Letter to CRTC re: Sun News

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NOTE: here are directions to submit your letter on-line (the actual example letter follows):

  • Go to the CRTC’s online “Participate in a Consultation” submission page
  • Click “I Agree” > Next
  • Click “Option 1″ > Next
  • On the “Choose Applicant/Licensee” page, scroll way down to (and click on) “2012-0687-1: Sun News General Partnership” > Next
  • On the “Submit a Comment” page, first choose “Opposition”, then type/paste your comments** in the “Enter Comment” field (and attach any files you think are relevant, e.g. PDF of an article that highlights Sun News’ racism, etc., which is optional) > Next
  • Click on “Do not want to appear” (at the April 23 hearings), and confirm “I agree” > Next
  • Click “NO” re: designated representative > Fill out the “Intervener/Respondent Information” (your name/address/email) > you must ALSO click on the bottom checkbox that says “I will be sending a copy of my comments to the applicant”, in order to continue the submission process (this is mandatory, and probably the CRTC equivalent of legal “discovery”) > Next
  • Confirm whether everything you entered is correct, and whether or not you want a copy of your submission by email > SUBMIT

- See more at: http://politicsrespun.org/2013/02/how-to-petition-the-crtc-against-sun-news-mandatory-carriage/#sthash.jUbt3t91.dpuf

SAMPLE LETTER

RE: Opposition to Mandatory Carriage RE: 2012-0687-1: Sun News General Partnership

I am writing to express my very strong objection to the following application:

10. TVA Group Inc. and Sun Media Corporations, partners in a general partnership carrying on business as Sun News General Partnership Across Canada Application 2012-0687-1

Application by TVA Group Inc. and Sun Media Corporation, partners in a general partnership carrying on business as Sun News General Partnership, for mandatory distribution on the digital and analog basic service pursuant to an order issued under section 9(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Act of the national English-language specialty national news Category C service Sun TV News.

The Commission notes that the programming of this service is devoted to English- and French-language mainstream national news and information programming. The applicant also provides updated news reports every 120 minutes, as required by Conditions of licence for competitive Canadian specialty services operating in the genres of mainstream sports and national news – Implementation of the Accessibility Policy and other matters, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-562-1, 18 June 2010.

The licensee states that it meets all the criteria set out in paragraph 11 of Criteria for assessing applications for mandatory distribution of its service on the digital basic service, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2010-629, 27 August 2010 and proposes that its service be offered for a per subscriber monthly wholesale rate of $0.09 in the French-language market and $0.18 in the English-language market.

As a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose abortion as a reproductive option, I am particularly concerned because of information posted by the Huffington Post regarding Sun News’ allies in the anti-choice movement in the US:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/23/sun-news-abortion-crtc-_n_2535614.html

It is my view that Sun News should not be licensed to broadcast in Canada. It has shown itself to be a source of hateful attacks on Canadians who hold values and views that differ from those of its corporate owners. Sun News degrades the quality of public discussion by making abusive behaviour and expressions of hatred its every-day modus operandi cloaked as national discourse.

Furthermore, I believe that Sun News fails to meet the requirements of paragraph 11 of the Criteria for approval of applications for mandatory distribution on the digital basic service. Sun News should not be any given further means to distribute its bullying rhetoric to Canadians.

Thank you for your consideration,
[YOUR NAME]

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There Is No Shame- A Letter to the President of Carleton University

Dear Dr Runte.

I want to understand why you would deny the (mostly) women of Carleton University the support they need, when they need it most.

There is no shame in admitting that sexual violence occurs on the campus for which you are responsible. Carleton University is no more or less prone to the very real dangers of rape culture than any other Canadian campus.

There IS shame, however, in pretending that rape and sexual assault in all its forms, DOES NOT happen at Carleton University.

Let’s be clear.

Just because you don’t know about it, RAPE happens at Carleton University.

Even though you choose to turn a blind eye to it, RAPE happens at Carleton University.

Despite not being politically convenient for your administration, RAPE happens at Carleton University.

Sexual violence causes real and permanent damage, BECAUSE RAPE happens at Carleton University and there are no sufficient, meaningful and meaningfully accessible support systems in place.

Don’t live in shame.

Please, support the establishment of a Sexual Assault Support Centre at Carleton University.

Yours truly,

Jeanette Doucet

Open Letter to the Principal of Churchill Alternative School (and other educators)

To:
Megan Egerton, Principal
Churchill Alternative School
Ottawa, Ontario

June 7, 2011

Dear Ms Egerton.

I would have preferred to speak with you in person but I was denied that opportunity. Instead, I have reluctantly decided to communicate with you in this way. It may be public, but it seems my only choice.

Kids. They’ll break your heart. Kids with broken hearts, well…they’ll make you wish you had a heart of stone, because the tears keep coming. But you know what will break you down until you feel you can’t fight the good fight anymore? That dubious honour belongs to those in the public school system who insist on making parents jump through hoops in order to have their child’s learning needs met.

My husband and I have two wonderful sons together, aged eight and five. One of them has freckles and the other has half a heart. Literally. His condition is called tricuspid atresia with atrial septal defect and ventricular septal defect. Sounds complicated? It is. Deadly? Yeah, that too.

Isaac’s life expectancy is an unknown, but it is certainly much lower than average. Despite having had three open-heart surgeries before the age of three (not to mention a bowel dissection, due to a mistake in the ICU, subsequent resection, and half dozen or so minor surgeries) he has a 50/50 chance of his current condition (which is good but not excellent) to start degrading and complications to arise at around 10 years post-last surgery. That’ll bring him to the ripe old age of 13. If things go south in a significant way, he’ll need a heart transplant- the only option left to him. A new heart, despite the hope it promises, does NOT fill me with hope. The prospect fills me with dread.

Isaac’s spirit, by contrast, is well known. He feels things in extremes. Joy and sadness walk side by side with him. His experience of fear is something nobody should live through, but that’s what early trauma, several cardiac arrests and scary hospital sights and sounds will do to the young, PTSD-susceptible brain. As I’ve mentioned, hearts of stone are called for.

I don’t have one of those.

Isaac’s beautiful brain seems to work OK, albeit with a few quirks. But it’s those quirks that are causing him difficulty. Either because he takes after his excessively brilliant, quirky father or because his experiences have shaped him that way, Isaac learns in ways that are more tactile and experiential. His first year of school was a frustrating one and he began to fall behind.

And because of this, there is no place for him in the public school system at this time. Or so it would seem from my dealings with the school of which you are in charge.

We’re looking at a private school for him next year but I also wanted to check out an alternative school- YOUR alternative school- we’re lucky enough in Ottawa to have.

What. A. Mistake.

Not only was I unable to speak with you, the actual principal, the receptionist was rude and incredibly dismissive. I could hear in her voice that her job was to “protect” her principal from these people who dare to think their children somehow “deserve” an education that might fit them better than that of a regular school. Because we don’t live in the school’s zone (catchment area), she said we were out of luck. End of story. Good-bye-and-I-really-don’t-care-that-your-sick-kid-will-fall-through-the-cracks. It’s not my problem.

What bothered me most is that I found myself feeling apologetic for making the call. I bought right into her mistreatment and said not a word in protest. I felt badly for bothering her and for so stupidly assuming that I had a right to speak to someone as busy as an elementary school principal about a topic as irrelevant as my son actually, you know…attending said-same elementary school!

I hung up. I blinked a few times. Then I awoke from my stupor.

I called back.

I spoke with the same woman and told her to what extent she had crossed the line and that I hoped she would not treat others that way; that I was merely trying to find a workable education solution for my son, who has problems. She placated me, but I’m not convinced she was sincere.

Then I bawled my eyes out. Bitter, bitter tears, they were.

I didn’t speak to you, the principal.  I want to know what you intend to do about this gate-keeper mentality that is completely and utterly inappropriate in a publicly-funded educational institution.

I want to know why I couldn’t even speak with you. As a leader of a place that has solutions for children like Isaac, I’d like to hear what you might suggest as possible other alternatives.

I wanted a conversation. I wanted help. What I got was dismissal.

Isaac got NOTHING.

Q: How is this OK?

A: It’s not.

Q: I mean if alternative schools don’t exist for children like Isaac, who are they there for?

A: Beats me.

Q: And where does that leave Isaac?

A: NOWHERE.

His life will be short and it will be filled with frustration that comes  from physical and academic marginalization. The latter for no other reason than some people can’t be bothered to help despite it being their job to do so.

Yours in sincere  frustration,

Jeanette Doucet

Violence Implied- March For (Whose?) Life

Yesterday sucked.

The March for Lies marched right on into O-town and the participants…well, they did what they do. I’m warning you now that this may not be the most coherent and cohesive blog-post. I’m in recovery.

Every year the March comes and makes me irate. It makes me sad. It also scares the crap out of me. Having thousands of people all around me who are so diametrically opposed to an issue that defines my very autonomy- people who would deny me that autonomy based on a faith-based set of principles- I get more than a little bit freaked.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the numbers are swelled by the hundreds of busloads of youth brought in from Catholic schools (your tax-dollars hard at work, folks!) across Ontario. But that makes it even more depressing, knowing that so many of those youth have been subject to indoctrination to such an extent. Sure lots of them couldn’t care less and just want a field-trip. Fair enough. But some of them, perhaps many of them, will leave having experienced a feeling a belonging for the first time in their lives. That euphoric feeling will carry them through all the evidence-based arguments, Charter challenge discussions and anti-paternalism tirades that you or I will launch at them. Scary shit, I say again.

This palpable threat I feel during Starch for Lime is due in no small part to the violence implied just below the surface of the event. The low-level stuff that, as an advocate against choice, you think so little of me as a woman you believe me incapable of making my own decisions, that I don’t know what’s best for me and my possible future children. Indeed, seen through anti-choice eyes, I am less-than. I am dehumanized. Enter the overt violence right about here.

Let’s not even get started on the actual call to arms that we naively believe is more or less contained to the US. They shoot and blow up people like me down there. Yay, pro-life!

I was telling a co-worker of mine about these feelings. She’s this beautiful, witty, intelligent woman and she’s First Nations. As I started to tell her about the fear I felt at the living, breathing oppression seething just below our office windows, my voice petered out. I can’t speak for her, but I imagined that oppression, palpable and dangerous, stares her in the face every day- mostly masked, but no less ugly.

There was no solace, no consolation in that. Yesterday sucked.

Privilege Safely Stowed. Now Can We Talk About Abortion?

Guilt goes a long way to getting results. Any Catholic priest can tell you that. To say nothing of those of us who grew up under the yoke of Catholic guilt.

I cast off that yoke years ago and I’m better for it, but guilt, insidious as it is still has power over me. And I resent that in a big way. I think that’s why I cringe at the insistence of some within the feminist and prochoice movement to constantly hammer away at the idea of privilege and its inherent dangers.

March For Life flyer from St Paul Catholic High School and voting station

I received a Facebook reminder yesterday for the pro-choice presence on Parliament Hill in response to the annual bullshit March for Life. I read the list of issues contained in the message (colonialism, ageism, dis/ability rights, education) each stated as being a “reproductive justice issue”.

*heavy sigh*

What I’m about to say is not going to be popular.

*sharp intake of breath*

Sometimes I feel that the need to appear progressive, cloaked in a show of inclusiveness, overshadows and ultimately endangers what we’re really trying to accomplish.

There. I said it.

*release of breath*

The issue is abortion access. If you say you understand abortion access and lack thereof, you must, or at least you should, understand that it is those who lack privilege (in all its variations, orientations, identities and degrees therein) in our society who have the most to lose when abortion access is limited/eliminated. That says it all.

But that’s not what I’m witnessing of late.

Instead we see the real issue: abortion/choice/reproductive and bodily autonomy piled on and confused with other, no less important, issues.

As a movement, we cannot do it all. Indeed, we do an injustice to all concerned if we even try. We also alienate people who would like to join the cause but don’t dare because they are being lead to believe they take on the weight of the world if they do.

What we get- indeed what we have- is a fractious group who are incapable of the focus required to move the issue of abortion forward. The resulting vacuum of coherence and over-arching vision in turn gets filled by right-wing zealots who do have the focus, and who organize effectively enough to rally a vote for a Conservative majority. They have a coherent vision, and it’s now frighteningly within their reach.

There is no doubt that the feminist movement of the past got many things wrong, not the least of which was a lack of inclusiveness and more than a smidge of elitism. This is indisputable. But have we so little faith in ourselves as progressive people and in the evolution of our movement that we need to constantly make a show of listing the marginalized?

Frankly, I find it beyond tacky.

We can be allies (a word I avoid because we are NOT at war and we minimize those affected by war when we use it), we can represent a myriad of voices, and we can welcome all into the fold and- here’s a novel idea- have them speak for themselves.

What we cannot do is misrepresent what we’re actually about. We have done exactly this and to the detriment of women’s lives. Guilt is a powerful thing, but it rarely brings about real change.

Only hard work can do that.

Stephen Harper Will Not Re-Open the Abortion Debate and Why That Scares the Crap Out of Me

A few years ago I was watching a biography of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. They interviewed political friends and foes alike on the Little Guy’s political acumen. One of those interviewees was Stephen Harper. While no fan of Chrétien, Harper did talk about how impressed he was with how wily Chrétien had been on his election promise and subsequent flip-flop on axing the much-hated GST.

He made much ado about how Chrétien, while giving the impression while in opposition and on the campaign trail that he would cut the GST once elected, never actually said the words, in sequence, “Once elected Prime Minister I will abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST)”. Harper pointed out how Chrétien has uttered many variations on the theme “We hate it and we’ll cut it” while never specifying what ‘it’ was.

As all Canadians know, Chrétien did become Prime Minister and he did NOT, in fact, abolish the GST. He had never really said he would, Harper said. Not really.

I never forgot this grudging praise for such a slimy move from a political opponent. Oh, yes- the tactic made a big impression on our current Prime Minister back in the day. Harper is many things but he’s no dummy. He recognized the bait and switch as a stroke of political (deceptive) genius.

And he took notes.

Fast-forward to today. Federal election number 41 has delivered a majority Conservative government in Canada. The people have spoken. While it’s the outcome I predicted, it is most definitely not the outcome I had hoped for or that is good for Canada.

I want to find a silver lining (possibilities of electoral reform, of grassroots uprising, the death of apathy and uniting of the left) in all of this, because there is hope. Always. But right now, I need to feel out the dark spaces into which this election has forced me. I’m scared senseless and deeply, deeply sad. The Canadian electoral system, such as it is, has permitted the political party loaded (not entirely but disproportionately) with sexist, racist, misogynist, bigoted, contemptible, paternalistic, cynical and well, just plain mean MPs to win fair and square.

Good grief, MomForChoice! That’s awful.

I know!

As feminists and pro-choice advocates, what can we expect from this government in the next five years?

I’m glad you asked.

Back to Stephen Harper and his parliamentary education. We have heard him repeat time and time again, especially on the campaign trail, “As long as I am Prime Minister, we will not re-open the abortion debate.” Now think on what he learned from Chrétien’s GST deceit. What conclusion can we draw?

No, he or his whipped party member won’t re-open the abortion debate. In their minds, there is no debate! They oppose abortion. Period. Full stop. End of discussion that will never be had.

There will be no debate, but there will be legislated changes to abortion laws and laws governing access to reproductive services. They have a majority, now. They can do this.

Harper will not re-open the abortion debate. He said so himself.

I want to know what you think. Am I over-reacting? Am I fear-mongering? Will you join me in this fight to preserve women’s reproductive rights in this kick-ass country of ours?

Running With Mo

I’m in a running rut. It’s been the better part of a year since I’ve run with any consistency, but I call myself a runner just the same. Despite an inauspicious running debut (I took up the sport out of spite but that’s another blog post), running has been a part of my life since 1996. I’m still running 15 years later, but today I run for me.

I’ve run at home in Cape Breton and through a frigid and equally glorious Arctic winter. I’m pretty slow but my stamina is quite good. Running has been the constant in my life through career changes, cross-country moves, pregnancies, injury and baby open-heart surgeries. It has brought me more than I ever thought possible, including friendship and my “outing” as a pro-choice feminist.

When our first-born was nine months old, I joined a Strollercize group. One of the other moms running was a feisty red-head who I’ll call Mo. Mo seemed no-nonsense, confident and strong. She was…cool. I liked her instantly and made it my business to get to know her. We kept running. We soon learned we were both recovering Catholics and both staunchly pro-choice. We ran our first 10k race together. We became friends.

My own pro-life hypocrisy had met a glorious end in 1991 when I chose an abortion when faced with an unintended pregnancy. My pro-choice education came in waves and my feminist philosophy evolved as the years passed. I knew in my heart that I would some day commit myself to a cause that was close to me and related to feminist issues. Sexual assault? Too close for comfort. Childhood sexual abuse? Ditto. Abortion? Possibly, but at what cost? People who advocate for reproductive freedom paint a set of cross-hairs on themselves. I didn’t think I had the courage to take on that fight.

Then I met that feisty red-head.

She had a few years on me and she had spent many of them dedicated to this very issue. She invited me to join her and her friends in the fight for reproductive access in Canada. I didn’t hesitate. Fate had found me and who was I to argue?

It’s been almost eight years since she and I first met. We still run together when life craziness allows. Our kids play together. She has been a great friend and she has been a mentor. She’s moving away in a few days (for only two years, thankfully) so it’ll be a while until we run together again. Ottawa Race Weekend 2013 sounds like as good a time as any, wouldn’t you say, Mo?

I’ll be getting back into running in the next little while. I plan to kick things up a notch with a fitness coach to help me cross-train more effectively and safely. It’ll be tough but the incentive is strong.  I have an important running date to keep, after all.

See you in two years, my friend!

Voter Apathy? No Frickin’ Wonder.

I am an Acadian woman. Acadienne and damn proud of it. I eat fricot and chiard and I talk trash and I cry every time I listen to Zachary Richard. That means I am a francophone living outside of Québec. While I am loathe to describe myself via a negative, here goes nothing: I am NOT Québecoise. Are we all perfectly clear on that point?

Good.

Our country is in the midst of an election campaign and this past week saw the leaders of the four federal parties duke it out in televised national debates. True to Canada’s linguistic make-up (as dictated by our Constitution but not reflective of languages that were here prior to European colonization) there was a debate in English and a debate in French. They dubbed the latter “the French-language debate”.

Oh, really?

The questions brought forth in each debate came from Canadian citizens. I don’t know how they were vetted by the journalists in charge of the debate. I do know, however, that the English-language debate fielded questions from across the country. I also know that the French-language debate featured questions from residents of – wait for it- Québec only. Nothing from Acadie, Franco-Ontario, Métis, Franco-Manitoba…I could go on but you get the idea:  NOTHING.

*screams primally*

How the hell is that acceptable in a French-language debate? How do you justify excluding an entire swath of the country’s population in favour of the province whose residents repeatedly and in great numbers tell us that they want no part of that very country?! Just sayin’.

*bangs head against wall*

But we do know why, don’t we? All the francophone communities outside Québec put together cannot possibly affect the results of the election one way or another. The same as tuition fee hikes don’t matter because students don’t tend to vote in great numbers. The same as there aren’t enough informed and engaged women to rally against the Harper government’s assault on women’s equality programming. The same as how Métis, First Nations and Inuit continue to struggle with poverty, inadequate housing, food insecurity and unsafe drinking water: there aren’t enough of them to make or break anyone’s political aspirations and the rest of Canadians are too bigoted to care, anyway.

It’s a game of numbers. I understand that. And I hate everything about it.

No wonder people are apathetic. Every time we turn around we’re being told by our so-called leaders and our complicit media that we simply do not matter.

So, here’s an idea oh-holy-media-consortium-that-sets-the-rules-for-these-debates: how’s ‘bout next time you call the French-language debate what it really is? The Québec debate.

If I don’t matter to you or to this ever-decaying democratic process, just tell me. At least then I could respect you for being honest and I could tune out for once and for all.

*slams door*

(Well, it’s a virtual slam of a virtual door, but you know what I’m getting at)

The Language of Sluts, Street Harassment and Sexual Violence

Language is powerful. Sometimes I don’t know what I think until I talk about it, y’know? No? Well, I can’t say I blame you. I’m hoping the process of writing this blog post will help me sort out some thoughts I have on a couple of really awesome, kick-ass feminism happening in Ottawa.

I’m planning to participate in Ottawa’s version of SlutWalk this weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with it, SlutWalk invites people to walk in support of taking back the word “slut”. The word slut has traditionally been a negative way to describe a woman who has sex with what is perceived to be (too) many partners, either for pleasure of for money. What SlutWalk does is crystallize the sentiment that women’s sexuality is a positive thing and says ‘no, thank you’ to those who would presume to dictate just how much sexuality is too much for women.

This is an important front in the battle to end rape culture. We all know (OK, only some of us know) how slut-shaming and victim-blaming is used across the spectrum of sexual abuse and assault, permitting and/or making excuses for everything from child molestation and statutory rape to failing to stop the rampage of one Robert William Pickton, who chose his sex worker victims on the basis of how little worth was placed on their lives. Let’s not forget so-called “corrective rape” and female genital mutilation: two practices that also rest on the premise that women’s sexuality is something to be monitored, judged and ultimately, controlled.

Before I continue, let me state for the record that I am fully aware that not only women and girls are victims of sexual violence. As a mother of two boys, I know too well that they could be victimized at any time and I am ever-vigilant. That being said, sexual violence remains a highly gendered phenomenon, with females bearing the overwhelming proportion of its burden.

Another front in this battle is the Hollaback movement to end street harassment for both women and LGBTTQ folks. Most people, women included, may not realize the level of victimization that comes with cat-calls, whistling and unabashed stares. Remember what I said about sexuality as something to be monitored? Street harassment falls squarely into that category. Those who indulge in this behaviour stand on the slippery slope that tips quickly into slut-shaming and all the gender-based violence slinking insidiously behind it.

I’ll say it again: Robert Fucking Pickton.

Ottawa Hollaback allows people to document their experience of street harassment by uploading it to the Hollaback website. You can enter the actual place where the harassment happened. And if you happen to take a photo of the jerk that harassed you, you can upload it to the website.

How many times have I seethed over being harassed because of my gender and have had no recourse? How much of my stomach lining has been eaten away as I obsessed over what I would have liked to say to the jerk all those times, had I only been given a chance? How often have I felt genuinely frightened because I knew the real danger that lurked behind the comments? Most frustratingly, how much have I mourned the ultimate loss of control and personal agency that each incidence of street harassment represented for me? All those times I’ve mourned the (temporary) loss of my voice.

The people behind Hollaback understand this. They give voice to me and to all who endure or have endured street harassment. I love that Hollaback exists. I love even more that it has officially come to Ottawa. As a mechanism to raise awareness and begin to end street harassment, it is da bomb.

However…

Ending rape culture for once and for all will rely heavily on the need for men to understand the issue. As we move forward with our messaging we cannot afford to alienate men. My fear is that by posting photos of street harassers, we are not doing much to educate them. I also fear that we risk making all men feel that we see them all as perpetrators. It feels a little like we become judge, jury and executioner. I’m not comfortable with that.

At the same time, all men who fall on the rape culture spectrum need to be made aware of the monster they have been  feeding.

Damn it. I’m still not sure what to think.

But I’d love to hear what you think.

Is language powerful enough to stop street harassment or do we need more? Does posting photos of harassers qualify as “shaming”? And if so, are you OK with that? Am I over-thinking this? Does my ass look fat in these pants?