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Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

At the United Nations two weeks ago, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird spoke out against child marriage. Great. But Canada officially doesn’t fund any international aid agency that provides access to abortion (even by simply providing referals). When asked to clarify about this, International Development Minister Christian Paradis confirmed that this ban extends to agencies helping victims of child marriage and war rape.

In case you are not disgusted by this policy, girls who become pregnant are not actually physically mature (their pelvises and birth canals aren’t physically developed enough for having a baby), resulting in higher mortality and greater risk of other health complications. This is all exacerbated by the socioeconomic conditions in which child marriage tends to be practiced, which tend to limit access to proper health care. And the right of a rape survivor to end a pregnancy seems like a no-brainer. (To say nothing of the right to bodily autonomy. That’s something the Harper Government doesn’t like to be reminded of.)

Below are the texts of three emails I wrote—to Baird, Paradis, and my local MP (who is not a Conservative). Feel free to adapt these letters if you’d like to send one of your own. I’ll be posting any responses I receive in a later post.

Letter 1:

Dear Minister Baird,

You recently spoke to the United Nations about the need for more action on child and forced marriages. Yet last week, International Development Minister Christian Paradis said that Canada will not fund projects that give such child brides, or survivors of rape in war zones, access to abortions.

I understand that this policy is consistent with the government’s decision not to fund abortion services under its global maternal health plan. However, the need for an exception to this policy in cases of child marriage and war rape is obvious and pressing. According to Human Rights Watch, girls under the age of 20, and especially those under the age of 15, who become pregnant are more likely to die of complications from pregnancy and face other serious health consequences, largely due to their physical immaturity. Further, the right of women who become pregnant as a result of rape to terminate their pregnancy should be beyond question.

While I applaud your efforts to curb the practice of child marriage worldwide and to promote maternal health, survivors of sexual violence need protection as well, and sometimes abortion is a necessary part of that process. I urge you to reconsider this policy and stop leaving rape survivors behind.

Sincerely,

[helikonios]

Letter 2:

Dear Minister Paradis,

You recently said that Canada’s government will not fund international aid projects that allow access to abortions for child brides and survivors of war rape.

I understand that this policy is consistent with the government’s decision not to fund abortion services under its global maternal health plan. However, the need for an exception to this policy in case of child marriage and war rape is obvious and pressing. According to Human Rights Watch, girls under the age of 20, and especially those under the age of 15, who become pregnant are more likely to die of complications from pregnancy and face other serious health consequences, largely due to their physical immaturity. Further, the right of women who become pregnant as a result of rape to terminate their pregnancy should be beyond question.

Abortion is sometimes a necessary part of health care for women and girls in these horrifying situations. It is hypocritical of the government to speak against sexual violence and child marriage yet deny survivors the care they need. I urge you to reconsider this policy and stop leaving rape survivors behind.

Sincerely,

[helikonios]

Letter 3:

Dear [MP],

Last week, shortly after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird spoke at the United Nations denouncing sexual violence and child marriage, International Development Minister Christian Paradis confirmed that Canada would not fund any aid agency that provided these survivors of rape with access to abortions.

This policy prevents girls from accessing necessary health care. Girls who become pregnant are still not physically mature, and face higher mortality and other health consequences as a result. Furthermore, the right of rape survivors to be able to choose to end a pregnancy should go without saying.

As a resident of [riding], I urge you, when Parliament resumes, to work towards changing this policy. Preventing violence against women worldwide should be a bipartisan goal, and treating survivors of such violence is just as important.

Sincerely,

[helikonios]

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Bill C-279, “An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression)”, has been passed by the House of Commons. It now needs to go through the Senate, so I guess I should keep holding my breath, but I am encouraged by the fact that 18 Conservative MPs voted in favour of this bill. Read more here (for some reason this source only counted 16 Conservative MPs, but the official record shows 18).

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Unusual heirlooms

lidepran1My grandfather was a family doctor, and back in the day, it was totally cool for pharmaceutical companies to adverties their products willy-nilly. Perhaps the most interesting promotional material he received were these ads for the diet pill Lidepran (levophacetoperane) sent out in 1964. Each advertisement featured a pressed butterfly—the wings were real, with a cardboard cutout for the body—on a coloured background card. I presume the butterfly was meant to convey lightness/thinness and hence weight loss.

Oddly, although all the envelopes—there are 12 of them, each with a different butterfly and background—are stamped with “Lidepran”, about half of the cards actually advertise another drug, Largactil (chlorpromazine). Largactil is an antipsychotic made by the same company as Lidepran.

lidepran2

I’ve been able to find very little about this advertising campaign online. The only other source I’ve seen is this, which shows the envelope and inside of one of the cards (which I haven’t bothered to scan), and doesn’t indicate that any of them actually advertised Lidepran.

Interestingly, the scientific name of each butterfly was on each card, and they appear to be correctly identified at least to genus. They’re also from outside of North America. I wonder how they sourced these specimens, and whose idea the whole campaign was.

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Autumn colours II

I’ve spent a few more days exploring the local woodlot (and the local idiot teenagers got themselves arrested, so no more competition from them, I hope. Maybe they’ll get community service and have to clean up their pop cans.). The fall colours rapidly progressed and the trees, especially the cottonwoods, are beginning to look bare. Here are some pictures from a few weeks ago, when I decided to try identifying some tree species (probably mostly failed).

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). Look how red they are!

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) a few weeks ago – they’re now wilted and brown.

The leaves of a couple of small ash trees (Fraxinus – hello, Xylem Up!), which dominate the understory in my little forest. The ashes seemed to fall into two types – one with with narrow leaflets on the left, and one with rounder leaflets, particularly the terminal leaflet, on the right. But I gave upon IDing them to species.

Leaves from three lovely oaks (Quercus). The one in the centre is from a black oak; I think the other two are both bur oaks, though there’s a chance the rightmost one is a white oak.

Anyone know what this tree is? It has some compound and some simple leaves, and the compound ones vary in the number of leaflets while the leaflets may or may not have multiple lobes. Some of the compound leaves look like poison ivy!

Or this one? Possibly a chokecherry?

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Autumn colours I

Taking a page from my cats’ book, I alleviated my boredom by spending a morning exploring the woodlot next to my house.

There’s a trail through the forest that’s supposed to be maintained by the city but these days is mainly kept clear by neighbourhood teens on drug deals. It’s strewn with Pepsi cans. Their brand loyalty is impressive.

It’s also strewn with dry leaves and squirrels rustling through them. They stop and chatter in alarm as I walk past.

I stop walking as soon as I spot a bird. It’s just a robin, but robins are lovely. A small flock of them is taking advantage of the round black berries on a tree by the trail. One of them perches close to the ground and whisper-sings, sitting still and bubbling out a just-audible stream of song.

They are joined by a group of female warblers, including Canada, black-throated blue, and mourning. I can’t identify them, except for the Canada, in the moment, but I memorize their features well enough to figure them out at home. A flycatcher of some sort presents more of a problem; it’s directly above me so all I can tell is that it has a yellow belly. It will go unidentified. It happens.

Out at the edge of the forest a tangle of shrubs turns into grassland—someone’s large unmown yard. The leaves on the trees have hardly started to change colours, but here some other plants provide a fall palette. Brilliant purple New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is something I always associate with early autumn. Some other small white asters are blooming, too, but I can’t ID them to species. The sumacs are starting to turn red and orange, and some bright red rose hips add another splash of colour. And, of course, the last of the year’s goldenrod is still a faded, warm yellow.

I mention these plants by name, but there are far more that I don’t know. I’m going to have to find myself some field guides and get reacquainted with them.

On my way home I run into Palu (my cat), who goes all bottle-brushy and runs away as if he’s some sort of wildcat far from civilization. Ungrateful beast.

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For those of you who aren’t Canadian, to understand this story, you need to know about Heritage Minutes.

Heritage Minutes are one-minute TV spots about important moments in Canadian history. Every Canadian you will ever meet can quote at least three of them and will wax poetic about them if given the chance. Some of my favourites are the Women in Medicine one, the Bluenose‘s last race, and, of course, Tyrrell discovering dinosaur fossils in the badlands.

But the true gem of this collection is, was, and ever shall be the one about Winnie the Pooh:

Pooh Bear was named after a black bear at the London Zoo called Winnie, who had been brought over from Canada by one Lt. Harry Colebourne. He named her Winnipeg after his hometown in Manitoba. Apparently, Christopher Robin was a fan of this bear and named his teddy bear after her, then prompted his father to write stories about it.

Today I was watching this Heritage Minute because I have nothing else to do when I’m out of the field. And I noticed that at the 0:51 mark, there’s a strange creature with the front end of a donkey and the striped hindquarters of a zebra being led across a cobbled square at the zoo where Christopher Robin meets Winnie. What on earth is a quagga doing in that zoo?

Centre-background, just behind the pony: Is that a quagga?!

The quagga is an extinct relative of the zebra (oh hey, Wikipedia tells me that it was actually a subspecies of the plains zebra! Fancy that!) that was slightly less stripey than its extant cousins. But the last one died in 1883, while this Heritage Minute is supposed to take place sometime between Winnie’s arrival at the London Zoo in 1915 and the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926. And besides, all records of the quagga indicate that its forequarters were striped , while its hindquarters were plain.

A quagga, coincidentally at London Zoo – but long before Winnie arrived there.

What is this creature meant to be, then? It might be some hybrid between a zebra* and a horse or donkey – I’d guess donkey, given its appearance. These have been produced in captivity regularly and are known by various silly-sounding names like zorse, zedonk, and zony. They’re usually sterile, because horses, zebras, and donkeys all have different numbers of chromosomes (so their hybrid offspring can’t make proper eggs and sperm). They, like quaggas, are partially striped, often only on the legs. I can’t find a picture that looks precisely like our Heritage Minute beast, but many resemble it more than the quagga does.

A zorse, circa 1899.

Did London Zoo ever have a zedonk (or something like it)? Apparently yes, as I found this picture from 1936. However, that’s long after the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh. Maybe they had others before it. Or, more likely, maybe someone among the crew who produced Heritage Minutes had access to a zedonk (!!!) and a weird enough sense of humour to insert it into the TV spot. I am, to say the least, intrigued.

*Note that there are several species of zebra; apparently all of them have produced hybrids with horses, ponies, or donkeys.

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Parliament just voted on, and passed, a motion that Bill C-279, which would extend protection against hate crimes and discrimination to trans people, be read a second time (bills in Parliament go through three reading before being made into law) and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This is good news!

The vote was 150 to 132, and all of those 132 nays were Conservatives. However, 15 Conservatives voted for this motion. This gives me some hope. I know it doesn’t mean they plan to support the final bill, but it’s not a bad sign.

Here is the full list of how MPs voted on the motion, broken down by party. If your MP is among the Conservatives who voted against it, I urge you to write to them to express your support for C-279. Tell them to vote for it in future. Perhaps more importantly, if your MP is one of those 15 Conservatives who supported the bill being moved to second reading, PLEASE write to them to find out how they stand on the bill and to encourage them to continue supporting it. Heck, you don’t even have to be in their riding to tell them this. I think I might go ahead and email them all.

We probably won’t hear much about C-279 for a while now, as the Omnibus Budget Implementation Bill of Doom and Also we Hate Science is going to take up a hell of a lot of Parliament’s time. (Oh yeah, while you’re writing to your MP about C-279, maybe you should tell them how you feel about the budget, too.)

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