Making Peace Vigil

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Archive for August, 2017

MAKING PEACE: IN MEMORY OF STEPHEN MOORE

Posted by strattof on August 24, 2017

Rather than making peace, Canada keeps on making war:

  • April 2016: Canada approved a $15 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
  • March 2017: Canada extended its military mission in Ukraine until March 2019.
  • June 2017: Canada extended its military mission in Iraq and Syria until March 2019.
  • June 2017: Canadian troops arrived in Latvia to lead a NATO mission against “Russian aggression.”
  • June 2017: Canada increased its war spending by 70% over the next 10 years.
  • July 2017: Canada was not one of the 122 countries that signed a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

WHAT CAN WE DO FOR PEACE?

ENDLESS WAR: 2001 – 2017: CANADIAN ENGAGEMENT

AFGHANISTAN     October 2001 – March 2014: 12+ years

LIBYA                        March 2011 – October 2011: 7 months

IRAQ                          October 2014 – ongoing

SYRIA                        March 2015 – ongoing

UKRAINE                 September 2015 – ongoing

LATVIA                     June 2017 – ongoing

As this table indicates, since 2001, there have been only a few months—March to October 2014—that Canada has not been engaged in  war.          

Why, instead of working for peace, has Canada chosen this ongoing, seemingly never-ending involvement in war? There are three main reasons:

  1. Canada’s dependence on the US for its foreign policy.
  2. Canada’s membership in the US-led military alliance NATO.
  3. Profits for the Canadian arms industry.

MORE WAR-MAKING

In June, Canada further strengthened its commitment to war-making by increasing its war spending by 70% over the next 10 years, from $18.9 billion in 2016–17 to $32.7 billion in 2026–27.

This is money that could, instead, be spent on education, healthcare, affordable housing, or the implementation of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Why is Canada increasing its military spending? There are at least two answers to this question:

  1. US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP DEMANDED IT. Trump is putting pressure on NATO members to pay “their fair share” of costs for NATO—a US-led military alliance.
  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 many indications that, by “back,” Trudeau meant more war-making. For example, the Trudeau government has twice extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria.

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

War is big business. Many countries, including Canada, are making a killing out of this never-ending war-making.

  • The Canadian arms industry generates about $10 billion in revenue annually, with 60% coming from exports.
  • 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? Ordinary citizens everywhere. 

BANNING NUCLEAR WEAPONS

THE GOOD NEWS

Last month, 122 countries, a large majority of the UN members, signed a legally-binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. This treaty is the first major development in nuclear disarmament in many decades.

THE BAD NEWS

Canada did not sign the treaty. Nor did any of the nine nuclear-armed states.

Why did Canada not sign? Canada is a member of NATO. NATO reserves the right to use nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis. The US instructed all NATO members to reject the treaty. 

MAKING PEACE

WHAT CANADA MUST 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.
  • Sign the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons.
  • Make diplomatic peacemaking a top priority.

IN MEMORY OF STEPHEN MOORE: 1969 – 2017

Making Peace Vigil is holding today’s vigil in memory of Stephen Moore, who died on August 16, 2017. A founding member of the Vigil, Stephen devoted his life to the struggle for peace and justice.

Right up until the very end, Stephen used his voice to call for peace, dictating the letter, printed below, to his daughter from his hospital bed. The letter appeared in the Leader-Post on August 17, 2017, the day after Stephen died.

“Canada’s role in the global arms trade, and its role in nuclear proliferation in particular, is a disgrace. In this year alone, it seems Canadian equipment has been used by Saudi Arabia, while former MPs Irwin Cotler and Daniel Turp…call for a halt of such sales….Their message couldn’t be clearer: No guns or weapons to human rights violators.  

Names aside, labels aside and parties aside, an eerie choir of undertakers echoes our national anthem down Bay Street to the tune of billions of dollars paid to the global arms trade. This depressing scene says nothing of Canada’s role as a spreader of nuclear weapons, technology and materials…..  

The stakes could scarcely be higher. Global warming and climate change, as well as global nuclear arms proliferation, are the two great threats to continued human existence. Canada must stand four-square against both. Earlier this year, more than 100 nations voted to stop altogether the trade in nuclear arms. Canada was not among them. We cited NATO’s self-defence policy as our reason, the very same reason nations like North Korea, Pakistan, India and China use to ignore the non-proliferation treaty. 

Let us stand on the right side of human history, giving voice to peace and allowing future generations to have their voices heard.”

Thank you, Stephen, for giving voice to peace. You are an inspiration to us all.

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PRISONERS’ JUSTICE DAY

Posted by strattof on August 24, 2017

Today, Thursday August 10, is PRISONERS’ JUSTICE DAY. On this day in 1974, Edward Nolan died in solitary confinement in an Ontario prison.

In memory of all the men and women who have died in prison, prisoners across Canada mark the day by fasting and refusing to work. They also call for prison justice. 

Today more people than ever are dying in Canadian prisons. According to a recent Reuters report, “nearly 270 people have died in Canadian provincial jails over the past five years.” Two-thirds of them were legally innocent as they had not gone to trial.

Today conditions inside Canadian prisons are deplorable, with over-crowding and lack of programming leading to increasing levels of violence.

Making Peace Vigil stands in solidarity with Canadian prisoners. On Prisoners’ Justice Day,

  • We, too, remember all the people who have died in prison.
  • We, too, call for prison justice.

CANADIAN INJUSTICE

OVER-REPRESENTION

Indigenous people are vastly over-represented in Canada’s prisons.

  • While Indigenous people make up only 4% of Canada’s population, they constitute 25% of the federal prisoners.
  • While Indigenous people make up 17% of the population of Saskatchewan, they constitute
  • 80 – 90% of the men in Saskatchewan prisons.
  • Up to 90% of the women in Saskatchewan prisons.

SYSTEMIC RACISM

The over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons is directly linked to systemic racism against Indigenous people, which is itself rooted in settler colonialism. Almost everywhere in Canadian society, whiteness is an advantage and Indigenous identity a disadvantage. For example:

  • In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing up to 38% less child welfare funding on First Nations. The Trudeau government continues to refuse to comply with the Tribunal’s ruling.
  • According to a December 2016 report by the Parliamentary budget Officer, the federal government spends $6,500 – $9,500 less per student at schools on First Nations than the provinces spend on the education of children.

A PATTERN OF INCARCERATION

The over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons is part of an historical pattern of incarcerating Indigenous peoples.

The Pass System (1885 – 1951) made reserves into prisons, as no Indigenous person was allowed to leave the reserve without the permission of the Indian agent. 

Residential Schools (1880s–1996) incarcerated Indigenous children, who, having been forcibly removed from their families, often died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse.

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

Recommendation #30 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on all levels of government to “Commit to eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody.”

PRISON PRIVATIZATION & CUTBACKS

Conditions inside Saskatchewan provincial prisons are particularly harsh because of Sask Party government cutbacks and privatization of prison services.

PRIVATIZATION OF PHONE SERVICES

In 2014, the Sask Party government signed a contract with Synergy/Telecom, turning prisoner-family phone contact into a for-profit enterprise. A local phone call now costs $2.50, making staying in touch with families and friends nearly impossible for prisoners.

Synergy/Telecom, a Texas-based company, makes $9 million a year from those calls.

CUTS TO PRISONERS’ WAGES

In 2017, the Sask Party government cut prisoners’ wages from $3 a day to $1 a day. Prisoners at Regina Provincial Correctional Centre held a work strike to protest the cuts. In the words of one of the striking prisoners, Kenny Morrison, “With a dollar a day, you can’t even send a letter,” which costs $1.25.

Prisoners also need to purchase personal items such as toothpaste and deodorant.

PRIVATIZATION OF FOOD SERVICES

In 2015, the Sask Party government privatized prison food services, contracting out meal preparation to Compass Group, a for-profit, multi-national corporation. Now meals for Saskatchewan’s prison population are prepared in Alberta and trucked in frozen.

Since food privatization took effect, prisoners at Regina’s Correctional Centre have held a number of hunger strikes, citing concerns about food quality and quantity.

Nutritious food is an essential part of prisoner rehabilitation and brings lasting benefits to prisoners and society.

TAKE ACTION FOR PRISONERS’ JUSTICE DAY

  • Let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know you want his government to implement all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Draw his attention especially to Recommendation # 30: “Commit to eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody.” trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211
  • Send the same message to Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale:

Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-1416

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

  • Let Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall know you want his government to begin immediately to implement recommendation # 30 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “Commit to eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody.” Also tell Premier Wall you want his government to reverse its prison privatization policies and cuts to prison wages: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Send the same message to Saskatchewan Minister of Justice, Gordon Wyant: minister@gove.sk.ca or 306-787-5353.

No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.—Nelson Mandela

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