By: Puneet Riar, Alumnus
In the last couple of months, British Columbia’s politics has been acting the way a grade seven class acts when the teacher hasn’t photocopied enough handouts and steps out to print off more – chaotic. Backstabbing, resignations and expulsions have dominated newspaper headlines across the country and it seems that this whole situation will carry on in the year 2011.
On October 7, Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson was expelled from the British Columbia New Democratic Party caucus (he now sits as an Independent) for criticizing a speech BCNDP Leader Carole James made to the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention—and indirectly, criticized her leadership. A few days after that, on the 15th of October, the caucus (party) chair Norm Macdonald resigned from his position, the reason being that James failed to consult him on Simpson’s discipline. Following Macdonald’s resignation, on November 19th caucus whip Katrine Conroy also resigned, stating the same reason as Mr. Macdonald’s.
If this wasn’t bad enough, things really started to get worse as the days went on. Before the November 20th NDP Provincial Council (deliberative body to discuss issues within a party; includes reaffirming confidence in the party leader), the caucus revolt came to light when three MLAs (Jenny Kwan, Claire Trevena and Lana Popham) met with Carole James in Vancouver and quietly gave her a letter signed by 13 NDP MLAs—dubbed the “Baker’s Dozen”—stating that they had lost confidence in her as a leader. Ignoring this, James went into the provincial council in Victoria and managed the approval of 84% of the council, rejecting a motion for a leadership convention next year. Pro-Carole scarves were being handed out at the council, though the “Baker’s Dozen” refused to wear them to show solidarity in their dissent.
Fast forward to December 1st: leader of the “Baker’s Dozen” Jenny Kwan (Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA and one of the longest serving BCNDP MLAs) released a statement, saying that James was “dividing the party by staying on as leader” and that “under James’ leadership, debate has been stifled, decision making centralized and individual MLAs marginalized”. The statement also called for an immediate leadership convention. In response to the scathing statement, James scheduled an emergency caucus meeting for December 5th but was indefinitely postponed so private discussions could be held with the “Baker’s Dozen”. Coming out of these discussions was a statement of solidarity: if James tried to eject even one member of the dozen out of the NDP Party, she would have to remove all 13 of the members—that’s 40% of the party. Under law, these 13 could actually form their own party!
To add scandal to the situation, Kwan also condemned a “backroom deal” of former cabinet minister and party president, Moe Sihota, being paid a $76,000 salary by unions. Kwan alleged that James knew about this deal for a long time but had just revealed it to the party around the beginning of December. “There should be no place in today’s politics for such backroom deals,” said Kwan; irony in my opinion.
Taking the infighting no more, 7-year Leader Carole James surprisingly resigned on December 6th, stating that her decision had been made “in the best interests of British Columbians, who expect and deserve a functioning Opposition”. James will stay on as leader until a new leader is chosen. No date has been set yet for this.
While the NDP seems to be in the spotlight, within the British Columbia Liberals, Premier Campbell also made the headlines when he resigned on November 3rd amidst a 9% approval rating and the implementation of the HST. He will also stay on as premier until a new leader is chosen on February 26, 2011.
Barely two months ago, the NDP was revelling in a massive lead in the polls against the Liberals. In a mid-October Angus Reid poll, 49% of British Columbians would have voted NDP compared to the 24% for the Liberals. The Mustel poll out on December 17, however, gives the Liberals a five point lead over the NDP, 41 to 36. So far, candidates to replace Campbell are: former Education Minister George Abbot; former Health Minister Kevin Falcon; former Attorney General Mike de Jong; former Minister of Regional Economic and Skills Development Moira Stilwell; and the favourite Christy Clark, a former BC Liberal cabinet minister. On the flip side, no public statements have been made, but Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali, Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth, and our own Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix are all suspected contenders of the NDP leadership.
Things like this don’t usually happen in BC. With party discipline so rigid, members of a party rarely vote on their own opinions, let alone try to boot their leader out of her position; it is really crazy for all this to happen. With both leaders soon to be gone, both parties will be able to start fresh and redefine themselves by the next election. Even so, the Liberals seem to have a slight advantage: with the BCNDP crisis, they could point out to the electorate that the party is not fit to run government if it can’t even run its own party. What the NDP party needs now is a leader that can bridge the gap between the James dissenters and supporters, whereas the Liberals simply need a leader, because at this point any one is better than “Gordo”. NDP strategist David Schreck accused the “Baker’s Dozen” and Jenny Kwan of “blowing up the party” and “destroying their chances of beating a reinvigorated Liberal party in 2013.” Within the NDP, some say that the firing of Bob Simpson was right, but I have to disagree. I believe that the opposing party to James should not be silenced. Within a democracy, questioning and disagreement with authority is allowed. It is not just the majority who matters, but the minority as well. As Edward R. Murrow’s once said, “we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty”.
By Tammy Lee, Grade 11
Pennies are probably the coins in your wallet that weigh you down; they’re practically worthless, and you’d rather have just as many quarters as you have pennies. Since 1858, pennies have circulated across Canada as a currency to purchase goods. It may be hard to believe, but a couple pennies could have purchased a lot of stuff in Early Canada. Would you miss the penny if it was abolished from circulation?
To be honest, I couldn’t care less if the Royal Canadian Mint ceased production of the penny. After all, you can’t really buy anything with a penny; it’s just extra weight for your wallet. Most vending machines don’t even accept pennies. Plus, if you intend to pay for something at the market with just pennies, you’re bound to get a couple dozen of strange, confused looks, not to mention that the cashier is going to recount your pile of pennies just to make sure it’s the right amount. It’s too much of a hassle. Why use pennies when you can settle for quarters and dimes?
Today, pennies are made of mainly steel, and a small percentage of copper. In the past, a penny consisted of mainly copper (95- 98%) until its composition was changed in 1997 due to the rising price of copper. There are an estimated twenty-two billion pennies circulating in Canada, each costing Canadians an estimated 1.5 cents.
“The penny has simply outlived its purpose,” said Senator Irving Gerstein. “It is a piece of currency, quite frankly, that lacks currency.” Gerstein also adds, “By some estimates, the production and use of the penny represents hundreds of millions of dollar every year in direct costs to taxpayers and lost productivity,” ending his statement, “there would be costs associated with eliminating the penny, as well.”
Canada should cease its production of the penny. With an estimated twenty-two billion pennies circulating in the country, it’s evident if they want to save their cash, they might as well do the smart thing and stop the production. When it comes to the pennies lying in our homes, it’s our choice as citizens whether or not we want to keep them as keepsakes, or to bring them to the banks and never see them again. I’d personally just keep the pennies that actually contain copper in them. Maybe I’ll score it rich in the future when copper is, sadly, more desirable than platinum. Too bad that might take a couple hundred years, though. Shucks.
Other countries have eliminated their one-cent coins. Both Australia and New Zealand removed their one-cent coin in the early 1990s. Even the United States of America is debating whether or not they should eliminate the penny from their currency. Well, Canada, what are YOU going to do?
“I believe demolishing it is a waste of human resource and energy. not only would it disrupt our style of living that we’ve been used to for decades now, it would also make purchasing more difficult and /less accurate/. Also, I like pennies.” – Anonymous, Surrey, B.C.
By: Eric Lam, Grade 11
The Browne Review was published to Parliament on November 9th, 2010. The Browne Review is an Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance chaired by Baron John Browne of Madingley, a member of the House of Lords, the ex-chairman of BP and the ex-non-executive director of Goldman Sachs. The Browne Review suggested a policy that would lift the current cap on university tuition fees, supposedly causing university tuition fees to go up by 40% by 2012, with an 80% cut to the education budget. The British Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, supported the policy of increasing university tuition fees, though ironically one of his party promises was to disallow tuition fee increases.
British institutions annually charge £3290 ($5,161.27 Canadian), as a bare minimum. The reason for the rise of tuition fees is to increase the standard of education. On December 8th, 2010, the British parliament held a vote whether to increase tuition fees for universities all over the Britain. The final results came in and Nick Clegg’s party won the vote for increasing tuition fees by 40% by 2012. They would go up to an average of £9000 ($14,118.90 Canadian). The idea of raising tuition fees caused many students to protest against the government’s actions.
A massive student protest was organized on November 11th, 2010. Students from all parts of the United Kingdom banded together to protest against the government’s decision on raising university tuition fees, and the protests are still going on in London. Students from all over the United Kingdom are now aware of the policy passes in England. The other United Kingdom countries still have to either agree or disagree to the policy. Scotland and Ireland are still debating on whether to pass it. Many students within London are concerned about having to repay an exceedingly high debt in the future. University fees in the early- and mid-20th century did not cost students such a fortune. Canadians pay an average of five thousand dollars a year; imagine having to pay fourteen thousand dollars annually. You can do the math yourself regarding how many years of education you are planning to take. Decisions about student education cuts were being made in Parliament and the budget for education was cut by 80%. These cuts are considered to be the biggest cuts in London’s history. Now the students have to pay for their education almost entirely themselves. Education is supposed to be government-supported. The question is: where will the money from the budget go if the students were to pay extra? Students say that their money will end up in bankers and politicians pockets eventually. Which side would you likely believe more, the politicians or the students?
Fifty thousand students stepped forward together, starting a movement to create change within their country. When you grow older, you begin to realize that the money you put into your university education was a large amount. Budget cuts were being made all over London during the time the tuition fee policy was brought up. Public service budgets were cut drastically, benefitting the politicians and banks. What happens if public services such as public health care or public education get underfunded? The truth is that they would have to charge more or become privately owned by a company. If public education tuition fees were to increase by 40%, privatized universities might start to show up around London. You might have to pay an even greater amount of money of what people use to pay for their education. Nick Clegg might end up privatizing universities or public services in London in the future. When you are an adult, would you imagine yourself having to pay for your child’s university education? How would it feel having to pay more money then what you originally had paid for your own university education? We should support the students in London for protesting against the government who is trying to steal money from the general population.
Taurus – Perhaps you aren’t exactly satisfied with what you got gift wise for the holidays. Remember; it’s the thought that counts, and it’s better to give than receive.
Gemini – Your computer or other type of electronic object will seem like it hates you lately. Maybe it’ll be completely freezing or something worse? Whatever it is, it’ll work out sooner or later.
Cancer – Midterms are coming soon and it’ll feel like your head is exploding. Just calm down and revise early so you’re ready for these tests!
Leo – Whether you’re in grade 12 or just starting off in grade 8, you’ll be quite happy that the year is half over. But just remember, there’s still another half left, and bunches of exams in your way…
Virgo – It might feel like you’re a big annoyance or you’re in the way lately. It’s just you thinking that, so don’t let it get you down!
Libra – This month, you will probably feel a bit down because of the weather. Not enough snow? Too much rain? Maybe if you wish really hard, the weather will be what you want it to be!
Scorpio – This January, you’ll feel a need to participate in any project in any way you can. Make sure you don’t overload on everything, though, since you’ll only realize that you’ve taken on too much when you’re overwhelmed!
Sagittarius – You’ll feel like doing lots of favours for all of your friends this month. Maybe as thanks for what they’ve done for you, or maybe because it’s a new year and you want it to start off right!
Capricorn – This month, you’ll feel kind of out of the norm. It’ll be weird, and you might not be yourself for a while. It’s a passing phase, don’t worry! You’ll be back to yourself soon.
Aquarius – You’re a bit grumpy because the holidays are over. Maybe you’re shuffling your feet into the door nowadays, since it’s cold and you have nothing to look forward to. Things will look up, don’t worry!
Pisces – You can not wait for spring. Whether you love winter or not, you just want the sun to stop setting before 5 pm, and you want that break of brisk, spring air before jumping into the hot summer heat.
Korea, North. To everyone else, a reminder of the devastation nuclear weapons can have on the world.
This is how most people view these separated nations. The separation, in the simplest terms, was a country splitting into two parts, one of which wanted communism and the other that willed for democracy. In non-political language, it means North Korea wanted a leader with absolute power, whereas South Korea wanted to elect its own ruler.
The result of this was the Korean War, which ended with a cease-fire and complete split in 1953. Now, 57 years later, North Korea has been abandoned by its old allies, Russia and China. China’s main reason to back out was probably that the US, a major supporter of democratic South Korea, is one of China’s top 2 importers, while North Korea has done nothing for them and does not further their economy in any way. After almost 60 years, North Korea has broken the ceasefire and fired dozens of artillery shells which contained large amounts of explosives near the South Korean border. This firing killed at least 2 South Korean soldiers while injuring 16 marines and 3 civilians, and dozens of houses were set ablaze. The North then stated that they were provoked by the South because the South was “firing recklessly into our sea area.”
The firing from South Korea’s side was an annual military exercise between South Korea and the United States, which involved more than 70,000 troops, 50 warships, and 500 fighter planes. This exercise has been criticized by Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, who says it was like “simulating an invasion of the North and a means to provoke war”.
South Korea’s response to the firing from the North was 80 rounds from a K-9, which is Korean short-barrel howitzer that can fire at extremely high trajectories, with all F-15 fighter jets on alert.
This back and forth shooting was the first inter-Korean artillery battle since 1970. It was also quite a shocker to many people all over the world due to the ill-at-ease “peace” that the South and North have previously seemed to strictly enforce.
Interestingly enough, this fighting was initiated a couple of days after it was revealed that North Korea had made rapid advances in enriching uranium at an undisclosed plant. Enriched uranium is a particularly vital component in the creation of military nuclear weapons, which is one of the things that North Korea is known for.
All this “shots fired into our ocean” and “2 soldiers dead” stuff is something that each nation is seeing from a different point of view. For South Korea, the 2 soldiers that were killed are being viewed as moves from North Korea which seem to be pointing towards the break of the alliance. For the North, they see it as provocation for the start of another war. Their other neighbours, like China, are watching it unfold with their own concerns about their president, Hu Jintao’s, upcoming visit to Washington in January of 2011.
These things have been happening for a while, but they haven’t ever been as serious as they were last month. The South, with the States to back them up, seems to have more international support. North Korea, on the other hand, has had an heir-apparent named recently. That would be Jong-Un, who is now trying to get the North to be acknowledged internationally as a nuclear state. This, in most people’s eyes, is absolutely horrible because that would technically give them a lot more power over ours who, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, are unable to make or use nuclear weapons.
Due to this, a lot of countries including ours are anxious for the alliance to keep so as to avoid a possible World War III, which has been something that has seemed to be a real possibility lately.
Windermere’s Community Garden Invites you!
Hello community members!
The Windermere Organic Garden is now in its fourth successful year, with accomplishments over the years that now include an industrial sized composter, the Earth Tub, an aquaponics system, a greenhouse, and a community compost system from local schools and community. As well, the garden has garnered recognition for its green initiatives from BC Green Games, Evergreen, and Canada’s Greenest School.
With all this success, we must really thank the community and the student body for the ongoing support, and with our thanks, we would like to extend an invitation to community members to come participate in our garden expansion plan to put a community garden on the north field. We are reaching out to members of the community that have garden experience or have any ideas to contribute. Our garden expansion planning session will be January 12th, 2011 at 6:00PM in the Windermere staffroom. Refreshment and snacks will be provided and we hope you are able to come!
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 5th.
Windermere Organic Garden Committee
By: Kaitlyn Fung and Lucas Chan, Grade 10
During the pinnacle of the global movement for sustainability, passion sought to touch the hearts of others and instill within them a burning desire to fight for change that many have waited so long to see. Upon the day of December 10th, 2010, a group of inspired youth from Windermere Secondary School launched an event that would forever leave its mark upon not only the district in which it was held, but the whole Lower Mainland, and possibly the whole world.
The event was named, “Climate Change Conference (C3): Enter the Athabasca Tar Sands”; its purpose to act as a venue for spreading information about the Alberta tar sands and not only how it affected the communities of Alberta but also its impacts upon the whole country. Not only was this event created to spread truth and awareness about this environmental catastrophe, it was also an opportunity for an assembly of youth to take part in an important component of the green revolution.
The student-led conference began with two keynote speeches from two unique authors. First there was James Hoggan, author of the critically acclaimed book Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming and also the president of his own PR firm. His speech dealt with the issue of false information about the tar sands being distributed by companies supporting the tar sands. Following that was Andrew Nikiforuk, a prominent environmental journalist and writer for the online magazine The Tyee. He spoke with an engaging and detailed focus specifically on the tar sands.
However, the day had only just begun for the participants because the motivation to take action continued when they went on to attend three workshops that they had chosen beforehand. A diverse array of speakers presented on various topics related to the tar sands, such as its social and environmental impacts, the politics and media surrounding it, and its effects on the First Nations people. The last part of the day was spent altogether in the school’s gym for mass group activities such as writing letters to the prime minister, singing a song about freedom and empowerment, and interviewing two members of parliament; Fin Donnelly and Don Davies.
A highlight of the day was how sustainable and zero-waste the organizers strived to make the conference. Advertising and registration was all done online; participants brought their own utensils and containers to eat their organic and local food with; compost and recycling bins were scattered throughout the school; signs were made from recycled newspapers.
However, the most impressive highlight of the conference was probably how much the students learned from and connected with each other. By the time the souvenir “C3” seed paper was distributed at the end of the day, people were energized and eager to take on the world. Hopefully everyone there that day was educated on something they had never known, and perhaps they even left with a smile.
“ C3: Enter the Athabasca Tar Sands,” would not have been possible if it weren’t for the mentors of the conference’s core committee, for their rays of inspiration has touched our hearts deeply, so much so that the ideas of this conference have taken root because of it. Furthermore, this conference was allowed to become a reality with the help of Windermere Secondary’s Culinary Arts program, led by Ms. Shirley Wong, who provided the wonderful lunch for the day. Of course, this conference couldn’t have happened without its marvelous speakers: James Hogan, Andrew Nikiforuk, Ben West, Matt Price, Andrea MacDonald, Suzi Bekkattla, Peggy Lam, and Neelam Khare there to serve as not only workshop leaders, but also as inspirational figures. Last but not least, there is a shout out to all of the participants of the conference for being an enthusiastic and open minded group of inspired youth, the inspiration that was brought to the conference by the participants made it infinitely more enjoyable.
2010’s Climate Change Conference was surely one that left a great footprint upon this country in the realm of sustainability. The cries for change that have arisen from the results of this event will echo throughout the province and may even reach the farthest corners of this country or even the whole globe. This echo, powered by the passion of youth, will continue to network and spread into the hearts of many more people, until this it solidifies into a strong wall of passion and awareness that will seek to sweep across every acre of land possible. As this force continues to expand, the inspired activists of tomorrow may trace the magnitude of the movement to one of its origins, “C3: Enter the Athabasca Tar Sands.”
In the month of January:
1. Apply for admission to colleges if you have not done so. For most colleges admission is based on the date of application, not marks. Apply online at www.pas.bc.ca.
2. Apply to UBC and SFU. Early application deadline for SFU and final deadline for UBC is Feb. 28.
3. Think Trades and apply to BCIT.
4. Self-nominate for UBC major entrance scholarships.
5. Apply for UBC entrance awards.
6. Apply for SFU entrance scholarships.
7. Self-report term 1 marks to SFU.
8. Self-report marks to U.Vic in phase 2, to be considered for entrance scholarships.
9. Fill out the online PSI choices form. www.bced.gov.bc.ca/exams.
10. Register online for LPI test. www.lpitest.ca Test date April 19.
11. Make use of the Career Cafe on Thursday mornings. Receive one-on-one advice on post-secondary options.
By: Valerie Wong, Grade 12
Since 1892, polygamy in Canada has been illegal, although the matter has been brought to court. In the future, the ban might even be lifted. Advocates of this case state that the law is a violation of religious freedoms, as outlined in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
British Columbia is home to Bountiful, an acknowledged Mormon community where polygamy is practiced. In early 2010, James Oler and Winston Blackmore were each charged with one count of polygamy. Winston Blackmore was accused of having twenty wives, while James Oler was accused of having two. The charges were thrown out on account of the fact that the former provincial attorney general, Wally Oppal, had gone ‘special prosecutor shopping’ when the first special prosecutor would not proceed with the charges.
Oppal, who was not re-elected, stated that the case was about the exploitation of women, and not so much polygamy itself. This fact has been disputed by Angela Campbell, an assistant professor of law at the University of McGill. In a case to assess polygamy, she has filed two affidavits, a legal document that supports the claims made in a legal case, claiming that the law against polygamy has been harmful to the polygamous communities. The residents of Bountiful ‘feel ashamed, stigmatized, and highly anxious because their way of life is branded criminal.’ She also stated that the laws against polygamy have done little to prevent or even ameliorate the harms involved in plural marriage. Campbell has conducted several research studies for the polygamous town of Bountiful, even receiving funding twice from Canada’s largest law firm.
I find Angela Campbell’s testimonies a little hard to swallow. The people of Bountiful gathered around 1946; Canada’s anti-polygamy law, aimed at Mormons in particular, has been around since 1892. Campbell’s statements, which were made in 2010, state that the people of Bountiful feel shame and anxiety that their way of life is criminalized. Anyone who is alive to feel that way definitely has not been around since 1892, when the law was put in place! Polygamy continued regardless. Angela Campbell also continues by defending the women in the Bountiful community, stating that marriage involving adolescent girls is prohibited, while some women are allowed to choose their own husbands. Reading this, my eyes immediately go to the word ‘some’. This word tells me that a portion of the women, but not all, are allowed to choose their husbands. Arranged marriages still exist in the world and alongside walks the stigma developed from Canadian society and by opinionated youth who like to have a choice.
Polygamists and advocates often argue that the law against polygamy is a violation of the freedom of religion. Every Canadian is instated with this fundamental freedom. But I ask – how far can we extend this freedom? A terrorist could detonate a bomb in a public place and defend himself by saying that it was part of his religion; God told him to purge the world of sins. This would obviously not be accepted in a court of law. By offering this extreme scenario, are you, the reader, able to see my point?
We shouldn’t all just jump on the bandwagon and say that polygamy is ‘OK’, but we shouldn’t condemn it entirely. A friend of mine brought up the point that for polygamists, this is what they were brought up to believe, or it is a belief that they developed on their own. As surely as we would defend our own rights, they would defend their own unique lifestyles; because that is what they believe in.
By: Kaitlyn Fung, Grade 10
Revolutionary United Front, or RUF, for short; what does that name suggest to you? The first word, “revolutionary,” seems to imply that there is great change taking place, while the word “united” is synonymous with “combined.” The last word “front” seems to refer to a movement or campaign. Strung together, all these words create a definition along the lines of “a group fighting together for something completely different.”
Does that seem familiar? It should be, because it’s a thought that surrounds us every day. You can find it in the political parties of the countries around the world, all competing to promise things to their people. You can see it in all the environmental activists demanding a sustainable future, as well as in the homosexual community advocating for their legal and social acceptance. It can even be found in the groups of students fighting for their education to be properly funded. Most of those are all problems of today, though; what about before that? This idea is not new. In fact, it is an idea seen constantly throughout our world’s history. In the past, women had fought for their right to vote (and by extension, their equality), and the poor peasants in the 17th-century France eventually rose up to fiercely protest for their starvation. People had always been fighting for change; the Revolutionary United Front is just another example from the past.
The original ideal of the RUF was to bring equality to their people, as they claimed that the government was greedily managing Sierra Leone’s rich mineral resources (particularly diamonds) while the rest of the country rotted in poverty. It sounded like a good cause; “No More Slaves, No More Masters. Power and Wealth to the People.” was the slogan put out by these rebels. They planned to overthrow the corrupt government. It must be ironic, then, that the rebels quickly became interested only in gaining power and controlling the diamond industry, just like the corruption they had initially fought against. Now there were two power-hungry groups looking to dominate Sierra Leone, which only set the stage for massive conflict.
The RUF first made their move to overthrow their country’s corrupt government in March 1991. Invading from Liberia, they violently attacked the towns bordering the two countries, with former army corporal Foday Sankoh as leader. Sankoh was following the example of Charles Taylor, who had overthrown former Liberian president Samuel Doe the same way in 1989. They killed thousands of innocent men, women, and children and displaced about half the population, sending many to refugee camps and neighbouring countries. Easily crushing any weak government troops sent out to stop them, their unstoppable conquest continued until 1995, when they were almost at Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. It was then that the government hired EO (Executive Outcomes was a South African military company) mercenaries to counter the rebels. Additionally, the Kamajors (local Mende hunters as militia) were also instrumental in successfully repelling the RUF. After a failed peace agreement in 1996 and a few effective interventions by ECOMOG troops (the joint armies of multiple African countries) in 1998, the civil war seemed to drag on endlessly. In January 1999, the rebels captured Freetown, leaving many civilians devastated or killed. However, on July 7 of that same year, the Lomé Peace Accord was signed by Sankoh. Foday Sankoh and other members of the RUF were given positions within the government that they didn’t hold for long once RUF forces swiftly broke the agreement. It wasn’t until January 18, 2002 (after British intervention and disarming the disbanded rebels) that the war was officially declared over by Sierra Leone’s president.
With the war (just over a decade long) finally over, you would think that it no longer affects anyone. Yet, the RUF left a lasting impression on the world in various ways, notably evident in their trademark practice of amputating limbs. As they went across the country in their horrific campaign, the rebels not only killed a great deal of people, but they maimed them, too. With elections planned for a new government during the 90’s, citizens were told that “the future was in their hands,” so the RUF chopped off hands to stop people from voting. Using machetes and axes, they frequently amputated feet, legs, arms, and hands of thousands, including children. Sometimes they didn’t, though. Instead, one might be kidnapped and turned into a child soldier. Given cocaine and other drugs, child soldiers were made to do atrocious acts of killing and maiming. Young girls were often taken as sex slaves in addition to being child soldiers. While some have escaped or been freed, all are left traumatized by what they have witnessed and done.
With all the activities it undertook during the civil war, there is still a missing piece to the puzzle, which is how the RUF was able to fund all of its efforts. The answer to that lies within the land of Sierra Leone; the rebels, or more appropriately, the people they kidnapped, mined diamonds to sell for weapons. These diamonds were infamously termed conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds. It was odd, because Sierra Leone was ranked the poorest country in the world at the time. This was most likely due to the immense amount of smuggling these diamonds underwent to countries where they could be illegally certified. These diamonds became an extremely controversial topic during the late 90’s, when their existence gradually began to be revealed through the media. When shoppers discovered that their favourite jewellery stores were supplied by companies (De Beers being the biggest one) who knowingly bought these stones, they were outraged at the unacceptable exploitation of the source countries and their people. The Kimberley Process, started in 2000, was created in hopes of preventing blood diamonds from entering the mainstream diamond market.
Indeed, the effects that the RUF had had on their country and the world still linger today. The masses of amputees and child soldiers left scarred by the conflicts are all dark reminders of that turbulent war. Foday Sankoh was never formally punished for his actions, though, but died quietly in jail in 2003. Three other prominent rebel leaders within the RUF had not been sentenced until February 2009. The failed RUF political party that formed after the peace accord eventually merged with the All People’s Congress in 2007. Despite all that, it seems as though they were able to live up to what their name represented: a group of people fighting for things to be completely different. While they may not have achieved all the things they had set out to do, the Revolutionary United Front had indubitably managed to turn thousands of lives upside down during the course of Sierra Leone’s civil war, and beyond.
December has been an eventful month! Thank you to all staff and students for your amazing support in the Canned Food Drive that was also taking place in Van Tech, Templeton, and Britannia. Windermere has donated more than 35 boxes of food (that’s 1300 lbs!) and over $250 to the Vancouver Food Bank! It was an extremely close competition with the following results:
In 1st place: Templeton with 4801.5
In 2nd place: Britannia with 4715.5
In 3rd place: Windermere with 4677.5
In 4th place: Van Tech with 3481
Stay tuned to see the administration and president wear Templeton’s jersey for three days! As well, due to your generosity, Student Council will be planning a special teacher’s presentation in late January. Details will be coming soon!
Many more events are coming up in February. Please listen out for announcements and speak to Student Council members for more information. We hope you all had a wonderful break!