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Archive for December, 2011

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Posted by strattof on December 23, 2011

On the twelfth day of Christmas

My true love gave to me

Twelve affordable housing units

Eleven income redistribution measures

Ten peace and justice rallies

Nine anti-tar sands declarations

Eight rejected condo-conversion applications

Seven solar panels

Six transit passes

Five Earth Day pledges

Four scales of justice

Three olive branches

Two paper peace cranes

And a peace dove in a pear tree.

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HOUSING ON RESERVES: THE TRUE STORY

Posted by strattof on December 17, 2011

According to the Harper government, the reason there is a housing crisis at Attawapiskat First Nation is that the Attawapiskat leadership has mismanaged taxpayers’ money.

As Prime Minister Harper put it, “This government has spent some $90 million since coming to office just on Attawapiskat. That is over $50,000 for every man, woman, and child in the community.”

As Mr. Harper is sure to know, the figures he cites are misleading. Nor will finger-pointing solve the Attawapiskat housing crisis. Winter has set in and families are still living in flimsy tents and plywood sheds with no electricity or running water.

So what are the facts about federal funding to Attawapiskat? More importantly, what is the solution to Attawapiskat’s housing crisis? 

ATTAWAPISKAT: 10 KEY FACTS & FIGURES

1. The $90 million Prime Minister Harper keeps citing is the amount of federal funding Attawapiskat received since the Harper government came into power in February 2006. $90 million over 6 years works out to $15 million per year. Much of it is used to cover services, such as water, waste removal, education, and health, provided by municipal and provincial governments in non-reserve communities.   

2. $50,000 per person over 6 years works out to about $8,300 per person per year, less than 50% of what is spent on non-Aboriginal people.

3. In 2010–2011, Attawapiskat received $17.6 million in federal funds. Of that $17.6 million, only $2.03 million was allocated to housing.

4. Attawapiskat publishes its financial statements going back to 2005. If you want to know where the money was spent, go to the Attawapiskat First Nation website and click on “financial statements.”

5. According to Grand Chief Stan Louttit of the Mushkegowuk Council,  a new house in Attawapiskat costs $250,000 to build (with half of the amount going to transportation costs).Thus $2,031,007 is sufficient to build 8 new homes. Funds allocated to housing are also used to maintain and repair existing homes.

6. Since 2006, Attawapiskat has received a total of $4.3 (not $90) million from the federal government for housing.

7. Attawapiskat has a population of about 2,000. As of November 21:

  •      5 families were living in tents.
  •      19 families were living in sheds without running water.
  •      35 families were living in houses needing serious repair.
  •      90 people were living in construction trailers.
  •      118 families were living with relatives (often 20 people to a house).
  •      128 families were living in houses condemned from black mould.

 8. Attawapiskat needs 268 houses just to deal with the immediate backlog of homelessness.

9. Much of Attawapiskat’s federal funding is allocated to education. Of the $17.6 million Attawapiskat received in 2010–2011, $7.1 million (or 40.3%) went to education. Many of Attawapiskat’s children are sent off-reserve to attend school. In 2000, the community’s elementary school was shut down because of contamination from an oil spill. The Minister of Indian Affairs promised the community a new school. 12 years later, there is still no new school.

10.  Attawapiskat has been under co-management with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs since 2001. If funds have been mismanaged, it will have been under the watch of the federal government.

MORE ATTAWAPISKATS

  • According to the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo, out of the 634 First Nations communities in Canada, 100 or more are living in conditions similar to those in Attawapiskat.
  • As far back as 2003, Auditor General Sheila Fraser warned that “Many First Nations are facing a housing crisis. Unless action is taken quickly, the already unacceptable housing conditions are only going to get worse, with population growth on reserves.”
  • Saskatchewan has a total of 14,180 on-reserve housing units.  1,875 are in need of major renovations; 230 require replacement; 14,000 new units are needed to deal with overcrowding.

SOLUTIONS

Adequate Funding

On-reserve housing is a Treaty right. The right to housing is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Canada signed in 1948, and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into law in 1982. On-reserve housing has been chronically underfunded since at least the 1950s.

Resource Sharing

Much of Canada’s wealth comes from the exploitation of natural resources: forests, minerals, metals, and energy. Many of these resources are on First Nations traditional land. However, all the resource royalties go to the provinces and employment opportunities for First Nations tend to be minimal. 

For example, a DeBeers diamond mine is located just upstream from Attawapiskat. But the people of Attawapiskat benefit very little from it. All the resource royalties go to the Province of Ontario; and although some Attawapiskat residents have found work at the mine, they have not received training to do the specialized jobs that pay high wages.  

DOUBLE SHAME

As part of its blame the victim strategy, the Harper government has placed Attawapiskat under third party management. The manager appointed to oversee the band’s finances will receive a salary of $1,300 per day. The salary will be drawn from the funds of the already impoverished Attawapiskat community.

TAKE ACTION

  • Let Prime Minister Stephen Harper know you want the federal government to deal with the housing crisis in Attawapiskat and many other First Nations communities by providing adequate funding for housing: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  • Send the same message to Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan: john.duncan@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-2503.
  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you want the province’s wealth to be shared with First Nations and Métis people: premier@gov.sk.ca or 787-9433.
  • Sign two online petitions:

Avaaz: http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_attawapiskat/?tta

Care2 Petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/5/demand-action-for-the-attawapiskat-first-nation/

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

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NO ROOM AT THE INN: REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS

Posted by strattof on December 17, 2011

The Christmas story is quite well-known: Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem and find there is no room at the inn.

But how familiar are we with the current accommodation crisis in Regina. 2000 years later, there is still no room at the inn.

  • In 2010, over 3,400 people used one or more of Regina’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.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.
  • In 2010, 83.7% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter.
  • A fulltime minimum wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in Regina.
  • The vacancy rate in Regina is currently 0.7%, which essentially means there is no rental accommodation available.

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Safe, decent housing is a human right.

  • It is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Canada signed in 1948: “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.”
  • The right to housing is also enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into law in 1982. Because it puts their health and life at risk, homelessness breaches a homeless person’s Charter Section 7 rights to “life, liberty and security of the person.”

Neither the City of Regina nor the provincial and federal governments are in compliance with the human right to housing. If they were, there would not be a housing crisis in Regina.

CITY OF REGINA

The City of Regina’s response to the housing crisis is to pass the buck. When challenged, City officials say affordable housing is the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments.

PROVINCE OF SASKATCHEWAN

In August, the province announced a new eight-year housing strategy: A Strong Foundation–The Housing Strategy for Saskatchewan. For including “Support Individuals and Families in Greatest Housing Need” as one of the “five strategic directions,” the government is to be commended. 

However, according to the plan, the “private market is the main provider of 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.

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

In 1973, the federal government instituted a national affordable housing program which, for the next decade, created about 20,000 housing units per year. In the 1980s, the federal government made spending cuts to that program. In 1993, it cancelled funding for new affordable housing altogether. The result has been the rise of mass homelessness over the last 15 years. Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy.

SOLVING THE HOUSING CRISIS

The biggest causes of homelessness are

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

2. Lack of affordable housing.

The solution to the housing crisis is intervention in the housing market by all levels of government. Here are some of the things each level of government can do:

CITY COUNCIL can

  1. Pass landlord licensing laws.
  2. Develop affordable housing units that would be managed by the Regina Housing Authority.
  3. Require developers to include affordable housing in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  4. Deny applications for condo conversions when the apartment vacancy rate is under 3%.
  5. Put pressure on the federal government to develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT can

  1. Pass rent control legislation to prevent exploitative rent increases.
  2. Build affordable homes and rental accommodation.
  3. Allocate 3% of all natural resource royalties to affordable housing.
  4. Put pressure on the federal government to develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

 THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can

  1. Develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

MAKING ROOM AT THE INN

During the holiday festivities, take the time to advocate for affordable housing. Let our political leaders know you do not want to live in a city, province, or country that does not comply with right to housing legislation. 

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VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: NATIONAL DAY OF REMEMBRANCE AND ACTION

Posted by strattof on December 3, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Parliament established the day in 1991 to mark the anniversary of the 1989 murders of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal.

They died because they were women.

On December 6, we remember them and resolve to work to end gender-based violence in all its forms.

UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” 

The most common forms of violence against women are:

  • physical violence, ranging from slapping and hitting to assault and murder
  • emotional or psychological violence involving systematic undermining of an individual’s self-confidence, intimidation and verbal abuse
  • sexual violence, which encompasses all non-consensual or coerced sexual activity including incest and rape
  • financial violence, involving partial or total loss of control of one’s finances
  • neglect, involving deliberate denial of human rights and the necessities of life.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

THE NUMBERS

  • Women and girls are more likely than men to experience violence and assault in intimate and family relationships.
  • According to the 2009 General Social Survey, women report experiencing more serious forms of spousal violence and are more likely to incur injuries than men.
  • According to the 2009/2010 Transition Home Survey, between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, admissions of women to Canada’s shelters for abused women exceeded 64,000. Since 1998, annual shelter admissions for women have been relatively stable.
  • Young women experience the highest rates of family violence.

ABORIGINAL WOMEN

  • Aboriginal women are almost three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to report being the victim of a violent crime, including spousal violence.
  • In 2009, close to two-thirds of Aboriginal female victims were aged 15 to 34. This age group accounted for just under half of the total female Aboriginal population over age 15 living in the 10 provinces.
  • Among victims of spousal violence, six in 10 Aboriginal women reported being injured in the five years preceding the survey; the proportion was four in 10 among non-Aboriginal women.
  • Over three-quarters of non-spousal incidents of violence against Aboriginal women are not reported to police.

DATING VIOLENCE

  • In 2008, eight out of 10 victims of police-reported dating violence were female. This difference narrows with age, however: whereas female victims aged 15 to 19 outnumbered male victims by nearly 10 to one, the numbers for female and male victims aged 55 and over were nearly equal.
  • Incidents involving female victims were more likely to result in police charges than those involving male victims, particularly among those aged 15 to 19.
  • Approximately 10% of male victims and 1% of female victims of dating violence were involved in same-sex relationships.
  • In 2009, the self-reported sexual assault victimization rate for females was twice that of men. Of sexual assaults reported in the General Social Survey, 70% involved female victims.

SENIOR WOMEN

  • Although senior men experience a higher rate of violent victimization than senior women, family-related violent victimization is higher among senior women.
  • Senior women tend to be victimized by a spouse or grown child; senior men tend to be victimized by an acquaintance or a stranger.
  • Among victims of family-related homicide, senior women were most likely to be killed by their spouse (41%) or son (36%), while the majority of senior men were killed by their son (72%).

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

The figures in this leaflet are from Statistics Canada and can be found on the government’s Status of Women website: www.swc-cfc.gc.ca

The White Ribbon Campaign is a campaign to end violence against women. To find out more about this campaign, go to http://www.whiteribbon.ca/

REMEMBRANCE AND ACTION

MONDAY DECEMBER 5: VIGIL

A vigil, hosted by the Women’s Centre, to memorialize the 14 women who were killed in the Ėcole Polytechnique Massacre

11:45 am–1 pm, Riddell Centre Crush Space, University of Regina

TUESDAY DECEMBER 6: VIGIL

A vigil in memory of the Montreal Massacre, hosted by the Prairie Lily Feminist Society and the MacKenzie Art Gallery

7 pm, MacKenzie Art Gallery

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