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Archive for June, 2015

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

Posted by strattof on June 25, 2015

The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is heart-wrenching and damning. The result of a six-year study of the history and legacy of Indian residential schools, which included archival research and the testimony of 6,750 residential school survivors, the report documents

  • The brutal truth about Canada’s residential school system;
  • The appalling treatment of Indigenous children at the schools;
  • The far-reaching consequences of the abuses; and
  • The continuation of the abuse today.

The report also tells us what we must do to repair this historical and on-going wrong.

The work of the TRC is over. The work of Canada and Canadians is just beginning.

T H E   T R U T H

  • Canada’s residential school system was established in the 1880s. Funded by the federal government, the schools were run by Christian churches, primarily Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United. The last residential school, Gordon’s School in Punnichy SK, closed in 1996.
  • In his 1879 report to John A. Macdonald, Nicholas Flood Davin (after whom a Regina elementary school is named) recommended the establishment of a residential school system to “aggressively civilize” Indigenous children. As the TRC report puts it: “The residential school system was based on an assumption that European civilization and Christian religions were superior to Aboriginal culture” (4).
  • In 1920, attendance at the schools became compulsory for all Indigenous children between the ages of seven and 16.
  • More than 150,000 children attended the schools, many of them forcibly removed from their families.
  • Mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse was rife at the schools. Food was often insufficient and of poor quality. In most cases, schools were poorly maintained and overcrowded.
  • At least 6,000 children died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse ‒ a higher death rate than that of Canadians who enlisted to fight in World War II. Many of the children were buried unceremoniously in unmarked graves.

GENOCIDE

“The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of [Canada’s Aboriginal policy], which can best be described as ‘cultural genocide’” (TRC 1).

Genocide, as defined by the United Nations, includes:

  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group;
  • Causing severe bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

“The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources” (TRC 3).

T H E   L E G A C Y

The legacy of the schools remains. The consequences include:

  • The significant gap in education, income, and health between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians;
  • The over-representation of Indigenous children in state care;
  • The high incarceration rates of Indigenous people;
  • The disproportionate number of Indigenous women who are murdered or go missing.

The legacy also includes:

  • The racism many Canadians harbour against Indigenous peoples;
  • On-going systemic racism, evident in ●33% – 50% less funding for First Nations schools ●22% less funding for First Nations child welfare services ●housing shortages and substandard, over-crowded living conditions on First Nations ●139 Drinking Water Advisories in effect in 94 First Nations communities lack of respect for First Nations Treaty rights ● the granting of state access to Indigenous lands and resources.

RECONCILIATION

We now all know the truth. Reconciliation requires individual and collective action. Here are eight key recommendations taken from the TRC report:

  1. Reduce the number of Indigenous children in care.
  2. Eliminate the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in custody.
  3. Close the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
  4. Eliminate the discrepancy in education funding.
  5. Make teaching about residential schools and Indigenous history mandatory in the public education system, K – 12.
  6. Create a national registry of residential school student deaths and develop procedures to protect residential school cemeteries.
  7. Establish a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
  8. Fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

“All Canadians must make a firm and lasting commitment to reconciliation to ensure that Canada is a country where our children and grandchildren can thrive” (TRC 364).

TAKE ACTION

  • Read the TRC report over the summer. It’s called Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future and it’s available online.
  •  If you belong to the dominant culture (that is are a white Canadian), check your privilege. Think about the ways your whiteness works for you in society.
  • In the run-up to the federal election, ask candidates in your electoral district how many of the TRC’s recommendations they plan to implement.

Without truth, justice, and healing, there can be no genuine reconciliation. Reconciliation is not about ‘closing a sad chapter of Canada’s past,’ but about opening new healing pathways of reconciliation that are forged in truth and justice”(TRC 12).

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NUCLEAR DEALS: THE SASKATCHEWAN CONNECTION

Posted by strattof on June 11, 2015

Canada and Saskatchewan proudly boast their role in the global uranium trade.

Saskatchewan’s Premier and Canada’s Prime Minister recently celebrated a deal to sell $350 million worth of uranium to India.

But what is the true cost of the uranium trade to the environment, human health, and humanity’s future?

URANIUM

A natural element, uranium is ‒ in its natural state ‒ weakly radioactive. Beginning in the 20th century, however, scientists learned how to exploit uranium’s radioactive properties to generate electricity and create atomic weapons.

On August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein, aware of uranium’s military potential, warned American President Franklin Roosevelt that German scientists might pursue the goal of a uranium bomb, and suggested the US should seek out resources of its own:

“The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada.”

By Canada, Einstein meant Saskatchewan.

According to the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, our province’s uranium played a key role in the Manhattan Project, the US military’s effort to create the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years go in 1945.

Those bombs killed tens of thousands of people. Nuclear or atomic weapons are the worst of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

MINING: ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS AND CLEANUP

Today, Canada is the second-largest producer of uranium in the world (after Kazakhstan), and Saskatchewan is the principal source of Canada’s uranium.

Uranium mining, however, has taken a serious toll on the environment and human health.

In northern Saskatchewan, one mining operation produced 227,000 cubic metres of radioactive tailings (waste material) from 1957-1961. These tailings have leaked into nearby Nero Lake, killing nearly all life within it, and spreading radiation and toxins as they have been blown about by the wind.

According to the Canadian Press, the Saskatchewan government has so far spent $55 million to begin cleanup of this one mining site.

A 2015 article in the Leader-Post said the provincial government “is poised to post a liability of more than $200 million” to clean up another site in northern Saskatchewan.

What will the total cost be to future generations, financially and environmentally? And what could be the cost in human life?

NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY

Although Canada officially stopped exporting uranium for weapons purposes in 1965, and signed the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have continued to export uranium to nuclear-weapons states, thus freeing up other uranium resources for their weapons development.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reports that all nuclear-weapons states to which Canada exports uranium are expanding or modernizing their nuclear arsenals. The US alone plans to spend $350 billion to modernize its arsenal over the coming years.

At the recent Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, Canada joined with the US and the United Kingdom to block a planned conference on creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

RECENT DEAL WITH INDIA

According to the CBC, India fired a nuclear-capable ballistic missile just hours after signing a deal to buy 3,000 tons of Canadian (Saskatchewan) uranium:

It’s a sign of India’s confidence that ‒ with the help of Canada ‒ it has finally left behind its status as a rogue nuclear nation and become an accepted member of the nuclear arms establishment.

India exploded its first nuclear bomb in 1974 with the help of Canadian nuclear technology. It continues its nuclear weapons build-up against regional rivals such as Pakistan.

Today, India refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, both of which are aimed at reducing and eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons.

And yet Canada and Saskatchewan celebrate sending 3,000 tons of uranium to India.

RESPONSIBLE CORPORATE CITIZEN?

Defenders of Canada’s uranium trade point to the economic benefits of the mining by uranium giant Cameco.

And yet, according to the Globe & Mail, Cameco estimates it has avoided declaring $4.9-billion in Canadian income, saving it $1.4-billion in taxes, over the last 10 years, by creating an overseas subsidiary to sell Saskatchewan’s uranium.

SASKATCHEWAN’S URANIUM INDUSTRY:

History shows Canada and Saskatchewan are developing uranium resources without fully considering the consequences. Military advantage and corporate profit have far outweighed concerns for environmental health, human well-being, and global peace.

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SPEAKING TRUTH ABOUT WAR

Posted by strattof on June 3, 2015

In April, the Harper government passed a motion to extend Canada’s military mission in Iraq for another 12 months and to expand it into Syria. Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens all voted against the motion, expressing concern about mission creep, the safety of Canadian soldiers, the support the mission might offer Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, the lack of UN or NATO authorization, and the lack of an exit strategy.

At no point did either side of the House express concern for Iraqi or Syrian civilians living in countries already afflicted by the nightmare of never-ending war. How will they be affected by western airstrikes?

Here are figures taken from Body Count, a recent report published in the US by Physicians for Social Responsibility: In the first 12 years of the so-called “war on terror,”

  • about a million people were killed in Iraq, and
  • 220,000 people in Afghanistan.

The Canadian government should have considered this report before extending and expanding Canada’s military mission.

T H E   C O S T S   O F   W A R 

The costs paid by the people in the war zone are horrendous: death, injury, bereavement, displacement, destabilization, trauma, poverty.

We in Canada also pay a cost:

  • 162 Canadians lost their lives in Afghanistan.
  • Many more have returned with wounds visible and invisible and are not getting the help they need from Veterans Affairs.
  • One Canadian soldier has already been killed in Iraq.
  • The war in Afghanistan cost Canadians at least $18 billion. This is money that could have been spent on education, affordable housing, and healthcare.
  • According to the Harper government, the war in Iraq and Syria will cost Canadians at least $528 million.

One thing we can do is say no to war. War is different from economic oppression. War is murder.Buffy St Marie

DIRE CONSEQUENCES

Will western military operations against ISIS bring about any good outcome? Have the first 13 years of the so-called “war on terror” had a beneficial outcome?

  • Descent into chaos and violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya: Where is the promised freedom and democracy?
  • The emergence of ISIS in Iraq, a direct result of the 2003 US-led occupation of Iraq.
  • Endless war in the whole Middle East region.
  • Violence in western countries, including Canada ‒ which should not surprise us: To inflict violence on other countries is to invite retaliation. How many Muslim countries has Canada inflicted violence on recently? 

“War begets violence and hatred that only begets more violence and hatred.”—Archbishop Desmond Tutu

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

  • War is big business. It is very profitable for Canadian arms manufacturers, making them $12.6 billion in annual revenues, approximately 50% of which comes from international sales. 
  • There is an all-too-cozy mutually beneficial relationship between governments and armaments industries, a relationship that includes donations to political parties, on the one hand, and approval of military spending, on the other. 
  • Who loses? Ordinary citizens everywhere. 

“We ask for peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn their living with the blood of men and women.”—Pope Francis

M A K I N G   W A R

The Harper government likes war.

  • It celebrates every war anniversary it can get its hands on: the War of 1812, the Boer War, each and every World War I and II battle Canadians engaged in.
  • Rather than remembering the horror and misery of war, the Harper government speaks of war’s honour and glory. Only those who have never fought in a war think war is glorious.
  • All too eagerly, the Harper government marches us off to war, justifying military action by demonizing one of the combatants (ISIS in the case of Iraq and Syria).
  • Double standards are another of the Harper government’s tactics. For example, what it labels “terrorism” has killed a miniscule number of Canadians. How many Afghans, Libyans, Iraqis, and Syrians have our guns and bombs killed?

M A K I N G   P E A C E

As wars rage on, we call for peace. As many Canadians, including Canadians in uniform, know, there is no honour or glory in war. Rather, war is a disaster for everyone who experiences it. War is also incredibly stupid. Surely we can solve our problems without killing each other.

What can we do for peace?

  • We can tell the Harper government
  • To get Canada out of the Middle East.
  • To seek non-violent negotiated resolutions to conflicts.
  • To curb the arms trade and end the war economy.
  • In the run-up to the federal election, we can ask candidates in our electoral district to work for peace, not for war.

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