Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rehtaeh Parsons - How is Canada failing women?

Rehtaeh Parsons
Judge Jamie Campbell, who upheld the publication ban in Halifax, wrote in his decision that “the ban serves no purpose,” though he had no choice but to uphold it. Waiving Rehtaeh’s privacy rights “would be a good thing, if it could be done just for this case, just this once,” the judge wrote.

I find it very ironic that the justice system which failed Rehtaeh while she was alive are now trying to hide themselves and cover their asses now that Rehtaeh is dead. I find publication ban to be absolutely useless in this case as the only way that all of us have been able to preserve dignity for Rehtaeh is remembering that RCMP and judicial system in Nova Scotia failed her and her family terribly.

Its completely mind boggling as how there has been systemic push towards shaming and silencing of sexual violence victims like Rehtaeh Parsons.

One of the main reasons I decided to write about Rehtaeh as RCMP Nova Scotia refused to take information from Anonymous collective. It sounded very ridiculous especially when RCMP and other policing agencies in Canada have anonymous tip lines?!?

This systemic push is not only from "boys will be boys" mindset from the people but its also heavily ingrained in mainstream publication media who think that lives of victims and survivors do NOT matter.

Anonymous Hacktivists
Its only recently that with the case of Jian Ghomeshi, sexual assaults of MPs on Parliament Hill that the conversation started around #BeenRapedNeverReported.

Before anyone goes and claims any victory anywhere, we have a long way to go esp in a country where only 0.3% of sexual assault cases get conviction.

In November, I planned to do a local event as a memorial to Montreal Massacre. The theme of the event was to explore what has changed for women in Canada in the last 25 years on violence against women and to make it a part of 16 Days of Orange campaign initiated by UN. Rehtaeh is very important in Canadian context but also the way justice system works for girls who get sexually assaulted.

I was fortunate to meet with Glen Canning when he was in Toronto and we were able to do a small interview, I hope the readers will enjoy it.

Talking about Rehtaeh and keeping her legacy alive is important because the only way we were able to challenge the failing system by having a huge outpouring against it. Its also the only way to ensure that this kind of gross miscarriage never happens again! Institutions like RCMP and judiciary need to know that people of Canada are watching them and they will hold them accountable!

A petition was started on her birthday on December 9th which would had been Rehtaeh's 19th birthday. The petition asks for prevention of prosecution of those who are using Rehtaeh's name in connection with charges against her attackers.

There is also a campaign going on social media, details of which can be found here.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Organizing Tales: When shit goes wrong for no reason

We are planning to do an amazing event to remember Montreal Massacre victims and I guess we were not expecting to receive this kind of backlash against our guest speakers. But here we are dealing with the nonsense and we are committed to take this onwards anyway.

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, I highly recommend coming out and listen to amazing lineup. Here is the poster of the event and here is the organizing struggle for safe and positive space for everyone.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Accused in Rehtaeh Parsons case set free

The boy who took the picture used to shame Rehtaeh Parsons was set free today and won’t spend a day in jail.
The accused, now 20, pleaded guilty in September to production of child pornography. He took a picture of Rehtaeh Parsons and his co-accused. Parsons was puking out a window while the other boy mugged for the camera and gave a thumbs-up sign. Despite admitting his guilt, he won’t go to jail and will have 12 months to meet certain conditions. If he meets them, he will receive a conditional discharge. He will not be put on probation.
Some will say this is a travesty of justice, but Glen Canning – Rethaeh’s dad – said there won’t be justice until there are charges of sexual assault in the case.
The most telling moment of today’s sentencing came when Judge Greg Lenehan said the 20-year-old Eastern Shore man who took the picture should have known better and told him to consider what he would have wanted someone else to do if it was his sister being violated while she was puking out the window.
“The image you took is an example of the objectification of girls and women,” Lenehan said to him.
The accused shifted uncomfortably on the bench and looked nervous. Then muscles on his face twitched as he seemed to realize the cruelty of what he did.
Lenehan told him he “should never forget the promising, vibrant young life that was eventually destroyed by his choice to record an act of sexual degradation.”
“You did, in a few seconds, set in motion a series of events that led to a great deal of shame, humiliation, anger, despair, anguish, loss, hurt, and destruction for Ms. Parsons, her family, you, your family, and for the entire community.”
Lenehan told him the moment he captured on camera was “not a trophy moment, but that is certainly what it was portrayed as.”
In the era of cellphones when people seem to document everything, this was not a moment to be documented, the judge said.
Despite the tragic impact of the accused’s actions, Lenehan said he had to take into consideration the prime purpose of Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act, which emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The accused, who was 17 at the time of the incident three years ago, has already shown signs of doing that.
“I accept that he is genuinely remorseful. I think he is quite sickened by the realization that his decision eventually led Rehtaeh Parsons to fall into the deep dark hole of despair from which she could not extricate herself. His actions led to a series of events that eventually drained her of her very essence.”

The accused has been suffering from anxiety and insomnia since the death of Rehtaeh Parsons in April 2013. Lenehan said the accused’s confession to police in August 2013 and his guilty plea on Sept. 22 are all factors that bode well for his rehabilitation. He has a full-time job, has not been in trouble with the law since the incident, nor was he ever in trouble with the law before that.
“This is a very difficult sentencing,” Lenehan said. “Nothing I can do can compensate for her tragic loss of life. There is no measure that could ever properly reflect her value.”

Despite the public calls for revenge, he stressed youth court is “not a court of retribution” and so gave the youth a conditional discharge while imposing some conditions. The accused must seek counselling for 12 months, provide a DNA sample, and write an apology to Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents.
“You are also required to locate and attend, successfully complete a course on sexual harassment,” Lenehan said. “It’s vitally important that you understand how you can interact and treat all females as you go forward.”

“I do not want to hamstring you. I do want to encourage you to become a productive member of society. I want you to be the type of young man that if you ever see somebody humiliating or treating a girl or a woman in any fashion that would call into question their dignity or worth, that you would not stand by and be an observer; that you would be the type of person that would say ‘This needs to stop’ and you would stop it.”

The other accused in this case will stand trial on distribution of child pornography charges on Nov. 24. His father was in court watching today’s proceedings.


This blog is re-post from Ryan Van Horne's blog

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dear Susan Martinuk, First Nations lives matter!

I had the misfortune of reading this despicable pathetic op-ed where Susan Martinuk says "Attack on Aboriginal teen is no reason for inquiry" , says the white woman who can never ever walk in the shoes of an indigenous women *rolls eyes*

Idle No More
I am beyond outraged. I am shaking with anger. Indigenous women in Canada are one of the most vulnerable demographics who are exploited and face immense sexual violence. And the only thing Martinuk comes up with is attacking a 16yr old dead girl along with her family? Not only that, editors of this paper thought that this would be a good article to publish?
Is Calgary Herald affiliated with white supremacist groups where they try to pass off overt racism and sexism as a casual joke or have we all just waited too long to boycott this excuse of a paper? Because we all know how Sun News publishes instigating and inflammatory material.

I had no idea if overt racism and sexism could be published in a mainstream paper especially in light of last month's events of Brock University with its black face, Jian Ghomeshi with so many stories of assault and sexual harassment cases on Parliament Hill.

So I demand to know if the lives of indigenous and racialized women don't matter to this country? Is this the way Canadians pretend to care about human rights and equality? Or equality is only relevant when the person is white!

Consider this, this inquiry is not for people of color or indigenous people but it is actually for white people who need to come in terms with reality that they have done irreparable damage to the society and if they continue to ignore the plight of these marginalised communities.

The problem of these communities is very much ingrained in white supremacy, systemic and institutional racism. The sooner mainstream media and establishment comes in terms with it, the better we all can work towards healing of our communities.

I hope that Calgary Herald will re-consider its decision, remove that editorial and apologize to the First Nations community for publishing such an inflammatory piece.

Because the question arises, how many women have to die for these people to wake up?

Lesson learnt from Calgary Herald: I don't always blame victims but when I do it's with tinge of white supremacy and racism.

Got whitesplained by rich white man

Lots of you might remember about the blackface which grace twitter after the weekend of Halloween. The news was picked up by various media outlets and people expressed their outrage. The only party which basically protected the guilty party was the administration of university itself.

Like many people I was pissed off when I sent out that email to President of Brock U but what I received as a response was nothing but condescending and disgusting.

Jack Lightstone, Blackface, Brock University    
Reply from Brock University - Jack Lightstone

Dear white people, when you are trying to speak on the topic of racism, please do not try to whitesplain a woman of color. We live casual/covert/overt racism everyday. Do NOT try to make our pain meaningless.

Let me explain it to Mr.Lightsone, I am not sure what kind of institution you are running or if your students live under a rock where they missed facts on slavery in Canada but even "ignorance" gives NO pass to racism. Just the same way ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law. If you or people you surround yourself are ignorant, that's all on you but do NOT ask others to be untouched by it.

None of the students in at Brock U have publicly acknowledged that they are sorry so fuck you and your defense. You have a duty to not only educate your students but also discipline them which sets an example for future incidents.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Publication Ban & Justice For Rehtaeh

This post is a cross-posting from Publication Ban is Pointless by Ryan Van Horne
One of the beauties of being a freelancer is that I don’t have to worry about consulting lawyers or publishers, I can just follow my gut and do what a journalist is supposed to do.
Canning Parsons
Parents of Rehtaeh who are choosing to keep her name alive

To paraphrase the Mr. Dooley character of American humorist Finley Peter Dunne: It’s the job of journalists to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

Sometimes, you get the opportunity to do both and when those opportunities arise, you must seize them. Yesterday, more than any other day, it was important to use Rehtaeh Parsons’ name.

The guilty plea of one of the accused was validation for her and her family. Any journalist with a sense of public good would recognize that you’d need to link yesterday’s development back to April 2013, when the whole world knew her name and the eyes of the world were on Nova Scotia because of the failure of our justice system to lay any charges.

There was a clear purpose to my post and I’m not content to wait for politicians to change the law. I’m going to point out its flaws, why it needs to be amended, and why it should not apply in this case. I also consulted with Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents – Leah Parsons and Glen Canning — and got a blessing from both of them to break the ban.

Also, reading the judge’s decision from May gave me confidence that it was a pretty safe path if I chose my steps carefully. I was not flouting it just for the sake of flouting it. Former colleague Stephen Kimber, a professor of journalism at King’s College, suggested in a Facebook discussion that “there’s a danger when we start violating bans because we believe it’s wrong in one particular instance.”
“What if another reporter decides to name an alleged rape victim, or a child abuse victim because they think it’s justified. Do we get to decide when the law applies and when it doesn’t? And, given that everyone already knows who the victim is in this case, is it really necessary to break the ban to make the argument it is wrong here, or to write in a way that makes the connections for the reader without specifically naming the victim?”
In this case, I take to heart the comments made by Judge Jamie Campbell when he wrote in his decision: “It’s a ban that everyone wants, just not in this case.”

Clearly, it’s a good law, but it just doesn’t work in this instance. A judge, our director of public prosecutions, and our Attorney General had an opportunity to fix that, but none took the opportunities available to them for various reasons. You say that “everyone” knows her name, but I think that only those closely connected to the case would make the crucial connection if not for the efforts of the victim’s parents — Glen Canning and Leah Parsons — who have been breaking the ban.

I’m not claiming the right for me or any other journalist to decide when the law applies and when it doesn’t. But remember, both of Rehtaeh’s parents opposed the ban and the Crown fought it, too. Also, when the Crown reviews a complaint — if there is one — they will consider the intent of Parliament in drafting the law, the wishes of the parents, and whether the public interest is served in prosecuting.

Precisely the things that I considered before writing the post.

Guilty plea in Rehtaeh Parsons case

The following post is being cross posted from: "Guily plea in Rehtaeh Parsons case by Ryan Van Horne "
A young man who took the picture used to shame and bully Rehtaeh Parsons has pleaded guilty to production of child pornography.

He admitted to taking the picture of another boy, a co-accused in the case, who was in the picture with Rehtaeh in November 2011 when he was 17 and Rehtaeh was 15. Neither of the accused, who were both under 18 at the time, can be named. Their identities are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Crown Attorney Alex Smith read an agreed statement of facts to Halifax Provincial Court Judge Greg Lenehan.

Smith describes the image which shows one boy, naked from the waist down, behind Rehtaeh and pressing his genital region up against her while giving a thumbs-up sign. Rehtaeh Parsons is naked from the waist down.

“At the time the photograph was taken, (one of the accused) was having sex with Rehtaeh Parsons as she was vomiting out the window,” Smith told the court.

The youth in court today faced charges of production and distribution of child pornography. The Crown dropped the charge of distribution.

Another boy, the one in the picture who is charged only with distribution of child pornography, is scheduled to go on trial in November.

There is also a publication ban on the identity of the victim, Rehtaeh Parsons, despite the opposition of the Crown Attorney and her parents. Four Nova Scotia media outlets fought the ban in May, but Judge Jamie Campbell said it was a statutory ban that he had to impose – even though it didn’t make sense because her name was already so well known. In reporting this story today, media outlets continue to observe the ban.

It is the law of the country and judges must do their duty and enforce the law passed by Parliament. That is why the judge cannot be faulted in this case.

This post respectfully disregards the publication ban because a greater public good is served by doing so.

There is a higher goal than upholding the law and that is justice; something that judges, especially those that practice judicial restraint, sometimes do not consider.

There is an oft-told story of a conversation between two great American jurists, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Learned Hand, who met for lunch one day.

As Holmes began to drive away, Hand implored him to “Do justice, sir, do justice!”
Holmes stopped and admonished his fellow judge with this retort: “That is not my job. It is my job to apply the law.”

In the absence of an activist judge, or an Attorney General or Director of Public Prosecutions willing to make a public pronouncement that no charges will be laid in this case, it is left to the media to wonder about the safety of violating the ban.

Henry David Thoreau, in his essay Civil Disobedience, encouraged people to disobey what he called “unjust laws.”
Thoreau wrote: “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”
Let me be clear. It’s not that this law is unjust. It is that it is unjust in this case and should be ignored.

Clearly, this is an exception that Parliament did not think of when they passed the law and they need to amend it.

Lastly, there is a clause in the Youth Criminal Justice Act that allows for the parents of a victim to waive the privacy rights of their children. Glen Canning and Leah Parsons have done so in this case, but Judge Campbell chose not to accept that argument, saying that the Criminal Code provision wins the day – even though it doesn’t really make any sense in this case. See decision here.

Rehtaeh Parsons’ name brings power to any discussion about sexual consent, cyber-bullying, and suicide prevention. Her case prompted important legal reforms in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada. The federal government, which is working on passing Bill C-13 to counter cyber-bullying, is doing so partly because of what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons.
Most importantly, this change of plea needs to be connected to the case at a time when publication of her name was permitted.


Because of the way the police and the Public Prosecution Service handled the case. Initially, the police focussed their investigation — such as it was — on sexual assault after an incident in November 2011. They spent most of their early efforts investigating Rehtaeh and took a long time – several months – before interviewing the four teenage boys alleged to have raped her when she was extremely intoxicated.

The Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service reviewed the case, but didn’t lay charges because there wasn’t a strong enough likelihood of a conviction. It was dubbed a “he said, she said” case amid claims that Rehtaeh had made advances, or at least appeared willing earlier in the evening.

By the time the picture was taken, as the agreed statement of facts read into court today would indicate, Rehtaeh was not in any state to be consenting to sex.
Amazingly, the existence of a photograph of a minor engaged in a sexual act did not spark law enforcement professionals involved in the investigation to consider laying a charge of production and distribution of child pornography. Canning said police and school officials knew of the photo’s existence within a week of it being taken.

“They allowed this image to spread even knowing that this was child pornography. They knew who had it and who was doing it and there was nothing done to stop it,” he said. “Every time it was shared, it victimized Rehtaeh.”

The photo spread like wildfire through her community in a suburb of Halifax. Fellow students called Rehtaeh Parsons a slut and some total strangers texted her and asked her if she wanted to have sex with them. The bullying became too much so she switched schools and sought counselling. She claimed she was raped, but no charges were laid and this added to the grief. She struggled for months, but in April 2013, she committed suicide by hanging herself in the bathroom with a belt.

Her case attracted worldwide attention and even prompted the intervention of Anonymous, who started #OpJustice4Rehtaeh to get the police to reopen the case. The police reopened the case and, amid the furor, some people defended the four boys saying that the sex was consensual.

Within a few months, the police laid charges of production and distribution of child pornography against two of the four boys, but some claimed it was just a way to put an end to mounting public pressure.

Today’s guilty plea should put an end to those claims.

When Judge Greg Lenehan told the young man to meet with a probation officer and cooperate with them in the preparation of a pre-sentence report, he responded in a subdued voice. “Yes, sir.”

He is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on Nov. 13.

For Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, nothing will ever bring her daughter back. But keeping her memory alive and using it to make some important changes, means a great deal to her.
“None of it is enough, but the fact that he’s pleading guilty is some consolation,” she said. “I do feel some solace in that she just wanted to be validated and she wanted people to know that this actually happened to her.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Closing File HRTO 2013-14459-I

Today I have slept and taken a sigh of relief a year and a half after the racist incident at a club in Peterborough which changed my life. This is the outcome of it.

I was target of racial slur, stereotype and discrimination outside of a club in downtown Peterborough on the night on May 10th in 2013. This incident which covered in extensive detail in my previous blog on May 11th, 2013.

I was told by the bouncer of the said club that I was a smelly East Indian in need of a deodorant and I should go home and get one. After being disgusted, humiliated and stunned by the incident, I decided to report it to the owners of the club who instead of trying to address my concerns called me “drunk” and at the same time stated that they had “yet to speak to the specific bouncer about the incident” on local news in Chex TV – Peterborough on May 13th 2014.

This actually made me furious as I am an abstainer who does not drink or get involved in any such activities. I decided to take the club to my 3000 strong social media followers to hold the owners of the club accountable.

Instead of trying to apologize and mend the matter, the owner of the club sent me the most arrogant unapologetic email saying that I displayed “drunk like” behavior, not that I was drunk.

That incident not only changed the way I see things but it also made me stronger in pursuit of justice and I decided to pursue the case at Human Rights Tribunal.

This has been a year long journey of resilience, resistance, building communities and staying committed to principles for me. I learnt that It will never be an easy process but it will always be worth it.

We are here today as our ancestors made resilient choices. Fighting racism whether you are in smaller or huge metropolises is no different. There will always be people to support and there are resources for your fight.

I am really proud to say that I had community advocate Karolyn Givogue of Community Race Relations Committee (CRRC) – Peterborough. My year and half journey would not have been possible without Karolyn and CRRC's support. 

I was represented by Kate Sellar of Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) for the tribunal process. The Centre provides legal assistance to people in communities across Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to the Human Rights Code.

I am happy with the settlement my lawyer has achieved for me for racial discrimination against the club (The terms of the settlement are confidential).

Standing up to racism, discrimination and harassment is an important part of encouraging people to speak up. Our communities need to know that there are venues where we can challenge systemic discrimination and racism. Our voices will always be heard and there is no power in the world to ignore us.

I am humbled by friendship of
Anark Istani, Andrey Gomes and Waris Husain. These three amazing men who encouraged me to go to Human Rights Tribunal Ontario for the racist incident at the club.  Today wouldn't have been possible without them.

I am really thankful to 
Karolyn Givogue, Saiyed Bukhari, Jeff Vansteenkiste, Jennifer Ramsay and Ayendri Perera; who came to my Tribunal with me on Friday, September 12th 2014.

Thank you Guerrillera Collective, Bloggers from BlogHer, Anonymous community from #OpRacism, Safeworld Community from England & Australia, Vanessa Rivera, Isabella Summers, Katherine Grama, Kristen Hamley, Graeme Johnson, Matthew Davidson, Shireen Ahmed, Samar Esapzai, Abdullah Alhomoud and all others who messaged me. It would not had been possible without support of all who messaged me from overseas and distant places.

We are United Against Racism and Our Communities will Never be Silenced!

Ayesha Asghar
Twitter: @ashsultana

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet Dave Brookes, sympathiser of Eliot Rodgers

Dave's account is probably a secondary, or tertiary account created solely to troll. Even some of his lady friends (ha! all his friends are female and conventionally attractive) are fake. That's Dave in a nutshell; a fake 'nice guy'.

This post comes up as a submission after this guy went to threat women and came out in support of Eliot Rodger, the guy who went on a killing spree and killed 9 women in Santa Barbara

If you find this piece of garbage on facebook, please report him. He is highly dangerous. He has gone to different forums and said how all “stupid sluts” need to be “killed”. Because you know some women chose to exercise their right to say “NO”

Friday, February 7, 2014

Unethical Employers

So I have been doing contractual job since I was forced to quit my job in early January and it has been extremely hard since.

These folks who are actually POC last week offered me full time employment due to which I thought it would be a good reason to quit my contractual work and now today they sent me an email as to how they can't have me anymore.

They basically asked me to do research into all the marketing strategies and after all of it was delivered.

After 4 days of tiresome work, they fired me, saying that they cannot have me anymore.

And now I am back to square zero with limited funds and worrying about how will I get by this month and next month.

I had no idea that there were so many unethical employers in Toronto area...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Horrible Employers: Working in freezing conditions

So who knew people could be terminated for reporting health & safety hazards at workplace #Toronto

So here is what happened, on Dec 10th at my workplace, heating went down and we were forced to work in freezing temperatures.

Adnan Topuz, Agentlocator, real estate
Day 1 of heating outage
It continued in that manner for at least two days with zero regard from management.

Adnan Topuz, Agentlocator, real estate
Day 2: Heating Outage

I had to take pictures of thermostat because you know our management just dismisses all complaints.

As per Ontario standards, for any workplace the lowest temperatures are suppose to be min. 18 degrees.

We were way below that and my fingers were freezing. I told that to management multiple times but nothing was done.

So today apparently Ministry of Labor called them and I subsequently got message from owner on FACEBOOK inbox.. Basically saying I was fired.

Adnan Topuz, Agentlocator, real estate

Adnan Topuz, Agentlocator, real estate

And here I thought it was actually illegal to terminate employment over reporting health and safety hazards in Ontario. My only consolation is that I was planning to leave the company anyway but I had to recieve the message 2 business days before my last day.

Addendum: After the owner saw my facebook rant, he emailed me saying that I was NOT fired because I was going to quit. I had to explain how things do not work that way, to which he mentioned that how I am "more than welcome to come back and complete 2 last days"

*MORE DEVELOPMENTS on #workplacehazard*

So my boss after looking at my fb rant, told me that I can come to the office and complete my 2 days

I asked COO of company as to how he wanted me to work to which he said wait for CEO, [guy who sent in the fb msg]

More drama ensued when CEO arrived, he said that he wanted to have meeting with me

Once he took me to conference room, he said, "Why would u post facebook status tht u were fired?"

Me: Becoz ur msg said so

Then he said, "I need doctor's note for u not showing up on Friday." Me: "I do not have doctor's note, I have prescription. It costs 4 note"

To which he said, "I do not want you to be here. You can go home now."

Him: "You can work from home" I said, "I do not have access to anything, how will I work." He dismissed me at that point.

Him: "You will be paid for the 2 days. I do not want you to be here"

And all of this humiliation ensued because I reported the company to Ministry of Labor for horrible labor practices.

Website last updated 2013