By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
Green MP Elizabeth May participated in a 17-day hunger strike on Parliament Hill in 2001. We chatted this afternoon about that experience and Theresa Spence’s current situation.
You went on a hunger strike about the Sydney Tar Ponds. Why did you decide a hunger strike was the right response?
Well, we tried just about everything. I was actually at a union hall in Sydney, meeting with community members, and there was one guy, quite young, under 40, a father with about four kids. I’d been working with the community a lot about the toxic waste, the contamination and he’d had to quit working in the steel mill because he got liver cancer. And we were waiting for another set of health reports to come out. I was at the Sierra Club at the time and I did a lot of grassroots organizing across the country and I’d written a book on the Sydney Tar Ponds and done a film documentary … I won’t list everything we’d done, but we’d done an awful lot to try to get attention on the health effects in the community and for the families. And this guy looked at me and said, ‘Elizabeth, nobody’s going to care what we do here.’ Because we were thinking, should we do a march, should we do a demonstration, what should we do? And he said, ‘Nobody’s going to care what we do here because nobody cares about us here.’ And I was sort of devastated by that and realized that, I go back and forth to Ottawa and I work in Ottawa and I know most of the MPs and most of the cabinet and it just hit me, if I went on a hunger strike and sat in front of Parliament Hill till they did something, they’d pay attention. It was very personal.
So I went on a leave of absence from Sierra Club, because I obviously wasn’t working properly when I was on a hunger strike. And I sat in front of Parliament, right next to that low wall immediately opposite the members’ door. My daughter was in grade five and I talked to her about it before I started and she said, ‘Well, the one thing is, mommy, I don’t want you sleeping out there. It’d be nice if you were home at night.’ So I’d make the trek every morning and I was kind of putting in an 8:30 in the morning till 5:30 at night shift in front of Parliament. And then there came a day when I wasn’t feeling up to making her school lunch and one of the young women who was living with us at the time took over school lunch duties, and then took over laundry for me, and then took over grocery shopping, because you do get weaker and weaker and weaker.
But the reason why I did it was, and I think this is why anyone does a hunger strike, is a feeling of desperation. It’s not the first thing you choose to do to get attention to an issue. And Mahatma Gandhi had a bunch of really good, clear pieces of advice about when a hunger strike works strategically. And one of the key pieces of Mahatma Gandhi’s advice was, you can’t hunger strike effectively if the person or the institution whose opinion you’re trying to change doesn’t have a moral compass, doesn’t have a foundation of conscience in which it’s possible to prick the conscience. So a hunger strike to get Hitler’s attention was never going to work, right? But a hunger strike in a Canadian context, and they’re not done very commonly, is, I think, a legitimate part of one’s response. In my case, I even got a permit. So I was actually doing a legally permitted activity, hunger striking in front of Parliament Hill.* Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 1:22 PM - 0 Comments
Elizabeth May recalls going 17 days without food
On Dec 11, Theresa Spence began her hunger strike with only water, medicinal tea and fish broth as sustenance. Many opposition MPs spent time with the Attawapiskat chief to offer support. Some have had ﬁrst-hand experience with hunger strikes and fasts.
In 2001, Green leader Elizabeth May, then executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, went on a 17-day hunger strike. She was demanding the Liberal government relocate families living near the Sydney Tar Ponds toxic waste site in Cape Breton. Once health minister Allan Rock agreed to meet her demands, she ate a strawberry. Her choice of what to eat first came from a friend who said it was a First Nations tradition. Continue…
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 606 Comments
MARK STEYN: Strange that the more Canada congratulates itself on its ‘tolerance’ the less it’s prepared to tolerate
Well, Ann Coulter is no longer in Canada, but 30 million Canadians are. So, for the sake of argument, let us take as read the frankly rather boring observation of the northern punditocracy that the whole brouhaha worked to her advantage, and consider instead whether the Canada on display during her 96-hour layover actually works to Canadians’ advantage. Which was the claim advanced by the eminent Canadian “feminist” Susan Cole appearing on U.S. TV to support the protesters’ shutdown of Miss Coulter’s Ottawa speech:
“We don’t have a First Amendment, we don’t have a religion of free speech,” she explained patiently. “Students sign off on all kinds of agreements as to how they’ll behave on campus, in order to respect diversity, equity, all of the values that Canadians really care about. Those are the things that drive our political culture. Not freedoms, not rugged individualism, not free speech. It’s different, and for us, it works.”
Does it? You rarely hear it put quite that bluntly—“Freedoms”? Ha! Who needs ’em?—but there was a lot of similarly self-regarding blather in Coulter Week euphemizing a stultifying, enforced conformism as “respect” and “diversity” and whatnot. “I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind,” wrote François Houle, the provost of the University of Ottawa, addressing Miss Coulter in the smug, condescending, preening tone that comes so naturally to your taxpayer-funded, tenured mediocrity. “There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this university, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and urge you [sic] to respect that Canadian tradition.”
By Paul Wells - Friday, March 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 465 Comments
Social conservatism is on the rise in Ottawa, and across Canada
It says in all the papers the well has run dry. The commentators keep writing that Canadian conservatism has died on the vine, that four years into his reign of tactical obsession and fiscal profligacy, Stephen Harper has forgotten why he ever went into politics.
“Where’s the big, strategic agenda for the next election?” John Ivison quoted a senior Conservative in the National Post. “I haven’t found one yet.” In the same paper, Terence Corcoran ran a string of columns identifying programs the feds should cut, because Harper seems unwilling to do the work himself. And Andrew Coyne delivered his annual post-budget verdict of despair and mourning. “Those Conservative faithfuls who have been hanging on all these years, in the hopes that, eventually, someday, with one of these budgets, this government would start to act like conservatives, must now understand that that is not going to happen. Conservatism is not just dead but, it appears, forgotten.”
But it’s a funny thing. If Canadian conservatism is dead, somebody forgot to tell Canadian conservatives.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 11:29 PM - 6 Comments
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin spoke at the University of Ottawa about the G8…
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin spoke at the University of Ottawa about the G8 being obsolete and the future belonging to the G20. The talk was presented by the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in partnership with the Centre for International Policy Studies and Library and Archives Canada.
University of Ottawa president Allan Rock.
By Mitchel Raphael - Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
PLUS: Why silent auctions make Michael Ignatieff nervous
WHY SILENT AUCTIONS MAKE IGNATIEFF NERVOUS
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was honorary chair of the Winter Palace Ball fundraiser for Ruskoka Camp, which helps underprivileged Russian-Canadian youth. The evening was called “Dancing with the Tsars.” Ceremonial Russian guards lifted their swords as guests entered the ballroom of the Old Mill Inn in Toronto. After walking under the swords with her husband, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, Ignatieff’s wife, made a beeline for the silent auction. Interested in a cream-coloured hand-knit Orenburg shawl, Zsohar took off one of her rings to test its authenticity. (The cloth should be fine and airy enough to go through, she told Capital Diary.) The scarf passed the test and Zsohar put in a bid. “An occupational hazard of my life,” noted Ignatieff, “is keeping my wife from bankrupting us at silent auctions.” Over on the dance floor was a glass case (loaned by Natasha Bronfman, one of the ball’s organizers) with souvenirs that had been given by Czar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fedorovna to guests at what would be the final Christmas ball at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Paul Ignatieff, the Liberal leader’s grandfather, served as education minister to Nicholas II.
JOHN BAIRD LOVES QUATCHI
Governor General Michaëlle Jean held a special ceremony on the grounds of Rideau Hall to unveil the Olympic torch for the 2010 Vancouver Games. Schoolchildren, including a Grade 3 class from Leslie Park Public School located in Transport Minister John Baird’s Ottawa riding, were brought in to watch. Baird, who was on hand for the ceremony, welcomed the kids. “You have Quatchi on your face,” he told one child, referring to his temporary tattoo of one of the three Olympic mascots (there are also young sea bear Miga and animal spirit Sumi). The third-grader had no idea his tattoo was one of the mascots, but after the minister explained it, Baird was bombarded with “Who’s on my face?” For the record, the young sasquatch Quatchi is Baird’s favourite. After the ceremony, the Governor General took the kids snowshoeing on the grounds of Rideau Hall and had a fun snowball fight with them. Capital Diary feels obligated to report that the GG appeared to throw the first snowball.
BET CHRÉTIEN CAN’T WAIT
Former prime minister Paul Martin spoke at the University of Ottawa about the G8 being obsolete and how the future belongs to the G20. The talk was presented by the university and Library and Archives Canada. At the top of his speech, Martin mentioned how, after he was no longer PM, the archives sat him down for taped interviews and peppered him with questions about his time in office. In the audience was the president of the university, Allan Rock, a minister under Jean Chrétien, and Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale. Martin said he had great things to say about both Rock and Goodale in those interviews but, he added (not too optimistically for his former colleagues), they will never get to hear them because the archives seal the tapes for 30 years. One can only imagine what Martin said about Chrétien.
WE ALMOST HAD A CANNABIS FLAG?
Heritage Minister James Moore presided over a special Flag Day celebration in Speaker Peter Milliken’s Hill reception room. A stunning collection that includes all of Canada’s historical flags (including ones like the white flag of the French navy before Canada was even a country) was created by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney when he was in a prior portfolio. Kenney noted that the Speaker’s reception room was where the parliamentary committee first met to discuss the new flag that resulted in the current Maple Leaf, which first flew on Feb. 15, 1965. A Tory MP noted with a smile that one of the options for the new Canadian flag on display featured a green leaf that, in his opinion, looked a lot like a cannabis leaf.