bc liberals

BC Budget Fails to Act on Violence Against Women

legby Jarrah Hodge

I could say a lot about yesterday’s BC Budget release: the whole thing was mind-boggling, with each released detail making less sense than the one before. But keeping with the scope of this blog and an issue that’s close to my heart, one area I was really looking at was funding for violence against women.

Just two months ago Attorney General Shirley Bond spoke to families of missing and murdered women in Vancouver after the release of the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry report. She asked for more time to study the report but announced that one immediate government action would be an increase in funding to WISH to hopefully meet the report’s recommendation for a 24-hour drop-in centre for sex workers in the Downtown Eastside. It really was the bare minimum they could do, and since then WISH has found the funding can’t cover being open for the full 24-hours a day.

Organizations like the Ending Violence Association of BC, an umbrella organization for BC anti-violence programs, were hoping that the 2013 budget could provide some more meaningful assistance for women who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing sexual or domestic violence.

Instead, according to a statement from EVA (.pdf):

While the budget includes an additional $5 million to address problem gambling and an additional $52 million for increased RCMP costs including costs associated with gang activity, there are no increases to ensure victims of domestic and sexual violence have access to life saving support services. Numerous Coroner’s Inquests and Death Review Panels have identified that access to such services is critical to help ensure victims do not fall through the cracks.

If you haven’t experienced violence or don’t know someone who has, these programs might not be something you’d have thought about. But if you need these services it’s hard not to notice the gaps.

In 2002 the BC Liberal government cut all funding for sexual assault/woman assault centres and women’s centres. Funding for remaining victim assistance programs was cut in 2008. There are several Stopping the Violence (STV) counselling programs to provide long-term counselling to adult women who have been sexually assaulted or otherwise victimized, but many of these programs are inadequately funded, resulting in long waiting lists. There are no STV programs for girls under 18.

That means we’re left with only 62 community-based victim assistance services in BC (keep in mind BC has over 160 municipalities). Even though report after report has identified them as crucial, these services haven’t seen a funding increase in over a decade and workers in many are facing untenable, overwhelming case loads.

“These are the programs mandated to identify risk, create safety plans and provide a plethora of other supports to keep women and kids safe,” says EVA.

The budget presented yesterday will not be passed until after the May election, so there is still an opportunity for whichever party wins the election to make changes. Relative to the entire budget, these are not expensive programs. EVA BC Executive Director Tracy Porteous points out the government collects a surcharge on motor vehicle tickets that is supposed to go to help victims of crime, but to the best of our knowledge, not all the funding is officially allocated.

“Concrete action is needed to prevent this senseless violence. The time for general statements of support and further study has passed.” said Porteous, “We need action and programs, not merely more committees, more reports, more plans and more summits”.

(photo of the Legislature via Wikimedia Commons)

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

My Reality: I Was a Teen Politician, Part II

Another newspaper article, this time from the Vancouver Courier.

Another newspaper article, this time from the Vancouver Courier.

by Jarrah Hodge

Thanks to everyone who stuck with me from Part I. Here’s the second and final part of my teen political saga.

So after I lost the Quadra nomination I got a phone call. Glen Sanford was in Vancouver setting up Libby Davies’ campaign and he wanted me to come run the phone side of what’s called “voter contact” (mostly knocking on doors and cold-calling to talk to voters and find out who they’re planning to support).

You couldn’t ask for a better first campaign. Glen was a patient campaign manager and the rest of the campaign team was fun and hard-working. There was a steady stream of loyal, local volunteers, including an older couple of European women who drove in every day from their home in the Fraser Valley with home-cooked meals for us campaign staff, just because they supported Libby so much.

Our campaign office was right next door to an Italian bakery and down the street from Belgian Fries. I ate cake and poutine every day and still lost weight because I was so stressed and high from the campaign adrenalin. Not something you’d want to do long-term but it was awesome for a month.

And of course, working for Libby was fabulous. I admired how she trusted and valued the campaign team and volunteers, how she seemed to effortlessly remember so many names. Even though she would (expectedly) go on to win the seat by one of the highest margins in the country, she had time to really listen to community members on the doorstep and in the campaign office.

Lest I have to write a third part to this article, I’ll skip ahead to Spring 2005, when I was asked to run for another nomination, this time in Vancouver-Quilchena. Quilchena is an area made up of some pretty ritzy neighbourhoods, including Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, Southwest Marine Drive, and the slightly more middle-class Dunbar area. It was ranked the second-worst riding for the NDP. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, My Reality, Politics 2 Comments

My Reality: I Was a Teen Politician, Part I

photo

Story about young candidates from the Vancouver Province during the 2005 election, with me pictured.

by Jarrah Hodge

Here in BC we’re getting ready for a provincial election in a couple of months and as I see building excitement around me I can’t help but think about how the various new candidates are doing.

See when I was 19 I ran in the 2005 provincial election for the BC NDP against then Finance Minister Colin Hansen. And even though I never had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, it was a truly unforgettable experience, at times fun, enlightening, exhausting, and surreal.

I should go back just a bit, to my Grade 10 Social Studies class in Courtenay, taught by none other than Don McRae, who would go on to become the BC Liberal government’s Education Minister under Christy Clark.

Even though our politics don’t align and I didn’t give him enough credit at the time, McRae was a one-of-a-kind, inspiring teacher. He used totally unique, fun, and creative lessons to teach Canadian history and politics. And the highlight of every class – at least for budding political nerds like me – was current events.

I feel like pretty much every day I’d bring in a news story to share with the class and more and more around that time (2000-2001), the stories were about the cuts and changes the new BC Liberal government was making.

I may have been a bit annoying.

But I just couldn’t get over this feeling I had that what they were doing was unjust. I was incensed when they refused to recognize the 2-member NDP caucus as the Official Opposition and when they declared BC teachers an “essential service”. I felt emotionally crushed when they cut funding to women’s centres and lowered BC’s child labour standards to allow younger kids to work tougher jobs.

I was an angsty teen but my angst came out in my politics as I lay awake in bed, wondering how Gordon Campbell and his Cabinet Ministers could sleep at night with the way they were hurting ordinary British Columbians.

So anyway, after one particular day of me bringing in a new list of cuts (much of this info came from my Dad’s copies of CCPA and Council of Canadians newsletters, as well as mainstream media), Mr. McRae suggested that I should look at joining the NDP.

He was teasing but it was the perfect thing to say. But I wasn’t ready to pick a party just based on them not being the BC Liberals. I went online and mailed away for copies of 2000 federal election platforms for the NDP, federal Liberals, and Greens.

I took them downstairs to my basement room and read through each one carefully. The Liberal party’s platform looked okay but I felt it lacked a strong connection to progressive values.  I thought I would probably end up joining the Green Party because I’d been involved with my parents protesting logging on Denman Island during elementary school, but the platform felt so limited to me. Again, the policies didn’t seem to come from any particular set of values except value for the environment.

Reading the NDP platform, it was like things fell into place. The next day I tracked down a membership form and sent it in. Then I waited.

And waited. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, My Reality, Politics 3 Comments

OptBC calls for Universal Access to Publicly Funded Contraception

Birth Control Pills

Last week the Obama administration announced that most employers will be required to cover contraceptives in employee health plans. This was a huge victory for reproductive health and feminist groups who had been lobbying for this extended coverage for preventative care services.

Another thing it means is that the US has jumped ahead of some Canadian provinces in terms of contraceptive access, at least for those insured by employers. I use the Nuva Ring for hormonal contraception and while my current employer’s health plan does cover it, my previous three health plans did not, leaving me out of pocket to the tune of approximately $30/month. It was hard to imagine women without extended health plans being able to afford this extra amount to have the choice I had.

Coming out of this, Options for Sexual Health BC is renewing its call on the provincial government to ensure universal access to publicly funded contraception.

In 2010 Opt produced a research paper on this topic, which was based on the argument that “publicly funded contraception for all British Columbians is good public policy.” They noted over 30 countries in Europe already mandate publicly funded contraception and that ensuring it in BC would help us catch up. Read more

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

Purple Letter Campaign Wants LGBT Policy for BC Schools

Purple Letter Campaign organizers Kaitlin nd Ryan Clayton

With homophobic bullying and its tragic outcomes being covered more in the media, a group of concerned activists have started the Purple Letter Campaign to call for a province-wide sexual orientation and gender identity policy for schools.

Ryan Clayton and Gender Focus’ own Kaitlin launched the campaign this summer and spent the last few months on the road around BC, collecting letters in purple envelopes written to the Premier and Minister of Education.

“Anyone can write a letter,” Kaitlin told Xtra. “Youth, adults, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer students, allies. Anyone who cares about making BC schools safe and inclusive for all students can mail them to us or drop it off in any of our cute mail boxes, which are currently located in Burnaby, Vancouver, Nelson, Salmon Arm, Prince George and Victoria.”

Ryan Clayton told Xtra this type of campaign is necessary to raise awareness of the issue among political leaders: “I’ve heard people in government say they don’t think homophobia is a big issue. They’re not being offensive; they legitimately don’t know it’s an issue,” he says. “Many MLAs are a bit older and haven’t been in high school for a while. Sometimes we have to remind them what the climate is like.”

The Purple Letter Campaign is hoping to take campaigning for LGBT equality in schools to the next level, after the Burnaby School Board passed an anti-homophobia policy last year, becoming the 14th school board in the province to do so. While local school board measures are hugely valuable, the campaign’s organizers argue a uniform policy handed down from the province is the only way to make sure students are protected in every region.

Unfortunately, the organizers don’t have an easy road ahead of them. The passing of the Burnaby policy has led to a backlash from an anti-gay group calling itself “Parents Voice” and recently another group called “Culture Guard” protested at the Vancouver School Board against the hugely successful Out in Schools Program, making an absurd allegation that the group promotes gay pornography in schools.

The Purple Letter Campaign is asking for folks to share their stories on the blog, where they have a lot of moving stories already posted.

For my part, I’m writing a letter because you couldn’t walk down the hall at my high-school without someone being called a “dyke” or a “fag”, and even though I wasn’t targeted with homophobia I knew how much bullying hurt and I feel ashamed that I ducked my head and let people call other those names because I was afraid of being ostracized or assaulted for standing up to it. Oh, and my school  had a “Gay-K-K” – a group of guys who joked about lynching gay kids. That was in 2003 and all the evidence I’ve seen and heard indicates not much has improved, especially in smaller towns.

So I’d encourage you to take the time to write a purple letter – the campaign is ongoing until October 20, when they campaign will deliver the letters to the Premier and Minister of Education on the anniversary of the Vigil to End Homophobic Bullying. For a list of places you can get purple envelopes and drop off letters, click here. You can also follow @Purple_Letters on Twitter and on Facebook.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, LGBT, Politics Leave a comment

Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Libraries

“And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, “I Love You, Madame Librarian”

We’ve been hearing a lot in the news over the past couple of weeks about impending provincial cuts to services. We’ve seen the BC Liberals propose cuts of 50% to arts and culture, and a funding shortfall in the Fraser Health Authority which is likely to cause operating room closures and cuts to day care for seniors. And in yet another example of misplaced priorities the Liberals are imposing a regressive tax that will make average British Columbians pay more for school supplies, funeral services, and haircuts while the provincial services our taxes are supposed to fund also get clawed back.

Now those of us who have been awake for the last 8 years of Liberal government are only somewhat surprised, but I feel more worried about this round of cutback rumours than I have in the past. That’s because our libraries are facing a more serious provincial funding shortfall than they have in a long time.

Last week Public Eye reported that BC’s libraries have not yet received their annual operating grants from the province, nor any indication of the amount they will be receiving. For some libraries, the grant makes up over 10% of their budget.  The BC Library Trustees Association is scheduled to meet with Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid today, after their President Andy Ackerman expressed great concern that libraries will be facing deep provincial cuts.

I worked in libraries for seven years – three at Vancouver Island Regional Library in Courtenay and four in the Vancouver Public Library system, and I’ve seen first-hand how important libraries are to the life of our communities. Now, more than ever, we can’t afford to abandon our libraries.

Some people argue that in a recession, cutbacks are inevitable and perhaps even desirable. However, library workers and patrons know how crucial library resources are to job seekers. During my career planning class we spent a morning at the nearby public library and several of my classmates expressed gratitude at learning about the helpful resources the library had for us. In this economy, library usage is going up, not down.

Online resources are extremely helpful to the job seeker, and our local libraries provide access to newspapers and databases where we can look up potential future employees, conduct labour market research, learn to put together an effective resume, and browse job postings, all from the comfort of our own home just using our library cards. Stopbclibrarycuts.ca reports that cuts could inhibit patrons’ access to these crucial resources.

Gordon Campbell vowed that he’d make BC the most literate jurisdiction in North America by 2015. That will be a lot harder if libraries end up being forced to cut funding to early and adult literacy programs.

As Vonnegut points out in the quote above, libraries fight censorship on a daily basis and ensure that the public have access to a wide range of ideas. Libraries support life-long learning for everyone, regardless of race, gender, or income. Libraries are vital to the strength of our communities.

So now’s the time to check out Don’t Pull the Plug on Libraries at  http://www.stopbclibrarycuts.ca/ and join the Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=115269260975.

Let’s make sure that we tell Gordon Campbell that cutting library operating grants would be short-sighted and detrimental to our economy and our communities.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Politics Leave a comment