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KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Over the years the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Lower Sackville has seen its share of violent incidents. The institution is home to 24 individuals with developmental and/or physical disabilities. Many residents are held there against their will.
Typically when Quest makes the headlines Community Services counters that things are just fine. But when resident Gordon James Longphee died in May 2014 after being attacked by a fellow resident Community Services minister Joanne Bernard had to act.
Bernard announced an independent review of best practices at Quest. Well over a year later the results of that review have now been made public.
The executive summary suggests that things are well under control. But in the body of the report, written by Ontario-based Mary Jane Hampton of Stylus Consulting Inc., there are issues raised that indicate all is not well at Quest.
The picture that emerges is one of a dreary, often tense and scary place.
In a focus group for residents, Hampton heard complaints about their inability to participate in supervised community-based activities because of a lack of staff.
“Most days they feel bored,” they told Hampton.
“The physical location of the facility between a highway, an exit ramp and a main thoroughfare makes such things as taking a walk outside stressful (even dangerous),” Hampton writes.
Shouting, physical outbursts and slamming doors at any time of the day and night is common.
“Who wouldn’t go crazy living here?”, one of the residents wonders.
It's worth noting that this is all feedback from a residents' focus group that had participants hand-picked by staff. The make-up of a second focus group consisting of parents was also based on staff suggestions, ensuring that parents critical of the institution were excluded from providing any meaningful input.
Staff training standards are insufficient, Hampton says, and she blames Community Services. The department has always argued that staff training is not its concern, beyond defining high-level requirements.
Not good enough, says Hampton.
“(Community Services) should consider updating and then standardizing core competencies for RRC staff, and support an agency to take the lead in designing and delivering training programs so that those competencies can be maintained,” one of the recommendations states.
Quest needs to recognize that it accommodates two very different groups of residents, Hampton believes.
Some are there for a limited time, and will eventually transition to small option homes (assuming that there are vacancies, of course), while others will never leave.
The tension between these different needs in terms of care is creating complexities that would be best resolved if there was a separate facility to house the long-term residents, Hampton argues.
Hampton is also critical of a governing board that was allowed to dwindle to a mere four members, and urges that vacant staff positions for a psychologist and behavioural analyst be filled “as soon as possible.”
The Nova Scotia Association of Community Living (NSACL), a stakeholder group that advocates for more inclusive approaches for people who are labeled with intellectual disabilities, has seen enough.
“Too many Nova Scotians who have a disability continue to be forced to live in large, congregated settings with no choice in their lives,” writes Jean Coleman, Executive Director for the NSACL, in a press release in response to the Hampton report.
The NSACL press release refers to Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which Canada has ratified.
That clause states that people with intellectual disabilities have the right of equal access to the range of appropriate and affordable housing available in their community that is based on choice, self-determination, and individualized funding.
“So long as a single bed is filled at Quest, the rights of Nova Scotians with intellectual disabilities are being denied. We can and should do better,” Coleman writes. “This is about basic human rights.”
For more coverage of Quest by the Halifax Media Co-op, click here.
Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert
Welcome back to Pjilasi Mi'kma'ki. In this fourth episode, we'll be talking about the power of language; what's gained when you keep something alive in a word, and what's lost when that word dies.
We'll take a trip to the Mic Mac mall, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to get a feel for the non-Native community's understanding of the Mi'kmaq language.
We'll also hear from two Mi'kmaq men on very important linguistic missions.
Tuma Young, from Unama'ki - otherwise known as Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia - is a lawyer and a professor at Cape Breton University. Early on, his parents recognized that Tuma wouldn't become a great hunter or fisher, so they told him to go to school instead!
Tuma has worked for years to preserve traditional Mi'kmaq names of Nova Scotia's birds and medicines. We talk to him about working with elders, students and within communities to save this important aspect of Mi'kmaq linguistic heritage.
Bernie Francis, also from Unama'ki, is a linguist and has helped developed a Mi'kmaq written orthography that is now widely accepted across Nova Scotia. Francis' latest project is an interactive Mi'kmaq place name atlas that encompasses Nova Scotia. Bernie speaks of the value of knowing where you are, in Mi'kmaq, in traditional Mi'kmaq territory.
We hope you enjoy this episode.
For more great episodes of Pjilasi Mi'kma'ki, click here!
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Many people I talked to over the years have wrong ideas about food banks and soup kitchens, and what goes on there.
“Soup kitchens should only be used by homeless people, and the food banks are for those living on social assistance that do have a home,” they say.
So just out of curiosity, and for article research purposes, I have taken the time to visit some of these places.
The places here in the Halifax area where people living in poverty hang out at are not limited to the food bank next door to my building. Other places include Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, Metro Non Profit Coffee Shop, Grace Street Mission, Hope Cottage, and in downtown Halifax a drop-in at Saint Mary’s Basilica. There are others as well.
Also for registered member with Mental Health issues, there is another place called the Caring and Sharing Social Club.
What I find needs to be understood by wealthy people is that people use the service of soup kitchens is because they live in poverty, even if they are not homeless.
What's more, soup kitchens also serve as drop-in programs for all persons living in poverty. And people who use food banks are not limited to ESIA clients. Food bank services are also used by people who are on cpp disability, people who are working poor and even poor students who attend the local colleges and universities.
In fact, there are many wrong ideas quite a few wealthy people believe.
Some middle-class people who I personally know, who do not even know the people living in poverty from Adam, believe the following things:
Those on income assistance, instead of sitting at home and being lazy they choose to attend these drop-ins, and soup kitchens to sit there and be lazy.
If those on income assistance wants to go to soup kitchens they should only be there for the reason of volunteering, not to get something to eat.
Drug deals take place at these drop-ins and soup kitchens.
People who use these drop-ins and soup kitchen have no interest in wanting to someday get off income assistance.
I just want to say that I have learned from my personal experiences that none of above opinions are true.
From talking to people who use food banks and soup kitchens, I have learned that people living in poverty attend these places to reduce stigma and isolation.
Also, because they live in poverty, going to these places and using the food banks helps them budget their money better.
However, when I recently shared all this with certain middle-class people they stubbornly disagreed.
People like that simply do not care about people living in poverty at all.
Now I will say what I have actually learned from my personal experiences of using the food bank and attending the soup kitchens/drop-ins.
First I must confess that before I started going to these places myself I shared many of the bad opinions I just mentioned.
My personal story on when I started visiting the food bank as well as a couple of soup kitchens, began back in fall of 2013, when I had moved from my old Dartmouth address to my new Halifax address.
The building I had moved to, and where I still live at present, it so happens that there is a food bank right next door to my building. I always see people line up at that food bank a couple of times a week when that food bank is open.
I found it sad to see the amount of people standing in that line. Seeing the length of that line-up, just reminded me of how many people we have here in Halifax living in poverty.
Some of the drop-ins are actually also located in my area of Halifax. I have found that the people who use these services are also a community of people who know each other. They all have the fact of living in poverty in common with each other.
The only actual soup kitchen is Hope Cottage. Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is similar to a soup kitchen because they do offer free food to those living in poverty. However Souls Harbour also offers other stuff, such as support groups for people going through hard times, free clothing, entertainment, and social support.
I have actually talked to some people who attend Souls Harbour who mentioned to me they only go there for the socialization; they do not go there to eat.
Metro Non-Profit Coffee shop is a place where people who are having problems with their situations that makes them no choice in life but to have to live in poverty can go get support as a well as a hang out place to get a free coffee.
Grace Street Mission is a place where those living on poverty and the homeless who have an interest in religion can go.
The one place where the mandate is different is the Caring and Sharing Social Club. This place is a drop-in. However, the difference between this place and other drop-ins are the fact that to use Caring and Sharing you actually have to be a registered member.
However what Caring and Sharing has in common with these other places is the fact that the people who are registered members do live in poverty.
To become a registered member of Caring and Sharing, you have to have papers filled out by either a doctor or another mental health professional saying that you have mental health issues. Then the referral from the doctor or other mental health professional has to be approved by the club coordinator.
When I talked to contacts I have in the middle class community about the line-ups I see at the food bank next door next door to my building, the comment I used to get from them was “Kendall, remember those people are drug addicts and trouble makers of other types.”
What I have learned is even though it is true that there are drug addicts who go to these places, most who use the services are not drug addicts. Even those who are drug addicts are respectful enough not to be doing drugs while hanging out and using the services of these places. Drug dealers do not visit these places to make drug deals.
The most important thing that I have learned through personal experience is for the people who go there the experience has been nothing but positive.
Remember, people who live in poverty are normal people just like everybody else. Many have dreams of someday getting out of poverty.
See also: Let them drink shakes, an account of Kendall's difficulties in meeting special dietary requirements through local food banks.
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - After a mere three and a half day of face to face bargaining the Halifax Herald Ltd. pulled out of talks with its newsroom staff.
The employer has filed a letter with the minister of Labour asking for the appointment of a conciliator. 63 unionized reporters, photographers, editorial writers, editors, columnists, page technicians, library and support staff in Halifax and bureaus across the province are affected.
“The company is asking for some pretty massive concessions. The ability to contract out, changes in severance language, and they told us at the start of the talks that they plan to lay off staff,” Ingrid Bulmer, president of Local 30130, Halifax Typographical Union, tells the Halifax Media Co-op.
In separate discussions management is pushing for a freeze of the defined benefit pension plan that covers all 315 workers at the Herald, Bulmer says.
“So far we were only dealing with non-monetary issues but the employer decided to call off the discussions,” says Bulmer.
In February of this year Herald management locked out 13 pressroom workers who opposed a wage freeze and the elimination of job security language.
And after a bitter labour dispute in November of 2014 Herald management forced “voluntary”early retirements or buy-out packages upon 13 newsroom staff.
Quality of news provision will once again be affected if management gets its way, Bulmer fears.
“The company is already trying to get custom (paid for) content in there, and that's not news, but that seems to be the direction the company wants to go in,” says Bulmer.
“We knew going in that we were bound for a tough round of bargaining,” says Bulmer. “But at the same time we can't allow the company to gut our collective agreement. It's not an option for us.”
Click here for previous coverage of Chronicle Herald labour issues
Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert
A group of Indigenous women, two-spirit people, and allies are patrolling the streets of Toronto’s Downtown East. Three nights a week the group walks the streets of their neighbourhood between Church, Parliament, Dundas, and Shuter, streets located on traditional Mississauga-Anishinabek, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee territory. Together they hand out water bottles, sandwiches, drug-use kits, and clothing, informing the community about recent acts of violence and police activity. When people are sexually assaulted in the neighbourhood, the group lets the community know; when women and trans people go missing in the city, street patrol*sets out to look for them.
A powerful expression of care and collectivity in a neighbourhood that has been home to Toronto’s low-income and street-involved people for decades, the street patrol initiative challenges the city’s discriminatory policing initiatives and our governing bodies’ growing disregard for Canada’s most vulnerable urban communities.
Although the members of this group are all too aware of the specific barriers and injustices people in the community encounter every day, they fear life is about to become even more complicated. The neighbourhood faces a rapidly approaching momentous shift that has been looming for years now: the gentrification of the Downtown East.
Toronto is in the midst of a long-term housing and shelter crisis. Another winter is upon us and shelters are operating above 90 percent occupancy, over 90,000 households are on a waitlist for affordable housing, and the loss of shelter beds in the downtown core continues at an alarming rate (Toronto has lost three shelters since April, and in the past fifteen years, the city has lost over 1,000 shelter beds). The real effects of this crisis are urgent and tragic: in January 2015, four homeless men died due to extreme weather conditions, and since 1985, a reported 740 people have died from homelessness in Toronto.
Federal cuts to social welfare investments are undoubtedly contributing to this crisis. Over the past twenty-five years, the Canadian population has grown by 30 percent but annual federal investments in affordable housing have dropped 43 percent. If we continue on this path, Canada will have lost 22 percent of its federally subsidized housing by 2017. The province of Ontario has felt these cuts acutely: between 1995 and 2007, Ontario welfare benefits were cut by 50 percent and disability by 22 percent, pushing an estimated 67,000 Ontario families out of their housing rentals. The lack of affordable housing puts even more pressure on the need for safe space and shelters; unsurprisingly, shelter use in Toronto has risen 11 percent since 2011.
Despite the city’s 2013 promise to keep capacity of shelters below 90 percent and build more affordable housing, Toronto is moving forward with the George Street Revitalization (GSR) plan, an urban redevelopment initiative that will result in the projected loss of over 440 shelter beds and, many fear, the forced relocation of hundreds of low-income and street-involved people from the area. Of particular concern is the city’s plan to demolish George Street’s Seaton House, a 543-bed shelter for men. The shelter will be rebuilt as a long-term care home, a 100-bed emergency shelter, assisted living residence, and community service hub.
The GSR plan is described as a step towards a successful city-wide housing-first model, meaning the plan will prioritize affordable and subsidized housing solutions. But details as to whether the lost beds will be replaced, where and when they will be available, as well as who will be allowed to access them, are not known.
More broadly, the plan aims to balance the competing pressures of a growing housing and shelter crisis and a “rising real estate market” in neighbouring communities. Despite this commitment, private development firms have certain economic advantages when pursuing their interests: residents are already being pushed out of affordable rentals and rooming houses, with no adequate alternatives to turn to.
Housing-first initiatives are typically applauded by both cities and social service organizations as an economically viable long-term solution to homelessness; shelters provide a band-aid solution to the systemic issue of chronic homelessness and rely too heavily on tax payers’ dollars, while affordable and integrated housing options for long-term shelter users present viable social investments that can encourage economic independence.
But saying you are taking up a housing-first strategy does not justify the relocation of those living in poorly maintained “affordable” apartments, nor the destruction of overcrowded shelters in the downtown core. Because affordable housing is already so scarce in Toronto, a housing-first model requires new economic regulations and policies: some councillors recommend that the city require 10 percent of all new buildings constructed in the downtown be affordable, while housing first models recommend boosting rent-geared-to-income subsidies so that street-involved and low-income people can still live in the areas where the services and supports they need to survive are located.
Even if these recommendations were actually enacted, the need for adequate shelter space would not disappear. Emergency beds are still a necessary lifeline for people struggling with homelessness due to certain barriers and realities—like substance use, poverty, mental illness, disability, racism, domestic violence—that even well-implemented affordable housing options cannot solve on their own.
Canada’s Indigenous communities are particularly susceptible to homelessness. Colonial legacies of intergenerational trauma along with the realities of poverty and racism limit opportunities and create impediments for Indigenous folks attempting to become or remain stably housed. Here things are no different: since the 1793 founding of York, later renamed Toronto after the Kahniakenhaka word “tkranto,” this city has been actively forgetting its colonial roots and pushing its Indigenous population out. According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, only 1 percent of Toronto’s population identifies as Aboriginal, but a 2013 Street Needs assessment found that 16 percent of the homeless population identifies as Aboriginal. Despite this over-representation, which undoubtedly corresponds to the legacy of settler colonialism in Toronto, the city’s revitalization projects are failing to meet the specific needs of the Downtown East (DTE) community. For groups like street patrol, our colonial past very much informs the care and effort that goes into this work, as well as the discrimination and neglect experienced by Toronto’s street-involved and precariously housed population. As Sigrid Kneve, a founding member of the group, said:
“I believe that this is my territory, like all of Turtle Island and [it’s] not our way to have people outside of the circle. If I see someone falling behind, it doesn’t make me happy, it doesn’t make our ancestors happy because that’s not our way. That was never our way, to have people suffering and homeless.”
Sigrid allowed me to go on street patrol on a Friday night in mid-September. We met after sunset in Allan Gardens, a park located in the heart of the city’s DTE, frequented by tourists visiting the historic conservatory and botanical gardens and policed for apparently high rates of crime. That evening, the park was noticeably brighter than usual; a crew was taking down lights and equipment after filming around the conservatory that day. There were also a number of police officers walking the perimeter of the grounds; the group of street patrollers speculated that their increased presence might be part of an effort to redirect lost Ryerson students participating in frosh festivities.
The walk began with a smudging and prayer, and as we headed towards George Street we offered the burning sage, along with bottles of water from Canadian Tire, drug-use kits from local social outreach agency Street Health, and bagels salvaged from a nearby bakery to the folks we encountered along the way. We paused in front of Seaton House and the houses owned by Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC); the people we met there were familiar and friendly with the patrollers, some not particularly interested in the donations but looking for the smudge and brief conversation.
The group started patrolling the streets in fall of 2013 after a woman, sleeping in a well-lit area at Dundas and Sherbourne, was sexually assaulted on two separate occasions in a single night. Both men were caught on Street Health’s surveillance tape and reported to the police. On September 27, five days after the assaults, Toronto police issued a release about the incident, but did not make adequate efforts to notify local agencies, social workers, and street-involved women of the violence.
Faced with the lack of police response, women and social justice organizations in the community took to the streets, getting the word out about what had happened, and calling on the city for more adequate and accessible shelter space. According to a 2007 Toronto-based study, 37 percent of street-involved women surveyed had been assaulted in the past twelve months, while 21 percent had been sexually assaulted. When a number of assaults against women were reported to the police in early 2014, again receiving little police response, members of the community printed and circulated posters detailing exactly what had happened.
Later that year, several women disappeared in the Trinity Bellwoods area and community-led street patrols set out once again to search for these women. Sigrid explained that from then on the group kept it going, handing out whatever supplies they could gather each week to people living in the DTE, offering to mediate when cops interacted with street-involved people in the area, and warning the community about the presence of Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) units in the area (an initiative known for the excessive ticketing, carding, and criminalizing of racialized, marginalized, and street-involved people in Toronto’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods).
Two days before I met up with Sigrid for street patrol, the province announced the budget for TAVIS would be cut significantly. The street patrol group was thrilled about this news; they had been advocating against the initiative for years. On nights when TAVIS units were in the community, police would issue expensive tickets to street-involved people for riding bicycles on sidewalks or without bells, for drinking in public, for loitering—charges that are rarely made, the group pointed out, in more affluent neighbourhoods throughout the city. These criminalizing tactics of the soon-to-be defunct TAVIS, of course, beg the question: if Toronto police are so concerned about violence in the DTE, why aren’t they helping groups like street patrol and local social services providers keep an eye out for violence on the streets? Why aren’t they helping to protect street-involved people who are suffering from mental illness, or getting the word out about recent assaults in the area?
The patrollers are all too aware of this irony, but Sigrid also explained that while many of the local cops want to help protect the community and the urban poor, they don’t have many options: “If there is someone on the street, and they’re OD-ing, or they’re totally intoxicated and they can’t function, they’ll just send them to the hospital in an ambulance. There is not much they can do.” If there was more shelter space with services meeting the specific needs of the community, perhaps these dangerous incidents would be less frequent. The problem is clear, according to Sigrid: “People need housing, some of them need supportive housing, and there just isn’t enough of it. They know what’s good and what’s bad. They’ve just fallen through the cracks. If I was in their situation I’d probably be doing the same thing.”
Sigrid, like the other street patrollers, has also lived in the DTE, has faced some of the same barriers as those living in the shelters, has been a sole-support parent for two children, and has fought to live in affordable and subsidized housing. As we continued our walk along Dundas East towards the Eaton Centre, the patrollers pointed out the numerous development proposals in the windows of small restaurants and convenience stores, clear signs of the gentrification already taking place. They are rightfully very concerned about what the near future will look like in their neighbourhood: Will the new condo buildings have affordable rental units? Who will be allowed to rent these apartments? Will those affected by mental illness, who struggle against poverty and racism, who can’t or won’t stop using substances or drinking, be adequately supported by these housing options? Will rent-geared-to-income subsidies be available to those who want to stay in the area? Where will those who can’t stay in the neighbourhood go once the shelters close their doors? The patrollers do not have the answers to these pressing questions, and sadly, it seems that the city doesn’t either.
The realities of gentrification, displacement, and homelessness in the DTE aren’t new or unforeseen issues for Toronto. They are part of a long history of relocating the urban poor, expropriating immigrant communities, and pushing Indigenous people to the margins of the city. Beginning with the complex, drawn-out, and unjust Toronto Purchase from the Mississaugas, now primarily located on Six Nations Territory near Hamilton and known as the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Toronto has consistently made efforts to erase Indigenous claims to the land and rewrite its origin story.
We often think of the 1834 incorporation of Toronto as the city’s “founding moment,” but this narrative effectively obfuscates the negotiations made between the Mississaugas and the Crown between 1787 and 1805. Such forgetting has helped pave the way for a different historical narrative to emerge, some version of “Toronto the Good,” a story of peaceful and welcoming beginnings in a city that would lead Canada—economically, socially, and ideologically—into a promising future of progress and diversity.
That identity was effectively upended in 2010 when the government of Canada paid out $125 million in reparations to the Mississaugas of the New Credit. The land claim case called attention to a legally invalid transaction made between the Crown and the Mississaugas in 1805. The original surrender of the land that would become Toronto occurred in 1787, when the Mississaugas agreed to sell 10 square miles (6,400 acres) to the British government. But in the years that followed, the boundaries that were originally agreed upon were called into question by government officials. In 1805 the Crown took it upon itself to draw up a new agreement, one that expanded the Toronto Purchase to an area spanning 14 x 28 miles (250, 800 acres), without providing further compensation to the Mississaugas for this significantly larger portion of land.
The Mississaugas continued to live on the Credit River until they were eventually crowded out of their remaining 200 acres of land and forced to relocate to Six Nations’ territory near Hagersville, Ontario. With this history of forced removal in mind, it’s important to note that while the federal government’s reparations acknowledge the wrongs of the past, it does not lay all past violences to rest—$125 million covers only a fraction of current value of the land that was stolen and does not make up for over two centuries of colonial rule. It goes without saying that the 2010 reparations do not account for Toronto’s continued discrimination against and neglect of its urban Indigenous population.
I spoke with the patrollers about how their work is part of a larger effort to reclaim the streets, not just from the city’s redevelopment plans, but from the colonial systems that have dispossessed and displaced Indigenous people in Toronto for over two centuries. Sigrid agreed that countering the effects of colonial practices is part of their mission, and she explained that patrollers also show people “that somebody cares about them.” She told me she once met an Indigenous woman who had been on the street for seven years. The woman told Sigrid: “Even if you just hand us a toothbrush, it’s so important. It means a lot when somebody gives you recognition, just gives you anything.”
The work that street patrol is doing is important and radical for precisely this reason. Their donations are not providing long-term change, although they might help make a night outdoors more comfortable. But their presence asserts that these vulnerable people are worthy of adequate care, are part of a community, are not on their own.
Our nation state systematically displaced and tried to assimilate Indigenous populations in the past, and today the violence continues: hundreds or thousands of Indigenous women, trans, and two-spirit people have been lost to violence, thousands of Indigenous children are in state care, and in a given eight-week period, an average of 30,000 Indigenous people are violently victimized. Faced with our government’s devastating incompetence and intentional ignorance, community-led-initiatives like street patrol are bold and necessary demonstrations of solidarity in a dire situation.
A municipal revitalization plan that does not prioritize area residents, that does not recognize the specific barriers people living in shelters might face along with the supports they need to stay housed, is an initiative built to fail. Or perhaps more accurately, an initiative built to fail the most vulnerable residents in the area and pave the way for the economic success of corporate real estate developers.
While it is clear that the state of housing and shelter conditions in the DTE is in need of serious attention, the city’s latest revitalization strategy is not concretely incorporating the specific needs of the community in its planning. As many organizations invested in this community will say, an integrated system of care must accompany Toronto’s housing-first strategy—care that is currently being undertaken by small social service organizations and community-led outreach like street patrol. If Toronto’s DTE residents and street-involved people are forced to relocate under these conditions, however, the fate of this necessary grassroots system of care will flounder, and the lives of the city’s already vulnerable urban poor will be put at further risk.
The continued loss of shelter beds in Toronto is an urgent issue that could mean life or death for many street-involved and low-income people in the city this winter. This crisis is not inevitable in a metropolis like Toronto, but the result of irresponsible city planning, strategies that are not so distant from the settler colonialism that has displaced and tried to assimilate our host peoples for centuries. If the city actually intends to lower occupancy rates and institute a housing-first model, it needs to stop prioritizing the wealthy and protect the rights of the urban poor. “The people are here now and they’re not being taken care of,” said Sigrid. “It has nothing to do with bad choices. We all know that.”
KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) - In late October Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL) convention delegates elected Danny Cavanagh as their new president.
The Federation, with representation of almost all Nova Scotia unions, is the central voice for Nova Scotia workers. The NSFL supports individual unions in their battles with employers, and takes action when issues arise that affect all workers in Nova Scotia.
Cavanagh, long-time president of CUPE Nova Scotia, was elected on an ambitious platform. He wants to build a more cohesive and energetic Federation, to push for new Labour Councils across the province, and to extend the membership of affiliated unions.
He also promises to support students, injured workers, and groups that fight poverty, discrimination, and environmental degradation.
Last week the Halifax Media Co-op met with Cavanagh to get to know him a bit better, and to talk about his plans for the Federation.
One of the first jobs I had, after I got married and when I was still quite young, was digging graves, working 44 hours a week for minimum wage. After that I worked for a landscaping outfit for a bit. Then somebody suggested I get a job with the Town of Truro, and I got involved with the union there almost right away.
Workers there had essentially never filed a grievance, so I did some work there, and over the years I held almost every leadership position in CUPE Local 734. Then our Local got more involved in CUPE Nova Scotia, I started attending the conventions, one thing leads to another.
I also got involved in doing literacy work. Any member that wanted to be certified for provincial certification for water treatment, water distribution, those kinds of things. We started a workplace education program where people got their GED (high school equivalency diploma) and then got certified.
We want to get Labour Councils going in Yarmouth, in Amherst, in New Glasgow, all places where there were Labour Councils before. I was president of the Labour Council in Truro for a long time. There is no Labour Council in Truro now, but we need to rebuild and do that kind of work. I already started to make contacts and have those conversations.
We need to do more work with injured workers groups. We are going to pull a meeting together with them and see if we can get things working better. If people get injured we need to make sure that they are supported and that they do not end up living in poverty.
I think we can do lot more actions in smaller communities where we get 25 or 50 people out, and when other people start seeing those things happen then they want to get more involved.
There is a huge opportunity to change the channel, both with union members and the general public. This province is not as bad off as the government would like us to believe. We need to do some educating around that.
There will always be disagreements among unions to some extent. Last year's fight against Bill 1 is a good example. But let's not forget, there was unity in the beginning, and there was unity when we came out of it at the the end, after Dorsey was fired multiple times. Thanks to that unity, the unions solved that entire mess that the government created in just 10 days. And there still is unity today.
Each union in these situations is going to do what they have to do, which is what's best for their membership. We need to respect that, and that's the message I gave to our members at the time. We need to understand that there are going to be hurdles, and that unions have autonomy to do what's best for their members.
Getting the Federation to grow
I hate to be repetitive, but it's a matter of talking to people, letting them know what the Federation has to offer, show them that there is a positive change, and hopefully they will come on board.
Every union worker in the province needs to understand that we're all in the same boat, we all need to row in the same direction, and the more unions are affiliated the better that is for everybody.
Over the next few months we will try to meet with those unions that are unaffiliated. The Teachers Union was there in the meetings with the Finance minister, and we need to talk about affiliation and about working together. The teachers were with us in other campaigns. I am confident that when all is said and done we will have more unions affiliated than we have ever seen before.
Supporting social movements and inclusion
I'd like to talk with these groups, better understand the issues they are facing, and how we can work with them. We have to do that kind of work. Those are struggles that will still be with us long after I'm gone, but we all have to do what we can to raise these issues and educate people.
Their problems are everybody's problems. People forced to work two jobs, people who don't get medical benefits, no pensions. People should not have to choose between buying medication or heating oil or food. That's not the kind of society we want. We're better than that.
I don't know what we are in for. But I am proud of how well the affected unions actually get along. You don't necessarily have that in all other provinces. That's a huge advantage that we have here.
The province needs to stop coming to the table and holding a gun to people's heads. It would be so much better if we sat down and had a meaningful discussion on how we can work together. But if the province wants to play hardball then we will play hardball back.
If only the provincial government were a bit more proactive. For instance, investing in early learning and childcare would have huge benefits for the economy. If people were to spend 10 percent of their income buying from local suppliers and producers, the economic benefits would far exceed the benefits of Ship Starts Here. Yet all the government talks about is austerity, confrontation and privatization.
How can there be such a contrast between what Justin Trudeau is saying about how austerity doesn't work, how it doesn't hurt to have a deficit, and how we need to build more infrastructure, and Stephen McNeil who is going in an entirely different direction? It just doesn't make sense.
Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) -- Internal documents obtained by the Halifax Media Co-op suggest that something has gone very wrong with the Aboriginal consultation file in New Brunswick over Trans Canada's proposed Energy East pipeline. Internal rifts and mistrust over the Energy East file within the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick Inc (AFNCNB) - an incorporated body that claims consultative authority of several First Nations communities in New Brunswick – may also explain a recent meltdown of the organization, whereby over the past several months numerous First Nations communities in New Brunswick have opted to leave the consultative umbrella of the AFNCNB and either 'go it alone' in consultative activities, or tentatively form their own alliances.
All of this 'consultation talk', of course, is related to the Canadian government's 'duty to consult', which is triggered when, according to the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs: “the Crown contemplates conduct that might adversely impact potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights.”
Our documents, when compared to engagement logs provided in the Energy East Project Application to the National Energy Board, dated between April 2013 to December 2014, suggest that key funding agreements between New Brunswick's Indian Act chiefs and Trans Canada remain unsigned.
While Trans Canada has not yet filed a final project proposal with the National Energy Board for the proposed Energy East pipeline, inking funding agreements with various First Nations groups across the span of the proposed project has been a priority for Trans Canada, as well as a necessity under the 'duty to consult'. Ishkonigan Consulting and Mediation, former Assembly of First Nations chief Phil Fontaine's company, has been hired specifically by Trans Canada for the task of 'consultation'.
In a document dated January 2015, Trans Canada notes that, “Letters of agreement” (LOA) have been signed with 13 of 15 First Nations chiefs in New Brunswick. The LOA is an introductory step in the consultation process between industry and First Nations Indian Act representatives, but only acts as a 'foot in the door' towards the creation of a more substantial Communications and Engagement Funding Agreement (CEFA). While an LOA might provide funding for chiefs to attend various meetings and presentations, the more comprehensive CEFA might contain opportunities for employment, further funding, etc.
It is at this more comprehensive step that Trans Canada, Ishkonigan and the First Nation chiefs of New Brunswick have apparently stumbled, with Trans Canada noting in the same January 2015 document that:
“CEFA(s) for multi-year capacity funding have been sent to all 15 First Nations. CEFA negotiations are occurring between 14 of the 15 First Nations but no agreements have been signed.”
This stumble in the CEFA process appears to be related to a break-down in communication between representatives from Ishkonigan and the AFNCNB. Documents show a souring in the relationship between Ishkonigan and Trans Canada on the one hand and the AFNCNB on the other, specifically over the degree of control that the AFNCNB has attempted to exercise over the consultation process.
Indeed, documents show that internal unease within the AFNCNB over its handling of the Energy East file has been at least partially responsible for several First Nations communities in New Brunswick exiting from the organization.
The 'Energy East Project Application Engagement logs' that Trans Canada has filed with the National Energy Board suggest that during 2014, Angie Leonard, former New Brunswick Minister of Energy and Mines Craig Leonard's sister, was the lead consultant at the AFNCNB charged with developing the organization's CEFA over the proposed pipeline. At the time, the AFNCNB was representing 10 of 15 First Nations communities in New Brunswick.
But Leonard, along with the AFNCNB's Brad Sappier (another of the organization's consultants), apparently did not instill faith with some chiefs that they were up to the technical task of developing the CEFA.
As far back as April 7, 2014, engagement logs show that Saga Williams, one of Ishkonigan's lead consultants on the file, was taking phone calls and text messages from chief David Peter-Paul, of Pabineau First Nation. Pabineau First Nation was – and still is – under the AFNCNB's consultative umbrella. Williams' log states that Peter-Paul:
“was not comfortable with the development of the CEFA process at the technical levels by Angie Leonard, Assembly Economic Development Advisory and Brad Sappier, Consultation Coordinator.”
Peter-Paul, along with other New Brunswick chiefs still within the AFNCNB, would begin to engage and negotiate directly with Williams, Ishkonigan and Trans Canada. This was, of course, their purview. But this direct negotiation apparently rubbed Leonard very much the wrong way.
By August 13 or 14, 2014 (dates vary between different sources), Leonard had submitted the AFNCNB's proposed CEFA to Saga Williams. Although the CEFA itself has been omitted from the documents we have obtained, it likely would have contained extensive funding proposals.
Williams, in response, emailed Leonard on August 18, noting that in order for the National Energy Board, as regulator of the proposed pipeline, to move forward, that Band Council Resolutions would be needed from all of New Brunswick's chiefs, approving the AFNCNB's CEFA. This fairly basic request would show that the chiefs in New Brunswick were in accordance with whatever deal that Leonard was proposing on behalf of the AFNCNB. Otherwise, neither the project, Ishkonigan or the National Energy Board could move forward.
It would appear that this was not the first such request for transparency from Williams to Leonard and the AFNCNB.
In her engagement log, Williams writes:
“Since at least March 14, 2014 Ishkonigan and TransCanada have been transparent about the need for support from each First Nation’s Chiefs and Councils and the requirement for proof...Ishkonigan and TransCanada needed to prove engagement to the regulator and not expend further effort and resources on a process that would not provide information to the New Brunswick First Nation communities or from the New Brunswick First Nation communities to TransCanada with regards to the Energy East Pipeline project.”
Instead of seeing the validity of Williams' request to obtain Band Council Resolutions from each of New Brunswick's First Nation communities, Leonard's response, according to Williams' engagement log, asked that Ishkonigan employee stop communicating with individual First Nations in New Brunswick:
“Angie Leonard responded to Saga Williams’ offer for direct engagement by making a request that while Ishkonigan works towards a collective process that Ishkonigan stop approaching the New Brunswick First Nation communities directly...In response, Saga Williams stated that this was not possible, as it was Ishkonigan’s obligation to continue to provide information and that the New Brunswick First Nation communities have a reciprocating obligation to engage as well.”
By late August, 2014, Leonard had temporarily broken off communication with Ishkonigan. Instead, in late August, the AFNCNB's co-chairs at the time, George Ginnish and Brenda Perley, penned a letter to Trans Canada in which they referenced:
“a number of court decisions regarding affirmed Aboriginal and Treaty rights and explained that AFNCNB had not yet been contacted by the Crown concerning the Project and Marine Terminal...Concern was [also] expressed regarding the social harm and divisiveness caused by TransCanada in contacting communities directly.”
Trans Canada, however, was having none of it. A November 7, 2014, letter from Ryan McFadden, Trans Canada's Manager of Aboriginal Relations for the Energy East project, to the AFNCNB, noted that the consultative relationship had been proceeding on schedule, until Ishkonigan's request to engage each First Nation community over Leonard's proposed CEFA.
If there was any reason for a communication breakdown, it was this, and not disrespect of existing treaties or land rights, that was to blame.
“Despite outreach to the Assembly staff, the Aboriginal Engagement team did not receive any substantive correspondence until your letter of August 13, 2014, with the appended Assembly CEFA Proposal. Upon receipt of this correspondence, the Aboriginal Engagement team contacted the Assembly and requested to meet and discuss the Assembly CEFA Proposal. After a telephone discussion between one of my team members and your Energy Advisor, all communication regarding the Assembly CEFA Proposal ceased, apparently due to our requirement that each First Nation submit a Band Council Resolution to support the Assembly's collective engagement strategy.”
This breakdown in communication between the AFNCNB and Ishkonigan, which appears to have been instigated over Williams' hesitance to 'fast-track' Leonard's CEFA proposal while shutting out individual communication with other New Brunswick Indian Act chiefs, may well be responsible for a variety of domino effects.
Leonard's balked-at CEFA proposal is likely at least partially responsible for the continued implosion at the AFNCNB. All six Wolustuk communities in New Brunswick, along with Elsipogtog First Nation, have left the AFNCNB. While the Wolustuk communities, whose traditional territory lies to the west of the Saint John river and in the direct path of the proposed pipeline, have not publicly elaborated on their reasoning for fleeing the AFNCNB – and undoubtedly they are varied - they have continued direct negotiations with Ishkonigan and Trans Canada on the Energy East file. Several of these communities have also entered into joint-Traditional Knowledge agreements with Trans Canada.
Of course, all of this consultative engagement speaks to the helter-skelter 'duty to consult' relationship between levels of government, First Nations communities, and industry. Realistically, First Nations communities must continue to 'play the game' of consultation. Walking away from the consultative 'table' does not act as a veto to a proposed project, be it pipeline or otherwise. It only recuses whatever First Nation group or organization that walks away from the table from further consultations. The proposed project itself is not placed in jeopardy, and continues along without them.
As the story of Energy East consultation continues, it will be interesting to observe the actions of the AFNCNB and the Wolustuk communities in New Brunswick who have left the organization – and who stand to be most greatly impacted by the proposed pipeline. As well, it almost goes without saying that more traditional forms of governance, such as the Wolustuk Grand Council, have been shut out entirely from consultative activities.
Of note, only the AFNCNB is listed as an 'Aboriginal Intervenor' by the National Energy Board for upcoming hearings on the proposed pipeline.
Ta'Kaiya Blaney and Naomi Klein have sent out an inspiring message about the growing power of the climate justice movement, and the need to ramp up action. Speaking and performing before an estimated 1,500 people at a Vancouver rally, both expressed determination to build a movement powerful enough to push back the fossil fuel industry and create a more just society.
Klein said “We know that this new government is being bombarded by pressure from above, pressure from pipeline companies — which they’re way too close to — pressure from Bay Street, pressure from the oilpatch. These people want them to do nothing more than put a kinder, gentler face on Harper’s disastrous policies . . .What this government needs is powerful and relentless pressure from below.”
The Nov. 4 rally was organized by CUPE to focus attention on The Leap Manifesto, a climate justice document already signed by many unions and other organizations as well as tens of thousands of individuals. It took place on the same day Climate Welcome started in Ottawa to pressure the new federal government to freeze oil sands expansion.
CACTUS: Add Your Voice: Preserve $150 Million for REAL Community Media
(Ottawa, Nov. 4) Tomorrow is the deadline for Canadians (that's you) to tell the CRTC how it should update its local and community TV policy. TV? Who watches TV anymore? Or maybe you're asking, “Does local TV even exist? How can you hold a hearing about an animal noboby has seen in a decade?”
Good questions. The CRTC conducted a year-long consultation last year called “Let's Talk TV”. Tomorrow's deadline is an offshoot, in which the CRTC's policies for local and community TV will be updated. The consultation is really about what will happen to $150 million that Canada's big cable and satellite companies collect from subscribers every year that is supposed to support “community TV”.
Once upon a time, 80% of Canadians had cable subscriptions and there were more than 300 cable community channels. You know... like in Waynesworld... Those quirky little neighbourhood studios where Mike Meyers got his start (Scarborough Cable), Dan Aykroyd (Ottawa Cablevision), Tom Green (Rogers in Ottawa), or Guy Maddin (Winnipeg Videon). Maybe you made a show on community cable, yourself.
The joke is that for more than a decade, the CRTC has continued to mandate cable companies to support “community TV”, but more than 90% of these channels have closed. As cable companies have interconnected their rural operations, the head ends they once needed to serve outlying areas (where the production studios were) aren't needed anymore. So they closed them... and continued to spend all your money (if you're a subscriber) on increasingly professionalized 'community channels' in big cities. There are fewer than 20 distinct program schedules or 'channels' left in the whole country. The content made at these big centres (Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver) are piped back out over huge regional cable networks, with the occasional local insertion of a council meeting to serve a particular area.
Even more silly, perhaps, is that satellite companies (which distribute national signals, not local ones) spend your money on 'community TV' too, but it's just videos they pay independent producers to produce and then post on their video-on-demand platforms. No media training is happening on the ground, or encouragement of marginalized voices, neighbourhoods, or organizations, as is expected under CRTC policy.
Why should you care? CACTUS proposed in 2009 when the CRTC last reviewed its policies that the $150 million should be used to support Community-Access Media Centres from coast to coast. Canadians in small communities that have no local media coverage as well as large ones in which minority voices have a tough time being heard could learn ALL the new media tricks and tips (“How do I tweet? How can I tell people my event is on? How do I design a web site and upload some video to it? How do I podcast?”). We could access equipment, get help using it, and then distribute it... whether that means old-fashioned over-the-air TV or radio, streaming, or distribution to mobile devices. It's a busy media-verse out there if you're trying to be seen and heard.
What do you think? After a decade of letting cable and satellite companies squander your subscription dollars for big-city pseudo 'community channels' that nobody watches, the CRTC has put on the table the possibility that those same companies could redirect that $150 million to support the local commercial news stations they now own: CTV, Global, CityTV, TVA.
That's what'll happen, unless you speak up: your choice – a bit more news at big-city channels owned by Rogers, Shaw, Bell, and Quebecor (news they could easily pay for out of their own pockets... isn't that why we let them buy up all our private broadcasters?) or a redistribution of that money back out to the hinterland and to neighbourhoods, where it was intended, to better reflect the dynamic mosaic that is Canada. To enable us all to have a voice in the digital environment.
TO BE HEARD TODAY AND TOMORROW:
Read the public notice: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2015/2015-421.htm
Send your comment by 8 p.m. Eastern by fax (819) 994-0218 or use the online comment form at the bottom of the notice. And best of all.. say you want to appear in person at the hearing in January. The CRTC needs to hear our voices. They'll pay for you to go to Ottawa, or you can Skype in! Help us make democracy work.
''Very good demonstration!!! We were very happy. We were there on good spirits, Kurds and non-Kurds. There was Kurdish music, slogans, flags and placards in full view of St Catherine. We did speeches on Kobané, the Rojava Revolution, Turkey's oppression, Syrian refugees, feminism (8 speakers: equal men and women, Kurd and non-Kurd). We gave out 200 leaflets on Rojava and we raised money for Kobané. We danced, we sang. Everyone was joyous and several Kurds invited us to dinner at their place. After the demo, around 15 of us (including the six comrades who drove from Vermont, including Janet Biehl) left the wet cold to discuss strategy and to plan possibilities for the future. Some very interesting ideas. We need more organizers so please contact us to get involved. On a difficult day of Turkish elections, it was a very good way to begin a new season of organising and struggle.''
- from a comrade working with the Rojava Solidarity Montreal
«Très bonne manif!!!! On était très heureux. On était la en bon esprit, des kurdes et des autres. Il y avais la musique kurde, des slogans kurde, des drapeaux et dress pancartes en pleine vue sur St Catherine. On a fait des paroles sur une mégaphones aux sujets comme le Kobané, la révolution de Rojava, l'oppression turque, le féminisme (8 personnes, homme/femme égale, kurde/autre égale). On a distribuer les tracts sur Rojava et on a levée des fonds pour Kobané. On a dansé, on a chanté. Tout le monde était heureux et plusieurs Kurdes ont nous invités souper avec eux. Après la manif, une quinzaine de nous (inclus des camarades qui sont venus de Vermont) ont sortie le froid mouillé pour discuter de la stratégie et planifier des possibilités pour l'avenir. On a besoin plus des organisateurs-trices donc contactez nous si vous êtes intéressés. Sur une journée difficile des élections turque, c'était un bon moyen de commencé une nouvelle saison de la lutte.»
- d'un camarade du Solidarité avec Rojava à Montréal
Bill Blair, former Chief of Toronto Police Services from 2005-2015, was elected in October in the riding of Scarborough Southwest to represent the federal Liberal Party. There is speculation that Blair will be included in Trudeau's list of cabinet ministers on Wednesday, perhaps in Public Safety, Defence or Justice.
What legacy does Blair bring from his time with the Toronto police?
Bashiyr Douglas (traditional name Snefer Sena Hotep) had his first interaction with Toronto police two weeks after moving to the city from the southern United States in 2011. Walking near his home in Scarborough that night "three police cars drove up and blocked me in" says Douglas. "They grabbed me and patted me down, 'let me see your ID, we need to make sure you live here'," he remembers them saying.
Incidents like these, foreign to me as a white person in Toronto, have been all too familiar for racialized people like Douglas (a black man) under Blair's police force.
I, as with many people I know, did not understand the magnitude nor the specifics of racial bias in the police until Desmond Cole's Toronto Life article was published this spring, describing his personal experience of having been stopped and questioned over 50 times by Toronto police for seemingly no reason other than being black. The now-infamous practice is known as "carding". After Cole's piece was published, stories came pouring out from all over the city, with white people and others seemingly more willing to listen than before.
Douglas, thinking back on his interactions with Toronto police calls it "racial profiling, as they say: carding. It's the same as the States. The same mindset. White supremacy, you know?"
Horrific treatment of racialized groups by police, like of indigenous women in Val-d'Or Quebec and the Highway of Tears in BC, is a widespread and pressing issue in Canada. The previous government took little to no action. Some hold higher hopes for the incoming Liberals.
But whether Blair has the track-record to address these deep problems is a curious question. He became Chief of the Toronto force in 2005 acknowledging racism there. He vowed to increase diversity and be more responsive to racialized communities. Some steps were taken to open dialogue. But right from the beginning he institutionalized carding, a patently racist practice, and his support for it has hardly wavered. A revised carding policy was approved by the Police Services board in April 2014 but Blair disregarded the directive and did not implement the changes.
Under Blair carding has also represented a massive information-gathering project. The data collected at each carding stop is put into a central system, and the public doesn't know what that is used for or how long the information is kept. These carding stops and information gathering have been called a violation of "constitutional and privacy rights" by the Law Union of Ontario.
Edward Keenan at the Toronto Star noted this spring that Blair's persistent defence of carding "incinerates his own legacy of goodwill". It appears Blair came in promising real changes around addressing acism then delivered few, perhaps even working in the opposite direction. It is not a promising legacy.
Another blemish in Blair's career was his handling of the demonstrations at the G20 Summit in 2010. Hundreds of peaceful protesters in downtown Toronto were detained in cages or forced to sit in the pouring rain surrounded by police. Ontario Ombudsman André Marin called it “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history.” (To be fair, the internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2 and seizure of their property was certainly worse.)
Major media outlets have not forgiven Blair yet, with both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star penning recent editorials on his actions during the G20 Summit. Citing similar concerns, Political Director Brent Patterson at the Council of Canadians last week called for Trudeau not to appoint Blair to cabinet.
Trudeau, who becomes Prime Minister on November 4, has defended Blair. Some critics might not be surprised by Trudeau's support, given the Liberal leader has been criticized for "subtle racism" and stereotyping the African Canadian community.
The Liberal's approach to crime, including voting for surveillance-state Bill C-51, is hard to distinguish from that of the outgoing Conservatives. A Blair appointment to cabinet that may indeed signal the supposed "Real Change," really means more of the same when it come to addressing racism and protecting civil liberties.
Table ronde :
Femmes, féminisme et médias
Le rôle des médias sociaux, autonomes et communautaires dans la dénonciation des agressions sexuelles et de la violence faite aux femmes (à la suite de l’émission Enquête de la semaine dernière et du lancement de la campagne #onvouscroit)
avec Pauline Ferrari, co-animatrice d'En Profondeur, Audrey Gosselin-Pellerin, animatrice d’Ève et Pandore, Maude Chalvin, chargée de projet et agente de communication au RQCALACS, Lauréanne Fontaine, responsable des communications à Femmes autochtones au Québec (FAQ), Natasha Kanapé Fontaine poète, conférencière et une des représentantes du mouvement Idle No More Québec
pour faire un don à CKUT :
Ou appelez au 514-907-9424 pour faire un don!
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.