Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fight for $15

Saturday, Dec. 19, I went to a wonderful, grassroots meeting to raise the minimum wage in Alberta to $15 per hour.

The highlights were seeing the videos of people in the States, fast food workers and Walmart, uniting asking for $15 per hour.

Another highlight for me was seeing two Walmart employees speak about how hard it is to have those discussions about uniting for a higher wage. Along with the other people in the room, it was clear many people are just afraid of those discussions because they don't want to lose their jobs.

One of the strongest rhetoric mentioned is that people will lose their jobs and it will hurt small business, with zero evidence to back that claim up. Let's look to BC:

"...experts generally agree that raising the minimum wage has little to no discernible impact on the employment rate, and there are "meta-studies" (studies of studies) on minimum wage that come to this conclusion
Furthermore, in an April 2015 research report on whether British Columbia should increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour, David Green, a University of British Columbia economics professor and expert in minimum wage issues, stated that "the benefits of raising BC’s minimum wage to $15 through a series of pre-announced staged increases far outweigh the likely costs. Claims that such an increase will lead to massive job losses in low-wage sectors of the economy are not credible."
-Source The Parkland Institute: May 28, 2015 The case for a $15 minimum wage in Alberta posted by Ian Hussey

From that same source is also the myth that it's going to be great for teenagers here in Alberta. Here's some more truth for that argument:

"Firstly, Professor Green states that "the minimum wage has been set so far below the poverty line that past increases have not been large enough to lift full-time workers out of poverty." So it isn't that an increase to the minimum wage can't be part of a policy package meant to address poverty, it is that the increase needs to be large enough to be meaningful to workers' lives.
Secondly, most minimum wage workers in Alberta are in fact not teenagers or inexperienced, but rather adult workers trying to get by, and many are working to support their families. The Government of Alberta reports that 65% of our province's minimum wage earners for the 2013/14 fiscal year were over 20 years of age. In addition, Statistics Canada data for 2014 shows that 77% of Alberta workers earning less than $15 per hour were over the age of 20.
Furthermore, 61% of Alberta's low-wage earners are women, so raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will contribute to sorely needed efforts to address Alberta's gender gap and income inequality chasm, both of which are the highest among Canada's provinces. "
-Source The Parkland Institute: May 28, 2015 The case for a $15 minimum wage in Alberta posted by Ian Hussey

For more reading I highly recommend: July 17, 2015 Minimum wage hike won’t ruin Alberta by Ian Hussey, Iglika Ivanova (Ian Hussey is a research manager at the Parkland Institute. Iglika Ivanova is a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — B.C. Office.) The above is the argument for the average Albertan relating to the poverty issues we are seeing with the current minimum wage. Canadian Federation of Independent Business is offering to do roundtable discussions to help bridge the new NDP government and business that have contacted the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. (I'm sure the NDP government will do that and I hope the business owner's see this the idea will help everyone.)
I would recommend many forms of action.
First, the building of the group is needed. Their actions of caroling and videos are completely necessary.

Secondly, a point I made but seemed to be completely disregarded was the need for a policy to be presented at the political parties on this issue as a form of action. I feel this is actually how this imposed Westminster "democracy" works so therefore, if we work on policies in this format, political parties will be forced to follow their grassroot membership. They didn't understand it and wrote it as "talk to a MLA." I don't disagree with that action but as I explained to the group, if there is a policy and it passes, the party is obligated to follow the membership. So while I encouraged all people, no matter their political party, to talk to their MLA's, to go to those parties with a policy. Here is one example. (I encourage others to copy and paste it to bring it to their parties.)

Fight for $15 Policy:

Whereas twenty percent of Alberta’s workers, 379,500 people, earned less than $15 an hour in 2014.

Whereas 78 percent of Albertans that earn less that $15 an hour, are not teenagers, and 38 percent are 35 years of age or older.

Whereas 60 percent work full time and 54 percent have been in the same job for longer than a year.

Whereas $15 minimum wage would significantly boost the income of low-wage workers as a group, reduce working poverty.

Be it resolved, (enter political party of your choice) will support raising the minimum wage in Alberta to $15 per hour.

If you agree, please take that policy to your local electoral districts and MLA's (modify it as you need) to get this moved forward as I'm not confident the group will forward it to you, even if you join it.

Some of the low lights of the meeting was how the space felt unsafe for me to speak freely, then feeling marginalized. When I got a chance to speak, it was at the start when we were asked to say our names and why we chose to come. I spoke of how disappointed I was in the NDP government's waffling of the $15 minimum wage election promise as I live in the area of the hard working poor where people are working two and sometimes three jobs and still can not make ends meet. I was disappointed that the NDP weren't being more bold in their budget as they are very unlikely to get reelected since the right wing parties were divided for the moment. I expressed how I hoped that this group would be that accountability to the NDP and have action. I also acknowledged Tsuu T'ina and Dene as part of the Treaty 7 signatories as the Stoney and Blackfoot were previously mentioned. (I should mention it was brought up AFTER myself and another Indigenous woman walked into the room.) Bringing it up AFTER Indigenous enter a room, is very disingenuous. (I know here in Alberta, we are just getting use to the idea of acknowledging this at all so the irony is, I was happy it was mentioned at all.)

The truth is, Indigenous peoples' still are oppressed under the Indian Act. Internationally, the rest of the world sees our hypocrisy on human rights while still oppressing a race of people. Canadians still don't really understand the gravity of that. During the meeting, there was a NDPer that identified as proud to be retired, being a NDPer her whole life, donating her money to the NDP and campaigning. She spoke so condescendingly and even singled out "arm chair activists" and Communists. She also marginalized my voice too as I thought that meeting was a safe place to voice the disappointment of NDP's election promises. The irony is, I do volunteer with the Federal Liberal Party because as an Indigenous woman, my issues tend to be so called Federal jurisdiction in this colonial Westminster "democracy" imposed on these lands. I don't have a lot of money to give so I give my time and energy.  The NDP's Aboriginal Peoples' Commission didn't seem active so I did join the Liberal Party's Aboriginal Peoples' Commission because they were active at the time. I was even able to get two policies put forward that passed nationally - Two-Spirit and Denouncing Spying on Indigenous. Of course the real issue to me was that in the end, it wasn't a safe space to be critical of the current government even though they aren't showing strength on that issue.

It was clear to me from that meeting that Indigenous issues are different when talking about even this issue of fighting for a higher minimum wage.

There were temporary foreign workers present. Anyone that followed the issues pre-election knows there are serious issues of human rights issues that need addressing. I believe in my soul that each temporary foreign worker has been given a raw deal and should be eligible for permanent status so that the program doesn't seem so modern-day-slave-ish. That said, I personally know an Indigenous man who was born in the US and is now living in one of the communities I'm part of in the greater Forest Lawn area. Because Canada does not honour the Jay Treaty, this Indigenous to North America man can not work at all here in Calgary, even though he has a full desire to. (He spends so much time volunteering and doing wonderful things in our communities since he can't.) So the people at the group fighting for a higher minimum wage increase, who don't really know the Indigenous signatories of the Treaty 7 land we are on, and Indigenous are already having a very different conversation. Of course the temporary foreign workers and new immigrant community also are unaware of these issues because there is zero education on Indigenous issues when they come to these lands.

Next is the name issue. Many barriers are present for Indigenous that non-Indigenous do not face. By simply having an Indigenous name, many employers do NOT hire due to prejudices. So while it is great to be fighting for a higher minimum wage, most non-Indigenous are unaware Indigenous stats on unemployment aren't even counted in the overall picture. Ultimately, those that benefit from living on a land where the Indian Act is in place, and are purposely unaware of the realities Indigenous people face, can not understand how we are not even in a place to fighting for minimum wage increases when our positions are the first ones cut in "economic downsizing" times.

While those were negative experiences for me, I hope others will still consider joining up in solidarity. They are also hoping to record some personal stories from those struggling in the workforce, especially if working in a wage less than $15 per hour. If you're interested in joining, please do here:

Working class Caroling
Saturday from 5pm-7pm Sunridge Mall

Next meeting Jan. 23rd

Monday, December 7, 2015

Smudging Canada - Open Letter to Carolyn Bennett, Jody Raybould-Wilson and Mélanie Joly

Hello Honourable Members of Parliament!

I highly suspect that you all are very busy and respect that. Thank you for your time and service. I was hoping I would be able to plant a seed in your minds and inspire others across Canada to see how they can be part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions' calls-to-action.

From the

  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.

I have come across many people Indigenous and non-Indigenous that have known or had access to smudges. Some areas of Canada, in major cities, have done a great job at having that access. That said, I live in Calgary, and have found families directly impacted by missing and murdered Indigenous women, not have access to smudge. I have met Indigenous volunteers (in campaign) that do not have access to smudge kits. Then I have met regular Canadians whom have not heard, let alone seen a smudge. I have heard of jails not allowing or having access to smudge. Not everyone even in the city of Calgary can travel to places to smudge.

Can we start incorporating ways in our systems and Canadian fabric to teach smudge to all in our boundaries with respect to the Nations of the land? Can we make sure people have access to smudge? Can we teach all kids now and moving forward the tradition so they are aware of it, even if not practicing?

Let me, and others who want to, help on how to move an idea like that forward so we can support you in your mandates. Thank you, merci and Mahsi cho. (Mahsi cho is thank you in Dene.)

  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:
  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:
  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:
  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to provide new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.
- See more at:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Being a woman in Alberta on the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

Last year in honour of the ecole polytechnique de Montreal I was honoured to speak at the U of C Facility of Law. (You wouldn't know by the Herald but Jennifer Koshan did acknowledge it. It matters to acknowledge Indigenous women. When Indigenous women are marginalized and ignored, that is a form colonial violence.)

Women murdered

commemorative plaque in polished stone, deeply engraved with in circle with 14 small silver disks distributed around the circle. Inside, and under the university's logo and the legend "In Memoriam" are the names of the 14 victims and the date of the massacre
Memorial plate on the side of École Polytechnique.
  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967) mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student (Thank you Wiki)

    To be very clear, the École Polytechnique massacre was a hate crime. The concept of hate crimes are very powerful to me right now, living in Alberta and what I'm seeing today, scares me.

    Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine in a year from the time of that speech at the U of C, that we'd have a new NDP premier, The Honourable, Rachel Notley. I may not be a NDPer but after 44 years of Conservative rule, it was clearly a failure of imagination on my part. Being born and raised here, I thought the corruption of the PC's would never end. (Read Dr. Kevin Taft's books for more on that.) So we have Rachel Notley and as I write this, the Edmonton Journal PUBLISHED this:
(Thanks @Calgarykiaguy for the modified pic)

The Edmonton Journal actually looked at this, ok'd it and published this, never mind the cartoonist thinking it was ok to dream of anyway. I will mention that if one is to google Harper back stab, you do not find a similar picture. Why? Why is it ok to show violence against women? Why is ok to show violence against a female politician? I would never advocate violence against any politician, male or female, be ok. Honestly, if someone were to make a pic like this about Harper, the RCMP and CSIS would be all over that person. Why should this be an exception? "But it's a fucking cartoon!" as one of my Facebook friends said. Well, cartoons are powerful and talk about issues of the day in ways words apparently can not explain as quickly as with a visual. That is their purpose. This picture shows how normal it is in Alberta to depict violence against women. In fact, another Facebook friend pointed out: Between-the-lines implication in the comic is that farmers are fighting Bill 6 to retain the right to harm others "accidentally". I had old friends share this pic and when I posted about it, I was met with hostility and unfriended by an old school friend, turned farmer, unwilling to admit violence against women was NOT ok even against a female politician. This is the state of discourse in Alberta and it's 2015.

Then there is the underlining racism combined with sexism..

I would have never imagined Bradley Barton being found not guilty of first, second or third degree murder in the killing of Cindy Gladue. That sparked outrage nationally by Indigenous peoples' and we had over twenty rallies in April calling for Justice for Cindy Gladue. The RCMP released biased data on missing and murdered women that didn't explain how they came to the collected data, or how they determined their definition of "Aboriginal" leaving many of us confused on the numbers yet glad they would acknowledge it to some degree. We had a Prime Minister that refused to acknowledge that an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women was really on his radar as his government systemically cut funding to Indigenous groups, including the Sisters in Spirit. These are very strong and damaging race and gendered based messages from our so-called leaders on social status in Alberta as an Indigenous woman and it's 2015. The racism is so bad, the CBC had to shut down their comments section on Indigenous issues and showcased a video inspired by Jimmy Kimmel's mean tweets to explain why.

As if the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) wasn't enough, we just had the longest election that focused solely on race and sex by targeting the niqab. Even Calgary's mayor said the niqab issue doesn't make any sense and should be focusing on the MMIW inquiry. While Harper didn't win the election, the rhetoric that he sparked with his policies, continued. Muslim women across Canada began to be attacked in Calgary, (pregnant in Montreal) (Toronto) and even a woman just wearing a scarf due to weather conditions was attacked. Hate in Calgary was painted on the LRT.

In 2009, there was mention about how abuse was the highest in Alberta. In 2012, three-quarters of Albertans know a woman who has been abused.. in 2013, a call out to the provincial leadership to be part of the effort to reduce violence. Our premier in 2014 was an ex-Harper Indian Affairs minister federally where colonial and sexist policies to a race of people are the norm and he publicly stated there was no need for a MMIW inquiry. The start of 2015, an article on extreme rates and increase in violence in Alberta. Finally, as the NDP government gained power, MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, had the strength to speak on her own experience with domestic violence in the Alberta Legislature because it's 2015.

I went to the outreach consultation in Calgary that the NDP's newly created Status of Women ministry put on. (There are only three locations, Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray available, excluding small towns and reserves.) I told them point blank Alberta should be declared a state of emergency for women's safety in Alberta. I was met with wide eyes by the employees. For a group that declared they want to build feminism in Alberta, I worry about the future when so much violence against women in Alberta is unaddressed, where root issues are not discussed, in a province that prides itself on no government interference and has arms willing to prove it. Women in Alberta fleeing violence have the odds stacked against them on wage gap let alone other barriers like the fact there isn't training on honour based violence nor colonial violence risk assessment in the current intimate-partner model that is preferred. In a province where one of the major news outlets published a picture of violence against our premier. In a province where women and children are denied entry into shelters because of them being over capacity. In a province where we have child care capacity and affordability issues. In a province that has affordable housing issues. In a province that I live in and worry about the future for my daughter. And if you're a women in Alberta that feels safe, please consider yourself part of a very elite minority as the stats show something very different.

Because it's 2015.

Edited to add:

Just a reminder that creating a safety plan is something you may never use but in case it's needed, it's available. In memory of the Montreal massacre, the rise in domestic violence, the rise in MMIW, have these resources on hand. Awo Taan Healing Lodge​'s website has a way to clear your computer of tracing if it feels that unsafe. (Safe exit)

Please make safety plans.

Edited to add that one of the women from Alberta that is in Paris attending Climate Change talks, posted this today, on the anniversary:

Edited to add again, a Dene sister's experience in Fort McMurray TODAY:

June 18, 2016 edited to add: