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Category Archives: Politics

The Student School faces cuts

I’ve just learned that my alternative high school is facing budget cuts which could mean the reduction of an entire teacher. For a staff of 8, for almost 200 students, this would mean losing six courses, 14% of courses offered at the school. Any of my friends can tell you how much I loved attending The Student School. After attending a large Collegiate in the High Park neighbourhood, where teachers barely knew who you were or cared if you passed their class, I was grateful to switch into an Alternative school where teachers cared about my individual future.

I can honestly say that if it were not for the warm and friendly atmosphere at The Student School, I would not have excelled in the way I did. I may not have survived high school, let alone graduated with impressive grades.

Not only are the teachers amazing, knowledgeable, friendly and exceptionally helpful, they offer free breakfast, a reduced lunch program, a yearly auction for a women’s shelter, choice of stimulating courses such as women and gender studies, politics that make sense and they embrace art like no other school I’ve ever seen. The year I was there, a few students (who have since gone on to run their own graphic design business) campaigned to create murals along the stairwells, hallways and doors of the school. It went to a vote, and the student body along with teachers agreed to start the project. Since, there have been multiple murals painted along corridors, stairwells and common spaces embracing every kind of art, not just that which is socially accepted.

I may not have been the most involved student while I was there, but years later, (More than I’d like to admit) I will say that the student school saved my academic life, allowed me to develop my own ideals and forced me to make the decisions that would impact my future.

So I’m writing to my trustee, I’m wishing that I could attend rallies or volunteer my time to create an advocacy plan; anything really that I could do to help. Read here about what they’re doing!

Alas, I’m across the world and have only the internet to express my anger, frustration and heartbreak at what could be the potential demise of TSS.

I loved school for the two years that I was there. It had very little to do with my group of friends, (although they were awesome) but everything to do with the way the school was run. I looked forward to attending class, I looked forward to learning and I honestly wanted to succeed to not disappoint my teachers.

How many of you can say that about high school?

I can haz vote?

When it comes election time, or any time when people vote for something, there are always a hundred and one unique ways to explain things.

I personally enjoyed this one about Britain’s referendum on the popular vote where they used cats vs. dogs to describe the different electoral processes, and how the alternative vote would prevent strategic voting and eliminate the concept of the wasted vote.

History in the making

The last couple days have been pretty newsworthy. Not only was Osama Bin Laden finally found, but he was murdered, then our country went to the polls and gave the Conservative government a majority.

I posted a quote yesterday that pretty much sums up how I feel about the death of Osama. Yes, he was an awful person who had extremist beliefs based on violence and destruction. And yes, an execution the likes of what we witnessed via cellphone camera of Sadam Hussein  would likely have been called for.

Yet I cannot agree more with the quote. If that truly was Bin Laden, this means war against the United States. (In other news, MLK is trending on twitter – albeit a bit twisted: The first sentence of the quote was never said by MLK, the second part was.)

I say “if” because the only proof of the murder we have is the word of President Obama since Bin Laden’s body has been chucked out of a plane in the middle of the ocean somewhere, cinderblocks likely tied to his ankles. (We’re still waiting for the White House to release pictures of his body.)

Hate only multiplies hate, and the Al-Queda are famous for not taking things lightly.

…Which brings us to the Canadian Conservative majority win of last night.

I would like to think that the people that placed an X beside the name of the conservative representative in their riding were doing so with a full understanding of who and what they were voting for. But I simply don’t want to believe that 40% of Canadian’s don’t care about the arts, social services, abortion, homosexual rights, public broadcasters (CBC) or transparency.

Sharon Fraser, over at Rabble.ca said it best in her post on Harper’s to-do list.

The reason it made history, however, is because of the NDP’s grand rise to Official Opposition, pushing the Liberals down a notch – Ignatieff also lost his own seat of Etobicoke-Lakeshore to the NDP. This means that Harper and his Conservatives may actually have some real opposition this time around. Also, the Bloc is no longer recognized as an official party and Duceppe also lost his seat to an NDP’er.

I’ve come back to insert this into my post, because I’ve been thinking a lot about reform to our electoral system and it’s come up a lot on Twitter, especially with the British holding a referendum to update their system from First Past the Post (FPTP) to Alternative Vote (AV). I’m going to quote Wayne Roberts from his article in NOW, Cruel Count, becuase he said exactly what I’ve been thinking, a little more eloquently.

It is ludicrous that a clear majority of people would rather remain divided into four camps than defeat one party with diametrically opposing views on social, economic and political policies. This election gives us more confirmation that voters are loose in their allegiances and non-partisan, meaning the next realignment – of justice-minded Liberals, left Greens, the NDP and the Bloc – is in our sights.

This is an exciting time.

Canada Votes 2011

With less than a week away until doomsday – I mean Vote day – I’ve heard a lot of discussion regarding voting; who should be voted for, who’s done what and who can do what. Facebook has been a great conduit for this kind of discussion.

It’s also, of course, a place to bash the candidate that caused the election. Yes, Harper. The whole reason we’re having an election is because Harper was found in contempt of Parliament.

I’m not the sharpest when it comes to politics, but doesn’t that basically mean that he was unseated?

Let’s just say that someone who worked at some random part-time job had been there for a couple years. Then all of a sudden, a bunch of co-workers get together and tell the manager that they’ve been defrauding the company, AND, can come up with solid proof, shouldn’t that person be fired and charges pressed?

You say yes?

I say yes.

I say that if they even tried to set foot back in the same place of business, they should be arrested. No?

Now I will admit that I, and very likely the majority of the population, had no real grasp on why we’re actually going to the polls. And it’s kind of a shame that it took me so long to figure it out. After hours of research I finally learned the meanings of all these big words the media has been throwing around.

Basically, what happened was that the Harper Government (yes, it’s called that now… officially) was found to be in contempt of Parliament and the committee passed a motion of “no confidence.” Essentially, this means that Harper could choose between two things: accept the ruling and step down, or dissolve parliament and let Canada decide.

And that’s where we sit now, folks. I may be biased, but I’ve found a lot of interesting websites and articles created and written about reclaiming our country from the Harper Government.

Image from shitharperdid.caShitHarperDid.com is hilarious – My favourite: “If you challenged Stephen Harper to a foot race, he’d bring a jet-pack”

ProjectDemocracy.ca – Who’s the candidate in your riding? With so much in the news about Harper, Ignatieff, Layton and May it’s easy to forget that we’re also voting for representatives for our neighbourhood.

Swing33.ca – Want to do everything you can to make sure that leader-up parties have a fighting chance when it comes to funding? This site allows you to donate to runner-up campaigns across the country.

Pairvote.ca – By far the most interesting; and the one that points out the need for a reform of our electoral system

This website allows voters to pair up with other candidates in swing vote ridings to make their vote count for the party they want to see in power. Voting NDP in your Liberal stronghold riding seems pointless to you? Swap with someone who wants to vote Liberal and is in a riding where there is a tight race between NDP and Conservative, but little chance for their candidate.

Or hell, want the Green to win a seat, but don’t see that ever happening in Toronto? Swap with someone in B.C. who plans to vote Liberal and have your vote actually count towards a win.

This is probably the most interesting look at democratic voting. Yes, it’s still strategic, but it gives you a chance to still vote for the party you want to vote for.

Whipharper.ca  – Their message is that only 10% of Canadians need to vote strategically in order to remove Conservatives from Parliament all together. And they do it with fun acrobatics.

All these websites are geared towards doing everything possible to not only prevent the Conservatives from claiming a majority, but to prevent Harper from once again taking control of the country.

Strategic voting isn’t really a good way to practice democracy. What ever happened to the lessons I learned as a young voter about researching the candidates and listening to what they stand for and voting accordingly. I will admit, in this election it’s been both hard and easy to do that because I am in a serious state of “not Harper again.” However, with the NDP and Liberals being in a close race (for second, according to polls – but at least it’s not a majority for the Harper Government) and neither vote being a wasted vote, I am once again allowed to choose. It also helps that I live in a riding that hasn’t seen a conservative representative for as long as I’ve been voting…

Strategic statements like these though, they make my blood boil:

“Vote for the candidate in your riding with the best chance of defeating the conservatives… no matter who it is.” From WhipHarper.ca’s Youtube video.

G20: When protests turn ugly

I wrote this for my blog internship at Spacing Toronto.
It came after a weekend where I took to the streets and followed protests and when I wasn’t there I was a complete news junkie for 48 hours. Since then I’ve had arguments and heated discussions and my views and respect for a lot of people have changed. Firstly, I was disappointed that I was hard pressed to come across a journalist friend willing to brave going downtown with me. Nonetheless, my view on my government and my city and my police have changed after viewing countless videos, hearing countless testimonies and reading constant news about the events that transpired.

Next G20: On an island shall we?

Without further ado, my post:

WHOSE STREETS? THEIR STREETS

Contrary to the popular chant of “Whose streets? Our streets,” ringing through the air at random times throughout the weekend, heavy police presence made it obvious that even the “designated free-speech area” wasn’t meant as a place to gather. In fact, anywhere downtown wasn’t an acceptable place to gather. Instead of actual stand-offs, most people simply dispersed. People being boxed in as police tactically surrounded them asked simply “How are we supposed to leave?” or “Is this where you tear gas us?” Sometimes these questions provoked chants of “peaceful protest,” or a multitude of other reminders such as, “The whole world is watching.”

I know it’s not just me here who’s cringing, and like you I spent time this weekend following both mainstream media and Twitter feeds of journalists and people on the ground. I hope that, in the coming days, looped footage of broken windows and unattended police cars being set on fire is replaced by reports from groups of people who were simply there. As I write, this has been the crime of many who police have detained — they were there, they were assembled and they were robbed of that right.

In the case of the mass detainment of protesters at Queen and Spadina on Sunday night, people detained by police “kettling” tactics weren’t even given a window of time, or window of space with which they could peacefully leave. Given the choice of being arrested or kept in the pouring rain — with a chance of being teargassed — many opted to be arrested.

Actions at Queen’s Park on Saturday, as well, felt to me like an over-assertion of how well the Integrated Security Unit could handle themselves and maintain control of the downtown core. By Saturday evening at Queen’s Park, hundreds were hauled away because they simply refused to disperse. Journalists were arrested for not moving quickly enough and Post photographers spent the night in one of many detainment centres, at least one writer working for the Guardian was beaten before arrest. Even a CTV producer was arrested.

THE ACCIDENTAL PROTESTERS

On a Saturday night, in comparison to the numbers of people who are regularly downtown, the streets were relatively deserted. By Sunday night, people felt comfortable enough with the state of things in the downtown core that they could go about their lives. They went out for dinner, watched soccer in bars, went to the gym and walked their dogs in their own neighbourhood at Queen and Spadina.

These people are a different kind of protester, instead of sitting on the ground and chanting “O Canada,” they took back their streets and their city by actually using them as they would any other day of the year. But they were punished for it. Under suspicion of Black Bloc members being among those in the crowd who were peacefully protesting at the corner, and those who were walking through, police on the scene made the immediate decision to cordon off the entire group and process every single person one-by-one.

Bill Blair told television stations Saturday night that the police force’s job, first and foremost, was to protect the dignitaries that came to our city. How this relates to protesters peacefully sitting on the street outside the Novotel Hotel, or singing and dancing outside the detention centre in Leslieville, or going about their business in one of Toronto’s busiest intersections is curious.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

According to the Canadian Civil Rights Association website, “The fact that a protest is disruptive, inconvenient, or noisy is not sufficient grounds to arrest individuals participating in a peaceful assembly.” The CCLA is condemning mass arrests and claims that some of their own monitors were arrested, while Amnesty International is calling for a review into policing tactics surrounding the G8 and G20 summits.

Reports have emerged that people who were released soon after being detained on the weekend were arrested on a “catch-and-release” type action, though police are claiming is not the case. Of the over 900 people who were arrested throughout the weekend, which Now Magazine reports is the biggest number of arrests at a G20 ever, people continue to be released from the Eastern Ave. detention centre today as well as from the temporary courthouse at 2201 Finch Ave, many without charges.

There are of course those who were running around and breaking windows and climbing around in sewers, but instead of chasing them down on Saturday, while the city was in a state of riot, police started operating on a “better safe than sorry” attitude instead of patrolling and waiting for something to happen.

There were moments on Sunday when I was pleased with the way that police were handling themselves. I was deeply dissatisfied with mass amounts of cops in one place, such as the group at Queens Park, on Saturday — dispersing a peaceful crowd practicing their Charter rights, and allowing “anarchists” to run amok through the city. With a more spread out police presence, chances of catching those who were breaking windows and causing other sorts of mayhem is higher than focusing on sit-ins and dance parties. And until the evening on Sunday, and the events at Queen and Spadina, I thought that the day would end without too much hoopla.

I certainly hope that every single person that was caught in a police gauntlet — in the rain, for almost four hours — files official complaints and shares their stories. Hopefully, eventually, the police will feel that those people deserve an apology.

Abortion in Africa: necessity not luxury

It’s not often I agree with the approach that Rosie DiManno takes when writing her column, I even wrote a case study about when, and if, opinion can go too far based on a column she wrote.

Yesterday’s column Abortion could save African victims of rape, however, almost moved me to tears with the blunt and truthful acknowledgment of the real situation in South Africa, and Africa, when it comes to women and abortion.

When I was in South Africa last year, I saw and heard a lot of things, of which the memories I have subconsciously buried. The man-hood initiation ceremonies where teenage boys are taught that to maintain their manhood they have to be powerful over a woman could undoubtedly be the force behind this:

Three out of four among those males [who admitted to rape] said they’d first raped while still in their teens.

Also, another one of the realities that people have to face everyday is that their children could get raped.
This is something that the entire world has dealt with, albeit on a smaller scale, but in South Africa it’s ONE every THREE MINUTES?!

I almost cried when this statistic did not surprise me.

Ever since the federal government decreed that they would not fund abortions for women in third world countries, I’ve been wondering just how much they know about the third world.

These aren’t women who are living in a country where they easily have access to health care, or are empowered to fight back against their oppressors. These are women who are raped daily, for fun or as a means of punishment. Their unborn fetuses are proof of the violence that they had to endure and Canada refusing to fund the right to abort the daily proof of that violence is disgusting.

It is something that I truly feel strong about. This isn’t even about quality of life, or the rights of abortion for the women of North America. This is about saving the women who have already endured so much, and will now be forced to either kill the babies themselves when they are born (also something I encountered a lot covering the news of the townships) or heading to hack-job, back-alley abortionists, or, of course, raise the child and be reminded of their rape every day. This is also not considering the amount of women who would look to religious leaders in their village or township, such as Shamans, where the chance of ingesting some potion would not only kill their unborn fetus, but make them sick.

I do know, for a fact, that there are hospitals in South Africa that would appreciate the funding to conduct abortions. There is a hospital that I visited, that had a special ward set up to deal specifically with abortions. In this ward, which was separate from the main hospital, they would clean up the girls in a nice bathtub, bring the police to them, and provide them with little bags of necessities such as toothbrushes, underwear and soap.

What truly broke my heart was that they had a multitude of these kits for children, complete with toys and snacks, that looked like loot bags children receive at birthday parties.

I may be adamantly pro-choice to begin with, but when it comes to rape a woman (or young girl) should be able to receive the kind of clean and proper medical procedure so that she can get on with her life, and why shouldn’t we be a part of the empowerment of women?

Discussion is a wonderful thing

I came across this this morning and as a woman, as someone who has had ‘scares’ and as someone who has watched two very different stories of young woman keeping children, I find this kind of debate always interesting.

In the States, a woman who was taking the abortion pill RU-486 (not approved for use in Canada) livetweeted her entire experience. By making her story public she was trying to put a new face on abortion, remove the stigma and make it less scary by proving that it’s not that painful.

Of course, this sparked a little bit of an insane debate, using the hashtag #livetweetingabortion. There are crazy zealots, death threats being thrown around and the never ending debate of when a baby is considered a human.
(Also some crazy talk about something being aborted but breathing on a table… ummm how?)

Thanks to this story, I didn’t have to search back through weeks worth of tweets to find out the details of her abortion.

Angie Jackson
Now, the woman didn’t choose to have an abortion for “selfish” reasons, considering that she was already a mother, but because her health may not have been able to handle it.
She also posted a youtube channel explaining her reasons as well as a personal blog.

Good on her!
The discussion should always continue.