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.