canadian politics

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

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

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

Woodworth’s New Motion is Not About Abortion, and I’m the Queen of England

Photo of the Canadian Parliament buildingsby Jarrah Hodge

MP Stephen Woodworth must think we’re stupid. After introducing and failing to pass M-312 last year and insisting it wasn’t about abortion, he’s got a new motion now calling for the legal recognition of “the equal worth and dignity of every human being.” And he’s saying this one isn’t about abortion, either, even though his media release about the new motion was called “M-312 – Next Steps”.

“Only in a bizarro-world Canada would my motion be considered controversial,” said Woodworth in his press conference.

This is kind of like the Finance Minister introducing a budget and then saying it has nothing to do with money. The fact is there would be no reason to propose this law if you weren’t trying to get at reproductive rights. And in the time since M-312 failed, Woodworth has remained focused on anti-abortion activism. The only thing he’s distanced himself from is the actual word “abortion”.

He started by vowing to undertake a cross-Canada tour to, as LifeSite News put it: “promote respect for the unborn”. The Campaign Life Coalition. On January 1st “Canada’s Family and Life Newspaper” The Interim named Woodworth their Person of the Year, saying:

“[Campaign Life Coalition representative Jim] Hughes told The Interim that Woodworth deserves to be named this paper’s Man of the Year because he challenged an unjust law, inspired the pro-life movement to action, and refused to back down when the going got tough. “We need more MPs who are willing to lead on important issues.”

For background, part of the Interim‘s mission statement is “to report and comment on the many offences against human dignity our society has experienced: abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, contraception, sexual promiscuity, the decline of the traditional family, and the rise of radical environmentalism and animal rights agendas that put non-human matters at the centre of public concern.”

This March he used his International Women’s Day statement to take a passive-aggressive dig at the lack of legal protections for fetuses. In June he spoke to the Catholic Civil Rights League (which basically argues for some Catholics’ civil rights to refuse to recognize others’) to argue the pro-life movement needs to distance itself from the word “abortion” in order to “win hearts and minds” so it can, eventually, outlaw the thing . Hence his new motion. Read more

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