Jan 222014

Organizations and activists in the Halifax region are mobilizing to fight attacks against our public postal services. Flyers and organizing kits are being developped. Lists of contacts for community actions are being compiled. Get informed about the issues and find out how you can help by visiting:



Halifax events:

Why Postal Banking in Canada is a Good Idea
Saturday, January 25
7:00 PM
Holiday Inn Harbourview in the Alderney room.

“With the recent announcements made by Canada Post on cuts to jobs and services the CUPW Atlantic Region will be holding a strategy session January 25 and 26th in Dartmouth, NS. Included in this event we will be hosting a public presentation by Brother Geoff Bickerton, Research Director for the CUPW on postal banking. As Canada Post is determined to proceed with the destruction of our public postal service, postal banking is just one of many options that Canada Post should be considering to increase revenues. We feel it is important that the public has an opportunity to be informed on how beneficial postal banking would be to Canada Post and to the public.”


Action to Support Postal Workers
Monday, January 27
7:30 AM
Almon Street post office
6175 Almon St, Halifax

“Cuts to the public services we need and cuts to good jobs in our community? No way! The Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council is working closely with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to help build a solidarity campaign in the city. Our goal is to stop the cuts to home mail delivery, to fire Canada Post’s management, and to modernize the post office through new services like postal banking. The Labour Council is calling for a demonstration outside the Almon street post office on Monday, January 27th at 7:30 am (before the shift change at 8 am). We encourage all unions to get involved with this campaign and stand side by side with our sisters and brothers at the post office. Bring banners, noisemakers, and signs.”


NDP Canada Post Townhall
Thursday, January 30
6:30 PM
Woodlawn United Church
54 Woodlawn Road, Dartmouth

“Are you concerned about the recently announced price increases and cuts to service at Canada Post? If so, please join us for a community discussion. We hope to hear from folks in the non-profit and small business communities to tell us how price increases will affect them. We also hope to hear from people who are concerned about accessibility issues, in particular, seniors and people living with disabilities. Everyone is welcome to attend and participate in an open-floor discussion about the future of Canada Post.”


Community-Labour planning meeting
Wednesday, February 5
6:00 PM
Labour Temple
3700 Kempt Road, Halifax




Jan 202014

By Judy Haiven and Sid Shniad.

Headlines in the news trumpet the fact that the Prime Minister has taken a group of 208 (!) supporters to Israel, many at Canadian taxpayers’ expense.

Reading through the list is an eye-opener. It includes 21 Jewish rabbis and more than 56 representatives from various Zionist lobbying groups and private Jewish schools. In addition, there are 10 representatives from evangelical Christian groups which unconditionally support the most extreme Israeli positions.  The delegation includes members of these groups: the Christian Missionary Alliance of Canada, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Trinity Bible Church, Crossroads Christian Communications, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

The Prime Minister is also taking more than 27 chief executives of Canadian corporations, lawyers and two Canadian university presidents.

From his own government, the Prime Minister brings six cabinet ministers and eight Tory MPs. In addition, he gave free seats to former Tory cabinet minister Stockwell Day and his wife Valorie.  Stockwell Day sits on the board of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the most prominent pro-Israel lobbying group in Canada.

The rear of the plane was reserved for members of the media. The cost — $8,000 for the flight, hotel and ground transportation for each reporter or photographer covering Harper’s trip – gives some indication just how much Canadian taxpayers will be on the hook for this political undertaking.

Whitewashing Ariel Sharon

Whitewashing war criminal Ariel Sharon
Image: Carlos Latuff

What will the Prime Minister’s huge delegation do? There will be little of substance. But clearly that’s not the real purpose of the trip, in any event. Harper’s junket is designed to mark the beginning of an unsurpassed effort to align the Canadian government with one of the most aggressive, intransigent, hardline, expansionist governments in the history of Israel.

Why is Harper doing this? The PM is doubling down on his already unprecedented alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu in order to woo Jewish and Christian evangelist voters’ support in Canada’s 2015 federal election.

It’s a pity that, having spent all of this taxpayer money on getting so many of his supporters on this junket, the PM doesn’t do something really useful. What the PM should do is get the Israelis to stop expanding their settlements on the West Bank and remove them altogether because they are illegal under international law. The Jewish settlements are a major obstacle to a just and lasting peace. They are what is generating a rising tide of international opposition to Israel.

By ignoring Israel’s transgressions and giving unconditional support to the government of Israel, the PM shames us all.

Judy Haiven, from Halifax, teaches at Saint Mary’s University. Sid Shniad, from Vancouver, is retired research director of the Telecommunications Workers Union.  Judy is a member of Solidarity Halifax and both are members of Independent Jewish Voices – Canada.

Originally published at Independent Jewish Voices – Canada.

Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.


Jan 052014

By Solidarity Halifax member Ben Sichel, originally published at no need to raise your hand.

Have you heard of Teach For Canada? It’s a new project spearheaded by Nova Scotian Kyle Hill, a Rhodes scholar and business consultant; and Vancouver-born Adam Goldenberg, former speechwriter for Michael Ignatieff and fellow at Yale law school.

Hill and Goldenberg want to address “educational inequality” in Canada, i.e. “[f]unding gaps, infrastructure deficiencies, and rapid teacher turnover” in rural and Aboriginal communities. Their solution? A program that would send university graduates (from any degree program) to work as schoolteachers for two years in these communities. Hill and Goldenberg hope to attract “some of Canada’s top graduates – our country’s future leaders” to their program, who would take their places in classrooms following a summer-long training period.

Teach for Canada takes its name from Teach for America (TFA), the U.S. program which for the past 23 years has sent bright-eyed young college grads into some of America’s toughest inner-city schools; schools where students tend to score lower than average on standardized tests and thus ostensibly need a dose of extra energy to succeed.

TFA, though, has become a lightning rod for controversy in the climate of the “education reform” wars in the U.S. Just maybe, critics note, sending people with no experience in education except a short summer training program into some of the U.S.’s toughest, most down-and-out neighbourhoods is not such a great idea, especially if these young, relatively inexpensive teachers take the place of more experienced teachers during a round of layoffs.

While a minority of TFA corps members go on to work in education beyond their two-year commitment, others quit the program before its end. Some corps members and alumni have raised grave concerns about the quality of their training program and (lack of a) support network, particularly with respect to TFA’s “diversity training” sessions (the majority of TFA corps members are white while 90% of their students are black or brown). Recently some anti-TFA campaigns have appeared at major American universities, and in Pittsburgh parents and teachers lobbied successfully to keep TFA out of their schools.

(The Onion has an humorous take on Teach for America here.)

Perhaps most importantly, TFA enjoys a cozy relationship with the corporate-driven “education reform” movement, which advocates standardization, privatization, “school choice,” charter schools and merit pay as solutions to what ails inner-city schools. These deep-pocketed “reformers” oppose teacher unions, painting them as the root of all problems in education, and tend to ignore or downplay un-glamorous but important structural issues like poverty and racism.

Initiatives to improve education in Aboriginal communities must be those advocated by Aboriginal people themselves. (photo: cbc.ca)

What about Teach for Canada? The nascent program (let’s call it TFC) appears to be walking an awkward line between using the “Teach for” name while distancing itself from TFA’s controversies. On its FAQ page TFC insists it is not “just Teach for America in Canada,” drawing distinctions between TFA’s work in the inner city – in most major Canadian cities many young teachers struggle to find full-time work – and its own focus on rural and Aboriginal communities. TFC also notes its training program lasts “an entire summer,” compared to TFA’s five weeks.

But, as Alberta teacher Joe Bower points out, these are “differences without distinctions.” The main thrust of TFC and TFA – sending inexperienced but inexpensive teachers into the toughest classrooms – is the same. Bower also points out that while TFC purports to address a problem with teacher supply in rural and Aboriginal communities, the real problem in these communities is teacher attrition. For a variety of reasons, in their first few years teachers quit the profession in inordinately large numbers:

The Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Research tells us that one of the major causes of early-career teacher attrition is inadequate pre-service preparation (which traditionally has been a greater concern in the US than in Canada) and difficult working conditions (particularly in under resourced schools) and professional isolation. Canada doesn’t necessarily have a teacher shortage problem — we have a teacher leakage problem. Because of systemic problems, anywhere between 25-50% of teachers leave inside of before five years on the job.

Perhaps even more importantly, Bower points out that TFC co-founder Kyle Hill’s employer, the Boston Consulting Group, is a firm with its fingers in school corporatization initiatives all over the U.S.

Besides Hill and Goldenberg the other two members of TFC’s four-person board of directors are a lawyer and a consultant for Brookmere Management Group, a firm which advises companies involved in the “energy and mining sectors.”

Noticeably absent from the board is anyone with any expertise in the field of education. None of the directors has ever been a teacher, nor has any degree from a faculty of education. Hill and co-director Christie Kneteman list “volunteer” summer teaching on their resumes, in Jamaica/Ukraine and Ghana respectively. (This is as if someone volunteered for a summer helping to build homes in Africa and then decided they were qualified to run a municipal infrastructure department.)

TFC’s desire to work in Aboriginal communities is of particular concern. Of course it’s true, as TFC notes, that there are deep inequalities between education on reserves and in urban centres in Canada. However, the idea that a solution for this is to parachute inexperienced, mostly non-Indigenous people into schools in these communities ignores the fact that Aboriginal communities have been leading the fight for decades to take their children’s education into their own hands. Following years of localized advocacy, the first major, nation-wide policy statement came in 1973 when, in response to Canada’s unthinkably destructive residential school policy, the National Indian Brotherhood (precursor to the Assembly of First Nations) released Indian Control of Indian Education, a document which demanded local control and culturally appropriate education for Aboriginal children. Since then the AFN along with other Aboriginal leaders have consistently lobbied the federal government for implementation of the policy, today updated as First Nations Control of First Nations Education.

Governments have responded to Aboriginal people’s demands for control over education with inertia and paternalism. Per-student funding for students on reserve remains lower than for students in provincial schools; a gap which is increasing according to AFN. The federal government’s recent First Nations Education Act has been panned by Aboriginal organizations along with other education professionals for not allocating sufficient funding to allow for meaningful local control over education. “Indigenous communities as a whole simply do not have the internal resources to create an entire system of private schooling in order to rectify the horrendous gap that has always existed between native and non-native student outcomes,” says Métis writer Chelsea Vowel. “Canada stands clearly guilty of discriminating against indigenous peoples by allowing this situation to continue.”

It’s hard to see Teach for Canada as anything but a continuation of these paternalistic, colonial attitudes. Indigenous scholars like Marie Battiste have spent careers working for the development of culturally appropriate Indigenous education in a modern context. Aboriginal-run programs like Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey in Nova Scotia have seen considerable success at raising graduation rates. Yet TFC seems to think that it – not equitable funding, not Aboriginal control over education – is what is needed to fix educational inequities.

Teach For Canada’s directors are slick marketers and apparently well-connected – a recent Globe and Mail article reported that its launch, held at the offices of an influential corporate law firm in Toronto, was attended by Peter Mansbridge and Indigo CEO Heather Reisman.

Slick marketing isn’t what’s needed to fix educational inequities in Canada, however. That requires adequate funding, a commitment to Aboriginal-led education, and the addressing of structural issues like racism, poverty and inequality.

Ben teaches Spanish and social studies, including Mi’kmaq Studies 10 and African Canadian Studies 11, at Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He has a Master’s degree focusing on anti-racist education, equity and diversity from Mount Saint Vincent University. He is also the Dartmouth Local representative for the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. A strong advocate for equitable, high-quality, diversified education, Ben believes teacher unions have the power to make a difference in students’ and parents’ lives. Follow him on Twitter: @bsichel

Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.