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Archive for October, 2017

END POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN

Posted by strattof on October 27, 2017

Over the past 18 months, the provincial government has announced many cuts to social programs and public services. These include:

  • Cuts to Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID), “an income support program for people with significant and enduring disabilities.”
  • Cuts to the High Calorie Special Needs Diet program
  • Cuts to the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement, a program that supplements the income of low income families with children
  • Cuts to the Transitional Employment Allowance
  • The elimination of funeral service coverage for poor people
  • The elimination of the grant for children’s school supplies for people on social assistance
  • The elimination of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company
  • The elimination of funding for public libraries in Regina and Saskatoon and more than half the funding for regional libraries 

The government also announced it was hiking income assistance over-payment recovery rates, the “overpayment” rarely the fault of the client.

Such cuts and hikes are an attack on the most vulnerable people in our society. Is this the kind of province we want to live in?

SUCCESSFUL RESISTANCE

Many people in Saskatchewan want to live in a more socially just society. We have been hard at work ever since the first cuts were announced. Together, we have achieved some victories.

Success stories include:

  • A reversal of the cuts to the SAID program for those currently on the program: The cuts still apply to all new applicants and to anyone who changes address.
  • A reversal of the cut of the grant for children’s school supplies
  • A partial reversal of the cut to funeral coverage: Now the government will pay $2,800, rather than $3,800.
  • A reinstatement of library funding for this year

As well, the provincial government announced just last week that it is reversing its planned 1% reduction to the corporate income tax rate—a corporate tax break that exposed the hypocrisy of the government’s claim that we all have to tighten our belts in the face of the provinces’ $1.2 billion deficit.

These are huge victories. We must celebrate them and use them to give added momentum to our struggle for social justice.

REVERSE ALL THE CUTS

A first step is to demand that the government reverse all the cuts. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of those cuts so we can get a sense of the impact they are having on people.

TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE

The government has cut the allowance for people on social assistance who are looking for work by $20 a month. This may not seem like much. However, it means a lot to some people. For example, a single person looking for work in Regina will now have to live on $563 a month, plus capped rates for utilities.

SASKATCHEWAN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY (STC)

  • 70% of STC riders were low-income.
  • Many First Nations used STC. In BC, the absence of a rural bus service resulted in the Highway of Tears.
  • 300 rural cancer patients used STC to get to their medical appointments.
  • Many newly-released prisoners relied on STC to return to their communities.

REVERSING THE CUTS IS NOT ENOUGH

Getting the government to reverse all the cuts is a good first step. But it will not be enough to end poverty in Saskatchewan.

Even before any of the cuts came into effect, many people in our province had to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries. Now, even more people are facing these harsh alternatives.

The facts of social misery and injustice are increasingly there for us all to see—if we are willing to look.

Here are two of those facts:

  • A single person on the SAID program living in Regina receives $1,064 a month as a general living allowance to cover rent, food, and all other expenses. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $981.
  • Officially, Regina has 458 homeless people. That’s the figure on the YWCA’s Registry of Homeless People in Regina. The actual figure is in the 1000s. A vastly disproportionate number of Regina’s homeless population is Indigenous, 75% according to a 2015 study.

ENDING POVERTY

This is our next project: Ending poverty in Saskatchewan. Here are a few suggestions on how we might do it—and pay for it.

  1. Increase income support payments so that everyone in the province has an income above the poverty line.
  2. Adopt a Living Wage policy. A living wage is the amount two working parents, with two children, each needs to earn in order to meet the family’s basic requirements and ensure it does not slip into poverty. Regina’s living wage is $16.46 an hour.
  3. Expand quality affordable housing.
  4. Implement a Saskatchewan Poverty Elimination Act which recognizes in enforceable legislation the right of everyone to an adequate income, adequate housing, and fair wages for a decent living.
  5. Raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

END POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN

  • Contact Premier Brad Wall and tell him you want his government to reverse all the cuts and then to start working on ending poverty in Saskatchewan: 306-787-9433 or premier@gov.sk.ca or Premier’s Office, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina,, S4S 0B3.
  • Send the same message to Paul Merriman, Minister of Social Services: 306-787-3661 or minister@gov.sk.ca or Room 303, Legislative Building, 2405 Legislative Drive, Regina, S4S 0B3                                                    

RING THOSE PHONES!

SEND THOSE EMAILS!

WRITE THOSE LETTERS!

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PIPELINES: THE DEBATE

Posted by strattof on October 19, 2017

Earlier this month, TransCanada Corp. announced the cancellation of the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project. The pipeline would have carried 1.1 million barrels a day of Alberta and Saskatchewan crude, mostly high-carbon tar sands oil, to New Brunswick, where it would have been loaded on tankers for export.

The cancellation of Energy East has prompted strong reaction.

ANGER: From the perspective of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, it is a complete disaster. Laying the blame squarely on the Trudeau government and its new environmental regulations, Wall has even suggested the project’s failure could undermine Canadian unity: “Today is not a good day for Canada. It is not a good day for the federation…. For the West to continue on like this in our federal system is the equivalent of having Stockholm syndrome.”

JUBILATION: Meanwhile, many Indigenous people and organizations, along with non-Indigenous environmentalists, are celebrating the demise of Energy East as a victory in the struggle against catastrophic climate change and for the protection of the planet from further environmental destruction.

WHERE DO YOU STAND ON PIPELINES?

CANCELLATION OF ENERGY EAST

Why did TransCanada cancel Energy East? “Changed circumstances” is the answer TransCanada is giving. Brad Wall is more explicit. In his view, it is new Trudeau government regulatory hurdles. The Trudeau government, on the other hand, says it was “a business decision.”

The truth appears to include all of the above, plus a few additional reasons. Here are the six most likely reasons, listed in order of importance, for the demise of the Energy East pipeline project.

  1. COLLAPSE OF OIL PRICES: When TransCanada first announced Energy East in 2013, the price of oil was nearly $100 a barrel. Today it is about $50 a barrel.
  2. OTHER PIPELINES: US President Donald Trump is likely to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, another TransCanada project, as he has already granted it a presidential permit. In 2016, the Trudeau government approved the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3 pipelines. Together, these pipelines will provide sufficient capacity to meet demand.
  3. NATURAL GAS: To save money on Energy East, Trans-Canada planned to convert 3,000 km of an existing natural gas pipeline. Now there is a boom in natural gas production, which is cheaper to produce and transport than tar sands oil.
  4. REGULATORY CHANGES: In 2016, the Trudeau government revised the National Energy Board’s review process to include upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions in its assessment.
  5. THE END OF OIL: To be cost effective, pipeline infra-structure has to be in use for at least 30 years. Oil industry executives likely know there is no future for new pipelines in a world where the need to transition away from the use of fossil fuels has become so obviously apparent.
  6. PIPELINE PROTESTS: Protests occurred regularly along the proposed route of the Energy East Pipeline, some of them in Regina. The combined efforts of the protesters pushed the project’s start date back by several years—long enough for the price of oil to plummet and regulatory changes to be imposed. From this perspective, activism is a, if not the key factor in the cancellation of Energy East.

CLIMATE DISASTERS

In 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen issued his first warning about global warming: If we did not make significant reductions in CO2 emissions, we would face the worst effects of climate change.  Over the past year, those worst effects have been much in evidence:

  • Deadly heatwaves
  • Devastating droughts
  • Raging wildfires
  • Record floods
  • Rising sea levels

All of these disasters have a direct connection to global warming. We need to treat them as a wake-up call about the need to take action.

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!

The pipeline struggle isn’t over yet. While Energy East has been defeated, there are still four more tar sands pipelines to go: Kinder Morgan, from Edmonton AB to Burnaby BC; Keystone XL, from Hardisty AB to Texas; Line 3, from Hardisty AB to Wisconsin; Line 10 expansion, from Hamilton ON to Buffalo NY.

None of these pipelines faces any regulatory hurdles in Canada, so it’s up to us to stop them. The matter is urgent. Line 3, which runs through Saskatchewan, passing just south of Regina, is at this very moment in the process of being constructed.

If any of these pipelines goes ahead, the result will be the expan-sion of tar sands development. Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of CO2 emissions in Canada.

THE END OF OIL

It isn’t going to happen tomorrow—or even next year. But, unless we are crazy enough to think we can afford an increase in global temperature of 4°C, it will have to happen soon. Now is the time to start getting off fossil fuels and making the transition to renewable sources of energy.

In the meantime, the Trudeau government is still subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $34 billion annually, and Brad Wall continues to be a vocal champion of the fossil fuel industry.

CLIMATE ACTION

CONTACT POLITICAL LEADERS

  • Tell Prime Minister Trudeau you want his government to review all pipeline projects and to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry: justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211.
  • Tell Premier Wall we need to start planning for a post-oil economy. The status quo is not sustainable: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Ask the two NDP leadership candidates, Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon, where they stand on pipelines:

saskatoonmeewasin@ndpcaucus.sk.ca or 306-787-7388

t.wotherspoon.mla@sasktel.net or 306-565-2444

LEARN MORE ABOUT OIL EXTRACTION IN SASKATCHEWAN & RESISTANCE TO IT

  • Watch Crude Power: An Investigation into Oil, Money, and Influence in Saskatchewan, by University of Regina School of Journalism students: crudepower.jschool.ca
  • Read Climate Politics in the Patch: Engaging Saskatchewan’s Oil-Producing Communities on Climate Change Issues, by Emily Eaton, CCPA Saskatchewan.
  • Listen to No No No Keshagesh (which means “greedy guts”), by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Buffy tells us what we should say to oil and pipeline companies and the governments that kowtow to them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKmAb1gNN74

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BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Posted by strattof on October 15, 2017

On July 7, 2017, in an historic action, 122 countries, 63% of all countries in the world, voted at the UN to adopt a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Recognizing the “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences” of their use, the treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, and possession of nuclear weapons.

The first major development in nuclear disarmament since the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in1968, the treaty entered into force on September 20.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that 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.

THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

NUCLEAR DESTRUCTION

In August 1945, the United Stated dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people and destroying the two cities.

Thankfully, these are the only nuclear bombs ever used in warfare.

74 years after the horrific devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the threat of nuclear weapons still looms over humanity. Today’s nuclear bombs are thousands of times more powerful than those dropped in 1945.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS STATES

  • Today, nine nations possess nuclear weapons: Russia, the US, France, China, Britain, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.
  • Together these nations have some 15,000 nuclear warheads.
  • The US and Russia possess the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, together accounting for 93% of them.
  • Here’s a breakdown by country of the total nuclear stockpile:

Russia        7,000               Pakistan           120

US             6,800               India                100

France       300                  Israel               80

China         250                  North Korea    Fewer than 10

Britain       215

 

  • None of these nations signed the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Indeed, all are expanding or “modernizing” their nuclear weapons programs.

NUCLEAR THREATS

The threat of nuclear disaster seems to be particularly high at the moment. These are the reasons:

  • NATO’s insistence on the right to a nuclear first strike
  • Tension between the US and Russia
  • Escalating tension between the US and North Korea
  • The unpredictability of US President Donald Trump
  • India-Pakistan tensions
  • A nuclear accident—an accident waiting to happen

THE PATH TO SAFETY: WHAT CANADA MUST DO

  1. First and foremost, Canada must sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons.
  2. Next, Canada must begin to work within NATO to change NATO’s dangerous nuclear weapons policy of the right to use nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis.
  3. If NATO will not remove this policy, then Canada must get out of NATO.
  4. Finally, Canada must develop a foreign policy independent of the US and based on peace-making.

The only path to safety is to eliminate nuclear weapons. It takes only one nuclear weapon to threaten the very future of humankind.

In the words of the Mayor of Hirsohima, Kaumi Matsui, in 2015: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, anyone could become a hibakusah [victim of nuclear weapons] at any time.” 

THE PEACE SYMBOL & NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

The peace symbol finds its origins in the British nuclear disarmament movement. Designed in 1958, it uses semaphore signals to transmit its message.

Semaphore is a system of conveying information at a distance. You spell out a word by placing your arms in certain positions, each position representing a different letter in the alphabet.

N and D, standing for Nuclear Disarmament, are the semaphore signals represented in the peace symbol.

TAKE ACTION TO BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Prime Minister Trudeau says he won’t sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty. But we can sign our own declaration of conscience for the total elimination of nuclear weapons: https://www.ceasefire.ca/?p=25341

 

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THE LEGACIES OF JOHN A. MACDONALD

Posted by strattof on October 15, 2017

John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, is currently at the centre of a firestone of controversy.

  • The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario recently voted to have his name removed from all public schools in Ontario.
  • In Regina, the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism and Colonialism No More are calling for the removal of his statue from Victoria Park.

Some other Canadians are opposed to such renamings and removals. They want Canada to continue to commemorate John A. Macdonald and his legacy, which includes:

  • Negotiating Canadian Confederation in 1867;
  • Overseeing the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, which convinced BC to join Confederation and stopped US annexation of the province.

As a result of these accomplishments, John A. Macdonald is often hailed as the Father of the Canadian nation.

They are not, however, Macdonald’s only legacy.

MACDONALD’S OTHER LEGACY:

RACIST AND GENOCIDAL POLICIES

We are taught in school about Macdonald, the nation-builder. Almost erased from history are his racist and genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples.

CLEARING THE PLAINS

In 1878, Macdonald implemented a policy of starvation, with-holding food from Indigenous peoples living in Canada’s vast resource-rich prairie region until they moved onto reserves. In Macdonald’s words: “We are doing all we can by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation.”

The goal of the policy was to clear the plains of Indigenous peoples so as to make way for the transcontinental railroad and make the plains available for white settlement. Thousands died as a result of this genocidal policy.

ESTABLISHING RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS

Macdonald was a passionate advocate for residential schools. In his words: “When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write….he is simply a savage who can read and write….Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence.”

Thousands of children died from neglect, abuse, malnutrition, and disease while attending these schools.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that Canada’s residential school system constituted “cultural genocide.”

CREATING THE INDIAN ACT

The Indian Act, brought in by Macdonald’s government in 1876, allowed the government to control almost every aspect of Indigenous peoples’ lives. Based on notions of white superiority, it is part of a long history of assimilation policies.

In Macdonald’s words: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

Many of the Indian Act’s policies of control and assimilation are still in effect today.

THE COMMEMORATION DEBATE

Here are some of the most common objections to removing statues of John A. Macdonald or renaming buildings with his name on them—as well as some possible answers to these objections:

OBJECTION: YOU CAN’T CHANGE HISTORY.

The current controversy over John A. Macdonald is having the beneficial effect of expanding our understanding of Canadian history and hence allowing us to engage the past more fully.

The question is this: Once we know Macdonald’s role in the development of genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples, do we still wish to honour him with statues and buildings?

OBJECTION: THIS IS ERASING OUR HISTORY.

John A. Macdonald’s impact on Canada will not be erased. He will still be in the history books and be taught in schools. With any luck, however, the picture will be more balanced.

What has, in fact, been erased from Canadian history is the history of Indigenous peoples on this land, during the tens of thousands of years before it was called Canada, as well as since Confederation: 150 years of colonization, genocide, and resistance.

OBJECTION: NOBODY’S PERFECT.

Right, but genocide is not exactly a minor misdemeanor.

OBJECTION: EVERYONE WAS RACIST.

Monuments have very little to do with the past and everything to do with the society that creates and maintains them. How racist is our society? That is the question.

Two years after the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s damning report, the statue of John A. Macdonald still stands in Victoria Park. What does that say about our society?

OBJECTION: WHO’S NEXT?

Actually, there’s already a little list, which in Regina includes Edgar Dewdney and Nicholas Flood Davin.

Dewdney, who implemented Macdonald’s starvation policy, has an avenue and a swimming pool named in his honour, while Davin, who authored the report that became the blueprint for the residential school system, has a school and a crescent.

Why not erect statues and name streets and buildings in honour of those who struggled against racism, colonization, and genocide?

LEARN MORE ABOUT CANADIAN HISTORY AND JOHN A. MACDONALD

BOOKS (available at Regina Public Library)

  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King (2012).
  • Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, by James Daschuk (2013).
  • The Comeback, by John Ralston Saul (2014).
  • Summary Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015): Also available online.
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call, by Arthur Manuel (2015).
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus (2015).

ART

  • Visit online Kent Monkman’s exhibition Shame and Prejudice.
  •  Visit the website of Chippewar, also known as Jay Soule.
  •  Visit the facebook page of Colonialism Skateboards.
  •  Watch Gord Downie’s animated film The Secret Path (online).
  •  Watch Rebecca Thomas’s video Not Perfect (online).

“There is room on this land for all of us and there must also, after centuries of struggle, be room for justice for Indigenous peoples. That is all we ask. And we will settle for nothing less.”—Arthur Manuel

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