‘Climate Reality’ at Selkirk College in Nelson

| Chantelle Spicer, Editor |On November 21, more than 20,000 climate advocates will be speaking around the world as part of the Climate Reality Project. For one full day, Climate Reality Leader volunteers trained by former US Vice President Al Gore will hold public presentations and conversations on our changing climate across continents and time zones. The Climate Reality Project was founded based on the recognition that the shift to a clean energy economy is on – and accelerating by the day.

The Climate Reality Project Canada is the Canadian branch of a non-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing action around the issue of climate change, with over 600 active Climate Reality Leaders across Canada. Here in the Kootenays, Laura Sacks will be presenting at the Selkirk College campus at Nelson’s 10th Street location at 12:30pm.

Sacks has been an active community member and long-time climate activist. She has hosted the award-winning Climate of Change show on Kootenay Coop Radio, is a founding member of the West Kootenay EcoSociety, and founded a local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby – an organization focused on creating the political will for a livable planet – and helped build what is now one of the most active chapters in Canada.

“We are at a critical time, when the impacts of climate change are getting more severe. Yet we also have an exciting opportunity to create a better world by addressing the issue,” says Sacks. “By staying active and engaged in the community — as part of a global initiative — I feel hopeful that we can avoid the worst of climate change’s impacts.”

Students and the community are invited to attend.

BC Budget Consultation Report Released

On August 7, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services related their report compiled from the Budget 2020 consultation process. This consultation presents a unique opportunity for British Columbians to directly engage with a committee of Members of the Legislative Assembly on the issues that matter most to them. Many student groups across the province provide lived experiences and needs of their fellow students during this process. By the closing deadline of June 28, the Committee had visited 15 communities across the province, heard 276 presentations, and received 496 written and video submissions.

Of the 106 total recommendations put forward to the government and treasury to consider in budget discussions, a number spoke to improved access and affordability for post-secondary education.

Many students unions identified a need for upfront, needs-based grants program to address these challenges, while others, such as the Simon Fraser Tuition Freeze Now highlighted noted that tuition makes up a larger proportion of revenues than government funding at some institutions, highlighting the need for both a tuition freeze and increase in government funding to the systems. The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia also shared concerns during their presentations about underfunding of post-secondary institutions, highlighting that BC lags behind other provinces in this regard.

Also of note was the recognition of need for affordable housing for students and capital funding for these projects. The Teaching Support Staff Union and the Graduate Student Society from Simon Fraser University both highlighted the need for greater protection within student residences. Rising rents, high demand and low vacancy rates make it difficult for students to find adequate and affordable housing in urban centres across BC. Furthermore, the Residential Tenancy Act does not cover university residences, meaning there is no cap on allowable annual residence rental rate increases. 

Other areas relevant to student need include supports for Indigenous student services and programs, mental health and well-being, elimination of precarious labour for faculty, and regulation of international student fees and an update to the international education strategy.

In terms of access and affordability, the report states “Committee Members found the arguments for shifting to a needs-based grant system compelling. They expressed interest in additional analysis that examines different grant and financial assistance structures to ensure students are well-supported.”

Many of these same recommendations were also highlighted in the 2019 Budget recommendations from the Committee, though many of these, including investigating a need-based grant system, have not been reported on or fulfilled.

Santanna, Hernandez, Chairperson of the Selkirk College Students’ Union expressed dismay at the recommendations put forward to government.

“When the recommendations are to examine the same things that have been put forward for some time, I am a bit disappointed. I was really hoping to see more actionable recommendations for post secondary. The report at least shows that they heard what’s important to us.”

Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students expressed that though the recommendations released are very similar to previous years, they agree that it is important to see student needs and voices continuously recognized and reported on.

“Following on the momentum of the elimination of interest, we are hoping to see action happen in the 2020 budget. We always want to be pushing for tangible wins for students and the Budget is a great time to see this happen.”

The BC Budget 2020 will be released in February.

International Students Fees for BC MSP on the Rise

On August 1, the BC Government announced that, despite MSP premiums being eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2020, international students will continue to contribute to BC health care coverage.

Under the updated system, effective Sept. 1, 2019, all international K-12 and post-secondary students will pay a monthly health-care coverage fee of $37.50. On January 1, 2020, with the elimination of MSP premiums for British Columbians, international students will see monthly fees for health-care jump to $75 per month or $900 per year.

Health Minister Adrienne Dix states that this is not a new fee for students. “For almost 30 years, B.C. has provided international students with provincial health coverage, while asking them to contribute a reasonable amount to help cover those costs. This updated payment method for international students continues that commitment.”

However, this is not how it feels for international students, who face ever-increasing tuition fees with no legislated, protective cap such as the 2% rate that domestic students have. Tuition fees for international students were raised from 8-23% around the province as of May 1. Similarly, the $75 health-care fee recently announced will be an increase of 100% over the existing fee described by Dix.

An international student within Selkirk’s Associate of Arts program states:

“I find it extremely unfair to make international students, who have no or little financial support from the government, pay for the lost revenue of eliminating MSP fees for the rest of the province. We have to pay so much already just to seek a better education in Canada.”

 Kim Pham, Secretary of the Selkirk College Students’ Union, also expresses dismay at targeting international students in this way.

“As a soon-to-be-graduated student, I am excited to have received health care in B.C., but I feel terrible knowing that only international students will be charged double in order to operate this system. I am concerned that this, along with increased tuition fee, will create negative impacts on the lives of B.C international students as well as long-term FTE ratio in B.C.”

Another Selkirk student in the Business Administration Program expresses that the targeting of international students to subsidize BC systems (such as health care and post-secondary education is unfair.

“You can’t be against flat taxes as user fees for some people and not for others. Either MSP is wrong and healthcare is paid through employment or it isn’t. But singling out groups because they are perceived as okay to charge is unfair and discriminatory. I have already budgeted my expenses for this whole academic year – this is now an extra $900 I have to suddenly come up with.”

Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students, explains that though this fee increase is unfortunate, tuition remains the contributing factor of unfair fees facing students.

“Many other provinces require international students to be a part of private insurance companies, so at least students can continue to access our public health system. Though this fee continues to widen the gap between what domestic and international students are paying, as well as contributing to the unpredictability of fees, it is ever-increasing and unregulated tuition fees faced by international students that remains a primary concern.”

As of 2015, BC’s post-secondary institutions reported hosting 113,095 international students province-wide and almost one-third of all international students in the country. The strategy for international education has not been updated since 2012.

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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. 


Release of the 11th Annual Report Card on Homelessness for Nelson, BC

The Nelson Committee on Homelessness’s (NCOH’s) Annual Report Card tracks community indicators and trends impacting homelessness and poverty and the work being done in the community to address these issues.  These will be reported, and panelists from community services will share information on the housing and support needs they see as a priority for the community.

This year’s focus is on the need for affordable rental housing for the community and for supportive housing options for the most vulnerable in our community.  NCOH is now operating under a new federal homelessness program, Reaching Home, and the event will highlight the changes that will be worked on towards a more coordinated approach among services, institutions and Ministries to improve access to services for the most vulnerable and chronically homeless to help improve their chances of moving from homelessness to home and establishing more healthy lives, included in community.

Key to this will be the provision of supportive housing, now being funded through BC Housing. Also highlighted will be the growing needs among at-risk and homeless youth in Nelson, the solutions seen by community services, and the need for second stage housing for women and children fleeing violence in our community.

An affordable home was defined as no more than 30 percent of income on housing costs, and the purchase price was no more than three times the annual household income. However, local support agencies in Nelson and Tasman showcase the pressures faced by community members, many of whom report 50 to 70 percent of their weekly income on rent or a mortgage, leaving some families with less than $200 a week for other expenses. |

The community is invited to the release of the 11th Annual Report Card on Homelessness in Nelson BC on Monday, June 24 at 12 noon at the Adventure Hotel Ballroom (parking lot entrance off of Hall Street.)

| Ann Harvey, Community Coordinator, NCOH, contributor |


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/


Studio Arts Students Win Right to Carry on Their Education

Acknowledging the vitality of the arts community in the Kootenays, Selkirk College offers various educational pathways in a variety of arts. This includes Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) Certificate and Diploma programs that features pathways in Jewelry, Textiles, Ceramics or Sculptural Metal and enhancement of other creative skills with course offerings in academic, digital media and self-directed studio practice. There are also opportunities for graduates of the Diploma program to bridge to Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

However, following years of low enrolment and high costs of programming, College administrators decided in the fall of 2018 to discontinue the Diploma. Beginning September 2019 the College will only offer the one year Certificate program.

This came as news to a number of students completing their 2018-19 year with plans to continue on in their studies through the Diploma program, particularly after being told they did not need to register for the full Diploma program at the beginning of term.

“We found out through an email that they wouldn’t be allowed to apply for our next term as it wouldn’t be running,” explains Marcia Ticheler, a student within the Jewelry stream of the KSA Diploma program. “It was part of a mass communication failure that affect our plans as students.”

Through talking with other students within the program, she found out that the Metal studio students had learned of the change months in advance and had already successfully advocated with the College to complete their program. With this knowledge, the students created a petition and mission statement that current cohort would be able to continue their plans to complete the Diploma. Signatures of the minimum number required to continue the program were attained.

“We had our concerns, our petition, and the fact that the metal students got their second year,” Tichler explained.

However, when KSA students met with program Chair, Daryl Jolly, they felt their concerns are heard; however, due to administrative decisions and budget restrictions, there was no chance to continue running the program. The students persisted in their self-advocacy, scheduling further meetings with KSA administrators that continued to offer no definitive answer on what could be done to meet the concerns of students.

The students reached out to advocates within the Selkirk College Students’ Union to provide support during the Selkirk Education Council in their meeting on April 17. During this meeting, students were pleased to support from KSA administrators – Patricia Biddart and Jolly had reviewed the upcoming budget to arrange for continuation of the program. During the meeting, members of the Education Council voted to amend the program changes to grandfather current students, fermenting student victory and the right to continue their program.

“We were all so happy and impressed with how hard they fought for us,” Tichler states. “Through this process all of our professors were really supportive and hoping to do the second year with us.”

For the student advocate within the Selkirk College Students’ Union, the self advocacy shown by the students was important.

“I was proud. The students did a good job of organising themselves and did it very quickly and efficiently.  The commitment to their vision of being able to complete their program was really amazing and drove home their success.”

All parties were pleased at how rapidly the College and Education Council were able to respond to the situation.

““It can sometimes take years to get this kind of matter resolved with the institution,” stated the Students’ Union advocate. “I don’t often get to see student success like this.”

Tichler states students should not be daunted to advocate for themselves and peers when they recognize unfairness in their program or any aspect of their educational experience.

“It doesn’t take as much energy as you think to advocate for yourself – you are never alone – your professors want you to succeed, as do your classmates. You are never as alone as you might feel in this.” 

Students of all pathways of the Kootenay Studio Arts programs will be taking part in a year end show case and sale June 21 & 22 at the Victoria Street campus in Nelson.

A More “Open” Post-Secondary Experience

| Chantelle Spicer | Advocates of open education gathered together at the Cascadia Open Education Summit in Vancouver April 17-18.

Open education resources are freely available, downloadable, and shareable. In many cases, they are also reusable, adaptable learning resources that are made accessible via the internet. However, the conversation moved well beyond the resources themselves – and the costs of textbooks – including issues of pedagogy, social justice issues, accessibility for different learning styles, and digital literacy.

The days included not only presenters and participatory workshops on the realities of open education on campuses, but also a surprise announcement during opening remarks from Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Attendees cheered the investment of $3.26 million into BC Campus.

The advocacy of students on this issue was highlighted during the announcement.

“Students have long been advocating for greater investments in open textbooks as they’re a great way to level the playing field,” stated Mark. “I’m proud to be part of a government that is listening to students and is working with them as we make record investments in post-secondary education, including open textbooks, as for too long, students were left behind.”

“Students asked for more investments in open textbooks to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable,” stated Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission and chair of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. D’Eith acknowledged that students unions were present, advocating for investments in OERs at every stop of the Standing Committee that provided recommendations to the 2019 Budget.

Students continued to be the centre of conversations within presentations and key note addresses, including multiple sessions being led by students.

Keynote speaker Karen Cangialosi directly addressed many of these issues as well as the role that open education has in empowering students within their education.

“We need to really work on empowering students to communicate with faculty, and remind students of the power that they actually have to help change the system. Students are more powerful then they realize – faculty champions should help with this.”

Karen Cangialosi uses their presentation to connect larger student issues to open education

Despite the optimism expressed by attendees and presenters, the reality is that Selkirk College has one of the lowest adoption rates of OERs in the province. This is due to many reasons including lack of resources or understanding and pressures on faculty workload.

The College’s Chief Librarian Gregg Currie explains why increasing the number and access to open textbooks is important for student success and their role as an academic library.

“My budget for acquiring new materials has been flat since 2011, though prices go up 7% each year, every year so we are essentially buying 30% fewer resources than I was previously.”

Many academic libraries across the province are increasingly relying on open access journals and resources given tightening institutional budgets.

Rhys Andrews of the Selkirk College’s Teaching and Learning Institute states that “using open text books provides students with a more affordable choice.  It would be great to see more instructors find suitable open text resources at Selkirk College.”

The role of the Teaching and Learning Institute is to support the faculty in development of teaching excellence and the creation of relevant and inspiring learning environments and experiences at Selkirk.


Student Advocates Seek Action on Sexualized Violence Policies

| Chantelle Spicer | On March 18, student advocates from across the country met in Ottawa to discuss an impending national framework to guide post-secondary institutions in their implementation of anti-violence policies. The framework will act as a comprehensive resource to guide post-secondary institutions’ actions in preventing and addressing gender-based violence on campus.

This work is part of the mandate given to Minister Maryam Monsef following her appointment as Minister of the newly created Department of Women and Gender Equality. The new Department replaces the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in Canada, of which Monsef is the former Chair. The work is being undertaken by an advisory council within the Department and includes members who have extensive experience in preventing and addressing gender-based violence in a post-secondary setting.

Thirty “listening and learning” sessions have or will take place throughout March and early April, along with open, online submissions, will make the consultation process, with input being specifically gathered from student-led organisations such as Silence is Violence from the University of Toronto, third-party organizations that exist in post-secondary institutions, as well as administrators and counsellors from across the country. The process is being funded by $5.5 million dollars over 5 years as part of the 2018 budget.

During the March 18 session, students who have experience in anti-violence advocacy had the opportunity to discuss the realities of the implementation of the legislated post-secondary policies, procedures, and educational campaigns.

Many students are skeptical of not only the implementation of policies on campuses, but also the ability of a national framework to improve the experiences of survivors.

Mira El Hussein of the student-led movement Silence is Violence states, “Consultations and frameworks are important, of course, but I’m personally concerned about the possibility that this framework will not include any form of accountability measures to hold these institutions responsible for their treatment of survivors.”

Hussein explains that as universities are implementing anti-sexualized violence policies, there are issues around the policies and procedures being  unclear, maintaining the institution’s interests above those of survivors, and are essentially brought in to tick off a checkbox as opposed to actually enact any meaningful, structural change. A recent report from Silence is Violence Again outlined all these issues and more.

“We have been doing the work. We have been consulting our communities. We have been fighting,” Hussein states. “I’m hard pressed to believe that a framework will come close to solving the problems of chronic underfunding of services, fundamental administrative neglect, and an unwillingness to listen to voices that so desperately need to be heard, like the voices of IBPOC survivors, 2SLGBTQ survivors, disabled survivors, survivors who are sex workers etc. With all that said, I’m looking forward to seeing the actual draft soon, I think that that will be a defining moment.”

Currently, the Selkirk College Students’ Union is analyzing the College’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Policy through criteria outlined by the national organistaion Students for Consent Culture (formerly Our Turn). This analysis could help direct education to be incorporated into student and residence orientation for the Fall 2019 semester. The College is scheduled to review the policy in January of 2020, providing plenty of time for consideration and incorporation of student concerns that may arise from the current review.

The College has undertaken some work to educate the campus community on the issues of violence and harassment. This includes the development of a hand guide and web content offering direction for those who have experienced violence.

Despite this, Rebekkah Ankenmann, Director at-Large at the SCSU, is concerned about the shortfalls in the policy and resources available for students.

“Being critical of institutional sexual violence policy is of utmost important as these are the policies that determined how we will be treated at our most vulnerable points. Allowing full power of this process to be put into the institution creates an imbalance towards the students. It is our education and lives that are going to be strongly impacted. Policy needs to be centred around making the survivor feel empowered to make the decisions that are right for them. Policy needs to leave the antiquated perspective of protecting the institution in the past.”

Connor Spencer, Outreach Coordinator for the SFCC, explains the importance of considering the unique need of rural campuses in this work.

“We need to make sure that rural campuses are not being left out of discussions about concrete ways we can address campus sexual violence – there needs to be a recognition that the realities for rural campuses looks different and therefore the solutions need to be different. Provinces need to commit more funding, regional committees that can do external investigations and oversight need to be set up, and confidentiality needs to be handled in a way that understands the needs of a smaller community.”

This work is part of a larger national conversation, particularly following the recent release of province-wide survey results undertaken by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Results showed that 63% of university students and 50% of college students reported they have experience some type of sexual harassment.

The draft National Framework is scheduled to be announced and presented in May.