Category Archives: Politics

Provencher- A Unique Riding

This week the new Canadian Conservative Party leader Erin O Toole was asked by a reporter why he hadn’t given Derek Sloan, one of his leadership rivals, a place in his shadow cabinet. Although Mr. O Toole didn’t answer directly I suspect it is because he knows Mr. Sloan’s ideas are very out of step with the thinking of the majority of Canadians.  

These were some of the planks in Mr. Sloan’s election platform. 

Derek Sloan

  • Remove Canada from the Paris Climate Accord. 
  • Repeal Bill C-16 that added gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination
  • Make abortions in Canada more difficult to obtain and end funding to any foreign aid organization that offers abortion services.
  • Add stricter guidelines to the MAID (medically assistance in dying) legislation. 
  • Adopt more stringent restrictions in regards to the legalization of marijuana 
  • Substantially reduce the number of immigrants coming to Canada 
  • Repeal Bill C-69 that limits the construction of pipelines and Bill C-48 that limits oil tanker traffic along the British Columbia coast
  • Get rid of legislation that places too many restrictions on firearms possession and ownership
  • Fully defund the World Health Organization
  • Reverse the decision to make conversion therapy for LGBTQ young people a crime
  • Overturn the same-sex marriage act

As I familiarized myself with Derek Sloan’s vision for Canada I understood why he was the first candidate to be eliminated from the Conservative Party leadership race.  His ideas were not at all aligned with the thinking of the majority of Canadians, certainly not with mine. 

I was curious however who had voted for him. This chart in the Winnipeg Free Press illustrated where each candidate had received the most support

I discovered Mr. Sloan and his policies, which the majority of Canadians would not endorse, had garnered the most support in Provencher the riding where I grew up and spent the bulk of my career and raised my family.  Although Mr. Sloan had considerable popularity in other ridings it was in Provencher where he did the best.  Of course, this doesn’t mean Provencher is necessarily an ideological outlier when it comes to politics because of course the chart only represents the Conservative Party members in the constituency.  The riding has, however, consistently elected a Conservative representative for the last two decades. It is a unique federal riding that’s for sure. 

Just a reminder that Provencher has been a unique riding right since its inception in 1871 when it sent Louis Riel to the House of Commons. Sir John A MacDonald sent him right back to Manitoba banning him from the House of Commons. I wonder what Riel would have to say about the political leanings of his home riding now? 

And just one more note. Current federal Provencher representative Conservative Ted Falk was not offered a job in the shadow cabinet either. 

Other posts…………

Cancel Culture

They Jump Into the Work Head First

Has Fox News Made the Pandemic Worse? 

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They Jump Into the Work Head First

alexandria ocasio cortez

Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez

This week as I listened to Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez give her brave and incredibly important speech decrying the sexism and misogyny still firmly entrenched in politics, I was reminded of a poem by Marge Piercy called  To Be of Use.  Ms Cortez follows a long line of women who have not been afraid to jump in headfirst to bring about the changes so necessary in our world. 

dorothy day statue

Social justice fighter Dorothy Day photographed in Solanus Casey Center in Detroit

To Be of Use    by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best

jump into work head first 

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

female suffragettes quebed

A trio of Quebec suffragettes who fought for 22 years to get women the right to vote in their province. Photographed in Quebec City.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

rosa parks by tony scherman

Rosa Parks civil rights activist in a portrait by Tony Scherman photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest

and work in a row and pass the bags along,

who are not parlour generals and field deserters

but move in a common rhythm

when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

maria-leal-de-noguera

Maria Leal de Noguera influential educator, literacy pioneer and writer of children’s literature in Costa Rica photographed in Santa Cruz Costa Rica. 

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

Other posts…………..

Difficult Women

Are You This Determined to Vote? 

The Beatitudes Come to Life 

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Cancel Culture

I’ve been hearing the term cancel culture so often lately.  What does it mean? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as cancelling an entertainer, a political figure, a businessperson, an organization or an institution by ending your support of them. You do so because they expressed a belief or acted in a way you find unacceptable.

Some Canadian examples would be refusing to buy clothing made by Peter Nygard’s company because he has been accused of sex trafficking or taking down the statue of Egerton Ryerson at Toronto’s Ryerson University because Ryerson was the architect of Canada’s residential school system. It might be changing the name of Cecil Rhodes School school in Winnipeg because Rhodes believed in the superiority of the white race or not watching the games of a sports team whose name or logo you deem to be racist.  

Some songs were removed from the new Mennonite Hymnal Voices Together just before it went to press

The Mennonite Church just decided to remove seven popular pieces of music from a new hymnal they are publishing because the composer has been accused of abusing his power in church music circles, making women feel they needed to exchange sexual favours for a chance to get ahead professionally. I know people who refused to travel to the United States after Donald Trump was elected President because they felt he was racist, had treated women disrespectfully and was using his political position to benefit his family fortune.

Erin O’Toole is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party

Erin O Toole who is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada has promised if he becomes Prime Minister, he will end cancel culture.  I am not exactly sure how he is going to achieve that but it’s a promise he is making.  He says in a campaign video that all people and institutions have both good and bad aspects and we can’t try to erase their legacy because of the things they have done that are questionable particularly when they have also done things that are praiseworthy and important.  

Sculpture illustrating the important contribution Chinese workers made to the construction of Canada’s railroad at the Winnipeg Millennium Library

He gives the example of Sir John A McDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister who was instrumental in building a railroad that united our country. Of course, MacDonald did so by illegally expropriating indigenous land and having Chinese workers sacrifice their lives doing slave labour to construct it. Despite the negative aspects of his legacy, which are many, O Toole thinks MacDonald still deserves to be honoured with statues and other symbols for his important contributions to Canadian history. 

My husband Dave stands beside Old Sun a sculpture by Adrian Stinson which has been added to a gallery filled with work by Canada’s Group of Seven at the Art Gallery of Ontario

American artist Titus Kaphar has proposed an interesting alternative to cancel culture that involves adding things instead of removing them. You might call it additional culture. I saw an example on my last visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario where at least one work by an indigenous artist has been added to every room.

When We Were Alone – awarding-winning book by David Robertson illustrated by Julie Flett

I see it in the world of children’s writing where books by indigenous writers and illustrators like David Robertson and Julie Flett, are given publishing priority so their excellent work is added to the canon of children’s literature. Additional culture might mean putting up a statue of Cindy Blackstock the indigenous activist who has fought so long and hard for the welfare of indigenous children beside a statue of Sir John A MacDonald who called indigenous children savages and ordered them taken from their parents.

Rosemary Brown was elected to the BC legislature in 1972

We could name the next new schools we build after people like Black Canadian baseball legend Ferguson Jenkins or Rosemary Brown the first Black provincial legislator in Canada.

We may still need to employ some cancel culture to set the historical record straight but perhaps we can also consider how additional culture might provide an alternative course of action.

Other posts……….

A Possible Alternative to Tearing Down Statues

Radiohead and Plato

A Bad Choice of Words

 

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Freedom’s Child

“I like me!

No doubt about it.

I like you.

Can’t live without out!

We are free!

Let’s shout about it!

Hooray for freedom’s child.”

i am freedom's childThat mantra is adapted from the book I Am Freedom’s Child written by well-known children’s author Bill Martin in 1970.  I learned its words at an educational conference I attended in 1979 at the University of North Dakota.  Bill Martin was the keynote speaker and he led us in reciting a longer version of the I Am Freedom’s Child chant antiphonally every morning of the four-day conference. The poem’s words promoted values of self-worth, appreciation and acceptance of others and the protection of liberties and freedoms that should be the right of every person in a democratic society.

Me and Bill Martin in 1979

For a week at that conference in 1979 children’s author Bill Martin and his colleagues introduced a cadre of more than a hundred teachers to poetry and music and wonderful books written by exceptional children’s authors. One of the things they emphasized was how good literature could change children’s lives by making them more open-minded and caring, and giving them a window into a world where people accepted themselves and accepted others, even if they were very different than they were.

John_Lewis-2006

Member of Congress John Lewis

As I look at what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement and as I learned yesterday about the death of the great civil rights leader John Lewis the words of I Am Freedom’s Child came to mind. We all need to take to heart, as Lewis did, the poem’s message that loving and appreciating ourselves and loving and appreciating others is necessary to overcome our differences and make freedom’s dream come true. 

Other posts……….

What Would You Be Willing To Die For? 

Inspiration from Maya Angelou

Five Things I Will Remember About the Movie Selma

 

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Education, Politics

Why Do Men and Women Vote Differently?

woman votingA recent Macleans magazine article reported that if only women had voted in the last Canadian election the Liberal Party would have 226 seats in the House of Commons and the Conservatives only 63.  Right now the Liberals have 156 seats and the Conservatives 121.  Women would have given the Liberal Party a healthy majority. 

A recent poll in the United States showed that if their election were held today about an equal number of men would vote for Joe Biden and Donald Trump but if only women voted, Joe Biden would win by a handsome margin.  

Why do women vote differently than men? An article in Psychology Today says women are more supportive of gun control and same-sex marriage and more opposed to capital punishment than men. They vote for the party that best represents those beliefs. 

women voting boothAn article in the Atlantic says in the United States women vote Democrat because women are more likely to live in poverty than men and so they favour governments that provide more social supports. Also, women are more likely to be employed in education and health care than men and they vote for governments that will increase rather than decrease spending in those sectors. In the United States, more women graduate from college than men and more educated voters tend to support the Democrats. 

Last fall Global News looked at the issues women in Canada cared about the most as they decided who to vote for in the federal election.  Those issues were health care, affordable child care, diversity, greater female representation, LGBTQ rights, poverty, and violence against women. Since so many more women voted for the Liberal Party than the Conservative Party they must have felt the Liberals would do a better job of addressing these key issues that were important to them. 

It is interesting that women and men vote quite differently.  Women have had the right to vote in Canada and the United States for about a hundred years. But it is only in the last forty years or so that such a gap has emerged between the way men and women vote.  As women have gained more independence in every sector of society they have also begun to exercise their independence in the voting booth. 

Other posts……………….

What Happens When A Woman Takes Power?

Women Were Honored?  Think Again. 

The Famous Five

 

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Has Fox News Made the Pandemic Worse?

On Thursday the top six stories on the front page of my electronic version of the New York Times were about the coronavirus and its continued wild spread through the United States. In addition, there were four links to op-eds about the virus in the sidebar.  

I checked the Fox News web site immediately after that.  Of the thirty-some stories featured on their main page, only one was about the virus and it was about Joe Biden making a gaffe when quoting the number of coronavirus cases in the United States. 

Sean Hannity

New research is showing that the tendency of Fox News to downplay the severity of the pandemic might be impacting the spread of the disease and the deaths it has caused.  A writer in the Washington Post says infection and mortality rates are higher in places where Fox News commentator Sean Hannity is the most popular. Hannity continually dismisses the severity of COVID-19. 

In an oped in the New York Times, Kara Swisher says some people have suggested possible legal action against Fox News because particularly at the start of the crisis they dished out dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 that might have caused their loved ones to die. 

In his commentary for the Boston public radio station WGBH, Dan Kennedy writes about what he saw one April evening while watching three of the top Fox News personalities do their shows.  Each reported on the pandemic in a variety of ways. 

Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson had Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick as his guest.  Patrick had suggested that the United States re-open its economy and that seniors would be willing to die for a better future for their children and grandchildren.

Hannity was into China-bashing that night and praising President Trump’s travel ban on China, even though we have since learned that the ban was largely ineffective because it came too late.

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham scorned the government’s COVID-19 bailout saying there were people who might make more money than they did before the pandemic and playing numerous clips from physicians claiming COVID-19 wasn’t that dangerous. 

I am not sure if you could win a court case claiming that Fox News has made the pandemic worse because of course people have the freedom to watch or not watch it and to make their own decisions about whether they believe what they hear. 

I check the Fox News website every day because I think it is important to know what a variety of news sources from a variety of points of view are saying but sometimes the experience is more than a little scary.  

Other posts…………

Countering Conspiracy, Thinking About Bali and Fox News Surprises Me

Who Writes History?

Like Father Like Daughter?

 

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Is Favoritism Just Another Kind of Discrimination?

On a recent episode of The Human Brain podcast titled How Favoritism Leads to Injustice, Mahzarin Banaji a psychologist who studies discrimination told the story about a fellow Yale professor who cut a long and deep gash in her hand when she dropped a crystal bowl she was washing.

Her partner rushed her to the hospital where the attending physician was kind and competent and said she shouldn’t worry they would take care of her wound.  The professor explained she was a quilter and really needed all the feeling to return to her hand and fingers.

As the doctor began to stitch her up one of her students happened by and recognizing the professor stopped for a moment to greet her.  The doctor listening to them talk asked his patient, “Are you a professor at Yale?”  When the professor nodded the doctor stopped his stitching rushed the professor to a different hospital wing, called the best hand surgeon in New England who along with a team of other doctors operated on the professor’s hand for several hours. 

Mahzarin Banaji says the professor was not refused service because of her gender, race or some other difference because that would have been discrimination. No, the emergency room doctor treated her in a professional and positive manner but……..when he knew she was a professor she received preferred and better treatment.  

Mahzarin wants us to consider whether favouritism is really an often overlooked act of discrimination. 

favoritismDiscrimination is illegal. Favouritism is not against the law even though the consequences can be just as unjust. 

In the workplace, favouritism might be a boss giving promotions to people who attend their church, or assigning the youngest most attractive people for high profile tasks, or tending to hire those of certain national origin. 

An article in the New York Times about book publishing during the pandemic suggested to me that editors will show favouritism towards agents and authors who are part of the inner circle in the industry, those they hobnob and lunch and have cocktails with. Getting your book published means “knowing the right people” and being favoured by them.

illustration by Liam McFadden of The Pitt News

Illustration by Liam McFadden of The Pitt News

A study by two American psychologists Tony Greenwald and Thomas Pettigrew found that most discrimination isn’t caused by an intention to harm people who are different than we are but by showing favouritism to people who are similar to us. They say we all have a kind of “in-group”- people who we feel comfortable with because they are the same age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, live in the same neighbourhood or went to the same university.  We can identify with these people and so we will do favours for them and they will do favours for us.

But we also all have an “out-group”, people with whom we really can’t identify in most ways. By not doing the same kind of favours for them we are being discriminatory and prejudiced. 

I have been thinking about who is part of my “in-group” and how I might have favoured them. I have been thinking about how favouritism has influenced my life both in good and not so good ways.  How has favouritism played a role in my work life, my work as a writer and journalist, my community life and even my family life? 

How has favouritism impacted you and how has it influenced the way you treat others? 

Other posts……………. 

Are You A Performance Ally? 

Memorable Final Day

Two Lessons From Mom

 

 

 

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A Possible Alternative to Tearing Down Statues

Beyond the Myth of Benevolence” 2014 painting by Titus KapharThis painting by Titus Kaphar has been haunting me since I read that New York City council members are asking for the statue of Thomas Jefferson which stands outside their city hall to be removed.  Thomas Jefferson became the President of the United States in 1800.  He wrote the American Declaration of Independence and doubled the size of the country by negotiating the Louisiana Purchase.  

He was also a slave owner and in Kaphar’s painting called Beyond The Myth of Benevolence a traditional portrait of Jefferson is peeled back to show Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves with whom he began a sexual relationship when she was just fourteen.  He fathered her six children.

thomas jefferson city hall new york

This image on the Twitter feed of The New York Post shows the city council meeting with the statue of Thomas Jefferson pointed out and highlighted

In an interview,  Titus Kaphar said he was inspired to make the painting after he heard an American history teacher try to mitigate the fact that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner by saying he was a benevolent slave owner.  Because Jefferson treated his slaves kindly he shouldn’t be judged too harshly for owning other human beings. 

photos of Titus Kaphar from the MacArthur Foundation

Photo of Titus Kaphar from the MacArthur Foundation

Titus Kaphar says he is not against taking down statues of slave owners but he wonders if another solution could be creating works of art that tell a different story and displaying them in juxtaposition to initiate conversation.  

Why not hire a contemporary artist to make another sculpture of Thomas Jefferson of equal size and display it right next to the current one? Like Kaphar’s work, it could honestly depict the fact that Jefferson was a slave owner.

Our view of history is always changing and as it does our public art needs to reflect that change. Kaphar’s suggestion would make that change visible and certainly would precipitate plenty of discussion.  

Check here to see Titus Kaphar’s recent Time Magazine cover and his reflection about it. 

Other posts………

Old Sun and Emily Carr

A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

 

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A Change of Prayer

A photo I took of women praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

I pray every night before I go to sleep.  I have a litany of things I pray about. For the most part, my prayer list is just individual expressions of hope for good things for members of my family, my friends, myself and the world.   I truly believe you can make a difference by naming your hopes deliberately and routinely and sending those sincere desires out into the universe or winging up to a divine power.  I know reminding myself each night of the things I hope for, also inspires and motivates me to take whatever actions I can to make my prayers a reality. 

In the past, my prayers for the world have always been pretty general.  I pray for things like an end to poverty and an end to war and conflict. But at the beginning of June when I saw President Trump waving a Bible around in front of a church, I was so sad at how negatively the world has been affected by having an American leader with such a lack of moral integrity, I actually started praying specifically for many nights in a row that President Trump would lose the coming November election.  That prayer didn’t sit well with me though.  I hated to say his name and honestly I didn’t want to use my prayers to wish anyone ill. 

Then I heard an interview with Stacey Abrams, an American lawyer and a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives who is one of the candidates Joe Biden is considering as a running mate.   She was talking about how voting is an act of faith.  She said her parents had both been pastors and they had taught her to believe that you get what you work for, but you also get what you pray for. She compared the act of voting to an act of prayer, a prayer that good people with good hearts and good intentions would be elected. 

I loved that.  I decided I would stop praying that President Trump would lose the election and instead pray that good people with good hearts and good intentions would win.  I would pray that those who loved mercy and justice would prevail in our world. 

Of course, I never know in what way, or in what time, the things I pray and hope for will come to fruition, or unfold. But that has never stopped me from praying for them in the past and won’t stop me from praying for them now. 

Other posts……………

Prayer at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Spiritual Practices in Yunnan China

Prayer for a Golf Tournament

 

 

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A Bad Choice of Words

On Monday I published a blog post called Thoughts on Police Abolition.  Abolition was a bad choice of words.  People who want to abolish or defund the police force say our current system isn’t working so we need to start again. But few are saying, as their words ‘abolish’ and ‘defund’ might suggest, that eradicating law enforcement is the answer.  

man riding on motorcycle

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

 Nicholas Kristoff’s Wednesday column in the New York Times was about defining terms like ‘defunding the police’  and his readers in their comments suggested all kinds of creative and improved ways to describe what needs to happen with policing. I’m using their ideas as headings in this post. 

Reimagining the Police.   Could we reimagine who we accept as police officer candidates? Canadian police officers only need a grade twelve education to apply. What if instead, police officers needed to have university degrees in criminology, psychology, social work or some other related field before they began their training. Norway, Finland and Iceland require police officers to have a university or college degree.  

a photo of a police car

In Germany, police officers train for over two years. Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Reforming the Police.  Could we reform the way we train police officers? A typical training period for Canadian police officers is seven to nine months.  Germany requires two and a half years of training. I looked at the RCMP website to see how cadets are trained. They participate in criminal investigation scenarios. They learn about physical fitness and how to drive a police car. They learn how to use weapons, handcuffs and physical holds. They learn personal hygiene and organization. There doesn’t seem to be much time invested learning about things like systemic racism, the cycle of poverty or the clinical aspects of addictions. 

Reinventing the Police.  Could we re-invent what policing looks like by adding other professionals to work alongside officers?  Perhaps social workers should be walking alongside police officers on the streets.  Perhaps nurses should be visiting schools along with police officers.  Perhaps psychologists should be going into family conflict situations with police officers. You can read here about a program in Eugene Oregon where social workers respond to 20% of the 911 calls and only very rarely have to call in police officers for backup.

photo of man laying on sidewalk

How might eradicating homelessness impact the number of police officers cities need?  Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Decreasing the Police. Could we decrease the number of police officers by thinking outside the box in regards to the problems police must deal with? On a tour in Portugal, I learned that in 2001, Portugal turned over police involvement in routine drug cases by small-time users to social workers and provided free methadone from roving vehicles. Their fatality rate for drug use is down to near zero.

Could we provide a basic living wage, and subsidised housing for everyone who needs it? Using innovative programming Medicine Hat Alberta has managed to end homelessness in its city. 

police men with a group of people in a rally

Do regular duty officers need to carry weapons? Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Deescalate the Police. Could we deescalate the violence in police encounters with citizens by changing the enforcement techniques police officers are allowed to use?  Many countries and cities have banned chokeholds. A group in the American Congress is proposing a ban on the use of tear gas. At least a half a dozen countries don’t allow police officers on regular duty to carry weapons. 

I wish now I had used a different word than abolish in the headline of Monday’s blog. We don’t need to abolish the police force but perhaps we do need to reimagine it, deescalate it, decrease it, reinvent it and reform it.  And although law enforcement is front and centre right now, many of those same processes need to happen in education and health care and the other major systems that uphold our democratic society. 

Other posts……………

Is the Solution to Ending Terrorism Really This Simple? 

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Women Should Be Leading

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