Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ottawa Celebrations, Day 3 (cont) and Day 4

So last night I had a wonderful time out, and got to catch up with more people than I was expecting to. I also got to meet some new people, which is always exciting.

I went out for Japanese food with RM and his new partner, and that was fantastic. Afterwards we went to a nice little bistro-type place and our party increased significantly in number - a couple friends from university, and some new faces. We ended up at Cafe Nostalgica, where there was a very, very good reggae/calypso band playing, and they had the whole joint dancing. It was a fantastic night.

I don't know how many of you got the chance to listen to my interview on CBC in the afternoon - I listened to it over the internet and thought it sounded pretty good. The host, Paul Castle, asked some really good questions. I've been getting decent feedback about it, so that's good.

Today I had another lazy day, poking around the Byward market (again) and checking out the National Gallery (love it!). I spent some time preparing for my speech as well. When five o'clock rolled around I gave Jessica's cell a call, because I was hoping we would touch base before the event. She didn't answer. I ended up leaving her a couple of increasingly panicky messages over the next hour and a half, before finally deciding to just suck it up and get to the gala on my own.

I successfully called a cab and got to parliament hill, but the cab driver dropped me off at the wrong building, so I had to get that sorted out. However, I did make it to the event.

It was a wonderful evening. Judy Rebick gave a fantastic speech - in fact, all the speakers were fantastic, and the performers as well. It was so inspiring to be in the presence of women who fought so hard alongside Dr. Morgentaler for the rights we enjoy today.

I was nervous to do my speech, but once I got to the podium I started to relax. Luckily for me I'm not too bad at public speaking so it was easy once I started getting into the swing of it. People seemed to enjoy it. I'm proud to announce I received the only standing ovation of the evening. I don't think I've ever had a standing ovation before.

Afterwards a lot of people came up to me - some just to say how much they enjoyed it, but some to network and organize, so that was awesome. I met Jessica Yee, who is a powerful force for change and, being native, has a different and fascinating perspective on choice and what it means for her own community. I met some amazing women from Quebec who are keen to support the efforts to improve access in New Brunswick. And I met Judy Rebick (swoon). And tons of other cool people. It was a really worthwhile experience, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to be here.

Back home tomorrow morning, then onwards to Toronto for something completely unrelated. Take care of yourselves out there, and keep fighting the good fight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ottawa Celebrations, Day 2 (cont.) and Day 3

So last night I ate at the Green Papaya, which was lovely. I was joined by four friends including AE, who I haven't seen for at least a year - so that was pretty awesome. Also awesome: Thai food. Yes.

LC and C came back to my hotel room to have a few drinks and chat - we ended up talking for a couple hours about Latin America and my various adventures on the farm in Costa Rica, until it seemed clear that LC was fading and maybe I could let them escape from my clutches, mwahaha. As always, good to catch up with friends. I now have more beer and rum than I can possibly drink in the next two here's hoping I'll have some helpers on that issue.

This morning I slept in, which was glorious. When I got out of the shower I had a message from a woman from the CBC in Fredericton, so I called her back and we had what she referred to as a "pre-interview". Apparently the host of the show (Shift) is calling me back soon for the actual interview. We'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I decided to venture outside of the room for food and laundry detergent. I ended up going to the Rideau Centre, since it is practically in my hotel, it's so close. I had never been before. I was expecting a big mall, and thus was not disappointed. I did have a delicious vegetarian panini sandwich and freshly squeezed lemonade for lunch, which was awesome.

It's kind of funny, when I leave Fredericton I always have these weird little moments where I realize how small and homogenous it (Fredericton) is. I was in Shoppers Drug Mart looking for detergent and I passed an aisle whose heading was "Ethnic hair products". I had no idea what that would even consist of, so I had a look. There were a lot of products specifically for "ethnic" hair, which makes sense, since most "ethnic" people have different hair than white people and would thus need different products. Logical. It made me wonder what the black (sorry, "ethnic") people who do live in Fredericton do without all these products.

I had a stroll through the mall just to kill some time, but malls really do depress me so I didn't stay for long. I think I will have to check out the Byward Market before I leave.

Today (after my interview), my plan consists of bothering JD at her work, spending some time with RM, and letting LC take me shopping somewhere interesting. And meeting her dog. I think JD wants to take me to some reggae thing tonight too, so that should be interesting. So far Ottawa is working out pretty well.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ottawa Celebrations, Days 1 and 2

Hello friends! As some of you know, I am in Ottawa currently for the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision. I am here thanks to Canadians for Choice, who chose my essay on "Why a pro-choice Canada is important" as the winner of their national contest. I arrived yesterday, so I thought it might be fun to blog a bit about what has been going on since then.

Day 1

I arrived in Ottawa on Sunday night and successfully navigated my way to the big yellow shuttle that takes people to their hotels. Fun! My hotel suite is bigger than my apartment, which is definitely bittersweet. When I arrived here I was starving, and so was pleased to see there was already a message for me from JD, one of my friends who works here in O-town. I felt very posh, picking up my messages at the front desk; an illusion that was effectively shattered by my lack of a suitcase (it's all about the backpack) and mittens-on-a-string. Ah well.

JD and I hit a local Mexican restaurant that had a very cantina feel, right down to the counter where you have to order and pay. A mariachi band even came halfway through the meal, to squash themselves into the already overcrowded restaurant and serenade a birthday girl. It was kind of a surreal experience. Afterwards we were pretty glad we went, and JD slipped the band a handsome tip for their trouble.

We hit a couple of bars with JD's work friends, but I didn't want to stay out to late or drink too much as I had an early morning ahead of me. When I got back to the hotel I had to spend some time scrubbing the bar stamps off my hands - they were definitely not part of the professional image I was trying to project.

Day 2

Today I was up bright and early to meet Jessica, who has been my main contact at Canadians for Choice. She and I walked to the CFC office where I met a lot of very awesome people. We hung out, had breakfast, and finished collating the press kits and doing all that last minute stuff. Then we hopped in a couple taxis and took off for Parliament.

The press conference was nerve-wracking, as I had expected it to be. I'm not a big media person and I don't have a lot of experience speaking to the media, although I think I do alright as a public speaker. Anyway, I only had ninety seconds to speak about my experiences as a clinic escort. I whipped right through it, although afterwards it dawned on me that I may have taken more time than I should have. Oh well. Most of the questions were sort of general, so the more experienced women I was with fielded them. One of them was about bubble zones, so I took that one. I was surprised to find that while there was some progressive media present, all of the questions were from anti-choice journalists. Luckily we knocked them out of the park.

Afterwards we went for a celebratory lunch, and then I bid farewell (for now) to my new friends. I was supposed to have an interview by phone this afternoon but I haven't heard anything since, so I'm breathing a sigh of relief about that. I feel very over-stimulated. Tonight I am looking forward to dinner with my good bud LC and her boyfriend (Thai food! Hoorah!), and a relaxing swim in the ol' hotel pool. Although I did forget my bathing suit. So I might be swimming in my kitty cat pyjamas. Which leads on to wonder what I will wear to bed. Oh well, all questions better answered with a little wine in me.

I wish you all a happy Morgentaler day (hee hee) and I hope all is well wherever you are.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why Choice = Awesome

It's blog for choice day! Of course, I'm always blogging for choice here, but in honour of the day (and because nothing much happened at the clinic, except that it was FREEZING), I thought I'd write a bit about something very inspiring I witnessed this past weekend.

It had come to my attention that the Bound4Life people would be standing outside the clinic on Saturday morning. I thought that if I could get enough people to equal their numbers (only about nine or ten), we could stand across from them with tape over our wombs that said "mine". A few of my escorts were up for it, so we arranged to meet at the clinic a half an hour before the life people were expected to arrive.

People started to trickle in, and I began to realize that I had WAY more than nine or ten choicers. By the time zero hour rolled around, there were twenty-five plus people packed into the clinic waiting room, taping their stomachs and making signs. When we marched outside with our tape, signs, and dog (!), the lifers were absolutely flabbergasted. You could tell that not only had they not expected resistance, they had no idea we could get so many people to oppose them.

We spent the morning standing across from them, singing, chanting, and generally making merry. It was less a counter-protest and more a celebration of the legality of choice, made all the more relevant because of the approaching anniversary of the Morgentaler decision. People met each other, mingled, talked and laughed. There was no media, no plan, just twenty-five young people standing in the cold, celebrating our right to choose in the face of a silent but sinister opposition. Especially notable was the number of young men we had with us. It was good to see.

As someone who has made a transition over the last couple years from vocal protester to organizer, I was inspired to see so many people of my generation willing to stand up for something so important. There was no need to outlast the protesters, or out-argue them; we only needed to show them that we were there. They need to know that when they come to judge the decisions that women make, to imply through their actions that women who choose abortions are murderers, and to impose their morality on others, that we will not sit back and watch them through the blinds of the waiting room. We will stand up and fight back. Every time.

I hope I haven't bored you all with the less than funny post. :) Because it's blog for choice day, I also wanted to just include a little bit about what choice means to me, and why it's important. This is actually an exerpt from my essay "Why a Pro-Choice Canada is Important", which I wrote for the Canadians for Choice contest (that I won!). So here it is:

Because abortion is legal in Canada, we believe we have a pro-choice Canada. But we don't. Because pro-choice means that EVERYONE has access to abortion care. Pro-choice means EVERYONE has access to affordable birth control. Pro-choice means everyone has the information at their fingertips to allow them to make informed, responsible choices about their reproductive health. Pro-choice means that every woman is treated with respect regardless of her colour, size, age, class, background, sexuality or relationship status. Pro-choice means every woman has the right to choose; and that does not just mean abortion. It is about giving women the benefit of the doubt, believing that we have the intelligence and the wisdom to make the right choices for ourselves. A pro-choice Canada is important because any other Canada is unacceptable. A pro-choice Canada is the only Canada I want to live in. And as a valuable, contributing member of society AND as a woman, a pro-choice Canada is important to me because that is the Canada I deserve.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Escort Musings

Another big snowstorm this week! It was a bit touch an go this morning, but luckily everyone made it okay and we only had one no show. The weather was miserable, of course, and there was snow everywhere. I will be glad when winter is over.

There were no protesters for the majority of the morning. I was a tiny bit disappointed as we had a new escort today, JL, and I wanted him to see what goes on each week. But it's better for the patients this way. The escorts stuck around and made the best of it; TH even shovelled the walkway. What heroes they all are. Much better than those lazy protesters.

Said protesters did make an appearance at the very end of the late shift, just as I was about to tell the escorts to go home. There were only two of them. I'm not sure why they even bothered coming out that late; not that they knew, but there was only one patient left, and that was only because she was running late. She came in the back, and they didn't even see her. So pointless. But I guess they feel it's better late than never.

I'm really heartened by the amount of interest that's been shown in volunteering lately. I've had friends who I would have thought would have no interest at all, contact me to ask when they can start. I had an eager young man call the clinic yesterday to ask if there was any volunteering he and a friend could do. And I've started half a dozen new people in the last two months. It's exciting to see people in my generation excited about being pro-choice.

One thing I was thinking about today when JL started was the question of gender when it comes to the escorts. Two people remarked on how great it was that we had another guy, since we only have one regular male escort (JF). I wonder why it is that people are so eager to see a gender balance outside, but when it comes to being inside the clinic the patients seem very comfortable with an all-female staff. I guess the protesters are threatening, and men are stereotypically larger and stronger, and so they make people feel more safe. I wonder if that's all there is to it.

This Saturday the Bound4Life group (the people who wear red tape over their mouths) are going to be protesting at the clinic. I think I will go check it out and take some pictures. A counter-protest has been suggested but I'm not sure how I feel about that at the moment. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Man in the Snow

Yesterday was a very amusing day, protester-wise. We've been having some crazy weather lately - as is our wont, here in New Brunswick in the winter. It was very cold for a while, and then it snowed a LOT (like four snowstorms in two weeks or something crazy like that), and then it got a little cold, and now it's unseasonably warm. So around the clinic we have huge piles of snow and lakes of melted ice (water, for the unscientific among you). It is awkward to walk around because you know your socks are going to be wet no matter what.

The advantage it gives us is that the boundaries of the clinic are completely covered in huge snowbanks, and further surrounded by rather big, deep puddles of water. So there is not much room for the protesters to stand. In fact, the only place they could reasonably stand is on the sidewalk out front, but to block the sidewalk would be playing a dangerous game, since they are trying not to be too obtrusive (what with the bubble zone fuss and all).

So yesterday morning we had the delightful vision of a lone protester perched on top of a snow bank several feet down the block from the clinic, deftly staying balanced while holding up his bright yellow sign. I don't care how strongly you believe in your cause, when you're the only person out protesting on a winter morning and you have to clamber on top of a snow bank to do it, you have to think there's something wrong there. Of course, he was joined later by Father Grim and the Holy Ghost, who both chose wandering back and forth trying to avoid the puddle over standing in the snowbank.

I was glad to be provided with some entertainment as we had a couple of new escorts starting today. However, the escorting itself was made pretty straightforward by the inability of even the Holy Ghost to get close to the patients' cars. I'm sure if Crazy Legs had been out she could have managed it, although I'm afraid (and relieved) that while the bubble zone stuff is going on, we won't be seeing too much of Crazy Legs.

It was much warmer this week so I hope for the sake of the escorts that this weather continues. Although we do have four boxes of toe warmers, so really I guess it's win-win.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Welcome back! Clinic was on Thursday this week, so as to avoid the inevitable chaos that would come with holding it on New Year's day. Thankfully this meant no protesters, which was awesome. For the obvious reason, and because it was FREEZING outside so it was good to be able to send my escorts home and not have them standing out in the cold for nothing.

Sorry there isn't much more to blog about - I was in on reception the whole morning and nothing of note happened; and since there were no protesters, there were no hilarious outdoor hijinks either.

I promise I will have more to blog about next week, as I'm sure our good friends the protesters will be out in full force, braving the winter cold to share with us their oh-so-valid opinions on women's reproductive freedoms. Excitement!

Until then.