Fort McMurray, the city that serves as the hub of one of the world’s largest climate-wrecking projects, Canada’s Alberta tar sands, is burning to the ground due to wildfires sparked by unseasonably dry and hot weather. The wildfires began at the end of April in forests west of the city. It worsened when strong winds carried the fires into the city, creating quasi-apocalyptic conditions. The city centre is burning, including the city hospital. Flights in and out of the airport were cancelled as of May 4.
Trans Canada Pipelines announced on December 2 it would stop work on building an oilshipping terminal on the St Lawrence River at Cacouna, Quebec. The immediate reason is that the project will threaten the beluga whale population in the river. Another, unreported, reason is that a broad citizens’ movement in Quebec fiercely opposes the project.
The Vancouver Sun published a description on October 24 of the troubled man who killed a guard in Ottawa two days before and then entered Canada’s parliament building carrying his gun. The 32-year-old man, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot and killed by police. The Sun reporters spoke to people who knew Zehaf-Bibeau while he lived in Vancouver during recent years. They described an angry and troubled man grappling with mental illness and drug addiction.
There had been “constant and heavy shelling” by the Ukraine army, Susan Ormiston of CBC News reported from Donetsk on July 28, during the past two days on the towns and villages in the Donetsk region surrounding the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The site was turned over to international investigators four days ago by Donetsk self-defence fighters, but the investigators have not been able to access it due to military operations by the Ukraine army. Donetsk fighters say the army controls the area surrounding the site. There are no observers present.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is trying to make good on his announcement on July 11 that his army, or the fascist militias fighting alongside it, will kill “dozens and hundreds” of people in the east of the country for every Ukraine soldier dying in the war his regime is waging there. Since his pronouncement, his armed forces have been bombarding cities and towns in south-east Ukraine. Fighter aircraft, tanks and other armoured vehicles are engaged.
A political crisis over the future of Ukraine has exploded in the past three months. Its catalyst has been the longstanding efforts of big imperialist countries to assert economic and military domination over the republics of the former Soviet Union, and to weaken and marginalise rival Russia. This takes the form of collaboration with a compliant local elite to impose capitalist austerity and bring the country under the military umbrella of the NATO military alliance.
The governments of the United States, Europe and Canada are working furiously to help consolidate the conservative and rightist government that has come into office in Ukraine after the overthrow of the authoritarian regime of Victor Yanukovych 10 days ago. The overthrow of the regime came about through a confluence of mass protests against its authoritarian rule and retrograde social and economic policies, and a very active intervention by right-wing and fascist political forces.
A rupture of the TransCanada PipeLines (TCPL) gas line occurred in the middle of the night on January 25 near the village of Otterburne. A huge fireball erupted into the night sky and burned for many hours. The explosion tore a large crater in the ground. Several thousand homes in 10 small communities were left without gas heating during temperatures that dipped to minus 30C. It took days for full service to be restored. The pipeline brings gas from Alberta to the US across the Manitoba-Minnesota international border. It feeds parts of southern Manitoba along the way.
The ice storm that struck central and eastern Canada and northeastern United States, on December 20-22 should be viewed not only an important news event, but also a big climate change story. Not because the storm was a direct consequence of the Earth’s average warming temperatures. That would be a speculative claim. No, it’s because of the social crisis created by this weather emergency and what it illustrates about the challenges that are facing human society in a new and warming world. Power loss
A special meeting of Toronto City Council was convened on November 18 to deal with the city’s “Ford problem”. It was the most bizarre chapter yet in the scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford. The meeting was convened by city councillors to adopt measures to reduce the power and financing of the mayor’s office. The council majority had supported Ford in office, but the politically well-connected conservative mayor had become a liability for business interests in the city.
A revealing story about the lawsuit against the United Nations over a cholera outbreak in Haiti was broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s The World At Six on November 13. The report began: “The United Nations is among those leading the effort to get aid to the Philippines. But even as it helps out with this natural disaster, it is haunted by the ghosts of another.”
An unprecedented lawsuit has been launched against the United Nations over the world body’s responsibility for the cholera epidemic in Haiti that exploded in October 2010. The epidemic killed more than 8300 people and stricken more than 650,000. The legal action was formally launched in New York City on October 9 by the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), its partner office in Port au Prince, the Office of International Lawyers (BAI), and the Miami-based civil rights law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt (KKWT).
For the second time in three months, a CP Rail train carrying toxic and flammable hydrocarbons has derailed in the city of Calgary, in Alberta province. On September 11, eight railway wagons carrying close to one million liters of a highly flammable gasoline product (diluent) used in the pipeline transport of tar sands bitumen derailed in the Inglewood neighbourhood.
In the small hours of July 6, just after midnight, a train hauling 73 cars of petroleum products derailed and exploded in the centre of the town of Lac Megantic, Quebec. A large number of the rail cars caught fire and exploded in huge fireballs. The centre of the town was razed and the rail cars were still burning 36 hours later.
France’s National Assembly and Senate have voted to extend the country’s military intervention in Mali. A resolution passed both houses of parliament on April 22 with a single vote against. Three days later, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2100, creating a policing mission (known as MINUSMA) starting July 1. Its projected size is 11,200 soldiers and 1440 police.
France perpetrated two large deceptions in its military intervention into Mali in January. These have been universally presented as true in mainstream media reporting. The first was that the unilateral decision to invade Mali on January 11 was hastily made. France said it was prompted by imminent military threats by Islamic fundamentalist forces against the Mali's south where the large majority live.