by M. Cooke
MONTREAL – “We are foreign temporary workers, any day we could be expelled. That’s why we need a strong and flexible association” said Enrique Llanes, a temporary foreign worker from Spain
Enrique was speaking to a group of over 50 temporary foreign workers who had gathered in Montreal this past Saturday to launch the Temporary Foreign Workers Association (TFWA).
They had gathered not only to fight for their rights, but also for the over 300,000 temporary foreign workers currently in Canada and those who will come in future years.
Mohamed and Helena, temporary foreign workers from Tunisia and Spain, welcomed the workers at the start of the day.
“I would particularly like to thank you for your dedication despite the cold and the distance” said Mohamed.
The workers had come from throughout Quebec: the Laurentians, the Eastern Townships, Chicoutimi, Quebec City, Montreal. These workers came from a range of industries including working as farmers, butchers, machinists, welders, translators, lab technicians among others.
Helena continued the introduction saying: “The obstacles temporary foreign workers face are infinite. The system is created to keep us misinformed and isolated”.
Shortly after, one after another, the workers introduced themselves and shared their experiences of working in Quebec.
One group of farm workers talked about recently discovering that their employer had withheld an average of 2 hours of wages per day for over 6 years.
Several workers complained about being tied to a single employer. One worker explained that the company had laid him off for 3 months, and due to his work permit he could not apply to other jobs, nor could he apply for employment insurance. He was forced to work under the table to survive.
In the legal workshop held earlier in the day, groups of workers shared stories about their employer forcing them to rent his apartments or else being fired.
Workers also shared stories of being told to apply as “single” despite being married and having children back home, putting their future plans to apply as permanent residents in jeopardy.
Other workers shared stories about language barriers. They were not allowed to take French courses and they could not access translation services at hospitals nor within some unions.
But these are only a few of the stories of what is happening throughout Quebec and Canada.
The number of temporary foreign workers has been steadily increasing in the past few years. In 2011, there were over 300 000 temporary foreign workers in Canada.
There has been a shift in the Canadian immigration system says Manon Perron, a union leader with the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN).
“Last week, I was in meetings with a top immigration bureaucrat and he told me that they are looking for workers, not citizens” said Manon Perron to the group of workers.
The temporary foreign worker programs are set up to bring cheap labour in to Canada. The workers work here for low wages and no benefits and once they are no longer needed, they are sent back to their countries.
In 2011 there were more temporary foreign workers than immigrants accepted into the country.
The launch of the Temporary Foreign Workers Association is a big step in challenging a program that is set-up to, as Helena said “keep [workers] misinformed and isolated”.
The association will provide workers with access to legal aid clinics, workshops on labour rights, as well as translation services.
In addition, the association will fight to address the policies that lead to the issues faced by foreign temporary workers. The association hopes to win access to employment insurance and health care, open work permits, easier access to apply for permanent residency, as well as the right to unionize.
Despite the obstacles the workers face, there was something electric about having workers from throughout the province meet with each other and begin building an association that would break the isolation and fight for their rights.
by Steve da Silva
Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have boycotted the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka last week, but he still managed to reach the summit of hypocrisy.
Harper confirmed in October that it was with “somewhat of a heavy heart” he would be boycotting the meeting due to Sri Lanka’s human rights record, the specifics of which he was vague. Harper cited extra-judicial killings and the ongoing intimidation and incarceration of political opponents and journalists as reasons, but he remained made no direct reference to Tamils, the genocide they experienced in 2009, and the ongoing oppression they face in Sri Lanka.
Of course, media sources (here, and here) in Canada were quick to pick up on the fact that the diplomatic move was a clear gesture to Canada’s Tamil population, the largest Tamil diaspora in the world with nearly 300,000 people. Toronto is now home to the majority of this population, with a very active community in ridings that the Conservatives would like to cultivate a base in.
Toronto-area Tamil activist and BASICS occasional correspondent Pragash Pio, who has long supported Indigenous people’s struggles in Canada and has worked to develop relations of solidarity between the Haudenosaunee nation (of Six Nations) and the Tamil community, told BASICS that “Harper’s criticisms of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights record and subsequent ‘boycott’ of the [Commonwealth meeting] in Sri Lanka is electoral opportunism and political hypocrisy. Tamil’s make up a significant voting bloc in key ridings in Toronto and are known to be a well organized community with higher then average voter turn out and Harper’s is courting them with this personal boycott.”
Sri Lanka shot back last week, with government officials reported to be citing Harper’s move as a way to placate Tamil Tiger activists in Canada. A ridiculous charge, to be sure, considering that Canada has prosecuted people with alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and even dismissed that a genocide ever occurred in 2009 (as this would place Canada under obligations to recognize the country’s refugees). However, cultivating a Conservative base of support amongst Tamils – that’s another thing entirely.
In 2009, the Sri Lankan state has launched a war of annihilation on its minority Tamil population that consisted of a 5-month campaign of indiscriminate shelling and bombing of the north coast, which is home to a majority of the Tamils. The campaign included the deliberate targeting of safe zones, hospitals and schools. The outcome was the death of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, even if the main objective was the decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which many Tamils recognized as their legitimate national organization. Civilians that survived the government onslaught were forced into detention, and some 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were imprisoned in state-run concentration camps.
For its part, the Canadian government aided Sri Lanka in this war by adding the LTTE to its list of designated terrorist organizations in 2006, and days later raided the offices of the World Tamil Movement, which it also listed as a terrorist organization in 2008. During the course of the genocide, Canada sent aid money to Sri Lanka and demonized Tamils in Canada who were in the streets as “terrorist supporters” for trying to bring attention to the killings in their homeland. Refugees desperately fleeing the genocide were halted, and the claims to be refugees were dismissed as frivolous.
Pio was in Vancouver (Coast Salish territories) this past week speaking alongside Indigenous, Palestinian and other solidarity activists at a series of events called “Criminalizing People’s Liberation Movements: Scrap the So-called Terrorist List.” The events also featured Toghestiy, a hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en nation who has been involved in the Unis’tot’en Camp. In an interview with BASICS over the phone, Pio also linked Tamil oppression to Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people: “There is also the hypocrisy of the Canadian state accusing the Sri Lankan state of human rights abuses against the Tamil Nation such as land theft, torture, illegal detention, and systematic sexual violence against women when the Canadian state has similar patterns of abuse against First Nations.”
While some Tamils may have appreciated the little boost that Harper’s boycott may have given to their struggle for the recognition of the 2009 genocide, Pio sees it differently: “There has been no significant change in the Canadian state’s position on Tamil refugees, deportations to Sri Lanka, and illegal detentions. The CBSA is rigorously contesting in hearings the status of many of the Tamil refugees who arrived by the MV Sun Sea and MV Ocean Lady. There are two cases of deported refugees being tortured, and one murdered because of the CBSA’s collusion with the Sri Lankan security in labeling en masse Tamil refugees as terrorists and security threats has already been discovered.
Canada’s boycott of the Commonwealth summit is especially hypocritical in the face of Canada’s dismissal of some of the findings and recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Ayana, who toured First Nations communities and met with Indigenous nations in early October. Anaya issued strong criticisms of Canada’s “adversarial approach” to land claims, the ongoing issue of missing and murdered native women, and Canada’s rushing ahead with the First Nations Education Act. Canada has also continued to resist calls for an Inquiry into missing and murdered, which was among Anaya’s recommendations.
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 Giibwanisi – Early Autumn 2013
Summer has come and gone, and the crisp autumn air of September is finally here. Soon the skies will adorn the flighted ones making their long voyage home. And not just the flighted ones, but the hoofed ones, the swimmed ones, and everything in between.
Anishinabek people are migratory too. According to oral herstory (history) we migrated from the East Coast of Turtle Island (now called North America) and travelled inland, and continued to do so all the way until the Rocky Mountains. Our migratory patterns did not end there, as we continued to be a “moving” people. We always moved with the changing seasons, from our summer camps, to our winter camps, year in and year out.
With the implementation of the Indian Act in 1876, the creation of Indian reservations, and residential schools, our migratory patterns were essentially outlawed, thus drastically altering our way of life forever. We were prohibited from any of our cultural practices, ceremonies, languages and from ever leaving the reservation.
As time wore on, and as we became more “Christianized, “civilized” and “assimilated”, some of those rules and laws within the Indian Act became less necessary to enforce. Eventually we were no longer required permission to leave the reservations, and are now free to come and go as we please.
Now, Anishinabek people have taken on new forms of migration. We no longer migrate in search of abundant fishing waters, or in search of big game. In many cases reserve lands are too small to support this lifestyle, but the harsh reality is that resource industry like mining, forestry, and tar sands have poisoned the land and waters making this more difficult and less viable. We still migrate in search of sustenance. For starters there is Pow-Wow season. Each and every year, thousand of dancers, drummers, singers, vendors travel long distances in search of “cash prizes” and “honorariums”. For some people it’s not about the money, but it’s merely their only exposure to anything “Native”. Whatever peoples reasons, financial, cultural or otherwise, it’s about sustenance.
The most common form of migration known to Anishinabek peoples is the migration away from reserves and into urban centres. On many reserves (including my own, Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island) the traditional way of life is non-existent, and economic opportunity is based on how many family members sit on Chief and Council. People are forced to either fight amongst each other over the few positions at the Band Office, collect welfare cheques, or to leave the reservation entirely. With reservations located in remote desolate areas, and with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AADNC) firmly clutching the purse strings on any/all economic developments on reserves, its hard to imagine this as anything but intentional.
Growing up in a foster home, my sister and I had limited access to our biological father who lived a kilometer down the road. Each and every single year he would make one of these “seasonal migrations” looking for work, and we’d be left wondering if we’d ever see him again. For many years as a youth, I would cry myself to sleep, alone in my bed wondering if we would ever feel the warmth of his hugs again. When the fall came, he left whatever farm he was working on, and would return home, and if we were lucky the visitations would continue.
When I was 15, my father made one of these “migrations” to Toronto and never returned. My dream of the 3 of us being a family once again died, when he died. I was only 19.
After the death of my father, I made my own migration away from the reserve and into the metropolis of Toronto. I have been migrating to and emigrating from city to city, all across Turtle Island (Canada) ever since. For the most part I have been running. I’ve been running away from myself. Unable to cope with drug and alcohol addictions and past unresolved issues. For many years I had been on the run. Running away from everything. That was until I decided that I wasn’t going to run anymore, and that I was going to sober up. It was a miracle, that the legendary Elder Vern scooped me up, and under his tutelage I began the process of what we call in Ojibway, biiskaabiiyaang – which means, decolonization. I’m sure that I am only one of the thousands he must have helped over the years.
One time I found myself seeking the wisdom and guidance of an Elder in British Colombia. I had told him of many profound visions that I had been having. After much discussions and interpretations, he told me, that “I must return home, and return to my people.” So I made the migration back to the east side of the continent.
When I got back to Toronto, I soon discovered that my “people” were in the process of “surrendering” over 10,000 acres of lands within the Coldwater Narrows Land Claim Settlement for $307 million dollars. When I conceptualized the thought of “surrendering all lands forever” and what that means to Anishinabek people, I made a conscious decision to migrate back to the land in question.
The result: Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp was born. Oshkimaadziig in the Anishinabek language refers to the New People who will emerge in the time of our current era, what we Anishinabek view as the time of the 7th Fire Prophecy. It will be the task of the Oshkimaaziig to retrace the steps back to the original teachings of their ancestors.
Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp maybe just a cabin in the bush, beside a big rock with some “controversial” inscriptions on it, but the camp itself serves as an entry point to begin this “migration” back to the land. At least for me it does.
With the onset of Fall already here, I am often reminded of the nostalgia of my father when he would return to the rez. There won’t be any return of my father this year or any other year. But perhaps someday, there will be a great migration of Anishinabek people back to our lands, like our people once lived. Perhaps it might not be this year, or it might not be next year. Perhaps it may never happen. But Oshkimaadziig must exist, and continue to prepare like our people will return.
I hope. I pray. It is what sustains me.
Giibwanisi (Red Tailed-Hawk)
Mkwa Dodem (Bear Clan)
Oshkimaadziig Anishinabek (I am of the New People of the 7th Fire Prophecy)
Frustrated delegates at CUPE National Convention launch ‘Rebuilding Militant Labour’ movement from the floor
by Steve da Silva, CUPE 3903 member
In ancient Rome, politicians were known to secure the votes of Roman citizens by doling out wheat (drawn from conquered territories, it should be noted) and providing cheap entertainment. This, the Roman poet Juvenal satirically referred to as “bread and circuses”. But what happens when bread supplies run out?
Last week, Canada’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), held its largest-ever convention in Quebec City to mark its 50th anniversary. As the austerity policies of capitalism continue their attacks on public sector workers and the working class in general, it sometimes felt like we delegates were being made to suffer a sideshow of countless speeches, video greetings, and a video montage of CUPE through the decades, as a diversion from the fact that CUPE’s leadership actually has no strategy for defending its members in these times. That is, of course, unless you consider the state of our union as an electoral and lobbying machine that is staking it all on an NDP victory in the 2015 elections a viable and comprehensive strategy.
“A Guided Democracy”
For five days, over 2500 delegates representing some 627,000 workers in hundreds of locals across the country – which cost locals millions of dollars in transportation, registration, and accommodation fees – spent well over half their time in their seats as spectators, listening to speeches and watching videos that quite frankly did more to entrench an incumbent leadership than it did provide time for debate around the future of our union.
In fact, the elected leadership would have been completely acclaimed were it not for the courageous young worker from CUPE 4600 Lydia Dobson, who disrupted what convention floor delegates were mocking as “a coronation”. Dobson challenged CUPE National President Paul Moist from the floor, even after an older CUPE staffer told the Young Workers Caucus that it would be “political suicide” to run against Moist. Dobson did so alone, and without the support of the Young Workers Caucus. Because she ran from the floor, Dobson was denied a right to make a campaign speech. Notwithstanding being a completely unknown candidate for the Presidency of Canada’s largest union, Dobson took 21% of the votes cast.
Dobson told BASICS, “I stand by my actions. I believe in direct action and think that it is imperative that our young workers NOT become intimidated and subjected to power structures and politics that do not represent our best interests. The commotion that this caused today is a blatant demonstration of our the complacency of our members to directed voting, imbalanced power structures and a guided democracy. It should not be shocking that there was a vote at an election.”
Sham democracy aside, many of the threats facing workers were enumerated throughout the convention, but with particular attention given to Bill C-377 and the looming threat of “right to work” legislation. While these two coming attacks on unions will deal a huge blow to the working-class, it is noteworthy that the effect of these two pieces of legislation would be felt first and hardest at the top of the union movement. Bill C-377, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Conservative MP and backbencher Blaine Calkins from Alberta, would impose financial reporting requirements that are far above what exists for any other entity in Canada, and is widely recognized as discriminatory towards and clearly aimed at destroying unions. Bill C-377 would strangle unions in the redtape of their reporting requirements, starving them of their resources; not to mention making it very difficult to certify new unions. It becomes clear how threatening this legislation would be to union bureaucrats who would see their resources wasted on paperwork, an attack that would eventually trickle down to rank-and-file unionists and workers in the form of weak, cash-strapped, defenceless organizations, and eventually defunct organizations.
Fights to be fought
If C-377 is the jab, “right to work” legislation would be the blow from the other side. The so-called right to work legislation, which PC opposition leader in Ontario Tim Hudak is promising, would starve unions of their dues from the other end by whittling down their membership, giving union members to opt-out of paying dues, even though they would be covered by a Collective Agreement.
However, with or without these deathblows to unions (at least as they exist in their current form), the attacks on workers are taking place everyday and are not limited to these threats on the horizon. Impossible to enumerate briefly, these consist of “austerity” cuts that lead to lost jobs, privatizations that break unions and cost taxpayers more in the long run by subsidizing corporate profits, two-tiered bargaining that sell-out young and future workers, the deterioration of workplace safety and conditions of work, and the shift from “defined pensions benefits” that guarantee hard numbers for people’s retirements to “defined contributions” plans that tell you what you must put in pension funds, but not what you’ll get out of them.
Then there are the conditions that affect workers outside the workplace and beyond their working years: record-levels of household, consumer, and student debt; cuts to social and community services; the environmental destruction of capitalism; the $34 billion loss of federal healthcare transfers to provinces if the Health Accord is not renewed in 2014; the genocidal-colonial violence faced by Indigenous peoples in their communities on reserves or in cities. CUPE members are experiencing all these attacks, and more.
Lobbying, Electoralism, and the Complete Absence of Working-Class Strategy
From the convention floor, the anxiety of delegates could be read from the numerous resolutions debated and passed speaking to and taking stances against the deteriorating conditions of workers. But there was no real space to discuss the strategic requirements to actually arm workers for the fight to successfully fight on many fronts. Opening up such a discussion would have subjected to scrutiny the complete failure of electoralism and social democracy to serve the interests of even the “middle-class” workers in the labour movement, leaving aside the broader working poor and hyper-exploited workers.
What is CUPE’s actual plan to fight on all these fronts? Lobbying and elections, basically. One the one hand, there is the public relations campaign called “Together Fairness Works,” which the Canadian Labour Congress has rolled out in the form of a national television advertising campaign from October 7 through November 17. The Fairness project is also directing the energy and resources of staffers and union activists to engage the rank-and-file members around the benefits of being in a union and the contributions of union to society (they mean, capitalist society!). “We need to reintroduce ourselves to our members by having one-on-one conversations about the value of the labour movement and their union,” guest speaker CLC President Ken Georgetti told the Convention. A perusal of the “Fairness” literature seems to reveal, however, that the architects of this campaign didn’t get the memo that corporations and banks are actually posting record profits through austerity and neoliberal policies. As long as “the economy” remains synonymous with capitalism, we lose to the political Right on the ideological terrain because a capitalist economy grows to the extent that it exploits labour.
On the other hand, there is the NDP and the 2015 elections. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair graced the membership with his presence and a speech - essentially promising nothing more than the status quo, holding back or reversing a select few of Harper’s attacks – but could not find the time to take a single question from Canada’s largest union.
The pillar of the convention was the “Strategic Directions 2013-2015: Proud of our Past, Ready for the Future” document, where one would expect to find an elaborated strategy. While identifying many aspects of the crisis faced by the working-class and CUPE’s membership, the document falls short on questions of how we will actually defend ourselves against the panoply of attacks coming from all directions. Insofar as there is any strategy in the document, it was limited to electoralism and tied to the success of the NDP. To the shock of many delegates, a first draft of the document actually read that “We know that the ultimate power over bargaining and strikes lies in the hands of the government of the day” – a statement that was slightly modified only by a revolt from the floor during discussion around the document. Despite opposition to that statement, the amended document retained a phrase from the first draft that basically amounted to the same capitulationist position: “As long as we do not have worker-friendly governments, anything we negotiate at the bargaining table can be taken away from us through legislation.”
“Why is labour the only partner still playing by the rules?”
So, when yesterday’s labour laws are legislated out of the law, what is to be done? Well, nothing but wait for the next elections, and vote. Maybe a bit of lobbying in between. In essence, the CUPE leadership’s stance seems to be passively accepting giving up the historic birthright of the working-class – its right to withdraw its labour as its ultimate source of leverage over capital – and just wait for the next elections. Such are the honest truths presented by a union leadership that is frankly unwilling to stick their necks out and lead us in the struggles that are necessary to defend our livelihoods, let alone fight the greater fights of radically transforming Canadian society to end colonialism, imperialist wars abroad, massive wealth inequalities, and Canada’s leading role in ecological destruction and climate change.
And why would they? Unjust labour legislation, like back-to-work legislation, is making illegal any strike that would actually make a difference and tip the balance of power back into the hands of labour. To break these laws would hurt labour leaders the most: their assets would be seized, they would be jailed, they would face fines that would within weeks of illegal action run into the hundreds of thousands or millions. Do we have the faith in leaders that get paid six figure salaries to lead these fights? According to our Convention’s financial statement, Paul Moist took home a $159,015 salary in 2012 alone, which doesn’t include benefits, and his office used over $370,000 in travel costs. Is it any wonder that the Russian revolutionary Lenin once referred to the likes of Moist as a labour aristocrat?
Frustrations Spark ‘Rebuilding Militant Labour’
It was the growing frustration of delegates with the lack of debate around a viable strategy that sparked midway through the convention a caucus of more radical CUPE members that began calling ourselves “Rebuild Militant Labour” - a caucus formed initially just to coordinate interventions at the mic.
By Day 3, however, with the problems with our union coming into sharper focus, and a growing number of people joining the conversation, Rebuilding Militant Labour (RML) put out an interim basis of unity, holding an impromptu meeting outside convention hours at the end of Day 4 that attracted almost one hundred people, representing much of the country, most of CUPE’s sectors, and the whole demographic spectrum of the union.
Kelly O’Sullivan, President of CUPE 4308, held up an image of a triangle encompassing labour, government, and capital, illustrating the postwar “social compromise” from the 1940s onwards. O’Sullivan asked the leadership why “labour is the only partner still playing by the rules” when capital and government have long ago abandoned the welfarist social contract.
“‘If not now, when?’ may sound cliché,” CUPE 4308 President Kelly O’Sullivan told BASICS, who represents personal support workers in Toronto. “We got the sense that the ‘now’ really is now. ‘RML happened at this national convention because now is the time. You could hear the frustration from the delegates on the convention floor and in casual conversation that we have had enough playing by the rules and that more militant action is needed. RML was a response to our own anger over lack of strategy in our union to not only protect ourselves from the attack on workers and community but also a narrow and limited focus on election of an NDP government in 2015 as the only coordinated response.”
Established on a strictly anti-capitalist basis of unity, according to its founding points of unity RML has taken on the mandate of developing a militant strategy beyond electoralism, entrenching amongst rank-and-file membership and “grassroots power”, and “a program of education for workers in our unions to understand how capitalism is the problem.”
At its founding meeting, RML organized an Interim Coordinating Committee under the mandate of coordinating the implementation of the points of unity in our locals and communities; developing an anti-capitalist educational program; coordinating our organization going into conventions in two years time, and preparing for a separate national convention of Rebuilding Militant Labour in late 2014.
The labour movement in its current form – strictly committed to the institutional arrangement of postwar social order – can no longer defend the working-class; and frankly, they never really represented the whole working-class to begin with. The bread line is closed. A growing proportion of workers can see through the empty promises of social democratic labour leaders and politicians. The circus no longer amuses. Nowhere in the world is social democracy stemming the tide of capitalism’s attacks.
It is time we return to the days when militant labour actually fought for another world, a world that would be free of class division and exploitation. The first stage on that road has always been called ‘socialism’, however you define it and whatever means you think we need to actually get there. If RML lives up to its name and mandate, we may just have one of the central means by which to resume that struggle where Canadian labour left it in the 1940s.
by Steve da Silva
After decades of under-funding to First Nations schools – with high dropout rates and an epidemic of youth suicide that can’t be disassociated with the situation in schools – last Tuesday, October 22, the Federal government tabled their First Nations Education Act that will give it more direct control over about 515 reserve schools under its control.
Under the draft legislation, band councils would be allowed to operate schools directly – as many already do – or purchase services from regional or provincial school boards or the private sector. First Nations could also form education authorities that would oversee one or more schools in a region.
However, under the new legislation it would be the federal government that would set and enforce standards for schools on reserves (with the exception of Onkwehon:we nations that have established self-government agreements that cover education). The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development will retain the power to take over a school or if an inspector finds problems.
What the draft legislation is not clear about are the funding levels that fall far below funding provided to provincial schools. Funding short-falls have been a principal factor in keeping the standards in First Nations schools far below provincially-funded schools.
A piece of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Federal Conservative government claims their aim to be “improving graduation rates for First Nations students,” but First Nations (Indian Act) leaders are already decrying it as a renewal of the colonial legacy, by giving the Feds more control with no guarantee of the desperately needed funding increases.
In an October 25 press release, Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Union of Ontario Indians said that “The proposed First Nations Education Act (FNEA) is about control and false accountability,” says Madahbee. ”It is a colonial document and makes no attempt to close the gap on inequality in education.”
“Firstly, it gives our citizens, parents and students no say in their own education… This is the same mentality as the government-run residential school disaster that had a history littered with genocide and acts of inhumanity.
“Secondly, it ignores curriculum needs that experts agree are essential to the academic success of First Nations learners – curriculum that talks about our culture and beliefs, and an accurate account of our historical contributions.
“And thirdly, this government starts their so-called educational reform with a threat to First Nations that if they don’t meet Canadian standards they will be put under third-party management, despite the fact that First Nation schools are largely underfunded and are unlikely to meet standards set by other, better funded schools, for example, the school in Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (Rocky Bay First Nation) receives $4781 less per student than nearby provincially-funded Upsala School in the Keewatin Patricia District School Board.”
Final legislation is anticipated before the year’s end after “consultation” with First Nations (Indian Act) authorities.
by International Women’s Alliance
Close to 80 women and their allies turned out to the International Women’s Alliance meeting in New York, October 5, 2013, hosted by local member groups including the Women’s Fightback Network and Gabriela USA.
The meeting came on the heels of a successful 4th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees that had culminated in a rally in front of the United Nations the day before.
The women were primed to talk about the pressing issues of women in the Americas and the need for international solidarity between women’s organizations within the Americas and globally.
After a short video presentation of the last March 8 rally in New York City organized by the International Working Women’s Day Coalition, the meeting chaired by IWWD Coalition co-coordinator, Monica Moorehead and began with a short slide-show orientation on IWA, its origins and history by Marie Boti of Montreal Québec, Secretary General of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA).
This was followed by Brenda Stokely, a leader of Million Workers March and IWWD Coalition co-coordinator, who spoke about the Coalition’s IWD initiatives since 2005 including paying tribute this past March to two Black freedom fighters, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. She also pointed out the need to create a display for various communities on the amounts spent on the war and military budget that could be spent to meet human needs for food, housing and social services.
Monica Moorehead of Women’s Fightback Network (Executive Committee member of IWA) spoke about the importance of Can We Live demands like health care, education, childcare, etc. and connecting these overall demands to high-profile cases such as Marissa Alexander, a Florida African-American mother of three and survivor of domestic violence, serving a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot at her estranged abusive husband.
Gwen Dobrow, from the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, spoke on the case of Lynne Stewart, a terminally-stricken human rights lawyer in prison for her stalwart defense of a client.
A student from the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee spoke about the campaign against growing militarization inside the U.S., with on-campus recruitment for the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) and the hiring of high profile former military commanders like David Petraeus to teach on campuses. This same student was arrested for a recent protest against Petraeus.
There were also representatives from Fanmi Lavalas, a Haitian group based in Brooklyn and Transport Workers Union Local 100.
Women participants got up to share their struggles: Lucia, an undocumented woman from South Africa told how an abusive husband forced her and her daughter to flee to the US; Mavie, a Filipina, talked about how she had survived human trafficking and was becoming empowered by the support of her community. Kendall Jackson from Picture the Homeless spoke about the 100,000 women and children in New York who were homeless. “The average homeless person is not a drug addict or a criminal, it is people like me and my daughter,” she said.
Jennine Ventura of Gabriela USA spoke about the Millions of Migrants mobilization which started October 2 with a flash mob dance in Manhattan, Hong Kong, and other cities and leading to a concluding event on International Migrants Day, December 18. Actions across the USA for migrant justice and legalization of the undocumented will take place while the US Congress discusses a bill for immigration reform.
Elaine Vilasper of Gabriela USA said the lack of decent jobs in migrants’ home countries that pushes them to leave to survive is a form of violence. “This is created by economic policies that try to kill our spirit,” she said.
Tess Tesalona from the Immigrant Workers’ Centre in Montreal, an IWA member organization, spoke about how IWA groups in Montreal were linking issues from members’ home countries with their conditions locally, with campaigns about mining aggression by Canadian corporations abroad and at home, and exploitation of sweat shop labour in the countries of origin and locally.
Rita Acosta of the Movement Against Rape and Incest in Montreal, a founding member of IWA, reported about the IWA member groups in Mexico and Ecuador dealing with issues like gender violence and opposing mining aggression.
Evelyn Calugay of Pinay Québec an association of Filipino domestic workers, spoke about the successful battle at the International Labor Organization to have domestic work recognized as work. “Now the countries have to adopt and apply that recognition, which is not easy. For example, Canada and the USA have yet to sign the Covenant to protect the rights of Migrants and their Families.” she said.
Marie Boti pointed out many of these issues were part of on-going campaigns underway with IWA, including the campaign against War and militarization, as the US shifts its focus from the Middle-East to Southeast Asia, accompanied by growing pressure on countries like the Philippines to build and re-activate US and foreign military bases.
A campaign to demand liberation of all women political prisoners has also been taken up by IWA internationally. The Oct. 5 meeting agreed by consensus to coordinate global IWD events in 2014, all supported by IWA.
IWA Book Project
Boti spoke about a major IWA book project, which would gather information about the issues of women and their experiences dealing with these on the ground in different regions where IWA is present.
IWA would produce a unified framework to put together data and testimonials about these issues and women’s resistance strategies, as well as input from progressive women academics. This project would be developed in line with IWA outreach and consolidation in each region. Fund-raising is underway for this project.
(NOTE: Those interested should get in touch with their local IWA groups for more information.)
Women at the meeting resolved to improve their linkages, share information on the International Women’s Alliance web site, Facebook, and send each other solidarity messages for special events.
A tool kit was made available to all, which included the Manila Declaration of Unity, the IWA Constitution and an application for membership for new groups.
Those present also agreed to move towards the establishment of a regional chapter of IWA Americas in the next year.
The upcoming visit in November 2013 of Lina Solano, an indigenous leader from the IWA group in Ecuador, Women’s Front Defenders of the Pachamama, would be another opportunity to bring together the IWA network in New York.
The meeting adjourned with a rousing chant session led by the dynamic head of International Affairs for Gabriela USA and IWWD Coalition co-coordinator, Irma Bajar, followed by a group photo.
Please see some of the photos at this link:
Also visit the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) web site at http://www.internationalwomensalliance.wordpress.com
by M. Cooke
“People walk over us, they do what they want” said Boniface as he stood on the front steps of the office tower that houses the Quebec Ministry of Labour.
Boniface and several other immigrant workers had braved the cold autumn rain to demand that the Quebec government create a bill to improve the work conditions for precarious workers.
“We are holding this action on the International Day of Decent Work to reiterate our demands for a more inclusive and just regulation of the labour market, as well as an immigration and social service system that fairly reflects the needs and rights of precarious and migrant workers” said Noé Artega, who works at the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC).
Jasmin de la Calzada, an organizer with Pinay, a Filipino Women’s Organization of Quebec,spoke next. “Pinay, and its membership of live-in caregivers, has been struggling for over 20 years to keep the women workers free from abuse and exploitation from their employers, scrupleless recruitment agencies, and the unjust trappings embedded in the live-in caregiver program itself.”
A recent report by the Quebec ministry of Labour indicated that over 450,000 workers in Quebec have precarious jobs. These are jobs that: pay low wages, have no or few benefits, have few regulatory protections, and have no security.
The report also found that nearly 1.3 million workers in Quebec experience job and employment insecurity.
These are workers who have been unemployed in the last two years and regularly have to find new work.
“Precarious jobs are becoming central to the economy” says Mostafa Henaway, who works at the IWC.
“Agency work used to just be to find white collar workers. Now you see big agencies being used as a normal way of employing blue collar workers.”
Henaway says that he meets a lot of people working for placement agencies. The smaller placement agencies are often fly-by-night operations. They make money by hiring out workers to other companies and then they close down shortly afterwards. The owners of the agencies make their money and often close without having paid their workers.
While these fly-by-night operations are the most egregious, the larger placement agencies also trample on workers’ rights.
Henaway says that placement agencies “help create a permanently precarious workforce.”
“People are living on the edge. People are working six days a week, but they don’t know when they will have work again.”
The IWC and community organizations are demanding: a living wage, universal access to health services regardless of migrant status, access to accident insurance for domestic workers, and regulation of placement and recruitment agencies.
The groups met with the Ministry of Labour in May, but Henaway says the consultation “resulted in nothing.”
He says that the Parti Quebecois “actually doesn’t want to do anything because just like the Liberal party, they want to appease the interests of business. Which means not actually giving protections to precarious workers.”
“Now we realize that we need to put pressure in a public way.”
NEW YORK, NY—Over 350 migrants and refugees from across Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America gathered in New York City October 1-5 for the 4th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR4).
The IAMR4 week of activities included a one-day dialogue between migrants, refugees, and church representatives, a press conference and flash mob in Washington Square Park followed by 3-day conference at St. Patrick’s Church in Long Island City.
“We are gathering just 3 miles away from the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development [UN HLD], where state governments are discussing how to manage the lives of 215 million migrant workers worldwide to meet their 2015 Millennium Development Goals. But they don’t want to hear from us migrants about how their policies really affect us and our home countries,” states Eni Lestari, Chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), the main convener of the IAMR4 and an Indonesian domestic worker working in Hong Kong since 1999.
“The UN HLD claims migration can be managed as a tool for development, but what kind of development do they mean when our home countries are getting poorer and migrants are facing greater exploitation? The IAMR4 is the international grassroots-level dialogue of migrants and refugees who can speak for ourselves and can speak on what our home countries need for genuine development,” Lestari continued.
Highlights from the assembly also included a visit from Cuban mission representative to the United Nations, Ariel Hernandez, who delivered greetings in person to a packed assembly hall, and a cultural performance by Bronx hip-hop activists Rebel Diaz.
March to the United Nations
After the first day of workshops, IAMR4 launched a 400+ march from Times Square to the UN Headquarters where the UN HLD was taking place.
IAMR4 representatives who registered to UN HLD walked out on the first day and joined the march when efforts to assert genuine migrant voices inside proved futile.
Chanting “We are workers! We are not slaves!” the IAMR4 march first passed through the consulates of the Dominican Republic, where the march was joined by Frente Amplio President Fidel Santana, and of Nigeria, where IAMR4 keynote speaker and Nigerian refugee Rex Osa-Aghedo led a spirited rally.
“Migration should not be treated as a tool for development but rather as a development concern which should be addressed in the post-2015 agenda,” stated Garry Martinez, Chairperson of Migrante International, an alliance of Filipino overseas organizations and IAMR4 convener. “Migration, as a choice or an obligation for family survival, should serve as a measure to see whether development goals are working.”
Marchers passed through Dag Hammarskjold, down First Avenue until they reached the front of the UN Headquarters building. It was the first time since 9/11, protesters were able to march down the heavily police-barricaded First Avenue to demonstrate at the UN.
Speakers at the IAMR4 rally in front of the UN included Fidel Santana, Frente Amplio President of the Dominican Republic, and Saul Arellano, son of IAMR4 spokesperson Elvira Arellano, who became a symbol of undocumented immigrants in the US in 2006 when she defied a federal deportation order and sought sanctuary with Saul in a Chicago church.
March for Genuine US Immigration Reform
Responding to the national day of action for US immigration reform, IAMR4 delegates marched for genuine comprehensive immigration reform across the Brooklyn Bridge last Saturday, October 5.
“The US must lead the way in how it treats its immigrants and foreign workers with dignity and respect, and we immigrants need to be in the forefront of this struggle,” stated Terrence Valen, President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), an IAMR4 convening organization.
Chanting “Whose Bridge? Our Bridge!” the IAMR4 march called for legalization and denounced deportations, militarization of the borders, and neoliberal trade policies.
“If Obama wants to get rid of undocumented immigrants, he should first stop pushing policies that wage war and plunder our home countries, that force us to migrate,” Lestari stated, explaining US immigration reform can never be genuine without addressing the root causes of forced migration.
IAMR4 delegates capped off a successful assembly and march at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge near City Hall with a flash mob dance entitled “Millions of Migrants Mobilizing Worldwide.”
For pictures, videos, and more information on the IAMR4, visit www.iamr4.com.