On Wednesday indigenous artists and community organizers lead the festivities across the country. In Montreal, there was the obligatory event at tourist-heavy Place des Arts as well as a celebration in Cabot Square, which is perhaps quainter, but much more organically attached to Native Montreal.

“There is a very strong native presence across the city today, but it just reminds us of the importance of this presence 365 days of the year,” said Quebec minister for Native Affairs Goeffrey Kelley in a short address to the crowd at Cabot Square.

All afternoon, Cabot Square was alive with Hoop dancing, traditional singing and rock music. Spectators could also visit various booths to try their hands at indigenous crafts, stop by the reading tent or buy handmade jewelry or clothes.

Performers from all nations

For Alexandra Loranger, the co-host of the event and a specialist in indigenous rights, celebrating Indigenous Day in Montreal is all about sharing and learning from one another. “It’s important for me to be here today to be able to celebrate my identity and at the same time to discover others,” said the Attikamek jurist, underlining the diversity of the artists present.

Moontee Sinquah and his two sons came all the way from Arizona to open the show with an impressive spectacle of traditional hoop dancing, immediately attracting a supplementary crowd of curious onlookers.

The notorious Buffalo Hat singers continued the show with more traditional music. Aidan Thorne and Antopola performed calmer, more modern sets.

One of the highlights of the show was Kelly Fraser, a young Inuk singer from Nunavut, who brought the crowd to their feet with a pop mixture of English and Inuktitut. The Mohawk group Corey Diabo Band closed the show with a lively rock performance.

“It’s so beautiful to see so much people and so much pride,” commented Aidan Thorne, a Concordia student from the Cowichan First Nation in BC. Thorne, who also goes by the name of Little Fire, describes his music as Canadian soul.

One day a year

For Toronto native and member of the Ojibwe Nation Cedar-Eve Peters, it was beautiful to see all the diverse native cultures represented and celebrated for one day of festivity. It was also a harsh reminder of their unnatural erasure in everyday life.

“Living in Montreal or Quebec, I find that people get more blatant with racism, so when we have events like this it’s great because we have people from all walks of life come through and they are actually genuinely interested in what’s going on,” she said.

Indigenous Day is a rare opportunity for her to sell her own crafts and jewels, while enjoying the various performances of other indigenous people. “It’s a good day to share that knowledge and to keep traditions alive. It’s great, but I don’t know, I feel like there shouldn’t just be one day of the year of recognition. Every day of the year we still exist.”

Alexandra Lorange agrees that there is a lot to be done in the city and the province to keep Native people out of oblivion on the other 364 days:

“I tell myself we’re taking small steps, slowly but surely… but I do think we’re behind and we could do a lot more. We could see [indigenous culture] on a more equal footing, and not from the perspective of a majoritarian society that allows a small moment for native people to be there.”

She believes that the media have to do their part to get there, and start covering indigenous affairs in their entirety, not just their problematic parts. “Today, all the mainstream media – at least on the anglophone side – have received the invitation and they are not here,” she noted, “that’s a real shame, because it’s something very constructive that is happening.”

Jules Beaulieu, who was also selling his own creations in the square, commented on the common erasure of Native history. “I’m here because for me, it is important to remember that indigenous people have been here for a long time. 150 and 375:  that’s European, people have been here for ages,” he remarked, referring to the summer-long celebrations for Montreal’s 375th  and Canada’s 150th anniversaries.

In an effort to reclaim the Native history of Montreal, Marie-Ève Drouin-Gagné from the ethnography lab of the Milieu Institute at Concordia began a project of photovoice in which indigenous users of Cabot Square are invited to tell their own stories about the square through photos and captions: “The idea was also to go with the 375th; saying  this is kind of a colonial narrative. So what about making some space for other narratives that are often untold?”

Today is not National Indigenous Day anymore, but indigenous people are still here. And we should all find a way to keep in mind that their identity is not a Christmas decoration to be put away until next year’s holiday.

Now that we know who the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is (Andrew Scheer), there is one more podium to fill next to Justin Trudeau on the debate stage when Canadians go to the polls in a few years: that of the Federal NDP Leader.

The leadership debates and campaigns are in full swing. While we won’t know who won until late October of this year, we’re giving our readers a chance to weigh in with a new site poll.

If new candidates enter the race or current ones drop out, we’ll update the choices. You can only vote for one option, but you can also change your vote right up until the poll expires on October 29th, so if you’re undecided, please feel free to say so knowing you can change your vote when you do make up your mind.

The winner of our poll gets the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post written on behalf of them. Since this is over four months of voting and we have other polls that will run in that time, it’s possible this poll may disappear from the site sidebar, but it will always be available in this post.

Here it is:

Who do you want to see as the next leader of the Federal NDP?

Of course, if you want to vote in the actual leadership race, you need to first become a member of the NDP

Last week, while everyone was busy looking at that nice picture of Obama and Trudeau amiably chatting it up in Little Burgundy, the government dropped Canada’s new “deliberately ambitious” National Defense Strategy. This includes a 73% increase of the military defense budget over the next ten years and replacement of the CF-18 fleet with 88 advanced fighter aircraft (instead of the 65 planes promised by the Conservatives).

Among all the usual reasons presented by the government for this rather dramatic hike, two stood out: the need to respond to NATO pressure and the need to assume more of a leading role on the international stage in response to the Trump administration’s isolationism.

Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau dining at Liverpool House in Little Burgundy last Tuesday

NATO requests that member states devote 2% of their GDP to national defense and Canada spends little more than half of that. By 2027, Canada’s defense spending will have jumped from $18.9 Billion to $32.7 Billion, which will be 1.4% of the GDP – still too little for NATO, but enough to significantly improve its status.

To be fair, in 2016, only five of the 28 members (The UK, the US, Greece, Poland and Estonia) actually reached NATO’s target. To be quite clear, the pressure to increase spending is coming from the US in particular. Donald Trump scolded NATO leaders last month for not committing more funds.

On the other hand, Trump’s unpredictable behaviour on diplomatic matters is a factor in and of itself.

“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” said the minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.

On Tuesday, while Obama was speaking in Montreal, Freeland presented the new policy to the House of Commons. And just like Obama spoke for an hour and a half about everything wrong with Trump without mentioning him, the Minister clearly depicted Canada’s new defense strategy as a countermeasure to Trump’s unreliability without saying so. This brilliantly written part of her discourse is a perfect example:

“Imagine a Canadian view that says we are safe on our continent, and we have things to do at home, so let’s turn inward. Let’s say Canada first. Here’s why that would be wrong…”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland

She then went on to argue that Canada is facing many threats on the international front, mentioning climate change, but also, the dictatorship in North Korea, “crimes against humanity in Syria, the monstrous extremists of Daesh, and Russian military adventurism.”

Freeland also warned that relying on the umbrella of protection provided by the US would turn us into a client state.

Foreign and security policy analyst Srdjan Vucetic believes Canada increasing its defense spending is inevitable.

“While the demand for spending precedes Trump-induced uncertainties,” he argued, “the latter amplifies, especially in light of Freeland’s speech on Tuesday.”

Vucetic rather liked hearing Freeland admit “that the world is different now that there are no adults in the White House.”

Selling military spending to the Left

The Liberals aren’t forgetting the votes they got on the left of the spectrum in this rightward shift towards militarism. That’s why they’re packaging it as a soft criticism of the Trump Administration, something that is hard for progressives not to support.

Freeland also talked a fair amount about another popular topic on the left: fighting climate change, taking the opportunity to say that “Canada is deeply disappointed by the decision by the US Federal Government to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate.”

It’s logical that increased military spending will improve Canada’s pull on the diplomatic world which is necessary to influence the fight against climate change. However, the Liberal government has given us no reason to believe that they would ever use it to that effect. Despite talking a big game about the environment, they have done just as much for it as the Conservatives.

It wasn’t the only part of the Minister’s discourse that seemed like a diversion tactic meant to appease the Left.

“Now, it is clearly not our role to impose our values around the world. No one appointed us the world’s policeman,” Freeland assured the House of Commons, preemptively echoing potential critics. The statement is a little bit at odds with the very first paragraph of the official policy document praising Canadian military for “working tirelessly to (…) promote Canadian values and interests abroad” and the fact that her own discourse cares to point out how good and honorable Canadian values are.

While “impose” and “promote” are two distinct concepts, they have a way of blending in this particular context, considering no one actually fears Canada “imposing” its values through some sort of coercive force. All this to say that, as nicely as this statement plays to popular criticism, it is again devoid of actual significance.

The Liberals won the elections by playing up the contrast between them and the Conservatives. Instead of acting on that contrast, it looks like they’ve decided to play up their differences with Trump instead.

* Featured image: Canadian CF-18 via WikiMedia Commons

At the end of May it came to light that Karla Homolka, the Barbie of the Ken and Barbie Killers, was volunteering at her kids’ elementary school in NDG. Outrage erupted with some saying that Homolka was entitled to her privacy at least for her children’s sake, while others said that the nature of her past crimes should disqualify her from ever being around children.

For those of you unfamiliar with Homolka’s story, Karla and her husband Paul Bernardo went on a rape, torture, and murder spree in the early nineties. Her victims were all underage girls – Leslie Mahaffy, age 14, Kristen French, age 15, and Tammy Homolka, Karla’s own sister, age 15. Karla and her husband were eventually caught in 1993 and in exchange for a plea deal, she sold out her husband who is now serving life without parole.

In order to get this plea deal, she had to rat on Bernardo and convince the prosecution that she was a hapless pawn in his plan to rape, torture, and kill. Some time after the deal was struck a tape surfaced of the crimes demonstrating that Homolka was not only not a victim of Bernardo, but was a willing participant in the crimes.

She was released from prison in 2005.

This article is not just about Karla Homolka, though there should be no question that while her kids are certainly entitled to their privacy, she who raped, tortured, and murdered three girls should never be trusted around other people’s children.

This article is about our parole system.

Parole is a kind of conditional release from prison in which an offender can serve out the remainder of their sentence in the community.

The rules regarding parole in Canada are governed primarily by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. The purpose of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act is to ensure that prisons are safe and humane and by assisting in the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders so they can become law-abiding citizens.

The Act’s section on parole starts with reiterating that the purpose of any kind of conditional release is to ensure a just and safe society by making the best decisions regarding the timing and condition of release in a way that will best suit this purpose and the goal of rehabilitation.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is the federal body with almost exclusive authority to grant parole. The Act allows for provinces to set up their own parole boards for offenders sentenced to two years or less, though only Quebec and Ontario currently have them.

The PBC can not only grant parole, but can also revoke it, or cancel a decision to grant it.

The Parole Board has to base their decision to grant parole on several factors including “the nature and gravity of the offence, the degree of responsibility of the offender, information from the trial or sentencing process and information obtained from victims, offenders and other components of the criminal justice system, including assessments provided by correctional authorities.”

Their decisions also have to be consistent with the protection of society.

Parole is granted only if the Board is convinced an offender will not pose a risk to society by re-offending if released from prison before their sentence is up, and if the release of said offender will actually facilitate the protection of society via their rehabilitation into a law-abiding citizen.

There are two types of parole in Canada.

Full parole means a person can finish out their sentence in society provided they obey certain conditions designed to keep them from re-offending and report regularly to a parole officer. Offenders in Canada automatically become eligible for parole by serving one third of their custodial sentence, with the exception of those sentenced to life without parole. Those offenders are only eligible after a number of years specified in their sentence.

Day parole means an offender can work or participate in community activities but have to go back to prison or a sort of residence at night. As per the act, an offender is typically eligible for day parole when they reach the date of eligibility for full parole.

Once a person is released and have completed their parole, they can theoretically get on with their lives, but that’s not as easy as it seems. Ex-cons often have difficulty reintegrating into society, and these difficulties often lead to recidivism. Fortunately, there are legal protections in place for former offenders. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which applies to both private and public entities in Quebec, forbids discrimination, stating:

“No one may dismiss, refuse to hire or otherwise penalize a person in his employment owing to the mere fact that he was convicted of a penal or criminal offence, if the offence was in no way connected with the employment or if the person has obtained a pardon for the offence.”

The question at the end of the day is does criminal rehabilitation work?

*Eve, who served four months for conspiracy to traffic narcotics and has since been pardoned, thinks that likelihood of rehabilitation depends a lot on the character of the offender and that the system is ineffective in determining who is a danger. She believes that Karla Homolka got off too lightly but accepts it because it resulted in Paul Bernardo’s life sentence. Though she pities Homolka’s children, Eve thinks that like any pedophile, Homolka’s crimes mean she’s not entitled to her privacy.

Rape, torture, and murder are three of the most heinous crimes there are. Any rate of recidivism for these kinds of crimes is cause for alarm, so while most ex-cons like Eve deserve to have their crimes forgotten, Karla Homolka most certainly does not.

*Name changed for privacy reasons

On June 1st, 2017, Premier Philippe Couillard announced that the time has come to reopen the constitutional debate in Quebec. The response across much of Quebec and Canada was: WHY?

As it turns out, the announcement is merely a confirmation of a promise Couillard made in 2013 when running for leadership of the province. Back then he boldly said he planned to get Quebec to sign the constitution by Canada’s 150th anniversary. As it stands, Quebec has never signed the Canadian constitution. In order to understand why, we need to go back in time.

(The story is a long one, so apologies to any history buffs who feel that vital information is missing.)

Before 1982, Canada’s constitution remained in London and only the British government could amend it. However, the act of getting permission from Great Britain became a purely symbolic act as Canada and other former British colonies asserted their independence. All Canada had to do was ask the British to amend their constitution and the crown would rubber stamp their request. Nonetheless, in the late 1970s and early 80s, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, father of our current prime minister, came up with a plan to bring Canada’s constitution home.

Trudeau’s plan consisted of repatriating the constitution, modifying it by entrenching his charter of rights, what we now know as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and establishing an amendment formula. In order to do so, he got provincial leaders together, one of whom was the father of the Quebec Sovereigntist movement, René Lévesque.

The goal was to get the provinces to agree to Trudeau’s plan. At the same time, the Prime Minister put the question of what was allowed to the Supreme Court in a case we now know as the Patriation Reference.

The Supreme Court had to answer many questions, but the main one was whether Ottawa was bound by law to get the consent of the provinces to amend the constitution. The Court said no.

Quebec wanted recognition of itself as a distinct society, a veto over constitutional amendments, as well as an opt out clause that would allow provinces an out of certain aspects of the constitution with some kind of compensation so they would not have to pay for any federal actions that were not in their interests. Lévesque and Quebec were denied, and the constitution was repatriated and entrenched without Quebec’s consent.

Two more attempts were made to get Quebec to sign the constitution, but both failed. As it has never consented to the current constitution, Quebec remains bound by it only because it remains part of Canada.

With Couillard’s announcement came the release of a two hundred page document outlining his government’s vision for Quebec and its place in Canada. The document cannot be called a plan because it sets no timeline for Quebec to sign and no step by step procedure his government would want to use.

The document has a lot of words, but says nothing of value.

It asserts the Quebecois identity as “our way of being Canadian” but when it comes to identifying the people of Quebec, the text limits them to four groups: French speakers, English speakers and the First Nations and Inuit. Allophones such as the Jews, the Greeks, the Italians, Eastern Europeans and the Asian communities who helped to build Quebec are almost completely left out.

The only time Allophones are mentioned in the text is in the context of “interculturalism” and “integration” which, when put together, sound dangerously like assimilation. Since Quebec policy treats Allophones as potential Francophones by making their children go to French school, this is hardly surprising. The text also fails to address the growing problem of Xenophobia in Quebec, which begs the question as to whether the document’s definition of the English Speaking Quebecois refers exclusively to white English-speakers in the province.

What Couillard’s document does do is reiterate what Quebec wants from a relationship with Canada as party to the constitution:

  • Recognition of the Quebec Nation
  • Respect for Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction
  • Autonomy
  • Flexibility and asymmetry
  • Cooperation and administrative agreements
  • Shared institutions

This is all sealed together with the assertion that Quebec’s “full and complete participation in Canada” must come from a “concrete and meaningful recognition” of the province as “the only predominantly French-speaking state in North America and as such, heir to a rich and unique culture that must be protected, supported, and developed.”

Couillard’s plan to reopen the constitutional debate has been met with mixed feelings.

Bloc Québecois leader Martine Ouellet acknowledges that it’s a political move but welcomes it as an opportunity to reopen discussions about Quebec sovereignty. Though the Parti Québecois has decided to put aside the issue of sovereignty for the time being, leader Jean-François Lisée commended Couillard for acknowledging the need to address Quebec’s place within Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has more or less said it’s not a topic to be reopened, while Amir Khadir, an MNA for Québec Solidaire, claims it’s a ploy by the Couillard government to deflect attention from the scandals surrounding the Premier and his party.

It is Khadir’s interpretation of Couillard’s move that seems the most plausible. A simple Google search of Couillard’s name with the word “scandal” will reveal much about the shortcomings of his government. There is everything from the arrest of deputy-premier Nathalie Normandeau for corruption, to Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette’s mismanagement of our health care system and Barrette’s defensive victim-blaming, to the police surveillance scandal, to the Bombardier executive bonus scandal available to learn about online. With his government up for reelection next year, there is much Couillard needs to deflect attention from.

Let’s not take the bait, and keep our eyes where they belong: not on a can of worms that should not be opened, but on the government holding the can opener.

The Ministry of Education has revised its criteria for what constitutes an underprivileged school and how much food aid they should get. The Ministry’s food aid program aims to help high schools from underprivileged communities provide subsidized meals and snacks. Although the total budget of $7.7 million remains unchanged, many schools, particularly in outer regions, have seen their allowance plummet or disappear.

The Samares School Board in Lanaudière, for example, went from receiving $190 226 to $7081 in two school years. In the Eastern Quebec, the Chic-Chocs School Board went from $33 090 this year to $5 269 for next year. Chic-Chocs representative Marie-Noëlle Dion called the situation deplorable, particularly for three of their schools that will have to do without food aid all together.

The both the entire Outaouais and Laurentides region are now devoid of high schools providing subsidized meals.

The matter was the subject of a heated debate on Wednesday in the National Assembly where Education Minister Sébastien Proulx tried to defend the government’s policies.

“The money for the food aid program was maintained and indexed,” hammered Proulx, “it is meant for our most underprivileged schools, and that has not changed. If the rules have changed in the last few years, it was to correct inequalities in the sense that in some communities there were privileged schools receiving food aid.”

To which the official spokesperson for education of the opposition Alexandre Cloutier replied: “For the entire region of Outaouais, as of next September, there is zero funding! Are you saying there is not one kid who goes to school on an empty stomach in Outaouais?”

André Villeneuve, MNA of Berthier, piled on: “In Lanaudière, it’s four high schools, it’s hundreds of kids who will go to school on en empty stomach!

Where is the money going?

The Ministry determines the amount of food aid it will give to each school depending on where it ranks on the government’s indexes of deprivation. Those indexes reflect the proportion of students from families who are below the low-income threshold as well as their socio-economic background, which takes into account the level of education of the mother and whether or not the parents are employed.

Minister Proulx said that the calculations have been adjusted to focus on the schools that score 9 or 10 out of 10 on these indexes. At the time of publication, FTB is waiting for specifications from the Ministry about the nature of these adjustments and the number of schools that supposedly benefited from them.

Most of the schools scoring 9s and 10s are presumably in Montreal, where child poverty is particularly glaring. A recent study by Tonino Esposito of Université de Montréal and Catherine Roy of McGill found that sixteen of the 30 neighborhoods with the most underprivileged children in the province are in Montreal. Montréal-Nord is at the very top of the chart.

In any case, many children who were only a year ago considered underprivileged enough to get access to food aid are now considered as fortunate enough to do without it. Professionals and politicians are accusing the government of robbing Peter to pay Paul in education, while they break the bank for lobbies and corporations. Or, As Cloutier put it : How can a Minister who is swimming in budgetary surplus justify this sort of measure?”

* Featured image: École secondaire de L’Île, Outaouais. From HockeyAcademy

When I think of the word pride I automatically think of the LGBTQ community, I think of the Stonewall activists, I think of my gay, lesbian, transgender and queer warriors that have paved the rainbow brick road for me to love as I see fit. The stone dykes and sweet twinks who have danced and marched to overcome stigma. These sparkly strong freedom and equality yearning hearts beating broken down by a society meant to be straight and white. The fallen brothers and sisters who have been left dead in dumpsters due to crimes of hate.

Denial of rights and basic necessities or even your life due to who you take to bed at night or which bathroom you use? There is nothing easy about this life. How can anybody accuse someone of choosing to be tortured or forcing physically healthy people into cruel, painful conversion therapy to normalize them.

I can’t believe in some ways we have come so far but still trans women of color die by the handfuls each week. Still LGBTQ youth are targeted, still people cannot even take a piss safely. If we can pee in peace we can be in peace.

Pride is a word that has been appropriated by a disenfranchised community of misfits and perfectly fits where hearts and not parts are what matters, love is love is love is lovely. Pride is seeing the Gay Straight Alliance that you helped start in high school with your friends (because there wasn’t one) march in the Pride parade. Pride is knowing that a silly little club is actually a safe place that saves lives. Pride is knowing two trans women that needed to be there.

I know that I am meant to be part of great things. I am proud that I can be part of things that help others. My pride is in my community. We promote visibility, self-affirmation, dignity, accessibility, and freedom from the binding of heteronormativity.


Pride is standing up for what you believe in, it is not backing down when faced with unjust adversity. I will not live in a world where being honest with yourself and simply telling the truth is impossible.

Censorship and evil gender expectations within a racist capitalist system of oppression that dates back to the dawn of government. Pride is a celebration of diversity. Pride should be about love and not about hate.

Many groups fight for their proper slice of humanity. Pride can be used to describe the Native Americans at Standing Rock, being beat down for protecting the water. We should all have more pride in our Earth.

Pride is a single mother surviving and making sure her children are safe and warm. Pride is the immigrant family who didn’t stand down when the brick was thrown through their business, they have seen a lot worse. Pride is connected to culture and struggle, to diaspora and overcoming oppression.

Black Pride is a movement encouraging people to take pride in being black, Asian pride is a positive stance on being Asian, and White Pride is a slogan used by white supremacists, neo-nazis,and racists.

Isn’t it interesting when pride becomes one of those mortal sins that everyone with Christian guilt is so afraid of? Good ol’ american pride is always taken too far, these are the same folks who voted for trump (I am purposefully not capitalizing his name and spell check gives it a pass because trump is a real word).

The American dream is exclusive to those who came here willingly. The American dream excludes those bonded by slavery, those who were raped and pillaged, their hopes and dreams burned to the ground.

White is not something to be proud of. I am proud of my Polish, Irish and Scottish roots for sure, but not proud of what the color my skin represents. Raping Natives of their land and stealing others from their native lands and forcing them into slavery, and then a history of oppressive behavior and supremacy, nah, no pride in that ,bro.

I was always taught to be proud of myself and my accomplishments, but also to practice humility and be humble. The spotlight needs to shine on others once in awhile, but bask in it when the heat is on your face.

Praising and supporting others is crucial. We need each other to survive. Love and a deeper connection to all humanity is the only answer. I am proud to be pansexual, I used to be bisexual but not I do not believe in the gender binary, hearts not parts!

Last year I went on a adventure alone to California. I couch surfed and then eventually ended up at San Francisco PRIDE. It was magical, so much beauty and talent, but I was missing something, MY FRIENDS!

Pride is about lifting each other up and feeding off of the positivity of the ones you love. Pride was dead inside, it was cold without the warm embrace of my people. Pride means standing up with and for others. It means taking off your hat to a diverse and ticking world.

I am pissed that the Buffalo Pride celebration is going to cost $10 to get into. This festival was always free, then last year it was $5, now this? I do not understand how capitalism and gentrification always ooze in and taint the fun. A reminder that we have so much more to fight.

This festival is now not all inclusive. It is a direct disrespect to the poor, to those who already lack in privilege. So lets take the streets!

Get ready for the party, I have 5 shows this week. My boobs are going to be sore from all the tassel revolutions.

I love riding my trike through the sea of bliss. A safe place in a scary world. Pride weekend is like Christmas only better, I love everything that this time represents, rainbow flags and smiling fags, dykes on bikes and queers with booty shirts, unicorns and drag queens, trans men and non binary beauties. This is the time to let your freak flag show.

There will be the haters saying we will go to hell, but I bet hell has a better DJ anyways. There is no conversion therapy here, only a celebration of what makes us unique and the differences that connect and suppress us. Even if it’s sunny this parade always gets rained on, which is fine because we love rainbows.

On May 24, 2017 Quebec construction workers walked off the job after failing to sign a collective agreement with their employers. Though the provincial government threatened pass Bill 142 which would force them back to work the following Monday if they failed to do so, the Couillard government chose to table said bill and construction workers remain on strike.

Labour disputes are as Québecois as poutine and tire sur glace. No matter the time of year, some group from public prosecutors to hotel workers to teachers to nurses is always on strike because in Quebec we have an expression:

“Au Québec, on syndique!”

In Quebec, we unionize.

Though for many people labour disputes are nothing more than a public nuisance characterised by service delays and screaming picketers, unions play a vital role in protecting thirty to forty percent of workers in Quebec.

Historically, it was the unions that fought for living wages, reasonable working hours, and safer working conditions. Unions were at the forefront of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution that fought government corruption and the oppressive hold of the Catholic Church on the province.

Today unions and the laws that protect them keep big business from trampling all over their employees and no case says that better than the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2014 in United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 503 v. Wal Mart Canada Corp..

We’ve all heard stories like this before.

Wal-Mart opens a store, treats its workers like garbage, and when they exercise their legal right to form an association to protect themselves the company fires the lot of them by closing the store. Wal-Mart always claims that it’s because the store in question wasn’t profitable and had nothing to do with the unionization of its employees. Normally companies like Wal-Mart get away with this sort of thing, but not in Quebec.

In Quebec we have the Labour Code, which establishes strict rules of what employers and employees can and cannot do when it comes to unions and collective bargaining. Though the Code provides rules on unions of employees and associations of employers, this article will focus on the unions.

The Labour Code defines a union or association of employees as a:

“a group of employees constituted as a professional syndicate, union, brotherhood or otherwise, having as its objects the study, safeguarding and development of the economic, social and educational interests of its members and particularly the negotiation and application of collective agreements”

Associations of employees can engage in bargaining with their employer(s) to establish a collective agreement, which is a written contract between them establishing the conditions of employment. These agreements are generally drafted, negotiated and signed when the union is formed, and when they’re up for renewal. That said, the Code has a series of obligations and rights for employers and employees.

Employees in Quebec have the right to belong to an association of their choice and can participate in said association’s formation, activities, and management. Employers and their representatives are not allowed to threaten or intimidate someone with the intent to scare them out of joining or participating in such an association. At the same time, associations of employees are not allowed to use those tactics to get a worker to join them.

Unions are not allowed to solicit membership during working hours, and they’re not allowed to hold meetings at the place of work unless they are certified by the Labour Tribunal and have their employer’s consent.

Employers are not allowed to “dominate, hinder or finance the formation or the activities” of the unions, a provision undoubtedly put in place due to Quebec’s long tradition of corruption. They are not allowed to refuse to hire someone for exercising their rights as per the Labour Code, and they’re not allowed to engage in threats, intimidation, discrimination, reprisals or dismissals for exercising those rights.

If an employer engages in these illegal behaviors, employees can file a complaint with Quebec’s Administrative Labour Tribunal within thirty days of the sanction or action. If the Administrative Labour Tribunal agrees that an employee tried to exercise their right under the Labour Code, any action taken against said employee by their employer is presumed to have been the result of attempting to exercise said right.

It’s then up to the employer to prove those actions were for a “good and sufficient” reason. If the Tribunal doesn’t buy the employer’s explanation, it can in turn order the reinstatement of the employee within eight days of the tribunal’s decision, and even order that the employer pay the employee an indemnity equivalent to the salary and benefits lost due to reprisals against them.

The Code establishes rules of how unions can decide to go on strike, voting procedures within the union, and the certification process in which the union applies for recognition by the Administrative Labour Tribunal to act as representative for the workers of a given employer. It describes who counts as a union member and procedures for negotiating a collective agreement.

What Wal-Mart was caught for is a violation of article 59 of the Labour Code that bars employers from changing the conditions of employment during the unionization process. The union successfully argued before the Supreme Court that closing the store was a prohibited change in employment conditions. The Court ordered Wal-Mart to compensate its former employees.

If all negotiations for a collective agreement fail, either the union or the employer or both can apply to government to force arbitration. Arbitration is somewhere on the legal spectrum between mediation and a trial. Like in mediation, both parties submit their dispute to a third with the goal of finding a decent solution for both parties, but like a trial the decision is binding. This typically happens in cases of serious impasse.

Though strikes in Quebec can be a public nuisance, labour laws and unions not only protect Quebec workers but also allowed us to spank Wal-Mart.

* Featured image: lifeinquebec.com

Four months after Françoise David resigned from all of her political functions, it is time for the people of Gouin to choose her successor. The by-election in this riding which contains parts of Rosemont and La Petite-Patrie has been followed with extraordinary attention by Quebeckers of all political stripes, as it served up one wild card after another.

There are now no less than 13 names on the ballot and none of them are from the Parti Québécois.  Although all candidates seek to make their mark, the stakes are incomparably high for Québec Solidaire, who risks losing one of their three seats at the National Assembly.

Forget the Box spoke with the main contenders.  Can you guess which candidate said what? Here are some quotes. Make your guess and then click to find out if you were correct and read more about that candidate:

“When Thomas Mulcair won, that’s when I switched to provincial politics, because the NDP had clearly taken a turn towards the center of Canadian politics and I’m not someone who is interested in being in a centrist party.”

 

“I identify a lot with Mme David, and also Mr Gerard – a veteran from the student movement- and Mr Boisclair, who never hesitated to bring new ideas to his party, a bit like me.”

 

“It’s harder and harder to get affordable housing in the neighbourhood and, of course, it’s people with lower incomes who are suffering for it.”

 

“The Energy East pipeline: we have no jurisdiction on that. It’s gonna go through 800 of our rivers and the question is not is it going to leak, but when is it going to leak.”

 

“Most people want to overthrow the liberal government. People are sick of the current corruption, so I think their priority is to have an alternative.”

 

The Gouin by-election is Monday, May 29, 2017 and advance voting is already underway. Voting info is available at monvote.qc.ca

If you are experiencing difficulty viewing the answers through our App, please try with our Mobile Site version 

After years of tax exemptions, the religious communities in the City of Montreal are facing big tax bills. It has recently come to light that once exempt institutions like the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church are receiving tax bills from the City. Inspectors from the City of Montreal are now visiting churches more regularly, taking pictures and noting how every space in the church is used.

Municipal property inspections are nothing new. It’s how the City of Montreal assesses how to tax you and for how much. Religious institutions, however, are the exception.

According to the Quebec Act Respecting Municipal Taxation, a property “in the name of a religious institution… used by it or gratuitously by another religious institution… not to derive income but in the immediate pursuit of the religious or charitable objects” is exempt from all municipal or school property taxes. That means that as long as a given space is owned by a religious institution and is used exclusively for worship or other religious ends, it is considered to be exempt from property taxes.

The problem is that many religious institutions in Montreal don’t use their property exclusively for worship, hosting vital community organizations in available spaces within their buildings. The tax bills and increased inspections likely mean that the City is interpreting the law more strictly so that they can tax houses of worship for the spaces they don’t use for religious services and prayer.

The City of Montreal claims that they are simply trying to prevent people from defrauding the system, but not everyone agrees.

M, an expert on municipal assessments and taxation, said that they’re doing it because it will result in tax revenue from sources that weren’t providing any tax revenue before.

I asked M what the municipal assessors would be looking for when deciding how much to tax a religious institution.

“Proof that there are parts of a church that aren’t being used for worship,” he replied.

A room used for worship is tax exempt, a room used for anything else would hypothetically be subject to taxation.
I asked M if the City could tax some parts of a house of worship while exempting other parts of the same building from taxation.

“They can split the assessment, and they do. I’ve seen it before. They can send a bill that indicates the taxable portion and the non-taxable portion,” he said.

That begs the question as to whether facilities that while not used exclusively for worship, would be considered an essential part of any building, let alone a church. Though people rarely worship while on the toilet, for example, it should be considered an essential part of any space’s facilities and subject to any exemptions tied to a given space.

Though some have praised the City’s move to start taxing religious institutions as an assertion of the separation of church and state and a break for taxpayers, there is reason to believe the move will come at the expense of community organizations.

NDG City Councilor Peter McQueen points out that important community groups in NDG such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, as well as the NDG Food Depot and the NDG Community Council rely on the City’s churches to provide spaces for them to meet. He explained that this is because historically the churches were involved in charity work separate from the state.

I asked McQueen how he felt these groups would be affected by the new taxation rules.

“Terrible! I mean, if these groups had to leave the churches they’d be in a major quandary here in NDG.”

He said that if these groups had to find other places to meet, the City would have to step up and meet the demand. Currently in Cote des Neiges and NDG most community spaces are used for sports or borough offices. Houses of worship have until now been filling the need for spaces for these community groups to meet, but that may change with the new taxation rules.

At the end of the day, the issue comes down to one of money.

Will this move by the City of Montreal make the City more money, or cost it money in the long run?

Peter McQueen thinks it will end up costing the City, as it will have to step up to meet the demand for community meeting spaces that had previously been filled by the churches.

M thinks the City may choose to simply not fill that need, which would come at the expense of the community that relies on these groups to help the needy and provide safe activities for their children.

There is the additional risk that some congregations may fold altogether under the new taxation rules, as their dwindling flocks and basic expenses put houses of worship in the red before they ever see a tax bill. They can always contest the tax assessments in court, and there will likely be legal challenges if there are enough tax dollars involved.

At the end of the day, it will be the community that pays for this.

Chelsea Manning, the American soldier jailed in 2010 for leaking information to Wikileaks, is finally free after serving seven years out of her 35 years sentence.

Barack Obama had announced the shortening of her sentence back in January after years of campaigning by multiple civil rights defense groups, including the ACLU and Amnesty International. This Wednesday, Manning’s legal team confirmed that she was safely released from the US military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

“After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me, is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now–which is exciting awkward, fun, and all new for me.” Manning said in a press release.

Manning leaked more than 700 000 documents to Wikileaks, revealing various instances of misconduct by the US in the Middle East. Among the most shocking leaks was an infamous video of two American soldiers bantering about perpetrating an airstrike that killed 12 people, including two Reuters journalists, as well as evidence that the US military summarily executed a number of Iraqis and deliberately concealed the true civilian death toll of its attacks.

At the time, Chelsea Manning was only 23. She had not yet come out as transgender and she was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad, under the name of Bradley Manning. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence ever given to an American whistleblower.

Manning was detained with the male prisoners in a military jail and denied hormone therapy and treatment for gender dysphoria. The impacts on her were devastating and she had to be put on suicide watch. Four months ago, Obama commuted this sentence to time served plus 120 days in one of his last significant decisions as president.

While advocates for transparency and for LGBTQ+ rights rejoiced, others fumed, calling her a traitor who put US lives at risk. Then President-Elect Donald Trump was quick to tweet his displeasure:

(For those wondering, he was referring to a column in which she argued that the Obama administration should stop compromising their progressive stances)

According to the Obama administration, the four months delay between the announcement of a commutation and its effect is meant to allow detainees to prepare for life outside. Manning’s entourage started the “Chelsea Manning Welcome Home fund” for the same reason. Within three months, the GoFundMe campaign raised more than $163 000 US.

Surprisingly, Manning is still a member of the US army “on active duty”  until her criminal appeal is over. The Army Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces both have to issue an official decision on her dishonourable discharge before it can take effect. Until then, she is on “involuntary excess leave” which means she is on unpaid leave, but subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

*Featured Image: Torbak Hopper under creative commons.

Currently one of the hardest things to do as a writer is cover the explosion of nepotism, treason, espionage, bigotry, misogyny, greed, and comical idiocy that makes up the 45th presidency of the United States. Nothing so pointedly demonstrates this difficulty than Allan J. Lichtman’s book The Case for Impeachment.

Allan J. Lichtman is a legend.

A distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington DC, he has successfully predicted the outcome of eight US presidential elections. In November 2016 he predicted that the Orange Con-Man would win the election, and that he would be impeached. It is therefore no surprise that Lichtman and his publishers worked to get this book out before any such proceedings could take place.

After a couple of introductory chapters explaining impeachment rules, Lichtman, chapter by chapter, launches into a full scale indictment of the Orange Buffoon.

It’s a good book, but it’s incomplete. It’s incomplete because it could have used the notion of impeachment to make a broader point about the state of American politics, but didn’t, and it’s incomplete because that Entitled Orange Bully damns himself too quickly for most writers to follow.

The book is focused and because of that, it’s an easy read. In each chapter Lichtman talks about Cheeto-Head’s conduct before and after taking office, ties it to a legal issue or an aspect of the President’s character, and then argues it as grounds for impeachment.

Before we get into the indictments in The Case for Impeachment, we need to talk about impeachment itself.

What is Impeachment?

Impeachment does not guarantee a removal from public office. It does not fire the president. What it does is act as a formal charge of misconduct that can be brought against the president, the vice-president, and all civil officers in the United States. The power to impeach is vested in the US Congress, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, though only the Senate has power to remove an official from public office following an impeachment.

The process works like this: any member of either house in Congress can draw up articles of impeachment aka charges against said public official. The House can approve or reject article(s) of impeachment, usually following an investigation, by a simple majority vote. If the House votes in favor of impeachment, the accused is impeached.

The case is then brought before the Senate which holds a sort of trial. Each side can present witnesses and the president is allowed to use his own lawyer if he wants. If the one facing impeachment is the president, the case is presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, currently Justice John Roberts, who has had clashes with the current president before.

Once the trial is heard, the case goes to the Senate, which acts as a sort of jury. It takes a two thirds majority in the Senate consisting of sixty-seven votes to remove an official. If convicted, the president would be removed from office and lose any privileges and immunities he had in office, and the vice-president would take over.

In the nineties, the House voted in favor of impeaching Bill Clinton, but because he was popular at the time, his opponents failed to get the sixty-seven votes needed to remove him, thus allowing Clinton to finish up his term.

Grounds for Impeachment

According to the US Constitution, the president can be removed from office “for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” According to Lichtman, this has historically been given broad interpretation allowing for impeachment due to conduct before or after taking office. Lichtman also contends that a conviction for any of the aforementioned acts is not pre-requisite, just the fact that the president did them. That said, there is also the Emoluments clause in the Constitution that says that:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

An emolument is a salary, fee, or profit, and the notion of emoluments is especially relevant given the mounting evidence that the Orange Administration and the Russians colluded with one another.

Lichtman’s indictments of Nacho-Face are numerous.

He talks about the president’s war on women, mentioning sexual harassment charges and disgusting entitled behavior. Unfortunately, his chapter on the subject does not go far enough. He refrains from mentioning accusations that the president sexually assaulted a thirteen-year-old girl while at a party of now convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the president who prided himself on procuring underage girls for rich men. It does not address the Orange Bully’s remark that women who get abortions should be punished.

Lichtman also talks about the president’s disgraceful business practices, pointing out that for a man claiming to be for getting jobs for working Americans, his track record suggests a preference for employing illegal immigrants because they’re more easily exploitable. He mentions the man’s denial of climate change, but perhaps unwisely implies that the Syrian refugee crisis was largely due to it, when we can all agree that drought does not make evil leaders do what Assad has done.

In an extensive chapter devoted to Russia, the author describes how deeply entangled the president’s businesses are with forces in Eastern Europe. He also devotes chapters to the Orange administration gross disregard for the Constitution, the law, and basic human decency.

One of the best things about this book is that it is fundamentally an American work. There are little to no comparisons with other countries or leaders and refrains from references to international history.

This perhaps is a mistake.

The Orange Administration is doing what stereotypical Republicans have dreamed of: an America where the poor look to people of colour and immigrants as the source of their misfortunes, allowing the upper one percent to hold onto their wealth by cutting their own taxes, effectively destroying American healthcare, education, employment, and infrastructure.

History has taught us that people eventually catch on to who is really hurting them, and as the French Revolution teaches us, a reluctance of the wealthy to help the poor leads to catastrophic civil unrest. If the White House isn’t careful, they may one day be faced with an angry mob and a guillotine.

It is appalling that in 2017 we still need to have a conversation about sexual consent.

In April 2017, Alexandra Brodsky published an article in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law titled RAPE ADJACENT: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal. It brought to light the sinister practice of men taking off condoms without their partners’ consent (the slang term for it being “stealthing”). This practice does not exclusively affect women having sex with men, as gay men have also been victimized.

This article is not going to dignify the practice by calling it by its slang term as doing so trivializes a violation of a person’s right to bodily integrity and self-determination. It is not going to address the personal failings of those – usually MRAs – who advocate for or practice non-consensual condom removal, though it is HIGHLY tempting to do so.

This article IS going to revisit the notion of consent and discuss the practice of nonconsensual condom removal and the potential legal ramifications of it under Canadian criminal and civil law. This article will limit discussions to nonconsensual condom removal as I covered the topic of consent in detail in December 2015 and thus far those laws remain unchanged.

Consent is not transferable

By law, consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Without consent, sexual activity becomes sexual assault.

It is widely recognized that consent for one sexual act does not constitute blanket consent for any and all others. Consenting to vaginal sex does not mean, for example, that you also consent to anal sex. In the context of nonconsensual condom removal, agreeing to have sex with a condom does not mean you consent to have sex without one.

There is no consent if a person, having consented to sexual activity, “expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity”. That means that a person has every right to stop things at any time, and continuing despite their reluctance constitutes sexual assault. This is notion is important as nonconsensual condom removal often happens right before re-penetration. That means that the guy in question will pull out, take the condom off, and then re-penetrate their partner.

If the victim catches the person doing this and demands a stop to the activity and the person persists, that person crosses the line between consensual sexual activity and sexual assault.

As Brodsky points out, most victims of nonconsensual condom removal only realized the condom removal at the moment of re-penetration, when their partner ejaculated, or because their partner told them the next morning.

Intent is important

When Brodsky interviewed victims of nonconsensual condom removal, what was telling was the behavior of their partners afterward. According to the article, the men were dismissive, and often refused to help pay for emergency contraception or STI testing even though pregnancy and STIs are potential consequences of not using a condom. In her research Brodsky went online anonymously to look at what proponents of nonconsensual condom removal had to say about it.

The motivation for the practice stems in part from the desire for increased physical pleasure, but what’s more problematic was that it also stems from the thrill of degrading their sex partner and their belief in men’s inherent right to violence and to spread their seed.

All of this is extremely important in the context of mens rea for determining guilt for sexual assault.

Most crimes in Canada have two aspects, actus reus – meaning the act of the crime itself, and mens rea- the ‘guilty mind’ referring to the knowledge, recklessness, or negligence of the perpetrator engaging in the crime.

In Canadian Criminal law, the mens rea required for sexual assault cases is whether the perpetrator knowingly, recklessly, or negligently engaged in the sexual activity without the victim’s consent. One could argue that the dismissive attitude of a man engaging in this practice towards his victim combined with online expressions of his belief in his right to remove the condom for whatever reason and his taking glory in the degradation of his partner by violating their consent would provide the needed mens rea.

If Canadian Criminal law will not recognize nonconsensual condom removal as sexual assault, there is always civil law.

The Quebec Civil Code recognizes the inviolability and integrity of every person. It also recognizes that every person has “a duty to abide by the rules of conduct incumbent on him, according to the circumstances, usage, or law, so as not to cause injury to another” and that should a person endowed with reason cause injury to another – be it bodily, moral, or material – that person is bound to make reparation for it.

Bodily injury in Quebec Civil Law refers to damages to your physical body, material injury refers to damages to your property, and moral refers to psychological damages. While not an ideal remedy for the violation of bodily autonomy and fear of unwanted pregnancies and STIs, a victim of nonconsensual condom removal could sue on one or all three of these grounds.

Any STIs or unwanted pregnancies that ensue could be argued as bodily injury, loss of a job to deal with the fallout, physical or mental, of the violation could be grounds for a demand for material damages, and the psychological impact of the violation could be cause for moral damages.

Birth control rebuttal

In response to recent discussions about nonconsensual condom removal, there have been lots of people claiming that if this practice is illegal, it should also be a crime to lie about being on the birth control pill. People claim laws are unfair to men given that in March 2017, an Ontario court ruled against a man who sued a woman who lied about being on birth control prior to them having sex. She got pregnant and he sued for psychological damages.

While there is no disputing the immorality of lying about being on birth control, there are some fundamental differences between lying about being on the pill and nonconsensual condom removal.

First, there is no online cult of women working to deceive men about being on birth control due to a belief in some inherent right the way there is one of men who feel entitled to spread their seed regardless of the wishes of their partner. It should also be noted that birth control sabotage is not performed primarily by women desperate for a baby, but by abusive male partners looking to make a woman more dependent on him.

Second, lying about the pill does not put the man at risk of STIs the way removing a condom without consent puts the victims at risk.

Brodsky points out the third when she discusses the danger of legally enforcing demands for full reproductive transparency, which is that it puts vulnerable people at risk, such as those who cannot take birth control for health reasons but are stuck with partners who demand sex but will not use condoms.

It should also be noted that the reason why the Ontario courts ruled against the man in the aforementioned case is because it was judged primarily on family law grounds. In Ontario, family law cases are assessed in ways to benefit children and not favor one parent over another.

His case was dismissed primarily for the sake of the child that resulted from the woman’s deception, but also because it became clear that the plaintiff’s issue was not the sex, but the ensuing unwanted parenthood and potential financial obligations connected to it. Given that, a better equivalent for this case would be that of a man who lied about being sterile or having had a vasectomy in order to have consensual sex without a condom which resulted in a pregnancy.

In cases of nonconsensual condom removal, the victims only agreed to a specific sex act, one with a condom. The removal of the condom nullified their consent, and the willful violation of that consent is just that, a violation.

* Featured image: Women’s Health

Pierrefonds-Roxboro is one of the three Montreal boroughs under state of emergency, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from walking on the dry and clean parts of Pierrefonds Boulevard, where even the buses still run on time. Nothing to indicate the multiple disastrous and somewhat surreal sights that await only a couple of blocks down: entire streets flooded, picturesque houses and vehicles immersed in eerily still water, piles of sandbags scattered like battle fortifications.

Everyday, residents stop by the disaster area, anxiously appraising the situation from their cars or going as far as their rain boots allow to check on their property. For some, it’s been weeks since the water started seeping into their houses, others are still warily surveying the changing levels of the river, praying it won’t reach their doorstep.

Early Tuesday evening, the first signs that the water has – ever so slightly – receded, elicited cautious relief in many of them. However, everyone knows that even if the weather remains stable, they are still in for a long wait before the river returns to its bed and they can start to assess the actual damages.

One man, who wishes to only be identified as a “directly affected citizen of Pierrefonds” stopped to take in the striking sight of a half-drowned mailbox, which despite being a few meters away from the Gouin Boulevard, now looks as if someone made the odd choice of planting it in the middle of a lake.

“Terrible, isn’t it?” he said, his expression grim. “Everything we do to Nature, you know, there comes a point when she can’t absorb it anymore and then she sends this back.” For him, Pierrefonds’ woes trace back to a far larger issue: climate change.

“It will be necessary for people to understand the gravity of the situation. And watching a little TV, you see it’s not only Canada and Quebec that are affected. There are many countries in the world that live through the same situation, and they don’t always have the resources we do.”

The water had thankfully not reached his house yet, but, despite the first timid signs of improvement, he remained anxious. “If it rains, even one more day, I’m directly threatened,” he explained. He bought a water pump during the week-end “just in case.”

A few streets away, Maria** and her adult son were looking for their canoe to go check on their property. Originally from Poland, she and her two children had bought a brand new house here, on Vaudeville Street, only five years ago. Their beloved home has been flooded since last Friday. Like many of their neighbours, they were woken up by the army at five AM and told they had to get out, and quickly.

They are currently living in a nearby hotel with the help of the Red Cross. Last time they checked, the water was up to their chests in the basement. To say the least, stress has taken its toll. “It’s panic attacks and sometimes, you can’t sleep at night,” confided the mother.

She was not alone to breathe a sigh of relief when she noticed the few inches of wet asphalt, indicating that the water had slightly withdrawn. Still, her worry was palpable. “I look at the water and I tremble,” she admitted.

Nonetheless, just like the mailbox-watcher, they were thinking of those even less fortunate than them.“You always have to think of those who have it worse than you,” Maria said. “There are a lot of elderly people living here,” her son added.

Civilians and officials

Police officers guard the flooded streets to make sure that no one has the bad idea of trying to pass through with their car, or the heartlessness to rob the deserted homes. The firefighters, the army and many volunteers are also present to lend a hand to whomever needs it.

“[The officers] are doing what they can, but they have a different point of view because it’s their job, you know; we’re their clients,” Maria’s son observed.

His mother agreed but sighed: “This tragedy, it’s not theirs inside and when you see two policemen laughing and talking, it’s hard to welcome them.” According to her, it’s the Red Cross that is their ultimate life-saver. They provided them with a hotel room, a meal allocation, and even some money to buy clothes.

Maria found one thing to be happy about in this ordeal: a new sense of solidarity in the community: “We became like a big family with the people on the street, because everybody helps each other and we are all in the same hotel. Before that, we didn’t know each other.”

Indeed, everywhere you looked, there was a little cluster of neighbours chatting, asking for news and offering help. One man was making the rounds with his own canoe to help other people around the flooded streets whenever they needed to get something from home or just to check that it’s still standing. One of the policemen asked him to go check up on one of the rare residents who was still inside his house: “He’s been there for a while, see if he needs anything.”

Still, Maria reflected with a sad smile, “We shouldn’t need to have a tragedy to be together.”

State of emergency prolonged

By Wednesday afternoon, the water had significantly receded in the Montreal area. However the level of the Saint-Lawrence remains worrying near Quebec City and the Mauricie region. Nobody is out of the woods yet, since various amounts of rain are expected all over the province during the next few days.

The state emergency which is meant to allow the municipalities to mobilize staff and resources more efficiently is still in place in several areas including in Laval and Montreal.

As of Wednesday night, there was a total of 3301 people evacuated and 4141 houses flooded throughout Quebec. 166 municipalities were still affected.

The government has promised to deploy all the necessary staff on the field as well as financial aid for the affected citizens. However, the people of Pierrefonds and other flooded municipalities will also need all the solidarity they can get, not only form their own communities, but from all of us.

* Photos by Mirna Djukic

**Probably not her real name. Due to the engaging and organic nature of the conversation, this detail was lost. If her or her son read this and would like us to correct the record, please contact forgetthebox@forgetthebox.net and we will update the article

The RCMP is investigating an upsetting incident in Surrey (BC), where a 16 year-old black girl was handcuffed and taken down in a case of “mistaken identity”. Ruth and Gary Augustine told CBC that they have lodged a formal public complaint on behalf of their daughter, who prefers not to be named in order to avoid harassment on social media.

The teenager says she was waiting at the Newton bus loop last Friday, on her way to a job interview, when two Mounties showed up and started asking her questions. They were apparently looking for someone wanted under the Mental Health Act. She says that she started backing away when they called her a “high-risk mental health patient”. She soon found herself on the ground under the two officers, with her hands behind her back. That’s when a bystander, going by the Facebook name of Ash Hotti, started filming:

The teenager can be heard crying and cursing, shouting “My name is not LaToya, ask me what my name is!”

When one of the officers realizes that the bystander is filming, he threatens to seize the phone as evidence. The bystander demands that the officer explains how it constitutes evidence.

“This is fucking wrong, be ashamed of yourselves!” Hotti later says, assuring the teen: “Don’t worry I got everything on film.”

“Yeah, you can send it to her phone and they’ll get charged,” suggests a second bystander.

When the officers checked the girl’s purse for ID, they found that they had the wrong person. They uncuffed her and left. The teenager told CTV news that neither officers asked her for ID before they tackled her, but that she would have complied if they did.

The Surrey RCMP have issued a statement on Wednesday after the family lodged a public complaint.

“Information was received regarding an individual who was wanted on a Mental Health Act warrant. There were concerns for this individual’s health, safety, and well-being. Officers subsequently located someone matching the description and apprehended a female at this location. Once it was learned that it was not the correct person, the 16-year-old female was released immediately,” stated the letter.

They deemed the situation “extremely unfortunate” and assured that senior investigators are in contact with the family. “We are certainly mindful of her young age and how upsetting this was for her and her family” said Superintendent and Operation officer Ed Boettcher. “I can assure you that we have resources dedicated to investigating the incident.”

People of colour too often misidentified

According to the director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Pho Niemi, mistaken identity cases are woefully common, especially for people of colour. “We get a case like that every year,” the director said.

Why? Police descriptions of suspects tend to be a lot less detailed when they’re not about Caucasians. “Almost every time, the description is too broad and race becomes a predominant factor,” says Niemi.

If this was the case in Surrey, he thinks the family should ask for more than an apology and pursue legal action.

“If the police officers were looking only for a young black woman, then they would be in trouble with the law in terms of discrimination,” Niemi affirmed. “It opens up every young black woman in the area to a police arrest and detention.”

Just last February, a man named Errol Burke was held at gunpoint and arrested while trying to buy milk in Montreal, before the police realized they had the wrong man.

Niemi, who has also worked for the Quebec Human Rights Commission, is further concerned about how the officers intervened with a person they thought to be a high-risk mental health patient. He questions whether the officers are trained to handle such cases.

“When one intervenes with a person known to have mental health issues,” he remarked, “there is a way to intervene in order to reduce the likelihood of breaching that person’s civil rights.”

The change of government didn’t stop the steep decline of press freedom in Canada according to Reporters Without Borders. Canada now ranks 22nd in the RWB index, four spots below last year. The international press freedom watchdog urges Trudeau to act on his vocal defense of free media.

Every year, Reporters Without Borders publishes a report on the state of press freedom in 180 countries. They base their rankings on questionnaires submitted to media professionals, lawyers and sociologists in each country, and on the number of acts of violence and abuse towards medias and journalists.

In 2015, Canada was eighth on the list. One year later, thanks to the ever-increasing hostility of the Conservative government toward the media, it had plunged to the 18th spot.

Many expected Trudeau to change this bleak course when he took office, considering how he advocated for a strong and free press during the campaign. While the government’s relations with media may appear more cordial, the Prime Minister has so far failed to live up to that expectation. Canada has slipped down four more spots, now ranking right between Samoa and the Czech Republic.

The top of the index is once again filled by Scandinavian countries, with Norway in the lead. Costa Rica follows in 6th place. At the other end of the scale, North Korea surpassed Eritrea as the very worst place in terms of press freedom. Turkmenistan and Syria are close behind.

RWB says Canada’s poor score this year is partly due to the fact that a number of journalists have been put under police surveillance in Quebec, including La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé. The organization also cited a court ordering Vice journalist Ben Makuch to hand over all communications between himself and an RCMP source as it highlights Canada’s lack of specific legal framework for journalism.

RWB also highlighted the charges brought against The Independant’s journalist Justin Brake for trespassing while he was covering the protests against the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador. Plus the NGO expressed disappointment at the PM’s failure to repeal C-51, which is widely considered as a huge setback for press freedom and individual rights. RWB already tried to bring all these concerns to Trudeau’s attention in an open letter written in November.

Canada is not the only country with a less than stellar performance. The US went dropped from 41st to 43rd, a relatively small slip, considering Donald Trump severely restricted media access to all kinds of information and his outright calling the press “an enemy of the american people.” It might suggest that the Obama administration’s difficult relationship with the press and war on whistleblowers might have had more far-reaching effects than it seems.

In fact, RWB maintains that press freedom is in more danger than ever, all across the world.

“We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies,” The report declared in its cheerful introduction. It attributes the worsening state of affair to a conjuncture characterized by the rise of strongmen and the erosion of democracies in Europe and America alike. As for Canada, RWB recommends that the government repeals C-51 and put forward concrete measures to ensure confidentiality of journalistic sources.

* Featured image from Reporters Without Borders official site