‘You don’t look like a lawyer.’ Female lawyers and lawyers of colour angered by mistaken identity in court


During the early years of her career, Lori Anne Thomas would sit near the front of the courtroom, only to be told to move by court staff as the area was reserved for lawyers.

Except she is one.

“I’ve heard more than enough times, ‘You don’t look like a lawyer.’ I know exactly what that means, which is that I’m not a tall, white man,” said Thomas, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in criminal law and who recently became president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers.

“It hits at you and just on top of dealing with everything else, being a recent call (to the bar), trying to figure out how to do everything and navigate the legal community and also build a practice, to then also have that obstacle of being constantly reminded that you’re kind of not expected to be here.”

Thomas’s story is one shared by other female lawyers and lawyers of colour, some of whom have been mistaken in courtrooms and other legal settings for assistants, interpreters and even an accused person.

Toronto criminal defence lawyer Janani Shanmuganathan said she’s been mistaken several times for a Tamil interpreter at the Scarborough courthouse, where staff or a Crown attorney will approach her in the hallway telling her she’s needed in a courtroom.

Other times, staff will approach her in the courtroom, even though she’s seated in the reserved area for lawyers.

“I don’t think people are saying that to be mean or in a negative way, but I think the gut reaction for people is that I don’t fit the stereotype of who they think a lawyer should be,” she said.

“It’s very frustrating and sad. I’m a child of immigrants. I’m the first lawyer in my family. I worked really hard to get to where I am. It’s unfortunate that I have to constantly be demanding my space and the right to be recognized for the lawyer that I am. It’s disheartening.”

According to the Law Society of Ontario, which regulates the legal profession in the province, about 43 per cent of lawyers are women. And the final report released in 2016 from the law society’s Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group noted that the proportion of racialized lawyers in Ontario had doubled between 2001 and 2014, from 9 per cent to 18 per cent.

Ottawa lawyer Erin Durant, who specializes in civil litigation, said she’s become increasingly annoyed as the years go by, having been mistaken for a court reporter or an assistant.

“It’s tough. What I would like to say, especially if it’s an older male lawyer, is: ‘No, are you an assistant?’ But I haven’t grown the guts to say that yet,” she said. “I think it’s more of a societal change and letting the public know that not only are there female lawyers, but we’re actually pretty close to being the majority.”

Toronto lawyer Raj Anand, who co-chaired the law society’s working group, told the Star that the issue of unconscious bias, and people assuming who are lawyers and who aren’t, was something heard “loud and clear” during his group’s study.

“I think it’s part of a culture change,” he said. “One would hope that both court offices and judges would clearly recognize that we’re dealing with a changing demographic, and more than half of students graduating from law school are women, and something like 25 to 30 per cent are racialized in Ontario. That obviously plays a role in who appears in court.”

He said education and greater awareness for the judiciary and court staff could be helpful — something that his group recommended be done for lawyers.

Thomas said it’s a systemic issue, highlighting that the court staff in Brampton who told her she couldn’t sit in the lawyers’ area in the courtroom were also people of colour.

“It’s not just this perception of white or non-racialized individuals,” she said. “It is a systemic belief that is ingrained in all of us that people in certain positions look a certain way.”

The Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for staffing and operating the courts, takes this issue “very seriously,” said spokesperson Brian Gray.

Staff and managers receive training on a number of topics, including “bias awareness, unconscious bias, diversity dialogues and anti-racism,” he said.

Lawyer Trevin David said he can’t even count the number of times he’s been confused for a Tamil interpreter at the Scarborough courthouse. He also recalls an incident at a Toronto courthouse where a Crown attorney confused him for an accused criminal.

“I was in the Crown’s office waiting to speak to somebody else and the Crown attorney runs in and starts yelling at me about how I’m late, and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And it becomes very clear that he thought I was a self-represented accused person,” David said. “And he didn’t apologize. He just said he was really busy.”

David said it takes a few moments to process what is going on in such exchanges, and sometimes the conversation is over by the time he’s ready to react.

“Even when you’re confused with being the interpreter, you’re still ultimately there for your client, so sometimes it might not be in your client’s best interests to get really angry, even though that’s what your initial reaction is. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and laugh it off,” he said.

“It’s not that these are just other random members of the public. These are people that work in the courts every day. These are Crowns and clerks. If they can’t imagine that you’re a lawyer, what larger story does that tell?”

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant


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Bias against funding Canada’s female scientists revealed in study


A new Canadian analysis in The Lancet validates complaints that the awarding of research grants is biased against female scientists.

The analysis found women are less likely to receive valuable research dollars if their grant applications are reviewed based on who the lead scientist is, rather that what the proposed project is.

The study, titled « Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science?« , analyzed almost 24,000 applications submitted to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) — the federal government agency that awards approximately $1 billion in science grants annually.

The study’s lead author, Holly Witteman, says CIHR created « a natural experiment » when in 2014 it established two new funding streams — the Project Grant Program, which focuses on funding « ideas with the greatest potential, » while the Foundation Grant Program funds « research leaders. »

Men and women performed similarly in Project Grants — 13.5 per cent of male applicants and 12 per cent of female applicants were successful.

But under the Foundation program — 13.9 per cent of male applicants won grants, compared to only 9.2 per cent of women.

The disparity is most striking in the field of public health, where female applicants outnumber male applicants, but men are twice as likely to win Foundation grants — 14.1 per cent vs 6.7 per cent.

Overall, grant applications from men outnumber those by women two to one.

Holly Witteman is a researcher at Laval University’s Faculty of Medicine in Quebec City. (Submitted by Holly Witteman)

The analysis took applicants’ age and field of study into account. 

« This evidence is fairly robust, » said Witteman, a researcher at Laval University’s Faculty of Medicine in Quebec City. 

« When the [grant] reviewers are told to focus on evaluating the scientists … that significantly amplifies success rates for men, » she said.

Grant awarding system broken

Neuroscientist Jennifer Raymond said the Canadian study is another indication that the research funding « system is broken and really needs to be fixed. »

Raymond is a researcher at California’s Stanford University and wrote a commentary which appears in the same edition of The Lancet.

She said female scientists might find the CIHR analysis both discouraging and vindicating.

« A lot of times women internalize and say ‘Oh it’s me, maybe, I’m not good enough, my male colleague is getting all of these awards and attention. I need to try harder,' » she told CBC News.

But Witteman’s research indicates women are being passed over. « And I think this shows that the system is biased, » Raymond said.

Raymond has also assessed grant applications for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. equivalent of CIHR.

Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding– Jennifer Raymond

« I sometimes hear comments that I wonder if they would be saying that if the applicant was a male scientist instead of a female scientist. But in any one of those cases, you can never really know what’s motivating the comment. You can really only see the bias in the statistics. »

Funding begets more funding

Gender equality has long eluded the sciences, especially at the leadership level. Raymond said funding bias plays a role in that disparity. 

« Small advantages over time can become big advantages. Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding. So you know there’s all of these different levels at which these biases play out. »

Raymond said she supports a « blinded » grant application process to protect female researchers from unintended bias. 

It’s an approach increasingly adopted by recruiters and employers. When the Toronto Symphony Orchestra famously began concealing the identities of musicians during auditions in the 1980s, it transformed what was once a nearly all-male orchestra.

For research scientists early in their careers, the cumulative effect of those first grants is often more opportunities down the road.

Bias stalling innovation

Dr. Laura LaChance, a Toronto research psychiatrist and published academic who finished her residency in 2017, points out how important research is in advancing a career.

« Research is a major way that we’re kind of measured against our colleagues in terms of how productive you are and how good of a candidate you are, » said LaChance.

LaChance said career advancement aside, bias against female researchers also results in « stalling innovation in clinical care. »

She said she also worries some frustrated women may simply quit their research efforts in frustration.

Witteman, the study’s author, credits CIHR for both collaborating on her gender research and taking steps to prevent further bias once the disparity in the Foundation grant program was clearly identified. 

In a statement, CIHR said it was committed to eliminating « systemic biases against any individual or group. » The agency has developed an online course called « Unconscious Bias in Peer Review. »


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‘We promote the best person for the job and, quite often, that’s a woman’: A surge in Shuswap female firefighters – Okanagan


According to several online statistics, less than five per cent of firefighters in Canada are women.

However, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District says it is working hard to ensure that gender doesn’t define a great firefighter.

Case in point: Kara Slous, an on-call firefighter at the Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Department.

“I was a South Shuswap first responder first. It’s our first aid medical association,” Slous said. “And there were a few firefighters on that association that noticed my dedication and they told me to come try out the department, and it escalated from there.”

Slous was immediately hooked.

“It was really exciting and I liked being with a group that worked so well together,” Slous said.

In the four years she has spent at Tappen-Sunnybrae, Slous quickly moved up the ladder, even making captain at the young age of 24.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Slous said. “Your main role is to run the fire practices, so you’re telling everyone what to do. And, on the scene, you’re the team leader. You’re calling the shots.”

Edmonton’s first female firefighter Shirley Benson gains another first

Most recently, Slous has moved to a training officer role.

She’s also a member of the Shuswap emergency program structural protection unit, a co-chair of the fire services occupational health and safety committee and is certified as the district’s live fire instructor.

“Women bring a completely different dynamic to the fire department and, with all of our separate skills, we really bring the department up,” Slous said.

For the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, recruiting and promoting women just makes sense.

“We have a number of women in our fire service. It’s not 50/50 at the moment, but certainly we have a lot of women,” said the district’s protective services team leader, Derek Sutherland. “And we have a lot of women in leadership roles. We’ve had three women as fire chiefs, deputy chiefs, captains, training officers.”

So, what exactly is the district’s philosophy on gender equality?

“Quite frankly, we don’t give it a lot of thought,” Sutherland said. “We’re inclusive as a regional district and we promote the best person for the job and, quite often, that’s a woman.”

Sutherland says that it’s not necessary for firefighters to be able to do every role.

“We don’t ask everyone to be everything to the fire department,” Sutherland said. “There’s certain people that have specialties that enjoy doing one or two things really well, and we just ask them to come out and do that.”

The 13 fire departments in the district are made up entirely of paid, on-call volunteer firefighters.

“So we get paid for our practices, and any call we go to we are paid for that. And it’s pretty exciting,” Slous said. “All of a sudden, the tones will go off. You’re in the middle of dinner, you could be with your family, you could be out at work and you get to run off and fight a fire.”

The amount of calls vary by station but Slous says the Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Department received about 90 calls last year.

“It’s bigger than yourself. It’s bigger than your neighbours and your community,” Slous said. “It’s for everyone.”

Slous has some advice to women who have an interest in firefighting.

“It is physically demanding, but it’s just about figuring out how to do it with your body and your momentum,” Slous said. “Go in, be persistent, be determined and just do the work and you’ll get through it all.”

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is encouraging anyone interested in becoming an on-call paid volunteer firefighter to attend a Tuesday evening training session and test things out.

Candidates must be 18 years of age or older, possess a valid driver’s license, live and/or work in the district, and be physically able to perform the duties of the job and commit to weekly training sessions.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Sniffing out crime: Why there are fewer female police dogs than male in Canada


The gender of a police dog is something you might not think about, but when it comes to more males than females, the statistics show an interesting trend not just in Saskatchewan but across Canada.

Currently, the province only has four female police dogs, including one in Moose Jaw.

When it comes to solving crime, Cst. Chad Scheske and his Police Service Dog Siren are ready for any call that comes their way. “We respond to anything in progress, whether it’s break and enters, assaults, violent stuff,” Scheske said.

“The idea for us is to try and get to the scene as fast as possible, so that if there’s someone that we need to track or there’s work to be done in finding people, the sooner we’re there the better.”

A Nose for Crime: RCMP Police Dog Training

It’s a bond like no other. Whether it’s tracking criminals or sniffing out evidence, Scheske and Siren have been partners for nearly three years.

Siren was purchased through the RCMP, where females make up roughly 15 per cent of all dogs currently working from its breeding program in Innisfail, Alberta.

“In our experience, it’s taken us many, many years to unlock the secrets to teach female dogs to do something in the same way that male dogs automatically do them,” said Sgt. Chris Browne, responsible for the RCMP’s breeding and imprinting program.

Browne said that’s because instinctively females don’t like to leave their handler’s side.

“A male dog has no problem leaving the handler to go and apprehend someone, or to go and do a search in a large open area without feeling the need to go back to the handler for support,” Brown said. “So we just had to adjust our philosophy to encourage our female dogs that it’s okay to be away from the handler for extended periods of time.”

Regina’s first intervention dog helps put abuse victims at ease

Over the past four years, Browne added, the RCMP has trained and assigned more female dogs to handlers than in the previous ten years.

“I find that our female dogs are far more meticulous trackers — they are much better searchers and they have a far more balanced temperament,” Browne said. “Males sometimes are very free thinking. Sometimes we see what we call alpha behaviour in the dogs, where they will challenge the handler to be the one in charge.”

Many females are also held back for breeding, but the RCMP aren’t the only suppliers of police dogs in the country. In Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) only have one working female out of 27 general police service dogs.

The OPP said that’s because females are less outwardly aggressive towards chasing down a threat and the good females are usually kept for breeding.

Dog becomes first Edmonton police K9 to specialize in finding human remains

But regardless of gender, when she’s not at a crime scene, Siren — like any police dog — spends countless hours training.

“She’s a thinker so that exposure training is really important for her,” Scheske said. “She’ll think through things a little more than the male dogs that I’ve seem to have [had], but once she gets a skill she’s really really good at it.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to solving crime.

“Every handler wants to have a dog that’s a rock star, that goes out and catches bad guys,” Scheske said.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, big or small.”






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‘It hits the heart’: Trio of female air force veterans honoured at Vancouver ceremony


It was a special Remembrance Day weekend for three veterans in Vancouver on Friday.

Geraldine Grimway, 97, Colleen DeSerres, 86 and Penny Stirling, 94, all served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The three are also clients of Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver, where they were honoured at a special Remembrance Day ceremony on Friday.

B.C. remembers: Watch the 2018 Remembrance Day Ceremony live in Vancouver

The trio were each presented with a special pin and white carnation to recognize their service.

None of the women knew each other before coming to Holy Family, but have since become friends.

The three women share one thing in common alongside their service records: a love of flying.

Colleen DeSerres, 86, served in France during the Korean war.

Global News

Flying is a family tradition for DeSerres. Her great uncle Douglas McCurdy flew the first powered flight in the British Empire in 1909.

Decades later, DeSerres took up the tradition during the Korean War. She learned to fly in France, where she’d been deployed because she was bilingual, she said.

READ MORE: How Global News is marking Remembrance Day 2018

“I flew a Tiger Moth in France. It’s a single-engine aircraft. It was exciting, going down the runway and then taking off. I couldn’t believe it when I took off an looked out the window and the earth was way down beneath me,” she told Global News.

“Then, one of [the] jet pilots, they were in training for the Korean conflict, took me up in a jet. A T-33 jet. That was exciting, he let me take the controls.”

Penny Stirling, 94, said she joined the air force because she’d loved the idea of flying since she was a child.

Global News

Stirling, a World War II veteran, recalled her time in the air force as “a grand old time.”

“I was what they called the watchkeeper. That meant that every operation that was going on that day I had to report it all, and make sure it all ran smoothly,” she said.

Stirling, too, was driven to join the service because of a love of aviation.

As a child, she grew up near an airfield that fueled her dreams of flight — dreams she could turn into a reality by spending time around the runway.

Historic instrument from WWI to be played in Edmonton for Remembrance Day

“I was always hoping to get my first ride in an airplane,” she said.

“I noticed there was a lot of flying, take-offs and landing, so I thought surely I could get one of them to take off and land me, so when he landed, I ran over to the pilot’s cockpit and he knew what I wanted, he said OK, get in, and that’s how I got my first flight.”

Stirling said Remembrance Day always holds a special place for her, and for her family, including her son.

“He’s very proud of having his mother in the forces. It has been a great experience for me,” she said.

Geraldine Grimway, 97, said Remembrance Day is always a somber occasion for her because she remembers the friends she’s lost.

Global News

Grimway, another World War II veteran, served in Ottawa and in Vulcan, Alta. “where the boys got their wings” in flight school.

Remembrance Day brings back a flood of memories.

“It is just a very sad day for me, I’ve lost so many friends,” she said.

Grimway thinks of the friends she served with and her husband, who also served in the war during the annual ceremonies.

“So it’s not a very happy day,” she said. “It hits the heart.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Female pedestrian dead, man in hospital after rush hour collision with vehicle in Scarborough


A pedestrian is dead and another injured after they were struck by a vehicle in Scarborough during the Friday morning rush hour.

At 6:49 a.m., police responded to a collision in the area of Birchmount and Ellesmere Rds. They found a woman unresponsive. She was later pronounced dead.

A man was found conscious and breathing and was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police say the driver of the vehicle remained on the scene.

Ellesmere is closed between Birchmount and Rolark Dr. while police investigate. TTC vehicles are diverting at the intersection.

Ilya Bañares is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @ilyaoverseas


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Infuriated by Trump, female Democrats fuel a push to win back Congress in midterms


WASHINGTON—Barack Obama’s first midterm was the election of the angry white man. Eight years later, Donald Trump’s first midterm is shaping up as the election of the angry liberal woman.

Democrats are heavily favoured to win back control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, an outcome that would thwart most of Trump’s legislative agenda and subject him to a barrage of congressional investigations. If they do, it will be largely because of the women he has infuriated into action.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, women have donated more than $308 million to Democratic congressional candidates this year — more than three times what women donated to Democratic congressional candidates in the 2014 midterms.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, women have donated more than $308 million to Democratic congressional candidates this year — more than three times what women donated to Democratic congressional candidates in the 2014 midterms.  (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The Resistance, as Trump’s fervent grassroots opposition calls itself, is mostly female. Democratic women have run for office in unprecedented numbers, gifted campaigns an unprecedented army of midterm volunteers, and poured unprecedented cash, a few dollars at a time, into candidates’ coffers.

They are people like Beth Headrick, 49, who makes $10.80 an hour working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at a convenience store in St. Augustine, Fla. She had ignored every midterm before this year.

Now, filled with “hate” for Trump even though she holds some conservative views on immigration, Headrick is not only a midterm voter but a midterm donor: $20 to the Democrats’ governor candidate in Florida, $20 to their Senate candidate in Texas, $10 to their governor candidate in Kansas, $12 to their governor candidate in Georgia. And she has a new goodbye for young customers at the store.

“I no longer say, ‘Hey, goodnight.’ I say, ‘Hey, don’t forget to vote,’ ” she said.

Read more:

Rust Belt stats sour on Republicans

The Trump strategy: fear and lying

Tariff talk only a faint echo

Dionne Mitchell, 38, a software developer in the Atlanta-area suburb of Buford, didn’t even watch the news before Trump was elected, let alone vote in midterms. Now she watches left-leaning political channel MSNBC, nothing but MSNBC, from morning to night as she works, worrying about the future of her 9-year-old Black boy. Incensed about Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, she “went on a rage-donate” spree, sprinkling cash to Democratic candidates as far away as North Dakota.

“I was just like: I’m so mad I gotta do something,” Mitchell said.

Dionne Mitchell, a software developer in Buford, Ga., had never voted in a midterm. She's now addicted to MSNBC's coverage.
Dionne Mitchell, a software developer in Buford, Ga., had never voted in a midterm. She’s now addicted to MSNBC’s coverage.

Monica Hutchinson, 38, spends her days knocking on doors in Black and Latino communities in central Virginia. She had volunteered for Democratic campaigns for years. But after Trump got elected, she quit her job at a pharmacy and her pre-pharmacy university program and became a full-time progressive organizer, working to mobilize the marginalized neighbourhoods that elections sometimes seem to forget.

“Me being a Black woman in America, I just don’t have time to sit around and wait. It’s now,” she said. “For me, it wasn’t so much a great awakening as much as: enough is enough.”

Monica Hutchinson became a full-time progressive organizer after Trump's election, abandoning plans for a career in pharmacy. She spends her days talking to people in marginalized Black and Latino communities.
Monica Hutchinson became a full-time progressive organizer after Trump’s election, abandoning plans for a career in pharmacy. She spends her days talking to people in marginalized Black and Latino communities.

In Simi Valley, Calif., the women of professional singer Leanna Brand’s chapter of the resistance group Indivisible toil on the midterms every day of the week. Monday morning is for standing on highway overpasses and holding up “ginormous” signs to commuters below. Tuesday is for writing postcards to Democratic neighbours, Wednesday for hanging flyers on doors. They go back to the overpasses for the Thursday evening rush. Then they knock on doors all weekend.

Brand, 58, choked up as she contemplated Nov. 6. Like many Democrats, she sees the election as a pivotal moment for the country.

“I’ve gotta feel like, on November 7th, that I have done everything I could do,” she said. “No matter what happens, I’ve gotta feel like I didn’t leave anything in the tank.”

Leanna Brand is co-leader of the Indivisible chapter in Simi Valley, Calif., and seen here with the big VOTE sign. The largely female group does a midterms activity every day of the week. On Monday and Thursday they stand on highway overpasses with large signs.
Leanna Brand is co-leader of the Indivisible chapter in Simi Valley, Calif., and seen here with the big VOTE sign. The largely female group does a midterms activity every day of the week. On Monday and Thursday they stand on highway overpasses with large signs.

A Democratic victory is no sure thing. The party needs to gain 23 seats to take the House. They appear very likely to get at least somewhere in the teens, but they are not certain to get the rest.

Angered by Democrats’ treatment of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault, Republican voters have closed or narrowed the gap in polls of voter enthusiasm. Republican House candidates in some states have the benefit of district boundaries gerrymandered to their partisan advantage.

The forecasting website FiveThirtyEight gave Democrats an 85-per-cent chance to win the House as of Thursday. But Republicans had an 85-per-cent chance to keep control of the Senate, where they currently hold a 51-49 advantage. This year’s roster of 35 Senate races is especially rough for Democrats: 10 involve Democratic incumbents in states Trump won in 2016, five of them states Trump won by 19 points or more.

But the president’s party almost always loses seats in the midterms, Trump’s approval rating is stuck below 45 per cent, and all those $12 donations to Democrats have mattered. Many of the party’s candidates have large cash advantages that have allowed them to hammer their opponents with television ads.

« Democratic enthusiasm has led to an avalanche of financial contributions, which has allowed Democratic candidates and interest groups to vastly outspend their GOP opponents in these final weeks,” said Cam Savage, a Republican political consultant in Indiana, where Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly is in a tight Senate race. “Republicans are being swamped not just by the billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, but by tens of thousands of contributors across the country. It’s a massive problem in this election, but a catastrophe in future elections if not righted.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, women have donated more than $308 million to Democratic congressional candidates this year. That is more than three times what women donated to Democratic congressional candidates in the 2014 midterms.

The cash disparity has widened the House battleground. Nate Silver, the prominent analyst at FiveThirtyEight, said as many as 99 seats are at least somewhat competitive — almost as many as in the anti-Obama Tea Party wave midterm of 2010, when Republicans gained 63 House seats.

Most of Democrats’ best House pickup opportunities come in affluent suburban districts. College-educated white women in suburbs around cities from Los Angeles to Miami to Denver to Minneapolis to Detroit appear to have soured on Trump’s party, creating a historic gender gap that has made long-Republican seats suddenly attainable to Democrats.

It is white men keeping Republicans competitive. In one Marist College poll in October, for example, 44 per cent of men said they planned to vote for the local Republican, 43 per cent for the local Democrat — while 56 per cent of women said they planned to vote for the local Democrat, just 35 per cent for the local Republican.

“You’re going to have a lot of suburban households where the wife is voting Democrat and the husband is voting Republican,” said Mark Weaver, a Republican political consultant in Ohio. “That’s not true in exurban (areas). In exurban, you’re going to have wife and husband voting Republican. In urban areas, you’re largely having wife and husband voting Democrat.”

With big cities largely secure for Democratic incumbents, party supporters have poured resources into nearby suburbs. Swing Left, an organization founded after Trump’s win to channel progressive energy into competitive districts, says 100,000 people have signed up to volunteer in the last four days of the election.

Hundreds of liberals have driven from Los Angeles to the surrounding cities, trying to help Democratic House candidates knock off Republicans in long-conservative communities. A remarkable 300 people showed up in California’s 25th House district on a recent Saturday to knock on doors for Katie Hill, a 31-year-old Democratic challenger who ran an organization serving homeless people.

“This is unprecedented,” Hill said while grabbing lunch near her campaign office. “We’ve never seen volunteerism like this. We haven’t seen this in a presidential. It’s massive.”

The outpouring of female enthusiasm could create lasting change in the party. The surge has produced a record number of Democratic women winning nominations for not only Congress but for state positions — and a record number of women of colour. After six years of state-level defeats under Obama, Democrats now have a chance to replenish their bench with potential female stars like Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams, a Black lawyer locked in a tight race with a Trump-backed Republican, and Michigan governor candidate Gretchen Whitmer, a heavy favourite in a Midwestern state Trump won.

Supporters film a speech by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, who was campaigning with Stacey Abrams, the party's nominee for governor of Georgia, in Morrow, Ga.
Supporters film a speech by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, who was campaigning with Stacey Abrams, the party’s nominee for governor of Georgia, in Morrow, Ga.  (MELISSA GOLDEN)

The women leading the resistance “are not hyper-ideological but progressive and practical,” said Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress think tank and a close adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2016. “They are building a broad coalition with people of colour and millennials. And if they stay engaged, they will shift America in a more progressive direction for decades to come.”

Turnout in early voting has been much higher than in 2014, where the 37-per-cent total turnout was the lowest since the Second World War. Conversations with people in four states in October suggested a country not only deeply divided but deeply confused, each side unable to fathom how the other side views Trump the way it does.

“He’s just so unhinged,” said Dianne Hilliard, 62, retired from a General Motors plant, after she voted in Martinsburg, W.Va. “It’s scary. Why don’t these people that support him — why don’t they see it? I’m not an educated person. I didn’t go to college. But it doesn’t take a scholar to figure this out. I don’t understand. I really don’t understand.”

“He’s a brilliant man, and he’s headed in the right direction,” said fellow retiree Pat Schafer, 61, of Ebensburg, Pa. “He may not speak up to what he should be, but he’s getting stuff done. And that’s what we want. And I don’t think they’re treating him fair.”

Republicans losing the House, even while keeping the Senate, would represent a significant repudiation of the president. But a narrow House loss, in which Democrats gain only a slim majority, may give him reason for optimism going into the 2020 presidential election.

The president’s party almost always loses seats in a midterm. Republicans won back the House and the Senate in Bill Clinton’s first midterm in 1994. Democrats won both chambers in George W. Bush’s second midterm in 2006. Republicans won both chambers in Obama’s first midterm in 2010.

Trump has expressed optimism about the Senate but made clear he is uncertain about the House.

“I know we’re doing well in the Senate,” he told reporters Wednesday. ”And it looks like we’re doing OK in the House. We’re going to have to see.”

Women gather for a rally and march at Grant Park in Chicago in October, to inspire voter turnout ahead of midterm polls. -
Women gather for a rally and march at Grant Park in Chicago in October, to inspire voter turnout ahead of midterm polls. –  (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI)

Even a slim Democratic majority in the House would radically alter Trump’s presidency. Democrats would have the power to launch investigations, subpoena White House officials for public testimony, obtain Trump’s long-hidden tax returns, and, if they wanted, to impeach him — though Democrats would not have the two-thirds votes in the Senate to remove him from office.

One way or another, Trump is a central factor in every congressional race. Most Democrats, though, are not emphasizing him in their advertising. Rather, their overwhelming focus is health care — an issue they mentioned in 61 per cent of their television ads between mid-September and mid-October, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, three times as much as they mentioned anything else.

“We’re doing persuasion,” said Jason McGrath, a Democratic pollster involved in congressional races. “You don’t persuade somebody to like or dislike Trump. They have made their mind up for the most part. We’re trying to persuade people on things that really do affect them.”

Republicans’ 2010 midterm triumph was fuelled by voter discontent about Obamacare. In a dramatic reversal, the law is now popular, and Democrats now want to talk about it. Their ads pummel Republicans for their attempts to replace Obamacare with much weaker insurance protections for people with “pre-existing” health conditions.

The issue mentioned second-most by Democrats, at 21 per cent, is taxes. Trump and Republicans had once hoped that they could campaign on their 2017 tax cut, which favoured the wealthy and corporations. But even a humming economy has not made the law popular. McGrath said bringing up Republican candidates’ stances on health care and taxes has been a more powerful Democratic attack than even bringing up the candidates’ personal ethics scandals.

“People they have a rooting interest in what happens to their own bodies and to their own wallets,” he said. “And so we have a real advantage on this, insofar as they have overplayed their hand.”

Trump seems to be especially weak in the Midwest-and-Pennsylvania Rust Belt that put him over the top in 2016.

“I think Trump thinks that Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana … those states are ‘his states’ because he won them,” said Democratic strategist Jeff Hewitt. “But I think he’s going to be rudely awakened on election day that he’s tied those candidates to himself and he’s sunk them.”

Trump and Republicans have responded to the health-care barrage by insisting that they, too, will protect patients with pre-existing conditions, no matter what their voting records show, and by changing the subject.

Trump’s preferred subjects have been the supposed unfairness of the news media, which he has returned to gleefully calling “the enemy of the people,” and immigration, the issue that polls suggest is paramount to Republican voters. In the last two weeks of the campaign, Trump has used dishonesty and racial fearmongering to motivate his base.

Trump has attempted to gin up anxiety about a shrinking and slow-moving caravan of Latin American asylum seekers, portraying it as a dangerous horde of “very bad thugs” and “unknown Middle Easterners.” He has deployed thousands of troops to the border, supposedly to help with the eventual arrival of these migrants; critics have called this an obvious stunt. He has promised to try to eliminate “birthright citizenship,” which grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil. He has run videos featuring violent mobs, his preferred campaign word for Democratic supporters, and an unauthorized immigrant who is an unrepentant murderer.

It is a return to part of his successful 2016 playbook — but only part of it. Trump was uncharacteristically disciplined in the waning days of the 2016 election, keeping much of the news focus on Clinton. This time, his haphazard race-baiting has unnerved some Republicans in competitive House districts, who would prefer the president and immigration out of the headlines.

“Political malpractice,” tweeted Ryan Costello, a Republican Pennsylvania congress member not running for re-election, warning of the impact on suburban candidates with high numbers of immigrant voters.

The gambit, though, may be a triage attempt focused on saving the Senate. Most of the key races are occurring in heavily white states with a large proportion of very conservative voters, including North Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri.

Walking a tightrope, Democratic candidates in Trump-friendly states have stretched to align themselves with the president on immigration. Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said she “100 per cent” supports Trump “doing what he needs to do to secure the border.” Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly said he was open to legislation changing birthright citizenship.

As he did in 2016, Trump is ending the campaign with a rally blitz — this time 11 rallies in eight states over six days, including three rallies planned for Monday. His travel is centred around Senate races in states he won, a sign of his unpopularity in much of the most important House terrain.

Trump’s closing argument that Americans should fear foreigners, or see the left as a mob, has been undermined by the anti-Democrat attempted bombing spree allegedly committed by an American Trump devotee, and the mass murder of Pittsburgh Jews allegedly committed by an American white nationalist. And Trump’s long history of Congress-bashing has complicated his effort to motivate his supporters to vote for members of Congress. At the insistence of his aides, he eventually declared at a rally the first week of October: “I’m not on the ticket, but I am on the ticket, because this is also a referendum about me.”

By Halloween, though, he had taken a long break from suggesting the outcome would say anything about his own popularity. At a rally in Florida, he dutifully read his prepared text about how this was “one of the most important elections of our entire lives.”

Then he improvised: “Although I will say: not as important as 2016. »

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8


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In Kentucky, Where the Future Really is Female


“Hot, behind!” Jen Rock yells. She’s carrying a very large pot of tomato gravy. The warning goes up like an emergency flare to her fellow chefs crammed in one of New York City’s most hallowed (and most claustrophobic) kitchens: the James Beard House.

The chefs squish closer to their stations to give Rock room. “This calms me down,” she says to me as she wipes tomato gravy puddles from the countertop. “Close proximity, I’m used to. The stressful part was making sure that everyone got here.”

That’s because tonight is the graduation ceremony for Rock and the group of sous-chefs, high school culinary teachers, and chef de cuisines gathered together in this kitchen. Just the day before, they all drove up from Kentucky in small sedans packed with boxes of prepped ingredients for the climactic moment ending their time as the first round of mentees under the LEE Initiative.

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David Chow / Courtesy of the James Beard Foundation

Rock’s take on pork and beans for the James Beard House dinner

“How do you respond to the #MeToo movement in a way that’s more than a reactionary thing?” Edward Lee poses to me over the phone, about a week before the dinner.

After news of sexual harassment allegations against Mario Batali, John Besh, and Ken Friedman about a year ago, Lee, the chef behind 610 Magnolia in Louisville, and 610’s general manager, Lindsey Ofcacek, reflected on their own experiences working in restaurants. “I have been in the industry my whole life, and I’ve always believed there is more good than bad,” Lee says. Part of that good, he recognized, were the female chefs leading beyond the kitchen.

Their conversations led to the formation of the LEE Initiative, a week-long mentorship program that pairs five Kentucky-based cooks with a respected chef from restaurants around the country. The goal is to give rising local talents a chance to shadow a mentor and gain exposure to the industry from multiple angles—from meetings with accountants to social media management to the leadership skills necessary to run a kitchen. Funds raised from sponsors (Maker’s Mark) and private donors (including Lee) go toward paying for each mentee’s time off from work. This year’s applicant pool reached to 200 candidates. The winning five were paired with mentors Anne Quatrano of Star Provisions in Atlanta, Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville, Brooke Williamson of Hudson House in Redondo Beach, Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio in Chicago, and Jenn Louis of now-closed Ray in Portland, Oregon.

“We wanted to do something smaller and quieter but something we thought could last for years and create change,” Lee says. “It was really Lindsey’s idea.”

Ofcacek started her career as a line cook, then eventually moved to the front of the house as a general manager and sommelier. Even though she loved her job, Ofcacek thought this was only temporary—she had two small children at that time and couldn’t see how she could meet the demands of running a restaurant while also taking care of them. Then in Louisville, she was hired by chef Annie Pettry of Decca, where maternity leave, nursing in meetings, and strict sexual harassment policies are the norm. She realized she could make it work.

When she joined the 610 team about a year and a half later, she brought with her practices passed on from Pettry: ask questions, take care of your staff as much as you do your guests, and don’t be afraid to change the whole system if it’s not working for everyone. Now she’s extending these mantras to the LEE Initiative as executive director.

“I just thought about how there are lot of women on the bottom of management and not the top. That’s because if you’re treated like garbage during your first job in a restaurant, you’ll leave,” Ofcacek explains to me over the phone. “We wanted to be an incubator for more women to push through and stay in this industry.”

lee initiative jen rock 2

Photo by Chelsie Craig

Ofcacek and Lee with the first class of LEE Initiative mentees: Nikkia Rhodes, Stephanie Callihan, Rock, AuCo Lai, and Stephania Sharkey

Back at the Beard House, the mentees work together seamlessly. It’s the first time they’re cooking dinner as a team and, for some, it’s the first time they’ve cooked in a kitchen without men. “It’s quieter,” one of the mentees mentions. “Less competitive,” another adds. Then Rock says what all the mentees are thinking: “It feels like a level playing field.”

“I stumbled across the call for applicants on social media, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is me. My name is all over it,’” Rock tells me. “Then in typical Jen Rock fashion, I waited until the very last moment to turn in my application to Lindsey.”

She lets out a husky laugh. Rock is a petite woman, dressed in all black, with short, curly hair that seems to defy gravity, and Doc Martens on her feet. Her black, rectangular glasses continually slide down her nose, and she’s mastered a kind of choreography to get them back in place without missing a beat.

Rock got into cooking as a way to financially support different career paths she thought she might take—theology school, HIV prevention non-profit work, etc. “There’s always been a little activist inside of me,” she says. But it wasn’t until she started cooking privately for a family that she realized cooking could be a career. So, when she and her family decided to return to Louisville three years ago, Rock landed at Gralehaus, starting off as a part-time line cook/dishwasher and working her way up to chef de cuisine alongside chef Andy Myers—a position she never dreamed of having.

She detailed what happened next in her application to LEE Initiative: Mental illness changed her wife, and she became emotionally and physically abusive toward Rock. Then, her wife left her. Devastated, Rock sought out therapy at the Center for Women & Families in Louisville. She poured herself into her work.

“I lost my whole world, and I found myself a domestic violence survivor,” Rock says. “I could hardly get up for myself everyday, but, Gralehaus, that was the one good place. It just helped me pull myself up, get through it, and focus on something else.”

When she was paired with Jenn Louis for her LEE Initiative mentorship earlier this spring, she had no idea the two would connect over this issue. Louis has written about her own experience of surviving domestic abuse. From her, Rock honed her knife skills and learned how to better communicate with front-of-house staff. But the thing that’s stayed with her the most was how Louis was able to lead in the midst of intense personal struggle. It made Rock realize, “I can do that too.”

“My time with Jenn was like a window into where my potential lies,” Rock says of the confidence she gained.” This opportunity [with the LEE Initiative] to take risks, do something for myself, take credit for a dish at the James Beard House—that’s amazing.”

Lee and Ofcacek are already planning the next class of the LEE Initiative for 2019. A new crop of chefs have already approached them to volunteer as mentors. They’ll stick to Kentucky, but hope to expand the program to more cities in the future. But for now, the two aren’t making any drastic changes. They plan to do a thorough review of what worked, what didn’t, and what they could do better, then get started on fundraising.

“I personally don’t think change happens in one sweeping motion: It happens because a lot of people do millions of small good deeds,” Lee says. “And over time, they drive momentum.”

lee initiative jen rock 1

Photo by Chelsie Craig

Rock at the Beard House

As the clock ticks down to 7 p.m., the 70 or so guests shuffle to find their seats at the Beard House as Rock and the chefs scramble to plate each other’s dishes. After the whirlwind of a meal, Lee calls the mentees up from the kitchen to introduce them to the audience.

“They were scared s**tless downstairs,” Lee says into a microphone, getting a few laughs from the crowd. “They are the future of Kentucky cuisine. They are here to impress you but also to push themselves more than they ever have before.”

Lee puts down the mic, and the diners applauded the chefs for their dishes, and their time in the program. Rock takes her certificate that says she officially cooked at the Beard House. She lingers for a moment to bask in the pride and confidence she’s learned to embrace. She beams, and pushes up her glasses one more time.


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‘Trailblazing’ female shipbuilders of the Second World War honoured


We don’t know much about her, other than that her name was Mrs. Martin.

But the photo of the Mi’kmaw woman tightening bolts at a shipyard in Pictou, N.S., with a toddler strapped to her back is a small glimpse into the lives of the 4,000 women who helped build Canada’s naval and merchant vessels during the Second World War.

Information about Mrs. Martin, like many women involved in the war effort, is sparse. Despite their best efforts, staff at Parks Canada can’t even find out what her first name was.

« She represents many, many of the women whose story is much like her own, » said Pascale Guindon, a historian with Parks Canada. « The historical record unfortunately has not left a lot of evidence of who she was and what she did. »

The lack of information about Mrs. Martin is an example of how little information was collected about the women who worked behind the scenes in the war effort. Despite searching, no one has been able to find out what Mrs. Martin’s first name was, or anything else about her. (Library and Archives Canada)

On Saturday, women like Mrs. Martin were honoured as part of Parks Canada’s Hometown Heroes program, which recognizes the contributions made by everyday Canadians during the war effort.

« They don’t get as much recognition as those who wore a uniform who served on the front lines. They were behind the scenes, » Guindon said.

« It’s important to recognize these trailblazing women for the work they did, » she said.

The ceremony, held on the grounds of the Admiralty House National Historic Site in Halifax, included a minute of silence, the firing of a cannon, the ringing of a ship’s bell and a military band.

Women who worked in the shipyards during the war faced sexism, were paid less than their male counterparts and struggled with child care, she said.

Koren Beaman, left, who works at the Irving Shipyard in Halifax, and Pascale Guindon from Parks Canada, say it’s important to honour the long history of Canadian women who worked in the shipbuilding industry. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

The honour was accepted by two women who work at Halifax’s Irving Shipyard today, including Koren Beaman, who started painting ships 18 years ago.

« When I started in the shipyards, there was five of us, » Beaman said. « I could count on one hand that there was five down on the shop floor. Now we’re up over a hundred women in shipbuilding [in Halifax]. »

Beaman said the public is often unaware that women have a long history of working in her field.

« The women back in the war, they paved the way for each and every one of us, » she said.

In the shipyard in Pictou where Mrs. Martin worked, at the height of the war, one-third of the 2,000 employees were female — the highest percentage of women at any shipyard in the country.

« You hear it too often, that women in shipbuilding is non-traditional. I don’t think it’s so non-traditional, » she said. « It’s a traditional trade for women. We’re here and we’re not going anywhere. »

Women build a merchant ship at the Pictou, N.S., shipyard. At the height of the Second World War, one-third of the employees at the Pictou operation were women. (Library and Archives Canada)

Read more articles from CBC Nova Scotia


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