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Archive for March, 2015

CLIMATE COUNTDOWN

Posted by strattof on March 26, 2015

This year, as every year since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sets its Doomsday Clock to indicate how close humanity is moving to destroying itself. This year, the scientists, in consultation with 17 Nobel laureates, have set the clock at three minutes to midnight, in part to reflect the threat of “unchecked climate change.”

The threat of climate change to a just and sustain-able future is real, and people in Saskatchewan have a special responsibility—and special opportunities—to do their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGES

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere (including carbon dioxide or C02) are higher today than they have been in the past 800,000 years, and that human activities have been the primary cause of warming since the mid-20th century.

A global rise in average temperatures of two degrees celsius must be avoided if catastrophic consequences for human, animal and plant life are not to follow.

Some signs of significant harm from climate change are already apparent:

  • Worldwide, the 12-month period January to December 2014 has gone on to be the warmest year in the 135 years since humans have been keeping accurate records of temperature.
  • 2013 was the hottest year on record in Australia. California has experienced severe droughts and an extended wildfire season.
  • Globally, crops are being affected, ice sheets are melting near the poles, global sea levels are rising, pests are spreading into new areas and some diseases such as malaria are affecting new populations.
  • In Saskatchewan, which disproportionately contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions and therefore to climate change, threats include more extreme weather events, damage to valuable agricultural land, and harm to sensitive prairie species and ecosystems.

SASKATCHEWAN’S SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY

The IPCC has said that if greenhouse gas emissions are not addressed quickly, disadvantaged persons and communities around the world will suffer a disproportionate share of the risks. Climate change is an issue of global fairness and social justice.

Unfortunately, Saskatchewan governments have been too willing to pursue financial wealth and short-term economic development at the expense of local and global well-being.

Saskatchewan has set a goal of reducing emissions to 20% below our 2006 level of emissions by 2020. Yet, emissions continue to rise even as the provincial government cuts funding to the Ministry of Environment.

Saskatchewan’s annual greenhouse gas emissions are over 74 million tonnes, making us the highest per capita emitters in Canada. For each Saskatchewan person, approximately 67 tonnes of greenhouse gases are sent into the atmosphere each year.

According to a recent study issued by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Saskatchewan’s single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is its oil and gas industry, including the venting and flaring of natural gas during oil and gas extraction.

Electricity generation and transport are Saskatchewan’s other two largest emission sources. Together they account for 42% of Saskatchewan’s annual greenhouse emissions.

Yet, despite Saskatchewan’s huge greenhouse gas emissions and the challenges they create for the local and global climate and environment, the provincial Ministry of Environment’s budget has decreased 12.5% since 2007, from $186 million in their first budget in 2008-09 to $162.7 million for 2015-16.

The ministry branch responsible for climate change has seen its budget drop from $16.7 million in 2010-11 to $2.6 million in the most recent budget, according to a report in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

SOLUTIONS AND ACTIONS

Saskatchewan has great potential for renewable and sustainable energy sources such as solar power, wind power and geothermal energy for heating.

We could phase out coal-fired electricity generation in 10 years, invest in better transit systems, improve building codes to make houses and offices more energy efficient and reduce subsidies to oil and gas development.

CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE

Later this year, there will be a major international climate change conference in Paris.

In advance of the conference, email Premier Brad Wall or your local Member of Parliament to say that you want Saskatchewan and Canada to do our part to reduce our reliance on an unsustainable and unjust plan for short-term economic development.

Premier Brad Wall: premier@gov.sk.ca

Ray Boughen: ray.boughen@parl.gc.ca

Tom Lukiwski: tom.lukiwski@parl.gc.ca

Andrew Scheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca

Sources: Star Phoenix, Leader-Post, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, International Panel on Climate Change

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RACISM IN REGINA

Posted by strattof on March 22, 2015

Regina has the dubious distinction of being the second most racist city in Canada, following closely behind Winnipeg, Canada’s most racist city.

  • Like Winnipeg, Regina is an extremely segregated city, with its primarily Indigenous North Central neighbourhood, “Canada’s worst neighbourhood,” according to a 2007 Maclean’s article, cut off from the city’s more affluent areas by two sets of railway tracks and by Albert and Elphinstone streets.
  • The median household income in North Central is $25,000, half the city average.
  • Like Winnipeg, Regina does not provide equal opportunity for Indigenous peoples. For example, in 2013-2014, the grade 12 graduation rate in the Regina Public School system was 76.9% for non-Indigenous students and only 46.5% for First Nations and Métis students.
  • Excessive police surveillance is the norm in North Central, while racial profiling is a city-wide practice, with police telling Indigenous people they stop “You fit the description.”
  • 90% of inmates at the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre are Indigenous. Indigenous peoples make up 15.6% of the population of the province and 9% of Regina’s population.
  • All of Regina city councilors are white. So too are all of Regina MLAs and MPs.

SYSTEMIC RACISM

Racism is not only hateful attitudes and racially discriminatory behaviour. It is also a system of advantage and disadvantage involving institutional policies and practices.

Anti-Indigenous racism is ubiquitous in Canada, evident in every social indicator, from child welfare services and education to life expectancy and justice.

CHILD WELFARE SERVICES

The federal government is responsible for funding child welfare services on First Nations.

  • Children on-reserve receive 22% less funding in social services than provincially funded urban area children.
  • One consequence of this systemic discrimination is that far too many First Nations children are placed in care. Shockingly, there are more First Nations children in care today than at the height of the residential school system.
  • In 2007 the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Caring Society of Canada took the Canadian government to court for its discrimination on the basis of race in the provision of child welfare services on-reserve.
  • The government tried to have the case dismissed on legal technicalities. Now it is contending that funding is not a service and that it is not fair to compare provincial to federal funding.
  • A ruling is expected next month.

EDUCATION

Schools on First Nations are funded by the federal government, while non-reserve schools receive their funding from the provinces.

  • A child who attends school on-reserve receives 33 – 50% less funding than a child in a provincial school.
  • One consequence of this built-in inequality is schools that are in poor condition and present health concerns, including overcrowding, extreme mould, high carbon dioxide levels, sewage fumes, frozen pipes, and unheated portables. According to former Prime Minister Paul Martin, “Most Canadians would not send their children to school on reserves.”

LIFE EXPECTANCY

  • Life expectancy for Indigenous peoples in Canada is five years less than for non-Indigenous Canadians.

MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN

  • 1,181 Indigenous girls and women were murdered or went missing in Canada between 1980 and 2012.
  • Indigenous women are five times more likely to be murdered in Canada than non-Indigenous women.
  • The Harper government has dismissed calls for a national public inquiry.
  • What would the Harper government do if a disproportionate number of white women had been murdered?

CANADA IS A COLONIAL COUNTRY

According to Prime Minister Harper, Canada “has no history of colonialism.” How then does our Prime Minister account for:

  • The 1876 Indian Act which enshrines white privilege and Indigenous inferiority?
  • The forced displacement and containment of Indigenous peoples under Canada’s reserve and pass systems ‒ systems that made Indigenous lands available for European settlement?
  • The genocidal residential school system, for which Harper himself apologized?

Systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada is rooted in colonialism. However, Canadian colonialism is not only an historical fact. It is also a present reality.

  • White privilege remains intact. In education, housing, employment, the justice system ‒ indeed, almost everywhere in Canadian society ‒ whiteness is an advantage and Indigenous identity a disadvantage.
  • Ignoring First Nations treaty rights, the Canadian state continues to grant state access to Indigenous lands and resources.
  • The child welfare system is part of the on-going genocide, disrupting Indigenous cultures and facilitating assimilation.

“Colonialism is the disconnection of Native people from the land, their history, their identity and their rights so that others can benefit. It is a basic form of injustice in the world, and has been condemned as a practice by the United Nations. Yet, we have never acknowledged that Canada was built as a colonial country and that it is, in fact, still colonial in many ways.”  ‒Taiaiake Alfred, “Canadian Colonialism”

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACISM

Saturday March 21 is International Day for the Elimination of Racism. Established in 1966, it commemorates the Sharpeville Massacre, the 69 people who were killed on March 21 1960 while peacefully protesting against South Africa’s Apartheid pass laws, and calls on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate racism.

What can members of the dominant culture (that is white Canadians) do to help eliminate racism in Canada?

  • Check your privilege: Think about the ways your whiteness works for you in society. Race is about power which is unevenly distributed on the basis of race in Canada.
  • Acknowledge Canada is a racist country: Educate yourself about racism in Canada. Read, for example, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian or James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains.
  • Do anti-racist work: Call out racist statements and assumptions whenever you encounter them. Learn how to do so in a manner that provokes thought rather than anger.
  • Let Prime Minister Stephen Harper know you want a national public enquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
  • Make equal funding for child welfare services and educa-tion on First Nations an issue in the upcoming election.

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DOOMSDAY CLOCK: 3 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

Posted by strattof on March 14, 2015

 

THE THREAT

Each year since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set the hand of its Doomsday Clock to show how close humanity is to annihilating itself.

Each minute closer to midnight brings us nearer to destroying ourselves with our own technology—including the technology of nuclear weapons.

In 2015, which marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Doomsday Clock moved from 5 minutes to midnight to just 3.

While the US and Russia have reduced their nuclear stockpiles since the days of the Cold War, some 800 warheads remain on high alert, ready to launch within tens of minutes. Every continent except Antarctica contains highly enriched uranium that is being used or could be used in nuclear weapons.

Growing tensions between nuclear powers and possible nuclear powers, modernization of nuclear weapons arsenals by Nuclear Weapons States, along with stalled progress on nuclear disarmament, have added to the danger.

Canada should take a clear stand for abolishing all nuclear weapons at the upcoming UN Nuclear Disarmament Conference in April of this year.

NUCLEAR “ROGUE” STATES AND THE GLOBAL STOCKPILE

Much media attention focuses on North Korea and Iran as nuclear “rogue” states, countries accused of ignoring international norms in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In fact, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commits all states that have signed it to work towards “nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

While North Korea has disavowed the treaty, and concerns remain about Iran, several states, including Israel, Pakistan and India reject the treaty. Meanwhile, Britain, France, Russia, China and the US maintain significant nuclear stockpiles.

For example, just south of us in Minot, North Dakota, 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are stationed. Each one of these missiles has nearly 30 times the destructive power of the bombs that fell 70 years ago on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hundreds more weapons are deployed to be dropped as bombs from airplanes, or launched as missiles from submarines—and that represents the US arsenal alone.

As The Economist has recently pointed out, though the total number of active nuclear warheads has fallen from a Cold War high of 60,000, the danger is greater than ever, because of growing international tensions and a failure by nuclear weapons states to eliminate their arsenals.

Indeed, Russia is sharply increasing its military budget, dedicating a third of its increases to modernizing its nuclear force. Similarly, the United States plans to spend nearly $350 billion over the next decade to do the same.

TOTAL NUCLEAR STOCKPILE

The global estimate of the total nuclear stockpile is as follows:

Russia: 8,000                   Pakistan: 110-120

US: 7,300                          India: 90-100

France: 300                      Israel: 80

China: 250                        North Korea: Fewer than 10

UK: 225                             Iran: 0

The truth is that no country or government has the right to possess weapons that could destroy life and civilization as we know it. All countries—including Canada—should live up to the intent of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and take concrete steps to eliminate nuclear weapons and move towards total disarmament.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists estimates that another 20 to 30 countries possess the capabilities, if not the intent, to pursue the bomb.

Any country or government that rejects the NPT’s call for nuclear and general disarmament is a “rogue.”

A nuclear war would be humanity’s last war, and Canada has a special responsibility to ensure that war—a war with no winners—is never fought.

CANADA’S SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Canadian uranium, including Saskatchewan uranium, has been used to produce nuclear weapons, since the days of the Manhattan Project, which produced the nuclear weapons dropped on Japan.

Canadian nuclear technology was used by India to create its first nuclear weapon test, codenamed “Smiling Buddha,” in 1974.

Canada and Saskatchewan have been actively pursuing increased uranium trade with China and India, two nuclear weapons states. Although promises have been made that no Canadian uranium will find its way into nuclear weapons programs, access to Canadian uranium to produce power frees up other uranium resources for weapons, and both states have announced plans to modernize or enhance their nuclear weapons programs.

WHAT DO WE DO?

In April and May of this year, an international conference will be held in New York to review implementation of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Canada should take a strong stand at this convention to ensure all nations live up to their obligations to eliminate nuclear weapons and to work towards peaceful solutions to global conflicts.

Contact your MPs to let them know, in advance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference, that you want Canada to be a voice for disarmament and peace.

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