Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: CBC

Celebrations of Womxn on IWD 2018

In Canada, a woman other than Queen Elizabeth II is finally on our currency in a $10 bill that will go into circulation later this year. Not quite certain of why we can’t replace all the men all at once and for as long as women have been excluded, but I guess it’s a first step. Read all about Viola Desmond, the Black Nova Scotian jailed for sitting in the white section of a movie theatre years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, here:

Viola Desmond, Canadian hero

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For decades, I read the Globe and Mail daily, and when I turned to the obit section, I would see that in Canada only white heterosexual men ever died, and I’d always breathe a sigh of relief. If they kept on being the only Canadians succumbing, well then, the rest of us might live long enough to see equality. Hope the Globe sees fit to do exactly what the Times is doing:

At the NY Times, obits have been dominated by white men–as selectors, as subjects. Today, they unveil a new column, Overlooked, to redress the problem. I’ve reprinted the introduction here. Follow the links as the stories are fascinating and well worth your investment of time.

Overlooked

Obituary writing is more about life than death: the last word, a testament to a human contribution.

Yet who gets remembered — and how — inherently involves judgment. To look back at the obituary archives can, therefore, be a stark lesson in how society valued various achievements and achievers.

Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones; even in the last two years, just over one in five of our subjects were female.

Charlotte Brontë wrote “Jane Eyre”; Emily Warren Roebling oversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband fell ill; Madhubala transfixed Bollywood; Ida B. Wells campaigned against lynching. Yet all of their deaths went unremarked in our pages, until now.

Below you’ll find obituaries for these and others who left indelible marks but were nonetheless overlooked. We’ll be adding to this collection each week, as Overlooked becomes a regular feature in the obituaries section, and expanding our lens beyond women.

You can use this form to nominate candidates for future “Overlooked” obits. Read an essay from our obituaries editor about how he approaches subjects and learn more about how the project came to be.”

CBC Guide to Writing Contests for Canadians (some international)

We’re lucky when we get a more or less up-to-date list of what’s happening on the contest scene. Here we are for fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry:

CBC Guide to Writing Contests

Geeking out on trees. So sexy.

“I came to that realization, first, through my studies of birds and my work with students — teaching them bird sounds. As part of that, we tried to open our ears to the whole acoustic environment, and after several years of doing that, it became very clear to me that trees around me had their own distinct voices and all sorts of stories were tied up in those voices.” -David George Haskell

The Songs of Trees

The 2017 CBC Short Story Prize longlist

I’m thrilled to say that I join 27 talented writers on the CBC Short Story Prize longlist! Woo hoo! Special kudos to Alix Hawley who has two longlisted entries this year! Congrats, everyone, and thanks to the judges.

CBC Short Story Prize Longlist 2017

Smiley, my 2014 winning story

Interview with CBC about Smiley

Canada is Raping You

#Ghomeshi ##gomeshi #ibelievelucy #IStandWithLucy #BillCosby #hairextensions #truthmatters #rapeculture #cndjustice #sexualassault #dowomenlie #canadaisrapingyou #rapeisrape #womensrights #listentosurvivors

The complicity of the Canadian state in rape is a prelude to assault.

We have debunked the myth that the blame for sexual assault lies with the victimized.* Verdict after case not tried after case not reported assures us the fault doesn’t lie with the offender. According to Stats Can, only 3 out of 1000 sexual assaults in this country end in conviction.

Folks, there is only one other place to land fault: With the government of Canada, which is failing to protect you, and in failing to protect you, creating the misogynistic atmosphere that virtually assures your victimhood.

Here is part of your Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which indicts the government for all of us to read:

Section 7: right to life, liberty, and security of the person.

Section 12: right not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment.

Section 15: equal treatment before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.

Canada is courting rapists, and their statistical shout could scarcely be louder: Rapists, please, go for it.

Once, residential schools were legal. Once, Japanese internment was legal. Outside of our country, apartheid, the holocaust and slavery were legal.

Now, in Canada, rape is surely the next thing to legal. Rape is used as a tool of power and control to maintain the status quo and it establishes a dominance our legal system entrenches.

If you were a Canadian rapist, and you knew that you could rape with impunity, would you be likely to stop?

At least 1 out of 4 Canadian women is raped. Imagine 4 women in your life. Imagine 8 women. Imagine 16 women. Of those 16 women, 4 at least will have been raped. All of them will have experienced the preludes to assault, including the sure knowledge that if they are next, they will be unprotected by the law.

33 women out of 1000 raped women come forward. Imagine if only 33 out of 1000 break and enter victims called police. We would know something besides our front window was broken.

6 out of 1000 sexual assaults go to court. That’s how many victims Canada finds credible, and most of those complainants will be undermined—by introducing irrelevancies that don’t pertain to the assault.

Furthermore, only 2-8% of women lie about rapes, which is less than the percentage of people who lie about robberies, car accidents and assaults. Yet the outcomes to the different crimes are radically different.

Does anyone—even within the law profession–really imagine that the complainants in the Jian Ghomeshi case had equal treatment under the law, and equal protection and benefit of our laws without discrimination? Or do our Charter protections only come into play if you’re charged with a crime? Do women’s equality rights end when an abuser puts his or her hand on her? Do they end later when she reports to police? Or does she retain them until she is “whacked” in court?

I cherish our Charter.

As one of the litigants in Canada’s same-sex marriage case, I sat in Beverly McLaughlin’s courtroom in Ottawa as the court debated the reference questions from Parliament about changing our constitution to include queers in 2005. What living Canadian would I most like to have dinner with? Beverly McLaughin.

Our Charter is a living tree. It is meant to branch and change over time. I have watched it grow, quite literally under my fingertips. For a long time after the Charter’s advent in 1985, we had a program called Court Challenges, which provided funding to lawyers to challenge the constitution. The Harper government got rid of it and just this week the Libs announced they’re bringing it back.

Lately people, especially lawyers and pundits, seem stuck in the idea that we can’t change how sexual assault cases are tried. I find this notion bizarre and ridiculous.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

Neil MacDonald in an article for the CBC (linked below) maintains that I mock due process. And, in fact, he’s only half wrong: I regard it warily. If it is used as a means to justice, I admire it. If it is used to psychologically batter (almost always female) complainants, I do not admire it.

One is called to wonder why we value rapists’ freedom so very much that 2999 victims out of 3000 don’t have the reassurance that their rapists will be jailed for assault. Is it really better to let 2999 guilty offenders off the hook in order that one innocent one doesn’t rot in jail? Are abusers 2999 times more important than their victims?

Because that’s what we’ve been saying with how we utilize due process in sexual assault cases.

Leah McLaren has written in the Globe and Mail about the UK system of trying sexual assaults. It has changed there, and it can change here:

“The British court has significantly changed the way it deals with sexual-abuse trials. Most complainants are now interviewed and videotaped by police at home and not required to retell their story live in court. Complainants are then cross-examined via video link in a separate room from the defendant to avoid potential intimidation.

Defence counsel are required to make a special motion in advance if they want to bring up the complainant’s sexual history or conduct unconnected to the alleged incident. They must also, in most cases, submit their questions for cross-examination in advance, to be approved by a judge before trial. Neither are defendants given a choice to be tried by judge or jury. Virtually all serious crimes are tried by jury in Britain.

In the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal and Operation Yewtree, it simply isn’t possible for defence lawyers in Britain to ambush and “whack” complainants in sexual-assault cases the way they once did (and the way, as some say, they are still perfectly entitled to in Canada). In Canada, by contrast, we still have a system that continues to fail the very victims of sexual assault it was designed to protect.”

We know the answer for why Canada has organized itself to dissuade victims from reporting their assaults. It’s because of systemic misogyny. Courts and the law have been formed and shaped by (elderly white) men to perform for (elderly white) men. At each step along a woman’s post-rape path, the system must step on her back and she must learn just how unimportant and impeachable she is as a citizen. Because if women didn’t stay down, misogyny would crumble.

Guess who will stop Canada from treating women like this, if you don’t? You know the answer: No one.

Here’s a radical idea:

Survivors who have been decimated in Canada’s courts, whether in the Ghomeshi case or in other sexual assault cases, might band together, preferably in several provinces at once, find a lawyer interested in constitutional law and sue the Federal government for abridging their Charter rights.

Readers will want to tell me, I know, how my analysis is skewed and this can’t possibly be done, given Canada’s current legal structure, but please save your breath.

Don’t tell me how it can’t be done, tell me how it can be.

And then show me.

 

*I use the word victim to refer to victims and survivors and complainants. I use the word men to also stand in for other genders. I use the word women to also stand in for other genders. I use the terms rape and sexual assault interchangeably despite the fact that “rape” is not legal terminology in Canada.

Court Challenges:

Relevant Dates:

  • 1978: First court challenges program for language rights.
  • 1985: Program expanded to cover Charter equality rights.
  • 1989: Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons carried out a study, hearing from 62 witnesses. It concluded unanimously that there were “not merely sufficient, but compelling reasons” for continuing the Program
  • 1992: The program was cancelled by the Conservative government.
  • 1994: Under a new Liberal government the CCP was reinstated under the Department of Canadian Heritage (it is later made into an independent non-profit corporation)
  • September 2006: Program abolished by the Harper government.
  • May, 15 2007: Parliament’s Official Languages committee stops functioning after the Conservative chair refuses to hear witnesses on the government’s decision to axe the CCP.
  • June 2008: The Harper government restores funding for the linguistic rights part of the former CCP, now operating under the name the Language Rights Support Program.

Role or Position

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) provided funds to support test cases of national significance. Specifically, court cases that clarified the constitutional rights of official language minorities and/or those pertaining to equality rights of Canadians.

Implications and Consequences

  • Equality: Access to justice in equality rights cases is severely limited and is available mostly to those with the financial capacity to pursue them.
  • Equality: Canada’s global reputation of being a leader in human rights is greatly diminished by the elimination of a unique program admired around the world.
  • Democracy: Discriminatory laws and practices remain untouched and unchallenged for much longer.
  • Equality: Programs to provide protection from government discrimination such as LEAF for women, DAWN, for women with disabilities, Egale for gays, lesbians, bisexual and trans-identified people are limited in their ability to protect individuals as effectively.
  • Equality: The cancellation of the CCP diminished the disability community’s access to justice.

Court Challenges Program

Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Canadian Rape Stats

Neil Macdonald for CBC

Leah McLaren for the Globe and Mail

Jane Eaton Hamilton The Preludes to Assaults

 

The Adequate Writer: The non-advice of how I write

IMG_8439

 sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

How I write?  (Do not what I do unless it’s fruitful for you.  This is non-advice gleaned over years of living with my idiosyncratic brain, and will not apply to everyone.)

I start with set but limited intentions.  A story, I say to self, 3000 words, go.  An essay, I say to self, longread, go.

I write scattershot.  I slam a metaphorical hammer into a metaphorical mirror-brain for all those pretty glittering silvers, that  debris-field.  I’ve got 26 letters: slurpy, corkscrewed, percussive, hot-bladed, shivery.  My job is to shape “bs” and “q”s and “es” and “rrrrrs” into sensical passages.  Get letters to tinkle out, fall into nothing sharp at first, messes of lines like snortable black coke, every edge ruffled and bleeding into the next.  Use them to compose some uneven, sloppy sentences and paragraphs while my eyes pretty much roll back in my head waiting to see if there’s a topic there, any topic there, a sentence, a phrase with energy, a sliver of glass that could cut someone, cut me, something to begin with.  If I sit in one place long enough–an hour, two hours–it’ll arrive.

I see my brain as a bullet shooter, inexhaustible.  Something that keeps language recycling, always good for a new burst.  It just needs the cue, and the cue seems to be that one good phrase or sentence.

Like Hemingway said in answer to what is the hardest thing about writing: Getting the words right.

I get rid of the pre-writing, the casting about, the baloney.  Those couple of hours’ work.  Snap.  Gone.  New writers think they need to recycle these.  I might be able to use this in a poem, they say.  Or writing teachers tell them to.  Thinking that way makes you small and hoarding, in my opinion, where writing needs to be expansive to make itself known.  What I know after many years of doing this is that, barring my incapacity, there are always new words; if I accessed them to write one piece, they’ll be there for the next.  So I toss those bad paragraphs out.

At this point, I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.  Really.  Story, 1500 words, has to be done today.  I’d kinda like to write about weaver birds and the plight of songbirds in the Mediterranean.  So this was the line I kept:  My mama a woolly mammoth, hairy-legged, 100 feet tall and broad as a shack.  What I had there I liked.  I knew my character is a kid and that her mom was scary, so that gave me context.  I could even see that woman’s legs.

So I said, Surprise me, little line.  Take me along, little line.  Tell me where you wanna go. After that, it was like grabbing someone’s hand.  Where to?

More pre-writing and as I went, I tossed, I honed, I worked hard with each sentence and paragraph–is this one pulling its weight here?  Any extra words?  I ask all those questions writing teachers are forever telling you not to ask, all the editorial questions:  am I repeating words other than for affect, what motifs am I running, here, does this make sense, what does it sound like, feel like, look like, taste like around the protagonist?  That editing that’s supposed to come second draft, third draft, fourth, I do it as I go, rewrite sometimes 7 times, sometimes 20 times.  Over and over till it sounds ok and suggests the next thing.  I think that’s how I learn the story.  I think getting the words right drags me forward to where the story is heading.

When I was writing my short story “Smiley” I was thinking, Why the hell is that character collecting bird nests?

I trust my noggin.  I really trust my noggin, so I just try to get out of its way.

And also I was thinking, because that particular story felt so transgressive and dangerous to me, You can’t write that.  Oh, for god’s sake, you really can’t write that.  When I found out what that kid was going to do with that nest he found, I was as shocked as anyone else.

Also, I do a lot of chasing down obscure research questions like What is an owl’s favourite tree to perch in, go.  I could not write my stories without google because the anwers I get to the questions I ask shape where that story goes, change the plot, define what the story will become.

It is chaotic and messy, my head, and in it, not a thing is linear.  It’s looping and tangential and writes itself in curves.  The best writing advice is probably, always, Work with what you’ve got. 

I support you, women of Canada, women who are surviving him

  Red1

a painting of mine from Feb 2014, Paris

There are no cherry blossoms

Leaves flee from trees: handkerchiefs of blood

submerging in puddles

Quick links to some of my work:

Smiley, short fiction, CBC Canada Writes, 2014

Bird Nights, short fiction, Numéro Cinq, 2012; Siécle 21 (Paris), 2014

CBC awards

Screen shot 2014-05-13 at 2.56.49 AM

With the excellent Shelagh Plunkett, CBC non-fiction winner, 2007, in Montreal.

Mother’s Day

For those of us without mothers, for the mothers who no longer have children, loss presses against us: Mother’s Day.  It opens our hearts to absence.  I go to a friend’s garden and carry home armfuls of lilacs and remember the lilac shrub just beyond my childhood back porch where my mother and I gathered scent, but while I hammer the stems so they’ll draw more water, the sucked-out place inside me quivers.

The year my mother died, I wrote a story about another mother and daughter, ‘The Lost Boy,”  which won my first CBC Literary Award.   It was about my auntie’s childhood in the internment camps, and her fraught relationship with her mother, but it was also about my mother and how much in love with her I was after she died, and how this love threw me back into my childhood when I loved her simply and uncritically, when she swirled over my life as gorgeously as a van Gogh sky.

Here is a poem I wrote to my mama during NaPoMo:

 

Poem to Something Inanimate

Jane Eaton Hamilton

 

Even though she was my mother

and I begged her to get up

she did not climb from the casket

 

Let’s get the fuck outa here, I whispered

They don’t need to know.

Let’s hit the rails. Blow this pop-stand.

 

Georgia, I said, Tennessee, Colorado, California

Or hell—l’ve got the dough you left me

Let’s blow it on Paris

 

Like she hadn’t squeaked across the floor in nursing shoes

rubbed life into new kittens

helped me hammer holes into canning jars

 

Like she hadn’t pulled foals into soft midnight light

like she hadn’t kissed me up and down my face

till I squirmed

 

 

 

 

image

On North by Northwest, CBC Radio One, host Sheryl MacKay.  Photo: Sheryl MacKay.

CBC North by Northwest

The March 30 2014 podcast at North by Northwest contains a small clip of me reading from “Smiley.”  Host Sheryl MacKay.

North by Northwest

Interview with Open Book Toronto

Here is an interview I did with Open Book Toronto about my CBC Canada Writes winning story “Smiley.”

Open Book Toronto interview

Good news!

I am deliciously happy.

CBC short fiction prize

I’m delighted to announce…

…that my story “Smiley” has been longlisted for the CBC Literary Awards in fiction.

CBC

 

Mavis Gallant–the journals

Once I was at Banff Writing Studios at the Banff Centre, and Mavis Gallant was a visiting author.  Speaking to one young author she said, “I’m Mavis Gallant,” and he answered, “How lucky for you.”  Now how lucky for us–her journals are to be published.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/gallants-private-journals-to-be-published-in-canada-us/article4375337/

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