Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

EARTH DAY 2017

Posted by strattof on April 21, 2017

Saturday, April 22, is EARTH DAY, a time to reflect on the catastrophic damage we are doing to the earth systems that give us life, and a time to start taking action to reverse the damage.

CLIMATE FACTS

  • The upper safety limit for CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. Today the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 407.05 per million, well over the safety limit.
  • The leading cause of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Rising CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere are the main cause of climate change.
  • Average global temperature has already risen by 1°C.
  • A global rise in average temperature of less than 2°C must be avoided if catastrophic consequences for human, animal, and plant life are not to follow.
  • 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded—until 2015 beat it by a wide margin. Then 2016 set a new record.

EARTH DAY 2017: CANADA’S CLIMATE RECORD

CLIMATE COMMITMENTS

In 2015, the Trudeau government, signed the Paris Climate Agreement, committing, along with 195 other countries, to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C, and thus avoid catastrophic climate change.

To help meet this goal, Canada also pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

BROKEN COMMITMENTS

In 2016, the Trudeau government approved two new tar sands pipelines: the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

  • Together these two pipelines will expand tar sands production by about 1 million barrels of oil per day.
  • Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada.

If the government proceeds with these pipeline expansion plans,

  • Canada will not be able to keep its Paris Agreement pledge to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • The world will also likely be prevented from meeting its Paris Agreement commitment of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2°C.

According to climate scientists, if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must leave at least 85% of tar sands oil in the ground.

BROKEN ELECTION PROMISES

In approving the pipelines, Trudeau also broke three of his election promises:

  1. To make Canada a world climate leader.
  2. To overhaul the National Energy Board’s environmental assessment process before considering any more pipelines.
  3. To implement the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples and to build a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations.

The Trudeau government has also broken another crucial climate-related election promise: to end the Harper government’s $34 billion a year subsidy to the fossil fuel industry.

SASKATCHEWAN’S CLIMATE RECORD

Premier Brad Wall says that his government was forced into an austerity budget because of “a massive reduction in resource [mainly oil] revenues.”

Why has the price of oil dropped so sharply? Because supply has outpaced demand. One of the reasons demand is low is a growing switch away from oil to renewable sources of energy—sources, such as wind and solar, that generate little or no global-warming emissions.

But not in Saskatchewan! A vocal champion of the fossil fuel industry, Premier Wall supports pipeline and tar sands expansion. His solution to the province’s budget crisis is to lure Calgary-based oil companies to relocate to Saskatchewan.

Is it any wonder, then, that Saskatchewan has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emission rates in the country and ranks last among the provinces in environmental performance? SHAME! 

EARTH PROTECTORS

Indigenous communities across Canada have taken the lead in opposing pipelines and tar sands development. The original caretakers of this land, they are determined to protect it, and the entire planet, from environmental destruction.

WE ALL MUST BE EARTH PROTECTORS!

TAKE ACTION FOR EARTH DAY

Tell Prime Minister Trudeau that saying “yes” to pipelines is saying “yes” to climate disaster. Let him know you want his government:

  • To stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.
  • To review the Line 3 and Trans Mountain pipeline projects.
  • To implement the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • To keep the pledge Canada made at the Paris Conference.

justintrudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-922-4211 

Contact Premier Wall and let him know you want the provincial government:

  • To say ‘no’ to tar sands pipelines.
  • To say ‘yes’ to developing a sustainable green economy.
  • To help the federal government keep the carbon reduction pledge it made at the Paris Climate Conference by working to reduce carbon emissions.

premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433

PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH: SATURDAY APRIL 29, NOON – 2 pm, LEGISLATIVE BUILDING

  • Celebrate our interdependent relationship to each other, and our dependent relationship to the Earth.
  • Demonstrate support for Saskatchewan showing leadership in addressing the climate crisis.

The People’s Climate March will be a peaceful, family-friendly event. Bring your kids. It’s their planet!

On facebook: https://actionnetwork.org/events/peoples-climate-march-regina-2017?referrer=&source=widget#

 

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PEACE IN SYRIA

Posted by strattof on April 14, 2017

Last week, the US launched 59 missiles against a Syrian govern-ment air base. The US says the missile strikes were in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack allegedly carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—an attack that killed 86 civilians, many of them children.

Prime Minister Trudeau “fully supports” the US missile strikes in Syria. Did our Prime Minister consider the following?

  • As yet, there is no clear evidence as to who is responsible for the chemical weapons attack.
  • The US missile strikes are illegal under international law.
  • Over the six years of this brutal war, multiple war crimes have been committed, seemingly on all sides. The US, for example, has admitted to using depleted uranium weapons in Syria.
  • While attacks with chemical weapons are deplorable, to respond to such attacks with missile strikes achieves nothing. It is war—the killing of people, whether with chemical or conventional weapons (missiles, bombs)—that is deplorable.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!

MAKING WAR IN SYRIA

CANADA MAKES WAR

March 2015: Canada became part of the US-led coalition fighting in Syria when the Harper government expanded Canada’s military mission in Iraq into Syria. 

March 2016 – 2017: The Trudeau government has twice extended Canada’s military mission in Syria, most recently until June 2017. 

April 2017: Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau endorsed the US missile strikes in Syria. Earlier this week, Trudeau went one step further than Harper, coming out in support of the US policy of regime change in Syria.

ENDLESS WAR

The war in Syria has been raging on for more than six years. That’s six years of waste, loss, and suffering for the people of Syria. Why does this war go on and on? Here are two major reasons:

  1. Foreign Intervention: The Syrian civil war has become a proxy war for the US and Russia. The US has an agenda of regime change, now shared by Canada. It wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out. Russia, Assad’s ally, is determined to keep him in power.
  2. Arms Sales: Many countries, including Canada, are making a killing selling arms to the Middle East. Much of this weaponry is being sent to Syria, fueling the civil war. Canada is the world’s second largest exporter of arms to the Middle East.

DEATH & DESTRUCTION IN SYRIA

The United Nations has declared the Syrian war “the worst humanitarian crisis since the Cold War.” It is the world’s most devastating conflict.

  • Over 400,000 Syrians have been killed in the war.
  • 9 million Syrians have become refugees.
  • 5 million Syrians are internally displaced.
  • Nearly half of the affected people are children.

MAKING PEACE IN SYRIA

There is no military solution to the war in Syria. Rather than supporting US military action and escalating the conflict even further, Canada should be working to end the Syrian bloodbath and to bring peace through a negotiated political solution.

CONDITIONS FOR PEACE

  1. All of the major parties involved in the Syrian conflict must be brought to the peace table, including the Assad government, Syrian rebel factions, Da’esh , the Kurds, the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, with the Syrians taking the lead in the discussions.
  2. The flow of arms to the Middle East must stop.

WHAT CANADA MUST DO

  • Withdraw from the US-led coalition fighting in Syria.
  • Make diplomatic peacemaking in Syria a top priority.
  • Stop selling arms to the Middle East. 

SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS

Syria accounts for more of the world’s refugees than any other country. 4.9 million Syrians have fled their homeland because of the ongoing war.

Some have found permanent homes in countries like Canada (40,000) and Germany (600,000). The majority, however, are in refugee camps in nearby countries or in Europe. Thousands have died trying to make it to Europe.

No one leaves home unless

Home is the mouth of a shark

You only run for the border

When you see the whole city running as well

From Home, a powerful poem by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire: http://seekershub.org/blog/2015/09/home-warsan-shire/

How to end the Syrian refugee crisis? End the war!

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE IN SYRIA

RALLY FOR PEACE IN SYRIA, SATURDAY APRIL 22, 2:30 pm

PEACE FOUNTAIN, REGINA CITY HALL

Let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and your MP know you want Canada to stop making war and to start working for peace in Syria.

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

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

Andrew Sheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-4593

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-9115

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SASKATCHEWAN’S AUSTERITY BUDGET: OFF THE BACKS OF THE POOR

Posted by strattof on April 14, 2017

We are told that our province’s dire financial situation—a $1.2 billion deficit—means that we all have to tighten our belts. There do, however, seem to be some exceptions:

  • The corporate tax rate: reduced by 1 point, from 12% to 11%, making it the lowest in the country.
  • Personal income tax rates: reduced by 1%.

Such corporate and personal income tax breaks will have two main effects:

  1. Further shift the tax burden from businesses to individuals.
  2. Make the tax system less progressive and more regressive: One of the purposes of taxes is to redistribute wealth from those who have more to those who have less. These tax changes do the opposite.

To make matters worse, the Wall government has raised the PST by 1 point, from 5% to 6%, and extended it to include children’s clothing. Consumption taxes, like the PST, are a greater burden for poor people than for those with higher incomes.

Now Brad Wall is offering our tax dollars to lure Calgary-based oil companies to relocate to Saskatchewan. Turns out Wall and his wife own shares in three of these companies.

OFF THE BACKS OF THE POOR

 CUTS TO SOCIAL PROGRAMS

SAID (Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities) is “an income support program for people with significant and enduring disabilities.” In August 2016, the Wall government announced that SAID recipients would lose the Excess Shelter Allowance, a cut made in the name of “equity and fairness.”

There was such a public outcry the government reversed the cut for those currently on the SAID program. However, it still applies

  • To all new applicants.
  • To anyone who changes address.

Even with the Excess Shelter Allowance, the maximum amount a SAID recipient can receive in rental support is $715. Not much housing is available in Regina for $715 a month. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $926.

PRIVATIZATION OF SERVICES

CLEANING SERVICES

The 251 cleaners of government buildings in Saskatchewan used to earn $19.20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year. Despite being the lowest paid government workers, they at least made a living wage.

Now that the Wall government has privatized cleaning services, these same cleaners are likely to make the minimum wage: $10.72 an hour. This is not a living wage.

PRISON FOOD

The Wall government also 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 gone on four hunger strikes, citing concerns about food quality and quantity. Also 62 unionized workers lost their jobs.

ELIMINATING STC

The Wall government is eliminating the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), a Crown Corporation. Many people use STC, but its loss will affect different groups differently:

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

STOP THE ELIMINATION OF STC

  • Sign petitions calling for plans to eliminate STC to be stopped:

https://www.facebook.com/stopthecutsSK/

http://www.saskndp.ca/stc 

LIBRARY CUTS

The Wall government has cut all funding for public libraries in Regina and Saskatoon and more than half of the funding for regional libraries. Like STC, the loss of library services will affect different people differently. For example:

  • You are an avid reader, but can’t afford to buy books.
  • You are looking for a job and don’t have access to a computer.
  • You are a high school student and need a quiet place to study.
  • You are a new-comer to Canada and want help with English.
  • You are homeless and need to get out of the cold until the shelter where you sleep reopens.

STOP THE CUTS TO OUR LIBRARIES

Sign petitions calling for funding to be restored to our libraries:

 

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HOMELESS IN REGINA

Posted by strattof on March 16, 2017

Regina is experiencing a homelessness crisis

  • The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $926, hardly affordable for a full-time minimum wage worker earning $1,863 per month. The commonly accepted definition of “affordable housing” is housing that costs a household 30% or less of its income.
  • The YWCA is currently compiling a registry of homeless people in Regina. So far there are 240 names on the list.
  • This figure does not include Regina’s hidden homeless—people who are double-bunking or couch-surfing—numbers that could double or triple the homeless figures.
  • A disproportionate number of Regina’s homeless people are Indigenous.
  • Regina’s shelters are filled to capacity.

BOOM BECOMES BUST

Regina’s homelessness crisis is so bad that a tent city sprang up last spring, with tents providing shelter for an ever-expanding number of people.

How did this happen?

  • First there was a boom and rents went through the roof. Since 2006 they have doubled.
  • For many folks this boom was a bust. They lost their housing because of rising rents and stagnant incomes.
  • Now there is a bust, but rents are still going up. More people are losing their housing.

City officials and property owners forced the residents of Regina’s tent city to move at least four times. Housing is a human right, recognized under Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

SHELTERS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

Regina has six emergency shelters, with 169 beds in total. That’s not enough beds to even accommodate the 240 Regina residents who are registered as homeless.

But emergency shelters are not the answer to Regina’s homelessness crisis.

  • Shelters are often not safe.
  • Shelters do not allow for self-reliance or a sense of dignity.
  • Shelters are not homes. A home is more than a place to sleep. It is a place where one can be any time one chooses and where one can keep one’s possessions—conditions not met by shelters, where, typically, folks have to be out of the building between 9 am and 6 pm, taking all their possessions with them.

What is the solution to Regina’s homelessness crisis? Affordable rental housing.

ELECTION PROMISES

Mayor Michael Fougere ran on a platform of ending homelessness during the 2016 municipal election. In his words:

  • We need to provide more housing and we need to end home-lessness. Those are the major things I want to see happen.”
  • It’s all about choices, and if we as a community believe [ending homelessness] is a priority, we’ll make it a priority.”

These are encouraging words!

PASSING THE BUCK

The Mayor’s preferred solution is Housing First, a program that first finds permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness and then offers them support, as needed.

The trouble is, the Mayor refuses to put any money into Housing First. Despite his election promises, he’s now saying that homelessness is not a municipal issue and that he expects the federal and provincial governments to provide all the funding. In other words, he’s passing the buck.

Currently, Regina’s Housing First program only receives funding from the federal government—a mere $700,000 annually. As a result, the program only has the capacity to house a few dozen people.

Where does this leave the 200 plus other people on the YWCA homelessness registry, not to mention all those who make up our city’s hidden homeless? Their misery and suffering continue.

ENDING HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA

Mayor Fougere is right: The City of Regina cannot, on its own, solve Regina’s homelessness crisis. It can, however, initiate a solution. Here’s a simple four-point plan:

  1. Stop passing the buck. Start a Housing First Fund. Put $100,000 into it. The money can be taken from the 2016 operating fund surplus.
  2. Ask local businesses to make matching grants.
  3. Let’s make it a community project. Many ordinary citizens would be happy to make a donation to end homelessness.
  4. When the fund reaches half a million, ask the provincial and federal governments for matching grants.

TAKE ACTION: END HOMELESSNESS IN REGINA

Let Mayor Fougere and your City Councillor know you want them to end homelessness in Regina.

  • Tell them you want the city to put money into Housing First.
  • Ask them to find funding partners in the business community.
  • Indicate you might be willing to make a (small) donation.
  • Remind the Mayor of his election promise to end homelessness in Regina.

Mayor Michael Fougere          777-7339 or mayor@regina.ca

Ward 1: Barbara Young          539-4081 or byoung@regina.ca

Ward 2: Bob Hawkins            789-2888 or bhawkins@regina.ca

Ward 3: Andrew Stevens       570-1402 or astevens@regina.ca

Ward 4: Lori Bresciani           570-1995 or lbrescia@regina.ca

Ward 5: John Findura            536-4250 or jfindura@regina.ca

Ward 6: Joel Murray               519-2232 or j.murray@regina.ca

Ward 7: Sharron Bryce           949-5025 or sbryce@regina.ca

Ward 8: Mike O’Donnell        545-7300 or modonnell@regina.ca

Ward 9: Jason Mancinelli      519-0078 or jmancine@regina.ca

Ward 10:Jerry Flegel               537-9888 or jflegel@regina.ca

Ordinary letters are also effective: City of Regina, Queen Elizabeth II Court, 2476 Victoria Avenue, PO Box 1790, Regina, S4P 3C8

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WASCANA PARK: KEEP IT PUBLIC

Posted by strattof on February 27, 2017

Wascana Centre, commonly known as the ‘Jewel of Regina,’ is one of the largest urban parks in North America. The public facilities located within its boundaries include the University of Regina, the Science Centre, Centre of the Arts, Darke Hall, and the Mackenzie Art Gallery. The Park also encompasses the Legislative Building, Wascana Lake, and lots of parkland.

The Wascana Centre Act, the 1978 legislation concerning the purpose and mandate of the Park, clearly intended that there would never be commercial development in the Park.

Now, as a result of some crafty maneuvering, the Park may soon have a bank within its boundaries: Conexus Credit Union.

We must not let this happen. Wascana Park is a public park. Let’s ensure it is never open to business.

NO BUSINESS IN THE PARK!

THE CONEXUS DEAL

THE DEAL-MAKERS

The deal-makers are the University of Regina, Conexus Credit Union, the City of Regina, and Wascana Centre Authority (WCA).

THE DEAL

JUNE 2016: U of R president Timmons announced a donation of $8.25 million from Conexus to the U of R’s College Avenue renewal project, to be used to restore the old College buildings.

In return, Conexus got a 90-year, rent-free lease on 2.6 acres of land in Wascana Park, adjacent to Darke Hall, on which to construct an 80,000 square foot head office.

AUGUST 2016: Regina City Council approved the transfer of 2.6 acres of city-owned land in Wascana Park, adjacent to Darke Hall, to the University of Regina “for development purposes.”

DECEMBER 2016: WCA approved the development of the Conexus head office in Wascana Park.

A SHADY DEAL

  • The Conexus “donation” clearly has strings attached. Is dona-tion the right word for this exchange of money for land-use?
  • In voting for the Conexus deal, City Council violated its own Official Community Plan, which stipulates that any new significant office buildings must be built downtown.
  • Mayor Michael Fougere and two City Councillors are members of the WCA board. In both capacities, they voted for the Conexus deal. 

A DONE DEAL

Although Wascana Park is a public resource paid for by the public, the public was left out of the decision-making process.

Yes, public forums were held in June, but they were mere window dressing. The Conexus deal was already a done deal.

  • In March 2016, WCA approved an update to its master plan to allow for “corporate partnerships.”
  • As part of the Conexus deal, in the name of heritage restoration, the Conservatory and the original Mackenzie Art Gallery were demolished. The demolition permits for these buildings were sought a day before the first public forum. 

SLIPPERY SLOPE

  • According to Mayor Fougere, $8.25 million was too good to pass up. What about the next corporation that wants a building in the Park and offers $8.5 million? Will we soon have a McDonald’s drive-thru in the Park or a Walmart?
  • The U or R administration has acknowledged that discussions have taken place concerning a presumably for-profit seniors’ residence in the Park.
  • Brandt Industries is already working on a plan to construct a large commercial office building to replace the Canadian National Institute for the Blind building on the east side of the Park. CNIB will be a tenant in the Brandt building. 

DO THE RIGHT THING

Wascana Park was founded to serve the public good. The appropriation of Park space for private benefit is detrimental to all of us who live in Regina.

It’s not too late for Conexus to do the right thing: make a genuine donation to the restoration of the College buildings and build its head office outside the Park. The City of Regina could assist Conexus in finding an appropriate location in the downtown area.

TAKE ACTION

  • If you have a Conexus account, ask to see the manager of your your branch and let her/him know you do not want Conexus in Wascana Park. Email the same message to the CEO of Conexus: ericdillon@conexus.ca
  • Let University of Regina president, Vianne Timmons, know you are not happy with the deal the University made with Conexus and suggest alternatives: 306-585-4696 or president@uregina.ca
  • Contact the Chief Executive Officer of Wascana Centre Authority, Bernadette McIntyre, and let her know you do not want any businesses in Wascana Park: 306-347-1846 or McIntyre@wascana.sk.ca
  • Send the same message to Mayor Michael Fougere: 307-777-7339 or mayor@regina.ca
  • Find out more about the campaign to stop Conexus from building in the Park. Visit the No Business in the Park facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/keepwascanaparkpublic/
  • If you would like to participate in the campaign, email

nobusinessinthepark@accesscomm.ca or

nobusinessinthepark@sasktel.net

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STOPPING ANTI-MUSLIM RACISM

Posted by strattof on February 16, 2017

On January 29, 2017, a gunman opened fire in a Quebec City mosque, killing six men: Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane, and Aboubaker Thabti. These men were killed because of their religion. 17 children lost their father to this act of hateful violence.

We at Making Peace Vigil extend our sympathies to the families of the men who were killed. In this time of terror, we stand in solidarity with Muslim communities in Regina and throughout Canada.

But expressions of sympathy and solidarity are not enough. We must all actively struggle against anti-Muslim racism, also known as Islamophobia.

HOME-GROWN RACISM

THE SUSPECT

The lone suspect in the shootings is a young, white, Christian, Canadian man and a student at Laval University. He is charged with six counts of first-degree murder.

NOT OUT OF THE BLUE

This act of terror did not come out of the blue. It occurred in a climate of increasing hate and fear, with many powerful members of our society promoting intolerance of Muslims.

CULTIVATION OF HATE & FEAR

It is not just that President Donald Trump’s hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric is crossing the border. Canada has produced plenty of its own anti-Muslim racist rhetoric. For example:

2013   The Parti Québécois proposed Charter of Quebec Values recommending a ban on public sector employees wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols—i.e. head or face coverings.

2015   The Barbaric Cultural Practices Act passed into law by the Harper government, supported by the Liberals: It’s still law.

2015   Saskatchewan talk show host John Gormley’s tweet encouraging the murder of Muslims

2016   Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée’s suggestion that an assault rifle could be hidden under a burka

2016   Conservative party leadership candidate Kelly Leitch’s proposal to vet immigrants for their “Canadian values”

Such anti-Muslim rhetoric helps fuel hate crimes, such as the Quebec City massacre.

NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT

Nor is the Quebec City shooting an isolated incident. Hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise in Canada. For example:

  • In 2015, a mosque in Peterborough Ontario was firebombed.
  • In 2016, a man showed a noose to two Muslim women waiting at a transit station in Edmonton and sang “O Canada.”
  • Six months before the Quebec City shooting, a pig’s head was placed at the door of the same mosque during Ramadan.

TRUMP & TRUDEAU

When President Trump imposed his Muslim ban, indefinitely barring Syrian refugees and blocking citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from admission to the US, Prime Minister Trudeau was quick to respond with a tweet saying refugees are welcome in Canada: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” These are wonderful words!

But words need to be backed up with action. If Trudeau’s heart-felt declaration is going to have any real meaning, changes will have to be made to Canada’s refugee and immigration system, in particular to the Safe Third Country agreement and the cap on private sponsorships. 

SAFE THIRD COUNTRY AGREEMENT

Signed by Canada and the US in 2002, the Safe Third Country agreement requires refugees to make asylum claims “in the first safe country they arrive in.” 

The Agreement is the reason that asylum seekers coming from the US have been entering Canada illegally by walking across the border. If they try to cross legally, they will be turned back to the US where they are likely to face detention and deportation.  

So desperate are some asylum seekers that they have attempted the journey in -20° weather. Two nearly froze to death. One has lost his hands to frost bite, another most of his fingers.  

Repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement! So far, the Trudeau government has declined to do so—making a mockery of the Prime Minister’s tweet that refugees are welcome in Canada.    

CAP ON PRIVATELY SPONSORED REFUGEES

In December 2016, the Trudeau government placed a cap of 1,000 on privately sponsored Syrian and Iraqi refugees for 2017. The cap exposes the hypocrisy of Trudeau’s tweet claiming that Canada welcomes refugees.

Lift the cap! So far the Trudeau government has declined to do so.

STOPPING ANTI-MUSLIM RACISM

  • Let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want his government to repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement and to lift the cap on privately sponsored refugees: trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.
  • Send the same message to Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen: Hussen@parl.gc.ca or 613-954-1064.
  • Ask your MP to support Motion 103, calling on the federal government to study ways in which the government can reduce or eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada, including Islamophobia. Full text available at: https://www.nccm.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ENGLISH-LETTER-WITH-SIGNATORIES.pdf

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

Andrew Scheer: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-4593

Erin Weir: erin.weir@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-9115

  • Learn more about Islamophobia. Visit the website of the National Council of Canadian Muslims: https://www.nccm.ca/
  • Counter Islamophobia wherever you find it. Find ways to do so without giving offence.

UNITED AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA

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TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

Posted by strattof on February 16, 2017

It’s been more than a year since the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The result of a six-year study of the history and legacy of Indian residential schools, the report documents the harsh truth about Canada’s residential school system:

  • More than 150,000 children attended the schools, many of them forcibly removed from their families.
  • Mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse was rife.
  • Food was often insufficient and of poor quality; and many schools were poorly maintained and overcrowded.
  • At least 6,000 children died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse.
  • The schools were part of the Canadian government’s policy of cultural genocide toward Indigenous peoples.

The TRC report also includes 94 calls to action. A year later, how much progress has been made toward implementing these recommendations?

MORE BROKEN PROMISES

In the run-up to the 2015 federal election, the Trudeau Liberals promised to implement all 94 TRC calls to action. How well is Prime Minister Trudeau doing?

CHILD WELFARE

TRC Recommendation #1: “Commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care.”

2007: The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a human rights complaint against the federal government, alleging that Canada is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing less child welfare funding on reserves.

2007 – 2015: Through litigation tactics and appointments, the Harper government attempted to derail the case.

2016: The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against First Nations children and ordered it to stop immediately.

2016: The Trudeau government increased funding for child welfare on reserves, but the Human Rights Tribunal found there were still sizeable funding discrepancies and issued compliance orders.

EDUCATION

TRC Recommendation # 8: “Eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.”

According to a December 2016 report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the federal government still spends $6,500 – $9,500 less per student at schools on reserves than the provinces spend on the education of children.

Treaty Promises: A key demand of many First Nations when signing treaties was for education. Under Treaty 4, signed in 1874 and covering all of southern Saskatchewan, including Regina, the federal government promised “to maintain a school on the reserve, allotted to each band, as soon as they settle on said reserve.” Instead the government implemented the genocidal residential school system.

UN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

TRC Recommendation #43: “Fully adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.”

The Declaration recognizes the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, including the right to health, education, and employment to freedom from discrimination to cultural identity and self-determination and to withhold consent from proposed projects that may affect their land and resources—the right of “free, prior, and informed consent” to development.

In May 2016, Canada formally adopted the Declaration, with the Trudeau government committing to fully implement it in the near future. By July, however, the government was backtracking and declaring the adoption of the Declaration as Canadian law “unworkable.” The main sticking point was the “free, prior, and informed consent” requirement.

Since then, the Trudeau government has, largely without “free, prior, and informed consent,” approved a number of developments that will affect Indigenous land and resources:

  • The Site C Dam in northern BC
  • The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, from Edmonton to Burnaby
  • The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, from Edmonton to Superior Wisconsin, passing just south of Regina 

RECONCILIATION: SORRY ISN’T ENOUGH

  • 2008: Prime Minister Harper apologized for the federal govern-ment’s residential school program. Nothing else happened.
  • 2015: Soon-to-be Prime Minister Trudeau promised to implement the TRC’s 94 calls to action. Little has happened.
  • 2017: The 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation would be a really good time to implement all 94 calls to action, a first step toward redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the process of reconciliation. Otherwise there will be nothing to celebrate.

TAKE ACTION

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STOP ISLAMOPHOBIA

Posted by strattof on January 19, 2017

DEFINITION

Islamophobia, also known as anti-Muslim racism, is hostility toward Islam and Muslims or discrimination against or fear of Islam and Muslims.

RECENT EXAMPLES

  • In June 2016, a Muslim woman was punched and spat on while she shopped with her four-month-old son in London Ontario. 
  • In the summer of 2016, the soldiers of Odin, an anti-immigrant street patrol group, began patrolling the streets of Regina. 
  • In November 2016, a man showed a noose to two Muslim women waiting at a transit station in Edmonton and sang “O Canada.” 

ISLAMOPHOBIA: MORE EXAMPLES

INTERNATIONAL

  • The banning of the full-body bathing suit or burkini by a number of French municipalities
  • Donald Trump’s call for all Muslims to be banned from the US
  • Britain’s Brexit vote

NATIONAL

  • The Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, passed into law by the Harper government and supported by the Liberals: It’s still law.
  • The online Care2 petition, which garnered 50,000 signatures, asking the Trudeau government to “stop resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada” 

LOCAL

  • Talk show host John Gormley’s tweet encouraging the murder of Muslims
  • Premier Brad Wall’s identification of Syrian refugees with terrorism
  • Hateful online comments posted to a story about the arrival of a Syrian refugee in Regina

CANADIAN VALUES?

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch has proposed to apply a “Canadian values” test to potential immigrants. Which Canadian values will she be drawing on?

Racist values that led to policies such as the following?

  • 1876 – 1996: The genocidal residential school system
  • 1914: The turning back of the Komagata Maru, a ship that arrived in the Vancouver harbour carrying 376 Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim passengers
  • 1939: The turning back of the St Louis, a ship that arrived in the Halifax harbour carrying 739 German Jewish refugees, forcing the ship to return to Europe where many passengers died in Nazi concentration camps
  • 2010: The detention of 492 Tamil asylum seekers who arrived on the BC coast on the MV Sun Sea
  • Ongoing: Underfunding of First Nations child welfare services

Is there any chance that Kellie Leitch is referring to the values upheld in the ongoing struggle for justice in Canada?

ISLAMOPHOBIA: CONSEQUENCES

ANTI-MUSLIM HATE CRIMES

Islamophobia has very real consequences, laying the ground work for anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents. A 2016 Environics Institute survey revealed that 35% of Canadian Muslims have experienced discrimination and unfair treatment in recent years.

ENDLESS WAR

Endless war against Muslim countries is another consequence of Islamophobia. Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria–Canada has now been at war in Muslim countries for 14 years without a break.

2 ISLAMOPHOBIC STEREOTYPES

  • The inherently violent Muslim man: Like most non-Muslim men, most Muslim men hold ordinary jobs and value family and friends. They are not any more violent than non-Muslim men. Much of the violence in the world today is directed at Muslims by non-Muslims. 
  • The oppressed Muslim woman: “While the demonization of Islam and Muslims as exceptionally oppressive [of women] certainly advances the cause of racist stereotyping, it does little to benefit the women in whose interests these sometime champions for equality claim to speak. On the contrary, Muslim women bear a heavy part of the burden of violence and hatred generated by these stereotypes.”—from a column in the Ottawa Citizen, signed by 20 prominent Muslim-Canadian women.  

TAKE ACTION

  1. Learn more about Islamophobia. Visit the National Council of Canadian Muslim’s website online map of anti-Muslim hate-crimes and incidents: http://www.nccm.ca/map/
  2. Here are the names of four prominent Muslim-Canadian women: Zarqa Nawaz, Monia Mazigh, Rukhsana Khan, Sheema Khan. Are you familiar with them? If not, do a google search.
  3. Read the whole column in the Ottawa Citizen written by 20 prominent Muslim-Canadian women: Google “Ottawa Citizen Islamophobic feminism.”
  4. Read the National Council of Canadian Muslim’s Charter For Inclusive Communities and consider signing it: http://www.nccm.ca/charter/

 

 

 

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PEACE IN 2017

Posted by strattof on January 15, 2017

ENDLESS WAR

Canada has been endlessly at war since 2003: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria—Canada has been or is there making war.

WAR IS A CATASTROPHE

War inflicts suffering on soldiers and civilians alike. It is a catastrophe for everyone it touches.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or under the holy name of liberty or democracy?”—Mahatma Gandhi

DEATH & DESTRUCTION IN SYRIA 

SUFFERING IN SYRIA

The war in Syria is now well into its sixth year. The suffering of the people of Syria has been terrible.

  • Over 400,000 Syrians have been killed in the war.
  • 9 million Syrians have become refugees.
  • 5 million Syrians are internally displaced.
  • Nearly half of the affected people are children.

WHY HAS THIS WAR LASTED SO LONG?

A key factor has been the intervention of the US and Russia, with Russia supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the US determined to topple him. The result has been an escalation of the fighting. Syria has become a new cold war battleground.

A CHANCE FOR PEACE

  • On December 30th, an agreement, brokered by Russia and Turkey, calling for a ceasefire and peace talks in the war in Syria, went into effect.
  • The following day, New Year’s Eve, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution supporting the efforts of Russia and Turkey to end the conflict.
  • As of yesterday (January 11), the ceasefire was mainly holding.

A FRAGILE PEACE

  • The December 30th ceasefire was the third ceasefire declared in Syria in 2016. The other two collapsed, one of them in a matter of days.
  • The US was not included in the ceasefire discussions.
  • A number of groups considered “terrorist” by all the main participants in the conflict (Russia, the US, and Assad), were also not part of the ceasefire agreement. These include Daesh (ISIS) and Fatah al-Sham.

CANADA IN SYRIA

MAKING WAR

Canada is part of the US-led coalition making war in Syria:

  • March 2015: The Harper government expanded Canada’s military mission in Iraq into Syria, committing six fighter jets, a refueling aircraft, two surveillance aircraft, and 69 soldiers. 
  • February 2016: The Trudeau government extended Canada’s military mission in Syria until March 2017. While it pulled Canada’s fighter jets from the war, it left the refueling and surveillance aircrafts—proxy bombing some have called it. The Trudeau government also tripled the number of soldiers to 207. 

MAKING A KILLING

The war in Syria is fueled by arms from the west. Canada is the world’s second largest exporter of arms to the Middle East.

War is big business. Canada is making a killing off the war in Syria.

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicous….It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”—Major General Smedley Butler

PEACE IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE

War is neither necessary nor inevitable. Peaceful alternatives always exist, but they need to be worked at.

Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict; yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes ecourage, it takes strength and tenacity—Pope Francis

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE

CANADA FOR PEACE

  • Tell Prime Minister Trudeau you want Canada to stop making war in Syria and to start making diplomatic peace-making a top priority: trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.
  • Send the same message to Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan: Sajjan@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-7052.

PEACE SYMBOL CONTEST

Enter the 2017 Peace Symbol Contest. Create a peace symbol on any surface: for example, a snowbank; a sidewalk using chalk; a piece of clothing; a cake using icing. Take a photo of your peace symbol and email it to makingpeace@sasktel.net  You will, in return, receive a peace gift and become eligible to win a major peace prize. The deadline is midnight August 31, 2017.

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CANADA’S 150th BIRTHDAY: WHAT ARE WE CELEBRATING?

Posted by strattof on January 5, 2017

The year-long celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday have already begun. There were musical performances, cultural events, and fireworks displays in 19 cities, including Regina, across the country on New Year’s Eve.

According to the federal government’s Canada 150 website: “From local and community events to national celebrations in 2017, there will be plenty of ways to get involved and celebrate all that makes us who we are as a country.

What seem to be missing from the proceedings are events that acknowledge the process through which Canada became a nation: the colonization, displacement, oppression, and genocide of Indigenous peoples. This is the history that in large part “makes us who we are as a country.”

Many of us, especially those of us who have white privilege, don’t know this history. Let’s make Canada’s 150th birthday a time to learn it.

JOHN A. MACDONALD: FATHER OF THE NATION

We will hear a lot about John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, during the year-long celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. His legacy includes:

  • Negotiating Canadian Confederation in 1867.
  • Overseeing the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885.

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

GENOCIDE—MACDONALD’S OTHER LEGACY

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

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS

Macdonald was a passionate advocate for residential schools. In 1879, his government founded a publicly funded residential school system. In 1884, it made school attendance compulsory for all First Nations children. Thousands of children died from neglect, abuse, malnutrition, and disease while attending these schools.

Genocide, as defined by the United Nations, includes:

  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

Canada’s residential schools, the last of which closed in 1996, constituted genocide.

COLONIALISM TODAY

Why bring up these disturbing truths about Canada’s founding when we are supposed to be celebrating?

We need to know our history because it forms the basis of on-going white settler privilege. In health, child welfare, education, housing, employment, the justice system—indeed, almost everywhere in Canadian society—whiteness is still an advantage and Indigenous identity a disadvantage. For example:

HEALTH

The health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, set-off by Macdonald’s starvation policy, persists.

39  Incidence rate of TB per 100,000 people on Saskatchewan First Nations, compared to 7.5 cases per 100,000 people in the province as a whole

52  Community Well-Being Index for Saskatchewan First Nations: Scores can range from a low of 0 to a high of 100. Most non-Indigenous Saskatchewan communities score above 80.

CHILD WELFARE

  • First Nations children on reserves receive 22% -34% less funding for child welfare services than non-Indigenous children receive for child welfare from the provinces.
  • The result: There are more First Nations children in care today than there were in residential schools in the 1950s.

In terms of policies toward Indigenous peoples, how different is Canada today from Macdonald’s 19th century Canada? 

TRUTH & RECONCILIATION

What Canada did, and continues to do, to Indigenous peoples is genocide. Hard as it is to accept, this is the truth. Knowing and accepting this truth is a first step toward reconciliation.

KAIROS BLANKET EXERCISE

The Kairos Blanket Exercise is a way of helping us to understand and accept this truth. “A tool to share the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada,” the Blanket Exercise would be a perfect way to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.

Learn about the Blanket Exercise: http://kairosblanketexercise.org/

TAKE ACTION

  1. Please use this pamphlet as a jumping off point for a conver-sation about colonialism, racism, and genocide in Canada.
  2. Let Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Brad Wall, and Mayor Michael Fougere know you want them to mark Canada’s 150th birthday by sponsoring the Blanket Exercise in Regina. The Legislative lawn, Victoria Park, and the area around the Peace Fountain in front of City Hall would all be good locations. trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253; mayor@regina.ca or 306-777-7339; bradwallmla@sasktel.net or 306-787-9433
  3. Learn more about Canadian history.

The following books are available at Regina Public Library:

  • Clearing the Plains, James Daschuk (2013)
  • The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King (2012)
  • Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, Arthur

Manuel & Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson (2015)

  • The Comeback, John Ralston Saul (2014)

The following articles are available online:

  • “When Canada used hunger to clear the West,” James Daschuk, Globe and Mail, July 19, 2013.
  • “What Canada committed against First Nations was genocide,” Phil Fontaine and Bernie Farber, Globe and Mail, Oct 14, 2013.
  • “Old Macdonald,” Stephen Marche, Walrus, Jan – Feb 2015.

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