Monday, July 30

10th anniversary of blogging

Although hard to believe, this month marks the 10th anniversary of blogging, a method for regularly publishing content online.

And what a milestone it is. A recent census of "the blogosphere" counted more than 70 million blogs covering an unimaginable array of topics.
Moreover, every day an astounding 120,000 new blogs are created and 1.5 million new posts are published (about 17 posts per second). Never before have so many contributed so much to our media landscape.

Despite this exponential growth, blogging continues to be misunderstood by both technophiles and technophobes. For the past decade the former have maintained that blogs will replace traditional journalism, ushering in an era of citizen-run media. Conversely, the latter have argued that a wave of amateurs threatens the quality and integrity of journalism – and possibly even democracy.

Both are wrong.

LINK: TorStar

Saturday, July 28

The mother of all cookie brands. Dad's.

This blog post represents a round-up of various "commuter clicks" of interest

Women and Cookie Baking: Baking cookies? Just another sexist assumption The Liberal backroomer got himself in a spot of bother this week by suggesting on his blog that a female Conservative MPP was bored senseless whilst in attendance at some political function or other (she'd be a strange duck if she wasn't) and would sooner be somewhere else. "Baking cookies perhaps." Naturally, there followed a blast of wrath and indignation – "Old boy's club," "Outrageous and appalling," "Sexism 101" – and Kinsella issued the requisite apology.

  • U.S.-Violence against aboriginal women: In the U.S. the. House of Representatives authorized $1 million in funding to combat sexual crimes against American Indian and Alaska Native women, in a 412-18 vote on a budget amendment, the Inter Press Service reported July 26. ..........The measure follows an April report by London-based Amnesty International on high rates of sexual crimes committed against Native women, with a large portion committed by non-Native men. An Indian woman is at least two and a half times more likely than other U.S. women to be raped. (“Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA”,)
  • Canada-.Violence against aboriginal women: Hubert O'Connor, the disgraced Roman Catholic bishop, has died of a heart attack in Toronto. He was 79. He resigned as bishop of the British Columbia diocese of Prince George after being charged with sex crimes in 1991 authorities agreed to drop the rape charge after the former bishop apologized to his accuser in 1998 at a traditional native healing circle held at Alkali Lake, a small native village near Williams Lake in the B.C. Interior.
  • Women and AIDS According to a recent UN report, HIV/AIDS is having a greater effect on women in developing countries than men. Young women, for example, are three times more likely to be infected as men in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the report notes, "women know less than men about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and how to prevent infection, and what little they do know is often rendered useless by the discrimination and violence they face."
  • Women, the Church and Abortion: Amnesty has dropped its neutral stance on abortion because it sees rape as a tool of war that results in unwanted pregnancies. Now a leading cardinal has called on Catholics to withdraw their longstanding support from the rights' group
  • Women and Unions: The Communications Workers of America--representing more than 700,000 individuals in 1,200 chartered local unions--expanded its 19-member executive board to include four "diversity" seats on July 17 and at least two will be women. The seats will represent four geographic regions. Currently, the board includes four women.
  • Women and Peace: The Economist Intelligence Unit released the Global Peace Index--the first study to rank countries according to their level of peacefulness--on May 30, but failed to measure the level of violence against women and children in their calculations, reported the Christian Science Monitor July 26. The exclusion meant that such human rights violations as female genital mutilation, honor killings, female infanticide, domestic violence, sexual abuse and systematic medical neglect of girls were disregarded.
  • Women and Politics: We need more Janes than Dicks, "It goes something like this - see Jane run, see Dick run. See Dick win," "To put it bluntly, we need more Janes and less Dicks."

Thursday, July 26

MPs trade barbs during hot summer meeting on native human rights

Applause erupted in a packed meeting on Parliament Hill as a rare, midsummer Conservative bid to push through contentious legislation was derailed by united opposition MPs.

The Tories want to extend human rights law to First Nations, but native leaders say they weren't properly consulted and don't have the cash to comply. The national Assembly of First Nations has asked for a three-year transition period - as was granted to provinces before the Charter of Rights took effect - for education and preparation.

Conservatives have offered 18 months, up from the six months included in the original bill, but no new funding or formal consultation.

Reserves are largely excluded from human rights law because of a "temporary" 1977 exemption that was never removed.

The government recalled 12 members of the Commons all-party aboriginal affairs committee Thursday in a widely panned bid to move the bill forward.

Observers packed the public gallery in a sweltering meeting hall as tempers quickly flared around the committee table.

Conservatives accused their rival MPs of delaying human rights for vulnerable native people. Opposition MPs assailed the government for staging what they called a calculated political stunt.

Mary Eberts, a Toronto lawyer and human-rights specialist, says it's a bit rich for Conservatives to cast themselves as native rights crusaders.

This is the same government that's appealing a recent court judgment in British Columbia that, she says, is a major victory for native women.

The Conservatives announced earlier this month their intent to appeal a ruling in favour of Sharon McIvor. She successfully challenged part of the legal definition of a status Indian on the grounds that it discriminates against those who trace their aboriginal roots through female relatives rather than their father or grandfather.

Thousands of people have been denied status and services as a result, Eberts says.

It would be the ultimate irony if the Conservatives pushed through human rights access for native women - women who in turn would not be able to challenge similar discrimination as long as the McIvor case is bogged down in appeal, she said.

"If someone has a human-rights complaint, and the matter is being dealt with in court, they're told: 'You have to wait until the court rules."'

It's a classic case of political double-speak, says New Democrat MP Jean Crowder.

The Conservatives "are talking out of both sides of their mouths. Either they support human rights - which means they would not have appealed the McIvor decision - or they don't."

LINK: 570News

P.E.I. women MLAs form non-partisan caucus

P.E.I.'s seven female MLAs, both Liberal and Progressive Conservative, are creating their own committee to give women a stronger voice on the floor of the legislature.

'We share the same daily battles.'— MLA Cynthia Dunsford

Stratford-Kinlock MLA Cynthia Dunsford told CBC News on Wednesday that female politicians, regardless of party, need to band together in the legislature.

"We share the same experiences, we share the same struggles, we share the same daily battles that come up that may not be specific to men," said Dunsford.

Dunsford has two goals: make provincial politics more appealing so women will run; and work with their male colleagues to affect change on the floor of the legislature. The committee will develop legislation to address issues relevant to women, if that is what is required.

Dunsford said all seven women MLAs — including Olive Crane, the one female Tory — have agreed to be members. Kirstin Lund, chair of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women, said a women's caucus is long overdue.

"We have a legislative body that is specifically focused on looking at issues that are important to women, and we've never to my knowledge had that on P.E.I.," said Lund.

"I think that will make a huge impact. And honestly this is one of the most exciting things I've heard in the five years that I've been chair of the advisory council on the status of women."

The new caucus is expected to meet for the first time within a month to develop a budget and an overall philosophy.


Tuesday, July 24

Canada and United States against UN resolution : Dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon adopted a resolution from the report of the Commission on the Status of Women in which it called upon the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and services in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women and their families, and approved a text on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.

In the resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, which was adopted by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour, two against (Canada and the US) and one abstention, the Council called upon the concerned parties, as well as the international community, to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the full resumption of the peace process on its agreed basis, taking into account the common ground already gained, and called for intensified measures to be taken for tangible improvement of the difficult situation on the ground and the living conditions faced by Palestinian women and their families. It also called upon the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and services in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women and their families and to help in the reconstruction of relevant Palestinian institutions.

Commenting on the resolution were Pakistan, the United States, Costa Rica and Israel.

LINK: ReliefWeb
LINK: Palestinian women 'suffer doubly'

Ontario parties chip away at old boys' club

However, exodus of one in five female members of legislature suggests elected office doesn't easily fit with family obligations

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is making good on a promise to woo more females to elected office, with women accounting for one-third of the Liberal Party's slate for the Oct. 10 election.

Mr. McGuinty has pledged to have women candidates in half the seats not held by the Liberals. He is well on his way to fulfilling that goal, with women's names on the ballot in 19 of those 39 ridings. Among the 92 Liberal candidates nominated so far, 32 are women.

Politicians, academics and women's groups have for years said there is too much testosterone at all levels of government in Canada. But the planned exodus of one in five female members of the Ontario Legislature raises questions about whether the goal of addressing the gender imbalance remains elusive. Five of the legislature's 26 women members have chosen not to run in the coming election.

"It's a discouraging signal," said Rosemary Speirs, founding chairwoman of Equal Voice, a national organization dedicated to getting more women elected to all levels of government. She sent a letter to all of the 103 MPPs at Queen's Park on Friday, expressing her concern that not enough women may be nominated in winnable ridings to replace the losses.

Greg Sorbara, Ontario Finance Minister and chairman of the Liberal campaign, conceded that politics pretty much remains a boys' club, despite the best intentions of many leaders to attract more women. The departure of so many women at once in Ontario sends a message to every parliament that politicians need to do more to make elected office more hospitable to women and more family friendly, he said.

"Over the centuries, parliaments have been male dominated. That is changing and changing rapidly."

All three major party leaders in Ontario are making a concerted effort to attract more women candidates for the election, Ms. Speirs said.

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory acknowledged that he will likely fall short of his goal of having women make up one-third of his party's candidates. Unlike the Liberal Party, which allows its leader to appoint a certain number of candidates, those running for the Tories must be nominated. Some 34 women have sought nominations for the Tories but only 21 have gotten the nod so far in 91 ridings.

"We desperately need the presence of more women in terms of the perspective they bring on issues," Mr. Tory said in an interview. He also called for reforms, saying the long hours and macho environment make it a challenge to attract more women to public life.

New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton said half of his party's slate will be female. The party is nominating record numbers of women, but their chances of winning in many ridings are slim.

Women now hold 25 per cent of the 103 seats in the provincial legislature; redistribution in the election will expand the number to 107. This is slightly better than the House of Commons, where women make up just 21 per cent of members. (Federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has promised that one-third of his party's slate in the next election will be female.)

In Ontario, women have won five of the nine by-election races since 2003, including three for the Tories.

But the fact that five women are not running for re-election raises the age-old question of whether family obligations continue to hold back mothers.

Veteran New Democrat Shelley Martel was the first to announce her retirement from politics after 20 years to spend more time with her two young children. Cabinet minister Marie Bountrogianni and Liberal backbencher Jennifer Mossop also cited family reasons when they said they were not seeking re-election.

Cabinet minister Mary Anne Chambers said health concerns prevent her from running. Liberal Judy Marsales plans to call it quits on Wednesday.

Ms. Bountrogianni, the mother of two teenagers, acknowledged that politics is more challenging for women. But she said women considering a career in politics should think of it as a term of service. She was an MPP for eight years.

Ms. Mossop, who has a four-year-old daughter, said she agonized over her decision to leave politics after one term. But she said she should not be held up as an example of why politics is not for women.

"I'm a poster child for my juncture in life," she said. "I'm half a modern couple and I've got my priorities straight."

Sunday, July 22

Elder and Warrior Harriet Nahanee - 1935-2007

Hat tip to Larry Gambone who left a comment on my post "August 2001 - Remembering Kimberly Rogers": about the state imprisonment and death of Elder and Warrior Harriet Nahanee

This is one of many examples of the state’s vile mistreatment of Indigenous people, in particular those who expose and dissent Canada’s illegal theft and occupation of Indigenous lands.

Harriet was a 72-year old Pacheedaht grandmother, married into the Skwxwu7mesh Nation, who was arrested and imprisoned for protecting the Eagle Ridge Bluff site that is slated to be destroyed in the expansion of the Sea-to-Sky Highway for the 2010 Olympics.

Despite her frail health, Harriet was sentenced to fourteen days at the Surrey Pretrial center; a men’s prison and notorious hell hole. While in jail, where she was inflicted with abuse, and not given proper medical care in a cell with tens of other inmates subject to racist treatment, Harriet Nahanee contracted pneumonia. After one week of release from custody, she was hospitalized and passed away within a week.

Harriet represents hundreds of other Indigenous people who are criminalized and abused by the Canadian state when they choose to stand up against and not assimilate into Canadian capitalist society.

Harriet was well known for her use of the Royal Proclamation to explain how unceded Indigenous lands are illegally occupied and governed by the Canadian government. The Canadian and provincial governments continue to attempt to extinguish Aboriginal title and rights (through litigation and the BC treaty process), dispossess Indigenous people from their lands, and destroy traditional territories through mega-development projects.


August 2001 - Remembering Kimberly Rogers

For those of you who do not know who Kimberly Rogers was: she was a working-class woman who struggled all her life against poverty,

Kim fled an abusive relationship in Toronto to move home to Sudbury and start fresh. She graduated from social services at Cambrian College with high praise for her work with handicapped children.

Kim was pregnant — and she needed welfare because, battling ill health, she couldn't work. You can't live on Ontario student loans, and yet you're a criminal if you get welfare at the same time. When Kim pleaded guilty to having received $13,000 of welfare over three years, Judge Greg Rodgers ordered her into house arrest. Kim launched a court Charter challenge of her six-month welfare ban. She told the court about running out of food, with no local agencies able to provide more. She was depressed, sleepless, frightened about her baby's future. Kim was found dead in her overheated Sudbury apartment while confined to house arrest and forbidden to leave her apartment - in August 2001 - the greatest heat wave Sudbury had experienced for many years.

When I lived in Sudbury, I was a member of the "Committee to Remember Kimberly Rogers" and spoke at a rally to pressure the provincial government to undertake an inquest. All rally participants expressed outrage at the death of Ms. Rogers and the government policies which created the circumstances for her death. We called for an inquest to fully explore the relationship between Harris' anti-social policies which criminalized poverty and the death of Kimberley Rogers

Welfare fraud versus corporate fraud

Black and Radler looted $85 million US. ($102 million Canadian) from the shareholders of Hollinger International Inc. As always, the sins of welfare recipients are treated far more harshly than the sins of the rich and powerful

LINK: Remembering Kimberly Rogers

Struggling with the “Charity Model”

There are “regular panhandlers”, hats and hands outstretched, in Ottawa that I gladly “donate” my toonies to; I volunteer for delivering Christmas hampers; I donate to food banks; I do select “social purchase” merchandise over brand names whenever I shop; I support United Way fundraisers; I have never been inside a casino in my life; and I don’t do lottery tickets….but I am rethinking my behaviour and how it helps or hinders the world I want to build for my children.

Recent changes to the Status of Women’s programs and the terms and conditions (T & Cs) are very much based on this charity model which ignores the systemic issues behind the problems at hand. These changes to the terms and conditions are resulting in essential national women’s groups like NAWL and CRIAW ineligible for funding to continue their work and fighting for their own survival

The “charity model” fails our sons and daughters because, while I agree that there is a need for increased funding to women’s shelters, if current divorce laws continue to fail to take into account spousal and family violence, then we are not really addressing the issue of violence against women. The new T&Cs allow funding for shelters but not for work to research, question, challenge, lobby, advocate and change unjust laws.

I’ll continue to donate and volunteer but I want more…

This Tory movement towards a charity model and away from a social and human rights model reminded me of that familiar adage: "If you give a (wo)man a fish, you'll feed her/him for a day. If you teach her/him to fish, (s)he'll eat for life." ……or something like that.

The feminist in me needs to move beyond the “giving/teaching” and include the “asking”:

  • “what if all of their fishing poles are broken?”
  • “what if the price of bait is too high for them to be able to afford to catch enough fish each day and something needs to be done on a structural/federal level to help them afford enough mealworms for bait?”.
  • “what if the ocean has been fished out by commercial fishers?”
  • “what if we planted and maintained a garden instead of fish?”

.......more random thoughts on acts of charity....

Jean Swanson has worked as an anti-poverty activist for 25 years, 15 of which were with End Legislated Poverty in Vancouver. In her book, Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion (Between the Lines, Toronto, 2001), she says charity creates the illusion that needs get met.

Quoting a member of Ottawa's Social Planning Council, she says, charity "is a visible way of making people feel good about a problem, but not really addressing it in any depth. It doesn't address why the person is poor. It doesn't address jobs. It doesn't address income levels."

Even though charity is important, it should not replace justice work, she says. "If ending poverty is a priority for you, focus on working for more income and power equality," she advises.

  • Acts of charity towards the poor, even though well-intended, are ultimately not as beneficial as structural change.
  • When considering women’s poverty, the charity model approach is about ensuring that women can find a donated business suit which will allow them to access a minimum wage job. What women’s groups have been working on over the last few years is how women’s poverty cannot be addressed solely from the vantage point of finding a job, whatever the job, but that multiple forces such as those behind racism, colonialism and ableism need to be simultaneously addressed if we are to seriously improve women’s economic well being.
  • The charity model is the oldest and still most prevalent approach for folks with disabilities—one that views people with disabilities as unfortunates or victims of circumstance, whom society must care for as a moral responsibility. While this approach may enrich benefits and services for people with disabilities, the charity model tends to under-emphasize the capacities of people with disabilities to participate more fully in work and community life.
  • The old ‘charity’ model of care—a model that emphasizes dependence, segregation and transfers the costs of disabilities away from the state and towards families and charitable organizations. The disability rights community strongly objects to this model as a throwback to the old British Poor Laws of the 1600s.
  • Hunger's not about food. It's so much bigger. It requires political discourse
  • Charity likely does more to bolster the donors’ self-image than to build the recipients’ self-determination.
  • People on the receiving end who have never been given the chance to reciprocate will in due time despise not only the gift, but the giver.’”
  • The charity model teaches helplessness and enforces dependency
  • The blind charity model, whereby the majority sighted establishment views the blind as less than equal to them, and as wards or recipients of their benevolence. The other approach is that of the organized blind movement: the National Federation of the Blind, and the Canadian Federation of the Blind. That is, an approach based on equality between the blind and the sighted; based on the blind speaking for themselves, and not being spoken for by do-gooders who presume to know better and pronounce on their behalf. Based on the empowerment of the blind as citizens and equals, competent and fit to take charge of their own destiny and affairs.
  • As the Canadian state purges itself of its social and human rights reponsibilities, the Non-profit institutions and volunteering sector is outgrowing all other sectors in the economy
  • Only 20 per cent of the money from the Alberta Lottery Fund goes to groups that might be considered non-profit, community-based and charitable. The rest goes to a variety of other groups and initiatives. For instance, last year two one-time $35-million grants were given to Edmonton Northlands and the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. This year, $55 million is budgeted for provincial highways, $25 million more for street improvements. More than $60 million is budgeted to public and separate schools in the province, $1.6 million is budgeted for gaming research. And on and on and on.

Saturday, July 21

Ivory Towers: Feminist Audits

Ivory Towers: Feminist Audits is an annual postcard of statistical data on women and other equity groups. Since 2001, data has been collected from CAUT and Statistics Canada to measures trends in:

  • women's critical mass at the Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD level in the student body;
  • women's representation amongst senior academic administrators and in major research initiatives such as the Canada Research Chairs program;
  • the gender-based faculty wage gap;
  • academic women's "baby gap"; and
  • the number of Aboriginal faculty teaching at universities and colleges across Canada.

Here are the percentages of women holding various positions in the Canadian academic world:

  • University Presidents (2007), 13%
  • Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs (2006), 15.8%
  • University Vice Presidents (2000), 17.2%
  • Full Professors (2005), 18.8%
  • Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs (2006), 27.3%
  • Associate Professors (2005), 34.7%
  • Assistant Professors (2005), 41.4%
  • PhD Students Enrolled (2005), 45.6%
  • Full-time Non-tenure Track Faculty (2005), 48%
  • Master's Students Enrolled, 51.4%
  • Undergraduate Students Enrolled (2005), 58.2%

Current data on equity groups other than women in post-secondary education in Canada do not exist, despite urgent and repeated demands by public policy analysts, human rights researchers, and academic activists.

Source: Ivory Towers: Feminist Audits, an annual postcard of statistical data on women and other equity groups, compiled by Wendy Robbins & Michèle Ollivier, PAR-L, with assistance from CAUT and CFHSS. Read more at: .

Scrap the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP)

On July 5,­ 25-year old Elenita “Beng-Beng” Pailanan died at York Central Hospital in Ontario, Canada after undergoing emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.

Weeks before the operation, Pailanan, said Siklab-Ontario an advocacy group for Filipino migrants’ rights, was already experiencing recurring fevers, head and back pain, and shortness of breath. But she delayed going to the hospital for treatment until her illness became unbearable because she was not yet eligible for an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

Under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), she had to wait for three months and a valid work permit before getting OHIP coverage.

Siklab-Ontario said that because of this, the hospital administration asked Pailanan for a bond of $15,000, which was guaranteed by her employment agency, even before the operation was performed.

Pailanan arrived in Toronto April 17, 2007 on a working visa as a live-in caregiver. She was just on her third month in the host country when she died.

Denied government assistance

Pailanan, a native of Iloilo (about 465 kms. south of Manila), was the bread winner in her family. Her parents have requested that her body be immediately sent back to them but had no means to finance the repatriation.

Believing that she had benefits being an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) member, Pailanan’s friends approached the Philippine Consulate for assistance in the repatriation of her body back to her family in Iloilo.

But, Siklab-Ontario said, instead of helping them, a Consular official allegedly told Pailanan’s friends to “fundraise” for the repatriation. The group said they were told by another Consulate official that the employment agency assumed responsibility for repatriating the body. But the latter has not acted on it up to now.

Under the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 or Republic Act 8042, “the repatriation of remains and transport of the personal belongings of a deceased worker and all costs attendant thereto shall be borne by the principal and/or local agency.”

“Technically, it is the government that deploys OFWs,” said Migrante International secretary-general Maita Santiago. “Paalis lang sila nang paalis ng mga Pilipino pero pag kailangan na ng tulong, wala na silang pakialam.” (The government keeps on sending Filipinos abroad but when the latter needs help, it doesn’t seem to care.)

Siklab Ontario has set up the Friends of Elenita Pailanan Committee that coordinates with Migrante Interntional in the Philippines to raise funds for the repatriation of the remains of Pailanan and to help the family with their expenses. The funds will go directly to the family in Iloilo.

Scrap LCP

Meanwhile, Siklab-Ontario called anew for the scrapping of the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, saying that “the violent and inhumane nature of this program leave Filipino live-in caregivers extremely vulnerable to abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation.”

“For a country that basks itself as a champion of human rights and women’s equality, Canada clearly fails to uphold the fundamental human rights of these women and instead facilitates their modern-day slavery,” said Yolyn Valenzuela, Siklab Canada vice chairperson.

The group said that Canada continues to recruit live-in caregivers, 96 percent of whom come from the Philippines, to provide care for children, people with disabilities and the elderly of middle and upper-class Canadian families; but it is “unwilling to care and provide necessary protection to this group of women and turns a blind eye to the numerous and worsening cases of abuse and neglect perpetuated by this program.”

Siklab Canada called for the removal of the mandatory live-in requirement of 24 months, the temporary immigration status and the employer-specific contract under the LCP. It said the situation of Filipino live-in caregivers will never improve because these conditions “provide the systemic context for their abuse and vulnerability.” It cited the criminalization of live-in caregivers, rape, de-skilling and forced prostitution as some of the harsh impacts of the program to the women, their families, and the community.

LINK: Bulatlat

Media, race, and Hirji murder

The recent slaying of Surrey school principal Shemina Hirji inside her Burnaby home on July 5 comes on the heels of recent high-profile killings of female spouses in the community. (She was killed just five days after marrying Narinder Cheema).

"Cultural explanations keep coming up because they're easy,"Vancouver-trained academic Yasmin Jiwani said. "If you already have a stereotype in the background, the moment you see something you say, 'Ah this is an oppressive culture.'"

But it isn't always the case that the "dominant media", according to Jiwani, uses "definitions of culture" in explaining violence perpetrated against members of the South Asian community.

In Jiwani's 2006 book Discourses of Denial: Mediations of Race, Gender, and Violence (UBC Press sample chapter), she juxtaposed the Reena Virk murder in Victoria in 1997 with the 1996 Vernon massacre. Two people instrumental in Virk's fatal swarming were white. The Vernon case involved the shooting death of Rajwar Gakhal and eight of her relatives by her estranged husband, Mark Chahal.

"In the case of the Vernon tragedy, the cultural signifiers used throughout the reportage clearly position the murders as arising from a cultural practice of arranged marriages and women's supposedly subordinate status within the Sikh religious tradition," Jiwani wrote.

"The analysis of the murder of Reena Virk, however, points out how a cultural explanation is explicitly avoided in order to divert attention from issues of racism and the consequences of racialized difference, and to privilege a definition of the situation as emerging from girl violence and bullying."

In her book, Jiwani noted that these two cases "show how race is conveniently erased when it suits the public imagination and the media's agenda, and conversely, invoked in a culturalized form (to the exclusion of almost all else) when deemed necessary".

"Hence, the killing of Reena Virk is framed as a generic girl gang violence phenomenon, while the Vernon murders are attributed to a culturally specific ethnic phenomenon," she wrote.

When Hirji's killing became public, the community paper Indo-Canadian Voice reported that it's "just the kind of news that Indo-Canadians dread". In a follow-up report, outspoken editor Rattan Mall wrote that with the subsequent discovery of court documents detailing the violent past of Hirji's husband, "there was shock and anger in the community as the case only seemed to reinforce the stereotyping of Indo-Canadian males".

Indira Prahst, a sociology instructor at Langara College and a friend of the Cheema family, told the Straight that although media reportage of domestic violence is warranted, "sensationalized angles" aren't. "If we have a predator that is brown, the word South Asian or Indo-Canadian becomes very highlighted," she explained. "Framing violence against women as being inherent in the South Asian culture hinders us from understanding that the underlying cause of such violence is the culture of patriarchy."

Prahst said that patriarchy–the notion of male dominance–permeates other cultures as well. "If we had more mainstream media making that distinction, I think the South Asian community would be more comfortable in talking about the issue," she said.

Citing a 2006 StatsCan report, Measuring Violence Against Women, Prahst noted that visible-minority status does not raise the risk of spousal abuse. "In fact, the rates are lower: four percent for visible-minority groups compared to eight percent in other groups over a five-year period up to 2004," she said.

Violence against women crosses all demographic factors, according to Shashi Assanand, executive director of the Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services. "It's a Canadian issue," Assanand told the Straight . "To say it's a South Asian culture is really not appropriate."

Visible-minority women report less abuse:

  • Rates of spousal violence declined for visible-minority women between 1999 and 2004 in Canada, whereas they remained stable for other women.
  • Rates of spousal violence in Canada are also lower for immigrant women and have declined slightly since 1999.
  • There is no difference in the estimated rate of spousal violence for recent immigrants (who arrived in Canada since 1990) and longer-term immigrants.
  • Visible-minority and immigrant women reported lower rates of emotional and psychological abuse compared with other women, and lower rates ofheavy drinking among spousal partners.
  • Although visible-minority women do not report higher levels of spousal violence, they may have special needs related to the provision of interventions and services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate

Source: Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006 , Statistics Canada.

LINK: Georgia Straight
LINK: Sample Chapter: Discourses of Denial: Mediations of Race, Gender, and Violence

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada respond to CBC report about the health of young Inuit children

The CBC (July 17, 2007) covered the CanadianMedical Association Journal article entitled Links Between Poor Indoor Air andRespiratory Infections in Inuit Children. This article contains startling statistics and the correlation between the appalling overcrowded housing and the health of Inuit children.

The statistics are surprising for most, but nothing new to Pauktuutit President Martha Greig, "Pauktuutit staff has been describing over and overfor the past twenty years the appalling conditions for Inuit and have made presentations and statements similar to those of the Canadian Medical Association Journal for the past ten years. We've even laid out exactly what's needed to relieve some of the conditions."

Martha Greig is referring to Pauktuutit publications and presentations to Government of Canada Committees, including to the Lieutenant General the Honorable Romeo Dallaire, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and theUniversity of Guelph.

There are fundamental principles that need to be applied in actions taken concerning the housing crisis.
  • Inuit representatives should be included asactive partners of the policy making process, including local housing associations;
  • appropriate community representatives must be fully engaged by policy and decision-makers,
  • housing programs must include enhanced opportunities for Inuit women to build personal and community equity, and
  • policies and decisions affecting housing must not victimize people seeking assistance or safety.


Women Lawyers - We Quit

Women make up more than half of law school classes, but still represent far less than half of practising lawyers.

In 1999, 56 per cent of Canadian law school graduates were women. In 2004, they made up 60 per cent.
Nevertheless, they are leaving large law firms, and even the legal profession entirely, much faster than their male colleagues. In 2005, figures from Canadian bar associations indicated less than 33 per cent of practising lawyers were women.
While much has been done by law societies and big firms to address the issue – gender equity committees, better maternity leave policies, more opportunities to work from home and alternative billing arrangements – the trends aren't reversing quickly. Canadian Lawyer magazine recently called the promises of a better work-life balance at big firms "the great lie."
"Definitely, it is a trend," said Constance Backhouse, a law professor at the University of Ottawa. "This has been happening for a long time, but we are only just beginning to try to study the phenomenon."

"In law school, which was predominately female to begin with, it was largely women who were involved in the international human rights groups, the legal clinics, the women's rights groups," the University of Ottawa grad said. "I'm not going to go as far as to say that women have a larger moral complex, but they may have a greater connection to clients. At least for me."
It's up to the individual, she added.

Friday, July 20

No Spoilers - Harry Potter - Hermione and Feminism

The final Harry Potter book will be released this weekend - a frenzy that will no doubt be the "top story" in every media I was wondering....did J. K. Rowling work against gender stereotypes in her latest Harry Potter?

As countless faithful readers come to the end of the blockbuster Harry Potter series and given the widespread influence of the films and books...........I am hoping that (for our sons and daughters) Hermione will not be sidelined as a romantic character and will remain a protagonist rather than fall into a damsel-in-distress role.

Obvious disclaimer: Rowling is a novelist, not a feminist writer and she has yanked countless children away from their television sets and computers long enough to flip through thousands of pages of text on real paper - we should ALL be grateful . But darn it - children's literature - saturated with gender stereotypes - could have benefited from a strong feminist character ..............

Feminists comment on the depiction of Hermione Granger:
  • "Hermione is repeatedly the truth-sleuth, comfortable in the library, who finds the clue that makes sense of the mystery at hand. She is always the one standing at a crossroads pointing the way"
  • "While she is one of the main characters, her personality is depicted as bossy, conservative, and a busybody. She is very intelligent, yet the other lead characters, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, constantly refer to her as uptight. "
  • Hermione is repeatedly described as shrieking, squeaking, wailing, squealing and whimpering. Verbs that are not applied to any of the male characters in the book, I might add.
  • “[g]ender roles are stereotyped, with boys out for action and the one salient girl character forever urging caution – this despite the fact that Hermione, of the three, possesses the richest store of magical knowledge

LINK: MuggleNet
LINK: BitchMag

Media - Spin, the spinners and the spun

A series by Ira Basen for CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition

Spin Cycles is a radio series by CBC producer Ira Basen about how those in power can manipulate facts in order to make their case for the rest of us.

The series explores the world of politics, big business, advertising and public relations to find the real message behind all that spin.

Spin Cycles is scheduled for rebroadcast on The Sunday Edition this summer, starting July 8 at 10:00 a.m. and continuing every Sunday until Aug. 12.


Thursday, July 19

BC Moms scramble to merit EI

Two Lower Mainland mothers say they are straining to qualify for Employment Insurance benefits for maternity leave because they became pregnant too quickly after having their first child. Vancouver resident Carol Adams and her North Vancouver friend Meagan Raback both have one-year-olds. And though they didn't plan it, they both became pregnant during their first maternity-leave period as they were preparing to head back into the work force.
Now they say they are scrambling to rack up enough hours of work to be eligible for Employment Insurance. Pregnant women must accumulate 600 EI–insurable hours of work in the past year to qualify for maternity benefits.

"I have to work right up until the end [of her pregnancy], working full-time hours, if I hope to get my best wages," Adams told the Georgia Straight. "So when I am at my most tired at the end, when I am big and have a daughter [Samantha] I can't pick up any longer, I either have to start taking my mat leave–not good for me as I want to spend as much time with my [new] baby as possible–or I work right to the end."

The Adams family is also "house poor" as a result of an extra mortgage forced on them by the leaky-building envelope they bought into. They do not want to move, because they say the market is too hot for them to afford anything comparable elsewhere.

Before discovering she was pregnant a second time, Raback and fiancé Logan McPherson had put a down payment on a new two-bedroom Port Moody condo. They will move there in a few weeks, though Raback admits "space will be tight" and the expanding family "could not afford a three-bedroom right now".

"I didn't go back to work right away because it was too hard," Raback told the Straight of the arrival of her son, Dexter. "I didn't want to put him in daycare right away because he was a really fussy baby and didn't sleep well. Daycare would not have got him to nap on time, so I was just going to wait. I was starting to look for work again and I got pregnant again, and so then I was like, 'Nobody is going to hire me now, because I'm pregnant.' I was in sales and marketing, and you have to be very flexible and work long hours. My friend is a manager at a restaurant, and she told me I could serve when I wanted to and at night, and that way I wouldn't have to put Dexter in a daycare. So I am doing three nights a week, and now I am picking up more shifts to get my 600 hours."

Sue Foster, Service Canada director of benefit entitlement, told the Straight the situation may have been different had Adams stayed in Whistler, the town where she and Raback met. Whistler is part of the federal Best 14 Weeks pilot program, which covers 23 economic regions in Canada. The program uses the full-time weeks when mothers are earning peak pay, which helps in areas offering predominantly seasonal or fluctuating employment.

"If you are included in the pilot, you can potentially have a benefit rate that reflects more your full-time weeks," Foster said. "That's the idea behind it." Foster then directed the Straight to the office of Monte Solberg, federal minister of Human Resources and Social Development on the question of including Greater Vancouver in the Best 14 Weeks pilot. By Straight press time, Solberg had not called back.

There is currently no national daycare program, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government introduced the universal child-care benefit program in 2006, which pays out $100 a month to each child–up to $1,200 a year–under the age of six.

Wednesday, July 18

URGENT Call out: NAWL must raise $300,000.00 by September 1st

NAWL has launched its Staying Alive campaign in response to changes in the mandate of the Status of Women Canada’s Women’s Program, which make most of NAWL’s work ineligible for ongoing funding. In order to continue our essential work for Canadian women, NAWL must raise $300,000.00 by September 1, 2007. Although NAWL will seek appropriate partnerships with like-minded corporations, businesses, agencies and foundations, most of our Staying Alive support will come from individuals like you, who value democracy within Canada and equal rights for all women.

How you can help

  • 750 women giving $200.00 each will bring us halfway to our target. That’s only 75 women per province. Please consider making a donation and, if someone you know can also support NAWL in this way, tell her about our campaign.
  • Host a NAWL Staying Alive dinner! If you love to cook and throw parties, this is the fundraiser for you.
  • ALL GIFTS COUNT! Whether you can donate $5, $10 or $20, NAWL can put every contribution to good use for all Canadian women.
  • Contact for ideas and tips.
Please make your cheque payable to and send to: National Association of Women and the Law 1066 Somerset West, Suite 303 Ottawa, ON K1Y 4T3 Please mark your cheque “Staying Alive” in the memo line so we can track your contribution appropriately.

Call for Nominations - Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case

To recognize the significant contribution that women make to Canadian society, Status of Women Canada has issued a Call for Nominations for the 28th Governor General's Awards in Commemorationof the Persons Case.

Inspired by the Famous Five, he Awards were instituted by the Governor General in 1979, to honour the 50th anniversary of the "Persons Case" and the five Alberta women whose determination led to a landmark victory in the struggle of Canadian women for equality.

The Famous Five achieved not only the right for women to serve in the Senate, but they and their many contributions paved the way for women to participate in other aspects of public life.

Five awards, in addition to one Youth Award, are presented annually to candidates chosen from across Canada.

Deadline for nominations is August 17, 2007

For more information about the Awards criteria and for a nomination form, contact: Status of Women Canada

Tuesday, July 17

Bluma Appel - A Life Well Lived

Even as a teenager growing up in Montreal, Bluma Appel possessed a hatred of intolerance, writes Sandra Martin. It was a theme that later wove through the many disparate parts of a hugely complicated life to embrace politics, the arts, health care, social justice and human rights

Growing up, her son David said, "our home was filled with laughter and intense discussion." He described his mother as a dynamo. "The passport into our home had nothing to do with your station, but whether you were interesting and what you brought of yourself. It was an incredibly febrile and exciting environment. You take it for granted, but, in retrospect, you see the extent to which our mother and father enriched our lives."

Last month, she was given an honorary degree by Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. Here's the advice she gave the graduates in her convocation address: "Stay curious. Don't make the same mistake twice, life is rough - it is a battle for turf - so learn by observation - take notes - write memos. Listen to opinions but not to the opinionated. Do not tolerate intolerance. Cherish the environment. Keep an open mind and stick to your principles. And dream big dreams!"

Bluma Appel remembered for charm, generosityToronto Star, Canada - 6 hours ago
Luminaries from the Canadian arts scene gathered Tuesday for the funeral of arts supporter and social activist Bluma Appel. About 250 mourners attended the ...
Bluma Appel, 86 Globe and Mail
She cherished them all Globe and Mail

Monday, July 16

Sex Workers - Talk Back

Sex workers are often the "objects" of study for academics and policy makers. Theories about their lives and the policies that affect their work are usually developed without input from the sex workers themselves, as they are rarely seen as capable of analyzing the social and political world in which they work.

In this book, however, sex workers set the tone. Leslie Ann Jeffrey and Gayle MacDonald interview sex workers in three Maritime cities and those who work around them: police, health-care providers, community workers/advocates, members of neighbourhood associations, and politicians. The sex workers discuss such issues as violence and safety, health and risk, politics and policy, media influence, and public perception of the trade, portraying the best and the worst facets of their working lives and expressing sentiments refreshingly at odds with commonly held opinions.

Given recent Parliamentary recommendations to decriminalize prostitution, Sex Workers in the Maritimes Talk Back represents a timely shift to public discussions about sex work. Engaging and accessible, this book will be of interest to public policy practitioners, students of social and political science, community advocates, police, and sex workers and their families.

The Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women's Health and Stepping Stones, along with the Dalhousie Women's Centre, are hosting a book launch for "Sex Trade Workers in the Maritimes Talk Back" by Leslie Ann Jeffrey and Gayle MacDonald.

The book launch will also include a stage reading from the Taboo Theatres of 'The Whores'.
Where: FRED. at 2606 Agricola St., Halifax
Date: Thursday, July 19Time: 7:00 pm
For more information: (902) 404-3831

LINK: Report 6 - The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada's Criminal Prostitution Laws (Adopted by the Committee on December 12, 2006; Presented to the House on December 13, 2006)
LINK: Government Response: Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, "The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada's Criminal Prostitution Laws" (Presented to the House on March 30, 2007)

Getting underneath government 'spin' about child care

The Child Care Advocacy Forum has launched a new website: "Setting the Record Straight". Their goal with this feature is to get underneath government 'spin' about child care announcements and decisions.

Check out their first edition: Setting the Record Straight #1:Provincial Child Care Funding Rates are still going DOWNJuly 2007

Do you know of a government announcement or media release that needs to be 'set straight'? Let them know - email them at

NAWL’s Jurisfemme Spring 2007 is now online!

Missed the NAWL "Mothering and Law" Conference?
Download this publication.

Steinheim on "chick flicks" and "prick flicks"

. . . . . to the Young Man on the Plane from Los Angeles to Seattle Who Said of the Movie That Most Passengers—Male and Female—Voted to Watch, “I don’t watch chick flicks!”

If we have chick flicks, Steinem proposes, we should have “prick flicks” as well (shortened for length):

The simple label “prick flick” could lead you easily and quickly through the thicket of televised, downloaded and theatrical releases to such attractions as:

  • All the movies that glorify World War II…
  • All the movies that glorify Vietnam, bloody regional wars, and the war on terrorism…
  • All the movies that portray violence against women, preferably beautiful, sexy, half-naked women
  • All the movies that insist female human beings are the only animals on earth that seek out and even enjoy their own pain…

Of course, Steinem has a good point: these films aren't categorised as "prick flicks" because male is the default human catagory

LINK: Fword

Celebrating Feminism: Feminist pioneer shaped Alberta law

Prominent members of Edmonton's Ukrainian and legal communities, feminist pioneers of the 1960s and '70s, human- rights campaigners and left- wing activists gathered yesterday for the funeral of a woman who changed the legal and social landscape of Alberta.

Halyna Chomiak Freeland also helped shape the legal code of modern-day Ukraine, her parents' homeland.

Born in 1946 in a displaced persons camp in Germany, Freeland became one of only seven women who earned law degrees from the University of Alberta in 1970 and the only one who brought her infant daughter to class - convention be damned.

In the early stages of her career, she practised in Peace River country and soon became involved with native issues while flying in and out of aboriginal communities.

In Edmonton, married to lawyer Donald Freeland, she practised criminal as well as family law. They had two daughters before divorcing.

As a single mother, Freeland helped found the Hromada (Community) Housing Co-op in Edmonton.

She lived there with her daughters for a number of years.

In 1979, Freeland played a pivotal role in lobbying the Alberta legislature to pass the Matrimonial Property Act, after a farm wife was denied a share of the family farm in a divorce. Under the laws at the time, the woman's homemaking and domestic duties were deemed to have contributed nothing to the value of the property. The new act changed that.

She was also a founder of a feminist book store and an activist in the New Democratic Party.
From 1981 to 1987, Freeland taught courses on Feminist Theory and Women and the Law at the University of Alberta.
From 1990 to 1992, she pursued a master's degree in Slavic and Eastern European Studies at the University of Alberta. In 1992, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk asked her to oversee an organization that would set up a legal structure to support his country's new democracy and market economy.
Last September, Freeland was diagnosed with cancer. She died on July 6 in New York City with her family at her side.

LINK: Obituary

People still talk about about Halyna Chomiak Freeland -- "the little communist" and the bane of middle-class, Anglo conservative males -- and how she mentored young feminists or plotted to change the world.

Strong opinions and beliefs were discussed at rowdy, high-energy meetings, often conducted in Ms. Freeland's home amidst piles of food and drink and marked by argument, good-natured barbs, laughter and song.

"Some of us were anarchists," recalls local writer Myrna Kostash. "Some were poets, some were potheads -- all trying to build an alternative community in an alternative way."

In 1988, she campaigned as the federal NDP candidate in the Strathcona riding, but by party standards she was far out on the left wing. In 1992, she won another nomination but it was taken away by the NDP's national headquarters, which said the constituency hadn't waited for party guidelines promoting the nomination of women.

Ms. Freeland's leftist leanings were a matter of controversy and jest for years. When the Law Society of Alberta celebrated its centenary, Alberta Court of Appeal Justice Jack Watson wrote an essay that described the attitude of prosecutors to "this very unusual person."

Caption This?

Sunday, July 15

Alpha Male: Conrad Black - 'nuff said

The myth of the alpha male finally bit the dust last week. Conrad Black, the erstwhile media baron and master of the universe, faces up to 20 years in prison, having been convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. In a classic tale of rampant, hubristic masculinity, Black stole millions from his shareholders to maintain the facade that he was a jet-setting corporate titan who belonged among the world's elite. The former Telegraph chairman now faces swapping power lunches for open-plan latrines.

Black might now be in disgrace, but his domineering swagger was vital to his success. He maintained a belligerent, self-assured persona, convincing himself of his divine right to rule, to ensure others fell for it too. Had Black ever displayed the beta male qualities of doubt and diffidence, he would never have got away with so much for so long.

LINK: The Guardian

Oda said it....the path to equality...

MP Irene Mathyssen (NDP): Mr. Speaker, the government … does not have any intention of promoting equality. We will not rest until we have equality, pay equity and real child care. When can women finally achieve real equality in our country?

Minister Bev Oda (Status of Women): "Mr. Speaker, the women in Canada know that they will achieve full participation in Canadian society when they continue to support the government."

- Excerpt, House of Commons Hansard, 14 February, 2007.

Ontario: Women MPPs' exit raises issue

The names keep on coming: Shelley Martel, Marie Bountrogianni, Jennifer Mossop, Mary Anne Chambers, Judy Marsales.

They are all members of the Ontario Legislature who have announced in the past few weeks that they will not be seeking re-election in the fall. One (Martel) is a New Democrat, the others are all Liberals.

And, of course, they're all women.

To be sure, there are some men quitting the Legislature as well – Liberal MPPs Richard Patten and Ernie Parsons. However, the former is 65 and has grown disillusioned with the place, and the latter found his riding swallowed up in redistribution. These things happen.

But the five women are all in their 40s and 50s – the prime of their political lives. Indeed, two of them (Bountrogianni and Chambers) are in cabinet, and a third (Martel) is a former minister and a front-bench opposition critic.

Their departure raises this question: is Queen's Park a female-unfriendly environment?

With so many women now quitting the Legislature, there could be some backsliding in this fall's election, notwithstanding the pledges of all three party leaders to nominate more women than ever before.

In making the pledge last month with Premier Dalton McGuinty and Hampton, Conservative Leader John Tory suggested the Legislature is "too testosterone-injected" and needs more women.

To this end, the Liberals have nominated 30 women (with 13 ridings still to come), the NDP 25 (with 49 ridings still to come and a target of 54 women overall), and the Conservatives 21 (with about 15 ridings to come).
But many of these women are running in ridings where they have no hope of winning or where they are pitted against other women.
LINK: TorStar

Saturday, July 14

Representing Yourself at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC)?

The Court Challenges Program has been cancelled by the Conservative minority government.

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) is a very important program that funds test-cases initiated by individuals and groups to challenge federal laws and policies that violate their constitutional equality rights. With the help of CCP funding, women’s organizations and other equality-seeking groups have been able to access the justice system, and present progressive interpretations of the law. This has resulted in more egalitarian outcomes for women, gays and lesbians, persons with a disability and other disadvantaged groups.


Late June 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada launched a new portal for litigants wishing to represent themselves before Canada’s highest court. The “Representing Yourself” portal provides litigants with step-by-step guides to both bringing and responding to an application for leave to appeal.

Naturally, all this is provided with a much needed proviso:

We always recommend that you get a “lawyer”. Remember that this is a guide meant to give you helpful information, not legal advice. We always recommend that you get a “lawyer”. A lawyer is in the best position to give you advice about the process and the likelihood of success.

At times like this we are reminded of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s comments on the issue of unrepresented litigants in her address to the 2006 CBA Canadian Legal Conference & Expo (a video of which can be found at CPAC’s Podium Archives):

[Lack of representation in the courts] does create great problems, not only for the litigants who are struggling to put their case forward without the aid of a lawyer, but for the judge, who–in a system which is designed to function with an able and independent adversary on each side–finds themselves in the difficult position of trying to aid the unrepresented litigant to the extent possible…while maintaining the judge’s role of impartiality, of impartial arbiter…

The judiciary of Canada is trying to cope with this epidemic of lack of representation and we’re doing better I think. But these solutions are imperfect at best. People seeking justice need not only judges, they need lawyers: competent, independent and affordable lawyers.

Around Nunavut - Ministers agree to aid women's shelters

Status of women ministers meeting in Iqaluit this week agreed to work on finding ways to better support women's shelters in the North.

The ministers, including Leona Aglukkaq, the Nunavut status of women minister, and her federal counterpart, Bev Oda. produced a statement called the "Iqaluit Declaration." The document calls for action to reduce poverty, violence and discrimination against aboriginal women.

In a press conference following the ministers' two-day meeting, Aglukkaq declined to comment specifically about Premier Paul Okalik's off-colour comments in Labrador recently about a Nunavut woman.

LIBS - Promoting Women’s Equality in Canada

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion (July 13) told a roundtable discussion with Canadian women’s groups the Conservative minority government must respect the rights of women and promote their equality in Canadian society.

A dozen representatives from women’s equality-seeking organizations attended the meeting, including members of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), AFEAS Femmes En Mouvement, and Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW). The discussion focused on issues surrounding women’s equality in Canadian society and ways to better allow women to become more engaged in the political process.

The meeting was part of a series of roundtable discussions Mr. Dion is holding over the summer to listen to Canadians’concerns and discuss ways that the Liberal Party can help to address the problems they face on a daily basis.

During the meeting, the participants praised the work of the Liberal Women’s Caucus and encouraged Mr. Dion to incorporate policy recommendations outlined in the Liberal Pink Book (hyperlink) into the Party’s platform in the next election campaign, including a national early learning and child care plan, greater income security and improved maternity and parental benefits.


Feminist Mags - Leading from the front page

Six feminist magazines have launched in the UK in the past 18 months. Proof, says Jess McCabe, that the movement is being rejuvenated by a new breed of activist

Young feminists have focused on creating an alternative that doesn't simply avoid everyday sexism, but actively confronts it. As Barnes says: "Seeing adverts every day that tell me I must look and act a certain way in order to be fully complete as a woman, well, it just annoys me. I feel I must produce something that can counteract these negative messages."

While these 6 new magazines currently operate on a fairly small scale, it's notable that many successful, international feminist magazines had a similar provenance. In 1996, Bitch magazine started with 300 copies, as a photocopied zine; 11 years later it has a worldwide distribution of around 47,000.

LINK: The Guardian
LINK: KnockBack "arguing against the notion that high heels are empowering"
LINK: Uplift! "a magazine for women that won't be put down"
LINK: Subtext

INTERESTING NOTE : It's goodbye to Jane, the magazine for 20-somethings created a decade ago by editor Jane Pratt. Two other magazines for young audiences that recently stopped publishing print editions, Teen People and ELLEgirl

Michèle Roberts has doubts about 'me, me, me' feminism

Born in 1949 into a middle-class home, the daughter of a French mother and an English father, she rebelled against her Roman Catholic background and sought out a radical, bohemian existence which embraced communal living, free love and the socialist feminism of the 70s.

The life she went on to create for herself, chronicled in her new autobiography, Paper Houses, has been as consciously mould-breaking as her experiments in fiction. Born in 1949 into a middle-class home, the daughter of a French mother and an English father, she rebelled against her Roman Catholic background and sought out a radical, bohemian existence which embraced communal living, free love and the socialist feminism of the 70s.

Roberts feels ambivalent about what has happened to feminism in the past 30 years. "My sort of feminism was defeated in the Thatcher years, as socialism was. I feel that the feminism that triumphed is the sort I don't like: what I call shoulderpads feminism. It's all about being an individual in a capitalist society. Put on your suit, go to the City, make a lot of money: it's all me, me, me. My sort of feminism is about collectivity. I think this sort of feminism still exists quietly, in women's friendships, for example. When I was young I could see women's friendships weren't valued. It was common that if you were going to see a woman friend and you got a date with a boy you broke the date with the girl. I don't think that would happen now."

The final paragraph of her memoir: "Love goes on. The love of friends. Friendship is my oxygen. I've said that often and it's true. Writing goes on too: I keep on building my paper house; my chrysalis."

Media Misogyny Watch - Inside Fox's Latest Anti-Feminist Reality Show

Fox wonders if women with “axes to grind” can “effectively rule society.”

AlterNet's Jessica L. Pozner writes:

It's not like I can be shocked by anything reality TV-related anymore, but I can certainly predict exactly what new shows will be like as soon as I read the promo blurbs. And a new reality show called "When Women Rule the World," coming soon from Fox and Rocket Science Laboratories (which brought us such craptacular concoctions of misogyny including Joe Millionaire, Married By America, Temptation Island and Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy), promises to be overtly political, anti-feminist backlash fare:

What if it was "a woman's world"? What if women made ALL the decisions? If men were their obedient subjects?

LINK: Inside Fox's Latest Anti-Feminist Reality Show

Senator Elaine McCoy's newly launched blog, "Hullabaloos"

Senator Elaine McCoy's new website and blog are worth a visit from both a web design and senate infosource perspective.

The flash intro on Senator McCoy's background,, is quite interesting. Other Senator's websites are quite standard by comparison.

The actual blog, Hullabaloos, is well laid out and user friendly and a useful bookmark for news junkies. There are sections like news, views, reading room and guest editorials.

Quoted Background on Senator McCoy:

"Sitting in the Canadian Senate as a PROGRESSIVE Conservative from Alberta, McCoy adopts neither the Liberal nor the Harper government's Conservative party line, and presents a unique insider's perspective on Senate debates and deliberation.

Recent blog entries include commentary on the Senate budget vote --including Senator McCoy's amendment regarding income trusts -- and Kyoto, as well as Senate and other activity on such topics as safe injection sites, RCMP reform, climate change, Senate reform, and much more.

Trained first as a lawyer, Senator McCoy came to politics when she was handpicked by Peter Lougheed to replace him as an MLA in his Calgary West riding. After a successful election, McCoy was quickly promoted from rookie MLA to Premier Don Getty's Cabinet, where, over the years, she held several different Cabinet positions, including Minister of Labour.

In recent years, she has been President of the Macleod Institute( ), a think tank headquartered at theUniversity of Calgary, and the Chair of Alberta's Climate Change Central, a multi-stakeholder organization formed to address climate change in the province (

She was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005"

Men Can Mend Maternal Care?

In commemoration of World Population Day on July 11, the United Nations Population Fund has called on men around the world to become partners in maternal health care.

"Experience shows that men's involvement and participation can make all the difference. By discouraging early marriage, promoting girls' education, fostering equitable relationships and supporting women's reproductive health and rights, progress is made," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Population Fund's executive director. "It is time for all men as fathers, brothers, husbands, community and religious leaders, and government officials to become partners in maternal health."

About 525,600 women die annually from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Every minute, a woman loses her life. And for every woman who dies, 20 experience serious complications such as obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury that affects more than 2 million women around the world.

Thursday, July 12

Women's action group struggles to plot future

A lack of funding has curtailed the once vocal Victoria Status of Women Action Group, but its remaining members aren't about to be silenced

Their "office" is now a seven-by-seven-foot storage locker on Fort Street.

Their funding from federal and provincial governments to fight for women's equality totals zip.

SWAG -- the once-feisty Victoria Status of Women Action Group -- might even drop "action" from its name. It sounds too protest-prone for insurance brokers and brings up bad memories for people who associate it with mid-1990s infighting.

These are tough times for one of the oldest women's organizations in Canada.

They still have their voice mail -- thanks to a donation -- but it can take a week for call-backs, a far cry from the 25 to 50 calls it used to field in a week.

Late last year, the federal government cut funding for political advocacy on the part of federally funded Status of Women groups, and a dozen offices across Canada closed, including Victoria's. SWAG got $42,000 in its last 18 months of funding -- enough for its office on View Street and a report called An Examination of How Women Would Benefit from a Guaranteed Livable Income. Neither expenditure would qualify under recently re-instated funding guidelines.

"It's horrible that it's come to this -- that we're in a locker -- but it can also be a time for us to look at what our focus is going to be," says SWAG's former co-ordinator, Cindy L'Hirondelle, a 45-year-old mother of three grown children.

Since it was founded in 1971, SWAG has put its energies into many fronts, from monitoring court cases to lesbian rights and Take Back the Night marches. Now it's figuring out how to redefine its focus, its name and its fundraising.

Come September, women of Victoria -- SWAG members and non-members -- will be invited to ponder three questions central to its survival:
* What do you see as the problems?
* What do you want to see happen?
* What are you willing to do to see that happen?

"One thing there's not a shortage of is lots of people coming forward saying, 'You should do this and you should do that,' " says L'Hirondelle, now a member of SWAG's board of directors.

"There is no shortage of good ideas, but there is a shortage of people making a commitment to seeing those things happen."

Funding cuts are only one reason for the group's lower profile.

Forty years into feminism, do a lot of people think women are equal?

"There is that perception," acknowledges L'Hirondelle. But in her view, it's only a perception, although there's no denying more women have made it, economically, than ever before.

These days, systemic sex discrimination has given ground to poor personal choices to explain women's problems or poverty.

"A lot of women find out how difficult things are for them if they end up having a child on their own," she says.

Other feminist activists are choosing causes with more immediate rewards rather than big-picture poverty -- SWAG's recent over-riding focus -- and younger women are few and far between.

"I'm the only young one I've met," says Meschum Prey, 25, a pet-care worker who is the daughter of a board member. Prey is disappointed about that, wondering whether other young women think there's nothing left to fight for or that there's no way they can make a difference.

Susan Noakes, president of Together Against Poverty, calls the demise of SWAG due to cutbacks "a shock to the community on many levels." She notes that women, whether single parents or seniors, face consistently higher poverty rates than men, a lack of affordable child care and housing.

SWAG speaks on behalf of women "and as long as there are inequities for women there still needs to be a voice for that."

L'Hirondelle asks why there are three times more men earning more than $100,000 a year than women, and far more women than men earning less than $30,000.

"Does that sound equal to you?"

But there's no longer an office where she can help a mother of four denied income assistance and in extreme crisis.

"We were quite effective at that," L'Hirondelle recalls. When she recently checked SWAG's voice mail, there was a call about a woman kicked out of her marital home, completely oblivious to her rights.

"We need to keep going, more so now than before, I believe," says Debie O'Connell, the B.C. rep for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women as well as a SWAG board member. She won't give up, even though she's challenged by a serious neurological disease.

Another issue SWAG faces is the f-word -- feminism -- "which to a lot of people is a dirty word," says O'Connell. "Which is a shame. Because when you think about it, it really is humanism.

When you're benefiting the women of the community, you're in turn benefiting the children, which in turn benefits the community."

SWAG also went through a very public internal upheaval in the mid-'90s, when a dozen disillusioned supporters asked the province to investigate concerns about abuse of power.

Today's remaining SWAG members -- most of whom are low-income -- haven't yet begun to raise funds, a major challenge. Even an offer of support from a charitable group bit the dust because SWAG is a non-profit group, not a registered charity, and the donation would put the donor's charitable status in jeopardy.

Likely no one was happier with the original $5-million funding cut than REAL Women of Canada, the traditional-values lobby group that had deplored funding feminists for decades. At the time of the cuts, REAL vice-president Gwendolyn Landolt was quoted as saying: "If a group can't support itself and its lobbying activities across the country, then it just isn't a grassroots organization and shouldn't be funded by the taxpayer."

Conversely, the move was criticized not just by opposition parties in Parliament but by Amnesty International and the National Council of Women of Canada, established in 1893.

New federal guidelines for re-instated $5 million in funding exclude research, polling, lobbying of any level of government and full-funding for any particular project. "Deliverables" are the new currency -- for instance, giving 200 women a certain kind of training. For-profit groups are also welcome to apply.

"What the Conservative government and their supporters argue is that doing systemic advocacy is political, so fund it yourself," says L'Hirondelle. "But what if your membership is . . . about 90 per cent low-income? How much energy do you ask from people to go out and do all this free work so that we can get this organization going again?

"Especially when that means all the unpaid work cuts into your ability to do paid work."
The executive director of the Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre hopes SWAG will revive as a voice for women.

"The critical function that they served that is missing now in our community is really a lobbying voice for women in terms of what's happening on the policy or legal level," says Sandy McLellan, who was involved with SWAG many years ago.

"When you look at the business sector and government, women are still really under-represented in positions of power," adds Jody Paterson, outgoing executive director of Prostitutes Empowerment Education and Resource Society.

As a reporter 10 years ago, Paterson found SWAG to be on the cutting edge of women's issues. "They always had something to say. Then suddenly they disappeared . . . I'd like to see them come back to the powerhouse I remember them being."
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Some policies of the Victoria Status of Women Action Group
- Widest possible choices for child care -- including family members as well as non-profit day cares
- Immediate implementation of universal guaranteed livable income -- something not even the Canadian Labour Congress supports
- Pro-choice on abortion
- Support for women's right to choose their own sexuality
- Acceptance of transgendered women
- Anti-racism and pro-cultural diversity
SWAG facts
SWAG membership: About 90, down from 400 a decade ago, but up from 30 in 2001.
Membership fee: Free to $25
Phone: 383-7322