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Whither the NDP, Part II — Rana Zaman wins the NS Human Rights Award

How can it be that an officially nominated federal candidate gets dragged through the mud; is accused of writing anti-semitic tweets; is then turfed from being a candidate for the NDP – then wins the most prestigious Human Rights Award in Nova Scotia?

Don’t ask me – ask the NS Human Rights Commission and Partners for Human Rights.  They made the decision that today saw Rana Zaman awarded the Individual Award for Human Rights at a touching ceremony with hundreds of guests at the O’Regan Hall in Halifax Central Library.zaman-1

With Sandy Greenberg (left), me, and Larry Haiven

The program brochure described Rana as a  “Muslim immigrant from Pakistan… an award-winning social activist who volunteers on several boards and works at the grass-roots level with marginalized communities.  She collaborates with individuals, families and communities to address issues such as systemic poverty, sexism, racism, bullying and other human rights issues.”

Does anything in those lines signal that the NDP was right to strip her of the nomination for the federal seat in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour?

Perhaps the NDP disagreed with other points in today’s glossy brochure noted as the reasons for giving Zaman the award.

“Rana is driven with the desire to see unity and solidarity amongst all communities during a time when divisiveness and negative rhetoric is on the rise.  She is devoted to building bridges through compassion, understanding, and patience.  She puts herself out there to be the connector for anyone in need.”

At today’s ceremony, there were several other award winners including Trayvone Clayton, who received the Dr Burnley Allan “Rocky” Jones Award.  Clayton’s contributions focus on his community organizing work in Uniacke Square, his work to ban street checks and his desire “to uproot anti-Black bias in policing.”zaman-3

The African Nova Scotian Decade for Persons of African Descent Coalition (ANS DEPAD) received a Human Rights Group Award.   The coalition’s mission “is to build strength and health across ANS communities and forge a renewed collaborative positive working relationship with governments, ANS organizations, and our community that will create conditions for all people of African ancestry in NS to thrive.”

Rana Zaman was not only given an award but it is clear that the impact of her community work and dedication was of a very high quality.

To say the least, this should be embarrassing for the NDP.  In late June, two months after winning the federal NDP candidate for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Zaman received a phone call from Melissa Bruno, then the National Director of the NDP.   The problem was that year-old tweets by Zaman sharply condemning Israel’s wholesale shooting of unarmed Gazans gathered at the separation wall had been “discovered”.  Bruno told Zaman the tweets were “unacceptable” and “anti-semitic” and Zaman could either rescind her nomination, or she would be removed by the NDP within a few short hours.

Zaman apologized to the Jewish community and others for hurtful comments: “My emotions at the sight of so many innocent Palestinians being shot, maimed or killed during the March of Return overwhelmed me. I have learned an important lesson, the need to be mindful…” Still the NDP removed her.zaman-2Christine Hanson, Director and CEO of NS Human Rights Commission (left), & Rana Zaman

Since that day not one leader or leading member of the NDP has contacted her, or apologized for what the Party did to her.

Clearly Zaman remains driven by doing good, and by her deep understanding of human rights and dignity for all.

In November, Zaman won The Coast magazine’s Silver Prize for being the Best Activist in Halifax, second only to super-activist El Jones.  Today’s award – though well-deserved — must be bittersweet for Zaman.  Rana Zaman is a woman of colour who worked hard to win the NDP nomination, and clearly had so much to give – yet the NDP refused to give her a chance.  And has yet to say sorry.

For a sympathetic and informative examination of Zaman’s tweets see Stephen Kimber’s column here:  http://stephenkimber.com/can-we-talk-about-israel-and-the-palestinians-no/

 

Canadian Refugee Adjudicator asks woman claimant why her husband just didn’t kill her

 

Decision-Maker (Member) at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Refugee Protection Division
Calgary (Alberta), Vancouver (British Columbia), Ottawa (Ontario), Toronto (Ontario), Montréal Island (Québec)
PM-06
$94,121 to $107,619

For further information on the organization, please visit Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Closing date: 11 April 2019 – 23:59, Pacific Time

Who can apply: Persons residing in Canada and Canadian citizens residing abroad.

 

Ontario lawyer Yonatan Rozenszajn snagged one of the well-paid jobs (featured in the posting above) as a chairperson for Canada’s refugee claimants’ hearings, under the aegis of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

In April 2019, Rozenszajn heard the case of a Nigerian woman, Halima Alari*, who fled her ex-husband to come to Canada.   She stated he had beaten her severely on many occasions especially when she was pregnant with a girl-child, as he wanted a boy.  He pursued her to another city where she had moved to escape him. After hearing her evidence, Rozenszajn asked  “Why does he keep on harassing you? If he really wants you to be gone, why doesn’t he just kill you?”

Shocked, Alari had no comeback.  Later she told Global News  “The judge made me feel as if I’m …. dead…. Like I’m not existing… like I’m a piece of trash.”

Alari felt demeaned because Rozenszajn treated her with contempt; the racist and misogynist treatment he meted out was totally unacceptable.  Especially so in light of the written guidelines for adjudication which include gender-related claims of fear of persecution, and the special problems women face when “they have had experiences that are difficult and … humiliating to speak about.”

Ultimately Rozenszajn did not believe Alari; he rejected her claim. Alari is appealing his decision.

 

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Candidate Yonatan Rozenszajn (left), 2015

Global News reported that in the last three years, adjudicators at the IRB Toronto office rejected 63% of the vulnerable person applications they received.  The Montreal office rejected 22% and the Vancouver office only rejected 6% of these cases. This begs the question about unequal treatment by IRB judges.  Overall, acceptance rates for individual judges ranged from 95% to 10%.  In my former life as a university professor, when I was department chair, I was told I had to monitor the range of professors’ grades. Too broad a range of grades called the whole process into question.

Rozenszajn’s insulting and demeaning conduct did not sit well with Hilary Evans Cameron, a law professor at the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto.  She explained  it is crucial that refugee claimants must be “presumed to be telling the truth” until proved otherwise.  Rozenszajn’s comments suggest he did not even start Alari’s  hearing with that presumption. Farrah Khan, a sexual violence support worker, insisted the refugee board “isn’t doing its best to protect its most vulnerable claimants”.

Who exactly is the white and entitled Yonatan Rozenszajn?  A lawyer from the Hamilton area, Rozenszajn was born in Israel.  In the 2015 federal election he ran for the Conservatives in the riding of Hamilton Centre, where he placed a distant third.  The NDP won the riding and the Liberals placed second.  During the election Jason Kenney, former Prime Minister Harper’s former Minister of Defence, stumped for Rozenszajn at an all-candidates meeting in Hamilton.  At the meeting he seemed to echo Kenney’s hard line that continuing to bomb Syria was the only way to defeat “terrorism”.   Of the NDP and the Liberals, Rozenszajn said, “They do not understand how to deal with these threats adequately.. [the other parties would put Canada at risk on the altar of ideology.”roz-2

Photos of Jason Kenney shaking hands at all Candidate’s meeting in Hamilton, Ont., 2015

After running unsuccessfully for the Tories, Rozenszajn was appointed to adjudicate IRB hearings. roz-4

Appointments to adjudicator jobs at the IRB are often political.  Another appointee, Lubomyr Luciuk, was re-appointed in 2018, after serving a two-year term in the late 1990s.  Luciuk could be called a cold warrior.  An avowed right-winger, he wrote in a 2015 article that his Ukrainian parents spent years in a “DP camp” after World War II  before being allowed to emigrate to Canada.   He recommended prospective immigrants spend years in a holding camp before getting the ‘privilege’ to come to Canada.  He also supported the idea that immigrants should be allowed to settle only where the Canadian government directed them to live, until they paid back their passage to Canada.  Luciuk believed that’s what “all real refugees want.”  Of course that is absurd.  The immigration template used in 1948 would be wholly racist if used now, 70 years later.   In the wake of WWII, nearly all immigrants were white and Christian (with a smattering of Jews).  Refugees were all European.  Canada eschewed all Japanese migrants, though they had suffered terrible misery after the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

lubo1In 2001, Luciuk wrote an op-ed article that appeared in four Canadian newspapers “How ‘Refugees’ and Terrorists Get into Canada.”  In part he wrote:

“Be a liar. That is the first lesson most claimants who come before the Immigration and Refugee Board learn. How? Well, first of all, bring no identity documents, or use fake ones. Be vague about who you are, where you came from …  repeatedly [insist] that you face nothing less than torture or even martyrdom if you return. Repeat this mantra. Practice looking downcast. Cry. Unless you are an utter imbecile you stand an excellent chance of getting … refugee status in Canada.”

A professor of political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada, Luciuk prided himself on being called “Dr No,” because he rejected 90% of refugee claims he  heard between 1996-98.  He boasted he “rarely encountered a real refugee.”

A spokesperson for the IRB said the Board had never seen the 2001 article, and that “the IRB does not support the content or tone of that article.” After a review by the IRB, Luciuk’s contract was not renewed for 2019.

Still, problems abound over the comments by Yonatan Rozenszajn.  Claimant Alari called Rozenszajn’s questions an “egregious violation” of the IRB’s guidelines for cases that involve sexual assault and domestic abuse.  The IRB has guidelines here.  Recently, the IRB admitted that Rozenszajn’s comments could be “construed as insensitive” and suggested he needed extra training. The IRB is now reviewing Rozenszajn’s decision.

So who gets these high-ticket appointments? Turns out that in 2011, half-way through the Harper era, 90% of appointees were Tories. Most claimants were denied by 30 Tory-appointed board members. And one Tory appointee, David McBean did not approve a single refugee claim in the 169 cases he heard.

But McBean must have done a good job according to Jason Kenney, then Harper’s Minister of Immigration.  McBean got a second five-year term.

I’m not suggesting that Kenney, or any Immigration minister is a puppet master who pulls strings and gets the immigration judges to do the party’s bidding.  They don’t have to.  The judges or chairpersons have a particular mindset and a general loyalty to the politics of the government who appointed them.

Currently there are 38 vacancies for chairpersons.  If everything goes according to plan, Trudeau’s new Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is obliged to fill the vacancies.  Will political partisanship be the winner?

 

* Halima Alari is a pseudonym.

 

 

 

Women as Targets for Men’s Rage

Maybe what comes out of the Montreal Massacre – 30 years later is this: women are targets for men’s rage.

No matter what women do, or women say – women who stand up to men, or say no to men or confront men (whether actually, or potentially or symbolically) become targets.  Of course shooting women, or killing them with knives or cross-bows is extreme.  Still it happens.

Back to 25 year old Marc Lépine in Montreal on that snowy Dec. 6  thirty years ago.  Before he opened fire, Lépine shouted: “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!” One student who survived, Nathalie Provost, protested: “I’m not feminist, I have never fought against men.” Lépine shot her anyway.

montrealHalifax commemoration of Montreal Massacre 6 Dec. 2019: at the tree to the 14 women victims, at the Engineering Building at Dalhousie University. 

What this shows is that women – even if they don’t openly challenge men — are seen as the enemy by misogynists, and “incells” and many other men.

They say women have come a long way. What the last three decades of “progress” have delivered are that even today between 2 and 3 Canadian women are killed by their intimate male partners every week of the year.

In divorce, women suffer declines in their household incomes, their standard of living and often lose their housing— in comparison to their ex-husbands.

Women are still a long way from easily obtaining abortions in two out of three Maritime provinces.  Health Canada, in its 2016-17 Annual Report, wrote that New Brunswick’s lack of coverage for abortions “remains a concern.”   PEI refused to provide abortions at all  until 2016, when the government allowed a clinic to open.  In PEI, medical abortions are restricted to the first 9 weeks; surgical abortions are allowed only until 12 weeks and days.

In the last 20 years, the wage gap between men and women has shrunk by only 5.5%.  On average, men earned 18.8% more than women in 1998, and only 13.3% more in 2018.  It still means women make 87 cents for every $1 that men do. Women have barely made a dent in the struggle for equal pay for work of equal value (also known as pay equity).  Pay equity has all but fallen off the negotiating table when trade unions bargain and legislated pay equity is in retreat. The federal Liberals promised childcare in their budget as far back as 1993, and 26 years later too many women cannot work, or attend school, because there is a paucity of affordable childcare right across the country (except for Quebec).

While women suffer from out and out discrimination, in terms of earnings, jobs and opportunities, men continue to act as their gatekeepers and their bosses, both at home and at work.

The fact is that even speaking openly about rebelling against men, against husbands, against fathers, against bosses – can be dangerous.  Maybe not a capital offence, but an offence nonetheless—with often violent repercussions.

Thirty years ago, the media – taking its cue from the police — ignored the message in Lépine’s suicide letter.  The media in English and French Canada insisted Lépine was a crazy man—that the fact that the14 murder victims  were women  meant little.   Francine Pelletier, was and is still a leading Quebec journalist who was herself a target of Lépine when police found his  “annex” –his list of feminists he had planned to kill –had he had more time.  Thirty years ago, Pelletier  agreed that Lépine’s actions were  highly political and that he knew exactly what he was doing that Dec. 6.

“I always felt those women died in my name. Some of them probably weren’t even feminist,” Pelletier said, “they just had the nerve to believe they were peers, not subordinates of their male classmates.”

What to Read, What to Watch….

Vivian Gornick is a New York based writer. She first came to my attention 30 plus years ago when her book The Romance of American Communism was published.  It is her best and most inspired book — all about the “fellow travellers” Communists of the 1940s and ’50s. Her book about her relationship with her mother and the past is also worth reading.  Fierce Attachments.  Her newest book, The Odd Woman and the City:  a memoir is excellent, but not as political or incisive as the American Communism book.  In the Odd Woman, Gornick walks the streets of New York, anywhere and everywhere, and eavesdrops on conversations, witnesses violence of cops, sees all the goings on in NYC — and describes them.  She also tells about relationships she’s built with writers and artists, and those are very lively and interesting. All the books are at the Hfx library.

Ever heard of the Bechdel Testfor films? Many of you have.  The Bechdel Test measures how seriously women are treated in primarily US films.  The test requires the film has to have at least 2 named women in it– who talk to each other about something other than a man.  Well I just saw The Irishman on Netflix.   Though parts of the film are pretty good, overall it fails the Bechdel Test and more.  This Scorsese film is the story of Jimmy Hoffa, warts and all.  And the disputed story of his disappearance (murder) in the 70s.  Not that his disappearance is contested, but no one is talking about how and where he died.  The acting is pretty good, but like most American films, the actors are encouraged to over-act sometimes.  The story about the union and its goodwill  is weak and not very exciting (compared to the reality of some unions) and the role of women is absurdly portrayed.  If you’re not too tired, it can keep your attention — just barely.  And did I talk about gratuitous violence? Well it’s very evident.   irish

The Christmas tapes…shoppers’ fate and corporate fortune

 

On Nov. 11 it wasn’t there, but on Nov. 12 it was.

On Nov. 11 there was “Abide by Me”, on Nov. 12 it was “Frosty the Snowman.”

I’m talking about the not-so-small matter of Christmas Carols.  In case you haven’t noticed, they start Nov. 12 in almost all retail stores in the province.

The store manager at one Lawtons in Halifax, shook his head when I asked why they started the carols more than six weeks before Christmas.  He told me, “The staff here don’t like it either. But head office sends us a Christmas cd and we got to play it.”

But look around.  Eight days ago, in my local Lawtons I pointed out three Chinese students; several racialised people and a bunch of white people shopping.  The manager sighed and told me if the shoppers don’t like it, the staff hates it.  “Drives us crazy,” he admitted. He tore off a corner of a box which held a gross of SmartiesTM and wrote down the phone number for head office’s customer services.  Handing it to me, he muttered, “Good Luck”.frosty2

Well, on the up side, head office did not give me the run-around.  On the down side,  Laurence Fromm, District Operator for 14 Lawtons stores in Nova Scotia, told me there would be no changes to playing six weeks of Christmas music.  “I grew up in the retail environment,” he told me.  “I’m used to it. Christmas is our biggest season in retail.  We’ve played the music at this time for quite a few years.”

Besides, “it’s not all religious music—the religious aspect is not strong,” Fromm said emphatically.  When I challenged him, he insisted there were seasonal favourites “that have nothing to do with the Christian religion.”

Still he chuckled when I asked him if it was true that no one ever played Frosty the Snowman on January 15th.  “No that’s true,” he admitted.   He agreed that Frosty was part of the Christmas music package—even though it was more “generic”.

When I complained that staff and shoppers had to hear the same 20 or 30 Christmas songs on a loop for days on end, he replied that Lawtons always had music so staff and shoppers are used to hearing it “over and over on a loop.”lawtons

“It bothers some, but not everyone,” Fromm insisted. “Sales mean a lot. I take your point about multiculturalism.”  But of course it’s all about increasing sales and the business of Christmas.

 

CN Strikers should not be ordered back to work!

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – 3,200 CN workers are on strike across Canada, and there will be no back to work legislation by the Trudeau government until December 5 when Parliament is recalled and the government tries to break the strike.

That’s a lot of time for the union Teamsters Canada Rail Conference to take advantage and educate the public about why the Teamster conductors and yard workers are on strike.CN-1

This is the first rail strike in 12 years. Teamster picketers were quick to tell me they receive no strike pay – one worker with more than 30 years on the job says he never got strike pay –even in the old days. Then why, I ask, do you pay dues to the union, if you get no help when you are on strike? There was no immediate answer to that, except perhaps members’ loyalty.

On a side note, In 2007 workers voted to switch to the Teamsters after their former union, the United Transportation Union (UTU), refused to endorse the Canadians’ strike in February 2007. The US-based UTU not only did not support the CN workers’ strike, but also fired four senior Canadian UTU officials for “engaging in an unauthorized strike” and for trying to affiliate to the Teamsters (also a US-based union).

Passenger trains, and VIA Rail are not affected by the strike, but freight is. The people on strike here are mainly conductors who do paperwork and other jobs aboard trains, often on the Halifax-Moncton route.  They also build trains and shunt the cars back and forth.  cn2

Picketers Off Africville Rd — north end Halifax

Though CN management has offered binding arbitration to try to resolve the strike, CN insists on offering a lifetime limit on prescription drugs.  As one striker said, “A family might get $60,000 as a lifetime limit for drugs, but what if a child is sick or someone has diabetes? We’re young people with families and the money could run out.”

Another striker agreed, “ The company is sending out propaganda to our members – basically settle or else.  Basically management wants things to stay the same.”

Health and safety is also a major issue, as conductors are entitled to only 10 hours off between shifts.  As one picketer put it, “I got off at noon from my night shift and then had to come in to work midnight to 8 in the morning.  There is lack of rest between shifts.”

The Trudeau government is making sounds about legislating the CN workers back to work. Back in the day, under the former Harper government, federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn claimed the economy was suffering widespread damage as a result of the February 2007 strike.

Today we are hearing propane fuel is running out, and that workers in Dartmouth’s Autoport could be laid off if the strike continues.

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Selfie with Strikers

However, today’s brand-new minority Liberal government may face some serious opposition to ordering workers back to work.

Let’s hope the Bloc, the NDP and the Greens stand against legislating to end the strike.  What good is the right to strike and to bargain collectively if, by the stroke of a pen, those rights can be taken away?

Just to show the travails your intrepid reporter goes to to bring you the story of the CN strike,  as a bus user, I had to walk thru shrubs and bushes for 20 min. from the bus stop just to get to the picket line– which speaks volumes about the car culture in Halifax.  
There are no sidewalks, no paths, and no buses near Africville Rd where the picketers stood.  When I arrived, one picketer asked me if I knew my hand was bleeding badly. Going thru the thorny bushes  reminded me of this verse from the song the The Battle of New Orleans:  
“… they ran through the briers and they ran through the brambles

And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go, They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em…” 

 

 

Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, an organization that fights discrimination, bullying and racism in the workplace.  Contact her at equitywatchns@gmail.com

What to Read; What to Watch….

If you download the New Yorker podcasts, The Writers Voice,  or Fiction, you’ve heard short fiction by Lorrie Moore.  She’s an excellent novelist, it turns out.  Her 2009 book, A Gate at the Stairs, is a masterpiece about sex, race, social class, middle America and a bit of a thriller thrown in.  The book is about a bored second-year university student in a liberal arts college in the US mid-west.  She needs money and agrees to  babysit for a couple who is about to adopt a baby.  The book is deep, and  humorous. gate

I may be a sucker for Ottawa in the fall, but yesterday’s televised walk thru the bare trees  on the grounds that surround Rideau Hall made me feel almost weepy.  Dozens of would-be cabinet ministers, their husbands, wives, and children – sometimes even their parents — walked the lovely pathways to Rideau Hall  for the swearing-in ceremony.  There was snow on the ground, but the paths were brushed clean which meant the women teetered on high heels and the men wore tasseled brogues.  To be sure,  it was all stage-managed by the Liberal machine — but it was beautiful.  And quiet and non-urgent.  Truly a spectator sport.  I have occasionally  watched   the swearing-in of cabinet in the UK — and generally the soon to be cabinet ministers escape from a dingy taxi in front of 10 Downing St. and launch themselves over the 10 feet of pavement to the front doors of #10.

 

Monitors at the gym, showing Newsnet, mid-afternoon, Wednesday

But  watching Newsnet’s live coverage from a bench in the gym, I was struck by how lovely and glowing they all looked:  there was ageing and truly loyal Carolyn Bennett walking with her husband through the woods  — she wore a lovely swishing red coat.  There was Chrystia Freeland in a black wool coat and boots, holding hands with her 10 year old blonde son who wore a red Roots “Canada” sweatshirt  and red mittens.  There was Marc Garneau and his family.  There was Pablo Rodriguez, his wife and I’d guess 16 year old daughter… The promenade went on for an hour at least. There was an edict (I’m sure) not to wear tory-blue, or ndp-orange– or any shade of green! And all invitees complied and donned  greys, blacks, and reds…

And we all remember the scene the day 4 years ago when Trudeau en famille took the same pathways in October’s bright light .  However  they almost skipped to Rideau Hall with the backdrop of dazzling fall leaves, and blue sky and security men…

Of course I’m not a Liberal but this was the best show in town that day.

What to watch? The Human Resources Manager is an Israeli film that is bittersweet.  The HR manager at a bakery is tasked with returning a dead employee back to her family in Romania.  It’s clever, humanquick moving and oddly — believable.  Shows a lot of scenery about Romania in winter, and the relationships of all the characters are starkly but realistically drawn.

Just watched auteilIn the Name of My Daughter, it has subtitles.  It’s a wonderful mystery and a true story about a man whose 14 yr old daughter dies while on vacation with the man’s ex-wife and her new husband.  It took from 1974 to 2012 for the scales of justice to tip in the aggrieved father’s favour —  The acting is excellent, and you won’t want to miss a minute of it.

Unless you like a lot of kissing (and I mean just kissing) and pretty ladies, and dull scheming men, don’t watch frenchThe French Minister. The first half hour is great, maybe the first 45 minutes but after that you can make dinner or listen to a podcast instead!

All three dvd I borrowed from Halifax Public Library.