Choice Joyce: March 2014

Choice Joyce

Essays from a pro-choice feminist liberal skeptic infidel activist (and animal lover)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Government Criminalizes Jobs to Protect Workers

Cross-posted from Rabble, March 7, 2014
(Under the title:
When a government protects workers by criminalizing them

Imagine for a moment, if the debate over prostitution laws was aimed at other types of workers...

In a bold move aimed at protecting workers from exploitation while on the job, the government today passed a new law that criminalizes most employers and customers. The law addresses the void left by the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2013, when it struck down laws that it said prevented workers from taking safety measures to protect themselves from abusive customers, but which the government said were designed to prevent people from working, period.

"Our government is concerned about the significant harms that flow from being compelled to work for a living," said Law and Order Minister Punter MacCunny at a press conference to announce the new law, which was passed without any Parliamentary debate. "Working is harmful to vulnerable individuals, particularly women, who should be home having babies."

The most dangerous jobs in Canada are believed to be in the male-dominated industries of logging, fisheries and construction, but reliable data is unavailable due to the government's ongoing "Bonfirefest" program targeting science libraries. "We don't need evidence to know that most jobs pose unacceptable risks to workers," insisted MacCunny. "Every day, workers are compelled to do disgusting or dangerous things for money, like scrubbing toilets or conducting rigorous peer-reviewed studies. This economic exploitation must end."

MacCunny pointed out that 95 per cent of people hate their jobs and want out, according to a new government-commissioned study by the Fundamentalist United Church of Canada (FUCC). Pastor Dan Ho of FUCC said he surveyed about 50 people in Winnipeg, mostly cashiers at Tim Hortons. "Canadians who've been innocently enjoying their coffee and Timbits every morning need to know that all the workers' smiles are forced," warned Pastor Ho, discreetly whisking a crumb from his beard.

Police welcomed the new law, which gives them sweeping new enforcement powers to target the huge increase in organized crime. According to Det. Sgt. Billy Clubber, head of the RCMP's new Slave Save Squad, "We'll be cracking down on slavery rings, basically any place where workers are bribed with wages to provide services for pimps and johns." The law now designates employers and customers as "pimps" and "johns," respectively.

The squad will be recruiting 10,000 new officers to conduct raids of exploitive workplaces across the country. "The price tag is ginormous, but it's worth it to rescue victims," exulted Clubber. "After breaking down doors and waving our guns around, it's gratifying to pacify terrified slaves by tasering them. Then they'll be taken to special rehabilitation centres, where they'll have a chance to learn honest skills such as making licence plates."

However, to reduce program costs, Clubber said that foreign-looking workers will be immediately deported, while a range of pimps and johns will be exempt from the new law, including the Top 1%, elected officials, law enforcement, celebrities, CEOs, devout Christians, and all family and friends of the aforementioned.

To fund the new initiative, the government has diverted $1.2 billion from the Maternal and Child Health program for developing countries. That initiative was abruptly cancelled last year after the government discovered it would have to spend some of the money on birth control pills. Further controversy arose at the time when it was revealed that one of the PMO's top advisers was right-wing talk show host Rash Bimbough, who announced on air that "We're not paying for slutty sluts to have sex!"

Member of Parliament Jilly Schmut has been advocating the criminalization of customers for years, and strongly supports the new law. "I am convinced that the most effective route to tackling wage slavery is to end demand for goods and services by targeting buyers." Schmut also had harsh words for those who traffic hapless workers to different branches or affiliates of the same company, coercing them via promotions and raises, while the traffickers reap huge profits from the slaves' advanced servitude. "These predators are dehumanizing individuals by reducing them to a commodity to be bought and sold," fumed Schmut.

Some wage slaves protested the move to criminalize their customers, claiming it would push them into an underground economy where they would be even more at risk of exploitation and harm. Others insisted that they were not slaves at all, and that they had freely chosen their work and even enjoy it. However, wage slave expert Malicia Fibberly dismissed these anonymous claims, explaining that working 9 to 5 is inherently demeaning and dangerous and must be abolished. "It's annoying to come across people who've been brainwashed into believing they're empowered by their work," complained Fibberly. "That syndrome is called 'false consciousness.'" While Fibberly conceded that some workers probably did enter their profession willingly, she cautioned that "Such people are not representative, and are part of a small, privileged elite. Don't listen to them!"

Law and Order Minister MacCunny agreed, and said the government had to dismiss the voices of workers during the public debate in the lead-up to the new law. "We heard rumours that many workers were inexplicably speaking out against the proposed law during our public consultation process. However, experts advised us that most slavery victims suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, so we plugged our ears."

When questioned further, MacCunny admitted that the government had been "completely overwhelmed" with the over 30,000 online responses it received from the public on possible legal solutions to the wage slavery crisis, only one month before the new law was passed. "Luckily, we had already made up our minds to pass the new law, so we didn't have to bother reading the comments. That also saved a lot of taxpayer money, making it a win-win for everybody!" he declared, pumping his fist in the air.

He also offered assurances that the comment database would never be made available to researchers or the public because "it's now in the same place as the Gun Registry."

MacCunny concluded his comments on a celebratory note. "Let freedom ring! Canadians can now stay home and have babies, and never be exploited by working for a living again."

In other news, the government has promised to explore ways to address the rising incidence of poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, violence, exploitation, and social unrest, and plans to open another public consultation soon.

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Undermining democracy and human rights: A cautionary tale about anti-choice politics

Cross-posted from Rabble, February 7, 2014

Last week, Parliament and the pro-choice movement got a temporary reprieve from the relentless  onslaught of anti-choice motions and bills introduced by Conservative backbenchers who won't take Harper's "No abortion debate allowed" for an answer. Not a single one made the list of pending private members' business for this session.

The news must have come as a huge disappointment to the anti-choice movement, which had been eagerly anticipating the introduction of two explicit anti-choice motions that had already been fully prepared and announced in December by long-time Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin). So what happened?

Vellacott actually had a total of four private member items on the order paper. This forced him to make a "difficult decision," since only one item can proceed to second reading and a vote. On January 31, he chose to go with his Bill C-560, which would require judges to apply the principle of "equal parenting" in custody disputes unless there is proven abuse or neglect.

Vellacott's fourth item was a cloaked anti-choice motion. It would have made it easier to bulldoze just about any private member bill or motion through Parliament, no matter how offensive or illegitimate, by removing committee powers to deem them non-votable. Ironically, Vellacott called this a "democratic reform initiative." All three of his dropped motions can be viewed here.

One might wonder why Vellacott created this surplus of private member business to begin with, knowing he'd have to sideline three out of four items. The main clue is his announcement last July that he's stepping down from politics and will not run again in 2015. The motions therefore represent his last kick at the can, the "pro-life" legacy he wants to leave, and the final kudos he wants to bask in from the anti-choice movement.

Still, why bother with three extra motions that won't go anywhere? Likely because Vellacott is confident that they'll be back soon, even if he won't be: "[B]ased on considerations I have been a part of, I have good reason to believe that the other three items I have on the order paper will be picked up in due course by other good MPs who have spine and foresight." The wording hints that Vellacott himself is a member of this elite club of brave visionaries, and that he's been busy convincing the other members to boldly go forth into the future with his motions.

Vellacott has been an MP since 1997 and has a perfect "pro-life" record according to Campaign Life Coalition. Over the years, he has introduced six anti-choice private member bills, all with the same single-minded goal: to protect healthcare workers from any negative consequences of refusing to do their jobs if they object because of personal or religious beliefs. The last version was the most preposterous.

Returning to the "equal parenting" bill for a moment, it's notable that this bill is at least several degrees less contentious than abortion (although it makes one wonder about Vellacott's possible affinity with "Men's Rights Activists"). One might also wonder whether Vellacott was the object of a talking-to by some higher-up who may have been anxious to avoid yet another iteration of the dreaded "abortion debate."

Since Vellacott's three dropped motions may indeed be coming back, are they worth worrying about? It's almost certain the two explicit anti-choice motions would never go anywhere even if they were introduced, but the cloaked motion to remove the ability of the Committee to veto private members' business, M-490, is perhaps a bit of a wild card. Vellacott claims that:
The motion would fix a current vulnerability in the system that has led to a situation where a small group of MPs are able to control, often from behind closed doors, what issues are and are not allowed to be voted on in the House of Commons. … The motion I am proposing is a bulwark against arbitrary and capricious decision-making when it comes to Private Members Business. Were this motion to pass, decisions on the votability of private members' bills and motions would be made in a fair and objective fashion, free from any sort of political interference or shenanigans.
Really though, the shenanigans are mostly on the side of anti-choice politicians like Vellacott (and Stephen Woodworth, Mark Warara, and others), who continually put forward these hopeless motions and bills against the wishes of Harper, and occasionally throw a hissy fit when they fail to go anywhere. Or, when a bill start to go somewhere like in 2008 with Ken Epp's Bill C-484, it creates division in the caucus, a media circus, and a headachy distraction from the government's agenda. Instead of getting the message though, anti-choice stalwarts in Harper's caucus carry on like they're more determined than ever -- not unlike true fanatics.

With his M-490 motion, Vellacott is complaining about the treatment of Mark Warawa's Motion 408 last March by the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Private Members' Business. That motion, to "condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination" was deemed non-votable because it failed to meet two of the four votability criteria -- so it wasn't exactly an "arbitrary and capricious" decision.

Bills and motions must not concern questions that are outside federal jurisdiction, or are substantially the same as ones already voted on in the current session of Parliament. The Subcommittee members said that abortion is healthcare and therefore under provincial jurisdiction, and that Stephen Woodworth's Motion 312 was also about abortion and was voted on just six months previously, in September 2012.

The other two criteria are that the bill or motion must not "clearly violate" the Constitution Acts and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that it must not be on the same topic as items currently on the Order Paper or Notice Paper as items of Government business.

Vellacott's motion would have dispensed entirely with the constitutional and Charter violation criterion, as well as the one requiring it to be within federal jurisdiction. One can only imagine the kind of odious private member business from backbenchers that would have to be "debated" in Parliament without the Charter criterion in place to deflect them.

Ironically, Warawa's Motion 408 wasn't deemed non-votable based on the Charter criterion, so Vellacott's motion would have made no difference to the result anyway. Vellacott even retained in his motion the criterion that bills or motions could not be "substantially the same" as ones already voted on in the current session, even though that was probably the key criterion that deep-sixed M-408. The Subcommittee's decision was made unanimously by three MPs from three parties (Liberal, NPD, and Conservative), which weakens Vellacott's accusations of political interference. Finally, although the Subcommittee's "expert analyst" had advised the members that Motion 408 was votable under all criteria, the analyst's interpretation was nowhere to be found in the criteria's straightforward language and had no evidence or precedent to support it. Also, his advice was non-binding, so the MPs were free to discount it.

Vellacott's "democratic reform initiative" in M-490 was designed to undermine democracy and remove basic safeguards that protect human rights and other constitutional guarantees, in order to make it easier to smuggle in anti-choice bills and motions.

It's worth remembering that the anti-choice movement has never been a friend of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Let's also remember the decidedly undemocratic motivations behind this motion should it arise again in Parliament.

In the meantime, the pro-choice movement will be happy to say goodbye to Maurice Vellacott.

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