Can-Con

New Brunswickers Rally for Choice

Photo of crowd rallying in front of the legislature in Fredericton

photo: Alyse Stuart

by Sorcha Beirne

April 10th was a sad day for many New Brunswickers, as the Morgentaler Clinic announced it’s plans to close in July due to lack of government funding during an early morning press conference. This was an announcement that many knew would have to come someday, as the provincial government had been refusing funding for years.

Exactly a week later, on April 17th, over 500 people protested in front of the New Brunswick legislative building. The rally was organized by the Fredericton Youth Feminists and became known as A Rally for Our Right to Accessible Abortion. Protesters demanded a repeal of regulation 84-20, which states that abortions may only be covered in hospitals if deemed “medically necessary” in writing by two doctors, and demanded funding for the Morgentaler Clinic.

The legislature security fenced off the steps to the building, not allowing speakers to stand where originally planned. Speakers ended up having to use a step-stool. The protesters booed at the legislature when they heard this, screaming that it’s our building too. Among the speakers were NDP leader, Dominic Cardy; and Green Party leader, David Coon; who both showed their support for the cause and both agreed that the New Brunswick Premier, David Alward, could remove the regulation with the stroke of a pen.

Liberal leader Brian Gallant, agreed that he thought the two doctor rule was excessive and said he was encouraging the government to review the regulation. Protesters let out screams of “Not enough!”, “Repeal, not review” and booed at the leader. He left immediately after his speech, not staying for the rest of the rally.

People drove to the rally from all over New Brunswick and even other provinces like Nova Scotia and PEI. Colleen MacQuarrie, a researcher for the University of PEI, spoke about how the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic affected access in PEI, as there are no hospitals or clinics that provide abortion services in the province.

The rally-goers held signs and coat hangers in the air as they listened to speeches, many getting emotional. Before leaving, many left their signs on the lawn and hung coat hangers with messages for the legislature on the fence. Protesters wore pins with the rally’s slogan “We have the law, we need the access.” and tweeted during the event with #NBProchoice. The rally made it clear that there is a strong, powerful support for abortion access in New Brunswick and that the provincial government will not be able to stay silent forever.

More solidarity rallies are scheduled for next week in Ottawa, Charlottetown and Montreal. Get the details here or organize your own and add it to the list.
Posted on by Sorcha Beirne in Can-Con, Politics Leave a comment

This Is My Rally Cry: #NBProchoice

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby Kathleen Pye. Originally posted at Fem2pt0. Cross-posted with the author’s permission.

It takes a special kind of person to work at an Abortion Clinic.

You need to possess just the right combination of kindness and compassion, combined with courage, determination, and a whole lot of humility. Not something you can put on a resume, and I highly doubt it’s something you can learn from an overpriced webinar. It’s something you’re born with. Perhaps better worded – it’s something you’re born to do.

I first met the wonderful women at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick during my counselling psychology training program. I had recently decided that I was a feminist and wanted to learn more about abortion services. Despite my naivety I had good intentions; I knew the clinic was a source of contention within the community, and I felt compelled to learn about it.

But if I’m honest, there was another rationale for my desire to train as a counsellor at the clinic, although not one that I consciously recognized until my placement had completed: I wanted to better understand my internal conflict with being prochoice.

I grew up attending Catholic schools in an upper middle class community – the land of privilege. I was never lacking for anything and had a great education. I went to Sunday-School and I hated going to church, but only because it took me away from playing basketball for an hour a week.

I had also known that I was adopted long before it ever registered to me as being different. And just for clarity’s sake: despite how many people try to convince you that being adopted makes you ‘no different than anyone else’ it’s just not true. Being adopted does make you different. This is neither good nor bad – it just is. It’s a fact.

And with this difference comes the inevitable struggle with the ‘prochoice/antichoice’ debate. We are told that we can’t support abortion; we weren’t aborted, after all. We should be grateful. We should want to save other ‘adoptable children’. We are ‘gifts from God’. We were the ‘lucky ones’. We were ‘loved by our mothers right from the start’. These are all antichoice catch-phrases, told to me by the overtly uncritical. Read more

Posted on by Kathleen Pye in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic Forced To Close. How You Can Help.

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby Jarrah Hodge

Today the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick announced it will be forced to close its doors at the end of July, after a 20-year long battle with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding it should be entitled to under the Canada Health Act.

This will seriously jeopardize the already limited access to reproductive health care in New Brunswick and PEI, putting lives at risk.

Activists are already starting to organize to call on the provincial and federal governments to save the clinic and deal with some of the larger issues that have led to this situation. Here at Gender Focus we know how important these services are to people in Atlantic Canada and we’ll keep you posted on how you can show your support.

Here are three things you can do right now:

 

  1. Sign the Change.Org petition calling on the government to fund services at the Morgentaler Clinic
  2. Tweet a message of support using the #NBProChoice hashtag
  3. Write a letter to your Member of Parliament (find out their contact info here). You can use this sample letter drafted by a local activist and former clinic volunteer, but if you can, it’s best to rephrase  in your own words so your MP knows you care personally about this issue enough to take the time to write.

4. (Added April 11) Take a picture of yourself with a message of solidarity for the NB Pro Choice Tumblr.

And keep checking back to our website for updates and more ways to help. Another good resource to stay up-to-date is the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada site.

Here is the press release from the clinic with more of the background:

FREDERICTON MORGENTALER CLINIC – BACKGROUNDER

From the moment Dr. Morgentaler announced his intention to open an abortion clinic in Fredericton, the provincial government planned to thwart his efforts.  The premier at the time, Frank McKenna, stated that: “if Mr. Morgentaler tries to open a clinic in the province of New Brunswick, he’s going to get the fight of his life.” Subsequent New Brunswick governments have continued to block access to abortion services in New Brunswick.

Dr. Morgentaler was immune to their threats.  He had already survived jail, threats against his life and the bombing of his Toronto clinic.  The actions of the N.B. government only served to strengthen his resolve to ensure that New Brunswick women would have access to safe abortion care in his clinic and that no woman would be turned away regardless of her ability to pay.  The Morgentaler Clinic opened in June, 1994 and since then has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women in a non-judgmental, evidence based, and professional environment.

The main obstacle the New Brunswick government created for New Brunswick women who needed to access abortions was, and still is, Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1). It states that an abortion will only be covered by Medicare if:

  • It is performed in a hospital by a specialist in the field of obstetrics or gynaecology and that
  •  Two doctors have certified in writing that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’.

 

Note:  The federal government or the courts have never defined what ‘medically necessary’ means, other than the circular definition in the Canada Health Act – “medically necessary is that which is physician performed”.  The provinces decide what is medically necessary under the Act, by creating a list of insured services, which are then automatically deemed medically necessary.  With respect to abortion it does not mean ‘only if there is a threat to the mother or the foetus’.  New Brunswick acknowledges that abortion is a ‘medically necessary’ procedure by permitting abortions in some hospitals.  The same definition applies to clinics.

The practical consequence of this regulation is that, unlike in any other Canadian province with stand-alone clinics, abortions provided at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton are not funded by Medicare. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 4 Comments

Celebrate Young Feminists in Vancouver on April 13

Event photo for April 13 event with Niki Ashton

by Jarrah Hodge

It’s  not uncommon for me to hear older activists express a combination of relief and disbelief when I openly identify as feminist. There seems to be a feeling out there that my generation, the “millennials”, aren’t embracing feminism. While there are certainly women of all ages who don’t identify as feminists and there is work to be done to bring more people into the movement, I think there are a lot  more young feminists than you might think. Just check out the “Feminists of Generation Now” Pinterest board for a collection of examples.

Young women who embrace feminist principles are also working hard on the front lines of related social justice movements like movements against colonialism (like #IdleNoMore), the environmental movement, the anti-poverty movement, anti-racist and immigrant rights movements, even the labour movement.

NDP MP Niki Ashton is the Status of Women Official Opposition Critic and she’s organized an evening in Vancouver on Sunday, April 13 from 7-9 p.m., to celebrate some of the work young feminists are doing in our communities. I’m thrilled to be speaking as part of the program along with Lily Grewal, activist and candidate for the Vancity Board of Directors; and Hawa Y. Mire, storyteller, writer and strategist.

Come out and join us for a fun evening of conversation at the Fairview Pub. See the Facebook event page for more info, RSVP to niki.ashton.a1@parl.gc.ca and I hope to see you next weekend!

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Why Our Response to Uganda’s Anti-Gay Laws Isn’t Working

Photo of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

by Arwen McKechnie

So, as many of you may know, after five long years of advocacy and international pressure against it, the President of Uganda has signed a bill into law which adds horrifically harsh sentences to existing Ugandan legislation criminalizing homosexuality.

The bill originally called for cases of “aggravated homosexuality” to receive the death penalty, but that has been removed. Repeat offenders of Uganda’s new law will instead be sentenced to life imprisonment, which I’m sure is cold comfort. First time offenders would receive fourteen years.

In addition to the increased prison sentences, the new bill also makes it a crime to provide any material or emotional support to LGBTQ people or causes.  Allies would face possible sentences of five to seven years for providing material support to LGBTQ causes or running a business or NGO which supports equality.

For actually “enabling” homosexual behavior – by marrying a same-sex couple, or by trying to aid or counsel a queer person – the mandatory minimum goes up to seven years.

This last clause is perhaps the most ominous, which is saying something, considering all of this legislation is a nightmare.

As a much cleverer friend of mine rightly pointed out, “aid and counsel” can be defined in any number of ways. If a lawyer represents someone accused of homosexuality and that person is convicted, is the lawyer then subject to prosecution herself? Will even the possibility of that happening have a chilling effect on who is willing to take on such cases?

I fear that the answer in both cases is yes – which means that whatever defence a person could offer against conviction will be weakened right from the start. This becomes an easy way for malicious people to ruin their enemies, creating an environment ripe for witch hunts.

These concerns don’t even address the fact that to identify as queer and do anything other than abjectly apologize for it is now a crime in Uganda. How can the Ugandan LGBTQ community do anything to repeal this law or advocate for basic human decency, when to do so is itself against the law?

The witch hunts have already begun: the day after the bill was signed into law, Red Pepper, a Kampala-based tabloid listed the names of “Uganda’s 200 Top Homos”, some of whom were known LGBTQ advocates, and some of whom have never before identified as queer, and, for all we know, may not still.

Red Pepper apparently has a history of homophobic attacks on people, and with the timing of this article, their intention seems clear. This is nothing less than an appeal to mob violence and vigilantism.

The last time such a list was published in Uganda, in 2011, a known gay activist, David Kato, was murdered, shortly after being granted an injunction preventing that paper from publishing the photos and names of any more gay people; his picture was one of the ones that had been published, under the caption “Hang Them.” Red Pepper’s editorial board has poured gasoline on a fire that will almost certainly result in the death or ruin of many innocent people.

Of course, by innocent, I mean everyone. President Museveni previously refused to sign this bill into law, back when it carried a death penalty for repeat offences, because he believed that sexuality was innate, and to penalize queer people so severely, beyond the existing penalties already in place, for something beyond their control was unjust. He’s apparently since been convinced otherwise by a team of Ugandan scientists who have all attested to the fact that homosexuality is a learned behaviour.

What I think much more probable is that President Museveni recognized that this bill was enormously popular within Uganda and got sick of being lectured and threatened by the global North, and recognized that same outrage in most Ugandans. No one wants to be talked down to, or treated as less than, and the representatives of many governments made their views pointedly known on this subject, sometimes in distinctly unhelpful ways. Read more

Posted on by Arwen McKechnie in LGBT, Politics, Racism 4 Comments

Status of Women Committee MPs Study Eating Disorders

Canada's House of Commons library roofby Jarrah Hodge

On February 10 I had a unique opportunity to speak to the House of Commons Status of Women Committee on eating disorders, media and gender. The committee, which is made up of Members of Parliament from the major parties, had recently voted the following:

“It was agreed, — That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee conduct a study of eating disorders amongst girls and women, including the nature of these diseases, what treatments are providing the most relief to patients and where they are available, how family physicians can learn more about eating disorders and how to treat them, what roadblocks exist to better serve girls and women with eating disorders, and what resources relevant stakeholders need to improve the lives of these patients.”

Basically, the committee is studying eating disorders, particularly among Canadian girls and women, and considering potential service gaps and areas for improvement.

My name was put forward by NDP Status of Women Critic Niki Ashton. Given that I’m not a doctor and there were many clinical experts and people with personal or family experience already speaking, I thought it made most sense for me to bring in feminist analysis of how media images of women factor into eating disorders.

Over the weekend leading up to the appearance via videoconference, I had a lot of help getting a firmer understanding of the situation facing people with eating disorders in Canada, and the research that has been done showing links between media and eating disorders, and the potential for media literacy education to help with prevention and treatment. Many members of the Women, Action & The Media (WAM!) Vancouver listserv shared their ideas and resources, but I owe particular thanks to Sharon from the fabulous website Adios Barbie, Kalamity from Fat Panic! Vancouver, and Angela from Project True.

With their help, I put together a 10-minute opening statement, which I will paste below the jump along with links to my references, since those don’t appear in the online transcript. On at the same time as me was Wendy Preskow, founder of the National Initiative for Eating Disorders, who told the heart-wrenching and powerful story of her daughter’s struggle with bulimia and getting the care she needs. After our statements, the committee members asked us questions. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics, Pop Culture 1 Comment

The Bedford Decision: Deconstructing the Debate Around Selling Sex

Photo of Supreme Court of Canada buildingby Arwen McKechnie

Good news! Or at least, interesting news for Canadian law and social policy. Just in time for Christmas, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the current legislation on prostitution related offences are unconstitutional.

The ruling is suspended for one year, so that the federal government can amend the legislation that has been struck down. Knowing our government, they will do their utmost to find a way around the Supreme Court’s ruling, so for the next year the future of sex work in Canada will be in limbo.

But even with the delay and the inevitable attempts by the government to continue to endanger sex workers[1] under the guise of maintaining law and order, this is a very big deal.

You can read an excellent analysis of the Justices’ decision and the way it avoids dealing with the intersectional issues of race and class here, but rather than talking about the ruling itself, I think the debate around abolition vs. decriminalization/legalization is worth looking at in greater depth. People and groups on both sides of the debate claim that they’re working for the best interests of the women involved (yes, there are men working in the sex trade and this legislation affects them too, but this is still primarily a situation in which the primary providers of sex are women, and the primary consumers are men).

So given that this is an issue of women’s safety and women’s rights, and most everyone involved in the debate wants to promote both, how can they have such differing opinions on how to get there?

For those just introducing themselves to this issue, the discussion is largely polarized between those who support abolition and those pushing for decriminalization and/or legalization. Read more

Posted on by Arwen McKechnie in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 1 Comment
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