Witness Blanket in Hamilton

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Gallery 4 Annex at Hamilton Public Library will be showing The Witness Blanket from July 13th to August 29th. On Friday, August 14th as part of Art Crawl the Central Library’s Gallery 4 will be open from 7-9pm with residential school survivors telling their stories at 8pm.

Check out this incredible video about how the blanket was created,

From The Witness Blanket website:

The blanket is a universal symbol of protection.
For many of us, it identifies who we are and where we’re from – we wear them in ceremony and give them as gifts. Blankets protect our young and comfort our elders.

Inspired by a woven blanket, we have created a large scale art installation, made out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures including Friendship Centres, band offices, treatment centres and universities, from across Canada. The Witness Blanket stands as a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honour the children, and symbolize ongoing reconciliation.

Strewn in the wake of the Indian Residential Schools are an immeasurable number of broken or damaged pieces. These fragmented cultures, crumbling buildings, segments of language, and grains of diminished pride are often connected only by the common experience that created them. Imagine those pieces, symbolic and tangible, woven together in the form of a blanket. A blanket made from pieces of residential schools, churches, government buildings, and cultural structures.

A blanket where the story of each piece is as important to its construction as the wood and screws that hold it together.

A blanket with the sole purpose of standing in eternal witness to the effects of the Indian Residential School era – the system created and run by churches and the Canadian government to “take the Indian out of the child”. Left alone, these pieces may be forgotten, lost, buried, or worse – be uncomfortable reminders that leave painful impressions on the minds and hearts of those who recognize what they represent. Individually, they are paragraphs of a disappearing narrative. Together they are strong and formidable, collectively able to recount for future generations the true story of loss, strength, reconciliation and pride. — Carey Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme), Master Carver

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Time for Change is Here

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We are hearing a lot lately about sexual violence in the military. Marie Deschamps released a report about the issue.  Julie Lalonde has been in the media after her experience of sexual harassment during a presentation at Royal Military College and then the harassment and death threats she received after going public about the abuse.

The Ottawa Coalition Against Violence Against Women, Sexual Assault Network Ottawa, and Draw The Line wrote an open letter to the Canadian Armed Forces:

Dear Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF),

We understand that within the last month, you’ve been facing a lot of criticism about a sexual violence in the military. We also understand that your initial reaction to this criticism might be to say, “#NotAllSoldiers.”

Let us be clear: The criticism you are facing is not directed at any one member of the Forces, but rather a culture that permits, excuses, and minimizes the experience of sexual assault and harassment in the military.

You’ve been given an opportunity by Madame Deschamps’s report to challenge and change this culture. Indeed, it is the CAF’s opportunity to go above and beyond the ‘call of duty’ that she laid out in her report. The proven benefits of prevention are founded in its ability to address the normalization and minimization of sexual violence. Through the consistent challenging of sexist attitudes and violent behaviour, a culture which permits sexual violence will be eliminated. Without direct, decisive, and consistent action a culture of violence will continue to thrive. The CAF also needs to take steps to truly believe survivors and provide adequate support when violence does occur. Transformation can only occur by:

1. Calling sexual violence what it is. This is a not “pressing desires,” it is not “biological wiring.” Even the language of “sexual misconduct” minimizes the severity of what we are talking about. Sexual violence is an inexcusable exercise of power which is meant to dehumanize and violate another person’s human rights. Continue reading

Tuval’s Open Letter to Royal Military College

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To whom it may concern,

Recent reports indicate that your student body accepts disrespect and disdain for women. It also seems clear that there is a culture in your institution that allows young people to believe that rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and degrading women are humorous topics to be scoffed at and joked about.

There is no indication that the RMC takes this situation seriously. Someone who was harassed at your college has been receiving death threats and other horrific forms of harassment for telling the truth. As of yet, no one from the RMC has spoken in her defense or attempted to dissuade people from being abusive and hateful.

I implore you, as a self-described creator of peace keepers and Canadian leaders of the future, to take a hard look at how you address sexism, misogyny and sexual violence in your college.

Let’s create a future where you are known for graduating students who are making the world safer for women rather then more hostile and dangerous.

Tuval Dinner

Tuval Dinner is a violence prevention educator specializing  in healthy relationships, consent, gender  equity and healthy masculinity. Tuval coordinates outreach and public education for COPA, a non-profit violence prevention education association.

Myriad of Misogynist Missteps

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In early June the group Canadian Association for Equality was granted charitable status in Canada.

CAFE has been linked to toxic, anti-feminist, anti-women groups from the US – A Voice For Men. AVFM is an extreme anti-woman group that has published articles calling the killer in the Montreal Massacre a ‘feminist hero’.

Ben Spurr had a very odd interview with CAFE’s Outreach Director, Denise Fong, where it sounded like there was a man in the background answering questions for her:

Fong, who said she wrote the press release about E-Day, would not or could not tell us who the councillors and MPPs were. Instead she passed the phone to a man named Justin (at 3:49 of the interview).

Justin declined to give us his last name, saying he was “working behind the scenes as a volunteer” and wasn’t authorized to speak for the group. He too refused to tell us which politicians are backing CAFE. He claimed that supporters have been harassed, bullied, and sometimes stalked and he couldn’t identify them in order to protect their safety.

We put it to Justin that an equally plausible explanation for his refusal to name names would be that CAFE does not in fact have the support of any councillors or MPPs. He agreed that the group’s critics would indeed say that, which was “perfectly fine. They can say lots of things,” he said.

Then he put Fong back on the phone.

As the interview continued, we could hear Justin speaking in the background. It sounded like he was helping Fong answer our questions. We asked her if the man talking was Justin Trottier, a well-known and controversial critic of feminism whose name does not appear on CAFE’s list of officials. She said no.

We asked again if the man was Trottier, and again she said it was not.

Now, we can’t say that Fong was lying about this. But later we compared our interview to recordings of Trottier’s many previous public appearances, and the man Fong assured us was not Justin Trottier sounded like Justin Trottier. A lot.

As our interview progressed, a pattern emerged. We would ask a question, the man-who-definitely-wasn’t-Justin-Trottier would say something in the background, and Fong would repeat his words back to us.

We thought this was strange, and we pointed it out. When we said it sounded like Justin was answering for her, Fong appeared to take offence. “He’s not speaking for me,” she said. “I am the writer of the news release and I am the one who put this out there so you can speak to me.”

The pattern became more pronounced when we asked about CAFE’s relationship with a Voice for Men (at 10:45), a U.S. online anti-feminist organization. AVFM serves as a hub for the men’s rights movement and its stated mission is to “expose misandry,” “push for an end to rape hysteria,” and address the problems men face under “feminist governance,” among other ludicrous goals.

It is worth listening to the entire fourteen minute interview here.

From NOW Magazine:

Not only is CAFE engaged in a fight against feminism, but in a recent post about last month’s Isla Vista killings, one of its directors appears to refute the concept of gender-based violence altogether. Citing the fact that men murder other men more often than they murder women, board member Adam McPhee writes, “If anyone should fear men, it is men. It is not women we need to teach men to be gentle towards, it is men themselves.”

By the end of June it was revealed that CAFE had lied on their application for charitable status, mentioning that they work with women’s and LGBQT groups that had never heard of them:

Yet when the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a self-described “men’s issues” organization, applied to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status last year, it listed the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Egale Canada, and Status of Women Canada as potential participants in its “regular panel discussion series” on women’s and men’s issues. The CRA granted CAFE charitable status in March, 2014.

There’s just one problem: none of the groups listed has ever been involved with CAFE.

The executive directors of Egale and LEAF said they had no knowledge of ever being approached by the organization, and said they would not work with CAFE if they were asked. Before NOW contacted them, neither organization had any knowledge that CAFE had listed them on its application.

A spokesperson for Status of Women Canada, the federal agency, told NOW in an email that none of its representatives had ever been involved in a CAFE event.

LEAF’s executive director Diane O’Reggio was shocked to learn CAFE had associated itself with her organization, which has been defending women’s legal rights for almost thirty years.

“We’re concerned that this organization has used our name in this manner,” said O’Reggio. “We absolutely are not associated with this group and what they stand for.”

“We’re obviously a feminist equality organization and we think the beliefs that they espouse are absolutely in contradiction and opposite to the work of what our organization does.”

Michael Laxer wrote an article for Rabble that gives more information on the so called men’s rights movement in Canada:

The men’s rights movement is clever in its propaganda approach in that tapping into perceived injustice is always a great starting point. So it is smart to state that men face the same adversity as do women and that this adversity is being ignored, even if this is a lie. It is an easy recruitment point for men, and some women, who lack a greater overall historical and social perspective of the nature of patriarchy. It reminds me very much of whites who cry “reverse racism” at attempts to redress centuries of systemic discrimination against Canada’s people of colour and Canada’s Aboriginal and First Nations peoples.

In reality there is no comparison, at all, between what women and men  face in terms of systemic social injustice. In the case of men, the systemic injustice simply does not exist. Anywhere. It is a total falsehood. But notions of false oppression and false victimhood certainly exist, and they allow men to feel justified when they attempt to stop or fight the basic ideas of feminism.

Jaclyn Friedman wrote in The American Prospect about how much the men’s rights movement actually hurts men:

As bad as Men’s Rights Activists are for women (and, really, for our collective humanity), they’re also doing harm to the causes they claim to care about. When an AVFM contributor in Australia called a hotline posing as a man being beaten by his wife and needing a shelter for himself and his son, he claims he was denied help. But if you listen to the recording (or read the transcript), you can clearly hear the counselor on the other line offer multiple forms of assistance, including a free hotel for himself and his son, a direct connection to a police officer specializing in domestic violence, and more. Far from their tagline “compassion for men and boys,” this incident reveals that MRAs are happy to abandon men and boys to real danger when it suits their hate campaign against women.

[…]

Of course, you’ll find women (and, gasp!, even feminists) in leadership in most of the institutions actually working to make life safer for men. It’s feminists who fought a long and recently successful battle to ensure that male victims are included in the FBI’s definition of rape. Some feminists are working to integrate the military so that the burden of war doesn’t just fall on men, and some are working against the militarism that not only enables rape in the armed forces, but underpins the narrow, confining cultural ideas about masculinity that make so many men feel trapped. Feminists have ensured that, through the Violence Against Women Act that MRAs oppose, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the U.S. declined 64 percent between 1994 and 2010, and that decline is distributed evenly between male and female victims.

It’s hard to know what to do about MRAs beyond taking every possible opportunity to expose them as the hatemongers they are. But I think that the above list of feminist victories for men provides a clue. When she interviewed me for the 20/20 segment, Elizabeth Vargas asked me if I wanted to curtail MRA’s right to free speech, noting that even Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) has the right to protest. I agreed with her then as I do now, and I advocate the same response that’s been so successful against the WBC: rather than try to stop them, we make a peaceful human chain to blunt their hate and counter it with love. In the case of MRAs, we can do that by continuing to work to improve the lives of both men and women, and to end all forms of gender oppression. There’s nothing like the truth to expose a lie.

Canada After Bedford – What Now? Part 2

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On December 20th, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three laws surrounding sex work finding that they were unconstitutional.  The court gave the Canadian government a year to come up with alternate laws.

Last week the new suggested laws were announced.  Many folks had issues with them…

From Pivot Legal’s amazing blog post explaining the potential new laws:

This cynical, dystopic model does not resolve the problems that were created by Canada’s existing prostitution laws, which the Court held to be unconstitutional in Bedford, and adds new ones such as the prohibition on buying sex and advertising sexual services. The Charter rights engaged by this proposed law include life, liberty, security of the person, freedom of expression and equality. Arguably all are breached.

Continue reading

No One Asks For It!

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No One Asks For It Facebook ProfileOn Friday, May 2nd, 2014, Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region is asking folks to join the thousands of individuals and organizations across Canada to wear purple in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

In Canada, May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual abuse and sexualized violence in our communities is far more common than most people think. According to a 2006 Statistics Canada report, one in three women will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime.

One of the biggest hurdles people face after a sexual assault is the notion that somehow they “asked for it” by what they were wearing, where they were, what they were doing or drinking. This is victim-blaming.

On May 2nd, let’s make an impact across Canada. Wear purple and show your support of survivors.

Make sure to RSVP on Facebook by clicking here… and then invite all your Facebook friends!

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How can you be involved?

SHARE

  • Invite all your friends to participate in No One Asks For It!
    Share on Facebook
    Tweet it #nooneasksforit
    Email a link to this page
  • Share information about what you’re doing for No One Asks For It!
  • Tweet and retweet using the hashtags #nooneasksforit
  • Change your facebook profile picture, facebook cover photo, and twitter background to No One Asks For It!
  • Show us your purple! Post a picture of you and/or your friends wearing purple on May 2, 2014.

PUBLICIZE

Bedford’s Nice, But…

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Fannie Hustle has worked as an independent escort in a mid-sized Canadian city for the past three years. From the start, she has been convinced that radical social movements have a ton to learn from sex workers. 

Fannie Hustle is working towards an analysis of sex work that is reflexive, critical, anti-oppressive and true to her experiences as a femme-y, queer person who both dates men and fucks them for money. Like everything else, it’s complex, and it’s complicated.

Fannie is in the process of making zines, pamphlets, posters, and other sex work-positive resources that may be useful to you. Email her at smalltimehooker@gmail.com.

This post was originally on her blog – http://smalltimehooker.tumblr.com/

On December 20th, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada declared several of Canada’s prostitution laws unconstitutional. In Bedford vs Canada, three women with experience in the sex trade launched a court challenge against sections of the Criminal Code criminalizing prostitution. (Currently, the physical act of exchanging sex for money is not illegal, but other aspects of the sex trade are.) Continue reading