#IdleNoMore: Indigenous Women Spark a Movement

indigenousrightsrevolution by Jarrah Hodge

When four women from Saskatchewan – Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean – came together to oppose Bill C-45 in early October, I’m not sure they predicted how their group would spark a national movement spread through the Twitter hashtag #IdleNoMore. Leading up to December 10, the women organized rallies and teach-ins about C-45, the Conservatives’ omnibus budget bill, which makes significant changes to the Indian Act, the Fisheries Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act without First Nations consultation.

“Bill C 45 is not just about a budget, it is a direct attack on First Nations lands and on the bodies of water we all share from across this country,” says Sylvia McAdam, pointing out the reduction of environmental proections, and also that the bill decreases the consent required for the government to make changes to reserve lands.

In Alberta, Tanya Kappo organized an Idle No More event at the Louis Bull Cree Nation. Promoting the event through social media, Kappo drew 150 people to hear her and other organizers speak about the budget bill. Here is Kappo’s introduction from that night:

If you’ve been paying attention to Twitter recently, or if you read independent media like Rabble , you’ll know these gatherings were only the beginning. The hashtag went viral and started being used more broadly on Indigenous rights issues. On Tuesday, December 4 discussion of the hashtag came up at an Ottawa meeting of the Assembly of First Nations and soon National Chief Shawn Atleo called for a march to Parliament, which was voting on the bill. Read more

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

Recommitting to the Vision of a World Without AIDS

by Jarrah Hodge

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day. Over two decades since the first World AIDS Day was recognized, much has been achieved. But unfortunately the prevention and treatment tools that have been developed still aren’t available everywhere for everyone. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the day’s theme until 2015 to be: “Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS Related Deaths.” But As Kai Wright points out in a post at Colorlines:

Globally, those who have access to social and economic capital avoid the virus or, when infected, live healthy lives with it. Elsewhere, infections and deaths continue to mount.

Wright continues:

These three slices of black America—queer men (however we identify), women and transgender people—hold some of the least social and economic capital in this otherwise wealthy and comfortable nation. In fact, what’s true in HIV is true in just about every other aspect of life in the U.S. Pick the indicator of distress, and you’ll find these groups ranking near the top of those who struggle. HIV is and has always been an excellent measure of who societies value and who they don’t.

Stephen Lewis’ Worlds AIDS Day message talks about how looking at HIV/AIDS on a global scale shows the same inequality. The top ten countries with the highest percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS are in Africa:

Two and a half million new infections last year; 330,000 are children. More than 50% infected in Africa are women…AIDS must be restored to the international agenda. The one place where it’s never been off the agenda is at the grassroots in Africa.

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, LGBT, Politics, Racism 1 Comment

Feminists Disagree on Many Things but Abortion Can’t Be One of Them

by Jarrah Hodge

Calgary Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz says Rona Ambrose is a feminist.


In her latest piece, which ran this past Tuesday, Lakritz argues Ambrose’s feminist credentials were established when she “spoke for herself” in voting for the anti-choice M-312.

“I must have been absent the day the sisterhood held a meeting and decided all women must think alike, or risk being condemned as traitors to their gender. Looks like federal Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose didn’t get the memo, either,” begins Lakritz’ column.

Feminists didn’t speak out against our country’s Status of Women Minister because she didn’t comply with some kind of groupthink. Feminists disagree on a lot of things, big and small. We have disagreements on pornography, sex work, body hair, the SFU Men’s Centre, SlutWalk, whether Pinterest is killing the movement, whether Lady Gaga is a role model, even whether knitting is reclaiming feminist heritage or setting us back.

Where feminists know we can’t afford to disagree is the fundamental feminist issue of the right to choose to have an abortion. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 16 Comments

Woodworth’s Attacks on Abortion Rights Challenge Harper to Step Up

Canadian House of CommonsJosey Ross is an anti-violence worker and reproductive justice activist living in Vancouver. She has an embarrassing and uncontainable love of small dogs but fears corgis.

The abortion debate is over in Canada. We won. Stop worrying so much.

This is what I kept hearing as I was beginning to write my Honours thesis, which looked at anti-choice legislation in Canada. And it’s partly true. We won. Oh boy did we win. Unlike in the U.S. where the increasingly fragile Roe v. Wade decision is based on an easily trump-able right to privacy, women’s right to abortion in Canada is predicated on security of the person.

Since the Morgantaler decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988, precisely zero laws have been passed that regulate or prohibit abortion. However, there have been nearly 40 bills and motions introduced that sought to limit or prohibit abortion. In 1991 women’s right to bodily autonomy was maintained by a single vote when it tied in Senate.

And while I’m confident that Bill C-43 would have been deemed unconstitutional if not for that single vote, it would have been a nightmare. And it would have been women who paid the steep price of years of legal wrangling.

Conservative misogynist (or “pro-lifer” as he seems to prefer) Stephen Woodworth is using a well-worn tactic to attack abortion rights from the side. Focusing on personhood arguments neatly skirts the existence of the gestational vehicle otherwise known as a woman. Read more

Posted on by Josey Ross in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 3 Comments

Impact of Trans Discriminatory Airline Regulations

In the round-up from two weeks ago I shared a link from Christin Milloy’s blog, which reported on trans discriminatory changes to Canadian air travel identity screening regulations. According to Milloy:

The offending section of the regulations reads:

5.2 (1) An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if …

(c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents…


So what does this mean? Well, in order to change the ‘sex’ designation on a Canadian Passport, the federal government requires proof that surgery has taken place, or will take place within one year. So for non-operative transgender persons, for gender nonconforming (genderqueer) persons, and for the vast majority of pre-operative transsexual persons, it is literally impossible to obtain proper travel documentation marked with the sex designation which “matches” the gender identity in which they live.

Now this is not a piece of new legislation, which would’ve had to be debated and voted upon in the House of Commons, but it is a change in regulation implemented by the Ministry of Transportation. In other words, the government could change this if they really wanted to, without requiring new legislation to be passed. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, LGBT, Politics 1 Comment

Panel: Changes in Same-Sex Marriage Policy

Bear with us as we try something new here at Gender Focus: a contributors’ panel. Sometimes a story breaks and none of our contributors has the time to write a full post about it that day. Often, it’s also a story that can be better presented if considered from diverse perspectives. So the idea I had was that if something like this happens I can send out the story to the contributors to get multiple takes on it.

For our pilot test, I picked what ended up being one of the biggest stories of this week: the Canadian federal government’s position on same-sex marriages performed in Canada for people from other countries where same-sex marriage is not legal.

The thing is the story developed so fast that I feel like we kind of missed the boat. In case you weren’t following, on Thursday I first saw the story in the Globe and Mail with this headline: “Despite legal about-face, Harper has ‘no intention’ of reopening gay marriage.” From the article:

The Harper government has served notice that thousands of same-sex couples who flocked to Canada from abroad since 2004 to get married are not legally wed.

The reversal of federal policy is revealed in a document filed in a Toronto test case launched recently by a lesbian couple seeking a divorce. Wed in Toronto in 2005, the couple have been told they cannot divorce because they were never really married – a Department of Justice lawyer says their marriage is not legal in Canada since they could not have lawfully wed in Florida or England, where the two partners reside.

This was seen as a dramatic reversal of government policy, but despite the fact that the NDP brought the issue up in the House last fall, Harper and the Conservatives insisted they had no idea there was any change: Read more

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Scrapping the Long Gun Registry is a Feminist Issue

This article was originally posted at Persephone Magazine. Reposted with permission of Persephone and the author, Millie. Millie is a perpetual grad student, an internationally recognized curmudgeon, and an occasional hugger of trees. She also makes a mean batch of couscous.

Last week, the Conservatives tabled legislation to not only scrap the long gun registry, but also to destroy all the data it currently holds, and again used closure* to shut down debate on it. The registry has reduced gun deaths overall by about 45% since it was introduced, but the Conservatives say it’s too expensive and infringes on the rights of hunters and rural citizens.

Here’s how we got the long gun registry in the first place. On December 6th, 1989, a misogynistic man walked into a classroom at École Polytechnique, an engineering college associated with Université de Montréal, armed with a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle, told the men to leave, declared he was “fighting feminism,” and shot the nine women left in the room (six of whom died). He went on to kill eight more women, and injure seven more women and four men, before turning the gun on himself. December 6th is now National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and after considerable public outcry (especially in Québec), the long gun registry was enacted in 1995. Just writing that paragraph makes my gut clench in anger.

To legally obtain a long gun in Canada, the potential owner must apply for a permit, and the gun itself must be registered. Police services across the country have access to this registry, so that guns involved in crimes can be traced, and also so police officers can check if, when responding to a call at a residence, they expect that the owner has a gun, and take appropriate precautions. Permits must be renewed every five years, currently. Handguns have been regulated since the 1930s, and are not covered by this legislation.

The effect that the long gun registry has had on gun ownership, gun crime, and gun deaths is stark. The CBC, bastion of excellent information that it is, helpfully compiled this list of statistics about the state of guns in Canada. While the whole list is worth a read, I want to focus specifically on a part at the bottom of the first section:

Since the long gun registry came in in 1995, gun deaths have decreased by 45%. This is across all demographics, all ages, all genders. That’s a huge improvement — the rate of death by long gun has been almost halved, just by having the guns registered. But the reduction of the rate of spousal homicide (which, overwhelming, is femicide — about 80% of spousal deaths are men killing women) is a whopping 74%. Three quarters of women’s deaths by gun at the hands of their spouse can be reduced just by adding a few hoops for the gun owner.

And that’s just deaths: I couldn’t find any current statistics on gun injuries inflicted by spouses (again, overwhelmingly likely to be men injuring women), but I’d wager that if gun deaths are decreased by that much with the registry, then gun injuries inflicted by a spouse are likely also drastically reduced.

So this is a registry that helps keep women and police officers safer. It’s reduced gun deaths, injuries, and suicide rates (which are almost 5 times higher in households that have guns). It’s proven effective and is widely used — the registry is accessed about 17,000 times a day. All this is fact, not opinion.

Think about all those numbers in the CBC article for a few minutes, and let them sink in and percolate. Read more

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