April 8, 2021

M.J. Willard: Peaceful Protest and Raging Granny

M.J. Willard: Peaceful Protest and Raging Granny

M J Willard is a social activist who is a grandmother, but doesn't have grandchildren. She dresses up in clothes that mock stereotypes of older women and sing songs at protests. She talks about why peaceful protest and education are the best tools to change the world. From a life that has experienced racial and gender discrimination, M J Willard has broken barriers. She believes that Indigenous Peoples, have never been given a fair shake, but have a  phenomenal understanding about climate change and ecology. In this Podcast episode M J Willard covers racism, education, politics, travelling to all 7 Continents and how to protest peacefully. 
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M J Willard is a social activist who is a grandmother, but doesn't have grandchildren. She dresses up in clothes that mock stereotypes of older women and sing songs at protests. She talks about why peaceful protest and education are the best tools to change the world. From a life that has experienced racial and gender discrimination, M J Willard has broken barriers. She believes that Indigenous Peoples, have never been given a fair shake, but have a  phenomenal understanding about climate change and ecology. In this Podcast episode M J Willard covers racism, education, politics, travelling to all 7 Continents and how to protest peacefully.  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Transcript

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota, and the Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

This is Humans, On Rights. A podcast advocating for the education of human rights.

Here's your host Stuart Murray.

My guest today is a social justice activist who dresses up in clothes that mock stereotypes of older women and sing songs of protest.

Yes, she has been a part of the raging grannies.

My guest today is M J Willard MJ.

We have got so much to unpack because really your life story, it's about education, it's about racism, it's about traveling the world, it's about bringing a family into Winnipeg your life journey frankly is one that anybody should be looking at making a documentary of, it's an amazing journey and I'm so delighted to spend some time with you today.

Welcome M J.

Willard.

Thank you.

Thanks for inviting me.

Let's start from the beginning.

Okay, so this is your story.

You were born, as I said in Missouri, you clarified, That's not exactly right.

You were born in Missouri Missouri Missouri.

Okay, let's start with your beginning MJ and walk us through your life story bringing you to Winnipeg and the power of protest.

Okay, well I've always been interested in social issues by and large from the first teaching job I had, where I taught in the school with no no phones, no toilets.

The kids walked to school Barefoot and where was that?

Where was that?

That was in Alabama in 1970 I think that's what probably perked up my ears.

I grew up in Missouri, average family with everything, you could possibly want a couple of horses in the back yard, you know, that sort of thing.

But I always wanted to be a veterinarian and that's kind of how my soldier developed, but I couldn't get into vet school right away because I was a girl In 68.

They didn't take girls in vet school, not very easily.

Anyway.

Right.

And so how many times did you apply 17, 17 times, yep.

And I had 11 stateside interview left.

I had been accepted in the Philippines and I would have gone, but he offered me one more chance and they accepted me that year.

And what school and what city are we talking about?

MJ tuskegee institute now, tuskegee University is in Alabama.

So I ended up back in Alabama again, right.

Um, I had been in Alabama for that first teaching job that I had been in Virginia and then got accepted in the school and it's in tuskegee institute, Alabama, which is basically tuskegee Alabama and and tell me about growing up in that community.

I mean, you know, that's kind of the south and so you know the notion about, I mean today, you know the black lives matter and and this, this systemic racism, any sort of sense did that appear as part of your, your day to day life there.

It was, it was basically a black town.

Um, there's one street for white people, pretty much, I was on that street.

I bought a little tiny house.

I'm not sure Really that impacted me as a child because I was 28 years old when I got into the best school and that's when I moved there vet school is a very compressed mode.

What takes physicians With similar qualifications?

8-9 years to complete?

We do it in four so life really other than research and and going to school, there wasn't much else.

So MJ, just to put in perspective for a second.

So at vet school, which you applied for 17 times successful on 18.

No, I was like, I got it in the 17th.

Oh, you did, okay, sorry, I got in the 17th time.

So, so MJ, what was the, the racial component c or even the, you know, the men and women.

What you just talk a little bit about, what, what was the makeup of the people that were attending that school?

The Class size was 60 and I think four of us were white and mostly men, mostly women.

I mean, I know it was difficult, mostly predominantly men still right, but there were some, there were some men of color that were, uh, in the school is a black university.

It's it's like Howard University, It's predominantly a black university for blacks.

The undergraduate was probably 90%, black.

The vet school.

I'm not really quite sure how they decide which whites get in, but the school is principally there to educate blacks where they can't get in anywhere else.

And what was your experience as a white woman in that environment?

I didn't see any difference between me and the next person.

I mean when you're trying to get a calf out of a cow and you've got chains on the calf and you're pulling you really don't care who else is pulling on the chains.

You got to get the calf out.

We treated each other as equals.

We all had come from a variety of schools.

I don't think any of us had gone to undergraduate school there.

So you get your vet degree now, what do you do?

We all started applying for jobs now, we always kind of wondered why they had us in a duel dr veterinary medicine PhD program.

I didn't really think much about it because all we really wanted to do was go to vet school.

But Out of the 60 of us, one of us got a job and that was me and I got a job in Canada, applied 75 times two jobs in the us, 75 times you applied, not even an interview really and I was the top of my class, you know, why would that be?

Well, my real name is Martha jo very southern, right?

I went to a black school without the internet without pictures on CVS.

People just assume you went to a black school.

You're black and a lot of places still did not in 78.

Want to consider hiring a black to see people's pets.

And even up here the first night I put in an I.

V.

And a cat and the lady said where are you from?

Is that a really southern accent?

Right.

And I said Alabama said okay So M.

J.

You know you find yourself applying for 75 places you apply, you don't get it and that's in the United States.

You're not successful but you come north to Canada.

Did you know there was an opportunity here or how did you seek the opportunity to come to to Canada and particularly Winnipeg.

I went to Winnipeg because I picked up a Canadian journal of veterinary medicine and looked in the want ads and Winnipeg had an opening.

So I applied, they couldn't find me in the airport because they only asked what I'd have on, they didn't ask about what my pigmentation was.

They couldn't find me because it wasn't black.

So they also thought that you were a potentially a woman of color.

You talk about just sort of how people's you know imagination and uh and and getting a sense of you know who you are and and jumping, you know, leaping the alphabet too to make assumptions.

Yeah and that's been something that up until this time you've had to live with that through your early years growing up in the United States.

Yeah.

The first hurdle was being a female in a male dominated profession and then being a black in quotes, female, male dominated profession, I was female.

They were not common yet they were more prevalent, but still Not common at all.

In 78, most of the industry was still men because they were already out in practice and black who's gonna hire black female, incredible.

And and and so you arrive in Winnipeg MJ, what year do you arrive in Winnipeg 82 In 82.

Okay.

And you've got an opportunity to sort of practice your profession, then walk us through.

So I mean you, you know, on your resume, which I've read and as I said, I'd read it, but we have run out of time on the podcast.

You know, you education is something that has just been a part of your life in, in so many ways.

So now you're a veterinarian, really professional student, right?

I've got it.

But let's let's, so let's share that.

So you're now a veterinarian and you decide that you're going to go to med school.

Yes, that wasn't really my choice per se.

Um my husband at the time I said, why don't you get a job and make some money because I had a mortgage on my building.

I was still paying for the practice.

I bought from someone who had retired, All the equipment was still under lease agreement.

I had a lot of staff and there wasn't much money at the end of the day for the owner of the clinic.

I understood where I was going, but he said why don't you get a job to make some money?

And I said like what?

He said, med school, I said I haven't been in in undergraduates since 1970 there's no way I'll pass the exam because it's based on your undergraduate performance, not not on professional.

And he says I pay you right.

So I did, I sent in the application, I got two interviews and um I wasn't gonna go even the day before.

I was busy painting a mural on the side of my building.

Now you've just you're you're practicing vet, you're finding that it's a tough goal financially.

Just No, I actually didn't.

I loved veterinary manager.

So I was gonna say financially just with it was the goal was getting the fight.

And I know you loved it because you come by it.

Honestly.

I mean Anybody that tries 17 times and gets in, you know, so I understand that part.

MJ I was just saying that financially, you were looking at another opportunity.

I don't know how you find that opportunity in a full running a full vet clinic, but you seem to manage that somehow.

How did you do that?

I went to med school during the day, I hired a vet to work during the day.

I worked at night.

My clients loved it because they could come after work.

It was really a good tongue to see patients and Studied when I got home at 11:00 PM, turned around and went back.

But remember I had already had all the, the course is before.

This was just a revisit of the courses.

Yeah, this, so this goes back to your time in Alabama, is that correct?

Well, I've been a veterinarian.

I got into med school in 1990, so I had been practicing veterinary medicine and then At some level since 78 And as a licensed veterinarian since 82 I had a lot of experience.

I've seen a lot of medical problems and I know a lot of people don't realize how close humans are to the rest of the animal world, but we are, we're very close.

That's how I managed to continue to get passed my exams in med school.

And how did I, how did I manage to work so many hours?

I've always been like that 16 yard days is kind of my norm.

So now let's on this journey of yours, you now have, you're you're a practicing vet in Winnipeg and now you've gone to the University of Manitoba med school and you graduate.

So what does m.

J.

Willard do once she graduates med school at the University of Manitoba.

I matched the pathology on purpose because I still wanted my veterinary practice and it was the only residency program where it could reasonably control my hours and a practice lifestyle after residency that I could control my life my hours and still be a veterinarian.

And so again reading through your your your bio, you spent some time in Winnipeg but you also traveled a little bit with with your pathology.

Well, yeah, and when I finished my residency training and my first job was in what Westman labs and Brandon And I was there until seven and then moved to Yorktown and broke my back man, I went to school in Yorktown and I didn't break my back.

I might have broken something else, but no Yorktown for sure.

So how do you break your back in Yorktown?

What happened moving some specimens from one part of the more to the other to work on them?

And pathology historically is in the basement of hospitals, not how sciences, but in most places it is anyway.

And I tripped over what's called the mayo stand, which is top heavy kind of a stand and the specimens, me, everything, everything went flying when I got it caught on a bunch of boxes that were, you could say we're not properly stored and smacked me my back obviously extremely painful and debilitating in terms of your profession still is what happened then.

Did you you obviously had to recover and you did you spend time there recovering or did you stay?

No, I, I owned a home in Winnipeg.

So I left my home in Yorkton and went back to my home and Winnipeg.

Really my healthcare has always been through Manitoba because I was still um going back and forth a lot.

I drove home every weekend.

So I spent 10 months in bed because I opted not to try surgery.

And I said, okay now I got to have a job again.

I started looking for a job.

I found a six month contract in nova Scotia.

I thought, well, try that.

See how that, see if I can handle the pain.

Got the contract.

It was a six month locum and tried that.

Unfortunately he wanted a male, not a female.

But she made clear to me the very first day sis you're not a guy again.

The M.

J.

Willard got got somebody again.

So I said, well, that'll be six months contract.

So then I had to hunt for another job and found one in Calgary moved out to category and then the oil patch hit hit a patch and they said, okay, last night pathologist, you're gonna get pink slips.

Well, I was the last one hired back to back to Winnipeg.

Okay, so going back to Winnipeg, which is, which is fantastic.

So, so MJ, you know, you you've had an incredible experience.

And uh, and and the the discrimination that you've had both imagined from people that imagined who you might be and finding out who you actually are.

Let's let's talk a little bit about your passion of how you have used some of that to turn that into a passion around climate change.

I know you're you're you're very active in that file and I want to explore, you know, why is climate change?

How is somebody who is you know, from Alabama to Winnipeg and around to work on all of these vet degrees and pathology and how is it that you have become passionate about climate change.

I have an undergraduate degree in wildlife conservation.

How did I come to get that?

My father wouldn't let me, it wouldn't help me with the university unless I got it courses in Economics and accounting.

That was the only degree that would give me the credits I needed for vet school and satisfy my father's requirement that if he was going to help me financially That I get accounting and economics.

Best two courses I've ever could have taken, especially ending of a business owner.

But that's basically was my first first introduction to really ecology and I learned all the plants in Missouri.

I learned all the animals in Missouri basically most of the animals all over the world, but I could identify a plant anywhere.

You sat me down in Missouri.

I could tell you geniuses, species and then I started seeing plants that had never seen because this time I moved to Alabama moved to Winnipeg and I'd come home to visit my parents and I would say this plant wasn't here before, That's when I really started noticing climate change.

That was in 82 was the first time I noticed a species of plant that I recognized as being from Texas.

And why was it growing on a country road in?

We had a cabin and it was on the road to the cabin.

And where was this?

Was this you're getting passionate about about climate change?

Let's talk, let's talk about that.

Where do you see climate change today?

And what are the challenges?

And you know, I come back to kind of your your your your time there, your involvement with the raging grannies who use song and protest to talk about issues like climate change and that's why I joined the raging grannies.

I like to sing for one, can't sing very well, but I like to sing.

Climate change is definitely My issue.

I really do think we only have until 2030 to get this bus started around we're gonna go right off the cliff.

We might not even make it by 2030 if we don't slow it down really quickly.

I mean obviously I'm kind of a protester.

I protested not getting into vet school by just driving him crazy by showing up every year for interviews, but this was really my first time actually protesting with the group.

I loved it.

I mean, I was kind of a political animal anyway, but this just was some extra juice for the engine, right, we're going to get back to some of the other issues that you're passionate about in the meantime.

I want to just get a sense that, you know, somebody who loves to sing, somebody who has, you know, kind of what you say, you're a protester, I think you're somebody who is is has got a tremendous sense of moral compass that you stand up for what you believe.

You tell me about singing about protest.

What what does that feel like and walk us through that experience the advantage to protesting by song, especially if you're dressed up like a little old lady, you're not threatening.

Nobody thinks that they need to haul out their AK 47s or whatever weapon they might choose up here.

I guess it has to be knives, but or let's hope it is anyway.

You're not threatening.

You're just making a point and people ask why you're doing it for the grandchildren now.

I don't have any Children.

I I do have grandchildren now, but I don't have any Children.

So figure that one out.

Well, we're gonna get to that because I know you you brought a Syrian family here, but we'll get to that we're not, I'm not leaving the planet to myself.

I'm leaving the plant to the generations behind me and that's what drives my interest in getting the word out quickly.

the climate change, and I'm realizing now more and more the young kids now that they've been online for a good solid year, they actually are pretty well educated now, we have to teach them to educate their parents and the grandparents who still might not have tweaked to it, that we actually have to really move now quickly and, and you know, if you were to say, you know, I don't know if there's a because I think what you do as a raging granny, you take, you take you kind of make up your own songs, you might use sort of a melody that people might be familiar with, but you changed the lyrics to make a point.

Is there something mJ that if you were to sort of give somebody, you know, sort of, they asked you what's, and I know one thing, it's always difficult because it's way more than one thing, but if there was one thing that you would say that, you know, from a sense of protest around the issue of climate change, what do you think the one thing that people might sort of pay attention to from your perspective?

Hopefully the thing I want to get across is the mechanism of what's causing it, and also how fast we have to change, and we've already proven this year with the pandemic, that human behavior can change really fast if it has to we've proven that one now, which was something before, Well we can't do that.

It's just too hard now.

They know we can move, people can get up and go.

So I would say those are the two principal things making people understand the cause and how the cause is driving the whole scheme of things and how short a time we really have.

And that's why that's why explaining the facts over and over and over again using sort of a trump analogy.

If you repeated enough times, people will eventually believe you.

But this time I'm going to use facts, real facts and real science, you know, totally.

So so m j what do you say to people that say, you know, would would kind of be on the other side and start saying ah you know really uh you know, we live in wide open spaces.

Um you know, I don't know how that if we live in a city yes.

You know a big city with pollution and you know the Ella's and some of these big cities that have that smog and issue.

But people with the wide open spaces in Canada, how do you counter when somebody sort of says, well we really don't have that issue here.

There's only a few places in Canada that should still be wide open places.

Most of them were we're woods, we cut down.

We've deforested our own for us so long ago that nobody thinks about it to make these factory farms where you see Canola for miles and miles and miles.

Yes, it's very pretty, but it's actually not the way um we're set up to be.

So those wide open spaces need to be closed in.

We need to put hedge rows back in because tree roots hold the soil in, hold the moisture in makes us more resilient to to drought.

We have to rebalance what we want it to be to control the temperature.

So m j let's we we've got a number of other issues.

I just want to get your sense on, you know, during this, during this podcast, I know you that you spent and we didn't talk about this in the intro.

As I said, there's just too much to cover off in the intro.

But one thing I want to just come back to is that you spend a bit of time in the aboriginal health and wellness center.

And you mentioned that one of the things that you're very passionate about is reconciliation of indigenous peoples of Canada draw that out for us and and let us know what what's your what's your passion there?

Why is it and what do you hope to accomplish through whether it's through protest or just through education?

Both, I think protests where it's appropriate.

As long as it's it's the non intrusive old granny style where people think, oh, isn't that cute?

That's a great way to protest, but also by education and what I see is a lot of parallels between what I experienced in Alabama with blacks, where I could still find colored signs and white science when I was there.

I'm sure they're gone now, but they were there in the 70s.

So just meaning what exactly on that for somebody that hasn't seen that the blacks were never given a fair shake the indigenous people, this is really their land and we pushed them off of it and they haven't had a fair shake.

We need to realize that we're all in this together.

Even more so now with climate change, indigenous people actually have an absolute phenomenal understanding of climate and ecology.

We need to use their their knowledge base to couple it with the science base because that's probably our our best way to get out of it.

But they deserve to be recognized for their background, their history, what they've done for this country prior to the colonials arriving and that we're all in this together and we all need the same fair chance at making something of ourselves the best we can be.

Let's explore from your perspective, again, using kind of, you know, protest or, or education, What would you hope that might come out of the truth and reconciliation commission that took place here in Canada.

Uh and you you draw some parallels between that and your experience with racism that is obviously still systemic racism, alive and well, both in Canada the United States, but your time in Alabama, where do you see the parallels in the sense that not so much what's happened, but where you might sort of try to look at educating people or giving people opening people's eyes who still to this day might sort of say, I don't see that as a problem.

I just keep talking.

Um, one of the things I've done is fortunately, one of my friends gave me an opportunity to teach one lecture once a semester to the teachers because if you're gonna educate, you need to educate the educators, right?

And that's what I've done.

I've offered myself to come to their classrooms.

No one has yet to take me up on it.

Certainly.

I would like to be involved in just spreading the word as much as I can.

And that's why I knew posted the thing about raging grannies.

I answered it because I said, okay, here's my chance to educate.

So, but mJ, let's just step back for sex.

So you do have a lecture or I don't lecture is the right way.

Maybe it's uh, just all set point, but it's a lecture at the time.

But yeah, but you're you're talking to teachers is that these are as you call them educators.

You're not talking to students.

No, there are a few of them, their teachers who are working on their education certificate that two years after they get their bachelor's, you know, you talk about your passion for reconciliation of indigenous peoples of Canada.

One of the other things that you mentioned uh kind of off air that you were very passionate about was black lives matter.

Let's tell me about what's important for you.

What do you like to see happen there?

We have to recognize and accept that that in both instances they have not had a fair shake, they've been pushed down and pushed out.

We have to open the door and let them back in.

And the way we have to do that is probably with additional funding compensation reparations.

Everyone determined we need to to give them a leg up.

And the best way for them to get a leg up is to allow them to get an education.

They'll spread the word faster than I will once they're in positions like if you look at who are ceos of companies, how many ceos or indigenous that you can name, how many blacks or ceos blacks are starting to come up now.

But indigenous has got quite a ways to go yet and we just have to make those opportunities.

That's one thing I learned when I was in vet school, That was right, when blacks were starting, it was right after the Voting Rights Act in in 64, they were throwing money at the black universities to get blacks well educated.

They brought in lectures from all over the country.

We have the best lecturers in the whole of North America would come to and teach us in blocks, but that's what you have to do.

You have to give people the opportunities and sometimes you have to give them a leg up.

You have to put on your thing when you're posting a job announcement open primarily to Mata indigenous or other visible minority, something like that on your posting so that they get a chance.

So you're making sure that your sense that you're very open and you're you're you're trying to sort of attract and let people know because I think it's been said to me many times that if you're a person of color or your indigenous person or marginally racialized person that if you're going to an interview, most of us will, you know me being white, you never have to sort of think about who might be on the other side of the table.

You just assume it's going to be another white person.

Whereas others wonder, you know, how are they going to be perceived exactly.

I had the apprehension not as a veterinarian, but I had it applying to vet school.

I said, oh my gosh, I'm female, what are they going to do with?

And most of us probably clutched in the interview because we really didn't have the confidence and I think the only reason I relaxed in that last stateside interview was because I knew I was going to bed school and the guy says, when are you gonna quit?

I said pushing up daisies or get a letter of acceptance.

Take your pick.

But that's the kind of confidence.

Excuse the term white privilege that you come in with.

You've got it.

You don't think about it because you've always had it.

But for somebody who's not always had it, you do think about it and that's what we have to work on.

That's how we get rid of racism in our society.

Is that everybody has, quote unquote white privilege.

They have that confidence.

I deserve to be here.

I have the right to be here.

And and would you say that m j I'm not gonna ask you your age but just knowing that you Yeah.

Well okay, so I just want to put it in perspective.

So how old are you in in your time from you know, looking from Alabama, the south into Winnipeg Canada.

What have you seen that has changed if anything around systemic racism, whether it's you're talking about people of color or you're talking about indigenous peoples of Canada.

Certainly in job advertisements, I see that there's a move towards trying to let people self identify as a minority so that they do get maybe a harder look at the resume.

Maybe they're maybe they're CVS a bit thin compared to the white guy who's always had everything but because they have self identified as indigenous or black.

Okay, he's got a pretty strong Cv let's just look a little closer at it.

I've seen that kind of a change up here.

I think people are by and large more accepting.

Hello.

There's a lot of people who are not accepting.

I remember one campaign when they said he doesn't speak english and they were speaking of Stephane Dion, probably one of the most brilliant guys around but everybody just pushed him down because his english was not fluent, right?

And you're you're referring to the former federal liberal leader who was campaigning to be the prime minister at that time.

You were involved in that.

I take it on the side of politics.

That's just spent a bit of a moment on that.

I mean you you have actually put your name on a ballot and you've run.

What was that experience like?

Well it's a lot harder than you think it's gonna be.

It's funny, I'm reading Obama's book right now and I'm going, my gosh, running for president is way harder.

My dad always wanted me to grow up to be president.

It's way harder than than running in a local election.

But it's very much the same at the same time.

Just different like massive difference, massive, massive scale size.

Yeah.

You don't you don't know every everybody that works on your campaign when it's that big but in a small scale like a provincial election.

You do you know everybody you know who's out on even know which street they're working on.

It's the same.

You run into people who go on ah and you can't convince them, even if you run into him three or four times in the campaign, but you keep working maybe the next time they'll be happy.

Maybe they will notice I've run one riding twice, two consecutive elections.

I got better.

Except I got more acceptance the second time.

So, MJ you look at your what you've done in your in your career and be politics being one of them.

And it's always a conversation, I think that anybody who has been interested been around or been involved in politics.

The question always comes up about why do you think people are so cynical about politics?

What what what when people say that to you or you hear that?

What what do you what's your response?

My response is to basically spend more time studying what's going on, because you get a soundbite of, You know, 10 seconds on the news.

You don't get to see the whole picture.

You actually got to get your hands dirty to figure out what's really going on.

And really, and truly politicians and all the parties with a few notable exceptions, actually are doing it for the right reasons they're there because they really want to get their constituents something that their constituents have expressed that they want.

And it doesn't really matter who we are and and there has to be give and take.

There should be more give and take.

There's less give and take probably now than there was Even I guess 15 years ago when I started.

But I think climate change and the pandemic may help.

I hope big set before it's too late.

No fair comment.

I want to pick up on a couple of things that we talked about earlier on.

You, you we talked about the fact that you know you are and you have performed at the raging grannies singing protest.

I think what you said and correct me if I'm not wrong.

But you said that you you're not a grandmother but you have grandchildren.

I think I know the answer to that.

But you in your words, how is it that you're not a grandmother, but you have grandchildren.

Well when Trudeau said he was going to take 25,000 Syrian families.

One of my friends who are Syrian actually is my pharmacist at the time, we worked in the same clinic, he said will you take a family?

And I said yes.

So I signed up to take a Syrian family when they brought the 25,000 in and tell me about the how many what was the family makeup and what what's happening to them today?

Mother?

The father is still living, he is in Syria.

I've I met I face timed him of course my Arabic isn't good enough to speak to him, but the It's a mother and four boys.

The boys range now from 27 down to 11.

Okay.

And they're still in Winnipeg.

Yeah, three of them are in university and no one is in um finishing up his elementary school year.

And so just to understand mj the mothers with them here.

But the father is back still back in Syria.

Yes.

Yeah.

And do they get a chance to visit or how does that?

I mean obviously not covid related.

I understand that.

But pre pre Covid do they get a chance to visit?

Uh No, no.

There's no visitation.

And right now they finished their third year of their pr so they actually don't have a passport anymore.

They're Syrian passport has long since expired and they still don't have a Canadian passport.

Yeah.

But that's in the works, is it?

Oh yeah.

They should get it by next year.

Early every part of next year.

M.

J.

A good experience to be somebody who brings a family from Syria here.

Do it again in a minute.

In fact, I'm trying to trying to figure out how to.

I've got a family who are incipient climate Refugees.

Which we're going to have a tremendous number.

Some estimates as high as 640 million climate refugees very very soon.

The reservoir has run out of water in um their town.

I would I would like to sponsor that family if I could.

It's five Children and a husband and wife.

And are they also from Syria or they're from Madagascar.

Well you know, again, I we we could do a whole program or not because I I agree that there are people that are being, you know, there's numbers of reasons why people leave their home country.

And I think that that's that challenges whether it's on climate or whether it's through dictatorship or whatever, there's this purely climate, climate and the pandemic has, he's a national tour guide.

So the pandemic is MJ You have traveled, you have been to all, I think seven continents, you've been to 82 countries.

Uh you indicated to me that your favorite trip was to the Antarctica.

Why is that?

It's just so peaceful.

They don't allow very many humans to come and interfere in the climate.

The animals have no fear.

They've never been hunted, they have no instinctive.

Oh, these are the kind of ones, these are those animals that come and get you.

They walked right up to you.

I actually put my foot in some of the pictures to show I wasn't using a telephoto really.

And how long were you there for?

three and a half weeks And we went around to a bunch of the research stations, most notably the english and Ukrainian Ukrainian mostly because it was christmas Ukrainian christmas that day.

Right.

Um just to see how you cope with with uh an inhospitable climate, 12 months of the year?

I mean for a Winnipeg or we were there in july of a summer.

It was not, it wasn't even a cold winter day, right?

Yeah, for sure.

For sure.

The americans froze and and and I love the fact that the way you refer to yourself as a Winnipeg er and then those americans, even though I know where you were born.

Yeah, I'm definitely, and I do vote in the election there as well as up here.

Mj what was your, if you have one, do you have a favorite uh protest song that you recall as a region granny or what the issue was?

Um the issue was climate change.

Do I remember the words?

No, but I sang it for 2.5 hours at the big Climate change rally after Greta thornburg was um making her rounds and we had that big one at the ledge with, I don't remember how many thousands of people that were, but there were lots, we sang that song for 2.5 hours until the entire, all the people walked the whole route.

And that was the raging grannies that were, that was a raging grannies.

Yeah, we all had on our hats.

I mean, you can recognize this by the fact that we wear these goofy hats covered in lots of pins from wherever we wear long dresses.

I wear a wig because it seems like invariably there's a protest going on when I'm also running in the campaign.

So I actually wear a black wig when I'm when I'm arranging granny, right?

Because I don't want to be door knocking the next day and they go, oh, you were at the protest, right?

You're a raging granny.

Yeah, well that, that's a badge of honor.

I think, you know, mJ, I wanted to just sort of circle back a little bit to this notion about protest.

We see all kinds of protests.

Social media has been a part of protest.

You see it on the, on the TVs incessantly from your perspective.

And people always sort of say no peaceful protest is where it should be.

Is there a kind of of protest that you think that it might draw attention to the issue, but it is more than just a sense of creating sort of a mob that is drawn to something, but actually there's some outcome that there's a way to protest to provide and get to a sense of outcome.

Is there something that you would leave me to think about on that question?

Okay, if you're interested passionately interested in in a thing and there are groups that you can search out and join that do things and their, their action.

They're not just talk.

Um, the other thing is really and truly to become politically involved, join a party that isn't just a one issue party, but that has a platform that most closely mirrors yourself.

one of the best things is that vote compass that CBC has, um, sorry for the plug for CBc, but that's where it is.

Listen, you know what maybe simply hear it and they'll actually sort of figure that they should pick up this podcast.

So that could be good, but it's a way to figure out what do you really stand for and it can come out with any of the parties.

Yeah, again, I, you know, I think that you probably remember of one party, I think I was a member of a different party, but that's irrelevant.

It's not that it's, as you said, you know, the thing is, is if you really want to get involved, you need to be politically aware and you need to be willing to to contact your Mp your M.

L.

A.

As well as join groups that are actually doing things that are actively changing things.

But one of the ways to do it is to you can go and speak it at the ledge.

I mean you might be there all night keeping them there, but you really need to to become more than just walked down the street.

Hey, I was at the party.

You need to put more behind it.

You need to get active.

You do need to be active, good for you, but don't burn the place down.

Right?

Right.

So M.

J.

Willard, um, you know, as I said, a social justice activist with a resume that is unbelievably rich in terms of education in terms of politics.

It has been a pleasure to spend some time with you on humans on rights podcast.

I thank you for your time, I thank you for what you do and I look forward to being on the steps of the legislature, listening to you in tune or out of tune.

It matters not MJ but your voice is going to be heard.

Thank you very much.

Thanks for letting me have this piece of platform for my voice.

Humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray.

Social media marketing by the creative team at full current in Winnipeg.

Thanks also to Trixie May bite you in music by Doug Edmund.

For more, go to human rights hub dot C A a production of the sound off media company.

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