Friday, July 9, 2010


Anyone else out there ever had an illicit relationship, or perhaps just been accused of one? Think you should have died for it?

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman, was convicted of having "illicit relations" and has been sentenced to death by stoning. She has already been punished with whip lashes, which may have something to do with a "confession".

An international ruckus has been raised. Today in the Globe I read about how Sakineh's story galvanized Heather Reisman to do something about it. Reisman has posted an online petition, one that I hope you will sign. I have. While reports are that Sakineh's been reprieved from stoning, it this doesn't mean they won't hang her.

The Guardian in England reported on her story last week, and had an update yesterday. Sakineh is not the only person facing this brutal death.

While it seems barbaric to me sitting in my vantage point in Canada, I know from reading history that it's not that long ago that women were considered property here as well. Owning your own property after marriage, having your own bank account, voting, being a person, having the police come if your husband beat you; these are all relatively recent things.

There is much more acceptance here, now, that women are people too. But if you read newspapers or watch the news you hear about so-called honour killings often. To put it very mildly, it does a serious dishonour to women, to call their murders a way to save family honour. Shame is a powerful emotion, but it is only possible to think that someone else's behaviour shames you, if you think you own them. And considering how many women are in serious danger when they dare to leave a bad relationship, you have to admit we've all got a long way to go.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

our home and tarnished land

Canada is 143 today. Very young in the life of a country. Out here on the West Coast, we're younger still, not having joined the party till later, making us part of the Canadian scene for only 139 years. But we're part now, with red maple leaf flags flying everywhere.

This is a free country, or so we've been led to think. I'm not so sure. Such a nice place, too, where we expect courtesy in our civic affairs. And it generally is a very nice country to live in, not usually any surprises.

Occasionally though, things kind of fall apart, as they did recently in Toronto, where our federal government hosted the G20, and the police responded with great glee in bringing down the heavy hand of the state. It's an interesting choice governments sometimes make, to metaphorically wave red flags in front of the bulls. They did it some years back out here for an APEC gathering at UBC, stretching a chain link fence across the university campus. I was working on campus at the time, and remember being grossly offended by the fence, and I'm as mild-mannered as they come. It's wasn't very surprising that the campus rumbled with unhappiness that day, and we now have an often-broadcast news clip to commemorate the pepper-spraying of protesters.

I do remember though, that a section of Chancellor Blvd was repaved to make sure the poobahs were secure from bumps on their ride out to lunch at UBC, so something good came of it all.

The feds upped the ante this year by setting the G20 in the middle of downtown Toronto, our biggest city, pulling out the chain link for another thumb-nose at the general population, virtually asking for the goons that like to show up in black and smash windows. Everyone expected it, and the expected became reality. And no surprise the huge buildup of police resulted in a huge number of arrests. No terrorist threat to any of the world 'leaders' but plenty of threat to the security of citizens of our fair country.

So the billion dollar bill (money we don't have, as we're already running a deficit) for 'security' to host a conference concerned with cutting deficits (bitter irony there) served to reduce security for the average person who happened near the fence, whether they worked there, shopped there, or objected to the fence there. When you hear governments talk about security, they are not talking about yours.

It was an egregious example of the heavy-handedness that comes with power, and so stupidly unnecessary too. I mean, I've flown over this country. There are lots of unpopulated places to hold these conferences. Or, and it's not a new idea, they could hold them at the UN, where they're set up already with the security.

Happy Birthday Canada.