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Liberals' second budget gets failing grade

22 March 2017 - 7:53pm
March 23, 2017Politics in CanadaLiberals' second budget gets failing gradeThe federal government, says David Macdonald, "took the 2016 budget out and put a new cover on it... Now you have the 2017 budget. They’ve gift wrapped last year’s budget."CA

Chinese railway worker history comes to life in new Canadian children's book

22 March 2017 - 6:50am
Anti-RacismArts & CultureLabour

The old saying is better late than never and that's what playwright George Chiang thought when he finally decided to create the children's book The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing.

"It was sitting on the shelf, and you know what? I'm not going to live forever," Chiang told me in an interview over Skype from his home in Montreal.

The 68-page colour book just came out in early March and the Montreal-based actor/writer is feeling relieved and a little reticent. The book was almost two decades in the making.

"I waited it out," Chiang said. "I had the idea back in the 1990s but this book by Paul Yee [Ghost Train, 1996] had just come out and won the Governor General's award. No publisher was interested in another Chinese railroad children's book."

Chiang's book concerns a teenage boy who ventures to Canada's West to build the transcontinental railway through the Rockies. There are disasters, encounters with wild animals and friendships that mark Sing's journey. The book is based on the stories told to Chiang by Ike Sing when he was in his 80s, before he passed away in 2003. The stories were about Ike's life and that of his father, Chen.

"This book is important now because it highlights the relationship of the Chinese workers to the Indigenous people," explained Chiang.

"For example, this actually happened: Chen Sing's railroad crew was dying of scurvy but they just didn't know what it was back then. He was dispatched to find help and the natives taught him to make spruce tea, from which they could get vitamin C. They also gave him berries so the crew could eat them right away. The Indigenous people saved their lives."

Chiang and Ike Sing met by accident in Cuba -- the actor was on vacation and so was Sing. They ran into each other twice and it was on the plane back to Canada that the two got talking.

"I realized this guy was a masterful storyteller with a great memory of the past."

Months later, in the fall of 1995, Chiang was at Sing's Cawston, B.C. home and spent more than two weeks recording stories of his life and of his father -- who worked on the railway. Chiang returned the following spring to do more recordings.

"He had so many stories! I had to go because his wife was tired of me," Chiang said laughing.

The playwright had a few publishers interested over the years but things never seemed to gel. In fact, he ended up writing a Chinese opera-musical called The Golden Lotus, which launched in Hong Kong in 2014 to acclaim and nabbed the Hong Kong English Drama Award for "Best Original Work." Chiang told me he's now working on a railroad musical based on Chen Sing.

"I was a history major in university and none of the history I studied was about Asians…when I graduated, I decided I wanted to tell that history in whatever form I could."

Sing's relatives getting older

About four years ago, Chiang decided he needed to make the book -- Sing's relatives, many of whom are elderly, kept asking him if he had something to give them. He enlisted the help of an illustrator, a student at the time, and it took about six months for Jessica Warner to come up with about 80 illustrations. Chiang also had to get back to the "writing" board.

He had written it out as a series of children's books but then compiled and re-wrote it as a "chapter book" and put the stories together. Sing's sole son, Roland, also had a hand in making suggestions -- one of which was to keep as many of the illustrations as possible because he thought they were top quality.

"It's different than an opera because with a book, I have to be careful of grammar -- that was a challenge," revealed Chiang. "Also it's for children aged 7 to 11, so it has to read slower -- I had to cut out a lot of descriptions."

Perhaps the waiting played in Chiang's favour. Chiang had originally envisioned it as an e-book because publishers are reluctant to produce a book with so many illustrations but he found Friesen Press in British Columbia and the author was able to bring the story to life -- as a book you can hold.

The writer -- who had lived in Toronto with his family until last year -- has been invited to the Chen Sing Annual Family Reunion and Picnic in Vancouver in July where he hopes to hold court and hand out some books. More than 200 people attend annually.

"I wrote it for children because I didn't want just one generation to know this story. Good books last from generation to generation," he noted. "So I hope the schools also buy this book so it can be passed to new groups of kids every year."

There are more books in Chiang. The sequel, which he hopes to publish in the next couple of years, is The Pioneer Adventures of Chen Sing. And then after that, will be another one about Ike's experiences as a frontiersman in northern B.C.

"It's called 'Ike Sing Speaks' and I have the first draft written [and] the third book will be based on Ike's childhood but it will be fiction. That might be my one novel."

Find the book or e-book online.

June Chua is a Berlin-based journalist who regularly writes about the arts for rabble.ca.

Illustrations by Jessica Warner/The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing

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Canadian-Chinese communitychinese cultureRailroadchinese labourCanadian Pacific RailwayJune ChuaMarch 22, 2017'They're People Not Terrorists' photo campaign challenges prejudices behind U.S. travel banToronto photographer Adam Zivo is launching a new project to counter hate and prejudice in the wake of the U.S. travel ban that targets people from seven Muslim-majority countries.Instagram project chronicles search for missing and murdered Indigenous women There's another story to the tragic saga of missing and murdered Indigenous women and it's coming to light through an Instagram project created by the National Film Board.New book details experiences of Chinese Head Tax familiesEven now, the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act invoke painful memories of the racist practices of previous Canadian governments that prevented Chinese people from immigrating to Canada.

Yukon First Nations take territorial government to court

22 March 2017 - 5:55am
March 22, 2017Yukon Supreme Court case will set a key precedent for all First NationsYukon First Nations took the territorial government to court over its betrayal of a commitment to protect the Peel watershed. The case will establish a precedent for many other Indigenous groups.

Students fighting to raise the minimum wage

22 March 2017 - 5:51am
Scott NeighMarch 22, 2017Talking Radical RadioEducationLabour

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Jessica Chen and Jermaul Newell. They are students at York University in Toronto and are active with the campus chapter of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, which is working to raise the minimum wage, improve basic employment standards, and build solidarity between students and workers.

The extensive mobilizing by low-wage workers pushing to raise the minimum wage has been one of the most widespread and energetic movements of recent years. It has taken different forms in different jurisdictions, but across North America these campaigns have come together under the common banner of the Fight for $15, which encapsulates the core demand of a raise in the minimum wage to $15/hr. Though the outcomes of these campaigns have also varied from place to place, they have won at least some level of increase in minimum wages in a lot of jurisdictions, and they have won commitments to phase in the full $15/hr amount in more than few.

Though bringing the minimum wage up to more livable levels is the most visible demand in pretty much all of these campaigns, on some level they are also about more than dollars and cents. Whether it is present mainly in the details of the many stories that low-wage workers tell about their lives, or whether it finds expression in concrete demands, all of these campaigns convey a more expansive vision of dignity and a message of solidarity. They are about all of the many ways that low-wage workers get ground down because of how employers are allowed to treat them, and about their growing determination to stand together and get that changed.

Ontario is one of the jurisdictions where demands beyond the minimum wage level have been most clearly articulated, in part because the provincial government has been undertaking its first exhaustive review of the rules around basic employment standards in two decades. In Ontario, the campaign is called the Fight for $15 and Fairness.

Along with regular actions in communities across the province -- often anchored by workers centres, labour councils, anti-poverty groups, and other kinds of organizations -- the Fight for $15 and Fairness has also included plenty of campus-based organizing. This is really not surprising: years ago, when it came to grassroots politics, the categories of "student" and "worker" were treated as separate, and the political work done by activists in their respective milieus was often quite distinct. Increasingly today, however, students have no choice but to be waged workers as well. Tuition in Ontario is among the highest in Canada and lots of students can only afford to pay for school, rent, food, and all the rest by working one, two, or even more jobs. And most jobs available to youth pay the minimum wage or only slightly more.

Jessica Chen is a third-year student at York University in Toronto. She works two minimum wage jobs in the service industry, so she has a very personal stake in raising the minimum wage and in improving basic employment standards. Jermaul Newell is a seond-year student at York. He also works for a wage, but in his case it's in a unionized position in the auto sector. This means the issues of the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign don't impact him directly, but he participates because he believes that solidarity among workers in different situations is crucial to making advances for all working people.

Chen and Newell tell me about the broader Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign and about how it is playing out at York University. In particular, they illustrate very clearly how the campaign as it is happening at York may have begun from the strong hook of the $15/hr wage demand, but has quickly built to a broader vision of better lives for low-wage workers. Yes, like most Fight for $15 and Fairness groups across the province, they are mobilizing to put pressure on the provincial government as we draw closer to the expected summer release of the final report from the employment standards review. But the York group goes even farther: they are part of broader efforts to build alliances between students and workers on the campus. They played a role in supporting the recent strike by food service workers on campus employed by private-sector giant Aramark, who demanded and won a raise to $15/hr. And they see it as essential to talk about how racial justice and economic justice are tied together, and to name and challenge racism as an integral part of building the solidarity necessary to win dignity and better lives for all workers.

You can learn more about the provincial Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign and about the chapter at York University.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

The image modified for use in this post is used by permission of Fight for $15 and Fairness - York University.

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Fight for $15minimum wageemployment standardsprecarious workers

Land for sale! The rise of land speculation in Saskatchewan

21 March 2017 - 6:57am
Food & HealthPolitics in Canada

I remember around 2005, someone who knew that I was originally from Saskatchewan mentioned to me that there was lots of land for sale in Saskatchewan -- and that it might be a good investment. This person happened to be an acquaintance: the parent of one of my son's classmates. He was also in the business of settling bankruptcies. My antenna went up. I had always known that there was speculation on land in Saskatchewan, but that was usually created by larger farmers trying to expand and in so doing, driving up land values. This was different.

What was also new at that time is that the conservative-minded provincial government had changed the laws around ownership of agricultural land. In 2002 it was decided that land could be bought and sold by buyers residing outside Saskatchewan. That law was changed once again in 2015 to close some of the loopholes that allowed investors to acquire farmland -- but much damage had already been done.

That is why the research paper I am about to showcase is so important. It is called "Who is buying the farm?" -- a play on the phrase "to buy the farm," used to call out a death in combat.

In the lead-up to this week's federal budget, the Centre for Policy Alternatives has published an important document chronicling what has been happening to land -- a form of land-grabbing if you will -- in one Prairie province. Authors André Magnan and Annette Desmarais are to be commended for researching a tough subject and ferreting out almost non-existent data.

The paper is about speculation and its impact on huge tracts of prime agricultural land in my home province of Saskatchewan. But the same is likely occurring in other western Prairie provinces.

Since the beginning of the last century, as Canada's breadbasket, Saskatchewan has long been seen as the province that has fed the world. Those of us who follow agriculture know that is not quite how it works (i.e. you can grow the food but it doesn't mean it gets to the hungry), but we also know that access to land is the basis of food security. If family farmers cannot afford to buy land, then stewardship and food production is in jeopardy.

Between 2002 and 2015, I am ashamed to say, it is the Canada Pension Plan Investment Review Board that has become one of the main entities holding huge tracts of land in Saskatchewan.

The research paper opens with some key questions:

"From 2003 onward, non-farm investors began quietly acquiring large tracts of Saskatchewan farmland. In 2014, the sale of some 115,000 acres of farmland from one investor to another sparked a public controversy. Regina-based investment company Assiniboia Capital Corp., which had built up a large portfolio of Saskatchewan farmland, sold its entire holdings to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, for $128 million. The controversy focused on the role of large, institutional investors in the farmland market. Some political critics and agricultural organizations have asked: is it fair for ordinary farmers to be competing with the Canada Pension Plan, with billions of investment dollars at its disposal, for scarce farmland?"

Here is another sample of what this paper includes:

"Between 2007 and 2014, investors paid, on average, $239/acre over the assessed value (a premium of about 50 per cent) for their farmland purchases. By comparison, non-investor arm's length buyers paid, on average, $96/acre over the assessed value (a premium of 21 per cent). In the booming farmland market of recent years, both farmers and investors have been prepared to pay above assessed value for land that they have acquired. The fact that investors have paid significantly more than other buyers, however, lends support to concerns about the speculative nature of investor activity."

Each page of this tightly written 12-page brief chronicles the rise of land ownership in Saskatchewan for investment purposes. A huge chunk of that investment occurred after the 2008 economic crisis as investors looked for more secure initiatives for their capital. What could be more secure than prime agricultural land? This research provides a solid beginning to inquiries that should be occurring across the country.

It's definitely worth a read. Download it for free from the CCPA website.

Lois Ross is a communications specialist, writer, and editor, living in Ottawa. Her column "At the farm gate" discusses issues that are key to food production here in Canada as well as internationally.

Photo: Jeff/flickr

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land speculationland grabbingCanadian agriculturefarmlandsaskatchewanAt the farm gateLois RossMarch 21, 2017'Gold with yield': A primer on land-grabbingLand use, access to agricultural land, and who stewards land, are key issues in food production. Land-grabbing is a growing concern because it determines not only access but also how land is used.Cut the nonsense: World food policy is an important and growing issueA new edition of the 'No Nonsense Guide to World Food' adds on more "food highlights" that could not have been predicted in 2008.Ethiopian subsistence farmers subject to forced relocationEthiopia boasts one of the strongest economies in Africa. But this comes at a heavy price for the country's farmers.

Your nonsense detector for Budget Day 2017

21 March 2017 - 6:26am
March 21, 2017Your nonsense detector for Budget 2017 The current federal budget process is a textbook example of the propaganda model. On budget day, a nonsense detector comes in handy. Here is Duncan Cameron's.

Your nonsense detector for Budget 2017

21 March 2017 - 6:23am
EconomyPolitics in Canada

When I joined the Department of Finance in Ottawa in 1966, the government budget was run off on a Gestetner duplicating machine in a large room not far from my office.

George was in charge; not many copies were printed. Budget secrecy was a big deal. The budget itself, not so much -- but the 1967 budget included financial planning for the debut of medicare.

Budget day 2017 is a huge media and public relations event, as it has been for many years. In the run up, opinion formation is a priority for big accounting and law firms, banks, and corporate lobby groups who aim to intimidate policymakers.

The current federal budget process is a guide to how the world works today -- it's a textbook example of the propaganda model, with the media playing its assigned role.

On budget day, a nonsense detector comes in handy. Here is mine.

1. When you hear the word "deficit" or "debt" as a reproach, this is a roundabout way of calling for less government. It has little to do with the financial health of Canada. UBC economist (and Liberal adviser) Kevin Milligan has shown that Canadian government has been shrinking in size for the last 25 years.

2. A classic con game has been at work in budget making. Reduce income taxes (Mulroney, 1987); yell about the resulting deficits and cut spending (Chrétien, 1995); reduce income taxes (Chrétien, 2000); reduce taxes and GST (Harper, 2007-08); watch government continue to shrink while unmet needs grow.

3. As with medicare, fulfilling future needs requires planned spending today, not cutbacks and restrictions. Who in their right mind would say we need to spend less on hospital care? Is it so drivers with tax breaks have more money for car repairs instead? What is the point of less money for public transit? Is it so banks can write more car loans? Yet, that is what smaller government arguments amount to: less money being spent on basic human needs and more money for those who already have enough, to increase their personal consumption, bank loans or savings.

4. Government spending needs to be examined. Does it make sense to first buy fighter jets? No. Should we have universal child care now? Yes. Budget day focuses on tax changes instead.

5. Taxes forgiven are also expenditures. Companies can write off investment costs plus interest charges against taxes they owe. The financial impact is the same as if those companies received a cheque from the rest of us. These tax expenditures should be voted upon every year in Parliament, not slipped by us as recurring items.

6. Tax expenditures favour richer individuals. Saving for retirement? You get to shelter income every year from taxes. RRSP contributions provide tax-free compounding of income on investment instruments inside the plan. Contribution limits expand regularly -- the maximum allowed in 2015 was just under $25,000.

7. More budgetary benefits are available to the wealthy than to those in need. Welfare rates in B.C. have been the same for the last nine years: $610 per month for a single person. Such injustices are facilitated by a budget process which keeps income disparity and poverty out of sight.

8. Arguments for abolishing regulations that protect the environment, provide security against financial fraud, protect us from dangerous drugs, contaminated food, and potentially lethal toys for sale to children make no sense and should never be take seriously. However, by saying deregulation is needed for "productivity," attention gets diverted away from health, security and other pressing needs. Deregulation follows.

9. "We need to improve productivity" is an all-purpose excuse for cutting government spending, negotiating trade deals and privatizing public assets. Numbers generated for productivity assume the existing distribution of income is the right one. In fact, inequality -- poor income distribution -- is a problem that needs to be fixed, not accepted as a given. Productivity measurements assume that those who control production have the public interest at heart. In reality, absentee landlords, speculators and hedge funds make very poor owners, and new forms of social ownership are very much needed.

10. There is an Alternative Budget full of sensible policies. It's been produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives for 20 years. Alternative Budget 2017 shows how parents could have child care, poverty could be reduced, drugs costs could fall and be covered by public insurance, and quality of life in a host of areas such as recreation, the arts, and education improved. Download it, form a community group to discuss it, and invite your MP to a public meeting to answer for parliamentary inaction on the issues facing Canadians.

Duncan Cameron is former president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: KMR Photography/flickr

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Budget 2017economic inequalitywealth distributiondebt reductionCanadian economypublic policyalternative budgetDuncan CameronMarch 21, 2017Liberals tack right, jettison progressive policyTeam Trudeau have decided they have less to fear from the NDP profiting from the Liberal shift to the right, than from disgruntled Ontario Tories getting out in big numbers to vote against them.Progressive budget measures? Thank the CCPAWhat if our finance minister chose Canadian values over the interests of a privileged minority?Is Bill Morneau listening to Canadians? Don't bet on itIf Finance Minister Morneau is serious about tax fairness, Canadians for Tax Fairness say here are three changes he could include in the 2017-18 Budget.

Jason Kenney wins Alberta PC leadership

19 March 2017 - 3:48pm
March 19, 2017Jason Kenney's leadership win ushers in new era of social conservatism for the Alberta PCsKenney's victory as Alberta PC leader marks a new era of social conservatism for the provincial party.

Why wasn't Canada's foreign policy discussed at the NDP debate?

19 March 2017 - 3:05pm
March 19, 2017NDP leadership debate fails to mention Canada's foreign policyA lot was on the table at the party's first leadership debate a week ago. Canada's involvement in international affairs wasn't.

Hope Has Two Daughters: A new book tells story of modern Tunisia

17 March 2017 - 6:16am
March 17, 2017Hope Has Two Daughters: A new book tells story of modern TunisiaPolitical change has gripped Tunisia more than once and a new book by Monia Mazigh tells the tale of a mother and daughter affected by revolutions old and new.

A Day Without a Woman: Women's global strike shows resistance to Donald Trump on the rise

9 March 2017 - 9:46am
March 9, 2017A Day Without a Woman: Women's global strike shows resistance to Donald Trump on the riseDonald Trump is doing damage, daily, to pillars of progressive achievement. But the resistance is growing, offering hope in a time of darkness.

Judy Rebick: An oral history of International Women's Day in Toronto

8 March 2017 - 9:43am
March 8, 2017Judy Rebick: An oral history of International Women's Day in TorontoGiven all the attention to International Women's Day this year, Judy Rebick is sharing a chapter of her book Ten Thousand Roses on how IWD came to be celebrated in Canada.

Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim men

7 March 2017 - 8:54pm
March 8, 2017Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim men If the Liberal government is serious about combating Islamophobia, they should award long-denied justice to those in Canada's Muslim communities whose freedoms were sacrificed for the "war on terror."

Democratic socialism can build an economy that works for everyone

6 March 2017 - 9:10pm
March 7, 2017EconomyDemocratic socialism can build an economy that works for everyoneDemocratic socialist economist Kenneth Arrow passed away recently. His ideas could set the path for a popular alternative that doesn't include Donald Trump.

What was the problem with naming Islamophobia in Motion M103?

3 March 2017 - 5:58am
Anti-RacismEconomyPolitics in Canada

A short history of political correctness:

1. It began on the Marxist left. If you think you own the key to history -- what makes it work and where it's going based on "class analysis" -- it's only logical to grade your actions based on whether they're correct responses.

Figures such as Lenin and Mao talked about making a "correct analysis" of the forces: who's up, who's down, who's "the main enemy." From that you calculate a "correct line:" e.g., in 1939, do you attack Hitler or momentarily ally with him?

By the 1960s revival of the New Left, the notion had become playful. There was a strip called Correct Line Comix with a chubby cheery Mao. Leftists in restaurants would ponderously joke about ordering politically correct dishes. But the term itself -- referring to minorities or identities -- wasn't yet in wide use.

2. After the dazzling triumph of neo-conservative forces in the 1980s (Reagan-Thatcher-Mulroney), came a right-wing attack on a new catchphrase: political correctness. In my opinion this was part of an effort to bury the residue of the Marxist left, along with the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union and the Cold War.

At the same time it was an attempt to dismantle the left critique of capitalist society by draining it of its encompassing economic bite: splintering it into demographic fragments thus defusing the notion of popular "solidarity." Numerous cover stories demonized the evil force. But oddly, it was hard to find specific examples or advocates of PC, whatever it actually was. The real-life version of PC meanwhile -- a ban on critiquing sacred cows, such as capitalism or NATO -- stayed in force. In fact it still is. Even the elected president of the U.S. can't question NATO, long after its raison d'être has vanished. But I digress.

3. During the 1990s, in an amazing twist anticipated by the late Edward Said, many leftists, especially those lefter than pasty versions such as the NDP, more or less adopted the version of themselves painted by the right-wing critics of PCness.

They did this by adopting identity politics, focusing on minority rights, gender rights or human rights generally. (Said had written that Muslims, when smeared by overwhelming Western imagery portraying them all as terrorists, sometimes embraced that role in a desperate attempt to feel they existed at all.)

There was nothing wrong with these campaigns. They'd been underplayed for too long. Except that they were often accompanied by a de-emphasis, or abandonment, of economic issues, such as Who owns everything? and Who did they steal it from? There's no reason you can't include both.

But the intense stress on identity, combined with a burning focus on appropriate language, gave right-wing critics of PC far juicier targets than they'd originally had. The right, rather surprisingly, became the main advocates of free speech.

4. And so to Motion M103, the mild declaration (nothing more, no legal force at all) of concern for the rights and especially safety of Muslims in Canada. It's the PC controversy writ small.

Whose rights are of overriding concern here: the six Muslims murdered in Quebec City as they prayed (or the two Indian men in Kansas City shot down because their killer thought they were Iranians -- as if that might have justified it)? Or the free speech rights of critics of Islam, such as Ezra Levant and Conservative leadership candidates to pursue their detached scholarly critiques of Islamic theology and law?

The argument has focused mostly on language, especially the term, Islamophobia: if the bill said anti-Muslim instead, for instance, people would supposedly be less bothered.

I know words are supposed to matter but they don't much, in this case, because everyone knows what Islamophobia means. It's the same with anti-Semitism, a terribly imprecise term -- many Jews aren't by any stretch Semites, even if you manage to define it -- but everyone knows what it means.

In fact, Islamophobia is far more precise. Hatred of Muslims gets ginned up over their religion -- Islam. That's not been the case with hatred of Jews -- at least since the Middle Ages. In the modern era it's been based on racial, economic or global conspiracy myths. By comparison, the term, Islamophobia, reflects the issue exactly.

As Trump and others keep insisting, the "enemy" is Islam, with or without "radical." What's the matter, they taunt, are you afraid to say it? What would you call that if not Islamophobia?

This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: JMacPherson/flickr

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political correctnessidentity politicshuman rightsMarxismthe leftislamophobiaMotion M103Rick SalutinMarch 3, 2017Human rights protections raise new questions for freedom of speechA commitment to free speech doesn't reconcile easily with human rights codes that may compel respect and courtesy toward specific groups -- including their right to be addressed as they choose.Putting Black faces on our money won't paper over systemic racismRepresentation in its basest sense has come to stand in place for actual change when no change is happening at all.Joseph Boyden and the identity trapThe Joseph Boyden imbroglio raises fundamental questions about identity.

Don't be fooled by the Sanctuary City trend. Migrants in Canada are still at risk

3 March 2017 - 5:19am
March 3, 2017Don't be fooled by the Sanctuary City trend. Migrants in Canada are still at riskThough a number of cities across Canada are adopting "Sanctuary City" declarations, deportations persist and basic public services are still not being provided.

A message to young activists in the fight against Donald Trump

2 March 2017 - 6:05am
Political ActionUS Politics

President Donald Trump's first address to Congress was hailed by many as "presidential," primarily because he didn't stray far from his prepared remarks on the teleprompter. Despite the pomp and ceremony of the joint session, Trump's delivery of his 5,000-word speech was replete with inaccuracies, mischaracterizations and fabrications. While touted as his opportunity to unify the country, he instead rattled off a string of divisive policy prescriptions that are red meat to his base, from building a "great, great wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border to increasing military spending by tens of billions of dollars. Among the guests in the chamber was a remarkable 26-year-old African-American woman, Ola Ojewumi, seated in the gallery in her wheelchair.

Ola is alive today, she says, because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Trump spoke about what he calls the "imploding Obamacare disaster," calling on Congress to "repeal and replace" the law that has led to an increase of over 20 million people obtaining health insurance. "It was quite scary when I heard his comments about the Affordable Care Act," Ola told us on the Democracy Now! news hour. "I personally was affected. I am the survivor of a heart and kidney transplant. And I was able to receive insurance and stay on my parents' insurance until I was 26." She had the transplants when she was 11 years old, and her parents' health-insurance company tried to boot her off the plan several times. As a result of the transplants, she must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. Having recently beaten post-transplant lymphoma, she is a cancer survivor as well.

Despite all she has had to overcome personally, her main focus is helping others: "I get strength from my community and seeing the problems in the world. I knew I was meant to do social justice when, in recent months, I've watched the news and literally been brought to tears about the way America is headed and about the regression." In college, Ola founded Project ASCEND with a $500 tuition-refund check. The group's mission is "to create higher education opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged young people across the globe."

Many of the Democratic congresswomen wore white to the Trump speech, echoing the dress style of the American suffragettes of a century ago. "I had on my white jacket and a red dress. I was proud to see women standing up for what's right. It's really remarkable how much power we have as women in understanding that our voices will be heard, even if we aren't the majority," she said. "I'm proud of women on the Hill championing our rights and championing Planned Parenthood. They provide a voice for voiceless populations, including women of colour and women with disabilities."

Ola has volunteered with Planned Parenthood, handing out condoms in the annual gay-pride parade in Washington, D.C. "Planned Parenthood's work in passing the ACA and the ACA having a free birth-control option allowed for women with disabilities, like me, to receive free birth control," she explained. "We aren't included in the discussion. Women with disabilities, we have the highest rates of sexual assault, and we are more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than able-bodied women. So, Planned Parenthood Metro Washington gave women like me a voice and taught me how to really protest and advocate on behalf of my group."

Ola also is critical of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who said during her confirmation hearings that implementation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act should be left to the states, opening the potential that states could discriminate against students with disabilities. Ola said DeVos shows "a lack of understanding about equal access to education."

Ola Ojewumi has been through a lot, but clearly has much to more to do.

"My message to young activists is: Continue to advocate. Draw inspiration from what you see. Don't change the channel. Don't ignore what's going on in the world. Watch what makes you angry, so it can keep you fired up and keep you in the trenches fighting, because change does not just get done on the Hill. It gets done with your voices and your advocacy. Continue to speak out about anti-Semitism, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia. And be sure to be inclusive in your movements ... people with disabilities, people in wheelchairs, our rights matter. Make sure your movements are inclusive of everyone, from every background. We can really change the world together."

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,400 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan and David Goodman, of the newly published New York Times bestseller Democracy Now!: 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America.

This column was first published on Democracy Now!

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trump administrationObamacareU.S. Health CareU.S. politicsStop Trumpsocial changeAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanMarch 2, 2017Defeats of Andrew Puzder and Michael Flynn reveal power of grassroots movementsThe engine driving both the ouster of Andrew Puzder and Michael Flynn are movements of thousands upon thousands of people across the U.S., saying "no" to hate, bigotry and injustice.Silenced twice by U.S. Senate, Coretta Scott King's words live onSen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was interrupted while reading the words of Coretta Scott King on the U.S. Senate floor this week. What you should worry about when you worry about President Trump (Hint: not where Ivanka sits!)If you want to worry about the Trump Family, think about the fact Mr. Donald now has the firing codes to 4,000 nuclear weapons.

NDP leadership candidate Peter Julian 'just a regular guy' with lots of ambitious policies

2 March 2017 - 5:23am
March 2, 2017NDP leadership candidate Peter Julian 'just a regular guy' with lots of ambitious policiesThe first-to-declare NDP leadership candidate tells rabble that the party lost touch with the grass roots last time. If he is chosen leader, Julian pledges that will not happen again.