Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for June, 2017

CANADA 150: 150 PLUS YEARS OF COLONIALISM

Posted by strattof on June 30, 2017

The Scream, by Cree artist Kent Monkman, is part of an exhibition of paintings Monkman created especially for Canada 150. Called Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, it looks at 150 years of Indigenous experience in Canada. What does The Scream tell us?

  • In the foreground, terrified Indigenous children are being wrenched from the arms of their distraught mothers by red-clad Mounties and black-robed priests and nuns: agents of the Canadian state.
  • In the background, three children are running for the woods, escaping the gaze of a Mountie standing on a porch directing the operation.
  • The children are wearing clothes of today, indicating that the mass abduction of Indigenous children from their families and communities by the Canadian state is ongoing.
  • Black clouds hang ominously over the left-hand side of the scene. The sky brightens on the right—the direction the children are heading.

This is what the last 150 years have meant for Indigenous peoples in Canada: colonization, genocide, broken treaties, and resistance.

THE HISTORY OF CANADA: THE ABDUCTION OF INDIGENOUS CHILREN

The abduction of Indigenous children is a thread that runs through Canadian history, though it is usually hidden. Why bring up this inconvenient truth when we are supposed to be celebrating?

We need to know this history because nothing has changed. The abduction of Indigenous children is still going on.

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: 1876 – 1996

Many Treaties with First Nations, including Treaty 4 which takes in most of southern Saskatchewan, promised to establish schools on reserves. Instead, the Canadian government implemented the residential school system.

  • John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, was a passionate advocate for residential schools. In his view “Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence,” for if they stay on the reserve they are “surrounded by savages.”
  • Established shortly after Confederation, Canada’s residential school system lasted for over a century—until 1996 when the last residential school, Gordon’s School in Punnichy SK, closed.
  • More than 150,000 children attended the schools, having endured, along with their parents, the brutality of forced separation.
  • 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.
  • In the words of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the residential school system was “an integral part of a conscious policy of cultural genocide.”

A PATTERN OF ABDUCTION

The genocidal policy of abducting Indigenous children from their families did not end with the residential school system. Rather, it carried on under a different guise. Indeed, it carries on today.

THE 60s SCOOP: EARLY 1960s – MID 1980s

In the 1950s, the federal government began to close residential schools, deemed too costly even though they were badly under-funded. In the early 1960s, provincial social workers, following on the heels of the Mounties and the priests, began to descend on Indigenous communities and to “scoop up” the children. The children were then placed in foster care or adopted out to white families.

  • An estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were scooped.
  • Incalculable damage was inflicted on the victims of this government policy, including loss of family, loss of language, loss of culture, and loss of community.

ABDUCTION OF INDIGENOUS CHILDREN: TODAY

  • Today, provincial governments continue with the disastrous policy of taking Indigenous children away from their families and communities.
  • Today, more Indigenous children are in state care than at the height of the residential school system.

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first Call to Action is “Commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care.” Rather than implementing this recommendation, the Trudeau government has spent $707,000 in legal fees fighting a Human Rights Tribunal order to stop its discriminatory underfunding of First Nations child welfare.

While there has been lots of talk about reconciliation, little action has been taken to implement any of the TRC’s 94 calls to action.

CANADA DAY: TAKE ACTION FOR JUSTICE

  1. SIGN THE BROADBENT PETITION: The Government of Canada is Failing First Nations Children.
  2. TELL PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU you want his government to mark Canada 150 by implementing all 94 TRC calls to action: trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.
  3. LEARN THE TRUTH ABOUT CANADIAN HISTORY

ART

  • Visit online Kent Monkman’s exhibition Shame and Prejudice.
  • The Canada 150 art featured in this pamphlet is the work of Chippewar, also known as Jay Soule. Visit his website.
  • Visit the facebook page of Colonialism Skateboards.
  • Watch Gord Downie’s animated film The Secret Path.
  • Visit the Alex Janvier exhibition at the Mackenzie Art Gallery. 

BOOKS (Available at Regina Public Library)

  • Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  • Clearing the Plains, by James Daschuk
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus
Advertisements

Posted in peace activism | 1 Comment »

MAKING MORE WAR: CANADA’S DEFENCE POLICY REVIEW

Posted by strattof on June 30, 2017

On June 6, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, made public the Trudeau government’s long-awaited defence policy review. It was a nasty shock for all Canadians who want our country to stop making war.

Here are some of the disturbing details:

  • A 70% increase in war spending over the next 10 years, from $18.9 billion in 2016-17 to $32.7 billion in 2026-27
  • 15 new warships ($60 billion)
  • 88 new fighter jets ($19 billion)
  • 5,000 more military personal, bringing the total number of troops to 101,500

Since 2001, Canada has been endlessly at war: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Latvia—Canada has been or is there. Why do we keep making more war, rather than working for peace?

WHY IS CANADA INCREASING ITS MILITARY SPENDING?

There are at least two answers to this question:

  1. US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP DEMANDED IT. Last month, Trump castigated members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for “not paying their fair share” to cover NATO costs. Trump wants all NATO members to meet a 2014 goal of putting 2% of their GDP toward defence spending. (In 2016, Canada spent 1.2%.)
  2. PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU WANTS IT. A more militaristic and war-making nation is, perhaps, what Trudeau had in mind when, shortly after the 2015 election, he said “Canada is back.”

There are a number of indications that, by “back,” Trudeau meant more war-making. For example, since coming to power, the Trudeau government has

  • Twice extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria, most recently until June 30 2017;
  • Extended Canada’s military mission in Ukraine for another two years, until March 2019;
  • Committed to lead a military mission in Latvia, as part of a NATO force to deter “Russian aggression.”

WHAT IS NATO?

NATO is a US-led military alliance of 28 countries. It is a threat to world peace.

  • NATO has armed forces around the globe.
  • NATO has over two million troops.
  • NATO states account for over 70% of world arms spending.
  • NATO insists on its right to employ nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis.

WAR-MAKING: WHO BENEFITS?

War is big business. Western countries, including Canada, are making big bucks off all the war-making.

  • The US is the largest market for Canadian military equipment.
  • Canada is the 2nd largest exporter of arms to the Middle East.
  • Canada is the 6th largest exporter of arms in the world.

WHO LOSES?

Citizens living in war zones: For them the price is horrendous: injury, death, bereavement, displacement, trauma, impoverishment.

Since Canada went to war in 2001:

  • Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria.
  • Many more have been injured.
  • Millions of people have become refugees.

Citizens of Canada: Though the wars are elsewhere, we also pay a price:

  • Dead or injured loved ones: 162 Canadians were killed in Afghanistan.
  • A shameful waste of money on war—money that could have been spent on healthcare, affordable housing, education, the environment, or the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.

PEACEMAKING

What would a peacemaking Canada do?

  • Withdraw from the military missions in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and Latvia.
  • Develop a foreign policy independent of the US.
  • Get out of NATO.
  • Stop selling arms.
  • Make diplomatic peacemaking a top priority.

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE

  • Let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan know you want Canada to stop making war and to start working for peace:

justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-4211

harjit.sajjan@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-7051

  • Send the same message to your MP:

Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca or 306-585-2202

Andrew Sheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 306-332-2575

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca or 306-790-4747

Posted in peace activism | Leave a Comment »

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE UNDER ATTACK

Posted by strattof on June 15, 2017

According to Mayor Michael Fougere, “there is never ever a time for civil disobedience.” Gandhi, whose statue is in front of Regina City Hall, would disagree. Employing the methods of civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence from British colonial rule.

What exactly is civil disobedience? It has four key characteristics:

  1. Civil disobedience is the breaking of the law in order to protest unjust laws or government policies.
  2. Civil disobedience is non-violent.
  3. The goal of civil disobedience is to instigate a lasting change in law or policy.
  4. People who engage in civil disobedience are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions.

Civil disobedience has proven to be an effective tool for bringing change. Is Mayor Fougere right that it is “never ever” justified?

MARTIN LUTHER KING & ROSA PARKS

In the 1950s, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and other civil rights activists began their struggle against Jim Crow laws—laws that required racial segregation in schools, buses, restaurants, and restrooms. One of their tools was civil disobedience.

As a result of their actions, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, an act that outlaws racial segregation.

Does Mayor Fougere think that Martin Luther King and other members of the US civil rights movement were unjustified in their acts of civil disobedience?

VIOLA DESMOND, CANADA’S OWN ROSA PARKS

In 1946, nine years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery Alabama, Viola Desmond, an African Canadian, refused to leave the whites-only area of a segregated Nova Scotia movie theatre. In the end, police forcibly removed her from the theatre and jailed her.

Viola Desmond’s case inspired the Nova Scotia Civil Rights movement.

What is Mayor Fougere’s view of this act of civil disobedience? Does he think it should “never ever” have happened?

The Government of Canada is clear in its view. It is celebrating Viola Desmond for her act of civil disobedience by featuring her on the Canadian $10 bill, where, in 2018, she will replace John A. Macdonald.

Learn more about Viola Desmond by googling her name.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE & THE ELIMINATION OF STC 

CONTEXT OF FOUGERE’S “NEVER EVER”

  • On May 31, six people practiced civil disobedience by refusing to get off the last STC bus to arrive in Saskatoon from Regina before the provincial government shut down the service. They were arrested and taken off the bus in handcuffs.
  • In response to this act of civil disobedience, Ward 3 City Councillor Andrew Stevens tweeted: “Civil disobedience is important.”
  • Mayor Fougere responded to these two events with his “never ever” comment.

STC CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE JUSTIFIED

  1. The elimination of STC is an unjust policy in that it affects poor people disproportionately: 70% of STC users were low-income.
  2. The elimination of STC is not only an unjust policy. It may also be a matter of life and death, as Indigenous peoples were among frequent STC users. In BC, the absence of a rural bus service resulted in the Highway of Tears.
  3. The elimination of STC is also an unjust policy in that, as a Crown Corporation, STC belonged to the people of Saskatchewan who were not consulted about its elimination.
  4. Civil disobedience was a last resort. Many legal avenues of protest (rallies, letter writing, court challenges) had already been taken in an attempt to stop the elimination of STC.

CIVIL OBEDIENCE

The greatest danger to society is civil obedience —the submission of the individual conscience to governmental authority.—Howard Zinn

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: REGINA

UNJUST LAWS & POLICIES

Mayor Fougere seems to think there are no unjust laws or policies in Regina. Two City Councillors agree with him: Ward 2 Councillor Bob Hawkins and Ward 7 Councillor Sharron Bryce.

Perhaps the Mayor and Councillors are blinded by their white, upper-middle class privilege.

4 EXAMPLES OF UNJUST LAWS OR POLICIES

  1. The refusal of Regina City Council to do anything substantial to address Regina’s homelessness crisis
  2. The City bylaw prohibiting sleeping in city parks—a law that discriminates against homeless people
  3. The Unwanted Guest policy, an initiative of Regina Police Service, that allows business owners to ban individuals from their property: The targets of this policy are clearly poor people, Indigenous people, and people with mental health or addiction issues.
  4. Regina Police Service practice of street checks—that is “randomly” stopping people to collect information: Studies show that Indigenous people are much more likely to be stopped than non-Indigenous people.

TAKE ACTION

 

 

Posted in peace activism | Leave a Comment »