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Archive for June, 2018

SASKATCHEWAN 2018: THE POOR GET POORER

Posted by strattof on June 23, 2018

On April 10, the Saskatchewan government announced it was taking the first step toward terminating the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement—a monthly payment that helps low-income families and persons with disabilities to pay their rent. As of July 1, the program will not be accepting any new applications.

On May 22, Saskatchewan MLAs gave themselves a 3.5% raise. They will now be making $96,183 a year. By comparison:

  • Without the rental supplement, a single person with a disability will get less than $16,000 a year on which to live—for rent, food, and other necessities.
  • That’s about $80,000 less than a Saskatchewan MLA.

According to the Sask Party government, the cut to the Rental Housing Supplement was necessary because of the province’s dire financial situation—a projected $365 million deficit in 2018.

Making poor people poorer is not the only way to balance the provincial budget. Here are three other options:

  1. Reduce MLA salaries to the average income of Saskatchewan residents = $53,000 a year.
  2. Increase the personal income tax rate for high income people.
  3. Raise the corporate tax rate.

THE ELIMINATION OF THE RENTAL HOUSING SUPPLEMENT

The rationale the Sask Party government offers for the elimination of the Rental Housing Supplement is that vacancy rates have risen and, hence, rents are now more affordable. In fact, rents have not declined enough to become affordable for low income people.

The elimination of the Rental Housing Supplement is especially hurtful in that it targets families with children and people with disabilities. It is a cruel cut that further weakens an already inadequate income security system.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • 13,000 people currently rely on the rental supplement.
  • The cut will take away 30% of rental allowance income.
  • Without the supplement, a single person with a disability will be left with only $459 for rent in Regina. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $935.
  • Without the supplement, a family with two children will be left with only $711 for rent in Regina. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Regina is $1,120.
  • According to the government, the termination of the Rental Housing Supplement will save the province $5 million annually. That $5 million will be taken out of low-income households.

IMPACT

  • Poor people in our province will become even poorer.
  • Many more people will have to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries.
  • Many more people will be forced to move into undesirable and unhealthy housing.
  • Many more people will become homeless.
  • Health outcomes will deteriorate.

HARASSING POOR PEOPLE

It’s as if being poor were not already a full-time job! To add to the stress, Social Services requires recipients of the Rental Housing Supplement to

  • Report every month if they are employed.
  • Report every three months if they are not employed.

To report, recipients must call the Social Services Client Service Centre where they are frequently put on hold for lengthy wait times. Fail to report on time and you are cut off the program.

Is this the government’s underhanded way of eliminating the Rental Housing Supplement altogether?

POVERTY IN SASKATCHEWAN: 6 KEY FACTS

  1. 25% of children in Saskatchewan live in poverty. Only Manitoba and Nunavut have higher child poverty rates. The national average for child poverty is 17%.
  2. 50% of Indigenous children in Saskatchewan live in poverty, compared to 13% of non-Indigenous children.
  3. 30% of the children of new immigrants in Saskatchewan live in poverty.
  4. Between 2008 and 2016, food bank usage in Saskatchewan increased by 77%.
  5. The poverty line for a single-parent family with one child in Saskatchewan is $25,500 a year. The income of 50% of the people who live below that line is significantly below it: less than $12,300.
  6. More than 50,000 households in Saskatchewan experience core housing need, meaning that, by no choice of their own, they pay more than 30% of their income on shelter, live in housing requiring major repairs, or live in housing with too few bedrooms.

A CALL TO ACTION: KEEP THE RENTAL HOUSING SUPPLEMENT

The matter is urgent! In just over two weeks, the provincial government will take the first step toward terminating the Rental Housing Supplement.

End Poverty Regina has launched a campaign to get the government to abandon this short-sighted and unjust decision. Making Peace Vigil supports this important campaign.

You too can join this campaign by taking three easy steps:

  1. Call the office of Paul Merriman, Minister of Social Services: 306-787-3661.
  2. Give your name, telephone number, and reason for calling: To ask the government to continue to accept new applications for the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement.
  3. Leave the same message at the office of Premier Scott Moe: 306-787-9433. 

R I N G T H O S E P H O N E S! 

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NATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY

Posted by strattof on June 23, 2018

Today, June 21, is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It is a good time to think about the ongoing legacy of colonialism and racism here in Saskatchewan and across Canada.

The photo above is of the tipi at the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp on the Legislative grounds in Wascana Park. As many of the camp’s visitors will attest, the camp provided a rich opportunity to learn about that ongoing legacy.

Last Friday, less than a week before National Indigenous Peoples Day, the provincial government, with the help of Regina Police Service, tore down the 108-day-old Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp, leaving only the tipi standing. On Monday, they removed the tipi.

Government officials say the camp eviction was necessary because of upcoming Canada Day celebrations, ridiculously citing “safety concerns.” What irony! And another missed opportunity for many of us to learn about the past and present injustices that define the relationship between settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan.

WASCANA PARK: A DECOLONIZING TOUR

BUFFALO

Wascana Park is situated on Treaty 4 territory, the original lands of the Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, Dakota, and Lakota and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Wascana, now the name of the Park and the Lake, is a corruption of the Cree word Oscana, which, in rough translation, means “pile of bones”—a reference to a huge pile of buffalo bones in the area that is now Wascana Park in the mid-to-late 1800s. These bones were destined for shipment to Ontario to be made into fertilizer or to England to be used in the production of bone china.

In the 1700s, there were an estimated 60 million buffalo in North America. By the late 1800s, industrial-scale hunting by white hunters on both sides of the border had led to their near extinction.

The economy of Indigenous peoples of the Plains was based on the buffalo. Their decimation had a devastating effect. By the 1880s, Indigenous peoples were starving.

The stage was thus set for the next phase of the colonization project.

CLEARING THE PLAINS: 1878

Many settler Canadians were taught in school that European settlement of the Canadian West was very peaceful, unlike that of the American west. This is a myth.

Erased from this version of history is, among other things, the policy of deliberate starvation implemented by the government of John A. Macdonald in 1878: withholding food from Indigenous peoples living across the plains—including where Wascana Park is now located—until they moved onto the tiny reserves the government had carved out for them.

The goal of the starvation policy was to clear the plains of Indigenous peoples and thus to make way for the railroad and white settlement. In Macdonald’s words: “We are doing all we can by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation.”

Thousands of Indigenous peoples died as a result of this policy.

Saskatchewan entered Confederation in 1905. Saskatchewan was founded on the genocide of Indigenous peoples.

CLEARING THE PLAINS: 2018

Today, 140 years later, we are still “clearing the plains” in Saskatchewan. For example:

THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Indigenous peoples make up 16% of the population of Saskatche-wan. Yet they account for over 80% of prisoners in our prisons.

Indigenous peoples are not being locked up in ever-increasing numbers because of a crime spree. It is for other reasons:

  • Racial profiling by police
  • Discriminatory practices in the justice system
  • Systemic racism, past and present
  • The economic and social impacts of colonial policies, including the health gap set off by Macdonald’s starvation policy and the intergenerational trauma brought on by the genocidal residential school system, also established by John A. Macdonald.

Like the residential school system, Canada’s justice system is destroying Indigenous families and communities. Indeed, some are calling Canadian prisons Canada’s new residential school system.

CHILD WELFARE

The child welfare system is also part of the on-going genocide against Indigenous peoples, dismantling Indigenous families and communities. Today, there are more Indigenous children in state care in Saskatchewan than there were at the height of the residential school system.

RECURRING THEMES

There are a number of recurring and interconnected themes in Canada’s colonial past and present. Here are three of them:

1. INCARCERATION: a) The Pass System, which made reserves into prisons b) Residential schools, prisons for Indigenous children c) The overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan prisons today

2. CHILD ABDUCTION: ●The residential school system The 60s Scoop Today’s child welfare system

3. CLEARING THE PLAINS: ►Of buffalo Of Indigenous peoples, initially by starvation, then by other government policies. The recent eviction from Wascana Park of the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp

WORKING TO DECOLONIZE

Those of us who are settler Canadians have a lot of decolonizing work to do. Our minds, our hearts, our communities, our culture, our history, our laws, our institutions: they all need to be decolonized. We must also learn how to be the best possible allies to Indigenous peoples in their ongoing struggle against Canadian colonialism and for justice.

Here is a list of some books and movies that might help us in these undertakings.

BOOKS (Available at Regina Public Library)

  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus
  • Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
  • Clearing the Plains, by James Daschuk
  • Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

FILMS/VIDEOS (Available at Regina Public Library or online)

  • Indian Horse, based on a novel by Richard Wagamese
  • The Secret Path, by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire
  • Our People Will Be Healed, by Alanis Obamsawin
  • Birth of a Family, by Tasha Hubbard
  • Where the Spirit Lives, with music by Buffy Sainte-Marie

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