Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rad Bike of the Week 2: Britta

My bike doesn’t really have a name, but it says LRT on it and I don’t really know what that stands for, so in my brain it stands for Little Red Thing.”

Britta Antonsen – 5th year biology

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Britta lives on campus, so the Little Red Thing usually only ventures into the city once or twice a month, but it’s zipping around campus most days! She thinks UBC could probably use a few bike lanes, because it’s especially busy with all the construction. Navigating through the crowds can have a few upsides though!

“One time I almost hit someone on my bike, and then she recognized my shirt from a sailing program we’d both done, and now we’re friends!”

Britta takes the L.R.T. to the AMS Bike Kitchen because, “They’re just really chill people, and always really helpful.” The Bike Kitchen is both a repair shop and a DIY space so, “If you’re really clear with ‘I want you to fix it’, or ‘I want you to teach me how to fix it myself’, they can do both, and that’s pretty cool.”

She also let me know about an upcoming Bike Clinic event! It’s put on by UTown UBC, and it’ll happen 4 times per month, rotating through campus residences. For more details on that, check out this page.


 

Rad bike of the week!

Cycling is revolutionary. No constant dependence on fossil fuels. No more wasting your life in traffic jams. Faster than walking, with a bit better view. It’s the cheapest type of transit around, and definitely the most enjoyable. Wikipedia puts it in perspective:

A human being traveling on a bicycle at 16-24 km/h (10-15 mph), using only the power required to walk, is the most energy efficient means of transport generally available.

Rad bike of the week is a spotlight on people who’re in on the secret – biking is best. It’s radical, subversive, and freeing.

Put the fun between your legs!

Seeking: YOUR House Hunt Horror Stories

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Hi folks!

For a new series on Vancouver’s ongoing affordable housing crisis and how it is impacting UBC students, we’re looking for your house hunt horror stories.

Spent three months looking for a place and wound up living on a rickety living room floor with an ad-hoc partition? Jumping between houses slated for demolition just to get a break on your rent? Making it work in 100 square feet? Constantly emailing your Residence representative, because you have no BC Tenancy rights? If you’ve experienced discrimination, we welcome you to share your story (anonymously, if you prefer).

Whatever your story is, we want to hear it.

We will be using these stories in a set of articles discussing the difficulty for students, especially those navigating our classist and racist society, in finding a place that is affordable, well-located, clean and functional.

Please contact talonubc@gmail.com with your story.

The Maple Leaf and the Olive Tree

This article is the first in a 3-part series that investigates Israel’s massacres in Gaza from a UBC perspective. This article is a general overview of Canada’s relationship with Israel. The next segment will look at challenges to Palestinian solidarity activism on campus. It will be followed by a piece on Hillel UBC.

Introduction

As students living, studying, and working on the unceded territories of the ʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people here at the University of British Columbia, we must address the need for decolonization in our own context. We are in a position to understand how identities are erased, how people are displaced, and what it means to be a part of these processes. We therefore have a responsibility to protest against the integration of colonial efforts globally. Canada’s support for Israel is one such dynamic.

This responsibility includes a simple acknowledgement: Canada is complicit in a human catastrophe. Indeed, our elected representatives enabled it.

From 8 July to 26 August, Israel conducted its third military excursion into the Gaza Strip in five years. The ensuing massacre, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” has resulted in the deaths of 2,131 Palestinians, including 1,473 civilians. 501 of these were children. Additionally, 18,000 homes have been decimated, leaving 108,000 people homeless. 450,000 people are without access to municipal water supplies and 110,000 are internally displaced.

Israel’s murderous forays into Gaza, revoltingly referred to as “Mowing the lawn” by the Israel Defense Forces, have been repeatedly condemned by the international community. Despite this international opposition, Israel has found a zealous ally in the Conservative Party of Canada. The Conservative.ca website implores Canadians to “Stand with Israel,” to support the Occupation and to support this year’s massacre. Responding to the situation in Palestine, Harper proclaimed that “Canada is unequivocally behind Israel. We support its right to defend itself, by itself, against these terror attacks, and urge Hamas to immediately cease their indiscriminate attacks on innocent Israeli civilians.” At no point during Operation Protective Edge did Prime Minister Harper or Foreign Minister John Baird call for an end to the slaughter of Palestinian civilians and the destruction of homes, schools and hospitals within the Gaza Strip.

The Political Spectrum is Blue and White

The Canadian regime bears responsibility for enabling Israel. I refer here to the Canadian regime broadly because complicity does not begin and end with the Conservative Party of Canada. The Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party (whose Policy Book articulates support for Palestinian liberation) have both iterated their support for Israel and its “right to defend itself.” There appears to be a bipartisan consensus on the sadistic dispossession and deprivation of a people. The rationale is always the same: Hamas is a terrorist organization, and as long as Hamas is firing its rockets into Israel, Israel has the right to initiate the wholesale destruction of the Gaza Strip. The line of argument defending Israel’s right to self-defense is a commonplace in Canadian politics. In its most common configuration the argument invokes Israel’s right to both its sovereignty and territorial integrity. To prove that these rights have been infringed upon, Canadian politicians cite Hamas’s rocket attacks. The argument is important both because of what it leaves out and because of what it suggests about the collective attitude of those with political capital in Canada. Why does Palestine not have these rights? How can collective punishment be described as “defense” in any manner consistent with international law? How can Hamas, an organization that exists only as a reaction to the brutality of the Occupation, be used to retroactively justify this Occupation?

Declarations of support for Israel are not just made by the leaders of Canada’s federal parties. Going far beyond her jurisdiction as BC Premier, Christy Clark declared her official support for Israel’s operation in Gaza. Clark has no mandate to weigh in on matters of Canadian foreign policy. Her maneuver was little more than political grandstanding, but it remains illustrative of a pro-Israel rhetoric that has percolated through Canadian politics. That the spokespeople of the Canadian regime are silent on the atrocities committed by Israel make them enablers of Israeli aggression. Silence is their contribution to the institutionalized disregard for Palestinian life.

There is complicity on campus, too. UBC Hillel has openly supported Israel throughout this summer’s massacre. Indeed, the Executive Director of UBC Hillel, Rabbi Philip Bregman, is organizing a volunteer trip to Israel entitled “Operation Help Israel.” Volunteers will directly assist the Israel Defense Force, a military responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. Those considering registration for this program should think about what Israel needs help with, especially considering its tremendous foreign financial assistance and the power of its military.

Even with the complicity of Canada’s major political parties accounted for, the unqualified support provided by the Harper Conservatives is startling. Every year the UN General Assembly votes on a resolution titled Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine. Every year the results of this vote are the same: on one side, the entire world favouring a resolution consistent with the demands of international law; on the other, a small gang of dissenters. In 2012, Canada voted with the filibusters. The next year, Canada was again among a tiny group of states that voted against Palestinian self-determination and acknowledgement of their full human rights.

A Colonial Romance

Both Canada and Israel are built on stolen land. This fact should be acute for students studying at the University of British Columbia. It should be acute for all those who live, work, and study in Canada. We should not feel at a loss to understand our government’s support for Israel in this settler-colonial context. Canada’s security agreements with Israel are designed to deal with “common threats”. As Canada and Israel strengthen their military and security ties, we should be wary of the import of methods of surveillance and pacification, what The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions calls the “Matrix of Control,” a complex management apparatus under which the Palestinians are both oppressed and coerced into acquiescing to the terms of this oppression.

Canada and Israel have signed a number of bilateral agreements intended to strengthen their economic and security relations. In 2008 the CPC signed a public security agreement with Israel. The agreement stipulates that Canada and Israel “Build on their shared commitment to facilitate and enhance cooperation to protect their respective countries’ population, assets and interests from common threats.” The agreement also commits Canada to direct participation in the Occupation, stating that both parties will “Facilitate technical exchange cooperation, including education, training, and exercises.” This year Canada and Israel signed the Memorandum of Understanding, an agreement reiterating ongoing bilateral commitment to economic, political and military cooperation.

There is more to this relationship than free trade agreements and security pacts. Harper may see in Israel a model to be replicated. Israel subjects the Palestinians in Gaza to elaborate surveillance and human management, a massive effort in deprivation. Canadians are familiar with Harper’s drive to transform Canada into an energy superpower, a project that requires the ceaseless expropriation of Indigenous land. This process has been met with concerted resistance. Israel represents for the Conservative Party of Canada a real-world model in high-tech suppression, a draconian management regime that pervasively keeps the Palestinians down.

Canada has also become a centre for militant Zionism. The Jewish Defense League, a political and religious organization on the extreme right, is legally established in Canada. The JDL is a recognized hate group in the United States and the European Union. Two of the JDL’s partner movements have even been outlawed in Israel. Despite the JDL’s international reputation as a violent hate group, it enjoys an entrenched presence here in Canada, where they continue to open new chapters.

Canada’s support for the Israeli Occupation articulates a domestic policy of expropriation and control. This similarity has been noticed by Indigenous communities across Canada, who have expressed solidarity with the Palestinians. As Canada and Israel synthesize their security concerns, we must consider the possibility that the CPC’s unqualified support for Israel speaks to domestic control and exploitation. Domestic and international politics are not easily separated. The Canadian state’s support for Israel is the outward projection of its own settler-colonial project.

So where do we go from here?

Canadians must understand both the nature and the severity of Canada’s complicity in Israel’s Occupation. This complicity did not begin in July of 2014. As human beings, we should feel revulsion at the massacre of innocents, the obliteration of their homes, the expropriation of their land, the restriction of their movement, and the utter disregard for their rights. As Canadians, we should feel anger. We should feel anger as our government provides Israel with the capital, political and otherwise, it requires to murder, detain and displace the Palestinians with impunity.

Does Harper perhaps fear that condemning the Israeli Occupation will lead to accusations of gross hypocrisy? Harper has demonstrated no concern for the systematic oppression of Canada’s First Nations. Perhaps Harper sees all Palestinians as terrorists, just as former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did. Within the CPC’s rhetorical framework, they are obstacles and problems that must somehow be dealt with. This language is consistent with a long rhetorical history framing the Palestinians as abject others, not as rights-possessing persons.

An ominous question looms over all of this: what can we do? If our answer is to simply elect a different party, a further question is begged: what will change? Canadians must make it clear that this complicity will not be tolerated. Just as we must force our so-called representatives to activate against human rights violations at home, so too must we refuse to permit them abroad. No leader and no party should ever believe that it will earn your vote and keep your support when it encourages massacres. How many Members of Parliament kept quiet when they knew better? How many censured themselves to tow the party line?

From Turtle Island to Palestine, occupation is a crime.

A Few Questions About the $1,000,000 “Safety Improvements”

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Trigger Warning: discussions of sexual assault and rape culture.

“Don’t be a creep” posters are still peppered across the Point Grey campus, serving as tattered reminders of  the series of sexual assaults that occurred at UBC last year. In August, the university published the final recommendations from the Safety Working Group that was established to address and respond to those events.

Moving forward, UBC will invest $750,000 to improve campus lighting, by installing new fixtures and refining landscaping to minimize shadowed areas. An additional $250,000  will be spent on the other recommendations of the group: educational programs to combat the systemic and cultural causes of sexualized violence, improvement of the blue phone system, and the development of a mobile application that will share updates about campus safety and connect users more easily to campus programs like Safewalk. The Safewalk program itself is also to undergo some improvements, but it is unclear from the press release whether that funding is included in the above or will come from elsewhere.

I was quoted in the Ubyssey saying that the working group’s decision to include longer-term, educational efforts in their recommendations was “a step in the right direction.” Still, for a number of reasons, I remain skeptical and critical of the plans. As such, I have a few questions:

UBC could spend millions of dollars on increased lighting and security cameras, but it would make no difference without any effort to tackle the normalization of sexual assault that runs rampant in our culture. The root of gendered violence, as it occurs in Western society, is rape culture – “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent.” Rape culture is the idea that a woman who wore a short skirt at the time of her assault was ‘asking for it’. Rape culture is when I walk down the Buchanan hallways and hear rape jokes or cavalier comments such as “I totally raped my midterm”. Rape culture is the guy who took advantage of me when I was drinking and said afterwards, “I was just trying to get as much as I could, that’s what guys do.”

While we continue to live in a rape culture, gendered violence will always be a significant problem, on campus and off. We need systemic, cultural change and that can’t wait. Thus, the educational efforts are the most important part of the working group’s plan, the most important way of ensuring that UBC becomes a “safe” campus for women in the long run. Why, then, are the long-term educational efforts slotted in for just a quarter of the funding? Why are they included in the same budget as improving the blue phones and developing a mobile app, both of which will surely be costly endeavors? Why are they not the priority, when both quotes in the media release stress that “ultimately the best crime prevention is a caring, connected and respectful community”? Why are the efforts at conceptual change not listed as “important improvements” in the press release? Did the Sauder rape chants teach us nothing about how the normalization of sexual violence is embedded into campus culture at UBC?

In a cultural context where over 80% of sexual assaults are committed by a person known to the victim and where 60% of assaults occur inside private homes, we need to break this cultural stereotype of a rapist who lurks in the bushes and attacks a woman he does not know.  Though stranger rape does occur and should not to be taken lightly (and is indeed what happened last year), it is not the most common form of sexualized violence. Why, then, is UBC’s biggest priority improving the lighting and landscaping around campus? Do they realize that they are perpetuating a narrow idea of what a rapist looks like, both in their funding efforts and in their choice to focus on design-based solutions in discussions of these topics? Do they care about the students who are being sexually assaulted at parties, in dorm rooms, and in well-lit “safe” spaces all across campus?

The working group’s mandate was explicitly tied to gendered violence as it occurs and has occurred at UBC. According to the Centre for Disease Control, 19% of undergraduate women experience sexual violence during their time at college. Some groups experience sexual assault at even higher rates. 57% of indigenous women have experienced sexual assault and over 50% of trans people will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. Why, then, did men make up the majority of people on the working group? Why are all of the quotes coming out of the working group spoken by a white male member of the team? Why not take this opportunity to spotlight the voices of women, who are five times more likely than men to experience sexual assault? Why are women once again being pushed to the sidelines in a discussion that is supposedly centred on their safety?

The development of a new mobile app is indeed an innovative way to reach many students who use that technology on a day-to-day basis. However, it is inaccessible to anyone who cannot afford a data plan (or a phone full-stop). Is the working group aware that this initiative will exclude low-income students or students who otherwise are unable to access an app of this type? Are they going to ignore accessibility issues when they funnel tens of thousands of dollars into the development of this app? Is campus security planning to make it an important part of their communications strategy moving forward, meaning that those without phone access will be unable to access other safety programs or updates?

As I said to the Ubyssey, I’m glad that the working group included long-term educational efforts in their plans for UBC. But the conversation can’t end there if we truly want to move from words to action on these issues.

Note: An original version of this article accidentally over-reported the relative rate of male vs female sexual assault. The piece has since been updated to reflect more accurate and appropriate data. I apologize for my oversight.

Meet the Editors: Maneo Mohale

“…It is not difference which immobilizes us but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.” – Audre Lorde [1]


My name is Maneo Refiloe Mohale, and I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I relocated to the country commonly known as Canada to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree, and later learned, and continue to learn, through the patient guidance of many mentors, elders and friends that I was actually located on the unceded territories on the Coast Salish people, specifically the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations.

I was raised to love and respect history, family, language, literature, jazz, theatre, poetry, curiosity and silliness.

One of the many, many books that continues to shape how I view the world is Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. When I nicked it off of my older sister’s wondrous bookshelf, I was not prepared for how powerful it would be for me.

Through reading the story of two very different young women growing up in colonial Zimbabwe, I was shocked to recognise unacknowledged facets of myself within the novel’s pages. Through Dangarembga’s remarkable book, I realised the power of representation, and the importance of speaking truth to power – both by dipping back into our own histories, as well as by learning and listening to the stories of others.

I’m so excited to be a part of such an incredible team, and look forward to all of the silences we’ll be breaking together.


[1] Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”, Sister Outsider, (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2007), 44

Reflections on “Student Leadership”

DISCLAIMER: This reflection is not on the individuals who work tirelessly to foster community-building, safe and inclusive spaces and respectful language. On the contrary, I greatly value, respect and appreciate the staff that I have worked with during my time at UBC; they have been inspirational, captivating and some have been profoundly life-altering. My concerns and criticism rest, rather, with a system that stresses student leadership but actually leaves students little freedom, power or agency, to which we are all victims.


As a “student leader”, I am constantly and continually celebrated for my contributions to the university. As soon as I signed up to  “give back”  (the trademark slogan of involving yourself with supervisor-led campus involvement) through the Peer Programs/student involvement departments, I could feel myself and my peers being subtly molded into narrow roles that constitute a pre-determined notion of the term “student leader”. This is not to say that I have not felt worthy and important as a student leader on campus, nor that these groups do not do excellent work. It is to say that I have come to both question my own independence within the initiative and also to suspect that there are hidden agendas at play.

Peer Programs is a subset of students services that aims to provide “exceptional peer to peer support to enhance student life and learning”. The programs attempt to cover most aspects of student life, from physical wellness to environmental sustainability. Being a Peer Programs “student leader”, while a great opportunity to meet other students and boost your resume, comes with personal sacrifices of your voice, autonomy and creativity.

On my gazillionth time attending a Peer Programs-wide training day, I began to question and evaluate the information I was receiving. As I watched yet another presentation on a navy blue and white background that dictated official UBC policies in the Whitney typeface, I contemplated my role as an individual and my creative worth in a room of 500 students. Are we really “leaders” if we are receiving and regurgitating information to fit a mold the university has created? Are we really “leaders” when we have no control over the projects we produce? It seems ironic to me that “student leaders” are placed on a pedestal when our contributions are minimal in comparison to those of other students, and when we are given very little freedom to spearhead our own projects without the watchful eye of UBC staff.

For example, a former Wellness Peer remarked that on several occasions she suggested more “edgy” workshop themes such as “non-traditional relationship structures, safety with psychedelics and prescription drugs, or eating-disorders” but her ideas were dismissed because, she feels, the staff-led nature of the system requires the Wellness Centre to be “mundane and sanitized”. She also mentioned that when students came to the centre with genuine mental health concerns they could only refer them to counselling or give “restricted” advice like “eat your veggies and get eight hours sleep a night”.

Another student commented that “student leaders” are given an illusion of creative freedom within their program, only to be later overruled. He and his team spent several weeks planning and preparing a campaign only for their aesthetic, theme and content to be completely changed after staff moderation. This resulted in a project that did not reflect the students’ vision at all, leading them to become disillusioned with their program. This, one student believes, leads to an element of “disproportionate self-congratulation” – not because the intentions of the students and staff are not good, but because the actual impact Peer Programs “student leaders” are allowed to have, is very minimal.

A student in the Equity Ambassadors program commented that while she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being able to connect with enthusiastic staff members and students, she felt frustrated at the repetitive nature of the programs. Reflecting on the program-wide training days, she said “there was little room for discussion”, and the dialogue that does occur is tailored to garner specific and pre-constructed results. She acknowledges that staff members are very passionate about training us in building respectful communities but feels that systemic and time constraints make for uninspiring sessions.

A few former program members surmised that were students to have actual input in their respective projects, there would be much greater student turnout and response. Most likely, some students commented, the university has a pre-existing vision for a project or event and simply involves students in the creation to save face and increase productivity. Perhaps original intentions were great – peer to peer support is an invaluable resource but the lack of genuine student input has resulted in superficial services that draw little enthusiasm from both the “student leaders” and the rest of the student body.

To give some more context, my reflections have also led me to make comparisons between Peer Program “student leaders” and those involved with AMS clubs and other campus initiatives. Despite the fact that we are so revered as free-thinkers and change-makers, we are among the only group of students whose ideas and actions are monitored and moderated by staff members. While the completely student-run executive team of the UBC Feminist Club or the UBC Intercultural Alliance, for example, develop ideas, create programming, market their brand, promote their ideals, hold events, collaborate, entertain, engage and teach with no direction or input from staff members, “student leaders” whose programs fall into the Centre for Student Involvement follow guidelines, orders and instructions to an extent that their events, services, and programs are not a result of their own creativity but of a university agenda. Are we just machines programmed to fulfil quotas and promote institutional ideals?

The premise of our “leadership” is that we are all indebted to UBC and therefore we must “give back”. This premise comes with little or no recognition of how the university is indebted to the land and its owners, the Coast Salish peoples, as one example. Furthermore, the emphasis on the “give back” mandate is completely at odds with the individualistic paradigm focused on personal achievement and “resume-boosting” that is stressed by the exact same department.

At the aforementioned training workshops, we are constantly reminded of our responsibilities and duties as “student leaders”: how we must be role models and educators to our peers (are they really peers if they are not equal to us?). Though UBC posits itself as a place of innovation, inspiration, and mind, all my experiences have convinced me that the university perpetuates out-dated, inflexible, and traditional conceptions of what leadership looks like.

Leadership is not exclusively about authority and power. Yes, I am a leader with authority and decision-making power in some of my roles at UBC, but as a queer woman of colour, power dynamics usually do not favour me. For me, then, taking a leadership role is a deeply personal endeavour that cannot be taught through slide-shows or long Saturdays spent in Buchanan lecture halls.

One can be a leader in their own right by simply enacting practices that reflect their own values, principles, beliefs and so on in order to create communities where each individual feels respected and their needs are adhered to. In its best form, leadership is personal, diverse and inclusive.

Often, I find myself frustrated at levels of student apathy and therefore urging students to take more control over their surroundings. However, anecdotal evidence has shown me that there are many students willing and excited to make real and radical change as well as have lasting and profound impact on their campus but are increasingly snubbed by bureaucracy.

Therefore, my urge this time is for the university to acknowledge and celebrate the variety of student leaders on campus and allow creative freedom and control to students whose passions lie in student services. UBC, it’s time for you to “give back”.

 

New information about UBC’s mining institute

Repost from Stop the Institute. More information about the Institute is available there.

There is a lack of public information about the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID, or simply “the Institute”), a new mining institute headquartered at UBC and led by UBC, Simon Fraser University (SFU), and the École Polytechnique de Montréal (EPDM). Because of its failure to respond to inquiries about its activities and structure we, as concerned students, have filed multiple Freedom of Information requests. Only one of these request was fulfilled, and even then incomplete and long past the date required by law. Conspicuously missing from the documents received were the letters from Goldcorp and World Vision (listed as partners/supporters on the Institute website), as well as several others. We obtained these in a follow-up request.

We requested the letters of support by the “strategic partners” of the CIIEID, a network of corporations, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and industry associations which support the Institute’s activities. We received 157 pages of letters, mostly from August 2012. We are releasing this information because we believe that the public, and especially communities who may be affected by the Institute’s activities, have a right to know the nature of these partnerships, and the value of the partners’ cash and in-kind contributions to the Institute.

The full files can be downloaded here and here.

Projects

The letters mention various projects that the Institute is planning to carry out. Since the letters are from 2012 and the composition of the Institute has changed since then, some of these projects may have been cancelled. Confirmed projects can be seen at the Institute website.

The letters include many references to projects in Uganda and other African countries.

Uganda

African Minerals Limited confirmed its “support” and “participation as a project partner” to the Institute’s Sustainable Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (SASM) Project in Karamoja, Uganda. African Minerals’ mining operations in Sierra Leone have been associated with serious human rights abuses according to Human Rights Watch, and it is also mining in Uganda. The details of this project are not available, although mentions of CIIEID “improvement” of the ASM sector is supported in letters from Audeamus International Resources, Makerere University, Salama Shield Foundation, and the Embassy of Ireland in Kampala.

Audeamus International Resources, a “physical commodity brokering house” based in Uganda, also confirmed itself as a partner to the SASM project, as well as to the Support of Reforms of Mining Legislation in Uganda. This project is mentioned in the context of recent OECD requirements which “have debilitated the mineral trade in the region, impacting hundreds of thousands [of] artisanal miners and their families” and that “are soon to be enshrined in Ugandan law”. While these requirements are not explicitly named, this may be a reference to the Regional Initiative against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the Great Lakes Region (RINR).

Another project, mentioned both in the Audeamus and Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD) letters, is the Extending Fair trade & Fair-mined Gold to Africa Project (EFFGAP), a partnership between the Fair Trade Foundation and EWAD, with the help of a “skilled team from CIIEID”. This project is taking place in the Busia and Abim districts of Uganda.

African Mining Vision

The letter of intent jointly signed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the CIIEID “concerning the implementation of the African Mining Vision under the aegis of the African Minerals Development Centre” is also available. This collaboration was announced in February of 2014, but it is not clear what the extent of CIIEID’s involvement will be. Although the African Mining Vision (AMV), according to Paula Butler and Evans Rubara, “appears to represent the ‘best offer’ to date that the international community has been willing to accommodate with regard to the distribution of benefits from mining”, they add the caveat that “[o]verall it remains unclear as to whether the AMV will[…] operate on terms set by African citizens and governments as opposed to terms set, whether directly or indirectly, by outside interests.”

Canadian mining companies have massive investments in Africa ($23 billion as of 2010), and the CIIEID is a Canadian institute with close links to the mining industry. To have it be a key player in the implementation of the AMV will not likely result in its operating “on terms set by African citizens and governments”.

Financial

It has previously been known that the strategic partners had committed some amount of in-kind and cash contributions to the Institute, but the specific amounts from each partner were not known until now. In addition to the cash contribution of $24.6 million put up by the federal government to found the institute, the $3.39 million direct and $3.3 million in-kind aid put up by UBC, $4.15 million by SFU, and $1.4 million by EPDM, an additional $9 million is sourced from the following universities, foundations, institutes, NGOs, and corporations.

Organization In-kind Cash
Canadian International Council $320,880
Carleton University $555,000
Ernst & Young $328,000
Universidade de São Paulo $329,183
Fasken Martineau $81,000
Instituto Nacional de Investigación Geológico Minero Metalúrgico (INIGEMM) $3,981,100
Lundin Foundation $120,000 $1,000,000
Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) $174,000
Monkey Forest Social Development Consulting $30,000 per year $15,000
New Gold Inc. $250,000
On Common Ground $30,000 per year for up to five years
Saint Paul University $18,500
University of Guelph $678,264
World Wild Fund for Nature $728,256
Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta $133,200

 

Motivations

The letters provide only a glimpse of the partners’ motivations for supporting the CIIEID. The support from companies associated with mining (both mining companies and law firms such as Fasken Martineau and Ernst & Young) and from industry associations suggest that these partners are expecting the CIIEID to be beneficial for business.

Keegan Resources, now known as Asanko Gold, expounds in its letter the need to address “environmental and social sustainability issues in their exploration and development activities”, presumably facilitated through the CIIEID, since

JMT’s [junior mining companies and mid-tier producers] are responsible for exploration and are often the first to enter areas that are often economically and socially fragile, the initial contact with the local community is crucial and often sets the tone for further developments, which often entails senior producers buying the right to develop the mine further.

Fasken Martineau, a law firm which has represented mining companies (for example, it represented the Canadian company Hudbay against a Guatemalan community alleging shootings and and rapes by Hudbay’s security forces) offers itself to “provide developing countries with valuable advice on how to transform their regulatory and policy environment to encourage responsible mining investment and development”.

Monkey Forest Social Development Consulting, an expert in “social performance management” (in other words, in managing community resistance to resource extraction projects),

would also like to specifically support the Institute’s activities in the areas of social risk and impact management with a focus on community, governmental and corporate relations, building both corporate and other practitioners’ capacity to raise the level of performance.

Additionally, several of the non-governmental partners have clear links to mining. For example, the Lundin Foundation and Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta are NGOs set up by mining companies. World Vision and World Wild Fund for Nature are members of the Devonshire Initiative, a program of the Canadian International Development Agency which sets up collaborations between mining companies and NGOs.

An Introduction to Settler Colonialism at UBC: Part One

This three-part series on settler colonialism is co-authored between two people: one who identifies as a michif (Métis) man from Saskatoon, the other who identifies as a racialized, non-Indigenous female settler. As co-authors, we are speaking from our own perspectives as an Indigenous person (Justin) and as a settler (Kay).

This series is informed through an anti-colonial, anti-racist, and intersectional feminist lens. We have tried to make it as accessible as possible, but fully acknowledge that we were not completely successful. We have attempted to frame it as a discussion as much as possible, and have embedded links for further learning and hope this can make the piece more accessible and informative. We hope this article can serve as an introduction to some important (and complicated) issues; in our opinion, an understanding of settler-colonialism, and our complicity in it, is essential to building a better future.

The University of British Columbia is built on stolen land.

To clarify: UBC’s Point Grey campus is built on the traditional, ancestral, occupied, and unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people – the People of the River Grass. The Musqueam are a self-governing nation of traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking people who are descendants of the ethnically and linguistically related Coast Salish peoples. These lands have never been ceded.

Settler colonialism, a specific form of colonialism, is based on ‘genocidal appropriation’ – the idea that Indigenous people have, and will continue to, disappear, making it seem as though non-Indigenous people are the natural owners of Indigenous land. In other words, it is the ongoing displacement of Indigenous peoples from their lands and resources through an influx of permanent settlers. (For more on settler colonialism, read here and here.) In what is now called Canada, assimilation has been imposed on Indigenous communities through an endless list of genocidal, forcible, racist, and heteropatriarchal actions and policies. This has taken, and in many cases continues to take the form of violence through forced sterilization, cultural theft, residential schools, the 60’s scoop, intergenerational trauma, cultural appropriation, land dispossession, and environmental racism and destruction – to name a few.

Here at UBC, settler colonialism is continually reinforced. Here is one of three observations of how it is perpetuated and normalized on our campus.

Example One: Erasure of Indigenous students

Justin:

The struggle of Indigenous students in universities is, well, real. Whether it’s meeting stringent entrance requirements, dealing with racism in the classroom, or completing the required courses to graduate, university can be a difficult place for Indigenous students. Even after that, Indigenous students on campus are often rendered invisible. I can only speak from my own experience as a Métis person who, on numerous occasions, has had my identity reduced to nothingness. I recall an assignment that asked several questions about my family history. One of the questions asked when did your family come to Canada? Although on the surface it may appear as a simple question with a simple answer, it was anything but that. I could talk about my Ukrainian and German family, but how was I supposed to talk about my Métis family? The underlying assumption behind the question was obvious: there are no Indigenous people in university – to which I answered, we’ve always been here.

This is just one example, but it illustrates how something as simple as a question can deny my entire existence. The project What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom, developed by the First Nations Studies Program at UBC, discusses similar difficult experiences. They write:

“(Indigenous) students frequently report troubling and sometimes traumatic discussions of cultural issues in class.  These situations often affect their ability to function in their coursework, and even their ability to return to class. The project looks at how the challenges around talking about race work as an educational barrier at the classroom level.  This is something that has not been sufficiently addressed in educational institutions, and yet, is something that desperately needs to be discussed.” 

The idea that universities are places where Indigenous peoples are studied, but cannot come to study, is still held in institutional memory. I cannot count the number of times my friends and I have been subjected to experiences of erasure. However, things are changing – albeit at a snail’s pace – and it is Indigenous peoples who are leading these changes. We are increasingly attending university and working hard to make it a more welcoming and inclusive place. Indigenous scholars are undertaking groundbreaking research, and Indigenous graduates are doing important work throughout the country.

Kay:

One of my favourite pieces I’ve read in academia is Decolonizing Antiracism by Mi’kmaq scholar Bonita Lawrence and South Asian scholar Enakshi Dua. In the piece, Lawrence and Dua discuss how racialized non-Indigenous people of colour (PoCs) like myself are complicit in settler colonialism. Although PoCs face our own experiences of racism in Canada, we are also part of the Canadian colonial project that aims to eliminate Indigenous communities.

In the academic context, I have frequently noticed non-Indigenous professors and students, both people of colour and white folks, negate the existence of Indigenous students. This is particularly evident – and ironic – in spaces led by non-Indigenous people that posit themselves as ‘anti-colonial’. For example, when speaking about anti-colonial politics, some of my non-Indigenous professors have addressed their classes in a manner that presumes that everybody is a settler. This is problematic because it assumes that Indigenous people do not exist in the classroom – or anywhere at all.

I have also noticed this occurring in discussions of race and racism. In these discussions, racism is often framed from the perspective of PoC communities, and not Indigenous communities. This invisibilizes the fact that Indigenous peoples were/are racialized through colonization and have/continue to experience various and violent forms of racism. As well, it is usually white folks or PoCs (such as myself) who dominate these conversations, therefore taking space away from Indigenous voices. Yes, people of colour experience racism; many of us have complex experiences with colonization, forced migration, and land dispossession – but our presence on this land means that we benefit from the oppression of Indigenous communities. We too, contribute to settler colonialism. Though PoC settlers have faced, and continue to face, forced segregation, sterilization, discriminatory policies, and countless other experiences of institutional (and interpersonal) racism, we are ultimately settling on, occupying, and benefitting from the land dispossession of Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.

These situations are just some examples of how settler colonialism operates in the classroom, and how non-Indigenous students like myself are complicit in it. In perpetuating settler colonialism, we feed into the Canadian colonial project, which works to extinguish the existence, culture, survival, creativity, sovereignty, and resistance of Indigenous communities.

In parts two and three of the series, we look at the tokenization of Indigenous students and critically discuss territory acknowledgments.

Rad Bike of the Week

I don’t walk. It’s not my jam.

Katerina Gerastimenko   –   4th year Math major

“I’ve had two bikes – the first one had a sad story, the front wheel got stolen and… I never took it anywhere.

But this one is a year and a half old. I got the seat stolen… and someone tried to steal the front wheel so it got all bent and I had to replace [it]. I’ve had to replace pretty much everything on this bike but I still love it. The fender is from Russia!

It’s just so easy to get places on a bike. You’re faster than walking, and that’s it. But you also don’t have to drive, and you can get outside.”

Rad bike of the week!

Cycling is revolutionary. No constant dependence on fossil fuels. No more wasting your life in traffic jams. Faster than walking, with a bit better view. It’s the cheapest type of transit around, and definitely the most enjoyable. Wikipedia puts it in perspective:

A human being traveling on a bicycle at 16-24 km/h (10-15 mph), using only the power required to walk, is the most energy efficient means of transport generally available.

Rad bike of the week is a spotlight on people who’re in on the secret – biking is best. It’s radical, subversive, and freeing.

Put the fun between your legs!

The Top 10 Talon-Approved Initiatives on Campus

Do you find yourself rapidly muttering expletives under your breath every time you engage in any type of mainstream media? Have the phrases “in solidarity with”, “hegemonic” and “social construct” come to replace filler words like “um” and “like” in your daily lexicon? Is there a collective groan from your closest comrades every time you say “that was so problematic”? Do their groans become more pronounced when you call them comrades? Do you fantasize endlessly about the radical restructuring of our current social, economic and political orders? Have you found yourself yelling “viva la revolución!” in the mirror by yourself? Are you longing for a space where you can meet like-minded people to promote your **“reverse-racist/misandrist/feminist-killjoy/commie/environmental-vegan-hippie-shit” agenda?

Well, you’re in luck! There are many places right here at UBC to cultivate such aspirations. Or even learn if you’re new to all of this. Below is a list of the Top 10 Talon-Approved Initiatives on Campus.

1. AMS Resource Groups

The AMS Resource Groups are student-run and aim to support and showcase the diverse backgrounds of their memberships. Located on the second floor of the SUB, there is also a shared lounge space for folks to hang out in. Did you know they also provide funding opportunities? Contact one of these groups to find out more! Some of these resource groups include:

The Social Justice Centre (SJC)

The SJC serves as an organizing and research space for activists and advocates at UBC. They work towards progressive social change by raising awareness about social justice issues and fostering students with the techniques to engage in activism. UBC activist legends have it that the most dramatic cases of resistance on campus have occurred with the help of this leftist student hub.

SUB245A | 604.822.9612 | Email | Website | Facebook Page | Facebook Group

Pride Collective at UBC

The Pride Collective offers educational and social services dealing with sexual and gender diversity to the UBC community. They also provide support to those who self identify as asexual, bisexual, gay, intersex, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer, questioning, those who do not identify and allies. Down with the cis-tem!

SUB245C | 604.822.4638 | Email | Website | Facebook

Colour Connected Against Racism

Created in 1994 to fight institutional and other forms of racism on campus, Colour Connected organizes various events on issues pertaining to Indigenous people and people of colour. After a few years, this group has undergone a revival — look out for ways to get involved with resisting racism on campus!

SUB 245E | 604.822.1421 | Email | Facebook

2. First Nations House of Learning at the Longhouse

Located in the Longhouse, the House of Learning directs many initiatives designed specifically for First Nations students including advocacy services, advising, counselling and support services. Also check out the First Nations Studies Students’ Association’s blog (http://blogs.ubc.ca/isujblog/) that showcases the written and creative works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in the First Nations Studies Program.

1985 West Mall | 604.822.8940 | Website | Facebook

3. Sprouts

Sprouts is a non-profit and volunteer-run café on campus bringing organic, local and fair trade food to UBC students. Their two most popular initiatives include Community Eats, a by-donation lunch on Fridays, and The Sprouts Box, an on-campus fresh produce delivery service. Both will rock your socially-and-environmentally-conscious tastebuds!

Seedlings – ‘an offshoot of sprouts’ – is a cafe on the top floor of the Thea Koerner Graduate Centre that specializes in raw, vegan, and healthy vegetarian food. Because it’s 100% student volunteer-run, prices are affordable, making it one of the best study spots on campus!

SUB basement | 604.822.9124 | Email | Website | Facebook

4. RAGA (Race, Autobiography, Gender, and Age) Student Network     

RAGA is an informal, independent, and volunteers-run group that strives to centre and support Indigenous students and students of colour, recognizing that racialized students face additional barriers in the academic institution. Working collaboratively with community organizations to promote social justice, RAGA organizes conferences, workshops and other public events. Sign up for the mailing list to stay informed about events, as well as activism and other calls to action in the city!

Email | Website | Facebook

5. Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC)

SASC is working towards creating a safer campus through “supporting survivors of all sexual orientations and all genders, including women, trans* people, and men.” They provide both short-term emotional support services and also frequently hold workshops and events. Smashing patriarchy by centering survivorship!

SUB 249M | 604.827.5180 | Email | Website | Facebook

6. UBCC350

This group is inspired by the global climate movement fostered by 350.org and strongly support aggressive global and national action to address the climate crisis. One of their biggest campaigns is Divest UBC, urging UBC to divest from fossil fuels. Thanks to the group’s efforts, 76.9% of voters in the 2014 AMS elections were in support of divesting. Stay tuned for the next stages of their campaign and their continuing quest for climate justice!

Email | Website | Facebook

7. The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems “integrates interdisciplinary academic, community, and production programs to explore and exemplify healthy and sustainable food systems.” The farm itself is 24 hectares of integrated farm and forest lands. Managed by the Centre, both of these programs seek to explore and model themselves around new paradigms of sustainable communities through research, community engagement and food production.

3461 Ross Drive | 604 822 5092 | Email | Website | Facebook

8. Cinema Politica

Cinema Politica UBC, a part of the larger Cinema Politica network, “showcases documentaries that critically engage in social, environmental, economic and gender issues.” Presenting independent voices in the film community and animating discussions, their events are free and open to everyone. Be sure to check out the next featured documentary at the Norm Theatre!

Norm Theatre (SUB) | Email | Website | Facebook

9. Solidarity For Palestinian Human Rights UBC (SPHR)

SPHR is a non-profit student-based organization established on the principles of social justice that advocates upholding the rights of Palestinians in “the face of human rights violations and all forms of racism, discrimination, misinformation and misrepresentation.” Their work involves awareness-raising, advocacy, non-violent direct actions, and the promotion of Palestinian identity, culture and history. Watch out for their biggest event later in the year, Israel Apartheid Week, that aims to shed light on Israeli settler colonialism, occupation and apartheid.

Email | Facebook

10. The Terry Project

The Terry Project is a game-changing initiative at UBC. A cross-faculty program that aims to “educate undergraduate students on pressing global issues like climate change, poverty, conflict and disease”, they consistently host engaging events centered around these topics and beyond. Check out the weekly Terry Podcast – a radio show that critically engages with local and international issues. And watch out for the TEDxTerry Talks happening this October — you can still apply to be a speaker; deadline is Friday September 26th!

Email | Website | Facebook

…and last, but not least, The Talon affirms that The Talon is indeed a place to meet rad people, duh. In all seriousness, there are many involvement opportunities for folks interested in writing critically about UBC-related news. If you’d like to submit a piece, check out our submission guidelines and email us at talonubc@gmail.com. For visual design and all other opportunity inquiries, feel free to email us too!

Viva la revolución!

**ordained by none other than the PC Police™