Monday, 9 May 2016

Gendered war: the challenges of implementing UNSCR 1325 in future civil-military operations

Dr. Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv
Twitter: @ghoogj 

The complex civil-military operations of the early twenty-first century were a testing ground for the implementation of the groundbreaking October 2000 United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security. The test went beyond the instrumental “increasing gender awareness” amongst militaries and their governments. The very nature of these complex civil-military operations have also been gendered. The use of force and enemy-centric thinking (combat operations, raids, etc) competed with population-centric approaches that included humanitarian and development aid, and governance support, all undertaken with the intention to win a war through “hearts and minds” (trust of the population) rather than violence.

The gendering of these approaches became visible as the participating intervening nations in Afghanistan and Iraq grew weary of slow progress in these operations and a complicated and demanding environment. An increasing rhetoric from a number of participating nations favoured a return to traditional, hyper-masculinist military practices – “killing people and destroying things” over a cosmopolitan, multi-dimensional, “feminized” approach that saw a larger role for non-kinetic (non-lethal) measures. The question is whether or not the implementation of gender perspectives within military institutions will suffer a setback as a result.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

How To (Not) Work in Solidarity With Black and Indigenous Peoples

By Dr. Toby Rollo
Twitter: @TobyRollo

So you want to work in solidarity with black and Indigenous peoples. Well, here are a few things you should know but probably haven’t considered.

First, black and Indigenous peoples aren’t homogeneous. They do not hold monolithic perspectives on any issue. There is, at times, deep disagreement within these communities. You cannot and should not adjudicate between them. However, you cannot and should not use disagreement as an excuse to avoid accountability. Like it or not, you’re going to have to make some tough choices.

If you thought you could get away with ducking disagreements and fetching coffee, you’re in for a big surprise. Working in solidarity means being accountable, and you are only accountable insofar as you do work – intellectual or physical – for which you can be held to account.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The White Fantasy of Being ‘Indian’: A Brief Reflection on the Daniels Decision

Dr. Darryl Leroux
Twitter: @DarrylLeroux  

It has been several days since the Daniels decision came down from the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), and not surprisingly, it is being welcomed by an incredible range of organizations and individuals. To be clear, I'm cautiously favourable to some of the decision’s likely impacts, but I want to take a moment to focus on the section that is getting the most attention among those organizations and individuals that I am familiar with given my research.

Let me begin with the following statement, offered by Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella on behalf of the court, which is being repeated over and over again by nascent “métis” organizations a little bit all over: “'Metis’ can refer to the historic Metis community in Manitoba’s Red River Settlements or it can be used as a general term for anyone with mixed European and Aboriginal heritage,” Abella wrote. “There is no consensus on who is considered Metis or a non-status Indian, nor need there be. Culture and ethnic labels do not lend themselves to neat boundaries.”

“Now I am Metis: How White People Become Indigenous,” Native Studies Speakers' Series, University of Saskatchewan, March 12, 2015.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Informal Women Workers Globally: Breaking Through the ‘Concrete Canopy’

By Dr. Gisèle Yasmeen
Twitter: @gyasmeen

We are at a turning point in the global economy including “jobless growth” partly due to technological change as well as changes in the system of production, distribution and trade. This is challenging assumptions about the relationship between the economy and work. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the informal economy.

Informal work is on the rise in both the global North and global South, particularly as a livelihood for the urban working poor. “Although the informal economy is associated with low productivity and low-income countries, it does contribute to growth and is becoming more significant in high-income countries” explains WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), a global research, policy and advocacy organization supporting informal worker organizations. Women in certain regions often engage in informal work, which, by definition, lacks basic social protection such as health insurance, occupational health and safety in addition to other decent work conditions. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

New Opportunities and Challenges for Alberta’s LGBTQ Movement

Dr. Alexa DeGagne

Alberta has not been the most hospitable place for social justice movements such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans(gender) and queer (LGBTQ), feminist, anti-racist, labour, environmental, or immigrant movements or insurgent Indigenous movements. In the case of Alberta’s LGBTQ movements, various Progressive Conservative (PC) governments (1971-2015) used a combination of targeted anti-gay and anti-trans(gender) legislation and policies. At the same time the province’s many PC governments systematically denied the needs of, and mostly refused to engage with, LGBTQ people, communities and movements.

Conservative governments and their allies deployed various strategies of diversion, scapegoating, and erasure. LGBTQ people were brought into public discussion only when attention needed to be diverted from other issues, favour needed to be won from the PC’s socially and religiously conservative base, or LGBTQ activists and the Supreme Court of Canada forced the PC government’s hand. Given this hostile environment, one might assume that robust social justice movements, and specifically a LGBTQ movement, do not exist in Alberta, or if they do exist they have not been able to affect substantive change in the province.

Yet it actually serves the purposes of some of those in formal power to deny the existence and effectiveness of social justice movements. In the Alberta case, the provincial PC government long argued that LGBTQ people were an abnormal minority of citizens and they should not be taken seriously, much less listened to by the government. But I hold that since such social movements have been largely shut out of the formal channels of politics, we need to look outside formal politics to understand how and why Alberta’s LGBTQ movement has developed, grown and changed over the decades.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

On Suruç, Refugees, and Self-Fulfilling Prophesies

Dafna Rachok
Twitter: @DafnaRachok

In the winter of 2014-2015 I spent some time in the small town of Suruç on the border between Turkey and Syria. I was there as a reporter, covering the story of Kurdish refugees and the siege of Kobane. Except for a few nights spent in a refugee camp with people who became my friends, I lived with other reporters and volunteers in the Amara Cultural Centre, a site that would be damaged by an explosion in a suicide bomber attack a few months after I left.

While in Suruç I made friends with many people from all over the world. People were constantly coming to write stories on Kobane, and Suruç offered a more or less safe crossing into Syria. The problem, though, was that crossing the border was only possible if the local governor, a very moody man who liked to blame foreign journalists for writing “Kurdish propaganda”, issued you a permit. Journalists would wait, sometimes for days, for his mood to change and allow a few dozen reporters to cross the border.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Locating Hope: Women’s Activism in Post-Uprising Egypt

Dr. Nermin Allam
Twitter: @nerminallam

Among the memorable moments of my field trip in Egypt was attending a participatory theatrical play on the issue of female genital mutilation in Fall 2014. The play was among a number of grassroots initiatives launched to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The initiative is part of a growing wave of women’s activism that emerged following the 2011 uprising. The show narrated the life and daily struggles of Hania, a young middle class Egyptian girl as she confronted harassment and gender discrimination at school and home. The story reached its climax as Hania’s parents decided to circumcise her. The play closed with Hania’s emotional cry as she is pushed to the floor, strangled by her mother and the midwife approaching her with a knife.

“And everything froze,” I wrote in my field notebook, “the silence seemed so loud in the crowded room where over 200 people were watching the play”. The heavy silence continued as the director took the stage asking for the audience’s reactions as well as what they thought Hania should do.

 The first to speak was a middle age Sheik. Speaking in a confident voice, he insisted that female genital circumcision is a religious obligation rooted in Islam and dictated in its teachings. Before he could finish his sentence, the majority of the women in the room raised their voices in dismay, shouting that the practice was inhumane. Some women even outright challenged the Sheik’s religious view, insisting that female circumcision is rooted in systems of discrimination, oppression and patriarchy.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Conflict, Memory, and Gender: Commemorating Silences

Dr. Rebecca Graff-McRae
Twitter: @PoliScIrish

Nearly two decades after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast on 10 April 1998, the past is still omnipresent in Northern Ireland.

This Easter weekend, nationalist communities in the North and many in the Republic of Ireland will commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising – the failed insurrection that provided the latent catalyst for both independence and partition. The Good Friday Agreement will have no parade for its eighteenth birthday: it is easier, somehow, to remember violence (“theirs” and “ours”) than to celebrate the painful compromises of an incomplete peace.

It has been called a “permanent ceasefire”, and a “peace without reconciliation”; the paradoxically named “peace walls” divide more communities today than at the height of the Troubles, and political attitudes remain polarized.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Gender Parity in Canadian Federal, Provincial and Municipal Politics

By Dr. Angelia Wagner
Twitter: @Angelia_Wagner 
Gender parity has yet to be achieved in Canadian legislatures despite decades of activism to address the material, institutional and psychological barriers to political candidacy. Although women comprise half of the country’s population, they make up just a quarter of its elected politicians. Women occupy 26% of the seats in the House of Commons and 27.9% of all provincial legislative spots, ranging from a low of 9.1% in Nunavut to a high of 37.6% in British Columbia. Women are also just 28% of all municipal councillors and 18% of all mayors in the country.

Monitoring the descriptive representation of women according to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation is more difficult because of the limited data available, but results from the 2015 federal election suggest a gender gap also exists within various social groups. Both Indigenous women and visible minority women, for example, are half as likely as their male counterparts to be MPs in the 42nd Parliament.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Refugee Crisis and the Ghosts of Fascism Past

By Dr. John McCoy and Dr. W. Andy Knight
Twitter:  @WAndyKnight1

A once-in-a-generation refugee crisis. The largest forced migration since the Second World War. Yet another failure of the international “community”. These all too familiar refrains describe the aftermath of the now five-year travesty that is the Syrian-Civil War. Indeed, despite a recent tentative cease fire, over the past year this conflagration is only heating up in its intensity. Many now question whether we are not dangerously close to a regional, perhaps even global war. 

Russia joined in the bombardment of Syrian targets in the fall of 2015 and has greatly increased its contributions of military equipment to government forces. Unlike the United States and its coalition, the Russian intervention seems squarely aimed at shoring up the beleaguered Bashar al-Assad regime by exterminating as many of the Syrian opposition fighters as possible. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

On International Women’s Day, I Remember Rosemary Brown

By Dr. Linda Trimble
Twitter: @trimblePoli
 March 8, 2016

On International Women’s Day, I remember the bravery and achievements of the late Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman to be elected to a Canadian legislature and the first Canadian woman to run for the leadership of a national political party. Her memoir, Being Brown, continues to move and inspire me.

Consider Brown’s reflections on her first speech as an elected representative of the people:

When I spoke, I could feel the presence of women–Black women, Native women, slaves, immigrant women, poor women, old women and young women. I could feel their support, encouragement and hope envelop me, sending a surge of energy through me, empowering my words and my voice.

In these recollections, Rosemary Brown clearly articulated and supported the vision underpinning the electoral project for women: the goal of electing more, and more diverse, women to Canada’s parliament, legislatures and municipal councils. Brown’s vision of authentic and empowered representation by and for women is reflected in the 2016 theme for International Women’s Day, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for gender equality.”

Still Making Space for Indigenous Feminism

I came to Indigenous feminism not only because of pain
but also to make sense of the world around me

The past decade has seen a growing body of research that focuses on various aspects of Indigenous peoples’ politics. However, few studies openly engage with Indigenous feminism(s). Although important, these contributions turn away from the everyday realities confronting Indigenous women including violence, exclusion and unequal access to resources and, instead, emphasize forms of political actions directed at larger systems of domination.

Indigenous feminist scholars note that colonialism was and continues to be a gendered process, which has had powerful yet distinctive effects on Indigenous men, women and LGTBQ people. These scholars argue that gendered, sexualized violence, discrimination, and unequal access to natural and material resources are relationally produced and naturalized through social, legal and political processes. They also question the tendency to uncritically emphasize the needs and aspirations of a homogeneous collectivity as it reproduces the naturalization of violence against Indigenous women and LGTBQ2-S individuals. Indigenous feminism simultaneously aligns with and often contests Indigenous self-determination and Indigenous women’s activism embedded in this paradox.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Foreign Policy and the U.S. Democratic Primaries: How Gender Enables Bernie Sanders

By Maria Tulli

There has been a lot of discussion about Hillary Clinton’s gender. A lot. Calls by supporters asking people to vote for her because she is a woman. Outrage by others admonishing those who do so for some “reverse” sexism. There have been comparisons between Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher, based exclusively on gender, while there is a lack of comparisons between Clinton and men politicians – comparisons which would make more sense based on policies, experience and ideology.[i] We could say gender is featuring as a core factor in these Democratic primaries. However, it is not truly at the core, but rather spotlighted on one side. While Secretary Clinton’s gender may be a locus of attention, her opponent’s is not. In an arena of gender scrutiny Bernie Sanders remains the unmarked, the un-gendered. This un-gendering has enabled Sanders to act both progressively and radically.

To be clear, I am not arguing that Clinton is secretly socialist or pursues moderate policies only reluctantly. Hillary Clinton is substantially right of Bernie Sanders and has made conscious choices to get there. However, I am arguing that whether or not she desired to pursue more radical political action or rhetoric, she is unable to do so because she is a woman. The flipside of this, of course, is that Bernie Sanders is enabled to do so because he is a man.

There is no doubt that it is important that Hillary Clinton is a woman. Even if it does not truly matter to her politics or capabilities, her presentation as a politician is built around her gender.

But it also matters that Bernie Sanders is a man.

Friday, 19 February 2016

The Relevance and Future of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia

By Dr. Jatinder Mann
Twitter handle: @DrJatinderMann

Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of multiculturalism has become a national pastime in Canada, and Australia has also seen some vigorous debates over the past several decades. Multiculturalism has for better or worse become almost synonymous with Canadian national identity and is often without fail towards the top of the list of things that Canadians use to describe the features of their country in surveys (Image: Monument to Multiculturalism, Toronto)

Multiculturalism has come under increasing attack by both the left and right in recent years. However, where policies of multiculturalism actually came from in Canada and Australia, and what they replaced, is less well known.
My research, which compared the rise of multiculturalism in Canada and Australia between the 1890s and 1970s, focused on these very questions. Specifically it explored the profound social, cultural and political changes, which affected the way in which Canadians and Australians defined themselves as a ‘people’ from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Taking as its central theme the way each country responded to the introduction of new migrants, it asked two interrelated questions: why and how did multiculturalism replace Britishness as the defining idea of community for English-speaking Canada and Australia? What does this change say about their respective experiences of nationalism in the twentieth century?

Friday, 5 February 2016

Fiscal Austerity and Health Reform: Why Can We Never Seem to Get It Right?

By Dr. John Church

Well, almost as regular as the changing of the seasons, fiscal austerity has come to Alberta once again. Nowhere is this more apparent than in health care (see: AHS Cuts). No doubt, there will be intense discussions about how to reform the health system to save money and provide services in a more cost efficient and cost effective manner. The question is this: Will this current moment of reflection brought on by economic downturn yield better results than similar moments in the past? Probably not and here’s why: Societal decisions made a long time ago have continued to shape the health care system that we have today (see: Path Dependent). 

Friday, 29 January 2016

Promotion, Prevention, and Recovery: Let’s Talk About How We Talk About Mental Illness

By Janet Phillips
Twitter: @Jan_Phill

It's that time of year again. On January 27, Bell Canada held its annual ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign with the social media hashtage #BellLetsTalk. The goal of ‘Let’s Talk’ is to combat stigma while raising money for mental health initiatives across Canada. Aided by a cast of Canadian heroes such as Clara Hughes Michael Landsberg, Mary Walsh and Michel Mpambara, this year Bell raised a whopping $6 million. 

As many of you know, ‘talking about’ mental health is a relatively new practice. As recently as twenty years ago, the subject of mental health was taboo. Granted, some of us have had family members or neighbours who were ‘unwell’, and who may have needed to ‘go away’ for a little while. But, no one talked about why.