Tag Archives: house of commons

Laughing At the Suffering of Others

They laughed at suffering women!  On May 12, 1982 NDP health critic Margaret Mitchell rose in the Canadian House of Commons to address the issue of domestic abuse.  As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs Ms. Mitchell had been hearing story after story from battered women who at the time had no legal recourse to hold their abusive partners accountable and no safe places in the community to escape them. 

Margaret Mitchell speaks in the House of Commons. Photo by Andy Clark -Canadian Press

During question period Margaret Mitchell asked the Liberal Minister for the Status of Women Judy Erola what the government was going to do to address this crisis. “One in ten Canadian husbands beat their wives regularly”  said Ms. Mitchell.  At that the predominantly male House of Commons erupted in laughter. Yes laughter ! Then Tory members of the house began to heckle her. 

Ms. Erola rose to tell the men she did not find their behavior amusing and neither did the women of Canada. She promised to provide funding for more transitional housing.   Margaret then asked the Solicitor General to require the courts treat spousal abuse as a criminal act. Of the more than 10,000 charges laid by abused Canadian wives up to that point only two had resulted in convictions. 

The next day Ms. Mitchell introduced a formal motion asking that the members of the House of Commons who had laughed at her and heckled her apologize.  It was defeated. 

The Atlantic magazine ran an article this week called The Cruelty is the Point. Writer Adam Serwer lists incident after incident where President Trump has made fun of the suffering of others. And incredibly many of his supporters hoot and holler and applaud when he does so. According to Serwer the American President really takes pleasure in his cruelty.

Trump believes the United States is the birthright of straight, white, healthy Christian men. Accordingly he says cruel things about the LGBTQ community, immigrants, black athletes, women who are the victims of sexual violence, Muslims, and people with physical challenges. His bravado in doing so makes his fans feel so proud and happy and united they cheer and laugh. 

But we Canadians should not feel too smug. We need to remember we are capable of such cruelty too, capable of laughing at the suffering of others.  Margaret Mitchell’s experience is a good example. 

Other posts…………….

Are You This Determined to Vote? 

From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander

Encouragement After the American Election

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I Sat in the Speaker’s Chair

Did you know the Speakers Chair in the House of Commons moves up and down?  I do because I once sat in it. Yesterday Parliament elected a new speaker of the house Geoff Regan. Beginning today he will preside over the business of governing Canada from the Speaker’s Chair doing his best to create a civil and orderly exchange among the  338 members of Parliament.  

sitting-in-the-speakers-chair On a visit to Ottawa a family friend working on Parliament Hill gave us a personalized tour of the House of Commons.  We got to take turns sitting in the Speakers Chair and having our photo taken. Ensconced in the chair I could imagine for just a moment that I was the Speaker of the House being asked to cast the tie breaking vote for an important piece of legislation. Our guide explained the first female Speaker of the House to sit in the chair was Jeanne Sauvé. Since she was quite short, her feet couldn’t reach the floor when she was sitting in the chair, so a hydraulic lift was installed to move it up and down at the press of a button.

Looking at photos of our new speaker Geoff Regan he appears to be tall enough that he probably won’t need to move the chair up or down but he probably will have his hands full trying to keep Parliament on track amid the ups and downs of political debate and decision-making that lie ahead. 

Other posts…….

The House with the Obama Chair

Are You this Determined to Vote?

Who Should Be Primeminister?

A Fire Changed Her Life

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Filed under Canada, Politics