Connecting the Constitutional Dots of #IdleNoMore for the White (like me) Layperson

Wonderful history for anyone wanting to learn more about colonization and the need for #Idlenomore

Behind the Hedge

In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom issued a royal proclamation as an initial statement of British law and policy concerning it’s territory in the New World, both the old British Colonies along the Atlantic Coast and the newly conquered lands of New France.  Remember the Plains of Abraham?  Also, the Royal Proclamation declared clearly the Crown’s understanding of the status of the aboriginal people of the New World. To be clear, the Royal Proclamation is a statement of Canadian Constitutional law which remains in force today, both on its own and through the Constitution Act (1982).

The Royal Proclamation, together with the Quebec Act of  of 1774,  is the legal reason that Quebec continues to have a distinct Constitutional position as a Nation within Canada and as a Nation with distinct, constitutionally guaranteed legal institutions.

The First Nations are very clearly described in the Royal Proclamation as…

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“Our government has a clear objective to focus on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world. We take strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations whether popular or not, and that is what the world can count on from Canada.”

What Canada has proven is that Canadians cannot count on Canada with regards to freedom, democracy or human rights. While Canada may reject its failing grade with regards to Human Rights, Canadians are standing up and demanding better.

“We find it strange that the United Nations Special Rapporteurs are devoting their scarce resources to countries like Canada, instead of countries like Iran and Syria where citizens do not enjoy rights and are subject to serious human rights violations at the hands of those regimes,” Rick Roth said.

And we find it strange that Canada isn’t focusing on the serious human rights violations in Canada that have been happening for longer than Canada has been a nation.

On December 10th, the world woke up and something long overdue happened. The Idle No More movement is unprecedented in my generation, this is one of the first times that I have seen people in Canada organize together and not only advocate for change, but demand change. The demand for change does not only affect Aboriginal communities in Canada, but all Canadians. Idle No More is advocating for better human rights, better environmental treatment and a wake-up call to Canadians and the Canadian government in general.

Despite the fact that I am currently in Vietnam, this is a movement what I will be a part of, I am committed to doing everything I can for the rights of my own people and the rights of Aboriginal people and ethnic minorities around the world. I cannot advocate for international development or development unless I can see that it is done in my own country. I can’t stand up for the rights of people around the world unless I’m willing to stand up for my own rights. I urge you, Aboriginal or not, stand up for basic human rights, protect the environment and demand change from the Canadian government.

The message is simple: respect treaty rights, stop federal legislation that could affect the environment and improve living conditions in Aboriginal communities. 

This is about more than Canada’s reputation, this is about more than money. This is about making right for decades and decades of injustice, this is about making right on our commitment to protect our natural landscape. This is not radical, it is not uncalled for. This is common sense, basic human compassion and necessary.

“Once the last tree is cut down, once the last river is dried up, once the last fish is caught is when Harper’s going to realize you can’t eat money.” – Melvin Wilson, Cheam First Nation

Learn about Idle No More

Read more:

Wake-up call to Canada – findingdevelopment

Idle No More protesters remember Oka crisis – CBC

UN envoy blasts Canada for ‘self-righteous’ attitude over hunger, poverty – National Post

Idle No More protest continues in Vancouver – Vancouver Sun

A peoples’ movement that is Idle No More – CBC

Idle No More: On the meaning of Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike –

Idle No More: Women rising to lead when it’s needed most –

Chief vows to ‘die’ if necessary to improve the lot of Aboriginal People – Leader Post

Democracy, freedom, apologies and rights

‘Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.’

What kind of image does that bring up for you? One where citizens have the right to choose what happens in their country, with themselves? That’s what I picture. It’s not one where other nations determine the rule of law, rights, freedoms; it’s not one governed with weapons, fear, or oppression.

It is also not grant one nation the right or ability to impose views or beliefs onto another person or nation; it does not reign superior over any other thoughts, actions, or systems of beliefs. It simply one option.

I believe that it is inherently un-democratic to enforce ‘democratic’ beliefs on other nations by force, economic sanctions, tied aid, or any other means. I believe it is inherently un-democratic to invade other nations for the ‘sake of democracy.’

Now, I understand that ‘military interventions’ have the unique ability to stimulate the economy; particularly the economy of such nations that have large investments in weaponry; but it halts and harms the economies of the nations that are invaded, devastated, and destroyed.

Now, does having these beliefs make me un-democratic? No. Does believing this make me anti-USA? No. Even if I chose to protest or partake in a protest? No, still in the clear.

Then why must singers, performers, actors, etc. apologize for doing this very thing and/or risk being banned from the country?? Isn’t it democratic for them to be able to voice their opinions and act on those opinions? Particularly if those voices and actions are causing no harm. Why must all ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ dissent to popular opinion? Aren’t they simply doing what the definition of ‘democracy’ encourages them to do: have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives?

International Human Rights Day 2012

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a seminar in Hanoi for International Human Rights Day and I must say it was interesting. I will not be posting very much about it for now, but in the meantime here are some select quotes and upcoming events that I thought were interesting as they apply to citizens of Vietnam, Canada, and the world. This was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate human rights achievements in Canada, Vietnam and the world from 1948 to the present.

Continue reading

People should h…

People should have ownership of their own development.

– The Centre for Sustainable Rural Development

2012 USA Election

I’ve noticed an increased number of blog hits in the past while from people searching such things as ‘romney parental leave’ (or other variations of that) and ‘romney’s views on women.’ All I can say is that if you are taking the time to do your research, I commend you. Congratulations, an informed voter is my favourite kind.

Now all that being said, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have political representation that fights for basic human rights, and in my opinion, Romney is the farthest from that. Now, I’m not American, I am Canadian and living in Vietnam of all places. But I have seen first hand how American politics have the ability to influence politics and development around the world. No politician will be perfect, no one person or political party will meet all of your needs, but look beyond yourself and look at what is better for humankind in general. Do we want political representation that will force the world to take gargantuan steps BACKWARDS for womenkind? Do we want to regress (even more) on maternal health and gender equality? Do we want to spend money on ‘national defence’ that could be better used on health care and education? Not at all.

So I urge you, make the decision that is best for humankind, for people around the world, for the majority. Protect the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Protect existing human rights and women’s rights. Do not make the world move backward. We just can’t handle it anymore.

Protest the Police: Have Safe Sex. . .

Who knew that simply HAVING some of those items in the image to the left could be grounds for being arrested? I sure didn’t, but it seems that authorities in several cities in the USA disagree with me.

When I saw in the news that aid and health agencies were handing out condoms to sex workers to help minimize the risk of HIV and STI transmission (as well as the risk of pregnancy) I thought; “that’s amazing! Finally moving past stigmas and making decisions based on basic human health needs.” Then I saw that police and public authorities were confiscating those condoms essentially giving women the option to hand the condoms over or go to jail and I was enraged. I was even more enraged when I found out that this was happening in the USA – which in my opinion is a country that is quickly and systematically removing basic health and rights from women. What is most sad about this, is that I wasn’t even surprised to hear about it.

What I find worst about this scenario is that possession of condoms isn’t illegal, yet authorities are making women scared to have condoms, scared to use them, scared to have safe sex. Instead of protecting women and allowing safe sex options and transitional methods to give women alternatives to sex work, authorities are making sex work even less safe and even harder to get out of.

People should be praising women around the world who make the effort and insist on condom use, yet women are being punished for trying to protect themselves. So everyone who has access and ability, use condoms, be safe. Not only are you protecting yourself, but you’ll be sending a message to authorities worldwide who seem to want to limit women’s access to safe and affordable contraception.

The irony of this situation is that Washington D.C. – one of the cities where Human Rights Watch has documented this ridiculous condom possession and jail scenario – is actually hosting the 19th Annual International AIDS Conference.

New Year’s Revisited

This past weekend marked Canada Day, which for many Canadians is the only nationalist display that they will participate in throughout the year. However the weekend also marked the halfway point for any New Year’s Resolutions, so I thought I’d check in with myself and see how the year has been so far.

While I never set any formal resolutions, I have one phrase that I’ve sort of reminded myself of each year when New Year’s comes around and that is ‘Qui Sera, Sera’. Being a bit of a control freak, I tend to find it difficult to take and accept things as they come and learn to adapt and its been useful to remember to take a step back and let things happen. While my control freak tendencies are not gone, I feel as though the past six months have forced me to learn to accept things that I have no control over (including course changes, life changes, family changes, school in general, and everything related to my placement). As a lot of those changes are culminating and wrapping up and as there are MANY more to come, I feel its important to remind myself of this again and to remember what it means to me and to ensure that I step back when I need to.

A second effort that I’ve been making has been to get healthier, and this is one that I think has been going fairly well. I’ve become hooking on exercise (especially if it doesn’t involve cardio!), but in the next half of the year I’d like to challenge myself by trying to love running.

In essence, I think this is one of the first personal(ish) posts on this blog but I think its important to help hold myself accountable to myself and remember that I can put myself first and that I will continue to learn and grow as the year goes on. Do you like having personal posts to read, or would you like me to keep things development related?

How do the real local champions tolerate us?

“How do the real local champions tolerate us, international ‘experts’ who rotate in and out of their countries and keep showing up – different faces, same stupid questions – like a bad penny? What do we mean when we talk about supporting local actors? And are we really ready to relinquish control, face our shortcomings and humbly listen?”

Marianne Elliott

Multinational Agricultural Biotechnology Corporation

Multinational Agricultural Biotechnology Corporation. What does that even mean?

Well, it’s a few of the words used to describe Monsanto – a company often viewed as the universal bad guy of seed and fertilizer production. I know there’s a lot of debate around the benefits and harm associated with using and supporting Monsanto products and I don’t feel as though it’s my place to take a side when there are benefits for some people. I’m just here to share what I know and a little bit of how I feel – from the perspective of someone who grew up with no access to large scale farming and no access to any Monsanto products.

Historically, companies couldn’t own seeds or own the rights to seeds. If you wanted a new plant or a variation of one, you went to your friends, family, neighbours and took clippings, for crops to carry over you’d save a portion of the plants and dry out the seeds to have enough for the next season: this model is one that I saw and experienced growing up in Northern Ontario. In many other parts of the world, this model changed in the 1980’s when the USA Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allowed patents for “live human-made micro-organisms” and set the groundwork for seeds to become commodities, rather than elements of a community or neighbourhood.

This vote essentially developed the economic and legal framework that allows a few multinational corporations to hold monopoly over the global seed market and has allowed Monsanto become the leader in that with over 674 biotechnology patents for their products. The business model that Monsanto follows is genius and allows them to maintain their monopoly. They began by developing their own pesticide called Roundup and their own pesticide resistant seeds termed ‘Roundup Ready’, the pesticide killed all plants except for those grown from Roundup Ready seeds, guaranteeing the joint sale of those products.

Now, where a lot of the controversy enters is the next element of Monsanto’s business model: farmers who purchase Monsanto seeds must sign an agreement guaranteeing that they will not save seeds to use from season to season, or sell the seeds to other farmers. This means that the whole practice of saving seeds and sharing products has been destroyed, it also means that fields may be subject to testing from Monsanto to ensure compliance. While this does make sense, it also means that nearby farmers who may choose not to use Monsanto products could have their farms compromised as seeds may blow into their fields and make them subject to legal cases regarding their use of Monsanto patented seeds.

I understand both sides: the ease and security of using Monsanto seeds to increase yields and quality of produce, and the struggle associated with trying to maintain traditional and/or organic methods of farming. But the question I consider is ‘What about the diversity?’ We all know that for successful farming and crop production we need diversity; diversity of crops, diversity in crop species and subspecies, and diversity in soil nutrients. But what about diversity at the macro level? Is it truly safe to eliminate biodiversity in seed production? Is it safe to eliminate diversity in the market? How much faith can be put in one company that holds a monopoly on agricultural production? Should there be more competition at that level?

Do we really have choices about which companies we’re choosing to support?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Let’s Talk About Sex.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Check it out!

Observations from Toronto

I spent this past weekend in Toronto and I had a few observations that I thought might be interesting to share..

Observation 1

One of the first places I went to was the World’s Biggest Bookstore; I love it there, I would go there everyday if it was feasible and wouldn’t destroy my bank account. I’ve been going there at least once a year for a pretty long time, at least 5 years now and my favourite section has undergone a few changes. If you go upstairs and head to the side wall there used to be a tiny section on international politics and international relations. You used to be able to hunt through a few books to try to find one that you hopefully hadn’t already read. Everything in that section used to be fairly similar, my bookcase at home can attest to that.. There would mainly be some books on HIV/AIDS, a few on democracy, maybe one or two on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now when you walk up those stairs and head to the side of the room there is an entire wall dedicated to international politics, the books fall into a wide range of topics, and new books are brought in weekly. I find it incredible how much interest and expertise has expanded on these topics, but I also find it disheartening how so many of the books are written too quickly to include the necessary background research to get a full grasp and thorough perspective on the topic of choice. What is also interesting is how the topics have expanded, the books have moved beyond looking at the western world as the ‘ideal model of development’ and have started to look for a wide variety of definitions of development and methods of achieving it. It’s moved past what we used to view development as and has almost made it undefinable. It’s looking at food politics, international governance, equality, access, education, health, and assessing each topic as an equal aspect. It’s brought ‘development’ into a multi-disciplinary, interwoven topic, which is where I think it should have been from the beginning..

Observation 2

In the past few years I’ve started to frequent the cultural studies section on the upper floor of the World’s Biggest Bookstore as well. This section includes anthropology, gender issues, aboriginal authors, and numerous other interesting topics, just last year each of these topics had their own mini section in the larger cultural studies section. This year gender studies had somehow disappeared from its home in cultural studies and has moved into a new section on ‘controversial knowledge’. What does that even mean? I view it as a smaller statement that gender issues isn’t considered common knowledge or always appropriate for ‘polite conversation’ as people have told me.. This scares me. It scares me that ideas that over half our population are influenced by, or experience can be considered controversial. Is it controversial that women have different experiences than men? No. Is it controversial that female authors share those experiences? Maybe, but it depends on who you ask.

Observation 3

For supper on Saturday night we decided to go to O’Noir, a restaurant where you eat in the dark. This experience is meant to demonstrate a very small part of how life is different for the blind. I simultaneously loved and was terrified by the experience. As most of you know, I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to control every aspect of my own life and know everything I’m doing well in advance. So this was difficult for me. It was hard to be in a room where I don’t know where I am, who else is in the room, where I’m sitting relative to others, or to guess that I’ve successfully put food on my fork. And to be honest, I probably had at least 20 forkfuls of air.

But, this really made me think about how much I take being able to see for granted. Everything that I experience is based on a combination of my sense and without access to one, everything changes. Many people in the room were talking much louder than normal to overcompensate for not being able to see (which scared me too). But I could smell my food more, smaller portions felt larger, it was delicious.

It was also a great experience to put myself out of my comfort zone again, like a test run for next year, and it was interesting to see how I adapted. As a people watcher, I couldn’t observe those around me, but instead I could listen and focus on the meaning of their words, I could imagine what people were doing. As someone who loves to cook, I couldn’t focus on the presentation or look at what I was eating, but I could really taste it and experience it in a different way.

Gender Mainstreaming in Development

Today is International Women’s Day and as many of you know, I have a fairly strong interest in gender issues and women’s issues so I thought I would put up some information on gender mainstreaming, something that isn’t often understood and even less often put into practice.

As Robert Zoellick, former director of the World Bank once said, “Investing in women is smart economics”. This brings light to the importance of putting gendered knowledge at the forefront of development, understanding the different needs of women and the ways in which women will be affected differently than man from the same policies – this idea can also be referred to as Gender Mainstreaming.

Gender mainstreaming in development is a relatively new phenomenon, which occurred from the realization that women have traditionally been excluded from development theory and practice and that gender relations had to be dealt with in the specific context that they occur. Gender mainstreaming has only been in practice for roughly thirty years and was defined for the first time in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women as the ‘integration of women and gender issues into mainstream policy areas… Gender mainstreaming is not something that has or should replace the efforts to focus on women separately. Instead it regards gender analysis as a base to any intervention’. This practice ensures that women are able to benefit directly from development work and signifies a shift away from the trickle-down theory and into a more productive, inclusive practice.

Now how does gender mainstreaming work? For effective gender mainstreaming a strong gendered analysis must be included in all aspects of the development program and policy. Examples of this can be found at the International Center for Research on Women and can include simply looking at how men and women are affected and react differently from the same policy or practice. The most famous case of this was in 1976 when it became clear that international development was benefitting men and women extremely differently and leading to unequal development, this occurred because of a misconception that there were no female headed households, and policies were therefore developed with the idea of male-led households in mind. Had the development agents gone into the communities at hand and met with community leaders their programs could have been tailored to suit male and female headed households and would have better benefited the entire community.

As development continues to change and grow, perhaps gender mainstreaming can move away from simply distinguishing between men and women and can start to include gender orientation, sexual orientation, and look beyond traditional views of households and communities.

I’ll be putting up more in the next few days about women and development, so keep your eyes peeled! And please feel free to leave feedback about any news or ideas you’d like to see me write about.