Omnibudget Meets Kitchener Casseroles ~ June 13th

Although I support Fairvote Canada I’m not a member, as I’m not a member of any political party. I feel this is necessary for me as a citizen journalist, because it is important I speak only for myself, retaining the freedom to speak out against what I think are bad policies even from organizations I may otherwise support. I’m a writer, not a leader.

But I will attend and even photograph protests I find important. And occasionally I’ll stick my oar in. As now.

On Wednesday there will be another round of “Black Mark Budget” protests against the federal government’s Omnibus budget. Because we are currently cursed with a majority government, the only way this budget can be stopped is by convincing 13 sitting conservative MPs to be heroes and vote against it.

In Waterloo Region, two such events are planned for

Wednesday June 13, 5:30 PM

1) Peter Braid’s office,
22 King St. South, Waterloo

and

2) Stephen Woodworth’s office,
300 Victoria St. North, Kitchener

Wednesday night will also be Day 122 of the Quebec Student Strike, and so will be the third Casseroles Night In Canada.

This protest is to support the students fighting for education for all, as well as to protest Quebec’s unconstitutional Bill 78, which contravenes civil rights guaranteed Canadians under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as breaches Canada’s international human rights obligations.

my idea

I’m throwing this out there in case it’s useful, but it’s about as much organizing as I can do.  If the two protests at the MPs offices incorporate the music of clanging pots and pans, after perhaps half an hour, at, say, 6:00, the protest chould turn into two parts of a casseroles parade heading toward Victoria Park for a last bit of citizen musicale and any speechifying anyone cares to do could take place.

The marchers will probably arrive at the park long before 8:00, so I think the Casseroles time should be moved back to 7:00 pm. Maybe people can bring a lunch (everyone should have water) and make it a picnic at the park.

I think it will continue to be family friendly, and, like the previous Casseroles protests, will be untroubled by police, especially if the march manages to stay on the sidewalk.

Possible route:


My idea is offered as a suggestion because I think both groups would benefit from cross pollinization. Maybe the distance is too far for a walk, especially on a hot day.  Feel free to take the idea and run with it.  Or not.  The point is that we *all* have a voice.

My reasons for supporting both initiatives can be found in my previous article Two Protests for June 2nd, 2011

I’ll leave you with Elizabeth May’s attempt to summarize the horrific environmental problems with the Omnibudget:

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Two Protests for June 2nd, 2011

“The Black Mark Budget Action”
and
“Against the Criminalization of Dissent”

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Anita Nickerson says:

If you are undecided about coming out to one of the BlackMark Budget Actions Saturday at noon, please read this post and share it. Thanks to Jennifer Ross for compiling this ever-growing list.

Bill C-38 has something in it for everyone.

Concerned about the Environment? This bill:

  • repeals The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act;
  • dismantles The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act;
  • excludes concerned citizens from assessments of major projects like the Enbridge pipeline;
  • downloads responsibility for most environmental assessments to provinces;
  • gives final say over pipeline projects to Conservative cabinet ministers—regardless of environmental impacts.
  • lays off the entire Canadian scientific community looking at ocean contaminants. Did you know we have a lot of coastline? Meaning there’s a lot of ocean not being examined, which will impact the worldwide science in this area.
  • eliminates habitat protection from The Fisheries Act;
  • limits the waterways protected by The Species at Risk Act and The Fisheries Act;
  • dismantles the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, leaving natural areas vulnerable

Perhaps you are concerned about Health. This bill:

  • shortchanges cash-strapped provinces of expected health transfers by $31 billion;
  • weakens food and drug regulations at the discretion of the Minister of Health;
  • ends vital Auditor General oversight of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency;
  • paves the way for private contractors to perform food safety inspections.

Is it Employment that interests you? This bill:

  • forces Canadians to work two years longer, to age 67, to qualify for Old Age Security;
  • cuts workers off Employment Insurance if they don’t take any job the Minister of Human Resources deems “suitable”;
  • repeals The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act;
  • removes federal contractors from the protection of The Employment Equity Act.
  • brings in foreign workers and allows them to be paid 15% less than our minimum wage.

Is it Democracy that interests you? This bill:

  • reduces the Auditor General’s powers to hold government accountable to Canadians;
  • removes independent oversight from 12 key government agencies—including the – Northern Pipeline Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canada Revenue Agency;
  • eliminates organizations that produce independent policy research—including Rights & Democracy, the National Council of Welfare, and the First Nations Statistical Institute;
  • dissolves the Public Appointments Commission designed to ensure key positions are assigned based on merit instead of insider connections;
  • allows the FBI to come into Canada and arrest Canadians on Canadian soil.

You only need to be concerned over one of these to come out and express your displeasure at the way ALL of these are being rammed down our throats without the slightest bit of examination, discussion, or negotiation. And almost none of it was in the election platform of a year ago.

In Waterloo Region:

Join us Saturday June 2 at noon at Conservative MP Peter Braid’s office
22 King Street South, Waterloo

and

Stephen Woodworth’s at noon
Suite 12, 300 Victoria Street North, Kitchener

to protest the omnibus budget bill.

Bring signs with messages specifically against the bill.

Bring Canadian flags.

and dress appropriately for the weather!

Facebook Event page

For information about the other 68 Black Mark Protests scheduled across Canada visit leadnow.ca

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Against the Criminalization of Dissent

Opposing Bill C 78 and the Federal Bill C 309

Kitchener City Hall ~ June 2nd ~ at 7:00pm Saturday Evening

Demonstration in Solidarity with the struggle in Quebec.

From the Facebook Event page

Bring your Masks, Bring your Pots and Pans, Claim our Freedom to Dissent, Protesting is not a Crime!

We will wear masks and hear speeches about the struggle in Quebec, the international assault on the poor, and the Federal Bill C 309.

Then we will disobey. We will march in our masks.

Bring your pots and pans. As demos in Quebec have been incorporating the clanging of pots and pans – we will do the same!

Some masks will be available as supplies last. Feel free to wear any type of mask that you’d like.
Get creative; we can have fun, mocking these laws!

Background:

As of May 26, students in Quebec are on their 104th day of strike and protest against proposed tuition increases.
A violent clamp down has taken place and police brutality is rampant. Serious injuries have resulted.

On May 18, 2012 Bill C 78 was passed into law. The law restricts the ability to demonstrate and organize opposition to the system.
The legislation provides for fines of $3,000 for wearing a mask.
Penalties climb to between $7,000 and $35,000 for a student leader and to between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or
student federations who organize protests outside of the fascist framework of the bill.
The struggle is only growing and intensifying in response!!!!

There is also legislation in the works that threatens to further criminalize dissent, across the Nation

Blake Richards, MP Wild Rose AB, put forward ‘An Act to amend the Criminal Code (concealment of identity)’, in a private members bill. Bill C-309 proposes penalties of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000 for protesters who wear a mask or disguise. This will allow for the arrest of anyone wearing a mask at a protest, even if they are not said to have done anything else illegal.

Bill C 309, titled ‘Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act’, was presented in a Committee Report on Feb 15, 2012. Having passed that, the Bill will now be read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee.

Read the entire bill. Its short!

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To keep up with the Waterloo Region/Kitchener Casseroles follow @CasserolesKW on Twitter and the Casseroles Night In K-W Facebook Page.

More on Bill C-309 the anti-Mask law: Of Masks and Freedom

Casseroles Night In Canada

Today is Day 108 of the Quebec Student strike.

I am impressed.  These young people are standing up for what they believe in ~ and what I think they should be entitled to ~ in a rich country like Canada.

Regardless of what our intrepid leaders would like to believe, the recession in Canada is not anywhere near over.  Jobs are thin on the ground.  Wouldn’t it be clever to have citizens actively engaged in getting higher education with government assistance rather than collecting welfare until they can luck into some unskilled work that probably won’t even cover the rent?

Even if reducing education funding was a good idea, (and I don’t think it is), the time to do such a thing is not in this economic climate. This policy is not just ill advised, it’s stupid.  Quebec wants to raise  education costs at a time when people can least afford it.

This is their lives, we are talking about here. Why would these kids blow off half a year of university?  The alternative for many is that dramatically increased higher education will no longer be an option.  Many are certainly just barely managing the financial load now.  The first increase will bump many students.  And that is certainly worth striking for.

Our kids are our most important resource.

Isn’t it interesting that the Quebec is raising the student cost of higher education at a time when Ontario is lowering it?

Instead of negotiating, or even simply *listening* to these young people — whose lives will be trashed by this law — the Quebec government simply passed a law — Bill 78 —  thought by many to be unconstitutional — in an attempt to stop the strike.

Has it worked?  No.

A pot over crossed spoons on a field of red with the legend Keep Calm and bang On
download the poster to wave

Has it helped?  No.

The latest strategy is the participative ephemeral 15-minute roving #casserole protests documented in Xopher’s blog: Nightly ‘Casseroles’ (pots and pans) Protest.

These light hearted brief happenings are occur around 8:00pm every evening across Montreal.

This is to show citizen dissatisfaction with the government’s actions and policies.  In a nice way.

Maybe it’s time the rest of Canada joined in and did a little pot banging of our own for

It’s something we all know how to do, one of the things every child has done at some point in their lives.  And if you haven’t, no experience is required.  Lets get out there and do a little banging in communities all across Canada.

All ages welcome . . . it only takes 15 minutes.  Oh… and bring your own pot…

black and white photograph of citizens of all ages banging on casseroles

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Image Credits

Une banderolle géante, à la hauteur de la taille de la foule under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license by Robin Dumont

Casseroles Night Poster  under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license by Juan Madrigal

Casseroles 26 mai, Place Emilie Gamellin under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license by scottmontreal

Student Strike: Have Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses?

It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.”

— Daniel Weinstock

When I went to college in Ontario in the ’80’s, anyone could access higher education. Ontario provided loans and grants to qualified students. If you (or your family) were wealthy, it might be all loans; if you and your family were of low income, it might be entirely grants. The difference is that grants don’t have to be paid back, ever.

This seemed reasonable.  Among other things, that system ensured that people  best suited to being doctors don’t end up driving cab. My friend Malcolm says “50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.”   That is even worse when the pool of potential doctors is reduced as it has been.   How many Canadians right now are putting up with bad doctors because they dare not complain and risk going doctorless?

Back in the ’80’s, I went on a demonstration at Queens Park to protest the round of education cuts Ontario was starting, just as I was just finishing.  But the government didn’t listen, and over time went on to entirely abolish grants in the years since.  Ironically, Ontario is just now reintroducing grants.

There are countries in the world that make higher education entirely free to citizens.  I think that’s not only civilized, but smart policy.  It’s good for any society, because it means that citizens can be fully engaged.  It means that society is making best use of resources, because the most important resource is our citizens.  You can probably tell that’s what I think that’s what we should be doing. [Yes, I know, they always say there is no money; but that is hogwash. They can find the money if they want to, since they can always find it for stupid things.]

I do, however, believe in democracy.   And even if Canada doesn’t go that route, it is something that should be decided by Canadians, not dictated by government.  So what is happening in Quebec is very disturbing.

I’ve heard that most Quebecers disagree with the strike, but of course, that is information obtained by polls, and polls can be gamed. And the mainstream media has descended into entertainment, so “the news” needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  I myself look to the Internet for my news.  The following open letter I share with you here was referenced by @ryanweal in a conversation on Identi.ca

An open letter to my English-Canadian friends. Please circulate in your networks as you see fit.

“You may have heard that there has been some turmoil in Quebec in recent weeks. There have been demonstrations in the streets of Montreal every night for almost a month now, and a massive demonstration will be happening tomorrow, which I will be attending, along with my wife, Elizabeth Elbourne, and my eldest daughter Emma.

“Reading the Anglo-Canadian press, it strikes me that you have been getting a very fragmented and biased picture of what is going on. Given the gulf that has already emerged between Quebec and the rest of Canada in the wake of the 2011 election, it is important that the issues under discussion here at least be represented clearly. You may decide at the end of the day that we are crazy, but at least you should reach that decision on the basis of the facts, rather than of the distortions that have been served up by the G&M and other outlets.

“First, the matter of the tuition hikes, which touched off this mess. The rest of the country seems to have reached the conclusion that the students are spoiled, selfish brats, who would still be paying the lowest tuition fees even if the whole of the proposed increase went through.

“The first thing to say is that this is an odd conception of selfishness. Students have been sticking with the strikes even knowing that they may suffer deleterious consequences, both financial and academic. They have been marching every night despite the threat of beatings, tear-gas, rubber bullets, and arrests. It is, of course, easier for the right-wing media to dismiss them if they can be portrayed as selfish kids to whom no -one has ever said “no”. But there is clearly an issue of principle here.

“OK, then. But maybe the principle is the wrong one. Free tuition may just be a pie-in-the sky idea that mature people give up on when they put away childish things. And besides, why should other people pay for the students’ “free” tuition? There is no such thing as “free” education. Someone, somewhere, has to pay. And the students, the criticism continues, are simply refusing to pay their “fair share”.

“Why is that criticism simplistic? Because the students’ claim has never been that they should not pay for education. The question is whether they should do so up front, before they have income, or later, as taxpayers in a progressive taxation scheme. Another question has to do with the degree to which Universities should be funded by everyone, or primarily by those who attend them. So the issue of how to fund Universities justly is complicated. We have to figure out at what point in people’s lives they should be paying for their education, and we also have to figure out how much of the bill should be footed by those who do not attend, but who benefit from a University-educated work force of doctors, lawyers, etc. The students’ answer to this question may not be the best, but then it does not strike me that the government’s is all that thought out either.

“And at least the students have been trying to make ARGUMENTS and to engage the government and the rest of society in debate, whereas the government’s attitude, other than to invoke the in-this-context-meaningless “everyone pays their faire share” argument like a mantra, has been to say “Shut up, and obey”.

“What strikes the balance in the students’ favour in the Quebec context is that the ideal of no up-front financial hurdles to University access is enshrined in some of the most foundational documents of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, in particular the Parent Commission Report, which wrested control of schools from the Church and created the modern Quebec education system, a cornerstone of the kind of society that many Quebeckers see themselves as aspiring to. Now, it could be that that ideal is no longer viable, or that we may no longer want to subscribe to it. But moving away from it, as Charest’s measures have done, at least requires a debate, analogous to the debate that would have to be had if the Feds proposed to scrap the Canada Health Act. It is clearly not just an administrative measure. It is political through and through. Indeed it strikes at fundamental questions about the kind of society we want to live in. If this isn’t the sort of thing that requires democratic debate, I don’t know what is.

“The government has met the very reasonable request that this issue, and broader issues of University governance, be at least addressed in some suitably open and democratic manner with silence, then derision, then injunctions, and now, with the most odious “law” that I have seen voted by the Quebec National Assembly in my adult memory. It places the right of all Quebec citizens to assemble, but also to talk and discuss about these issues, under severe limitations. It includes that most odious of categories: crimes of omission, as in, you can get fined for omitting to attempt to prevent someone from taking part in an act judged illegal by the law. In principle, the simple wearing of the by-now iconic red square can be subject to a fine. The government has also made the student leaders absurdly and ruinously responsible for any action that is ostensibly carried out under the banners of their organizations. The students groups can be fined $125000 whenever someone claiming to be “part” of the movement throws a rock through a window. And so on. It is truly a thing to behold.

“The government is clearly aware that this “law” would not withstand a millisecond of Charter scrutiny. It actually expires in July 2013, well before challenges could actually wind their way through the Courts. The intention is thus clearly just to bring down the hammer on this particular movement by using methods that the government knows to be contrary to basic liberal-democratic rule-of-law principles. The cynicism is jaw-dropping. It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.

“So that is why tomorrow I will be taking a walk in downtown Montreal with (hopefully!) hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens. Again, you are all free to disagree, but at least don’t let it be because of the completely distorted picture of what is going on here that you have been getting from media outlets, including some from which we might have expected more.”

— Daniel Weinstock An Open Letter to English-Canadians, who might be feeling that Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses.

“An addendum: one of the more egregious aspects of the law, which penalized omissions to deter, has been removed from the final version. That is better, which is not to say that it is any good, because vast tracts of discourse are still at least potentially under the microscope. Many have responded by saying that law-enforcers and judges will be prudent in applying these broad-reaching provisions. Perhaps. In Madisonian spirit, I say that it is best to economize on virtue, that is to make laws and institutions that do not depend on relevant actors rescinding from doing what the law actually allows them to do.”

Further reading: Resisting Bill 78 in 15 points: Concordia Full-Time Faculty Member

Winnipeg Free Press: Protesters defy new Quebec law; Event marks 100th day of student-led strikes

Personally, I’m proud of the students and their supporters for standing up for their beliefs ~ and what’s right.  I hope these young citizens remain involved and continue to work for electoral reform in the future, and maybe we can have a more democratic Canada.

Jean Charest’s government ought to be ashamed of themselves.
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