#165 – Duffing It

The Crown has once again flubbed a major case in recent memory, and just like last time this story has been spun in a direction that shields obviously failed systems from meaningful inquiry. That the “vindicated” beneficiaries in both Ghomeshi’s and Duffy’s trials happen to be bodies of Laurentian patronage is rather interesting, but hey – why question the CBC’s human resource team or the assembly of failures that produced this verdict when you can blame misogyny and Harperites instead? If we’re honest about Canadian institutions they could be sad and we could be forced to admit that Canada’s elite are not in fact übermensch and that its institutions beget corruption and vice. Don’t the rich and connected sacrifice enough to make this place the miserable den of lunacy that cakers know and love?

image
(s) Truly, this is the face of altruism

In the case of Duffy, the innocent verdict came with calls to stop trials against other members of the Senate, namely Patrick Brazeau and Marc Harb. Pamela Walin, who was also in question but never charged despite the RCMP handing files to the Crown is already back to doing what the Senate does best – getting paid. Don’t think for a second that I’m giving the RCMP an all-clear – those losers didn’t exactly search high and low and even Pravda in a rare case of solid journalism notes the failure of the RCMP to do their job in between piles of the ponderous “Harper is le Hitler you guyz” swill that is apparently the only vein of thought allowed within the Canadian media. The single most critical piece I’ve seen on the Duffy Debacle (by Terry Milowski) goes to the point of calling the Senate “embarrassing” but even he makes the problem out to be the Senate’s staffers and lawyers as opposed to a failure of governance and institutions or Canada’s inability to revise its own shitty Constitution.

The RCMP failed because that’s what they do. The Senate is a failure of a chamber crawling with failures; at least thirty Senators were flagged as owing money to the government after filing inappropriate expenses. I get that the rules are vague and that they aren’t often followed, but when 35% of the 85 Senators in June 2015 are suspected of having improper claims the next step would typically be, you know, changing them. Is it not outrageous that for so long such a valueless body was costing so much with so little public oversight? Nah, that would suggest that there’s a problem in the way Canada governs itself. Can’t have that! And certainly can’t do anything about it even if we do note that it’s bad, because doing is hard.

I am not exonerating Harper or his staff here, let’s be sure. But let’s not pretend that the myriad exposed screwups – from the RCMP’s ponderous review of Pamela Wallin’s expenses to the Crown’s inability to put together a coherent case to the fact that a staffer in the Prime Minister’s Office can exercise so much power, Duffy’s trial reveals a sea of stupidity in which even the Senate itself is but one part – are somehow resolved only within the Senate or better off viewed in isolation to one another. This is indicative of an entire culture of slack-jawed laziness and lack of clarity shot throughout Canadian civics. Whinging about the Senate being useless without calling for it and the culture that birthed these problems to be fundamentally changed (if not outright eliminated) is both taking only one part of the problem to account and even then doing it badly.

And it’s not like Trudwater’s solution, the brilliant idea to jettison Senators from the Liberal Party (and thus clearly removing them entirely from the social circles and elite institutions where high-powered Liberals would lurk) did much of anything. Seriously – this is the plan to reform the Senate. This is all they’ve got put to paper. The solution to elites running roughshod with a badly-designed, extraneous, aristocratic body with little in the way of transparency and less in the way of excuses to exist? Why, put a gatekeeper body of more elites together to decide which elites are the most elite! Amazing!

 

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#62 – AmeriKKKa, Part Six: Pro-Choice, Anti-Access

People like Rick Mercer love to use abortion access as a way to highlight differences between Canada and the United States. According to these special souls women in the United States live in a state of being not unlike the Handmaid’s Tale. Without any knowledge of their own history regarding abortion, cakers will point to (ridiculous) new anti-abortion legislation in a backwards American state as evidence that the next generation of American women will all be named Offred. Typically, the American judiciary will do what it is constitutionally charged with doing and block stupid legislation from stupid places. But cakers ignore the finely-tuned instrumentation of the American system in favor of screeching like apes so as to mask their own ignorance of their own systems. Having said all of that, let’s take a walk through Canadian history to talk about how abortion access works in Canada, shall we?

We start with a woman named Emily Stowe, who was the first case I could find of Canada bringing the hammer down on an abortion provider. Stowe, who was Canada’s first (not-really but it’s complicated) licensed female doctor couldn’t even get into medical school in Canada, so she had to be trained in New York. In 1879, Stowe provided a minute quantity of a drug that could cause a miscarriage to an “annoying” 19-year old. By minute quantity, I mean “too little to actually do anything” minute. The result was a raucous trial which eventually saw her acquitted on the basis of her prescription being too small to do anything. Abortions would remain illegal under Section #251 of the Criminal Code of Canada until 1969.

It was in that year that the Great Liberator of Canada, Pierre Trudeau would take steps to decriminalize abortion pursuant to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Only a year before Hawai’i legalized abortion on request, California and ten other states legalized access to abortion by writ and Washington state held a public vote legalizing abortion access, Canada finally passed some kind of “permissive legislation” regarding abortion access. The “permissions” required for a Canadian woman to have an abortion performed were strict, to say the least. Remember that Commission that recommended legalizing abortion? Yeah, that was only up to the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. By contrast the “stupid legislation” I pointed to from Mississippi is a ban after fifteen weeks.

And the horror of Canada’s “legalization” doesn’t stop there. In order to access abortion legally under Pierre Trudeau’s regime, you had to get approval from a Therapeutic Abortion Committee, or TAC. The role of the TAC was to effectively judge whether a woman could bypass the existing criminal prohibitions on abortion. TACs were given tons of wiggle room because of the wording of the legislation, meaning that decisions were often arbitrarily in the negative. A TAC that was too lenient was often shuttered and replaced by the hospital in question with one that was harsher. This cockamamie system would remain in place until 1988, which you might recognize as really not that fucking long ago and also recognize as 15 years after the permissive ruling of Roe v. Wade (we’ll get into the difference between permissive and non-permissive rulings in a bit) To this day, hospitals are still notoriously shy about the provision of a service cakers pretend is elementary and regularly available.

The province that actually forced Canada to confront its Victorian attitudes regarding abortion was of course Quebec, the only province in this shithole with the stones to stand up to obscene regulation. Enter Henry Morgentaler, who actually served jail time and endured a firebombing of his clinic in Toronto in this country of unending tolerance and respect for women’s rights. Morgentaler’s tireless work providing abortions where hospitals refused (and still refuse) to earned him unending legal troubles until the infamous R v. Morgentaler ruled that the arcane insanity of the TAC was unconstitutional.

After that, we get an attempt from Brian Mulroney to pass new legislation regarding abortion which would entrench restrictive bureaucracy and penalize women who are so desperate that they seek to self-abort. A tie vote in the Senate killed that first and last attempt to legislate abortion in Canada. And here’s where I talk about the difference between permissive rulings and the Wild West that Canada lives in. Roe v. Wade sets in law the right to have an abortion; R v. Morgentaler merely cancels Canada’s abortion legislation. Since then, Canada hasn’t bothered trying to pass any kind of ruling on the issue.

The problem with this is that the Wild West mentality tends to restrict abortion access. New Brunswick doesn’t allow for abortions broadly speaking, and there’s not a goddamn thing Canada can do about it. Outside of Ontario barriers and restrictions to abortion are common, especially in rural areas. Even with rule changes the lack of ultrasound machines coupled with a non-medically-necessary requirement to have an ultrasound before medication inducing abortion can be provided still hampers access in rural Canada. Without legalized abortion in Canada training for abortions is still haphazard and often wanting. If #RealChange gave a shit he could fix this mess, but he won’t because that’s hard…and because Canadians on the whole aren’t particularly liberal on the matter themselves.

#60 – The Job Fairy, Part Three: A Poverty of Sense

We’ve touched before on how shitty Canada is at collecting statistics. Now we’re going to talk about one facet of this problem: namely, the fact that Canada has no official definition of poverty. Instead, what it has are three obsolete, obfuscating measures, two of which are used in Canada and nowhere else. One of these metrics, the Low Income Meaure (LIM), wasn’t even designed to catch the poverty rate and relies on ten-year old data. Other metrics like the Market Basket Metric (MBM) has been developed almost entirely without public input and thus can be used to artificially lower the stated poverty rate in Canada. And the old stalwart, the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) doesn’t account for differences in rent between major centers and rural communities. Spoilers – it’s a bit more expensive to live in Toronto than it is to live in Bumfuk Falls, Alskatchetobador.

I’ve got a super-handy chart of the types of poverty metrics that Canada collects instead of following the Irish lead and just…having a poverty rate that makes sense. Fuck sense, am I right?

Shit About Canada Poverty Metrics.png
(S)

Check out the variations in play here! Anywhere from 9-14% of Canadians by these measures are living in poverty, though every metric we used stands accused of understating poverty in some way or another. Despite Statistics Canada warning that LICO should not be used as a “poverty rate”, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for decades. Genius! Oh, and did I mention that the practically-useless LICO is the only consistently-collected metric of poverty in Canada? Gotta keep that useless, antiquated statistic running. Then again, it’s not like Statscan is prepared to accept any other metric that it produces as an actual indicator of poverty. It’s like watching a shitty golfer constantly call mulligans after slicing a ball into the water hazard again.

With such spotty data collection and a lack of ways by which Canadian figures can be compared to global ones, there’s no real way to tell if Canada is meeting domestic or international obligations regarding poverty reduction. Our data collection is designed to create a situation where comparison is impossible. The one metric that we do have that we can use to compare with the rest of the world, the LIM, can produce counterintuitive results because it is pegged to average income. If average income falls, the threshhold for poverty does too, reducing the stated number of impoverished people. And as for the MBM, Statscan consistently whinges about how expensive it is to produce.

The upshot of all of this bullshit regarding statistics is that Canada flies blind in terms of poverty reduction strategies and that our governments can arbitrarily declare success by lying with numbers. Just like with the Quadriptych of Death, poverty lines and metrics can be bent to bury practical realities under political spin. We also don’t account for poverty relative to assets held. If you own a house outright, your required income is different than if you rent. Even if you do have a mortgage, a house can in theory be liquidated in a way that rent can’t. But nuance and careful consideration of societal needs is too complicated and expensive in Canada, so the timeless strategy of declaring endless victories while stressing that “more must be done” (while, of course, nothing is done because we have no yardsticks to work with) continues apace. As we continue to ignore serious catastrophes that loom in Canada’s future, the entire country is allowed to drift on with vague platitudes and do-nothing make-believe.

Clearly, hoboes and the underemployed just need to be dynamic team players and they too could ride the Job Fairy’s Magic Job Carpet to Jobland and out of poverty…however that’s defined.

#54 – The Quadriptych of Death, Part Three: On Suicide

I first encountered the great French sociologist Émile Durkheim in my second year of undergrad. I was immediately gripped by his explanation of industrial society and the sense of loneliness it creates in man. But it is another of Durkheim’s intellectual triumphs, the categorization of types of suicidal impulse that we’re going to be working with today. The reason for this is simple: comparison of suicide rates across countries, as my research has found, is practically impossible. Indeed, it’s one of those meaningless numbers that this series is supposed to be combatting. So instead of trying to compare Canada’s dispositions to end it all, let’s instead try to look into why Canadians and which Canadians tend to off themselves. The data on this one is…yeah, you probably already know the drill.

In terms of where Canadians commit suicide, we need only look North. Nunavut is the capital of suicide in Canada, with the issue getting to a point that in 2007 40% of coroner investigations in the territory pointed to suicide as a cause of death. The issue is so extreme that even Pravda has felt the need to call for a state of emergency over the matter. It’s not like Nunavut has a bevy of coroners; bearing witness to children as young as 13 deciding that life isn’t worth living can’t be good for the mental health of the coroner. And it’s not like people have stopped trying since 2007 – attempts are up as recently as 2016, with the victims largely being under 30 years old.

While Nunavut is the worst of the worst (literally) there are other instances of high rates of suicide that we can look at. There is of course the legendary Attawapiskat, where a state of emergency was declared after waves of attempted suicide cases would swamp local medical infrastructure. Prince Selfie, in one of his most egregious acts of inhumanity to date, promised help and has yet to deliver a timetable for the deployment of that help. This co-opting of Indigenous issues for political profit was probably the greatest collective national gaslighting to ever transpire. This place is literally crazy-making, and cakers have been in the business for decades now.

Back to Durkheim now. Émile found that he could explain the rationale behind suicide attempts with one of four schema. The first is egoistic suicide, which stems from a lack of sense of community. Without the social ties that keep us grounded, we develop a depression and a sense of hopelessness that eventually claims us. The second is altruistic suicide, where the suicide is the result of being so overwhelmed by social demands that we kill ourselves in the name of the greater social good. Think martyrdom in the Christian sense and you’ve got the right idea. The third is anomic suicide, which I think the Wikipedia article does a better job explaining that I can.

“It is the product of moral deregulation and a lack of definition of legitimate aspirations through a restraining social ethic, which could impose meaning and order on the individual conscience. This is symptomatic of a failure of economic development and division of labour…People do not know where they fit in within their societies. Durkheim explains that this is a state of moral disorder where people do not know the limits on their desires and are constantly in a state of disappointment.”

Thanks, Wikibro.

Finally, we come to fatalistic suicide, where life is so restrictive and brutal that death is a better option. Prison camps, oppressive dictatorships, slave labor – that’s the kind of “restrictive” we’re on about here.

Looking at these and evaluating the economic and social condition of areas known for high suicide rates in Canada, we can argue a strong case for the very real consequences of the feelings of detachment, disappointment, economic failure, and stagnation that Canada pretends to do anything about before going back to staring at socks and being smug about bullshit.

I’d be lying if I said living in Canada hasn’t gotten me down some bad paths in my life. If you’re struggling here too, know that you aren’t alone. Work on making yourself the best you can be and make an escape plan. You don’t have to stay here. You deserve better.

(S) Pictured: a place you could be in that is not Canada

#51 – Canadian Storytime, Part Two: Glassy Narrows, Rotten Soul

The Grassy Meadows disgrace features all of those hallmarks that we so love when talking caker stories. We’ve got the hideous exponents of caker business practices. There are Indigenous people left to rot as a result of critical failings of imperial governance. There are ludicrous falsification gymnastics as the cakers in charge of Ontario continue to obfuscate and hide from the fact that caker business has once again utterly shit the bed. And of course comes with that “awful ever after” ending that caps off any good caker story. For four decades now, the province of Ontario has known about the dangers of mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows – and done precisely dick all about it. Valiantly passing the buck and ignoring the very real, very disturbing effects of mercury poisoning done by Soviet-style dumping practices, the spectacular failure of the peoples of Grassy Narrows is certainly worth its place in the pantheon of caker malice.

Asubpeeschoseewagong is a community of Ojibwe people inhabiting lands in Northwestern Ontario, near the subhuman storage containment “community” of Dryden. Wabasemoong, which I immediately loved because they call themselves “independent nations”, is also in Northwestern Ontario near to the Manitoba border. Both had the misfortune of having to deal with cakers, particularly the caker businessmen who ran the Dryden Chemical Company and the Dryden Pulp and Paper Company. Because fuck caring about the environment and because especially fuck foresight, the Dryden branch of Caker Business, Inc. dumped mercury-laden waste products directly into the Wasbigoon-English River. Not only that, workers at sites in the area recall dumping barrels of mercury in plastic-lined pits. And not even government orders to stop Dryden Chemical from dumping shit into the river stopped Dryden Chemical from dumping shit into the river until 1976, when they went the way of all caker businesses and folded like a cheap lawn chair.

(S) Totally worth nuking a river for!

In and of itself, this is a Soviet mess worthy of a post. But what makes this a True Canadian Story is the horrific human cost of this nonsense. And as usual, the worst victimization is left to the Indigenous. Enter Minamata Disease, a lovely condition caused by organic mercury contamination. Among the amazing side-effects include polydactyly, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and neurological defects, because it’s just not Canada without some birth defects and brain damage! Oh, and the fish from the river aren’t edible, which is a problem given that food is fucking expensive and the local economy was based on sport fishing and is now defunct. Oh, and did I mention that there still isn’t a local treatment center for the effects of Minamata Disease at Grassy Narrows? Because there isn’t! It’s okay though – only 90% of the population suffers from Minamata.

But don’t you worry, my friends! This gets even worse! Somehow! See, here’s the thing – we’re going to start the story of government intervention (or lack thereof) in this shit shortly after Ontario “demanded” that Dryden’s toxic plants stop dumping slag into a fucking river. In order to save caker business in 1979, the Ontario government agreed to take on the costs of monitoring the toxic waste site. After letting caker business off the hook Ontario immediately led the charge against Soviet-style industrial practices by doing jackshit all for decades! As late as 2015 the Ontario Liberal Party refused to commit to cleaning up the goddamn mess. Prince Selfie also waded into the fray, doing his level best to fulfill his promises to Indigenous peoples by immediately passing the buck back to the Ontario government, which promptly leapt into action by ignoring an existing report on the matter for another year. Just for shits and giggles! It’s not like this is fixabl…oh. It is? And we’ve had to tell this to Queen’s Park more than once?

Fuck me, this country is a sluggish pile of donkey dicks slathered in PVA shit-glue.

#47 – AmeriKKKa, Part Five: Shooty-mans

The subject of policing in Canada is one that is fraught with racial tensions, complex local politics, and a staggering degree of failure both historical and contemporary. Obviously, addressing problems in Canadian policing like, say, the established connections between police and organized crime is a non-starter here in Cakerstan. Fortunately for those who would rather plug their ears and avert their eyes from institutional failure than deal with the problem Canada’s neighbor has a well-publicized policing problem. Of course, American policing agencies have neither the governing context nor any of the historical relationships that define and complicate Canadian policing services, but that doesn’t matter. Enter AmeriKKKa, our beloved counterpoint and perpetual bearer of ersatz redemption from moronic cakers adamant on using American problems to justify Canadian inertia. “Better than AmeriKKKa!” the caker gearns, greedily holding onto the intellectual equivalent of a participation trophy as a means of avoiding any of the hard work that Americans are putting into fixing their own policing woes. Even talking about failures of policing like Canada’s own gun problem is controversial; however far behind the Americans may be, at least there is a vocal population that has decided to move forward and demand better!

To begin a list that will be oft-revisited in terms of fodder for this blog, Canada’s policing services are frequently exposed as being profoundly wanting. Where they aren’t demonstrating astonishing incompetence as is the norm for Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they’re clogging municipal budgets, shitting on black people, shitting on Indigenous people, and acting like macho chumps as they do it. As the de-facto thugs of the Canadian state the Northwest Mounted Police (which would become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) play a role in Canada’s darkest hours. And the institution was, of course, an absolute paragon of Canadian governing tradition, which is to say that it was corrupt as shit and used to maintain the government of that great founder of democracy, John Macdonald.

(S) Lawrence Herchmer, the Beard of the NWMP

By way of example, let’s talk about the “gun problem” in Canada again. Because AmeriKKKa has an obvious problem with too many untrained, unstable people having access to dangerous firearms for dubious reasons beyond the letter of the law cakers are easily able to ignore Canada’s gun-related problems. In classic caker fashion the reaction to rapidly-increasing rates of gun violence across the country has been to deny the existence of a problem by gibbering about AmeriKKKa. Here’s a piece from the Toronto Star with the chilling byline “It’s an absurdity when young men claim it’s easier to get a gun than a job and an indictment against this self-proclaimed world class city of Toronto”. The so-called “6ix” is the epicenter of Canada’s nascent gun trafficking problem, which the valiant Boys in Blue have opted to resolve by blaming the RCMP’s apparent inability to notice when licensed gun owners suddenly opted to purchase shit-tons of guns. To the tune of one-million – as in, there are 1 million illegal firearms just…floating around in Canada. Fear not, though! Prince Selfie is doing all that he can to save us.

So that’s just a small smattering, basically an overview, of the extent to which policing failures are baked into the very bones of this country and subsequently ignored by way of absurd comparison to AmeriKKKa. A general ignorance of the political corruption that defined the original Northwest Mounted Police bleeds into a typical Canadian recalcitrance towards any kind of honest evaluation of national history to create a perfect maelstrom of governmental incompetence and failure. Whether its the flagship failure itself continuing to fart along a path of cruelty and ineptitude or the myriad shoddy police systems in place throughout the country, Canada’s entire decrepit policing apparatus leaves much to be desired.

 

#33 – (In)Complete Coverage

English Canadians love their healthcare system. It’s one of those fortresses of revisionism that Canadians will flee to when their precious façade of a country is threatened by facts. What’s that, rest of the world? Doesn’t matter, got healthcare! The public healthcare system was in 2012 the single thing cakers took the most pride in about their country, and holy shit is that pride misplaced. The problem with Canada’s healthcare system isn’t just that it has disastrous shortcomings which produce some truly horrific consequences, such as the inexcusable fact that 57% of diabetic Canadians can’t follow their diabetes management plan because they can’t afford those costs. It’s that Canada’s healthcare system is a shambolic patchwork of coverages that are littered with exclusions.

One of the most damaging exclusions is Canada’s unique lack of national pharmaceutical coverage. Canada is indeed the only country in the world that has a functional public healthcare system without a corresponding drug coverage plan. Indeed, outside of the United States Canada has the highest drug costs in the world. Here’s a case where a Canadian physician was forced to procure a common medication for treating parasitic worms from fucking Zimbabwe. When a failed state is providing you with medications because your government’s own infrastructure can’t do the job in time you know you’ve fucked up something fierce.

map_of_zimbabwe
(S) Not pictured: a global pharmaceutical powerhouse

There are so many problems with access to pharmaceuticals in Canada that it boggles the mind. Problems with procurement for basic medications to deal with conditions like epilepsy are getting to the point where even hospitals are struggling to keep stock. Between 20,000 and 40,000 people are reliant on an anti-seizure drug called clobazam; missing doses of the drug could kill thousands. Has that motivated Canada to find a stable supply? Nope! And heaven help you if you’re reliant on Canada’s Soviet mental health infrastructure. Not only is Canada’s mental healthcare system absolute shit – it also can’t keep a steady supply of antipsychotics. Here’s a list of over 800 drug shortages currently afflicting this country. We can’t even deal with syphilis, for Christ’s sake! But don’t worry – Pravda, our beloved national broadcaster, leapt to the rescue by courageously blaming social media for outbreaks of STDs in Alberta.

And this isn’t even getting into the absolute horror show that is drug provision on Indigenous reserves. One of the stories that has stuck with me more than most is the tragic tale of the man who dragged an oxygen tank over 600 miles after his wife died for want of oxygen. Oxygen!! Nurses lacking in basic training working in collapsing, unsafe buildings are par for the course on Canada’s reservations. And the problem isn’t just at the frontlines – government bureaucracy, often clunky and unnecessary, are literally killing people. Children on reserves are dying from diseases that are easily treated, like strep throat, because Canada’s healthcare system can’t handle basic problems. You know where else problems like that exist? Fucking Zimbabwe.

We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of healthcare failure in Canada. Because this is such an important point of Canadian revisionism I think it’s imperative for me to hammer each and every aspect of its failure in, complete with as much research as I can muster. The truth of Canada’s flawed, failing system and its myriad exclusions must be known. From excluding pharmaceuticals to denying mental health treatment to claiming that dental, visual, and audiological health aren’t worthy of public funding Canada’s infrastructure is truly shambolic. Anyone claiming a sense of nationalism from this disgraceful, ill-funded abomination is, to be blunt, deep in the throes of insipid caker revisionism.