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Archive for August, 2013

LET THEM STAY!

Posted by strattof on August 24, 2013

For over a year, two young University of Regina students from Nigeria have been hiding in church basements in Regina to avoid deportation by the federal government.  

Victoria Ordu and Favour Amadi made the honest mistake of working off-campus at Walmart for two weeks while they were studying at the U of R.  

Victoria and Favour want to return to their studies at the University. However, the Harper government continues to insist on a penalty out of all proportion to the offence committed: deportation and the loss of their academic efforts.

In the meantime, the Harper government has proposed changes to the International Student Program that would allow international students to work off-campus with the same work permit. Supporters of Victoria and Favour are asking the federal government to include the cases of the two students when these changes are implemented.

KEY ELEMENTS IN THE CASE

  • Victoria and Favour were students at the University of Regina from 2009 – 2012.
  • In the summer of 2011, they both worked at Walmart for approximately two weeks.
  • Both students had work permits for campus. Their mistake was thinking they could work off-campus.
  • To avoid deportation, they went into hiding on June 19 2012. They have been in sanctuary in church basements ever since.
  • The Canadian Border Services Agency had discretion to impose sanctions other than deportation. For example, they could have issued a warning and imposed a fine.
  • Walmart also made a mistake in hiring Victoria and Favour. Yet it appears Walmart hasn’t faced any sanctions.
  • The changes to the International Student Program proposed by the Harper government are likely to take effect in January 2014.
  • Government officials continue to insist that, because Victoria and Favour broke the current rules, they must return to Nigeria.
  • Victoria and Favour are supported by hundreds of students, faculty, and community members.
  • Politicians from across the parties and jurisdictions have spoken publicly in support of Victoria and Favour, including: MP Ralph Goodale (Liberal); MP Jinny Sims (NDP); MLA Bill Boyd (Sask Party); MLA and Party Leader Cam Broten (NDP).
  • The University of Regina has supported Victoria and Favour on compassionate grounds since their ordeal began in 2011 and maintains that commitment. Supports are in place to help them return to classes.

 AN EXERCISE IN CONTRAST

CERTAIN CANADIAN SENATORS                                

Accusation: Making fraudulent expense claims                                  

Initial Response: Denial                                                                                   

Mistake: Improperly billing tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in either housing or travel allowance            

Outcome: Pay back funds and say “Sorry.”     

VICTORIA AND FAVOUR

Accusation: Working off-campus for 2 weeks without a work permit 

Initial Response: Admission of mistake

Mistake: Earning extra money for an honest day’s work

Outcome: Deportation and loss of academic efforts                                

Why the double standard? The federal government should move quickly to pardon these students and allow them to return to their studies.

TAKE ACTION

  • Learn more. Go to http://stopurdeportations.com
  • Help Victoria and Favour return to classes at the University of Regina. Ask the federal ministers responsible to reconsider the penalty of deportation and allow the students to continue their studies in September.   

Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander: Email: chris.alexander@parl.gc.ca; Phone: 613-995-8040; Fax: 613-957-2688; Twitter: @calxandr   

Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney: Email: steven.blaney@parl.gc.ca; Phone: 613-992-7434; Fax: 613-995-6856; Twitter: @MinisterStevenBlaney

  • Follow Victoria (@beingvictoria) and Favour (Missfavour8) on twitter.
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WASTE WATER TREATMENT PLANT REFERENDUM, SEPTEMBER 25: VOTE YES!

Posted by strattof on August 18, 2013

September 25 2013, you will be asked to vote on whether you support the City of Regina publically financing, operating, and maintaining Regina’s new $224.3 million waste water treatment plant.

This is an exciting and historic opportunity for our city which has not had a referendum since 1994.

  • Get out and vote on September 25th.  The referendum gives Regina citizens a rare opportunity to have a direct say on a particular matter.
  • VOTE YES and reject the P3 model for our city’s new waste water treatment plant. Turn the page and find out why you should Vote YES

WHY VOTE YES 4 REASONS

1. VOTE YES to save Regina taxpayers money.

According to City Council, the P3 deal will save Regina taxpayers money. It is true that the P3 deal comes with up to $58.5 million in federal government infrastructure funding. If Regina chooses not to go the P3 route, we will lose that federal funding.  

However, this does not mean a P3 waste water plant is a good deal. $58.5 million in federal funding will not make up for the additional costs of the P3.

Cities can borrow money more cheaply than private companies. Private borrowing interest rates are higher than public rates.

P3 loans are usually paid back over a longer period than direct municipal borrowing. In this case it’s a 30-year period over which the City would have to pay interest on the loan.

Private companies need to make a profit. Regina citizens will not only pay for the service, we will also pay for the profit that must be paid to shareholders in the private company that is operating and maintaining the facility over the 30-year period.

City Council claims an additional $78.6 million in savings if the project is a P3. However, it will not say where these savings will come from. What is City Council hiding?

Regina Water Watch, the citizens’ group that organized the petition campaign, says that rejecting the P3 and choosing the publically financed, operated, and maintained model for the new plant will save Regina taxpayers about $13 million. All of the calculations involved are publically available. Google Flushing Money Away or go to: http://reginawaterwatch.ca/files/2013/05/Regina-Waste-Water-Treatment-Plant-Report.pdf

Transparency is essential for democracy. Ask Mayor Fougere and your City Councillor to disclose their secret calculations so citizens can cast an informed ballot.

2. VOTE YES to keep our water public.

According to our Mayor and City Council, waste water isn’t water. It’s sewage or poop. They are wrong.

Waste water is part of the water system. After treatment, it is typically discharged into a river or a lake. In other words, it is treated in order to make the water reusable. “A clean water supply, especially so with regard to sewage, is the single most important determinant of public health” (Wikipedia).

City Council also claims it will control the new plant. Since the plant will be operated and maintained by a private, for-profit company for 30 years, it will actually be nearly impossible for the city to maintain control of the facility. For this reason, the P3 deal can rightly be viewed as a transfer of an essential public service into private hands.

3. VOTE YES to maintain a high quality of service.

Private companies minimize cost in order to maximize profit. When they take over a public service, such as waste water treatment, they typically cut costs by laying off workers and reducing safety measures.

The waste water system in Hamilton-Wentworth provides an instructive example. In order to cut costs, the private company running the plant laid off half the workers. The result? A disastrous reduction in service quality with raw sewage being dumped into Hamilton Harbour. In the end, the city had to step in and take back the plant and clean up the mess.

4. VOTE YES TO KEEP REGINA’S WASTE WATER TREATMENT PLANT UNDER LOCAL CONTROL AND OUT OF THE HANDS OF HUGE CORPORATE FORCES.

Handing off one of our most vital services and assets to a multinational corporation is a lose-lose situation. ●Regina taxpayers lose money. ●The City of Regina loses control of an essential public service.

Who wins with P3s? Large multinational corporations.

WATER IS NOT A COMMODITY.

WATER IS:

A HUMAN RIGHT

A COMMON GOOD

A PUBLIC SERVICE

AN ESSENTIAL HUMAN NEED

KEEP REGINA WATER PUBLIC

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PRISONS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

Posted by strattof on August 9, 2013

Kinew James  and Ashley Smith  are recent victims of the Canadian prison system. Both women suffered from mental illness, and both died while in custody.

In January 2013, James died of a heart attack after guards in the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon ignored her cries  for help for over an hour, even disabling the alarm in her cell.

Smith spent 4 months in RPC and was transferred after being assaulted by a guard. She died of self-asphyxiation in a prison cell in Kitchener a year later. Guards were instructed not to intervene.

Frontline staff do not have the training to deal with inmates like James and Smith. Why are people suffering from mental illness being kept in prison in the first place?

How many more victims must prisons produce before politicians and legislators realize that prisons are not the answer!

Violence at Saskatoon’s RPC has reached unprecedented levels:  

  • Inmate on inmate violence has increased by 350% since 2001.  
  • In 2001, there were 15 self-inflicted injuries at RPC. Last year, there were 323.

Bryan Rabie, Former inmate at RPC: “I heard people screaming for help and everything. And there’s no help. There’s just a blind eye. When we ask for help and there’s no help – for me that’s a major trigger.”

Dr. Herbert Mansfield Mela, Forensic Psychiatrist at RPC: ”If these incidents are anything to go by, we’re seeing that the absence of appropriate therapeutic environment must be contributing to the problems that are at hand.  If an environment is adverse for anybody to learn and be corrected then you’re setting them up for failure. Then when they come back into the community unfortunately they’re my neighbours and they’re your neighbours.” 

7 CHANGES TO THE WAY CANADA DEALS WITH CRIME

 1.      Decline of the Rehabilitative Ideal

  • Reduced emphasis on rehabilitation as the goal of penal institutions
  • Programs have not necessarily disappeared, but are subordinate to retribution, confinement, and the management of risk

2.      Re-emergence of Punitive Sanctions

  • Attitude that we should condemn more and understand less
  • Ensure prison conditions are suitably austere

3.      Changes in the Emotional Tone of Crime Policy

  • Fear of crime = problem in itself. Measures aimed at reducing fear rather than crime
  • Collective anger and righteous demand for retribution rather than just, socially engineered solution

4.      Politicization

  • Political advantage and public opinion valued over views of experts
  • Branding of bills and use of sound bites (“safe streets and communities,” “tough on crime,” “truth in sentencing”) 
  • Expert voice downgraded. “Common sense” prevails
  • Legislators more hands-on (fixed sentences, take power away from judiciary, experts, administrators)

5.      The Reinvention of the Prison

  • “An institution with a long history of utopian expectations and periodic attempts to reinvent itself—first as a penitentiary, then as a reformatory, and most recently as a correctional facility – has finally seen its ambition reduced to the ground-zero of confinement and retributive punishment.” –David Garland

6.      The Commercialization of Crime Control

  • Public-private mix in penal sector. The development of a private prison industry

7.      New Management Styles and Working Practices

  • Cut drug treatment and community-based prevention in favour of  mass imprisonment and mandatory minimums: popular with public, but with doubtful impact

BETTER OPTIONS

If even half of the money Canada spends on imprisoning people were to be invested in education, anti-poverty initiatives, affordable housing, and healthcare, all Canadians would benefit enormously.

LOWER THE CRIME RATE BY WORKING FOR JUSTICE

Saturday August 10  Prisoners’ Justice Day a time to reflect on Canada’s judicial and prison systems

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REMEMBERING HIROSHIMA & NAGASAKI 68 YEARS AFTER

Posted by strattof on August 9, 2013

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a city of 350,000. The bomb instantly killed a third of the population, most of them civilians. Three days later, it dropped another atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki. It too killed tens of thousands of people. In both cities, many more would be dead by the year’s end, as a result of injuries and radiation poisoning.

CANADA AND THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS INDUSTRY

Canada has never produced an atomic bomb itself, despite having the technical ability to do so. However, Canada’s nuclear record is not innocent. Indeed, Canada has been very much involved in the nuclear arms industry from the beginning.

1942–1969: TRADING ATOMS

  • Canada started trading atoms in 1942 when it joined the US nuclear bomb effort known as the Manhattan Project, providing scientific skill and uranium to US weapons laboratories.  
  •  Canada was the primary source of the uranium used in making the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The uranium came from Port Radium, North West Territories, and was refined at Port Hope, Ontario.
  •  Between 1945 and 1969, Canada was the main supplier of uranium for the Cold War atomic arsenals of the US and Britain. According to one estimate, Saskatchewan uranium alone was used to produce 27,000 American nuclear weapons. 
  • In 1970, Canada signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Officially, Canada now exports uranium exclusively for the generation of electricity. However, much of that uranium, whether exported raw or as fuel in a nuclear reactor, ends up being used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

1970–2013: REACTOR EXPORTS AND ATOMIC BOMBS

  • In 1974, India used a Canadian nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for its first atomic bomb. The reactor, a forerunner of the CANDU reactor, was a gift to India from Canada. India now has between 40 and 95 nuclear weapons.
  • India’s nuclear success set off a nuclear arms race with Pakistan. In 1998, Pakistan was able to detonate its first atomic explosion also using plutonium from a Canadian nuclear reactor. The on-going tension between India and Pakistan poses one of the greatest risks of nuclear war in the world today.
  •  Canada has already sold CANDU nuclear reactors to Argentina, China, India, Pakistan, Romania, and South Korea. CANDU produces larger volumes of plutonium than other commercial reactors. Every CANDU reactor that has been sold has been heavily subsidized by Canadian taxpayers.
  •  In 2011, the federal government sold CANDU to SNC-Lavalin.

1990-2013: RAW URANIUM EXPORTS AND NUCLEAR WEAPONRY

Saskatchewan is Canada’s only producer of uranium. Our province accounts for 20% of world production.

India

In April of this year, Canada announced a deal to sell uranium to India. Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Brad Wall praised the deal. India, which already has over 100 nuclear weapons, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China

In 2012, the Harper government made a trade deal with China which allows Cameco, the world’s third largest uranium producer, to sell uranium to China.

United States

Most of Saskatchewan uranium is exported to the United States.

This uranium is the initial source of much, if not all, of the depleted uranium currently being used by the US military for the production of depleted uranium weaponry. A form of low-level nuclear warfare, depleted uranium weapons are classified as weapons of mass destruction under international law. Their demonstrated public health effects include cancer, immune system failings, kidney damage, and birth defects. The US has used depleted uranium weaponry in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo. 

NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

68 years after the nuclear desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues. This is despite the fact that all but 4 countries (India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) are parties to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

By exporting uranium and nuclear reactors, Canada, one of the original signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has played a key role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Here are two other ways in which Canada undermines the logic of the treaty:  

  • Canada is never critical of US use of depleted uranium in wars, not even those wars in which Canada is also involved as an ally.
  • Hypocritically, Canada regularly calls for new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, but it never asks Israel to give up its sizable, undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons or to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

TAKE ACTION: HELP ERADICATE NUCLEAR WEAPONS

The Strategy

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has initiated a Global Parliamentary Appeal for a Nuclear Weapons Ban. The strategy is brilliant: to collect signatures from parliamentarians all over the world who support the appeal.

Who’s Involved?

Ceasefire.ca, a Canadian public policy research and advocacy group, is helping to collect the signatures of Canadian parliamentarians. Regina’s own Making Peace Vigil has joined the campaign.

What You Can Do

  • Sign a petition calling on all national governments to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons and leading to their complete eradication. We have petitions with us at the vigil.
  • Send a letter and a copy of the ICAN Global Parliamentary Appeal for a Nuclear Weapons Ban to both your MLA and MP, asking them to endorse and send it to ICAN. We can supply you with a letter and a copy of the appeal. They are also available at: http://www.ceasefire.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Louder-than-the-Bomb-2013-Campaign-Kit.pdf  

“If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”  – Albert Einstein, instrumental in facilitating the development of the atomic bomb

“The message I bring is simple, and so is the question I ask. The message is that we cannot live indefinitely with nuclear weapons. The question is, do you agree?” John Polanyi, Canadian chemist who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

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