Get it? Got it. Good!

Dear media owners:

This will be the nth time I have attended a “free seminar” on “how to do effective advertising”. As someone who has been doing marketing and advertising for non-profits as a paid career for at least 20 years, I understand very well how to do effective advertising. But I sure do appreciate the stale pastries and gross institutional coffee.

The patronizing tone? Don’t appreciate that so much. Your sales guys (why are they almost exclusively guys, btw?) pitch advertising packages after showy presentations that outline the three secrets of good advertising. The secrets of advertising that only your media agency/outlet/company truly understands. The secrets of advertising that we, the lowly non-profits and small business owners, have super privileged access to by virtue of being invited to the stale pastries presentation featuring your latest guru, marketing firm, advertising genius, or other highly paid wunderkind.

First, let me say your highly paid wunderkind learned their tricks from timeshare sales pitches, and might not actually be a wunderkind, because those timeshare pitches at least usually involve free cocktails (at worst) or some kind of tangible benefit (free weekend at the show suite). Yours offer stale pastries and patronizing pitches.

Don’t get me wrong; I love being talked down to just as much as the next guy – and as a woman in business that next guy usually is a guy. I’m just saying that you, the guys trying to sell me advertising as a way to sell more of my unique product, are not offering a unique product. You talk about the “value added” of buying advertising with your firm/station, which could be anything from the prowess of your creative team to the wicked 1980s pricing scheme you’ve developed just for small business, to the whole “this is a highly secret cabal you are now part of and the arcane knowledge we are imparting is even more highly privileged information than the state nuclear codes” thing you’re doing. But it’s not value-added, is it?

The fact that you don’t understand where this is going is the problem. But let’s back up for a second. If I could pre-emptively give YOU (and your wunderkind) a short presentation, it would go like this:

Non-profits are businesses. Charities are businesses. “Non-Profit” does not mean “not profitable”, and it does not mean “operates at a loss” or even “breaks even”. “Non-Profit” means the business’ excess revenue over expenses on an annual basis gets rolled back in to the operation of the business rather than being paid out to shareholders, board members, or owners. If a Not-for-profit corporation does not earn a profit, they won’t be around very long.

Some of the revenue (income) that non-profits and charities post may come from sponsorships, fundraising, donations, or even public grants from any number of levels of government. This support may be in the form of tax refunds or tax forgiveness. It could be in the form of in-kind donations of goods and services. It could be in the form of cold, hard, cash. In all cases, a business that receives public support is beholden to the people for their support. That means we have to be good and responsible stewards of public money and support. That means we can’t just take the $5,000 we received from the provincial government for capacity building and use it to buy 5,000 helium-filled balloons, each containing a leaflet for discounted product, that we release in the parking lot.

….okay no, that would be environmentally irresponsible.

…plus the whole dropping leaflets from airplanes connotations.

The point I’m trying to make is that as businesses, non–profits do just as rigorous (if not more rigorous) budgeting and fiscal analysis as private business. Because we have to report to the people of the municipality/province/country how we used their money. And if we get it wrong, we may have to give the money back. Grants can operate like no- or low-interest loans; “if you do not complete what you said you would, you may have to give this money back”. But I’m getting off topic (shocking, I know).

Here’s what gets my goat about the advertising sales timeshare condo pitches:

  1. You don’t understand, nor care to learn, how MY business works – you won’t take the time to learn what I do, and what I’ve been doing very well, but you expect me to sit and listen to what you do, and what you do is basically the same as what every commercial media outlet does (you are not offering an unique product);
  2. You’re talking at me, rather than listening to me to find out what I actually want (or need – you are not speaking my language);
  3. You consistently price yourself out of the market (you don’t know who your target market is, and you don’t know how to reach them).
  • If you actually want my business – and selling advertising to non-profit and small businesses could actually be an incredible new market, maybe not in the “big media buy” department, but 30 non-profits/small businesses buying advertising could add up – if you want my business, make it affordable for me and stop patronizing me. I understand that repetition works. I know I need to buy advertising throughout the year to for my ads to be most effective. I get “brand recognition”. We all do. It’s not actually rocket science and advertising best practice isn’t actually seekrit arcane knowledge.
  • You want small business and non profits? Create advertising packages that are accessible for businesses whose entire advertising budget for the year is $10,000 or less. $5,000 or less. Maybe that means co-op spots. Maybe that means lever clients can sponsor smaller clients. Maybe that means you’re providing some in-kind service or goods. And don’t cheap out/crap out on them.
  • I get that advertising is expensive. It’s a huge risk to your business to spend money on something you don’t know will generate any return. And you the advertiser certainly can’t guarantee return on investment so you vouch it in terms of “the more frequently you run a spot, the greater your ROI potential”, knowing most people will hear that as “you are more likely to sell more product/service if you buy more ads”. Because statistics, AMIRITE‽ Studies show.
  • Don’t try to sell me on a $15,000 advertising package (that I’m sure is a great deal) when I’ve told you three times my entire annual advertising budget is one third that amount. And don’t come back and offer to make me an even better deal by selling me “social and digital” for $5,000. One Facebook post and a couple of poorly done banner ads on your website is not worth it for me. I am very crafty at making my teensy advertising budget work relatively well in the markets I have spent a long time and a lot of energy researching. I know who my consumers are. Could I reach more of them with TV and radio? ABSOLUTELY. Am I willing/able to dump all my advertising dollars in one bucket for three months of shitty “also-ran” ads?
  • *hard stare*
  • You want a piece of the small business market? Do some research. Get your creative team on board. Learn what we need, what we want, and what we can actually realistically afford. Speak tot he dog in the language of the dog.
  • Marketing 101.
  • Provincial Cannabis Survey

    So according to a recent article in the local paper, “the majority of Saskatchewan residents” aren’t interested in trying marijuana once it becomes legal federally on 17 October. According to me, this is precisely how those surveys went:

    Close to Home

    Sometimes something happens that hits pretty close to home, but you can’t describe why it hits close to home and you don’t really understand why it’s hitting as close to home as it is. You just know you hurt and this kind of hurt isn’t something your amazing group of support peeps can ameliorate.

    Then when you start writing about it, you get all caught up in what a great word ‘ameliorate’ is and how it makes you think of ripe peaches, even though you don’t really like peaches but you do like the *idea* of peaches. Especially ripe peaches. It’s mostly because the idea of *unripe* peaches is a little sad, and the quota of sad you can handle at the moment is somewhere between “can’t read greeting cards” and “please give that dog a biscuit before its eyes drill a bigger hole into my soul”.

    The thing about peaches is that they smell like death. The truth is you don’t even remember the last time you even tried eating a peach because once that smell hits you in the face it’s all over. But the IDEA of peaches is lovely. A fruit that looks like the late afternoon sun on a warm (but not too warm) summer day as you drink sangria on the patio – who wouldn’t love that kind of fruit?

    Anyway, maybe you’re overanalysing the reason you got hit so close to home. Maybe you just need to accept it was a terrible thing and for many reasons you have to hold the people around you so close because they could just be gone and the last thing you’d have said to them might have been something about cleaning up dog turds. Or you might have forgotten to say ‘have a good day’ or ‘I love you’. They know, hopefully, that you love them and how much you love them, but what if the last thing you ever tell them isn’t that you love them but that you’re disappointed or – worse – what if the last thing you say to them is something you said in anger or in frustration and you can never ever apologise for it because now they’re gone?

    That brings up the question of who, exactly, an apology is for. If you say you’re sorry, are you trying to make the person you wronged feel better about your having wronged them? Are you trying to make yourself feel less terrible for having been a total poop? Is it somewhere in between? What would it look like if we all treated one another, all the time, as if we would simply be gone – whoosh – the second we disappear from view? I suppose eventually it would look the same as it does now because we would have no sense of object permanence when it came to the people we love.

    Every day, all over the world, millions of people die, and in many of those cases – maybe even most of those cases, their loved ones probably didn’t say what they really wanted to say, or what they wanted their loved one to know. And we’re left with these words in our mouths; words we didn’t know were stuck in there. Words that start tasting like bitter unripe peaches.

    We’re left with these pits in our throats that just won’t go away, and those pits are the words we need to say but there’s no one there to hear them anymore. No one coming home when their work is done or when the season’s over. No one standing there in the doorway, leaving their shoes a mess in the entry. No one doing that thing that drives you bats, which you never thought you’d ever miss until they’re not there to do it anymore and you’re left staring at an empty place that should be so full.

    And the worst of it is there’s no time to stop. Not really. We have to see those empty spaces and walk through them. We have to keep moving and growing and changing and remembering and laughing and crying because when you stop doing those things…when you stop doing those things it’s you who’ve become the empty space and nobody should ever be an empty space until they’ve gone.

    So little by little you try to peer up through the leaves to see the sun, and little by little you can open your eyes to the brightness. It just takes some time.

    …out of Nothing at all

    What Capital Pointe Luxury Condos were supposed to look like. Image credit: Craig Edwards/CBC

    Now. You may not live in Regina. You may not live in Saskatchewan. Hell, you may not even live in Canada, or maybe you’re not a North Americaner. Either way, it doens’t matter because there is “nothing wrong”. Don’t take my word for it. Local developer Fortress Real Developments has reassured the pubic* via the media that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Nothing. SO STOP WORRYING, YOU.

     

    In this article from CTV News, you will find the most ludicrous statements perhaps ever given by anyone ever, who isn’t the president of a major G7 country. But first, a bit of background.

     

    There used to be a hotel on this property. It was pretty fancy once, and had some neat (if somewhat brutalist)  design, and a giant 50s-futurism multicoloured fluorescent “radio tower/antenna” on the top of it. My mum used to hang out at the pub in the Plains when she was at teachers’ college in the 60s. …actually I’m pretty sure everyone hung out at the pub in the Plains hotel in the 60s, whether or not they were in teachers’ college.

     

    Anyway, as is the way with things in Saskatchewan, once a structure turns 40, there’s some kind of unwritten law or policy or bylaw that you have to let it go to shite so that people bitch less when you decide to rip it down to build…I dunno. Parking lots and strip malls and frigging banks. Seriously. Check out Vintage Regina’s incredible Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/vintageregina/). There’s proof. Anywhere in this architecturally soul-sucking province, any kind of beaux-arts, Bauhaus, neoclassical, art deco, or postmodern design was marked as “probably pertaining to witches” and was recommended for the wrecking ball within seconds of the newest and least artistic building designs developed by engineering firms. We are nothing in Saskatchewan if not terrified of witches.

    What the Capital Pointe Development’s Gaping Maw of Financial Ruin used to look like before Capital Pointe got their mitts in it.
    Image credit: plainshotelandgoodtimecharlies.blogspot.ca

     

    So the plan was, a decade or so ago (give or take a few years) to tear down the Plains Hotel because “it had been let go” (which means that whoever owned the property just gave up trying to rent out space or keep anything up to code or repurpose the building because it’s cheaper to wreck it than it is to do any of those other things, and besides, thinking about things is HARD, yo, and pubic* consultation is for schmucks and public enterprise). I mean, I’m sure there were other things that came in to that discussion, like “magnet for undesireables” (read: people who could afford the bargain-basement bordello prices of rooms back when they still let rooms and, you know, had staff) and “cesspool of squatters and criminals” and “pubic* eyesore”.

     

    In rode a Saviour, and the Saviour rode upon a pale horse. Wait. I’m getting the corner of Victoria Street and Albert Avenue mixed up with the Book of Revelations again. You’d be surprised how often that happens. The Saviour actually arrived in the form of a developer whose plan was to tear down the Plains Hotel and build on its plot of land a HIGH RISE CONDO BUILDING in which people! would buy! condominiums! Which is of course what every *major* city wants: a bunch of people living in square boxes with underground parking and very little access to groceries, and who never go out at night because they’ve all bought in to the idea that downtown is dangerous and you’ll get shivved if you even THINK about going outside. Also, witches.

     

    Blah blah blah downtown revitalisation blah blah city planning blah blah blah urban development blah blah condos blah money. Is what it boiled down to.

     

    So the condo developers sold the city on this high rise idea and went straight to work. They ripped down the Plains Hotel.

    and then…

    and then nothing happened. For a really long time. There was this …how does one describe it? Giant mud pit with some rubble on it… for a number of months. Years even. Sometimes, there was a blue porta-potty on it. Those were the exciting times. There were very few witches on it, so I guess the demolition was a success. City planning cycles came and went, and the TENS of people (like, actually less than ten, I think) who bought in to the condo development malarky waited and waited and waited and eventually the developers’ building permit ran out. So the city goes, “dudes. Are you gonna…?”

     

    And the developer was all, “pfffft. YEAH. OBVS.”

    And the city was all, “oh, okay, good then.” And issued another building permit.

    And lo, nothing happened.

    More planning cycles. More nothing happening. A fence went up. The blue biffy returned. The city said, “ummm…”

    The developer said, “dudes. SERIOUSLY.”

    The city said. “phew. That’s a relief.”

    Then they started digging. They dug and they dug and they pulled SO MUCH DIRT out of the ground. Like. So much dirt. And then they discovered that when hotels like the Plains were built in the 50s, they were NOT fucking around with infrastructure, so they had to ALSO pull out a literal shitload of rebar and concrete and, like, pipes or whatever. For, like, poop. There were a lot of poop pipes. More poop pipes than the developers expected (because, I dunno, they forgot that the building would be connected to city services and weren’t just built over a giant cesspit anymore? Like, not since the middle ages?). So work stalled. Four people were VERY surprised that work had stalled.

     

    Cue some more planning cycles. Cue some more questions from the city and reassurances from the developer.

    What Capital Pointe currently looks like.
    Image credit: 620 CKRM website, no photographer credit provided.

     

    It is now YEARS into this “development” process. Entire neighbourhoods have been planned, designed, erected, and populated (Harbour Landing (the stupidest name for a neighbourhood in a landlocked province ever in the history of time. I suspect witches were involved.)). A whole huge stadium was built (that looks from above like enormous labia). A hundred hundred trains stopped a thousand thousand people from getting home on time during rush hour. Still Capital Pointe (note the useless extraneous ‘e’ that just screams “pretentious git”) is naught but a fence, a biffy, and a giant hole in the ground.

     

    “What ho,” sayeth the City. “Yon building permitte is about to expire. Forsooth pray tell what the everloving fuck is happeninge with this site which has become unto a giant gaping maw of this looks worse than the Plains ever dide.”

    “Wull,” sayeth the developer. “It’s the workers. They’re, like, lazy. I blame the Industrial Revolution.”

    “Uh, fuck you very much,” say the builders. “We haven’t been paid in months. You don’t pay us, we don’t work. Also, lien against the developers.”

    “Wull,” sayeth the developer. “Like. Anyone can register a lien. These hicks don’t even know what that word means.”

    *stern stare from builders*

    “Well you don’t.”

    *stern stare*

    “shut up you’re not coming to my birthday.”

     

    Eventually the city points out that if the developer isn’t going to, you know, do anything on the site by the end of March 2018, they’re going to have to put all that magnificent dirt back into the hole to prevent giants tripping in it and witches moving in. We all know how witches love their ditches. This brings us to this news story today. Allow me to point out the salient points to you:

    “There is nothing wrong on our site, there is absolutely nothing wrong,” – Nick Circosta of Fortress Real Developments

    100% true, if your measurement of “nothing wrong” means “we have literally done nothing for months and months”. Also 100% true if your interpretation of “nothing wrong” means “if you close your eyes and pretend we never said we’d finish this at all ever, we’re RIGHT ON TRACK”.

    “Many sites across the country shut down over the winter months…” – also Nick Circosta of Fortress Real Developments

    Also probably true, although I should point out that we have not had seven years of winter months and literally ENTIRE YEARS have gone by with nothing happening on that site except for the “Capital Pointe Developments” banner getting more and more tattered and the biffy disappearing under inky cloak of darkness one night. Also-ALSO, I point out that work did not shut down on the labia stadia in the winter months. (Yes, I know “stadia” is plural, but I’m really enjoying this rhyme.) Work did not shut down on Harbour Landing nor on whatever development it is north of the city during the winter months. Now, I don’t know whether that is in any way linked to the construction teams working on those other projects getting paid, because I don’t know a lot about the construction industry, so let’s just give these guys a pass, shall we?

    “[The city] can give us any deadline they want, but we are going in accordance with the Canadian building code.” – still Nick Circosta of Fortress Real Developments

    1. what
    2. did anyone else mention the Canadian building code?
    3. does the Canadian building code say anything about a) not working over the winter months; b) defining “the winter months” as “the previous seven years”; c) going where? Literally nothing has moved on that site since September.
    4. does the Canadian building code mention anything about adhering to municipal development standards, bylaws, timelines, and/or permits? I BET IT DOES, MR. CIRCOSTA. I bet. It. Does.
    5. does the Canadian building code have different editions based on jurisdiction? WHY YES, MR. CIRCOSTA, IT DOES. In case you don’t have a copy of the Saskatchewan building legislation and regulations, they’re available for anyone to read right here. In case you’re not up to date on them, the local authority (read: municipality) is responsible to administer and enforce these building standards, so even if you want to “go in accordance with Canadian building code”, the city kinda gets to tell you whether or not you’re in compliance, and they kinda have a legal duty to not let you, you know, not be in compliance.
    6. The National Building Code (which is not called the Canadian building code, btw) is available here. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a section that says “taking your own sweet time to get shit moving and blowing past several municipal deadlines is a perfectly legit and respectable business practice”.

    Now, far be it from me to call any of this shady AF business, but at this point, sorry – at this pointe, the only thing I would buy from this developer is a written statement indicating when the gaping maw of fiscal misfortune would be filled in. Because unless we’re filling that thing with witches or making a new pubic* outdoor pool, I’m sure there are actually competent developers who could actually build something on that site in less than a decade. Something useful. Something practical. Something probably not designed particularly attractively, but you get what you get in this architectural climate. Maybe even something that all eight Capital Pointe Condo owners could live in.

     

    P.S. Do a Google search for “Capital Pointe Hole” and you’ll get a good idea of the impressive amount of work that’s been shirked.

    P.P.S. Update: in which headlines could be lewd references to porn: https://regina.ctvnews.ca/city-orders-capital-pointe-developer-to-fill-hole-1.3869571

    *I meant public

    Remembery

    Do you remember the time you took me with you to your sister’s wedding?

    It was in small town somewhere and I was jonesing for a cig but no place was open and not even the bar was holding. I think I opted to spend the service itself in the tub in our weird motel room. Pulled the TV on its cart into the space between the bathroom and the main room and ran a bath.

    The tub was new. Only the tub was new.

    I ran a bath and watched the X-Files (in my memory I watched the X-Files but when I think about it that really makes no sense because the service was during the day and the X-Files only ran at night but for the purposes of this story and by way of wanting to seem cooler than I am, I watched the X-Files while I bathed in that small town somewhere) while you did the wedding. We would meet up again at the supper.

    In fact you fetched me for the supper, rightfully concerned that I’d get lost or wander off or forget or choose to explore small town somewhere instead (starting with the boneyard). I don’t remember the supper.

    I remember I wore a heavy lace skirt that didn’t come to my knees. A gauzy see through shirt. Maybe a camisole beneath. Big steel toed boots. All in black. Purple and black eyes, purple lips, white skin. Pale white. Pallid. Death white. Chalk.

    There were toasts made.

    I danced the schottise with your grandmum. I danced all night with your grandmum. I tried hitting on the DJ because I was jonesing for fags. You laughed. The DJ was…strange. But he had fags.

    We fell into our beds tired. Hot. Laughing. The DJ. The dances. The incredulous stares because you’d brought a girl. A weird girl.

    I think of you often and don’t call, don’t write. I suck at staying in touch. I loved you then. I love you still. I’m sorry I suck at being in touch. I miss you.

    Keep ’em separated

    Recently the Government of Canada included on its summer student funding program a check box that asks whether the business (non-profit/agency/charity/etc.) applying for federal tax funding complies with Canadian law. Normally, that’s not a problem. Normally, if you apply for federal funding, you’re all, hells yes we comply with federal laws. It’s exceedingly rare for a business that’s all “fack no; I don’t even comply with traffic laws!” to receive support for any of their operations, much less to fund a summer student. But this year. This year it’s different.

    It’s different because the specific law in question is the one where Canadians have reproductive rights enshrined in law. That’s just a fancy way of saying Canadians have the right to request and access abortion, among other forms of reproductive control. In Canada, if you don’t want a baby, you don’t have to be forced by federal law to have one, regardless of why or how you find yourself pregnant. This year’s applications for federal funding require applicants to attest their core mandate support reproductive rights, specifically the right to access legal and safe abortion.

    I’m not going to get into the abortion debate because that actually isn’t what this is about.

    Not only did a talk radio blowhard write a column in the daily papers in which they completely missed the entire point, but then promoted a line of discussion that goes so far off into left field, it’s out there picking dandelions and chasing dragonflies while the rest of the game is in full swing. The talk radio blowhard (and, to be fair, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon) have decided this isn’t something as simple as requiring applicants to comply with Canadian law, but that it’s a free speech issue.

    Look, it’s not a free speech issue. It’s not a freedom of religion issue. It’s a ‘where do Canadians’ tax dollars go’ issue. Nobody is telling you you can’t believe in Jeebus. Nobody is telling you you can’t have ethical and moral objections to abortion. Nobody, in fact, is even telling you you can’t tell OTHER people to believe contraception and abortion are wrong. Nobody actually gives a shit what you think about abortion and contraception or what you say about it.

    The only thing this addresses is whether the BUSINESS (yes, churches are businesses. They’re charitable, non-profit businesses, but they’re businesses nonetheless) applying for *federal funding* has a mandate which respects human rights as presented in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, here’s the actual requirement:

    Indicate your organization’s mandate and also provide a summary of its main activities. The core mandate of your organization must respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

    On the application itself, you have to check a box that says yes, our mandate respects human rights, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why the hell should the federal government provide financial support to any business that DOESN’T respect human rights? Even when the dirty pinko snowflake social justice warrior liberals weren’t in power, you still had to comply with federal laws and charters in order to receive federal funding. If your business, Bishop of Saskatoon, ticked that box in previous years, either you were lying then or you’re just beating the bushes now trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

    The only thing that’s changed is that the Government of Canada has mentioned that reproductive rights are indeed human rights.

    Look, nobody’s asking you to tell people that abortion is right. The government is, however, asking you to confirm that your corporation’s mandate respects the Canadian Charter and laws. They’re saying that IF YOU WANT FEDERAL MONEY, you have to follow certain guidelines. It’s not a freedom of religion thing. The Government of Canada is not telling you you can’t worship, you can’t give your money, you can’t pray, you can’t believe whatever the hell your Bishops tell you to believe. Nobody’s preventing the church from operating. Nobody’s preventing the church from spreading its message. Nobody’s stopping the church from the stupid dignity of life argument that completely ignores the dignity of life.

    The government is simply saying that if your corporate mandate does not support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including reproductive rights (and a shitload of others), you’re probably not eligible for federal funding. That’s normal.

    In FACT, if you look at it, the Catholic Church itself refuses to provide services to people who don’t align their own beliefs with the Church’s ALL THE TIME. If you commit suicide, you can’t get a cemetery plot in the Catholic boneyard. If you’re divorced, you can’t get married again in the Catholic church. If you’re Christian (but not Roman Catholic), you can’t take Communion in the Catholic Church. If you’re a priest, you can’t participate in the sacrament of marriage. If you’re a woman, you can’t participate in the sacrament of holy orders. So this mandate thing SHOULD BE REALLY BLOODY FAMILIAR TO YOU.

    The Bishop of Saskatoon (and his mouthpiece the talk radio blowhard) claim that this requirement from the Government of Canada amounts to “coercion”. He encourages Catholics to “contact elected officials to express opposition to such a requirement, which conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion and conscience (as guaranteed in Section 2 (a) (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)”. I mean, this is laughable at this point.

    Section 2 (a)(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:

    2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;

    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

    And this requirement for federal funding does not violate or contradict those terms. You’re more than welcome, Catholics, to your conscience and religion. You’re completely welcome to your thought, belief, opinion, expression, and communication. Go hard. The ONLY thing this requirement does is ensure that the businesses and corporations receiving taxpayers’ money align with the ENTIRE Charter (not just section 2 (a)(b)).

    The Bishop counsels Catholic businesses applying for this program to “leave that section blank” and perhaps add a letter explaining your position. I think this is a GREAT idea. That will make it much easier for the assessors to weed out the applications that simply don’t meet criteria. Your mandate doesn’t adhere to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? What makes you think you DESERVE funding from the country whose laws you don’t believe in?

    If it’s important to you, Catholics, to have summer students, I’m sure you’ll be willing to pony up your own private donations in order for your church to hire summer students. I’m also sure that other Catholic-run businesses don’t want or need dirty federal funding, and have more than enough private support to hire summer students.

    The Bishop of Saskatoon is giving bad advice, based on what appears to be a facile understanding of the actual Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and on what the mandate of the federal government of Canada actually is. The Government of Canada is not beholden to provide funding to organisations and businesses whose mandates do not align with Canadian law. Holy sense of entitlement, Bishop.

    The advice you SHOULD be giving to Catholics is that religious groups, including churches, should no longer be the recipient of any government support, including tax relief. You should be telling your parishioners that in order to truly adhere to the Word and to the teachings of the Church fathers and God and Jesus, there must be separation of church and state. That the Church should have no business with the government, even when the Church benefits from things like Charters of Rights and Freedoms which enshrine your right to freedom of religion and conscience. You should be counselling Catholics to keep their religious beliefs to themselves and their religious community.

    Here I’ll cite some support for this counsel: Mark 12:17 and Matthew 22:21. Romans 13:1-7; Matthew 6:1-34. The basic gist is “leave worldly things to the government and leave moral and spiritual matters to God”. THAT is what you should be counselling your parishioners to do.

    The Christmas Story

    As told by Teyah T. Dog (aka “Bumblebutt”)

    Once there was a woman in a kitchen and the kitchen was far from the dogs’ resting place on the chesterfield. The dogs heard the sound of crinkling and knew that the King would tell them they couldn’t have treats, so they made the long journey to the kitchen. There was a woman there who was much, much taller than a dog.

    There, the woman was making something that smelled very, very good. The dogs sniffed around but there was nothing. Every time they asked for food, they were turned away. Finally they lay down like good girls.

    When from upon high a shower of light and love rained down upon the ground. Cheerios from heaven dropped down around the woman’s feet and lo, it was good. Teyah T. Dog ate many of the Cheerios, but also Sadie, who is very stupid, had some. Sometimes food falls from the sky, but this was truly a Christmas Miracle.

    And that, my friends, is the True Story of Christmas. As told by Teyah T. Dog.

    Conscientious Objection shouldn’t mean dereliction of duty

    Canada passed a law in June 2016 to make legal and to offer protection to the providers of medically assisted dying. Let’s just pretend for a moment that “Medically Assisted Dying” isn’t one of the lamest, most watered-down name for the practice of euthanasia. Predictably, there were a number of objectors to this bill, many from faith-based communities and I want to start this out by saying I am not going to get into any debates about what any religion or faith has to say about suicide or murder. This is not a debate about the tenets of your faith.

    The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario have indicated that physicians in that province who can not or will not provide this service to terminally ill patients are required to give their patients a referral to a council of physicians or to specific physicians who do provide the service. This sort of requirement is necessary because what’s happening here is a clash of freedoms/rights: Canadians are free to worship and honour their religious traditions, and adult Canadians are free to request physicians assist them in dying provided: they are capable of making that decision; their condition is “serious and incurable”; they are in an advanced state of decline of ability; their physical or psychological suffering is intolerable; and their death is “reasonably forseeable”. While there are debates going on about how hand-wavey some of those terms may be, they are focused primarily on the patient, as they should be. However, there are other debates going on in different regions of the country about the physicians’ rights.

    Does a physician have the right to refuse a particular service if it violates their ethics and morality? Is euthanasia a violation of the Hippocratic Oath?

    Euthanasia is absolutely not a violation of the Hippocratic Oath (that physicians must do no harm, and put the patient’s welfare first). If the job of a physician is to heal the patient, and the patient cannot be healed, then surely the next best thing a physician can do is to alleviate the patient’s suffering. The only person who can tell you when they are no longer suffering is the patient. Not physicians, not nurses, not priests or rabbis or imams or shamans or astrologers, and certainly not God(s). If the only way to end a patient’s suffering is to hasten their inevitably natural death, how is that harmful? Remember, we’re leaving aside the argument about what may or may not happen after death – all I’m discussing here is what we can directly observe.  If you, as a physician, know that you can do something to *end* a patient’s suffering – not just lessen it, but actually end it – that’s harm reduction. That’s helping the patient.

    Does a physician have the right to refuse a particular service by using ‘conscientious objector’ arguments?

    Well, not REALLY. Not if we frame the question like that because conscientious objection is reserved pretty much for military involvement. But let’s broaden the terminology and talk about whether it’s okay to refuse to do part of your job because of your religious beliefs.

    Religion is personal. Faith is personal. Your faith and expression of your religious beliefs is something you must only apply to yourself. To do otherwise is to violate other peoples’ rights. However there are religion-based values (and not all ethical objections are based on religious grounds of course) and values that dictate we should not cause harm to others. In fact, this is pretty much a universal tenet of all major world religions and of ethics and morality in general. Don’t cause harm. That’s legit a SUPER SIMPLE instruction. But what it talks about is how your actions necessarily affect others unless you choose to withdraw from society (and it can be argued that that decision also affects others because we don’t exist in a vacuum). This is getting pretty high-level philosophical I guess, but what I’m getting at is that sometimes your own moral/ethical value system may prevent you from doing something (or not doing something) that will directly affect someone else. So yeah, if you object to ending a patient’s life, EVEN THOUGH it will alleviate their suffering, EVEN THOUGH it will reduce harm, that’s fine.

    However, what’s NOT okay is preventing that patient’s access to the service in any way. If you choose not to provide your patient with information pamphlets or referrals to physicians who WILL provide the services they need, you’re causing harm.

    We could get into all kinds of debate about what “participation” means when it comes to end of life care. Does providing that referral mean you’re complicit in ending a human life? Absolutely not. That human life is already in the process of ending, whether you help it along or not. Refusing to provide that referral means you’re causing harm.

     

    There’s an important discussion piece here about religious institutions, too. Specifically, faith-based hospitals, hospices, and care facilities. It’ll come as no surprise that I’m a firm believer that any institution that receives public money must follow public policy. There shouldn’t even BE any faith-based hospitals and healthcare facilities in a publicly funded system because that sets the stage for “two-tiered health care”. However, removing those institutions from the playing field would end up hurting a lot of people, and I see the good it does to have them in operation, subsidised in part by their respective faith-based communities. Faith-based communities are welcome to donate whatever they want to hospitals and health care facilities, with the understanding that those facilities will offer all the services that are legal, all the time, without strings. Just like publicly accredited and funded schools must follow the approved curriculum in all areas (including not teaching creationism as “science”, teaching biology and reproductive sciences according to curriculae), publicly licensed and funded health care facilities must provide the services their patients require/request. It’s fine to have doctors and nurses and care professionals refuse to provide those services as long as there are health professionals on staff who will, who can, and who won’t face professional repercussion from doing so.

    The Manitoba government is attempting to pass a law that will, at least in part, offer protection to health care professionals – physicians specifically – who choose not to provide euthanasia for their patients. The protection is supposedly job-related – that is to say, that health care professionals who refuse to provide all services will not face discrimination at work or the possibility of losing their jobs if they refuse to provide services to which they have moral or ethical objections. This law already exists nationally, and in most places it exists regionally as well; you’re not allowed to discipline or release and employee because of their religious beliefs. Why the Manitoba government feels the need to pass ANOTHER law about this is a little mysterious, unless what they’re trying to do is make an end-run around federal legislation. Are they trying to offer some kind of legal protections for faith-based institutions to refuse to provide euthanasia services for patients?

    It’s one thing to refuse to provide a service to which you have deeply held moral and/or ethical objections. It’s another thing entirely to refuse to “participate in” a patient’s health care. It’s unethical and immoral to refuse to help a patient who is requesting help; a patient who needs help.

     

    Alouette

    Way back in the nineteen somethings, Canada was going through the sort of identity crisis we all go through when we’re about fifteen. Québec was all stomping around the place, slamming doors and cupboards and shouting “JE PARS” everytime someone looked at it.

    “Hey, Québec,” we’d say, “I like your cheese. You have lovely cheese.”

    “JE PARS! TU ES UNE DERRIÈRE!” *slam*

    So the federal government spent “fuck-you” money on a PR campaign leading up to the Referendum where Canadians voted whether or not we should just throw our hands up in the air and say “fine then, go. Either you’ll be back when you’re hungry or I’ll drop a loonie in your cup on Yonge Street.” We had posters and flags and pithy sayings like “my Canada includes Québec!” and the French equivalent, “je voudrais plus flaçons du mais!”. We gathered en masse (see what I did there!?) in town squares and on University campuses, and we painted our faces and waved federally supplied Canada flags, and we all loved HARD on Québec.

    I mean. Part of it was purely logistical. Where the fuck would Québec go if it left? It’s not like an entire province can just lift up its skirts and move to Botswana. Plus, at the time, basically all of Canada was like “treaties? What the hell are you talking about? That’s just some shit we said we were going to give to Indians to get them to shut up about European settlers taking over traditional hunting land to plant crops. Pffft. TREATIES. Whatever. They don’t OWN THE COUNTRY, Gerry.” So way back when we were all excited about national unity, we kind of didn’t mean to include Indigenous peoples. We weren’t talking about MULTINATIONAL unity, after all.

    Oh sure, there was talk about “distinct society” and “unique culture” and all that, but a population of people having their own language, cultural practices, religion, heritage, and traditional homeland only applied to the descendants of people from France, not the descendants of people from, you know, North America. ANYWAY. I’m getting sidetracked. The point IS we spent a lot of money and a lot of effort telling Québec how much we loved them because we didn’t want them leaving Canada.

    It’s now 22 years later, and I’m pretty much ready to pack Québec’s suitcase, hand it a couple hundred bucks and a bus ticket, and tell it it’s welcome to come back once it’s come to its senses. If it wants to be part of this family, it’s going to have to stop acting like such a cock. “We’re not like that,” I’ll be telling Québec. “We’re working to make public policy NOT discriminate against people based on their cultural heritage, gender, or identity. UR DOIN IT RONG.”

    Yes, this is about the bill signed by the Québec government requiring people to remove all facial coverings if they want to use or provide public services. Essentially, they’re telling Muslim women that they have to remove their niqāb. Classy, Québec. Reeeeal classy.

    Let’s just accept for a moment that the niqāb is a form of oppression forced upon Muslim women by men. I’m not saying that’s the case; I’m saying let’s assume it is. In other words, we’re going to willingly enter into a fallacious argument here but what the hell. It’s Friday. Let’s just say the only time women wear niqāb or hijab (just for clarity, niqāb is a veil or scarf that covers the face except for the eyes; hijab is a veil or scarf that covers the head, neck, and often shoulders and chest but does not cover the face) is when they are told they must by men – either by male relatives or by male religious leaders. Let’s just say that’s the case.

    If the argument is that wearing niqāb is oppression because you shouldn’t force women to wear something or tell them what to do, what do you call it when you force a woman NOT to wear something and tell them what to do? Even if you base this argument on an invalid premise, the argument falls apart. EITHER you’re forcing a woman to do something OR you’re forcing her NOT to do something; either way, you’re oppressing her by removing her ability to choose how to express her identity.

    If the argument is that you should be able to “see someone’s face” when you’re engaging in public discourse, as is the claim of Québec Premier Philippe Couillard:

    “We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face. We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that.”

    Premier Philippe Couillard,
    with his face covered in some kind of substance.
    (Photo credit: Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

    Pardon me while I blink rapidly for a few minutes. I suppose it can be difficult to understand someone’s communication when you can’t see their faces. Why, letters and telephones were nearly the downfall of democratic society. Thank #Glob for photography. If we didn’t have things like motion picture technology and Skype, we’d be grubbing about in the dirt trying to raise our next leader from an acorn seed. Just the other day, as I was speaking on the telephone to someone who could have been Satan Himself, I was thinking, “it’s pretty clear that Hell is no democracy, otherwise I’d be able to see Satan’s face”, but then I got wondering about Heaven, and, well, suddenly Mel Gibson Jesus makes so much sense.

    Let’s face it: politicians say incredibly stupid things. They sometimes build an entire career out of saying incredibly stupid things (not naming any names but we’re all looking at the same political leader right now). But the claim that a “free and democratic society” requires you to be able to see someone’s face when you communicate with them surpasses ‘incredibly stupid’ and speeds right on in to ‘ludicrous and inane’.

    Far be it from me to claim that the hallmark of a free and democratic society is freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. Far be it from me to claim that what makes a democracy work is that the people who form that democracy are enfranchised; that they are able to take part in the democratic process, whether they cover their faces or not. In fact, I may even be so bold as to say that the hallmark of current democracies has far more to do with covering arses than it does with covering faces.

    But if democracy DOES hinge on being able to see everyone’s face (and apparently eyes are not part of your face any longer; at this rate the Québec government will be insisting that penises aren’t part of your body and that in order to receive any government services you have to also be displaying nipples), you’re basically telling people who live in CANADA, where it gets, from what I hear COLD, that they can not take the bus, use the library, serve on the police force, or teach in schools if they wear mufflers when it’s -40C. So much for my career as a bank robber in Québec. And, for that record, is the Premier going to shave his beard? It covers his face and makes it impossible for me to understand what he’s saying.

    Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe what he’s ACTUALLY saying is “please help me; I’m being held hostage by a bunch of xenophobic bigots who don’t understand human rights and are making me look like a total tool”. Dear lord. THAT POOR MAN.

    You know things are bad when I’m advocating for a man shaving his beard.

    So at this point, I’m rescinding my “my Canada includes Québec” vote from 1995. My NEW vote is that since Québec clearly has no intent to govern itself on the principles Canada is trying to live up to (although the ball on reconciliation is moving slower than a toddler who REALLY doesn’t want to wear shoes), let’s return Québec to its Indigenous population. If we’re going to talk about distinct society, let’s talk about the Wabanaki, the Cree, the Anishinabeg, the Mohawk, the Wendat, the Huron, the Innu, and the Mi’kmaq. Let’s talk about the distinct society that’s created when we welcome refugees and immigrants who make our country even stronger and more diverse. Let’s talk about Francophone Canadians outside of Québec. Let’s talk about how we are all living together and enacting divisive and bigoted legislation that very clearly targets one gender and one identity is not creating the kind of place that Canada is trying to be.

    Look, we have a LOT of work to do simply to reconcile the way we’ve treated the Peoples who were living and stewarding this land for hundreds of thousands of years before Europeans even showed up. What the Québec government has done is a shameful step backward. Smarten up.

    Danger Zone

    Please go read this article (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-kelly/the-thing-all-women-do-you-dont-know-about_b_8630416.html). I’ll wait.

    If you’re already on Twitter, you’ve seen this already.

    I spent about a decade trying to look not-female (which was tough, given my body shape) and being very angry that I couldn’t go out to the club or the bar without having to be “on guard”. I was angry (and, yes, sometimes violent) with the people who touched me without permission. Without even asking.  I was angry that it was okay for someone to think just because they sent a flower to my table it meant I’d screw them.

    I was angry that I couldn’t just be friends with someone without everyone assuming we were fucking in the alley.

    Yes, as a girl I had to learn how to “protect myself”, and that’s total bullshit.

    I’m STILL angry that there are basically two options for me: be invisible, or be an object of desire. There’s no middle ground. Fuck that. I hate that one of the questions we ask our kids is “do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend” when they’re in fucking PRESCHOOL. I have sometimes been complicit and said nothing when people ask my kids. But other times I’ve piped up with “or any other friends”.

    I hate that, as a society, our values about sex are so completely fucked up. That we have roles and that we’re expected to fit into shapes.

    How the hell did we get here? So much of where we are as a society feels like we’re going backwards. I want off this train.

    So yeah, maybe you don’t know what it’s like to decide, as a 15yo, that you don’t want to party because there’s just too much rape. Or to choose not to go to the bar with your bros at 23 because their favourite bar has too many dark corners where people cop a feel. Because that’s what happens. That’s what happened to my grandmothers, to my mother, to me, and to virtually every woman I know (and to many men). It happens. It. Happens.

    Yes, I know “not all men”. Yes, I know men and boys survive sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape. Yes, I know this should be a genderless discussion. But no. No, it shouldn’t be a genderless discussion. IT SHOULDN’T BE A DISCUSSION WE HAVE TO HAVE AT ALL. Yet here we are. Here we are and over 95% of the women I know *personally* have experienced sexual assault, rape, and/or sexual harassment. It is endemic to our culture. We are hurting one another.

    We should not have to learn how to de-escalate and look for escape routes. That is not a thing we should ever have to do. But the fact that we do have to do it means one thing: we’re living in a kind of war zone. And I don’t want to marginalise or downplay the hundreds of thousands of people who live in actual war zones. We can look at both and agree both are unconscionable. I suspect those of us who’ve had to watch and calculate since we could walk make really fucking good soldiers and spies.

    And I don’t want to speak out of turn here, but I have to wonder whether some of the terrorism and violence directed toward trans people is directed at trans people because they fundamentally change the discourse. I don’t know. People are great at being shitty.

    I watch movies and television now and I try to find “romance” scenes that aren’t in some way predatory. It’s not easy, yo. They’re uncommon. I suppose this is what we mean by “rape culture”, but I hate that phrase and I don’t think it’s terribly accurate. Anyway. It’s all bullshit. Our kids deserve better than this bullshit. WE deserved better than this. Our parents deserved better.

    How do we fix it? I don’t know. I have no fucking clue. All I know is what I can do, and I’m trying, my loves. I’m trying.

     

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