Forum - Rosemary Ganley

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2017-05-19, 18:12:04#1

Join Date: 2010-02-05
Location: Peterborough
Posts: 652
Rosemary Ganley

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About three weeks ago, on two successive days, in two locations only blocks from one another, I saw two faces of Peterborough, radically different ones.

The first was with 10 colleagues who volunteer with Amnesty International Group 46. I joined a discussion in the office of MP Maryam Monsef, Minister for the Status of Women

We wanted to ask her about the $100 million new dollars just announced by the federal government in support of reducing gender-based violence.

Young Malala Yusufzai had just been in the House of Commons, becoming an honorary Canadian citizen. The 19-year-old from Pakistan had survived a gunshot wound to the head and now is an advocate for the education of girls. Lest we be complacent, every night across Canada, 3,500 women with their children are in shelters (in Peterborough, it's Crossroads), fleeing domestic violence.

The long- awaited Inquiry into the 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) has begun. The five appointed commissioners, I must add, are a most impressive group: four women and a man, all with indigenous roots.

Monsef told us that the national strategy to reduce gender-based violence would fund a "Centre of Excellence" to collect evidence on our national dilemma. She asked the Amnesty members for suggestions and mentioned the granting program run by Status of Women Canada. A local group might develop a project related to local needs and could be funded.

We went on to brief her about the damage done to indigenous communities when workers from the extractive industries (oil, gas and minerals) arrive in their numbers in a remote site, and either do not have a "social contract" to respect the residents, or do not abide by it. Violence against women happens. Companies, we argued, bear the responsibility for the behaviour of their employees in such interventions.

Naturally, Amnesty International and a federal minister who is concerned about jobs and the economy, do not entirely see eye-to- eye on every issue and every emphasis. But it was an enlightening exchange of ideas and convictions. I walked home absorbed, and full of hope.

Contrast this day with the following one, which left me depleted, demoralized and indignant: my attendance in St. Peter's Cathedral at the installation of the new Roman Catholic bishop of Peterborough.

A panorama of men, a procession of men, an altar full of men in tall white hats. In 2017! Sexist, unaware and patriarchal. Then the Knights of Columbus with swords and plumes.

This event had little to do with the quality of the persons involved. It was the system at show; the structures so unresponsive to modern thinking.

Right after my day discussing violence against women, I had to ponder what immediate good would be done for the world if the Roman church were to make a statement that men and women are equal, just that. And begin to model the value.

Conscious or unconscious, the exclusion of women that persists in my denomination speaks to the world with negative messages. Sometimes the world gasps; more often the young are perplexed and unlikely to commit to the institution as it looks today.

We feminists of faith hang on by our fingernails, convinced that patriarchy is in its last long throes. Humanity is damaged by it, religions disfigured and more pertinently, good is not done.

We also have a sense of humour, always useful for the long haul. On a Sunday recently dedicated to prayer for "vocations," we prayed for the ordination of women. I saw a cheeky sign: "Ordain women or stop dressing like them!"

When the world's most numerous religion takes up the cause of gender justice, critiquing its own statements and practices, and joining the movement, who knows the benefits that will flow.

For it and for all.

Rosemary Ganley is a writer, teacher and activist. Reach her at