I was going to call this post: “Zerb gets it wrong (no surprise).” But that would be lowering The Interim to Antonia Zerbisias’ level.
For those who don’t know her, Zerbisias is a Toronto Star columnist and today she has a column in the “Entertainment” section — not the op-ed page, but the “Entertainment” pages, perhaps because her columns are often good for a laugh — about the supposedly misogynistic Conservative government. She’s always in the “E” section, but today’s is especially entertaining for its fantasy-world spin on current events.
Zerbisias links the angry “Men’s Rights Activists” and the TheoCons that supposedly control the Prime Minister’s Office. That linkage, Zerbisias says:
[W]ould explain why Pastor Maurice Vellacott of Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, past chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, proponent of spurious research on women’s health, creationist and agitator against same-sex rights, could get away with introducing Bill C-422, which would amend the Divorce Act to automatically award, regardless of history, “equal parenting” to warring couples.
In the next paragraph, she says that wife-beating, child-abusing ex-husbands will be allowed to continue to control their former wives under this bill. That is nonsense on stilts. The status quo has a preference for mothers and men must prove they have a right to a more equitable arrangement; C-422 will have equal parenting as the default but the courts will be allowed to alter that arrangement if there are circumstances that would suggest a reduced role for one parent. So despite Zerbisias’ hysterical suggestion that family history is irrelevant and as such C-422 will endanger vulnerable women and children, history will become more relevant by denying a right to equal parenting in situations where it should be stripped from an abusive partner/parent.
From there, The Zerb offers a litany of allegedly misogynistic policies of the Harper government, including its “repeated efforts to limit women’s reproductive options.” I’m not sure what she means by that. Women have all the options in terms of contraceptive and abortion they had in 2005 when the Liberals were still in power. Abortion is still legal. The morning-after pill is still legal. Schools still distribute condoms and teach sex-ed. Doctors still counsel on family planning. More importantly, I am not aware of the government attempting to reverse any of this. I’d be elated if they would, but all these fall under the rubric of heatlh care and are thus provincial responsibilities. Ottawa has nothing to do with funding or providing these services, at least not directly.
Which brings her to The Interim story that is getting a lot of play on the internet and in the legacy media. Zerbisias says:
Just last week came word, via The Interim (www.viewyourenvoymediasite.ca), an anti-choice online publication billing itself as “Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper,” that, while we weren’t looking, the Harper government has been eviscerating the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, formerly known as the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada. Since the Harper government’s first minority win in 2006, federal funding has dropped by a whopping – wait for it – 99 per cent.
Which means that prenatal health care, emergency contraception and other maternity-related research and education have been gutted.
First, The Interim is not an online paper anymore than the Toronto Star is. We are both print publications with an online presence. It wouldn’t have taken much work for Zerbisias to nose around the website and figure that out. But that’s fine, she bills herself as a “columnist” not a reporter, so I wouldn’t expect her to do much digging for any story. In the second paragraph she returns to the chestnut about certain reproductive services being “gutted” but the CFSH was not a frontline provider of these services — that’s why it has member affiliates. No, it was involved in policy research, public education (propaganda), and lobbying (public affairs). The government may have reduced program spending for the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health or the funding of particular CFSH projects might have expired with no new ones started up; The Interim is still investigating this. But as suggested in our story, pro-life groups are pleased that the pro-abortion side is no longer getting funding for their advocacy (which puts them on par with the pro-life side). Not even the CFSH is whining about the defunding of contraception and abortion. Jolanta Scott-Parker, executive director of the CFSH, told the Canadian Press that its specific positions were irrelevant and that instead the funding dried up for a variety of (unstated) reasons. It is not misogyny or any other social agenda but rather some measure of fiscal conservatism that has resulted in reduced funding. As Scott-Parker told CP: “Certainly, it is not easy to access funding under this government but I think that is true across the (non-governmental organization) sector.”
Usually it isn’t worth responding to Antonia Zerbisias’ ranting and raving, but there were some egregious errors in today’s piece that needed refuting before they established themselves as part of the conventional wisdom.