Unpopular

I’m a little reticent to post this, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I think I’m ready for all the trolls and hate and malarky. I get that what I’m about to say is an incredibly unpopular opinion, and that probably I don’t understand the details and am putting my own family’s lives at risk by having this opinion.

It’s about both Omar Khadr and Vincent Li.

I want to start this off by saying I am not going to comment at all about what either of these men did, are alleged to have done, were proven in a court of law to have done, or were morally or criminally responsible for. I also want to say that their actions caused a lot of harm and hurt to a lot of people, and there is simply no way anyone can ever, ever “make up” for that. Ever. That’s kind of the thing about taking human lives. There really is no way to “make it up” to the survivors of homicide. You just can’t bring them back, no matter what you do.

So here is what I’m going to talk about: due process. I am not a lawyer and I do not have a law degree. I do not know the fineries of the legal system. I do know this, though. Canadian citizens are afforded a few very important rights. We are fortunate (truly) to live in a country in which freedom of expression is a protected human right, for instance. Another right we have as Canadian citizens is the right to due process.

What does that mean? What is “due process”? Well, at its core, due process means that citizens of a country have legal rights which must be respected. The state has rather a lot of power when compared to a single citizen, and due process is intended to be a balancing act between the power the state wields and the rights of an individual. Due process started with the Magna Carta, which was a charter of rights between King John and a bunch of barons who were pretty pissed off that kings kind of took liberties (like access to swift justice, limitations on taxes, etc.) because they were kings. I’m paraphrasing of course, and oversimplifying things, but I don’t think that’s inaccurate.

I don’t know enough about international law and the history of law to comment any further than that, but from what I understand (and I am willing and eager to be edumacated if I have this wrong), Canadian citizens have the right (enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) to life, liberty and security of the person. Even if we have been charged with committing a criminal offence, we have the right to be treated fairly. We have the right to our freedom until there is proof we did something wrong. We have the right to be tried for the charges against us in a reasonable time. We have the right to not be forced to testify against ourselves. We have the right to not be tried more than once if acquitted of charges of a crime. If you haven’t read the charter of rights and freedoms, I recommend you do. There’s probably not a lot in there you don’t already know, but it’s pretty important to know your rights.

Anyway, here’s my problem: I’ve heard you say that Omar Khadr and Vincent Li should be deported. That they should be put to death for the crimes for which they were charged. I respect your opinion, however, there are some problems of fact.

1) Canadian citizens cannot be deported. I mean, that’s actually impossible. When you are a citizen of Canada, there is nowhere you can be deported *to*, because Canada is, by definition, your home country. Now, you could make the argument to have the courts attempt to strip either of these acquitted men of their Canadian citizenship, and I have *no* idea what that would entail. You’d probably have to prove treason, which is, as I understand it, incredibly difficult to prove. In Canada, in order to be charged with treason, you have to kill or attempt to kill or restrain the Queen; start a war or try to start a war against Canada; assist an enemy or any armed forces at war or against whom the Canadian forces are engaged in hostilities, regardless of whether or not Canada is in a state of war; use force or violence to overthrow the government; sell or trade or give away state secrets of military or scientific nature that could put Canada in danger; conspire to commit treason; form an intent or manifest an intent to commit treason; conspire with anyone to do anything mentioned above, inside *or* outside Canada.

The penalty for treason, though, is imprisonment for up to a maximum of life or up to 14 years.

And I don’t think charging someone with treason would remove their citizenship. They still wouldn’t be deported. They’d be imprisoned (if found guilty) in Canada. In 2014, the federal government received royal assent for the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act”, which does contain information about how *dual citizens* could have their Canadian citizenship revoked. Most involve being convicted of treason (Gov’t of Canada: http://news.gc.ca). So I didn’t know if it’s even possible to revoke citizenship for Canadians who are *not* dual citizens. Smart folks, chime in here and let me know if that’s possible.

The point is, you can’t deport a Canadian citizen. You just can’t.

2) You can’t put people to death in Canada because we don’t (thankfully) have capital punishment in this country. You are welcome to think we should. And it’s certainly easy to get me completely out of an argument by saying “so-and-so should get the death penalty”, because that is the point at which I know we will never see eye to eye on the issue.

3) Both of these men were acquitted of their crimes in courts of law. I could argue that Omar Khadr did not receive ‘due process’, because he was charged with military crimes, which meant he could be held without charges for way longer than is legally “right”. He did not receive a timely trial. His rights *as a Canadian citizen* were not upheld. It actually does not matter what he did or is accused to have done. As a Canadian citizen (and as a minor at the time of his alleged criminal acts), he had the right to a fair trial in a reasonable amount of time. Thirteen years in prison is not a “reasonable time”. In fact, if he had been charged and found guilty of murder, he might have been released from prison in less than that amount of time.

Vincent Li was found not guilty by reason of mental illness. Because he is a Canadian citizen, he has the right to a fair trial in a reasonable amount of time. He was tried fairly and in a reasonable amount of time. And the court found him not guilty. That doesn’t mean he didn’t commit a crime. It meant he could not be found criminally responsible for his actions. You might not like that application of law, but it is there to protect people from being unjustly imprisoned.

Ultimately, these two Canadian men received (eventually) fair treatment (although one could argue that Khadr did *not*, in fact, receive fair treatment) under Canadian law. It’s okay to disagree about the nature of the laws that protect us and that govern us. As Canadians, we have that right. It’s okay to think and to say that Canadian laws have to be changed so that people like Khadr and Li don’t get to “roam around free as the birds” (which isn’t the case; both men have fairly strict conditions placed on their release). If you don’t like the laws that govern and protect Canadian people, you can change them. How? Well, you have to vote for the people who will make those changes.

It’s not a fast process, and it’s not an easy process, but you have the power to do it. I certainly wouldn’t like it if you changed our laws to bring back capital punishment and to rescind rights from Canadians, and I would vote for the person who would block that bill. I guess what I’m getting at here is that you and I both have the right, the power, and the responsibility to take part in our country’s legislative process. Please do so. I don’t care if you don’t share my opinions – in fact, it’s better for the country and for democracy if you don’t. But please, please. Stop advocating violence and hatred against these two men. Blame the system that set them free. Blame them for doing wrong. But don’t make their actions meaningless.

Change the system instead of being like them, if you hate what they did or are alleged to have done.

I didn’t know it would be that bad.

Then I started thinking, with all the hullaballoo about the Alberta election, someone should make one of those “Hitler reacts” videos. Because, you know, that’s never been done before.

Turns out I’m actually a pretty horrible person.

Be Careful What You Don’t Ask For

PremierTweetNot even three full years after enacting moderately sexist “Frat House Legislation“, Premier Brad Wall announced that his government had “reversed our mistake to allow strip clubs in SK.” With a rather smug nod to the reason being related to human trafficking, without any …whattayacallit… proof or supporting documentation whatsoever, without any public consultation other than the irate moral majority who have nothing better to do than call in to radio talk shows to rant about how watching someone get nekkit on stage at a bar is going to cause their children irreparable damage, and without any, it would seem, common sense.

Leaving for a moment, our senses behind, as is the wont of the government currently in power over us, let us contemplate all of the *actual* dangers of people getting nekkit while alcohol is being served:

  1. Boners
  2. Uncomfortable boners
  3. Spilling drinks (although it can be argued that people in any stage of dress or undress could cause drink spillage; we put this here simply to acknowledge potential dampness)
  4. Labial dampness unrelated to drink spillage
  5. Did I mention boners? Oh. I did. Right.
  6. Having God revoke your get-in-to-heaven-free card because it states quite plainly in 2 Abyssinians how “The Lord Shall Smiteth anyone whososever shall gaze upon the nekkit flesh of dancing dancers while consuming the wine of the grape or the beer of the barley plant”. Oh wait. That’s not in the bible? Really? Well who WROTE that thing? It should be. You know what? I’m just going to pencil that right in there. What do you MEAN Abyssinians isn’t a book in the bible? I’m penciling that in there too. THERE. Now there’s BIBLICAL PROOF that strippers are, like, evil and shit when there’s alcohol being served. TAKE THAT, ALBERTA. You’re all going to hell. Except Taber.
  7. HUMAN TRAFFICKING REASONS
  8. Boners

Women and men who choose to dance, I can’t believe we have to go over this again, nekkit or mostly nekkit, choose to do so for many reasons. In some cases, women (primarily) and men are being forced in to the ILLEGAL SEX TRADE (of which, I’m sure, a side-line is perfectly legal, regulated, and inspected nightclubs) for a multitude of reasons, including *but not limited to* poverty, substance abuse, mental health challenges, abusive histories, and a shameful and general lack of support for any of those things.

This may be a naive and simple view of the issue, because I don’t have any of the details the provincial government used to base their wishy-washy reversal of their own legislation on. They haven’t chosen to make that information public yet. I would like to see the statistical numbers from police across the country that will show me a positive causative relationship between dancing with your clothes off while alcohol is served and a rise in human trafficking.

The assumption that this legislation ONLY affects “young women” shows a fairly common (but maddening) dismissal of what’s actually happening in the sex trade.

This legislation isn’t going to protect young people at risk (regardless of their gender). It will serve to drive those activities further underground and will put the people working in these trades at further risk. You want to talk exploitation? Let’s talk about whether someone who chooses to dance partially nude (remember, the previous legislation prevented women (and only women) from displaying the “ends of their breasts” (nipples) and all dancers from displaying their genitals) is being exploited, or whether someone who’s had to, for a multitude of reasons, turn to the streets to earn their living and who is forced in to dancing partially nude (or fully nude, since the reversed new legislation doesn’t care about nipples OR junk) is being exploited. I know some folks will say both people are being exploited. I think that choice is, at its core, fundamentally empowering. And if you freely and without coercion, understanding all the risks and benefits, choose to shake your booty at a bunch of people who are simultaneously consuming liquor, THAT SHOULD BE YOUR RIGHT.

Making sex illegal does not stop the sex trade. It never has. What it DOES do is put sex workers at risk. There IS empirical evidence to support this.

Now. We’ve left our sense behind long enough. Let’s look at what else this asinine decision does.

  1. Removes any sort of credibility the governing party might once have had. The initial legislation was introduced in the fall of 2012, and it wasn’t until two years later that licensed establishments were beginning to pop up. There were discussions about where strip clubs could and couldn’t be located (not within 50 feet of a bowling alley, that’s for sure), and local business owners were just starting to really take advantage of this new and somewhat progressive (if sexist) legislation. But then, in March 2015, the Premier announced that nope, sorry. No titties. Specifically, no titties while you enjoy a brew.
  2. Proves to the people of Canada that Saskatchewan is pretty much a laughing-stock of a province. Because no matter how much you trumpet that this decision was “not motivated by the morality police”, NOBODY IS GOING TO BELIEVE YOU. We’re already considered the bible belt of Canada, for God’s sake. Hell, just try being brown. Or even off-white. WE ARE THE OZARKS OF CANADA.
  3. If you don’t care about what the rest of the country thinks about us (and if you’re willing to stop comparing us to Alberta), then maybe you care about what kind of precedent this move sets. The government brings in progressive legislation, and then, a week after it releases a somewhat shady budget (in which it borrows rather a lot of money in order to “balance the books”), it reverses the progressive legislation. That kind of move screams “SHELL GAME! SHELL GAME!”. Where SHOULD you be looking?
  4. By re-criminalizing (partially) nude performances in licensed establishments while alcohol is being served, the Saskatchewan government has re-linked burlesque performances, strip teases, and exotic dancing with the illegal sex trade. Philosophically and realistically.
  5. We’ve just called every woman and man who chooses to do burlesque, strip tease, and exotic dancing a prostitute. How? We’ve just said, by repealing this legislation, that nude performances in licensed establishments when liquor is being served is pretty much the same thing as people being sold against their will for sex acts. We haven’t said that overtly, but that is absolutely one of the connotations. Classy.

This could turn in to a much longer rant about how the only real way to combat the illegal sex trade is to legalize (or at the VERY least decriminalize) all aspects of the sex trade, but I’m not going to go there. That’s for another day.

I would like to hear from the parents of children in places where strip teases, exotic dancing, and burlesque are legal and regulated at licensed establishments. I want to know how, exactly your children have been IRREPARABLY DAMAGED. I would like to know how much the crime stats have risen in regard to human trafficking, and how much of that can be directly related to topless (but with pasties) dancing women, and not to OTHER organized crime activities like, oh, I dunno, drugs and weapons.

I will admit I don’t know a whole lot about organized crime, so I don’t know if it’s a common practice for, like, the Russian mob to make under-the-table deals with legitimate, law-abiding business owners to provide underage or coerced/unwilling strippers for their shows. The guy who ran that strip club in small town Saskatchewan seemed pretty okay with what sounded like a fairly dodgy practice, and I’d like to see business owners have an incentive to hire Saskatchewan performers over imported talent in general – not just in the thong-and-pasties categories. I think that’d go a long way to combating human trafficking in strip clubs.

Ultimately, I have to trust that the Premier of Saskatchewan is operating on some very compelling, very provable, very reliable statistics that without a shadow of a doubt prove that women (particularly) and men shaking their mostly nude booties in establishments where patrons consume liquor are at risk of human trafficking. Sadly, I don’t trust that the Premier of Saskatchewan has any such information, because if he did, he’d release it for public scrutiny. And if the Premier of Saskatchewan will backpedal so fast and so completely on this issue, what else is he going to backpedal on?

I’m disappointed in my province once again.

 

Saskatchewan Racist as Fuck No Surprise To Anyone But Folks Who Don’t Like Indians

Yeah, I stole the title from my own Twitter stream.

I’ve seen these headlines over the last couple of days that talk about how SHOCKED everyone is to find out that SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH has PROVEN that Saskatchewan is full of people who pretty much hate each other. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has lived in this province for more than ten minutes. Seriously, we can’t stand each other. But because it’s so goddamned cold in this province, we help each other because there’s a good chance that at some point in the near future you’re going to be stranded on that stretch of highway #1 between Moose Jaw and Swift Current where literally nothing happens for days unless someone is looking, which nobody ever is.

"Deny" image by Asif Akbar used royalty-free from freeimages.com
“Deny” image by Asif Akbar used royalty-free from freeimages.com

White folks are racist towards “The Indians” (or, if you’re outside of a small town but not quite in one of the cities, “The Natives”), “The Immigrants”, “Those Mooselimbs”, “The Catholics”, “The Protestants”, “That Black Guy” [excluding football players], “The Chinese” (sometimes also referred to as “Asians” as if Asia weren’t, you know, fucking immense and full of many nationalities, but whatever. See “The Indians” above.), “The French” and basically anyone who can’t trace their own lineage to other white folks. French people are not included as “white folks” because Quebec. And of course people (mostly dolts) talk about “reverse racism” (which doesn’t exist) which is what happens when a brown person hates a non-brown person. It’s still racism. It’s just the kind of racism that happens when an historically ill-served and abused culture ends up hating the privileged class or race.

And yes, I’m just going to go ahead and use the term “racist” and “racism” synonymously with “bigot” and “bigotry” because sometimes when I get going on a rant I don’t much care about the vagaries of nit-picky word origin when we all know what we mean. We mean the kind of knee-jerk, ingrained, culturally insensitive distaste and prejudice we have against an entire class/culture/group of people based on a single or small select group of characteristics. SO GO AHEAD AND TELL ME IT ISN’T TECHNICALLY RACISM TO HATE MUSLIMS. It’s still ruddy bigotry so that’s what we’re dealing with.

Look, we have a long and storied history of misunderstanding, ignoring, mistreating, and basically hating the Aboriginal peoples of our province. And the immigrant peoples. This comes primarily from the long and storied history we have, as descendents of Europeans, of hating each other. THIS IS WHAT WE DO. It should come as no surprise to anyone that WE STILL HATE EACH OTHER. Because what have we done to change our own behaviour?

Sure, you watched a movie about Gandhi, and boy howdy he was a really smart little Indian dude. You thought Nelson Mandela was kind of keen. You said you’d have voted for Obama. It’s sure easy to point our fingers at all the hate and intolerance all over the world and still be unable to see our own prejudices. To be unable to acknowledge that we still comment about how our doctors are “darkies, but they’re not quacks” (that’s a direct quote from a guy I know). To express shocking ignorance at our own history of systematic destruction of entire nations’ language, culture, and religion in what any other place would be called genocide or ethnic cleansing but what in Canada we choose to call “that nasty business with the residential schools”.

It’s pretty easy to say shit like “well all that nasty business that happened with the residential schools – you should just get over it. If it weren’t for the Europeans, you’d still be living in tents, for God’s sake”, which is something I still hear people say. And they’re not joking. Heaven forfend you should mention Treaties. Because somehow, magically, these internationally-binding agreements that *our government* signed on *our behalf* don’t apply to us? Because, what, that was just, you know, a thing that some dudes did, like, a hundred years ago or whatever but it doesn’t apply now.

Do you know why there are a bunch of different countries in Europe? Africa? Asia? BECAUSE OF INTERNATIONAL TREATIES, you boob.

Anyway. Yeah. That Saskatchewan is racist as fuck is not news. That very few people seem to be able to figure out that ACCURATE INFORMATION and education is the first way out of the hole into which we have all, seemingly quite happily, jumped is pretty sad. The first step in eradicating racism is a very, very easy step. But it involves leaving your ego at the door, and sadly, I don’t think we’re even close to that yet.

Great Tracts of Land

newbra This was another one of those yelly-at-the-radio days.

Listen, it isn’t very often that I’m actually *ashamed* of the place that I choose to live. I love this place 98% of the time. But then some ninny axes a film employment tax credit or some jackass starts up a petition against frigging strip clubs and I get a little tetchy. So here’s the deal. I’m sure you’ve already heard about this, and if you haven’t, I envy you.

A little while ago, Saskatchewan enabled some pretty sexist legislation. The gist of it is that we have now joined the rest of the filthy, heathen, craven and friendly-to-criminals places in the world that *allow* licensed establishments to feature exotic dancing – specifically, stripping – WHILE ALCOHOL IS SERVED. I know, I know, you’re clutching your pearls and reaching for the little tin of nitrous tablets you keep tucked just inside your girdle. You’re fanning yourself with the programme from this morning’s church service (where the sermon was “Wasn’t Jesus a Nice Guy? Like, He Was Really, Really Nice. Except To Some Of The Jews.”) You’ve screwed up your face into a tight little slit-eyes-and-pursed-lips potato and you are sitting down to write a letter. AND YOU MAY NOT OPEN IT WITH “DEAR” BECAUSE YOU ARE SO UPSET.

There is, of course, a catch to this legislation, but don’t let go of those pearls yet because it ACTUALLY GETS WORSE. Yes. WORSE THAN SERVING LIQUOR WHILE SOMEONE TAKES OFF THEIR CLOTHING IN PUBLIC. If you are a man, you can strip down to your loincloth, but if you are a woman, you have to truss up your milk taps. Because we all know that nipples killed JFK. And started the second world war. Probably at the same time because nipples, as we all know, can time travel. AND ARE RADIOACTIVE. It is, frankly, a wonder that any of us survived infancy at all. Thank GOD the dairy and pharmaceutical companies in the US put so much money into promoting infant formula!

…of COURSE I’m getting off topic.

[Reel it in, cenobyte. Reel it in.]

So MORE THAN TWENTY PEOPLE and groups will be speaking against a business owner who wishes to open a strip club in the industrial area (don’t worry, it’s nowhere near a bowling alley) in Regina. MORE THAN TWENTY. That’s, like, some kind of record. I think we only got seven speaking out against the stadium they’re building RIGHT NEXT TO THE EXISTING STADIUM. [And now we play ‘how many rage-inducing news stories can cenobyte fit in to one blog post?’]

Fine. Whatever. Speak out against strip clubs and show off your “Oral Roberts-Moral Majority-Right wing ultra conservative-Let’s try to get the church EVEN MORE involved in government” political leanings. Trot out your asinine (and, might I add, fallacious) argument that strip clubs mean organized crime, prostitution, and I dunno, probably scurvy. Trot out those arguments with absolutely no substantiation, no evidence, and, frankly, no common sense. If you just came right out and said “look, this is a knee-jerk reaction I’m having because frankly nakedness terrifies me”, I’d be much happier. But there are a few things going on here that grind my gears.

1) To the nutsack on the radio (“Rob from Regina”) who said “to these women who dance in strip clubs and have families, how do you look your children in the eye”, I’d just like to say “the same way you do, buttmunch”. People who choose to remove their clothing for money are exploiting very common human weaknesses: libido and voyeurism. You’re probably jealous that dancers can make more money in a weekend than you make in a month, *just by taking off their shirts and trousers and writhing to some shitty music*. The women and men who choose to dance at nightclubs are, by and large, not forced to do so. Dancing is an art form and a rigorous physical activity. Don’t believe me? Then get up in front of your television tonight and dance for an hour. Leave your clothes on if you’d like because everyone knows naked bodies are unclean in the eyes of the Lord. What is wrong with earning money by taking off your clothes? It’s a STRIP CLUB, not a goddamned BROTHEL. And if it WERE a brothel, there STILL shouldn’t be anything illegal about selling sex, but I fear I’m getting off topic again.

This may be the same nincompoop who said “I don’t want my children to have to see that every time we go to the pet store across the street; if this club opens, we will shop elsewhere”. a) Probably the businesses won’t notice your leaving, unless you drop several thousand dollars there a week, but the sentiment is appreciated; b) way to teach your children that avoiding an issue you feel strongly about is the best way to deal with it. Classy. Reeeeeal classy; c) I’m not making any judgements here, but when I go shopping for pet food with *my* kids, I choose not to stop at the strip club with them. I mean, that probably makes me some kind of Hitler, but the last time I was in Calgary and had to pick something up at a business across the street from the strip club, I just left the kids in the car with the windows rolled up and the doors locked and the engine shut off because safety first. They *were*, of course, wearing their safety helmets. It’s okay; I wasn’t gone more than a second. And they had their portable DVD players and watched reruns of Dora anyway. They kept begging me, “Mom, can we PLEASE go to that building over there that’s clearly closed in the middle of the day and has no windows and vomit in the parking lot? That place looks like a LOT of fun!”, but I just said no. Because sometimes, you have to say no to your children.

Astarte in Phonecia – statue from the Louvre, image from Wikipedia

2) The legislation itself is ridiculously sexist, and the application of it appears to also be sexist. It’s always really bothered me that strip clubs that feature women dancers do not have a cover charge for female patrons. I don’t understand that decision, and I don’t like it. I’ve been to several strip clubs, some “classier” than others, most featuring godawful music and a distinct aura of deep and abiding melancholy sadness and misery, but some of those dancers were bloody amazing to watch. I never much liked the lap dances, but then I read something about Astarte/Ishtar, who was a warrior goddess who embodied sex and fertility (her sister Asherah was the mother goddess, showing a distinct separation of sexual passion and motherhood, which some of us appear to have forgotten), and how she could control entire armies by dancing. She danced and inflamed the soldiers’ passions until they fought among themselves and kind of forgot to attack the thing they were going to attack. Then I think she killed them all and showed no mercy, but you know, this is why she is often represented as an “evil” goddess – we simply cannot abide women having any sort of power.

Again, I’m off-topic. I have a huge problem with the sexist nature of this legislation. I still don’t understand what makes female nipples so bloody terrifying; do strippers shoot acid out of them? Is that why female strippers need to wear electrical tape pasties? Are female strippers’ nipples wired to terror cells in the middle east so that crazed “radicalized” jihadists can personally identify western leaders and target them? [waves at the NSA – hope you enjoy the blog. Stay for some cookies after.] Oh, oh. *I* get it. Women’s nipples remind politicians of their grandmothers. THAT’S why they’re so scary.

3) You have no problem building your house within spitting distance of an oil refinery or a steel plant that probably pump tonnes of toxic whatever into the air right around the yard your kids probably don’t play in because teevee, but you’re getting your knickers in a knot over some people taking off their clothes in front of drunks? What is the worst that’s going to happen at a strip club? Some guys will have too much to drink and will try to touch one of the dancers or will start fighting over who gets to slip a $20 into Cinnamon’s thong, and they’ll be kicked out. Maybe some police will show up. Some woman will end up crying in the bathroom because her boyfriend whatever-whatever drama God I don’t miss my 20s. How is this different from *any other nightclub*? Gee. Call the national guard. Tell them people are morons when they drink and that someone, somewhere in your city has nearly naked boobies on display.

Why are you so afraid of men and women being sexually aroused in a public place? Do you not understand how SAD that really is? It’s the furthest thing from dangerous there is. Some poor schmo goes to the strip club to see naked people dancing (sorry: almost naked), has a few drinks, then goes home to have a sad and lonely wank over the Penthouse centrefold from January 1999. Or a bunch of women get together and actually can’t come up with anything better to do as a fundraiser or a night out together than to go to the strip club and watch oiled beefcakes shake their packages in sequined speedos. Several drinks later, those same ladies will be scrapping on the bus over some stupid thing that one of them said to someone else’s room-mate’s sister’s seventh dog’s previous owner.

Sex is entertainment just as much, if not more than, it is an intimate display of affection. Let’s just think about what else there is that we do which has been commodified, commercialised, and exploited. Sports, art, music, broadcasting, exercise, pregnancy, family, education, health care, agriculture, resource mining, renewable resources, food, labour, trades…Find me something that hasn’t had a reality show made about it, and I’ll concede that there’s a possibility that it hasn’t been exploited for money (yet). So why vilify the sex trade at all? And why vilify this pretty innocuous portion of the sex trade?

It’s just boobies, people. Just boobies. And junk. But mostly boobies. If you live in Regina and have an opinion on this, there’s a committee meeting tonight about it. Go have your voice heard. Whether you’re a pearl-clutcher (who is probably apoplectic after this rant) or not.

Creative Industry versus Arts

Recently, the Saskatchewan government released information surrounding the creation of a new agency to support the second and third and leg of the arts continuum. “What the hell are you talking about?” You may be asking. “What in the blue hell is an arts continuum?”

I know you’re asking this, because most of the criticism I’ve seen against the move by the government to create this agency has been all about how this will be the death knell for the Saskatchewan Arts Board (the oldest standing arms-length arts funding agency in the world, after London). I’ve heard that the creation of this agency was meant as a replacement for the film employment tax credit. Murray Mandryk mistakenly, in his column in the Regina Leader Post, claims that a fund included in this announcement was “siphoned” from the Arts Board and that the government “replaced a grant system for the film industry with a far less lucrative grant system for the entire arts community”. (Mandryk’s column in the Leader Post is here.)

I’m going to tell you what (in my opinion) the government has done wrong in this whole schlameel. First, they got rid of the Film Employment Tax Credit. That was just stupid. It was short-sighted, and it firmly placed Saskatchewan in last place in most of North America when it comes to progressive, revenue-generating programs for industrial arts grants. Second, they have not done very much (and it’s not just the government here; we all of us in the Creative Industries need to do more) to educate the people of this province about what the Creative Industries are and how they differ from “the Arts” and “Culture”.

So, with your indulgence, I’m going to tell you what the Creative Industries are and why what the SaskParty government is doing with Creative Saskatchewan is a Good Thing. I’m also going to tell you why Murray Mandryk is so wrong about that one million dollar ‘transitional fund’.

The Arts Continuum – Here’s how it works: And artist is a creator. Artists create art because that is their profession. Because they are driven to do so. Writers, painters, photographers, dancers, actors, musicians, sculptors, graphic artists, etc., are all *creators*. You/we make things from nothing. We transform things that already exist into something else. We are engaged in the creation of art. Some of us do this for the sake of art. Some of us do this to try to make a living. The arts in Canada must be publicly funded – and what I mean here is that there must be public funding for artists to create art. That is the role of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. They help make it possible for artists to create, and they help to promote and to foster an understanding and appreciation for the arts and for the importance of the arts. The Saskatchewan Arts Board is an integral part of Saskatchewan, and it isn’t going anywhere. I hope to God it isn’t going anywhere.

Once the creation process is complete, some art forms then go on to a production stage. This is the industrial component of the Arts Continuum, and it encompasses, but is not limited to, the commercialisation of the artistic product. What I mean is, a musician composes a song (art) and performs the song (art) and then records the song (production) and then sells the record (commercialisation). A writer pens a novel (art) and reads from the novel (art) and a publisher accepts the manuscript for publication (production) and sells the book (commercialisation). A producer finds a script she likes (an artistic product) and hires a director and actors to perform the screenplay (production) on film. That film is then distributed (commercialisation) and sold.

The Creative Industries are the PRODUCERS of artistic products. They are the art galleries, the recording studios (or the musicians themselves, if they produce their own recordings), the book publishers (or the writers themselves if they self-publish), the theatre companies, the film producers, the craftspeople and artisans whose primary focus is to distribute, sell, and market their products. Creative Saskatchewan is being constructed (and it’s important to note that this agency is still in gestational form – nothing is solid in its creation yet) for the purposes of supporting Creative Industries in a similar fashion to how the Saskatchewan Arts Board fosters artists and creators.

Many arts-focussed agencies (like the SK Arts Board) do not focus on sales, distribution, marketing, production, market penetration, etc.. Many arts-focussed agencies concentrate on supporting “the arts” and the CREATION of art. What the SaskParty Government is doing here is trying to foster the Creative Industries. The commercial aspect of the arts which is often kind of forgotten or overlooked. There are agencies that exist like this for the non-creative industries.

British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes provinces all have some kind of Creative Industries support. In most provinces in Canada, a model similar to what the government proposes for Creative Saskatchewan is in place IN ADDITION TO publicly funded arts agencies like the Saskatchewan Arts Board. The creative industries agencies help producers to access domestic and international markets with cultural products (books, movies, music, craftworks, visual art, dance productions, theatre productions, etc.). So what the SaskParty government is trying to do is to put Saskatchewan in the front of Canada’s Creative Industries, not have us trailing behind.

In other words, this agency is not, and was never proposed to be a “replacement for the Film Employment Tax Credit”. Creative Industry Sector Organisations have been talking about a creative industries agency for YEARS. Long before the government axed a perfectly good revenue-generation support for an entire industry. Be angry about their having axed that program. Be VERY angry about it. But don’t pretend that Creative Saskatchewan is intended to be a replacement or a band-aid or a consolation prize. And the film sector has been, is, and will be included in all of the planning for this agency. It’s not like the province just said “screw you; here’s your gift bag, go home” to the film industry.

This one million dollar fund that Murray Mandryk claims is being “siphoned” from the SK Arts Board was established years ago. Initially it was money that was supposed to be used for something entirely different. The SK Arts Board became the steward of that fund (following a review of the music industry in Saskatchewan, when all of the Creative Industries Sector Organisations were moved from one funding agency to another [from SaskCulture to SK Arts Board]) and it became their $1.15M revolving loan program. The truth of the matter is that that fund was under-utilized. It was not accessible to many creative industry applications because of the nature of their business models. The SK Arts Board did everything in their power to increase the use of the fund, but it just wasn’t something that most creative industries could use. The SK Arts Board, working with the Ministry of Parks, Culture, and Sport, have transitioned that fund from something completely unusable to something that DOES have real applications in the creative industries. So it’s not being siphoned from anywhere. It’s been changed so that people and cultural industries producers can actually use it.

What are the Creative Industries in Saskatchewan? Again, here the media releases have it a little wrong. “Writing” is not a creative industry. Writing is an artistic endeavour. PUBLISHING is a creative industry. Currently, the Creative Industries Sectors (and their related organisations) are: music (SaskMusic), film and television (SaskFilm and SMPIA), book publishing (Saskatchewan Publishers Group), craft (Saskatchewan Craft Council), art galleries (SaskArt), dance production (Dance Saskatchewan), theatre production (currently without an industry organisation but represented by individuals from the theatre production community), visual arts (CARFAC), and digital arts (and I’m ashamed that I can’t remember the name of the organisation that represents digital arts – which includes the games industry, btw). In all the media releases you have seen, “writing and publishing” has been included as a creative industry, and that’s wrong. It’s a small error, but it’s one that sticks in my craw.

It indicates that the government’s big mistake here is in not being as clear as possible about something that most of the people in this province have not heard of, are not familiar with, and don’t understand. Another shameful oversight is that nowhere in the media release or anywhere on the Government’s website is it indicated that Saskatchewan has and has had a well-established Creative Industries Council (a non-profit organisation developed by and run by people from the five original cultural industries organisations in the province) for years. Its website is here: http://www.culturalindstries.sk.ca.

So. That’s the deal. The SK Arts Board isn’t going to be taken over by Creative Saskatchewan. They have completely different mandates (or they will, once CS is actually created), and completely different applications, and completely different sectors/patrons. The provincial government isn’t trying to replace the Film Employment Tax Credit with this transitional fund, and they’re not trying to squeeze film out of the new agency. Their big mistake is in not taking up the mantle of public education about the Creative Industries, and, on a smaller scale, of *still* not quite getting it right when it comes to the publishing sector.

Labellium, Labellia, Labellioooo

(this post has been featured on Five Star Friday! Five Star Friday )

We are all so frightened of labels. We say we’re not, but really, we are. You say you don’t give a fig what other people think of you, but when someone calls you a bully or an intolerant bitch, there are plenty of figs to be given. It’s a veritable cornucopia of figs. A HORN O’FIGS A’PLENTY, one might say.

This has really struck home in the last few weeks as the Idle No More movement has swept across the country sparking action and debate. I made the mistake of listening to the radio this morning (it behoves me that there are so many ass-o-penny dinglehoppers on the radio nowabouts, because radio really is my first love, and lover, you’re losing me) and some jubejube said something about how Idle No More doesn’t really have a ‘focus’ and how their ‘platform’ is ‘vague’. I complained a little about this in my last post.

I’ve read the Idle No More website, and their focus seems pretty focussed to me. Sovereignty and working towards sustainable, renewable development of resources which need to be protected. That’s…that’s pretty clear. I mean, short of saying “we want a say in how our environment is going to be used”, I’m really not sure how much more clear that could be. Personally, I think there are people who CHOOSE not to “get it”. Just so that they can be thicky thick thick McThickertons from Thickville (to borrow liberally from my favourite Doctor). Perhaps I have misunderstood entirely what the movement is about.

Anyway, aside from the thicky thick thick McThickertons from Thickville, there’s something else going on that’s really interesting. People are talking. And most of the time, they’re skirting around some pretty big button items. They’re speaking in a kind of code. It’s not a subtle code, but it’s code nonetheless. And they’re speaking in this code because they’re terrified of being labelled. Specifically, they’re terrified of being labelled racists.

Whether you support this grassroots movement or not, you are entitled to your opinion. Whether you believe Canada’s First Nations are actually sovereign nations is your decision entirely. Whether you believe the Government of Canada is doing all the treaty people a huge disservice by inserting the thin edge of the wedge into waterways and environmental protection is completely your game. You get to think what you want and you get to say what you want and personally I think you ought to do so without being afraid of the labels you’re going to have stuck on you.

I mean, if you *are* a racist, then I want to hear you say it. I want to hear you say “I just don’t like Native people.” Then I know where I stand.

And…and here’s the really important bit. It’s super duper important. It’s probably one of the most important things I’m going to say in a while. Just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean you are being discriminatory or bigoted. That means you can disagree with Idle No More without being a racist. You can disagree with the treaties themselves without being a racist. You can hate the fact that ANY Canadians get treated differently from any OTHER Canadians, and that doesn’t make you a racist.

You’re going to hear a lot of words bandied about in this narrative. You’re going to hear words like patriarchal and colonial and my own personal favourite, “white privilege” (I get a kick out of people who don’t think the term white privilege is racist. Of COURSE it’s racist. If it were just ‘privilege’, it’d be different, but once you assign an ethnicity/skin colour to it by which you define a group of people who may or may not be a part of the group, you’re using bigoted terminology). You’re going to hear a lot about sovereignty and nation-to-nation consultation and discussion. You’re going to hear a lot about injustice and inequity.

I’m not saying those things don’t exist. I’m saying they’re buzzwords. And a lot of the time, people use buzzwords like that because either they think it makes them sound more clever or more authentic or they think it gives their arguments more gravitas. The *problem* with using buzzwords is that they begin to lose their meaning. They begin to be a bit fuzzy.

I, and my family for the past three generations are part of Treaty 4. You can find the entirety of Treaty 4 here. And you can find a guide to Treaty 4 here. In fact, you can find all of the treaties signed between the British Empire and the First Nations peoples in those same locations. I am not going to go in to much about the treaties, because I am by no means a scholar in the subject and barely even have a working knowledge of them. But I have read Treaty 4, and much of Treaties 5 and 6, and some of Treaty 7. I may have read more than that in grade school, but I don’t now recall it if I did (yes, we did study the treaties when I was in grade school).

I come from a place of privilege. Great privilege, in fact. Both of my parents are University graduates and had good-paying careers. All four of my grandparents had careers (not just jobs) and earned good incomes for their families. Seven out of eight of my great-grandparents had paying jobs that helped them provide for their families. None of my grandparents were harmed in residential schools. None of them was told they could not practice their religion nor speak their language. Only the women were told they could not go to the same public places others could. My grandparents and my parents were able to provide for me the sort of life their own grandparents couldn’t have imagined. And I benefitted from this over and over, and still do, to this day.

I had a stable home to live in. We had good food to eat. I had good clothes to wear. I received an excellent education. I received excellent health care. We owned our own land, and our own home. We had income and savings. We could afford to travel. I was able to participate in sports and in cultural groups and events. The cycle of substance abuse was stopped. The history of violence ended before I ever came into the world. My life was stable. But more than that, my life was SAFE.

Perhaps this all happened because of the colour of my great-grandparents’ skin. Or because of the religion my grandparents observed. My ancestors are survivors of colonialism and were driven from their native land. Their religion and culture was outlawed as well. Yet I still come from a place of privilege. And I don’t think for a moment that that makes me better or worse than anyone else. I also recognise that’s probably the privilege talking. It’s easy for me to say that because I don’t know what it’s like any other way. And that is absolutely, 100% true. I could very well be talking out of my arse here.

When I was young, there were families living on the student residence up the street from my home. My neighbour’s auntie, who was an elder, used to have me over for fry bread and tea. I learned a lot from that terrifying woman. I think most of all, I learned respect. Because she demanded it. Because she lived it. She just…she HAD it, you know?

So listen, I don’t consider myself a bigot. I really don’t. Maybe I am. Maybe I have some outdated ideas, or maybe my ideas come from ignorance or from a lack of empathy or understanding. I freely admit these are all possibilities.

I also freely admit that I don’t know if “assimilation” is good or bad. I can see both sides of the argument. Sure, every citizen of a country ought to have the same rights and privileges. Sure, there are historical inequities and injustices that must be addressed before we can consider ourselves to be on equal ground with many cultural groups in Canada. First Nations, whose ancestral grounds we now call ‘home’. Asian peoples, whose ancestors emigrated here and were essentially treated as indentured servants. Japanese and eastern European people, who were placed in internment camps during the war on suspicion of espionage and treason. We all of us have rights, and we all of us deserve to be treated with respect and with a mind to the historical wrongs which have been committed against us by our own government.

My point here is why can’t we have these discussions with one another without fear of reprisal of being labelled as intolerant, discriminatory, racist bigots? Why can’t we express our opinions without having to FIGHT about them? I support the Idle No More movement. I support the Duty to Consult (incidentally, if you’d like to know more about the government’s legislated duty to consult with First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples regarding land use, stewardship, etc., there’s a really good book out there about it called The Duty to Consult: New Relationships with Aboriginal Peoples by Dwight G. Newman. And if you’d like to read up on Treaty and Constitutional Rights, check out Aboriginal Law: Commentary and Analysis by Thomas Isaac). I don’t know what I think about “assimilation”; it sounds terrible. I don’t know what I think about Bills C-30 and C-45 (did I get those both right?). My gut reaction is that the federal government, which I don’t trust any further than I can stand to PM Harper Himself, is using these omnibus bills to, if you’ll pardon the expression, bend us over a sawhorse and leave us with our britches to the wind when it comes to environmental protection and the sovereignty of our waterways. I haven’t any evidence to substantiate that suspicion.

But I don’t think it’s fair to call me a racist if I don’t agree with your position. If I don’t want to use words like colonialism and patriarchy and ‘white privilege’. I agree that genocides have been committed, without agreeing that my family is in some way personally responsible. Particularly when they were fleeing the same institutions that did the same thing to their families so far away. They didn’t vote for the King or the Queen. They didn’t want that government. And for cripe’s sake, some of them weren’t even white. WHY DOES THE COLOUR OF THEIR SKIN MATTER?

Argh. I’ve got myself all off-topic again.

But the gist of all of this is that I think it’s *possible* and, indeed *necessary* to get rid of the incendiary language if we’re going to actually have meaningful discussions. You can say what you mean to say without being arrogant or aggressive or cruel or vindictive, and so can I. We can talk about important things that matter without starting a fight. And we must. Because whether you agree with me or not, if you live in this country, your future depends on the Treaties. Your future depends on the sovereignty of our nation, of our nation’s ability to and willingness to provide due diligence when it comes to land and resource use policy and implementation. Your future depends on our ability to speak plainly to one another and to try to understand, even if we’ll never live in one another’s lives, and never truly share each other’s memories and souls. Your future depends on our government’s willingness to follow their own laws without passing new legislation that works around other legislation or that provides a convenient loophole or exception to the laws and agreements that this country was founded upon.

Because if you will not uphold Canada’s foundations, the entire house of cards will come tumbling down around us, eagle feathers, wheat sheaves, and all.