Reflecting on the Climate Strike: What Happens Now?

| Chantelle Spicer, Editor | It has been just over a month since the global climate strike on September 27th. It was reported that approximately 800,000 people across Canada stood up and called out for action on climate change that day. Though the majority of attendees turned out in Vancouver and Montreal, strikes occurred in nearly every city in the country, including Castlegar, Trail, and Nelson. Actions such as these are impressive, capturing the spirits and headlines, though most of the time only for a short time (a media cycle generally).

So what happened at the strike if we are to reflect on it? What has happened since? And where do we go from here?

It is apparent that masses attended for these events, ranging from labour unions to Indigenous rights leaders, but it was primarily students of all ages who showed up to demand change for their futures. However, the experiences of these events is not felt as a homogenous group of those calling for climate action.

Since September 27, a number of voices have been raised calling on racism within the environmental movement. In Canada this has been primarily been experienced by Indigenous peoples. One Indigenous attendee of the Montreal strike described hostile encounters with fellow strikers who expressed a variety of racist comments on the topic of land rights and justice. A recent climate action in Vancouver on October 25th saw similar statements on reddit, with some attendees not seeing the point of Indigenous speakers calling on justice over land rights in the narrative of climate change.

However, the fact remains that Indigenous communities suffer first. Displacement is a human rights violation because it destroys the cultural sustainability of communities that have existed in these places for thousands of years – and it is these communities at the forefront of combatting colonialism and capitalism. Examples of intersections between Indigenous sovereignty and climate change are everywhere (because they are inherently linked). This includes Standing Rock and #NoDAPL protests which centre on the idea of sovereignty. For a Canadian context, one can look to the Unist’ot’en through the jurisdiction of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’sewet’en Nation, who stand against Coast GasLink operations on their traditional territories. The Secwepemc Nation is also their traditional territory from natural resource extraction through the Tiny House Warriors project, which seeks to halt the TransMountain Pipeline.

The September 27 strikes also saw political leaders joining in the marches in Ottawa, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Many other politicians of the sitting government sent out tweets of support for those marching. This did not escape the ridicule of their critics who have recognized 4 years of inaction on climate policy or actions, such as the national purchase of the TransMountain Pipeline, that experts have recognized as contributing to climate change and injustice.

The Liberal Party did not release a platform on the environment until September 25, with the first announcement of this occurring at the Climate Strike event, where Liberal plans for proceeds from the TransMountain pipeline to contribute to climate action. At a media event, Justin Trudeau pledged that a re-elected Liberal government would plant two billion trees over the next 10 years. That amounts to about $300 million per year and the Liberals expect that it will create 3,500 seasonal jobs in tree planting. The Conservative platform contains no targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

This may have been a sign of support or allusion to action to come (?); however, climate change, actions, or policies were barely mentioned during the 2019 Federal Election campaign by the Liberal party . When the topic of climate was brought up, discussion occurred primarily through the lens of taxes. This despite statistics that show 30% of Canadian voters considered this a top ballot-box issue. Completely absent from the nuanced topics of climate change within the campaign period included the loss of legislated protection over water, agricultural policy, and food sustainability (not to mention the aforementioned Indigenous land rights). With the re-election of the Liberals into a minority government on October 21, many are watching to see how accountable the parties are to these issues and actions required.

Even a surface-level critique of the Trudeau governments (in)actions on climate change show much lip-service paid to the idea of change, but very little accountability to the messaging. This is not just about analyzing directly climate-related policies, but also about examining the intersections of environmental policy and social issues. This includes federal government imposition of militarized RCMP units used against nations defending their traditional territories from natural resource extraction projects, the ongoing inaccessibility to post-secondary education (which would assist with transitioning workers to green energy sectors among other benefits), and the criminalization of poverty. The onus is on Mr. Trudeau to convince Canadians that his policies and the expected outcomes from them are credible and deserve support. The people of Canada, particularly the youth, are ready to hold the government to account on this.

Climate strikes have continued to happen around the world, with Greta Tunberg returning to Canada on Friday, October 25th before a crowd of over 10,000. This morning of action coincided with the filing of a lawsuit from 15 youths across Canada who declare that the federal government’s policies have contributed to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and are making “dangerous” contributions to climate change. Further showcasing the power of youth in this movement, 27 youth with the group Our Time were arrested in the House of Commons on Monday morning after attempting to stage a sit-in to demand a Canadian “green new deal” be the first priority of all 338 MPs elected last week. They had 338 letters to deliver to the new MPs that listed demands including a cut to emissions in line with international scientific consensus, respecting Indigenous rights, creating good new jobs and protecting the most vulnerable people.

Groups such as Extinction Rebellion have also risen to prominence in the wake of global climate strikes. The group has its roots in UK western scientists calling for action on climate change, who first took hold of headlines for declaring a rebellion against the U.K. government, which it claims has not done enough to address the climate crisis. The group has stopped traffic in Oxford Circus, tied themselves to a train in the Underground, and vandalized oil company Shell’s headquarters. Here in BC, scientists have signed on in support of the call to action, along with chapters of Extinction rebellion opening up throughout the province. The group has taken significant criticism for its disruption to public transit (often viewed as a form of climate action) and the inaccessibility to the movement for many who would wish to participate (many marginalised groups are not in a place to be able to be arrested for actions taken by the group). Though controversial, the group has set precedents for protecting the right to protest following police action against protests that was ruled as unlawful.

So, where do we go from here in this recent rising up the climate-environmental movement? It is clear that youth/students are not just participating in these movements, but are leading them. In this role, we need to create and be a part of movements that are accessible to those who are most impacted by climate change and toxic environments, while also welcoming those in the center-right of the political spectrum. We need to ensure that our movements are anti-capitalist and anti-racist in nature. We need to ensure that we are not relying on marginalised groups to educate us, but instead that we act as good allies and uses any privilege we carry to lift up the voices of those marginalised by the system. We need to use our messaging and tactics strategically so as not to alienate potential members of our movements. We also need to ensure that our movements are allied with those we share principled relationships with such as the labour movement (including those of migrant workers), peace movements, and women’s rights movements. There is more power in these intersections.

Pop Art and the Art of Political Revolution by Shepard Fairey

Most importantly, we need to take part in ways that are true to ourselves. This includes recognizing that standing up in the streets is not the only form of taking part, nor even the most effective, given its unsustainable nature. It is about finding ways to take part every day – this can include writing op-eds in our local papers, becoming a monthly contributor to an organisation doing god work, making and putting forward art that takes on climate justice, and writing to your government representatives at all levels. The potential for taking action and making change and using your voice is endless, especially when united. By ensuring that youth and other participants in climate strikes find avenues such as these to engage in climate action, we are able to move beyond these big days of action to enshrining these actions within our every day life. It is not about the performance of revolution on one day, but the ongoing practice of revolution and people’s power within our everyday lives.


Global Warming Affects Students – How Can We Have an Effect?

| M.K.R. Alexander, Contributor |Anomalies in the earth’s average temperature and its escalation are a result of human-influenced global warming. The ozone layer keeps earth cozy, helping to regulate the living system to perpetuate; however, adverse effects emerge due to industries and pollutions. This human activity has exceeded the Co2 threshold where now it fundamentally contributes to global warming and “the greenhouse effect.” Though climate change is natural to some extent, it is greatly compounded by human activity and has many types of impacts on people, especially those most marginalised. The adversities we must face together are immense, with the results of climate change ultimately destroying our home: earth. 

This enhanced natural phenomenon is majorly contributed by CO2 while other greenhouse gasses such as CH4, N2O and H2O(g) entail. Incidentally, skyrocketing CO2 concentration level marked the 400ppm threshold worldwide in 2016, emphasized by the intensity of anthropogenic activities. Markedly, since the industrial revolution, humans are burning fossil fuels immoderately; thereupon resulting in carbon emission via factories, automobiles and machines. Besides aforesaid additions, deforestation eliminates photosynthesis, a mechanism of CO2 absorption. Natural calamities are accounted for the rising temperature as well; but according to NASA’s observations, human causes are beyond question as the dominating contributing factor for global warming. 

Different parts of the earth experience climate change differently. Covering 70% of the planet’s surface, the oceans show the prominent changes as it is the main source of consuming earth’s heat (90%) and excessive CO2 (93%). Simultaneously, the land is initially affected by severe heatwaves and droughts. Catastrophes like extreme weather conditions, wildfire, melting glaciers leading to natural habitat devastation are influencing further environmental changes. These signs of climate change could be hard to notice or to relate to at the beginning, as they could appear small, yet it is doom without any room to escape at the end due to its notion of chain reaction and escalation. When the 400ppm threshold is passed, it is no longer a warning about warming – we are burning! We might not be severely affected in the Kootenays now, but those around the world are as will future generations of living beings who may not survive.

Lastly, although stopping global warming is difficult to imagine for various reasons, we as individuals and communities can intervene to decline its acceleration by planting/ reserving trees, using less fossil fuel-based machinery and attaining sustainability, keeping earth live longer and healthier. Therefore, it matters to act now. Realistically, it is late; but not too late. 

As students, as the next generation of the working force, as knowledgeable human beings on our one and only habitat, we are responsible for our actions now. Knowledge is power. We can make a difference by acknowledging the cause-effect phenomena to all the citizens around us. No one wants to suffer. Many people perpetuate their harmful day to day activities due to the lack of knowledge about its contribution to global warming. Bring consciousness to your life by emphasizing the importance of responsible and mindful sustainable habits. In order to live all our busy lives, we need to live and we need a place to live, first of all. That is why it is crucial for us to take active steps to intervene and raise awareness.

a student present at the climate strike in nelson on sept 20th. photo courtesy of Nikita McDaniel.

The Climate Strike that took place on 20th September was such an intervention that took place as a larger global movement. Over 1,500 people attended the Climate Strike in Nelson, many of whom were students.

Sustainability can be only achieved if we change our habits into eco-friendly means within ourselves. They are small things that contribute to an enormous change altogether.

A few small steps the have big impact to consider:

  • Unplug the electronics when not in use
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and when you leave a room
  • Walk or bike to college (+points for health!)
  • Use more public transport or carpooling
  • Use reusable water bottles, grocery bags, cups, plates and cutlery.
  • Use cold water to wash your clothes
  • Reduce using paper – use eBooks, use reusable cloths instead of paper towels
  • Reduce buying new books – Borrow (Library!) or reuse secondhand books
  • Reduce wastage – Donate excess resources/ Reuse and recycle 
a crowd of approximately 1500 was present for Nelson’s Sept 20th climate strike.
photo courtesy of Nikita McDaniel.

The Fight Against Fees: A Look Back on a Year of Student Activism

Part Two: Building Campaigns and Solidarity

| Chantelle Spicer |Following years of governmental neglect, mismanagement, and under-funding in post-secondary, students across the province are organising to fight back against ever-increasing fees. In the previous section, we discussed what brings students on campus to this fight and how we see our current educational culture. But how do we take these realizations and frustrations and turn them into powerful action?

Each organisation from our own SCSU to the SFU Tuition Freeze organisers to the UVic Graduate Student Society took a different tact to mobilize and address the needs of their fellow students. However, the need to recognize support and intersections with other organisations was foundational.

The Selkirk College Students Union began building consciousness and gathering support amongst students at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year. This is the third year that the SCSU has organised around a tuition freeze campaign, which includes gaining solidarity within the local and campus community. Partners in solidarity on the issue of affordability in post-secondary and the freeze on Selkirk Tuition included CGEU Local 709, SCFA Local 10, USW 480, BCFS, West Kootenay Labour Council, Nelson and District Women’s Centre, West Kootenay EcoSociety, and Wait’s News.

Partners in solidarity from many labour unions in the region spoke at the Tuition Freeze Rally in January of 2019

President of the Selkirk Faculty Association Lui Marinelli states its important to recognize the role Selkirk plays in the region and its impact on students.

“Selkirk College is critical to our region in providing education to young and old, to prepare those now ready to work, to those who need to change their work, and to those who just want to learn. As tuitions increase, an education becomes less and less affordable and available. The administration needs to do more to find alternative sources of income to offset cost of living increases. The students have been burdened for far too long.”

Numerous reports show that this burden effects students well beyond their educational lives and into their careers, shaping the types of jobs they are able to take and where. A recent survey by the SCSU showed that even when finding summer work between semesters, 40% of student responders stated they were forced to find jobs outside of the Kootenay region. By partnering with labour unions, students not only strengthen their voices in calling for an affordable education, but recognize the link between their educations and future work experiences.

Samson Boyer, Director at-large with the SCSU explains besides the lived experiences and hopes of the students themselves, this solidarity is the heart of the Tuition Freeze campaign.

“The SCSU has had strong connections to our local labour unions for many years and have stood together on many campaigns. This solidarity comes from a place of mutual benefit, as many of our members come from a working class background and have to work to pay for their tuition. The fight for worker protection, rights and fair wages are battles that many students are thrown into and become committed not only to student issues but worker issues as well. The solidarity between students’ unions and labour unions is a vital one as students inevitably join the work force to pay off their student debt and they need a fair wage to do it.”

Student organisers with SFU Tuition Freeze Now also recognized early that this was not only a fight about affordability in education, but also reproducing larger social issues rooted in capitalism and exploitation within post-secondary structures. Every day, in institutions of higher education, students are offered a vision of the world that tries to legitimize this system, to keep it going – given tools to justify why this system is the best we can do, and why we, as students, should be thankful for our freedom. 

Tuition Freeze Now organiser Jorji Temple describes this, stating:

“Whether it’s the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en or a group of undergraduate students, we’re told we are wasting our time, and not to bother – not to get involved. And if we do, if students at university resist in a meaningful way, there’s always security guards to escort us away, or police to arrest us. We’re spared the worst of the violence, and we become advertisements for the tolerant ‘free’ country that we live in. We have to interrupt students’ hopelessness about our futures and the future of our communities, and empower each other to resist – for ourselves, each other, and those who come after us.”

Tuition Freeze now organisers identified many community partners both on and off campus to call for more affordability in education, tying their work into larger movements in the city that address growing rates of inequality and injustice.

Activist and Vancouver city councillor Jean Swanson joined students in a rally in March.

“We have a huge wealth gap in our society. One thing that’s making that gap worse is rising tuition,” explains Swanson.

“It means wealthy people continue to have access to ways to get wealthier, while lower income folks either can’t access it or are saddled with debt. It’s absolutely possible to allocate wealth differently and many young folks know that. They’re at the centre of organizing for change because they’re feeling the effects and know we can do better. They’re working toward free tuition so post-secondary education is accessible to all.”

Student organisers from UVic tied their fight into inequality as well, specifically the impacts of tuition rate increases on students and community member already marginalized by current structures of post-secondary. An open letter to the UVic Board of Governors, students expressed urgency and dismay regarding the proposed increase to international student tuition fees that would be voted on at their March 2019 meeting. This letter clearly outlines the ongoing student outcry and protests to the decoupling of international and domestic student fees in 2017 and the increases and exploitation that followed.

Phillip Henderson, a student organiser with the UVic Graduate Student Society states that students on campus recognize:

“The steady hikes to tuition fees since the 1990s have resulted in one of two things: (1) a ballooning of private student debt, which results in a disciplining of the student population on campus and of the workforce post-graduation; and (2) those without financial means to risk taking on debt deciding not to go through post-secondary education at all.

This results in more homogenous and increasingly bourgeois student body – a phenomenon that is only deepened and exacerbated by the way in which institutions like UVic have chosen to target international students for such exorbitant increases because they lack the protected status afforded to domestic students. In this way, importantly, neoliberalization of education both relies on and reinforces processes of othering and of structural racism and xenophobia.”

It should be noted, that during the Spring 2019 term, students of Langara College in Vancouver were also organising through the efforts of the student club, Langara International Socialists (though I have ben unable to reach them for quotes and insights into their organising).

Student organisers in Vancouver also worked across campuses to raise awareness on a variety of issues from Indigenous sovereignty and the Uni’stot’en Camp to housing as a human right.

An event titled “Burn the Palaces: Tuition Freeze Now,” hosted by SFU Tuition Freeze Now took place in February and featured speakers Annie Bhuiyan and Kayla Phillips, from SFU Tuition Freeze Now and Left Alternative; William Lin a student activist at SFU in the 60s; Matt Rowan from the UBC Social Justice Centre; Bradley Hughes from Langara College and the International Socialists, and Vincent Tao of the Vancouver Tenants Union and Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition.

This event was important in showcasing the importance and promise of cross campus solidarity in the long-term. Quentin Rowe-Codner of SFU Tuition Freeze now stated:

“As socialists and activists, we are all familiar with the all to common sight of a movement that we have helped build from the ground up reach an extraordinary peak, only to wane and lose momentum after the smallest of gains have been won. However, in practical circumstances, great efforts will still need to be made in order to retain support, momentum, and struggle. This is where cross campus solidarity comes into the mix. Having a central network of various campaigns allows for consistent organizing and reliable support when there is a urgency or lull in action.”

In our next instalment, “The Thick of It,” we will take a look at the culmination of campaigns themselves before Board of Governors and administrative responses to students standing up for their rights.


Understanding Community Through History

Rossland Museum & Discovery Centre

| Chantelle Spicer | Summer vacations in the Kootenay region for me involve the normal activities of swimming (in the Slocan!), walking, reading at the waterside, and too much eating. As a newcomer to the Kootenays, it also includes getting to know the personalities and unique histories of the region.

To this end, I recently took a rainy day to visit the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre. Nestled under Red Mountain just outside central Rossland, the centre has many ways to engage visitors with the history of the area – a history the continues to be a part of the community. A visit like this is highly suggested to all Selkirk students (and anyone really) to better understand the community and social structures we live in.

The main building holds the information centre, lovely and informative museum workers, and many traditional museum exhibits recounting the diverse histories of the Rossland area. The histories focused on are the geology. mining and industry, skiing, and some aspects of the social history from settlement onward. There is a small display that includes the Sinixt people (with participation of the Sinixt community), traditional plant use, and storytelling; however, this is a small aspect of the museum given the thousands of years of stewardship, as well as the complex contemporary relationship between the Sinixt, governments, and lands.

Grade 5 school project interpreting the “game” that was navigating life as an early Chinese immigrant

Also of small mention is the impact and importance of the early Chinese-Canadian community in Rossland. As is the case across the province, much of the infrastructure and industry of the was built on highly exploitive labour – particularly the labour of Chinese immigrants. This included the creation of the Trans-Canada railway and labour done in and around mines – not to mention the numerous social contributions of Chinese-Canadians. Though the museum exhibit honouring this aspect of history is small, there is an interesting project created by a Rossland Elementary 5th grade class on the experiences of Chinese-Canadians at the time of settlement that offers a critical look at head tax, labour conditions, and inequities in settlement communities.

There is certainly an interest in museum staff to engage with visitors in new ways, which includes shifting to more participatory exhibits and community events, reading lists in partnership with the local library, and art installations. Our group particularly enjoyed the postmaster’s exhibit in the main building where you could file or read a missing letter report (some of them were very funny) and photo booth areas. Hopefully expanding on more critical commentary and reflection around artefacts and historical moments is also on the way.

This is also one of the first community museums I have ever visited that included the role of women in early settlement. Due to the physical labour and danger of “wilderness” at times of settlement, much of this history is often given over to men. The Rossland Museum includes the history of prostitution and the (unfair) contribution of sex workers to Rossland’s annual budget. There is also a thoughtful pamphlet of early census data and the lives of women in Rossland at this time.

There is also a significant portion of the museum dedicated to industry, mining, and workers. Cominco (now Tech) funded an exhibit on the history of the refining plant and the ingenuity and motivation of early settlers dedicated to extracting resources and making money off the area. However, it is the dynamic worker’s history that was the real draw for us – for instance the miners of Rossland were the first local of the Western Federation of Miners in Canada in 1895, creating precedent for other workers across the province to fight for better and fairer working conditions. There is also an exhibit on the 1895 Rossland Miner’s Strike and its lasting effects on BC labour legislation, as it created the 1902 Trade Union Protection Act – the first legislation of its kind in North America.

Once outside the main building, there is an extensive outdoor section of the museum that at one time included a tour of the Black Bear Adit mine (unfortunately closed in 2009 due to safety concerns). There is now a demonstration on gold panning (at 1pm every day in the summer months), mining equipment, and a geologic museum.

A portion of the geological society’s collection at the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre

Overall, this was a wonderful, engaging, and surprising day that was appreciated by our whole group from age 7-52. Please take time on the next rainy day to visit the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre as well as any community museums in your summer travels – understanding the historical and contemporary contexts can really add to your experiences as a visitor or resident.


Funding Helps Increase Accessibility to Fresh Foods and Supports Farmers

The BC Government announced earlier this year that they would be expanding the Farmer’s Market Coupon Program, which works to connect low-income families with fresh, local food. The province is investing almost $1.6 million this year for the program that will supply weekly coupons valued at $21 for the purchase of locally grown food at farmers’ markets around the province.

This is an important initiative for students, given the unprecedented rate of student hunger in post-secondary students. A recent report by the national campus food organization Meal Exchange showed that nearly half of students surveyed had forgone healthy food to pay for books, tuition fees and rent.

“It helps people come to the market who might not otherwise consider this a place to shop,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix states. “It helps low-income people at a time when we have high inequality in our province and our government has given a focus to poverty reduction.”

The program supports farmers and farmers markets by bringing more customers their way, and provides health benefits by allowing more British Columbians to access whole fruits, vegetables and proteins.

Laura Smit of the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets, which represents more than 145 markets across the province, described the program a “thoughtful and effective initiative” to improve health and support farmers.

“It increases farmer access for over 700 small-scale B.C. farmers and ranchers,” she said. “It keeps the money in their communities and sustains their farms. It is, quite simply, an amazing program with far-reaching benefits.”

From savoring produce at the peak of freshness to meeting the people who grow your food, there are countless reasons to support farmers markets. Here are just a few!

1. Taste Real Flavors

The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you—no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage.

2. Support Family Farmers

Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness dominates food production in North America. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy.

3. Protect the Environment

Food in North America travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging. Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.

4. Know Where Your Food Comes From

A regular trip to a farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced. CUESA’s seller profiles that hang at the booths give you even more opportunities to learn about the people who work hard to bring you the most delicious and nutritious food around. Profiles, articles about sellers, and a map of farms are also available on this website.

The Cranbrook Market occurs on Saturday throughout the summer and draws many locals, tourists, and local producers

5. Connect with Your Community

Wouldn’t you rather stroll amidst outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a sunny day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped in music? Coming to the farmers market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore. The farmers market is a community hub—a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, or just get a taste of small-town life in the midst of our wonderful big city. It is also a great way to tap into the local settler history of the Kootenays, given the prevalence of agriculture in rich river valleys.

6. Get to Know Local Artisans

Its not only local food producers that are present at markets. This is a great way to connect with local potters, textile artists, painters, and soap makers. Local artists are important contributors to our local economy and sense of identity in the Kootnenay region.

There are many farmer’s markets that take place around the West Kootenay region. For more information on locations, days, and times, please visit: https://gokootenays.com/farmers-markets/

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BC Ministry Forum on Sexualized Violence Policies

a student reflection

| Rebekkah Ankenmann, Contributor | From June 4th to 5th the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training hosted a forum with administration and students from all across British Columbia to address the vast issue of sexualized violence within post-secondary. You may now wonder what this has to do with you? Judging that this is an article being published for Selkirk College students primarily I’d like to share the information that one in five post secondary students experience sexualized violence. This is only based on the accounts that are actually reported.

This forum was very useful for advocates and administrators present, but here I present an overview of what I learned from being a student representative at this conference and highlight some aspects that I believe specifically affect our school and students.

This is such an epidemic in post secondary institutions, as it is in larger society, that it was mandated by the provincial government for each school to have a policy in 2016. This became a problem as many institutions were unprepared to properly create an educated, dynamic, and accessible policy. Because of this, many policies include language or procedures that are actually harmful to survivors or any others trying to utilize the policy. Our institution in particular includes a ‘false accusation’ clause that expresses that there will be consequences for false accusations of sexualized violence. This kind of language has been shown by experts and advocates to be an antiquated clause that discourages survivors from coming forward. I have personally gone over the policy at Selkirk College with a colleague based on the ‘report card’ that was created by Students for Consent Culture Canada. Selkirk College did not score well, though this means there is a lot of opportunity for improvement and engagement.

Luckily it is also mandated that there must be a review of every three years, with the next review scheduled at Selkirk for May of 2020. This means that it is the perfect time to actively get involved within our institution and make our voices heard. Things such as plain language that has the ability to make policy comprehensive in regards to who may be reading it, along with trauma informed practice would greatly benefit our policy at Selkirk College. With the mandated policy review pending, it is incredibly important for students to put in their thoughts and expectations for what they believe their policy should reflect within the college. I understand that it is difficult to get involved as Selkirk is primarily a transitional school, with programming that is based on short diploma lengths, however it is important to think about the students who will be attending after we have gone.

Involving consent education was also highlighted to be greatly important within institutions, as it encourages a more open and positive campus culture. The most important aspect of creating a positive campus culture will be directing campaigns towards involving students who wouldn’t generally want to get involved. Students who don’t think that consent talks and workshops related to them are generally the ones who most need to be attending them. There were also presenters from on-campus and community organisations on tactics and theories for addressing sexualized violence. This is important as many of these organisations are the experts on addressing violence in our societies and on campuses.

It will be interesting to see how this issue will be tackled within Selkirk throughout the next year specifically. One of our biggest challenges is finding the capacity to engage students, as the school doesn’t have a lot of draw outside of class hours. Also there is no single person or group of people who are tasked with this work, meaning any work done on sexualized violence prevention and education is done off the side of someone’s desk. I am hoping that there can be a general engagement of students through class talks, and planning events and workshops throughout the year.

The forum also had a moment where students were allowed to talk freely about specific issues or concerns that they had relating to their institutional administration. It was to be a safe conversation where students could talk amongst themselves and validate one another’s concerns without fear of recoil from administration. However this wasn’t how it played out with every institution. Some institutions have more strained relationships with their students, or student groups. There was also a hope for more student engagement by administrations when they are creating programming and policies, as these policies are meant for and affect students.

Most interestingly there was a presentation from the Minister of Advanced Education Skills and Training, Melanie Mark, who announced that the provincial government plans to invest more than $700,000 to address sexualized violence on campuses across BC. Though this funding is needed to support anti-violence work on campus, a highlighted topic of conversation was that one-time funding is not a fix-all, as it does not actually create any static infrastructure that will benefit students for extended periods, nor will the funding go far enough to affect the number of students it needs to. Additionally there needs to be special attention paid to how the money is distributed, as large urban universities have an astronomical difference in resources in comparison to small community colleges. I believe a meaningful commitment would be to create jobs for individuals who are able to support the institutions with the creation of policy, and programming aimed at prevention. These would be specifically important to smaller colleges, as other institutions may already have support in this way from on campus.

My hope is that we keep up the enthusiasm and passion for a comprehensive policy and proper supports for implementation of the policy so that we can show that students care and that they want to be involved in the process. 


Six Months Later: No Access Without Consent

Six months Later: Wet’sewet’en and Unist’ot’en Check-in

Six months ago, allies and Indigenous communities around the world raised up the voices and actions of the Wet’sewet’en National as they defended their sovereignty and traditional territories. Following approval of a Coastal GasLink pipeline project by the BC government in Novemeber 2018, members of the Nation stood before BC Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church to defend their sovereignty. The project aims to transport fracked gas through a 670-kilometer pipeline across their territories to refineries in Kitimat and ultimately to export markets in Asia. 

In early January we reported on actions taken by governments and the RCMP who enacted a court injunction, leading to the arrest of spokesperson Molly Wickham, an Elder, and 13 land defenders and supporters.

Effects of the occupation by developers and industry on the territory were felt immediately by the Nation. Members of the Nation enacting their right to hunt and trap on their traditional territories found their access denied, as well as traplines and surrounding forests disturbed by development.

A statement from the Nation highlighted that the company was unwilling to stop their machinery in their relentless push toward constructing this pipeline, prohibiting the Nation from fulfilling our responsibilities to the animals we share this territory with.

“Police refused to update trappers on if we would be allowed to check our traps, or when we could do so legally. We are treated as criminals for our cultural practices. We have a right to trap on our territory. We have a right to feed ourselves from our territory. We need to be with our ancestors on the land. CGL and RCMP continue to treat us, and our land, with blatant disrespect.”

An inspection by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) found Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. to be in “non compliance” with three conditions of their environmental assessment certificate. The EAO requested that CGL “immediately cease activities” within the trapline registered to our Hereditary Chief Knedebeas (Warner William) that may adversely affect the trapline’s use. CGL had been ordered to “not resume activities that may affect” the use of this trapline until June 12, 2019, or until the trapline is no longer in use due to seasonal restrictions. Thus far, Coastal GasLink has ignored the EAO cease and desist order for Dark House territory.

Due to land disruption, many archaeological artefacts were also laid bare. On February 13, 2019, multiple artifacts were recovered from the bulldozed portions of Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. (CGL) construction site in Ya’tsalkas (Dark House) Talbits Kwah yintah (territory) of the Wet’suwet’en near Houston.

On Friday, February 15, inspectors from the Archaeology Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations along with the BC Oil and Gas Commission entered Unist’ot’en territory. In a public statement, the Nation described that:

“They did not stop to go through the required Free, Prior and Informed Consent protocol, and thus had no consent to enter the territory. At no point did they inform Unist’ot’en spokespeople or chiefs of their presence or intentions. We were not able to witness their inspection of the site or notify professional archaeologists advising us on this matter. According to a member of the police Division Liaison Team, “they [OGC and Arch Branch archaeologists] did take items from the site. […] What they advised us is that they had a ministerial order to take the artifacts”

While unattended and unobserved by Unist’ot’en members and hereditary chiefs, they removed stone tools that Unist’ot’en supporters had left in situ. They trespassed, tampered with an archaeological site, and stole gifts from the ancestors of this territory.”

The Unist’ot’en House filed an application for judicial review in the BC Supreme Court in relation to the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline project. The judicial review challenged the decision of the BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) and provincial Archaeology Branch to accept an archaeological mitigation plan prepared by Coastal GasLink without undertaking any consultation with the Nation

In April, the Nation stood before the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to raise awareness on an international level of the actions of the Canadian government against Indigenous sovereignty, consent, and violation of Wet’suwet’en law, as well as federal and provincial laws that protect Indigenous heritage. Hereditary leaders including Na’moks and Freda Huson addressed to committee.

“We are troubled by the ongoing trend in Canada that the interests of corporations for natural resource extraction are superseding the rights of Indigenous people on our lands and territories.” ~ Na’moks

The Nation has received statements and actions of solidarity from across the country including the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, other Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the BC teacher’s Federation, and the BC Federation of Students.

In turn, Unist’ot’en has expressed solidarity and recognition of the intersection of their work with other international and national issues such as the need to ban fracking and the affects of work camps for Indigenous women and girls.

Masuma Asad Kahn, former Dalhousie student and Former Vice President Academic and External at Dalhousie Student Union, has been a long time advocate for Indigenous sovereignty over traditional territories, including the occupation of Wet’sewet’en territory.

“Showing solidarity and showing up to event and supporting communities across Turtle Island is part of my duty to the land, my community, and specifically my Muslim community. This is tied to our need for clean water – wherever you come form or who you are, we all need water to live. Indigenous sovereignty is connected to all of our liberation. When you protect Indigenous sovereignty, we are actively doing work to liberate our communities and build networks of solidarity amongst each other.”

Wet’sewet’en hereditary Chiefs are before the courts again from June 11-14. At this time, Coastal Gas Link is seeking a permanent injunction before the BC Supreme Court. CGL is asking for an enforcement order to remove Unist’ot’en cabins established on the territory.

Unist’ot’en members state that “It will either be extended to an interlocutory injunction, giving a pass to more RCMP violence, or dismissed, ending the human rights violations. Regardless of the outcome in the courts, it is not up to colonial government and industry giants to determine our fate. We remain unceded, undefeated, sovereign and victorious.”

This Saturday, June 15 the Nation is calling on National Day of Action in continued support for Unist’ot’en and Indigenous sovereignty. The Unist’ot’en Camp is also calling on Indigenous individuals and allies to take part in the 6th annual spring construction camp and defence of the land.

The University of Northern British Columbia is also offering a course on decolonization through land stewardship in partnership with Unist’ot’en, which takes place July 8-12.

Kahn hopes that people across Canada recognize their responsibility in this call to action.

“We as people who are taking resources from this land, holding jobs, who are benefitting from this, need to ensure that we give back to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities. We would not have Canada without the genocide of Indigenous people and the consistent oppression that they face. Its important that we come together and fight for and recognize their sovereignty.”

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Columbia River Treaty Negotiations: Communities, Observer Status, & Meaningful Consultation?

The contemporary history of the Kootenay region has been defined and transformed by development – both on the rivers and along side them. Though the dams are highly visible infrastructures on our landscapes, the stories of the people are less visible but their impacts are just as strong. With renegotiations of the Columbia River Treaty happening, it is an important time to consider what the impacts have been, could be, and how the people impacted by these decisions are considered within the treaty.

The Columbia River Treaty is a trans-boundary, water-management agreement between the United States and Canada, ratified in 1964 following years of negotiations that had begun in the 1950s. The treaty sought to optimize flood management and power generation, requiring co-ordinated operations of reservoirs and water flows for the Columbia River and Kootenay River, on both sides of the border. However, dams and power (both social and electrical) were not new to the region – beginning in the 1890s increased development brought to the area through mining, hydro development began to take place. From the first hydroelectric plant built in Nelson in 1896 on Cottonwood Creek, to the large BC Hydro developments on the Kootenay and Pend d’Oreille Rivers and the new power plants built by the Columbia Power Corporation, hydro development has long been a part of the region.

The Corra Linn Dam, located at the outlet of Kootenay Lake to the western end of the Kootenay River, was built in the 1930s

This is a also a long history of changing communities. Takaia Larsen, a History professor at Selkirk College, explains that the original Columbia River treaty negotiation forever changed transportation, work, recreation, and communication in the Arrow Lakes region. Historically people, both Indigenous and early settler communities, were more connected via waterways than highways. The impacts of the dams and flooded lands were extensive, forcing 2,300 people from their homes in the Arrow Lakes region. The dams took a heavy toll on the ecosystem, prior to construction the Columbia River was considered the world’s richest salmon river. Despite these far-reaching impacts, neither Indigenous people nor residents of the impacted communities were included in the original treaty negotiations.

However, when Treaty re-negotiations were announced in May of 2018, both the US and Canadian governments rushed to include public consultations in the process, as well as include previous consultations from the BC government in 2012-13. Announcements in April of 2019 also saw the Canadian government applauding its inclusion of the Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations who had been utterly excluded from the original 1956 Treaty. The Nations have been providing input and declaring their right to participate in decision-making through public consultations for decades.

Katrine Conroy, B.C.’s Minister Responsible for the Columbia River Treaty, stated at the announcement that “this is an important and unprecedented step in demonstrating our commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to our journey towards reconciliation.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair of the Okanagan Nation Alliance expressed gratitude for the opportunity to ensure any new Treaty addresses the mistakes of the past.

“The original Columbia River Treaty in 1964 excluded our Nations, and wreaked decades of havoc on our communities and the basin. Canada’s unprecedented decision to include us directly in the US -Canada CRT negotiations is courageous but overdue and necessary to overcome the decades of denial and disregard. We welcome the government’s bold decision here.”

However, the Nations have been given only observer status within the process. MLA Conroy’s office has stated that having Indigenous Nations participate as official observers is unprecedented. “

There is no roadmap for exactly what this will look like, but our government and Global Affairs Canada are working closely with the Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations to determine the best approach.”

What is known for certain is that representatives of these three Indigenous Nations will be in the negotiating room and will observe negotiations between Canada and the U.S. They will also be actively participating in the break-out sessions during the course of the negotiation meetings. The Canadian government is currently finalizing an agreement with First Nations formally describing their involvement during the period of negotiations more generally, as well as protocols during negotiations sessions.

“Indigenous Nations are a key part of the process, Conroy’s office states. “They have been working closely with the governments of B.C. and Canada since February 2018, to develop and refine negotiating positions and strategies. This collaboration will continue as Indigenous Nations become observers at the Canada-U.S. negotiations.”

Furthermore, the Sinixt First Nation, who held great power and influence in the region prior to colonization and settlement, do not hold observer status within the re-negotiation. The Nation had (conveniently) been declared extinct in the region by the Canadian government in 1956 – just prior to the signing of the original Treaty. This eliminated a need for government consultation with the nation, eliminating any uncertainty in the progress of the project. The Nation is now held within the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington.

As stated by Marilyn James and Taress Alexis in the book Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way, it disrupted the ability of the Nation to come back to their territory, carry out responsibilities, exercise influence, and maintain seasonal rounds.

Members of the Sinixt Nation following the BC Court of Appeals announcement confirming their rights and existence with their traditional territory in the Lakes region.

When the actions of the Treaty were implemented, the Sinixt were further removed from the landscape through folding and destruction of archaeological sites – up to 99% of the archaeological record were lost in the building of the Keenleyside Dam in Castlegar. It has also restricted the salmon from their traditional territories as well, further disrupting relationship and culture with the Sinixt Nation.

“To me, this stem of the Columbia River represents much more of what’s happening to us socially, politically, environmentally. It represents what is happened to this entire region.” ~ Marilyn James

Though the Sinixt Nation recently won a case for the BC Court of Appeals declaring their rights and existence within the Kootenay region, their inclusion in the Columbia River treaty re-negotiation must be put forward by the US government.

It is easy to see the difference between including Indigenous communities and actually listening to them. Consultation processes acrid the country that involve natural resource extraction are rife with lack of meaningful incorporation of Indigenous concerns. Even the observer status being applauded by the Canadian and BC governments is far from the nation-to-nation negotiations that would be a part of a decolonized process.

There have been moments in history where consultation processes with communities and industry have proven to be meaningful. A shining example of this is the Berger Inquiry of 1974, which was undertaken to investigate the social, environmental, and economic impact of a proposed gas pipeline that would run through the Yukon and the Mackenzie River Valley of the Northwest Territories.

Justice Berger heard testimony from diverse groups with an interest in the pipeline. Fourteen groups became full participants in the inquiry, attending all meetings and testifying before the commission. The inquiry was notable for the voice it gave to Indigenous people of the region, whose traditional territory the pipeline would traverse. Berger travelled extensively in the North in preparation for the hearings. He took his commission to all 35 communities along the Mackenzie River Valley, as well as in other cities across Canada, to gauge public reaction. In his travels he met with Indigenous leaders and citizens, non-aboriginal residents, and experts.

Berger’s report first volume was released on June 9, 1977 and followed with a second volume several months later. Titled Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, the two-volume report highlighted the fact that while the Mackenzie Valley could be the site of the “biggest project in the history of free enterprise,” it was also home to many peoples whose lives would be immeasurably changed by the pipeline.

The result of this Inquiry and report was a ten-year moratorium to deal with critical issues—such as settling Aboriginal land claims and setting aside key conservation areas—before attempting to build the proposed pipeline. It also set the stage for many young Indigenous people of the region to feel and understand their power as leaders and partners.

One has to wonder where are Inquiries like this at a time of increasing Indigenous sovereignty, increasing inequality, and governments touting mandates and actions towards reconciliation.

Though far from the Berger Inquiry, Selkirk College and the Community Colleges of Spokane will be hosting the One River: Ethics Matter Conference at the Castlegar Campus on May 30 and 31. The sixth annual event invites those interested in new approaches to ethical governance of the river system to take part in two days of workshops, field excursions, expert panels and discussion. The conference is under the direction of the Ethics & Treaty Project, which is hosted jointly by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Sierra Club with support from the Columbia Institute for Water Policy. This is the first time the conference has been held in the West Kootenay, with previous gatherings taking place in Missoula, Revelstoke, Boise, Portland and Spokane.

“This is an excellent opportunity for people of our region to get a well-rounded look at the issues facing the Columbia River Basin,” says Jennie Barron, the Chair of Selkirk College’s Mir Centre for Peace and one of the members of the planning committee. “We are bringing together a diverse group of people from both sides of the border who care deeply about this river and what it means for the generations to come.”

Larsen encourages community members to participate in the process however they can, stating “the renegotiation is not going to change our region back. Archaeological sites will still be flooded, villages will still be under water – that damage has all been done and is a history impossible to overturn. However, the Columbia Basin Trust is a really important part of the region’s economy and this provides the only real form of redress for the damage caused by the original treaty.” 

Public consultations will occur throughout the region during 2019. However, given the international nature of the Treaty, as well as obvious power dynamics, how thoroughly and meaningfully community concerns and voices will

For more background information on the Columbia River Dams, please see the Touchstone Museum’s virtual exhibits.

For more information on the Berger Report, please visit https://www.pwnhc.ca/exhibitions/berger/

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Looking at Legislation

The past month has seen labour issues present in the news cycle in ways many haven’t observed in decades as BC puts forward revisions to the Labour Code and Employment Standards Act. From raising the minimum working age to 16 to protection against contract flipping the proposals promise to help restore fairness to a wide range of workers.

These are much needed changes considering that legislation surrounding labour has been left unchanged over 16 years of Liberal government. Since that time, the rise of project jobs and a “gig economy” has risen – terms that were not a part of our social lexicon when the legislation was last reviewed. Moreover, the lack of balance and fairness have given employers carte blanche to prevent workers from being able to fully exercise their constitutional right to bargain collectively within union structures.

There have been numerous inputs from labour and the general public throughout the process. The BC Federation of Labour had put forward an action plan and list of recommendations that represent the views of more than 500,000 affiliated union members across the province of British Columbia. A 3-person governmental panel of experts from labour also contributed perspectives through a 154-page report that held 29 wide-ranging recommendations. This has resulted in Bill 8, Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2019. This tabled Bill contains significant updates to the Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) (ESA). It is the first of what is anticipated to be two stages of amendments.

It is also important, as we move forward, to look at back the original intent of the Labour Code and how it was intended to protect and support workers. The legislation rose out of the 1940s, when a shifting and exploited workforce was involved in a surge of strike activity culminating in more than a third of the workforce being involved in job action in 1944. This was resolved through amendments to the War Measures Act, RSC 1927, c 206 which provided legal recognition of unions as bargaining agents if a majority of employees signed union membership cards. The employer was then required to engage in good faith collective bargaining.

This legislation guided the protection workers (or not, depending on your perception of this legislation) until the B.C. Code was enacted in 1973. The Code represented a new labour relations approach including creating the Labour Board, an expert tribunal with exclusive jurisdiction to determine many issues previously decided by the courts. The Board was given a central role in administering the Code and effecting its legislative goals through its policy making authority. The 1973 Code established a collective, problem-solving approach to labour relations through extensive use of informal processes and mediation. In looking at this early labour legislation, the heart of it seems to be rooted in creating collaborative relationships between workers and employers, with collective bargaining viewed as the most important way of achieving workers’ “voice” in the workplace and unionization as an expression of collective power in greater society.

A number of revisions to the Labour Code have occurred since (1975, 1976, 1977, 1984, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, and 2002). Many of these changes have revolved around the union certification through “card check” (in place in the original Code) or through secret ballot. The secret ballot (which was originally introduced to the legislation by a conservative Social Credit government), implemented a two-step certification process whereby workers who wish to join a union must first sign a union card and after a waiting period, during which the employer typically campaigns against unionization, must reiterate their vote through a secret ballot. This 10-day period of certification balloting often includes employer’s anti-union campaign activities that often include open threats to worker’s job security either in their personal position or as a workplace as well as retaliation against union organisers. In sectors where unionization is the lowest, such as retail and service, the majority of workers are women, students or youth, Indigenous, or racialized individuals working multiple jobs. This level of job insecurity and marginalization creates greater opportunity for employer manipulation in the case of secret balloting. 

This may the most debated aspect of the current proposed revisions, with the BC Greens adamantly opposed to the return of card check. The tabled legislation. This would not be precedent setting, given that 7 other other Canadian jurisdictions have a streamlined process and this has proven to increase unionization. However, the NDP government has backed off on this much-needed revision, keeping the secret ballot process (though halving it to 5 days) due to lack of support from the BC Greens and fears it would stall other much needed changes. This is particularly disheartening due to steep decreases in unionization provincially and nationally, and worker exploitation is on the rise. This two-step process is seen to mainly work in suppressing worker’s rights to join a union, which are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

BC Federation of Labour promises this is not the end of the public discussion on the issue of card check vs. the secret ballot.

“During that five days we are concerned that imbalance of power can still end up with coercion and intimidation that affects their rights. So we’ll be watching that closely.”

The revisions to legislation include a mandatory review of labour legislation every three years to ensure another 16 years does not go by without an opportunity to provide enhanced fairness for BC workers. It will also provide opportunity to continue exploring more and new ways to provide workers power within current structures (is there more we can do outside of collective bargaining? is that truly the apex of our ultimate power?)

What is also important to consider is the strength and accountability of the Code and Employment Standards Act, as implementation is as equally important as the legislation itself. Due to the fact that workers continue to labour under a capitalist system and government that shifts to the pendulum swing of our provincial governments, no matter what reforms are made to legislation, the benefit will always go to those that hold the capital rather than those that create it. Upholding these revisions will require an enhanced role of the Labour Board in ensuring employers meet the new standards, particularly surrounding the changes in the certification process.

These changes come forward at a time when workers in BC face low-wages, precarious labour, high cost of living province, with severe rates of poverty and economic inequality. In the face of this, what will these tabled recommendations look like on the ground? How will they effect BC workers in all aspects of their lives? Perhaps, most importantly, how will it allow workers to the make the larger societal changes necessary for a more equitable society (as this is the heart of labour organising). This is what we, as workers, should be watching in the coming months as this legislation defines our relationship to our labour.

Students, as member of the general public of BC, have the right to have their voices heard by the provincial government as these conversations continue, as well as in workplaces. These changes around union certification provide new opportunities for workers to join or start unions in your workplace. Contact local Labour Councils (West Kootenays & East Kootenays) and get to know your revised labour code to know how to protect yourselves. Students and the student movement have long stood in solidarity with fellow workers in recognition of shared exploitation, lived experiences, and desire for more equitable societies – reach out and find out how you can take part.

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HWW: Renee Jackson-Harper

Building communities, allies, and partnerships is an important part of post-secondary and life generally. We welcome you to get to know the members of our Selkirk College community!

What drove you to become a professor?

I guess the quick answer is that I love the conversations about ideas that happen within classrooms.

I got my educational start at a community college and remember vividly how exciting it was to be in those classrooms for the first time discussing everything from world history, to psychology, to cultural anthropology and creative writing. 

From KSA and Okanagan College, I wound up at the University of Toronto and eventually York University, where I continued to rejoice in the learning and conversations that happened in and around classrooms. I treasure the time I spent these spaces, the knowledge that my professors imparted, and the time to they took to guide me on my way as I sought to answer my own questions.

For me, becoming a teacher was about giving some of that back, about opening doors for new scholars who are just starting to find their feet, and about creating spaces where students can to start to ask and answer their own informed questions about the world we live in. 

What inspires you to continue being a professor?

That’s easy: the students. Every semester I’m met with a sea of new faces, which can be overwhelming (for me and them), but, by the end of the semester, I always feel like we’ve been on a journey together. I leave every term grateful for all of the conversations we’ve had and for all that the brilliant people who share my classrooms have taught me. 

If there is one thing you could change about academia, what would it be?

I would love for post-secondary learning to be financially accessible for everyone. 

As a student, I survived on student loans and part time jobs. I remember too well how hard it was to concentrate on my studies when I was worrying about how to pay for rent, food and transit. I remember sitting down at the end of every year of study and wondering how I would afford to keep going another year, wondering if my student loans would be approved and if my part time jobs would carry me.

I see a lot of students having to decide between continuing to pursue their educational goals and putting a roof over their heads. I hate to think of what we’re losing as society when we foreclose on a student’s educational aspirations because they can’t afford tuition and housing.

What do you see as the values of education in society today?

I think education is more important than ever. The challenges we’re facing as a society are acute at every level, whether it be climate change, the rise of hate speech, or the myriad of other vexing issues we contend with at a local, national and global levels. We need people from across our fields of study to continue to bring informed thinking and fresh ideas to bear on the problems that we face. 

When I feel a bit down on the state of world, I look to my colleagues and students at Selkirk who are doing amazing work in the community and beyond, who are sharing their research and passion for learning, and I have renewed hope.  

What is your favourite thing about the Kootenay region?

There’s not much I don’t love about this place. I love the warm, creative community that thrives in these valleys; I love this geographic space and spending as much time as I can on or by the lakes. I also love working here and with the people I get to work with. After nearly a decade as a poor student, living in a run-down and under-insulated apartment in Toronto (that may or may not have been infested by fleas and visited by rats), I’m grateful for where I’ve landed and for the journey that took me here.