Why I Marched in the Women’s March on Washington

On Saturday morning Ms Soapbox boarded the Red Arrow bus from Calgary to Edmonton to join her friends supporting the Women’s March on Washington.

My journey was considerably shorter than the one taken by Edmontonian Michelle Brewer who joined the horde of Canadians traveling to ground zero—Washington, DC.

But it’s the message, not the miles, that count.


So why did I attend a rally billed as “a non-violent, inclusive and intersectional protest to stand for and support the rights of all women, all religious communities, all political affiliations, cis or transgender and all sexual orientations”?

Because Donald Trump crossed so many lines in his bid for the presidency…and was rewarded with the White House.

Because Canada’s Trump-lite politicians are taking notes as they formulate their own bids for power.

Because conservative think tanks like the Manning Centre are inviting Trump campaign advisors to teach them “how Donald Trump won and what Canadian conservatives can learn from it.”

And because conservatives need to understand that Canadians, unlike Americans, don’t scare easily.

If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that Canadian women will stand up for their rights, it was put to bed by the speakers at the WMW—Edmonton.


Nasra Adem Edmonton’s Youth Poet Laureate

There were many great speakers but the two who captured my heart were Marni Panas, a transgender activist, who responded to a heckler by looking them dead in the eye and saying:  “Listen, I have heard you, I love you, but it’s my turn to talk” and Nasra Adem, Edmonton’s Youth Poet Laureate, who shouted:  “I’m responsible for you, you’re responsible for me.  We got us!”

So here’s my message to the powers-that-be and the powers-that-wanna-be:  There’s a line you do NOT cross in your bid for power—it’s called fundamental human rights.

Or as the marchers in Brazil so eloquently put it:  Let’s be clear here:  you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.

So thank you WMW Organizers for giving us the opportunity to reaffirm our faith in humanity.

And thank you everyone who couldn’t attend and marched with us in spirit.

We know who you are and we love you!

Note: updated to correct Marni Panas’ response to the heckler.

Posted in Celebrations, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

“Phasing Out” the Oilsands

At a recent town hall meeting Mr Trudeau reiterated his position on climate change.  He said:

“You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy.  We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow.  We need to phase them out.  We need to manage the transition off our dependence on fossil fuels.  That is going to take time, and in the meantime, we have to manage that transition.”

Alberta’s conservatives went ballistic.

Mr Jean tweeted: @Justin Trudeau, if you want to “phase out” the oilsands.  You’ll have to go through me and 4 million Albertans first.

Mr McIver tweeted:  Justin Trudeau you just threw Alberta under the bus today.  How dare you shut down an industry providing 1000’s of jobs for families.

Mr Jean’s “you and whose army” response and Mr McIver’s righteous indignation were a little over the top but the most bizarre response came from Jason Kenney.

Mr Kenney reacts

In a recent radio interview Mr Kenney said:

  • Justin Trudeau was Pierre Trudeau’s son (true, but irrelevant unless this is a “sins of the father” tactic) and Pierre Trudeau “single-handedly shut down the western Canadian oil and gas industry with the National Energy Program (partially true, but irrelevant because Justin Trudeau did not say he was introducing NEP 2.0)  
  • This prime minister, Justin Trudeau, rolled over and played dead when Barack Obama vetoed Keystone XL. (Not true, Obama vetoed Keystone XL on Feb 24, 2015, Trudeau was elected on Oct 19, 2015, so the prime minister who rolled over and played dead was Stephen Harper, not Justin Trudeau).
  • Trudeau vetoed Northern Gateway (true, but let’s give him a little credit for approving Kinder Morgan and Line 3) and is introducing a carbon tax (true) that’s going to make life more expensive for Canadians (not necessarily true, the feds will recognize provincial carbon taxation programs, two thirds of Albertans will get a full or partial rebate and BC’s carbon tax is revenue neutral).
  • When Trudeau talks about phasing out this multi-trillion dollar asset that can help us pay for future healthcare and education infrastructure and pensions, what he’s really talking about is letting the future global demand for oil be filled completely by theocracies, kleptocracies and dictatorships like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Qatar. (Not true, Trudeau said nothing about letting the future global demand be filled by theocracies, kleptocracies, dictatorships, or even that looney country south of us).
  • I for one would prefer that Canadian oil be in the mix in the global market rather than leaving it all to the bad actors who are the other major producers of oil. (Agreed).

Mr Kenney

Mr Kenney was asked whether Stephen Harper said “anything that sounded like at some point that Canada will phase out of fossil fuel production”.

His answer was no.  No? 

Mr Kenney explained that when Mr Harper signed the Munich G7 Agreement in June 2015 it was simply “a completely symbolic aspirational statement” to be carbon free by 2100.  Ah, Mr Harper’s commitment to a carbon free future was NOT a commitment to a carbon free future notwithstanding what he told the G7 in Munich.    

Rachel Notley’s response

Mr Kenney was singularly unimpressed with Ms Notley’s response to Mr Trudeau’s comments.

He said her video statement was not the right because what she really said was “there’s nothing to be worried about here, everyone please look away” and she failed to demonstrate Alberta’s traditional leadership which was a “tradition of strength”.

My goodness.  What did Ms Notley say that was so deeply disappointing to Mr Kenney?


Ms Notley

In her video she said:

“Oil and gas will help power the global economy for generations to come and our job is to make sure that Alberta’s product is the first in line.  That’s why we’re working with industry to position Alberta as a global energy leader, the most progressive and sustainable producer of oil and gas anywhere in the world.  And you know what, it’s working, just recently we secured approval for a new pipeline, something former conservative governments could never get done.  The bottom line:  Alberta’s oil and gas industry and the people who work in it are the best in the world and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

She elaborated on these comments in a CBC interview where she said:

“At the end of the day this is what I know to be true…the world market for oil is not going anywhere soon, and so the job of Albertans and Canadians is to make sure that that world market looks to the oilsands, as they should, as the first choice for where they get that product from and the reason is because we’ve been so successful working with industry putting in place significant environmental improvements, working hard with industry to help them reduce their emissions footprint so we truly are the most progressive and sustainable producers of oil and gas in the world.”

Nothing in Ms Notley’s response contradicts Mr Kenney’s desire that Canadian oil be part of the mix in the global market.

So what’s not to like about Ms Notley’s response?

I’m betting it’s Ms Notley’s observation that Alberta has recently secured approval for a pipeline which was “something former conservative governments could never get done”.

Albertans and Canadians may want to take that on board when they’re asked to chose between quiet diplomacy that gets results and throwing one’s toys out of the pram which does not.

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Marie Henein’s Take on Kellie Leitch

Last Friday Ms Soapbox attended the 2017 Milvain Lecture at the U of C Law School.

It was given by Marie Henein who recently made headlines by successfully defending CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi on sexual assault charges.

While Ms Soapbox and Ms Henein do not see eye to eye on the Ghomeshi case, they do share the belief that Canadians must push back against populist politicians who want to undermine our democratic institutions.

The politics of fear are alive and well

Ms Henein, like many Canadians, is concerned that election of Donald Trump has implications for those of us who live north of the 49th parallel.

Ms Henein warns that we should not slip into complacency.


Ms Henein

Sure, Canada has enacted good laws like the ones protecting same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, and the right to assisted dying, but the battle is far from over.

We must not forget that less than a year ago Stephen Harper was pushing laws like the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and the Truth in Sentencing Act.   Did I miss the memo?  Were we 100% tolerant of barbaric cultural practices and supportive of lies in sentencing before that?

Such laws create fear among the majority and marginalize religious and ethnic minorities.  They sacrifice the democratic principle that extends the same rights to everyone in favour of partisan politics.

We thought we were done with all that when Mr Harper’s Conservatives were defeated.  We were wrong.  Mr Harper simply passed the torch to Kellie Leitch.

The Anti-Canadian Values test

Kellie Leitch is the front runner in the federal Conservative leadership race.

A key plank in her platform is the proposal that visitors and immigrants should be screened for anti-Canadian values.  Ms Leitch says this will protect our “unified Canadian identity” from…well, god knows what.

Not only has Ms Leitch been unable (or unwilling) to articulate what she’s protecting our “unified Canadian identity” from, she’s ducked questions asking how her anti-Canadian values test would deal with people, some Roman Catholics perhaps, who oppose same-sex marriage, LBGTQ rights and a woman’s right to abortion.

In the absence of greater clarity, we’re left with the uncomfortable suspicion that Ms Leitch’s anti-Canadian values test would reject Muslims who, surprise, were the intended targets of Mr Harper’s barbaric cultural practices tip line and anti-niqab legislation.


Are Ms Henein and Ms Soapbox overreacting:  Could the election of a buffoon in the US trigger the rise of populist politicians in Canada?

Sadly, the answer is yes.

Robert Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk conducted research into the health of western democracies and found that the public’s trust in political institutions like parliaments and the courts “has precipitously declined.”  Voters are increasingly endorsing single-issue movements (anti-immigration ranks right up there), voting for populist candidates or supporting parties that exist simply as the opposite of the status quo, rather like the Bizarro subplot in the Superman comics series.

Foa and Mounk conclude that citizens who once considered democracy to be the only legitimate form of government are more open to authoritarian rule.


Ms Leitch

They warn against politicians like Donald Trump who are prepared to tear down the existing political system and promote policies that violate the rights of ethnic and religious minorities (“stop and frisk” and racial profiling come to mind) for their own partisan advantage.

Saving liberal democracy

A liberal democracy is founded on free and open elections and a respect for human rights and the rule of law.  The laws protecting rights and civil liberties must be protected.  Ms Henein says that’s why criminal defense lawyers are so important.  This is their bailiwick.  She’s right.

Populist politicians like Kellie Leitch who justify anti-Canadian values screening because her survey says 70% of Canadians are in favour of it are laying the foundation for an illiberal democracy, one that erodes the checks and balances on power and violates human rights.

Ms Henein’s message to the law students was: use your voice, be an advocate for democracy.

Her message to Canadians after the defeat of Hillary Clinton was: “suffering fools quietly means they can become president…or prime minister.”

Ms Henein mentioned Kellie Leitch at least four times in her speech, sometimes with an eye roll and sometimes by noting that her own grandmother would have failed the anti-Canadian values test because she didn’t speak English and wouldn’t have had the faintest idea what Ms Leitch was talking about.

Ms Henein didn’t say this in so many words but I will:  Kellie Leitch is running for the leadership of the federal Conservative party.  If she wins and the Conservatives come back into power, which they will, Kellie Leitch will be our next prime minister.

It’s time for Canadians to stop suffering fools like Ms Leitch quietly.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

The 2017 List

Last year Ms Soapbox made a list of New Year’s resolutions for Rachel Notley.

Happily, Ms Notley delivered on the list, with the exception of resolution #4 (Ms Soapbox failed to anticipate the arrival of Jason Kenney on the political scene).

Rather than rewrite the whole thing Ms Soapbox decided to create a list of things she’d like to see happen in 2017.

She’d like your input.


Things to strive for in 2017

  1. The end of Trump-style politics                 

Politicians like Jason Kenney say they want to avoid the “nasty, negative, irresponsible populism” of Donald Trump but they never miss an opportunity to inflame Albertans by telling them Alberta is wracked with “despair and recession” and they should put their faith in Mr Kenney to put an end to Alberta’s economic slide.

This is straight out of the Trump play book.

And it works.

When a supporter approached Mr Kenney in a café and said “Go Trump” and that he was “totally fed up with Alberta’s communist” politics, Mr Kenney didn’t bother to explain that Trump was not running in Alberta and Albertans live in a democracy, not a communist state.

Mr Kenney just smiled and shook the fellow’s hand.

If we want to stop the spread of Trump-style politics in Alberta the press and all political leaders, including Brian Jean, must call out politicians who indulge in it.

And the public needs to wise up, which leads me to…

2.  More facts less drivel

Mr Kenney is utterly transparent about his intention to use public despair (his words not mine) to capture the hearts and minds of voters.

He describes the situation in Alberta as “a human tragedy” and admits he overlooked local issues when he was a federal Cabinet minister because he may have viewed Alberta’s economic malaise “too statistically”.

Too statistically?

One of the statistics Mr Kenney is willing to ignore is that Albertans pay $7 billion less in taxes than their closest neighbours even with the NDP’s carbon levy and tax increases. 

Another fact Mr Kenney is downplaying is that Justin Trudeau would not have approved two major pipelines if Rachel Notley had not implemented a Climate Leadership Plan.

Those who don’t like these facts respond with anti-Notley memes like “cavemen walked everywhere and the glaciers still melted”.  What?

Ignoring the facts and posting idiotic memes do not encourage political discourse.

Speaking of social media…

3. Less mass distraction, more public engagement 

Where do you get your news…no wait, do you even get the news?

George Monbiot attributes the election of Donald Trump, in part, to the rise of celebrity culture as played out in our newspapers and on social media.

He refers to a study by Nick Couldry and Tim Markham that found citizens who follow celebrity culture, including reality TV, music and fashion are less likely to be politically engaged than those who stay current on traditional political issues like the economy and the environment.

Celebrity followers are three times less likely to be involved in local organizations and two times less likely to volunteer.  They believe they have no influence over government and it doesn’t matter who is in power.

This is not happy news but it illustrates the challenges we face in getting the public to focus on the issues and critically analyze the Trump-style politics coming at them from Jason Kenney, Kellie Leitch and their ilk.

4. Human dignity

Rather than review all the instances where civil rights and human dignity have been trampled in the political arena under the guise of an attack on political correctness, let’s focus on an issue we’re all familiar with—gender pronouns.

Contrary to popular belief, people who express a preference for a specific gender pronouns are not special snowflakes who have been triggered; they’re human beings entitled to the same level of respect as the rest of us.

We’ve learned how to refer to women as Ms;  it won’t kill us to ask someone what pronouns they prefer and to use them appropriately.

5. Happy Birthday Canada, but…

Canada will be 150 years old this year.

We should pause and enjoy our good fortune, but also remember that now more than ever we need to protect our democratic institutions from the populists, racists and power hungry politicians who would tear them down.


Right, that’s my list…now it’s your turn.

Posted in Economy, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 34 Comments

A Double Dose of Christmas

This Christmas was unusual…even for the Soapbox family.

Missy* our eldest daughter is a nurse working in Victoria.  She was scheduled to work over Christmas which meant that for the first time ever the Soapbox family was not going to be together on Christmas Day.

No problem we said, we’ll reschedule Christmas.

So, on Dec 10 at 5 pm Mr and Ms Soapbox, Missy, her little sister Mini, Missy’s boyfriend (let’s call him Mario) and Ziggy the dog converged under the Christmas tree to open presents.

Things got off to a shaky start when Ms Soapbox accidently broke the horns off Mario’s Krampus soap.  Krampus is the horned anti-Santa of German legend who kidnaps bad children.  Why he merits his own soap is beyond me.  Mario was gracious about the whole thing saying he’d lather them back on.  Good Mario. 

Ms Soapbox modeled her Nasty Woman T shirt and Mr Soapbox demonstrated the correct way to use wooden cooking implements.

Missy and Mini both received adult colouring books.  Mini’s came with an attaché case jammed with crayons, pastels and paints; Missy will have to make do with a packet of 8 pencil crayons.  Thankfully they’re past the stage where every gift they got had to be exactly the same.

Ziggy was pleased with his bone but thought he looked silly in his red and white Christmas sweater.


Ziggy prefers his Santa hat to his Christmas sweater

We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Eve pizza and rounded off the evening with board games and wobbly snippets of Christmas carols curtesy of Mini who thinks O Little Monkey is a real Christmas carol no matter how many times we tell her it’s “donkey” not “monkey”.

Note to self: it’s rude to yell Bingo! when Mini and Mr Soapbox are playing Battleship and Mini sinks Mr Soapbox’s destroyer.

Further note to self:  when playing Scrabble with Missy and Mario ensure Mario’s turn comes after Missy’s turn otherwise he’ll set Missy up for the triple word score every single time.   Bad Mario.

The Soapbox Christmas was over in a heartbeat and we were just settling in for two weeks of post-Christmas relaxation when Missy slipped on the ice.

Within hours she was carted out of the house in a sling by four burley firemen.  (The EMS crew called the fire department when it became obvious they couldn’t get the stretcher down the stairs without tipping Missy out).  An undignified exit but Missy was beyond caring by this point.

The EMS crew rolled us into the stretcher queue at the hospital and we all bonded for a couple of hours waiting for a bed to become available.  The doctors discharged Missy the next morning and she embarked on a series of X-rays and MRIs, doctor’s appointments and physio.

Eventually she hobbled back to Victoria to be examined by her doctor who said (surprise) she was not fit for work.

Which meant she could come home for Christmas.


So, she did and we celebrated Christmas all over again—Christmas Eve with board games and O Little Monkey and Christmas Day with tiny presents and a very large turkey.

And you know what, it was even lovelier the second time around.

From the Soapbox family to you and your family, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and the very best for 2017!!! 

*Missy, Mini, and Mario are not their real names but suit them to a tee.

Posted in Celebrations, Vacation | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

Lessons From Rex Tillerson*

If Rex Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil and Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, taught a class on pipeline strategy Brian Jean would be stuck at the front of the room wearing a dunce cap and Rachel Notley would be excused because she already knows this stuff.

Conservative rhetoric 

Ever since Donald Trump was elected Mr Jean has been hammering Ms Notley; demanding to know what she’s going to do about Keystone XL.

Mr Jean says Keystone XL will create “a lot of jobs here in Alberta”, remove the “bottleneck” in the oilsands and help Albertans get back on their feet.

Mr McIver echoes Mr Jean’s comments saying the Trump administration offers “new hope” for Keystone XL.

Both conservative leaders want Ms Notley to pledge her support for Keystone and to lobby hard to get it approved.

Ms Notley eyes them patiently, then gives the following response: her government is happy to work with the energy industry to find ways to enhance trade with the US, but the government will focus “on those things over which we have agency,” namely Canadian pipelines seeking access to tidewater from a Canadian port.

Pipeline strategy class

Mr Tillerson recently gave a speech outlining the lessons he’d learned in his 41 years at ExxonMobil.  Ms Soapbox has taken the liberty of condensing these lessons into what she’s calling “Mr Tillerson’s pipeline strategy class”.


Rex Tillerson

Mr Jean and Mr McIver would be well advised to stop horsing around and pay attention.  Ms Notley is excused from class because she understands these lessons, probably because they’re simply common sense.

LESSON ONE:  Make evidence-based decisions

Mr Tillerson says evidence is important—at one time “experts” believed the world was running out of oil, but now the evidence shows that global market supply exceeds demand by one to two million barrels a day.

Mr Jean’s comment that the approval of Keystone XL will remove the “bottleneck” in the oilsands demonstrates he doesn’t understand the evidence at all.

This “bottleneck” doesn’t exist, at least not according to the US State Department which said Keystone XL is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands.”**

Mr Jean argues Keystone XL will create lots of well-paying jobs in Alberta.

This is ridiculous.

The Canadian portion of the Keystone system was completed years ago.  If Keystone XL (the US portion) is approved, the US State Department says it will create 42,000 temporary construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs—all in the US.    

Right…now that Mr Tillerson has their attention, Mr Jean and Mr McIver can focus on four other equally important lessons.

(Ms Notley is free to hang out in the lunch room.  She’s been applying these lessons in the Alberta context since the NDs assumed power in 2015.)

LESSON TWO:  Create a structure that’s viable at the bottom of the cycle as well as at the top

Mr Tillerson says down cycles are a fact of life in a commodity business.

Ms Notley has implemented policies to buffer Albertans from the down cycle as Alberta ricochets from boom to bust.

She’s incenting diversification with tax credits and grants for non-energy sectors including agricultural, petrochemicals and small businesses involved in everything from creating new technologies to entertainment.


Brian Jean

Sadly, Mr Jean doesn’t understand the reality of a boom/bust economy.  If he gets elected he intends to rip up every piece of legislation the ND’s have passed.  Sigh.

LESSON THREE:  Control what you can control

Mr Tillerson says you should focus on what you can control.

Mr Jean doesn’t understand that everything concerning Keystone XL is out of his control.

TCPL, not the government, will decide whether to pursue a fresh application under the Trump administration.  The shippers, not the government, will decide whether they’re prepared to commit production to Keystone XL in addition to the commitments they’ve made to Trans Mountain and perhaps Energy East.

Mr Trump, not the government, will decide how much of TCPL’s profits he will extract in return for approving Keystone XL and then TCPL, not the government, will decide whether Keystone XL is worth the bother.

Mr Jean can flail about all he likes but he no influence whatsoever over TCPL, the shippers or Mr Trump.

Ms Notley knows this and that’s why she refuses to focus all her resources on “a pipeline to tidewater in someone else’s country.”

LESSON FOUR:  Manage the risks

Mr Tillerson says his business, like most, is fraught with geopolitical, financial, technical, environmental and operational risks.

He says the risks of climate change “are serious and warrant thoughtful action” and that the best way to address these risks is by implementing a revenue-neutral carbon tax rather than a “hodge-podge” of ineffective regulations.

Ms Notley, like Mr Tillerson, understands risk, particularly the political and environmental risks facing pipelines.  She chose to mitigate these risks by implementing the Climate Leadership Plan.  Her efforts paid off when the prime minister approved two out of three interprovincial pipelines.

Notwithstanding the support the Climate Leadership Plan has received from the energy industry Mr Jean and his conservative friends promise to abolish the carbon tax, thereby destroying the very policy that allowed the prime minister to approve the two pipelines in the first place.


While Mr Jean and Mr McIver are badgering Ms Notley to support Keystone XL, she’s focusing on the work that has real impact and will “deliver outcomes for our industry partners.”

She understands the role of government in pipeline strategy, which is why she’s in the lunchroom talking to her friends and Mr Jean and Mr McIver are stuck in Mr Tillerson’s class.

Here’s the most important lesson of all:  it’s not enough to say you’re standing up for the energy sector.  You actually have to do it—effectively.  

*NOTE: Ms Soapbox is invoking Rex Tillerson not because he’s the best choice for Secretary of State but because he might get through to the Wildrose and PCs.

Sources: Alberta Hansard, Nov 10, 2016, p 1864-1865

**TransCanada 2015 Annual Information Form, p 11 http://www.sedar.com/GetFile.do?lang=EN&docClass=1&issuerNo=00019418&issuerType=03&projectNo=02442866&docId=3862285 

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments

Viola Desmond: The Perfect Choice

Viola Desmond is the first Canadian woman to be featured on our bank notes.

We know the outline of her story—Ms Desmond was arrested, jailed and convicted for refusing to leave the whites-only section of a movie theatre.  Her story speaks to the pernicious nature of racism in Canada and how it impacts those who suffer from discrimination.

A movie ticket isn’t just a movie ticket

Ms Desmond and her husband Jack owned a barber shop/beauty salon in Halifax.  Ms Desmond was on a business trip when her car broke down in New Glasgow.  When she found out it wouldn’t be ready until the next day she booked a hotel room and went to the movies.


Viola Desmond

She wanted a seat on the main floor but the cashier refused to sell her one saying “I’m sorry but I’m not permitted to sell downstairs tickets to you people.”

It was then that Ms Desmond realized she was being denied seating because she was black.  Ms Desmond told the cashier she didn’t see any signs saying “whites only” anywhere and when the cashier still refused to sell her a main floor ticket, Ms Desmond left extra money for a downstairs ticket with the cashier and took a seat on the main floor close to the screen.

The usher and the theatre manager asked Ms Desmond to leave.  She refused.  The manager called the police who asked Ms Desmond to leave.  She refused.

The manager and the policeman dragged the tiny woman out of the cinema.  She spent the night in jail.

A law isn’t just a law  

Nova Scotia did not have formal racial segregation laws, but like many places it had an unwritten code governing where Blacks could sit in movie theatres and other public places.

Given that it’s impossible to charge someone for breaking an unwritten “code” the powers-that-be got creative—they charged Ms Desmond with tax evasion.

The charge was based on the fact that a 2 cent amusement tax was included in the price of a 30 cent balcony ticket and a 3 cent amusement tax was included in the price of the 40 cent main floor ticket.  Ms Desmond was sitting in a main floor seat with a balcony ticket, therefore she owed the government of Nova Scotia a penny.

Ms Desmond told the police magistrate that she’d offered to buy a 40 cent main floor ticket but the cashier refused to sell her one.  He ignored her explanation and convicted her of tax evasion.  She was fined $20 plus costs.

A loss isn’t always a loss  

Ms Desmond was understandably horrified by her ordeal.  Upon her return to Halifax she decided to appeal her conviction.

She received support from the leaders of the Black community and the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but not everyone was enthusiastic about her decision.

Some people worried that the appeal would trigger a racist backlash, while others thought their time would be better spent arguing against discrimination in access to housing and employment instead of seating at a cinema.  A small group wondered whether Ms Desmond brought this misfortune on herself by trying to “pass” as white.


Viola Desmond

Eventually those who supported the appeal won the day and the case for judicial review was brought before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.  It was dismissed on a technicality because it was filed outside the 10 day limitation period.

Notwithstanding the loss, the Desmond case served to mobilize public opinion in the fight against discrimination.

Why Viola Desmond? Why now?

Rebel Media dismisses the Bank of Canada’s selection of Ms Desmond as an act of tokenism.  They say Ms Desmond is “barely a footnote in history” and landed on the $10 bill simply because she’s Black and won the “Oppression Olympics”.

Rebel says its real concern is that in order to put Ms Desmond on the $10 bill and another undeserving lout on the $5 bill John A Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier will move to other bills bumping off Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Rebel argues that “erasing” Borden (a racist) and King (a spiritualist who held séances to converse with his dead mother) is sacrilegious given their contribution to Canadian history.

Historians disagree.

King’s biographer, Allan Levine, says the change reflects “our attitudes today, the world wasn’t only run by white men or politicians. There are other people who are also significant to Canadian history, and Viola Desmond is a good choice.”

In 1946 Viola Desmond was a young black woman stranded miles from home.  She showed tremendous courage by refusing to be cowed into giving up her seat in the “whites-only” section of a cinema.  She showed even more courage by appealing her unjust conviction for tax evasion.

In 1982 Pierre Elliot Trudeau enshrined the right to be free from discrimination in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 2016 Justin Trudeau’s Finance Minister selected Ms Desmond, a soft spoken beauty salon owner and civil rights activist to grace our $10 bill.

It’s taken 70 years for Canada to recognize Viola Desmond.

Her time has come and come and anyone who argues a racist and a spiritualist are more deserving isn’t going to take it away from her.

Sources: http://canada.metropolis.net/EVENTS/ethnocultural/publications/historical.pdf starting at p 17


Posted in Law | Tagged , , | 16 Comments