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Archive for January, 2012

EDUCATION IS A RIGHT

Posted by strattof on January 30, 2012

Education is a human right, enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Canada in 1948: “Everyone has a right to education.” 

It is not just elementary and high school education that is a right. The Declaration also explicitly guarantees equitable access to post-secondary education: “Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”  This clause was to be implemented by the progressive introduction of free higher education. 

Since the 1990s, however, Canadian universities have been moving in the opposite direction, rapidly increasing tuition and thus making a university education more and more expensive. As a result,

  • a university education has become less accessible as it is now unaffordable for many low- and middle-income Canadians; and
  • student debt has been pushed to historic levels.

As many as 1,600 of each year’s Saskatchewan high school graduates may not be attending university because of a low-income background.    

Today students graduate with over $25,000 of education-related debt.

TUITION AT SASKATCHEWAN UNIVERSITIES: FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Between 1990 and 1999, tuition for full-time Saskatchewan undergraduates increased by 137%.
  • Between 2000 and 2004, it increased by 38%.
  • Between 2009 and 2011, it increased by 10.6%.
  • Today, the average tuition for full-time undergraduates at Saskatchewan universities is $5,601, 2.4 times the 1990 level
  • Tuition at Saskatchewan universities exceeds the Canadian average. It is the fifth highest among the provinces.
  • By 2009, the cost of tuition, as compared with average incomes, was 30% greater in Saskatchewan than in Manitoba.
  • In the 1980s, tuition revenue at Saskatchewan universities accounted for less than 15% of total revenues. In 2009, it accounted for 25%.

REASONS FOR TUITION INCREASES

There are two main reasons for the tuition increases at Saskatchewan and many other Canadian universities:

  1. Cuts to public funding for post-secondary education, especially to cash transfer payments by the federal government in the 1990s.
  2. The choice universities have made to create expanded administrative structures. For example, until fairly recently, Canadian universities had only one vice president. Today both the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan have four vice presidents each.

REASONS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES DON’T GO ON TO POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

According to Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey:

  • 70% of high school graduates who do not go on to post-secondary education cite financial reasons as the main factor.
  • One in four of those cite debt aversion as their principal deterrent.

TAKE ACTION

  • Contact Prime Minister Harper and your MP and let them know you want funding for post-secondary education to be increased for the specific purpose of reducing tuition.     
  • Contact University of Regina President, Vianne Timmons, and let her know that you want the University to roll back tuition until it reaches 15% of total University revenue and that cuts to administrative positions might be one way to save money.

81% of Canadians believe tuition fees should be frozen or reduced.

ABORIGINAL STUDENTS

The federal government has a treaty responsibility to provide funding for Aboriginal students to pursue a post-secondary education. Currently, the federal government provides financial assistance to Status First Nations and Inuit students through the Post-Secondary Students Support Program (PSSSP), administered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

In 1996, the federal government imposed a 2% cap on increases to PSSSP funding. Tuition fees have more than doubled since the introduction of the cap. Also, the size of Aboriginal populations has grown dramatically.

EFFECTS OF THE 2% CAP

  • 10,589 First Nations students were denied access to post-secondary education in the years 2001-2006 as a result of the cap.
  • An additional 2,858 students were denied access in 2007-2008, with more being denied for every subsequent year the cap is implemented.
  • Between 1999 and 2008, the number of First Nations post-secondary students decreased by 20%. 

Percentage of populations with a university degree

First Nations  7%

Métis  9%

Inuit  4%

Non-Aboriginal Canadians  23%

Non-Status First Nations and Métis students are currently not eligible for funding through the PSSSP, leaving many without the financial resources necessary to pursue post-secondary education.

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 1-NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION: EDUCATION IS A RIGHT

  • 11:30 am: Meet in the Riddell Centre and march to First Nations University.
  • 12 noon: Rally at First Nations University. Exciting speakers, hot chocolate, and lunch.

DEMANDS

  • Removal of the 2% funding cap from PSSSP.
  • Extension of eligibility for PSSSP to non-Status First Nations and Métis.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

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AFFORDABLE HOUSING: PREVENT ITS DEMOLITION

Posted by strattof on January 15, 2012

There is a housing crisis in Regina. House prices have almost doubled. Apartment vacancy rates have plummeted to 0.6%. While there is lots of construction going on, very little of it is devoted to housing that is affordable for low and middle income households.  

Hardest hit are those on low and fixed incomes: seniors, minimum wage workers, social assistance recipients. But Regina’s dire housing situation is also impacting students, job-seekers, new residents, and young people just entering the labour force.

Regina’s housing crisis will only get worse if the demolition of the apartment blocks at 1755 Hamilton Street and 1550 14th Avenue goes ahead. Both buildings are owned by Westland Properties. Together they provide 58 low and medium rent apartments. 

The fate of the 1755 Hamilton Street building will be decided at the January 23rd meeting of City Council by the Council’s response to a report from the City Administration “setting out the options available to prevent the demolition” of the building. 

If City Council can find a way to build a new stadium, it can also find a way to save 1755 Hamilton Street from demolition. 1550 14th Avenue must also be spared. In a city with a vacancy rate of 0.6%, demolishing affordable housing is not a viable option.

TAKE ACTION

Contact Mayor Pat Fiacco and let him know you want the City to save the apartment blocks at 1755 Hamilton Street and 1550 14th Avenue from demolition and for affordable housing.

Send the same message to your City Councillor.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Mayor Pat Fiacco: Phone: 777-7339 Fax: 777-6824

Louis Brown, Ward 1                        Wade Murray, Ward 6

Phone: 531-5151                                 Phone: 522-8683

Fax: 777-6809                                     Fax: 777-6406

Jocelyn Hutchinson, Ward 2          Sharon Bryce, Ward 7

Phone: 584-1739                                 Phone: 949-5025

Fax: 777-6809                                     Fax: 777-6809

Fred Clipsham, Ward 3                      Mike O’Donnell, Ward 8

Phone: 757-8212                                 Phone: 545-7300

Fax: 777-6809                                     Fax: 777-6809

Michael Fougere, Ward 4                   Terry Hincks, Ward 9

Phone: 789-5586                                 Phone: 949-9690

Fax: 777-6404                                     Fax: 777-6809 

John Findura, Ward 5                         Chris Szarka, Ward 10

Phone: 536-4250                                 Phone: 551-2766

Fax: 777-6809                                     Fax: 777-6809

To send an email to the Mayor and your City Councillor: 

  • Go to the City of Regina’s homepage: Regina.ca
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Contact us.”
  • Scroll halfway down the page and click on “Contact your City Councillor.”

Attend the January 23rd meeting of City Council: 5:30 pm, Henry Baker Hall, Main Floor, City Hall.

Make a presentation at the January 23rd meeting of City Council. For information about presentations, contact florence.stratton@uregina.ca or 522-2310 or the City Clerk at 777-7000.

REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS: 10 KEY FACTS

1.  In 2010, over 3,400 people used one or more of the city’s shelter services. Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in overcrowded unhealthy conditions. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.

2. Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.

3. In 2010, 83.7% of shelter users were unable to find a home to live in after leaving the shelter.

4. Since 2006, the average resale price of residential homes in Saskatchewan has risen more than 83%.

5. Between October 2009 and October 2011, the number of apartments in Regina decreased by 260, due mainly to the conversion of apartments to condominiums.

6. Regina’s apartment vacancy rate has remained at or below 1% since 2008. A 3% vacancy rate is considered normal. Since April 2011, Regina has had the lowest apartment vacancy rate in Canada.  

7. Since 2006, average rents in Regina have increased by 9% a year. Between 2006 and 2010, average rents in Regina went up 43%.

8. The average monthly rate for a one bedroom apartment in Regina in October 2011 was $790, an increase of $48 (6.5%) a month from the previous year. Assuming a 40-hour work week for 4.34 weeks a month, individuals earning the minimum wage of $9.50 an hour would spend approximately 49% of their before-tax income on rent for a one-bedroom apartment. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines “Affordable Housing” as costing a household 30% or less of its before-tax income.

9. A cashier earning $1,811.30 per month cannot afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina. Nor can a security guard earning $2,031.43 per month or a food services supervisor earning $2,395 per month.

10. For a minimum wage-earner to afford a bachelor apartment in Regina, the minimum wage would have to rise from its current rate of $9.50 to $10.04 per hour. A three bedroom apartment would require a minimum wage of $20.35.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES 

Hirsch Greenberg, Rebecca Schiff, Alaina Harrison, Mark Nelson, Homelessness in Regina: 2010 Report, 2011: http://homelesshub.ca /(S(ynhm2q451mkson452i5 twcia))/Library/Homelessness-in-Regina—2010-Report-51359.aspx

Paul Gingrich, After the Freeze: Restoring University Affordability in Saskatchewan,  CCPA 2011: http://www.policyalternatives.ca /publications/reports/after-freeze 

CMHC, Rental Market Report, Regina, Fall 2011. 

CMHC Rental Market Report, Saskatchewan Highlights, Fall 2011.

Paul Dechene, “The Housing Issue,” Prairie Dog, November 3–November 16, 2011: http://www.prairiedogmag.com/archive /?id=996

Vanda Schmöckel, “Frozen Out: Another Day, Another Mass Eviction,” Prairie Dog December 1–December 14, 2011: http://www.prairiedogmag.com/archive/?id=1031

 

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AFGHANISTAN: EVERLASTING WAR

Posted by strattof on January 8, 2012

Question: “July 8 [2011]: After nine bloody years, Canada’s troops come home. Where have they been?”

 Answer: “Afghanistan.”

 —Winnipeg Free Press year-end news quiz, December 31, 2011

But is that the real answer?

Some mainstream media reports and government press releases suggest that Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan is over, but the truth is far different.

At ten years and counting, Canada’s longest war goes on until at least 2014, with about 1,000 troops still in harm’s way, supporting a failed war strategy that will cost our country billions of dollars, to say nothing of the cost in human life—Canadian, Allied and Afghan.

Fact: ●In November 2010, the Canadian government extended Canada’s mission in Afghanistan to 2014, claiming we would shift to a non-combat “training” role. Troops would be safe “behind the wire” in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Fact: ●As long ago as 2008, the Manley Commission on Canada’s role in Afghanistan found that “in reality, training and mentoring Afghan forces means sometimes conducting combat operations with them.”

Fact: ●More recently, retired General Rick Hillier said, “If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army…you are going to be in combat” (CBC, November 15, 2010).

Fact: ●In September of 2011, “Canadian military trainers helped defend a NATO compound in Kabul . . . when insurgents launched a dramatic attack against the U.S. Embassy and surrounding neighbourhood that killed 16 Afghans and wounded dozens more” (Windsor Star, September 23, 2011).

Fact: ●On October 29, 2011, a member of the Canadian infantry was one of 17 people—civilians included—killed by a suicide car-bomb attack while “travelling between a training base and headquarters in Kabul at the time of the incident” (Toronto Star, November 22, 2011).

Does it sound to you like the war-fighting is over, and Canadian troops have all safely “come home”?

In truth, Canada’s participation in a “training role” until at least 2014 is one part of a failed US-led military strategy that also includes

  • a surge to push back the Taliban in Afghanistan; and
  • an increased use of drones and special forces in northern Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters there.

–“Training Can Be Dangerous,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Both of these tactics have led to increased instability and significant civilian casualties in Afghanistan and the wider region.

Continued Canadian support of the US-led war effort in Afghanistan, even under the guise of “training,” will not make Canadians—or Afghans—any safer.

To say nothing of the cost in human life, the $3 billion Canada will likely spend on its “training” mission in Afghanistan only adds to the extra $92 billion we’ve already dedicated to increased “security” and “defence” costs since the 9/11 attacks that first prompted the Afghanistan War (Globe & Mail, November 12, 2010; “The Cost of 9/11,” Rideau Institute).

Real Question:  After more than ten bloody years, what should Canada’s strategy in Afghanistan be?

Real Answer: Work for Peace!   

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10 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR CANADA AND CANADIANS

Posted by strattof on January 4, 2012

To make the world a better place for all of us who dwell here

WHAT GOVERNMENTS CAN DO

#1    Stop the demolition of the 1755 Hamilton Street apartment block.

1755 Hamilton Street is a 46 unit, low-rent apartment block. It is set to be demolished early in 2012. In the context of Regina’s housing crisis, the demolition of such a building is unethical. ●Regina has the lowest rental vacancy rate in Canada. Currently it is 0.6%, which essentially means there is no rental accommodation available. ●There are already over 3,000 homeless people in Regina and that’s not counting those who are double-bunking or couch-surfing. ●Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.

On January 23, City Council will decide the fate of the 1755 Hamilton Street apartment block.  

#2    Bring our troops home from Afghanistan now.

Government and media reports give the impression that Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan is over. Facts: ●In November 2010, the Harper government extended Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan to 2014. At 10 years and counting, Afghanistan is already Canada’s longest war. About 1,000 Canadian troops continue to be deployed in Afghanistan. Their declared role is to train Afghan army and police.

According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada’s Afghan trainers are on a non-combat mission and hence will be relatively safe. Facts: ●According to retired general Rick Hillier, “If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army…you are going to be in combat.” ●Kabul, where most Canadian troops are stationed, is not very safe.

#3    Stop building prisons.

Crime rates in Canada have been dropping since the 1990s. Why, then, has the federal government initiated “tough on crime” legislation–laws that will make more Canadians spend more time in prison? The average annual cost of incarcerating a single offender in a federal prison is $100,000. That figure does not include the estimated $9 billion it will cost to build new prisons for the growing prison population. If even half of that money was invested in education and affordable housing, all Canadians would benefit enormously.

#4    Provide proper funding for First Nations education.

For First Nations, education is a Treaty right. Under Treaty 4, which covers most of southern Saskatchewan, First Nations were promised a school on each reserve. Instead, the government implemented the genocidal residential school system. Today, children who attend schools on reserves receive 30% less funding than other Canadian children. Funding per student at First Nations University is also less than at other universities.

#5    Set serious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and develop a plan for meeting them.

On the 2011 Climate Change Performance Index, Canada ranks 57th out of 60. We are one of the top ten CO2 emitters in the world. Tar sands development is our fastest growing source of emissions. To protect the tar sands from being adversely effected by climate change policy, Canada engaged in obstructionist tactics at the recent climate change conference in Durban, South Africa. These tactics led to Canada being dishonoured with the Fossil of the Year award–for the fifth year running. They also help to keep the world on the path to catastrophic global warming.

WHAT YOU AND I CAN DO

#6    We can contact Mayor Pat Fiacco and our City Councillors and let them know we want them to prevent the demolition of the 1755 Hamilton Street apartment block. 

#7    We can USE LESS STUFF. In other words, we can resist massacring the earth through thoughtless and pointless consumerism.

#8    We can speak out against injustice, be it social, political, economic, or environmental.

#9    We can work for peace in small ways everyday: at home, in the neighbourhood, in the city, the province, the country, and the world.

#10 We can join with others in Canada and around the world–in organizations, political parties, and citizens’ movements–to work towards peace and justice.

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