Human Rights

Showing 1-8 of 302 books
Sort by:
View Mode:
Murder on the Inside

Murder on the Inside

The True Story of the Deadly 1971 Riot at Kingston Penitentiary
edition:Paperback
More Info
Excerpt

A few months into researching the story I found myself driving to Kingston, Ontario, the picturesque town on the shores of Lake Ontario where Canada’s most famous prison opened in 1835. The original facility consisted of a single cellblock containing one hundred-and-fifty-four cells. Designed to hold five hundred inmates, its population grew every year as more and more desperate men found themselves locked away inside its walls.

I was heading into the ‘belly of the beast,’ having snagged a hard to find ticket for the Kingston Penitentiary Tour. Since the penitentiary closed its doors in 2013, thousands have flocked to the notorious prison to finally get a look inside. But I wasn’t just a curious tourist; I was a writer on a mission to find the true story behind the events of April 1971. I knew Kingston was the place to begin my research, after all it was the birthplace of the Correctional Service of Canada, and Kingston Pen was one of the city’s defining institutions. But, by the time I drove back to Toronto twenty-four hours later, I was only certain of one thing: the ghosts of the 1971 Kingston Penitentiary riot were not going to be easily awoken.

Although the riot had occurred decades earlier, I soon discovered this was an event that few were willing to revisit. Correctional Services of Canada (CSC) that controls all federal penitentiaries was quick to ensnare me in red tape. Calls and emails would go unanswered for weeks. Every request led to more forms and more delays. The Canadian Penitentiary Museum, which is conveniently housed in the former Warden’s office across the street from Kingston Pen, informed me that they had little information about the riot. The Kingston Police also had no records dating back to 1971.

Multiple trips to the Ontario archives required more paperwork, Freedom of Information requests, and further appeals. When documents were finally received they would often be heavily redacted. A trip to Queens University archives to obtain historical photos from the Kingston Whig Standard led to even more frustration when it was discovered that someone had removed all of the photo negatives related to the four-day riot. But with each disappointment or closed door, I remained determined to exhume this story from behind prison walls.

Eventually, I was put in touch with a group of retired correctional officers. When I contacted the organizer of the group she was more than willing to offer assistance in trying to find any officers who had worked at Kingston pen during the riot, but she cautioned me that they might not want to talk. Once again I was up against a well-entrenched code. Prison guards for the most part, like police officers live behind a “blue wall” of silence.

A carefully worded email was distributed to over one hundred retirees, but my inbox remained empty. Then, a few weeks later I received one, short cryptic note; “I was there, but I don’t know how much I can tell you.” Eventually a few more emails followed. Soon, I was headed back to Kingston for several clandestine meetings in shopping malls and coffee shops. security prison during its deadliest siege, when men from all walks of life, convicts, lawyers, newsmen, politicians and prison administrators were thrust together to try to bring about a peaceful resolution to a dire situation. Out of the fray emerged some unlikely heroes who saved hundreds of lives including those of the kidnapped guards, while others sadly turned their rage towards the weakest among them.

But half a century after the Kingston Penitentiary riot when prisoners asked to be heard and demanded to be treated humanely, we have to ask, what have we learned? Our country still struggles with fundamental questions related to incarceration and basic human rights. Cruel injustices continue to happen in our prisons every day.

It is my hope that in re-creating this moment in our penal history, I have offered the reader a glimpse into a world that remains hidden from our view. A peek behind the curtain of a correctional system that is still deeply flawed in its philosophy and practices. Famous Russian philosopher Dostoyevsky once said: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” But how are we to judge, if we are still not allowed to see inside?

close this panel
Exporting Virtue?

Exporting Virtue?

China’s International Human Rights Activism in the Age of Xi Jinping
edition:Hardcover
More Info
Murdering Justice

Murdering Justice

Activists Killed by Police in Canada
edition:Paperback
More Info
Challenge the Strong Wind

Challenge the Strong Wind

Canada and East Timor, 1975–99
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover
More Info
Power Shift

Power Shift

The Longest Revolution
edition:Audiobook
also available: Paperback eBook
More Info
Excerpt

Chapter 1: In the Beginning(s) — the impact of agriculture, industrialization, and religion on the status of women
Chapter 2: Sex — from the pleasure principle to rape
Chapter 3: Religion, Culture, and Custom — the roles they’ve played over time
Chapter 4: Politics and Society — the power and the fury of changing world opinions
Chapter 5: The Economics and Energetics of Tomorrow — the future possibilities for girls and women

From Chapter 1: In the Beginning(s)

So many beginnings. From delicate handprints on a cave wall to goddesses in ancient Mesopotamia; from political tyranny that came in the guise of a message from God to the convoluted journey to emancipation — the story of women is the longest revolution in history. So many times change was in the wind. So many times the finish line blurred. And so many times hope soared. Still, from Toronto to Timbuktu, the promise of equality has eluded half the world’s population. Now there’s a power shift. There’s never been a better time in human history to be a woman. And despite the blowback from misguided politicians, leftover chauvinists, and hypermasculine misogynists, women are closer to gaining equality than ever before. The journey ahead is bound to be epic, and it will affect everything — our wallets, our jobs, our very future.

Why now? How come the power shift didn’t happen during the first wave of the women’s movement (1848–1920), when the suffragettes struggled to get the vote? Or the second wave (1963–80), when women “put all our faith in the pill” and attended consciousness-raising sessions that discussed the oppression of women and demanded change in the status of women? Or even the third wave (1992–2010), which began after the American lawyer and academic Anita Hill was called to testify at the televised confirmation hearing of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, whom she had accused of sexual harassment, thus challenging his fitness for the position? Hill was then excoriated by the all-male Judiciary Committee, who didn’t believe her, and Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court. The fallout became a watershed moment in American politics and a turning point in raising awareness of sexual harassment. But still the long-term status of women was mostly unchanged.

Now with the fourth wave, a movement that began in 2012 when social media took off, there’s a focus on intersectionality, a push for greater empowerment of traditionally marginalized groups — Indigenous people, people of colour; LGBTQ; ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities; people with physical and developmental disabilities; people of differing social classes — and for greater representation in politics and business. Fourth-wave feminists argue that society will be more equitable if policies and practices incorporate the perspectives of all people. While earlier feminists fought to shake off the ties that bound them to subservience, this new wave calls for justice against discrimination, assault, harassment, and it calls for equal pay and individual choices over our own bodies. Words like “cisgender,” “non-binary,” and “polyamorous” reflect the new vocabulary of a changing, more diverse society, and the clarion call for inclusion is being heard around the world.

This wave created hashtag feminism and put abusive powerful men on notice. And by all accounts, this one got liftoff. The symbiotic relationship between social media and individualism is likely driving the bus for change. The internet is all about “instant.” Twitter and Facebook can elevate people and create extreme celebrity and propel movements. Some of these, like #MeToo and #TimesUp, have been amplified by attention from influential entities such as the New York Times and the Hollywood film industry, but others have been simmering over the last decade. As a journalist, I have watched human rights and the rights of women and girls become the focus of conversation, whether in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo or the savannah in Kenya, in the deserts of Afghanistan or the college campuses in North America.

We have always depended on political will to change up the agenda — the stroke of the politician’s pen to install the stop sign or build the shelter or legislate a new law. It often took public will — marches and petitions — to push the politician to make change happen. But in the last few years, I’m seeing what I call personal will as the driving force behind both public and political will. Malala Yousafzai is a good example. She was fifteen years old, living in the Swat Valley in Pakistan; she wanted to go to school to learn to think for herself. But the Taliban, who claim they act in the name of God, forbade education for girls. She defied the cowardly thugs by speaking out publicly on girls’ rights to an education. On October 8, 2012, she climbed onto the school bus. The last words she heard were: “Which one is Malala?” The Taliban gunman shot that child in the head for going to school. But Malala recovered, and then she started a movement. Today everyone knows her. She’s become the world’s daughter, not because a politician in the Swat Valley insisted that the girls go to school; not because there were marches and petitions demanding education for girls. It was personal will that propelled Malala.

The other telling side to this episode is that atrocities like this happen every day. But this time the world grabbed on to the story and didn’t let it go. I believe it was more evidence of liftoff, of the changing status of women; proof that people realize that dismissing half the world’s population is dangerous and expensive and wrong.

The holy grail for the social innovators of the twenty-first century is knowing how campaigns such as #MeToo and the rise in personal power can be sustained. Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, authors of New Power, think they know the formula. They call it the difference between old power and new power. “Old power works like a currency,” they say. “It is held by few. Once gained it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.”

As for new power, as exemplified by the #MeToo movement, it operates “like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.” Their conclusion is that #MeToo gave a sense of power to the participants, and that each individual story was strengthened by the surge of the much larger current.

Today that empowerment is taking on everything from date rape to old lingering mores that cling to the lives of women the way barnacles attach to ships, slowing them down, denying their fair passage. It is also fuelling change — enormous, life-altering change.

close this panel
Orwell in Cuba

Orwell in Cuba

How 1984 Came to Be Published in Castro’s Twilight
edition:Paperback
More Info
A Question of Commitment

A Question of Commitment

The Status of Children in Canada, second edition
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback eBook
More Info
Show editions
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...