Joanna Palani, a 23 year old fighter of the YPJ, the famous Kurd “Women’s protection unit”, is currently detained in Denmark, presumably for terrorism. The YPJ is an all-female brigade of the Syrian Kurdish forces, engaged in the fight against ISIS.

In a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Palani says she is currently in prison in Denmark. She says she doesn’t know for how long, but “it could be two years.”

“I need your help to spread the news that the YPJ is not a terrorist organization,” she pleads.

The YPJ is part of the YPG (also known as the People’s protection unit), which is the armed force of the Kurdish Region of Rojava in Western Syria. They have been widely recognized as instrumental in the fight against ISIS in Ìraq and Syria. They most notably played an important role in taking back Kobane from terrorist control in 2015.

Palani is a Danish student, born in a refugee camp in Iraq. She comes from an Iranian Kurd family of Peshmerga fighters (the armed force of Iraq Kurds). Last year, she abandoned her studies in Copenhagen to fight with the Peshmergas and with the YPJ.

Both organizations are significantly backed by the US and generally acknowledged as legitimate military units. However, when Palani returned to Denmark while on permission after fighting for a year, she was forbidden to leave the country and her passport was confiscated.

Danish police told the Russian channel RT that Palani was suspected of wanting to leave the country to participate in activities that could threaten Denmark’s national security. She hasn’t been able to return to the YPJ since. The only information about her arrest to date is the short video she filmed herself.

The confiscation of her passport, and, presumably, her subsequent detention, are supported by legislation intended to stop Danish citizens from joining jihadist groups abroad. Some argue that Denmark is courting Turkey’s help to keep refugees out of the EU and, therefore, included the YPJ, a group Turkey doesn’t like, as a group to watch out for.

David Romano, a political science professor at Missouri State University, formerly of REMO, the réseau du Moyen-Orient du CERIUM (Université de Montréal), told Forget the Box that he can’t speak to Danish motivations as it would simply be “speculating about behind-closed-doors Turkish pressure” but did have this to say about YPJ/YPG:

“In the court of public opinion, they are certainly pretty legitimate — empowering women, protecting minorities, fighting ISIS, etc… The U.S. does back them, so that is an indirect indicator as well. High level U.S. officials meet publicly with YPG leaders, and U.S. special forces are embedded with them (along with many Western volunteers). Russia calls for them (via their political parent, the PYD) to be included in peace talks on Syria, and only Turkish objections prevent this.”

“The government’s response to the recommendations of the commission is, thus far, unsatisfactory,” concluded the first report of the public monitoring committee on the Charbonneau Commission.

One year after the commission ended, only 15 of its 60 recommendations have been implemented “in a satisfying manner.” Nine have been partially followed and 36 have yet to be responded to. “The government must do better,” urged committee member Martine Valois in a press release.

The committee looks harshly upon Quebec’s approach to two of Charbonneau’s leading recommendations.

The first is the creation of an independent authority to regulate the management of public contracts. The Autorité des marches publics (AMP), as defined by bill 108, “will have neither the independence nor the powers and functions necessary to act effectively,” states the report.

The committee still supports the creation of the AMP. However, it denounced the limited scope of its functions and its lack of coercive powers. It further asserted that the method for selecting the director endangers the AMP’s independence.

The committee also criticised bill 87, sold to the public as significant protection for whistle-blowers. The bill already caused controversy by not covering municipal nor private sector employees and encouraging internal denunciation instead of transparency.  This bill and other measures intended to regulate the professional workplace “clearly do not go far enough,” the committee estimated.

The government’s best effort was in the area of cleaning up political financing. They fulfilled 8 out the 12 recommendations in that regard.

This is mainly a result of bills 83 and 101, adopted in June. Thanks to those, party chiefs and MNAs are increasingly forced to take responsibility for their team’s financing practices. Also, loans to politicians must now be under $5000 at the municipal level and under $25 000 at the provincial level.

The public monitoring committee for the Charbonneau Commission is a popular initiative. It has seven official members from various backgrounds, including Westmount Mayor Peter Trent and ex Liberal MNA Gilles Ouimet. Three professors, one ex-researcher of the Charbonneau Commission and the president of Transparency International Canada also sit with them. It will produce a second follow-up report on November 23rd 2017.

When ex-Minister Natalie Normandeau was arrested last March, the Couillard administration had declared its strong commitment to implementing Charbonneau’s recommendations. Members of the cabinet have not yet reacted to the follow-up report.

President Trump. President Donald Trump. Yes, a few months from now that will be an actual thing people say. For now, he’s President Elect, but sadly, he is no longer a joke and he never should have been. We need to keep fighting Trump.

The over-the-top reality star will soon be Commander-in-Chief of the largest military in the world. Islamophobia, racism and misogyny have been part of American politics for a while, but they just went uber-mainstream with Trump’s win a little over a week ago.

What’s now frighteningly apparent is that his alt-right (really a fancy way to say white nationalists with computer skills) base, emboldened by his win, are voicing their bigotry and hatred and scaring the crap out of immigrants, visible minorities and anyone that doesn’t fit into their white supremacist, misogynistic and anti-Semetic worldview.

Swastikas are showing up all over the US, people are being attacked, middle schoolers are even chanting “build that wall” and making school a frightening place for some of their classmates. Buzzfeed has even put together a tracker of racist incidents in the US since the Trump victory.

While Trump did tell his supporters to stop it with their racist attacks and graffiti, his early staff choices send the opposite message. He just appointed Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart “News” as CEO until joining the Trump campaign, his top policy adviser. Bannon had proudly declared Breitbart to be a “platform for the alt-right” and oversaw the publication of articles with incredibly nasty headlines.

Just a taste of the nastiness (image: gizmodo.com)
Just a taste of the nastiness (image: gizmodo.com)

There is also now word that Trump will, in fact, be creating a Muslim Registry. One of his supporters even cited American internment of citizens of Japanese origin as precedent.

Throw in promises to break US climate agreements and the prospect of a second Supreme Court pick after he fills Scalia’s seat and you get a picture that is terrifying for people of colour, the LGBT community, women and the planet.

How Did We Get Here?

President Trump is bad news, that much is clear. But why is this now a reality? It’s because no one took his candidacy seriously. Comics thought him running would produce gold for them, but no worries, because, of course he wouldn’t win. Pundits, same thing. Even I didn’t take him seriously at first.

But we’re not the only ones. The establishment of the Democratic Party clearly didn’t consider Trump as a serious threat, either, despite their public rhetoric. They even tried to push both him and Ted Cruz to the top of the GOP heap thinking they would be easier candidates to beat than Jeb Bush.

clinton-sanders

It’s true that Trump’s core support came from xenophobic racist misogynists and they’re now the ones strutting and scaring the shit out of everyone,  but this “basket of deplorables” weren’t the only ones who voted for him. If they were, the electoral map would have looked quite different. The bigots are still a minority.

It’s white working class voters in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and now Michigan that tipped the balance this time around. It’s not that their privilege blinded them to what a Trump Presidency could mean, it’s simply that Trump’s obvious bigotry meant less to them than the prospect of losing jobs due to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) did. Some lifelong rust belt Democrats who voted Obama twice and supported Bernie in the Primaries switched to Trump in the General.

A truly selfish act, to be sure, and an ultimately counterproductive one. Stopping the TPP is probably the first campaign promise Trump will break.

There was also a real feeling of dissatisfaction with the political establishment which Trump, posing as a populist, was able to tap into. If the choice had been between a right-wing, xenophobic pseudo-populist and a real left-wing populist like Bernie Sanders, Sanders would have easily won.

This election also proved that standard political tactics like a good ground game and mainstream media support are now less important than huge rallies and a solid social media strategy. Trump ran an unconventional campaign, so did Sanders. Clinton played it business as usual and lost.

What Needs to Happen Now in the Democratic Party

It’s all water under the bridge, now, but that water is what people need for drinking and bathing, so we can’t ignore how we got here and Democrats can’t ignore the mistakes they made. If they do, they are bound to repeat them.

The party establishment didn’t just lose. They lost to a third-rate PT Barnum who only ran to get a better TV deal with NBC. They lost to a man who admitted to being sexual predator during a national radio interview and who has bragged on tape about sexual assault. They lost to their dream opponent. They lost to Donald Fucking Trump.

If that’s not the impetus Democrats need to show their leadership the door, I don’t know what is. Now is the time to replace everyone at the top who pushed for Clinton over Sanders in the Primaries. Progressives need to take over the Democratic Party…soon!

If there is pushback, and there will be, fight it. If the pushback from the DNC establishment succeeds, it might be time to think about a new party. Even as President, Trump may end up destroying the Republican Party and there could be room for a new party in the two-party system.

What Needs to Happen Now Outside of the Echo Chamber

I had thought, as did many, that if he won, protests against Trump would start on day one of his Presidency. I was wrong. They started less than 24 hours after he won the Electoral College vote and became the President Elect.

From mass marches in New York City, Chicago and around the country to high school students walking out of class, people are voicing their displeasure with an impending Trump Presidency and what it will mean for them and their communities. This needs to continue.

Anti-Trump Protest NYC (image CBS)
Anti-Trump Protest NYC (image CBS)

No, the whole “just accept the election results” line or the “give him a chance” attitude don’t fly in this case. First, he’s already shown us by appointing Bannon that he blew his chance to change the tone to a more President of all Americans one. Second, protesting the government, or even an incoming government is never wrong, in fact, it’s a right.

If Clinton had won and stepped too far to the right with her picks, I would expect progressives, even those who voted for her, to be challenging her every step of the way. Now with Trump living up to the worst nightmare scenario fears and his most fervent bigoted supporters having their day in the sun, protesting has become a necessity.

An  election does not give the winner immunity from protest in a democracy. When the President Elect is promising to usher in a downright dangerous environment for marginalized groups, those groups and their allies should challenge the President Elect any way they can.

As for tactics, hitting the streets, boycotting Trump-aligned brands and calling out racism and misogyny can all be effective. Right here in Montreal, there is a Stop Bannon Phone-a-Thon putting Americans living here in touch with their local elected officials. There is also a solidarity action in the US encouraging people who aren’t the target of persecution (ie. white people) to register as Muslims if Trump enacts a registry.

While I like the idea behind the move to impeach Trump, I’d like to remind those behind it that success would only lead to President Mike Pence, who, in many ways, is just as bad if not worse.

I would recommend aligning anti-Trump protests with other groups fighting against the things that this incoming President stands for. Solidarity with the #NODAPL protesters, for example, would be a great first step.

Politicians, other people and the mainstream media not taking Trump seriously during the Primaries and the General Election is what got us here. We can’t afford not to take the threat of a Trump Presidency seriously now. It’s time to fight.

 

A young Inuit woman addressed the assembly at the UN Conference on Climate Change on Canada’s behalf this past Wednesday in Marrakesh.

Maatalii Okalik, president of the Inuit Youth Council, accompanied the Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna to the 22nd Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 22) where she pleaded for the world leaders to take native communities into account.

“With your continued leadership that will define our future on climate action, I am hopeful that it is done in cooperation with Indigenous peoples,” Okalik said.

Okalik’s brief allocution was showcased in Canada’s national statement. The Minister introduced her as “an incredible young leader for the Canadian Arctic and a strong voice for Inuit youth.”

The liberal government seems determined as ever to display its good intentions to include indigenous communities in its decisions, at least on social media. On Tuesday, McKenna shaed a picture of Okalik on a stage with several indigenous leaders on Snapchat. The picture was captioned “Amazing panel on Indigenous role on climate action. I want Canada to be a leader on this.”

cop22-enviro-can

According to National Post, the Canadian delegation in Marrakesh comprises around 17 representatives from various indigenous groups.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) decided to send its own delegation to Marrakesh. Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart and Elder Francois Paulette of the Dene Nation are both attending. Their mission is to ensure that First Nations have “a strong voice” in the plan for climate action.

“First Nations are in a unique position to be leaders in climate change initiatives because of our knowledge of the sacred teachings of the land. We must not be situated as passive recipients of climate change impacts. We must be agents of change in climate action,” Elder Paulette declared in a communiqué.

Chief Hart, who is also co-chair on the Chiefs Committee for Climate Change, insisted on the importance of indigenous rights and responsibilities being fully recognized.

Both he and Okalik alluded to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although the Canadian government officially supports this treaty, the Trudeau administration deemed it “unworkable” as a Canadian law.

Although Trudeau is not attending this year, Canada sent a sizable delegation. Several provincial Premiers and environment ministers are there, including Quebec’s Philippe Couillard and David Heurtel. Union representatives as well as environmental advocacy groups like Equiterre and Ecojustice Canada are also there.

Where does Canada stand in Marrakesh?

COP 22 is a two week long event that will end on Friday the 18th. Its purpose is to form strategies to reach the goals set one year ago in Paris for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

In November 2015, freshly-elected Justin Trudeau arrived at the COP 21 with nothing but the timid goals set by the Harper government: bring GHG emissions down to 30% under 2005 levels before 2030. But according to the grapevine, Canada will revise its ambitions upwards. Greenpeace Canada told La Presse Canadienne that Canadian officials in Marrakesh said that the new goal was to bring GHG emissions 80% below 2005 levels before year 2050.

The measures to be deployed in that regard are vastly unknown. Last month, the federal government announced that all provinces and territories will have to implement a carbon tax of at least 10$/ton by 2018, to reach 50$/ton in 2022. Canada had already promised $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries access and create clean technologies.

On Wednesday, the government announced a contribution of $2.5 Million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network to that effect. The CTCN is an agency created by the UN to help emerging countries access and develop new technologies, both to fight climate change and to deal with its effects.

The government also promised an investment of $1.8 Billion to “mobilize” the private sector to do the same.

A more detailed national strategy is awaited in the next couple of days.

 

The Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) took a startling position during the inquest into the suicide of Lena Anderson in the back of one of its police cars. On Wednesday, they asked the five members of the jury to recommend that their service either be brought under the Police Services Act before April 2017, or disbanded.

The inquest shone a grim light on the deficient resources of the largest First Nations-administered police service in the country and the role it played in Anderson’s death. NAPS board chair Mike Metatawabin told the inquest that there was no point in keeping the service when it didn’t have the resources to fulfill its duties.

“Enough is enough. We can’t do this all the time where you promise something and then turn around and say you can’t do it,” he said, as quoted by CBC.

No Cells, No Radio and No Help

Lena Anderson, a 23 year old native woman, died in the back of a police car on February 1st 2013 in the remote aboriginal community of Kasabonika Lake in Northern Ontario.

10-fevrier

Earlier that night, Anderson’s daughter had been apprehended by a child welfare worker after being found drinking at a party in Kasabonika Lake First Nation, where alcohol is prohibited. Anderson became frantic when she learned the news, to the point where Cst. Jeremy Swanson took her into custody for her own safety.

Since Kasabonika doesn’t have proper holding cells, the standard practice is to hold detainees in the passenger compartment of the police cruiser until they are let go or transported out of town.  Swanson said that he intended to release Anderson once she had “sobered up”.

During his testimony, he recounted how he tried to contact the other officer over the radio but couldn’t get through. Since NAPS uses an old radio system instead of the modern ones that would have allowed him to leave a message to a dispatcher, he had no way of getting assistance without leaving the car.

According to Swanson’s notes, he left Anderson in the car for 16 minutes while he stopped at the door of a local social worker to get her to try to contact an off-duty officer. When he came back, the young woman had hung herself with a drawstring from her pants.

“I checked for a pulse. There was nothing…I tried to yell as loud as I could. No one was coming to help me.”

Swanson cut her down but the conditions made it impossible to “perform CPR efficiently.”

He got the social worker, Tina Nevins, to alert the nursing station that they were coming. Still, nobody was waiting for them outside when they arrived, so Swanson “carried and dragged Lena to the building, and started yelling for help.” Anderson was pronounced dead 45 minutes later.

When Swanson was asked about alternatives for holding detainees in the absence of cells, he said “there should be cells. Otherwise there shouldn’t be police officers, because they can’t do their jobs.”

History repeats itself

On Thursday, the coroner’s council issued 27 recommendations to avoid future incidents. The coroner’s office’s recommendations are not binding, contrarily to the jury’s. They stopped short of endorsing the idea of disbanding the NAPS, advising instead the jury to be careful in how far they take their recommendations.

They largely insisted, however, on the importance of ensuring that First Nations communities have access to the same level of policing and services as other communities.

The inquest into the Kashechewan fire deaths of 2009 brought essentially the same recommendations forward, but they still haven’t been followed.

“Lena Anderson would be alive today,” said NAPS legal councillor Julian Falconer in an interview with a local paper. “She died in 2013, because of the very same problems the jury identified in 2009.”

The NAPS board chair also referred to the failure to follow up on the 2009 recommendations in his emotional testimony: “For me it’s heartbreaking, heartbreaking that we’re still here, we’re still waiting, we’re still trying to make it better.”

First Nations Policing Program Called into Question

As per the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP), aboriginal communities in Canada are either policed by the RCMP or by a self-administered police service.

The Nishnawbe Aski police service is the largest First Nations police force in the country, with over 134 uniformed officers. Those 134 officers are in charge of 35 communities, spreading from Thunder Bay to James Bay.

First Nations administered police forces like NAPS were first instated when the FNPP was created in 1992 and their legal framework has not been updated since then.

They are mostly constituted of micro-sized services mandated to serve remote communities under provincial police regulations. In 24 years, 58 such services were created. Twenty of them were disbanded due to various crisis and failures.  Recent government research found that the diminutive size of these services was a primary cause of their failures.

Metatawabin and Falconer, with Swanson’s lawyer, Mike Maher and the lawyer representing the Anderson family, Christa Big Canoe, all called the entire First Nations policing program into question:

“From the perspective of my client, if they’re not willing to put their money where their mouths are, we just need to fold the whole program.”

* Featured image via netnewsledger.com

The Chilean refugees who arrived in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Montreal, have been a community that has captivated me throughout the past two years. I was therefore ecstatic to have the opportunity to see The Refugee Hotel staged at The Segal Centre. Despite some awkward translation into English and a difficult script to work with, the play is an excellent one that I recommend – particularly after yesterday’s events in the USA.

These brave Chileans who came across the oceans were faced with two choices; the first being to trust that everything would be okay for them in Chile if they kept their heads down, stayed in line, and trusted that the military would “make Chile great again”. The second: to restart their entire lives in a country with a new language, new food, new music, and of course, the omnipresent “Canadian values” (still searching for a definition of those, other than the ability to properly cross-check someone).

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s production of The Refugee Hotel does its sincere best to answer these questions. The script draws from author-and-playwright Carmen Aguirre’s lived experience as the child of Chilean refugees growing up in 1970s Canada. It’s an impressive story made even more poignant by its autobiographical basis.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

This is one of the reasons that it is so frustrating to review this play. Though the premise is admirable, Aguirre’s play shortchanges itself by trying to fit too many facets of the Chilean refugee story, and indeed, the story of human migration, into two short acts.

At the centre of the play are Jorge (Pablo Diconca) and Flaca (Gilda Monreal), a married couple who represent two sides of the resistance movement in Chile. Jorge is something of a milquetoast pacifist anarchist accountant, while his wife is a firebrand Marxist active in the MIR (the Revolutionary Leftist Movement).

Their two children escape with them to a hotel in Canada, where they meet other Chilean refugees subjected to inhuman torture in the Carabineros’ concentration camps. The rest of the play progresses at a slow pace as each rediscovers their humanity and intimacy, one-by-one in a frustratingly perfect way.

By “frustratingly perfect,” I mean that of course the mute girl is coaxed into to talking at the end of the second act, and she falls for the man who talks with her first, and of course they end the play with a freeze-frame photo motif. The play’s unfortunate dives into clichés keep it from developing serious critiques.

Jorge and Flaca’s struggle to be intimate once again despite the horrific sexual torture that the Carabineros inflicted upon her is a topic that is criminally underrepresented in works of art; and even less so is it approached sensitively. An exploration of that theme alone would have made for a powerful and moving production, but Aguirre’s insistence on shoehorning so many important themes into the play means that extraordinarily difficult trauma from torture is treated as nothing more than a plot point. For example, two suicide attempts that happen within two minutes of another are treated as comedic moments.

Moreover, I felt that the repeated flashbacks to scenes of torture in the Estadio Nacional de Chile are not used to explore the characters’ motivations and histories, but rather as punctuation marks for the drama as a whole.

The play is being performed at the Segal Centre, which bills itself as the heart of Montreal’s Anglophone theatre culture. This presents an interesting double-edged sword for the actors in that they are reading from a script originally written in Spanish, for an English-speaking audience in French Canada.

Certain recurring parts of the script (such as the nickname for Jorge, “Little-Big-Bear”) sound awkward in English where they would have made perfect sense in Spanish (“Osito Grande,” better understood as “Teddy Bear”). On a larger scale, the familiar words, particularly “desaparecido,” used to articulate the brutality of the Pinochet regime are lost in translation.

Furthermore, the play misses opportunity to develop a more nuanced comedic character in Bill O’Neill, the enthusiastic Québécois hippie who helps the guests at the Refugee Hotel find work. In the Spanish script, he speaks with comically poor but confident command over Spanish, but in this English adaptation, his dialogue sounds like a 19th-century caricature – “Army me take to stadium. Bad men take Bill!”

Other than awkward phrasing, this makes the characterization of Bill difficult for the audience, as he is repeatedly referred to (kindly) as “the only gringo who speaks Spanish.” In poor translation, Bill’s character shifts from that of a Canadian activist with a sincere wish to improve his Spanish and act in solidarity with Chilean refugees into a buffoon.

This is the part of reviewing that I do not enjoy. The story itself is captivating, and the curation behind the set design and music choices was phenomenal. I just wish that the story was more focused on one or two of these families, instead of a script that leaves several important facets of post-traumatic stress equally unexamined.

All of this is not to say that I did not find the play enjoyable and tastefully performed – in fact, the actors did a stellar job working with an awkward script, and the set direction was simple and elegant. I give a special commendation to the Set Designer, Diana Uribe, who placed the beds of the hotel at an upright 90º angle, which allowed the actors to remain part of the action, while staying true to the stage direction to lie supine.

The music choices, namely the major-key Victor Jara folk ballads that accompanied scenes of horrific torture in the Estadio Nacional may have been shocking to people unfamiliar with Chile’s musical history – but it seems a deliberate nod to the famous Cueca Sola spot produced by the Anti-Pinochet Campaign during the 1989 plebiscite made famous by Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that Victor Jara was tortured to death in the Estadio Nacional, specifically targeted and brutally murdered for his popularity and beliefs.

Speaking with the actor who played Jorge, Pablo Diconca, I learned that many of the cast came into this production with the explicit goal of putting faces to the communities so left behind by history. Diconca is a Uruguayan-born Montrealer who has been an integral part of the local theatre scene since his arrival in Canada at 19:

“I can not ever forget the fact that I have an accent, and I will always have one. This has restricted me as an actor – I have played drug dealers, murderers, and taxi drivers more than I can count,” Pablo told me. “When I came to Canada, I refused these roles out of principle…but with time, I came to realize that acting is my passion, and that by being on stage, this is how one becomes involved in the local culture and community. One must put their heart into acting. It becomes easier when the script is [about] something you already have in your heart. I was invited to be a part of this cast, and I didn’t see how I could turn it down. This is a play that can help to open minds.”

Teesri Duniya’s Artistic Director and co-founder, Rahul Varma, explained to me that he chose to stage this play as a way of “challenging the notion that 9/11 of 2001 divided the world into pre-9/11 and post 9/11…there have been so many other 9/11s, such as the 9/11 of 1973.” Rahul is of course referring to the military coup in Chile that took place on September 11, 1973, where the Chilean Air Force bombed downtown Santiago and assassinated the democratically-elected head of state, Salvador Allende.

refugee-hotel-2

Rahul continued, referencing the current Syrian refugee crisis, “I thought that this play brings certain realities of the past and connects them to what is currently happening.  The idea is to look into what has happened – why is it that refugees are coming to Canada? Why do people leave their homes elsewhere?”

According to their website, Teesri Duniya Theatre “is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre, based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities.” They are an incredibly important part of Montreal’s Arts community and I am thrilled to see that they took it upon themselves to tell the story of an underrepresented and important part of Canada.

As we draw to the closing of this play’s run at the Segal Centre, as well as the dawning of an unprecedented dark cloud over North American immigration politics, it is important to remember the lessons left by Chilean-Canadians’ struggles in and out of their homeland. I salute Teesri Duniya Theatre, The Segal Centre, and the cast and crew of this production for shining a light on the challenges faced by refugees in a sensitive and responsible manner despite an unaccommodating script.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

The Refugee Hotel is playing until Sunday at The Segal Centre (5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine). Tickets available here.

Poster by Rashad Nilamdeen.

Welcome to my nightmare. This can’t be real, weird night to say the least. I keep thinking that I am going to wake up. I can already feel the cold.

The Stock Market is the first to crash.

The House.

The Senate.

down-with-the-ship

As the night went on, and the results came in I began to tear up, I found an old black tutu and fashioned some veils so we could mourn the death of our free world. This is it. Worst case scenario.

Clinton wasn’t the answer clearly, but no, NO! Not this. Nobody is ready for the Halocaust 2.0, WWIII, it’s the plot to a video game or blockbuster flick. I’m ready for the rise of the machines or zombies, a good ol fashioned alien invasion, not this, Back to the Future predicted it, so did The Simpsons, 1984 is 2016, 9/11 and 11/9 are synonymous.

A racist bigot mysoginist narcissist was just elected President of the United States.

So many people fought and died for our collective rights only to jump a million steps back.

trump-parody

I dressed like him, a parody, to show the abject evil of our world. I was hopeful and danced to Loser by Beck,  my alternate song was It’s the End of the World as We Know It by REM. Soon will I live in a world where I am not free to mock him? Not free to express my anger?

Well, what’s new? For a country that was initially founded on the displacement and blatant thievery from Native Americans and then the subsequent enslavement of a whole race of people on top of sexual oppression and obvious lack of education.

The world is not flat. This land is NOT made for you and me. If the bees die, we all die. If we all die, the world will flourish again. Make the world great again with a full wipe out of humanity. The apocalypse has already begun. It’s too late, the cogs are in motion. First David Bowie died, then Prince, now this? Fuck 2016. They beamed up to home base before the shit hit the fan. Another reason why I am never having children.

Is this like a drunk Vegas wedding? Can we get an annulment? Is it that easy to IMPEACH the Cheeto stained antichrist?

I want to fight, life is in the middle of a battlefield, come home, to nothing but wreck and ruins, a poorly styled man, evil to the core, the Big Apple is full of maggots. Trump Tower must burn. The White House is changing to The White Power House, since you know the KKK endorsed candidate has been elected.

OK so stage 1, I cried hysterically. I got my period this morning in one angry clot and just couldn’t handle the results without a veil, shrouded black hole of utter despair. I needed whiskey.

Stage 2, Pure madness. Blind furious rage and energetic super force. Hell hath seen no fury like a woman scorned. Try and grab my pussy motherfucker! Whiskey kicked in (and a Trump supporter walked into the bar).

warrior-feminist

Stage 3, Calming down, realizing that no matter who got voted in we were fucked. The system is corrupt and it’s all just puppetry. I am sober and alone with my cats. My boisterous comrades have retired for a sleep. I must write and make art, I must say something or watch it all burn.

I can’t help but wonder WWBSD? What Would Bernie Sanders Do? My tender hearted socialist Jew. I hate to say that I think he would have had a better chance to get to the “not so intelligent” and obviously hateful majority of our VOTING population. He is a white male, they like that. I loved his politics and kind nature. War and hate is not the answer.

bernie-nodapl

I know a lot of people who opted to forfeit their right to vote in protest. I also know a lot of third party voters and Sanders write ins. This is not their fault! Then I also know a few Trump supporters, it disgusts me, I blame their vile hate and privilege. It all needs to just stop. I am about to blow chunks.

It is sad to say that Americans will vote in this piece of garbage over a woman, who admittedly is qualified, questionable but qualified. It is a pure outrage and I call for immediate impeachment.

Jill Stein you are my girl! Baraka is also awesome. I wish our third party was a viable option.

CAN WE JUST FDR STATUS BARACK OBAMA? THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!!! FOUR MORE YEARS

Canada’s immigration website is down due to the election results, I don’t blame them. We all have to get out before the wall keeps us in forever.

Mass exodus now. Riot in the streets. Anarchy defeats whatever this is.

Food for thought:  Dave Chappelle and Michelle Obama 2020?

MICHELLE/CHAPPELLE for President: Make America Safe Again.

dave_chappell

I need a nap before work.

So this is it. Call it the series finale for American Democracy. Call it The Thrilla with Far Too Much Vanilla. It’s the 2016 US Presidential Election and it will be resolved tonight (in theory).

I’ll never complain about the length of a Canadian campaign again. This site alone has published 21 posts on the subject and spoke about it numerous times on our podcast and most of our readership can’t even vote in US elections.

From the spark of revolutionary Bern in the primaries to the threat of a smug orange mushroom cloud in the general, we have been paying attention. Canadians like me, people around the world, Americans living abroad, some right here in Montreal and of course those living in the 50 states have been closely watching, reading and posting about the developments.

Tonight will be no different. The question becomes, will you be taking in the results alone or with others. In both cases, there are plenty of options:

2016 US Election Results Watch Parties in Montreal

If you want to watch the election results pour in and either celebrate or commiserate with a room full of people, there are a bunch of places in Montreal where you can do just that.

Here are a few:

US Election Results Viewing Party @ Chez Boris: Usually, this Parc Avenue breakfast and lunch place isn’t open much past 7pm. They made an exception during the recent Presidential Debates and it was a success, so they’re doing the same thing for election night.

I like that the place is open specifically for this event, which means those in the room are also only there to watch the election results. They’re promising deep fried oreos, Icelandic-style veggie dogs and hot dogs and an election-themed costume contest and bingo. Details and a rather funny description are available on their event page, and also this, one of my favourite event images so far:

us-elections-hope-progress-pabst-cans

Chez Boris, 5151 Ave du Parc, 7pm – 12:30am

Democrats Abroad Montreal Election Night Party @ Sir Winston Churchill Pub: This is probably not the best place to ironically wear your Make America Great Again hat. Also, probably not the most pro-Jill Stein crowd in town. If, however, you’re waiting with anticipation for Hillary to smash that glass ceiling, this group of people watching the results at Sir Winston’s are very much “with her” as well.

Democrats Abroad Montreal and Democrats Abroad McGill are hosting an election night party, as they did for the debates. If you happen to be looking away from the screen or even outside having a smoke when a state turns blue, don’t worry, the cheers of the crowd will let you know what happened.

Sir Winston Churchill Pub, 1459 Crescent, 6:30pm – midnight

OCSM US Election Pub Night @ Burgundy Lion: The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Montreal has a section of tables reserved at the Burgundy Lion Pub. This is a group that hosts events for Oxford and Cambridge alumni living in Montreal, so it’s sure to offer a much more academic perspective on the vote south of the border

Burgundy Lion, 2496 Notre Dame Ouest, 6:30pm – 3am, Ask for the O&C tables or Martine Verdy. Please RSVP with Professor Gerald Ratzer at gerald.ratzer@mcgill.ca

US Election Night Party @ Groove Nation: If groove is in the heart and politics is in the head, then Groove Nation is putting together a package deal for election night. The venue most known for live shows and dancing will be showing live election results on a giant screen.

According to the event page: “Whether you are for, against, or abstaining, you are welcome to join us for drinks and debates. Whatever happens at the end, at least it will finally be over! We think.” They’ve also got a good image:

us-election-night-groove-nation

Groove Nation, 410 Rachel Est, 6:30pm – 3am

Election Night at Casa : America’s Final Rose Ceremony 2016: Casa del Popolo has probably one of the best names for an election results watching event I’ve seen. It’s also the event which takes into account the psychological effect this election has had on people. They’re offering free community support along with $4.50 pints and $3.50 shots.

DJ Christina Bell will be spinning tunes, the results will be shown on a giant screen and there’s no cover. There are also “no jerks or Trump supporters allowed”.

Casa del Popolo, 4873 Boul St-Laurent, 9pm – 3am

Watch the 2016 US Election Results Online

If you’re not so sure if you can contain your reactions in public or would just prefer take the results in at home alone or with friends, there are options other than mainstream news outlets. Here are a couple:

The Young Turks: I love this team. They’re biased and don’t hold their opinions back. They were pro-Bernie in the primaries, but now their main host and network co-founder Cenk Unger as well as most of the other pundits on the panel plan to vote Hillary, while remaining critical of her. A few are backing Jill Stein. They all hate Trump.

If you’re looking for solid analysis from a progressive perspective, they have it. They also will be reporting the results as soon as they come in. Generally once two of the major outlets predict a winner in a state, they announce it as well.

The Young Turks will be streaming live from 1pm to 1am and possibly longer on YouTube and Facebook.

Democracy Now: Amy Goodman is the paragon of independent journalists. She, along with Juan Gonzalez, will be hosting live election night coverage featuring up-to-the-minute results not only on the race to the White House but also for the US Senate and the US House of Representatives as well as ballot initiatives across the country, including California’s push to legalize recreational weed.

DN is not op-ed, in fact, it’s known for objective journalism. What I love about them, though, is how, through their selection of topics to cover and guests to have on, they present information that rarely gets a hearing outside of progressive circles. I trust them to focus on what’s really important this election as well as the the big stories everyone will be covering.

Democracy Now! will be livestreaming on their site election night from 7pm to midnight.

No matter where you’re watching, here’s hoping you get the results you were looking for. That, and let’s also hope it’s a lot smoother in four years.

* Donald Trump painting in featured image by Samantha Gold. Buy the original on eBay

* Special thanks to my FB friends for helping me assemble this list

Thousands of people lined up on the McGill campus Wednesday night waiting hours for a chance to be part of a videoconference with Edward Snowden.

(No, not the guy from Wikileaks, that’s Julien Assange and the only thing they have in common is an outstanding warrant against them for leaking information that the American government wanted kept secret. Snowden revealed that the government agency he worked for, the NSA, was spying on ordinary people on a scale that is neither legitimate nor legal. Basically, he proved that the US and many other countries, including Canada, engaged in mass surveillance. This means the government collects things like your phone records, your videos, your internet data, regardless of whether you are suspected of criminal activity or not.)

You might have missed the videoconference because you were among the thousands of understandably irritated fans left outside after both auditoriums were filled. Maybe you decided to go home after almost getting trampled for the third time in the line-up. Maybe you stayed home to watch the Cubs win.

We can’t recreate for you the distinct Rock Show feel of the overexcited line of people randomly cheering and periodically lurching forward in a panic to get inside, nor the barely concealed distress of the moderator as the video entirely cut off after random people started joining the video call.

The event did not run smoothly by any stretch of the imagination. Less than half of the people who lined up got inside the building. The conference was more than an hour late and the organizers managed to make the Google hangout public, which let to technical difficulties of frankly comedic proportions.

The fact that AMUSE/PSAC, the association representing 1000 members of support staff (most of them also students) at McGill was on strike and picketing arguably didn’t help matters. They became the prime target of the people’s frustration.

However, Edward Snowden himself came to their defense. He encouraged the people present to “hear them out” and reminded the audience of how hard being a dissident could be.

Mishaps aside, the conference happened and Snowden managed to say a lot of interesting things during it. Here are a few of them.

“Surveillance technologies have outpaced democratic control.”

Mass surveillance was a lesser problem when it wasn’t so easy. Not so long ago, it took a whole team to track one person’s activity. Now it’s the opposite. One lone government official can easily track the activities of many people.

The safeguards against the abuse of this power have not developed as quickly. This means that Intelligence agencies have less accountability than ever, while their powers keep growing thanks to evolving technologies.

“This inverts the traditional dynamic of private citizens and public officials into this brave new world of private officials and public citizens.”

This, Snowden says, is perfectly illustrated by the recent revelations about the SPVM spying on Patrick Lagacé. It was revealed earlier this week that the SPVM and the SQ have put the La Presse reporter and at least six other journalists under surveillance in an effort to discover their confidential sources. Snowden called it a “radical attack on the operations of a free press” and “a threat to the traditional model of our democracy.”

But the actions were authorized by the court. For Snowden, this is a sign that the “law is beginning to fail as a guarantor of our rights.”

Intelligence officials have overtly admitted that they would interpret the word of the law as loosely as they could to fit their interests, regardless of the actual intent of the law. In practice, this translates to using anti-terrorist measures to spy on environmental activists or getting access to a journalist’s internet data through a bill meant to fight cyber-bullying.

 “How do we ensure that we can trust intelligence agencies and officials to operate the law fairly? The answer is we can’t.”

We can’t trust intelligence officials to respect the spirit of the law; in fact, we can’t even trust them to respect the law itself, argued Snowden. Intelligence gathering programs have broken the law more than once, he reminded, often without consequences.

“What we can do,” he continued, “is put processes in place to ensure that we don’t have to.” He believes the key of these processes is an independent judicial authority able to oversee intelligence gathering operations and prosecute them when needed.

Canada actually has the weakest intelligence oversight out of any major western country.”

Now they’re not the most aggressive,” he conceded, “they don’t have the largest scale, but…. no one is really watching.”

The powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) have drastically increased in the last 15 years.  Law C-51, in particular, allows them to decide under any motive – however far-fetched – who constitutes a threat to national security and can thus be spied on. “The current Prime Minister did campaign to reform [C-51] and has failed to do so,” reminded Snowden.

The resources to oversee the CSIS, meanwhile, have decreased. The office of the Inspector General, which used to be a major part of it, was simply cut by Stephen Harper. This left the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) as the sole entity reporting to parliament on intelligence agencies. Its members are politically appointed.

CSIS is not the only intelligence gathering agency. The Canadian Border Security Agency, Global Affairs Canada and the National Defense Department all have the power to infringe on the rights of people, including the right to privacy, in certain circumstances and there is no credible authority overseeing them.

Retired Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence Kurt Jensen pleaded for changing this situation in an article published last January. “Remember the old adage of who will watch the watchers? In Canada the answer is no one,” he wrote.

Since then, the government has started a process to review the oversight of intelligence gathering operations. Public hearings about the matter have started in September. Incidentally, this week, a judge ruled that the CSIS has been unwittingly conducting illegal mass surveillance since 2006.

The conference ended on an inspirational note, with Snowden addressing the students:

“We can have a very dark future or a very bright future but the ultimate determination of which fork in the road we take won’t be my decision, it won’t be the government decision, it will be your generation’s decision.”

Last month, Montreal’s international reputation took a hit thanks to Denis Coderre’s pit bull ban. This was amplified by celebrities speaking out against it. Now, we’ve caught the attention of famed whistleblower Edward Snowden, who tweeted this:

Snowden linked to a Montreal Gazette article about the Montreal Police (SPVM) spying on La Presse journalist Patrick Lagacé’s cellphone. Lagacé had been looking into Escouade, the police task force dealing with street gangs and drugs, and the possibility that they were fabricating evidence.

The SPVM wanted to know who the journalist’s sources were. They asked for and received 24 warrants to monitor Lagacé iPhone, record its metadata and track his GPS location between January and July of this year.

These came out in the investigation into Costa Labos. The former head of Internal Affairs at the SPVM confirmed that they had been spying on Lagacé.

For Snowden, this story serves as a warning for journalists everywhere: if you don’t protect your phone data and GPS location, you may be putting your sources at risk. It’s also an indictment of the fundamental disrespect some police forces have for freedom of the press.

For Montreal, though, it means that once again, we are a shining example to the world of the wrong way to do things. And the ultimate culprit may just be the same one as the pit bull ban, or at least quite close.

As Alex Norris, City Councillor with Official Oppositon party Projet Montreal said in the same Gazette article Snowden tweeted: “We believe that it is inconceivable that an operation this sensitive would not have been approved by Philippe Pichet. If he wasn’t advised of this operation then it means he has lost control of his organization.”

If it goes as high as Pichet, then it’s not that far from the office of the man who appointed him: Mayor Denis Coderre. The sad thing is, spying on police is not out of character for Coderre, either.

For the second time in as many months, Montreal is in the international spotlight. And we don’t look good.

* Featured image of an SPVM officer going through a protester’s bag in July 2015 by Cem Ertekin

A little over a week before the 2016 US Presidential Election and the Hillary Clinton campaign finds itself in the midst of another potentially damaging email scandal. Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to several congressional committee chairs informing them that the bureau learned of the existence of new emails pertinent to the now closed investigation into Clinton’s private email server.

It turns out that they were investigating allegations Anthony Weiner (remember him, Carlos Danger) sexted a fifteen year old girl. They were looking at one of his computers and found emails to and/or from his now ex-wife, current Clinton Campaign co-chairwoman and former State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin.

The emails are related to Abedin’s boss in some way, but Comey won’t say how. He also won’t say if they are potentially damaging or merely irrelevant communications that need to be logged for procedural reasons.

This has, of course, led to speculation that it could shift the result of the election in Donald Trump’s favour as much as it has led to anger at Comey and Weiner (some of the anti-Weiner tweets are actually quite funny). It has proven to be quite the distraction.

I’m not talking about distracting from whatever Donald Trump has been saying or new revelations from his past proving again he is exactly the creep we all thought he was. I mean it has, but that’s not the point.

The biggest Clinton scandal in the past few days isn’t Friday’s letter about emails, it’s what happened Thursday in Brooklyn.

Clinton Silent on Standing Rock

Water protectors from Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation entered her campaign headquarters demanding that Clinton break her silence and speak out against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We are coming directly to Hillary at her headquarters because as the future president, she is going to have to work for us,” Gracey Claymore said, “and we want her to uphold the treaties and her promise to protect unci maka (Mother Earth).”

Line of riot cops at Standing Rock (Screenshot: Atsa E'sha Hoferer/Facebook)
Line of riot cops at Standing Rock (Screenshot: Atsa E’sha Hoferer/Facebook)

Despite the size of the demonstration and the way that Claymore treated a Clinton victory as a foregone conclusion, campaign staff refused to even take a letter the protectors had written to the candidate. Around the same time this was happening in New York, militarized police started moving in on the protectors in North Dakota.

Trying to Keep Things Quiet

In case you haven’t been following this story, and it’s understandable given the mainstream media’s focus on political scandal, the largest convergence of Native American tribes has been happening near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota for months. They are there to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline’s planned route through unceded Sioux territory.

Building this section of the $3.8 billion pipeline would mean destroying sacred burial grounds. It also poses a huge risk to the community’s drinking water (and that of other communities downstream as well, it is the Missouri River, after all) in the event of a spill. And spills happen quite a bit in North Dakota, even when they aren’t reported, as the Associated Press found out.

In early September, Energy Transfer Partners, the firm behind DAPL, used private security to attack water protectors with dogs and pepper spray. Local authorities decided to respond by issuing an arrest warrant for…wait for it…the journalist who broke the story by filming the attack.

Tresspass charges against Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman were dropped in favour of “riot” charges before she was ultimately acquitted. Emmy-winning documentarian Deia Schlosberg may not be so fortunate, as she still faces 45 years in prison for filming a protest.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has also been fighting the pipeline through legal channels. At first they won an injunction, but that was overturned by a Federal Appeals Court.

President Obama did order construction stopped on all federally owned land until environmental impact could be fully assessed, but the results are still weeks away. So with the injunction overturned for now, construction resumed and the protectors decided to move directly in the path of the pipeline instead of just nearby.

Massive Police Escalation

Last Monday there were over 100 arrests and then, on Thursday, local and state police in full riot gear and armored vehicles equipped with sound cannons descended on the protest. They were joined by law enforcement from six other states brought in through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), something that is designed to be used for disaster relief.

Man identified as an agent provocateur by Tribal Law Enforcement at Standing Rock
Man identified as an agent provocateur by Tribal Law Enforcement at Standing Rock (via Facebook)

And just what state of emergency prompted North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple to activate EMAC? Potential loss of revenue by a private pipeline company.

Yes, there were reports of gunfire, but Tribal Law Enforcement apprehended and photographed the man with the rifle and identified, through insurance documents, that he exited a vehicle owned by Dakota Access Pipeline.

Agent Provocateurs, the proverbial oldest trick in the book. But these water protectors have read that book, too and know how to spot people who clearly don’t have the best interests of their community at heart.

Police also used pepper spray and rubber bullets on the peaceful protectors and made 141 arrests. There are now reports that those taken into custody were held in dog kennels, strip searched and had numbers written on their arms.

At least it looks like the water protectors do have some backers. Namely some wild buffalo who decided to pay a visit.

The Big Picture

Let’s put this all in perspective:

  • A company wants to build a pipeline on land that belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
  • The tribe, not wanting their sacred burial sites destroyed and not wanting to drink oil-soaked water (and also not wanting others to drink oil-soaked water) oppose the pipeline and invite other tribes and non-native allies to join them.
  • The company hires private security to attack water protectors with pepper spray and dogs.
  • Local authorities charge journalists for reporting on what happened.
  • The Governor declares a state of emergency and sends in militarized police from his state and other states to stop peaceful protectors.
  • Armed agent provocateurs are used
  • Human beings standing up for everyone’s water are held in dog kennels to protect the profits of a private company.

This is happening now. Silence from Clinton is disturbing and sad. Silence from Trump, well, that’s probably a good thing. The last thing we need is some speech about how he would make “the best pipelines” before digressing to talk of China.

It’s quite unfortunate that the Clinton Campaign is more concerned with a handful of emails than their silence on Standing Rock and DAPL. The real sad thing, though, is that they’re probably doing the politically smart thing.

As long as the electorate is privileged and ignorant enough to care more about emails than the treatment of their fellow human beings and the future of the planet they live on, too and the water they drink, too, what’s happening at Standing Rock won’t be the top story.

It is, though, what’s really being hidden by Hillary’s emails. So this post did deliver on its click-bait and switch headline after all.

« We believe you » : that was the cry chanted again and again at the rally against rape culture in Montreal on Wednesday. Over a thousand people gathered in the Émilie-Gamelin Park around 5:30 pm despite the freezing temperature.

Several people spoke on a small stage before the group marched through Quartier des Spectacles and Place des Arts. The night ended at Club Soda with a mixture of speeches, testimonies and performances by popular and emerging artists.

Similar events took place in Québec, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Chicoutimi and Saguenay.

Denunciation and solidarity

The demonstration was equal parts an act of denunciation and solidarity. Denunciation of the acts of sexual aggression recently exposed by the media and of the subsequent victim-blaming that surfaced.  (“Comparing women to cars? Fuck You Éric Duhaime” read one of the signs.)

It was also a broader denunciation of a culture that claims gender equality as a core principle while routinely allowing – even encouraging-  disrespect of women’s rights to consent and to bodily autonomy.

Just as importantly, the event was a show of solidarity for all women and support for all victims. “We believe you” protesters shouted to Alice Paquet, the young woman who recently went public about Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos raping her. “We believe you” they chanted to the students of Université Laval assaulted last week. “We believe you” they assured the shocking number of women in the park who raised their hands at the question “who here, has ever been sexually assaulted?”

More generous estimates report a crowd of 2000 people. While young adults remained the dominant group, people from all ages, ranging from young families to the elderly, were present. The number of men was not too far below the number of women. Several speakers expressed appreciation for their presence and support.

After various speeches, indigenous singers sent off the crowd with a traditional music number. The march lasted about an hour and a half. It ended with protesters forming a wide circle around Indigenous performers at Place des Arts. At the artists’ insistence, people joined hands and danced to the sound of traditional native songs.

A smaller group continued marching under much closer police supervision.  Protesters mockingly imitated the heavy rhythmic steps often used by riot police as an intimidation tactic and chanted jeering slogans about Bylaw P6 being declared unconstitutional, but the protest remained peaceful. The police stayed as an escort and no major intervention was reported.

Safia Nolin, Queen Ka and other artists on stage

Meanwhile, organizers and many protesters converged on Club Soda for a post-protest show. The event was organized by a group of women from different backgrounds.

Among them were reporter Sue Montgomery, known for starting the trending hashtag #beenrapedneverreported on Twitter, and Tanya Saint-Jean, co-founder of the Montreal collective Je Suis Indestructible, as well as militant authors Natasha Kanapé Fontaine and Léa Clermont-Dion. After their speeches, the crowd was treated to a high quality music shoanti-rape-culture-march-montreal-december-26-2016-2w.

First came the Buffalo Hat Singers, a contemporary Powwow band that provided a nice continuity with the protest’s ambiance. Then followed widely popular female artists Safia Nolin and the Sisters Boulay. They each provided a solid performance of their own before uniting for a song.

Sabrina Halde (Groenland) and Laurence Nerbonne were also featured. Slammer Queen Ka notably delivered a brilliant poem about rape culture that she said she wrote the same morning.

A few artists hinted that they’d had minimal preparation and openly admitted to being nervous, but it didn’t hurt the show. What was missing in sophistication was more than compensated for in authenticity.

Stéphanie Boulay’s spoken text about her personal experience with rape culture and Safia Nolin’s spontaneous anecdote about a driving teacher with wandering hands contributed to a general feeling of intimacy with the public.

The night ended with an open mic.  Anyone who wanted to was invited on stage to share experiences, poems and anything they wanted about rape culture.

“The fight will be intersectional or it will not be”

That’s what the humorous duo Les Brutes said when they introduced the open-mic segment of the show. It was a prevalent theme of the event.

Intersectionality is an academic concept according to which the fight against one type of oppression must intersect with fights against other types of oppression. The failure to integrate this concept in past feminist movements has lead them to focus on the rights of cis, abled, white women.

The organizers of Thursday’s event did their best to address the compounded vulnerability of disabled women, trans women and women of colour.  A special effort was made for the event to be as inclusive as possible.

Both the protest and the show were held in wheelchair accessible places and a sign language interpreter was present at all times. One even masterfully translated the entire performances in Club Soda. Organizers also acknowledged Indigenous issues on several occasions, starting by recognizing they were standing on unsurrendered Mohawk grounds.

That effort was greatly appreciated by two young indigenous women who spoke to FTB after the show.

“I had the impression that there was decent representation, with native presence and Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, who is an excellent  spokesperson, especially for indigenous people,” said the first.

Her friend underlined however, the importance of also having events with native women as a soul focus.

According to Statistics Canada, one out of three women has been assaulted at least once since turning 16. 40% of women with physical handicaps will be assaulted at least once in their life. 75% of indigenous girls will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. A 2014 government report estimated that only 5% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.

It happened. Justin Trudeau has gone from the Selfie Prime Minister to the Photobombing PM. At least that’s what it seemed like yesterday.

He was speaking (and I use that term liberally, he really didn’t get to talk much) at a Youth Labour Forum in Ottawa. Most of the assembled crowd, though, seemed less interested in Trudeau’s platitudes then they were in speaking up on his inaction or potentially wrong action on several fronts.

They were upset over what his signing onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership would mean for their job prospects and the effects of “precarious work” which Trudeau said is now a fact of life. They also challenged Trudeau on his broken election promises, saying “we don’t have dialogue with liars.”

At one point, a group of attendees literally turned their backs on the PM because they felt he had turned his back on them. This led to the image you see at the top where it looks very much like Trudeau is an unwanted part of the photo.

Overall, it hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Trudeau. On Monday, about 200 protesters showed up on Parliament Hill upset with the prospect of our Prime Minister approving the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. Close to 100 of them were arrested.

Last week, just after celebrating one year in office, Trudeau made the argument that the fact that he won the last election meant electoral reform was no longer urgently needed. The irony of this stance wasn’t lost on many, including Hill Times cartoonist Michael De Adder:

trudeau-rigged-system-trump-cartoon

Trudeau Had a Long Honeymoon

Up until a few weeks ago, things had been running real smoothly for our PM. Sure, there were attacks, but most of the ones which garnered major media attention came from the right and were over ridiculous things like him posing for shirtless selfies or progressive things like an MP (who has since passed away) trying to make the lyrics to O Canada gender-neutral.

The only time the NDP made a go at him that garnered mass coverage, it failed. It was supposed to be about his strongarm political tactics, but it ended up being about the physical movements of his actual arm, or elbow, when in Parliament.

That’s not to say there weren’t valid progressive reasons to criticize Trudeau over the past year. This self-proclaimed feminist let the previous Harper Government’s arms sale to Saudi Arabia go through and even relaxed our policy to make it possible.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau Government’s attempts to “modernize” the National Energy Board have amounted to nothing more than committees studying problems with no concrete action. The NEB, of course being the organization that Harper had chosen to evaluate pipeline proposals after abolishing the Environmental Assessment Agency.

So, progressive criticisms of Trudeau, until recently, have been focused on Harper policies that the Liberal Government has been ineffective in getting rid of. Not nearly enough to ruin Trudeau’s mainstream progressive cred at home, given the fact that his government has made some significant improvements on what the previous administration was doing.

It also hasn’t been anywhere close to something that could spoil his rep abroad. I constantly see Facebook friends living in the US and other countries as well as foreign progressive media jealously praising our Prime Minister and wishing he could be their head of state.

I always want to burst the bubble, but then think better of it, because at least his rhetoric is better than what 90% of politicians they have to deal with spout. Fortunately, Jesse Chase wasn’t as cautious when he wrote about Canada and our superstar PM in The Guardian.

While I don’t think Trudeau’s honeymoon with the world will end anytime soon, especially given the nastiness in the US Presidential Election, his sunny ways love-in with progressive Canadians may be about to come to an end. The downfall started when when he clearly stated that a $15/hr minimum wage was not a currrent goal of his administration.

Think about that for a second. This is now part of the official Democratic Party platform in the US. Sure, Bernie Sanders forced the issue and pushed Hillary Clinton in that direction, and there’s no proof that she will actually fight for it if elected. But if a corporate centrist running to be leader of a centre-right country can be cajoled into running on a $15/hr minimum wage, then what business does the self-billed progressive global heartthrob leader of a centre-left country have in rejecting it?

It was a long honeymoon for Trudeau, but is it now really over, or at least ending? Does the Emperor now really have no clothes, and not in a fun shirtless selfie kinda way? Maybe.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Now, I’d like to shift gears and speak directly to our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Take a look around you, sir. The people turning their back (literally) on you and the people being arrested for getting a little too close to your place of business aren’t Conservatives. They aren’t even jaded lefties like me who vote NDP, sometimes while holding our noses because the leader is not progressive enough.

These are your people. People who voted for you in hopes that you would change things. They wanted to get rid of Harper and his rhetoric, which you have done, but, most importantly, they wanted to throw his policies away, too, and you, sir, have failed to do that.

Does your feminism include arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it’s 2016? Are Kinder-Morgan and Harper’s NEB part of your sunny ways? Have you given up on improving the condition of workers in this country? Can you really use your government’s popularity as an excuse to backpedal on electoral reform when that popularity seems to be waning, or rather plummeting, among former ardent supporters?

I’ll admit I was skeptical of you from the start and I’m sad to report that you have justified my skepticism. I’m a lost cause for you, but it’s not too late, though, for you to win back your former voters and live up to the false impression many have of you. It’s not that hard, either.

Just make your policies match your rhetoric and you can continue the honeymoon until the next election. Otherwise, the honeymoon’s over and things are gonna be kinda awkward before they’re downright unpleasant.

Last fall, Justin Trudeau was unequivocal: if he won the elections, he would make sure that it would be the last election to happen under the first-past-the-post system. After exactly one year in office, the Prime Minister is backpedaling.

In an interview with Le Devoir on Thursday, Trudeau was much vaguer on his plans for electoral reform: “We’re going to see what happens at the consultations, the reactions and the results of the reports.”

He pleaded that switching to a more representative system such as Single Transferable Vote or Mixed-Proportional can only be done if the population “is open to it.”

He explained that smaller improvements could be made more easily: “Less support and a small change; that might be acceptable. A bigger change would need more support.”

What constitutes a small or a bigger change? Those questions will be answered through “rigorous and intelligent conversations with Canadians,” according to Trudeau.

A committee mandated by the government is currently conducting consultations through the country about how to make the voting system more representative. A report containing their conclusions and recommendations is awaited on December 1st.

Trudeau is not ready, however, to promise the recommendations will be followed, according to Le Devoir. What sort of proof of popular support does the government need to go forward with a “bigger” electoral reform is not clear either.

“We’re not going to prejudge what is necessary, but when we say a substantial support, it means something,” said Trudeau.

Lack of popular support?

The minister of democratic institutions, Maryam Monsef, has frequently brought up the importance of having the support of the population before going forward with the reform in the last few months. It didn’t seem particularly significant, considering the undisputed popularity of the idea.

After all, the Liberals were counting on on it during their campaign in 2015.  After one year in office, though, they seem a lot less certain.

“Under Mr Harper, there were so many people who were dissatisfied with the government and its approach that people were saying ‘it takes an electoral reform so we’ll stop getting governments we don’t like’. And under the current system, they now have a government with whom they’re more satisfied, so the motivation to change the system is less glaring,” argued Trudeau.

However, a poll conducted by Abacus Data (commissioned by Broadbent Institute) in December showed that Canadians wanted the Liberals to uphold their promise. 83% of respondents thought the way MPs were elected needed at least some changes, with 44% believing it needed either major changes or complete transformation. Unsurprisingly, Quebeckers and supporters of Greens, NDP or Bloc were the most likely to want drastic changes.

In 2015, the Liberals won a majority government with 39% of the vote, just like the Conservatives did in 2011.

It should be noted that all major parties, except the Conservative Party, are in favour of electoral reform. Needless to say, the questions period on Thursday was not an easy one for the Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister said that while he liked the idea of getting rid of our unfair first-past-the post-system, now that he has been able to get elected using that very system, it might not be so bad after all!” summarized Thomas Mulcair, the leader of NDP. He claimed that the desire of Canadians for an electoral reform was clear.

Rhéal Fortin, interim leader of Bloc Québécois, later commented that Trudeau was betraying the trust of the voters. Even Conservatives joined in, accusing the Liberals of self-contradiction.

The government will be conducting public consultations about the electoral reform throughout October.

*Featured image by Adam Scotti

This podcast features panelists Mirna Djukic and Jimmy Zoubris discussing the new NDP back in Québec , Projet Montréal looking for a new leader, Trump’s latest remarks regarding women and more in our News Roundup segment. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Jimmy Zoubris: Projet Montreal VP and Business Owner

Mirna Djukic: FTB News Contributor

 

*NDP Report by Mirna Djukic

*Projet Montréal Report by Hannah Besseau

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Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Remember January 1st 2000? Or December 21st 2012? Those were supposed to be the End Of Days, the Apocalypse. I am no Nostradamus but I have a prediction, a new arbitrary date for the end of the world. November 8, 2016. Civilization as we know it will crumble, only the rich and slithering will survive.

When Chris Wallace (from Fox News), the moderator of the United States Presidental debate last night, said “I am not a potted plant here!” it resonated with me. I feel that way too! I am screaming for it to stop and nobody listens.

Sometimes all of the propaganda really gets to be overwhelming, I feel like my voice is lost in the chaos. Sitting there in a window, someone forgot to water me, and I am not a cactus. I am a dried up succulent, an ancient aloe vera maybe, spiky and sincere.

My tendrils need attention, they are covered in dust. If nourished my insides can heal, my ideas can save the world, a natural combatant of inflammation, squeeze me out on to your wounds, I will kiss them and make it all better. Houseplants bring oxygen and warmth to a room. We need it as the earth is dying because of humanity’s overall greed and lack of conscience.

houseplants

If politics doesn’t kill it I believe this world will end with Terminators Vs Zombies. It is a movie that hasn’t been made yet, but is totally plausible. The rise of machines is taking away jobs (more than immigrants as Donster has complained about).

People are also becoming zombies to technology. It is scary when I am sitting on my laptop in front of the desktop and texting on my cellphone at the same instant. Or a table full of children at the dinner table sit mouth open staring onto their glowing devices instead of having conversations with their family. It is all so in your face, fast and present. technology is bizarre and is turning people into literal zombies.

Now we also have the clowns to deal with. Clowns are taking over the US. Creepy clowns yielding weapons are trying to lure kids into the woods. GREAT!

There are so many things to be terrified of this Halloween season. I am terrified that people are supporting Donald Trump. Currently I am watching shit spew from his stupid, racist, misogynist mouth. It makes me sick when his supporters speak out. I go to the Halloween store and see their faces in mask form. Its absolutely bizarre.

Amy Schumer called Hilary Clinton “Hilldog” when she performed at her birthday dinner. I was a big Bernie Sanders supporter at the time, and not as Gloria Stienam would say “for the boys.” I actually thought he had a good heart, he cared about people and the environment, he was not evil. The current candidates are a “lesser of two evils” scenario.

Falling asleep at the wheel of life, swerving the car and trying to blast the music and open the window of cool air to the face. This government should crash and burn. I am afraid because these are the same idiots that elected George W Bush TWICE!

The people who run the government are the ones you don’t see. All of the candidates and winners are mere puppets. The strings are being pulled by an omniscient secret society, perhaps the Illiminati? But I don’t want to seem crazy. Billionares giving money to these politicians expect something in return, much like a guy buying me a drink and expecting more. I don’t accept drinks for that very reason.

trump-mafia
Photo of Egbert Bickley by John Hickey from the Buffalo News

In a world where some women are not even attractive enough to grope, let alone vote, Trump constantly belittles women, venomously wanting to take away our rights. I am disgusted when I see his supporters, there is a man in South Buffalo, my neighbor, that has his house painted with signs that say Trump Mafia and has a noose hanging on the front lawn. Strange fruit indeed. WTF?

Trying to deal with my own problems and I am bombarded with so much else. I can’t even clean my room, can’t pick up my phone because it’s all bill collectors. I think about all the loves I have lost or never got the chance to love, I contemplate loneliness and the survival of society. Then there are places where they push gays off buildings and kill women.

“If you don’t like what I did you should have changed the laws,” you should have stopped me from being an asshole Trump says, admitting to wrong doing and saying it was HER fault for not stopping him? WHAT?! Blame women. She is rehearsed and he is crude. I want a Native American President. Imagine going back to nature. If I can’t have that, I really want anarchy!

I work at a hostel and was watching the debate with people from around the world. I wanted to hear their perspectives at the idiocracy in front of us.

bubbles and catsSometimes you just need to come home to your house full of cats and beautiful creative roommates and smoke a bowl and drink a tall boy. Purry furry love nuggets – unconditionally waiting, ready to cuddle.

I have always done better with animals than people even. It goes animals, then kids, then old people, then adults, then my peers (I will never see myself as an adult).

wandering plantMy cats are my world. We watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch. A story of the triumph of love and search for self worth in an imperfect world. Punk rock opera perfection, escape from the vicious reality.

Like all humans I have hopes and dreams, I hope the world doesn’t really end on November 8th and I dream of a future filled with constant change.

I yearn to travel, I want to go to Poland and see the blue light up fairy bike path. I want to backpack through Germany. I want to paint in Paris. I want to smoke in Amsterdamn. I want to lounge in Jamaica. I want to paint with Elephants in Thailand. I want to kiss the Blarney Stone. First I need a passport.

If you want to be a painter, paint, if you want to be a musician, make music. If you want to be a politician, be an asshole, be a puppet, be a phoney.

I vote for the houseplants, for the trees and the animals. I vote for the children, for the future. I vote for the good clowns. Since the Apocolypse is Meow there is no time but the present.