Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 23 2015, Page 12

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 23, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE B4 B 4 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2015 MANITOBA winnipegfreepress. com LOCAL activists say Canada could end its affordable housing crisis if Ottawa stopped raiding the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s profits to balance the federal budget. It’s an idea floated Monday that has piqued the interest of at least three local candidates running in this fall’s federal election. Monday, the Right to Housing coalition, which includes more than 50 poverty and neighbourhood agencies, released a policy paper calling for a host of tax changes to spur the construction of more rental units. The coalition has long argued Canada’s tax code favours single- family homes over rentals. The coalition said its number- crunching suggests as many as 30,000 affordable housing units could be built every year using the CMHC’s annual profits — profits now funnelled back into federal coffers. Until the mid- 1990s, when the federal government stopped funding new social housing projects, the CMHC mandate was to create affordable units across Canada and it typically spent more money than it made. Now, the Crown agency acts almost solely as a mortgage insurer, one that earned $ 3.5 billion in profits last year as house prices rose nationally. Nearly half of that cash was returned to the federal government to balance Ottawa’s core budget. Tim Sale, a coalition member and a former provincial NDP cabinet minister, said if the CMHC’s finances remain healthy and its profits are rolled back into affordable and rent- geared- toincome units, it could effectively solve Canada’s housing crisis in a decade. The cash, including billions in federal mortgage subsidies that have begun to expire, could be used to create new funding partnerships with the provinces to build thousands of new units, especially while interest rates are low. “ There are a significant number of Canadians the market can’t serve,” said Sale. “ This is what the CMHC was set up to do. They don’t do any of it anymore.” Instead, the federal Crown acts as a “ cash cow” for the government, said Sale, who helped launched the policy paper Monday at an event in West Broadway. Winnipeg South Centre Liberal candidate Jim Carr, who attended Monday’s event, said using CMHC’s profits to fund social housing is an idea worth debating, though he noted the dollar figure would be quite large. He said the Liberals are committed to more social housing funding. The amount and mechanism through which that cash could flow will be part of a larger infrastructure policy announcement expected soon. NDP candidate Matt Henderson, also running in Winnipeg South Centre, said the coalition’s proposal “ seems to make sense.... What we’ve seen in the last 30 years is the devaluation of social housing by two different governments.” Green candidate Andrew Park said his party believes the CMHC could be used to distribute funds to provinces to boost the supply of rental housing based on core need. He said housing infrastructure, perhaps even more than income, must be part of any national poverty reduction plan. Winnipeg South Centre Conservative MP Joyce Bateman was not available for comment Monday. maryagnes. welch@ freepress. mb. ca O VER the weekend, I happened across a TV show on trapping, sandwiched between HBO and the U. S. Open golf tournament. It was low- budget but graphic, with shots of animals being hauled out of rivers or dug out of the snow in the jaws of a trap. All the while, a trapper provided a running narration about the positive aspects of trapping. At one point, the narrator noted that detractors should remember he is only carrying on a tradition brought to this country with the fur trade in the 16th century. I bristled at the comment. Perhaps it’s because, like many journalists, I’ve been immersed in aboriginal history and culture in the wake of the recent release of the report from the residential school Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Or perhaps because anyone with a lingering grain of Canadian history still rattling around in their heads knows Europeans did not “ bring” trapping to this country. As many know, aboriginal people had a long tradition of trapping before Europeans arrived here. Still, is the semantics of the history of trapping important? If you really want to give our kids an accurate origin story for our country, it’s extremely important. The show’s assertion is also evidence we have work to do to express our history in a way that is fair and balanced. There have been moves in the right direction. Before the TRC report was released earlier this month, many provinces and school boards had been adopting a more complete, more graphic description of the impact of residential schools. The TRC report certainly added some momentum to those efforts, revealing new facts and context that has prompted a debate about genocidal aspects of the residential schools program. From lecture halls to kitchen tables, coffee shops to newspaper comment sections, the country is deep in debate about our role in a cultural genocide. During the weekend, Premier Greg Selinger announced a four- point plan to update the teaching of aboriginal history and culture. It will include new curriculum on residential schools and the Sixties Scoop, the mass apprehension of aboriginal children for adoption. Although Selinger’s gesture is appropriate and well- timed, it is really only part of the equation. There are bigger and more insidious elements of our history that must be amended to more accurately reflect Canada’s aboriginal presence. Ry Moran, director of the National Research Centre on Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, said the TRC report recommends repealing in our history the concepts of terra nullius and the Doctrine of Discovery. Terra nullius is an international legal concept used to describe land that has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, and which can be “ acquired” by occupation by a sovereign nation. The Doctrine of Discovery is another legal concept that Christian explorers had the right to claim title to any land they discovered that was occupied by pagan inhabitants. It further argued those inhabitants could be converted, enslaved or killed in pursuit of the occupation of said lands. Both of these concepts are the underpinnings of a stream of history that allows us to believe society in Canada began when European explorers arrived to claim the land. As the TRC report firmly notes, they are concepts baked into our broader understanding of our origin story. “ The TRC calls upon us to start fundamentally recognizing that Canada as we know it is just a blip in the overall history of what has happened in North America,” Moran said. Canada is not the only country facing a potentially divisive debate on how best to tell its origin story. In the U. S., the debate has surrounded the portrayal of explorer Christopher Columbus and his “ discovery” of America. More specifically, whether Columbus and the impact he had on Native Americans — which is sufficiently gory, violent and tragic — should be viewed as an act of civilization or an act of genocide. There has been progress in Canada at rebooting some of our most basic historical assumptions. Most provinces now teach children a much different history about Louis Riel and the Métis people than previous generations. Riel has correctly gone from criminal seditionist to a nation builder, considered now by many to be worthy of inclusion as a father of Confederation. But as the TRC report clearly enunciates, there is much more work to be done. Moran said it is not necessary to label all explorers or fur traders as agents of genocide to create a more balanced history. In fact, Moran argued, good history has to include multiple points of view, not a single version of what happened. Are Canada’s educators up to the challenge of rebooting history? Moran said the work to change the direction and perspectives of post- secondary education is underway, evidenced by the growth of scholars dedicated to exploring new aspects of aboriginal culture and history. At the elementary and secondary level, however, change is much slower. But it is coming, Moran said. “ Simply knowing that there were grave injustices is opening a door to a greater understanding of those injustices.” And that means understanding that both aboriginal people and Europeans can lay claim to a rich history of trapping. dan. lett@ freepress. mb. ca Group touts cure to affordable housing woes By Mary Agnes Welch T ALK about an unusual retirement job. Since finishing her career as an information technology administrator, Debbie Norman has become head woman of a tribe in Africa. The longtime volunteer in Zambia was named head woman by the chief of the Tonga tribe in the southern town of Pemba last month. It’s a rare honour and “ it also really validates that the work we’re doing, with the help of our donors, is appreciated by the people,” said Norman, 55. She has been volunteering with the Glassco Foundation in Zambia for more than 15 years. “ When we go back, it’s like going home,” said Norman, who retired recently from the University of Manitoba. She’s gotten to know the people of the Gwembe Valley and neighbouring Pemba through her volunteer work with the Alberta- based charity that’s drilling water wells and building clinics and schools in Zambia. The charity was started in 1996 by retired Calgary businessman Colin Glassco. Norman was a friend of Glassco’s brother, who lived in Winnipeg. She had travelled around the world volunteering with different philanthropic enterprises in the past. After meeting Glassco and hearing about the development work his registered charity was doing in rural Zambia, she decided to volunteer there. Now, she feels connected to the place. “ The communities are really welcoming,” said Norman, who has seen the difference the work has made. “ We can really see the impact,” she said. “ The first year I was here, there were a lot of humble structures and a lot of people with sight issues.” Trachoma, a bacterial eye disease, was common. By providing medical clinics and running water, they’re helping to save people’s sight, said Norman. “ We’ve drilled over 500 water wells in the valley,” she said. “ Theoretically, we’ve given clean water to 100 per cent of the community there.” This year, the foundation will build 20 more wells in Zambia, she said. “ Last year, we were shown the Pemba clinic and it felt like the worst place to be sick. The whole place was in extremely bad shape. We’ve renovated every square foot of it and built a maternity wing.” The charity recently sent a shipping container full of medical equipment and hospital beds from the Hope International warehouse in Winnipeg to Pemba. When she and Glassco were there in May, the chief invited about 300 people to a ceremony honouring Norman as head woman. He presented her with a certificate and a wooden staff — an acknowledgement of the Winnipeg woman earning a place of esteem in the community. “ This is certainly a first,” Norman said. “... It’s very humbling but also I feel very connected to the community.” carol. sanders@ freepress. mb. ca DAN LETT Are we up to the challenge of rebooting history? Zambian booster Winnipeg woman lauded in Africa for volunteer work with charity By Carol Sanders SUBMITTED PHOTO Debbie Norman receives her head woman certificate and wooden staff from Chief Hamaunda in Pemba, Zambia. Tim Sale: CMHC a ‘ cash cow.’ B_ 04_ Jun- 23- 15_ FP_ 01. indd B4 6/ 22/ 15 10: 20: 25 PM

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