Tuesday, July 29, 2008



Last Wednesday, July 23, a coalition of activist groups succeeded in preventing a "fun time" cruise on the part of delegates to a PNWER summit in the city of Vancouver. PNWER, for those who might be unaware of what it is-as Molly was until this news item- is a coordinating group comprising both large corporations and governments in the Pacific North West area. See the following article for more details.

Canada, Vancouver, Action Blocks PNWER Summit Boat Tour!*
No Smooth Sailing for PNWER Elites:
Marina Entrance Blocked by Activists
A group of activists blocked access to the Westin Bayshore marina on Wednesday July 23 to protest the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) summit. In doing so, they prevented PNWER delegates from boarding a 190-person luxury boat tour of the Vancouver harbour. Approximately 10 people stood with a banner reading People Not Profit! and prevented access to the luxury yacht though the public boardwalk.
---- Police arrived - surprisingly a bit late although the Westin Bayshore already had a relatively strong police and security presence - and threatened arrests, however given the tight time frame that the PNWER delegates were on, the luxury boat tour was cancelled and the PNWER delegates were forced to retreat after about 20 minutes!
The delegates who were forced to wait during that time on the boardwalk grew increasingly aggressive, with several assaults including shoving,punching, pulling, and grabbing of those blockading the door. One person even lunged a knife through the banner- supposedly to cut through the banner- but aimed into and through the banner towards those behind it. When being challenged about perpetuating systemic violence on poor,marginalized, and oppressed peoples, some delegates were unabashed with three of them joking about how "yes, indeed we quite enjoy having the power to screw people over".
Given the visible presence of a majority of racialized activists, many delegates commented and questioned "Where are you from? Were you born here? You're not Canadian. Go back home" etc, overtly revealing the deep racism and ignorance of the PNWER delegates and also of the ways in which people of colour are readily cast as threatening Outsiders especially during moments of defiance and resistance.
Most of the passerby's, however, were quite supportive of the action. Although PNWER delegates were trying to dissuade those passing by from listening to or getting information about the action by making classist jokes about "professional protesters without jobs", an overwhelming number of those walking by stayed to talk to and hear about opposition to PNWER, especially given the veil of secrecy surrounding PNWER decision making in light of the significant policy impacts it has from the 2010 Olympics to oil and gas mining. When PNWER delegates attempted to lie to police about assaults on them, two witnesses immediately corrected this information by telling police that it was in fact the PNWER delegates who were dangerously threatening the blockaders.
Although not a major victory, the action was definitely a small and significant victory in creating inconvenience, distress, and powerlessness for those government and corporate elite who have kept their doors closed to us. It is time we close some doors on them.
This action was second in a series of actions targeting the PNWER Summit: on Sunday July 20th a boisterous rally of 40-60 people gathered at the Westin Bayshore Hotel to protest and effectively disrupt the opening reception of the PNWER Summit. Despite heavy police and security presence around the front perimeter of the hotel, the march moved around the hotel's east side. Although separated by the hotel metal fence and dozens of police officers, the cozy corporate outdoor dinner reception was completely disrupted with chanting and the banging of pots and pans.Within one hour, the entire outdoor poolside reception was vacated and pizza deliveries were seen arriving by the end of the rally!
The past four days have seen incredibly effective resistance in not only raising public awareness about PNWER but also inconveniencing and disrupting the PNWER agenda. The PNWER summit is an example of a classic pattern, allowing corporate and political elites to talk about border security, oil and gas mining, natural resource extraction, and the 2010 Olympics in an incredibly secretive manner with absolutely no public input especially from those who will be most affected by these policies.
Agreements like PNWER have real and profound impacts on our society: furthering an agenda of corporate free trade, border militarization,privatization of indigenous land and resources, ecological destruction,repression in the name of national security, impoverishment, and sanctioning occupations.
In the face of such devastating violence, it becomes impossible to remain silent or polite. These few days of action were simply one manifestation of a larger ongoing movement and we continue to be inspired by actions locally and globally that raise awareness about, reject, protest,creatively resist and disrupt this system of colonial and capitalist pillage.
* Text of the Leaflet "Why We Oppose the PNWER Summit" is below and also at:http://noii-van.resist.ca/?p=822*
The march on Sunday was organized and supported by No One Is Illegal, La Surda Latin American Collective, Council of Canadians BC/Yukon Office,Anti Poverty Committee, Olympics Resistance Network, Komagatamaru Heritage Foundation, Canadian Arab Federation, Siraat Collective, Latin America Connexions Collective, Building Bridges Human Rights Project- Vancouver,Stopwar.ca, International Iranian Federation of Refugees, Siraat Collective, Cafe Rebelde Coordinating Committee, Bolivia Solidarity Committee, Vancouver Socialist Forum, Vancouver and District LabourCouncil (VDLC), CUPE Local 1004, Grassroots Women.
* Mainstream Media Coverage of both actions:
Text of the Leaflet:
Why We Oppose the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Summit
Members of the Pacific North West Economic Region (PNWER) are meeting at their annual summit in Vancouver. This cross-border trade and security organization brings together large corporations with North West states, provinces, territories in U.S. and Canada. PNWER describes itself as “a statutory public/private partnership..” In the words of Minister Stockwell Day, “[PNWER] has had a profound impact on policy making.” According to PNWER, it serves as a “cross-border forum for unfiltered dialogue that capitalizes upon the synergies between business leaders and elected officials.”
Despite the importance of PNWER, few people even now about this organization as it has quietly escaped significant public scrutiny. Increasingly agreements such as PNWER, Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), and Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) are being discussed and negotiated in a veil of secrecy despite having real and profound impacts on our society: furthering an agenda of corporate free trade, border militarization, privatization of indigenous land and resources, ecological destruction, repression in the name of national security, impoverishment, and cooperation in war.
Not everyone is left out of these cozy meetings- corporate participation in PNWER is strong. High level sponsors include BP, Teck Cominco, Conoco Philips, Terasen Gas, Merk Frosst, ExxonMobil, Plutonic Power, the Business Council of BC, and Trans Canada Pipelines. In fact, the ongoing governance of PNWER is overseen by a “Private Sector Board” of major corporations.
PNWER, Security and Prosperity Partnership, Alberta Tar Sands, and Olympics: What is the connection?
In the next few years, BC will be at centre of a commercial and resource boom, with unprecedented expansion in: the tourist, real estate, and recreational sector leading to the 2010 Olympics; pilot projects for border surveillance and US-Canadian military training cooperation under the SPP; mineral and gas mining in the interior and North; resource extraction and privatization including water and forestry products; and infrastructure development for resource transportation including BC-Alberta tarsands pipelines.
PNWER is closely linked with the Security and Prosperity Partnership – the NAFTA plus Homeland Security model- being pushed by the government and corporate leaders of Canada, Mexico and USA.
The SPP combines the destructive neo-liberal policies of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of resource extraction, corporate tax breaks, privatization measures, and weakening of labour standards with the fear and paranoia of post 9-11 “Homeland Security” policies that has resulted in immigrant raids, border militarization, foreign troop occupations, and repression of civil liberties.
In brief, the SPP calls for maximization of North American economic competitiveness in the face of growing exports from India and China; expedited means of resource (oil, natural gas, water, forest products) extraction; secure borders against “organized crime, international terrorism, and illegal migration”; standardized regulatory regimes for health, food safety, and the environment; integrated energy supply through a comprehensive resource and energy security pact (primarily about ensuring that the US receives guaranteed flows of oil particularly from the Alberta tar sands in; and coordination amongst defence forces.
The 2008 PNWER Summit agenda focuses on three critical issues:
• The 2010 Winter Olympics which is already having devastating impacts: expansion of sport tourism on indigenous lands; corporate subsidies from tax-payer money; unbridled real estate speculation; homelessness and gentrification of poor neighbourhoods; increasing privatization of public services; union-busting through imposed contracts; exploitative conditions for workers especially temporary migrant labour; the fortification of a security apparatus estimated at $175 million; and destruction of mountains, old growth forests, streams, hunting and fishing grounds, and delicate ecosystems.
• Planning for fundamental energy issues like the tar sands, private electricity, ocean energy, and biofuels. The Alberta tar sands (“oil sands”) are already the largest contributor to Canada’s increase in greenhouse gas emissions and environmental organizations are calling for a moratorium on growth of the mines. Yet PNWER and the SPP aim to increase tar sands production by five-fold to 3 million barrels a day by 2015. Companies exploiting the tar sands are calling for the expansion of the temporary foreign worker program to secure exploitable labour that will ensure higher profits, while surrounding indigenous communities have documented incredibly high cancer rates and irreversible damage to the land.
• Under the heading of “homeland security,” PNWER will review cross-border information sharing, border security, and cross-border trade. PNWER aims to ease travel for business, while making the border more difficult for most people, particularly increasing border harassment against migrants and refugees. Despite the rhetoric of making ‘us more safe’, the expansion of security initiatives and infrastructure comes with little security for our society; instead creating greater insecurity for immigrants, refugees, and people of colour, while reaping great profits for the private sector.
Within this context PNWER will reinforce the idea of “Fortress North America”, whereby the rich and privileged live in gated, gentrified, and militarized communities with easy movement for capital between borders. For the rest, there are border fences, reserves, ghettos, low-wage work, surveillance, and empty rhetoric about democracy and human rights.
* NOII-van is an antiauthoritarian anticapitalist initiative
Molly Note: activists from this coalition are continuing educational work, and this coming Thursday, July 31, they will be holding an informational at the McGill Branch- Burnaby Public Library (4595 Albert St, Burnaby BC) on the subject of the tar sands and its connection to BC. For more details see tarsandsfreebc@gmail.ocm or call 778-522-2099.

No comments: