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On August 22, 2011, I lost a boss and a mentor. Someone I could look to and say yes, this is what Canada needs right now.

Last week we did a tour of Parliament to show off the best of Ottawa to a visiting niece. As we stood in the hallway outside the House of Commons chamber, Joe turned to me and ‘this is where they had Jack lying in state.’

I knew this, of course. I have seen pictures of colleagues mourning there, and videos. But I was not there. Shortly after Jack died I went to Regina to visit family. The trip had been planned, the tickets purchased. I missed the lying in state, I didn’t go to the funeral with my friends and colleagues. I didn’t get the communal mourning. I will never stop regretting this, even as I know I made the best choice. I should have been a part of it. This dedication to a man who was so important to me.

Of course, my life is now, at least partially, dedicated to this man. To what he taught me, what he made me believe and what he stood for.

What would he say now? What would he think of where we stand?

He left us with advice, at least. He believed in us enough to share with us that Canada can be a better, fairer, more equal country. I believe it. I am hopeful, but I am not optimistic. I am loving, but also filled with hate.

I am fearful. I am tired.

We are now fighting battles that we have fought before. That some have been fighting constantly, for generations.

I want my daughter to never have to battle for her own rights and the rights of her friends. She is being taught that she is not above anyone else, that she was born lucky being white, Canadian, middle class, but she does not deserve to have an easier life just because of this luck. That she will sometimes have to speak up for her friends, get uncomfortable. The because of who she is and where she was born she has a duty to listen, to amplify others, to stand up.

But I can’t begin to explain to her what’s happening out there. We tried to explain racists to her, and she knows that they don’t make any sense. She knows that LGBTQ people are just people who should have the same rights as other people.

I am doing as much as I can for my daughter. But then there is the boy in her class who tells her she can’t play with the train because it’s not for girls. There is the girl at the park who says two women can’t get married – which is factually incorrect as well as being wrong. She knows. But they don’t know.

I watch television and see people say they don’t hate anyone and call for racial “purity” in the same sentence. They tell immigrants to go home while standing on stolen land. They don’t want to hear any different. They pray to a Jesus that they clearly don’t understand. And they are teaching their children.

How do you reach those people, Jack? Those people  just want to believe anyone who tells them they are superior, while ruining their lives at the same time. How do you educate those who don’t want to be educated and how do you reach the next generation when intolerance prevents it?

How do you keep believing that, overall, people are inherently good?

That is the lesson I wish you had left us, because six years later it’s more of a struggle than you might have ever thought possible.

I haven’t had the will to post recently because there is too much going on. I have started multiple posts and been unable to finish them. I have been trying to spend time lifting up the voices of the people we really need to hear from right now – those whose experiences are perhaps the most important right now.

I have chosen to amplify voices that can say what needs to be said better than I can, like Harry Leslie Smith, Denise Balkissoon, Shaun King, Joy Ann Reid

We have actual, modern day Nazis marching in the streets. People who claim to speak for the white race and proclaim that they don’t hate anyone, they just want what’s best for their children. Meanwhile, I had to sit down and tell my daughter that there are people in the world who hate other people for no real reason. And I had to remind myself of the privilege of being able to have that conversation on my own schedule.

I was born privileged in so many ways, and so was my daughter. We are white, middle class, Canadian, urban. We do not have to be afraid where we live. We have the privilege of being able to escape from the horrors that we see on the news every night. We have the privilege of turning away. But I can’t.

The fact is that these racists are almost fascinating – the denial that they’re Nazis, even while surrounding by Nazi paraphernalia, denying that they hate anyone while referring to the black woman interviewing them as a “mongrel.” The misuse of religion, biology, language and whatever else they need to distort to justify themselves. These people who will stay in their little, miseducated bubble, thank you very much.

You’d think it would be exhausting to hate that much, but I have a feeling that many of them are too stupid to realize. And one of them is the President of the United States.

I mourn for the ignorance I had before the past few years, the last election, when I thought racism was only alive in small pockets. But really, I should think of all the times I thought to myself that there was no one something was going to go the way it eventually did – the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, Ferguson, the election itself.

When the election results came in I felt a little bit of what it’s like to be so hated as a woman that people would vote for this fool. And that’s not even close to what it feels like to be black every day in America. Or Muslim. Or an immigrant. LGBTQ.

I fear this from my neighbours. The vile ignorance, the willful misunderstanding. I fear that my bubble is about to be burst and we will see these people in Canada more than before. These people who have never cared about the facts about Indigenous peoples and the land they’re living on. These people who didn’t care what the actual facts were about how citizenship ceremonies are conducted, they just want to see Muslim women controlled their way.

These people who would refuse desperate refugees for fear of terrorism, all while ignoring the fact that most terrorist acts on this continent are committed by white men with a history of domestic abuse.

Those people who are more numerous than I care to face.

I raise my voice, I add it to the chorus. It is wrong, it is ignorant, it is shameful and I will not allow it. Never again.

I’m holding on

July 20th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Health | Issues | Personal - (Comments Off on I’m holding on)

When  I was 17 or 18 my father turned to me after a dinner at his house and asked me, point blank: “When was the last time you thought about killing yourself?”

I was shocked into just answering, honestly. It had been about a year before.

By the time he asked I was over that particular hump, but my depression has ebbed and flowed for years. The very, very worst was when I was in my early 20s, having graduated at or near the top of my class and managed to only one job – a terrible one that I left after just a few months when the paper shut down.

I felt as though I had made all the wrong choices and it was just going to keep going that way. I would collapse in tears, sleep all day, hope that somebody could offer me a better solution that just disappearing. But I’m still ebbing and flowing. It’s been much better and at its worst.

It does not surprise me that people like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington suffered from depression. There is a reason that I connected to their music. There is a reason that driving around with the windows down blasting Hybrid Theory and singing along made me feel better – like someone understood.

What surprises me is that they couldn’t beat it, in the end.

 

Because why me. Why could I fight back against that demon and these artists, these successful people, these respected people, couldn’t?

Does this mean that there are no answers, no solutions, no magic potion to make the darkness disappear. Does this mean that to be a great artist, you really do have to descend into that darkness? Can I never be my most creative self AND be taking the anti-depressants that keep me level?

And I drive myself crazy.

Pride of Country

April 4th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on Pride of Country)

Canada’s Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould – the first Indigenous person to hold the position – has been in South Africa. While there, Wilson-Raybould spoke about the 150th anniversary of Canada’s celebration, which we are celebrating this year. She spoke about the fact that it is difficult, as an Indigenous person in Canada to celebrate 150 years of colonialism.

As quoted in the Globe and Mail: “For many Indigenous peoples, celebrating our country’s 150th birthday has its challenges… It is hard to celebrate 150 years of colonialism … What we need to do is make a 180-degree turn, so that our laws and policies are pointing in the direction of the future of reconciliation and transformation – not the past of colonization.”

Lisa Raitt, a former government minister and current candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada took issue with the minister’s remarks.

It, apparently, does not make sense to Ms. Raitt that any Canadian would be unable to celebrate this country and its history (including, as she pointed out in a later tweet, the 100th anniversary of our contributions at Vimy).

Now, Ms. Raitt is a smart woman. She’s been in cabinet leading three different ministries. She’s been an MP for almost a decade. I’m going to give her credit and say she probably knows about the history of Canada – the one that started more than 150 years ago – and the way settlers have treated, and continue to treat those who were here before us.

(I say us because my family, like the settlers, came from Scotland, Ireland and England and I’m white and have all the privilege that comes with that).

Living in third world conditions on reserves, without clean water or proper facilities. Schools in disrepair. Indigenous women missing and murdered at high rates across the country. The effects of residential schools affecting generations of pain, addiction, abuse and torment. Lost cultures, lost languages.

That, Ms. Raitt, is the part of the 150 years that is not worth celebrating.

Oh, and since you mentioned Vimy Ridge, maybe I could also point out that Indigenous veterans who fought for this country came home to find they had lost their status, and with it their homes on reserve.

Part of my pride in this country is that we can take the time to reflect on our history. ALL of it. And maybe spend some time being ashamed without facing wrath from our political leaders.

Insider Baseball

April 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on Insider Baseball)

My brain has slowly been working on something over the past few days, trying to think this through based on all the information that’s come at me since budget day.

You see, I went to a panel the day after budget day and listening to some great minds, and I also read a bunch of post-budget analysis, and I’ve been paying attention to poli-twitter, as always, and watching a committee filibuster – because who doesn’t love a good filibuster – about changes to House procedures.

I have come to the understanding over the course of my life that many people don’t know what going on Ottawa, don’t understand it and, sadly, just don’t care. Our current Prime Minister knows this well. That’s part of the reason there’s this debate about changes House procedures – to make it so that he doesn’t have to spend as much time here, but rather can go out and about across Canada to meet with quote-unquote average Canadians (or middle class Canadians, or whatever the polls show is the best political language to use right now).

I have been thinking about this – this common knowledge that the current Prime Minister doesn’t like being in the House of Commons and thinks his most important work is done elsewhere – and then came a Saturday morning Twitter conversation that was really fun to follow (if you’re me).

Andrew Coyne, very smart national columnist who has been covering federal politics for the length of my memory, and Gerald Butts, long time friend of the PM and currently working in the PMO, one of the masterminds behind Trudeau’s campaign and one of his closest aides.

Coyne wrote a Saturday column that got a good amount of debate on ‘official Ottawa’ Twitter. It was fun to watch – if you’re me.

The rub is this – elections in Canada now run as though Canadians get to elect the Prime Minister. The campaigns have long focused on the leader of the parties and a lack of real civics educations means that a lot of Canadians vote for parties to elect the leaders rather than voting for their local representatives. Of course, once all those local representatives get to Ottawa they tend to tow the party line. It is the rare few who focus on what’s best for their constituents, so who can blame Canadians.

But we are a Westminster system, and that means that the Prime Minister is the man (or, hopefully soon, woman) who holds the confidence of the House of Commons. This is almost always the leader of the party that has won the most seats.

So regularly is that the case that when a coalition of parties who promised to maintain confidence suggested to the Governor General that she give them a shot the reigning PM went to the public saying the move was unconstitutional and a lot of Canadians believed him, even though it was a blatant lie.

So here’s the question: We know that Prime Minister Trudeau has no love for the House of Commons, he’s demonstrated that he thinks his time can be better spent elsewhere, and his party is now working on changing House procedure. We know that Trudeau currently holds the confidence of the House, by virtue of a majority government. We also know that Trudeau has broken some promises that have made many Canadians who voted for him angry *cough* electoral reform *cough* and that Liberal MPs are hearing from angry constituents.

All I’m saying is this – a PM who spends as little time in the House as possible, MPs who are hearing anger from constituents and maybe start to feel a bit neglected, two power-hungry parties on either side. This could get interesting.

33 per cent

March 27th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on 33 per cent)

In last week’s federal budget, the government announced intentions to give new parents the option of extending their leave to 18 months instead of the 12 months most are now eligible for under EI rules. (With the same conditions applying).

At first I had a good reaction to this change. Assuming that parents would still be able to split parental live, it would give both a good amount of time with a new baby and more time to find childcare. It would also help with one issue that I discovered when we were looking for childcare at the 12-month mark – Childcare spots for babies under 18 months are few and far between, and also tend to be more expensive than when your child is over 18 months.

I’ve said before that we were very lucky with the childcare we found. My daughter bonded with her caregiver right away, the cost was reasonable for our area, and the location worked for my husband to drop our daughter off and pick her up. I was also thrilled to get back to work after 12 months of being at home with my daughter, even though I loved the time we spent and adventures we got to have. Still, if my husband had been in a place to take part of the leave, I think it would have been fantastic for us as a family.

Diving further into this new policy, you start to see problems. Mainly, that if a parent opts for 18 months of leave they have to subsist on 33 per cent of their salary for that time. Now, some families will be able to do that, and some really, really won’t. I was very lucky to have my maternity benefits topped up by my employer, which meant that while I was off, I was still getting 90 per cent of what I earned – Except the deductions weren’t being taken off, which caused a high tax bill the next year that I wish someone had warned me about.

Presumably if EI is paying 33 per cent instead of 55 per cent the employer won’t be topping up to 90, that would be a huge cost outlay for them, as well as having to employ a maternity replacement for 18 months, which could cause additional problems. (My union contract stated that anyone employment for more than 12 months automatically became full time, permanent, which is actually how I ended up as permanent employee. I don’t know what trouble, if any, an 18 month leave would cause, but it’s something they would have to prepare for).

So, problem number one is the 18 month option isn’t really an option for everyone, only those that can afford it.

Problem number two is part of the bigger problem this government promised to solve – A lack of affordable childcare across this country.

As I said, we were very lucky to find childcare at a reasonable rate. That rate was $43 a day, or about $1,200 a month (roughly equivalent to one of my paycheques every month). In some regions (hi Toronto!), childcare costs much more. Much, much more.

The Liberal Party was elected on many promises, one of which was:

We will meet with provinces, territories, and Indigenous communities to begin work on a new National Early Learning and Child Care Framework, to deliver affordable, high-quality, flexible, and fully inclusive child care for Canadian families. This work will begin in the first 100 days of a Liberal government and will be funded through our investments in social infrastructure.

The 2016/17 budget includes $7 billion over 10 years, starting in 2017 with $500 million, with details of how this money will be used to be revealed later this year. It should be noted here that the Liberals are already in the second year of a four-year mandate, and that 10 years of spending takes us past both the 2019 election and the 2023 election. All of the provinces and territories also have to be involved in the planning, and over the next year they will all also go through multiple elections.

All of these moving parts may not be able to give us the national framework that was promised or the childcare that young Canadian families need.

Further reading:

Global News: Canada’s new 18-month parental leave offers flexibility — but comes with a catch

Toronto Star: Longer parental leave not for everyone, labour minister says

CP: Patty Hajdu: Wealthy Women Need Support On Maternity Leave, Too

CBC: What good is 6 more months? Parents weigh in on work-leave extension

Everyday People

March 24th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Personal | Work - (Comments Off on Everyday People)

Intellectually I know that not everyone in the country cares as much as I do about what’s happening in Ottawa and on Parliament Hill. I know a lot of people don’t understand it as much as I do.

But in practice I have a really hard time acknowledging the fact that there are some people who don’t care at all.

Like, at all.

Statistically speaking this number is a lot higher than I’m willing to admit. These are people that I just do not understand.

I never felt like I grew up particularly immersed in politics, but the fact is that I grew up in the capital, not far from downtown. Both my parents worked on Parliament Hill, both were engaged. As a child my mother took us to Question Period once, we talked about politics around the house, we read and watched the news, we knew what was going on.

It never once occurred to me that what was happening at the federal level wasn’t important. This government creates laws that are implemented across the country, they collect taxes to run federal programs, they help coordinate between the provinces. The invest throughout Canada. With our money.

As hard as I try, I just can’t quite wrap my head around those people.

The people that can’t name their local MP and maybe not even the Prime Minister or their province’s Premier. The people who never pay any attention to the national news.

 

To me news is a major part of life. Watching events happen, reading about them afterwards, listening to analysis. Knowing and trying to understand. It’s fundamental.

 

NDP Party

March 13th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on NDP Party)

Today was the first debate in the race to become the next NDP leader. I don’t remember much about the last race. I was working in the leader’s office at the time and we weren’t allowed to openly support candidates. I also wasn’t a member of the party and thus didn’t have a vote.

At the moment I am once again not a member of the party, but I am curious to learn more about those who are running. The party has been a big part of my life since I was a child, and I remain curious, if less dedicated than I once was. And since the first debate was in Ottawa, I thought I might just go out and hear from the four current candidates.

When my father died I inherited a book about Tommy Douglas, signed by Tommy Douglas to my father. When I helped my grandfather move last week, one of the items I packed was a book by Ed Broadbent, signed and dedicated to my grandfather. I met him as a child, I knew he was an important man because my grandfather admired him.

And then I worked for Jack Layton.

Today at the debate Charlie Angus talked a bit about Jack, how Jack made you feel and it flooded me with memories.

Jack was a politician, but when you were in a room with him you felt like you mattered. You felt like not only was he listening to you, but he wanted to hear you. Working for Jack felt like something worth doing. It felt important. It still does. It always will.

Working on Parliament Hill is special, being a small part of history – the coalition talks, the prorogation (constitutional crisis), the 2011 election. All of that was special, but maybe wouldn’t have been as special if I hadn’t been working for a man that I believed in.

I don’t know what happens next for this party, I don’t know if I have a place in it, but I wish them all the best.

The art is the political

January 8th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues - (Comments Off on The art is the political)

I watched the Golden Globes this weekend for the same reason I usually watch awards shows, because I find them entertaining. I like going to see movies and I like watching great TV and I like to see actors and writers and directors and other creative people get awarded and give speeches while wearing pretty clothes.

I like the speeches because sometimes one of the winners will say something profound and important. Like Tracee Ellis Ross and Meryl Streep did at the Globes.

But as wonderful as Meryl’s speech was (though I’d argue that rich white people aren’t the most vilified…) I saw people filling Twitter with complaints that she would get political at an event meant to celebrate the arts.

I am fascinated by this segment of the populations that believes arts and politics are apparently separate. I would say that very little inspires great art like political outrage. Decades of great art have demonstrated this.

And something tells me we are headed for four years of great production. It is the one thing I’m looking forward to – the artists writing us out of the darkness and reminding us what fighting means.

Crash

November 9th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues - (Comments Off on Crash)

Every fibre of my being is still rejecting last night’s result. I can’t accept it. I saw the words President Trump and my brain couldn’t make sense of it.

There are so many things not okay about any of this. So much hatred. So many people who just really don’t care about anyone else. Who now feel more justified in their racism, their Islamophobia, their misogyny. And people who now have to fear their neighbours. People who don’t feel safe in the homes they’ve built in their own country.

And women once again reminded that we have to work twice as hard and make no mistakes to beat even the worst of men.

It might even be the worst of it that a majority of white women voted for him. I don’t understand those women. I don’t understand how you could vote to elect someone who so obviously and outwardly hates what you are.

In her concession speech today, Hilary Clinton said “Please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” But I did. Last night, this morning. I did.

“And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and to achieve your own dreams.”

And then I finally cried.

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