Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for June, 2010


Posted by strattof on June 21, 2010

Monday June 21st is National Aboriginal Day. First celebrated in 1996, it is a day for all Canadians to recognize the cultures of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and their contributions to Canadian society.

National Aboriginal Day is also a good time to think about the dismal and ongoing legacy of colonialism and racism here in Saskatchewan and across Canada. Here are 7 questions that need to be answered.


Why do First Nations children who attend school on reserves receive 30% less funding for education than other Canadian children?


Why is the federal government not funding First Nations child welfare agencies at the same level as provincial services?


Why is 1 child in every 4 First Nations children growing up in poverty?


Why is the homicide rate for Aboriginal women 7 times higher than that for other Canadian women?


Why is the rate of tuberculosis among Aboriginal peoples in Canada 31 times higher than among the non-Aboriginal population?


Why are there over 800 unresolved land claims in Canada?


Why has the Canadian government refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Write the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Chuck Strahl, and ask him to answer these questions: Minister@ainc-inac.gc.caDear Mr. Strahl

I would appreciate it if you could give me an answer to the following questions:



I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely



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Posted by strattof on June 11, 2010

75 years ago next week, on June 14th 1935, the On-To-Ottawa Trek was halted in Regina. The Trekkers–1,000+ unemployed  single men–had set out by train from Vancouver 11 days earlier, picking up more men at stops along the way. Riding boxcars, they were determined to take their demand for work and wages to Ottawa.

In Regina, the Trekkers were stopped from continuing their journey by the RCMP on orders from Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. Negotiations resulted in 8 Trekkers being sent to Ottawa to meet with Mr. Bennett. The remaining Trekkers, now numbering about 2,000, waited in the Regina Exhibition Grounds, where food and shelter were supplied by Regina residents and the Saskatchewan government.

When talks broke down in Ottawa, the delegation returned, having decided to disband the Trek. They called for a public meeting on July 1st in Market Square, now the site of the Regina City Police Station, to update the public on events. It was attended by 3000 people, most of whom were Regina citizens, the majority of the Trekkers having opted to stay at the Exhibition Grounds.

Although the trek was dispersing, the federal government decided to arrest its leaders. At 8:15 pm, the Regina police and the RCMP charged the crowd, thus causing the Regina Riot. The conflict raged back and forth on Regina downtown streets, as the police threw tear gas and fired revolvers and Trekkers and their supporters fought back with sticks and stones.

In the end, 120 Trekkers and citizens were arrested and 100s on both sides were injured. Charles Miller, a policeman, was killed, and Nick Shaack, a Trekker, died later in hospital from head injuries sustained during the fighting. The police denied any Trekkers had been killed and hospital records were altered to conceal the actual cause of death.


  • In the early 1930s, the unemployment rate was 28% and 1 in 9 citizens were on relief. While there was help for families, there was none for single unemployed men.
  • The Bennett government felt these men were a threat to society. In 1932, in an attempt to stop them from organizing, it instructed the Canadian military to set up work camps where single unemployed men were obliged to stay if they wanted to receive any welfare assistance. By 1935, more than 170,000 young men were housed in these work camps, all located in remote areas and run by the Ministry of Defense.    
  •  The men called the camps “slave camps.” Upon arrival they were issued war surplus clothing, assigned to tar-paper shacks with 40 other men, and forced to work 6½ days a week for 20 cents a day. Any complaint was met with blacklisting, whereby the individual was marked as an agitator and barred from all relief camps.
  • In an attempt to improve their conditions, the men in the camps formed the Relief Camp Workers’s Union. In 1935, the Union went on strike, demanding work at real wages; better food, clothing, and shelter; first aid equipment; an extention of the Workmen’s Compensation Act to include camp workers; an end to military discipline; and the right to vote in federal elections.  
  • The government ignored the strikers who then converged on Vancouver for two months of demonstrations, parades, and public meetings. Despite overwhelming public sympathy and support for “our boys,” the federal government refused to negotiate with the strikers.
  • As a result, the strikers decided to undertake the On-To-Ottawa Trek.    


We like to think that conditions are much better today than they were in the 1930s. But are they really?

  • Today, more than 3 million Canadians live in poverty. That’s 10% of the population.
  • Today, 760,000 Canadian children are poor. That’s 1 child out of every 10 children.
  • Today, 3 million Canadians live in inadequate or unsuitable dwellings or face shelter costs that are unaffordable. That’s 1.5 million households.
  • Today, 300,000 people are homeless in Canada. 3,000 of those homeless people are in Regina.
  • Today, 10,000+ people use the Regina and District Food Bank every month, half of them children.

In the 1930s, the majority of western Canadians were poor. Yet they supported the Trekkers, turning out in their 1000s to cheer them on, and providing food and clothing wherever the train stopped.   

In Regina, 10,000 people attended a rally in Victoria Park, organized by the Citizens Emergency Committee to aid the Trekkers–an astonishing number given Regina’s population was only about 45,000 at the time. Indeed, public support for the Trekkers was so strong that on June 28, the federal government declared martial law, banning any form of public support for the Trek.

21st century Canada is a very affluent society. Yet even though most of us have money to spend on things we don’t really need–bottled water, cappuccinos, expensive shoes, flat-screen TVs, holidays in Mexico–we collectively resist supporting policies that would eliminate poverty in Canada, saying we don’t want to pay higher taxes or increase the cost of goods and services.

The establishment of a federal minimum wage, set at $12 and indexed to inflation, and the implementation of a national affordable housing program, with an annual budget of $2.5 billion, would go some way to eliminating poverty in Canada.

As the struggle for social justice continues, we can find inspiration in the On-To-Ottawa Trekkers and their supporters, the Canadian people.



MONDAY JUNE 14: Marking the Arrival of the Trekkers in Regina

An evening of entertainment, including a film on the Regina Riot


7:00-8:30 pm

Turvey Centre–Highway 6 North and Armour Drive

Organized by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and friends

For more information, call 525-0197


2 Documentary Films on the On-To-Ottawa Trek: Boxcar Rebellion and The On-To-Ottawa Trek

Free at the Regina Public Library

6:30-8:30 pm

Main Branch, Regina Public Library, downstairs theatre


Regina Riot Walking Tour

11:00 am-12 noon

Starts at the Police Station, 1717 Osler Street, and goes down 11th Avenue to Scarth Street


Take a look at the two On-To Ottawa Trek plaques on the Scarth Street Mall. Both are at the north end of the mall, on the east side. One is outside, near the stairs leading into the Globe Theatre. The other is inside the covered walkway, in front of Gilmour’s Corner.

During the Regina Riot, some of the fiercest fighting took place at the intersection of Scarth Street and 11th Avenue, right where we hold our weekly peace and justice vigil.

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Posted by strattof on June 7, 2010

Saturday June 5th is WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY, a time to reflect on the catastrophic damage we are doing to the earth systems that give us life, and a time to start taking action to reverse that damage. 

This year WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY has a special meaning. 


For the past 6 weeks, ever since the April 20th blowout at the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, crude oil has been gushing into the Gulf waters at the rate of at least 20,000 barrels per day. This thick oil has devastated the Gulf coastline, fouling marine and wildlife habitats. It has also prompted the shutdown of Louisiana’s vibrant fishing and seafood industries because of oil contamination. The oil may ooze into the Atlantic Ocean, placing eastern US and Canadian coastlines under threat of contamination. 


For Alberta premier Ed Stelmach the Gulf of Mexico disaster is a boon: an opportunity to promote the Alberta tar sands to Washington as a “safer” option. While there is no risk of a rig blowout, there is nothing environmentally safe about tar sands oil extraction–a process which, in and of itself, is a horrendous environmental catastrophe. 


  • The extraction process emits 3-5 times more carbon dioxide than regular oil. The Alberta tar sands are the single biggest contributor to the growth of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.  
  • It takes 3-7 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil. That’s between 230-530 million cubic metres a year. By comparison, Toronto, with 2.5 million residents, uses 450 million cubic metres a year. 
  • Enough natural gas is used in the tar sands every day to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes for 24 hours. That’s over 25% of Canadian homes. 
  • The tar sands are carving huge gashes in the world’s largest intact forest, which serves as a vital absorber of carbon dioxide. The tar sands are the source of the 2nd fastest rate of deforestation on the planet, just behind land clearing for pasture land in the Amazon Rain Forest.  
  • The tar sands generate 6,500 barrels of toxic waste every day. This waste is stored in massive unlined tailings ponds that occupy 140 square km of forest along the Athabasca River. These ponds of toxic sludge are so poisonous that birds which accidentally land on them die instantly.


These toxic ponds leak into the Athabasca River at a rate of at least 11 million litres a day. As a result, the river’s levels of toxic chemicals–arsenic, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons–are steadily rising.

Downstream from the ponds, tumours and mutations have been found in fish and game animals. At Fort Chipewyan, a downstream First Nations community, the increase in cancer is 30% higher than in other communities, an increase that coincided with the development of the tar sands.  

In the tar sands region, workers and local residents breathe in pollutant emissions, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and benzene, a leukemia-causing carcinogen. In 2009, tar sands companies breached Alberta’s air pollution targets 1,556 times or more than 4 times every day. 


70% of the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that enter Alberta’s airshed as a result of tar sands production end up in Saskatchewan. Acid rain has an adverse effect on lakes, rivers, forests, soils, buildings, and human health. 


  • Oilsands Quest, a Calgary-based company, already has a lease on 651,565 acres in Saskatchewan.
  • Last month it applied to the Ministry of Environment for permission to start producing 30,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day near La Loche in north western Saskatchewan.
  • The next stage of the process is an application for commercial project approval to the Ministry of Energy and Resources.


  • Let key members of the Saskatchewan government know you don’t want the province to develop this dirty and dangerous form of fuel. Now is the time to get off oil, which has terrible consequences for the environ-ment and for us. We must switch to renewables. Premier Brad Wall: 787-9433 or; Nancy Heppner, Minister of the Environment: 787-0393 or; Bill Boyd, Minister of Energy and Resources: 787-9124 or
  • Attend the Global Town Hall Meeting on Climate Change and the G8/G20: Not Business as Usual sponsored by Kairos, the Council of Canadians, and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. Date: Thursday, June 17, 2010; Time: 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm; Place: Wesley United Church, 3913 Hillsdale Street Speakers: Francois Pihaatae (Pacific Conference of Churches), Fred Sangris (Akaitcho Dene, Yellow-knife), Susana Deranger (local climate justice activist and participant at Cochabamba Peoples’ Summit)
  • Learn more about tar sands by visiting the website of the Pembina Institute:


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