Friday, December 31, 2004

Its The Afternoon of New Years Eve 2004

I wish I was some place else or someone else. Some with money and plenty of it to go around. Someone with a job and with grand children to spoil. But I don't have any of these things. Its been eighteen months now since I was fired from my last job and thirteen months since my husband's back was permanently injured. We have been just existing on nothing out here in beautiful British Columbia. I guess that is a positive thing for us. I mean because we are existing here on the west side of Turtle island. It really is beautiful if you can learn to look past the people sleeping in the door ways, the gardens and inside McDonald's Restaurants and pan-handlers every ten feet. That is what our politician are doing so I guess its alright for us to do the same. At least it not snowing here as I am sitting here trying to get warm after catching a bone chilling & damp cold after standing outside in free food line for more then two hours trying to instill hope to other people whom are less fortunate then myself I guess. I was inviting them to come and join me on a free New Years day levee tour and telling them this is the one day that the mayors and the council members would be feeding their Constituents for free. The people whom I used to be able to help no longer greet this day with the same enthusiam as I do. They say their are tired of being poor and that they are not at all proud to be and do not wish to be exploited any more. They are getting tired. They are being beaten down by the very system that has beaten down thousands of other people a like. Some of these same people say that I have become a part of the problem with doing this event every year and there fore no longer want to be associated with me, others love my courage and my strength. As for me personal I don't see most of the same things that other see. I see sorrow, a sadness that that gets deeper and deeper with each year passing and a new generation being born into poverty and having absolutely no fear in killing or dying for the only food that kills the hunger pain that dwells within their souls and kills the hunger pain of malnutrition and oppression. Their food is what ever their street drug of choice is. Herion. Cocaine, Christal Method, Glue, Lysal, and anything else they can get into their body to kill the pain. These are the only things that running plentiful and rampantly on our streets.

I thought poverty was suppose to be erradicated by the year 2000. I guess I missed that event because I might have been just to dammed busy ensuring that we the poor people still have a voice that will ensure that it gets feed once in a while; but not with more then Sugar and Salted promises and actions of our community leaders. To much of this stuff is not good for anyone.

I really do pray that everyone makes through the holidays alive and that one day we all might have just five minutes of blissfull rest and minimal things to worry about.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Isn't It Great To Be Poor At This Time of The Year

When your poor at this time of the year you don't have to contend with the Christmas mad marathon of buying gifts for everyone cause you just don't have the money to spare. This is the one time of the year that the upper and middle class people get to stand on equal grounds with us poor folks. In line up after line up and complain about how much money we have to spend just to make it through the holidays and how little time they have to get Christmas presents all wrapped before going out for a Christmas Treat called dinner and a drink. You should be great full that they are taking the time out of there busy schedule so that you can have more time to stand in another line called the Christmas hamper (aka food bank)line.
Isn’t it great to be poor at this time year. After all we repep from the benefits of other people buying, cooking and sufferings too. The suffering that we all share are the tire sore aching feet, and empty wallets.
While we impoverish are well experienced at standing in multiple lines waiting for doctor's appointments, employment insurance or income assistance cheques or our daily dinner that was left over from some else dinner the day before. Maybe we could earn a little extra cash giving lessons on how to wait or what to do while in line so we could help ourselves and buy gifts for our own families.
Sometimes if we are one of the lucky ones, people will buy presents for our children but not yourself because remember your an adult now and few if any care about your emotional spirits. Society seems to think that the smiles of any child worth a million dollars. Isn’t that good enough for everyone. You should be even more happier knowing that your children are gleefully unwrapping the presents that that others bought for them on your behalf.
After all you are one of their most valuable assets because they get to do the right thing and write you off as a recipient of their good charity and declare it as a income tax deduction. Is being a recipient of one of these gifts a replacement for the guaranteed livable income that today’s income assistant was suppose to be?
I know that this time of the year is very hard on a lot of people because they don't have what main stream society calls a family, a place to call home, and the stocking that we fill is usually with our own feet instead of sugar cane and other goodies or money to buy gifts for our children who have been usually apprehend by the government.
On a happier note we as poor people have one up on them we don't have to deal with a large credit card debt at the end of the year and some how we all know how to survive for more then two weeks without a cheque cause most of us have to survive for as long as five weeks without any income right after Christmas.
Most people have given up asking me what my family is doing for Christmas because they are tired of hearing the same blah blah blah answers but for me and my family this is the reality at this time of the year. For those who dare to ask me what I want for Christmas I tell them I All I want for Christmas is a job, the tools need to maintain a job and a bed to sleep on. A job that will offer me and my family some income so that I can get my grade twelve English and work family's way out of poverty. I want is a hand up not a hand out and not to be exploited because of my poverty. I want to be a success.
On this note I would like to wish everyone a safe journey throughout the holidays.

Monday, December 06, 2004


I just came back from delivering my yearly Christmas Stocking to the Legislature. In each sock I put in a little reminder of who the elected MLAs are suppose to represent. I know that on every Dec.6 that they are attending a memorial service to honor the fifteen engineering women who were murdered in Montreal.
I started delivering the socks when these women were killed because I wanted government officials to remember the real reasons behind the atrocities of their deaths. I at the time was struggling with the thoughts of what to do about our governments who were at the time targetting all poor people by eliminating some of the most basic needs for suvival.
Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who see the connections and who is prepared to to take action. I wonder what has happened to all the women who proclaim to be willing to fight and defend all the rights that our ancestors have fought for. Am I the only one who remembers the stories of the trek to Ottawa, the stories of the women's liberation whose liberators still walk amoungst us telling us their stories such as the hiring policies that our govenrments had implented during ww1 and 2 designated for women only.I have inclosed an example of the rules that was used to hire women in the 1940s.

1943 guide to hiring women 1943 issue of the Transportation Magazine
Guide for male supervisors of women in the work force during WW II

1) Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters. They are less likely to be flirtatious. They need the work, or they would not be doing it. They still have the pep and interest to work hard.
2) When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy.
3) General experience indicates that "husky" girls-those who are just a little on the heavy side-are more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.
4) Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination-one covering female conditions. This step not only protects our property, but reveals any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.
5) Give the female employees a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they will keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Women make excellent workers, but they lack initiative in finding work themselves.
6) Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day, to make allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.
7) Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive, they cannot shrug off harsh works of ridicule the way men can.

8) Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women.Even through a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she will grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.
9) Get enough size variety in operator's uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point cannot be stressed too much in keeping women happy.

HOW FAR HAVE WE COME AND HOW FAR BACK ARE WE WILLING TO GO? Are we willing to go back this far without a fight. Are we willing to forgot about the fight our mothers fought for here on the home front. Sure we didn't go and killed other mothers' sons, daughters and destroy their homes personally. We haven't personally drawn blood willing on our kitchen floors. For most of us we know that we stand a good chance that we will see our loved ones at least one more time just like we know that there is a good chance that we will eat at least once today.Did we stop caring about our sisters from the another mother, another race, another era. If we did when did we stop caring?

University held their ceromonies on Friday Dec3/04 three day in advance because the students weren't going to be able to take the time out to remember their follow students because they were going to be be to busy writing examines. No time to Remember.
Monday Dec.6 a few churches hold candle lights cermonies in heir own parishes which could comfortable seat five hundred people but only a handfull of concerned citizens attended. No Time to Remember.
At the Legislature all MLAs take a few minutes of their busy schedule to remember only the women who were killed in this horrendous act of violence. They only remember the dead. They do not mentioned the social, economic contributing facts that lead to both the killer's and women demise. They do not remember the thirteen women who survived the Montreal attack.
Who will the remember the 500 missing and murdered pre-kanadian women who have died because of their race, gender and class. These women stories have yet to be told of how they have gone missing or were murdered; some for as long as twenty years. Will there be candle light vigils for them? Will there a day of mourning for them too? Why were their names not included in the list of women names to remember?

To bring this story back to why I deliver Christmas sock I lay these sock at the hands of the people whom I see a partial responsible for eliminating some of the most services need for all women to sustain their life. These people are our elected leaders who are suppose to have our best interest in mind at all times. I think they have forgotten the values that all women have contributed. I think women have forgotten about our mothers battles. We have forgotten.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Literacy What is Its Value?

My definition of literacy and how valuable it is differs slightly from Oxford’s definition.

Oxford’s dictionary defines the word literacy as the ability to read and write. A literate person has a competence or vast knowledge in certain areas or subjects such as computer knowledge, poverty issues or politics and is able to read and write.

Personally as a mature First Nations woman traditional values play a major role in my life. Most of my educational training has come from both hands on teaching, and an oral history, with minimal written back ground. I never gave written literacy much attention while I was attending school during my early years. My inability to write at an age appropriate level in accordance to a race that is not my own exposes my weakness in my inability to perform well in both cultures.

Over the past several years I had developed a safety mechanism to compensate for this inability and to protect myself from becoming both the teachers’ and other kids’ targets. That mechanism was to memorize anything and everything that the people in my realm could and would send my way. I did this through songs, poetry and repetitive action games.

What does literacy mean to me personal?

For me being literate means the difference as to whether my family can eat and pay all of the rent at the same time. Weather or not I can get another job or not.
Literacy also helps determines how the rest of the world will value me and where I will fit in society’s class ism.

In my case it means one more hurdle in life for me to overcome.

It means that I will have to learn to speak and write a new way.
It is like a new language full of complicated words. Each word’s meaning representation and strength.

I over came these barriers by memorizing the basics which were enough to get me through to grade eleven. Then I dropped out two weeks before the end of the school year.
When I was in grade three learned to focus in on memorizing anything and everything. I still remember three and a half decades later I still remember the word that I spelled out loud and the spontaneous cheers that came from my classmates. The word was “Adventure” which is what learning about literacy have been all about it me.

Unfortunately I could not use this same strategy when it came to being able to write.
For the two decades that followed my departure from school I ended up living on the streets and working in a huge variety of labors dead end jobs. I never linked my poor literacy skills to my work skills. In fact the only time that I thought about it was when I was out of work and having to apply for work or re-apply for income assistance.

Things have started to change for me. I am seeing and starting to understand the light at the end of the tunnel. Everything that I have been speaking about around human rights issues and about the eradication of our own social problems, such poverty, racism and class ism; are starting to move forward shedding a different light on how we can solve our these problems.

Confirmation of what I thought was a weak connection came in early November. When I had the opportunity to attend the Premier’s Literacy Summit at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

In attendance at this summit were over one hundred and seventy educators and elected government officials.

I saw this as a window of opportunity to educate the educators about the struggles that I and thousands of other people are going through trying to get an education. I greeted these people with a huge hesitation because of my past experience with these types of people. I saw and heard more then just their own pleas for more funding. I saw that a majority of these people were not there to represent you or me. They were there to represent the private sector that usually represents the corporations who I see as our major oppressors.

When our provincial premier announced that he was releasing $55 million dollars to Literacy programs services in British Columbia most of the attendees where pleased.

The premier’s proposal was that he would release $12 million within the next six months to public libraries and an additional $43 million before the 2010 Olympics.

He also introduced a new Literacy Panel, whose members were already pre-selected, consisted of all business and career orientated white middle age people with the exception of one young First Nations woman.
Not one of them said that they were not currently in school nor did they have an immediate family member that was accessing the public school services. According to them every one of them had no disabilities and all their friends could read and write and had no problems accessing school services or funding.

The things that disturbed me about this summit was that short notice everyone received, not knowing where the money came from. Then there was the fact that the premier had already selected the Literacy panel without consulting the educators. He wants everyone in BC to be literate by 2010. In the mean time he is taking some of our most basics needs from us. He has only set aside $55mil for the next eight years. This is supposed to eliminate the 40% illiteracy problems that the province has.

I personally think that the government has the finance books up side down or maybe they are reading the books back wards. Or maybe they are illiterate themselves but are in denial about it.

Right now they are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the Olympics over the next ten years, lowering the minimum wage to six dollars an hour, reducing the working age to twelve years of age and firing thousands of career trained men and women who have worked within the government. These are the people who are the back bone of our society who are fighting not only for their jobs but for yours and my well being and our children’s future

I think the cure for BC alarming literacy problems is;
· We and government should invest in anyone who wants to enhance the educational skills.
· We as a community and our government should foster these people desires.

So if our government was to take the same amount of dollars that they are investing in the Olympics then maybe we can eliminate the literacy problems and get poverty under control. Once we get our poverty under control then we as society will experience living through the rippling effects of seeing less premature deaths because we will be in better health because we will be able to feed ourselves.

My Sumary of the Premier's Literacy Summit November 2004

Rose Henry’s
Summary on The Premier Literacy Summit
November 2004

After years and years of speaking to people about Human Rights and the eradication of Class ism and negativity that society cast upon people existing in the group. I have found myself speaking out about solutions and how we as a community could eliminate these invisible barriers. Some of these barriers included accessibility to education.

Over the past few months I have been saying that if we had access to tools (services) than we could work our own way out of such things as poverty and the type casting that comes along with being a woman, First Nations, or a person born into poverty.
The tools that I am referring to are the ones that can either be used as a barrier to stop the growth of a person’s self esteem or enhance it. Things like adequate daycare, transportation, clothing and basic school supplies.
Simplifying application forms and educational support services so that they are more legible to the individual’s understanding. Spending time and not rushing individuals who have expressed a desire in furthering their education.

For me a part of this solution came along time after one of the hundreds of rallies when one of the rally attendees invited me to attend Premier Gordon Campbell’s Literacy Summit, on her behalf. When this invitation came I saw this as a small window of opportunity to share some of the stories that I have heard over the years from everyday people such as myself who are trying to return to school.

This summit was organized to bring together over one hundred and seventy educators from all over British Columbia. These educators were from both the public and private educational departments.

The premier informed the group that he has plans to invest in to the literacy programs. He said that he has a vision of having one of the highest literacy provinces in all of Canada before the 2010 Olympics.

His plans are to release a small amount of money starting in the year 2005 until 2010 starting with accessibility to public libraries, and into non-government organizations (NGO). He wants the libraries to introduce a new province wide loans system to its users.

He and a few of his selected cabinet ministers claim that they want to reduce the alarming statistic of the 40% illiterate British Colombians and the 54% illiterate population of First Nations.
How they are planning on doing this is first attending this summit and utilizing the Literacy committee that was created by his cabinet members who have also committed to host a Literacy conference for consumers of these programs.

To show their commitment the minister of Education has vowed that his department will send out a set of educational books to every service organization that attended the summit. These organizations are providing a service to children as young as three years of age as old as sixteen of age.