ACTION: Stop the cuts to supports for people living with disabilities

The Preamble:

thereginamom is more than a little angry about the Wall government’s attack on people with disabilities by cutting the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program.  So, she wrote and sent a letter at the request of a friend.  You, dear Reader, are free to write your own or to copy-paste this one or parts of it into a message and send it.  Just please do something.

The Letter:

Mr. Premier, MLAs, and Editors:

I write because my friend, B., an elder in our community and the mother of an adult daughter who has lived her entire life with a disability, asked me to do so.  I worked alongside her daughter at a community agency a number of years ago.  That B. is concerned about the cuts to financial support for people with disabilities in the province, especially the Saskatchewan Assured Income Disability (SAID) program, does not surprise me.  She loves her daughter.  Many Saskatchewan residents rely on SAID in addition to what work, if any, they can find.  People with disabilities, as well as people without, have every right to expect to live and thrive as functioning members of our communities and we pay our taxes so that our governments see to that.

This impacts our friends and neighbours, family members and coworkers who already live every single day of their lives at a significant disadvantage.  They will most definitely suffer, in very real ways, as a result.  It’s a dangerous decision for the Province, one that’s on a slippery slope lending credence to the theory that this administration honestly does not care what happens to people with disabilities.

I can’t help but wonder if this government would rather see people with disabilities medicated and locked away in mental hospitals and prisons than see them live and work in their communities.  That would, I suppose, help this administration’s friends in the pharmaceutical and prison industries, wouldn’t it?  So, we really shouldn’t be surprised by this attack on vulnerable people, should we?

Yes, I can get cynical.  However, my elderly friend also suggested that we challenge our MLAs to cut their collective salaries enough to fill the gap.  Though I don’t believe it’s the correct solution, it is, in fact, a solution.  And so, until this administration comes up with a better solution, I join her call.

Will you support a motion to reduce the salaries of all Members in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly so that those who live with disabilities in Saskatchewan and rely on the SAID program need not see theirs reduced?


Bernadette Wagner
Author, Editor, Community Organizer

The Request:

We challenge all elected members of the Legislature to vote to cut their own salaries in order to sufficiently fund the level of maintenance promised to persons with disabilities.

Premier Brad Wall:
Donna Harpauer:
Carla Beck:
Kevin Doherty:
Mark Docherty:
Muhammad Fiaz:
Gene Makowsky:
Warren McCall:
Tina Beaudry-Mellor:
Laura Ross:
Nicole Sarauer:
Warren Steinley:
Christine Tell:
Trent Wotherspoon:

To learn more about cuts to the SAID program, google “Sask party cuts to SAID program.”

The Addenda

To find more addresses for MLAs, go here.  Please act now.

The Wall government’s Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction wrote a letter to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

As community members of the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction, we are concerned by the way Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer has represented changes to the housing supplement for SAID recipients.

Please act now.

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

A story, unfolding.

Perhaps URcomm attempted cutesy-fartsiness when it posted this video as a news story on the front page of the University of Regina’s website.


the regina mom thinks it’s kinda hurtin’ to see that there, especially when there are hard times at the U of R.  An Academic Program Review that was done cheaply and poorly, rejigging by the Administration and reduced funding from the right wing Wall government have forced cuts across the board within the institution (even though The Premier Himself says the province’s economy is booming).

However, certain faculties at the U of R will face deeper cuts to their budgets because the research dollars they bring in are lower than those of other faculties.  It seems, then, that Arts, Fine Arts and the Humanities faculties — the fundamental pieces of any university education — are under attack.  And the regina mom finds that to be very sad, especially because the U of R was once regarded as one of the most progressive institutions in the country.

It strikes the regina mom rather hard right now because she’s been hearing from her daughter, a student at the University of Ottawa, about the Orientation Week activities on that campus.  In particular, the regina mom is excited about the Alt101 activities, offering up something a little more real to students.

No doubt, student groups at the U of R are doing their best to be real with new students, too.  With an administration that treats new students to meaningless tripe such as the video above, it’s not gonna be hard.

Check out the Facebook page, Community Support for U of R Arts, Fine Arts & Humanities Programs, for the story as it unfolds.