Category Archives: Politics

Dear World

 Eight year old Bana Alabed narrates a tragic story in the book Dear World.  She and her family lived in Aleppo Syria and Bana started a Twitter account to describe the horror and deprivation her family was experiencing. She garnered nearly 400,000 followers.  Bana’s family has now escaped to Turkey where they have become citizens and Bana and her mother have written a book about their family’s experiences that has been published by Simon and Schuster.  

I had heard nothing about the book before I read it myself and I was moved and mournful as Bana described the terror of bombing raids, the agony of hiding for hours on end in cold and dirty basements, the stark reality of having little or no food to eat, the fear of dodging bullets to get water, the disappointment of having her school destroyed, the anxiety of seeing her family separated and the sadness of losing her dearest friend in a bombing.  

The city of Aleppo where Bana’s family lived

After finishing Dear World which includes a response from Bana’s mother Fatemah at the end of each chapter, I went online to learn more about it and now I am not at all sure what I think of the book.  Many Amazon reviewers, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and a host of websites have questioned the veracity of Bana’s tweets and her narrative in the book.  Even in favourable articles like this one in the New Yorker there are suggestions that Bana’s videos on Twitter are too scripted and that she is being coached. Critics say in interviews Bana simply doesn’t exhibit a good enough knowledge of the English language to have written the tweets she did.  Some even accuse her parents of being aligned with terrorist organizations. Since the announcement of her book launch some of her more political tweets have been removed from her feed. 

Yet I am left thinking …….. Would Simon and Schuster publish her book if they didn’t think it was true and would author J.K. Rowling be Bana’s number one fan and supporter if her story wasn’t verifiable? It’s hard to know. 

The bottom line is that the war in Syria has been devastating for thousands of children.  If Bana Alabed’s story brings attention to their plight and inspires people to help them that’s a good thing.  But it is not a good thing if questions about Bana’s motivations and authenticity does anything to hinder bringing support and aid to the refugee children of Syria .  I am not sorry I read Dear World.  I wish I could still take its very sad story at face value. 

Other posts……….

Meeting the Street Children of Delhi

Standing Up For Children

Thoughts About Children

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Women Were Honored? Think Again John Kelly

“When I was growing up we honored women.” John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff made that comment at a recent press conference. I think he was referencing the Harvey Weinstein case currently monopolizing media headlines. Some sixty women have accused the movie mogul of sexual impropriety. Of course Weinstein’s behavior does not honor women although the fact his female accusers are being taken seriously does.

What’s remarkable about Kelly’s comment is he seems to think there was a time in history when women were more honored than they are now. And frankly that’s delusional. Kelly was born in 1950. If we look at how women were treated in the 50s and 60s when Kelly was ‘growing up’ it is abundantly clear they were not honored as Kelly suggests.

Telephone operators in 1952

During those years women’s contributions to the work force weren’t honored because in Canada and the United States women were being paid about 60% less than men for doing the same work. American employers did not have to grant maternity leave. In Canada pregnancy was still reason for dismissal by an employer and there were no legal penalties for sexual harassment on the job.

Women did other jobs so men could fly. Women  couldn’t be air force pilots themselves

Women’s strength and courage wasn’t honored because they weren’t allowed to serve on active duty in the American military or fly planes in the Canadian Air Force. Women could not join the RCMP in Canada till 1974 and by 1980 women still only made up 5% of American police forces.

Emily Stowe Canada’s first female doctor

Women’s intelligence wasn’t honored because universities limited how many women could join their faculties. Till 1972 Harvard medical school for example had their female enrollment limited to 5% of the class. In Canada in 1970 only 14% of medical students were women.

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs before their famous Battle of the Sexes in 1973

Women’s athletic prowess was not honored. The new movie Battle of the Sexes takes place in 1973 and chronicles Billie Jean King’s fight for fair pay and equal respect for women in the sport of tennis. In the 50s and 60s there were still dozens of sports in the Olympic games not open to women. It wasn’t till 1991 that the International Olympic Committee ruled any new sport entering the games must include women’s events.

Agnes Macphail – First woman elected to Canada’s Parliament

Women’s political contributions were not honored. In 1980 only 20 of the 441 members of the American Congress were women and only 10 of Canada’s 308 members of Parliament were women.

A woman’s right to safety and protection was not honored. In her book Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists Margo Goodhand says there were no shelters for victims of domestic abuse in Canada till the 1970s. The first American shelter was opened in Minneapolis in 1973.

Women couldn’t always have their own credit cards

Women’s financial acumen and responsibility was not honored. Till 1974 it was still legal for American companies to refuse a woman a credit card based on her gender. They could demand her husband’s signature of approval before granting her a line of credit. Canada’s Royal Bank only appointed the first woman to its Board of Directors in 1976.

It is troubling when powerful men like John Kelly publicly extol the virtues of some imaginary time in the past when life was better for women, when they were honored. They weren’t. When men like Kelly talk about making America great again many women shudder because in the past America wasn’t that great a place for them. Canada wasn’t either. Thankfully our country has current leaders who appear to be more progressive and realistic about what it means to honor women. Kelly and his boss Donald Trump, whose track record with women is hardly honorable, might have something to learn from them.

Other posts………

The Famous Five

Should Women With Young Children Be Politicians?

International Day of the Girl

 

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We Both Talk With Our Hands!

jagmeet singh creative commonsLast week the New Democratic Party of Canada elected a new leader Jagmeet Singh.  He is a 38 year old trial lawyer and provincial politician known for his colorful Sikh turbans and stylish dress.  Jagmeet was born in Canada to immigrant parents and grew up in Ontario and Newfoundland. I watched one of his first television interviews as the new leader of his party. He was articulate and personable but the thing I noticed most about him was the way he used his hands when he talked.  

I do that too and most of the time I don’t  even realize my hands are moving but my husband does.  On Sunday we had guests and I was relating a story to them. I happened to glance over at Dave. He caught my eye and slowly moved his right hand up and down to let me know my gestures were getting way too dramatic and frequent. It wasn’t the first time he’s provided that kind of discreet reminder. 

I feel a little bit better knowing that one of the new political leaders of our country uses his hands when he talks, even on national television.  I’m wondering if it may not be quite as embarrasing a trait as my husband thinks. 

Other posts………..

Hands

We Placed Our Lives in His Hands

Plants That Talked To Me

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Should Women With Young Children Be Politicians?

“Could Andrew Scheer have been elected the leader of a national party if he were a woman with five children including a newborn? “

In an essay in Macleans magazine Rona Ambrose, the previous interim leader of the Conservative party writes about ways to encourage more women to be involved in politics. She says we have to be willing to accept that women regardless of their physical attributes and family compositions are capable of holding government office.

Her comment about Andrew Scheer the father of five young children and…….. the Conservative party leader who succeeded her, suggests we don’t always think of male and female politicians in the same way. There’s an assumption that mothers of large families with young children might not be the best political candidates, but fathers of similar families are.  Ambrose says this reflects not only the obvious practical challenges in such a situation but also ” the real, judgmental, and sexist perceptions that women face in politics. ”  

Women with young children should represent us politically.  They are in tune with the needs of young Canadian families and their voice is of great importance.  What things could we do to encourage and support them so they would not face stereotypical discrimination and so many practical impediments to political service? Should affordable child care with extended hours be offered on Parliament Hill? Should members of Parliament have more flexible working times, additional help with travel expenses so families can be together more often, and assistance with finding schools and housing in Ottawa? Should there be a greater openess to allowing children to be present in their parents’ work place on Parliament Hill?  Implementation of some of these changes has already begun  as this CTV News article suggests.

These changes will not only benefit women politicians but also support fathers like Andrew Scheer and my own member of Parliament Robert Falcon Ouellette who has five children, so they can share parenting responsibilities  more equally with their partners. 

Other posts………

Looking Back Instead of Forward

Could I Join the Conservative Party?

I Sat in the Speakers Chair

 

 

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Take a Break From Trump

We were out with friends last Sunday night. We had spent many hours together and were enjoying one last beverage before we went our separate ways.  I mentioned something Donald Trump had done that week.  

“I thought we were going to get through the evening without talking about him,”  our friend said with just a little disappointment in his tone.  

My friend’s response wasn’t a rebuke exactly but it was a good reminder.  I need more time spent without thought and worry about the troubling political developments south of the border.  It intrudes too much on the joy I should take in the blessings of the present, the company of good friends, the love of family and the opportunities I have to be creative, contribute to my community and learn and grow as a person. 

I know I need to keep informed about what is going on in the United States because it does impact Canadians and the rest of the world but………. I should remember there are always more productive and positive things to focus on and talk about than the latest antics of the American President. 

Other posts……...

The Trump Silver Lining

I’m So Tired of You America

A Religious Opinion

 

 

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Looking Back Instead of Forward

The Canadian Senate may soon kill a bill that alters our national anthem to make it more gender inclusive.

The bill introduced in the House of Commons by the late Liberal MP Mauril Belanger and passed by a majority vote, would change the phrase ‘in all thy sons command’ in O Canada to ‘in all of us command.’ The bill is awaiting Senate approval to become law. Senator Don Plett and some of his colleagues may prevent that from happening. Plett has introduced an amendment to the bill that would return the contentious phrase in the song to its original 1908 wording ‘thou dost in us command’.

The wording Plett is championing is also gender inclusive but here’s the problem. If the Senate amends the bill it has to go back to the House of Commons to be voted on again. Since Mr. Belanger has died members will have to agree unanimously to let another MP sponsor the bill. Some members may refuse to agree because they don’t want to change the words of the anthem. Thus the bill will die.

 Plett is aware this could happen but won’t withdraw his amendment. He says he isn’t comfortable tinkering with the song’s language even though the Toronto Star reports the anthem’s words have been altered many times in the past. I wonder if those who oppose making the anthem gender inclusive would feel the same way if the phrase in question said ‘in all our daughters’ command.’

Statue at the Manitoba Legislature that recognizes the famous five  who fought to have women recognized as persons in Canada

In a Senate speech Plett claimed our anthem shouldn’t change because it reminds us of where we came from. The current version which uses the word ‘sons’ to refer to Canadian citizens does remind us of the past when women weren’t persons in Canada. They were their husbands’ and fathers’ property. They couldn’t vote and their contributions went largely unrecognized. Mr. Plett is right. It is very important to remember where we came from. We come from a time when women were victims of all kinds of abuse because they had fewer human rights than men.
Anyone watching the new television version of Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s chilling story The Handmaid’s Tale will recognize just how vital it is not to take for granted what women have gained in their fight for equality. Atwood’s tale reminds us there is great peril in forgetting the negative ramifications of patriarchy, not only for women but also for society as a whole.  I wonder if Mr. Plett and his colleagues are thinking we need to maintain the sexist version of our national anthem so we remember those terrible times and continue to fight for equality? Somehow I doubt it. There is a time for looking back at the past but our national anthem should inspire us to think about a better future. 

 ‘In all of us command’ represents reality. Women can serve in our country’s armed forces in all the same roles as men. Women make up half our government’s cabinet.

 The current debate about the anthem reminds me of something that happened in a church I attended in the 1980s. I asked for the church constitution to be changed removing the pronoun ‘he’ from descriptions of duties for elected offices in the church. A number of women held these offices but they were still being referred to as ‘he’ in our constitution. My suggestion caused so much debate and alarm I almost left the church.

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

But that was more than three decades ago. Surely people have realized by now that language is powerful and can exclude and marginalize. Language isn’t stagnant. It is ever evolving just as the role of women in Canadian society continues to evolve. Hopefully Mr. Plett and his like-minded senators can come to see that. 

Other posts………

Are You This Determined to Vote?

An Inclusive O Canada

The Famous Five

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Filed under Music, Politics

Could I Join the Conservative Party?

I have never voted for a Conservative party candidate in my life. My world view, social sensibilities and faith stance are more in line with the policies of other political parties.  However a political candidate campaigning at my door this week made think about  joining the Conservative Party even if only for a short time. 

I live in Point Douglas, a provincial riding that will hold a by-election in the near future due to the resignation of our MLA Kevin Chief.

Jodi Moskal is running for the Conservative nomination for Point Douglas and I have to say she has an impressive resume. A licensed electrician, who helped to run a family business, she has served as chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Winnipeg Construction Association.

When Jodi came to my door to campaign this week I had a good discussion with her about my concerns and questions regarding some of the current Conservative government’s policies and plans. I also talked to her about issues in our riding that are important to me. Jodi was a good listener, knowledgeable and open- minded.

I told Jodi I applauded her for running for the nomination. Deciding to open yourself to the kind of public scrutiny and criticism politicians face can’t be easy. I really wanted to support Jodi because we definitely need more qualified women in politics and I think its great she is taking on the challenge. I could almost see myself joining the Conservatives briefly just to help Jodi get nominated.

Unfortunately her party is not one I can support ideologically. I have however started following her on social media. I’ll be curious to see how she does. Kudos to her for entering the political arena!jodi moskal

 Other posts………

There are People in Provencher Who Aren’t Unsavory and Ignorant

Giving Up Donald Trump For Lent

I’m So Tired of You America

 

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