Ken Epp’s Phony Act

As promised, here is the article that appeared in the May 22 issue of the prairie dog. Btw, the editor has suggested I invite my fans to “write SHORT letters to the editor praising [my] last column…otherwise how will the dumb editor know anyone reads it?” So, ah, any takers? The address is at the end of the article!

Ken Epp’s Phony Act

Tory member’s legislation is a sneaky attack on reproductive rights

by Bernadette Wagner

“The intent of this law is to give rights to fetuses so that abortion can be re-criminalized.”

Not surprisingly, Ken Epp’s introduction of the Unborn Victims of Crime Act met opposition from pro-choice groups like the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) when it was introduced last fall.

That opposition has continued as the bill slimed its malevolent way through second reading and into committee this past March.

“The intent of this law is to give rights to fetuses so that abortion can be re-criminalized,” said Joyce Arthur, ARCC’s coordinator.

Epp claims the bill provides protection for pregnant women by allowing for two sets of charges to be laid should a pregnant woman be assaulted. While this may sound good, it isn’t. For starters, it attempts to separate a woman’s body from the fetus she carries — hardly a practical notion.

It’s useless in any case — even if two charges could be laid, incarceration time would remain the same. In Canada, sentences are served concurrently.

Many were shocked to see the Conservative MP from Edmonton-Strathcona’s private members bill pass second reading March 5. A Conservative-Liberal anti-choice vote was enough to edge it through the House and on to the Justice Committee for review.

Conservative shenanigans have stalled the Justice Committee from conducting any business so the NDP who, except for one MP, opposed C-484 along with the Bloc, now propose it move to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Fears around C-484 are justified. It contradicts the definition of “human being” already established in Canadian jurisprudence — namely, that a fetus is part of a woman’s body until it is born.

And — despite Epp’s claims to the contrary — this bill would indeed legally establish the fetus as a human being.

Here’s the problem: if the fetus a woman carries has rights, what happens to her rights? This is why, according to ARCC, the bill would endanger reproductive freedom. Any moderately astute anti-choice activist would cite it as a precedent when pushing for re-criminalization.

That Epp did not consult with anti-violence advocates in drafting this legislation should not be a surprise. The membrane of C-484 is thin; it is clearly about establishing fetal rights. “Pregnant women don’t need Bill C-484. They need the men in their lives to stop being violent,” wrote Coalition Against Violence coordinator Vyda Ng in the Western Star.

In the U.S., laws like this are being used to police, arrest and jail women. And the rates of violence against women, pregnant or otherwise, are not dropping.

Epp’s claim to “protect women” is paternalistic at best and disingenuous at worst. “There is something seriously wrong with our system when the so-called ‘right’ to end a pregnancy takes away another pregnant woman’s right to have her wanted baby protected in law.” he said in a recent newspaper commentary. But Canada has laws which prohibit assault against women, men and children. And as part of a woman’s body, a fetus is protected.

Epp’s legislation “would not protect pregnant women, and would do nothing to respond to violence against women,” says Arthur on ARCC’s website. “The Criminal Code already recognizes that spousal violence is an aggravating factor in sentencing. Judges already do recognize pregnancy as an aggravating factor in sentencing,” she says.

Epp’s suggestion that women’s reproductive rights trump pregnant women’s rights makes no sense. His attempt to pit the one idea against the other is spin which detracts from the real issue: good old-fashioned intolerance of women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies.

A Facebook group in support of C-484 states that the bill is “a key step in recriminalizing abortion.” A social-conservative blogger dubbed C-484 the “Kicking Abortion’s Ass bill”.

Clearly, this bill is part of an incrementalist strategy, typical of the Harperites, to attack women’s reproductive freedoms. As Harper struggles to win favour with women voters, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to wipe the blood from his hands on the matter of women’s reproductive choice.

Feedback@prairiedogmag.com

Support SUN!

I’ve seen nurses in action and I know their issues are real.  A friend, who shall remain nameless, is a nurse and she has confirmed the issues to be real for her, too.  She also told me that she is unable to take her vacation leave because of the heavy workload she faces.  Still, she wants to stay in SK because she loves this part of the world.

The nursing profession has been sold short for much too long.  I am happy to see the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses standing up not only for their rights, but also for patients’ rights in the province.

The body they’re negotiating with, however, leaves a lot to be desired.  The President and CEO Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO), Susan Antosh, is playing aggressive and dirty politics through the media, suggesting that SUN’s requests at the bargaining table are all about money.  From SAHO’s latest news release:

The total wage increase from the 2007 rates is the equivalent of a 34.9% increase for general duty nurses or 37.6% increase for nurses with 20 years or more experience.

The complete proposal package by SAHO continues to support the spirit of the Government/SUN Partnership Agreement and SAHO’s participation at the Partnershp meetings.  SAHO has addressed key recruitment and retention initiatives raised by SUN and has removed many of the initial management proposals.  The remaining management proposals are directly related to the employers’ ability to provide quality patient care and to respond to the health needs of Saskatchewan residents.

SUN’s response?

SUNBurst sent to members May 26, p.m.
Update from the Negotiations Committee at 1715 May 26, 2008.


SUN’s Negotiations Committee sent the following message to SAHO through the conciliation officer:
SUN’s last position, tabled on May 26, 2008 at 0300 is SUN’s firm position for a new collective agreement that supports the SUN/Government Partnership, retention and recruitment of RNs/RPNs and a workplace environment that SUN members desperately need repaired.
SAHO’s proposals would permit Regional Health Authorities to abolish vacancies – in violation of the SUN/Government Partnership.
SAHO’s proposals would permit Regional Health Authorities to replace RNs/RPNs with other providers – in violation of the SUN/Government Partnership.
SAHO’s proposal on professional standards does not protect patient safety or provide professional practice environments essential for retention and recruitment.
SAHO’s proposals on monetary items is far short of the mandate and will not make Saskatchewan competitive with Alberta.
Our committee will not accept a four year agreement under these terms and we will not recommend acceptance of an agreement that does not meet our urgent priorities.

So, someone’s not telling the entire truth here.  Seems to me that since it’s SAHO that has taken this to the public sphere, they’d be the culprits.  And, given that SUN ends their news release with

Remember – do not believe anything unless you hear it from the Union.

it appears that SUN believes Antosh is playing dirty politics, too.

All I know is that I would trust a nurse with my life long, long before I’d trust the CEO of an organization who tries to portray nurses as money-grabbers!

A sneak peek at The Dog for this week

I met Mitch and April at the University of Regina in the late 80s.  In 1993, they launched The Prairie Dog, a worker’s co-operative which publishes Regina’s alternative news and entertainment magazine.  In 2002, they moved to Saskatoon to start a sister paper, Planet S.  They’re now back in Regina.  April continues her great work with worker co-ops and co-operative development.  I’ve heard bits about her involvement in Regina’s north-central community, but haven’t spoken with her directly.  Mitch completed his PhD while in Saskatoon and is currently the Head of the U of R’s Journalism School.

Why does the regina mom tell you all this?

Well, it’s because she has an article upcoming in the next issue, available Thursday, May 22.  Here’s your sneak peek:

Ken Epp’s Phony Act

Tory member’s legislation is a sneaky attack on reproductive rights

by Bernadette Wagner

Not surprisingly, Ken Epp’s introduction of the Unborn Victims of Crime Act met opposition from pro-choice groups like the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) when it was introduced last fall.

That opposition has continued as the bill slimed its malevolent way through second reading and into committee this past March.

“The intent of this law is to give rights to fetuses so that abortion can be re-criminalized,” said Joyce Arthur, ARCC’s coordinator.

Epp claims the bill provides protection for pregnant women by allowing for two sets of charges to be laid should a pregnant woman be assaulted. While this may sound good, it isn’t. For starters, it attempts to separate a woman’s body from the fetus she carries — hardly a practical notion.

It’s useless in any case — even if two charges could be laid, incarceration time would remain the same. In Canada, sentences are served concurrently.

Many were shocked to see the Conservative MP from Edmonton-Strathcona’s private members bill pass second reading March 5. A Conservative-Liberal anti-choice vote was enough to edge it through the House and on to the Justice Committee for review.

Conservative shenanigans have stalled the Justice Committee from conducting any business so the NDP who, except for one MP, opposed C-484 along with the Bloc, now propose

UPDATED: SK Nurses have strike mandate

Update: SUN AND SAHO to continue bargaining

<> Today, through the conciliator, SUN received a message from SAHO indicating they have a revised mandate and are asking SUN to return to the bargaining table. It is our understanding that SAHO will also remove most of their proposals when we return to the table. SUN will not undertake strike action as we permit negotiations to occur.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) have voted “decisively in favour of a strike.” The vote found 77 percent of iSUN’s members in support of strike action in the union’s current negotiations with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO).

“Nurses are tired of seeing patient safety compromised,” said Rosalee Longmoore, SUN President. “They’re tired of working the long hours with no relief in sight. They want their voices heard. And with their votes, they’re sending a message loud and clear – it’s time to get serious about retaining the nursing workforce and recruiting for the future if we are to be able to keep our health care system – and the safety of patients – from deteriorating any further.”

This is an interesting development in organized labour’s struggle against the SaskParty government’s Bills 5 and 6 which have been deemed anti-worker, ant-union and anti-woman. Stay tuned for more!

SaskParty MLA calls NDP MLA a “dumb bitch”

Well, it is not surprising to this SK citizen that the SaskParty’s MLA for Cut Knife-Turtleford, Mike Chisholm, called the NDP MLA for Moose Jaw Wakamow and the former Minister of Labour, Deb Higgins, a “dumb bitch” in a legislative committee meeting this week. It didn’t surprise me at all. I wish it had.

But no, Chisholm is from rural Saskatchewan where that is just the way women are often treated. Many women, even those who consider themselves feminist, are afraid to speak their minds lest they be ostracized — or worse — by the men in their communities. It’s appalling, to say the least!

And yes, Premier Wall can accept some of the blame for this. His less than convincing response to a videotape featuring racist comments, sexist slurs and homophobic hatred in which he and some of his current colleagues were featured players did little to quell the rampant sexism in the province. And the premier had no choice, given what he did say in response to the video, to accept Chisholm’s resignation as legislative secretary.

But the NDP can assume some of the responsibility for this, too. Had the initiatives set forth by the Saskatchewan Women’s Agenda of the early 90′s been adopted by the government of the day, the very culture of the province would have become a lot less sexist. However, that was not the case. Sexists and misogynists within the NDP were able to get away with writing off the Women’s Agenda as that of “feminazis”, of radical feminists. And today, one of their own, one of the women who withstood all the sexist shit thrown at her, still has to be subjected to it.

Will this be a lesson for the NDP? One can hope, but I doubt it.

Here’s the CBC’s story on the issue.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/story/2008/05/08/chisholm-mike.html
MLA apologizes after making offensive comment against Opposition member
Last Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2008 | 10:41 AM CT
CBC News

A Saskatchewan Party MLA has apologized and resigned as a legislative secretary after referring to an NDP member as a “dumb bitch.”

Mike Chisholm, the MLA for Cut Knife-Turtleford, made the comment Wednesday in a legislative committee in reference to New Democrat Deb Higgins, who represents Moose Jaw Wakamow.

The comment came just after Chisholm had been complaining about language used by an NDP MLA.

On Thursday, Chisholm told the legislature he had submitted his resignation as legislative secretary to Premier Brad Wall, and Wall accepted it.

“I have no excuse,” he said. “I was wrong and it shouldn’t have been thought or said.” Chisholm will retain his seat and remain in the government caucus.

Chisholm made a reference to Wall’s recent call to MLAs to be more careful about using insulting language.

That followed after a 17-year-old videotape of Wall surfaced showing him at a social gathering making jokes in a Ukrainian accent.

Anniversary Peace Vigil

What: Special Anniversary Peace Vigil
Where: Scarth Street Mall, North End
When: Thursday May 8 at 12:00 noon
Who: Making Peace Vigil and all friends and supporters of peace
Why: Celebrating 50 years of the Peace Symbol and 53 weeks (and
counting!) of the Making Peace Vigil

On Thursday, May 8th, a group of Regina citizens will gather to
recognize two anniversaries important to the cause of peace: one global,
one local.

In the spring of 1958, English textile designer Gerald Holtom adapted
the semaphore symbols for the letters ‘N’ and ‘D,’ standing for ‘Nuclear
Disarmament,’ into a striking visual symbol that has since become
synonymous with the cause of peace worldwide.

On Thursday, May 8th, members of Regina’s Making Peace Vigil will mark
the 50th anniversary of the Peace Symbol on the Scarth Street Mall, with
balloons, music, singers, and a ‘Peace Cake’ decorated with the
well-known symbol.

The commemoration of the Peace Symbol’s golden anniversary coincides
with another important birthday: the one-year anniversary of the Making
Peace Vigil itself. Since May 3 2007, vigil participants have assembled
on the F. W. Hill Mall every Thursday at noon–rain or shine, hot or
cold–giving over part of their lunch hour to the cause of peace.

We encourage as many people as possible to joins us for these special
anniversaries. Please circulate this through your own networks.

Peace to all!

MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Bills 5 & 6 are anti-woman!

We already know that Premier Wall and his SaskParty government do not have the best interests of women in mind. In not creating gender balance on the board of Enterprise Saskatchewan and in refusing to name a Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, he has made it clear that the status of women is not a priority for his government. And that’s sad, because women continue to be paid unfairly in this province. Despite working equally alongside men, women still earn about 70 cents for each dollar a man earns. But, new research shows that if women are in a unionized job, they will earn about 90 cents on the dollar earned by men.

So, what is the SaskParty going to do about that? Well, with the introduction of Bills 5 and 6, women will see no improvements in the pay gap. The legislation, which has been called anti-union and anti-worker can also be called anti-woman; it will negatively impact women in their workplaces.

Bill 5, the so-called Essential Services legislation, will fundamentally change collective bargaining for public sector workers. It is within the public sector that women have been able to secure unionized jobs, jobs which pay women decent wages, and provide for benefits and pensions. With a union, a woman can contemplate supporting a family.

Bill 6 makes union organizing extremely difficult. In industries where low-wage jobs are often filled by women and workers of colour such as in the retail and service sectors, more unionized jobs are needed in order to address the pay gap. We already know that employers aren’t going to voluntarily raise women’s wages; women have been waiting for that for decades to no avail.

But through their unions, women have been able to secure decent — if not yet fair wages for the work they do. It will be a good day for women when employers recognize the value of women in their workplace and actually pay up!

So, today I’m attending the May Day Rally on the steps of the legislature at noon. I’ll be there to remind the government and the opposition that women are people, too!

See you there!

May Day Rally handbill

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