Friday, September 30, 2011

Toronto Activists: Rally for Abortion Rights

A notice from OCAC and ARCC:

Rally for Abortion Rights - Don't lose the right to choose!

Saturday October 22, 1pm
North-east corner of College and University, Toronto

Anti-choice organizations in Ontario are mobilizing to attempt to pressure the provincial government to defund abortion in this province. Join this counter-rally to defend reproductive rights! Don't lose the right to choose!

Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak signed a petition supporting defunding abortion, but when pressed recently to answer whether he would move to attack abortion rights if elected premier, he said "he would follow Prime Minister Stephen Harper's lead and leave the abortion issue alone."

With the Harper government excluding abortion funding from the maternal health initiative, constraining International Planned Parenthood and defunding groups that support reproductive rights, women know what 'following Harper's lead' means: eroding abortion rights one step at a time.

The same Conservatives who are the architects of the current federal attacks on abortion are advising the provincial conservatives today. We need to mobilize and show that the pro-choice majority will fight back against attempts to take away our hard-won reproductive rights!

Organized by the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics and the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Community

I recently took a brief, financially ill-advised but positively wonderful, two-night trip to New York City. My main intent in doing so was to see a friend I hadn't seen for fourteen years. As you can imagine, the experience was thoroughly surreal. It's weird when you're inside your own head and you can't really see yourself growing and changing, and then you're forced to reflect on what a strange little person you were at 13. I was overjoyed to find that my friend and I have one of those relationships that you can just pick up again, no matter how much time has passed, not least of all due to the fact that he has grown into an amazing, sweet, funny, clever and brave person - don't I know how to pick 'em!

But that's actually not the point of my post. You see, while I was in NY I was staying with the inimitable Steph Herold, activist extraordinaire and founder of I am Dr. Tiller and Abortion Gang (from whence I know her). I had never met Steph in person before, and in fact only knew her through the surprisingly warm, incredibly close community of AG bloggers.

It is not generally my wheelhouse, flying off on my own to a strange (and how!) city in America to stay with people I've never met. But such is the power of the online community. Steph and her partner (and their gorgeous dog) turned out to be simply lovely hosts, as did Nicole Levitz, another AG blogger I was meeting in person for the first time. We had great conversations about all manner of things - reproductive justice of course, but also sex, maple, wine, real estate, politics, the differences between Canada and America, work, life, cats, dogs and mice.

One of the things we discussed was moving around as a child, and what kind of impact that can have on your adult life. I knew my friend I was there to see because I lived in Australia for six years as a tween; until I moved out of my parents' house I lived in four different cities. I know that's not a lot compared to some kids, especially army brats, but it certainly had a big effect on me. Certainly it wasn't all good: I have a hard time taking those first steps towards making deep and lasting friendships; I tend to be a bit snobby about my "worldliness"; I probably idealize the time I spent in Australia too much. But it has all been worth it for the opportunity to have people like my visiting friend in my life. It made my heart ache to wish him goodbye, again, at the end of my trip; but at least now it is easier than ever to be in touch with people who are far away.

All this to explain that I am so grateful for the online communities of activists I have encountered and been privileged to be a part of. I'm thinking specifically of Abortion Gang but there are lots of others - starting in mIRC chatrooms and into my teenage Wiccan days (ask my friend Amy about this, she will be glad to make fun of me with you) and moving through every stage of frivolous fandom and earnest activism (and sometimes both combined). I am so grateful to live in an age where we have such technology at our disposal, and where I can connect with such well-spoken, thoughtful and courageous people. And of course, again, there are downsides; I have a whole folder labelled "hate mail" in my gmail that can testify to that. But it has been worth it to know these people, and to be welcomed into their lives and (sometimes) into their homes.

I know all this stuff is supposed to be making us less social and neighbourly, and in some ways I agree; I read Bowling Alone for a university class and I thought Putnam had some pretty valid points to make. But maybe it's just because I'm an introvert and online communication is so much easier for me, but in my experience it has opened the world up for me. I talk to so many more people, read so much more, and see so many more issues through so many different perspectives than I ever could have otherwise. And I can be in contact with amazing, brilliant people I left on the other side of the world fourteen years ago without a hope of seeing again.

Most of all, I think these online communities are so important to our movement. I believe that while it is far from the only way to do effective organizing, online activism is such an efficient and valuable way to reach and connect people. Not only like-minded people, either. Friends of mine have told me that the stuff I write, and other stuff I share on Facebook and Twitter has made them curious about those issues in their own communities. Imagine that on a grander scale, and you can really see the importance of big feminist group blogs like Feministing, Racialicious, Tiger Beatdown, Shakesville, Womanist Musings, etc. etc.

I read shit every day that I would never see or think about if I didn't have the internet. And more importantly, I have amazing friends in far-flung places with whom to share insight and maple cookies any time I can get there. Thanks internet! And thanks especially to the generation before mine (Gen X?) who pioneered this style of activism that has redefined the meaning of the word "community".

Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 Queen's Health and Human Rights Conference

"The theme of the 2011 conference is "Maternal and Child Health," reflecting the rising international focus on the unique issues affecting the wellbeing of these vulnerable populations. Join us as our array of passionate and compelling speakers examine these issues, engage in discussion, and propose solutions for the future."
Libby Davies, NDP MP for Vancouver East, is a keynote speaker, along with Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, a lawyer involved in international development and women's equality.
Also as part of the conference, on Saturday, October 1, 2011, starting at 2:45 pm,Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada will be debating Andrea Mrozek of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada on the question: “Can Canada have an effective global maternal health policy by excluding funding for abortions?”
The debate is open to the public and free of charge, so please attend if you can get to Kingston.
To register for the entire conference:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hitting a Slump

Sometimes it can be very easy, as someone with even the slightest interest in things like human rights, to throw up one's hands and give up. The problem with knowing about the horrible state of the world is that you can't un-know it. And even if you happen to be one of the incredibly fortunate people who are not directly suffering (or at least not in a life-threatening way), it is hard not to feel a terrible guilt about that (a guilt that hopefully doesn't fester, but instead mobilizes you to act). So once you start to care about stuff like social justice, you can't look away again.

I think every person who is an activist or works toward a "better world" (whatever that looks like to you) every now and then gets a feeling of despair about the whole endeavour. Especially if, like me, you have the option to walk away. I have this feeling sometimes. I find myself withdrawing from my usual activist stuff, not writing as much, tweeting more about the mundane shit going on in my own life than about what is happening in the world. Even when the two combine and the personal is political, sometimes I just can't bring myself to see the *point* of picking up that picket sign.

I am not completely idealistic. I know the revolution won't happen in my lifetime. And I feel sometimes like the small acts I do are not changing anything. Not even the act of mindfulness, of not being completely oblivious, seems helpful. Some days I honestly don't know if it would make a difference anywhere (outside of my own heart) if I fought for capitalism to win, or fought against it.

I know you've probably been there.

For me, I could very easily stop caring. Sure I'm not doing so well financially right now, but I am a white university-educated cis woman with straight passing privilege, a middle class upbringing, a supportive and functional family of university-educated professionals, who is going to marry a lawyer. I would be alright; the boot of the kyriarchy is not pressing down on my neck particularly painfully. But like I said at the start, once you know, you can't un-know. I couldn't live with myself if I was that kind of an asshole. If I'm going to be an asshole (and I assure you, I am) it has to be by accident when I was trying not to be.

Sometimes I think I don't have strong ethics, especially compared to the people around me - particularly my partner, who is ethical to a fault, and with whom I recently had a long, frustrating debate about whether it is ever ethical to lie (it is!). But I guess I do ok, ethics-wise, because I couldn't be a person who doesn't care. So that's something. Is it? Or is it the bare minimum of ethical behaviour? And maybe it's just the genetic luck of the draw; I have a great deal of empathy that I don't feel I came by honestly. So maybe unethical people just missed out on that through no fault of their own.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is: I'm going through a little bit of a slump in the caring department right now. But that's normal - probably very much so for people who work in the social justice field as well. So you'll have to forgive my social networking updates about dinosaurs, my aimless blogging, my in-person chatter about Jeff Goldblum and haircuts and feta cheese. I guess if you leave the activist switch on too long, it burns out a little and you need to let it recharge.

How do you get it going again? I'd love to hear about your experiences with this.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Corner: Broken Words by Jonathan Dudley

For this edition of the book corner, I read Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics, by Jonathan Dudley. For me this was a little bit of a break from my usual focus, because I do try to keep the focus on Canadian content here. There are a lot of blogs on the internet talking about abortion and reproductive rights/justice from an American POV and I'm trying to provide something a little different.

However, on the other side of that is the unsettling fact that the political landscape in Canada is growing ever more reminiscent of that of the USA. We are always a few years behind and a few notches less extreme, but our destinies as nations are so intertwined that it is probably pretty foolish to not pay attention to what is going on down there; like it or not, it's coming our way. So I think this book is, in a roundabout way, relevant to my focus.

I have read a few books about this kind of thing - the dangers of religious fundamentalism, the terrifying influence of Evangelical Christians on US politics - especially during my hardcore atheist days. One reason I began to get frustrated with the genre was that it's very much about preaching to the choir. So an element of Broken Words that I really liked was that the author was very upfront about his upbringing as an evangelical Christian, and is not afraid to incorporate that into the book. It is clear that he still believes in God and considers himself a Christian; instead of modelling a contemptuous atheism to readers, he shows a moderate understanding of his religion that coexists peacefully with his medical studies and his scientific knowledge and political views.

The book tackles the four big points of contention for Evangelical Christianity: gay marriage, evolution, abortion and the environment. Constant throughout is the theme of interpretation: for every Bible verse commonly used to support the Evangelical position, Dudley comes up with three or four that could just as easily be interpreted to oppose it. But the book is not an argument, nor is it about showing how "they" are wrong. What it is, is an exposure of the current Evangelical position as one invented for almost entirely political reasons, a fascinating (recent!) history of the ways in which religion has been used to control the American political landscape.

I suppose it will not shock you that I liked this book, but there you go. I will say that it is a refreshing take on a somewhat tired theme, and I would much rather read this than someone more established and maddeningly cynical, like Hitchens or Dawkins (although I would really rather read anything than Hitchens, because "not hating women" is a criterion I like to set for the authors I read). It is not, as I expected, yet another rallying cry for the atheist movement; it is a measured, thoughtful exploration of the difference between personal spirituality, and the religious manipulation of the public. I think some Christians might like it.

This appears to be Dudley's first book and there are certain touches that give it away - he is at times a bit too earnest, at other times a little too abstract. But he has a good "voice" and seems to have found himself a decent editor, and I for one hope to be hearing more from him in the future.

Eight fetus cookies out of ten.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ARCC Video Contest!

Version française

Help us bring attention to the importance of choice—from your perspective. We’re looking for short creative original videos to highlight what choice means to you, your peers or Canadians in general. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top 3 submissions.

Reproductive choice and access to abortion services is a right in Canada, but it’s not always easy or possible to access appropriate services to support that right.
Opponents of choice are always looking for ways to turn back time and prevent women from having full control over their own bodies and their reproductive choices. And, depending on where you live in Canada, it can be difficult and expensive to access the support and medical services required to truly have “freedom of choice”.

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC-CDAC) is dedicated to ensuring that women can exercise their right to health services equitably and without barriers. Your video can help us share diverse pro-choice perspectives, engaging others in our work and encouraging discussion and action.

Videos can be documentary-style, creative, artistic, action-packed, musical, journalistic or dramatic. Enlist your friends, family or classmates to help you, or make a solitary production. Tell us stories, entertain and inform us.

Videos must be between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long (:30 – 2:00 min). Videos entered must be original material and participants must acquire appropriate releases from all performers or interviewees. First prize is $500 and 2nd and 3rd prizes are $250 each.

Please follow the instructions on our website and read the Contest Rules carefully before creating and entering your video in the contest. If you have questions, please contact

Let your voice for choice be heard around the world!


1. Read contest rules.
2. Complete and submit entry form.
3. Complete a Release Form for each person in your video, including yourself.
4. Can you help spread the word? Please send the attached poster (or this link to it) about the contest to your friends, thank you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Choice 101

Calling All Young Pro-Choice Canadians Apply for Choice 101!

“Choice 101” will bring together 15 pro-choice Canadians from coast to coast to participate in an interactive 8-week course about pro-choice issues. The course will link you with other individuals who want to learn, share and contribute to the movement for sexual and reproductive rights in Canada.

You don’t have to be an expert to participate; just interested in learning more about pro-choice issues and sharing your ideas, experiences and questions with other people who are under 35.

We will be using teleconference calls to meet each week and we will create a networking site for people to post their thoughts, videos, drawings, web links, etc. to deepen our collective pro-choice knowledge. It’s a great way to broaden your pro-choice horizons and to strengthen the young pro-choice network across Canada.


  • Pro-Choice, Sex-positivity, Attitudes, & Values
  • Current Access Issues in Canada
  • History of Abortion Politics in Canada
  • Anti-Oppression, Intersectionality, & Privilege
  • First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Women & Reproductive Justice
  • Demystifying Sex Work
  • Pro-choice Activism: Goals, Strategies & Tactics


  • Joyce Arthur, Executive Director, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, which protects the legal right to abortion on request and works to improve access to quality abortion services. Before founding ARCC in 2005, she ran the Pro-Choice Action Network in British Columbia for 10 years and edited the national newsletter Pro-Choice Press, which she began in 1995. Arthur has written hundreds of articles on abortion and other political and social justice issues, spoken at dozens of venues in Canada and internationally, given hundreds of media interviews, and appeared in several documentaries. For more information visit:
  • Patrizia Gentile, Assistant Professor in the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University holds a Ph.D. from Queen’s University in the Department of History. Her dissertation was an historical study of beauty contests in Canada from the 1920s to the early 1990s. Professor Gentile is also co-author of The Canadian War on Queer: National Security as Sexual Regulation (UBC: 2010) with Dr. Gary Kinsman.

  • Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau Work, Educate, Resist (POWER) is a non-profit, voluntary organization open to individuals of all genders who self-identify as former or current sex workers, regardless of the industry sector in which they work(ed) (i.e. dancers, street level workers, in and out call workers, phone sex, etc.) and to allies who share our vision.

POWER envisions a society in which sex workers are able to practice their professions free of legal and social discrimination, victimization, harassment and violence and in which sex work is valued as legitimate and fulfilling work making an important contribution to society. For more information visit

  • Julie Lalonde, co-founder of the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre and board member of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. Julie is a feminist activist and part-time academic. She has been doing work in the reproductive justice movement and anti-violence movement officially and unofficially for about 8 years. Her work ranges from protest attending and organizing to public education campaigns. She currently sits on the board of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. She has a megaphone and is not afraid to use it. Follow her on twitter:

  • Courtney Scalan, Community Education Coordinator of Planned ParenthoodOttawa (PPO), offers education, counselling and referral services to assist and support people in making informed sexual and reproductive health choices. PPO is a non-judgmental, pro-choice, confidential, supportive, GLBTTQ positive, youth positive organization. For more information visit:

  • And more! Stay tuned as more presenters are confirmed…


The course will be held from September 27 - November 15, 2011 once a week onTuesdays for two hours at: 14:00 (British Columbia); 15:00 (Alberta / Saskatchewan / Northwest); 16:00 (Manitoba); 17:00 (Quebec / Ontario / Nunavut); 18:00 (Atlantic); and 18:30 (Newfoundland).

All participants must complete our online application and consent form. The consent form needs to be signed and either scanned and emailed/faxed; or sent by postal mail.

Apply online now at: The deadline to apply is September 19, 2011.

Participant selection will take into consideration provincial and regional representation as well as representation of diverse identities.