December 6th


While we honour the memory of all victims of male violence against women everywhere, before and since, Canadians particularly recall today – on this our National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women – the names of the victims of the Montreal Massacre at l’École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989:

Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a second year scholarship student in civil engineering.

1

Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master’s degree.

1

Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.

1

Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and was a teaching assistant.

1

Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.

1

Maud Haviernick, 29, was a second year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.

1

Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a second year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.

1

Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.

1

Maryse Leclair, 23, was a fourth year student in engineering materials.

1

Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a fourth year student in mechanical engineering.

1

Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.

1

Michèle Richard, 21, was a second year student in engineering materials.

1

Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.

1

Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

1

Each died, in a deranged man’s gun rampage. because they were women.

shutterstock_157718

A letter to Canadians from the Honourable Jack Layton


August 20, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

June 18 proclaimed as Pride Day in the Town of Perth, Ontario!


Imagine my delight, and yes pride, to learn that LGBT Lanark County had won its bid for a Pride Day proclamation in Perth for June 18. (This was also the first I’d heard of LGBT Lanark County. Their web site is pretty impressive!)

The Perth Courier, and an advertiser-householder known locally as the EMC, both had news during my recent visit of the April 19 town council meeting where, just as proceedings began, Mayor John Fenik made the proclamation (among others, including Parkinson’s Awareness and International Building Safety). The Pride proclamation was greeted by applause from members and friends of LGBT Lanark County.

The proclamation will be celebrated with a dance at the Civitan Hall on June 18, featuring both a live band and d.j. Tickets are $15 in advance (available at Shadowfax) or $20 at the door.

Congratulations to LGBT Lanark County. Community events in small towns are an amazing affirmation of the founding spirit of Pride!

December 6, 1989 – Université de Montréal’s École Polytechnique


Fourteen women…killed en masse because they were women

Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a second year scholarship student in civil engineering.

Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to pursue her master’s degree.

Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.

Barbara Daigneault, 22, was a teaching assistant and in her final year of mechanical engineering.

Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.

Maud Haviernick, 29, was a second year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.

Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a second year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.

Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.

Maryse Leclair, 23, was a fourth year student in engineering materials.

Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a fourth year student in mechanical engineering.

Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.

Michèle Richard, 21, was a second year student in engineering materials.

Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.

Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

Let us remember these and all other victims of men’s violence against women – and work to end misogyny wherever it exists.

Ever-developing story – Clint “I-like-it-when-gays-die” McCance speaks to CNN’s Anderson Cooper: brain farts maybe?


I’m keeping this post open to add more developments.  Suffice to say, to begin, that Clint McCance’s so-called apology on CNN’s AC 360 is not going over very well.  (As I wrote at the time it seemed like Anderson had to pull out the nature of his wrongs.  They weren’t forthcoming from McCance himself.)

David Pakman of Midweek Politics with David Pakman (my favourite podcast) was having none of it and was also critical of Anderson.

Dr. Phil called McCance’s performance “a non-apology apology”.

Thursday night Anderson Cooper interviewed the Vice-President of Midland School District in Arkansas whose Facebook rants against gays, “fags”, “queers”, the recent rash of publicized gay suicides of five young men and boys, and his mocking of a day to remember them, touched off such a storm earlier in the week.

Whether it was the glare of the television lights, or the endless stream of upset his comments caused, Clint McCance was, at least, very soft-spoken. It seemed as though Anderson Cooper had to feed him reasons why he should be sorry, other than the fact that his father took him to the proverbial woodshed:

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres joined Anderson and called for people from a wider cross-section of society to become involved in counteracting homophobia and other sorts of bullying.

So, in a whirlwind twenty-four hours or so, Clint McCance has announced his resignation.  That would be enough for some people, as would his words – however laboured – with Anderson.  It’s too bad there wasn’t some community council way of restorative justice which would compel Mr. McCance to work, supervised of course, with gay kids.  He would learn a lot from them, I am sure, as long as his presence didn’t terrify them.  Instead he will be able to, should he choose, keep the company of good ol’ boys (and gals) to whom his incendiary, wounding ramblings on Facebook were anything but offensive.

Maybe one day he’ll have the opportunity to speak with a Dad and Mom who’ve lost an LGBT kid to suicide, although I can’t imagine them wishing to speak to him.

Then again, since  Mr. McCance has already had a terrible influence on children maybe these ideas are just too creepy and that the focus should remain on the kids he has lorded over with such hateful thoughts and words.

Sticks and Stones…


I’d imagine it must be painful for a parent to have to impart to their children those familiar words, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

I was certainly skeptical.

Long before summoning the courage to come out to my parents at age 21, I had known that I was different from other kids in elementary school. I instinctively knew that I shouldn’t express my admiration for the exemplary physiques of Batman or Tarzan. So it was for many years – all the way through high school – that, while feeling no sticks and stones of any consequence, plenty of names hurt me and none moreso than those flung at me by my elementary school head teacher/principal. I attribute his monstrous bullying and physical abuse with setting the stage for all kinds of acting out behaviour detailed in other parts of this blog.

It is difficult to imagine that a man with such responsibility would have a place in today’s schools. To that extent, IT GETS BETTER.

Perhaps because we’ve applied ourselves to studying more diligently, or are just naturally gifted, it has been my observation that lgbt kids are smarter than average. There’s something to be said for being a nerd! I know, because I remember, that as a teen it seems like the freedom of adulthood will never arrive. It will, and IT GETS BETTER.

Almost without exception nowadays, schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Use that for all it’s worth. You have a right to being safe in school. The same goes for the internet.

I won’t lie to you. What your parents have probably called “the best years of your life” (I know mine did) will seem unbearable at times. Just remember that things have come a long way in terms of lgbt rights and acceptance since I, or your parents, were in school. Hang in there, IT GETS BETTER.

I’m going to close with three of my favourite messages from the YouTube “It Gets Better” campaign.

Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinsom



Fort Worth, Texas Councilman Joel Burns

New York City Gay Men’s Chorus

The World Cup, CBC and Soccer4Hope


What an inspiration to see the CBC’s Scott Russell on The National Tuesday night with his profile of Soccer4Hope! (It’s at the 36-minute mark of the video) which probably only stays up until Wednesday night’s broadcast.

S4H looks very promising, modeled as it is after its basketball counterpart Hoops4Hope in bringing together the issues of HIV/AIDS, poverty, gender inequality and ‘the beautiful game’ as South Africa hosts the World Cup in just a few days time.

Check out this promotional video on YouTube as well!

Youth for Christ partners with Winnipeg City Hall; Stephen Harper and ‘the Theo-cons’ – are we way past ‘scary’?


A dog-eared, repeatedly-read copy of The Walrus from a few years ago sits beside my comfy chair. Its cover reads “Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada’s religious right”

(Simon, in comments, points us to news of the author’s forthcoming book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada)

I was reminded of the piece by my friend John in Ottawa who has a link, sans commentaires, to the article on his blog.

I commend it to your reading.

The article came to mind, again, when the Harper government’s scariness, again, broke through the Olympic celebrations.

I was invited to join a Facebook group which, too late this time, mobilized against government funding of a building in Winnipeg to be operated by the oh-so-inclusive name of Youth for Christ.

They’re not a new name in the conservative, evangelical Christian milieu and, as they themselves describe their work, they see nothing wrong with receiving public funds while proselytizing in any number of ways to the poor – immigrant, aboriginal, “at risk”.

Columnist Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free Press, noting “the big-box Christian churches peppered around Winnipeg regularly mix politics and religion” takes us through some of the strongest misconceptions for and against public funding of such a centre.

Existing service providers, far from declining additional help in the troubled downtown, reasonably argue against this proposal.

With all the hallmarks of a George W. Bush “faith-based initiative” (which also received public money as often as Congress allowed it) this Youth for Christ initiative has some high-ranking government cheerleaders including Justice Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

Check out Youth for Christ (Winnipeg)’s website and see if this sounds like your favourite municipal community centre.

December 6


“A government which lays white roses with one hand and distributes firearms with the other”

-Laval MP Nicole Demers (Bloc Québecois)

There was no mistaking the partisan nut-roasting but, as far as I’m concerned, point taken Mme. Demers!  The gun registry was Parliament’s tangible response to the massacre of December 6, 1989 and there is significant outrage at the Conservative government’s chipping away at it.  Particularly galling is the fact that the killer of the fourteen women at Université de Montréal’s l’École Polytechnique used a rifle, a “long gun”, which is the part of the gun registry the Conservatives are vowing to scrap first.

Read December 6: Fourteen not forgotten

Why December 6th still matters

Massacre at 20

—————————————————————-

Published on rabble.ca (http://rabble.ca/news/2009/12/reflections-on-the-montreal-massacre)

20 years after the Montreal Massacre

December 4, 2009

It is nearly 20 years to the day that a man with a legally acquired rifle entered our school and shot 23 people, including me, Nathalie Provost. Several of our close friends were among the 14 young women who died on Dec. 6, 1989 at l’École Polytechnique. Our crime? We were women and we wanted to become engineers. And an angry man was able to easily get access to a lethal weapon.

Twenty years after that fateful day, we the survivors and former students would ask that you reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. The murders sparked renewed interest and commitment to promoting women in engineering and technology, to ending violence against women and to strengthening gun laws. In each case, we have made progress but there is much left to do.

Read more…)

The Fourteen Women

Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a second year scholarship student in civil engineering.

Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master’s degree.

Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.

Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.

Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.

Maud Haviernick, 29, was a second year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.

Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a second year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.

Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.

Maryse Leclair, 23, was a fourth year student in engineering materials.

Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a fourth year student in mechanical engineering.

Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.

Michèle Richard, 21, was a second year student in engineering materials.

Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.

Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

They were singled out to be shot and killed because they were women.

Enough with the “honour killings”


Stop Honorcide!

As a gay man with HIV/AIDS I know of my condemned standing within the hard-line Islamist, Jewish and Christianist faiths. (I’m taking my chances, and feeling fine thanks, with liberal spirituality.)

What no one, however, whether in Canada or anywhere else in the world should tolerate is paternalistic violence and murder – almost always exclusively against women and children cloaked in “tradition” or law (Sharia and otherwise) or “Allah” or “God” or “G-d”. (I say almost exclusively because queers – across the gender spectrum – seem to remain fair game, with varying degrees of violence proscribed, condoned or tolerated, depending on the faith derivative, the location, and so on.)

Concerning the news of this day (insert “innocent until proven guilty” here) it is of only minor consolation that Montreal’s Afghan community is shocked.

While many of us wonder what we might do with our outrage, for starters, here are Linda Ahmed’s sites Muslims Against Sharia and Stop Honorcide!

I saw Raheel Raza on the news briefly tonight, an A-1 resource person I have had conversations with in the past/

I also saw Tarek Fatah in the same report.

Regardless of the shade of our pigment white ribbons each December do not stop male violence against women in Canada. Women and children are killed in custody battles or for countless other excuses far too often. I’m not meaning to pin more insanity on one religious, cultural or sexual homicide than another.

It hasn’t been that long since Ontario decided against adopting limited Sharia law, so we can’t be smug about this.

It’s 2009 across the world. Centuries of history and difference do not separate us. I just need to hear more outrage from every corner of the religious world against such brutality.

Please forward other web resources via the comments. I will post them here:

World Health Organization: Gender-based violence

U.S. Still in Denial on Gender Violence: Peter Daou

Afghan Women’s Organization (Toronto) – Healthy Equal Relationships

Speech by Stephen Lewis, co-Director, AIDS-Free World, to the International AIDS Society Conference on Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention – Cape Town, South Africa, July 19, 2009


In my younger days, decades upon decades ago, we were consumed by the threat of nuclear annihilation. The forces of darkness, East and West, seemed in the ascendance. The Doomsday clock inched its way to midnight.

And then there arose, across a spectrum ranging from the scientists and engineers writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, through to the Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a loud clamouring cry of protest, accompanied by marches, banners, polemics, statements, press conferences demanding, in the name of humankind, that the madness end.

And it did, at least for a time at the end of the Cold War. And the scientists and doctors won Nobel Peace Prizes and showed the power of scholarly activism for the whole world to see.

Two weeks ago, just prior to the meeting of the G8, a full-page ad appeared in the Financial Times, with the headline “Scientists Call on World Leaders to Take Action on Climate Change”. It was signed by twenty-five of the most renowned climatologists and earth scientists. They didn’t get all they wanted by any means, but they jolted the political leadership into the recognition that the scientists are mobilized, are watching, are keeping the rest of the world informed and will not be silenced.

I was immediately reminded of the letter, signed by eighty-one acclaimed medical clinicians and researchers right after the Toronto AIDS conference, demanding the resignation of the then South African Minister of Health for reasons everyone in this audience understands. It was an important moment in the accelerating, cumulative pressure for a change in policy, a change now underway.

In truth, there are many in this audience who fought for that change. This is an audience that has devoted itself to making the world a better place, so I hope that what I’m about to say will comfortably resonate.

No one should underestimate the power and influence of science when it decides to take a stand. The two co-Chairs of this Conference are striking examples, amongst many, of the extraordinary impact scientists can have. And never has the exercise of power and influence been more imperative than at this moment in the fight against the AIDS pandemic. Your individual and collective voices are needed … sure, you have the technological and laboratory acumen, you know about vaccines and microbicides and triple combination therapy and viral loads and CD4 counts and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis … the entire panoply of sophisticated scientific discovery and intervention.

And that’s your work, and it’s of inestimable value. We need you to unravel the secrets of the science, to make all of that elusive and mysterious information accessible to the untutored rest of us. But we need the scientific community as well to speak clearly, and unequivocally, boldly and evocatively to the power-brokers of this world, telling them of the risks and the benefits, and what will happen if they make the wrong choices.

Somehow, along with the science, we need the activism. They are inseparable.

So when, as now, there’s a backlash against funding for AIDS, with mindless charges against AIDS exceptionalism, you should find a way, collectively, to shoot down the pinched bureaucrats and publicity-seeking academics who advocate exchanging the health of some for the health of others – who propose robbing Peter to pay Paul rather than arguing, in principled fashion, that money must be found for every imperative, including maternal and child health, and sexual and reproductive health, and environmental health as well as all the resources required to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic.

It can never be an either/or. We’re talking about human lives for God’s sake, not about the phony parsing of balance sheets. The Treasuries of the western nations are very artful at the divide and conquer route. We must never allow them to play one part of the health sector against the other. HIV/AIDS, for all the horrendous human consequences, has objectively strengthened health systems, has brought together all the sectors of government from agriculture to education, has integrated private and public initiatives, has exponentially raised awareness of the consequences of gender inequality, has spawned remarkably novel ideas for raising resources … all of it inevitably improving human health overall.

Believe me, if we could have back the lives we’ve lost, I’d relinquish in a heartbeat the institutional gains that flow from AIDS. But we can’t, so at least don’t undervalue or dismiss the gains.

It’s so easy for the detractors to coddle specious arguments. Rather than asking for more money, they have this punitive spasm to ransack resources for AIDS. You must not let them get away with it.

And when the G8 won’t renew its 2005 commitment to universal access; when the G8 cynically uses the financial crisis to threaten cutbacks to AIDS funding; when the G8 once again, yet again, always again subverts its own promises and in so doing compromises the health of millions, then it’s time for science to speak with one powerful voice of accusation. And when the Global Fund faces a shortfall of several billion, you would do the world a tremendous service by simply finding a way, collectively, from your positions of authority, to remind the political leadership of how they used precious public money to bail out the banks, so that Goldman Sachs could make a profit of $3.4 billion in the second quarter of 2009, JP Morgan Chase could make a profit of $2.7 billion in the same period, and with obscene contempt for the human condition, pay bonuses, yet again, beyond the dreams of hyperactive wealth.

You spend every day of your working lives to make life possible, and the power brokers devalue your work with the fraudulent plea of destitution. Don’t let them get away with it.

But funding isn’t the only issue; the issues proliferate. When the Government of Senegal jails eight gay AIDS activists for no reason except homophobia, setting back the fight against AIDS, where are the scientific voices of condemnation?

Right now, in the Caribbean, every country save the Bahamas, has laws that criminalize homosexuality. We tiptoe round this twisted form of racism. We submit to ridiculous claims of cultural relativism. The Prime Minister of Jamaica, in the safety of Parliament, makes the most contemptible statements about gay men, leaving every elemental component of human rights in tatters, and he’s never called to account … not by the UN Human Rights Council, not by the G8, not by the G20, not by the Commonwealth … only by the gay activists themselves. What is wrong with the international community? If this is how it behaves, it doesn’t deserve the name “community” at all. And if the political leadership lacks the courage to confront such outrageous slander, you shouldn’t lack the courage. You’re scientists. You know that it’s a scientific reality that a certain percentage of the world’s people is gay. So tell the political philistines to get over it and stop wrecking such damage. More, you know that an ugly homophobic culture is a threat to public health that inevitably serves to spread the virus … I beg you to say so. The majesty of science is its influence.

Then there’s the issue, commonly known as PMTCT — prevention of mother to child transmission. This should have been the easiest intervention of all, instead we’ve had a panorama of unnecessary death for both the mothers and their children. So-called PMTCT has been a colossal failure, subjected to twisted linguistics, lousy science, governmental chicanery, and astonishing delinquency on the part of United Nations agencies. Only now is the political establishment coming to its senses. But it needs your help so that it never goes off the rails again.

What help? Let me count the ways. First, never again should it be called mother-to-child transmission. It should better be called vertical transmission. How is it that we so casually, mindlessly demonize the mother by naming her as the vector? Second, even now a dreadful double standard prevails: in the industrial world we use full HAART; in the developing world we still use, in the majority, single-dose nevirapine. You’re scientists: you know what that means in terms of unnecessary infant infection and death. Third, we abandon the mothers. In 2007, only 12 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV identified during antenatal care, were assessed for their eligibility to receive ARV treatment. That’s an unconscionable neglect of women that smacks of vestigial misogyny. Fourth, the WHO/UNICEF/UNAIDS guidelines on breast-feeding, and the use of breast-milk substitutes are widely ignored. To this day, the value of exclusive breast-feeding for six months in stemming HIV infection and providing the infant with the strongest possible immunity to other diseases is still caught between conjecture and disavowal. Sometimes I think that every Minister of Health should be required to take a mandatory course from Dr. Coovadia. Failing that, the UN, and primarily UNICEF, should do its job, and mount a massive global education campaign to replace myths with facts about infant feeding. Political and cultural influences can be dead wrong where infant feeding is concerned; the scientists here assembled have an indispensable role to play in setting the world straight.

And there’s one other matter I must raise. The epidemic of domestic sexual violence that lacerates the soul of South Africa is mirrored in the pattern of grotesque raping in areas of outright conflict from Darfur to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in areas of contested electoral turbulence from Kenya to Zimbabwe. Inevitably, a certain percentage of the rapes transmits the virus. We don’t know how high that percentage is. We know only that women are subjected to the most dreadful double jeopardy.

The point must also be made that there’s no such thing as the enjoyment of good health for women who live in constant fear of rape. Countless strong women survive the sexual assaults that occur in the millions every year, but every rape leaves a scar; no one ever fully heals.

This business of discrimination against and oppression of women is the world’s most poisonous curse. Nowhere is it felt with greater catastrophic force than in the AIDS pandemic. This audience knows the statistics full well: you’ve chronicled them, you’ve measured them, the epidemiologists amongst you have disaggregated them. What has to happen, with one unified voice, is that the scientific community tells the political community that it must understand one incontrovertible fact of health: bringing an end to sexual violence is a vital component in bringing an end to AIDS. The brave groups of women who dare to speak up on the ground, in country after country, should not have to wage this fight in despairing and lonely isolation. They should hear the voices of scientific thunder. You understand the connections between violence against women and vulnerability to the virus. No one can challenge your understanding. Use it, I beg you, use it.

When I said at the outset that this was the most critical moment, I wasn’t indulging in rhetorical flourish. As has been pointed out time and time again, 2010 is the anointed year for universal access. We have but seventeen short months. If ever the scientific community was to engage in public activism, that time is now. Not only must we save every life we can in that seventeen months, but we have to create such energy that the tide of intervention is irreversible, and neither financial downturns nor the feckless caterwauling of the critics of AIDS funding will compromise our goal.

Make no mistake about it: that means taking on the development aristocracy and those who advise and influence it … for example, DfID in the United Kingdom, and the World Bank and the IMF and even the World Health Organization.

Pause for a moment to think what we’re dealing with. AIDS exceptionalism is a perfectly defensible and descriptive concept. Why do you think the world created an organization called UNAIDS? AIDS was exceptional. AIDS is exceptional. I tramped the high-prevalence countries of Africa for more than five years; if I wasn’t viewing the most exceptional communicable disease assault of the twentieth century, then the word “exceptional” needs to be re-defined.

As a consequence of that exceptionality, and the tremendous campaigning of grass-roots advocates, AIDS received funding, a lot of funding … never enough to be sure, but enough to recognize the exceptionality.

Then along come the detractors, driven by resentment, resentment at the success of the AIDS movement. These arithmetic arguments alleging that AIDS is getting too much money at the expense of other health imperatives … this is simply naked academic and bureaucratic envy. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it’s got to be said.

Why? Because the critics know that it’s not a matter of pitting one aspect of health against another. The critics know that it’s a matter of measuring the resource needs of global health against the crazy expenditures that the world makes on other things. But the seething resentment that pulsates beneath the surface creates this false argument.

I urge the scientists and activists here assembled not to fight on the terrain of the poseurs. Your whole life is in the world of AIDS. You know the legitimate resource requirements. You just can’t permit an intellectual contrivance — an argument in favour of accepting the size of the pie and slicing it differently, rather than demanding a larger pie — you can’t allow that to be used to justify a terrible reversal in public policy. People infected with HIV or at risk of infection, are suddenly tossed onto the landscape of treatment ambiguity, and the gains we’ve made and the momentum we’ve achieved are put at risk.

Is my naiveté showing? Why is it not possible to allocate sufficient money for every aspect of global health, of which AIDS is but a part, and in so doing, meet the Millennium Development Goals … money which is but a fraction, a miniscule fraction of all the public dollars that have found their way, in one short year, into the bottomless pits of greed and avarice?

No one dies from a surfeit of money. People die when poverty and disease are the twin ingredients of life.

Madiba turned ninety-one yesterday. I strolled down to the waterfront here in Cape Town where people were singing and dancing and irrepressibly celebrating the life of their national treasure. This country has been through tough tough times. The numbers of deaths, the psychotic denialism, the political betrayals; it’s taken an incredible toll. And yet, in the liberation and its aftermath, and the constitution, the law, the courts, the phenomenal culture of community activism, most sublimely exemplified by the Treatment Action Campaign … in all of that, there lies hope. I saw hope everywhere yesterday. And if that tumultuous passage from despair to hope can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

But to take it to a global scale, requires the collective will of people like the people at this conference… people who speak with unimpeachable scientific authority, and if they so wished, and brought advocacy to bear, could move the mountains of resistance and inertia.

You could strike a fatal blow against the pandemic. I salute those of you who have already risen to that challenge. I leave it with all of you.

This text may be freely circulated, posted, quoted and reprinted.

Regards,
Christina Magill

Executive Assistant to Stephen Lewis

www.aidsfreeworld.org

Recession, broken promises posing health disaster: AIDS experts

Webcast of the entire opening session is available here.

The 14 of millions


Honouring the memory of all victims of male violence against women everywhere, before and since, we recall today – Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women – the names of the victims of the Montreal Massacre at l’École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989:

whiterose.gifGeneviève Bergeron, 21, was a second year scholarship student in civil engineering.

whiterose.gifHélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master’s degree.

whiterose.gifNathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.

whiterose.gifBarbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.

whiterose.gifAnne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.

whiterose.gifMaud Haviernick, 29, was a second year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.

whiterose.gifBarbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a second year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.

whiterose.gifMaryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.

whiterose.gifMaryse Leclair, 23, was a fourth year student in engineering materials.

whiterose.gifAnne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a fourth year student in mechanical engineering.

whiterose.gifSonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.

whiterose.gifMichèle Richard, 21, was a second year student in engineering materials.

whiterose.gifAnnie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.

whiterose.gifAnnie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

They died because they were women.

Two months sans Craig


It was two months ago today, on May 9, 2007, that my brother Craig breathed his last and physically left us.

While it has been a difficult couple of months for me, as detailed throughout this blog, today I am just thinking of Craig, a mentor – and not just to me – in so many ways, knowing that the ninth of every month will not sting so sharply forever.  In more ways than I can feel without tears, Craig really began to leave us when he fell so tragically on Claude’s birthday April 24.

His online guest book remains in place at the Montreal Gazette.

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Straight – not narrow


One of the most interesting groups to me, represented both with an information table and a contingent in the Pride Parade on Sunday, was Heterosexuals for Same-Sex Equality (HSSE) whose website straightnotnarrow.ca is here.

While I had heard of Gay-Straight Alliances in schools and colleges or universities it was eye-opening to me to see this particular group take such an active part in the festivities. 

I spoke very briefly to a young woman at the information table (there was a young man there too) who explained, as does the web site, that heterosexuals - and not just the voting ones – are, by and large, supportive of the steps toward full equality being made in Canada, most recently regarding marriage, the equal right to which same-sex couples have now enjoyed for a few years. 

My college, back in the late 1970s, did not have so much as a gay mailing list – and it would be many years before the Gay-Straight Alliance was formed – so it was quite amazing to me to see how far we have come.

Oh for a world where everyone might have the self-acceptance, call it “pride” certainly, to live full and healthy lives regardless of – and celebrating even – their sexual orientation.

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