I have, in the past, erroneously made the point that Canada’s Charter does not explicitly separate church and state. I thought it was cute and curious that a country like Canada, with a very secular population (particularly compared to the United States), has no need to enshrine and codify the explicit segregation between religious matters and governmental ones. Of course, as with so many things that I just make up off the top of my head, it turns out that I am wrong. Section twenty-seven of the Charter, guaranteeing a right to multiculturalism, has been interpreted by the courts as expressly forbidding government recognition of one religious tradition over others.
Trigger warning: sexual assault and other violence. Also, police.
When they tore down the Occupy Vancouver tent city, I was there. I was all geared up to get arrested for peacefully resisting the destruction of what was ultimately an important and helpful resource, not only for Canadian democracy, but for the city of Vancouver. I called my parents to tell them I might be thrown in jail; I called my close friends to put them on notice that if they didn’t hear from me in the next few hours, I would need them to start making phone calls. Then I headed downtown, fully expecting to see the scowling face of a judge before I saw my own bed again. What I saw instead was a massive cleanup crew with police helping to facilitate the voluntary removal of a bunch of supplies. The square was cleared without any confrontation whatsoever.
My Occupy experience was entirely bloodless, with the Vancouver Police Department behaving as though they truly understood the concept of peaceful protest and civil liberty. Their professionalism and restraint stands in sharp contrast with what we’re seeing out of their comrades in New York City: … Continue Reading
This morning I decried the culture of police abuse that allows individual officers to flaunt their authority at the expense of civilians. I also warned, in soothsayer-like tones, of what happens when you lose the trust of the people you were ostensibly sworn to serve and protect. I didn’t really think I’d find such an awesomely direct example:
An elderly woman got the last word after locking a police officer in her basement, and later suing the police. Venus Green, who was 87 when she was handcuffed, roughed up and injured by police, will receive $95,000 as part of a settlement with Baltimore City. The city chose to settle the case instead of taking a chance in front of a jury.
In July 2009, Green’s grandson, Tallie, was shot and wounded. Tallie said he was shot at a convenience store, but police insisted it happened inside Green’s house and that the shooter was either Tallie or Green. “Police kept questioning him. They wouldn’t let the ambulance attendant treat him,” Green said. “So, I got up and said, ‘Sir, would you please let the attendants treat him? He’s in pain,'” Green said.
Green said the officer said to her, “Oh, you did it, come on, let’s go inside. I’ll prove where that blood is. You did it.” Police wanted to go the basement, where Tallie lived, but Green refused on the basis that the police did not have a warrant. “I said, ‘No, you don’t have a warrant. You don’t go down in my house like that. He wasn’t shot in here.'” Green said the officer replied, “I’m going to find that gun. I’m going to prove that you did it.”
A struggle ensued between a male officer and Green. “He dragged me, threw me across the chair, put handcuffs on me and just started calling me the ‘b’ name. He ridiculed me,” Green said. An officer went into the basement and Green locked him inside.
So let this be a lesson to police everywhere: don’t fuck with old ladies from Baltimore. They’ll fuck with you right back.
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The extent to which I object to any religious belief is more or less commensurate with the level to which it informs one’s daily life. If you privately believe that the universe is 20 minutes away from being devoured in a ball of flame, but you still do a good job filing my tax returns, it’s really not my place to get all hot and bothered by your delusion. This isn’t to say that, if given the opportunity, I won’t say something about how ridiculous your beliefs are. After all, the truth is important. However, it simply doesn’t interest me to put my shoulders into exposing the irrationality of your particular faith. After all, provided you make no (or comparatively few) life decisions based on it, it’s a bit arch of me to go after it.
Islam, at least insofar as I understand it (and have seen it practiced) is one of those faiths wherein daily observance and connection to day-to-day life is much more persistent. Christianity, by comparison, has fewer daily rituals and practices that mark someone as “a Christian”. There is no dress code, there are no dietary restrictions, few necessary public observances. It is far easier to be a “stealth Christian” than it is to be a “stealth Muslim”. Couple that with daily prayers and the phrase “inshallah” (which one of the guys I work with uses – to be sure, one branch of my family doesn’t talk about the future without saying “God willing”, so that kind of obeisance is not exclusively Muslim), and you get a religion that is very much a ‘live in’ one.
Perhaps the most visible signifier of Muslim belief is the head covering that many Muslim women wear (either by choice or by coercion). I’ve known sisters, both who would describe themselves as ‘observant’ – one wore the head scarf, the other did not. It was very much a choice for them, and I have no quarrel with that. The only thing that weirds me out about the whole practice is the fact that it is an open, visible sign to everyone around you that you subscribe to the belief that women ought to cover their hair for ‘modesty’ purposes. I would be, I imagine, similarly put off by a Catholic woman who wore a wimple or a Hindu woman displaying a bindi (although the bindi is often cosmetic rather than religious).
The great religious traditions of the world do not agree on much. They certainly don’t agree on the name, number, type, or behaviour of their various gods. They don’t agree on what happens after you die, what you’re supposed to do while you’re alive, and when life even starts. They disagree about how, what, and when you should eat, pray, and fuck. Even groups that are titularly similar – i.e., different sects of the same religion – have disagreements over how to properly interpret the same passages in their holy books. Basically, there’s a notable absence of convergence when it comes to religion as a method of learning about the supernatural.
One thing they can agree on, however, is the fact that the rising tide of secularism is the greatest threat to mankind. We are repeatedly exhorted to stand up for religious traditions in the face of the threat of atheist extremists pushing religious life to the margins of society. Of course it’s a secret agenda – they wouldn’t dare come for our bibles with guns drawn – the backlash would be unbelievable. No instead they do it by the trickiest mechanism possible – forcing everyone to play by the same rules: … Continue Reading
Okay, so sometimes my country is just friggin’ awesome:
A white supremacist rally in Edmonton’s downtown lasted only minutes when the demonstrators fled into a subway stairwell after they were greeted by over 100 anti-racist counter-protesters. Police then blocked subway platform entrances until the roughly two dozen self described white pride demonstrators, most of them masked, were able to leave on a train.
Police spokesman Scott Pattison said at one point as the racist group was nearing the site near Edmonton City Hall, both sides clashed briefly, but police separated them quickly.
So a bunch of cowardly neo-Nazi shitheads decided to put on a “white pride” rally. I have no issue at all with white people showing pride in their accomplishments – there’s a lot of them. “White pride” as a movement, however, has always meant (and continues to mean) overt expressions of antipathy toward other groups. White supremacy is a pathetic and risible philosophy, not only because it is demonstrably untrue (there is no scientific correlation between things that code for phenotypic race and any yardstick by which we could demonstrate the ‘supremacy’ of one vs. another), but because it is often most strongly espoused by those who simply have nothing else about which to feel superior. … Continue Reading
Natalie Reed’s audience is much larger than mine, and I can’t imagine that there are too many of you reading this who aren’t reading her as well (and if you’re not, you should be). However, this issue is important so I’m going to signal boost as much as I can:
Next month, in April, an extremely pivotal bill is going to be up for debate in the Canadian parliament. It’s Bill C-279, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of statuses protected under the Canadian Human Rights Code, and amend the pertinent sections of the Criminal Code in regards to anti-transgender violence, assault, and harassment.
Currently, transgender Canadians have no such protections, and may be discriminated against on the basis of their gender by employers, businesses, shelters, institutions (public or private) and individuals without any legal consequence. Effectively, I can be turned down for a job, barred from entering a restaurant, denied admittance to a shelter or hostel, or forced to comply with male dress-codes at public institutions without my having any recourse. If I am harassed, assaulted or murdered on the basis of my being trans, this does nto qualify as a hate crime. I am in the position of having to depend simply on the mercies of a legally empowered majority to choose not to exercise their right to openly discriminate against me.
This is not okay.
Read the rest of the post, then (if you’re Canadian), call your MP and demand an answer. My MP (who I can’t imagine opposes this bill) is being uncharacteristically circumspect, so I’m going to keep pressing her. Right now the biggest opponent of the bill is the fact that nobody’s talking about it. Let’s see if we can’t get some chatter going.
It is a fairly common and mainstream opinion to deride formal apologies from governmental institutions for historical wrongs. Often it is couched in the language of privilege: “why should the government apologize for something that happened a hundred years ago?” , as though there is a statue of limitations on right and wrong. Other times it comes from a place of arch-liberal cynicism: “words are cheap and easy. An apology is meaningless – just a political stunt to deflect attention”.
There is some superficial legitimacy to both of these responses. After all, if the current government has not committed an action, what exactly does an apology mean? That they feel just super awful about the whole thing? That they think they are somehow responsible for actions that took place before they were elected into office? That we should all, by extension, feel guilty for something over which we had no control?
In my eyes, an apology, properly done, affords us the opportunity to do two things. The first is to, in an entirely inadequate way, attempt to recognize and ease the pain of those who have suffered injustice at the hands of a government whose duties ostensibly include protecting people from victimization (rather than participating in it). The second and more important function of these apologies is to acknowledge our history, both good and bad. Especially when our history is so ugly: … Continue Reading
Many people, even well-meaning, thoughtful, and intelligent liberal people, have a major issue with affirmative action policies. In fact, folks from all over the ideological map struggle to understand any program or policy that allows for race to be taken into account. Whether they be housing, hiring, promoting, legal, whatever. People see what looks like textbook racism – looking at a person’s skin colour instead of hir credentials – and goggle at the seeming hypocrisy of it. Why is it okay to look at race to give certain people an advantage, but not the other way around? Two wrongs don’t make a right!
I get it. I really do. I can even sympathize a bit. I lay the blame for this confusion not at the feet of the individuals who lack understanding, but rather at a society that is terrified to discuss race for fear it will reopen old wounds. After a major victory in the 1960s, we began to get gun-shy about the topic of race. Beyond some superficial bromides about “colour blindness” and pulled quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., we have become entrenched in the position that less is more when it comes to discussing these kinds of social issues.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the notorious “judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character” line from King’s I Have a Dream speech thrown out in an attempt to deride affirmative action programs, as though Dr. King wasn’t an avid supporter of AA (he was), or that skin colour was the only thing he ever talked about. Part of the reason King’s Dream was called that is because it was not yet a reality. If I dream of being rich, acting like I’m already rich is going to screw me over pretty hard. Instead, I have to buckle down, put in the work, commit myself, and whore myself out to enough rich widows to make that dream a reality. … Continue Reading
I don’t really like suspense movies. I think they’re wildly inaccurately named, because they’re about as suspenseful as an egg timer. The plots tend to be mundanely formulaic, and the “startling” moments can often be predicted within a 5-second window – not exactly shocking stuff. One of the most common tropes within the horror genre is the moment where the monster/killer/villain falls under a hail of bullets/magic spells/thrown puppies and appears to be finally defeated. Tentatively, the hero inches toward the prone corpse and nudges it to ensure that it’s really dead. Relieved, ze walks away. The camera cuts to the face of the villain, whose eyes suddenly and “dramatically” open, revealing that the evil has only been temporarily slowed, not ultimately defeated.
As trite and cliche as these moments are, we do see parallels in our political life:
A Ugandan MP has revived a controversial anti-gay bill but says the provision for the death penalty for some homosexual acts will be dropped. A BBC correspondent says MPs laughed, clapped and cried out: “Our bill, our bill,” when its architect David Bahati reintroduced the draft legislation on Tuesday. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was shelved in 2011 after an international outcry. It still increases the punishment to life in prison for homosexual offences.
Yes, the infamous “kill the gays” bill has once again reared its disgusting and bigoted head in Uganda. Fueled by endemic homophobic attitudes, anti-gay rhetoric from the United States, and a (somewhat justified) paranoia about colonial control of an African democracy, lawmakers in Uganda are trying to revive a bill that received widespread denunciation from the international community. Interestingly, though, the bill does not have the support of the government: … Continue Reading