Sept. 21, 2012: Fay Faraday and her report on systemic migrant worker exploitation; also, the state of Windsor’s politics.

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Often on this program we have talked about the plight of migrant workers in Canada and in this region – especially those working in agriculture. We know they cannot unionize in Ontario, and further, that they are second class workers by design thanks to the various government programs that exist to allow employers to access the cheapest labour possible. The Agricultural Workers’ Alliance, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Justicia for Migrant Workers to name just three are all involved in improving the lives and working conditions of migrant workers. This year has seen perhaps the highest fatality rates ever with 13 deaths reported in Ontario. So, we know there is a huge problem facing Migrant workers and a huge moral issue for all of us because the plight of migrant workers is by design, not unfortunate circumstances.

Perhaps Sidronio’s face says more about the migrant worker experience than a book could. I worked with him on a Chatham area farm in 2008 during a stint with Frontier College. (Photo: Jennifer Luckhart)

 Just this week a report was released by the Metcalf Foundation, entitled “Made in Canada: How the Law Constructs Migrant Workers’ Insecurity” authored by Toronto lawyer Fay Faraday, Metcalf Innovation Fellow, and respected constitutional, labour, and human rights lawyer, and she was on the phone from her office in Toronto.

In this segment Faraday describes the Metcalf Foundation, the creation of the report, who she spoke to, and the importance of the workers setting the agenda of her research. As well she describes the inherent unfairness of the classification of low and high skilled workers and the NOC C and D classification system, and touches on human trafficking:

In this segment I asked Faraday about the recommendations for change in the report, why Canadians should be concerned, and for her reflection on why her work is important:



The State of Windsor Politics

There are a couple of local issues in the news lately other than the CAW bargaining going on. The Windsor Star reported on Mayor Francis’s thinly veiled attempt to get further privatization of services on the table in order to avoid a tax increase. I think we are going to have to organize over the next two years in order to defeat this mayor and council. Why not a modest tax increase? Because the mayor is on a career track to bigger and brighter things someday and if he hopes to play with the big league ‘austerity’ types he’s got to emulate them in his own backyard. Yup – we’re faced with good ole’ fashioned careerism masquerading as public service. And he can argue it is – for wealthy suburbanites who never venture downtown where most people  rely heavily on public services like parks, public housing, and all the infrastructure we all take for granted.

Those same suburbanites aren’t cluing in yet that user fees are just another way to say TAX, but even if they do clue in they have faith in this dysfunctional market economy that if the price goes up for a privatized service they’ll simply move to a different provider – except how many water providers will there be? It’s a false choice and any sensible person who actually cares about the entire city can see that a modest tax increase spread across all households and businesses will be the best bet. A fair tax system with a heavy base of decent jobs at a living wage is what built the civil society we see around us, which is crumbling by the minute because careerists have bought in to the free trade market economy trap we can’t get out of – unless we change the roster of decision makers, and by  that I mean to stop relying on a professional class to take care of business. We need a more representative mayor and council and that means we have to be far more active in the political life of the city. Who’s the “we”?   – workers, small business owners, people on the margins of society, new comers and established immigrants – the ones who are rooted in the community as we struggle to make ends meet in a globalized economy.

With this council and mayor, we’re in a race to the bottom in terms of living wages and dependable services. This mayor and council seems hell bent on carrying out another coup (tax cuts and privatization of services) on a scale larger than the theft of neighbourhood services we saw in order to get the aquatic centre built. It’s time to restore the idea of public servant over the self interest of professional career climbers and look at truly innovative ways to re-build this city – co-op funding, real neighbourhood councils with true participatory decision making powers over budgets and needs.

There are more ideas  others will think of but to call slash and burn policies and privatizing services ‘innovative and creative’ is just simply a lie, and is just more of the same claptrap we’ve been fed for almost 30 years by all levels of government. We’ll have to put up a hell of a fight to lessen the damage this council can do over another 2 years.

I’ll be putting out a call in the next couple of weeks for people to get involved in neighbourhood by neighbourhood organizing which will include occupy style general assemblies where people can learn about participatory forms of self government and how to take power in the next municipal election.

Also, check out this effort by Paul Synnott regarding the auditor general situation.


Featured CD:

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Sample: House of Soul:

Sept. 14, 2012: Dr. Jeff Noonan & the future of public universities in Ontario; a brief report from the Sept 14 teachers’ rally

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Last Friday we were still essentially in back to class mode and students  – and faculty –  were settling in and getting a handle on their course load and physical bearings – especially new students; and so too with elementary and secondary students and teachers. The liberal government has just imposed working conditions on the teachers, probably in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, since they have stripped away teachers’ right to bargain collective agreements. In the background to this is a move by this same government, through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to begin a process of change in post-secondary education. The ministry has produced a discussion paper which seeks to “…make our university and college system stronger.” Written submissions from student associations, colleges and universities and others will be accepted until Sept. 30 and roundtable discussions will be held, says the report, through the summer and into early fall. It seems time is short for public input, and this government has proven it has little need for others to have meaningful dialogue  regarding changes.

In the studio was Prof. Jeff Noonan who teaches philosophy here at UWindsor, and he recently blogged on the government’s plan.

Dr Noonan in the CJAM studio discussing the province’s discussion paper on post-secondary education. Click image to view his blog.

In this segment Noonan provides a passionate rebuttal to the government’s discussion paper. He ties this discussion paper to the recent Drummond Report and argues for a focus on “life value” vs. “money value” in public policy (See link below):

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I have to say that for years teachers’ unions have been huge supporters of the Liberal government which did repair damage done to the education system by the Harris regime in the mid and late 90’s. However, at the same time these same liberals have denied agricultural workers the right to organize, have kept a lid on the minimum wage after grudgingly allowing a graduated increase, keeps labour laws very weak and without meaningful enforcement, refused to raise substantially rates for Ontario Works recipients, has continued the neglect of affordable social housing, and so on. The McGuinty liberals have never deserved the unwavering support of teachers’ unions. And inevitably, when it comes to serving their real constituents, the liberals turn to Bay St. and the order of the day is AUSTERITY, so the teachers have been tossed aside. Some friends in higher places! Clearly we need a new way of doing politics and it has to have a focus on the most vulnerable and it has to include a critical analysis of what our predicament is. That means looking at the free trade agreements and the destruction of the auto pact to see why hundreds of thousands of jobs have disappeared in Ontario, and with them the tax base that kept government funding sustainable. Since the wealthiest are the ones who have done well by free trade it is they who must be taxed so that public investment in peoples’ needs can be met. Of course this will require a political fight and movement building on a scale not seen perhaps ever; certainly in many decades. Rallies and court challenges are not the answer. Organizing across union and non-union lines is, and maybe the merger with the CAW and CEP will give a boost to such organizing.

The various teacher unions, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and others, including our very own Windsor branch of the IWW were out on Lauzon Parkway in front of Dwight Duncan’s office last Friday showing their “displeasure” shall we say at the government’s stripping away of bargaining rights – clearly a violation of Charter rights and court proceedings will be underway. So out at the rally which is just getting underway, was IWW member and Branch Secretary Vajo Stajic. He described what was getting underway:


Click image for more info and a video of the opening of the Space.

As I mentioned on-air last Friday, the university has a Multi-Faith Space downstairs at the CAW Student Centre. After the program about the Christian flag at city hall, and the division in our community such an action can create, I realized the Multi-Faith Centre is a refuge of sorts for all and the space can be booked by specific faith communities. According to the university literature describing the space, “[it] is provided to support the diversity of the University community within a context of pluralism”, which itself is defined in the pamphlet as “…not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity.”  It’s a beautiful thing!

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Sept. 7, 2012: OPIRG’s Alternative Welcome Week with Mohammed Almoayad and OPIRG board member Nadheera Panamaldeniya

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The usual welcome week fare has come and gone for the most part, and while it is important to have fun and be made welcome here, it’s also necessary to realize that university life, as full as it is with classes and assignments, is also a place of critical investigation in all aspects of human affairs. With governments and global corporations demanding workers, students, and progressive elements of civil society in general be hustled out of the decision making process, it’s critical that university students be exposed to issues that are perhaps not quite on their radars yet.

That’s why OPIRG Windsor organizes an Alternative Welcome Week. This year it kicked off today (Monday, Sept. 10) at 11AM  with a Campus Solidarity Walk at OPIRG House, 372 California Ave., which is right next to the Campus Community Garden. Here on this campus OPIRG Windsor’s mandate is to “promote education, research and action on environmental and social justice issues” so to create a more just and equitable campus, city, and world.  With me in the studio was Mohammed Almoayad, founder of the Palestinian Solidarity Group on campus and he is the Arts and Social Science councilor on the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance, and OPIRG board member Nad Panamaldeniya. We spoke about the Alternative Welcome week and other issues on campus. Especially relevant are some changes to times of  events and some documentary films:

Click image for complete agenda of Alternative Welcome Week

Here, Nad briefly describes the Swap Meet happening Thursday, Sept. 13 from 9 to 4:00: 

Change ups to the film screenings:

The 7PM screening on Tuesday, Sept. 11 will be “Dive”

The 7PM screening on Thursday Sept. 13 will be “Tales from the G20”


Windsor Food Not Bombs Potluck and Kick Off Meeting

Join us for our first ever meeting! We are launching the Food Not Bombs Windsor chapter on Tuesday 6:00pm, September 11th 2012. Join us for great food, new friends and help us organize for social justice in Windsor/Essex.

Tuesday 6:00pm, September 11th 2012
Windsor Workers Action Centre
 328 Pelissier

* Introduction
* Strategies for Donations
* Building Donation drop-boxes
* Vegetarian Potluck

Click image for info on how to take action

We are asking all those who support U.S. Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and her family to send a letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney asking that she be allowed to stay in Canada.

SEND AN EMAILHERE. Or you can write a letter and mail it to:
325 East Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

And, if you haven’t already done so, phone the Jason Kenney and let him know that you want Kimberly Rivera to stay.

Office of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: 613.954.1064 (9-5 EST)

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The Humanities Research Group will present thought-provoking discussion during Humanities Week, September 10 to 14 on the University of Windsor campus.

 Physics professor Gordon Drake, principal of Canterbury College, will analyze current thinking on the topic of free will in his free public lecture “Free Won’t,” at 4 p.m. Monday, September 10, in Alumni Hall’s McPherson Lounge. Dr. Drake will examine some of the underlying assumptions that may not necessarily be correct within the context of science, religion, and artificial intelligence.

 Dr Drake will join Leo Groarke, Martin Morf and Stanley Cunningham for a roundtable discussion on free will Thursday, September 13, at 7 p.m. in the Freed Orman Centre, Assumption University.

 The School of Dramatic Art will co-sponsor a presentation by Samantha Holdsworth, entitled “Artistic Practice and Social Change.” Exploring the role of arts practice and its potential to generate positive social change in communities, Holdsworth will explain how she has come to define herself as a “creative entrepreneur” and how this approach has developed her understanding of participatory arts practice and encouraged her to challenge traditional systems of working. Her talk is set for 10 a.m. Friday, September 14, in the Studio Theatre, Jackman Dramatic Art Centre.

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Sept 14 – Erb Speaker Series: Bill McKibben to present “350: The Most Important Number in the World”

 4:30-5:30 pm, Rackham Auditorium, followed by a book signing

 William “Bill” McKibben is America’s preeminent environmentalist, author, and journalist. In 2010, the Boston Globe referred to McKibben as “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist.”

 This presentation is free, open to the public and co-sponsored by the following U-M partners: Graham Institute, Interdisciplinary Committee on Organizational Studies (ICOS), School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), Department of Organizational Studies and the Barger Leadership Institute.


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Aug. 31, 2012: Currie Jean & Victoria Cross on Christian Flags fly at City Hall; Rockin Robbee with some tunes and discussion

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Last week, a Christian group headed by Pastor Shirley Walsh of Cutting Edge International Church raised a Christian flag at city hall as part of a March for Jesus event. Now, personally, if people want to promote, in a peaceful and respectful way, their religion, then fine. However, having a flag raised at city hall and chanting underneath it for Jesus to “save our city”, suggests a line has been crossed and that we need to have a discussion about it. Just to go back a bit: according to a website,, “the [Christian] flag is not tied to any specific denomination or church institution; it represents the unity of all Christians despite historical, cultural, and dogmatic differences. Its simplicity makes it easily copied by any community of Christians. The Christian Flag spread outside North America with Protestant missionaries.” So there is a history of the flag, it’s just many people were unaware one existed.

What are we to say about people gathering under this flag on city hall begging for Jesus to save our city? Further, Pastor Walsh is quoted as saying: “It’s time that Christians stood up and let our city know that God loves them,” … “We just want people to bring jobs into our city, and Jesus is the answer to all those concerns: youth, our families, our marriages and things like that. He’s the answer; we want the city to know this.” In a distinctly multi-cultural city like Windsor the best that can be said is that this is just one groups opinion and I’m betting that most Windsorites will say that it is highly unlikely Jesus will actually save this city in person. What’s more likely to happen is that working people will eventually develop a response to the economic injustice besetting this city and elect a city council that will not only have the sense to see it’s crazy to allow one religious group to raise a flag at city hall, but will also start to invest in the city in ways that actually benefit the citizens: like bike paths, public transportation, funding for micro-enterprises that could lead to jobs and aggressively lobbying, not big foreign corporations, but the province and federal government for more investment in the city in the form of support for worker cooperatives, lowering of tuition, cleaning up our air and water, better settlement support for newcomers to the area, and effective campaigns to sell this city as a place to live in retirement. It’s people, working together with political power vested in the local community, not outside developers, that will save the city.  The likelihood of a second coming on a cloud is an escapist delusion that simply seduces people who are frightened in a complex world of complex choices. The answer lies within us – not a faraway deity.

I believe religious doctrines, while necessary for some people in order to practice their faith, have been used as a means of social control and are increasingly becoming infused in political debates which I find frankly extremely alarming.

Anyway – that’s my take on things and to get some perspective on religious flags at city hall,  Victoria Cross a Windsor activist lawyer joined us on the phone, and in the studio was  Currie Jean, an organizer with the March for Myths 2012.  We started off the discussion with what the city’s flag policy is:

This verse is engraved on city hall’s south facing wall. Who could argue with this? But let’s keep religious flags off city hall.

In this clip Currie Jean explains her decision to answer to the March for Jesus

As usual on the last Friday of the month Robert Mittag, aka Rockin Robbee comes in to the studio to play some tunes and catch us up on what’s happening around the city. Here’s his version of Ring of Fire:

Here Robbee describes his experience at the flag ceremony and how he felt as a street involved person about calls to “take back our city” from Pastor Walsh:

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Sample: Love is My Religion: