Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

HOMELESS IN REGINA

Posted by strattof on September 23, 2018

Regina’s homelessness crisis began more than a decade ago, in 2006, when rents began to rise sharply. Every year since, the crisis has worsened.

Today it has reached such disastrous proportions that Carmichael Outeach, Regina’s main housing support agency, has put out a call for donations of tents to give to people in need of shelter.

Over the past several months, Carmichael has been forced to turn people away with nothing.

  • There is no affordable rental housing in Regina.
  • Regina homeless shelters are full to over-flowing.

That’s where the tents come in: they are better than nothing. In the words of Carmichael’s Executive Director Cora Sellers: “We’ve given them to people who have nowhere to go at the end of the day because the shelters are full and they can’t get help from anywhere else….It’s a last resort so that they have some privacy and some form of shelter.” 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO END HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA?

HOMELESS IN REGINA: 6 KEY FACTS

  1. 286 people were identified as homeless in Regina’s 2018 homelessness count. This figure does not include the hidden homeless: people who are double-bunking or couch-surfing.
  2. Apartments are available in Regina, but for many people they are unaffordable. Affordable housing is defined as housing that costs residents 30% or less of their income.
  3. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $983, not affordable for a full-time minimum wage worker earning $22,800 per year, much less someone living on Social Assistance.
  4. Social Assistance only provides $459 for housing for a single person. There is no decent housing in Regina for $459.
  5. On July 1, the province cut off new applications for its Rental Housing Suppplement—a program that helped low income families and people with disabilities pay their rent.
  6. Without the supplement, a family with two children is left with only $711 for rent. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment in Regina is $1,141. 

SHELTERS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

Regina has six emergency shelters, with 152 beds in total. That’s not even enough beds to accommodate the 286 people identified in the 2018 homelessness count, not to mention the hidden homeless.

But emergency shelters are not the answer to Regina’s homelessness crisis.

  • Shelters are often not safe.
  • Shelters do not allow for self-reliance or a sense of dignity.
  • Shelters are not homes. A home is more than a place to sleep. It is a place where one can be any time one chooses and where one can keep one’s possessions—conditions not met by shelters, where, typically, folks have to be out of the building between 9 am and 6 pm, taking all their possessions with them.

What, then, is the solution to Regina’s homelessness crisis?

Tents                                                   NO

Enough money to pay the rent          YES

ENDING HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA

It will take all three levels of government to solve Regina’s homelessness crisis.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

In 2017, the Trudeau government launched a National Housing Strategy, which it promised would fix Canada’s homelessness crisis with $42 billion in spending. Will it?

  • The goal of the strategy is to cut homelessness in half over the next decade. Why only in half?
  • The bulk of the money won’t be available until 2020—after the next federal election. In the meantime, winter is coming.
  • Much of the money depends on provincial matching funding.

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT

With its austerity budgets, the Sask Party government is making Regina’s homelessness crisis worse. The cutting off of the Rental Housing Supplement is only one example. Nor is the provincial government likely to provide matching funding for a federal government housing program.

THE CITY OF REGINA

In 2017, Mayor Michael Fougere brought a motion before City Council: The Plan to End Homelessness in Regina. There has already been an overabundance of such plans: the 2007 Regina Community Plan on Homelessnessthe 2013 Regina Comprehen-sive Housing Strategy the Mayor’s two Housing Summits the Mayor’s Housing Commission. Did nothing come out of these?

Moreover, the City of Regina’s commitment to providing funding to implement the plan depends on the provincial government also providing funding. Is this an escape clause for City Council?

In any case, $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 is slated to be released later this month. So stay tuned.

TAKE ACTION TO END HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA

MARK INTERNATIONAL TENANTS DAY, OCTOBER 1: Attend a gathering in Knox-Met lower hall, 10:30 – 11:30 am, and learn more about issues facing renters in Regina—2340 Victoria Avenue. Tea will be served.

LET PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU KNOW

►You want his government to work to eliminate homelessness in Canada, not just cut it in half. ►You want all the money for the National Housing Strategy to be available immediately. ►You do not want any of the money to be dependent on provincial matching funding.

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

LET PREMIER SCOTT MOE KNOW

►You want his government to accept new applications for the Rental Housing Supplement. ►You want his government to contribute funding to federal and municipal plans to end homelessness.

premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433

LET MAYOR FOUGERE KNOW

►You are tired of plans to end homelessness in Regina. You want action. ►You want City Council to make ending homelessness in Regina a 2019 budget priority. ►You do not want city funding to implement the plan to be dependent on the provincial government providing funding.

mayor@regina.ca or 306-777-7339

 

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PIPELINE PROBLEMS

Posted by strattof on September 23, 2018

Last week, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal overturned the Trudeau government’s approval of the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline, bringing its construction to an abrupt halt with its ruling

  • that the National Energy Board’s review of the project failed to take into account the impact of increased tanker traffic on BC’s marine environment; and
  • that the federal government did not adequately consult with First Nations whose rights are affected by the pipeline. 

The court ruling has prompted strong reaction.

FRUSTRATION & VEXATION

  • The Premiers of Saskatchewan and Alberta are both completely exasperated.
  • Prime Minister Trudeau is so upset that he’s bought the pipeline—with $4.5 billion of our tax dollars.

JUBILATION

Many Indigenous peoples and organizations, along with non-Indigenous environmentalists, are celebrating the court ruling 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?

PROBLEMS WITH PIPELINES

CLIMATE DISASTER

  • The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will carry tar sands oil from Edmonton Alberta to the Vancouver-area BC coast. It will almost triple the pipeline’s capacity, increasing it from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day.
  • Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of CO2 emissions in Canada.
  • For over three decades, climate scientists have been warning us that 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 ● Extreme weather events
  • To be cost effective, pipeline infrastructure has to be in use for at least 30 years.
  • If the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is built, it will stop Canada from keeping its Paris Climate Agreement pledge to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD

PIPELINES

Pipelines are accidents waiting to happen. Kinder Morgan, the former owner of the pipeline that is now ours, claimed its pipelines are safe. Its safety record tells a different story. Since it purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2005 until we bought it in 2018, there were 14 spills along the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Pipeline spills contaminate land, water, and air. They also kill wildlife and sicken people. Tar sands oil is particularly toxic because of the chemicals used to thin the thick sticky oil so it will run through a pipe.

TANKERS

The pipeline expansion will quadruple the number of tankers to more than 400 a year in the area of the Vancouver Harbour. Increased tanker traffic will increase the risk of shipping accidents and hence of tar sands spills in the ocean.

A GREAT BIG THANKS!

We are all in the debt of the Indigenous peoples who have taken the lead in the struggle to protect the land, water, air and climate from the dangers of the Trans Mountain pipeline. THANK YOU!

Together we can stop every pipeline!

SPENDING $4.5+ BILLION

THE TIMELINE

  • In April, Kinder Morgan halted all “non-essential” spending on the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline, citing BC opposition.
  • In May, the Trudeau government announced it would spend $4.5 billion to buy Kinder Morgan’s 65-year old failing, leaky Trans Mountain pipeline.
  • Last week, mere hours after the announcement of the court ruling, the Trudeau government finalized the purchase. In other words, our government just spent $4.5 billion of our tax dollars on a pipeline that may never (and should never) be built!
  • That $4.5 billion does not include the cost of constructing the pipeline expansion, an estimated extra $7.4 billion.

3 BETTER WAYS TO SPEND $4.5+ BILLION

  1. Invest in a clean energy future.
  2. Put in place a national plan, with incentives, to reduce energy consumption.
  3. Help oil workers transition to other forms of employment by creating more jobs in green energy.

STOP LINE 3

The Trudeau government also approved the Enbridge Line 3 pipe-line. Line 3 will carry tar sands oil from Hardisty Alberta to Superior Wisconsin, passing just a few kilometres south of Regina.

We must take action to stop this pipeline!

TAKE ACTION TO STOP PIPELINES

  1. Tell Prime Minister Trudeau
  • You don’t want public money, our money, spent on tar sands pipelines.
  • No matter who is paying for them, you don’t want any new tar sands pipelines.

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

  1. Tell Premier Scott Moe that Saskatchewan must
  • Say “no” to both the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines.
  • Start transitioning to renewable forms of energy.

premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433

  1. Join the Mother Earth Justice Advocates (MEJA) campaign to stop Line 3: motherearthjusticeadvocates@gmail.com 
  2. Learn more about Line 3: https://www.stopline3.org/

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JUSTICE FOR OUR STOLEN CHILDREN: WHY WE SHOULD ALL SUPPORT THE CAMP

Posted by strattof on July 28, 2018

The Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp was set up on the Legislative lawn on February 28. A peaceful camp, it is, as its name suggests, concerned with the over-representation of Indigenous children in Saskatchewan’s child welfare system and of Indigenous youth in provincial prisons.

From the moment the Camp was established, the provincial government has wanted it gone. Government officials have offered a variety of reasons for the camp’s removal:

• Lawn maintenance.
• Space for the Canada Day beer garden.
• Safety concerns.
• Provincial bylaws prohibiting overnight camping, erecting structures, and wood burning.
• And, most recently, “numerous complaints” from the public.

Taken singly or even all together, are these good enough reasons for taking down a peaceful camp calling for “justice for our stolen children”?

JUSTICE FOR OUR STOLEN CHILDREN

THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM
Canadians are rightly outraged by Donald Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their families. But where is our outrage at Canada’s own child-family separation policy? For well over a century, we have been separating Indigenous children from their families and we continue to do so today.

The Canadian state began stealing Indigenous children from their families and communities when it established the residential school system—a system that operated from 1876 to 1996. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded, in 2015, that residential schools constituted “cultural genocide.”

Next came the ‘60s Scoop, the abduction of Indigenous children by provincial child welfare services, starting in the late 1950s and persisting into the 1980s.

This genocidal policy of child abduction continues today. Today more Indigenous children are in state care in Saskatche-wan than at the height of the residential school system.

THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
According to 2018 Statistics Canada data, of the youths admitted into custody in Saskatchewan:

 92% of boys are Indigenous.
 96% of the girls are Indigenous.

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of Indigenous youth incarceration in the country.

WANTED: SYSTEMIC CHANGES
The over-representation of Indigenous children in Saskatchewan’s child welfare system and of Indigenous youth in provincial prisons are a direct result of systemic racism in our social services and justice systems. Systemic changes are required.

4 GOOD REASONS TO SUPPORT THE CAMP

1. CHARTER RIGHTS
The Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp is in violation of provincial bylaws prohibiting overnight camping, the erection of structures, and wood burning.

However, these bylaws are in conflict with rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression and of assembly. These rights protect citizens from the power of the state when seeking change through peaceful protest. They are fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society and must be defended.

2. THE QUESTION OF JUSTICE
We are all implicated in the systemic racism that continues to infect Saskatchewan institutions, including our social services and justice systems.

3. EDUCATIONAL SERVICE
The Camp is providing an extremely valuable service to our city and our province: educating us about the past and present injustices that define the relationship between settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan.

4. BEAUTY & INSPIRATION
Approach the Camp from the Lake side and see all the tipis standing on the lawn, with the Legislative Building in the background. Or watch the CBC aerial video of the camp: http://www.facebook.com/cbcsask/videos/10155458218871782/?hc_ref=ARR7PWLaPN1PBnU2Xn4kWwtU661AlxFWD-YxTh5hwIphNsRqtY0BpnqEAVos53EQYqk

The beauty and rightness of the scene can lift our hearts and may even inspire us to redouble our efforts in the struggle for justice.

TAKE ACTION: JUSTICE FOR OUR STOLEN CHILDREN
1. Call Premier Scott Moe’s office and express your support for the Camp: 306-787-9433.

2. Sign the petition “Support Camp: Justice For Our Stolen Children”: http://www.change.org/p/support-of-camp-justice-for-our-stolen-children

3. Visit the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp in front of the Legislative Building and learn more about the ongoing struggle of Indigenous peoples against Canadian colonialism and for justice.

4. Follow the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/justiceforourstolenchildren/

5. Add the following two books to your summer reading list:
• The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land,
Rebuilding the Economy, by Arthur Manuel and Grand
Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
• Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada,
by Emma Battell Lowman and Adam J. Barker

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TIPIS & CHAINSAWS: ONE LEGAL, THE OTHER ILLEGAL?

Posted by strattof on July 19, 2018

According to the Sask Party government: 

  • The destruction of 109 trees to make way for a new Conexus head office in Wascana Park is perfectly legal and will continue.
  • The tipis at the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp, in front of the Legislative Building, are illegal and must be removed.

Is the Sask Party government right?

  • What is the legal status of both Conexus and the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp in Wascana Park?
  • More importantly, where does each stand in relation to justice?

What do you think?

THE CONEXUS DEAL

THE LAW

Technically, Conexus is within the law in building its head office in Wascana Park, but that is only because all the parties involved engaged in some very crafty deal-making.

CONEXUS & THE UNIVERSITY OF REGINA

In June 2016, Conexus offered the University of Regina ‘up to $8.25 million’ for the U of R College Avenue campus Renewal Project, to be used to restore the old college buildings.

In return, Conexus got a 90-year lease on 2.6 acres of land in Wascana Park. It’s a very good deal for Conexus.

REGINA CITY COUNCIL

In August 2016, Regina City Council approved the Conexus deal, even though it violates the City’s Official Community Plan, which stipulates that major new office buildings must be built downtown.

WASCANA CENTRE AUTHORITY

In November 2016, Wascana Centre Authority approved the Conexus deal, even though it contradicts its own mandate.

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT

In June 2017, the provincial government cancelled the Wascana Centre Act and placed Wascana Park under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Capital Commission, thus giving control of Regina’s Wascana Park to the provincial government.

THE QUESTION OF JUSTICE

The public was left out of the decision-making process. The public forums that were held were mere window-dressing. Wascana Park is a public park, paid for by generations of Regina citizens. It must not be taken over by corporate interests without our consent.

JUSTICE FOR OUR STOLEN CHILDREN

THE LAW

The Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp is in violation of Provincial Capital Commission bylaws prohibiting overnight camping, the erection of structures, and wood burning.

However, these bylaws are superseded by rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression and of assembly, especially as these rights apply to non-violent protests taking place in a public space, such as a park. 

THE QUESTION OF JUSTICE

Canadians are rightly outraged by Donald Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their families. But where is our outrage at Canada’s child-family separation policy? For well over a century, we have been separating Indigenous children from their families and we continue to do so today.

STOLEN CHILDREN

  • The Canadian state began stealing Indigenous children from their families and communities when it established the residential school system.
  • Next came the 60s Scoop, the abduction of Indigenous children by provincial child welfare services.
  • This disastrous policy of child abduction continues today. Today, there are more Indigenous children in state care in Saskatchewan than at the height of the residential school system.

Here’s what Pam Palmater has to say about the removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities: ‘It’s simple. Just stop taking our children. If their parents need help, give it to them. Leave the children with their families and in their communities.’

TAKE ACTION

JUSTICE FOR OUR STOLEN CHILDREN

  1. Visit the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp in front of the Legislative Building and learn more about the ongoing struggle of Indigenous peoples against Canadian colonialism and for justice.
  2. Follow the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp on facebook: facebook.com/justiceforourstolenchildren/

 

  1. Add the following two books to your summer reading list:
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur  Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
  • Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada, by Emma Battell Lowman and Adam J. Barker

NO BUSINESS IN WASCANA PARK

  1. Sign both the petitions opposing commercial development in Wascana Park. Google the following: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/SK_govt_No_Business_in_Wascana_Pk/ https://www.change.org/p/eric-dillon-keep-wascana-park-public
  2. Let Premier Scott Moe know you do not want any commercial development in Wascana Park: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306- 787-9433. 
  3. Register your disapproval with Conexus CEO, Eric Dillon: Dillon@conexus.ca

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THROWING SASKATCHEWAN UNDER THE BUS

Posted by strattof on July 19, 2018

  • MAY 31, 2017: The Sask Party government shut down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), the province’s 71-year-old Crown Corporation, and began to sell off its assets.
  • JULY 9, 2018: Greyhound announced that, as of October 31, it is cancelling all its Prairie routes.

 When the Sask Party government axed STC, it said that private operators would replace STC services. This has not happened.

  • Of the 10 private companies that vied for STC routes, only two remain in operation today.
  • Of the 253 communities STC served, only 28 are being served by these private companies.

Since Greyhound announced it was closing its Prairie operations, some small companies have said they will take over the routes. If past experience is any indication, this is not likely to happen.

WHAT’S LEFT FOR BUS TRANSPORTATION IN SASKATCHEWAN?

WHO GOT STRANDED WHEN STC SHUT DOWN?

In 2015-16, STC carried 186,000 passengers. Here’s a shortlist of people who depended on STC and are now left without safe, reliable, and affordable transportation.

  1. PEOPLE WHO CAN’T AFFORD A CAR: 70% of STC riders were low-income.
  2. SENIORS: Many people give up driving as they get older. Seniors used STC to visit family and friends, to get to medical appointments, and to go shopping. 
  3. RURAL CANCER AND DIALYSIS PATIENTS: The number of rural residents missing medical appointments has increased over the last year. Some rural residents have been forced to move to the city to access medical services.
  4. PEOPLE WHO USE WHEELCHAIRS: STC buses were wheelchair accessible. The vehicles of the two private companies currently operating in Saskatchewan are not accessible. Now, people who use wheelchairs are, as a number of them have put it, “trapped in their communities.”
  5. INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS: The elimination of STC has put Indigenous women and girls particularly at risk. Hitch-hiking may be the only option for some locations. In BC, the absence of a northern bus service led to the Highway of Tears. An “urgent” recommendation of the 2017 report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was “more frequent and accessible transportation services.”
  6. POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS: Many post-secondary students used STC to get to Regina or Saskatoon for university and polytech classes.

4 MORE REASONS TO BRING BACK STC

  1. HIGHWAY SAFETY: Public transportation is 10 times safer than driving in Canada. STC had an excellent safety record and was known for the professionalism of its drivers.  
  2. THE ENVIRONMENT: STC was good for the environment. More cars on the highway mean more CO2 in the atmosphere. Saskatchewan has the highest per capita CO2 emission rate in Canada, three times the national average.
  • The Saskatchewan government should be investing more money in public transportation, not less.
  • We all should be using public transportation, rather than driving our private vehicles. 
  1. PUBLIC SERVICE: STC was an essential public service. Serving 253 communities in every corner of our vast province, it connected us: rural and urban, southern and northern, First Nations and settler communities.

Part of the government’s rationale for cancelling STC was that the company was not profitable, that it required a subsidy. All public services—healthcare, highways, education, city transit—are paid for outright or subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

Moreover, the STC subsidy was a bargain. In 2015-16, STC revenue covered 62% of its costs. By comparison, Regina Transit revenue only covered 28% of its costs.

  1. HUMAN RIGHT: Access to a bus is not a human right. However, equitable access to public infrastructure is. 

Saskatchewan’s 2018-19 budget allocates $924 million to spending on highways. Without STC, many people no longer have equitable access to this public infrastructure. In effect, the government is subsidizing private vehicle owners.

TAKE ACTION: BRING BACK STC

CONTACT POLITICAL LEADERS

  • Let Premier Scott Moe know that you want his government to bring back STC as a Crown Corporation providing transportation for all in our province: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Send the same message to the Minister of Crown Investments, Joe Hargrave: pacarltonmla@sasktel.net or 306-787-7339.
  • Send a message to Prime Minister Justice Trudeau: If his government can buy a pipeline, why can’t it buy a national bus service? trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.

SIGN 2 PETITIONS

  1. https://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/buses-for-saskatchewan-replace-the-greyhound 

 

  1. https://www.saskndp.ca/bring_back_stc?recruiterid=150750&utm_campaign=ryan_greyhound_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_source=saskndp

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE STC CAMPAIGN

 

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SASKATCHEWAN 2018: THE POOR GET POORER

Posted by strattof on June 23, 2018

On April 10, the Saskatchewan government announced it was taking the first step toward terminating the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement—a monthly payment that helps low-income families and persons with disabilities to pay their rent. As of July 1, the program will not be accepting any new applications.

On May 22, Saskatchewan MLAs gave themselves a 3.5% raise. They will now be making $96,183 a year. By comparison:

  • Without the rental supplement, a single person with a disability will get less than $16,000 a year on which to live—for rent, food, and other necessities.
  • That’s about $80,000 less than a Saskatchewan MLA.

According to the Sask Party government, the cut to the Rental Housing Supplement was necessary because of the province’s dire financial situation—a projected $365 million deficit in 2018.

Making poor people poorer is not the only way to balance the provincial budget. Here are three other options:

  1. Reduce MLA salaries to the average income of Saskatchewan residents = $53,000 a year.
  2. Increase the personal income tax rate for high income people.
  3. Raise the corporate tax rate.

THE ELIMINATION OF THE RENTAL HOUSING SUPPLEMENT

The rationale the Sask Party government offers for the elimination of the Rental Housing Supplement is that vacancy rates have risen and, hence, rents are now more affordable. In fact, rents have not declined enough to become affordable for low income people.

The elimination of the Rental Housing Supplement is especially hurtful in that it targets families with children and people with disabilities. It is a cruel cut that further weakens an already inadequate income security system.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • 13,000 people currently rely on the rental supplement.
  • The cut will take away 30% of rental allowance income.
  • Without the supplement, a single person with a disability will be left with only $459 for rent in Regina. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $935.
  • Without the supplement, a family with two children will be left with only $711 for rent in Regina. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Regina is $1,120.
  • According to the government, the termination of the Rental Housing Supplement will save the province $5 million annually. That $5 million will be taken out of low-income households.

IMPACT

  • Poor people in our province will become even poorer.
  • Many more people will have to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries.
  • Many more people will be forced to move into undesirable and unhealthy housing.
  • Many more people will become homeless.
  • Health outcomes will deteriorate.

HARASSING POOR PEOPLE

It’s as if being poor were not already a full-time job! To add to the stress, Social Services requires recipients of the Rental Housing Supplement to

  • Report every month if they are employed.
  • Report every three months if they are not employed.

To report, recipients must call the Social Services Client Service Centre where they are frequently put on hold for lengthy wait times. Fail to report on time and you are cut off the program.

Is this the government’s underhanded way of eliminating the Rental Housing Supplement altogether?

POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN: 6 KEY FACTS

  1. 25% of children in Saskatchewan live in poverty. Only Manitoba and Nunavut have higher child poverty rates. The national average for child poverty is 17%.
  2. 50% of Indigenous children in Saskatchewan live in poverty, compared to 13% of non-Indigenous children.
  3. 30% of the children of new immigrants in Saskatchewan live in poverty.
  4. Between 2008 and 2016, food bank usage in Saskatchewan increased by 77%.
  5. The poverty line for a single-parent family with one child in Saskatchewan is $25,500 a year. The income of 50% of the people who live below that line is significantly below it: less than $12,300.
  6. More than 50,000 households in Saskatchewan experience core housing need, meaning that, by no choice of their own, they pay more than 30% of their income on shelter, live in housing requiring major repairs, or live in housing with too few bedrooms.

A CALL TO ACTION: KEEP THE RENTAL HOUSING SUPPLEMENT

The matter is urgent! In just over two weeks, the provincial government will take the first step toward terminating the Rental Housing Supplement.

End Poverty Regina has launched a campaign to get the government to abandon this short-sighted and unjust decision. Making Peace Vigil supports this important campaign.

You too can join this campaign by taking three easy steps:

  1. Call the office of Paul Merriman, Minister of Social Services: 306-787-3661.
  2. Give your name, telephone number, and reason for calling: To ask the government to continue to accept new applications for the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement.
  3. Leave the same message at the office of Premier Scott Moe: 306-787-9433. 

R I N G T H O S E P H O N E S! 

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NATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY

Posted by strattof on June 23, 2018

Today, June 21, is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It is a good time to think about the ongoing legacy of colonialism and racism here in Saskatchewan and across Canada.

The photo above is of the tipi at the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp on the Legislative grounds in Wascana Park. As many of the camp’s visitors will attest, the camp provided a rich opportunity to learn about that ongoing legacy.

Last Friday, less than a week before National Indigenous Peoples Day, the provincial government, with the help of Regina Police Service, tore down the 108-day-old Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp, leaving only the tipi standing. On Monday, they removed the tipi.

Government officials say the camp eviction was necessary because of upcoming Canada Day celebrations, ridiculously citing “safety concerns.” What irony! And another missed opportunity for many of us to learn about the past and present injustices that define the relationship between settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan.

WASCANA PARK: A DECOLONIZING TOUR

BUFFALO

Wascana Park is situated on Treaty 4 territory, the original lands of the Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, Dakota, and Lakota and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Wascana, now the name of the Park and the Lake, is a corruption of the Cree word Oscana, which, in rough translation, means “pile of bones”—a reference to a huge pile of buffalo bones in the area that is now Wascana Park in the mid-to-late 1800s. These bones were destined for shipment to Ontario to be made into fertilizer or to England to be used in the production of bone china.

In the 1700s, there were an estimated 60 million buffalo in North America. By the late 1800s, industrial-scale hunting by white hunters on both sides of the border had led to their near extinction.

The economy of Indigenous peoples of the Plains was based on the buffalo. Their decimation had a devastating effect. By the 1880s, Indigenous peoples were starving.

The stage was thus set for the next phase of the colonization project.

CLEARING THE PLAINS: 1878

Many settler Canadians were taught in school that European settlement of the Canadian West was very peaceful, unlike that of the American west. This is a myth.

Erased from this version of history is, among other things, the policy of deliberate starvation implemented by the government of John A. Macdonald in 1878: withholding food from Indigenous peoples living across the plains—including where Wascana Park is now located—until they moved onto the tiny reserves the government had carved out for them.

The goal of the starvation policy was to clear the plains of Indigenous peoples and thus to make way for the railroad and white settlement. In Macdonald’s words: “We are doing all we can by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation.”

Thousands of Indigenous peoples died as a result of this policy.

Saskatchewan entered Confederation in 1905. Saskatchewan was founded on the genocide of Indigenous peoples.

CLEARING THE PLAINS: 2018

Today, 140 years later, we are still “clearing the plains” in Saskatchewan. For example:

THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Indigenous peoples make up 16% of the population of Saskatche-wan. Yet they account for over 80% of prisoners in our prisons.

Indigenous peoples are not being locked up in ever-increasing numbers because of a crime spree. It is for other reasons:

  • Racial profiling by police
  • Discriminatory practices in the justice system
  • Systemic racism, past and present
  • The economic and social impacts of colonial policies, including the health gap set off by Macdonald’s starvation policy and the intergenerational trauma brought on by the genocidal residential school system, also established by John A. Macdonald.

Like the residential school system, Canada’s justice system is destroying Indigenous families and communities. Indeed, some are calling Canadian prisons Canada’s new residential school system.

CHILD WELFARE

The child welfare system is also part of the on-going genocide against Indigenous peoples, dismantling Indigenous families and communities. Today, there are more Indigenous children in state care in Saskatchewan than there were at the height of the residential school system.

RECURRING THEMES

There are a number of recurring and interconnected themes in Canada’s colonial past and present. Here are three of them:

1. INCARCERATION: a) The Pass System, which made reserves into prisons b) Residential schools, prisons for Indigenous children c) The overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan prisons today

2. CHILD ABDUCTION: ●The residential school system The 60s Scoop Today’s child welfare system

3. CLEARING THE PLAINS: ►Of buffalo Of Indigenous peoples, initially by starvation, then by other government policies. The recent eviction from Wascana Park of the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp

WORKING TO DECOLONIZE

Those of us who are settler Canadians have a lot of decolonizing work to do. Our minds, our hearts, our communities, our culture, our history, our laws, our institutions: they all need to be decolonized. We must also learn how to be the best possible allies to Indigenous peoples in their ongoing struggle against Canadian colonialism and for justice.

Here is a list of some books and movies that might help us in these undertakings.

BOOKS (Available at Regina Public Library)

  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus
  • Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
  • Clearing the Plains, by James Daschuk
  • Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

FILMS/VIDEOS (Available at Regina Public Library or online)

  • Indian Horse, based on a novel by Richard Wagamese
  • The Secret Path, by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire
  • Our People Will Be Healed, by Alanis Obamsawin
  • Birth of a Family, by Tasha Hubbard
  • Where the Spirit Lives, with music by Buffy Sainte-Marie

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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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