Category: News & Events

Building Community and Joy in the Struggle (Holiday Appeal); Dec 09, 2011

By admin, December 13, 2011 12:38 pm

http://www.sopudep.org/story/242

From 1791 to 1804, the African slaves of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) revolted against the mightiest imperial powers of the time, declaring their independence as the first western black republic. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for this act of rebellion and showing us that there is no power to great to truly snuff out our dignity and spirit of humanity. Sadly, those old imperial powers, and those new, have rarely shown respect for Haiti’s sovereignty. “There’s gold in them thar hills”, to put it glibly. Our colonial past is one of taking from others what is not ours to take. This has proven to be a tough habit to squelch.

Haiti need to realize their ancestors dream of a free and independent nation. This can only happen if we release the reigns of control and put them in the drivers seat. In a country such as Haiti, where there are over 10,000 foreign charities and NGO’s operating withing it’s boarders, seeing local Haitian grassroots organizations taking action to empower their fellow citizens is special and should be nurtured.

SOPUDEP and other Haitian grassroots organizations are a prime example of the capability for Haitian’s to make their own way; to educate, to work, to deliver justice, to preserve their proud culture, and to heal. It is up to us however, to show our support and solidarity, and at this moment in time, to provide the means to make their work more effective. There is an end goal with supporting Haitian grassroots social initiatives; not just a never ending money pit of “charity”. The majority of Haitian’s will be the first to say that they don’t want handouts, but a chance to create a nation and a history that is theirs and theirs alone.

And for this Haitian social organization, SOPUDEP’s funding needs are great and varied. This includes the building of a new school, putting more and more women into their own business through their micro-credit program, a food program that feeds over 700 people five days a week (currently funded by Feed Them With Music), and seeing that children to poor to attend Haiti’s traditional tuition based schools can acquire a quality education; including those children who’s home is on the street. Providing free and accessible education has been SOPUDEP’s main priority since the opening of their first K-12 school in 2002.

The importance of free education to a child in Haiti is sometimes hard for us to understand, as for most of us, free education is the norm. SOPUDEP is able to do away with mandatory tuitions for its students by putting its international support toward paying it’s dedicated all Haitian teaching staff.

The Sawatzky Family Foundation’s funding efforts are focused on ensuring that SOPUDEP can continue to educate as many children as they can take in free of charge by paying SOPUDEP’s 48 staff.  In 2010, enrollment was 560 students and the 2011 school year saw it jump up close to 640 students, with hundreds of other children in the community waiting for a spot.

While SOPUDEP’s K-12 school is a main priority for the Sawatzky Family Foundation, funding  now includes the staff salaries for two other grassroots community schools; MOJUB and Les Petits Amis De SOPUDEP. A new program for the 2011 year is providing post secondary scholarship funds for SOPUDEP’s top students. This year, two students have been provided the necessary tuition to attend college. Marie is studying nursing and Sauvlyne, education science.

The Sawatzky Family Foundation also provides funds for basic school supplies and textbooks, SOPUDEP’s efforts in earthquake relief and the work they do in camps, their micro-credit program, their collaborative work they do with other grassroots organizations and the many other costs associated for this Haitian grassroots social organization to work for the betterment of their fellow citizens.

We have made it to the Christmas break, but the rest of the year still  lies ahead. Your donations are essential to sustaining and improving SOPUDEP’s education and economic programs. Please join us in supporting this Haitian organizations wonderful work!

Of course, we express our deepest gratitude to those that have already shown us that they believe in SOPUDEP’s vision for a better Haiti. However, SOPUDEP is but one group in this fight, and we recognize those other Haitian and Non-Haitian organizations that are on the same path of resistance against those powers that would rather see Haiti benefit a privileged few. We should find joy in helping Haitian’s in their struggle for a free and just society because we recognize that their humanity is also our own.

Thank-you and Happy Holidays

Ryan Sawatzky
The Sawatzky Family Foundation

Solidarity with MUNACA’s members and their just demands

By admin, October 11, 2011 1:39 pm

252 Bloor Street West, Room 8-104

Toronto, ON M5S 1V6

(416) 978-2403; cupe3907@gmail.com

September 29, 2011

Kevin Whittaker, President

McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association

L’ Association Accreditee du Personnel Non Enseignant de l’Universite McGill

3483 Peel Street

Montreal, QC

H3A 1W7

Re: Solidarity with MUNACA’s members and their just demands

Dear Brother Kevin:

The members of CUPE Local 3907 at the University of Toronto stand in solidarity with the members of McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) and their strike action. Your strike to achieve internal and external equity with other similarly-placed workers in your workplace as well as with employees in other postsecondary educational institutions in Montreal is both inspiring and encouraging to our local.

In going out on strike, MUNACA is valiantly attempting to bring the Employer’s behavior in line with its expressed principles. In the terms of reference of the Principal’s Task Force on Diversity, Excellence and Community Engagement, the Employer asserts, “We will evaluate our achievement regularly and rigorously, both against our own previous performance and against that of our peers.” The practice of evaluating its operation against that of other comparator organizations is a long established way of ensuring that McGill University meets or exceeds the best practices in the university sector.

Therefore, the Employer should not treat your demands for a wage scale, substantive involvement in decisions about your members’ pension plan and workplace benefits, which are already enjoyed by workers in comparable organizations, as unreasonable and unprecedented. Internal and external equity has long been used in industrial relations to determine the terms and conditions of employment for workers and even administrators in higher education institutions.

The Principal’s Task Force highlights diversity of staff or employment equity as a major concern. If the Employer has concerns about seniority considerations frustrating the need to remove structural racist and other discriminatory barriers in fairly representing equity-seekers throughout the job classifications system, it should see MUNACA as partner and not a liability to this necessary goal. Any union that is committed to the principle of an “Injury to one is an injury to all” is going to work to ensure that equity-seekers are fairly and rapidly represented in all job categories.

CUPE Local 3907 applauds the determination of your members in standing up for fairness and equity in the workplace. Please rest assured that our members are solidly behind your strike action. A cheque is attached to this letter and it represents a donation from CUPE Local 3907 to MUNACA’s strike fund.

In solidarity,

Cristina Guerrero, Chair External                                    Yongfang Jia, Chair Internal

Cc: Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

By admin, August 29, 2011 12:57 pm

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

Last year, over 150 migrant workers and their allies made history by marching over fifty kilometres, an equivalent of 12 hours, from Leamington to Windsor, Ontario demanding justice, respect and dignity for the hundreds of thousands employed under the auspices of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs. After years of harassment, intimidation and exploitation, migrant workers organized and took to the streets to stand up to these abuses.

The march called the ‘Pilgrimage to Freedom: Breaking the Chains of Indentureship’ ended in Windsor at the Tower of Freedom that is dedicated to those who travelled the underground railroad. The monument was chosen as the ending point to reflect on the connections of past and the present to slavery, indentureship and statelessness that renders racialized peoples as non-citizens. Over the last year, thousands of people have heard the testimonies and the stories that led to organizing the march. Permanent residency and citizenship status, an end to repatriations and deportations, labour law reform, equal access to social entitlements and an end to the coercive role of recruiters and contractors has inspired many others about the realities faced by migrant workers in Canada.

Migrant workers and members of Justicia for Migrant Workers have continued to organize in rural Ontario and are once again demanding that the chains of indentureship in Canada must be broken. This year the pilgrimage continues as a form of a caravan across rural Ontario.

J4MW is requesting the support of community, religious, labour and allied organizations to join us for this year’s action. Migrant workers and their allies will be calling community meetings, and organizing meetings across south western Ontario. This year’s actions will take place across several communities.  If you are interested in further information feel free to contact Justicia for Migrant Workers. Tentative dates for stops on the caravan include

September 4, 2011
Niagara on the Lake, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls
For more details on the Niagara Action click here

September 25, 2011
Windsor, Leamington, Chatham and Dresden

October 2, 2011
Simcoe – Brantford – Hamilton – Toronto

Updates will be forthcoming in the upcoming weeks describing greater details the actions and what support we are asking for this event. We are seeking financial and in kind support but mostly your presence during these dates and communities.

Background Information

More than 20, 000 migrant farm workers from Thailand, Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and the Caribbean arrive in Canada to work in our fields, orchards and greenhouses every year. Many workers pay thousands of dollars in fees to recruiters to be able to work in Canada, sometimes for jobs that do not even exist.   Once they arrive, many workers face dangerous working conditions, sub-standard housing and employment standards and human rights violations. As farm workers and migrants, they have little recourse to assert their human and labour rights and are constantly faced with the threat of deportation if they voice their concerns.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is an award winning volunteer-run collective that strives to promote the rights of migrant farm workers by creating spaces for workers to lead their own movement and articulate their own voices in a country that makes renders them invisible.

Justice for Migrant Workers!
Got food? Bought local? Thank a migrant farm worker!

Background on the Pilgrimage:
Call out for last year’s march
Message of solidarity from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsC1Bt-eSJg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB5fb3cyQyw

Photos:
Flickr
Labour Start’s International Photo of the Year, Pilgrimage Photo Won!
Tumblr Multimedia snapshots

Print:
Toronto Star
Windsor Star

Stop the Cuts Network in the City of Toronto

By admin, August 25, 2011 2:20 pm

Dear CUPE 3907 Members,

Invitation to participate in Mass Meeting to Stop Ford’s Cuts, Sep 10, 1pm, Dufferin Grove Park.

My name is Lindsay, and I am writing on behalf of the Toronto Stop the Cuts Network, a grassroots alliance of community groups, service providers and Toronto residents that are organizing to stop cuts to public services by the Ford regime. Like you, we live and work in Toronto, delivering and accessing city services. For many of us libraries, community centers, employment assistance and infrastructure are essential and cuts to them would mean a dramatic change in the quality of our lives.

Like you, we’ve spent the last few months, watching Ford build a massive fear mongering campaign. Everything it seems is under threat. We’ve filled out surveys, gone to deputations, organized meetings, marches and rallies – yet Ford and his cronies show no sign of backing down.

We also know that some cuts have already happened – there are user fees in community centers, the Jarvis bike lane was chopped off, and many childcare spots have already disappeared. We also know that many in the city, undocumented people, racialized communities, poor people, those without ID are already shut out of many public services.

We know that the Executive Committee of City Hall is meeting on Sep 19, and the City voting on cuts, user fees, and anti-union measures on September 26 and 27.

Days before this, a number of groups and people in the city are calling for a Mass Meeting to Stop Ford Cuts. Over 500 people have confirmed on Facebook, and many Unions and Community organizations including city workers and health organizations have confirmed their participation. This meeting is to do three things:

1. Collect the different demands, hopes and aspirations of Torontonians to develop a concise set of people’s priorities to deliver to City Hall.

2. Develop a plan of action for September 26 and 27 if these priorities are not adequately reflected in the Executive Council discussions on September 19.

3. Strengthen relationships between community groups, service providers, labour organizations and Toronto residents to resist cuts by any level of government, to work to expand services for all people, and to end the handouts to cops and corporations.

Unions, and the labour movement, have been part of many struggles in this city – and it would be imperative for your organization to attend the meeting on September 10. We are writing today to see if you could advertise the event on facebook, on twitter and on your list-servs. Could you email or call all your members and ask them to attend? Would you be interested in developing a draft people’s declaration prior to September 10 with us?

At a time when politicians across the world seem only interested in ensuring that the rich get richer, while women, disabled people, poor, working class and migrant communities are shut out – we need to reclaim democracy for ourselves. We need to talk to each other, develop our own plans, and our own agendas, and then act on them. I really hope that you can support the September 10 meeting and will call you in the next few days to discuss this person. In the meantime, do email or call with questions, ideas or concerns.

In solidarity,

Lindsay Hart

Toronto Stop the Cuts Network

For more information or to endorse this meeting, please contact tostopthecuts@gmail.com.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=104686749631378

No strides for racialized women

By admin, October 29, 2010 9:08 am

Re: Women storm city council, Oct. 27

I am very perplexed when commentators write about the underrepresentation of women at Toronto’s city hall, but leave the race of these councillors out of the political equation. Over the life of the last city council, the 10 women councillors were 100 per cent white. With the newly elected women councillors, white women are now just over 92 per cent of the total.

We are living in a city where racialized women are close to 25 per cent of the population. A lone racialized woman on city council is a shameful reality in this city that loves to lionize its multicultural and racially diverse character. Therefore, when we celebrate women storming the new city council, we should be clear that we are really talking about white women making political advance.

It seemed so easy to see situations where white men are the people who dominate a political space. But we need to be equally perspective in naming exclusion that is based on: race; race and gender; or race, gender and sexual orientation. I hope progressives will not see Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s election as the ultimate equal opportunity jackpot for equity.

If you believe that women are “calmer,” “collegial,” “look at things from different angles,” and are consensus builders, just ask racialized women or other non-dominant women who must deal with white women or other women who exercise power over them.

It is also about power and creating monolithic myths about gendered leadership styles does not serve the cause of justice.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Toronto

The Privileging of Whiteness in Today’s Union

By admin, October 26, 2010 11:08 am

Current Members of the National Executive Board

The National Executive Board makes decisions on behalf of CUPE members in between conventions. Its members are elected by CUPE members at CUPE’s biennial national conventions. This section contains summaries of the board’s meetings, and decisions taken.

Paul Moist, National President

Paul Moist, CUPE National President

Jun 22, 2009 03:32 PM Paul Moist was elected national president on October 29, 2003, at CUPE’s bi-annual national convention in Quebec City.

Claude Généreux, National Secretary-Treasurer

Claude Généreux, CUPE’s National Secretary-Treasurer

Oct 20, 2009 07:36 PM Claude Généreux first was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the fall of 2001.

Daniel Légère

Daniel Légère, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 29, 2005 11:49 AM

General Vice-President
Daniel Légère has been a union activist ever since he was first hired as a correctional officer in St. Hilaire, N.B. in 1980. While still on probation, he became a shop steward and fought an unjustified reprimand. His involvement has taken many forms in CUPE and in the community ever since.

Lucie Levasseur

Lucie Levasseur, Regional Vice-President, Quebec

Nov 2, 2007 11:37 AM

General Vice-President
Lucie Levasseur comes to CUPE’s National Executive Board from Québec’s post-secondary education sector.

Fred Hahn

fredhahn[1].gif

Dec 14, 2009 03:59 PM

General Vice-President, Ontario

Fred Hahn has been an active member of CUPE since 1991. A social worker raised in rural Ontario, Fred chose to use his degree from the University of Toronto advocating for children with intellectual disabilities with Community Living Toronto.

Tom Graham

Tom Graham, Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Oct 1, 2008 12:54 PM

General Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Tom Graham first became involved in CUPE in 1979, when he was hired by the City of Saskatoon Sign and Paint shop. He was elected president of CUPE Saskatchewan in 1998.

Barry O’Neill

Barry O’Neill, General Vice-PresidentJan 16, 2004 10:46 AM

General Vice-President
Barry was elected to the national executive board in 1998, first as a regional vice president.

Wayne Lucas

Wayne Lucas, Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Aug 24, 2009 03:24 PM

Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Lucas has been a CUPE member for over 30 years, having started his career as a school board worker in 1978. He has served as the president of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador for the past 19 years.

Danny Cavanagh

Danny Cavanagh, Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia

Apr 29, 2005 03:22 PM

Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia
Danny Cavanagh was first elected as president of CUPE Nova Scotia on April 27th, 2005 at the annual convention in Sydney. He is also president of his local, CUPE 734 the outside workers for the Town of Truro.

Sandy Harding

Sandy Harding, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 10, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Milo Murray

Milo Murray, Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Nov 2, 2007 11:30 AM

Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Charles Fleury

Charles Fleury, Regional Vice-President, Québec

Nov 3, 2003 11:36 AM

Regional Vice-President, Québec

Charles Fleury is the Secretary-General of CUPE Local 1500, Employees of Hydro-Quebec, and has been regional vice-president since 2005. A Hydro-Quebec employee since 1982, he worked at James Bay until 1991, and is now a transmission installer in the Laurentians.

Nathalie Stringer

Nathalie Stringer, Regional Vice-President for Quebec

May 15, 2008 10:58 AM

Regional Vice-President for Quebec
Nathalie Stringer is president of CUPE’s Air Transat component, with bases in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Michael Hurley

Michael Hurley, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Dec 18, 2001 11:40 AM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Candace Rennick

Candace Rennick, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Jan 16, 2004 02:19 PM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario
Candace Rennick, a health care worker, is in her third term on the National Executive Board. She was first elected as regional vice-president (RVP) at 23, filling a vacancy for Ontario on the NEB.

Henri Giroux

Nov 20, 2009 02:12 PM

Regional Vice-President, Northern Ontario
Henri Giroux has been president of his local, an Cassellholme Home in North Bay, for 26 years. He has been president of the North Bay CUPE council for the past 10 years, and president of the North Bay and District Labour Council for the past 3 years.

Mike Davidson

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:14 PM

Regional Vice-President, Manitoba
Mike Davidson has been a CUPE member for 30 years, starting out as a park worker at the city of Winnipeg in 1979. He is vice-president for CUPE Manitoba, and president of CUPE Local 500, representing 5000 workers at the City of Winnipeg.

Judy Henley

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:16 PM

Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan
Sister Judy Henley has been a CUPE member since 1982. She is a Health Care worker; through the years working in health care she held different positions. She is the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 4980 and is currently in her eighth year as Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Saskatchewan.

Dennis Mol

Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Jun 11, 2009 08:28 AM

Regional Vice-President, Alberta
Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, Regional Vice-President, British Columbia

Aug 11, 2005 12:31 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Mark Hancock was appointed August 2, 2005 to replace Colleen Jordan as the Regional Vice President for BC after Colleen Jordan stepped down.

Ken Robinson

BC Regional Vice-President Ken Robinson

Dec 17, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Ken Robinson is a diet technician at Kelowna General Hospital and has been an HEU member for 20 years. He has held a number of positions on the union’s provincial executive in the past decade, most recently as first vice-president, and is the chairperson of the Kelowna Amalgamated local.

Affirmative Action Seats on the NEB

Yolanda McClean

Yolanda McClean, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:46 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Racialized Members)

Brian Barron

Brian Barron, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:48 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Aboriginal Members)

Brian Barron is Status First Nations CUPE member. He has been a City of Winnipeg employee for 29 years, working in the Public Works Department in field operations and as a foreman.

CUPE’s National Committees and

Working Groups

National Advisory Committee on Pensions

Pensions1906

National Health Care Issues Committee

Health Care 1843

National Global Justice Committee

Global Justice1858

Persons with Disabilities National Working Group

Disabilities1872

National Young Workers Committee

Young Workers1890

National Child Care Working Group

Child1899

National Environment Committee

Environnement1866

National Health and Safety Committee

Health and safety1951

National Literacy Working Group

Literacy 1956

National Pink Triangle Committee

Pink Triangle1913

National Contracting Out and Privatization Co-ordinating Committee

Privitization1933

National Women’s Committee

Women1881

National Rainbow Committee

Rainbow1940

National Rainbow Committee

Rainbow1940

National Aboriginal Council

Aboriginal1838

National Trustees

CUPE national trustees at work on May 12, 2010 in Ottawa. Left to right: Mark Goodwin (ON), Ronald Dagenais (QC), Colin Pawson (BC).
Syndics_mai2010

2009 – 2011 Appointments

STATISTICAL INFORMATION CUPE NATIONAL COMMITTEES

Total # of Applicants = 476

Total # of members Appointed = 186 Total # of Re-appointments = 108 Total # of new Appointments = 78
Female

258

111

56

45

Male

215

75

42

33

Transgendered

3

1

1

0

Aboriginal Worker

41

21

14

7

Worker of Colour

91

20

13

7

Worker with Disability

68

20

11

9

Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual Worker

43

19

14

5

Youth Worker

22

11

6

5

National Political Action Committee

Political Action1925

RALLY FOR G20 ACCOUNTABILITY, UOFT COMMUNITY DEMANDS “COPS OFF CAMPUS”!

By admin, October 14, 2010 10:14 am
What: Rally against the Toronto Association of Police and Private Security (TAPPS) “G20 De-Briefing”
Why: To demand accountability and justice for all those arrested during the G20, and to keep ‘Cops off Campus!’
Where: Rally begins at Graduate Students’ Union, 16 Bancroft Avenue, and will end at the University of Toronto Faculty Club, 45 Willcocks Street.
When: 10:30am, Wednesday, October 20th

*** PLEASE WEAR PINK OR BLACK CLOTHES IF YOU PLAN TO ATTEND ***
This is a call to friends and allies to rally on the University of Toronto campus at 10:30am on Wednesday, October 20th, to  send a clear message to the Toronto Association of Police and Private Security (TAPPS) that their “G20 De-Briefing” is not welcome on our campus. Students, faculty, staff and community members are calling for accountability and justice for all those arrested during the G20 Summit in Toronto – the largest instance of mass arbitrary detention in Canadian history – and are demanding that TAPPS and private security firms be kept off campus!

What is TAPPS? Why should I protest it?
TAPPS is an organization created in the mid-1990s to provide greater coordination between the Toronto police and private security companies. The influence of private security companies has increased drastically in recent years, from their expanding role in major conflicts (think of Blackwater in Afghanistan and Iraq) to their steady encroachment on public spaces. Some of the private security companies active in war-zones, such as G4S and Securitas, are also active on our streets and campuses.

With the increasing trend towards privatizing and contracting-out public services, the realm of policing has come to depend on ‘public private partnerships’ or the full-out privatization of policing services – fueling a multi-billion dollar ’security industry’ that relies on fear to sustain profits. The outcome is simple and dangerous: the public has minimal or no oversight and control over the activities of organizations that allegedly protect us.

During the G20 Summit, TAPPS revealed the dangers posed when policing forces and private security companies collaborate: massive and unaccountable repression of civil rights. According to ‘Security Management’ magazine: “Four months before the G20, TAPPS helped bring organizations—including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Toronto Police, NYPD Shield and other specialized units—together to develop plans and share intelligence on known terrorist and extremist threats, including the Black and Pink Bloc anarchists. The information gathered was then fed into the TAPPS secure portal (www.tapps.org) to build an intelligence database that police and private security could draw from during the summit weekend. TAPPS members could discuss the intelligence on message boards within the secure Web site…Security and police professionals now hope to build on the lessons learned [from the G20] and realize an even greater collaboration between police and security in the future.”


What is happening on campus on Oct 20 and why should I care?
On Wednesday, October 20th, TAPPS is holding a ‘G20 Debriefing’ training seminar on the UofT campus. This session is co-hosted by the University of Toronto Campus Community Police Service and Reilly Security (one of the companies that holds a security contract with the UofT administration). In this closed session, speakers will assess police and private security cooperation during “Canada’s largest domestic security operation” and examine “challenges and provide perspective from many of the key players involved from both police and private security circles.”
In short, similar rounds of repression are being planned on our campus, behind closed doors.

The UofT community is already familiar with the consequences of ‘police and private security’ cooperation. During the G20 Summit, 75 people from Quebec, who were staying as guests at the GSU Gym, were arrested as a result of a tip provided by a Reilly Security guard working on campus. The security guard noted the presence of ‘black-clad individuals’ getting off a bus and immediately contacted the UofT ‘Incident Command Center’ and TAPPS to secure their arrest. The 75 people arrested have since been cleared of all charges, underscoring the arbitrary nature of these arrests. These arrests are part of a broader trend at UofT in which campus activists and their community allies have experienced increased harassment at the hands of private security guards and campus police.


What kind of campus are we asking for?

We are calling on the University of Toronto Administration and the provincial government to honour the University’s Purpose to commit to “vigilant protection of individual human rights,” including the “human right to radical, critical teaching and research.” We call on university administrators to respect the campus as a protected space to “raise deeply disturbing questions and provocative challenges to the cherished beliefs of society at large and of the university itself.” We reject and will actively oppose all administrative sanction of an oppressive security agenda that undermines these commitments.

Haiti: Hanging with Rea Dol at the site of the future Sopudep School

By admin, August 2, 2010 12:58 pm
May 18, 2010

by Wanda Sabir

http://sfbayview.com/2010/haiti-hanging-with-rea-dol-at-the-site-of-the-future-sopudep-school/

Building the wall of the new school – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Rea Dol and Dodo were at the airport with a sign with my name when I arrived. We then headed to the building site, where a wall is going up around the perimeter. [Rea is the principal of SOPUDEP School in Port au Prince, founded as part of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s National Literacy Project, and she’s building a new school to replace the one that was damaged in the earthquake.]When I left six days later, it was about a third completed. Students and family members, as well as employees, are up early at the site working. Occasionally volunteers and other important visitors like former mayors also drop by to speak to this wonderful, dynamic woman, Rea Dol.

If the last earthquake was 200 years ago, then it seems like it marked the end of slavery and the beginning of a Black nation. Does this earthquake signal something similar?

There’s no active government in Haiti. President René Préval is missing, and the people are on their own, literally, which could be a good thing, until one sees nude madmen walking down busy streets.

“What would happen if the person threatened someone’s safety?” my friend asked Thursday when we saw another nude man sauntering down the busy evening street. Just around the corner we saw a policeman. Would he have the training to handle such an incident? I can recall so many times in the San Francisco Bay Area where the mentally ill were beaten and sometimes killed because police used excessive force in responding to calls for help.

What systems are in place in Haiti to handle the obvious shock and post-traumatic behaviors victims have experienced now that family and friends are lost, homes and possessions destroyed in an earthquake of a magnitude not seen in 200 years?

The Association of Black Psychologists made a recent trip to Haiti to take emergency relief supplies, but what of the short and long term psychological assistance to help the country heal? Are such conversations taking place and who will implement the resolutions?

California has earthquakes. Japan has earthquakes, Mexico has earthquakes, but not Haiti. Not in a long time. People didn’t know what to do: run outside or stay inside? Many ran indoors, while othesr already outside and clear of any falling masonry ran indoors to their deaths.

The structural integrity of a house and the safety of those inside also depended on whether or not one’s neighbor’s house was also stable. Many people I spoke to lost family to apartment buildings or houses nearby collapsing on them.

As we drove along Delmas 33, a busy thoroughfare in heavy traffic, a man stood on a leaning building relaxed, his arms holding a collapsed roof, his legs spread, feet on the porch just below – the entire structure, caved roof and housing tumbling down the side of the hill. It looked really unstable, yet there he stood, casually observing the traffic below on the street.

Driving along, Yvon looked up and asked the rhetorical question: Doesn’t he realize what danger he’s in?

In Cap-Haïtien I met a man in a store, a friend of my new daughter, Monica, who spoke of arriving home and evacuating his wife and two daughters. Afterwards the children were afraid to be indoors. They wanted to leave the country, so when he was able, he put his family on a plane to New York. Now he is alone working and sending them money.

Abel spoke of not having any money to go anywhere, living in his car until he got money for gas to drive to Cap-Haïtien where he is now working. He gave his wife’s car to a NGO working on earthquake relief.

Yvon said he’d put his car in a shop and the garage collapsed and there went the car. Insurance?

I could see the anguish in Abel’s face as he relived those moments. He spoke of how loud noises made him jump and how he often woke up from nightmares. When asked if he’d gotten any psychotherapy, he didn’t know where he might get such help. I told him I would connect him with some people I know in New York who might be able to help.

OK, so maybe mental health is not an immediate priority, because if it was there would be systems in place with access. On the other hand, perhaps mental health is a priority, but in a situation as chaotic as a country without leadership can be, perhaps folks are just trying to stay afloat until immediate needs like housing and food and water are met.

Rea Dol at the site of the new SOPUDEP School – Photo: Wanda Sabir

My hostess, Rea Dol, has teachers who are living on the streets and in their cars since the earthquake. I was happy I could leave my tent and sleeping bag, Imodium and toilet tissue. It wasn’t a lot, my resources are limited, but every little bit certainly helps.Tuesday evening Rea and I went over to a collective consisting of nonprofit organizations like SOIL, which puts in toilets for people free of charge, and connected with Paul, a Haitian American, who brought her tents for those staff members who are homeless, along with shoes and a ball. He’d just arrived from Ft. Lauderdale that day. He spent the night with us.

I took some of the shoes the next day to Cap-Haïtien with BC or Junior, who lives with Rea’s family, Wednesday morning on the bus. BC’s from Cap-Haïtien and was excited to see his mother and brothers.

My daughter sent bubbles and Mardi Gras beads, necklaces and rings and crayons and coloring books and spinning tops and balls and tablets and pens and playing cards. The adults liked the party beads. We just wanted to take a little something to lift people’s spirits.

Considering the large amount of funds raised here in America, I expected people to have tents and support services three months after the earthquake, this Monday, April 12, 2010. How long does it take to put such systems in place?

In many neighborhoods, teams of people in yellow t-shirts sweep the streets, but to clear the debris one needs bulldozers, the kind that unconscionably are used to demolish houses in Gaza. In Haiti, though, the tractors and other heavy equipment would help people move on with their lives.

I have never lived in a place where the government supports random gunfire on citizens who do not support current leadership, but such happened in Cité Soleil in 1999 and again in 2004. It’s a community located on Haiti’s waterfront, what one might call prime property, yet there is no investment in the people before or since President Aristide. His government built a school and nearby started construction of apartment buildings which are standing. We didn’t know if they were occupied when we drove by, but they certainly did not suffer any damage.

The home of sugar plantations, the major factory was bought out a company which then closed it down and started importing the crash crop in the 1970s. At that time the company was a major anchor in the economy of the area. One can imagine the hit the community felt once it closed; also affected were the railways which transported the goods.

This reminds me of what happens throughout America when urban removal is the goal – urban removal a code word for Black removal – something that has been going on since 1865, the legal end of slavery. The only thing is, Haitians don’t leave their land or communities; they just hang on.

Cité Soleil, the infamous city – one of the largest ghettos in Haiti, with perhaps the country’s largest population in such a small geographical area – is also the place that has a love for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas movement, measurably so great, it makes the knees of the political machine quake. Target of raids where children, elderly and adults were killed, their bodies covering the sidewalks and hallways and staircases, bedrooms and homes.

The buildings looked like loofah sponges, bullet holes covering the entire surface, like pock marks. The holes were so distracting and distressing recent attempts to spruce up the neighborhood has had crews filling in the holes – I hear it looks better. Hm? But if one knows where to look, evidence of the war is still there.

It is here where infrastructure would be a good thing. However, if the political system is apathetic and ineffective, then complaining about the health and welfare of the economy and community would do nothing because the citizen’s review or complaint department is run by the very people committing the crimes.

For many Haitians it’s almost like, hm, I’ll do what I can without access to resources because I can’t wait for help, help is too unreliable, too costly – not just monetarily; it could be too time consuming – and too slow.

Rea Dol is rebuilding her school, Pastor Frank is rebuilding his school, one of 15, Regine Zamor is getting ready to open her center for street kids next week, Jean Yvon Kernizan is expanding his afterschool program from 86 to 300 served, So Anne prepares a meal for her community daily, people who are homeless and hungry.

Making do in the rubble – Photo: Wanda Sabir

I only saw one line for a food giveaway the entire week I was in Haiti. I saw a lot of people going for water at the spigot or creek a few times a day, young and old, with different size containers. Most folks didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity, but they were making do and doing very well at that.I saw huge blocks of ice, yes, for ice boxes. I’d heard of ice boxes, but hadn’t seen one before. The charcoal I’d heard about, its use for heating homes and for cooking food, and the soil erosion from cutting down the trees to make the charcoal came to mind.

There are things good government supports like public education, public safety and public health. The Haitian government is falling down on all of these things; is this the reason why former U.S. President Bill Clinton is in charge of rebuilding Haiti?

Why can’t the grassroots organizers get the funds so they can mobilize their communities and rebuild Haiti themselves? How would Clinton know what Haiti needs or wants? Give the people the money and leave them alone.

The money will create jobs and provide incentives to those without hope.

Many of the people I spoke to mentioned how President Aristide’s presence would do much to lift the spirits of his people. If people knew President Aristide were coming, Jean Ristil, Cité Soleil activist, journalist, said, they would start cleaning up the streets now.

In a large field in Cité Soleil, earthquake displaced residents are swatting on privately owned land. If there were an infrastructure in place, government could compensate the landowner, so that he wouldn’t make the temporary residents on his land feel unwelcome – dumping mounds of rocks in the middle of fields near people’s tents – aesthetically uninviting and humiliating.

Did I mention the tents? More correctly all the people donating money to “worthy causes” like the Red Cross etc. – do not think for a moment I believe the Red Cross is a worthy organization, certainly not the United Nations – should have been told that the tent is a piece of plastic held in place with sticks in all for corners. I have never seen a shanty town, but I think Cité Soleil (Kreyol: Site Solèy, English: Sun City) qualifies.

“The vast majority of residents of Cité Soleil remained loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas movement. Unlike Haiti’s unelected past governments, Lavalas governments invested money into parks, literacy programs and medical centers in Cité Soleil,” says Wikipedia.

This is a running commentary. I kept a daily journal and will post the day’s musings and photos here as well. The huge tent city is a potential disaster waiting to happen. Young girls might get accosted by predators, which has been documented by visitors.

I was heartbroken to see so many children trying to make a buck for a meal – washing cars as they waited at a traffic light. I am glad there are so many people, like Jean Ristil Jean Baptiste, 29, www.freewebs.com/koleZepol, and Rea Dol, www.sopudep.org, who care about these children, many in Cité Soleil, orphaned when the shootouts occurred and their parents were killed.

As I stood in line at Immigration once we’d landed in Ft. Lauderdale, I was talking to Sam, who was in Haiti to check on his family in Jacmel. He was telling me that he lost I think eight relatives in the quake and was looking at rebuilding the family home at minimally $40,000. I told him about Constantine Alatzas, Institute for Creative Evolution: Tools for Peace, who is working with Rea Dol in designing a sustainable structure for her new school. The key is AERBLOCK, a light weight material which is earthquake and flood or hurricane resistant used in the designs proposed by Alatzas.

As we speak, I happen to mention the people I visited this past week, one of them Jean Yvon, and Roselene in the line just ahead of me says, Jean Yvon is my cousin. I’m like wow. Well, Yvon is Rea’s friend. Both Sam and Roselene know Yvon, but not each other. I give both of them Yvon’s information as well as that of Constantine. Sam also knows Jen and the project she has with kids with cameras.

Talk about small world. As I travel the African Diaspora, I am finding my role as facilitator of collaborations clear. It happened in Haiti, it happened in Dakar and The Gambia to a lesser degree, and it always happens here. I see connections which might not be obvious and easily connect the dots between people, organizations and projects. Not everything is followed up on; the people I am joining are very busy and always short staffed. But sometimes they do … at least I hope they do. However, even if they don’t, the idea that they are not alone in the community building processes is I’m sure a boost to morale.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m. and archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.

Solving Caribana’s funding crisis

By admin, August 1, 2010 1:44 am
Back to Solving Caribana’s funding crisis

Solving Caribana’s funding crisis

July 29, 2010

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters/article/842007–solving-caribana-s-funding-crisis
{{GA_Article.Images.Alttext$}}Caribana dancers downtown.

TANNIS TOOHEY/TORONTO STAR

Re: Caribana a victim of cultural racism? Letter July 26

A letter last Friday suggested that security measures at Caribana are disrespectful to West Indians. On Monday someone suggested that reduced federal funding for Caribana is cultural racism.

We need a debate on multiculturalism and what it means. Canada stands for the equitable treatment of all citizens. But there is and has been a Canadian culture with a set of values that predates the entry of various waves of immigrants. One presumes that those values were part of the attraction of this great nation.

Multiculturalism was never intended to mean that all cultures are equable within Canada. If the values of the incoming culture are at odds with the Canadian culture, it seems to me that it is incumbent upon the newcomer to make some adjustments.

Caribana is a wonderful party but it has been a fiscal disaster. The parade has taken too long to complete because parade watchers wander into the fray and impede movement of the floats. This ties up the roads for far too long and disrupts the lives of other citizens.

We deal with this by putting up security fences. There is nothing evident in that that smacks of racism and I am tired of that card being played at every turn.

George Adams, Haliburton

Ajamu Nangwaya wrote a provocative letter about the discriminatory treatment in funding accorded to Caribana by the feds. It is outrageous how we have been marginalized despite contributing $440 million to the economy each year. Today the Star supported him in a large editorial. More power to HIM.

We should immediately organize a delegation — after the Caribana festivities end or when Parliament returns — to go to Ottawa as a group to confront officials responsible for dishing out funds. We should also request at meeting with the Prime Minister.

We should contemplate filing a simple civil claim against the feds for discrimination, using either the Canadian Human Rights Act or Ontario Human Rights Act or the Charter Section 15 in Superior Court. Victory may not be expected but a message will be sent and heard. A demonstration along Yonge St. or Parliament Hill could also send a message.

Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, Barrister and Solicitor, Toronto

My goodness, contributor Ajamu Nangwaya “cannot see any rational reason for the difference in funding” between Caribana and “white” festivals? Perhaps he should review the many reports dealing with financial irregularities, lack of oversight, unpaid bills, and shoddy accounting, which have tarnished the integrity of various Caribana organizers and groups over the years. I don’t recall reading of similar problems with the other committees and boards cited by your leader. Perhaps it isn’t always about race.

Randall Bell, Whitby

Caribana is not only the most colourful parade in Canada, but probably the most colourful in the world. Tourists pour into Toronto from all over Canada, the U.S. and even Europe to join in the fun and spend millions of dollars.

Here’s what they all come to see:

The streets ablaze with the

costumed throng

swaying like palm trees to and fro

sunny smiles from the sunny isles

bringing a tropical touch to old TO

the city explodes in music and song

when the carnival-of-joy

dons its sparkling crown

spreading joi-de-vivre far and wide

when Caribana comes to town.

William Bedford, Toronto

I have been in this country for 33 years and am aware of the continuous issues around funding for Caribana. Canada and Toronto give lip service to multiculturalism as long as we sing and dance on the cheap, but the politicians only echo the mindset of the masses who are still fearful when too many African people gather in one place. This is disrespectful to the notion of integrity, truth and honesty — something we smugly accuse the U.S. of doing.

Perhaps it would help if the Caribana group cut out the damn infighting, ensured that transparency, accountability and fairness are practiced and presented a unified front to the corporate/political people. Unless we get up off our collective asses and make them respect us, they have no incentive to do so. And the best incentive for capitalists is the lack of capital coming into their hands.

Tchaka Adofo, Toronto

Partners In Health Testifies in Washington, July 27 2010

By admin, July 27, 2010 5:37 pm

Read this report on the CHAN website at: http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca/node/498

WASHINGTON DC–Today, Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health and Chair of the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and Loune Viaud, Director of Operations and Strategic Planning of Zanmi Lasante (ZL), the Haitian sister organization of Partners In Health, testified at a Capitol Hill hearing hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, “Focus on Haiti: The Road to Recovery – A Six Month Review.”

Below is the text of their testimony. You can also read the testimonies by downloading each one as a Pdf:

Pdf of Paul Farmer testimony

Pdf of Loune Viaud testimony:

Testimony of Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer: Co-founder of PIH, Chair of the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti at the United Nations

1. Acute-on-chronic

The six-month anniversary of the earthquake, which many Haitians have taken to calling, simply, “the catastrophe,” will cause soul-searching in some circles, grim determination in others, and bitter recriminations from still other quarters. I will not contribute here to these veins of commentary, although we all know they’re important and inevitable. Instead I will use my time to comment on a few large but soluble problems now before us and to make two distinct and complementary recommendations. Indeed, most of these problems have long faced all those of good will who seek to stand in solidarity with the Haitian people, which is why, as physicians, we know that what happened on January 12th is aptly described as an “acute-on-chronic” event.

Though by some reports and some “macro” indicators there had been slow improvements in Haiti in the year prior to the quake, the problems we’re struggling with today are longstanding, if much aggravated by the worst natural disaster to befall the world in recent centuries. Whether we look at health, education, potable water, or safe, affordable housing, we can draw similar conclusions: first, great weakness in the public sector makes it exceedingly difficult to deliver basic services at significant scale; second, not enough of the pledged earthquake relief has reached those in greatest need.

Although Haitians are rightly tired of having their country labeled “the poorest in the western hemisphere,” it is nonetheless true that the country has poor health indicators, was a few years ago deemed the most water-insecure nation in the Americas, has low levels of literacy, and now, with up to 1.6 million in IDP camps, has enormous, almost overwhelming, housing instability. Into the breach have come a large number of well-intentioned NGOs, which have sought, with some local success, to provide basic health and educational services, and, on an even smaller level, access to potable water and improved housing. I am myself from this sector, since I’ve been a life-long NGO volunteer and work for a U.S. medical school as a teacher and clinician. But I would like to argue here that my own earnest engagement in this arena has taught me that one of the primary tasks of development assistance, including that delivered by NGOs, must be to strengthen Haitian public-sector capacity, especially in the arenas of health, education, water, and housing—which some refer to as basic social and economic rights. Our historical failure to do so is one of the primary reasons that trying to help the public sector now is like trying to transfuse whole blood through a small-gauge needle or, in popular parlance, to drink from a fire hose.

Why the public sector? Before answering, I’m not suggesting here that NGOs and the private sector are not part of the solution; far from it. But there is a pragmatic and humble point to be made here: the profusion of NGOs—and some have estimated that Haiti, a veritable Republic of NGOs, has more of them per capita than any other country in the world—has not led to adequate progress in provision of basic services to all who need them nor to a functioning safety net for the poorest. Case in point: over 85% of primary and secondary education in Haiti is private, and Haiti is, as mentioned, plagued by illiteracy; over 500,000 school-age children were not in school prior to the earthquake.

There are transient ironies, too. Sometimes bursts of attention can improve a terrible situation; some blood does get through the too-small needle. Take water insecurity: by some reports, it has lessened since the earthquake led many groups to focus on bringing clean water to the displaced. One survey in Port-au-Prince suggested that diarrheal diseases had by last month dropped 12% below the pre-earthquake level. But is the massive importation of bottled water readily sustained? Is it the way to improve water security for all?

There is also a more philosophical point behind a plea for attention to the public sector: How can there be public health and public education without a stronger government at the national and local levels?

2. Why?

I have argued that the quake dramatically worsened a bad situation. I could focus on statistics, noting that some 17-20% of federal employees were killed or injured in the quake, or that 27 of 28 federal buildings were destroyed. And I would note that few public personnel were able to perform well within the buildings prior to the earthquake. Some of the best doctors and nurses I know are struggling to perform in the public sector without the tools of our trade—diagnostics and medications, for example, but also anything approaching adequate salaries. In a hearing like this one, it is important to ask why this is so, and I have previously done so before both houses of our Congress. It is not a pretty story, for the decline of Haiti’s already feeble civil service is tightly tied, and has been for a century, to internecine strife but also to U.S. policies. Other powerful countries have played unhelpful roles, too.

Let me take only the last decade. Beginning in 2000, the U.S. administration sought, often quietly, to block bilateral and multilateral aid to Haiti, having an objection to the policies and views of the administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected by over 90% of the vote at about the same time a new U.S. president was chosen in a far more contested election. How much influence we had on other players is unclear, but it seems that there was a great deal of it with certain international financial agencies, with France and Canada; our own aid, certainly, went directly to NGOs, and not to the government. Public health and public education faltered, as did other services of special importance to the poor. I noted in a book written in those years that the budget of the Republic of Haiti, nine million strong, wasn’t much different from that of the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with 100,000 citizens; neither amounted to a quarter of the budget of the Harvard teaching hospital, a single one, in which I trained and now work.

Without resources, it was difficult for public providers to provide; many left to work in NGOs, which did not have a mandate to serve all citizens, and others left the country altogether. Choking off assistance for development and for the provision of basic services also choked off oxygen to the government, which was the intention all along: to dislodge the Aristide administration.

But the coup, simply denied as such by some in the so-called international community, did not really take. The U.S.-selected caretaker government was unpopular, unrest continued to grow, and Port-au-Prince became the kidnapping capital of the world in spite of a very large U.N. presence. Again, the so-called forces of order, the police, were weak or corrupt—as pale a reflection of what the force should have been as were public health and public education.

Some efforts to reverse this ruinous policy of squeezing the public sector, which was often and correctly denounced by Congresswomen Lee and Waters and many other members of the CBC, have been palpable over the past year, although progress has been slow. And then came the earthquake, which further decreased the capacity of the public sector to provide meaningful services, leaving once again a growing number of NGOs and other non-state providers to fill the breach. Allow me to give two more data points: on January 27th, it was noted in the Washington Post that less than 1% of all U.S. quake aid was going to the Haitian government. (Almost as much went, even, to the Dominican government.) My colleagues at the U.N. are tracking these numbers, and also pledges made and disbursed, and here’s one of the latest: of $1.8 billion for earthquake relief sent to Haiti, less than 2.9% has so far gone to the government.

I argued here in 2003, in testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, that it is difficult, without real and sustained commitments to strengthening the public sector—including its regulatory and coordinating capacity, so that the quality of the services offered by NGOs and others will not be all over the map—to monitor funds and to use them efficiently. This remains true today. Thus are the Haitian people still tasting the bitter dregs of the cup we prepared for them as we weakened, or failed to strengthen, the public sector over the past decades.

During these years, unfair international trade policies cut Haitian farmers off at the knees, accelerating the complex and vicious cycle of urban migration and deforestation that set the stage for the food insecurity that was to follow, for the extreme vulnerability to heavy rains and storms, and for the massive overcrowding and shoddy construction revealed to all late in the afternoon of January 12th.

3. What is to be done?

This is where we are at the six-month mark, as hurricane season approaches. Less than five percent of the rubble has been cleared. People are going to camps for shelter and for other services that all of us humans need to get by. Gender-based violence worsens the “structural violence” to which the poor, in general, are subjected. The good news is that the enormous generosity and solidarity of the world after the earthquake was and is real: it’s estimated that more than half of all American households contributed to earthquake relief. Speaking as a volunteer for PIH, I can proudly announce that we have, along with the Ministry of Health, already broken ground on a huge new teaching hospital in central Haiti. We know from experience, as my colleague Loune Viaud will report, that it’s possible to get a great deal done in rural Haiti, and these services and jobs will also pull people out of the city and contribute to the decentralization so desperately needed.

But there needs to be a shift, especially in how we plan and deliver basic health, education, and other safety-net services: a commitment to move at least some of the assistance (including private money) into public hands, which has not been at all the favored approach to assistance to Haiti. This is increasingly recognized as the right thing to do, as Paul Weisenfeld, Haiti Task Team Coordinator for USAID, who reported the falling rates of water-borne diseases noted above, observed recently: “I think it’s key to us that if we’re going to have sustainability we are going to have to work through Haitian institutions, which requires strengthening them. Obviously [they’ve] been weakened tremendously by this earthquake, so at the same time that we implement reconstruction programs, we need to strengthen government institutions so that we can work through them.”[1] We have also just worked with the American Red Cross to support performance-based financing of medical and nursing staff in Haiti’s largest public hospital. These efforts will not be easy, but they are necessary.

This shift will not be a panacea for Haiti but could be coupled with a powerful and complementary focus on another movement of capital, this time from public to private and from wealthy to poor: a focus on job creation and on strengthening the hand of those trying to farm (and reforest) the land and also on young people, especially young women, living in poverty. We need a greater sense of urgency. And the most urgent task of all is the creation of jobs that will confer dignity to those in greatest need. As FDR said early in the Depression, “The Nation asks for action and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.”[2]

As it was during the Great Depression, there are innumerable public-works jobs imaginable, from reforestation and rubble removal to preparing for back-to-school (la rentrée), which must put kids back in schools, safe schools, with the books and uniforms they need and a nutritious lunch during the day. As for health, Haitians need a real health system. This will require a massive investment in new clinics and hospitals, staff to run them, and health insurance at a time when only 300,000 families have it. These are indivisible tasks, as FDR noted at the outset of the Depression: “Public health . . . is a responsibility of the state as [is] the duty to promote general welfare. The state educates is children. Why not keep them well?”[3]

Job creation and improved health and educational services, with greater investment in the public sector: this should be a big part of the mantra. I do not mean to suggest that this transfer of capital, resources, etc., is easy. We know it’s not, because we’re in direct contact with the representatives of large multilateral and bilateral agencies, which have to follow laborious processes in order to disburse funds. But let us ask, in the face of urgent need, if we are well served by the fetishization of process now retarding the flow of capital into the hands of families in greatest need. The International Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, which is now being born, needs to be swift and nimble; the rules of the road for development assistance need to be rewritten, not to favor contractors and middlemen and trauma vultures, but to favor the victims of the quake. Right now there are shovel-ready projects, which could create tens of thousands of jobs and perhaps more. There are plenty of people living in poverty, including the market women who have never had access to capital or financial services and who have been working against an undertow of unfair trade policies, who are as entrepreneurial as anyone else in the world. Projects of all sorts can be greenlighted, but will move sluggishly if the funds seep into the ICRH too slowly and if projects cannot be moved forward because of strangling strictures on how the money is to be used.

People in this country know it’s possible to move forward with a sense of urgency. During the Depression, job creation and improved services from health care to education to rural electrification were the focus of many efforts. FDR, then the governor of New York, called for “workfare” and welfare through the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA). This call was made on August 28, 1931, and it was up and running by winter:

The crisis had finally imposed some discipline of responsibility even on the Republican legislators, who with uncharacteristic docility did what the governor asked. (The New York Voters would overwhelmingly approve the bond issue in November 1932.) Faithful to romantic notions of rural life, Roosevelt had TERA subsidize the resettlement of as many unemployed as possible on marginal farmland, with tools and instruction on how to cultivate it. In six years TERA assisted five million people, 40 percent of the population of New York State, at a cost of $1,555,000. At the end of the period, 70 percent of these were no longer reliant on government assistance.[4]

Later these lessons were taken to scale in many programs, including the Civil Works Administration, which created millions of jobs and moved billions into the public sector through public works and into the hands of the previously unemployed.

Certainly Haiti’s need is no less great than that faced by the States during the Depression. Let us hope it can build a more just tax base, even though its IRS, like its Ministries of Health and Education, has been destroyed. In the meantime, the world has responded generously and now it is incumbent upon us to move these resources into the hands of the Haitian people, especially those directly affected, in these two complementary ways. Again, this is not a choice between public and private sectors, any more than this is a choice between strengthening local agriculture and rebuilding infrastructure, but rather a plea to focus resource distribution on the poor and displaced by providing basic services and through job creation. There is no evidence whatsoever that this is an impossible mission.

Notes: [1] Remarks by Paul Weisenfeld, USAID Haiti Task Team coordinator, at a media roundtable on July 19, 2010. Available at: http://www.usaid.gov/press/speeches/2010/sp100719_1.html

.

[2] Roosevelt, Franklin D. First Inaugural Address. March 4, 1933.

[3] Black, Conrad. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003. Page 194.

[4] Black, pages 216-217.

——————————————————————————-

Testimony of Loune Viaud

Loune Viaud, Director of Operations and Strategic Planning for Zanmi Lasante

Chairwoman Lee, esteemed members of the Congressional Black Caucus, thank you for inviting me to testify here today. My name is Loune Viaud, and I am Director of Operations and Strategic Planning for Zanmi Lasante, an organization devoted to providing a preferential option for the poor in rural Haiti. Zanmi Lasante is the partner organization of Partners In Health, an organization which also advocates for and provides a preferential option for the poor around the world. On behalf of Zanmi Lasante and Partners In Health, I want to thank the members of the Congressional Black Caucus for arranging this hearing, and for ensuring that the voices of Haitians are heard.  Today I will address the current situation and needs of the Haitian people, the needs of vulnerable children, the status of the healthcare system, and the need for decentralization and job creation.

The Current Situation and Haitian Priorities

On one visit to Port-au-Prince—even without venturing far from the airport—one will see that little progress has been made to date. I am going to talk about priorities—in any case, what we see as priorities on the ground. I see healthcare, employment, decentralization, protection of children, women, adolescent girls, the elderly and the most vulnerable members of the population. What happened to us the afternoon of January 12 changed everything. The way we live, the way we see the world and the future.

What happened to us is beyond words. So many people died. There are so many new people with disabilities, orphans, unaccompanied and displaced children, elders and women left vulnerable and at a loss. So much despair.

Despite this despair, we also feel grateful for the solidarity around the world. Immediately after the earthquake, a great number of people wanted to help, and many came to Haiti to do so. But now, six months later, we still need solidarity, and we need those who want to help to work in cooperation and partnership with and for the Haitian people. Rather than charity, Haiti needs partners. Haiti needs jobs. In particular, I see decentralization in the form of job creation outside of Port-au-Prince. Jobs will stabilize other parts of the  country, empower the communities, and save lives.

We need Haitians to lead the reconstruction efforts. We need our partners to take a rights-based approach in the construction of a new Haiti. This means supporting the capacity and the leadership of both the Haitian government and Haitian communities; it means deferring to the experiences of Haitians and guaranteeing our participation in the rebuilding of our country; it means unconditionally respecting all of our human rights—including the right to food, the right to decent housing and sanitation, the right to health, the right to potable water, the right to education and the right to security.

Zanmi Beni and Protection of Vulnerable Children

We at Zanmi Lasante (ZL) are doing our best to protect the rights of some of the very most vulnerable members of our population: orphaned and abandoned children, many of whom are mentally and physically disabled. Child wellbeing has long been one of Zanmi Lasante’s central concerns, as children are often the most vulnerable to sickness and deprivation of rights in the communities we serve. Following the earthquake, there was a desperate need for refuge and support for children affected by the quake.

In partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Operation Blessing International, among other organizations, ZL is working to fill this gaping void. We opened Zanmi Beni, a home just outside of Port-au-Prince for abandoned and disabled children. Zanmi Beni, which means “blessed friends” in Haitian Creole, now provides shelter, education and love for over 48 children. We need more places like Zanmi Beni or at minimum, more children’s shelters. In challenging times and impoverished settings, children are often the most at risk, in part because they are not as able to advocate for themselves.

Countrywide, the protection of children continues to be a priority as we work to improve the humanitarian situation in Haiti. Children were particularly affected by the earthquake: in the six months following the quake, of the almost 147,000 patient encounters logged at the clinics set up in the four settlement camps in Port-au-Prince, 40 percent were patients under age 20. Half of those patients were under five years old. Thousands more children were injured, traumatized, displaced, and orphaned by the earthquake. Children in Haiti, particularly homeless, disabled, and orphaned children, still desperately need shelter, care, and protection. We must make sure that their fundamental rights are protected, and that the government of Haiti is empowered to fulfill these rights.

The Health Sector

Together, the international community and people of Haiti must also work hard to ensure that the right to healthcare is being fulfilled for all. Strengthening of the healthcare system is essential to the restoration of Haiti.

On July 3, in partnership with local government, the Haitian Ministry of Health, Harvard, Duke, and Dartmouth Medical schools, and a variety of private and public organizations, Zanmi Lasante broke ground to begin building an innovative referral and teaching hospital. Mirebalais, where the hospital is being built, is about 35 miles north of Port-au-Prince, and is known as the “gateway” to the Central Plateau Department. The hospital perfectly embodies our commitment to Haiti in that it integrates research, teaching, and service, and is the result of a broad coalition of public, private, and government organizations, in both the U.S. and Haiti.

Prior to the quake, our plan was to build a 108-bed teaching hospital offering comprehensive, community-based primary and prenatal care as well as treatment for TB, HIV, malaria, and malnutrition. However, the destruction of 80 percent of Haiti’s healthcare infrastructure on January 12 made the need for a hospital in Mirebalais more urgent than ever. Thousands of people have traveled to, and are still journeying into, the rural Central and Artibonite Departments from Port-au-Prince seeking desperately needed healthcare. Additionally, the earthquake badly damaged the country’s only teaching hospital, and destroyed most of its educational facilities. The state medical and nursing schools were particularly hard hit, and the Port-au-Prince nursing school, where an entire class of nursing students died, was completely demolished. After the earthquake, at the request of Haiti’s Ministry of Health, we expanded our vision for the hospital.

The new hospital will be 180,000 square feet and have 320 beds, in addition to state-of-the-art infection control, wall-mounted oxygen and medical gases, improved diagnostics (digital x-ray and ultrasound), and increased space around the beds to accommodate teaching rounds for medical and nursing students. The hospital will include the technological and logistical capacity to support educational exchanges, distance learning and remote collaborations. It is our hope that it will serve as a model for Haiti’s national healthcare system, a place where Haitian doctors and nurses can be trained and empowered to take care of the  country’s people. In this way, it is our greatest hope that the Mirebalais hospital will strengthen healthcare throughout Haiti and help solve Haiti’s healthcare human resource crisis.

We are employing local people to build the hospital that will serve them and their communities. This hospital will be our flagship, equivalent in capacity to all of our current facilities in Haiti. Perhaps more importantly, the Mirebalais hospital is a symbol: a symbol of our commitment to public partnerships and infrastructure, healthcare as a human right, and the people of Haiti. It is our commitment to “building back better,” hand-in-hand with the government and people of Haiti.

Simultaneously, we are working to restore the devastated General Hospital in Port-au-Prince—l’Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti (HUEH), the largest medical institution in the country. The General Hospital was nearly destroyed by the earthquake, and in the days that followed, surviving staff members and volunteers—over 370 in total—worked to treat thousands of badly injured patients. Over the course of days and weeks, electricity and running water were restored. In addition, along with numerous partners, ZL was there and helped staff 12 operating rooms, where staff members and volunteers performed surgeries 24 hours a day.

More than six months after the earthquake, there is still much to be done, and ZL’s focus is changing from the immediate to long-term strengthening and care. The hospital staff has resumed responsibility for most clinical services, and so we have shifted to increased training, capacity, and professionalization of the nursing staff. We have also worked to establish a Friends of HUEH Foundation to build partnerships and financial support for rebuilding and strengthening the hospital.

As with the Mirebalais Hospital, we are committed to cross-sector partnerships and long-term planning. We have found that the best way to ensure that access to these services is both universal and sustainable is by partnering with Haitian public institutions that are ultimately responsible for ensuring that Haitians have the right to health, water, food, and education.  These partnerships ensure that the capacity of the government is enhanced, and that the assets we are creating—crucial infrastructure and services—are ultimately owned by the Haitian people.  Our partnerships have been successful because our goal is to support our government in doing its job – to fulfill all Haitians’ right to health.

Job Creation and Decentralization – Aquaculture Project

In addition to focusing on protection of children and on Haiti’s health sector, a main priority in improving the humanitarian situation in Haiti is the creation and decentralization of jobs. This is essential if Haiti is to stabilize and prosper, and to ensure that the human rights of Haiti’s people are fulfilled.

Haiti, like many countries, has historically seen in-country migration from its rural regions to Port-au-Prince, its capital city. Many moved to the city in search of employment opportunities. However, the January earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, and set in motion a reversal of this trend. In the past six months, hundreds of thousands of people have moved to the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite, areas where Zanmi Lasante has worked for over twenty years. Initially, most of these migrants were in need of immediate medical care—2,961 earthquake victims were treated at ZL health clinics in the first month after the quake. While many migrants continue to need healthcare, many moved in search of employment, stability, and survival. Decentralization of employment opportunities has become essential.

ZL and Partners In Health, in partnership with the UN Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti and the mayor of Boucan Carre, a region in the Central Plateau of Haiti, are working on a tilapia-raising aquaculture project. This project will bring jobs to hundreds in the region. It is again our hope that this project will also open up the region for development and investment on a larger scale.

In addition to the decentralization that is essential to Haiti’s recovery, the aquaculture project will help to fulfill other fundamental rights for people in the region. Currently, the region, two hours from Port-au-Prince, does not have access to fresh fish, a highly nutritious source of local food. The fish that is available is dried and is prohibitively expensive for most of the rural population. This project will both increase the amount of fish available, and at the same time decrease the cost to the rural population. In addition to providing food security, which is incredibly important, the aquaculture project will provide food sovereignty for a large segment of the population, enabling them to control food production for themselves and their community. In my humble opinion, we need more projects like this in the countryside of Haiti, especially where there are large rivers, which, instead of swelling during the rainy season and killing people in the region, they could be used  to feed the communities.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of food security and food sovereignty. Particularly for a marginalized and under-resourced population, food security and sovereignty will be transformative. Any industry, development, investment, and employment that this project brings to the area could similarly transform hundreds of thousands of lives. It is long-term development projects and meaningful investments like this that we would like to focus on, in addition to dealing with more immediate needs.

Conclusion and Recommendations for Moving Forward

On all fronts, there is so much to be done.

I want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to each and every one of you, venerable members of the Congressional Black Caucus, for all you have done for Haiti. Your work does not go unnoticed, and we are deeply appreciative. However, I am afraid that we still need you to do more.

Both the service and advocacy work will be long-term. Continued discussions and advocacy will be needed for bilateral and multilateral donors to encourage actual disbursement of the nearly US$10 billion committed at the 2010 Donor Conference at the United Nations in March. Working with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, the NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, we proposed a rights-based framework for transparency and accountability to, international donors, implementers, and NGOs.   Along with the UN Office of the Special Envoy and other partners, we will continue to advocate for better implementation of foreign aid-funded projects and to channel more aid through the Haitian government in order to strengthen their systems and their ability to fulfill their citizens’ human rights.

We in Haiti appreciate the U.S. government’s commitment to partnering with our government and our fellow Haitians as we rebuild. We hope that this commitment will come with the tools needed to facilitate our participation. Central to our meaningful participation are transparency mechanisms that will help Haitians across the country track U.S. government funds at the local level and be able to provide feedback on projects as they’re being planned and implemented, and most importantly in the event that they do not have the desired outcome.

An immediate priority is the passage of the Supplemental War Funding Bill (H.R. 4899), which contains $2.9 billion in aid to be released for Haiti’s reconstruction. We need your help to protect the 425,000 or so families that are living in the internally displaced persons camps. These camps are crowded, ramshackle, unsanitary, and insecure – women and young girls are gang raped every night. The best possible solution is to build permanent housing to, among other things, decrease the gender-based violence, as well as create jobs and services. As the supplemental bill languishes, people are dying, and reconstruction is struggling. We need you to help us keep up the pressure to pass this bill.

We also need you to keep the attention on Haiti. Though the people of Haiti have long suffered at the hands of cruel dictators, brutally destructive international policies, and natural disasters; in the past, this suffering has often been ignored. However, immediately following the earthquake, the world’s attention turned to Haiti. Our work has been assisted by the massive outpouring of support and solidarity from people around the world and from the contributions of donor countries. However, we need to maintain this focus. Two weeks ago, on July 12, we marked six months since the earthquake. Unfortunately, this was met with only passing attention by the U.S. media and populace. However, for those of us in Haiti, we are confronted by the effects of the earthquake everywhere, every moment of every day. We are surrounded by evidence that there is so much more we can do to restore Haiti, and to fulfill the human rights of all in Haiti. Despite many challenges, there is much hope… I want to believe that with this administration, this Congress, those great friends of Haiti, there is hope and possibility for Haiti, if the right choices are made and the right actions are taken.

I don’t expect miracles. I expect there will be many challenges ahead both political (i.e. the elections) and by natural disaster (hurricane season and the risk of more earthquakes).  But I also expect your help, solidarity and partnership for the right choices and the right actions to be taken in favor of Haiti, venerable members of the CBC.

Mèsi anpil. Wout la long men avèk anpil men epi bòn volonte, chay la pa dwe lou…

Thank you very much.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy