Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 2

Further to the regina mom‘s Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1 here is part 2, detailing the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford, moderated by Myrna Kostash at the 2013 Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff.

 

trm knew of Kate Braid’s work as a poet, having been introduced to her Georgia O’Keefe poems at the Sage Hill Writing Experience more than a decade ago.  She did not know that Kate Braid was also a nonfiction writer and so listened intently during the presentation about her latest nonfiction work, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s Worldtrm knows women who work in trades and technologies.  In fact, when she first became active in the women’s movement, she met many women involved in Saskatchewan Women In Trades and Technologies (SaskWITT), women who, like her, were part of the women’s coalition that came about during the end of the Devine years.

 

But back to Braid, who said that memoir writing is not the same as autobiography.  Rather, it tells part of a life.  She said she struggled with finding the stories that mattered and added to it as she went along.  Wisely, she had kept a detailed journal and was able to reference her notes.  Her first draft took more than 25 years to write and was over 1,200 pages!  Eventually, it was carved to a book, thanks to her editor who was able to see the narrative.

 

She said her intent was to be emotionally honest about her experience in the construction trade, about that time in her life, and found that the tense she chose to use, present tense, afforded her the best means of doing so.  The past tense tended to pull her away from the story.  She also said that a memoir’s success depends on the author showing what s/he has learned and referenced Myrna’s opening remarks about memory being like a computer.  “Memory is a backseat driver who wants control,” she said.  Truthtellers, of both emotional and literal truth, she added, are essential to credibility.

 

Her advice, which comes from Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, is what the regina mom tries to do, that is to “write as though no one is ever going to read this.”  Easier said than done, but doable.  Still, Braid knew people would read her book and so she changed some people’s names to protect them.  She asked herself if names were essential to the story and, in instances where they were, she sent out chapters to those named and sought their feedback.  trm is thinking she may well have to do that with her Sask women’s movement essay, presuming it ever gets written, that is.

 

Braid spoke about her fear and how it stopped her from writing over and over again.  At one point she was paralyzed for years and it got even worse after she submitted the manuscript to her publisher!  But once she was able to figure out who she was writing the book for, the tradeswomen who went through what she went through, it was easier.  She decided she was providing a baseline of what it was like to be a woman working in the trades.  She knew the book wanted to be written, knew it had to be written.  She wrote various versions of it — scholarly, lighthearted, for example — and finally got it written.

 

trm can’t help but wonder about the women who, when she worked at the YWCA, were apprenticing in the trades and remodeling various locations in the building.  How many of them faced ridicule and insult once they completed their training?  How many even completed the training?  Certainly, working as part of an all-women crew would be very different from working as the only woman on a construction crew!  And trm bets they’d love to hear Braid read from her book, so she’s going to do what she can to get Kate Braid to Saskatchewan for a reading in the near future.

 

Women have always been workers

The following piece appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine. Sadly, the situation for women and unpaid work has become worse, not better. Right wing governments in Saskatchewan and Canada continue to dump unpaid work on communities and families and women in an attempt to rationalize cuts on social spending.

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Women’s” Work: Unnoticed, Unrecognized, Unpaid

A discussion about labour is incomplete without some acknowledgment of the unpaid work performed by women. The traditional work women do, the three Cs – cooking, cleaning, caring – continue to be largely ignored thanks to long-standing sexist definitions of work. It’s almost as though the work women do to keep families healthy and functional, to move the economy through its cycles, and to make the world a somewhat caring and nurturing place really doesn’t matter. Capital, after more than three centuries of greed continues to pressure governments to create conditions for increased profitmaking, conditions which do not benefit women and which increase women’s unpaid work. Even the small gains of recent years are under constant attack by both capital and governments. Women’s groups know that if women are to reach a point of equality with men in this country, or anywhere in the world for that matter, then women’s unpaid work must be honoured in very real ways. Women carry on.

Defining Work

Societal definitions of paid work are based on sexist definitions established centuries ago. When our monetary system developed women were chattel; the work women performed preparing meals, cleaning homes, and raising children was not remunerated. As a result, it was excluded from economic records and, as the economic system developed, their work continued — and continues — to be excluded.

The economic value of the unpaid work women do is huge and must be acknowledged. According to Manitoba’s United Nations Platform for Action Committee (UNPAC) Canadian women’s unpaid work is an amount equivalent to as much as 41% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product. The time women spend doing voluntary/community labour and household labour in Canada, according to a pilot study in Nova Scotia, is the equivalent of 571,000 full-year, full-time jobs. Even Statistics Canada (StatsCan) suggests a number anywhere from $234 to $374 billion worth of unpaid work is performed by women each year. Globally, the amount skyrockets to 11 trillion dollars, just a fraction more than what we know the US has spent on its illegal invasion of Iraq.

Decades of research and lobbying by women’s equality-seeking groups and others has had minimal impact. Governments are loathe to address the issue. Only recently did StatsCan begin gathering information about women’s unpaid work and that gathering is not thorough. The research documents only three areas of unpaid work: housework, childcare, and senior care. The time women spend building their communities — serving meals at a fowl supper, serving as a board member at the childcare centre, or volunteering at the women’s shelter — is not included in the numbers. Still, all is not lost. Researchers have developed ways to use the data that is gathered to make points about what is not. The gaps and absenses have proven useful in critiquing policy and for envisioning new policies.

Global Capital at Work

It is global capital that benefits from women’s unpaid work. As capital seeks increased profits, governments increasingly bend to the corporate lobby, adhering to neo-liberal and neo-conservative economic policies, downsizing or privatizing programs that seek to re-dress imbalances. Women bear the brunt of this greed.

Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government, when it took power in BC, almost immediately dismantled one of the most progressive elements of the its provincial government, the Women’s Department. What little remained of it was rolled into the Community Services Department. In effect, all funding to all of B.C.’s women’s shelters ceased and the amount unpaid work by women as well as the incidents of poverty among women increased.

In Saskatchewan, Calvert’s NDP government almost annihilated the Women’s Secretariat in its purge of policy analysts a few years ago. An immediate public outcry from Saskatchewan women forced the creation of a Status of Women Office (SWO). It was placed within the Department of Labour which, according to the Assistant Deputy Minister at the time, was “completely unable to absorb” it. The strategy moved many feminist researchers and analysts out of policy areas and, in some cases, out of government completely which could be part of a ploy to remove the last of Keynesian analysis from the bureaucracy. Indeed, in January 2007 the Saskatchewan government received great praise and front page headlines courtesy the Fraser Institute for completely reversing 50 years of economic policy. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that programs to enhance the lives of women in Saskatchewan ended or that the province’s child poverty rate is among the highest in the country.

Similarly, Status of Women Canada (SWC), recently attacked by the New Conservative Government of Canada impacts women’s unpaid work. The job cuts, funding restrictions, and removal of the word equality from funding guidelines will mean that research work formerly conducted by paid staff within SWC and within SWC-funded organizations will either not be conducted or will be done by volunteers. Without the research and lobbying the door is open for global capital to gain more ground.

It’s as though governments of the day believe that cutting funding and support makes the need for the service nonexistent. But smaller communities of people – women – fill the gaps..

A Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) report about the privatization of public services urges that women “not be made to bear the greatest costs of declining labour market conditions — less unionization, lower wages, fewer benefits, weaker workplace rights, more precarious employment, uncertain work hours.” Women should not be forced to take on more unpaid work when public services erode and men must “take more responsibility in the home.” This would have the effect of allowing women to “become more engaged in community organizing and political action in order to lobby for more and better public services.” Trade unions could play an important role alongside women’s and social justice groups in “building broad community-based coalitions” in opposition to privatization and in actively promoting “the improvement of public services in order to promote greater social and economic equality.”

The obvious economic impact on women – the continued cycle of poverty – is compounded by psycho-social implications on women and their children which result in chronic illness, early death, poor children, poor school performance. That means higher societal costs for healthcare. The National Crime Prevention Council of Canada suggests that poor school performance is the “best and most stable predictor of adult involvement in criminal activity.” And that means higher educational and criminal justice costs.

Women’s Response

All the attacks on women’s lives and the double-duty days haven’t stopped women from organizing for change. Over the past decade or more, women’s response has been building locally and globally. Organizations such as UNPAC, the Feminist Alliance For International Action (FAFIA) and the Global Women’s Strike (GWS) have come into being to demand accountability from the governments on the commitments made to women under international human rights treaties and agreements, including the Beijing Platform for Action (PFA) and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The World Women’s March in 2000 brought forth The Feminist Dozen, 13 items that the federal government must address to reduce women’s poverty in this country.

The World Women’s March Feminist Dozen

Women in Canada Call on the Federal Government to:

  1. Restore federal funding to health care and enforce the rules against the privatization of our health care system, beginning with Alberta.
  2. Spend an additional 1% of the budget on social housing.
  3. Set up the promised national child-care fund, starting with an immediate contribution of $2 billion.
  4. Increase Old Age Security payments to provide older women with a decent standard of living.
  5. Use the surplus from the Employment Insurance Fund to increase benefits, provide longer payment periods and improve access, as well as improve maternity and family benefits.
  6. Support women’s organizing for equality and democracy by:
    • allocating $50 million to front-line, independent, feminist, women-controlled groups committed to ending violence against women, such as women’s centres, rape crisis centres and women’s shelters;
    • recognizing and funding the three autonomous national Aboriginal women’s organisations to ensure full participation in all significant public policy decisions as well as providing adequate funding to Aboriginal women’s services, including shelters, in all rural, remote and urban Aboriginal communities;
    • funding a national meeting of lesbians to discuss and prioritise areas for legislative and public policy reform;
    • providing $30 million in core funding for equality-seeking women’s organizations, which represents only $2.00 for every woman and girl child in Canada – our Fair Share
  7. Fund consultations with a wide range of women’s equality-seeking organizations prior to all legislative reform of relevance to women’s security and equality rights, beginning with the Criminal Code and ensure access for women from marginalized communities.
  8. Implement a progressive immigration reform to provide domestic workers with full immigration status on arrival, abolish the “head tax” on all immigrants and include persecution on the basis of gender and sexual orientation as grounds for claiming refugee status.
  9. Contribute to the elimination of poverty around the world by supporting the cancellation of the debts of the 53 poorest countries and increasing Canada’s international development aid to 0.7% of the Gross National Product
  10. Adopt national standards which guarantee the right to welfare for everyone in need and ban workfare.
  11. Recognize the ongoing exclusion of women with disabilities from economic, political and social life and take the essential first step of ensuring and funding full access for women with disabilities to all consultations on issues of relevance to women.
  12. Establish a national system of grants based on need, not merit, to enable access to post-secondary education and reduce student debt.
  13. Adopt proactive pay equity legislation.

 

To date, not one of the recommendations has been fully implemented.

GWS is an organization of women from more than 60 countries, working to improve conditions for women, worldwide. Their first stated demand is “Payment for all caring work – in wages, pensions, land & other resources. What is more valuable than raising children & caring for others? Invest in life & welfare, not military budgets or prisons.”

Nearly 1.2 billion hours of women’s time each year is spent on fundamental work that goes unnoticed, unrecognized, and undervalued, thanks to archaic definitions of paid work. Public programs and services that seek to redress imbalances are under constant attack by global capital. Programs that support necessary public services for women and children are dismantled, never to appear again, or reappear as watered-down versions of what they once were. Women work harder and suffer greater hardships as a result. Still, women carry on with their work and with resisting oppression. Only constant and continued pressure from all sectors of society will ensure equity is reached.

Oh, Those ‘Radicals’!

Today the HarperCons stepped into the cesspool polluted waters tarsands issue to announce a water monitoring project which will take 3 years and $50 million to fully implement.  the regina mom agrees with Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie; this is a PR stunt.  And, trm shares Edmonton MP Linda Duncan’s concerns that First Nations’ communities were not adequately consulted and that many more tarsands projects could be approved before this monitoring begins. trm considers this announcement to be a reflection of the great work the ecojustice community “radical groups” are doing to educate citizens on the issues.  Well done, radicals!

One radical, Andrew Nikiforuk, declared a political emergency regarding the tarsands years ago.  His latest piece at The Tyee cites a “detailed analysis” submitted to the National Energy Board by Robyn Allan who is the former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.  Ms Allan’s report “concludes that “Northern Gateway is neither needed nor is in the public interest.

“I assumed that it would be a wealth generating project,” the 56-year-old retired investment and financial affairs economist told the Tyee. “But when I started digging none of those assumptions held. The project is an inflationary price shock to the economy.”

Allan, once rated by the National Post as one of Canada’s top 200 CEOs, says she started to study the economic case for the project after a query by her son. That was when she discovered that Enbridge’s economic benefit models were based on “misleading information, faulty methodology, numerous errors and presentation bias.”

trm‘s readers can download Allan’s full report, “An Economic Assessment of Northern Gateway” at the Alberta Federation of Labour’s website. Note that, according to Nikiforuk, “Allan’s report supports the findings of Dave Hughes, a retired senior analyst with Natural Resources Canada. He described the pipeline as a risk to Canada’s economic and energy security” a report to which trm has previously linked.

Further commentary comes from the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada which also says that the Gateway pipeline is unsustainable, based on a report they commissioned from Informetrica Inc.

The brief points out that two major refinery closures in Ontario and Quebec have created even more of a dependency on foreign suppliers for refined petroleum products: gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil.

“Canadians should also be alarmed that, while Canada exports most of its bitumen to foreign sources, Atlantic Canada and Quebec import 90% of their oil, and Ontario imports 30%,” says Coles.

“Without access to the increased supply of Western Canadian crude, Eastern Canada has suffered a loss of refining capacity, a loss of jobs and gasoline supply problems. Meanwhile, hundreds of workers where thrown out of high-skill, well paying jobs and many additional direct and indirect jobs have been lost.

The primary CEP document is here.

Andrew Frank, the former ForestEthics employee fired for his whistleblowing and about whom trm has previously reported, now suggests a “middle way” to avoid the polarization the Gateway debate has created. Though his suggestions are valid, trm has concerns that they are premised on the continued operation of the tarsands.  trm does not necessarily agree that they must continue.  Still, she also wants to encourage dialogue among Canadians and so, presents his points in abbreviated form:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline should not be built.
  2. Regulation needs to catch up with production.
  3. Oil sands production should match a rate that climate change scientists say is safe.
  4. Slowdown production to extract the maximum value and develop a royalties system that will look after Canadians long after the oil sands are gone.

Related to the Frank matter was the Notice of Motion filed by Ecojustice on behalf of four so-called radical groups. If you recall, dear Reader, it was the prelude to the HarperCons’ knickers-in-a-knot InfoAlert last Friday. Earlier this week, Ecojustice reported that their motion was denied, but welcomed the “declaration of independence” from the Joint Review Panel. They go on to say that,

Given the impact the proposed pipeline would have on our country, Ecojustice and our clients believe it’s absolutely critical that this review process remain objective, representative of all interests and conducted with integrity and fairness. This isn’t just an ethical issue — it’s about the legal principles of due process.

In its response, the Panel is making a promise to all Canadians to evaluate the Northern Gateway project based on evidence provided by all sides of the issue. This includes evidence that the pipeline and the risk of an oil spill it brings could irreversibly damage our forests and coasts — and all the species that depend on them.

An oil spill wouldn’t just devastate the environment. Our coastal economies like fishing and ecotourism are at risk, too. Is that a fair trade-off for short-term jobs?

Furthermore, the devastation of that environment would also devastate First Nations who have lived on the coast for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Still, Enbridge says it has agreements with 20 First Nations communities.  But Enbridge has not produced names or evidence to that effect.  First Nations spokespeople suggest Enbridge is stretching the truth, or worse, lying.  They accuse Enbridge of a lack of due diligence.

The theme of lack of due diligence and/or misrepresentation by Enbridge recurs among members of northern First Nations when speaking about Enbridge. Members the Haisla, the Gitxsan, the Wet’suwet’en and the Haida gave no credence to Stanway’s claim that “more than 20 groups who in recent weeks have fully executed and endorsed equity participation agreements deals with Enbridge.”

As trm suggested earlier this week, Enbridge doesn’t necessarily tell the truth, but she’ll let you, dear Reader, be the judge.

Finally, an item for which trm is sure to be lambasted by a certain regular reader.  Amnesty International has released an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him “to take a strong stand for human rights in China” during his visit there.  As trm has stated numerous times over the years, Canada should not be trading with any nation whose human rights record is so very sketchy.  And, Canada should also be cleaning up in her own back yard!

Jobs in the 2009 Budget

“Job stimulus spending is concentrated in employment sectors heavily dominated by men.”

YWCA of Canada

(thx, A)

UPDATED: SK Nurses have strike mandate

Update: SUN AND SAHO to continue bargaining

<> Today, through the conciliator, SUN received a message from SAHO indicating they have a revised mandate and are asking SUN to return to the bargaining table. It is our understanding that SAHO will also remove most of their proposals when we return to the table. SUN will not undertake strike action as we permit negotiations to occur.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) have voted “decisively in favour of a strike.” The vote found 77 percent of iSUN’s members in support of strike action in the union’s current negotiations with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO).

“Nurses are tired of seeing patient safety compromised,” said Rosalee Longmoore, SUN President. “They’re tired of working the long hours with no relief in sight. They want their voices heard. And with their votes, they’re sending a message loud and clear – it’s time to get serious about retaining the nursing workforce and recruiting for the future if we are to be able to keep our health care system – and the safety of patients – from deteriorating any further.”

This is an interesting development in organized labour’s struggle against the SaskParty government’s Bills 5 and 6 which have been deemed anti-worker, ant-union and anti-woman. Stay tuned for more!

Retreating and Updating

The Regina Mom is participating in the Saskatchewan Writers Artists Colony at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, SK where the temperature has rarely climbed to the minus single digits in the more than two weeks I’ve been here. Nevertheless, it’s been a beautiful and creative, albeit grueling, time for me. Just yesterday, I finished the first draft of a children’s novel that’s been living in me for almost two years. It feels so good to have it outside of me, even though I know that it needs more work before it makes its way to a publisher’s desk.

As I write this, one of Saskatchewan’s finest writers, David Carpenter, sits on the blue sofa next to the one on which I am seated, checking his email. Across the hall in the St. Pete’s boardroom, the award-winning Saskatchewan poet, Brenda Schmidt, works away on her laptop.  And, if I’m not mistaken, the Victoria, B.C. poet, Rhona McAdam, sits across the table from her.  (Check out her link for some great images and tales of our adventures here.)  Ontario poet and essayist, Maureen Scott Harris, just walked by.

It’s such a wonderful community we’ve created here, a colony of writers and artists who gather for a brief time to focus in on their work, to renew friendships and create now, and then to scatter back to their regular lives. It is a community in which I look forward to participating each year.  This year marks the tenth February I’ve spent time at Colony and I know the children’s novel never would have made it out of me without this time.  To all who have been part of it, including the St. Peter’s community, I extend my gratitude.
Still, while I am here the world carries on. Real Renewal, a citizens’ coalition in Regina has organized a petition drive to ask the Regina Public School Board for a moratorium on school closures. They have also provided some interesting statistics about the aboriginal populations in the areas where schools are targeted for closures.

The provincial government in Saskatchewan continues to attack organized Labour in the province by removing all Labour representatives from Crown Boards. Let’s watch what happens to our Crowns without the voice of Labour to speak for them.

The most destructive project on Earth, the tar sands development in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, carries on with support from the federal government.

The nuclear industry carries on with its “renaissance” which, if it succeeds, will kill more life on planet Earth.

Carpenter has taken his leave from the blue sofa and now the emerging poet and fiction writer, Shelley Banks, a Sage Hill Writing Experience alumnus and a Masters student in the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia has replaced him. It signals that I’ve been here a while and had best get back to my creative work.

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