Monday, March 2, 2015

#stoptheswap Open Letter Opposing Earl Grey/LaVerendrye School Swap

Dear Trustees, Winnipeg School Division administration and other interested parties,

It is my understanding that because of overcrowding issues at Laverendrye school (Lav), one solution that has been put forth is a “school swap”, where Earl Grey School would swap places with Lav. Based on media reports and social media interactions, it seems that some of the Lav parents are quite serious about this idea, and appear to be pushing Trustees and the Winnipeg School Division in this direction.  As a parent of two children at Earl Grey School, I am deeply concerned by this proposal and frustrated that it is even being considered.

On the surface, this sounds simple. A school swap implies just that. It implies that two schools would just swap spaces and everyone would go along as if nothing happened. But what is being proposed is NOT a school swap. This is taking one group that has a space issue (LaVerendrye) and completely displacing and dismantling a tight knit community (Earl Grey) to solve their problem. It is taking a group that has no problem, is having success and building a top notch school and making them suffer to accommodate the needs of LaVerendrye.  In fact, it baffles me that Earl Grey even ended up in the equation as a way to solve LaVerendrye’s issues.

The students of LaVerendrye have everything to gain from this proposal which is why it is attractive to that group. However, the students of Earl Grey basically lose everything. How is this advantageous to anyone? The Earl Grey school community will lose its connection to the Earl Grey Community Centre. It will lose its connection with Dante Day Care, and it may lose its in-school Early Childhood Education programs and Montessori school. These are valuable programs that, if Earl Grey moves, will create a wealth of problems and pain to students and their families. Again, LaVerendrye will gain these, and we will lose them. How is this fair? Once again, this is not a swap. This is one group pushing another group out and gaining everything the other group will lose.

Furthermore, the proposal for a school swap involves taking away grade 7 and 8 programs from Earl Grey. Essentially, the system we have in place will be decapitated. In a school designed to have children from all grades work together, learn from each other, guide each other and participate in activities together, two of the senior grades will be taken away. This destroys so much of what has been worked for at Earl Grey. Where will these kids go? Dispersed to other schools where they will be just a number?

To outsiders, on paper, a “school swap” may look like a simple, easy solution to alleviate a problem. It is not. It will come with severe consequences for all of the families and students of Earl Grey School. This is NOT merely a school swap. This is tearing apart a school community, ripping all the pieces that make it a successful, productive and satisfying whole to shreds in order to solve a problem that another school is facing.

What I ask is that this option be dropped from the table, for the sake of the Earl Grey Community. There are other options that will help LaVerendrye while not dismantling Earl Grey. These are what should be pursued for the sake of all.  Earl Grey, with its small class sizes and tight knit community that works together with the community center, early childhood education and Montessori programs, is a system that should be emulated, not destroyed.

The option that, from my perspective, makes better sense is developing another French milieu school elsewhere, possibly at the William Osler site. If the demand for these types of schools is so high, it really won’t be long until the Earl Grey site will no longer meet the needs of LaVerendrye either, which means it won’t be that long before the school is facing the same issues all over again. There are numbers floating out there suggesting Earl Grey can hold 600 students, and this appears to have supporters of the swap feeling that Earl Grey is a half empty, dying school. Well, there is actually only 1 empty classroom. All others are being utilized. And, from my understanding, the 600 number comes from outdated estimates before class sizes were capped, before dedicated classes for computer labs and a library were needed. The idea that 600 students can fit into the current Earl Grey site is just not accurate.

If the School Board and Trustees believe we have too much space in the Earl Grey School, I think you would be hard pressed to find a parent that wouldn’t support the opening of the space to new programs or new students and welcome proposals to share the school with others. But, I don’t think you will find a single parent in the school comfortable with the idea of having Earl Grey as we know it completely dismantled.

I live across from Earl Grey School and am watching as our neighbourhood is drawing younger people who are buying up relatively affordable housing and renovating. It seems to me that it won’t be too long before the demand for a school like Earl Grey increases.  Earl Grey, if stuck in the LaVerendrye School site, will be looking at space issues before long, as will Lav in the Earl Grey location. All that will have been achieved is some shuffling around and destroying of the Earl Grey School community that is showing success, where students are happy, where we have no issues. Temporary gain for Lav, but long term pain for all involved is not a solution. That is what a school swap delivers.

Earl Grey families and students face many losses if this proposed school swap goes through. Why do this to the Earl Grey kids? Why do it to the families of Earl Grey students? A better solution must exist. Many others have been put forth worth considering. For the sake of the Earl Grey community, please drop the school swap idea. Let Earl Grey continue with its successful formula. Allow Earl Grey families to continue to enjoy the programs they rely so much on that we will lose in the event of a swap. Let Earl Grey survive.  Stop the swap.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Writer's Block

It isn't as if there hasn't been things to write about lately. I've just not done it. I must get back into, however. I will start with this fairly useless post.

Have a good day. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thinking of Catcalling someone? DON'T!

Lately, the issue of street harassment has come front an centre after a woman in NYC released a video of the kind of cat calls and unwanted attention she got while walking around the city. Today, I read a news article from CTV talking about anti-street harassment posters that have gone up in Montreal.

Here's what has me completely outraged. There has been an enormous outcry by too many people who seem to think that harassing people in the streets is, you know, okay. Well, guess what, it really, truly isn't. Why do some people feel that as soon as a women enters the street, she is open to cat calls and "compliments", being approached, being hit on, and just generally being harassed? What is the thought process behind this?

And what do these harassers think they are gaining from this? Do they really believe for a second that their harassment is going to land them a hot date or a fulfilling long term relationship of some kind? I just don't understand the point. I see street harassment as pure selfishness on the part of the harasser. They seem to have this idea in their head that they are entitled to do this, that trying to tell them that it is wrong to do this is some kind of an afront to their personal freedoms. Sadly, they don't see the encroachment on other peoples right to walk from point A to point B without becoming a target for male attention as something that should be respected. These women are NOT on the street for you to prey on. They are on the street because that's what humans do, they go out, they walk on the sidewalk, they go to the store, they carry on with their lives. Let them for gawd sakes. There is no good reason to impede their day with your sexual overtures are "compliments".

If someone is going to the store because they ran out of toilet paper, do you really think hoping some strange guy on the street will "compliment" her is something she is desiring? No, she desires toilet paper. Why can't she go to the store and buy that toilet paper in peace? Is that really, honestly too much to ask? It seems that, for some men, the answer is yes, and to ask for that is some kind of PC gone mad, Femanazi madness taking away the rights of men to sexually harass women which is their god given right. For frick sakes!

I hate to say it, but being a man is a curse and a blessing. For starters, I don't have to put up with street harassment. On the other hand, I have to share the same gender as men who think it's perfectly okay to harass women in the street, and it is not only their right, but apparently their duty! Well, screw that.

And oddly enough, I have seen no shortage of women saying that other women are over reacting, and that just blows my mind. Fine, if you like to be cat called, hey, whatever. May I suggest you tell men then that you want to be cat called. No one should assume at anytime that a woman WANTS to be cat called or harassed just because some women feel that other women are over reacting, like this ladies comment...
 I think this is silly .... as a woman ..I don't agree with these feminist groups at all ...All it is is a form of oppression and causing fear amongst men... its ridiculous feminist groups want equality but what I see is not equality at all
Oh geez. Well, what can I say? She's a women. Her experience is different. Fine. But I feel for women who aren't exactly enjoying unwanted attention.

Now, some will argue that, "Hey, me saying 'hi' or smiling at someone isn't harassment". Well, yes, that argument can be made, but intent is important to consider as well. If you are approaching people and smiling and saying hi ONLY for self serving interests, then you might want to consider not doing it. If you are genuinely nice person and give off that impression, ya, I mean, people aren't so cold that they don't want to interact with other humans altogether. Just, be reasonable. And if someone doesn't say hi, you might want to consider that, perhaps, they have had one too many encounters with other humans that haven't been too nice to them to feel comfortable with your hello. Guess what. This can be a side affect of the street harassment that seems to be all too common that it seems too many people are condoning.

And of course, there are still those that say women are inviting this attention by how they dress, such as the person who made this comment....
Then I suggest that the women who are complained, to dress a little more conservatively. The whole world does not need to see your cleavage. If you expose it for all the public to see, then of course your going to attract attention.
Apparently, some people really do think that a women should wear a burqa or face the consequences. Come ON! Do we really have to go through this shit again? Do we really have to insist that it is the woman's fault for how she dresses? If someone dresses in a way deemed too provocative they are outright asking to be harassed and should just accept it? Dear lawrd.

The message I am trying to get across? Don't be a jerk. Think of someone other than yourself for once, would you? Women are not yours to do what you please with. They are humans. Treat them as such. Don't treat them as your personal toy to play with on the street. Because they aren't. They aren't there for YOU, believe it or not. There is more to the world than just YOU. I know, I know, it's so hard to believe. But, yes, you aren't the only person on the planet and it doesn't all revolve around you. So, just let people be, okay? Is that really too much to ask? It's not like someone is saying "You aren't allowed to eat food!". They are merely saying "Please, don't harass me!" Seems like a pretty reasonable thing to ask, no? I should change how I started this paragraph. The message that many harassed women are trying to get across is that they don't want to be harassed. Listen to them. For fuck sakes, just listen to them!

Friday, September 19, 2014

ISIS and Islam. Is it? Or isn't it?

Is ISIS an Islamic group? Yes. Does it represent all of Islam? No. Hopefully just these few simple sentences help to clarify the middle ground here. We have one side saying ISIS is Islam defined and that all Muslims are terrorists. We have another side saying Islam is perfect, that ISIS are UN Islamic and have nothing to do with the religion of peace. Both sides are wrong.

What we see with ISIS is far from isolated or unique. We have seen Al Quida, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and many other groups following a similar path in a wide number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Clearly, Islamic extremism is not just a case of a few bad apples. There is something deeper here. And, sure enough, when we look at the Quran the basis for these groups is in there. Here is a link to an article that does a good job of rounding up the specific parts of the Quran that can be linked to the thinking and actions of those in the Islamic State. It is a right wing, anti Islam site, but at the same time, this is handy because it compiles the issues into one page quite nicely. Furthermore, the Quran does an excellent job of demonizing non-believers and almost dehumanizing them as being ignorant, on the wrong path, misguided, untrustworthy liars. So, that adds to the problem as well. 

So why are all Muslims not following the same path as ISIS? Because, Islam has a wide array of interpretations. There are 1.2 billion followers of Islam and 1.2 billion interpretations. What it comes down to is which parts of the Quran the follower decides to cherry pick and how some wish to interpret the messages of the book and the prophet. Fortunately, many want to live in peace and want religion to be good, fulfilling, spiritual and uplifting. This is wonderful and deserves to be celebrated.

Extremists are still using the same book but are using different parts that inspire and support their actions. It would be nice to say this was the minority. Technically, yes, it is. But the numbers are far from insignificant as we see by the number and size of these groups and the severity and wide spread nature of the havoc they have wreaked. Clearly, these folks aren't just pulling stuff out of their butts. When you have groups across the Muslim world with similar views and goals, obviously there is a connecting factor, and that is, simply, the religion. 

So, both arguments as presented above represent two false poles with the reality being in the middle. And while peaceful liberal Muslims should not pay the price for the actions of extreme conservative Muslims, no Muslim is doing anyone any favours with denying that ISIS and related groups have something to do with Islam. The same goes for those who condemn all Muslims as terrorists or as bad people. Muslims not associated with ISIS or Al Quida, or whatever other of the many groups there seem to be out there, don't deserve to be mistreated because of the actions or rhetoric of those with a more worrisome interpretation of Islam. 

The truth of groups like ISIS is in the religion itself. The religion deserves criticism where criticism is due and just screaming "Islamophobia" whenever the subject is approached is counter productive to say the least. Questioning or even disliking the religion is both okay and important. Hating Muslims just for being Muslims isn't okay and that needs challenging as well. A middle ground where solid, reasoned, open, honest discussion involving use of critical thinking skills is needed. Both complete demonization of the religion and rose coloured glasses approaches to the religion are not helping get to the root of the problem as it relates to the role the religion and it's holy books play.

So, let's stop the games and start being honest. Islam covers a wide spectrum of ideas and manifestations that need to be acknowledged by all parties. Then we can start focusing on the problems we are facing from groups like ISIS. Let's be honest about the Quran and what it has inside of it. Let's be honest about Muhammad. Let's be honest about ISIS's roots in Islam. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gord Steeves Tastes Own Foot

Oh Gord, Gord, Gord. Mr Steeves, you have completely blown it.

If you aren't aware of the situation, Gord Steeves, Mayoral Candidate for Winnipeg in the 2014 election has been hit by a bit of controversy caused by his wife's racist remarks on Facebook. No, okay, lets' revise that, let's say EXTREMELY racist remarks. I mean, really, very, very racist. I mean, come on, we are talking terribly racist.

Ouch. No, not just ouch. OUCH! Wow, that's.....mean! Now, as I listen to the Gord Steeves presser (which you can watch right here) happening now, all I can say is, boy oh boy, has Gord Steeves and his wife missed the boat. As he is saying, the comments on Mrs Steeves Facebook was said in a sort of "heat of the moment" sense, after a few incidents where she had been downtown and approached by people looking for money. Apparently she felt scared. Now, I can't take that away from her. I can see how at times it would be scary. I won't deny that. However, the way this post was worded doesn't seem to reflect fear as much as looking down on people, a pure, 100 percent racist rant, targeting a specific group, showing an extreme lack of understanding when it comes to issues facing Natives in Winnipeg. There isn't a sense of fear as much as a sense of disgust, of loathing, and definitely NO understanding of issues that might be leading people to a life on the streets, begging for money.

Now, to Gord Steeves campaign. Here is the issue. No, Mr. Steeves is not responsible for his wife's views. He didn't write them, she did. These are her views. He shouldn't necessarily be punished for them. However, Mr. Steeves policies for dealing with cleaning downtown up and getting rid of drunkeness, etc seems to directly reflect her views...without the racist rant. He wants to add more Police Cadets downtown to deal with these folks, not even seeming to be interested in looking at the roots of the problem. Just sweep out the unwanted people. This is worrying. I'm not saying that attention does not have to be paid to downtown, that there aren't issues that should be addressed. But when a major campaign promise seems to mirror the concerns his wife have (who made a vile, vile racist Facebook post about it), I can't help but feel suspicious. 

What we see here is just one example of an epidemic of racism in Winnipeg. Come on, face it, it's not like this is the first time any of us have heard similar rhetoric from other people. This is pretty common stuff. We all know and can't deny that. She isn't the first to say these things. Given this, here was Gord Steeves opportunity to maybe shine a bit, stand up against racism in Winnipeg and make a statement of solidarity with those that need a leader to help deal with the issue of racism. He blew it. He missed the boat. He defended himself and his wife and seemed to be oblivious or non commital to the idea that racism is a huge problem and that a Mayoral candidate might want to make statements to ensure that he understands the issue of racism and is willing to work with the community to fight it. He didn't. He didn't in the slightest. 

The way he handled the entire issue was just terrible, as far as I am concerned. The revelation of the Facebook comments his wife made happened 5 days ago. For some reason he chose today, Tuesday (August 12th), to address the issue. He set up a news conference, only telling news outlets where it would be an hour before the event. Media showed, he didn't, until several minutes past 1pm. Then, he began the press conference with some very dry and poorly presented information about zoning permits. It was rather bizarre I have to say. Clearly he wasn't looking forward to addressing the issue on everyone's mind and was stalling. Not overly professional and not overly smart. Finally, FINALLY, someone interrupted him and asked him to get to the matter at hand, which Mr. Steeves reluctantly did focusing almost solely on defending his wife and explaining the context (that doesn't really explain some of the worst statements she made about welfare, education and ass's) as opposed to acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is a serious issue.

After the press conference, which had an abrupt end when he had had enough, he walked out and left, not talking to anyone. He clearly does not want to deal with this issue. The problem is, there are many in the community who do, especially those directly affected by racism in Winnipeg. Instead of facing them and standing up for them, he dodged the issue and did everything he could to avoid it. This, ladies and gentlemen is NOT leadership material. 

Now, he loves his wife, which is lovely. I support him on that. I understand that. He wants to stick up for his wife. Fine. BUT, in the process he completely failed to realize the hurt that was caused by her statements and acknowledge the people affected by this type of racism. This was a chance to speak out, to reach out to those affected, to show at least a shred of understanding. Instead, it was just focused on how his wife was a victim and that led to her racist rant. He had a golden opportunity to address a serious issue that we face in this city....and he blew it. Instead, he seemed annoyed and fed up with even having to face any questions regarding the incident. 

We need a mayor who isn't afraid to look at the issue straight in the eye, understand what is happening downtown, why we have the "problems" we do and at least empathize with those his wife completely bashed in her comments. Yes, Lorrie made the comments, but in my view, Gord's lack of willingness to deal with the issue just made himself look bad. He blew an opportunity....squandered it. He showed lack of leadership. He showed lack of understanding. He showed lack of empathy. And he showed just how far away of finding a solution to one of the major issues we face in this city we truly are. Our leaders need to step up and face this problem. Gord Steeves showed he has no interest in doing that. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dead Baby Photos and the Israel/Palestine Conflict

Surprise! Israel and Palestine are at it again, swapping bombs, slaughtering teens, blowing shit up and generally just hating on eachother. And, as always, social media is booming with all the back and forth, tit for tat discussion that has been going on for, well, ever. As long as this conflict has been going on, it's the same back and forth arguments with no end. "Israel is worse than Nazi Germany!". "Palestinians are terrorists!", etc, etc, etc. It gets rather tiresome. It's the same old thing over and over and over. And then, both sides wonder "Why are we not getting the attention we deserve!!!!???". Well, maybe it's because you've been at this for 60 fucking years and it's always the same old garbage and you guys haven't been able to sort it out, and we're all a bit tired of hearing about it because there is not much we can do. It is, quite frankly, easy to tune out this conflict because, quite frankly, the story is getting old and tired. But, of course, it is still an important story because people are dying...mostly Palestinians, but that isn't to say that Israel hasn't faced it's fair share of death. I am not even going to bother arguing for or against anything here. Enough people have researched the issue to death (usually to suit their own predetermined bias) that there will always be someone who will come along, on both/either side that will say, "That's wrong, and you are an idiot!" Well, in some ways, yes, I am, and I have no clue what is true or false anymore. Not all that is said to be false is false, and not all that is said to be true is true.

BUT, BUT, BUT, here is what is making me quite angry at the moment with how social media, particularly the anti-Israel camp (thought the pro-Israel camp does this too) is conducting itself. If I see one more picture of a slaughtered baby with absolutely no source cited, I'm going to scream. Just throwing up a picture of a dead baby that could be a dead child from anywhere there is conflict and declaring that it is the work of Israel is just....wrong. Have children been dying in the conflict over the years? Yes, sadly, and tragically, children on both sides have been a victim. But, really, does tossing up a picture of a dead baby from three years ago, that no one knows where it was taken, really helping anything other than further inflaming an already toxic issue? Constantly, constantly, dead baby pictures, with an angry message that says, "Look what Isra-hell is doing! Wake UP!" or something. Again, I'm not trying to downplay the pain and suffering being felt in that area, but, come on, let's be level headed and rational about this. Find out before you post it what the picture is actually of. I keep seeing pictures of things being blown up that are attributed to today....that happened 3 yrs ago! Why? If you are going to lie about that through pictures, what else are you going to lie about?? Not everything you find on the internet is true folks. You aren't helping your side with these pics. You aren't helping to do anything but make the situation, dare I say....worse!

And, now, it's back to your regularly scheduled tit for tat war. Enjoy! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Calgary Doctor Refuses to be a Doctor

So, lemme get this straight. Today in the Calgary Herald, there was an article about a doctor, Chantal Barry at a walk in clinic (Westglen Medical Center) who refuses to give prescriptions for birth control based on her "beliefs" and "morals" whatever they happen to be. Apparently, these beliefs and morals don't include the idea that the law of Canada allows people to have these things to, you know, prevent people who don't wish to get pregnant from getting pregnant. Of course, not having birth control will prevent people from having sex and everything will be fine. Oh, right, it won't, because then people will have sex, have unwanted pregnancies and then some of those people will wish abortions, which I am sure she is even more against. So, basically, I'm thinking, she is going with an abstinence angle here, despite the fact that we are humans and humans have sex because, it's a human thing to do....much like all animals. Maybe she also doesn't believe we are animals? Who knows. Regardless, she has her "morals" and "beliefs" preventing potential patients from getting perfectly legal birth control pills from her. Seems to me that refusal of medical services should not be allowed in Canada, or, anywhere for that matter, if the service is perfectly legal!!

However, despite the law allowing for people to have birth control, apparently, the law also allows physicians to refuse treatment to people based on their RELIGIOUS beliefs. Wait....WHAT?? Now, the law apparently also says there has to be timely alternatives made or given, specifically making sure someone else can attend to the patients LAWFUL needs in a timely fashion. That's easier said than done in Canada where, although we have a great health care system that I fully support, we have a definite doctor shortage, and thousands upon thousands of people don't have family doctors and rely on walk in clinics. Choice is limited. So a doctor picking and choosing what they will or will not prescribe based on religious beliefs puts many people in a tough spot.

How far can this spread? Is it possible that one day I could end up in an emergency room somewhere needing a blood transfusion and the only doctor on at that time is against blood transfusions because of his religious beliefs? If so, what happens to me? My life is in the hands of someone whose religious beliefs dictates the type of care he will give me, as opposed to the fact there is nothing illegal about this care being done and should be done, like, quick, before I bleed to death? I'm sure this will never happen, but clearly if the law states that people can refuse certain tasks based on their religious beliefs, it technically could happen. No? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe someone more in the know could explain to me how I am wrong. Maybe?

Here, yet again, we have religious beliefs interfering with the rights and needs of others. Just like opposition to LGBT rights, or other forms of reproductive care, to beliefs where women and men should not work side by side, to whatever other holy rolling beliefs people hold. Here, we have a woman who has decided that because of her beliefs, others must live by her beliefs and screw what is best for patience or what is lawful in Canada. And in doing so, she is putting people in a compromising position, especially if she is one of the few access points to health care some people might have. To me, THIS is immoral.

How on EARTH can this be allowed to happen. If Chantal Barry has an issue with birth control then it is her problem. She doesn't have to use it. But, why should people she treats also have to live by these beliefs?? And how can Canadian laws allow this to happen? If the pill is legal, than it seems to me that no doctor has the right to deny a patient the pill unless their is a concerning health reason that should prevent someone from using it. It's time to start giving religion a free pass here. It's time to stop allowing discrimination based on religious beliefs. We still have a culture of religious exceptionalism where as long as someone has a belief related to some religion, they get to practice that belief over the rights of other human beings. How can this be? Apparently it is. But it's time to stop it, immediately so we NEVER see signs like this again at any health facility in Canada ever, ever, ever again.