Of all of the Orange Racist Misogynist’s cabinet picks, Betsy DeVos is among the most controversial. Nominated as US Secretary of Education, she was incapable of answering basic questions about education during her confirmation hearings and could not even denounce guns in schools because of the alleged threat of bears.

DeVos was confirmed only because Vice President and Religious Fundamentalist Mike Pence was the deciding vote. She is so unpopular that many parents have protested outside schools she’s visited.

It’s time we talk about the government’s role in education, so today we’ll compare Canada to the US.

In Canada education falls strictly to the provinces.

In Quebec, education is the domain of the Ministère de l’Éducation et Enseignment supérieur.

Originally run by a single minister, the department was split in 2016 and the responsibility of running it is now shared between the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports and the Minister Responsible for Higher Education.

The main goals of the Ministère include promoting research and education and contributing to the scientific, cultural and professional education of the people of Quebec. Its main law is the Loi sur le Ministère de L’Éducation, du Loisir, et du Sport, which in its preamble recognizes that all children have the right to an education and that parents have the right to choose where their kids go to school.

The law also includes the recognition that groups have the right to establish their own independent educational establishments and if said establishments serve the common good, they are entitled to governmental support. This recognition has come under fire in recent years as many religious schools have failed to provide basic education to their students in favour of religious teaching useless outside of their communities. In 2014 a former Hasidic Jew attempted to sue the province because he was taught only Torah (the main text in Judaism) at a school in Boisbriand, claiming the government failed to get him the basic education guaranteed by law.

Despite its guarantees, the Ministère’s own laws undermine its goals for it is also charged with the enforcement of the education provisions of the Charte de la Langue Française, Quebec’ main language law. Though the government is supposed to recognize the right of parents to choose where their kids go to school, the Charte imposes strict rules on whether or not a child can get an English education in the province. The Ministry also dictates course material in primary and secondary schools, and advises the government on Education policy.

Then there’s the Ministers themselves.

Quebec’s Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports is Sébastien Proulx, is an experienced politician and lawyer. Notable highlights from his time in office include investing government funds to refurbish arenas and curling clubs and his refusal to push for more extensive changes in a high school history curriculum developed by the former PQ government. The course has been widely criticized for leaving out the contributions of the Anglophone and Allophone Quebecois.

The Minister Responsible for Higher Education is Hélène David, former Culture Minister and University Professor. In light of recent sexual assaults at the University of Laval in Quebec City, she has pledged to fight rape on campus and sponsor initiatives to teach consent.

It should be noted, however, that while she seems to be doing well, her reputation is hardly pristine. As former Minister of Culture she was pushing the signage debate in 2016 when no one wanted to hear it.

As in Canada, education in the United States is primarily a State and community matter. The US Department of Education’s mission is to promote student achievement and ensure equal access to education to prepare them for global competitiveness. The Department, however, can only do so through scholarships, fellowships, and by demanding accountability of its schools through its budget.

The Department of Education’s main activities consist of distributing federal funds for education and monitoring that money. It gives fellowships to individuals for research into disabilities and rehabilitation and offers grants to schools for low income students to fund their education.

In order to keep parents informed and measure student progress, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires annual state wide assessments. This helps keep schools accountable.

Now let’s talk about Betsy DeVos.

Despite her vacant claim about supporting accountability, the Michigan philanthropist seems to be against it.

She is in favour of Charter schools, which are independently run public schools granted a lot of flexibility in how they operate in exchange for high academic accountability. They can apparently be started by anyone who submits an application to the state and have been widely criticized as being sloppy for-profit establishments.

DeVos has no experience in education and neither she nor her children went to public school. What she has is money and the 200 million she donated to the Orange campaign got her this cushy job.

Fortunately, unlike the Canadian model, the US Department of Education has so little power DeVos is unlikely to do much damage.

* Featured image: FreeImagesLive.co.uk via Creative Commons

M-103, the Private Members’ Motion introduced in the House of Commons by Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills, to fight Islamophobia in Canada has sadly and predictably sparked anger and debate. While most of the venom being spewed in comments sections and at rallies comes from Islamophobes afraid they may have to stop hating Muslims in public, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is fighting it in a different way, at least officially.

The CPC’s Religious Freedom Critic David Anderson introduced a counter-motion which doesn’t use the word Islamophobia and instead calls on the government to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”

Looks like this was the kind of “doesn’t sound that bigoted” cover some were waiting for. I’m now seeing arguments on social media that start by asking why Muslims should be singled out for protection. Of course these are made by some of the same types of people who have no problem singling them out for criticism.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly and Iqra Khalid

Generally, a few comments later, or sometimes even in the same paragraph, their cover drops and they show exactly why we need to take Islamophobia seriously. As if the recent Mosque attack in Quebec City, Friday’s “anti-Islam” blockade in Toronto and the threats received by Khalid and Heritage Minister Melanie Joly over this motion weren’t each enough to do just that.

The CPC approach sounds very familiar to that employed by opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and here in Canada as well. Instead of speaking out against police indiscriminately murdering people in communities of colour, some opted to promote the All Lives Matter narrative instead.

Basic deflection. Saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t whereas insisting that people say All Lives Matter instead means that you want everyone to ignore the disproportionate amount of young people of colour being murdered by police. No one counters a Stop Cancer fundraiser by saying All Diseases Matter.

And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Yes, there are hate crimes against other religions, too. Here in Montreal, synagogues get vandalized on a regular basis. Antisemitism is a problem that needs to be dealt with and people are trying to fight it. That doesn’t mean Islamophobia shouldn’t be attacked as well.

When there is a real and present danger to a specific group of people within a society, that danger needs to be admitted, addressed and fought. I’m not sure if a motion in the House of Commons is anywhere near enough to fight Islamophobia, but admitting that it is a problem that needs to be dealt with is essential.

The CPC would stop us from performing even that most basic of civic duties. Meanwhile, some of their leadership candidates are openly campaigning for the Islamophobic vote. It’s two sides of the same coin, like the All Lives Matter crowd and the open racists.

Defending the right of the special snowflakes in their base (two can play at that particular name game) to be bigots is no justification to block fighting Islamophobia. Muslims are a target and no amount of defensive re-wording of language will change that, only action.

* Featured image of David Anderson in the House of Commons

Justin Trudeau was a man on a mission Monday. Canada’s global golden boy came to Washington ready to go head to head with Donald Trump, newly elected US President and international orange pariah.

First, there was the handshake. Trump’s grip and grin style is a classic, though awkwardly applied, power move: yank the unsuspecting fellow world leader in and only let go on your own terms.

Trudeau, a sometimes amateur boxer and full-time media savvy politician, was ready. He bound from the car and immediately grasped Trump’s shoulder, turning the President’s opener into a stalemate:


Then there was the joint press conference. While the focus was clearly on NAFTA and the plans Trump had to renegotiate it, reporters did ask about the infamous (and now officially suspended) travel ban. In particular, they wanted to know how the two leaders would square the circle that is their quite different approaches to refugees.

Trump dodged the issue, like, well Donald Trump. He talked about his Electoral College victory. At least he managed to mention an initiative for women in business without plugging his daughter’s clothing line. He’s, um, learning?

As for Trudeau, well, he spun it like a pro. First he talked about Canada accepting 40 000 Syrian refugees and then finished by saying that “the last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they govern themselves.”

Mission accomplished. At least for Trudeau’s international reputation as a refugee-hugging progressive. He met the beast head on and prevailed. The memes, shared video and pics will attest to that:



As for his claim that a lecture is the last thing Canadians would expect him to bring, well, he’s right. After the NDP tried to get his government to publicly condemn the Trump travel ban, Trudeau dodged and refused. If he wouldn’t step up in the comfort of our Parliament, why would we expect him to in Trump’s home?

That doesn’t mean a good many of us didn’t want him to say something a bit more confrontational. Maybe he could have put the same energy and tact into fighting against arrogant and ignorant discrimination that he did into his photo-op handshake.

Criticizing the travel ban would not be akin to “lecturing another country” either. There are plenty of Americans vocally opposed to the executive order. Thousands of them took to the streets and the airports and quite a few can be found in both the legislative and judicial branches of the US Government and it’s the judicial branch that has the final say in the US, no matter what the President thinks.

But…diplomacy you may argue. Sure, fine, but Trudeau’s agree to disagree approach in the press is hiding a just agree but try not to talk about it one behind the scenes.

The day before Trudeau’s trip to Washington, the CBC reported on Bill C-23, the so-called Pre-Clearance Bill, which would give US Border Control agents the power to detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil and even deny permanent Canadian residents the right to re-enter Canada. While this was, admittedly, originally negotiated by the Harper and Obama administrations, it’s Trudeau’s Liberals who are trying to make it law.

They’re doing so with full knowledge that they will be giving new powers to an agency that didn’t think twice about implementing an illegal, illogical and immoral ban. They’re also doing so in cooperation with an administration run by white supremacists who propagate myths equating refugees with terrorists.

Diplomacy is one thing. This is falling in line with the fascistic tendencies of the Trump Administration. Trudeau won the handshake battle on camera, but in reality, Trump’s power move prevailed.

And then there’s Keystone XL. At least, with this one, it’s something Trudeau has supported all along. He even went to Washington before he was Prime Minister asking President Obama to approve it.

Now, with a new President hell-bent on profit for energy companies regardless of the environmental cost, it looks like he will get his wish. Keystone was a key part of the joint statement the two released.

Coming across as a progressive environmentalist standing next to Donald Trump is easy. Living up to your international reputation here at home in reality, not so much.

I’ll leave it to The Beaverton to sum up the Two Trudeaus in this comedy skit:



He’s not as bad as Trump, nowhere near it. He may be the progressive hero the world needs, but that fiction is not what Canada has.

Yesterday marked a historic occasion. It wasn’t just the meeting of the Canadian Prime Minister and the American President, those things happen all the time. This occasion was historic for no two leaders could be so different.

The American President is an inexperienced physically repulsive fascist classist racist misogynist who is suspected of not only tax evasion and sexual assault but also of high treason against his own country, treason, which most likely led to his current position as leader of the free world.

The Canadian Prime Minister is young, handsome, openly feminist, physically fit, and has made efforts to reconcile white Canadians with its racial and ethnic minorities. Unlike President Agent Orange, Trudeau has political experience and there is no disputing that he won his position somewhat fairly.

People watched on the edge of their seats yesterday as the two of them met.

For Canadian politicians and businessmen, the big concern was North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The Agreement was negotiated between Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, US President George H. W. Bush and President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico. It has recently become a yuge cause of worry because Cheeto Head’s electoral campaign was marked by inflammatory rhetoric branding NAFTA a bad deal that had to be renegotiated for the sake of American workers.

According to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister and de facto Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, updating treaties is routine. On February 8, 2017 she told the CBC that NAFTA has had at least eleven updates since it came into force in January 1994. She also said that if the Americans are looking for a better deal, Canada has every intention of going on the offensive and protecting our national interests.

To everyone’s surprise, yesterday’s meeting went well. People were concerned because of Trump’s talent for bullying other men and many thought that Trudeau’s popularity and good looks would bring that out. It seems, however, that our Prime Minister knows and applied the tactic that works with all vain, self-important wealthy old men: flattery.

Trudeau presented the Orange Narcissist with something he knew he’d love: a picture of himself (with his father). By the end of the meeting the President emphasized that his issues with NAFTA were primarily about Mexico and in a joint statement he and the Prime Minister said that:

“We recognize our profound shared economic interests, and will work tirelessly to provide growth and jobs for both countries.”

This is a far cry from the words of Minister Freeland, so it’s time to look at NAFTA and what it actually says.

The Agreement’s main goal is to eliminate trade barriers and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It contains a lot of rules about intellectual property and different industries but the main issue with NAFTA seems to be regarding tariffs.

Tariffs, also known as customs duties, are taxes that must be paid on a particular class of imports or exports. The practice of imposing them serves to protect products produced domestically and helps to set the prices of certain classes of goods.

Tariffs have become a big issue because NAFTA discourages tariff use and President Agent Orange’s picks for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross Jr, and Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, are in favor of tariffs.

As per NAFTA, no party can increase existing tariffs or adopt new ones on goods produced in a member state. Parties to the Agreement also have to eliminate existing customs duties as per a schedule set in the Agreement but can consult with one another on how to speed up the process thus doing away with tariffs ahead of schedule.

Until the Orange Racist Misogynist’s picks for Commerce Secretary and Trade Representative are confirmed, no re-negotiation of NAFTA can take place. It’s therefore time to look at who these men are.

The President’s pick for Commerce Secretary is billionaire investor Wilbur Ross Jr. He is deeply critical of trade agreements, NAFTA included, and wants to impose a thirty five percent tariff on the goods of companies that send jobs overseas.

Ross is also a hypocrite for as Reuters reported, he is guilty of sending two thousand seven hundred American jobs overseas since 2004. Ross justified the move by claiming he was able to save other jobs in the process, but it nonetheless adds to his questionable reputation.

With the Orange Administration already under suspicion for links to Russian espionage, nominating Ross, who has close financial ties to the Renova Group, a conglomerate closely linked to the Kremlin does not bode well for his chances of confirmation. As Commerce Secretary, he would be responsible for the US Patent and Trade Office, the Census Bureau, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration among others, if confirmed.

Then there’s the pick for US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, a man whose last name sounds like an infomercial fitness product. Unlike Ross, Lighthizer has a lot of political experience, having served as a Reagan Administration Trade Official. He is a skeptic of free trade, advocates for increasing tariffs on imports from competitors, and if confirmed as Trade Representative, will be responsible for negotiating trade agreements and representing the US at the World Trade Organization.

Of the two men, Lighthizer is the one most likely to be confirmed with minimal conflict. It is unlikely, however, that any decisions they make will affect Canada’s obligations as per NAFTA. Canada shares the largest and least defended border with the United States and the US is our greatest trading partner.

With our Prime Minister’s charm, feminism, and message of welcome, tolerance, and inclusiveness, we look like pillars of virtue compared to our neighbors to the South and they know it. So long as Trudeau continues to fluff Cheeto-Head’s fragile ego, we can take comfort in the fact the White House won’t give any trouble, NAFTA or not, if only because standing next to us makes them look a little less awful.

On January 31, 2017 US President Cheeto-Head named Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The nomination fulfills Cheeto-Head’s promise to name a conservative justice “in the mold of Scalia” if elected president (legally or illegally). Since so much of what the Orange Racist Misogynist Tax Evader has done is questionable at best, it is time to take a serious look at the man he has appointed to the highest court in the United States.

Neil Gorsuch is in many ways the embodiment of what conservative Christian Republicans think a judge or politician should be. He is a white middle aged male who Is devoutly Christian, but not Catholic (his family are Episcopalian). He is well spoken, looks good in a suit and tie, and while he and his college sweetheart wife and two kids raise horses, chickens, and goats at their home in Colorado, they are no rednecks.

His family has a history of serving Republican presidents. Gorsuch’s mother, politician and lawyer Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed by former president Ronald Reagan to run the Environmental Protection Agency. For Republican climate-change deniers, Gorsuch Burford was ideal for she slashed the EPA’s budget, cut most clean water regulations from the books, and filled vital positions within the Agency with people from the very industries it was supposed to be checking. The scandals resulting from her actions led to her resignation in 1983.

Gorsuch’s resume is impressive. He is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford. After a couple of clerkships with conservative judges, he worked in private practice at a prestigious law firm in Washington DC for ten years and eventually ended up as a Federal Appelate Judge based in Colorado. At the same time Gorsuch has served as an occasional adjunct law professor at the University of Colorado.

There are also a lot of concerns about Judge Gorsuch.

People are worried that he is anti woman and would choose religious freedoms over people’s right to self determination.

There is a lot of evidence to support this worry.

While at Oxford, Gorsuch studied under Professor John Finnis, an Australian legal scholar who is considered an expert on natural law. After his studies, the Gorsuch and Finnis remained close. This seems harmless, but it’s not when you consider that Gorsuch’s mentor wrote about “the evil of homosexual conduct” in 1994 and has been branded a hatemonger by many.

As a judge, Gorsuch has a history of favoring religious freedoms over people’s right to health care and self determination. In the famous Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases involving for-profit corporations demanding religious exemptions from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act requiring corporate health plans to cover contraceptives for female employees on penalty of fines for refusal, Gorsuch sided with the corporations. In the Little Sisters of the Poor decision, he wrote that it was:

“An issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty … When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”

Though Gorsuch has never decided an abortion case, he did publish a book called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in 2009 and many argue that the views expressed in it could easily transfer to abortion. In his book he says that human life is “fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Whether this view actually extends to abortion remains to be seen, but it has caused enough concern that the National Institute for Reproductive Health has called his appointment “an extension of the Trump administration’s attack on women’s rights,” and Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted on January 31, 2017 that:

Despite his worrisome track record on certain issues, Gorsuch does show promise for two fundamental reasons.

First, he is outspokenly against excessive criminalization. That means that he thinks there are too many criminal laws punishing ordinary behavior on the books.

In 2013 he gave the 13th Annual Barbara K. Olsen Memorial Lecture in which he points out that too many laws violate people’s rights to fair notice to the point that “criminal law comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity.”

Neil Gorsuch’s legal decisions reflect this belief as he often sides with defendants in criminal cases. This bodes well when it comes to issues of race for African Americans and Hispanics are excessively targeted and prosecuted in the United States.

Another reason to hope is because of Gorsuch’s belief in the judiciary’s role in containing the excesses of Executive Power. He is in favor of term limits for elected officials because “men are not angels.”

Though, like Scalia, he believes in interpreting the constitution from the perspective of its authors. This comes with an understanding of the need to enforce the checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches to save the country from abuse by those who govern it.

Though thus far only lower courts have halted the enforcement of abusive and illegal Executive Orders from the Oval Office, Gorsuch’s reputation as a principled jurist against executive excess suggests that he would not hesitate to rule against the White House if he ascended to the Supreme Court.

Though there is hope for the United States, there is also the danger of a deadlock. Democrats are still bitter about the Senate’s refusal to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, who was named to the Supreme Court by Barack Obama. Like Garland, Gorsuch is mostly respected across party lines, so the question remains whether the Senate will do its job this time, or give the Cheeto Administration the silent treatment.

Could it be that simple? Probably not, in all honesty, but it’s worth a shot. Maybe the best way to beat Steve Bannon is to promote him and call him President on TV shows that actual US President Donald Trump watches.

He may no longer tweet about it since officially taking over the Oval Office, but you can bet Trump still watches Saturday Night Live, if only to mutter about it under his breath. If he did this past Saturday, then he saw this very well thought out and, ahem, perfectly cast Cold Open:

It’s important for the President to see this skit for one reason and one reason alone: how it portrays his relationship with his Chief White House Strategist and noted white supremacist hatemonger Steve Bannon.

If Bannon’s Seen as the Alpha Male, Trump May Lose It

It’s become quite apparent that the new President is rather thin-skinned and media obsessed. His Inauguration crowd seems to still dominate his thoughts, as does the fact that he lost the popular vote.

With him, it’s always about being seen as the most popular guy in the room, the boss who can fire who he wants, the guy who can get any woman he wants and get away with doing anything he wants to them. If he felt the need to be the alpha male on a bus with Billy Bush, even to the point of bragging about sexual assault, you can bet he needs to be the big tough alpha in his administration.

If Trump starts to think that people see Bannon as the alpha and not him, then maybe, just maybe, his own insecurities may get the better of him and he’ll fire the former Breitbart boss.

There was already a report in the New York Times that the President was angry he was not fully briefed on his own Executive Order that gave Bannon a permanent seat on the National Security Council. My guess is that Bill O’Reilly or someone on FOX News probably mentioned the unprecedented nature of the move in passing and Trump, who has been known to tweet out policy ideas identical to what the network was talking about an hour earlier, got mad.

Of course, the President denied the report, as only he can:

The way to have any kind of effect on this President isn’t through logical arguments or facts, it’s not by appealing to his sense of responsibility or decency, it’s by showing the bully that he’s really not the toughest kid in the schoolyard.

Bannon Needs to Go

The reason pointing out and mocking Steve Bannon’s control over this President and the country is so easy to do is because it’s also quite true.

Bannon, you see, has a worldview, and a far-right, ultra-nationalist, uber-capitalist, white supremacist, Islamophobic one at that. He sees threats through his own filter, not through facts. Unlike Trump, it’s not about his ego, it’s about what he can do and how quickly he can do it.

In Trump, Bannon has found the perfect vehicle to transform America into the racist hellscape he fantasizes about. Someone who will rule by executive decree without even reading or caring about what those decrees say.

Now, if Trump does fire Bannon, it doesn’t mean that he would turn into a good President or even a less horrific one. After all, it was Bannon’s followers who put Trump over the top and the current President will still feel the need to play to them, but at least there won’t be a far-right true believer pulling his strings anymore.

Steve Bannon has to go. If making his boss realize that he is being played by mocking Bannon’s dominance on TV can make that happen, then it’s up to those on TV (Donald’s not really a reader) to make it happen. If not, there’s always total revolution.

* Featured image: Saturday Night Live screengrab

We might get to hear Kevin O’Leary speak French, after all. The Conservative Party leadership favourite will attend a bilingual debate in the Montreal area on February 13th. O’Leary has so far not spoken a word of French in public, conspicuously announcing his candidacy the morning after the only mandatory French debate.

He and ten others confirmed they will take part in a debate in Pointe-Claire, organized by the local association of Lac–Saint–Louis and Pierrefonds–Dollard. Since it’s not officially set up by the Conservative party of Canada, it is on a voluntary basis. It will start at 7pm at the Holiday Inn. According to CBC, the central themes of the debate will be the economy and national security.

The other implicit theme will be how well can each candidate connect with French-speaking Quebeckers. The French debate on January 17th showcased the cringe-worthy language skills of most conservative candidates. Although the Montreal debate is advertised as bilingual, it is not clear how much of it will be in French or whether all questions will be translated.

Parlez-vous Français?

Despite being a Montreal native, O’Leary has never been fluent in French. When Tout le monde en parle host asked him “Parlez-vous français?” in 2014, he replied: “No I don’t. I left here when I was six years old and I am very ashamed of that. If I had been able to stay longer, I probably could have done it.”

He sang a wildly different tune in more recent interviews. One year ago, he told David Akin, host of Everything is Political on SiriusXM Canada Radio that learning French was not necessary to be Prime Minister. He said he was amused by politicians who thought they could score some points in Quebec by learning French in accelerated classes. “I know what Quebec wants in Canada because that’s where I came from,” he claimed.

He refused to be shamed for blatantly avoiding the French debate, retorting instead that he spoke the language of jobs and economy. On January 18th, he told Global News: “There’s three official languages in Canada: There’s English, there’s French, and there’s the language of jobs.” He added that Trudeau will never be fluent in jobs. He has nonetheless promised to get better at French too.

Ten days later, his campaign associates are very confident about his French skills. “Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure that he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” said O’Leary’s Quebec organizer, Norm Vocino, in an interview with CBC.

His press secretary Ari S. Laskin told FTB that O’Leary has been working on his French on a daily basis for several weeks and that “he will be able to hold his own in a debate against Justin Trudeau.” Laskin assures that “it is a priority for him to be able to engage with the entire country in both national languages.”

He denies that O’Leary has ever been flippant about the importance of French: “I don’t think French wasn’t a priority. He was born in Montreal and has incredibly deep respect for the bilingual culture.”

O’Leary still on top

As to how O’Leary will appeal to the notoriously anti-Tory Montrealers, the language of jobs and economy still seems to be his favourite answer. According to his press secretary, Quebeckers are as tired as the rest of the country of Trudeau’s “platitudes” in that area. “What Mr O’Leary wants is to make sure that we have a strong economy and jobs created on a daily basis,” he said.

O’Leary has been called Canada’s Trump. Like him, he is a Reality TV star with a flourishing financial empire and he is leading the race despite the fact that he has no political experience.

While he doesn’t share Trump’s radical views on immigration and same-sex marriage, he is known for his inflammatory statements. He infamously claimed that the global concentration of wealth in the hands of the few richest people on earth is “fantastic news” and a source of inspiration.

He is currently the top candidate for the leadership of the party with 26% of the votes. His closest competitor, Maxime Bernier, polls at barely 11%.  The leader of the Conservative Party will be elected on May 27th.

* Featured image: screengrab from CTV News

I need to take my place in the revolution.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m Feelin Good”

-Miss Nina Simone

I feel like shit to be honest. What does it matter? The world is about to end. All of the post apocalyptic sci-fi movies are coming to fruition. The evil dictator is in place and the people will rise after the world burns and society as we know it is overthrown.

My heart is overgrown, split ends, over bleached, and arid dry. Like the acid sky, what does it matter if I cry? Again I choose the path of positivity, moving forward, crossing things off the bucket list. I need to do me, right? NO!

It’s Black History month in the darkest time of our current social climate. I want to be there to fight for freedom and acknowledgement of hate, I want to stop the white power bullshit that raised this country to the open levels of bigotry we see today. I can’t even stop my best friend from being racist.

America the beautiful was built on the destruction of Indigenous people and slavery. Immigrants came next, but it started with human bondage, then it was a safe haven, and not much has changed.

It has just gotten worse. Strange fruit and hate fueled power struggles and world poverty. More people care about celebrities and gossip than real world issues or the idea that people and animals are suffering while we live posh lives on the internet.

My people are all Gay, they are Transgender, they are non conforming, they are Native American, they are Black, they are Muslim, they are atheist, they are butch, they are femme, they are anarchists, they are addicted, they are homeless, they are vegan, they are white people who are trying to break the cycle. They are all ages, they are sex workers, they are on food stamps, they pay rent, they don’t get paid enough and work too many hours, and they are all slaves to the system built to fail us.

I sit here with EAT THE RICH written in eye liner on my belly, dreaming of gas masks and pink tear gas. I once painted a version of Marie Antoinette with a gas mask. This is it, our reality is that we have a war to fight, we can’t just let them eat cake! I assure you, nothing about me is fake.

Or is it? I am only human. Human means flawed by nature, and not in a catholic guilt original sin way either. Imperfections make us beautiful. That also means there is a dark to every light. There is a good happening to suppress evil as we sit here contemplating the existence of both.

From this moment, our numbness from over stimulation mass sensory overload outnumbers us. It closes in on us. It interrupts us like shitty commercials. I always knew twitter was creepy. We want a leader not a creepy tweeter was one of my favorite women’s march chants.

I yearn for a silence echoing inside the roots of my strange deepness, a vacant soul on a transient descent. The train has left the yard, next stop salvation.

Why can’t adults just take naps? For me it’s not a nap. I will spend the whole day in bed and waste the light, then go out and party all night. I may not even drink, but usually do.

It’s just a craving for company. Not even in a miserable way, just in more of a we are stronger together way. I need collaboration. I know that I cannot change this world without you.

I should relish in my singledom. I can pick up and go to Mardi Gras if I want, only a 24 hour drive away. I’ve been a temptress for so long, just floating through life without a care in the world. Now it crumbles and I need to stand up.

I tend to zone out and get disconnected from reality for a moment. I watch porn when I should be watching the Young Turks. I scan Facebook when I should be out on the street protesting or having a conversation with the human next to me.

Is it weird that I have dinner with my folks twice a week at age 30? Going to a hockey game with my dad tonight, now tainted because I know the owner of the Buffalo Sabres (Terry Pegula) got his money from FRACKING.

Our Earth and water are more important than any money or sports team. I just want to spend some quality time with my dad. Having a conscience means being conscious about where your money goes.

I want to only be ethical. Other people are having children. I will get a dog. I would have to move, get a new place, buy my own house.

I would love to live in the country. No wifi. No connection to the outside world. I would feel so much more connected to nature and not the devices that rule us all.

I need my furry family, I need a solace, someone to help me fight back but not lose myself in the battle. I want to date a vegan. Musician/artist necessary. Gender/race does not matter.

Think happy thoughts. Painting, riding my tricycle, doing my hair and makeup, dressing in drag, vegan cuisine, letting my friends borrow clothes, smoking bongs, things made out of recycled things, going on adventures with the most down people, nature and natural wonders, waterfalls, art, music, musicians.

I love my kittens. There is a reason why the Egyptians worshipped cats. So cute, cuddly, and protective. I do love life, I know I come from a privilege not known to everyone, and that means I need to step up and stop being greedy.

Things I hate: Coughing so hard from hitting the bong that you pee a little. Getting up to pee and somebody is in the bathroom. When people throw out/waste food. The fact that women make less than men for the same job. The fact that donald trump has been in office for a week and the world burns, pipelines, oil, greed, orange tans.

Sometimes I cry because I have psoriasis or because I am fat. I feel unlovable, like I am hiding behind my smile, head in the clouds, not what I seem, much more deviant, but not sure how.

I am a sensitive artist. What good do my pictures really do? Do my performances matter? Yes! Even if people hate, they can relate. I can be the worst version of humanity (trump drag/Cock Sinclair) or a vision of pure loveliness veiled in makeup and fishnet, bound by a corset and all of society’s expectations, ruled by old men in suits and misguided evil rich women.

I really wanted to write something non political this week but it is all consuming. The ban on immigrants is immoral and disgusting. Pushing forward the Dakota Pipeline is also inhumane and disrespecting mother earth and the indigenous people’s land.

Water IS Life. Not in Flint Michigan or the Buffalo Public Schools, it’s second rate there. This is like the movie/comic Tank Girl. Buffalo’s freshwater is so important for the apocalypse. Great lakes, great spot, like the wet spot on the sheets that Trump had a Russian hooker piss on in the name of freedom.

Dripping in gold or rust you must wake up and shake off the nonsense. Every voice counts. Be heard.

On January 27, 2017 the President of the United States signed an Executive Order, one of his first acts as leader of the free world. Its premise is to protect Americans from the alleged threat of terrorists pretending to be refugees in order to get into the United States.

There has been a lot of discussion about this Order. Some people are calling it a Muslim ban, while others are justifying it as a legitimate and reasonable approach to American security. What no one seems to be doing is actually reading the Order itself.

Whoever wrote the Executive Order deserves a medal for literature. It is subtle and eloquent in a way the man who signed it will never be.

Does it ban Muslims outright?

No.

What the Executive Order does is suspend immigrant and non-immigrant entry into the United States from certain countries “of Particular Concern”.

Refugees from Syria are denied entry until the president says otherwise. People from countries designated by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security as having repeatedly provided support for international terrorism are also banned, but for a period of ninety days.

This list (so far) includes Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Saudi Arabia, which is known for encouraging the extremist Islamic beliefs adopted by terrorists, is suspiciously absent from this list. Whether this is due to the President’s business dealings with the Kingdom or vested American interest in maintaining relations with them is unclear.

The Order also changes the criteria for refugee claims, prioritizing those “made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”.

As most of the refugees are from Muslim-majority countries, most of those seeking safety in the United States are Muslim.

Though the Order says that “the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation”, it does not offer any protection to people fleeing persecution due to gender, sexual orientation, or race. Being a member of a religious minority seems to be the only exception to the ban.

The Order speaks of these new rules as necessary in part to “reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies”. However, it calls for a flurry of security reports to be provided by the Secretary of State, Director of Homeland Security, and the Directors of the FBI and of National Intelligence and says that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can admit individual refugees on a case-by-case basis. All this sounds like MORE of a burden, not less.

Is this Executive Order legal?

Not according to the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. A holdover from the Obama administration, she was asked by the new administration to stay on until the president’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate.

Last night, Yates told the US Department of Justice not to defend the Executive Order in the courts. In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, she said:

“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right…At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

She is not the first to acknowledge the Order as potentially illegal.

On January 28, 2017, a Federal Court in New York presided by Judge Ann Donnelly granted an Emergency Motion of Stay Removal to Hamid Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi who’d risked his life acting as interpreter to the US army during the Iraq war, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, another Iraqi who was en route to reunite with his wife and child in the US. Both were detained at the airport under the Executive Order and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought back.

In her decision, Judge Donnelly said

“The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and others similarly situated violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Many other federal courts have followed suit, granting stays blocking the Executive Order from being enforced.

When you read the US Constitution, something the president has clearly never done, it is easy to understand why the motions were granted.

Article I, Section 9 prohibits laws that single out any particular group for punishment without trial. The Fifth Amendment goes even further, stating that no person should be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”.

As far back as the Second World War, American courts have recognized the danger of Executive Orders like these. In 1944 in Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court said that

“All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect… courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.”

The President has rambled on about the danger of foreign terrorists masquerading as refugees, but neither he nor his administration have presented any numbers to back this up. Instead, he fired Sally Yates for refusing to enforce an Executive Order that is legally unenforceable, leaving his administration without anyone with the legal authority to sign warrants authorizing the surveillance of the foreigners he fears so much.

The reaction of protesters, public officials and the American courts are reasons to hope for all who hate xenophobia, for as comedian Aziz Ansari recently pointed out:

“Change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people.”

If the protests and lawsuits are any indication, change is coming.

In the week since t-bag took over a lot has already changed. The pipeline will chug on, a wall will be constructed, funding for the arts is gone, legal safe abortion is threatened, media block on the EPA to hide climate change, it’s acceptable and legal to discriminate against gays, people in important positions are jumping ship and everyone that trump puts in is more evil than the last.

He is plotting evil as you read this. More and more rights are going to be stripped from us. We must stand up to this. Scientists put the clock one minute closer to impending doom.

Washington DC had a very dystopian feel, it was so foggy that you could not see the penis tip of the Washington Monument. Inauguration Day meant broken glass on the streets of DC. Starbucks, bank, and McDonalds windows smashed like the patriarchy itself. A limo burned.

Protesters were greeted with a wallowing pink smoke, tear gas, mace burned, and ears rang from flash cannons. It was a strange feeling.

Impending doom and the need for empowerment. We all must organize and resist.

The time is right now to make a difference and show the world that this asshole does not represent the silent majority. Riot gear is more than a pink knitted pussy cat hat.

I hope the women in pink hats taking selfies saw this and were changed. Step one is getting off of the internet and out into the streets. Then real change must happen.

People of privilege need to get called out and then call out others like them. I am an a white woman and I carried a vagina sign, I am now ashamed of that, not because I have a vagina, but because not ALL women have them.

I was not marching for white vaginas, I was marching for ALL women. Intersectional feminism requires us to stand up in solidarity for all. When we are inclusive but still blind it actually adds to the problem. Showing up but not listening. Trans women, Non binary humans, Black women, Muslim women, Immigrant women, Disabled women, Single Mothers, Mother Earth, Rape Victims, Sex Workers, and everyone who needs love all deserve to feel safe. All of these humans need to be protected from the evil afoot.

I was upset with all of the Angela Davis quote signs out there and these girls didn’t even know that she was speaking right over to the left of them. She was just a sign that was on the internet.

Too busy taking selfies to actually hear the words written on your sign, too busy celebrating yourself to give a hand to those who need lifting up, and too white washed to see the problem.

It is a privilege to even go to Washington DC and march. Many women cannot just take off of work and go. I was sad that I didn’t get there a day earlier for the big gay rave in front of Daddy Pence’s house.

I will be there in June when the gays march. Rainbows will take over! Can’t stop, won’t stop.

I was disgusted to hear that a group of women that are water protectors on the front line of the Dakota Access Pipeline were treated like pieces of selfie meat. People took photos of them but did not listen about their struggle or even take a pamphlet.

The struggle is real, it is not a hashtag. People are being brutalized and mother earth is being raped for money and power. DO NOT OBJECTIFY THEM for Facebook likes!

The first woman I met was 62, from California. She said to my friends and I that she was here for us and our future. She had been fighting her entire life and would die trying to make this world better.

She inspired me, in her 60s she started climbing mountains because why not? She was sick of society telling her not to do things and told us to always do what we dream and take action.

Life goes by fast, we only have a short time to make things better for the next generation. She was brave and beautiful.

On the flip side an older woman came up to me and told me I was a distraction and that I should be ashamed of myself because I was topless. I told her I respected her as a woman but did not agree.

I am empowered and I wish to inspire others to be the same. There needed to be more breasts out at the woman’s march. This should be a safe place to feel confident about yourself and not hide behind what society wants from you.

Well behaved women seldom make history is a sign I saw and something I agree with wholeheartedly. I will not put my breasts away for you Missy.

The whole event kind of felt like Facebook in real life, censorship and all. I even saw straight up memes printed out on signs. You take the meme from the internet then but it on a sign and take a picture of it, just to post it back on the internet, like a TV within a TV. You cannot carry a sign without carrying the burden of hate.

Signs are all well and good but don’t really mean shit. You need direct actions behind those words.

I was also pretty turned off by the fact that people weren’t even paying attention to both sides of their signs. One protester carried a sign that said FEDEX on the back, both sides are advertising bro, always think of both sides of every sign or argument.

There were llamas there marching too, which is wrong! The poor creatures were scared. Do not abuse an animal for your agenda! This is a protest, think!

I was also turned off by the fact that there were a zillion pussy signs and no toilet paper to be had, so everyone is there with a dirty pussy. The revolution needs more toilet paper and access to tampons etc. I want to be a vag warrior and hand out tp and tampons to all women. Also I will include a zine about inclusion and loving and supporting our transgender sisters.

During the Women’s March two trump (he does not get the capitol T) supporters walked by. One of the men dropped a button with trump’s face on it, then continued walking on.

My friend pulled the button in with her foot and started to stomp it. Within a second it seemed that one of the men came back. He literally pushed my friend to the ground to get her off of the button. I instantly ran to her side and into his face. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You have the audacity to push down a woman at a fucking women’s march?

All of my aggression and screaming did not turn a single head, no woman came to help. The only person who did approach me was an older woman who just kept saying ‘love trumps hate’.

In retrospect I should have fucking nailed him. Getting arrested wearing nothing but rainbow and wielding a rubber fist would have made me a hero. I know that fighting hate with more hate is not the answer, but when he was walking away he said “Nice tits!” THEY ARE NOT FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT!

We need to call people like this out and stand up against violence and oppression. I think every woman needs to start carrying a rape whistle again, so people notice you when you are in trouble.

While the pink hats did get women out, they need to get more involved and know that getting out once is not enough. We all need to criticize our own activism.

Do not question why BLACK LIVES MATTER is being chanted at a women’s march! Do not destroy Mother Earth by littering your signs and hats on the ground. You should be saving those signs to use again for the next rally. Always keep fighting.

Yes we need to fight for our reproductive rights and equality for all in pay and opportunity, but don’t forget about climate change, the fact that water is life, and war is always looming over us too. Global issues affect all humans.

The Women’s March was a worldwide gathering of the goddesses! Women and feminist men took to the streets and spoke out against oppression and hate. It was truly monumental. It must become a movement, it must keep strong.

We must support all of the efforts of our community and work together to prevent a meltdown. I expect to see pink hats at the next Black Lives Matter event, or at the #NODAPL rally, or to fight against Muslim registries or Immigration blocks. This country and world needs all of us to be accountable and brave.

There was a girl on a light post with a megaphone leading chants and giving out info. Someone asked her if she was an organizer, she said “No, someone just gave me a microphone!” BE THAT GIRL! Take charge of the moment and be the change.

I felt like I could become President, that it needed to be one of us and NOT one of them! No more politicians! No more businessmen! We need to be informed, educated, and strong together.

My rubber fist said FILTHY AND PROUD, I will never be silenced. My voice will spark the revolution in harmony with the war cries of a million of my sisters. Daily direct action wins. Nobody can stop us.

* All Photos in this post by Kat Whitefield from the Buffalo Forum and The Voice of Revolution Newspaper

A sea of pink flooded the National Mall in Washington D.C. on January 21st, 2017. Overwhelming chants of, “Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!” and more humorous, “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” were audible from the White House and around the world.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington anticipated 200 000 participants; they got half a million – as many as Woodstock. Too many for the planned march to actually take place.

Globally, as many as 5 million people marched in solidarity with the women of America against the proposed policies of the nascent Trump administration. By some accounts, it was the biggest protest in US history.

Donald Trump has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood and other organizations, both foreign and domestic, that fund and promote women’s reproductive health. He has promised to roll back sex education and promote abstinence; he has normalized sexual violence, demonized members of the LGBTQ community and has thumbed his nose at the gender pay gap. Not to mention all the nasty things he has said about women. What’s next buddy, our right to vote?

However, “Women’s Issues” do not exist in a vacuum, and most issues are women’s. To quote a speaker at the Women’s March, “You want to discuss woman’s issues? So, you want to talk about the economy?”

Our concerns transcend our gender identities. Women’s issues are intersectional, nobody is just a woman and nothing else. Because many of us are immigrants and fear deportation and loss of family, we marched for that, because we are queer, of colour and differently abled, working class and social services users, air breathers, water drinkers and environmental lovers. Because we are mothers, trans, Muslim and atheist, we marched against Trump’s far-reaching promises to harm us all.

It was a beautiful sight to behold. I cried more than twice. A love army composed of privates from all walks of life, shades, creeds and beliefs marching together in solidarity for a brighter and more inclusive future.

This all sounds good, right? Who among the left wouldn’t want a safer and fairer America. Isn’t that what we have all been fighting for after all? Who wouldn’t support a cause dedicated to protecting our fellow sisters and brothers?

There are many valid critiques of the contemporary feminist movement, such as those of the lack of intersectionality i.e. white and ablest feminism, trans-exclusionary feminism, and sex-worker exclusionary feminism, among others. These discussions are welcomed, constructive and necessary for our collective growth. So is the lack of indigenous representation at the march.

However, it seems as if progressive (North) America is still deeply divided along lines that are not so productive and ultimately cannibalizing. A sour flavour of activist shaming is rearing its ugly head from within.

I was disturbed by some comments I saw on my Facebook feed the day of the March. Comments such as: “Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if people protested in the same numbers for clean water on First Nation reserves as when they protest a foreign leader?” and “You can march, you can wear that pink pussy hat you knitted…but here’s the thing: Donald Trump will still be the President of the USA. Today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. So until people start examining the root causes of the problems that led U.S. citizens to this choice, nothing is going to be effective.” Really?

I admit that I am a white woman and carry that privilege. The people I just quoted, though, carry the same white privilege.

Their comments and others like them are nothing other than left on left activist shaming. Bullying. These internal critics seem to believe that there is one right way to be a progressive political activist, their way. Shaming people for actively participating in democracy, for pulling themselves away from Netflix and paying their way to fight for a cause that is important to them, should not be tolerated. These attitudes are counter-productive. They feed division and hurt people who should be your allies.

Nobody can do it all. All we can do as activists is fight as hard as we can. Many of us would like to do it all, (I know I would) but inevitably we are doomed to fall short.

As members of the human species, we suffer from the unconquerable afflictions of limited energy, time and means, so we must prioritize what lights the fire in our bellies. We must decide which causes are important to us.

Whether an injustice affects you personally or indirectly, if you care about it, you go! You do you, as long are you are doing good and not harm, don’t let anyone ever tell you are doing good wrong.

Hilary Clinton was right about one thing; we are stronger together. Unthoughtful and petty shaming of our fellow activists for volunteering their energies to one cause over another only leads to further divisions in an already balkanized left.

I am not proposing that everyone always agree with the nuances or particulars of the tactics used toward a given cause. I am only asking that people stand back and take a good look at the bigger picture and get over their egos. I implore my fellow lefties to ask, what is the end goal, and do I support it? In the case of the Women’s March, the goal is equality for all. Now what kind of progressive cannot get behind that?

* Photos by Amy Santos

This Saturday, our day started at the New Carrollton Metro stop just outside Washington DC. We knew the rally was going to be massive when we saw that the line for metro tickets stretched back several blocks to the ramp off the highway. Luckily we already had purchased our tickets in advance.

When boarding, the train filled well over capacity. New Carrollton being the last stop, we had to pass all the other closer stops with out picking up additional passengers. It reminded me of being home on the NYC L train subway line.

In DC there were people in all directions. It is impossible to explain how full the city felt. The main event with the stage and speakers was actually only a part of the overall event since far less than half of the marchers could actually fit in the space set up for that part of the rally. The crowd stretched back shoulder to shoulder for several blocks behind the main stage despite there not being a speaker system or televisions facing that way to see and hear what was happening.

You may be wondering what it is like to be in the middle of a crowd of 750 000 to a million protestors. The roar of the crowd was deafening at times, a wash of white noise like a furious ocean.

We managed to get to a place with a side view of the stage. Again, everyone was shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot, but even closer now somehow. Any kind of mobility more than a torso turn to the left or right was left to the collective will. Still, no one seemed to panic.

The message was simple and displayed not only in words but action and tone. Being in the middle of that crowd I finally fully realized that this was not a rally of hate or fear of an opposing side. It was the peaceful expression of a growing movement for equality, compassion and understanding. It was a comforting community.

To that point, one of the greatest successes of this Saturday seems to be the unification of so many civil rights factions. In the past six months Donald Trump has become a global symbol for racism, sexism and classism. Though given ample opportunity to, he has done nothing significant to defend himself against any such charges.

Groups like Planned Parenthood, Gathering for Justice, Moms Demand Action, Arab American Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pro-Choice America, ACLU, American Federation of Teachers and too many more to list, now have in Trump one common and paramount threat to rally against. Hearing a near million chant things like “We will not go away, welcome to your first day,” it has become clear that this movement is in for the long haul.

It is important to note that considering the race, economic and gender diversity I witnessed in DC on Saturday, I find it best to think of the Woman’s March not as a woman only movement but more as a movement of full inclusion.

I think California Senator Kamala Harris expressed it perfectly yesterday when she spoke at the rally saying:

“I was elected as the first woman or the first woman of color and folks would come up to me and they would say, Kamala, talk to us about women’s issues and I would look at them and I would say I am so glad you want to talk about the economy. I would say, great, let’s talk about the economy because that is a woman’s issue. I’d say you want to talk about women’s issues, let’s talk about national security. You want to talk about women’s issues, that’s fantastic, let’s talk about health care, education, let’s talk about criminal justice reform, let’s talk about climate change.

We all know the truth. If you are a woman trying to raise a family, you know that a good paying job is a women’s issue. If you are a woman who is an immigrant who does not want her family torn apart, you know that immigration reform is a women’s issue. If you are a woman working off student loans, you know the crushing burden of student debt is a woman’s issue. If you are a black mother trying to raise a son, you know black lives is a woman’s issue. If you are a woman period, you know we deserve a country with equal pay and access to health care, including a safe and legal abortion protected as a fundamental and constitutional right.”

The most important message that I take from this historical event is that even though you may personally believe the issues Senator Kamala Harris mentioned to be self-evident, we no longer live in a world where you can blindly count on them to be preserved. No longer is it enough to casually read blogs and make comments on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope or the like. We need to go out and engage the world.

I urge you to voice your opinion as loud as you can. If you do this you will be heard. Each person came who came to DC this Saturday made sacrifices to be there. They did this out of a great feeling of urgency. Through their individual effort they proved that a million voices speaking a simple and reasonable truth at once can be heard around the world.

I’ll leave you with some inspiring words said at this Saturday’s rally by the great activist and author Angela Davis:

“Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out….The next 1459 days of the Trump administration will be 1459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music….This is just the beginning and in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’”

* Post was edited at 12:54 pm Jan 23. Line removed in section on diversity of the march

On Thursday morning, Françoise David officially announced her immediate resignation both as Gouin’s MNA and as Québec Solidaire’s spokesperson.

At a press conference in her home riding, she explained that she was exhausted from politics, but insisted that her optimism and confidence in her party remain unaltered. “I take this decision with regret, but also with serenity,” she assured.

Although she had implied in September that the next provincial election would probably be her last, her departure mid-mandate comes as a surprise. She will not seek the transition allocation provided to MNAs who cannot finish their mandate.

“Why not hold on until the 2018 general election? It’s simple: I don’t have the strength anymore,” she admitted at the start of her allocation. Although she would have wanted to finish the electoral cycle, she came to the conclusion that she had to quit to avoid a burn-out.

“I know many are disappointed today, but I dare to hope that people will accept this decision, which became unavoidable for me. I also ask them to have confidence in Québec Solidaire for the next steps,” she pleaded. She restated her certainty that others, young, enthusiastic and full of the energy she once had, were ready to pick up the torch.

As for her own future plans, for the time being, they amount to getting some rest, some family time, and reflecting on future actions. “There will most certainly be future actions,” she vowed “I want to continue being useful to society.”

David might be giving up politics, but she is not giving up her fight for a better society: “One thing is clear: I do not intend to keep quiet in the face of injustice, intolerance, sexism, racism and the destruction of the planet.”

The next step

“We won’t replace Françoise, because Françoise is irreplaceable,” declared the president of QS Andres Fontecilla. He conceded that the party will have many challenges to face in the wake of the departure of one of its pillars and co-founders, but also insisted that they were up to it.  “We have the confidence and the ambition to respond to Quebec’s thirst for change,” claimed Fontecilla. Both he and David underlined the successes of the party in recent years.

However, in a very practical sense, QS will have to replace Françoise David. Fellow MNA Manon Massé is currently assuming her role as spokesperson and will be until the party votes for a replacement at their annual congress. They will also have to prepare for the byelections in Gouin, for which the timetable and candidates should be announced shortly. This will be a vital for QS, as they risk losing one of their three seats in the National Assembly.

 

“I didn’t choose the boot, the boot chose me!” – Vermin Supreme

Vermin Supreme is an incredible character, a friendly fascist, a tyrant you can trust. He is an internet meme, a pop culture reference, an incredible performance artist and political symbol of hope.

He is my candidate! I agree with the platform that everyone must brush their teeth, the zombie apocalypse is near, and a pony would be so fun.

I have seen him in the news for years, always thinking who is this man? Running for office in New Hampshire and President of the good ol’ USA. I never in a million years would think I would get to hang out with him.

I knew the Victory Tour was coming to Mohawk Place in Buffalo on its way to Washington DC and figured I would check it out, but then a good friend of mine texted me, saying they needed couches to crash on. As incredible it would be to have THE VERMIN SUPREME on my couch, I hooked them up at the hostel where I work so they would be more comfortable.

I really did not know what to expect from the show. Local activist band The Blood Thirsty Vegans opened the show, then the adorable Rob Potylo sang some politically charged and just plain fun songs (my favorite being Hot Dogs and Apple Sauce) to lead into Vermin Supreme.

He started the show with the Star Spangled Banner done in an experimental noise style with a megaphone. There were a lot of sing-a-longs including a depressing ballad called Psycho Kitty, a song about crabs, and an introduction to Spud Head a baby doll with a matching booted head. He also read some pony erotica from his book I Pony.

I felt like a little girl again clapping along and laughing out loud. The show was a glorious escape from reality, it was art for art’s sake, it was FUN during a dark time. He made me laugh on the edge of the apocalypse.

That is who I want for president, not some asshole who doesn’t know how to smile and never made art in his poor excuse for a life. Fun and love reigns supreme, not hate and violence.

I wish that all politicians remembered how to be kids, remembered that if you run fast enough you can fly. He ran down the icy sidewalk screaming like a madman, I was inspired. Told me a story of him doing the same thing naked and stone sober at a Rainbow Gathering. Everyone thought he was just a spun out hippie, or a wiley homeless man, definitely some kind of uncharted crazy.

Then he puts on the boot and gets asked to take selfies in the hundreds. He was at ROTFL Con and met THE keyboard cat and Scumbag Steve (among others), Grumpy Cat was still a happy kitten then. Vermin has been a performance artist for years, this character just stuck, he became Vermin Supreme, even legally changing his name.

He says that it’s great to be him because he lives life inconspicuously and then puts on the boot for celebrity status. It is amazing that once you do something people notice you. It takes an act of ridiculousness to get people’s attention, then you can give them the 1-2 punch of ideology and compassion.

NYC performance artist Matthew Silver is the only other artist that I have met who has this effect on the art world and people at large, and he is going to be Vermin’s Vice President. I am excited to see them interact with each other. I remember coming across Matthew while in New York during the Occupy Wall Street movement and The Slut Walk, he stood there in his underwear spouting sonnets of love.

He made me smile. I remember watching him get harassed by the police, and he turned it right on, he has the right to do this! Then I knew he was a performance artist and not another lost soul. I was monumentally impressed. The spontaneity, wackiness, and love with these two combined will be off the charts.

I even enjoyed the merch they sold. His tour manager wore a shirt that said “I Love Butt Drugs” which is apparently a real drugstore somewhere in Indiana. They sold wind up penises, embellished ties, glitter tooth brushes, and other random goodies.

All and all I was completely amused and inspired. It was yet another reason for me to truck on to DC this weekend. I will wear my gold glittered Vermin Supreme the dye tie with pride.

All you have to do to be an artist is to make art! Live it! Breath it! Be insane about your art, put your heart and ideals on display and you will connect with the people. As a performance artist I must allow myself to break free. I must allow my naked self to baffle the buffoons, to sparkle in the face of absurdity and the obscene. Nobody can teach you how to be yourself, you are the only one who can brighten your individual light.

Vermin Supreme became an icon when he put the boot on his head because that’s when people listened (and maybe everyone secretly wants a pony). What is my boot?

I am so excited to go to Washington DC this weekend for the Inauguration Protest and The Million Woman March. This is a scary time and we must stand together to face this evil. A tyrant has been appointed by the redneck racists and the Russians, he is putting the 1% in charge and stripping the rights of everyone else in the name of god and profit.

I have been asking myself WHY AM I GOING? Why am I going to Washington DC to protest? Because I simply must! Yes, I wish I would have gone sooner, tried to stop this unstoppable evil, but the only time is right now.

I have never been to my nation’s capitol, and this is the time to go, front row seats to the end of the world. I don’t want the world to burn like at the end of Fight Club, I just want people to love! I want everyone to be safe and have healthcare, be allowed to love and live in peace, put an end to war and oppression, equality for all humans.

Black Lives Do Matter. Immigrants build this country so we must welcome them with open arms. We need safety for our Trans brothers and sisters, support for the mentally ill, homes for the homeless, rehabilitation for the addicted, happiness for the sad, food for everyone, clean air and water, a better environment, and an education system that will encourage and expand young minds.

A pony would be nice too, it would be more environmentally friendly than a car, give us all great companionship and a sense of responsibility and love for another life. Plus ponies are just so darn cute. I would eat carrots with mine all day long, brush her mane, and listen to punk music with her (cuz that’s what she likes). Maybe I will name her Warrior Princess Cherry Rainbow Buttercup Sinclair?

I am going to Washington because while I do recognize that it is important to rise up in your own communities, sometimes you must converge with your comrades and organize to resist! Direct action is the only way to disrupt evil. Reach out a hand and help! Clean something, feed someone, and respect the beautiful diversity of humanity.

Every person in every city needs to stand up and speak out! Even if you voted for Trump you must realize how dumb this is. He is based in pure hate and has no business being in the White House. All of his promises are bullshit.

President Obama received so much criticism, but will go down in history as an eloquent human who made a difference in our world. He is a great father, husband, and humanitarian that helped open the doors for social change.

I am going to Washington to help end racism, hate in all forms, oppression of women, and war. I have been reading about how the Million Women March has not been as inclusive as it should be to women of color, which unfortunately has been a problem with feminism since the first wave.

White female privilege is real. Just because I am a woman does not cancel out the fact that I am white. White women threw black women under the bus when it came to the vote, even making them march at the back of the line!

Similar things are happening with this march. Even the name was appropriated from a march organized by black women in 1997.

We cannot segregate our feminism! That is as demeaning and shitty as T-bag grabbing pussies. ALL PUSSIES ARE EQUAL and deserve respect and a voice! All women need to hold hands and fight back, we are stronger united.

I am getting into a van with a variety of women, some of which I do not know very well, but have been activists their whole lives. Others, like me, are going to their first large scale protest. We all care, we all want change, we are all scared, we are all willing to speak up and be strong for each other.

Of course it is scary. I do not trust the police, I do not trust the military, or the terror of Trumpocalypse, and what he and his scumfuck cronies are going to do with our precious world.

I know that I will have my water bottle half filled with water and the other half filled with milk of magnesia, just in case they pepper spray me. I will have impermeable layers and protective face masks in case of tear gas.

I am not going to Washington to set fires or cause physical destruction. I am going to burn down the evil with my words and artistic presence. I am going to create a better world for the future for the children who already exist (and those yet to come).

I am speaking up while I still can, before all of my rights are stripped, before I am too old or sick to stand tall. I am going now because I must be there. You cannot cower in the face of adversity, you must look it in the eye and smile. You must hand it a flower and give it a hug, you must show evil that there is another way.

Vermin Supreme inspires me because he is out there doing it! He is living proof that the revolution is real and we are allowed to have fun even though the ship is currently sinking.

Laughter saves lives, activism opens eyes, and everyone has an artistic voice. Find your boot, your power source, put it on, and change the fucking world!

In February of 1990, Barack Obama was the first black person elected to head the Harvard Law Review. The presidency of the Review is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

It’s therefore fitting that in his final days as the first black person to hold the highest office in the United States, Barack Obama has gone back to his roots by publishing a piece in the Harvard Law Review. His essay is called The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform and was published on January 5, 2017.

The article is many things. It’s well written and it’s footnoted so you never have any doubts as to where Obama is getting his facts from or whether he’s making them up. It puts faith in you as a reader because there’s never a word wasted. On the other hand it also requires you to do some visual acrobatics because his sources are cited within the text, requiring you to skip over the citations to read the rest of what he’s saying.

His piece is also a little self-aggrandizing, but unlike the incoming president, all the things Obama says are substantiated by facts. He highlights his tackling of racial profiling as a legislator in Illinois and all sources indicate that he did just that.

In 1999 he proposed a bill against racial profiling after hearing that police were pulling over drivers simply for being black. When the bill failed, he revised and reintroduced it over and over again until it passed in 2003, making a point of publicly saying that “race and ethnicity is not an indicator of criminal activity.”

He also mentioned pushing for the videotaping of police interrogations as a requirement for interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. A measure he helped to pass in Illinois.

Chart from the Harvard Law Review essay

As President, he used his power of clemency to pardon or reduce the sentences of 231 people, many of whom had been punished for minor, non-violent drug crimes under tough anti-drug laws. The impact of this gesture is huge, for unlike other pardons, presidential ones wipe away the legal consequences of previous criminal convictions.

Obama hints at his frustrations battling a Republican Congress determined to undermine him during his presidency. Though he successfully passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of crack cocaine thus reducing excessive punishments imposed on people of colour, he had no such luck with the Smarter Sentencing Act.

The Smarter Sentencing Act was a bipartisan – meaning supported by both Democrats and Republicans – bill that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses from twenty years to ten, and given judges greater discretion regarding whether or not to impose said sentences.

Despite support across party lines, many Republicans were skeptical of the bill and it never made it to the floor of Congress. The same happened with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a law that would have reduced more mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and offered credits to prisoners who participate in rehabilitation programs. The Republicans tabled that one to death in November 2015.

Despite Obama’s frustrations with Congress in his attempts to pass progressive criminal justice reform, he constantly highlights his respect and faith in the American people and the rule of law.

In a none-too-subtle warning to the incoming president, Obama writes that the President “does not and should not decide who or what to investigate or prosecute.” He praises red states like Georgia, Texas and Alabama for reducing sentences and investing the money saved on incarceration in other public safety programs that help those affected by mental illness and substance abuse, many of whom had previously ended up in jail.

At the same time Obama highlights all the problems with the American Justice System: the systemic racism, overly harsh penalties for non-violent offenses, the excessive use of solitary confinement, and the economic problems caused by the US’ excessive use of incarceration. He points out that the US incarcerates 25% of its population and that the cost of maintaining so many prisons and the people within it is both “unnecessary and unsustainable.”

Though Democrats are widely accused of being fiscally irresponsible, it’s Republicans that always seem to be pushing for harsher penalties that increase the American prison population, thus straining state and national budgets regardless of whether or not it makes people safer. Obama quotes Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who pointed out in November 2016 that every dollar spent on excessive sentences is “a dollar we don’t have for investigating emerging threats, from hackers to home grown terrorists,” a point that is especially relevant amidst widespread acknowledgement that the Russian government hacked the election to get an orange bigot into office.

Obama’s article reflects his awareness of the higher standard he was constantly being held to. In America people still seem to expect women and visible and sexual minorities and younger people to perform worse than middle aged white men at the same jobs, no matter how despicable and lazy individuals of the latter are.

Though the United States has less unemployment, a decreased federal prison population, and more people with health care due to Obama’s efforts, entitled rich white men are still questioning whether or not he was a good president. Obama clearly knows that he had to be beyond reproach during his time in office and while he did not achieve all he had promised – Guantanamo Bay has yet to be closed, for example – as a president he came pretty close despite all obstacles.

Regardless of what Barack Obama did or did not achieve, the one thing to take from his article is a warning that all the good that he did in his attempt to do right by the American people is in danger of being undone when a racist misogynist Russian puppet takes office on January 20, 2017.

When you look back on 2016, you may think of all the greats we lost like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and, most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds. You may also remember it as the year the UK decided to leave the EU or the year the US decided to leave its senses politically.

No matter how you saw it, though, you have to admit that quite a bit happened. With that in mind, we take a look back at 2016 in the News.

As this post had two authors, parenthetical initials indicate if the section was written by Jason C. McLean (JCM) or Mirna Djukic (MD).

Canadian Politics

2016 was the first year of the post-Harper era and it was an agitated one in federal politics.

Justin Trudeau’s popularity soared for a while, still largely carried by the expectations built during his campaign and his undisputable quality of not being Stephen Harper. To his credit, he did score some significant points in his first months in office by immediately opening the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and rebuilding relationships with our neighbours (which gave us both the most hilarious handshake attempt of all time and the TrudObama Bromance).

One of the first flies in the ointment was the infamous #elbowgate incident in the House of Commons.  Last May, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to escort Conservative Whip Gordon Brown through a cluster of opposition MPs in order to move the procedures along and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. This was perhaps a fairly embarrassing show of temper for the PM, but it degenerated into something out of a Shakespearian comedy in the following days, with Trudeau issuing apology after apology and the opposition throwing words like “molested” around.

Inopportune elbows aside, the Liberals took quite a few steps during the year that caused the public to question how different they really are from their predecessors. Not only did they go through with the $15 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but they also quietly changed the country’s policies about export controls to ensure that they could continue to trade arms with shady regimes with a lot less obstacles.

As the year went on, the government kept up the progressive discourse that got them elected, but too often failed to follow it up with actions. The Prime Minister even blatantly went back on his promise of electoral reform, driving the last nail in the coffin for a good portion of increasingly disgruntled voters.

This year was not any less turbulent for smaller parties.

The NDP was licking its wounds and doing some soul-searching after their grueling 2015 loss. Fortunately, many members signed an open letter recognizing how disastrous their electoral strategy of aiming for the middle ground was and declaring their desire to go back to the unashamedly leftist positions they used to hold

As for the Greens, they started the year as the underdogs who were doing unexpectedly well. The increased attention, though, revealed a world of messy internal struggles. These started when the party voted in favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Leader Elizabeth May disliked this so much that she considered resigning. (MD)

Canadian Pipelines

Indeed, discrepancies between the government’s discourse and their actions accumulated throughout the year. None was more flagrant than their attitude toward pipelines.

The Liberals campaigned on promises to restore the trust of Canadians in the Environmental Assessment Process, “modernize” the National Energy Board and make Canada a leader in the worldwide climate change fight. Trudeau was the first to admit that the current environmental assessment protocols were immensely flawed and he mandated a committee to review them.

While still waiting for their conclusions, though, he had no problem with major projects still being approved by that flawed process. He had no comments when it was revealed that the NEB board members in charge of reviewing Energy East had secretly met with TransCanada lobbyists nor when indigenous resistance against various projects started rising.

If he thought that the population was on his side, or that they would remain passive about it, he was sorely mistaken. In August, the NEB consultations about Energy East were shut down by protesters. Anger and mistrust towards the NEB only grew after that, with environmental groups calling for a complete overhaul.

None of this stopped the government from approving two contentious pipelines in late November. Both Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project and Enbridge’s Line 3 were officially accepted. Fortunately, they did reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, which was set to go through the Great Bear Rain Forest. (MD)

Standing Rock

2016 was the year that saw the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe emerge victorious (for the moment) over big energy and the North Dakota Government.

In July, Energy Transfer Partners got approval for the $3.78 Billion Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the tribe’s only source of drinking water. The plan also saw DAPL cut across sacred burial grounds.

The Standing Rock Sioux challenged this both in court and with water protectors on the front lines. They invited others to stand in solidarity with them and assembled the largest gathering of Native American tribes in decades.

Things came to a head on Labour Day Weekend early September when DAPL sent private corporate security to attack the water protectors with pepper spray and dogs. Democracy Now’s shocking footage of the incident got picked up by major networks and there finally was major media attention, for a while.

As more people joined the camp and solidarity actions, including Facebook Check-Ins from around the world, increased, corporate media interest waned. Meanwhile the Governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple activated the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which brought law enforcement from ten different states to Standing Rock.

With most media focused on the elections, police used tear gas and water cannons on water protectors in freezing temperatures. The US Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction notice demanding the camp be cleared by December 5th and roadblocks went up.

The Sioux Tribe’s infrastructure survived, however, and once 4000 veterans showed up in solidarity, the official stance changed. President Obama’s administration got the Army Corps to change its tune and deny the easement over Lake Oahe, meaning the DAPL will not go through Standing Rock, at least not until the Trump Administration takes office.

While their fight may not be over, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did flip the script in 2016 and was even named FTB’s Person of the Year. (JCM)

Indigenous Issues in Canada

Meanwhile in Canada, indigenous issues did make their way a bit more to the forefront in 2016. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women finally got underway September 1st.

While long overdue, the Inquiry will be independent of the Federal Government and has a budget of $53.86 million to be spent over two years. While overall optimistic, some in Canada’s First Nations communities are concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too broad, making it easy to not investigate police forces and specific cases.

Quebec is considering its own inquiry. It’s needed, especially when you consider that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) treated accusations that its officers were assaulting native women in Val d’Or by going after Radio-Canada and its journalists for reporting on the story and no one else.

Meanwhile, conditions in many First Nations communities continued to deteriorate. An indigenous police force in Ontario even recommended its own disbanding for lack of proper funding. (JCM)

Quebec Politics

Couillard struggling during a TV interview

The provincial government keeps slowly but steadily dropping in the polls. According to a Léger-Le Devoir poll conducted in November, the Liberals hit their lowest approval rating since the 2012 crisis. With only 31% of the intended vote, they are now barely 1% ahead of the PQ.

This is undoubtedly linked to the fact that the real impact of the budget cuts in public services started becoming more apparent. In a memorable interactive interview with Radio-Canada last June, Premier Philippe Couillard was confronted with an onslaught of people suffering from his austerity measures. Some had lost their jobs and others were overwhelmed healthcare workers and angry parents.

The fact that they did reach a budgetary surplus as a result doesn’t seem to have calmed the popular discontent. The shadow of past corruption scandals also remains.

Couillard assured the public that none of the scandals happened under his watch and that his administration is fully committed to fighting corruption. This commitment was, however, brought into question by a recent report which accuses the government of lagging behind on the Charbonneau recommendations.

If the PQ is now breathing down their necks in the polls, it is hardly due to their own accomplishments this year. In fact, the Parti Québécois spent most of 2016 trying to find a new leader after the freshly elected Pierre-Karl Péladeau resigned, citing family reasons. His excuse, standard as it might be, is not very hard to believe, considering he was later found to be stalking his ex-wife and is now in a grim legal battle against his late girlfriend’s ex.

In any case, the party was left in turmoil. It wasn’t long before another of its prominent figures left. Bernard Drainville, champion of the infamous Charte des valeurs, but also a major architect of the party’s policies and democratic reforms, decided it was time to call it quits. In a slightly surreal move, he announced that he was retiring from politics to co-animate Éric Duhaime’s notoriously salacious radio show.

Those who had hoped that his departure would help the PQ move toward a better relationship with minorities and immigrants were disillusioned by the conclusion of the leadership race. Veteran Jean-François Lisée and his divisive views on immigration won by a landslide, while the favorite, Alexandre Cloutier was left in the dust with Martine Ouellet and Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon.

However, let’s not forget that Quebec’s political scene is not limited to the two major parties. In fact, a new player is preparing to enter it before the next election. FTB learned that a provincial NDP is in the works, hoping to provide the voters with a progressive option that doesn’t aim for Quebec’s independence. (MD)

Rape Culture

Rape culture neither started nor ended in 2016, but it did seem to find its way to our newsfeed frighteningly often.

First came the disappointing conclusion of the Gomeshi trial in May. The fact that a celebrity with so much airtime on the CBC and elsewhere had been sexually harassing his colleague for years and committing multiple sexual assaults while his entourage and superiors turned a blind eye was outraging enough on its own. The fact that four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking pretty much ended with a slap on the wrist from the court was worse. It made it very hard to keep pretending that our institutions and our society were not rigged to protect aggressors and silence victims.

Barely a month later, as if to demonstrate the scale of the problem, there was the Brock Turner case. Turner, a 20 year old student athlete at Stanford and a perfect mix of white, male and class privilege, was standing trial for raping a young woman on campus. Caught in the act by other students, he was found guilty. This could have landed him in prison for more than a decade, but he got six months in a county jail (he only served three).

A horrible event brought the discussion about rape culture a lot closer to home for many Quebecers in the fall. Multiple attackers entered the dorms of Université Laval and assaulted several students during one night in October. This sparked a wave of compassion and awareness with province-wide protests.

During a solidarity vigil in Quebec city, a young student named Alice Paquet revealed that she was raped by Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos back in 2012. Despite an onslaught of victim blaming and skepticism, Paquet decided to finally press charges, and her lawsuit is now in front of the Directeur des Poursuites Criminelles et Pénales. The latter will decide if the case goes to court. (MD)

US Presidential Election

Painting by Samantha Gold, buy the original on eBay

For most of the year, politicos everywhere, including here in Canada, were glued to what was transpiring in the US Presidential Election. And for good reason, it was an interesting one, to say the least.

First there was the hope of some real and unexpected change in the form of the political revolution Bernie Sanders was promising. The upstart Vermont senator managed to go from basically nothing to winning 23 states in the Primaries and even got to meet with the Pope, but that wasn’t enough to beat the largest political machine out there  and the Democratic Party establishment’s chosen candidate Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, another upstart candidate, though one of the secretly pro-corporate and openly far-right variety, easily clinched the Republican nomination. With the exception of a bit of plagiarism on opening night and the whole Ted Cruz non-endorsement incident, the GOP Convention was quite unified behind Trump.

The Democratic National Convention was a completely different story. Sanders delegates booed speakers endorsing Clinton and connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even left the room in protest when Clinton officially won the nomination.

The ensuing General Election campaign went back and forth for a few months with each candidate having their ups and downs. Clinton’s health rumours and Wikileaks revelations and Trump’s…well, his being Donald Trump.

Then it looked like it was finally over for the Donald with the release of the Access Hollywood tape. That was the last straw for several prominent members of the Republican establishment. Was the GOP going to implode?

Well, on Election Day, the unthinkable happened. The ideal “pied piper candidate” the Democrats had sought to elevate, because he would be so easy to beat, ended up beating their “inevitable” future President.

The bogeyman came out from under the bed and was elected to office. The joke went from funny to scary. Failed casino owner and third-rate reality star Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote and became President Elect of the United States.

As Trump started building his brand new bubble filled with climate change deniers, corporate execs and white supremacists, the fight against him in the streets started and shows no signs of stopping in 2017. The real question is now: will the Democrats change gear and become a progressive alternative or stay the establishment course that led them to defeat at the hands of an orange carnival barker? (JCM)

Montreal Politics

At least Montreal didn’t spend 2016 electing a frequently cartoonish populist who doesn’t listen to experts. We had already done that back in 2013.

This was the year, though, that our Mayor, Denis Coderre, really started to shine. And by shine I mean make Montreal nationally and even globally famous for some really bad decisions and ideas.

2015 ended with the Mayor dumping untreated sewage right into the river. With that out of the way, 2016 was going to be the year where we planned for our big 375th Anniversary in 2017.

By June there were already approved proposals for really ugly granite fake tree stumps for Mount-Royal and a national anthem for the borough of Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles. How was the city going to pay for all of this? In August a task force gave the Mayor one option: taxes on water consumption and trash collection.

Coderre’s focus was squarely somewhere else in the last half of the year, though. After a 55-year-old woman was killed by a dog in June, Coderre tabled rather extreme Breed-Specific Legislation aimed at pit bulls, despite no initial proof that a pit bull was the culprit (and the later revelation that it absolutely wasn’t).

There were protests and even international condemnation, including that of celebrities like Cyndi Lauper. Coderre would hear none of it, though, even ordering the mic cut on an citizen during a City Council meeting.

When the so-called Pit Bull Ban, officially the Montreal Animal Control Bylaw, became law in September, the proverbial other shoe dropped. People started picking up on some of the other aspects of it, in particular the fines and fees and the fact that it covered other breeds of dog and cats, too.

The SPCA got a temporary injunction on the “dangerous breeds” aspects of the law in early October which was overturned on appeal in December. The bylaw comes into full effect March 31, 2017, at which point the SPCA will no longer deal with stray dogs or accept owner surrenders.

In September, another project met with a legal obstacle. Turns out fines Société de transport de Montréal (STM) security officers were handing out constituted a human rights violation.

While the STM will be appealing the Montreal Municipal Court decision, for now at least, they’re not supposed to be sending out squads of transit cops acting as glorified revenue generators. In practice, though, we’ve heard reports they’re still doing it.

The Montreal Police (SPVM) were also in trouble this year. They were caught spying on at least four journalists in November. Famed whistleblower Edward Snowden even mentioned this story ahead of his livestream talk at McGill University.

What was really surprising was that the SPVM got warrants for this surveillance. What was not surprising at all is how high this probably went. Police Chief Philippe Pichet must have known, and he was handpicked by Mayor Coderre a few years prior.

The Mayor said he stands by his police chief before cancelling an investigation into the matter.

Coderre probably wants Montrealers to forget good chunks of his 2016 and focus instead on 375th celebrations, then vote him back in near the end of the year. The opposition has another idea, though.

Official Opposition party Projet Montreal held its first ever leadership race in fall 2016 culminating in the election of Valérie Plante early December. (JCM)

Black Lives Matter/Police Killings

2016 continued the sad tradition of police murdering innocent people of colour for no good reason and getting away with it (for the most part). The Black Lives Matter movement also continued to speak out against these killings.

There were two such murders in early July very close together, to the point where it was possible to confuse notification of one with the other. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died at the hands of police in different cities in different states within 24 hours of each other.

This prompted solidarity protests across the US. There was also an impromptu BLM sit-in during the Toronto Pride Parade and a couple of Montreal marches which highlighted that racist police violence was not just an American problem.

BLM sit-in during Pride Toronto, photo Hector Vasquez (BlogTO, Creative Commons Licence)

In Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper, not part of the peaceful protest, decided to murder nine police officers, which, of course, became a national tragedy and an excuse for the right wing to incorrectly attack BLM.

In September, following the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted. There were days of protest and the governor declared a state of emergency on the second night.

There is sadly no sign that any of this will change in 2017, especially given the positions of the incoming administration on race and police. (JCM)

Syria

Sadly, this year was marked by the continuing conflict in Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has again been accused of deliberately targeting civilians. The carnage in Aleppo reached new heights as the regime’s forces renewed their assault, driving residents to send their goodbyes over social media.

The Anti-ISIS coalition lead by the US is also responsible for a lot of civilian casualties. Amnesty International and the official opposition of al-Assad even called for a suspension of their airstrikes after they were reported to have killed between 100 and 200 civilians in the region of Manbij over two months.  This number is now confirmed to have surpassed 300, although the US still refuses to acknowledge it.

Local groups have been fighting the rising terrorist factions in Syria, namely the now famous Kurd “women’s protection unit”, also known as YPJ. However, despite their important role, their status with the international community is on shaky ground. One YPJ fighter is currently detained in Denmark under terrorism charges. (MD)


So that’s our look back at 2016 in the news. Here’s hoping for overall more uplifting stories in 2017!