Archives for August 2011

Leader of the Month Profile

Work and Human Dignity Research Action Team Actively Looking for Engagement.

“They have fallen through the cracks of the immigration system.”

‘They’ are the female refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that belong to a parish that shares the space of St. Mary’s Anglican Church.  Two different parishes sharing one church space. This sentence has resonated with me since the day I had one of my first relational meetings with Rev. Elizabeth Metcalfe of St. Mary’s Anglican church.

My name is Whitney Haynes and I am an AUPE member that came on the GEA board in April of this year.

So what is an AUPE GEA board member doing building community in St. Mary’s Church?
After this meeting between Rev. Elizabeth Metcalfe and I, Kuchangia Kuchanganya started.   These words, Swahili for: sharing, putting pieces together and connecting them, defined our group and became our title. And share we did.  Our group consisted of AUPE members, St. Mary`s parish members, and Bethel Church members from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As well as our GEA organizer Madhu Sood.

 

Stories opened up. One woman’s struggle of understanding the daycare system in Canada to communities helping raise kids in her home country.  Her being a kindergarten teacher in her origin country to not having a job in Canada. A woman who had to leave her newborn behind because he wasn’t on the list.  To immigrating to Canada with her husband who is an amputee and can’t find work because of this disability.  To her trying to support her family on her own, as a cleaner, getting hurt at work but continuing to at work under pressure, not understanding her rights. Another woman, whose passion is sewing and designing clothing now works as a healthcare aide.  I will never forget one sentence she said to me in defeat and resilience: “Why would I try to open a sewing and clothing business here, when people will just go to Wal-Mart and buy cheaper clothes.”
All these stories and more dive into the common feelings of isolation, resilience and dependency on a system that is not understood. 
More miscommunication occurs in conversations I hear around me on my worksite as the multi-culturalism of Canada widens.  Conversations and feelings of being taken advantage of, territorial, from people who have lived in Canada for more generations.
An AUPE member from my worksite became interested in Kuchangia and Kuchanganya as well.  She shared her immigration story – from Rwanda and camps around Rwanda.  Arriving in Canada in 2001 with her two kids and husband, she wanted to be educated, but the worker ‘assisting’ her family into the system when she arrived kept insisting she stay at home with her kids because the government will give her money to live.  She had to search and find a college to study on her own, without help to get a job that she knew she needed.  Her  words that still resonate with me were, “They didn’t want me to be self-sustainable, or else they wouldn’t receive funding from the government to help me.”

Kuchangia Kuchanganya started as a relational meeting, moved to a listening of members not just from within St. Mary’s but to people – the Congolese women not directly connected to GEA and went further into members of AUPE. This project initially started as an English conversational practice group.  We listened to each other share stories of immigration and struggle.  We worked together and pieced stories together through broken English, translated French and Swahili, not to mention sign language.  We are moving towards a greater picture that we are slowly bringing together – an organization/space focused on community building through a cultural exchange of ideas and skills.
By creating a communication/understanding across cultures through a balanced exchange of knowledge and ideas ethnic barriers have started to break down resulting in confidence building and understanding in people of numerous backgrounds. Communication and the understanding of each other are the foundations social equality is based on. And “Kuchanganya,” Swahili for sharing, putting pieces together and connecting them. This is in essence what GEA is. Then the universe validated our connections between institutions and slapped us EVEN closer together WITHOUT a choice – as the Hardisty strike exploded.   As our Kuchangia group met every Saturday we decided one day as a group to visit and support the workers on the picket line – most of these women`s goals are to work in healthcare.  A couple already do.

If you are passionate about this issue and would like to join the Research Action Team please contact Whitney at whitney@greateredmontonalliance.com

 

AUPE NEWS – The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is urging PSPInvestments to order subsidiary Revera Inc. back to the bargaining table at Riverbend and offer staff “appropriate compensation” to end the 51-day strike. Click here for the full article.

Do you Care?

Join us for a listening at Hardisty on Saturday June 16th, 1 pm

We are in the 21st century in an oil rich province and our brothers and sisters are making poverty wages.
We need to hear their stories of the challenges they are facing to get by.

On Saturday, It saddened me to watch a little girl, three, four, witnessing her mother and others criticize
the employer with chants at their lack of respect and integrity for the workers at Hardisty. This little
girl’s first activist moment was yelling “Shame on you” at a building to which she only knows as her
mother’s place of work. The work that provides her mother the money to provide for her food, her
clothing and home.

This little girl needs to be in a playground, napping at home, laughing and enjoying her youth. Instead
she is standing beside her mother in the cold, the pouring rain, the hot sun, strolling up and down the
pavement hour after hour. The yelling continues, the honking and cars soaring by. The Hardisty Care
workers have been on strike for four weeks. Other workers from Calgary and BC are being transported
into Edmonton, accommodation and food are being provided. The little girl’s mom stands by helpless as
her job is taken away from her. What will become of the jobs, what will become of the mother, what will
become of the little girl?

I will not stand by and watch others slip through the
cracks. I want to be a responsible citizen.

Join us for a listening at Hardisty on Saturday 1 pm

GEA Workers Rights Group

Greening Edmonton – one neighbourhood at a time

C Returns aims to help homeowners reduce their impact and increase their savings
Whether because of soaring utility bills or environmental concerns, energy efficiency is something Edmontonians are taking seriously. Unfortunately, coordinating energy audits and undertaking retrofits can seem daunting. That’s where C Returns, an innovative Edmonton non-profit dedicated to greening homes, can help.“C Returns manages everything that’s involved in retrofitting homes for better energy efficiency,” explains Godo Stoyke, one of C Returns founding partners. “We make it easy for people to green their homes, from audits right through to energy saving retrofits and applying for rebates.” Stoyke and partners Shanthu Mano and Anna Bubel are aiming to complete 3,469 home audits and 1,703 green retrofits in the next three years.The decision to focus on greening existing homes and community owned buildings was driven by the fact that today’s buildings account for 39 per cent of North American carbon dioxide emissions. By the year 2050, it’s estimated 80 per cent of the buildings that exist today will still be in use – resulting in the bulk of building related greenhouse gas emissions.“That’s why it’s so important to do this now,” notes Stoyke. “Greening homes improves people’s comfort and reduces their energy costs here and now. But it also contributes to the long-term health of our planet.”C Returns, which has received start up funding from both the City of Edmonton and the Social Enterprise Fund, is hosting its official launch on Thursday, April 19, 6:30 pm at the Strathcona Community Centre League, 10139 87th Avenue. GEA members are invited to come out and learn more about how C Returns is working to green Edmonton.C Returns Contact:
Shanthu Mano, Director of Community
shanthu@creturns.com
780.340.8089


Sustainable Works – Edmonton

At the GEA delegates meeting on December 6, 2010 the results of the SustainableWorks Organizing Capacity Survey had been reviewed (along with other important considerations) by the SW Standing Committee, Debbie Hubbard (GEA 2010 Board Chair), and Laura Jeffries (GEA 2010 Lead Organizer).

The following recommendation was put to the delegates and unanimously approved:

“The Greater Edmonton Alliance SustainableWorks Team and newly identified interested parties will meet in the new year to build a SUSTAINABILITY TEAM. Between then and spring this team will consider building GEA’s organizing capacity to work with SustainableWorks in the future. Other potential actions around sustainability will be considered also. This means that GEA will not commit to being the lead neighbourhood organizing body for SustainableWorks at this time. “

It was decided then that Sustainable Works would end and a research group, the Sustainability Team, would form to come up with a new plan.  The Social Enterprise Fund, however, owned the rights to the feasibility study that had been done and they began shopping it around. A coalition was formed for a new body/company C Returns to take over with the intent of making a viable business out of what Sustainable Works had set out to do.

The Sustainability Team’s first goal will be to identify the common interests of the people that will make up this team and then come up with an achievable plan to improve the sustainability of the greater Edmonton area. This may include ongoing incubation of SustainableWorks in some form or could include work on other sustainability actions. Our course will be determined by the interests and passions of our team members.

Read about Sustainable Works – Reducing Utility Bills, Creating Green Jobs, Reducing Carbon

Sustainable Works was made possible by generous donations, grants and seed money by the following organizations:

  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers #424
  • Sheet Metal Local #8
  • United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local #488
  • Alberta EcoTrust Foundation
  • Social Enterprise Fund
  • Catherine Donnelly Foundation

Local Food Team

Local Foods Update ~ October 2012

Since 2008, the Local Foods Team has been working on the issue of strengthening our local food system and economy. In 2010, the City of Edmonton passed progressive policy (the Municipal Development Plan or MDP) which stated:

before any of the remaining land in the City’s boundaries that is currently zoned agricultural could be rezoned two key strategies would have to be developed: a City Wide Food and Agricultural Strategy (CWFAS) and a Growth Coordination strategy (GCS). They also approved a vision for Edmonton as part of the MDP : “Edmonton has a resilient food and agriculture system that contributes to the local economy and the overall cultural, financial, social and environmental sustainability of the city”. It was the first time in Edmonton’s history that local food and food security were included as part of the planning parameters of the city. This policy happened only because citizens of Edmonton organized themselves with the support of GEA’s member institutions and turned out over 500 citizens three times to City Hall during the two year process. We moved from being food consumers to food citizens…actively engaged in shaping food policy for our city and region.

Since 2010, we have continued to actively engage citizens in the ongoing discussion as to their concerns and imaginations about the future of food and the preservation of agricultural land in Northeast Edmonton. As part of our citizen engagement, we hosted Local Food Training in June. As well, several GEA leaders have participated in both the Advisory Committee for the Horse Hill (Northeast Edmonton) Area Structure Plan (hosted by Waltons, Cameron Development and other key landowners in NE Edmonton) and the Food and Urban Agriculture Project Advisory Committee (hosted by the City of Edmonton). Debbie Hubbard has been the GEA representative on the Food and Urban Agriculture Project Advisory Committee since its formation in October 2011. In September 2012, we hosted a workshop facilitated by Miistakis Institute and invited a variety of stakeholders to learn about tools and mechanisms for conserving agricultural land. (land trusts, conservation easements and transfer of development credits) We were very fortunate to receive a $30,000 grant from Alberta EcoTrust that has supported our work on this issue.

However, there are many competing interests and views in the City about what should happen to the remaining land zoned agricultural in the City.  Pressure is mounting to rezone it and move quickly into development. GEA believes that a win-win solution to those competing interests is possible but that it will take leadership from the City and time to work through a process. All landowners deserve fair compensation for their land. However, through the Municipal Government Act, the City has been given the responsibility to make decisions that protect the long-term interests of all citizens and not the short-term interests of people wanting to make windfall profits. http://www.edmontonjournal.com/travel/OpEd+fork+city+path+future+pave+save+prime+northeast/7287309/story.html

Just as with our earlier action with the Municipal Development Plan, we need folks to flex their citizenship muscle. Plan to come to City Hall Council Chambers on October 26.  There will be a public hearing for the City-Wide Food and Agricultural Strategy from 9:30 to 5:30 pm. Come for the entire day or for whatever part of the day you can. This will be the only Public Hearing that citizens can have a say in the content of the Strategy. It will be held before the Executive Committee (Mayor Mandel and Councillors Sloan, Leibovici, Diotte and Krushell). They will decide whether to send the Strategy back for more work or on to the full City Council for a decision. We know that a citizen presence at City Hall does and can make a difference.

Here is a brief clip by Mark Winne, one of the top food system and food policy council consultants in North America explaining why we need to be both food consumers and food citizens. He presented at the Art Gallery of Alberta on September 13 and was sponsored by the Way We Green, City of Edmonton.
The draft City Wide Food and Agricultural Strategy and supporting documents will be released for Public review on Monday, October 1 at 1:00 p.m. (www.edmonton.ca/foodandag). You have a number of ways to engage and shape the formation of the Strategy over the next few weeks to ensure that all Edmontonians access to healthy food, that our local economy and food system is strengthened and that we preserve some of the best agricultural land for growing fruits and vegetables in the Capital Region.
Stakeholder Open Houses (must register) http://yegfoodag-estw.eventbrite.com/
Monday, October 1 at 4:00 p.m.
Centenniel Room, Edmonton Public Library – Stanley A. Milner Library (downtown)
7 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Tuesday October 2, Drop-in between 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Edmonton Room, Edmonton Public Library – Stanley A. Milner Library (downtown)
7 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Public Open Houses (do not need to register)
Wednesday, October 3
10:00am – 8:00pm – City Hall
Thursday, October 4
4:00pm – 8:00pm – TransAlta Arts Barns (10330-84 Avenue)
Non- Statutory Public Hearings before Executive Committee
Friday, October 26
9:30 to 5:30 (Lunch break most likely from 12:00 to 1:30)
Council Chambers, Edmonton City Hall (1 Sir Winston Churchill Square)
Citizens who wish to speak at the Public Hearing can register in advance online (www.edmonton.ca/meetings), by phone (780-496-8178), or in person the day of the meeting.

Questions?? Please email us at office@greateredmontonalliance.com

Food, Agriculture, and the Battle Over Edmonton’s Future Growth

Mack D. Male’s well researched piece gives a powerful overview of the North East farmlands debate. For more information check out Mastermaq’s Blog. 

City of Edmonton Local Food Survey

We want to hear from you! A public opinion survey on the future of food and agriculture in Edmonton is now being conducted. The survey is one of the tools we are using to gather input from citizens for the development of a food and agriculture strategy. The survey closes on June 23, 2012. Those who participate in the survey have a chance to win an iPod Touch!
The survey is available now at www.edmonton.ca/FoodandAg . Please distribute to your contacts, friends and networks.
Along with the survey we have also posted to our project webpage some new background research materials on the role of food and agriculture in Edmonton, and how other cities in North America are promoting and encouraging local food and agriculture. Please give those a read as well.
And for those who missed our successful Food in the City Conference, videos of the main presentations are now available in our project Video Gallery. You will also be able to view videos of the Citizen Panel discussions, one of the other methods we have used to gather the ideas of Edmontonians. The Video Gallery is available atwww.edmonton.ca/FoodandAg
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The Local Food Team met on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Northeast Edmonton Agricultural Producers presented their views about important elements of our ask to preserve prime farmland in Northeast Edmonton.  Meaningful dialogue and discussion led to a feeling of increased solidarity and clarity between farmers and other food team members on what we are working toward.  We also had good discussion around strategy, and next steps.
Two ways to become engaged in the Local Food action:
– Join the Local Food Team or host a House Meeting.  Contact Monique Nutter at(monique@greateredmontonalliance.com) if you are interested and would like more information.
– Sign up to become a Friend of Farmers (http://friendsoffarmers.ca).

$30,000 Grant awarded!

GEA’s work in organizing citizens in the Capital Region around the issues of a local food economy and urban agriculture will be greatly enhanced over the next 10 to 12 months. Alberta Ecotrust has awarded the Greater Edmonton Alliance a $30,000 grant to support a project called Working toward Environmental Health through Urban Agriculture. A huge thank you to Laura Jeffreys for writing the Letter of Intent, and to Monique Nutter and Debbie Hubbard who wrote and submitted the full grant proposal!  Also we extend our sincere gratitude to Alberta Ecotrust for recognizing and supporting this valuable work! Please visit Alberta Ecotrust’s website for more information on the valuable service they deliver. www.albertaecotrust.com
Alberta Ecotrust Logo

An update from the Local Food Team…

Work continues at many levels on “keeping the deal” that was agreed to in the passing of the Municipal Development Plan in February 2010.

City-Wide Food and Urban Agriculture StrategyThe first meeting of the Advisory Committee for the City-Wide Food and Urban Agricultural Strategy was held on November 23. Mayor Mandel and Councillor Dave Lokken are the Council sponsors to this project. Debbie Hubbard is the representative for the Greater Edmonton Alliance on this Committee. The scope of the work is quite extensive with the key outcomes being the development of:  a City-Wide Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy, a Food Charter and the recommendations for the formation and governance structure of the Food Policy Council. The timeline for this work will be to have these documents presented to City Council for decision by the end of September 2012. We will keep you informed as to opportunities to be part of the dialogue and public input for this project

The Northeast Agricultural Producers (NEAP)one of our GEA members, has been busy working on their vision for the Northeast and organizing their Friends of the Farmer action. Check out their website to learn more.http://friendsoffarmers.ca

Two ways to become engaged in the Local Food action:
– Join the Local Food Team.  Contact Monique Nutter (mnutter@interbaun.com) if you are interested and would like more information.
– Sign up to become a Friend of Farmers (http://friendsoffarmers.ca).

Organizing for Strong and Sustainable Local Food Economy

Click here to read about GEA’s Campaign, published in the Edmonton Journal.

The Greater Edmonton Alliance has spent much of its time in the past year organizing toward making the Greater Edmonton region food secure for the coming generations.

GEA’s member institutions have done this for the following reasons:

  1. To create a local food economy that is ecologically wise- as buying food locally cuts down significantly on transportation and subsequently reduces green house gases. Currently the Greater Edmonton region imports at least 90% of its food.
  2. Food security is an issue that is truly about the common good. It transcends partisanship and economic class. It affects everyone, although if a region is food insecure, it is the poorest among us who will feel the greatest impacts.
  3. Good stewardship of our land, particularly valuable farmland is a critical social value for many of our members.
  4. To build a sustainable local economy that creates stability and prosperity for our local entrepreneurs.

Click the photo below to read GEA’s strategy for a local food economy in Edmonton.

The Way We Eat

Click Here to download the report