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Archive for February, 2017

WASCANA PARK: KEEP IT PUBLIC

Posted by strattof on February 27, 2017

Wascana Centre, commonly known as the ‘Jewel of Regina,’ is one of the largest urban parks in North America. The public facilities located within its boundaries include the University of Regina, the Science Centre, Centre of the Arts, Darke Hall, and the Mackenzie Art Gallery. The Park also encompasses the Legislative Building, Wascana Lake, and lots of parkland.

The Wascana Centre Act, the 1978 legislation concerning the purpose and mandate of the Park, clearly intended that there would never be commercial development in the Park.

Now, as a result of some crafty maneuvering, the Park may soon have a bank within its boundaries: Conexus Credit Union.

We must not let this happen. Wascana Park is a public park. Let’s ensure it is never open to business.

NO BUSINESS IN THE PARK!

THE CONEXUS DEAL

THE DEAL-MAKERS

The deal-makers are the University of Regina, Conexus Credit Union, the City of Regina, and Wascana Centre Authority (WCA).

THE DEAL

JUNE 2016: U of R president Timmons announced a donation of $8.25 million from Conexus to the U of R’s College Avenue renewal project, to be used to restore the old College buildings.

In return, Conexus got a 90-year, rent-free lease on 2.6 acres of land in Wascana Park, adjacent to Darke Hall, on which to construct an 80,000 square foot head office.

AUGUST 2016: Regina City Council approved the transfer of 2.6 acres of city-owned land in Wascana Park, adjacent to Darke Hall, to the University of Regina “for development purposes.”

DECEMBER 2016: WCA approved the development of the Conexus head office in Wascana Park.

A SHADY DEAL

  • The Conexus “donation” clearly has strings attached. Is dona-tion the right word for this exchange of money for land-use?
  • In voting for the Conexus deal, City Council violated its own Official Community Plan, which stipulates that any new significant office buildings must be built downtown.
  • Mayor Michael Fougere and two City Councillors are members of the WCA board. In both capacities, they voted for the Conexus deal. 

A DONE DEAL

Although Wascana Park is a public resource paid for by the public, the public was left out of the decision-making process.

Yes, public forums were held in June, but they were mere window dressing. The Conexus deal was already a done deal.

  • In March 2016, WCA approved an update to its master plan to allow for “corporate partnerships.”
  • As part of the Conexus deal, in the name of heritage restoration, the Conservatory and the original Mackenzie Art Gallery were demolished. The demolition permits for these buildings were sought a day before the first public forum. 

SLIPPERY SLOPE

  • According to Mayor Fougere, $8.25 million was too good to pass up. What about the next corporation that wants a building in the Park and offers $8.5 million? Will we soon have a McDonald’s drive-thru in the Park or a Walmart?
  • The U or R administration has acknowledged that discussions have taken place concerning a presumably for-profit seniors’ residence in the Park.
  • Brandt Industries is already working on a plan to construct a large commercial office building to replace the Canadian National Institute for the Blind building on the east side of the Park. CNIB will be a tenant in the Brandt building. 

DO THE RIGHT THING

Wascana Park was founded to serve the public good. The appropriation of Park space for private benefit is detrimental to all of us who live in Regina.

It’s not too late for Conexus to do the right thing: make a genuine donation to the restoration of the College buildings and build its head office outside the Park. The City of Regina could assist Conexus in finding an appropriate location in the downtown area.

TAKE ACTION

  • If you have a Conexus account, ask to see the manager of your your branch and let her/him know you do not want Conexus in Wascana Park. Email the same message to the CEO of Conexus: ericdillon@conexus.ca
  • Let University of Regina president, Vianne Timmons, know you are not happy with the deal the University made with Conexus and suggest alternatives: 306-585-4696 or president@uregina.ca
  • Contact the Chief Executive Officer of Wascana Centre Authority, Bernadette McIntyre, and let her know you do not want any businesses in Wascana Park: 306-347-1846 or McIntyre@wascana.sk.ca
  • Send the same message to Mayor Michael Fougere: 307-777-7339 or mayor@regina.ca
  • Find out more about the campaign to stop Conexus from building in the Park. Visit the No Business in the Park facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/keepwascanaparkpublic/
  • If you would like to participate in the campaign, email

nobusinessinthepark@accesscomm.ca or

nobusinessinthepark@sasktel.net

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STOPPING ANTI-MUSLIM RACISM

Posted by strattof on February 16, 2017

On January 29, 2017, a gunman opened fire in a Quebec City mosque, killing six men: Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane, and Aboubaker Thabti. These men were killed because of their religion. 17 children lost their father to this act of hateful violence.

We at Making Peace Vigil extend our sympathies to the families of the men who were killed. In this time of terror, we stand in solidarity with Muslim communities in Regina and throughout Canada.

But expressions of sympathy and solidarity are not enough. We must all actively struggle against anti-Muslim racism, also known as Islamophobia.

HOME-GROWN RACISM

THE SUSPECT

The lone suspect in the shootings is a young, white, Christian, Canadian man and a student at Laval University. He is charged with six counts of first-degree murder.

NOT OUT OF THE BLUE

This act of terror did not come out of the blue. It occurred in a climate of increasing hate and fear, with many powerful members of our society promoting intolerance of Muslims.

CULTIVATION OF HATE & FEAR

It is not just that President Donald Trump’s hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric is crossing the border. Canada has produced plenty of its own anti-Muslim racist rhetoric. For example:

2013   The Parti Québécois proposed Charter of Quebec Values recommending a ban on public sector employees wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols—i.e. head or face coverings.

2015   The Barbaric Cultural Practices Act passed into law by the Harper government, supported by the Liberals: It’s still law.

2015   Saskatchewan talk show host John Gormley’s tweet encouraging the murder of Muslims

2016   Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée’s suggestion that an assault rifle could be hidden under a burka

2016   Conservative party leadership candidate Kelly Leitch’s proposal to vet immigrants for their “Canadian values”

Such anti-Muslim rhetoric helps fuel hate crimes, such as the Quebec City massacre.

NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT

Nor is the Quebec City shooting an isolated incident. Hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise in Canada. For example:

  • In 2015, a mosque in Peterborough Ontario was firebombed.
  • In 2016, a man showed a noose to two Muslim women waiting at a transit station in Edmonton and sang “O Canada.”
  • Six months before the Quebec City shooting, a pig’s head was placed at the door of the same mosque during Ramadan.

TRUMP & TRUDEAU

When President Trump imposed his Muslim ban, indefinitely barring Syrian refugees and blocking citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from admission to the US, Prime Minister Trudeau was quick to respond with a tweet saying refugees are welcome in Canada: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” These are wonderful words!

But words need to be backed up with action. If Trudeau’s heart-felt declaration is going to have any real meaning, changes will have to be made to Canada’s refugee and immigration system, in particular to the Safe Third Country agreement and the cap on private sponsorships. 

SAFE THIRD COUNTRY AGREEMENT

Signed by Canada and the US in 2002, the Safe Third Country agreement requires refugees to make asylum claims “in the first safe country they arrive in.” 

The Agreement is the reason that asylum seekers coming from the US have been entering Canada illegally by walking across the border. If they try to cross legally, they will be turned back to the US where they are likely to face detention and deportation.  

So desperate are some asylum seekers that they have attempted the journey in -20° weather. Two nearly froze to death. One has lost his hands to frost bite, another most of his fingers.  

Repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement! So far, the Trudeau government has declined to do so—making a mockery of the Prime Minister’s tweet that refugees are welcome in Canada.    

CAP ON PRIVATELY SPONSORED REFUGEES

In December 2016, the Trudeau government placed a cap of 1,000 on privately sponsored Syrian and Iraqi refugees for 2017. The cap exposes the hypocrisy of Trudeau’s tweet claiming that Canada welcomes refugees.

Lift the cap! So far the Trudeau government has declined to do so.

STOPPING ANTI-MUSLIM RACISM

  • Let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want his government to repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement and to lift the cap on privately sponsored refugees: trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.
  • Send the same message to Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen: Hussen@parl.gc.ca or 613-954-1064.
  • Ask your MP to support Motion 103, calling on the federal government to study ways in which the government can reduce or eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada, including Islamophobia. Full text available at: https://www.nccm.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ENGLISH-LETTER-WITH-SIGNATORIES.pdf

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca or 613-947-1153

Andrew Scheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-4593

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-9115

  • Learn more about Islamophobia. Visit the website of the National Council of Canadian Muslims: https://www.nccm.ca/
  • Counter Islamophobia wherever you find it. Find ways to do so without giving offence.

UNITED AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA

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TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

Posted by strattof on February 16, 2017

It’s been more than a year since the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The result of a six-year study of the history and legacy of Indian residential schools, the report documents the harsh truth about Canada’s residential school system:

  • More than 150,000 children attended the schools, many of them forcibly removed from their families.
  • Mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse was rife.
  • Food was often insufficient and of poor quality; and many schools were poorly maintained and overcrowded.
  • At least 6,000 children died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse.
  • The schools were part of the Canadian government’s policy of cultural genocide toward Indigenous peoples.

The TRC report also includes 94 calls to action. A year later, how much progress has been made toward implementing these recommendations?

MORE BROKEN PROMISES

In the run-up to the 2015 federal election, the Trudeau Liberals promised to implement all 94 TRC calls to action. How well is Prime Minister Trudeau doing?

CHILD WELFARE

TRC Recommendation #1: “Commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care.”

2007: The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a human rights complaint against the federal government, alleging that Canada is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing less child welfare funding on reserves.

2007 – 2015: Through litigation tactics and appointments, the Harper government attempted to derail the case.

2016: The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against First Nations children and ordered it to stop immediately.

2016: The Trudeau government increased funding for child welfare on reserves, but the Human Rights Tribunal found there were still sizeable funding discrepancies and issued compliance orders.

EDUCATION

TRC Recommendation # 8: “Eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.”

According to a December 2016 report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the federal government still spends $6,500 – $9,500 less per student at schools on reserves than the provinces spend on the education of children.

Treaty Promises: A key demand of many First Nations when signing treaties was for education. Under Treaty 4, signed in 1874 and covering all of southern Saskatchewan, including Regina, the federal 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.

UN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

TRC Recommendation #43: “Fully adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.”

The Declaration recognizes the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, including the right to health, education, and employment to freedom from discrimination to cultural identity and self-determination and to withhold consent from proposed projects that may affect their land and resources—the right of “free, prior, and informed consent” to development.

In May 2016, Canada formally adopted the Declaration, with the Trudeau government committing to fully implement it in the near future. By July, however, the government was backtracking and declaring the adoption of the Declaration as Canadian law “unworkable.” The main sticking point was the “free, prior, and informed consent” requirement.

Since then, the Trudeau government has, largely without “free, prior, and informed consent,” approved a number of developments that will affect Indigenous land and resources:

  • The Site C Dam in northern BC
  • The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, from Edmonton to Burnaby
  • The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, from Edmonton to Superior Wisconsin, passing just south of Regina 

RECONCILIATION: SORRY ISN’T ENOUGH

  • 2008: Prime Minister Harper apologized for the federal govern-ment’s residential school program. Nothing else happened.
  • 2015: Soon-to-be Prime Minister Trudeau promised to implement the TRC’s 94 calls to action. Little has happened.
  • 2017: The 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation would be a really good time to implement all 94 calls to action, a first step toward redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the process of reconciliation. Otherwise there will be nothing to celebrate.

TAKE ACTION

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