Since 1996, we’ve recognized National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, the longest day of the year. Today we celebrate the many cultures and languages of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, and renew our commitment to healing from the trauma of the past while continuing our shared journey to reconciliation.
It’s been gratifying watching faculty and staff at BC’s post-secondary institutions heed the calls of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by revising curriculums, reviewing pedagogies, and working everyday towards decolonizing our institutions. You have risen to the challenge of reconciliation and our federation shares your commitment through our FPSE Decolonization, Reconciliation, and Indigenization Standing Committee, which continues to look at procedures and structures that may also need to be decolonized. You promoted and shared our book Whose Land is it Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization, launched earlier this year.
As Senator Murray Sinclair said: “Education got us in to this mess, and education will get us out.” Through educating your students about residential schools, challenging your administration to engage in decolonization with faculty, staff, and students, and participating in your decolonization committees, we all move closer to reconciliation.
At our recent AGM, we renewed our commitment to the rights of Indigenous Peoples to sovereignty and self-determination. Let’s continue to be guided by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the TRC’s Calls to Action as we work to make education a tool of decolonization and reconciliation, today and every day.
We are pleased to announce the publication of Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization; inspired by a 2016 speaking tour by Arthur Manuel, less than a year before his untimely passing in January 2017. The book contains two essays from Manuel, described as the Nelson Mandela of Canada, and essays from renowned Indigenous writers Taiaiake Alfred, Glen Coulthard, Russell Diabo, Beverly Jacobs, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Kanahus Manuel, Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour, Pamela Palmater, Shiri Pasternak, Nicole Schabus, Senator Murray Sinclair, and Sharon Venne. FPSE is honoured to support this publication.
Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization will be available free to the public as an e-book Thursday March 15, 2018, at 7pm PST. Authors will be speaking at a series of events throughout BC following the book's release.
Taiaiake Alfred holds a PHD from Cornell University and is an author, educator and activist from Kahnawake and internationally recognized Kanien’kehaka professor at the University of Victoria. He was the founding director of the Indigenous Governance Program and was awarded a Canada Research Chair 2003–2007, in addition to a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in education. He is the author of Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom, Peace, Power, Righteousness: an Indigenous Manifesto, and Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors.
Glen Coulthard (PhD – University of Victoria) is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and an Associate Professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program and the Department of Political Science. He has written and published numerous articles and chapters in the areas of Indigenous thought and politics, contemporary political theory, and radical social and political thought. His book, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (University of Minnesota Press), was released in August 2014 to critical acclaim.
Russell Diabo is one of the leading voices in the decolonial struggle in Canada. He was for many years a policy advisor at the Assembly of First Nations and now serves in that role for the Algonquin Nation Secretariat, and he is Senior Policy Advisor to the Algonquin Wolf Lake First Nation. He is also editor and publisher of an online newsletter on First Nations political and legal issues, the First Nations Strategic Bulletin. He is a member of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, and part of the Defenders of the Land Network.
Beverly Jacobs, LL.B., LL.M., PhD Candidate (ABD) is a Kanien’kehaka citizen, Bear Clan, and member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. She practises law part-time at Six Nations and is currently an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor. She is a former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (2004–2009) and is best known for her work on advocating for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Melina Laboucan-Massimo is a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation. She is currently a Fellow at the David Suzuki Foundation. She worked as a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada and the Indigenous Environmental Network for the past decade. Facing firsthand the impacts of the Alberta tar sands to her traditional territory, Laboucan-Massimo has been a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights for over 15 years. She has written numerous articles on the tar sands and produced short documentaries on water issues and Indigenous cultural revitalization.
Arthur Manuel was one of the giants of the Indigenous movement within Canada and internationally. He served as chief of his Neskonlith Indian band and chairman of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council as well as co-chair of the North American and Global Indigenous Caucus at the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples. He was also co-author, along with Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, of the award-winning book Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call. Arthur Manuel passed away in January 2017. Lorimer Press published his second book, co-authored with Grand Chief Derrickson, in the fall of 2017.
Kanahus Manuel is a Secwepemc and Ktunaxa activist, birth keeper and Warrior. She appeared in a documentary film made by Doreen Manuel called Freedom Babies. She is well known for her activism against Sun Peaks Ski Resort, Imperial Metals and the Mount Polley mine spill and with the water protectors at Standing Rock. She is currently playing a leadership role in fighting the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion through more than 500 kilometres of Secwepemc territory. As a result of her activism, she has been named in several court injunctions and has been jailed by the Canadian state.
Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour is a band member at Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc and is the elected family member to the Traditional Family Governance Council for the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation. He teaches at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in the Faculty of Education and Social Work. His primary course is Aboriginal Decolonizing Social Work Practice. He regularly contributes to the international two-spirit community through writing, art and other activism(s) and he will be beginning his doctoral work in winter 2018 through a cohort program and partnership between TRU and the Auckland University of Technology in Aotearoa (New Zealand) – decentering social work practice with Secwepemc land and spiritual based pedagogies.
Pamela Palmater is from the Mi’kmaw Nation and a member of the Eel River Bar First Nation. She has been a practising lawyer for eighteen years and currently holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. Pam is an activist and was one of the spokespeople, organizers and educators for the Idle No More movement. She is a well-known media commentator and public speaker who is often called before parliamentary and United Nations committees as an expert witness on Indigenous rights. She has numerous publications including her books Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity and Indigenous Nationhood: Empowering Grassroots Citizens.
Shiri Pasternak is the author of Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake Against the State, published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2017, about the Algonquins’ rejection of the federal land claims policy in Canada from the perspective of Indigenous law and jurisdiction. She holds a PhD from the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto and is currently an Assistant Professor of Criminology at Ryerson University, Toronto.
Nicole Schabus is an assistant law professor at Thompson Rivers University. She has worked for Indigenous peoples in Latin America and across Canada, especially in the Interior of British Columbia. Nicole has been practising law in British Columbia in the fields of constitutional, criminal, Aboriginal and environmental law. She also reports on and analyzes international environmental negotiations, mainly under the Convention on Biological Diversity. She has assisted with the preparation of submissions to numerous UN human rights bodies for organizations with consultative status before the United Nations. She drafted amicus curiae submissions for Indigenous peoples that were accepted by with World Trade Organization and NAFTA international trade tribunals.
Senator Murray Sinclair
Senator Murray Sinclair served as Co-chair of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in Manitoba and as Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As head of the TRC, he participated in hundreds of hearings across Canada, culminating in the issuance of the TRC’s landmark report in 2015. Previously, Senator Sinclair served the justice system in Manitoba for over twenty-five years. He was the first Aboriginal judge appointed in Manitoba and he was very active within his profession and his community. He has won numerous awards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Manitoba Bar Association’s Equality Award (2001) and its Distinguished Service Award (2016), and has received honorary doctorates from eight Canadian universities. Senator Sinclair was appointed to the Senate on April 2, 2016.
Sharon Venne is a lawyer and member of the Cree Nation who has worked on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and with First Nations communities on the implementation of their own legal systems. She has played an active role in the national and international struggles of many Indigenous peoples, including the Lubicon Cree and Dene Nation. She has a Masters of Law degree from the University of Alberta, and is presently a doctoral candidate, writing a thesis on treaty rights of Indigenous peoples and international law.
Today’s budget confirms the change in direction this government began last August to improve affordability and choice in our post-secondary system,” said FPSE President George Davison. “By removing some of the largest financial barriers to post-secondary education, and adding program choice to institutions in communities across BC, this government is reversing the concerning trend in post-secondary where access was decreasing as it becomes more crucial for today’s economy.”
The budget provides $21 million dollars to the post-secondary system in affordability measures for learners such as tuition waivers for former youth in care and tuition-free Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning classes. Also added: $30 million in new dollars for additional supports for former youth in care. Industry Training Authority funding is continued at the same level: within that budget more funding will be available for under-represented groups. The government anticipates that 78% of future jobs will require post-secondary education.
“Clearly, this government recognizes the key role that post-secondary education plays in our society and economy, and our federation welcomes the actions taken to address this crucial affordability issue,” continued Davison. “After 16 years of uneven funding that downloaded an unsustainable burden on to students and their families, more changes are needed to ensure that students of every age and income are able to return to school or attend post-secondary for the first time, and receive the support they need to succeed. We are committed to working with the government to find every opportunity to make post-secondary more affordable and comprehensive.”
FPSE also applauded new spending aimed at addressing affordability issues experienced by members across BC, through $1 billion in child care and early learning over 3 years (including increasing the number of spaces to train early childhood educators), $6.5 billion in homes and housing supports over 10 years, and the elimination of MSP fees effective January 1, 2020.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for 10,000 faculty and staff in teaching universities, colleges, and institutes across BC.
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For more information:
Nicole Seguin, Communications Officer, FPSE
With 2018 well underway, and the second legislative session of the new government about to begin, it’s a good time to take stock of the changes that have been made, and how we will focus our efforts over the year ahead. As a history professor, I also cannot pass up on the opportunity to place this moment into historical context as we cannot know where we are going until we remind ourselves of where we have been.
Last year’s election delivered a rare and unexpected election result that forced a change in government after 16 years. The previous government came into power in 2001, and within a year had passed legislation that attacked collective bargaining rights in the healthcare and education sectors. Much of this legislation has now been struck down, but only after extensive legal battles fought with taxpayer dollars. New restrictions were introduced regarding who could sit on the boards of post-secondary institutions, unfairly removing the ability for faculty to elect who they want for boards of governors. We also saw extensive privatization; in post-secondary education this translated into record-high tuition fees to make up for government underfunding.
In short, the previous government prioritized policies that best fit with their ideology rather than the law or improving public service delivery. This approach was clearly illustrated when they stopped funding Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning (ABE and ELL) classes, forcing learners to pay up to $1600 per term for language and high school upgrading classes that had previously been tuition-free.
Our federation was deeply concerned about this trend, and launched our Open the Doors campaign in response. Our members are educators across the system, and could not sit back and watch the negative effects on students and faculty from the uneven and unsustainable funding. In fact, at this time last year we were busy making sure that post-secondary education would be a prominent issue in the election. Thanks to our 10,000 members and activists across BC, our campaign proved to be successful.
In the course of just 6 months, the new government responded to our years of advocacy and made significant changes to address some systemic barriers to post-secondary education:
- The government made ABE and ELL tuition-free;
- Tuition waivers were introduced for former youth-in-care; and
- Interest rates on student loans were lowered from prime+2.5% to prime
Over the fall, our FPSE Executive and Presidents’ Council reflected on these successes, and identified some priorities to focus on over the coming months. These include calling for governance changes to remove undemocratic barriers to faculty participation on boards, identifying the scope and scale of the challenges posed by the current underfunding model, and bringing attention to the unfair treatment and pay of contract faculty at institutions across BC.
We’re also continuing our Open the Doors campaign to make post-secondary more affordable. We’ll be taking a closer look at all developmental programs offered in BC to identify any remaining barriers that are preventing learners from taking the next step in their education.
As we take action on these priorities, a key measure of our success will be meaningful progress on reconciling, decolonizing and Indigenizing our schools and communities through implementing the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We’re working to support our newly formed Decolonization, Reconciliation and Indigenization Committee to update our policies, practices, and advocacy. As Senator Murray Sinclair has said, "Education is what got us into this mess … but education is the key to reconciliation."
Post-secondary education has the power to transform lives – not only through more stable economic prospects, but also through exposing people to new ways of thinking and being engaged citizens.
As we wait to hear from the government on their overall priorities for the spring session and see what the first full budget from the new government looks like, I am reminded that our current situation took over 16 years to develop. For almost two decades, the public benefits of affordable, comprehensive post-secondary education were deprioritized in favour of photo-ops that did nothing to increase access to education for those most in need.
When I think about everything that has changed in just a year, I am hopeful for all that we can achieve in the next 5, 10, and 25 years. With every additional person able to attend post-secondary through public investment in their education, we demonstrate that it is possible to reverse the underfunding of post-secondary education. By continuing our dedicated advocacy toward making our post-secondary system better, I know that we can make post-secondary more affordable and widely available for generations to come.
This has been quite a year, for FPSE, and for BC. From our Open the Doors Days of Action in January, to a new government sworn in after 16 years, to Minister Melanie Mark meeting with our Presidents’ Council in Victoria, 2017 has been a whirlwind of activity and change.
Here’s a brief look back at what we’ve been able to accomplish together:
January – Locals in all corners of the province held Days of Action as part of our Open the Doors campaign. People signed our Education Pledge, and shared the campaign with their friends and colleagues.
February – Open the Doors ads circulated in newspapers, on the radio waves, and via social media.
March – We took the Open the Doors campaign to Victoria. Thanks to Rob Fleming, then Advanced Education Critic, for presenting over 25,000 signatures in the legislature.
April – We held our largest campaign Telephone Town Hall where thousands joined us for a live discussion around the changes we need in post-secondary education.
May – The BC election produced an extremely rare result, and we held our FPSE AGM in Victoria. At the end of the month, the NDP and Green Party signed a Confidence and Supply Agreement.
June – Premier Christy Clark met the Legislature, presented a Speech from the Throne that looked like the NDP & Green platforms, and lost a vote of non-confidence. The Lieutenant-Governor asked John Horgan to form government, which he did.
July – The new government was sworn in on July 18.
August – At Camosun College, Premier John Horgan, Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, and Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs would again be tuition-free.
September – At Vancouver Island University, Premier John Horgan, Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark and Katrina Conroy, Minister for Children and Families, announced that former youth in care would now be able to access tuition waivers for any public post-secondary institution in BC. Ten days later, Finance Minster Carole James released the government's first budget update, putting $19 million towards ABE/ELL tuition.
October – Our Presidents’ Council went to Victoria and met with Minister Melanie Mark. It was a positive conversation, and we look forward to continuing the discussion around ways we can make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible, and the system more sustainable, next year.
November – College faculty were legislated back to work by the Ontario Liberal government after employers refused to come to a fair settlement with workers that led to a five-week strike. While the post-secondary landscape differs between BC and Ontario, we have both seen growth in precarious part-time work for educators, which poses problems for the entire post-secondary system.
December – our new FPSE committee focused on decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization in post-secondary met for the first time. I’d like to thank each of these committee members for sharing their knowledge and passion with us, and congratulate Sharon McIvor and Justin Wilson on being elected co-chairs of the committee.
With all we’ve been able to accomplish this year, I can’t wait to begin 2018. Enjoy a safe and happy holiday season and new year!
Today the BC government has announced that construction of the Site C Dam project will proceed, describing the decision as making the best of a bad deal given that $4 billion dollars would be added to the public debt if the project was cancelled. In his announcement, Premier Horgan noted that this issue has been contentious and divisive, and that this decision will disappoint many people. The Premier recognized that this decision does not have unanimous consent from Indigenous Nations, and said the government will do their best to mitigate the impact of the project on the affected Nations.
We have experienced the divisiveness of this issue within our own federation: FPSE has 10,000 members, faculty and staff, at 18 public post-secondary institutions and several private EAL schools. Each of these locals are autonomous, independent unions. Our members include Indigenous educators, staff, and environmentalists who are totally opposed to Site C, as well as other instructors who support Site C.
In addition, all of the work done to date was under terms dictated by the previous BC Liberal government who pushed the project past the point of no return. Much of the work done so far has been done by non-union, non-BC workers.
FPSE members passed a resolution at our May AGM that called on the government to respond to the following conditions: immediately stop imminent land expropriations, refer the project to the BC Utilities Commission for review, and consult with Indigenous peoples in the affected area. We recognize that the BC government has met the first two conditions, but we remain committed to the principle of free, prior and informed consent as an inherent right of Indigenous peoples that helps ensure their survival, dignity, and well-being and do not believe the spirit of this principle has been met in this decision. Site C does not have the support of all Treaty 8 First Nations; the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have been opposed to the project. These nations have pledged to challenge the decision in court as a violation of Treaty 8 and have indicated that they will join the current lawsuit led by the Blueberry River First Nation regarding the irreparable damage to the land from large-scale industrial use.
Approval of this project also means the loss of productive farmland, and destruction of old growth boreal forests and one of the most important wildlife corridors in the Yellowstone to Yukon migration corridor chain.
We need to forge a nation to nation relationship between Indigenous peoples and the BC government and this decision does not further that goal. We are disappointed in today's decision.
Today, we remember the victims of the 1989 massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It was twenty-eight years ago on December 6, 1989, that fourteen women were murdered at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal by a man who shouted that he was fighting feminism. Many women just like them were in classrooms across the province today - as educators, staff, and students. It is difficult to think that such a horrific act could happen here, but many of our colleagues, students, and friends live with violence every day.
We remember these lives lost, and are committed to taking action to prevent tragedies like this in the future. One step we are taking is participating in Minister Melanie Mark's public engagement regarding Sexual Violence Policies at post-secondary institutions in BC, and we encourage faculty, staff, and students to participate as well. By making our institutions places where women are safe and sexual violence is not tolerated, we can contribute to making our province and country safe.
Acting to prevent violence, including sexual violence, includes a broader conversation about protecting human rights in BC. The provincial government also recently undertook public engagement to hear from organizations and individuals in BC on re-establishing the Human Rights Commission. We strongly believe that a Human Rights Commission can play a key role in exposing, and providing remedies for inequalities that remain in our society - you can read our submission here.
This day has been incorporated into the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism (November 25-Dec 10) that began with the International Day to End Violence Against Women and concludes with International Human Rights Day. Too many people live with fear in their lives, and we are committed to making our classrooms and communities safe for everyone.
Today marks the start of Fair Employment Week which runs from October 23-27.
This year is the 10th anniversary of Fair Employment Week, a week of action to raise the profile of precarious employment in our post-secondary institutions.
Despite our best efforts, the number of precariously employed academics has grown tremendously over the last ten years. Currently in BC precarious instructors form over half the staff of some of our institutions. These instructors work hard to deliver world class education. However, they are faced with low pay, constant financial stress, and no job security. This is a disservice to those instructors, to the students, and to the community.
As I write this, instructors in Ontario are on the picket lines, standing up for quality education and fair employment. I am proud to support them as they fight for the fairness we are seeking here in BC, and across Canada. I know that all of FPSE stands in solidarity with our Ontario colleagues.
Fair employment is a cornerstone of the labour movement. People deserve equal pay for equal work, and to share in the benefits of the organization in which they work. This is not only the right thing to do, but the financially responsible thing to do.
On a larger scale, the trend toward short-term contract work will diminish the quality of education institutions are able to offer students. The constant hiring of large numbers of sessionals deprives students of the ability to plan classes with specific instructors and to more fully engage in the learning process with those instructors. Because sessionals are hired only to teach, the institutions are also deprived of a large pool of experience and talent which could, and should, be engaged in developing and improving curriculum to keep apace of our fast-changing world.
In BC, we continue the fight against precarity. FPSE members stand together in the fight to get better pay and working conditions for our precariously employed colleagues. By staying strong and united, we have made gains at the bargaining table to provide access to regular long-term work for contract faculty. But there is much more to do.
We are continuing our Precarious Profs campaign, and raising this issue with the BC government. You can help by taking part in the following ways:
- Sign our Precarious Profs petition to show your support for fair employment. http://www.precariousprofsbc.ca/take_action
- Share the stories of precariously employed faculty through Facebook and Twitter
- If you are a full or part-time instructor in the Lower Mainland, attend the Fair Employment Week pub night on October 26.
- If you have had a teaching contract at a polytechnic, college or a university in Canada in 2016/17, take the Canadian Association of University Teachers Contract Academic Staff survey.
- Participate in the Fair Employment Week activities at your college, institute, or university.
Thanks for your support.
September 11, 2017 | VICTORIA, BC—The Budget Update announced today by the BC government demonstrates the government’s commitment to increasing access to post-secondary education. Following the recent announcement to eliminate tuition fees for adult basic education and English language learning classes, the Budget Update outlines the funding for these programs.
“Students and faculty have been calling for the elimination of tuition fees for adult basic education for several years,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS). “The removal of financial barriers for adult education programs will allow some of the most marginalized people in our communities to access basic upgrading and education.”
The Budget Update allocates $19 million in funding for adult basic education and English language learning in the post-secondary and K-12 sectors for the remainder of the 2017-18 year. The government has not provided forecasts for the following years, saying that appropriate funding will be budgeted based on enrolment changes in this current academic year.
“After 16 years of neglect from the previous government on issues related to post-secondary education ranging from tuition fees to working conditions to funding, this government has taken the refreshing position of listening to stakeholders and acting quickly to make improvements for both students and educators,” said George Davison, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE). “While there is still much work to do, including reinstating funding for Adult Special Education programs, we commend the government for their action thus far. We look forward to working with them to continue improving the choices and opportunities in post-secondary education for all British Columbians.”
The BC Liberal government eliminated $6.9 million in funding for post-secondary adult basic education programs in December 2014. At the same time, they allowed tuition fees of as much as $1,600 per semester be charged. Since that time enrolment in these programs has declined dramatically—by as much as 60% at some institutions. Since 2013, roughly $15 million has been cut to English language learning programs offered through post-secondary institutions.
The BC Federation of Students represents over 150,000 post-secondary students at 14 universities and colleges in every region of BC. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC represents 10,000 faculty and staff at BC’s colleges, universities, and institutes.
For more information, please contact:
Simka Marshall, BCFS Chairperson (604) 733-1880
Nicole Seguin, FPSE Communications Officer (604) 831-6684