Browsing Category 'Women'

Welcome to Canada: Growing up Latino in Toronto

This is an interview by Camila Uribe-Rosales of BASICS with Oscar and R (who prefers to remain anonymous), two Latin American youth who migrated to Canada from El Salvador and Mexico, and their experiences in the Canadian education system.

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EARLY YEARS

O: I was born in El Salvador. My parents migrated here.  I didn’t speak the language at all as a youngster, and I remember I was about 7 years old.  You definitely feel outcasted. I remember feeling that the only people that really knew me and the only place where I felt safe was at home amongst my family. I would go to the classrooms.  Kids would laugh at me.

R: The first school I went to, there was no ESL program at that school. There was one Latina.  Actually she was from Spain, she wasn’t Latina, and she refused to speak to me.  I remember very clearly that she said she would be considered low class if she was to speak Spanish to me.

RACISM

O: There was one particular incident where there were these two girls that were speaking and they were talking about my skin colour. Something along the lines that “We shouldn’t judge him because of his skin colour, like it’s not his fault.”  And I was like “Really? Like why is that even a problem?” I didn’t even know that that was an issue.

R: I remember being picked on a lot. People would come to me and sing Daddy Yankee songs, like that was cool or that I would feel at home or something, and people bullying me.  It was very hostile. A lot of people tried to fight me and I didn’t really know why.

At one point, I went to Mexico to celebrate Christmas. And so when I came back, the teacher had a set-up with chunks of desks, like she had four here, four there, whatever. And when I came back, my desk was at the corner closest to the door. And everyone else’s was at the opposite corner, packed away from me. And so when I walk into the classroom the teacher says to me, “Look, we just really feel you shouldn’t be here, because you’re Mexican and we don’t want to catch swine flu. And so we wanna ask you not to come back to school.”  I got completely bullied.  I was harassed.  People wrote this on my Facebook and made videos about it.

SCHOOL

R: I got kicked out of the school because, well, I was in a classroom and the priest walked in and he started to ask people the commandments. And so I didn’t know them in English and so he threw a set of keys at me. And I picked them up and I walked to him and I gave them back to him in his hand. I mean, he was a priest and I was just coming from Mexico. And so he once more asks me for a commandment which I don’t know how to say. And so he throws the keys at me for the second time, and I pick up the keys and I throw them at him. And so I was like arrested [sic] by a teacher, and they took me to the office and they were just screaming at me.  Like I understood what they were saying.  They were saying I was stupid or I was gonna burn in hell, that Mexicans were violent, that it was all because I was Mexican. That Mexican people were horrible.

Then I arrived at Downsview which is where I completed my high school. There was a lot more Latinos at Downsview and things were a lot more enjoyable in the sense of students. I remember at one point we had a group of like 30 friends and we would help each other out. But as soon as I got there I was told by the principal that I would never be able to go to university, and that I would never achieve to graduate high school, because I would never be able to pass Grade 12 English.

And I was bashed out of many classrooms by teachers because I was called a communist, simply because I wanted to speak about things. I remember one time, this teacher wanted to give us a lot of homework for Thanksgiving. And I said to him, “No, this is a holiday.” And he started to argue to me and I said, “Look, this is not a dictatorship.  You’re not an ultimate power. You are in a sense elected by somebody and if we all work as a collective and decide to walk out on you, you will be fired.” And he bashed me out of the classroom.  He called me very nasty things and started to relate me to a lot of nasty characters in Latin American history. He started saying “Oh, don’t call Pablo Escobar on me,” and stupid things like that.

O: I remember this one professor, he was white, but I remember one of the first slides.  He showed a little caricature, and he said, “Oh its scientifically been proven that those students that wear hats backwards, there is a correlation with lower grades.” So I purposely would bring in a cap.  I wouldn’t always put it on backwards, but I would always bring it in, as a form of resistance. And you know, that’s bigotry right to the end because it’s based on absolutely nothing, and yet you’re claiming it to be scientific evidence, as a professor.  I don’t know if he was joking but even if he was, like who jokes around about that? Why, out of everything, pick that? And I think that’s definitely targeting racialized groups. They don’t understand the culture that it even comes out of.

R: I was incarcerated [sic] by a principal. It was in high school and the teacher said we could do whatever we felt like doing, but our teacher had written on the board that we had to do a shitload of work, like a crazy amount of work. He had been absent and he hadn’t taught any of the material he wanted us to do, and so I was like “Wait a second, this guy never comes to class, never teaches the material and expects us to perform like a super student.” And so I said to the students “Look, if we all walk out of this classroom, the teacher can’t fail us all. If all of us get up and walk out right now, he’s screwed.” And so, we all got up… Well it took some convincing, took me a little more convincing. And so we all got up and started walking out, and the principal grabs me. Grabs me by the shoulders and yells, “Everybody get back into the classroom!” Everybody gets freaked out.  Everybody started heading back in.  And he says, “You’re coming to the office with me!” By the way, that class was very crucial to me.  That was Grade 12 English and if I didn’t pass I wouldn’t graduate. And so he took me to the office and made me sit in a corner of his sketchy office. And so I said, “No, I’m an adult.  You’re not gonna treat me like this.  You’re not gonna segregate me, you’re not gonna outcast me because I was speaking about my rights.”  And he was literally like, “Shut up, I don’t wanna hear you, go in your corner.”  And so he locked the door and locked me in. And he left me in that office for two hours, just sitting there. And I remember kicking the doors and getting angry and screaming.  I started writing step by step how I was segregated, and comparing it to acts of genocide which have happened in our society.  Like I was locked in an office as a student for fighting for my rights! And I drafted this to the director of education. He looked at the paper and said, “Oh yeah, this is a good principal, don’t worry about it.”

At one point in my life, I was like, “Fuck this.  These guys are all racist.  I’m never gonna win against them.  There’s no one like me.  I’m a nobody.  I’m not gonna go to university,” and I started believing it. And it’s really hard without teacher support, it’s really hard as a student. And it’s quite frustrating because you don’t have control over them. If a teacher wants to be racist to you, he will be racist to you. And to know that you can’t do anything about it, that you report it to the Director of Education and he does nothing about it. It’s frustrating.  It’s heartbreaking.

You don’t feel like you belong in the school, all your teachers are white, and they talk about white behavior, and they’re all racist towards you, and it’s like well, what am I? A fucking alien? Am I the weird one? We talk about why there is so much violence in youth, why there is so much anger…fuck, what do you think this frustration builds to?

GENDER

O: I feel like a lot of times we have to resort to those things [violence], or fit into the stereotype that was being projected onto me. As a young Latin American male, you’re like cholo, gangster, like you have to do that. You have to be a drug dealer, beat people up, treat women like shit, be a scumbag, machista.  Even with all the bullshit that we have to go through, I imagine it’s much, much more difficult for a Latina.

R: My girlfriend was told to take parenting classes five times because she was told by a guidance counselor that all she needed to do was go to university to find a husband. And that once she found a husband that what she would do for the rest of her life was be a mom, so she might as well take a lot of parenting courses. And so it took her two extra years to graduate high school because of that, because the courses she was supposed to take were not given to her because she didn’t need to be smart. All she needed was to find a good husband, so she was given almost a semester and a half of the same subject.  Just because she was Latina.

LATINO COMMUNITY

R: There was definitely a lot of pride in the land where we came from and I never wanted to turn my back on mi gente and my community. I was blown away by the lack of community that I experienced here. Coming from a little colonia back home, it was all like one family and that was something that I lost.  Every time you try to explain to people who we are as Latin Americans, we aren’t listened to.  Like I feel that we are a minority and not even recognized…things like the constant need to remind people that we’re not Spanish but Latin American, and the constant need to remind people that we’re not all Mexican.  We’re not all the same.  It’s important for us to come together; I remember one of the chants in El Salvador that is used all over Latin America. “El Pueblo unido jamás será vencido” [The people, united, will never be defeated] and I truly believe that.

Feb 14: Over 600 gather outside Police Headquarters to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women

by Nicole Oliver

Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto to protest state inaction on missing and murdered indigenous women.  SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS.

Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto to protest state inaction on missing and murdered indigenous women. SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS.

“The strawberry represents love, courage, and women,” explained Wanda Whitebird in Toronto at the 9th Annual Strawberry Ceremony Honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and those who have died violent deaths by colonialism in ‘Canada.’

“Over 600 strawberries and cups of water were handed out,” Audrey Huntley of No More Silence posted on the Strawberry Ceremony Facebook event page.

The Toronto ceremony took place February 14 outside the Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto. From coast to coast, other communities also gathered to mourn and remember beloved sisters, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered in recent decades.

Photo: SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS

Photo: SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS

“We stand together on this day to show our solidarity with the community of the downtown eastside in Vancouver where the Memorial March has been taking place for 23 years and because the violence is here too and inherent to settler colonialism”, Huntley shared with BASICS.

Indigenous women are five to seven times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence, cites Canadian government statistics. Still officers of the colonial state, including the police, have a track record of over-persecuting and under-protecting indigenous women. In Canada, Onkwehon:we (original) peoples make up four per cent of the population, yet First Nations, Inuit and Metis women account for 32.6 per cent of the inmates in the federal prison system.

Blu, the event’s emcee, shared with those gathered at College and Bay that “when my Kohkom [grandmother] was murdered – her life was taken and this took something away from me, my family members, from people in my community”. When describing how healing and solutions to end the violence requires the collective efforts of community members, Blu stated, “we ask the men to help, to stand beside us, to support us as we are a community and a community involves everybody”.

Tobacco ties were handed out to participants as the Strawberry Ceremony progressed into a march from Toronto Police Headquarters to the 519 Church Street Community Centre. As an indigenous medicine, tobacco is seen as a plant responsible for acting as a medium for communication with the Creator, with its smoke seen as lifting prayers to the Creator to be heard. When offering tobacco in ceremony it signifies that those involved are to be of one heart, one mind, and one spirit moving forward with the same purpose.  Those who took the tobacco ties were asked to “tie them in a place where they will be seen, so that those who come will know that someone has been there before representing not a closing, but a beginning” explained Whitebird.

John Fox, father of Cheyenne Fox, led the march of over 200 community members to  519 Church. Cheyenne Fox of the Sheguiandah First Nation died at the age of 20 in April 2013 after mysteriously and tragically falling from a 24-storey condo in Toronto. After only 8-hours police had ruled the death a suicide. John Fox has been vigilant in pressuring the police to look further into the death of his daughter.

Michelle Schell, an Ojibwe woman, shared with BASICS, “I was staying at a Native women’s shelter and I heard a story of a woman who was raped in the backyard…I later found out that this was Cheyenne Fox. The fact remains that she was harmed in a place where she was supposed to be safe. So it’s not just a question of whether she jumped from that balcony or whether she was pushed, but I cannot help but wonder had she not left that place because obviously she did not feel safe after what happened, if things might have happened differently. Either way she may not have found herself in the position of being on that balcony”.

Schell’s insight into Cheyenne’s death speaks to the continued systemic failings that indigenous women are continually subjected to by service providers and agencies set up by the Canadian colonial government.

Since last year’s ceremony, Toronto has seen the unresolved violent deaths of three indigenous women – Cheyenne Fox, Terra Gardner, and Bella Laboucan McLean.

As the march carried forward to the beat of hand drums and songful voices, major intersections were occupied by those who came out to honor the lives lived and the loved ones of indigenous sisters no longer with us. Before partaking in a community feast prepared by the men of NaMeRes, a round dance took place at the intersection of Church and Wellesley. Schell told BASICS that the Strawberry Ceremony is held in front of Toronto Police Headquarters because “it’s symbolic… to make it visible and to let people know that they have failed in so many cases and that they just don’t seem to care”.

"From coast to coast, other communities also gathered to mourn and remember beloved sisters, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered in recent decades" - Nicole Oliver.   Photo: SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS

“From coast to coast, other communities also gathered to mourn and remember beloved sisters, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered in recent decades” – Nicole Oliver. Photo: SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS

Native hip-hop artist Young Jibwe (Cameron Monkman) of Lake Manitoba First Nation created a song featuring Robbie Madsen entitled “Come Home” to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered indigenous women of Turtle island.  Young Jibwe was in attendance at the Feb 14 event in Toronto and he told BASICS that “I want to show my respect to the missing and murdered women and acknowledge my cousin Unice Ophelia Crow. She was murdered in Winnipeg in August. She was 19.  She was stabbed multiple times on her upper body. I came out to shine light on that. I feel people need to know who she was. She was a great person. It’s just sad that community loses great people”.

In discussing where the solutions to end the violence will come from Schell told BASICS, “I think the answers will come from the community itself; whether it’s an indigenous issue or not we have to stop relying on the government…obviously they don’t listen, obviously they don’t do anything … they keep saying there’s no money, we don’t have it, so we have to look to ourselves to organize.”

Proposed changes to Canada’s Family Reunification Program to exclude many
'Family Separation'- An art mural by Migrant Youth BC

‘Family Separation’- An art mural by Migrant Youth BC

 

by Jesson Reyes

In December 2013, the newly appointed Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, announced that the handful of proposed changes within the Family Reunification Program will be effective as of January 2, 2014. Together with this announcement is the assurance to the applicants of its main motives:  to decrease processing time (currently averaging 4 years) and to clear backlogs in the application pool.

Most of the changes constitute an additional burden to what is already a challenging process to begin with: Citizenship Canada has been quoted as saying they are doing everything to reunite ‘families’ as quickly as possible. But the CIC defines a family as per the nuclear family model — family members that can come with you when you immigrate to Canada are your spouse, dependent child and the child of a dependent. Grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles are not allowed to be sponsored unless they are streamed into a particular program.

Also, an applicant who does not declare their “dependents” when they  initially apply for the permanent resident form, will not be able to “add a dependent” in the future. This may not appear to be an issue for most applicants but it certainly affects those who may come from a particular situation where reasons for not claiming their children may come from the fear of persecution from either family members or their government.

The CIC’s definition of the family actually contradicts Statistics Canada’s, which in 2002 broadened its definition of family to include couples of any sexual orientation, with or without children, married or cohabiting, lone parents of any marital status, and grandparents raising grandchildren.

In addition, the age of who would be considered as a “dependent” will be changed from 22 to 19. It is important to remember that this particular change was considered to “better the economic integration” of dependents coming in to the country.

In 2012, Canada’s Economic Action Plan was released where the Government cited its immigration priority goals: to fuel economic prosperity, transition to a fast and flexible economic immigration system, and select immigrants that have the skills and experience required to meet Canada’s economic needs.

Research has demonstrated that older immigrants (age 19+) have a more challenging time fully integrating into the Canadian labour market, and so the policy is meant to promote immigration only of those deemed economically useful. The policy does not give consideration to family unity.

But one of the major barriers that those above the age of 19 face in finding jobs remains with the employers’ inability to recognize their working experience and/or their professional credentials. The Ontario Human Rights Commission even considers this requirement for ‘Canadian experience’ to be a violation of human rights. But the prevalence of such requirements leads to deskilling or deprofessionalization of well-qualified immigrants.

Clearly, Canada or at least its current government has demonstrated with its immigration policies that it is not willing to acknowledge and engage in the issues of transnational families.  This is reflected in its reluctance to sign the United Nations Convention to Protect Migrant Workers and their Families.  Canada has contributed to separating families through strict laws regarding migrant workers, since the 1920s with the Chinese railroad workers up until the introduction of the live in caregiver program in 1993.

All that matters is what is economically expedient, not family values! Statistics indicate that family class decreased from 43.9% of all immigration in 1993 to 21.5% in 2010.

Grassroots community organizations such as Migrante Canada, Filipino Migrant Workers Movement, Justicia 4 Migrant Workers, No One Is Illegal, and Migrant Workers Alliance for Change are all at the forefront of migrant struggles in Canada.

These groups are fighting both the injustices on foreign soil and against the systemic displacement of people through what countries like the Philippines call their ‘Labour Export Policy.’ Imperialist interventions and systematic underdevelopment provoke people to look for work abroad. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the struggles of migrants start way before they land on Canadian soil.

Community-run database tracking violent deaths of Indigenous women

Grassroots Initiatives Honour and Remember Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Lead Up to February 14 Strawberry Ceremony

by Nicole Oliver

1602129_10153675039540596_855674983_o“We will come together again in Toronto this February 14th for the 9th year in a row. We stand together on this day to show our solidarity with the community of the downtown eastside in Vancouver where the Memorial March has been taking place for 23 years and because the violence is here too and inherent to settler colonialism”, Audrey Huntley of No More Silence shared with BASICS.

In January, 1991, a woman was murdered on Powell Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Her family wanted to share their love for their daughter on Valentine’s Day and so the annual march began honouring women who have died violent and premature deaths. The family requests that her name not be spoken.

Indigenous women are five to seven times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence, cites Canadian government statistics. Still officers of the colonial state, including the police, have a track record of over-persecuting and under-protecting indigenous women. In Canada, Onkwehon:we (original) peoples make up four per cent of the population, yet First Nations, Inuit and Metis women account for 32.6 per cent of the inmates in the federal prison system.

To coincide with this year’s marches No More Silence, Families of Sisters in Spirit and their community partners including The Native Youth Sexual Health Network having been working on the creation of a community run database documenting violent deaths of indigenous women, two-spirited, and trans people.

”This year our hearts will be heavy with loss as we will grieve three beautiful lives cut far too short in 2013. Cheyenne, Terra and Bella were loved and leave behind family and friends whose lives have been shattered and forever shared,” Huntley told BASICS.

Since last year’s ceremony, Toronto has seen the unresolved violent deaths of three more indigenous women – Cheyenne Fox, Terra Gardner, and Bella Laboucan McLean.

Cheyenne Fox, 20; Terra Gardner, 26; and Bella, 25, were all killed in violent deaths within a few months of each other. Bella and Cheyenne plunged to their deaths from condo highrises, while Terra was struck dead by a train near Summerhill station at a time when she was been compelled to testify in a murder investigation.

Cheyenne Fox, 20; Terra Gardner, 26; and Bella, 25, were all killed in violent deaths within a few months of each other. Bella and Cheyenne plunged to their deaths from condo highrises, while Terra was struck by a train near Summerhill station at a time when she was been compelled to testify in a murder investigation.  Read this piece by Nicole Oliver for more info.

Between 2005-2010, the Native Women’s Association (NWAC) with the support of the federal government’s Status of Women Canada fund created the Sisters in Spirit project. This included a database with over 200 variables to record information related to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada.  In 2010 the federal government decided to terminate funding to NWAC’s database project.

When the Sisters in Spirit database project funding was cut and the project terminated, 582 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women had been documented. Comparatively, in what is being described as a one of the most comprehensive fully public databases to date, Maryanne Pearce an Ottawa researcher, documents that 824 Inuit, Métis, or First Nations women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1980. Pearce began this database as part of her doctoral dissertation in Law at the University of Ottawa.

The information documented through the Sisters in Spirit project remains inaccessible to the families of missing and murdered women and the wider public, despite the 10-million dollars of public funds allotted to compile the data. Initiatives by the federal government announced remaining funds would be directed to the RCMP for another database on missing persons with no particular focus on women, let alone Indigenous women. As the documentation was never made public the information collected cannot be validated nor analyzed by an outside party.

1395145_590940100954020_310946208_nIn response to the violence that continues to affect indigenous women, their families and communities, No More Silence, Families of Sisters in Spirit and community partners including The Native Youth Sexual Health Network envision a database beyond the reach of Canada’s institutions. The work of No More Silence and the database are to be part of building a larger movement not only against gendered colonial violence, but also for decolonization. This database is intended for the families of the missing and murdered and for communities to access, unlike NWAC’s exclusive database. No More Silence is a network of volunteers. They have started gathering information from nothing – with no funding and no data.

Since the research is led by and for Native women working with allies, it is not constrained by legal or academic definitions: the categories and understandings of the deaths and disappearances have been broadened, derived by rich process work with the families involved. The database documents the lives of women who have died violent and premature deaths, such as suicides and deaths not necessarily committed by one perpetrator, but have more to do with colonial violence in the context of a woman’s life. The database includes deaths and disappearances of Trans and Two-Spirit women as well, where information is often misconstrued or miscategorized by police databases and legal reports due to gender misrecognition constrained by heteropatriarchal norms. The documentation is not only about lives lost, but honors the lived memories of women who have passed on.

A scene from last year's Strawberry Ceremony outside Toronto Police Headquarters.

A scene from last year’s Strawberry Ceremony outside Toronto Police Headquarters.

Despite awareness and efforts of grassroots work done by networks like No More Silence and from the Annual Memorial Marches of February 14, the violence continues. This is not so surprising as the Canadian imperialist government increasingly pushes for resource extraction and development aggression on stolen lands and on unceded and treaty territories of First Nations peoples.

The degradation of the land often plays out on women’s bodies, as women are the life-bearers of future generations. There exists a direct relationship between rape and gender-based violence, racism, and colonialism, in which, violence against women becomes a tool of domination.  Due to systemic violence inherent in Canadian state policies and practices –  such as the Indian Act and the Residential School System – themes of intergenerational trauma, loss of land, housing issues, loss of family members, family breakdown, loss of a sense of community are part of many of the stories collected by No More Silence.

T8474230635_b085861fc6_bhus, the February 14 Memorial Marches and the database work of Sisters in Spirit are about demonstrating that these lives matter. This year’s February 14 Strawberry Ceremony will be held in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College St. West in Toronto. For information about February 14 marches occurring in different communities visit: http://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/national.

Son of Filipina caregiver fights for right to stay after mother dies

by Lesley Valiente and Sarah Salise

Kenneth Aldovino stood in the brittle cold after receiving an envelope from the mail this past 21st of January. The letter was disheartening: it was from Citizenship and Immigration Canada letting him know his permanent residence application had been denied, and he was asked to leave the country before the end of the month.

Aldovino has been in Canada for just six months. Edna Aldovino, his mother, had learned she had terminal cancer back in February 2011.  Since her diagnosis, she had longed for her son, to be with him in her last days. But she was a live-in caregiver, faced with the choice of returning home or staying in Canada working to complete the requirements of her program before her son Kenneth could be eligible to join her.  Mother and son spent only a week together before Edna’s passing in July 2013. And now Kenneth is being told to leave. Read more…

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Community seeks to organize against inequality

by Noaman G. Ali

“It’s shocking! I am shocked!” said a parent attending a community meeting in Thorncliffe Park held last Sunday, December 22.

Sadia Khan, a teacher and organizer with the Thorncliffe Reach-Out Teach-In group addresses parents and students about education inequality. (Photo: Azfar Zaheer)

Sadia Khan, a teacher and organizer with the Thorncliffe Reach-Out Teach-In group addresses parents and students about education inequality. (Photo: Azfar Zaheer)

She was responding to a presentation by Sadia Khan, a teacher and community organizer, about educational inequality between public schools in Thorncliffe Park and those in neighbouring Leaside—schools that are about ten minutes apart by car.

Over 30 parents, students and other community members attended the meeting, organized by Thorncliffe Reach-Out Teach-In (TRT), about the causes of educational inequality and building community power through solidarity in order to address the issues that face the community.

Read more…

Implications of the Supreme Court Ruling on Canada’s Prostitution Laws (RADIO BASICS INTERVIEWS)

RB ButtonOn this edition of Radio Basics, we explore Canada’s Supreme Court ruling this December 2013 that struck down Canada’s laws around prostitution.

We interview two long-time organizers around the issue, whose positions though not necessarily contradictory somewhat reflect the long-standing debate between those pushing for “decriminalization” and those advocating “abolition”.  We speak to Chanelle Gallant from Maggie’s-Toronto, a Toronto-based sex workers action project; and Suzanne Baustad, co-founder of  Grassroots Women – an anti-imperialist women’s group that was active in Vancouver between 1995 and 2010 and worked to address the systemic marginalization of working class women. Baustad also wrote in to BASICSNews.ca with an Op-Ed that you can read here.

Skip to minute mark 8’38” for the interview with Chanelle Gallant of Maggie’s Toronto. Skip to 21’52” for interview with Suzanne Baustad, formerly of Grassroots Women in Vancouver.

Sex industry celebrating Supreme Court Ruling: But most prostituted women will pay the price

Op-Ed by Suzanne Baustad

Vancouver |   The most conservative Supreme Court we’ve seen in decades has decided to decriminalize prostitution, striking down all laws against keeping a brothel, living on the avails of prostitution (pimping), and street soliciting. The most reactionary government we’ve had in decades has been given a year to rewrite the law that will have huge implications for all working class women in Canada, whether or not we’ve ever turned a trick.  It is a clear victory to finally have prostituted women decriminalized, but the Court has opened the door to framing prostitution as ‘entrepreneurship’, the new social safety net for working class and poor women.   I suspect Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies may be right when she said of today’s decision “Our daughters and granddaughters will look back and say ‘What were they thinking?’” Read more…

Letter to the Editor: Fighting for socialized childcare as the ultimate goal

Mutual aid in childcare is the means, not the end: Fighting for socialized childcare as the ultimate goal

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Letter to the Editor – 22 December 2013

Thanks Vanessa Alexander for the article “Unlicensed Childcare: The Problem or the Solution?”, and thanks to BASICS for delving into an issue that’s central to the economic and social life of working class women, families and communities.  As parents of three children we have relied on institutional and regulated daycares, unregulated home daycares, and many informal childcare arrangements over seventeen years.

The social reproduction of human beings in our society, and the smaller subset of ‘childcare’, is heavily based on the exploitation and super-exploitation of working class women.  The basic contradiction of our society is that it is based on highly socialized production, we mostly produce things together, as part of a social project that’s larger than any individual; but the surplus of what is produced is expropriated by a small capitalist class who monopolize that surplus and the power that comes with it.  The (re)productive labour in our society is largely rendered invisible in the capitalist economy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t central to the functioning of the system.  The (re)production of the working class becomes an added burden of exploitation – super-exploitation – shouldered overwhelmingly by working class women. Even though working class people spend our lives integrated in social production, we are told that the labour and cost of taking care of and bringing up children should be borne, privately, by the women who give birth to them.  Working class women and families get just enough in wage and social wage to be able to survive and continue to work!  And each new generation of workers available for exploitation in the capitalist economy is a ‘commodity’ that working class women and communities produce for the capitalists basically for ‘free’.  This added burden of exploitation is compounded with added layers of oppression for Native women, poor women, especially poor racialized women, women who use(d) drugs, and women with a ‘mental illness’ all of whom face additional stigma and discrimination which puts them regularly into contact with the punitive arm of the State: social workers, welfare ‘fraud’ investigations, child apprehension, and cops.

Because the capitalists have created an economic system in which almost every working class person has to work a job to survive economically, but will not use the social surplus to provide high quality childcare for working class parents, we rely on all kinds of arrangements to try to ensure that our kids are in a caring, stimulating and supportive social environment when we are not with them.   Vanessa Alexander points out that these arrangements often demonstrate the strength, beauty and resilience of working class communities.  Mutual aid, neighbourhood social networks, and extended families – these are all things that are woefully undervalued in our society.

She also does a great job of condemning a government policy that could be used to undermine and even criminalize the childcare arrangements that working class women and families make by necessity, in the absence of a universal childcare program.

There are two things that we would like to add, however, that we don’t think are adequately addressed in her piece.

Although Vanessa Alexander points to the fact that many informal childcare arrangements are borne out of lack of affordable options, we must be careful not to valourize these arrangements: The strain on relationships when you are relying on an aging grandmother or auntie or an older child to provide unpaid childcare; the stress of leaving your kid in a less than desirable childcare arrangement because you have no other choice; the developmental and mental health impact of kids isolated and watching TV or playing video games (for example while both parents are at work on a ‘professional day’); the strain on relationships between parents when every minute of childcare is used to cover work and they never get a minute alone together.  While defending our right to survive the childcare crisis in whatever ways we can and deem to be necessary, we must be cautious not to embellish the means we take to survive.  That said, the Little Lemurs Parenting Coop that Vanessa is part of organizing seems to be creating the best possible option for parents and their kids in order to avoid the worst of the informal childcare arrangements.

Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program plans to bring 17,400 next year alone. The LCP helps reproduce 'neoliberal' capitalism by creating a low-wage caste of super-exploited women to look after wealthier people's children, while working-class families are left without accessible daycare. The LCP sources its labour almost completely from the Philippines, a country in which policies of imperialist globalization are pushing people off their land and holding back the development of local industry to meet the needs of the peoples of the Philippines.

Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program plans to bring 17,400 more caregivers in 2014 alone. The LCP helps reproduce ‘neoliberal’ capitalism by creating a low-wage caste of super-exploited women to look after wealthier people’s children, while working-class families are left without accessible daycare. The LCP sources its labour almost completely from the Philippines, a country in which policies of imperialist globalization are pushing people off their land and holding back the development of local industry to meet the needs of the peoples of the Philippines.

The second is a closer look at the current childcare set-up in Canada.  As of right now, the Live-in-Caregiver program is the de facto national childcare program for more affluent Canadians.  This program, set to double its number next year to 17,500, brings mostly Filipino women to Canada to work for less than minimum wage providing childcare and domestic labour for children and elderly in affluent Canadian homes while facing separation from their own families and a difficult uphill struggle to ‘achieve’ Canadian citizenship.  The program is functional for capitalism and imperialism on many different levels: taking advantage of the underdevelopment and oppression of the Philippines and propping up the labour-export economic strategy of the reactionary Philippine state; providing the rich with access to childcare which is high quality, flexible and completely under their control; and maintaining the myth of childcare and reproduction as a private responsibility of individual families.

domestic_worker_sufferingWe need to analyze the burden of our oppression and exploitation, and organize to fight for a brighter future.  We need to organize around demands that expose the exploitative and oppressive nature of the current system and that reflect the needs and aspirations of our working class communities.  The demand for a universal childcare system is a key starting point for this demand because it is so obviously needed and enjoys support of the majority of people who live in Canada.  But it’s not the end point.  Licensed daycare that currently exists may not reflect the full aspirations of our families for the social development of our children and we must radically improve the working conditions of our dedicated and skilled childcare workers; democratic community control of childcare centers and secure, adequate state funding will help address our concerns.

While we celebrate the strength and qualities in our communities that allow us to adapt and survive in a hostile capitalist world, we should not make the mistake of thinking that our liberation lies in these survival strategies and mutual aid programs.  Our bright future includes a world where the work of (re)production is valued and honoured, where childcare is socialized, and the social alienation families and children is overcome.

In Solidarity,

Martha Roberts and Aiyanas Ormond

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Darlene Necan appears here in the construction of a plywood house in the summer of 2013, when organizers with ILPS-Canada assisted her and other local Nishnabek in the advancing a grassroots homebuilding movement on Necan's ancestral traplines.

Darlene Necan appears here in the construction of a plywood house in the summer of 2013, when organizers with ILPS-Canada assisted her and other local Nishnabek in the advancing a grassroots homebuilding movement on Necan’s ancestral traplines.

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…