In Windsor there is a lot of media attention on city council and the development plans for the downtown area. All the planning seems to be done behind the scenes with the public brought in only when a public relations show is needed with ideas and plans already in place. Witness the sham public consultations during the debate over the aquatic centre. Council and developers appeared to already have a plan in place costing tens of millions of dollars and residents in politically powerless neighbourhoods were forced to give up their amenities so the city could come up with funds for operating costs for the new aquatic centre. So much for citizen empowerment, as when asked if they wanted to give up their amenities, residents gave a resounding NO that went unheard. The continuing plans for the old arena continue in the same mode and it is hard to tell what will happen to the Glengarry neighbourhood as gentrification gets underway and the Water World community anchor disappears. With this in mind, the experience of Occupy Windsor and the homeless people we came into contact with, questions about citizen empowerment – how you get it, keep it and use it – need to be examined
In Kitchener, the Working Centre serves over 10,000 people a month where they find assistance and support for job searching, transitional housing, meals, bicycle repair, used furniture, and access to computers. Now, many cities including Windsor have such support services, but not under one roof and not, I believe, run by workers themselves. Joe Mancini is the Director of the Working Centre and he joined us by phone from the centre in Kitchener.
Mancini described the “barn building motiff” of the Kitchener/Waterloo area and the attending value of cooperativism that is crucial to allowing the Working Centre to exist and thrive. Mancini describes the purpose of the Working Centre here:
A key element of the Centre is the concept of subsidiarity: that a central authority should only carry out tasks that cannot be done more efficiently at the local level. Imagine for a moment that Canadians were debating how to share resources at a more local level instead of having to fight a distant authoritarian central government bent on squandering our wealth on war, attacking working people, destroying the capacity of First Nations to survive, and threatening to cut pensions.
Kitchener/Waterloo’s The Working Centre is a model of how we could more cooperatively and democratically determine priorities that meet peoples’ needs in this city.
(A related theme on chemicals and human beings is covered in a recent episode of The Nature of Things. The question: Are we fat because of man-made chemicals? New science links environmental chemicals to the global obesity epidemic.)
The ShakeUp is devoted to environmental and social justice issues and if you are a follower of the program you know how vast a landscape those topics form and how intertwined they are. On Friday we were all about the environment, specifically, the human made one in factories where plastics are created by blue collar workers working in a toxic milieu, and the focus for this program is women and cancer. We had two related themes to discuss: a documentary film, Pink Ribbon$ Inc., an examination of the campaigning around breast cancer to be screened on Thursday, Jan 27, and a conference to follow the next day: Are Women Automotive Plastic Workers at Risk?: Starting the Conversation.
This event, this “community conversation” is arranged by the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health (NNEWH) and the Canadian Auto Workers Union. As some background, as quoted in a chapter of an upcoming book by James T. Brophy, Margaret M. Keith, Robert DeMatteo, Michael Gilbertson, Andrew E. Watterson, and Matthias Beck, “According to Industry Canada (2010), plastics manufacturing generates $20.7 billion annually and employs about 91,000 people in Canada, primarily in small and medium sized firms with a low level of unionization. Forty-eight percent of plastics firms are located in Ontario where about 51,000 people are employed. The automotive component, which comprises about 18 percent of the overall industry, dominates plastics manufacturing in EssexCounty, which is generally regarded as the automotive capital of Canada.”
My in studio guests were Margaret Keith and Jim Brophy, both long time Windsor-based independent researchers and we talked about the Thursday film and the Friday conference as well as the overall environment in Windsor/Essex and the reality of living and working in an area where manufacturing and farming use many chemicals and materials toxic to human health.
Next week (Jan 16-20) is Mental Health Awareness Week on campus. Mental health has long been considered a rather taboo subject and many people suffer as a result. The shame and confusion associated with mental illness locks too many in isolation and despair. On the program I wanted to take a look at mental illness from a social justice perspective, and that means taking a look back in history at the disease and how it was viewed and treated, and how pwoplw coped. The disease is certainly not respectful of class, income or social standing; yet treatment and access to it are dependent on all three. (LINK: Canadian Mental Health Association/Windsor Branch)
During my stay in Senator Croll Park as part of Occupy Windsor, we met, as I would say all other Occupy sites did, homeless people who were attracted to us for shelter, food and clothes. What was also evident was that many suffered from some sort of mental illness. We had to call an ambulance several times for one fellow in particular who was not able to look after himself (taking medicine when required and eating regularly) and seemed disconnected from the world around him. As far as we know he got the help he needed and one has to ask, what if we hadn’t been in the park? Also, even if someone is of sound mund and body, after a length of time homeless on the streets as an outcast, the wear and tear on mind and body is tremendous. Nowhere is the stigma about mental health more acute than with those on the street. How do they get help, especially compared to those more privileged in society? What historically has been the answer?
For some perspective, in the first half hour I spoke to Windsor native and York University Associate Professor Geoffery Reaume, who teaches in the Critical Disability Graduate Program in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and in the School of Health Policy and Management in the Faculty of Health. He is also a mental health survivor. Professor Reaume was the keynote speaker at last year’s awareness week here at UWindsor ( Mad People’s History). Reaume spoke at length about the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health , and you can read an article about the “Wall Art” here.
When I was growing up NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was posed as a heroic organization born out of the wreckage of WWII and stood against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries; an alliance of Eastern European countries with the Soviet Union. (As Vito Signorile explains, the Warsaw Pact was actually formed in response to NATO presence). The terms Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, may sound strange to many under 30; however, at that time they were household terms and the news media provided a constant stream of information (for the times!) of the military strength of both NATO and Warsaw Pact forces, along with the numbers of warheads and missiles the US and Soviet Union had. The Cold War played out for much of my adult life until the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact disappeared and talk of a “peace dividend” floated through the media like a wisp of smoke. What did not disappear was NATO and what was billed as a defensive force has become today an offensive force – which it arguably always was – dressed up as the world’s police force.
According to Eric Ruder writing in the Socialist Worker, “NATO was founded in the wake of the Second World War in order to, in the words of its first Secretary General Lord Ismay, “keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” The U.S. wanted NATO to draw together allies under a security umbrella for the stand-off with the USSR, but also to provide a counterbalance against a possible resurgence of Germany. According to its own self-defense mandate, NATO should have been disbanded with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Instead, the U.S. and other Western European powers sought to enlarge NATO to include countries that were formerly part of the Eastern bloc.”
On Friday’s program I talked with Enver Villamizar and Vito Signorile, both of the Windsor Peace Coalition about NATO and its role in the Middle East, especially focusing on Libya, Syria, Iran. Also, we touched on the May 19thNATO/G8 summit planned for Chicago. (Read the Chicago Principles here).
The Windsor Peace Coalition has worked tirelessly to alert people to the danger posed by NATO and the role the organization plays in maintaining the global order.
We also discussed the Harper regime’s plans for celebrating the War of 1812 Mel Watkins article at StraightGoods.ca Watkins alerts readers to Harper’s likely plans to use the centenary of WWI in 2014 as another excuse to further militarize our society.
Statement by Windsor Peace Coalition
Oppose the Canadian Government’s Hostile Interference against Syria and Iran
WindsorPeace Coalition-9 December 2011
“TheWindsor Peace Coalitionfirmly believes that Canadians want their country to be a factor for peace in the world, not an international bully that interferes in the affairs of other nations and peoples and whips up pro-war sentiment to try and justify attacking them. Precisely when a calm atmosphere is needed internationally so that political solutions can be found to conflicts,U.S.imperialism, echoed by the Harper government, is pushing for military “solutions” to prevent lasting political solutions coming forward.
The ramping up of sanctions and statements made recently againstSyriaandIranby the Harper government are reminiscent of the way conditions were prepared for NATO’s murderous intervention inLibya. These developments are deeply troubling as they show thatCanadais inciting war and aggression internationally.
While theU.S.and NATO represent a clear threat to international peace and security, launching wars of aggression and threatening other nations, Prime Minister Harper has declared the Iranian government to be “the biggest threat to global peace and security in the world”. In a statement issued November 16 regardingSyria, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird said “[The Assad regime’s] campaign of terror against the Syrian people must end. President Assad and those supporting him must go….Canada will continue to urge the isolation of this illegitimate regime. “
Defence Minister Peter McKay announced recently that a Canadian warship will continue patrolling the Mediterranean until the end of 2012 even though NATO’s military intervention inLibya– the reason for the warship’s deployment in the region – is supposed to be over. And responding to a CBC reporter’s question about the possibility of military action against Syria, McKay indicated that any possible military action would require “further contemplation” and possibly a Security Council resolution “to mirror the path that we followed with respect toLibya.”
The Harper government is trying to justify interfering in the affairs of the Syrian people, resorting to accusations against the country’s president Bashar Al Assad similar to those used to demonize Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. The U.S. and its NATO allies including Canada invade countries, kill people and destroy their infrastructure, carry out regime change and assassinate those they declare enemies, but are trying to divert from all this by whipping up disinformation about the Syrian government. The aim is to create a pretext to be able to invoke the “responsibility to protect” and carry out another regime change that will allow them to strengthen their grip on the Middle East and prepare for future aggression against countries such as Iran, Lebanon and others. It is a recipe for further war crimes and must be opposed.
It bears remembering that inLibya, claims of “an impending genocide” inBenghazi relayed around the world by pro-NATO media to set the stage for a U.S.-led military attack, were never confirmed or verified. Included in the group of “non-governmental organizations” that made claims in a letter to the United Nations about “massive human rights violations” requiring urgent international intervention in Libya were: a U.S. government-funded agency known to specialize in interference, destabilization and regime change around the world – the National Endowment for Democracy (NED); a “Human Rights League” with direct links to the NATO-armed and financed National Transitional Council; a lone Canadian “human rights NGO” whose President, a Stephen Harper-appointed director of the government-linked Canadian Race Relations Foundation, is dating Defence Minister Peter McKay according to Canadian media reports.
Now some of the same dubious groups and individuals who lobbied the UN to authorize a military intervention “to protect civilians” inLibyaare raising allegations of massacres and calling for a similar intervention inSyria.
The U.S.and NATO have no interest in change that favours the peoples ofSyria,Iran,Libya,Iraq,Afghanistanor any other country they target for regime change. But they are deliberately using the people’s desire for change in order to supplant it with their own aim of strengthening their imperialist system so that no people or government anywhere can challenge it. This is the basis of the Canadian government’s unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of other countries and peoples and it should stop!“