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Archive for June, 2012

NATIONAL ABORIGINAL DAY

Posted by strattof on June 27, 2012

Thursday June 21st  was 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, as well as to remember all the treaty promises that were made and have been broken.

All Canadians benefit from the treaties signed between First Nations and the Canadian government. Regina, for example, is situated on land ceded under Treaty 4 in 1874. Under Treaty 4, Cree and Salteux First Nations relinquished most of current day southern Saskatchewan. In return, they received small parcels of land, as well as long-term government commitments in a number of areas, including education.

First Nations have kept their side of the treaty agreements. The Canadian government, on the other hand, has frequently failed to recognize its treaty commitments. Education, “the new buffalo,” as Blair Stonechild terms it, is one of the areas in which the government has broken its treaty promises.

BROKEN PROMISES: EDUCATION

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: 1884–1996

Under Treaty 4, the government promised “to maintain a school on the reserve, allotted to each band, as soon as they settle on said reserve.” Instead, the government implemented the genocidal residential school system, with the aim of assimilating First Nations into European-Canadian society–of “killing the Indian in the child.”

Attendance at the schools was compulsory for all children aged 6-15. Parents who failed to send their children willingly had their children taken from them forcibly.

Students were required to live on school premises and most had no contact with their families for up to 10 months at a time and sometimes for years. The attempt to force assimilation also involved punishing the children for speaking their own languages or practising their cultures.

All students at residential schools experienced cultural abuse. As is now well known, many students were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse. A lesser known fact is that the mortality rate at some schools reached 69%–caused by overcrowding, poor food and sanitation, and a lack of medical care. 

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to First Nations for the residential school system.

RESERVE SCHOOLS: 2011

●Some reserves still do not have schools and children must leave their families and communities to attend school. ●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 do the provinces. When this happens the provinces usually do not top up federal funding. ●As a result, many First Nations children and youth get an unequal education just because they are First Nations and living on a reserve.

THE EDUCATION GAP: 5 FACTS

1.   A child who attends school on a reserve receives on average $2,000 a year less in government funding than a child in a provincial school.

2.   Unlike provincial governments, the federal government does not provide funding for such things as libraries, computers, extracurricular activities, special education, or the development of culturally-appropriate curricula.

3.   Because of underfunding, many First Nations schools are in poor condition and present health concerns, including overcrowding, extreme mould, and high carbon dioxide levels.

4.   The high school dropout rate for on-reserve schools across Canada is 50.9%, as compared to an 8.5% dropout rate for all other schools in Canada.

5.   The high school graduation rate for on-reserve schools in Saskatchewan is 38%, as compared to 90.5% for schools in the provincial education system.

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.

EDUCATION, NOT PRISONS!

Under the Harper government’s new tough-on-crime legislation, prisons have begun to replace education as a major social service provided to First Nations.

  • While Aboriginal people comprise only 11% of the population of Saskatchewan, they make up 81% of the prison population.
  • Systemic racism, along with an on-going history of colonialism, accounts for the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in the Canadian prison system. For example, studies show that Aboriginal defendants more often receive sentences involving incarceration than non-Aboriginal defendants. 
  • The over-representation of a group of people in a prison population is self-perpetuating. Imprisonment increases rates of crime, poverty, family breakdown, and educational failure.  

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QUEBEC STUDENTS: WHY WE SUPPORT THEM

Posted by strattof on June 14, 2012

A TIMELINE

  • March 2011: The Charest government announces its intention to increase university tuition from $2,168 to $3,793–a 75% raise– over a 5-year period, beginning in September 2012.
  • February 13 2012: Students begin to boycott classes.
  • April 24: Students begin nightly protests in Montreal.
  • May 18: The Charest government passes Bill 78, an emergency law that restricts freedom of expression and assembly, making illegal demonstrations of more than 50 people unless schedules and routes have been approved by Quebec police.
  • May 18: The banging pots and pans demonstrations, also known as casserole protests, are launched in Quebec.
  • May 22: More than 200,000 people defy Bill 78 by marching through downtown Montreal.
  • May 30: Casserole protests spring up in cities across Canada, including Regina.
  • June: Casserole protests continue in Quebec and in cities across Canada.

4 REASONS TO SUPPORT QUEBEC STUDENTS

# 1 EDUCATION IS A RIGHT

By championing accessible education for all, Quebec students provide a model for the rest of us to follow.

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.”

The Declaration 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, universities in English Canada have been moving in the opposite direction, rapidly increasing tuition. As a result, a university education has become less accessible, as it is now unaffordable for many low-and middle-income students, and student debt has been pushed to historic levels.

  • 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.
  • 70% of high school graduates who do not go on to post-secondary education cite financial reasons as the main factor.
  • Today, students graduate with over $25,000 of education-related debt.

# 2 FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND OF ASSEMBLY ARE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

An attack on Canadian freedoms in any part of Canada is an attack on the freedoms of all Canadians. By protesting against Bill 78, Quebec students and their supporters are protecting the rights of all Canadians.

  • Bill 78 violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right of expression and of assembly as fundamental human rights.
  • Bill 78 has been condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the League for Human Rights, and the Quebec Bar Association, among others.  

# 3 THE QUEBEC PROTESTS CHALLENGE ECONOMIC INEQUALITY  

The Quebec students are promoting accessible education for all, and not just for the 1%. Indeed, the widening gap between rich and poor has become a major theme of the Quebec protests.

 Across Canada, income inequality has been rapidly rising for the last few decades:

  • The richest 10% of Canadians had an average income of $103,500 in 2008, 10 times that of the bottom 10%, who had an average income of $10,260. This is up from a ratio of 8 to 1 in the early 1990s.
  • Since 1980, the wealthiest 1% of Canadians have increased their share of the national income from 8% to 13%, a shift of $67 billion. 
  • 900,000 households and 2.5 million people in Canada are too poor to afford adequate diets.
  • 1 in 7 Canadian children live in poverty.

The Quebec protests have also evolved into a criticism of neo-liberal or free-market economics–the economic model that gives rise to extreme inequality. Neo-liberalism has the following characteristics:

  • Economic Deregulation: Governments remove all regulations standing in the way of the accumulation of profits.
  • Privatization: Governments sell off assets, such as Crown Corporations, to private corporations to run at a profit. Health-care, education, and pensions are also privatized.
  • Cutbacks to Social Programs: Governments cut back on such things as EI benefits, Social Assistance, and public pensions.
  • Minimal Taxation: Governments lower taxes on corporations. Personal income tax rates are very low, with rich and poor being taxed at the same flat rate.

# 4 THE QUEBEC PROTESTS ARE GOOD FOR DEMOCRACY

Democracy is not fulfilled by that once every 4 or 5 years act of voting. Protests give citizens the chance to speak more frequently. They also allow citizens to speak clearly on particular issues.

Casserole protests in many Canadian cities have become a way for citizens to demonstrate their opposition to the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill, a bill that lumps together severe cuts to pensions, job standards, health care, and environmental regulations.

BANGING POTS AND PANS IN REGINA

Show your solidarity with Quebec students by attending Casserole Nights in Regina.

When: Wednesday June 20, 6:30 pm

Where: Safeway on 13th Avenue

Bring pots and pans to bang.

HISTORY OF QUEBEC STUDENT MOVEMENT

What: Workshop and information session

Where: Grass lot behind food stand at 13th Avenue and Retallack

When: Friday, June 15, 6:30 pm

This information session will give you more background and knowledge about what the Quebec student movement is all about, where it is going, and how to get involved. Please bring lawn chairs or blankets if you wish to sit.

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