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herizons: 25-Year Retrospective 1992-2017

By Hilla Kerner
February 2018
Cover of Herizons Magazine celebrating 25 years of activism

For winter 2018, herizons, the Canadian feminist magazine, has issued a special edition featuring some of the best articles about feminist activism in Canada that the magazine has published in the last 25 years. “Looking back at the articles in this special issue is much more than a look back at ideas and leaders who inspired us in the past” writes Penni Mitchel, the magazine editor. “It’s a reminder that, as a force of change, feminism has always been about looking ahead to the future…” and she sure is right.

This issue has reprinted interviews with Canadian cultural icons like Jane Rule and Buffy Sainte-Marie. In the 1995 interview, Rule described how she argued to the women in one of the first women’s movement conscious-raising groups to speak about lesbians as “we”. “…if you want to talk about lesbians” she said, “you can’t talk about ‘them’ and I am willing to start by saying that I am a lesbian and I am ready to talk about it.” Sainte-Marie spoke in 1993 about the environment as a crucial issue for Aboriginal women. “It used to be quaint that Native people spoke about Mother Earth. Now people are becoming globally aware…Aboriginal women have been sticking up for these issues for years. The environment unites everyone, because that river is what nourishes us all.”

Other highlights in the special edition include an article by Patricia MontureWhy We Must End Colonialism: Tinkering with the Indian Act is not Enough. Montour wrote the article in 2002  describing how the Indian Act has “regulated the lives of status Indians… establishing a relationship of dependency that denied registered Indians many benefits of citizenship”. The rules imposed by the act “displaced the central political and spiritual authority of women in their communities…as a result of the disenfranchising qualities of the Indian Act” wrote Montour, “…many Aboriginal women have been forced into urban centres where they confront racism in employment, housing and education…The Indian Act is repulsive and oppressive piece of legislation that has become a symbol of the devastation Frist Nations seek to overcome.” It has been 15 years since Monture wrote this article yet nothing has changed for the better in the lives of Indigenous women. Today’s news about the acquittal of the man who was accused of killing young Tina Fontaine is yet another example of the failure of the criminal justice system and the devastating vulnerability of Indigenous girls and women to men’s exploitation and violence.

Speaking of violence against women, the magazine also reprinted Lee Lakeman’s article Why Law and Order Won’t Stop Violence Against Women but Undermining Patriarchy Will. The article was originally published in 2000 and is based on a speak Lakeman made the year before to mark the 25th anniversary of the Woodstock Women’s Emergency Shelter in Ontario. “In 1974, when a group of us established the Women’s Emergency Shelter in Woodstock, Ontario, we were part of a movement that realized, even then, that the enemy had many faces” wrote Lakeman. “It was not only the individual man who battered, but also the patriarchal society that allowed him the extra power and status to get away with it, and the underside of the hierarchy that kept women vulnerable, dependent, undervalued and unbelieved.” Lakeman explains how advancing the whole feminist agenda at once will address women’s inequality and why the law and order agenda creates more harm then good. “The biggest problem with passing off law and order as a social policy agenda is that it entrenches the same old patriarchal order: men over women, rich over poor, whites over all other.” Lakeman concludes ”Inequality can be measured in violence. Without a systemic understanding of the massive scope of the problem, well-meaning folk settle for measures that change nothing, out of the belief that anything is better than nothing. A comprehensive intervention to reduce violence is needed, one that will place women’s advancement at its centre. Governments must invest in equality-seeking women’s groups. And the justice system must investigate, arrest and prosecute to conviction those who use sexist violence against women. It must do so in such numbers that the result is a critical mass of men interested in change.” 

These days, in the midst of the #metoo wave, when the prevalence of male violence against women is clearer than ever, and so is the utter refusal of the justice system to hold men accountable, Lakeman’s demands are timely and instructive to those of us who are fighting to end male violence against women.

Beyond Jane Rule, Buffy Sainte Marie, Patricia Monture and Lee Lakeman, the double issue of 96 pages Include Aboriginal activist Gail Stacey Moore, Studio D founder Kathleen Shannon, disability rights activist Tanis Doe, professor Sunera Thobani , Black history scholar Afua Cooper and many more.

You can buy the magazine here.

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