Tag Archives: Canada

An Open Letter to Stephen Harper

Mr. Prime Minister,

What, exactly, are you trying to achieve? I suspect that your goal is not to be seen as a misogynist or a bully, or to alienate any voter who happens to have a uterus – which is too bad, really, because if that was the case, you’d be wildly successful. Is this some kind of show of power? Are you trying to sneak your religious beliefs into policy decisions without anyone noticing? Or did you really just want to tell the women of the developing world to drop dead? Whatever your intention, Mr. Harper, you’re not doing yourself, or your party, any favours.

Let’s start with the basics: According to a Conservative party spokesman, “Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning. However, Canada’s contribution will not include funding abortion.” [source] First off, may include family planning? Maternal and child health are nearly impossible without family planning of some kind. Women’s ability to take care of ourselves and our families depends on our ability to control our fertility. Second (and listen closely, Mr. Harper, because I get the feeling you weren’t paying attention the first 500 or so times you were told this), abortion is family planning. It’s not a separate category. Like contraception, it allows women to decide whether to have children. I think what your MPs were trying to say is that Canada’s contribution will involve the types of family planning that you approve of, and that aren’t too expensive, and that don’t upset your delicate conservative sensibilities.

Abortion is a last resort. It’s used only when something has gone wrong, when other methods have failed, or weren’t available in the first place. No one – least of all low-income women in the developing world – is having abortions just for fun. We have abortions because it is absolutely necessary, for us or for our families. When abortion is legally, geographically or financially inaccessible, women die. This is what you have committed yourself to. You and your party are allowing women to die because a necessary medical procedure doesn’t sit right with your ideology. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

I doubt that Senator Ruth had your blessing when she told Canadian women’s groups to “shut the fuck up” about abortion, lest you and your cronies turn this into an Issue, but she was right, wasn’t she? After all, you folks do have a pretty nasty history of cutting funding to anyone who speaks out against you – including fourteen women’s groups that had the nerve to get worked up about you thinking that women’s rights are optional. The message was clear: shut up, or we’ll shut you up for good.

You know what? I dare you. Make this an election issue. Ignatieff would love that. Your stance on reproductive rights has held you back from gaining a majority in Parliament so far, and if you push it any further, you won’t even have a government. Personally, I’d be fine with that.

You know this, of course, which is why you’ve always stopped short of an attack on Canadian women’s reproductive rights, and which is why you’re cutting funding left and right instead of engaging in any sort of debate. Senator Ruth, for all her lack of tact or compassion, was right about another thing: this isn’t about Canadian women’s health. It’s about the health of women who are far less fortunate, and far more vulnerable. Unfortunately, it turns out that women don’t just get angry when our own rights are being violated. We get angry about human rights violations, like, all the time! Even when the people affected are in other countries! You made this an issue, and the Canadian people are going to hold you accountable.

As a Canadian, I’m ashamed to have a prime minister who thinks women matter less than the contents of our uterus. I’m ashamed to have a government that thinks it can intimidate women into submission. I’m ashamed that, with Canada’s reputation for humanitarian work, you think that it’s acceptable to pick and choose the types of medical care that disadvantaged women are allowed to receive. This is a disgrace. Feminists around the world are beginning to hear about it, and you continue to dig yourself deeper and deeper.

If there’s one thing I can promise you, Mr. Harper, it’s that we will absolutely not shut the fuck up.

Sincerely,
Brett K

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This Just In: Conservative Government Hates Women, No Longer Feels Like Being Subtle About It

Fuck you, Stephen Harper.

(Yes, I’m still around; I’ve just been crazy busy these last couple of weeks and haven’t had much to write about. I promise I will eventually get back to writing posts whose contents are longer than their titles.)

Breaking News: Canadians Enjoy Hockey, Beer

I don’t care too much about the Olympics, but I was pretty psyched when the Canadian women’s hockey team won gold the other day (and not just because I’ve had a huge crush on Hayley Wickenheiser since the 2002 Olympics, either). I thought the pictures that were later released of their on-ice celebration – in which the players drank beer, smoked cigars and at one point attempted to drive the zamboni – were, well, pretty awesome pictures of great athletes celebrating an important (and well-deserved victory). The fact that there has been any controversy at all is baffling.

Yes, Marie-Philip Poulin is only 18. Big deal – that’s the legal drinking age in her home province anyway, and besides, she scored the two goals that won the game, so she can do pretty much whatever she wants at this point. And bad sportsmanship? Really? Millions of people are publicly celebrating the team’s victory, so why shouldn’t they get to have some fun?

Thankfully the IOC changed their minds about investigating the party, and the public as a whole has been supportive of the players, but the fact that an investigation took place at all, and that Wickenheiser was asked to publicly apologize for the offense they had caused, is ridiculous. (One woman interviewed on CTV said that, in her experience, you only apologize when you’ve done something wrong. I have to agree.) Howard Bryant of ESPN.com rightly pointed out the sexism of the whole thing, saying, “I can’t imagine Sidney Crosby puffing on a cigar after winning a gold medal turning into an international incident.” Damn right.

Tracy Clark-Flores at Salon concurs. As does Brad Cran, Vancouver’s Poet Laureate:

(In case you don’t know, the picture on the left is Canadian skeleton racer Jon Montgomery, who celebrated his gold medal win by walking down the street with a pitcher of beer and drew no criticism whatsoever.)

Lastly, if women’s hockey is insufficiently competitive because Canada is too dominant, the solution is not to eliminate it to the Olympics, but to lend more support to women’s sports. Hayley Wickenheiser and her teammates let the young women of Canada know that they can be just as good as the guys, and can party just as hard, too. Let’s keep it that way.

Ottawa Columnist Argues for Forced Sterilization

From Dr. Gifford-Jones of the Ottawa Sun: Should women who deliver FAS children be sterilized?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No no no no NO what the fuck is wrong with people.

Seriously, Canada. First there was the story about medical students performing pelvic exams on unconscious women without consent – and weeks later, I’m still shocked and horrified at that – and now this? I used to think we had a pretty good track record when it came to women’s bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. And granted, I’m not at all familiar with the Ottawa Sun, but judging by its name and the fact that it looks strikingly similar to the Toronto Sun (a newspaper whose front page headline a few days ago announced that Tiger Woods has “no balls” – stay classy, Toronto Sun) I’m guessing that it’s not the most respectable publication. Nevertheless, the fact that something like this could be published at all – and in the “health and fitness” section, no less – is sickening.

I’m not going to argue that alcohol consumption can’t cause complications in a pregnancy, although, as Lisa Wade of Sociological Images points out, the risk of Fetal Alcohol Symdrone is a lot lower than most of us are led to believe, and is influenced by a number of factors, including malnutrition, poverty and even genetics. Women who are most liklely to deliver FAS babies, therefore, are women who have a very poor quality of life, and whose alcohol addiction is so severe that they cannot stop drinking heavily for even nine months. These women need help; instead, Dr. Gifford-Jones of the Ottawa Sun believes they should be forcibly sterilized. Here I thought we needed to address the socioeconomic factors behind issues like poverty and addiction; apparently all we really have to do is blame (and punish) the women who are most affected!

I guess my feeble lady-brain has been so clouded with feminist ideology that I forgot that women’s bodies are public property, and that some of us don’t deserve reproductive choice. It’s no coincidence that those women, according to Gifford-Jones, are mostly poor First Nations and Inuit women (who have higher rates of alcoholism, and therefore of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Low-income women of colour are perceived as public property anyway. This is just the next step. At least Gifford-Jones is honest about misogyny, though. The last paragraph of the article pretty much says it all:

Many argue that individual rights prevent sterilization of these women. But surely there must be legislators who believe that an innocent fetus has more rights that an alcohol-sodden mother. For babies’ sake, legislation should end this tragedy.

Fetuses having more rights than women: totally okay, apparently. And here I was, thinking I was a human being or something. Ugh.