This post is about a week late, given that I was on Parliament Hill job shadowing MP Marlene Jennings last Tuesday. However, I had some of my own naive little epiphanies since that experience that have made me think a lot more and have contextualized things a bit more. In other words, things are always more complex than they seem. Obvious statement to make but nonetheless...
First off, about my two days on Parliament Hill. I was participating in the Women in House program which is run through the Poli Sci Students Association at McGill. I was really excited about the opportunity to spend two days on Parliament Hill. On Monday we did a tour of Parliament, met Minister of International Cooperation Aileen Carroll, had a panel discussion with MPs Libby Davies (NDP) and Lynne Yelich (Conservative) and attended question period. These activities in themselves were inspiring-- I loved seeing these women with such different political views and backgrounds talking about what it's like to be a woman in politics and how they respectively thought it best to bring about what they believe in through the political system. The panel discussion was particularly interesting since Davies and Yelich speak from polar opposite points of view.
The other women (almost wrote girls there... oops!) in the program were also really great. Mostly very opinionated as Poli Sci students tend to be. While waiting for our security checks on the first day with one of the other participants, I leaned over and said to her, "I don't remember anyone's name any more"
"Yeah, me neither. They all look the same except us"
Thank god for brown people. haha.
The second day, I met up with Marlene Jennings at 8:45 am. She was finishing a cigarette outside the East Block, when I arrived. She brought me to her office where we chatted a bit and then proceeded to go to two standing committee meetings, a debate in the house, lunch, question period and then two meetings with lobbyists. I loved the constant "busyness" of the day, the improvising and running from one task to another. This would probably get old real fast if one were actually in that job, but I found it interesting and exciting. As much as I was cynical and skeptical about the official political system coming in to the program, I left it with a newfound respect for what politicians do. With Marlene at least, she appeared to really care about her job and about putting her own ideas into action. She went out of her way to answer my questions and to explain stuff to me even when I didn't ask her about it. She also would get really excited when talking about things that she cared about and didn't hesitate to express her personal opinions on issues--- which I really respect. When I asked her if she thought the current political system worked well, she acknowledged that policies she would want to see didn't always get put in place exactly how she would have wanted the to be, but that she thought the system was good. At one time Marlene was in solidarity with black students protesting institutional racism at Concordia
-- the methods used there were not your conventiona l lobbying tactics, which is why I asked her if she thought the system was effective. Of course, there were some elements of the traditional politician there, but she was really great. Maybe one day I can get to know her well enough to discuss her involvement with Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Israel (of which she is a member). I felt the Declaration of Human Rights conspicuous on the wall in the corner of her office. heh...
The weirdest part about the whole parliamentary "experience" that I had was Don Boudria asking me if one of my parents was "oriental"... that was great, haven't been called one of those in a while, but anyway--- he won't be around much longer in politics anyway ;)
On Saturday I went to a reading of Teesri Duniya's adaptation of Kafka's The Trial. It was a benefit for Justice for Adil Charkaoui
, an advocacy group that is working to free Adil and four other men who have been held on security certificates. The reading interspersed The Trial with the accounts of the five men's experiences--- for a chilling and heartbreaking effect. The Trial is absolutely terrifying on its own, and these men are actually living it.
I knew about security certificates and the the situation was bad, but I didn't realize that the people being held are NOT charged with any crime, don't know the evidence that is being used against them and that some of them have been in detention, solitary confinement for years! I won't get into too much detail here, however, at the reading, Adil Charkaoui, who's been recently released on "bail" (still without charge), was able to read, but was forced to leave at intermission so as not to violate his curfew. The RCMP and the police were waiting for him outside so that they could arrest and deport him if he happened to stay to read for the rest of the play. All this anyway, just to say that I felt so angry and appaled that the Canadian government was letting this go on--- our own maple leaf branded Guantanamo. And no one in Parliament seems to be doing anything about it.
I'm SO angry.
By far one of the stranger occurences in my Montreal existence... I was biking home from a screening at the International Documentary Film Festival, Sunday (which was taking place just around the corner in my house), and I was shivering because my fleece wasn't warm enough for the cold wind that had just developed. While stopped at a corner, I must have looked slightly pathetic because this guy in a huge fur coat (think like SabreTooth in the X-Men movie), walks up to me and is like, "Es-tu froid?", I nodded. And then he took my hands to warm them up between his own. For some reason I didn't take my hands away because I thought his coat was so comical-- it was like so out of a movie or something. And then he was like, oh your hands aren't that cold (which they weren't of course because I had just come out of a warm movie theatre). He smiled and walked off in his massive fur coat. It was very very odd. Letting strangers take my hands though... maybe not such a good idea. ah well...