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.