The Week — Nov. 29: No more Green for the Island

Island asks for Orange, World AIDS Day celebrates with no art, give a gift she’ll never forget and Walmart's black mark on shopping

The Green’s Donald Galloway (centre) says his heart was in his throat on election night, as the race drew closer.

No more Green for the Island

Murray Rankin’s NDP win in the Victoria byelection didn’t surprise a lot of people — but the nail-biting close race with Green Party candidate Donald Galloway did.

Galloway missed the title of Victoria’s new Member of Parliament by just 1,151 votes on Mon., Nov. 26, as the neck-and-neck race unfolded through the evening, at times giving the Greens hope that Galloway was as much as 300 votes in the lead. “We knew we would increase our numbers, but we never really thought it would be like this,” says Ariel Lade, board member and CEO of the Victoria Green’s Electoral District Association. “Still, this is one of the closest elections Victoria has seen. Our hope is to turn this into a Green town — to have ‘safe’ Green seats.”

Galloway described the close call as “the best moment of his life,” and Rankin thanked Galloway for a hard-fought campaign of issues and ideas.

“Elizabeth [May] has been a dynamo through this campaign, and she is a powerhouse in parliament and could have used the extra support,” says Galloway. “Next time, we will get the vote.”

Victoria saw only 44 per cent of the 88,886 registered voters participate this election, compared to the 69 per cent turnout of voters in 2011.

No art, but a lot of heart

Art around the city will look a little darker this weekend, as local galleries symbolically black drape canvasses to recognize the loss of artists and art in the community due to HIV/AIDS.

“A Day Without Art” will take place on World AIDS Day, Sat., Dec. 1, and is a revival of an annual event of the late ’80s and early ’90s — a period when Victoria’s gay community was devastated by AIDS.

“If you walk into any of these galleries and think of the art that would be, or is, missing from the walls due to AIDS, that leaves a message,” says Craig Dales, executive director of the Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV/AIDS Society (VPWAS). “It’s an important way to remember that HIV is still with us.”

An estimated 26 per cent of Canada’s 67,000 people living with HIV are infected with the virus but don’t know it, due to lack of testing.

“Being unaware of one’s status and then engaging in high-risk behaviour is often how new infections occur,” says AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) executive director Katrina Jensen, whose separate World AIDS Day campaign is focused on achieving zero new HIV infections on Vancouver Island by 2015.

According to a new report by the BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver Island experienced 20 new HIV infections in 2011 — a decrease from 38 new infections in 2009. 2011 also showed the lowest rate of new infections on record in B.C. (289 new infections), which gives Jensen and others hope. Still, advocacy groups are pushing hard for more dedicated HIV education, support and greater access to testing. “This [art movement] is a way to keep HIV in the mind of the public,” says Karen Dennis, executive director of Victoria AIDS Resource & Community Service Society (VARCS). “The ‘dark old days’ may be gone, but we continue to lose the vibrant people who add so much love and colour to our community.”

Six galleries will drape selected works, including UVic’s Legacy Gallery (630 Yates), Madrona Gallery (606 View), Studio J (1324 Broad), Dales Gallery (537 Fisgard), Sukhi Lalli Care Clinic Lobby (1139 Yates) and Polychrome (977A Fort), which has opted to cover all pieces in the studio. Special donated works will also be sold by silent auction at each gallery to benefit VPWAS  and VARCS.

The gift she’ll never forget

Still brainstorming that perfect gift for the lady in your life? Now you can give her the vacation of everyone’s dreams: a holiday from violence.

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada is marked Dec. 6 this year, but groups around Victoria are hosting remembrance ceremonies this week, with “The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” taking place until Dec. 10.

“We need to stand up and name violence for what it is. We need to refuse to use language that minimizes the severity of violence in our lives,” says Jo-Anne Lee, president of Antidote: Multiracial and Indigenous Girls and Women’s Network, that focused its Nov. 25 vigil on the effects of the bullying highly publicized in the media this year. “When the death of a girl is framed as a result of bullying and not viewed as violence against girls and women, we lose this connection.”

In recognition of the day, UVic will host a community open vigil on Mon., Dec. 3, from 11:30am-12:30pm in the Quad outside the McPherson Library. Classes will also be cancelled to encourage everyone to join the circle in solidarity against all forms of violence. A soup and conversation in the Michèle Pujol Room (Student Union Building) will follow from 12:30-2:30pm.

A black mark on shopping— Colin Cayer

Uptown Walmart scored top of the blacklist of one group of workers this week.

While their numbers were small, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) stood strong before the Uptown Walmart in Saanich on “Black Friday,” Nov. 23. “We’re here to support the workers,” says IWW protestor Art Farquharson.

Choosing the largest U.S. shopping day of the year, the U.S.-based and union-backed group “Our Walmart” aimed to draw attention to wage and benefit suppression of the retailer’s employees. A small percentage of the nearly 1.5 million total North America workers took part in protests at thousands of U.S. and Canadian Walmart locations.

Walmart’s chief marketing and merchandising manager, Duncan MacNaughton, took a seat on NBC’s TODAY show on Nov. 21 to downplay concerns. Farquharson wasn’t buying it.

“Employees asked, if they participated in Black Friday protests, would they be fired? Executives responded with ‘no comment.’ That is intimidation,” says Farquharson, who once organized for Auto Union Workers of BC and persuaded one security officer to let them stay. “He said he supports the cause.”

Execs continue to downplay the number and impact of employee-protestors. It’s unlikely wage and benefit practices (responsible for $16 billion in profits last year) will change, and Walmart heirs will receive approximately $1.8 billion in dividends again this year. Despite the odds, Wally World employees can rest assured Victorians have their backs — at least a little. M

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