Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Appointed 10 years ago by Tory Premier Mike Harris, Douglas is now at the centre of a misconduct investigation after insisting during a November trial that a witness who is HIV-positive and has Hepatitis C don a mask while testifying in his courtroom. He later moved the case to a bigger courtroom in order to create more distance between the witness and himself.
As Star reporter Tracey Tyler writes in the article, three groups have complained to the Ontario Judicial Council. Their complaints target not only Douglas, but two courts – his own and the Superior Court of Justice, for failing to clearly condemn the behaviour.
"The HIV virus will live in a dried state for year after year after year and only needs moisture to reactivate itself," Douglas insisted, according to a transcript of the Nov. 23 trial proceedings.
In their Jan. 17 letter of complaint, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario) say Douglas's response to the witness, a complainant in a sexual assault case, reveals "shockingly discriminatory thinking" and is a "particularly extreme example of unacceptable conduct by a judicial officer."
"This is outlandish," Bluma Brenner, an assistant professor at the McGill AIDS Clinic at McGill University in Montreal, told the Toronto Star yesterday. A drop of human immunodeficiency virus drying on the floor "would be inactivated within 20 minutes," Brenner said in an interview. After this, the virus in the drop is dead forever.
The Star article discusses the issue of judge education and training around issues like HIV.
But as far as I'm concerned, no judge sitting on any bench anywhere in Canada should have any excuse for this kind of ignorance. They shouldn't have to receive special training to dispel their irrational fears and prejudices around HIV. They should be intelligent and sophisticated enough to have received this education on their own long ago. That's what we're paying them for.
With his comments and actions, Justice Jon-Jo Douglas has proven himself unfit for the bench. He should be fired immediately.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
All the best to the other great blogs also nominated. Here's to many more great years of dialoguing.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
What a great speech as well from Julie Christie, who won for Away from Her. Sarah Polley must still be blushing.
Looks like No Country For Old Men is the current frontrunner for Best Pic at the Oscars.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Catholic School Boards ignore queer students, reject participating in groundbreaking homophobia student survey...
When we should be discovering ourselves and exploring what it means to be a human being without having to live with the responsibility of adulthood, it's awful so many queer youth find themselves hiding and lying. I used to calculate my every gesture, my every word, in order to make sure no one could detect my gay side. I was an expert in denial. I often look back now and wish things had been different.
Homophobia was a terrible problem in my high school. Anti-gay jokes and vitriol were widespread. Staying closeted was the safest way to survive the experience, although I was harassed from time to time for seeming a little queer. I suspect most queer youth still remain in the closet for the duration of their high school years, although we do know of many brave souls who tell their fellow students the truth. Still, those who come out in high school take huge risks, possibly subjecting themselves to violence and harassment.
Recently, EGALE Canada (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) announced it would conduct a major student survey of homophobia in Canadian schools, partnering with the University of Winnipeg. Education Professor Catherine Taylor is heading a research team that hopes to hear from 10,000 Canadian high school students by June of this year.
"It's a huge issue in education. People have been dragging their heels, because it's a hot-button issue," Taylor said.
"We're trying to get a really good snapshot of the environment in schools right now," Taylor said. "There has been a lack of good data on the situation in Canadian schools."
Sadly, not all school boards are interested in exploring and alleviating the personal hells their queer students are experiencing under their watch. The CBC ran this story yesterday detailing how two Ontario Catholic school boards (plus one in Alberta) rejected allowing their students to participate in the groundbreaking survey.
One rejection letter came from the chair of the Wellington Catholic District School Board in Guelph, my hometown. Rev. Dennis Noon wrote in capital letters "Not interested thank you," and later told CBC News that homophobia is not a big issue for his board.
Really, Reverend Noon? You don't know what's happening in your schools, I must say.
This brings up yet again the touchy question of mixing religion and public education. This kind of knee-jerk rejection by Catholic school trustees reminds me of how the Catholic school board in Oshawa handled the case of Marc Hall in 2002. Openly gay, Hall wanted to take his then-boyfriend with him to their school prom, but his principal and then the board's trustees told him no, worried giving him this freedom would violate the precepts of the Catholic faith. Hall won in the end when a court injunction forced the board to allow Hall to bring his boyfriend to the prom.
Although the Hall case never made it to trial (as Hall dropped the case a few years later), the court injunction provided some insight into how our courts view the rights of students versus the rights of Catholic school boards, at least in Ontario. Catholic school boards in Ontario are publicly-funded, after all. Thus they should have a responsibility to adhere to Ontario's human rights laws, not just Catholic doctrine.
By allowing homophobia to go unchallenged in their schools, to the point where they won't even let students participate in a survey like this, these Catholic school trustees have once again let their queer students down. Shame.
If Catholic boards keep this up, support for abolishing these separate boards in Ontario will only continue to grow. As we know, the status quo in Ontario - whereby the public funds one public system alongside one Catholic system - is discriminatory and unfair to other faiths. As most Ontarians reject the John Tory notion of expanding religious education, the only other acceptable option is to abolish the Catholic system in Ontario in favour of one public system for all.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Former U.S. Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore gives us yet another reason to wish he'd become President in 2000 with this recent internet video in which he endorses equal marriage rights for gay and lesbians.
Gore hits the nail on the head when he asks, "Shouldn't we be promoting faithfulness and loyalty to one's partner regardless of sexual orientation?"
If only Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had his courage. I suspect both current Democratic candidates, deep down, believe in full equality for LGBT Americans. They're just playing it safe this election year.
But statements like this from Gore will go a long way to encouraging more Americans to consider the folly of continued inequality under the law in their country. At least, I hope so.
It's been a joy watching this great man transform from a tightly scripted Presidential candidate in 2000 to the true leader he is today.
For more on Gore, read this.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
As stated previously, this "new" policy announcement was completely bungled by Tony Clement's federal health department. In the end, it was simply another opportunity for the Harper-crites to reinforce one of their favourite falsehoods: that gay men are inherently unhealthy.
I tore up my organ donor card after I first heard about this "new" rule, despite the fact that my organs can still be used after my death. I'm sure many other gay men did the same. That was the real impact of this fiasco - fewer healthy organs are now available. When will I get a new organ donor card? Not sure.
This follows this hate group's long-standing tradition of picketing the funerals of gay men and even U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.
Christianity will be dead in the United States and elsewhere in a few decades if these guys keep this up. For those of us on the progressive left working to promote a more secular, free and just society, where all human beings are loved and respected, you're making our jobs easier, Fred.
I learned in Catholic school a long time ago that Jesus wants us to love our fellow men and women and not to judge. I've never been able to decipher anything remotely Christian in Phelps' words and actions and I'm sure I never will.
********** UPDATE **************
Canuck Attitude posted about this as well. He pointed out a great comment by Marina Hyde at the Guardian on the same subject:
"Further comment feels unnecessary, other than perhaps to wonder whether the "church" will ever realise that their continued existence is the most eloquent argument against the existence of any deity. And then to accept the answer would be a no."
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
"Australian-born actor Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday at a downtown Manhattan apartment, naked in bed with sleeping pills nearby, police said. The Australian-born actor was 28. It wasn't immediately clear if Ledger had committed suicide. He had an appointment for a massage at a residence in the tony neighborhood of SoHo, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. A housekeeper who went to let him know the massage therapist had arrived found him dead at 3:26 p.m...
"While not a marquee movie star, Ledger was a respected, award-winning actor who chose his roles carefully rather than cashing in on his heartthrob looks. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, where he met Michelle Williams, who played his wife in the film. The two had a daughter, Matilda, and lived together in Brooklyn until they split up last year."
Like many gay men, Ledger's break-out film Brokeback Mountain continues to hold a very special place in my heart. No gay-themed film reached as wide an audience as that 2005 flick, won as much world-wide acclaim, winning eight Oscar nods including Best Picture and Best Actor for Ledger. I still think it was robbed of the Best Pic win by Paul Haggis' decent but average Crash.
Much of Brokeback's success was due to Ledger's note perfect lead performance. He played the tortured closet case Ennis del Mar in love with Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist. As a gay man, Ledger's portrayal resonated with me greatly and brought me to tears by the end of the film. In many ways, the character represented the embodiment of shame and self-hate, a product of his traditional, American, cowboy culture.
Although the beautiful actor starred in many feature films over the last 10 years, I continue to believe Ledger's achievement in Brokeback will be watched and admired for years to come as a landmark in acting.
Very, very tragic.
Halifax actress Ellen Page is another young Canadian nominated for an Oscar this year; she's up for Lead Actress for her performance in Juno.
Juno's Montreal-born director Jason Reitman is also up for Best Director.
Viggo Mortensen nabbed a Best Actor nomination for his great performance in David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises.
Other Canadian or Canadian-related nominations include two animated shorts: I Met the Walrus by producer Josh Raskin, and Madame Tutli-Putli by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (produced with the National Film Board of Canada.)
The full list of nominations can be found on the Oscar website. Please expect my predictions on winners prior to Feb 24...
Monday, January 21, 2008
Voters in Toronto Centre head to the polls in one of four byelections to be held that day across the country.
Meredith was appointed by Tory party central to replace Mark Warner, the party's original candidate in the riding, who claims he was ousted in part because he was too supportive of queer issues.
Meredith now faces an uphill battle against Liberal candidate Bob Rae and queer immigration lawyer El-Farouk Khaki for the NDP (plus Green Party candidate Chris Tindal.)
According to the Xtra interview, Meredith admits he has a "moderate level of understanding" of queer issues. Despite the fact he's a Pentecostal minister, he says he supports keeping same sex marriage because it's now the law.
"I will champion those rights for those individuals of that orientation. I have no issue with what the law says."
As for the possibility of Stephen Harper sneaking in a revisiting of the issue after the next election, should the Tories win a majority, Meredith's reply is a relief.
"It's been debated and deliberated. I truly believe that this thing would not be brought back. And if it is, it is the law and we would vote according to what the law is."
So Meredith appears to be more open-minded than his bio would have us believe.
Yet this quote is cause for concern:
"It's the right of individuals to choose their orientation. Individuals have chosen. In terms of my sexual orientation I support the gay and lesbian community in what they have in terms of supporting the choices that they have made."
If he has any gay Tories working his campaign, perhaps they'll find the time to educate him that being gay is certainly not a choice, as we know.
Meredith's "individuals have chosen," comment reminds me of the ex-gay therapy movement, which claims the ability to "cure" gays and lesbians who choose to be straight. Of course, we know such therapies are fraudulent and never "cure" individuals of their inborn orientation.
Of course, I'm not suggesting Meredith supports homosexuals being "cured." It just seems highly likely his knowledge of LGBT issues has only started with this by-election campaign. He seems open to listening. He's running in the riding after all.
When asked if he believes homosexuality is a sin, he replies, "I am not God and I will not play God. My Bible tells me, "Judge not lest ye be judged.""
Overall, Meredith's comments don't scare me too much. I'm sure the by-election campaign will provide him with ample opportunity to learn more. It seems heavy-handed to be too critical of him, especially since we know he faces a huge uphill battle winning this vote against Bob Rae. I suspect voters will agree on March 17 that Rae is by far the best candidate in this race.
I'd love to be able to vote for Rae, but I will be moving out of the Toronto Centre riding on Feb 1. Yet somehow I think Rae won't be needing my one little vote to get over the top.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
He uses the following falsehood to bolster his argument that continued Canadian combat operations in the most dangerous region of Afghanistan are necessary: "Most of our casualties in Kandahar have been suffered in (improvised explosive device) attacks."
This is simply not the case, according to this breakdown of Canadian casualties in Afghanistan since 2001. Sixty-nine of the 78 deaths (77 soldiers, one diplomat) have taken place since the Canadians were rotated into Kandahar in early 2006. Of those, 32 have been caused either by roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Perhaps I'm quibbling with numbers, but surely anyone familiar with basic mathematics can tell that 32 out of 69 cannot constitute "most of (the) casualties in Kandahar." That's less than half of the casualties. Of course, not all of those 32 were killed by improvised explosive devices. By my count, only 11 were the result of IEDs, four less than the 15 killed in combat operations in Kandahar.
Here's the full breakdown since 2001 of Canadian deaths in Afghanistan (as of today, Jan 20, 2008):
KILLED IN EXPLOSION
LAV III ROLLOVER/CRASH
ROADSIDE BOMB/IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE
COMBAT/FIRE FIGHT/ROCKET ATTACK/AIR & GROUND OFFENSIVE AGAINST TALIBAN/HELICOPTER SHOT DOWN
SHOOTING INCIDENTS, STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION
FELL FROM TOWER
Den Tandt argues that Canada's combat operations in Kandahar are actually undermining the Taliban's ability to use more IEDs or roadside bombs. He may or may not be right. But if the Canadian mission is rotated out of the danger zone, one can only assume this would likely lessen Canadian casualties.
I guess he assumes that Canadians would remain in Kandahar once we are no longer engaging in combatting the Taliban directly, and therefore would be sitting ducks to their attacks.
Why are the Taliban targeting Canadians with roadside bombs and IEDs? Because we are in their home region for the purposes of hunting down and killing them. They are fighting back. It's war.
By February 2009, we will have been engaged in direct combat with the Taliban in Kandahar for three years. That is quite the contribution. This is a NATO mission, not a Canadian mission. Our allies must also do their part and face up to their responsibilities as well. I know many Canadian conservatives agree with that. I don't think we should cut and run, we should share the heavy burden with our allies who are letting us down.
Friday, January 18, 2008
At the heart of the issue is our flawed process for nominating candidates: the only voters who get to decide who runs locally for a political party are local party members. Theoretically, any one, no matter how extreme or inexperienced, can run for a nomination, sign up thousands of friends or instant party members, get them to a nominating meeting and win a local party nomination. This is not democracy by any stretch of the imagination, it is the perverting of democracy, the manipulation of the local voting pool in favour of one candidate or candidates. That's why all this talk coming out of Saskatchewan of late is so annoying, like the signing up of hundreds of instant Liberals is democratic. Sure, it's more democratic than appointing someone, but the power to appoint was put in place to counteract the irresponsible abilities of bad local candidates from taking over a riding association and hoisting themselves on the nation and party.
We need a new way of nominating local candidates, one that mimics the American process. Instead of only paid-up party members voting in nominating races, why not expand the party electorate to include all voters who publicly identify as "Liberal" voters, or "Conservative" voters, or "NDP" voters, etc? The pool of voters to nominate a local candidate would be all voters in the riding who identify with that party. Throw in "independent" voters who choose not to identify with any party, hold a big, riding-wide vote with several polling locations just like a by-election, all voters who chose to take part could take part. Soon thereafter, the local nominating process wouldn't be so easily manipulatable. And more than likely, the best candidate would win.
It would be fair, it would be open and it would be far more democratic than our pathetic, instant-party-member process long since discredited. And it would avoid the kind of controversy we're seeing in northern Saskatchewan today.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
For every Christian who believes their Holy Book condemns homosexuality as a sin against God or nature, you'd do very well to see this amazing movie to set the record straight (er, no pun intended...lol.)
As Variety's Justin Chang puts it so well in this review, "Filmmaker Daniel Karslake lobs a grenade into the culture wars with his heartfelt, provocative and unabashedly polemical "For the Bible Tells Me So," which examines the intersection of homosexuality and religion and finds the latter wanting."
Many Christian homophobes have long pointed to the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament as proof that God condemns homosexuality. As we know, Leviticus was simply an ancient, Jewish rule book which dictated various living standards for all Jews at the time. The same book also states that eating shellfish is an "abomination", among other rules long since forgotten by modern, Evangelical Christians and most Jews.
In fact, the word "abomination" continues to be taken out of context, the film asserts. While many today consider that word to mean a "sin against God or nature", the word "abomination," at the time of Leviticus simply referred to something that went against the mainstream cultural norms of the time.
Because the survival of Jewish tribes was then very much in doubt, specific condemnations of same sex relations seem reasonable, even from a modern perspective. Of course, such condemnations have no place in our over-populated modern reality.
Karslake's film exposes many other misinterpretations of Scripture which have formed the basis of much homophobia in the modern era.
But "For The Bible Tells Me So" isn't just a theological deconstruction of modern-day homophobia. The bulk of this great film, which has been shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature award at this year's Oscars, focuses on the lives of ordinary Christian families with gay or lesbian children who have struggled and suffered greatly due to those misinterpretations of Scripture. Profiles include former American presidential candidate Richard Gephardt, whose daughter came out as a lesbian before he chose to seek the highest office in the U.S. in 2004.
Well-deserved scorn is levelled against Dr. James Dobson and his bigoted U.S.-based organization, Focus on the Family, for its actions in fanning the flames of hatred. One particularly poignant segment of the film chronicles a mother and member of Focus of the Family who followed Dobson's teachings and rejected her daughter after she came out as a lesbian. Their relationship completely disintegrated and months later her daughter took her own life. Today, the same mother has since rejected Focus on the Family's bigotry and taken up the cause of LGBT rights.
For anyone looking for ways to challenge the mindless, kneejerk homophobia of some Christians who use the Bible to justify their hatred, this film is essential viewing.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Let me just send a friendly shout-out to my friend Montreal Simon, who had some nice things to say about me and the other nominees in our Best GLBT Blog category today. I've enjoyed blogging this year and I look forward to many more years of dialoguing with the wider e-world. Cheers to All..
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
To date, we've lost 76 Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan since the mission started, 68 of those since our mission became hunting and fighting the Taliban in the most dangerous region of that country in 2006. Before February 2009, we'll likely see another 30 or so deaths of Canadian soldiers.
I think our contribution to this particular aspect of the mission has been exceptional. It's time for other NATO countries, which also supported the Afghanistan war in 2001, to step up to the plate and take on their fair share of the efforts to beat the Taliban.
We lost 25 people in 9/11. We've lost 76 in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.
As indicated in one of the comments, as of this afternoon (January 15, 2008) that number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan has sadly risen to 77.
Robert-Jay Green, executive director of the Rockway Institute which is affiliated with the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, says that gay and lesbian couples appear to be better than straight couples in respect of two key factors that promote healthier relationships: flexibility about gender roles and equal division of parenting and household tasks.
If I were as devious as some religious homophobes, who constantly make arguments that male-female relations are purely natural and complementary (unlike homosexual relations, which they frequently describe as inescapably unhealthy), I'd use this study as proof that heterosexual relations are actually more unnatural and inherently unequal. But of course, I won't be doing that anytime soon. I turn the other cheek, unlike many religious extremists out there. Live and let live, that's what I say...lol.
Monday, January 14, 2008
After last year's broadcast which had some sweet and touching moments, like America Ferrera winning for Ugly Betty, this was utterly boring and disappointing, painful to watch.
I truly hope the producers get back to the bargaining table and end this writers' strike as soon as possible so we don't have to sit through another awards "announcement" like this again.
As for my predictions before the show, I did worse than usual: only 6 out of 14 film categories correct. Atonement, the Best Picture-Drama winner, is fabulous and very deserving. It will get a nice box office bounce from this win, I'm sure. I haven't yet seen No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood, but I have a feeling these two films will most certainly be in the race for Best Pic at the Oscars next month, despite tonight's losses. It looks like the Best Picture race for the Oscars remains wide open.
It was also great to see Julie Christie win for Away From Her. Her stunning performance in that beautifully romantic movie now seems like the Best Actress Oscar frontrunner.
Here is the full list of winners.
Best Motion Picture Drama: Atonement
Best Director, Motion Picture: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
Best Screenplay, Motion Picture: Ethan and Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men
Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama: Julie Christie, Away From Her
Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: Marion Cotillard, La vie en Rose
Best Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Best Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
Best Animated Feature Film: Ratatouille
Best Score - Motion Picture: Atonement
Best Original Song - Motion Picture: "Guaranteed," by Eddie Vedder for Into the Wild
Best TV Series Drama: Mad Men
Best Actor in a TV Drama: Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Best Actress In A TV Drama: Glenn Close, Damages
Best TV Series Musical or Comedy: Extras
Best Actor in a TV Musical or Comedy: David Duchovny in Californication
Best Actress in a TV Musical or Comedy: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Best TV Mini-Series or Motion Picture: Longford
Best Actor in a TV Mini-Series or Motion Picture: Jim Broadbent, Longford
Best Actress in a TV Mini-series or Motion Picture: Queen Latifah for Life Support
Best Supprting Actor in a TV Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture: Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture: Samantha Morton, Longford
Saturday, January 12, 2008
GOLDEN GLOBE PREDICTIONS:
1. BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
2. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
JULIE CHRISTIE – AWAY FROM HER
3. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS – THERE WILL BE BLOOD
4. BEST MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
5.BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
ELLEN PAGE - JUNO
6. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
JOHNNY DEPP – SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
7. BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
8. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (FRANCE AND USA)
9. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
AMY RYAN – GONE BABY GONE
10. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
JAVIER BARDEM - NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
11. BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE
ETHAN COEN & JOEL COEN – NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
12. BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE
DIABLO CODY - JUNO
13. BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE
MICHAEL BROOK with KAKI KING and EDDIE VEDDER – INTO THE WILD
14. BEST ORIGINAL SONG – MOTION PICTURE
"GUARANTEED" – INTO THE WILD
Music & Lyrics by: Eddie Vedder
Friday, January 11, 2008
When the media began airing or writing stories on "the changes" this week, many transplant organizations across Canada said they hadn't heard of them. The new rules made it clear that sexually active gay men, in addition to being banned for life from donating blood, would also be banned after death from donating their organs (as long as they had had sex within five years of their "donation.") Queer community organizations were justifiably furious with this latest attack on our community's collective reputation.
A new Facebook group was formed to protest the "changes."
The Official Opposition in Ottawa got in on the attack, criticizing the Harper government for making changes in secret (a very justified criticism, in truth.)
Whoever handles communications at Health Canada should probably be looking for new work. These rules were portrayed at the beginning of the week as new, when in fact the rules simply formalized what had become standard practise. The new rules outlined an all-important loophole which allowed "high-risk" groups including gay men to still donate as long as the recipient knew the risks and agreed to take the possibly life-saving organ. As of December 2007, nothing really had changed at all.
No one at Health Canada agreed to speak with reporters to clarify this when stories first started to appear. Instead, this was left up to dismayed stakeholders like the Trillium Gift of Life Network.
The medical director for Canada's largest multi-organ transplant program, Dr. Gary Levy, confused matters when he first criticized the new rules as unfair, only to print this column in today's Globe & Mail which partially clarified the situation.
The new five-year rule is simply dumb. There is no way to effectively enforce it. Furthermore, why would doctors waste their time finding out the sexual history of a dead gay man when the loophole which allows them to use his organs exists? Health Canada should simply have instituted a lifetime ban like Canada Blood Services, with the loophole intact. Now both the five-year rule and the lifetime ban have been exposed as arbitrary and unscientific.
I don't quibble with long-standing rules that bar sexually active gay men from donating blood. It is sadly true that gay men remain one of the highest groups for new HIV infection in Canada. It's true that the screening rules used by Canada Blood Services are heavy-handed and shut out many, many Canadians who are, in fact, not real risks. But the agency seems to be applying its overly stringent standards across the board, not just at gay men. It seems the blood-collecting agency is taking no chances, unlike the Red Cross in the past.
When I first heard this week that gay men would be "banned" from donating organs, I immediately tore up my organ donor card in frustration. I'm sure thousands of gay men across the country did the same. How tragic when there has been, in fact, no change to the rules governing organ donations at all. I'll have to get another organ donor card, but I'm not sure when and where I'll do this.
This is the end result of a truly bungled media communications job. Heads should roll at Health Canada and Tory Health Minister Tony Clement should be held to account for this fiasco.
Here's an excerpt:
"Martha Hall Findlay is one of my favourite politicians. She is a great example of someone who really cares about the Liberal Party of Canada, is loyal but can still offer constructive criticism without damaging the party in the press and is involved in politics for all the right reasons. When Paul Martin asked Martha to take one for the team by all accounts she did so with grace and dignity. Martha earned the respect and admiration of her fellow Liberals when she ran for the leadership and continues to contribute her best efforts to the party...You can judge David Orchard by his own actions of late. The less said the better."
I gotta admit that she convinced me to get back on the fence in the presidential race.
Prior to his long-shot bid for the PC leadership in 1998, how many of us had ever heard of David Orchard? What is it about this guy that is so special? I've never understood it.
It's too bad he feels slighted by this. Many people feel slighted by party central when nominations don't go their way.
If you're in politics to always get your way, David, then that's your mistake. Why do leaders of parties you join always seem to be screwing you over? The pattern here speaks volumes...Hmmm....
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
New anti-gay organ donation rules should be rethought, says head of Canada's largest transplant program
The inherent flaws of the policy, which depend on family disclosure of a gay man's sexual orientation after his death, specifically whether or not he had been sexually active in the previous five years, continue to confound critics. If a man had sex with another man within the previous five years, his organs can't be donated to a needy recipient. Instead, perfectly good organs will go to waste simply because they belonged to a gay man.
Will Health Canada be issuing special pink organ donor cards to make identifying gay men easier after death?
Chatter from some bloggers has been very negative.
Now the head of the country's largest organ transplant organization says the new policy should be rethought.
Dr. Gary Levy, director of the multi-organ transplant program for the University Health Network in Toronto, criticized the new rules for zeroing in on gay men as a specific health problem.
"In the past, the gay community was considered a high-risk community because of perception of high-risk behaviour," he said yesterday. "We now know it's not a homogeneous community. The fact is, if someone has 62 partners, whether it's heterosexual or homosexual, there still is a risk.
"That community was singled out. I think that's unfortunate."
At first, officials at Health Canada refused to comment publicly on the new regulations. Now a major loophole in the new policy has come to light. The loophole lets transplant programs accept organs even from high-risk donors under exceptional conditions, such as non-availability of an organ that has met all safety criteria.
The recipient would have to agree and the organ could not test positive for disease. But the new rules mean the transplant program must keep records of why the exception was made, including the "justification" behind it.
The paperwork could discourage some programs from making perfectly healthy organs available.
Health Canada apparently issued a statement yesterday saying it had consulted widely on the new standards, and "during these consultations, no group or association expressed concerns" about the wording of the rules.
Clearly they failed to consult many in the LGBT community, one of the groups greatly and unjustly impacted by the new policy.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
CURRENT NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY RESULTS:
Hillary Clinton 39%
Barack Obama 37%
John Edwards 17%
Bill Richardson 5%
This is still a race after all.
For more on this story, check out this Xtra article. This issue is not going away...
Standing Against Queer Discrimination / STATEMENT
The University of Western Ontario branch of Standing Against Queer Discrimination gives its reasons for not supporting the new organ donor rules, below.
Health Canada has recently instituted a new policy which bans all sexually active gay men from donating organs, regardless of their HIV status. This latest outrage from Health Canada, which came as a surprise even to many transplant organizations, illustrates both the arbitrariness of their policies with respect to gay men and their lack of commitment to any real change of their discriminatory and blatantly homophobic policies.
Firstly, this latest policy (banning gay men from donating organs) creates restrictions based on a 5-year ban, excluding only men who have had sex with men in the last 5 years. In combination with their June 2007 decision to continue banning blood donations from men who have had sex with men since 1979, it becomes clear that rather than basing these decisions on scientific facts regarding HIV prevalence in various populations, they are instead assigning arbitrary restrictions.
The reasoning behind these arbitrary policy decisions becomes evident when their purpose is considered. Rather than promoting the safety of the blood or organ supply, the publicly-stated reasoning for these policies, the policy instead serves the purpose of 'reassuring' the public, convincing them that yes, those dangerous groups (gay men, IV drug users, and sex workers) have been filtered out. The use of stereotypes and outdated beliefs to restore the public's trust is being chosen instead of rigorous scientific research, and this is not acceptable from an organization which claims to have the best interests of all Canadians at heart.
We join with those across the country calling for a clear and evidence-based explanation for both the old policy and the new, as well as an assurance that any restrictions are based on the behaviours and actions found to increase risk, rather than membership in a supposed "high-risk group".
Standing Against Queer Discrimination - University of Western Ontario (SAQD-UWO)
Monday, January 7, 2008
That's why this announcement from the Harper government banning gay men from donating organs is truly disgusting. I wonder what John Baird and other gay Tories think about it.
The policy is reminiscent of Canada Blood Services' similar ban on sexually-active gay men and others from donating blood.
The big difference, of course, is Canada Blood Services conducts its screening on living people. Potential blood donors must answer questions before donating. If a man answers 'Yes' to the question asking if he has had sex with another man, even once, since 1977, he is disallowed from donating blood. The answer, coming from the would-be donor, is credible.
How will Health Canada, hospitals and other organ donation officials screen out gay men from donating organs after they die?
The explanation thus far is absolutely pathetic and stupid!
Transplant Manitoba, which procures organs in that province, says transplant programs must now by law interview family members of the donor as part of screening potential donors.
"We'll be asking about things like travel, history of infectious disease, whether they've [donors] been in jail — that puts you at increased risk," says Dr. Peter Nickerson, director of Transplant Manitoba. "Have they been an IV drug abuser in the past? Have they had tattoos? There's a whole list of questions we go through."
As well, they will be asked about the donor's sexual orientation. The donor will be excluded if the donor is a man who had sex with another man in the previous five years.
What happens if the family doesn't know about the man's sexual orientation? What if the family isn't willing to admit to a health official that their son was gay? How can the family answer if their son has had sex with a man in the past five years versus the past six years?
Why are men who have had sex with another man in the previous five years excluded? If it's been six years since you had sex with another man, why are your organs so special and acceptable?
This policy is shoddy, full-of-holes and can't stand up under serious scrutiny. It's stupid and blatantly discriminatory. I foresee a human rights lawsuit coming on.
My organs are as safe as any heterosexual's. This policy is absolute bullshit! Chalk this policy up as yet another despicable attempt by the Harper government to further insinuate that gay men are somehow inherently unhealthy, regardless of behaviour and life choices.
The problem stems from a pledge from the Screen Actors Guild to boycott this weekend's scheduled Golden Globe Awards if the writers form a picket line in front of the awards show. The writers have promised to picket any televised awards show that uses scab writers. If the event isn't televised, the writers won't picket it.
The producers and studios are playing hard ball in this ongoing strike, refusing to hold meaningful talks for weeks. Of course, this has caused considerable pain in Hollywood's film community and elsewhere. As productions have been shut down, everyone has found themselves out of work. Yet the issue of profit-sharing is vital. Most writers already get only a tiny sliver from considerable Hollywood profits. Writers are fighting to ensure they get a bigger share of any profits from new media, which could end up being huge in the years ahead. As a screenwriter who hopes to be a member of the WGA one day, I support the writers 100 per cent.
But still it will be painful if the Golden Globes telecast is cancelled this Sunday. This show sets the tone for the rest of the awards season which ends with the Oscars in late February. The race to the Oscars keeps many a queer film fan's heart warm during the winter months. The heterosexual equivalent would be cancelling the SuperBowl.
Still as a strategy, the striking writers are brilliant. Shutting down major awards shows hurts the producers and the networks the most, which rely on the advertising revenue and the publicity to boost sales for their products. Perhaps the lost profits will give them a needed taste of their own medicine.
I do feel for those Globe nominees though. Such televised accolades are the stuff of dreams. To have the awards show shut down in their year must be truly painful. However, most nominees are extremely smart people and they likely all agree the long-term benefits of showing solidarity with their writing colleagues is more important.
We'll see if the producers budge in time for the Oscar ceremony in late February. If the writers choose to picket that ceremony as well, that would truly put actors' and other film professionals' solidarity to the test.
Indeed, NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have decided to drop the awards ceremony for this Sunday's Golden Globes. Instead of the traditional show featuring a boozy, glitzy dinner party and awards presentation, the event would be covered as a news event in a series of NBC specials, according to a Los Angeles Times report that cited an NBC memo e-mailed to movie studios.
Friday, January 4, 2008
JANUARY 10, 2008 - Last week, I must admit that I jumped on the Barack Obama bandwagon. I must admit now that I did so in great haste.
Obama is a great man. Of the Democratic candidates, Obama would be the clearest and healthiest break from the Bush/Cheney years. I'm very excited about his candidacy.
However, I've had a change of heart and am officially back on the fence again. What can I say? Hillary's performance in the face of possible defeat forced me to take another look at her. I was very impressed with her New Hampshire victory speech. I didn't know she had it in her. While I find the possibility of the first African-American president to be highly attractive, I also find the prospect of the first female American president to be equally attractive.
Both candidates have their strengths and weaknesses. Up until last week, I had yet to see much in the way of true leadership from Hillary. That changed in New Hampshire. I have a feeling this is going to be one long and hard-fought race and I look forward to watching it unfold, while I keep my preferences closer to my chest.
I suspect this likely saved the seat for the Liberals.
Despite this, I truly hope that David Orchard remains committed to the party and runs for the Grits in the next federal election.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Dinosaur Pope Benedict reminded us all why many hate the Catholic Church and other organized religions a couple days ago when he said any deviation from the traditional family unit undermines world peace.
On Sunday addressing a crowd in St Peter's Square from his apartment window at the Vatican, he said that support for anything less than the traditional family unit was disrupting society.
"I wanted to shed light on the direct relationship that exists between the family and peace in the world," the Pope said.
"The family is the primary agent of peace and the negation or even the restriction of rights of the family ... threatens the very foundations of peace."
The Pope's comments, in both Italian and Spanish, were carried by satellite and telecast to a rally in a public square in Madrid where thousands of Catholics were protesting against Spain's two year old gay marriage law.
Appropriately, Spain's government has criticized the Catholic Church's latest political intervention.
But perhaps the Pope is on to something? One need only look at the list of countries that have accepted full equality for LGBT citizens and supported same sex marriage (SSM) to find proof how such actions undermine world peace:
- The Netherlands
- South Africa
Wow, big destabilizers of world peace there. Countries that continue to attack gay rights and fight equality for LGBT citizens:
- United States
- Saudi Arabia
- countless others, you get the drift...
Man, whatever would we do without these and other countries to help protect world peace?
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I guess Harper wasn't really serious when he said he'd clean up official Ottawa when he won the election two years ago on an anti-corruption platform. Of course, Harper did deliver on shutting down new child care spaces, undermining the planet's environment and getting in bed with George W. Bush on foreign affairs. Is this the government we want? Don't think so...