Tag Archives: canada

Collected Thoughts: Medicinal Marijuana and Decriminalization

Were I availed of more free time and energy, I might craft a coherent thought piece on this subject, one that I feel rather strongly about.  However, given lack of the above, here are excerpts from a discussion on Facebook on the issue, which encapsulate the bulk of my beliefs.

Note:  There is an America-centric slant to these comments, despite my being Canadian; the discussion centred on American laws and thus, I responded accordingly.  Don’t even get me started on Harper’s “ZOMG! Growing pot plants deserves more mandatory jail time than child rape!” omnibus crap…

Part One:

Who are you to judge what these so-called “regular people” are doing with a substance on par with alcohol? By your logic, alcohol should be abolished, because people consume it to enjoy a concert or movie or night out, or celebrate events. Further, psychological self-care includes leisure time – which may, horror!, include smoking pot on days off for fun. Whether intentionally taken for a medicinal cause or not, it does reduce anxiety, does enhance appreciation of stimulus and so on – unintentional medicinal effects.

Further, pleasurable enjoyment of marijuana and its pervasiveness – and the support of those individuals – is why the medicinal marijuana movement has had enough clout to make ANY leeway, why anyone realized its uses at all. Do you really think, if a so-called pothead hadn’t suggested pot to cancer patient family or friends, or those with anxiety, etc etc. that we would have seen studies that benefited the medicinal cause?

Last, how do YOU know the exact psychological reasons why a “pothead enjoying a movie” appreciates marijuana? I often smoke for, from outside appearances, recreational purposes. You can hear mention of this and throw shame at me for “ruining” a movement that came long after – one I support. I support it because I have gastro issues, anxiety, mood disorder and chronic pain. I choose marijuana for my recreation because it slows the racing of my bipolar brain, reduces anxiety, eases my constant pain in my joints and thus, allows me to mentally be happy and recharge. It is both recreation and medicine at once, but all you see is my atypical cheery mood and sense of ease while watching Pink Floyd DVDs.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds power into a movement you purportedly support, and don’t make assumptions about people whose lives you don’t live. I could write an essay on West Indian and Jamaican racial oppression and systemic issues that likely feed the connection between Marley and weed, but I shouldn’t have to connect the dots.

Part Two:

Marijuana is not often the drug of choice for a substance abuser, but people do indeed abuse it. People also abuse Oxycontin, or Percocet, drugs that someone needs to be able to get out of bed, drugs I have needed for injuries before to function. You can’t shun or slander everyone who uses a substance for non-medical reasons because of an experience that is personal and not objective.

Why do you care if I want to have three drinks at a concert? How is my choice affecting you? How is my choice to smoke a joint before a concert your business, or affecting your life? As a caveat, I hate people who are obnoxious substance users who DO impact others’ experiences; I’ve told off belligerent drunks at concerts before because they are screaming in my ear or falling over on me. I’ve also told off sober people infringing on me in the same way. That’s moot and a whole other area. But if I am sitting in my seat at a concert, enjoying the music, and happen to be high, why do you care? How is it affecting you?

While you may see the medicinal marijuana issue as “more important” than general decriminalization, you are failing to acknowledge that it came second to those who cannot fathom how a substance less dangerous than/no worse than alcohol or tobacco is a criminal offense, an evil substance, fighting to have it legalized. The reason pot smokers are so eager to support the medicinal movement is because it is one more reason in their argument for decriminalization. Tobacco helps no one. Alcohol helps no one. Marijuana does help people, and also happens to be recreational. The fact of the matter is, celebrities or not, the moral majority do not give a shit about suffering people. They do not give a shit about medical and scientific data that shows there’s no good reason to prohibit marijuana. The more people in the public who fuss, kick and fight to their government, the likelier it is they’ll throw their hands up and quietly give in. Medical marijuana is a stepping stone in a movement that already was, and members of that older movement were already espousing the medical benefits.

Governments are lobbied by churches and big business, especially pharmaceuticals. They have big, financial reasons not to decriminalize, not to approve medicinal marijuana. Who will buy all the pretty painkillers? How will doctors make money off narcotics and treating addiction to them? How will the government justify taxes and thousands of prison jobs if they’re not locking up African Americans and lower class Caucasians and Latinos for dealing a few dime bags? Think of all the social programs they can’t excuse themselves from funding if they stop spending money charging, prosecuting and imprisoning people for pot. Think of all the cop corruption cases they can’t throw out anymore for waiting too long for trial to start when the dockets are cut in half after pot is decriminalized. Think of the nasty business of the DEA having to focus on more international drug issues and treading on toes when they can’t keep busy chasing twenty-somethings from impoverished neighbourhoods for growing a few hundred plants.

Systemic oppression and corruption are the big picture, and that’s something everyone – from to the casual potheads – can get on side with.

THAT is why shitting all over users is really offensive. As for those in your life who used it as a crutch? Ask yourself what was going on in their lives that they felt they needed to self-medicate. Ask what was lying beneath the abuse. It’s an illness. Just like gastroparesis.

Think larger. Stop being so narrow-minded, please. That sort of division is exactly what the government wants, and it sets back the cause you care about.

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Saying Goodbye To A Role Model: Attending Jack Layton’s Funeral

CN Tower lit for Jack Layton, via The Star

Clapping.  Persistent and steady, it surrounded me on all sides as my teary eyes surveyed the tiers of Roy Thomson Hall.  People swayed in rhythm, some singing along loudly.  As I smiled at my brother and rested my head on his shoulder briefly, my heart lifted.

It was exactly what Jack Layton would have wanted:  politicians, friends, family and the everyday citizens, getting together.

The news of Jack Layton’s passing came to me in a sleepy haze, as my fiance called me to ask why I hadn’t told him yet about Jack.  My heart fell as I asked, “What news?” knowing damn well what it was, and yet refusing to speak of it.  I’m not foolish; I watched my beloved Poppy die of cancer a few years ago, and read between the lines of Layton’s final press conference.  I knew it was coming, but adamantly believed Jack’s vow to return to work in September, believed in his ability to beat the odds stacked against him.

That was his greatest gift to me:  the ability to persist in believing in a better Canada, no matter what punches I was expected to roll with in the bleak political climate marring city, province and country.


I never met Jack.  It’s a regret I will carry in the back of my mind now.  I never missed a debate, and voted for him every time.  I canvassed for my local MP, Matthew Kellway, and rejoiced in his victory.  I expected that I would meet him eventually, given the proximity of his home and riding.  All the same, I took the news as if losing an uncle, or teacher.  I made my way to the impromptu vigil at City Hall that same day, watching as the chalk climbed along the wall, adding my own small message.  I left condolences in the book, signed the memorial board.  I shed tears as his beautiful letter was read aloud, my own city councillor weeping too.  I hugged strangers, shared stories of being moved by Jack, echoed the urgent need of us to “Keep Jack’s message alive.”

This was the power Jack Layton possessed:  to unite us, not divide and subjugate us.  He was the shining example of what being Canadian means to me.

Jack championed many causes that are important to me.  He gave us The White Ribbon Campaign, working to unite men against violence touching women’s lives.  He joyfully embraced the LGBTQ community, participating in Pride events and advocating for their rights.  He took on the silence surrounding homelessness, demanded better support for those coping with AIDS, and sought better social system support for our elderly.  He wanted students to be able to afford their educations, wanted better standards of living for the lower classes struggling to survive, and more action to preserve the environment.  As a bisexual woman who lived in poverty as a child and now struggles to repay her student loan debt in any semblance of timely fashion, I felt understood by Jack.  I felt included and heard. As an aspiring social worker, I hold these values as well.

Attending the funeral – not just watching on TV, but being inside Roy Thomson Hall – felt necessary.  In a sense, it seemed to be that meeting I had always longed to have.  I wanted to say goodbye to Jack, surrounded by those of similar mind and heart.  My little brother – the one I taught politics to around the kitchen table a decade ago – came with me Friday night as we descended upon Roy Thomson Hall, steeling ourselves against sleep deprivation.

As he put it, “We’ll do it for Mr. Layton!”

We arrived at 10:30pm, to a line about 50 people deep.  As the night progressed, it grew, and a new little community was fostered.  Brother and I made fast friends with three others in line, playing games and chattering throughout a sleepless night, while many others curled up in blankets, sleeping bags, tents and chairs to rest.  Clubbing men and women repeatedly stopped to ask what we were waiting for.  One man insulted us all, shouting, “What the hell is wrong with you?  Do you not have homes?  Why are so many in Canada living homeless like this?”  When I informed him we were waiting for a beloved politician’s funeral, he sobered up and apologized, saying, “This is my first week here.  I do not know of this man.”  I felt sad that he would never know Jack.

Media snapped photos.  A friendly security officer chatted on his rounds, offering Oasis juice to anyone thirsty in line.  Street sweeper vehicles came by so many times, polishing the look for the streaming video coverage to come.  There were jaunts to Tim Horton’s at King and John, pizza ordered to the line, many digging into backpacks of rations.  My brother and I clinked cans of Orange Crush.  The sun began to rise, and the reporters arrived.  Interviews began; I did three.  I hear the CP24 one looked alright.

The wristband, which I fell asleep with.

Wristbands came just before eight.  We wondered why purple, not orange.  Members of our new group came and went from the line, running home to change or out for breakfast.  Throngs of people began milling about the square, many asking how long we’d waited and staring wide-eyed at our answer. The Steelworkers’ Union gifted us with orange roses, that we clutched tightly.

It was mostly beautiful and peaceful.  There was a line jumper who shoved and threatened people to propel herself in front of us in the ticket queue, despite arriving just before 7 in the morning, then beaming at reporters complimenting her attire.  There were people snapping photos and tweeting inside the hall as if it were a rock concert.  These things seemed so baffling in the face of Layton’s spirit and message, but I decided in the end that Jack would want these people there, in hopes they would grow and love.

Much came across as unusual to those watching at home, from the comments I read wearily last night, but to those of us inside, everything felt pitch-perfect.  This was not a funeral; it was a celebration.  The programs and tickets said so.

The service felt balanced in all ways, which I appreciated immediately.  The man, personal and political, was equally on display, through music and speech – and rightfully so, given it was a celebration of his entire life and his accomplishments.  The three eulogies exemplify this:  Stephen Lewis (English; political); Karl Belanger (French; straddling the line) and Mike & Sarah Layton (personal).  Of four singing performances, two were more mournful or evocative of sorrow, two were meant to lift our hearts, and one was in French.  All blessings were printed in English and French in the program.  Religious readings were Aboriginal (my favourite), Christian, and Muslim in origin.  Rev. Hawkes did a powerful job in his sermon, and while he did “get churchy”, as he quipped to laughter, it never felt like anything more than the loving words of a friend, remembering a man who was larger than life and down to earth all at once.

More than merely a chance to grieve and say farewell, it was a reflection on the journey Layton took, and the path he’d intended us to travel – with him at our side.  The service said, “It’s okay; you know where to go from here.”  And we do.  It could be felt in the singing, swaying, clapping masses in the balcony during Rise Up and Get Together.  It was felt as the thunderous applause greeted each speech.  It was outlined in chalk at City Hall (again) and the sidewalks along Roy Thomson Hall.

The torch has been passed, Rev. Hawkes said.  The masses happily accepted it.

The energy within the walls of the home to many a Christmas event attended by Jack and Olivia was palpable, pulsing in the skin.  There was union, as people wept almost simultaneously at the same moments, clapped at the same times.  For those at home, it was hard to see that every thundering applause was a standing ovation, many beginning in the balcony and joined afterward by those in VIP areas.  We stood as video screens displayed the casket’s departure from City Hall, and remained that way until it joined us on stage. And as his casket departed, I sensed that his spirit lingered, smiling and singing along.  Jack loved to sing; I sang for him, as many did.

I left feeling hopeful, happy in spite of my tears, clinging a can of Orange Crush which was in abundant supply at refreshment stations as we departed. My body was weary, but I didn’t mind it.  I considered it his due, given how tirelessly he worked for all of us for decades.

In the back pages of the program, there is lined space to write, allotted for us to make a promise, something we will do to change the world and make it better.  I’ve given it much thought, and have yet to come up with anything eloquent.  I know I plan to increase my involvement in local politics, to make even more time to benefit others and work with my community.  I plan to work in support of ending violence against women, and fighting the bad turns our political landscape has taken.

Perhaps “Be like Jack” would suffice.

The Service, As Outlined In The Program
(All language notations mine)

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings; G.F. Handel, Pifa from Messiah – Members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Into The Mystic (Van Morrison); Magnificat – Richard Underhill with David Restivo, Kevin Barrett, Artie Roth, Larnell Lewis, Colleen Allen

Processional – The Choir of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto

O Canada (French) – Joy Klopp

Aboriginal Blessing – Shawn Atleo

Welcome – Reverend Brent Hawkes
Bienvenue – Anne McGrath

First Reading:  Philippians 2 (French) – Nycole Turmel
Second Reading: Isaiah 57-58 (Mix) – Myer Siemiatycki
Qu’ran 2:153 (English) – Tasleem Riaz

Croire (Marcel Lefebvre; Paul Baillargeon) – Performed by Martin Deschamps with Bernard Quessy

Video:  “Together, we’ll change the world”

Eulogy (English) – Stephen Lewis

Eulogy (French)– Karl Belanger

Eulogy (English)
– Mike and Sarah Layton

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) – Performed by Steven Page with Kevin Fox and Kevin Hearne

Homily (English) – Rev Brent Hawkes

Rise Up (Parachute Club) – Performed by Lorraine Segato with Colleen Allen, David Gray, Steve Webster, Alana Bridgewater, Tom Jestadt

Benediction (English) – Rev Brent Hawkes

Get Together (Chet Powers) – Performed by Julie Michels with the Choir of the Metropolitian Community Church of Toronto

Hymn To Freedom (Oscar Peterson) – Chris Dawes, organist

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The JP Morgan Chase Saga – Part Two

I previously blogged about my horrid experience with Chase shutting down my Best Buy credit card on a seeming whim, leaving me with the awesome experience of going to a check-out and having my card declined. If you have not read that, READ IT FIRST.

After dealing with the normal level one tier customer service reps, I contacted Chase’s Executive Office, as they suggested.  I was told this office was where the decision to close my account, as opposed to placing it on hold, originated from.  I spoke with a representative of that office and explained the situation, and asked what the hell had happened.

I was then told that Chase legally could not tell me why my account was closed.  As in, illegal to say it.  No choice.  Nada.  I was absolutely baffled by this.  I was also told that level one had advised me incorrectly, and that my account was not closed due to missing information about my ID.  In fact, it was a mystery something else that was not my credit score, but was ‘information that was incorrectly collected at the time’.  I asked her outright if it was my employment status (part-time) or anything of the like, and she refused to confirm or deny anything.  She said she would send a letter on it. She also said she had listened to the call and was sorry that the level one reps had told me incorrect information.

For the record, I have yet to receive: a) the letter that level one advised was mailed before the in-store incident; or b) a letter from the Executive Office, clarifying the discussion we’d had.  I did, however, receive my Best Buy statement, dated May 26th, that indicated I had available credit!  Hilarious.

At this point, per my mother-in-law, who worked in banking for twenty years and was appalled by all of this, I contacted the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada for further contacts and advice.  I learned that credit card providers and other lenders have the right to cancel your credit account at any time, with no rhyme or reason to it, which I find really disgusting, but that’s politics for you. However, there is no law that prevents them from giving you the reason; it’s just their choice to withhold it, if they so desire.  More lies from Chase!

The rep did agree that the changing reasons and the closure versus hold seemed odd, and provided me with a number for the JP Morgan Chase Ombudsman for Canada, Jennifer Hare.  I left a voicemail.  Due to phone tag and personal obligations, I was unable to answer her right away, so she sent me a letter via courier.  This letter, dated June 7th, only served to further irritate me.  It begins by summarizing the facts I had already relayed or were known.  My account was closed May 17th, apparently; funny how my May 26th statement days I have available credit, huh?  I’m also still waiting for the letter sent supposedly prior to the store debacle.

But this is the hilarious part, which I will take the time to type out for posterity and dissection:

As a Canadian financial institution, Chase is responsible for complying with The Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), which sets out prescribed identification methods for credit card accounts.  For accounts opened at a retail location, Chase and Best Buy must review government-issued identification and record the unique identification number.  When you opened the account in November 2010, you presented your passport to the Best Buy sales agent, who collected the identification number.  Chase later performed a verification of the passport number as entered by the agent.  We found it did not match the format we use to validate passport unique identifier numbers, and accordingly had no alternative but to close the account.  We sincerely regret the inconvenience that the closure of your account occasioned. (emphasis mine)

So, now we’re back to my ID being the problem!  Back and forth, back and forth…. Chase, customer service isn’t ping pong.  I’m also baffled, being as the rep barcode scanned my passport, how the unique identifier wasn’t recorded.  I’m thoroughly impressed that an agent error, by Chase’s own words, led to my account being closed.  I’m still not given a reason why some accounts were only held and I was not contacted to get that identifier for them to verify me.  I’m also curious why it took six months for them to notice.

But let me draw your attention to the bolded part:  they had no alternative but to close my account.  That’s funny; your own employees told me some accounts were just frozen.  Further, I called the FCAC again today, who confirmed that there is nothing in the Act they cited that forces them to close an account, and further, that the government agency that enforces compliance cannot make Chase close an account at the snap of their fingers alone; Chase has the ultimate authority to choose to close it.

I have now left a further voicemail with Ms. Hare, detailing the laws as I have had them explained to me, and have also contacted FINTRAC, who ensure bank compliance with the Act.  I’ll continue to update on this nonsense, not only for those interested, but to make it publicly clear that Chase is hiding behind a dance of multiple laws to close accounts on a whim.  While that may be their legal right, it IS piss-poor customer service.  I’ve had a few others come forward and tell me of recent closures that are just as illogical, so I cannot stress this enough:  avoid Chase.  Boycott stores that use their financing services.  If your account was closed without warning, complain and ESCALATE.  I do not know the process in the States, but in Canada, the process can be found via the FCAC website, including all contact numbers (search Chase).

Keep failing, Chase.  You ticked off the wrong person.  I’m not passive, nor am I unintelligent, uninformed or too scared to question authority.  I’m legally well-versed and articulate, and will continue to spread word of your poor treatment of consumers.

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Canadians: If You Have A Best Buy Credit Card, Beware! Chase Is Screwing You Over.

So…  If you signed up for a Best Buy credit card in Canada (or Future Shop, its sister store) prior to January 2011, beware: your account may be locked or shut down without warning for no logical or legal reason.  How do I know this?  They told me that they’ve done it. 

This past Friday (May 20th) I went into Best Buy to grab a few movies for the weekend.  Although I had cash available, I always charge Best Buy purchases to my credit card from there, as I use it to keep tabs on how much money I spend on non-necessities.  My $34 transaction was declined.  Confused, namely because I had well over $400 of available credit, we tried again.  And again.  After the third ‘declined’, a passing manager offered to take me to customer service to call Chase; I gladly agreed, as I was now concerned that my card had somehow been compromised.  What I discovered, however, was far more shady and disingenuous.

After reaching a representative, he informed me that my account had been closed, due to “missing personal information on file”.  I then demanded to know what, precisely, was missing, given that they had just confirmed my name, address, date of birth and account number before telling me anything.  He placed me on hold, and transferred me to another representative (who later informed me she was very new to the call centre).  The second representative told me that banking regulations had changed in Canada as of January 2011, requiring that photo ID be presented to obtain credit in store – “things are more strict now,” she added emphatically – and a mass review of accounts had been undertaken since.  I then informed her that I have always had to show photo ID to obtain credit for store cards and otherwise; in my twelve years of being a credit holder, I have always had to prove my identity.  I then told her that I was standing in front of, ironically, the same store employee who had opened my application, and she had seen my passport on that very day last November, so it was obviously not a new policy.  The representative tried to insist this was not universal; I had an employee confirm otherwise beside me while she was on the line.

I then asked why I wasn’t contacted about this supposedly outstanding identification, as I have been getting my statements promptly each month.  Surely, I told her, if this was a problem since January, they would have contacted me before outright closing my account?  She advised me that she could see a letter was sent “recently” and that some accounts were on hold while some were closed.  I asked why my account wasn’t on hold then, pending notification of me; the representative said she was new and had no idea how it worked.  I asked how to re-open my account, after emphasizing how utterly humiliating the whole process of having my card declined was, which was when she told me the kicker:  because they shut down my account, I would have to re-apply for credit to have a new one, thus incurring a credit score hit.  I again pointed out that this was ludicrous, stressing again that my passport had been scanned into the computer for the application to Chase(!) in November, and that there was absolutely no way I would tolerate another score hit for their error.  I then demanded that someone with authority regarding the closings phone me back; the representative informed me there was no way to schedule a callback and that she didn’t know who would have closed my account, “but I could ask my supervisor.”  She asked, and returned with a PO Box address in Ottawa.  I again stressed wanting a callback; she said she would take down my phone number and give it to her supervisor and see if she could.

I then asked if my current no payment plans would hold with the account closed (I purchased a laptop on a year plan with no payments or interest, hence applying for the card in the first place); she had to check as she wasn’t sure.  I was assured all was in order, but the card was now useless for new purchases.

I have been making payments monthly; there was no reason to flag my account for closure over a hold, as my score is exceptional.  The fact that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason, nor any notification or actual knowledge of credit policies in Canada, is extremely disturbing.  This was a review undertaken on ALL Canadian card holders at Best Buy and, conversely, sister store Future Shop; there are others out there who have been unknowingly terminated.

As I informed Chase and the store, I will not give another cent to the chain until Chase is no longer their credit provider, which is a shame for them, given my spending habits and my fiance’s love of electronic gadgets.  I also refuse to incur a hit on my score for foolishness. I urge you to do the same, and please, check on your account as soon as possible. 

Way to fail, Chase.  Way to fail.


EDIT:  THE SAGA CONTINUES!  MORE CHASE LIES ON THESE CLOSURES HERE!

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Lateral Violence and Internalized Oppression (Or, When The Professor Becomes What Is Preached Against)

I’m currently studying social work in this summer session, a field that I absolutely love.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been in school (no, I’m not telling you how long) and to boot, I’m in college as opposed to university, which is a whole different ball game – at least on my side of the border.  University is very theoretically driven, with most classes being large groups of students scribbling down the lecturing and slides of the professor expert; in college, things are (best I can tell) more experiential, more group work driven, and tend not to lecture directly but instead, move straight to learning the concept in its practical usage.

For programs like this, where we must tread carefully and correctly in the field, I appreciate this novel change of pace.  It’s daunting to me, and to most of us, because we have spent our academic lives being taught in a whole other manner.  Old habits die hard, especially in compressed course situations; they die even harder with old horses in the stables. That said, in my first course, the approach worked;  we learned how to teach Life Skills Training by handling each new theoretical concept just as our future clients would:  within the parameters of the Life Skills model.  The model is specifically designed to instruct on emotional, mental and kinetic levels, as adult learners in particular absorb things best when they use all three modes of learning.  I remember all of the lessons of that course fairly readily, because of how I was emotionally moved, cognitively lectured to or engaged, and then physically practiced the concepts in role play and so forth.

For my second course, I assumed much of the same would occur, and was thusly prepared.  Although the course was a discussion of social work’s fundamental principles and theory, I assumed we would engage this theoretical material on multiple levels, and in this regard, I was not wrong.  However, the course fast became an unfortunate and uncomfortable lesson on a key concept, one that played out not in controlled learning situations, but in teacher-student dynamics.

Our instructor – let’s call this person X, and use the male gender based on a coin flip, not necessarily reality – began our class by explaining that his teaching methods were not the typical methods of Western education systems; they were far more practical, and designed to engage critical thought.  X immediately presented as a vibrant personality, and explained his historical background in the field:  a differently-abled or disabled (you choose; I call myself disabled and will use that in this blog) Aboriginal, with extensive experience in the field and multiple degrees, X immediately dismissed the education away and insisted we all had experiences and training to offer the class.  I enthusiastically agreed, as I count my lived experiences as crucial to my understanding of social work, and a true asset.  X then began to teach, using videos, discussions on loose themes, and so on.

I loved the videos, and loved the discussions, but when I sat down to tackle the readings associated with the lecture, I realized that much of what was in there was not remotely addressed in any cognitive sense in class.  While I learn well enough from reading, I do find I learn best with a combination of audio and visual stimuli and, ideally, a concrete example of a theory via discussion.  Our Life Skills course was a perfect blend of just that; this first class, however, had jumped straight to examples and assumed understanding of the logic beneath.  It was like traversing a highway without road signs: I can guess the speed and which exit I need to take, but who’s to blame if the cops yank me over and tell me I was doing 100km/h in an 80km/h zone?  All students need a few guiding markers to keep us on track.

The second day, we began with a guest lecturer (another Aboriginal instructor – and before one wonders, I mention this information out of relevance, not because that’s all I see these instructors as):  let’s call her Y.  Y worked a case study through with us, the discussions mostly loose, but occassionally stopping to make a point of theory.  It was more clear for me as to what I was to take away, and I felt very satisfied with the experience, as much as it was driven by group work and debate.  There were road signs, to continue the metaphor.  The afternoon, however, returned to X, and again, I felt mostly lost.  I was frustrated, because I felt X had so much to offer me, a British-Canadian Anglo woman, and nothing seemed to be sinking in as I’d hoped.  When we were told our exam was a group exercise the next morning, I felt my stomach drop out as well.  It unsettled me, the notion of time pressure and attempting consensus.  It’s foreign to our school system to have not an assignment, but a test, be a group effort.

The examination took place the next day, and I was horribly ill with a flu.  I also suffer from attention deficits due to a mental condition, and the collective noise of eight other groups in a room made keeping my focus on my own group a nightmare.  I was rattled, and knew I should skip the afternoon lecture; however, being as 30% of our grade was attendance and participation, I stayed with it.  Big mistake:  the afternoon’s ‘lecture’ was a combination of a group of classmates playing a noisy game that aggravated my migraine, coupled with the watching students shouting out random facts from the reading between rounds of said game.  In pain and irritable, I went into the hall to read my chapter, making notes to help pass the time and waiting out the game.  Other students left and went home in frustration, feeling they were not learning anything; some came into the hall and checked on me, or shared my frustrations.  X overheard this in the hall and came out to speak with me and I decided to take a classmate’s advice and express my frustrations.

This is precisely how I explained myself, admittedly in tears from the migraine at this point:  “I appreciate that you make the effort to teach in a non-standard way – I’m sure you’re engaging so many people in new ways – but it’s not working for me.  I actually need a bit of the standard methods; I need to hear the theory, too.  Yesterday, when I spoke with you privately, and we discussed that concept and you then helped me come to a personal example – that’s how I learn best.  Reading it alone isn’t enough with me.  And it’s frustrating because I know you have so much knowledge and experience to offer me, and I want to learn it – but you’re not engaging me, and it sucks.  And then today – I’m sick with the flu and have a migraine, and during the group midterm… it was hell!  I get the purpose of it – in the field, we will often work in treatment teams, and it’s crucial we know how to collaborate on treatments – but in the field, we’d be in a board room, not competing with the noise of eight other groups.  I have attention issues, and it was SO LOUD and so hard to focus.”

X reiterated that he’d warned us that his teaching method was not Western, but then asked if it would be easier to write our final exam alone, as opposed to the groups again.  I confessed that yes, that would be wonderful, and X agreed it was done.  X then stressed I should go home for the rest of the day and practice self-care; I agreed to this.  I told my group I was not working with them for the final and they, much to their credit, said they felt this unfair to me, and wondered why we, as a group, couldn’t be in a quiet room to do the next exam.  We posed this to X; X later offered to let us write it alone after the rest of the groups finished.  All was well – or so we thought.

The next day, we began again with Y, and again, the mix of discussion, music, multimedia and the moments of summing up theory worked very well for me; I was in awe of Y, to be honest, and wished we could have her teach more courses.  The afternoon came and X proceeded to lecture with a slideshow, stating that X was “asked to give this lecture”.  Throughout the afternoon, X repeatedly made snide side comments, such as, “For those people who need numbers…” and “For those people who need to write until they have carpal tunnel….”   I felt attacked, and very uncomfortable.  I hadn’t once said this, and I hoped that no other student had done so, either.  It was a lecture on the specific horrible issues faced by the much maligned and abused Aboriginals of our country, and I wasn’t able to fully immerse myself because of the little barbs peppering it.

Friday morning, my group and I came to class first thing, as we were told, before departing to await the afternoon.  When we arrived, X was telling a group of classmates that in spite of it being a group exercise, the exam was to be done in silence or everyone would get a zero.  X then came to me and asked if I was ‘registered with disability services’; I said no, confused about this.  Although I vaguely knew of the centre and procedures, my schedule hasn’t allowed for me to see my doctor yet and get the complex paperwork done, counselling appointments made, etc.  We were then told on the spot that we had to write with everyone else now.  I felt absolutely awful for my group, who’d expected to have the morning to study; X had never asked about this.  In university, I was simply accommodated; there were no doctor notes or special centres I had to be registered with.  I’d assumed on Wednesday that X was merely being kind.  I also took the silence rule as ridiculous and again, aimed at me, and decided that I needed to tell X that I didn’t feel comfortable with the entire class under fear of a zero because of me.  I took two group members with me, and explained precisely this.  The response we got shocked us all:

“It’s not just you; others have complained that exams are supposed to be silent.  Apparently everyone wanted a White instructor for this class.”  This was said with a great deal of resentment and rage.

We expressed that was not a consensus opinion at all; eventually, the silence rule was lifted, but X expressed that we should all be mindful of our noise levels – a reasonable and appreciated request.

After the exam, my entire group was irate because of the sudden switch, and I was upset that in their kindness, they’d all been screwed over.  But what struck me the most was that we’d just seen two key concepts in action with our instructor’s behaviour: internalized oppression and its often-partner, lateral violence.

Oppression is what the non-dominant groups of a category experience, which is essentially not having the same treatment and access to resources/privileges as the dominant group.  For example:  Aboriginals receive a significant amount less from welfare than non-Aboriginals.  Internalized oppression is when an oppressed person begins to believe the stereotypes and awful statements about their group; for example, a Black woman begins to believe that she is not as deserving of fair treatment as White people are, or a gay man believes he is a sinner and is flawed for ‘choosing’ to be gay.  Lateral violence is when, as a result of this, an oppressed person retreats to his or her group, or perhaps lashes out at the dominant group or at the very least, refuses to interact beyond his own culture; we see this when people react poorly to interracial dating, for example.

X had taken criticisms of his teaching method – and I cannot say there weren’t racist remarks, but that said, the vast majority of our class was non-White and thus, I doubt it, especially in our field – and assumed it to be more oppression of the usual kind – that he was not ‘White enough’ to teach.  In turn, he lashed out, retreating away from us, instead of working collaboratively with us to make the learning experience successful for all.  It was sad, scary and a shame to see:  sad, in that I felt sympathy for the fact that it probably had happened that X had been told he wasn’t ‘White enough’, never mind the mistreatment of the Aboriginals and its toll; scary, in that someone with so many years experience teaching how to avoid this behaviour was exhibiting it in our class; and a shame, because we all lost an opportunity to learn from each other.  When I offered my feedback, for example, I had commended the uniqueness of what X offered, while suggesting what I and perhaps others needed to create a bridge and help us learn; it was offered constructively, as collaborators in the learning process.  That opportunity was spurned and shunned.  I in turn lost out on the wealth of experiences and knowledge X could have given me for my social worker tool box.

None of us are perfect, but I am still aghast.  Then again, I am more aghast at how we treat our First Nations in Canada, because if we treated them as the equal human beings they are, this oppression would not be such a painful trigger button, waiting to be pushed.  White-skinned people, and their privilege, have created this emotional damage in so many generations of Aboriginals, and even racial minorities aside from Aboriginals have seen better treatment; perhaps we all just reaped what we have sown in this case.

Hmm.  Maybe I learned something from X and Y after all.

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A Survey For Canada…

I’d like to ask Canadians of all shapes and sizes the following questions.  You see, I’m having trouble reconciling the country I live in at the moment, and perhaps the answers will provide insight.  You’ll help, won’t you?  You know, because Canadians are known world-wide as friendly and helpful?

1.  If your son or daughter cheated in a scholarship contest for school – to the point of breaking the law – would you still be proud of his achievement?  Or would you chastise him for his lack of honesty?

2.  If your spouse said, “All of our combined money will be kept in one account, and only I can dictate how it’s spent – and you have no right to see the statements ever again,” would you be okay with this?  Would you be okay if he bought houses, cars and boats on your dime, mostly, completely disregarding things you need like clothing, medications and improvements to the house you actually reside in?

3.  Ladies only: If your father, husband and brother decided that, regardless of your wishes, you did not need access to birth control or abortion services, because marriage should, after all, be about procreation, would you be nonchalant about this?

4.  If your boss decided that he would cut funding to every department except his son’s, then rewarded his son for having the ability to make strong presentations, would you find this fair?  Or would you be pissed off?

5. If you noticed flagrant violations of policy at work, but every time you approached your superiors, you were suspended from work for attempting to speak up while the transgressors were given promotions, would you find this fair?

6.  If hospitals began triaging cases not on need, but on gross annual income, how would you feel, sitting in an ER with your impoverished father who’s living on a pension, after being told this?

7.  You receive a past due notice from the university your child is attending, indicating none of his tuition has been paid and he has been kicked out of his program.  When you ask him what happened to the $14K you gave him for school this year (because you have saved hard for years for this child to have an education), he says, “I went to Cuba, bought a car, saw the UFC – $800 seats, Mom and Dad! – and then, you know, I had to help out my buddies,” do you shrug and say, “Oh well, it was your money”?  Or do you lose your temper, especially because you’re legally on the hook, since he’s 17?

8.  If your sister was facing 67 criminal charges for which you knew she was guilty, would you be proud?  Would you encourage her to hang out with other criminals?

These seem like pretty crazy scenarios, I grant you, but I’m truly curious.  Most people I know, parents and non-parents of all political persuasions, would be unimpressed with all of these situations.  It’s logical to assume that none of these situations would seem fair or pleasant, nor would most parents (I should hope!) reward the behaviour of the children described above.

So why did you elect a Conservative majority last night?

The Harper Conservatives are guilty of all of the above, or have indicated they will do all of the above, if given half a chance – a ‘mandate’, as they like to call it, although, as with Rob Ford, 40% does not a majority of support make.  But 40% of you elected a party with these principles at its core.

I’m flabbergasted.  I’m embarrassed.  I’m fearful for the rights I currently enjoy as a citizen, let alone a bisexual, childfree female.

Harper’s MPs are encouraging the religious right to continue to push for control of MY uterus.  Harper himself thinks I should have no right to fund the party I care about.  Of course he thinks this: only his party is backed by the rich; he doesn’t need public subsidies, like the Greens do.  Harper thinks the Canada Health Act – the very thing Obama has been pointing to as he’s worked for a more universal health care system across the border – should be scrapped.  Health care shouldn’t be a Federal bother, you see; he also thinks we should pay for it privately.  Have none of you seen what’s been going on for decades in the States?

Harper is a criminal, and his government was the first to be found in contempt of Parliament – a first among the DOZENS of Commonwealth nations and their collective political history – for hiding what he wants to do with the tax money YOU have paid into running this country.  He wants to take away your rights to see the proverbial bank statement; now that he isn’t castrated by holding a minority, he can do just that.

The saddest thing is, I’d say 25% of Harper voters last night did so just because they are ‘sick of elections’.  Meanwhile, people are dying for a chance to have a right to vote in the first place, a vote that is actually counted.  These countries are shaking their heads at you, today, as am I. Harper’s refusal to cooperate with other parties has finally paid off for him; he’s manipulated you into no longer giving a damn who runs things, as long as no one troubles you with the details.

25% of the remaining voters are ‘punishing’ Dalton McGuinty in Ontario or are afraid of the NDP 20 years later.  Ontario, do you not remember Mike Harris?  Why do you think McGuinty has raised the taxes he has?  He’s been cleaning up the disaster Harris left us, between the megacity merge, downloaded items onto the municipal budget that forced David Miller into difficult decisions, and never mind dramatic rises in tuition and a disregard for health care and the poor.  Harper wants to download even more items onto the provincial dwindling coffers; if you think he will somehow save you taxes and money, think again, because the provinces will simply increase their share of the invoice.  That $400 health tax – which, by the way, many Canadians only pay a partial amount of, as it’s scaled to income – is going to seem like pennies four years from now. All because you fear a man who was always Liberal at heart (hell, look at the riding he’s holding right now in Toronto, Ontario!).

Selfish, foolish fallacy has befallen our once great country.  When the piper comes calling in four years, remember this:  rebuilding rubble carries a far greater price than simple renovations, and either way, we pay the bill.

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What Harper Wants You To Forget About (Besides Going Out To Vote)

So, the Twitterverse (and the comments page for said article) is furiously rebuffing the Globe and Mail this morning (also affectionately known now as ‘Globe and Fail’ and ‘Old and Male’), after their editorial team endorsed Stephen Harper for the 41st Federal Election in Canada.  No matter what party you support – hell, even if you are a Con lover – this editorial is an embarrassment to journalism.  Why’s that, you ask?

Because the Globe wants you to vote him in based strictly on economics, and actually speaks positively of his character(!).  It also spends the first part of the editorial pointing out Harper’s transgressions and labelling them ‘petty’.  I’m pretty sure Harper’s Goverment paid for and possibly scripted this drivel, being as it’s ripped from Con debate rhetoric.

Here’s a few of my favourite parts:

We are nearing the end of an unremarkable and disappointing election campaign, marked by petty scandals, policy convergences and a dearth of serious debate. Canadians deserved better. We were not presented with an opportunity to vote for something bigger and bolder, nor has there been an honest recognition of the most critical issues that lie ahead: a volatile economy, ballooning public debts and the unwieldy future of our health-care system.

Already, we have a contradiction in terms:  there was no opportunity to vote for something bigger and better, and yet, the Globe condemns spending and expansion because of our economy.  Well, we can’t have it both ways – nor can the Globe deny that spending money on bigger jails – a strategy proven a huge failure in the United States and unnecessary as crime rates drop, no matter what moral panic the media are perpetuating this week – is a form of spending and expansion.

As for ‘petty’… well, we’ll return to that in a moment.

The challenges facing our next federal government do not end there, of course. The next House of Commons must find new ways to protect Parliament, the heart of our democracy. It needs to reform its troubled equalization program without straining national unity. Relations with the U.S. are at a critical juncture. Any thickening of the border threatens to punish all Canadians, while negotiations over perimeter security have implications for national sovereignty and economic security. Wars in Libya and Afghanistan, climate change, Canada’s role in the world, the rapid and exciting change of the country’s ethnic and cultural makeup – the list is great, as is the need for strong leadership in Ottawa.

I agree with all of these priorities.  Shall we examine Harper’s contributions thus far?

Democracy:  The first Prime Minister in our history found in contempt of Parliament, Harper limits media questions to five per meeting.  Harper also forces his backbenchers to always vote in line.  Harper campaigned on transparency and fewer appointments to Senate, yet has made the most appointments in history, killed the Freedom to Information Act swiftly and quietly, prorogued government to avoid democratic processes which include coalitions (yep, they’re very legal; Harper even tried to use one to his advantage against the Liberals)…  Oh, and did I mention his wealthy party attempting to castrate smaller parties – thereby hampering democracy – by removing the stipend each party gets from the government per vote received during an election?  That’s right; Harper’s Goverment (because it’s not our country’s government, anymore; just check the papers) feels that I do not have the right to dictate that a whopping $2 and change of MY taxes go to the party I have chosen to represent ME.  And then, we have those pesky police investigations showing that the Cons violated election spending laws in a previous go-round – essentially buying the election, as proven and upheld in the Appeals Court.  Hmm….

Equalization:  Harper’s leaked booklet o’ troublesome quotes makes many references to health care and how Harper would much rather privatize the whole she-bang and wash his hands of helping the province.  I sure hope all of you middle-class Con voters have a way to pay hundreds of thousands in medical bills on your own, should cancer strike you or your loved ones.  I doubt equalization will go well in his hands; his funds get allocated to his ridings and the rest be damned.

Canada’s Role in the World:  Harper is the sole reason that for the first time ever, Canada is not on the UN Security Council.  Why?  His foreign policies.  Peacekeeping, good-hearted Canada is no longer trusted by the UN.  We also have been condemned for our environmental policies, and Harper wants to kill funding to Planned Parenthood for another first – hindering their care overseas – because of abortions.  Does it feel American up in here?

Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have shown the leadership, the bullheadedness (let’s call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs. He has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper’s successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.

Mr. Harper could achieve a great deal more if he would relax his grip on Parliament, its independent officers and the flow of information, and instead bring his disciplined approach to bear on the great challenges at hand. That is the great strike against the Conservatives: a disrespect for Parliament, the abuse of prorogation, the repeated attempts (including during this campaign) to stanch debate and free expression. It is a disappointing failing in a leader who previously emerged from a populist movement that fought so valiantly for democratic reforms.

So, all of those principles you cared so much about in the opening of this piece no longer matter when making an endorsement?  Oh, and by the way, the only party with consistent ratings across the country, province by province, is NDP.  Oops!  I smell a Bev Oda-style ‘Not’ striking out parts of this original editorial and replacing them.  I smell an original ‘no endorsement’ editorial changed by the big bosses.  In fact, this reeks of the same spin, blackmail and lies used on Bob Rae’s NDP goverment in Ontario – as documented, hilariously enough, by The Globe and Mail.

His idea of reform has been for the worse, not the better – unless you’re rich, white, male and/or big business.

The biggest lie of all:  Harper did not save this economy at all; policies in our banking industry and those established by the surplus-holding Liberals did.  Harper has run a worse deficit than Mulrooney.

What else has Harper done?  Taken from numerous resources, including ShitHarperDid.com:

  • Broke his promise to ‘never tax income trusts’
  • Set a law for fixed election dates then broke it when it suited him politically
  • Attempted to buy Chuck Cadman’s vote while the man was dying and vulnerable, no less
  • He has a manual on how to undermine Parliament debates and process.  No, really
  • Prorogued government to avoid judgment on his party’s actions in Parliament – essentially avoiding democractic process
  • Reduced Federal Meat Inspectors, leading to the deaths of 20 people in the Maple Leaf scandal due to impossible work conditions for remaining inspectors
  • Has appointed three ministers who have intentionally misled Parliament (Oda, Clements, Mackay)
  • Found in contempt 3 times – this bears repeating as it’s a first in our country’s history
  • Spent $1.2 Billion on the G20, and is facing allegations of spending on his buddy’s Muskoka riding with funds specifically deisgnated for other purposes, as noted by the Auditor General
  • Arrested over 1000 people that weekend, the majority of those charages being dropped, and facing numerous complaints of police brutality and unlawful imprisonment conditions and rights breaches
  • Frugal spending apparently means spending $100 Million between elections promoting your party
  • Hid information about Afghan detainees and lost our access to Camp Mirage, which led to increased costs for that war effort
  • Appointed two senators who had 67 forged invoices falsely claiming tax rebates for election expenses
  • Has staff being investigated by police for 3 separate case files
  • Defunding any organization that questions pro-Israel agenda
  • Cut funding to arts, women’s rights orgs (Planned Parenthood, etc), human rights & democracy orgs (KAIROS, Rights & democracy)
  • Cut statscan
  • Cut funding to science and research (Human Genome Project, CPRN)
  • Has attacked: Parliamentary budget Office, Elections Canada, RCMP Public Complaints Commission, and Linda Keen, head of Canadian Nuclear regulatory Agency

I’m sorry, but I defy any Con supporter to come up with a list this awful about any previous Prime Minister of ANY party, Cons included.

This is not the Canada we’ve always known.  This is a Canada that Harper has been holding hostage under the falsified demon of the economy – something he’s made worse, ultimately, by running us from surplus into massive deficit.  None of his big-ticket spending plans will benefit Canada financially in the long run, nor will they help Canadians where they need it most.  Harper is not our financial saviour; he will be our demise, with Flaherty at the reins.

Do I believe any party has a perfect approach or platform?  No, not at all.  But I do know that of all the parties, Harper’s does not have the core values that have long distinguished Canada from its contemporaries at heart.  He has only the interests of his backers and his back pockets in mind.

Voting for Harper is a slap in the face to the democracy you are exercising on May 2nd.  Hell, his people have tried to steal a ballot box of advance votes (by a group that is least likely to support him)!  If none of the other parties appeal to you, but democracy does, abstain.  Things will only get worse from here under Harper.  At least your voice will still be heard under, oh, any other party.

I fear for my country.  I hope it wakes up on May 2nd.  Unplug from Harper’s matrix, before we’re too far down the rabbit hole to see the light again.

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