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Remembering the Montreal massacre

Dec 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This event is commemorated each year to mark the deadly Montreal massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. A gunman went on a shooting spree, killing 14 women, most of whom were engineering students.

This somber day raises awareness of gender-based crimes. The shooter, who later turned the gun on himself, proclaimed his hatred for feminists and was actively targeting women enrolled in the engineering program, since in his mind he believed it should be a field of study for men. This senseless massacre left Montreal wounded, but all people in Canada, especially women, feel the loss as well. It is unfortunate that we still endure crimes based on gender and sexuality.

The good news is that the shooting did not deter women from enrolling in STEM ( science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In Toronto, a community gathering will be taking place hosted by the Department of Engineering. This is just one example of many small and private remembrance ceremonies that will be held around Canada.

Professor Deepa Kundur was a first year engineering student at UofT when the massacre took place in 1989. Today, she is the chair of Engineering Science and a professor at the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the official press release, she noted the importance of her not being deterred by the shootings to leave an area of study.

“The university, the educational system is a very special and important place and it’s important to value education in fields like STEM where it provides opportunities for people where diverse backgrounds and opinions are needed very much.”

In Montreal, citizens are invited to attend the ceremony this evening at 5pm at the chalet on Mount Royal, which will feature 14 beams of light illuminating the night sky in memory of the 14 women who lost their lives. This is the 28th anniversary of what is still the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau will be present to mark the ceremony and interact with other survivors of violence. The symbol in the campaign to end violence against women is a white ribbon.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is part of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which started on Nov 25. This year’s theme is #MyActionsMatter and calls on people to speak up against gender based violence. The final event for the 16 days of activism is International Human Rights Day on Dec 10.

Share positive thoughts in the movement towards ending violence against women. Comment below

Remembering lives lost due to anti-transgender violence

Transgender Remembrance was marked on Nov 20,  a day in which to reflect on the 325 transgender people around the world who have lost their lives between Oct 2016 and Sept 30 of this year.

Statistics Canada tracks the number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and in 2014 there were 155 reported cases and in 2015 there were 141 instances. This number is alarmingly high, as most transgender people suffer in silence when dealing with hate related issues.

From people using the right pronouns to challenges in school and healthcare, transgender youth face a large number of challenges. In a national survey in 2015, over one-third of transgender Canadians between ages 14-25 attempted suicide. Transgender Remembrance Day does not normally count the number of deaths by suicide ,but if it did, the number in remembrance would be even higher.

Transgender Remembrance is all about reflecting on an often bullied and low profile community. During different remembrance ceremonies around the world, the names of those who lost their lives to  anti-transgender violence are marked. Members of the trans community all pay respect and come out to attend this somber occasion.

Transrespect.org issued the full list this year of all the names of people around the world who have lost their lives. The list is a report of all transphobia issues and murders worldwide. There was one Canadian listed, Sisi Thibert, a transgender sex worker who was found stabbed in her apartment in Montreal just a mere two months ago.

Many trans-advocates do not just honour all those who have lost their lives, but as well victims and survivors of transgender targeted violence. Transgender remembrance started in 1999 in the United States by a transgender woman to mark the murder of another victim. During the reading of the names, there is often a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil. In Canada, there was a memorial held at the University of Winnipeg on Monday evening with over 100 people in attendance, and at Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto, Toronto police raised the transgender flag for the first time to mark Transgender Remembrance Day.

The nasty reality of gun control and mass shootings in the US

During 11 a.m. Sunday morning worship, gunshots rang out in the air at the small First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The alleged shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, tried to make his escape, but once cornered, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  This event marked the 307th mass shooting in the United States for 2017.

This is a small number in comparison to 2016, which proved to be even higher at 477 incidents.  A mass shooting, in its simplest definition,  is the killing of four or more people at the same time. So far, 26 people have died, with the number expected to rise  due to severe injuries. As Americans and the world anxiously awaited a response from US President Donald Trump, who is on a five-country Asian tour, more details emerged about the alleged shooter, painting him as volatile, with a history of violence and disgruntled after bing dismissed from the US Air Force.

President Trump’s response to the shooting at a news conference in Japan was direct and once again avoided the broader issue of gun violence by narrowing it down to the events of the tragic shooting.

“This isn’t a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event. A very, very sad event, but that’s the way I view it,” Trump told the room of reporters in Japan.

Trump also made the comment that mass shootings can happen anywhere, while ironically standing in a country with no record of mass shootings and very strict control of gun laws.

This dangerous response may, unfortunately, be similar to what a lot of other Americans are thinking. However, there are some people that are wondering how many mass shootings it will take before the gun control laws in the United States are revisited? A similar response came from the president just last month during the deadly mass shooting in Vegas which killed close to 60 people.

Sadly, hearing about mass shootings in America has become common place. If the situation is not blamed on mental health, it is blamed on terrorism. The bigger issue, which seems to be obvious to everyone else in the world, is the accessibility to guns. The fact that you can buy guns at the same time you do your grocery shopping at Walmart is appalling. Walmart in the United States sells firearms for the aim of ‘hunting or sporting’, but just like animals, guess what— humans can be hunted too.

The debate on gun control in the United States continues as almost half of gun users feel that owning a gun is part of their American identity. However, can we stop narrowing down these tragic events and fight to fix the bigger issue?  Because without access to these deadly tools, 26 more lives could have been saved.

While President Trump blames this incident on mental health, in February 2017 he signed a bill undoing the work of former President Barack Obama to prevent those who were mentally ill from purchasing weapons. The bill stated that for those mentally unfit be added to a background check database. In doing this, President Trump had now made it easier for persons with mental illness to purchase weapons. So, is this really a mental illness problem? When will America admit the problem isn’t the people — it’s that all of these people have guns?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Saudi Arabia elected to UN Commission on the Status of Women

It’s no joke.

Saudi Arabia has been elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Again, this is not a joke.

Agencies around the world are criticizing the UN’s decision, for obvious reasons. Saudi Arabia, a country where women are subjects of male family members; where women must adhere to strict dress codes and are prohibited from driving; where women cannot interact with men they are not related to for fear of being beaten, imprisoned in their own home, and sometimes even killed, is now being celebrated as one of the 44 countries elected to the Commission on the Status of Women last week. To be clear, this commission has the following goals: “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

According to UN Watch’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief.”

Saudi Arabia has been adamantly trying to change the world’s perception of their gendered laws. In March, the country held its first women’s empowerment conference. It was led by Princess Lamia bint Majed al Saud, who insists that women in her country are misunderstood and that Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in respect to breaking down gender barriers. A Girls Council, which is meant to promote the welfare of girls and women in Saudi Arabia” was established in March as well. It was being led by 13 men. The Princess is the chair of the council, but could not appear at the launch due to gender laws. She and other women were video-conferenced in.

While it may be true that some (and I stress some) progress has been made, it doesn’t make up for the violence Saudi women face on a daily basis. It doesn’t make up for the fact that Saudi Arabia is ranked 134 out of 145 countries for gender parity in 2015. And it absolutely doesn’t make up for the lack of rights and freedoms these women enjoy (or rather don’t).

And yet, Saudi Arabia is now representing the rights and empowerment of women worldwide. Is anyone else having a problem following this decision?

I’m not sure what the UN was thinking, but this isn’t the first time the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women has screwed up. Last year, they tried to name a fictional character as their ambassador. Because that’s all women need — to aspire to be something that isn’t real and to follow the example of a misogynist state.

Well done.

Fear and hatred elected President Donald Trump

“This loss hurts, but please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is worth it,” Hillary Clinton said during her concession speech on Nov. 9. “And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable, powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

The United States has a new President — and that President is Donald Trump.

I’m numb. I’m not even sure I’ve completely processed this information. As editor of Women’s Post, I was watching the election results come in Tuesday night with the expectation that I would be writing a piece the following day about the first female President of the United States. Staff created some templates with details of Hillary Clinton’s life, focusing on her expertise and capability for the office. There were photos, graphs, and lots of feminist quotes to throw in. It would have been easy to put together a great profile for our readers.

Instead, I’m writing a piece about how a racist, misogynist man who thinks sexual harassment is locker talk, who was endorsed by the KKK, and who believes that all immigrants are thieves and rapists, became President of the United States.

Let’s tackle the first aspect of this question: how? How on earth did this happen?!

Obviously, there were a lot of factors. Voters were upset with how their political system worked and wanted change. There was a predominant disgust of “the elite”, an undefined group that tends to include politicians that can’t relate with the majority of the American people. When voters get frustrated with their politicians, it makes it hard for them to vote for the status quo. It also didn’t help that the FBI interfered with the election by releasing unfounded information that brought Clinton’s emails back to the surface at a critical point in the campaign.

But above all else, I think the underlying reason why Trump won is hate. Hate of “the other” and fear of “non-American values”. Throughout this campaign, Trump has capitalized on the fear and intolerance of the American people. Hate of immigrants, hate of women, hate of African Americans, hate of the LGBTQ community, and hate of the media. Hate for “the other” — people who are not like you. Hate of uncertainty.

This fact makes me sad. As a Canadian, I was raised with an understanding of tolerance and acceptance, that people, no matter their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, should be treated equally. I was taught that respect and kindness was the ultimate value. Sure, I know Canada isn’t perfect. This country has it’s own problems with racism and misogyny, but it’s nothing compared to what I witnessed during the US presidential campaign.

The Trump rallies incited violence, talks of waterboarding and torture for enemies, and general sexual harassment. Protesters were attacked for simply holding up signs that said they were anti-Trump. People of various ethnicities were dragged out of conference rooms. Is this what Americans should expect from their new president?

Trump won the election with 279 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 218 (as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday). It was a close race, much tighter than anyone expected, with large swing states flip-flopping between the two candidates until about 3 a.m. What does this mean? A lot more people in the United States let fear dictate their decision, fear of unemployment, fear of immigrants, and fear of the unknown. Instead of voting for someone inspirational, capable, and strong enough to incite real change, they voted for the person who made them scared of the future. This person told them they should be afraid, that the political system was rigged and corrupt, and said he was the only person that could protect them from these evils. And people believed him.

The sad reality is that this is democracy. I can’t say I’m angry or disappointed with the American people because it is their right to vote for the person they want to be President. I can, however, say that I’m disheartened by how much hate and fear Americans seem to have in their hearts. I’m saddened the American people felt like Donald Trump was the only solution.

In this particular case, hate and fear won the day — and now the world will have to deal with it.

What did you think of Jian Ghomeshi’s trial?

The last year has been eye-opening, and not in a good way. The case of CBC radio broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, who was accused of allegedly sexually assaulting and choking four women, really shed light on how messed up our justice system really is. It also demonstrated why so many women (and men) don’t report instances of sexual violence.

At the end of the day, Ghomeshi was found not guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking. The second round of the trials ended with an apology and a peace bond, which essentially is a contract that stipulates the accused must maintain good behaviour for a year and cannot contact the complainant. It is not an admission of guilt and it will result in no criminal record.

Ghomeshi was asked to apologize to the final complainant, Kathryn Borel. His apology mentions the power he held at the CBC and how, after serious consideration, he misunderstood how his actions could be interpreted: “I was a person in a position of authority and leadership, and I did not show the respect that I should have to Ms. Borel … I failed to understand how my words and actions would put a coworker who was younger than me, and in a junior position to mine, in an uncomfortable place.”

Borel decided to forego the trial after being presented with the option of a peace bond because it seemed “the clearest path to the truth.” In a statement following the trial, she said that “In a perfect world, people who commit sexual assault would be convicted for their crimes. Jian Ghomeshi is guilty of having done the things that I’ve outlined today. So when it was presented to me that the defence would be offering us an apology, I was prepared to forego the trial. It seemed like the clearest path to the truth. A trial would have maintained his lie, and would have further subjected me to the very same pattern of abuse that I am currently trying to stop.”

So, it’s over. After intense investigations by various media outlets, excruciating witness interviews, and hours of court time, the Ghomeshi trials are done.

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‘Bollywood Logic’ infographics tackle violence against women in India

In the past few years the rest of the world has been startled awake to the long simmering issue of sexual violence and violence against women in India with high profile gang rape cases and terrifying statistics showing lax safety for women, an issue that the new feminist Bollywood movie The Pink Sorrys attempts to address by incorporating violence, dance numbers, and punk rock into the framework of a traditional Bollywood movie to start the conversation.

Check out these infographics juxtaposing Bollywood tropes with harsh realities for women in India and let us know what you think, can a Bollywood style film jump start awareness for women’s issues in India?

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Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

 

GAYPOST: Terrifying threat letters sent to Kingston lesbian couple

In a disgusting display of the hatred for gay and lesbian people that still boils under the surface of many communities two letters to a lesbian couple in Kingston surfaced on image sharing website Imgur on Thursday. One would assume that in Canada, a country that has long since legalized sodomy and more recently gay marriage, this level of intolerance would have been all but stamped out — instead we see the same level of vitriol one might expect in Kill-the-Gays Uganda.

The letters include threats, slurs, and a menacing tone that is downright chilling. The letters demand that they [sic] “leave this city, before it is too late, for you” and informs them that this group has been “following” them for “several months.”

The first letter informs them that they will “strike” and that these are not “empty threats.”

Most terrifying of all is the assertion that the couple being harassed should not bring this matter to the police because the hate group has contacts within the Kingston Police.

As of press time the Kingston Police have not responded to our media inquiry on the matter.

The second letter contains explicit threats of chasing gay people with BB guns, lamenting the fact that real guns are difficult to acquire in Canada as they would prefer to use lethal force.

Below is a transcript of the two letters along with the photos of the originals sourced from Imgur. Be warned that these letters contain explicit language and disturbing depictions of hate-based violence.

 

“Lesbian bitches,

We are a small but dedicated group of Kingston residents devoted to removing the scourge of homosexuality in our city. We know you and have been following you for the past several weeks and we wish for you to leave this city, before it is too late, for you. This will be the first of many reminders, each escalating to higher and higher levels of harassment and derailment. Since we have nothing personal against you, only against your sexuality, we suggest you move to more conductive climes like Vancouver, or preferably San Francisco.

Our base, head office in Deep South, has been energized by the recent US Supreme Court decisions legalizing same sex marriage. We feel that unless homosexuals reconvert to heterosexuality that life under this planet, under the umbrella of our Lord Jesus Christ, will become unbearable. Having observed you, we feel that you are committed lesbians unlikely to convert, hence this (first and only) gentle attempt to make you move.

If you do not, and take this letter to police, as we expect, we will know about this, since we have contacts in Kingston Police. Our efforts to relocate you will escalate. We wish to avoid this scenario. We are primarily non-violent, but use violence surgically to persuade people. We hope you understand without us painting to lurid a picture.

In the last several years we have relocated a few people like you from the Kingston area, through a set of incentives and effective persuasion. Please join their ranks ASAP. We will watch and wait, and then strike, at home and office, as need arises. These are not empty threats. MOVE, or else!

Thank you for your attention. We await effective action on your part, ASAP> You are not going to be safe at home, office or anywhere else if you ignore this message! However if you take this seriously, and make attempts to move, someone from our organization will contact you to make your relocation easier financially. If, additionally, you persuade another couple like yourselves to move, we will provide them financial assistance and yourselves a bonus for your help. We are a committed bunch and come hell of high water, we will move you out. Best under congenial circumstances, don’t you think?

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our saviour.”

 

The second letter:

“lesbos:

As a followup, we had a group meeting yesterday on how to best deal with you. Some of our younger members want to have some fun chasing “lesbos”. We have brought them some BB guns and today they are doing target practice, so that they can hunt you down. It is regrettable that in Canada, real guns are hard to find, so BB it shall be. I can assure you BB pellets hurt!!

This is thrilling for the youngsters not so much to older members who would rather see serious action rather than playing with BB guns. However youngsters also want to have their fun, and what better targets than you?

Take our previous letter seriously or fun and games will turn into deadly serious action.

Below are the photos of the original letters posted online, click for full size:

 

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers for more information on this story as it becomes available.