Thursday 31 March 2016

HUGE win for pro-choice in PEI

Well, that didn't take much.

Just three-plus decades.

A horrifying story of a woman needing medical care turned away from a Prince Edward Island hospital.

A clever guerrilla poster campaign featuring a likeness (maybe) of the Island's most famous fictional character.

Bunch of rallies and demonstrations.

A scathing video on abortion access in the Maritimes.

Oh, yeah, and a constitutional challenge.

Today, the government of PEI threw in the towel on abortion.

The Prince Edward Island government announced today that it will not oppose a constitutional challenge to provincial policies regarding access to in-province abortion services.

“Based on legal advice that current policies regarding access to in-province abortion services would likely be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, government determined that the most responsible approach is to revise the policy rather than embark on a long and costly court case,” said Premier and Minister of Justice Wade MacLauchlan.
Not only that, Health PEI will open a new women's reproductive health centre that will offer medical and surgical abortions, along with other needed reproductive care.

Abortion had been available in PEI until 1982 when two hospitals merged, on the condition from the Catlick one that abortion be banned.

Aaaaand cue the lying liars.

Nobody is being forced to do anything, Mike, least of all "kill babies."

Access to abortion in Canada is not uniformly good. A government's acknowledgement that denying abortion is a constitutional no-no is a HUGE step forward.

Brava! and Bravo! to all the hard-working, committed, and smart activists who made this happen.

But, of course, there's still much to do.

DAMMIT JANET! has been on PEI's case for ages. Some previous blogposts.

ADDED: Why have I not heard of this blog before? Screaming in All Caps on PEI win.

Monday 28 March 2016

When femicide is justified by men who feel their "honour" has been soiled.

The first post of an informal series, illustrating how and when all the elements of the legal system do work and justice is served.

Dorothy Woods.

Police officers meticulously collected evidence to document a complicated investigation in a rigorous, professional manner.

Here's an interesting series of posts, following the release of her accused killer - presumed innocent as the legal system goes, and this feminist agrees - on bail after he was charged.

The Crown proceeded with skill, compassion and due diligence.

The defendant's lawyer attempted to impugn the integrity and the objectivity of the prosecutor.
Outside court, defense lawyer Michael Nolin took issue with how the texts presented to the jury portray David Woods as a racist. "I'm very disappointed that this is the line that the prosecution has chosen to draw in the sand," he said. "I find it interesting that the only prosecutor of colour in the Saskatoon provincial prosecution office has been drawn to try this case. And he's been on it from the beginning."
Nolin concluded his case for the defence by stating Dorothy engaged in a high-risk lifestyle with several strange (code for black) men*, and exhorted the jurors to "vote with their conscience".  Oddly that doesn't sound at all like a closing argument to me though it does seem to be a judgement.

The judge carefully presided over the trial and instructed the jury members.

The attentive jury reviewed the details of evidence that was gathered and presented.

After a finding of first degree murder, the prosecutor Michael Segu was able to offer observations to the media in his measured, thoughtful manner.

Oh. Was it racism, the "the elephant in the room" that Woods' lawyer Michael Nolin kept tripping over?

Nonetheless David Woods refused to take responsibility for the aggrieved male honour and patriarchal privilege that motivated him to plan and execute the vengeful murder of his wife.  He appealed his conviction.

*The testimony of Dorothy's friend was challenged by Woods' lawyer; the judge allowed it.


ADDED: to provide a context for this post.  There have been many confrontations after the Ghomeshi decision, particularly with regard to those who seem compelled to police what can be properly criticized.  On both sides of the divide, many have descended into use of hyperbole.

These screen caps indicate how most criticism of Justice Horkins' judgement is met with hostile screeching of SO YOU WANT TO ABOLISH THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE! 

When those accused of being "anti-presumption of innocence" attempt to clarify - they're then accused of being in league with some RWNJ advocacy for victims, such as the useful con job Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu.  Err, no

Friday 25 March 2016

Ghomeshi Lessons, part 1.

What to write about the trial of the decade? The banal evil of social media hyperbole + a depraved legal system can devour events and regurgitate a perfectly horrifying dawg's breakfast.

The cathartic element in this case and trial is a histrionically skilled and malignant narcissist who has benefitted immeasurably from patriarchy AND feminism.

Seasoned feminists observed that in the 1970s women acquired the right to say YES enthusiastically to sexual activity.  This *revolution* was immediately countered by many men who exploited it to their advantage by denying a woman's right to say NO.

Generations of men then followed, some who claim not to understand what consent is, others who whine about being "friend-zoned" and those who aspire to PUA summits of Roosh-like action.

Jian Ghomeshi falls into the latter category.  His public schtick, which worked admirably well for pseudo-feminists in the 1970s, was refined to the point that many staunch feminist acquaintances were completely scammed by his Support Bro' demeanour.  Meanwhile, in his private life he was the guy who badly needed to hurt women to get a really good hard-on.

In late 2014, when rumours about certain proclivities became too loud, he deployed a well-honed tactic of pre-emptive aggression.  He showed a video of one of his rough sex episodes to his CBC bosses.  It's not known whether the other participant consented to the activity, its recording or its presentation to Ghomeshi's superiors.

That didn't go well.  So he cranked up the campaign by posting a self-indulgent piece (Just a lad with a kink!) on his Facebook website, not anticipating this would provide leverage to The Toronto Star to publish their story.

This led to an outpouring of many other women reporting that Ghomeshi had physically assaulted them.

When his PR firm failed him, Ghomeshi hired Marie Henein as his criminal defence lawyer, weeks ahead of actually being charged with criminal assault.

Here's a chronology of events.

Back in 2014, I anticipated Henein would find ways of stitching-up the evidence.

Playing Cassandra is an unpleasant role though somebody has to do it.

This was before the trial commenced.  As it unfolded, I wrote a blogpost and used tweets to observe, from afar.

Horkins' pontification seems to confirm that Henein used the knowledge she gleaned from his previous judgments to map out a strategy that played to his beliefs and principles.  A specific approach to cross-examination was required to demonstrate the complainants were unreliable and that their testimony wasn't credible.

But. If the prosecution's case could be so easily destroyed, why didn't Heinin approach the Crown, as she did with the Michael Bryant case, to lay out the full content of the defence preparation and suggest that the charges be dismissed?

In the Bryant file, technical experts dismantled the sloppy evidence-gathering TPS produced. As well, there was considerable information with regard to Darcy Sheppard and manifestations of physical threats he expressed against other drivers.

Wait.  Here's the difference between the two cases, in addition to the possibility one of the accused is a basically decent person and the other one isn't.

I am not a lawyer, but I believe that a professional would have to consult their client before engaging with the prosecution in matters such as plea bargaining or suggesting charges be dismissed.

With Bryant's case, proceeding to trial meant that Henein or her assistant counsel would have to set up Crown witnesses as well as TPS staff testimony for demolition and in the process, embarrassing the police department as well as the prosecution lawyers.  Proof of Darcy Sheppard's previous violent behaviour would have to be thoroughly documented.  Bryant was likely to be acquitted, why not avoid the expense of a prolonged trial that besmirched the memory of his victim?

In light of what's been revealed with regard to the pleasure he takes from manipulating, degrading, harming and injuring women, I believe that if Ghomeshi had been informed of Henein's strategy, he would have licked his chops at the eventuality of seeing these women savaged in the court-room.  No way would this vindictive man have chosen to deprive himself of a privileged front-row seat to their humiliation.

That trial stands not only as a warning to women who have been physically and sexually assaulted to avoid reporting the crime to the criminal injustice system, but to those who might now and in the future, be approached by Ghomeshi.  His sexual fetish is violence against women and girls. (Some of the women who claim he approached them online are under 21 years of age. He is 46.)

A woman who was a graduate law student when she dated Ghomeshi in 2002, described what occurred and why she chose at that time not to report his violent, coercive attack on her.

Cops, crown lawyers, defence attorneys, judges: anybody who continues to exonerate and justify the way in which the legal system crushes complainants and re-victimizes them, explicitly colludes with patriarchal violence.

Unless they speak up against such travesty, and work to change this injustice.

ADDED: _What Ought Crown Counsel to do in Prosecuting Sexual Assault Charges? Some Post-Ghomeshi Reflections_ March 29, 2016 from Alice Woolley.
"[..] preparation is still essential for the prosecution of a criminal trial. Witness preparation does more than tell the lawyer about the nature of the evidence. It allows the lawyer to assess the witness’s ability to present the evidence, to determine whether the witness will advance the lawyer’s trial strategy and, ultimately, to determine if that trial strategy has a viable chance of succeeding given the nature of this witness’s evidence and capacity to testify. Further, it allows the lawyer to help ensure that the witness gets to provide her testimony, and that she will not end up looking like a liar when she is telling the truth.

Because let’s be absolutely clear: it is the ethical duty of a defence lawyer to make prosecution witnesses look like liars, even if those witnesses are telling the truth. That duty is constrained; a defence lawyer must not harass a witness, and must remain within the boundaries of the legal restrictions on cross-examination (in a sexual assault case, e.g., not asking improper questions about the complainant’s sexual history). But within those constraints a defence lawyer will do his best to exploit any inconsistency or weakness in the witness’s evidence to make that witness appear to be non-credible. Whether or not the witness is in fact telling the truth is not only irrelevant, it may make discrediting that witness essential to the defence lawyer’s ability to obtain an acquittal for his client [..]"
Read the whole magnificent thing here.

ALSO: This. _Mastery or Misogyny? The Ghomeshi Judgment and Sexual Assault Reform_ April 1, 2016 from Joshua Sealy-Harrington.
As discussed earlier, Justice Horkins’ judgment has deeply polarized Canadian discourse on sexual assault, receiving both warm praise and vitriolic criticism.However, in my view, neither approach is optimal for deconstructing the judgment with a view to improving the Canadian administration of sexual assault law. Rather, a careful consideration of the judgment’s strengths and weaknesses permits the most comprehensive analysis of the genuine mistakes made by Justice Horkins (and others), and how best to avoid those mistakes in future cases.We need to address the problems that pervade the Canadian administration of sexual assault law, and those problems must be understood before they can be solved.
In my humble opinion, Kwe Today presents the best pragmatic and theoretical arguments for a timely and necessary revision of the criminal code and its sexual assault provisions.

Theses are the thinkers who are raising their voices, after Marie Henein blew the lid off the festering legal system rot.

We might listen, then actively support law reform in this regard.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Health Minister Philpott Blows a Dog Whistle

Health Minister Jane Philpott blew an anti-choice dog whistle on Tuesday. Did you catch it?
While pro-choice activists marched through Charlottetown's streets to protest the lack of abortion services on P.E.I., the issue received some attention in the House of Commons Tuesday.

It came in the form of a question from the NDP MP from Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Sheila Malcolmson, who said the service must be available to all Canadian women.


[Health Minister Jane Philpott] pointed out that abortion is not the only service not available across the country.

"There are inequities in access to a number of health services across the country, including abortion," she said.

"There should be access to all medically-necessary services on the basis of need and not on the basis of ability to pay. I will continue to work with my colleagues to make sure access is available to all Canadians."
Before I get to the dog whistle, let me address Philpott's assertion that other services are not available across the country. Yes, indeed, this is true. Smaller centres do not have the expensive equipment or trained specialists to carry out a number of procedures, like organ transplants, complicated surgeries, etc.

But abortion, especially the more than 90% done in the first trimester, requires no expensive equipment or extensive training. In fact, if a hospital or clinic can treat a miscarriage, it can perform abortions.

In PEI, the government inexplicably turned down a proposal to provide abortion services on the island that would have actually saved money.

So, the argument that abortion is in the same category as a coronary by-pass is a non-starter. And Minister Philpott is being disingenuous at the very least to suggest it is.

Back to the dog whistle. It's the "medically necessary" (with the grammatically unnecessary hyphen) bit.

"Medically necessary" appears just once in the Canada Health Act, under "interpretations".
hospital services means any of the following services provided to in-patients or out-patients at a hospital, if the services are medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability, namely....
But google "medically necessary abortion" and you'll find a slew of fetus fetishist screeds like this one: "Abortion is Never Medically Necessary to Save a Mother's Life, This Case Shows Why."

If you haven't had a whanging headache in a while and feel the need, read the mental gymnastics fetus freaks perform around ectopic pregnancy or the totally unnecessary death from septic miscarriage of Savita Halappanavar, in order to maintain the fantasy that abortion is never medically necessary.

"Pregnancy/childbirth is not a disease!" they SHRIEEEEEK. No, but it has significant risks and, in fact, a higher mortality rate than abortion.

The phrase "medically necessary" from the mouth of the Liberal Health Minister is simply music to fetus freak ears.

It is used by provinces like PEI and New Brunswick to restrict funding of abortion. And, it sounds like Minister Philpott is going to continue to give them this wiggle room.

This is worrying, to say the least. Especially as Philpott herself is a bit conflicted on the issue. From a 2014 article on vetting Liberal candidates, here what she had to say about it:
“That’s where we need to clarify the nuance on it,” she said. “I can support the policy but abortion is not a great thing.”

Oh lard, that "nuancy" thing again.

When so-called progressives go nuancy on abortion, it does NOT bode well.

Here, by the way, is the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's position paper (pdf) on "medically required abortion."

Friday 4 March 2016

Mocking the Predators: Guelph Report

40 Days of Preyers seems to be rather a fizzle in Canada this year.

First, they're down to only 8 cities -- and a part-time vigil in Saskatoon -- from 15 in the fall last year.

There's not much bragging on social media of huge turn-outs or of women successfully coerced convinced to turn around.

And if a Québécois MNA is successful with her private member's bill, all such predatory demonstrations would be barred in Quebec.

Shorter: Anti-choice is losing in Canada and they know it.

We reported on one counter protest in Calgary.

Now here's a report by pro-choice activist Wednesday Bell from Guelph, where, note, the fetus freaks of targetted Guelph General Hospital which does NOT perform abortions. Go figger.
The counter protest was awesome! We outnumbered the anti-choicers the entire time, and they left before we did!

Best moments:

1. One girl wanting a group hug from us

2. A man thanking us because his wife had been complaining about the anti choicers for two weeks and was happy to see some resistance to them

3. The hospital security guard supporting us!

Weird moments:

1. When the anti choicers claimed it was illegal for us to be there because we were blocking the sidewalk...while they were blocking the sidewalk

2. One guy walking up to us just to tell us he was pro-life. Okay? Good for you?

And the signs were fabulous.