Why am I so afraid to write about this election?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the past few weeks.

And aside from a steady stream of cheerleader-type Tweets (V! O! T! E! What’s that spell?), I haven’t written a word.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a blog post that started with this line:

As a woman in this country, sometimes I think the real question is: When do we start rioting?

The post was written in response to what I perceive to be a miscarriage of justice – the acquittal of the accused murderer of Cindy Gladue. It was shared more widely than anything else I’ve ever said publicly. A few weeks later, I saw those words again, hand-painted on a stranger’s sign at the demonstration held in St. John’s in Gladue’s memory, part of a National Day of Action demanding an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. I was standing with co-organizer Jenny Wright, head of the St. John’s Status of Women Council. Wright leaned in. “You know,” she said. “Under C-51, we could all be arrested for that sign.”

Six months on, I recognize that not only could I be arrested for the implied threat my words carried, but as a dual citizen, under C-24, I could also be deported. (While I’m not a member of an international terrorist association, feminists do seem to scare the pants off this government.) Ironically, in the country to which I would be exiled – Romania – I am also a second-class citizen, an ethnic Hungarian.

What’s that? You think I’m being hyperbolic? Not so. The Harper government has shown, at best, disregard and at worst, true contempt for our rights and freedoms. C-51 was drafted in defiance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and has attracted stern criticism from the UN. Yes yes yes, you say. But as a Canadian-born white lady, these laws are not aimed at you, Elisabeth.

Right you are: They are part of the new Canada. Harper’s legacy here is his anti-Muslim racist agenda. But I think that may be only the beginning.

In a shameful attempt to sway voters and divide the country, Harper hired Australian campaign maestro Lynton Crosby, known for cheap, racist ploys – and suddenly the election issue became, not the economy, social services, the environment, or infrastructure – but the niqab, a religious head covering that only two women have ever declined to remove during their citizenship ceremony. (To be perfectly clear, all potential citizens go through rigorous identity screening. All citizens must be identified by showing their faces in private meetings, prior to the ceremony. The ceremony itself is just that: a ritual, a special day. Like your wedding, or your college graduation.) After running a campaign where PC candidates were actually told not to discuss the issues with the press, Harper used the niqab debate to deflect attention from his government’s poor record and to fight lousy performance at the polls. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather talk about jobs and child care than someone’s hat.

The tactic did its work. In the past three weeks, we’ve seen Muslim women attacked in the street – one of them pregnant – and now these angry slurs sprayed on Liberal candidate Khalil Ramal’s election signs. We should all be embarrassed. Not only are Canadians knee-jerk racists, we will literally nod our heads along to whatever song the government is singing. Shame on us. I say, US. I say, WE. Because these are not strangers, perpetrating hate crimes. They are our neighbours and fellow citizens, our schoolmates and, maybe, our family.

There’s a clever meme out there, showing how Canadians are far more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terrorist plot. The hypocrisy of a Prime Minister who is low enough to make anti-Muslim racism an election ploy, yet had no trouble selling the Canadian Wheat Board to Saudi Arabian interests, does not escape me. Nor should it escape you. That’s because the niqab debate isn’t about simple racism. It’s about controlling the population. And when I say population, I mean you.

I can tell you that things are so bad, the whole world is now watching. Consistent problems with fraud in previous elections – including the robocall scandal—mean that an international human rights and democracy group has been sent in to observe and monitor our election proceedings. They arrived in Ottawa on October 5th. Media in the UK and the US have been sitting up and taking notice for months. What will it take for Canadians to follow suit?

About eighteen months ago, I lost my great-uncle Charlie. He was 102. Although he’d been living in New York for more than sixty years, like most of my family, he was born in Transylvania. During the Second World War, he spent two months in Budapest, detained at 60 Andrássy – then the headquarters of the Hungarian secret police. Today, 60 Andrássy stands as a museum of torture. We never talked about what happened to him there. But it’s what I think about, when I think about this government and the path Harper is choosing for us.

Earlier this month, the Conservatives announced their plan for a new RCMP tip line that Canadians could use to report on the behavior of their friends and neighbours. Tell me again how that makes us different from a fascist regime?

I grew up in the post-Trudeau era, firm in my reliance on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I’m a member of PEN, the international group that protects writers and freedom of expression. This is why I’m writing about my own fear today – instead of any of the many other important ways that the Harper government has damaged Canada: they have trashed the economy, irrevocably destroyed our national libraries, gagged our scientists, abandoned veterans, decimated our protection of the environment, sent the CRA after charities, defrauded our elections, and systematically eroded women’s rights and gender equality.

But here’s why I am afraid to write about the election:

Because if Harper is reelected, I believe things will get much worse. I believe the Harper government is inches away from taking away my right to free expression. My right, in fact, to say any of the things I’ve said here in this post. I wonder what will happen to writers and journalists on October 20th, if the Canadian people fall for him again.

I cast my own vote over a week ago, at one of the brand new pop-up polls that Elections Canada installed on university campuses this year. Advance polls are closed now, but by the end of the day on Sunday, October 11th, some 2.4 million Canadians had already voted. That’s a massive increase over previous years, and I think it’s cause for serious hope. But optimism is not enough.

If you haven’t voted yet, you’ve got one day only to do so: Monday, October 19th. Not registered yet? You have until 6pm today, October 13, to fix that. Register now.

You will be able to register at the poll on election day — but be warned, there may be long lines. Don’t let anything stand in the way of your right to vote.

Go vote. Don’t let Stephen Harper take our country away.

On Top of the World (at Writers at Woody Point)

View of Bonne Bay from The Lookout, high up above the Discovery Centre in Gros Morne National Park.

Just back and resettled after the fabulous whirlwind that is always the Writers at Woody Point literary festival.

Before sunset in neighbouring Trout River.

Before sunset in neighbouring Trout River.

Nestled on the shores of Bonne Bay, within Gros Morne National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less — Woody Point is a charming village 360 days of the year. But for five days, every August, it turns into an absolute fulcrum for writers, readers, and musicians from across the country.

Photo credit: Angela Antle

Photo credit: Angela Antle

I’ve been twice-blessed with an invitation to read at WaWP, and this year I shared the bill with a roster that included Miriam Toews, Steven Galloway, Lawrence Hill, Elizabeth Hay, Bruce Cockburn, and John K. Samson — plus my own husband, the poet George Murray (!!) Most nerve-inducing for fan-girl me: I got to share the stage with Margaret Atwood. (Pictured here: the opening act.)

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Photo taken by the poet himself.

Events are hosted by Canada’s First Lady of Books, Shelagh Rogers, CBC’s Angela Antle, and this year, special guest Ron MacLean stepped up to the podium  to give an all-star intro to Toews and Murray. The Hockey Night in Canada host was so sold on poetry that he bought the merch — here he is later that night, wearing one of Murray’s DIVERSION t-shirts.

Photo credit: Tom Cochrane

Photo credit: Tom Cochrane

Taking a break from the Saturday night party with Montrealer Shane Murphy and his band, official event photographer Tom Cochrane strolled down the road from the Legion to snag this photo of the northern lights (so dazzling that you might not notice the Perseids were also putting on a show.)

Which seems like a pretty solid capper to a great week. Unless you’re me, and you get to wake up to this Tweet from Margaret Atwood the next day: IMG_0709

In that case, the northern lights just kinda can’t compete.

Deal News! New Metric Media options The Devil You Know

A few weeks ago I had the best conversation ever with Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan at New Metric Media, and the end result of that convo is this awesome news: New Metric has optioned television and film rights to The Devil You Know. All the details in the press release below, and rest assured that I am beyond thrilled. Go team!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Metric Media Bolsters Drama Slate with The Devil You Know

Toronto (April 17, 2015) – Burgeoning independent production company New Metric Media is thrilled to announce they have secured the worldwide media rights for THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, the critically acclaimed debut novel by Giller Prize longlisted writer Elisabeth de Mariaffi.

For fans of Gone Girl and Broadchurch, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is a riveting thriller set in the early 90’s about a rookie reporter assigned to the Paul Bernardo investigation, whose memories and personal research into the murder of her childhood best friend bring danger right back to her doorstep. From one of Canada’s most exciting new literary voices comes a spine-tingling suspense, with a strong female focus and point of view, about secrets long buried and obsession that cannot be controlled.

New Metric Media is developing the novel as a one-hour continuing drama series, and is currently focusing on bringing on an experienced television writer to adapt, with de Mariaffi serving as consultant.
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW continues New Metric Media’s foray into scripted drama, with McMurray recently announced in development with the CBC, and an upcoming mini-series with another Canadian network to be announced this summer. These go along with a thriving comedy slate, including the production of two series, Letterkenny with Bell Media, and What Would Sal Do? with Superchannel, set to go to camera this summer.

“De Mariaffi delivers the requisite heart-in-mouth moments of pure paranoia, but she balances these thrills with shrewd character studies and the odd nugget of wisdom. Like the words of a mother who explains why women are ravenous readers of true crime stories: It’s not to scare ourselves, ‘it’s so we learn how to get away.’” –New York Times Book Review
“Manages simultaneously to be funny, sweet, hip, and utterly terrifying. Elisabeth de Mariaffi has written a smart, unique thriller.” – Alafair Burke, Author of ALL DAY AND A NIGHT
“The chiseled prose that characterized de Mariaffi’s Giller-longlisted short story collection HOW TO GET ALONG WITH WOMEN is on full display… Mariaffi also nails the callous dehumanization and gallows humor that is a constant of media workplaces.”-The National Post
Elisabeth de Mariaffi is represented by Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency. THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is published by Harper Collins in Canada, Simon & Schuster in the USA, and Titan Books in the UK.

About New Metric Media

New Metric Media is a film, television, and new media production company founded by Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan. New Metric works with top creative talent to produce outstanding film, television, and new media content to entertain the world over. New Metric Media’s past and present projects include the 6x ½ hour comedy series Letterkenny, based on the digital series Letterkenny Problems, for CraveTV/Comedy Network, the 8 x ½ hour comedy series What Would Sal Do? For Superchannel, and the feature film Cas & Dylan, directed by Jason Priestley and starring Academy Award®-winner Richard Dreyfuss and Golden Globe®-nominee Tatiana Maslany. For more information visit http://www.newmetricmedia.com

Update: Taking Further Action in Memory of Cindy Gladue

Updated daily.

Hi everyone, I’ve had so much feedback this week on my last post with regard to the verdict in the case of Cindy Gladue’s death, and the love and commitment you are all showing is amazing. It makes me so hopeful. You are a force! I wanted to post a few updates, for those of you that are looking to continue your fight against this verdict, and your support for Cindy Gladue and her family.

April 2nd is a Day of Action. Peaceful demonstrations will be in nineteen cities, in every time zone across the country. Please consider attending the rallies in these cities:

BC:
Find information about the Victoria demonstration here.
Find information about the Vancouver demonstration here.

ALBERTA:
Find information about the Edmonton demonstration here. If you are able to help make signs or support in any other way, I know that organizers would love to hear from you! This page also lists some valuable information about other demos in solidarity, and provides templates to make letter-writing to Crown Prosecutor Godfrey and Justice Minister Denis much easier.
Find information about the Calgary demonstration here. Solidarity from Treaty 7/Blackfoot Confederacy.
Find information about the Lethbridge demonstration here. Solidarity from Treaty 7/ Blackfoot Territory.
Find information about the St. Paul demonstration here.
Find information about the Lac La Biche demonstration here.
NEW! Find information about the Red Deer demonstration here.
NEW! Find information about the Grande Prairie demonstration here.

SASKATCHEWAN:
Find information about the Saskatoon demonstration here. Location TBD.
Find information about the Regina demonstration here.

MANITOBA:
Find information about the Winnipeg demonstration here.

ONTARIO:
Find information about the Ottawa demonstration here. Taking place at the Human Rights Memorial.
Find information about the Toronto demonstration information here.
Find information about the Kenora demonstration here.
Find information about the Peterborough demonstration here.
NEW! Find information about the Sudbury demonstration here.
NEW! Find information about the Sarnia demonstration here.
NEW! Find information about the Sault Saint Marie demonstration here.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR:
Find information about the St. John’s demonstration here.

NUNAVUT:
NEW! Find information about the Iqaluit demonstration here.

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES:
NEW! Yellowknife demonstration: 11am – Meet on Frame Lake Ice right by the flags. March to follow.

YUKON TERRITORY:
NEW! Find information about the Whitehorse demonstration here.

Please remember that all demonstrations are peaceful events. No alcohol or drugs, please.

(Have I missed your event? Please let me know and I will add to this list!)

No one likes to feel alone when organizing these things, so please don’t hesitate to get involved in whatever way you can. Even just showing up and lighting a candle is really valuable. Your human presence is golden.

Many of you are writing to me, asking about a petition. There is a petition available at change.org. 

Years of activism have taught me that a letter is worth a thousand signatures. Really! Corporations look at every letter as representative of the opinion of one thousand consumers who felt too powerless to write. Signing the petition is a great start, but remember to show the Canadian government that Canadian women are not powerless. Our voices matter. Please write to the addresses listed in my last post and respectfully urge Crown Prosecutor Godfrey and Justice Minister Denis to initiate and support an appeal in the acquittal of Bradley Barton. NEW! Please also copy your letters to Alberta Premier Jim Prentice:

Office of the Premier
Room 307, Legislature Building
10800-97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
T5K 2B6
Email: premier@gov.ab.ca

Are you organizing a solidarity event in your own city? Please let me know, and I will post it here as well. Poster templates are available to share. Please get in touch if you’d like that information as well!

In case you missed it, a really excellent article in the Globe and Mail by Sarah Hunt and Naomi Sayers. And here, the Edmonton Journal reports some disturbing new information that has come to light.

Lastly, a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to think about Cindy Gladue, write a letter, share a post, or organize a memorial rally. Take a look! Our call for an appeal is getting the national attention it deserves — here, in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. Keep on.

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Taking Action

***Please be aware that this post discusses a recent violent crime. Details may be upsetting. images

As a woman in this country, sometimes I think the real question is: When do we start rioting? Earlier this week Ontario resident Bradley Barton was acquitted in the murder of Cindy Gladue, an Aboriginal sex worker. Gladue died four years ago, in a hotel bathtub in Edmonton. Barton is the one who called it in. He told 911 operators that he’d found an unknown woman dead in his hotel bathroom, but CCTV later revealed that Barton and Gladue had spent time together over the previous two evenings. In court, Barton pleaded that her death was accidental, a result of rough sex. Gladue bled to death, caused by an eleven-centimetre stab wound along the right side of her vagina. Acting chief medical examiner Graeme Dowling testified that considerable force would have been needed to cause the wound.

No one consents to that level of violence. Gladue, in fact, was not in form to consciously consent to anything — toxicology reports showed her blood alcohol level was four times the legal driving limit. The almost all-male, all-white jury took only a day and a half to come to their decision.

I hear news like this and get despondent. Cindy Gladue also had a life. She also had a story.

When asked point blank about the possibility of launching a public inquiry into the crisis of missing and murdered aboriginal women, Prime Minister Harper recently said “it isn’t high on our radar, to be honest.” This crisis is high on my radar: that’s why I’m asking you to add your voice to the growing demand for an appeal to this verdict.

You can help. Now is a moment where we can stand together and take action. Please help us urge the Crown to initiate an appeal. Crown Prosecutor Carole Godfrey has only 26 days left to initiate an appeal for a retrial. My understanding is that the appeal will have to be approved by Solicitor General Jonathan Denis. Please write to them both.

To Crown Prosecutor Carole Godfrey:  Please respectfully request that she initiate an appeal to retry Bradley Barton for the original charges of second-degree murder. The grounds for appeal include the gross miscarriage of justice; bias on a jury with few or no women and no people of colour. Express your moral outrage that Bradley Barton is free to go, after he left Cindy Gladue to bleed to death in a hotel bathtub.

Crown Prosecutor Carole Godfrey
6th Floor, J.E. Brownlee Building
10365 – 97th Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 3W7
Telephone: 780-422-1111
Fax: 780-422-9756
E-mail: edmontonprosecutions@gov.ab.ca

Write to Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis. Express your moral outrage, grave concern for public safety and the miscarriage of justice for Cindy Gladue. Tell him your letter is a vote of non-confidence from us, Gladue’s fellow citizens, in the verdict of not guilty for Bradley Barton, the man who caused her violent death.

Honourable Jonathan Denis QC MLA
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
3rd floor, Bowker Building, 9833 – 109 Street.
Edmonton, Alberta, T5K 2E8,
ministryofjustice@gov.ab.ca
Phone: 780-427-2339
Fax: 780-422-6621

Twitter: @AlbertaJSG

Letters written on paper are more meaningful than emails. Write your letter and send it both ways, by post and by email. Media: Send your letters (or write new ones) to the editors of the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Sun, the Calgary Herald, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail. We can fight this verdict, and make our voices heard. No more missing women. No more missing girls. 

Home again, home again.

I got back Friday night from a whirlwind eleven days of media, bookstores, readings, and speaking engagements. Ontario, you sure know how to show a girl a good time! Highlights include this chat with Marci Ien on Canada AM; reading and conversation at Words Worth Books and The Bookshelf, two of my favourite Ontario indie booksellers; Toronto reading series Pivot at the Press Club and Rowers Pub Reading Series; a house reading in Hamilton at LitLive; a conversation with the fabulous Gill Deacon at CBC Here and Now; and my first book club visit with The Devil You Know — with Port Dover’s Red Hot Bookies!

As any parent knows, you can go away any time you like…. but you can never leave. I got home and hit the ground running here, driving my teenaged daughter to social engagements and my son to babysitting gigs. I’m lucky to have a family that is so supportive — and who kept the house so clean!

I spent my last night away speaking to a packed house at a fundraiser for Project Bookmark Canada — one of my favourite literary organizations, Bookmark is run by my friend, the writer Miranda Hill. We had a long conversation about The Devil You Know and then the audience Q&A moved to wider issues about women’s safety, fear, and sexual violence. Toward the end of the evening, I was asked how I think we can best move forward — especially after last fall’s high profile revelations about celebrity sexual violence (I’m talking about Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby here) and campus sexual assault and harassment (at University of Virginia and Dalhousie University in Halifax, among others), as well as assault and coercion in the arts community (a great conversation was sparked by Emma Healey’s essay here in The Hairpin.) I’m not including all the links on purpose, because part of the issue is burnout. How do we take this information in, and move forward?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m a policy feminist, though — I think the answer lies in good legislation and specific policy changes. We need good laws that make it easier to help victims and easier to stop assault before it happens. Three days later, it’s International Women’s Day, and Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Provincial Government has launched a fabulous new 3-year plan to curb sexual violence. The 35-page action plan is funded to the tune of 41-million dollars and places the focus on helping victims, raising awareness, and encouraging bystanders to intervene. It also comes with an advertising blitz — starting with this video, tagged #WhoWillYouHelp. Take a minute to give it a watch — because if you’re not helping her, you’re helping him.

Thanks, Kathleen Wynne! And Happy International Women’s Day, everyone.

Interested in booking me as a speaker for your group? Send me a note here.