by Vanessa Alexander – 6 December 2013
Unlicensed childcare: It sounds scary, right? That’s what the media and the Ontario Government would have you believe. In fact, unlicensed childcare is all childcare that happens when there is no license: when your neighbour looks after your daughter while you run to the store, or when grandparents look after grandchildren for the weekend. It’s not scary, or it doesn’t have to be, because this means your childcare will be as good as the decisions you make as parents. If you give your children to a neighbour who looks after a few kids for income, you make a decision based on what you know. You know that they are unlicensed, but you know that you can trust them with your children. That’s not a scary decision. The scary part is when you have absolutely no childcare options.
By the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front
As Venezuela faces yet another attempt by the Right-wing opposition to create political, economic and social turmoil in the wake of the upcoming municipal electoral process, the Hugo Chávez People’s Defense Front of Canada, organized a 5 City speaking tour with Katrina Kozarek from the Comuna Socialista Ataroa in Lara, Venezuela. According to organizers, the purpose of this tour was not only to bring attention to the renewed destabilization campaign against Venezuela, but also to show exactly what this process of building peoples power in Venezuela looks like from the ground.
According to Santiago Escobar, of Barrio Nuevo and the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, the speaking tour had the intention “to promote the accomplishments of the Bolivarian revolution, especially the socialist communes, which are concrete experiences of popular power from below and to the left, also with the intention of creating a network for educational and information interchange as an alternative to the information created by mass corporate media”.
Since 2006 Venezuela has begun to create a new ‘geometry of power’ in an effort to deepen and fortify the Bolivarian Revolution. This has meant the application of direct democracy through participation in economic, social and political planning and decision making from the grassroots, local organizations building towards a ‘communal state’.
At the neighbourhood level, laws were passed providing guidelines for the people to organize themselves into communal councils comprising of up to 400 families in a defined geographic area. Once formed through a democratic process that invites and includes all people living in this area, the communal council decides the identity of the area (including the name), elects spokespeople and defines the neighbourhood priorities. Importantly, it can also obtain funds in order to meet its assessed needs. Since the passing of the Law of Communal Councils in 2006, over 33 000 communal councils have been registered and over $2 Billion transferred from the central government directly to these communities for projects ranging from repairing of stairs and roads, to neighbourhood sports facilities, to cooperatives producing shoes and bricks.
In 2010, the Law of Communes was passed, which outlined the process for neighbouring communal councils to come together to take greater control over their area. Over 1100 communes have been registered to date.
Kozarek, who is part of the Ataroa Socialist Commune which comprises a territory which includes roughly 30 000 families, describes the communes “as the primary defense strategy of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela that promises to bring the country to the point of no return towards a truly democratic, and socialist future, creating an infrastructure for direct participation from a grassroots level, as well as promoting local and national production and self-sustainability.”
Kozarek acknowledged the fact that this process is still in construction and that capacity of Venezuela to resist the economic and other forms of sabotage is extremely important for the future of Venezuela and all of the countries and popular movements that have come together under the platform of the Bolivarian Alternative of Our America (ALBA) to resist imperialism in the region and build a model that moves away from neoliberalism.
The tour started off in the University of Toronto on the 7th of November, passing through Guelph University, Centro Hispano de York, Kitchener, Ottawa and finishing off in Montreal. The diversity of organizations, individuals and groups that participated in the events, joined in the call to participate in a solidarity social network created by community media and social movements of ALBA in Venezuela, called the Cayapa Communicacional, to share information and counter-act the opinions and information disseminated by the opposition and their supporters on an international level.
by Laura Lepper for the Two Row Times
On October 29th, 2013, Darlene Necan, elected spokesperson of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen no. 258, was issued issued a stop work order by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for building a house on land where her family grew up, on off-reserve Saugeen territory (unorganized Indian settlement land).
In August 2013, Necan and community members had begun building a plywood house in Savant Lake, Saugeen territory in order for her to have a home for the winter and an office/gathering place to help her lead a struggle for housing and equal rights for off-reserve members of her community.
This building was supported by the Indigenous Commission of the International League of People’s Struggles, many grassroots activists, and several locals of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Read more…
by Steve da Silva
With the consciousness of people in Canada taken up a notch on the issue of “fracking” by the Mi’kmaq-led resistance in New Brunswick, it’s only a matter of time before people’s sights and struggles shift to the next major shale-gas frontier: Ontario. The US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2013 that there were 573 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in Canada.
“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is the process by which oil is withdrawn from harder to access sources by blasting water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock formations.
High gas prices have opened the way for the oil industry to push fossil fuel exploitation into the realm of more difficult to reach fossils fuels, what are known as “the unconventionals”: tar sands, shale-gas, and deep-water oil wells.
Most people in Ontario are unaware that a Canadian oil firm out of Alberta has for years been acquiring land rights across southwestern Ontario, in order to explore and drill the extensive shale-gas deposits in the province. Although up-to-date information on its operations are scarce, by 2011 Mooncor Oil and Gas Corp. already owned some 20,000 acres of land in Chatham-Kent and Lambton County, in southwestern Ontario.
In Ontario, geologists have broken down shale-gas deposits into three major zones: the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale; the Collingwood-Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale; and the northernmost limit of the Marcellus Shale that extends up from Pennsylvania and New York State.
While Ontario shale-gas exploration is reported to have not yet used the fracking method, the even greater danger of tapping shale-gas is the planetary danger posed by carbon emissions through new fossil fuel exploitation. Although natural gas emits half the greenhouse gas that coal gives off, most of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels cannot be exploited without initiating irreversible levels of climate change.
by Kitchener-Waterloo BASICS
In an attempt to reverse the flow of highly-corrosive tar sands bitumen through the Haldimand Tract (Six Nations land), the Calgary-based oil company Enbridge is using the ageing Line 9 pipeline. The company is moving forward without the consent from the indigenous peoples whose way of life is directly threatened by the pipeline which has been built on the land where they live.
The danger with pumping is that bitumen is an unprocessed tar sands oil that is mixed with a highly-corrosive natural-gas liquid, and needs to be pumped at a higher temperature and pressure due to its viscosity. As a result, this puts a heavy strain on the aging 38-year-old pipeline. Pumping this oil also comes with a lot of waste that is pumped back into the Athabasca River system, which has an extremely negative effect on the surrounding environment.
Over the years, Enbridge has been dangerously careless when pumping tar sands oil through their pipelines. Between 1999 and 2010, Enbridge has reportedly been responsible for at least 800 spills (approximately 7 million gallons of heavy crude oil). One of the most devastating examples is the 2010 Line 6B spill in the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. The effects of that spill were massive, and three years and almost one billion dollars later, the spill is still not completely cleaned up. Both Line 9 and 6B were built to transport conventional crude oil, not bitumen.
KW is showing resistance through a coalition of broad-based community organizations who oppose the proposal of the reversal of tar sands oil. Malcolm of Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance said, “there was an occupation of the Enbridge Westover pumping station on Beverly Swamp, resulting in delaying the reversal through the area. This inspired people to take action in their own communities. This dirty tar sands oil not only puts people at risk, but also wildlife in the environment as well”.
“Here in Kitchener we have put forward a declaration and used it as a tool to get support from the community. By having info nights, lobbying, and organizing around this declaration, we hope to pressure the council to oppose this attack on our communities,” says Joe Campbell, community organizer.
KW organizers believe that we as a community need to work in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of this land to stop the reversal of the tar sands oil through this land before it’s too late and we have our own Kalamazoo on our hands. For more information, you can visit http://noline9wr.ca/.
by Syed Hussan
Every year thousands of refugee claimants, migrant workers or temporary residents on family, visit and study visas are denied permit renewals or permanent residency in Canada. These migrants have to make the difficult decision of choosing to return to a place where they may not be able to work, live, or be safe, or instead to stay in Canada without papers, and thus without rights and benefits. Many choose to stay.
There are nearly 500,000 undocumented or non-status immigrants in Canada, and over 200,000 of them are in the GTA. If you’re undocumented or know someone that is, here is what you need to know.
1. Basic Services: For decades, undocumented migrants and their supporters have struggled to get basic services for themselves and their communities. As a result, undocumented children can access schools, emergency health services, food banks, public health services, emergency shelters and hostels, labour rights protections and more. To find out all the services that are accessible to you, how to access them and what to do if you are denied, visit www.solidaritycity.net.
2. Your rights at work: Just because you don’t have immigration papers does not mean that someone can pay you less than minimum wage, or not give you overtime pay or holiday pay. You have the same labour rights as someone with immigration documents. If you are being mistreated or not getting the money you are owed and want to get support, contact the Workers Action Centre at www.workersactioncentre.org (416) 531-0778 and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change at www.migrantworkersalliance.org
3. Make an “in-case-of-arrest” plan: Many migrants live without papers in Toronto without being arrested by immigration detention or police, but it’s important to have a plan just in case. Have a friend you trust that can knows where your important papers are, can tell others what’s happening and get in touch with a trustworthy lawyer on your behalf. You may also want to have a bondsperson, a Canadian citizen with some money, who may be able to bail you out. The most important ingredient to stopping a deportation is having a large number of people willing to make noise on your behalf – so stay involved in groups and have friends who will fight for you.
4. Know your Rights when coming in to contact with police and border guards:
Right to Privacy: The RIGHT TO PRIVACY means that, in general, officers aren’t allowed to enter your home. But they can legally enter your home if you invite them in, or if the officers have the TWO necessary warrants.
Right to Silence: The RIGHT TO SILENCE means that you do NOT have to speak to an officer in any situation, unless you’ve already been arrested or detained.
There are lots of important things you need to know about how to exercise these rights. Although you are legally entitled to these rights does not mean that police officers or border guards will necessarily respect them. But you should know your legal rights you do have. The Immigration Legal Committee of No One Is Illegal (Toronto) has prepared a full guide in Spanish, French and English that has all that information. Download it for free at http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/knowyourrights
5. Fight for justice: Immigration controls that deny citizenship to some and not others are unfair and unjust. Its not migrants that are stealing from Canadians, it’s the Canadian government that is stealing status from migrants after exploiting their labour and their countries. Get involved with struggles against detentions and deportations. Only when we fight together can we get justice.
A combination of political action and legal strategies have stopped people’s deportations, changed some unjust laws in the short term and created safety for their families. Reach out to organizations like No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Health for All, Migrante Ontario, Justice for Migrant Workers, Gabriela-Toronto or the Caregivers Action Centre, FCJ Refugee Centre, and many others that are part of the migrant justice movements in the GTA.
by Christopher C. Sorio (MIGRANTE Canada)
Migrante Canada (Ontario) which is an alliance of 19 Filipino organizations in Canada and have 5 members organizations in the province of Ontario, supports the campaign to increase minimum wage from $10.25 to $14.00 per hour.
For the last three years, the minimum wage in Ontario is pegged at $10.25 and there is a mechanism to address a review process that will look at the necessity of increasing minimum wage.
In a study conducted by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) in 2008 the report showed that calculates a living wage in Toronto should be more than $10.25 per hour.
The CCPA study which was conducted in 2008, by Hugh Mackenzie and Jim Stanford, calculated that a two parent family with two children would need to make at least $16.60 an hour, working full-time year round, in order to obtain a reasonable standard of living that promotes health, well-being and participation in the full life of their community.
The living wage for a single parent with one child would be $16.15.
According to Sonia Singh of Worker’s Action Centre, there are 544,000 people in the province of Ontario that subsist on a pay of $10.25 an hour, and more than 750,000 earn around $11 or $12 an hour. Singh further adds says many low-wage earners are older and have families to support. They are mostly women, recent immigrants, and people of colour.
This becomes very important, more so to immigrant newcomers in this province. Most immigrant newcomers are earning minimum wage and are at times working two or more jobs in order to meet the needs of their families.
Increasing wage increase will be good for poverty reduction for this province.
By Nicole Oliver
On September 17, immigration detainees launched a strike over detention conditions at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. Due to the forthcoming closure of the Toronto West Detention Centre, 191 immigration detainees were relocated to the maximum-security facility known colloquially as the “Lindsay Superjail”.
Part of the detainees protest action has included a hunger strike. The demands of the striking immigration detainees include: “Better access to medical care and social workers, cheaper phone calls and access to international calling cards (many have family overseas), access to better food, like the food on the non-immigration ranges, an end to constant lockdowns, keep the improved canteen program going, better access to legal aid and legal services, and granting of specific requests to move individuals to facilities nearer to their families, legal resources, and social services.1
According to the group No One Is Illegal-Toronto, “Between 2004 and 2011, 82,000 people were locked up in immigration detention. At least another 13,000 have been imprisoned since 2011. Just this year 289 of the detainees were children, many of them under the age of 10.”2
Back in June of 2012, the Conservative government’s Bill C-31, entitled the “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act”, came into force. This bill, championed by then Immigration minister Jason Kenney, brought about dramatic changes to Canada’s refugee determination system (which came into force on December 15th, 2012) and included provisions requiring that biometric data (fingerprints and photo) be collected as part of a temporary resident visa, work permit, and study permit application amongst other things.3
A community worker in Montreal who assists individuals in precarious immigration situations stated that, through Bill C-31 and Canada’s move toward increasing detention for migrants, the government appears to be making it more and more difficult and unattractive to come to Canada and claim protection. “That the only country ever awarded the Nansen Refugee Award by the United Nations is moving in this direction is a troubling sign for refugee protection on an international level”, she adds.
Under Bill C-31, appointed Immigration Ministers have the power to designate refugee source countries as “generally considered safe”. The Canadian Council for Refugees holds that “The Minister’s opinion is not dependent on expert opinion regarding country conditions, nor need the Minister take account of the differential risks faced by certain minorities in a country that is ‘safe’ for some, but not for others”.4
Additionally, with the introduction of Bill C-31, Clause 10 contains rulings of how Ministers are to proceed with “irregular arrivals”. “Irregular arrivals” according to Immigration Canada may include a group of people who arrive together in Canada. The Minister can designate a group as an “irregular arrival” for one of these reasons: suspicion of human smuggling or trafficking involving a criminal organization or terrorist group or the border authorities are not able to assess group members in a timely way regarding their identities or admissibility. Much criticism has been raised that such a policy appears targeted at particular groups of refugee claimants, such as Tamil and Roma peoples. Under Clause 10, those deemed irregular arrivals face mandatory detention, which includes children under 16-years of age. There are other stipulations under this clause that result in what some migrant justice groups label as a “two tiered refugee system” that arbitrarily distinguishes between “regular” and “irregular” arrivals.
When asked if her organization had formulated an official opinion on the so-called “two tiered” refugee system and as to whether the changes made seemed to be targeted at particular groups, the community worker responded “to be honest, due to the current context and our limited resources, we are in survival mode and really focusing on individual case work. It’s hard to focus on the big picture when we have to work so hard on ensuring that individuals have timely access to accurate information about their rights and, albeit limited, recourses in an ever-changing system.”
The community worker did note that they have observed that “persons of Mexican descent are especially hit hard” with the changes being made after the implementation of Bill C-31. She cites that “over 1000 Mexican refugee claimants were accepted by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2011”, yet Mexico has been placed on the Designated Country of Origin list by the immigration minister as, in his opinion, it is “generally considered safe”. She explains “that many folks coming from Mexico have very compelling humanitarian reasons to remain in Canada. For those whose cases do not fit within the narrow definition of a refugee, their recourses have been drastically reduced.” For example, failed DCO claimants who submitted their claim after December 15th 2012 do not have access to the Refugee Appeal Division, cannot apply for a work permit within the first 6 months of their arrival in Canada, have very limited health care coverage and do not benefit from a stay of removal if they choose to access their only recourse, a judicial review at the federal court.
The worker concludes our chat by emphasizing that, “our newest concern is with proposed changes being made to the family reunification process where the definition of a dependent child would be drastically narrowed beginning in January 2014”. She explains that the “general trend is devaluing family reunification, which has always been a priority for the Canadian government, and moving towards viewing family reunification through an economic lens”. In the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement for this proposal (now archived), the government explains “that older dependent children (those who arrive between the ages of 19 and 21) have lower economic outcomes than those who arrive in Canada at a younger age (between 15 and 18 years old)….that older immigrants have a more challenging time fully integrating into the Canadian labour market; this is more evident for immigrants who are not selected based on their own merits (e.g. dependent children).”5 This policy direction clearly demonstrates that a family’s worth under the Harper government is purely economical. Such shortsighted capitalist lenses will result in families who have been waiting years to be reunited remaining separated indefinitely.
by Kitchener- Waterloo BASICSNEWS
“Ronald McDonald,” joined by approximately 30 other people, targeted a McDonalds located in Kitchener, ON, to demand a living wage for all workers. McDonalds is part of a larger lobbying group that wants to keep the freeze on minimum wage (which is currently $10.25/hr in Ontario), forcing workers to live in poverty. This action is part of a larger provincial campaign that seeks to raise minimum wage to $14/hr. According to Statistics Canada, full-time workers making only minimum wage have incomes that are 19% below the poverty line, with limited to no benefits.
“In KW alone, we’ve lost manufacturing jobs and tech industry jobs (ex. RIM), due to temporary agencies, precarious part-time work, and outsourcing,” says community activist Mark Corbiere. “While the cost of living increases and minimum wage stays the same, the gap between rich and poor increases at an alarming rate,” stated Di, a member of various community organizations.
Businesses from the targeted lobbying group include Tim Horton’s, Wal-Mart, Loblaws, and McDonalds, as well as others. For more information on this campaign or to get involved/sign the petition to raise minimum wage, please visit www.raisetheminimumwage.ca.
The following is an open letter to the Mayor of Leamington, John Paterson, from migrant justice organization Justicia For Migrant Workers. Last week, Paterson targeted Jamaican migrant workers for making “sexually aggressive” comments toward women. Paterson was quoted by the CBC as saying, “Maybe it’s appropriate back in your home town, but here’s it not. So stop.”
As the letter from J4MW shows, the mainstream media has left out a whole history of racist attitudes toward migrant workers. Leamington, a town close to Windsor, has a large proportion of temporary migrant workers hired mainly for agriculture. They have never been seen as part of the community and have been the victims of constant racism.
This racial abuse is connected to the migrants’ working conditions, where they are seen as temporary and disposable. Often, the terms of their contract are not honoured and they are dismissed without sufficient cause. They face difficult and dangerous working and living conditions. Although migrant workers form the backbone of Ontario’s agricultural economy, the Ontario government and Supreme Court have colluded to deny them their basic Charter and human rights to form unions.
Visit J4MW’s web site for more information. —Ed.
Open Letter to the Mayor of Leamington John Paterson over recent comments pertaining to migrant workers
by Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW)
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a non-profit political collective that advocates for the rights of migrant workers in Canada. J4MW has been actively engaging migrant workers in the Leamington area for over a decade. During this time, we have met thousands of migrant workers in this community.
Over the past decade we have followed with great interest the wider community’s response to migrant workers. Unfortunately, your recent remarks come as no surprise to members of our collective. In the past several years, the open hostility that your council has shown towards migrant workers represents the most blatant displays of anti-migrant sentiments we have ever witnessed. Recent comments in the media, have disparaged the use of public library facilities by migrant workers; made allegations that there are too many migrant workers ‘loitering’ downtown; and criticized the presence of too many ‘ethnic’ businesses serving the migrant worker community. In each instance ‘cultural differences’ have been used to justify the wider community’s adverse reaction to the presence of large groups of migrant workers in visible local spaces. To pass off this tension as a matter of difference based on one’s place of origin is disingenuous at best. It alludes to there being an equal and level playing field between migrant workers and Canadians. This completely masks the fact that all migrant workers in your community are:
(2) Bound to their employers
(3) Denied social and labour mobility
(4) Denied the ability of permanent residency
(5) Are separated from their families for significant portions of time
(6) Cannot exercise social and democratic participation in the processes that you represent.
Your analysis does not acknowledge the power imbalance in your community. You and your council are free to condemn and stigmatize migrant workers without any real and significant response from workers themselves; a population who have lived and worked in Leamington for fifty years, but continue to be considered temporary.
Your recent remarks pertaining to “lewd behaviour” of migrant workers cannot be taken in good faith. Instead of dealing with sexual harassment on an individual basis, you skip right to racialized stereotypes; drawing from some of the worst parts of Canadian history. It does not escape us that the community of Leamington once supported ‘sundown laws’ which made it illegal for Black Canadians to walk freely in the community after sunset.
It is apparent that your council would rather have migrant workers ‘out of sight and out of mind’; segregated from the white citizens of your community as much as possible. This de facto separation of migrants only reinforces the negative reputation that your community is earning under your leadership.
Recently, human rights violations were substantiated by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) in the form of anti-black racism and widespread attention has been paid to another ongoing case involving an employer who allegedly sexual harassed racialized migrant women. As Leamington has one of the largest population of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) in Canada these important cases directly impact workers in your community – yet your office took no public stance to acknowledge them. You and your council have been absent in discussions on racial profiling of the Asian population of Leamington where officers under your direction as Chair of the Police Services Board have acted as de facto Border Officials towards Asian residents of your community.
Your office has been negligent in improving road infrastructure that would ensure safe transport and greater road safety for migrant workers. Neither your council nor the municipality has grappled with the dangerous modes of transportation that migrant workers must endure.
Performing such simple tasks as phoning home, buying groceries or sending money home become feats of life and death.
Migrant workers have continued