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“The pain is still raw”: Indigenous residents share their experiences with residential schools in Canada

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As an elementary school student in western Canada, Janna Pratt was forced to walk despite having broken her ankle.

The school also forced Pratt and other students to kneel painfully on their knees with their hands out for an hour. 

And yet there were others, including Pratt’s ancestors, who dealt with even worse.

Pratt is the fourth generation in her family to survive residential school. She went to Gordon’s Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan for three years before it closed in 1996.

Now, the local Indigenous community, George Gordon First Nation, has joined others across Canada taking steps to search for the remains of students who never made it home. 

On 24th June, 751 unmarked graves were found at the site of another former school in Saskatchewan. 

In May, the remains of 251 children were discovered at the site of a former school in British Columbia, including some as young as three according to the chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc band.

More recently, another 182 unmarked graves were found in a British Columbia cemetery near the former St. Eugene Residential School. 

It’s not clear if all the remains belong to residential school students, though further work is being planned to identify them. 

The recent discoveries add to earlier ones, and don’t include the number of children whose names were already known. In 2019, the names of 2,800 children who died in the schools were displayed in a special ceremony in Quebec. 

“It’s taken up until now for people to care,” says Pratt, who is Posâkanacîweyiniwak, a community known as the Touchwood Hills People.

Designed to erase Indigenous cultures and identities, more than 100 residential schools were managed by the church and government across Canada. An estimated 150,000 children attended the schools from sometime in the 1800s until about 1997. 

“Your children were taken away from you,” said Mskwaasinkwe Agnew, an Indigenous activist in Ontario. “You didn’t have a choice.

The schools weren’t limited to Canada—in June, the US government announced it will investigate the history of boarding schools in its country and try to identify any sites of unmarked graves.

The schools tended to be far from the children’s homes, so that it was hard to visit family, said Agnew, who has Cree and Dene roots from Salt River First Nation in the Northwest Territories. 

Some children tried to run away. 

“They would freeze to death in the bush,” she said.

Agnew’s own grandfather was a survivor of a residential school in Alberta, where she said he was “programmed” to hate who he was. Her father was also taken from his family in what’s known as the Sixties Scoop — policies which began in the 1950s where Indigenous children were removed from their homes and placed into foster care.

She says the residential school policy evolved into what’s now the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care.

“We see the legacy of residential schools continue even with our little ones today,” she said. 

Agnew and Pratt agreed that the government’s apologies in response to the discoveries are meaningless without action. 

The Canadian government is currently fighting Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decisions, including one requiring the government to compensate roughly 50,000 children separated from their families through the child welfare system. 

Multiple Indigenous communities in the country also still don’t have access to safe drinking water.

Despite all that, Agnew remains hopeful when she sees young people want to learn and show their support at rallies. 

She says people should learn more about the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, whose mandate was to inform all Canadians about residential schools. She also encourages others to read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Pratt wants people to know that residential schools are not just history. Survivors like her know the abuses firsthand.

“The pain is still raw,” she said.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

World

Mount Semeru’s eruption leaves 13 dead and many fleeing for life

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sara marlowe, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mt. Semeru is a mountain located on Java island, Indonesia and had a sudden volcanic eruption that killed at least 13 people and injured more than 90. Rescuers are still searching for survivors in the surrounding villages covered in ash since Saturday. 

At least 11 villages in East Java are said to be coated in this volcanic ash from its tallest volcano that spewed a column of ash more than 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) into the sky. The police and military are trying to dig people out using hands as the situation is very dire. Moreover, people accidentally stepped on the mud by mistaking the hot mudflow for flooding, causing severe burns. The ash is high enough to cover houses to the rooftop and submerge all vehicles. One survivor, Salim who lives in a nearby village explained the situation “there were 10 people carried away by the mudflow,” adding “one of them was almost saved. He was told to run away but said ‘I can’t, who will feed my cows?'” 

A statement released by Indonesia’s National Board of Disaster Management (BNPB) said that 35 people wounded were still in critical condition, five victims are yet to be identified, and nine people are still missing. Around 1,300 people have also been displaced by the eruption, the statement added. In addition to that, hundreds of houses have been destroyed along with 33 schools, according to BNPB. 

The head of the Penanggal Lumajang Health Center, Dr. Lya Aristini said that the health center is overloaded with burn patients and some of them are even unconscious. AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Richards explained further damage that this eruption can bring by stating that “the forecast for cleanup efforts for the Mount Semeru volcano eruption is the chance for a thunderstorm each afternoon with temperatures rising into the middle to upper 70s”. He added “Volcanic ash from the eruption will also cause low visibilities and dangerous health conditions due to the pollutants being put into the air.”

The rescue mission has been hampered due to electricity blackouts and road blockage by fallen trees and mud. This was a very unfortunate natural event that caused even more devastation due to being unpredictable. May the people who died in this accident and their loved ones find peace. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

The Omicron variant – a wake up call for vaccine equity?

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As the world has been preparing to gear up to bid adieu to 2021, the last week of November brought much-dreaded news after an arduous but brave fight with the pandemic. The emergence of the new B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 variant left global leaders and scientists perplexed and tense. The variant, which was subsequently named the Omicron variant after the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, was rapidly declared a Variant of Concern (VOC) by the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). 

The Omicron variant, which was first reported on 24th November in South Africa, presented evidence of a staggering 32 mutations in the spike protein, an enormous leap from its preceding Delta variant (nine mutations in the spike protein). The whirlwind of infection surges and accelerated spread is indicative of these mutations being in favour of the virus. These characteristics are only inferential and have yet to be corroborated by conclusive scientific evidence. 

The past waves of Covid-19 infections sent ripples of havoc around the world, and they only further underscored the unpreparedness of countries to deal with the raging number of cases. In this situation, one might wonder what value the vaccination efforts have to provide and why, despite the large number of doses administered globally, there are still new variants emerging. 

While there are many questions being raised about the credibility of vaccines, the truth of the matter lies somewhere else. Viruses are one-of-a-kind organisms that quickly adapt to changes in order to increase their chances of survival. Covid isn’t any different. The selective allocation of vaccines in some populations while others remain largely unvaccinated has left a giant loophole in the system, allowing the viral replication to not just escalate, but also change the way it interacts with antibodies, letting it thrive. 

The consequences of vaccine inequity can hardly be overstated. It goes much beyond a failure to provide essential protective measures fairly. The current vaccine distribution structure is distinctly skewed, with only 6% of the population in low-income countries (LICs) having received the first dose so far, while some of the high-income countries (HICs) have already started rolling out booster doses to the masses. This heavy imbalance has dampened the global efforts to fight Covid and left countries that have not been able to procure sufficient doses vulnerable. 

“More than 80% of the world’s vaccines have gone to G20 countries; low-income countries, most of them in Africa, have received just 0.6% of all vaccines.” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, at the Special Session of the World Health Assembly. 

Lack of equity in global vaccine manufacturing and distribution is not a new concept. But with a pandemic like Covid, the monopolization of vaccine production by certain countries or companies is a dangerous tactic, threatening the overturning of the progress made towards recovery. 

This phenomenon has broadly been reflected in the reluctance to recognising vaccines produced locally in LICs. The case in point is Covishield, the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Individuals who received both doses of the vaccine in the country or other countries in the region were not considered fully vaccinated and thus weren’t allowed to travel freely to many countries where the primary vaccine was of other brands. It was only in late September, after incessant uproar and backlash, that the United Kingdom included it in the accepted list of vaccines

Advocates for global vaccine equity strongly condemn the obscuring of vaccine designs and call for the open exchange of valuable information that will allow countries to produce the vaccines locally instead of offering it to them as donations or charity. 

Experts believe that even if pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reveal their vaccine designs, manufacturing plants will be unable to produce the vaccines on a large scale while maintaining their integrity. A major reason behind that is the absence of the tightly controlled production line that many plants will not be able to execute due to a lack of highly specialised resources and personnel. 

However, these points are counteracted by the advocates as they are of the opinion that the points raised by the companies and their spokespersons are just a way of exempting themselves from “…relinquish[ing] their control over their patents and technology, even at the cost of millions of lives,” says Achal Prabhala, coordinator at AccessIBSA, a medicine-access initiative in Bengaluru, India. 

In his opening remarks at the Special Session of the World Health Assembly, Dr. Ghebreyesus reiterated the importance of transparency in sharing vital information regarding the virus. “The time has come for countries to agree on a common, binding approach to a common threat that we cannot fully control nor prevent – a threat that comes from our relationship with nature itself.” He went ahead to commend South Africa and Botswana to report the detection of the new variant in a swift manner, and expressed his concern about the relaxation of regulations in countries that have already vaccinated the majority of their population. 

The future of global health and the course of the pandemic still remain uncertain. The current circumstances must be taken into consideration when re-evaluating protective measures against Covid. Increased access to vaccines, through responsibly allocated manufacturing, should take precedence amongst other mitigation efforts. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Jeffrey Epstein pilot testifies he flew people of influence on Epstein’s plane

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Ghislaine Maxwell, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jeffrey Epstein’s former pilot, Larry Visoski was the first person to testify in the Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial on Tuesday. He worked as a pilot for Epstein for over 25 years.

Visoski claimed that he would be given notice when high-profile passengers like Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and many more were flying in the plane. Prince Andrew is also being sued for by Virginia Giuffre for sexually assaulting her during these trips, however, he denied these claims. In addition, Bill Clinton’s spokesman, Angel Urena said in 2019 “in 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: one to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation,” adding “and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.” There were also celebrities that flew on his planes like Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker and even the renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Epstein flew his guests all over the world including his private island, Mexico ranch, and his New York City townhouse. It is alleged that he used these planes to also fly teenage girls to his property and groom them for sexual abuse. The trial is happening because Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend is alleged to have helped him groom the teenagers. Whereas, she claims that she is used as a scapegoat for Epstein who died in prison in 2019 by suicide. If Maxwell is found guilty she can face up to 80 years in prison. Assistant US Attorney Maurene Comey described Maxwell’s position in these crimes as “the number two” and “Epstein was the big number one.”

The former pilot claimed that he hadn’t personally seen any sexual activities on the plane but the cockpit door was always kept close during trips. Moreover, the plane was nicknamed “Lolita express” likely a reference to Nabakov’s novel Lolita which tells the story of pedophilic relationship between a man and a 12-year-old. One witness came to the trial to testify against both Epstein as well as Maxwell but the claims have not been verified yet.

A lot of unspeakable things happened to young teenage girls on these trips. Everyone involved in these crimes should be held accountable to show that no one, even those with power and influence, is above the law. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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World

27 migrants reported dead after boat capsizes on English Channel

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Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A dinghy carrying migrants was capsized on the English Channel which led to the death of 27 migrants. A large number of people were from Iraq or Iran, drowned included three children and one pregnant woman. Furthermore, there are two male survivors from Iraq and Somalia being treated for exhaustion and hypothermia in a Calais hospital. 

The International Organisation for Migration described this incident as the biggest single loss of life in the Channel ever since they began keeping records in 2014. 

Many politicians tweeted their condolences and sympathies in response to the incident. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson tweeted, “I am shocked, appalled and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea in the Channel. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Now the time for us all to step up, work together and do everything we can do stop these gangs who are getting away with murder”. 

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel also tweeted her condolences and one of her tweets highlighted “It is why this Government’s New Plan for Immigration will overhaul our broken asylum system and address many of the long-standing pull factors encouraging migrants to make the perilous journey from France to the United Kingdom”. 

Furthermore, Boris Johnson wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, which was also published on Twitter.  It covers a five-part plan highlighting approach to avoid future tragedies. This includes joint patrols, application of sensors and radar as part of improved usage of technology, marine patrols in each other’s waters and having more firmer cooperation by intelligence services. 

However, there have been increased tensions between the UK and France. Whilst attending a press conference in Rome with Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, President Macron said, “I’m surprised when things are not done seriously” and how “We don’t communicate between leaders via tweets or published letters, we are not whistle-blowers”. 

The very next day it was reported, that despite the tragic incident, more crossings have continued as around 40 migrants arrived at Dover by the lifeboat charity the RNLI. Several migrants tend to commence migration without any paperwork, hence making it a challenge to identify the people who died. Also, questions are raised regarding the reason for the boat sinking.

Dr Waheed Arian, a former refugee from Afghanistan told the BBC, “They flee because their life is in danger, they are fleeing persecution” and how “They are not coming here because they can find better jobs, they are coming because the alternative is death for them”.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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World

Israel closes its borders over Omicron

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Sarah Stierch, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The discovery of a new Covid-19 variant has caused global concern. Due to this fear, Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet has asked the government to approve a 14-day ban on all foreigners from Sunday 28th November 2021.

The Israeli government agreed to put this ban in action and is the first country to do so after the world was trying to return to some normality. Moreover, it has been only four weeks since Israel opened its borders after the pandemic. The Prime Minister’s office released a statement stating “the entry of foreign nationals into Israel is banned except for cases approved by a special committee.” In addition to that, the Israeli government also decided to reauthorise the cell phone program that can track people, to prevent Omicron cases. The statement said that “(tracking) will be in order to locate verified (Omicron) cases and thereby cut the chains of infection;” the Shin Bet (the company that will track the phones) also added “(tracking) is restricted only to verified cases of the new strain. There will be no widespread and sweeping use for all verified cases as was done in previous waves.” The Israeli citizens are allowed inside the country; however, they have to show a negative PCR test and quarantine for three to seven days depending on the vaccination status. This ban came hours before an eight-day-long Jewish holiday.

The Omicron strain was first detected by South Africa when a traveler from Malawi tested positive. So far, there have been two detected cases in the UK for which Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated in a news conference “we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.” The UK isn’t the only country, as two flights arriving from South Africa to the Dutch capital had 13 people positive for Omicron out of 61 passengers who had coronavirus. This new variant has also been detected in Germany and Italy. This new variant of Covid-19 has been said to be more contagious but it is still unknown if it is more damaging than the other variants as WHO classified this as a “variant of concern”.

This new virus is a concern for people all around the world. The two-year-long pandemic was thought to be coming to an end as people returned to some sense of normality but now everyone will have to follow all preventive guidelines again. Hopefully, this time people are more mindful of following instructions so the strain does not cause as much damage as the original Covid-19 variant did.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Turkish police fired tear gas at female protestors in Istanbul

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Maurice Flesier, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Police forces in Istanbul fired tear gas at protestors who joined together to mark the “international day for the elimination of violence against women” on Thursday. 

This protest was mainly for Turkey to rejoin the Istanbul Convention, a human rights treaty against violence against women and domestic violence which was signed in May 2011.  Turkey was the first country to sign this treaty and the first one to leave it as well in March 2020. Upon Turkey’s decision to withdraw under the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) released a statement in which they said “the adoption of this (withdrawal) decision in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to deepen the protection gap for women and girls during a time when gender-based violence against women is on the rise.” Whereas, President Erdogan stated that the initiative was “hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality”.

The women marched to mark the day this treaty was released along Istanbul’s main pedestrian street while holding colorful banners. This was the third march regarding the withdrawal from this treaty, the first one was in March and the second one was in July. One protestor told Reuters “women are being killed…they are being publicly murdered. As of June, we have started to move away from the guarantees that protect us,” adding “we do not and will not accept this and we will keep fighting”.

The riot police had set barricades at the end of the street on which they were marching. An altercation broke out when some of the protestors tried breaching this barricade. Erdogan argued that the existing laws in Turkey provide enough protection for women. In addition to that, the government also released its own initiative “Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women” to try to combat the rising violence against women with five primary plans.

According to the ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’, an NGO for women has stated that so far at least 285 women have been killed by men in 2021. This number has exceeded last year’s numbers. Violence against women is a serious issue that has increased, especially in the pandemic so it needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. There is a need for laws to be implemented which will protect women so they don’t have to march for their rights. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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