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I am saddened and ashamed.

A Muslim woman was picking up her children from Grenoble Public School on Monday when she was attacked. Two men approached the woman and started hurling anti-Islamic and racist profanities at her. Police said the men started calling the woman a “terrorist” and said “go back to your country.” One of the men started punching the woman in the stomach and a second man ripped off her hijab during the assault.

A Toronto couple put a sign on their property, asking Muslims if they were sorry for the attacks in Paris.

Police are investigating a fire deliberately set at Peterborough’s only mosque. Police and fire officials arrived on Saturday at around 11 p.m. at Parkhill Rd. west of Monaghan Rd. to Masjid Al-Salaam after receiving a call of smoke coming out of the mosque. Peterborough police have confirmed that the fire was deliberately set.
Police in Kitchener, Ont., are investigating vandalism at a Hindu temple. Ram Dham Hindu Temple president Dilip Dav says several windows at the rear entrance of the temple were shattered late Sunday night.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall wants the federal government to suspend its plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year.

And this is just what I know about, what has been reported in the news I've read so far. It's not only that responses like this mean the terrorists have won. It's that when we act in this way, it shows that we are lost, lost to the light, lost to humanity and empathy and compassion. Doing evil in the name of good is still evil. We may think that we are defending something, protecting something, avenging something - but in truth, when we respond to hate and fear with yet more hate and fear, we are destroying light, destroying love, and destroying ourselves.

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So The Canadian government has finally, formally, fully and respectfully acknowledged the deep and damaging consequences of the decades-long policy of family separation and forced integration of aboriginal peoples, the cornerstone of which was the Indian Residential School system, and apologised to Canada's Aboriginal peoples on behalf of both the government and the people of Canada.

It was a powerful moment. All business of the day in Parlianment was set aside, so that only the speech of the Prime minister, the responses of the leaders of the opposition parties, and finally the voices of selected representatives of the major organisations of Aboriginal peoples would be heard in the House this day.

It was an emotional moment. Many of the politicians appeared to be profoundly affected. Many Canadians, Aboriginal and otherwise, have been quoted in the media since, saying that they were touched, that they choked up, that they cried, that they felt some kind of visceral response to the public naming and owning of one of our greatest national shames.

It was a deeply symbolic moment.

But I can't help but wonder what's coming next. We have acknowledged the stolen children, but we're still trying to avoid returning the stolen lands, still fighting land claims. We set up a racist system of reserves and did our best to force Aboriginal peoples who would not assimilate the way we wanted them to, to become a marginalised people living under a paternalistic governance that eroded self-confidence and self-reliance. We allowed conditions on those reserves to fall well below the minimum health and safety standards of any other part of this country, to the point where many aboriginal communities live in substandard and often unhealthy housing, have no safe drinking water, have no local industries where people can work and no recreational facilities where young people can play and learn. And on it goes. The list of injuries committed against the native peoples of this land we call "ours" is a lengthy one.

We have apologised. For some of what we've done, anyway.

When do we start making meaningful, long-lasting amends?

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Wait until tomorrow, and then we'll see.

Michael Ignatieff
Bob Rae
Gerard Kennedy
Stephane Dion

Sometime tomorrow, the odds are that one of these men will become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, once dubbed "the natural governing party of Canada."

If the Liberal delegates now convened in Montreal pick the right one, then the odds are that the Liberal will also regain governing status, because Canadians are just not comfortable with ideologues (of the left or of the right). We seem to want to be government by a pragmatic, centrist party that will take what it considers to be good ideas from either the right or the left. I may not like that (being an ideologue myself) but I can live with it, much more easily than I can live with what Stephen Harper's Conservatives have, and will continue to give us.

The question is, who is the right man? Damned if I know. Personally I'm leaning toward Bob Rae, and I am deeply concerned about what might happen, both in terms of politics and in terms of policy, if Ignatieff wins. So, of the two front-runners, there's one I want, and one I fear. That seems to be a common situation.

There's a soft spot in my heart for Kennedy, because of his anti-poverty work, but I'm not sure I can live with his stance on the "nation" question. It's a classical liberal (small-l) position, and I give him marks for consistency in political theory (just as I give Justin Trudeau marks for his consistency in supporting Kennedy on this issue), but I do happen to believe in the existence of collective as well as individual rights, and of the necessity to balance the two. The Quebecois people are a nation. (so are the aboriginal peoples, the Metis, and the Acadians, and I can even see a case being made for Newfoundlanders and Cape Bretoners, although I probably wouldn't support it as a matter of official designation.

And there's Stephane Dion. Dion is a man of intelligence and commitment, and could well be the ideal compromise candidate. In fact, he rather reminds me in some ways of Joe Clark, who was the last federal politician to arise out of a convention as the best of the guys that no one hated (except Paul Hellyer, that is). The problem is, Clark was a good man, but he couldn't hold the interest of the electorate. That's also something I worry about with Dion.

Whoever wins tomorrow, I'm just hoping he has the chops to kick Harper out of office.

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Well, now that we have to be able to defend any cultural product, whether it depicts a real or an imagined sexual act involving a person under 18 years of age, I figured that I'd have a look and see what I might need to defend ownership of.

I know that some people will tell me, and all those members of the Canadian artists community, that I'm exaggerating, making a big fuss about nothing, because the law has some phrases in it that would surely prevent them from challenging the status of real "art."

After all, the work has to have "as its dominant characteristic the description, presentation or representation, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years."

And "No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the act that is alleged to constitute the offence (a) has a legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art; and (b) does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of eighteen years.

One of the big problems with this is that the onus is now on the originator, distributor or owner of "any written material, visual representation or audio recording" that contains representations of sexual activiy involving someone under 18 to prove:

1. that the sexual activity is not its dominant characteristic
2. that it does not have a sexual purpose
3. that it has a legitimate purpose related to one of the specified areas
4. that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under 18

Now I agree that if the nature of the sexual activity is heterosexual and vanilla, and there's a plot in it somewhere, you will likely get a pass - in fact, if there's enough of a plot, it might not even be challenged.

But let's talk about work that involves kink, or queer sex. You really think that a book about a baby leatherdyke finding herself and coming to terms with her sexuality can easily prove, in this society, it does not have a sexual purpose (whatever that means), that does it has a legitimate purpose and that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to minors? Because the Canadian public and their elected legislators may have just barely agreed queers can get married, but lots of them still don't want to think about what queers do in bed (or on the kitchen table, or in the dungeon), and they don't want their kids finding out about it either, lest their kids realise that it sounds interesting.

And who says that a work in which the dominant characteristic is sexual activity involving minors is automatically TEH EVOL? Can anyone honestly argue that Romeo and Juliet aren't filled with teenage lust right up to the very tragic end?

And who decides what is a legitimate purpose? Obviously, the legislation presupposes that auto-eroticism is not a legitimate purpose. Would a book that helps young women who have decided to have sex (as is their right if they're over 14) develop skills for negotiating safe sex issues with their partners be a legitimate purpose? Is writing a political rant that mentions a book about young women aged 14 to 18 who have decided to have sex a legitimate purpose?

Many people are going to tell me, I expect, that these new restirctions are necessary because of the Supreme Court rulings in the case of John Robin Sharpe (more details here). Yes, the Supreme Court found that under the old law people can't be prosecuted for producing written or visual of their own imagination, for their own use.

And you know what? That was fine by me. It was illegal to show these works to a minor. It was illegal to use these works to persuade a minor to agree to sexual acts with an adult or another minor. It was illegal to use representations of real minors in creating these works. And it was certainly illegal to try to do any of the things in these works if a minor was involved. Making it illegal to even create the works is censorship and creation of a thoughtcrime. It may well be regugnant to most of us, but there's nothing demonstrably harmful about anyone wanking off in private to kiddie porn he or she made themselves without any exploitation of a minor person.

We didn't need laws about creative works to convict John robin Sharpe. He was also using porn produced through the exploitation of minors. That was illegal, and rightfully so. But it was his acts that invovled minors, not his solitary use of written porn, that caused harm.

And if you believe that only people who commit acts of pedophillia with minors would ever get off on kiddie porn, think again. Think about all those people who like to do sexual role-playing involving schoolgirls, or infantilism, or want to be leather daddies, or imagine initiating the hot young pizza boy. Think about people who use porn that depicts teenage sexuality (without actually using tennager to produce it) in order to regain the rush of their own adolescent sexual explorations. If people were only honest about it, there would be a great many people who include some sort of fantasy ageplay in their sex lives. Very few of them ever commit sexual acts with minors. Why? Because they know that what they're into is a fantasy. They don't want to really have sex with a minor of any age. They know that would be wrong. They just want the fantasy. Laws like this are trying to turn fantasies into thoughtcrimes.

So I thought about what I own that might make me guilty of thoughtcrime. My partner and I took a casual glance at a couple of our close to 50 shelves of books, and started making a list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that depict some sexual activity involving a minor or minors. We don't know what "dominant characteristic" means, nor are we sure about "sexual purpose," because we can think of lots of sexual purposes that have nothing to do with wanking.

Here, in no particular order, is the first installment of the books I own that could be determined to be works of child pornography.

Dorothy Allison - Bastard out of Carolina
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
Rita Mae Brown - Rubyfruit Jungle
Michelle Cliff - Abeng
Moyra Caldecott - Guardians of the Tall Stones, Daughter of Ra
Frankie Hucklenbroich - A Crystal Diary
Anita Diamant - The Red Tent
Margaret Laurence - The Diviners
Alice Walker - The Color Purple
Anne Rice - Belinda
Anne Marie McDonald - Fall on Your Knees
Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Mists of Avalon
Lauren Greenfield - Girl Culture, Fast Forward
Bernard Lefkowitz - Our Guys
Susan Faludi - Stiffed
Pat Califia - Public Sex
Susan Hemmings (ed.) - Girls Are Powerful: Young Women's Writings from spare Rib

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, I'm such a thoughtcrimer.

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One might think that my joy would be unalloyed today.

The Civil Marriage Act was passed in the Senate last night, and received Royal Assent today. Canada now officially in all provinces and territories defines marriage as a union between two people.

In a particularly bizarre bit of last minute asshattery, Conservative senators attempted to introduce an amendment "stating the traditional definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, but that civil marriage is between two people."

Said one of the amendment's supporters: "It would have brought a great deal of comfort to same-sex couples that they would not be perceived as having somehow gained their legitimate rights at the expense of those for whom the traditional marriage of a man and a woman was so terribly important," said Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who supported the amendment.

Yeah, right. All us queers and queer-friendly allies would have been so comforted to know that even as Canada finally acknowledged the rights of any two people to get married, the Religious Wrong was trying to have it enshrined in that very law that same-sex marriages might be legal, but they weren't really "real" marriages like those that happen between a man and a woman. Because nothing is real unless there’s a penis in it somewhere - as long as it's nowhere near another penis, of course.

But let's move on. I'd much rather my last thoughts on this Parliamentary struggle be about Senator Nancy Ruth, who danced in the Senate Chamber, and said "the whole country should be dancing."

Unfortunately, the Senate has also given us a very good reason not to dance, but rather to start the next fight for civil rights.

Yesterday the Senate passed Bill C-2, AN ACT TO AMEND THE CRIMINAL CODE (PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND OTHER VULNERABLE PERSONS) AND THE CANADA EVIDENCE ACT. In an attempt to disprove Stephen Harper's allegations from the last election, Paul Martin's government has now passed an anti-child porn law so vague in it's attempt to catch all the child porn in the world that it may even be illegal to discuss what's in it, unless I can prove in court that I am doing so for a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art."

So humour me, folks, I'm educating you. Legitimately. Right?

In the Library of Parliament's Legislative Summary of Bill C-2, one of the problems that has cultural workers and arts organisations across the country up in arms for their right to write is discussed as follows:

Bill C-2 eliminates existing exemptions for material with "artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose," leaving the statutory defence of a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art." Bill C-2 further specifies that the material in question must not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of 18. Amendments also broaden the scope of the offence by eliminating the need to show that written materials advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with children. To satisfy the definition of child pornography, it will be sufficient to establish that the "dominant characteristic" of any written material is the description, "for a sexual purpose," of sexual activity involving a person under 18 that would be an offence under the Criminal Code.

Representatives of cultural workers, particularly writers, have been vocal about this legislation. From a Press Release released by the Writers' Union of Canada, dated June 20, 2005:

"Real abuse of real children deserves zero tolerance," said Brian Brett, Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada, "but this proposed legislation forces an accused writer to prove that his or her work does not present an undue risk of harm to children. What has happened to the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'? We are urging the Senate to hold hearings on these issues and not rush through such important and sweeping legislation."

A spokesperson for the Quebec Writers' Union said this week:

"They're trying to clamp down on child pornography, but they're going too far by making too loose a definition of it," says Charles Montpetit, chairman of the freedom of expression committee at the Quebec Writers' Union. "Any description of sex involving people under 18 will be considered child pornography. It's absurd because the age of consent in Canada is 14. Between 14 and 18, teenagers can legally have sex but we can't talk about it because that would be child porn."

And let's not for a moment forget that it's young women and young queers of all kinds who often have the most need to be able to explore a variety of writings and imaginings about sexuality, because there's not much representation of sexuality from these perspectives in the mainstream culture.

Canada has a bad history of targeting queer writings with its porn laws. If anyone has any doubts that important explorations of queer sexuality and coming out among youth will be particular victims of this law, then you need to look at the kinds of works that have been challenged in the past and think again.

Just last night I watched an interview with author Susan Swan talking about the indignity of having to defend her well-known bookThe Wives of Bath from accusations of child pornography under the previous laws, which allowed for a defence of "artistic merit." For those unfamiliar with the book, it explores, among other things, the sexual awakening of two girls in a boarding school. It was a finalist for the Guardian Fiction award and Ontario's Trillium award, and was the basis for the film Lost and Delirious

To say nothing of writers and readers using literature as a way of discussing and dealing with issues of child sexual abuse. Will anyone in Canada be able to see the film based on Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina ever again, let alone read the book?

Arggh. I’m disgusted and appalled.

Next up: Watch this space for future posts in which I list the books we own that may well be child porn under the new law. Just to make it easier for the cops to find me. Any other Canadians out there feel like telling everyone what evil works of child porn they're hiding on their bookshelves or among their collections of DVDs?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Same-sex marriage is now legal in New Brunswick.

It's possible - and I fervently hope this happens - that within a week or two, this court ruling will be superseded by a federal law declaring marriage to be a union of two people in all provinces and territories of Canada. But even so, it's important to know that over the past two years, every court which has been asked to rule on the issue of same-sex marriage has found that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is unconstitutional to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing them the right to marry.

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So the poor widdle heterosexual politician just can't feel comfortable sitting on the same side of the floor as his queer-loving former Liberal colleagues.

And some phobic asshats would prefer bringing down the government to letting a federal law defining marriage as a union of two persons be passed in the House.

Some people just don't get it. It doesn't matter that over half the country agrees with legitimating same-sex marriage. It doesn't matter that the fucking Supreme Courts of seven provinces and one territory have required governments to accept the legitimacy of same-sex marriage in those jurisdictions. It doesn't matter that the Supreme Court of the whole fucking country has examined the proposed legislation and declared it to be constitutional. It doesn't matter that it's an issue of human rights, and we're supposed to be big on that sort of thing up here - unless of course you're a Reformer disguised as a Conservative, or even a Liberal.

No, same-sex marriage is TEH EEVOL and some of these asshats would rather bring down the government than let queers get hitched. Because marriage is so special, you know, and if queers get their deviant and debauched claws of doom on it, all marriage between heterosexuals will immediately collapse into the same primordial slime the rest of us are condemned to live our lives in.

Or some such rot. I still have not been able to find one opponent of same-sex marriage who can make an effective argument, without resorting to religion, about how the marriage of two men or two women is going to irretrievably damage existing marriages between a man and a woman, or the concept of marriage, or society, or the fate of the universe.

Well, maybe more hot queer sex would delay the onset of heatdeath and allow the universe to survive a few extra millennia before ending with a whisper, but aside from that, just plain WTF?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Get over it, people. Members of Parliament have been crossing the floor since parliaments were first invented. And in case you've forgotten your Civics 101, you cast a vote for the candidate, not the party. Of course, the candidate most likely has a party affiliation, but is still at liberty to change zir affiliations, particularly if it appears that zir current party’s policies may be detrimental to zir constituents.

I'm not denying the importance of party politics – who could, these days? And I've seen people, quite understandably, called a traitor or an opportunist for crossing the floor in the past. That's just standard political name-calling. But the level of invective and personal insult that's been levelled at Ms. Stronach is unlike anything I've seen in 30 years of watching politics. Remarks such as:

"A little rich girl who is basically whoring herself out to the Liberals." "I said that she whored herself out for power, that's what she did." Tony Abbott, a Conservative member of the Alberta legislature

"Some people prostitute themselves for different costs or different prices. She sold out for a cabinet position." Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott

Aside from the "whore" remarks, there have also been an astonishing number of people impugning her intelligence, saying things like "Belinda's not the brightest bulb" and so on.

"She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick, with what she's done here today. She is, at the end of the day, going to paint herself as something of a joke." Ontario Conservative Bob Runciman

"I've never really noticed complexity to be Belinda's strong point." Conservative Leader Stephen Harper

Interesting. Setting aside the whole issue of pot, kettle, black, she was smart enough for the boys in borrowed blue when she helped broker the whole deal-making process that led to the creation of their freaking party. She was smart enough to run Magna and be identified as one of the most powerful women in international commerce - until last night of course, when suddenly they're describing her successful stint at the helm of Magna as "playing with the company Daddy gave her." Hello, lots of successful men made their name in the family business.

I've never seen personal insults of this nature directed at a man in her position before. This is pure sexism, and it says so much about the Conservatives and their supporters. I can't help wondering if this is part of the reason that the Liberals are back up in the polls, and the Conservatives are down again. Maybe, just as they always seem do, they've shoved their feet squarely into their mouths up to the knee joint and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory once again. If so, it couldn't happen to a more deserving party.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

From the CBC:
A judge in Saskatoon has ruled that refusing to grant same-sex couples a marriage licence violates their charter rights under the Constitution. With Friday's ruling, Saskatchewan becomes the seventh jurisdiction in Canada to allow gays and lesbians to legally marry.
More details here

It's about time there was something good to talk about in the news.

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