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.