Final tributes to Jack Layton in pictures

It was an emotion-packed, life-affirming day.

There are some blog posts I’d like to forget – on returning to the NDP

I’ve always tried to make this blog somewhat of a record of my life, however fragmented, warts and all.  Here in the archives is my defiant abandonment of the New Democratic Party for, let’s say, greener pastures.  However right it felt at the time, and for a couple of by-elections and a general election after, I have been back to embracing my NDP sentiments for a while now.

Unless I am mistaken, my leaving had only minimal impact on the party at the national level.  However, at the level of my local riding association on which I served as a member of the Executive, there are amends to be made when the time is right.

This is all swirling through my conscience this week as Canada observes the passing of NDP leader Jack Layton.  Everything from his departing letter to Canadians to the public outpouring of affection for Jack-the-man serve to point out what a great loss the country has suffered.

In one of several meetings with him, I remember running into Jack in the corridors at the national convention held in Quebec City a few years ago.  I had something, forgotten now, to discuss with him.  Surrounded by his closest aides, anxious to continue their walk, he pulled me to his side and said, “Walk with me.”  We conversed, I was satisfied, and the convention proceeded as he headed to the stage.  I don’t know whether Jack always knew my name, if ever, but he always knew my face and knew my passions, particularly as an AIDS activist.

We grew up about forty kilometers, and nine years, apart - Jack in Hudson, me in Valleyfield.  Hudson is on the Ottawa River, Valleyfield on the St. Lawrence.  Friends moved up there midway through high school so I used to cycle across the flat St. Lawrence Valley and make the huge climb up into the hills which hugged the Ottawa.  It was an athletic feat for someone not otherwise very athletic!  I particularly remember making the trip to see the Olympic torch run through Hudson on its way to the 1976 games in Montreal.

I look forward to what is sure to be an outstanding send-off to Jack on Saturday, and to intentionally re-connecting with NDP friends in the days ahead.

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!

Michael Lucas and the ‘pink-washed’ liner notes of “Men of Israel”

His fans might be forgiven for not actually knowing his name. Michael Lucas has made millions from gay men who have bought, or otherwise paid to view, one of hs 100+ films – roughly eighty percent of which he has starred in.

Lucas touched off a controversy last week when he threatened to pull his money, and influence over many fundraising events, from the LGBT Center of New York after he learned of the “Smash Israeli Apartheid” party scheduled for tomorrow night or, as Gay City News put it, Firestorm Over LGBT Center Jettisoning Critics of Israel. The Center gave in; the event was cancelled but plenty of other events for New York’s Israeli Apartheid Week are underway.

Torontonians, who also have many events to take in, are familiar with the anti-free speech lobby which tries to shut down events drawing attention to Israeli Apartheid. Just think back to the months leading up to last year’s Pride Week.

(The discussion isn’t over.)

Michael Lucas, who also writes a conservative column for The Advocate, doesn’t hide his contempt for anti-apartheid activists.

A proud accomplishment of his was the production last year of an all-Jewish porn film in Israel. In the notes (in bold below) he couldn’t resist taking digs at Arab neighbours or Israeli Palestinians for that matter while waxing poetic on Israel. It’s called pink-washing.


(Click “About” to see the original rendering on the website)

Lucas Entertainment’s MEN OF ISRAEL is a landmark for its namesake nation, and the production has pioneered a new level of accomplishment in history.

Besides the throbbing hot men, Israel is a beautiful country with a beautiful culture. It is a phenomenal country where people can truly be liberated and live as they please.

In a sea of hostility and intolerance of the Middle East, Israel is the beacon of freedom. In every surrounding country homosexuality is illegal, often punishable by flogging and even hanging. Presently Israel remains the only country in the Middle East to provide legal protection for gays. Many LGBT individuals have relocated to Israel, often fleeing cruel intolerance that includes physical abuse, exile, or death.

The nation is a trailblazer in the area of gay rights, and the only nation in the Middle East and Asia to recognize same-sex marriages. “This is a liberal country where gay people have all the rights, actually more rights, than gays in the United States,” states Lucas, “There is no ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy. Israeli gay men have been able to serve openly in the army since 1993 and gay couples are granted the right to adopt children.” Israel draws its population from over 90 countries, creating a truly progressive, multicultural society.

The global media has created an image of Israel as war-torn nation, which streets are lined with destroyed debris and crumbling ruins. Publicly broadcasted footage is always filmed in either Gaza or the West Bank, regardless of whether or not the story has a pro or anti-Israeli angle. Never are we shown Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea resorts, the beautiful beaches, the amazing architecture and the embracing culture that allows its citizens to thrive.

For this reason, other than showcasing the raw, sexual prowess of Israel men, Lucas also has completed MEN OF ISRAEL as a bold move to promote Israeli culture and tourism. As with the tourist boom in countries like Czech Republic, which became popular gay travel destinations through movies of this type, Lucas aims to parlay the MEN OF ISRAEL’s success into a tourist hike for the nation. Eastern European countries had little to no promotion for the savvy excursionist. “These places did not exist on the map as a destination locale until Bel Ami came along. With their representation through adult movies, these countries were exposed to the realm of gay travelers,” states Lucas. “Through porn, people will enjoy not only watching hot men having hot sex, but also seeing them in their remarkable natural environment, and this is what I intend to do for Israel.”

Here are just a few of the unique attractions that Israel boasts:

  • Israel has an abundance of historical sites that you will not be able to see all of in one visit
  • Stunning architecture
  • Wide array of intriguing arts & museums
  • Amazing natural resorts and national parks with hot springs, spectacular wildlife and beautiful gardens. Israel boasts seven climate zones, ranging from dry to tropical and hot to cold
  • Gorgeous waters like the Mediterranean, Red and Dead Seas, and Sea of Gallilee, with beautiful beach and great availability of outdoor activities, ranging from scuba diving to fishing
  • Delicious organic food with fresh meat & fish, as Israel has wonderfully developed agriculture
  • Eclectic restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world.
  • Israel a paradise for young gay men and women with numerous modern clubs, bars, and other outdoor activities specifically for our community.
  • Friendly and warm people who speak fluent English
  • Short distance to travel from one location to another without taking planes (one can travel anywhere in the country by car).
  • On top of that, traveling within Israel is much cheaper than traveling through the United States or Western Europe.

Lucas will use the rare scenery along with the stunning locals in MEN OF ISRAEL. The film showcases the unforgettable and entrancing mountain ranges, the extraordinary sunset hues over the desert, the Dead Sea and the pristine views of the Mediterranean Sea and modern Tel Aviv as a backdrop. Of course, the film also features the beauty of Israeli men. What we have captured on film is a groundbreaking sexual revolution.

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

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: .

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


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and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian
Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized,
nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in
regions of lethal conflict.

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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!”)

Txt, telephone or…blog…let’s talk about mental illness!

This is Bell Let’s Talk Day.

Multiple Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, lead spokesperson for the campaign, was on CTV News in Toronto today. From among the calls she fielded came this articulate gem, “To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.”

However, and this was Clara’s message, help and hope are available to those who reach out.

Citing Bell’s initiative today, St. Paul’s (Toronto) MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett, in a Member’s Statement in the House of Commons, called on the federal government to move forward with an anti-stigma campaign. I won’t hold my breath.

To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.

Something else important to point out is that mental illness is on a spectrum. Major depression, bipolar or schizophrenia are examples of the most serious forms of mental illness but there are plenty of gray areas, too – usually the first signs of something more serious.

My first meeting with a mental health professional came around the time that I was diagnosed HIV-positive, nearly twenty-two years ago.  I was put on the lowest dose of a common anti-depressant and it was only when I took myself off it a few years later (unsupervised, such as I did it, is never a good idea) that I realized how much it had been helping.

Then, years later, what I identified as a distinct lack of depression led me down a path of behaviour quite out of character.  Only at the bottom of the deep hole of my own digging did I again seek help at which time I was diagnosed, over time, with bipolar-II – a variant of the more extreme bipolar or manic-depressive.

Listening to a description of the condition and its symptoms I recognized myself and felt much relief. It explained much about recent feelings and behaviour but also put historic episodes into better perspective.

A change in medication once or twice, trying to minimize effects on my lipids, has resulted in a recent period of stability.

I cannot take my moods for granted, certainly not the good ones.  Yet I feel that, so long as I take my medications (“head meds” or those for HIV/AIDS), I have hope.

Social contact cannot be over-emphasized either.

Shelter from the St. Valentine♥s Day Ma$$acre

Having, hopefully, just paid at least the minimum owing on their Christmas credit card bills, gluttonous consumers are now being cajoled into the can’t-win Valentine’s Day debacle.

Take heart…PLEASE!

First of all, what are we teaching our kids when we buy them Flat Stanley-sized boxes of Valentine’s Day cards, so intimately perforated along the edges, for general distribution in grade school? The same parents would shudder at the idea of teaching kids about healthy sexuality.

Engineers Without Borders Canada suggests ways to spend, whatever you choose, a little more ethically.

Of course there’s chocolate…

Why don’t happy couples give the priceless gift of writing, and exchanging (or renewing), vows?  It doesn’t have to be FAAABulously expemsive!  No restaurant, champagne, roses, lingerie nor chocolates required.

What about, for the sake of a past Valentine’s child/ren, getting caught up on support payments?

Further reading:

Roses are Green Too: An Ethical Guide to Valentine’s Day

Other ideas?

30 years “out” – February 5 (when Toronto cops swept through the baths)

If ever I’ve had a “But for the grace of God, there go I” occasion (even though I have problems with that expression) it would have to have been February 5, 1981 – thirty years ago today.

At 11 p.m. that night, more than 150 police carried out simultaneous raids on four of Toronto’s most popular bath houses, arresting close to 300 men. “Operation Soap”, as the police named the investigation, is very well recalled here by Pink Triangle Press. It was the largest mass arrest in Canada since the October Crisis of 1970 and the late Rick Bébout’s account of the raids and the aftermath live on here. This was long before police “sensitivity training”.

Had it not been a weeknight I might very well have been swept up in the raids as I was a frequent visitor to bath houses on my almost-weekly trips from St. Catharines to Toronto bars and baths.

Until the events of that night I was leading a tortuous double life as a twenty-one-year-old, secretly trying to extinguish my homosexuality during the week as part of a conservative church and inevitably giving in to my natural instincts on the weekend (or whenever my days off happened to be) in the anonymity offered by the big city across the lake.

I came out to my parents, writing them a letter.

I was livid when the pastor of the church wrote a letter to the local paper praising the actions of the Toronto police. He was driven from the church not too long after due to an unrelated split in the congregation.

Assuming that television cameras would catch me protesting, following the raids, I came out to my parents, writing them a letter. Their positive response included them telling me that my brother, Craig, had come out to them a few years earlier. Understandably, neither they nor Craig were interested in telling me so long as I was part of the fundamentalist church.

The bath raids brought me out of the closet, frankly feeling more angry than liberated, and I count myself among the thousands in Toronto who can trace their passion for gay liberation politics through the tumultuous events of the raids and the subsequent massive demonstrations. I hung out with Rick, Chris Bearchell (who gave me a button which read “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”) and others, at a few meetings/parties at The Body Politic. I later wrote, infrequently granted, for TBP (the excellent forerunner to Pink Triangle Press’ Xtra!) – particularly when police arrested men having sex in public washrooms in Welland and St. Catharines.

Niagara Regional Police released the names and addresses of the accused. Most media outlets ran them – before trial – including my employer, but not before I engaged in a heated argument with my boss. He insisted on “the public’s right to know” (read gossip) while I argued that the extreme sensitivity of the charges far exceeded the seriousness of the allegations.

Very few of the accused fought the charges. In rural west St Catharines in January, 1985 a 42-year-old father of two, and a Sunday school teacher, was found dead in his car, having soaked himself with gasoline and set off his lighter. Just days earlier, he had been at the Fairview Mall. Three hours before his suicide, he had been charged with gross indecency.

He missed his trial; didn’t enter a plea. He was never convicted and yet he, and many others, had already been punished by the police and the media. The St. Catharines Standard was an outstanding exception, not only witholding the names of the accused but also doing a series of reports on the phenomenon of anonymous sex, even “tearoom sex”.

It was heart-warming to find so many of the activists with whom I had cut my political teeth, in the aftermath of the bath raids, now playing key roles in Toronto’s response to the AIDS crisis.

Using a pseudonym, so as not to upset management at the St. Catharines radio station where I was employed (I’d already caused a ruckus by “coming out” in the local paper), I worked with other activists on various information and political action campaigns through my years there in the 1980s.

When I was diagnosed with HIV, and then AIDS, not long after moving to Toronto in 1988 it was heart-warming to find so many of the activists with whom I had cut my political teeth, in the aftermath of the bath raids, now playing key roles in Toronto’s response to the AIDS crisis. Rick Bébout was among them until his death in 2009.

The Pride parades in Toronto, now held each June, got their biggest shot in the arm following the raids. What had only loosely been called a “community” was now a community indeed. We became very adept organizers and campaigners of all sorts.

Another of the lasting legacies of the raids is the almost universal disdain with which the Toronto Sun is held in the LGBT community. The paper, and most notably columnist Claire Hoy, were constant cheerleaders of the brains behind the raids at the Attorney-General’s office and Metro Toronto Police’s 52 Division. Ironically relations with the police have greatly improved over the years.

The Sun? For “old-timers”, at least, not so much.

What follows is a full-length documentary about the bath raids entitled “Track Two”. I well remember how proud the community was when it was released. It is available, and in smaller segments as well, from Xtra‘s YouTube site.

In fact I’ll lead off with one of those segments because I thought it was so funny and I was mere steps away from the main subject, author Margaret Atwood, during the filming. I even remember that date, February 20.  This was an event at St. Lawrence Market North, a fundraiser for legal defense and for future political advocacy. (The evening also featured a then up-and-coming a cappella group The Nylons.)

Enjoy Margaret’s deadpan!

Now the full 87 minute documentary:

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:

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:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Step 2:

CC your own MP. You can find your MP’s e-mail address here:

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.


Your Name

Step 5:


Step 6:

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

What to call this: P.C. fu%ks denial?

This story from Xtra! Vancouver infuriates me: AIDS groups remove ‘AIDS’ from their names.

If “AIDS” still carries too much stigma, which it does, that is what to work on, not re-branding!

I know, at 51 years of age, I am an old fart from the club kids’ point-of-view.  Well hang on to your brain cells, honey bees, because I’d stack the wisdom gained from my life experience against your knowledge any time.

In turning your back on AIDS, you’re turning your back on a generation of survivors who know what community really means, who cared for our friends (many of whom were your age), as long as they lived.  When they died, as most of them did, we collectively walked ourselves through a thousand good-byes.  We weren’t so concerned about stigma when our community was falling around us and home-care teams needed to be assembled.  And yet, to be sure, there were many examples of stigma – a harsh reality.  On an international scale Rock Hudson was on his death-bed before he admitted having AIDS.  It was after many years of the disease before President Ronald Reagan ever mentioned AIDS publicly.

I do not consider my HIV/AIDS diagnosis to be retractable.  When I had an AIDS-defining infection, cryptosporidiosis, that was very close to killing me I don’t believe the AIDS genie went back into the bottle after a long, arduous treatment.  This is not some perverse badge of honour, it is my story of survival a few years before the advent of antiretroviral therapy.

An HIV diagnosis is not what it used to be, thank goodness, but it should result in a major change in behaviour nonetheless.  Treatments have side effects you really ought to want to put off for as long as you can so a little more I-give-a-fuck is in order.

Would changing the name make you any more likely to try to avoid HIV infection?

I responded to the Xtra! article with this:

It’s behaviour that still needs changing

If I thought for one minute that removing the name AIDS would change the behaviour of kids too young to remember when AIDS was killing – dead – our friends, or would facilitate more people seeking help, or would change the lax attitude towards infection (something like “I’ll only have HIV and there’s pills for that so why should I care if I become infected?”) then I’d be all for springing for the cost of removal of AIDS from websites, letterhead and pamphlets.

Kenn Chaplin,
Toronto, Ontario