Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

PEACEKEEPING: IS THIS WHAT CANADA SHOULD BE DOING?

Posted by strattof on April 1, 2018

Many Canadians consider peacekeeping part of Canadian identity. This association of Canada with peacekeeping began in the 1950s when Lester B. Pearson, who later became Prime Minister, suggested to the UN that it establish a peacekeeping force. In 1957, Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for proposing the idea.

Over the next 40 years, Canada participated in more UN peace-keeping missions than any other country. In the early 2000s, however, Canada began to direct its participation to US- and NATO-led missions, as, for example, in Afghanistan and Libya.

Now, the Trudeau government wants to renew Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping.

  • Last week it announced that Canada will be sending troops and military helicopters to the West African country of Mali, to take part in the UN peacekeeping mission there.
  • The government also confirmed plans to send military transport aircraft to Entebbe, Uganda, to support UN operations in the region.

Given this reengagement with peacekeeping, now might be a good time to consider questions such as the following:

  • What exactly is “UN peacekeeping”?
  • How is it related to peacemaking?
  • What is its relationship to war-making?

PEACEKEEPING = WAR-MAKING

The concept of peacekeeping, even going back to the 1950s, when Lester Pearson first proposed the idea, has been problematic. It seems to be a clear instance of Orwellian doublethink: “War is peace.”

  • UN peacekeeping is carried out by military personnel—that is soldiers who have been trained to kill.
  • These soldiers have at their disposal all kinds of military hardware, including machine guns and armoured vehicles.
  • The UN peacekeeping principle of “Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate” leaves plenty of room for the use of force.

In Orwell’s 1984, doublethink—the act of “holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them” as correct—is a tool used by the ruling elite to control the minds of citizens. Even though Oceania is endlessly at war, citizens believe their country is working for peace.

ENDLESS WAR

Canada has been endlessly at war since 2001: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria. While the Trudeau government sounds less belligerent than its predecessor, it is, sadly, making as much, if not more war. For example:

  • The Trudeau government has twice extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria, most recently until March 31, 2019.
  • It has also sent troops to Latvia as part of a NATO force to deter “Russian aggression.”
  • It approved a $15 billion deal to sell combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
  • In 2017, it increased Canada’s military spending by 70% over the next decade.
  • It voted against a UN plan to ban nuclear weapons.

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

  • War is big business. It is very profitable for Canadian arms manufacturers, making them between $2 and 3 billion a year in military exports.
  • Who loses? Ordinary citizens everywhere.

PEACEMAKING

Peacemaking means working to prevent or to stop war through non-violent means. It also means working to make war obsolete. It requires what the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace calls “a transformation of values…from violence and warfighting to nonviolence and peace.”

What would a peacemaking Canada look like? A peacemaking Canada would:

  • Make the diplomatic resolution of conflicts its top international priority—rather than rushing off to war under US- or NATO-led missions or in UN military interventions, otherwise known as “peacekeeping missions.”
  • Stop supporting the manufacture and export of weapons—such as the combat vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia.
  • Get out of NATO—a US-led, aggressive military alliance, that perpetuates violence across the globe.
  • Work for the elimination of nuclear weapons—weapons whose existence make nuclear war all too likely.
  • Replace the Ministry of Defence with a Ministry of Peace—a ministry that would specialize in preventative diplomacy, non-violent conflict resolution, and peace research.

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE 

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ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Posted by strattof on March 8, 2018

Each year since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set the hands of its Doomsday Clock to show how close humanity is to annihilating itself.

Each second closer to midnight brings us nearer to destroying ourselves with our own technologies. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons.

On January 25, 2018, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced it had moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight, 30 seconds closer than it was in 2017 and the closest to catastrophe since the height of the Cold War.

2018 marks the 73rd anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs instantly killed at least 140,000 people, mainly civilians. The death toll continued to rise significantly in the following years and survivors are still today suffering from the effects of radiation.

73 years after those horrific events, the threat of nuclear weapons still hangs heavily over humanity.

THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

NUCLEAR DESTRUCTION

Today’s nuclear weapons are many times stronger than those the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. B83, the most powerful nuclear weapon currently in the US arsenal, is 75 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The US has 650 B83s.

NUCLEAR STATES

  • Today, nine nations possess nuclear weapons: Russia, the US, France, China, Britain, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. Together these states have some 15,000 nuclear warheads. Moreover, all are expanding or “modernizing” their nuclear weapons programs.
  • 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

NUCLEAR THREATS

The threat of nuclear disaster is 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
  • 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

This is a dangerous time, but the danger is of our own making. Humankind has invented the implements of apocalypse; so can it invent the methods of controlling and eventually eliminting them.—Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

BANNING NUCLEAR WEAPONS

NUCLEAR WEAPON BAN TREATY

In 2017, 122 countries voted at the UN to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Recognizing the “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences” of their use, the treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, and possession of nuclear weapons.

2017 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

Here’s more good news: The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition that has been advocating for a strong and effective nuclear weapons ban since 2007.

THE BAD NEWS

Canada did not sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons. 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.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

Here’s an excerpt from the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, delivered on behalf of ICAN by Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor, on December 10, 2017. To listen to the whole speech, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1daV8n6fTY

The story of nuclear weapons will have an ending, and it is up to us what that ending will be. Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us? One of these things will happen….  

To all citizens of the world: Stand with us and demand your government side with humanity and sign this treaty. We will not rest until all States have joined.

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE

CONTACT POLITICAL LEADERS

  • Let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want Canada to sign the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty: trudeau@parl.gc.ca
  • Send the same message to your MP:

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

Andrew Scheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca

LEARN MORE ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Books

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, by Daniel Ellsberg (2017)

Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System, by Jim Harding (2007)

Film

Dr. StrangeloveOr How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, by Stanley Kubrick

ENTER THE 2018 PEACE SYMBOL CONTEST

  • Create a peace symbol on any surface: for example, a sidewalk using chalk; a piece of clothing; a cake or cookies using icing.
  • Take a photo of your peace symbol.
  • Email the photo to makingpeace@sasktel.net

You will, in return, receive a peace gift and become eligible to win a major peace prize. The deadline is midnight August 31, 2018.

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CITY OF REGINA 2018 BUDGET

Posted by strattof on March 8, 2018

ENDING HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA

In the 2016 municipal election, Mayor Fougere ran on a platform of ending homelessness. In his words: “We need to provide more housing and we need to end homelessness. Those are the major things I want to see happen.

On February 27, 2018, City Council passed its 2nd budget since that election.  For the 2nd year in a row, there is no money for Housing First, the Mayor’s preferred solution to Regina’s homelessness crisis, and little if any money (“up to $2.5 million in capital grants”) for affordable rental housing. WE WANT CHANGE!

HOMELESS IN REGINA

  • The average monthly rent for one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $935, hardly affordable for a full-time minimum wage worker earning $1,899.73 per month. The commonly accepted definition of “affordable housing” is housing that costs a household 30% or less of its income.
  • Since 2016, the names on the Regina Registry of Homeless People has more than doubled, growing from 240 to 539 names.
  • This figure does not include Regina’s hidden homeless—people who are double-bunking or couch-surfing—numbers that would double or even triple the homeless figure.
  • Regina’s shelters are filled to capacity.
  • Homelessness is too often a death sentence. According to new statistics released by the coroner’s office, at least 146 people died due to exposure in Saskatchewan over the past decade.

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

  • A vastly disproportionate number of homeless people in Regina are Indigenous, 75% according to a 2015 study.
  • This might be a good time to remember that Regina is located on Treaty 4 territory.
  • There will be no reconciliation until there is justice!

YET ANOTHER PLAN

Instead of taking concrete action to end homelessness, Mayor Fougere has put his considerable weight behind the development of yet another plan to end homelessness in Regina. There has already been an overabundance of such plans: the 2007 Regina Community Plan on Homelessness the 2013 Regina Comprehensive Housing Strategy the Mayor’s two Housing Summits the Mayor’s Housing Commission. Did nothing come out of these?

$60,000 of City of Regina taxpayers’ money has already been spent on this new plan—to hire consultants. This money could have been used to house homeless people.

The plan won’t be released until September. In the meantime, more and more Regina residents are experiencing the misery and suffering and injustice of homelessness!

2018 REGINA BUDGET

REGINA POLICE SERVICE A BUDGET PRIORITY

The same City of Regina budget that provides little or no money for ending homelessness has allocated oodles of money to Regina Police Service (RPS).

  • $88 million for operating expenses: That’s $3.4 million more than the 2017 budget and 20% of the City’s operating budget, the most of any budget item.
  • $375,000 for the purchase of a tank
  • $12 million in 2018 for the purchase of the former STC depot

Why would we do this, especially at a time when a growing number of Regina residents have no roof over their heads?

“PUBLIC SAFETY”

According to the RPS website, “ensuring public safety is the primary goal of the RPS.” It would seem that, from the perspective of City officials, “public” does not include homeless people. Being homeless is inherently unsafe. Indeed, homelessness kills!

Moreover, as RPS Chief Evan Bray has often stated, reducing homelessness is an effective crime reduction strategy.

ENDING HOMELESS

There needs to be a shift in budget priorities. Here are two modest proposals:

  1. Invest the $175,000 for the tank in Regina’s Housing First program.
  2. Begin to defund the RPS. We keep handing the police ever increasing amounts of money and nothing changes. Let’s reduce, rather than increase, the RPS operating budget by $3.4 million this year and do so annually for the foreseeable future.

The money saved can also be put into Regina’s Housing First program until Regina reaches a state of functional zero homelessness—Mayor Fougere’s goal in ending Homelessness in Regina.

 

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JUSTICE FOR COLTEN

Posted by strattof on February 17, 2018

This pamphlet is in memory of Colten Boushie, a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation, who was killed on August 9, 2016, by a gunshot to the back of his head from a handgun held by Gerald Stanley. Colten was 22 years old. Our thoughts are with his family.

The “not guilty” verdict reached last weekend in the Stanley murder trial shocked many of us. It should not have! If we are paying even the slightest bit of attention, we would know by now that there is no justice for Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan or Canada—a province and a country founded on racism which, 150 years later, remains entrenched in our society.

How is it possible to move forward? Perhaps the verdict in this trial will be the spark that will ignite meaningful change when it comes to justice for Indigenous peoples. But we must work at it!

INDIGENOUS LIVES MATTER!

THERE WILL BE NO RECONCILIATION UNTIL THERE IS JUSTICE.

RACISM IN SASKATCHEWAN

The tragic death of Colten Boushie shines a light on racism in our judicial system and society.

PRESUMED GUILTY

When the RCMP went to Red Pheasant Cree Nation to inform Colten’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, of his death, officers behaved as if Colten’s family members were criminals: ●RCMP vehicles surrounded the family trailer. ●Officers then searched the surrounding area and the home, rummaging through the family possessions. Some of the officers had their guns drawn. ●An officer ordered a grieving Baptiste to “get it together.” ●He also asked Baptiste if she had been drinking.

MORE RACISM

  • The RCMP’s first media release linked the news of Colten’s death to a recent surge in thefts in the area—providing, as FISN Chief Bobby Cameron put it, “just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified.”
  • In the days following Colten’s death, a flood of racist hate-filled comments appeared on social media, many of them promoting violence against Indigenous peoples.
  • In March 2017, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities voted 93% in favour of lobbying the federal government for more relaxed self-defence laws.

 PRESUMED INNOCENT

  • The RCMP has laid no hate-speech charges against those who posted hate-speech online following Colten’s death.
  • In an internal investigation, the RCMP cleared itself of any wrong-doing when its officers visited Colten’s home immediately following his death.

AN ALL WHITE JURY

It was an all-white jury that found Gerald Stanley not guilty. How did this happen? Indigenous peoples make up over 25% of the Battlefords’ population.

During the selection of jurors, the defence challenged any potential juror who looked Indigenous. Our legal system allows the use of racist challenges to eliminate jurors.

TODAY I GRIEVE FOR MY COUNTRY

by Senator Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission–in response to the verdict in the Stanley murder trial

Today I grieve for my country.
I grieve for a family
that has seen only injustice
from the moment a farmer with a handgun
(why does a farmer need a handgun?)
killed their son.
I grieve for a mother
who saw the police raid her house
and treat her like a criminal
and not the victim she was.
I grieve for other mothers
with empty arms
who are reminded of their own loss
at the hands of others
and the lack of answers that haunt them still.
I grieve for the youth
who now see no hope,
and whose hunger for justice
gives rise to anger.
I grieve for the children
whose lives now have
one more jeopardy.
I grieve for the elders
who have seen this before.
And whose wisdom holds no means
to get through this evenly.
I may grieve for some time.
But then again…
we have been grieving a long time.
This is why
we can’t “just get over it and move on”.
My country won’t let me.

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR THE CITY OF REGINA

Posted by strattof on December 28, 2017

In four days’ time, it will be 2018. A new year is a time for new beginnings.  

Let’s reflect on the changes we need to bring about in our city to make life better for all Regina citizens.

MAYOR FOUGERE: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION 

End homelessness in Regina.

In the 2016 municipal election, Mayor Fougere ran on a platform of ending homelessness. In his words: “We need to provide more housing and we need to end homelessness. Those are the major things I want to see happen.” These are encouraging words.

The Mayor’s preferred solution to Regina’s homeleness crisis is Housing First, a program that finds permanent housing for people experienceing homelessness and offers them support. The trouble is the Mayor refuses to put any money into Housing First.

Currently, Regina’s Housing First program only receives federal funding—a mere $1,200,000 million annually. As a result, the program has only managed to house 53 people. Meanwhile, the list of homeless people keeps growing.

In August, Mayor Fougere brought a motion before City Council to develop a plan to end homelessness. There has already been an overabundance of such plans: ●the 2007 Regina Community Plan on Homelessness ●the 2013 Regina Comprehensive Housing Strategy ●the Mayor’s two Housing Summits ●the Mayor’s Housing Commission. Did nothing come out of these?

Now is the time for action, not more planning!

Here’s a motion on ending homelessness Mayor Fougere could make at the first 2018 meeting of City Council: that the City of Regina commit to allocating $1,250,000 annually to the Housing First program until there are no more homeless people in Regina.

$1,250,000 is not an arbitrary figure. It is the total of the amounts City Council recently awarded to sports facilitites: $1.2 million to the Brandt Centre to support hosting the 2018 Memorial Cup; $50,000 to the Saskatchewan Volleyball Association to support hosting the 2019 Volleyball Canada National Championships.

Even in hard times, there does always seem to be money for sports facilities. Let’s demonstrate the same concern for eliminat-ing the suffering and misery that is homelessness in Regina!

Let Mayor Fougere know there have been more than enough plans to end homelessness in Regina and you want the City to take concrete action: mayor@regina.ca or 306-777-7339.

BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

 Start defunding Regina Police Service.

In 2017, the operational expenses of Regina Police Service (RPS) saw a 7.2% increase over the 2016 level and the RPS budget consumed a whopping 17.7% of the city’s operating budget. How much of the City’s 2018 budget will the RPS consume?

Police spending keeps increasing, yet nothing changes. Money needs to be taken out of the RPS and invested in reducing the social causes of crime.

Ask Board of Police Commissioners chair, Mayor Fougere, to begin defunding the RPS. How about reducing its budget by 7.2%  for a few years. The money saved can be put into Regina’s Housing First program. As studies show, reducing homelessness is an effective crime reduction strategy. Such an investment would also help Mayor Fougere keep his election promise to end homelessness: mayor@regina.ca or 306-777-7339.

REGINA PUBLIC LIBRARY: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

Encourage all Regina citizens to use the library.

Central Library has removed the benches that used to be on the Lorne Street side of the Library to the 12th Avenue side, where nobody wants to sit on them. Central Library also seems to have implemented a new policy of banning people from congregating in the Library lobby.

These changes suggest that the Library wants to discourage people who fall into one or more of the following categories from being in the vicinity of the Library: poor/Indigenous/youth.

Tell Regina Public Library Director, Jeff Barber, you want the Library ●to return the benches to their original location on Lorne Street and ●to stop banning people from congregating in the Central Library lobby.

Also ask Mr. Barber to wave Library fines as a New Year’s gesture of goodwill. Many Library patrons cannot afford to buy books or subscribe to Netflix: jbarber@reginalibrary.ca or 306-777-6099.

REGINA BOARD OF EDUCATION: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

Rename Davin School

Davin School was named after Nicholas Flood Davin, the author of the 1879 Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds. In this report, Davin urged the government of John A. Macdonald to establish residential schools in Canada.

The 2015 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission highlights the role Davin played in implementing the residential school system—a system it labels “cultural genocide.”

Tell Regina Board of Education chair, Katherine Gagner, that we cannot continue to have a school named after the man who laid the groundwork for the genocidal residential school system: katherine.gagne@rbe.sk.ca or 306.585.6601

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RACISM IN SASKATCHEWAN

Posted by strattof on December 6, 2017

Kudos to the Roughriders for locking arms during the playing of O Canada at several games in Mosaic Stadium They did the right thing in showing their solidarity with NFL players and their protest against racism.

Protests cross borders. Racism too is a cross-border phenomenon. There is plenty of racial injustice in Canada to speak out against.

In Saskatchewan, anti-Indigenous racism is especially prevalent, embedded in every aspect of life in our province: justicechild welfare education income employment elected representation. It even affects life expectancy.

A first step in combatting racism is to recognize and acknowledge its existence. Only then can we take the next step: standing up against racism both as individuals and as a society.

THE COLTEN BOUSHIE CASE

Colten Boushie, a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was 22-years-old when, on August 9, 2016, the car in which he and four friends were travelling had a flat tire and they pulled into a farmyard near Biggar. Colten was shot and killed.

The property owner, Gerald Stanley, has been charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded “not guilty.”

The case shines a light on racism in Saskatchewan.

PRESUMED GUILTY

When the RCMP went to Red Pheasant Cree Nation to inform Colten’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, of his death, officers behaved as if Colten’s family members were criminals.

  • RCMP vehicles surrounded the family trailer.
  • Officers then searched the surrounding area and the home, rummaging through the family possessions. Some of the officers had their guns drawn.
  • An officer ordered a grieving Baptiste to “get it together.”
  • He also asked Baptiste if she had been drinking.

MORE RACISM

  • The RCMP’s first media release linked the news of Colten’s death to a recent surge in thefts in the area—providing, as FISN Chief Bobby Cameron put it, “just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified.”
  • In the days following Colten’s death, a flood of racist comments appeared on social media, many of them promoting violence against Indigenous people.
  • In January 2017, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities voted 93% in favour of an expansion of property owners’ rights to defend their property.   

PRESUMED INNOCENT

  • The RCMP has laid no hate-speech charges against those who posted hate-speech online following Colten’s death.
  • Earlier this month, in an internal investigation, the RCMP cleared itself of any wrong-doing when its officers visited Colten’s home immediately following his death.

RACISM IN SASKATCHEWAN: 6 KEY FACTS

Systemic racism constitutes a huge barrier for Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.

  1. Saskatchewan has an Indigenous child poverty rate of 50%, compared to a non-Indigenous rate of 13%.
  2. 85% of Saskatchewan children in foster care are Indigenous.
  3. The unemployment rate for Indigenous people in Saskatche-wan is 12% compared to 3.8 % for non-Indigenous people.
  4. The mayors of Saskatchewan’s nine biggest cities are all white. Many of those cities, including Regina, have all-white city councils. 99 of the province’s 101 judges are white. Indigenous people make up 16% of Saskatchewan’s population.
  5. Indigenous people in Saskatchewan are 33% more likely to be incarcerated than their non-Indigenous counterparts and to be sentenced to more than twice the jail time.
  6. The life expectancy of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan is 6 years less than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts. 

MINISTER OF EDUCATION

According to Saskatchewan Education Minister, Bronwyn Eyre, there is too much “infusion” of Indigenous history in the school curriculum. In fact, if we are ever going to root out the racism and the impoverishment it systemically creates for the vast majority Indigenous peoples in our province, there must be an even greater “infusion” of Indigenous history into the school curriculum.

How many of us who have been celebrating Canada 150 know

  • That Canada’s first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald used a policy of deliberate starvation of Indigenous peoples in the area that is now Saskatchewan, to force the chiefs to sign treaties, giving up their land to save their people from starvation?
  • Or that many Treaties, including Treaty 4 that takes in most of southern Saskatchewan, including Regina, promised a school on every reserve. Instead, the Canadian government implemented the genocidal residential school system?

STAND UP AGAINST RACISM

  1. If you see something, say something. Speak up when you see racism occurring and interrupt in a safe way.

I would encourage Canadians…when they hear a racist story or joke… to challenge it, and to not accept it. That’s how you’re going to put an end to racism and discrimination in Canada.” Perry Bellegard, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, comment about the Colten Boushie case

  1. Tell Saskatchewan Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre to implement Call To Action #62 of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students”: eyre@saskparty.com or 306-477-4740.
  2. Tell federal Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale that an independent civilian oversight board, and not the RCMP, should conduct investigations of the force and its members: goodale@parl.gc.ca or 306-585-2202.

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WANTED: FAIR BANKING

Posted by strattof on December 6, 2017

Many low and moderate income people use extremely expensive payday loans to meet their monthly budget. In Saskatchewan a one week $100 payday loan could cost $23.  That amounts to a yearly interest rate of over 1100%, much greater than the 19% to 28% rate credit card users typically pay.

Some low income borrowers get caught in a debt trap – taking a loan they cannot afford and then extending the loan or taking another loan to pay off the original loan.

This week Making Peace Vigil joins a national campaign aimed at ending predatory lending practices. We are encouraging credit unions and chartered banks to make mainstream banking fairer and improve their services to low and moderate income Canadians.    

PAYDAY LENDING IN SASKATCHEWAN

A payday loan is a high cost, small, short term loan provided without security. The loan can be up to $1,500 and has a term of less than 62 days.

Loans are payable on or after the next regular pay date and agreements are to be in writing. The provincial government limits lenders to charging no more than $23 in fees for every $100 advanced.  For example, if you are short $300 until payday, a loan could cost $69.  Defaulting on payment could cost additional interest at a 30% annual rate and an additional fee of up to $50.

In February 2018, the provincial government will be lowering these fees to $17 and $25. However, even these reduced fees are exorbitant.

As of July 2017, there were 58 licensed payday lenders in the province, with 14 operating in Regina. Those without bank accounts may come to rely on these very expensive payday loans.

BANKING PROBLEMS: LOW & MODERATE INCOMES

  • Limited or no access to banking: Many people with low incomes are unable to cash cheques except at payday lenders.
  • Inadequate identification to open an account.
  • Lack of access to a secure computer.
  • Low or no access to affordable and safe loans and financial services.
  • Holding cheques until funds clear banking system.
  • Not sufficient funds (NSF) charge of $45. 

MAKING BANKING FAIRER

THE BANK ACT

The federal government is currently reviewing Canada’s Bank Act with changes scheduled for 2019.  Changes to make banking and financial services more accessible and affordable for those with low and moderate incomes include the following.

Mandate banks and credit unions to:

  • Provide access to low interest credit for emergencies.
  • Provide low interest overdraft loans for times when you need money but have none in your account.
  • Eliminate holds on cheques so funds are deposited in your account when you cash a cheque.
  • Reduce NSF fees from $45 to $10.
  • Create a national anti-predatory lending strategy.
  • Make it easier for people with low incomes to open accounts. 

POSTAL BANKING.

With over 6,000 post office locations across Canada, having banking services at post offices would make banking more accessible, especially to those in small towns, rural areas, and Indigenous communities. And financial products for low income earners would offer a genuine alternative to payday lenders.

Postal banking has been a success in many countries. It’s time to bring postal banking to Canada.

WHAT WE CAN DO

  1. Send emails to Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau demanding fair banking for all Canadians: justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca; Morneau@parl.gc.ca

Further information and an online form for a letter are available  at the Acorn Canada website: https://www.acorncanada.org/take-action/fight-fair-banking

  1. Talk to your MP and encourage him to support fair banking and postal banking in Saskatchewan and Canada.

Regina ‒ Lewvan: Erin Weir, 306-790-4747

Regina ‒ Qu’Appelle: Andrew Scheer, 306-332-2575

Regina ‒ Wascana: Hon. Ralph Goodale, 306-585-2202

3. If you have concerns about a loan you have made contact Saskatchewan’s Consumer Credit Division at 306-787-6700. They may be able to help you.

The Fair Banking campaign is organized and sponsored by Acorn Canada: Uniting Communities for Justice.   https://www.acorncanada.org/

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STOP LINE 3

Posted by strattof on November 4, 2017

In 2016, the Trudeau government approved a new Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. This pipeline will run right through southern Saskatchewan, carrying toxic tar sands oil from Alberta on route to US refineries. A larger diameter pipeline, it will more than double the capacity of the old Line 3 to transport tar sands oil.

In making this decision, Prime Minister Trudeau privileged the interests of the fossil fuel industry over the concerns of many Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians across the country.

He also broke three of his election promises:

  1. To make Canada a world climate leader: If Line 3 goes through, Canada will not be able to meet the commitments it made under the Paris Climate Agreement.
  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.

The matter is urgent! At this very moment, the Saskatchewan portion of Line 3 is being built in the area approaching Regina.

For all our sake, we need to stop this pipeline!

LINE 3 PIPELINE BASICS

  1. Line 3 will transport tar sands oil from Hardisty Alberta to Superior Wisconsin for transport to refinery markets in the US.
  2. In order to side-step permit procedures, Enbridge calls Line 3 a replacement pipeline. But it is not. It is a new, larger diameter pipeline with a different route in a number of areas.
  3. Line 3 will transport nearly one million barrels of toxic tar sands oil per day.
  4. The capacity of Line 3 is even greater than that of the much higher-profile Keystone XL pipeline, which, should it be built now it has Trump’s approval, will carry 700,000 barrels a day.
  5. Line 3 crosses Saskatchewan, passing through Treaty 6 and Treaty 4 territories.
  6. Line 3 passes just a few kilometres south of Regina. It also
  • Runs through or near a number of towns, farms, and First Nations;
  • Crosses Saskatchewan’s vulnerable and shrinking prairie grasslands;
  • Crisscrosses 14 watercourses, including two major Rivers, tunneling under the South Saskatchewan River south of Outlook, and under the Qu’Appelle River near Bethune, and threatening all downstream land, water, and communities.
  1. Line 3 is owned by Enbridge, a Calgary-based corporation. Enbridge includes among its shareholders all major Canadian banks: RBC, BMO, TD, CIBC, and Bank of Nova Scotia.

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN

Pipelines are accidents waiting to happen.

  • In 2015 – 2016 there were 128 pipeline spills in Canada.
  • On average, 20 pipeline spills occur annually in Saskatchewan.
  • In 2016, a massive spill from a Huskie pipeline leaked oil into the Northern Saskatchewan, River, contaminating the drinking water of 70,000 people.

Like all pipeline companies, Enbridge claims its pipelines are safe. Its safety records tell a different story.

  • Enbridge is responsible for the largest spill in US history. In 2010 an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in Michigan, spilling 27,000 barrels of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.
  • Between1999 and 2013, there were 1068 Enbridge spills, an average of 71 spills a year.

Oil spills contaminate water, land, and air. They also kill wildlife and sicken people. Tar sands oil is particularly toxic as it must be thinned with thousands of chemicals to make it run through a pipe.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS

Line 3 is an environmental hazard as it will expand tar sands production.

  • Tar sands production poisons the water, air, land, and people in surrounding First Nations communities.
  • Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada, thus driving dangerous climate change.
  • 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded—until 2016 beat it by a wide margin. Now 2017 is on track to set another heat record.
  • Climate scientists warn that, if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must leave at least 85% of tar sands oil in the ground.

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

EARTH PROTECTORS

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 catastrophe.
  • That climate leaders do not approve new tar sands pipelines. Also let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want a) the National Energy Board to review the Line 3 pipeline project and b) his government to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to “free, prior, and informed consent.”

justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.

  1. Ask your bank if it has investments in Enbridge.
  2. Learn more about Line 3: https://www.stopline3.org/

 

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END POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN

Posted by strattof on October 27, 2017

Over the past 18 months, the provincial government has announced many cuts to social programs and public services. These include:

  • Cuts to Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID), “an income support program for people with significant and enduring disabilities.”
  • Cuts to the High Calorie Special Needs Diet program
  • Cuts to the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement, a program that supplements the income of low income families with children
  • Cuts to the Transitional Employment Allowance
  • The elimination of funeral service coverage for poor people
  • The elimination of the grant for children’s school supplies for people on social assistance
  • The elimination of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company
  • The elimination of funding for public libraries in Regina and Saskatoon and more than half the funding for regional libraries 

The government also announced it was hiking income assistance over-payment recovery rates, the “overpayment” rarely the fault of the client.

Such cuts and hikes are an attack on the most vulnerable people in our society. Is this the kind of province we want to live in?

SUCCESSFUL RESISTANCE

Many people in Saskatchewan want to live in a more socially just society. We have been hard at work ever since the first cuts were announced. Together, we have achieved some victories.

Success stories include:

  • A reversal of the cuts to the SAID program for those currently on the program: The cuts still apply to all new applicants and to anyone who changes address.
  • A reversal of the cut of the grant for children’s school supplies
  • A partial reversal of the cut to funeral coverage: Now the government will pay $2,800, rather than $3,800.
  • A reinstatement of library funding for this year

As well, the provincial government announced just last week that it is reversing its planned 1% reduction to the corporate income tax rate—a corporate tax break that exposed the hypocrisy of the government’s claim that we all have to tighten our belts in the face of the provinces’ $1.2 billion deficit.

These are huge victories. We must celebrate them and use them to give added momentum to our struggle for social justice.

REVERSE ALL THE CUTS

A first step is to demand that the government reverse all the cuts. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of those cuts so we can get a sense of the impact they are having on people.

TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE

The government has cut the allowance for people on social assistance who are looking for work by $20 a month. This may not seem like much. However, it means a lot to some people. For example, a single person looking for work in Regina will now have to live on $563 a month, plus capped rates for utilities.

SASKATCHEWAN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY (STC)

  • 70% of STC riders were low-income.
  • Many First Nations used STC. In BC, the absence of a rural bus service resulted in the Highway of Tears.
  • 300 rural cancer patients used STC to get to their medical appointments.
  • Many newly-released prisoners relied on STC to return to their communities.

REVERSING THE CUTS IS NOT ENOUGH

Getting the government to reverse all the cuts is a good first step. But it will not be enough to end poverty in Saskatchewan.

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

The facts of social misery and injustice are increasingly there for us all to see—if we are willing to look.

Here are two of those facts:

  • A single person on the SAID program living in Regina receives $1,064 a month as a general living allowance to cover rent, food, and all other expenses. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $981.
  • Officially, Regina has 458 homeless people. That’s the figure on the YWCA’s Registry of Homeless People in Regina. The actual figure is in the 1000s. A vastly disproportionate number of Regina’s homeless population is Indigenous, 75% according to a 2015 study.

ENDING POVERTY

This is our next project: Ending poverty in Saskatchewan. Here are a few suggestions on how we might do it—and pay for it.

  1. Increase income support payments so that everyone in the province has an income above the poverty line.
  2. Adopt a Living Wage policy. A living wage is the amount two working parents, with two children, each needs to earn in order to meet the family’s basic requirements and ensure it does not slip into poverty. Regina’s living wage is $16.46 an hour.
  3. Expand quality affordable housing.
  4. Implement a Saskatchewan Poverty Elimination Act which recognizes in enforceable legislation the right of everyone to an adequate income, adequate housing, and fair wages for a decent living.
  5. Raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

END POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN

  • Contact Premier Brad Wall and tell him you want his government to reverse all the cuts and then to start working on ending poverty in Saskatchewan: 306-787-9433 or premier@gov.sk.ca or Premier’s Office, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina,, S4S 0B3.
  • Send the same message to Paul Merriman, Minister of Social Services: 306-787-3661 or minister@gov.sk.ca or Room 303, Legislative Building, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina, S4S 0B3                                                    

RING THOSE PHONES!

SEND THOSE EMAILS!

WRITE THOSE LETTERS!

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PIPELINES: THE DEBATE

Posted by strattof on October 19, 2017

Earlier this month, TransCanada Corp. announced the cancellation of the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project. The pipeline would have carried 1.1 million barrels a day of Alberta and Saskatchewan crude, mostly high-carbon tar sands oil, to New Brunswick, where it would have been loaded on tankers for export.

The cancellation of Energy East has prompted strong reaction.

ANGER: From the perspective of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, it is a complete disaster. Laying the blame squarely on the Trudeau government and its new environmental regulations, Wall has even suggested the project’s failure could undermine Canadian unity: “Today is not a good day for Canada. It is not a good day for the federation…. For the West to continue on like this in our federal system is the equivalent of having Stockholm syndrome.”

JUBILATION: Meanwhile, many Indigenous people and organizations, along with non-Indigenous environmentalists, are celebrating the demise of Energy East as a victory in the struggle against catastrophic climate change and for the protection of the planet from further environmental destruction.

WHERE DO YOU STAND ON PIPELINES?

CANCELLATION OF ENERGY EAST

Why did TransCanada cancel Energy East? “Changed circumstances” is the answer TransCanada is giving. Brad Wall is more explicit. In his view, it is new Trudeau government regulatory hurdles. The Trudeau government, on the other hand, says it was “a business decision.”

The truth appears to include all of the above, plus a few additional reasons. Here are the six most likely reasons, listed in order of importance, for the demise of the Energy East pipeline project.

  1. COLLAPSE OF OIL PRICES: When TransCanada first announced Energy East in 2013, the price of oil was nearly $100 a barrel. Today it is about $50 a barrel.
  2. OTHER PIPELINES: US President Donald Trump is likely to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, another TransCanada project, as he has already granted it a presidential permit. In 2016, the Trudeau government approved the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3 pipelines. Together, these pipelines will provide sufficient capacity to meet demand.
  3. NATURAL GAS: To save money on Energy East, Trans-Canada planned to convert 3,000 km of an existing natural gas pipeline. Now there is a boom in natural gas production, which is cheaper to produce and transport than tar sands oil.
  4. REGULATORY CHANGES: In 2016, the Trudeau government revised the National Energy Board’s review process to include upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions in its assessment.
  5. THE END OF OIL: To be cost effective, pipeline infra-structure has to be in use for at least 30 years. Oil industry executives likely know there is no future for new pipelines in a world where the need to transition away from the use of fossil fuels has become so obviously apparent.
  6. PIPELINE PROTESTS: Protests occurred regularly along the proposed route of the Energy East Pipeline, some of them in Regina. The combined efforts of the protesters pushed the project’s start date back by several years—long enough for the price of oil to plummet and regulatory changes to be imposed. From this perspective, activism is a, if not the key factor in the cancellation of Energy East.

CLIMATE DISASTERS

In 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen issued his first warning about global warming: If we did not make significant reductions in CO2 emissions, we would face the worst effects of climate change.  Over the past year, those worst effects have been much in evidence:

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

All of these disasters have a direct connection to global warming. We need to treat them as a wake-up call about the need to take action.

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!

The pipeline struggle isn’t over yet. While Energy East has been defeated, there are still four more tar sands pipelines to go: Kinder Morgan, from Edmonton AB to Burnaby BC; Keystone XL, from Hardisty AB to Texas; Line 3, from Hardisty AB to Wisconsin; Line 10 expansion, from Hamilton ON to Buffalo NY.

None of these pipelines faces any regulatory hurdles in Canada, so it’s up to us to stop them. The matter is urgent. Line 3, which runs through Saskatchewan, passing just south of Regina, is at this very moment in the process of being constructed.

If any of these pipelines goes ahead, the result will be the expan-sion of tar sands development. Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of CO2 emissions in Canada.

THE END OF OIL

It isn’t going to happen tomorrow—or even next year. But, unless we are crazy enough to think we can afford an increase in global temperature of 4°C, it will have to happen soon. Now is the time to start getting off fossil fuels and making the transition to renewable sources of energy.

In the meantime, the Trudeau government is still subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $34 billion annually, and Brad Wall continues to be a vocal champion of the fossil fuel industry.

CLIMATE ACTION

CONTACT POLITICAL LEADERS

  • Tell Prime Minister Trudeau you want his government to review all pipeline projects and to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry: justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211.
  • Tell Premier Wall we need to start planning for a post-oil economy. The status quo is not sustainable: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Ask the two NDP leadership candidates, Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon, where they stand on pipelines:

saskatoonmeewasin@ndpcaucus.sk.ca or 306-787-7388

t.wotherspoon.mla@sasktel.net or 306-565-2444

LEARN MORE ABOUT OIL EXTRACTION IN SASKATCHEWAN & RESISTANCE TO IT

  • Watch Crude Power: An Investigation into Oil, Money, and Influence in Saskatchewan, by University of Regina School of Journalism students: crudepower.jschool.ca
  • Read Climate Politics in the Patch: Engaging Saskatchewan’s Oil-Producing Communities on Climate Change Issues, by Emily Eaton, CCPA Saskatchewan.
  • Listen to No No No Keshagesh (which means “greedy guts”), by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Buffy tells us what we should say to oil and pipeline companies and the governments that kowtow to them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKmAb1gNN74

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