A Call to Freeze Arctic Drilling; why you should care that Shell is looking to drill once more

By Jordan Omstead

“Shell screwed up . . . and we’re not going to let them screw up when they try to drill in the Arctic again.”

Those were the words of former US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar after a review of Royal Dutch Shell’s failed Arctic operations.

But that was 2012.

Three years later, Shell is on the cusp of entering the Arctic waters north of the Bering Strait again. The same seas where the company beached an oil rig, the Kulluk, risking the safety of its crew in an attempt to circumvent taxes.

Shell’s shady record was enough to cause significant controversy when the Obama administration recently approved the company’s plans to pick up where they left off in 2012. The same administration that places the possibility of an oil spill at 75 percent appears to think drilling in the Arctic is worthwhile.

The Kulluk drilling rig held over 500,000 litres of fuel and drilling fluid when it broke from its tow and ran aground — one of several cringeworthy moments in Shell’s 2012 Arctic expedition. On top of that, in July 2012 Shell’s oil spill response barge was barred from sailing after failing to meet US Coast Guard safety standards.

Licensed CC0 Public Domain

In November of the same year, the Kulluk’s sister rig, the Noble Discoverer, was tagged with 16 violations by the Coastguard — only ten days after the rig’s exhaust system exploded. All the while, a number of banks, insurance companies, and oil giants (or, the capitalist holy trinity) warned against the possibly disastrous consequences of drilling in the Arctic.

The twisted irony of drilling in the Arctic makes it all the worse.

In 2012, the North pole was warming twice as quickly relative to lower latitudes. As Vice reports, receding ice cover caused by rising temperatures provides greater opportunity for Shell to carry out their drilling expeditions.

In other words, if Shell and their oil buddies keep doing what they’re doing, drilling in the Arctic will only be more accessible in years to come.

Ben Van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, has acknowledged the threat climate change poses. In a recent interview on The Guardian’s “The Biggest Story in the World” podcast, Van Beurden expressed the need for constructive policy change around the burning of fossil fuels. He also reflected on the “personal journey” he took before arriving at the decision to resume drilling in the Arctic.

Using the phrase “personal journey” strikes me as odd for the CEO of an oil company to use as he has decided to drill in an extremely fragile ecosystem. Also, if Van Beurden believes there should be policy reform to counteract climate change, then in 2012, on what was the 14 million dollars of lobbying expenses spent?

After Shell’s Arctic missteps three years ago, the US government enforced a provision which required a third-party audit before Shell was allowed to return to the area. But as The Guardian reported this May, Shell handpicked and paid for the auditor.

Despite Shell’s boasting of industry-leading prevention and oil spill response capabilities, forgive me for not being wholly convinced. Former Shell engineer, Robert Bea, was quoted in National Geographic warning, Shell’s “ability to deal with an uncontrollable [spill] in the Arctic, even in the summer, is limited”.

If you aren’t concerned about Arctic drilling yet, then consider the nearest Coast Guard station with the personnel and equipment vital to a spill response is over 1,500 km away from Shell’s drilling site in the Chukchi Sea.

Perhaps above all, Shell’s decision to drill in the Arctic is a human right’s issue. Aboriginal communities around the Chukchi Sea depend on the hunt of bowhead whales; the migratory patterns of which stand to be disrupted by drilling. As the Guardian reports, the practice is more than just a cultural tradition. It provides relief from the astronomically high prices of food in those communities.

Moreover, the Dutch court ordering its government to reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent over the next five years calls into question not only the morality, but also the legality of Shell’s pursuit for fossil fuels. How, with the visible consequences of climate change and the effect drilling has on northern communities, can the extraction of fossil fuels be considered less than outrageous?

Shell considers the Arctic as the new frontier of energy. What’s important then, is that the frontier and its people are protected. Be that by a personal boycott of Shell, signing petitions, or protest, the Arctic is a valuable and vulnerable piece of the earth that needs all of us to work for its conservation.

School Dress Codes Are Fashioned From a Sexist Narrative

By Amanda Lam

Ranging from banning spaghetti straps to measuring the distance between the bottom of a skirt to a girl’s kneecap, dress codes are being used to turn sexism into policy. For young girls in school, dress codes are a tool used by school administrators and other community members to police young women’s bodies.

Some young women and allies have taken a stand in solidarity to speak out against the discrimination they face or object to; discrimination that comes solely based on sex. One recent example of this erupted in a Toronto high school when student Alexi Halket was sent to the principal’s office over her “inappropriate” outfit. In response, Halket organized a day of protest, called ‘Crop Top Day,’ aimed at fighting against the sexualization of women’s bodies.

On this day Halket’s campus was crowded with hundreds of young women and allies supporting her, and approximately 25 other Toronto schools experienced a similar day of protest with students donning crop tops to spite dress codes. Many participants took this opportunity to exchange stories about their experience with discriminatory dress codes and school administrators’ enforcement of these rules and policies.

Dress codes are not exclusive to schools, but also extend into the workplace and public spaces. On June 20, an eight-year-old girl was asked to cover up at a wading pool in a Guelph public park based upon the city’s policy which mandates all girls over the age of four must wear bathing tops. In contrast, her brothers continued to play topless.

School administrators argue that the way some young women dress is “distracting,” as if young men cannot help but objectify young women and their allegedly scandalous clothing. This “distraction standard” is one of the key messages propagated to uphold dress codes.

However, within this narrative, the dress code constructs young men as the victim in the sense that a young woman’s clothing choice could prevent them from paying appropriate attention to school work.

What has been truly frightening to me is that the message this argument sends mirrors the myth that men cannot help but sexually assault women because of perceived sexy attire.

With this thinking, women are held responsible for the way in which society objectifies and sexualizes them as they are simultaneously told they should be ashamed of their bodies. Men are exempt of responsibility for their behaviour while women are policed and held accountable for the actions of men around them.

Sexism woven into policies like dress codes is a problem in wider society. Rather than placing restrictions on children’s and teen’s clothing, schools and educators should encourage students to critically engage with society, focus on their school work, and to be safe while they express themselves. Deconstructing and removing unreasonable and sexist dress codes is a step in the right direction.

Movie Review: The True Cost

By Isaac Wurmann 

A man in India walked into the middle of his cotton field, drank a bottle of fertilizer, and died. He is one of 250,000 Indian farmers who have commit suicide in the past decade, and his horrifying story is one told in The True Cost, a new documentary about the consequences of the global fashion industry.

The film alleges these farmers kill themselves due to the stress of debts owed to corporations like Monsanto. To keep up with competition, many Indian farmers are forced to buy seeds and fertilizers from these companies, which can cost twice as much as alternatives. The cotton they grow is one of the most common products used to make the clothes we wear.

Director Andrew Morgan was compelled to create The True Cost after the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh where 1,129 people were killed and thousands of others were wounded. It remains the deadliest garment factory disaster in history.

“For too long now, conversation around this topic has suffered from over-simplified blame games,” Morgan wrote in a statement on the film’s website. From growing cancer rates in rural Texas to political violence in Cambodia, the film documents some of the more complicated and distressing symptoms of the fashion industry.

Today, one in six people work in the garment industry, and three quarters of the deadliest sweatshop disasters have occurred in the past five years. This corresponds with the increasing consumption of clothing in America, which has grown by 400% in the past 20 years.

Licensed CC0 Public Domain
Licensed CC0 Public Domain

This dramatic spike in clothing purchases, and the culture within which it is entrenched, has a name: fast fashion. And garment workers overseas aren’t the only ones affected by this growing phenomenon.

By providing consumers with cheaper products, the fast fashion industry allows people to feel wealthier. But in reality, the middle class is becoming poorer because they are buying more, according to researchers quoted in the film.

Bangladeshi garment worker Shima Ahkter, who was interviewed for the film, knows first hand the dangers facing sweatshop workers in this competitive industry. “These clothes are made from our blood,” she said after being beaten for organizing a union in her workplace.

The True Cost had its Canadian premiere at the Ellice Theatre in Winnipeg, which remains its only featured showing in Canada. This puzzles the event’s organizer, Charyssa Erskine, who said she thinks more Canadian cities should be showing the film.

“We [Canadians] are big contributors to this whole issue as well. Joe Fresh is a Canadian company … and they were one of the number one culprits when Rana Plaza came down,” she said.

By the end of the film, it was clear there is an imminent need to recognize the hidden costs associated with buying even a single, simple item of clothing. But as the theatre lights rose on the crowd of well-meaning Winnipeggers, I couldn’t help but feel cynical.

An issue as entrenched and complex as this one can’t be solved by quick consumer fixes like shopping second hand. Instead, it will take political will to refuse to cooperate with corporations who deal in bloody transactions at the expense of consumer’s wallets and, more importantly, at the expense of people’s lives.

If given the chance, The True Cost is powerful enough to prompt a discussion about this issue that could influence even the highest echelons of power. The film forces viewers to confront their contributions to the harsh capitalist economy, and could make people think twice before their next shopping spree.

Irish ‘Yes’ Vote for Same Sex Marriage is Something to Celebrate

By Patrick Butler 

Licensed CC0 Public Domain
Licensed CC0 Public Domain

Last Saturday, Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.

It was an emancipating moment. And an incredible watershed for the country.

Until 1993, homosexual acts were illegal in Ireland. Most Irish were alive for that first victory 22 years ago.

But for a country where the Catholic church still wields so much historic and moral authority, and where that same church continues to categorically condemn gay marriage, last week’s “Yes” vote was a moment many never expected to see.

In a historic rejection of Ireland’s church leaders, a majority of voters decided to constitutionally protect gay marriage — over 62 per cent. In many parts of Dublin, over seven in 10 voters said “Yes” at the ballot box.

As with similar constitutional referenda in Ireland — on EU accession, European austerity measures and capital punishment — the “Yes” and “No” campaigns were hard-fought and high-profile.

But more so than in previous votes, in the days leading up to the same-sex marriage referendum, some of the fiercest campaigning happened online.

Young Irish voters, vastly more pro-gay marriage than their older compatriots, took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in droves. Hashtags such as #hometovote trended worldwide, with hordes of Irish travelling back to their former homes to make their mark on the country’s constitution.

Social media users propelled the campaign internationally, leading to a gigantic global following heading into the referendum and huge anticipation for Saturday’s result.

It was democracy in action. And it was beautiful to watch.

Ireland’s electorate took the tools it had at its disposal to promote the social change it believed in — what it felt was right.

In Canada, gay marriage became legal in several different provincial and territorial jurisdictions after a series of Supreme Court decisions beginning in 2003. Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, which was enacted by the Martin government in 2005, made same-sex unions legal across the country two years later.

But the popular slant to last week’s result in Ireland made it something more satisfying than when Canada legalized same-sex marriage.

The 2005 Civil Marriage Act’s redefinition of marriage was an emancipating moment for Canadian gay, lesbian and transgendered people — just as Ireland’s “Yes” vote was last week. But the Irish referendum was also a collective action by the Irish people to show a traditionally marginalized portion of their population they belonged and they mattered.

It was a moment when Ireland, through a positive, common action, showed it accepted gay, lesbian and transgendered people as full members of its society.

It wasn’t the choice of a court, or of a government, or of a religious group. It was a huge majority of Irish voters. Millions of them.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

Behind the Smile

By Victoria Christie

From the writer:

Hearing about abuse is not easy, but listening and talking about violence is essential for the prevention of abuse against women and men. Discussion surrounding sexual assault has become more prominent in the media, but even so, the focus is still on the predator. Further, there is not as much attention on physical and verbal violence within relationships like marriage. In my song I focused on two central elements. First, the myth that a woman can’t be raped or physically/verbally abused by her boyfriend, partner or spouse (Graham). Also, that a fear of the aggressive partner is a reason for not reporting spousal violence (Graham). “Behind The Smile” is my way of talking about violence against women: a topic that tends to be silenced. This song is hard to hear, but I hope it brings about more awareness of this issue. The lyrics are an intimate snapshot into the life of a trapped woman in a physically and verbally abusive marriage to the man of her dreams.

Works Cited

Graham, Debra. “Violence Against Women.” Women’s and Gender Studies.

Southam Hall, Ottawa. 24 Feb. 2015. Lecture.


You’d never know when you looked at her,

A smiling face all her own.

But as the mask comes off,

He is waiting at home.

One beer too many for him,

“You’re fucking worthless,”

She knows.

‘Cause after all this time,

She’s learned it’s love he shows.

Like a slap in the face means “I love you,”

And a warm embrace means “I’m sorry. It’ll never happen again. I know you’ll come around.”

She said yes to the man of her dreams,

Now it’s nothing like it seems to be.

Red roses and promises they made,

She has no choice but to stay.

When she walked down the aisle,

You’d never know of her life at home,

Behind the smile.

It didn’t always used to be this way.

Now it’s bruises and constantly being afraid.

This is just the sacrifice she made.

She deserves everything he throws her way.

Like a slap in the face as in “I love you,”

And a warm embrace means “I’m sorry. I didn’t know what I was thinking. You know I love you.”

She said yes to the man of her dreams,

Now it’s nothing like it seems to be.

Red roses and promises they made,

She has no choice but to stay.

Cause when she walked down the aisle,

You’d never know of her life at home,

Behind the smile.

Entrapment and pain,

He swore he’d take her life away,

If she ever tried to escape.

So she sits there crying on the bathroom floor,

Begging for a life of so much more.

Red roses and the promises they made,

She has no choice but to walk away.

Cause when she walked down the aisle,

You never know of her life at home,

Behind the smile.

You’d never know when you looked at me,

A smiling face on my own.

Facts Over Fear: Omar Khadr’s lawyer shares experience

By: Erica Howes

When Dennis Edney walked into Guantanamo Bay for the first time, he said he was reminded of animals.

“My dogs were treated better than these human beings. They were in six by eight foot cages,” he explained in a talk at Carleton University on May 14. “But these weren’t human beings, not to the vast majority of the world because the politics of fear had spread readily in the United States.”

Edney, a Canadian lawyer, was visiting Guantanamo Bay in 2002 after being assigned the case of Omar Khadr. Canadian citizen and child soldier, Khadr was 15 when he was arrested and taken to Guantanamo after being convicted of throwing a hand grenade in Afghanistan and killing an American soldier. Khadr was locked up for 13 years. Edney and fellow lawyer Nate Whitling stood by Khadr’s side during three trials at the Supreme Court of Canada. The Canadian government appealed two trials after judges granted Khadr bail. On May 14, the Court rejected the government’s final argument that Khadr should be tried as an adult and he walked free at age 28.

With Edney being in Ottawa last week for the final court ruling, Carleton hosted an event entitled “Omar Khadr: Facts Over Fear.” Edney shared his experiences working on Omar Khadr’s case with a packed room of students, journalists and Ottawa residents.

He opened the talk by explaining the first time he met Khadr, an experience he said he will never forget.

“I remember walking into this freezing cold cell,” he said, adding how it was routine at Guantanamo to keep prisoners cold and uncomfortable so they couldn’t get any rest. “I was a father and I knew my kids were home with my wife and they were safe. Here is this boy in a remote place in this cold, lack of feeling building… subject to torture. I couldn’t believe it.”

For the first two days Edney saw Khadr, he didn’t speak. Edney said it wasn’t until his third and last day at Guantanamo that he was desperate and started pulling things out of his wallet to show Khadr. One thing caught his eye.

“I took out a hockey card of my son,” Edney said, explaining how Khadr felt it in amazement because he hadn’t felt people, books, television, anything to stimulate his mind in a long time.

It was then that Khadr started talking to Edney, but Edney said Khadr had no expectation for him to be anything but a temporary companion.

“As I was leaving he said to me, ‘You’ll leave me, everybody does.’ I said to him, ‘No I won’t, I’ll be there for you’.”

Thirteen years later, Edney is sticking to his promise. As of last week, Omar Khadr is a free man living with Edney’s family in Edmonton.

Although Edney said he never considered himself a human rights lawyer, it was a fight for justice that drove him for all those years. He said Khadr told him about coming off the plane and being thrown on the pavement, which made many prisoners go unconscious. Edney said Khadr talked about being hung by his arms against a door frame for so long he would urinate himself and the guards would force him to wipe it up with his own hair.

“How can any of us think of ourselves as a civil society when we allow places like Guantanamo to exist?” he questioned.

But his frequent trips come at a cost. Edney’s work on the Omar Khadr case was completely pro bono, meaning Edney was providing his services for free.

The Free Omar Khadr Now Campaign was established to support Edney and Whitling, his partner in court, and lift some of the financial burden.

Robert Betty, a representative from the Free Omar Khadr Campaign, also spoke at the event at Carleton. Betty got involved after attending an event in Edmonton about Khadr’s case seven years ago and being a father himself, he said he felt like he had to do something.

“I was leaving that auditorium and Amnesty International, a co-sponsor of the event, was handing out orange wristbands,” he said, holding up his wrist. “One side it says Repatriate Omar Khadr and the other side says Justice for Omar Khadr. I made a decision back then that I wasn’t going to take this off until I was satisfied that both of those objectives had been accomplished.”

Betty said he’s finally getting close to taking off the wristband.

Edney emphasized he has been “honoured” with the people he’s met throughout the past thirteen years who are supportive of his work and especially for the Omar Khadr Campaign that has helped with heavy finances.

“There were times I felt ashamed that I have misused the family savings like I have, and yet, my wife has always disputed it, and she’s right,” Edney said. “Because if I had the opportunity to do it again, would I do it? Of course.”

Check out Isaac Würmann’s opinion piece on Omar Khadr and Canada’s corrections system.


By Mamta Manhas

“Get over it” they say

The ignorance is self-evident

I hope many don’t have this mind-set

Of how mental illness can be fixed

People wonder why the talk is so taboo

But with statements so hurtful and this kind of mentality

It doesn’t open up the conversation to save my sanity

So I’ll sit here with a mask

Painted and Proper

Beautiful in the distance

The cracks non-existent

It’s hard to see me falter

Until you get too close

Under my act, you’ll see the attacks

Inflicted by overthinking but in actuality

Disappointment holds me back

See I don’t think you realize

How much I must maintain

This look of happiness

Under all the pain

My resilience is my saviour

No matter how low I can go

I’ve been through much worse

These hardships will cause my growth

One day I won’t be so constrained in my mind

Slow is my process to recovery

I’ll learn to love myself and allow only good vibes

It’s a battle that will increase my life expectancy

Mental Illness will not defeat me

Mobilizing Media. Changing Lives.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 864 other followers