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India top court orders eviction of over 1 million forest dwellers | News

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India‘s Supreme Court has ordered the eviction of more than one million forest dwellers, a majority of whom belong to indigenous tribal communities, after the federal government failed to defend a law aimed at protecting their rights.

The top court’s order, dated February 13 and delivered in written form on Wednesday, was in response to a petition against the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006, filed by some environmental groups and retired forest officers who said the law impeded conservation efforts.

Under the landmark Forest Rights Act, at least 150 million people could have had their rights recognised to about 40 million hectares of forest land.

The Supreme Court has asked officials in 16 states to submit details of rights claims settled, and “in the cases where claims have been rejected … to ensure that eviction is made on or before the next date of hearing” on July 24.

The order is a major blow to the struggle of tribals and forest dwellers for justice

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

The order “is a major blow to the struggle of tribals and forest dwellers for justice”, advocacy group Campaign for Survival and Dignity said in a statement.

“Another historic injustice is about to be committed against tribals and other forest dwellers,” said Shankar Gopalakrishnan, president of the group.

India has more than 100 million indigenous people, who are also known as Adivasis, or original inhabitants.

The court’s order could affect claims of indigenous people in the remaining states and lead to more evictions, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Land for mining and industry

Campaigners say many states had rejected recognition of community forest rights on flimsy grounds as demand increased for land for mining and industry.

The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, over the last five years, introduced laws that activists say diluted earlier legislation meant to protect the rights of farmers and indigenous people over land and natural resources.

The Supreme Court order comes in the run-up to the parliamentary elections that must be held by May.

Land rights and forest rights have come to the fore in the recent state elections, and unrest among farmers and villagers who make up a big voting bloc, could hurt Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), analysts say.

Opposition leaders had earlier written to the tribal affairs minister, saying they were “dismayed at the utterly indifferent and callous attitude” of the federal government in relation to the FRA case.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition Congress party which had enacted the FRA, had earlier criticised the government for being “a silent spectator” in the top court.

“It is showing its intention of driving out hundreds of thousands of tribals and poor farmers from the forests,” Gandhi had tweeted last week.


SOURCE:
Reuters news agency

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Ottawa announces new funding to combat online child abuse

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Ottawa has announced $22 million in funding to fight online child abuse.

Noting that police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement Tuesday.

It follows a London meeting last week that focused on the exploitation of children between Goodale and his counterparts from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, collectively known as the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Major internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were also at the meeting and agreed to a set of rules the members of the group proposed to remove child pornography from the internet quicker.

On Tuesday, Goodale warned internet companies they had to be better, faster and more open when in comes to fighting child abuse on line.

In this Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 photo, detectives use the Cellebrite system to extract information from cellphones at the State Police facility in Hamilton Township, N.J. “Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Canadian Press)

“If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet, if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences,” Goodale said.

The government plan includes $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles, $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations and $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.

Goodale said the strategy recognizes that technology is “increasingly facilitating the easy borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images.”

That, he said, makes investigations increasingly complex,

“This is a race where the course is always getting longer and more complicated and advancing into brand new areas that hadn’t been anticipated five years ago or a year ago or even a week ago,” Goodale said.

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Gas prices expected to dip in Ottawa

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If you can wait an extra day to fill up the gas tank, your bank account might thank you.

Roger McKnight of Enpro is predicting a five cent dip in gas prices Wednesday night at midnight.

This comes after a four cent drop this past Friday, just ahead of the August long weekend.

McKnight said the reason for the drop, both last week and this week, is due to comments made by US President Donald Trump. 

He says after the drop, the price will be, on average, 118.9 cents/litre in the Ottawa region.

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Oka asks Ottawa to freeze Mohawk land deal, send RCMP to Kanesatake

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The town of Oka is asking the federal and provincial governments to slap a moratorium on a proposed land grant to the local Mohawk community in Kanesatake and to establish an RCMP detachment on the First Nations territory to deal with illegal cannabis sales outlets.

The requests were contained in two resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the Oka town council.

The administration of Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon held its first public meeting since the start of the controversy that pitted the town council against the Kanesatake band council over a decision by a local promoter to give local lands to the Mohawk community.

The three resolutions are addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Quebec Premier François Legault’s government and the Kanesatake band council led by Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon.

As each resolution was read into the record, Quevillon stressed that the town of Oka was only looking to live in peaceful cohabitation with the Mohawk community.

The town also called upon Ottawa to establish a consultation process that would take into account the concerns of residents in Oka and  Kanesatake.

Quevillon’s administration also wants access to the plans detailing what lands are at the centre of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawk community for purchase, suggesting the talks are simply a disguised form of expropriation.

“They’re giving money to (the Mohawks) to buy our land and annex it to their territory,” Quevillon said.

Despite its demands, the Oka council adopted an official statement addressed to the Kanesatake band council saying the town’s population wanted dialogue and peaceful cohabitation, with Quevillon citing the 300 years of close links between the two communities.

During the council meeting’s question period, some residents suggested that the council deal with other groups that say they are speaking for Kanesatake, including Mohawk traditionalists. Mayor Quevillon replied that the town would only deal with the band council and did so out of respect for Grand Chief Simon.

The mayor also argued that the RCMP, a federal police force, was best suited to be deployed in Kanesatake, where it would ensure the law would be respected, particularly on the issue of illegal cannabis shops.

Quevillon contended such a deployment was the only way for both communities to work together toward their mutual economic development.

Meanwhile, the apology Grand Chief Simon has said he is expecting from Quevillon for remarks he made earlier this summer about the Mohawk community in Kanesatake does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Asked by a resident if he would apologize, Quevillon left the answer to those citizens who attended the meeting, the vast majority of whom replied, “no.”

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