Friday, August 01, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008


In case you haven't noticed, the blog is more or less on hiatus, perhaps to be launched under a new name some time in the future. It has become a repository for my columns, which you can read over at ...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Policing pregnancy

Why gays should worry about policing pregnancy
PERSONAL POLITICAL / Our mantra has always been: our bodies, our choices

Ariel Troster / / Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My friend Pam, who is pregnant with twins, delights in making strangers squirm when she's out at a bar. She orders alcohol-free beer and drinks it out of the bottle, eliciting glares from other patrons who are convinced that she's harming her future children.

No one has dared to confront her yet, but if they do, Pam plans to tell them where to go. Because since she's become pregnant, she's noticed that random strangers seem to feel entitled to give her advice on everything from fashion to nutrition. Her body has become a source of public debate — one in which she never consented to participate.

If a private member's bill called the Unborn Victims of Crime Act makes it into law, pregnant women like Pam could find all of their choices scrutinized — and possibly criminalized. Because the bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Ken Epp, would grant legal "personhood" to fetuses, setting a precedent that could significantly chip away at women's reproductive freedom.

In the United States, similar laws also criminalize pregnant women for activities that could be deemed harmful to the fetuses they're carrying. And this should make all queers quake in their boots — even those who have no intention of procreating.

Visit to read the rest.

Also, here are some resources to help you fight Bill C-484:

1. Sign this online petition.
2. Write a letter to your MP, using the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's Talking Points
3. Make a donation to ARCC. This is the fight of their lives. They are broke and doing awesome work.
4. If you live in Ottawa, join pro-choice activists on Parliament Hill on Saturday, May 3rd, for a Rally to Oppose Bill C-484. Here are the details:

For immediate release:


Headline: “Moving backwards in fight for abortion rights”

On May 3rd, 2008 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM a protest opposing Bill C-484 will take place at the Peace Tower.

Bill C-484, “The Unborn Victims of Crime Act,” has passed its second reading in Parliament as of March 5th, 2008. The bill creates a separate offence for killing a fetus when a pregnant woman is murdered. It gives an unborn foetus some human rights in these cases, which is a cause for concern in the pro-choice community. Under current Canadian Law, human fetuses are not considered persons(s) until they are born alive. If Bill C-484 should pass, the laws would be in conflict because the foetus would be considered a person and therefore the right to a legal abortion would come into question, as well as the rights of pregnant women in general. The law is clearly not concerned with the roots of violence against women and thus this bill would be a detriment to women’s rights. Similar laws have been passed in the U.S. resulting in dozens of women being punished for trying to “harm their child”. Let’s not let this happen in Canada.

We believe that the government should look to pass laws that increase the sentencing upon those who commit violent acts against women, instead of passing laws just for fetuses that give women no ounce of protection and infringe on their rights.

Women and men are encouraged to come join us and the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada at the Peace Tower on May 3rd, 2008 to show their solidarity. We are encouraging supporters across Canada to hold similar protests as a sign of nationwide solidarity against Bill C-484.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fetus rights part of SoCon chess game

PERSONAL POLITICAL / Trends in women's political issues not looking good

Ariel Troster / / Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If I hear another "socially progressive, economically Conservative" homo defend Stephen Harper again, I'm going to lose it.

You might remember the refrain from after the last federal election in 2006: He's not so bad. This is a minority government. The free vote on re-opening the same sex marriage was only about pandering to the Western base and was meant to fail. Harper's committed to right-wing economics, but he's no religious zealot.

We all know Harper's been careful to micromanage all government communications, in an effort to paint himself as a middle of the road, fatherly kind of guy. But just last week, even the propaganda department at the PMO couldn't keep a lid on Charles McVety, president of the ultra-right Canada Family Action Coalition.

McVety couldn't contain his excitement over a controversial few sentences buried deep within Bill C-10, a broad ranging piece of income-tax legislation. The Bill allows self-appointed censors from the Departments of Heritage and Justice to yank tax credits away from film and television productions deemed to be "contrary to public policy."

All three opposition parties missed this stealth manoeuvre, until the bill hit third reading in the Senate, and McVety gloated to the Globe and Mail about how this bill represents the government's — and Canadians' — true "conservative values."

This came in the same week as a private members' bill from Conservative MP Ken Epps that puts a significant dent in women's reproductive freedom by establishing legal "personhood" for fetuses passed second reading.

The so-called "Unborn Victims of Crimes Act" will now go to committee hearings, where you can bet every religious whackjob will testify about the "rights" of the unborn. Shamefully, neither the Liberals or the NDP whipped their caucus to vote against the bill.

If anything, it's been a banner year for religious wingnuts, and with Harper approaching majority territory in the polls, we can only imagine what actions he would take if he didn't have to rely on the Liberals nor the NDP to get laws passed.

It's useful to take a close look at some strategic initiatives that the Harper government has pushed through over the last two years. When you line them up, you see the escalation in tactics and the rather brazen moves by the Conservatives to silence queer and women's rights activists.

Read the rest over at

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

2-minute action for reproductive freedom

Tomorrow, the House of Commons will vote on Conservative MP Ken Epps “Unborn Victims of Crime Act." The bill is problematic to say the least … it would effectively confer legal status on fetuses, violating pregnant women’s rights in the process. It’s the kind of legislation that the religious right has successfully passed in the U.S., leading to arrests of pregnant women for actions that are not considered criminal for anyone else. It also does nothing to address the real pressing concern for pregnant women: domestic violence.

For an excellent analysis of why the bill is problematic, check out Joyce Arthur's recent editorial in the National Post.

I think this tidbit really sums it up:

Under state "fetal homicide" laws pregnant women are more likely to be punished for behaviours and conditions that are not criminalized for other people, such as drug or alcohol abuse. Women have also been charged or jailed for murder for experiencing a stillbirth after refusing a Caesarean section. Some states have proposed punishing pregnant women in abusive relationships who are unable to leave their batterers, and desperate women who resort to unsafe self-abortions. The worst offender is South Carolina, where dozens of pregnant women with drug abuse problems have been arrested under fetal protection laws, even though they had virtually no access to drug treatment programs.
Usually private members’ bills have no chance of passing, but apparently only the NDP and the Bloc have agreed to whip their caucuses to vote against this measure.

You can click here to send a message to Stephane Dion, urging him to impose some party discipline, and make sure that this frightening initiative fails.

For more analysis on why this bill is terrifying, check out what Vicky Smallman and Andrea Zanin have to say.

And also, check out the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's talking points on Bill C-484.

Take action now!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sex workers are us

Why we fight alongside hookers
PERSONAL POLITICAL / The state has no place in our bedrooms

Ariel Troster / / Thursday, February 21, 2008

Maybe it was her blue dreadlocks that caught my attention. Standing in a park in Montreal's Plateau district in 1998, I was struck by how my first Take Back the Night march had veered off in a direction I had never expected. On a damp night in November, I had run to catch up with a group of 100 women who tromped around the streets of Montreal that night, pointing out the dark corners where women had been raped or assaulted.

It filled me with a sense of foreboding, but also a feeling of incredible power and sisterhood. And then we reached the park where the speeches took place and Anna-Louise Crago took the stage. Decked out in leggings and combat boots, her long hair a mess of the afore-mentioned dreadlocks, she looked like many of the activist kids I'd met in my first few weeks of school. But as soon as she opened her mouth, I was hooked.

She spit fire at the assembled group of women, railing against them for having jeered at the strip clubs on St Catherine St in the midst of their march. A member of the Coalition for the Rights of Sex Workers, Anna was the first self-acknowledged sex worker I ever met, and she forever changed my view of women in the trade.

Since then I have met lots of sex workers, and count several among my closest friends. So that's why it's been so infuriating to see the misinformation being spread in the media by Ottawa city councillors and the chief of police.

Dozens of arrests have been made since November as part of a city-wide crackdown on street level prostitution and drug use. Police have begun sending letters to the owners of vehicles suspected of idling in areas populated by sex workers. The letters make false statements about sex workers, claiming that they are all drug users responsible for spreading HIV/AIDS. And this is not to mention the obvious civil liberties violations associated with this type of surveillance tactic.

The struggle for sex workers' rights is our struggle. Here's why. (Read the rest over at

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bio family can embrace chosen family

PERSONAL POLITICAL / How my family has grown by having two gay kids

Ariel Troster / / Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sometimes worlds collide in the strangest ways, especially when birth families and chosen families interact.

A few weeks ago, my tattooed femme friend brought her lover, a leather-clad bootblack, to dinner at my parents' house in North York. The two of them had met at Mr Leather Ottawa a couple of months earlier, when the bootblack asked the femme to hike up her skirt so she could polish the femme's boots. A hot affair has ensued ever since.

When I was recently back in Toronto visiting family, my mother decided to throw a giant dinner party, and announced that she wanted to meet some of my friends. So the femme and the bootblack joined me, my partner, my parents, grandmother and other assorted relatives for a gourmet kosher feast.

My grandmother, who is the most stylish clothes horse I've ever met in my life, oohed and ahhed over the femme's houndstooth kitten-heeled shoes. The bootblack displayed impeccable manners, clad in a tie and a smart leather vest. When my Mom asked the couple how they met, the femme declared, "she polishes boots for charity events!" It certainly made for an entertaining meal.

You see, my brother and I have raised our parents just as they have raised us. We grew up in a liberal, open-minded household. My mother, a lawyer, was always interested in human rights cases, so we followed the Supreme Court like other families follow the hockey game. I wrote my first editorial on abortion rights when I was 12, and when I turned 18 and was allowed to vote for the first time, I stubbornly insisted on placing an NDP lawn sign beside my parents' long-standing Liberal sign. They didn't remove it.

Still, I don't think anything prepared them for the experience of having two gay kids. My brother came out when he was 13. I followed three years later at 19, after having moved to Montreal. My father barely lifted an eyebrow, and Mom blurted out, "maybe we were a bit too open-minded?"

Read more about my open-minded family over at

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lessons learned in campus activism

Lessons learned in campus activism
PERSONAL POLITICAL / Don't turn off critical thinking after the classroom

Ariel Troster / / Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I'll never forget the first time someone called me racist. I was 20 years old, and the editor of the student newspaper at Concordia University in Montreal. A self-proclaimed activist, I had joined every leftwing group that I could when I first set foot on campus in 1998. My answering machine was routinely choked with messages from various collectives seeking my volunteer labour — including one group that spent months constructing giant chicken puppets to be used at a demonstration against genetic engineering.

So you can imagine the shock on this Jewish girl's face, when a six-foot tall white dude with green hair stormed into the newspaper office and angrily informed me that I was in need of an anti-oppression workshop.

This was after I'd run an ill-informed editorial about the Palestinian solidarity group on campus, and managed to upset hundreds of people. But as a budding journalist, I was still invested in the questionable notion of journalistic objectivity, and was seriously miffed at being challenged on my story-gathering prowess.

Within a few weeks, the situation got out of hand. After a very public campaign under the mantle of "accountability and democracy," a group of students delivered a petition to me, with over 1,000 signatures, demanding that I resign from my position. I refused. That led to months of heated arguments about who was censoring who. And believe it or not, the student radicals on campus accused me of being, well, not radical enough. After a very public turf war, I was happy to spend my last year of university quietly buried in the library stacks, swearing I would never again go to another demonstration or write another column.

So, what's changed? I graduated from university and got involved with a local neighbourhood association that ran a food bank and organized tenants to fight back against slum landlords. I read whatever books I could get my hands on about the successes and failures of various activist movements. But more importantly, I finally left campus, and realized that there was a wide spectrum of activism and community involvement out there that hadn't been apparent to me from my ivory tower perch.

I thought about this when I heard that students at McGill University students had successfully booted Hema Quebec off campus, protesting against their donation policies, which explicitly ban gay men. When I was a student, I would have celebrated this as a major victory, but now I'm not so sure.

Read the rest over at