Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pride short-film showcase - 'It makes for a nice escape if people get a little Prided out' says Guerin

Pride short-film showcase ON SCREEN / 'It makes for a nice escape if people get a little Prided out' - Chris Dupuis / Toronto / Monday, June 25, 2012

If you love celebrating your gayness but can stand huge crowds and 30-plus temperatures for only so long, fear not! An island of cooling serenity awaits you, courtesy of the Canadian Media Guild. The organization’s first ever Pride Week LGBT Short Film Showcase features a collection of works screening daily over Pride week. The films play on a continuous loop, so viewers can drop by whenever it suits them, to get their dose of celluloid in air-conditioned comfort.

“Playing films for only one night can really limit audiences, especially during Pride Week because there is so much going on,” says programmer Matt Guerin. “Getting exposure for the works was as important as providing entertainment, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to come by. It’s situated outside the Village, so it makes for a nice escape if people get a little Prided out.”

Guerin is a filmmaker who also works as a media librarian at CBC. He has brought together a diverse selection of films, including documentaries, animations, comedies and a few tearjerkers. Mostly Canadian, with a handful of international works, the event has something to suit every taste.

Rising star Jordan Tannahill’s Swim (which took home Inside Out’s Emerging Canadian Artist Award last year) will be featured. Based on the artist’s experience of losing a boyhood friend in a dare gone wrong, the piece attempts to relive the original tragedy, 20 years later.

“It’s only three minutes long, but it packs an emotional punch you rarely see in mainstream filmmaking,” Guerin says. “It’s an experimental work but still very accessible and quite beautiful to watch.”

Also on the bill is Mark Pariselli’s After, a dialogue-free exploration of three young gay guys’ fascination with a football-playing jock. Sexy without being explicit, dreamy without being pretentious, this unconventional exploration of teenaged lust has screened at more than 40 international festivals since its debut two years ago.

The program also features plenty of lighter works, including Betsy Kalin’s hilarious Chained! (a documentary chronicling the lesbian community’s fascination with wallet chains) and Christine Chew’s Slow Burn (a Western-infused comedy in which duelling tattoo artists battle for the chance to ink a mysterious girl for her first time).

Bunny is a film about an older gay couple struggling with Alzheimer's. Fresh off this year’s Inside Out program is local boy Seth Poulin’s heart-wrenching Bunny, about an older gay couple struggling with Alzheimer’s.

“I’ve never seen this kind of story told before anywhere,” Guerin says. “Most films aimed at gay audiences depend on young, good-looking guys as part of their selling point. For a filmmaker to tackle this kind of relationship is really daring.”

While short films rarely get exposure outside of festivals, Guerin insists they’re de rigueur viewing for anyone claiming cinephile status.

“Most filmmakers start out making shorts as they develop their abilities and get their name out there,” he says. “There’s an incredible array of talent on display here that you wouldn’t usually be able to see anywhere else. It’s a chance to see the future stars of cinema in the early stages of their career.”

The Deets:
2012 Pride Week LGBT Short Film Showcase Mon, June 25 to Fri, June 29, from 9am to 7pm all week Graham Spry Theatre
CBC Broadcasting Centre 250 Front St W Free 416-591-5333

More info at the event’s Facebook page

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fourth Horseman decides to postpone the Liberal Apocalypse...

Yes, Bob Rae made the right decision yesterday when he announced he won't be a candidate for the permanent leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. It was right for him and right for the party.

In my humble opinion, had Rae taken the reins of the federal Grits, after promising he wouldn't seek the job, his tenure would have resembled that of Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion and Paul Martin. It would've led to disappointment and further collapse of the federal Grits, continuing a pattern started under Martin, accelerated under Dion and driven into overdrive by Ignatieff.

Between Harper seeking another mandate in 2015 and Tom Mulcair leading a more moderate and savvy NDP, I believe a Rae-led Liberal Party would've seen its vote share shrink even further from the pathetic 19% it got in 2011. Ontario swing voters would've had little difficulty abandoning the Grits led by a largely ineffective former NDP premier. Such a result would be disastrous in the one province where the federal Grits still have considerable growth potential. It would've cemented the permanent decline of the party and turned Canada into a largely two-party system polarized between conservatives and social democrats like in Great Britain and most of the Western world.

But instead Rae showed wisdom and decided to spare himself and the Liberal Party such a terrible fate. He surely didn't fancy a political swan song like that of Joe Clark's doomed 2000 election debacle.

I'm also glad the Liberal Party will now be able to move beyond the terrible legacy of the 2006 leadership race. That race was thrust on Liberals after the resignation of the first Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse, Paul Martin, who forced out a popular PM and replaced him with dithering and unimpressive leadership. Martin's reign as PM was built largely on Canadian mistrust of alleged Conservative extremism. When Stephen Harper convinced Canadians he really wasn't all that scary, they turfed Martin the first chance they got.

In the ensuing leadership race in 2006, Liberals were almost forced to choose between two deeply flawed frontrunners, both with the shallowest of shallow roots in the country and/or the party: Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. Iggy had spent his entire adult life outside the country and had been a supporter of the Iraq war, while Rae was a NDP turncoat who had never broken a sweat (at that point) on behalf of Liberals anywhere. (As we know, Rae's since gone on to much admirable work on behalf of his new party.) But in 2006, the party elite decided to hoist these two gentlemen on the party's members, thinking we'd lay down and play dead.

But I, like most party members, were not going to be forced to choose between Iggy and Rae. Instead, we decided to seek an alternative. Sadly, that alternative was Stephane Dion. I argued, at the time, that Dion had been such an effective cabinet minister that surely he'd have the ability to grow into a great leader. But no. Dion's pathetic communication skills, and his political tone deafness sealed his fate long before his disastrous 2008 election run. As such, Dion became the Second Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse. The Liberals slid to their worst showing ever in the popular vote with just 26%.

Next, the party elites against whom the party members had so successfully revolted two years earlier argued that democracy had wronged the party and now was the time to simply appoint the best candidate for the leadership. Ignatieff moved in for the kill by insisting on seizing the interim leadership in late 2008 in a caucus coup, pushing aside both Rae and Dominic Leblanc. Party elites probably felt they had corrected the great error of 2006. But the joke was on them, as we saw so clearly in 2011 when their chosen Saviour led the Liberals to their worst showing ever with just 19% of the vote and 34 seats. Yes, Iggy was the Third Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse.

Soon thereafter, it seemed that Bob Rae had decided to take a page from Iggy's book and seize the leadership himself. Granted, Rae is the most qualified person in that tiny caucus to lead the party in the interim. But for the last year, it seemed that Rae had done so merely to, once again, push aside other contenders for the Liberal leadership and finally win the prize he so coveted. Had it come to pass, Rae would've been the Fourth Horseman of the Liberal Apocalypse and led the party in 2015 to its destruction (or at least so low in the vote and in seat totals it would simply never be able to recover as a potent force in federal politics again, kind of like Britain's Liberals.)

I can write now that I am very pleasantly surprised and relieved that Rae chose to step back from the cliff. Now instead of waiting for the Liberal Apocalypse in 2015, we can begin the process of renewal, contemplating what young, bright, energetic fighter will now step forward over the next several months now that the field is open. Yes, the federal Liberals may just live to fight another day and that is good news for Canadian democracy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hate speech made easier in Canada, thanks to the Harper Conservatives

Third reading passage of a Conservative private member's bill, Bill C304, this past week got little media attention. The bill, by Alberta Tory MP Brian Storseth, repeals sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act banning hate speech over the telephone or internet. The Harperites voted 153 to 136 to back the bill. Only one Liberal MP, Scott Simms, voted for it as well.

Storseth and others who have never truly been victimized by hate propaganda have argued that existing Criminal Code provisions should be adequate for addressing hate propaganda in this country.

But Storseth's own backgrounder on his bill admits that one of the concerns raised by supporters of the existing Human Rights Act provisions dealing with hate speech is that the Criminal Code requires consent of an Attorney General before charges can be laid against hatemongers. In reality, this provision has led many police forces across Canada to hesitate to investigate such crimes, concerned prosecutions will be greatly hindered if not impossible to get processed. Thus, few police forces have dedicated many resources to fighting hate speech. Why would they if charges are so difficult to get?

But of course, true to Tory form, Storseth's bill completely ignores the fact that the Criminal Code has been largely ineffective in combating hate speech.

Even more troubling, Storseth's bill strips victims of any recourse in fighting back against criminals. Seems strange for Tories to take the side of criminals against victims, until you remember that Tories only tend to worry about victims who look, love and live just like them. No, they're more concerned about standing up for the rights of religious bigots who feel hurt or censored by laws that protect victims from their hate.

If this bill gets royal assent and passes into law, victims of hate propaganda will be stripped of one major venue for taking action against criminals. Now we will have to hope that police investigators not only recognize hate speech, but feel confident in criminal convictions following consent for charges by Attorneys General.

Thus, hate speech could get much much easier to get away with in Canada, thanks to Harper's Conservatives.

Warren Kinsella makes an excellent point in his article that he favours 'citizen-based advocacy, with no human rights commissions or Criminal Code provisions being necessary at all.'

Kinsella advocates that instead of repealing parts of the Human Rights Act or keeping cumbersome Criminal Code provisions that never seem to amount to anything, we should, "Make it easier for identifiable groups to sue for defamation; that is the best way for a society to express itself. When that was done in Oregon in the 1990s with the White Aryan Resistance, it put them out of business. They have never recovered. That is always the way to go: Citizen-based advocacy."

I couldn't agree more with Kinsella.

Today, if a religious bigot wants to spread pamphlets that read, "Matt Guerin is a pedophile," I can currently sue that bigot for defamation and I would win considerable damages in court.

But if a religious bigot spreads pamphlets (as they often do) that read, "All homosexuals are pedophiles," neither I nor any other gay man can take any action against them, except to complain to a human rights commission. But if Storseth gets his way, we will lose that option and will have to hope that police investigate such crimes and manage to win the attention of Attorneys General, who may or may not find the time in their busy schedules to authorize prosecutions. Meaning, vulnerable groups could get all the more vulnerable.

If the hate speech provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act are to be repealed, those changes must also allow police to charge criminals without getting permission from Attorneys General. But clearly the Tories don't really care about fighting this kind of crime.

Regardless, we should change our defamation laws to allow members of groups attacked by hatemongers to launch class action libel lawsuits for damages. I shouldn't have to live in a society where my reputation is attacked by bigots who are unaccountable for their libel.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The ignorant words of Rev. John Yake and other Catholic leaders

I have been following the ongoing debate in Ontario over the McGuinty government's attempts to address rampant bullying in Ontario's public schools.

I support the recent amendment to Bill 13 which gives high school students the right to use the name, 'Gay-Straight Alliance,' in school club titles should they choose to form such a group.

I went to a Catholic high school in the late 1980s. I wish I had had the chance to form or be a part of such a group. It would've made my high school experience safer. Just having the group in a school would make that school a safer place for LGBT youth, most if not all of whom are experiencing massive stress and isolation due to their sexual orientation (on top of the regular stress of being a teenager). Everyone who made it through adolescence should be able to understand that.

I am particularly disgusted with those who are using this issue to once again bash the LGBT community and denigrate our needs as irrelevant and worthy of neglect. Michael Coren once again buries his head in the sand on this issue, claiming that powerful church leaders (the type who in years past saw no problem protecting child rapists from the law) are now being bullied by the big, bad gay lobby and that gay kids aren't really victims of much bullying.

Coren writes in this column: "First, the dishonesty of the premise that gay children are bullied. Some are, of course, but there is no objective study concluding gays are targeted. Body image is the major reason for bullying and figures that indicate otherwise tend to come from gay organizations."

Of course, being gay organizations, Coren assumes that they can't be telling the truth? Coren is such an asshole and a bigot. You want objective proof of homophobia in schools? Just walk down any high school hallway and listen. When teachers aren't around, I guarantee you will hear some bully use the term 'fag' or 'faggot' in a hateful way within a few minutes. Sure body image is another major reason for bullying in schools. What is the insult of choice against fat kids? 'Fat faggot,' probably. Coren would focus on the attack against the kid's body image, but ignore the second part as irrelevant.

In truth, the vast majority of kids who are attacked using homophobic language in schools are in fact straight. Hence, the reasoning behind the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliances in the first place.

Privileged, inward-looking, ignorant, powerful people in the Catholic school boards and elsewhere like Coren are leading the charge against any recognition of gay abuse in our schools. They don't care about gay kids. They shrug as gay kids continue to contemplate suicide to escape the hell these boards have created for them. And they fight tooth and nail to keep the hatred in our schools unchallenged.


When reading some letters to the editor on this subject in the National Post,
I came across this ignorant letter from Reverend John Yake of Toronto which clearly points out the ignorance of those who are fighting Bill 13. As we know, gay kids are generally in the closet in high school. They don't feel safe coming out or even raising the issue of being gay for fear of attack, ridicule and further social isolation. Considering this truth, give Rev. Yake's words a look:

"There has been lots of hype over Ontario’s Bill 13, a measure to address bullying based on sexual orientation, but is this really a problem? I recently retired from a 33-year career in teaching where my role as chaplain involved listening to and counselling students. A support group program emerged where issues could be discussed if they were experienced by a number of students. Topics discussed ranged from bereavement, chronic illness, drug and alcohol abuse, families of divorced/separated parents and stress. In my 33 years, the issue of bullying based on sexual orientation never was raised. So what’s this really about? Might the real issue behind Bill 13 be the advancement of an anti-Catholic agenda, a strategy to undermine Christian values under the guise of protecting children? This suggestion sickens me not only because it unfairly uses people’s perceived pain to advance an ideology of hate but also because it is singularly unCanadian especially when exercised by a legitimately elected government that is obliged to guard rights of freedom of religion.
Rev. John Yake, Toronto."

For a former educator in the Catholic system, Rev. Yake displays a horrifying amount of ignorance on the subject he chooses to write and publish. Had I been a kid stuck in Rev. Yake's classroom or support group, I wouldn't have raised my issues of isolation and pain over my sexual orientation with him either. It's this disgusting Catholic ignorance which remains a thorn in the side of all of us who have survived this religion and this school system.

I want to commend Joanne Chianello for this great piece in the Ottawa Citizen this week on this subject. Her thoughts reflect many of my own as a lapsed Catholic.

If one good thing has come out of this debate (besides focusing the public on the issue of bullying in schools and, in particular, the massive vulnerability of LGBT youth in our schools), it has re-awoken the issue of public funding for Catholic schools in Ontario, reminding many of us how archaic Ontario truly is. We must end funding for Catholic schools now and unite the two systems into one, publicly funded, secular system. I wrote about one strategy for how the government could win a mandate to pursue this just path some months ago. I truly hope someone in the McGuinty government is listening and willing to end this historic injustice sooner rather than never.

UPDATE: Here's another lovely article from today's Globe by Tabatha Southey.