Sunday, 8 March 2020

Part V: Reflections on the Second Wave: A Feminist Journalist Remembers Herself



Neither Feminist Acts nor Inside Broadside bring the story of the women's movement up to date. Both publications were shut down before, or as, the Second Wave was supplanted by the Third. And much later, the Third gave way to the Fourth. These publications were also gone long before gay marriage became legal, and the Government of Canada apologized for the way it had treated gay men and lesbian women in the armed forces, before Canadian women flew fighter jets, captained ships, won Nobels in literature and physics, floated around in the international space station, before the Prime Minister of Canada called himself a feminist, made sure his cabinet was 50% female, and appointed as the second most powerful person in his government Chrystia Freeland, a woman raised in part in a feminist collective in Edmonton.

Yet it is the writers of the Second Wave who may best explain what troubles us still--the awful hinge that ties women of ambition to predatory men. This is where the Fourth Wave, better known as #MeToo, enters the narrative. I've lost track of the number of cases of powerful men (like Cosby, Ghomeshi, Schultz, Ailes, O'Reilly, Epstein, Prince Andrew, Trump, etc. etc.) who have been made to answer the accusations of once ambitious women (both of colour and white skinned privilege) who turned to them to advance their careers and found themselves being raped, groped, or threatened instead. As Brownmiller showed us so long ago, abusers enabled by Patriarchy take particular pleasure in putting women of ability and ambition back in the old place, the subjugation and silent place, by means of verbal and physical assault, followed by non disclosure agreements.

Just as mainstream publications featured the works of the ambitious female journalists who led the Second Wave, the Fourth Wave now gathers momentum from the published stories about talented women, many of them journalists, who decided to take on those predatory men in the public sphere and in the courts. The abused female journalists of Fox News decided to sue the bastards. Others told their stories in public with the help of reporters and major media. These include Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey of the New York Times; Ronan Farrow and the New Yorker; Jesse Brown of CanadaLand, and Kevin Donovan at the Toronto Star. These reporters and publications gave ambitious, but silenced, women, a platform to call out the powerful men who'd used their determination to contribute to the world as the means to lure them in. After the newspapers and magazines ran their stories, the police and prosecutors got involved.

This is why Mr. Weinstein is now sitting in the medical ward of an American prison in New York having been found guilty of rape. More charges await him in California

Maybe sisterhood will make a comeback too.

Part IV: Reflections on the Second Wave: A Feminist Journalist Remembers Herself


The Third Wave took the Second Wave discourse on power and gave it a hard twist. Third Wave activists looked askance at the institutional power that had been gathered by Second Wave feminists as they built shelters, rape crisis centers, abortion clinics, legal aid clinics to serve women suffering in a misogynist world. Third Wave feminists insisted on the handover of this sort of power acquired by "women of white skinned privilege," as many Second Wave feminists came to be called, to women of colour. This notion of "white skinned privilege" struck me as plain bizarre when I first heard the phrase used at a women's conference financed by the Government of Canada. I thought it was a truly weird form of inverse racism, a divisive idea at odds with the feminist ideal of a sisterhood that includes all women regardless of class, race, or religious inclinations. I could not see how applying preference and deference by race would help anyone. Aside from the fact that the whole concept of race has no scientific validity--just appalling social power-- I also could not see how this "white skinned privilege" applied to me. I am Jewish, and for a large part of the last century, Jews were considered a race apart, not white at all.  (As we have learned recently, white supremacists still insist that Jews are a race apart and shall not "replace them".) I didn't feel privileged, I felt as if I'd earned my way.

And yet: I had clearly acquired privilege, like so many of my peers all of whom were "white." The friends I grew up with had acquired professional credentials or gone to graduate schools and carved out careers for themselves with significant hope of achievement and recognition. Yes, we all had stories to tell about the jerks at the office who thought our bodies were theirs to manhandle. Yes, we could regale each other with hard truths about the boss who refused to pay to us what was being paid to a man doing the same job on the grounds that the man was married. As if marital status mattered a damn to the work done. Yes, we all experienced making an argument in a meeting that wasn't heard or acknowledged until a man repeated it-- as if it was his idea. Yes, we had all experienced a sense of encroaching danger when walking by a man on any urban street at night. But I was also one of Maryon Kantaroff's ambitious women, born lucky into a middle class family that educated me, with a mother pleased to see me use my talents, and all women did not have that experience. The magazine that most allowed me to invent myself as a writer, City Woman, aimed its ads at women like us. I was not seen as a woman of colour when I went out in the world, so: I wasn't routinely followed to make sure I wasn't shoplifting as I walked through a supermarket or a clothing store; I wasn't selected for arrest if I participated in a demonstration because of the tilt of my eyes of the nap in my hair; I wasn't stopped and asked to show my driver's license and ownership while driving because of how I looked.

As barriers fell, and we climbed up, my friends and I, getting closer and closer to those who exercised real power, closer and closer to achieving our ambitions, it was easy to forget that we were leaving sisters behind. Nothing better illustrates where our ambitions took us--took me--than what happened when Judy Chicago's Dinner Party came to Toronto.

The Dinner Party is a fascinating visual argument about how women artists' works were ignored by the male art world even as their talents were taken advantage of. It was shown at various galleries across North America in the late 1970s, and Chicago published an art book to go with it. Leading male art critics pissed all over the Dinner Party. The New York Times' critic called it vulgar. But museum goers loved it and turned it into a major gallery money maker. Fifty thousand people went to see it when it came to Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario.

Branching Out reviewed the book. Broadside reviewed the show. Both found considerable fault. In her "scathing" review of the book, entitled "Vaginal Hype," author Cathy Hobart declared she had spent four days visiting Chicago's studio which she accused Chicago of running like a sweatshop. In Broadside, Susan Crean critiqued the show on the grounds that a fee was charged, that the iconography was too obscure and the artists referenced too unknown to mean anything to anyone unless they paid for the guide, and that "nine of the 13 guests on the third side of the triangular table are American and all but Sacajawca and Sojourner Truth are white, middle class artists and social reformers." The point, said Crean, is that "Chicago's politics are not particularly radical. Her visualization of feminism, rhetoric aside, fits right in with the trendy notions of 'liberated' upper class matrons."

City Woman also ran a story on Judy Chicago and The Dinner Party, written by Natalie Veiner Freeman who helped bring the show to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Veiner Freeman definitely fit anyone's idea of "upper class." She was from a wealthy family and was the spouse of Senator Jack Austin, then a member of Pierre Trudeau's cabinet and inner circle. The night before the show opened in Toronto, Veiner Freeman organized a dinner party to celebrate it. It was held in an empty house rented for the occasion with a marquee attached. Judy Chicago was her honoured guest. So was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who arrived in a limo with Sylvia Tyson as his date. Maurice Strong, the founder of PetroCanada among so many other achievements, came too, and read contracts all night. Other guests included Adrienne Clarkson and her partner, author John Ralston Saul, who had worked with Strong at PetroCanada; Margaret Atwood and her partner, author Graeme Gibson; the Editor of City Woman and her then beau; my husband (ordered to keep his mouth zippered as Trudeau knew him all too well from his days on W-5), and me. We all got a private preview of The Dinner Party with Judy Chicago explaining it to us, just us, no line-up, no crowds. As we walked around her three tables, the Prime Minister and Sylvia Tyson went first with Chicago, followed by Adrienne Clarkson, then a national television star who, in twenty years, would be the first woman of colour appointed Governor General, and Margaret Atwood, already Margaret Atwood though The Handmaid's Tale had not yet emerged from that fertile brain. The two of them walked side by side, they'd been friends for years. The rest of us fell in behind, our positions in the line emblematic of the gradations of social power. Back at the house, Veiner Freeman's dinner tables had been set up like those of The Dinner Party. There were a few small plaster sculptures of black jockeys in livery set out at the door and near the tables, the kind seen on front lawns in the deep South, as if to suggest we were in some southern ante-bellum mansion.

I learned something that night-- that feminists and journalists must never get cosy with the powerful. It makes us forget where we've come from, it makes us susceptible to inappropriate demands, it makes us blind even to our own interests.

It was exclusion from this sort of power that made women of colour demand that white middle class feminists step back from the organizations they'd founded, and hand them over. It was exclusion from government grants in favour of immigrant and black women which made the collective that published Broadside hand the magazine over at the end of 1989. As Masters explained at the time:

"The government's supposed commitment to funding 'doubly disadvantaged' groups (Black women, immigrant women, visible minority women--though clearly not lesbian women) is a reflection of a social movement affecting all feminist groups in Canada. The most crucial aspect of feminism in the past few years has been the efforts to incorporate anti- racist perspectives into feminist practice and analysis. White women have been forced to deal with the issues raised, forced to face the fact that it may no longer be the role of White women to frame the debate and direct the struggle. With the growth of global feminism in the past decade, White feminists are no longer the majority if they ever were."

It was not, Masters continued, that women of colour did not share the issues Broadside covered (which she lists as violence against women, pornography, and, oddly, nuclear arms), it was that Broadside's White lesbian collective had a lopsided view of things, given its makeup, even though it had tried to be anti-racist. The collective, she said, had negotiated with the Black Women's Collective to send their own offering, Our Lives, to Broadside's subscribers instead of giving them their money back. Broadside was therefore folding, but not feminism, Masters insisted.

In this Masters was also wrong: Second Wave feminism, in particular its ideal of sisterhood, was folding. And that too had been signaled in major media first.

At the end of 1988, writer Marlene Nourbese Philip, a woman of colour, picketed as racist an international PEN Congress attended by writers from all over the world. Author June Callwood, one of Toronto's leading White feminists, was then president of the Canadian PEN chapter and had organized that event. On her way home after it was over, the sight of Nourbese Philip with her sign made Callwood so mad she told her to fuck off. The story made the Globe and Mail. Callwood quit the paper, where she was "un-fireable," to save it from the problem of her presence. Three years later, Callwood was again pushed to resign from the board of Nellie's, a feminist women's shelter she'd helped found, not long after Prime Minister Mulroney named Callwood to a blue ribbon panel to convince Canadians to vote in favour of the Charlottetown Accord in a national constitutional referendum. NAC, then led by Judy Rebick, a Trotskyite who had worked on behalf of Morgenthaler when he was criminally charged for performing abortions, and then as an NDP activist, was opposed to the Accord. A group of Black women, some also NDP activitsts, moved in on Nellie's, getting themselves appointed to its egalitarian staff and board. At one memorable board meeting one of them called Callwood a racist and out the door she went again. I wrote a long story about the who, what, where, and why, for
 Toronto Life. While it was hard to get the women involved to talk to me ( mainstream press after all) I eventually found that the motive behind Callwood's ejection was that her absence made it easier to take control of Nellie's, attractive due to its institutional power (not to mention $600,000 squirreled away in its bank account through curious means.) For putting this story in print, Toronto Life was picketed, scaring the crap out of the woman running reception. Judy Rebick wrote a letter of complaint to the Editor. Failing to mention that she had known me for twenty-five years, that we had lived in that commune together for some of those years, she referred to my work as the worst example of yellow journalism she'd ever seen in the mainstream press. 

So much for sisterhood.

Part III: Reflections on the Second Wave: A Feminist Journalist Remembers Herself


In Feminist Acts, Tessa Jordan suggests that hundreds of small, Xeroxed feminist newsletters plus a few magazines and journals with tiny circulations, carried Second Wave ideas to Canadian women. Apparently, Canadian feminist scholars refer to these homemade publishing ventures as the Print Project. But again, that is not the whole story, not even the main story. Television may actually have played a more formative Second Wave role in Canada, thanks to Bonnie Kreps.

Kreps, a Danish immigrant to the US, was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Reed College with an MA in English from University of Pittsburgh when she arrived in Toronto in the middle 1960s. Her husband had been appointed an assistant Professor of high energy physics at U of T and they had a young daughter whose care had fallen primarily on Bonnie's shoulders as she was earning her Ph.T. ( otherwise known as Putting Hubby Through). She knew the Problem With No Name from hard personal experience and was a committed radical feminist. She was in close contact with women in New York, especially her sister Anne Koedt, who were reformulating de Beauvoir's ideas, women whose seminal feminist works would be published only a few years later.

Kreps, representing no one but herself, presented a Second Wave brief to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1968. She set out the radical feminist analysis of the damage done to women by socially constructed and discriminatory gender roles, and why there must be a radical change in belief systems, not just laws, if women were ever to get out from under them. In other words, she demonstrated how it is that the personal is political, the core idea of the Second Wave, an idea later reflected in the Commission's report. By 1969, Kreps was working at CTV. She launched what became a distinguished filmmaking career with a special documentary for CTV's flagship public affairs show, W-5, called After the Vote: A Report from Down Under. The show went to air before an audience of millions and introduced many Canadians who did not read Chatelaine to Second Wave ideas-- even to those of Ti- Grace Atkinson who called for female separatism. That show was made five years before Branching Out published its first issue, ten years before Broadside was launched.

My husband, Stephen Dewar, was Krep's colleague at CTV which is how I met her, became her friend, and joined the radical feminist group she co-founded called The New Feminists. Its meetings, its consciousness-raising sessions, allowed me to hash through with older and more experienced women the ideas still burning in my brain from reading de Beauvoir. They shared with the group their lived experience of how gender roles oppress: how raising children fell unequally upon women regardless of how much they earned; how men at the top of institutions thought it reasonable to promote men ahead of women regardless of competence simply because they were men; how rape and other forms of physical brutality were used by men to keep women in fear and in their place; how ignorance of our bodies denied many women sexual pleasure; how Patriarchy amounts to a socially organized and socially sanctioned abuse of power. At first there were only a few women in this group. By the time it fell apart a few years later it had 300 members and many other such groups had formed across the country. In a few short months as a New Feminist I learned that if I didn't set aside the notions drummed into me since childhood concerning motherhood, wife-hood, and femininity, I would live and die without ever having a voice of my own. And I wanted that voice.

To give Jordan and Masters their due, their books made me remember my own feminist history. Until Jordan described Branching Out's organizational issues, I'd forgotten how important it was to Second Wave feminists that our organizations be feminist in their internal operations. A vital insight of the Second Wave-- a corollary of the dictum that the personal is political--is that socially approved abuse of power in all its forms-- legal, economic, social, but especially physical-- is what circumscribes women's lives. Radical feminists argued that the way out of bondage was to be the opposite of the male slave master, to embrace egalitarianism, to operate through consensus and without leaders so as to refrain from imposing new structures of power on the previously voiceless and powerless. The opposite of the feminist was the Queen Bee--a woman who fought her way to the top of an organization only to use her power to suppress her sisters.

Both Jordan and Masters discuss how this discourse on power permeated operations at both Branching Out and Broadside. Though Broadside was incorporated as a for profit entity ( to avoid being "taken over" by hard left groups trying to foment a different kind of revolution), it functioned as a leaderless collective. Masters asserts that not one single vote had to be taken in ten years, because, as she put it, its members knew to step back when someone else knew more. By contrast, Branching Out started as a non profit, consensus-driven feminist collective, but according to Jordan, soon discovered that a rudimentary hierarchy was needed. There had to be an editor to drive the publishing process or deadlines would be missed and the magazine would not get to the newsstands. Editing was also necessary for clarity and readability (though at other feminist journals editing was deemed to be power abuse and therefore verboten). Instead of power-free egalitarianism, Branching Out offered its volunteers colleagial autonomy, similar to the way we worked at Maclean's Magazine at that time. We had a boss, Peter C. Newman, who could fire us if we screwed up, but we dreamed up our own story ideas which were then thrashed out further in editorial meetings. Submitted pieces were circulated to all editors for comment and if there were disagreements they had to be resolved or the piece would not be published. At one editorial meeting when Maclean's still had an outside editorial board, I had a fight with Barbara Frum, then a member, over whether or not I should ask Myrna Kostash to write a piece on rape as a crime of power aimed at the mental as well as physical subjugation of women. Frum insisted rape is an assault like any other: I countered with Brownmiller's argument, that it is the very definition of the abuse of power by men over women, the fear of which keeps women in their place. Maclean's ran Kostash's story.

But as with so many theories about social change, the main product of this insight about power was not freedom from it, but endless disputes in feminist groups over who was acting like a leader when there weren't supposed to be any, who was hogging the limelight, who was actually making decisions while merely pretending to honour consensus. While we recognized how we suffered from the abuse of power, we failed to appreciate that social hierarchy is basic to all primate societies and not easily curtailed. More to the point, we failed to appreciate how consensus could become a vise throttling the ambitions of the women who drove the Second Wave.

Renowned sculptor and fellow New Feminist Maryon Kantaroff explained this to me when I interviewed her in 1977 in Toronto for a story in Weekend Magazine on why the New Feminists folded. ( This piece is referred to in Inside Broadside with some disdain). Kantaroff explained that she had grown tired of moving at the pace of the slowest, but even more tired of being the group's workhorse. "All of us who were the real driving forces were, without exception, very personally ambitious women. Feminism liberated our personal ambitions," she said. "...There came a time when we could say, now, my work. I've got to go ahead." Kantaroff by then had come to believe that to make change, power had to be grasped, it would never be given up voluntarily by those wielding it. That's why she intended to start a political party --The Feminist Party-- that would be "totally elitist, totally elitist...They'll be knocking down the doors to be in this elite group of feminists who are organizing a political structure."

# # #

Part II: Reflections on the Second Wave: A Feminist Journalist Remembers Herself



Betty Friedan's ideas were old hat in Canada by the time The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963. Canadian women had been writing and publishing on legal and cultural means of suppression ever since Doris Anderson became the Editor of Chatelaine in 1958. Doris' managing editor, Jean Wright, refused a chance to excerpt The Feminine Mystique because Chatelaine had already covered everything in it.

Yet Tessa Jordan appears to accept Branching Out's founding Editor Susan McMaster's claim that in 1972, before Branching Out was first published, " there was no feminist periodical in Canada that sought a national audience and had the newsstand appeal of Ms. or Chatelaine." She is right about the newsstand appeal of Chatelaine, but this suggests Ms. and Chatelaine were equivalent, though they were not, while simultaneously implying that Chatelaine was not a feminist magazine. And yet it was. Regardless of its ads and fashion features, under Doris Anderson's editorial direction Chatelaine carried feature after feature, column after column, editorial after editorial, detailing the unfair laws and social restrictions which hedged women (and men) in coffin-like sex roles. Her editorials urged women to get up off their knees and change them. She raised Chatelaine's circulation from about 460,000 to over a million not by shying away from feminism, but by featuring it, and pointing out that thanks to the First Wave, her readers had the right to vote, to make their views known to MPs, to stand for election and get things done.

Without Chatelaine and its wide audience, there would have been no Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1968. When feminist activist Laura Sabia threatened then Prime Minister Lester Pearson that he'd better set that Commission up or she'd have two million women on the front lawn of Parliament Hill protesting, Chatelaine's popularity and seriousness made that threat credible. And without that Royal Commission reporting its 137 recommendations in 1970, (the same year Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch, Millett's Sexual Politics, Anne Koedt's The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex were published) there would have been no National Action Committee on the Status of Women, better known as NAC, funded by Ottawa. NAC hounded politicians on important issues year after year: its arguments about how and why immigrant and racialized women were being left behind ushered in the Third Wave in Canada.

Without that Royal Commission, there also wouldn't have been an Advisory Council set up to advise the Minister of the Status of Women (another product of the Royal Commission). The story of the blow-up over that Council is only touched on in Inside Broadside but it really matters. Doris Anderson was appointed to it and then became its President after she left Maclean-Hunter in a blaze of fury because its board did not appoint her Editor of Maclean's. She then ran but failed to get elected in a federal by-election as a Liberal. By the time she joined the Council in 1980, it had become a tame extension of the Status of Women's Minister's will. Thinking of Doris Anderson as a political hack who would do what he deemed to be politically useful may have been the biggest political mistake ever made by Lloyd Axworthy, then Minister of the Status of Women.

By 1982, a joint committee of the House of Commons was voting on the wording of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the framing document for the about to be repatriated Constitution. Needless to say, the Charter mattered to the future status of Canadian women. It was well known that some leading feminist constitutional lawyers were very concerned about how the Charter's proposed wording would affect women. Yet Axworthy twice cancelled a national conference on the Constitution organized by his own Council. So Doris Anderson resigned. Inside Broadside republishes a report of the eruption that followed written by activist Kay Macpherson. Her piece is interesting, but it is only one woman's view of events, not journalism. It took a mainstream, ad-driven, controlled-circulation women's magazine, City Woman, and its Editor (and my friend) Dawn MacDonald, to help raise a national hue and cry called the Butterfly Campaign to get women's views proper attention on Parliament Hill. In three weeks flat, an ad hoc group including Macpherson, Linda Ryan Nye, and Marilou McPhedran organized an alternative national constitutional conference in Ottawa. The 1300 self-selected and self-financed attendees who came from across the country, met for two long days in premises supplied first by Ottawa Mayor Marion Dewar and Conservative MP Flora MacDonald. They voted on a list of recommendations, including that the Minister of the Status of Women resign. ( He did not. But Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau eventually replaced him with MP Judy Erola.) Attendees lobbied all political parties on what women wanted to see in the Charter. And it was ad-driven City Woman which, several months later, carried a long and careful piece of real journalism about these events and their aftermath, written not by a participant with only her own part of a big story to tell, but by then journalist Anne Collins. Collins interviewed most of the important actors and was able to lay out what happened, why, and what it might mean.

# # #



Part I: Reflections on the Second Wave: A Feminist Journalist Remembers Herself




As conspiracy theories flourished about how and why Jeffrey Epstein met his end in a New York prison, and anticipation built over the Harvey Weinstein rape trial, I dipped into two books presenting worm's eye views of the most important revolution of the last two thousand years-- the rise of radical feminism. Now referred to as the Second Wave, the second feminist revolt (the first focused on the right to vote) helped vault women from voiceless, impecunious, cowering semi-slavery to leadership positions throughout the western world. Anyone trying to craft a narrative of the way the Second Wave affected Canada might find it useful to read Feminist Acts: Branching Out Magazine and the Making of Canadian Feminism by Tess Jordan, and Inside Broadside: A Decade of Feminist Journalism edited by Philinda Masters. But be warned. Much is left out, much is plain wrong. In particular, both purvey the false notion that mainstream journalism stood in the way of the Second Wave. In fact, journalists were the movement's leaders, and mainstream publishers and television networks showed why feminism mattered.


Feminist Acts is a biography of Branching Out which author Tessa Jordan calls "Canada's first national second-wave feminist magazine". It published its preview issue in December 1973 and folded in 1979 when its second full time unpaid editor, Sharon Batt, had to get a job and no one stepped up to take her place. According to Jordan, Branching Out wanted to provide a place for what she calls female culture (stories, poems, art, photographs, essays by women and about women). But contrary to Feminist Acts' subtitle, Branching Out Magazine, with a circulation of 4000, reached very few minds, never mind playing a significant role in "making" Canadian feminism over its seven years of operation in Edmonton. The product of unpaid volunteers and sold on some newsstands across the country, Branching Out offered little that was unavailable in much more widely distributed media.


Inside Broadside reprints some of what this monthly Toronto-based newspaper, published by a lesbian collective, offered its readers between 1979 and 1989. The selected works are organized thematically, each section set up in a short essay by editor Philinda Masters. Though its subtitle claims Broadside published journalism, it is not journalism as I understand it--carefully checked reporting on matters of public interest. Broadside presented something akin to the citizen journalism circulating now on social media-- advocacy, single point of view reports, opinion pieces, and reviews of cultural offerings, all shaped by political beliefs. Broadside prided itself on being outside what it calls mainstream media which its founders viewed as biased in favour of the misogyny of the day. With a circulation of only 2500, it lived off bits of classified ad revenue, subscription income, donations, government grants, the kindness of contributors and volunteers willing to work hard for no remuneration. This is a source of pride to Philinda Masters but it is also an admission that Broadside could not support the digging that real journalism entails even if it had wanted to do it.


Yet that work needed doing. The 1980s were crucial times for Canadian women: we had to fight hard to be properly written into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to be freed from the criminal law on abortion, even as the backlash against Second Wave feminism turned ferocious. And things were worse in the US. The Equal Rights Amendment, outlawing discrimination based on sex, moved so slowly through the ratification process that Viriginia became the 38th and final state necessary to get that job done only last month. Feminists in both Canada and the US were bedeviled by pro-lifers and anti-feminists who insisted women preferred to remain on our knees and should be forced to have children against our will. Even the word feminist (like the word liberal) became a dirty epithet and the vile term feminazi was brandished with pleasure by the loud men of the political Right. By the end of the 1980s the Second Wave had lost momentum and direction. As the Third Wave emerged from it, common cause, the idea that all women suffer from the same social forces in the same way and should therefore help each other as sisters, was abandoned in favour of factions obsessed with class, ethnicity and sexual proclivities.

Neither of these books tells that story well, though Inside Broadside presents slivers of it. Neither is of literary interest either: they display less than sparkling critical writing and story-telling. And yet: they engaged me. Reading them was like plowing through shoe boxes full of the old letters and coffee-stained notes of forgotten but important moments in the Canadian women's movement (and my own life). They shoved me deep into the well of memory, sent me running down to my basement to paw through my own archive of the period, the better to refute or reformulate.

I found myself shouting out loud at certain shared assumptions and assertions. For example: in Philinda Masters' introduction to Inside Broadside she describes the book this way:

"The pieces in this book are a snapshot of ten years of activism, contemplation, creativity, and reporting on what was in the early days called the women's liberation movement. When the mainstream press caught wind of it, it came to be called 'women's lib,' and we became 'women's libbers.' It was their attempt to trivialize what was becoming an enormously threatening trend. And in case you're snickering at how dismissive and odd this sounds, consider what the movement is called now: #MeToo!

To see how it all began, how some things change and some things don't change, read on."

Similarly, according to Jordan in Feminist Acts:

"...because of the limited publication opportunities available to women in Canada in the 1970s, for the Branching Out staff, the very publication of artistic and nonfiction content by women was a feminist act."

These assertions are nonsense. Masters' description of the mainstream media and its coverage of the women's movement bears no relationship to my own experience with either. And as for the notion that merely publishing women's works was a feminist act: please. Female writers of fiction and nonfiction flourished in all major media during both the 1970s and 1980s.

I was a committed feminist and had been living in a commune with my husband and our friends for four years by the time Branching Out published its first issue. Why a commune? Because feminist theorists had argued persuasively that the nuclear family is a prison for ambitious women and I was an ambitious woman. That same year--1973-- I was hired at Maclean's Magazine as a researcher and soon became an editor. Maclean's Deputy Editor at that time was Christina McCall Newman (later Clarkson) by then acknowledged as one of Canada's most astute writers on national politics. Erna Paris, who would become known later for her book on the Holocaust in France and another on the International Criminal Court, was a colleague. The writers I worked with at Maclean's were fearless and accomplished journalists such as: Heather Robertson, Myrna Kostash, June Callwood, Marci McDonald, Dawn MacDonald. I left Maclean's to freelance and for the next thirty years wrote for most of the other leading Canadian magazines. The only one I didn't write for was Chatelaine ( though I was featured there in a Q and A on radical feminism in 1969). In all that time, the only story dealing with Second Wave issues that I was unable to place was a story about the Pill as the largest, uncontrolled experiment ever conducted in medicine.

Contrary to Masters, the phrase "women's liberation" was not imposed on feminist women by misogynist reporters out to mock us, but adapted for use by feminist writers from the liberationist/anti-colonialist literature of the 1950s and early 1960s. And the mainstream press didn't catch "wind" of women's lib: this makes it sound as if feminists, working away in secret, were exposed to the world by reporters seeking to shut us down. In fact, the major works of Second Wave feminist writers were published by leading houses (like William Morrow, W.W. Norton, Random House), as well as by major newspapers and national magazines, especially the women's magazines so disdained by the founders of Branching Out and Broadside for carrying ads for beauty products, clothes, and housewares. Ms. Magazine was launched in 1971 as an inclusion (to gauge reader interest) in the very popular, style conscious, and ad rich New York magazine, whose editors had been publishing leading feminist writers for years. The Second Wave changed minds and laws because so many of its thinkers were either mainstream journalists themselves, or worked very hard to get the attention of the press, and succeeded. You don't make change by hiding your ideas in the basement.

And Inside Broadside's pieces do not deal with how Second Wave feminism began. The Second Wave was launched thirty years before Broadside's first issue with the publication of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. In this two volume work, de Beauvoir, by then a renowned existentialist philosopher as well as an editor/publisher of leftist journals in France, laid out the methods and means by which constricting, stultifying, imprisoning gender roles are imposed in patriarchal societies. It is the Ur text of the Second Wave, and it was hugely popular, selling 22,000 copies in its first week. When it was published in English translation in 1953, it was widely read and it greatly influenced Betty Friedan who published her own national bestseller, The Feminine Mystique, ten years later. By then Friedan, formally trained as a psychologist, was a well known writer, having done stories about these issues for leading magazines and newspapers.

I read de Beauvoir, and everything I could find about her, when I was 17 or 18. She was the first female philosopher I'd heard of and I wanted to be one just like her. In The Second Sex she lays out the various ways in which the nuclear family, political and economic structures, religious beliefs and mythologies, combine to reinforce the suppression of women, to make us conspire in our own subjugation. It was brilliant, insightful, and wildly ambitious. The Feminine Mystique was a book of lesser social and historical scope which aimed more at institutional than cultural change. But Friedan wrapped her hands around what she called The Problem With No Name--the dissatisfaction experienced by so many highly educated women, like her, who, after World War II, found themselves relegated through marriage and motherhood to the socially enforced role of perpetual helpmate.

Friedan's broadside kicked off a geyser of Second Wave organizing and publishing in the US. Though author Susan Brownmiller would later call Friedan hopelessly bourgeois, Friedan's success led major publishers to bring out Kate Millett's Sexual Politics, Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex, Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch, and later, Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. These works were avidly read and relied upon by the women who organized Second Wave groups in the US, UK, France, Europe, and Canada over the next decade.

# # #

Friday, 17 August 2018

Field Notes from a Medicare Disaster: Epilogue

The Persistance of Memory, Salvador Dali


And so there we were, home at last, improving.

He still had no neurologist overseeing his care, but we were beginning to think that might be a benefit. I had kept track of the opinions of the neurologists he'd consulted. By the time my guy came home, he'd been seen by four--and that didn't include the neurosurgeon and the doctor on the neuro ward at Providence who isn't a neurologist but might as well be. By my count, the neurologists were evenly split as to whether or not he had a Parkinson's-like syndrome. Two were for, two were against.

To recap: the first neurologist, consulted about his weird gait and what neurologists call postural instability, had ruled out Parkinson's after examining him carefully and ordering a CT scan. He'd offered no diagnosis, just said we'll see what's what after a while. But as we waited for a while to come to pass, my guy fell at the cottage and suffered a serious concussion. The physicians who attended him at St. Michael's thought he'd fallen due to a drop in blood pressure after he sat in one place for too long, got up too fast, and boom, passed out, going down like a stone. The gait issues were not considered troubling. However, 18 months later, as these and other symptoms got worse, he was examined by a neurosurgeon at St. Mike's. On the basis of that CT scan and a physical exam, the neurosurgeon thought he might have normal pressure hydrocephalus but that could not be confirmed or ruled out without doing an MRI and possibly a spinal tap test. Two months later, another fall and another concussion brought him to the attention of the third neurologist, a neurology resident at St. Mike's. After doing the MRI, taking a careful history, doing a very thorough physical examination, and a Montreal Cognitive Assessment test, this charming young man said hey, you've got Parkinsonian syndrome! A senior neurologist (with little interest in Parkinson's, or us) concurred after my guy seemed to respond well to Sinamet which apparently meant that his brain was not producing enough dopamine. So: Sinamet was prescribed and my guy took ever increasing doses for almost two years during which he quickly, quickly declined. After a bout of flu/pneumonia, and a thoroughly miserable month at St. Mike's where no neurologist saw him because, according to the internal medicine resident, too many cooks spoil the broth, he spent another month at a rehab hospital called Providence. There he began to slough off the dire effects of the blood pressure drug given to him at St.Mike's for high blood pressure-- caused by the Sinamet. While he was still undergoing rehab at Providence, he was examined by a fourth neurologist at Michael Garron Hospital. Number four, contrary to number three and number two, said "I don't think you have Parkinson's or Parkinsonian syndrome. " He proposed taking the Sinamet away to see what might result. Without Sinamet, my guy immediately began to get better.

Just before the second Sinamet test, I had managed, by virtue of begging, to get my guy moved to the top of the waiting list for one of the best movement disorder neurologists in the country. Three weeks after he came home, off we went to see her.



The movement disorder clinic is located at Baycrest, which is a hospital, a rehab center, an assisted living facility, as well as a research organization. It is due north from where we live, not all the way to North Bay, but well on its way. To get there, I had to get my guy onto the small stairlift installed on a short flight of steps from the main floor to the side door which opens flush with our driveway. From there, I had to get him into a wheelchair and roll him to the curb so he, in his wheelchair, could be pushed into a special wheelchair taxi. Being a worrier, I'd made my guy practice getting on and off that short stairlift to make sure he could actually do it. It was a much tighter squeeze than the big stairlift custom-made to fit the staircase to our second floor. He had to back on to this one which seemed to set off waves of anxiety because he could not actually see the chair behind him and he had to trust me when I said keep going, you won't fall. I'd tested it myself and discovered I'd have to hold his feet on the foot platform as the chair descended on its slide, because he couldn't. And if he didn't, they would jam against the wall.

To get this whole operation under way, I rolled his empty wheelchair out the back door, bumped it down the back steps and pushed it along the driveway to the side door. Then I ran back up the back steps, through the back door, and helped him position himself on the stairlift chair. Then I ran out the back door again, down the back stairs and over to the side door so I could hold his feet in the right position as the stairlift carried him down to the landing. Once there, he had to stand up, and, using handholds, walk out the door to the wheelchair. Piece of cake, right?

The morning of the appointment, we got it done, but it took too long. We had to send the first wheelchair taxi away and call another after we'd made it to the curb. The whole business took us about twenty minutes. We were sure we'd be late for the appointment we'd been waiting for for so long. Would they kick us out?

We got to Baycrest only a few minutes late, found our way to the clinic, a nice, modern space with easy access for people in wheelchairs. It had a small gym and a few offices. We filled out the usual forms and waited until the neurology resident, a man in his thirties from Mexico, came to get us. He was very pleasant and friendly but with a very thick accent in English which made communication a little awkward: we had to prune our speech of idioms.

He said he would do the preliminary examination for his boss. It was thorough and identical to the one done by the neurologist at Michael Garron and the resident at St. Mike's. Then we unfurled the history, or at least I did because my guy was, by this point, so tired he was zoning out. The young neurology resident seemed to find it significant that my guy kept asking me to provide the facts instead of sharing them himself. He fixed on certain facts with the ferocity of a terrier. He did not appear to grasp that this was my guy's first day outside the house since his return from Providence, and was just beginning to recuperate from two years of the wrong medication.

He hauled out the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test. I could have done the test myself in my sleep, but I'm healthy. My guy was having trouble staying awake and he did not do well. He didn't appear to be able to think his way through the connect-the-letters puzzle (you must spot the pattern and then mimic it) and he had trouble remembering the list of words which he was instructed to learn and repeat five minutes later.  (I remembered them all from the last time he did this test: apparently they don't bother to vary the test details, assuming that those who are asked to take it probably have memory issues, so they won't be able to remember the answers if asked to take it again). My guy also did a bad job of drawing the clock face. It looked as if it was melting. However, in what should have been a clue to the young resident that this test was not terribly meaningful, when he was shown images of animals and objects and asked to name them, he said "dromedary" to identify the single-humped camel depicted on the sheet.The neurology resident didn't know what a" dromedary" is, so my guy explained. I added that he had produced and directed hundreds of nature television shows, reads general science publications ferociously, became a serial inventor for which he had just been nominated as a finalist for a prestigious international award. The resident didn't really want to know about this intellectual history (oh, high functioning, is all he said). He was only interested in now. Did he have hallucinations now, did he act out his dreams while sleeping now? Did he do the banking now? No, and no, and no, my guy said. I could see the resident's eyes go wide, as if to say: ah hah!  At the end of this examination I realized I was angry. Why? I knew what he was going to say before he said it.

"You're in serious trouble," he said to my guy, which made me want to kick him.

"I can tell you right now," he continued as he gathered up his notes with something like glee on his face, " you have Parkinsonian syndrome!"

That made it three neurologists in favor, to two against. But notably, two of the three in favor were young neurology residents and the third, the senior neurologist, apparently didn't know that eating dairy products interferes with the uptake of Sinamet which has been known for thirty years.

The resident disappeared to lay out his findings for his boss. We waited for forty minutes before we were called in. My guy was now not only tired but hungry.

The senior neurologist, his boss, was a charming and intelligent woman who asked interesting questions. She apologized for keeping us waiting and explained that they had been having quite a debate about her resident's diagnosis. She did her own physical. I told her I had questions as to why no one wanted to consider that his symptoms might be due to traumatic brain injury or deranged populations of gut bacteria. She told me to please hold my questions until she had asked all of hers, but to give her her due, she did come back to them after we recounted the history one more time. She acknowledged there is interesting work on the relationship between gut and brain. As to whether his symptoms were the result of traumatic brain injury, she thought it was possible but there is not much one can do for that. She was interested to hear of his improvement after the Sinamet was stopped. She was interested in the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test results, and wondered if we would mind going to see a colleague of hers who might be better able to figure out what was going on in that regard. She said she'd have her staff set up that appointment. She asked how much help we were getting from the LIHN and when I said 10 hours a week, she said she would try to get us more. (She did try, but failed.) She then had her assistant make a follow up appointment for November, many months away. We had thought we would work with her clinic's physiotherapists in the interim. We made an appointment for the following week but cancelled it when we realized how hard it was for my guy to get out of the house. Besides, the LIHN physiotherapist had agreed to come and do an assessment: when he arrived, he decided he would work with my guy himself rather than send in a junior. He came to the house for six sessions and was very helpful. We switched to a private physiotherapist after that, a man who had worked with my guy before he got the flu and agreed to come to the house.

When he came the first time and we told him what had been going on, he said: "I always knew he didn't have Parkinson's, or any syndrome like it, no way."

One of the nurses at Providence had said the same thing.

What did they see that the neurologists didn't?



Improvement continued, slowly, slowly. At first it was two steps forward, one back. Then bad days came every fourth day, then every fifth, sixth, seventh and so on. We were pretty sure this was due to daily physio exercises, careful diet, 12 hours sleep a night, vitamins, wild salmon oil, and no medications. My guy kept saying he felt as if he was healing.

In early May, a few weeks after our visit to Baycrest, we got a letter from the office of a neurologist at Sunnybrook Hospital. My guy was offered an appointment for mid July, 2019.

I phoned Baycrest and left a message for the movement disorder clinic's nurse. I said: July, 2019 is 16 months away. My guy is 75. Who knows if he'll even be with us then?

Another appointment letter soon followed, this time from the office of another neurologist at Baycrest, the same man, as it turns out, who is the friend of the friend of my cousin in Israel, the one who said he couldn't get his own patients moved to the top of the movement disorder clinic's wait list, you'll have to wait your turn. His office offered my guy an appointment in June, 2019, 15 months away.  I looked up his publications. He seems to be interested in the clock face portion of the cognitive assessment test. I frankly did not see how that could address my guy's movement problems and no one at the clinic called back to explain the connection.

But that made me wonder: did my guy's sense that he was healing include his capacity to draw clocks? I asked him to make one saying 2:30.  He drew a near perfect circle, put the numbers in the right places. The hands were drawn the same length, and the numbers were not laid out with the precision he always deployed before he became ill, but it was clearly a normal clock, not a Salvador Dali version like the last time. I asked him to do the finger articulation exercise the neurologists had asked him to do when they examined him. The left hand was fine, the right still slow, but he could make each finger move appropriately. I asked him to stick out his tongue to see if it quivered, a test done by the speech language pathologist when looking for problems associated with Parkinson's. No quiver. The last time I'd asked him to try it, it had quivered.

We got a call from Baycrest saying that someone had cancelled, my guy could have an appointment with the clock face neurologist in a week instead of having to wait until June, 2019.

I asked him if he wanted to go.

Forget it, he said.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Field Notes from a Medicare Disaster: Sixteen




The day he came home is a blur. Yet I have one strong recollection--like an overhead shot taken from a room above Providence's main door-- of me standing outside at the curb in the brisk morning air as they loaded him on a gurney into a medical transport van. There is a bright red jacket in this image yet I am not certain whether he wore it or I did. This obliteration of boundaries happens all the time when one has been part of a couple for more than 50 years. His body becomes yours, his memories are events that happened to you, and vice versa. I think I was elated but maybe that emotion was his. It's more in keeping with his nature. It's more likely I was anxious.

They bumped him in a transfer chair up the front steps to the house and into the front hall. They also brought home his wheelchair while I brought the metal walker I'd purchased for him at Providence in our car. They helped him get to the stairlift and he rode it up to the second floor. It was hard for him to get settled on its chair, hard to put his feet in the right place on the fold down platform, hard to learn how to use the controller that sends the chair up or down, hard to change the chair's orientation, to make the seat-belt work. It was even harder to remember how to turn the damn thing on after we inadvertently turned it off. With each mistake, I panicked. What if I couldn't get the stairlift going again? He'd be stranded. I probably phoned the company that installed it five times over the next three days. Yet the stairlift worked well, it was me who kept screwing up. And the bathroom was fine too, all the handholds were exactly where they needed to be, there was plenty of room for a big man using a walker.

He'd been away for two and a half months. In the US, if he'd been ill in hospital that long without sufficient insurance we'd be bankrupt. Give thanks for where you had the good sense to be born, I wanted to shout. Dad, you were right but also wrong.

 My guy seemed pleased to be home.

The first night, I didn't sleep much, listening in case he needed help. And he did.

The next morning, the first of a series of personal support workers arrived at about 8 in the morning, sent by the Local Integrated Health Network's contracted supplier of home care. A worker was supposed to come every morning for the next week to help get him up and dressed. He was entitled to one hour of care (which in real time as opposed to care time is no more than 45 minutes because 15 minutes of each hour is travel time). During that week, my guy would also be assessed by senior coordinators who would determine his actual allotment of publicly-funded care and the duration of same. It didn't matter what some doctor or hospital physiotherapist had to say about his needs, the LIHN makes its own decisions. He was in no condition to be left alone in the house, yet in that first schedule no time was allotted for me to go out for simple things like groceries.

The city is divided into regions each served by a single contracted supplier of public home care--they employ RNs, practical nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, personal support workers. They are supervised by the district LIHN's care coordinators. You'd better get on well with them unless you have sufficient funds to hire private care. (The cost of private help is about $100 for a minimum of four hours. Personal service workers do not get paid $25 an hour, though they clearly deserve it. Their cut of the private take is just a tad higher than minimum wage.) I'd had a few run ins with the care coordinators of the home care supplier in my mother's district. There were many, many failures to arrive on time, and failures to assist her private caregiver as required by their own determination of her needs. I'd become used to dealing with that sort of trouble: I had learned to keep asking for the supervisor, and then the supervisor of the supervisor, going all the way up the food chain until I got to the CEO. This is not easy. Staff members don't want to attract the attention of the CEO when a complaint is involved. Yet CEO's of organizations delivering publicly funded home care generally like to keep their clients happy, and are determined to prevent them from running to the LIHN or the Ministry of Health to complain. Journalists are good at getting through the bureaucratic spread-the-responsibility-so-no-one has-to-fix-anything evasive maneuvers that result. So it's those not so good at raising a ruckus who suffer when things go wrong. As they did, and right from the start.

The LIHN's assessment personnel had been to see my guy after his previous hospitalizations, had ordered physiotherapy for a few weeks after the last concussion.  They had been notified by Providence to reopen his files and had made appointments with me to come to see him again. I remembered the occupational therapist very well, a cheerful, bright woman very determined to work the system as hard as possible to get her clients as much help as possible. The LIHN's overall care coordinator was not so cheerful, more soulful, but very able and equally determined to help as best she could. The level of help we would get would depend on their professional judgement leavened by the available budget, a budget which has barely moved over the last ten years in spite of a 40% growth in demand for help in the last five years. That budget had already been stretched to the break point by late spring because 2017/2018 was a bad flu season. Did he need physio? I thought that was obvious. At Providence they thought it was obvious too. Our doctor asked for it.  Yet the LIHN could refuse it. Did he need a specially measured walker, a specially designed wheelchair? Did he need a wheelchair at all? The wheelchair became a matter of  contention. If he was able to walk a little and wasn't sitting in it all day, why did he need one specially designed to fit his body? The need to use it outside didn't matter. He could have an ordinary wheelchair for that. The one he'd been sent home with was really expensive.

In my area, public home care is provided by a non profit affiliated with a downtown teaching hospital. In the daily forty-five minute period actually allotted to him, the personal support worker assigned to him by that organization was expected to help him get out of bed, get to the bathroom and to the shower bench where he would wash, shave, and dress, then help him get to wherever he was having his breakfast. They were also tasked to make the bed, carry down the dirty laundry or any garbage.  I only repeat what their orders said: I know because I was given a copy.

But that's not what happened.

The first morning a tiny woman knocked on the door. She was late yet actually on time, as is explained on the non profit's voice message system when you call in to find out where the hell your worker is. On time means 15 minutes on either side of the appointed hour.  I had to give her a short lecture on my guy's condition, because she knew nothing about him when she arrived, and to explain what she could expect given his unnamed disorder, how to use the new shower without getting soaked herself, where his clothes were, and his shaving equipment. She had arrived without plastic shoe protectors so I had to tell her to take her shoes off to use the shower. She didn't like that. She looked at my guy with something akin to fear. She said she did not shave people: she said she was not allowed to. So after I showered him, with her looking on, I shaved him too. She helped him get dressed, took a poor stab at the bed-making which I decided then and there I would do myself, left the laundry and the garbage disposal to me, and went on to her next client. I got on the phone and explained to the supplier's care coordinator that we were going to need a man or woman big enough to help my guy, that the small woman they had sent had quite obviously been afraid, and perhaps did not have the necessary skills to deal with a big man with movement issues on a damp floor.

The young care coordinator, a woman who spoke extremely quickly on her voice mail message, as if seriously pressed for time yet also sad and tired, said there weren't many men available, that would be a problem.

I explained that they'd have to dig up someone big enough somewhere, or there would be an accident. I explained I had ended up doing most of the showering. And the shaving.

The next day, they sent a man.  Again, I had to explain my guy's condition, had to explain about his slow movements, had to make sure the worker learned how to use the shower without getting soaked himself. This worker also said he was not allowed to shave anyone. So I did it. And I made the bed, and took down the laundry, and the garbage, and brought up the breakfast.

The next day again someone new arrived--a woman. Once again, I had to train her in my guy's issues, to make sure he got safely into the shower, to make sure she learned how to use it without getting soaked. Again, this person said she was not allowed to shave him. So I did it.

By the fourth day I was beginning to wonder why they sent anyone at all since I was either doing the work or supervising it.  While they stood behind him watching him struggle to the bathroom, I was making the bed, fishing out his clothes, then running to the shower whenever the worker called for help. Which was frequent.

On the fifth day, no one came. When I called in, I was told the worker, yet another new one, was going to be late, very late, more than an hour late. I told the care coordinator to tell that worker not to bother, I wasn't going to leave him lying in bed that long. That was the morning I discovered that I could do everything that needed doing, including showering him myself and that he preferred that I do it. And why wouldn't he? Four mornings in a row he'd had to stand stark naked in front of total strangers as they washed him. My guy is not shy. But many people are. (If it had been me, I would have said I don't care how dangerous it is I'm going to shower myself, you wait outside.) There was no time for him to get to know these people, unlike at Providence where the same small group of nurses helped him every day. I wondered: how upset would a person with Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia become when faced every day with strangers yanking them out of bed and pulling their clothes off?

And yet, looked at from the worker's point of view, they had more to complain about. Every new client was a steep learning curve. The fact that they managed to address each person's needs at all was a testament to their adaptability.  Almost all were new immigrants, most with very different styles of life in their former countries. In this job, they were poorly paid members of the precariat. They were under constant stress to get on to the next client waiting in the queue.  They had to arrive on time, leave on time, get to the next household on time and a lot of them did it for 10 hours a day, six days a week, if their employer asked them to. This would be barely manageable even if all the clients were mobile and didn't hold them up. One slow poke would blow the whole schedule. Toronto traffic is so bad that getting from one point to another on time is more than difficult. In small communities up north, the geographic range covered by personal service workers can be very large. My guy is a terrible challenge to this system. A movement disorder means he can be extremely slow getting from bed to shower and out again. Rushing will end in disaster. Forty-five minutes is not time enough to get it all done. If my guy was having a slow morning, and he has plenty of slow mornings, though they tried to conceal it most workers became agitated, keeping careful eye on their watches, which bothered him. Being a nice guy, he tried to send them on their way early, even if they weren't done.

That morning, I was tempted to tell the LIHN to forget sending workers, we'll manage ourselves. Yet I didn't. After only a week of being on call 24 hours a day, I knew I would buckle under the strain without help. Not only was I doing most of the work of caring for him, I was doing all the meals, the clean ups, the laundry, helping with his business, doing my own.  And somehow I had to get out of the house to get food.

So I kept my mouth shut.

The two senior care coordinators came separately to see him. They had both assessed my guy before. They were amazed that his parkinsonian syndrome diagnosis had been chucked out, that he was no longer on any medication, that without the Sinamet he was actually improving. This never happens to my clients, cried the occupational therapist, this is thrilling!  The other coordinator was so happy to see him doing better without medication that she promised to speak to the lead physiotherapist and beg him to send help. But she also warned me. She said: you know the people they'll send are fresh out of school and won't have much experience with neurodegenerative disorders, but I'll try to get it done. And she did. She also ordered 10 hours a week of care for the next five months, including three hours on Friday afternoons so I could do grocery shopping. But none of that dealt with the real problem, the never-ending turnover of workers, the daily need to train a new person.

The film crew arrived and shot their film ( he performed almost as well as he used to when he was an on-camera public affairs TV reporter/director years ago). By then, the junior care coordinator had sent in a new personal support worker each day for eight straight days. After the film crew went home, I got on the phone and raised hell.






I know what you're thinking: how dare you complain about a publicly funded system that cares for a person in hospital, and then, after the patient is sent home, provides trained people with real skills to come to the door to make sure that patient is properly washed, dressed, fed and any wounds attended to. It is a testament to this society's determination to take care of everybody that we have such a system at all.

But even the most well-meaning systems can break down, especially when starved of funds year after year, as the home care system has been.  And because it is starved, people who might have managed well at home if they'd been attended to sufficiently, end up back in an acute care hospital or in longterm care both of which cost a hell of a lot more. The home care system was invented to take the pressure off both, not to be part of a revolving door problem in which sick people are sent home from hospital too early and either end up right back on a ward, or permanently warehoused in long term care places so understaffed that someone like Wettlaufer can go undetected for years.

When I picked up the phone to complain, it wasn't just about helping him, it was about saving me. I had finally understood that if this pace kept up, and I got sick from overwork and lack of sleep, we would be in a disastrous situation.

I forced myself up the hierarchy of the home care provider, starting with the junior care coordinator who got the brunt of my rage, a blast sufficient to make her cry which made me ashamed. I was passed to a supervisor, and from there to another, and with each handover I kept saying: are you the CEO? No? That's who I must speak with. Finally I got a call back from a young man. He asked what I was calling about. I said: are you the CEO? No, he said, he was the CEO's assistant. I want to speak to the CEO not to you, I said. I need to speak to the person responsible for this system. I am a journalist and this experience has been so bad that I am going to have to write about it.

Lo and behold--the CEO herself called me back the next day.

After I explained what we'd been dealing with---eight straight days of new faces, eight straight days of me training each caregiver, eight days of no phone calls when the caregiver was going to be late, but with me having to call in to find out if someone was coming, eight days of carrying down the laundry, the garbage, making the bed, supervising the showering and doing the shaving-- I said I had had enough. I said this was a completely incompetent way to manage a home care system and I wasn't going to stand for it. And I was going to write about it.

She apologized. She told me stories of what happened when her own mother needed care, how she herself, for many years an RN, had been helpless to get the help she knew her mother needed. She sent me documents demonstrating plateaued funding in the face of the growth of demand, lobbyist papers arguing for more investment in home care, as opposed to hospital care. One pointed out that there might be a strike of personal care workers in Ontario this fall-- because personal support workers are getting unionized and a first collective agreement is being negotiated. Inevitably, and appropriately, labour costs were going to go up.

She promised that her organization would try to do better, starting with a meeting of  coordinators at our house. An RN would come along with them.

When they arrived, they trooped up to my guy's office.  At first they were defensive as I told them what had been going on. They weren't happy to hear it. When I told them I didn't blame them, I just wanted to know how it could be fixed, they promised changes would be made, that my guy would be assigned the same workers who would be instructed to call when they were going to be late or early, who would be instructed to provide the services required.  He would not have to face strangers every morning anymore, and I would not need to instruct on a daily basis.

I said fine, but I'm still going to write about this.

I could see they were actually pleased by that. Why? Because they don't like being unable to deliver, they don't like having to say no to the provision of care they believe will prevent their clients from relapsing,  they don't like having to ration what they know is essential. They wanted someone on the outside to shake the politicians' cages, to get things moving, to raise Cain, to get more money from the public purse spent where it's really needed, not wasted on some shiny atrium with a shiny donor plaque on a shiny new hospital filled to the brim with patients but chronically understaffed. The medical system is a human endeavor.  Machines are well and good, but without sufficient humans to manage and deliver care, they are useless.The people who provide care deserve to be properly paid and to work reasonable hours. They should not have to struggle through terrible schedules in order to make a living.

In the end, I found myself thinking the only reason this system works at all is because of the determination of the individual caregivers who try to make a go of it no matter what.

Unfortunately, and yet predictably (my Dad did predict it and he was not alone) no matter what is what we've got.