Rally and March Against Sexism, Racism and Islamophobia in the Workplace

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On March 1st, students, faculty and community members met in the Student Learning Centre for a rally and march against sexism, racism and Islamophobia in the workplace.  The event was put on by the Sam Gindin Chair, the Anti-Racism Coalition at Ryerson, CESAR, the Jack Layton Chair and the Ryerson Feminist Collective.  The event was in response to recent incidents within Ryerson and the Ryerson Students’ Union, including the firing of Gilary Massa, who was on maternity leave.

The event began with a rally in the Student Learning Centre, with close to one hundred people gathered in the lobby.  Anne-Marie Singh, from the Anti-Racism Coalition at Ryerson, spoke first drawing parallels between the outdoor climate of wintry weather and the climate women experience.  She commented that “it’s not just chilly outside; it’s chilly in courtrooms, our work spaces, our offices…”  Singh cited racialized women on maternity leave being restructured out of their jobs as an example of this chilly climate at Ryerson.  She also discussed Indigenous faculty being questioned about their credentials and racialized staff being harassed with impunity at Ryerson.  Singh also spoke to those who hold privilege on this campus stating that, “if fighting racism seems racist, if equity feels like oppression, check your privilege”.  She also called out the Ryerson Students’ Union for needing to check their privilege if they think the firing of Gilary Massa was fair.

Massa also spoke at the event and was joined by the lawyer representing her for the Ontario Human Rights Complaint against the Ryerson Students’ Union and its current executives.  Massa described what happened to her as putting the rights of working women back 20 or 30 years; she didn’t think it was possible to be fired while on maternity leave and neither did most people she has spoken to following her termination.  She also discussed the business decision made by the Ryerson Students’ Union as anti-woman and anti-worker, and asked what kind of message this send to students and women who are entering the workforce and want to start a family.  Massa’s lawyer, Saron Beresellasi, thanked the Massa family for their decision to obtain council and fight this as well as encouraged people to pay attention to the case in hopes it will serve as a public education example for the RSU and others.

Awo Abokor, from the Ryerson Feminist Collective spoke about being frustrated by the lack of support for women, especially women of colour, in the workplace at Ryerson.  She went on to say there is no justice in the decision made that lead to Massa being fired and that intersections of class, race and gender were at play here.  Abokor sent a clear message to the entire Ryerson community: “if you don’t know what equity is, learn it”.  She described the firing of Massa as taking multiple steps back and not something that the RSU can simply apologize and move on from.

Social Work Professor, Akua Benjamin described her pride for Ryerson but was disappointed the school had not taken a stand.  Ryerson University has been quiet on the issue, but Benjamin urged the school to take a stand as this is not just something between Massa and the RSU.  She also urged people to stand in solidarity for change beyond coming out the rally; this issue is ongoing and women are continuously suffering from racism on this campus.  Benjamin described the decision to fire Massa as not in the best interest of Ryerson and not what Ryerson stands for.  Benjamin ended by speaking about Massa’s baby, who was present for the rally, and calling them a “social justice baby”.

Pascale Diverlus, from the United Black Student’s at Ryerson and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, described seeing first hand of what it’s like to be a Black woman on Ryerson’s campus and the terrifying culture that is being created.  Diverlus expressed concern for future students and the community as the RSU is currently not a place of equity; Massa was the only Black full-time worker at the RSU.  “Black lives matter, Black women matter, Black Muslim women matter, Black families matter”.

Following the rally, we marched to the Student Campus Centre, which houses the offices of the Ryerson Students’ Union.  We gathered on the third floor of the building, outside the executive team’s offices.  Winnie Ng and Janet Rodriguez lead the crowd in a number of chants; none of the executive members came out to address the crowd.

This rally can’t be the end; we need more action beyond March 1st.  Ng encouraged the crowd to write letters to the Ryerson Students’ Union and to bring this issue to the attention of Ryerson administration.  The injustice in the decision to fire Massa is clear to anyone with a basic understanding of human rights and equity, but this is not an isolated incident.  It’s a clear and blatant action that is representative of what racialized women experience in the workplace daily.  The workplace in general is a chilly place for racialized women across this country, but we have an opportunity to start changing that at Ryerson.

Black History Month Spotlight: Maryann Elizabeth Francis

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As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, this week, we focus the spotlight on another strong Black Canadian female figure. Mayann Elizabeth Francis was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia and came from parents who hailed from Cuba (her father) and Antigua (her mother). She had strong roots in the church, being brought up and raised surrounded by strong religious influences, especially due to the fact that her father was the archpriest of the African Orthodox Church.

Mayann Elizabeth grew up in a diverse neighbourhood of Nova Scotia, yet, despite the apparent diversity of her community, there were still quite prominent issues of racial discrimination and inequality occurring in various communities surrounding her. Mayann was made aware at quite a young age of the segregation and racial disparities that were occurring in her community, and in communities across the country. She knew that she wanted to be a part of the social justice movements that would work to abolish racial segregation and discrimination on Canada, and was compelled to do her part to affect change in some way. So Maryann pursued higher education at St. Mary’s University, graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following her undergraduate education, she took a job for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Shortly after her experience with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, she moved to the United States, where she lived for 16 years. In those 16 years, Maryann was able to earn her Master of Arts degree, in 1984, with a specialization in Public Administration from New York University. She used her Masters degree to build a career with a focus on personnel and labour relations issues, issues that influence the quality of people’s lives, and issues that seek to be rectified through public bodies. This was in strong part due to her upbringing in an unstable racial climate in Nova Scotia, where racial segregation and discrimination were very real realities with which she experienced.

After 16 years in the United States, returned back to Canada and settled in the province of Ontario. There, she worked as an assistant deputy minister with the Ontario Women’s Directorate. Shortly after, she became the Director of the same organization. After her experience with the Ontario Women’s Directorate, she decided to return to her roots and pursue her career with the Nova Scotia human Right Commission. There, she became to Chief Executive Officer.

Mayann’s work to bring about social justice and equality within society was widely recognized both nationally and internationally. She received the Harry Jerome Award from the Black Business and Professional Association, the Multicultural Education Council of Nova Scotia Award, and the Golden Jubilee Medla. Furthermore, she is the first woman ombudsman, black or white, of Nova Scotia. She moved on to become the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 2006. She is also the first Black Nova Scotian, man or woman, and the second Black Canadian to hold this position.

Her extensive experience in various senior public service positions is in large part due to her experience with racism and segregation. As a Black woman during a time where segregation was the everyday reality for all people in the United States and in Canada, Mayann Elizabeth knew first-hand what it was like to be discriminated and judged for reasons beyond control. She understood what social injustice and inequality felt like from a victim’s point of view. These horrible experiences inspired Maryann to live a life of public advocacy; live a life and build a career built on the principles of social justice and equality. To this day, she remains a largely influential and historical figure of Canadian history through her work in affecting change with regards to racial discrimination, segregation, and racial inequality.

Resources:

http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=17

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/mayann-elizabeth-francis/

http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningcb/2009/10/mayann-francis.html

The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

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OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email thestorytellerweb@gmail.com or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Our Sisters in Spirit

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Every October 4th there is a vigil for the thousands of indigenous women and girls who have been murdered or are missing in Canada. Indigenous women and girls in Canada, who due to generations of systemic racism, discrimination, and sexualization, have become vulnerable and are having their lives taken away. In Canada, indigenous women are four times as likely to go missing or be murdered in comparison to non-indigenous women. These women are also twice as likely to be murdered by strangers compared to non-indigenous women and abused by close family. The indigenous people of Canada and their allies do not feel that these murders are being taken seriously by police or the government and we need to ask why are there so many cases and why are they going unsolved? Does no one care about these women; are they the children of a lesser God? This is a harsh reality within a country that likes to give an air of acceptance and a welcoming nature but can’t seem to love their own indigenous people.

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This past Sunday was the first vigil I attended with the Centre for Women and Trans People, a Ryerson equity service centre, and while the travesties faced by Canada’s indigenous population are not new to me, this was the first time I really felt them. It is one thing to acknowledge a problem and read about it in a book, it is an entirely different thing to listen to stories and see the heartbreak in someone’s eyes as they relive the pain of losing a part of their family to a violent death. For the first time I cried for these women and girls who every year disappear from Turtle Island and for the first time I smiled with the knowledge that these deaths are not going unnoticed. Indigenous women are loved and while the majority of these deaths and disappearances are unsolved they are not forgotten or accepted.

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Sunday’s vigil, organized by Sisters in Spirit, was held at Allen Gardens, which is home to many Indigenous people in Toronto. Handmade lanterns inscribed with colourful love symbols lit a path up to the doors of the conservatory where a circle of candles brought the diverse crowd of indigenous men and women and allies together. These lanterns are the guiding lights that will lead these missing girls home. Sounds of drums and jingling bells surrounded us as men and women danced and sang for health and safety. The setting of the sun was met with a moment of silence, prayer, and the burning of cleansing sage. As we washed ourselves in smoke and the pungent smell of sage filled our lungs the vigil began.

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Carolyn Bennett, the liberal MP for the St. Paul’s riding here in Toronto, came to the centre of the circle and spoke of the Walking With Our Sisters art exhibition. This is an ongoing exhibition of moccasin vamps (the top portion of the shoe) individually designed and sewn by artists and women. These vamps are intentionally not sewn into moccasins, instead they are left unfinished just like the lives of murdered indigenous women. One vamp (pictured below) in the exhibition that pulled at Bennett’s heart strings was designed by Theresa Burrows, it represents how the perpetrators of murder are often remembered and their victims forgotten. Part of the reason for this exhibition is to restore the individuality of these murdered women. The exhibition is currently in Ottawa and will tour Toronto next November. Bennett ended with a very grim conclusion of how this is not a women’s issue or an indigenous issue but a Canadian tragedy.

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Isadore Day, the Ontario Regional Chief, spoke of the Who Is She campaign which is focused on spreading awareness and finding answers to why Canada is only safe for some people. Who Is She is a First Nations driven campaign to end violence within their communities and bring safety to people. The main goal of the Who Is She campaign is to find where the violence against indigenous women is rooted, what can be done about it, and what they think will end it. Ultimately, Who Is She wants to find a solution that will result in safety, understanding, and respect for indigenous women. Additionally, Who Is She feels that there is a link between the residual effects of the residential school system on indigenous people and this crisis.

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Until November 15 the Mackenzie House in Toronto is displaying the Walking Together 2015 Art Exhibition. This exhibition displays the reactions indigenous high school students had when touring a residential school with survivors of the system. Each student created a mixed-media art piece to illustrate how they felt after walking through the Mohawk Institute, a former residential school in Ontario, and after viewing them you can feel the cold and pain that would have infested those schools. I had a chance to see these art pieces at the Mackenzie House and they are hard to look at – they force you to remember and to acknowledge the hurt that Canadians have caused. Reading through the stories behind each work of art is even harder to do- the abuse, neglect, and hate that inhabited these schools and broke these children breaks your heart. The psychological, physical, and emotional damage caused by the residential school system may have very easily propelled the issue of discrimination against indigenous people into the horrifying crisis Canada is faced with now. The Mackenzie House is open Tuesday to Friday, is located at Bond and Dundas streets, and is free to Ryerson students with a valid OneCard.

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Even closer to home, Ryerson now offers a certificate in Aboriginal Knowledges and Experiences. This certificate is an exploration, analysis, and reflection into the experiences of indigenous people in Canada and their relationships with the government and non-indigenous people. The certificate is open to anyone and would be specifically useful for students who wish to work in occupations that address indigenous concerns. Ryerson also offers support for indigenous students by way of the Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS) department, located in Kerr Hall West 389. They offer financial planning assistance, peer support, orientation, tutor assistance, admission advocacy, as well as bursary and scholarship options.

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As the vigil came to a close there was one final rendition of a traveling song, which prays for safe travel and return. This reminded me of a woman who spoke at the beginning of the vigil, Denise Aquash, who told the story of her missing niece. As Denise spoke, a small girl ran through the crowd and into the centre of our circle. This child was distracted by the flickering candles and had no idea what was going on in the discussion above her ears. I couldn’t help but wonder if this little girl reminded Denise of her own niece. As she lost her breath and the cold air blew across our faces I could feel Denise’s story; no longer just words but an ache that resonated through my sore body and back down to the frigid earth. The innocence of this little girl running through what in her mind might be a big party was a reminder of the stolen innocence of our indigenous women and girls. Her laughter echoed generations of girls who were silenced by murder and abuse; calling the lost girls as the candles light their dim path home. We need to speak for these women who have lost their voice, they deserve to be remembered, they deserve to be loved, they deserve to live a safe life, and they deserve life.

Here are some links to learn more about this crisis:

Native Women’s Association of Canada

Who Is She

Mackenzie House

Ryerson Aboriginal Certificate

Walking with Our Sisters

Ryerson Centre for Women and Trans People

We Need a Feminist Group at Ryerson

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Ryerson needs a feminist group on campus.  It needs to be intersectional, grassroots and run by students.  I realized this when I attended CUPE’s rally in response to the threats made against women, feminists and departments at the University of Toronto.  York University and the University of Toronto were both present at the rally; members of student groups from both universities spoke.  We were not there.  While students and faculty from Ryerson attended, our school was not present at such an important moment to show solidarity.

My friend Jackie Mlotek and I came up with the idea mid-march down Bloor Street; we would organize a solidarity event at Ryerson.  The following day, 25 students and faculty members joined us at Lake Devo to make solidarity signs and take a photo to be sent to the effected departments at U of T.  Several students who attended asked which group we were with and if we had other things planned for the future.  We weren’t with any group; just two friends with an idea.  This lead to idea #2: start a feminist group on campus.  That is where we are now; putting together a student group on campus that addresses women’s issues.

Why do we need a feminist group on campus?  Sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, abelism, and other issues women face are still alive and kicking.  A recent report on campus violence determined 4/5 women in post-secondary institutions will experience harassment, abuse, sexual assault, etc.  This is unacceptable.

What about the Women and Trans Centre?  I think this centre is great and I am so impressed by the work they do but supporting women and trans people, running a sexual assault crisis line, creating campus campaigns and advocating is a lot for one group.  I don’t know how the equity centres within the RSU work but I assume they may be subject to a lot of policy around what they can and cannot do.  A grassroots group of students wouldn’t have this limitation.

We also need a feminist group because there is so much happening on campus that should include women and trans peoples’ voices.  We have a new sexual assault policy that came out in September, there is a new job position being created to address sexual assault on campus and Men’s Rights Activists and pick up artists are planting their flags on Ryerson’s campus.

Last year, a Men’s Rights Activist group held a meeting on Ryerson campus.  While there were a lot of people who were angry about this, there was little collaborative effort to stop it or respond to it.  A feminist group on campus could coordinate an effective response to misogynist groups that make campuses unsafe.

We are starting to get together, plan, organize and figure out what this group should be.  If this sounds like something you would be interested, please get in touch with myself (alyson.rogers@ryerson.ca) or Jackie (jmlotek@ryerson.ca).

Laci Green at Ryerson: The Right Presentation for the Wrong Audience

On March 18th, Laci Green came to Ryerson.  Laci Green is from San Francisco and is the woman behind YouTube’s most popular sex ed show, “Sex Plus”.  She is an activist for a number of issues including gender equality, a crisis counsellor, a peer sex educator and a YouTuber.  Her outgoing personality, sense of humour and knowledge on sex and healthy relationships makes her YouTube channel both informative and entertaining.  Laci’s lecture at Ryerson addressed feminism and why it is important.  It was the right presentation but for the wrong audience.

Laci’s presentation on the “F-Word” (aka feminism), was amazing and I really enjoyed it.  She discussed the historical roots of feminism and addressed the many myths that exist around what feminism is and what it seeks to change in society.  Laci made the audience laugh throughout the presentation and ended with a compelling speech about not “shutting the hell up” about social issues.  The presentation was excellent but I feel it would have been better delivered to a different audience.

Those in attendance on March 18th were mostly women, many of whom I have seen at different social justice events at Ryerson and in Toronto.  These women are active, aware of the systemic issues of patriarchy, politically aware and likely identify as feminists.  This presentation was a shortened version of the main feminist course at Ryerson, one that most of the audience has probably taken.  Many of us already identify as feminists and are aware of the myths and common beliefs that exist around the concept of the word.  It was preaching to the choir.  As much as we enjoyed the presentation and seeing Laci Green in person, we were not the people who needed to be in that lecture.

The purpose of the lecture was to address the F-Word; feminism.  It was referred to as the F-Word because some consider it a “bad” word.  The right audience for this would have been people who don’t think feminism is necessary, people who believe feminism is bad and people who buy into the common but misguided beliefs about feminism.  I think that lecture could have potentially been very eye opening if you don’t identify as a feminist.

I don’t know how we get the right audience for this type of presentation.  People who don’t care aren’t going to go out of their way to attend an event like this; it’s those of us who care about the topic that will.  I don’t know how we get the right audience into these presentations but we need to figure out a way to as gender, race, sexual identity, ability, gender identity, etc. are still issues that exist today that need to be acknowledged and addressed.

International Women’s Day Faux Pas

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International Women’s Day was on March 8th.  This day was also the day we lost an hour due to daylight savings time.  In true patriarchal fashion, International Women’s Day only got 23 hours instead of 24 (feminist humour).  Over 5000 people came out to participate in the International Women’s Day March.  There were signs about all different types of issues pertaining to women including sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women, Islamaphobia, the need for universal child care, violence against women, pay gaps, racism, precarious work and many more.  As with most discussions and events about women, there is always someone doing something they should not be doing.  We will call these International Women’s Day Faux-Pas:

Asking why there is no International Men’s Day:
This seems to be the most popular question of the day.  There actually is an International Men’s Day, it’s on November 19th yet no men seem to discuss it until March 8th.  It’s not our fault you didn’t organize a march.

Telling women what to wear:
At the rally before the march, there were a lot of groups with signs, petitions and flyers for different causes.  The last group before entering the OISE auditorium, where the rally was held, was a single man yelling loudly and carrying a sign that said “no to the hijab”.  The organizers and general consensus of those in attendance is that our feminism is inclusive and intersectional.  That means a woman should be able to choose what she wears based on her own beliefs, including a hijab.  Go home “no to hijabs” man

Being a white feminist:
A white feminist doesn’t literally mean you are white and a feminist.  It means you practice white feminism which is the western status quo of feminism.  It’s exclusive, oppressive and further marginalizes other groups.  It’s made up of a demographic of white women that do not experience other forms of marginalization and view their brand of feminism as better and more “real”.  Check out a list of shit white feminists need to stop doing here: http://bellejar.ca/2015/03/08/4389/

Being the ally that takes up too much space:
Many men joined the International Women’s Day March which is great but allies always have to be mindful of the space they are taking up.  No one likes that guy at the women’s event who is obnoxiously loud, wants to be in the front and keeps running into women.

The street harasser tactics:
Businesses often use street harassment tactics to sell.  Their employees are out on the street trying to talk to you or shouting their message at you.  The entire pathway to the rally was filled with these people shouting, forcing pamphlets in your hands and continuing to yell in your ear.  Street harassment is an issue women deal with daily and using its tactics is not cool.  All of these causes were important and I would support them.  A table with some information would have sufficed.

Bringing zip ties to the march:
Here’s looking at you Toronto Police Services.  As with any march that takes place on a city street, the police are there to escort us on their bikes.  They are often cold, unfriendly and look unhappy to be there.  There never seems to be any female officers at these kinds of events, which would be appropriate.  One of the cops riding a bike happened to leave the bag on the back of his bike unzipped.  Sticking out of the bag was a bunch of zip ties used to bind peoples hands during mass arrests.  Excuse me Toronto Police… what were you expecting to happen?  What were you planning to do?  Did you bring 5000 of those?

MMIW: Criminal Negligence Causing Death

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Section 219 (1) of the Criminal Code states that “everyone is criminally negligent who a) in doing anything or, b) in omitting to do anything that is his duty to, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons”.  Section 220 of the Criminal Code states that, “every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable”.  In regards to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the Government of Canada is guilty of criminal negligence causing death.

On February 26th, amidst the national roundtable that took place on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, a study was released detailing the lack of action taken by the Government of Canada over the past two decades.  Researchers with the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women reviewed 58 reports on violence against Indigenous women and girls.  The documents reviewed included government studies, reports by international human rights bodies, and published research of Indigenous women’s organizations.  Over 700 recommendations were made by these reports yet only a few of these recommendations have ever been fully implemented.

These recommendations were made to reduce the violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls.  Their purpose was to address the high numbers of Indigenous women that are murdered and missing in Canada.  Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs asked, “How many Indigenous women and girls would have been found or would still be alive if governments had acted on more of these recommendations?”  I think a lot of us are asking the same question.

By not implementing any of the recommendations, the Government of Canada has been criminally negligent, as defined by the Criminal Code.  A government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and failing to act on recommendations to reduce violence against Indigenous women shows a reckless disregard for the lives of others.  The Government of Canada is fully aware of number of Indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing.  They are aware these numbers continue to rise and that not addressing the issue would result in more Indigenous women being murdered.  Therefore, the Government of Canada has been criminally negligent and that negligence has caused death.

This study further shows why a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is needed in Canada.  A government who has refused to implement over 700 recommendations and then has the audacity to claim these reports as reasons for why we do not need an inquiry has no business defining the problem, claiming to not play a role in the problem and certainly does not possess a viable solution for the problem.
Sources Used:
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/02/26/national-roundtable-on-missing-murdered-aboriginal-women-a-beginning.html

http://www.leaf.ca/legal-strategy-coalition-on-mmiw/

http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-46/page-113.html

Photo from: Amnesty International Canada

Fifty Shades of Rape Culture

Cover of the book, Fifty Shades of Grey

Let me start by saying I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey and I have no intention of reading it. I am not condemning those who have and those who enjoyed it. But I would like to rant a little about some of those coming out in condemnation of the book and movie. Some analysis of the movie and book has been quite thoughtful, quite well written, but the vast majority that has been snaking its way through my news feed is perpetuating rape culture and the repression of female sexuality.

One post that I have sadly seen more than once is entitled, A Psychiatrist’s Letter to Young People about Fifty Shades of Grey. Some of the points are valid; abuse is never good, women do not need to be meek to attract a mate and so forth. However, near the end the author commenting on sexual experimentation states “Maybe for adults in a healthy, long term, committed, monogamous relationship, AKA “marriage”. Otherwise, you’re at high risk for STDs, pregnancy, and sexual assault.”

No, no, no! Women experimenting and expressing their sexuality does not lead to sexual assault. Rapists are the cause of sexual assault. By all means, let’s encourage both men and women (as if pregnancy should only be a female concern) to practice safe sex, but let’s NOT encourage repression or suggest that if a female is sexually adventurous then she is the cause of an assault.

Yet another response that I have seen more than once is, Don’t Let ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Lead Your Daughter Astray: A Concerned Mother’s Response. The author states, “Pornography is not healthy for any relationship: Approximately forty million men currently watch pornography on a regular basis. Men who need to watch porn become addicted to it in order to achieve arousal. Soon your relationship won’t satisfy.”

It’s only men who watch porn or who want visual stimulation? I find it hard to believe that there are 40 million men who can no longer engage in relationships because only porn will get them off. Why is it so hard for us to accept that humans like sex and that is okay. And why is it so hard to believe that women want to express their sexuality, their desire. I mean, if women were as against porn and erotica as this author believes than Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t have been so popular.

Read Fifty Shades of Grey if you want, see the movie if you want, but please don’t tell women that we shouldn’t express our sexuality or that if we do, it will mean we were asking for it.

Problems with the CESAR Health and Dental Plan

A poster on a pillar asks students to vote yes for a part time students dental plan, health plan and opt-out optionAt the outset, it looks great. Health and dental coverage for part-time students. I remember it being discussed, reading reams of emails about the policy and voting for it. However, there are some serious problems with the opt-out policy.

In order to opt-out of the health and dental plan part-time students must prove that they have alternative plans. However, most part-time students are in contract or part time work, therefore not eligible for benefits from their workplaces. This is even true of Ryerson student employees. In fact, a search of the Government of Canada’s website, reveals that more women than men work in part-time positions, regardless of educational achievement.

I am sure that the health and dental plan works for some students, however, female part-time students might be surprised to learn that oral forms of birth control are not covered. A quick google search shows that, “in 2013-14, 54 percent of undergraduate students were female and 46 percent were male. The gender breakdown of students varies significantly by program area”. In many programs within the Faculty of Community Services there are large numbers of female students. I am a female student in the School of Disability Studies which is almost entirely comprised of other female students and is a part time program. Many of these female students work in gendered employment, like health care services, meaning that they are even more likely to be in part-time employment situations. Let’s not forget that women earn less then men in Canada.

Now, I understand that many part-time students probably don’t want to pay higher fees for their health and dental plan. I understand this. I don’t want to either, however, I would rather pay more if it meant the plan actually met my needs. Full time students pay more for their plan, in which oral forms of birth control are covered. My suggestion is this, either let me opt-out without an alternative plan or let me opt-up. By forcing me to purchase a health plan which doesn’t cover my needs (or the needs of many other female students) you are forcing me to pay double. I pay for the plan, and then for my prescriptions. If I was a full time student or a male part-time student this wouldn’t be an issue. Or if I had a non-contract position which allowed me benefits then this wouldn’t be an issue.

The health and dental plan for part-time students is a great idea in theory, in practice it discriminates against female students.