Montreal Massacre: “Remember, then organize.”

by matttbastard

Record snowfall may have forced the cancellation of local commemorative events, but the memories of December 6th, 1989 remain fresh, regardless of where we wrestle with them. Though we take time today to reflect on the untimely murders of 18 women (for the heinous crime of being women), all-too-immediate events demand that we not simply remember the past, but also resolve to continue the fight for justice in the struggle for women’s equality. Eileen Morrow, coordinator, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, notes in a Toronto Star op-ed how economic strife is intrinsically linked with violence against women, and how renewed calls for austerity measures in the wake of mounting debt could have even more of a negative impact:

During a recession, the fear is that violence against women will rise while meaningful action on the issue will fall. That worry is well-placed.

The media have already reported increasing calls by women to crisis lines and police. Catholic Family Services in Durham region reported a 24 per cent increase in referrals for domestic violence in the last three months of 2008. The Canadian Mental Health Association in London reported a rise in domestic violence in the spring of 2009. Brockville reported a 100 per cent increase in domestic violence calls to police during that period.

In the spring of 2009, stories about a stunning increase in calls to shelters in Calgary, where the recession hit hard, were reported in newspapers across Canada — a 200 per cent increase in one year; a 300 per cent increase in the month before the stories ran.

A spot survey just conducted by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses bears out the continuing trend toward increasing calls for help, despite predictions that the economic outlook is positive and recovery has started.

A comparison of service delivery in the years 2007 and 2010 in 15 women’s shelters across the province shows that requests for support have increased, albeit not as dramatically has those of Alberta.

Crisis calls increased by almost 15 per cent between the two years; admissions of women and children increased by 20 per cent. Shelters had to “turn away” 44 per cent more women and children in 2010 than in 2007 because they were full. In smaller towns with fewer services, the shelters faced double the demand of larger cities.

Each year, the women’s shelter association gathers the names of women and children murdered in situations where an intimate partner is either charged or commits suicide. In 2008 and 2009, the total was 16 for each year. In 2010 (up to the present) it is 21.

Admittedly, the numbers are not scientific and cannot be decisively linked to the recession, but they are troubling. Still more troubling, however, is the possibility that governments will overlook the need to increase support for women rather than to freeze or lower to meet the demands of austerity.

Recent history only compounds concern about government overlooking the needs of women:

In the Mike Harris era of the mid-90s, cuts to women’s services and broad social programs such as social assistance and housing, forced many women to stay in abusive relationships. Murders of women increased in Canada, primarily in Ontario. Services in Ontario are still struggling to recover.

The mid-90s was a time of growing government restraint both federally and provincially, somewhat like today but far less acute. The global economy had not yet failed.

Nationally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear that national priorities are fixed on cost-cutting and reducing the $45.4 billion federal deficit. The Province of Ontario also has an $18.7 billion dollar deficit to address.

Both federally and provincially, all political parties are in election campaign mode. The timing of the federal election is a guessing game; some are guessing spring of next year. The Ontario election is fixed for Oct. 6, 2011.

As a result, no one knows which political party will be responsible for ultimately guiding the country and the province back to economic stability. What is clear, however, is that right now is the time to raise issues of women’s human and equity rights, not when an election is finally called.

Judy Rebick notes that with programs dedicated to women’s issues once again in the sights of budget-cutters, the only way to truly stand up to the forces of austerity and push a truly progressive agenda of social and economic justice for women is to challenge the casual disregard of technocratic indifference. If we are to make a measurable impact, supporters of women’s liberation must once again mobilize:

Today the women’s movement in English Canada is a shadow of its former self and the women’s movement in Quebec is weaker too. I do not believe this has anything to do with the horror at Polytechnique but rather in part because of our success and the feeling of a younger generation that equality had been achieved and in part because of the impact of neo-liberalism and the individualism and consumerism that it promotes.

But while there is a societal consensus against male violence against women today, that violence goes on unabated particularly against marginalized women like those disappeared on the downtown east side or the hundreds of aboriginal women who are disappeared and murdered without much attention from police, or the virtual slavery of desperate women trafficked into prostitution on a global scale.

The best way to remember these 14 women is recommit ourselves, women and men, to the fight for women’s liberation and an end to violence against women. On Sunday there will once against be vigils across the country. Remember them and then organize.

“Remember them and then organize.”

We truly honour their legacy by refusing to give up the fight, even in the face of intimidation, be it from the barrel of a long gun or an autocratic prime minister’s far-right legislative agenda.

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From Marc Lepine to Hiram Monserrate

by matttbastard

This was the first thing I read today, 20 years after the violent massacre of 14 young women (because they were women):

New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, one of the Democrats who helped “defend traditional marriage” in the New York Senate last week by voting against a bill that would have made same-sex marriage legal in the Empire State, was sentenced to 250 hours of community service. 52 weeks of domestic abuse counseling and three years of probation, on an assault conviction stemming from a December 2008 incident where he “accidentally” slashed his girlfriends face while beating the crap out of her after he dragged her through the lobby of his Queens apartment building.

Prosecutors had said that Monserrate, an ex-Marine, lashed out at his domestic partner, Karla Giraldo, with a glass in a fit of rage after he found another man’s business card in her purse. The glass broke against her face, cutting her near her left eye down to her skull and leaving a lasting scar.

Monserrate had been originally charged with two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of assault after cutting Giraldo’s face during a bitter argument in his apartment on Dec. 19, 2008. However, in October, New York William M. Erlbaum, who presided over his trial, acquitted him on the two felony assault charges, which carried a mandatory sentence of seven years in prison and would have forced him to forfeit his Senate seat.

Dawg:

Has anything really changed since the now-disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment held a mess dinner to honour Marc Lepine?* I would like to believe so. I would like to think that these annual memorials and the respectful newspaper editorials and the gentle men who wear white ribbons are making a difference.

But the fact that so many still appear to have trouble with woman-hatred–trying to wish it away, reduce its significance, confine its existence to a “lone madman,” blame it on a nonexistent Muslim bringing-up, or even, on the fringes, excuse it, tells me that we have much, much further to go. Violence against women continues to flourish, including mass murder. Still think Marc Lepine was alone?

Indeed, we still have miles to go in this struggle. April Reign charts the course we need to take:

This year as you remember and mourn the loss of 14 of our sisters remember also the words of Joe Hill; Don’t Mourn, Organize!

Help Equal Voice to get more women elected, fight for strong gun control, support women’s reproductive choice, donate to a local shelter, help a woman or a young girl learn tech skills or use those skills to help others.

In the words of Emma Goldman;
“No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution… revolution is but thought carried into action.”

Let’s get active.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Shooting Themselves in the Foot

by matttbastard

Taxi!

Yesterday, the office of Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan released the following statement, explaining why the Harpercons were blocking the release of a Canada Firearms Centre (CAFC) performance report on the Long Gun Registry:

“Canadians don’t need another report to know that the long-gun registry is very efficient at harassing law-abiding farmers and outdoors enthusiasts, while wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.”

Less than 24 hours later, veteran Parliamentary reporter Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star has linked to the report, which reveals the dirty little secret of Canada’s oh-so controversial Long Gun Registry:

It works.

Notes Delacourt:

[The registry is] spending less, attracting more registrants and police are using the registry  more — almost 4,000 times last year. Yep, that’s an argument to kill it.

Golf claps to the spineless, craven Liberal & New Democrat MPs who allowed the Harpercons to bully them into pissing on the graves of the 14 Montreal Massacre victims (and props to the Bloc for actually doing the right thing for Canada — shocking, I know).

A rundown of the twenty turncoat cowards who felt that pandering to low-information voters trumped public safety:

  1. Mr. Malcolm Allen
    (Welland) NDP
  2. Mr. Scott Andrews
    (Avalon) Liberal
  3. Mr. Charlie Angus
    (Timmins—James Bay) NDP
  4. Ms. Niki Ashton
    (Churchill) NDP
  5. Mr. Larry Bagnell
    (Yukon) Liberal
  6. Mr. Dennis Bevington
    (Western Arctic) NDP
  7. Mr. Nathan Cullen
    (Skeena—Bulkley Valley) NDP
  8. Mr. Jean-Claude D’Amours
    (Madawaska—Restigouche) Liberal
  9. Mr. Wayne Easter
    (Malpeque) Liberal
  10. Mr. Claude Gravelle
    (Nickel Belt) NDP
  11. Mrs. Carol Hughes
    (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing) NDP
  12. Mr. Bruce Hyer
    (Thunder Bay—Superior North) NDP
  13. Mr. Jim Maloway
    (Elmwood—Transcona) NDP
  14. Mr. Keith Martin
    (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) Liberal
  15. Mr. John Rafferty
    (Thunder Bay—Rainy River) NDP
  16. Mr. Anthony Rota
    (Nipissing—Timiskaming) Liberal
  17. Mr. Todd Russell
    (Labrador) Liberal
  18. Mr. Scott Simms
    (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor) Liberal
  19. Mr. Peter Stoffer
    (Sackville—Eastern Shore) NDP
  20. Mr. Glenn Thibeault
    (Sudbury) NDP

And a handy-dandy directory of the MPs who comprise Canada’s 40th Parliament, including contact info — so you can either thank your local MP for standing up against gun violence, or politely tell them how you feel about them flipping the bird to the women of Canada.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Long Gun Registry Going Down? Happy Anniversary From Canada’s 40th Parliament.

by matttbastard

Shorter 164 members of Parliament to the 14 victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre (and, by extension, every woman in Canada):

Drop dead. Again.

Via Devin Johnston, Dennis Gruending connects the blood-red dots that weave together antipathy for the gun registry and willful indifference towards deadly misogyny:

It is ironic, to say the least, that this vote occurred just a few weeks prior to the 20th anniversary of the December 6th Montreal massacre, when Marc Lepine mowed down 14 young women at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal with a semi-automatic weapon. Although this bill will not touch the ban on handguns, it will, if it becomes law, eliminate the requirement to register the type of people-hunting firearm that Lepine used in 1989. It was that gruesome killing which prompted the then-Liberal government of Jean Chretien to pass the Firearms Act in 1995, requiring gun owners to obtain permits and to register their guns.

[...]

My experience in four election campaigns was that you got nowhere with people opposed to the gun registry if you said that the Montreal massacre was a reason why firearms should be registered. That argument left them cold. There was rarely, if ever, any acknowledgement or sympathy expressed for Marc Lepine’s victims.

Fauxggrieved rural voters > women. Duh.

The more things change…

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

On the DRC and Rape as a Weapon of War

by matttbastard

François Grignon of the International Crisis Group on the ongoing rape epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where “[t]ens of thousands of women and children were raped in the region last year alone”:

Panzi Hospital in the town of Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo specialises in the care of rape victims. Although Panzi has 350 beds, it must send many women home before they have fully recovered because of the never-ending stream of new patients arriving for treatment.

Panzi is emblematic of the catastrophic toll sexual violence has inflicted on the people of eastern Congo over the past decade. The non-governmental organization Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has reported that 75 percent of all the rape cases it dealt with worldwide were in the eastern Congo. A census by UNICEF and related medical centres reported treatment of 18,505 persons for sexual violence in the first 10 months of 2008, 30 percent of whom were children. This year, the situation deteriorated further still, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reporting a huge surge in sexual violence and rape in eastern Congo.

Reported cases represent only a fraction of the total — a vast number of cases go unreported. Women fear that they will lose all prospects for marriage or that their husbands will abandon them if they acknowledge they have been raped. In other cases, the threat of retribution — coupled with the near certainty that the perpetrators will never be held accountable — discourages women from stepping forward.

Most of the warring parties of the conflict in eastern Congo, including the Congolese Army, Rwandan Hutu rebels, and Congolese Tutsi rebels, have used rape as a weapon of war. Moreover, rape has become ingrained in Congolese civilian society and is widely used to determine power relations. Men and teenagers rape not only women and girls of all ages, but also other males. An estimated 90 percent of minors in prison in eastern Congo have been convicted of rape, according to the non-governmental North Kivu Provincial Subcommission on Sexual Violence.

[...]

The UN’s launch on April 1, 2009 of an overall strategy for combating sexual violence in the Congo was a welcome step. But this strategy and other recommendations for justice reform and for preventing sexual violence will be empty words in the absence of robust engagement at all levels of the Congolese civilian and military hierarchy.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Related: See the ICG report ‘Congo: Five Priorities for a Peacebuilding Strategy

Update 06.13: Jesurgislac, bumped from comments:

Just as a followup: Abortion is completely illegal in the DRC (though Doctors Without Borders provide abortion to women who have been raped) and it is this combination, of war rape with denial of legal abortion and often denial of treatment following an illegal abortion, that led to Amnesty International adopting the position that access to abortion and follow-up health care is a human rights issue, even if they only support access after rape.

This aspect of rape in the Congo is generally ignored by most articles on the topic. Therefore I mention it.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

PSA: A call for action on trans rights in Tennessee

by matttbastard

Via The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition:

For Immediate Release: Dated December 27, 2008

Another Transgender Woman Shot in Memphis

On Christmas Eve, a Memphis television station reported the shooting of Leeneshia Edwards in Memphis. She becomes the third transgender woman shot in Memphis in just six months. At last report, Leeneshia is in critical condition. We extend our hopes and prayers to Leenashia for a speedy recovery.

We also ask for anyone with any information about this latest crime to call Memphis Crimes Stoppers at (901)528-CASH.

The shooting of Leeneshia Edwards helps shed light on a disturbing trend in Memphis. Transgender women who work in the sex industry in order to survive are now being targeted by a pervasive culture of violence.

The indifferent attitude of law enforcement towards the February 16, 2006, murder of Tiffany Berry, and the February 12, 2008, beating of Duanna Johnson by Memphis Police Department officers, has sent a message that the lives of transgender people are not important. This has fed the culture of violence that has permeated the second half of 2008, and is exemplified by the July 1 murder of Ebony Whitaker, the July 28 murder of Dre-Ona Blake, a two year old girl who was killed by the man who had previously been charged with the murder of Tiffany Berry, but was allowed to walk free for two and a half years, the November 9 murder of Duanna Johnson, and now the shooting of Leeneshia Edwards.

This open season on transgender people in Memphis and elsewhere, regardless of whether or not they engage in sex work, must come to an end right now.

We call on business people who refuse to hire transgender people to open their doors immediately to transgender workers so there are alternatives to working on the streets.

We call on shelters that routinely turn away transgender people who are seeking help, to open their doors so that transgender people do not have to live on the streets.

We call on religious leaders who preach intolerance towards crossdressers and transsexuals from the pulpit to cease immediately and begin preaching messages of love and acceptance of diversity.

We call on political leaders of all parties to stop campaigning against transgender people and start supporting fully inclusive employment non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation to show that the lives of transgender people have value.

Marisa Richmond
President

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact:

Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
P.O. Box 92335
Nashville, TN 37209
http://ttgpac.com
TTGPAC@aol.com
(615)293-6199
(615)353-1834 fax

h/t Cara by way of Queen Em.

Related: More on Leeneshia Edwards from Em and Monica Roberts

Update: Renee, bumped from comments:

What bothers me most about this is the way in which these acts of violence and murders are ignored. When I wrote about this issue I focused on the race aspect. Trans women of color are being targeted. At remembering our dead over 65% of the women listed are of color. I want to know where the hell the NAACP is. I want to know where the hell NOW is. When are we going to decide that these women matter?

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers