The Implications of Bill #C51 for Canadian Muslims.

“It is fortunate that the use of the bomb should have been upon the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe.”

-Diary entry of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, 1935-1948

A rural BC internment camp, c.1940s

A rural BC internment camp, c.1940s

I grew up a ten minute drive from one of the Japanese internment camps used in World War Two.

British Columbia was rife with anti-Japanese sentiment long before the war years, with Canada’s “Asiatic Exclusion League” numbering 40,000 members in BC alone by the 1920s. Acts of violence against both Japanese and Chinese immigrants were not uncommon. After a 1907 riot in which both Vancouver’s Japantown and Chinatowns were attacked by white British Columbians, then Minister of Labour Mackenzie King was sent to ‘investigate’. Out of his investigation came Canada’s first anti-drug law, outlawing the sale of opium due to Mackenzie King’s contention that it was being used at an alarming rate by young white women.

Fast forward to February 1942. As a response to the attack on Pearl Harbour and armed only with evidence that illegal activity could happen, the RCMP with the backing of the Department of Defence interned 22,000 Japanese citizens in camps spread across rural BC. Many others were deported. Mackenzie King funded the internment by selling off the property and possessions of those interned.

Having a Japanese-Canadian niece who visits my old home once a year reminds me of what happened, and of what Canadians need to protect.

Today in a speech in front of his supporters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced Bill #C51, a new ‘anti-terror’ law he framed as our reaction to the shooting on Parliament Hill in October. The bill aims to increase the capacity of CSIS, the RCMP, and the government to seize and share information that might lead to the prevention of further attacks.

But when asked whether #C51 would have prevented the shooting on Parliament Hill the Prime Minister stumbled, essentially admitting that the scope of #C51, which operates on the assumption that all terrorism functions on observable online communications and through major airlines, would not have led to the capture of the shooter.

Here’s an outline of the effects of #C51 from Vice’s article on the bill:

"May be carried out", arbitrary detainment, and geographic segregation.

“May be carried out”, arbitrary detainment, geographic segregation.

Calls for deportation and/or revocation of rights/privileges coming from white folk aren’t new in this country, nor are they old news. Visit the Conservative Party’s Facebook page and you will find many comments like this:

Every major Muslim group has spoken out against ISIS, but what do Conservatives care.

Just about every major Muslim group has spoken out against ISIS, but what do Conservatives care. “Radical Muslim” and “Muslim” are interchangeable here.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been festering in Canada for some time now, as disturbing polls in recent years have shown.

So what does this have to do with anti-terror legislation? Everything, it turns out.

Canada actually passed an anti-terror bill in 2001 as a reaction to 9/11, expanding the government’s ability to preemptively detain suspects and conduct secret trials. Since the passing of the bill hate crimes against Muslims have increased sharply and Muslims  have, as a result of the bill, been disproportionately targeted by investigations.

Here are a couple excerpts from Bill #C51 (annotations in red are my own):

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Again, air carriers will be restricted in their capacity to reveal who is being profiled. This is digital-age internment here.

Let me be clear: I am for combating terrorism. I am for government having the capacity to share information and provide expertise that stems the flow of terrorism and terrorist financing.

But there is a reason Harper hasn’t matched his vitriolic language towards Jihadism with an equally strong condemnation of rapidly growing anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada (in 2009 46% of Canadians held a negative view of Islam. As of 2013, 54%. Remember the 40,000 AEL members in BC). If Harper comes out strongly against Mosque spray-paintings and threats toward Muslims on his own party’s social media platforms, he risks losing an integral part of his base come election time.

We already know who isn’t on Harper’s radar. So who is?


With Mental Illness, Remember the First Wave in Fighting a Stigma is the Worst.

The time we’re most prone to perpetuating a stigma is, of course, when we’re unaware of it. In second place is when we’ve just been armed with new information and are first attempting to fight it.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of links and hashtags regarding mental illness and the stigma around it. It’s great to see, though I’m evaluating why, as a person with chronic and severe anxiety, my feelings about this are mixed.

Either way it’s great people are talking. I see truly kindhearted individuals all over social media promoting well-intentioned ideas from which I stand to benefit. Finally we’re talking about it.

We must remember, though, other times we’ve gained cultural sentience around a particular stigma and first tried to combat it. In the early 1990’s I remember people around me thinking it was enough not to have AIDS be one’s only association with homosexuality. But gay marriage? It took my country another decade or so to warm up to that.

So how have we faltered early on with discussion of mental illness? I’ve noticed two ways.

Number One: When calling attention to a cultural stigma, be careful not to signal boost anything that perpetuates either the stigma in question or a different one, particularly when money & corporate image are involved.

See: the #BellLetsTalk campaign. The majority of Bell’s donations from the hashtag are going to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, whose head of Gender Identity Service is Dr. Kenneth Zucker, who performs damaging and universally panned “conversion therapy” on transgender youth. Zucker’s work, which is directly being funded by #BellLetsTalk, makes him a criminal in the state of California. For more details on #BellLetsTalk read this post by Alexander Bauer.

So who gets hurt by the ill-researched good intentions of supporting one marginalized group? Another marginalized group. Of course.

[Note: Please don’t use me as a source for any activism that doesn’t concern me in particular. Transadvocate or Guerrilla Feminism have a better handle than me on trans/nonbinary issues and I highly recommend either.]

In 1885 author W.T. Stead wrote a scathing expose of London’s rampant child prostitution. The outcry in Britain was warranted and significant, so Parliament, to their credit, acted, but they threw a little extra in there. As a result of the same law that raised the age of consent from 13 to 16, male homosexuality was officially recriminalized. Oscar Wilde would be arrested under the same law as child sex traffickers were.

The lesson: Don’t be too reactionary, or abuse will slip through the cracks. If you’re reading this and have hashtagged #BellLetsTalk, no shame necessary, just learn from it.

Number Two: In raising awareness of a cultural stigma, first examine how you yourself have perpetuated it. Be public about it.

I’ve seen people (many of whom identify as Liberals) who routinely use words like “psycho” and “crazy” as a pejorative suddenly posting mental illness statistics and hashtagging #BellLetsTalk.

When I’ve heard you talk about your “crazy ex” and now see you posting articles on mental illness with no recognition of your previous falterings, I’m wary of trusting you as an ally. Stigma around mental illness is deep and pervasive, and everyone here is problematic. Step ONE is looking at your own history.

I’ll go first. I’ve been close with people who have expressed thoughts of self-harm, and my reaction was to clam up and avoid the subject. I didn’t ask how I could support them, I just hoped my hearing them say it was enough. In one case actual self-harm happened and I berated them for doing it. I treated their self-harm as something they had done to me.

When someone is clearly upset my first response has, for most of my life, been “Do you need space.” Why? I was projecting. Every time. I asked if they needed space because I was uncomfortable and wanted space myself.

Now instead of asking “Do you need space” I ask, “Would you feel better if I was responding or is just being here listening good?” That both invites clarity on how I can help and brings boundaries into the conversation in a way that isn’t implicitly restrictive. Let me be clear: Self-care when helping others is crucial. Provided you listen to the response it’s perfectly okay to just say “I feel anxious because I don’t know what to do right now. I want to be supportive. Can you let me know that my just being present is enough?” Asking this has eased a tremendous amount of anxiety for me and has made just listening easier. Do this instead of jumping straight to advice-giving.

Obviously “Do you need space” might work just fine for some people in some situations. The point here is that I’ve only gotten better at fighting the stigma by recognizing it in myself, even as a person with a mental illness. I’m not advocating self-flagellation here, but I also don’t trust activism without self-criticism. (Having done enough of it myself :P)

It’s also important to recognize that you’re only as much of an ally as others say you’re being, and that even after you’ve looked deep within yourself you’re still going to be prone to old habits. Being an ally is a process, not a flag you can put in the ground so you have something to point at when your behaviour is questioned.

We need people to be more public with their mistakes so less of us have the pressure to stand up on social media and say “I have a mental illness,” putting ourselves at risk of increased stigma, both external and internalized. Being public with mental illness might have a normalizing effect for some, but believe me, it does far less to actually fight the stigma than standing up and saying “Here are times I’ve displayed it. This is what it looks like, and I know, because I did it.”

Shyness and insecurity are not mutually exclusive.

I read an atrocious Brietbart article a few weeks ago where the author (a man) lamented that shy men often get the “creep” label simply because of their shyness when asking people out. The implied argument was that shy guys should be given the benefit of the doubt that they’re coming from a good place and so should at least ‘get a chance’.

I’m not going to link to the article and I’m fully aware of my poisoning the well in how I’ve described it, and I don’t particularly care. I’m a very shy person and I resented the article in part because of its blatant critique of the act of withholding consent, and in part because I don’t think that what the author was describing was actually shyness.

Shyness and Insecurity tend to get lumped together. They’re not the same, nor are they mutually exclusive. A shy person can be totally secure in themselves, and an insecure person can be very forward in their insecurity. Depending on the day, anyone can be prone to fluctuations between the two.

“Shy” comes from the Germanic, “Scheoh”, meaning “timid or easily startled”. “Insecure” in its original Latin has a connotation of “unsafe.”

Shyness, in its original sense, is a state of being, one in which a person (usually me) feels small and overstimulated. Insecurity is an internal filter containing core beliefs that inflect one’s interpretation of their physical state. It is a person’s insecurity that makes them creepy, not their shyness.

Behaviourally there are crucial differences between a person who is simply shy and a person who is insecure:

Shy people tend to own their anxiety (and so are far less dangerous to be around) whereas insecure people hold others responsible for it.

Shy people read averse body language and back off; insecure people read averse body language and view it as a personal attack.

Shy people pat themselves on the back for saying “Hello”; insecure people get indignant if they don’t get a “Hi” back.

Shy people wish they had more intimacy; insecure people attack others for having more than they do.

Shyness plus privilege equals potential insecurity; insecurity plus privilege equals potential violence.

And finally shy people fear crossing boundaries; insecure people criticize others for having them. See: “You should just give us ‘shy’ folk a chance”. People simply experiencing shyness don’t say things like that, because criticism of someone else’s boundaries requires the addition or sole presence of insecurity.

It’s a useful difference to parse, and can help you not just to better understand those who are purely shy, but also to figure out when your own shyness ends and insecurity begins.

The Conservative Party Banned Me From Their Facebook Page.

A few days ago Canada’s Conservative Party posted a link on their Facebook page touting their “strong international leadership.”

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Curious, considering (among other things) Canada’s environmental reputation and discriminatory immigration policies for people with disabilities. I decided to post a reply, choosing this article on the United Nations’ pressuring of the Conservative Government to hold a national inquiry regarding Canada’s 1200+ missing and murdered Indigineous women, a matter Prime Minister Harper has publicly deemed “Not on our radar.”

I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that when white women go missing or are murdered in Canada, they will receive six times more local media coverage than if they were First Nations.

The result? My comment was deleted and I am no longer able to reply to any posts or comments on the Conservative Party’s Facebook page. I’ve checked the pages of the Liberals, NDP, & Greens and I can post there. Look at the above screencap, taken today, and then this one, taken when the “comment” option was still available to me:

We're sending sex workers to re-education camps, but on the other hand Hockey!

(We’re sending sex workers to religious re-education camps, but on the other hand Hockey!)

When I ranted about being censored on Facebook a friend suggested I write an e-mail or a letter with my concerns. This is cold comfort considering that A) It would be used as kindling and B) It wouldn’t be available to the 100,000+ people who ‘like’ the Conservatives on Facebook and who, presumably, vote. That’s kinda who I was going for.

Sure it’s “just” social media, but it’s also the most public and direct way to engage my government, which has now censored my ability to speak – directly to the issue at hand and in a space where other voters are. It’s the kind of behaviour that leaves me wondering whether electoral fraud is really above these people (PSA: it isn’t).

Here is what the discourse on the Conservatives’ Facebook page looks like now, sans dissenting opinions. Positive, pure. Notice no “reply” option in my screencaps:

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(To recap, racist asshats saying “Close all Mosques”: Fine. Providing evidence that disproves the post in question: Banned.)

Hide me from your timeline, ignore my trolly troll comments, block me on Twitter, all that is fine. We’re so into freedom of speech that we forget people should also have freedom *from* speech it when it is gaslighting, derailing & bigoted. This, though, feels kinda super not okay.

But hey what do I know about life, I’ve voted Green twice.

Why Allies Should Annihilate Themselves.

The words, “Ally” and “Alloy” both come from the Latin word, “Alligare”, meaning “Bind together.”

Imagine asking Bronze, our oldest alloy, what makes tin a good ally to copper. Bronze would tell you that tin added to copper reduces the melting point and increases hardness, making for a stronger material that is easier to cast and turn into tools and weapons than copper on its own.

Centuries after the Bronze Age we still use the language of chemical reactions to describe human relationships. It is a testament to how words bind thoughts together through generations.

What, for you, is the ideal formula for an ally? Does an ally climb a castle tower and save you from dragons? Does an ally adhere to the Golden Rule, treating you to the letter how they wish to be treated, irrespective of your wishes? Does an ally stake a claim to being an ally, pointing to their flag in the ground when their ally-hood is questioned?

While these allies read like the lone, defiant hero we put on billboards, they have the same problem tin has: Tin can’t become bronze without no longer being tin.

If you really want to be my ally you’ll need to know that I can’t hear, see, or smell on my left side, that I was severely bullied as a kid, and that I require a combination of gentleness with me and trust in my strength that few are able to find, and that in order to capture it you’ll need to not just sit down and listen to me, but to sit down and listen in a way that changes you. Whether that looks like remembering to walk to the right of me or becoming more aware of ableism in our culture, you will never just be tin again, but you will be part of something better.

And this is true of everyone in every area, from the workplace to the bedroom. If someone in any way tells you you’re not being a good ally to them, they are correct. Always. If they’re incorrect factually they’re still correct on some level and you should listen to why. The best change often comes with a little destruction, so if listening causes your self-concept to shake, that is a good thing.

To boil it down to a simple equation: Never call yourself an ally. Live your life so that others call you one.