Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A sad day for democracy at Nipissing and Canadore

Nothing says the start of a school year more like the talk of referenda.

And, to that end, nothing says counter-democracy more than when a referendum is conducted during the summer or so close to the beginning of the school year that no student could be expected to participate fully.

Over the summer, the Joint Student Centre Executive Committee (JSEC) at Canadore College and Nipissing University, organized to launch a referendum to raise the student centre fee that is shared by students at the two institutions. The referendum is on now.

There isn't a ton of information written about the referendum in an official capacity. Other than a facebook group that wasn't created by the Nipissing Students' Union, their website has a 13 word brief from August 28 directing students to a PDF for information .

The group NipissingYOU, a counter voice to the Nipissing Students' Union, has more information at their website, including the NUSU link to the PDF, and a link to the Campus Free Press, a student paper at Nipissing University. According to their website, the referendum starts SEPTEMBER 4! (Orientation for new students starts on Tuesday, September 4).

And, just to ensure it doesn’t look completely crazy, there will be an open forum on Friday Sept. 5. For everyone keeping track, that is during the voting period. Groups wanting to register a ‘no’ or ‘yes’ side campaign had to do so by today.

Perhaps most undemocratic about this referendum is contained within the question. Rather than a simple yes or no vote, the JSEC has crafted four options: three yes options and one no option. And, to further influence students to vote yes, the question has a list of possible improvements that can be made to a student centre by an increased student centre levy.

Students at Nipissing should be outraged.

And, according to yesterday’s Bay Today, they are. In fact, students are now appealing to the university president (and former Ryerson Vice-President, Academic) Denis Mock to stop the proposed referendum.

There have been many years of questionable conduct at the Nipissing Students’ Union and maybe the tactics driving this referendum shouldn’t surprise anyone.

However, organising in the summer to pull the wool over the eyes of members is just about the lowest tactic a students’ union can take. Sure, the nature of student politics is to develop policy that may not be agreed upon by everyone. But in a member-driven organisation, the students are the highest decision making body (or, at least, they should be). Students need to be equipped and trusted to make the right decision. Boards need to equip and trust students to make the right decision. Otherwise, board and executive members are just fooling themselves.

A proper referendum should be highly publicized, offer enough time for students to register in different camps and learn about the issues, contain no leading information in the question and be a simple yes or no question.

Hopefully students at Nipissing will win their chance for a fair referendum.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Protests and counterprotests at Caledonia

Yesterday was Labour Day.

While many of us were celebrating past victories of the labour movement, there was a struggle was unfolding at Kanenhstaton (Caledonia, Ontario). reported that a blockade was set up by folks from Six Nations and their supporters and that a counter blockade was set up by local settlers.

Their story also has a good picture of a head-shaved youth, arrested for tearing down a flag of Six Nations.

While the CTV story was unable to confirm whether or not the blockade was set up in support of people arrested at a reclamation site at Brantford, calls for support were circulated earlier that day. These calls said that the OPP had arrested three people in Brantford who were at a reclamation site there.

These reclamations are going to continue, and Canadians need to start taking responsibility.

Many of the sites in and around Six Nations that are being developed will mean massive profits for housing developers. However, the 'vacant land' is under claim by Six Nations.

After watching their land be developed, sold off and pillaged for centuries, it's no surprise that people at Six Nations are fighting back. They have every right (and responsibility) to protect their land.

Rather than pushing to continue such conflict through their support for further erosion of First Nations land claims like some have, the settler population at Caledonia and Brantford need to respect the original people of those areas. We all need to call on the municipal and provincial governments to honour the treaties we have developed with First Nations and not develop land which is still under claim.

The time of developers' unadulterated profiteering is coming to an end. Those settlers in the area will either have to start respecting the legally binding treaties that outline First Nations' rights to the land, or get out of the way.