Absolute Equality

Absolute Equality -

First Lady

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April 8 is the Day of Pink and there is controversy because the organization promoting the day has named Laureen Harper an ambassador.

Harper is quoted on the website of The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity talking about her support for the organization, though her statement mainly addressing the bullying that many kids face.

What she doesn’t address is the gender and sexual diversity part of the equation – the fact that LGBT youth face more bullying and higher risk of suicide. And, of course, the fact that her husband’s government just killed a bill that would allow trans people to use the right bathrooms. (Read more about Bill C-279).

Many people feel that she should answer for that. I disagree. We don’t have a first lady here. The Prime Minister’s wife has nothing to do with politics or policy, and because she has nothing to do with policy there is no requirement for her to answer questions or address issues people take with what the government does.

This issue was raised for me when I saw an interview with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau (one of many, many interviews she’s been doing). This particular article was headlined “A family affair: Canada’s next First Lady?

In the United States the First Lady has causes that she works on, she has a platform – like Hilary Clinton’s health care reform or Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and physical activity campaign. We don’t have that here. The Prime Minister’s significant other travels with him or her, hosts dignitaries, but he or she is by no means as much of a focus as the First Lady (unless she’s Margaret Trudeau).

Laureen Harper does not represent Canada by herself. She doesn’t travel internationally by herself. Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau will not be the ‘First Lady’ because no official role has ever been given to the spouse of our Prime Minister.

If she chooses her own issues and decides to become outspoken on certain things, more power to her, but nothing says the PM will listen.

The Language of Campaigns

Cross-posting here from my work blog: 

Joe and I spend the better part of the weekend at the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit. (Joe there for work, me there for self interest).

Two of the most interesting talks I saw over the course of the weekend were the ones featuring dissenting voices – Tim Powers and Monte Solberg, who are well-known Conservative pundits, and Philip Cross, an economist speaking out about austerity.

I enjoyed these talks partly because they demonstrated exactly where many partisans go wrong during their campaigns. While these men spoke there was groaning, booing, and heckling from the crowd.

To read the rest, click here…

What we do not know

I was brought to tears many times during Progress Summit (#prgrs15), but one of the panels that affected me the most was the panel on Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The panel was made up of Marie Wilson, one of three commissioners for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Perry Bellegarde, the current National Chief of the AFN, and Wab Kinew, who works at the University of Winnipeg and was heavily involved in the #IdleNoMore movement.

Indigenous youth make up a huge percentage of our population. They are a population that we will rely on heavily in the future. They are and will be very important to this country and we are losing them in massive numbers. Many are committing suicide – communities are in crisis.

And many of them are dropping out of school. Too many.

When I asked a question about how we can give these young people hope Perry Bellegarde touched on something that Stephen Kakfwi, the former Premier of the NWT, also brought up in his panel.

The investment in education for indigenous kids, in their communities is so much less than in the rest of the country. They are treated as so much less. If we are not demonstrating to them that education is important by giving them the decent infrastructure and supplies then why should they consider education important for them?

If we actually want them to succeed we need to show them that by investing in them.

It make so much sense, it’s so simple. And yet we’re so far away.

Investing in education is the first step. Education is the first step to solving poverty.

The most powerful statement, for me, came from Stephen Kakfwi, who said simply: “Do something, we’re getting desperate.”

(On a further note, Kakfwi also talked about Canadians for a New Partnership, which is worth checking out).

#prgrs15 Voices

This weekend I have the privilege of attending The Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit. It’s a weekend full of issues and ideas and very smart and dedicated people.

There has been a lot to think about over the past two days. I’ve been tweeting using the hashtag #prgrs15 and so have many, many other people.

One very interesting thing that didn’t happen during a panel but in response to it. The session was called “Fighting for the Frame: How Progressives Can Win Back the Debate.” The panelists included Tim Powers and Tasha Kheiriddin, two pretty well know right wingers.

I was reading the hashtag during the panel and saw someone ask why we were listening to Tasha Kheiriddin (with some insulting remarks). Basically, why were we listening to someone outside the movement talk to us about how to succeed.

There’s an easy answer here, and it was echoed in other panels throughout the day – because they’ve been successful and we can learn from them. Because if we’re only talking to each other then we’re not learning anything new.

If we’re going to change and grow, not only should we listen to voices outside our movement, we have to. And learning from people who have helped a party organization that has held government for nine years is a pretty good place to start.

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I hope that the majority of the people in that room were listening to Tim Powers and Tasha Kheiriddin. Because as much as we want to believe otherwise, what Professor Paul Saurette said rings true:

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