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Wed December 15

MEDIA RELEASE: CSU donates over $80,000 to Capilano University Foundation to support student diversity and inclusion

2021-12-15T09:55:01-08:00December 15th, 2021|Blog, Media Advisories|

NORTH VANCOUVER, BC (December 15, 2021) — The Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) and Capilano University (CapU) are pleased to announce a donation of $81,785 from the student union to the Capilano University Foundation that will directly support equity, diversity and inclusion across the CapU student community.

This contribution will fund the creation and ongoing distribution of financial aid to support Black students, T2SNB (trans, Two-Spirit, and non-binary) students, disabled students, and students who demonstrate leadership working towards a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive university. The donation follows a previous contribution of over $51,000 that continues to fund the CSU Engagement Award, established in 2015.

“The Capilano Students’ Union is excited to help remove barriers to education that many students continue to face,” says CSU president Maia Lomelino. “This year, we are celebrating 50 years as the voice of students on the North Shore. We look forward to the next 50 years of making Capilano University a more welcoming and inclusive place for all students.”

The new awards and bursaries include:

  • CSU Equity Leadership Award;
  • CSU Support Fund for Black Students;
  • CSU Support Fund for Trans, Two-Spirit, and Non-Binary Students; and
  • CSU Disability Support Fund.

“One of CapU’s key priorities is supporting a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion in all our operation and outreach,” said Jennifer Ingham, vice-president, university relations at Capilano University. “This financial contribution offers meaningful recognition of the CSU and CapU’s shared value in inclusive support for all our students.”

Eligible international and domestic students may access the programs through the university’s financial aid and awards department in spring 2022.


About Capilano Students’ Union
Established in 1971, the Capilano Students’ Union has been acting as the voice of students on the North Shore for 50 years. The CSU advocates for the interests and needs of its membership of more than 7,000 students by lobbying Capilano University and all levels of government. The CSU delivers student services, provides resources to clubs and organizations on campus, and hosts a variety of events each year to promote the social, political, recreational, and academic well-being of its membership.

About Capilano University
Capilano University is a teaching-focused university based in North Vancouver, with programming serving the Sunshine Coast and the Sea-to-Sky corridor. The University offers 94 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, in areas as diverse as film, early childhood education and tourism management. Capilano University is named after Sa7plek (Chief Joe Capilano), an important leader of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Nation of the Coast Salish Peoples. We respectfully acknowledge that our campuses are located on the territories of the LíỈwat, xʷməθkʷəỷəm (Musqueam), shíshálh (Sechelt), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and SəỈílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

– 30 –

For more information, or to schedule interviews, please contact:

John Morrison
Capilano Students’ Union
t: 604.984.1768
e: [email protected]
csu.bc.ca

Linda Munro, Capilano University
t: 604.220.8937
e: [email protected]
capilanou.ca

Thu December 9

Official statement on equality from the Capilano Students’ Union and Capilano Faculty Association

2021-12-09T17:54:10-08:00December 9th, 2021|Blog|

Image quoting Rosemary Brown, reading, “None of us are free until all of us are free.

With gratitude to the Coast Salish peoples, including Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, shíshálh, Lil’Wat, and Musqueam Nations, for receiving us into their unceded and sovereign territories, and to the honour of their ancestors.

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, members of CSU and Capilano Faculty Association leadership have written a joint letter on human rights at Capilano University:

When you feel dismissed or disrespected by the university, do you feel that you are taken seriously — if you feel brave enough to mention it at all?

The Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) and the Capilano Faculty Association (CFA), together, pledge to advance BC Human Rights Code:

  • by fostering a culture at Capilano University, and in British Columbia, in which there are no barriers to full and free participation;
  • by demanding action to uphold the BC Human Rights Code through mutual respect, understanding, and fairness; and
  • to collaborate in ending every form of discrimination prohibited by the BC Human Rights Code. 

We recognize that direct and systemic discrimination at Capilano University has brought harm to members of our community.

We see you, and honour you.

We are inspired by the members of our community who are leaders in the advancement of human rights.

We underline our resolve to “identify and eliminate persistent patterns of inequality” as prohibited by the BC Human Rights Code.

We affirm our commitment to make whole again the members who have suffered the violation of their human rights, to honour their human dignity, and advance their equality. For these reasons, the Capilano Students’ Union and the Capilano Faculty Association call upon the university to work with us in collaboration to publicly demonstrate their commitment to upholding the dignity and equality of all members of this community.

This message is a collaboration between the CSU and CFA. It was prepared by CSU vice-president equity & sustainability Mackenzie Gibson and ethics & human rights officer and Capilano University professor Dr. Michael Markwick (Spakwus). 

Mon October 19

Multiple roles now available with the CSU

2020-11-05T13:15:25-08:00October 19th, 2020|Blog|

CSU Board of Directors

Interim Global & Community Studies Representative

Our interim global & community studies representative attends meetings of the Capilano Students’ Union board of directors (usually bi-weekly on Fridays from 2:30pm to 5:30pm) as a non-voting member as well as assigned committees as a voting member. They contribute to discussions and decisions with other student leaders and bring the perspective of a student in the Faculty of Global and Community Studies — including the unique needs and experiences of students in the Faculty of Global and Community Studies — to the work that the Capilano Students’ Union does. The role continues until a global & community studies representative is elected in the CSU general election in the spring, or May 31, 2021. Compensation: $330.25 per month. Application deadline is Friday, November 13, 2020.

Interim Indigenous Students Liaison

Our interim Indigenous students liaison attends meetings of the Capilano Students’ Union board of directors (usually bi-weekly on Fridays from 2:30pm to 5:30pm) as a non-voting member as well as assigned committees as a voting member. They contribute to discussions and decisions with other student leaders and to bring the perspective of an Indigenous student — including the unique needs, barriers, and experiences of being an Indigenous student — to the work that the Capilano Students’ Union does. The role continues until an Indigenous students liaison is elected in the CSU general election in the spring, or May 31, 2021. Compensation: $330.25 per month. Application deadline is Friday, November 13, 2020.

CSU Staff

Research Assistant

Our research assistant is responsible for assisting in the preparation of research to support the resource staff in the preparation of resources, background, and policy advice for our student leadership. A complete job description can be found on the application pageCompensation: $18.03 per hour (plus 16% in lieu of benefits) for 15 hours per week. Apply online.

Mon October 19

Call for presenters extended for Catalyst: From Agitation to Action equity conference

2020-10-19T10:24:50-07:00October 19th, 2020|Blog|

In light of ongoing events, we have decided to extend the deadline on our call for presenters at Catalyst: From Agitation to Action. This means that you now have until October 30 to submit your application to present

What are we looking for? 

We are looking for members of the CapU community to present their experience with equity at Capilano during a special storytelling session at Catalyst. Your presentation can be live or pre-recorded; you can present as yourself or completely anonymously; you could tell a story, paint a picture, perform a dance or other original work, you could play a song that speaks to you… The most important factors are: 

  • that your presentation is able to be streamed online (via Zoom);
  • that your presentation does not exceed 15 minutes; and
  • that you are comfortable sharing your experience.

If you’re interested, then we want to hear from you! Please complete this form to apply by October 30, 2020. Please note: Limited space is available. Selected presenters will receive an honorarium of $75. All applicants will be contacted by November 2, 2020. Successful applicants will need to submit their pre-recorded presentation or preview their live presentation for organizers by November 10, 2020.

About Catalyst: From Agitation to Action

At Catalyst, you will have the opportunity to engage with other members of the CapU community about Capilano’s history and future when it comes to justice, equity, and anti-racism work. Our goal is to facilitate a unique experience to authentically look at equity on campus as it has been while also building a forum to work on equity at Capilano as it should be. In other words, Catalyst will offer the chance to express agitation and to commit to action as we work towards an even better community. 

This will not be some stuffy, traditional conference. Catalyst promises to facilitate informational presentations, experiential performances, guided discussions, artistic expressions, and many opportunities to open your heart and your mind. 

Best of all, Capilano University students are invited to attend Catalyst for free. In fact, this conference will present you with a number of opportunities to express yourself, volunteer, and even win some prizes! 

Thu October 1

CSU announces Catalyst: From Agitation to Action equity conference

2020-10-01T16:15:21-07:00October 1st, 2020|Blog|

We are excited to announce that the Capilano Students’ Union will be hosting a virtual equity conference called Catalyst: From Agitation to Action from November 16 to 20 (evenings).

About Catalyst: From Agitation to Action

At Catalyst, you will have the opportunity to engage with other members of the CapU community about Capilano’s history and future when it comes to justice, equity, and anti-racism work. Our goal is to facilitate a unique experience to authentically look at equity on campus as it has been while also building a forum to work on equity at Capilano as it should be. In other words, Catalyst will offer the chance to express agitation and to commit to action as we work towards an even better community. 

This will not be some stuffy, traditional conference. Catalyst promises to facilitate informational presentations, experiential performances, guided discussions, artistic expressions, and many opportunities to open your heart and your mind. 

Best of all, Capilano University students are invited to attend Catalyst for free. In fact, this conference will present you with a number of opportunities to express yourself, volunteer, and even win some prizes! 

Call for Participation 

In order to explore real experiences at CapU we are putting out a call to participate in Catalyst: From Agitation to Action. We are looking for students, faculty members, staff members, or administrators to present their equity-related experiences. 

Your presentation could take the form of a story, a performance, a work of visual art, curation of an original work — essentially anything, so long as it can play on Zoom and does not run longer than 15 minutes. Presenters are welcome to express themselves live or submit a pre-recorded presentation. Likewise, it is up to presenters whether they wish to participate anonymously or not. 

If you’re interested, then we want to hear from you! Please complete this form to apply by October 23, 2020. Please note: Limited space is available; selected presenters will receive an honorarium. Applicants will be contacted by November 2, 2020. Successful applicants will need to submit their pre-recorded presentation or preview their live presentation or organizers by November 10, 2020.

Check the CSU website and CSU social media pages for more information, including calls for participation, events, programming, and registration.

Thu September 17

Orange Shirt Day 2020

2020-09-21T11:55:45-07:00September 17th, 2020|Blog|

A member of the Capilano community wears an orange shirt to mark Orange Shirt Day in 2019 (photo: Tae Hoon Kim/Capilano University)

In the days leading up to September 30, the Capilano Students’ Union has changed the colour of our web presence to help spread awareness about Orange Shirt Day.

What is Orange Shirt Day?

In 1973, Phyllis Webstad’s grandmother gave her a new orange shirt to wear to her first day of school.

Phyllis, aged six at the time, felt excited to dress up and wore her new orange shirt with pride. Unfortunately, that first day of school was at St. Joseph Mission, a residential school for Indigenous children. Upon arrival, Phyllis’ beloved new shirt was taken away and she was forced to remain at the school for 300 more days.

Inspired by Phyllis’ story, survivors of the residential school system are honoured and remembered by those observing Orange Shirt Day, which takes place every September 30. You can honour Orange Shirt Day by taking the first steps towards reconciliation by making yourself aware of the history of the residential school system.

Resources

Take some time to review the resources below and share with family and friends.

Phyllis Webstad’s story
Phyllis shares the story of Orange Shirt Day in her own words.

Residential School History
This page includes a review of the history of residential schools as well as Orange Shirt Day.

Eddy Charlie’s story
Orange Shirt Day Victoria organizer and residential school survivor Eddy Charlie shares his experience.

Wed September 9

CSU President’s Address 2020/21

2020-09-10T16:12:46-07:00September 9th, 2020|Blog|

FULL TEXT OF PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS

Here we are, a new academic year at Capilano University begins, a year unlike any other. While I wanted to come to all of you and talk about how great this year will be — and it will be good in its own way — I can’t honestly look forward to the year to come without reflecting on where we were at this time last year, the events of the past several months, and the current state of our global community.

We are collectively mourning, still, for losses we can name and identify as well as others we can’t. While Black and Indigenous communities in Canada are grieving from a centuries-long legacy of colonial and racist violence that is now thrust into mainstream public discourse, a global health emergency continues to underpin every aspect of our lives. While the events of the past several months have affected each of us differently depending on our identity, employment status, immigration status, and personal health, we have all experienced loss.

What a background upon which to return to school, which is why I want to recognize each and every one of you for having the courage, the tenacity, and the resilience to choose to pursue your post-secondary education right now — whether you’re coming back to Cap or taking classes for the first time. For those of you who may not have a choice, and are continuing your education out of necessity — I see you too.

More than ever we need to lean on one another for support, think collectively, and re-imagine what it means to connect as a community. This has been top of mind at the Capilano Students’ Union, and we’ve been working all summer to ensure that our community has access to the services they need to be successful this year. And when I say “success”, I mean whatever that looks like for you, because as much as we are called to reach out and support one another this year, we must also turn inwards, practice self-compassion, and be gentle with ourselves.

The Capilano Students’ Union remains committed to enhancing the student experience of those studying at CapU. We’ve worked hard to adapt our programs and services to be delivered online and remotely, including the Device Doctor personal electronics repair service, Community Cupboard food bank, and the newly launched csubookmarket.ca. As the voice of students on the North Shore, we continue to meet university administration as well as representatives from the local, provincial, and federal levels of government in order to make sure our members’ perspectives are heard. 

I’m not going to sugar-coat this for you, it’s going to be a challenging year. University is no walk in the park, and when our global community is shifting at an increasingly rapid pace around us, there are plenty of opportunities to be pulled away from our studies. Despite this, we have the incredible privilege of pursuing higher education and now is the time to use our knowledge, community connections, and experiences to create the world we want to live in — and leave a legacy that will empower our descendants and communities to thrive for generations to come.

In a time of unprecedented challenge, we must practice unprecedented kindness, unprecedented compassion, and unprecedented love, and we have to do it together. I know that no matter where we are in the world, the students of Capilano University, with the support of their student union, are capable of all that and whatever else this year has in store for us.

So, welcome to the 2020/2021 academic year.

Tue September 8

BC Students Asking for an Extension of Rental Supplement and Eviction Ban

2020-09-11T15:29:30-07:00September 8th, 2020|Blog, COVID-19|

Dear Premier Horgan, Minister James, and Minister Robinson,

In March, students celebrated the Province’s response to our joint letter asking for an immediate moratorium on evictions and rent increases in BC. We were grateful to see the Province take action and follow through with these protections for renters. This policy, along with the BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program, has provided countless students with relief and support through the end of the spring semester and into the summer. The security of knowing that they will not be evicted and forced into houselessness during a global public health emergency is crucial to a student’s livelihood.

It is for this critical reason that we were concerned to hear about the BC government’s plan to lift the moratorium on evictions on September 1, 2020. With many students still out of work and facing tuition fee payment deadlines and textbook purchases, the threat of being evicted is not only detrimental to a student’s academic success, but could severely impact all aspects of their life including their mental and physical health. The absolute necessity of housing security, let alone during a global pandemic, cannot be stressed enough.

Though our province has made significant steps towards a full reopening and recovery of the economy, the global health crisis is far from over. The economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 public health emergency are far-reaching and will be felt by the most vulnerable groups in our province for years to come. Among the most financially vulnerable are post-secondary students.

The housing crisis in BC has been affecting students for decades, growing more severe each year as rental housing supply diminishes and prices skyrocket. The days of expecting to pay only 30% of your income on rent are long gone. According to the Canadian Rental Housing Index, 49% of renters in BC aged 15 to 29 spend over 30% of their income on rent while 28% of renters in the same age group spend over half their income on rent.1 10% of renters aged 15 to 29 live in overcrowded conditions.2 This is not new; the difference now is that we are facing an unprecedented global pandemic, the effects of which are unexpected significant losses of income and resources for so many students.

Loss of income due to COVID-19 has disproportionately affected students and young people.3 Many students rely on full-time summer employment to get them through the next school year. This summer, the BC Labour Force Survey collected data on labour market outcomes for post-secondary students who were attending school full-time in March and intend to return to school full-time in September.4 In May of this year, they found that the unemployment rate for older students in BC (aged 20 to 24) returning to school in the fall was nearly 44% — a 33% increase from the previous year.5 The national unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 24 also rose to a record high in May, reaching over 29%.6 In a study produced this month, Statistics Canada reported that if the annual youth unemployment rate reaches as high as 28%, recent graduates could see income losses of $23,000 to $44,000 over the next five years.7

We recognize that this is not a one-sided issue. Landlords often rely on tenants’ monthly rent payments to subsidize their mortgage payments and other expenses. However, the narrative often portrayed in public discourse — that of multitudes of struggling landlords across the province — paints a false picture of tenant-landlord dynamics. The homeowner renting out their basement suite and struggling to pay their bills is not your typical landlord. 

In an online survey conducted by McAllister Research in May 2020, only a minority of renters (22%) said they pay their rent to “a homeowner who lives in the same building,” with the remaining respondents paying corporate or other investor landlords.8 In the public debate surrounding rent forgiveness, many argue that landlords will suffer more if renters do not pay their rent. This is rarely the case, as the majority of “landlords” are not living paycheque to paycheque, and instead are profiting exponentially off of desperate people in need of a place to live.

Struggling with basic expenses is not a new problem for students. With monthly rent and utilities, high tuition costs (which are 4.5 times higher for international students than domestic students and can increase at any rate for international students),9 overpriced textbooks, transportation costs, and other expenses, students are left with limited funds to purchase basic necessities such as groceries. 

A recent annual survey conducted by the Capilano Students’ Union at Capilano University found that over 47% of student respondents felt worried at least a few times over the course of a semester that they would run out of food before they had money to buy groceries.10 Nine percent of student respondents said they worried about this once a month, over 11% said they worried twice a month, and 8% of all student respondents said they worry about running out of food on a weekly basis.11 

These challenges may seem insignificant to some, but for a student struggling to get through their degree or a recent graduate whose job prospects have vanished, these setbacks can be devastating. Students should not have to add an eviction to their ever-growing list of setbacks. The Province has the opportunity to recognize a vulnerable group in need of support, and step in to provide that help. Extending the eviction moratorium and continuing the BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program will give students a fighting chance, and provide security with the most essential support they need to thrive — a home.

We call on the Province of British Columbia to extend the eviction moratorium and continue the BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program for as long as the province is in a state of emergency, and to continue to support vulnerable renters for at least three months after.

Yours sincerely, 

Alliance of BC Students
Camosun College Student Society
Capilano Students’ Union
Graduate Student Society of UBC Vancouver
Langara Students’ Association
Northern British Columbia Graduate Students’ Society
Simon Fraser Student Society
University of Victoria Graduate Student Society

Mon August 24

U-Pass BC program update

2020-08-25T17:30:19-07:00August 24th, 2020|Blog, COVID-19|

compass card held in front of a bus

The U-Pass BC program provides Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) members (Capilano University students) with unlimited access to transit in the Metro Vancouver region. Following the temporary suspension of the U-Pass BC program for the summer term, we continued to work with TransLink, public post-secondary institutions, and student associations across Metro Vancouver to find a solution for the fall term.

After careful consideration and extensive discussion, we can now share that the U-Pass BC program will resume at Capilano University starting on September 1, 2020.

How U-Pass BC works

The U-Pass BC program is structured as a universal and mandatory program for students at participating public post-secondary institutions; it is this universal model that makes the affordability of the U-Pass BC program possible. For students who rely on the U-Pass BC program, this means savings of up to $538 on transit passes every single term.

U-Pass BC fees for the fall term have already been assessed to all students enrolled in classes that would normally be delivered in-person at the main campus or at CapU Lonsdale — this includes classes that are being taught via mixed mode or remote, adapted learning due to COVID-19.

Exemptions and eligibility

Certain students are exempt from the U-Pass BC program, including students with disabilities that preclude the use of conventional transit or HandyDART services, students who hold another transit pass for the entire term, or students who have a valid U-Pass BC from another post-secondary institution.

Students are also exempt if they are both (a) studying entirely online without any on-campus instruction, and (b) are living outside of Metro Vancouver. If you are living outside of Metro Vancouver for the fall term due to the public health emergency, and your studies are online, then this exemption may apply to you.

More information on eligibility and exemptions, including application forms, can be found on the Capilano University website.

Please note that if you intend to apply for one of these exemption options, we recommend that you do not request or load your U-Pass BC onto your Compass Card through the U-Pass BC website, as this may result in one or more months of the U-Pass BC fee being non-refundable.

Eligible students not intending to apply for an exemption can visit TransLink’s U-Pass BC website to request their September pass.

Financial assistance

We understand the financial barriers that students are facing, and the CSU will continue to support students who are struggling financially. Late last week, the CSU board of directors approved a new CSU U-Pass BC Hardship Fund, which provides a bursary equivalent to 50% of the value of U-Pass BC fees for one term for students with demonstrated financial need. The U-Pass BC Hardship Fund application process can be found on the CSU website.

The CSU U-Pass BC Hardship Fund follows a $75,000 donation to CapU’s Emergency Endowment Fund made earlier this year to help students experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Students with immediate need of financial resources are encouraged to reach out to the CapU financial aid & awards department to discuss options for emergency financial assistance.

Feedback?

We understand some students will have concerns respecting the resumption of the U-Pass BC program, given the unprecedented public health situation. We have carefully considered the concerns that have been raised in recent months, alongside the messages we received from students expressing that they wish to continue accessing the U-Pass BC program, and the significant transit savings that the program provides.

If you would like to share your thoughts about the U-Pass BC program, we encourage you to continue providing us with your perspective at [email protected].

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The U-Pass BC program is a universal, mandatory program for all students enrolled in at least one in-person course and provides unlimited access to transit in the Metro Vancouver region. This includes all bus routes, SkyTrain, and SeaBus. It also gives access to discounts on West Coast Express fares. The U-Pass BC program, including the fee, has been approved by Capilano University students in a referendum

The U-Pass BC program is a universal, mandatory program for all students enrolled in at least one in-person course. 

As a universal, mandatory program, exemptions from the program are limited.

A student is exempt if they have a disability that precludes the use of conventional transit or HandyDART services; if they already have another transit pass for the entire term; if they have a valid U-Pass BC from another post-secondary institution; or if they are taking only courses coded as “online” or non-credit courses.

For more information on exemptions, including application forms, click here.

The U-Pass BC program is structured as a universal and mandatory program for students at participating post-secondary institutions, and it is this universal model that makes the affordability of the U-Pass BC program possible. For students who rely on the U-Pass BC program, this means savings of up to $538 on transit passes every single term.

Certain students are exempt from the U-Pass BC program, including students with disabilities that preclude the use of conventional transit or HandyDART services, students who hold another transit pass for the entire term, students who have a valid U-Pass BC from another post-secondary institution, or students who are taking only courses coded as “online” or non-credit courses. 

For more information on exemptions, including application forms, click here.

If you meet the criteria for an exemption, you must complete an exemption application form, which can be found at this linkIf your application is accepted, then Capilano University will reverse or refund the applicable U-Pass BC fees.

If you are living outside of the TransLink service region, and all of your courses are coded as “online”,  , then you are not eligible for the U-Pass BC program. For more information on eligibility and exemptions, including application forms, click here.

In terms of determining residency in Metro Vancouver, the following is an exhaustive list of places defined as “in Metro Vancouver” for the purposes of the U-Pass BC program:

Metro Vancouver

• Anmore
• Belcarra
• Bowen Island
• Burnaby
• Coquitlam
• Delta
• Langley, City and Township
• Lions Bay
• Maple Ridge
• New Westminster
• North Vancouver, City and District
• Pitt Meadows
• Port Coquitlam
• Port Moody
• Richmond
• Surrey, including Barnston Island
• Tsawwassen First Nation
• UBC
• University Endowment Lands
• Vancouver
• West Vancouver
• White Rock

For greater certainty, the following are examples of areas not part of Metro Vancouver:

• Abbotsford (Fraser Valley Regional District)
• Chilliwack (Fraser Valley Regional District)
• Mission (Fraser Valley Regional District)
• Hope (Fraser Valley Regional District)
• Harrison Hot Springs (Fraser Valley Regional District)
• Squamish (Squamish-Lillooet Regional District)
• Whistler (Squamish-Lillooet Regional District)
• Lillooet (Squamish-Lillooet Regional District)
• Pemberton (Squamish-Lillooet Regional District)
• Sechelt (Sunshine Coast Regional District)
• Gibsons (Sunshine Coast Regional District)

Wed July 29

Students Demand a Stop to Trans Mountain for a Just Recovery

2020-09-11T17:19:21-07:00July 29th, 2020|Blog|

Dear Prime Minister,

The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) further burdens the Canadian economy, endangers the environment and communities along the route, and violates Indigenous rights and sovereignty. This is an issue that involves the governments of both present-day Canada and the United States, with much of the oil set to be shipped south of the border. This letter was written by those residing on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the   xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), and q̓icə̓y̓ (Katzie) Nations, but represents students of post-secondary institutions across both Canada and the United States. We students call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to implement the principles of a Just Recovery to ensure the security of devastated communities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot proceed with the TMX pipeline, as abandoning it is an essential step in pursuing a Just Recovery.

Climate Change and a Just Economy

In light of the global climate crisis, we categorically reject the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, particularly as Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.  Once finished, the expansion will add approximately 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere per year. Although the projected income from the expansion is intended to be channelled towards a green economy, there is clear cognitive dissonance. Instead of expanding the pipeline, it is imperative to continue investing in clean affordable energy. British Columbia’s green energy sector has attracted billions of dollars in investments, created thousands of jobs, and provides opportunities for First Nations communities. And, with a $12.6 billion CAD price tag, Canadian taxpayers cannot continue to fund a project that will neither benefit the Canadian economy, nor align with present-day Canadian climate change goals. If we truly want to invest in a green economy, we cannot allow the TMX to proceed. We cannot return to business as usual.

A Safe Environment for Wildlife

The expansion project will have negative consequences on the natural environment of the regions it traverses. The 2007 Westridge oil spill and the recent massive spill in Abbotsford are two recent examples of frequent spills, and showcase the disastrous consequences of crude oil, refined and semi-refined product transport. While Trans Mountain has reported that the risk of a marine oil spill within 50 years of TMX expansion is 16-67%, the US Oil Spill Risk Analysis Model and the Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment Methodology estimate this risk to be 58-98%. According to the Rainforest Conservation Foundation, the sound pollution generated by the sevenfold increase in tanker traffic would further endanger marine mammal populations. They also state that Southern Resident killer whales’ chance of functional extinction would increase to 50% within the next 100 years as a result of increased traffic. Residents look forward to being able to interact with nature, and a spill would devastate not only local ecosystems, but these residents as well.

All of these risks and many others are too significant to ignore. It is irresponsible to continue with the expansion while these consequences are well-known. To have an emergency response prepared is not enough; these risks are not acceptable in the first place.

A Healthy and Safe Environment for Students and Local Communities

The Burnaby Mountain Tank Farm facility is located in the city of Burnaby, whose municipal government opposes the expansion. It sits right below the only emergency route off of Burnaby Mountain, in close proximity to Forest Grove Elementary and University Highlands Elementary, and to SFU. According to a study commissioned by the City of Burnaby, with the expansion of the tank farm, the chance of a tank fire increases from 1 in a million to a 1 in 2000 chance per year. In the case of such an event, Gaglardi intersection is the only escape route, meaning that thousands of Burnaby Mountain residents, over 30,000 students and staff at Simon Fraser University, and hundreds of young children at both elementary schools would be trapped on the mountain. This danger is exacerbated by the fact that the nearest emergency response equipment is located 6 hours away. Safety assessment risks conducted by Burnaby Deputy Fire Chief Chris Bowcock, PGL Environmental Consultants’ evaluation risk to SFU, and the Canada Energy Regulator (PLC Fire Safety Solutions) show that there is potential for a catastrophic event, and the expansion puts the surrounding community at risk. This report was only publicly released 3 years after filing and only due to a freedom of information request by the NDP’s Svend Robinson. These potential risks should themselves provide enough reason to suspend the project.

A Real Nation-to-Nation Relationship

Our recovery will not constitute a Just Recovery unless it takes the valid concerns of Indigenous Peoples into account. In addition to initiating construction on unceded, stolen land despite the opposition of Indigenous Peoples along the route, TMX would limit the necessary cultural and economic activities of these groups. In the words of Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation:

… First Nations have won over 250 legal victories over the last 3-4 years against resource extraction projects. Here is our leadership that makes decisions for our people in accordance to our law, which for thousands of years we have been making decisions like this because of our reciprocal relationship of spirit to the lands and the waters protecting what we love, protecting the lineage of where we come from. We will continue to make decisions for our future generations because this present government isn’t capable of doing that so we are making choices for their future generations as well. We come here again, united, to stand up and fight for what we believe in, by any means possible.

Many Indigenous communities are leading their own clean energy projects, such as the Haida Nation, which has built the largest community-owned solar project in BC. Indigenous-led clean energy projects are a viable investment alternative as they allow for “self-determined economic development” of First Nations communities. In the case that investing in such projects is insufficient, TMX still cannot go through because it has not received meaningful and uncoerced consent from all affected First Nations. Although many of the affected First Nations have signed agreements with Trans Mountain, a distinction must be made between Indigenous governance and titleholders. According to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, who is the current President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, “title is territory-wide, it encompasses the entire footprint of the territory and the proper titleholders are the individual members of the First Nation community, not the elected band councils”. Similarly, Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith First Nation states:

We have the Trans Mountain pipeline here in our territory that has no consent from our proper titleholders either. They say they have some agreements signed with bands, but bands can’t own a territory. The federal government created [the elected chief and councils], not our people, and here there has been no transfer of authority.

Furthermore, agreements with First Nations do not necessarily imply consent. And, in the case that some groups do provide their consent, consent from some does not constitute consent from all. BC Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender has called for a halt to construction of TMX and other major projects until “all Indigenous peoples impacted by the projects” voice their support. As long as there are First Nations who oppose the project, the expansion constitutes an attack on Indigenous self-determination.

Additionally, ‘mancamps’ are a common occurrence in resource extraction projects. In this phenomenon, the influx of transient workers into the surrounding communities increases the prevalence of physical and sexual violence against Indigenous women. The institution of reactive policies is insufficient, and their implementation lacks consistency across workplaces, often failing to ensure the safety of Indigenous women. The presence of ‘mancamps’ often leads to an increase in the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people.

In listening to the voices of Indigenous people, the government of present-day Canada must recognize the voices of all titleholders as legitimate, commit to gaining support from all those affected by the expansion, and ensure the safety of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in the surrounding communities. The future of this country will continue to lack justice unless it is predicated on a real commitment to a “‘nation-to-nation’ relationship with Indigenous Peoples”, one that does not include the unjust obstruction of First Nations’ challenges to the expansion.

Calls to Action

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that our current economic structures are unsustainable and inequitable. To allow for the country to justly recover and rebuild in a way that benefits all inhabitants, we call on the federal government to ensure the following:

  1. Immediately cease TMX and commit to honouring Indigenous sovereignty
  • We call for the immediate ratification and legislation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in present-day Canada. This is essential to a Just Recovery. The Senate’s failure to pass Bill C-262 was deeply frustrating, and if the Liberal Party is committed to “implement[ing] the Declaration as government legislation by the end of 2020”, then it must recognize that the approval and construction  of TMX violates the Declaration.
  • We call for the implementation of the calls to action in Volumes 1a and 1b the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
  1. Invest in Indigenous-led green infrastructure and green job-retaining initiatives

As leader of present-day Canada, Justin Trudeau announced plans for the moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast, marched in the September 2019 Climate Strike, and referred to today’s youth as the ‘greatest generation’ of the 21st century. However, these actions are called into question by his purchase of fossil fuel infrastructure, an action which does not align with environmental leadership. Calls for stronger action are not being heeded. As a consequence, the impacts of the country’s lack of preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic are miniscule compared to those of our lack of preparation to address the climate crisis. Is the federal government ready to accept responsibility for putting the safety of thousands of people at risk, including those of young children, for a dirty pipeline that is not only unprofitable, but that counteracts efforts to mitigate climate change? We call on the Canadian federal government to take meaningful towards the creation of a more sustainable and just future by terminating the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

Sincerely,

Concerned Students of what is currently Northern America

American Indian Graduate Student Association (UCLA)
McMaster Students’ Union
Students’ Society of McGill University
Concordia Student Union
Arts and Science Federation of Associations (Concordia University)
SFU Graduate Student Society
Society of Arts and Social Sciences (SFU)
First Nations’ University of Canada Students’ Association
University of Victoria Students’ Society
Carleton University Students’ Association
Capilano Students’ Union
Trent Central Student Association
Le Regroupement étudiant de maîtrise, diplôme et doctorat de l’Université de Sherbrooke (REMDUS)

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