Sunday, November 27, 2016

STOP JUDGING start doing.

          A few days ago I posted a film clip on Facebook about deplorable housing conditions on one of the Ontario NDN (Indian) Reservations. This was posted f.y.i. and was not intended to evoke guilt or blame for anyone. I see reports of bad housing and bad water on APTN news almost daily. The comments that were made saddened me; I wonder if people make the same kind of judgements when they see ads about children living in squalor in Africa, India or Central America? Please stop judging Natives (and the poor) by what you “think” you know. NDNs are not supported by your tax dollar. Free university is an empty promise, the band pays if there is enough money and with education on reserves receiving 50% of the funding public schools get; those who go are ill prepared to succeed. Tax exemptions are only for status Natives and less than half of Canadian Natives have a registered status.
         I will address each comment in bullet form here but I urge you to read my full article on the subject below; sorry it runs a little longer then usual.
1/ Justin Trudeau is making change as fast as he can. Our political system was born with the Magna Carta and carries a power=entitlement paradigm predating the Roman Empire. Basically he is trying to move forward knee deep in mud.
2/ No-one is killing the fossil fuel industry it is becoming obsolete due to technological advances in  alternative energy sources.
3/ Homes on the reserves are owned by the band not the occupants; repairs are made at the discretion of chief and counsel. Some bands are well managed, some are corrupt and some are just flat out poor.
4/ Let’s not pretend it is an equal playing field. If housing condition are deplorable for a city renter we have a Landlord/Tenant board to complain to; and if a sewage line breaks or overflow contaminates our water the situation lasts days not years.
5/ All the scrubbing in the world is not going eradicate mold when your neighbourhood has become a flood plain or the band counsel has chosen not to repair your leaky plumbing.
6/ As for the white elephant… you try living in a house with kids and not have a tv or internet….my husband and I were gifted a tv when our elderly friend passed away. You have NO IDEA how that tv came to that family.
          It is sad to know that we have a 3rd world country hidden within Canada’s borders; our very own dirty little secret. It is human nature to feel guilt when we do something wrong and to conceal the source of our shame. I am here to say out loud that I do not feel guilty about the plight of our Native brothers and sisters; nor should any other Canadian. No one alive today is responsible for creating this abhorrent situation so open your eyes and open your heart and stop being in denial.  This problem has its roots in colonization and the only way to fix it is by being proactive…reading this article is a start. I encourage you to find blogs by a woman named Chelsea Vowel an articulate young activist for Native rights and advancement. 
          Colonization in the U.S. involved white people going to war with Natives and due to superior fire power kicking their little red butts. Treaties there were terms of surrender and any concession by the winners were just a panacea and ultimately ignored. What Canada did was to enter into treaties with Natives allowing them to believe it was a partnership (they were never truly regarded as equals). Then in 1876 we created the Indian Act which gave the federal government conservatorship over these uneducated heathens; for their own good, of course.  Because of this the American Natives have always been more militant about pushing toward equality; while Canadian Natives have for the most part been compliant victims of a bureaucracy which had them (until recently) acquiescing to all levels of authority. I am thrilled by the increasing levels of civil demonstrations (and personal appeals for justice) around human rights issues. It is the first steps to breaking free of many decades of learned helplessness. I would personally like to burn the Indian Act but since that seems to be scary to the powers that be, let’s just remove any clause which contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
          Back to the housing / water crisis on Canadian reservations. Government should do something it is their responsibility to take care of the NDNs (Indians)… but until recently Natives did not participate in the political system (having only had the right to vote since 1960) and therefore had no independent voice. Out of sight out of mind. Letters and appeals to cabinet ministers for assistance around housing, health and welfare (clean water) were largely ignored in favour of voting constituencies. The town-site locations which were optimal 100 years ago, in many case have been negatively impacted by climate change or resource development. Because of the learned helplessness I spoke of in the last paragraph, the necessary changes have not made by the bands themselves. Everyone has been and in large part still is waiting for government to take action.
          Let’s everybody stop pretending anything is going to get done by any government anytime soon. I would challenge the residents of these communities with flood issues to pick-up and move your community to higher ground. The government is unlikely to notice but if they do object tell them to fuck themselves; they had their chance to fix the situation and did not take it. Blockades, marches and posters are just another way of asking the government for permission. While civil disobedience is a catalyst to systemic change we also need direct action to remedy the exist issues of inadequate housing and clean water.
             BE PROACTIVE. Don’t be afraid to get creative, if the military can set up bases and housing in under a week why not find out how they are doing it. What kind of housing option are being used to rebuild after natural disasters? Just like an earthquake in Haiti; these people are NOT responsible for the situation they find themselves in. And I ask my Native brothers and sisters, "can we set aside the distrust"?  We did not cause the earthquake, we can only assist with the recovery efforts if you will allow us to do so. Most white people are (like me) good hearted and eager to do what we can to make this world a better place for all of our children and their children’s children. If your community/reservation has these problem contact Habitat and Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus (the irony is not lost on me LOL) or one of the hundreds of organization committed to serve our global community of humankind. When you have arranged a date and supplies then put out a public appeal for both skilled trades and unskilled labour on local tv and radio for any additional manpower you might need.  I challenge everyone who can take the time and wield a hammer to join in building new homes.
          If you belong to an aide agency and you spend your winters bringing clean water to villages in Africa or Central America, maybe you could look at doing the same for our Native communities in the summer. Most of these communities don’t have the equipment, expertise or money to take the needed steps to clean up their local water supply. It is time for all Canadians of every colour, creed and class make quality of life a priority. Decent housing, clean water and affordable food is a human right. We should all come together with the singular purpose of giving this to every Canadian (red, yellow black or white).  
 Meegwetch (Thank you)
 Bonny (Cameron) Morningstar


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

G.I.A. an idea whose time has come.

      The “Angels of the Road” website has been getting a lot of attention this week, I have no idea why but I am hoping it is coming from the shelter industry and human services workers. It would be nice think that what we do has an impact on the ways housing and shelter programs are being planned. The fact is we have been clinging to the delusion that the affluent 1950 will live again…. Times have changed and as a society we need to change also. In the 1950 there were more jobs then workers to fill them; now every job posting has from 50 to 300 applicants.  Yes you will occasionally read a headline; northern Alberta or Saskatchewan begging for workers. They are begging for skilled labour and professionals. Industries rarely train workers any more (they did in the 50s). To get a job requires one get an education… in Canada colleges can cost $5000 per year, universities more than that per semester. With 60% of Canadian families living paycheck to paycheck… who has money to put their kids through school?  So 60% of our work force is unskilled labour and we love and need our unskilled workers. They serve our coffee at Timmy’s; they show us where to find the coffee at our supermarket and they clean the coffee stains out of our silk blouses. God bless the service industry and all the beautiful people who stay on their feet 6 hrs at a time for minimum wage…we need them and love them. What would life be without drive-thru coffee?  So when the other 49 to 299 applicants remain unemployed can we please stop drowned them in shame and guilt. We need to rethink social supports.
     When I mention Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI is a program to give every Canadian a modest income which was first introduced in the 1970s) I am confronted with “how are we going to pay for that?” We will pay for it with the money currently being spent to administer social support systems EI, CPP, WCB, GIS, OAS, OW, ODSP (all other provincial counterparts) the list goes on and on. The government also pays for advocates to help you navigate a complex system of check balance ultimate design to judge who is and is not deserving of assistance. Those whom we determine unworthy of assistance then become clients of the shelter system and now starts costing the taxpayer (who pays for all the above as well) $100 per day per person. AWK we are spending BILLIONS to support a system set up in 1950s which is no long valid or workable in today’s economy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

we don't deserve to live in a MERITOCRACY

          It has been a very long time since I have blogged on this site. I confess to getting caught up in my own life. I guess it is simply easier to work within my personal sphere of influence and trust the universe to ripple (as it is inclined to do) that small good into the world. So never lose sight of the incredible impact you have as you go about putting your time energy and love into your communities. Thank you …on behalf of a grateful and changing world.
          So what brings me back to this forum?  I have been giving much thought to the affordable housing models which are being used today. Bearing in mind that we were many decades without any affordable housing initiatives, since the failed city housing ghettos of the 60s and 70s. Hooray for social consciousness and what we do have…. but as with all things it is growing and hopefully evolving.
          The problem most cities have with ending homelessness is that access to housing (as with most of our culture for thousands of years) is based on a meritocracy. The idea that one is more worthy then another….that each must earn the right to x y or z.  I am not here to argue against or for the validity of meritocracy….there are examples in human and animal kingdoms which support both positions. I am simply saying that in ending homelessness, meritocracy does not work.
          A person is not an addict because they love the taste of a smooth malt on the back on their throat, or the sensation of needle piercing their skin.  They like being some place besides awake in their reality. As harshly as society may judge, we all judge ourselves more harshly. Now imagine having NOTHING; being NOTHING in a meritocracy where worth is rewarded. You have no value…. Why would you deserve a better life…a home… a job, the love and support of a family and/or a community? When someone has reached that point they cannot be motivated by rewards because they do not believe they merit a reward. When we start valuing people just because they ARE PEOPLE we will see a little less self-loathing and more aspiring from them.
           Everyone deserves a place to call home. It can be done …Utah was the first to eliminate homelessness and one major Alberta city has followed their example. It does not matter why we give housing to anyone/everyone; maybe we are motivated by compassion or by the cost effectiveness of affordable housing ($20,000 per year against the cost of providing support services to the homeless ($100,000 per year) the result is the same. Better quality of life for every member of our community.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sure but what have you done for us lately?

As most of you know for various reasons I have not returned to my work in the shelter industry. I do still very much care about the issues around poverty and homelessness, so I continue to serve by volunteering. For several months I have been working at the Men’s Centre in Nanaimo BC… which provides counseling, referrals, and programs for men with various issues from family to self-awareness. Sometimes men are forced from their homes because of economic crisis, marriage breakdown or being the victims of domestic violence. When I was on the road I learned that there are many psycho-social issues involved in becoming homeless and also recovering from homelessness. Often men still cling to outdated images of machismo… and refuse to acknowledge the need for help. The multifaceted approach of the Men’s Centre allows a person to find the right fit for their needs (whether practical, psychological, emotional or peer support).

As an aside to the practical supports the Men’s Centre (Nanaimo) has a free clothing room and accepts donations of clean clothing.  If you wish to donate clothing to us (or any other agency) please note these guys need casual clothing Jeans / Khakis and T-Shirts / Sweatshirts / Hoodies and Sport Socks and Runners and New Underwear. That is my wish list, Thank you so much for all that you do.

Most recently I have begun volunteering with the Victoria Human Exchange Society (Nanaimo branch). This is the most proactive community minded housing program I have come across; it is entirely volunteer run. Meaning that every dime which is donated goes to helping these men move forward with their lives.

Human Exchange is providing refuge / transitional housing and supports across Vancouver Island to recovering addicts re-entering society. The people coming to us are 90 days clean (and hoping to stay that way); usually they are just getting out of corrections or hospitals or treatment programs. If you read the Report of Findings   from my research you will remember I discussed Refuge Shelters. These are highly controlled environments with zero tolerance for substance use on or off premises. Our guys are coming from places where almost every move is controlled into an environment where 50% of their movements are controlled. This is a step-up program leading away from an often lifelong cycle of recidivism. It is a chance to develop social skills, self awareness and life skills in a safe nonjudgmental space. I am very excited to start my service to these men and to VHES. So that is what I am doing these days.

Have a joyous month… winter will be over soon.   


Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Whatever..."Joy to the World"

Yesterday I saw a Facebook post that said, “Mery CHRISTmas”.  A young, man whose writings I often find quiet insightful posted a blog titled. “Who needs Santa when you have Jesus?”  If these people and millions like them knew anything of history and the evolution of Christianity they would not be claiming exclusivity over the Holiday Season.
But it does remind me that I should say something about this time of year. I am not going to tell anyone what to believe or how to celebrate. My pagan friend is having Christmas dinner with her Mormon family; my Wiccan friend will have ceremony on the solstice and attend chapel on Christmas day. My reformist /protestant Christian friends will celebrate with family and not see a church. More orthodox friends will be at mass and my Asatru (ancient religion of northern Europe) friend will have 12 days of celebrations.  Even diehard atheists will have a celebratory dinner and gift exchange.

Whether a person chooses to celebrate Jesus or Santa or the flying spaghetti monster really isn’t the important thing from the standpoint of spiritualism/ energetics.  At this time of year the vast majority of the world’s population finds some reason to come together in love and gratitude. There is more kindness pouring into our communities then at any other time. My friend Brenda volunteers as a driver for food distribution and she has been run ragged for the past month. That increased vibration (good vibes) makes the whole planet better then it was.

This morning someone pointed out that not everyone is happy; that holiday season has a very high suicide rate. If a person chooses not be grateful for the gifts of this life, of this world; that is not something we can fix for someone else. There are so many reasons to be grateful for this Holiday.  I am grateful to have people who love me and know that I love them, without the need for “proof”’ (i.e. gifts). I woke up to snow today, wet but still fun to see. And today I discovered that the 7-10 (soup kitchen) will be having a Holiday breakfast on the 25th.  My kids won’t be here for Christmas but I will spend a beautiful day listening to music, maybe writing and relaxing between phone calls from family and friends. My big Holiday plans are fasting and meditation over the solstice this weekend. I am saying choose to be happy! This may not be the best Christmas/ Holiday you have ever had or ever will have; but it is the only 2013 Christmas you will ever have.  It is hard to not be happy when you are feeling grateful.

Now about the Santa (lie) thingy. If your kid is old enough to ask, “Is Santa real?” then he/she is old enough to handle the truth. Until then let the kid enjoy the fantasy or folktale, either way the old guy is a vibrant part of cultural (albeit recent) tradition. When I was 5 my Grandmother told me that, Santa is the spirit of giving that we all feel at Christmas time. So in reality we all get to be Santa. That spirit of generosity is shared across the board this time of year; from atheists to the most devoutly religious… we have a shared sense of gratitude and that is what I am celebrating this and every Christmas.  

Have a joyous holiday season.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Again heads up on the new web address being

These days I'm volunteering at the Nanaimo Men's Resource Center and a few weeks ago I was able to attend my first annual general meeting.  After the business portion of the meeting was finished each person was asked to introduce themselves and share how they became involved with the centre. My final thought and bottom line was men need to catch up… the feminism bus pulled out of the driveway and men were left standing there looking like Macaulay Calkin in the “Home Alone” movie.  And like Macaulay they stood their ground assuming the family would return.  
Feminism spent the past 50 years evolving women into whole beings… we left behind oppressive stereotypes and kept the things that were working for us.  Were mistakes made? Hellz ya! First we wasted way too much time in a gender war, before recognizing that patriarchy was the enemy. The women who came into political power in the early days focused on insignificant crap like semantics instead of important issues.   Getting women into good jobs like the post office is far more important then whether you were called a mailman or mail-woman. After women started taking those job the titles change to gender neutral words like letter carriers.  One of our biggest mistakes was not bringing men along for the ride. We could have found the best from their world and shown them the best from ours as we all moved forward into breaking free from the shackles of patriarchal social convention and into living as whole beings.
Now guys… you can’t entirely blame feminism for not letting you on the bus, some (enlightened) guys drove themselves to the party.  Even without the feminist movement gender roles were changing as we moved from an industrial society into a technological society; the employment landscape was leveling. So let us not waste anymore time in a new gender war as we address the need for a Masculinity Movement.  For those of you who want to say the whole world has always been about men, it is NOT about today’s men.  The patriarchal privilege we fought against in NO way serves or represents the 21st century male.  It is for us who have fought this battle before (and did well) to share what we have learned and help men to vanquish the patriarchal dragon once and for all.
Before patriarchy and the self-serving empire building models grew; humankind lived as tribes with all its members (male and female) living in service to the community. Women never really lost that; even as we moved into the breadwinner / powerbroker roles, we remain skilled at connecting with each other and building support networks.  Men need to re-establish that skill. Men’s Centres (there aren’t nearly enough of them) provide a safe place for men to get together in supportive groups. Usually there is a purpose in the agenda (anger management or parenting etc) but the most important thing being learned is (I hope) how to get support and be supportive.      
The biggest hurdle for men is redefining their roles. “Man-Up”… WTF does that even mean any more.  It is just another example of patriarchal oppression squeezing the human-ness out of men. The true purpose of a place like The Men’s Centre is to help men become happier healthier people; who will then be better husbands, fathers and members of our community (tribe).
I’ll probably talk about this and related issues again but for now have a joyous day my friends.