Category Archives: canada

Oil or Nothing: Alberta’s false dichotomy

Leduc1_WesternExaminerImage_GlenbowAs long as I can remember in Alberta our defining narrative has been oil or nothing. Which, given that I was born in Alberta in 1968 and came of age in Alberta in the 1980s, rather coincided with how the rest of the world saw the story of modern human prosperity.

Fossil fuels, the industrial revolution, automation. We used to think of it as an uphill journey we had come to the end of. But it wasn’t an uphill climb, it dipped and soared. And the journey isn’t coming to an end, the resource is.

These booms and busts became the Alberta story. In the boom everyone celebrated oil, in the busts everyone became nostalgic for oil. Getting stuck in today’s self congratulation is not future forward. Nostalgia is not future forward. Oil is not future forward.

As decades have rolled by the global mindset has shifted, and there are significant swaths of the global physical and ideological landscape that have begun to look past oil (past fossil fuels in general) and toward a future we need to prepare for.

We lag behind in Alberta. We still tell ourselves that our future is oil or nothing. Sadly our stubborn refusal to lift our heads and look down the road has meant that we have not adequately prepared for our future on the immediate horizon.

This is why I am less concerned with Alberta’s current deficit than some are. I’m not happy about it. I think it absolutely could have been avoided, but that avoidance horizon was 20 years ago. It can’t be avoided now if we want our province to be prosperous into the real and looming future.

windturbinecropWe need to bring our infrastructure up to a level that makes us competitive. We need to educate our youth to a level that makes them competitive. We need to build an economy that is competitive.

Yes, we are creating a debt that will be handed down to our children, but at least this time the debt we are creating will be offset by their prosperity gain. Debts past were handed to next generations who had less to pay the debt off with.

Our young people, and our own generation, can and should invest now in alternatives to oil. For reasons of economic stability. For reasons of environmental preservation. For reasons of lofty ambition and creativity and what makes the humans unique as a species.

Close up of a graduation cap and a certificate with a ribbon --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

So, thank you Alberta NDP for reinvesting in education. Our kids will have the means to pay back the debt because we borrowed to give them the skills for future jobs.

No more boom and bust. No more oil or nothing.

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When one door closes: Ghomeshi

It’s been two weeks.

The trial and verdict in the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault trial has come and gone. I find the reaction more subdued than the internet predicted it would be, and I feel more subdued than I thought I would be. That being said, the trial has changed the way I see Canada’s justice system. And it changed the way I pay attention to how our society treats sex, sexuality and women.

Two weeks ago I was keeping an eye on twitter as the verdict was read. A co-worker was not and asked me to tell her as soon as the verdict was known. I sent her a quick email, and seconds later heard her holler “He said that?” So I walked around the corner to her office, feeling quite sad, looked at her equally sad face and she said “I have a daughter.”

scales

Given how the trial rolled out I did not expect a guilty verdict. Given the current state of our laws a guilty verdict was not possible. Not because Jian Ghomeshi isn’t guilty, not because the woman are liars, not because what happened didn’t deserve a different outcome – because our laws are not written to give us the better outcome.

Our culture builds a case against the women before they even have a chance to make their case. That was confirmed when, at the end of his verdict, the judge said: “…need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.” His equating trusting half of the human race to be experts on their own bodily integrity to the danger posed by rapists sent a chill down my spine.

innocent or guilty presumption of innocence until proven guilt as charged in a fair trial for crime suspect

We vociferously, adamantly and unwaveringly defend the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Rightly so.

And yet, in the case of this completely unique crime, we do not with equal conviction defend the idea that a woman is honest unless proven otherwise.

That alone proves the system is biased against female victims of sexual assault, because we start from the assumption that women could lie, that trusting the woman is a threat to all men, and so we interpret normal human behaviors as reasonable doubt.

I read a Facebook story by a male ally in which he likened this to a wallet being stolen. It was a good analogy but I amend that narrative this way:

…I have an invisible wallet. It holds something I value. You can’t see it, but you can touch it, and you can damage it, and you can take it from me. Because it is invisible I can’t prove when you have done any of these things. I will rarely have evidence to support my accusation. It will often be my word against another’s. The damage done to me will be invisible to most people…

Why do we need to start from the premise that we believe women? Because with sexual assault it is all about believing that a woman has the right, and ability, and credibility as a human being to her own sexuality. No one else owns it. It isn’t a matter of property. It is a matter of controlling what happens to her own body, and having redress under the law when that inalienable right is infringed upon. It isn’t about cuts or bruises. It is about one human being violently usurping another human being’s right to self. The nature of the harm done by crime may be invisible to the eye, but the human toll of the crime must never be.   

lady justice6We need to re-examine our laws, and make some sounder judgments about what we have put on the scales of justice. We need to make some sound judgments about the weight of things that are difficult to quantify.

One in four women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime. One in four men will not commit that offense, and one in four men do not being accused of that offense. Crimes like this are perpetrated by a very, very small pool of men who re-offend as they get continue to away with their behavior. The risk to one in four women is significant. The risk to the many men is significant. For most men, the risk of being tarred with the same brush, being lumped in with those few men, is real.

By doing a better job of punishing the few criminals we are not only protecting women, we are protecting men from the criminals that hide among them and use them as a human shield for their behavior.

This is not making sex more complicated or risky, for the vast majority of men this will make sex easier and better. Same goes for women. Because when we stop confusing violence with healthy human sexuality, we all win.

This door has closed. But we must open a new door to discussion about how we can do better as a culture, and how our justice system can be made to better serve the best interests of all Canadians.

[read this, it’s interesting]

#Ghomeshi week 1

#Ghomeshi week 1

the accused jodi fosterWhat I’ve found interesting in this past week of testimony at the Ghomeshi trial is his lawyer’s use of the ‘classic defence strategy’; eroding witness credibility, poking holes in testimony and making a witness contradict herself.

When I read that definition I see two things that are part of our ‘justice’ system that are unacceptable. Gaslighting and the rampant use of logical fallacies – which law students are taught to recognize – as part of cross-examination.

For those of you not familiar with the term gaslighting, it is emotional and mental abuse in which information is turned back on a person by making careful omissions or by presenting false information in a way that favours the abuser and makes a victim doubt her own sanity.

If we believe (and I certainly do) that the purpose of going to court is to find out some truth, then gaslighting does not compatible supporting that goal. We actually end up farther from the truth by allowing the ‘classic defense’ to distract us from evidence and facts.

Putting a person in a court room under cross-examination under enough stress that her higher functions begin to shut down does not mean she cannot function reliably in normal conditions situations. Drawing the conclusion that testimony is unreliable when we have allowed gaslighting to alter the witness’s ability to represent herself legitimizes the use of acknowledged logical fallacies. For instance:

Logical-Fallacies-loaded-question-620x384Loaded question: a question with a presumption built into it that can’t be answered without the appearance of guilt. Like the question: “I think you would agree with me that you weren’t doing particularly well, you weren’t making a lot of money?” Saying yes to that is like saying ‘guilty as charged’. Saying no sounds like a lie because the disparity in income levels automatically creates a ‘good’ income and a ‘not good’ income. Good and bad get attached to their relative incomes and success in life, and stick to the individual people as well.

beggingthequestionBegging the question: a circular argument that contains the conclusion in the premise. Like the question: “Are you prepared to admit you have lied under oath?”. The phrase ‘prepared to admit’ makes the lie a foregone conclusion. There is no way to answer without guilt. ‘No I am not prepared to admit’ is just as damning as ‘yes I am prepared to admit’ because the lie has been established in the question.

the fallacyThe fallacy fallacy: because a claim has been poorly articulated or an error made, the claim itself must be wrong. Like saying that because one part of a story was left out that then the rest of the story cannot be trusted. Women are conditioned to be coy and even to outright cover up their sexual histories. If she told the story but left out the part that she found the most difficult to articulate that doesn’t mean what she did manage to say was false.

geneticGenetic: the source of information determines whether the information is good or bad. If by using gaslighting we create the perception that the witness is emotional as opposed to rational, that taints how the information is perceieved. It shouldn’t. Facts do not become less factual when they are presented by someone who struggles to articulate a proof. When I say climate change is real it isn’t less true because I’m not a climate scientist. We should judge facts and information on their inherent value and not dismiss them based on our judgement of the messenger. ‘Good’ woman or ‘bad’ woman does not correlate to the fact of consent.

burdenBurden of proof: requiring disproof verus proof. This case rests completely on consent. The only person who actually knows whether there was consent is the person who would be giving that consent. A woman shouldn’t have to prove she didn’t consent beyond stating that as fact. Ghomeshi admits hitting women and defends himself by claiming that is was consentual ‘kink’. We cannot allow his defense to outweigh their right to be the expert witness on their own mind.

Some other common ‘classic defence’ techniques that are logically fallacious are:

Ambiguity: using double meaning to misrepresent.
Personal incredulity: because something is hard to believe it must be untrue.
Tu quoque: answer criticism with criticism.
Composition/division: assume that one part of something has to be applied to all parts of something; that the whole must apply to its parts.
Ad hominem: attack opponent’s character or traits in order to undermine their authority.
Slippery slope: if we let ‘A’ happen then ‘Z’ will happen, therefore ‘A’ should not happen. This the premise of the hideous expression “it is better for 100 guilty men to go free than 1 innocent man to be punished” I don’t feel one bit comforted that 100 guilty rapists walk the streets to allow one innocent man walk free, and I cannot see the connection between not convicting the guilty and convicting innocent. That isn’t an appeal to reasonable doubt, that’s letting technicalities substitute for good reasoning.
False cause: a real or presumed relationship between two things means one caused other. Because these women at one moment maybe did want to have sex with a man, that this was the reason he at another moment had sex with her – without taking into account whether the wish to have sex was current to that moment.
Straw man: exaggerating, misrepresenting an argument so it’s easier to frame your argument as rational.

I think we should work toward a court system that functions on higher levels on the hierarchy of argument. The ‘classic defence’ relies on ad hominem and responding to tone, the absolute lowest forms of argument. We can create structure to make the ‘classic defense’ history.

And finally, how about reconizing gaslighting that occurs even before we hit the court room? We constantly second guess and scrutinize the victim, but why not stop and recognize that they are being subjected to gaslighting?

Why keep in contact? Why reconnect? We need to admit how women are socialized and how it leaves them suseptible to gaslighting. Women are taught to doubt their own instincts. Witness stand gaslighting is simply reinforcing existing destructive cultural conditioning. It reinforces the subtle narrative that the woman did something or should have done something, and that women should look to themselves to find answers to what happens to them. Furthermore, while this is particularly strong in socialization for women, it is by no means unique to women. Even pop culture shows us victims who go back time and time again to abusive situations. Maintaining or reconnecting is an attempt to go back to the point where power was lost to change the dynamic going forward, and people do it because they have been convinced that they have the responsibility to make it right.

The letter written  by Lucy De Couture that said ‘You kicked my ass….’ and similar communications with Ghomeshi by the other victims demonstrate a desire to return to the scene of a crime and find meaning or a create a new narrative. It says ‘you took away my power and I want a do over with a chance to control what happened’. It says they are second guessing their right to have exercised their own will, but it doesn’t give us the right to second guess that right.

If the justice system makes testifying against a man who assaults her this stressful and this undermining to a woman’s self-esteem and faith in herself as a human being, then it is clearly not a justice system for women. This tells the victim that they are ultimately responsible for making what went wrong right, and that is exactly why women reconnect with abusers, and exactly why the bullied try appease their bully, and exactly why there is no justice.

We should not be questioning the choices of these women. We should be questioning the choices Jian Ghomeshi made, and the system that portrays his choices as a legitimate challenge these women’s right to be the last and only word on their own consent.

We can fix this.

#Ghomeshi day 1

canadian-gavelWhen the Ghomeshi firing and accusations hit the fan a little over a year ago I said this trial would be interesting, and could spur some positive changes in our society and our justice system.

I am going to be blogging about what I see as the issues confronting women (and men) and the court system are when it comes to dealing with sexual assault, and highlighting what I think are some good quick fixes and what are some thorny problems we need to put real effort into mitigating. In these blog posts I will use ‘he’ for the accused and ‘she’ for the accuser because it is true for this case. It does not mean that I don’t understand that is not always the case.

THORNY PROBLEM #1:

First of all, there is no way I would remember details if I was one of these women. I can barely remember what year I got my dog, and I don’t remember my son’s first words and both of those ought to be happy memories. Some people just don’t recall details, they remember in emotion and emotion is fuzzy. But the fact that I don’t remember how old my son was when he first said mama doesn’t change the fact that he did, and the fact that I can’t remember what month I got my dog in doesn’t mean that I am not right in saying that I rescued her in 2005.

So this is a thorny problem. People’s memories are spotty at the best of times. At the worst of times people can block out trauma, making it harder to remember sharp details. That is different from being completely unreliable. We need to stop calling women’s memories of sexual assault into question because they cannot remember 100%. We need to find balance between acknowledging that trauma and fear affect our recall, and the need to find out the truth.

THORNY PROBLEM #2:

The woman was left on the stand while the judge left the room today; alone, facing Ghomeshi and the people in the court room. Frankly, if I were this woman I would be scared to the point of near hysteria. I don’t deal well with being cross-examined at the best of times. Who does? We don’t need to make it worse than it already is.

We can find a way to accommodate the defendant’s right to face his accuser and the accuser’s right to not feel the gaze of the person who hurt her. We do it with children, we shelter them from the people they accuse because we acknowledge their fear is real.

Discussing this tonight, my brilliant hubby suggested that the woman be in a separate room to testify via video so that the defendant can see her, but she does not have to see him. I countered that the defendant be removed from the room during testimony, and be allowed to watch on a monitor. Either way, women deserve to be shielded from the glare of the person who has already terrorized her.

QUICK FIX #1:

Apparently the defence lawyer referred to the woman on the stand today as  the ‘cater waiter’. Now, while that is not an overt slur, the act of not referring to someone by their name decreases their stature. It reminds me of a story about a trial in which the defence lawyer repeatedly called a female police officer ‘honey’ when she was testifying. She eventually refused to answer his questions. Either way, he won. One way he diminished her authority by calling her honey and not Constable, the other way he got be exasperated in his dealings with an angry woman.

This is a quick fix. There should be no referring to any person involved in a trial by anything other than their official name or title. Ms Smith… Dr  Smith… Constable Smith… but never honey. This kind of chicanery is the reason the world thinks defence lawyers have no moral compass.

Let’s close the subtle insult loophole. To make this stick there need to be real sanctions against lawyers who use this tactic because once it is done, particularly in front of a jury, there is no taking it back or undoing the damage.

QUICK FIX #2:

Apparently the defense lawyer brought up that the woman accusing Ghomeshi was not making a lot of money. This fact is completely unrelated to the accusation of sexual assault. Income and consent to sex/sexual violence are not even in the same universe. Not only should leading or suggestive questions be more rigorously challenged by the crown and judges, not only should there be more enforcement of the rules outlining the proper lines of questioning. There need to be serious and immediate repercussions for defence lawyers who use this tactic to shift focus.

We can, and should, keep defence lawyers who resort to tricks and misinformation out of our court rooms.

 

That’s it for today. I am hopeful that we as a society learn from this high-profile case. We certainly have the right political climate and the right leadership to do better going forward. Where there is a will, let there be a way.

 

2015 was a very good year…

So, 2015 was a heck of a year, huh?

On the provincial front, somehow our tired (no, that’s not a typo) and true conservative ruling class managed to squander the plunder of yet another boom cycle, and had no plan for the inevitable bust cycle. Our first female premier took the fall for her entire party’s entitlement and corruption, soprentice hot collar we were assigned a new leader from the federal conservative realm (which in hindsight may have been a federal election omen). Our new leader from the east then proceeded to blame Albertans for his party’s squanderousness and the fiscal frailty of the treasury that Albertans had hired them to manage. notley hands upAlbertans looked in the mirror and repeated bloody tories, bloody tories, bloody tories – three times – and the image of a petite blonde woman mathishardappeared, revealing our future. Once the votes were duly and properly added up it was clear that the reign of the conservative dynasty, was over and Alberta began the era of the philosopher queen.

notley laugh 3x

harper angryIn national politics, the end of the Alberta conservative dynasty so enraged our federal conservative overlords that they called an election out of spite and vanity, just so they could hit the road and tell all Canadians that Albertans we were idiots. But for some reason the politics of ‘my way or the highway’ failed, and the conservatives soon needed help: please fearmongerStephen Harper needed a courage, Chris Alexander needed a heart, Jason Kenney needed a brain and Rona Ambrose tagged along as the token female. The cons set down the road of no return to seek out the help of the Wizard of Oz. Turns out the wizard’s act was a hate and headscarves disappearing act, and all that mattered on election day Canadians was that as fast as you can say dial-a-racist our old leader was ousted. Although everyone thought he heir2canadawas too young and handsome to be a serious contender, a young prince strode in and pulled the poll from the conservative party‘s ass and the log from Jason Kenney’s eye to prove he alone was rightful heir to Canadian democracy.

trudeauswearingin CROP

Yes, 2015 was a banner year; a very Canadian year of very Canadian revolution and Canadians progress. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

Alberta will progress

I never fail to wonder why, but for whatever reason people seek out my opinion, particularly with regard to politics. Before elections I’ll never fail to get messages from friends asking me to help them decide how to vote (FYI give my take on issues, but never tell them what they should do). I also get the same sort of messages any time something political hits the fan.

Just the other day I got a message asking my take on Bill 6. In case you missed it, Alberta is in the throws of bill 6 hysteria. We messaged back and forth briefly and had a constructive, productive conversation, but this is my take on the situation in full now that the bill has passed.

O.M.G. won’t somebody think about the farmers?

Let me start by saying , I support the bill. I think it is shameful that by exempting agricultural sector employers we have deprived farm workers of the basic legal protections other workers have had for so long. It is not adequate or fair to leave safety and labour standards up an individual employers in any industry. These exemptions come at the expense of labour, and transferring any part of the cost from the business owner to labour is unacceptable.

I don’t buy into the ‘farming isn’t a business, it’s a way of life’ thing. If you run a family grocery store, a family bakery, or have family partners in a real estate firm, you have to follow OH&S laws and pay into workers compensation for employees. Maybe you chose farming, maybe you want to follow in family footsteps, maybe you even feel it is a calling, but that’s not special. Lots of people carefully choose their careers, lots of people follow in the footsteps of a parent, many people feel their careers are a calling. Take our Premier, for example. She’s not a labour lawyer by accident, her father definitely passed a passion for her current profession on to her. You farm because you can make a living at it. If you are still farming and are not making a living then that’s a whole other problem and it has nothing to do with anything that our provincial government can control, for good or bad.

What do I think happened to cause the bill 6 furor?

First of all, this new NDP government is not the 44 year old comfortable conservatives. They are keeners; keeners denied power for a long time that finally find themselves with the influence to make their vision of the world a reality. They have been storing up this strongly held belief that we can do better for a very long time. They believe in this bill. So much. To NDP supporters the bill is obviously needed, and obviously the right thing to do. After all, it’s safety and protection for working people, right? What can possible be objectionable about that? No doubt that passion and conviction at least partly blinded the new government to how much they should have communicated with people outside their NDP bubble. No doubt that they could very easily have underestimated the virulence of opposition they would encounter. To me, it feels like they messed up on the environmental scan. I understand that weakness. Personally I still find myself aghast when I come across people whose views are in direct conflict with mine, because I too live in a bubble of like minded people and that bubble lulls me into the comfortable illusion that my views because are the norm. I think this happened. I hope that they learn from it.

Secondly, you have to realize that this communicating with the whole province is new to the NDP – I don’t mean the desire to communicate with the whole province or the knowledge that communication to the whole province is a good thing is new. I mean the mechanics of actually communicating with so many different demographics effectively.  I mean the nuts and bolts of knowing where the stakeholders are, who they are, how they access information, how they prefer to be communicated with, who they prefer to talk to and what they want to know. These mechanics are the responsibility of the bureaucracy. It is the bureaucracy that is supposed to communicate the government’s decisions, and it’s the bureaucracy that is supposed to advise the government on who their target audience is and how to best reach that target audience. This is why the GoA has a public affairs bureau, and this is why every ministry has a communications department. Now, possibly the NDP didn’t go to the bureaucrats soon enough, maybe the communication broke down there. I honestly don’t know that. However, it is absolutely the bureaucracy’s job to ensure that the people of Alberta understand the rules that the government makes, how the rules apply to them. There may well be dropped threads in the NDP caucus communications department (which is really small by the way) but there are most definitely also a couple dropped threads in the public service. There’s a good chance that the real communication breakdown occurred way before anything went public when something went awry in the bureaucratic machinery that is supposed to keep government working for Albertans. See my earlier comment about the environmental scan.

Thirdly, there is some unacceptable hyperbole and histrionics going on about this bill. Mostly because the WRP needs to grow the hell up. I think probably there are some larger agribusinesses fanning the flames too, letting the smaller farmer be their foot soldiers. True, the communication ball was dropped, and farmers aren’t sure what the parameters of the bill are, but the hysteria is out of proportion. It’s a bald faced lie to blame this whole fiasco on lack of consultation. This is not the first time Alberta has tried to pull it’s agricultural sector into the modern world of labour rights and safety standards. Why did the farmers freak out last time? I am willing to bet it’s the same reason they are freaking out this time. They don’t want change, they don’t want to have to follow rules, and man, oh man, it sure is beginning to look to me like they just don’t care about anyone but themselves. It sounds like they want Alberta to leave every other business owner in Alberta to follow the rules and protect their workers, and let the farm workers remain at the mercy of luck. It comes across as pretty heartless. The farmers are losing my empathy.

Lastly, this bill needed to pass. This bill is necessary. This bill is the right thing to do. Part of living in an organized society means we all have to agree to follow the same rules because consistent treatment of all people throughout society is a necessary ingredient to peaceful society. Bill 6 brings in minimum standards for farm workers. The current minimum is zero, and that is not acceptable. The WRP is stirring up the pot of people who don’t support the NDP to begin with so they are predisposed to dislike everything the NDP does. It’s also a group that felt mistreated at the hands of the governments past and have, as a result, a general distrust of government. It’s easy politic points for them. Don’t forget, there was an uproar when Stelmach tried to bring in similar legislation. This isn’t anti-NDP, it’s anti-government. The fact that they are protesting the NDP is just a boon to the WRP and their right wing supporters.

Am I empathetic toward the farmers right now? No, I’m really not. I am totally on board that they should be communicated with and consulted. However, they need to pull back and look at the bigger picture. They are not being persecuted, they are being brought in line with the reality in every other province in Canada. Wailing and crying about the death of the family farm and holding placards that use the word genocide to reference this bill is offensive. Basically, when I see media covering the bill 6 protests in my minds eye it equates to a bunch of French peasants attacking a downed hot air balloon with pitch forks. Rabid anger fueled by irrational fear, and not much else.

That’s what I think.

To summarize: The do-gooders tried to do good, but forgot to include the dubious, and the shit disturbers stepped in and disturbed some dubious shit.

Common enemies beg common allies

The pace of change and confrontation in politics is ramping up exponentially since I began this blog.

Women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, climate change and missing and murdered aboriginal women fueled a lot of my writing, with the occasional lighter social comment mixed in. I actually had a blog that was a bit lighter written and scheduled, but after what happened in Paris I pulled it back.

We can now add terrorism and the issue of refugees to the list of required radical cultural shifts polarizing our societies and communities. I know that’s probably been a front burner issue for Europeans for some time, but it has been back burner here in Canada. I was aware, but it hadn’t yet disrupted my life so I kept on with my own causes.

I am so very glad that I am on firm political footing where I live. Alberta did well in our last election and our government is full steam ahead addressing many of the issues I mentioned in my second paragraph. Canada also turned away from the dark side in our last federal election, and so far the brand new government seems to be heading in the right, and righteous, direction on most of those issues as well. It looks like Canada is doing the right thing.

new appWhich is why maybe I am so heartily dismayed at some of the reaction I see on social media after Paris. I have seen extended family posting bigoted memes. Sadly I’ve have also heard that my husband and two of my son’s have this sort of hateful, ignorant rhetoric in their circles. I don’t and neither does the oldest boy, but I suppose that only attests to how narrowly we have selected for our social groups. I could continue to live in my comfy bubble of people that are rational and compassionate, but then who will work to oppose the hatred?

I can only think of one way to stem the tide of racism and hateful rhetoric. It is to look around you and really think. We are surrounded by reasons not to be so hate-filled. Just read the story below…

My husband stopped for a badly needed trim at a barber shop in Stony Plain (pretty sure it was there).

As my husband sat in the chair, the barber talked of nothing but Paris and how ISIS isn’t really Muslim and how he disagrees with them and how wrong violence is. The barber was Muslim.

Think about it.

Imagine being that barber right now. His ability to continue living in peace and harmony with his neighbours is being eroded by terrorists. Is he afraid his wife or children will be attacked – verbally or physically? Is he afraid he will be attacked? Is he afraid his business will suffer and he will lose his ability to support his family? Is he afraid that nothing he has done to this point matters, and all that counts now is what people who claim to be like him have done?

Does he lay awake at night wondering how he can protect himself from an enemy who claims to be his ally against an ally who claims he is the enemy?

Think of that. Then realise what you and this barber have in common is that both of you are victims of the extremist terrorists who are using Islam as a false shield for their evil.

Canadian crisis averted

I wrote a blog a few months ago about Trump running for leadership of the GOP. Near the end of my rant I wrote my take on what differentiates Canadians from Americans:

“On a local note, I personally think this is where Alberta and Canada was/is heading but for our inherent tendency to be skeptical of the kind of tomfoolery and corruption that gives fodder to extreme thinking or behavior. We are a nation of moderates that can be roused from our political apathy when our moderation is threatened.”

To be honest with you, for a little while during #elxn42 I was worried that I had suffered from a delusional assessment of Canadian personality for my whole life. I feared I would be proven wrong about my fellow Canadians, and end up being betrayed by the only culture I have ever known.

My fear was unfounded. Enough of us are of sound mind to have seen the path the Harper Conservatives were leading us down was a scary road with no reason, no compassion and no future. Now, I personally supported the NDP because they suited me, but the Liberal and NDP parties ran platforms that were insignificantly different. In fact, all the other parties clustered together on the political spectrum, only the Harper Cons were outside the Canadian comfort zone. I take that as fair reinforcement of my opinion that Canada under Harper was heading away from the true Canadian character.

I am pleased that Justin Trudeau is our new Prime Minister.

I see hope already in Trudeau’s decisions in his first few days in office:

  1. He did a bang up job naming a cabinet, with gender parity and cabinet ministers who are actually qualified to oversee the departments they will lead, and some changing ministry names to demonstrate a better understanding of reality.
  2. He restored the long-form census for 2016.
  3. He unmuzzled scientists and made it clear that he respected the public service.
  4. He brought compassion and decency back to the way we treat our fellow huamn beings in need.
  5. He made a commitment to return Canada’s foreign policy to that of internationally respected peace broker.

Each of these changes sends a message, and each of them brings reassurance and hope to progressive Canadians.

canadianparliamentParliament sits on December 3rd. I am eager to see what Trudeau’s new government will use this sitting to accomplish. There are tax changes to be discussed, but the one item I am most eager to see brought forward is electoral reform. I encourage Trudeau to, as soon as possible, begin to look the kind of electoral reform that will prevent future right wing outliers like the Harper Cons from stealing power and wielding it in a way that the majority of Canadians are uncomfortable with.

The sooner that goes before parliament, the sooner all Canadians can feel that the Harper era is truly behind them.

Meritocracy and hegemony

Canada's new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (bottom row C) poses with his cabinet after their swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie - RTX1URF7
Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (bottom row C) poses with his cabinet after their swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie – RTX1URF7

HUZZAH! We have achieved gender parity in both our provincial cabinet in Alberta, and our federal cabinet in Canada, and in both cases it was done by purposeful design. This is worth celebrating.

I’ve had this conversation with my boys, and they don’t all completely get it. The 20 year old seems to understand in principle, but he has had the benefit of two girlfriends – one of which was a brilliant, feisty feminist. The 18 year old just shrugs it all off. The 16 year old seems to resent the mention that anything needs to be done when it come to gender  parity. I probably don’t articulate my arguments well as I am rarely really clear when I speak. Speaking is not my thing, writing is.

So, here goes and attempt to articulate my thoughts on why we need gender quotas in all fields to make the world a better place.

Creating hiring policies that enforce equality isn’t about refusing to hire men, it is about the centuries of human history in which we refused to hire women. We refused to allow women the opportunity to build up the street cred that gets them a front row seat in business, in the arts, in STEM subjects, in religion, in politics … in pretty well everything but gestating and lactating.

Highlighting and outlining hiring policies to create parity between old, straight, white men and all the other groups traditionally not given access to power is important. Specifically for my gender, it’s about giving women a chance; about looking at them with a fair admission of this historical handicap, and recognition of their untapped potential.

We’ve tapped, and tapped, and tapped the potential of men. Of white men. Of straight, white men. Of straight, european and neo-european, white men. Done, done, and done.

I think there is consensus that the status quo is not living up to our requirements. We have climate problems, pollution problems, financial crises, ideologically fueled wars and global populations that no longer can afford take the borders we drew on the map seriously. We need to change.

I know you know the falsely attributed Einstein quote, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” Isn’t that we are doing when we don’t purposely begin to bring new minds into our politics?

It is time to look over the shoulder of that straight, white man in the front row, directly at a woman, an aboriginal, and LGBT person or other power minority. It’s time to take what they have to offer seriously enough to call them up to the front row – not because they’ve been there before and we know they are up to the job, but because they haven’t been there before and the job we’re faced with today begs for an infusion of hands and minds who don’t default to the staus quo.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. Saturday. Left to right are: James Richardson, minister without portfolio, D.C. Jamieson, (partly hidden), minister without portfolio, Trudeau, Justice Minister John Turner, Jean Marchand, Forestry Minister, and Gerard Pelletier, State Secretary. Ten years after his death, and more than four decades after it was taken, the photo of Pierre Trudeau striding up the drive at Rideau Hall - flanked by his dark-suited cabinet-to-be - still packs a blast of movie-star, hipster cool. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ball
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. Saturday. Left to right are: James Richardson, minister without portfolio, D.C. Jamieson, (partly hidden), minister without portfolio, Trudeau, Justice Minister John Turner, Jean Marchand, Forestry Minister, and Gerard Pelletier, State Secretary. Ten years after his death, and more than four decades after it was taken, the photo of Pierre Trudeau striding up the drive at Rideau Hall – flanked by his dark-suited cabinet-to-be – still packs a blast of movie-star, hipster cool. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ball

White men holding onto the balance of power is not a meritocracy, it’s hegemony. The problem with this idea of meritocracy in our status quo is inherent to how we have traditionally qualified merit. When all we know is the way that old, straight, white men operate, we can’t even begin to measure the merits of any other way of thinking. How can we say we hire on merit when we don’t consider every possiblity? Isn’t that leaving variables out of the merit equation? That’s like saying the fastest animal in the world is a horse, because we’ve never bothered to clock the speed of a cheetah. Or saying the largest mammal is an elephant because we think whales are not like us, so while we know they’re technically mammals we don’t really consider them in the same category.

New could be better. New could be vastly better for all of us. It may be what takes us in new and improved directions, but we’ll never know that because until we change the ranking system.

If change pisses off some old, straight white guys, then so be it. They aren’t losing their relevence, they’re just losing their preferential status. If they cannot contribute in a world where they have to consider points of view other than their own and look across the table at faces they never had to sit face-to-face with before, then they are within their rights to move to the back row in protest.

May their self demotion and our adept promotions give us all a better world.

 

#elxn42

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This is the big day, Canada. The end of election fatigue. The end of attack ads. The end of being told what to think.

Today is the day you will stand alone and think for yourself. Just you, a pencil and an unmarked ballot.

This has been, for me, the most exciting and the most stressful election I can recall in my 29 years of voting. I can’t imagine what it has been like for the people actually doing the legwork – all those earnest candidates. Hats off to them.

Part of my exhaustion could be simply because I went through this provincially so recently. Democracy is a good thing, but you can have too much of a good thing.

Part of it definately is that I am so optimistic, and it scares me. Alberta’s election was so amazing. I am almost afraid that it was a one-off; a once in a lifetime chance for me to feel truly represented by a truly progressive government.

Part of it is my overall sense that we live in interesting times. Canada, the west, and the world are all on the verge of a huge culture shift. Voices formerly silent are being heard; women, aboriginal people, LGBT people. Power minorities are rising up and being heard and counted more than ever before in modern history. It makes me hopeful, it makes me anxious and it makes me hope as I have never hoped before.

Canada, this is not your average election. This one is a game changer, I can feel it. This past decade has to have been political bottom, and now we have to rise up.

We can get ourselves proportional representation and make sure that more voices are routinely heard and a plurality of views are always represented.

We can categorically and emphatically reject corruption, we can reject racism, we can reject lies, we can reject greed, we can reject ignorance.

We can embrace transparency and accountability, inclusiveness and tolerance, compassion and a sense of common purpose for a common good, we can choose to govern ourselves by knowledge and truth.

All very lofty. I know. But we can do it, Canada.

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