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HWW: Lori Barkley

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!

Lori Barkley, Instructor, Anthropology, Peace and Justice Studies

What drove you to become a professor?

A friend at the time suggested I apply to be a teaching assistant at SFU after I finished my undergrad. At the time, seminar sizes were smaller & the Sociology and Anthropology department at SFU didn’t have enough graduate students for all of the positions. I started as a seminar instructor the fall after I finished by degree from the University of Calgary (I was a visiting student @ SFU so have some idea of the challenges of transferring courses between provinces). I loved it & it turned out I must have been good at it, as they kept hiring me back. I taught seminars in both sociology and anthropology, and was a marker for ethnic relations as well. So I sort of fell into teaching. After my experiences teaching, I decided to apply to grad school so I could teach on a more regular basis, rather than the contract treadmill. I was hired at Selkirk shortly after finishing my graduate degree.

What inspires you to continue being a professor?

Students! I learn from my students each & every day. I also love seeing when things “click” for them & they become inspired. Without the meaningful interactions with students I would have been out of this profession long ago!

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

Smaller class sizes & free tuition. Sorry I can’t pick just one. If my tuition was as expensive as it is now, I wouldn’t be where I am. My tuition tripled over the course of my degrees & it was a struggle. I’ve seen the student demographic change as a result & students have so many financial barriers to overcome that it makes obtaining an education more and more difficult. 

I benefitted from small class sizes & I have seen dramatic changes in that regard since my first university class in 1988. When class sizes increase the quality of education goes down, it is inevitable. There is only so much an instructor can do in terms of establishing connections, providing extensive feedback, & just being there for students. I think everyone teaching in the education system right now, no matter what the level, struggles with this.

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

No matter the program of study, education provides several things: the ability to think critically and process large amounts of information, multi-task, work for various people with just as varied expectations, meet deadlines, etc., these are all valuable skills for the workforce and life in general. I greatly value my education as it opened my eyes to seeing the world in a much more complex and nuanced way. I’m a better person in the world because of the outstanding education I received at my alma maters (University of Calgary & Simon Fraser University). My motto is the more I learn, the less I know. Education creates a thirst for knowledge that is never satiated, there is always more to question, experience, know, leading to another set of questions. It is a fantastic journey to become a better member of society.

What is your favourite thing about the Kootenay region?

As an anthropologist, of course I will say the people! Coming here from Vancouver, I have certainly gotten used to the slower pace of life, and the ability to spark conversations with strangers without being suspected of wanting something. When I first got here, the friendliness was what struck me the most. I also appreciate the fresh air & sheer beauty of this place. There are just so many interesting people here that all have these amazing stories.


An Open Student Letter to the Selkirk College Board of Governors

Dear Board Members:
Re: Proposed Tuition Fee Increases – Letter of Protest

As a mature student who has enjoyed Selkirk College credit and non-credit (Distance and ‘Bum-in-the-Seat’) courses for a number of years, I am writing to indicate my dismay by the Board’s planned consideration of a tuition fee increase.

I am a current student, I have an adult daughter who completed her education elsewhere in the province, and I have a son who is a Camosun Plumbing grad, and now a 2nd year Nursing student down on the Coast.

The bulk of my courses have been taken in recent decades while I ever so slowly make progress working towards a degree. I put aside my studies while I raised two children who now experience the same financial struggles I endured. Long, long ago, I was a working student forced out of full-time post-secondary by having to combine a job with part-time studies. I then sought full-time employment in order to retroactively pay for my studies. Lack of affordability interrupted my post-secondary education for longer than my child-raising years. I am a testament to what happens when tuition continues to rise. I tried to stay in school by working during term time, then eventually I had to forgo my studies and just work. With the cost of tuition, school became an ill-afforded luxury. In our family’s case, all three student members have relied on or currently study with the support of external funding, largely due to the fact that tuition in this province is too expensive for many students to afford school without assistance.

My daughter has been paying off her student loans for over ten years, and will continue for some time. Her graduate studies are on the back burner. She is terrified of returning to school for the same reason she didn’t continue her studies more than ten years ago – the prospect of increasing her debt load due to Canada’s relatively hefty tuition fees alarms her.

Last night my nursing student son in Victoria was “on the brink” as he told me he will probably have to find work due to a shortfall in the external funding that supplements his summer earnings. His alternative in finding funds to augment his student loans, will be to take out a loan from our credit union, ​IF t​ hey will approve this for him with his current student loan debt load. (He is a Camosun student counterpart to those here in the Selkirk Nursing program – all will end up with degrees from the University of Victoria). He combines his already heavy course load with two full days a week as an unpaid student nursing clinician in hospital practical sessions, which are mandatory for the school entire year. Despite an amazing scholarship from one of the “big banks”, he, a careful spender who knows how to budget, has already amassed student loan debt and is distracted by the thought of having to repay those loans. That he and his contemporaries are being forced to seek bank and credit union loans in order to support basic living and tuition costs is an unreasonable situation when the country needs medical and other student professionals to graduate debt- and worry-free.

How will our nursing and other professional students find the time to add low-paying or minimum-waged work shifts – precarious employment at that – to their class times, their study hours and their practical clinical obligations?

Financial pressures apply to most Selkirk students … and similarly to ​allstudents in Canada. Students mortgage their lives in order to educate themselves to be productive members of society. Whether they are here at home as student nationals, or whether they will return home, abroad, as Selkirk’s International student graduates, the economic strain for students is palpable.

To add to a student’s financial worries by increasing student debt or by making post-secondary education elusive by rising tuition fees is a disservice to the future of this country.

Constantly, I hear international students on their phones in the cafeteria and in the stairwells begging family members in India or other countries to please find ways to send more money so they can pay their fees before being forced to unenroll. I have received calls from International students imploring me to rent him or her a room for $200 or $250 because “Ma’am I have to pay $5000 tuition, I cannot afford regular (affordable in current terms) room rent.” They are asking their families and the local communities to effectively subsidise their education costs by by increasing their support, or by reducing their charges. Three, four, five students cram into local one bedroom apartments, or one room motel accommodations or single bedrooms in Selkirk’s generous neighbourhoods because they cannot afford to eat properly after struggling to pay tuition that is already expensive.

Students who suffer and worry about their finances cannot concentrate on their schoolwork. They, ​we,​ are desperate. Students simply cannot afford living expenses, ridiculously priced textbooks, and ​current ​tuition fees, let alone a rise in tuition fees.

Selkirk College is renowned for its philosophy regarding accessible education. We have brilliant, committed, compassionate faculty (​wellunderpaid by the way – which is actually a form of tuition subsidy​). We have supportive non-teaching staff, and kind administrators who make it their business to get to know individuals in order to support them throughout their studies. Even the cafeteria staff are full of encouragement as sleepy-eyed students drag themselves through the cash-desk for a decently-priced coffee or for amazing meals that are substantial enough to affordably share with a friend or two. We have janitorial and security staff who are kind and good-humoured to everyone who shares this incredible community, especially after-hours and on weekends when the over-crowded library and “the pit” are in constant use. The Selkirk community is all about access ​and retention. However, if the fees are increased, “we the people” will either not be able to afford to come or will have to leave …

Selkirk’s unique approach to not ​getting in the way ​of student success, but to proactively ensure achievement by cheer-leading from all corners, has to be part of the consideration when fees are discussed. To increase tuition fees flies in the face of all the accessible education programmes for which Selkirk is known. Even the local radio station announcers “wax on” about this beacon of hope, our treasured educational institution located in pockets throughout the region. This is unheard of outside the Kootenays.

The sports teams are called the ‘Saints’ with good reason. The name “selkirk” has its origins in Scotland, and in Gaelic means: “hall”(sel) of “church”(kirk). Selkirk has had a long-held, almost biblical, ​mission ​of protecting post-secondary options for those in need, or “hungry” for an education, i.e. those who would not otherwise have access to affordable studies. Selkirk is a blessing to this province and to the people in the region. As ethical guardians of accessibility we can’t have come this
far to now make an evil mess of what’s so wonderful about this school.

Please reject the notion of a tuition fee increase and instead work to find creative methods to approve a responsible balanced budget that reflects the financial reality of a student’s life. There ​are ​ways … Your board is made up of some very influential and creative professionals who have experience making things work out. Please actually consider something even more reasonable: reduce and/or eliminate fees in the future.

By sourcing funding in ways other than on the backs of vulnerable students who need to not worry about staying in school, (or staying in the country), Selkirk College will sustain its well-earned reputation as a unique and true facilitator of excellence in post-secondary education.

Students should be concerned only about attending to their studies, meeting the obligations of their programs, and honouring the inspirations of their committed faculty. By being successful in their goals to succeed – with an affordable education – students will continue to be patriotic ambassadors of Selkirk college, and that is hardly an unsaintly outcome.

How will students be expected to follow Selkirk’s motto, “​Best of all, inquire​”, if they are not able to afford to maintain studies here?

Let’s not “sell” out Selkirk …

Respectfully yours,
Sheila Perret
TESOL and MTED student 2018-19

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Podcast Playlist

| Chantelle Spier | Over the last 10 years, podcasts have increasingly become the way we obtain news, share ideas, and explore concepts. Though radio itself seems to be on its way out in many regions, podcasts have spawned new independent broadcasting companies as well as provided a format for established outlets. Here are a few different shows to spark or expand on an interest.

If you are at all curious about the world around you, this is an amazing place to start digging for answers and stories. From technology and architecture to sounds and objects, host and network Radiotopia founder, Roman Mars, explores the life of our designed world, and how it affects us. Since the show’s humble beginnings in 2010, Mars and his staff have been bringing us well-researched and thought-provoking shows—without a single repeat. Since then, the show has gained great notoriety, having 150 million downloads through iTunes.  Not only that, if you enjoy the podcast version of the show, check out the website, where many more stories exist in both audio and article form (https://99percentinvisible.org). Even though the podcast has come a long way, it is still an independently produced show, supported by donations from droves of loyal and loving listeners.

Where to Start: My personal favourite episodes are “Wild Ones Live,” which takes on a topic not often covered by 99PI – the wilderness, and “The Mojave Phone Booth,” the epic story of one man’s relationship with a remote telephone booth. I’m also a huge fan of the episode, “The Revolutionary Post,” which explores the foundations of the US Post in relation to creating America. There is no bad place to start, and the vast archives never feel out-of-date.

The CanadaLand broadcaster presents a variety of podcasts that provide nuanced critiques of Canadian media and politics. Not only do you, as a listener, get a more in-depth examination of an issue, but also an understanding of how we come to understand that issue through media representation. The main show, CanadaLand, hosted by journalist Jesse Brown, is a weekly exploring everything from media coverage of climate change to government actions towards reconciliation (or lack thereof) to how different media outlets cover elections (ie. who owns what media). Other shows include the recent investigative coverage of issues regarding police and violence in Thunder Bay, Ontario and Commons, which is marketed as a politics show for people who hate politics.

Where to start:   Given that these are primarily news shows, listening to the most recent episodes is the most relevant; however, a lot of the topics covered are ongoing issues within Canadian media and politics. I thoroughly enjoyed the Thunder Bay podcast, which was the broadcasters first foray into deeply investigative journalism. The realities for residents of Thunder Bay, particularly Indigenous folks, comes through in the expert storytelling and facts presented. A list of their podcasts can be found at: https://www.canadalandshow.com/podcasts/

Ologies host Alie Ward breathes a lot of life and enthusiasm into a range of scientific fields from biology to anthropology – and some ‘eulogies’ you have never heard of! Each episode is an interview with an individual who is an expert in their field of study, giving “ologists” an opportunity to share their passions, answer listener questions, and provide us an opportunity to explore a topic we have perhaps never thought of. This show is regularly in the Top 10 science podcast downloads – and for good reason. Science and scientific research are often inaccessible to the general public, hidden behind journal paywalls and jargon, so this show is very valuable to increasing public understanding on a range of topics. Don’t be fooled by Alie’s silliness as a host – she is a powerhouse of scientific knowledge and knowledge activism as a correspondent for the CBS series Innovation Nation, and host of “Did I Mention Invention?” on the CW, as well as having written for L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. 

A major bonus of this show, besides being generally amazing, is that it is entirely funded by listeners through Patreon and merchandise sales. This means not only are there are no ads, but the accountability to listeners is strong with this one.

Where to start: With an extensive backlog, there is no wrong answer here, so don’t be daunted! Recent favourite episodes of mine have included Kalology (beauty standards) – the follow up bonus minis ode to this actually made me cry on the bus its so powerful – Corvid Thanatology (crow funerals – how cool!), and Selenology (study of the moon).

Modern Love is a podcast presented by NPR and the New York Times and offers listeners personal stories about the intricacies of love in today’s world. “Modern Love” is a long-standing column in the NYT and this podcast provides host Meghna Chakrabarti and editor Daniel Jones the opportunity to go deeper, sharing some of the best stories about love today. 

Ranging from familial to intimate partner relationships, each episode is a deeply personal and beautifully reading contributed by a fellow listener and brought to life by a celebrity voice. In a world of increasingly complex personal relationships within technology, this show is a reminder of our humanity within interactions.

Where to start: Some of the episodes are pretty tear-inducing, such as the episode “Learning Humanity from Dogs” (the unconditional love of dogs always makes me cry anyway) read by Ethan Hawke, while others, like the “Hunter-Gatherer Parking Division” read by Jason Alexander, have made me chuckle. Other episodes provide some insight into complex issues, such as “Maddy Just Might Work,” which explores the complexity of coming out as a transgender parent.


Thousands Stand in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders

Today marked an international day of action and solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Camp and Gidimt’en Checkpoint. Over 67 international events from Vancouver to London took place on January 8 with more scheduled for the rest of the week, including Seattle’s event on the January 11. 

Members of Unist’ot’en (C’ihlts’ehkhyu/Big Frog Clan) have been occupying the lands around the Morice (Wedzin Kwah) River since 2009 in opposition to various and ongoing proposals of bitumen and natural gas pipelines throughtheir unceded territory. Though the projects have received consent from elected members of the Wet’suwet’en Chief and Council, the voices of hereditary Chiefs who oppose these projects have continuously been ignored by the government and industry. Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals.

According to the Indian Act, elected Chiefs have jurisdiction only over reserve lands, thereby have no ability to grant permission for projects within the larger territory stewarded by hereditary Chiefs of the Nation. Furthermore, the 1997 Delgamuukw decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which recognized that Aboriginal title still exists in places where Indigenous nations have never signed a treaty with the Crown. In fact, the court was talking about the land where this standoff between the Nation and RCMP is taking place.

Unist’ot’en members stand at a checkpoint in 2012.

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. 

Unist’ot’en spokesperson, Freda Huson has stated, in regards to the ongoing occupation and defence of the land:

“I am here in my home, on my land. I am not a criminal for protecting my most critical infrastructure which is my berries, my medicine, my water, my right to teach future Unist’ot’en generations how to live in right relationship with the land. Without water, no human will survive and these projects like TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink threatens the water. We are the land, the land is us.”

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), in a press release in early December, spoke against the BC government approval of the project, calling for the rights of the Unist’ot’en people. 

“The Unist’ot’en camp is a non-violent gathering of Indigenous land defenders and members of the Unist’ot’en house group in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern BC. Under the authority of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, these land defenders are actively practicing their inherent Indigenous Title and Rights to protect the land and pursue their right to self-determination. 

A central tenant to the standards and rights affirmed within the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which both Canada and BC have endorsed and committed to implement, is the right of Indigenous peoples to protect their lands and territories, to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with the lands and to own, use, develop and control those lands. Article 8 of the UN Declaration calls on States to provide effective mechanisms for prevention of any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing indigenous peoples of their lands, territories or resources.”

On December 14, the Court ruled in favour of an injunction against the Unist’ot’en occupation that would allow workers to pass the constructed checkpoint over the Morice River held by the Nation. This injunction is allowed to be supported by RCMP should there be push back.

On January 6-7, RCMP began moving into the nearby towns of Smithers and Houston in preparation to enact the injunction. Following movement on the checkpoint on January 7, 14 people were arrested including Gitdumden spokesperson Molly Wickham. One elder was released and 13 land defenders and supporters will be appearing in court in Prince George today. The armed RCMP movement on the checkpoint has raised provincial, national, and international support and attention, with media from New York Times, Toronto Star, as well as independent videographers present.

Dogwood BC, who have a focus on power relations within the province stated in a facebook post on January 7:

“History will not look kindly on politicians who condone the use of force against local people on behalf of a multinational oil and gas consortium. I hope the response from British Columbians to these events give our leaders pause as they contemplate their next move.”

Following the RCMP enforcement of the injunction, UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Philip stated “We strongly condemn the RCMP’s use of intimidation, harassment, and ongoing threats of forceful intervention and removal of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders from Wet’suwet’en unceded territory. The RCMP’s actions are in direct contradiction to both governments’ stated commitments to true reconciliation, and to full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is a global human rights standard. We demand that Canada and BC call on the RCMP and Coastal GasLink to respect the Unist’ot’en/ Giltseyu-Dark House on unceded lands. The provincial and federal governments must revoke the permits for this project until the standards of free, prior and informed consent are met.” 

The actions of industry, the BC Government, and the RCMP against the Unist’ot’en members and allies speak loudly to the difference between the language of reconciliation used by all levels of government and the actions required to make reconciliation happen. 

At the time of this publication, the Unist’ot’en Camp states it is on high alert for a similar violent invasion of their checkpoint while thousands around the world rally in solidarity. 

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Words on Work

A Fresh Start and a Look Back

| Chantelle Spicer | Welcome to Words on Work! Through this column, I invite our readership to consider the workforce and ourselves as workers in new ways.

There have been significant changes in the workforce within the last year, 10 years, 40 years at both Canadian and global scales, yet we still, generally, consider work with the same expectations that our parents did. We still ask each other and ourselves “What do you want to do with your life? With your degree?” as though many of us will follow a distinct  career path following graduation. Many still expect their labour to support their bills and lifestyles – to make a living – despite recognition of the growing numbers of the working poor. Many of us continue to hold fast to the rigorous work ethic adopted from previous generations – a work ethic that has lent itself to the never-ending work day and spiralling exploitation of workers.

We are students for a reason – to make ourselves more employable in better jobs (which itself is a massive shift from former understandings and values of education, but that’s a different article). As students, we are taught to critically examine the world around us, so let us see how, together we can explore the idea of work.

Given that this is the last day of 2018, I want to start by looking back over the past year’s labour trends and headlines – to set the stage we can move forward from together – looking specifically at Canada (which are often widely under-reported in media), but with the understanding there is a global workforce out there experiencing similar trends.

Divisions within Canadian labour unions

Starting off the year in labour unions, the Canadian Labour Congress was divided when UNIFOR, the country’s largest private-sector union, decided to exit the Congress in January, claiming it was due to concerns surrounding American-based unions and their control of Canadian workers. However, the Congress has openly accused UNIFOR of exiting the national organisation with the intent to raid other unions of their membership, thereby collecting more dues from workers.

Notice to Members from UNIFOR national President.

Overall, this speaks to a lot of issues within unions in general, whether they be reality or perceptions – many members of unions are dissatisfied with the representation and protections offered or issues with bureaucratic and limiting structures. There are many types of unions that exist in Canada (and the world) – from those that readily take direct action to improve conditions for workers to those that prohibit direct action in their bylaws, those who take great measure to educate and mobilize their membership at all times or those that are more reactionary as issues arise. The foundation of every labour union should always be fighting for the rights of their workers, whatever that might look like for each trade. The division between the Congress and UNIFOR only continues to build distrust of unions among workers at a time when unionization rates are falling, while we need to be uniting and educating workers.

Public response and perception of division between the Congress and UNIFOR from Larry Savage, Chair of the department of labour studies at Brock University, who tweeted that Unifor’s decision to leave the
CLC “will definitely shake things up in the Canadian labour movement.”

Pitting workers against workers

It’s hard to forget the very public disagreements between the BC and Alberta NDP governments in the start of 2018. In February and March of this year, frictions surrounding the Kinder-Morgan pipeline construction captured headlines when the BC government stated it would under no circumstances allow the pipeline to reach the coast. Alberta NDP retaliated stating it would cut off oil to the province, as well as restricting imports of wines produced in British Columbia.

The Calgary World Herald saw through the public perceptions and political mess of the feud and identified how this would impact the 2,000 workers already on the project. The Herald stated many workers were concerned about feeding their families or not being able to pay their mortgages due to the disputes. There were also discussions in various Alberta media outlets (and subsequent comment sections) surrounding the fact that many workers at wineries in British Columbia were transient workers and not as valuable to a stable economy (which is wrong on so many levels…). Workers in British Columbia in opposition to the pipeline also threw blows at pipeline and oil industry workers (and their defence of their work), often stating these workers were anti-environment and entitled.

This pitting of workers against workers does nothing but shift the conversation away from who actually makes the decisions, the rules, and the profits while further alienating workers from each other. This fragments the our power to make real change for the environment and how we work when we should be coming together in solidarity as exploited workers.

BC Community Benefit Agreements

The announcement of community benefits agreements (CBAs) introduced by the BC government in July was one of the province’s most reported labour issues of 2018. The agreements will place emphasis on local union-based hiring for public infrastructure projects, with emphasis on and expectations for improving employment opportunities for women and Indigenous workers. The agreements have received some criticism from those in the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC (ICBA) who disagree with workers only being able to be sourced from the BC Building Trades (BCBT) unions, with President Chris Gardner stating “freezing out 85% of these workers doesn’t make sense, will increase cost to taxpayers and affects everything from completion to safety to schedule of the project.” However, this organisation, as a coalition of developers stands to continue benefiting from being able to exploit workers.

Community Benefit Agreements could mean much improvement for apprenticeship programs and employment opportunities for women, Indigenous workers, people with disabilities.

In fact, this statistical claim is very misleading to the public, as it does not account for the difference between residential and non-residential workers. As these CBAs are for public works projects only non-residential workers are impacted. BCBT unions represents 40,000 (or 58% of) non-residential workers. In the coming years, we can analyze how these CBAs benefit BC workers, specifically rural workers, as well as see what further developments happen in supporting trades training and apprenticeships.

Economists report looming labour shortage that may last a decade.

The “baby boomer” generation created a bubble within the workforce as they came of age in the 1960s – one that is starting to pop as workers retire. This will require many small and mid-sized companies, particularly those in rural areas, to adapt to a workforce that is changing in many ways. The shortage was most acute with companies with from 10 to 99 employees, where more than half of respondents indicated it was “difficult to hire” new workers. In the long run this may be a benefit for young workers, as many companies are realizing they need to offer higher wages and better benefits to attract and keep their workers. This would be much needed considering the increased student debt many young workers are facing, rising cost of living, and slow wage growth over previous years. On the other hand, it may lead to increased automation or global relocation of the industry in some fields. Government reactions to this report should be pretty interesting over the coming year in terms of students and young workers, as much could be done to increase adult skills training and improved access to education.

Pay equity legislation tabled to protect federal employees

Though limited in scope – it only covers federally regulated employers with 10 or more workers in the federal public service, parliamentary workplaces, and the offices of the prime minister and other ministers, though some private sector workers fall under this – it is certainly an acknowledgement of a pay equity issue that has been fought against since women first entered the workforce in the 1940s. Furthermore, it counters the myth that women have already achieved equality within our society simply by being in the workforce.

The Act requires that all employers establish an equity plan in the coming 3 years, while also having sections that address poverty reduction generally. It also establishes the Department  for Women and Gender Equality, which will replace existing Status of Women Canada. According to 2017 statistics in Canada, for every dollar a man earned, a woman earned 88.5 cents on the dollar as measured in hourly wages for full-time workers. When comparing overall earnings on an annual basis, women earned even less – just 69 cents for every dollar earned by men.

The Canadian Government stripped Canada Post workers of their constitutional rights through back-to work legislation. (stay tuned for lots more consideration of the year that as 2018 for Canada Post workers!)

This is a lot to sum up in a blurb, but here goes….Following months of union negotiations, CPUW workers began nation-wide rotating strikes on October 22 as action against failures of the employer (Canada Post) to adequately address increasing on-the-job injuries, a significant wage gap between rural and urban workers (which significantly affects women workers, who make up the bulk of rural workers (this greatly contributes to gender pay inequity across the country), and the lack of hiring full-time employees to alleviate the pressures and demands faced by existing workers.

Unions, activists and students gather to show support for CUPW in Ottawa and Gatineau

The federal Liberals introduced the back-to-work legislation on November 23, citing the need for holiday packages to be delivered on time, as well as social assistance cheques in the face of the alleged growing backlog of packages. According to labour lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, the government’s interference in collective bargaining through the back-to-work legislation was really about giving Canada Post management the upper-hand to force the union into accepting a weaker deal, stating:

“Whereas the Union was forced to make significant concessions in an effort to reach an agreement and avoid the punitive legislation, the Corporation was able to escalate its demands and seek even greater concessions than it had in the months of negotiations preceding the legislation.”

These are but a few stories of the way that labour is changing…but these are just the headlines. As current and future workers, we live these headlines…they are personal to us, our friends, families, and colleagues. I hope to use this column to showcase the realities of work and workers both in Canada and abroad, as well as highlight stories from the many folks who are fighting to change that. Welcome!

In Solidarity.


“Justice” is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

What did this mean in 2018?

| Chantelle Spicer | Editor at-Large of the online dictionary, Peter Sokolowski, states that the word “justice” is the 2018 ord of the year, having regularly appeared in the top 20 loo- ups of 2018. The online traffic around this word is up 74% from 2017 searches, with spikes occurring at certain points of the year when current events sparked interests. Though it is a word much used, how it is used may have encouraged thousands of people to look deeper into the word. Given the many philosophical or culturally understandings of “justice,” as well as the ramifications this can have in many lives, perhaps it is time we all begin to examine the idea a little more closely.

This year, news stories that circulated around the idea of justice included Kim Kardashian’s advocacy of criminal justice reform, credibility of the American Justice Department, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault testimony in the appointment of now-Justice Kavanaugh – all of which have far more to do with injustice than justice.

Dr. Cristine Blasey Ford is sworn in to provide testimony regarding sexualized violence perpetrated by Brett Kavanuagh. Her testimony sparked worldwide solidarity and criticism regarding structures for reporting of violence and the #WhyIDidntReport movement.

We don’t have to look far to find those examples in Canada either. One which stood out in the headlines this year were the criticisms surrounding  the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Inquiry. In response to decades worth of calls for action regarding the 1,200 (-4,000)* missing and murdered women and girls, the Government of Canada (finally) launched the entirely independent inquiry in September 2016. However, from the onset, the inquiry received criticism from Indigenous families, communities, and organizations on a number of fronts. Following on the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there are fears this is may be another instance of Indigenous communities being asked to share their stories – many of which are heartbreaking and horrific – to an official body that has no authority to offer any form of justice for women and may, in fact, further victimize families. This lack of authority is entrenched in the overarching mandate and jurisdiction of the commission, which cannot recommend that police re-open cases (though they aim to report instances systemic police bias or wrong-doing when heard during testimony). Furthermore, many families across Canada have reported facing many challenges in receiving support and resources – a promise made to families and communities at the onset of the Inquiry’s testimony period.

At the final testimony session given on December 10, 2018, Sunsan Frazer, a lawyer representing Families for Justice, stated:

“Families need to make sure that their loved ones did not die in vain. The death, the disappearance, has to have some meaning. And everyone who came before you to tell you their truth — that truth has to have meaning.

Those stories have to ground your report. Those tears that were cried have to have a purpose. People gave themselves to you completely, without reservation and at a great personal cost.”

The final report for the MMIWG Inquiry is scheduled for June 30, 2019.

artwork by Jon Labillois (http://jonlabillois.com), member of Member of the Listuguj Migmaq First Nation Band in Gaspe Quebec. This piece utilizes images of Indigenous women lost to violence in Canada.

Another aspect of justice to consider is: who has access to it? As seen in the MMIWG Inquiry, justice is something that can be offered (or not) – that it is not an inherent right, but may, in fact, be owned by the Canadian government and justice system and used however it deems fit at that time.

West Coast LEAF (Legal Education and Action Fund – an organisation focused on an equal and just society for all women and people who experience gender-based discrimination) published its annual report card on the province’s actions regarding the UN Convention on Ending Discrimination Against Women on December 6th. This report gauges the province’s compliance with UN recommendations from year to year, providing a yearly baseline of accountability. This year, LEAF assessed a C- grade, up from a D+ in 2017. This grade represents ongoing concerns regarding access to BC’s legal aid system, which continues to be under-resourced and incapable of meeting the public demand for legal assistance. The report shows that in January 2018, “Legal Services Society (LSS) publicly stated that it was refusing approximately 60% of applicants, 70% of them women, and that its level of coverage for family law matters fell far short of the nationwide norm.” For a number of reasons, this particularly affects Indigenous women, individuals with disabilities, and migrant workers. (to see more of the report find it at http://www.westcoastleaf.org/our-work/cedaw-report-card/)

Those who have faced violence in relationships may experience the most challenges to accessing justice (beyond even reporting the violence), which range from court delays to gaining assistance navigating the legal system. Though steps for improved access to justice were made, including the creation of an office for an independent Human Rights Commissioner, many more steps need to be taken before we could begin to call this “the justice system.

If we cannot find justice through our legal system, or if that form of justice does not meet one’s personal interpretation of justice, where do we turn? In recent years, restorative justice has been a focus of much conversation and work, though it has been a part of the legal system for over 40 years. This work is based on an understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships, with principles of restorative justice being rooted on respect, compassion and inclusivity. Meaningful engagement and accountability are foundational the process, providing an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration for all parties involved. Restorative justice can take various forms and may take place at all stages of the legal system. It does have its critics, who call it “too soft” or lacking the integrity to make sweeping changes to society given the fact that it only works on a small, personal scale or case-by-case basis. However, this flexibility, opposed to the rigid framework of the formal legal system, may be its greatest strength, allowing for multiple understandings of what justice can mean – putting the ownership of justice into the hands of the people. This idea can be further explored through the idea of social justice, which is a concept defined as “the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society.” This intrinsic and shared vision of justice is shared by a wide range (if not all) equity-seeking social movements who seek to see social justice represented though taxation, social insurance, public health, public school, public services, labor law, and the regulation of markets.

One could go on about the various forms of injustice that have gone on in the past year, of the powerful rallying cries of those seeking justice that have occurred to date – and will continue to as we, as a society, demand more. As this article is written, treaties regarding Wet’sewet’en traditional lands are being violated for LNG projects, millions of people in Canada are living in poverty, survivors of sexualized violence live in silence – none of this looks like justice….and none of these actions are slowing down. In the coming year, as we seek to understand justice better (keep looking it up folks!), to demand it,  hopefully those who are the gatekeepers of justice will relinquish their hold….or maybe we will just take it anyway.

* Due to lack of proper or standard reporting mechanisms, it is difficult to gauge how many Indigenous women and girls have been affected by extreme violence. The official number recognized by Canada is 1,200. However, Annita Lucchesi, a doctoral student at Alberta’s University of Lethbridge, recently set up an online, national database which has already gathered 3,000 names.

Feature photo of Lady Justice created by Eddie Calz (https://www.deviantart.com/eddiecalz/art/Justice-604261220)


Poetry as Revolution

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” ~Alice Walker

A major challenge in starting and maintaining social movements—political, environmental, humanitarian, or any combination thereof—is engaging people to get involved, as well as staying motivated. Successful social activism rests on the ability to provoke people’s perceptions, thoughts, and actions in positive and innovative ways. By joining with artistic and activist communities, social movements are able to overcome many adversities. The issue is given the ability to create a new visual landscape and language, form new collective identities, and redefine meaningful citizenship.

This collaborative endeavour has a long history and bright future of success in furthering the general awareness of controversial issues. Ranging from fine arts to street arts, poets and musicians, artists are inspired to create something beautiful and moving by social injustice, natural degradation, and the other harsh realities of our contemporary existence. Coupled with the power of the political and scientific voice behind most activist movements, art provides a new way to encourage the public to participate.

Art has been a way for humanity to express individual and community identity, articulating who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. In today’s social environment, this kind of expression has an indisputable place in social activism. Using the many aspects of the arts allows for emotional connection, and also provides a new way to transmit information, ideology, and communication, reduce fear or anxiety, or provide a rallying point of solidarity. It is powerful.

Poetry in particular has long been the voice of revolutionaries, change-makers, and social activists.  

Below are submissions from two Selkirk student poets challenging perceptions of the status quo:

Waterway| Sue Skidmore, 2018 |
I saw you and called you a waterway,
Must be navigable, the definition says.
You look so still, sealed over with shocking lime duckweed,
hiding your small surface.
What navigates you?
The ducks kick through and over you, as your covering of choked plant-life
splits then reforms as they pass.
The beaver from down the way visits you
And splashes through you in the dark while no one sees.
Insects, frogs, snails, animals that I could never know thrive within you.
But you are very very small.  I cannot navigate you.
You are not a waterway.

This poem was part of an assignment for a poetry workshop which Fred Wah gave recently in Nelson, the topic being ‘Waterways’. 

Record Low 1 |Jane Anon|
The troubles intensify,
Inexact and messy
Fought among
Esteemed people
Bottlenecks of
Narrow minds,
Choking debate
Civility voted out
Widening the
Wildly tracked
Differential of
Critical thought. 


Petition Signers Invited to Discuss Diversity Issues with College President

Recently, an informal petition was circulated regarding a concern about lack of diversity in senior management at Selkirk College. The petition was started in response to the recent hiring of a Vice-President of Education in May.

The petition hoped to bring about an employment equity policy at Selkirk College and was to be presented to the Board of Governors last Tuesday, however the board chair, Sharel Wallace, said, “The Board has not received the petition. We have heard rumours of a petition, but no one has presented it to the Board.”

The Sentinel’s editor, Whitney Rothwell attended the public portion of the Board of Governors meeting and the petition was not presented during that time. 

When asked in an email about the petition, Lui Marinelli, President of the Selkirk College Faculty Association said “I honestly don’t know what exactly happened at the board meeting.” and adds that, “The SCFA supports equity hiring practices and the executive will be promoting this concept at labour management meetings. Currently there isn’t an equity hiring policy to help guide the college.”

In an interview last week, Angus Graeme, Selkirk College president, told the Sentinel, “under our governance model, the Board is not charged with hiring processes or the recruitment of anyone other than me, so they would look at it as a policy issue for me to deal with.” adding that it’s not a Board of Governor’s issue. Graeme also said that he prefers people come to his office to address this type of concern saying, “I’m pretty approachable. If it’s a concern and the group (petition signers) wants to come en masse into my office, by all means, I’m not afraid of that.”

The petition has since been taken offline.


Nouns are Slowing Down our Speech, Study Finds

| by: Whitney Rothwell |

New research has found that nouns cause us to hesitate or pause when speaking more often than other articles of speech such as verbs. A study from University of Zurich says that we tend to hesitate and pause with sounds like “uh”, “like” and “um” mostly before nouns. The effect is much less frequent before verbs. 

Choosing whether to include, replace, or omit a noun, forces us to think a little more when uttering them.

Naturally when we speak, we unconsciously pronounce some words more slowly than others and add arbitrary sounds when we pause. Examining these slow-down effects can be integral in understanding how our brains process language.

To learn about how these effects work, researchers analyzed thousands of recordings of spontaneous speech from linguistically and culturally diverse populations around the world. The regions studied included the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Himalayas, the Kalahari desert, as well as English and Dutch speaking countries. 

The speed of speaking was measured in sounds per second and researchers noted whenever speakers made short pauses. The results show we have more difficulties when we have to plan before saying a specific word.

“We discovered that in this diverse sample of languages, there is a robust tendency for slow-down effects before nouns as compared to verbs,” explain research team leaders Balthazar Bickel and Frank Seifart. “The reason is that nouns are more difficult to plan because they’re usually only used when they represent new information.” 

When the information they represent is already known, nouns are replaced with pronouns (e.g., she, he, they) or omitted, as in the following examples: “My friend came back. She (my friend) took a seat” or “My friend came back and took a seat”.

It turns out that choosing whether to include, replace, or omit a noun, forces us to think a little more when uttering them. This replacement principle doesn’t apply to verbs, which are used regardless of whether they represent new or old information.

These findings shed light on how grammar evolves and how languages work in their natural environments. This is increasingly important in a digital age where language faces new frontiers and challenges, like communicating with artificial systems which may not slow down in speaking as humans naturally do. 


Recent Hiring at Selkirk College Sparks Online Petition

| by: Whitney Rothwell |

An informal group of Selkirk College faculty, alumni, retirees and community members started a petition this week to highlight their concern regarding the lack of diversity in senior management positions at the College.  

“People were really interested in hearing from candidates who understood rural community college challenges” – Angus Graeme

Posted online as a Google document, the petition, addressed to the Board of Governors states, “We the undersigned employees, students, alumni, and retirees of Selkirk College, and community members, are concerned about the lack of diversity in senior management positions at the College.”

According to the top signatory of the petition, Lori Barkley, Instructor of Anthropology, and Peace and Justice Studies, the petition was started, ”when it came out just last week that the third VP hired was also what seems to be presenting as another white middle aged male”.

Barkley sees the petition as an opportunity to educate the administration in these issues and says, “I think the hope is that we would get an employment equity policy and that that policy would be followed in future hirings”. 

Angus Graeme, President and CEO of Selkirk College, comments, “It’s an evolving make-up of the team, and it’s not the easiest thing to go out and make sure all of those things (diversity concerns) are looked at when you’re trying to hire the best possible candidate with the best fit for the institution.” Graeme adds that the recent hiring committee, made up of employees and representatives from all three faculty unions, was gender-balanced and discussed diversity as a criteria for their search. 

“As employees, women and other minorities look and say ‘okay, clearly there’s no space for us in the upper echelons’.“ – Lori Barkley

“But, people were really interested in hearing from candidates who understood rural community college challenges, understood some of our challenges in the West Kootenay Boundary and were a good fit with the culture of the institution.” says Graeme.

When asked for his opinion on an employment equity policy based on hiring diversely when choosing between equally qualified candidates, Graeme stated that he thinks it’s a great idea. He notes that Selkirk is currently editing a final draft of an inclusivity policy and an inclusivity plan that includes intercultural competency training for all employees, changing demographics in instruction and support staff, and other equity strategies.

Barkley highlights the importance of having a diverse senior management, “As employees, women and other minorities look and say ‘okay, clearly there’s no space for us in the upper echelons’. Yes there are some deans, there are a few deans who are women, but the message is […] that your perspectives aren’t important enough to be at this level. You’re really counting on white males to step outside of their privilege to represent you.”

She also points out that, “People don’t often discriminate intentionally, they just don’t think about it”. Petition signatories hope that raising this issue at Tuesday’s board meeting will show the importance of considering how a lack of diversity can be perceived by faculty, students and the community.