Category Archives: Discrimination

The Revolution Starts at Home: The Vancouver launch |

LISTEN HERE: The Revolution Starts at Home: The Vancouver launch |

Hugh and I joined a packed room at the Rhizome Cafe on July 21st for the Vancouver Launch of the Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Partner Violence in Activist Communities.

Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha shared readings from the book and there was a discussion afterwards about the state of safety and justice within Vancouver’s activist community (this part of the evening was not recorded).  The evening was opened by Cynthia Dewi Oka reading her poem, Amulet.  Afterwards, Hugh, me, Ching-in and Leah sat down and chatted about the idea of building real restorative justice as an alternative to the legal system, the prison industrial complex and the police.

We know these systems are oppressive and violent against entire communities, particularly racialized communities and working class/poor communities.   But the question is what is the alternative we would envision and how do we enact real justice for victims?  They make reference to INCITE’s work around restorative justice, which is included in the book and you can also check out their work online, too.

It’s an ongoing conversation, and one without any easy answers. When I think about the question for myself, I think about how hard it is in progressive communities to come to unity about what we envision as a positive and life affirming alternative to the deadly system that surrounds us.  But it’s easy to see the disease, less easy to agree on the cure.

I personally think that a full transformation led by the most oppressed and exploited is what we need, towards a society organized by need and imagination rather than greed and profit. But that’s pretty broad.  The nitty gritty questions of justice are more difficult to envision an answer to, and that’s where the Revolution Starts at home bravely treads.  As Leah says, ‘people still murder and rape’, so what do we do with that?  How do we centre victim safety while exploring transformative/restorative justice?

Music by Tracy Chapman, Mecca Normal, and Ndidi Onukwulu.  I’ve been playing “I Walk Alone” around the house a lot since we aired this show!


Dying for a ride

Lately I’ve been thinking about public transit.   It’s a buzzing sort of worry that comes to me when I am doing something mindless.  Actually, I’ve been trying NOT to think about public transit. It gives me no small amount of anxiety to do so.  But much as I try to distract myself, I have to say that  I am really worried about the people that ride the buses and trains here in Vancouver.

Two news items have been floating around in my mind over the last couple weeks.  One, the shooting of  Charles Hill in San Francisco by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officers.  Charles Hill is the fifth man killed by BART police since 1992, and the first white man to be killed by them.   He was homeless and drunk, and shot within 60 seconds of police arriving on scene.

Just days before, MUNI police shot a 19 year old Black man when he fled during a routine fare check.   These are  sad, infuriating, and increasingly familiar stories.

And the other news item is closer to home.  Turnstiles in Skytrain stations. Lauded by many pundits as a blow against ‘free loaders’ in the transit system, the turnstiles don’t make any sort of fiscal sense.  They will cost 170 million dollars to build.  15 million dollars a year to operate.  ‘Fare evasion’ costs between 5 – 9 million dollars per year (a number that many say is overblown).

So the benefit of the turnstiles isn’t financial.  They will cost far more than they save.  The turnstiles are a coup for people who think transit should be privatized.  They are a triumph for people who think poor people should be ashamed and kept out of site.

Mark my words.  The Vancouver transit police (with their guns) won’t go away.  We’ll have both the police and the turnstiles.  No question in my mind.

Turnstiles and guns.  Blood and money.  Life and death.  People need to ride the bus to get where they need to go.   To get to the doctors.  To get to their job.  To get to the welfare office.  To see their kids.  Sometimes I feel like this city is becoming more cruel every day.

What’s the health impact of all this?  In some ways we could measure it (maybe a survey of the amount of walking poor people have to do before and after the turnstiles?  The amount of doctors appointments missed?  Family not seen?) and in some ways we can’t really measure  it.  How do we measure the feeling of being an outsider in your own city?  Of feeling criminalized for being poor?  The stress of keeping track of every quarter so you can make it to work tomorrow?

And the connection between the two stories?  The police killing someone who can’t pay their fare  is to me a predictable result of criminalizing people for being poor, or Black, or mentally ill.  And that makes me really sick.


Think before you Pink: the politics of breast cancer |

Think before you Pink: the politics of breast cancer |

In this episode of People’s Health Radio, we explore the Politics of Breast Cancer. The main question driving this episode is why environmental and occupational causes of breast cancer are rarely brought up in the mainstream activism around cancer. According to David Christiani “…the most valuable approaches to reducing cancer morbidity and mortality lie in primary prevention – avoiding the introduction of carcinogenic agents into the environment and eliminating exposure to carcinogenic agents that are already there” (New England Journal of Medicine, 2011). But stopping or reducing occupational exposures to carcinogens and eliminating toxins from the air, water and products around us is fundamentally a social justice issue. Spending money on employee’s safety and making products safer cuts into corporate profits.

We start off with an interview with Joy, a breast cancer “survivor” (although she finds the term problematic for reasons she discusses). Joy did not have the typical risk factors people associate with breast cancer. She had no family history, exercised regularly and ate well. So why did she get cancer? Joy discusses why she would like to see more of a focus on the environmental causes of breast cancer.

Next we interview Karuna Jaggar, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action ( Breast Cancer Action is a national organization in the United States that calls for the elimination of environmental toxins that cause cancer and accountability for the corporate-driven pink ribbon campaign in their “Think Before You Pink” campaign. Karuna discusses how the pink ribbon is not regulated and criticizes corporate “pink washing” where a company tries to divert attention from their toxic products by branding them with the pink ribbon. Other questions she encourages people to inquire about are how much money actually goes to breast cancer. Overall, we conclude that in order to truly fight the breast cancer epidemic, stronger environmental laws and regulations are urgently needed.

In case you’re interested, here’s an organization with information about everyday products that cause cancer Although individual consumer choice alone is inadequate and is often unfeasible, it’s nice that some researchers and community members are trying to provide us with some evidence-based information about how to protect ourselves.

Music: Keep going, by Invincible and Occupying Army by Vanessa Richards

Nine Month Blues: A look at women’s reproductive rights in Canada |

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: Nine Month Blues: A look at women’s reproductive rights in Canada |

From birth control, to abortion, to access to information and education, what’s happening with sexual health for women in Canada?

We talk to Greg Smith (Executive Director of and Joyce Arthur (Executive Director of the Abortion rights Coalition Of Canada – about the lay of the land for women’s reproductive rights in Canada.  We also include audio from the audio documentary “The Women Are Coming” about the Abortion Caravan to fight for women’s right too access free and legal abortion.

Music by Peggy Seeger, the Gruff, Ani Difranco, the Great Lake Swimmers and Nellie McKay.

The title of this podcast is borrowed from the Peggy Seeger song “9 Month Blues”.

Poverty, criminalization and health |

Poverty, criminalization and health |

We tell the story of the story of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users campaign against ticketing for vending, jaywalking and public urination in the Downtown Eastside. Positive community alternatives to criminalization and the struggle to see them implemented.

Mother’s Liberation: Care-giving under capitalism |

Mother’s Liberation: Examining Care-Giving under Capitalism

In recognition of the anti-imperialist pro-people history of Mother’s Day, People’s Health Radio joins moms in East Van and around the world as we reclaim this day as one of resistance against imperialist war and women’s oppression and exploitation.  PHR examines the health, social, and economic conditions of mothers, providing the unpaid care giving that allows public dollars to be diverted to privatization projects, imperialist occupation, and wars of aggression. 

Mother’s Liberation dreams of how mothers might be liberated from the isolating and at times grueling unpaid work of care giving under capitalism.


  • Valcina Cos, single mom, member of the Breakthrough Mamas
  • Suzanne Baustad, single mom, anti-poverty organizer, and founding member of Grassroots Women
  • Sophia Roberts, a high-school student, reading a Grassroots Women Mother’s Day statement
  • And speeches from the 2011 Mothers on the Move Mother’s Liberation Rally!

Is Capitalism a Disease?


A re-broadcast of our very first show on PHR  – updated and remastered.

We talk to Richard Levins (John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health) , Dennis Raphael (Professor of Health Policy and Management at York University)and Martha Roberts (Midwife, Community Organizer with the Alliance for People’s Health) asking the question:  Is Capitalism a disease?  Are structural inequality, class exploitation, racism and sexism making us sick?

We take the conversation about health beyond health care and look at health from a holistic perspective.  What does it mean to be sick, and to be well?  What does a healthy life look like?

We’ll be adding more resources on this over the next few days… so check back in soon!

Martin Luther King's Campaign for Economic Human Rights