Happy Birthday, Prairie Lilies!

A version of this article was published in Canadian Dimension Volume 43, Number 2.  Feel free to leave your greetings in the comments section, below.

Happy Birthday, Prairie Lilies!

by Bernadette L. Wagner

Last year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, the Canadian Labour Congress and a collection of Saskatchewan’s labour organizations hosted an Equality Dinner in Regina. It provided opportunity for feminists old and new to come together with supportive brothers in a social setting. Those kinds of opportunities have been few in recent years. Feminism in Saskatchewan had taken a serious blow. The pseudo-progressive New Democratic Party of Saskatchewan targeted feminists working within the party. Feminist organizations struggled to keep doors open with incrementally less money. The once-thriving, Saskatchewan Action Committee on the Status of Women withered and died. The women’s movement in Saskatchewan seemed to stop moving.

Until last year, that is. At the dinner, after the food and speeches, an informal discussion began among those gathered. Sheila Roberts, a long-time activist, stood to raise a question. “Is there interest in starting a new women’s organization along the lines of Saskatchewan Working Women (SWW)?” she asked. SWW helped to put women’s issues on bargaining tables and made them known in the public sphere. My personal longing for organized feminist activity in the province made me stand up, speak in support, and call for a provincial women’s conference which would bring women together to share and network and speak to our issues.

Most women gathered liked the idea. Cara Banks, a feminist active in the Labour movement came up to me afterwards, saying we had to talk. Within six weeks we gathered a dozen women into my living room and brought to life the Prairie Lily Feminist Society. With an interim board of directors we decided to incorporate as a member-based non-profit corporation which would work to “promote an explicitly feminist analysis of issues, to educate and act in ways that are progressive and feminist and to interconnect with other individuals, groups and organizations who share our vision for change.” We also decided we wanted to be “a place where women could develop leadership skills, including public speaking, organizing, educating, agitating, and critically analyzing issues.” And, we felt it important that we “provide a place where we are free to debate issues from feminist perspectives and to develop policy responses as a collective.”

As if that wasn’t enough, we decided to plan a women’s symposium for Saskatoon in December 2008. To accomplish that would mean fundraising and organizing. Our connections to brothers in the trade union movement helped. Thanks to the support of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and other unions in the province, we had a manifesto and a bank account of more than five thousand dollars. By the middle of May, less than two months after the idea of a new women’s organization had been put forward, we had part-time paid staff to begin organizing and mobilizing for the symposium. Because of a personal injury, I had to completely remove myself from involvement in all organizations but that didn’t stop the “Lilies.” I passed my files along to Ann McCrorie and she carried our dreams forward into being.

On December 6 and 7, 2008 the Prairie Lily Feminist Society held its first provincial symposium for women in Saskatoon. Almost a hundred women from many Saskatchewan communities attended. A cursory glance at the evaluation forms suggest it was a great success and certainly something long overdue in the province. Keynote speaker, Morningstar Mercredi, opened the symposium. The storyteller, actress, social activist, researcher and author of “Morningstar: A Warrior’s Spirit” delivered a powerful message: “Lilies, step into your power.” It’s precisely the message Saskatchewan women needed to hear. In many ways, we had allowed our power to be usurped by male privilege. And so, we not only gathered but we also learned, connected, and got excited!

In workshop sessions we learned about the work that’s gone on around women who are missing, about peace activism, and working women. We connected around our spiritual work, our right to be assertive, our planet and our children. And, thanks to an activist roundtable, where represen­tatives from women’s organizations shared with one another about their campaigns, we got excited! Stories from Oxfam, the Rebelles, la Fédération provincial des Fransaskoises, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition, Real Renewal.org, the Sask Eco-Network, Amnesty International, the Canadian Childcare Advocacy Association, the Prairie Women’s Health Centre for Excellence, and Nancy Allan who sold Fair Trade goods during our event moved us.

The symposium was deliberately planned for the weekend of December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. To mark the day the Prairie Lilies hosted a commemorative dinner, catered by Two Women from Burr. Those two women, Laurel and Marie, put on a fantastic spread wherever they cater with delicious locally-grown and organic foods. Following the dinner, the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition hosted a formal ceremony to honour the women killed in the Montreal Massacre and all women who face violence in their lives.

As with all good events, they seem to end too soon. The symposium’s closing sessions saw agreement in many areas. Among other things participants agreed to walk in support with women in Saskatchewan who are organizing around the issue of missing and murdered women and raised money for workers walking the picket line. We recognized that our power together is strong and so we will organize, fundraise, and lobby for women and their families. Participants identified areas they’d like to focus: balancing work and family; women’s sexuality; media training; lobbying; writing and debating resolutions; chairing meetings; fundraising; and online organizing were but a few.

At present, the Prairie Lily Feminist Society is looking forward to its first Annual General Meeting scheduled for Regina on March 7th. It will be our contribution to the 2009 International Women’s Day celebrations with a dinner, a silent auction, entertainment and a social. And we’re donating a portion of our proceeds to the Sisters in Spirit Saskatchewan campaign.

Though feminist activism in our province had suffered a blow, it did not die. Feminism is a-happening here! And of course, it would be. The personal is political.

Isn’t it amazing what can transpire in a year?


Is the PM losing control?

There is so much weirdness going on in federal politics this week, I have to wonder if Mr. Harper is losing control of his rightwing radicals.  Or, perhaps he’s under pressure to give those radicals more voice and has allowed these things to occur to appease that faction of his party, to hold his rightwing coalition together.  It certainly looks strategic.

Wonder what I’m talking about?  Well, just take a look:

My favourite cowboys, those Cowboys for Social Responsibility, took time to fill us in on the latest story about the gun-crazy Yorkton-Melville MP, Garry Breitkreuz.  News was that he would speak at the AGM of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, but that was kiboshed by the PMO.  Now the PM, himself, will speak at the event.

And speaking of speaking, MP Jason Kenney has banned an MP from Britain from entering Canada.  Outspoken anti-war activist and Scotsman, George Galloway, is scheduled to speak at an anti-war rally next week, but the Canadian Border Services Agency has deemed him “a threat to national security”!  Go figure?  Those pacifists, eh?  Never know when they might peace out a place, huh?

Alison@Creekside has the dirty on the mouthpiece who’s been speaking for MP Jason Kenney,  Alykhan Velshi, and his ties to the radical right in the USA.

I’m thinking Galloway’s really under attack here because he is articulate.  See how Galloway eviscerated former Bush speechwriter, David Frum.

Oh, and there’s a petition asking for Galloway to be allowed to speak in Canada here.  Sign it now, please, then come back for more.

Yes, there’s more!  Moron Kenney has been freewheeling this past week.  Get a load of the racism inherent in this idiocy:

Immigrants who can’t speak English or French well enough should be denied citizenship, a federal cabinet minister says.

Canada needs to improve its efforts to integrate newcomers, Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, said Friday.

“I believe one area that we can ask immigrants in the country to make a greater effort [in] is that of language,” Kenney said in a speech to an immigration conference in Calgary.

In other countries of the world, citizens can speak four or five languages by early adulthood.  So what if English or French isn’t one of them?  Maybe Kenney should be promoting multi-lingualism in Canada instead of racism.

And he’s attempting to embrace Black Canadians, too, according to BCL:

Now he’s hosting “National Black Engagement Days”

Blogging Tory Canadian Blue Lemons … describes the event as “the most patronizing thing I have seen in my many, many years of observing politics”.

As if that’s not bad enough!  No, we’re not yet through with Kenney.  Sorry to say, but his homophobia hit the waves this week, too, even though it’s old news.  (Strategic or what?)  The appointment of a radical homophobe to the Immigration Refuge Board should not be surprising coming from this government:

Doug Cryer, a former director of public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, has also publicly defended the right of churches to denounce homosexuality.

“Doug Cryer of the EFC said the church has a right to say that homosexual behaviour is sinful, just as it can say that adultery is sinful,” according to a November 2006 edition of CanadianChristianity.com.

“It is part of God’s teaching,” Cryer told the publication.

Cryer is among a dozen people appointed by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney last month to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board — an independent administrative tribunal that hears applications for refugee status.

And Doug Cryer used to work for Ed Komarnicki, MP for Souris-Moose Mountain.  Oh, isn’t this just what we need, eh?  Religious zealots deciding the makeup of our country?  I think not!

But wait, there’s more Kenney!  (I know, it’s over the top!!!)  But this has to do with the Zionist trend among Canada’s political right (and on that right I include Iggy, btw).

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made no apologies yesterday for ending the flow of funds to the Canadian Arab Federation, which he says has expressed support for terror groups.

CAF president Khaled Mouammar believes Canada should regard Hamas and Hezbollah as “legitimate organizations,” Kenney said.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are on the Canadian government’s list of groups “associated with terrorism,” according to the public safety department’s website.

“Here we have in Canada, someone who, until the end of this month at least, was receiving public subsidies from my department, who says … these organizations that are essentially anti-Semitic and seek the destruction of Israel … should be able to operate in Canada,” Kenney said.

People in Canada “need to exercise freedom of expression responsibly” and should be wary of the rise of a new form of anti-Semitism cloaked in debates about Israel’s actions in the Middle East, Kenney said in a speech to University of Toronto students.

There is no room for non-violent extremism in Canada that is “beyond the pale,” he said. “When I say beyond the pale I don’t mean illegal. But these are the kinds of organizations that should receive no formal support from the organs of the Canadian state.”

I would expect my country to extend support to all voices and not just those of the state.  To do otherwise smacks of censorship which, we all know, is a tenet of fascism.

Now, just in case you thought this long post would end here, there’s one more tidbit to add.  Minister of Heritage, James Moore, is pitting the government against the CBC, our public broadcaster:

…Moore has taken a hard line against the CBC in recent public statements.

“The question of financing for this fiscal year is closed. They’re receiving $1.1 billion, the largest amount in straight dollars from the federal government that they’ve ever received.”

That’s we, bubba.  That’s the people of Canada, that’s our broadcaster, paid for by our tax dollars!  And we deserve better than you, Jackass!

The sooner we rid ourselves of this rightwing idiocy, the better for our country!  I won’t hold my breath waiting for the Liberals to take them on, however.  They’re a non-entity when it comes to preserving all that is Canadiana.

ACTION: Save Crown land that is native grassland!

Trevor Herriot, a writer, birder, naturalist and friend, has asked us to take action in order to save Saskatchewan’s native grasslands, especially the millions of acres protected by the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act.  Here’s why:

Last fall the Government of Saskatchewan announced a program to sell 1.6 million acres of Crown land (an area equal in size to PEI) to current leasees at a price of up to 10% below market value.

While lessees are not required to purchase their leases they have been told in writing from the Government that they should know that it is the government’s intention to see saleable land in the hands of private ownership.

Saskatchewan residents recognize and appreciate the important role many landowners play in maintaining habitat on their privately owned and leased lands. However, Crown land that currently has an ecological value on it should not be sold. These lands should remain protected and cherished as a “Crown Jewel” for the future benefit of all Saskatchewan residents.

A significant amount of Crown Ag land in Saskatchewan contains habitat that is critical in preserving our native flora and fauna.

The lack of concern being expressed by Saskatchewan residents to date regarding the sale of Crown owned land is being interpreted as support for the sales program.

You can read more about it over at Trevor’s place.  And download these documents to help you write your letter to Premier Wall. There’s more about Trevor’s latest book, Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds, here.

And hey, just because you don’t live here doesn’t mean you can’t write to Premier Wall.  The more the merrier, I always say!

Do both Harper and Iggy hate women?

Well, we know the Harper hates women. But Iggy, too?

Let’s see.  Iggy supported Harper’s budget which saw a continuation of Harper’s attack on women. And Iggy encouraged the Senate to push it through even though Senators had problems with it. And Iggy’s done nothing to appease women since taking the helm of the Liberal Party of Canada.

But now, this seems to ice the cake, so to speak.

Grit insiders say the federal Liberals are unlikely to nominate one-third female candidates in the next election and that the new Liberal leader’s main focus is finding winnable candidates rather than focusing on gender.

Oh, the backlash against feminism is strong, isn’t it?  And now we have two federal party leaders jumping on that bandwagon!

What’s a girl to do?  Sure, quotas are the only answer.  But hello?  Have you read any research about the impact on women’s and children’s lives when at least 1/3 of the movers and shakers are women?  It’s huge!  It’s as though women’s lives suddenly matter, as though women finally get taken seriously.  Does Iggy know anything about CEDAW?

It appears that, no, he does not.  He’s too busy cosying up to the big boys in the sandbox, those who don’t want to share their toys with half the population.  Like I say, Liberal, Tory, same old story.

Thanks to Challenging the Commonplace for the pointer.

Criticism of Israel is legitimate. Michael Ignatieff told me so.

Apparently both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star refused to publish the following statement. I’m joining other bloggers who don’t think that should be allowed to stand.

Over 150 Jewish Canadians signed a statement expressing their concerns about the campaign to suppress criticism of Israel that is being carried on within Canada. The signatories include many prominent Canadians, including Ursula Franklin O.C., Anton Kuerti O.C., Naomi Klein, Dr. Gabor Mate, and professors Meyer Brownstone (recipient of Pearson Peace Medal), Natalie Zemon Davis, Michael Neumann, and Judy Rebick.

The signatories are particularly concerned that unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism deflect attention from Israel’s accountability for what many have called war crimes in Gaza. They state that B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have led campaigns to silence criticism of Israel on university campuses, in labor unions and in other groups. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff unquestioningly echo the views of these particular Jewish organizations.

They strongly state that they are against all expressions of racism. While firmly committed to resisting any form of prejudice against Jewish people, their statement explicitly states that these spurious allegations of anti-Semitism bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind. The statement underlines the immeasurable suffering and injustice to the Palestinian people due to the severe poverty, daily humiliations, and military invasions inflicted by the State of Israel.

Statement: Jewish Canadians Concerned about Suppression of Criticism of Israel

We are Jewish Canadians concerned about all expressions of racism, anti-Semitism, and social injustice. We believe that the Holocaust legacy “Never again” means never again for all peoples. It is a tragic turn of history that the State of Israel, with its ideals of democracy and its dream of being a safe haven for Jewish people, causes immeasurable suffering and injustice to the Palestinian people.

We are appalled by recent attempts of prominent Jewish organizations and leading Canadian politicians to silence protest against the State of Israel. We are alarmed by the escalation of fear tactics. Charges that those organizing Israel Apartheid Week or supporting an academic boycott of Israel are anti-Semites promoting hatred bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind. We believe this serves to deflect attention from Israel’s flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.

B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have pressured university presidents and administrations to silence debate and discussion specifically regarding Palestine/Israel. In a full-page ad in a national newspaper, B’nai Brith urged donors to withhold funds from universities because “anti-Semitic hate fests” were being allowed on campuses. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have echoed these arguments. While university administrators have resisted demands to shut down Israel Apartheid week, some Ontario university presidents have bowed to this disinformation campaign by suspending and fining students, confiscating posters, and infringing on free speech.

We do not believe that Israel acts in self-defense. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, receiving $3 million/day. It has the fourth strongest army in the world. Before the invasion of Gaza on 27 December 2008, Israel’s siege had already created a humanitarian catastrophe there, with severe impoverishment, malnutrition, and destroyed infrastructure. It is crucial that forums for discussion of Israel’s accountability to the international community for what many have called war crimes be allowed to proceed unrestricted by specious claims of anti-Semitism.

We recognize that anti-Semitism is a reality in Canada as elsewhere, and we are fully committed to resisting any act of hatred against Jews. At the same time, we condemn false charges of anti-Semitism against student organizations, unions, and other groups and people exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech and association regarding legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.


Abigail Bakan
Adam Balsam
Sharon Baltman
Julia Barnett
Lainie Basman
Jody Berland
Sam Blatt
Geri Blinik
Anita Block
Elizabeth Block
Sheila Block
Hannah Briemberg
Mark Brill
Stephen Brot
Meyer Brownstone
Eliza Burroughs
Smadar Carmon
Gyda Chud
Charles P. Cohen
Nathalie Cohen
David Copeland
Natalie Zemon Davis
Eliza Deutsch
James Deutsch
Judith Deutsch
Abbe Edelson
Jack Etkin
Elle Flanders
Danielle Frank
Ursula Franklin
Dan Freeman-Maloy
Miriam Garfinkle
Alisa Gayle
Jack Gegenberg
Mark Golden
Brenda Goldstein
Sue Goldstein
Cy Gonick
Marnina Gonick
Rachel Gotthilf
Amy Gottleib
Kevin A. Gould
Daina Green
Lisa Frances Greenspoon
Ricardo Grinspun
Cathy Gulkin
Rachel Gurofsky
Deboran Guterman
Yesse Gutman
Freda Guttman
Judy Haiven
Michael Hanna-Fein
Jean Hanson
Jan Heynen
Maria Heynen
Adam Hofmann
Jake Javanshir
Jeannie Kamins
Marylin Kanee
Howard S. Kaplan
Gilda Katz
Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta
Mira Khazzam
Bonnie Sher Klein
Mark Klein
Martin Klein
Naomi Klein
Joshua Katz-Rosene
Ryan Katz-Rosene
Judy Koch
Anton Kuerti
Jason Kunin
Aaron Lakoff
Michael Lambek
Natalie LaRoche
Richard Borshay Lee
Andy Lehrer
Gabriel Levin
Gabriel Levine
Joel Lexchin
Kim Linekin
Abby Lippman
Lee Lorch
Martin Lukacs
Audrey Macklin
Elise Maltin
Richard Marcuse
Wayne Mark
Gabor Mate
Arthur Milner
Anna Miransky
Dorit Naaman
Joanne Naiman
Neil Naiman
Michael Neumann
David-Marc Newman
David Noble
Clare O’Connor
Robin Ostow
Andre W. Payant
Jenny Peto
Simone Powell
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Fabienne Presentey
Yacov Rabkin
Diana Ralph
Naomi Rankin
Judy Rebick
Ester Reiter
Jillian Rogin
Richard Roman
Joseph Rosen
Herman Rosenfeld
Martha Roth
Marty Roth
Ruben Roth
E.Natalie Rothman
B. Sack
Ben Saifer
Miriam Sampaio
Jacob Scheir
Fred Schloessinger
Alan Sears
Shlomit Segal
Edward H. Shaffer
Noa Shaindlinger
Ray Shankman
Eva Sharell
Elliot Shek
Sid Shniad
Max Silverman
Samuel Singer
Elizabeth Solloway
Susan Starkman
Greg Starr
Jonathan Sterne
Jeremy Stolow
Rhonda Sussman
Vera Szoke
Joe Tannenbaum
Howard Tessler
Marion Traub-Werner
Ceyda Turan
Sandra Tychsen
Cheryl Wagner
Jon McPhedran Waitzer
David Wall
Naomi Binder Wall
Kathy Wazana
Karen Weisberg
Barry Weisleder
Paul Weinberg
Judith Weisman
Suzanne Weiss

Abraham Weizfeld
Ernie Yacub
B.H. Yael
Yedida Zalik
Melvin Zimmerman

Iggy the Idiot, Part II

Oy!  I just finish noting Ignatieff’s idiocy and find out he’s up to more of it!  What is wrong with this man?  Does he now have an idjit writing his opinion pieces?  Oh, wait!  Lack of logic and poor argument are standard fare for Iggy.

His clever wordplay doesn’t disguise a poor grasp of the facts. Reading Ignatieff’s feature articles in the New York Times Magazine over the past four years, one discovers that the pompous professor is a bad student who doesn’t actually learn from his own mistakes. In ‘Nation Building Lite’ (July 2002), Ignatieff calls for heavy-handed nation-building in Afghanistan: ‘The [Afghans] understand the difficult truth that their best hope of freedom lies in a temporary experience of imperial rule.’ And to work, ‘imperial power requires controlling the subject people’s sense of time, convincing them that they will be ruled forever.’

Today’s illogical screed furthers his aim for idiocy:

International law defines “apartheid” as a crime against humanity. Labelling Israel as an “apartheid” state is a deliberate attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state itself.

Criticism of Israel is legitimate. Attempting to describe its very existence as a crime against humanity is not.

As my friend, skdadl, pointed out at BnR, this is not a logical argument.  The first two sentences set up a false relationship.  In the Apartheid days in South Africa, no one working in the anti-Apartheid movement denied the right of South Africa to exist.

Likewise now, with Israel.  No one is denying the right of Israel to exist.  But what folks are saying is that the treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state is reprehensible and is an example of an Apartheid regime.

Take a look at the word, apartheid.  The Free Online Dictionary says it is, “An official policy of racial segregation.”  Israel has segregated Palestinians, that much is very clear.  And it’s done so systematically and with brute force.

And that, Mr. Ignatieff, is apartheid.

But hey, if you don’t believe me see what Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States of America, has to say.

Oh, and here are a few others on Iggy:

Anti-Ignatieff Primer
Ignatieff’s Public Hissy Fit
Ignatieff: Pop Intellectual
Bionic Liberal

Thanks to the BnR gang for motivation!

UPDATE:  Double oy!  Mister pogge’s nailed it! Sophistry, indeed!

UPDATE2:  Had to add Mentarch to the list.  Be sure to take the “once again” link!

Iggy the Idiot, Part I

When my daughter was young, she watched a CBC-TV show called Under the Umbrella Tree which featured Holly and her three puppet roomies, Gloria Gopher, Jacob Bluejay and Iggy Iguana.

Perhaps our own Iggy the Liberal leader watched too much of that show.  Or maybe it’s just part of the attributes that attach to that name but the iguana Iggy was characterized as “thinking too highly of himself and unwillingly making mistakes.”

Iggy the Liberal has certainly been thinking too highly of himself and too little of others.

His support for Harper’s budget bill is a slap in the face to Canadian women.  Of course we shouldn’t be too surprised at this given the Liberal Party’s record with women.  Wasn’t it Paul Martin as Finance Minister who began the federal attack on women’s organizations funded through Status of Women Canada?  So, to see Iggy and his ilk support an attack on pay equity and infrastructure solutions that exclude women while still denying Canadian women a national childcare plan is really to be expected.

But Canadians have some kind of sick idea that the Liberals are better than the Cons.  Not me.  Liberal or Tory, it’s the same old story.  Tommy Douglas was right about that in his story of Mouseland.  Not that the NDP or any partisan organization will be the savior of Canada or Canadian women, for that matter.  But at least the NDP get it when it comes to women’s issues.  Mind you, it’s not quite to the extent that the Bloc Quebecois get it, but it’s good.

About Iggy the Liberal unwillingly making mistakes, well, I’m not sure.  It’s looking to me like he’s willfully making mistakes at the expense of Canadian women and children.