Thursday, December 18, 2014

RE: Post-Materialist Gifting

The holiday season got me to thinking about gift giving as a practice. Gift giving is a symbol of appreciation that shows understanding of the recipient's unique character and their relationship to the gifter. Unfortunately, much of this intent is lost in the material conventions of gift exchange.

Often, non-physical gifts better suit the purpose of gift giving. Reciprocal appreciation for a material gift is only achieved if both parties share the same value for the object. Let's be honest. we've all gotten something we weren't in love with, and sometimes the gift receipt is the best part of the gift. And lest we forget the waste created by holiday traditions of gifting and wrapping.

Inherently, a non-material gift transcends expectations. Non-material gifts take into consideration how the recipient spends their time and money. By gifting a future event, like a movie date or a trip, you affirm your relationship by promising it into the future. By gifting money or gift cards, the autonomy of the recipient and the gifter's trust are confirmed. Non-material gifts are appreciated because they're either be some thing that you do together with your loved ones or something the recipients get to do for themselves.

I'm not saying these non-material gifts can't have fun symbols wrapped into a box for dramatic effect. I'm also not saying you can't give money in fun ways (like gifting the value of 6 months of Netflix). Event gifts can be simple cooking or crafting with the little ones, or sexy times with a partner. If you have more resources to invest in event gifting, Iceland and South Africa are atop my to visit list.

Because time is a constant in all our lives, the gift of experience is better than the gift of property. It would be a really neat way to tone down the consumerism if families took up the challenge of non-material gift giving this holiday season.

Just a thought.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

RE: HIV Non-Disclosure

Dear Peter MacKay, Justice Minister, (TW- grey rape)

HIV non-disclosure should be a unique and explicit criminal offence; I write to you today to ask that you consider proper parliamentary processes to write HIV non-disclosure into the Criminal Code of Canada as a summary offence. While I concede that aggravated sexual assault charges are an inappropriate response to HIV non-disclosure, I believe the act to be a criminal breach of Canada's social contract. My suggestion is not toward the misrepresentation of HIV status or the willful exposure to serious infection risk. These crimes are appropriately prosecuted with existing sexual assault laws.

Medical advances have reduced the biological risk of harm necessary to pursue aggravated sexual assault for protected sex with an HIV patient of undetectable viral load. What can't be measured in a laboratory is the psychological impact on the victims of HIV non-disclosure. HIV non-disclosure is a perversion of informed consent.

I understand HIV non-disclosure as grey rape. Grey rape is sexual assault that happens under conditions of questionable or compromised consent. For example: the misrepresentation of condom use or mutually intoxicated sex. Grey rape can mean consent was given to sexual acts but not the conditions that they transpired within (or given to the conditions, but not the acts). HIV non-disclosure is a substantive omission of information that in many cases would preclude sexual activity.

Consent or the withdrawal of consent does not need to be justified, ever. Consent is the basis of self-determination and liberty. Thresholds of consent are personally constructed by establishing an understanding of risk.

Draconian, our government imposes a narrow scientific definition of HIV risk based on heterosexual data on all citizens. The relationship between HIV non-disclosure and risk is one of flux; therein, the legal contingencies for sexual assault fail to meet to socio-medical complexities of HIV.

HIV is unique as a disease and a cultural phenomenon. The global specter of HIV articulates our reality wherein HIV non-disclosure should be considered a communication crime parallel with hate speech. If a communication can be so heinous it needs to be banned, a heinous non-communication may also be prohibited. HIV non-disclosure is should not be criminalized for its relationship to risk; HIV non-disclosure should be criminalized for its relationship to respect.

Punishment must also fit the crime. Imprisonment is not an appropriate deterrent for HIV non-disclosure; largely, prisons are violent proliferators of disadvantage. The best way to curb non-disclosure is to tap into the power of social surveillance. I suggest the option of a nominal fine or community service and the registration of HIV non-disclosure on criminal records. If HIV is to be stopped, the stigma associated with the disease must be transferred away from the people responsibly living with it unto pernicious acts of its willful non-disclosure.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RE: Artist's Statement.

I'm an artist. If you've met me, you know this of me. My preferred medium is my own body. I believe in the primacy of self-determination and that body is the best vessel for activism.

Over a year ago, Courtney and I formed Judy's Revenge to be a creative outlet for our activist ideals. We were exhibitors in the 2013 edition of Nuit Blanche Ottawa-Gatineau and have designed and worn genderfucking attire to bars and events like Promdemonium. Our goal is to embody transformative discourse and then perform that transformative discourse as bodies in relation to other bodies, space, and social media. We break barriers, we break binaries, and we break expectations.

The particular project that moves me to write this post was inspired by a class requirement for my graduate Gender, Creativity, and Confinement course taught by Dr. Sylvie Frigon, Criminologist and Joint Chair in Women's and Gender Studies at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. The final project for the class requires an artwork be created and presented to the class, as well as an 8-10 page paper explaining my artwork. 

I knew from the beginning of the class that I wanted to convey 2 themes: critique of the violent ways prisons enact gender binaries and a critique of prisons themselves. 

I wanted to craft an outfit that embodied these thoughts. So I began with bringing a symbol of the prison into the thinking: the orange jumpsuit. I told Courtney about the project, and we agreed to execute it at the Inside/Out Queer Film Festival after party organized by the Queer Mafia at Babylon Nightclub. Courtney and I wanted to wear the exact same outfit as a means to demonstrate gender fluidity.

The makeup we chose was particularly masculine and balanced off our hairstyles, typical for little girls. (And to deal with my sweaty mane of hair at the club) Playing on the "any costume can be sexy" discourse of women's costuming, we cut off the sleeves and pant legs then accessorized with gaudy gems. Courtney wore ill-fitting heels (by accident), and I wore canvass camouflage shoes. We each wore a skeleton hand bracelet too. "Ms. Represented" (Courtney) and "Ms. Understood" (me) were emblazoned via sash across out orange sparkly, cut-off jumpsuits. We wore blackout lenses and black and white makeup. This not what a prisoner looks like. The costumes we wore last Saturday were both genderfucked and avant garde with the contrived political statement I'd hoped to achieve.

(Sidebar: the makeup was actually a mashup from a Lady Gaga makeup and the makeup from the Icelandic music video "Over" by Gusgus)


The event date was October 25th. It was not Halloween, and we did not wear Halloween costumes. It cheapens our work to call them Halloween costumes. (In fact, I plan to be a young Severus Snape and Courtney is being a parrot.) Admittedly, the party's proximity to Halloween did made the acquisition of supplies much easier, but we were the only ones dressed up. 

Apparently, our outfits were offensive to a particular patron of the event. I post the following Facebook commentary below as not to misrepresent anyone:


About an hour after this exchange, the owner of a feminist sex shop in Ottawa, who employs the patron who complained on the photo, posted this comment to the event page for a Halloween party the business is hosting this Friday.

Let'e be very clear; we did not do black face; no one's culture was appropriated, and we weren't making fun of prisoners. Saying that we shouldn't bring the struggles of prisoners into mainstream spaces is bad tactic for any self-proclaimed activist. In fact, discouraging people from taking up prisoner causes through creative means only further others prisoners as the unmentionable members of society. Should documentaries, novels, and TV shows never show a prison? 

We didn't steal someone's story, or misrepresent someone's voice. We broke up the discourse. I believe in fierce self-representation, and I just wanted to share the whole thought process of our craft and performance, so that if I need be judged, I may be judged upon my own words.

So now, I'll let you see the costumes:

And this one is really blurry but it shows the short legs. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

RE: Less questions, more testing

Dear Ottawa Public Health,

I'm writing in regards to STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing in the city of Ottawa. To increase testing rates, I propose the that Ottawa Public Health facilitate a hassle free/no questions asked option for the standard set of HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis screenings.

I applaud Ottawa's availability of anonymous HIV testing, but bacterial STIs also compromise public health by appearing asymptomatically and spreading rapidly. Increasing testing rates for bacterial STIs would mean more effective treatment and containment.

If the purpose of gathering sexual histories is to track how infections are spread, then this inquiry is more efficiently placed within the processes of treatment. Collecting sexual histories post-diagnosis, cuts paperwork and creates and impetus for more accurate data collection.

If you've contracted an STI, your previous partners need to be contacted. This point in the process is where sexual histories should be collected. STI transmission data would be sourced from those with a vested interested (the health of their sexual partners) in accurately disclosing their sexual histories. Further, public health authorities already provide third party services to anonymously inform sexual partners or diagnosed patients of their risk and testing options.

So many people lie during the collection of sexual histories. I definitely glossed over some details of a particularly promiscuous Summer.. Imagine the disincentive to give an accurate sexual history if you were a closet-case or sex worker (or both).

The fewer questions asked, the more people will get tested. A no questions asked STI testing option reduces social barriers to testing and re-positions the collection of sexual history in a way that improves the quality of data on STI transmission.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Both my homes were attacked.

It's one day after the gripping Ottawa shooting. I'm not going to recount all the details, that's what journalists have been doing for two days now. I'm writing to reflect on what it feels like to have both my homes experience extreme public violence.

I grew up in Sussex Corner, New Brunswick, 45 minutes away from Moncton. The closest movie theater, airport, and mall worth spending money at are in Moncton. Growing up, Moncton was my urban escape. My Aunt and two cousins live their lives in the Greater Moncton Area, and Moncton is one of three cities I see myself settling down in (in good company with Ottawa and Montreal). In June, Justin Bourque shot and killed three RCMP members in Moncton.

I moved to Ottawa in 2005 to pursue a university education and have been here all but a year spent in Southern Ontario and a couple Summers in New Brunswick. I have two homes. And both of these homes have been attacked this year.

These past months have taught me that tragedy has a way of highlighting both sameness and difference. Sameness is emphasized as we put aside our differences to grieve, reflect, and rebuild. Difference is exaggerated as we construct categories of radical difference that make the people who committed these crimes seem like they couldn't possibly be our neighbours, our community members, or our family.

The painful truth is that criminals all come from these relations, and somewhere along the line we fail them.

I will not call the men who took up arms terrorists; they were not successful in seeding terror into my life. I will call these men murderer, criminal, or psychopath. In truth, I'm more fearful of the reaction to the shootings than I was for my life yesterday. I worry these events will be used as a pretext to erode civil liberties and vilify 'problem populations'.

Now is a time to recognize that Canadians who feel a sense of belonging do not take up arms and murder public servants. Such recognition is not easy; it requires that we admit that not everyone is privy to the same sense of belonging in Canada. I have two thoughts on this matter.

First, we need to be honest about inequalities and privileges in Canada. Canadian multiculturalism is too often a shield that enables Canadians to commit enlightened oppressions. Enlightened oppressions happen when people 'who know better' perpetuate oppressions under the guise that they aren't actually racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Through similar social processes, privileges are made invisible and conversations about race, gender, colonialism, ableism, mental health, sexuality, and poverty get to be classified as impolite or unnecessary. For example: we are a country of immigrants, so why is the birthplace of these murderers so important to news reporting? As if 'born in Canada' describes a higher moral citizenship expectation than naturalization?

These conversations foreground the politics of belonging and non-violence. It is not my intent to essentialize or fetishize minority perspectives; rather, I call on Canadians to reflect on their own willingness to work and learn across difference. When we think of violence as seen in Moncton and Ottawa, inclusion is prevention.

My second thought is generational. Dear Gen Y, I believe we will change the world for the better, but we have let technology isolate us as much as it connects us. It is too easy in our wired world to let a Tweet or Snapchat substitute for a conversation. The conversations needed aren't easy ones to have. Instead of having a supportive forum for communication, Facebook posts get trolled, barbs are exchanged, and no one learns. Each party leaves the engagement thinking what they thought before, but angrier.

Gen Y, it's up to us to pick up the phone, knock on some doors, and participate in public dialogue. Check in with some friends you haven't heard from in a while, introduce yourself to the people in your apartment building, because being alone, being lonely, is a huge reason a person might feel like they don't belong in Canada. From my own experience with depression and anxiety, I can tell you a unexpected phone call can really change the course of a day.

I'm not sad or angry about these violent outbursts; I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated that most people only care about communities when they're threatened. Most days, our humanity gets pushed aside for dumb shit like interpersonal competitiveness, ignorance, or making bank.

The appropriate response to the attacks on my homes is opening our doors, not locking them. Security can only provide a limited amount of safety; the remainder of our interpersonal relations depend on a trust that is not generated in a vacuum. I hope we can take these violent incidents and learn that listening and understanding one another as complex, vulnerable, and powerful beings is the only way inculcate a culture of safety.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Full text: Motion to Support Inclusive HIV Prevention Strategies

This is the motion I motivated at tonight's GSA Carleton Council meeting. Passed no opposition 2 abstensions.

Whereas pharmaceutical companies have successfully lobbied for proprietary PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) prescriptions (Truvada) to become available to all “gay men” on demand in the state of New Jersey; and
Whereas provincial and federal HIV prevention strategies are currently in formation; and

Whereas PrEP prescriptions have serious health side effects[1], and their preventative capacity dramatically falls when just a single dose is mis-administered. (The average PrEP prescription transmission reduction rate is 44%, compared to 92% under ideal circumstances); and

Whereas PrEP is prescribed for the reduction in transmission of only 1 of the 2 known strains of HIV; and

Whereas the use of PrEP as a widespread HIV prevention strategy, unlike condom use, does not promote health, it promotes sero-negativity; and

Whereas the (American) AIDS Healthcare Foundation has begun a campaign against the widespread prescription of PrEP as an HIV prevention strategy; and

Whereas sex workers and the recurring partners of HIV patients have heightened exposure risks to HIV; and

Whereas the prescription of PrEP based on the identities of “gay men” is both homophobic and unscientific because it conflates risk with an identities rather than behaviours; and

Whereas the GSA and CFS have lobbied against this same unscientific homophobic policy motivation regarding blood donation; therefore

Be it resolved that he GSA executive write an open letter the federal and provincial Health Ministries with two explicit recommendations:
1)      Endorsement of PrEP prescriptions on demand for sex workers and the recurring partners of HIV patients
2)      Opposition to the prescription of PrEP for “gay men” on demand

Be it further resolved that the GSA delegates to the next CFS-O meeting present motions mandating the CFS-O leadership as well as encourage other member locals to write open letters to the federal and provincial Health Ministries affirming the two listed recommendations.

[1]Common side effects include: headache, stomach-area (abdomen) pain, and decreased weight. Serious side effects include liver problems and a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis). New or worsening kidney problems, including kidney failure. Bone problems. Changes in body fat. Changes in your immune system.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#gradschoolproblems: My Epistemological Epiphany

Round 2 of life decisions explained via blog! (Click here to here to read the first)

A few of you know that despite having a second draft of my MRE (Master's Research Essay), I decided to complete my MA via coursework. A health issue precluded my intended August completion date, and I was faced with the options of rolling my MRE over another four months or taking 2 additional classes. I chose the latter, and I couldn't be happier. As well as providing a healthy weekly structure, this decision actually makes perfect sense, if you're aware of my staunch post-structural leanings.

Let's be honest, the only people who you know will read your MRE are the two members of your research committee. I consider my research interests to be of transformative nature, and I don't think the strategy of writing for two professors who share my ideological traditions achieves a meaningful shift in the authorities my essay sought to challenge. 

Realistically, the MRE (50-75 pages) is an obtuse form to offer an argument. The thesis (75-120 pages) has the advantage of being indexed online through a Library and Archives Canada initiative. If I were to complete my MRE, I would be required to re-write it (at least) once more to articulate my ideas about gender pluralism in a form that could gain traction within or outside the academy via journal publication or another more reader-friendly form.

By the end of my second draft, I'd concluded the "thought work" of my project. I solidified my ideas and arguments and worked through their supporting logics. The remainder of the task would have been to complete the references/bibliographic element of the paper and align my ideas to the arbitrary requirements of an MRE and the arbitrary preferences of my research committee. 

I am not stepping away from the activist cause that underscores most of my written work. In fact, I'd argue I'm more meaningfully leaning into it.

The work I have done will be recreated for consumption by non-academics. I now understand that my most meaningful role is not per se as a thought producer (a role I still very much enjoy and respect), but as a knowledge translator. Simplified analogies motivate public policy change, and I need to be producing discourse with wider appeal.

In jargon: my approach to social justice scholarship has shifted from interdisciplinarity to anti-disciplinarity. I believe that what we name "revolutions" are a faster-than-expected retrenchments of dominant (usually oppressive) paradigms. To accomplish the renegotiation of knowledges, social justice thought must be equally ethical and effective. My belief in the capacity of the academy to incubate transformation waned as I woke up to the fact that no academic program or project is the shortest path to a better world. I've embraced a new identity as para-academic, a scholar working beside and against the academy to enact social transformation. That PhD project you might want to write in the social sciences or humanities, it could be a book, probably in less time and less stress.

Riddle yourselves this: in 2014 who are advancing gender justice more effectively: BeyoncĂ© and Lady Gaga or Gloria Steinem and Audre Lourde? The reach of an idea is that ideas' true measure of success.  The academy, particularly the small community of feminist academics, is too isolated to enact the kind of change I'm looking for. 

The only way out is up, but who says we have to play by gravity's rules? 

So, Onward. Onward with fervour, rigour, and fresh-to-death perspective.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

NEVER say the phrase "rape fantasy" (TW)

Yeah the title says it all.

Let's be honest; the online dating world is full of tactless exchanges, but there comes a time when your feminist brain literally explodes. For me, it's around the term "rape fantasy".

Issue: some one tells you they have a "rape fantasy". 

Here's an appropriate follow up question I wish I'd been witty enough to ask at the time:

So does your "rape fantasy" include a "being arrested fantasy", an "incarceration fantasy",  and a "criminal record fantasy"? 

I've been using air quotes because what many people refer to by "rape fantasy" is a complete bastardization of the words themselves. Rape is by definition non-consensual. Rape cannot be wanted, and rape is always a heinous crime. If someone legitimately has a rape fantasy (note lack of air quotes), they are in need of psychiatric assistance.

What uninformed persons refer to as a "rape fantasy" is in reality a role-play scene of consensual non-consent (CNC). Legally, all partners of any sexual activity must be able to withdraw their consent at any point. How this is communicated can look like a lot of different things from yelling stop to dropping a marble, but the withdrawal consent must always be respected.

My mind explodes because there is no more blatant inculcation of rape culture than the poor word choice of "rape fantasy". When rapists hear other people have "rape fantasies", they don't hear the air quotes, and they think what they do is more acceptable.

Also consider that whoever this desire is disclosed to may themselves be a survivor.

So please file "rape fantasy" away in the "don't f%$ing say it pile" alongside other oppressive language like slurs based on race, ability, sex, sexuality, etc...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Homophobia is Hijacking PrEP

The ACO (Aids Committee of Ottawa) is slated to release a statement on the inclusion of PrEP HIV medications (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis - brand name Truvada) as part of an HIV prevention strategy, and I'm a bit nervous. The organization is reported to support making PrEP prescriptions available to all sexually active "gay men" (super unrepresentative language). If the ACO does support this policy, they will have been duped by big pharma. Even worse, they will have advocated a homophobic agenda in which privileged (mostly white, cis, American, and gay) men re-articulate risk as per their liking.

The advocates of PrEP are largely affluent cis gay men (they can afford an extraneous prescription), who openly partake in risky sex. I'm of the civil libertarian tradition and begrudge no one their pleasure with other consenting adults. Where I draw the line is the audacity these bedfellows have in attempting to redefine their activities as less risky through a flawed and profit-driven prevention treatment.

Let's warm up with some PrEP facts. 
  • PrEP only prevents 1 strain of HIV. There are 2. (Admittedly, 1 is more prevalent and virulent, still)
  • PrEP's has 2 levels of side effects 
    • Common side effects include: headache, stomach-area (abdomen) pain, and decreased weight.
    • Serious side effects include liver problems and a buildup of lactic acid in the blood (lactic acidosis). New or worsening kidney problems, including kidney failure. Bone problems. Changes in body fat. Changes in your immune system.
  • PrEP the medication schedule requires CONSTANT VIGILANCE. The Aids Health Care Foundation reports that due to issues with adherence among people taking the drug in clinical trials, PrEP efficacy is about 50%. Non-adherence will lead to drug resistance and HIV transmissions. 
  • The good numbers on PrEP are what we call a "beat up" in the social sciences (facts that are worded to illicit a specific response--in this case political support for PrEP). Also a quote from the CDC webpage: "Among gay and bisexual men, those who were given PrEP were 44% less likely overall to get HIV than those who were given a placebo." The 92% you see everywhere is best case scenario, not reality. Reality is that swaths of babies are born because of little pills that didn't get taken correctly. (#justsayin)
  • The President of the Aids Healthcare Foundation said verbatim: "a government-sanctioned widespread scale up of PrEP appears to be a public health disaster in the making".

There is no such thing as a zero risk sexual encounter. Risk can only be mitigated. 


Using this equation we see how dumb PrEP actually is as a preventative means. Condoms are ~97% effective at preventing HIV transmission when used properly. The combination of an undetectable viral load and a condoms is ALWAYS safer than the the combined protection of PrEP and an undetectable viral load (and if you're thinking "what if the condom breaks?", there's PEP for that).

The real magic of condoms is how they protect your from all sorts of nasty things you don't want on your fun bits. If you're an MSM (male who has sex with males) who can't live without fluid exchange, find a monogamous partner and wait 3 months or accept the risks involved. Don't pretend like the science is good enough to redefine unprotected sex as without risk.  

Only two groups of people should be prescribed PrEP as a preventative measure: sex workers and the recurring partners of HIV+ patients. 

To articulate all "gay men" as having the same likelihood as these two groups to be exposed to HIV is homophobic. This approach conflates the identity of "gay man" with promiscuity, a stereotype that has haunted the community for decades. No one, "gay man" or other, should have the option to go on PrEP because they resist condoms. 

By failing to use a condom you place yourself at a heightened risk for every other STI. I'm going to use the super crass term PrEP-slut** to differentiate those who have legitimate reasons for the prescription (the two groups listed) and those who take it to facilitate their promiscuity.

(**Author's note: I'm not slut-shaming; I'm idiot-shaming)

As soon as mainstream queer culture realizes that PrEP-sluts are at an inordinate incidence of every STI other than HIV (well, maybe HIV if they didn't take the meds correctly), they will join the stigmatized ranks. Grindr profiles will start saying "no poz guys/PrEP-sluts", and we're back where we started with a fragmented community dictated largely by wealth and privilege.

Every step along the way, big pharma makes money, from the PrEP, to the antibiotics, to herpes suppression treatments. True Blood nailed it. Why make a vaccine when you can have a treatment? New Blood was a blatant metaphor for ARVs, but why only sell your drugs to the people who are infected when fear and bad stats can make you rich?

I close pointing to palpable disrespect within the PrEP dialogue, a disrespect of both the self and for partners. The purpose of PrEP is to stay sero-negative, not to stay healthy. We are seeing a narrative battle for the what gets to count as safe(r) sex, and I am unwilling to accept that promiscuous sex without a condom, regardless of PrEP, meets that definition.

I hope that the ACO recognizes the ineffectiveness and oppression that would stem from offering PrEP prescriptions to all "gay men" who ask for them as a preventative measure. I reiterate PrEP has a preventative function for sex workers and the recurring partners of HIV+ patients, but to offer prescriptions beyond these groups would be remiss.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spending Smarter on Wellness

New Brunswick’s political parties are busy promising costly short-sighted promises, but I’m still waiting a realistic plan to move from the problems of today to the prosperity of tomorrow. The economy needs to be designed into a productive and equitable relationship between investors and average citizens. By the same wisdom, we deserve services that characterize a compassionate government. With a small population and the full powers of provincial jurisdiction, New Brunswick is not poorly suited to re-negotiate public policies along progressive ideals.

New Brunswickers have to decide what we want our economy to emphasize, and my suggestion is wellness. As income inequality narrows, demand for wellness services inevitably rises, as will the workforces of healthcare and para-medical services.

This blog is my call on party leaders to produce a balanced plan to becoming Canada’s kindest province. European models of development have shown decades of economic competitiveness internationally by providing their citizens with generous social services. 

While European social democracy is a reasonable model to strive for, the province must manage the transition in a way that does not detract from our attractiveness as a place to live or invest. In fact, the entanglement of these two factors cannot be underestimated. 

Richard Florida flipped the planning world on its head proving that the creative class’ inherent transience and economic value puts life place-making on equal importance with primary job creation. Anecdotally, planners used to assume people followed jobs, and now the data shows that, in many very important sectors, jobs follow concentrations of talented people.

It is the responsibility of our public managers to make this province a good place to live, so why not try to make us Canada’s best? By focusing on a wellness economy and the quality of life in the province, we reap the benefits of being a superlative place to live and do business.

So let’s start making life cheaper for citizens. Many wellness services are poorly housed in the corporate sphere. I’m not about to make the “make it all free” argument (I’d love to); we’re just at step 1. We need to de-corporatize dentistry, optometry, speech and physical therapies, and pet care services in New Brunswick.

Ask yourself this: if you need glasses to be a healthy Canadian, who has a right to be healthy, why are they so expensive? Profit motive shouldn’t have any place in health services. The provinces’ finances at this point in no way could support socializing these services, but legislators can structurally articulate these services as not-for-profit.

The Province should provide one-time seed money to set up (a) non-profit wellness corporation(s) that serve New Brunswickers at cost, with emphasis on serving low-income citizens. Democratically selected boards of directors would be sought to oversee these services and ensure their long-term sustainability. In addition to services, the Province should make the tactical decision to invest in Crown pharmaceutical manufacturing that would produce generic drugs sold to hospitals and residents at cost.

For a one time investment, New Brunswick could have Canada’s cheapest generic prescriptions, fillings, glasses, and vet bills. Sounds a lot better than what the dudes in the suits are talking about. #Justsayin

**PS: abortion should, be safe, legal, and free. Not your uterus? Not your problem!**

***PPS: piece on creative revenue forthcoming***

Monday, August 18, 2014

@CapPride is Just an Expensive Party.

Happy Pride, Ottawans!

If it suits, I hope you get a chance to attend some of the events planned for Capital Pride's 2014 edition, Free to Love. This blog post is mostly in response to some coverage Capital Pride got in the Ottawa Citizen; therein, it is concluded that Ottawa's pride is both part and protest; except, no one can find this protest.

To characterize Capital Pride as activist would require at minimum an explicit mandate to make the conditions of queer people in Ottawa better. The stated mandate on the website is:

The mission of the Capital Pride Festival is to perpetuate the spirit of pride in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, two-spirited and questioning (GLBTTQ) community in Canada’s National Capital Region of Ottawa–Gatineau.

I'm not 100% sure how perpetuating the spirit of pride is going to quell queer suicides and poverty, but let's pretend that this "spirit" is in fact double mandate to celebrate and protest. So where's the protest this year? What issue(s) is(are) being focused on?


"Creating a visible presence and space" for the more privileged of queer identities isn't activism in 2014; it's good business (just ask Toronto). The double-income-no-kids pair are the ideal tourists, and as pride festivals around the world are increasingly profit-motivated, event planning has followed suit.

You may notice perusing the Capital Pride events page that most evening events have a cover charge; some of them are quite prohibitive. Let's pretend you're partying hard this Pride festival:

Nature Nocturne Pride Edition: 25$
Jer's Vision Boat Cruise: 25-60$
Capital Pride Comedy Boat Cruise: 25$ 
Rainbow Party: 22$
Proud Chicks Dance Party: 20-25$
Laugh Out Proud: 25$

These prices were not set with struggling queers in mind... I'm not sure if any of you readers would have made it to GlowFair in Ottawa this Summer, but the mostly free event put DJs on Bank Street and serves as a much better blueprint for financially accessible event planning. (There's an ironic amount of people who organized both of these festivals)

Protest and prohibitive costs are not compatible ideas. This tension is exemplary of how far away from activism modern pride festivals have shifted.

In the same ideological vein, it's contradictory that pride festivals are used as fundraising opportunities. Pride festivals started out demanding equality and ended up bankrolling the non-profit industrial complex.

Capital Pride lacks an emphasis on critical awareness. The festival, if it is to have any legitimate claim to activism, must articulate itself as an inclusive queer pride. Organizers must centrally integrate educational and activist initiatives from queer politics into the core of planning.

I'm not saying don't go frolic this week (by all means!), but don't think think you're being a part of some benevolent social movement. We can always hope that next year, everyone's heads are a little less up their (cl)asses!



Monday, June 30, 2014

Step Away from the Ivory Towers

Dear Internet, I'm withdrawing my (funded) acceptance to the University of Ottawa's PhD in Political Science, and I don't feel bad about it at all.

Firstly, academia is very isolating. While I love that my peers and professors in academia greatly enriched the quality of discussion in my life, I was unable to maintain a healthy balance this past year. Despite my great GPA, the months of September-May saw me shrivel to barely a shadow of a former socialite. Even now writing my MRE, I'll go stir-crazy after a full day or two without talking to anyone; I do not want to spend a few years like this writing a doctoral dissertation.

Continuing on the theme of balance, I also learned that academia is like slimfast for an artist. You feel like you're creating something of value, but largely the process is one of people pleasing and meeting expectations. I am thankful that I have come to define myself as a thought producer, but working outside the academy allows me to pursue social change through creative resistance initiatives alongside the academic work of my choosing. I don't need an institution or an expectation to solicit my contribution to public discussion, and I've rationally chosen to work outside the confines of doctoral coursework and research.

Studies in critical social sciences make you a weirder person. If they don't, I'm pretty sure you did it wrong. The personal growth my graduate studies at Brock and Carleton Universities facilitated still astounds me; I was like a kid putting glasses on for the first time. There is a moment of self-awareness that feels like the proverbial other side from which there is no return.

Because of the way I now understand the world, I finally have the language to describe my experience. I've got the weltschmerz; we don't have a word for it in English. It's German for world-pain, and it means the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that some one's own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world. There was a recent publication stating that activists' brains are actually different because they identify injustice as illogical.

Life gets hard because I've spent years studying injustice. Once you understand the nature of power and oppressions, their operations can't just sink into the background of your life anymore. Every moment is bathed in lapsed logics of oppression. To survive, we create our own realities to live in, often rejecting dominant discourses of order. We strike our own floating balances between selfishness and selflessness one instant at a time.

So life planning comes down to a really weird question: how can I make the most difference and go the least crazy? I've always wanted to be a lawyer to help people who couldn't help themselves and translate ideals of justice and environmental responsibility into law. Finances are the primary barrier to my legal education, so I can't even plan to attend for a couple years, but I choose this struggle.

My choice to pursue academia was a lot more selfish than selfless. I wasn't preparing myself to be the most effective agent for change; I was guaranteeing myself a a comfortable place in the Canadian class structure. I even began to commodify my own ideas. I would guard myself from sharing certain ideas I'd developed in areas I still hope to publish in. I don't want a career that encourages me to keep my ideas about social justice to myself until I can present them in the appropriate form to reap maximum benefit.

A PhD was the easy path, not the right path. I'm happy I recognized this before beginning. Now, I'm on the coast-to-coast job hunt for a gig that will let me pay off some student loans, submit a few publications, and write the LSAT.

Wish me luck,


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

RE: @PressedOttawa's Binary Bathrooms

Dear Pressed Management,

I'm a regular customer writing to you today about your recent washroom renovations. I write not of the aesthetic or function of the renovation; I am writing to express my disappointment with the transition from gender neutral to Men's and Women's washrooms.

The gender neutrality of Pressed's washrooms was a progressive policy that in part motivates my business at the cafe. As a feminist, I valued your establishment's commitment to the inclusion of trans and gender non-conforming clientele. I do not see the addition of a urinal to one of the washrooms as a sufficient pretext to abandon an inclusive policy. (Formerly two single stalls)

I urge you to administer your business' spaces in a way that do not perpetuate oppressions against trans and gender non-conforming persons. I suggest returning to numbered, rather than gendered, washrooms. Practically, I also suggest indicating which has a urinal.

I hope that these concerns resonate with you and that the spaces are re-labelled in a gender-neutral styling.



Washroom 2 Now with URINAL!

Check out the story of the above gender neutral, yet completely intelligible, logo above.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Game of Thrones' lesson for #NBpoli

So everyone with the internet knows Walder Frey, Lord of The Twins, is one of the most villainous characters in fiction. Agreed. Walder Frey's predecessors on the other hand, they knew what was up.

House Frey is a newer nobility that earned it's fortune through foresight, geopolitical strategy, and hard work. The Freys build The Twins to serve as both a castle and a toll bridge over a river that cuts across the fictional continent of Westeros. Though The Twins took three generations to build, the family grew wealthy from the bridge's dues.

The Twins as depicted by HBO

New Brunswick is a lot like The Twins (and maybe New Brunswick might have some red ink with the Iron Bank). The provinces bridges the million Maritimers in NS/PEI and the oil-fueled fortunes of Newfoundland and Labrador to the East with the rest of Canada and the US border to the West. New Brunswick highways are integral the Atlantic Canadian and North Eastern US economies. The "drive-through" reputation New Brunswick has gotten undersells the natural beauty of and tourist attractions of the province, but it reaffirms the geopolitical advantage of being the gateway to the Atlantic.

(Just watch this for context - NB Premier's satire holiday wish)

Tolling New Brunswick's highways for out of province vehicles would generate public income with none of political costs associated with tax increases. Additionally, this policy directive would create an incentive for trucking companies to base their fleets in New Brunswick.

I'm not suggesting we gouge our visitors blind at the toll booths, but dropping a couple of toonies to enter or exit the province seems pretty reasonable to me. I'm also not too worried about tourism being impacted. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Heritage could promote staying in New Brunswick by offering toll vouchers for visitors staying in the province for a minimum amount of time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The ONDP needs some soul searching.

Count me among the thousands (at least) who think this Ontario election is completely unnecessary. At the core of my ire, the stream of centrist fodder running from Andrea Horwath's lips. Several media critics have drawn attention to the rightward drift of the ONDP, who seem to have abandoned social democratic goals in a blind attempt for power. (Check out what Rick Salutin and Nora Loreto have written.)

The sickening reality that grinds my gears is that if Ontario operated under a system of proportional representation (PR), which the ONDP advocates, the most recent budget would have passed. PR creates the expectation of minority governments and the expectation that minority government can actually govern through policy compromise.

Kathleen Wynne presented the most progressive budget since Bob Rae was Premier. In response, Andrea Horwath rejected it for what she perceived as political gain. Under a PR system the political impetus for June's election would have never seeded within Horwath's ranks.

I'm not too sure that gamble is going to pan out well for Horwath. Being a progressive leader is hard because you have two principal groups to cater to: disadvantaged peoples and ideological social democrats. A fundamental tension of the NDP is that the social democrats understand that there will be growing pains as we transition to a more equitable economy; meanwhile, those experiencing hardship in Ontario may be less dedicated to the reengineering of the economy, because of their preoccupation with making their lives tangibly less difficult.

Andrea Horwath has been inept at balancing these interests. By waving flags of middle-class tax relief and frugal minimum wage increases, Horwath manufactured an ONDP consent to trudge to the centre of the political spectrum.

As other critics have noted, this budget was Horwath's last chance to become Premier. Realistically, the party would have needed to replace her for her complicity in Liberal budgets, but that wouldn't have been the end of the world, especially for the social democratic wing of the party.

Party-first politics and self-interest are toxic qualities in leaders, if you believe the project of politics is to make the world a better place. I cannot stand when people advocate an electoral model because it will advantage the party of their choosing. Similarly, I do not respect leaders who call elections based on their perceived potential to form government.

The ONDP can no longer pretend they're left-wing when the QS (Quebec Solidaire) is next door writing blueprints for meaningful reform at the provincial level. The ONDP doesn't even have the spine to support a transition to a single secular school board, which only the Greens support. I would love to support the ONDP as much as I do their federal counterpart, but I cannot in good faith. The party is in dire need of a leadership contest and a new policy book.

I encourage progressives to vote based on their local candidates, not party affiliations. We might not be able to elect a progressive party in Ontario, but we can send progressive people to Queens Park. Ask important questions about our how we administer our school boards, the barriers to post-secondary education, and how willing candidates are to stand against their own parties on matters of principle.

I will be voting Green in the Ottawa South Liberal stronghold.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

RE: Student Debt is Stifling Innovation #cdnpoli

Dear Jason Kenney, Minister of (under)Employment

I write you today to out of concern for innovation in Canada's economy. Specifically, I worry that many of our most creative minds are too saddled with student debt contribute their full capacities to progress and innovation.

Student debt creates a stagnating aversion to risk. Expecting innovation and entrepreneurial leadership from recent Canadian graduates, with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, is hypocritical. Every wisdom we've prepared youth with is to be financially prudent and repay debts. Student loan repayment is much more reasonably achieved on a salaried career path if your working life starts out deep in the red.

Counterintuitively, the creative potential of many educated indebted workers is completely factored out of our job creation strategies; meaning, the public takes a loss from our investments in post-secondary education. Under a user-pay system, the human capital  of debt-bearers is economically articulated in a such a way that it cannot reach its full potential. The indebtedness of graduates reduces the positive externalities of post-secondary education as a public economic good. Think of the public servants, insurance agents, call centre workers, and delivery drivers who have university education, hate their jobs, and may be sitting on a brilliant business idea, with the potential to create Canadian jobs.

A thriving creative economy does not saddle students with debt. While I personally advocate the elimination of tuition fees and a national strategy for program offerings, I understand those changes can only be achieved over time.

Today, I write to you to suggest a student debt forgiveness fund for Canadian entrepreneurs. Canadians need a policy mechanism to liberate the best ideas from the latent pool of innovation that is educated indebted workers. I suggest that a fund be established for entrepreneurs with student loans and lines of credit that repays significant portions (ideally all) of student debt once the viability of an entrepreneurial venture is verified by a standardized metric (ex. capital raising threshold, accurate forecasts, manageable business plan).

Minister Kenney, if your Conservative government can find 5 million dollars a year during a period of austerity for a new Office of Religious Freedom, you can surely find a generous budget for a student debt forgiveness fund for Canadian entrepreneurs.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Rip in my Flag. #NBProChoice

I just moved to a new place in Ottawa, and I realized my New Brunswick Flag got torn in the process. This imagery and a long overdue morning to write finally inspired me to say something about the appalling erosion reproductive choice in my home province.

The rip.
Abortion is a personal decision. If you oppose the idea of a fetus being aborted in principle, I welcome you to join me on calling on the government to better assist those who find themselves with unintended pregnancies through child care, education, and direct financial support. It is only through making pregnancy and parenthood more reasonable in today's economic climate that parents will choose against abortion.

The closure of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton will disenfranchise thousands of women in the Maritimes. Beyond the irrefutable autonomy rights claims, access to abortion is necessary for creating equal opportunity for women's economic participation.

Social policy is how jurisdictions state their values publicly; Alward's Progressive Conservatives have written classism, sexism, and ignorance into New Brunswick's present. These differ greatly from the values of compassion, justice, and innovation my family and schools taught me. The social policy corollary New Brunswickers need is one that meaningfully expands opportunities for people to develop, not just extractive industries.

The reality of New Brunswick is that our talent pool flows west. Many of our professional workers study and settle in Quebec and Ontario, while skilled labour migrates further west and north. For those of us ex-pats who have grown homesick and ever plotted a return to the Picture Province, the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic is a startling disincentive.

I would love to find a good job in New Brunswick, move home, and start making my Northumberland Strait beach house more reality than dream. But why would I choose to raise a daughter under a policy that tells her she doesn't know what's best for her body and future? Where if she was forcibly impregnated, she'd need the permission of two doctors to abort her rapist's fetus.

The transience of talent is a problem that New Brunswick cannot ignore. The province must attract talented people through strong communities, generous social supports, and unique opportunities for personal and business development. Barriers to abortion are an unjust and unwise affront to progress. It's 2014, there is no excuse for abortion to be anything other than safe, free, and legal.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Speak: Sex Work Public Consult #feminism #cdnpoli

Hey internet! If you live in Canada you should take 5-10 minutes to fill out the
Public Consultation on Prostitution-Related Offences in Canada here at

I believe sex work should be safe and legal in Canada, so I told them.

Monday, January 20, 2014

RE: Exam Week Cis-sexism @Carleton_U

Dear Carleton Equity Services,

I’m writing in regards to the proctor training session that took place on November 16th in 180 University Centre led by John Tracey, Examinations Coordinator. During this session, I asked what the policy was if a student writing an exam requested to use a gender-neutral washroom. The answer I received was “it hasn’t come up”. I probed with a follow-up citing the Carleton Human Right’s Code’s protections for gender identity and was told the relevant policy would be emailed out. This follow-up action did not occur.

It is my hope that the policy surrounding requests for gender neutral during an exam be publicly clarified and included in proctor training in time for the April exam period.

Happy Campus Pride Week,


Sunday, January 19, 2014

RE: Cooperating for Progress #NBpoli. #NBvotes

Dominic Cardy, Leader New Brunswick New Democratic Party
David Coon, Leader Green Party of New Brunswick

The next provincial election is only months away. David Alward's austerity measures have met a cold reception and risky resource development plans have divided the province. In all likelihood, the people of New Brunswick will punish the governing Progressive Conservatives by electing Brian Gallant's Liberals. Still bitter from Shawn Graham's reckless corporate tax slash, I'd prefer another outcome and suggest electoral cooperation between the Greens and New Democrats to challenge to status quo politics for election 2014. 

The political culture of the province has not lent itself kindly to third party representation, and progressive vote-splitting favors Liberals and PCs in tight races. It is an expensive habit to alternate between Conservative and Liberal majorities who waste resources undoing the policies of the previous governments. 

Reticence to third party representation has left both of your parties seat-less going into election. I have previously written that progressives in New Brunswick would be best served by a merger, but the time to broker such a transition has lapsed. I'm also critical that partisan zeal and ego would have clouded any real discussion on a merger. I hope these evils will not poison talks of cooperation.

I urge your two parties borrow Nathan Cullen’s vision of cooperative politics through joint nominations for the upcoming election. As progressives, your parties share priorities of responsible economic and environmental stewardship, social justice, electoral reform, and effective social services. Third (and fourth) party representation and minority governments force compromise and consensus building that result in more sustainable public policies. Joint nominations are the most practical way to pursue a progressive agenda for the 2014 New Brunswick election.