RE: “STRANGLING DEMOCRACY BY THE THRESHOLD” (Jan. 13, 2010)
Essentially, adopting what has infamously within the Canadian student movement became known as “Motion Six” is nothing less than a clear admonition of guilt, and a feeble attempt – if one can even laden it as such – to save an organization which has navigated dangerously off path. By locking members in, Motion Six will not do anything progressive to highlight the various management and directive flaws of the Canadian Federation of Students; rather it will force many people who no longer wish to participate to remain locked within the organizations clearly un-transparent bureaucratic structure… and we all know that pissed-off people generally aren’t the most productive of sorts. Moreover, it is ironic that a movement and an organization targeted at solidarity and open participation would set such a dangerous precedent. Forced “solidarity” is no longer solidarity, and open participation is no longer open if the door gets locked behind you. To elaborate upon what I mean when I say “locked in,” on top of increasing the threshold needed to trigger a referendum, from 10% to an ultra-ambitious and quasi-unattainable 20%, another detrimental clause enshrined within Motion Six is the one which states that referendums must be now limited to only two per three month term. Therefore, instead of looking inwards to assess the dissatisfaction which seems to be running rampant within the CFS, the majority of delegations decided to look past the widespread discontent and instead pledge blind faith to the CFS: we all remember what happened to Enron when it was left to run on blind faith, don’t we? Consequently, borne from this motion comes a scary realization, this being that not only are the majority of member locals not willing to force the CFS to fix the internal problems plaguing its current state of affairs with the ferocious intensity in which is duly required, but furthermore that these same member locals – including our current UMSU administration – are willing to stranglehold those who want out as a result, and in fact voted in favour of this fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. And as much as there is power in numbers, there is also devastatingly one-sided power in monopolizing upon the freedom of association, especially when you decide to no longer uphold or respect it. This callous attempt to institutionalize conformity will do nothing more than to decay the organization further – from the inside. The democratic deficit within student politics is growing larger by the AGM, and students should hold their respective student-union administrations to account.
David Safruk is an UMSU rep. for the Arts Student Body Council and member of the UMSU Finance and Campaigns Committees.
RE : Protecting our environment and our prosperity (Jan 11, 2010)
In the last edition of the Manitoban, campus Conservative Spencer Fernando misrepresented both the Campus Green Party and the Conservatives’ efforts in tackling climate change (Protecting our environment and our prosperity, Jan 11) As a long time Green Party member active in the recently formed Campus Greens group, and as an Indigenous solidarity activist, I was a key protagonist in the demonstration held outside of Rod Bruinooge’s Winnipeg South constituency office during the COP-15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen. While the demonstration was initiated by the Campus Greens, it was a public demonstration advertised widely on Facebook, circulated by UMSU to all student groups, spread by word of mouth, and posted on several Winnipeg activist list_servs. As such, I must clarify that only a key few people at the demonstration were Campus Greens, while the rest were ordinary citizens upset with, angry at, and disgusted by the Conservative-led government’s negotiating position in Copenhagen.
The incident involving the kicking of the Conservative bucket – a memorable metaphor when considering the Harper government in the next election – did not involve a member of the Green Party or even a U of M student. The person involved in this incident is known to me, however, and if Mr. Fernando would like I would be happy to track down his bucket and return it to him. What he failed to mention, however, was that the three Conservatives beating on buckets were doing so to try to drown out the demonstration taking place. Campus Conservatives should not have had to try to drown out our chants. Had the MP for the area, Rod Bruinooge, shown up at his office, and we have word that he was in town, our demonstration would easily have ceased for long enough to discuss his party’s position on climate change. What took place instead was not only the absence of Mr. Bruinooge, but in the middle of the afternoon when we arrived, in the middle of the week, the lights in the office were off and the doors were locked.
This strategy of avoiding controversy is not a hallmark of a democratic society, and is typical of the Conservatives. In the last two federal elections, often candidates, and especially incumbents not wishing to have their records scrutinized publicly, failed to attend several public forums and debate their challengers. For the second year in a row, the Prime Minister has prorogued Parliament when he was uncomfortable with the way things were going for his party and the government in the House of Commons. Last year, we’ll recall, a coalition was willing to overthrow his government – legitimate practice in a Parliamentary democracy – and this year serious questioning of Canada’s treatment of Afghani detainees, and the knowledge of this within government ranks, led the Prime Minister to shut down our democracy. Recall that the House of Commons belongs to all Canadians and that tax dollars run the government and the offices of elected MPs. When their doors are locked, is that money being used wisely?
As for Mr. Fernando’s claim that the cry of “racist” was hurled at Conservatives, I do not believe it was I who made the comment, but I think the context in which the word was used is important. The discussion had turned to the well-documented effects of the tar sands downstream of Fort McMurray on the Aboriginal peoples of Fort Chipewyan, currently suffering from a toxification of their life-ways, the Athabasca River and Lake Athabasca. Conservatives were claiming we could not shut down or cease expansion of the tar sands, as they are too valuable economically to Canadians.
We challenged this logic on two fronts: 1) That it is not most Canadians who are benefiting from the tar sands, but large multinational corporations and 2) That First Nations’ lives are not expendable for any industry, not to mention the overall death of the boreal ecosystem in that region of Alberta. When asked by an Indigenous solidarity activist if they thought Aboriginal lives and health were a price worth paying, the Conservatives tried to repeat how important the tar sands were economically. At this point the term “racist” was hurled. I think it is important to distinguish between two kinds of racism, and consider both as important to abolish. One is a direct racism, when insults are directed towards minorities, people of colour, Aboriginal people etc. Another is a structural racism that sees an entire country governed as though not all people are equal, and that people of one background – in this case Cree and Dene – can be sacrificed to one inefficient industry. Actually, this racism can be seen in many resource extraction industries.
One need only look locally at the history of Manitoba Hydro flooding the Cree homeland and destroying a vast stretch of land and waterways that were relied upon for their livelihood. It is this kind of racism that Conservatives were accused of embodying, and something our whole society needs to reckon with. Canada was awarded Fossil of the Day many times during the Copenhagen negotiations, and has won international Fossil of the Year three years in a row, an award given by a conglomeration of NGOs to the country most obstructing progress on a climate deal. There have been worldwide protests and many across Canada. The Conservative government is not leading, and only 5 years ago were denying climate change as human-caused altogether. With a government so out of step both with Canadians and the global scientific consensus, the demonstrations must continue, but I also look forward to debating this issue on campus with Conservatives.
Re: A Discussion Amongst [Sisters] and Brothers [from different mothers] (Jan. 6, 2010)
Royle Derbitsky wrote this comment. To get into the point that he excluded from the very start: the Palestinians out of Israel and Palestine. I am sorry if you, your brother, and the other “Brothers” from the men’s club cant explain your silence on the issue, you cannot justify excluding it outright from the discussion. Any discussion about any Palestinian must start and end with the refugee problem. Thousands of Palestinians are dieing in exile and who cant go back to live with their parents and on their lands. Israel thrived, and continues to do so, from their suffering. Especially when Israel goes blindly forward in its settlements and recruiting ever more Jews, those connected to the motherland and those who are as far from it to the moon. It is the Palestinians outside of Israel who got ethnically cleansed to allow for Jews to move in. Some of the refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars and other Israeli actions and policies, are still alive. Your over “pragmatism” avoids you from actually having a discussion, but at least you were quite open about it with your “brothers.”
You talk of Iran and Hamas as nothing, but hateful and negative who have been “destructive to the possibility of peace.” I agree partly with you in one small aspect. The energy flowing from Iran and Hamas is indeed negative, as what is coming out of them is all rooted in repression. Repression from Israel what fuels them! Changing Iran and Hamas to change Israel, is not a proactive solution. Iranian and Hamas officials who pile all Jews into one Zionistic category are racist, and do more harm than aid the Palestinians. But Israel wouldn’t come to be if it wasn’t for the same extremist Zionists behind it. I am going a step further; Iran and Hamas are doing a favor for Israel by opening a space for Israel to act legally. Their existence justifies the violence and wars of Israel. A fragmented population falls easy for ideology and extremism, but Iran and Hamas do not have everything wrong. Israel very militantly up to this day occupies Palestinian lands. Desperation from colonization is what leads Hamas members to throw rockets over wall not “drop in the price of oil.” Give them a tank, they will not throw rockets from the bush, but upfront where they are not visible from a distant.
You suggest that Hamas and Iran should go away and Fateh should be in power so that the Palestinians “might have different thoughts, making them more receptive.” Thanks again your over pragmatism, could lead us with a puppet state that runs like current Iraq. Who said there aren’t more views? Are you saying everyone in Canada is Conservative by default because Harper is in power?
Here is something that you could discuss with your brothers, Palestine is for the Palestinians, not the United States (supporter of Israel), nor Egypt (who is building an iron wall around Gaza, like Israel), nor Iran (who has its own political interest in the region). Palestinian’s land has been taken and settled by Israel, and this is where the root of the conflict is. The Palestinians are rightfully refusing to sign “peace treaties” and their imprisonment on reserves like ghettos. Ask your Aboriginal sisters and brothers in Canada about it. You will soon realize, that who is not receptive is Israel not the Palestinians. If you cannot find a “peaceful” solution to the problem of Palestine/Israel, maybe you should include the Palestinians and sisters outside of it. Please as much I appreciate your hope for peace, it is not enough when you limit your discussion and only direct the hate and extremism to one side. Pragmatism might be handy in dealing with numbers in business, but not when we are discussing human subjectivity in its full potential.