This video says about itself:
2 May 2016
See also here.
Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:
No prosecution for United States attack on MSF clinic
The American soldiers who were involved in an attack on a Doctors Without Borders/MSF hospital in Afghanistan will not be prosecuted. They will only be disciplined by the military, the Pentagon announced. During the attack last October, 42 people were killed. …
Injured people and relatives of killed people have reacted angrily to the US decision not to prosecute the soldiers involved. Zabibullah Neyazi, a nurse who lost his left arm, an eye and a finger of his right hand, told Associated Press he thought the attack was “inexcusable.” He said he and other victims want justice.
Only administrative penalties are insufficient according to Neyazi. “There should be a trial in Afghanistan, in our presence, in the presence of the families of the victims, to be just to them.”
By Luke James in Britain:
‘Among the NHS‘s darkest ever days’
Wednesday 27th April 2016
54,000 doctors mount first ever all-out strike for fair contracts
JEREMY HUNT will be remembered for causing one of the darkest moments in the history of the NHS, junior doctors said yesterday as they began an unprecedented all-out strike.
Fifty-four thousand doctors scrubbed up to stage spirited pickets outside hospitals across England in their dispute with the Tory Health Secretary over his plans to impose a “dangerous” new contract.
Public support for their strikes has risen from 44 per cent at the start of the year to 57 per cent, according to a poll by Ipsos Mori.
But doctors’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) said the strike, which continues between 8am and 5pm today, was “incredibly sad” and “entirely avoidable.”
“We offered a simple choice — lift imposition [of the contract] and the strikes would be called off, but unfortunately the Health Secretary simply refuses to do that.”
Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander also branded it “one of the saddest days in the history of the NHS.”
She said: “Nobody wanted to see this strike go ahead, least of all junior doctors.
“But Jeremy Hunt’s handling of this dispute has been utterly shambolic.”
Bookies Betway slashed the odds on Mr Hunt’s resignation from 6/1 to 5/2 as the strike got underway.
And Mr Hunt admitted the damage that the dispute had caused, telling Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: “This is likely to be my last big job in politics.”
Hundreds of junior doctors and supporters in the trade union movement turned up the heat on Mr Hunt with a protest outside the Department of Health yesterday evening.
Public-sector union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka called for the TUC to organise a day of action in support of the doctors, which could include co-ordinated strike action between doctors and teachers.
“I’m surprised the strike has got this far,” said trainee surgeon Amelia Leigh, from Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.
“But I would be in favour of more strike action because unfortunately they’re just not listening to us and the only way really to make them listen is to make headlines.”
Picketing junior doctors defy smears and scares on second full walkout, by Tomáš Tengely-Evans: here.
This video from England says about itself:
East London rally shows solidarity with junior doctors on strike
7 April 2016
Junior doctors solidarity rally at Hackney town hall 07/04/2016. The rally in Hackney was part of a bigger push to organise solidarity. Trade unionists have organised a junior doctors’ support group inside the hospital and junior doctors have spoken at workplaces.
Read more here.
By Luke James in Britain:
Tory MP joins pickets in thanks for first-rate care
Wednesday 27th April 2016
TORY MP Huw Merriman broke ranks with his party yesterday to join junior doctors on a picket line as repayment for their “beautiful” care during a recent hospital stay.
He visited medics picketing St Thomas’s Hospital in Westminster, where he was treated for the achilles injury he sustained playing for Parliament’s football team.
The Bexhill & Battle MP also showed solidarity with junior doctors staging a permanent sit-down protest outside the Department of Health.
Mr Merriman told the Star: “They looked after me beautifully and I still go there for physio. I’ll be there tomorrow.
“So I just felt it was right to go and see how they were after they had made sure I was OK.”
The MP also revealed he spoke to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt the night before the strike to urge him to “get around the table as soon as possible.”
He added: “I really felt for them [junior doctors] actually, because they don’t want to be doing this, that’s very clear.
“The points that they make are very reasonable and well made and I just hope they can get back to practising.”
The Star revealed that Tory former health minister Dr Dan Poulter delivered cups of tea to doctors protesting outside his former boss’s office during the last strike day.
Carrie Thomas, one of the doctors keeping the vigil outside Mr Hunt’s office, said they had also received “significant” support from his own staff yesterday.
“People on their way to work have come over and said that, off the record, they support us,” she told the Star. “Many people working inside have family or friends that work as doctors as well as them being patients.
“It’s encouraging to hear that support — and one of them even gave me a pair of gloves.”
From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:
HUNDREDS of posties and telecoms engineers flocked to picket lines yesterday to stand with junior doctors against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s attacks.
Communications union CWU sent two coachloads of delegates from its annual conference just down the road to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, where they rallied in support of the striking medics.
Junior doctor and BMA rep Josh Gaon paid tribute to the communication workers for their solidarity, saying that the support of the public had been of huge assistance in taking the dispute forward.
“I never thought we would get to [the] point” of withdrawing emergency care, he said, laying the blame firmly at the door of Tory Mr Hunt.
From daily News Line in Britain:
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Massive doctors picket lines –answer the Cameron-Hunt threats
THE TUC must organise a national day of action in support of the junior doctors’ dispute and our NHS, the Public and Commercial Services union said yesterday.
The union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka wrote to the TUC yesterday afternoon to ask that the proposal is discussed at this morning’s general council meeting. The general council is the TUC’s ruling body. Yesterday morning hundreds of Unison delegates joined a march from the Brighton conference centre to join junior doctors on their picket line at Brighton General Hospital. The march was called by Brighton and Hove trades council and Sussex Defend the NHS. Delegates from the Unison Health Conference joined with other trades unions and community groups on a lively picket line outside the hospital.
Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, spoke and brought greetings on behalf of Unison. Local BMA rep and junior doctor Todd Leckie addressed the rally. He said: ‘Jeremy Hunt does not care about us and he does not care about the NHS. This is why we are on strike today, we do this with a heavy heart. If we do not oppose this contract we will not be able to care for our patients in the future. ‘That is why thousands of us are on strike today.’
He went on to thank Unison for their support and said a special thanks to the consultants inside who were covering for them. Speaking from the 200-strong picket outside Kings College Hospital, London, Dr Jack Granville in Respiratory medicine said: ‘I’m here on the picket line at King’s College Hospital oppposing the damaging, unsafe and unfair contract that Jeremy Hunt is wishing to impose on junor doctors.
‘I also want to oppose the government’s austerity agenda, cuts and privatisation.
‘The NHS in its current form is already struggling. King’s A&E Department had its worst winter ever. There were many unsafe situations created. The hospital was struggling to discharge people, with no beds in which to admit people.
‘That is a result of the government’s decimation of the social care budget due to cuts to councils, and is the consequence of the government attitude to health and social care.
‘People are losing their lives. I would support co-ordinated strike action by other unions if they were willing to engage with us. This government is a disaster for this country.’
Dr David Herbert said: ‘I’m a junior doctor, two years working for the NHS and I have seen conditions get worse and worse, not just for doctors, but nurses, health care assistants, phlebotomists, absolutely everyone, and for patients. We are all working under extreme pressure at the moment and this contract will make a situation which is barely manageable untenable in the future, so I am here striking for better conditions.
‘We need to retain talent and staff in this country. We need to value the staff properly, keep them happy and working for the NHS. I think this government is being childish. How can we have an elected government supposedly working for the good of this country, but who are refusing to engage with the wider body of doctors who work on the front line and who know what it is like to be on a ward at 3.00am, doing their best for their patients. I don’t understand how our elected representatives can behave this way. It is beyond reproach really.’
Dr Patrick said: ‘It is really a shame that the other unions like Unison and Unite have been so tentative in their commitment. The sea of opinion might change even more when the public realise that this strike action today – with the full walkout – won’t be to the detriment of people’s health.
‘It will be impossible to undo privatisation. Utterly impossible. The Labour Party should be rallying the unions and rallying the public. The Tories are getting away with absolute murder and it is left down to us and the public to drive the momentum. We really need more help and we need to get other sections of workers involved.’
Dr Benedict said: ‘I can’t imagine a whole body of doctors around the country all signing up to mass resignation as the next step. I personally think an indefinite walkout is the way forward. We need an option that brings the country to a standstill and that has a big ongoing effect. If we have a strike for 48 hours the consultants can come on board, and work harder to keep it going. If we have an indefinite walkout then great things can be achieved, and the Conservative government might be forced back to the negotiating table.”
Dr Colin Coulter said: ‘I am increasingly convinced that privatisation of the NHS is the goal here. Even today at The Royal College of Physicians, there were about 25 CEOs from private healthcare providers meeting to discuss the future of our healthcare. The narrative of our struggle needs to go bigger, because this is something that is going to affect radiographers, porters and everyone in the NHS.’
A large picket of over 50 doctors manned the picket line outside St George’s Hospital in Tooting. David Thompson, a surgical trainee, said: ‘Two people could have stopped this strike, Cameron and Hunt, but they chose not to.’
Sophie Herbert, junior doctor in General Medicine, said: ‘Hunt has refused to talk to junior doctors in public which seems very suspect. We believe he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on when confronted with the truth. He has failed to listen to our concerns that the contract will harm patients and instead he is just repeating his government’s spin and propaganda.
‘The government is hell-bent on destroying the NHS, which will do very real harm to patients. Hunt should drop the imposition of the contract and return to negotiate to the caring professions.’
Seema Jain, junior doctor at St George’s, said: ‘Safety is not being compromised while the strike is on. We have tried everything else. The government says the strike is political. Well it is political because the government is imposing a contract that will harm patient care. We are being treated like children.’
At St Thomas’ Hospital Sian Ashby, GP trainee, said: ‘We are quite determined we don’t want to work under this new contract. It affects staffing numbers and gender discrimination. We are not being listened to by the government. We have the support of nurses, physiotherapists and all the other health professions.
‘The PFI and the Health and Care Act, all these are pushing the NHS into privatisation.
James Connor, a GP who came down to London from Banbury to join the picket said: ‘I am here to voice our general concerns that the NHS is being run into the ground in order to justify privatisation.
‘We have the best, most efficient and most equitable healthcare system in the world.
‘This TTIP agreement will badly affect the health service. The government is intent on attacking the poorest and most vulnerable in society. This government has picked a fight with so many people that opposition is growing.’
At Northwick Park Hospital, where 200 pickets turned out, Sarah Krrar said: ‘I have been nine years a junior doctor and was six years a medical student. I have seen the deterioration of the service we have provided over the last five years because of the cuts. Cuts have coincided with a massive increase in demand for the service.
‘Last year, 30% to 40% of patients that I looked after were in hospital for social rather than medical reasons. They came into hospital initially for medical reasons, and they can’t go home because the care is not there. The NHS needs resources. There are massive staff and bed shortages, the current staff have worked flat out to keep the service afloat. Jeremy Hunt coming along and alienating the work force is complete madness. To imply that we are the barrier to expanding services is offensive.”
Junior doctor Elvis Adams said: ‘Jeremy Hunt has to back down. I hope 50,000 striking junior doctors outweighs the will of one man.’
Dr Jenny Abthorpe said: ‘Over 70,000 operations are cancelled every year because of lack of funding or beds. They only quote how many operations hae been cancelled on the day of our strike. On Christmas Day and bank holidays, hospitals have the same cover as the previous junior doctors strike days, however no one complains.
‘We are fighting for the future. We know what will happen in future if this contract goes through. We are not asking for a single penny extra on pay. I work seven nights and two weekends every four weeks. I don’t want to work more weekends or night shifts. Doctors’ mental and physical health is worse than it has every been. What type of NHS and what type of doctors so we want in the future?’
Junior doctors Kate Felton (paediatrics) and Jacob Ellis (child psychology) spoke to News Line amidst an animated group with strong opinions. Jeremy Hunt says that we are a block to a seven-day working contract. If you really want elective options at weekends then you need nurses and other staff as well. Can we afford that? We already work seven days!
‘We have an overwhelming lack of confidence in Hunt. He has shown no insight into the way the NHS works and his attitude is insulting to our intelligence. He cannot even say what seven-day working means; it is not sorted and no-one knows. Our union has, on the other hand, been very clear: if you stop the imposition then we will negotiate.
‘He has rejected a very fair offer from our union. How do you even model a contract when you don’t even know how many doctors you have got? There is already a massive loss of talent as people come up for retirement, leaving massive holes in the service, all aggravated by this imposition, which will make new doctors leave.
‘It costs a great deal of public money to train a junior doctor! We are trying to get Hunt to listen to us. Other unions have supported us. Unison has offered support because of pressure on public services, and the teachers have marched with us because of the imposition of academies. We are the first profession specifically targeted by the government. If we fail, then the floodgates open for other sections to be targeted.’
‘It’s ridiculous to impose a contract that compromises patient safety and puts further strain on an already stretched NHS,’ BMA rep Raj Shah told News Line on a lively picket line outside the Royal Free Hospital, northwest London.
Junior doctor Sofia Haddart said: ‘It’s a sad day that it’s come to this. We’ve tried a long time to avert this day but the government has left us with no choice.’
Nurse Kat Booth joined the picket line. She said: ‘I fully support these guys. I feel if the government imposes these contracts on the junior doctors, then nurses and all ancillary hospital workers will end up having their pay cut, working more hours and less flexible working time.’
BMA member Miles Gandolfi said: ‘Our strike is a protest against a contract the government is trying to impose. It’s something my colleagues and myself feel strongly about for a number of reasons. It’s not going to be fair for the doctors who would end up working much longer hours. You’d end up losing your extra pay for weekends. The contract already recognises it is unfair to female doctors, which is pretty shocking.’
BMA member Alison Berner added: ‘What we are doing today is really important for patient safety. We want a contract that’s safe for patients and safe for doctors to work in. It’s very sad it’s come to this and hopefully today will show the government how important this is and they will reconsider and come back to the negotiating table.’
On a well attended picket line at Barnet hospital Dr Amy Bowes told News Line: ‘At present I work in medicine for the elderly in my first year of training and it was disappointing to start my career in such a position and to have a health minister so insistent on imposing an unfair contract.
‘Although today has been very unfair for all of us we feel we’ve been backed into a corner and have no choice but to fight.We’re pleased our consultants are supporting us and patients will continue to receive a high standard of care.’
Katie Knight, BMA member on big picket at North Middlesex Hospital, told News Line: ‘Hunt has been wilfully ignoring all our efforts to speak to him. He’s ignored a cross-party attempt to form a last minute resolution and it’s as if he’s goading us into taking this action – he’s backed us into a corner. I think we need some assistance from the TUC. We appreciated the support we had on the last March particularly.’
Whipps Cross Hospital BMA rep Niki Fitzgerald told News Line: ‘We think very carefully about taking strike action. In our job we fill out risk assessments everyday. We have done our work on the risk assessment for this strike and have come to the conclusion that the risk to our future patients is higher than the risk put to patients during this current strike.’
Junior doctors Anita Chan said: ‘We are fighting for the future of the NHS. That is the essence of the message we are putting across. As a whole the service needs more staff, more resources, more funding before we are spread any thinner. Teachers, ambulance workers and other public service workers are fighting for the same thing and we should come out together.’
Martin Goodsell brought the East London, Unite Community banner, he said: ‘We support the junior doctors 100%. We are community activists engaged in housing and anti-eviction campaigns and against zero-hours contract employers.
‘All these campaigns must come together. The teachers and doctors should come out on strike together. We need an all-out NHS strike. This is about the unions working together to resist rivatisation and co-ordinate actions and strikes.’ Len Weiss, chair of the Unison Waltham Forest retired members branch, said: ‘We are here to support the junior doctors on their picket line.
The fight for the NHS and to keep it fair and safe is too important to give up,’ said Hammersmith Hospital junior doctor Julia Prague on the picket line yesterday.
Julia added: ‘All we get from Hunt is the same rhetoric.’ Natasha Rinne, a maternity services junior doctor at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in Hammersmith, told News Line: ‘I was hoping to wake up this morning to hear that the strike had been cancelled, but instead woke up to hear health secretary Hunt telling the nation that the junior doctors are bullies. But to have a contract that is not safe for workers and patients imposed upon us shows us that the only bully is him.’
At Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith junior doctors were joined on the picket line by a group of consultants. Andy Forester, an orthopaedic consultant, said: ‘This truly is everyone’s fight. If this contract is imposed then everyone else will be next, from nurses to cleaners and other staff.’
Striking Charing Cross junior doctor Neeraj Kalra told News Line: ‘Hunt’s failure to negotiate shows just what sort of minister he is – he has lost the trust of the workforce. It’s just a backdoor attempt at privatising the NHS. Consultants can cover for a few days but if we escalate the action they won’t be able to cope.’
Ann Sturdy, an acute medicine junior doctor said: ‘Since I became a junior doctor four years ago we’ve always been short of beds, short of equipment and short of staff.
‘We regularly work two people’s jobs because there are not enough of us and this contract will make that much worse. At the moment we’re struggling to manage a routine service over the weekends.’
At the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital junior doctor in oncology, Ramya Ramaswami said: ‘The voice of 54,000 junior doctors is not being heard by this government who want to impose ideas that suit only a few people.’
At Ealing Hospital the striking doctors set up their picket alongside the West London Council of Action’s daily picket which is fighting against the closure of the Charlie Chaplin children’s ward and all children’s A&E services on 30th June.
Striking BMA member Donna Arya said: ‘We feel strongly that future generations should not have to work in an unsafe NHS. I appreciate that other unions are with us and support our fight.’
A&E doctor and BMA member Veronica Jones spoke about imminent planned cuts at Ealing Hospital, saying: ‘I think not having a paediatric A&E is of real concern because children will be turning up and if it is an emergency then they will have to be transferred to Northwick Park, which will lead to unnecessary delays which could be very dangerous.
‘There’s a lady here from the NUT and she agrees that we are all in the same fight.’
NUT member Sally Hackney said: ‘I think the TUC should call a general strike. This government is privatising all the professions and it has to be stopped.’
Trainee barrister Adam Marley joined the picket, saying: ‘The Tories want to pick off different sections, it’s a typical tactic, divide and conquer. The junior doctors must be joined by the whole trade union movement, they can’t sack everyone in the whole country. I would love a general strike, everyone out together.’
BMA striker Charlotte Bryant said: ‘The new contract would put patients at risk. There’s an expectation that there will be a seven-day NHS without more resources. In fact the doctors are already working seven days. We’ve shown a lot of unity in this struggle and we will carry on until we succeed in preventing the imposition of this discusting contract.’
102 CONSULTANTS have written an open letter to Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of NHS England, in support of the junior doctors: here.
This video says about itself:
British Junior Doctors Stage All-Out Strike
26 April 2016
The unprecedented decision by 55,000 junior doctors to not provide emergency cover during the 48-hour strike that begins today is a measure of their determination to beat the attack being mounted against them and the National Health Service by the Conservative government: here.
This video from the USA says about itself:
18 April 2016
Supporters of atomic power, who are not scientists, have been able to broadcast their opinions to the public with hellacious titles such as Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Putting Indian Point Hysteria in Perspective by attorney and lobbyist Jerry Kremer for the Huffington Post. In an effort to combat misinformation and keep you informed, Fairewinds reached out to international radiation expert Dr. Ian Fairlie to clear up the false assurances and scientific denial spread by the nuclear industry and its chums.
Tritium, the radioactive isotope and bi-product of nuclear power generation, is making headlines with notable leaks at 75% of all the reactors in the United States, including Indian Point in New York, and Turkey Point in Florida. Speaking with renowned British scientist, Dr. Ian Fairlie, the Fairewinds Crew confirms the magnitude and true risk of tritium to the human body in its three various forms: tritiated water, tritiated air, and organically bound tritium.
Dr. Fairlie is an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment. He has a degree in radiation biology from Bart’s Hospital in London and did his doctoral studies at Imperial College in London and Princeton University, concerning the radiological hazards of nuclear fuel reprocessing. Ian was formerly with the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs specializing in radiation risks from nuclear power stations. From 2000 to 2004, he was head of the Secretariat to the UK Government’s CERRIE Committee examining radiation risk of internal emitters. Since retiring from government service, he has acted as consultant to the European Parliament.
Is it safe to dump Fukushima waste into the sea? Japan has called for hundreds of thousands tonnes of irradiated water from the nuclear plant to be released into the Pacific Ocean. Karl Mathiesen looks at the potential impacts: here.
Japan has been dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster for the past five years. However, things do not seem to be getting easier for those maintaining the defunct nuclear plant. The topic of dumping nuclear waste into the Pacific has been hotly debated across the globe, but it appears that officials have finally decided to give Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) the go-ahead to dump thousands of tons of nuclear waste containing tritium into the ocean. TEPCO was previously allowed to dump upwards of 200 tons of “filtered” nuclear waste into the ocean starting in September of last year after an initial 850 ton dump: here.
Kyushu Earthquakes Expose Unaddressed Nuclear Reactor Risks: here.
This photo shows as demonstration against poisoned water in Flint, USA.
Source: Daily Mail
April 23 2016
Woman, 19, who filed first Flint lawsuit against government is MURDERED just days after suspicious death of foreman at city’s water treatment plant
Sasha Avonna Bell was found dead on Tuesday. She filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son, pictured here with her
A woman who was among the first to file a lawsuit in connection to the Flint, Michigan water crisis was identified as one of two victims of a fatal shooting that happened earlier this week.
View original post 358 more words
This video says about itself:
17 December 2015
By Janet Browning:
Canadian capitalism and the subjugation and decimation of the indigenous population
23 April 2016
Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life by James Daschuk
James Daschuk, an academic at the University of Regina, has produced a study on the health of Canada’s indigenous people up to and including the nineteenth century. Clearing the Plains provides a devastating indictment of Canadian capitalism’s subjugation and decimation of the Native Indian (First Nations) population on the country’s western plains—the modern-day Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
Daschuk’s study, which is based on extensive archival research, is aimed at identifying the roots of the stark health disparity between the current-day indigenous and non-indigenous populations of western Canada. At the beginning of Clearing the Plains, Daschuk notes that on average, indigenous Canadians can expect to die between five and eight years earlier than other Canadians. He sets out to confirm that the deliberate economic and cultural marginalization of indigenous people by the Canadian capitalist state is the primary factor impeding improved health outcomes for First Nations people.
The book divides the history of indigenous people’s health into two periods:
1. Before 1869, when the spread of “virgin soil epidemics,” such as tuberculosis, smallpox, whooping cough and scarlet fever, constituted a tragic, unforeseen, but largely organic, change driven by the expansion of trade and increased contact with Europeans; and
2. After December 1869, when, with the purchase of the “Hudson Bay lands” by the recently established Dominion of Canada, the Canadian bourgeoisie and its state mounted a concerted drive to impose capitalist relations based on private property on Canada’s Great Plains. This led to a systematic policy of marginalizing the indigenous population and forcing them off their land, through violence, chicanery, and the deliberate withholding of food—that is, starvation.
Daschuk’s research reveals that in the first period of colonization, indigenous people on the Plains generally enjoyed good health. Indeed, they were observed to be larger than Europeans at the time of initial contact. This was no doubt due to their high protein diet, which was mainly based on the consumption of bison.
European explorers and traders brought smallpox and measles. These and other infectious diseases had a devastating impact because the Native population had no previous exposure to them, hence the term “virgin soil diseases.” As trade spread across the continent, indigenous communities were ravaged by disease, badly disrupting their patterns of life, resulting in food shortages, weakened immune systems, and still greater depopulation.
Daschuk spends the first five chapters of his work dealing with the historical period from the early seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, including the fur wars that commenced in the 1780s, and the subsequent period of the Hudson Bay Company’s monopoly over modern-day Western Canada. The remaining four chapters, upon which this review will concentrate, deal with the period following the 1867 merger of the largest British North American colonies into the Dominion of Canada.
The decline of the fur trade and the relentless expansion of capitalism in the St. Lawrence Valley-Great Lakes region buoyed by Britain’s need for foodstuffs, wood and other resources products and by the transfer of impoverished crofters (tenant-farmers) and artisans from Europe to the “New World” pushed colonial settlement and land appropriation ever deeper into the hunting grounds of the indigenous peoples. As in Australasia, the subjugation and dispossession of the Native peoples of North America arose out of the objective logic of capitalist expansion and the incompatibility of capitalist private property and the exploitation of wage-labour with communal forms of property and social organization.
These objective forces found expression in the political leadership of the new Dominion. Daschuk’s research shows that Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister and the principal architect of the union of the British North American colonies, headed a regime engaged in a colonizing process, whose logic led to the driving of the Plains Indians from their ancestral lands and their near extermination. In the quarter century following Canada’s purchase of “legal title” over the Hudson Bay lands, the Canadian state forcibly subjugated and dispossessed the indigenous population of the Plains so that the Canada Pacific Railway could be built, with the threefold purpose of consolidating the Canadian bourgeoisie’s control over the northern tier of North America, opening the Canadian Prairies to commercial agriculture, and providing a market thereby for manufacturers in eastern Canada.
While it is difficult to determine the exact number of Native people who died during this period as the result of Canadian authorities’ acts of commission and omission, Daschuk provides several figures that give a sense of the scale of the catastrophe. In 1876, a government official estimated the total indigenous population on the western plains at 26,000. By 1891, it had fallen to 15,000, including a decline of one third during a six-year period beginning in the mid-1880s.
The Treaties and state-sponsored famine
By the mid-1870s, the bison population, upon which Plains Indians had relied for centuries for food and clothing, was in steep decline, and many of the hereditary chiefs had acknowledged that their people would have to shift from a semi-nomadic life as hunter-gatherers to one based on agriculture. Consequently, they petitioned Ottawa for treaties through which they hoped to gain assistance from the Canadian government in transitioning to agriculture. Eager for economic development and fearing armed conflict, Dominion officials saw the treaty process as a good means to strengthen the state, marginalize the Native population, and get unfettered control over prime tracts of land.
Daschuk notes that most of the Cree who attended the Treaty 6 talks at Fort Carlton in the late summer of 1876 recognized the futility of armed resistance to Dominion authority. The Cree successfully negotiated three innovations in Treaty 6: extra assistance in their conversion to agriculture, relief in the event of famine or pestilence, and a “medicine chest.” The latter provision involved a promise to maintain a chest of basic medical supplies for Native people’s use at the house of the local representative of the Department of Indian Affairs.
Within a year of the signing of Treaty 6, a large-scale famine occurred, which Daschuk characterizes as a “Testament to Dominion indifference.”
In 1877, Treaty 7 was hurriedly negotiated to defuse an increasingly tense situation in Southern Alberta caused by armed conflict just south of the US border. Within two years, the bison were gone, and the indigenous people were resettled onto small, remote reservations that they were forbidden to leave, even to work on private farms as labourers.
At this point, explains Daschuk, Macdonald, seeing his advantage, deliberately withheld food from the hungry and completely dependent population so as to enforce subservience to the Canadian state and compliance with the new capitalist order. If recalcitrant Indians died in the process, so much the better.
As Daschuk observes, “while the Indians were starving, in many cases to death, the authorities withheld food that was available. The famine on the plains was more than the simple Malthusian equation of too many people and too few bison.”
This policy was even more criminal given that, according to Daschuk’s research, Ottawa had been well aware of the impending food crisis. As early as 1874-1875, an internal document predicted the disappearance of the bison within a decade. In May 1878, the lieutenant governor of the Dominion’s territorial government warned the minister of the interior, David Mills, that the government would have to choose one of three options: “help the Indians to farm and raise stock, feed them, or fight them.”
The famine resulted in the sexual exploitation of Native women and children by federal Indian Agents, who exchanged food for sex; created over-crowded living conditions, which resulted in a tuberculosis epidemic in indigenous communities; and led to the death by starvation of many Native people.
“Suffering at Battleford, Saskatchewan, was so pervasive,” writes Daschuk, “that it had become banal. Under the heading ‘Lost and Found’ the Saskatchewan Herald ran the following item on 16 December 1878: ‘Found Where the Indians starved to death, about the 1st of October, a white mare. The owner can have the same by proving property and paying expenses’.”
Daschuk goes on to report, “Even the unsympathetic editor of the Saskatchewan Herald, P.G. Laurier, was moved by the plight of the hungry: ‘the condition of these Indians is deplorable in the extreme. Accustomed all their lives to a diet consisting largely of animal food, the rations of flour and tea they receive here leave them but one remove from starvation.” Laurier reported that Dickieson, the acting Indian superintendent in Battleford, had “to ‘deal single-handed with a thousand starving Indians,’ with no meat or any means of requisitioning it from his superiors.”
At Edmonton, writes Daschuk, “Indian Agent James Stewart reported on the crisis: ‘…I have never seen anything like it since my long residence in this country. It was not only the want of buffalo, but everything else seemed to have deserted the country; even fish were scarce. …. (T)he poor people were naked, and the cold was intense, and remained so during the whole winter; under these circumstances they behaved well, and no raids were made on anything here. They ate many of their horses, and all the dogs were destroyed for food…’.”
Reports from other areas show how the distribution of meagre rations was used by government officials as a weapon, with dreadful consequences. A measure of the disastrous results of the government’s actions is the fact that the few First Nations that had not yet entered into a treaty-relationship with the Canadian state enjoyed better health. As Daschuk notes, “Communities that entered into treaties assumed that the Canadian State would protect them from famine and socioeconomic catastrophe, yet in less than a decade, the ‘protections’ afforded by treaties became the means by which the State subjugated the Treaty Indian population. One measure of the Dominion’s oppression of the indigenous population of the prairies was the explosion of tuberculosis. The Dakota, however, did not succumb to the epidemic in the early 1880s because they were relatively free from the oppressive management of the Department of Indian Affairs and could participate in the commercial economy of the region; in other words, they were free from treaty.”
On top of implementing the federal government’s brutal policies, officials were often corruptly trying to advance their own personal interests. Daschuk cites the case of Edward Dewdney, who served as the lieutenant-governor of the North-West Territories during most of the 1880s. Dewdney had close ties to the Montana-based grain firm I.G. Baker, from which the Canadian government purchased flour to supply the reserves. Daschuk reports, “On 6 November 1883, Dr. F. X. Girard, the Medical Officer for Treaty 7, reported that flour supplied by the (Montana) company was ‘unfit for food’ and had been responsible for many deaths. In 1883 W.W. Gibson, a settler whose land was adjacent to the Piapot Reserve in Saskatchewan, stated that 130 people had died after being given rancid bacon for their work. The chief, Long Lodge, complained to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs that his people could not eat the bacon, supplied by the I. G. Baker company, to which Dewdney replied, ‘The Indians should eat the bacon or die, and be damned to them’.”
According to a federal Liberal MP, Dewdney’s firm stance on the bacon was because “his friend the contractor, who happened to be in a land syndicate with him, had 90,000 pounds of rotting bacon to dispose of.” Another Liberal MP claimed the Cree who had been confined to the Piapot Reserve were fed rotting meat “bought in Chicago for 1 ½ cents per pound and sold to this government for 19 cents,” and that a share of the profits went to the lieutenant-governor. “Predictably,” Daschuk writes, “the Prime Minister dismissed charges that there was a connection between Dewdney, the consumption of spoiled bacon, and the sudden spike in deaths on the Indian Head reserves.”
The role of the Macdonald Conservative government
Daschuk’s study is principally concerned with the health of Native people, devoting less attention to the discussions taking place within the political establishment at the time. Nonetheless, his account does demonstrate that the political elite, and the Conservatives under Macdonald in particular, saw the indigenous population as a barrier to capitalist expansion in the west. “Macdonald’s plan to starve uncooperative Indians onto reserves and into submission might have been cruel,” says Daschuk, “but it certainly was effective.”
With the return to power of a Macdonald-led Conservative government in 1878 after a five-year Liberal interregnum, there was, explains Daschuk, a new approach to Indian policy. This new approach was bound up with the implementation of the Conservatives’ National Policy, which had as one of its central goals the “opening” of the Prairies to large-scale settlement and capitalist exploitation. “Management of the increasingly serious food situation and Indian affairs generally shifted from a position of ‘relative ignorance’ under the Liberals to one of outright malevolence during the Macdonald regime.” To ensure that the Indians were “pacified” and the western plains ready for the Canadian Pacific Railway and settlement, Macdonald personally took charge, naming himself Superintendent General of Indian Affairs.
Although Daschuk’s research demonstrates that the Canadian state combined the deliberate use of famine as a political weapon with callous criminal indifference, making it directly responsible for a catastrophic drop in the Native population, he refrains from indicting the Canadian state for genocide.
“This study,” he writes, “has shown that the decline of First Nations’ health was the direct result of economic and cultural suppression. The effects of the state-sponsored attack on indigenous communities that began in the 1880s haunt us as a nation still.” He continues, “Identification of the forces that have held indigenous communities back might provide valuable insights into what is required to bridge the gap between First Nations’ communities and the rest of Canada today.”
This amounts to little more than a vague hope. As Daschuk himself notes, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, Third World-type conditions continue to prevail on most reserves. Moreover, the conditions of First Nations people who have migrated to the cities are little better. As in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, the vast majority of Canada’s Native people confront desperate poverty, food insecurity and hunger, inadequate fresh water supplies, high rates of unemployment, and an increased likelihood of falling victim to violent crime.
Canadian capitalism and its state were consolidated through the dispossession and subjugation of the Native people, the seizure of their lands, the destruction of their communal property relations, and, under the “treaty-system,” the shunting of the Native people onto reserves that were denied basic resources and subject to all manner of intrusive state control. This process, as Daschuk graphically illustrates, even if he himself shies away from using the term, involved a genocidal policy toward the Plains Indians.
In the twentieth century, the Canadian state connived with the mining, oil, lumber, and hydro companies to further dispossess the Native population, while sponsoring a system of state-sponsored church-run “residential schools” that systematically abused and humiliated Native children. Last year, the government-established Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) felt compelled to designate the residential school policy a “cultural genocide.”
The oppression of the Native people down to this day has been inextricably bound up with the emergence and expansion of Canadian capitalism. It will only be ended through a movement uniting the working class—Native and non-Native—in struggle against the capitalist social order.
By producing a well-researched book that sheds light on the brutal means by which the Canadian bourgeoisie consolidated its state and the enduring legacy of this crime, Daschuk has contributed to a fuller understanding of an important historical period that remains largely unknown. Clearing the Plains deserves a wide audience.
The author also recommends:
What is at stake in Australia’s “History Wars”
[14 July 2004]