Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bill C-51 and Women's (and Everyone's) Rights

On March 8, International Women's Day, I spoke on behalf of the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism (ECAWAR) during the IWD Forum here in Edmonton. Much of my short speech focused on Bill C-51, the "Anti-Terrorism Bill," which, if passed, would potentially limit our freedoms as activists to assemble, to criticize the government, or even comment on global issues. The text of my speech is below, as well as a video (the introduction at which I blush).
International Women’s Day came into being after the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark, passed a resolution to establish International Women’s Day as a day to agitate for the rights of women to take part in the political affairs of their countries and their rights as workers. It was inspired by the growing struggles of women for their political and economic rights, including the establishment in the U.S. of Women’s National Day in 1909 in honour of the women garment workers’ strikes in 1908. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women's rights and world peace.

At that first conference and since, the demand for peace has been a prominent theme of IWD, along with anti-discrimination, equality, anti-sexism, and anti-violence against women. In the year 2000, the official UN theme was Women United for Peace. The following year, it was Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts.

As Canadian women in the peace movement, we still have many things to be concerned about.

We have a federal government which is engaged in war and aggression, trying to impose puppet regimes and so-called “Canadian values” on non-Western countries, often under the guise of supporting the rights of women and girls in those countries, instead of respecting those countries’ rights to self-determination. We say: Not in our Name!

U.S.-NATO wars and intervention have led to literally millions of deaths in the Middle East and elsewhere, including hundreds and thousands of children. They have destabilized countries, led to failed states such as Libya, and contributed to the arming and proliferation of ISIS. The standard definition of insanity is to believe that doing the same thing will have different results. We call for troops out of Iraq and no attack on Syria, for the peaceful resolution of disputes, not war. Canada Needs an Anti-War Government!

Now, we face a serious threat within our own country as activists. Workers’ strike struggles, the fight of First Nations for their rights, minorities, and in particular Muslims are targeted by the impending legislation of Bill C-51 (also known as the “Anti-Terrorism Bill”), which is the Harper government’s response to Canadians’ desire for change.

Bill C-51 makes promotion of terrorism a criminal offence. What does that mean? Consider that the Harper government claims that the Palestinian resistance in the Middle East is terrorism and wants to criminalize any “promotion” of their resistance. Yet thousands upon thousands of Canadians feel duty bound to defend the Palestinians’ right to be and to express their own right to conscience.

Bill C-51 gives sweeping powers to CSIS, which many people say will permit it to operate as a police state without oversight. By claiming not to include strike struggles and political dissent while adding the word “lawful,” C-51 allows all manner of activities to be called “terrorist” - including illegal strikes, marches without a police permit, and acts of civil disobedience. Our march today without a police permit could be included.

Bill C-51 is also a direct assault on the rights of First Nations to defend their lands and it must not be allowed to pass!

We cannot permit such an assault. Let every one of us take an action - participate in a picket or rally; talk to your co-workers, families, other women; call and write your member of Parliament. Join the work to defeat Harper in 2015!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall . . .

Last Saturday, March 7, I attended a rally called "Tell the Tories to Look in the Mirror," or, simply the "Mirror Protest." The rally was called by the Alberta Federation of Labour in conjunction with Better Way Alberta to hold Premier Jim Prentice accountable for a statement he made that Albertans should "look in the mirror" to see who is responsible for the province's current budget woes. This inspired me to write a post on Facebook which quickly started being shared around, and I was asked to read it at the rally. Here is the text of that note, as well as a video of me reading it.
I Looked In the Mirror This Morning

So, Conservative Premier Jim Prentice is telling Albertans that if they want to know why the province is in trouble, we should look in the mirror.

I looked in the mirror this morning. Here is what I saw.

I saw a woman in her early 40s who was not able to secure a career in her chosen field: as a junior high Language Arts teacher. You see, I really wanted to be a writer or a rock star, but I picked teaching because it was "stable." Most of the people in my university class never got teaching jobs either.

My lack of employment was due to Conservative cutbacks to education in this province.

I saw my mother shuffle by in the background on her walker. She just spent a couple of months in and out of hospitals that are poorly maintained and understaffed. Many of the nurses were very obviously overworked through no fault of their own. Patient care suffered as a result.

Alberta's health care system is in shambles because of Conservative cutbacks to health.

I saw my phone go off with a message from my partner. He works in the tar sands. Yeah, one of those people who have supposedly benefitted the most from the "Alberta Advantage." And yes, he makes decent money, when he has work. As soon as construction on a job is complete, he is laid off again with no guarantee of another job. When work is not steady it makes things like planning for the future (buying a house, etc.) difficult. Perhaps this is why there is such a high rate of suicide, depression, and divorce amongst tar sands workers.

The province's finances and oil industry have suffered because of the Conservative government not collecting royalties and because of the flat tax system which allows the most wealthy not to have to pay more taxes.

But hey - look on the bright side: working self-employed hours I have plenty of time for activism against the Conservative government. And my parents don't mind me crashing with them. After all, we're Mom's primary caregivers.