Category Archives: Aboriginal Realities

Systems and self-esteem: Being helpful and constructive on obesity.

By Ashley White

I am not sure it’s possible to better articulate exactly how far off the mark anti-obesity campaigns tend to be that in the way Jezebel’s Lindy West has done right here:  It’s Hard Enough to Be a Fat Kid Without the Government Telling You You’re an Epidemic

She writes, “But first of all, though weight loss can certainly improve some people’s health, “fat” does not universally equal “unhealthy.” Health itself is a much more effective and specific goal. And campaigns like this—which target fat people instead of the system that makes them fat—do nothing but hurt that supposed cause. An anti-fat-people campaign is still an ANTI-PEOPLE CAMPAIGN.”

But, after this piece was published, West herself commented first, “Question. So, okay, if I’m saying that these ads are NOT HELPFUL–and a lot of you are agreeing with me–can anyone come up with a pro-health ad that would be genuinely helpful and constructive? Thoughts? What would that look like?

And so, I’ve been thinking on it.  Aside from killing subsidies to corn, boosting subsidies to a diverse array of plant crops, creating better ways to get good and affordable food to the North – which definitely must happen – and addressing poverty, education deficits, and infrastructure problems, what would be a radical approach to helping people attain healthy weights?
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What about Occupy?

By Ashley White

Occupy Canada marked the end of their winter hibernation with their Occupy Parliament event in Ottawa on Saturday, May 5.  While RCMP officers lined the gate that leads from the lawn to the front doors of Parliament, a group of Vietnamese protesters from Montreal and Toronto gathered to support the release of political prisoners and a smaller group of about 100 Occupiers gathered at the south end of the lawn to fight for….?  Well, I wasn’t sure.

I was out of the country for 2011 and it was difficult to make sense of the Occupy movement from afar.  I took RPH to the event to see about two things:

  1. What is the unifying theme of Occupy Canada’s actions?
  2. Do people seem to get what income inequality (which is the ostensible raison d’être of the global Occupy movement) means for people’s health?

I spoke with one of Occupy Canada’s founders, Derek Soberol – who was later arrested during a march to the American Embassy – on both issues.  For Soberol, the call to action was clearly around accountability and election fraud.   These are of-the-moment issues of the Canadian body politic.  The event’s speaker, Dr. Anthony J. Hall, Professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge and author of Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism, reiterated both of these in a verbose and raging outdoor lecture in the strong May sun, while RCMP officers looked on.

Dr. Anthony J. Hall, University of Lethbridge Professor of Globalization Studies

The idea that the Harper government is illegitimate resounded throughout the planned speeches and the ‘open mic’ part of the event where protestors were invited to speak to the crowd.  It is clear the 2011 federal election was not waged under transparent, nor fair, terms and it does seem that large, terrain-shifting bills, such as C-31 and C-10 (which is now part of a hefty and incoherent crime omnibus bill), are being pushed through Parliament with barely-if-at-all due process by the Harper government.

And the protesters weren’t just a motley melange of dread-locked college kids surrounded by puffs of cannabis smoke, and old school members of the flower power generation.  This woman – a long ago immigrant from Germany – is also very alarmed.  She warns, “I can see democracy being weakened by the day.  Most of my Canadian friends think I am exaggerating when I say ‘don’t think it could not happen here’.  It can happen here.  Wake up!”  She goes on to address issues of media control and the links between big business and the current federal government.  Her tone and narrative are worth a listen.

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The end of the journey to safe, regulated markets for sex work? No. It’s more like a stop-over.

For me, it’s been a passionate and outspoken six year crusade to improve the human rights, safety, and dignity of Canadian sex workers.  For others, it’s been decades.  For some, the issue is just beginning to register as mainstream.  On Monday, March 26, 2012, there was yet another exciting stop-over in a journey that has yet to reach an end.

I was up at 5:45am and sitting across from Rick Cluff at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) at 6:40am to discuss the constitutional challenge to Canada’s Prostitution Laws in Ontario.  Justice Susan Himel struck down three laws relating to sex work in September of 2010:  Keeping a Common Bawdy House (Section 210), Living off the Avails (subsection J of Section 212), and Communication for the Purposes of Prostitution (Section 213).  This was a historic victory for Canadian sex workers as these particular laws work both individually and collectively to prevent sex workers from taking safety precautions while engaged in an exchange of sex for money – an exchange which has NEVER been illegal in Canada.

Working at an indoor location, rather than on the street, is much safer and this is backed up by reams of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative. Working indoors means that sex workers have better control over their working environment including having someone else present if anything goes wrong.

The Living off the Avails law was enacted, in part, to protect sex workers from exploitative pimps.  In reality, this law can apply to ANYONE who receives financial support from a sex worker, including her partner or her children.  This law also prohibits sex workers from hiring individuals to provide additional safety such as security guards, drivers and receptionists.  I would also point out that there are violent, exploitive men living off the avails of women in a variety of professions – the financial exploitation of women is not restricted to the sex trade. Continue reading

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