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Rafil Dhafir remains jailed after decades of non-stop warfare

5 hours 54 min ago
February 22, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsWorldCrimes of compassion, Iraq's long war and Canada's bloody handsIt has been 38 years of almost non-stop warfare and repression, with thousands killed, billions wasted, and Dr. Rafil Dhafir still in jail for violating sanctionsiraq invasion and occupationwar in IraqBill Clinton
Categories: News for progressives

The growing spark to ignite the future

Wed, 2018-02-21 15:07
February 21, 2018Women Who Tell, two years onThe progress we have made in speaking out about sexual assault relies on one major cultural shift: the women making allegations have stopped caring about men's feelings. anti-feminismpolice abuse
Categories: News for progressives

Food programs should be a part of next week's federal budget

Tue, 2018-02-20 14:55
February 20, 2018Food & HealthBudget, budget on the Hill….Next week's federal budget provides an opportunity to reinstate prison farms and improve food securityFood Security Canadapenitentiaryprison garden programs
Categories: News for progressives

NDP leader plots the course for the next stage of his leadership at convention

Mon, 2018-02-19 14:21
February 19, 2018NDPJagmeet Singh's populist rhetoric inspires the NDP convention. What next?The NDP leader gave a speech that promised to make the wealthiest pay their share and address inequality. It was, however, short on details, and barely mentioned the environment. NDPJagmeet Singh
Categories: News for progressives

Ottawa hosts annual NDP convention

Fri, 2018-02-16 15:05
February 16, 2018Politics in CanadaA divided NDP has to decide what it stands forThe NDP meets in Ottawa this week with its two provincial governments squabbling and the party searching for a mission and an identity.NDPPremier Rachel NotleyJohn HorganLeap ManifestoTheWaffle
Categories: News for progressives

Women's Memorial March returns for the 27th year

Thu, 2018-02-15 15:12
February 15, 2018Indigenous RightsWomen's Memorial March connects love, remembrance and powerDowntown Eastside event commemorates missing and murdered Indigenous women and bears witness to ongoing injustices in Vancouver and beyond#MMIWGmissing and murdered aboriginal women
Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau gets out of the Trans Mountain pipeline mess fairly unscathed

Wed, 2018-02-14 15:02
February 14, 2018Politics in CanadaHorgan fights Notley, but it was Trudeau who approved the pipelinePeople are buying B.C. wines in solidarity with B.C.'s Horgan government in its dispute with Alberta. Ironically, many of those wine protesters campaigned for the Trudeau Liberals in 2015.John HorganRachel NotleyTrans Mountain Expansion Project
Categories: News for progressives

The Gerald Stanley trial result was a travesty

Sun, 2018-02-11 11:45
February 10, 2018Indigenous RightsAn all-white jury runs from justice in the trial of Gerald StanleyDon’t say that Canada or Saskatchewan failed Indigenous people -- Canada just failed. It wasn’t a mob of racists that released a killer onto the streets -- it was 12 regular Canadians.Colten BoushieJustice for ColtenIndigenous rightsfirst nations rightsjustice
Categories: News for progressives

Bill 148 and precarious workers - will it make a difference?

Fri, 2018-02-09 15:15
February 9, 2018LabourBill 148 and precarious workers - will it make a difference?The Urban Worker Project is an extension of the work on precarious pay by former MP Andrew Cashprecarious employmentlabour
Categories: News for progressives

Bill 148 and precarious workers - will it make a difference?

Fri, 2018-02-09 15:14
February 9, 2018LabourThe Urban Worker Project is an extension of the work on precarious pay by former MP Andrew Cashprecarious employmentPrecarious Workemploymentlabour
Categories: News for progressives

Hijabs, feminism and hypocrisy in mainstream narratives of women's liberation

Fri, 2018-02-09 03:41

When it comes to women's wear, everyone has an opinion -- from fashion designers to mothers-in-law, to boyfriends, to politicians, to random people on the street.

For Muslim women who wear the hijab (headscarf) or the niqab (a face-covering veil) these opinions may be even more unsolicited and can become subjects of books, movies, laws, heated family discussions, slurs on the street and even federal election campaigns like the one we had in Canada in 2015. If you think I am exaggerating, you need only go back four months in time and read about Bill 62, introduced and passed in Quebec's National Assembly, which prohibits women from receiving public services while wearing a niqab.

And if you still have doubts, you can read about the "burkini ban" in France during the summer of 2016 when Muslim women wearing burkinis (swim attire consisting of leggings and a dress with a hoodie) were banned from beaches.

These political decisions, whether made in Quebec, Canada, France or elsewhere, are justified by two main arguments. They are either seen through the "holy" lens of secularism or through the noble objective of women's liberation and feminism.

As far as the "myth of secularism" and how it brought more rights to women in Western societies, I leave it to Joan Wallach Scott, who wrote extensively about the topic and who demolishes the secularism argument in her recent book, Sex and Secularism.

As for the feminist argument, let me share some personal experience and thoughts to show how it has been wrongly used.

Even when Muslim women strongly and loudly voice their disagreement that they are not oppressed and that wearing the hijab or niqab is their own choice, they are not taken seriously or they are not heard at all.

Personally, I have heard many comments directed at me, especially from women, telling me that I am oppressed without knowing it or that I have been brainwashed by patriarchal Islamists (understood to be my father, brother and/or husband) without noticing it (perhaps while I was busy writing my PhD thesis).

Today, in the era of the #MeToo and "Time's up" movement, it is time to trust women's stories when they are facing all sorts of adversity. It is unacceptable that we still have issues with trusting women's intelligence and decisions, especially when those decisions happen to run against other people's desires and counter the mainstream narratives of women's liberation.

We live in a time of hypocrisy, where double standards are commonly used, especially by those who use feminism whenever its suits their personal agenda.

Last week, about 29 women decided to stand up publicly in the streets of Iran and remove their hijabs. They were protesting the compulsory hijab imposed on women since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

On social media, these women were described as "heroes" and their protests branded as "courageous." Even though I strongly believe that these spectacular actions play into the Western obsession with the hijab and Muslim women's bodies, I consider these actions courageous. However, on the other side of the spectrum, when Zunera Ishaq legally challenged the Harper government to be able to take the citizenship oath while wearing a niqab, she was not called "courageous" on social media. On the contrary, then prime minister Stephen Harper jumped to a simplistic justification for the hijab ban and described the niqab as "rooted in a culture that is anti-women."

Another example of the hypocrisy of those using feminism when it suits their agenda is the treatment of Amena Khan, the first Muslim model hired by L'Oréal, to star in a campaign selling hair products. A few hours later she was fired after old tweets surfaced in which she made harsh criticisms towards Israel and its policies vis à vis Palestinians. Even though I have tremendous reservations about how the hijab is being used by multinational corporations and thus becoming another marketing tool used, for instance, by l'Oréal or H&M, to get customers and profits, I was dumbfounded by how the loud voices using feminism here and there didn't find it outrageous that a woman was silenced for her opinions.

Some would argue that in Iran or in Saudi Arabia (another country where women are obliged to cover their heads and bodies), when women decide to remove their hijab, chador or niqab in acts of defiance, they stand to lose their freedom and this could put their life in danger, in contrast to Amena Khan losing her job in the U.K. or women unable to take the bus and visit the public library in Quebec. I agree. We should compare apples to apples and not to oranges. However, we should also keep in mind that consequences are relative to the state of the democracies we live in and if women are removed from jobs and public spaces for their appearance this will lead to their social and economic marginalization, which is not a minor fact.

During the '90s, women in Tunisia, the country where I grew up, were persecuted because they were wearing the hijab. They were raped, verbally and physically assaulted by police officers, put in prison and some even died. Last year, the truth and dignity commission listened to some of the survivors' horrific stories. All these years, these women have been suffering in silence. France, one of the main allies and supporters of the regime at that time, never called these women "brave" or "heroes" or used feminism to defend them. They were left to their fate.

Homa Hoodffar, a Canadian scholar originally from Iran who was arrested in 2016 by the Iranian regime and later released, wrote about how Iranian women lived under the Shah dictatorship before the Islamic revolution, and explained how many Iranian women suffered when the Shah banned the veil in an attempt at "modernization." Many women stopped going out because they didn't want to be uncovered. They stopped socializing and were deprived of going to places such as public baths or even working outside, thus losing social and economic status.

My point isn't to defend some choices over others or to claim that wearing a hijab is harder or more courageous than removing it. Both are difficult and dangerous decisions depending on the countries where women live. However, it is how the same "feminism" is used to justify some actions and denounce others that deeply bothers me. I believe that "time's up" to have all women's decisions and stories taken seriously. We can't pick and choose which women are worth listening to and whose stories are braver than others.

Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. In 2008, she published a memoir, Hope and Despair, about her pursuit of justice, and recently, a novel about Muslim women, Mirrors and Mirages. You can follow her on Twitter @MoniaMazigh or on her blog www.moniamazigh.com

Photo: dzoro/flickr

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niqab banhijabmuslim womenwomen's bodiesWestern feminism#metooMonia MazighFebruary 9, 2018On independence and the niqabQuebec's shameful embrace of a niqab ban grew out of the identity politics that followed the failed 1995 referendum to separate from CanadaQuebec's face-covering ban encourages bigotrySome political leaders have condemned Quebec’s Law 62 as a violation of human rights; others not. Justin Trudeau has been circumspect, while Jagmeet Singh and the Ontario legislature have gone further.Once again the bodies of Muslim women are used to justify warsHarper is decrying the "poor status" of Muslim women abroad while disregarding calls for women's rights at home. These political tactics have a long history of justifying colonization and imperialism.
Categories: News for progressives

Disruptive innovation could set hearing aid industry on its ear

Fri, 2018-02-09 00:16

For the last couple of years my hearing has been failing me. I can't completely understand dialogue in Marvel movies, conversations in bars or, lately, even one-on-one conversations in a relatively quiet room.

But, I've been reluctant to get hearing aids. Partially that's for reasons of vanity. I don't want to look like an old man, despite the fact that my grey male pattern baldness, hair-filled ears and deepening wrinkles are not fooling anyone.

Having thin wires disappearing into my auditory canals from what look like silver tangerine segments behind my ears was just a bridge too far.

But there is another and equally important reason for my reluctance. I think the hearing aid industry is ripe for disruptive innovation.

This really came home to me a couple of weeks ago when I caved to reality and explored my hearing aid options at a local audiologist. She was a pleasant young woman who explained why it was that two hearing aids can cost as much as three new iMacs.

She told me that I would really be paying for the hardware itself, the R&D that went into it and, of course, her expertise as a professional who could accurately assess my hearing and tune hearing aids precisely to my needs.

I have no issue with her expertise and education. I appreciate the time she took with me. But the rest of the argument is patent nonsense. Which is why I think the hearing aid industry is in for a rude awakening from Google, Apple or some other tech company.

Trial run

I got a loaner pair of hearing aids from the audiologist. They were two crescent-shaped grey plastic cases with silicon-covered receivers attached to them by thin, flexible wires. They, frankly, looked like a creaky gizmo you'd buy in a Skymall catalogue for $49.95 if you were drunk on a long flight.

When I got them home I realized I didn't ask how to turn them off. I then discovered it was easy. You just had to open the tiny battery case in each and let the energy cell protrude out a bit.

That was a unique technology experience for me. I would be paying up to $6,000 for an electronic device I had to open the battery door on to shut down. I imagined having to do this with a digital camera, laptop or even portable radio that cost $7 on Amazon. And, I pictured the devices shorting out if I accidentally wore them in the shower since the battery housing clearly isn't sealed.

The hearing aids came in a plastic case that did nothing but contain them. When I shook the box slightly I could hear the loose devices rattling around inside.

The audiologist told me I could use the hearing aids with Bluetooth. That way I could listen to calls and music coming from my iPhone. That's true, but to do it, I would have to hang a device the size of a hockey puck around my neck so the inductive signal from the wire necklace could communicate with the non-Bluetooth-capable hearing aids. The kludginess of that solution is almost laughable. And, the audio quality, even for podcasts, was tinny and dreadful.

Comparing devices

It was hard not to compare the hearing aids to my Apple AirPods. These are also small devices that pipe sound into your ears. The AirPods are elegant pieces of industrial design. In their small housing they contain a microphone, an earphone, a digital signal processor, a Bluetooth receiver, a rechargeable battery, an accelerometer and a proximity sensor. And, I can summon Siri with two taps on the side of one AirPod. Their case is like a smooth, white river stone. The AirPods snap into it and are held snugly. That case also acts as a charger for the devices.

The AirPods connect directly to my phone via Bluetooth and deliver rich, stereo sound. And they can go through a wash cycle without damage.

Plus, they cost under $200. Other manufacturers like Bose, Google and Jabra make similar devices. The Jabra can even monitor heart rate and Google's set can translate dozens of languages in real time.

Now, of course, these are earpods, not hearing aids. But, from an industrial design, electronics and hardware point-of-view, it is a fair comparison. In fact, most earpods have more, not less, electronics in them than hearing aids.

Where they differ from hearing aids is in the software. The chip in hearing aids samples audio a million times a second. It is programmed to work specifically for the unique type of hearing loss sufferers live with. And, a lot of R&D goes into the design of that chip and the tuneable software that it contains.

Audiologists argue that a good chunk of the cost of hearing aids is that R&D expenditure. But Bose, Google, Jabra and Apple also have significant R&D investments wrapped up in their devices. Case in point: Apple has 100 engineers alone working on the camera in the iPhone.

Plus, much of early R&D costs for electronic devices is amortized over the first few years of a device's creation. Ongoing R&D expenses make up a small portion of the overall cost of a shipping product compared to marketing, retail markup and production costs.

Now, Apple, Google, Bose and others have a huge advantage in economics of scale when they make their products. Which is why the Big Six hearing aid companies should be nervous.

Primed for disruption

They are in a classic disruption space. They are incumbents in an industry that offers a high-cost product and are dependent on that high cost and the business models that support it. A good percentage of folks who need hearing aids don't have them because of that cost. They are actively seeking a cheaper solution. That's why small disrupters such as online hearing aids sales companies like Audicus and big box stores like Costco are making a tiny dent by offering cheaper, though often inferior, solutions.

But they're not the real disruptors. Apple has already invested millions in health research for its Apple Watch. The rich data sets and expertise on wearable health monitoring can be translated into ear-centric wearable health devices. It has state-of-the-art audio labs and is exploring augmented reality glasses that will probably contain augmented audio as part of the experience. And, of course, it has AirPods that will get smaller and more powerful in the next few years. And Apple is a demonstrated master at stepping into an industry with lousy user experience and cleaning its clock.

Google has shown with Google Photos that it can use machine learning to study millions of images and produce an AI that gets better and better at recognizing trees, sheep, canoes, etc. in those images. That same technology applied to crowdsourced soundwaves and applied dynamically to existing earpods could dramatically improve the devices' abilities to process real-world sound.

None of this will happen next year, but I bet in five, the hearing aid industry will be set on its ear. In the meantime, I'll spend my hearing aid money on an iMac, a laptop and a big screen 4K TV and still have cash left over for another set of AirPods.

Do I wish I could hear better now? Of course. But I don't want to be a chump with Skymall junk in my ears. So, I'll keep holding out for a better solution. If you hear of one, give me a shout.

Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years, and is a long-time writer for rabble.ca on technology and the Internet.

Photo: anjan58/flickr

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hearing aidshearablesdigital technologydisruptionmobile technologyWayne MacPhailFebruary 12, 2018Here come the hearablesHearable are the next step in wearable electronics. It is a private and relatively distraction-free device that could prove revolutionary for some and down right frightening for others.Next-gen augmented reality will target human sensoriumWhen most of us think of augmented reality, thanks to Google, we think of dorky glasses. But what about the other senses? What if they were augmented and all those augmentations worked in concert?AirPods are not just earphones -- they're a metaphor of the future If all you do is consider AirPods earphones, you limit your ability to think expansively about what they could be, and what they presage.
Categories: News for progressives

Peace for Korea

Thu, 2018-02-08 15:34
February 8, 2018US PoliticsWorldWhat Games are they playing?As the Seoul Winter Olympics opens, a peace conference calls for suspension of military exercises after the Games, and lifting of sanctions and talks with North Korea.2018 Winter OlympicsSouth KoreaNorth Korea
Categories: News for progressives

The West should be begging African nations for forgiveness

Wed, 2018-02-07 20:40
Gerry Caplan

I'm sure some readers will have forgotten Donald Trump's recent disparagement of the entire African continent. But Africans haven't, you can be sure. Africans know perfectly well what Mr. Trump meant by "shithole countries."

It's true Africa has some serious problems, but even someone like Mr. Trump ought to be able to grasp their source. For example, as journalist Howard French pointed out in The Washington Post, "Trump's profane description disregards Africa's crucial role in making America a world power … More than any other factor, it is the wealth derived from Africa, especially the labour of people taken in chains from that continent, that accounts for the rise of the West and its centuries of predominance in world affairs."

Canadians need to learn this lesson pretty badly too, as former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman demonstrated some time back. Setting forth on an official visit to Kenya, Mr. Lastman fretted publicly about the cannibals he was certain he'd bump into on the continent.

Of course anyone who knows Africa at all understands the sheer idiocy of such myths. Mr. Lastman was going off to a modern convention centre in Mombasa, while an American president regularly meets African diplomats of sophistication and charm. But the Trumps and Lastmans care little about trivia such as the truth. Their attitude, sadly, represents a racism that runs deep.

The truth is this: The Western world's intervention over the past 600 years is significantly responsible for Africa's problems.

The slave trade robbed Africa of 12 million of its most productive subjects. At the same time, it created a new class of slave-owning planters in America who provided a powerful engine to drive the U.S. economy. Without them, the rich countries woud not be so rich.

Eventually, Western intervention turned into formal colonialism, with the European powers each arbitrarily claiming authority over certain African territories. Subsequent examples of Western turpitude are almost literally endless. Take the Congo, for example, the West's favourite incarnation of the heart of darkness. But the darkness was in the heart of its Belgian rulers, who, in the pursuit of rubber, murdered some 10 million of the 20 million existing inhabitants, one of the greatest genocides in human history. When, after almost a century of slaughter and destruction, Congo became independent, there were hardly any experienced or educated Congolese to run the country.

As if that weren't enough, the American government plotted with the Belgians to torture and murder the Congo's first -- and still only -- democratic president, Patrice Lumumba. The killers chose Joseph Mobutu in his stead, ushering in an unparalleled orgy of theft from the public sector. At the same time, as Mr. Mobutu handed out mineral concessions worth billions to friends of the West , U.S.-controlled institutions such as the World Bank kept showering billions more on Mr. Mobutu in loans that all knew would never be repaid. Not surprisingly, at the end of the 20th century, Congo became the site of Africa's first continental war, as a dozen nations fought on its soil for the enrichment of their various leaders, many using U.S. weapons.

Here's another example. For many years, in return for loans to African governments from the West, orthodox capitalist policies were demanded. In Zambia in the mid-1980s, HIV/AIDS was just beginning its ravage of Africa. Loans were provided, but only on the proviso that no expansion of public services was to be contemplated. A country that so badly needed nurses was forbidden from hiring any more nurses. HIV was free to run amok, and took full advantage. In the absence of the needed human resources, about a million Zambians now live with HIV/AIDS, while the country has 600,000 orphans.

Instead of maligning Africans, we in the West should be begging their forgiveness.

But Mr. Trump knew exactly what he was saying. As former president Lyndon Johnson pointed out, "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best coloured man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket." That's what the devious Mr. Trump instinctively grasps: He's got to give his backers "somebody to look down on," in Johnson's phrase. As if Mexicans, Muslims and immigrants weren't enough, Mr. Trump has served them up an entire continent.

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.

Image: Kevin Walsh/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Qui bono? Follow the money

Wed, 2018-02-07 17:01
February 7, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsWorldQui bono? Follow the moneyWho benefits from government policies? Usually just the rich and powerful.neoliberal globalizationchild poverty
Categories: News for progressives

What does Canadian xenophobic populism look like?

Tue, 2018-02-06 21:19
February 6, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsCan it happen here, of course: Canada and Trumpism A new book by pollster Michael Adams explores data to find out if Canada could succumb to xenophobic populism on a mass scale.populismright-wing populismDonald TrumpAmerican Fascism
Categories: News for progressives

Looking forward by looking back -- 1968, part two

Mon, 2018-02-05 15:54
February 5, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsWorldLooking forward by looking back -- 1968, part twoIn 1968, a U.S president was forced from office, a west African country was enflamed in civil war, and a new prime minister engendered high expectations Canada. Pierre Elliott TrudeauNigerian Civil WarVietnam War
Categories: News for progressives

The Canada Summer Jobs kerfuffle: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Fri, 2018-02-02 21:09
FeminismLGBTIQPolitics in Canada

Should taxpayers fund summer jobs for youth where they will be trained to challenge and oppose the Charter rights of others? Of course not, but it's been going on under our noses for years. Anti-choice groups have been milking the Canada Summer Jobs fund to the tune of $1.7 million since 2010.

The story began in April 2017, when the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) reported that many anti-choice groups had been getting Canada Summer Jobs funding for years -- primarily "crisis pregnancy centres" that dissuade women from abortion, but also some political groups, including Campaign Life Coalition, LifeSiteNews, and Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform (CCBR). The latter group is infamous for its public display of gory signs showing alleged aborted fetuses and delivering similar graphic flyers to residences.

Last year, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills) approved a $56,695 summer jobs grant to the CCBR, which it used to train interns on how to shock and offend Canadians with its extreme anti-choice propaganda. (MPs set local priorities and allocate Canada Summer Jobs funding to groups in their ridings, while the federal government approves or rejects the applications based on various other criteria.)

New attestation requirement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Employment Minister Patty Hajdu acted quickly, announcing that Liberal ridings would no longer award Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) funding to anti-choice groups, and that the government would look at ways to permanently change the program to prevent any MP from allocating public funds to anti-choice groups. In December, an attestation requirement was announced, asking applicants to tick a box to be eligible for funding.

Groups must attest that their "core mandate" and the job itself will respect human rights for the purposes of the summer job program, including "the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights," which include reproductive rights, LGBTQ2 rights, and equality rights generally.

It's a reasonable and constitutionally defensible requirement, especially since Canada Summer Jobs grants are discretionary, not an entitlement program, and the government is free to apply criteria in the same way they do for other granting programs (such as by Status of Women Canada). The attestation enjoys broad support from progressive society, including Egale Canada, which advocates for the rights of sexual minorities. Egale and 90 other civil society groups (so far) have signed an open letter to federal party leaders supporting the changes.

But much confusion arose, particularly among religious groups and churches -- who it turns out also get a ton of funding from the Canada Summer Jobs program. They mistakenly believed they were required to support and agree with reproductive rights and LGBTQ2 rights before they could receive funding. That's not what the attestation requirement means, but because the wording was ambiguous, Minister Hajdu clarified it on January 23, explaining that eligibility depended on a group's activities, not beliefs.

A key point, according to ARCC's previously published interpretation of the attestation requirement, is that to "respect" Charter rights means that employers agree to not use Summer Jobs funding for activities that will actively undermine or oppose any of the listed rights they may disagree with. Further, "core mandate" means the group's primary activity, not belief or value. This makes most anti-abortion groups ineligible, but not churches or religious groups with a more general mandate, even if they are against abortion.

As Daphne Gilbert, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, explains:

"All the attestation demands is that the applicants not hire students for the summer whose only function will be to work on projects that actively oppose or undermine Charter rights. A faith-based institution that wants to hire students to run faith-based summer day camps or to coordinate programming for a faith-based sponsored refugee family are able to apply for the grants.

"The CSJ grants are not open to organizations whose sole core mission is the defeat of equality rights earned by women, LGBTQ people, or the rights being actively sought now by transgender or gender-questioning Canadians. This is not discrimination on the basis of either religion or expression, for they are still allowed to carry out that anti-equality work. It should shock Canadians that they expect the government or taxpayers to fund it."

But to anti-choice groups, it was as if Canada had suddenly become a fascist country. They were livid that they had lost their "right" to government grants. Accusations thrown around included: "thought/belief control," "ideological coercion," "tyrannical," "loyalty oath," "ideological purity test," "witch hunt," "freedom under threat," "communistic" -- and last but not least: "totalitarianism."

Religious groups also hijacked the issue to complain that their freedom of expression was being violated. Such claims continued even after Minister Hajdu's clarification that the attestation only applies to a group's activities and not beliefs.

If some groups still don't feel comfortable with the attestation after the Minister's clarification, that probably means they shouldn't apply for funding. That doesn't make them victims or martyrs, as some groups have tried to paint themselves. Because what they really want is the "right" to use taxpayer money to discriminate against others under the mantle of "freedom of expression." How ironic to claim that your Charter rights are being violated just by being asked to respect the Charter rights of others.

But that's the basis of a new lawsuit against the federal government by the anti-choice Toronto Right to Life Association. The suit's prospects look dim now that the group has lost its bid for an immediate injunction to stop the attestation requirement. The judge said the group had no evidence it would be harmed by it.

It's not just religious and anti-choice groups fighting back against the attestation requirement. Outraged hyperbole abounded in the mainstream press, almost all of it from male commentators who were silent when former prime minister Stephen Harper cut funding to women's groups.

Debunking claims

Let's refute the main misunderstandings. First, organizations are not being discriminated against. Every potential grantee is being treated equally by being asked to sign the attestation. Also, it's far from certain that groups even have Charter rights -- but if they do, the attestation respects them.

No one's freedom of speech is being violated -- they can say what they want in most contexts, but this doesn't mean they're entitled to taxpayer money to do so. Also, no one is being compelled to sign the attestation, since they don't have to apply for the funding. Lawyer Karen Busby explains:

"As the new eligibility criteria for the Canada Summer Jobs program neither compels nor impedes expression or religious practices, a Charter challenge is bound to fail. The jurisprudence is also clear that the Charter does not require governments to support expressive or religious rights. Governments can, unbound by the Charter, choose the advocacy projects it wishes to support."

Finally, abortion is a Charter right, contrary to the claims of many. The 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler decision found that the law restricting access to abortion violated women's right to security of the person. Subsequent court decisions have solidified the Charter-based right to abortion, including on the basis of gender equality rights, and rights to life, liberty, and privacy. Therefore, access to abortion is a de facto Charter right because you cannot restrict it without violating Charter rights.

Obviously, the word abortion does not need to actually appear in the Charter itself -- rights are stated broadly and it's the task of judges to interpret whether a specific issue involves a Charter right. Court decisions have often expanded Charter rights, and this associated case law essentially becomes part of Charter law.

All subsequent provincial and federal court cases related to abortion have upheld women's rights and denied fetal rights on the basis that this would infringe women's established Charter rights. The evolution of Charter and abortion-rights jurisprudence means that women and transgender people now have a Charter right to abortion -- a right that is significantly more secure today than it was in 1988.

The last word goes to Sydney King, who writes that the Canada Summer Jobs issue:

"[c]uts to the heart of a much larger debate surrounding reproductive and LGBTQ rights in Canada. For decades, one's right to a safe and legal abortion has been restricted to the sphere of women's rights, separate from broader notions of human rights. The same applies to LGBTQ rights. It was easy in the past for socially conservative groups to exercise their right to free speech, while simultaneously discriminating against LGBTQ people or campaigning against reproductive rights. But, by encompassing women and the LGBTQ community—and their distinctive rights—into the concept of human rights, Trudeau reshapes the conversation."

Joyce Arthur is the founder and Executive Director of Canada's national pro-choice group, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), which protects the legal right to abortion on request and works to improve access to quality abortion services.

Photo: VAC | ACC/flickr

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abortion rightsreproductive rightsCanada Summer Jobs ProgramCharter RightsJoyce ArthurFebruary 2, 2018How to interpret the new attestation requirement for the Canada Summer Jobs programWhat are the changes recently announced by the Liberal government to crack down on anti-abortion groups' use of the Canada Summer Jobs program to get thousands of dollars in public funds?The Holocaust has nothing to do with abortionA video that compares abortion to the Holocaust was shown in March at a Catholic high school in Red Deer, Alberta. Yes, that's right -- women who have abortions are equivalent to genocidal Nazis.Christian doctors angry they can no longer abandon their patients A Christian doctors' group is throwing a tantrum over a new requirement that Ontario physicians must refer patients appropriately when they refuse to provide a health-care service.
Categories: News for progressives

Canada Revenue needs to tackle tax evasion

Fri, 2018-02-02 16:35
February 2, 2018Politics in CanadaCanadian governments' revenue would soar by billions if tax evasions were stopped The magnitude of this massive avoidance (if not evasion) of taxes in Canada is not yet known by most Canadians. It comes to at least $10 billion per year lost in tax revenue.tax
Categories: News for progressives



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