Robin Wall Kimmerer: “Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System”

“First Nations are Canadians’ last best hope at saving the lands, waters, plants and animals for our future generations.” —Dr. Pam Palmater

Robin Wall KimmererRobin Wall Kimmerer is Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology  at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. She is a member an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Here is an excerpt of her essay, “Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System, that appears in the latest issue of Emergence Magazine. Read, listen to, and click through the full experience here

“Colonists take what they want and attempt to erase the rest. Conceiving of plants and land as objects, not subjects—as things instead of beings—provides the moral distance that enables exploitation. Valuing the productive potential of the physical body but denying the personhood of the being, reducing a person to a thing for sale—this too is a manifestation of colonialism. . . .

Corn? Maize? Mother of All Things? Renaming is a powerful form of colonialism in which the settler erases original meanings and replaces it with meanings of their own. This practice of linguistic imperialism also diminished corn from its status as Mahiz, the sacred life giver, to an anonymous commodity.

Indigenous languages, lifeways, and relations with the land have all been subject to the violence of colonialism. Maize herself has been a victim, and so have you, when a worldview which cultivated honorable relations with the living earth has been overwritten with an ethic of exploitation, when our plant and animal relatives no longer look at us with honor, but turn their faces away.

But there is a kernel of resurgence, if we are willing to learn. The invitation to decolonize, rematriate, and renew the honorable harvest extends beyond indigenous nations to everyone who eats. Mother Corn claims us all as corn-children under the husk; her teachings of reciprocity are for all.”



Talk of affordability conceals real problem — capture of wealth by the rich

Andrew Scheer speaks to crowd. Image: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

What we need is an Enigma machine for deciphering election codes. It’s the Second World War German device that Allied intelligence managed to unscramble so that they knew what the hell the Nazis were saying.

I’m driven to this rambling analogy by the sudden eruption of “affordability” as the key issue in our coming election. Where did it come from? It’s not just one party, it’s everyone, as if there’s a secret committee.

The Tory theme, “Time for you to get ahead,” is an “affordability” slogan.

Pollsters say “affordability could shape the election.” Canadians feel “affordability anxiety.” The Liberals told the CRTC to “focus on affordability.” The Star’s Heather Scoffield found an “affordability crisis” in Belleville because people from Toronto are moving there to escape their affordability problems.

Now it’s careening down the campaign pike, full bore, in Andrew Scheer’s new ad: “It’s time for you to get ahead” because “Canadians are … following all the rules but … they’re falling further and further behind… I have a plan to make life more affordable.” The chutzpah is breathtaking.

Why do I hate the term? Let me count the ways. It’s sheer euphemism. It’s like calling torture “discomfort.” It’s like someone kidnapping you, swiping your home and all that matters to you, dropping you in a wilderness, and saying you have an affordabililty problem. You sort of do, among other things. But what a way to neuter an explosive subject, privatizing it into your personal problem, versus the culpability of others for mugging you over the last 40 years.

The weird thing is Bernie Sanders could say the same lines as Scheer except he wouldn’t leave out the context, the cause and above all, the villains! Here’s Bernie:

“Think about this. Income per person is twice as high as it was 40 years ago. Our economy is twice as productive. But half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck. Why is that? Because the richest 1 per cent captured 45 per cent of all new income over 40 years.”

It’s not an affordability crisis, it’s a class conflict. It requires redistribution of wealth, not population (to Belleville!). But they pin it on affordability, as if it’s a virus that calls for bed rest, rather than on the rich and their agenda since the 1980s, starting with with the panic over “deficits,” a word that came out of nowhere, too, so that public spending had to be slashed and taxes cut since “it’s your money and you should keep it” — as if you can build your own schools and public transit, once you’ve got a few more bucks in pocket. MORE This is how we end the era of fossil fuels

Image result for our time to strike for climate
Yesterday, hundreds of people joined us for the Our Time to Strike for the Climate webinar to hear about our game plan leading up to the September 27th climate strikes in Canada.
I was joined by Climate Strike organizer Emma-Jane, an incredibly inspiring Grade 12 student from Victoria, BC and one of the lead organizers of Climate Strike Canada. We had an engaging conversation, and here are some key takeaways I wanted to share with you:
    • Students in Canada are striking from school on September 27th. Long before the global week of action was called for September 20-27th, students in Quebec issued a general strike mandate for the 27th. Quebec has a rich history of student organizing and we are following their lead.
    • The strikes are happening at a really critical time in Canada. Come September 27th, we’ll be entering the final stretch of the federal election campaign. It’s going to be so important to channel this energy towards brave, authentic candidates who are truly ready to tackle the climate emergency.
    • Campuses are walking out for the climate. Our Time organizers will mobilize tens of thousands of post-secondary students across the country to walk out of class to join the strikes in their communities to demand an end to the fossil fuel era. Join or host a campus walkout on September 27th.

Join the climate strikes online. Have a digital presence or a website? Anyone with an online presence has an opportunity to join in and “go green” with a digital strike. Join the digital climate strike.

Everyone is invited. Young people are organizing with unions, workers, parents, grandparents, and faith groups – we need everyone to walk out of your workplaces and homes to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. Find or host a strike near you.

Millions of people around the world are set to strike for the climate between September 20th to 27th. Politicians and voters will be paying close attention, and since the climate strikes will happen just a few short weeks before the fall election, we plan to go big on September 27th to demand for an ambitious climate plan and a Green New Deal in line with the scale of the crisis we face.

Host or join an Our Time to Walk-Out for Climate action on your nearest campus this September 27th.

ILO celebrates 100 years of fighting for fair labour practices

Members of the Union for Hospitality workers Local 75 walk in Toronto’s annual Labour Day Parade on Sept. 3 last year. The International Labour Organization, 100 years old this year, continues to fight globally for social justice and an inclusive future for work, Adelle Blackett writes.

A good anniversary should not go to waste. Yet how many Canadians know, in this moment of inequality and discontent, that we helped found a century-old international organization whose constitution proclaims that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice?”

Established under the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the International Labour Organization outlived the beleaguered League of Nations to become the first United Nations specialized agency. Its staff barely escaped the rise of fascism in Europe, settling into a wartime home at McGill University from 1940–1948.

At McGill, the ILO prepared its post-war future, anticipating decolonization. It drafted the 1944 constitutional text, the Declaration of Philadelphia, declaring that “Labour is not a commodity;” “Freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress;” “Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere;” and “All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.”

Beyond adopting paper standards, the ILO has assumed an active yet largely forgotten role in democratization, including ending political apartheid in South Africa. It insists on playing a role in international economic policy-making, calling for a fair globalization. On its 50th anniversary in 1969, it won the Nobel Peace Prize for its relentless social justice action.

The ILO has realized that this centennial moment is too weighty to wrap itself in self-congratulation: it has emphasized the need for an inclusive future of work. Canadian celebrations have picked up on this theme. MORE

Federal party leaders focus on wooing union heartland on Labour Day

Riding of Hamilton Centre expected to be closely fought between the NDP, Liberals this fall election

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, left, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, centre, and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were scheduled to be in Hamilton on Labour Day. (Canadian Press)

Wooing workers in Canada’s union heartland was the focus for federal party leaders this Labour Day, with Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh all in Hamilton, Ont.

Trudeau participated in the annual Labour Day parade there, Singh was to catch up with the participants at the annual Labour Day picnic, and Scheer was expected at the Labour Day classic football game between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger Cats.

Hamilton has a long-standing connection to Canada’s union movement as the historic epicentre of the steel industry and related businesses. It was there in the 1870s that workers first agitated for the government to legislate shorter work days, an effort that eventually led to the first national union, albeit a short lived one.

Hamilton is also home to five federal ridings: the Liberals hold two, the NDP two and the Conservatives one, with the vote bouncing between all three parties in recent elections.

The riding of Hamilton Centre is expected to be closely fought between the NDP and the Liberals this election. David Christopherson, the NDP MP who has represented the area for over a decade, has retired, leaving his seat vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the NDP are hoping to take the riding of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek away from the Liberals by counting on support from steelworkers who have complained about their treatment at the hands of the current local Liberal MP.

NDP pitching to union workers

Singh made a pitch to union workers Monday, promising that if his party forms government, they’d bring in legislation to end the ability of companies to replace striking workers with temporary employment. He also promised to immediately raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and ensure better protections for contract workers.

“This is what you get when you get a New Democrat,” Singh said during an event Monday morning in Toronto before he headed to Hamilton. “You get someone on your side.”

Singh was joining Labour Day events in Hamilton at the invitation of the local labour council, while Trudeau was invited by the local chapter of the Labourers International Union of North America, which represents construction workers, among other industries. MORE

Anti-immigration ads an exercise in how candidates evade accountability

File photo of People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer by Alex Tétreault

Now-removed billboards featuring a photo of People’s Party of Canada (PPC) Leader Maxime Bernier told voters to “Say NO to mass immigration.”

The recent controversy surrounding this series of ads promoting the PPC’s anti-immigrant agenda highlights the potentially problematic role of third parties in election campaigns, both as vehicles for outside influence and as shields that help candidates evade accountability in the face of public criticism.

The billboards, which appeared in several Canadian cities, were met with swift backlash. Social media lit up with condemnation of the anti-immigrant messaging. And soon afterward, an online petition warned that the billboards reflected “Trump’s brand of hateful politics” creeping into Canada’s election campaign.

John Pasalis@JohnPasalis

I never imagined it was possible to see this in a city as diverse as Toronto, in Canada – a country of immigrants. This is in my neighbourhood Leslieville where 43% of residents were born outside of Canada and I’m sure many more like me who are the child of penniless immigrants

View image on Twitter

Lisa Kinsella@lisakinsella

Disgusting & disturbing dog-whistle politics. This billboard is in the Toronto neighbourhood of Leslieville.

I’m a second-generation Canadian who’s family came to Canada – both sides – during a wave of immigration in the 1920s.

View image on Twitter

The ongoing blame game surrounding the billboards highlights one of the major problems associated with third-party political activity in the lead-up to Canada’s federal election: the involvement of these outside actors creates a scenario in which accountability is often sorely lacking and hard to pin down.

According to Elections Canada, a group behind a partisan ad — which could be about a range of issues, including immigration — may be required to register as a third party.

The increased involvement of third-party groups in Canada’s federal election campaign not only opens new doors for dark money and influence, but also for disseminating disinformation — often, with very few consequences. #cdnpoli

“If you’re posting ads — if you’re doing activities like that, it (could) be a partisan activity,” an Elections Canada official told National Observer.

Bernier and the PPC are denying any involvement in the billboard campaign. True North Strong & Free Advertising is claiming it didn’t design or approve of the messaging on the billboards. Meanwhile, Pattison Outdoor is denouncing the advertisements and calling on the other parties to own their role in the scandal.

“They need to be accountable” for the advertisement, Randy Otto, president of Pattison Outdoor, which owns the billboards where the ads were placed, said of True North Strong & Free Advertising Corp.

During a phone interview with National Observer, Otto also pushed back on Bernier’s characterization that he had “caved in to the leftist mob” by deciding to remove the billboards.

“Nobody was taking responsibility for the message,” he said, so Pattison Outdoor did what it felt was the right thing to do.

But with increased third-party activity, scenarios like this may become more common, as the outside groups provide an easy opportunity for candidates to test controversial messages while maintaining distance and plausible deniability. This may be particularly true for Bernier, who didn’t meet the requirements to participate in the federal leaders’ election debates. MORE