Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for October, 2011

PROVINCIAL ELECTION: 5 QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES

Posted by strattof on October 27, 2011

1

Are you in favour of legislation banning nuclear waste storage in Saskatchewan?  

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a corporation funded by the nuclear industry, is targeting northern Saskatchewan as a possible site for permanent underground storage of all Canada’s nuclear waste. The waste–to date, 1.8 million spent fuel bundles totaling 40,000 tonnes–has been produced by nuclear reactors in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. It is currently stored in above-ground, on-site containers where it can be closely monitored. It would require 20,000 truckloads to move the waste to northern Saskatchewan.  

Nuclear waste is extremely hazardous:

  • It remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
  • Its radioactivity will outlast any storage container.
  • Trucking nuclear waste across Canada carries high-level risks.
  • No other country has approved of such a storage facility. 
  • Manitoba and Quebec have placed a ban on the importation of nuclear waste.

For more information on nuclear waste, go to www.knownuclearwaste.ca and www.cleangreensask.ca 

2

What will your party do to solve the housing crisis in Saskatchewan?

Saskatchewan has a rapidly growing homeless population. ●In Regina, the average number of occupied homeless shelter beds rose by 44.5% between 2008 and 2010. ●In 2010, over 3,400 men, women, youth, and families used one or more of the city’s shelter services. ●Many others double bunked, couch surfed, or lived in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions. Some even lived in cars or garages. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.

The biggest causes of homelessness are

1.   Financial: loss of a job, rent increases, a fixed income;  

2.   Lack of affordable housing. 

Relying on the private sector to solve the housing crisis will only send more people out into the cold. The Saskatchewan housing market has been unregulated for 20 years. If it were in the interest of the private sector to provide affordable housing, it would already have done so and there would be no housing crisis.

What is needed is government intervention in the housing market.  Here is what the provincial government can do to solve the province’s housing crisis:  

  • Pass rent control legislation to prevent exploitative rent increases.
  • Build affordable homes and rental accommodation.
  • Allocate 3% of all natural resource royalties to affordable housing.
  • Put pressure on the federal government to develop a national affordable housing strategy.

Safe, secure housing is a human right, protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, [and] housing.”

What kind of province do we want to live in?

Saskatchewan is experiencing unprecedented prosperity. But clearly the economic good times have not delivered equally good results for all. We could house everyone if we had the will to do so.

3

Could you live on $784 a month?

That’s the amount a single person with a disability on social assistance receives: $459 for shelter; $255 for food, clothing and other personal needs; $50 disability allowance; and $20 for transportation=$784.

$26 a day: that’s what it comes to! Set aside $15.30 for rent, and it leaves $10.70 for everything else: food, clothing, transportation, medication, laundry and other household expenses.

In 2009, the provincial government launched the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program, as an alternative to social assistance. SAID has one big advantage over social assistance: recipients are not required to reapply every year.  

However, SAID has two major problems. First, not all people with disabilities are allowed to register in the program. Second, SAID recipients are still living on $26 a day.

For more information on disability income in Saskatchewan, visit the website of Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC): http://www.saskdisc.ca/

4

Should royalty rates be raised on corporations extracting Saskatchewan’s natural resources?

We, the people of Saskatchewan, own the province’s natural resources. Yet it is private corporations that are getting most of the benefit from their development.

In 2010, PotashCorp earned $1.8 billion on its potash mines in Saskatchewan, but paid only $76.5 million in taxes and royalties. That’s a mere 5% of PotashCorp earnings!

Oil revenue is also low, as can be seen by comparing it with the share of oil revenue collected by other governments: Venezuela 89%; Nigeria 77%; California 53%; UK 52%; Alberta 39%; Saskatchewan 15.2%.

5

Will you push for a ban on cosmetic pesticides in Saskatchewan?

‘Research linking pesticides to serious health issues is significant and growing. Leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast, brain, prostate, lung, pancreatic, stomach, kidney and other forms of cancer have all been linked to pesticides. Learning disorders, reproductive issues and acute health effects are also associated to pesticides. By eliminating the non-essential use of pesticides, exposure to these harmful chemicals will drastically decrease, contributing to better overall public and environmental health.’ —Canadian Cancer Society

Five Canadian provinces have banned pesticides: Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. But not Saskatchewan.  In our province it is still legal to use dangerous pesticides on lawns and gardens.

Advertisements

Posted in climate, environment, justice, peace activism | Leave a Comment »

OCCUPY REGINA

Posted by strattof on October 21, 2011

WE ARE THE 99% & WE WILL BE HEARD

“Why are they protesting?” “What are their demands?” The mainstream media keeps asking these questions. Its goal seems to be to discredit the Occupy movement. The message of the movement is obvious to anyone who is listening.

When protesters in Regina say “we are the 99%,” they are referring to the growing inequality in Canadian society and the concentration of the nation’s wealth in fewer and fewer hands–the wealthiest 1% of the population.

They are also referring to corporate domination of politics in Canada. Most governments, whether municipal, provincial, or federal, consider the interests of corporations more important than the welfare of ordinary Canadians.  

The greed of corporations is a related concern. It is wrecking financial systems worldwide and devastating the environment.

“Why are they protesting?” “What are their demands?” The mainstream media keeps asking these questions. Its goal seems to be to discredit the Occupy movement. The message of the movement is obvious to anyone who is listening.

When protesters in Regina say “we are the 99%,” they are referring to the growing inequality in Canadian society and the concentration of the nation’s wealth in fewer and fewer hands–the wealthiest 1% of the population.

They are also referring to corporate domination of politics in Canada. Most governments, whether municipal, provincial, or federal, consider the interests of corporations more important than the welfare of ordinary Canadians.  

The greed of corporations is a related concern. It is wrecking financial systems worldwide and devastating the environment.

INEQUALITY IN CANADA

  • The richest 1% of Canadians took 32% of all income gains earned since 1987.
  • In 2009, the worst year of the recession, the wealthiest 3.8% of Canadian households held 23.5% of all financial wealth in Canada.
  • Two decades ago, the average Canadian CEO made 25 times that of the average worker. Today the average CEO makes 250 times the average worker.
  • Though the United States currently has a larger rich-poor income gap, the gap in Canada is rising at a faster rate.
  • Since 2000, the federal government has cut corporate income taxes by 50%, the largest tax reduction in all member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  
  • In March 2010, 867,948 Canadians used the food bank. That’s a 9% increase over 2009–and the highest level of food bank use on record. 
  • Canadian student loan debt has reached $14 billion. This figure represents only debt owed for Canada student loans and excludes debt owed for provincial and private student loans.
  • 65% of Canadians want the government to deal with climate change. The government, however, continues to demonstrate a greater commitment to environmentally destructive projects, such as tar sands development, than to greenhouse gas emissions reduction.   

INEQUALITY IN SASKATCHEWAN

  • Who is benefitting from Saskatchewan’s booming economy? It is certainly not those who are unemployed and/or homeless. Nor is it seniors or recipients of social assistance or students or Aboriginal communities or minimum wage workers or middle-income earners or….
  • In Saskatchewan in 2009, the richest 20% held 43.1% of total after-tax income, while the poorest 20% held 5%.
  • During March 2010, 22,662 people in Saskatchewan used the food bank, a 20% increase over 2009. 44% of these food bank users were children.
  • Since 2008, homeless shelter use in Regina has risen by 25%. In 2010, 2,686 adults slept in homeless shelters in Regina.
  • In 2010, the CEO of PotashCorp took home $11,264,973, while a full-time minimum wage worker earned $19,240.
  • In 2010, PotashCorp earned $1.8 billion on its potash mines in Saskatchewan, but paid only $76.5 million in taxes and royalties, a mere 5% of its earnings.

OCCUPATION ISSUES

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY

GROWING GAP BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE REST OF CANADIANS

POVERTY                           HOUSING CRISIS

CORPORATE GREED

CORPORATE INFLUENCE IN CANADIAN POLITICS

CORPORATE TAX CUTS

GOVERNMENT LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY

TUITION INCREASES                        UNEMPLOYMENT

ATTACKS ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS

COST OF WAR

COLONIALISM AT HOME AND ABROAD

RACISM     SEXISM     HOMOPHOBIA    ABLEISM

ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

This list is not allinclusive.

OCCUPY REGINA

  • Like other participants in the Occupy movement, Occupy Regina protesters are committed to non-violence–even though they are outraged over the extreme inequalities in Canadian society.  
  • The Occupy movement is also deeply democratic: committed to an open, participatory, and horizontal process of organization.
  • Although it was probably not part of City Hall’s plan, Occupy Regina is a perfect way to inaugurate the new Victoria Park plaza as a space for true democracy.

The occupation of the Victoria Park plaza is ongoing. To find out more about it, visit Occupy Regina’s facebook page:  http://facebook.com/occupyregina

Better yet, join the occupation: Victoria Park plaza, 12th Avenue and Scarth Street. Donations are welcome.

Posted in climate, environment, justice, peace activism | 1 Comment »

WORLD FOOD DAY OCTOBER 16

Posted by strattof on October 20, 2011

HUNGER IN A WORLD OF ABUNDANCE

Food Day was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1979. Observed in more than 150 countries, its main goals are: 

  • to heighten public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world;
  • to strengthen national and international solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.

Today, a billion of the world’s people are chronically malnourished because they are poor. In Canada, 867,948 people used the food bank in March 2010, the highest level on record. 51% of Canadian households using the food bank are families with children.

FOOD IS A HUMAN RIGHT

The right to food is a human right protected under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food.’

Note that the right to food is not about charity. It is about justice: guaranteeing that all people have the facility to feed themselves in dignity. 

While the right to food is firmly established in international law, it is not always observed in practice. Even wealthy nations, like Canada, frequently violate the principle of food justice. 

FOOD JUSTICE VIOLATIONS: 4 CANADIAN EXAMPLES   

1. The Minimum Wage

In many provinces, the minimum wage is not keeping pace with the rate of inflation. As a result, many minimum wage workers are forced to choose between paying the rent and buying food. Across Canada, 1 in 5 food bank users is a family in which someone is working full-time.

In September of this year, the minimum wage in Saskatchewan went from $9.25 to $9.50 an hour. A meager 2.7% rise, it does not come near to meeting the rate of rent or food price increases (7.8% and 4.6% respectively) in Regina over the same period.

An adequate minimum wage for Canadian workers would be about $11.25 an hour.

2. Social Assistance

Social assistance recipients face the same dilemma as minimum wage workers: having to choose between buying food and paying the rent. According to a 2010 Saskatchewan Food Banks’ report:

  • A single person receiving social assistance through the Saskatchewan Assistance Plan would spend approximately 97% of their monthly income on rent, leaving 3% to cover food, transportation, and other monthly expenses.
  • 70% of Regina Food Bank clients list social assistance as their primary source of income. 

3. Industrial Contamination of Food Sources

Toxic waste from the Alberta tar sands industry has contaminated the Athabasca River with heavy metals and petroleum compounds. For many downstream First Nations communities, the river is/was a primary source of food. Now it is filled with deformed fish. At Fort Chipewyan, one of those downstream communities, the increase in cancer is 30% higher than in other communities, an increase that coincided with the development of the tar sands. The federal government subsidizes the tar sands industry to the tune of $1 billion per year.

4. Climate Change

Climate change is causing increasingly unpredictable weather. Floods, droughts, severe storms, heat waves: such weather events are wreaking havoc on food production. Particularly hard hit are small-scale farmers in poor countries.

The greatest contributor to human-caused climate change is increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Crucial to the reduction of CO2 emissions are international climate agreements, such as Kyoto, which set binding emission reduction targets.

Canada, however, continues to demonstrate a greater commitment to environmentally destructive projects, such as tar sands development, than to greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Indeed, Canada’s climate action record is abysmal:  

  • Canada is by far the biggest defaulter on the Kyoto climate agree-ment. Emissions in Canada, rather than decreasing, have shot up.
  • Canada is one of the top ten CO2 emitters in the world.
  • Canada has the 3rd highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world: 24.9 metric tonnes per person per year.

The climate crisis we are currently facing is caused mainly by human activity in the global north: our culture of consumerism. Here’s what we can do to help solve the crisis:

  • Buy less stuff. Put a stop to unnecessary shopping.
  • Drive less. Walk more. Bike. Get a bus pass.
  • Eat less beef. Beef production causes major greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Support eco-agriculture–more sustainable and productive agricultural systems–both at home and abroad.
  • Next month, countries will gather in Durban, South Africa for another UN climate conference. Let Prime Minister Harper know you want Canada to work for a fair, ambitious, and binding climate agreement: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.

Posted in climate, environment, justice, peace activism | Leave a Comment »

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Posted by strattof on October 6, 2011

War! Poverty! Injustice! Environmental Catastrophe! The flyers we distribute every Thursday on the Scarth Street Mall are filled with such bad news stories.

In relating bad news, our intention is not to depress our readers. Rather it is to provide the motivation to resist the way things are in our world: the dollar and human costs of war, for example; the growing gap between rich and poor; the devastation of the environment.

But hope can also be a powerful force for transformation. So rather than adopting our usual doom and gloom outlook, today’s flyer tells only good news stories–stories that show the on-going struggle for peace and justice is not futile but can accomplish much good in the world.

What better time to tell such stories than Thanksgiving.

THE GOOD NEWS

THE REGINA PUBLIC LIBARY

In 2003, the Library Board, with the support of City Council, announced the closure of three library branches–Connaught, Glen Elm, and Prince of Wales–along with the main branch’s Dunlop Art Gallery and Prairie History Room.

In response, Regina citizens mobilized, forming the Friends of the Regina Public Library. Leading five months of public protests and collecting more than 26,000 petition signatures, this group caused the closures to be rescinded.

Today, all nine branches of the RPL are flourishing and, in a remarkable turn of fate, the once doomed Prince of Wales has a brand new and much enlarged facility.

Kudos to the Friends of the RPL and the current Library Board.

NUCLEAR POWER

In November 2008, the Government of Saskatchewan announced its intention to bring nuclear power to the province. Citizens once again mobilized, this time under the banner of Clean Green Saskatchewan, a grassroots organization whose main mandate is to educate the rest of us about problems with nuclear power. 

In June 2009, 1000s of the province’s citizens turned out for public consultations on uranium development, with 84% expressing opposition to the development of nuclear power, compared with only 14% supporting it. The vast majority (98%) also supported the development of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar.  

As a result, in December 2009, the government ruled out the idea of nuclear power–at least for the meantime. Now, the government is looking to introduce small nuclear reactors to Saskatchewan. There is also a move afoot to bring nuclear waste to Saskatchewan for burial or reprocessing.

Congratulations to Clean Green Saskatchewan and the citizens of Saskatchewan. Thanks to the Government of Saskatchewan for listening to its citizens. When the prospect of small nuclear reactors or nuclear waste burial or reprocessing is raised, let the government know they are too dangerous and too expensive. Go to www.cleangreensask.ca to find out more about nuclear power and nuclear waste. Also listen to the discussion about nuclear waste burial in Saskatchewan on Human Rights Radio:  http://humanrightsradio.podbean.com/2011/06/18/nuclear-waste-in-saskatchewan-committee-for-future-generations/

TAR SANDS

Opposition to the tar sands is growing by the day.

  • 2009–present: On-going First Nations resistance to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would take tar sands oil from Alberta to the BC coast for shipment to Asia. Nearly all First Nations along the proposed route of the pipeline oppose it.
  • August 2011: A two-week sit-in at the Whitehouse to protest the construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar-sands oil from Alberta to oil refineries in Texas.
  • September 26 2011: A demonstration in Ottawa to protest tar sands pipelines and tar sands development. Solidarity demonstrations were held across Canada, including in Regina.  
  • October 4 2011: Yesterday’s announcement that the European Commission has blacklisted tar sands oil.

Despite growing opposition to the tar sands, the federal government continues to subsidize the industry to the tune of $1 billion a year. Possibly even more shocking is the promotion by Prime Minster Stephen Harper and Premier Brad Wall of tar sands oil as ‘ethical oil.’ There is absolutely nothing ethical about tar sands oil. Indeed, it is an environmental, human, and ethical catastrophe:

  • Tar sands production generates as much as 20% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. According to NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, it is likely to trigger irreversible climate change.
  • Tar sands production generates 6,500 barrels of toxic waste every day. Stored in unlined tailings ponds along the Athabasca River, this waste leaks into the river at a rate of at least 11 million litres a day. Fort Chipewyan, a downstream First Nations community, has a cancer rate that is 30% higher than that of other communities.
  • While both TransCanada and Enbridge claim their pipelines are safe, both have experienced multiple leaks in existing pipelines, causing environmental devastation.

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES! Oilsands Quest, a Calgary-based company, plans to start developing Saskatchewan’s first commercial tar sands project in the very near future.

  • Tell Prime Minister Harper you want the federal government to stop subsidizing the tar sands industry: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  •  Let Premier Brad Wall know you don’t want the province to develop this dirty, dangerous form of fuel. premier@gov.sk.ca or 787-9433.

VIGIL FLYERS

MORE GOOD NEWS! You are still taking our flyers!!

Every Thursday for going on five years, we have been standing on the corner of Scarth Street and 11th Avenue handing out flyers on peace and justice issues. Each week an average of 144 Regina downtown workers and shoppers take one. 

  • Thanks so much for taking our flyers.
  • A special thanks to those who have stopped and discussed issues with us.
  • Let us know what other issues you would like us to examine.
  • Should you ever be free on a Thursday at noon, please join us.

The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way you’re accountable.”

                                                                                          Arundhati Roy

Posted in climate, environment, justice | Leave a Comment »

RACISM IN REGINA

Posted by strattof on October 2, 2011

Last month, a man drowned in Wascana Lake. The probable cause of death was racism.

The man had gone swimming in the lake. When he disappeared from sight, his friend approached a number of people in the park, asking for their help. But because he was poorly dressed and Aboriginal, his calls for help were met with suspicion.

It was not until he approached a group of Aboriginal people that the man’s friend found someone willing to place a 9-1-1 call. Emergency services arrived in about two minutes, but by that time 30 minutes or more had passed since the man had gone missing in the water.

The following day, Darlyn Boyd Johns’s body was recovered from the lake. To his family, we extend our sympathy for their loss.  

SYSTEMIC RACISM

Racism is not only hateful attitudes and racially discriminatory behaviour. It is also a system of advantage and disadvantage involving institutional policies and practices.

Every social indicator, from education to life expectancy, reveals the advantages of being White and the disadvantages of being Aboriginal.  

EDUCATION

Schools on reserves are funded by the federal government, while non-reserve schools receive their funding from the provinces. The federal government typically provides less money for schools and education than the provinces provide.

  • A child who attends school on a reserve is funded between $6,000 and $8,000 less than a child in a provincial school. That’s a lot of money!

The consequences of this built-in inequality include:

  • Schools that are in poor condition and present health concerns, including overcrowding, extreme mould, high carbon dioxide levels, sewage fumes, frozen pipes, unheated portable. According to former Prime Minister Paul Martin, “Most Canadians would not send their children to school on reserves.”
  • A high school dropout rate of 60% for on-reserve students, as compared to 8.5% for students in provincial education systems. 
  • A lower education level: Only 7% of First Nations have a university degree, as compared to 23% of non-Aboriginal Canadians.

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to First Nations people for the residential school system. That was a good first step. However, offering First Nations children and youth an unequal education just because they are First Nations and living on a reserve is also a form of discrimination.

According to the website of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada,The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal peoples enjoy the same education opportunities as other Canadians.”

Let Stephen Harper know you want the Canadian government to live up to this commitment: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.

Send the same message to Federal Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, John Duncan: Duncan.J@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-2503.

EMPLOYMENT

  • In 2006, the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people in Canada was more than double that for non-Aboriginals: 14.8% compared to 6.3%.
  • The 2010 figures for Saskatchewan show an even greater disparity: 16.5% compared to 5%.  

HOUSING

  • On-reserve housing is the Canadian government’s responsibility based on treaty agreements. As of February 2011, 44% of on-reserve housing was in need of major repair; 15% required outright replace-ment; and 85,000 new units were needed to alleviate over-crowding.
  • Comprising only 3.8% of the Canadian population, Aboriginal people account for 15% of Canada’s homeless people.  

 PRISONS

  • Aboriginal people account for 20% of the federal prison population, while making up less than 4% of the Canadian population.  
  • The situation is even worse in the case of Aboriginal women, who constitute 33% of the federal prison population.
  • Because of excessive police surveillance, Aboriginal people are more likely than non-Aboriginals to be arrested on minor drug-related offences. There is no evidence that Aboriginal people are more likely to use drugs than non-Aboriginals.
  • According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, in comparison to non-Aboriginal prisoners, Aboriginal prisoners are released later in their sentence; are routinely classified as higher security risks; and are over-represented in segregation populations.  
  • The legacy of the residential school system and the built-in inequality of the current education system are also associated with Aboriginal over-representation in the prison system, as are poverty, unemployment, and discrimination.
  • It costs about $344,000 to incarcerate an Aboriginal woman for a year. For the same amount of money the government could fund almost six students in a full-time, three-year university program. 

OMNIBUS CRIME BILL

Even though Canada’s crime rate has been falling steadily for the past 20 years, the federal Conservative government has brought before parliament an Omnibus Crime Bill as part of its US-style law-and-order agenda. If passed, this bill will put more Aboriginal people in prison for longer periods.

Tell Stephen Harper you would rather spend your tax dollars on education, employment training, and housing. 

MURDERED AND MISSING ABORIGINAL WOMEN

Young Aboriginal women in Canada are five times more likely than other Canadian women to die as a result of violence.

  • Since 1980, over 600 Aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada.
  • 84% of homicides against Caucasian women in Canada are solved, compared to only 53% of cases involving Aboriginal women.

You are invited to attend a vigil to remember the lives of Aboriginal women and to call for justice and action from the Canadian government to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal women.

TUESDAY OCTOBER 4, 2011, 6:30 pm, VICTORIA PARK

Sponsored by Amnesty International

LIFE EXPECTANCY

  • Life expectancy for Aboriginal people in Canada is five years less than for non-Aboriginal Canadians. 

 

Posted in justice, peace activism | 1 Comment »