhib in terms of gaining easier access to education. Jubbet al-Dhib is located in Area C of the West Bank, and is under the complete control of Israeli forces, which makes obtaining a permit for opening a Palestinian school almost impossible. The next closest Palestinian school to the village in question is an hour’s walk away over dangerous mountain terrain.

This incident is not an anomaly, but rather one demolition among 92 others this year alone conducted by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank, despite widespread international condemnation.

With material from Mondoweiss.


INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE IN PERU

Indigenous leaders in Peru have issued an official statement condemning the government for not adhering to laws regarding issues that affect the Indigenous population. Peru’s government is currently negotiating with Frontera Energy, an oil-based Canadian energy firm, on renewing a 30-year contract.

The leaders, who represent more than 100 Indigenous communities, referenced a law passed in 2011 that requires the government to consult these communities before implementing decisions that might impact their territories. However, Ángela Acevedo, the Director of Indigenous Peoples Rights at Peru’s Vice Ministry of Intercultural Affairs argues that while the law is in effect, the state still “takes the final decision.”

The Indigenous leaders, meanwhile, consider the negotiations an unlawful violation of their rights. To protest the government’s action, the Indigenous communities are threatening to prevent the oil firms from accessing their land if a valid consultation with the communities does not take place.

Added to the tribal rights issue is the concern over oil spills in the region. The United Nations special rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes stressed the importance of dealing with the existing environmental hazards before issuing any new deals or contracts that may further exacerbate the issue. Additionally, the rapporteur emphasized that the Indigenous peoples’ concerns should be included when making decisions such as these, because oil spills have been proven to contaminate water to a point that can cause poisoning and death.

With material from The Guardian.


MASSIVE FLOODS HIT SOUTH ASIA

As of August 28th, an especially aggressive flood has hit South Asia, causing major infrastructural damage and the deaths of approximately 1200 Indian, Nepali, and Bangladeshi citizens. The storm is said to have affected around 40 million people in the region already, and the situation is quickly exacerbating to an unprecedented level. While some loss brought about by the monsoon season in South Asia is expected, scientists say this level of damage is unnatural—it is the direct result of climate change. The extreme weather has deprived some villages in India of basic resources such as food and water, destroyed more than half a million homes in Nepal, and submerged approximately a third of Bangladeshi land. The relief efforts will require upwards of 100 million USD. The government of India has already pledged 78 million USD for the heavily affected Bihar state alone.

With material from Democracy Now.


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