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John Bonnar is an independent journalist covering social justice events in and around Toronto through print, photo, audio, video and slideshows. You can connect with him on Facebook (John Bonnar) or on Twitter at @johnb98 or on YouTube at johnb98.

Protesters demand G8/G20 leaders address rights of women and girls around the world

| June 22, 2010
Protesters demand G8/G20 leaders address rights of women and girls around the world

Standing in the courtyard outside Pitman Hall at Ryerson University, Jessica Yee clutched the megaphone and eyed the crowd of over 200 demonstrators.

As she began to speak, the television cameras, reporters and photographers inched closer.

“We’re here today because if we don’t have rights over our own bodies, what do we have?” asked Yee, a self-described Indigenous feminist reproductive justice freedom fighter.

Her commanding voice thundered through the crowd, some of whom were holding signs that read “Maternal Health Includes Abortion”, “Sex Work Is Real Work” and “Hey G8, Support For Women Everywhere.”

“We’re here today because women aren’t shutting the fuck up and because sex workers make a valuable contribution to society.”

The 24-year-old founder and Executive Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, a CanAmerica wide organization by youth and for youth, has spent half her life motivating people to make their own decisions about their bodies.

“We’re here today because the anti-choicers bussed Catholic board high school students to Ottawa to exploit their age but of course didn’t ask them what they think before coercing and co-opting them.”

When she was 10, Yee came home from Catholic school and asked her mother if abortion was wrong, after her teachers had told her “it’s like grinding babies” and “God won’t love you if you have an abortion”, she wrote in a blog entry earlier this year.

Her mother explained that she had two abortions, before giving birth to Jessica and her sister when she was finally “old enough, mature enough” to give them the life they deserved.

“We’re here today because the death rate for aboriginal babies is two times the national average no matter how close they live to cities,” said Yee.

A recent study published in the Journal of Rural Health revealed that the death rate for aboriginal babies is more than twice the Canadian average and doesn't improve no matter how close their mothers live to sophisticated health-care facilities.

“Shame, shame,” a few protesters called out.

After her speech, Yee introduced award-winning Medicine Song Woman Brenda MacIntyre, who inspired everyone with her hand drumming song.

Winding their way through downtown Toronto on crowded sidewalks, protesters chanted, clapped their hands and blew their party horns on their way to the Ministry of Health at 900 Bay Street.

At the front of the march, Yee and two others carried a large white banner with “CHOICE” written in big, bold red letters in the middle, with “Maternal Health includes Abortion” and “Sex Education Matters For Youth” scrawled near the borders.

“Keep your rosaries, off my ovaries,” chanted a contingent from the Canadian Federation of Students, just behind the lead group.

Further back, a group chanted, “Women’s Rights Under Attack, What do we do Stand up fight Back.”

Even half a dozen people in wheelchairs were able to participate in the fully accessible rally and march.

When poverty activists, students, sex trade workers and women’s rights advocates reached the Macdonald Block, they were greeted by slew of television cameras (including one operated by a plain-clothes police officer) and reporters.

“It’s absolutely shameful that between 19 million and 20 million women a year worldwide have unsafe abortions,” said Carolyn Egan, representing the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics (OCAC).

“Approximately 70,000 of them every year in the developing world die from unsafe abortions.”

Originally organized to fight the federal abortion law, OCAC is involved in a range of struggles for reproductive rights.

“It’s utter hypocrisy to say you’re going to introduce a policy to deal with maternal health and leave out the question of abortion,” she said.

Yet that’s exactly what Canada has vowed to do. Harper will veto any use of Canada’s contribution to a proposed G8 funding effort for abortions in developing countries.

“Who feels like phoning Harper today?” asked Jessica Yee.

The crowd erupted in cheers.

“We want you to flood the Prime Minister’s office today, telling him you’re not shutting the fuck up, that we want full reproductive choice and access and full funding for abortions all over the world starting in Canada.”

Despite being legal, abortions are still not accessible for all Canadians. Women in rural and northern communities must travel hundreds of kilometres to southern, urban centres to obtain their abortions.

At Saturday’s rally, Planned Parenthood Toronto sent a strong message to the Premier, who in April decided to shelve a new sex education curriculum for Ontario schools.

Under the changes, Grade 1 children were to be taught to identify genitalia using the correct words, such as penis, vagina and testicle. 

In Grade 5, children were to be taught to identify parts of the reproductive system and describe how the body changes during puberty.

In Grade 7, the plan was to teach kids how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

“We believe that youth have the right to accurate information about sexual health and sexuality and healthy relationships,” said Sarah Hobbs, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Toronto.

“Access to relevant sexual health information is essential to being able to make real choices.”

Jessica Yee then reminded supporters that the rally wasn’t only about sex education and choice but also about a labour right “that everybody seems to be uncomfortable with” yet has been around forever and “deserves to be respected.”

“Sec work is real work,” she said.

“We are tired of people speaking for sex workers, tired of having to hide to keep our families and our day jobs and tired of dying from neglect,” said a board member at Maggie’s: The Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, an organization run by and for local sex workers.

“We are not criminals.”

Sex workers simply want to be known as workers that want their choices respected, their jobs de-criminalized and an end to police harassment.

“You can be sure that lots of those big-wigs and those cops that are rolling into town today will be using sex worker services but they will never offer us a place at the table where the decisions that affect our lives are made.”

Before the last speaker of the day, Jessica Yee asked if anyone had called Harper.

A young woman sprinted out of the crowd.

“Tell us what you left on Harper’s voice mail.”

“I told Harper that there’s hundreds of women and men in the streets and we will continue calling his office, banging on his door until he starts giving us what we demand,” she said. “Because that is his job and if he doesn’t do it we will take it away from him.”

“Whooooooo,” yelled the crowd.

Shane, a 17-year-old high school student, was at Saturday’s rally as a voice for young people who believe that they should be in control of their own bodies.

When he attended a mainstream school, he said the extent of his sex education was limited to procreation.

“And that’s just not good enough,” he said.

But when he transferred to an alternative school for LGBT youth, he took a three week course where he learned “everything you could possibly know about sexual health education for queer and trans youth.”

He also volunteers at the Youthline, which gets hundreds of calls a month from queer youth, who possess little knowledge about sexual health.

“Because schools are not educating them about how to keep themselves safe,” said Shane. “So how can we expect youth to know what they’re doing?”

When the rally ended, Jessica Yee reminded everyone that the fight for reproductive justice was far from over -- even in Canada.

Click here to see photos from the rally and march.

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Comments

"A United Nations committee wants Canada to explain why law enforcement agencies have failed to deal with the disappearance and murder of Aboriginal women. The U-N Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has issued its concluding observations after reviewing Canada's work on a U-N convention to wipe out discrimination. Chairwoman Shelagh Day says Canada has one year to report on how it will boost social assistance rates and address the lack of progress on the files of missing and murdered women. The Committee is also urging Canada to hold an inquiry into the 511 missing or murdered Aboriginal women and to resolve problems with the law enforcement system."

the Amnesty link: http://www.amnesty.ca/campaigns/sisters_overview.php
************************************************************************** While working in Indian Government in Ottawa from 1986-94 -I remember when the World Council of Indigenous Peoples ( WCIP) organized conferences worldwide to gather concerns to present to United Nations some of which were:

1) melting icecaps & all that entails;

2) clearcutting of forests & the ensuing mining corporations = alcohol,
disease, porn, prostitution to the surrounding Indigenous peoples before the development of hydro-electic dams & total destruction of the land & dispora of the people;

3) the capture & release of Indigenous peoples for blood samples;

4) the return of artifacts & bones in museums or at the very minimum the agreement to see "who " were in the drawers...

5) & the disappearance of Native women in the Americas.
(www.missingnativewomen.org)

Since I worked in Indian gov't I knew about the "Highway of Tears" in
northern B.C. where Aboriginal women have disappeared so far with no real investigation by the RCMP. (www.highwayoftears.ca/missingbclist.htm)

Then again my dad informed me about Canada's "sextrade" in grade six as a precaution against hitchhiking let alone getting "caught" by gangs of Canadian guys "lookin' for some fun".

I also read a book about the sex trade in Canada -Raven's Journey- I think it was called, from B.C. Pretty much what my father told me in 6th grade.
(http://www.ajic.mb.ca/volume.html...see Vol.2)

Various concerned parties have recently reported that Vancouver is a major hub for trafficking in a most unsavory type of freight: humans; as University of British Columbia law professor Benjamin Perrin recently noted, “Vancouver is considered to be a hub for Pacific human trafficking.” The British Columbia Human Rights Coalition concurred, reporting that, “Canada has been identified as both a transit and a destination point for human trafficking, and Vancouver has been singled out by the US state department as a port of major concern.”

 According to far more shocking allegations  there is no shortage of other unsavory freight being shipped through Vancouver, including illegal drugs and weapons, and, perhaps inevitably, child pornography. According to witness statements taken from social workers, tribal elders and self-described victims, Vancouver is home to a protected network of pedophiles engaged in such pursuits as rape, torture, murder, child pornography, production of snuff films, and ethnic cleansing.

http://censored-news.blogspot.com/2010/01/kevin-annett-eye-witnesses-of-...

 more info?: http://blogs.myspace.com/bloodwashinghands

 Renate AUGER
A Tale of Two Lawyers 
Renate Andres-Auger was a Cree woman lawyer, called to the bar in 1989 and ... MacDonald, the same judge who had ordered the arrest of Renate Andres-Auger! ...
british-columbia.ca.human-rights.org

Judicial Piddlers 
(see Documents, Writ of Renate Auger dated 6 April, 1994, No. C941542) ... Both Renate Auger and Jack Cram subsequently fled Vancouver under death threats, ...
british-columbia.ca.human-rights.org

The stories of murdered and missing indigenous women haunt reservations across Canada.

"Every week we are hearing about a new case somewhere in the country," says Maya Khamala Rolbin-Ghanie, who's helped spearhead a new grassroots campaign called Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. "There have been five or six cases of missing women in the last year alone in Quebec."

Activists involved in the campaign point to systemic negligence by the state and police authorities in dealing with crimes against First Nations women, a tragic reality that Rolbin-Ghanie says has come to haunt Canada's human rights reputation globally.

Discussions should include policing and government inaction, issues of poverty and dispossession and the legacy of systemic oppressions that contributes to indigenous women's vulnerability.

For more information, visit www.missingjustice.ca.

Two of our girls are still missing for over 2 yrs.... mind you they disappeared from a rural area with no cameras... & no great effort by both KZ cops or SQ, they were gone nearly a week before "official" interest was taken & then both forces started separate investigations cause one girl was on-reserve & one was off-reserve. Media notification on a Friday late pm & no AMBER ALERT, due to parameters ...

I think of & pray for them everyday..

info and pics at : http://www.findmaisyandshannon.com/

 

***************************************************************************

 

Subject: Memorandum on Eyewitness Evidence of the Organized Abduction, Torture, Exploitation and Murder of Women and Children on Canada's West Coast

From the Files of the Community Task Force on the Disappeared - Downtown Eastside of Vancouver

Memorandum on Eyewitness Evidence of the Organized Abduction, Torture, Exploitation and Murder of Women and Children on Canada's West Coast
Synopsis

1. An organized system of abduction, exploitation, torture and murder of large numbers of women and children appears to exist on Canada's west coast, and is operated and protected in part by sectors of the RCMP, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), the judiciary, and members of the British Columbia government and federal government of Canada , including the Canadian military.

2. This system is highly funded and linked to criminal organizations including the Hell's Angels, the Hong Kong Triad, and unnamed individual freelance mobsters from Vancouver and the USA . It is funded in part by a massive drug trade, with which it is intimately connected.

3. This system is decades-old and has been supplied for many years with women and children from aboriginal reserves and residential schools, with the paid collusion of lawyers, clergy and officials of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada, along with state-funded aboriginal leaders and officials of the Department of Indian Affairs.

4. This system is international in scope, Vancouver being one spoke in a wheel of pedophilia, sex slavery, human organ black markets, snufffilms and violent child pornography that has outlets throughout the Pacific Rim world, particularly in China and Thailand.

http://censored-news.blogspot.com/2010/01/kevin-annett-eye-witnesses-of-murder.html


Beginning May 1, 2008, the age of sexual consent in Canada is 16 years old. Under the CCC anyone under the age of 16* cannot legally consent to any form of sexual activity, from kissing to intercourse. It means that adults are criminally liable if they have sex with someone under that age. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The age of protection for exploitive sexual activity, such as sexual activity involving prostitution, pornography, anal sex or a relationship of trust, is 18.

* "close-in-age" exemption

 

***************************************************************************

 

But since various members of various police force in Canada - not to mention the RCMP have been caught with their pants down - literally with sex workers both above & below the age of consent , I won't be holding my breath that our children - particularly "children in care" - both foster & juvenile detention are going to be any safer any time soon.

In the web article : 2nd Mountie sues RCMP over sex crime probe - my comments were:

"In regards to the RCMP - none of this is news in "Indian country". I would imagine the cops who "dipped their wicks" relished the thought that NO ONE would believe these girls should they have the guts to tell.. Let's poll all the sex workers in CANADA & ask them whose been used by cops for sex. I don't imagine there'd be too many negative answers."

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

 

In society - kids will still be playing boys chase the girls in the Nations' schoolyards & by grade 4or 5 be participating in " Seven Minutes of Heaven" in the closet in people's basements & rec rooms & I would imagine if they have unlimited access to the Internet & 500 channels on T.V. without adult supervision, & continue to dress in clothing that show their  backsides & emphasis their slim hips & wear jeans with words on their asses, men will still look at them & think.. (BTW- it shows in your eyes- the "wolfish" thoughts)

I remember when "AIDS" was breaking news... I remember remarking to cohorts- " In the future we parents will have the educate our children about Human Sexuality & sexuality itself will become more pronounced in society because now it's not just disease & pregnancy but death. This has come to pass now..

http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2008/09/29/6916776-sun.html

Let’s start here with the beloved CBC’s own story:
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/12/19/sex-tourism.html
“Are we all missing the point about child sexual slavery in Canada? Yes, it really does exist. There is a dark underworld out there. Could the change of age of consent have anything to do with that? Isn’t the government seeking to protect children on many angles not just the obvious ones?”
I am relieved to see some Canadians “see the forest for the trees”.
In every city in Canada, a person can buy time to rape a child.
There are neighborhoods in every city where “Canadians” drive around looking for “sex with children.” Twenty years ago, Jane Ash Poitas( Cree artist/activist) got “fed up” with the lack of police response dealing with Canadian “johns” trolling Aboriginal neighbourhoods so she started painting the johns’ licence plate #’s on the street. Strange her attempts never garnered media attention or an NFB documentary ?!?! LOL
see: http://www.hiddenfromhistory.org

 


Since I have worked as a lunch monitor for my daughter's schools in both Ottawa & Windsor I feel I can put in my "two cents" worth.


First off - watching kids during their lunchbreak is eye-opening to say the least. If your relationship to children is respectful & relate to them on their terms - you learn about what they want to know about, what they actually know & what they don't know.

I know that small children worry about divorce, fighting, partying parents, job loss etc.

I know that by grade two - if a child has older siblings or unmonitored access to the computer & 500 channels on T.V. - they know enough about the world, sex & relationships to take your breathe away...

I know by grade four -they talk about oral sex, which girl is loose, which boy is a "houndog" & which child is being molested or raped at home -(pregnancies in 12 & 14 yrs old are a big clue...)

I know by grade six- they talk about homosexuality - both sexes & banter about who's a dyke etc..

I know by grade 7&8 - they want access to protection ( condoms /dental dams ) & real clinical information about sex. They are also open to honest dialogue about respectful behavior in relationships, family & dating violence and drugs & alcohol.

Mind you -same conversation with both B&G but not together in the same room.

Tens of thousands of pedophiles in society are willing to abuse children & praying we don't  educate our children. The only people who have anything to fear from education are those who profit from ignorance. Perhaps teaching the curriculum will help protect them from predatory priests & teachers & taxi drivers & coaches & scout leaders & ...

Sooo....I guess we will not see any progress regarding child development and transitions into teenage and subsequent adult life anytime soon. It is so interesting we feel so ashamed of naming the parts of our body that are so important for our developement as healthy human beings.

Also, to take the shame away from sexuality is key for having a healthy and 'normal' life, gay or not, because sorry to drop the news, but when spanning the rest of mammal life on earth it would appear that they too have a gay community or inclinations.

I am certain that if this program was implmented there would be a measurable degree of reduced STI', teen pregnancy, homophobia and it could act as a deep deterence to pedophila, because kids would not be afraid to speak about the shame and uncertainity that goes along with disclosing things such as this....

Introducing them to this issue will teach them at a young age that it is not alright for someone to touch them inappropriately and that it is OKAY to tell their parents or someone they trust that there's been inappropriate behaviour. It is a delicate subject and if taught and discussed in an age appropriate way it should work. Even pre-schoolers should be taught the introductory things. (about inappropriate touching)

This curriculum will not currupt young minds as kids are already experimenting - younger every year.... It would be very difficult for a father to talk to his daughters about it (especially if he's a single dad and there's no woman in the girls' life) Vice versa if it is a single mom with a son. If it is talked about in a sex ed class in school - it may be "easier" for the parents to discuss with the kid.

 

People need to give their heads a shake before reacting with their gut on this one. You may not agree with or condone homosexual lifestyles, but failing to teach your children that they even EXIST does a disservice to everyone. Why would any age be too young for children to be aware of the existence of families that may happen to have two daddies, or two mommies? The children who LIVE in those families sure find out pretty young.... This isn't about changing belief systems; it's about acknowledging reality.

In regard to young children learning proper names for genitalia - the sooner that's taught, the better! A friend  works in child protection, where she unfortunately often need to speak to children about sexual issues in order to identify if abuse has occured. She has interviewed children aged 8 and 9 who are entirely unaware of what parts of their body are "private", and what that means; and  has had to guess at what children mean when they state that their "fluffer" or "girlie" or - this is the best one - their "thingy" was involved in inappropriate contact. NOT good.

Many parents argue that these things should be taught at home. Yes, they should. But in many cases, they aren't- and there's no way we can make parents do it if they're not so inclined. Think of ALL children, and not just your own!

Meanwhile mass culture is awash with totally inappropriate sexualization of just about everything.
Knowledge is power... Give all kids knowledge!!
  We have a responsibility, as a society, to protect the rights of those children by informing them about things that could hurt them, and about how their bodies, and indeed, the world works and doing it through the schools is probably the best method available.

Sex is a big part of being human, after all. Sorry parents, it doesn't matter how family oriented or catholic you are, a good chunk of your children will in fact be experimenting with masturbation at this age, and the majority of them will have some knowledge about different types of sex either from the internet or older children. Is it not better to educate them about these things in school, where the information will at least be accurate, than have them learning through gossip and the internet?

Please tell me how it can "harm" a kid to tell them what masturbation is, and that it is normal. Whatever urges and curiousities they are having will occur with or without sex education in class.
It's about time.

It's about time that the school system has been proactive instead of showing a group of students where about 60% of them have already experimented by that age. Early education is crucial to narrowing child pregnancies, sti's, etc.

As if kids already don't see enough on tv to corrupt them... I think that arming our children with education such that they can make informed decisions about there lives is extremely important. To stick your head in the sand and assume that your child wont hear about masturbation, oral, anal, or any type of sex at all before highschool is just irresponsible as a parent. The fact is that kids are having sex and becoming involved in sexual activities at younger ages, and we as parents/caregivers need to be on top of it, arming our children with every fact they need to know. Informing your child about sex isn't going to make them want to have sex. But when that choice comes to them, knowing the truth, the risks and the consequences of doing so can only serve to help them make the right choice for themselves.
This isn't telling kids to "go out and do it."
Its not telling them to engage in pre-marital sex.
Its not telling them to go out and have sex with multiple partners.
It does not encourage hetero or homo sexuality.

It is telling them how to be safe and what sex is.
They must know about this not only for their future sexual lives but for protection against sexual predators.

Comprehensive sexual education works. It's what our youth deserve to protect themselves. Parents and religious communities are absolutely useless when it comes to providing youth with the information and resources they need to make the right decisions about sex.

It isn't going to "confuse" a kid if he or she learns about gay people. That should be a given. Kids don't need to be shielded from that area of discussion, to deny them a proper understanding of REAL LIFE issues around sexuality is wrong.
Trying in vain to "protect the innocence" of children will only make them more vulnerable. Knowledge is power RIGHT?


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