QUEEN’S PARK is pretty old. It was built in 1860, and, for the most part, is bordered by the University of Toronto campus. The park is really more of a garden than a park and features a pretty neat hub pathway system that radiates from the centre of the park to the street. In the south-western corner, sits an unusual, but nonetheless beautiful and striking monument – the Ontario Veteran’s Memorial.
The Ontario Veteran’s Memorial is a 98ft long, gently curved granite wall that features laser-etched images of past conflicts – as well as inscriptions from authors and military historians. The wall is a symbol of Canadian freedom and self-reliance – and commemorates those that fought in Canadian uniform, beginning with the Fenian raids of 1867, to more modern conflicts.
It is commonplace, both here in Canada and in many other countries around the world with extensive military histories, to celebrate those that put themselves in harm’s way, and to commemorate those that made the ultimate sacrifice. Overwhelmingly, it is men who made, and continue to make those sacrifices. Society shows its appreciation in a number of ways; parades; veteran appreciation days; poppy campaigns; and, of course, with memorials.
The city of Toronto is no exception in this regard, peppered as it is with such monuments. On University Avenue, just north of Queen Street, is the impressive and imposing South African War Memorial. At its base are three standing figures – with one more standing atop an immense column. Erected in 1910, the South African War Memorial stands as a reminder, a thank you, to those who fought, and died, in the Boer War.
There is also the Victory Peace memorial in Coronation Park, built to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the ending of The Second World War. Unfortunately, this memorial was vandalized in 2012. George Murphy, 72, whose father fought in the Second World War, described his reaction while choking back tears to the Toronto Sun last year: “I think it’s terrible to see them destroy what these veterans have done for us,” he said. “It’s like stepping on them. These people wanted to protect our lives. My father would be very upset over this.”
And he’d be right to be upset. Throughout history millions of men have given their lives in the cause of assuring our freedom; freedom from oppression; freedom of association; freedom of speech.
Indeed, freedom of speech has become a very contentious issue of late. Censorship is en vogue again. North American college campuses, in particular, are becoming increasingly hostile to dissenting voices. In the E.U., legislation is under discussion that will make holding anti-feminist positions a criminal offence. There has been a severe ramping-up of censorious and shaming language on the internet. We are now at a point where the discussion of certain topics such as rape has become almost impossible.
Radical feminists have hijacked these conversations, imprinting upon them their own rules for engagement; “men’s groups are hate groups – no exceptions; women are not to take responsibility for their own personal safety – no exceptions; women are the oppressed, men are the oppressors – no exceptions. There is no such thing as men’s rights – no exceptions.”
Yet, despite these attempts to stifle free speech, people are speaking out and people are banding together to come up with solutions to further understanding of complex issues such as rape, and complex issues that pertain to equality.
On the weekend of the 27th and 28th September, 2013, Toronto played host to an historic weekend of events. The Canadian Association For Equality (CAFE) hosted a talk at the University of Toronto, by Dr. Miles Groth on the male crisis in education. According to Dr. Groth (and, it should be pointed out, Everest-sized mountains of independent evidence) it is now an established fact that more and more young men are missing out on university education and that those that are able to avail of such an opportunity often face an anti-male environment.
Because of the preponderance of mandatory freshman courses on date rape and consent, it is now commonplace for young freshman to be inculcated with the notion that all young men are potential rapists. Additionally, there are no places or organizations for young men to go to as a group and discuss what it means to be branded in such a way; they are actively discouraged from challenging this obviously biased, hateful ideology.
Of course, none of this was news to the many in attendance that evening. Members of A Voice For Men, CAFE and associated MHRAs already knew this. The event to them was more about coming together and expressing solidarity with one another – of defying censorial behavior – of trying to overcome bigotry and rampant ignorance.
Nowhere was this more evident, than at the next day’s rally, at Queen’s Park.
Early the next morning, activists gathered at the provincial legislature in recognition of the crisis facing men and boys. They had come in greater numbers than anticipated. They had come from not just Toronto, or Ontario, or Canada – but from around the world. They had come with a unity of purpose – to stand up, and to proudly, unashamedly, speak their minds.
They weren’t however, the only group there. Shortly after the rally began, a gay rights advocacy group, Bash Back, gathered behind the rally. Their numbers were small – indeed they were dwarfed by the much larger MHRA rally, but they still managed, despite their diminutive size, to make a lot of noise. They yelled obscenities through bullhorns. They accused those gathered at the rally of sexism, fascism, rape apologia and homophobia. They did so while Dean Esmay, a gay rights campaigner in former years, tried to reason with them. They did so while Karen Straughan, a non-straight female MHRA tried to reason with them. They did the same while Adam McPhee, a tireless LGBT community worker and member of CAFE, tried to reason with them.
Esmay, Straughan, and McPhee despite their appeal to reason, inevitably failed. However, McPhee fired a scything parting shot at the screeching mob. Addressing the gang below McPhee pointed out to them that they were jumping up and down on top of the Ontario Veteran’s Memorial, a war memorial erected in honour of those that fought and died for Canada over a period of more than 150 years. A war memorial in honour of those who fought and died so that groups, such as Bash Back could assemble, free from harassment and speak their minds.
And this is how they repaid that debt – not by acting in a civil manner and protesting in a dignified, peaceful way, not by listening to the other side and coming up with a counter argument – and certainly not by accepting the offer of Attila Vinczer, organizer of the rally to address the gathered MHRAs and to voice their concerns. No – they chose to trample all over something sacred to spew their hatred and lies.
When the Victory Peace memorial was vandalized in 2012 the artist, John McEwen, 67, was asked what he thought. Mr. McEwen took a stoical approach. He began by pointing out that the monument symbolized the diversity of languages in Canada while recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Second World War and the military contributions of Canadians. Speaking to the Toronto Sun he said:
“Do I take it personally? No, and I don’t think the veterans should take it personally,” he said. “Stupidity isn’t even politics. Stupidity is ignorance and ignorance is an indulgence in a place where you don’t know what’s going on.
“If you had any political agenda you were trying to serve, it’s just wasted.”
Bash Back then, as stupid as they are, as ignorant as they are – aren’t the real opposition to the MHRM. Their rhetoric, their ignorance of what we stand for and their vile behavior is proof enough that they don’t really know what they’re doing. Put bluntly – they are idiots.
The real enemies are the ones who weren’t there. The real enemies are the ones behind closed doors, cowering in anonymous gender studies departments – filling young minds with bigotry, and hatred. The real enemies are the Lise Gotells of this world, who seek to demonize young men for no reason other than the fact that they have a penis.
We’ll be back in Toronto in January – and we’ll be back in bigger numbers – despite the cold weather, despite the longer travel times, despite being broke after Christmas. We’ll be back, and we’re going to keep coming back. We won’t be silenced by bigots. We understand the price paid by others for our freedom to associate, and to speak our minds. It may take some time, but eventually, others will too.
Editor’s note: this item first appeared on the web site of the Men’s Human Rights Ontario web site. If you live in Ontario, you may want to check out this group and lend it your support. –DE