Screenshot via Black Girl Dangerous.
If you’re a woman, a person of colour (or both!) who cares about the justice system, your prime concern shouldn’t be the deplorable state it’s in. You should be getting into law school, passing the bar, and becoming a judge—according to Peter MacKay, none of you are applying, and that’s why our system isn’t very diverse.
And in equally cheery news, New Brunswick’s TeleCare hotline is slanting information on abortions towards the anti-choice side of the preposterous argument.
Here’s what went down this week:
Screenshot via the Morgentaler Clinic.
New Brunswick Still Trying Its Hardest To Coerce Women Out Of Having Abortions
If you live in New Brunswick, you’d better not fall victim to an unwanted pregnancy. Not only is the province’s one abortion clinic closing its doors, but now, the province’s free public healthcare line, TeleCare, or 811, is blatantly peddling anti-choice information.
Jaden Fitzherbert lives in Fredericton, and she’s an abortion rights advocate. She let me know of the transgressions last week after she called the health line and pretended to be grappling with an unwanted pregnancy. Instead of getting a contact number for the public health office, she received no fewer than three phone numbers for anti-choice organizations.
Fitzherbert tells me she called the Thursday before last, posing as a 19 year-old who was looking to access abortion services. The operator who picked up responded with numbers for Birth Right Fredericton, the Saint John Pregnancy Resource Centre, and the Moncton Pregnancy Resource Centre, all of which are anti-choice organizations. The last two are openly religious, and associated with the NB Right to Life Association, a group whose home is next door to the Morgentaler Clinic, and whose members shame women as they go through its doors for abortions.
Members of Reproductive Justice New Brunswick, a group that sprang up in the wake of the Morgentaler closure announcement, report making multiple calls only to receive the same anti-choice contacts.
Naturally, I called the line myself. I was clear in my intention: I said I was pregnant, and needed not to be. The registered nurse who picked up was kind to me. First, after a few questions about the state of the pregnancy, she reminded me that the Morgentaler Clinic is closing at the end of July, but she gave me the number just in case. Then she gave me the numbers to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and the National Abortion Federation. She told me anti-choice options existed, but that it didn’t sound like that’s what I was looking for. I asked her to please provide them anyway, just out of curiosity, and she did.
She then said to access an abortion at a hospital in the province, two doctors were needed on record to determine it a medically necessary procedure. I told the nurse I thought I was the one who should deem it medically necessary, and she agreed that it was my decision.
In fairness, I have to report that I had a positive experience, and I appreciate the fact that nurses like that are available, 24/7, to help women in New Brunswick who have unwanted pregnancies. But she was clearly not representative of all nurses, given the reported experiences of others. I can’t be too excited about the response, because I was very clear in my assertion that I needed to not be pregnant, and not every woman is as sure what is right for her. And for a younger woman, who might be more easily influenced, to receive only anti-choice information when reaching out for help? It would be confusing at best, and detrimental at worst. If Fitzherbert’s experience is any indication, the information provided is, quite frankly, dominated by a relatively right-leaning province with a strong Christian influence.
The state of a woman’s access to her own bodily functions in the province is dismal. Not one, but two doctors need to inform the registered specialist in obstetrics or gynecology to, at a hospital, perform an abortion. Many docs won’t do it because they’re too conservative. This could easily lead to a woman having to resort to traveling out of province to access an abortion. I grew up in New Brunswick, and I knew girls who were forced to do that, slinking off as though committing a crime, and it was heartwrenching. As Fitzherbert puts it:
“There are so many reasons why this is unacceptable, and not just because this is a government-run health service that is giving out phone numbers for organizations that would provide biased information, and who are anti-choice, but because this is yet another bigoted and restrictive barrier that people who are looking for abortion services have to navigate.”
“It proves that the government of New Brunswick is not ready to provide appropriate and safe reproductive health information and resources.”
Justice Minister MacKay, image via Facebook.
Mackay Says Women Too Busy Being Mommies To Want To Be Judges, Defends Preposterous Statement
Canada’s courts lack diversity because women and people of colour are simply not applying. Women, in particular, are avoiding it because they are intimidated by the whole old boys’ club factor, and because they are busy having babies.
All this according to justice minister Peter MacKay, who made the comments to a meeting of lawyers in Toronto. What’s more is that he defended the decision later, after being called out. People who attended the meeting told the Star that, because he’s a new father, he understands women’s reluctance to leave their children because women have “a special bond with their children.”
Mmm, no shit. I hear that’s the case.
Women also possess brains that are widely capable of multitasking, and that includes studying and enforcing a country’s judicial system. Clearly, this is entirely lost on the country’s justice minister. And it’s not a one-time display of ignorance, either. The man has a deplorable track record. After Canada’s sex work laws were struck down as unconstitutional, he’s now steamrolling toward a Canadian spin on the notoriously bad Nordic model. Who says it’s bad? Sex workers. But he didn’t ask what they thought.
And this week, the CBC reported that MacKay also sent out suuuuper sexist emails to his staff about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Apparently, mothers should feel proud of themselves for changing diapers and packing little Bobby’s lunch, while fathers, on the other hand, are instrumental in “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.” Two Justice Department employees sent the email to the CBC after becoming justifiably irritated.
The whole thing blew up in some very public media drama, in which Leah McLaren essentially called out MacKay’s wife, Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay, in The Globe and Mail, telling her to ask MacKay to do more to help out. Afshin-Jam MacKay wrote back saying MacKay never said any of the offending statements, and that he is a perfectly good father who isn’t sexist at all.
Mm kay. For the record: the problem lies not in congratulating moms and dads for their hard unpaid work. MacKay lauded moms for thinking of their families and sometimes doing hours of work before even arriving to their job, and that’s awesome. Women are too rarely recognized for that. And dads, too, should be recognized for being good parents and juggling those duties with full-time jobs. But why force parents into such gendered lines? Moms aren’t the only ones who change diapers by any means, and dads aren’t the only ones to endow their children with intelligence. His comments imply that each is only capable of, or only performs, one side of parenting, and that is sexist and ugly.
Not only is it ugly, MacKay’s behaviour also directly violates the Department of Justice values and ethics code, in my incredibly humble opinion. Said code claims: “The diversity of our people and the ideas they generate are the source of our innovation.” Public servants are expected to “respect human dignity and the value of every person” by treating every person with “respect and fairness,” and “valuing diversity and the benefit of combining the unique qualities and strengths inherent in a diverse workforce.”
MacKay is demonstrating zero commitment to making the system more diverse. If anything, he’s reinforcing the status quo by casting women as intellectually lazy and afraid, and implying that all women want to be mothers,
No talk of having it all in Canada, I guess.
Can We Extend The Spirit Of Pride, Please?
On Sunday in Toronto, the streets were flooded with such a stunning display of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and two-spirited +++ love. Millions of people packed the streets to support those marching, and the global queer population as a whole, in World Pride celebrations. It was a glorious gay sexy party, and going to the parade was uplifting and soul-healing. The fact that millions of people showed up just out of love and Pride made me feel joy like I haven’t in a long time, and I saw even greater auras of joy shining from and around so many beautiful queer folk that day. It was magical.
But. I’m wondering why can’t we all, gays, queer and trans folk, cis straight folk and everyone else sitting at every other intersection, show pride all the time? The celebrations and partying in honour of all that’s been done should find a way to combine itself with daily activism and constant vigilance. If we forget how much work there is to be done, We stand in the way of further progress if we forget how much work there is to be done. Transsexism and violence against trans* women is rampant, for example. As Monica Roberts reports for Black Girl Dangerous:
“After a relatively quiet year so far in terms of US based trans women facing murderous anti-trans violence aimed at us, the month of June has suddenly become a deadly one for my trans sisters of color.”
No fewer than four trans women of colour were killed this month in the U.S., in Baltimore, Anaheim, Fort Myers and in a Cincinnati suburb. The most recent woman to die was 28-year-old Tiffany Edwards, who was found dead on the road at 8 AM June 26. She was shot to death. During WorldPride.
I hate to be a Pride buzzkill. I get that many are actively fighting at all times. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with a week of unbridled celebration and queer visibility. It’s a wonderful thing. But this—the violence against and killing of trans* women of colour—is important, and we’ve got to remain sober enough to look it in the face. Lives are being extinguished due to widely supported ignorance and bigotry. Those of us who love gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, trans*, two-spirited people and others need to do so on a daily basis in order to stop stories like these from happening.
We need to continue to celebrate Pride, absolutely. But we should also try to show the same level of love in day-to-day life, not just during an especially hot week in June. @sarratch