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Gatherings across the country call for Justice for Tina Fontaine

Sat, 2018-02-24 04:53
Brent Patterson

#JusticeForTinaFontaine gatherings are taking place today in Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax, on February 24 in Victoria, Vancouver, Montreal, Oriliia and Regina, and on February 25 in Guelph, Calgary and London. There is also an ongoing presence of people camped outside the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg.

Late yesterday, a jury in Winnipeg found 56-year-old Raymond Cormier not guilty of the murder of the 15-year-old girl.

The Globe and Mail reports:

"The Winnipeg court heard from Thelma Favel that Tina left Sagkeeng, 115 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, on June 30, 2014, to spend a week with her mother. It was her reward for an exceptional report card from École Powerview, her new, off-reserve school, where she had just finished Grade 9. Ms. Favel had been caring for Tina and her sister Sarah, one year her junior, since they were 3 and 4 in her home in Powerview-Pine Falls, just beyond Sagkeeng's northeast border."

APTN adds:

"The court heard Tina had a happy childhood raised by a great-aunt on the Sagkeeng First Nation, but the girl began to spiral downward when her father was murdered in October 2011. Tina's mother, who had not been part of her life, re-emerged and Tina started going to Winnipeg to visit her. The girl ended up on the street and was being sexually exploited [by Cormier after he took her to a house where he said she could sleep]. Tina's body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg several days after she disappeared in August 2014."

And the CBC notes:

"Tina interacted with [Manitoba's Child and Family Services system] and Winnipeg police in the weeks before her death. Thelma Favel, a great-aunt who raised Tina for much of her life, asked in July 2014 for the agency to take custody of her after she left Sagkeeng First Nation for Winnipeg to find her birth mother. CFS placed her in an area hotel, but she ran away and later told a social worker she was staying at a group home. She was reported missing on July 30. Two Winnipeg police officers spoke to Tina as part of a traffic stop on Aug. 8. She was in a car being driven by a man [Richard Mohammed] who was allegedly drunk. He was taken into custody, but the officers let Tina go."

The Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Arlen Dumas says, "There's no shield against negligence, there's no shield against incompetence. All the systems that were to protect Tina failed her. It is unacceptable. Everything has failed. How can we talk about reconciliation when the very nets that we're asked to participate in do not fulfil what they're supposed to fulfil?"

The Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Sheila North says, "[The system] ultimately killed Tina. There's no denying that. We want justice for Tina. We want to see what failed in this system and how did it lead to this person? And if it's not [Cormier]… someone's still out there responsible for taking her life, including all of the systems that were involved in her life, including everything from child welfare to the policing to the poverty levels that her and her family were subjected to."

Mi'kmaw citizen Pam Palmater has written about "the pipeline from Canada's foster-care system to murdered, missing and exploited Indigenous women and girls."

Palmater says, "Although Indigenous children make up only seven per cent of the population in Canada, they represent 48 per cent of all children in foster care." In Manitoba, 85 per cent of all children in care are Indigenous.

Palmater adds, "There are three times more Indigenous children in care today than there were during the height of residential schools. And most Indigenous children are taken into care for reasons of neglect and structural factors beyond the parents' control, like conditions of poverty and poor housing, and less likely than non-Indigenous children to be taken into care for reasons of physical or sexual abuse."

Palmater also says, "Indigenous women and girls experience seven times the homicide rate as non-Indigenous women."

And artist Christi Belcourt has tweeted, "Canada's injustice system isn't broken. It's been humming along just fine for 150 years as justice was something clearly never intended for Indigenous people."

Please attend one of the gatherings taking place today and tomorrow.

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Categories: News for progressives

How to pursue justice for Tina Fontaine and all Indigenous youth

Sat, 2018-02-24 04:09
Maya Bhullar

The person who killed Colten Boushie was not found guilty of any crime and will receive $200K from a GoFundMe campaign. Now we hear that the person who was charged with killing Tina Fontaine has been found not guilty.

According to the CBC, after the verdict was announced, Kevin Hart, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said, "The CFS [Manitoba Child and Family Services] system has definitely failed Tina Fontaine, the Winnipeg Police Service has failed Tina Fontaine. Canadian society failed Tina Fontaine."

The same article by the CBC reported that Jerry Daniels, grand chief of the Southern Chiefs' Organization, said, "every single member of this country and this province is responsible for what's happening here today, and you have to stand up and take part in making reconciliation a reality. It is about all of us."

On Friday’s march in Winnipeg in support of justice for Tina Fontaine, the same calls were echoed as marchers walked for love, peace and change. Marches took place throughout the country from the February 23 to 25. Here is a great post by Brent Patterson from the Council of Canadians with links to all of them.

This toolkit blog is about the efforts being made to address the system which failed Tina and so many others. Reach out to support these efforts and let us know about efforts we have missed at toolkit@rabble.ca.

Child and Family Services (CFS): Of the 10,714 children in care in Manitoba, 89 per cent are Indigenous, according CFS. The CFS admits to not meeting the needs of children in care and, in 2017, Manitoba Child and Family Service proposed reforms to the system which has met with criticism from the federal government and First Nations leaders. The Indigenous child welfare agreement between federal and provincial governments remains stalled, as of February 2018. Child advocates like Cindy Blackstock are saying that the federal government is guilty of forging a crisis in Indigenous foster care.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs officially opened the Manitoba First Nations Family Advocate Office (FNFAO) on June 1, 2015. The office opened in ceremony, where the office was gifted the name "Abinoojiyak Bigiiwewag" which translates to "our children are coming home." According to the CBC Manitoba, the Sagkeeng First Nation, Tina Fontaine’s home community, "is taking part in a pilot project called Circle of Care where instead of having children apprehended by CFS, resources are offered to help the family stay together. If protection is needed, members of the extended family are encouraged to take the children in."

There are efforts being made in the community. Keep an eye on what the government is proposing in terms of child and family services reforms and look to groups like FNFAO to see what First Nations communities want.

Justice system: Twenty-seven years ago, after two high-profile murders in Manitoba, Senator Murray Sinclair served as commissioner for an inquiry called the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba. The recommendations made in 1991 included jury selection and representation and policing recommendations, many of which were not adopted. Senator Sinclair is going to Ottawa to ask that the government take a new look at these recommendations as part of their promise to reform the Criminal Code and the justice system.

Meanwhile the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women hearings continue in communities across Canada.  Here is the report from the hearing in the Sagkeeng First Nation.

However, as the unresolved case of Tina Fontaine shows, there is much to be done before Canada is able to deliver justice for Indigenous women and systems which support communites.

Photo: Memaxmarz/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

The NDP can learn from Trudeau's India-trip debacle

Fri, 2018-02-23 15:04
February 23, 2018Politics in CanadaWorldAfter a successful convention NDPers should not rest on their laurelsJustin Trudeau's current troubles should remind NDPers how easy it is in politics to step right into a cow pie.NDPJagmeet Singh
Categories: News for progressives

Black Panther blockbuster brings depth to superhero

Fri, 2018-02-23 14:08
Penney Kome

About halfway through watching the new blockbuster Black Panther, I realized that I no longer noticed that the characters have dark skin. This was white privilege, of course; reviewers who are persons of colour relish every exquisite moment of a hidden world where sophisticated, innovative African peoples are in the majority.

Getting respect for all the right reasons, Black Panther is a huge box office hit, raking in $192 million its first weekend, and overtaking first-place competitor The Avengers by midweek, with $200 million in earnings.

A week later, momentum is still building, with $500 million in box office. Welcome to the gamechanging movie that gently subverts the superhero genre to make it more meaningful.

The movie disproves industry myths -- yet again. "The lessons of Black Panther are obvious," writes Scott Mendelson in Forbes Magazine. "Big movies with and for Black people are not remotely box office poison. Big movies with, for and by Black people can absolutely pull in good to great overseas grosses as well. It's a rebuttal of conventional wisdom." 

The movie brings a new viewpoint and aesthetic because "[t]here has never in the history of cinema been a film that allows an ensemble of Black characters to take charge on a global scale quite like this," as Peter Debruge wrote in Variety, "and many have waited their entire lives to witness just such a feat (the way that Wonder Woman was a hugely empowering game changer for women)."    

The movie frames superhero T'Challa's life with strong autonomous women who guide and support him, while fulfilling their own roles and goals. Lupita Nyong'o told Black Entertainment Television that "what I love about the women of Wakanda that Ryan wrote into this movie is that they're all so specific and all so powerful in their own way. And they occupy very different roles and influences on the king, you know. And that is important to see, especially for young girls."

BET notes that "Letitia Wright's Shuri, the teenage genius and sibling of T'Challa, steals every scene she's in and has some of the most memorable lines in the film." Also, as Variety comments about General Gurira, a "scene in which she tosses aside a bad wig [and attacks with a spear while wearing a scarlet dress] ranks as the most gay-friendly Marvel moment to date."

The movie inspires deep philosophical interpretations from one African-American critic who feels desperately torn from his African roots. "Black Panther is a love letter to people of African descent all over the world," writes Adam Serwer in The Atlantic. Even the villain, Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is a tragic figure with his own strong argument for justice.

"Killmonger's stated purpose, to liberate Black people all over the world, has sparked a lively discussion over whether he is a bad guy to begin with," writes Serwer. "What could be so bad about Black liberation?" He cites a friend who reflexively fist-pumped agreement to Killmonger's speech about his goals. My heart leaped too, when he spoke so boldly.

Black Panther's hidden land of Wakanda, fuelled by the miraculous mineral Vibranium, features cities with towers and minerets as well as lush jungles reminiscent of Avatar. The royal family, recently bereaved, travels in a round flat airplane that looks like a spacecraft.  

As the heir apparent, T'Challa must be prepared to fight hand-to-hand to claim his throne -- and his responsibilities. The wrestling ring is a pool of water jutting over a steep cliff, part of a tall mountain looming overhead, with Wakandans standing on ledges all the way up, cheering.     

Vivid imagery and a practically literary narrative aside, Black Panther's appeal to certain market segments indicates just how much they've been neglected. "In the U.S., celebrities like Octavia Spencer, Serena Williams and Travis Scott have pitched in and bought out theatres, eager for kids to see the Afrofuturistic world of Wakanda," the CBC reported.

In Toronto, the Black Business and Professional Association raised enough money in 24 hours to offer free showings to 350 children and 100 parents and guardians. In the U.S., Black Lives Matter organizers created #WakandaTheVote, which is catching on nationally, with movie lobby registrations and a local number anyone could text to register to vote.

In New York, former Black Panther Party member Sekou Odinga (who served 33 years in prison) is using the movie to renew calls for clemency for the remaining Black Panther Party members who are languishing in prisons. I remember when the Chicago police shot Fred Hampton in his bed -- some say, in his sleep.

And still, the movie's story is what draws the audience. "I took my nephews to see Black Panther this week," writes Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton. "To them, he was simply another superhero. While I was totally engrossed in the excitement over a film featuring the first Black comic book superhero -- a king with superhuman powers who rules over a technologically advanced African nation -- the racial component went right over the heads of the six-, eight- and nine-year-olds...."

Of course, these are boys too young for their parents to have given them "the talk," about how people of colour are routinely shunted aside and how some white people will try to treat them. They've  lived with President Barack Obama for most of their lives, she said, and for them, "A Black president and even a Black superhero are the norm. What makes me most hopeful, though, is that it also is the norm for white children of their age." 

Image: Marvel studios

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Categories: News for progressives

There are plenty of reasons to doubt B.C. and Alberta's differences are settled

Fri, 2018-02-23 13:14
David J. Climenhaga

No sooner was a truce declared in the Alberta-British Columbia war of wine and oil yesterday afternoon than claims of victory were proclaimed. 

"In a small way today, B.C. blinked," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told reporters yesterday afternoon.

Thanks to that B.C. blink, Premier Notley explained, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will start buying B.C. wine again.

The supposed blink, in Alberta's reading of the affair, was B.C. Premier John Horgan's statement yesterday that his province won't try to put any restrictions on pipeline shipments of diluted bitumen from Alberta to the West Coast until B.C.'s constitutional reference case has determined if the province has any jurisdiction to regulate what gets piped through its territory.

Not sure how this is a blink, since he said basically the same thing at a news conference two weeks ago, but politics is 90 per cent perception, so that may well be how it turns out to be remembered.

So, is that the end of this saga of two warring western NDP governments?

Don't count on it.

Let's review the key events till now:

Back at the end of January, with B.C. Premier John Horgan abroad touting the quality of B.C. wine among other things, his environment minister announced the province was contemplating restrictions on diluted bitumen coming through existing and planned pipelines from Alberta to British Columbia.

The restrictions would be in place, George Heyman said, until the behaviour of spilled bitumen could be studied and understood, and a new scientific panel the government would appoint could make recommendations.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project of Texas-based Kinder Morgan Inc., which is hotly opposed on the B.C. Coast and approved by Ottawa through a highly controversial process, was the proximate cause of the dispute. The B.C. NDP's reliance on three Green Party MLAs to remain in power, increased pressure on the Horgan government to act.

Heyman's announcement caused the bitumen to hit the fan here in Alberta, where there is now a nearly universal elite consensus that we must have a pipeline to tidewater. But the fact the NDP is trailing the Opposition United Conservative Party led by former federal Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney in public approval put similar pressure on the Notley government.

Premier Notley hotly declared B.C.'s move unconstitutional and illegal. Constitutional experts generally agreed, although since B.C. hadn't actually announced a policy -- just talked about it -- there wasn't really anything to test in the courts.

On Feb. 1, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped into the fray declaring unequivocally that the pipeline would be built. Shortly thereafter, he took off on a distracting Asian trade mission of his own.

Ms. Notley then began to channel Margaret Thatcher in the hours after the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. On Feb. 6 she announced the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission -- Alberta's government-owned booze wholesaling monopoly -- would retaliate with an embargo of wine from B.C. Potentially, that could have resulted in a $70-million annual hit on the B.C. wine industry.

That move got rave reviews in Alberta -- much to the distress of Kenney's UCP, which had been making hay claiming the NDP wasn't being tough enough with B.C.

One newspaper columnist even called Notley Alberta's Iron Lady! (Which makes Kenney, an actual admirer of Thatcher, what? The Iron Maiden?)

The next day, Horgan gave a news conference at which, as noted, he didn't say anything much different from what he repeated yesterday. Whatever had been proposed earlier by Heyman -- who was there only to answer technical questions, the B.C. premier pointedly noted -- there was no suggestion in Horgan's remarks that B.C. would attempt to restrict diluted bitumen until the courts had determined if the province had jurisdiction to do so.

"We are currently in court with respect to the Kinder Morgan process, the pipeline, and until we get a resolution from the Federal Court, that is an open question," Horgan said at the Feb. 7 newser. "When it comes to our right … to consult with British Columbians about putting in place protections for our environment and our economy, I see no grounds for the premier (of Alberta) to stand on.

"I would suggest that issuing a press release talking about our intention to consult with British Columbians is not provocative, it's not starting anything!"

As the dust begins to settle for the moment, it's not clear just yet if B.C.'s complaint to a Canada Free Trade Agreement panel, which Alberta Trade Minister Deron Bilous had basically promised to ignore, will proceed.

And even though Notley got pretty much what Kenney demanded, pretty much the way he demanded it, you can count on him to continue to complain loudly the NDP isn't doing enough, and isn't being tough enough. Ho-hum

Meanwhile, in Coastal B.C., opposition to pipelines from Alberta is so strong any government ignores it at its peril. So Horgan's shaky government -- unlike the strong, stable majority the NDP has for the time-being in Alberta -- will continue to depend on the three Greens for survival.

And the price of oil will continue to do what the price of oil is going to do, without much consideration of the preferences of Alberta or Canada, or their politicians.

As for Trudeau's recent talk about Canada's climate change strategy depending on B.C.'s co-operation with Alberta's pipeline desires, the country cannot meet its Paris Agreement commitments if the rate of oil sands growth contemplated by Ottawa and Edmonton continues. This has been noticed in B.C.

So the uncertainty about the future of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline -- and, indeed, Alberta's entire Athabasca bitumen sands industry -- is going to continue for a long time yet.

And that means it will only take the perception of a setback for the First Wine War to be followed by a Second Wine War.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolititics.ca.

Photo: Premier of Alberta/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Rafil Dhafir remains jailed after decades of non-stop warfare

Thu, 2018-02-22 15:59
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



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