The Daily GRRR! - Nov. 17, 2014 - Your “Ugh, Monday Morning” Edition

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Welcome back to SoundFM! You are now listening to The Daily GRRR! live on the airwaves at 100.3fm, CKMS in Waterloo, Ontario, and SoundFM.ca on the web. This is Kathryn and I’ll be your host on this Monday morning show for November 17, 2014.

As always, we are broadcasting from the heart of the Haldimand Tract, the occupied Grand River Territory of the Six Nations, which we continue to recognize as Haudenosaunee land.

The Daily GRRR! is a project of the Grand River Media Collective and is supported by the Community Radio Fund of Canada and CKMS.

We will begin today with headlines:
The Daily GRRR!
HEADLINES for Nov. 17, 2014
1. ‘Brussels burns’ as over 100,000 march against Belgian austerity measures
2. Colorado high schoolers protest school board censorship of curriculum
3. LGBTQ magazine names Vladimir Putin their (bad) person of the year
4. U.S. appeals court judge slams those who upheld same-sex marriage bans
5. Appeals court orders Harper to restore refugee health care program
6. New leaves of absence for caregivers now available to Ontario workers
7. Growing movement to mandate a living wage arrives in Brantford
8. Owner of unfinished building ordered to pay back student’s deposit
9. WPIRG calls for support of UW prof facing Islamophobic death threats

1. ‘Brussels burns’ as over 100,000 march against Belgian austerity measures

As reported by EuroNews, the anti-austerity demonstration on November 6th started as a peaceful protest and by the end the streets of Brussels were broken and going up in flames. The righteous rage of 120,000 Belgians demonstrating that day was aimed at the country’s new centre-right government and its planned austerity measures, which include a proposed rise in the retirement age, a freeze in wages and public service cuts to meet EU targets. In what was one of Belgium’s biggest labour demonstrations since World War Two, cobblestones and smoke flares were hurled at police who responded with water cannon and pepper spray. Spokesperson for the Belgian police refused to say how many were injured or the number of people detained. However, one media source has reported that at least 14 people were injured, quite likely in the violent charge led by police to clear the area of demonstrators in the late afternoon. This is far from the end of the action destined to be seen in the streets of Belgium, though: The march marked the start of a month-long campaign of protests which are set to end with a nationwide strike on December 15th.

2. Colorado high schoolers protest school board censorship of curriculum

In another public demonstration on November 6th, as reported by CommonDreams.org, more than a dozen students were escorted out of a school board meeting in Colorado after disrupting proceedings by reading from their history textbooks and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance -- in protest against the conservative school board's efforts to censor their history curriculum. The students employed one of the very tactics that Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams was seeking to downplay through a proposed curriculum review committee: civil disobedience. In late September, Williams' proposal—to establish a committee to ensure that the district's history texts promoted positive aspects of the United States and avoided encouragement of "civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law"—prompted mass student walk-outs and teacher 'sick-outs.'

Many of the students involved in Thursday evening's action were organizers of the September protests, and according to Chicago Public Radio, "the disruptions started when board members refused to let students speak, after they didn’t speak in the order they were called. A few minutes later, one student after another stood up in the public meeting, reciting historic acts of civil disobedience from history textbooks." Student organizer Ashlyn Maher, a member of the recently formed JeffCo Student Network for Change, didn't get a chance to speak at Thursday's meeting. She posted her speech on Facebook, and here’s an excerpt:

"Our problem is that you, the board majority, passed a redundant, and highly opposed curriculum review committee because you have other motives," Maher said. "You want to limit what we learn so you can push your own political opinion. Our problem is that the nation you want to build consists of people who cannot think critically. We as students want to develop our minds. Critical thinking is our ticket to the future. Do not limit what we learn...Do not try to fool us...Do not pretend that patriotism is turning a blind eye and a passive mind to the changing world around us."

3. LGBTQ magazine names Vladimir Putin their (bad) person of the year

As cited by ‘The Advocate’ in their annual ‘person of the year’ issue, the former KGB officer cum dictator has been “driving the governmental, religious, and popular disdain for gays and lesbians” in his country -- and in so doing, “the Russian president became the single greatest threat to LGBTs in the world in 2014.” In the piece, author Jeremy Lybarger explicitly links Putin's youth experience as a KGB officer to his political personality: "The KGB, after all, perfected the thuggery, espionage, and aimless bureaucracy that are hallmarks of Putin’s regime," Lybarger writes. "The agency’s crackdown on dissidents offered a blueprint for Putin’s own strongman excesses. That he aspired to such a career as a child tells us something useful about his psychopathology: This is a man hardwired to intimidate."

Lybarger then describes Putin's "crusade against LGBT Russians," citing the country's 2013 ban on so-called homosexual propaganda and the "international outrage" it inspired leading up to the Sochi Olympics: “Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in his crusade against LGBT Russians. Since winning a third term in 2012, Putin has become ever more autocratic, and his antigay ideology ever more extreme. In June 2013, he signed the infamous antigay propaganda bill that criminalizes the “distribution of information … aimed at the formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes,” with nontraditional meaning anything other than heterosexual. ... International outrage flared in the months before the Sochi Olympics, in response to which Putin reassured the gay and lesbian community they had nothing to fear as long as they left Russia’s children in peace. Such incendiary rhetoric is a staple of Putin’s political playbook. And in Russia, where the majority of media are state-owned, there’s little public pushback.”

4. U.S. appeals court judge (HAS) slams those (COLLEAGUES) who upheld same-sex marriage bans

As reported by The Huffington Post, a federal appeals court judge recently issued a scathing dissent to an opinion supported by two of her colleagues who upheld bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. In a 2-1 decision earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the rulings of lower federal courts that found same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. But in a blistering dissent, Martha Craig Daughtrey wrote that while her colleagues' opinion would make "an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy," the majority opinion "treats both the issues and the litigants here as mere abstractions," Daughtrey wrote. "Instead of recognizing the plaintiffs as persons, suffering actual harm as a result of being denied the right to marry where they reside or the right to have their valid marriages recognized there, my colleagues view the plaintiffs as social activists who have somehow stumbled into federal court, inadvisably, when they should be out campaigning to win 'the hearts and minds' of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee voters to their cause."

But, as Daughtrey explained, “these plaintiffs are not political zealots trying to push reform on their fellow citizens; they are committed same-sex couples, many of them heading up de facto families, who want to achieve equal status...with their married neighbors, friends, and coworkers, to be accepted as contributing members of their social and religious communities, and to be welcomed as fully legitimate parents at their children’s schools. They seek to do this by virtue of exercising a civil right that most of us take for granted -- the right to marry."

The decision is made all the more painful for couples whose previously legal marriages are now being damned by the state’s attorneys in Michigan, who are now arguing that, “from a legal standpoint, because the marriages rested solely on the district court's erroneous decision, which has now been reversed, it is as if the marriages never existed, and Plaintiffs' requests for benefits attendant to a legal marriage must be denied.” But this happening in the context of a class action lawsuit, Caspar v. Snyder, that has been filed by eight of the couples affected in Michigan, and we look forward to seeing equal rights prevail in this case. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing petitions this past Friday that could lead to a review of the earlier, lower-court ruling that upheld the same-sex marriage bans, and the plaintiffs are reportedly appealing to the Supreme Court to settle the issue of same-sex marriage nationwide. Federal protection and full rights for same-sex couples are long overdue in the U.S., and as Appeals Court Justice Daughtrey has said, “If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams.”

5. Appeals court orders Harper to restore refugee health care program

As reported by Rabble.ca, the Conservative government continues to vigorously dissuade refugees from coming to Canada, not least by canning the refugee health program, as Jason Kenney did after becoming Minister of Immigration in 2008. The purpose of the health program was to assure that often-destitute refugees receive the same health care as Canadians do. Despite Conservative claims that the program provided "gold-plated" health care unavailable to Canadian citizens, in fact the program gave refugees exactly the level of service that Canadians on social assistance receive -- no more; no less.

This is inarguably a good and necessary duty for a country to accept when it agrees to take in refugees, which likely occurred to the Federal Court judge who ordered Prime Minister Harper's Conservatives to reinstate the refugee health program this past July. He gave them a deadline of four months to do so. On the morning of November 4th, with the next day’s deadline looming, current Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that the Harper government will comply with the Federal Court of Appeals ruling, and will reinstate the refugee health program. Not that they really had much choice in the matter.

6. New leaves of absence for caregivers now available to Ontario workers

People in Ontario can now take three new leaves of absence thanks to the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2014, which came into effect on October 29. This legislation allows caregivers to focus their attention on what matters most - providing care to their loved ones - without fear of losing their jobs. The legislation builds on the existing Family Medical Leave by creating additional job-protected leaves:

The Family Caregiver Leave provides up to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees to provide care or support to a family member with a serious medical condition. The Critically Ill Child Care Leave provides up to 37 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to provide care to a critically ill child. And, finally, the Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave -- which we can only hope will not be widely necessary -- provides up to 52 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents of a missing child and up to 104 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents of a child who has died as a result of a crime. So keep these in mind, all you hard workers out there! We’ve got to know our rights.

7. Growing movement to mandate a living wage arrives in Brantford

As explained in by the Brant County Health Unit in their October 2014 report, “The living wage is an hourly rate of pay that provides a household with suf cient income to cover the basic costs of daily living which includes amongst other things: housing, food, clothing, and transportation, while also allowing for participation in the community. A foundational component of calculating the living wage is the living wage calculator developed by Hugh Mackenzie. The calculator is in the form of an excel spreadsheet that requests information about the family type (sex and age for all individuals in a family), the number of hours that each adult works, and the family expenses. Based on the information entered, the calculator provides information on the total cost of living and the living wage employment income required to meet the cost of living after accounting for all taxes and bene ts that the family incurs. The living wage for Branford is an average of living wages calculated for 4 different family types: a two parent family with two children, a one parent family with two children, a one parent family with one child and a single person family. Full-time work is de ned as 37.5 hours of work per week. For all family types, the living wage calculations are based on all adults in the family
working full time. The average living wage for Brantford for 2014 was established as $14.85/hour.”

8. Owner of unfinished building ordered to pay back student’s deposit

As reported by The Record, the Landlord and Tenant Board has ruled against a property management company that failed to have a building ready when it said it would must pay a rent deposit back to a student who was unable to move in on time. The ruling stems from the unfinished Columbia Street highrise apartment building at the corner of King and Columbia in Waterloo, a 22-storey building that was supposed to be ready for occupancy for university students in September. Many signed leases and had paid up to $1,500 in rent deposits, with international students paying up to $3,000. The 10-page ruling stated that "the landlord has treated the deposit as a forfeiture penalty or other penalty by retaining it despite failing to provide the unit to the tenant,” which is against the law. It was also noted that property management company breached the lease agreement when the building was not ready for occupancy and subsequently failed to provide an adequate time frame when the building would be ready.

With regards to this specific case, the ruling stated that Schembri Property Management owes Connor and Caesar Ruest $1,530, which includes a rent and key deposit and $45 for filing the application to the board. Parent Caesar Ruest, who received the ruling in the mail on Monday, said he's satisfied that the board agreed with him in returning his deposit. However, Ruest said he won't be completely satisfied until the money is returned, admitting that "I have a reluctance to celebrate until after I get the money in hand,” which is only wise given Schembri’s hitherto amoral conduct.

Ruest expects he might have to go to small claims court to have the ruling enforced, and unfortunately, the board did not rule in his favour for the $2,500 in damages he was also seeking. He was also asking for a $10,000 fine against the property company, though the board claims it does not have the authority to impose such a fine. Another claim will be heard before the Landlord and Tenant Board, and this group claim involves 53 students who are seeking $100,000 to cover their rent deposits. The group, represented by the Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, is also requesting a fine of $100,000 for negligence and harassment on the part of the landlord.

9. WPIRG calls(ING) for support of UW prof facing Islamophobic death threats

Earlier this month, the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group’s board of directors issued a public statement in the case of University of Waterloo professor, Dr. Idrisa Pandit, who gave an interview with the CBC in the wake of the October 22nd shooting on Parliament Hill. She criticized the expectation that Muslim-Canadian community organizations publicly condemn and apologize for any random act of violence supposedly associated with a Muslim individual. Speaking on behalf of the organization, they explain:

“We write this statement because we are furious and outraged to learn that this week, following her interview with CBC, Dr. Pandit received death threats targeting her and her family as a result of her public speaking. We find these threats, intended to intimidate, silence, and harm Dr. Pandit and those close to her, totally unacceptable and reprehensible. We are further angered to learn that, although the identity of Dr. Pandit’s harasser is known, the UW Police Services and Waterloo Regional Police Services have declined to pursue and substantively protect the safety and wellbeing of Dr. Pandit and her family.

“WPIRG condemns these threats to the fullest, as well as the racism that permits such vicious representatives of Canadian society to remain unaccountable for such acts. We support and stand behind Dr. Pandit’s message; nobody should have to apologize for their faith, no community is responsible for actions they have nothing to do with, and finally, the Muslim-Canadian community does not need to justify its presence and participation in Canadian society. WPIRG will continue to actively oppose Islamophobia and any manifestation of racism, both at the University of Waterloo and in our broader community.

“Threats to the safety of University of Waterloo community members should not go unchallenged. We call on other members of this community to join with us in standing behind Dr. Pandit and her family, and to oppose bigotry and racism. We urge everyone to speak out against these threats, to challenge any exclusion of Muslim-Canadians from their inherent right to respect and dignity, and to contact the police to let them know that the University of Waterloo community expects further action in this matter.”

Midway Music: Transgender Acceptance Rap by Alex from Camp Aranu'tiq

Feature: “Sexism In The Queer Community” by Lana Woolf http://lanawoolfspokenword.com/2014/10/19/sexism-in-the-queer-community/

Closing Poem: Is This Queer Enough? by Janice Lee

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