Monday, November 11, 2019

Remembrance Day 2.0

I have no connection to the military whatsoever, but Remembrance Day has always stood out as my favourite holiday. 

My enthusiasm is born of the commitment and catharsis Remembrance Day represents. It’s only the day when the country says in one voice: “never again”, and grinds to a halt for a moment of solace. It’s the only day when you can publicly cry about the madness and unfairness of the world and be understood by a stranger. 

The temporal context of Remembrance Day is changing; the last of the World War II veterans will find peace on the other side of the poppies soon. As this unavoidable reality approaches, what will it mean for Canadian culture to have the human memory of the Great Wars go extinct?

It means, like all things classic, Remembrance Day will undergo a millennial reboot. 

Remembrance Day is typically approached as an account of history - the telling of a cautionary tale and unimaginable loss. We spend the day looking back, for now. 

The millennial rewrite will challenge the retrospective character of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day 2.0 will be an activist uptake of “never again”. We will look as deeply into our future as we do our past with the lens of remembrance. 

Remembrance Day 2.0 will be a fusion of reminder and remembrance, where the love and consideration we look back with now become behaviours we carry with us everyday. It will be our holiday to remember great loss, but more importantly our holiday to meaningfully commit to peace and all the sacrifices and complexities that peace requires. 

Lest we forget. Lest we desist. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Power of a Good MP: An Endorsement

If you're a friend or follower, you know my life has brought me to beautiful coastal Saint John. My blessed return to New Brunswick was foregrounded by a formative decade+ in our nation's capital. After graduating from high school in 2005, I left Sussex Corner to attend Carleton University and was immediately enamoured with the architecture, natural environment, and civic engagement the National Capital Region boasts.

I did something bold when I got to Ottawa. I joined the Green Party. It was 2006, and Stephen Harper had just won his first minority government. This election was my first; displeased, I decided not to remain silent. I joined the Green Party in time to vote in and volunteer at the Ottawa leadership convention that elected Elizabeth May leader.

L to R: Jim Fannon, David Chernushenko, Elizabeth May. Ottawa, 2006.

Green values are my values, and Green policies appeal to me as principled and pragmatic. Ecological wisdom, non-violence, participatory democracy, respect for diversity, social justice, and sustainability guide Green policy - I signed up for an orderly revolution.

Green politics are different than those of traditional parties. Foremost, the party is unyielding in its efforts to work across difference for the common good. Whipped votes are forbidden by the party's constitution; each Green MP votes their conscience and assumes accountability to their constituents foremost.

Scant representation in the House of Commons has affirmed that beyond an ethos, this willingness has been a necessity for Elizabeth May to be the exemplary parliamentarian she is. Because of Elizabeth May, no Canadian can legitimately doubt the power of a good MP.

Talented progressives are stepping up as Green candidates across the country. Look no further than astrophysicist Amita Kuttner, PhD (Burnaby North), former broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts (Halifax), and indigenous leader Racelle Kooy (Victoria).

In a perfect world, every Green candidate is as extraordinary as these. We don't live in that world; parties of all stripes nominate flagbearer candidates in non-competitive ridings. These candidates expose the d├ętente of Canada's First-past-the-post elections: strategic voting.

Consider that every vote is strategic; the decision to vote is strategic. The quandary for Greens is intense this election. We're polling higher than ever and we're projected to win in multiple ridings. FTFP forces voters to insidiously conceive their votes as both national and local, both symbolic and procedural.

Subsidies for political parties complicate strategic voting further. If a candidate receives over 10% of the vote in any riding, 50% of their campaign expenses are reimbursed. The meager threshold stokes an incentive to campaign halfheartedly in perceived non-competitive ridings.

Meanwhile, Liberal rhetorical commitment to climate policy has gone unmatched by actions. They promised us a red eye and handed us an Americano. A good barista would apologize and remake the drink, but the planet is not a coffee coffee shop. There's no remaking the Earth. The best case scenario for our strained people and stained planet is a Liberal minority government tipped left by Green and NDP caucuses.

Catherine McKenna executed a Liberal bait-and-switch on climate policy. Her impudence is second only to Maryam Monsef's tactless excision of electoral reform. McKenna must be defeated in Ottawa-Centre.

Emilie Taman is the right woman for the job.

Emilie is the kind of person who knows the purpose and power of an Opposition MP; she's a human rights champion who understands the existential threat of the climate crisis. Emilie is a civil liberties proponent. Even when the details are complex and the subject matter is caustic, her concept of justice is clear. More than any other candidate in Ottawa-Centre, I have the utmost confidence in Emilie to insist on legal gender pluralism and pursue justice for nonbinary, two spirit, and trans Canadians.

I begrudge noone a conscientious vote, but I implore consideration of the actual work an MP does. Our elections deliver a parliament of individuals who participate in legislative processes. That's the job. If an MP shows up, and they write down what they say they were going to write down, they "make" everyone read it, they speak to it persuasively, and they create consensus......*long inhale*
They. write. laws.

It would be fair to say I bleed Green. At the time of my fateful move East, I was the Communications Chair of the GPC's Ottawa-Centre riding association. I have since assumed campaign communications duties here in Saint-John Rothesay in support of Green candidate Ann McAllister - the only serious progressive on the ballot - a regional dynamic we're seeing across Atlantic Canada.

Progressives in Canada's coastal provinces are coalescing around Green candidates, but Ontario remains a different political animal. As I plea for Ottawan Greens to take a harder look at Emilie Taman, I equally urge Atlantic New Democrats to consider their allegiances.

The blood feud between Greens and New Democrats has gotten out of hand. I've lost much respect for those partisans who choose to spread lies about the Green party being either anti-choice or "secretly" conservative. I personally conceive the grief between Greens and New Democrats as a tactical disagreement, albeit one with legitimate and immediate consequences. I've written on behalf of merger, and when the wounds of the Fall election heal, it's a conversation we need to revive.
Until then, I'm proud to reach across partisan lines and offer my sincerest endorsement to Emilie Taman for Ottawa-Centre's next MP.

So go ahead, and ruin Thanksgiving dinner by talking politics. The planet is counting on you!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Spaces I Love: Robinson Village

After 31 trips around the sun, I have a whole apartment to myself. In April, I signed for the last 4 months of a tiny bachelor apartment at the foot of Sandy Hill in Ottawa. The building will be demolished in the Fall as part of forthcoming redevelopment of Robinson Village. Beyond the joy of my first apartment, I have a deep appreciation for pre-gentrified Robinson Village. This essay is about both.

My first solo apartment is an anomaly in many ways. I took over a lease from a graduating business administration student for the four Summer months. A fateful Kijiji alert found me the best value apartment I've ever heard of in Ottawa. While less than 300 square feet isn't much, I'm paying $650 a month including utilities. For a bachelor in Ottawa? Unheard of! That's not a price break for the takeover, either. The previous tenant was paying the same.

Height zoning for Robinson Village development.

Logistical-financial reality dissuades me from investing in a space where I could host a few people socially. The space is set up such that two people could barely survive, but I'm quite happy there alone. I have a space that, when in proper order, I can sleep, cook, watch TV, do art, work, and work out in. It juuuust hits minimum requirements of what I need and not a shred more.

I have a small omni-room, a decently sized closet, and a desk-nook. The unit opens to the bathroom on the right and a hallway that ends in the omni-room. The designer in me knows I could work with the space. A Murphy or loft bed would be a game changer, but my tenancy is short, so I resolved not to spend money or muscle on items to move at the end of August.

In any configuration, the unit is so small that there could only be two functional areas other than the kitchen, and one of them has to be my double mattress. If a twin bed was an option, there'd be a possibility for a meaningful partition. A double mattress fits in one corner with two perpendicular options. One opens up space immediately in front of the large south-facing front window, and the other the nook on the other side of the closet that a single bed would easily slide into.

Three of my five pieces of furniture are in the desk-nook. The 1.5 x 2 meter rectangle is home to a red folding director's chair & TV tray from Giant Tiger, and an almost-but-not-quite, matching folding stool from Dollarama. A an over-toilet white wire shelf fits over the heater and gives the nook storage.

The previous tenant opted for the other orientation, placing a loveseat against the main window, where I just have an end table with plants on it. That layout would make hosting a guest more comfortable, but sacrificed a workspace. Not gonna lie, though. I do think if I magically had a cute bistro set up three flights of stairs, it might change my mind.

There's an obvious slant to the floors. The East wall is the lower side of the unit. My bed accordingly subtly dipped down at the head before I used a few boards to level it out. The window is the perfect dimensions to host my rarely flown New Brunswick flag as a curtain. It's trimmed with a set of lights, and propped open with an inverted mason jar.

My bathroom is one of the quirkiest I've ever been in. The shower is a tiled triangular afterthought, but it's actually quite large. Two people fit into it with no struggles. (Wink!) The toilet is between the shower and the wall on the other side of the hallway. Above the toilet, there's a plain white shelf with a 2x3 foot mirror that I leaned against the wall. That's it.

There's no sink in the bathroom - the first of two glaring impracticalities of the apartment. The other drawback is somewhat unforgiveable to me; there's no onsite laundry, and lest the appreciative tone of this essay be tarnished, I shan't dwell on how laundry trips irk me.

The unit's only sink is on the kitchen wall of the omni-room. Plain white cabinets flank another basic shelf holding up a mirror. I'm satisfied with the counter and storage space, despite losing much to a two-burner cooktop and toaster oven.

I've made good use of the counter overhang, which was clearly left for the possibility of a dishwasher. It's now home to storage boxes and my TV. Between good antenna reception and Google Chromecast, the TV provides a soundtrack and background noise to my home time.

The last and best detail about my apartment is my beautiful cannabis mural. I went on a two-week trip a week after I moved in, so I offered my place to an artist-friend who is underhoused. I told him he could go nuts if he wanted to, but there was absolutely no expectation. I couldn't be happier with the result.

The neighbourhood is diverse in terms of race and language with roughly equal populations from working and middle classes. We're adjacent to the Rideau River and Robinson Park. My backyard is a soccer field and a riverfront park.

There are five Muskoka chairs on the Rideau River banks at Robinson Park. They just showed up in June, and not all at once. I've twice seen them used and thrice used them myself. I actually texted my friend James about them: "maybe we can have nice things?"

Five chairs by the river. 

The riverfront is so quiet at night that I forget I'm in the middle of the city. 

 Robinson Field. 

It takes 30 minutes to walk to the Rideau Centre through Sandy Hill,  I can shave off 5 minutes walking down King Edward Ave. If I go in the complete opposite direction, St. Laurent is also ~30 minutes walk away. For groceries, it's 15 Minutes to the Walmart at Trainyards,

Trainyards is my closest Starbucks - a welcome and unexpected homo hub. Kettleman's Bagels has a location all the way at the end Trainyards retail park, but I live on carbs, it's got wifi and coffee, and it's open 24 hours.

To get to Carleton I take a picturesque 15 minute walk along and across the Rideau River to Hurdman Station and catch a 104.

Bussing from Lees/Chapel is closer than Hurdman, but it's complicated; Robinson Village, like the Lees towers, got stiffed by transit construction. Only one direction of the temporary transitway replacement routes way serves the stop. Traveling East is great. Coming back or going West, I walk or transfer to Templeton/KEA.

417, Lees Station, and Lees apartment towers.

There are are three distinct introductions to Robinson Village. Via the Rideau River Pathway, Robinson Village feels like just another chunk of Sandy Hill. By bus, you're treated to a notably steep and poorly maintained path connecting Robinson Village to Lees Ave at Chapel. And if you drive to Robinson Village, it becomes obvious that RV is on the other side of the 417's sound walls. From Lees, you take Robinson beside and against highway 417 traffic.

The Rideau River Pathway entrance sandwiched between two blocks of townhouses. 

Pathway connection to Robinson Village. 


How you drive to Robinson Village: the sexy Lees overpass. 

Entrance to pathway to Lees/Chapel.

Poorly maintained path to Lees/Chapel bus stop. 

Bitter cold Ottawa Winter would have been a struggle in Robinson Village, particularly without a car during LRT construction. The Rideau River Pathway wouldn't be cleared, and the steep path to Lees/Chapel would be treacherous when icy. My perspective on the neighbourhood is admittedly rosier only spending a Summer.

Low rise apartments:

Small houses:


Unoccupied buildings:

There are no stores in Robinson Village. There's an industrial kitchen equipment dealer and a City of Ottawa garage. The closest convenience stores are the Quickie on Mann or a few options in the ground levels of the Lees towers. As the neighbourhood develops, a grocery store in one of new buildings would be a welcome addition.

The kitchen equipment dealer.

City yard pics.

TBH, writing this essay was a bit of a coming-of-age reflection. I was an undergraduate student during the narrative shift that rebranded Hintonburg from a place of visible struggle to Ottawa's premiere creative and culinary neighbourhood. I heard the grumblings, but the neighbourhood's changes didn't affect me, and gentrification as a process was just gaining prevalence in public dialogue.

Much of the appreciation I have for this Robinson Village is knowing it's only temporary, so I should enjoy it for what it is. The experience I'm having here won't be offered to another Ottawan. Robinson Village's last Summer as underdog will be remembered fondly as a time and space I love(d).

Monday, December 31, 2018

Backhanded Love Letter: A Biopolitical Diary Entry

2018 deserves this backhanded love letter; it will be remembered, but not missed. It was a year of unique growing pain, the pain of growing roots and wings at the same time. It was work and worry and war, but holy fuck is 2019 full of possibility because of it.

This year, I tore up my Toronto life and re-potted in Ottawa for a stint at Algonquin College in Regulatory Affairs. I've reconnected with some great people, and I'm in love with the city's natural features.

Coming back to Ottawa was a weird experience. I'm not the same person I was the last time I lived here. My former self was concertedly extroverted. Duped into believing volunteering had inherent value, I was a much more patient team player than I am now. Committee and club meetings dotted my calendars, and the idea of community organizing didn't make me seeth.

I like a city with something to prove. At its worst, Ottawa is a deaf preacher. Class expectations shape Ottawa life more normatively than they do in Toronto. Ottawa is fitter, whiter, and dressed more standardly. The problems they tend to solve here are problems a lot of us aren't privileged to have. The Ottawa way is unprincipled compromise and soft hypocrisy.

On a good day, it feels like it city hugs you back. Duty and decency are custom. A few minutes walk separates waterfront solace from cosmopolitan bustle. It's a city of thinkers and doers, but the stability of federal government employment imbues as much complacency as optimism. Typical Ottawans are oblivious people of principle marching in a slow parade headed in the right direction.

I liked "being involved" until it became too much. In reality, putting myself "out there" doesn't come naturally. I've become frugal with my time and dedicated to my health. At no point has my commitment to activism waned. If anything, it has sharpened. Art, high-impact policy interventions, and radical authenticity make the world tangibly a better place.

Donald Trump was elected since I last lived in Ottawa, and the Liberal Party culturally re-ascended to the city's ruling class. How politics are spoken of has radically changed.

I didn't personally understand what Steve Bannon tapped into to get Trump elected until I came back. There's a segment of small-l-liberal-groupthink-douchebags who are really annoying. They're the people whose participation in politics is charitable or careerist. They aren't driven by principle or survival, and some of them suck at their government jobs and still make six figures a year.

Inadequate consideration to socio-eoncomic constraints to participation plagues community organizing in Ottawa. The universities and unions have made mainstream progressives comfortable to the point of critical disengagement. Having a few bucks dinged off your paycheck for the United Way doesn't make you a good person.

I blame this uncritical comfort for the strange partisan pattern I've noticed. At Carleton, I had friends who were passionate about diverse Canadian political perspectives, and our differences were worked out over shots on a dance floor, but there's no physical space holding us together anymore. It's just been easier to keep my Green, Liberal, and unaligned friends within my recurring conversations.

The NDP feels hollow to me. They spat on the LEAP manifesto, emphatically rejected Niki Ashton's leadership bid, and have lost any core constituency they once represented. The only thing holding the party together is tradition. I'm truly bothered when deep progressive candidates who I want to support are convinced that what they believe in will be what the NDP asks them to bring to the door in 2019.

So I rekindled my choppy relationship with the Green Party. My political baptism was Green; 18 year-old me voted David Chernushenko for MP in January of 2006 and Green Party leader in August of the same year. The Summer after my first year at Carleton University ended with me volunteering at the 2006 Green Party Convention. I was in the crowd when Elizabeth May was elected leader; I was in the room that birthed the Young Greens.

It's nice to be among like-minded people, which brings me to my studies. Forever student, I've accepted it.

I had a harsh realization that the program I'm studying at Algonquin betrays my concept of education. Regulatory Affairs is compliance and licensing. I'm strategically still happy with my decision to enroll, but I can't personally recommend it. I'm not becoming a more skilled worker by taking this program, but I will have greatly improved career prospects. Coming from feminist academia, this context is totally foreign. My MA was entirely about becoming the best version of myself and trying to make the world a better place. Spending so much time on an unfulfilling education is grating, but I will suck it up for four more months.

The conversations I'm having at college are underwhelming. I got to avoid the "it's so hard to meet new people" phenomenon as an MA candidate. I was always around smart people who wanted to talk about serious things; it's what I miss most about academia.

The single greatest detractor to my happiness in Toronto was not having a peer group. I foolishly expected I'd find that at Algonquin. I did not. Thankfully, I'm friends with some great people in Ottawa, and the Ottawa-Centre Greens have been more than welcoming.

Returning to Ottawa as a more refined artist was also a trip. Being a club kid in Ottawa is lonely, tbh. When I go out in club-kid drag here, it's more for spectacle and barely about respect for artistry. That's its own reward, but again lonely.

There's no alterna-drag scene in Ottawa. I don't see people who woke up this morning and decided to tear the throat out of hetero-patriarchy with a hot glue gun at the bars, but I want to. I want to be so visually struck that I cross a dance floor just to compliment some one's look and talk about what went into it. I'd probably even thank them for coming. So if loneliness is what I have to pay for authentic visibility in this city, so be it.

The difference between "survival is hard" and "it takes a lot to be me" is attitude. This attitude is what I have Toronto to thank for.

It's the eve of 2019, and what I'm most thankful for is hope.

In reality, my days left in Ottawa will not be many. I expect job prospects to take me out of the city before the Summer. I'm typing it out here as a first step of making it happen: my dream is to get a good job, move to Kelowna, and reunite with my bestie who's been in Switzerland for 2 years. We're meant to be mountain people. I can feel it.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Raise a Little Hell, New Brunswick.

I've never voted in a New Brunswick provincial election; I left home at 17. I tried to cut short my trip down the road and returned in 2015 with a fresh MA in hand. 10 months of brutal fruitless jobsearch later, I moved back to Ontario.

Nevertheless, I feel a deep connection to New Brunswick, and elections crank that feeling into overdrive. Truth be told, my name would have been on a ballot for the Green Party if I was living there right now.

Why do I care so much? 90% of my family lives in New Brunswick. My niblings (nieces & nephew - 10, 6, and 2) are growing up in King's County. I don't want them growing up thinking a call center job in Moncton or an Irving job in Saint John is the only way to make a life in New Brunswick.

I live in Ottawa; when New Brunswick surfaces in the political speak, it's as a cautionary tale. The Irvings have too much media control and practice the most egregious pricing-transfers the law will allow. Bilingualism is bankrupting the province (it's not). First-past-the-post gives rural voters disproportionate influence and keeps unsustainable service models running deficits. Palpable brain drain and population decline. Fracking. Reprehensible indigenous relations. Massive flooding. Blizzards. Pet snakes that escape and kill children. And have you ever smelled the air in Saint John?
New Brunswick pride is being proud of the struggle.

When we started Canada we had a brighter outlook than we have now, and that sucks. The dismal state of public affairs in the province is equally the fault of the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. The parties have played hot potato with the hard questions for generations.

Tomorrow's election is the best chance the province has to disrupt this trend. Leader David Coon (Fredericton South), Kevin Arsenault (Kent North), and Megan Mitton (Memramcook-Tantramar) may for the Province's first Green caucus; they might even hold the Balance of Power, just like they do in British Colombia.

A Green BoP would be a game-changer for New Brunswickers. Parties have to co-operate to govern, meaning unprecedented accountability to the our citizens. There will be no more back-room deals. There will be a serious conversation about electoral reform, and there will be a leash on the Irvings for the first time in Canadian history.

With beliefs grounded in kindness and long-range planning, David Coon is the hip grandpa New Brunswickers didn't know they needed. Even if you don't live in one of the targeted ridings, Green votes matter. Every Green vote entitles the party to a per-vote subsidy. Voting Green makes politics Greener, whether your candidate wins or not.

The children of Gen Y judge this election. Climate change impacts are just getting started, and we know it. It's not too late to pivot to sustainability.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

RE: Decolonize Your Drag Pageant

Dear Capital Pride,

As Ottawa's Pride festival approaches, I implore you to decolonize your drag pageant.

The problem is your invocation of titles. Titles are a tool of colonialism. Settlers gave titles to indigenous people to conscript them into White class and gender ideals. Titles have the colonial baggage of being an empty "gift" colonizers gave the "good Indians". The politics of respectability are the politics of binary gender, feminine disempowerment, classism, and white supremacy.

For trans, two-spirit, and non-binary people, titles are a constant marker of non-belonging. The addition of Mx. is not justice.

Separate is never equal, and drag exists to destroy gender expectations. The three competition categories are antithetical to the aims of Capital Pride and ought to be consolidated into a single 15-person competition.

There is an observable hierarchy in drag; all you have to do is follow the tips. Hyperdrag, masc, trans, and androgynous performers are never given an equal stage with the cis guys who transform themselves into passable women characters. The oppressive notion that the competition reinforces is that drag as impersonation is better than drag as authenticity.

As a non-binary man in club kid masc drag, I didn't see a place for me in your competition. My personal dilemma was having to choose between Mr & Mx. I shan't be forced into strategically choosing a gender expression for the sake a competition. I couldn't possibly make myself fit into one of those 3 neat gender boxes.  (To be honest, I'd also want to be ~4 drinks in.)

Winners are to assume nominal commitments as community ambassadors. Cool...Then why can't that be the award? Gold, silver, and bronze Capital Pride ambassadors.

Let's also talk about the "straight ban". Anyone who wants to do drag competitively is queer enough for me.

Queer is a verb. 
Drag as an artform queers space and time. 
Drag is queer inherently; it is not "owned" by people who call themselves queer.

Drag can't be straight.

The language chosen to weed out the breeders insists on sameness of queer and gender diverse people that does not exist in reality. The idea of singular community is exploited by Pride festivals in Canada's large cities by corporations, charities, and community organizers alike. The homogeneity (giggity) of queer and gender diverse experiences and opinions is insisted upon for profit and political gain.

Your materials need to pluralize communities.

I'm equally disappointed that the language in your title description conflates sex and gender. If Capital Pride cannot produce materials in gender inclusive language, they need to contract out their publications to queer and gender diverse freelancers who do. (Wink!)

I posted a question about how the categories were being administered on the Facebook event, and the comment was never approved for publication. Silencing critical questions is not something to take Pride in.

Thank you in advance for making appropriate changes to your programming.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Doug, Stop Censoring #SexEd

Hey Doug,

You said you'd lead a government for the people, but did you mean it?

The reversion of Ontario's sex ed curriculum to its 1998 edition is the most hypocritical thing your government could do.
"The party with the taxpayer's money is over."

That's not what this looks like, Doug.

You're putting your ideas about the way things should be above the free exchange of evidence-based ideas between Ontarians. More and more relevant facts are available in the present curriculum.

Doug, you're censoring queer and gender diverse people out of the curriculum; you're the government telling me how to raise my family.

Let's be very clear about the "mandate" you have in relation to sex ed. You never released a costed platform. How much is this policy change going to cost? And will it be worth it? Spoiler: no. It's not worth it to rob a generation of consent and diversity education.

Young Ontarians have been learning the curriculum for three years now. The sky has not fallen. The new normal is nothing like 1998.

A small interest group expressed its discontent with the update, and you let them dictate your educational policy for the rest of us.

If they want the old curriculum, let 'em have it. Why does that have to affect anyone else? Offer the 1998 curriculum as an opt-in option. Don't put a single dollar into censoring valuable facts out of the Ontario curriculum.  

Where insufficient opt-ins exist to conduct a physical class, online courses can reach every corner of the province without significant human resources and retraining.

You need to live your promise to make a lean pragmatic government for the people. If you cannot be both progressive and conservative, history will mock you.