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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 |

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Six Months Later: No Access Without Consent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.


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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.

2019 Federal Budget Provides More Funding for Indigenous Students

Following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for action, post-secondary institutions across the country sought to increase the number of Indigenous students on campus, as well as support events focused on reconciliation. Many institutions, such as Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, have seen significant funding for their reconciliation work such as the $13.5 million from Mastercard. Despite this funding for institutions, many Indigenous students continue to face difficulties and limitations in accessing funding for a post-secondary education, which occurs through the federal Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP).

While much of the post-secondary education system is under the purview of provincial governments, the federal government maintains responsibility for Indigenous education, international students, student financial aid, and graduate research funding. The Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) apportions money to band councils which is generally passed on as non-repayable grants to band members.

In the 1990s, the Liberal Party of Canada government capped funding increases to the PSSSP. As tuition fees continued to skyrocket over the subsequent two decades, PSSSP funding failed to keep pace. The result is that already stretched band councils were forced the make impossible decisions about funding for band members to attend post-secondary institutions. Indigenous people attain post-secondary degrees at a rate far below the popular average. Even the Right Honourable Paul Martin, Minister of Finance at the time, has since suggested that introducing the PSSSP cap was a mistake.

The recent 2019 Budget announcement seeks to correct this as the PSSSP will receive a number of investments for Indigenous students and communities. This includes and expansion of the program by $327.5 million for First Nations communities to disperse to those seeking post-secondary education, while also working with Indigenous communities to develop long-term post-secondary education models. Inuit communities will see an investment of 125.5 million over ten years. A Métis Nation-led post-secondary education strategy consisting of financial assistance for Métis Nations students will see an investment of $362.0 million over ten years.

Some advocates within Indigenous education and sovereignty are concerned about how the funding will be managed, given the limitations that exist under the current system.

That will make the ongoing consultation and review of the program promised by the budget and Ministry integral to successful implementation of the investment.

 

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Kootenay Residents Fight for Threatened Forest Lands

| Save Cottonwood Society |The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) announced March 21 that they have purchased some of the private land surrounding Cottonwood Lake. The 21.6 hectare section of land will be added to Cottonwood Lake Regional Park and preserved from logging.

“We’re grateful that the RDCK, with the help of the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), has made this first purchase of land,” says Andrew McBurney of the Cottonwood Lake Preservation Society (CLPS). “We’d like to thank the many people who made donations and wrote letters to show our political leaders how valuable this forest is to the community. We appreciate that the RDCK directors and dedicated Parks staff have worked very hard to make this happen”

Despite the expansion of Cottonwood Lake Regional Park, the society is concerned about the remaining private land above Cottonwood Lake still under threat.

“The Cottonwood Lake area has essentially been subdivided,” McBurney continues, “and the RDCK and CBT have purchased land on the west shore of the lake, the entrance to the park, and alongside the Great Northern Rail Trail. So the larger portion of land (67%) above Cottonwood Lake is still privately owned and very much under threat. There is no zoning for this area and private land logging is still unregulated. When we began this initiative, our community-backed goal was to preserve all of the land around the lake, as well as the beautiful forests above Apex. We’ll take the good news of today’s announcement and keep looking for ways to save the remaining land. This entire corridor is simply too valuable to give up on. From threatened grizzly bears, sensitive wetlands, risks of flooding and the blemish on our reputation as an uncommonly beautiful place- the reasons for continuing are infinite.”

The society has raised over $50,000 on GoFundMe and increased their fundraising goal to $150,000 last month. They are still actively fundraising with the intention to preserve more land in the following months.

The CLPS is holding a second public meeting at the Rod & Gun Club on Wednesday, April 3rd from 6-8 pm, to hear community feedback on the RDCK’s purchase and discuss how the society can best use its funds to secure more land. Representatives from both the CLPS and the RDCK will provide an update and answer questions. 

“We need to come together again, like we did on that cold night in December and decide on our vision for the Apex-Cottonwood area,“ says McBurney. “Do we want to see it chopped up into clearcuts, or do we want to preserve it as an important centre for generations to come?”

In addition to the public meeting, the society is also holding a live music fundraiser at the Capitol Theatre Tuesday, April 2nd. More details can be found at savecottonwood.com

Federal Budget Promises Some Relief for Students

The 2019 Federal Budget announcement on March 19 holds some relief for student loan holders. Budget 2019 limits interest charged on student loans to the prime rate of interest; the existing interest rate ranges from prime plus 2.5% to prime plus 5%. Additionally, it removes interest charged on student loans during the six-month grace period following the end of studies. Government estimates suggest this change will save borrowers an average of $2,000 over the loan repayment period.

Selkirk College Students’ Union Chairperson Santanna Hernandez its pleased to hear about the steps taken for students in the federal budget.

“Upon hearing about the reduction of the interest on students loans to prime it is a great first step, I’m thankful to know I will be able to put those thousands of dollars in savings into supporting my children and hopefully buying my first home.

This is good news for the SCSU and the BC Federation of Students who had launched the Knock Out Interest on Student Loans campaign on March 5, which received over 150 signatories in the first two hours.

The online campaign seeks to impact students far beyond British Columbia as nearly 500,000 Canadian students turn to student loans to help cover the cost of their education. Charging interest on student loans forces those who need student loans to pay more for their education than someone who could afford to pay tuition fees up front, disproportionately affecting low and middle-income students and families.

Wayne Stetski, MP for Kootenay-Columbia and recently appointed BC NDP Caucus Chair, had already taken up the call in writing the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, hoping to see the elimination of federal student loan interest be included in the 2019 Federal Budget.

Hernandez appreciates the stand undertaken by Stetski on behalf of students stating, “at the SCSU we are really privileged to have a good long standing relationship with our local representatives such as MP Wayne Stetski, by having the opportunity for open dialogue we are able to collaborate on working towards meaningful change. As students you can feel disregarded in some political settings, so when you feel heard, respected and see our partners advocating for us we have the chance to believe our future matters.”

Over the course of a decade, he recognizes that students relying on loans end up paying thousands of dollars more for their education. He adds that this is even worse considering that many young Canadians are “graduating with record educational debt in a time of stagnant wages, precarious work, and soaring housing costs.”

Hernandez hopes that federal interest rates will follow the same process seen at the provincial level in BC, with reduction to prime followed by the recent announcement of elimination, taking steps to level the playing field for low-income students across the country.

There are other pieces of the budget that will affect students and their communities outside of costs directly related to tuition, which will be analyzed over the coming days.


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Educational Equity Through Free Menstrual Products

| Chantelle Spicer | Across the country, public institutions from libraries to high schools are beginning to offer free menstrual products, with many colleges and universities across the country beginning to contribute to the movement.

Currently, only a handful of post-secondary institutions offer free menstrual products including Centennial College, Mount St Vincent University, Carleton University, and University of Kings College. In the province, Langara College is currently considering how to implement the initiative.

Nancy Pollak, coordinator of the women’s studies program at Langara College, states taking action on this is important as “it does make a difference in women’s ability to participate in their communities wholeheartedly.”

The efforts of advocates at Centennial College have been made through the Free the Tampons campaign, which is dedicated to breaking down stigmas around menstruation and raising awareness around issues of equity for all who menstruate.

Shannon Brooks, Centennial’s associate vice-president of corporate services, said the initiative was proposed by a male staff member, who having taken for granted that using the restroom was an all-inclusive, complimentary service, was dismayed to learn that people who menstruate have to provide for their own supplies.

“It’s one of those things that it’s always been that way, so you don’t really think about it,” Brooks said. “To me, this is a way of changing expectations.”

Recent victories in menstrual-related equity have been celebrated within the British Columbia K-12 system when the New Westminster School Board voted to install coin-free dispensers in every girls’ and universal bathroom in every school in their district, becoming the first in Canada to adopt such a policy.  

The idea came from Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who pitched the initiative to the school board.

“We know that girls, if they can’t manage their periods properly, will remove themselves from activities, from extracurricular or athletic activities, also social activities, and in the worst case, they will actually miss school.”

In May, a survey was conducted by Plan International Canada, and found that one-third of women under the age of 25 in Canada have struggled to pay for menstrual products. This is particularly important in post-secondary considering the rates of student hunger and poverty generally.

“Tampons are pricey for any woman, but women who can hardly afford to buy food can’t afford to buy a $10 box of tampons, leaving them to choose between food or feeling comfortable when on their period,” states a Selkirk College student who wished to remain anonymous.