Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm Moving!

Please find me at my new location:

The site is new and still under development, but I'm excited about the possibilities!
Thanks for following me!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Letter to the Island Tides

Dear Editor,
Thank you to Elizabeth May for her May 3rd article, “The Ongoing Attack on Charities”. I very much appreciate Elizabeth's representation in parliament and I am continuously impressed at her commitment to staying in touch with her constituents. Thank you Elizabeth!
There is one point in her article with which I disagree: when she suggests that Canadians are losing our sense of outrage in the face of suppression of dissent. This is not what I sense.
In my experience, Canadian democracy has operated on a good faith system: the assumption that politicians would try their best to do what was right for the public interest including those who did not vote for them. All we had to do was to vote, stay informed on the issues and politely speak our views. We always expected neglect from our leaders, but we expected them to at least make a show of trying.
The tables have turned rather abruptly though, with the emergence of tactics such as the willful misleading of voters away from their polling stations, secrecy of committee meetings and foreshortening of parliamentary debate. The threat to charitable organizations is just the next in a line of anti-democratic actions which this government is taking.
This quick shift from good faith to suppression of dissent has, I think, caught us all off guard. It is all too clear that we are talking to people who do not wish to listen. The abundance of online petitions and the opportunity to try and find our poling station every four years is obviously no longer enough for Canadians, the problem is that we don't know what else there is for us to do!
Emily McIvor

Friday, May 4, 2012

Subjectivity and Alienation through Kony 2012

Walking home earlier today, I saw a Kony 2012 poster. The graphics were catchy, the message, popularized by abundant social media, very clear. What caught my attention the most however, was a catch phrase at the base of the sheet which stated, “(finally!) one thing we can all agree on.” I smiled sadly at the irony.
Kony 2012, the campaign, has in fact been immediately and hotly contested from many sides. The arguments against it include disgust at an effort to bring fame to someone responsible for the horrific recruitment and use of child soldiers in Uganda; impatience with simplistic solutions to remote and complex problems (the main one having been along the lines, “get 'im”) and concerns over political association and the financial background of the producing organization. All of these immediate and impassioned arguments sounded reasonable. But then so did the campaign video.
What I was left with after hearing abbreviated accounts of all this from my sons was an initial anxiety at the ferocity of the argument but also a general sense that there are in fact some important issues that we could all agree about. Among these: that the use of child soldiers is absolutely evil, that response to awful things in foreign countries may be complex and that being really clean and up-front about vested interests in any action is important.
In fact, despite the fact that members of my immediate family have taken opposite positions on this argument, the more I think about it, the more optimistic I feel. The campaign itself is evidence of an urgent awareness of moral right and wrong (something occasionally thought missing from modern life) and the criticism reflects active critical capacity among observers. The key to satisfaction over this popular political debate lies in three ideas: that there may not be one single universal truth; that it's okay if we disagree about really important things and that a creative discussion of the issues is essential.
Shifting the discussion from positions (answers) which are fixed and tend to be linked to identity (“It's right because it's my idea”) to interests which are more often common goals (keeping kids and communities safe) can help us to see the good in what others are saying. This allows us to see what we have in common with others and helps us to take our attention off the conflict and put it toward building unity and common purpose. Kony 2012, in their plea for one thing we can all agree on, voiced an anxiety which is relatively unique to modern thinking. The places we tend to get hung up are identity (a statement's validity depends on who said it) and alienation (feeling unable to join in the discussion).
Discussions like this are what poltics is and we are already doing it. All of our voices are important, all of our truths are a part of what it is to be one of a group which despite all thoughts to the contrary is the reality we live.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emily's Reading List: February, 2011

So here's what I'm reading right now and for the last little while.
  • The Saturday Globe and Mail- I've been thinking of giving this up lately because of the lack of content and the overabundance of ad space but I'm hanging in there, mainly for Tabitha Southey. Best columnist ever! she is wry and sarcastic, she likes being read aloud (which is what I most like doing with newspapers), and her choice and interpretation of issues are landmarks for me (and, I know, many others) . I also read Doug Saunders (awesome research and interpretation of current sociological issues) and most of Focus, some of Arts, the News and recently I've been very much enjoying interviews of famous actors by Johanna Schneller. Her style is dry and appealing, her insights ring authentic and as she said last week, “if I see one more movie where grown-up, multidimensional women fall like bowling pins for a hapless man-child, I think I truly will hurl.” Me too!
  • The Guardian Weekly- this excellent source of journalism from around the world focuses on international development. Here, I can read stories about town planning in Istanbul and about China's surging green economy. Also cultural reviews of stuff beyond my usual gaze and happily way beyond what the Globe would ever print- this week: a review of Eric Hobsbawm's, How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism. Despite the childish title, the book sounds like the one I need to help me wrestle through my questions about communism.
  • I have a hand-me-down copy of the Economist sitting by my bed but have yet to penetrate further than the first few pages. I find that newspapers work this way though. You have to become familiar with the format and really own it before serious extraction of it's depths (this is why we need more female columnists).
  • No new Art Mags this month. Sad to say.

  • Just finished the classic, Lady Chatterly's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence for my book club. I got a bit bored about half way through but was encouraged by a friend to skim lightly through (of course stopping for all the really sexy or important parts). In the end, I'm glad I read it. Good old D.H., he really believes in the power of cunts and fucking (and he makes quite a convincing case) .
  • The Wind in My Wheels, by Josie Dew? What is with that name? It sounds like cycling shorts. Anyways, it's about a woman who cycles around the world starting from her home in the U.K. . She makes many short trips and describes them briefly, though with acuity. The irritation comes from her awful cycling partner, Ward and Josie's endless whining tolerance of him. I just flipped ahead and somehow she hasn't dumped him and moved on! Arghhh. I'm returning this book to the library today.
  • Elizabeth Smart's, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Classic poetic prose -I'm just beginning. It is apparently extremely highly regarded which I respect (when smart people give me advice, I usually try to listen) but it does seem to be rather fraught. She “fell in love” with the author of a book of poetry without having met him and invited him and his wife to come and stay with her in California and then is surprised and when it's uncomfortable? Really! The delivery is not enough, I need content which I can relate to as well and thankfully I learned about those particular boundaries between the ages of 24 and 30 without even having to write a book about it. If you have read this book and can give me a reason to persist, please pass it along.
On the shelf for next month(and actually already begun) are Jane Urquhart's Away, The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts and The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts. I have also bought the February edition of Artnews. Hah!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sexual Health a Radical Choice

The Opt clinic is a much used but little known resource in Ganges. Run by two nurses, a rotation of female doctors and a handful of volunteers, it provides confidential and non-judgemental care to anyone with a sexual health concern.
Mostly that means dispensing birth control pills to teens who don't want to get pregnant (good idea). Pelvic exams are also available to women of all ages, well-woman exams (including breast self-exam tutorial), STD and pregnancy tests and counseling are also available.
Most of the clients are female and they range in age from teens to seniors. Some people use the clinic because they prefer a female doctor for certain procedures, some like the lower dispensing fees on oral contraceptives and some rely on the privacy afforded by the confidential service.
Everybody who comes to Opt as a client is facing the daunting challenges of physical health and also social and emotional wellness. Young women commonly experience distressing symptoms like headaches, abdominal pain, moodiness, skin problems and weight gain as well as conflicting advice from doctors and friends. Then there are the really scary things like infection, pregnancy and abuse. All this in the middle of growing into adulthood; trying to figure out how to earn a living, how to manage relationships and how to remain true to themselves. It's a lot of work!
Those who work at Opt do so because they want to help where they have been helped. As one volunteer put it, “I have to work here because I'm the poster child for this place; I've tried everything”. The message these women send is this: “There is no shame. Taking care of yourself is a radical thing to do and if you've made it in the front door, you're already doing it.”
Recognizing each person's ability to choose their own sexual activity and is the key to providing these services and providing them is key to individuals' ability to choose their own health.

Statement to the Islands Trust December 2010

My name is Emily McIvor. I am a voter and I live and work in downtown Ganges. I am here today to speak to the Development Permit application of Mr. Leon Aptekman regarding the tear-down and reconstruction of his buildings at 146-150 Fulford-Ganges Rd.. These historic buildings are right in the centre of downtown with some of the best pedestrian exposure in the village. The existing buildings need a lot of work and the landlord wants to tear them down and replace them with another building (phase 3) which would match the neighbouring Phase 1 and 2 in that block.

At this time, the buildings house four small local and independently owned shops. When the reconstruction is complete, the whole space, as well as the one next door (which currently houses Mark's Work Wearhouse) will be made into one single storefront and leased to Mark's. That means a long strip of street frontage, taken away from little unique shops and turned into one large chain store.
I understand that the current land-use bylaws do not govern who can use the land (that would be discriminatory). However the character and diversity of our village is threatened by this change, so I think it must be addressed.

In regard to the specific application of Leon Aptekman and his architect, Johnathan Yardley, I would like to speak to several sections of Bylaw No. 434. Section E.1: Development Permit Area One- Island Villages. Under heading E.1.2- Reasons for the Development Permit Area, the second paragraph states that the requirement for development permits in Island Villages, “will guide the community's most significant concentrated and visible new development so that it is compatible with existing building, with the natural environment and with community objectives for villages.” The proposed development, even if it falls within current regulatory standards, is not compatible with community objectives (as shown by the 669 signatures on a petition opposing it). The proposal and it's ultimate effect on the visual, social and economic environment of Ganges do not reflect community values of diversity, locality and craftsmanship.

In section E.1.3- Objectives of this Development Permit Area, section E.1.3.3 aims to “encourage creative designs that continue to reflect the diversity and richness of Salt Spring Island. To avoid design controls that would make island villages appear architecturally sterile or contrived.” I understand the planners imperative to match new buildings with existing ones however, some existing buildings are not worth matching. I find the current phase 2 to be both architecturally sterile and contrived and since the original plans were drawn up during the 1980s, I do not think there can be any defense of them as modern or progressive.

Section E.1.6.7 under the heading- Scale, Massing and Modulation, requires that “the existing 'rhythm' of buildings along street frontages be respected.” While the new building may match the adjacent Phase 2, the variety, interest and quaint facades of the current buildings will not be matched.

In section E.1.6.14 under the heading- Details, “the use of imaginative, handcrafted products of local craftspeople is encouraged.” No such handcrafted products are part of this proposal.

In section E.1.6.15 “a pleasant pedestrian environment” is advised. Variety and character are the spice of pedestrian experience. A proposal which detracts from the variety and character of the street frontage can only harm the pedestrian environment.

My point is that while I understand that the building may need to be replaced or repaired, I do not think that one big store with multiple door openings is the same thing as several smaller stores and while I understand the idea of matching one building to the next, I do not think that ugly buildings should be matched.
I believe that the character and diversity of not only our built environment but also our social and economic ones are threatened by changes like this and if the current bylaws do not allow the governing body to protect these things, changes should be made.
I would like to participate in the upcoming bylaw review and I request that, in the review, a bylaw be written which restricts the floor size of individual businesses in the core of lower Ganges ( Jackson Ave, to Rainbow Rd. and down to the waterfront). I would also like to see a preservation of heritage facades.

I request that this permit not be granted until it is clear that it fully meets community objectives.

Head Office Distances Itself from Mark's Franchise

Robin Lynas, Vice President of corporate relations for Mark's Work Wearhouse, warns that a franchise buy-out by head office will not necessarily increase in amount with the square footage of an expanded local store. “If they expand the store and their sales do not increase to match, it doesn't look good” said Lynas, in a phone conversation. He went on to explain that while head office does have first right-of-refusal for any franchise operation, the buy-out formula is based on sales as well as a number of other factors.
Ten paper letters as well as numerous phone calls have been received by head office in opposition to the planned expansion of Mark's on Salt Spring. ( The plan would see Mark's expand over 900 square feet and take up the entire block of downtown street-frontage.) Many Salt Springers have stated that while they want to support Mark's, they don't want to lose the unique and charming character of a more varied commercial area. Lynas also stated that Mark's is a destination store, best suited to an area with plenty of convenient parking.
Only around ten percent of over three hundred Mark's stores remain as franchise businesses, the rest have been bought back by the parent company which is a subsidiary of Canadian Tire, making the prospect of another remotely owned, big chain store in downtown Ganges, a remarkably reasonable concern. Lynas suggested that the most important conversation for the community to have is with the land owner, Leon Aptekman. Mr. Aptekman has been unavailable for comment and has ignored the many petition signatures, letters to the editor and personal pleas by community members.
Local Trust committee members will discuss the development permit application for the new Mark's store, on Friday, January 14th at their monthly meeting, held at Artspring. It remains to be seen whether current bylaws will suffice to prevent the expansion but the meeting is open to the public and polite discussion is welcomed. The townhall portion is scheduled for 12:30, the application will be discussed after that.