Thursday, December 21, 2006

Censorship scares me more than anti-choice nuts

At least, that's the title I would have chose for this column. But instead, my dear friend/editor made it sound like I'm terrified of student activists. Sigh ...

But I do expect some letters from the pro-choice activists from Carleton who sponsored the anti-anti-choice motion on campus. In fact, I would love to debate this issue with y'all.

The key point that I was trying to make in this column is that censorship is an idea that always comes back to bite our community in the ass. While the Carleton activists' hearts were in the right place, I believe that the action they took was the wrong one.

Okay, discuss.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rebick withdraws any support for May

Judy Rebick just posted this statement on rabble.ca, withdrawing any support for Elizabeth May, based on her recent statements on abortion.

Thanks Judy. Your book Ten Thousand Roses helped remind me of the battles that you and your sisters won, so my generation could have the right to choose. We have been lulled into complacency and so many of us haven't had to take the personal risks that you took when fighting hard on this issue. We might have to start chaining ourselves to things again ... expect phone calls asking for tactical advice!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Keeping the Liberals honest

A lot of people have asked me what I think of Stephane Dion, and I've kind of been at a loss for words. I loved the underdog nature of the Liberal leadership vote. I'll admit that Dion's backpack and stated support for environmentalism and social justice are very appealing. And all of my favourite men are of the nerdy variety.

But Dion's charm doesn't give the Liberals a pass for all of the boneheaded decisions they've made over the years. And Dion certainly has some past decisions to account for (including his inaction on the environment, despite the fact that he named his dog Kyoto). I'll throw to my friend Stu for his take on Dion's record. Also check out his column on Smart Regulation, and the stealth takeover of Environment Canada (from Nov. 2005).

But once again, Murray Dobbin has proved to be one of the most astute political writers in Canada. He argues here that the only way that Dion will be able to push a truly left-wing agenda through Parliament is if the NDP holds the balance of power in a minority government. According to Dobbin, "If Dion wins a majority, the full weight of the corporate media, Bay Street, the right wing bureaucracy and the conservatives in his caucus will grind down whatever is good in Stephane Dion."

Still, Dobbin reserves some of his harshest criticism for the NDP, which doesn't seem to understand that vilifying Dion as a "corrupt backroom Liberal" is just not going to work for them. My friends and I were doubled over laughing at the email that the NDP sent out after Dion was elected. It read like total sour grapes, and just the WRONG way to woo back potential NDP voters. Audra Williams excerpts it here. And this is what Dobbin has to say:

The party's delusional notion that the Liberals are going to voluntarily disappear can now, thankfully, be put to rest. The NDP needs to engage the public by campaigning on keeping the Liberals honest. They will give Dion the support -- critical, to be sure -- he needs to fight off the reactionary forces that will naturally align against him.
Can I please have the NDP that used to stand for something back? Please?!?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Elizabeth May responds

For those who have been following the story about Elizabeth May's recent ridiculous comments about abortion, here's a link to where she responds to some of the criticism of her position. While I am relieved to hear her clarify that she is in fact pro-choice, I think that her new statement belies the same kind of paternalism as her previous ones. She says, "Obviously, no woman facing an unwanted pregnancy takes the issue of a possible abortion lightly. It is always a very difficult, emotionally charged choice."

I don't agree. By suggesting that abortion is always a horrible decision, she is playing into the Christian Right's notion that abortion leads to emotional trauma and regret. That's why I find the "I had an abortion" movement so powerful. It's all about women speaking the truth about their experiences with abortion -- whether they were traumatic or -- gasp -- joyful.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dispatch from New York

I just got an amazing email from my cousin Rachel, who is attending the Conservative Jewish seminary in New York, and has been fighting hard from the inside to stand up for gay and lesbian rights. I am so proud of her I could burst. Here's her perspective on this week's ruling:

This has been quite a week in New York. The Conservative Movement finally passed a positive ruling on being gay or lesbian (and,because pluralism is our hallmark, also managed to pass a contradictory ruling affirming the status quo at the same time. sigh).

The ruling we passed was not ideal---I would never lie and say it is (I was hoping for a much more open and more intellectually honest one that got sidelined on politically motivated procedural grounds, which was by Rabbi Gordon Tucker and which was just brilliant and honest and daring).

However, given that even this ruling allows friends of mine to attend rabbinical school without having to go into the closet and will allow those rabbis who waiting for a ruling to do commitment ceremonies/same sex weddings (some of us have been doing them already) to do them, it is a big step. And in 5-10 years, we'll just have to pass a better ruling.

I've spent the last week in an activist flurry. The student group I have been active in (Keshet) did a media training last week, and so we were prepared with a press conference of our own. I'm excited--disappointed in some ways--but feeling like some steps towards doing God's work were done. It's about time. Some people are predicting this will cause the world to come to an end, but I really just don't think the actions of a million Conservative Jews matter that much to the apocalypse I don't believe in :)

I do think our actions are important to mainline Protestant groups, who are dealing with the same issues.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Note to activists: the fight has just begun ...

Oh good, at least the marriage thing should be over with for now. But the Harper government is still up to some really scary stuff, so please don't retreat behind white picket fences in the suburbs ...

Conservative Jews Allow Gay Rabbis and Unions

This is such an exciting victory for the progressive Jews who have been fighting for the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, and the celebration of Jewish queer unions. I am proud to say that my Uncle, Rabbi Lawrence Troster, was heavily involved in the fight to ordain women in the 1970s, and his daughter Rachel Kahn Troster (now a rabbinical student) has been involved in the fight to embrace gay and lesbian rights within Conservative Judaism.

This totally flies in the face of right-wing fundamentalists that want to paint all religious groups with the same homophobic brush. Just FYI, "Conservative Judaism is considered the centrist movement in Judaism, wedged between the liberal Reform and Reconstructionist movements, which have accepted an openly gay clergy for more than 10 years, and the more traditional Orthodox, which rejects it."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Same Sex Thursday

The MPs are debating Harper's idiotic motion to "re-open the definition of marriage" right now on CPAC (here).

And I think that Rick Mercer is my CBC crush for today. He published this fabulous thing on his blog. My favourite quote:
Sure the Charter looks nice hanging on a wall but the fact is it grants far too many rights that are contrary to the deeply held personal views of many chubby white guys.

Remember, mourn, fight for change

I was going to write a really long and reflective post about today, Dec. 6, the anniversary of the Polytechnique Massacre. But Gina Whitfield did such a stellar job in the Tyee.

I was 10 years old when this horrific event occurred, but I remember it strongly. I was already a self-identified feminist by that age, and it shook me to the core that a killer would single out women like that ... sadly, male violence against women still hasn't gone away. This makes me even more furious that the Conservative government actually removed the word "equality" from the mandate of Status of Women Canada.

The amazing women at Status Report are tracking this government's actions against women, and providing an information source/meeting place for people who want to join the fight.

Take that Fraser Institute!

People in highly taxed countries better off: report
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 6, 2006 12:44 PM ET
CBC News

People who live in countries with higher taxes enjoy lower rates of poverty, have more equal income distribution, more economic security for workers and can expect to live longer, suggests a new study from a left-leaning think tank.

Check it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Big oil and big ass

This made my morning ... although it would be nice if discussion about "big ass" focused on repealing the discriminatory age of consent law that governs anal sex -- which I wrote about here.

Layton rose in the Commons today to attack the government over subsidies to big oil companies. But he tripped over his tongue and instead asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper if he would finally cancel subsidies to "big oil and big ass." Layton meant to say "big gas."

The slip of the tongue brought laughter from all sides of the House. Harper jokingly answered that he would "get to the bottom of it."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fight Harper's anti-woman policies

A call-out from some amazing feminist groups:

CALL THE EQUALITY HOTLINE
613-941-6888

“If women in Canada feel their rights have been violated, they can pick up the phone and call”
-- Conservative Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Bev Oda.

Stephen Harper believes equality is no longer a concern for women in Canada. Harper’s Government has cut funding for women’s equality, cut access to justice, even cut “equality” as an official goal of the government. The Harper government is denying reality.

  • In 2003, women with post-secondary degrees earned 68.9% of what their male counterparts earned for full-time, full-year work.
  • Half of women will experience criminal violence by men in their homes, communities,
    workplaces and schools in their lifetime.

CALL THE EQUALITY HOTLINE
613-941-6888


Tell Stephen Harper why equality still matters:

  • If you are a parent, do you have access to affordable, quality child-care?
  • Have you, or someone you love, been physically or sexually abused or harassed? Did
    you/they get the support needed?
  • If your rights were violated in your workplace, is there a process in place for you to address your concerns?
  • Are there barriers to advancing your career or getting ahead in your workplace because you’re a woman?

Tell the Prime Minister: “the government must invest in equality rights for ALL women
in Canada”

ATTEND THE DECEMBER 10TH RALLY ON PARLIAMENT HILL 1:30-3:00

For more information on the December 10th campaign, click here.

How much do I love Heather Mallick?

We've all been paralyzed in the presence of a racist before ... check out Heather Mallick's advice on what do to in these situations ...

I think she's my new CBC crush.

Friday, December 01, 2006

More from Elizabeth May on abortion

I'm going to throw it to Audra Williams for this one ...

But allow me to quote Ms. May directly, from a candidates' debate held during the London by election:


So if one group of people say, "A woman has a right to choose", I get queasy, because I'm against abortion. I don't think a woman has a frivolous right to choose. What I don't want is a desperate woman to die in an illegal abortion. But I also don't think it's right to say - Well, you see, you end up
having this conflict.

What I'd like to do in politics - and I've talked about this in some other settings besides here today, because this is the first time it's come up in London North Centre - what I'd like to do in politics is to be able to create the space to say, "Abortions are legal because they must be to avoid women dying. But nobody in their right mind is for abortions."

No, Elizabeth. Abortions need to be legal, because a woman should have the right to make choices about her body for ANY reason. There are lots of people "in their right minds" who are for abortion. I'm one of them. Sometimes women are in grave medical distress, and need an abortion for that reason. Other women simply don't want to go through with a pregnancy. Some of them have been raped, and others participated in joyful, consensual sex. Either way, we get to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. That's the point.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Plow that furrow straight ...

I don't usually write about municipal politics, but I was so saddened by the results of the recent Ottawa mayoral election. For those not from Ottawa -- we just elected an extreme right-winger, with absolutely no municipal government (or any government) experience.

Here's my assessment of Larry O'Brien.

Since the election, O'Brien has appointed Walter Robinson, the former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to be his chief of staff (this is one of the groups that promotes "Tax Freedom Day" -- I won't link to them, but I will link to the CCPA's criticism of their narrow perspective). And today, he just approved big pay increases for himself and the other city councillors.

Meanwhile, he's promising a property tax freeze, and has made the absurd claim that this won't affect city services.

It's going to be a long four years in Ottawa ...

Sigh ... I guess I shouldn't be surprised

Status of Women offices to be closed
MARTIN O'HANLON
Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is taking an axe to Status of Women Canada, closing three-quarters of its regional offices and outraging critics in the process.

Heritage Minister Bev Oda revealed Wednesday that 12 of the federal agency's 16 regional offices will be shut down by April 1.

The blow is part of a cost-cutting program announced in September that will see the agency lose $5-million from it's $23-million annual budget over two years.

Status of Women Canada works to advance women's economic equality and human rights and eliminate violence against women.

Full story here.

And check out the fabulous Status Report website, if you want to take action to try and save (or salvage) Status of Women Canada.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Elizabeth May's fishy stance on abortion

Okay, when a friend brought this to my attention, I couldn't resist posting it. While Elizabeth May, the new leader of the Green Party of Canada is a long-time (and tireless) environmental activist, some comments she made during the recent by election in London, Ontario should have women worried.

May recently submitted answers to voter's guide questionnaire distributed by Citizen Impact Canada, a right-wing Christian group whose stated purpose is "equipping Canadians for the effective expression of a biblical worldview in the public square. "

These question and answers are taken verbatim from the voter's guide, which can be found here. Candidates were asked to answer questions using numbers (5 is Strongly Agree, 4 is Agree, 3 is Undecided, 2 is Disagree, and 1 is Strongly Disagree):

  • When asked if she supports the introduction of legal restrictions on abortion, May marked #2 (Disagree), but then said "I respect the concerns for the sanctity of life -- removing access to legal abortions will lead to suffering and death of desperate pregnant women."
  • But then when asked if she supports a mandatory waiting time before abortions are to be performed, May said this: "Women considering abortion should have time to consider their options and should be encouraged to carry the baby to term."
  • The final whammy, is that when asked if she supports legislation that would "acknowledge the right of health care workers to refuse to participate in procedures which are in violation of their religious or conscientious beliefs," she said: "Conscience is critical and no on in a field should be forced to ignore personal moral choice."

So let me get this straight ... May believes in "the sanctity of life," but doesn't want to repeal the abortion laws. But she does think that women should be encouraged to keep their babies, and that doctors should have the right to refuse to perform abortions, if they are "morally opposed" to the idea. And in fact, if you take her statement a step further, does she also believe that government officials should be allowed to refuse to perform same sex marriages because of their "personal moral choice?"

Last time, I checked, the Charter of Rights prevents doctors and governments officials from making medical decisions on women's behalf, or refusing to perform a government function, simply because they find it morally distasteful. As it is, it's extremely difficult to get an abortion in Canada. You can't get one on Prince Edward Island. Many public hospitals don't perform them. And fewer and fewer doctors are willing to take the risk that they'll become the target of some crazy anti-choice nutbar. The last thing Canadian women need is a law that would restrict our freedom to choose anymore.

If Elizabeth May wants to paint herself and the Green Party as a new progressive force in this country, she needs to clarify her position on the abortion issue.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Save Court Challenges ...

When I wrote a couple of months ago about the Conservative government's axing of the Court Challenges program, I was trying to remember all of the cases I knew of that had been fought or won thanks to Court Challenges funding.

A new coalition of groups, including the Law Union of Ontario, the Canadian Health Coalition, the B.C. Human Rights Coalition, Egale Canada, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, the CAW and CUPE has set up a new Save Court Challenges website.

You can find a comprehensive (and mighty impressive) list of Court Challenges cases here.

ACTION ALERT: DECEMBER MARRIAGE VOTE!!

Say what you will about the benefits of marriage, but we can't let Harper and his cronies undo a victory we've already won ... and click here to read Ivan E. Coyote's chronicle of a lesbian dream wedding. Then tell me how love like this somehow dismantles and institution that is already in serious disrepair ...

ACTION ALERT: DECEMBER MARRIAGE VOTE!!

After almost a year of waiting, it's now virtually certain that a vote on Mr. Harper's motion to re-open the divisive equal marriage debate will take place in December, likely the week of December 4. Last week, following a CEM press conference urging the Prime Minister not to break his promise of a fall vote, Justice Minister Vic Toews told reporters the vote would take place before Parliament breaks for the holidays on December 15. He said "The prime minister has made a commitment and he will honour that commitment."

Meanwhile, on November 9, over 40 religious leaders signed the "Declaration on Marriage" and sent it to all MPs and Senators (see it at http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/social/marriage.asp). They have been mobilizing their congregations, especially focusing on 50 MPs who are most likely to change their votes.

We're hearing from some MPs that in the last few weeks they've seen a huge increase in correspondence from equal marriage opponents and are not hearing from those of us who are against re-opening. It's important that they hear from us too!!Our task now is to shore up our support and ensure that Mr. Harper's regressive motion is defeated by the widest possible margin. That's because following the defeat of his motion we want Mr. Harper to publicly state that the issue is settled. The wider the margin, the greater the chance of getting him to admit that this issue is settled, not just in this Parliament, but for good! If he doesn't admit that it's settled, then it's an election issue. AGAIN!!

It's time to take re-opening off the political agenda, so that equality opponents will lose any ability to de-legitimize our marriages. It's simply unfair for this to continue, and for LGBT people to have to go on defending our marriages, our families and our sexual orientation and gender identity.Please go to www.equal-marriage.ca/election.php and contact your MP. In these final days, the best way to do that is to call their constituency office, which is a local call.

You can find your MP's phone number on our website or at http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/house/PostalCode.asp?Language=E.

Phone calls really get noticed, they take only a minute or two, and all you have to say is something like "I support equal marriage and urge [MP's name] to vote against re-opening this divisive debate. Over 12,000 same-gender couples have been married in Canada and that hasn't hurt anyone. It's time to move on."

We know a strong majority of MP's currently intend to vote against re-opening, but if all they hear in the lead-up to the vote are calls to "restore traditional marriage" some of them may get scared and change their mind. Memories are short, so even if you've already contacted your MP, it's important to contact them again, and to do so immediately.Please visit www.equal-marriage.ca/election.php today to contact your MP.

Of course, please don't stop there. Please take all four of our action steps, including making a donation to Canadians for Equal Marriage. Our strength depends on you, and every donation counts!Please take action today, so that we don't lose any MPs to the huge mobilization now being put on by groups like the Evangelical Fellowship, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Defend Marriage and many others.

We want this issue settled once and for all, and a decisive defeat of Mr. Harper's motion to re-open will do just that. Let's give it all we can!!

Yours truly,

Laurie Arron
National Coordinator, Canadians for Equal Marriage
www.equal-marriage.ca
laurie@equal-marriage.ca

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm Jewish & angry with Harper

Wow, this column feels like another coming out of sorts ... I often write about my queer identity, but not my Jewish one ... the collusion between the Christian right and the mainstream Jewish establishment has forced me out of the closet, so to say. I don't imagine that B'nai Brith or the Canadian Jewish News will like this column much. But they don't speak for all Jews. They don't speak for me.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I love Stitch and Bitchers, I swear!

To all the crafty dykes out there -- I didn't write the headline for my latest column in Capital Xtra! I think you are all marvelous. You actually have useful skills -- you can build and make things. I can write and think about things. Maybe we could form a global movement of crafty and un-crafty feminists banding together to kick this Conservative government's ass.

And speaking of ass, I just above threw my alarm clock clear across my bedroom at 7:00 this morning, when I woke up to a sound bite from Stephen Harper's speech at a B'nai Brith event. In introducing the PM, Frank Diamant said something like "the Prime Minister is like a gift from the almighty."

To my wonderful Jewish reliatives and friends. DON'T FALL FOR IT. I know that Harper is professing a love of Israel, but that doesn't exonerate him from trampling over all sorts of minority groups in Canada. And besides, the end-day fundamentalists are convinced that we are all going to hell anyway -- Jews, queers, pretty much anyone who hasn't been "saved."

But more on that later ...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Targets, not talks, vital on emissions

A shout-out to my brother Charles, who has this letter published in the Toronto Star yesterday.

Targets, not talks, vital on emissions
Re: Editorial, Oct. 11.

This editorial discusses Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plans to "reduce emissions of both greenhouse gases and smog-producing pollutants." While it is heartening to hear Harper's government even acknowledge the environment, we have to be careful not to conflate smog and global warming. The same vehicles may contribute to both, but when it comes to improving the technology, these are two entirely different beasts.

Most smog-causing emissions are accidental by-products of burning fossil fuels. These emissions can be reduced by making comparatively minor changes in a vehicle's design, and this can have a noticeable effect on local air quality. However, greenhouse emissions are fundamentally required for a combustion engine to function, and their effects can only be seen on a global scale. Reducing CO2 emissions from a vehicle means redesigning the entire technology to burn less fuel in the first place — a much more expensive feat — or doing away with fossil fuels altogether.

The latter case might bring up fanciful dreams of electric or hydrogen-powered cars that produce no greenhouse emissions at all. Unfortunately, all the energy used to power the car or create the hydrogen fuel will have to come from somewhere, and it won't be stored very efficiently. What's the use in cutting tailpipe CO2 emissions when the same amount (or more) is emitted at a power plant nearby? The atmosphere doesn't particularly care where greenhouse gases are coming from — the whole world inherits the consequences.

Effective global warming strategies must take a "life-cycle" approach that tracks which actions produce real global emission reductions.

For all its flaws, the Kyoto accord was meant as a way to agree on co-ordinated action that would ensure greenhouse reductions actually happen.

Independent regulations on separate industries in individual countries will never be able to guarantee greenhouse gas reductions — they may only give the fiddlers a tune to play while the planet burns.

Charles Troster, Vancouver, B.C.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oda and Harper to get a REAL-ity check

ODA AND HARPER TO GET A REAL-ITY CHECK:

Website to combat inaccuracies and indifference towards Status Of Women Canada

HALIFAX/OTTAWA, October 11, 2006 – A new website launches today to rally support for Status of Women Canada (SWC) and related issues.Statusreport.ca will house objective information about the federal agency, along with tools and motivation for people to lobby the federal government to revisit changes made to the agency's funding and objectives. Nine months after committing to take concrete and immediate steps to increase women's equality in Canada, the Harper administration has slashed 40 per cent of SWC’s administrative budget, removed all references to “equality” from SWC’s mandate, and changed rules in order to disallow groups from doing advocacy or lobbying with federal funds.

"The Harper Conservatives are clearly out of touch with reality,” stated site co-founder Audra Williams, "Oda and Harper have 16 million female constituents whose equality and rights they are obligated to ensure."

“They try to paint women’s groups who speak out on this issue as victimized or partisan,” said Pam Kapoor, site co-founder, “To counter that kind of ludicrous spin, we’ve set up this independent space where anyone who cares about women’s equality can participate in the project to protect SWC.”

Williams and Kapoor condemn Conservative messaging labeling advocates of women’s equality as focused on women’s weaknesses: “Enough with their convenient dismissals,” said Williams, “Sustained commitment to women’s equality requires tremendous strength – especially nowadays, given the onslaught of inaccurate rhetoric from the right.”

Statusreport.ca is non-partisan, unaffiliated with any women’s organization or political party. Williams and Kapoor, with an ad-hoc group of creative women, are dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of SWC and the role it should continue to play in the struggle for women’s full equality in Canada.

Audra Williams and Pam Kapoor arecommunications consultants based in Halifax and Gatineau, respectively.For information: contact@statusreport.ca

Monday, October 02, 2006

Actions against Conservative cuts

When I posted last week about the loss of the Court Challenges program, I neglected to include a complete list of all of the things that were slashed. Here it is. Other programs that were either slashed or eliminated, include the Law Commission of Canada, Status of Women Canada, funding for adult literacy, and for aboriginal health programs.

The Disabled Women's Network has posted an online action demanding the return of Court Challenges. You can find it here.

One of the organizations that will be the most affected by the loss of Court Challenges is Egale Canada. Click here to donate to Egale -- the organization is going to have to scrape together a lot of cash to fight Harper's government in court over the next while.

And a breath of sanity from the amazing Linda McQuaig, who has always been able to put debt hysteria into perspective and remind us about what governments are supposed to do: use our tax dollars to fund programs that improve people's lives.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Zero Tolerance nightmares

Here's a link to my latest column for Capital Xtra, a plea for sanity in the face of the horrific violence at Dawson College. The Zero Tolerance Nightmares website that I refer to can be found here.

I would like to give a shout-out to Susan Cole at Now Magazine for naming the shooting for what it is: another example of male violence against women.

And for those in Ottawa, tonight is the annual Take Back the Night march:

6:30 pm: Rally at the Women’s Monument at Minto Park (Elgin and Gilmour) (Speakers Mreama Abdul, Soheila Dalvand, Françoise Roy and Senator Nancy Ruth)

7:00 pm: The March Up Elgin, down Rideau, around the market, and back to City Hall.

8:00-9:30: Info Fair at Ottawa City Hall (Foyer), 110 Laurier Ave West (Information tables, Counselling, Entertainment and Refreshments) Don’t Forget to bring your own light (flashlights, lantern, glowstick etc.)

Feel free to bring Noise Maker (Pots and Pans, whistle, drum, horn, tambourine, etc.

Come with a small item or image symbolizing gender stereotypes to be discarded.

Men are welcome to join the march under the lead of women.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Made-in-Canada lunacy

It it weren't for the trusty Hill Times, I would have missed this frightening tidbit.

Guess who Rona Ambrose just hired as her chief of staff? Darrel Reid, former president of Focus on the Family.

All you need to do is spend 5 minutes on the organization's website, and you can get the drift. The group maintains that homosexual people can be "converted" through therapy, and its American leader, James Dobson, has referred to abortion as a "baby holocaust."

The link between right-wing evangelicals and the fight against climate change recently solidified in the U.S., when 86 religious leaders (including Dobson) signed a letter demanding action on global warning.

This actually represents an about-face, because for many years, some in the more loony fringes of the fire-and-brimstone community had actually welcomed global warming, hoping to hasten Earth's destruction and make room for the re-birth of Christ. I kid you not. Maude Barlow provides more specific background on the connection between End Day Fundamentalists and opposition to environmental laws in the U.S., in her book Too Close for Comfort: Canada's Future within Fortress North America.

It seems that the hiring of Reid must be a strategic move, aimed at shoring up support for Ambrose's "made in Canada" solution to climate change (otherwise known as the destruction of the Kyoto Accord, and the introduction of "voluntary" emissions targets that no one will actually have to follow). This month's issue of This Magazine has an excellent article about how industry-sponsored big PR companies manufactured doubt about the science behind climate change, leading to the erosion of support for solutions (like Kyoto) that could have cut into corporate profits.

And now for a quote from the man himself ...

In several Focus on the Family publications Reid refers to gay marriage advocates as "anti-family," yet in a 2002 press release he applauded the Ontario Court of Appeal's decision that parents should be allowed to spank their parents as "resounding victory for families." Hmmm, so equality is not a family value, but spanking is?

Yes folks, this is the person who will be running the Office of the Minister of the Environment.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Save Gay Marriage Action Centre

The wonderful folks at Xtra have just launched a fab new website, containing lots of information about the equal marriage issue, including a detailed chronology, competing viewpoints, and a link to where you can contact your MP.

Check it out!

The sound of the axe falling on minority rights in Canada

Do you hear that sound? That wheezing noise in the background is the sound of our rights being pulled out from under us. On the surface, the Conservative government's announcement of $1 billion in cuts may seem benign. If you were half asleep while watching the news last night, the gravity of the situation may not have hit you. But I know that I sat up in bed and couldn't sleep all night.

Why, you may ask? Budget announcements generally don't provoke fear in the hearts of writers like me. Since Paul Martin's devastating slash-fest in the mid-90s, we've become used to seeing social programs axed. And since Harper's thin victory, we've seen entire government departments completely enviserated (remember Climate Change Canada? The One Tonne Challenge? Sigh ...)

But as of yesterday afternoon, Canadians just lost a gem of a program called Court Challenges. Many people in the queer community may not know it, but this program has had a direct impact on all of our lives, and without it, our rights will be under serious and well-calculated attack.

I've linked to the Court Challenges website here, although I wouldn't be surprised if the PMO took it down by day's end. For those who don't know about the program, the logic does seem a bit absurd. Since 1994, Court Challenges has provided funding to equality-seeking groups to pay for the legal costs associated with suing the government.

I know that this very idea sends the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation into a frothy rage. But there's a reason why this program has benefited all Canadians. The theory was that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms had yet to be tested. We all had all sorts of human rights in theory, but the only way to test and ensure those rights is by taking cases to court, and asking judges to clarify the interpretation of the Charter. But that placed the onus on individual citizens and cash-strapped advocacy groups to pay tens of thousands of dollars (sometimes hundreds of thousands) to take cases to court. While some of these groups were able to find lawyers to take their cases for free, there are still some very high fixed costs associated with going to court. Basic stuff like ordering transcripts, paying for travel for witnesses, etc. That's where Court Challenges filled in the gap.

There is no arguing against the fact that no other group in Canada has benefited from the Court Challenges program more than the gay and lesbian community. That's why the program has always been a thorn in the side of the Conservatives (especially the religious nuts). I will post a more extensive list of court cases that were successful because of Court Challenges, but here's quick sampling:

1. Egan case (1995) Gay men Jim Egan and Jack Nesbit sued Ottawa for the right to claim a spousal pension under the Old Age Security Act. The Court ruled against Egan and Nesbit, but all nine judges agreed that sexual orientation is a protected ground and that protection extends to partnerships of lesbians and gay men.

2. Gay adoption case (1995) -- An Ontario court judged ruled that is was contrary to section 15 of the Charter of Rights to deny gay and lesbian people the right to adopt their partners' children.

3. M v. H (1999)-- the groundbreaking case where one lesbian sued her partner for spousal asupport after their relationship broke down. The Supreme Court ruled that Canada's Family Law Act was unconsititutional, and ordered all of the provinces to "read in" same sex equality rights into their provincial laws. This was the case that established legal recognition of same sex common law relationships.

4. The Marc Hall case (2002) -- Later made into a cheesy TV movie called Prom Queen, in this case, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that a gay student had the right to take his male partner as a date to the prom at his Catholic High School.

And of course, there have been all of the court battles over equal marriage for same sex couples -- all funded in part by Court Challenges.

It was good while it lasted. But don't believe for a minute that this program was cut for anything other than ideological reasons. I would also argue that there was a more strategic agenda at play here. First of all, the Conservatives announced these cuts during a time of unprededented economic security (Canada had a $13.2 billion surplus last year!!!). And second, it seems that they took their marching orders directly from the whackos over at Focus on the Family and the R.E.A.L. Women of Canada (look here for more background on those groups). Anti-feminist and anti-gay groups have been lobbying for years to get rid of Court Challenges. And while it may take them a few more years to get rid of those pesky abortion and gay rights laws, the government has just given them a big nod, validating their intolerant and extremist views.

And just one more thought ....

If Harper decides to pull a fast one and use the Notwithstanding Clause to change the definition of marriage back to "one man, one woman," the queer community will have to go it alone in the courts. Even though dozens of constitutional lawyers recently rendered a legal opinion that there is no constitional way that Harper could possibly overturn gay marriage without using the Clause, he might decide to move forward anyway, and dare us to sacre up the resources to fight him in court -- on our own dime.

Welcome to the Harper revolution, folks.

What are you going to do about it?

Friday, September 08, 2006

A rare victory -- and Zucchinis for Peace!

Wow, we have to celebrate the small victories when we see them. Apparently, the federal government has bowed to public pressure, and will let the INSITE safe injection site continue in Vancouver for another 18 months. Here's Libby Davies' take on the story.

And here's a link to a hilarious and fun anti-war action from Homes not Bombs. Send zucchinis, not missiles, to Afghanistan. A snippet from their call-out:

CANADA SHOULD SEND FOOD, NOT BOMBS, TO AFGHANISTAN We are most often told that the main reason the Canadian military is in Afghanistan is to help the
Afghan people. Many Afghan people are starving. It is time to send massive amounts of food aid, not massive amounts of bullets and bombs.

WHY ZUCCHINIS, WHY NOW?
The Power of A Symbol
Politicians are often unable to grasp the meaning of words, and require symbols to help them out. We have seen in the past few years stunning examples of Homes not Bombs campaigns that have succeeded in employing the noble zucchini in the cause of peace. We have argued that successive war ministers' confused sexual desires to launch phallic-shaped missiles would be more safely directed if phallic-shaped zucchinis were sent instead.

Consider me flattered -- and puzzled

Wow, thanks to Capital Xtra for running such a gushing profile of me. Although I find it hilarious that the reporter found me to be "demure" and "bookish." I don't think I've ever hear those two words used together -- or to describe me. But seriously, I feel very humbled. Thanks Kacie and Gareth.

And here is my latest column -- a special letter to Vic Toews, our esteemed Minister of Justice. Bleh.

Later this week I'll post some links to the various sources I quote in my column. If you're also scared about the extreme makeover of our criminal justice system that's underway, send a letter to your MP. Please.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shameless plug

Some of you might have heard all sorts of contradictory things coming out of the recent annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association in Charlottetown.

The organization that I work for was really involved in "on the ground" actions to convince doctors that privatization of health care is a very bad idea. We aren't thrilled with the results of the meeting (rabble.ca posted a good analysis here), but we did make amazing connections with pro-medicare doctors.

Here's a link to a blog from Charlottetown, so give you a sense of what went down.

And here is a link to a website with lots of materials that you can read and distribute to your doctors and friends.

This announcement was brought to you by Dykes Against Harper and the letter C.

Happy Pride!

Hi everyone,

Pride celebrations have finished in most of Canada, but Ottawa Pride heats up this weekend.

Click here for a list of fun events this weekend.

And just because Harper and his ilk are so anti-sex, I though I'd share this delightful video with all of you. I just saw a great comedy show with Vancouver's The Wet Spots. If only high school sex ed class was this much fun!

In pride and solidarity,

Ariel

Thursday, August 17, 2006

An ode to booing -- and fighting back

I know, I know ... long time no blog. But the days are getting shorter (gasp), and Parliament will rise soon -- and so will this blog.

In the meantime, here are three recent articles I wrote for Capital Xtra, after returning from the incredible Outgames LGBT Human Rights Conference in Montreal:

1) Building a worldwide gay rights movement
2) Queer youth lead the way; and
3) Putting up a fight (this would be my rumination on "l'affaire Fortier")

Now, the irony is not lost on me that after Harper's predictable absence from the human rights conference, that he's now a no-show at the biggest AIDS conference ever staged. But what's even better is that the Conservatives are now holding back on any announcement regarding AIDS funding, and the future of an innovative safe injection site in Vancouver which just happens to be SAVING LIVES.

Shame shame shame.

But at least they now know that queers and our allies will not take their bullshit sitting down. I love how the CBC reported that Harper wants to wait for the 30,000 delegates at the AIDS conference to return to their respective countries, before making any sort of announcement. Because god forbid another government official could get booed. That would be twice in the same month. And get this ... he is rumoured to has said that it's because the issue (AIDS, I presume) has become TOO POLITICIZED.

Uh, too politicized for a bunch of career politicians?

Shame shame shame shame.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's time to give Pride an edge again

Hello dear readers,

Here's my latest column for Capital Xtra. It's an ode to my favourite wacky protestors, and all the brave folks from ACT UP.

Ariel

Friday, June 30, 2006

Birthday Bash for Bush

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in Washington Thursday, July 6th, which coincides with George W. Bush’s birthday. Join Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians at a birthday bash for George Bush in front of the PMO, where we'll ask Stephen Harper to limit his generosity to a card and good wishes.

Our government has already handed Bush our troops for use in his "war on terror." We signed away our right to energy security in NAFTA. Harper’s letting Bush keep $1-billion worth of the lumber tariffs the U.S. government took from us illegally. And Bush knows he need only ask before we hand over our fresh water, too.

The Council of Canadians fears that Harper will further compromise Canadian sovereignty in areas of foreign policy, trade and security, and we hope to raise awareness about how much the Prime Minister has sacrificed without public consent during his short reign.
Show Harper you can be a good neighbour without giving it all away.

What: A birthday party for Dubya (free cake and loot bags!)
Where: Outside the PMO, in front of the NCC Info Centre at Wellington and Metcalfe
When: Thursday, July 6, noon to 1 p.m. (bring sunscreen, noisemakers and a party hat!)
Why: Because we can, because it’s fun, and because we’re sick of giving pieces of Canada away
Who: Come one, come all. This is a Council of Canadians party and everyone’s invited!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

When the government becomes a spy

Hello everyone,

I hope you'll forgive me for my infrequent postings. With the media speculating about another possible election some time in the fall, I suspect that this blog will heat up again soon.

But here is my latest column for Cap X -- focusing on the government's proposal to tap people's phones without their knowledge or permission. Scary stuff. The article is directed to a gay audience, but the issues that I touch on should be chilling to anyone, if I do say so myself.

You also might be interested in reading Matthew Behrens' reflections on his experiences travelling with Camp Hope. As I mention in my column, it was truly inspiring to hear him speak about his experiences as an activist on the security certificates issue.

And on a completely different issue, I was thrilled to find out that a youth-run grassroots coalition has sprung up, to fight the Tories' regressive age of consent legislation (actually they're calling it the "age of protection" now). You can find the coalition's website here.

Oh, and the new issue of This Magazine (which just hit the stands and is not online yet), features an excellent cover story about how Harper's mandatory minimum sentencing proposal would lead to growth of private prisons in Canada. And if you want to know why this is a very, very bad thing, check out this article from Mother Jones magazine written in 2000.

And despite all of this troubling news, I hope you are able to have some fun this long weekend.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Supreme Court 9-5 all this week ... be there

For those of you in Ottawa ...

The participants from the Caravan of Hope -- the people who travelled from Toronto to Ottawa to protest against security certificates -- will be holding demonstrations and vigils on the lawn of the Supreme Court of Canada, all of this week, from 9 am to 5 pm. I had the pleasure of hearing an impassioned speech by Matthew Behrens, one of the organizers of the Campaign to End Security Certificates. I also got to meet Sophie Harkat, who has cause for celebration today, because her husband has just been released on bail after over 3 years in prison. He still doesn't have access to the charges or evidence being used against him. Neither do the other members of the Secret Trial Five.

If you can drop by any time between 9 and 5 from Tuesday to Friday this week, the demonstrators would appreciate your support (address is 301 Wellington St.).

Also, the organizers are looking for volunteers to provide child care:


We are trying to line up some on-site childcare for the Jaballah and Mahjoub children on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this in Ottawa. The families will be in town to attend the Supreme Court hearings of the constitutionality of security certificates (security certificates on trial!). Childcare would involve taking a shift of four hours, between 9am and 1pm or 1 and 5pm, on any of the days and remaining with the children on the lawn of the Supreme Court building with the vigil. There are four kids: Ali, Osama, Ibrahim and Yusef, all between 8 and 10. Also Afnan, Ali and Osama's older sister, about 13, who can help look after them as well. Their mothers and older brothers will be there as well, but the childcare would allow their moms the freedom to do other stuff, as they will be busy with media and may want to go into the court. The lawn is a big open space, so lots of place for games! It might be necessary, if it is raining, to bring them back to the hotel or to the nearby Bronson centre.

Contact Mary Foster at mfoster@web.net, if you are willing/able to provide child care.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Don't panic -- injustice will not make you any safer

I wrote this column for Capital Xtra before this week's arrests of 17 people for supposedly planning to bomb federal buildings and behead the Prime Minister.

Now, I would never defend the actions of people who would resort to horrific violence, but I think we should all heed this warning from the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War -- don't panic. Take a deep breath, and remember that the suspects involved are to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Remember that many of those charged are young teenagers who may have been swayed by one charismatic leader. Their comments, posted on blogs, could be interpreted as little more than teenage frustration at the state of the world. The Globe and Mail reported this morning that the RCMP was careful to contact the media about the arrests before the suspects were arraigned so the media could have a field day, sans publication ban. And they are certainly winning the Propaganda War. If you've been reading the Globe and Mail, you'd think that we should be all be preparing for the apocalypse by stocking up on canned food and hiding under our desks "duck and cover" style.

Let's not forget the last time authorities trotted out dozens of young male Arab "terrorism" suspects (in Project Thread in 2003, later dubbed "Project Threadbare"), they later released every single one of them, due to a lack of evidence. And today, the Ottawa Citizen is reporting that RCMP civilian agents (all of whom have diplomatic immunity, therefore can't be charged with any crimes) "covertly committed a range of crimes, including firearms offences, counterfeiting and the theft over $5,000..." in 2004-05. Hmmm ... shouldn't we be as concerned about state-sponsored criminals in positions of authority as we are about supposed civilian terrorists?

We should also be worried when U.S. authorities use this string of arrests as an excuse to push Canada to further integrate our security policies to join Bush's War on Terror. I mean, if the RCMP did manage to scuttle a terrorism plot, we should applaud their success as proof that our homegrown system works. Why would we screw it up by joining forces with a government that started an illegal war in Iraq based on false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction?

And let's not forget the real scourge on our society -- domestic violence. While supposed terrorism plots have so far killed zero people in Canada, between 1994 and 2003, 630 women were murdered by a spouse. According to StatsCan, causes of death included shooting stabbing, strangulation and beating. Now that's a reason to duck and cover ....

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I don't know whether to laugh or cry ...

Federal budget passes unopposed on mix-up
Last updated Jun 7 2006 07:47 AM EDT
CBC News

Even though two federal parties had promised to vote against the Conservative government's budget, it passed Tuesday without opposition because of an apparent mix-up.

When the May 2 budget came up for its third and final reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning, no one stood to speak. Because there were no apparent speakers, the budget was declared passed by unanimous consent with no recorded vote.

NDP MP Libby Davies told CBC News the mix-up happened because a Conservative MP who had been scheduled to speak first was not in the chamber.

In the ensuing confusion, Davies said the opposition legislators were waiting for the Tory MP to show up and speak before they stood up. They later learned that the budget had been dealt with, at least as far as the House of Commons was concerned.

At one point, the Liberal finance critic, John McCallum, stood up to debate the budget but was told it was too late and the budget had already been passed.McCallum later admitted to feeling a little sheepish. "I think it was an honest error all around. It just got through without parliamentarians realizing quite what had happened until it had happened."

CBC Radio reporter Chris Hall said none of the two dozen or so MPs in the House of Commons at the time - and that included government members - appeared to realize that the budget had just been passed.

Finance Minister jokes about 'popular' budgetFinance Minister Jim Flaherty, who wasn't even in the House when the budget was passed, seemed to be enjoying the appearance of "unanimity" for his budget.

In the afternoon question period, he thanked the opposition for supporting the government during the budget's third reading. Earlier, he joked to reporters that the budget was "even more popular than I thought.

"The Liberals and the NDP had said their members were going to vote against the budget, which cuts the GST by one percentage point as of July 1 and brings in a child-care allowance of $1,200 a year for the parents of each child under age six.But the Bloc Québécois had indicated it would support the Conservatives. So even if the NDP and Liberals had voted against it, the budget still would have passed.

Some opposition members had spoken against the budget in earlier parliamentary debates.

The budget bill now goes to the Senate a week ahead of schedule and then will go to the Governor General for royal assent.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Fighting for your right to party

Okay, I have a good excuse for staying away from the blog for so long. I just polished off my new column for Capital Xtra, which will be published this Tuesday. I will post the link as soon as it's online, along with information about the upcoming Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of security certificates. For those in Ottawa, there will be a bunch of people camped out on the lawn of the Supreme Court, many of whom travelled to Ottawa in an activist caravan ... more on that later this week. But in the meantime, here's the link to the folks who are organizing the demonstrations.

But the real reason why I've been so busy this week, is that I have been acting as the spokesperson for Egale Canada, opposing the age of consent legislation that the Conservatives are about to introduce. Now, I've written about this issue before - namely why I think that this legislation is a very bad idea. But this week, I was challenged to defend Egale's position in the face of some pretty heady opposition. As many of you may have heard, Vic Toews is about to introduce a law that would change the age of consent from 14 to 16. Early indications are that the law would include a 5-year close-in-age exemption (so for example, a 20 year-old sleeping with a 15 year-old wouldn't be punished). We think that this is a good thing, but we still have serious concerns about the proposed law.

Now boys -- this is where fighting for your right to party comes in. Did you know that anal sex is still an offense in the criminal code? Yes, what used to be referred to "buggery" is illegal under section 159 of the Criminal Code, unless it takes place between a man and a woman who are married to each other, or if both partners are over 18. Oh, and it must take place "in private," and only 2 people can participate.

Did you know this? Isn't it a terrifying remnant of the age when homosexuality was illegal? And doesn't it seem INSANE that the government is prepared to introduce age of consent legislation that doesn't fix the unconstitutional and discriminatory anal sex law?

So I became the poster gal for anal sex this week. I did interviews with CTV National News, a radio station in Kitchener (that was surprisingly progressive, I must say), Canadian Press, CanWest News Service, and -- my favourite -- a live one-hour call-in show on CPAC.

When I did the CPAC gig this morning, I got to debate representatives from my two favourite religious right groups -- the REAL Women of Canada, and the Focus on the Family-funded Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. I think that I was able to get the message across that the law should be applied equally, regardless of the sexual activity that folks are engaging in. And I also stressed that fact that the arbitrary criminalization of teen sex will do little to prevent predators, and will actually put youth more at risk by driving their relationships underground.

But I will be the first to admit that this is not an easy issue to debate, and that there are many people who would disagree with Egale's position. But I shudder to image a future when people in their early 20s could end up on sex offender registries for participating in consensual sexual relationships with younger teenagers.

None of us like to think about 14 year-olds having sex. But don't we owe young people the opportunity to make good choices, to access the best possible sex education, and to discuss their relationships with trusted adults, without the fear that their partners could get thrown in jail?

Friday, May 26, 2006

PMO gag order over Mountie wedding

I haven't been blogging much lately, because the latest spat between Harper and the Parliamentary press gallery has ensured that Harper looks like a jerk every day in the mainstream press. I can't quite believe that he's accusing the media outlets that crowned him King of being biased against him. Unbelievable.

Anyway, this article says it all ...

PMO gag order over Mountie wedding; Tory MPs have been told to zip their lips if asked about constables' same-sex marriage next month

By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press

The Prime Minister's Office has warned Conservative MPs not to comment on the marriage next month of two gay RCMP constables. The gag order went to all MPs but was aimed at "the small minority who might say something stupid," said one caucus member.

It's just the latest in a concerted effort by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to control and limit his new government's public message track. And it follows party strategists' successful suppression during the election campaign of outspoken social conservatives whose opinions might have harmed the party's climb to power.

Now the marriage of RCMP constables Jason Tree and David Connors in Yarmouth, N.S., appears to be causing some unease in the PMO. Sandra Buckler, Harper's director of communications, was not available for comment yesterday. But several Conservative MPs quietly confirmed they had received the PMO gag order about the Mountie wedding.

Conservatives will likely insist this is simply a matter of sticking to the government's core priorities."It's always the role of a government to communicate its own message," said Harper in Vancouver, responding in French to a question about his picayune standoff with the parliamentary press gallery over who gets to decide who asks questions at news conferences.

"It is the government that has the right to communicate with the population." Ian Brodie, Harper's chief of staff, has warned cabinet ministers that if they stray off message they face an escalating scale of sanctions, ranging from public humiliation to removal from cabinet. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier have already felt the sting.

But Harper's preoccupation with message control extends far beyond his frontbench. Maverick MP Garth Turner went public early in February with accounts of being sternly dressed down by Harper for speaking out on David Emerson's Liberal defection. Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkreuz, a party stalwart and longtime leading advocate of scrapping the federal long-gun registry, was ordered not to talk with reporters about federal gun legislation in advance of last week's amnesty announcement by Public Security Minister Stockwell Day.

General Rick Hillier, the Chief of Defence Staff, went so far as to publicly deny published reports last month that he'd been muzzled, although the blunt-spoken Newfoundlander has avoided public comment ever since.

On Wednesday night in Calgary, Justice Minister Vic Toews insisted all questions be screened in advance during a town hall discussion on the government's get-tough-on-crime bill.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Big Daddy Harper

I love Ian Brown from the Globe & Mail. He manages to write these long feature articles that are actually quite subversive. A couple of years ago, he travelled through the U.S. and documented the rise of evangelical fundamentalism. He took a special trip to Colorado, where he interviewed James Dobson, the King Poobah of Focus on the Family, a multi-billion dollar a year industry/religious movement (that has declared "war" on same sex marriage, abortion, etc. -- the usual suspects).

Anyway, his latest feature for the Globe sounds like it was taken straight from the words of George Lakoff, a communications guru in the U.S. who has studied the way that Republicans communicate. (Those who know me are aware of my current obsession with Lakoff's book Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate). Brown argues that if Stephen Harper should have any nickname, it should be Big Daddy -- referring to the obsessive control he has over government communications and policy planning.

I make a similar point about Harper's communications strategy in my latest column for Capital Xtra. I love George Lakoff. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Don't boycott the census, or spill coffee on it ...

Hi everyone,

So sorry to have been absent for the last few weeks. I promise that I'm back on the blog wagon. It's been a busy time, and the sunshine has been way more appealing than the glow of the computer screen. But a few recent events have brought me out of blog hibernation, and I'm back now. I promise. This entry's going to be a bit long, so bear with me .....

The Census

Okay, I have spent most of this week responding to people who have been forwarding me emails about the census from Vivelecanada.ca and Countmeout.ca. Now I've linked to them, so you can read what they have to say, and decide for yourselves. But I maintain that boycotting or sabotaging the Canadian census is a stupid idea. I won't go into all of the reasons, because Ed Finn and Murray Dobbin have already done such a good job. But the gist of it is that Lockheed Martin (evil weapons manufacturer that it is) will have no access to census data. They just designed the software that the government will be using -- just like evil Microsoft designed the software that most of us use on our computers.

Am I happy that the Canadian government gave a big cheque to Lockheed? No. But as Dobbin points out, there is actually an activist VICTORY embedded in this story. When Stats Can originally contracted with Lockheed, the company would have had access to the data. Civil society groups complained, and Stats Can changed the contract, bringing ALL of the data collection in-house.

As many anti-poverty and social programs advocates will tell you, the census is one of the only ways that we can gain unbiased data about all sorts of social issues -- including poverty, wealth and demographics in Canada. Encouraging people to corrupt the census data is a waste of time, and all it will do is harm our efforts to fight inequality.

Now, if you really want to fight deep integration with the U.S., there are lots of more productive things you can do.

Here are three examples:

1. Join citizens' advocacy groups that are working on this issue, and get involved with their campaigns. Groups like the Council of Canadians (and yes, I work for them, but I'm also lucky enough to have a day job at an organization that I really believe in).

2. Visit ceasefire.ca, and find out how you can work toward peace and disarmament. Ceasefire is currently providing much-needed criticism of the war in Afghanistan, and this is the group that led the successful campaign against ballistic missile defence.

3. Support the Secret Trial Five (who are being held in jail with no access to the charges against them), and fight draconian security measures like Security Certificates.

Conspiracy theories sap our movement of much-needed energy and credibility. Fill out your census form, pop it in the mail, and then roll up your sleeves and get down to the real work of creating social and political change.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Frightening bedfellows

Okay, so admittedly, I've been in the depths of denial for weeks. The sun has been shining, and I've been content to use my recreation time to get in shape, in an effort to kick my butt into gear (so I can be a more effective ass-kicking activist).

But oh my god, the spitting up of breakfast has begun again. Did you catch this gem in the Globe and Mail this morning? Stephen Harper is teaming up with "social conservative" groups to help promote his "child care" tax cut. The groups include the REAL Women of Canada, the Institute for Canadian Values, and the Canada Family Action Coalition.

Now, I have provided links to all of these groups above, and I wrote about them in a previous post. But I thought I would share some choice quotes from these organizations -- especially what they have to say about women and the "homosexual agenda." Now remember, Harper is actively courting these groups, and encouraging them to promote government-sponsored policies ...

1) From the REAL Women (dedicated to keeping women in the kitchen, ardent defenders of all things patriotic, paternalistic and patriotic):

On the civil service:

Similarly, many in the civil service will not be willing to be neutral despite their claims to the contrary. This is especially true in regard to the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, where feminist/lesbian/homosexuals have dominated the policy decision-making positions for several years. Many of these latter see their role in government as promoting the "progressive" agenda of the left in government policy. They will not quietly depart, but will remain on, if at all possible, to fight any changes in a conservative direction. We can expect their attempting to undermine the Conservatives by such actions, for example, as arranging significant leaks to the media, which will be ready and willing to raise controversy over any changes in the left agenda.

On affirmative action:

REAL WOMEN, however, is opposed to the concept of enforced affirmative action which includes female "quotas". These in fact become job ceilings for women, preventing them from obtaining jobs once the quota is filled. To give women this "preferential" treatment on the basis only of their sex, is unfair, and is reverse discrimination against qualified males as well as minority groups such as ethnics and native people.

On AIDS:

Facts, however, never stand in the way of the liberal and sexually liberated members of the international AIDS establishment, including Mr. Lewis. They believe that sexual promiscuity can be made "safe" via a tiny piece of latex. The UN's and Mr. Lewis's love affair with condoms knows no bounds.

2) From the Canadian Family Action Coalition (my favourite heading on their site is "sodomy is sodomy is sodomy"):

On gay marriage:

Legalized homosexual "marriage," touted as a civil right, will open doors for some ugly transformations. What is criminalized now will then become legal. Polygamy, man/boy marriage, brother/sister marriage, human/animal marriage and other absurdities could become legal. Is this what we want?

On anti-discrimination initiatives in schools:

Be aware that such topics as family diversity or anti-bullying are used as a cover to romote the homosexual agenda. It's important to state in your letter that you object to your child being involved in any presentation which portrays homosexuality as a ormal, equal lifestyle choice. Because many school boards have a so-called "equity" policy on homosexuality, it will always be portrayed sympathetically.

Okay, okay, enough of their dribble. But you get the point, right?

Harper is using this day care issue as the thin edge of the wedge. He's relying on these INSANE groups to help him promote his agenda, and telling them to lay low till he gets a majority. Then they can work with him to unleash their vision on Canada ...

Scary stuff. But don't take it from me. Spend a few minutes on these groups' websites. Then let me know what you're gonna do about it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More on James Loney

Hello dear readers,

Forgive me for not posting for so long -- I have just rediscovered the joys of sunshine after 6:00 pm, and it's been harder and harder to spend time on the computer that's on-purpose-without-being-forced.

But here's a link to my latest column in Capital Xtra.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Local opposition to private prisons

The National Union of Public and General Employees has this to say about minimum sentences and prison privatization.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Big surprise from Mr. Toews

I guess the Harper government has 6 priorities now.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Jack, what are you thinking?

Okay, I was all ready to go to sleep, and then I caught our smug new PM in an interview about the throne speech with Peter Mansbridge. Peter mentioned that Jack Layton had glowing things to say about the speech (I know, I actually gagged when I read this). Harper said that Jack had met with him, and one of the things he asked for was a review of the Environmental Protection Act.

Is he INSANE? He actually requested that THIS government overhaul the centrepiece of Canada's environmental laws? I mean, I'm sure the EPA is not perfect, but what gains could possibly be made for the environment during the tenure of a ruling party that actually opposes the Kyoto agreement? And this burns even more, given that the Conservatives just axed the One Tonne Challenge, and a whole bunch of other climate change-related programs.

I wrote about NDP partisan myopia in a previous post, and it's late and I want to go to bed right now, but for god's sake ... when will the NDP get with the program, and out of election mode?

Yeah, yeah, we know that you want to "make Parliament work." But your job is to be the voice of opposition. Could you please stop making Harper look like a nice guy who means well? Please?

Harper's McPrisons, Inc.

Okay, so Harper's first throne speech was delivered today, and it included few surprises (although the promise to overhaul the Environmental Protection Act was a bit of a shocker. But given that the Conservatives don't believe in the Kyoto Accord, and recently cut funding to federal climate change programs, we should have seen this coming).

Anyway, those of you that don't pore over the Ottawa Citizen (and yell at it) every day, might have missed this little gem from Canadian Press. Harper's new "tough on crime" agenda will do little to prevent crime, and will lead to a huge prison building boom. And with so many people to incarcerate, and so few funds available left for federal infrastructure, guess what? Private corporations will be happy to step in and build McPrisons, lining their pockets on the backs of the poor souls who will get thrown in the slammer for first-time offenses and minor drug crimes.

When I was in university, I did a lot of research on the private prison industry in the U.S., because it was revealed that Sodexho Marriott, which was Concordia University's cafeteria provider at the time, held a significant stake in a company called Corrections Corporation of America. CCA was infamous for prison riots, a high number of escapees, and many allegations of poor treatment from prisoners. I mean, how much fat is there to cut from a prison's budget? Any cost savings inevitably come from food and health care, leaving an already vulnerable population in much worse shape.

To quote the above-mentioned article, "the U.S. experience with private prisons suggests higher rates of return to jail, more incustody accidents, more escapes, and higher staff turnover." And this is not to mention the fact that the private prison industry is the biggest supporter of "3 strikes you're out" type legislation, because, hey, more lifers means more business for them. Pretty gross, eh?

Anyway, to read more about the U.S. prison industrial complex, check out the Prison Moratorium Project. This is the group that led (and won!) the Sodexho campaign, eventually convincing the company to divest its stock in CCA. But it was too late for Concordia, which had already dumped Sodexho.

Yay for small victories.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Laila el-Haddad is my new hero

I just discovered the most amazing blog by Laila el-Haddad, an incredible journalist who writes from Gaza. It's called Raising Yousuf: a diary of a mother living under occupation.

Here's just one breathtaking excerpt:

Yesterday, as I was having mint tea and date cookies at my cousin’s house, who is here visiting from the UK where her husband is completing his pHD (her daughter is the the “cutie” pictured behind Yousuf below). Her father-in-law, a fiery little man of 80 something years, was debating with his son, something about the differences of the Palestinian educational system “then and now”, as Yousuf sat trying to compete for Dalia’s (my cousin’s daughter) attention, playing with her dolls and baby stroller (yes, my son is in touch with his feminine side). And swirling all around us, as entertainment for the evening, was a “symphony” of war, as people like to describe it here. The distinct double-boom of tank artillery shells, *BOOM boom*, every few seconds, along with the single explosions of what I would later learn were navy-gunship attacks, interdispersed with rapid machine-gun fire, a swarm of drones whirring incessantly overhead, and Apache helicopters attacking areas in northern and eastern Gaza. My cousin told her daughter they were just fireworks and not to be alarmed, so she too (four-years-old), casually ignored them.

Boots on the ground -- but on whose throats?

I just finished my next column for Capital Xtra (you will all have to wait till it comes out next week), but in the meantime, Matt Mills wrote an excellent piece for Xtra West about the fact that the new Afghan government is still sentencing people to death for adultery and sodomy. He wrote to the Canadian military and to various politicians about this issue, and their response was vague, to say the least.

Harper and others have said that change in Afghanistan is going to have to be incremental. But in the meantime, are we throwing money and troops at a government that continues to oppress and torture women and queer people? An excellent question to which I do not have an answer.

And in case you haven't seen it yet, here's a link to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, the source of the infamous "boots on the ground" poster that is currently plastered in subway stations across the U.S. capital. If there was any doubt that this mission is largely an act of solidarity with Bush, I don't know what is. I highly recommend reading the section on "Canada's War on Terror," especially where it speaks glowingly of Canada's post 9/11 anti-terrorism laws. Wonderful.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Road dispatches

Hello dear readers,

So sorry to have been out of touch. I was in Vernon, BC, attending my partner's father's funeral. Spending time in a hotel in Jesus country gave me some insights into the fight for social justice. Or it could just be the after-effect of all of those Denny's meals .... (do you know they actually have deep fried steak on the menu? And something called the "meat lover's bowl" for breakfast?).

So here are three thoughts that drifted across my head during my time out west, and I'll be back to regular posts in a couple of days ...

1) The real fight for our rights is about changing minds, not policies. Spending time in a town that features a "Pro-Life Thrift Store" and whose newspaper still refers to our community as "homosexuals," reminds you that those of us who live in big cities have it easy. At least we have places where we can gather, gay and lesbian community leaders to look up to, and the ability to walk down the street holding hands with our partners. It's easy to forget that the majority of people in Canada don't have the same luxury and sense of safety. But as I met my in-laws' friends and family, many embraced me with open arms. It seemed like a bizarre contradiction to spend time in a Catholic Church, surrounded by the Knights of Columbus, who I last saw in great numbers when they filled Parliament Hill to protest against equal marriage for same sex couples. But the people I met were imbued with a tremendous dedication to community service and charity. The challenge -- I think -- for our movement, is to spend time with people one-on-one, and explain to them that fighting for equality is the only Christian thing to do. But geez, I'm glad to be home ...

2) Homophobia is often about what isn't said. I think most people understand that outright hatred and discrimination are unacceptable. But sometimes it's the glances and the silences that pierce our hearts. The whole time I was in BC, I got the subtle sense in certain people's minds, I wasn't welcome. When other people's spouses arrived, there was no question that they deserved to be there. I just got the sense that if I had been my partner's husband, I would have commanded more respect. I guess you could chalk it up to patriarchy and homophobia -- or the stress of a painful family situation. But it's in these instances that the "rubber hits the road" in terms of people's attitudes.

3) The pulpit is the most powerful stage of all. It saddens me that the pulpits of churches all over North America are being used simultaneously to urge people to be better citizens, while also encouraging them to discriminate against our communities. There are many progressive, inclusive religious communities in Canada -- including the United Church, the Unitarian Universalists, some Anglican churches, and many liberal synagogues. But it's the institutions like the Catholic Church and the huge big-box evangelical churches that have the resources to mount widespread political campaigns. We can't ignore their power, and must support the people who are fighting losing battles to make changes from the inside.

As much as many of us would like to live in a secular, queer-friendly bubble, we can't ignore the reality in most communities across Canada and the U.S.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Division in the ranks (again)

This is just what we need, eh?

Okay, so let me get this straight. Buzz does the most idiotic thing he's ever done, flinging his arms around Paul Martin -- not once, but twice -- during the federal election. He gives him the fucking CAW leather jacket, and urges people to vote strategically.

This, of course, pisses off the NDP, and the executive of the Ontario branch promptly expels Buzz from the party. They tell him he can come back, only if he announces that he's been a very, very bad boy, and promises not to do it again.

And then today, the CAW tells its members not to support the NDP.

Boys, boys, boys. Since when did the fight for social justice become your personal cockfight? We have the most right-wing Prime Minister in history, and all of you refuse to play nice. So now we have a fractured Liberal party and a divided left-wing movement to help carry Harper to a majority in the next election.

Nice.

The Right to Choose -- salad dressing


This comic made my day (click on it to make it bigger). Thanks to Stephanie McMillan. You can read her blog here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Respect teen sex choices

Okay, a quick plug for my column in the new issue of Capital Xtra. Dykes Against Harper readers will recognize much of this piece, because I first worked through these arguments in an earlier post to this blog. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this forum, and helped me sharpen my arguments (especially if you've challenged me).

Most brave and eloquent words

I think we all have something to learn from the graceful response of the Christian Peacemaker Teams to the rescue of James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Norman Kember. The CPT folks remain committed to non-violence, and continue to fight the illegal occupation of Iraq. Here is the statement they released today:

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance...

Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?

With Tom’s death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox.
Welcome home guys. Your commitment and principled stand on the war in Iraq has something to teach us all about the meaning of solidarity and non-violence.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Peacenicks: you are not alone

I've been meaning to post information about the Michael Franti documentary I saw last week, called I Know I'm Not Alone. For those that don't know of the fabulous Mr. Franti -- he's a progressive independent hip-hop artist who performs both solo and with his band Spearhead. I am convinced that his voice represents the protest music of our generation. He sings (and raps) about the ravages of war, about HIV/AIDS prevention, about homophobia ... you name it. He rocks. And he recently made a documentary about his travels to Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Although the film has a bit of a "rock star does the Middle East" feel to it, Franti did manage to get some incredible footage I've never seen anywhere else.

Some of the moments that really struck me included:

- The first thing that Franti heard when he landed in Baghdad was the loud buzzing of generators. The whole city is literally covered with home-made electrical sources, being sold on the black market to people who are desperate for more than one hour of power a day. When Franti asked a cab driver about the stink of pollution in the air, the driver laughed at him, explaining that people are way too concerned with daily survival to concentrate on such seemingly trivial matters.

- Most of the people Franti interviewed were grateful that the U.S. helped get rid of Saddam. But they don't understand why they are now living in a permanent state of occupation. They see huge U.S. defence companies getting big money to "rebuild" Iraq, yet the city is still sitting in ruins.

- The U.S. soldiers working in Iraq are scared out of their minds, and they just want to go home. They have been told by their superiors to be suspicious of and antagonistic toward the Iraqi people, and as a result, they see all non-Americans as the enemy. But mostly they just want to see their families.

I won't ruin the film for you, but the portions in the West Bank and Israel are the most interesting, I think. He really managed to capture the reality of war and terrorism from both Arab and Jewish perspectives. He ends the film with a toast to "the peacemakers," no matter where they come from.