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Friday, April 27, 2012

My Canada includes Women's Rights

Today I am grateful for all of the Canadian women and men who have stood up for women's rights and affirmed my right to bodily autonomy, security of the person, affirmed my right to express my own conscience and control my own destiny. Thank you to all who spoke in the House of Commons against Woodworth's regressive motion. Thank you to Niki Ashton who connected her words so eloquently to the work of her feminist fore-mothers. Thank you to Hedy Fry who managed to demonstrate the absurdity of the motion while assassinating the government's record. Thank you to Francoise Boivin for your passion. Thank you to Gordon O'Connor, Conservative Whip, who clearly stated all the failings of the motion and affirmed that Canadians do not want to go back in time. Thank you to all of you who were so eloquent and passionate.

I have always been against debating abortion. Human rights are not up for debate. But here we were, fighting the most regressive and misogynist forces in our country, debating. Although part of me wanted to block out the spectacle and wished MPs would stand in the House, refuse to speak and even turn their backs, I have to admit I watched intently and was moved by what was said. A few times, I was moved to tears. To hear my values stated in our House of Commons was powerful for me. As my American ally Charlotte Taft reminded me, we have to engage when our rights are threatened. But I'm glad I didn't waste a lot of energy "debating" the antis over the years, whose minds will never change, and had the energy to get fully involved when it counted. I've also always said, as activists, we have to be smart about where to put our energy.

This does not mean I am grateful the debate happened or that I am in any way pleased that Mr. Harper allowed it to go forward. There is no reason to put women or any group of people in a position in which they feel threatened and unsafe, in which they feel their rights may be taken away. Women my age and older often complain that young women take their rights for granted. Why shouldn't they? Why shouldn't all of us? To a very large extent, we should be secure in our rights, secure in this country, secure that our government isn't plotting against us. I fault Mr. Harper for putting so many Canadians in a position where they are insecure and feeling unsafe. And it is not just women. Dissenting groups beyond Status of Women Canada feel the chill, especially environmental groups. I will continue to fight for a Canada in which progressives are heard and our agenda is mainstream.

This Motion 312 business isn't over. There will be another hour of debate, and I won't be relieved until this next incursion on our rights is voted down. But I am grateful, grateful to our MPs who spoke on our behalf and grateful to all of our allies.

Happening on the heels of the defeat of the Wildrose in Alberta, I feel doubly happy. My Canada is a Canada in which I am respected and in which I feel safe and my daughter is safe. I am grateful. I belong here.

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