Note to file Meeting with Minister Lawrence MacAulay December 13, 2021

After many months of waiting, I met with the Minister on December 13, 2021 for a 30 minute meeting. I was accompanied by Mike Martin. Also in attendance were Paul Ledwell, the Deputy Minister and Patricia Beh, Chief of Staff to the Minister.


I ran through our list of concerns and asked the Minister if he had a response to the letters I have sent his office. He said they would ‘do their best to respond’. I raised a number of issues including the Case Manager caseload, the deteriorating mental health situation within VAC and asked if they had any concrete plans on staffing, including the status of the many temporary staff who are due to be released at the end of March, 2022. The Minister said that he was ‘working on getting resources’ and that he felt positive about those efforts.


Most of the questions were referred to the Deputy Minister who also had little firm commitment or information to provide. The Deputy did note again that the new Rehab contract was not intended to contract out work and that their efforts were not to decrease the number of case
managers to fix the case load issue. On the mental health front, he noted that 1,200 VAC staff had now received trauma informed training and will provide more information to me on the number of managers and supervisors who received this training.


Overall, they asked us to be patient and that they were working to resolve the staffing issues within the department. However, all they really had were vague assurances that the situation will improve without any details or timeline. I remain to be convinced.

In Solidarity/ En toute solidarité ,
Virginia Vaillancourt
National President/ La présidente nationale
Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees (UVAE) /Syndicat des employé-e-s des Anciens combattants (SEAC)

Human Rights Day

December 10th is observed as Human Rights Day; the rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being regardless of the race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

We can take action in our own daily lives to reaffirm the importance of human rights.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has an exhibition called ‘’Our Canada’’ bringing human rights stories to life.  I want to share this short film about Ali Duale, an inspiring individual who has brought the meaning of pay it forward to another level.  The video is in English, but you have the option to view the subtitles in the language of your choice.   Go to Subtitles\cc at the bottom of the video and click on  the language you prefer language.

This country has given me a second chance in life. It is my intention to give back.

 Ali Duale

Testimony

I am Dhami Badhesha and I joined VAC in 2005 as a Case Manager in Vancouver, BC.  Throughout my career with VAC I have  been very involved in Diversity and Equity and am the proud recipient of several distinguished VAC awards: 2019 VAC National Employment Equity and Diversity Award of Excellence; 2010 Award of Excellence Leadership Category, Wenonah Foster Community Service Award for Homeless Veterans Initiative; 2010 VAC National Employment Equity Award of Excellence; and the 2008 Regional Director General Special Recognition Award for Accountability, as well as many letters of commendation from the Minister of Veterans Affairs for my work with our clients.

My many achievements include being elected as Co-Chair of VAC’s  National Employment Equity and Advisory action Committee (NEEDAC) for 2019-2020, and I was instrumental in helping develop the 5 year Employment Equity & Diversity Action Plan.  During my tenure I represented the department on various inter-departmental committees such as the Visible Minorities Chairs and Champions Committee (VMCCC) and was very active in the Western Regions Equity and Diversity Committee (WREEDAC), and helped increase awareness of EE staff of whom we work with daily to try to better understand and learn each other’s cultures to foster a better workplace of choice.

Not only have I  been involved with Equity and Diversity he was involved in many VAC initiatives – extended outreach to the Territories and other Northern Communities helping VAC extend its services to Veterans living in the remote areas .  In 2017 I  received the Invictus Flag and the Yukon was the first City for Veterans to sign the flag, which went across Canada to all the Offices to get Veterans to sign the flag, which was presented by the Minister of Veterans Affairs to the Canadian athletes competing in the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario.

I am also very active in the community as I coach my oldest daughter’s soccer team.  It gives me great pride and a sense of achievement to see young minds develop and expand, and gives me the  sense of connection and belonging.  .  Being a part of the VAC committees gave me a sense of pride as I knew I was contributing to making a positive difference within VAC.   I am very proud to be a member of UVAE!

International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, 9 December

Genocide Prevention Day

 Since 2015, the United Nations has marked the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, which is often referred to as Genocide Prevention Day. 

A Polish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, first devised the concept of genocide in response to atrocities perpetrated against the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, which took place between 1915 and 1923. 

On this day, we remember victims of genocide. People around the world are encouraged to learn from the past , and take action to prevent future atrocities. 

The date marks the United Nation’s adoption of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Following the horrors of the Holocaust, the convention outlined the international community’s commitment to ‘never again’ and defined genocide 

United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres states that “Ultimately, preventing genocide involves all of society. It is crucial that we all join hands to defend the principles of equality and human dignity and to repair the fissures and polarization that are so prevalent in our societies today.” 

The Genocide Convention (article 2) defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group … “, 

Didi you know that the Genocide Convention (article 2) includes: 

  • Killing members of the group; 
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; 
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; 
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. 
  • The Convention confirms that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or war, is a crime under international law which parties to the Convention undertake “to prevent and to punish” (article 1). The primary responsibility to prevent and stop genocide lies with the State. 

https://www.un.org/en/observances/genocide-prevention-day

The Ten Stages of Genocide by Founder and President of Genocide Watch, Dr. Gregory Stanton; ‘’Genocide is a process that develops in ten stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive measures can stop it.’’ 

This model aims to describe the processes that lead to genocide. 

Ten stages of genocide

  1. Classification: People are divided into “us and them”. 
  2. Symbolization: People are forced to identify themselves. 
  3. Discrimination: People begin to face systematic discrimination. 
  4. Dehumanization: People equated with animals, vermin or diseases. 
  5. Organization: The government creates special groups (police/military) to enforce the policies. 
  6. Polarization: The government broadcasts propaganda to turn the populace against the group. 
  7. Preparation: Official action to remove/relocate people begins. 
  8. Persecution: Beginning of murders, theft of property, trial massacres. 
  9. Extermination: Wholesale elimination of the group. It is “extermination” and not murder because the people are not considered human. 
  10. Denial: The government denies that it has committed any crime. 

Stanton, Gregory (2012); 10 Stages of Genocide, Genocide Watch 

‘’I say to all those leaders, do not look the other way. 

Do not hesitate… It is within your power 

to avoid a genocide of humanity.’’ 

Nelson Mandela 

Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!

The global theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which will run from 25 November to 10 December 2021, is “Orange the world: End violence against women now!”

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, November 25th, was designated in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly. The date was chosen to commemorate the lives of the Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic who were violently assassinated in 1960. The day pays tribute to them and urges global recognition of gender-based violence.

It has been over 30 years since the murder of 14 young women at Polytechnique Montréal (December 6, 1989). This act of violent misogyny shook our country and led the Canadian Parliament to designate December 6 as The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

November 25th has been designed as the Orange Day. The color orange symbolizes a brighter future, free of violence. It also serves as a means of demonstrating your solidarity in eliminating all forms of violence and it is therefore used as the color of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. As a show of solidarity, the UNESCO globe will be illuminated in orange.

December 6 falls within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and goes until December 10, the World Human Rights Day. 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the campaign.

The 16 Days are an opportunity to come together as Canadians, and with partners around the world, to call out and speak up on gender-based violence and to renew our commitment to ending violence against women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+(two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, plus ), and gender diverse individuals.

What is gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is violence that is committed against someone based on their gender, gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender. GBV disproportionately affects women and girls. Certain intersectional populations also experience high levels of violence such as, Indigenous women and girls; Black and racialized women; immigrant and refugee women; Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, plus (2SLGBTQQIA+); people with disabilities, and women living in Northern, rural, and remote communities.

Gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic

We all have a role to play in creating safe homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. Now, more than ever, collective action against gender-based violence is needed, as we navigate the evolving COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted gaps in the very systems designed to keep people safe. It has created unprecedented challenges for those experiencing gender-based violence and the organizations that provide supports and services to them.

The stress and anxiety resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary physical distancing measures was a top concern for many Canadians in early April 2020. One in 10 women reported being very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in the home.

Statistically, young women between 15 to 24 years old were substantially more likely than young men to be very or extremely anxious about violence in the home (12% versus 8%, respectively).

Gender-based violence service providers reported several changes in demand for services over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), a network of more than 70 shelters, reported a 20% increase in demand for intake between March 2020 and September 2020.
  • The Assaulted Women’s Helpline in Ontario reported a 65% increase in calls between October and December 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.
  • The Battered Women’s Support Services hotline, located in British Columbia, reported a 400% increase in calls between April and May 2020. Early data indicated that 40% of those calls were from people reaching out for the first time.
  • In November 2020, Women’s Shelters Canada released a survey containing responses from 251 shelters and transition houses that serve women and children affected by violence:
    • 61% of shelters reported that calls to the shelter increased between June and October 2020.
    • The pandemic also affected their ability to provide services to those affected by gender-based violence: 71% of shelters reported having to reduce their capacity to meet public health regulations during the pandemic, and the majority of shelters stated that they faced staffing challenges during the pandemic.

Behind each of these statistics is a story of fear and harm

https://women-gender-equality.canada.ca/en/commemorations-celebrations/16-days/about-16-days.html

https://women-gender-equality.canada.ca/en/commemorations-celebrations/16-days/national-day-remembrance.html

https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism

 UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign(link is external)

Not All Disabilities are Visible

International Day of Disabled Persons is the 3rd of December 2021. First launched in 1992, the event is in its 29th year of celebration, marking nearly three decades of meaningful change for the disabled community.  

Some disabilities, like mental health disorders, chronic pain and fatigue, are invisible – but that does not make them any less devastating to someone’s quality of life.  

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Of the one billion population of persons with disabilities, 80% live in developing countries.
  • An estimated 46% of older people aged 60 years and over are people with disabilities.
  • One in every five women is likely to experience disability in her life, while one in every ten children is a child with a disability.
  • Persons with disabilities in the world are among the hardest hit by COVID-19 19 pandemic and the isolation and diminished services which have happened as a result. 
  • The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
  • International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD) is a day which promotes equality for people with disabilities in all areas of society.
  • The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is intended to break down barriers to inclusion and fight for the rights of individuals with disabilities. 
  • According to the World Health Organisation, around 15% of the world’s population are considered to have some form of disability. But all too often, the needs of people with disabilities are not catered for by the society they live in.
  • Ever since the mid 20th century, those with disabilities have been campaigning for more recognition of disability as an aspect of identity, rather than the defining feature of a person. Here’s a brief overview of the timeline of the Disability Rights Movement:
  • The 1950s – International movement from institutionalizing people with disabilities to providing those individuals with community care
  • The 1960s – The very first Paralympics Games is held, celebrating the sporting achievements of people with disabilities
  • The 1980s-90s – Many countries introduce laws that make it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities
  • The 2000s – The UN holds the Conventions on the Rights of People with Disabilities 
  • The 2010s – Steps were taken t0 increase the number of disabled people working and to decrease the disability employment gap, and we are still struggling with this.