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Resources, Research, and Rights: Buttressing Borders in 2023

April 06, 2023

Author

Adele Perry and Pauline Tennent

By Adele Perry and Pauline Tennent

Illustration by Cassie Dong

Buttressing Borders in 2023

 

On 25 March 2023, changes were announced to expand the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States beyond formal ports of entry, to the entirety of the 6,416 KM Canada-US border, what historian Benjamin Hoy has called “a line of blood and dirt.”[1] These changes have been greeted with immediate and, from the perspective of the Centre for Human Rights Research, pressing concerns for asylum seekers, refugee claimants, and other people on the move.

The STCA was signed in 2002, and came into effect two years later. It requires that refugee claimants request protection in the first “safe” country they arrive in. Under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the United States is the only country considered a safe third country. This means that those seeking refuge at a land border crossing in Canada cannot make a claim for asylum if they have previously arrived at an official port of entry in the United States, and similarly, that refugee claimants traveling via Canada to seek asylum in the U.S. will be turned back to Canada. The expansion of the STCA is taking place in a global context of violence and deaths at borders and border crossings, of preventable deaths at immigration detention centres, of xenophobia and fear-mongering over issues of asylum, and of states around the world outsourcing or abdicating on their international responsibilities to those seeking refuge.

Since its introduction almost two decades ago, the STCA has decreased the number of people who make refugee claims in Canada, fulfilling the Canadian government’s goal in pursuing the deal. In 2004, Canada received roughly 8,900 refugee claims at claims at border points of entry; after the STCA was introduced Canada received just over 4,000.[2]

Those who work with, and advocate for, asylum seekers and refugees raised concerns about the STCA from its beginnings. Among their concerns was that the U.S. was not a “safe” country, particularly when then President Donald Trump suspended the temporary protective status designation. In 2022, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International Canada, the Council of Churches, and eight individual applicants asked the Supreme Court of Canada to consider whether the STCA violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, and called on the court “to end a policy that cruelly bars many people from seeking refugee protection in Canada.” This decision is still before the court.

Rather than withdrawing from the STCA and upholding Canada’s international obligations to refugee claimants, the current federal government has opted to expand the STCA. This represents a shift in the posture of the current Canadian government, who have made much of Canada’s willingness to welcome refugees.[3] The agreement to expand the STCA was first signed in March 2022, and kept under wraps for almost a year. It will send more refuge-seeking migrants back to the U.S. It requires that people not to make a refugee claim within 14 days of entering Canada, essentially asking that they hide during their first days in a new country, making them more vulnerable.

This amendment was negotiated without meaningful consultation with experts, service-providers, or those with lived experience. It is now being rolled out quickly, without adequate training to those tasked with enforcing it, and with inadequate communication to all those who may be impacted. The expansion of the STCA has occurred while the case is still before the Supreme Court. The Canadian Council on Refugees points out that applying the STCA between recognized border crossings will not stop people from crossing the border between them: “it will simply make them more irregular, dangerous, and underground.”[4] The unofficial crossing at Roxham Road might be shuttered by changes to the STCA, but people will find ways, even when they put themselves at risk.

The story of changes to the STCA is unfolding as we speak. The discovery of 9 people dead – four members of the Iordache family, four members of the Chaudhary family, and a man from Akwesasne – after trying to cross from Canada to the U.S. through Mohawk Akwesasne Territory suggests that concerns about the impact of tightening border controls are not unfounded. Nor are concerns that such issues will affect Indigenous communities themselves bisected by the border.

Watercolour image of a global map where the Pacific Ocean is centred.
Pacific-Centred Map. DEMIS Mapserver/Wikimedia

In light of these changes, the CHRR urges people to learn about refuge, migration, and rights in Canada. Borders and Human Rights is one of our four research themes and have been the subject of this year’s Critical Conversation series. CHRR research affiliate Shauna Labman from the University of Winnipeg’s Global College examines refugee law, resettlement, and refugee sponsorship, and argues that Canada should suspend the STCA. University of Manitoba sociologist and research affiliate Lori Wilkinson studies resettlement and the integration experiences of immigrants and refugees, most recently those from Afghanistan. You can watch a recording of a Critical Conversation seminar on “Rethinking Borders” with Drs. Lorena Fontaine, Rob Lorway, Lori Wilkinson, Shauna Labman, and Shayna Plaut here.

In this year’s first Critical Conversation “Talking Borders, Colonialism, Resistance, and Human Rights,” panelists Harsha Walia and Dr. Alex Wilson outlined the inherent violence that occurs from borders and from processes or bordering and ordering. And they encouraged us to think beyond this state-centric view of borders. What would immigration and refugee policy look like if it began from the starting point that No One is Illegal, that Indigenous law and sovereignty mattered, and that Canada had obligations to people on the move under both international and domestic law? These are big questions, but they are ones that very much matter.

 

You can learn more about changes to the STCA at the following open-access sources.

 

[1] Benjamin Hoy, A Land of Blood and Dirt: Creating the Canada-United States Border across Indigenous Lands (New York, Oxford University Press, 2021).

[2] Canadian Council on Refugees, “Statement on the expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement,” https://ccrweb.ca/en/statement-expansion-safe-third-country-agreement.

[3] Laura Macdonald and Jeffrey Ayers, “The Safe Third Country Must End: Much is at stake in Canada’s appear of a court ruling against a harmful refugee pact with the United States,” The Monitor, 15 October 2020, https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/safe-third-country-agreement-must-end

[4] Canadian Council on Refugees, “Statement on the expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement,” https://ccrweb.ca/en/statement-expansion-safe-third-country-agreement.

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Resources, Research, and Rights: Moving Beyond the Symbolic: International Women’s Day and the Work to be Done

March 08, 2023

Author

Pauline Tennent

Moving Beyond the Symbolic: International Women’s Day and the Work to be Done

International Women’s Day (IWD) is recognized by the United Nations (UN) and the international community to celebrate the collective efforts of women – acknowledging the work, the sacrifices, and the social, economic, cultural, linguistic, and political contributions of women to society. Celebrated annually, IWD has its roots in the labour movement when in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City to demand better pay, shorter working hours, and the right to vote.[1] The following year, in 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day in the United States. At the 1910 International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, 100 women agreed to communist activist Clara Zetkin’s (1857-1933) suggestion of making the day an international observance, and in 1911, International Working Women’s Day was marked for the first time by over a million people in Europe.[2]

Image of women with their fists raised in Mexico, 1975
The World Conference of the International Women’s Year Opens in Mexico City on June 19, 1975. UN Photo/B Lane

After decades of organizing and activism by women, the UN hosted the 1975 World Conference on Women in Mexico, the outcome of which was a ten-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women. This report recognized the significant differences in the experiences of women around the world. It identified the role of women in the “elimination of imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism”[3] and outlined recommendations for governments, institutions, organizations, employers and unions, media, non-governmental organizations, and political parties with specific attention to the needs of different groups of women in the fight for equality. As part of this Plan of Action, the UN officially declared March 8 as an international observance. IWD is now celebrated in countries throughout the world, contributing to a growing international women’s movement.

Yet, this time for celebration is tempered by the continued need for organizing, for resistance, and for protest to achieve even the most basic of human rights for women, girls, and gender-diverse people.

In countries around the world, we see the ongoing and alarming assaults against women.  Gender-based violence is embedded in heteropatriarchal societies and stands as one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world. Globally, an estimated 736 million women, or one in three women, have been subjected to intimate partner violence at least once in their life,[4] with initial evidence showing that this intensified for women across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.[5] It is estimated that in the Canada, as many as 85% of women in prison have experienced childhood abuse[6] and intimate partner violence[7] at some point during their life.

That violence also extends to non-partner violence, and in the Canadian settler colonial context, murdered and missing Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual Plus people (MMIWG2S+) is disastrous human rights crisis.

Also owing to ongoing processes of colonialism, and a function of  a racist criminal justice system and socioeconomic marginalization, we are witnessing the overrepresentation of Indigenous women in Canadian prisons, with Indigenous women now accounting for almost half of the female inmate population in federally run prisons,[8] despite accounting for less than 5% of the population. For youth, Indigenous girls accounted for 60 percent of all female youth admitted to provincial and territorial corrections systems.[9] This overrepresentation occurs within broader patters of systemic discrimination and incarceration also of Black women,[10] women who are street-involved, and sex workers.

We have witnessed the deliberate targeting of, and violence against, trans women in countries around the world including the transphobic murder of 16 year old Brianna Ghey in broad daylight in February 2023 in the United Kingdom. This transphobic violence exists alongside and perhaps as a result of the rise of anti-transgender rhetoric, laws, and legislation.

We are also witnessing the deliberating targeting of women human rights defenders. In Iran, the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in September 2022, in the custody of the morality police after being arrested for an “improper” hijab, sparked demonstrations across the country, including in schools and universities. Iranian authorities have used excessive and lethal force in their response to the protests.

The harassment and deliberate targeting of women in politics threatens civil and political rights and is a barrier for their participation, thus threatening democratic process. This harassment, worsened in part by the anonymity afforded by online platforms, is accentuated towards Indigenous and racialized women, both within the political domain but also in the broader society. When Black artist Jully Black performed the Canadian national anthem and showed support to Indigenous peoples by changing one word of the anthem, she was subjected to a barrage of online vitriol. Harassment and discrimination against Muslim woman also demands our attention – a Manitoba-based report on Islamophobia found that 73% of those reporting experiences of Islamophobia were women.[11]

In countries affected by war, such as Ukraine, recent policy papers show the devastating impacts of conflict on women and girls, including as it relates to food insecurity, malnutrition, increased gender-based violence, and refugee flows. Since Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban in August 2021, there has been systematic violation of the human rights of women and girls, with women’s rights defenders have been deliberately targeted with unlawful detention, and women and girls have been forbidden from attending schools and universities, accessing work, sport and recreation, and public spaces. and women’s rights have been. This is by no means a new or unique phenomenon – the impact of war and conflict on women has been long documented,[12] yet women are also typically excluded from peace negotiations.

Orange brochure from Rise Up Archive stating Abortion is Our Right.
Abortion is Our Right Pamphlet-Women’s Liberation Movement Toronto (1970). Available at: Rise Up! A digital archive of feminist activism.

We also see the reversal and dismantling of the legal rights that have been afforded to women in countries around the world. In the United States, the overturning of Roe vs Wade by the Supreme Court in 2022 gives individual states the power to implement laws that can restrict and/or ban access to abortion, with bodily control falling under the purview of the state. This overturning will not stop abortions, but it will undoubtedly stop safe abortions, and the impacts of which will be detrimental to groups of people already systemically marginalized and historically excluded in society, including Black, Indigenous, people of colour, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.

Image: Caregiving Work in Canada. Poster by Kwentong Bayan Collective Introduction by Ethel Tungohan. Available at: https://graphichistorycollective.com/project/poster-3-caregiving-work-canada

Women are also experiencing widening economic inequalities, inequalities that have been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women are more likely to be in low-wage and precarious employment positions, in undervalued positions and sectors, all while carrying the load of the social reproduction of labour.  As an example, care workers in Canada, many of whom were immigrants working in a low-wage sector have faced high rates of COVID infections, widespread job losses, and ongoing and debilitating financial challenges.

The Centre for Human Rights Research (CHRR) at the University of Manitoba was established in 2012 with the goal of supporting and fostering research around human rights, broadly defined. Researchers associated with the CHRR work to address the myriad of ways through which heteropatriarchy, colonialism, and white supremacy have impacted different groups of women. Researchers working with the CHRR have also highlighted those voices that have been deliberately silenced and ignored.

Dr. Jane Ursel is undertaking a longitudinal study to understand why attrition rates in sexual assault cases have been impervious to change. Professor of Law Brenda Gunn has argued for the importance of using a human-rights based approach to understand and address violence against Indigenous women. Dr. Kiera Ladner and Dr. Shawna Ferris are leading the effort to create a digital archive of the Walking With Our Sisters project initiated by Métis artist and activist Christi Belcourt. Dr. Karine Duhamel, Dr. Adele Perry, and Dr. Jocelyn Thorpe have created a podcast (produced by Olivia Macdonald Mager) on some of the links between MMIWG2S+ and dwindling public transit options. Dr. Lindsay Larios works on research exploring issues of reproductive justice in the Canadian context. Dr. Nancy Hansen is a disability rights scholar and activist who explores the employment experiences of women with physical disabilities and disabled women’s access to primary health care. Dr. Julia Smith focuses on the history and politics of women’s labour activism. Dr. Lorna Turnbull leads research projects looking at the leading court decisions regarding motherwork and equality, the overlap between children in the child welfare system and youth in the criminal justice system, and economic supports for caregivers.

Alongside the widespread challenges faced by women and girls in countries around the world, we continue to see, as we always have – women’s resistance. Women are at the forefront in calls to action for gender-based violence, and here in Canada, Indigenous advocate and activists have been relentless in their demands for action. While the US overturned Roe vs. Wade, advances in access to abortion have been made in countries such as Ireland, and with movements such as the ‘Green Wave’ movement in Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia. Women lead the way in climate justice movements, as well as movements for food sovereignty.

IWD’s origins lay in socialist-feminist struggles. Feminist movements that have focused on equal rights have often failed to make substantive change for all women, or account  for the ongoing impacts of colonialism on Indigenous women, the experiences of racialized women and girls living at the intersection of racism and misogyny, the impacts of disability, or the particular experiences of trans and non-binary people.

Women’s March, London, 2017. Image; R4vi, CC BY-SA

International Women’s Day must go beyond the symbolic. It must work to challenge white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and settler colonialism and build networks and communities of solidarity and allyship if we are to work towards enacting social and political change for all women.  So we can pause to celebrate, and then we, collectively, must continue to do the (primarily unpaid) work.

 

 

 

[1] For an overview of some of the key moments in the history of IWD, and in the labour movements that were crucial in its development, including prior to 1908, see: www.un.org/en/observances/womens-day/background

[2] Bianca Walther. “Once Upon a Time In Copenhagen.” aiic.org. March 08, 2021. Accessed March 07, 2023. https://aiic.org/site/blog/once-upon-a-time-in-copenhagen.

[3] United Nations. Report of the World Conference of the International Women’s Year. Mexico City, 19 June-2 July 1975. Available at: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N76/353/95/PDF/N7635395.pdf?OpenElement. Accessed March 07 2023.

[4] World Health Organization, on behalf of the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women Estimation and Data (2021). https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/02/background-paper-synthesis-of-evidence-on-collection-and-use-of-administrative-data-on-vaw

[5] UN Women. (2020). Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: Report of the Secretary-General (2020), p. 4.

[6] Bodkin, C., Pivnick, L., Bondy, S.J., Ziegler, C., Martin, R.E., Jernigan, C. and Kouyoumdjian, F. (2019). History of Childhood Abuse in Populations Incarcerated in Canada: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Public Health 109, e1_e11, https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304855

[7] Prison Facts in Canada. (2017/2018). Available at: www.womensprisonnetwork.org/Facts.htm. Accessed March 7, 2023.

[8] McGuire, M. M., & Murdoch, D. J. (2022). (In)-justice: An exploration of the dehumanization, victimization, criminalization, and over-incarceration of Indigenous women in Canada. Punishment & society, 24(4), 529-550.

[9] Statistics Canada. 2018. “Adult and youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2016/2017”.

[10] Owusu-Bempah, A., Jung, M., Sbaï, F., Wilton, A. S., & Kouyoumdjian, F. (2021). Race and Incarceration: The Representation and Characteristics of Black People in Provincial Correctional Facilities in Ontario, Canada. Race and Justice, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/21533687211006461

[11] Sotiriadou, E., and I. Elbakri. (2022). Friendly Manitoba: Community Experiences With Islamophobia. Manitoba Islamic Association. Available at: www.miaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/report-4-6.pdf. Accessed March 7, 2023.

[12] For more information, see: UN Women. (2002). Women, War, Peace: The Independent Experts’ Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women’s Role in Peace-Building. Vol 1: www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2002/1/women-war-peace-the-independent-experts-assessment-on-the-impact-of-armed-conflict-on-women-and-women-s-role-in-peace-building-progress-of-the-world-s-women-2002-vol-1; Radio show “Women in Wartime with Cynthia Enloe”: https://safespaceradio.com/the-experiences-of-women-in-war/

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Resources, Research, and Rights: Doing the Work: Truth Before Reconciliation

September 09, 2021

Author

Pauline Tennent

By Pauline Tennent

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Resources for non-Indigenous Canadians on residential schools and colonialism in Canada

Canadians, now more than ever, must act with intention to acknowledge the harmful legacies of the Residential School System and its ongoing impact on Indigenous peoples and communities. Many non-Indigenous Canadians may feel lost on where to start this learning journey. With this in mind, the Centre for Human Rights Research, in collaboration with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation hosted a panel discussion with more than 160 people from across Canada where we answered your pre-submitted questions on residential schools and the impact of colonialism in Canada.

Our discussion was guided by Elder Betty Ross from Pimicikamak First Nation and Knowledge Keeper Clayton Sandy from Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation. Panelists included non-Indigenous (or settler) historians, educators and information professionals who have worked for many years on issues relating to residential schools and colonialism in Canada. Panelists included Dr. Sean Carleton and Dr. Andrew Woolford from the University of Manitoba; Dr. Erin Millions from the University of Winnipeg; Dr. Brian Gettler from the University of Toronto; and Monique Woroniak from the City of Winnipeg. The Director of the Centre for Human Rights Research Dr. Adele Perry chaired this important discussion.

We received many insightful questions from across the country. There were a number of questions asking specifically about the operation of the residential school system, such as how to find where residential schools were located or the role of the RCMP in the residential school system. We also had questions from individuals who were looking to learn more about the experiences of Survivors at residential schools. Others submitted questions  focused on how the legacies of the residential school system impact life in Canada today — including the child welfare system. In answering all of these questions, panelists were in agreement that as a society, we need truth before reconciliation. And that means that non-Indigenous people have to do the work — to listen and to learn.

Many of the questions we received also highlighted how parents were trying to grapple with Canada’s complex history and contribute in some small way to reconciliation beginning with their families. Panelists Erin Millions and Monique Woroniak emphasized the need for a family-centred approach, with parents and children learning together using age-appropriate resources, such as books and graphic novels. Erin and Monique recommend that resources should centre the experiences and voices of residential school Survivors. One such example is Sugar Falls, a graphic novel by David A. Robertson aimed at young people ages 14-18 years. This graphic novel shares the stories and experiences of Elder Betty Ross. A complete list of resources that our panelists recommend most can be found here!

One of the most frequent questions we received from individuals across Canada, young and old, was “as a settler what I can do to support and become a strong ally in this process of truth and reconciliation.” Reflecting on their own experiences of working towards truth and reconciliation in Canada, the panelists developed some key points that they believe can help other non-Indigenous peoples support the much-needed work of reconciliation in this country. This includes the need for non-Indigenous peoples to reframe their thinking, to listen, to learn the truth, to build relationships, and importantly to show up — to do the work! You can download a guide for settlers here!

Artist and author Kara Sievewright from Haida Gwaii graphically recorded the session in real-time, pulling out some of the key information that was part of the discussion.

If you are interested in viewing the full panel discussion, please see our YouTube page.

For more information, please contact the CHRR.

 

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The Right to Food and Community Gardening in Winnipeg

July 20, 2021

Author

Pauline Tennent

By Pauline Tennent

Dr. Fabiana Li is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Li’s research focuses on the intersections between food, culture, environment, and social justice.

Dr. Li was a CHRR Small Grant recipient for her timely project that explored the right to food in Winnipeg in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Li and her team explored the creation of “Victory Gardens” in Winnipeg, which were originally popularized during World War I and II in an attempt to support the war effort and alleviate pressures on the food supply.

Dr. Li’s project focused on the Meadowood Victory Garden established at the St. Vital Centennial Arena with the support of Winnipeg Food Council, partners, and volunteers. Dr. Li and her team explored the possibilities of improving the short-term phenomenon of Victory Gardens into a more sustainable transformation of food systems and urban agriculture. Lessons from the Victory Gardens project and recommendations for moving forward can be found here.

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Resources, Research, and Rights: Land Back

May 10, 2021

Author

Adele Perry

By Adele Perry

On Earth Day 2021 (April 22), the Centre for Human Rights Research (CHRR) hosted a virtual screening of the first of three videos about LAND BACK that were produced by the David Suzuki Foundation. The video inspired a great conversation with our invited panelists, which involved examining questions such as “What does Land Back mean to you?” and “What opportunities does Land Back create?” The invited panelists included Professor Aimée Craft (Co-Producer, LAND BACK video series; Author; Associate Professor, University of Ottawa), Danielle Morrison (Lawyer; Narrator; University of Manitoba alumna) and, Taylor Galvin (President, Indigenous Concerns on the Environment (UMICE) and University of Manitoba student).

Watch to the entire event here.

Watch all three LAND BACK videos here.

Please consider supporting/following our partners for this event:

David Suzuki Foundation: Facebook, Twitter

Decolonizing Water: Facebook, Twitter

Office of the Vice-President (Indigenous), University of Manitoba: Website

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Resources, Research, and Rights: Manitoba 150 Disrupted

March 26, 2021

Author

Adele Perry

By Adele Perry

Watch this discussion online and read the summary below.

On March 16, 2021, the Centre for Human Rights Research hosted a panel exploring themes of commemoration, reparation, and memory in light of the delayed Manitoba 150 celebrations.

*****

150 Seen Through the Lens of Treaty One

After introducing her latest book “Treaty Words: For as Long As the Rivers Flow”, University of Ottawa Law Professor and Author Aimée Craft said now is a good time to revisit treaty agreements and interpretations.

“One of the things I’ve spent most of my life arguing is that treaties were made was an agreement to share,” she continued, “I think that this is still fundamentally misunderstood.”

Craft noted that “at the core” of Indigenous Treaty interpretations are concepts of reciprocity, respect, and renewal.

“[Manitoba 150] is an opportunity to reflect on what is the agreement, what it should look like today, and how we should honour it and respect it,” she said.

*****

Kwataa-nihtaawakihk: A Hard Birth

Scholar and Artist Sherry Farell Racette spoke about her role in rebooting and re-engaging Kwataa-nihtaawakihk: A Hard Birth, a Métis art exhibit that was initially planned for a May 2020 opening.

Some goals of the exhibit, which is now scheduled to open on the 5th of February 2022, include centering the role of the Métis in the creation of Manitoba, contextualizing Louis Riel, and recreating impressions of Métis unique artistic and material culture. The exhibit will be home to significant historic documents, contemporary and historic art, as well as community centred programming.

“We hope to be able to have that laughing, dancing, and music,” she continued, “We hope to bring in artists for artist talks, film screenings, and talking circles in front of works of art because they invite dialogue.”

*****

Manitoba 150 x HBC 350

Manitoba Indigenous Tuberculosis Photo Project Research Director Dr. Erin Millions spoke about the intersection between Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) 350th anniversary and Manitoba 150.

Dr. Millions noted that the famous Winnipeg downtown HBC building is a reminder of a colonial legacy that targeted, exploited, and devastated Indigenous communities. She said the disruptions of both HBC 350 and Manitoba 150 is an opportunity to rethink “commemoration in Manitoba in a way that lets us prioritize Indigenous perspectives.”

*****

A Girl Called Echo

The panel’s final speaker, Métis Writer Katherena Vermette, spoke about the latest book in her graphic novel series “A Girl Called Echo.”

The series follows Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl who struggles with loneliness and separation as she adjusts to a new home and school. Her journey of learning about her Métis identity becomes an extraordinary tale that brings the past to the present as Echo travels through time to live and experience Métis history in the prairies.

Vermette closed her discussion with a recitation of her poem When Louis Riel Went Crazy, which can be found here.

 

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Resources, Research, and Rights: Work, care and human rights in the age of COVID

December 07, 2020

Author

Adele Perry

By Adele Perry

Watch this discussion online or read the summary below.

Stripped of dignity: Death and dying in the time of COVID, Harare, 2020

Historian Dr. Joyce Chadya’s new study examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed mourning practices in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe had 7,898 confirmed cases of the disease at the time of this discussion Oct. 7, 2020. 6,424 people had made a full recovery and 228 had died. Although these numbers might seem relatively low, University of Manitoba professor Chadya highlighted that social gathering restrictions put in place by a “broke” Zimbabwean government left people socially isolated and unemployed.

Chadya noted that funerals are a “must attend event” that carry more cultural importance than weddings and other ceremonies. She said a Zimbabwean woman told her “when you hear people say what the departed meant to them, it lifts your spirit. But we did not do that for my husband – his siblings in the United States and Australia could not come. It was perhaps the most painful thing about his death.”

Chadya hopes her study will shed light on how the pandemic has dramatically altered human social relationships. “One woman jokingly talked about her grief as being quarantined,” she said.

*********

Planning and projects in a COVID-19 environment

Coun. Roxanne Greene of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, Ont., said a strong pandemic response team has enabled her community to continue working on a new water plant and school. “We were faced with the decision of ‘shut them down’ or ‘keep them going’,” she said. “What’s more important? Do we want clean water later or sooner?”

Located along the Manitoba-Ontario border, Shoal Lake 40 has been under boil-water advisories since 1997. In June 2019, the community celebrated the opening of the year-round and all-weather-access Freedom Road, which has opened the door for new economic opportunities. Greene said in eight months, construction of a new school will be complete. “Next year, our water treatment plant will be done. We’ll be drinking clean water finally,” she continued.

Greene highlighted that her community’s health protocols must adhere to Manitoba and Ontario standards. She said that this unique position is being addressed by a dedicated pandemic planning team that is “monitoring the situation day by day,” to ensure it keeps “health and occupational safety as a priority.”

Although the decision to continue with both projects was a hard one to make, Greene said she is confident “they were the right decisions.”

*********

Towards equitable and educative experiences in a pandemic

Remote learning has hobbled schools’ engagement with students, parents and the wider community, said Matt Henderson, assistant superintendent in the Seven Oaks School Division.

On March 13, 2020, the Manitoba government announced the suspension of regular classes in all kindergarten to Grade 12 schools. Following an initial 3-week suspension, the province moved to restrict students to online learning. Henderson said this move, while important for slowing the spread of COVID-19, has impacted “families that are most vulnerable.”

Henderson pointed out that the shift to remote learning meant that students were no longer able to participate in core extra-curricular activities like athletics, music and school clubs. He said this added more pressure for teachers who had to “adjust and pivot to be able to offer powerful educative experiences” through remote learning. “School is more than just a place where [students] learn. It is a massive support system,” he continued. “Every single night there is an event.”

“When we took these away, not only did we divorce from our relationship with parents, but many students also languished.”

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Childcare before, during and after COVID

University of Manitoba sociologist Dr. Susan Prentice said COVID-19 has added significant challenges to a childcare sector that was already struggling before the pandemic.

In Manitoba, only 18 percent of children had access to licensed childcare facilities before the pandemic. Although Manitoba fees are lower than in many other provinces, Prentice noted that many parents here still cannot afford childcare. She said that even in licensed facilities, quality is compromised by inadequate staff pay and low public investment.

Although government pandemic restrictions forced many childcare facilities to close, Prentice said that parents in Manitoba still had to pay monthly fees to retain their spots. When restrictions were eased and childcare facilities were permitted to reopen, Manitoba childcare centres operated with limited capacities that incurred higher costs but brought lower revenue.

“The future of childcare is perhaps more uncertain than it’s been in decades, even though the public awareness and political awareness of the important dimensions of childcare are more visible to more people than ever before,” she said.

Prentice said if there was any “good news,” it would be that the federal government has recently committed to meaningful involvement in childcare services across the country.

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Older persons’ rights: Isolation, agism and pandemic responses

University of Manitoba law professor Dr. Mary Shariff is calling for a human-rights based approach to inform policy responses to COVID-19 in long-term caregiving facilities.

Long-term caregiving facilities have experienced the brunt of community spread of COVID-19 infections. By May 8, 2020, 82 per cent of Canada’s 4,740 deaths occurred among residents of caregiving facilities.

Shariff said the first phase of government restrictions resulted in increased isolation of residents, as well as an increase in staff workload and stress.

In late April, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed hundreds of personnel in Quebec and Ontario to provide humanitarian relief to caregiving facilities. An ensuing report revealed poor infection controls, inadequate disinfection protocols, lack of training, lack of access to resources, understaffing, and significant abuse and neglect of residents.

“If we conceive of violence to older people as a human rights violation, rather than attaching that to the concept of vulnerability,” Shariff said, “we can illuminate the contours of systemic agism.”

Some helpful responses have included use of electronic tablets to improve visits, and use of outdoor spaces to mitigate the impacts of isolation, which can facilitate abuse. Shariff also pointed to class-action lawsuits against caregiving facilities, as well as advocacy by caregivers arguing for their own rights — to information and to provide emotional and spiritual support to loved ones.

 

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  • Reconciliation,

UN declaration guides reconciliation

July 25, 2020

Author

Helen Fallding

By Helen Fallding

Manitobans can be proud of our role as leaders in Indigenous reconciliation. Winnipeg was home to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and now hosts the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. In 2019, the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law organized an international conference to explore how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is being implemented around the globe.

Read more in a Winnipeg Free Press opinion column by Prof. Brenda Gunn, former National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Director Ry Moran and Centre for Human Rights manager Helen Fallding.

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Whether you are passionate about interdisciplinary human rights research, social justice programming, or student training and mentorship, the University of Manitoba offers opportunities to support the opportunities most important to you. 

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