UN Calls for Halt of Site C Dam

United Nations Panel Calls for Halt of B.C.’s Site C Dam

By The Canadian Press | August 29, 2017

A United Nations panel says the construction of British Columbia’s $8.8-billion Site C dam should be halted until there is a full review of how it would affect Indigenous land.

The recommendation is contained in a report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has completed its periodic review of how Canada complies with the world body’s treaty to end racial discrimination.

The recommendation comes three weeks after British Columbia’s NDP government requested a review of what had been a signature megaproject for former premier Christy Clark.

The government asked the B.C. Utilities Commission to determine the economic viability of the massive hydroelectric dam on the Peace River and issue a final report by Nov. 1.

Site C has become controversial after the previous provincial Liberal government’s clean-energy laws allowed some projects to bypass a review by the regulatory agency. …

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Trump Just Endorsed the Idea of Concentration Camps in the U.S.

Concentration Camps Expert Says Trump Just Endorsed The Idea Of Them In U.S.

By Sam Levine | August 26, 2017

President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio amounts to an endorsement of the idea of concentration camps, says a journalist who has reported on the global history of the deadly facilities.

Arpaio referred to his own county jail as a ”concentration camp.” For over two decades, he operated “Tent City,” where detainees were kept in brutal conditions, including temperatures soaring well above 100 degrees Farenheit. They were also forced to work on chain gangs and to wear pink undergarments as a form of humiliation. Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order prohibiting the detention of people based on mere suspicions about their legal status.

In an email to HuffPost Saturday, Andrea Pitzer, the author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, defined a concentration camp as a “mass civilian detention outside the standard legal process, usually on the basis of race, ethnicity, or political activity.” While Pitzer said Tent City was a prison technically constructed to hold those convicted by law, it bore familiar elements to a concentration camp, including “brutal dehuminization.”

“Once Arpaio began neighborhood sweeps and traffic stops deliberately targeting Latinos, and then detaining them without charges, his whole enterprise tilted further toward being a concentration camp for that set of detainees,” she wrote. “And even for those who had been convicted of crimes, it was a harrowing, often deadly experience.”

Pitzer said Trump pardoning Arpaio legitimized the 85-year-old former sheriff’s operation. …

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Haida Strip Hereditary Chiefs of Titles for Enbridge Support

Haida Strip Two Hereditary Chiefs of Titles for Supporting Enbridge

By Jeff Lee | August 17, 2016

The extraordinary decision by a Haida clan to strip two of its hereditary chiefs of their titles for secretly supporting the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is being closely watched by First Nations across Canada.

The rebuke, delivered last week in an elaborate ceremony witnessed by more than 500 people, came as the Haida Nation rejected what they say is a growing trend by companies to enlist the support of hereditary chiefs as a way of claiming broad First Nations support.

“This is an absolutely huge decision and I think it is a wake-up call to the hereditary system of governance and leadership,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“I think First Nations across the province and throughout Indian country in general are paying attention to these developments.”

On Aug. 13, members of the clan stripped Carmen Goertzen and Francis Ingram of their titles, effectively removing them as representatives of two houses, the Yahgulaanaas Janaas of Daadens, and the Litjaaw Yaahl Naas. Goertzen, a well-known Haida artist, had held the position for 25 years. Ingram had only been appointed a year ago.

The Haida are made up of 22 house clans, each overseen by hereditary chiefs. An elected council represents the Haida Nation.

The men were part of a group of eight, including two other hereditary chiefs, who signed a letter to the National Energy Board in March supporting Northern Gateway’s request for a time extension to its permit for the bitumen transport pipeline. Earlier this summer, the Federal Court overturned federal approval of Northern Gateway, leaving the company with only one more “faint hope” opportunity.

Goertzen, Ingram and the others, including four men whom the Haida Nation says do not hold any hereditary position, formed a group they called Hereditary Chiefs of North Haida Gwaii LLP.

The head of the clan that Goertzen and Ingram represented said the community never knew the men had signed on to support Enbridge and that their letter made it look like the Haida at large had reversed their long-standing opposition to the project.

“I don’t think anyone in a clan can tell people who they can work for, but when you are a hereditary chief leader you have responsibilities to your clan and you have to consult with them on important issues like this,” said Darin Swanson, the head chief of the Yahgulaanaas Janaas clan. “As hereditary leaders, they didn’t do that. Everything was a big secret up till now. At the end of the day, they are crawling into bed with Enbridge. It is almost up to the point that Enbridge is accepting them as (representing) the consultation on the whole of Haida Gwaii.” …

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First Nations Criticize Canada at UN International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

First Nations Blast Canada at CERD in Geneva

Indigenous leaders tell CERD that Trudeau Liberals are still engaged in racial discrimination

Daniel Mesec | August 18, 2017

Indigenous leaders from northern British Columbia and across the country are calling out the Canadian government on what they say are violations of their indigenous rights, in addition to ongoing racial discrimination against Indigenous Peoples. A delegation of leaders from the Wet’suwet’en, Gitxsan and Haida Nations from Northwest British Columbia traveled to Geneva this week to make their case before the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

They are asking CERD to investigate Canada’s environmental assessment policies, which they say violate many of their aboriginal rights backed by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Currently Canada is undergoing its periodic CERD review, and a report is expected by the end of August. It will focus on much of the testimony received on Monday August 14, especially that from northern B.C. First Nations who continue to oppose major resource development projects they say will have a detrimental impact on their lives.

“The ongoing pandering to multinational corporations through exploitation of resources is very much a threat to our ways of life,” said Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Deneza Na’Moks, (John Ridsdale), in the First Nations’ official submission to the convention. “We might be the first to live with the consequence of carbon-based economies that are already causing wholesale change to natural systems and suffering of people around the world.”

Canada’s environmental assessment laws, Na’Moks said, continue to measure financial benefits rather than the social, cultural and environmental impacts to communities. Although there are indigenous rights are clearly defined through the Declaration, the CERD committee didn’t have a clear understanding of how these rights have been violated in Canada and the difference between the hereditary governance systems and the elected band councils, Na’Moks contended.

“They weren’t aware of how atrocious Canada is on endorsing their own laws and then not upholding the UNDRIP and free, prior and informed consent,” Na’Moks said. “In response, Canada gave cut-and-paste answers. They were very weak in their replies to the committee.”

The Canadian government did not testify at the CERD meeting, whose purpose was solely to deliver testimony to the U.N. officials. But contacted by ICMN afterward, Canadian officials reiterated their commitment to rebuilding relationships with First Nations and said the work is ongoing, at the same time recognizing the shortcomings of current and previous governments when it comes to indigenous rights. …

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Canada Criticized for Resource Policies at UN Racial Discrimination Hearing

Canada in Hot Seat for Resource Policies at UN Racial Discrimination Hearing

By James Wilt | August 16, 2017

Indigenous leaders from northern British Columbia are calling on the UN to investigate whether ongoing industrial development of Indigenous lands and waters constitutes a violation of UN conventions this week.

Canada is up for review by the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In a submission, tribes from B.C.’s northwest said Canada’s environmental assessment laws continue to measure money instead of impact.

One of the signatories is Deneza Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), a hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en. He travelled to the UN on the heels of the recent approval and then cancellation of Petronas’ plans to build a pipeline and the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the Skeena River estuary.

The project and its approval point squarely back to failures in Canada’s environmental assessment process and a lack of recognition of Indigenous nationhood, the committee heard.

“We asked [the Committee] to use any force that they can to get Canada to uphold support and use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” Ridsdale told DeSmog Canada.

The project was approved, despite concerns from scientists about it being sited in critical juvenile salmon habitat and about the plant’s enormous greenhouse gas footprint (if built, the plant would have been the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada).

Petronas announced the cancellation of the project in late July, citing “market conditions.”

“The cancellation of one project because of poor gas prices does nothing to address the underlying legal issues that will plague any project that threatens the wild salmon,” said Kirby Muldoe, a member of the delegation of Tsimsian and Gitxsan descent.

Site C Dam Puts Canadian Government in Hot Seat

Much of the committee’s attention was paid to the issue of the controversial Site C dam under construction in northeast B.C.

The committee saw the issue of Site C as “emblematic of a deeply disturbing disrespect for the rights of Indigenous peoples,” Craig Benjamin from Amnesty International told DeSmog Canada. “The attention that the committee gave to Site C was in my mind unprecedented.”

Robyn Fuller, councillor for West Moberly First Nation, made an especially fiery presentation to the committee.

“We will no longer allow our people to be poisoned, starved, and pushed aside as if we do not matter,” she said. “We do not only fight for ourselves, we fight for our future generations to continue our way of life long after we have left this world.”

Benjamin said members of the committee spoke at “incredible lengths” on the rights violations associated with the project, including impacts on cultural heritage, failure to respect “free, prior and informed consent,” violations of Treaty 8 and barriers to accessing justice.

However, the delegation representing the Government of Canada — made up of civil servants from a variety of departments — didn’t include a single mention of Site C in their initial response.

When Government of Canada delegates were asked by the UN Committee about the omission, it was chalked up as an “oversight.”

Benjamin said that when they did provide a response, it was fundamentally wrong, contradicting what the Government of Canada’s lawyers told the courts.

“At what point does the Trudeau government have to admit that their movement on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not match up with their actions?” Candace Batycki, program director at Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, told DeSmog Canada. …

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117 Environmental Defenders Have Been Killed So Far In 2017

117 Environmental Defenders Have Been Killed So Far In 2017 While Protecting Their Community’s Land Or Natural Resources

This year, in collaboration with Global Witness, the Guardian will attempt to record the deaths of all these people, whether they be wildlife rangers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or indigenous land rights activists in Brazil. At this current rate, chances are that four environmental defenders will be killed this week somewhere on the planet.

What’s driving this violence? The short answer is: industry. The most deadly industry to go up against was mining, with 33 deaths last year relating to anti-mining activities. Agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging were also key drivers of violence, Global Witness found. Many of the killings recorded occurred in remote villages deep within mountain ranges and rainforests, with indigenous communities hardest hit. …

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Anti-Tourism Marches Spread Across Europe

First Venice and Barcelona: Now Anti-Tourism Marches Spread Across Europe

by Will Coldwell | August 10, 2017

With the continent sweltering under a heatwave nicknamed Lucifer, tempers have been boiling over, too, as a wave of anti-tourism protests take place in some of Europe’s most popular destinations. Yet, as “tourism-phobia” becomes a feature of the summer, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has defended the sector, calling on local authorities to do more to manage growth in a sustainable manner.

The focal point for much of this has been Spain, which had a record 75.6 million tourists last year, including 17.8 million from the UK. In Barcelona, where tensions have been rising for years over the unchecked surge in visitors and impact of sites such as Airbnb on the local housing market, Arran, the youth wing of the radical CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy), have been filmed slashing the tyres of rental bicycles and a tour bus. An Arran spokesperson told the BBC: “Today’s model of tourism expels people from their neighbourhoods and harms the environment.” Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy described the group as “extremists”.

There have also been protests in Mallorca and San Sebastián, where an anti-tourism march is planned for 17 August, to coincide with Semana Grande – a major festival of Basque culture.

Other demonstrations have taken place across southern Europe. Last month in Venice – which sees more than 20 million visitors a year and has just 55,000 residents – 2,000 locals marched through the city, voicing anger at rising rents and the impact of huge cruise ships and the pollution they cause to the city’s delicate environment.

Speaking to the Guardian, UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai said the rise in anti-tourist sentiment is “a very serious situation that needs to be addressed in a serious way”. If managed correctly, he added, tourism can be the “best ally” to conservation, preservation and the community.

“It should not be given up for the sake of mismanagement,” he said. “Ensuring that tourism is an enriching experience for visitors and hosts alike demands strong, sustainable tourism policies, practices and the engagement of national as well as local governments and administrations, private sector companies, local communities and tourists themselves.” …

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Tourists Arrested For Making Hitler Salutes Outside Reichstag

The Reichstag building houses German parliament.

Chinese Tourists Arrested for Making Hitler Salutes Outside Reichstag

Reuters in Berlin | August 5, 2017

German police have arrested two Chinese tourists for making illegal Hitler salutes in front of the Reichstag building that houses the German parliament.

Berlin police officers say they detained two men, aged 36 and 49, after they were seen striking the Nazi-era pose and photographing each other with their mobile phones.

They face charges for “using symbols of illegal organisations”, the police said in a statement, and were released after posting bail of €500 (£450) each.

Germany has strict laws on hate speech and symbols linked to Hitler and the Nazis, who ruled between 1933 and 1945.

The Reichstag is a powerful symbol in Germany. It was destroyed by fire in 1933 by an arsonist thought to have been paid by the Nazis, who then blamed the blaze on the Communists and used it as an excuse to severely restrict civil liberties.

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“Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods”

“El Turisme Mata Els Barris”: Catalan for “Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods.”

‘Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods’: How Do We Save Cities From The City Break?

By Elle Hunt | August 4, 2017

Not all tourists count getting drunk before noon and desecrating a local monument or two as top priority for a break away, but those that do have come to represent the masses in the cities where they let loose.

Across Europe, where increasing numbers of visitors can overwhelm residents in the summer months, the backlash has started. “War” – and a new awareness campaign – has been declared in Venice. Fines for eating, drinking or sitting on historic fountains have been increased in Rome. Basilica steps where tourists congregate are being hosed down daily in Florence.

And last week, in Barcelona, vigilantes slashed the tyres of an open-top bus and spray-painted across its windscreen “El Turisme Mata Els Barris”: Catalan for “Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods.”

The message is clear: these cities are buckling under pressure. What to do about it is less obvious. In tourists and residents’ battle for supremacy of shared spaces, local authorities are uncomfortably in the middle. The tourism and travel sector is one of the largest employers in the world, with one new job created for every 30 new visitors to a destination – but at what cost to locals’ quality of life?

Xavier Font, a professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey, says cities tend to ask that question when it is already too late. “You cannot wait until tourists arrive to give them a code of conduct.”

It won’t work, anyway. Attempts to influence individuals’ behaviour are futile, even counterproductive, says Font. “That attitude of ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ doesn’t just apply to Vegas anymore. When we go on holiday, we’re selfish.”

As a consultant for national tourism boards, industry associations and businesses, Font asks not how do we change tourists’ behaviour, but how do we change tourism so as to manage its impact. If it is to be made better, more sustainable, less of a burden on cities and the people who live in them year-round, the work should have begun well before visitors have bought their tickets.

The World Economic Forum recorded 1.2 billion international arrivals last year – 46 million more than in 2015, and increases are predicted for the coming decade, prompting the UN to designate 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. More people are travelling than ever before, and lower barriers to entry and falling costs means they are doing so for shorter periods.

The rise of “city breaks” – 48-hour bursts of foreign cultures, easier on the pocket and annual leave balance – has increased tourist numbers, but not their geographic spread. The same attractions have been used to market cities such as Paris, Barcelona and Venice for decades, and visitors use the same infrastructure as residents to reach them. “Too many people do the same thing at the exact same time,” says Font. “For locals, the city no longer belongs to them.”

Compounding the problem is Airbnb, which, like credit cards and mobile roaming, has made tourists more casual in their approach to international travel, but added to residents’ headaches. Landlords stand to earn more from renting their properties to tourists than they do to permanent tenants. Those who share their apartment blocks with Airbnb hosts have been incredulous, says Font: “‘No longer do we have to share the streets with tourists, we have to share our own buildings?’ We get residents saying, ‘I don’t want my neighbourhood to become like the city centre.’” …

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Venice, Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea’

Tourism “Overwhelming” US National Parks

A crowd waits to ascend the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Brian Hughes/SummitPost

How A Surge in Visitors Is Overwhelming America’s National Parks

The growing crowds at U.S. National Parks have become unmanageable, jeopardizing the natural experience the parks were created to provide. With attendance this summer continuing to shatter records, officials are considering limiting use of the parks in order to save them.

By Jim Robbins | July 31, 2017

Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is the poster child for the crowding of America’s most hallowed natural places. With its soaring and magisterial red, dun, and white rock cliffs with grand names such as the Court of the Patriarchs and the Temple of Sinawava, Zion is at the top of the list of the nation’s most dramatic scenery.

It is also small as parks go, just under 150,000 acres and has only one main road, six miles long. Yet Zion gets as many visitors as Yellowstone, more than 4.3 million a year, even though Yellowstone is nearly fifteen times larger.

“In the last few years, this huge uptick in visitation has overwhelmed our infrastructure facilities, our trails, our backcountry, it goes on and on and on,” said John Marciano, a spokesman for Zion. “We can’t sit on our hands anymore. We have to come up with some kind of management plan to be able to preserve resources and to make sure our visitors have a good and safe experience.”

Saving a landscape as a national park is only part of the preservation battle – saving the spirit of these places is also essential. National parks are often thought of as America’s natural cathedrals – serene, contemplative places to visit and be restored by a connection to wild nature and grandeur.

That is impossible in the front country of Zion – and many other national parks – these days. Veteran park administrators are aghast at the “greenlock ” – gridlock in natural surroundings – in marquee national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and a host of other crown jewels.

Yellowstone, for example, has gone from 2 million visitors in 1980 to more than 4 million last year and is likely to climb higher. There were 2.3 million visitors to the Grand Canyon in 1980. In 2015, attendance broke the 5 million mark. A year later, it broke the 6 million barrier. Glacier, Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, Acadia, Rocky Mountain are all smashing records and are overwhelmed with humanity, losing the very thing they were created to provide – a sense of peak naturalness. Managers are concerned that this is the new normal and may get worse.

“Visitors are losing in this mix of 5 and 6 million people trying to cram into places that are busy when it’s 2 or 3 million,” said Joan Anzelmo, a retired Park Service superintendent who lives near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and is active as a volunteer in efforts to mitigate the impacts of visitation outside Grand Teton and Yellowstone. “These are irreplaceable resources. We have to protect them by putting some strategic limits on numbers, or there won’t be anything left. Nobody will want to visit them. Everyone I know who lives, works, and is involved in these issues says something has to be done, it can’t go on like this anymore.”

If these were not national parks, the solution would be to keep building more infrastructure. But the National Park Service has a dual mandate from Congress: to “provide for the enjoyment in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Wider roads and more hotels and campgrounds would only create sprawl, diminish the experience of nature, and encourage yet more people to come.

This crowding comes at an uncertain time for the parks. President Trump has proposed cutting the Park Service budget by 13 percent (which would be the largest cut to the agency since World War II), and there is already a backlog of staffing and maintenance issues.  And there is concern that the Trump Administration might move to make the parks even more friendly to commercial interests that would look bring in more visitors and more development.

The visitor crush is creating two main problems – a steep decline in the quality of visitor experience that a national park is supposed to provide, and damaging impacts on the ecology of these intact natural places. …

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