Michelle Blanc won’t win in Mercier and Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Jean-François Lisée knows it. Keeping her on the ballot is all about how removing her would play outside of Montreal.

Mercier, which includes a large chunk of the Plateau and Mile End, is Amir Khadir’s riding, or at least it will be until he is replaced in this year’s Quebec Election (he’s not running again). It’s the first riding Québec Solidaire (QS) won (they took it from the PQ) and it remains a stronghold for them.

The prospect of the PQ reclaiming Mercier from QS was a longshot to begin with, even with Khadir gone. Running Blanc, a trans woman, as the candidate, might have seemed to the PQ brass like a shot in the dark that might just get some progressive voters to flip back to them.

The problem is Blanc turned out to be quite the racist and overall problematic candidate.

In late August, a since deleted tweet from earlier this year surfaced in which Blanc used a racial slur to complain about a Bell customer service agent:

“An employee insists on calling me ‘Sir’ because my voice is masculine. My response, your voice is African and I don’t call you my little (n-word).”

Lisée defended Blanc by arguing that she was a private citizen, not a candidate, when she wrote the tweet and we shouldn’t be judged by our past mistakes. The past, in this case, being six months earlier.

Around the same time, Blanc called philosophy professor and blogger Xavier Camus a pedophile in another tweet after Camus blogged about ties between the PQ and the far right. This time Blanc apologized herself and deleted the tweet after Camus filed a cease and desist order.

Then, a 2007 blog post surfaced in which Blanc complained about members of the Hasidic Jewish community not saying hello to her and wished that they would just “diappear” from her sight. This time there would be no apology from either Blanc or Lisée, instead she offered “no comment” and her party leader started talking about free speech.

So why doesn’t Lisée just drop Blanc as a candidate? Or, at the very least, why doesn’t he urge her to re-think alienating the Hasidic community, which makes up part of the riding she is running to represent?

That would be an easy calculation to make if the PQ’s goal was, in fact, to take back Mercier. While it may have been that originally, now the party’s biggest concern is not alienating voters who agree with Blanc’s bigoted statements in ridings where the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is poised to win.

The PQ, over the past ten years at least, has really had two bases: progressive sovereignists in Montreal and Quebec City and right-leaning nationalists everywhere else. For the most part, they have managed to play to both of them, with a few notable exceptions like André Boisclair losing the right and Pauline Marois losing the left with her Charter debacle.

Now, a chief architect of the Charter is heading the party, looking at poll numbers and calculating that the only way the PQ can remain relevant is to give up on winning in Montreal and hope the right-leaning part of its base doesn’t think the party has turned its back on them. Keeping Blanc on the ticket in Mercier is a sure way to show them that they haven’t abandoned the bigots.

Blanc won’t re-take Mercier and Lisée may even lose his seat in Rosemont, but that doesn’t really matter to the PQ now

Protest self serving so called feminists and end cultural appropriation NOW!

“My feminism will be intersectional or it is bullshit.” One of my favorite quotes from feminist blogger Flavia Dzodan in Tiger Beatdown. Her words were on many signs as well as the stolen beautiful feminist words from other people of color. The people carrying them do not even know her fucking name. Come on girls, we are better than this!

This brought me back to last year when I asked a girl about her sign at the Women’s March on DC. I was carrying the same sign, she got the idea from Pinterest. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept!” She had no idea that her sign was actually a quote from Angela Davis, who was a feminist leader in the black panther movement, and that she was speaking THAT DAY at the historic march.

This one line from Flavia’s essay has been taken like many other appropriated work and put on t-shits and all kinds of marketing materials. She has not profited from them one bit. This is why we must listen to her!

People of color, especially women and transgender people have their work and words stolen all the time. That’s why they have been erased from history. That shit needs to stop! Fuck racism and capitalism. I am so over people stealing and appropriating everything. Just be original! Its easier to lift up others and celebrate their accomplishments than to demean them by ripping them off.

Let’s keep each other in check! Call girls out who are misguided. I wanted to grab a mic or a megaphone and turn this whole thing into a protest against shitty whitewashed feminism. We need to celebrate diversity and stop thinking about only the things that affect people of our skin tone and socioeconomic status.

I am a white woman and white feminism has historically pissed me off. Even from the time of the early suffragettes there has been a major disconnect. They sold black women down the river instead of fighting for equal rights for all humans. We need to fight for all humans, the rights of animals, and the earth!

If you don’t care about all of it you don’t care about any of it. Being an activist that doesn’t stand up for people who don’t look exactly like them is wrong and not activism, it is self serving. You can’t only fight for things that directly affect your life. There are so many more people who need your efforts! We need to hold each other up or we will crumble together in the rubble of this shithole time in history.

I march with my sisters not just my cisters, I march because I have feet and a voice, it felt like less this year. Sure, I was in Buffalo NY and not Washinton DC, but the entire vibe was less electric.

Trump has been in office for an entire calendar year and only bad has come of it. Same pink pussy hats, same fight. Again I noticed a large amount of white women carrying signs and taking selfies.

What exactly are we doing? I love bringing strong people out into the streets in masses. They need to have a message and know that the cops are not their friends. I see the police standing around the perimeters with their hands on their guns/dicks. Like this is a threat?

Grandmas and kids in pink knitted hats. I think it is important to have events like this that are accessible and low risk for all people, including children, the elderly, and differently abled folks.

One of my friends hurt her leg and she still made it! She was pushed in a wheelchair by comrades while carrying a red and black flag. It was a sight of pure loveliness. I am always the one who will drive all over town to pick up my friends for marches and protests.

Some things were incredible, but others were the same. I was again disappointed but not surprised by the mans-plaining and amount of cis gendered men that took the microphone in general. Just give us the women and trans humans!

Let us hear the voice of those fighting with us! Let our peers speak! It is the mother fucking women’s march and there is a man telling us to speak into the microphone. Shut up and let our voices be heard!

The day was sunny, cold, but nice. Thousands of women and those in solidarity took back the streets on a Sunday.

This year I did not even bring a sign. I marched for the first time with a partner, I held her hand as we navigated the crowd. It felt powerful to be holding my head high with someone I care about.

I saw a sign that said “If Hilary won we would be at brunch right now!” That made me sad, we need to march no matter who wins.

Hilary would have obviously been better than T-bag cheeto douche but she was not the answer. I don’t know who is the answer.

Maybe it’s Oprah, but probably not. It is some little kid who knows no evil. The hope of the world lies in our children.

The most magical moment of the day was when I saw a very little girl go up to her mom and say “I want to take this sign to show and tell.” It’s beautiful to think that activism has been activated in this child already. Hopefully she will look around at all the strong women and feel empowered to rise up. Good parenting right there.

I asked my mom to come and she said no, she wanted to watch football. I was disappointed. I would love to march with my mother by my side. I am so proud to be her daughter and wish she would feel the need to speak up.

I was upset when she felt like it didn’t matter. She burned her bra in the 70’s and now she won’t even take a walk on a Sunday.

Activists need to remain in practice always. We can’t give up the fight! We must stay active and be present forever.

It feels so good to be with a ton of powerful people, make plans, corroborate, say it out loud that we need to do this more often. Sure, you can wear the pink pussy hat again, but remember it’s not armor. We need to band together every damn day! It can’t be once a year.

Of course I think there are more direct ways to enact positive change then march. Peaceful protests in the way of work strikes, freeing animals from cages, being vegan, feeding people with food that would have been waste, shutting down streets with comrades, using eco glitter to glitter bomb terrible politicians, and participating in sit ins are all way more active ways to speak your mind and get shit done.

We all need to write blogs, write to the editor of your paper, make a zine, do anything to say how you feel and use your voice and talents for good! Please be original and real. You can and will change the world!

Think about others, spread kindness, be pissed off and lift up those that the rest of the world steps on. Be like the little girl who took her sign to show and tell, but this time you should show up and YELL!

Panelists Ron Roxtar and Tanu Oberoi discuss this year’s Just for Laughs Festival and several news items in the News Roundup segment with host Jason C. McLean, plus an interview with NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Charlottesville, North Korea, Canadian media companies focusing on old models to their detriment, refugees in Montreal

Panelists:

Ron Roxtar: Entertainment journalist

Tanu Oberoi: Web designer, musician

Laurence Tenenbaum: FTB co-founder

Host: Jason C. McLean

Produced by Hannah Besseau

Niki Ashton interview by Jason C. McLean, recorded and edited by Hannah Besseau

Ron’s source which Jason asked for is the CBSA Union quoted in a CBC report. The report says that CBSA has not confirmed their union’s number

Recorded Sunday, August 13, 2017

LISTEN:

* Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Just when you thought you had heard the last of xenophobia and hate driving mainstream Quebec politics, they’re back! Or rather, they never left.

I’m well aware that the vicious undercurrent of bigotry in Quebec has only gotten bolder in the past year. There was the attack on the Mosque in Ste-Foy, then there was that Front National copycat poster that went up during the Gouin by-election. Just last week, local members of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant group La Meute were spotted marching with neo-Nazis and the Klan in Charlotteville and now a former organizer of the xenophobic group PEDIGA is looking to start a far-right political party.

When it comes to major Quebec political parties (ones that actually have a chance of being elected), though, it really looked like we were finally beyond hate and fearmongering for votes. After all, electoral Islamophobia had failed twice at the ballot box: there was the electoral disaster the Charter of Quebec Values brought to the PQ and the Bloc’s failed attempt to use Harper’s opposition to the niqab as a wedge issue – sure, it did knock down the NDP, but it helped Justin Trudeau sail to a majority government.

While it’s likely the PQ under the leadership of Charter architect Jean-François Lisée may try a re-branded version of the failed legislation come election time, that would really be an act of desperation. It looks, though, like the party that won a majority in 2014 largely by opposing Pauline Marois on the Charter now plans to one-up her with much more restrictive bigoted legislation.

The Charter on Steroids

In 2015, Philippe Couillard’s Liberals tabled Bill 62, the so-called “religious neutrality bill” which banned people providing government services and those receiving them from covering their faces. It didn’t go as far as the PQ’s Charter in that it focused on one religious symbol, the Niqab or Burqa, and had a limited scope in its application.

That scope may be getting wider if the Liberals have their way. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée wants it to apply to municipalities, metropolitan communities, the National Assembly and public transit organizations and proposed amendments to the bill last Tuesday to make that a reality.

One of the places the Liberals want to ban the burqa (image: Jason C. McLean)

The most jarring aspect is, of course, extending it to public transit. Think about that for a moment:

Not only is being asked to remove a face covering for the duration of a trip on the bus or metro a humiliating experience, it is also something that may very well deny access to public transit to people who need it. Forcing someone to choose between their faith and an essential service that many who live in a city need is just plain wrong.

It is discrimination that serves no valid purpose whatsoever, unless you count getting votes from clueless bigots as a valid purpose.

I have rode on the metro with a woman in a burqa in the next seat several times. It didn’t bother me in the slightest. Just fellow passengers dressed differently than I was. There are frequently people on my commute wearing various religious garb and it is just a part of life here in Montreal. I’m more concerned about the creeps and assholes whose faces are uncovered along with their shitty demeanor.

But, of course, this legislation isn’t designed to appeal to me or my fellow Montrealers. It’s designed to get votes from people in rural ridings, many of whom have never rode public transit with someone wearing a hijab, never mind a burqa, in their lives. Them and a handful of suburbanites and maybe a few big city bigots whose intolerance supersedes their daily experience.

While I rarely give props to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, on this one I have to. He has announced plans to use the city’s status as a metropolis to not implement the amendments if they pass. I’m pretty sure Projet Montreal would do the same if they were in power.

Regis Labeaume’s False Equivalence

The Mayor of Quebec City, however, seems perfectly content fanning the flames of intolerance.

While Régis Labeaume did say that La Meute was not welcome back to the city he governs after last weekend’s protest, he extended the same sentiments to those who showed up to oppose the hate group’s public display of bigotry and intolerance.

La Meute marching in Quebec City (image: CBC)

If you think that sounds a little too close to a certain Nazi-sympathizing American politician’s much maligned comment about hate and violence existing on “all sides” in Charlottesville, you’re not alone. Jaggi Singh was in Quebec as a participant, not an organizer, but that didn’t stop Labeaume from using “la gang à Singh” as a descriptor for those protesting La Meute.

Singh responded in a Facebook statement which has since been republished by several media outlets. Here’s a excerpt:

“Mayor Labeaume, like Donald Trump, is claiming equivalency between anti-racists — and the varied tactics and strategies we use — and the racist far-right. His false equivalency, like Donald Trump’s after Charlottesville, is absurd. With his comments today, Mayor Labeaume is essentially pandering to racists in Quebec City, repeating a disgusting tactic he has used since he’s been a public figure.

More generally, Mayor Labeaume is replicating the rhetoric of the racist far-right by essentially telling people to “go back to where you came from”. This is the main talking point of far-right anti-immigrant groups, including the racists of La Meute, the Storm Alliance, and Soldiers of Odin, all of whom have a strong presence in Mayor Labeaume’s Quebec City.”

It’s not just a moral false equivalence, though, but a numerical one as well. The counter-protesters clearly outnumbered the La Meute gang, who hid in a parking garage for a good portion of the protest protected by police.

That didn’t stop Labeaume from saying that La Meute had won the popularity contest. Putting aside for a minute the fact that they clearly didn’t, to frame a conflict between hatemongers and those opposed to racism and fascism as a popularity contest shows a clear lack of…oh screw it, the guy’s a grade-A asshole Trump-wannabe who at best panders to racists and doesn’t care about it and at worst is one himself.

Quebec bigots, for the most part, may not be so obvious as to carry around swastika flags like their American counterparts, but they are just as hate-filled and virulent and their mainstream political apologists and supporters like Couillard, Lisée and Labeaume are all too happy to pander for their votes.

La plus ca change…

WTF? Seriously, why are people creepy and evil? It is just a stream of murder and hate, a world in disarray. It has always been this way.

Young girls are constantly being objectified and used. Transgender and non binary humans live life in fear. Kids, especially black kids and other people of color, can’t walk down the street without being shot at or abducted.

“Its Death for no reason, and death for no reason is murder.”

– Morrissey

White supremacists with guns and torches are running people over in cars while a hate monger rules supreme. Mother earth is a woman in pain. Hunger is rampant and we are not allowed to be poor in public spaces.

There is no access to anything that is vital. I don’t have healthcare. Food deserts in the poorest neighborhoods. Oh yea, what about emininant war and nuclear holocaust? Heil Trump?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!? NO! I have the words “FUCK NAZIS” written on my stomach from my last show. Hate has no place here.

The KKK took my baby away is now more ironic than it should be. I come from a place of privilege, I have always had food and access to education. I recently lost someone who was like a sister to me because of her racist views. We came from the same neighborhood, the East side of Buffalo.

This is devastating. I cannot be friends with someone who posts 14 Words on their Instagram. NO! Hate like this is disgusting and horrifying. You should be ashamed of yourself.

I am most sad that your children are going to be raised in hate, that isn’t fair, children are born to love and shine. I only wish that I can be a positive influence on them someday. I hope that you change, this is no way to exist. I will not go to a Black Lives Matter rally and then to a white supremacist’s birthday party.

Love is the revolution. Fighting for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity right? I don’t know what to do. I want to share vegan food with my friends, I want to pet my cats, I want to write poems, I want to make art.

I need to do all of these things with intention. Everything must be with a message, it all is political, art is life or death. We must all RISE UP together and stop this constant trend towards hate. We cannot be afraid. Together we are indestructible and that is the real wall, we will bind together in a rainbow of goodness and peace, love and pure connection, not color blindness but a celebration of diversity. I would not be me without you being you.

Stop being creepy, ask consent for everything, if she is too drunk let her sleep. Dance naked. Ride bikes naked. Recycle. Listen. Think. Sleep with musicians. Speak up. Write poetry, write your politicians, burn down the system. Ask people what their preferred pronouns are. Take into considerations other people’s cultures before you pass judgement. Kiss a dog. Plant a seed. Love uncontrollably, spread kindness not disease, bask in the joy that is being alive in this particular time and place. Make a difference. Stand up for others! When people need a friend it has to be you. This is no time to be lazy, we are all in danger. I love you, I will always love you. Don’t forget that.

* This title is a quote from my friend Valerie (photo above). She said it as I was writing this blog and I found it appropriate. She gives me hope.

Imagine for a moment, there is a terrorist attack based on ethnic hatred that took place in the heart of America. Now imagine that the President of the United States went on TV and said the victims are just as much to blame as the terrorists. Well, that happened yesterday.

To recap, there was a so-called “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia which ended up being a unite fans of the Confederacy with the KKK and neo-Nazis. I’m not exaggerating. There were flags with swastikas on them. There were Hitler quotes on t-shirts. David Duke was there. And this followed a nighttime march where they carried tiki torches and chanted Nazi slogans.

There was also a counter-protest made up of people from groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter and some who just didn’t think those proud of their racism and hatred should go unchallenged. If hatemongers can use free speech to defend their ignorant, white supremacist views then it’s good that some people are there to point out that this is, in fact, hate speech and fight it.

Then someone rammed a car into the counter protest, killing one and injuring many. If ramming a car into people on foot is terrorism when an Islamic extremist does it in London, then it clearly is terrorism when a white supremacist does it in Virginia.

Eventually Donald Trump, current President of the United States, made a statement:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”

Um, wait, what? The hatred and bigotry were clearly only on one side in Charlottesville (hint: it’s the people carrying the swastika flags, not those opposing them). The violence, in the form of mowing down people with a car, was only on that side, too.

Groups against race-based police assassination of innocent people and groups opposed to fascism in all of its forms, new and old, are not hate groups, they are defenders of human rights. Nazis, the Klan and their associates are hatemongers and a threat.

That is a simple concept that shouldn’t need someone murdering people with a car to prove. But now, even with a white supremacist terrorist attack, the President is still on the fence.

Things couldn’t be clearer. I’m all for nuance, but this time it’s black and white. The guys with the swastika flags, they’re the bad guys. Those with the confederate flags, they’re associates of the bad guys. If you can’t see this, you are either truly ignorant or so obsessed with not alienating your own base that you don’t care if they are the scum of the earth.

If it’s the latter, at least, for now, you’re presidential material. For the rest of us, it’s another sad day when racists can kill and not be labelled as the terrorists that they are.

Panelists Samantha Gold and Jerry Gabriel discuss Just for Laughs 2017 with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Racial insensitivity at the St-Jean Baptiste Parade, Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury and Ron Howard taking over the Han Solo movie

Panelists:

Samantha Gold: FTB’s Legal Columnist covering Just for Laughs

Jerry Gabriel: FTB Contributor covering Just for Laughs

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Production Assistant: Xavier Richer Vis

JFL Report: Hannah Besseau

Weather: Cem Ertekin

Recorded Sunday June 25 2017 in Montreal, Quebec

LISTEN:

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Anti-Muslim hatred and domestic right-wing terrorism has hit close to home for many Montrealers late this morning/early this afternoon. Concordia University has evacuated two buildings on its downtown SGW Campus, the EV Building and the Hall Building, after receiving a bomb threat targeting Muslim students:

A group calling itself the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada sent the threat in letter form to news outlets including the Montreal Gazette, claiming that “now that President Trump is in office south of the border, things have changed.”

Concordia is currently hosting Islamic Awareness Week until Thursday. The letter threatens bomb detonations every day until Friday unless Concordia bans what the bigots call Muslim activities (including prayer spaces in the Hall Building).

For now, these buildings are being evacuated. Classes may resume at 6pm if no explosives are found.

* Featured image from Periscope Live video via Global News

Last night news broke that a gunman had opened fire in a mosque in Sainte-Foy, a suburb of Quebec City, as people were starting to pray. The casualty toll started to climb, eventually settling at six dead and five injured.

Before the details came in, it was pretty easy to guess at what had happened. Quebec’s far-right groups, which we have been hearing about quite a bit in the media lately, and the spate of racist attacks across the US following the Trump victory emboldened some racist loner to the point where he committed a hate crime. Turns out the easiest guess anyone paying attention and not blinded by their own willful ignorance would have made was absolutely correct.

Quebec Police identified 27 year old Alexandre Bissonnette as their suspect. He is white, from Cap-Rouge, Quebec, an admirer of French ultra-nationalist politician Marine Le Pen and a defender of Donald Trump. His Facebook profile was removed following his arrest, but people who knew him and members of immigrant rights groups in Quebec City described him as someone who posted anti-refugee and anti-woman’s rights views quite frequently and was also a troll.

FOX and Islamophobic Friends

Some online commenters, rather incorrectly and incredulously, jumped to a different conclusion the night of the shooting: that the attacker must have been Muslim. You see both Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had labelled it a terrorist attack, and I suspect that if you are brainwashed enough to equate an entire religion with terrorism, then a terrorist attack carried out by someone who isn’t of that religion just does not compute for you.

It didn’t help matters that Quebec Police had also brought in Mohamed el Khadir, one of the worshipers at the mosque to question as a witness. He was of Moroccan origin and FOX News had no problem mentioning that and calling him a suspect:

Screengrab of the original FOX News tweet which has since been deleted, presumably at the request of the Canadian Government. Also, likes? Really?

They later corrected their story, but the damage was already done. Now Islamophobes could blame Muslims for an Islamophobic attack.

Enter Donald Trump

When a major event like this happens, it is customary for leaders of foreign countries to offer condolences to the leader of the country where the incident took place. US President Donald Trump did just that when he called Justin Trudeau. Fine. That’s protocol.

If Trump had wanted to go further and apologize for any effect his policies and rhetoric had on the shooter, that would have been a welcome change of tone. But he didn’t. What his administration did instead is absolutely appalling.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spîcer, after going through the protocol, tried to use the attack on the mosque as a justification for his boss’ ill thought out and wholly terrible Executive Order concerning immigration, the so-called Muslim Ban:

No, Mr. Spicer, it is not. I’d say nice attempt at being an Orwellian asshole, but this is far to serious for that. Trying to turn this horrific hate crime inspired, in part, by your boss’s policies into a justification for those policies is as absurd as it is incredibly insulting, predominately to the victims, but also to any rational thinker.

Speaking of the victims, and we should speak of the victims, they were mainly immigrants, immigrants from predominately Muslim countries. They were looking for a better life in Quebec and have been profiled in The Globe and Mail as such. These are the people Trump’s Executive Order targets. These are the victims of right-wing white supremacist anti-immigrant obsession.

The fucking nerve Sean Spencer. The fucking nerve Donald Trump. You, Marine LePen and our local hatemongers here are to blame, too.

Now, as vigils take place across Canada, solidarity from other communities is expressed and everyone agrees that this was a terrible hate crime designed to terrorize Muslims and all Canadians, we must not forget how we got here.

Carl Paladino is human garbage.

Carl Paladino’s ACTUAL answers: (see the rest of the article)

1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?
“Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”

2. What would you like to see go away in 2017?
“Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

My city is making INTERNATIONAL NEWS because of a deadbeat politician spewing racially charged hate and transphobic bullshit. First Carl told people if they didn’t like what he said then they can suck it, again getting racist about one of the editors of The Buffalo News when they attempted an interview. He then retracted all of his statements, saying someone else sent that email, or wait, maybe he sent it but it was supposed to go to friends, not Artvoice. Yea, ok bud

He said that people just didn’t get his sense of humor. Oh we got it, you are racist and horrible. This isn’t the first time he has made remarks like this about the Obama family either.

Paladino has been doing dirty business in Buffalo for years. The fact that he was voted in to any kind of position ever is a discredit to our citizens.

He is an open ally of Donald Trump, going on his political tour with him and all. I remember seeing his monstrous glare at the Trump rally (I was at the protest across the street but could see the big screen).

Maybe it is also a sign that the now former coach of the Buffalo Bills Rex Ryan was also fired this week. He was the person who announced Trump. Anyone who supports Donald Trump and the racist mysogynist hate filled America he represents is dead to me.

He used to come to a local lesbian bar, Roxys, where I performed burlesque with The Stripteasers. One night he was in with a bunch of his goon friends and one of the men attempted to insert a bottle into one of the dancers while she was performing. He then complained to the owner for being kicked out! This man is a testament to what kind of person Carl is. I was disgusted but not surprised when I saw his comments in Artvoice.

I want to thank Artvoice for exposing him, but still think that what they do is no longer worth reading. Often having images of president elect hate monger Trump on the cover.

I remember once upon a time when Artvoice was a credible publication, that’s until it was purchased by the uber republican Niagara Gazette and a there was a complete shift is staff. It was once an awesome art publication that is now on the decline, posting any kind of garbage that will get clicks and has nothing to do with art.

Back in the day, when he was running for governor in 2010, a group of my friends and I dressed like ninjas and destroyed Paladino signs. This man is a waste of space and a perfect example of the impending apocalypse according to a Trump regime. He has been the herpes of our local politics.

He is also very anti gay, saying that it is not the way god created us. Paladino had stakes in several former gay clubs in Buffalo, including Cobalt and Buddies II. Patrick Paledino, his youngest son, was a homosexual, and tragically passed away after a car accident in 2009.

How could he talk so much hate about his own family? This is the kind of man who should not have power.

It makes sense to me that Carl Paladino grew up in East Lovejoy, on the edge of the East Side of Buffalo. That is also where I grew up, and honestly, people there are DISGUSTING!

There is so much blatant racism and hate spewing from a neighborhood called LOVE and JOY. This is a place where they openly destroyed property and threatened any black family trying to move into the neighborhood.

He is a vulgar loser, he is INSANE, an ego tripping monster, and he spews lies and hate. He says the middle class wants to take back the government.

Buffalonians are done with Carl. He does not represent us and cannot have a say in our children’s education. He is a bully and must be suspended.

I remember seeing all of the Trump signs, and being so sad knowing that this meant racists and hate mongers lived in my city. It hurt even worse when members of my own family openly supported him. Then Carl Paladino was elected to the school board and the antichrist won the presidency. I wanted Austin Harig, he was an 18 year old high school senior running for real change, not Carl, not ever! Whats next?

On Thursday December 29th residents protested in Niagara Square and later at a special city hall board meeting. The resolution stated that if Carl Paladino does not resign within 24 hours they would petition to the NY Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia to remove him. She has not commented. The disrespectful and inexcusable comments reflect negatively on the Buffalo Board of Education.

Two board members – Patti Pierce and Larry Quinn are Paladino supporters and only want him to apologize. Pierce went a step further and made this brilliant comment thinking he deserves forgiveness: “take a page our of the horrific massacre that happened in Charleston, SC, where nine innocent people in a house of worship were slain by a hateful, hate-filled man.”

Everyone gasped except for one woman who left shouting that is was offensive to use murdered African American church goers in this moment. Who would say these things? How can you use an unspeakable tragedy to excuse this bag of shit?

Quinn also stood up for him, saying that other member of the school board feel similar. WRONG, dude, the majority if the school board is black. Patti and Larry ALSO need to be taken off the school board, we cannot stand for this!

School board members need to set the standard for good behavior and be a positive example for children. We have to get him out as soon as possible, all of the slime is rising now that Trump is elected. It must end!

These assholes think they are safe hating out in the open. They are not ashamed of their hate and think its just a big joke. This is real life Carl, and we are mad as hell.

He says he won’t step down, I say “Bye Felicia!” Thousands have signed petitions to boot him as well as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. If he does not willingly resign this could be a painfully slow process.

We all need to take this as a reminder to get involved in politics. Apathy allows this to pass as acceptable. We need to be motivated to make change in our own community and stop the hate.

You may have heard the term alt-right quite a bit lately. It has been everywhere ever since President-Elect Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon to a senior adviser position. Bannon had bragged about turning Breitbart “News” into “a platform for the alt-right” when he was CEO of the website.

But just what is the alt-right? The easiest explanation is that it’s a new term for white nationalists, which is, itself, a whitewashed term for white supremacists. So basically racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic anti-Semites with suits and computer skills.

Of course, many in the alt-right movement argue vehemently that this is not the case. Bannon himself even told the Wall Street Journal last Friday that he has “zero tolerance for the anti-Semitic, racist elements of the alt-right.”

Bannon’s claim, though, is called into question by the headlines that appeared on Breitbart when he was in charge and completely debunked by what happened this weekend in Washington.

On Saturday, the National Policy Institute was holding its annual conference in the Ronald Regan Building. Most of the speeches were subdued, but after dinner, when most of the press had gone home, Richard B. Spencer, the man who had originally coined the term alt-right and is considered a leader of the movement, took the stage.

The Atlantic still had their camera rolling and caught a speech that began with Spencer shouting “Hail Trump!” and many in the crowd responding with Nazi salutes. Spencer also brought back the old Nazi term for media detractors “Lügenpresse” and applied it to the US media.

As if not subtle at all references to the Third Reich weren’t enough, Spencer also went on to defend racial inequality and suppression of minorities as some sort of right with complete ignorance of American history.

If you already know about racism in the so-called alt-right and what a Trump Presidency is bringing with it, you don’t need to watch this nastiness. If you know people who aren’t convinced, though, this video can be a real eye opener to what they really are supporting or brushing off:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Did We Get Here?

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

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

clinton-sanders

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

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

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

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

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

What Needs to Happen Now in the Democratic Party

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

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

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

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

What Needs to Happen Now Outside of the Echo Chamber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Around 300 people gathered in Montreal on Wednesday to protest police treatment of black people, both here and in the US. Over a thousand people have announced their intention to participate in a similar event this Saturday. The Black Lives Matter movement might be finally picking up momentum in Montreal.

Protesters met in Nelson Mandela Park on Wednesday, responding to the call of the Black Coalition of Quebec. The event was organised in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded last week in the United-States.

It was partly in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by the police in the space of a couple of days. Several people payed tribute to them and to the five police officers killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.

It was also meant to call attention to the way Montreal’s black community is treated by the police. Several speakers stood up on a pick-nick table to address the crowd; some were planned, some were spontaneous. A peaceful march followed and no incidents were reported.

If you missed all of this, you will have another occasion to show your support, this Saturday in Cabot Square. A new Montreal NGO, Twese, is inviting people to gather there at 2pm “to honour the lives lost and express our rejection of police brutality and any kind of racial prejudice.”

Cabot Square is a historically and socially meaningful place for indigenous people in Montreal. Co-founder of Twese Anne-Sophie Tzeuton says that the organisers are aware of the importance of Cabot Square to First Nations and that they want to honour it.

Police brutality and discrimination are also “a huge problem” for First Nations, she noted, “of course we intend to talk about it and we hope many will attend.”

Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society
Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society

The main objective of Saturday’s event, aside from rallying people to the cause, is “to offer concrete solutions that we can all apply to our daily lives.” Several speakers will take the microphone to that effect. Spoken word performances and other artistic tributes to lives lost in police shootings are also planned.

Tzeuton is happy with the unexpected popularity of the event on Facebook, but she fears that all this attention won’t last. “It often happens, after a tragedy: there is a lot of media attention at once, but it passes and then we forget.”

She hopes the current momentum can be used to discuss lasting solutions before the hype dies down.

Twese (“everybody” in Kinyarwanda) describes itself as a platform encouraging the diasporas to exchange ideas and further a collective reflection about various topics. It was created this summer by four young black women who have played active roles in black student associations in McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal.

Discussing Canadian Racism

Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety Martin Coiteux reacted amiably to Wednesday’s protest: “We have to be very careful to protect the rights of all minorities in Quebec so I support people who are demonstrating for having equality of rights and we are completely in solidarity with what happened.”

However, according to him, “the situation here is, fortunately, very different to the United States.” He insisted on the importance of preserving “our model here of peaceful coexistence.”

How Different is it Really?

In 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that native people were alarmingly overrepresented in federal jails. In 2016, aboriginal youth made up 41% of people entering the justice system, despite representing less than 7% of the overall population.

Quebec’s commission of human rights officially recognizes that police forces practice racial profiling since 2010. An internal investigation published that year by the SPVM revealed that in 2006-2007, in Montréal-Nord and Saint-Michel,41% of young black men had had their identity checked, compared to 6% of young white men. The study also found that black people were more often carded for “vague” motives.

Just a couple of months ago, a black man named Jean-Pierre Bony was killed by the police in Montréal-Nord during a drug raid. Bony was shot in the head with a plastic projectile in front of the bar where the raid was conducted. He died in the hospital four days later.

“The only difference between Jean-Pierre Bony and what we’ve been seeing in the U.S is that there was no camera,” remarked Will Prosper, an ex-cop turned black rights activist, in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.

Many Canadians, like Coiteux, feel that the kind of systemic racism observed in the United-States doesn’t happen in Canada. According to Tzeuton, those claims are most often made by people who are racially or socioeconomically privileged.

“It is very easy for people who are not living those problems to claim they don’t exist.”

* Featured image of the April 6th Montreal North protest following the police killing of Jean-Pierre Bony by Gerry Lauzon (creative commons)

A few years ago, following the Michael Brown shooting, FOX News host Sean Hannity explained that he never has problems with police because when he gets pulled over, he simply informs the officer that he is licensed to carry a firearm and it’s in the car. Philando Castile did just that and was murdered by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and her young child.

Castile, by all accounts, was a pillar of his community, well loved by hundreds of children at the school where he worked, not to mention their parents, his colleagues, friends, family and, of course Lavish Reynolds, his girlfiend. A woman who, after witnessing her boyfriend get shot, was able to muster the strength to go live on Facebook and show the world what had just happened.

Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot Castile probably didn’t know what the public now knows about him. All he had to go on was that Castile had a busted tail light, was riding with a woman and a small child, had informed him that he was carrying a licensed firearm and was reaching for something.

Could it be his registration? It would make sense. That is what you’re supposed to show the police when they pull you over, after all.

Could it be his gun? Why? Why would someone take the time to inform an officer that they are carrying a legal firearm if their plan was to whip it out and shoot? Why would someone riding with a small child be likely to kill over a busted taillight?

Why would a police officer jump to this unlikely conclusion and shoot before even telling the person to freeze? Truth is they wouldn’t if it was Sean Hannity in the car, or if it was me or most white people.

Castile, though, was a black man. When it comes to black men and sometimes black women and children, it’s sadly all too common for police to shoot first and hope nobody asks questions later.

Not Close to an Isolated Incident

There would have been significantly fewer questions when Baton Rouge police murdered Alton Sterling just a day before Yanez shot Castile in St. Anthony, Minnesota. However, a group called Stop the Killing had caught the whole thing on video and had the forethought to wait for the police to tell their side of the story before showing the world what really happened.

Sterling was selling CDs outside of a convenience store and allegedly pointed a gun at someone who called the police. According to the convenience store owner who witnessed the shooting, the police were aggressive from the start and quickly escalated the situation. Sterling was complying with them and never went near his weapon which he was licensed to carry.

The cellphone video shows police yelling at Sterling to get to the ground and then tackling him almost immediately. One officer shouts “he’s got a gun!” This was in reference to the firearm the officer had found in his pocket, not a weapon Sterling was brandishing or even going near. Hearing this, the other officer shot Sterling in the chest.

Two black men murdered by police in two days. A record? Hardly. Two black men murdered by police in two days and the public has video proof. That is new, and a reminder that filming cops is not just a right but a civic duty.

NRA Double Standard

Both victims were also legal gun owners. After much pressure the National Rifle Associaton (NRA) released this statement, which didn’t even reference what happened to Sterling:

“The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”

The NRA’s reluctance to rush to the defense of black men who legally owned firearms when we all know that they would have been all over the stories if the gun owners had been white is not at all surprising. While I’m not a fan of open carry laws in general and think no one has a legit reason to own an AR-15, this video shows just who the Second Amendment applies to and doesn’t, at least in the eyes of law enforcement:

Dallas Doesn’t Change Anything

As I was writing this, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests against these two most recent murders were happening in cities all across the United States (and still are a few days later). In Dallas, Micah Xavier Johnson, an Afghanistan War veteran with sniper skills who was not a part of the march turned the peaceful protest into a bloodbath shooting twelve police officers, killing five.

According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown:

“The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. He was upset at white people. He wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

While Johnson did attain his goal of killing white police officers, he also shifted mainstream media focus away from the recent police killings he claimed he was upset by. Instead of simply chalking this up to the work of a spree killer with easy access to firearms, the training to use them properly and a likely case of PTSD, quite a few people in the media, online and at least one former politician decided to use this to attack BLM, despite this statement that they do not support murder:

This is already being used by some and will undoubtedly continue to be used to push a #bluelivesmatter agenda. There are three huge problems with this.

First, cops choose to be cops, people don’t choose to be a particular race, so the comparison is nowhere near valid. Second, the hashtag was created specifically to reinforce the notion that police are entitled to murder black people, despite being disguised as some sort of BS equalizer. Third, according to politicians, the media and mainstream thinking, police lives do matter and to some, matter more than others.

The shooting in Dallas is being treated as a national tragedy. Prominent voices on the right and even the supposed left equate an attack on police with an attack on everyone. The President is even cutting his trip short to visit Dallas, something he didn’t do for any of the black victims of police shootings.

Police were attacked by one spree killer who is now dead. Black people are under constant attack by an officially sanctioned paramilitary force that has killed and continues to kill them with impunity. Systemic racism is a real thing that’s alive and well in police forces across the Western world.

No, All Lives Are Not Dealing with this Right Now

If you think we should be saying #alllivesmatter, then you’re missing the point entirely, either intentionally or because you just don’t get it. This kitchen table analogy should explain how you’re basically the person railing against a cancer fundraiser by screaming that other diseases matter, too or this cartoon dude:

all houses matter

I’m white and I don’t think for a second that my life doesn’t matter because I say #blacklivesmatter, I know that my life mattering is not in dispute. I know that if I had been driving that car with a busted tail light instead of Philando Castile, I’d probably still be alive right now.

Sure, police kill white people without a valid reason, too, but they do it nowhere near as frequently as they murder black people. 26% of Americans killed by police are black, though only 13% of the population are. The ratio of unarmed black men killed by police versus unarmed white men in the US is six to one (and I got those stats from a right-wing website trying to argue, badly, just the opposite point while doing their best to misinterpret Washington Post numbers).

I know my life matters, I don’t need to scream it. I know that Black Lives Matter and I feel it’s important to let everyone know. It’s not an either-or situation. It is a dire situation that needs to be addressed and fixed now.

Now, sadly not now more than ever, it’s important to keep saying Black Lives Matter.

On Friday night, protesters successfully disrupted a rally for Republican presidential frontrunnner Donald Trump. When the race-baiting businessman realized that anti-Trump activists made up roughly half the crowd, he cancelled the event. Then he went on the offensive. Predictably Twitter moaning about freedom of speech:

First, Trump clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, that the right to free speech enshrined in the US Constitution (the states doesn’t have hate speech laws like we do in Canada, where Trump could probably be charged) doesn’t work that way. As this civil rights and constitutional lawyer pointed out:

What is really ironic, though, and what would really be tragic if Trump ever ended up in the White House, is that his recent rally rhetoric promotes an attack on the very constitutional right he claims he was denied on Friday.

Trump’s “Good Old Days” Were All About Suppressing Free Speech

Over the past few weeks, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to attack protesters more and more. As Rachel Maddow and others pointed out, this was most likely a deliberate attempt to provoke violence so he could claim he was the victim.

What is the most troubling about his rhetoric are his constant references to the “good old days” where there were “consequences” for protesting and protesters would most likely be “carried out on a stretcher.” To be clear, Trump misses the use of state violence to stifle dissent, to stifle free speech.

While his hypocrisy is palpable, so is the (perhaps willful) ignorance of his supporters. That they can claim to support a right while championing someone who seeks to repress it, most likely in a brutal manner, when in power, is stunning.

It’s About the People Rising Up, Not Politics

By Saturday, Trump had already named a culprit: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. This was based, at least on the surface, on the fact that some of the protestors inside the event were vocally supportive of the Vermont Senator and completely ignored all the other protestors inside and the thousands in the student-led demo outside.

For his part, Sanders responded the best way he possibly could:

“As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests. What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama.”

In response, Trump threatened to send his followers into a Sanders rally and now the story has basically turned into Trump versus Bernie, at least in the mainstream press. While this will help Sanders in the upcoming primaries, especially given Hillary Clinton’s lack of support for the protesters, it distracts from what is really at play here: that a group of protester, mostly people of colour, were able to stop a Donald Trump bigot love-in.

Maybe Trump can’t fathom or admit the truth, so blaming a well-organized political machine is the only way out. I think, though, that admitting it wasn’t a power play but rather a play against power makes it impossible to deny that it is the protesters who are on the side of freedom of speech.

Donald Trump’s rights were not violated Friday night, he was in the power position while seeking a greater power position. But if he becomes President, you can believe he will do his best to eliminate the right of free speech through protest for everyone.

On November 23, 2015 the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) of Concordia University reached a settlement with a former executive who accused them of discrimination and harassment based on her ethnicity and gender. The executive is known under the pseudonym “Mei Ling” to undoubtedly discourage harassment from misogynist and racist trolls and supporters of her harassers.

She sought $30 000 in damages after discovering a Facebook conversation about her between two male executives that was left open on a shared computer. The conversation made sexist and racist comments about her, referring to her as a “chink slave,” “bitch” and “whore” and joking about having her impeached if she didn’t have sex with them. Her complaints also include being excluded from executive events, being denied an award before she’d even applied for it and being the only executive not to receive a bonus.

She, with the help of The Centre for Research-Action of Race Relations (CRARR), a civil rights advocacy group, filed a formal complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Youth Rights Commission last March. Though a settlement – which includes an undisclosed sum, a public apology and a promise to set up a task force to address the issues arising from the case – was reached with the ASFA, Mei Ling told the press she has every intention of pursuing her harassers individually before the Quebec Human Rights Commission. An investigation is currently underway.

This article is not about the fact that Mei Ling’s harassers are clearly racist misogynist slime who have no place in any position of authority.

It is not about the fact that Concordia’s refusal to give her justice and address the issues of misogyny and racism directly make them an accomplice to the harassment she received, and that the settlement reached is clearly an acknowledgment of their guilt.

This is about the reach of the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal.

quebec charter of rights newspaper headline

The Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal are the organizations charged with the enforcement of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This law was enacted in the 1970s and prohibits, among other things, discrimination based on “race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.”

Though the Quebec Charter isn’t part of the Canadian Constitution and therefore can technically be changed by a simple act by the Quebec legislature, it is considered a fundamental “public order” law with quasi constitutional status. This means that it can’t be trumped by other laws or contracts unless said laws provide even more rights and freedoms than the Quebec Charter and even contains a rule stating that all other laws can’t violate articles 1 to 38 (regarding fundamental rights, freedoms including judicial and political rights and freedom from discrimination) unless the other laws specifically say that they apply in spite of the Charter.

quebec commission logoUnlike the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which applies only to the government and anyone acting on its behalf, the Quebec Charter applies to all violations of rights and freedoms, including those that occur between private parties. That means that even if your harasser is a private business or some jerk on the street, he could still find himself before the Human Rights Tribunal while the Human Rights Commission demands an explanation and compensation on your behalf.

It works like this: your rights are violated, so you go to the Human Rights Commission and file a complaint. The Commission then conducts an independent investigation. If the Commission decides there are legal grounds and evidence justifying the complaint, it then decides the best course of action which could be the negotiation of a settlement between you and the violator, submitting the dispute to arbitration, or referring the issue to the Human Rights Tribunal.

If the Commission goes to the Tribunal, it can seek “any appropriate measure against the person or to demand, in favour of the victim, any measure it considers appropriate at that time.” (section 80 of the Quebec Charter). This could not only include compensation for material damages but also any grief (known as moral damages) you experienced as a result, and even punitive damages if the violation of your rights was clearly intentional.

Take the case of Richard Zilberg. He’s a Jewish hairstylist who worked for a spa in Montreal. In 2012 he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission when his boss Iris Gressy told him he’d no longer be scheduled on Saturdays, his busiest workday, simply because he’s Jewish and shouldn’t work on the Sabbath.

Zilberg, like many Jews, does not keep the Sabbath and rightly felt that his level of observance was his decision alone. The Human Rights Commission agreed and asked that the spa pay him $17 500 in damages: $12 500 for loss of income and $5000 for moral damages. In addition, the Commission recommended that Gressy pay Zilberg an additional $2500 out of her own pocket for her intentional violation of his civil rights. Gressy has since refused to pay and is planning to go to the Tribunal.

Then there’s the case of Lettia McNickle, a black waitress working at Madisons New York Grill & Bar in Montreal who was given less work due to her natural braids. She claims racial discrimination. Though the chain’s head office has since issued an apology, the restaurant, which had initially agreed to mediation, has since withdrawn. With the support of CRARR, McNickle too filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and an investigation is scheduled.

To many, the Quebec Charter may seem like excessive policing of individual behaviour, but it and the bodies made to enforce it have their place in a society where suing someone on your own is so expensive. It’s an additional protection from harassment and discrimination and gives recourse to people who would otherwise have none.