The F-word and the Canadian Government

Feminism has become the latest buzz word for the new Canadian government.

Many Canadians and the world witnessed the Prime Minister of Canada inadvertently “elbowing” female NDP MP Brosseau. Since then the term feminism, gender equality and gender based violence has been thrown around left, right and center. However, after many of you saw the footage, I think it is quite apparent there was no maliciousness and it was unintentional. Prime Minister Trudeau has since then publically apologized for his behavior and actions. Sadly, the media and much of the opposition want to use this accident to discredit Prime Minister Trudeau’s support for feminism.

What they are not talking about is why the confrontation took place, which is when a conservative MP appeared to be blocked by oppositional NDP MP’s, so the vote on the physician-assisted suicide bill could commence. This is when PM Trudeau got out of his seat in attempt to remove the blockade and have MP Brown seated. Amidst the Prime Minister’s attempt, female MP Brosseau was inadvertently elbowed by the Prime Minister. While, I think it safe to say in hindsight PM Trudeau should have stayed seated and allowed those ‘adults’ to do their jobs respectfully.

However, from that point on the Canadian government circus began. NDP leader Mulcair began screaming and yelling at PM Trudeau, “What kind of man elbows a woman. You’re pathetic” repeatedly as the PM went to apologize when he realized he may have elbowed Brosseau. However, what I found even more alarming was NDP MP Niki Ashton’s statement which addressed the public, House of Commons and PM Justin Trudeau after the incident (see video link below).

Although, MP Niki Ashton’s speech could have been seen as an impactful one – but it was not because her point of reference was the wrong one to use.

As a feminist, an advocate and researcher of victims of abuse I was quite disheartened and frankly angered by her statement in the House of Commons. She stated that “If we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that we recognize that young women in this space need to feel safe to come here and work here.” While that is true, she manipulated the situation and used feminism in her attempt to discredit the PM. If we applied a “gendered lens” (another buzz word) it is still evident that the incident was not directly related to female safety. MP Brosseau was not targeted by the PM because she was a woman, it was simply an accident.

More importantly, does Niki Ashton know how many young girls and women are under constant scrutiny when they report abuse? How many of them are questioned about the validity of the abuse they have endured or still enduring? How many are never believed? Niki Ashton’s statement in the House of Commons is the very crux of why many young girls and women claims of abuse are dismissed, ignored or not believed.

The meaning of feminism is for equality, for the rights of both men and women to be respected. I am constantly defending feminism and her statement made it just that much harder. Feminism is not about being boisterous or making unwarranted claims or ignoring all other elements to fit your personal agenda.

As a woman who sits in the House of Commons she has the power to give voice to young girls and women, to inspire and to make change – she is a role model. I urge her and all the other members of parliament not to use the victims of abuse or feminism to propagate your own personal and party interests – that is the very opposite of what feminism is truly about.

A personal note to MP Niki Ashton – It was through the hard work of feminism and feminist that has given you the opportunity to sit in the House of Commons today. Please respect feminism – particularly if you choose to use feminism as the backbone for your arguments in the House of Commons.

A reminder to all our Members of Parliament, remember who you work for – not yourself, not your party but the public. With this epic charade that occurred in the House of Commons, you lost sight of what you were all there for. This is your time to serve your people with respect and dignity as you are the representatives of Canada.

Video footage link to “incident” that took place in House of Commons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4DJjuO9n7E

MP Niki Ashton’s addressing the House of Commons http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/05/18/niki-ashton-justin-trudeau-feminist_n_10036422.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics&ir=Canada+Politics&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

Sunny Mangat

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Just because the verdict was “not-guilty” doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.

Just because the verdict was “not-guilty” doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.Yesterday, the Jian Ghomeshi trial ended with a not-guilty verdict.

Jian Ghomeshi a Canadian musician, writer and former CBC radio broadcaster, was acquitted of all charges of sexual assault and choking. In closing statement, Ontario court of Justice Judge William Horkins stated the testimony and memories of the complainants were not trustworthy and appeared to be dishonest. Judge William Horkin’s argues that with the number of messages exchanged between the complainants, it appeared to be a plot to ruin Jian Ghomeshi. Further, Judge William Horkin’s topped his decision by stating ‘the court recognizes it needs to guard against stereotypes about how a woman should act after an assault’… ‘However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.

Much of the public was outraged with the ruling, claiming that Judge William Horkins, did not in fact put Jian Ghomeshi on trial but put the women complainants on trial. Others leaned towards Jian Ghomeshi’s class and celebrity status and they believe that allowed him to ‘get-away’ with these crimes and related Ghomeshi to Bill Cosby. These all lead to the need for a discussion around ‘rape culture’ and a better understanding of the victims psyche. The simple fact is not all victims will behave in the same manner, nor in a manner we may want them too. People will react differently to abuse based upon their environment, childhood upbringing, resiliency levels, culture, class and religion and so on. Alternatively, those who support Judge Horkin’s decision argued “if the complainants were truly victims they would not have carried on relations with Ghomeshi after the fact.” However, what many people do not realize is that with the stigma and shame surrounding sexual violence, many victims may attempt to remove that shame they are feeling by reaching out to the abuser. Some victims attempt to reconcile with their abuser in order to disassociate themselves from the abuse they endured.

A combination of rape culture and the crown’s inability to meet the burden of proof failed society yesterday. Perhaps Judge Horkin’s should have kept his personal opinions to himself and left his closing statement to the rule of law. There is debate whether the prosecution was unable to meet the burden of proof, and the fact is victim testimony may not always be as ‘reliable’ as we want because when there is abuse involved things do not appear as clear cut. Jian Ghomeshi does not deny being violent with these women. He simply argues it was consensual – they signed up for it and therefore he is not guilty. Author Anne Kingston perfectly sums up the case when she wrote “Jian Ghomeshi’s behaviour was an open secret, going back to his university days. Not that anyone took action. In fact, the CBC made him a star.” Jian Ghomeshi has had complaints against him by women for years, yet due to his charisma and looks these were always over looked. A woman named Karen Eady told Maclean’s author Kingston, she attended York University at the same time of Ghomeshi, and recalls being in a residence advisers meeting where women had reported to have had a ‘bad date’ with Ghomeshi. These bad dates alleged abuse ranging from hitting to choking. The violence involved in these bad dates are also similar to the present case and to the many women who also made complaints while working with Ghomeshi at CBC. Over the years, the women that have made formal complaints against Ghomeshi, have all received similar responses such as “just work around him” or “we know he can be hard to be around, but just ignore him” and some complaints were just flat out ignored.

What actually happened we will never truly know and only the parties involved know the truth. However, given the sheer number of women that have come forward over the years, it is very clear that as a society we continue to perpetuate rape culture and victim blaming.

Nevertheless, it is imperative that we start focusing on instilling confidence in our children, both boys and girls. This will allow for girls to grow up into confident women and have the ability to trust herself enough to remove herself from harmful situations and most importantly to not be ashamed of herself. We need to provide our boys with confidence, so that they will never feel the need to take away from someone else to lift themselves up. We as a society also need to take more pertinent action when any person makes an allegation of abuse – we need to focus on the victim. Our current system stands to put victims of sexual violence on trial opposed to perpetrators. All victims should be made to feel like survivors and have the right to overcome abuse with dignity and without the attachment of shame.

“Guilt is one side of a nasty triangle; the other two are shame and stigma. This grim coalition combines to inculpate women themselves of the crimes committed against them.” – Germaine Greer

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny