What's Left 2015-06-07 Volume 15

by Editors (What's Left) last modified 2015-06-11T10:53:23-04:00
This week was marked by the the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). After six years of testimony and research, the TRC released its 94 recommendations aimed to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the progress of Canadian Reconciliation. Most of Canada received the report with an increased sense of understanding of what transpired for Canada’s Indigenous peoples during and following more than a century of assimilation, abuse and murder within the Canadian government’s residential school program. Although this history is no surprise for Canada’s Indigenous communities, the commission’s work has amplified the many stories of children being taken from their homes, mistreated and, in many cases, killed. The report did not mince words when it called the residential school system one of cultural genocide.

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FEATURE

Canada receives the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

This week was marked by the the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). After six years of testimony and research, the TRC released its 94 recommendations aimed to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the progress of Canadian Reconciliation. Most of Canada received the report with an increased sense of understanding of what transpired for Canada’s Indigenous peoples during and following more than a century of assimilation, abuse and murder within the Canadian government’s residential school program. Although this history is no surprise for Canada’s Indigenous communities, the commission’s work has amplified the many stories of children being taken from their homes, mistreated and, in many cases, killed. The report did not mince words when it called the residential school system one of cultural genocide.

Some, however, seem untouched by the report’s findings and prefer to ignore these historic wrong-doings. Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to say more than that the government had already apologized, and generally dismissed the recommendations. His Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Bernard Valcourt, sat in first row of the press conference and was the only person not to stand during a room-wide ovation when the recommendations were presented.

Unfortunately, much work remains to pressure governments, institutions and various communities to implement the recommendations of this historical commission. This report is not the end of a process, but only the beginning – a small step towards justice for the Indigenous peoples of Canada. If you haven’t read the recommendations for yourself, consider it required reading.

More: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations

More: “Cultural Genocide”: Landmark Report Decries Canada’s Forced Schooling of Indigenous Children

More: Time for reconcili(action)

CANADA

TiSA leak: Bad for Canada and anyone who’s not a corporation

Remember Wikileaks? Well, they just released a massive collection of trade agreement documents from the secretive Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations. The documents reveal that governments are seeking to privatize public services and allow large multinationals to profit from the most marginalised in society.

In the most anti-democratic language found in the reports, signing TiSA would require governments to consult any and all multinational businesses about laws that might affect their profits. For Canada, these threats include banning monopoly publicly owned companies and services like Canada Post, limiting data storage security legislation, eliminating national telecommunications regulations, as well as standardizing financial services regulation that would allow large foreign banks and finance companies unfettered access and ownership within Canada.

Free trade agreements aren’t really in the interest of improving peoples’ lives. Negotiated in secret, by corporate interests, these deals are, unsurprisingly, developed specifically to benefit multi-national corporations. The way in which these agreements are constructed continues to evolve: While Canada can bow out of NAFTA after 6-months, FIPA, the latest trade deal with China, is guaranteed for more than 30 years, and Canada may never be able to opt-out of WTO agreements like TiSA. Many of these agreements allow foreign corporations to ignore local laws and regulations when they might negatively affect profits, or even sue local governments for damages. So much for transparent democracy.

More: Our World is Not for Sale Press Release

More: TISA Would Mean Major Changes To Canadian Banking, Telecom, Data Privacy

More: The Problem With Trade Treaties: Poisoning the Democratic Well

Canada blasted for “effectively withdrawing from constructive engagement on climate”

In a report co-authored by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Canada has been publicly condemned for its inactivity on climate change. One of a handful of countries singled out for refusing to tackle the problem, Canada, instead, seems intent on waiting for others to take action first.

More: Canada blasted as ’climate laggard’ in international report

Loving & fighting for public libraries

In Ottawa, a fight to keep the central public library downtown is heating up. Community, labour and anti-poverty organizations are leading the charge against a plan by City Council to move the library outside of the downtown core. Unfortunately, a consultant’s report prepared for the city did not examine any public options, nor did it study the impact on the community. Instead, the one-dimensional report only looked at the library as a potential profit-generating enterprise with potential for privatization.

Time and time again it’s been shown that public libraries are loved by their communities, and that people are prepared to fight for them. Apart from Ottawa’s long history of failed privatization schemes, including many high-cost bailouts, the process has already lost sight of the purpose of a public library system. Libraries are still a uniquely situated public space where users benefit from a truly universal public service, provided to people across all incomes brackets.

More: Our Library Matters

ELSEWHERE

Germany demonstrates the merits of free post-secondary tuition

It’s refreshing when a government realizes the many benefits of investing more heavily in post-secondary education. After briefly flirting with tuition fees, post-secondary education across Germany is once again free, and not just for domestic students, but for foreign students as well. This approach promises to help the nation deal with some of its most pressing challenges. Like many countries, Germany is grappling with a demographic problem - a growing retired population and fewer young people entering college and the workforce.

Free tuition ensures the development of skilled, qualified, tax-paying workers – a result that more than offsets the government’s investment in post-secondary education. “Research shows that the system is working, says Sebastian Fohrbeck of DAAD, and that 50% of foreign students stay in Germany. ‘Even if people don’t pay tuition fees, if only 40% stay for five years and pay taxes we recover the cost for the tuition and for the study places so that works out well.’”

More: How US students get a university degree for free in Germany

Gawker media votes to unionize

In the US, the 118 staff of Gawker media have officially voted to unionize and join the Writers Guild of America. One of the first major unionization drives for a digital media company, it is hoped that their success will pave the away for other digital media workers to unionize. An industry built on long hours and the exploitation of young writers and software engineers, there is a desperate need for unionization. Rumours have it that workers at online publications Buzzfeed and Vice may be next up.

More: Gawker becomes first digital media company to unionize

More: Gawker workers: Why We’ve Decided to Organize

A guide to speaking and writing about transgender people

With Caitlyn Jenner’s recent high profile transition, there has been a great deal of discussion on and offline about what being trans means, or doesn't mean. It’s important to understand and respect the fluidity of gender and sexual orientation when these stories hit mainstream media. For some, it means learning new, and sometimes critically nuanced terminology. Xeni Jarin at Boing Boing has pulled together a primer from GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

More: How to talk about Caitlyn Jenner: a guide to speaking and writing about transgender people

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