Canadian citizen Omar Khadr has spent nearly half his life in prison. Yet when he spoke publicly for the first time on May 7, there was no bitterness in his voice aimed towards those who have fought for years to keep him behind bars.
Captured in 2002 at the age of 15 by American soldiers in Afghanistan, and later held at the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention centre, Khadr’s case is not new to Canadians. It has been characterized for years by government inaction and a lack of respect for democratic process, and will remain a blemish on the Canadian public conscience.
Throughout his case the federal government has seemed to prove a commitment to working against the justice system. They have failed to protect the rights of a child soldier, and have championed a flawed corrections system that places punishment above rehabilitation.
After pleading guilty to war crimes in 2010, including the killing of American Sargent Christopher Speer, Omar Khadr was transferred to a Canadian prison in 2012 to serve out the remaining eight years of his sentence.
On April 24, an Alberta judge granted Khadr release on bail, even after a last ditch attempt by the Conservative government to thwart her decision. The Harper government has since filed an appeal of his bail order.
This is not the first time the Conservatives have butted heads with the Canadian justice system on Khadr’s case. In 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Canadian involvement in the interrogation of Khadr at Guantanamo Bay to be illegal. The government later appealed that ruling as well.
The Conservative government is quick to point out that Khadr plead guilty to killing Sargent Christopher Speer, but they are not as quick to recognize that he did so after years of torture. Their refusal to recognize Khadr’s rights as a Canadian and as a child soldier are emblematic of their flawed approach to corrections.
At the age of 15, there is no doubt that Khadr was a child soldier at the time of his capture. Amnesty International has called him the “only child soldier put on trial in modern history,” and former Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire has been an advocate for Khadr’s rights as a child soldier.
Since his release on bail, the Conservative talking points have been in line with their “tough on crime” ideology, and have claimed to be committed to protecting victims’ families. However, what is lost in this political rhetoric is that Khadr has also been a victim and a scapegoat of a government hell-bent on striking fear into the hearts and minds of Canadians.
When Khadr spoke to media outside his lawyer’s Edmonton home last week, he reminded Canadians of the person behind his notorious name. He was soft-spoken, smiling, and remarkably calm despite over a decade of trauma.
At a time when the controversial anti-terrorism, Bill C-51 has just passed its third reading in the House of Commons, and with an election just months away, Ottawa’s response to Khadr is representative of a government that has been shaped by the War on Terror.
By opposing Khadr’s release on bail, Harper hopes Canadians will see him as a strong leader who will protect Canada from the threat of terrorism. However, the government is false in thinking that fear mongering will sway Canadians.
Khadr’s case also draws attention to the Conservative government’s lack of commitment to rehabilitation in the corrections system. Although the Conservatives seem to have a one-track mind when it comes to corrections, the Correctional Service of Canada actually has two goals: carrying out sentences, and assisting in the rehabilitation of offenders.
For years, the Harper government has waged a war on prison programming. As demonstrated by the case of Omar Khadr, they continue to favour punishment over preparation for a safe release into communities.
While speaking to the media, Khadr seemed hopeful of a bright future ahead of him. “There is nothing I can do about the past, but I hope I can do something about the future,” he said. “There are too many good things in life I want to experience.”
If the Conservatives want to prove their commitment to Canada’s democratic principles, they must work with, not against, the Canadian justice system; respect the rights of child soldiers; and recognize the responsibility they have to rehabilitation so that people like Omar Khadr have a chance to become contributing members of society.
On May 7, 2014, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau sparked controversy by announcing all his MPs will be expected to vote pro-choice in abortion debates. In response to this, Campaign Life Coalition and the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, two anti-abortion groups, have created the hashtag “#No2Trudeau” to rally against Trudeau’s politics about abortion.
I believe that these two anti-abortion groups will not get far in their cause, especially since abortion is popularly regarded as a human right. According to the World Health Organization, when women do not have access to safe abortion services, their choices become more limited and women turn to unsafe abortion methods such as using turpentine and knitting needles. Unsafe abortion methods can result in a variety of health consequences, and at times, death. Worldwide, approximately 68,000 women die each year as a result of complications from unsafe abortions (Grimes, Benson, Singh, & Romero, M., 2006). The message is clear: not having access to safe abortion services is killing women.
Although unsafe abortion and related health concerns are highest in countries where abortion services are illegal or difficult to obtain — typically in developing nations — Canadians must not fall into the trap of believing Canada’s abortion laws and clinics are sufficient in supporting women seeking such services.
In New Brunswick, only two hospitals provide abortion services which are covered by the Canadian government (Renzetti, 2015). Such restrictions in New Brunswick do not meet the accessibility and privacy needs of those seeking abortions. Many women will travel to Maine for this service to avoid stigma, social ostracism, or other repercussions among their family members or coworkers (Renzetti, 2015). Prince Edward Island remains the only Canadian province that does not perform legal abortions. In contrast, Quebec provides abortion services at 46 different locations in the province.
The differing provincial situations demonstrate that Canada’s abortion legislation has not translated into widespread access to safe abortion services. Within a human rights framework, a woman’s inability to exercise agency over her pregnancy is a violation of the articles set forth in the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). According to the CEDAW, the denial of safe abortion, resulting in restricted choice, is a human rights violation as it withholds health services on the discriminatory basis of sex. It is time for the Canadian government to remedy this deficit and begin equally funding safe abortion services across all provinces.
Canada still has a ways to go, yet I am hopeful Trudeau’s public declaration is a step in the right direction. Trudeau is drawing a clear line that this women’s rights issue is a true concern for the Liberal party. Moreover, his declaration exemplifies that women’s rights are of more concern for the Liberal party than his MPs personal views.
Grimes, D. A., Benson, J., Singh, S., & Romero, M. (2006). Sexual and reproductive health 4: Unsafe abortion: The preventable pandemic. The Lancet, 368(9550), 1908.
Renzetti, E. (2015). If it’s medically necessary, why isn’t access universal? The Globe and Mail
Plus-size modeling is on the rise among women throughout North America, challenging beauty ideals, embracing curves, and empowering women alike.
B&M Models is a boutique agency of all sizes, in Toronto. It has been in business for over 34 years, representing both male and female models. It has distinguished itself for its work with plus-size women, setting it apart from typical modeling agencies.
In the fall of 2014, B&M Models re-launched its plus-size division, changing the board of profiles from “above average” to “curvy.” The board is where clients, such as retailers, can look to choose women they want to model their merchandise. The board has since become the largest of its kind in the city.
“The reason we changed it from ‘above average’ to ‘curvy,’ was that ‘above average’ insinuated that larger-sized women weren’t the average and that’s not the case anymore. Body types have changed quite a bit and the average is no longer a smaller frame,” said Andrea Evans, an agent at B&M Models.
Currently the “curvy” board has 16 models, who range from dress sizes eight to 20, but Evans said B&M is always looking for more talent.
She explained that more people are interested in working with curvy models, but weren’t grasping the concept of “above average.”
“Curvy has a different connotation to it—a sexier, cooler, shorter, abbreviated, more relatable name,” she said.
More retailers are beginning to cater to plus-size women. Stores such as Pennington’s, Hudson’s Bay, Old Navy, Reitmans, Ricki’s, Addition Elle and Laura Plus are just a sample of companies offering clothes in plus-sizes.
“What’s set B&M apart from other traditional fashion agencies in the city is that they’ve always seen outside of the strict fashion sizing,” Evans said. “There’s never been a limitation here, so when the demand for plus-size girls came about, it made sense to have that board come alive.”
Meghan Bradley, 48, is featured on B&M’s “curvy” board. She said she started work as a plus-size model at age 26 when a friend suggested she give it a go after noticing an advertisement featuring plus-size women. Bradley had never modeled before, but attended a casting call where she was interviewed and instructed to walk.
“The next thing you know I was taken on and my first booking was the next day!” she said.
“Back when I started, it was very much about fitting a size and there were only a handful of stores I would work for because there was so little opportunity to even shop for plus-size,” Bradley recalled.
A highlight of her career came when she was 33, with Bradley becoming the first Canadian plus-size woman to walk the runway in the “Ready-to-Wear” collection for Toronto Fashion Week.
“When I first started out we were just a size, we were just representing a size in a store… Now it’s more of a movement,” Bradley explained. “It’s not just about whether you’re wearing a cute skirt or a blouse. It’s about how you’re wearing it. There’s a confidence movement happening.”
Young, high profile models such as Tess Munster (size 22) and Ashley Graham (size 16) have inspired girls and women across North America with their confidence and success in the fashion industry. Munster and Graham have garnered international attention for their work and greatly contributed to the changing attitudes towards curvy models in the media.
In 2012, Toronto held the first ever plus-size fashion runway show as part of the World MasterCard Fashion Week. The plus-size line, Allistyle, gained instant media attention. It was greatly endorsed by America’s Next Top Model winner, Whitney Thompson, who became the face of the line.
Big name retailers and magazines are beginning to take curvy models on. Calvin Klein’s recent “Perfectly Fit” campaign featured size 10 model Myla Dalbesio, and size 12 model Robyn Lawley appeared in Sports Illustrated’s 2015 swimsuit edition.
Lawley was the first model of her size to ever be featured in an edition, which attracted international attention. Despite the positive shift towards curvy models, both Calvin Klein and Sports Illustrated’s efforts were met with criticism for suggesting Dalbesio and Lawley were plus-size women. In today’s fashion industry, plus-size is generally seen as size eight and up.
“What makes me sad is the fact that we’re even talking about size eights and tens being plus – I think it’s just awful that the bar is being lowered,” Bradley said. “And what is that doing to our young impressionable women?”
Diana Di Poce is the founder and editor-in-chief of DARE, Canada’s first plus-size magazine. The idea for DARE was developed as a part of her fourth-year thesis project in university. She explains that she launched DARE because she felt it was important to feature women of all shapes and sizes in forms of advertising and media.
“Being plus-size all my life, I understand the challenges that young women face with their body image,” Di Poce said. “It’s important for them to know that they are beautiful no matter what size they wear. They cannot let the industry’s beauty standards dictate how they feel about themselves.”
DARE is geared entirely towards curvy women and has worked with leading plus-size fashion bloggers, designers and body-positive artists.
“I didn’t feel that plus-size women, especially in Canada, were being catered to as I thought they should be,” Di Poce said. “As a plus-size woman who loves fashion, I’ve always wanted to see women who look like me on the pages of magazines and in advertising.”
Bradley noted that the fashion industry has come a long way, but there’s still work to be done when it comes to catering to all body types.
“I hope we don’t ever have to refer to it as plus-size modeling,” she said. “I hope that in the future when someone is doing a campaign, that they pick old, young, tall, short, diverse ethnicity, every size. I just hope it becomes more about who that person is than it is about whether the garment looks good on them.”
About 200 people attended Carleton University’s first ever TEDx conference, held April 5 in River Building.
Twelve speakers shared 15-minute talks on this year’s theme, “Future World.” Speakers shared ideas on issues ranging from smart technologies to harnessing students’ curiosity, including human rights-related topics such as the importance of libraries in Canada’s prisons and how future charities will succeed.
TED, which stands for Technology, Education and Development, is a global network of conferences aimed at sharing innovative ideas.
More than a thousand people and over 70 speakers applied to attend TEDxCarletonU, according to the Carleton Student Academic Government, which hosted the conference.
TEDx lead curator Humna Sheikh said she was excited to see so many people interested in attending the event.
“It’s a great way to facilitate ideas and get so many people thinking,” she said. “I think TED caters to different people’s interests and it makes them think.”
Isaac Würmann, a first-year journalism student and one of the speakers at the conference, presented a talk on using libraries to rehabilitate inmates in Canadian prisons.
“I think (TED talks) can be really effective. We’ve all seen those TED videos that go viral and get people having really interesting discussions about issues,” he said.
But Würmann said sometimes TED conferences can oversimplify issues due to the time constraints speakers have to grapple with.
“Sometimes I think TED speakers can fall into the trap of dumbing things down so it doesn’t provide a really good, whole representation of an issue,” he said.
Pramodh Yapa, a fourth-year theoretical physics student, said he struggled boiling the “nitty-gritty” of advanced quantum physics down to a digestible 18-minute talk.
“When you’re talking in an academic context you’re always using words and concepts that people have he context for,” he said.
“Everything I’m talking about is based on mathematical and scientific intuition… So it’s an extremely fine line to walk.”
However, Yapa said the beauty of TED talks is that when speakers do them well, they can take complicated, intellectual ideas and make them more accessible to the public.
Shaikh said CASG is planning to host another TEDx conference at Carleton next year. She said she hopes more people can will be able to attend future TEDx events at the university.
“It was really sad disappointing so many people because we were all sold out,” she said.
On March 11, The Rideau River Residence Association launched a new task force targeting sexual violence and harassment on campus. It aims to improve safety conditions on campus, ultimately reduce the amount of sexual assaults and monitor how the university responds to incidents of this nature.
It is critically important to be able to walk around campus and feel secure no matter what time of day it is, whether you’re accompanied by a friend or alone. Of course it’s imperative that both men and women feel secure, but looking at the bigger picture, it is women who generally bear the brutality of attacks of this kind. Sexual assault is a gendered crime.
That is a fact.
According to Carleton University’s Equality Services website, 81% of victims of sexual assaults are women, while 99% of the perpetrators are men. It also notes that women between the ages of 15-24 and those who attend university or college are most at risk of being targeted.
These statistics may be terrifying, but they don’t need to stay that way.
On March 6, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a new three-year plan, focusing on the protection on the province’s females, and making it law for post-secondary schools across Ontario to take more incentive to make their campuses a safer place. The action plan, titled “It’s Never Okay”, outlines the $41 million initiative in a 35-page report.
The plan also forces colleges and universities to publicly report rates of sexual violence on their campuses.
I think this is a good idea, as it will bring awareness to any future issues and put further pressure on developing better safety measures at the schools.
As a 20-year-old female university student, I entirely fit the persona of someone most likely to be sexually assaulted. Knowing this, I am beyond pleased to see the changes Ontario is partaking in, to ensure the safety of their young women, and I commend the RRRA on their new task force.
Wynne’s report and the RRRA’s task force come at a time where the issue of sexual assault on Canadian university campuses is at the forefront. The spotlight incidents at the University of British Columbia, University of Ottawa, and Dalhousie University have lead to an increase in sexual assault awareness and in the open conversation surrounding rape culture.
Knowing that Carleton has put new safety measures in place does put me at ease. However, I still think we have a long way to go until women stop having to check over their shoulders at night, and feel the need to have their cell phones within close proximity to themselves.
For many of us, the issues we have with public washrooms consist of problems regarding cleanliness and availability. For others, its whether or not the bathrooms available to them are ones that they will feel comfortable using.
Gender-neutral washrooms are rapidly becoming the source of much debate, and the issue has not escaped Carleton’s campus.
Recently, a master’s student at Carleton created a petition asking to have more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
The petition calls for all single-stall gendered washrooms on campus to be changed to gender-neutral ones. Additionally, it asks that all plans for new buildings have inclusive washrooms built into the design.
There are currently 25 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, according to a list published online by Carleton’s Equity Services. These are located in a variety of buildings, from Athletics to the University Centre, to Dunton Tower and the Mackenzie building.
However, there are no gender-neutral washrooms located in, or near, any of the residence buildings on campus.
With approximately 3,600 students living in residence all year round, it stands to reason that there are students who do not feel comfortable using the traditional gendered washrooms available to them.
These students would either have to travel around campus to seek out a gender-neutral washroom to frequent, or use the gendered ones available to them.
Residence and, by extension, the rest of the campus, is supposed to represent a second home for students where they feel comfortable hanging out and studying.
Washrooms are something that all of us need, and shouldn’t be spaces that people feel uncomfortable or un-safe using.
While it is notable that Carleton already has gender-neutral washrooms available on campus, the fact remains that there are simply not enough.
With 45 buildings on campus, and a student body of about 27,800 students, it is obvious that there is a need for more gender-neutral washrooms on campus.
Changing a single-stall, gendered washroom into a gender neutral one does not involve a lengthy remodeling process. All it involves in changing the sign on the door to something that indicates this is a washroom meant for anyone.