Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christie Blatchford and the Mystery of the Backhanded Homophobe

It's always a struggle for me when I read something hideous, from a columnist that I despise, because my first reaction is to disseminate it. Why is that a problem? Well, we live in a society where people say the grossest things to get attention, because any kind of publicity or recognition is better than being obscure. Barbara and Jonathan Kay, Rosie DiManno, and Christie Blatchford are just a few names that come to mind when I think of shitty journalism. These people have great jobs, at media outlets with a broad audience, and are not held accountable for what they write -- not the quality of writing, the lack of research, or the reprehensible nature of their opinion. It seems best to quietly laugh at what they write and move on, not draw a lot of attention to it, and hope that they will soon retire. Once in awhile, though, a "journalist" writes something so absurd and contemptible that to let it fly under the radar would be criminal. Such is Christie Blatchford's latest "opinion": Toronto, City of Sissies.

Blatchford writes:

"The bull terrier and I were on a long forced march on the toney part of Yonge Street, in Rosedale.

There were a couple of boys, maybe 10 years old, maybe 12, walking ahead of me. Coming towards them was another small knot of boys about the same age.

The two groups met, and immediately began hugging each another, one at a time. The trustees and ding-dongs at the Toronto District School Board would have been ecstatic; I was mortified and appalled."

Apparently, Blatchford has never seen boys or men hug before -- especially "one at a time". After she barfed into her three thousand dollar COACH purse, she and her bull terrier went straight home to wash themselves of the faggy fag residue those boys had scattered. Then she went to her safe home, wrote something hateful for her safe job, and fell asleep on the downy chest of some brawny man who kisses with his fists just the way God intended? What the hell is this woman on?

The first thing I thought of when I read this article: this bitch is white. This bitch is SO white. Some of us come from cultures where hugging and kissing -- even amongst the MEN-- is common. Men and boys, hugging their relatives and their friends, without even thinking about the consequences! Amazing! These same men and boys work hard, are macho men, get into fights, stand up for themselves and others, and generally perpetuate other (often damaging) stereotypes of masculinity. So Christie Blatchford has her white panties in a knot that she saw white boys hugging one another? Rich, white boys in Rosedale? I'm sorry, Ms. Blatchford, TORONTO men need to be toughened up? Have you ever been outside of Rosedale? Besides the time spent in your car driving to and from the other affluent parts of Toronto? It is absolutely unacceptable and embarrassing that such a generalized and flippant statement could be made, and then paid for, about such a diverse city where there is SO much violence. I wonder if Christie Blatchford walks her bull terrier in North York at night? Or in ANY park? Is she glad when she reads stories about groups of young men swarming and mugging people? Or raping girls, taping it on their cell phones, then passing it out at school? Is that the kind of group behaviour that she would prefer to hugging? So that she can tuck herself in at the end of the day, safe in the knowledge that all is as it should be?

She writes:

"But holy smokes, I am wearying of the male as delicate creature. I am wearying of men who are so frequently in touch with their feminine side they, not to mention me, have lost sight of the masculine one. I’m just plain sick of hugs, giving and getting, from just about anyone, but particularly man-to-man hugs."

Who is sick of hugs?! What kind of demented lunatic is "sick" of hugs? If you don't like being hugged that's your own business, but you cannot take a stance against other people hugging. You especially can't say that you "particularly" hate man-to-man hugs. It's truly baffling that in this world there are people who would rather see people fight then hug. Does Blatchford have children? During holidays and family gatherings if her male relatives hug does she spit on them and leave the event?

The silly thing about Blatchford's article isn't even her aversion to hugging, it's that she tries to make her argument about bullying. She argues that bullying is best dealt with by people who witness the bullying occur, then attack the bully. To be perfectly honest, I think sometimes a bully needs to be beat down -- but bullying is a symptom of a much bigger problem that doesn't have one solution and it has absolutely nothing to do with hugging. By judging the boys on the street, by calling men and boys who hug sissies and "feys" who speak with too much "Sss", Blatchford is being a big fucking bully. Bullying isn't just regular behaviour, it's abusive behaviour that is usually prompted by some kind of difference - even if that difference is just being weaker than someone else. Proscribing and policing behaviour is bullying and the problem with bullying is that it isn't always about inflicting physical damage. How do you deal with a bully who just tries to force you to act a certain way, by degrading you and treating you with derision?

Not only is it extremely tacky to be taking a stance basically for bullying right now, but it's also transparent. What does a group of boys hugging one another have to do with Rob and Doug Ford? Seriously? It has nothing at all to do with politics, except that this conservative old lady is so obsessed with them that she thinks about them when she sees little boys on the street. How weird is that? Blatchford is so blindly pro-Ford that I'm surprised her disgusting articles about the Shafia trial haven't included some kind of tribute to them, in all of their "too big, too pink, too football-y" glory. It's as though she's just taken trending topics and thrown them into one article: The Ford Brothers, UFC, The Toronto School Board, and bullying. The desperation is so obvious and sad.

Blatchford finishes her 'article' by writing:

"I know men have feelings too. I just don’t need to know much more than that. On any list of The 25 Things Every Man And Boy Should Know How To Do, hugging is not one of them. Killing bugs is. Whacking bullies is. Kissing is. Farting on cue is. Making the sound of a train in a tunnel is. Shooting a puck is. Hugging is not.

Feel free to give this to your male children. You’re entirely welcome."

Men should know how to kill, kiss, fart, make the sound of a train, hit other men, and play hockey? What man is really as stereotypical as that? Women are the only ones who have the luxury of exploring emotions, or free to have any kind of personality and depth? Who actually thinks this describes the ideal man? The healthy man? Blatchford tries to pre-empt any attempt to label her a homophobe by saying that "like all women" and as a "downtowner" she loves the gays! She doesn't hate gays, she just hates seeing men display healthy amounts of physical affection towards one another and feels it is her mission to point out how wrong it is.

She asks the readers to give her article to their male children, because she obviously thinks it is appropriate to shame children and ask them to act a certain way to make her feel more comfortable while walking her pure bred dog in the rich part of town. I think that people should probably give this article to their male children, to teach them what bigotry looks like, and to encourage them to hug if they want despite crazy people like Blatchford.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why we need to remember and act on December 6th

Update: I wrote this one year ago today. In the year since I posted this more women than we ever want to believe have been murdered, abused, exploited, and gone missing. Today may be a day for remembering the 14 lives lost 23 years ago but it's also a reminder that for the next 365 days violence against women, against the vulnerable and oppressed, will continue. (Justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women)


Today is the 22nd 'anniversary' of the Montreal Massacre, when a young man walked into an educational institution and murdered as many women as he could. Shooting 28 and killing 14, he started his rampage by separating the men and the women because he was "fighting feminism".

In his attempts to attack women and feminism and in a blatant act that would forever define what 'violence against women' could really mean, he took the following lives:

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

One of the outcomes of his crime, which he committed with hunting knife and a semi-automatic rifle casually purchased, was a tightening of gun control laws in Canada. With several family members of the murdered women heavily involved, Bill C-68(The Firearms Act) was passed in 1995. The new Bill required the training of gun owners, screening firearm applicants, new rules which would restrict certain types of guns and ammunition, regulations around gun storage, and the requirement to register all firearms.

It seems like a small thing, to me, to have to register or safely store your guns. I bought bear spray for a camping trip up North once and I had to register to own it. If anyone were to ever check how many weapons or dangerous items I have registered to my name there would be two: that bear spray and some allergy medication I bought in the States. I think that's normal. If I bought a gun I'd be more than happy to register it, because it means that if I have to register my weapon so does that creepy guy who lives in my building who stands in the hallway at 4am silently. It means that the abusive partner of my co-worker will also have to register his gun. The gun registry has been one of the most controversial items on the Canadian political landscape since its inception and it seems that only a person who is completely secure in their safety could be opposed to it, could fight against it, which means being completely oblivious to the safety and concerns of others. If mere inconvenience, or "concerns about privacy", really seem like good enough reasons to oppose a Bill that was prompted by the brutal murder of 14 women then women's safety, children's safety, and public safety are less important to some people than their own comfort. To be blunt, it is selfish to deny a Bill that can save even one life.

But despite controversy and despite opposition the Gun Registry and the Firearms act remained and, despite arguments around the methodological soundness of data collection, has made a difference in the amount of gun related crime and death in Canada.

This year Canadians voted in a Conservative Majority and one of the first items on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's agenda was to initiate the repeal of Bill C-68, to not only "scrap" the registry and the requirement to register long-guns, but also to compel the destruction of ALL records pertaining to any information under the Firearms Act, which includes information about registered firearms, past and present.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews who sponsored the bill said that it was a proud moment for the Conservatives, stating that "waste is finally coming to an end in Ottawa." All debate and controversy aside, the long gun registry should be last on the list of "waste" in Ottawa. Abusing public services, spending public money on personal trifles, there is so must waste in Ottawa that's just impossible to focus on one thing. Politicians pay for their expensive dinners with our tax dollars. They pay for their hand jobs at those expensive restaurants with our tax dollars! So why is it "waste" to spend our own money on something that some of us actually want? What this really means is that the Conservatives have finally won their long battle against having to spend any money on anything that benefits women or protects them. It's too expensive to have to register your guns? I have to pay for a new driver's license every few years, and a passport, and a health card. It's too expensive to maintain a database of registered weapons? Well, what about the RCMP surveillance of non-criminals? What about the collection of medical data, or of DNA samples of sex offenders? Registering children for school, collecting data on their grades? Voting? We maintain and expand databases all of the time so what is it exactly about this particular database that irks them so much?
Many opponents argue the the registry treats responsible citizens like criminals. But what doesn't? I have to register my car. When you get pulled over and provide your registration, the police are in their car doing a criminal check on you--sometimes for no apparent reason. And how about airport security? While study after study has suggested that airport security screening is doing a bad job at preventing terrorist acts, we still allow each ridiculous technological advance in security to be shoved down our throats. So do the people who believe that the long gun registry should be halted and the information destroyed also believe that No-Fly Lists should also be destroyed? That airport screening should be abolished? Because it's exactly the same sentiment. I don't appreciate having to remove my shoes and have my hair patted every time I fly somewhere but I suffer it because I have places to go, so I sacrifice a bit of my privacy and allow myself to be treated like a criminal.
Critics bring up the fact that "criminals" and gang members don't register their weapons, so the registry is useless. Sure, this is true. But the fact remains that women are also murdered by the "law abiding", they're murdered or abused by their family members and people they know. You may be surprised at how many 'respectable' and upstanding men are perpetrators of domestic violence, but it is a simple truth that abuse escalates and women are killed by their partners' registered guns.
That the Conservative government is demanding the destruction of all information pertaining to the registry is absurd. Really? You won't even let the police keep the information? Or keep it for the purposes of government research? Anybody who is worth anything knows that there is no such thing as useless information and that destroying information that has cost money and time is senseless and childish. It's a slap in the face to anyone whose ever been the victim of violence, or been robbed at gun point, or had a family member killed. There is always something productive to be made from any information, and it highlights the short sightedness and truly bratty nature of the Conservative Party that they would rather just toss that information in a big fire and dance around it, crowing about their "victory".
Today the annual memorial in Ottawa was held for the 14 women who were murdered 22 years ago. No Conservative MPs were present, because none of them were invited. Prime Minister Harper released a statement about the deaths saying that "while the senseless events of that day will never fully be understood, we must continue to do our utmost to ensure such a tragedy never occurs again and to protect society's most vulnerable...our Government is making significant investments to end violence against women and girls in communities across the country and will continue to advocate for the fair and unbiased treatment of all citizens."
Prime Minister Harper has a daughter and he can make such a hypocritical, disingenuous statement that demeans the women who were murdered and all women who have faced violence before or since. As a father, a husband, and as the person Canadians have entrusted with their safety Stephen Harper should be ashamed of his actions and the callousness of his statement. He's spitting on the graves of our buried sisters and mothers, and he's scoffing at the real pain violence against women has caused in all of our lives -- including the lives of men.
Violence against women isn't just something someone made up and 22 years ago today these 14 lives were ended simply because they were women.

It would be nice if politicians could get over their ideological pettiness and just honour their commitments to those lost lives and lives that continue to be threatened and destroyed to this day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Madonna orders TIFF volunteers not to look at her

There was a story in the Globe and Mail today about Madonna's appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. Apparently, she asked eight volunteers to turn and face the wall while she walked by them (which they all did, amazingly).

I get it. After years and years and years of being a glamorous icon it is very important that people not look directly at her face. If they did they'd see her deep, dark secret. She is actually the harpy from The Last Unicorn.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Surprise, Surprise: Money does grow on trees.

The city is abuzz over the newest Ford Brother plan for the Port Lands, a heavily contaminated former Industrial area which has been the focus of a redevelopment plan for the past nine years. Doug and Rob Ford announced recently that they had a new plan, a better plan. It's an add Ferris wheel and stir formulation to attract tourists down to the waterfront with a Ferris Wheel, a Mega Mall, and a Monorail.

This globe and mail article sums it up quite nicely, so I'm not going to get too much into the details of the actual plan.

I truly do not understand about Ferris wheel/Monorail/Mega Mall schemes. Those who push these plans (almost ALWAYS business people or former business people turned politicians) claim that they are a great way to draw tourists to the waterfront--to remain "competitive".

Last year a Ferris wheel was proposed for the Seattle waterfront by a businessman who said it would help combat disruption during the construction of a viaduct. Revitalization, preservation of the waterfront via Ferris wheel seems to be the general consensus.

Fast forward one year and there is no Ferris wheel in Seattle. Plans shifted from waterfront to practically waterfront then to a plan for the 50th celebration of the Seattle Centre but were discontinued in April due to "liability issues." Even when planned for and in conjunction with an enormous institution like the Seattle Centre, the plan still couldn't get off the ground. A plan like a gigantic Ferris wheel needs to be planned and executed efficiently, not just thrown on the table. And that is why the Ferris wheel and Mega Mall at Port Lands will never materialize--a Mayor's term doesn't last forever, Ford's approval ratings are going down fast and hard, and he and his brother will never be able to get this project off the ground before they are sent packing.

If the brothers Ford weren't just in this to make a quick, seedy, buck they would have proposed these developments at the beginning of the summer and made a public(and legal) process of the bids for proposals and projects. Meeting behind closed doors is one thing for a "business man" like Rob Ford who "lives in the real world" but, guess what Mayor Ford, you're the Mayor now and politics is not the real world.

When Mayor Ford said  “You don’t get jobs having 400 acres of parkland. Parks are beautiful. We have tons of parks, but unfortunately, that tree can’t employ anybody" he was simultaneously right and wrong.

Right: Parks are beautiful. We do have tons of parks.

Wrong: You don't get jobs from parkland. A tree can't employ anyone.

In fact, trees and parks employ people. A lot of people. I'm not sure if the Mayor knows this or not but here in Canada we have this thing called "National Parks" and "Provincial Parks." They are run by a sector of the government called "Parks Canada." Chances are, you've been to a Parks Canada Park. Go the the beach? Most likely it's in a Park. Go hiking? Probably in a Park as well. Parks Canada is celebrating its Centennial Year -- that's one hundred years. For one hundred years we, as a nation, have valued Parks and conservation of not only Park land but also of Marine areas. That doesn't just happen by accident, people are employed by Parks Canada --by TREES!

Parks Canada has more than four thousand employees across the country, and that doesn't include summer student positions. They employ these people to help support their mandate:  "to preserve and present Canada's national heritage for current and future generations."

Amazing. People are employed by Parks. By trees, by lakes, by mountains and rivers. They aren't employed to tear shit up and build rides to encourage people to spend money, they are employed to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy our natural resources in the same way that we are. For posterity. 

You know what tourists and Canadians like? Parks. Ever been to Banff National Park in high season? Bruce Peninsula? It's silly with people. Each person is spending money to get into the Park and a lot of them are spending money to camp or boat.Many Parks have attractions like Gondolas, Ice Field Tours, Boat Tours, Horseback Riding, etc and people also pay good money for those.

I was in Banff just a few weeks ago and to even DRIVE to the town you have to pay to get into the Park.

Looking more locally, the Parks, Forestry and Recreation website for the city of Toronto states that "one of the greatest strengths of our city is our wonderful parks system. Big or small, these parks offer everything from play to quiet relaxation. Our parks let you absorb the peace, quiet and natural beauty of the outdoors without leaving the city."

Toronto has hundreds of Parks, many of which include unique features that require specialty care. Guildwood Park, for example, has a mature forest and historical sculptures. The Toronto Music Garden is home to beautifully manicured and designed gardens which were inspired by a Bach Cello Suite.

The Toronto Islands, The Humber Bay Butterfly habitat, High Park, HTO Park, Riverdale Farms and Bluffers Park are a few examples and they don't just exist in a vacuum --people are employed to maintain, care for, and develop these spaces.

So Mayor Ford is just plain wrong. Who will the Ferris wheel employ, or the mall, when a year from now the plan gets scrapped?

This new waterfront plan will cost taxpayers over $200 million on top of throwing away nine years of work on the current development plan. I don't want my tax money going towards a mall, a mono rail, or a Ferris wheel. I want my tax dollars to go towards preserving the essential services that this City claims we cannot afford.  I want unionized garbage collectors, pools for kids in the summer, affordable housing and daycare, and snow removal.

The promises Ford made during his election campaign have truly gone out the window, once and for all. A Ferris wheel is gravy.  A Mega Mall is gravy. We live in a city that has actually told us it s a waste of money to have libraries. Our Mayor went out of his way to express his non-support for one of our hugest tourist attractions of the year: Pride.  Now those same people who were shunning tourist dollars from Pride are now trying to push extravagant and passe rides and malls on us, for tourism?

It doesn't make sense from a fiscal perspective, it's not sustainable development, and it's a waste of money. The only good thing about this Ferris wheel debacle is that it is yet another instance of the Fords showing Toronto why they are n politics: to make money. Any public servant who pushes midway rides that will cost the taxpayers millions while trying to shut down libraries has an ulterior motive and my guess is that their motive is to line their pockets with gold, irregardless of whether or not it leaves this city in shambles.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This is why I love Twitter.

Twitter is truly the best. I posted this Open Letter to Councillor Minnan-Wong and Councillor Holyday today and I also posted it on Twitter--or, rather, tweeted it. The letter decries the sexist and bullying behaviour of Councillor Minnan Wong, Councillor Holyday, Councillor Mammoliti, and Mayor Rob Ford during the Deputation of Toronto Women's City Alliance representative Jennifer Arango.

Not too long after it was sent off by the little blue bird we got some responses, specifically responses about the author. Apparently @Sattva01 thinks the author is a nutcase.

There isn't really any mention of the content of the letter, namely the completely sexist behaviour of some Toronto City Councillors, just a lot of talk about the author not being able to teach at York University-- which was once true.

Tasia Alexopoulos, the author of the letter, was indeed banned from teaching at York University. We've written about it and reproduced a talk Tasia gave at York University, with two tenured Professors, about her experience of being fired. You can read that HERE.

The case was also written about here, in Steel Bananas Art Collective Magazine, by the talented Devon Wong who is now off doing his Masters in English.

Tasia also spoke about her experience being fired at a York University Human Rights Centre Conference with colleague Hans Rollman where they workshopped on "Diversity vs. Normativity: Systematic Barriers to Classroom Dialogue and Inclusivity."

Tasia has an(under construction) profile on Academicfreedom.ca and glowing Teacher's Evaluations from the students she was allowed to instruct before being summarily fired, wrongly, by York University.

And finally, on April 1st, the ban on Tasia's teaching was lifted when her grievance against the University was settled after almost two years. You can read about that here on Activist Teacher.

So, to answer your question @Sattva01, Tasia Alexopoulos is truly a nutcase. Thank you for pointing that out to us.

An Open Letter to Councillor Minnan-Wong and Councillor Doug Holyday

UPDATE: The TWCA has issued a letter demanding a public apology, which you can read HERE. As well, not mentioned in the letter below was Councillor Mammoliti who also interjected with a Point of Order, deeming Jennifer's point "disrespectful and irrelevant." You may recall Councillor Mammoliti from his recent brush with fame: creepily videotaping this year's Dyke March during Pride Week. I think we can all safely say that what is really disrespectful and irrelevant is Mammoliti himself. Mammoliti can be reached at his email: councillor_mammoliti@toronto.ca

An open letter sent to Toronto City Councillors Minnan-Wong and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday regarding their completely unacceptable behaviour during the July 28th Special Executive Committee meeting about proposed Service cuts in the City. During her deputation as a representative for Toronto Women's City Alliance, Jennifer Arango was interrupted repeatedly by both Councillors, some of which was caught on tape:


What's the point of "allowing" citizens to express their opinions if City Councillors are just going to treat them with disdain and try to shut them up? This kind of behaviour isn't acceptable and both of these men should be held accountable for being complete jerks to Jennifer.

You can email Holyday and Minnan-Wong as well: councillor_holyday@toronto.ca, councillor_minnan-wong@toronto.ca

The letter was also CC-ed to Mayor Rob Ford.

We can whine all we want that the city is going down the tubes, but this is a concrete example of a specific tube-- sexist behaviour like this has no place in our City Council and we all have a responsibility to stand up to it.

An Open Letter to Councillor Minnan-Wong and Councillor Holyday

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's "Be Nice to the TTC Driver" Day!

On Monday there was some kind of spat on the Bathurst streetcar. According to the National Post (written by Kelly McParland) the "conflict" began when:

"passengers were kept waiting on a hot summer evening for a streetcar that didn’t arrive. Estimates of the wait vary — somewhere between half an hour and 40 minutes. It was rush hour and people wanted to get home. When the car finally arrived, the driver further aggravated the crowd by hopping off for a short break. A middle-aged woman said something and the driver said something back. “I don’t like your attitude and you are not getting into my car,” the woman (who now has a lawyer) says she was told.

She ignored the command and got on the car. The driver ordered her off. She refused. The crowd sided with her and the driver got his back up — one passenger claimed he was “out of his mind.” The driver called a supervisor,who.. tried to settle things down, insisting the woman leave the car."

It goes on to say that all of the passengers agreed with the woman and that one of them started videotaping the situation, the supervisor grabbed the camera, a passenger tackled them, the police were called, blah blah blah blah.

The bullshitty thing about this article is that it makes it sound like the passengers were kept waiting on purpose in deadly heat. It also makes it sound like the driver is responsible for the lateness of the street car, that he purposefully aggravated the situation by taking his break, and that he was not justified in asking the woman to not board the street car. Finally, this article is ALL based on hearsay from "witnesses" and the woman who started the whole thing by being kind of a bitch.

Ooooh, it was "hot" out. People wanted to "get home." We live in TORONTO. It's not that goddamned hot here, we have crapp TTC, I'm guessing it was rush hour(so people should expect delays- this is the biggest city in the country and you are ALL going home from work at the same time), and it's summer time in the city so chill out.

I hate late TTC as much as the next person. When I lived at Christie and Dupont and took the Dupont bus to Spadina station, it was late every single day. Every. Single. Day. I also commute to York frequently and I don't even need to explain that.

It's incredibly frustrating on some days, some days you're not so cranky so it doesn't bother you as much, and some days you are proactive and plan for it or you just walk. Bring a book, listen to your ipod, do some squats. If you want transit that is always on time, move to Germany.

That being said, I have never, EVER taken out my own frustration on a TTC driver. As someone who has worked in retail, in the service industry, and as a Teaching Assistant I understand that people's frustration often lands on the first person they come into contact with.

Had a bad day? Waited forever for a table? Your coffee isn't as hot as it should be? Well, I guess you asking me if I'm "retarded" is fine! Sure, go right ahead and snap your fingers at me from across a crowded restaurant, then leave me a fifty cent tip.

Or, don't. How about for five seconds you stop, take a deep breath, and recognize how entitled and rude your behaviour is and how disgusting it is to take out your problems out on somebody who is doing their job and who has nothing to do with your crankiness. How about this little thing called "respect"? Or "basic, human dignity"?

It SUCKS having to wait 40 minutes for a street car. It blows beyond belief. But guess what also sucks? Driving in heavy traffic, in a vehicle STUCK ON TRACKS. Streetcars are literally stuck on tracks, people. That means you can't pass or take detours, you are at the mercy of traffic. This "clash" happened on the Bathurst Streetcar. Uhhh... the Bathurst streetcar is a mess. It doesn't have a dedicated lane, the traffic moves slower than molasses, and here are a billion traffic lights. Any time I have ever taken the Bathurst streetcar I've been late. It's not the driver's fault, it's that there isn't proper transit infrastructure that prioritizes their movement through traffic.

Street car and bus drivers don't just say to themselves "I know what will be awesome, making my passengers wait 40 minutes for me!" No. They understand that every minute they are late, somebody is waiting to screech at them for it and be rude to them. Some people spit on them, or hit them.

A TTC employee is assaulted in some way or another almost every day, that's why there's a zero tolerance on the TTC for behaviour that is in any way abusive. They have to be able to set boundaries and ground rules on the vehicles they drive, because it's the only way they can feel safe doing their job and also the only way the TTC can actually stay safe. The driver is the authority on the bus, and when you have an authority figure that noone respects? CHAOS!

You know who else boundaries protect? Passengers! I can't even count how many times I've been on the TTC and watched the driver kick someone off for doing something dangerous or threatening people. And every, single time that's happened I've breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have to be the one dealing with that person and now I can enjoy the rest of my ride home without some crazy man screaming in my ear that he's going to kill me.

According to the Toronto Star's "coverage" of this particular news item, the woman in question "recalls" just politely asking the driver why he was late. Oh really? I have this sneaking suspicion that asking the driver a polite question doesn't get you tossed from the street car. The Star and the NatPo have also very selectively chosen their witnesses. According to our own sources, there were just as many people yelling at the woman to get off the streetcar and allow it to move as there were "defending her" and taking a stand against the evil driver.

I tend to believe that people were yelling at her to get off the street car. The majority of rush hour riders really do just want to get home, and they don't need any more stress than they've experienced during the day. I've never been in a situation where other passengers were like "hell yeah I'll wait here all day for this lady's right to be rude to the driver!" No. Generally, other passengers are uncomfortable with rude people and will eventually start yelling at the person to disembark.

In any case, it doesn't matter what she said because it's the drivers right to kick her off. It's like being at the airport-- they can bar you from getting on the plane for a lot of different reasons, and most of us think that's probably for the best. Like, I'm more comfortable if that super drunk dude who keeps staring at the children DOESN'T get on the plane. Or, in a bar--if you're being unruly they can toss you out, and most of us other patrons generally think this is also for the best because it helps us enjoy our evening and makes us feel safer. So, why is the TTC any different? Because the Toronto Star and National Post love to attack Unionized workers? Because they'll do anything to turn a little thing into a big news story that they don't actually have to do any real reporting on?

I just feel like TTC workers get a really shitty deal. All of this over a short break?? For all we know, this driver really had to pee. Maybe he hadn't had his break yet, and maybe he was stuck in traffic a really long time. Would we prefer that he pee in a jar whilst driving? If a driver peed in a jar, heaven knows someone would complain. They just can't win. Maybe the driver is diabetic and needed to eat something really quickly. Maybe he had a kidney stone. Maybe he has a urinary tract infection. Maybe he had diarrhea. There are a lot of really great reasons why it is mandatory that we get breaks during our work day. We don't expect Admin Assistants to sit at their desk all day without peeing or eating, so why should we expect the same of our TTC drivers? Sure, they aren't perfect but neither are you and neither am I and we are still entitled to breaks at work.

So how about this: next time the street car is late and your driver hops off to do whatever it is that he is legally entitled to do, just smile. Say hi. Ask if it's been a busy day. Lots of traffic today? It is actually amazing how much that kind of behaviour can alter the atmosphere on the TTC. Being rude to anyone while they are at work ruins their day. It ruins my day, it ruins your day, and it ruins the TTC driver's day as well.

If you have to vent your frustration then call your City Councillor or, better yet, call the Mayor. Tell them that the TTC infrastructure is not conducive to fast and efficient transit in this city. Tell them that you are frustrated with the thought of another fare increase when service is no better than it was last year, or the year before. You're waiting 40 minutes , it's making you cranky and frustrated -- so pick up your cell phone that you're texting angrily on and call the Office of the TTC Chair. Put your frustration to good use, instead of just being the prick who ruined somebody's day for no good reason.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oh, I know, let's just make bikes illegal. Problem solved! How the Toronto Star is making a tabloid out of a tragedy.

Yesterday, like I do most days, I was riding west on the Harbord bike lane. I usually enjoy the Harbord bike lane because it's a pretty wide street in general, it doesn't have too many potholes, and the lane is actually separated from the parking lane. That, and the fact that I live off of Harbord means I traverse this stretch frequently-- I'm a regular.
The other nice thing about Harbord is there are a lot of traffic lights. I LOVE lights. Stop signs are alright, but there is no guarantee a car won't roll through a stop sign or that they'll recognize your right of way in a four way stop sign situation. A light is a light and that shit means STOP.Being a rather tiny individual, and having been struck by a very large car that rolled through a stop sign once, I'm nervous about intersections and always err on the side of extreme caution.
Yesterday it was like all hell had broken loose on Harbord street. Cars were making fast, dangerous turns in front of cyclists or pulling through the bike lanes to park in front of us -- the cyclist behind me even started screaming "oh my god!! it's every driver!" like we were in a very bad horror movie or something.

So I'm riding west and I come up to the Manning intersection. Cars are usually pretty decent here because 1) it's a light and 2) there's a school at this intersection. On this particular day, however, the black Jeep Cherokee(plate number: AXSP 325) waiting at the red light wasn't havin' it. School, pedestrians, and bikes be damned! I make a habit of annoyingly ringing my bell at pretty much every intersection and when I ride by parked cars, and this lady's window was rolled down. The light is green for me, I'm ringing my bell like a crazy person, she's looking straight at me, and she decides to turn right on the red when it is completely unsafe to do so -- nearly hitting me, had I not hit my brakes so hard that I'm pretty sure one of them is now loose.
I really don't get drivers that do this. If you hit me, you will be late for whatever appointment you're rushing to. You may also kill me or maim me. She SAW me there, she saw the line up cyclists behind me, she saw the busy traffic, and she still chose to almost hit me so she could turn right on a red light. It makes absolutely no sense. It makes no sense that this happens ALL OF THE TIME when you're riding a bike (or walking).
A few weeks ago I was riding behind someone who got dinged with a cab door on College street-- a cab door that was opened into a bike lane without consideration of the shitload of bikes in that lane. The door knocked him off his bike and onto the pavement. Here's the thing about cyclists who get hit by cars -- because( if we aren't killed) we have a lot of adrenaline rushing through our bodies, we often don't realize how badly we've been hurt. It's also sometimes embarrassing so we say "it's alright, it's alright, I'm not hurt, it's fine" and ride away. But it's not alright and at the best least the incident should be reported in some way or another. I can't even imagine what the numbers would look like if every single car on bike accident was reported to the police.
These are just some of the reasons that it bothers me when newspapers decide to make us cyclists seem like monsters who get away with murder. Sure, some of us are monsters, but that's just because we're humans and more than half the population of humans are actually monsters.
In the Star today the article "Cyclist fractures pedestrian's skull, gets $400 fine" discusses an accident that occurred yesterday at Huron and Dundas where a cyclist hit a pedestrian, leading to very serious injuries. The article uses the accident to "question...the strength of the province's traffic laws" because the man who hit the pedestrian was charged with careless driving but faces no criminal charges or jail time.
With a charge of careless driving the fact that serious injury or death is a result is not usually relevant, so whether or not the pedestrian actually dies doesn't affect the charge. The charge is affected by the degree to which the cyclist strayed from normal or reasonable driving. If the pedestrian does pass away, which would be incredibly sad, then that can be dealt with in Civil courts.
The Star is using this case to ask whether or not the Highway Traffic Act sufficiently punishes Careless drivers, especially in cases which result in death.
The annoying thing about this article is that it seems to be suggesting that there aren't steep enough penalties for cyclists as "drivers" and also it seems to be putting accidents with cyclists in the same league as accidents involving drivers. They cite cases of drivers killing people and getting away with fines, or lesser charges, as being part of a larger problem and as running in the same vein as the accident yesterday.
To talk about serious motor vehicle accidents that resulted in death and got away with a slap on the wrist, then toss in an accident involving a bike, is to suggest that 1) The frequency of such accidents is relatively similar in cases of bikes and cases of cars and 2) That the risk or severity of such collisions is comparable.
I'm sorry, but neither of those are true. I'm sure that if we looked at the stats, reported incidences of bikes hitting pedestrians would be much less than cars hitting bikes and pedestrians(or, other cars). And a cyclist hitting a pedestrian compared to a car hitting a pedestrian is just not the same. I've hit a pedestrian on my bike. When I lived in Saskatoon I was riding my bike and a drunk guy walked out in front of me, I hit him, I got knocked off my bike and he didn't even fall down. Had I been driving a car, going the same speed, HE would have been the one who was knocked down and maybe even killed. Obviously, every accident is different but in every single case a car does more damage than a bike.
Let's use my own accident as an example. I was hit by a Hummer. Not even a huge one, I think it was an H3--so the littler version. This guy rolled through a stop sign and hit me at a low speed but it still knocked me onto the ground, broke my bike, broke his own license plate in half on me, and scared the shit out of me.
The curb weight of a standard H3 is 4,700-4,900lbs (2,100 - 2,200kg). The width of the H3 is 74.7 inches which is about 6 feet. I weight 115 lbs soaking wet, and 5'3 at best, and had a small bike. I didn't call the police. I didn't report the accident because I didn't think I was hurt. It was my very first accident and I had no clue how to deal with it. Turns out I was hurt and I probably should have had myself checked out that night, but I didn't feel it until the next day and bruiseswere still blooming a few days later. The dude ended up paying for the damage to my bike (after failing to return any of my calls for a week, and me threatening to call the police).
The point here is that if I rolled through the stop sign on my bike and hit a pedestrian in the same way the Hummer hit me, the result would have been completely different. Also, I almost get hit by a car pretty much every day I get on my bike.

The Star seems to be suggesting that because cyclists can't be charged with Dangerous driving that they can get away with murder, but this just isn't the case. Cyclists can still be charged under the Criminal code so it seems to me that there is certainly recourse for dangerous cycling or unfortunate accidents... so what is the Toronto Star talking about?

The content of their article actually mainly focuses on Careless driving charges in cases with vehicles that resulted in death, so why toss the bike in there at all? It doesn't make sense and it's bad evidence based writing. Why not actually research how many cyclist on pedestrian accidents there are in Toronto per year? Why not interview some of those people? Why not write about the cyclist/bike without talking about it in relation to cars? What about the fact that sometimes it feels safer to cycle the wrong way on a one way street because there is less traffic and because we are a city with shitty cycling infrastructure?

And also, how about DON'T use a tragedy like this accident just to get readers, you know? That's exactly why this story is in the paper today, because there was ONE bad cyclist on pedestrian accident so far this year so they have to jump on it. It's sad enough when accidents like this happen without putting this unnecessary spin on it. Newspapers have an obligation to not be complete and total sensationalist garbage, because then they become SunTV.

The fact is the Toronto Star just didn't do its job on this story and that's just plain ridiculous. At the end of their "article" they put statistics on how many tickets are given to cyclists each year, with a note that tickets also include equipment infractions. That is NOT relevant here, at all. Why does it matter if 2'000 bikes get ticketed in a year if you don't have a breakdown of what those tickets are for? 1'500 of them could be for not riding with lights at night for all we know. you can get a ticket for not having a bell, riding on the sidewalk (even briefly), if you don't stop your bike when an emergency vehicle goes by, and for not riding in the bike lane. I've seen bikes ticketed for parking too long somewhere, or somewhere that has a no parking sign. Stats on bike ticketing in an article about a cyclists seriously injuring someone is a scare tactic, plain and simple.

If every cyclist who is dinged, knocked over, or actually hit reported it to the police and if we had accurate statistics on that I think people would be shocked. I'm shocked every time I venture out and some moron in their car decides that my life isn't worth the two second wait for the green light.

The Toronto Star could have had a real story here, but they chose to just jerk off to the war on cyclists yet again instead of doing any real research or writing anything that might affect positive change in this city.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. "

I walk by the Christie Pits park sign pretty much every day, at least once. If you haven't noticed it before, it's on the North-West corner of the park. It's rather nice.

The first time I noticed that someone had vandalized the sign to say "Fake Bits Park" I laughed.

I thought it was funny because I assumed some kid did it and what kid decides to use the word 'bits'? Hilarious. That was months and months and months ago. This graffiti popped up long before Rob Ford became Mayor and started to bum rush "vandalism" and graffiti in Toronto.

Before Rob Ford's very first City Council address, I thought the sign was hilarious for awhile then (like all things that you see every single day in the city), I got sick of it. But I wasn't about to scrub that shit off myself so I just ignored it. I spend a lot of time in Christie Pits Park and a bit of graffiti on the sign doesn't really affect my enjoyment of it so, you know, whatever.

According to the new Graffiti Management Plan 2011, which the City adopted awhile ago, Mayor Ford's first inaugural address "targeted the need to clean up Toronto's streets and neighborhoods and reduce the amount of graffiti across the city." Ford wanted part of his legacy to be the cleaning up of our streets. Not the actual dirt on our streets, the cigarette butts, not the rats, the prolific pigeon that seems to shit on EVERYTHING, or the dog poop on the sidewalks. No, his legacy would be the eradication of evil graffiti. Because graffiti scares the Mayor. It really, really scares him.

Apparently the "presence of graffiti vandalism suggests disorder and lawlessness, generates the perception of increased crime, fear of gang activity, and diminishes buildings and streets." (I don't exactly know what "diminishes buildings and streets" means.. diminish the value? maybe that's a mistake..) . The Mayor doesn't want people thinking that Toronto is some kind of wild, criminal urban jungle. When he sees graffiti he sees the Los Angeles of BladeRunner or, worse, the parallel Universe from the Super Mario Brothers movie. He sees crime because he thinks people who tag are criminals, and he sees gang activity because he thinks criminals are all in gangs.

A lot of Mayors and City officials try to take on vandalism, and a lot of city residents report vandalism, and that will never change. The problem with what happened in Toronto(and what continues to happen), is that the attempt to clean up the streets became a 'shoot first, ask questions later' kind of thing. Mayor Ford sent out the armies of the City full force, handing out citations left and right, and assigning more fines than they have in a very long time.

In 2010 the city received 2,215 complaints about graffiti. After increasing enforcement, 4,338 notices have been issued--and the year isn't even close to being over yet.

He's a man of action! True to his word!

No, actually, he's an idiot. People ("criminals") never get busted tagging. You know who got fucked by Ford's war? Business owners. Property owners. According to the by law, once you are served with a notice to remove graffiti from your property, you have 72 hours to comply or received a fine/be billed for City removal.

The Queen West BIA(business improvement areas) has a contract with a Graffiti removal company that costs $36,000 a year--but the contract only covers the fronts of buildings and won't go higher than ten feet. Anything in the alleys or higher than ten feet is up to the property owner to clean up. Rob Sysak, the President of Queen W BIA told Council yesterday that the initial quote for a Queen W. alley clean up was $50'000 to start, and would run an additional $50'000 to keep it free of graffiti annually. That's a pretty steep price to pay for business owners(or property owners) who might not care about the graffiti or who might see it as something other than vandalism. Not everyone wants to see grey washed alleys and walls, but if you don't comply with your notice then you'll be billed irregardless.

I live in KoreaTown and the Korea Town BIA has put a lot of work into the neighborhood, including commissioning little murals on all of the cement planters along the street. How much money can businesses reasonably be expected to put into their neighborhoods? What happens when BIA's are continually undertaking beautification projects but are still being punished because someone tags their storefront? When Rob Ford declared his war on vandalism and talked about how much he respects taxpayers, did he consider the fact that making taxpayers pay extra for something they have no control over is kind of a dick move?

Going on a graffiti removal rampage because of your own personal conviction is one thing, but it's become obvious that the people Ford is apparently fighting for are the ones paying for his rampage. If business owners and property owners can be fined for not removing tags, does the same thing apply when they refuse to clean up pigeon shit? Or, when they don't install pigeon deterrents? For example: The Free Times Cafe has a serious problem with pigeons roosting above their sign. That sign is directly above their "patio", which means people who are sitting on the patio often get pooped on, have pigeons land on their chairs and tables, or have feathers fall into their food. So the owner of that property could get fined for not cleaning a tag from their cement wall, but not for allowing vermin to take over their food service area? My landlord has to power wash spray paint, but can get away with leaving an inch of bird crap on our windowsills? That's just wacky logic!

Other people get fucked by this graffiti garbage: Artists. Like it or not, a lot of people consider graffiti to be art. A lot of people who do graffiti are considered artists. Some of them don't even do it anonymously. So when the Mayor writes a blank cheque for graffiti removal, some people get a bit overzealous and start removing things they shouldn't-- like murals, that the city may or may not have paid for, without notifying anyone. The war on vandalism becomes an excuse to attack art that some people might not like, or art with messages that some people don't agree with.

Case in point, the train underpass on Dupont west of Landsdowne:

Artist Joel Richardson was paid to paint a mural on North wall of the underpass and he proceeded to paint one on the South wall as well. Two for One! You'd think that in a city of penny pinchers this would be appreciated. Not so. The mural on the South wall was grey washed in late May--but why? According to Elyse Parker, a director in the city's transportation services department, a resident complained about the mural because of its political nature. Parker told the Toronto Star that "there was some discussion that the mural referred to Stephen Harper" and the city "would not endorse any kind of mural with political messaging." That, along with the fact that the South wall mural was not commissioned by the city meant that they could just paint over it without notifying the community or the artist, or even the City Councillor(who did not support the removal of the mural, after the fact).

What? The city won't endorse any art with political messaging? Never mind the fact that the man in the mural wasn't modelled on Stephen Harper, even the hint that it might him spurs such a reactionary course of action? Since when are we not allowed to make political commentary about the Prime Minister? In a healthy city, a healthy society, there are a lot of opinions and they are all voiced and aired in public. Good art is critical. Quelling critical opinion is not a sign of a healthy democracy and erasing dissent really shouldn't be tolerated because there's a word for a system that disallows critique: it's called fascism.

Obviously, people weren't crazy about this new vandalism regime and people started complaining a lot which is why they adopted the new Graffiti Management Plan 2011 last month. Not a whole lot is different, except now they throw around "private-public" a lot and talk about how youths should be encouraged to graffiti only in specified areas and only city-approved graffiti art should remain. The main shift is that the new policy clearly defines that exceptions can be made for "street art", that there is a difference between murals and vandalism.
At the meeting in question, some pretty hilarious stuff happened:

  • One city councillor (de Baeremaeker) suggested that people don't take the Scarborough LRT because of unsightly graffiti. He also said that the mayor's graffiti program "may rival or surpass Mel Lastman's mooses" in encouraging public art(And no, this Councillor is not 75 years old).
  • Councillor Nunziata asked to be corrected if she was wrong, but wasn't most graffiti "gang related"?
  • The Crime Prevention Association of Toronto told Council that graffiti-ed areas are safe for "shooting up, committing prostitution" and that the first sign of a burgeoning vandal is a child doodling at school, that they must teach kids it is unacceptable to doodle. TO DOODLE.
  • The Plan requests that the Chief of Police prioritize the delivery of the new anti-graffiti education program throughout Toronto's schools.
The mooses? Doodling? Gangs? Who are these people running our city? They want to prioritize the delivery of anti-graffiti education programs in Toronto's schools? What about prioritizing actual education?!

These are exactly the problems with making a priority out of graffiti. How can the city justify attacking something that they obviously don't understand? How can the city be the one deciding what stays on the walls when some of them think the epitome of public art are those goddamned, hideous Moose? This war focuses on the wrong areas, it makes a big deal out of little problems, it criminalizes something that is barely criminal, it takes our focus off of actual issues, it's a waste of money, and it's all just for show. It's the worst of band-aid solutions.

To be fair, I think there are a few positive things that have come out of this whole mess: 1) it creates dialogue about city space and 2) it motivates people to react with more art. The above picture is of a wall re-"vandalized" after it was power washed by Ford himself during a photo-op.

The sign I walk by every day is a city sign, in a city park, and yet the city hasn't cleaned it. So what's this all about then**, if they aren't going to deal with the things that are right in front of their eyes? Mayor Ford, what's up with the graffiti war?

**to be fair, I tweeted about the sign in Christie Pits Park and my City Councillor--Mike Layton--tweeted back that it's been brought to the attention of Parks staff. However, that was about a month ago and as of this morning(July 11), the vandalism is still there. I also tweeted the sign to Mayor Ford's "official" account as well. No response.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Round Up, but not the kind that causes birth defects.

Torontonians woke up to an unsettling reality this morning: the Mayor is still refused to go to Pride, the House of Commons was still in session, the police admitted to some G20 mistakes, the Jarvis bike lane was gone(or, will be gone), and J. Crew announced plans for a store here(seriously, that was in the news).

All of these things paired with the dark, ominous clouds and rain make this one of the weirdest Fridays in recent memory.

Toronto Sun OpEd: Mayor Ford stands proud: "Indeed, we admire Ford for sticking to his guns on this issue, now that all the usual suspects who hate Ford and everything he stands for, no matter what he does, are trying to puff up this non-issue into a crisis."

I wonder which guns the Toronto Sun are referring to here? In reality, Ford is trying to make his neglect of Pride a non-issue, requiring no guns at all. It's just a matter of scheduling, according to him and his mama. So while we who "hate Ford and everything he stands for" are taking this opportunity to highlight some issues, Ford supporters seem to putting words in his mouth and making it seem like he stood on top of city hall and burnt the Pride flag while screaming that he'll die before we force him to partake in homo explosion. Pretending that he's taken a clear stance(a stand even), when he really hasn't, is no better than what they're accusing us of doing.

Next, the G20: It's funny that something like "Toronto police admit to making mistakes" would be a headline, but after last year's G20 mess it's about time they admitted to something--anything!!! And speaking of the G20, remember when Rob Ford was just a candidate for mayor and he said that the police were "too nice" during the G20 and then he became the mayor? Life really is stranger than fiction.

Speaking of strange, who could have guessed that the debate on back to work legislation for Canada Post would not only go through the night, but into the afternoon? With no signs of stopping? Back to work legislation is the worst, especially considering the lockout. Forcing unions back to work kind of goes against the entire idea of having a union--that sometimes people try to fuck with your rights and you should have some options to fight back and maintain or improve your situation. Back to work legislation is just plain lazy and it does irreparable damage to workers rights in this country. So, I like this all night debate.

I think it's great that the NDP is holding strong (proving some of us naysayers wrong), and they're probably having an easier time filling seats considering they have so many young MPs! Toss a couple of redbulls at those young 'uns, a few bags of chips, maybe a nintendo DS, and you've got yourself a debate! Besides it being interesting, I also like the idea of politicians actually working hard for their paycheques. The thought of Prime Minister Harper trying to steal a few hours of sleep on his office couch? Priceless. Also, it reminds me of the Parks and Recreation episode when Leslie filibusters her own meeting and reads the constituents a children's book. Watch and read the debate, live, on the CBC.

Onto bike lanes: the Jarvis bike lane issue is just silly. Removing a bike lane less than a year after it was installed is short sighted and hasty at best. Of course there should have been community involvement and of course the Councillor of that area should be an integral part of any decision made. I've used the Jarvis bike lane maybe three times, I actually really don't like taking it because it's covered in pot holes and by the time I reach my destination my teeth feel like they might fall out from rattling so much. But, that's a description of practically every bike lane in this city.

How much will it cost to actually remove this bike lane? Is it worth that cost? The lack of a physical bike lane doesn't actually stop cyclists from utilizing a road, so why go to the trouble of removing it? Why not spend the money and time that has now been (and will be) wasted and use it to fix some bike lanes that are in shitty condition. I'm obviously biased, my biggest fantasy is to have one major road running North/South and East/West that is entirely for cyclists, and I think that makes me a crazy lefty cyclist who doesn't stop at red lights.

Jake Tobin Garrett(Spacing) 'On the removal of bike lanes': "It’s almost as if Rob Ford is running around with big Wite-Out pen and gleefully erasing everything he can of the Miller years. Transit City? Check. Fort York Bridge? Check. Jarvis bike lanes? Check. It's important to note that in each one of those cancellations, Ford also forfeited any taxpayers money that had already been committed or spent on the projects. A strange way of respecting the taxpayer, indeed."

It certainly is a strange way of respecting tax payers or, rather, the vast army of taxpayers who are apparently "calling" Mayor Ford incessantly. He told the press: “Yeah, I want to get rid of the bike lanes on Jarvis,” Ford said. “I got a lot of people calling me — they want to get rid of them. I do what the taxpayers want me to do. They want them gone, so I’m going to try to get rid of them.”

Who are these people who seem to have the Mayor on speed dial? Could ONE person who called Rob Ford and asked, specifically, to have the Jarvis bike lane removed step forward--just to prove that you aren't some figment of his imagination?

Does that mean if a lot of taxpayers call Ford and ask him, or tell him, to attend a Pride event then he has to? Or does he only answer his banana phone?

in the spirit of openness: million dollar baby?

the author of this blog post is allegedly being sued for one million dollars:


i'm reproducing it here because a million dollars is worth some debate, right?

so debate it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why it does matter when the Mayor snubs Pride:

It might not come as a surprise to most of us, but at least it's official: Mayor Rob Ford will not be marching in or attending the Toronto Pride Parade this July 2nd. The major event, which is the culmination of a week's worth of events, conflicts with plans to go to his Muskoka cottage -- a tradition in his family for generations and generations.

When asked about his plans for the Canada Day weekend, Ford responded that he's been going to the cottage since he was a child: "Since I was a little boy, we always used to go up north to our cottage, and I’m carrying on the tradition that my father had.”

Fair enough. We all have family traditions that are important to us, that are priorities , and that we try to organize our hectic lives around but for most of us there comes a time when it becomes impossible and we have to (sadly) arrive late or even miss our favorite family festivities. It's a fact of life and, unfortunately for Mayor Ford, it's especially a fact of life for those in public positions who are paid with taxpayer dollars.

In today's National Post Barbara Kay wrote: "Good for Rob Ford. Canada Day is a day for all Canadians to celebrate their nation as a 38-million strong collective, not a small minority of people celebrating their sexuality. There are times when family trumps political work, and this is, or should be, unarguably one of them." (the article was lovingly accompanied by the photo on the right)

Well, okay. Interesting theory...? First of all, it's not a "small minority" of people. It's been estimated that participation in Pride events, and especially the parade, runs into the hundreds of thousands--a million even. That's comparable to the Caribana festival --or, rather, the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival -- and even if it was just a small minority of people? What then? It's okay to not endorse and support the event? Well, that's just silly Barbara. The fact is that Toronto Pride is a massive corporate event and it brings an insane amount of money into our fair city, money that isn't just queer money even : straight people also attend Pride events! That "small minority" IS celebrating but so are their straight friends, their straight parents and grandparents, their straight children, and their straight colleagues. That's called a "community" and Pride is a "community" event.

Secondly: Canada Day isn't an excuse. Does the Prime Minister always miss Canada Day celebrations? Do other elected officials get to say "oh, a national holiday? Naaaah, I have to go BBQ at the ol' cottage!" Being elected Mayor of a city like Toronto means that your old holiday schedule might have to change, be flexible. It's that lack of flexibility that is the real problem here, the reason why it IS important that Ford is choosing to miss the Parade. Huntsville is a three hour drive away. Leave your cottage in the a.m, come wave a bit and throw some candy into the crowd, take the boos with a grain of salt, then drive back to Huntsville in time to toss a few beers back and set off some fireworks with the family. People do it ALL of the time. He's not going to a cottage on a private island in the middle of the ocean, he's going to the Muskokas, which is practically still in Toronto.

Just because it's Canada Day weekend doesn't mean that his choice is an obvious one-- maybe if being with your family on Canada Day is so important politicians should lobby for airline discounts during that weekend, so those of us who are not from the GTA could actually go home for a change. If Barbara Kay thinks that being with family is the most important thing on Canada Day then I will gladly accept a ticket home on her behalf, because guess what-- some of us don't have the luxury of skipping work to go home, let alone cottages.

In the same vein, why didn't Rob Ford take St. Patrick's Day off? Or Easter? He marched in both of those parades. I didn't get upset that the Mayor marched in an Easter Parade, despite the fact that I am not a Catholic and that I have major issues with organized religion. The Catholic Church doesn't want me to have protected sex because it thinks I should be a vessel for babies, risk be damned. But hey, Ford may be Catholic and he has Catholic constituents, so I don't really care that he marched in that Parade because that's what the Mayor does.

It is precisely because it would be so easy for Ford to attend(and that it's kind of his job) that makes it ridiculous that he won't. David Miller and Mel Lastman both marched in Pride while they were Mayor of Toronto. Even Police Chief Bill Blair once marched in the Parade. If Ford doesn't want to be there, that's fine. Don't march. But some kind of official representation from the City of Toronto's highest office is certainly in order here, especially in this case. Why isn't the Mayor on the Program for the Pride Flag raising at City Hall on June 27th? Is he at the cottage that day as well? Of course not, because where he is isn't the point.

Let's not pretend that Rob Ford hasn't displayed homophobic tendencies(to put it lightly). When he was a councillor in Etobicoke he commented that “if you’re not doing needles and you’re not gay, you won’t get AIDS, probably.” As mayor he was the only person who voted against restoring provincial funding for syphilis and HIV screening programs, he tried to defund Toronto Pride, and he doesn't support same sex-marriage rights.

Ford holds the same views on homosexuality and lgbtq rights as a lot of Conservative leaning politicians and people do, that's no secret. It isn't his homophobia or right wing politics that are at issue here, it's what he's planning on doing with them. That is why I agree with Councillor Wong-Tam who characterized the choice as a "missed opportunity... given the past historical remarks that he has made," an opportunity for him to "step forward" and begin to "make amends with the community." Whatever his own personal politics are, there IS hatred in this city. There are hate crimes, violence, and bullying perpetrated against homos (sorry po-mos, it's the truth). There are kids in high schools who aren't allowed to form gay-straight alliances, who aren't allowed to display rainbows, who KILL THEMSELVES from being bullied and called gay.

In Barbara Kay's article she declares that "Pride has no more legal and political ambitions to fill" because the "revolution is over." She says that "Pride is no longer about support for gays" and is actually just about having "gay-themed fun"(whatever that may be). Revealing her own deep-seated homophobia, Kay writes that Pride participants do everything but have sex in public, that it deserves public funding just about as much as a strip show, and is all about lewd self promotion. "Tolerant and non-homophobic Canadians" don't want to celebrate that yuckiness!

The culture we live in is one in which a straight woman feels entitled to tell us when our own revolution is over, that we are all dirty gay sex fiends, and that a diverse(and often family friendly) celebration is not worthy of our own tax dollars. And that's not homophobic? Pride isn't the only solution to this kind of garbage but when politicians and public figures participate it is always a step in the right direction. Barbara Kay herself is a good argument for Ford marching in the Parade -- hatred is so normalized that it's in the mainstream media without question.

Deciding against participation creates an Us vs Them kind of mentality with Ford on one side and the lgbtqa community on the other. Ford is the Mayor(unfortunately), we're stuck with him. But he's stuck with us too. This is our city AND his. To march in the Parade, or to be involved in any way, might not have meant a lot to some people but we need to stop and consider what it means to Ford. It means he doesn't want to extend an olive branch, he doesn't really want to work with this community, that he is so stuck in his own ideology that he can't even participate in something he doesn't 100% believe in. It means he doesn't acknowledge that there will be people participating in Pride who actually voted for him because all he sees are left-wing radical perverts. Sure, I might not want to see Ford at Pride shaking his money maker(actually.. I did) but it would definitely demonstrate that he's willing to step outside of his comfort zone and really lead this city, fags and all. To be a healthy city we need the Us and the Them to at least try to work together and that is why it matters that Rob Ford won't march.

Who knows, maybe Ford is just saving up all of his rainbow glitter for Muskoka Pride.

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