The first day I came to Parliament Hill in 2008, an MP told me I had a “fine body.” I was startled and offended. Remarks that sexualize a colleague in the workplace are not a compliment.
As one of the few young women in Parliament, I have had MPs discuss my clothing: “Hey, Megan, those are some pretty pink tights you have there.” When I heard that from six male Parliamentarians in a day, I began to sense their discomfort in dealing with me as a peer.
Parliament Hill as a workplace is so “special” it’s exempt from the Canada Labour Code. It means federal employees here do not have the same workplace protection as other federal workers. This disturbs me. There is no real support network for many staff; it’s every woman for herself.
What is it like in the House of Commons? There is a locker-room mentality; some women have told me they’ve been touched by caucus colleagues: “You’re so pretty, look at you hair today,” with a pat. I would never walk up to the Minister of Defence and touch his hair. The treatment is different.
In the last Parliament the gender-based heckling was so prominent, some women were jeered just for standing to state a question or comment in the House. I’ve heard the remarks from male MPs: “Oh, sit down”; “What’s she going on about?”
Once in the Commons, a woman cabinet minister who’d been asked several questions made a remark to the Speaker, “I’m up and down a lot today” – and I was struck by the crude backtalk from members of this minister’s own caucus. I had to turn in my chair and say, “I’m sitting right here!” They were the kind of remarks these men would be too embarrassed to say directly to the minister, or me; but the mentality was there.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the allegations of violence currently facing Mr. Ghomeshi and I didn’t feel like I had an especially unvoiced opinion. Now I do. My opinion is this: you’re all full of crap.
By “you,” I mean the people who are remotely shocked by this story. The ones who are saying that this, right now, is a watershed moment. That some collective “we” has finally had enough of violence, done by men, against women, and will no longer allow for it to be swept under the rug.
Why is now that moment? Why wasn’t it when Robert Pickton dismembered dozens of women’s bodies in Port Coquitlam, B.C., and fed them to his pigs? During the investigation into that horror, RCMP officer Catherine Galliford was told by a male colleague that he fantasized that she was one of the victims. I wonder why she didn’t just call the police.
If only there had been other opportunities: hundreds of indigenous women in this country are missing, going back decades. Don’t be fooled, their lost bodies aren’t lying in nice coffins in proper graves with their hands crossed peacefully over their chests. Unlike Mr. Ghomeshi’s alleged victims as described by the Toronto Star, these dozens and dozens and dozens of women generally weren’t “educated and employed.” That’s why they can’t ignite change, I guess.
So, this is the time to act? What was wrong last year, when Ottawa’s Mark Hutt was finally found guilty of murdering his wife, Donna Jones, in 2009? After years of obscene physical and emotional abuse, Mr. Hutt threw a pot of boiling water on Ms. Jones, then locked her in the basement. It took her three days to die. The autopsy found that she had nine fractured ribs and 29 air gun pellets in her body. Not dramatic enough to rally around, it seems.
I don’t get it. I don’t get what is known now that was a mystery yesterday – or why what was ignored yesterday is now so urgent to address. All that’s different now is that we know one guy’s name, and that guy happens to be famous.
We’ve already learned how at least one journalism instructor kept his female students from interning with Mr. Ghomeshi, slapping a Band-Aid on a festering sore. As the story grows, I’m sure we’ll hear how star power and fearful bureaucracy let this open secret grow into an open wound: be advised that this broken system is not the CBC, or journalism, or Canada – but the whole world.
One of the women who came forward about Mr. Ghomeshi is my friend Reva Seth. I met Reva when we were about eight years old, but neither one of us shared these experiences before. Think about two eight-year-olds, and then two grown women carrying their histories of violence. It should drive you to wild grief, but it’s not a secret, or a mystery.
I’m not swayed by the newly enlightened, standing with outstretched, protective arms, advising victims of violence that there’s no longer a need to be ashamed or afraid of coming forward. Let me tell you what too many have heard, and will continue to hear, perhaps forever.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you.
I remember my mom accusing me of manufacturing the memories of my abuse. This was after she had been warned that something was wrong by someone else and dismissed it, the person had confessed to my father (who believed it must be consensual), and she had read my personal diary where I wrote about it (thanks for snooping there). After it all came out, my parents would repeat the lies that my molestor told them as truth.
Those words stick with me to this day.
I don’t believe you
I don’t believe you
i don’t believe you
Among the women who currently toil on or around the Hill, there are few whose institutional memory of the ways of Parliament Hill goes back as far as mine does.
I first came to Ottawa to report on federal politics in 1977 as a very junior twenty-something Radio-Canada reporter.
It was a brief sojourn.
Within a few months, I came to the conclusion that the then-male bastion of Parliament was not the best working environment for a young female journalist to spend her formative professional years in.
A few days before I headed back to Toronto and a freelance journalism gig my colleagues invited me to tag along to a Quebec MP’s annual Christmas office party.
There were a few other women attending the party but they had been hired for the occasion and each had settled on a male guest’s lap by the time we arrived.
It was a decade before I returned to the Hill. There were more women in Parliament the second time around but its boys’ club mentality seemed fundamentally unchanged.
Over the years that followed, I remember counselling a younger colleague who wondered if she was cut out for political coverage after a failed attempt to connect with the Liberal leadership team she had been assigned to.
A dinner with one of the candidate’s organizers had ended abruptly when her guest called for the bill and chided her for not having understood that she was meant to be dessert. I suggested sticking to lunches in the future.
On the constitutional road show a few years later, I remember how women staffers and reporters all knew better than to risk being cornered in a seat by a certain MP on the committee’s bus.
On two occasions, people associated with the parliamentary page program casually dropped hints that their protégés sometimes had to interact with MPs or senators whose hands tended to travel.
Over time the number of women in the press gallery reached a critical mass.
A more egalitarian generation of politicians found its way to the Hill. It includes a significant contingent of women.
A washroom off the lobby of the House of Commons was even made accessible to them!
But it apparently takes longer to change attitudes than it does to relocate a washroom.
The allegations that have surfaced this week suggest that some old habits die hard — including that of sweeping harassment issues under the rug.
Few are more vulnerable to allegations of personal misconduct than elected politicians and there has long been an implicit gentlemen’s agreement (pun intended) between the parties to deal with such matters under the radar.
Until now …
Sadly I think that agreement to brush things under the rug was far more persuasive then Parliament Hill and the CBC.
Just doing some planning for Christmas dinner. A favourite recipe that I thought I would share. You can also find it at The Cooking Blog.
- 1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup shredded American-Cheddar cheese blend (4 oz)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 bag (12 oz) frozen cut green beans, thawed, drained
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups Cheddar French-fried onions (from 6-oz can)
- Heat oven to 350°F. In 1 1/2-quart casserole, stir together soup, cheese blend and soy sauce. Stir in green beans, bell pepper and 1 cup of the onions.
- Cover; bake about 30 minutes or until beans are tender and mixture is heated through. Stir; top with remaining 1/2 cup onions.
- Bake uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until onions are brown and crisp.
Gabor Mate and the causes of narcissism in people (like Jian Ghomeshi)
There is a time in life, in infancy, when we are all narcissists. In this early developmental phase we implicitly believe the world revolves around us, and properly so: we have but to feel a need, and the world moves to meet it. The people who remain stuck in narcissism, whether everyday narcissism expressed as ordinary self-centredness or the extreme forms we label as pathological, are the ones who never fully developed past that early stage. We graduate from a developmental phase only if our needs at that stage were fully satisfied. And in our society, most children do not get their needs met.
The growth of a healthy self depends on emotionally rich, attuned interactions with parents who are emotionally present and available. Stressed, depressed or anxious parents, or those who were themselves traumatized, may be incapable of providing their children with such interactions. In our increasingly alienated, isolating, and hyper-stressed culture, many children grow up under conditions characterized by what the seminal psychologist and researcher Alan Schore has called “proximal separation”: the parents are physically there but often emotionally absent. In this context healthy human development is impaired. Thus narcissism pervades our culture.
I am a big fan of Mate, he has helped me understand a lot of the issues I have had as an adult but I always find him talking about narcissism fascinating.
If you looked up “proximal separation” in a dictionary, it would show my home as a kid. My parents were there but were always emotionally absent. Since they were emotionally absent, they never realized that was the case. I’m the same way as a parent. Jordon is the one that has seen it and helps me relate to the kids. The difference is that Jordon sees it and can call me on it.
The rage against women is rooted in what the late feminist scholar Dorothy Dinnerstein identified as the “female monopoly of early child care,” where an isolated woman is seen by the child as the sole source of nourishment, physical soothing, and emotional support. In a mobile and economically unstable society, it falls upon an individual female to become the entire world for the child. The male child, finding his needs frustrated, develops rage. As the brilliant Canadian psychologist Gordon Neufeld points out, “frustration is the engine of aggression.”Rage against the mother later becomes generalized into rage against women. In pathological cases, that hostility is acted out precisely in moments when intimacy is sought, such as sex, because it was in early moments of vulnerable intimacy that the narcissistic wound was sustained. The rage is an implicit memory of intense proximal separation. Many boys also witness and absorb the hostility of their overworked and emotionally alienated fathers and, unconsciously, blame their mothers for not having protected them.
The area’s relative obscurity is not just name-related. With a combined population of less than 1.5 million, the Guyana Three are hardly a hotspot for news. If you know three things about French Guiana, it’s probably these: there’s a pepper (and a Porsche) named after its capital, Cayenne; the notorious French penal colony of Devil’s Island was located off its shore; and it’s the site of the European Space Agency’s spaceport, at Kourou. Suriname? Two things: the Netherlands traded it with the English for New Amsterdam, and it’s the only Dutch-speaking country outside of Europe. Guyana? The Jonestown Massacre of 1978.
But as a set, the three entities are a significant anomaly, and a case study in the way that geology and the environment can combine with geopolitics to shape a region’s history.
Since Belize won independence in 1981, French Guiana is the last territory on the American mainland controlled by a non-American power. But in fact, all three Guyanas are Fremdkörper in Latin America: they are the only territories in the region without either Spanish or Portuguese as a national language. These are coastal countries, culturally closer to the Caribbean.
Moreover, these shores are cut off from the rest of the subcontinent by dense rainforest. And that jungle remains virgin by virtue of the Guyana Shield, a collection of mountain ranges and highlands seemingly designed to conserve the interior’s impenetrability . The shield is best known for its tepuis: enormous mesas that rise dramatically from the jungle canopy and are often home to unique flora and fauna (tepuis feature prominently in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” and, more recently, the animated film “Up.”)
But the ultimate scapegoat for the loneliness of the Guyanas is Pope Alexander VI. It was he who decreed the Papal Line of Demarcation in 1493, dividing the new world between the Spanish and the Portuguese. The line ran halfway between the Portuguese-held Cape Verde Islands and the new Spanish possessions of Cuba and Hispaniola. This border was meant to put an end to the bickering between the two Iberian powers, giving Spain rights to all lands west of the line and Portugal to anything east of it. Divide and conquer, indeed.
It gives you an idea of why Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, and Venezuela are so isolated from the rest of the world.
The Sutherland Forest Nursery Station played a vital role in the settlement and development of the Prairies from 1913 to 1966. Shipping 147 million trees over a span of 50 years, the nursery supplied the northern part of the Prairie Provinces with an abundance of caragana, ash, maple, elm and willow. When the nursery was closed, a portion of the site was reopened as the Forestry Farm Park by the City of Saskatoon in 1966.
We checked out the meditation garden, the trout pond, and Oliver played on the playground. As you can see the trout pond was full of Canadian geese. What you could not see was three boys running around trying to chase the geese who made the displeasure known by honking up a storm.
As you can see by the photo, there are peacocks roaming the grounds and I was able to get a couple of up close shots.
I hoard. My friend Gloria told me once it is because I can’t make decisions. She could be right.
A couple of years ago Jordon and I tackled our basement. I cried and wept and sobbed but in the end, I got rid of so much stuff it made my head spin. You know what, I missed none of it.
Today I tackled my kitchen. It has been a sore spot between Jordon and I for a year. He wants me to toss stuff out. I didn’t want to. Finally I waded in and started to toss stuff. Cups, bowls, food, and even appliances. It all went. Some went to Value Village but most went to the garbage. I now have empty cupboards, a very clean fridge, a lot less junk which feels pretty cool.
I have been reading the book housedetox by Sara Burford to help me with this process.
She has great tips for all parts of your house and when I apply them it feels pretty awesome.
Next up is our bedroom. It isn’t cluttered but I do need to clean out my closet. We are repainting and redecorating it this winter so it will give me some incentive to get rid of as much stuff as I can from there.