Can-Con

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 3 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 2 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

Race, Security and Choice: The Bedford Decision Explored

Gavel and justice scalesby Arij Riahi

The Bedford decision released last Friday has already resulted in a great volume of commentary. This (long) post aims to break down the ruling to facilitate further discussion. I also wish to highlight some points of concerns about the unanimous decision that seem important to any feminist conversation on the topic. They center on the question of whether prostitution is a real choice and the realities of indigenous women and women of colour in the sex trade.

Three articles down. Right to security up.

The decision declares three articles of the Criminal Code to be invalid because inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are sections 210, 212(1)j) and 213(1)c) of the Criminal Code.

Specifically, the articles are said to be contrary to section 7 of the charter, which guarantees the right to security – a “fundamental freedom”- to every person.

The arguments brought by the applicants (Terri Jean Bedford et al.) are centred around the idea that the current laws violate the charter by preventing prostitutes from implementing safety measures (hiring body guards, for example) that could protect them from violent clients. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with this argument.

It is important to mention here that the court has to answer the arguments brought by the applicants. The judges cannot get creative; they cannot decide to consider other arguments and ignore those submitted in front of them. This is why the decision is centered around the safety measures that prostitutes could set up to increase their own security.

The court started its decision by repeating that prostitution is not illegal in Canada. The act of exchanging sex for money is not a criminal infraction. Therefore, the ruling only considers if the current criminal legislation related to prostitution – which are sections 210, 212(1)j) and 213(1)c) of the Criminal Code -  violate the charter. I’ll consider the content of those articles and highlight the crux of the court’s arguments for each. Read more

Posted on by Arij Riahi in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

This December 6th, I Remember, And I Am Angry

candleby Jarrah Hodge

Each year I write a message on December 6th, the National Day of Action and Remembrance on Violence Against Women. Today we remember Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte, who were gunned down on this day 24 years ago in Montreal, simply because they were women participating in a man’s world by studying engineering.

We also remember the many, many women in our own communities and around the world who have been the victims of gender-based violence since then, as well as those who have faced it and survived, and those who continue to face it every day.

It always makes me tremendously sad.

This year, though, I am equally angry.

I am angry violence against women is still so much a part of our world.

I am angry when I think about those women whose particular voices are often silenced and stories of violence not told: indigenous women, racialized women, trans women, elders, and women with disabilities.

I was angry this past Tuesday in the House of Commons public gallery as I watched a Conservative MP make a statement on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and seeing many of her colleagues stand and applaud the sentiment, even as their government still refuses to call a national inquiry into the more than 600 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women over the past 20 years.

I am also angry that the Conservative government couldn’t give us legislation to fight “revenge porn” (sharing intimate images without consent) that wasn’t part of a hidden agenda to expand police powers and fight cable theft.

I am angry that the B.C. government is still dragging its feet on implementing all the recommendations from the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry Report and is forcing Pickton’s victims’ families to continue to wait for compensation.

So I note this is a day of action as well as of remembrance, and we can’t wait any longer for the action.

Groups like the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses, the Canadian Federation of University Women and the Canadian Labour Congress are using today to call on our federal and provincial governments to work together on the UN recommendation to establish a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls by the year 2015.

“While there are many worthwhile initiatives current underway in our communities, Canada must work with provinces, territories and other stakeholders to adopt a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address the root causes of gender-based violence. This is why we are calling on all federal political parties to support the creation of a National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls”, said Susan Murphy, CFUW President.

The Canadian Labour Congress’ statement says an action plan is needed to provide a “proactive, comprehensive approach to a systemic problem.”

If you take one action today, let it be this:

Visit the YWCA’s Rose Campaign site and send a message to your Member of Parliament that calls on them to support a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls, and a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women. Better yet, if you have time, take some of the key information, draft a message in your own words, find your MP’s email, and send it to them directly.

Image on YWCA Rose Campaign postcard to MPs

Image on YWCA Rose Campaign postcard to MPs

And if you’re able to do more, check out the YWCA’s December 6th toolkit (pdf) for a range of actions to take, from small to large, and a list of other resources to pursue.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments
1 2 3 4 5 ... 28 29   Next »