The Transit Police got burned in the media recently, when rad feminist transit riders called them out publicly for their summer-line of sexual assault ads. These ads use language that shames the survivors of sexual assault, stating, “the real shame of sexual assault is that it goes unreported.” It turns out that the transit police were the ones doing something that “doesn’t feel right” and making riders “uncomfortable.”
The whole thing was a PR blunder for the transit cops, who realized it right away and are now busily placating the public, regrouping, and working toward Version 2.0. This time, they’ll be sure to “include representatives from women’s rights groups” so as to remain in public favour. Great! Problem solved, right?
Maybe. If the ignorant and hurtful language of the original ad was its only flaw, the only reason to be concerned, and if there wasn’t another, equally repulsive message lurking underneath, then, yes, the problem would be solved. Sadly, that’s not the case.
The sinister implications of this transit ad not only shame survivors of sexual assault, but they also work to bring us all deeper into the police-state that Canada is quickly becoming (and perhaps, for those who are marginalized, always has been). An important piece of information appears at the bottom of the ad, in the second biggest font, urging readers to TEXT 87.77.77.
I’m sorry, what? We’re texting the cops now?
Yeah, what’s wrong with that?
Well, don’t you think it’s a little weird, like, ratting on random people to the authorities? It’s a little sci-fi. …a little Soviet Russia…a little Nazi Germany…
You’re so negative! Besides, it’s to stop sexual assault! You don’t like sexual assault do you?
The theme of sexual assault serves as the catalyst for gaining public acceptance for the practice of text messaging the police, for promoting and normalizing a tattletale behaviour in the populace. It functions much the same was as the issue of child pornography functions online. Child Pornography serves as the excuse for police-state surveillance tactics in the digital realm. Everybody hates Child Pornography. Everybody hates Sexual Assault. These issues serve as PR strategies to introduce the public to a new tool for surveillance and to further limit our freedoms. The report-your-neighbour text-message campaign goes nicely with the transit police smart phone app, OnDuty, which enables users to report “crimes”, view “Crime Maps”, and check out who is “Most Wanted!” It also gives the transit cops opportunity to gain access to your call logs, photos, locations, and more.
Can I report someone on transit for being drunk and loud?
You can definitely report those situations. It’s an offense in the criminal code … We are very accountable, and are legally required to act to protect the public and preserve the peace.
So, perhaps it’s not only crimes that are being reported. After all, both the text service and the OnDuty app are for “non-emergent” reports only. And what kind of sexual assault is “non-emergent”? Traditional 911 works just find in summoning urgent police presence, so why these new social tools? It seems like they exist for reporting suspicion, rather than dangerous ‘crimes.’ In this arrangement, every person with a smartphone is a potential cop, a potential punisher, and people learn to suspect each other.”
“See something. Say something,” the transit ad reads. This isn’t entirely a bad idea. But to whom do we “say something?” It’s assumed that the answer is the police. They will swoop in and save the day and no one has to feel guilty for staring passively at their phone while someone is being assaulted, In Real Life, right in front of them. It’s understandable that even bystanders feel unsafe in these situations and may not be able to intervene, but we do have a collective responsibility. We need to decide whether we want to create a community in which a bus full of people band together and say “No!” to abusive behaviour, or to create a ‘safe’ community in which people are picked off the bus, one by one, by big men with guns?
We know which world the police are envisioning. There seems to be a real emphasis on punishment over prevention, in the language used by transit police. The Transit Police ad tells riders that not reporting sexual assaults is the real shame, rather than the fact that these assaults occur in the first place.
Spokesperson, Anne Drennan is quoted in the Metro as having never intended to “lay blame on victims in any way, but rather to suggest that it’s a real shame that these people get away scott free when these incidences are not reported.” It sounds as if the goal is not to stop potential abusers, but to punish perpetrators. Rather than prevention, the ad itself, supported by Drennan’s comments to the media, implicitly promote eye-for-an-eye, revenge-style ‘justice’ which serves as reinforcement for role of police in our communities.
The language of the transit police also includes a heavy use of the word “victim”, to describe those folks who have experienced sexual assault, despite the fact that the chosen identifier for these folks is “Survivors.” A survivor is strong and empowered, while a victim is weak and in need of protection, presumably by the police.
It’s clear from their language that neither preventing assault, nor empowering women and the community, are top priorities of the transit police. Instead, they actively present the world as a scary place and the police as our only protectors. If we need the police, if they are keeping us safe, then we won’t have a problem with them invading every aspect of our public and private lives, cracking down on every transgression and injecting our community with suspicion and fear.
Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories.
Here’s one way to tell how racist a person/nation is.
Have them read this excerpt and see if they fly into a rage about “those” people, or just come up with economic arguments to keep “them” out.
Hopefully, everyone you know will nod and say, “obviously!”
Since this is a chronically underpopulated country with an aging population and an inadequately sized consumer and taxpayer base for its geography and culture, there is no reason for Canada to make any of its immigrants anything other than permanent.
Those who say “Canadian jobs for Canadians” are right: We should continue to attract immigrants who want to do these jobs, and we should make sure they are able to become Canadians, as quickly as possible.
Then share this article with the 3 people in your life who appreciate human dignity the most. You have good taste in friends. They will support you in this campaign because they’ve got your back.
Here’s some of the disturbing background about this stilt house on a burial ground.
Provincial archeologists in the 1970s marked Grace Islet as part of an ancient First Nations village. It later became privately owned and subdivided into a residential lot. The 0.75-hectare piece of land was bought in 1990 by Alberta businessman Barry Slawsky, who is now building a luxury home on the site.
The development has been intermittently stalled by a series of archeological assessments and permit requirements since the remains were found.
The owner has fulfilled all legal requirements and adjusted his plans. He is building the house on stilts so as not to disturb any burial spots, and has begun to clear the land.
Jacks said Slawsky has not responded to requests to sell the property or meet with First Nations. Some band leaders even enlisted a local rabbi to appeal to Slawsky on a religious values level.
“Can you imagine if us chiefs went to Ross Bay Cemetery (where several historical figures are buried) and said we’re going to build a longhouse over it?” Jacks asked.
The Tseycum chief is among a growing group of people — including several First Nations, politicians, archeologists and residents — opposed to building over the burial grounds. They want the land to be protected, but the province has said it has no plans to purchase the land.
In British Columbia, burial sites dated before 1846 fall under the Heritage Conservation Act and any alterations are managed by the archeology branch. Burial sites established after that time, including Ross Bay Cemetery (1873) and Pioneer Square (1856) in Victoria, fall under stricter cemetery legislation.
The 1% are claiming we have it out for them; that if we don’t tone down the rhetoric and stop calling them names like “the contemptuous rich,” we might end up starting a class war. But they already know there’s a class war, and it’s been going on for generations. Today, the rich are winning because they have more solidarity than we do. The year 2014 is a battleground and the currency is solidarity. If we don’t start organizing together, quickly, and far more effectively, the contemptuous rich will continue to come out on top.
For centuries, the 1% were the nobility, the aristocrats, the old money, the patriarchy. Then Adam Smith pitched capitalism in his 1776 book Wealth of Nations, and liberated the entrepreneurs to join the blue bloods. Today, every January, corporate and government leaders from around the world – the people who literally rule the world – meet in the winter-wonderland of Davos, Switzerland, to launch the annual World Economic Forum. There, they plan the global agenda. This year’s sexy new idea was advancing “social entrepreneurialism.” That sounds so kumbaya, just like public-private partnerships, but it’s just spin for privatizing social services.
The World Economic Forum is just one of the most recent venues where the global elite show their solidarity with each other, and plan how to maximize shareholder wealth and minimize global social, economic and political equality. Beyond Davos, our rulers have also created a roadmap for undermining the democracy of nations through secret trade agreements like NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and CETA (the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement). These agreements are designed to give right-wing governments the excuse to deregulate industries, privatize public services, and elevate shareholders’ and investors’ “right” to profit above the needs of society.
How does this translate in Harper’s vision of Canada? April Fool’s Day this year marked the end of the 10-year Canada Health Accord and the beginning of a 12-year fiscal plan to cut $36 billion from federal Medicare funding. This manufactured disaster is textbook Shock Doctrine, designed to impair the public health care system in order to drive more demand for private alternatives.
THE RISE OF THE 99%
The Occupy Movement helped us understand the 1% and the 99%. One of the movement’s critical failures, however, was its inability to frame its core message in the face of a hostile corporate media, and a well-coordinated network of police and intelligence service agencies working together to discredit, mock, beat, arrest, and terrorize the Occupiers. The Occupy Movement’s message was, and is, merely equality: a demand for political, social and economic equality, plus, a healthy environment. This simple message manifested itself in dozens of demands, but whose message won? The 1%. After all, they own the guns and the corporate media. But, there is hope for the 99%.
On March 19, for instance, 650 people gathered in the Maritime Labour Centre to formally kickstart the Metro Vancouver Alliance, a solidarity catalyst if there ever was one. Its birth was inspired by the Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing model, active in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia and the UK. The MVA is a coalition of labour, community and faith-based organizations who share common progressive goals.
On April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the Occupy Movement rebooted itself in a worldwide “Wave of Action.” Its goal is a three-month rolling wave of activism at former Occupy sites, designed to reinvigorate the solidarity started in 2011. And there are other solidarity catalysts in Canada, including the Greater Edmonton Alliance.
These coalitions are fantastic, but they risk irrelevance if they can’t evolve to the next level of solidarity. These alliances need to grow more intense, both inwardly and outwardly.
The member groups of progressive coalitions need to find ways of connecting their individual members to better support each other. And the coalitions themselves need to support each other. I believe such an effort at deepening and broadening solidarity has, so far, been lacking. Meanwhile, the 1% are deeply well-connected, from community chambers of commerce right up to the World Trade Organization. They’re all spouting the same spin and rhetoric on their members’ behalf, while we, the 99%, can often not get past “letterhead coalitions,” a term introduced to me by Amanda Tattersall, one of the founders of the Sydney Alliance in Australia. What good is it to have a coalition when the extent of union, or faith, or community organization activity is merely a letter of support?
We need to seed more alliances in Canada. And we need to help union members themselves understand why unions matter. Labour campaigns like these can only help: the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) campaign, Together FAIRNESS WORKS; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) campaign, Unite for Fairness; and the National Union of Public And General Employees (NUPGE) campaign, All Together Now.
We need to then connect union members with social change coalitions, like Occupy Version 2 and the upcoming Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa (August 21 to 24). Our window is opening again. It’s time to leap through and convene the big gatherings.
This piece originally appeared in Our Times magazine.
The pope, a Kardashian and Arianna Huffington walk into a bar.
The Pope says, “Inequality is the root of social evil” as he’s trashing the global economic disorder, but since it was reported on Arianna Huffington’s website, we couldn’t help but be lured to a link photo of a Kardashian mom posting a picture of her in a bikini in Mexico because her daughter did. [I’m still not sure why this matters.]
The Pope continues, “We discard a whole generation to maintain an economic system that no longer endures, a system that to survive has to make war, as the big empires have always done.”
Now that the weather is turning, the slut shaming and attacks on women’s clothing choices will ramp up.
In Labrador, 28 girls were sent home from school because their clothing contravened the dress code. They also sent home two boys whose shirts bared their shoulders. 47% of those voting on the CBC story’s webpoll supported the school’s decision.
But Memorial University professor Patricia Dold share some inconvenient truth about this:
Male students and teachers they apparently were distracting should be the ones under the microscope. … Dold said that the school should have an open conversation with students about the issue.
An open conversation would be welcome, but in our society, we don’t have those open conversations. Instead…
Instead, we have slut shaming. “Society,” men and women alike, criticize women who dress like “sluts” [however people define that] and suggest that those who dress like this woman [above] are just asking to be raped. What happens to the slut shamers who disrespect women who dress like this, when this woman was raped while actually wearing sweat pants and a hoodie?
That kind of disconnect is inefficient to the slut shaming agenda. so they ignore it. It’s the substance of ignorance.
So beyond teens dressing for summer then getting punished for lude boys being distracted by them, and women being raped when they’re NOT actually weary the “slutty” clothes, women who do well in high school often don’t make as much money as white men who do worse in school.
And what do our politicians do about any of this?
About as much as all the high schools that are not having open dialogues about dress codes, gender respect and slut shaming.
Indeed, our equality-champion prime minister and his crew just sits around; here’s all they are able to vomit out:
Citing the facts that aboriginal women are four times more likely to be murdered than white women, and that nearly one quarter of aboriginal women are victims of domestic abuse, the department has begun to explore new policy options: options as diverse as sighing, shaking their heads, and muttering “it’s a damn shame”.
“Is there some sort of historical context to all this?” said Prime Minister Harper. “Because it almost seems as though the conditions for this crisis might have been brought about by institutional racism.”
A little bit of civil terrorism keeps the population docile, afraid of irrational and unjust behaviour from law enforcement [sic] but hey, it helps us all live more peacefully because if you’re not a terrorist, you have nothing to fear from police terrorism via unconstitutional and racially discriminatory persecution. Right?
“We’re going to go out there and violate some rights.” Hear the secret police recordings that will take your breath away. In a bad way.
When I write about soft fascism, I sometimes feel too Canadian. I don’t want to be impolite and talk about hard or old school or 20th century fascism because frankly, when people read that word, they think, “hey, is he talking about Hitler kinda stuff? Ok, then, so it’s not fascism.”
It is though. You don’t have to start a genocide for someone to consider your actions fascist.
It’s a kind, gentler, Canadian-style fascism with a hit of Tom Horton’s and a bonspiel on TV in the background.
Attempts to suppress democracy, though, ARE fascism. From the Conservative government’s voter suppression actions, and contempt of legislature and the courts, they seek totalitarian power.
This is why I Occupy.
And while we figure out what Occupy Vancouver is going to look like going forward, it is this kind of work to decriminalize journalism that we need to be mindful of. See below.
Now, more than ever, because there’s a federal election brewing and we know that the federal government will cheat again to keep its power because it thinks it’s right and they know best for all of us. Like the BC government’s election gag laws and the city of Vancouver’s pre-Olympics and Occupy era democracy suppression measures.
We can be vigilant or we can be sheep. If you want to be a sheep, fine. Stay away from me. If you want to be vigilant, sign up for email updates over there on the right. We’re all about vigilance around here. And I believe Stephen Harper is mentally ill, WITHOUT even having seen the Flanagan interview from Friday night.
And we’re about making Occupy potent, and unlike the governments, transparent and accountable and democratic.
Access to information law means any Canadian can apply for access to any government document for a fee of five dollars. “It’s something that’s absolutely critical for the functioning of Canadian democracy because it helps to keep Canadians informed. It’s crucial for investigative journalism,” says Tom Henheffer, executive director of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
“The fact is the government is intentionally dismantling it. They’re defunding access department so when someone files a requests there’s no response. Eighty per cent of documents that do come back are censored, many of the heavily censored,” says Henherrer, noting that there has been a 51 per cent increase in complaints about missing records in the past year.
‘A growing culture of secrecy’
“Even worse than that is the fact that there is this growing culture of secrecy in government, both federally and provincially and in some municipalities,” says Henheffer. He says politicians and civil servants are deliberating not keeping records, avoiding e-mail and sending messages from BlackBerry to BlackBerry that are erased every 30 days.
“In the past Canadians have had a robust access to essentially the decision-making process that goes into forming policy in Canada and that access is being taken away.”
Whistleblower protecting ‘ineffective’
Surveillance of citizens is another major concern listed in the review as well as a lack of any effective protection for whistleblowers. Henheffer says civil servants who flag problems in government lose their jobs. “That’s why we have such a culture of secrecy, part of the reason why, because we don’t have this protection so people aren’t coming like say Edward Snowden (American intelligence contractor who leaked documents revealing widespread surveillance of citizens by U.S. spy agency). We don’t have anyone like that in Canada because the sacrifice that they would make is too great and as a result we don’t know what we don’t know.”
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De-Spinning the Political and Re-Spinning it for Social, Economic and Political Justice