My son was conceived in the N. Point Douglas neighbourhood on an avenue that spills into an avenue and was born in Luxton at our former home near the Red River. I know many friends, acquaintances, former teachers and profs on both sides of the river and find this to be a very distinct ward for its crossing of the Red. The recent resignation of your Ward 7 Trustee, Allan Beach, has led to the by-election that will be held on Nov. 5th. Though I do not know Allan personally, I thank him for stepping up and forward for the students and families of Ward 7. The future trustee will serve for 2 years, so think of this as a trial period for someone between this year and the next general civic election in 2018.
I come to you asking to be your Ward 7 trustee after a rich and varied 17 years as a socially-engaged and active citizen. The wide variety of experiences and education I have had and the networks to which I have belonged make me feel ready to take on the heavy responsibility of trying to work on improving our school system.
Since 1999, I have been an active part of the green movement, both politically as a Green but also working on a wide variety of issues from challenging the dominance of genetically-engineered foods in our food supply to promoting eating lower on the food chain for the health of our planet.
When I first became engaged, the provincial government had recently changed and we found ourselves trying to slow down the rapid growth of the hog industry in Manitoba, for the sake of our water generally and Lake Winnipeg in particular.
I later came to realize how much of our food system is controlled by very few companies and to visit the issue of genetic engineering, how the basic seeds of life were being patented by companies making alterations to the seeds’ genes, and have stood with fellow ecologists and democrats alike in questioning and opposing the continued concentration of our food supply into the hands of fewer and fewer massive corporations.
In 2003 I learned of a road blockade at Grassy Narrrows First Nation – Netum Anishinaabek Asubpeeschoseewagong, north of Kenora in the boreal ecosystem. The community was already reeling (and still is) from the long-term health impacts of mercury pollution on the Wabigoon River and thus in the fish and in their bodies, from a pulp mill upstream in Dryden.
Finding their traditional land use area increasingly polluted and shrinking due to clear-cuts, the youth and some brave women took a direct stance against continued clear-cut logging. I first visited with my future master’s supervisor in the second month of the blockade and helped found Friends of Grassy Narrows, a group that has stood in solidarity with the community’s struggle against the Canadian and Ontario government for both recognition and remediation of their environmental health struggles.
In 2008 I entered the M.A. program in Native Studies at U of M and, after a few trips up winter roads east of Lake Winnipeg and many interviews, finally assembled a thesis about the all-weather road being built through the Anishinaabek boreal homeland and graduated in 2014.
From 2006-2010 I ran an interfaith, local community project on faith responses to the ecological crisis. Our events brought together members of various faith communities (including atheists) to discuss their faith perspectives on Earth and to build solidarity towards common approaches and solutions to our shared challenges.
Previous to that, in late 2003 and spring of 2004 I was an outdoor environmental educator in New England, where I taught ecological cycles to children in 5th and 6th grades while taking them for afternoon-long hikes on the former Appalachian Trail. The experience taught me how children absorb so much more if their activities are fun, challenging, fill them with fresh air and inspire them with awe at the beauty and weirdness of the natural world.
My first and only son was born in early 2012 and is starting his first year at Luxton School this month. I am a single dad co-parenting as close to half-time as I can manage and intend to be an integral part of his development for many years to come. While I want him to experience a more nature-based educational environment, I feel that if our whole society is to overcome the ecological crisis, all children, their parents and our communities at large would do well to earnestly engage in Earth’s cycles, to learn to close material loops and to move towards a low if not no-waste society. Why not dream big, alongside our children?
I have experience on several boards and have taken workshops on non-violent communication. I believe in a constructive work environment and would serve my role as trustee with an eye on conducting research to improve schools and the division as whole in ways perhaps not currently receiving the full consideration I feel they deserve.
As John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” As a former education student, I have seen glimpses of what is working and what is not working in our educational system, and am prepared to get to work as a citizen-advocate for a more sustaining educational system that nourishes all who participate including the broader community-at-large.
I ask you to engage me in a discussion before casting your vote on Nov. 5 or in the advanced polls before then. When we all start to care about our educational system we can achieve social justice and ecological literacy in our communities.