New Passport Design Leaves out Canada’s Diversity

Image from 2013 Canadian passport redesign of "The Fathers of Confederation"

Image from 2013 Canadian passport redesign of “The Fathers of Confederation”

by Librarian Karen

In July 2013, Passport Canada introduced a re-designed passport containing new security features and watermarks, which Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird claims “tells the world who we are: a nation built on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

While I also have some concerns about the security features, I’d like to share some of my observations about the watermarks, which certainly offer a fair depiction of Canada’s history, geography and industrial growth. But they depict a historical Canada, not a modern, diverse country rich in culture. There are no pictures of modern cities (was Toronto, Canada’s largest city, intentionally omitted?).

Even more concerning, there is a lack of representation of the people of Canada. Specifically, the new passport lacks images containing indigenous people, visible minorities and women. Out of the twenty-five individual images (on sixteen pages), only one clearly contains a woman, (which is not even a photograph of a person, it’s a photograph of a statue.)

Passport Canada paid $53,290 on a focus group to collect feedback on the images and the conclusion was: “Participants routinely suggested that the set of images should be more representative of Canada, with emphasis on including more women and better reflecting Canada’s multicultural character and heritage.”

If any changes were made to the line-up of images after the focus group, I wonder what the original selection was, because the final set of images is not reflective of the Canada I know.

For example:

Pier 21, Halifax, historic gateway to Canada, “was one of the most significant ports of entry for newly arrived immigrants,” and yet there are no images anywhere in the passport representing these immigrants, many of which worked on building the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Last Spike 1885, is a photograph depicting a group of men on the train tracks, most of which appear to be Caucasian; why not include some of the workers? (To note, the contributions of Chinese workers is mentioned in the description of this image on Passport Canada’s website.)

Another image I find questionable is the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, France, a Canadian war memorial which is in a different country. I understand the significance of this particular memorial, but why not use a picture of a war memorial in Canada, of which there are plenty to choose from? (Veterans Affairs has a list of Canadian war memorials located in Canada).

Nellie McClung page in new passport

Nellie McClung page in new passport

Most disappointingly however, is that there is only one image containing a woman: Nellie McClung, from the statue of the Famous Five is a photograph of the statue of Nellie McClung, in front of a print of the Famous Five (Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby). Where’s Laura Secord? Emily Carr? Pauline Johnson? And why use a picture of a statue rather than an actual photograph?

Considering Canada has more women than men, there is no reason not to have better representation in the passport. The omission suggests that females are not valued, haven’t contributed to the growth of Canada, and have no place in Canadian society. It’s a missed opportunity to promote gender equality.

Overall, I’m disappointed in the choice of images. I’ve done a bit of travelling, and some of the people I’ve met I’ve kept in touch with, so I asked them for their feedback on the new passport. I also asked for feedback from some of my Canadian ex-pat friends who are now living elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that it doesn’t accurately reflect their image of Canada, there is a lack of connection with the images, a lack of relevancy.

When comparing passports with other travelers, there is an opportunity for us to share the story of our country. If John Baird is suggesting that the images in the new passport are a way to tell the world who we are, how do we explain the lack of diversity in the people represented?

Posted on by Librarian Karen in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

Get Ready to Close the Gender Gap…in 2240


"Canada's gender gap 1993-2012" from "Closing Canada's Gender Gap

“Canada’s gender gap 1993-2012″ from “Closing Canada’s Gender Gap

by Jarrah Hodge

A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has given Canada a reality check: our progress on reducing the economic and political gender gap in the country is stalled to the point that it will take us over two centuries at the current rate to achieve gender equality.

CCPA Research Associate Kate McInturff used a method developed by the World Economic Forum to calculate our score in the areas of health, education, economics and politics. On the plus side, our score on education and health care are nearly perfect, but our scores for economic opportunity and participation and political representation are significantly lower.

It’s a disconnect that might not seem to make sense; you’d think the high levels of women’s educational attainment would mean more political and economic success. However, McInturff points out “ the income gap is actually greater for women with university or college degrees than it is for those with high school diplomas. Having a university degree means a higher level of income overall, yes, but it also means facing a higher level of wage discrimination.”

An even bigger drag on Canada’s overall gender equality score is the lack of women in public office and top corporate management roles. In these areas together, men outnumber women two to one. In the report, McInturff says while the fact that women take on a far greater share of childcare and housework in heterosexual families is a factor, women choosing to stay home with the kids can’t account for the full discrepancy: “Certainly there are women (and men) who are in an economic position to work less in order to spend more time with their families. But the truth is, most Canadian families don’t earn enough to allow one or more family members to choose not to work. And whether by choice or necessity, 70% of all mothers with children under the age of six are working parents.”

So we have a situation where we just don’t have a critical mass of women at the top. Only one of Canada’s top 100 CEOs is a woman and despite our record number of women Premiers, women still make up only about 25% of members in provincial legislatures. The number’s about the same federally, with even fewer women in the government caucus (about 17%). Read more

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

Don’t Be Fooled by Fake Clinics

This column by Joyce Arthur was originally posted at the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada website. Cross-posted with permission from the author. 

If you purchased a bottle of wine at your local government liquor store in Kamloops BC during the holiday season last year, you may have noticed a tin on the counter labelled “Help a Woman in Crisis.” Perhaps you even dropped a few coins in it. What you may not have noticed is the name of the recipient on that tin—the Pregnancy Care Centre of Kamloops. Unfortunately, this agency is one that many people would be loathe to support if they knew what it really represented.

On its website and brochure, the Pregnancy Care Centre of Kamloops claims to help women with unplanned pregnancies by giving them practical support and “non-judgmental care” as well as “education on all pregnancy options, and “referrals for health, housing and community support,” among other laudable-sounding services.

But this carefully cultivated public persona deliberately hides the true nature and purpose of the centre. Unsuspecting donors would never guess that the centre is actually an anti-abortion Christian ministry whose main goal is to dissuade women from having abortions—and then convert them if possible.

About 150 of these fake clinics—so-called “crisis pregnancy centres”—exist across Canada. Many are affiliates of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS), an umbrella group that “encourages and equips” these centres. One of the primary tools that CAPSS provides to its affiliates for their work is an “Evangelism Manual.”

As an affiliate of CAPSS, the Kamloops Pregnancy Care Centre must maintain “faithful adherence” to several statements and codes, none of which are available to the public (we obtained a copy of them several years ago): Read more

Posted on by Joyce Arthur in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

Why Poll Data Doesn’t Matter

This article was originally posted at Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome. Cross-posted with permission. Peggy Cooke is a reproductive justice activist and former abortion clinic worker living in Toronto, ON. She likes feminism, grammar, and sharks.

So, I guess there’s been an Angus Reid poll that found that 51% of Canadians favour some restrictions on abortion – and 60% favour restricting sex-selective abortion. I have some thoughts.

First of all, who are these people who don’t think there should be any restrictions, but then do think that, oh yeah, if it’s for sex selection then we should really clamp down. What? I have so many questions for them. Like: how do we determine someone’s reason for aborting? How hard do you think it would be to get around such a restriction? What do you think it says about our society that sex selective abortion even exists? What other reasons are good enough to say no, you can’t have this? Read more

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

Regulating the Veil in Canada

Zaynab Khadrby Sarah Jensen

It’s difficult to write about a subject when your own feelings about it are undecided.  I chose to write this article so I could figure out how I feel about the niqab. Two weeks later, after countless hours of reading, thinking and discussing, my mind is less made up than when I started.

A (highly scientific) Google search tells me that there are about 300 women in Canada who wear veils, such as the niqab and the burqa, which cover their faces. The Canadian government has begun to dictate when and where these women can be covered. In December, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and announced that from now on veiled women would not be allowed to take the oath of citizenship without showing their faces.  He said “it is a cultural tradition which I think reflects a certain view about women that we do not accept in Canada. We want women to be full and equal members of Canadian society and certainly, when they are taking the citizenship oath, that is the right place to start.”

Many people believe that this law may be a first step in the direction of banning all face veils, as both France and Belgium have done. Quebec has already introduced legislation that would bar Muslim women from receiving or delivering public services while wearing a niqab.

While I’m unsure about my own feelings about women who choose to cover their faces, I do believe that they should have that choice. I oppose a ban because government should not be allowed to dictate how women dress. A government forbidding face veils acts with as much intolerance as one that makes women required to wear them. Read more

Posted on by Sarah Jensen in Can-Con, Feminism, Racism 1 Comment

Making the Sex Trade Safer: Is Decriminalization the Answer?

Gavel and justice scales

Very pleased to have Jasmine back for a second post at Gender Focus. Jasmine Peterson is currently a graduate student in Clinical Psychology at Lakehead University (Ontario), and a feminist activist. 

Prostitution is a cultural phenomenon that has been present in some form or another throughout history; it has often been referred to as ‘the world’s oldest profession’ which is not an accurate statement, but highlights the fact that sex work has been prevalent throughout the world for centuries.

In Canada, prostitution itself is a legal activity. However, many of the activities related to prostitution are illegal: operating or being found in a brothel or bawdy house, procuring sexual services, living on the avails of prostitution, or soliciting in a public space.

This is an issue for a number of reasons: it is difficult to engage in prostitution without breaking the law even though prostitution itself is legal, it contributes to and is a function of the cultural stigma against sex workers (which can also lead to street prostitutes being jailed more frequently than their clients), but most concerning is that these laws prohibit those who engage in sex work to communicate in a public space. This leaves workers more susceptible to the dangers of the industry (specifically violence and fear of legal reprisal for reporting such violence once it’s been committed).

A group of Vancouver sex workers – The Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society – have spent the past few years pitted against the federal government in legal proceedings. The case has made its way to the Supreme Court. What is really at the center of this legal battle is the safety of sex-trade workers. The sex-trade workers would like to see the activities associated with prostitution decriminalized as an integral step in ensuring their health, safety, and freedom of expression – basic human rights (read about it here).

The debate about decriminalizing activities surrounding prostitution is a rather divisive one, with some polarizing views. Read more

Posted on by Jasmine Peterson in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

Recognize Immigrant Credentials

I just got home from spending three days at the BC Federation of Labour’s union renewal conference, which focused on strategies for fighting racism in our unions and workplaces and growing a more diverse labour movement. To see how the conference went, check out the liveblog/Tumblr here.

On the first day, Canadian Labour Congress Anti-Racism and Human Rights Director Karl Flecker gave a presentation about Canada’s changing labour force and why acknowledging our history and embracing anti-racism is essential for the future of our movement. To give some examples of the unique issues immigrants to Canada face, Flecker showed the following video produced by TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council):

I think this ad is a concise and effective way of making the point about the injustice many foreign-trained professionals face upon coming to Canada. The irony is that many time Canada evaluates the same immigrants and admits them at least partially based on the fact that they have needed professional skills, but when they get here we put up all possible road blocks to them practicing the profession they’re trained in.

Watching the ad again on YouTube I came across the other 2 ads in the same campaign by TRIEC and thought I’d share them here.

The point is not to malign service jobs, but to point out the racism in the system that marginalizes new immigrants, especially immigrants of colour, and refuses to allow them employment commensurate with their experience.



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