Two names to be added to Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


This spring’s presentation of the award in my brother’s memory will include a couple of firsts – two individuals are being cited and they’re from across the Canada-U.S. border in neighbouring Vermont.

To be more accurate, one-half of the couple of Dr. Delores Barbeau and Carol Olstad, R.N. will be honoured posthumously as Carol, who incidentally was a Canadian born in Alberta, unfortunately died last October in their adopted home of Weston, Vermont.

The two met in 1983 while working in strife-torn Bolivia, Delores as a Maryknoll nun-turned-physician and Carol a registered nurse working under the auspices of the Canadian Baptist Overseas Mission Board.

Delores had only lived and worked with Bolivians since 1969 and, given the political climate, knew how much safer it would be to avoid becoming attached to Carol.

Bolivian authorities were already suspicious, to say the least, of church aid workers in their midst (let alone white North Americans); not easily dissuaded from their presumptions of CIA connections. Imagine if they knew they were lesbians!

But the Bolivian Ministry of Health assigned the two to work together, within a year of their first meeting, in a remote tropical jungle.

Not more than a year later the government had put Delores on a hit list and the two fled Bolivia, travelling to Nicaragua to work for five years alongside the people defending their dignity and rights against American-backed rebel forces out to destroy the successful Sandinista government.  (This corrects my earlier history-fogged equating of the rebels as the more courageous side to be on!)

In 1991 Delores and Carol returned to the United States, first New York and Massachusetts and then Vermont, sharing their lives openly as a couple while continuing to live the “social gospel” lessons of their respective faiths, even if no longer so affiliated. (They have since enjoyed the community of the Monks of Western Priory in Vermont where Carol was solemnly and happily remembered following her death in October of last year.)

In a letter to loved ones about her experiences, Delores concludes:

So. That was Bolivia.

What was it like?
It changed my life forever.
I learned to love.
I learned to look at things in a new way and walked in many different shoes.
I learned other definitions for family.
I learned that there were priorities.
I learned to dance.
I stood before mass graves, and buried many friends.
I learned what fear really felt like.
…and in all of this I never knew a time when I did not know God.

The 2012 Convocation of United Theological College, during which the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award is presented (and Delores will deliver the Convocation Address), will be held at Summerlea United Church on Wednesday, May 9 – five years to the day since Craig’s death.

With such an early spring, maybe his favourite irises will be in bloom.

So three lawyers walk into the Ontario Legislature…


…but this is no joke!

There’s a friendly exercise each morning that the Ontario Legislature sits when Members have the opportunity to introduce guests seated in the gallery – family members of one of the high school student pages, perhaps a visiting township reeve, or dignitaries representing other governments, be they in Canada or elsewhere.

It must have seemed surreal, then, for Toronto Centre Member of Provincial Parliament Glen Murray, his voice choking up even as he began to speak, to introduce (to a standing ovation from all sides) two fellow lawyers – Douglas Elliott, representing EGALE Canada, and Adrian Jjuuko of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda. This is the organization that has been leading the opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill often called the “Kill the Gays bill” in the media which, though delayed last year, was reintroduced a few weeks ago with all of its worst provisions, including the death penalty. It could become law in Uganda within 30 days and the government has continued its harassment of LGBT groups while it waits.

Mr. Jjuuko, although heterosexual himself, risks persecution when he returns home later today just for being the strong advocate that he is.

Whatever other pressing matters may have been discussed at Queen’s Park following these introductions today I did not hear them.

For further information and to positively agitate see:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

The New Civil Rights Movement

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

Recording resistance and history through music in Palestine


Songs from a Lost Homeland, which originally aired on Al Jazeera English last year, is in the programming rotation again this weekend.

Is there a song in the west right now with even a small percentage of the punch of these musicians? I hope you get a chance to see the entire documentary. There’s another absurd segment where Israeli forces, tipped off that a Palestinian musician had a bunch of his CDs in his car (that can’t be good!), pull him over at a makeshift check-point and take them away.

While I’m sure I will look in on the Oscars presentation Sunday night it’s not hard, what with what’s going on in Libya, northern Africa and the Middle East, to see how completely shallow this is.

To say nothing of Charlie Sheen.

We just don’t know how good we’ve got it, do we?

Music of the movement


One of the first activists’ songs that had any resonance for me was “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” (1961) and then “Give Peace A Chance” (1969). Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” (1963) was an anthem, if ever there was one, and I remember making a connection with “One Tin Soldier” in 1969. While grown-ups were worried about missiles in Cuba and a war in Vietnam I was learning a little bit of French watching “Chez Helene” and trying to figure out matters of proportion and size with “The Friendly Giant”. My only brush with war, more than young Canadians in other provinces mind you, was during the October Crisis of 1970. Riz Khan, a television figure new to me since I started receiving Al Jazeera English, spends just under half an hour with Yusuf, formerly known as Yusuf Islam and Cat Stevens during my youth (“Peace Train” 1971) as he releases a rallying song to commemorate the sea change underway across the Middle East and northern Africa.

As Libya and neighbours seethe, CPT reports on West Bank demolitions by Israel


CPTnet
23 February 2011
SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: Israeli military demolishes village of Amniyr

Amniyr, South Hebron Hills, West Bank At 5:00 a.m. yesterday morning, the Israeli army, accompanied by members of the Israeli District Coordinating Office, arrived at the village of Amniyr and demolished five tent-houses, two cisterns and the village’s olive trees. The demolitions effectively destroyed the entire village and left its three families homeless. All that remained unharmed after the military left was a cave and a small taboun oven.

According to villagers, the military had been coming frequently for the past several months and delivering demolition orders and maps claiming that the village was on Israeli state land, and that their homes would be demolished unless everyone left.

Residents of Amniyr told CPT that they have suffered from years of settler and army harassment. Years ago, members of the Jaboor family lived in the cave in Amniyr, but Israeli military and settler harassment forced them to move to a different area a few kilometers away. The harassment continued in their new location, however, convincing the family to move back to tents close to their original cave just over a year ago.

What was once a small village is now a pile of dirt mounds, uprooted olive trees and shattered clocks and dishware.

“Where are we supposed to sleep tonight?” said Moath Jaboor, who lived in a tent with his mother. “We’ll have to rebuild our homes so that we can sleep.”

Video of the incident is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLe1MrVfoT0 .

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

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Awesome task (or perhaps not): bridging the perspective gap


Excerpts from my tweets (and a RT) from early this afternoon:

Death by daily repression and near-starvation or death by desperate martyrdom via the State responsible? Your choice? #Bahrain #Libya #Yemen

MD from #Bahrain: “Pls, pls, where is the #UN; we need the world; ppl are being killed in the streets!”

Ambu’s BLOCKED frm #PearlRoundabout as security shoots and kills thru haze of tear gas; MDs plead to world, “Where are you?”#Bahrain

Photo: Protesters prayed for injured comrades outside Salmaniya hospital in #Manama late on Thursday

CBCNN adverts walk-in baths ad naus, Aljazeera Eng (#176 in T-O w free prevws) covers Bah’rain & Libya crises wall-to-wall w ppl on phn .

I’m hungry. Why? Because the late start to my day began only with coffee, HIV meds, Al Jazeera,Twitter and Facebook. Such an embarrassment of riches!

I wasn’t winding up days of mourning for someone today when my country’s security forces opened fire with tear gas and live ammunition.

Am I still pissed with Bev Oda and my government’s dismissive handling of the KAIROS scandal? Sure. Rightly so.

Do I believe that I owe someone an apology, undeliverable until next Thursday, due to a slight delivered his way yesterday? Yes.

Should I surrender my gay card for again postponing a hair-cut, so desperately needed? Honey, do I really need to ask?

Am I pre-occupied with one leg in yesterday, given what has happened to me in the past, and the other in tomorrow, worried about what I’ll have to do in the future – meanwhile, as the off-colour saying goes, “pissing all over today”? (As Cenk, on The Young Turks would say, “Of COOOOURSE!”)

Feeling powerless so far away from Egypt? Help change the Canadian government’s response!


Like so much of the world I have been transfixed on the dramatic events in Egypt, but feeling a little powerless to help – until I read about the Harper government’s response (which, I guess, we shouldn’t be surprised about)!

What follows came from the Canadian Peace Alliance.

Stephen Harper backs Mubarak’s ‘transition’ plan


Contact your MPs to protest now! Canada must support Egypt’s democracy movement, not a dictator!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has thrown Canada’s support behind embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, despite growing pressure in Egypt and around the world for the 82-year old dictator to resign immediately. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said on February 3 that the Conservative government prefers Mubarak’s plan to step down in September instead of now.

Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/gRMSP9.

But even the Obama administration in the US believes that Mubarak must resign immediately, in response to nation-wide protests of millions of people in Egypt.

In 2003, Stephen Harper – who was Leader of the Opposition at the time – argued that Canada should join the US-led war in Iraq. Harper was on the wrong side of history then, and he is on the wrong side of history now.

Contact your MPs to protest Canada’s decision to back Mubarak. Canada must support Egypt’s democracy movement, not a hated dictator.

Step 1:

Cut-and-paste the e-mail addresses of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the opposition leaders, the government house leaders, and their deputies into your address line:

Harper.S@parl.gc.ca, HarpeS@parl.gc.ca, pm@pm.gc.ca, Baird.J@parl.gc.ca, bairdj1@parl.gc.ca, Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca, cannol1@parl.gc.ca, Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca, Goodale.R@parl.gc.ca, goodale@sasktel.net, McGuinty.D@parl.gc.ca, Rae.B@parl.gc.ca, Raeb1@parl.gc.ca, Layton.J@parl.gc.ca, Mulcair.T@parl.gc.ca, Mulcair.T@parl.gc.ca, Davies.L@parl.gc.ca, Dewar.P@parl.gc.ca, pauldewar@ndp.ca, Duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca, ducepg1@parl.gc.ca, Paquette.P@parl.gc.ca, joliette@pierrepaquette.qc.ca, Dorion.J@parl.gc.ca, dorioj1@parl.gc.ca

Step 2:

CC your own MP. You can find your MP’s e-mail address here: http://bit.ly/MPsbypostalcode

Step 3:

Cut-and-paste this subject into your subject line:

End Harper’s support for Mubarak. Canada must back Egypt’s democratic movement.

Step 4:

Cut-and-paste the following message into your message. Feel free to personalize it. Don’t forget to sign your name and address at the end of the message.

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

I am writing to express my opposition to your government’s decision to back the so-called ‘transition’ plan of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, instead of the demand of millions of Egyptians that the 82-year old dictator resign immediately. Even the Obama administration in the US has backed the call for Mubarak to step down now. Canada must support Egypt’s democracy movement, not a hated dictator.

I, therefore, ask you to take the following steps:

- Add Canada’s voice to the growing calls for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately, and not in September
– Freeze the Egyptian government’s assets in Canada until Mubarak’s regime has been replaced
– Condemn the violence unleashed by Mubarak’s supporters and undercover police

The vast majority of Egyptians want Mubarak to leave now. Canada must not support Mubarak in the name of “stability” in the region. There can be no stability in the region unless all its people, including Egyptians, can live in a truly free and democratic system.

I look forward to your speedy response.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Step 5:

Send.

Step 6:

Forward this e-mail to all your networks, asking them to contact their MPs, too.

World AIDS Day 2010 – Stories – 5 – “World AIDS Day 2010″ by Aless Piper


Each writer in this series has generously given me permission to post their work. The views and experiences shared are their own. Where applicable, links will also be provided at the end of the piece.

Tony Kushner wrote in the Playwright’s Notes for Act 2 of Angels in America – Perestroika that Harold Bloom translated the Hebrew word for “blessing” as “more life”.

“More life” repeats throughout the second half of the play. Later, Prior Walter says to the Angel of America, “But still. Still. Bless me anyway I want more life.”

I remember the first time I read these words in grade 12 while trying to write my own script for a movie in Film & Video Production. They made such an impact on me that I read them over and over again and they wound up being a scene in my movie.

The play ends with these words, also spoken by Prior Walter, “Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: more life. The great work begins.”

On World AIDS Day, this more than anything else, is what I wish for you.

This past June marked 29 years since five men in Los Angeles were diagnosed with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), marking the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. To date no cure has been found, and 25 million people worldwide have died.

In Canada, there were an estimated 58,000 people living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2005. Of these, around 30% were unaware of their infection, a chilling fact that should drive home the importance, for everyone, of getting tested, and knowing your status.

I dream of a world free from AIDS, where Edward, and so many others are guaranteed to live well into old age barring hereditary and environmental factors. I dream of a world where instead of reading that thousands of people worldwide are diagnosed with HIV every day, we celebrate the victory of no new infections (or single digit), and a cure.

When Paul Martin was running for Prime Minister opposite Stephen Harper, the Liberals had a commercial that I only saw once, right before the election. I thought it was best commercial they or any party had come up with. Paul Martin was in a room and he encouraged voters to vote for their Canada. The outcome of the election was disappointing to say the least, I was a Liberal, through and through even though, even then I tended to fall to the left of the Liberal party’s politics. But that commercial always stuck with me. What would you like your world to look like?

I spent all of last weekend reading Kenn’s blog instead of writing and something that seemed to come up repeatedly (or I just read the same thing repeatedly, either way!) is that AIDS is not a single issue journey and it reminded me of a very heated debate on MySpace about how when AIDS is cured the factors that allowed AIDS to happen (apathy, poverty, fear, ignorance, etc) would still be there, a fertile ground from some other disease.

As it stands, so far this week I have posted an article about access to medication in prisons, Uganda’s “kill a gay” bill (Change.org’s words, not mine), and China’s AIDS apathy that boggles my mind. All of these things and so many more allow AIDS to continue spreading unchecked. Today I read on Twitter that 7,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with HIV every single day. A short time later I opened the newspaper to read that AIDS diagnoses among men who sleep with men are climbing back up to rates not seen since the 80’s.

As we remember the lives lost to HIV/AIDS and those living with the disease, we should also be asking ourselves what we can do to change the tide. We can start by being aware, getting tested, being informed and spreading the word.

I would like to leave you with these words from Stephen Spender’s poem, I think continually. They seem especially poignant today, on World AIDS Day.

“Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields

See how these names are feted by the waving grass

And by the streamers of white cloud

And whispers of the wind in the listening sky.

The names of those who in their lives fought for life

Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.

Born of the sun, they travelled a short while towards the sun

And left the vivid air signed with their honor.”

Perhaps my most difficult topic yet (for Tyler Clementi)


Let’s talk about suicide!

The single-most read entry of this blogever – is seeing an up-tick in hits as the one year anniversary of this local tragedy looms large.

Today, with the recovery of his body, social media are decrying the suicide, and circumstances behind it, of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, a gifted eighteen-year old violinist who was humiliated, and outed, more than he could bear when his room-mate posted a video to the internet showing Tyler and another man having sex kissing!

Three days later he leapt from the George Washington Bridge.  His was the fourth young gay suicide (widely reported across the United States) this month.  One shudders to think how many others there might have been that didn’t make such a public statement.

Now do I really think that, on top of all their despair, these young people decided to die with such an exclamation point?  Probably not, but who’s to say there might not have been a bit of “I’ll show you!” to underline just how hopeless they felt.

It’s difficult to know.  It has never come up on the gay agenda.  That’s right the “gay agenda” which intolerant people seem to believe is our quest to take over the world and yet who bristle at the idea that we would just settle for full equality.  Intolerant people, beginning with adults, feed intolerance to others.  They can’t eat and spew it all themselves.  Kids like Tyler Clementi’s room-mate are enslaved by the need for conformity.  Anything different is to be avoided – they even call it “gay”.  Intolerance responds well to peers.  Gangs are not required when more innocuous cliques or clicks (of the mouse) can puff up your social network and whatever views you wish to share.  I’m the first to admit that this works equally well for the intolerant and the intolerant of the intolerant.

I suppose it’s my choice to be connected with people who report such things as gay youth suicides.  Suicide has been a fact of gay life since I came out nearly thirty years ago.  What makes these four recent deaths so vexing is that they were each preceded by bullying.  It’s bad enough that the conditions are still not right to prevent some kids from feeling like they need  to commit suicide, but it’s worse – and criminal – to describe the situation as having been driven to do so.

Sometimes I think, and perhaps project, that when I’m telling my story there’s a sinking feeling inside my audience (one or one hundred) such as, “I don’t know how (and/or why) you’ve avoided suicide.”  My story, however, betrays any idea that I have not and, for the purposes of my definition, I’d suggest there is both active and passive suicide.

How many times have I been warned that I was killing myself?  Whether or not the concern seemed reasonable to me at the time an autopsy of  my spirit would most likely have confirmed it.  This goes beyond not looking after myself, too, as if that were not insane enough.  The end-game in my young adulthood was not to end up unable to work for physical and mental reasons.  However I was so intent on running away from myself and my secrets and my shame and – it must be said – everything good about me it seemed the formula to do that  was the easily available poisons, legal and illegal, mostly consisting of (or certainly starting with) alcohol.

One of my favourite descriptions of where this led, and the search deep beneath it, was described in a letter from psychiatrist Carl Jung to one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson:

You see, ‘alcohol’ in Latin is ‘spiritus’ and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum.

One of the peaks of my early coming out process was when I was able to cut loose from the fundamentalist Christian tradition I had taken on in college where, at the time, there was no positive reinforcement of any kind for LGBT students.  (That’s something that is a must, and a barometer for tolerance, on any campus!)

I didn’t give my beliefs as a teen much thought when my family attended church each week so, coupled with the angst of my being gay,  I was ripe for the picking by the Bible-literalist church I went to in college.

However I led a double life which became unbearable and I eventually came to see coming out as freedom, not something to be feared.

Had I ever attempted suicide?  Yes, at a surprisingly young age with a blessedly inept plan.  I tried to shut my bedroom door on my neck repeatedly.  Just not too forcefully, besides which the faux wood of the door would not have hurt me too much even at full strength.

Such was my most serious attempt but, just thinking about it, what kind of despondency was I feeling?  Well I was still in elementary school so the worst feelings always had something to do with my school bully/head teacher/principal wannabe.

The freedom I believed myself to be experiencing with alcohol as a young adult, self-abuse, was my suicide plan – no it was more passive than a plan.  It was like, “Give me death, unless something better comes along.”

I did not realize, though, that thinking about suicide (and I assure you that I have checked “yes” to that on forms over the years without knowing the consequences), might put a little red star on your file.  I understand that now.  I know that if I’m capable of thinking about it, there’s always the risk of following through.  Suicide ideation, as it’s called, is of course a much larger statistic than actual suicides.

All of which leads me back to Tyler and, locally, David whose circumstances while different led to them being driven, and quickly, to tragic ends.  There are some instances where it’s not enough to just cluck “What a shame!”.  Stock-taking of youth education, peer support, zero-tolerance of bullying (gay or straight as kids can be nasty to anyone), anti-homophobia measures – they must continue so long as the horror of being found out as gay, or nastily revealing evidence which would leave no doubt, is the most terrifying feeling a kid could, in their mind, possibly experience.

Clearly Hazel McCallion has been hanging around Don Cherry too much!


CBC News – Toronto – Police re-investigate abuse claims in Mississauga.

First of all, why is “hazing” not treated as the bodily, sometimes sexual, assault that it clearly is?  Not criminal?  C’mon!

Hurricane Hazel’s best-before date has long since passed.  She’s clearly staying on as Mayor only to break some kind of geezer record and her back-handed defense of this hazing in the suburb she’s so proud of is outrageous, dove-tailing as it does on the conflict-of-interest dust-up she’s being investigated about.

Get the bullies out of your work-force, Hazel, and then think about retirement for your last few years of life.

As seen on Facebook (from others who, like me, remember 1981)


Open Letter to Pride Toronto from founders of Pride in 1981

As founding members of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, and people involved in organizing the first Pride event in Toronto at the end of June in 1981, we stand totally opposed to the decision of the current Toronto Pride Committee to ban the use of “Israeli Apartheid” at Toronto Pride events. This banning of political speech is clearly an attempt to ban the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) and queer Palestine Solidarity supporters from the parade and from participation in a major event in our communities. This sets a very dangerous precedent for the exclusion of certain political perspectives within our movements and communities from Pride events. We call on the Pride committee to immediately rescind this banning and to instead encourage QuAIA’s participation in the pride parade.

We remind people of the political roots of Pride in the Stonewall rebellion against police repression in 1969 and that the Pride march in 1981 in Toronto grew out of our community resistance to the massive bath raids of that year. On the Pride march in 1981 about a thousand of us stopped in protest in front of 52 Division Police Station (which played a major part in the raids) and our resistance to the bath raids was rooted in solidarity with other communities (including the Black and South Asian communities) also facing police repression. Two of the initiating groups for Pride in 1981 — Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE) and Lesbians Against the Right (LAR) — organized Pride as part of more general organizing against the moral conservative right-wing. This included not only its anti-queer but also its anti-feminist, racist and anti-working class agendas.

We also remember in the 1980s that lesbian and gay activists around the world, including in Toronto in the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee, took up the struggle not only for lesbian and gay rights in South Africa but linked this to our opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white supremacy in South Africa. This global queer solidarity helps to account for how it was that constitutional protection for lesbians and gay men was first established in the new post-apartheid South Africa.

Solidarity with all struggles against oppression has been a crucial part of the history of Pride. To break this solidarity as the Pride Committee has now done not only refuses to recognize how queer people always live our lives in relation to race, class, gender, ability and other forms of oppression but also breaks our connections with the struggles of important allies who have assisted us in making the important gains that we have won.

Signers:

Katherine Arnup, founding member of the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Lesbians Against the Right and Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Hugh English, one of the first organizers of Toronto Pride, a former member of GLARE, and a queer in solidarity with struggles against oppression around the world.

Amy Gottlieb, member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Gary Kinsman, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, member of the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee.

Ian Lumsden, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee and member of Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Michael Riordon, co-host (with Lorna Weir) of the first Toronto Lesbian & Gay Pride Day, 1981; founding member of Bridges (between gay/lesbian & Latin American liberation movements); author of the forthcoming book, Our Way to Fight, on peace activists in Israel and Palestine.

Lorna Weir, co-host (with Michael Riordon) of the first Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, founding member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Brian Woods, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, and founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee

Unearthing one of my early newspaper appearances


 

After the cathartic experience here this morning of again recalling Craig’s struggles, in the early days of his ministry, I was remembering some of what was going on in my life 700 km away from Craig.  In the raucous days of an Ontario Human Rights Code amendment debate, giving gays and lesbians protection in the workplace, housing and so on, I agreed to be interviewed by another reporter (she from the newspaper, me in radio).

In a brown envelope, within a “clippings” folder, I found a photocopy of this St. Catharines Standard article stamped Dec. 29 1986.

Forgive some of the views expressed. Pop quuiz: I won’t tell you which ones. :) I was so naive!

Beneath a picture of me on the phone, a picture roughly the same size as the three-column article, picture this:

On the record

 

Kenn Chaplin has ended a double life to find contentment in the gay world

 

By TERRY SLAVIN

Standard Staff

If Kenn Chaplin had been able to choose his sexuality, he would have chosen to be gay.  Although it’s  difficult enough for most people to deal with their heterosexuality, Kenn has no regrets about the fact he was born gay.

“I’m enjoying the political side of my lifestyle immensely.  I think because I’m gay I’m more sensitive  to other oppressed people.  Despite what I now know about the difficulties of this lifestyle, if I could choose, I think I would choose to be gay.”

Kenn, a reporter with CKTB in St. Catharines, is also one of the founding members of Gay Outreach Niagara, a two-year-old support groups for gays and lesbians.

Helping other gays in the region come to terms with their homosexuality is a labor of love which occupies about half of his leisure time.  He also has devoted a great deal of time working with the AIDS committee in Toronto.

Kenn has emerged from a few closets since the day six years ago when he penned a letter to the United Church Observer objecting to the ordination of gays as ministers.

“It’s something I regret now,” the lanky 27-year old says quietly.  “But I think some of the worst homophobes can’t come to terms with their own sexuality.”

Kenn moved to the Niagara area from Valleyfield, Que., to attend Niagara College in 1977, and entered a period of emotional and mental confusion.

“When I moved here I had a truly double life, going to Toronto for sexual contacts while attending an ultra-conservative sect in Welland on Sundays as a way of suppressing it.

“It didn’t work.  It just made me feel guilty – not because I was doing what I was doing, but because I was leading this double life.”

On one trip to Toronto in 1981 he was handed a pamphlet which tore apart the biblical justifications used to denounce homosexuality, and he suddenly realized he could resolve the conflict between his gay identity and his faith in the United Church.

It was on the heels of that revelation that he decided to tell his parents the truth.

“That was the biggest hurdle, telling my parents I was gay.  I just wasn’t sure how they’d handle it.  My gut reaction was they’d either reject me or lovingly accept me.”

Fortunately for the entire family, they did the latter.

Spending Sundays hearing the anti-gay gospel expounded on the Calvary Gospel Church pulpit, however, has helped him to understand both sides of the heated debate about the sexual orientation amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“I appreciate the diverse backgrounds.  I know how the two poles operate.  I know how the born-agains operate.  They fully believed I was going to hell.”

Kenn says his goal in life is to share a normal existence with one other man “and live happily ever after”, but it has been difficult for him to find a partner.

He estimates between 40 and 50 percent of gay men aren’t secure enough about their sexuality to commit themselves to that kind of lifestyle.

It is difficult enough meeting other gays.  He says “straight people” have the opportunity to meet potential mates in school, shopping centres, work situations, as well as the bar scene, but gay people don’t have as many choices.

Outside of a gay bar, he observes wryly, “You just don’t go up and ask, if you want to keep your teeth.”

There is one bar in downtown St. Catharines which caters to a gay clientele at night, he says, but most people go to Toronto, or across the border to Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York.

“I’m not holding out much hope it’ll happen here, and that’s why I’ll never feel at home here.”

Another shadow that cannot help but creep into Kenn’s life is the fear of AIDS.  He has done some work with the AIDS committee in Toronto, and has given emotional and practical support as a “buddy” to some of the AIDS victims in Niagara.

He has had three friends die from AIDS.

“When I read the Globe or the Star I read the death pages.  It’s made me grow up fast, come home, do the crosswords and read the death notices.”

And with each new death, his thoughts can’t help but stray to his own mortality.

“I’m assuming I’ve already been exposed to the virus before safe sex started,” he says.  Because of the long incubation period (up to five years) he could still get AIDS.

“I like to live.  My philosophy is don’t worry until you have something to worry about.”

And now that the Human Rights Code has passed an amendment prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals, he does not have any fear about going public about his sexuality.

He said he expects some negative reaction when “people who’ve been dealing with Kenn Chaplin, CKTB reporter, find out they’ve been dealing with a gay all along…but I accept it.  I’m going to have to deal with it all my life.  By coming out the only choice I’ve made is to be honest.  If other people can’t handle that it’s their problem, it’s not mine.”

 

If I was spoiling for a fight I got one – but nothing as bad as it could have been.

It just so happened (wink, wink) that the article came out on the first of my two days off.  When I returned to work my fellow reporters showed a variety of levels of support but when my boss called me in I got a truer picture.

He nervously assured me that he had no problem with the substance of the article, the unorthodoxy of a newspaper interviewing a competing radio station notwithstanding.  He wished that I had given him a heads up.  It was his boss, he said, the station manager, who was having a harder time with it.

His office was my next stop.

Again, I was treated with courtesy but he gave me a double-pronged objection:  I was opening up the radio station to unnecessary scrutiny by listeners and he was Roman Catholic and struggled with some of my views.  No big surprise there.

The whole exercise was an adrenaline rush and I wholly admit to being in a frame-of-mind at the time of, “Go ahead.  Challenge me!”

It’s a reminder to me of those days when “pride”, as in LGBT Pride displayed in the annual festivals and parades, was much more political here in Canada than has since become the case.  However, echoing the words of Alyson Huntly to me earlier, “I don’t think people realize how much hatred glbtq people experience just for being who we are, or how hard it is for young people especially. It’s still socially acceptable to be anti-gay even when it is no longer socially acceptable to promote racial hatred.”

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day


Tomorrow, December 1, is World AIDS Day. Let us remember that HIV/AIDS remains an issue the world over 364 other days of the year.

Promising treatments have extended the survival of people in the wealthiest nations of the world but, where available, are only starting to have an effect in poorer nations.

Canada’s promise to make cheaper generic drugs more accessible to poor countries is a law on the books but the medicines have not been rolled out. This is unacceptable. Nothing makes people with HIV/AIDS in rich nations more deserving of treatment than those in poor countries.

Would you help? Cutting and pasting is mostly all that’s required!


Except for the first paragraph, which I wrote, this letter is available for you to cut and paste here at http://www.essentialmedicine.org/add-your-voice/camr/

Don’t worry about the October 23 deadline having passed. The bill is only at the committee stage.

Here’s my letter:

Dear Legislator,

As a Canadian living with HIV for the last 20 years I have immediate concerns about problems with the roll-out of the H1N1 vaccine. However, as a beneficiary of the “cocktail” of HIV medicines since they were in the experimental stage, I also have serious concerns with the unacceptable delays in implementing Canada’s legislation designed to make such drugs available to impoverished countries which need them desperately. I am no more deserving of these life-extending medicines than the poorest person in the world.

On September 16th a shipment of drugs left the Toronto airport bound for Rwanda. It has taken years of persistence and determination for Apotex to send this second part of a shipment of drugs to dying Africans.

In 2004, Canada responded to the urgent need for lower-cost, life-saving medicines by passing Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) with all party support. Unfortunately, CAMR is too flawed to be effective. The delivery of one order to one country by one generic drug company in five years cannot be termed successful. We Canadians have a responsibility to do better. And we can.

Bill C-393, which is designed to simplify the process with a one-license proposal, offers a solution in streamlining CAMR. Knowledgeable experts have answered every question raised about the amendment. There is no cost and it adheres to WTO, TRIPS and health regulations.

This is a humanitarian rather than a trade issue. The picture of children dying of AIDS before their second birthday is heart wrenching. We cannot bear this reality, knowing that Canada could provide the medicines necessary to keep these children and their parents alive.

Apotex Canada has indicated its willingness to develop a medicine primarily for children, one dose, easy to swallow. But their commitment is based on making CAMR more workable.

It is only fair that ideas about reforming it should not simply be dismissed outright. Instead, the details of the reforms should be considered by a committee that can hear from experts. I ask you to acknowledge that in principle there is a problem with the current CAMR. Please call on the members of your party to support Bill C-393, and allow it to pass to committee for careful study.

You have the information regarding CAMR that you need. As leader of your party, you have the power to lead your members in the right direction. I urge you to hear the plea of Canadians joining the voices of those in developing nations who are holding their dying children. Please help. Support Bill C-393.

I look forward to your responses to this letter and your indication that you and your party will support this bill.

Sincerely,

Kenn Chaplin