Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pro-Choice M312, M408 the second kick at the Can

The fight over Motion 312 is over and the count was 203-91 against. The 87 of the 91 votes for the motion were conservatives, including 8 cabinet ministers. Elizabeth May of the Green Party, all the members of the NDP and all but four Liberals voted against the M312. Of note was Rona Ambrose Status of Women Minister, who voted for the Motion. She has come under fire for siding with Pro Life MP Stephen Woodworth. I think it is a fair criticism. The purpose of the Ministry for the Status of Women is the advancement of women. It is reasonable to say that supporting a motion that is a thinly veiled attempt to open a path to abortion regulation and eventual criminalization, runs counter to the Minister's portfolio. Ms Ambrose's  vote may be excused somewhat if she was voting her constituents wishes. But if she was voting her conscience, she should have resigned position as Minister before the vote. How can Ms Ambrose properly represent women if she is conflicted.

Fast on the heals of the defeated M312 came M408.

M-408 — September 26, 2012 — Mr. Warawa (Langley) — That the House condemn discrimination against females occuring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

This is a vote to condemn the selective abortion of females fetuses. How can that be a bad thing. How can anyone support aborting fetuses because they are female. So what we Recognized is a condition in which abortion is not acceptable. In comes Pro Life. They might say "if you agree that it's acceptable to limit a woman's choice in this instance, then how about...". That is the whole problem with the issue of Abortion. Pro Life wishes to end legal abortion, outright or a little at a time. Motion 312 was an attempt to create person hood for a fetus and a conflict of rights between the Mother and the fetus. Such a conflict would have to be addressed by the Courts, Legislation or both. The outcome would likely be an end to Legal abortion, or it's severe curtailment. The aim of Pro Choice is to preserve a Women's Reproductive Rights, and that must included abortion though it does not demand it. What a woman, unsure of whether she wants to be a mother, needs is support, information and compassion. What doesn't help is to be coerced, either to have an abortion or to keep the child. 

So the motion condemning sex selection is a trap of sorts. An attempt to suggest Pro Choice, Feminists or what have you are hypocrites. How the question is spat out "can you say you support women, only to allow their extinction in the womb". The Pro Life arguments will be rife with exaggeration, free of context and accusation. They will also be completely wrong. Wrong because Pro Life doesn't get what Feminists and Choice supporters are trying to do. 

I support Choice because a women must be secure in her body as men are in theirs. Part of that security is to be free of coercion. I'm not Pro Abortion, I'm Pro Choice. I accept that abortion is just one of the choices available. That brings us around to sex selective abortions. The CBC investigated fetal gender testingAlready pundits have staked out their positions decrying it's arrival in Canada. Many begin by quoting the down right awful incidence of selective female abortions in other countries. It is reasonable to believe it is happening here. The tools are available as are people who might desire to use them. The question is how many are doing it. From the Globe and Mail and article on sex selection in Ontario. Selected from the article is this point.

"During the study period, about 4,100 babies were delivered to Indian-born mothers who already had two or more children. Using the “normal” ratio of 1.05 males to female births, the number of baby girls expected to be born in that group would be 1,999; the actual number was 1754.
The calculations show the total number of “missing” girls is 245, which equals about 35 births per year, or less than one per cent of the total births to Indian-born women."
Sex selective abortion if occurring at all, has yet to reach a point where it presents a real problem. This indicates that in Canada those pressures that lead to sex selective abortions are being mitigated. This is where the Pro life chatter fails as usual. Sex selective abortion results from social or cultural pressure or more intimately from the family's desire for a male child. It is coercion. The problem with sex selective abortion is not the abortion, that is the end result; instead it is the desire for a male child due to the implied superior value of a boy, that drives it. If you want to stop sex selective abortions you need to address why women are so devalued? Why a family doesn't want a girl? The Pro Choice position is about ending coercion of any kind. It is about listening to the woman, understanding what she needs and providing it with compassion but without judgement.
It is not a surprising revelation that sex selective abortions seem quite rare in Ontario, if they occur at all. It says that in Ontario and in Canada, quite loudly; where women have equality and opportunity; where women have value outside the womb,they will have value in the womb as well.  
Motion 408 is another Pro Life attempt to strip women of choice. The argument that it protects women is shallow at best, at worst it's the hypocritical one. How do you protect and value women by reducing their status and rights whenever pregnant. I still have no problem supporting women or their reproductive choices. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

There is no Debate, M312

Yesterday I was writing a piece on my twitter interactions with Pro-Lifers, about M-312.(scroll down) I was writing about  the debate, what arguments they made and my counters. I was trying to make the point that their arguments were invalid, filled with grand sweeping narratives, exaggeration,and repetition. I ended up abandoning the story because I didn't like the way it was going. I slept on it. This morning I know why the post didn't feel right.

Each time I answered a pro-life question or posed my own, I was legitimizing the discussion. That is the mistake I made.There is no legitimate debate, being secure in your own body and having the right to decide what is done to it, is not negotiable. Debate maybe enjoined on how best this right maybe exercised or expressed. Not whether it is or is not be enjoyed.

Is this a bad decision? I don't think so, because I'm leaving the field to the opposition, rather I'm denying them one more stage to produce their theatre. We don't seriously debate the health benefits of smoking, the efficacy of taking Mercury pills, or whether seat belts save lives. Over time these issues have moved to the margins, as have their proponents, or completely fallen away.

So I will consign M-312 and Abortion Rights to the same dust bin that houses Marriage Equality and The Right to Die. These issues share many similarities to the M-312. They were also proscriptions against acting, drawing legitimacy from Religious doctrine, passions and belief. They press(ed) the State for legislation to prevent others from exercising choice. Choices that affect only the parties involved, having no wider (legitimate) implication or concerns.

We must continue to oppose such men as Stephen Woodworth, and those people and institutions that follow his kind of thinking. But it is better done by withdrawing, the legitimacy that honest debate proffers. It is better to oppose and engage them with satire, polite ridicule and laughter.

Vote against Motion 312.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Gun Registry is not Quite Dead.

On Monday of this week, Mr. Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard of the Quebec Superior Court rules that the Harper Government can not destroy Gun registry records. What was gathered in concert between the Federal and provincial governments can not be erased unilaterally.

The Harper government responded to the decision, stating

“I am disappointed with today’s ruling and will thoroughly review the decision,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.
“The will of Parliament and Canadians has been clear. We do not want any form of a wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry.”
The above quote by Toews suggests that the Conservatives are likely to take this to the Supreme Court of Canada. When any government references the "Will of Parliament" especially in a Majority setting, it means the will of the government in power. I can see any Liberal saying the exact same thing after being confronted by the anti-gun registry protests and challenges. The Harper government will pursue the destruction of gun registry data because they think they are right, because a promise made, and they have a majority. 
The Harper Government's answer to the the ruling was not unexpected. They have spent 17 years working to get rid of that legislation, through three incarnations; The Reform Party; The Canadian alliance and finally the Conservative party of Canada. Conservatives are as deeply invested in the idea of a "scraped" gun registry as Liberal-Left was in implementing it. Stephen Maher's column "Let the provinces register firearms or not", pointed the underlying nature of the registry. It was an attempt to impose a single standard on a population with diverse needs and experience.
Until I read Maher's column, I hadn't thought about the Gun registry as an issue best addressed by the Provinces. I supported the Gun Registry and still do, not because I thought it would reduce Gun related offences. The protesters were right with respect that, legal gun owners were not responsible for the vast majority of gun relate crimes. After that salient point their position rested on the stridency of ideology. I supported it because it is useful to have information on weapons ownership. Not in order to confiscate them, but to keep track of them. Again not in order to humiliate Gun owners, to cast them as dangerous or turn them into second class citizens. It can be as difficult to argue the utility of such information to a gun owner as it would be the necessity of the Census to Good government, to a Libertarian
What Maher suggests is simple and it would have been good advice for the Liberals in 1995 as it would be to the Conservatives in 2012. Let the provinces decide. I most often favour nation wide standards and practices. I don't care much for asymmetry. Too much of that and all you get a patch work Canada. I support the notion that where ever you reside, your living conditions should be as similar as is reasonable to that of other Canadians. He argues that Canada is a diverse nation, her citizens are not uniform in experience, attitude or geography. In many cases a "one size fits all" piece of legislation is as uncomfortable as it sounds. In some cases it is better to let Provincial governments legislate because they benefit from proximity to their electorate and can be more agile in meeting their expectations.
It is a powerful argument. The only objection I can raise is how this effects the safety of citizens. It is imperative that no place in Canada be made substantially left safe due to a piece of legislation or lack thereof. Earlier I said that didn't believe you are much safer with the gun registry, than you are without, registering a weapon does not mean a crime can never be committed by the owner. There are very particular circumstances where it is important. Police knowing whether there are weapons present in a domicile they are making a call on is useful. Knowing if the subject of a Peace Bond has weapons is important. 
So I am left wondering whether it is reasonable to let provinces and their citizens decide the level of safety they are willing to accept. Lives lost will be be counted after the fact, and that is no comfort to the dead, lives saved will always be guesswork. 
I will fall back on pragmatism. Right now there is no gun registry. We have lost. As long as Harper perches in Ottawa, the registry is dead. It may never be resurrected on a federal level. owing to the contentiousness of the legislation. The court is all that prevents the destruction of valuable information. The only choice left is Provincial gun registries.Let Provinces respond directly to the needs of there own citizens. So at least some Canadians can benefit from what ever good there is in the Gun Registry. Over time more provinces are likely to adopt gun registries. This time not as a burden but as a needful tool.  I trust that good ideas survive bad ones fall away. 
In the meantime the Harper Government will fight as hard to eradicate the the Gun Registry information as the Liberals fought to get it collected. Harper will ignore that the Registry he fought against, as an unreasonable imposition, is little different than, from trying to make sure no one now can have a Registry. The Liberals ignored a small but vocal minority. Hard will oppose a large vocal majority. It would have been better if the Liberals had listened in 1995, it would be good if Harper listened now in 2012


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Office Of Religious Freedom

The Office of Religious Freedom, doesn't automatically bring to mind the Ministry of Truth, but i can't say the thought hadn't occurred to me. I don't automatically associate Freedom with Religion. I'm not going to compare The Harper government with Oceania. There is no comparison. What I'm thinking about is the nature of the Office of Religious Freedom. What it means. What it will do. What are the the benefits and potential entanglements.

In 2011 John Baird gave a speech where he mentions the announces the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom.  Baird says  

"The office will promote freedom of religion and freedom of conscience as key objectives of Canadian foreign policy."

That sentence tells us the basic idea of what objectives the ORF will pursue. It also let's us know that it will pursue these at the direction of the Foreign Affairs.

"The long history of humanity has proven that religious freedom and democratic freedom are inseparable."

"As Franklin Roosevelt observed on the eve of global war: “Where freedom of religion has been attacked, the attack has come from sources opposed to democracy."

''Where democracy has been overthrown, the spirit of free worship has disappeared. “And where religion and democracy have vanished, good faith and reason in international affairs have given way to strident ambition and brute force.” "

The next three exerts provide the justification for protecting freedom of religion. The relationship between democracy and religious freedom is obvious,but is it of greater importance than that of freedom of speech, freedom of association; both of which have had a troubled association with organized religion. I await an Office of Freedom of Speech.

So the Harper government is almost ready unveil the ORF that will identify religious oppression and direct foreign affairs resources to address these violations. But it seems clear that the ORF is not independent of, and will work in conjunction with and support the goals of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs. 

Promoting religious freedom and the religious pluralism which almost always follows it is a worthy goal. I see the benefits generated from freedom of belief, but problems as well.

A conflict between state interests immediately comes to mind. How will the ORF address the Tibetan-China issue. A religious problem within a political one complicated by economics. China believes Tibet is an internal issue, and has never wavered on this stance. Will the ORF declare China's position in Tibet to unacceptable? It would seem impossible to decide it any other way. Such a position is sure to anger China. It is a certainly that they would respond, negatively, affecting Canada and China's economic and political ties. So what then?Will the Office of Religious Freedom be instructed to walk softly or even remain mute on Tibet, to preserve ties with the Asian super power, at the cost of its objectives and integrity? It will fall further when we see Harper, as he must, use the ORF to censure Burma over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslims  minority or the plight of Middle east Christians. Deserving targets and safe to harangue and part of Canada's Foreign Policy arc. Such a circumstance would reveal the ORF as just another foreign policy tool used as needed to serve and further our interests.

The Office of Religious Freedom can only point out abuses in nations that have no mechanisms for creating such freedom in the first place. In the West the essential notion is that we have a right to believe as we choose. We may join any religion that will have us and leave at any time.This democratizing of religion has resulted in a multitude of beliefs. It is not the same in other nations or religions, and trying to force open their borders to our brand of religion, feels like trouble. It was democracy that made possible religious pluralism. We are attempting to bring it about in countries that are barley democratic or not at all. A cart before the horse. We would do better opening  an Office for Promoting Democratic Freedom.

I am an atheist. I don't like religion. I do like Democracy and I think it best when people are free from coercion and abuse, including the right to belief. I see in the Office of Religious Freedom a tempting tool, but not an effective one for change. It is a hammer to chip away at foreign governments, to undermine whatever moral claim to rule they might have. A tally of one more abuse among abuses, maleficent acts all, of the offending government, and all true. A list that sooner or later will serve as an excuse for regime change. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

Labour Day, Tim Hudak and the Right To Work

Labour Day seems a good time to look at Tim Hudak's position on Organized Labour. In June the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario presented a white paper "Flexible Labour Markets" as part of their series entitled "Paths to Prosperity".  It describes a need to modernize the rules regarding how Unions operate in the work place, among other things. In the United States they call it "Right to Work" and it's all the rage. Here is a cool website, National Right to Work, you can see how serious they are, their Header includes "Defending America's workers from the abuses of compulsory unionism since 1968". Satire is stunned into silence. 

The Pitch: Unions have too much power, and as a result, the economy, the employer and the employees suffer. The Solution: Change the rules that govern how unions operate in the work place. No more mandatory membership or mandatory dues, institute secret ballots and full disclosure of unions spending and revenues. Thrown in for good measure: Open Bid tendering, Fix the Labour relations board, it seems that it is not impartial or limited enough in scope, WSIB needs to face competition from private Insurers.

At first blush a person might mistake Hudak for a rights crusader, trying to get the Jack Booted of Union oppression off the neck of the freedom loving worker. A second blush should come at the recognition of your error. It is right that people should question things that are mandatory, so as not to impose an undue burden on a citizen. So Hudak say " let's look at mandatory union dues and membership", he find these to be an undue burden on the employee; and you know they might be for some. 

Membership and dues paying are at the core of a Union. Their strength is derived from the ability to speak for all employees, to withhold work if necessary. The dues go toward the maintenance of the Union, and goals the leadership deems necessary for continued prosperity of its membership. If membership optional, part of the workplace opts out, not of the benefits, just the risks and of the costs, the ubiquitous "free rider" of conservative nightmares. A divided work place certainly favours the employer, at least in the short term. Eliminating mandatory dues, will for one, reduce Union effectiveness, which in turn reduces the willingness of members to pay dues. Nobody likes to pay and get nothing in return. It also eliminates Unions as an effective political force. That's not a problem for Hudak since the Progressive Conservative are unlikely to see a dime from Unions.

Opening the Union Books. Who can argue with transparency. I can't, but the open books policy has little to do with the Hudak's concern for the ill used worker. It is a just one more way to attack Unions, fomenting descent within the membership. An attempt to turn members against their leadership. I will support any effort that gives a greater say in how money is spent, but not to the point where it paralyzes a Unions ability to act. I wouldn't handcuff government spending,(useless balanced budget legislation as a case in point)like that so I won't Unions. 

What Hudak offers is faux freedom for the worker, resulting in a weaker Union. Which shockingly give real freedom and increased power to the Employer. What of the salutary effect of this policy on the labourer and on the economy. Its a good, but sad thing that we can look South to see how the American experiment with "Right to Work" is going.

Twenty-three American states plus Guam have "Right to Work" laws. Well this admittedly anti-right to work site, and this one too. hey I gave you the Pro right to work site at the top so don't complain, says things aren't so good in those  "Free the Worker from Evil Unions States". In those states, workers earn less money, less is spent on education, higher workplace accident, lower standard of living. Hard to say those are good things unless you are a Running Dog Capitalist, and then likely you only say it to the like minded. Just so you don't think I'm hiding the good effects of  "Free the Worker from Evil Unions States" This articles speaks glowingly of some of the good things it has wrought. What you read is higher rates of economic growth, population movement to towards those states with RTW laws and something referred to as " accumulated growth in manufacturing income" I'll translate that; companies move to States where unions are weak or non existent, people who need jobs go to those states where there are jobs, what "accumulated growth in manufacturing income" is i don't know, the quotes are theirs. But I might offer that if they had meant to say people in RTW states made more money they would damned well have written it in big letters.

What I'm reading and don't see a lot of articles denying, what ever side of the issue you are on, is that RTW laws have the sole purpose of  eradicating unions. They create an environment favourable to business. A worker in the RTW states is worse off, not better. It is an odd effect that in a country where 70% of the economy is driven by consumption that such strenuous effort is made to redirect wealth from the many to the few. The reality that  people with less money spend less, has no apparent effect on policy like this.

This is what Hudak would like to bring to Ontario, under the guise of freedom. Hudak is Pro Business which shouldn't mean Anti-Labour but some how does. People need jobs. Those jobs need to be able to support a reasonable standard of living. Unions help in that regard but its tough going. Hudak seeks to make it harder.

I am hopeful that the citizen of Ontario can think through the concept of "Right to Work" and see it for what it is, an attempt to lower the standards for all But a few.  

Have a happy Labour Day