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RACISM IN SASKATCHEWAN

Posted by strattof on December 6, 2017

Kudos to the Roughriders for locking arms during the playing of O Canada at several games in Mosaic Stadium They did the right thing in showing their solidarity with NFL players and their protest against racism.

Protests cross borders. Racism too is a cross-border phenomenon. There is plenty of racial injustice in Canada to speak out against.

In Saskatchewan, anti-Indigenous racism is especially prevalent, embedded in every aspect of life in our province: justicechild welfare education income employment elected representation. It even affects life expectancy.

A first step in combatting racism is to recognize and acknowledge its existence. Only then can we take the next step: standing up against racism both as individuals and as a society.

THE COLTEN BOUSHIE CASE

Colten Boushie, a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was 22-years-old when, on August 9, 2016, the car in which he and four friends were travelling had a flat tire and they pulled into a farmyard near Biggar. Colten was shot and killed.

The property owner, Gerald Stanley, has been charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded “not guilty.”

The case shines a light on racism in Saskatchewan.

PRESUMED GUILTY

When the RCMP went to Red Pheasant Cree Nation to inform Colten’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, of his death, officers behaved as if Colten’s family members were criminals.

  • RCMP vehicles surrounded the family trailer.
  • Officers then searched the surrounding area and the home, rummaging through the family possessions. Some of the officers had their guns drawn.
  • An officer ordered a grieving Baptiste to “get it together.”
  • He also asked Baptiste if she had been drinking.

MORE RACISM

  • The RCMP’s first media release linked the news of Colten’s death to a recent surge in thefts in the area—providing, as FISN Chief Bobby Cameron put it, “just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified.”
  • In the days following Colten’s death, a flood of racist comments appeared on social media, many of them promoting violence against Indigenous people.
  • In January 2017, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities voted 93% in favour of an expansion of property owners’ rights to defend their property.   

PRESUMED INNOCENT

  • The RCMP has laid no hate-speech charges against those who posted hate-speech online following Colten’s death.
  • Earlier this month, in an internal investigation, the RCMP cleared itself of any wrong-doing when its officers visited Colten’s home immediately following his death.

RACISM IN SASKATCHEWAN: 6 KEY FACTS

Systemic racism constitutes a huge barrier for Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.

  1. Saskatchewan has an Indigenous child poverty rate of 50%, compared to a non-Indigenous rate of 13%.
  2. 85% of Saskatchewan children in foster care are Indigenous.
  3. The unemployment rate for Indigenous people in Saskatche-wan is 12% compared to 3.8 % for non-Indigenous people.
  4. The mayors of Saskatchewan’s nine biggest cities are all white. Many of those cities, including Regina, have all-white city councils. 99 of the province’s 101 judges are white. Indigenous people make up 16% of Saskatchewan’s population.
  5. Indigenous people in Saskatchewan are 33% more likely to be incarcerated than their non-Indigenous counterparts and to be sentenced to more than twice the jail time.
  6. The life expectancy of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan is 6 years less than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts. 

MINISTER OF EDUCATION

According to Saskatchewan Education Minister, Bronwyn Eyre, there is too much “infusion” of Indigenous history in the school curriculum. In fact, if we are ever going to root out the racism and the impoverishment it systemically creates for the vast majority Indigenous peoples in our province, there must be an even greater “infusion” of Indigenous history into the school curriculum.

How many of us who have been celebrating Canada 150 know

  • That Canada’s first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald used a policy of deliberate starvation of Indigenous peoples in the area that is now Saskatchewan, to force the chiefs to sign treaties, giving up their land to save their people from starvation?
  • Or that many Treaties, including Treaty 4 that takes in most of southern Saskatchewan, including Regina, promised a school on every reserve. Instead, the Canadian government implemented the genocidal residential school system?

STAND UP AGAINST RACISM

  1. If you see something, say something. Speak up when you see racism occurring and interrupt in a safe way.

I would encourage Canadians…when they hear a racist story or joke… to challenge it, and to not accept it. That’s how you’re going to put an end to racism and discrimination in Canada.” Perry Bellegard, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, comment about the Colten Boushie case

  1. Tell Saskatchewan Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre to implement Call To Action #62 of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students”: eyre@saskparty.com or 306-477-4740.
  2. Tell federal Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale that an independent civilian oversight board, and not the RCMP, should conduct investigations of the force and its members: goodale@parl.gc.ca or 306-585-2202.
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WANTED: FAIR BANKING

Posted by strattof on December 6, 2017

Many low and moderate income people use extremely expensive payday loans to meet their monthly budget. In Saskatchewan a one week $100 payday loan could cost $23.  That amounts to a yearly interest rate of over 1100%, much greater than the 19% to 28% rate credit card users typically pay.

Some low income borrowers get caught in a debt trap – taking a loan they cannot afford and then extending the loan or taking another loan to pay off the original loan.

This week Making Peace Vigil joins a national campaign aimed at ending predatory lending practices. We are encouraging credit unions and chartered banks to make mainstream banking fairer and improve their services to low and moderate income Canadians.    

PAYDAY LENDING IN SASKATCHEWAN

A payday loan is a high cost, small, short term loan provided without security. The loan can be up to $1,500 and has a term of less than 62 days.

Loans are payable on or after the next regular pay date and agreements are to be in writing. The provincial government limits lenders to charging no more than $23 in fees for every $100 advanced.  For example, if you are short $300 until payday, a loan could cost $69.  Defaulting on payment could cost additional interest at a 30% annual rate and an additional fee of up to $50.

In February 2018, the provincial government will be lowering these fees to $17 and $25. However, even these reduced fees are exorbitant.

As of July 2017, there were 58 licensed payday lenders in the province, with 14 operating in Regina. Those without bank accounts may come to rely on these very expensive payday loans.

BANKING PROBLEMS: LOW & MODERATE INCOMES

  • Limited or no access to banking: Many people with low incomes are unable to cash cheques except at payday lenders.
  • Inadequate identification to open an account.
  • Lack of access to a secure computer.
  • Low or no access to affordable and safe loans and financial services.
  • Holding cheques until funds clear banking system.
  • Not sufficient funds (NSF) charge of $45. 

MAKING BANKING FAIRER

THE BANK ACT

The federal government is currently reviewing Canada’s Bank Act with changes scheduled for 2019.  Changes to make banking and financial services more accessible and affordable for those with low and moderate incomes include the following.

Mandate banks and credit unions to:

  • Provide access to low interest credit for emergencies.
  • Provide low interest overdraft loans for times when you need money but have none in your account.
  • Eliminate holds on cheques so funds are deposited in your account when you cash a cheque.
  • Reduce NSF fees from $45 to $10.
  • Create a national anti-predatory lending strategy.
  • Make it easier for people with low incomes to open accounts. 

POSTAL BANKING.

With over 6,000 post office locations across Canada, having banking services at post offices would make banking more accessible, especially to those in small towns, rural areas, and Indigenous communities. And financial products for low income earners would offer a genuine alternative to payday lenders.

Postal banking has been a success in many countries. It’s time to bring postal banking to Canada.

WHAT WE CAN DO

  1. Send emails to Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau demanding fair banking for all Canadians: justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca; Morneau@parl.gc.ca

Further information and an online form for a letter are available  at the Acorn Canada website: https://www.acorncanada.org/take-action/fight-fair-banking

  1. Talk to your MP and encourage him to support fair banking and postal banking in Saskatchewan and Canada.

Regina ‒ Lewvan: Erin Weir, 306-790-4747

Regina ‒ Qu’Appelle: Andrew Scheer, 306-332-2575

Regina ‒ Wascana: Hon. Ralph Goodale, 306-585-2202

3. If you have concerns about a loan you have made contact Saskatchewan’s Consumer Credit Division at 306-787-6700. They may be able to help you.

The Fair Banking campaign is organized and sponsored by Acorn Canada: Uniting Communities for Justice.   https://www.acorncanada.org/

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STOP LINE 3

Posted by strattof on November 4, 2017

In 2016, the Trudeau government approved a new Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. This pipeline will run right through southern Saskatchewan, carrying toxic tar sands oil from Alberta on route to US refineries. A larger diameter pipeline, it will more than double the capacity of the old Line 3 to transport tar sands oil.

In making this decision, Prime Minister Trudeau privileged the interests of the fossil fuel industry over the concerns of many Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians across the country.

He also broke three of his election promises:

  1. To make Canada a world climate leader: If Line 3 goes through, Canada will not be able to meet the commitments it made under the Paris Climate Agreement.
  2. To overhaul the National Energy Board’s environmental assessment process before considering any more pipelines.
  3. To implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The matter is urgent! At this very moment, the Saskatchewan portion of Line 3 is being built in the area approaching Regina.

For all our sake, we need to stop this pipeline!

LINE 3 PIPELINE BASICS

  1. Line 3 will transport tar sands oil from Hardisty Alberta to Superior Wisconsin for transport to refinery markets in the US.
  2. In order to side-step permit procedures, Enbridge calls Line 3 a replacement pipeline. But it is not. It is a new, larger diameter pipeline with a different route in a number of areas.
  3. Line 3 will transport nearly one million barrels of toxic tar sands oil per day.
  4. The capacity of Line 3 is even greater than that of the much higher-profile Keystone XL pipeline, which, should it be built now it has Trump’s approval, will carry 700,000 barrels a day.
  5. Line 3 crosses Saskatchewan, passing through Treaty 6 and Treaty 4 territories.
  6. Line 3 passes just a few kilometres south of Regina. It also
  • Runs through or near a number of towns, farms, and First Nations;
  • Crosses Saskatchewan’s vulnerable and shrinking prairie grasslands;
  • Crisscrosses 14 watercourses, including two major Rivers, tunneling under the South Saskatchewan River south of Outlook, and under the Qu’Appelle River near Bethune, and threatening all downstream land, water, and communities.
  1. Line 3 is owned by Enbridge, a Calgary-based corporation. Enbridge includes among its shareholders all major Canadian banks: RBC, BMO, TD, CIBC, and Bank of Nova Scotia.

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN

Pipelines are accidents waiting to happen.

  • In 2015 – 2016 there were 128 pipeline spills in Canada.
  • On average, 20 pipeline spills occur annually in Saskatchewan.
  • In 2016, a massive spill from a Huskie pipeline leaked oil into the Northern Saskatchewan, River, contaminating the drinking water of 70,000 people.

Like all pipeline companies, Enbridge claims its pipelines are safe. Its safety records tell a different story.

  • Enbridge is responsible for the largest spill in US history. In 2010 an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in Michigan, spilling 27,000 barrels of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.
  • Between1999 and 2013, there were 1068 Enbridge spills, an average of 71 spills a year.

Oil spills contaminate water, land, and air. They also kill wildlife and sicken people. Tar sands oil is particularly toxic as it must be thinned with thousands of chemicals to make it run through a pipe.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS

Line 3 is an environmental hazard as it will expand tar sands production.

  • Tar sands production poisons the water, air, land, and people in surrounding First Nations communities.
  • Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada, thus driving dangerous climate change.
  • 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded—until 2016 beat it by a wide margin. Now 2017 is on track to set another heat record.
  • Climate scientists warn that, if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must leave at least 85% of tar sands oil in the ground.

Indigenous communities have taken the lead in opposing pipe-lines. The original caretakers of this land, they are determined to protect it, and the entire planet, from environmental destruction.

EARTH PROTECTORS

First Nations across Canada have been saying “no” to tar sands development and tar sands pipelines for decades. Calling themselves protectors (rather than “protesters”), thousands of Indigenous peoples from across the Americas said “no” to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock ND. 

WE ALL MUST BE EARTH PROTECTORS!

TAKE ACTION

  1. Tell Prime Minister Trudeau
  • That saying “yes” to pipelines is saying “yes” to climate catastrophe.
  • That climate leaders do not approve new tar sands pipelines. Also let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want a) the National Energy Board to review the Line 3 pipeline project and b) his government to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to “free, prior, and informed consent.”

justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.

  1. Ask your bank if it has investments in Enbridge.
  2. Learn more about Line 3: https://www.stopline3.org/

 

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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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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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WHY WE STAND WITH OMAR KHADR

Posted by strattof on July 31, 2017

Why did the Canadian government apologize to Omar Khadr and pay him $10.5 million? The main answer to this question is that previous Canadian governments—both Liberal and Conservative —broke Canadian, as well as international law, in their treatment of Omar Khadr following his capture by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002.

Some Canadians are angry about the apology and settlement. We at Making Peace Vigil (the folks who hand out pamphlets on peace and justice issues on the Scarth Street Mall every Thursday) are happy about it. Please have a look at our reasons, outlined inside this pamphlet, for choosing to stand with Omar Khadr.

6 REASONS FOR STANDING WITH OMAR KHADR 

1. OMAR KHADR WAS A CHILD SOLDIER

  • Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured by the US military in Afghanistan in 2002, during a firefight in a compound.
  • The US imprisoned him first in Bagram in Afghanistan (2 months) and then in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba (10 years).
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines “child” as a “human being below the age of eighteen.”
  • Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, yet the Canadian government did not attempt to get Omar Khadr out of either Bagram or Guantánamo Bay prisons.
  • When, in 2012, Canadian courts finally forced the Canadian government to repatriate Omar Khadr, the government, rather than ensuring his release and rehabilitation, had him incarcer-ated in Canadian prisons for the next three years, until 2015.

2. OMAR KHADR WAS TORTURED

Confessions were extracted from Omar Khadr through the use of torture and other prohibited treatment, including beatings, threats of rape, and prolonged solitary confinement.

In 2003, the Canadian government became directly involved in the torture when it twice sent CSIS agents to Guantánamo to interrogate Omar Khadr, knowing that US officials had subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation and isolation.

Canada signed the UN convention against torture in 1975.

3. OMAR KHADR IS A CANADIAN CITIZEN

Born in Toronto in 1986, Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen and hence has the right to be protected by Canadian law.

In January 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the Canadian government had violated Omar Khadr’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it sent CSIS agents to interrogate him under “oppressive circumstances” and then shared the information with US officials.

4. RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW

In its treatment of Omar Khadr, the Canadian government showed contempt for both international and Canadian law.

  • Basic human rights (the right not to be tortured, for example) depend on all governments respecting international law.
  • The proper functioning of Canadian democracy depends on the Canadian government respecting the Canadian rule of law.

With the apology and settlement, the Canadian government finally showed some respect for the rule of law and Omar Khadr finally received some of the justice he deserves.

5. THE QUESTION OF GUILT

The main charge against Omar Khadr is that he threw the grenade that killed a US soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. There is no compelling evidence to support this charge.

  • No one saw who threw the grenade.
  • Omar Khadr was himself found lying under a pile of rocks and rubble, unarmed and severely wounded.
  • There is evidence that Sgt. Speer was a victim of friendly fire.

In 2010, facing indefinite incarceration, Omar Khadr entered into a plea bargain. In exchange for repatriation to Canada, he pleaded guilty to murdering Sgt. Speer. This coerced confession, which he has since retracted, is the main evidence against him. s

Besides, Omar Khadr was a (child) soldier in a war zone. The US soldiers who wounded him weren’t charged with attempted murder —or with murder for killing everyone else in the compound.

The whole point of war is to kill (murder) the enemy. War is evil.

6. HUMAN SYMPATHY

  • Child in a war zone. ●Witness to unspeakable horrors. ●Badly wounded—a shoulder injury that has required extensive surgery and permanent loss of sight in one eye. ●Youth spent in prison, most of it in notorious Guantánamo Bay. ●Victim of years of torture.

This was Omar Khadr’s life from the age of 10 – 28. None of it happened of his own volition.

STAND WITH OMAR KHADR

1. Sign the I STAND WITH OMAR KHADR petition: https://act.leadnow.ca/i-stand-with-omar-khadr/

2. Share this pamphlet with your friends and family.

3. Let Prime Minister Trudeau and your MP know you support the government’s apology to and settlement with Omar Khadr:

PM Trudeau: justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211

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

4. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Dennis Edney, Omar Khadr’s lawyer, will be speaking in Regina—Monday September 25, 7:30 pm, Education Auditorium, U of R: The Rule of Law in an Age of Fear.

5. Learn More about Omar Khadr:

  • Watch the documentary You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo, available on You Tube.
  • Watch the CBC documentary Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows, available online.
  • Read Roméo Dallaire’s They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, available at Regina Public Library.

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