Harm reduction, Indigenous rights, gendered violence, childcare: what we learned from our listening tour

The 2018 election is coming up, and you can be part of the momentum. Contact volunteer@wrgreens.ca to see how you can get involved in the campaign.

We’re committed to making decisions that put people first. So as we prepare for a provincial election in June, it only makes sense to start with the people here in Waterloo Region.

Over the last few months, newly-nominated candidates Zdravko Gunjevic (Waterloo) and Stacey Danckert (Kitchener Centre) sat down with local community groups to hear about what issues are top-of-mind for folks who live here.

This is what we heard:

Meeting on safe injection sites hosted by Downtown Kitchener BIA

We have amazing organizations in Waterloo Region who work on-the-ground on harm reduction strategies. The Fentanyl crisis is hitting our community hard and safe injection sites will help save lives.

Organizations like OneRoof, AACKWA, and the various emergency shelters in Kitchener-Waterloo are closest to the people, but their resources are stretched thin. They need permanent, stable funding in order to consider opening up a safe injection site.

The Region of Waterloo is currently determining the need for a safe injection site, gathering information from users and harm reduction groups.

Stable provincial funding, either to the Region’s public health department or to one of the harm reduction groups, would provide the financial certainty we need to open up a safe injection site, and start saving lives.

Soup & bannock lunch hosted by UW Aboriginal Education Centre

The weekly soup and bannock lunch on the University of Waterloo campus helps to build bridges between the Aboriginal Education Centre and other campus departments; to provide a sense of community and homestyle cooking for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students on campus.

When we visited, there were awareness-raising activities related to the inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, activities which are also intertwined with UW’s 16 days of action for gendered violence.

Violence disproportionately affects Indigenous women, trans and non-binary folks, and people of colour, and we need to amplify these issues locally. The annual Take Back the Night march is organized on an ad-hoc basis every year, as no one organization has the capacity to take it on in a permanent way. Dedicated funding is needed to support initiatives like these.

We also spoke with Chief Troy Thompson, of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. His community is at the end of a 30-year legal battle for their land rights in Eastern Ontario. A current buy-out is being offered by the Federal government, for far less than the land was worth. Troy’s community has a difficult decision to make about whether to accept the legal settlement, or keep fighting in the courts. This adversarial approach to land claims is completely unacceptable behaviour by governments that claim to be ushering in an era of reconciliation.

Locally, the UW Aboriginal Education Centre has started a Mohawk language program. The resurgence of Indigenous languages is a vital part of undoing the effects of colonialism. The language program has proven extremely popular and it’s enjoying substantial growth. This is the kind of model that could be replicated elsewhere.

Meeting with ShamRose for Syrian Culture

ShamRose is a community group active in Waterloo Region since 2012. The group played an important role in welcoming nearly 1,500 Syrian refugees in 2015-2016. The group helps settle and integrate newcomers, provides translation services, supports people job hunting and runs an Arabic school on Saturdays.

Some of the barriers and challenges the group, and by extension, Syrian/ Arabic newcomers face in Waterloo Region include:

  • Housing. Funding provided to government sponsored refugees is not enough when compared to actual market cost.
  • Health. There is a shortage of family doctors, which is a province-wide issue.
  • Language learning. ESL classes have been consolidated into larger class sizes, where Arabic-speaking students may not interact as much with native English speakers. We need a return to smaller class sizes and a more integrated approach.
  • Employment. Most Syrian newcomers have a trade which isn’t immediately recognised in Canada.
  • Support for Women and Childcare. Women tend to stay home with children while men get language lessons and/ or a job. This trend puts a damper on Women’s economic opportunities, and is exacerbated by unaffordable childcare options.
  • Transportation. Transit passes are expensive and there are a limited amount of free passes.

Get involved

The Green Party of Ontario is dedicated to doing politics differently. We’re here to listen to our community, and work on real solutions, for real people.

The 2018 election is coming up, and you can be part of the momentum. Contact volunteer@wrgreens.ca to see how you can get involved in the campaign.

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