How would you feel if your loved ones were dug up and put in a cardboard box in a construction trailer in order for new condos to be built? Well this is what the Musqueam people had to go through with the Marpole Midden, a National Historic Site.
A “midden” is the waste, artifacts and eco-facts associated with past human occupation. There are many human remains, as this site was once a small-pox burial ground for the Musqueam people.
During the 1890s, Harlan I. Smith of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City reported that “seventy-five [human] skeletons were found in the shell heaps at [Marpole] during about a month’s work.” Again in the 1920s and 1930s, Charles Hill-Tout uncovered over 700 human remains of the Musqueam people.
On May 25th, 1933, Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada declared the Marpole Midden a National Historic Site.
Permits were issued by the Provincial government in December 2011, which approved the development of 108 condominiums on top of the Musqueam burial site. The Musqueam people were not properly notified, and were unaware of the impending construction until a band member drove over the Arthur Laing Bridge and witnessed construction on this national site.
After becoming alarmed, said band member went down to the site to investigate and found that human remains had already been unearthed. Construction was immediately stopped in January, but other parts of the site continued to be developed.
The Musqueam nation was not satisfied with the decision to continue construction and banded together to blockade the Arthur Laing Bridge during rush hour on May 31st, 2012 in an effort to raise awareness and stop further development. The Musqueam were working with the City of Vancouver at the time to compromise with the developer on the matter.
Up until September 28th, 2012, the Musqueam people have kept vigil. No concessions were made. On September 28th, the Province finally stepped in to halt all development for the foreseeable future. The permit has expired September 30th, and the Province has no intention thus far to compensate Century Holdings Inc. for the land. Century Holdings Inc. may file litigation against the Province for their deficit.
Well, how did it get to this point? The Marpole Midden is a National Historic Site, so, you might ask, why did the Federal Government not step in to stop this originally? Why was the land sold in the first place? And, of course, why were the Musqueam people not properly consulted and notified?
We don’t know the specifications of how exactly it got to this point, but we do know how it was solved. Because of unceasing action of the Musqueam nation, echoed by others in the community and the municipal government, the Provincial government was forced to step in and fill the role of the federal government. This is a big step towards protecting native rights and the land that belonged to their ancestors.
By Claire Fergusson and Holly Collins
By Claire Fergusson, Grade 10
Agent Orange is a powerful poison used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. It was used as a chemical defoliant to shed tree leaves, so that Vietnamese guerrilla soldiers could not carry out any surprise attack on American soldiers, who gained a great advantage in the war as a result. Agent Orange has been proven lethal to not only plants but also ecosystems and the people who live within them. Until this day, Vietnam still suffers from water and soil contamination, and many generations still have to deal with the harmful effects of Agent Orange.
2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is one of the two major chemicals found in Agent Orange. It is used in lawn care products across Canada and the United States. However, it has been recognized as a cancerous toxin. (more…)
By Claire Fergusson, Grade 10
North Americans consume the most out of all other places in the world. You name it; we’ve bought it. Many of us live relatively comfortable lives, surrounding ourselves with stuff and constantly reinventing things to make our lives appear “happier.” Many of us succumb to the ideal that the more you buy, the more you have; only a few understand that the more you buy, the easier it is to neglect the values that make life worthy and meaningful. Cosmetics are a part of that ideal. Products that we use on our faces make us feel safer. Make-up has become a part of our daily routine, yet we fail to realize that it is eating us from the inside out—in more ways than one.
By: Claire Fergusson, Grade 9
In war-ridden or unethical countries around the world, the people who can will usually immigrate to safer and more ethical countries. Some leave places like Mexico, China, and India to get away from sweatshops that believe in and support child labourers. But the question is; are we, as consumers, really doing any better by supporting sweatshops here in Canada and North America by buying their products?
In many countries around the world, there are horrific examples of sweatshops. Workers are in a position where they are subject to exploitation, with no living wage or benefits, terrible working conditions, and may face verbal or physical abuse. Many make less than needed in order to support themselves, let alone the ones around them, so there are very few options to enrich their lives with something better. They usually work between sixty and eighty hours a week, not including overtime, in gruelling conditions. Many are offered little or no way out, without much knowledge on how to get out of the business. They are under an umbrella of a few who make millions in the trade, while the labourers suffer to put food on the table. And yet here in the western world, we buy the goods they produce.
How does our dollar affect what we buy and sell?
If the American dollar is low compared to other currencies, they will not be able to import as many goods for the same amount of money. It will, ultimately, force companies to spend more money, while not making as much of a profit. And in turn, it will force the employment wages to stay low, and continue to deprive many of basic needs, in what the world considers a leading nation.
In Canada, our dollar has been as strong as it has ever been. The rising value of Canada’s currency means that more Canadians would make a profit on their sales if they continue to buy things for cheap from other countries. A strong Canadian dollar would also mean that we would be able to have more buying power in places like China and India, where a lot of the cheap goods are manufactured. It would make it easy for us to import, but have a harder time of exporting goods, such as lumber, to other countries. However, with a higher buying power, and a greater chance of higher profits, it would enable the resources for a higher minimum wage.
One of the places that people search for better opportunities if they can leave is in Canada and the United States. But still, many cannot get away from sweatshops.
For example, many dollar store managers put in long hours, but don’t get much out of it. Many have escaped poverty in places like China, India, South America and Mexico, but are then taken advantage of. How can they compete against the ones who have been in the trade for longer, and have grown up around ones who make their life this way? It is almost impossible.
In the United States, managers of dollar store chains work long hours, up to eighty hours a week, making just $550 per week, or just under $6.90 US per hour. On the other hand, the CEO of the same company raked in $5.38 million or roughly $103 460 a week in 2010. All the while, this CEO probably just sat in front of his computer and watched his stocks rise, while store managers scraped to pay their mortgages and support their families.
Sound familiar? It almost mirrors the reality of many in low-wage centres around the world. Is it not ironic that we are supposed to be a leader in the world’s pursuit of freedom and equality?
In a society so based on consumerism, we can choose to buy ethically. It is a difficult situation, because the ones that work so hard in dollar stores for so little have to be supported too, even if they are supporting sweatshops by selling their products.
All the exploited are trying to do is make a living. They’re just trying to make it by, and hopefully put food on the table. It is a recurring reality throughout our world, even in countries like our counterparts across the border, and our own. We walk a fine line between choosing to support them and deciding to buy ethically.
What do you prefer? Should we continue to buy more cheap products produced by sweatshops, or pay more for goods that are made by people whom are paid a living wage?
Although ethically made products might mean a less bang for your buck, it will help discourage sweatshops. It may help bridge the gap between rich and poor, and in time, find a solution for a line we have to decide to cross or not.
By: Claire Fergusson, Grade 9
After the devastation and heartbreak of the bloodiest war we can recount in our memory laid its weapons down almost a century ago, what was left behind were the reparations, and the Treaty of Versailles. Ninety-two years ago, on June 12, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, attempting to bring together Germany and the Allies after the destruction of World War I.
In early 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was bargained over in order for the details to be fair to all participating parties of the war. Talk was completed in three months and the conditions were presented to the German government on May 7, 1919. They had three weeks to look it over to either accept or decline the offers put on the table. However, if Germany declined, it would most likely equal more war, more fighting, and more money for all the countries involved around the world.
A lot of the countries did not want that; this was why they negotiated so hard to get the terms and policies to their liking.
With over nine million people killed during World War I, Germany had to face their actions. Although they were not happy with the terms set out, their complaints were mostly ignored. The Treaty took away 13.5% of their land that they held in 1914, handing most of it to Belgium. The Treaty also forbade Germany’s use of heavy armoury or weapons, gas, tanks, aircraft and submarines. They were also restricted to an army of 100,000 men for national defence only, and the navy was limited to shipping less than 10,000 tons.
The total sum Germany had to pay was 226 billion Reich marks, or £11.3 billion, which was worth three or four times more in US dollars during that time. In 1921, the amount was reduced to about £4.99 billion because of Germany’s disagreement with the terms.
It was set to be paid out in many forms, such as through coal, steel, property and agricultural produce. This was argued, because if it was paid in money, it would be a problem to Germany’s economy, create hyperinflation, and ultimately ruin their “Wall Street.” However, in spite of this fact, Germany’s economy faced a lot of damage, and has been on the reconstruction since the day they had to repay.
It has been over ninety-two years, and although pay was halted because of the reunification of East and West Germany, the country has finally paid off the bill. The payments have displayed that because of poor decisions by the government, and the war, the whole country has had to fight to rebuild itself. With Germany’s final payment of £56 million paid on October 3, 2010, it marks the end to a struggle that took nearly a century to pay off.