Thursday, March 7, 2024


Note: This post was originally written for and posted on the wonderful and now-defunct Shebytches blog in July 2009. In honour of the recent death of my badass feminist mother and with International Women's Day 2024 happening on March 8 (which is also my awesome sister's birthday), I think it's more relevant than ever in the context of our current pandemic-related "she-cession."

Much as I like to claim I’m only 29, I was actually born in the “Swinging Sixties” — that progressive era when it was perfectly acceptable to fire a woman just for being pregnant. My own mother lost her job when she was five months pregnant with me because her position interessante ("interesting or delicate condition") had become visible, and it was no longer proper for her to be "seen." Two months prior, my mother had been due for a raise and was denied it on the grounds that she would soon be resigning on account of "her condition."

Ironically, when my mother was very close to her delivery date, her former employer was in desperate need of her services. Mum had been the only native English speaker in the Montreal office, and the company president was coming from Toronto for some high-powered meetings. My heavily pregnant mother was temporarily re-engaged so she could transcribe the meeting notes. The proceedings were even filmed for television news. After giving birth to me and then my sister a year later, Mum took advantage of her "delicate conditions" and went back to school to get her BA, MA, and PhD.

Earlier in the '60s, my mother had a summer job at an insurance agency. On a Thursday late into that summer, one of her co-workers (a recent immigrant) confided to some of the female staff that she would be away on the Friday because she was nine months pregnant. Her child would be born on the Saturday, and she had planned to be back working on the Monday. When the other women asked the mother-to-be why she had kept her pregnancy a secret, she said she feared losing her job, as she and her husband were dependent on the extra income. Unfortunately, someone ratted on the woman. She was called into the manager's office and fired immediately. My mother can't recall the woman's name, but to this day, Mum is still haunted by the devastated look on her face.

Maternity leave benefits were first included in the Canadian unemployment insurance system in 1971. The program was expanded over the years and now includes parental leave for both parents, as well as for adoptive parents. So the sad stories of the '50s and '60s are supposed be relics of the past. Unfortunately it seems that, in 2009, some employers are using the "Recession Excuse" to flagrantly break the law and not re-hire women returning from their maternity leaves. It just goes to show that contemporary women must make themselves aware of our foremothers' breakthroughs and to guard against any and all attempts to "turn back the clock."

Friday, March 1, 2024


The experimental digital journal, Steel Bananas, is now defunct. In 2011, the magazine published the flash fiction piece below. As the story is no longer available online, I have reprinted it here.

Black and white photo of René Lévesque

When René Lévesque Came to Class

When I was a kid I lived in an English-speaking part of Montreal. I was part of that first-generation of children who went to French Immersion. I didn’t attend the brown-bricked school around the corner but instead walked over the tracks to the new part of town. It was a long walk in winter. We didn’t know much about politics or the Quiet Revolution then. We sometimes heard about those people who wanted Quebec to leave Canada, but we didn’t understand why. We were Canadians just like our hockey team.

My teacher’s name was Mademoiselle Tremblay. She was from a place called Trois-Rivières, not France or Belgium like the other teachers in the school. Mademoiselle Tremblay had long straight hair and wore tan sandals with blue socks. One morning she started class with a special announcement: “René Lévesque will be visiting us next week.”

I didn’t know much about René Lévesque. My parents had a cartoon book for adults. In the book, there was frog named René whose mouth was full of Export A’s. He was always fighting with another frog named Pierre. To prepare for his arrival, Mademoiselle Tremblay had us make a papier maché bust of Monsieur Lévesque. We also practiced singing a song called Mon pays c’est l’hiver by a man named Gilles Vigneault. Mademoiselle Tremblay said he was a very famous singer—even if none of us had ever heard of him.

Monsieur Lévesque spent about two hours with our class. I thought he would be a big man, but he wasn’t much taller than I was. He complimented us on our French and asked us to tell our parents not to be afraid of him and his party. Although smoking wasn’t allowed, Monsieur Lévesque lit up one cigarette after another. He said the papier maché was remarquable.

I live in Toronto now, but I go back to Montreal regularly. My mother no longer lives in our old English-speaking neighbourhood; she has a condo in St. Henri, right near the street made famous by the Lacasse Family in The Tin Flute. Her French is really good these days.

On my last visit, my mother played me a song by Les Cowboys Fringants. “They’re a hip, young sovereigntist band,” my mother said. The song was called René Lévesque. The Fringants would have all have been little kids when he died. My mother had tickets for their next concert.

Before leaving Montreal that time, I took a long walk along Boulevard René-Lévesque. I felt both triste and pleased about a street we once called Dorchester.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

International Women's Day 2023

IWD 2023 is almost here! This is an excellent week to read books by women and nonbinary authors.📚💜

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

I did say this was a random, irregular blog!

I just noticed that I haven't posted in nearly three years—our "unprecedented times" and all that. In a meagre attempt to remedy this, I'm making a post! I have poem called "How Do I" in the 2022 League of Canadian Poets' chapbook On the Storm / In the Struggle: Poets On Survival, edited by the talented Adebe DeRango-Adem, if you feel like ordering a copy. Only $12 for great poetry!

Also, it's #PLR Public Lending Right time! Through this amazing program, Canadian authors can receive royalties for having their books in Canadian public libraries. Registration is open now until May 1, 2023. Check out the PLR site for more details.☺


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fortune Cookie Prologue

I hope everyone is staying health and safe in these unprecedented times. Please wash your hands regularly, stay six feet away from people and do your best to support those who need some help. 

Read books that you enjoy! If you like, you can read the prologue of my novel Fortune Cookie🥠 for free on the Tightrope Books web site at this link.💜📚