Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Posted by strattof on October 15, 2017

On July 7, 2017, in an historic action, 122 countries, 63% of all countries in the world, voted at the UN to adopt a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Recognizing the “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences” of their use, the treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, and possession of nuclear weapons.

The first major development in nuclear disarmament since the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in1968, the treaty entered into force on September 20.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Canada did not sign the treaty. Nor did any of the nine nuclear-armed states.

Why did Canada not sign? Canada is a member of NATO. NATO reserves the right to use nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis. The US instructed all NATO members to reject the treaty.

THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

NUCLEAR DESTRUCTION

In August 1945, the United Stated dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people and destroying the two cities.

Thankfully, these are the only nuclear bombs ever used in warfare.

74 years after the horrific devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the threat of nuclear weapons still looms over humanity. Today’s nuclear bombs are thousands of times more powerful than those dropped in 1945.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS STATES

  • Today, nine nations possess nuclear weapons: Russia, the US, France, China, Britain, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.
  • Together these nations have some 15,000 nuclear warheads.
  • The US and Russia possess the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, together accounting for 93% of them.
  • Here’s a breakdown by country of the total nuclear stockpile:

Russia        7,000               Pakistan           120

US             6,800               India                100

France       300                  Israel               80

China         250                  North Korea    Fewer than 10

Britain       215

 

  • None of these nations signed the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Indeed, all are expanding or “modernizing” their nuclear weapons programs.

NUCLEAR THREATS

The threat of nuclear disaster seems to be particularly high at the moment. These are the reasons:

  • NATO’s insistence on the right to a nuclear first strike
  • Tension between the US and Russia
  • Escalating tension between the US and North Korea
  • The unpredictability of US President Donald Trump
  • India-Pakistan tensions
  • A nuclear accident—an accident waiting to happen

THE PATH TO SAFETY: WHAT CANADA MUST DO

  1. First and foremost, Canada must sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons.
  2. Next, Canada must begin to work within NATO to change NATO’s dangerous nuclear weapons policy of the right to use nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis.
  3. If NATO will not remove this policy, then Canada must get out of NATO.
  4. Finally, Canada must develop a foreign policy independent of the US and based on peace-making.

The only path to safety is to eliminate nuclear weapons. It takes only one nuclear weapon to threaten the very future of humankind.

In the words of the Mayor of Hirsohima, Kaumi Matsui, in 2015: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, anyone could become a hibakusah [victim of nuclear weapons] at any time.” 

THE PEACE SYMBOL & NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

The peace symbol finds its origins in the British nuclear disarmament movement. Designed in 1958, it uses semaphore signals to transmit its message.

Semaphore is a system of conveying information at a distance. You spell out a word by placing your arms in certain positions, each position representing a different letter in the alphabet.

N and D, standing for Nuclear Disarmament, are the semaphore signals represented in the peace symbol.

TAKE ACTION TO BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Prime Minister Trudeau says he won’t sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty. But we can sign our own declaration of conscience for the total elimination of nuclear weapons: https://www.ceasefire.ca/?p=25341

 

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THE LEGACIES OF JOHN A. MACDONALD

Posted by strattof on October 15, 2017

John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, is currently at the centre of a firestone of controversy.

  • The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario recently voted to have his name removed from all public schools in Ontario.
  • In Regina, the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism and Colonialism No More are calling for the removal of his statue from Victoria Park.

Some other Canadians are opposed to such renamings and removals. They want Canada to continue to commemorate John A. Macdonald and his legacy, which includes:

  • Negotiating Canadian Confederation in 1867;
  • Overseeing the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, which convinced BC to join Confederation and stopped US annexation of the province.

As a result of these accomplishments, John A. Macdonald is often hailed as the Father of the Canadian nation.

They are not, however, Macdonald’s only legacy.

MACDONALD’S OTHER LEGACY:

RACIST AND GENOCIDAL POLICIES

We are taught in school about Macdonald, the nation-builder. Almost erased from history are his racist and genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples.

CLEARING THE PLAINS

In 1878, Macdonald implemented a policy of starvation, with-holding food from Indigenous peoples living in Canada’s vast resource-rich prairie region until they moved onto reserves. In Macdonald’s words: “We are doing all we can by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation.”

The goal of the policy was to clear the plains of Indigenous peoples so as to make way for the transcontinental railroad and make the plains available for white settlement. Thousands died as a result of this genocidal policy.

ESTABLISHING RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS

Macdonald was a passionate advocate for residential schools. In his words: “When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write….he is simply a savage who can read and write….Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence.”

Thousands of children died from neglect, abuse, malnutrition, and disease while attending these schools.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that Canada’s residential school system constituted “cultural genocide.”

CREATING THE INDIAN ACT

The Indian Act, brought in by Macdonald’s government in 1876, allowed the government to control almost every aspect of Indigenous peoples’ lives. Based on notions of white superiority, it is part of a long history of assimilation policies.

In Macdonald’s words: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

Many of the Indian Act’s policies of control and assimilation are still in effect today.

THE COMMEMORATION DEBATE

Here are some of the most common objections to removing statues of John A. Macdonald or renaming buildings with his name on them—as well as some possible answers to these objections:

OBJECTION: YOU CAN’T CHANGE HISTORY.

The current controversy over John A. Macdonald is having the beneficial effect of expanding our understanding of Canadian history and hence allowing us to engage the past more fully.

The question is this: Once we know Macdonald’s role in the development of genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples, do we still wish to honour him with statues and buildings?

OBJECTION: THIS IS ERASING OUR HISTORY.

John A. Macdonald’s impact on Canada will not be erased. He will still be in the history books and be taught in schools. With any luck, however, the picture will be more balanced.

What has, in fact, been erased from Canadian history is the history of Indigenous peoples on this land, during the tens of thousands of years before it was called Canada, as well as since Confederation: 150 years of colonization, genocide, and resistance.

OBJECTION: NOBODY’S PERFECT.

Right, but genocide is not exactly a minor misdemeanor.

OBJECTION: EVERYONE WAS RACIST.

Monuments have very little to do with the past and everything to do with the society that creates and maintains them. How racist is our society? That is the question.

Two years after the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s damning report, the statue of John A. Macdonald still stands in Victoria Park. What does that say about our society?

OBJECTION: WHO’S NEXT?

Actually, there’s already a little list, which in Regina includes Edgar Dewdney and Nicholas Flood Davin.

Dewdney, who implemented Macdonald’s starvation policy, has an avenue and a swimming pool named in his honour, while Davin, who authored the report that became the blueprint for the residential school system, has a school and a crescent.

Why not erect statues and name streets and buildings in honour of those who struggled against racism, colonization, and genocide?

LEARN MORE ABOUT CANADIAN HISTORY AND JOHN A. MACDONALD

BOOKS (available at Regina Public Library)

  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King (2012).
  • Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, by James Daschuk (2013).
  • The Comeback, by John Ralston Saul (2014).
  • Summary Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015): Also available online.
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call, by Arthur Manuel (2015).
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus (2015).

ART

  • Visit online Kent Monkman’s exhibition Shame and Prejudice.
  •  Visit the website of Chippewar, also known as Jay Soule.
  •  Visit the facebook page of Colonialism Skateboards.
  •  Watch Gord Downie’s animated film The Secret Path (online).
  •  Watch Rebecca Thomas’s video Not Perfect (online).

“There is room on this land for all of us and there must also, after centuries of struggle, be room for justice for Indigenous peoples. That is all we ask. And we will settle for nothing less.”—Arthur Manuel

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MAKING PEACE: IN MEMORY OF STEPHEN MOORE

Posted by strattof on August 24, 2017

Rather than making peace, Canada keeps on making war:

  • April 2016: Canada approved a $15 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
  • March 2017: Canada extended its military mission in Ukraine until March 2019.
  • June 2017: Canada extended its military mission in Iraq and Syria until March 2019.
  • June 2017: Canadian troops arrived in Latvia to lead a NATO mission against “Russian aggression.”
  • June 2017: Canada increased its war spending by 70% over the next 10 years.
  • July 2017: Canada was not one of the 122 countries that signed a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

WHAT CAN WE DO FOR PEACE?

ENDLESS WAR: 2001 – 2017: CANADIAN ENGAGEMENT

AFGHANISTAN     October 2001 – March 2014: 12+ years

LIBYA                        March 2011 – October 2011: 7 months

IRAQ                          October 2014 – ongoing

SYRIA                        March 2015 – ongoing

UKRAINE                 September 2015 – ongoing

LATVIA                     June 2017 – ongoing

As this table indicates, since 2001, there have been only a few months—March to October 2014—that Canada has not been engaged in  war.          

Why, instead of working for peace, has Canada chosen this ongoing, seemingly never-ending involvement in war? There are three main reasons:

  1. Canada’s dependence on the US for its foreign policy.
  2. Canada’s membership in the US-led military alliance NATO.
  3. Profits for the Canadian arms industry.

MORE WAR-MAKING

In June, Canada further strengthened its commitment to war-making by increasing its war spending by 70% over the next 10 years, from $18.9 billion in 2016–17 to $32.7 billion in 2026–27.

This is money that could, instead, be spent on education, healthcare, affordable housing, or the implementation of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Why is Canada increasing its military spending? There are at least two answers to this question:

  1. US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP DEMANDED IT. Trump is putting pressure on NATO members to pay “their fair share” of costs for NATO—a US-led military alliance.
  2. PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU WANTS IT.

A more militaristic and war-making nation is, perhaps, what Trudeau had in mind when, shortly after the 2015 election, he said “Canada is back.”

There are many indications that, by “back,” Trudeau meant more war-making. For example, the Trudeau government has twice extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria.

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

War is big business. Many countries, including Canada, are making a killing out of this never-ending war-making.

  • The Canadian arms industry generates about $10 billion in revenue annually, with 60% coming from exports.
  • The US is the largest market for Canadian military equipment.
  • Canada is the 2nd largest exporter of arms to the Middle East.
  • Canada is the 6th largest exporter of arms in the world. 

WHO LOSES? Ordinary citizens everywhere. 

BANNING NUCLEAR WEAPONS

THE GOOD NEWS

Last month, 122 countries, a large majority of the UN members, signed a legally-binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. This treaty is the first major development in nuclear disarmament in many decades.

THE BAD NEWS

Canada did not sign the treaty. Nor did any of the nine nuclear-armed states.

Why did Canada not sign? Canada is a member of NATO. NATO reserves the right to use nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis. The US instructed all NATO members to reject the treaty. 

MAKING PEACE

WHAT CANADA MUST DO

  • Withdraw from the military missions in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and Latvia.
  • Develop a foreign policy independent of the US.
  • Get out of NATO.
  • Stop selling arms.
  • Sign the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons.
  • Make diplomatic peacemaking a top priority.

IN MEMORY OF STEPHEN MOORE: 1969 – 2017

Making Peace Vigil is holding today’s vigil in memory of Stephen Moore, who died on August 16, 2017. A founding member of the Vigil, Stephen devoted his life to the struggle for peace and justice.

Right up until the very end, Stephen used his voice to call for peace, dictating the letter, printed below, to his daughter from his hospital bed. The letter appeared in the Leader-Post on August 17, 2017, the day after Stephen died.

“Canada’s role in the global arms trade, and its role in nuclear proliferation in particular, is a disgrace. In this year alone, it seems Canadian equipment has been used by Saudi Arabia, while former MPs Irwin Cotler and Daniel Turp…call for a halt of such sales….Their message couldn’t be clearer: No guns or weapons to human rights violators.  

Names aside, labels aside and parties aside, an eerie choir of undertakers echoes our national anthem down Bay Street to the tune of billions of dollars paid to the global arms trade. This depressing scene says nothing of Canada’s role as a spreader of nuclear weapons, technology and materials…..  

The stakes could scarcely be higher. Global warming and climate change, as well as global nuclear arms proliferation, are the two great threats to continued human existence. Canada must stand four-square against both. Earlier this year, more than 100 nations voted to stop altogether the trade in nuclear arms. Canada was not among them. We cited NATO’s self-defence policy as our reason, the very same reason nations like North Korea, Pakistan, India and China use to ignore the non-proliferation treaty. 

Let us stand on the right side of human history, giving voice to peace and allowing future generations to have their voices heard.”

Thank you, Stephen, for giving voice to peace. You are an inspiration to us all.

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PRISONERS’ JUSTICE DAY

Posted by strattof on August 24, 2017

Today, Thursday August 10, is PRISONERS’ JUSTICE DAY. On this day in 1974, Edward Nolan died in solitary confinement in an Ontario prison.

In memory of all the men and women who have died in prison, prisoners across Canada mark the day by fasting and refusing to work. They also call for prison justice. 

Today more people than ever are dying in Canadian prisons. According to a recent Reuters report, “nearly 270 people have died in Canadian provincial jails over the past five years.” Two-thirds of them were legally innocent as they had not gone to trial.

Today conditions inside Canadian prisons are deplorable, with over-crowding and lack of programming leading to increasing levels of violence.

Making Peace Vigil stands in solidarity with Canadian prisoners. On Prisoners’ Justice Day,

  • We, too, remember all the people who have died in prison.
  • We, too, call for prison justice.

CANADIAN INJUSTICE

OVER-REPRESENTION

Indigenous people are vastly over-represented in Canada’s prisons.

  • While Indigenous people make up only 4% of Canada’s population, they constitute 25% of the federal prisoners.
  • While Indigenous people make up 17% of the population of Saskatchewan, they constitute
  • 80 – 90% of the men in Saskatchewan prisons.
  • Up to 90% of the women in Saskatchewan prisons.

SYSTEMIC RACISM

The over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons is directly linked to systemic racism against Indigenous people, which is itself rooted in settler colonialism. Almost everywhere in Canadian society, whiteness is an advantage and Indigenous identity a disadvantage. For example:

  • In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing up to 38% less child welfare funding on First Nations. The Trudeau government continues to refuse to comply with the Tribunal’s ruling.
  • According to a December 2016 report by the Parliamentary budget Officer, the federal government spends $6,500 – $9,500 less per student at schools on First Nations than the provinces spend on the education of children.

A PATTERN OF INCARCERATION

The over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons is part of an historical pattern of incarcerating Indigenous peoples.

The Pass System (1885 – 1951) made reserves into prisons, as no Indigenous person was allowed to leave the reserve without the permission of the Indian agent. 

Residential Schools (1880s–1996) incarcerated Indigenous children, who, having been forcibly removed from their families, often died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse.

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

Recommendation #30 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on all levels of government to “Commit to eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody.”

PRISON PRIVATIZATION & CUTBACKS

Conditions inside Saskatchewan provincial prisons are particularly harsh because of Sask Party government cutbacks and privatization of prison services.

PRIVATIZATION OF PHONE SERVICES

In 2014, the Sask Party government signed a contract with Synergy/Telecom, turning prisoner-family phone contact into a for-profit enterprise. A local phone call now costs $2.50, making staying in touch with families and friends nearly impossible for prisoners.

Synergy/Telecom, a Texas-based company, makes $9 million a year from those calls.

CUTS TO PRISONERS’ WAGES

In 2017, the Sask Party government cut prisoners’ wages from $3 a day to $1 a day. Prisoners at Regina Provincial Correctional Centre held a work strike to protest the cuts. In the words of one of the striking prisoners, Kenny Morrison, “With a dollar a day, you can’t even send a letter,” which costs $1.25.

Prisoners also need to purchase personal items such as toothpaste and deodorant.

PRIVATIZATION OF FOOD SERVICES

In 2015, the Sask Party government privatized prison food services, contracting out meal preparation to Compass Group, a for-profit, multi-national corporation. Now meals for Saskatchewan’s prison population are prepared in Alberta and trucked in frozen.

Since food privatization took effect, prisoners at Regina’s Correctional Centre have held a number of hunger strikes, citing concerns about food quality and quantity.

Nutritious food is an essential part of prisoner rehabilitation and brings lasting benefits to prisoners and society.

TAKE ACTION FOR PRISONERS’ JUSTICE DAY

  • Let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know you want his government to implement all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Draw his attention especially to Recommendation # 30: “Commit to eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody.” trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211
  • Send the same message to Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale:

Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-1416

ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca or 613-947-1153

  • Let Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall know you want his government to begin immediately to implement recommendation # 30 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “Commit to eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody.” Also tell Premier Wall you want his government to reverse its prison privatization policies and cuts to prison wages: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Send the same message to Saskatchewan Minister of Justice, Gordon Wyant: minister@gove.sk.ca or 306-787-5353.

No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.—Nelson Mandela

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WHY WE STAND WITH OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

Why did the Canadian government apologize to Omar Khadr and pay him $10.5 million? The main answer to this question is that previous Canadian governments—both Liberal and Conservative —broke Canadian, as well as international law, in their treatment of Omar Khadr following his capture by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002.

Some Canadians are angry about the apology and settlement. We at Making Peace Vigil (the folks who hand out pamphlets on peace and justice issues on the Scarth Street Mall every Thursday) are happy about it. Please have a look at our reasons, outlined inside this pamphlet, for choosing to stand with Omar Khadr.

6 REASONS FOR STANDING WITH OMAR KHADR 

1. OMAR KHADR WAS A CHILD SOLDIER

  • Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured by the US military in Afghanistan in 2002, during a firefight in a compound.
  • The US imprisoned him first in Bagram in Afghanistan (2 months) and then in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba (10 years).
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines “child” as a “human being below the age of eighteen.”
  • Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, yet the Canadian government did not attempt to get Omar Khadr out of either Bagram or Guantánamo Bay prisons.
  • When, in 2012, Canadian courts finally forced the Canadian government to repatriate Omar Khadr, the government, rather than ensuring his release and rehabilitation, had him incarcer-ated in Canadian prisons for the next three years, until 2015.

2. OMAR KHADR WAS TORTURED

Confessions were extracted from Omar Khadr through the use of torture and other prohibited treatment, including beatings, threats of rape, and prolonged solitary confinement.

In 2003, the Canadian government became directly involved in the torture when it twice sent CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Omar Khadr, knowing that US officials had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation.

Canada signed the UN convention against torture in 1975.

3. OMAR KHADR IS A CANADIAN CITIZEN

Born in Toronto in 1986, Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen and hence has the right to be protected by Canadian law.

In January 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the Canadian government had violated Omar Khadr’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it sent CSIS agents to interrogate him under “oppressive circumstances” and then shared the information with US officials.

4. RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW

In its treatment of Omar Khadr, the Canadian government showed contempt for both international and Canadian law.

  • Basic human rights (the right not to be tortured, for example) depend on all governments respecting international law.
  • The proper functioning of Canadian democracy depends on the Canadian government respecting the Canadian rule of law.

With the apology and settlement, the Canadian government finally showed some respect for the rule of law and Omar Khadr finally received some of the justice he deserves.

5. THE QUESTION OF GUILT

The main charge against Omar Khadr is that he threw the grenade that killed a US soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. There is no compelling evidence to support this charge.

  • No one saw who threw the grenade.
  • Omar Khadr was himself found lying under a pile of rocks and rubble, unarmed and severely wounded.
  • There is evidence that Sgt. Speer was a victim of friendly fire.

In 2010, facing indefinite incarceration, Omar Khadr entered into a plea bargain. In exchange for repatriation to Canada, he pleaded guilty to murdering Sgt. Speer. This coerced confession, which he has since retracted, is the main evidence against him. s

Besides, Omar Khadr was a (child) soldier in a war zone. The US soldiers who wounded him weren’t charged with attempted murder —or with murder for killing everyone else in the compound.

The whole point of war is to kill (murder) the enemy. War is evil.

6. HUMAN SYMPATHY

  • Child in a war zone. ●Witness to unspeakable horrors. ●Badly wounded—a shoulder injury that has required extensive surgery and permanent loss of sight in one eye. ●Youth spent in prison, most of it in notorious Guantánamo Bay. ●Victim of years of torture.

This was Omar Khadr’s life from the age of 10 – 28. None of it happened of his own volition.

STAND WITH OMAR KHADR

1. Sign the I STAND WITH OMAR KHADR petition: https://act.leadnow.ca/i-stand-with-omar-khadr/

2. Share this pamphlet with your friends and family.

3. Let Prime Minister Trudeau and your MP know you support the government’s apology to and settlement with Omar Khadr:

PM Trudeau: justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca or 306-585-2202

Andrew Sheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 306-332-2575

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca or 306-790-4747

4. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Dennis Edney, Omar Khadr’s lawyer, will be speaking in Regina—Monday September 25, 7:30 pm, Education Auditorium, U of R: The Rule of Law in an Age of Fear.

5. Learn More about Omar Khadr:

  • Watch the documentary You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo, available on You Tube.
  • Watch the CBC documentary Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows, available online.
  • Read Roméo Dallaire’s They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, available at Regina Public Library.

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CLIMATE DISASTER

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

We have just three years left to save the world from climate disaster. This warning was issued by climate scientists late last month in a letter published in the prestigious science journal Nature. Either we make significant reductions in CO2 emissions by 2020 or we face the worst effects of climate change, including:

  • Deadly heatwaves
  • Devastating droughts
  • Raging wildfires
  • Record floods
  • Rising sea levels

Time is running out! What is Canada doing to prevent climate disaster?

7 CLIMATE FACTS

  1. The upper safety limit for CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. Today the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 408.8 per million, well over the safety limit.
  2. 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded—the third year in a row with record-setting temperatures. Now 2017 is on track to set another heat record.
  3. Average global temperature is already 1°C higher than the pre-industrial average, enough to melt half the ice in the Arctic.
  4. 97% of scientists agree that human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, has caused this increase in temperature.
  5. The increase in average global temperature must be kept to well below 2°C to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming.
  6. Climate-related disasters—floods, storms, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves—are already on the increase worldwide.
  7. To avoid complete climate disaster, 80% of the world’s known remaining fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground. This means no new fossil fuel reserves or pipeline development and plenty of investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT

In 2015, in order to avoid climate disaster, 195 countries, including Canada under the Trudeau government, signed the Paris Climate Agreement—agreeing to limit “the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° C above preindustrial levels,” with the added aim of limiting “the increase to 1.5° C.”

To reach this goal, each of the 195 countries pledged to reduce its emissions by a certain percentage. Canada’s pledge was for a 30% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.

Has Canada kept this commitment?

BROKEN PROMISES

PARIS CLIMATE COMMITMENT

In 2016, the Trudeau government approved two new tar sands pipelines: a new Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which will run just south of Regina, and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

  • Together these two pipelines will expand tar sands production by nearly 2 million barrels of oil per day.
  • Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada.

If the government proceeds with these pipelines, Canada will not be able to meet its Paris Climate Agreement commitment.

ELECTION PROMISES

In approving the pipelines, Trudeau also broke three of his election promises:

  1. To make Canada a world climate leader.
  2. To overhaul the National Energy Board’s environmental assessment process before considering any more pipelines.
  3. To implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to “free, prior, and informed consent.”

The Trudeau government has also broken another crucial climate-related election promise: to end the Harper government’s $34 billion a year subsidy to the fossil fuel industry.

EARTH PROTECTORS

Indigenous communities have taken the lead in opposing pipelines. The original caretakers of this land, they are determined to protect it, and the entire planet, from environmental destruction.

  • First Nations across Canada have been saying “no” to tar sands development and tar sands pipelines for decades.
  • Calling themselves protectors (rather than “protesters”), thousands of Indigenous peoples from across the Americas said “no” to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock ND.

WE ALL MUST BE EARTH PROTECTORS!

TAKE ACTION

  1. Tell Prime Minister Trudeau
  • That saying “yes” to pipelines is saying “yes” to climate disaster.
  • That climate leaders do not approve new tar sands pipelines.
  1. Also let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want his government:
  • To keep its Paris Climate Agreement commitment.
  • To overhaul the National Energy Board’s environmental assessment process as promised.
  • To say “no” to all pipeline projects, including Line 3 and Trans Mountain.
  • To stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and invest the money in renewable sources of energy.
  • To implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211

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THE RICH GET RICHER: SASKATCHEWAN’S 2017 BUDGET

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

Saskatchewan’s 2017 budget announced cuts to a number of income assistance programs including:

  • Financial assistance for people looking for work.
  • School supplies for children from low-income families.
  • Funeral services for poor people.

We are told our province’s dire financial situation—a $1.2 billion deficit—means we all have to tighten our belts. There do, however, seem to be some exceptions:

  • The corporate tax rate, reduced by one point, making it the lowest in the country.
  • Personal income tax rate, reduced for high income people.

The 2017 Saskatchewan budget makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is an attack on the most vulnerable people in our society. Is this the kind of province we want to live in?

THE POOR GET POORER

TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE

The provincial government is cutting the Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA) by $20 a month. This may not seem like much. However, it means a lot to some people:

  • A single person looking for work in Regina will now have to live on $563 a month, plus capped rates for utilities.
  • A single mother looking for work in Regina will now only receive $946 a month. Out of this she is expected to pay for housing, food, and clothing for herself and her children.

 The TEA program was already the least adequate of the income assistance programs. For this reason, the government expanded it so that more people are on it. Over the past few years it has grown from approximately 1,500 to 5,500 adult recipients.

FUNERAL COVERAGE

  • 160,000 people live below the poverty line in Saskatchewan.
  • Poor people have a shorter life expectancy than their wealthier neighbours. In Saskatchewan, there is a six-year gap between the wealthiest 20% of the population and poorest 20%. Cuts to funding for social programs will not help narrow that gap.
  • Now, the provincial government has cut what it will pay for the funeral services of people on social assistance from $3,850 to $2,800
  • The funeral coverage program is accessed approximately 400 times a year.
  • This dehumanizing cut is expected to save the government $400,000 annually.

 OTHER CUTS

The cuts to the TEA and funeral coverage have already been implemented. Other cuts, including the following, are still being considered as part of the provincial government’s “redesign” of income security.

HIGH CALORIE SPECIAL NEEDS DIETS

The provincial government is considering ending the $75 high calorie diet. This program has helped many with special dietary needs meet the most basic nutritional levels.

Health conditions that require a high calorie diet include cancer, HIV, burns, infections, malnutrition, and recovery from surgery or illness.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR CHILDREN

Equally nasty is the government’s planned cut of the annual grant for children’s school supplies for people on social assistance. Not only will this cut increase hardship for families, it will also act to further stigmatize children living in poverty.

This is the same government that gave corporations a $25.3 million gift, for this year alone, with its reduction of the corporate tax rate.

OVERPAYMENT RECOVERY RATES

The government is also planning to raise the monthly claw-back of benefits for those who have been deemed to have an overpayment.

  • A high proportion of recipients fall into this category.
  • Rarely is the overpayment the client’s fault.
  • Sometimes the client has a flexible income.
  • Sometimes the Ministry of Social Services makes an error.

WORKING FOR JUSTICE

The Wall government claims that the 2017 Social Services budget is the “largest ever.” However, it omits to say that this is the result of more people being on Social Assistance.

Even before any of the cuts came into effect, many people in Saskatchewan had to choose between paying the rent and buying food. Now, even more people are facing these harsh alternatives.

Stopping the cuts will not bring justice. There will still be many poor people in our province. But it would be a start.

For poverty to eliminated, wealth, opportunities, and privileges in our society would have to be much more equally distributed. Let’s make this our next project: eliminating poverty in Saskatchewan.

In the meantime, let’s work to reverse all the cuts to income assistance proposed in the 2017 Saskatchewan budget.

RING THOSE PHONES: REVERSE INCOME ASSISTANCE CUTS

Phone Premier Brad Wall (306-787-9433) and Minister of Social Services Tina Beaudry-Mellor (306-787-3661) and deliver the following message:

I am calling to ask that you reverse all the income assistance cuts proposed in the 2017 provincial budget. These cuts will only save the government $10 million, but they will create great hardship for the most vulnerable people in Saskatchewan.

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CANADA 150: 150 PLUS YEARS OF COLONIALISM

Posted by strattof on June 30, 2017

The Scream, by Cree artist Kent Monkman, is part of an exhibition of paintings Monkman created especially for Canada 150. Called Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, it looks at 150 years of Indigenous experience in Canada. What does The Scream tell us?

  • In the foreground, terrified Indigenous children are being wrenched from the arms of their distraught mothers by red-clad Mounties and black-robed priests and nuns: agents of the Canadian state.
  • In the background, three children are running for the woods, escaping the gaze of a Mountie standing on a porch directing the operation.
  • The children are wearing clothes of today, indicating that the mass abduction of Indigenous children from their families and communities by the Canadian state is ongoing.
  • Black clouds hang ominously over the left-hand side of the scene. The sky brightens on the right—the direction the children are heading.

This is what the last 150 years have meant for Indigenous peoples in Canada: colonization, genocide, broken treaties, and resistance.

THE HISTORY OF CANADA: THE ABDUCTION OF INDIGENOUS CHILREN

The abduction of Indigenous children is a thread that runs through Canadian history, though it is usually hidden. Why bring up this inconvenient truth when we are supposed to be celebrating?

We need to know this history because nothing has changed. The abduction of Indigenous children is still going on.

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: 1876 – 1996

Many Treaties with First Nations, including Treaty 4 which takes in most of southern Saskatchewan, promised to establish schools on reserves. Instead, the Canadian government implemented the residential school system.

  • John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, was a passionate advocate for residential schools. In his view “Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence,” for if they stay on the reserve they are “surrounded by savages.”
  • Established shortly after Confederation, Canada’s residential school system lasted for over a century—until 1996 when the last residential school, Gordon’s School in Punnichy SK, closed.
  • More than 150,000 children attended the schools, having endured, along with their parents, the brutality of forced separation.
  • At least 6,000 children died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse ‒ a higher death rate than that of Canadians who enlisted to fight in World War II. Many of the children were buried unceremoniously in unmarked graves.
  • In the words of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the residential school system was “an integral part of a conscious policy of cultural genocide.”

A PATTERN OF ABDUCTION

The genocidal policy of abducting Indigenous children from their families did not end with the residential school system. Rather, it carried on under a different guise. Indeed, it carries on today.

THE 60s SCOOP: EARLY 1960s – MID 1980s

In the 1950s, the federal government began to close residential schools, deemed too costly even though they were badly under-funded. In the early 1960s, provincial social workers, following on the heels of the Mounties and the priests, began to descend on Indigenous communities and to “scoop up” the children. The children were then placed in foster care or adopted out to white families.

  • An estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were scooped.
  • Incalculable damage was inflicted on the victims of this government policy, including loss of family, loss of language, loss of culture, and loss of community.

ABDUCTION OF INDIGENOUS CHILDREN: TODAY

  • Today, provincial governments continue with the disastrous policy of taking Indigenous children away from their families and communities.
  • Today, more Indigenous children are in state care than at the height of the residential school system.

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first Call to Action is “Commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care.” Rather than implementing this recommendation, the Trudeau government has spent $707,000 in legal fees fighting a Human Rights Tribunal order to stop its discriminatory underfunding of First Nations child welfare.

While there has been lots of talk about reconciliation, little action has been taken to implement any of the TRC’s 94 calls to action.

CANADA DAY: TAKE ACTION FOR JUSTICE

  1. SIGN THE BROADBENT PETITION: The Government of Canada is Failing First Nations Children.
  2. TELL PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU you want his government to mark Canada 150 by implementing all 94 TRC calls to action: trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.
  3. LEARN THE TRUTH ABOUT CANADIAN HISTORY

ART

  • Visit online Kent Monkman’s exhibition Shame and Prejudice.
  • The Canada 150 art featured in this pamphlet is the work of Chippewar, also known as Jay Soule. Visit his website.
  • Visit the facebook page of Colonialism Skateboards.
  • Watch Gord Downie’s animated film The Secret Path.
  • Visit the Alex Janvier exhibition at the Mackenzie Art Gallery. 

BOOKS (Available at Regina Public Library)

  • Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  • Clearing the Plains, by James Daschuk
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus

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MAKING MORE WAR: CANADA’S DEFENCE POLICY REVIEW

Posted by strattof on June 30, 2017

On June 6, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, made public the Trudeau government’s long-awaited defence policy review. It was a nasty shock for all Canadians who want our country to stop making war.

Here are some of the disturbing details:

  • A 70% increase in war spending over the next 10 years, from $18.9 billion in 2016-17 to $32.7 billion in 2026-27
  • 15 new warships ($60 billion)
  • 88 new fighter jets ($19 billion)
  • 5,000 more military personal, bringing the total number of troops to 101,500

Since 2001, Canada has been endlessly at war: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Latvia—Canada has been or is there. Why do we keep making more war, rather than working for peace?

WHY IS CANADA INCREASING ITS MILITARY SPENDING?

There are at least two answers to this question:

  1. US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP DEMANDED IT. Last month, Trump castigated members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for “not paying their fair share” to cover NATO costs. Trump wants all NATO members to meet a 2014 goal of putting 2% of their GDP toward defence spending. (In 2016, Canada spent 1.2%.)
  2. PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU WANTS IT. A more militaristic and war-making nation is, perhaps, what Trudeau had in mind when, shortly after the 2015 election, he said “Canada is back.”

There are a number of indications that, by “back,” Trudeau meant more war-making. For example, since coming to power, the Trudeau government has

  • Twice extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria, most recently until June 30 2017;
  • Extended Canada’s military mission in Ukraine for another two years, until March 2019;
  • Committed to lead a military mission in Latvia, as part of a NATO force to deter “Russian aggression.”

WHAT IS NATO?

NATO is a US-led military alliance of 28 countries. It is a threat to world peace.

  • NATO has armed forces around the globe.
  • NATO has over two million troops.
  • NATO states account for over 70% of world arms spending.
  • NATO insists on its right to employ nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis.

WAR-MAKING: WHO BENEFITS?

War is big business. Western countries, including Canada, are making big bucks off all the war-making.

  • The US is the largest market for Canadian military equipment.
  • Canada is the 2nd largest exporter of arms to the Middle East.
  • Canada is the 6th largest exporter of arms in the world.

WHO LOSES?

Citizens living in war zones: For them the price is horrendous: injury, death, bereavement, displacement, trauma, impoverishment.

Since Canada went to war in 2001:

  • Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria.
  • Many more have been injured.
  • Millions of people have become refugees.

Citizens of Canada: Though the wars are elsewhere, we also pay a price:

  • Dead or injured loved ones: 162 Canadians were killed in Afghanistan.
  • A shameful waste of money on war—money that could have been spent on healthcare, affordable housing, education, the environment, or the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.

PEACEMAKING

What would a peacemaking Canada do?

  • Withdraw from the military missions in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and Latvia.
  • Develop a foreign policy independent of the US.
  • Get out of NATO.
  • Stop selling arms.
  • Make diplomatic peacemaking a top priority.

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE

  • Let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan know you want Canada to stop making war and to start working for peace:

justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-4211

harjit.sajjan@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-7051

  • Send the same message to your MP:

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca or 306-585-2202

Andrew Sheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 306-332-2575

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca or 306-790-4747

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CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE UNDER ATTACK

Posted by strattof on June 15, 2017

According to Mayor Michael Fougere, “there is never ever a time for civil disobedience.” Gandhi, whose statue is in front of Regina City Hall, would disagree. Employing the methods of civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence from British colonial rule.

What exactly is civil disobedience? It has four key characteristics:

  1. Civil disobedience is the breaking of the law in order to protest unjust laws or government policies.
  2. Civil disobedience is non-violent.
  3. The goal of civil disobedience is to instigate a lasting change in law or policy.
  4. People who engage in civil disobedience are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions.

Civil disobedience has proven to be an effective tool for bringing change. Is Mayor Fougere right that it is “never ever” justified?

MARTIN LUTHER KING & ROSA PARKS

In the 1950s, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and other civil rights activists began their struggle against Jim Crow laws—laws that required racial segregation in schools, buses, restaurants, and restrooms. One of their tools was civil disobedience.

As a result of their actions, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, an act that outlaws racial segregation.

Does Mayor Fougere think that Martin Luther King and other members of the US civil rights movement were unjustified in their acts of civil disobedience?

VIOLA DESMOND, CANADA’S OWN ROSA PARKS

In 1946, nine years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery Alabama, Viola Desmond, an African Canadian, refused to leave the whites-only area of a segregated Nova Scotia movie theatre. In the end, police forcibly removed her from the theatre and jailed her.

Viola Desmond’s case inspired the Nova Scotia Civil Rights movement.

What is Mayor Fougere’s view of this act of civil disobedience? Does he think it should “never ever” have happened?

The Government of Canada is clear in its view. It is celebrating Viola Desmond for her act of civil disobedience by featuring her on the Canadian $10 bill, where, in 2018, she will replace John A. Macdonald.

Learn more about Viola Desmond by googling her name.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE & THE ELIMINATION OF STC 

CONTEXT OF FOUGERE’S “NEVER EVER”

  • On May 31, six people practiced civil disobedience by refusing to get off the last STC bus to arrive in Saskatoon from Regina before the provincial government shut down the service. They were arrested and taken off the bus in handcuffs.
  • In response to this act of civil disobedience, Ward 3 City Councillor Andrew Stevens tweeted: “Civil disobedience is important.”
  • Mayor Fougere responded to these two events with his “never ever” comment.

STC CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE JUSTIFIED

  1. The elimination of STC is an unjust policy in that it affects poor people disproportionately: 70% of STC users were low-income.
  2. The elimination of STC is not only an unjust policy. It may also be a matter of life and death, as Indigenous peoples were among frequent STC users. In BC, the absence of a rural bus service resulted in the Highway of Tears.
  3. The elimination of STC is also an unjust policy in that, as a Crown Corporation, STC belonged to the people of Saskatchewan who were not consulted about its elimination.
  4. Civil disobedience was a last resort. Many legal avenues of protest (rallies, letter writing, court challenges) had already been taken in an attempt to stop the elimination of STC.

CIVIL OBEDIENCE

The greatest danger to society is civil obedience —the submission of the individual conscience to governmental authority.—Howard Zinn

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: REGINA

UNJUST LAWS & POLICIES

Mayor Fougere seems to think there are no unjust laws or policies in Regina. Two City Councillors agree with him: Ward 2 Councillor Bob Hawkins and Ward 7 Councillor Sharron Bryce.

Perhaps the Mayor and Councillors are blinded by their white, upper-middle class privilege.

4 EXAMPLES OF UNJUST LAWS OR POLICIES

  1. The refusal of Regina City Council to do anything substantial to address Regina’s homelessness crisis
  2. The City bylaw prohibiting sleeping in city parks—a law that discriminates against homeless people
  3. The Unwanted Guest policy, an initiative of Regina Police Service, that allows business owners to ban individuals from their property: The targets of this policy are clearly poor people, Indigenous people, and people with mental health or addiction issues.
  4. Regina Police Service practice of street checks—that is “randomly” stopping people to collect information: Studies show that Indigenous people are much more likely to be stopped than non-Indigenous people.

TAKE ACTION

 

 

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