Time travel: #LaLoche 2009

In 2009, The Sasquatch, a spin-off of the progressive, Briarpatch Magazine, published a piece the regina mom wrote about youth suicide in La Loche, Saskatchewan.  Yesterday’s tragedy in the remote northern Saskatchewan Dene community, La Loche, prompted trm to remember that story.  And then, she learned that Premier Wall’s SaskParty government and its LEAN-thinking business initiatives helped to kill programs set up by the community for the community and had to repost it here.  So much sadness here.

 

Youth suicide “epidemic” ravages northern Saskatchewan

By Bernadette Wagner

About 40 teens have attempted suicide in the past 18 months in the northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche. More than half have died.

“It’s an epidemic,” says Laura Petschulat, a high school teacher at La Loche Community School. “They’ve lost hope.”

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) cites suicide as the leading cause of death among First Nations people between the ages of 10 and 24.

“When young people lose hope, suicide becomes a reality,” says Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Vice-Chief Glen Pratt. “Too many of our children experience tragedy in their lives and that injures the spirit.”

Pratt says the current system is set up to make First Nations fail. “Our traditional First Nations health system has been oppressed,” he says. “Western medicine is very tokenized toward First Nations. We need to find a way to give them strength and not label them as sick.”

“It’s tragic,” says Warren McCall, NDP critic for First Nations and Métis Affairs, referring to the high rate of suicide among Aboriginal youth. “It’s the cutting edge of what the province is doing wrong.”

Minister Responsible for First Nations and Métis Affairs June Draude declined to comment on this story. Draude is also the minister responsible for Northern Affairs.

On the Clearwater River Dene Nation just a mile outside La Loche, 70 per cent of the 1,400 band members living on the reserve are under the age of 18. In the village of La Loche, about 50 per cent of the residents are under 18. In both communities, many families live 10 or more to a house, some of which are substandard. Alcohol and drug abuse, physical and sexual violence and teen pregnancy rates are high. The welfare rate sits around 70 per cent.

It’s hard to find positive role models in a community that’s still coping with the legacy of residential schools and colonialism,” says McCall. “The community lacks the resources for positive change. There are hugely limited resources in the north.”

Vice-Chief Pratt says there are role models in every community but sometimes kids choose the wrong ones. Young people and elders don’t always connect the way they should.

There has got to be a revival of First Nations medicine,” he added.

Pratt says the FSIN is encouraging that revival. This past winter, it brought together 300 youth from across the province for a suicide prevention conference in Saskatoon. Survivors of suicide spoke about their “second chance at life.” Youth had opportunities to learn about the traditional ways from Elders and to share their own stories.

According to Pratt, the suicide prevention strategy in Saskatchewan lacks a co-ordinated approach. His organization is calling for a youth forum on the matter. “We need a strategy built by youth themselves and supported by partnerships with youth, First Nations elders, schools and the health system. We need to invite youth to circles,” he says.

Some suggest that northern development, including a road connecting La Loche to Fort MacLeod, Alberta, is the key to fixing the problems in northern communities, but Petschulat disagrees. “A lot of people here think that will only bring drugs and prostitution,” she says. “There are already too many problems here.”

Residents also wonder how development in the future will help the youth now.

“It’s hard for these kids to avoid gangs and drugs, alcoholism and abuse,” says one resident who asked not to be named. “They live with abuse, alcoholism, poverty and can’t escape it. Despite how bad it is, this is where the people they love live.”

NDP Health Critic Judy Junor wants to know what the Sask Party government is doing about the situation in La Loche. “What immediate programs are they putting in place to stop this cycle of hopelessness?” she asks.

Health Minister Don McMorris did not respond to requests for comment.

On World Suicide Prevention Day in September 2008, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine called for a doubling of the number of suicide prevention projects taking place in First Nations communities. One hundred and forty projects are ongoing at the present time. La Loche is not currently a site for one of those projects.

In the meantime, Petschulat says that the only hope some troubled youth have is that someone will post a video featuring images of the youth and a favourite song or two on YouTube after their death.

“Still,” says Vice-Chief Pratt, “many young people are thriving despite the injustices their people face – poverty, racism, oppression. The stronger the spirit, the stronger the nation, the stronger the youth.”

c. 2009 Bernadette Wagner

Sidebar: Holistic health & suicide prevention

A federal government publication, Acting On What We Know: Preventing Youth Suicide in First Nations, suggests that prevention programs are most successful when they bring together health, school and community.

In First Nations communities where cultural traditions have been lost, “the development of programs to transmit traditional knowledge and values, usually by respected elders, is also a crucial component of any suicide prevention program,” the report suggests.

At their recent conference on health issues, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations held sessions on Shiatsu Therapy and the Bowen Method – two methods of healing which are more holistic than western medicine. Both are based in the belief that the human body has an innate ability to heal itself.

Shiatsu is hands-on, finger-pressure therapy, which has evolved from aspects of Japanese massage traditions, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western anatomy and physiology and works to release blocked energy in the body.

The Bowen Method stimulates a sense of deep relaxation, which acts on the nervous system to create metabolic equilibrium at the cellular level. This resets the autonomic nervous system and frees the body to find its own natural balance. By embracing not only the psychological or the physical, the treatments can work on the whole individual.

First Nations medicine is similar in that it also works on the whole individual by looking at the physical, the psycho-emotional, the cultural and the spiritual. According to FSIN Vice-Chief Glen Pratt, “The spiritual is the foundation for the other three. Once we become strong in spirit . . . we become very balanced in a healthy way.”

c. 2009 Bernadette Wagner

This Thursday!

Oh, dear Reader, thereginamom‘s been busy!

Regina event details

She’s not only harvesting produce from her garden and preserving it for winter, but also learning a new song.  She hopes you’ll join in on the chorus and belt out “Harperman, it’s time for you to go!” with her on Thursday, September 17 at the Regina edition of the Canada-Wide Harperman Sing-Along.  Similar events are taking place in more than 40 communities nationwide.

Meet at Scarth Street & 12th Avenue, near Victoria Park at 12:30 PM to sing Harperman.  Arrive at the Making Peace Vigil on Scarth Street at 11th Avenue at noon and hop on the Peace Train of Song to the sing-along.

Why do this? For thereginamom, it is about supporting and defending Tony Turner’s right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Tony is a folk singer and songwriter from Ottawa who works as a scientist for the federal government.  He has been suspended from his job pending an investigation into allegedly violating the “departmental code of values and ethics” in his writing and performing the song, Harperman.

The messaging trm hears in this is that writing protest songs about the Prime Minister should be illegal.  Cons-fill-dumpster-with-libraryWell, sorry, Harperman, that attitude is right up there with the dumpstering agricultural research materials and books thing.

So, trm‘s had enough and she’s going singing on Thursday.  Hoping you’ll bring your voice and sing along, your instrument and play along, and/or your own verses to share, if opportunity comes along.

In the meantime, dear Reader, if you haven’t already done so, please do this, too.

And make sure you’re registered to vote!

 

Stop Harper – pass it on.

from Alison@Creekside

via https://benjamindickerson.wistia.com/medias/9jht8ireni

Changing the tune

Today is the anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. In 2011, I was at the Banff Centre, part of a Carolyn McDade and friends recording project with about a hundred women from different places in Canada and the USA. As I headed to breakfast that morning, one of the women from our group was in tears. When I asked what was the matter, I learned that Jack was dead.

I was shocked, went to tell another woman, and the rest is a blur. I know that we honoured him and his work with a moment of silence in the recording studio. And I remember the women from the USA asking about Jack and listening to our stories about him as well as the history of the NDP, the CCF, and the Farm and Labour parties that preceded them.

On the day of his funeral we recorded “Now You Can Go On”, one of four songs Carolyn wrote based on the words of the poem, You, Standing There Reading This: Stop, by William Stafford. It was such a fitting song for that day.

Later, my USA roommate, Ginny, and I sat in our room in Lloyd Hall, crying, as we listened to Stephen Lewis deliver Jack’s eulogy. Everyone, from both north and south of the border, was deeply moved. That deeply emotional experience made its way into our recording. The CD, Widening Embrace, is more powerful as a result.

#YQR Evacuation Centre Volunteers Needed

Too much going on politically.  And now this, too!

Evacuation Centre Volunteers Needed

Due to the unprecedented level of fires and smoke in the north the Red Cross will be assisting with evacuees arriving in Regina as early as June 29 evening for two evacuation centres being set up at the University of Regina (200 people) and Evraz Place (up to 800 people). They are in dire need of volunteers to assist with set up and also to assist with personal support and recreation for evacuees during their time here. Volunteers are needed for assistance at all times of day and through the weekend.

Please consider volunteering. To do so you need to get a criminal record check done with the Regina Police Service and the Red Cross has arranged that this can be done on the spot when you go to get it.

If you plan to volunteer please send your availability over the next ten days as soon as possible to:

Cindy Fuchs CHRP Provincial Director Saskatchewan

Canadian Red Cross | Croix-Rouge canadienne Western Zone 2050 Cornwall Street | Regina | Saskatchewan | CA | S4P 2K5 Cindy.Fuchs@redcross.ca T 306 721-1631 | F 306 721-1602 | C 306 536-6700 www.redcross.ca | www.croixrouge.ca

Major Federal Government Cuts Impacting Women in Canada Since 2006

Canadian Federation of University Women

** Have an item to add? Please email cfuwadvocacy@rogers.com

Items in bold are the result of 2012 Budget cuts.

Major Cuts and Changes to Federal Government Ministries and Departments Impacting Women in Canada since 2006

  • Funding for Status of Women Canada was cut significantly in 2006, resulting in the closure of 12 of 16 offices across the country. The mandate of SWC was also changed at that time to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying. The Women’s Program of SWC used to fund women’s groups to undertake research and advocacy as a means of promoting women’s active participation in policy development and systemic change, however now the program is primarily focused on training oriented projects, and does not fund any advocacy or research. The cuts and change in focus of SWC have meant that many women’s organizations that once received funding…

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Is it an epidemic?

thereginamom has continued to read the Twitter hashtag, , and so much more.  She remains deeply moved by the outpouring of experiences shared and the conversations that are happening within various local communities, in the mainstream media, and online.  Though the number of tweets has decreased, the sharing continues.  Never has trm ever been involved in such a powerful online action — and she’s been involved in many, as some of you dear Readers know.

sex assault stats ywcaThis infographic from YWCA Canada startled trm.  It clearly demonstrates the urgent, immediate need for change.  From what trm has read on Twitter we need to change the way reports of rape are handled by police and the justice system.  In order to do that, we need to change the way our culture looks at rape.  We need to end rape culture.

Rape culture was not a term familiar to trm until her daughter went away to university and shared posts about it on Facebook.  trm has learned how her experience of rape is a result of a culture that not so subtly condones rape.

How do we change this, dear Reader, and quickly?

#BeenRapedNeverReported ***trigger warning***

This week has been something thereginamom never imagined but totally welcomes. Yes, she’s talking about the Jian Ghomeshi story.  But she’s taking it further.  Much further.

When the story first broke, trm was in community meetings so it wasn’t until the story of his dismissal from the CBC was all over social media that she saw it.  Quite frankly, she didn’t know what to think.  But then The Star delivered the stories of  anonymous women who had had remarkably similar non-consensual sexual experiences with Ghomeshi and things changed.  She wanted to believe the women. thereginamom is also a survivor of sexual assault and rape.

So much has happened in the intervening days.  Three anonymous women became eight women, six anonymous and two self-identified.  Their stories have brought on a flood of information on social media, including tonight’s Twitter hashtag, #BeenRapedNeverReported.  It’s also seen the CBC announce a 3rd party investigation into the allegations against Ghomeshi, the communications firm and PR company he used drop him as a client, and the Toronto Chief of Police issue a call for all victims of rape or other assault to come forward.  It says something significant about our society and system of so-called justice that women do not come forward to insist on justice after being raped.

thereginamom didn’t either.  In fact, it wasn’t until years later, when she found feminism and understood that no means no, that she stopped blaming herself for being raped.  trm doesn’t like that due process has not yet been served but she does like that people are listening, hearing, and believing the stories these women have told.  And there are so many more women with stories to tell, as evidenced by Twitter tonight.  When trm joined in the tweetfest she referenced a poem she’d written about her experience of rape.  She struggled with including it in her book but eventually decided to do so.  And so, on the occasion of #BeenRapedNeverReported, here is that poem.

Oktoberfest

She’s known eighteen ordinary autumns
that blow away summer heat and leaves.

She doesn’t know that tonight at the Agridome
where ein prosits empty glasses

one genuine German suggesting fun
will tease her into a party for two

snake her to a room, shed
charm, rough hands

around her belly,
fingernails

on breasts, scratching
her torso, ripping

at hair and skin.
He will toggle her

to the bed
cock poking

her
dry.

c. 2010 Bernadette Wagner, This hot place (Thistledown Press)

Further to my open letter to #RBE, another open letter to @PremierBradWall

the regina mom attended a public meeting with representatives of the Regina Board of Education regarding Ecole Connaught Community School.  The following open letter to the Premier follows the open letter to the RBE published in the Regina Leader Post earlier this week.

Dear Mr. Premier,

No doubt my constant challenges and snide remarks on Twitter are annoying to you and your staff.  That’s kind of the point, you know.  It was always tit-for-tat in my family of origin.  Yes, I do try to be a better person now, but sometimes I fall back into old patterns.

It seems the Regina Board of Education (RBE) is also falling back into old patterns.  Yet again, they’re trying to dupe the Cathedral community.  Through years of neglect, the RBE has created a crisis at Ecole Connaught Community School.  Two construction firms with which the RBE conducts regular business have declared the school to be in such terrible shape that the cost to fix it is prohibitive.  Yet, neither of those firms are known as experts in the area of heritage buildings.  In fact, both P3 Architects and J.C. Kenyon are known for their involvement in new builds in the province.  Are there no conflict of interest guidelines within the Ministries of Education or Highways & Infrastructure for local school boards to follow?

And so, based on questionable data, the RBE decided that a rebuild is the only option and will proceed to convince you and your government to fund it.  This is in direct opposition to what residents and the school community have requested.  The RBE has furthermore refused to work with the community and allow heritage conservationists, funded by private citizens, into the school to conduct tests and to provide expert opinions on the matter.  I therefore hold to what I stated in a March 2013 letter to you regarding this matter,

As a 25-year resident of the area I draw on my fundamental human right, as guaranteed by the United Nations, to insist you preserve the building. The real value of Connaught has not been properly assessed. The non-market aesthetic, cultural and other values of a refurbished school have not been properly accounted for. Furthermore, the environmental, social, and economic cost-benefit analysis of alternatives requested in public consultation meetings have not been addressed – in essence, the impacts of redevelopment on our community, our property values, our local businesses, our environment and other amenities such as the Connaught library have not been properly assessed nor communicated to local residents.

It is time for the Province of Saskatchewan to insist that the Regina Board of Education take its fiduciary responsibility seriously.  But to do so, the Province must take seriously its role as Steward of a nationally-recognized historic school.

Really, Mr. Premier, there is an easy fix for this.  Send the RBE back to the drawing board.  Otherwise, according to the rumblings I heard tonight, you’d best be prepared for lawsuits.  And, quite possibly, for me to fall back into old habits.

Sincerely,

B. L. Wagner
Regina SK

cc: Minister of Education
Deputy Minister of Education
Minister of Highways & Infrastructure
Deputy Minister of Highways & Infrastructure
Regina Board of Education Trustees
Regina Leader Post
Prairie Dog
Metro News
Save Our Connaught
Real Renewal

To work, to work!

the regina mom is checking in to say that she’s in Regina Beach for a month, working as Writer-in-Residence for the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre.  She thinks it’s a great gig!  If you want to follow her meanderings there, check out her other blog.

 

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