Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I have a voice. And I intend to use it.

Since emigrating to Canada, I've become interested in indigenous peoples' (also called first nations) rights. At the end of a really interesting mini conference about First Nations' issues, they were letting members of the audience go up to the microphone to make comments. I felt I had something to say. But would it come out the way I planned it in my head? I stood up and walked over to the microphone, more worried about muddling my words than than the fact I may stutter. "I have a voice," I thought to myself, "And I intend to use it." And then I spoke:

"Thank you everyone for a really enlightening experience. I have learnt a lot these past two days and am armed with facts and knowledge about first nations' issues. I have only been in Canada for a year now but already feel more informed than some people I speak to, many who repeat tired misconceptions about 'The Indians'. Well we will all know at least one person who is uninformed about these issues and I honestly believe that if every person here were to speak to just one person that we know, counter their misunderstandings then collectively we can make a big difference, and further progress can be made."

Singing a New Song: Creating a Renewed Relationship with First Nations, Spring 2013

With Robert Morales, Indigenous Human Rights & Aboriginal Rights Lawyer & Chief Negotiator at Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group

Photo credits- Kevin Doyle

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First they came for the sick,poor and disabled. Now they're coming for you

First the Tories came for the public sector, and you didn't speak out, because you aren't in the public sector:

Then they came for the students, and you didn't speak out, because you aren't a student: 

Then they came for the poor, and you didn't speak out because you aren't poor:

Then they came for the single parents, and you didn't speak out because you aren't a single parent:

Then they came for the unemployed, and you didn't speak out, because you aren't unemployed: 

Then they came for the long-term sick, and you didn't speak out, because you aren't long-term sick:

Then they came for the immigrants, and you didn't speak out, because you aren't an immigrant: 

Then they came for the school pupils, and you didn't speak out, because you are no longer a pupil:

If you don't do something about it, there'll be no one left to speak for you.

So sign this petition before it's too late!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Say no to Enbridge: Say yes to protecting the environment, first nations' wishes and the BC economy

Since moving to British Columbia I have developed an addiction. An addiction to the wonder and beauty of the wildlife and natural beauty that is present wherever I go. When I head back to the UK for a few weeks in May, I fear I may start randomly hugging trees in Manchester in order to feel ‘at home’. British Columbia’s coastal waters are stunning in their beauty and richness. Pods of orca whales ride the tidal currents, salmon make their spawning journey from the sea up hundreds of rivers, and seabirds dart over the water. The mountains of Washington are visible across the water ten minutes from where I live.
I feel very strongly about protecting British Columbia’s environment and am determined to stop anything or anyone who wants to destroy it. That is why I am opposing the energy company Enbridge’s plans to build a pipeline (called the Northern Gateway Pipeline) from the Alberta tar sands, (the most environmentally destructive form of energy on the planet) to BC’s coast (1) If built, this pipeline would cross over 1000 salmon bearing streams and rivers carrying 200,000 barrels of petroleum products a day using massive oil tankers. The simple fact is, BC, Canada or the world doesn’t need this pipeline; we don’t need to expand the tar sands, in fact it would be very immoral to do so for a number of reasons. Firstly, climate change. The tar sands are one of the largest remaining deposits of oil in the world. Areas of wilderness the size of small countries are chewed up and replaced by a landscape of toxic lakes, open pit mines and pipe lines. If we are going to kick our addiction to fossil fuels, we need to stop building the infrastructure that facilitates the expansion of their use. (2)
Secondly, the pipeline would compromise the lifestyles of First Nations who depend on the region’s lands and waters for their livelihoods, culture and health. That is why First Nations groups from all over the west coast from Alaska to Washington have formed a historic unbroken ‘Wall of opposition’ to oil exports through their lands. Below is an excerpt from the Fraser Declaration:
“In upholding our ancestral Laws, Title, Rights and Responsibilities, we declare: We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, or similar tar sands projects to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River Salmon.” (3)
As part of its million dollar ad campaign to launch support for the project, Enbridge’s adverts mix shots of natural beauty with talk of ‘creating jobs’ and the ‘economic benefits’. They don’t mention that the plan would only create around 600 jobs whereas in the event of an oil spill, 45,000 jobs would be at risk. If this pipeline gets approved, the only people that would enjoy economic benefits would be the oil companies and their executives. Millions of dollars in their pockets, whilst British Columbia takes the risk of an oil spill. (4)
The bitumen in the oil is not the same as conventional oil; it is more likely to cause corrosion in the pipelines through which it flows, further increasing the risk of an oil spill. One of Canada’s top oil experts says some oil sands blends are likely to sink in the case of a spill, complicating clean up efforts. (5)
Enbridge has experienced 800 oil spills since 1999 (6) and the pipeline has to travel through the Great Bear Rainforest, known as ‘Canada’s Amazon’. This is the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. (7) One single spill from just one of the supertankers could release up to one half of the oil spilled in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. (8) An oil spill here would devastate the fishing and tourism industry, as well as several endangered species, such as the The Kermode (“spirit”) bear. An accident, caused by weather, mechanical malfunction or human error, would only be a matter of time. The critical habitat of four iconic species, Pacific Humpback Whale, Marbled Murrelet, Mechako Sturgeon, and Southern Mountain Caribou has been left unprotected and vulnerable to pollution, fragmentation and destruction by projects such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline. (9)
No wonder Enbridge deliberately removed 1000 sq km of islands off their route safety video and map to make the oil tanker route look less treachorous than it actually is. (10)
British Columbia has an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife that needs to be protected from profit hungry oil corporations like Enbridge who think of nothing but profits. I’m not prepared to see my new home destroyed, the first nations’ concerns ignored, or the threat of increased global warming all in the name of increased profits for any oil company.
It’s in everyone’s interests to protect the environment and stop this pipeline. So whether you are against the pipeline because of the increase in global warming, the oppression of First Nations, or the fact you don’t much like looking at a sea bird drenched in oil, or perhaps like me, all three, please add your name to tell the Canadian Prime Minister that you are opposed to the Enbridge Pipeline. Together we can stop it:
For more information on the Enbridge pipeline and the campaign to stop it, please visit the following links:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Yes I'm a Feminist. And so are you (probably)

It’s International Women’s Day and I’ve heard a few people say ‘Why can’t we have International Men’s Day??” Well the whole point of today is to is to raise political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide, and to examine them in a hopeful manner. It’s like asking for a ‘Hetrosexual Pride Day’ or a ‘White History Month’, in a way we have these EVERYDAY. Of course as a straight white male lucky enough to be born in a rich liberal democratic developed country I am fully aware of my privilege in life, and you could say that that’s why I seek to fight injustice.
Although Conservapedia probably defines Feminism as a ‘A man-hating communist plot to force us all to have a sex change that will bring about world destruction’, the actual definition is ‘The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’ (Oxford English Dictionary). (1)
Therefore I am a feminist. But opponents of feminism would seek to distract you from the gender inequalities in the world today by claiming that feminism would result in ‘ripping apart the family unit’ and the marginalisation of men in society. But that is bollocks. Feminism strives for male liberation too- by allowing women the freedom to choose their paths in life without any preconditioning based on their gender, men will have the same liberty.
For instance, men are not allowed to assume certain gender roles- laws on maternity leave are not equal in the UK. Fathers are not allowed to be with their children to the same extent as mothers. This is an example of sexist gender roles, which feminism strives against.
Some people claim that men cannot be feminists, but to my mind excluding half the population of society, saying ‘No you can’t join us’ is counterproductive, and of course how can you possibly change society without changing the attitudes of men? The fact is you don’t have to be a woman to dislike the fact that women are underpaid, undervalued and exploited.
Despite massive advances in the status of women, no one can deny patriarchy once you learn the facts & statistics of gender inequality in the world today. There are people that will tell you it only happens in ‘foreign lands’ but that is far from the truth:
Forty years after the Equal Pay Act, women working full time in the UK are still paid on average 14.9% less per hour than men. (2)
Women are banned from becoming bishops in the Church of England (despite the head of the church being a woman). (3)
In the UK, Men outnumber women in parliament 4 to 1, and just 4 of the 23 cabinet members are women. (4)
And across the world, Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. Just 16 of the world’s 188 directly elected leaders are women, and less than 19% of the world’s MPs are women. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. (4)
Aside from statistics, the way society shames women for having one or more sexual partners by using pejorative terms whilst men are praised is disgraceful. Thankfully we have moved on from believing that the only acceptable expression of female sexuality is through marriage, but there is still one rule for men and another for women. If men are promiscuous, they are lauded by their peers, whereas women are labelled ‘sluts’. Women can even be given this label just for wearing what society deems ‘provocative clothing’.
As this article was meant to be purely an introduction to feminism, there is of course a lot more examples of gender inequality & a lot more to feminism than the basics I have outlined here. I intend to cover these issues more in depth in further articles for Politics UK.
Why not now ask yourself ‘Am I feminist?’ and may I also ask you to add your name to stop violence against women in Afghanistan:
(1)- http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/feminism?q=feminism
(2)- http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=321
(3)- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9689903/Crisis-as-Church-of-England-votes-against-women-bishops.html
(4)- http://ukfeminista.org.uk/about/
Published by Politics UK here: http://politicsuk.eu/yes-im-a-feminist-and-so-are-you-probably/