Tag Archives: canada

Election Day: Democracy Makes Good Eatin’

A rainy election day has dawned here in Vancouver. A low rattling hum comes from my refrigerator with the whistle of wind outside and the splatter of rain under passing roadway tires. It’s a murky aural mess that seems an ominous forboding of the day ahead.

I don’t follow politics as well as I should, given my aspirations, but the peripheral glances I take have me pretty riveted in this contest, and apprehensive, of outcomes tonight.

The NDP’s amazing ascent over the past six weeks is well-deserved. I think their platform at times equal parts unicorns and fairy dust, economically speaking, but a left-wing opposition under a minority government of a would-be autocrat should be the closest thing to balance this country has seen in decades.

I’m nervous about the notion of the NDP running the country, despite liking Jack Layton a lot, but if that’s what it takes to save the social system that defines what it means to be Canadian — a country where we’re in it for one and all, where my tax dollars are your security net and yours are mine, where healthcare access should be a basic human right — then so be it, bring ’em on.

That’s the country that defines who I am. It’s the nation that lets immigrants in, helps businesses grow, provides education among the best in the world, and celebrates arts and the freedom of information.

I don’t know what this country is that I’ve been living in. I feel like it’s America-Lite™. But I’m Canadian, not American, and that won’t be changing in my lifetime.

I’m unsure how we’ve become a place where a Tim Horton’s donut shop is converted to triage because there aren’t enough beds in the hospital across the street. We were the headline gag on The Daily Show that week. I don’t know where Tommy Douglas’s ghost is, but I bet he’s pissed.

Somehow I woke up in a Canada that began razing the Albertan tar sands, the environment be damned. A place where, on the one hand, the Prime Minister at long last apologizes to the First Nations for the horrors of the residential school system’s abuses, but then denies access to clean water for more than 100 at-risk Native communities nationally.

In today’s Canada, women are being legislated into regression by having 43% of federal funding cut under Harper’s administration.

Instead of being a Canada fighting for human rights internationally and advanced-thinking domestically, “my” government decided it wants to build more prisons, despite falling crime rates. Incarceration has never been the solution in Canada, our social programs have been a large factor of our always-lower crime rates compared to our Southern Neighbours, but now we want to replicate their system here? How does this make sense?

Don’t even get me started on issues of internet privacy and the business of bandwidth. If bandwidth is information, and information is power, and power encourages change, then the Conservatives’ position on access to bandwidth isn’t very encouraging for society as a whole.

Education is already priced out of reach of some; protecting bandwidth-access is a way of equalizing that.

Then there are the Liberals. I’m not happy with them, either. They’ve been incohesive for years, and they can’t figure out a leader who can win. I respect Ignatieff but there are issues I have with his record (a politician who doesn’t show up for votes is a politician who’s not interested in the details of legislating, I’ve always felt).

It’s your classic Canadian contest: Who do you want to win? I sure as hell don’t know, sir, but I know who I want to lose.

Long story short, it’s a good year to have a say and play a part.

The above gripes of mine are barely even scraping the issues of what we need to contend with in Canada.

We have climate change issues, and thus need a government who’s thinking about alternative energies, not just sucking the last of our fossil fuels without recompense.

We’re still in a shaky recession that Canada barely got through, while nurturing a massive personal debt/credit-load across the country, and we’ve a dangerously uncertain financial precipice before us.

Education is at a crossroads, as is the entire medical system, so too is the Canadian Pension Plan.

Cutting spending and thinning the spread only gets you so far. Then, one day, you’re not a socialist country anymore, and it’s every man for himself, like it is for our American friends.

In a perfect world, there will be a better distribution of power and no party will have a clear majority.

I’m not a fan of the hoodoo-voodoo economics behind an NDP platform, given it’s a combination of “if the stars align and the genie grants our budgeting wishes”, but if ever Canada needed a Socialist voice in the national government that carried a little weight, I’d say today, this election, THIS is when it’s needed.

Because I love the Canada I was raised in. And, like the rest of the world, I know what a dark and difficult path lay ahead, and we’ll be better for the long-run if we protect this Canadian way of caring for, and helping, our brothers and sisters.

My name is Steff, I am Canadian, and I have voted.

As a Canadian, How I Remember

I remember waking inexplicably with a jolt at 5:45am PST.

As a child of the ’70s, in hindsight I’d now describe the jolt as “a disturbance in the Force.”

Something seemed wrong, deeply and pervasively wrong, but I didn’t know what.

I shrugged and got out of bed. I brewed the coffee, amazed at the deceptively silent and beautiful dawn rising outside. At about 6, I sat on the balcony, enjoying my coffee, taking in the warm, gorgeous September morning.

At the time, I had no cable TV. In 2001, the web wasn’t as accessibly streaming news like it does today, and I wasn’t tethered to things like I am these days.

Then, I had no idea our lives had all been altered in the preceding moments.

I showered and headed to work.

There, coworkers told me what happened:

Two planes, two towers, untold thousands of civilians, utter chaos.

The second tower had only collapsed about 30 minutes before I got in.

The significance hit me squarely. “This changes everything,” I muttered.

My coworker Leslie nodded, saying that, in less than an hour, the world her 5-year-old son would grow up in had changed forever.

***

I often forget that morning now, when the words “9/11” flash past in conversation or print.

I forget the fear, the uncertain future, the heartbreak. I often forget it all.

Now, “9/11” is not so much a tragedy that changed my perspective on the world as it seems to be a code for the politicization of ideals that polarize the Right & Left.

“You’re with us or you’re against us” were the words that soon would divide us all, months down the line, as 9/11 became a vehicle for political divide at home in America, and also became an ethnocentric push of the “American way” versus the world’s.

***

But, on September 12th, 2001, I considered myself not Canadian, but “small-N north AMERICAN.”

I wanted to get The Fuckers. I wanted bloodshed for my American friends.

I wanted to help, I wanted to pray, I wanted a million things — I wanted anything but to ever again see the image of people jumping from burning buildings to a certain but faster and simpler death, or that horrible mushrooming cloud covering city streets in dust and decay.

***

Somehow, in the months that followed 9/11, we lost the brief  closeness it brought us.

We lost the “we’re in this together” feeling that came immediately with the attack. We lost the reminder of how important community and camaraderie were.

***

I remember those early days, though.

There was a moment on the evening of September 11th when I was just stunned to hear laughter trickling down the street as young children jumped rope and rode donuts on their bikes. It seemed odd to me that happiness could be found anywhere in the world on a day like that.

I thought, in children’s laughter, innocence lives on. Maybe it could come back.

We still thought there were maybe 40,000 or more casualties that day. How could there not be? Well, the simple matter of the attack happening before 9, that’s how there could be less.

And thank the powers that be, too, that the terrorists didn’t time it “better” for the arrival of workers. After all, “maximum casualties” is their credo.

Still, as I fell into the endless loop of videos on the news, it seemed like happiness and hope died that day.

I remember going to bed on September 11th, at a loss for where my place in the world was.

Who was this evil, where would they strike, when would this end, why did they hate us, what did they pray for —  all these questions raced through me.

I felt like a zombie for days — listening to the radio, waiting to see how America would really respond, what the global fallout was going to be.

Like most Canadians, I knew already:

“We’re in it with you, wherever you go, if it’s to get the fuckers who did this, we’re in — lock and fuckin’ load, motherfucker.”

***

And Canada’s always been in it against Bad Fuckers with our buddies, the Yanks.

We’ve really stuck it out in Afghanistan. We’ve had a strong troop presence since Day One. We’re still there. It’s our way of life that was attacked that day, too. Canada had a lot of Canadians in those towers.

But, down south, with our good friends, the post-9/11 stance got murky and somehow the parties decided it was time to use 9/11’s attack for political means.

Somewhere, the message got lost — the people jumping from those buildings, the aghast onlookers on the street, the chaos and fear, that ALL got lost.

Wrong choices were made.

Wrong alliances formed.

Wrong goals set.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Did what happened in the coming years disrespect those who died that day? Did the politicizing of the horrors take America’s integrity out of those attacks? Did the day itself fall out of relevance in the stupidity that followed?

I used to think so.

I sort of forgot just how deeply 9/11 cut into my soul, how much it hurt me that anyone could have that kind of hatred for a lifestyle that they’d just blindly kill anyone they could.

I sort of forgot how much I learned about life in those days — how kind strangers could be to one another, how alike we all are when we cry and grieve, how strong we could be for those around us, how pivotal being a friend in a time of need could be.

The lessons I learned from 9/11 about the GOOD in each of us are what I want to remember for the rest of my life.

And, to do that, I need to remember how horrible it was for a little while.

***

This morning, I’ve been watching some of a History Channel documentary from 2008, 102 Minutes that Changed The World (aka “…Changed America“, its original USA title).

It’s 9/11 “as it happened” — unnarrated, unadulterated. Just amateur recordings from people on the street in Manhattan when the Towers began coming down, shown minute-for-minute as it happened, from hundreds of perspectives.

My heart’s been in my throat a lot.

Now I remember.

I remember how “tragedy” became redefined for me, and how now I think of heartbreak on a scale of Zero to 10, with 10 being “the big fireman in the street, staring in horror at the World Trade Centre, screaming and crying”.

Definitions of some words were forever altered that day for me, and when I think of some emotions, like “horror” and “fear” and “loss” and “terror”, I flash back to  faces from the news, of people on Manhattan streets, from the coverage that played for weeks following.

***

I don’t know where we are now… whether we’re a better people than we were before 9/11. I’ve disliked so much of what I’ve seen of people’s values in the years since — the forcing of prescribed morality by the Religious Right, the sanctimony of the “true patriot” ultra-conservatives, the horribly bungled military actions, the loss of rights for immigrants, the prejudism, the erosion of the economy.

9/11 transformed so much for us, even in Canada, but the almost-a-decade since has led to dark, dark times in America.

So… where are we now?

With the economy shape-shifting daily, people re-examining their values and material mindsets with an almost-Depression-era austerity, and everything else that’s come in the last decade, I’m hoping we’re in the process of finding who we are, much like Americans did in the late ’40s and ’50s.

I’d like to think what we’re undergoing societally is like spring-cleaning a house. First you got to get it really dirty, tear shit apart, find all yer crap, get rid of it, and then reinvent things from the ground up. Then, you have awesomeness.

If it takes me weeks to do that on the homefront, I can imagine it taking more than a decade for a superpower like the USA to get their shit done. It’s year nine, post-September 11th.

So where are we now? Where is America’s soul today?

I dunno. Somewhere between there and here… and There.

I think that if everyone looked back at the three weeks that followed 9/11, they might start remembering that, somehow, this worst-thing-to-ever-happen-on-American-soil horror managed to, for a very short time, bring out everything that the world sees as being the BEST of what America is.

As September 11th looms, I’d like to remind my American friends that, when the Towers came down, we were with you. When you went to Afghanistan, we were with you.

And when you really need us again, we’ll very likely be with you once again.

But the America we’re with is the America you are when it seems like there’s no hope, the America you are when you rail against evil.

The America we’re with is the one that celebrated the end of whites-only club the night Obama was elected.

The America we’re with is the one that rallied to help its fellow man in the days following Katrina, when the government didn’t even have its act together. It’s also the America that didn’t hesitate to show up first for East Asia’s Tsunami and Haiti’s earthquake, because its people expect nothing less of its government.

The America we’re with is the one that lets all people speak for what they believe in, that celebrates freedom of speech and equality for all, and who stands up for international human rights.

Luckily, most of the time, that’s the America we know & see, too.

Maybe, this week, with 9/11’s anniversary returning, Americans can remember who they were on September 12th, 13th, and the days that followed.

Because the world stood with America for a reason.

The terrorists never won that day, and if we remember who we are, they never will.

Pride Day in Vancouver

The Canadian government has been keeping its nose out of people’s bedrooms since 1969. Since then, any consenting adults could have any sex they like, provided the participants were of legal age, not dead, and not an animal. Basically.

From the Canadian Encyclopedia:

From Confederation to 1969, under Canada’s criminal law, homosexuality was punishable by up to 14 years in prison. In 1969 the law was amended by exempting from prosecution 2 consenting adults of at least 21 years of age who engaged in these “indecent acts” in private. Since then, the speed of social change in attitudes toward homosexuality has accelerated because of general tolerance (eg, for common-law couples and single parents) and organized gay liberation campaigns.

Many Canadians no longer consider homosexual acts “indecent.” At the time of the 1985 edition of this encyclopedia, one province and several cities had enacted laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. By 1996 the majority of Canadian provinces had legislated against discrimination, as is also the case in the internal rules of numerous public and private institutions ranging from churches to universities to Canada Post to major banks. The Canadian military have gone much further than the American military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy by banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. When the age of consent for vaginal and oral sex was lowered to 14 in the criminal code, consent for anal sex remained at 18, until a high court decided in 1995 that this distinction unlawfully discriminated against homosexuals.

Gay rights have taken a long time to evolve, despite that forward-thinking law. Vancouver, however, has been considered a very “pro-gay” city for a long, long time.

Some could argue there are aspects of the “noses out” policy that are lip-service more than reality, and cite examples like Little Sisters’ Bookstore’s epic legal battles to get materials across the border without being tapped with some vague obscenity legalities.

They’d be right, too.

But today we celebrate how far we’ve come, and we’ve come a long way, baby.

My best friend’s been out for 10 years now. Mostly out, anyhow. Mostly’s pretty good, when it involves his career and community services. The only people who don’t know would seem to be choosing ignorance, at this point.

And that still happens.

Tomorrow, we worry about that.

Tomorrow, we remember that there are places gays don’t marry, don’t get accepted, can’t live out loud, and have to fear repercussions for being themselves.

Tomorrow, we acknowledge the idiocy that is religious sanctimony that believes “gay” can be doctrined out of ungodly homosexuals.

Tomorrow, we remind ourselves that even in forward-living towns like Vancouver, gay-bashings happen, discrimination continues, and education needs improving.

Today’s about it being today. It’s about the fact a gay female judge can flirt with the girl contestants on a mainstream show like American Idol and it not won’t be a controversy. It’s about gay marriages gaining steam in America. It’s about men holding hands in the streets without being worried about the average person attacking or slandering them.

Today, it’s about the change we’ve seen, so that, tomorrow, when we’re daunted by how far is left to go, we can know it’s less a journey than it once was, and that’s something to take pride in.

Today, it’s also about being proud to be a Canadian, and living in a country that said, 41 years ago, that governments had no right to tell anyone who they could love.

That’s what today’s about.

Pride, baby.

Happy 10th, M, and anyone else who’s come out at work, with friends, or with family. Way to represent.


Olympic Autopsy

65258063The biggest party in the world shut down a little after 2am Monday morning, as the last revellers in Vancouver staggered out of the downtown core, leaving the wake of their destruction for the hardest-working city clean-up crew ever.

The Olympics are gone.*

17 days of madness, medals, and mountains have come to a close, and the emotional fall-out is like nothing I could’ve prepared for.

The last seven years of our lives here in Vancouver have been dominated by the controversy and catharsis of a city trying to get ready for an epic event that’d bring millions into our town for the celebrations.

Seven years! Planning, fighting, dreaming, waiting. They came, they saw, they used their Visa cards.

All done now. All over but the fallout and numbers.

Looking at headlines since, it’s clear the world got impressed with our desire to have a good time while the Games were in town.

But it sure as hell didn’t start out that way.
Continue reading

An Open Letter to Anti-2010-Olympics Protestors

Hi. I’m Steffani, and I’m a lifelong Vancouverite.

I voted “YES” in the Olympics plebiscite “back in the day,” when we lowly democratic peons had the chance to vote on the once-every-four-years-party that, you know, would cost a few bucks to put on.

Now, I know, that voting day was such a sunny, beautiful day so many years ago that we didn’t even have a majority of our citizens turn out.

You know what? Not MY problem.

Because I fuckin’ voted. I did my job. Continue reading

New Obscenity Laws in Canada

Once again, Canada leads the pack. Back in 1969, Canada’s new prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, said that the Canadian government had no business being in the bedrooms of Canadians. Consenting adults — male, female, straight, gay — could do as they wished, because where there was consent between the parties, no harm.

That is the prevailing thought behind the some new rulings that will be redefining the parameters of what can and can’t transpire due to “obscenity” here in Canada.

The gist of this? Swingers / sex clubs, the Supreme Court of Canada now says, are legal. Why? Basically because by way of entering the swinging establishment, where sex usually transpires quite openly, all those within the premises have essentially consented to the acts being committed therein. Go on ahead and visit Montreal, visit a swingers club, and have a little sex while you’re at it. It’s legal.

(About Montreal — the Paris of North America: There’s a show filmed here in Canada called Kink, and each season it’s set in another Canadian city where it follows the lives of a few participants as they go about their kinky existences in their little kinkdoms– from boring homosexual sex through to leathers, whips, and all the pain you can eat. Slings, anyone? Easily the kinkiest place in Canada is Montreal, where fetish is a rite of passage. God, I love my French-Canadian heritage. ;)

There are reasons I’m profoundly proud to be Canadian, and the level of personal freedoms is far and away at the top of my list, of which this is simply the latest example — most recently preceded by the legalization of gay marriages. Whether it’s smoking pot anywhere I want in this town (although still illegal, it’s largely ignored — we are this continent’s Amsterdam, kids, and owners of the best dope in the world, sez High Times) or knowing that I could perform any sex act I want (except possibly bestiality, which obviously is not exactly my bag, since I can’t even handle hairy backs, let alone fur), there is no doubt that the border between Canada and the United States is where my world changes, drastically.

So, here’s a thought: Your life is only as good as the freedom with which you live it. Whether you have extreme views on sex, drug use, or just everyday rights for everyday people, voting is crucial to the well-being of your life. It’s no secret, I don’t like George Bush. At all. I dislike the politics I see coming across the wires from our Southern neighbours, and it saddens me to see what seems to be an erosion of freedoms in a time when “freedom” is what the fight’s all about. Ironic, methinks.

But the point is this, your supreme court shapes the land in which you live. Hell, look what it’s done for my country.

Bush was elected on a fiscal platform, and because he pulled patriotic strings. I’m not sure many people sat back and thought, “Hmm, will he be the right guy to pick Supreme Court judges that will shape my freedoms for the next four decades?” Well, fortunately/unfortunately, that’s the case. Not one judge, but two, and with three years to go, who’s to say what’s next? You think you have an opinion on his choices yet? How could you, when they’ve got a lifetime in their offices? Some twenty, thirty, forty years of deciding policy that will impact the lives of every citizen. Food for thought, indeed.

Perhaps this is another fork in the road of our two countries. Now, me, I’m no swinger, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be. I’m an old-fashioned romantic with a fondness for orgasms, that’s all — and a fondness for freedom.

So, swing away, kids. Montreal’s where it’s at. Coming soon to a Canadian city near you, perhaps.