Justice, redress and restitution for the widows of Marikana

 

(Speaking Wounds: Voices of Marikana Widows Through Art and Narrative)

(Image Credit: The Journalist)

Why does Canada refuse to assist Christine Delormier, an Aboriginal Canadian woman?

Toilet with no water after the water was shut off as sanction

On September 17, 2015, Christine Delormier, a 31-year-old Aboriginal Canadian woman, was arrested while on vacation in Mexico. She was charged with aggravated extortion. Since her arrest, Christine Delormier has been held in the women’s prison of Tepepan, in Mexico City, where she has suffered severe physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Despite numerous pleas to both Mexican and Canadian government, no one has come to her assistance. Why is that?

Christine Delormier has made multiple reports to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City and to Global Affairs Canada, in Ottawa, concerning the treatment she is currently enduring. The Canadian representatives have stated there is nothing they can do to stop the ongoing torture and abuse because “it is not within our mandate to do so”. But it is within their mandate. The Canadian government’s Guide For Canadians Imprisoned Abroad states “consular officials can … seek to ensure you receive equitable treatment under the laws and in keeping with the standards of the host country, upon your arrest or detention.”

Christine Delormier has suffered beatings, prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement, malnutrition, and physical and sexual assaults by prison staff. The electricity in her cell has been cut off as has the water, forcing her to go to the bathroom in a juice jug. In three months, she has been forced to undergo 18 x-rays, allegedly in the service of body searches. Christine Delormier has been deprived of her universal prisoners right to one hour of sunshine and fresh air every day. Christine has not been outside in 17 weeks.

The court has repeatedly asked the prison director Rosa María LaGuardia Balcazar and the prison public defender Leydi Marisol Salizar to provide an end date to the use of solitary confinement. They reply that Christine is not in solitary confinement and that she has all the necessary amenities. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, the Mexican authorities accept the report and never investigate further. Canadian Embassy officials have stated it is not their job to confirm or deny any statements made by the prison. Why is that?

Meanwhile, Christine Delormier has been in solitary confinement for 17 weeks, a fact the Canadian embassy does not deny. The embassy is aware that there is no set date for the isolation to be finished and that the director has presented false information to the court, and still the Embassy has done nothing to report this to international authorities. Why?

When Ms. Delormier became aware that the director was lying to the courts, she took the initiative to find a way to verify her claims of torture, mental and physical abuse. Appalled at what he was forcing Ms. Delormier to endure daily, a prison guard lent her a cell phone to take pictures of her injuries and the inhuman conditions of her cell.

Ms. Delormier took multiple pictures of her injuries and the conditions of her cell and sent them to Philemon Leroux in Ottawa. Mr. Leroux is a Consular Case management officer for Global Affairs Canada. His response was “I have never seen anything like this before”, and then he blocked the pictures’ sender’s email address. Mr. Leroux explained that, since Ms. Delormier was not allowed to have a cell phone, the pictures were “unlawfully obtained ” and could not be used as evidence to verify her claims. Mr. Leroux also stated that since they cannot be certain of the extent of abuse Ms. Delormier is suffering, they would not be raising the issue with foreign affairs.

The catalogue of incompetence, delay and unwillingness to help exhibited by Canadian representatives is outrageous but not surprising. Considering Canada’s track record in stopping the abuse of aboriginal women in prison, it is likely that Ms. Delormier will endure torturous conduct until the day of her release.

Ms. Delormier maintains her innocence: “How did I become part of an organized crime ring of extortionists? I was in the country for 8 days on vacation and upon my arrest I did not speak a word of Spanish.” Currently awaiting trial, Ms. Delormier is asking people to write to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International and the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau. Ask them to act to stop the abuse and torture. Ask them, “Why does the Canadian refuse to aid an Aboriginal woman citizen? Why does Canada refuse to assist Christine Delormier?”

Cheyenne Pattinson

 

(Photo Credit: Tortura en el Distrito Federal Carcel)

 

Christiane Taubira: “Parfois résister c’est rester, parfois résister c’est partir”

Christiane Taubira

Christiane Taubira, France’s Minister of Justice, resigned today. As she explained, “Sometimes staying is resisting, sometimes leaving is resisting”. We’ll have something on Christiane Taubira in the next couple days. For the last four years, Brigitte Marti has written regularly, at Women In and Beyond the Global, about Christiane Taubira’s struggles to reform the French penal system, to restore justice to so-called criminal justice, all the while combating racist sexist attacks on her and her policies. Christiane Taubira may be leaving the government, but she is not leaving the struggle for women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, prisoners’ rights, gay rights, minority rights and more, all in the context of a vision of a realizable just world. A just world is possible!

Christiane Taubira explains prison

Here’s a partial list of Brigitte Marti’s pieces that, from June 2012 to last year, profiled Taubira’s varied engagements and interventions:

Resistances, les femmes, le pouvoir et l’élection (June 18, 2012)

From Paris to Baltimore, our prisons are full but empty of sense (November 21, 2012)

In France, mandatory minimum sentences kill (June 27, 2013)

Scandal in France! Prison as a last resort! (August 19, 2013)

Evolution of a scandal in France (August 29, 2013)

Must punishment mean prison? Why are you asking? (September 21, 2013)

These racist attacks assault the heart of the Republic (November 13, 2013)

It is the responsibility of the State to defend reproductive rights and health (November 21, 2013)

French prison guards strike for global incarceration and dehumanization (May 13, 2014)

The false case against Christiane Taubira (May 24, 2014)

Can Christiane Taubira move France from repressive to restorative justice? (June 2, 2014)

France’s twisted road to restorative justice (July 22, 2014)

From Paris to Washington, all women need easy access to real help in times of crisis (August 29, 2014)

In France, isolation is not the answer to anything! (July 22, 2015)

Prison reform looks to the future, to a Republican society that cares for all its people.

 

(Photo Credit: Women In and Beyond the Global)

Remember Marikana

 

(Photo Credit: Dave Mann / The Con)

#FeesMustFall

Fees Must Fall

 

(Image Credit: Faith47 / Daily Maverick)

We remember: Send a message of solidarity to the widows of Marikana

 

(Photo Credit: Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick)

Man to man

Man to man

Do not Rape in my name as a man!
A woman’s body, a lesbian’s body, a girl’s body is sacred, it is her sacred
temple.
Revere it in my name as a man!

Do not make mother-in-law
Jokes in my name as a man
Your mother-in-law gave birth to
Your wife, she is the grandparent of your children
Honour  her as a woman
In my name as a man!

Do not ridicule your wife in my name as a man!
Respect the woman you chose to marry, to be mother to your children, to be
your partner, your friend.
Respect, cherish and honour  her on bended knee in my name as a man!

Do not demean your female co-workers in my name as a man!
Recognize their abilities to think, to be productive, their contribution,
Accept their intelligence, their equal standing in my name as a man!

Do not disrespect, diminish your girl-child’s capabilities in my name as a
man.
Encourage her, love her unconditionally,  nurture her ambitions, her
passions and sing her praises,  so that she may be grow to be a woman of
substance, a woman of worth in my name as a man!

Do not disrespect humanity with violence and sexism and oppression in my
name as a man!
In my name as a man let ALL of humankind live, work, love and play in
freedom from oppression and violence and hatred.

Lavona George

A Celebration: Barack Obama and Sojourner Truth share a moment

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!”

The struggle continues.

Domestics: For Children of Filipino Transnational Families, Classification as Control

Geraldine Pratt’s recent work with Filipina domestic workers in Canada examines the narratives of ambitious mothers who travel overseas to take care of others’ children in order to provide for their own. Once their children are able to reunite with them in Canada, mothers cite issues of deskilling, where they “lose their skills during the years that they work as caregivers,” limiting them to caretaking jobs and unable to further develop their human capital. Furthermore, Pratt reports that these mothers usually spend an average of eight to twelve years engaged in domestic work overseas and separated from their families before reunification.

As a former educator, I taught in a rural high school in Hawaii, where we had a high Filipino student population whose parents and/or grandparents were immigrants. Many of my students’ family members had limited English speaking ability. When calling home, older sibling often translated my messages for me. We also saw low attendance for parent-teacher conferences. However, when mothers did attend these conferences, they shared their frustrations at being unable to help their children with schoolwork, emphasizing their hopes that their hard work would enable their children to gain “a better life.”

My experience with immigrant Filipino families as an educator prompted me to investigate the education for Filipino American students from transnational families. However, I must stress that Filipino students were also among my best students. It is important to remember that stereotyping all Filipino students according to ethnicity is more dangerous than excluding these narratives. We must look at all contributing factors, such as family education and class in host country, discrimination, and generation.

Despite popular depictions of Filipino migrants as working in highly skilled professions, the US continues to recruit domestic and home care workers. Among Filipino domestic and home care workers: 80% are women, the median age is 44, 60% hold US citizenship, the median annual income was $17,050 in 2005, 1/3 have at least a college-level degree and another 30% attended college without completion, and 3% have graduate and post-BA level degrees. Filipino women are disproportionately represented among domestic workers, and, contrary to prevailing views of Filipinos in the US, a majority of Filipino domestic workers are neither highly educated nor have much opportunity to leave domestic work to enter other skilled professions. The median annual income is just below the federal poverty line. With only 60% of domestic workers reporting citizenship status, some Filipino domestic workers lack access to most social services.

I wrote to Geraldine Pratt on the topic of classifying Filipinos and the use of “Asian/Pacific Islander.” Pratt responded:

“I think in Canada there is a tendency not to lump Filipino youths with other Asian-Canadian youths, because the migration of Filipinos to Canada has been so particular.”

For example, consider how the Canadian and the US census approach the question of race and ethnicity. The Canadian census uses an open-ended question, along with examples and guidelines, which requires respondents to write in their race/ethnicity. The US census requires respondents to check off one or more race/ethnicity box (where Filipinos would fall under “Asian”) and allows respondents to specify their subgroup. Since respondents are not required to specify their subgroup, the US Census Bureau is continuously working on better ways to track race/ethnicity. At the same time, Canadian research tends to give more attention to Filipino academic achievement while research focused on Filipino Americans generally still include Filipino Americans in the pan-ethnic group of “Asians.”

As Michel Foucault suggested, the classification of individuals drives governmental strategies of control. By inventing all-encompassing pan-ethnic terms, which represent group otherness rather than group needs, the counting of certain “kinds of people” informs state allocation of resources and penalties. The state’s power to name a people translates into a power over people’s daily lives. When I report my ethnicity, which box(es) am I allowed to check off, how is it packaged and interpreted in study results, and later, how does someone else’s interpretation of my identity continue to mold my everyday identity and life chances, and consequently, manipulate my identity further through defining my race/ethnicity?

In Pratt’s study, Filipino domestic workers are “sacrificed for the vitality of the Canadian population”, and Canadian families “prosper” while Filipino domestic workers labor and live under conditions “unacceptable to national citizens.” Following Foucault’s critique of the state, state racism and discrimination against certain “inferiorized races” serves a “murderous function” in order to regenerate the general population. In this way, the state “saves” by denying care to domestic workers and their families, but the state also “gains” when domestic workers provide privatized services, such as health care and child care, which the state normally provides its citizens. The state denies transnational domestic workers’ full citizenship rights in order to sustain citizenship rights for others without actually investing in those services.

Though there are issues with the education system and its reinforcement of capitalist ideals and hierarchies of power, a lack of support for Filipino students from transnational families could prove to be more detrimental. When we assume that all Filipino or all Asian students are successful and fail to recognize specific needs, we allow false assumptions to further deny students their rights. For Filipino children of transnational families, lower academic performance and higher dropout rates perpetuate their place among low-waged workers. Filipino Canadian youth struggle to exceed their parents’ educational levels and work almost exclusively in certain service professions. More academic support and guidance can help Filipino American youth from transnational backgrounds overcome these statistics and use education as a tool to achieve the social mobility which originally prompted their parents to become transnational domestic workers.

Amy Sun, amysunis@gmail.com

Domestics: Domestic work is important. Deal with it.

Domestic labor, which includes everything from caring for the elderly to doing laundry, is a profession that exists globally. From South Africa to China to England, domestic labor exists in hundreds of thousands of households. A great deal can be learned from researching the pivotal group of domestic laborers across cultures. Domestic labor is important.

Something is important when it has great value or significance. In the case of domestic work, it means that it is worth it to take the time and energy to examine and understand the purpose, consequences, and meaning of domestic care and labor. Domestic work is important because it changes society. Domestic labor or care is an integral and important element of global society. Examining the importance of this labor form allows for a greater understanding of that global society. Through a closer examination of domestic labor, or by considering it to be significant, more can be learned about class, race, gender, cross-cultural interactions, and global exchange.

In the United States, a “care crisis” is currently plaguing families as the ageing baby boomer population heads into retirement. The crisis consists of more elderly persons needing some type of care and fewer able to provide it. Because of improvement in health care that extend a person’s lifespan, the demand for these works is likely to increase and become a serious problem. The “care crisis” cannot be managed by dealing with the number of individuals that require care. Instead, we must consider the workforce and look at how appropriate care workers can be introduced into the workforce. Caring Across Generations attempts to address this issue by finding solutions to the care crisis through training programs, policy solutions, and enhancing the relationships between care workers and those they care for. This “care crisis” is an important issue in American society today. By understanding and studying the field of care work, we can better understand and find ways to fix, manage and survive the crisis.

Part of the problem is the value of work: “It is easy to appreciate why work is held in such high esteem, but considerably less obvious why it seems to be valued more than other pastimes and practices”. Work is acknowledged as something important, and choosing to not work results in condemnation. But only specific types of work hold value. For example, there is a great difference between the work of a neurosurgeon and a janitor. It is said the former required years of education, training, and work to be able to attain his or her position. The janitor required less training and preparation to be perform her or his labor correctly. So, the janitor is paid much less than the doctor. But is the janitor’s work less valuable?

According to US standards, yes, it is. The work performed by the janitor is considered commonplace, and she or he is considered replaceable. The wages for housework is a perfect large-scale example. Housewives asking for compensation for work they were expected to perform with smiles on their faces seemed farfetched and unreasonable. Despite its budgetary difficulties, the plan had the potential to place the issue of housework on the national front burner.

The amount of work contributed through caring for children, the elderly, and maintaining a household should not be overlooked. It is a time consuming endeavor and an extremely important one. In this context, importance is so great that were the work to cease, society would collapse.

From the need for domestic workers to what the position itself can explain about social structures, domestic labor needs to be studied and understood. It is important. It deserves to be examined, researched, argued, debated, and challenged. A system of gender biases, abuse, and blatantly inhumane treatment persists in domestic labor employment. This is intolerable. Unless the field is examined, how can these systemic abuses be successfully eliminated and the contradictions of importance and value resolved?

Organizations such as the ILO are attempting to remedy the very real issues in this particular labor market, but it is a difficult road. The ills that exist within domestic labor are so ingrained that it seems nearly impossible to eradicate them completely. This, however, should not diminish the importance of domestic work. Just as poorly treated worker should not accept abuse because of fear, others should not accept silence merely because the task of change seems insurmountable. Change is slow and difficult, but it is necessary. And above all it is important.

Mackenzie Becker