Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for April, 2012

WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

Posted by strattof on April 28, 2012

This last week in April offers a chance to reflect on the struggles facing working people in Canada.

  • April 28 is Canada’s National Day of Mourning for Workers Injured or Killed on the Job.
  • Next Monday, May 1st, is recognized around the world as International Workers’ Day, commemorating the struggle for a standard eight-hour work day.

WORKERS FACE MANY CHALLENGES

DANGEROUS WORKPLACES

  • In 2010, over 1,000 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada. About 3 workers per day lose their lives in an average year; hundreds of thousands are injured annually.
  • Many workers die years after workplace exposure to such substances as asbestos, still mined and exported by Canada.
  • Right Now—a worker at a BC sawmill was killed this week, and dozens more were injured in the explosion.  It was the second such sawmill accident in Canada this year.  Workers have a right to safe workplaces.

LOST JOBS

  • According to Stats Canada, 26,200 Saskatchewan people are unemployed and looking for work.
  • In March, the unemployment rate for First Nations people was 20.5 per cent – an increase from 13.9 per cent since the end of 2007.
  • Right Now—The March 29th federal budget cut 19,200 jobs in departments ranging from Agriculture to Environment. Thousands more workers may be affected by the cuts. Workers who wish to work have a right to employment.

LOWER BENEFITS & WAGES

  • Changes to Employment Insurance in the 1990s leave many workers ineligible for assistance; fewer than half who pay into the system are eligible to collect from a system they paid into.
  • Long waiting periods for benefits mean some people can’t pay their bills; particularly vulnerable are part-timers, the self-employed, and mothers on maternity leave.
  • Right Now—While Saskatchewan MLAs receive an automatic 2.8 per cent increase in their wages, the provincial government refuses to raise the minimum wage to a livable level, or index it to the rate of inflation, though Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is the third-lowest in Canada. Workers have a right to a liveable wage and fair benefits.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS ATTACKED

  • On February 6th, a Saskatchewan court found the provincial government’s labour legislation violated workers’ Charter Rights to bargain effectively; the government continues to fight the decision.
  • Last fall, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that some 2,300 employees—mostly women—had been denied equitable pay by their employer, Canada Post.  The case had taken 28 years to resolve. Meanwhile, the federal government has changed the rules, making it harder for unions to represent workers in pay equity cases.
  • Right Now: The Public Service Alliance of Canada alleged this week that the federal government is encouraging employees to “volunteer” to be laid off after the March 29th budget, in violation of a collective agreement negotiated between the employees and their employer (Parks Canada).  Workers deserve to have their collective agreements respected.

E-mail the Federal and Provincial Ministers of Labour to say you want action to support workers’ rights:  Saskatchewan Minister of Labour Relations, Don Morgan: dmorgan@mla.legassembly.sk.ca; Federal Minister of Labour, Lisa Raitt:  lisa.raitt@parl.gc.ca.

Attend the Regina & District Labour Council’s Ceremony remembering workers injured or killed on the job: Regina City Hall, April 28th, 1:30 pm. For further information, email rdlc@sasktel.net

  •  

Posted in justice | Leave a Comment »

EARTH DAY, APRIL 22

Posted by strattof on April 22, 2012

Sunday, April 22, is EARTH 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

  • The concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is currently 35% higher than it was in 1832 at the beginning of the industrial revolution. At 393.65 parts per million it is also well over the upper safety limit of atmospheric CO2, which is 350 ppm.
  • The leading cause of this increase in atmospheric CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Climate change is mainly the result of CO2 levels rising in the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Many scientists believe that climate change is the single biggest threat the earth is facing today.

FAT CAT CANADA

While Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, it has one of the worst records when it comes to taking action on climate change:

  • Canada ranks first among G8 countries for increasing green-house gas emissions.
  • Canada ranks 54th out of 60 on the 2012 Climate Change Performance Index.
  • Canada is by far the biggest defaulter on its Kyoto climate commitments. Emissions, rather than decreasing, have shot up. By 2009, they were 24% above 1990 emission levels. In 2011, Canada became the first signatory from the rich world to withdraw from Kyoto.

 TAR SANDS MADNESS

  • Tar sands production generates as much as 20% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. It accounts for 5% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Tar sands development is Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.
  • The Canadian government subsidizes the tar sands industry to the tune of $1.3 billion per year.
  • To protect the tar sands industry from being adversely affected by climate change policy, Canada engaged in obstructionist tactics at the 2011 international 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.

TAR SANDS: COMING TO A PROVINCE NEAR YOU

Oilsands Quest, a Calgary-based company, has a lease on 651,565 acres of northwestern Saskatchewan and is in the process of developing Saskatchewan’s first tar sands project.

RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE EFFECT

“After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.”–Dr James Hansen, NASA climate scientist

WHAT YOU AND I CAN DO

We can

  • Let Prime Minister Harper know that we want the federal government to stop subsidizing the tar sands industry and to start investing in renewable forms of energy: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  • Tell Premier Brad Wall that we don’t want the province to develop tar sands oil, the world’s dirtiest oil; rather we want the province to invest in the development of renewable forms of energy: premier@gov.sk.ca or 787-9433.
  • Find out more about climate change and tar sands oil by visiting the following websites:Franke James: www.frankejames.com; CO2 Now: co2now.org; Dirty Oil Sands: dirtyoilsands.org; Pembina Institute: pembina.org/oil-sands; Tar Sands Action: tarsandsaction.org;
  • Support the work of the Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan: http://www.cleangreensask.ca/
  • Live cleaner and greener: ●Buy less stuff ●Reuse and recycle ●Turn off lights when leaving a room ●Turn down the thermostat ●Use fans and blinds instead of an air conditioner ●Turn off the computer when not using it ●Turn off power bars at night ●Use a clothesline instead of a drier ●Use a push lawn mower ●Walk, cycle, car share, ride the bus ●Support neighbourhood businesses ●Eat less meat ●Eat locally produced food whenever possible.  

E V E RY    D A Y   I S   E A R T H   D A Y

   

Posted in climate, environment, peace activism | 2 Comments »

REGINA’S HOUSING CRISIS

Posted by strattof on April 22, 2012

Regina’s housing crisis is only getting worse.

  • In October 2011, our city had a vacancy rate of 0.6%, the lowest in the country and down 0.1% from six months earlier.
  • In January 2012, Regina City Council approved the demolition of a 46-unit low-rent apartment block at 1755 Hamilton Street.
  • In February 2012, Regina City Council cleared the way for the demolition of another low-rent building, the Crescent Apartments at 1550 14th Avenue.  
  • The 2012 provincial budget, contains nothing new when it comes to affordable housing.    

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. Over the period, many apartment buildings were converted 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.

SOLVING THE HOUSING CRISIS: WHAT REGINA CITY COUNCIL CAN DO

Asked to take action on Regina’s housing crisis, elected city officials are likely to respond:  “Housing is not a municipal responsibility.” But that is just a way of passing the buck. Are dome stadiums a municipal responsibility?

City Council certainly can’t solve all of Regina’s housing problems. For that to happen, the provincial and federal governments have to be involved. There are, however, measures the City can take that would go a long way in addressing the current housing crisis.

CITY COUNCIL can

  • Require developers to include affordable housing in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • Deny applications for demolition permits when the apartment vacancy rate is under 3%.
  • Strike a Regina Housing Task Force with a mandate to solve the immediate crisis by using already completed local research; by identifying empty buildings that could be converted into affordable housing units; and by putting pressure on the provincial government to fund affordable housing projects.
  • Put pressure on the federal government to develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government.

CITY COUNCIL can also adopt affordable housing strategies that have been successful in other Canadian cities.

  • Not long ago, Saskatoon had a lower vacancy rate than Regina. Now it has a 2.6% vacancy rate, which is quite close to the 3% rate that is considered normal. By contrast, Regina has a vacancy rate of 0.6%, the lowest in the country. What has Saskatoon done differently? Since 2008, Saskatoon has been very proactive in addressing housing issues. To meet the city’s increasing need for affordable housing, its city council has partnered with other levels of government, along with non-profit housing providers, religious and other community organizations, financial institutions, and private businesses.
  • In 2008, Calgary adopted a 10 year plan to end homelessness. The plan is based on the “Housing First” philosophy, a philosophy “which puts the highest priority on moving homeless people into permanent housing with the support necessary to sustain that housing.” It involves “all levels of government, the private sector, the non-profit and faith communities and the public working together to end homelessness.” In its first three years, the Housing First initiative found permanent housing and support for 2000 people.

WHAT YOU AND I CAN DO

●We can contact elected city officials and tell them we want City Council to take action on housing. ●We can contact the candidates for mayor in the October 2012 municipal election and ask them where they stand on the issue of affordable housing. ●We can write letters to the editor of local newspapers expressing our desire to live in a city where there is housing for all citizens.   

CITY COUNCIL CONTACT INFORMATION

Mayor Pat Fiacco: 777-7339 or PFiacco@regina.ca

Ward 1, Louis Browne: 531-5151 or LBrowne@regina.ca

Ward 2, Jocelyn Hutchinson: 584-1739 or JHutchinson@regina.ca

Ward 3, Fred Clipsham: 757-8212 or FClipsham@regina.ca

Ward 4, Michael Fougere: 789-5586 or MFougere@regina.ca

Ward 5, John Findura: 536-4250 or JFindura@regina.ca

Ward 6, Wade Murray: 522-8683 or WMurray@regina.ca

Ward 7, Sharron Bryce: 949-5025 or SBryce@regina.ca

Ward 8, Mike O’Donnell: 545-7300 or MOdonnell@regina.ca

Ward 9, Terry Hinks: 949-9690 or Thinks@regina.ca

Ward 10, Chris Szarka: 551-2766 or CSzarka@regina.ca

To send a message by regular mail, use the following address: 2476 Victoria Avenue, PO Box 1790, Regina S4P 3C8.

CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR

Jim Elliott: caar@accesscomm.ca or 352-4804

Michael Fougere: MFougere@regina.ca or 789-5586

David Robert Loblaw: Loblaw2012@gmail.com or 541-8300

Chad Novak: chadnovak2012@gmail.com

Meka Okochi: info@mekaokochi.ca   

BOOM FOR WHOM?

Our city is experiencing unprecedented prosperity. But clearly the economic good times have not delivered equally good results for all. As a result, there is more and more misery and suffering.

We could house everyone if we had the will to do so. What kind of city do we want to live in?

Posted in justice | 13 Comments »

D A N D E L I O N R E C I P E S

Posted by strattof on April 5, 2012

Dandelion leaves give

  • more vitamin A and beta carotene than carrots
  • more potassium than bananas
  • more iron and vitamin A than spinach
  • vitamins C & B, calcium, magnesium, and coline

Do not use dandelions that have been near pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, car fumes, or peeing dogs.

Always wash the leaves thoroughly and remove coarse stems.

DANDELION TEA

Steep the leaves in not-quite boiling water for 15 minutes.

Dry dandelion leaves for winter brewing. A health-giving tonic!

DANDELION SALAD

Replace lettuce or spinach with dandelion leaves or mix them.  

Dandelion flowers are also edible and add a nice colour to salads.

DANDELION AVOCADO SANDWICH

1.  Spread Saskatchewan mustard on two slices of whole grain bread.

2. Slice an avocado into strips and lay it on one of the slices.

3. Pile on dandelion leaves cut into bite-size pieces. YUMMY!

  COOKED DANDELION GREENS  

Steam the leaves for a few minutes in a little water.

If you like, add some chopped onion or garlic or a dash of soy sauce.

Save the cooking water for soup stock.

Dandelion leaves can also be substituted for, or mixed with, other greens in recipes such as lasagna. You can also snip them into soups and stews.

DANDELION POTATOES

1. Take two medium-size potatoes and peal them if they are not organic. Otherwise, leave the skins on.

2. Cut the potatoes into quarters.

3. Boil the potatoes in just enough water so they don’t boil dry.

4. Cut two handfuls of dandelion leaves into bite-size pieces and add them to the boiling water.

5. Add black pepper, thyme, and dill.

6. When everything is tender, drain and mash together, saving the liquid for soup stock.

7. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top. DELICIOUS!

SWEET DANDELION MEDLEY

1.   Gently heat 2 teaspoons of virgin oil in a saucepan.

2.   Slice a medium-size onion and finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Simmer in oil until golden.  

3.   Peel a sweet potato and cut it into very thin slices.

4.   Add the sweet potato slices to the pan while the onion and garlic are simmering.

5.   Add a pile of dandelion leaves cut into bite-size pieces.

6.   Add a little water to keep the mixture from burning.

7.   Add a few drops of soy sauce, and some dried thyme and black pepper.

8.   When the sweet potatoes are soft, drain the mixture, saving the liquid for soup.

DANDELION ROOT COFFEE

Dandelion roots also have medicinal qualities. They can be made into an excellent caffeine-free coffee substitute.

1.   Dig up the roots of mature dandelion plants and wash them carefully. 

2.   Cut the roots into chunks and put them in a large water-filled bowl. Swish with your hands until the water gets cloudy. Pour off and repeat until the water runs clear.

3.   Place the root chunks into a food processor and grind them into a course-looking mixture.

4.   Spread the course grounds on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 250° F for about 2 hours. Leave the oven door slightly open so moisture can escape. Stir periodically to ensure even roasting and prevent burning.

5.   Cool after roasting and then grind in a coffee grinder to the texture of regular coffee for use in a coffee maker. ENJOY your caffeine-free dandelion coffee!

Dandelion roots can also be chopped into soup as you would parsnip.

DANDELION FRITTATA (or Fancy Scrambled Eggs)

1.   In a thick skillet, briefly sauté cut dandelion greens, along with half a chopped onion or lots of fresh chives, chopped parsley, a chopped garlic clove, and some sliced mushrooms.

2.   In a bowl, beat 2 eggs and add 1 tablespoon of milk, some basil, thyme, or oregano, a dash of chili or hot sauce, and half a cup of white coarsely grated cheese.

3.   Add the egg mix to the mix in the skillet and let set or scramble.

Posted in environment | Leave a Comment »

GO GREEN! LIVE HEALTHY WITHOUT PESTICIDES

Posted by strattof on April 5, 2012

It’s SPRING in Regina! HURRAH!!  But wait! Is that a dandelion I see poking its head up in my pristine green lawn? Not already!! Where is the number for the pesticide company I called last year?

STOP: Before you dial that number, please consider the following facts:

  • The Canadian Cancer Society warns against the use of pesticides, citing research that links their use to cancer and other serious health issues.
  • Dandelions have many health benefits. All parts of the plant – flower, leaves, stem, and root – are edible.  

4 NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF PESTICIDES

1.   Children and unborn babies are at high risk for health problems related to pesticides. These include developmental problems, lower intelligence scores, birth defects, endocrine disruption, allergies, asthma, and leukemia, as well as several other types of cancer. Pesticides drift far on the wind and can be breathed in or land on toys, garden food, and clothes. They can also be tracked into the house. Children are particularly vulnerable as their bodies and brains are still developing and their immune system is immature. Older children doing active sports breathe in more air with its burden of toxins.

 2.   Seniors are also at high risk. Immune systems and organ functions weaken with age. These systems which help the body deal with toxins are often already overworked by daily medications. So exposure to pesticides has a more damaging effect.

3.   Pesticide exposure damages the same brain areas as those linked to multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). It is also becoming clear that pesticides are hormone disrupters. Thus long exposure to chemical pesticides can cause cancers such as prostate cancer and other degenerative diseases.

4.   The birds and the bees are gravely threatened by pesticides. Bees depend on dandelions, their first spring source of nectar. We depend on pollination by bees for about one-third of our food. Birds not only give us joy, they devour mosquitoes. Pets too are threatened by lawn pesticides, as are many beneficial insects.  

“Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides. Children eat and drink more per kilogram of body weight than adults. Their skin is more permeable and their livers do not excrete as efficiently as adults’. Their hand-to-mouth behaviour increases the chance of ingestion and their dermal contact is increased because of a proportionally larger skin surface, and because they play on the ground outdoors and on the floor indoors.”–Ontario College of Family Physicians 2004

HOW GREEN DOES OUR GARDEN GROW?

  • 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.
  • Over 150 Canadian municipalities have also banned pesticides. But not Regina.  In 2002, a citizen campaign to introduce a ban ended with City Council voting against it.
  • However, in May 2010, City Council did institute a one-year pilot pesticide reduction project, designating three parks–Gordon Park in southwest Regina, Al Pickard Park in north Regina, and Queen Elizabeth II Court in front of City Hall–as pesticide-free.
  • In both economic and aesthetic terms, this experiment was a success. But rather than expanding the project to all city parks, City Council merely extended the “pesticide-free” designation of the original three parks, first through 2011, and now through 2012.
  • Why not make all of our parks pesticide-free and thus safe? This is the question raised by the Canadian Cancer Society which is advocating for all parks in Regina, indeed all lawns in Saskatchewan, to become pesticide-free. 
  • This summer, the city is completing a threshold count of weeds in all Regina parks. If the three pesticide-free parks have weed counts above the threshold, the city will once again start using pesticides on them. Is there a health-risk threshold?
  • Three years ago, the Saskatoon Health Region cut out the use of herbicides (pesticides that kill plants) on the grounds of hospitals, to prevent unnecessary toxic exposure to employees, patients, and visitors. Why hasn’t the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region adopted the same policy?

“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

WHAT YOU AND I CAN DO

  • Banish toxic pesticides from our property, making it safe for people, birds, bees, and pets.
  • Cherish Diversity: Enjoy an interesting lawn of various plants.
  • Dig the dandelions and EAT them. See DANDELION RECIPES insert or call Catherine at 569-7699 for suggestions.
  • Have a healthy lawn: mow high, dig out weeds, aerate (poke holes), leave grass clippings on for nutrients. (For more information, read the pamphlet All the Dirt on Healthy Lawns, available at City Hall.) Alternatively, plant non-grass ground covers.
  • Speak out about our concern about pesticides at work places, health centres, senior homes, daycare centres, and schools.
  • Contact Regina City Councillors, asking them to expand the pesticide-free parks and to add Regina to the growing “pesticide-free cities” movement.
  • Contact the Regina-Qu’Appelle Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Maurice Hennink (maurice.hennink@rqhealth.ca), urging that Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region follow Saskatoon Health Region’s lead.
  • Urge the Government of Saskatchewan to follow other provinces and ban cosmetic pesticides. Let the government know that a ban will save on health care expenses:       Premier Brad Wall: 787-9433 or premier@gov.sk.ca; Minister of the Environment, Dustin Duncan: 787-0393 or dduncan@mla.legassembly.sk.ca
  • Find out more about the harmful effects of pesticides. Google “Canadian Cancer Society, pesticides” and “Saskatchewan Environmental Society, pesticide reduction.”

Posted in environment | Leave a Comment »