Sunday, May 24, 2015

Going To Work | FIFA sponsors must tell Qatar to play fair on workers' human rights (Now With Video)

The upcoming World Cup in Qatar has already received a lot of negative press for a multitude of reasons, human rights not being the least of such concerns.

The link below leads to a Trade Union Congress page where activists are campaigning to the sponsors of the 2022 World Cup to demand that Qatar clean up their act and protect the lives of the workers who will make the event possible. After all, 62 workers dying for each game played at the World Cup is too many. One dying at all is too many.

Click the link to find out more and get involved. More information from the Trade Union Congress campaign page is posted below the link.

Going To Work | FIFA sponsors must tell Qatar to play fair on workers' human rights

The Hypocrisy World Cup? FIFA sponsors must tell Qatar to play fair on workers' human rights

62 workers may lose their lives for each game played during Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, a tournament likely to be sponsored by FIFA partner companies Coke, VISA, McDonald’s, Adidas, Kia and Hyundai. Without sponsorship, this multi-billion dollar tournament couldn’t take place.

Due to poor health & safety, shocking living conditions and almost total absence of rights, more than 4,000 of Qatar’s workers will die before the first ball is kicked. Hundreds have already died through a combination of accidents, heart attacks and suicide. Because of Qatar’s laws, migrant workers are trapped with a single employer, barred from changing jobs or even leaving the country without permission.

Wages are paid sometimes months late, leaving trapped workers starving. Labour courts are costly and complicated, with little language assistance, and workers are banned from forming or joining trade unions to negotiate better conditions.  

There has been almost no pressure from FIFA to fix this, nor have sponsors taken a stand, despite their professed commitment to human rights and workers’ welfare.

Most sponsors commit themselves to respecting the UN Declaration of Human Rights – which guarantees the right to join a union - and have specific policies banning forced labour and slavery in their supply chains. However, none of them seem to have considered that paying FIFA to host a tournament built on slave labour goes against everything they claim to believe in.

As a customer or potential customer of these multinational companies, can you help us pressure them to live up to their own ethical standards in how they spend their sponsorship funding?

We know money talks in FIFA. If one of these sponsors were to speak up it would be hugely influential in guiding FIFA and Qatar into ensuring that labour standards for people preparing the country to host the World Cup meet international standards of safety, decency and human rights.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is the New Citizenship and Immigration guide 'racist'?

Perusing the websites of local newspapers this morning, a few articles got my attention, but none piqued my curiosity like this gem from the Toronto Star:

The article is discussing a new Citizenship and Immigration training guide that details "look fors" that immigration officials should pay attention to when assessing whether to accept a spousal sponsorship application is legit. or a scam to get someone "legally" into Canada. Some of what the document suggest they notice as signs of a scam can easily be seen as offensive, bizarre and possibly even racist.

Some of the most highlight-worthy items, according to The Toronto Star, are listed below:


  • University-educated Chinese nationals marrying non-Chinese.
  • Photos without parents or any family members, just a small group of friends. 
  • Private marriage ceremony performed by either a minister or justice of the peace.
  • Informal reception in a restaurant. 
  • Sponsor is uneducated, with a low-paying job or on welfare. 
  • The couple do not kiss on the lips in photos. 
  • Couples who do not have a honeymoon, not even a couple of days away, usually because of university and/or no money. 
  • There are no “diamond” rings. 
  • Wedding photos done professionally but pictures are very limited. 
  • Some submit photos dressed in pajamas or cooking, to show they are living together. 
  • Photos have them wearing the same clothes in various locations. 
  • Are they touching each other in the photos, or trying not to touch? 
  • Photos of activities taken in the Niagara Falls area, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto. 

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada training guide

So, let me get this straight. If a Chinese person comes here for school and falls in love with someone non-Chinese, that is automatically a red flag? Or because you have a small wedding with friends, the government has reason to be suspicious? And boy, oh boy, if I were from Niagara Falls or Niagara-on-the-Lake I wouldn't be particularly pleased with this list.

I am not suggesting that scams never happen or that some of these can't be red flags in conjunction with other evidence in certain situations, but most of these on their own don't paint a clear picture of a "non-genuine" marriage. Not kissing on the lips in a photo? Are you kidding me? What does that mean for people who are uncomfortable with PDA or what if someone comes from a culture where you don't often kiss in pictures?

"Racist", "bizarre" and "concerning" are just three words I would use to describe this document based on what I have read so far. Hopefully enough public backlash will lead to positive change in this government document.

Monday, May 18, 2015

For Climate Change Deniers: A + B = ???




The connection between the two is obvious and undeniable, no?

Stories like these really show that, not only is climate change real, it is HAPPENING right now. There is no more "by 2020 ____ will happen" or "in the next 50 years ______ will happen unless we cut carbon emissions". It is happening NOW and the causes are obvious.

The world needs to make a choice RIGHT NOW. Change drastically now or face: unpredictable storms, the death of a multitude of species on earth, flooding of many islands and coastal areas in the world, the dangers of methane gas from melting ice trapping the sun's heat in the atmosphere and cooking us over time.

Let's stand up and demand change from our leaders today before it's too late.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Irrelevance of EQAO (and Standardized Testing in General)

In response to a comment about a Toronto Star article on the EQAO cancellations,


a Toronto Star reader named justobserving wrote the following comment:

Rank 85

Seems these silly servant unionists have won again. The only way we can determine if a teacher is doing a job is by testing the students. Now any bimbo can teach.

I decided that, after reading this comment and other ignorant, sexist comments that bash unions and teachers (and women) without any justification or thought, I had to say something. This was my response (you will be able to tell very quickly I do NOT believe in EQAO or standardized testing for the reasons below. Cutting EQAO is where the government should find its savings, not raising class sizes and such):

@justobserving ...except that EQAO doesn't determine if a teacher is doing a good job. They don't tell anyone anything useful because:

1. ESL and students with any special needs are counted in the results as much as any other student, which really skews results.

2. Students who miss the test or refuse to write it count for a zero, which lowers a school's average.

3. Writing tests for 3 days in a row in a room where a teacher is not allowed to give any help or answer questions AT ALL is not an environment many can succeed in.

4. Many questions are ridiculous and most adults would struggle answering them.

5. There are many different types of students and many do not respond well to the pressure of a giant test like this. Students success can not be measured by one set of snapshot numbers, as they don't see trends over time.

6. Students in well-off neighbourhoods always do better on the test because they have more access to tutors, books, internet and other resources at home. Students in poorer neighbourhoods never do as well because they don't have the extra resources. The results are predictable.

     Also, EQAO is not part of the Ontario curriculum, it is a ministry initiative, so teachers are not contractually obligated to administer it. And the questions cover curriculum from grade 1-6 in grade 6 for example, so how can you judge one teacher on the results?

     Finally, not any "bimbo" can teach. We get regular performance evaluations like any other job and are scrutinized by principals, parents and students on a daily basis. Oh, and we have to have at least 2 degrees and years of experience to become a teacher in Ontario. Would you like to step into my classroom and try teaching my class for a week and see if "any bimbo" without training can do a good job at it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Force Awakens Teaser Trailer #2 and Information (POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD)

I am really sure that everyone on the planet has seen this TWENTY times by now, but I am going to post it anyway. Here is the second Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Here are some facts and thoughts:

1. the desert planet in the clip is Jakku, not Tattooine. It is cool to see a downed X-Wing and Star Destroyer in the sand there. They are a nice reminder of a time gone by in a galaxy far, far away.

2. Chewie hasn`t aged a day. Han looks OK for his age as well. Maybe there is a reason Luke and Leia haven't been shown in the trailers  yet. Just saying...

3. The Chrome Trooper you get a glimpse of is Gwendoline Christie of Game of Thrones fame (Breanne of Tarth).

4. We see Luke`s (presumably) metal hand reach out and touch R2-D2 when Luke says ``I have it.``

5. I am sure we have all heard the controversy over what Luke means when he says ``My father has it.``   Was this just a soundbyte from Return of the Jedi like it sounds like or is Vader`s spirit somehow still alive?

6. The dude with the cross-hilt lightsaber is Kylo Ren and he is played by Adam Driver (tall, longish-haired guy from the show Girls). He may be a new Sith who has a thing for old relics (Darth Vader's burnt helmet perhaps?). Is he trying to re-awaken the dark side a couple generations after the demise of Darth Vader and his emperor? And is it possible he is the offspring of Luke or Han/Leia? Maybe.

7. Leia (most likely) is given Luke's ORIGINAL lightsaber in a scene in the trailer where Luke says "My sister has it," She is given it by an alien creature who is much shorter than her. How did anyone find Luke's original weapon? Everyone assumed it was lost in the bowls of Cloud City with Luke's hand (that Vader sliced off in Empire Strikers Back) forever.

8. The back of the ship that the Millennium Falcon flies into towards the end of the trailer does NOT appear to be the same one that is seen at the beginning. The engines make it look more like the back of a Super Star Destroyer. Interesting.

9. I wonder who the man at the front of the platform in the clip showing row upon row of new storm troopers is. Seems like a new military leader a la Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin (yes, that is his real name in A New Hope). Rumors suggest he is played by Max Von Sydow and he is likely the leader of the First Order, the military faction trying to take the place of the old Empire as ruler of the galaxy. The whole thing looks very communist Soviet Union to me, with the big red banners and whatnot. By the way, for those interested, The Rebellion is now known as The Resistance in the sequal trilogy.

10. I have no problem whatsoever with a black storm trooper. Obviously others have been allowed to join since the days of the clones, which were at least 50 years before Episode 7. Not every storm trooper in the history of... ever... is a clone of a now-famous Maori actor, so stop your whining and racist comments (if you are complaining or making nasty remarks).

Anyway, the trailer is below. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Why Are Elementary Teachers REALLY Starting Strike Action? (Pass this on to anyone who is curious about why/how we are striking)

I have found, in talking to many people, that most people don't know the real reasons why teachers are taking strike action all over Ontario right now. It has NOTHING to do with "wanting more money". We have all pretty much accepted that a continued pay freeze is in the works, but we do object to other demands the government is making that lessen the chance of each student to succeed and, frankly, put the lives of young students in danger. Some highlights of the government demands include:

1. Taking all language regarding class size caps out of the agreement, making the government free to save money by reducing the number of employed teachers in each school by having classes of, say, 30....or 35....or would be totally up to the government's discretion

2. Making it the job of our principal or the ministry to dictate how teachers spend their preparation time every day, instead of leaving it up to the professionally trained teacher to decide how to best make use of their time. Trust is an important thing in any work place and very few employers sit and watch you every moment to make sure you aren't "using your time inappropriately".

3. Taking Early Childhood Educators out of kindergarten classes for part of the day, leaving one kindergarten teacher in a room with up to thirty 3-5 year-old youngsters on his/her own. Does ANYONE think this is a good idea?

4. Reduction of the number of paid weeks a new mother or father gets on a maternity/paternity leave, This doesn't sound like progress to me.

There are other issues as well, but I won't get into all of them right now. The government, like 2 years ago, has refused to budge on any of these issues and frankly, many teachers feel that they want us to go on strike to save money. The cost of full-day kindergarten is much more than they expected, they spent millions uselessly in the gas plant scandal and other debacles and they refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy or corporations, which prevents them from creating any new revenue for education, healthcare, infrastructure or social assistance.

They also keep throwing more and more millions into standardized testing, like EQAO, which yields very little usable data for a multitude of reasons (ESL students and students with special needs count equally with every other student, school averages don't consider that some school populations are much smaller/bigger than others, students who miss or can't write the test get a score of 0 which counts towards the school score, the questions are not similar to how the ministry wants to teach us to teach math or language to students etc.). Since when were students data and why do schools have to be audited like businesses? Kids don't work that way!

Anyway, below is a video from English Teacher's Federation of Ontario (ETFO) president, Sam Hammond on the current state of affairs with our union. We will still be working Monday and teams and extra-curricular (voluntary these are, by the way!) activities will not be affected. Our fight is with the government, not students. We still care about them. Time for the government to do the same.

Statement from ETFO President Sam Hammond