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What happened last week in Canada?

Anti-fracking protest becomes violent

Forty arrests were made after an anti-fracking protest on Oct. 17 turned violent outside the Elsipogtog First Nation reserve in New Brunswick. The protesters called for the energy company Southwestern (SWN) Resources to stop seismic testing in the area. The development of their traditional land was planned  without sufficient consultation with Indigenous peoples, as required by federal law.

The two-week long demonstration consisted of campers and a road blockade barring access to an energy compound owned by SWN Resources. The RCMP moved in last Thursday to enforce a court injunction ordering the removal of the blockade.

The RCMP has defended their actions, saying that the protest was not a peaceful demonstration as weapons were on site.

According to Elsipogtog First Nation Councillor Robert Levi, who was arrested last Thursday, the protesters will try to remain on site, despite the ongoing injunction.

Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock met with New Brunswick Premier David Alward and RCMP Commander Roger Brown after the incident to try and resolve the issue and ensure that future protests are peaceful.


Supreme Court upholds family’s right to choice in life support case

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that doctors involved in the case of 61-year-old Hassan Rasouli, who is living with severe brain damage, are not permitted to remove him from life support without the consent of his family.

The doctors argued that, under Ontario’s 1996 Consent Act, consent from the family was not required because life support did not provide any medical benefit to the patient, who was diagnosed to be in a vegetative state. Physicians at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto have predicted that there is no hope of recovery for Rasouli and that the medical complications he faces will increase as his condition progresses.

Rasouli’s wife, Parichehr Salasel, has refused to end life support for her husband, citing religious reasons and her belief that Rasouli’s eye movements indicate a level of minimal consciousness.

Judge Beverley Machlaclin wrote that treatment could not be confined to what a doctor considered to be medically beneficial to a patient. She also wrote that the dismissal of the case did not close the ethical debate surrounding the recurring issue, when wishes of family members contradict doctors who feel that they are doing more harm to the patient by providing life support.


Free trade agreement announced between Canada and the EU

Last Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Union (EU) President Jose Manuel Barroso announced the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Brussels, Belgium.

The agreement plans to remove 98 per cent of tariffs between Canada and the EU, encourage labour movement, and increase foreign investment. CETA is predicted to boost Canada’s GDP by $12 billion and create 80,000 jobs. Canadian companies and farmers will also pay less for goods made in Europe, while European companies will be able to bid on provincial and municipal government contracts.

The agreement is not finalized, as it has yet to be approved by all 28 member states of the EU and all of Canada’s provinces and territories. Both Barroso and Harper have expressed confidence that all parties involved will agree to CETA, and that it will be in place by 2015. They have also stated that the agreement could be adopted provisionally until it is fully ratified.

Canadian dairy farmers have raised concerns that the agreement will negatively affect their livelihood, as the EU’s share of the Canadian cheese market is set to increase from 13,000 to 30,000 tonnes per year. According to the federal government, a compensation plan for dairy farmers is in the works.


British Columbia becomes final province to regulate groundwater

On Oct. 18, British Columbia’s Environment Minister Mary Polak announced the province’s Water Sustainability Act, which makes B.C. the final province in Canada to regulate the large-scale usage of groundwater.

The legislation to govern the allocation of groundwater is the first of its kind in the province since the 1909 Water Act, and is a result of a four-year consultation process, which included Indigenous peoples, industries, and communities of B.C. The government has cited climate change, shale gas fracking, and the commercial sale of water as incentives for this act, which also legislates governmental power regarding water allocation in times of water scarcity.

The act imposes fees of 85 cents per 1,000 cubic metres of ground water used by large-scale industries such as Nestle, which bottles 319.5 million litres of water every year. Although the act has not been finalized and the provincial government is seeking input from the public until Nov. 15, it is expected to add $5 million to provincial funds.


Senator Pamela Wallin takes legal action against suspension

Senator Pamela Wallin announced last Thursday that she will be taking legal action against the Conservative Party, who suspended her from her position as a Senator after she was found to have filed $140,000 in fraudulent travel expense claims. Wallin has since re-paid the sum and has also not been criminally charged.

Wallin’s lawyer Terrence O’Sullivan, has criticized the way the party has dealt with Wallin’s case.

“If they want to suspend her, they should do so after she’s had the full opportunity to answer the allegations in the motion, to see what evidence they rely on, and to cross-examine their witnesses, and bring evidence of our own,” he said.

O’Sullivan has argued that Wallin’s suspension without a hearing would leave the province she represents—Saskatchewan—lacking representation in the federal government, depriving the province of a constitutional right.

In light of this recent suspension as well as those of two other conservative senators, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, discussion has been growing about reforming the power that the Senate and the House of Commons currently have to make their own rules of conduct.


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