Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Car advice needed

Tonight my old Topaz went out in a blaze of glory. It was a spectacular display of acrid, billowing smoke, multiple fire extinguishers, ear-splitting sirens, suspendered firemen, and a gaggle of curious onlookers.

Now, I'm in the market for a replacement. My only criteria are fuel efficiency and non-flammability. Suggestions?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Battered Women's Defence presentation

I just received a notice that Kim Pate, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (of which the Kamloops Elizabeth Fry Society is a member) will be giving a presentation in Kamloops next Friday on the so-called battered women's defence.

As I mentioned earlier, this legal concept owes its existence to a judgment by the late Bertha Wilson in the famous Lavallee case. The event notice indicates that Ms. Pate has been involved for 15 years with implementing Lavallee, and more generally in activist work on behalf of women who run afoul of the law.

CAEFS' mission statement:

CAEFS is an association of self-governing, community-based Elizabeth Fry
Societies that work with and for women and girls in the justice system,
particularly those who are, or may be, criminalized. Together, Elizabeth Fry
Societies develop and advocate the beliefs, principles and positions that guide
CAEFS. The association exists to ensure substantive equality in the delivery and
development of services and programs through public education, research,
legislative and administrative reform, regionally, nationally and

The talk takes place at 12:30 at Desert Gardens on Seymour Street. It's part of a day-long fundraising conference, and costs $20 which includes lunch. RSVP by May 8.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

No small feet...

Following in the (mincing) footsteps of several US cities, Victoria, BC will be home this Saturday to a march against sexual assault called "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes."

Starting in Centennial Square at 10:30 a.m., men of all ages (including some local luminaries...check out the event's blog or this article in the Times Colonist) will don high heels and walk for one mile to protest rape and to raise funds for the Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre.

Pictures of a similar event held recently in LA can be seen here. Someone give these guys a foot massage!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Making babies in Canada could result in nutjob nationalists

Given that it's part of the Asper Empire, I suppose we can't expect much of the Gazette, but this piece it published online yesterday, entitled "Making babies in Canada could save money", is particularly appalling.

Author Dianne Rinehart's premise is that our governments should invest in artificial reproductive technologies rather than immigration, because the latter costs $1.6 billion in "departmental and resettlement costs," and growth from immigration currently outnumbers domestic births by three to one.

The first thing that strikes me about the piece is the barely-contained fear that "real Canadians" will be outnumbered by immigrants. It rears its ugly head every time the author throws in a statistic about rising immigration numbers as a self-evidently bad thing. That concern is probably racist and certainly stupid: after all, everyone but our First Nations were immigrants to Canada at one time, and look how we treat the original inhabitants!

The economic argument, as well, is completely disingenuous, even if Rinehart had provided a cite for her dollar figure. Consider, if you will, the financial implications of waiting for Canadian babies to contribute to the domestic economy. The Canadian Council on Social Development estimated that in 2004 it cost families on average $166,000 to raise a Canadian infant from birth to age 18. I really can't see how it could possibly cost more than that to simply open the doors to foreign nationals, who are often already trained and very willing to go to work.

Furthermore, and with all due respect to struggling would-be parents, I have a real problem with invasive, espensive fertility treatments. For one thing, it seems foolish to go to such lengths to increase the population of a planet already bursting at the seams. We especially don't need more citizens of so-called first world countries who damage the environment disproportionately. Secondly, it bothers me that many people will stop at nothing to create of and for themselves a little genetic replicant. There are so many children that need someone to care for them, and I don't care if you pull a Brangelina and truck them in from far-flung locales, or head to your local Ministry of Children and Family Development office: there's just no need (unless you're a couple of geniuses trying to breed the next generation of cancer-curing scientists) to replicate biologically when it involves such ridiculous expense and limited success rates. My final complaint is that any R&D and other government funding that go towards developing newer and better fertility treatments are at the expense of more pressing medical concerns. As we all know, there are just not enough health care dollars to go around.

The kicker in the article at hand, and I'll quote the paragraph in full, is where Rinehart states the following (after explaining that artificial reproductive technology is a better use of health spending than palliative care or heart disease):

Finally, if it's all about money - and not about families - consider what
else New Scientist reported: The findings "concluded ART could be as effective
at increasing birth rates as other proposed policies, such as raising the level
of child benefit" and - wait for it - "but would cost less."

This is the most ass-backwards logic of all. It first requires us to accept, as I clearly haven't, that encouraging population growth via domestic birthrates is prima facie superior to encouraging immigration. Then, it suggests that because it costs less, government money is better spent on artificial insemination than on actually increasing child benefits to struggling families. What a brilliant idea! Forget helping the parents who are currently trying to raise their existing children with little to no assistance from the state....we should do biological backflips and get them to pop out some more!

The author dresses her elitist and xenophobic wolf of a position in the sheep's clothing of feminism (commiserating with women who are maligned for delaying pregnancy) and environmentalism (claiming, nonsensically, that immigration contributes to congestion and pollution, since most new residents head to the urban centres. In reality, city living is well documented to actually reduce environmental pressures, because people are more likely to live in smaller residences, to commute less to work, and to take advantage of the other ecological efficiencies that result from high population density.).

In reality, though, her proposed solution is just straight-up white supremacism of a particularly crazy brand, and that's pretty disturbing even given the Gazette's well-known biases.*

*Of which you're well aware, right Scottay? Maybe you shouldn't show them your portfolio...

RIP Bertha Wilson

Canada's first female Supreme Court justice, Bertha Wilson, passed away this Saturday.

Justice Wilson sat on the SCC between 1982 and 1991, and was a staunch Charter supporter and author of a number of woman-friendly judicial opinions, perhaps most notably in R. v. Morgantaler and R. v. Lavallee (which accepted battered woman syndrome as a defence to murder).

Although she apparently did not call herself a feminist, Justice Wilson was avidly pro-choice and upon retiring from the bench chaired the CBA's Task Force on Gender Equality.

Justice Wilson had also been the first woman appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. She was 83 at her death.

* Photograph: Michael Bedford, Supreme Court of Canada collection

Friday, April 27, 2007

Support VWSAC

I don't know Tom Williams, and I don't really care about his beard, but I think it's great that he's raising funds for the Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre.

VWSAC is a fantastic organization that helps hundreds of victims of assault every year. I volunteered there for the three years that I lived in Victoria and was very impressed with the quality of services they provide, all with limited funding and a small staff. In addition to individual and group counselling services, they also run a 24-hour crisis line and have volunteers with pagers who respond to emergency calls, meeting victims and accompanying them for post-assault hospital visits. There's also a great youth component run by Project Respect, promoting its acclaimed "Yes Means Yes" programme.

VWSAC always needs community support and I encourage you to help them in the great work they do. Click here to go to the GiveMeaning donation site.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What's the problem with homelessness in Kamloops?

The answer isn't, as you might expect, "uhh...because...people have no homes??"

According to Gay Pooler, general manager of the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Area, the problem is that it makes the streets just gosh-darn unattractive. In Monday's Kamloops Daily News, she told reporter Jason Hewlett that "we need to keep the streets pretty and safe." When he pointed out that "[m]ost homeless aren't dangerous," Pooler countered that "It's all about perception." Well, we wouldn't want the shoppers and business owners in our squeaky-clean downtown to have to face the fact that there are people in this city with nowhere to live (and forget about how safe that situation is for the people actually in it!).

She wants the RCMP to exercise "zero tolerance" when patrolling the downtown. Ron McColl, the manager of corporate programs and projects for the City of Kamloops, has described a new initiative where officers and outreach workers will interact with the expected influx of homeless people in order to find them housing and keep the streets "clean and safe." He didn't elaborate in the article, or in an interview yesterday on CBC Kelowna, about where these proposed homes will be found, but at least it shows some degree of awareness on the part of the City.

Not so for Pooler. In last week's Downtown Echo, she stated that the minimum wage should sit at $8.00/hour because "some people aren't worth more than $8," and anyone worth more than that is already being paid it. This week, in her "KCBIA Notes," she describes how she wants to see the local RCMP using the so-called Safe Streets Act, the Trespass Act, and municipal panhandling bylaws against "abnormal users" of the downtown, who should "not be comfortable on our streets."

This kind of anti-poor insensitivity and NIMBYism, apparently, is not just for barbers and councillors.