100 Women MPs (March 7, 2021)

Good Sunday Morning!

Tomorrow is both Commonwealth Day and International Women’s Day – as well as the birthday of two dear friends - so a shout out to Amelia Clarke in Waterloo and my dear adopted mom Dorothy Cutting on Salt Spring Island!

International Women’s Day changed my life.  Forty-one years ago, March 8, 1980, my best friend, Liz Archibald Calder (now of White Rock, but then in Whycocomagh) convinced me we could do an amazing thing – and actually drive all the way into Sydney, Cape Breton to go to the pub for a big feminist party.   That’s a four-hour round trip and I did not routinely, or ever actually, visit pubs or, on reflection, do anything fun.   I had just run for parliament, starting the “small party” that was to become the Green Party.  I had spent the last five years of my life fighting the pulp mill and its plans to spray our forests with toxic insecticides. The pub! In Sydney! This was an amazing idea.

The headliner of the night was Rita MacNeil. In those days, Rita was not THE Rita MacNeil. She was a politically radical singer with a small fan base of radical feminists- all the way to Toronto where people loved her.  It would be a number of years before she became the more grandmotherly CBC Christmas special version of herself.  That night she was barefoot on stage and belting out, “Tell it like it is, Sisters.”

At some point in the festivities, a slightly inebriated woman lawyer introduced herself saying she had heard me debating the pulp company executives in the media. “You know, you should really be a lawyer- go to law school.”  And I said the truth – that I had always wanted to be a lawyer, but that I didn’t even have an undergrad degree and I was pretty stuck waitressing and cooking in my parents’ restaurant. 

And what she said next was what changed my life – “You don’t need an undergrad degree…at your age and with your work fighting budworm spraying, you should apply as a mature student.” 

The next day I phoned Dalhousie Law School and spoke to the admissions department. I had only two weeks to pull together an application.  By September, I was sitting at a desk in a lecture hall – still waitressing and cooking in the summers as I worked my way through law school.

I sometimes wonder what course my life would have taken if not for that International Women’s Day celebration. Not to mention that if not for the women’s movement, it is unlikely law schools would have opened the door to mature students.  It was an innovation intended to increase the number of women in a mostly male profession.

Now I am one of 100 women MPs in Parliament.  It took 100 years to reach the first hundred women MPs, with Agnes McPhail being the first in 1921. Since October 2020, we have one hundred all serving together!

Changing my celebratory tone, apologies for more bad news.  In reflecting on the last week, I am drawn back to the perennial, inescapable reality of systemic racism in Canadian law enforcement. I have been following the shocking story of the brutal treatment of a young doctoral student from Guinea, falsely arrested by the Montreal police. Thank God they didn’t kill him – but given the abuse of Mamadi Fara Camera endured, they well might have done. 

Closer to home, another indigenous man was killed last weekend on a “wellness check.”

The killing at the hands of Tofino RCMP happened on Meares Island in the Opitsaht community within the Nuu-chah-nuth Nation. That is the same nation devastated by the June shooting of Chantel Moore by Edmundson, N.B. police.  Chantel Moore was also killed in a “wellness” check.  The investigation into her killing by the Quebec police oversight body was given to the New Brunswick government in December. The family has been denied any details.

I have been working with Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and a group of Senators to try to open a set of committee hearings into the killing of indigenous peoples during “wellness checks.” 

Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin and I are determined to get answers.   It is beyond unacceptable that more people in the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation have been killed by police than due to COVID.

Closing with some good news. (My daughter wrote me that she had found the last GSM particularly depressing – apologies to all!)

In response to my rant last week about the fake “big win” on climate, Christa Grace Warwick from Pender sent me this real “big win”: The Ktunaxa Nation and environmental groups have succeeded in a 30 year fight to stop an appalling ski resort. Instead, a new Indigenous Conserved and Protected Area (ICPA) has been established over a larger area of the Purcell Mountain range. Thanks to Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson for a $16 million boost to make this a reality!

Good news too on the Fairy Creek forest protectors and the injunction threat. The threat remains, but the judge refused to grant the loggers an injunction. Instead, she has given the protectors’ lawyers three weeks to better prepare their case.  

Lastly, this citizen, volunteer effort to explain why Bill C-12 is so inadequate really cheered me.  Please watch the YouTube and help share this excellent piece of work far and wide.

Happy International Women’s Day!

And for Commonwealth Day, later today you can watch their Trees for the Wild event. (See details below).

Much love and rock on sisters!

Elizabeth

P.S.  Please sign and share this e-petition to the Parliament of Canada to support the COVID “long haulers!” 

  1. Recognize and label long COVID as a health syndrome;
  2. Create a registry system for long COVID patients, include this data in Health Canada's daily case count, and consider these patients "Unrecovered" or "Not Infectious";
  3. Swiftly fund robust, targeted research of COVID-19 and long COVID; and
  4. Establish clinics for diagnosed long COVID patients, whether COVID-19 tested or not, to address medical, cognitive, psychological, rehabilitative and employment issues.

“Trees in the Wild” ZOOM event on the Great Bear Rainforest on Sunday, 07 March 2021 2:00 p.m. (PST).......registration is available on EventBrite.

Tickets

Tickets for Trees In The Wild - A Conversation About The Great Bear Rainforest can be booked here.


Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens
http://www.sgigreenparty.ca/


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