UPDATE 5/16: Perrins has called off his hunger strike. Here’s his explanation.
Dan Perrins, a famously confrontational Canadian Men’s Rights Activist and staunch supporter of A Voice for Men, has launched a hunger strike outside the Queen’s Park Legislative Assembly in Toronto. As of this writing, he’s on his fifth day, taking in, he says, nothing but liquids.
What does he want? Surprisingly, that’s not an easy question to answer. Perrins’ demands are vague and grandiose — and probably impossible for the Ontario government to meet — and he has not set any specific conditions that would need to be met in order for him to end the hunger strike.
This seems, at the very least, reckless. A hunger strike is a very serious thing.
The idea of the hunger strike came to Perrins, as he explained in a video discussion with AVFM head man Paul Elam, while he was in the midst of a 75-mile walk across Ontario that was supposed to raise awareness about male suicide and mental health issues.
Not altogether happy with the diffident reception his walk had gotten from police and government officials in some of the cities he passed through, he decided to launch the hunger strike when he finished up his walk in Toronto. It was clearly not very carefully planned. Neither Perrins nor his supporters at AVFM seem to have consulted medical professionals and (at least at the time of Perrins’ last video update) no one from the group is there to monitor his well-being, which seems to me unconscionable.
And then there is the question of his demands, which even Perrins’ supporters at AVFM have had a hard time figuring out. In a post announcing the start of Perrins’ protest, AVFM’s Dean Esmay wrote that
Dan has already delivered his demands at the footsteps of the Queen’s Park Legislative Assembly, who at first refused to even accept his demands for review. After some discussion they reversed and accepted the documents.
But the document Perrins handed over — or at least the document that Esmay linked to — wasn’t a list of demands. It was a muddled manifesto titled “Men’s Rights March 2013 Internet Statement,” ending with a laundry list of goals for the Men’s Rights movement including “[d]evelopment and availability of a male fertility control device, drug or method that is safe, affordable, effective and reversible” and a call to “[f]oster the emergence of a new cultural narrative where all men and women are encouraged to live their lives as they see fit, without preferential treatment, while also being expected to bear the responsibility for their personal choices.”
Perrins then explained that these were not his demands at all. In a comment left under Esmay’s post, he wrote
Yes, one of his demands is that those who’ve “libelled” MRAs like himself be arrested and brought before a criminal court.
The first demand is not only so vague as to be almost meaningless — what is “full funding,” how quickly would the government need to provide it? But it also would require the government to do several impossible things.
Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne — as far as I can figure it, she’s the person Perrins expects to respond to his demands — cannot dramatically alter hundreds of millions of dollars of government spending with some dramatic proclamation in order to appease a man on a hunger strike. Or for any other reason; that’s not how government works.
Even if Wynne could suddenly produce “full funding for men’s DV shelters” out of a hat, where exactly would this money go? Domestic violence shelters don’t grow like flowers after you sprinkle the requisite amount of money on the ground. They have to be built, by devoted activists prepared to raise a lot of the money on their own, and prepared as well to deal with endless obstacles and opposition along the way.
The only reason we have DV shelters at all is because feminist activists built them, starting in a time when there was precisely zero government money to help them and a lot of public hostility towards even the idea of them.
Like a lot of Men’s Rights activists, Perrins seems to want a duplicate version of the network of DV shelters that feminist activists have worked for and fought for over the course of many decades to be simply bestowed upon MRAs by government fiat.
Instead of banding together in a serious attempt to build the DV shelters they think should be theirs by right, MRAs have largely devoted their energy to attacking DV shelters for women — including some that actually offer services and shelter (usually in the form of hotel vouchers) to men. Indeed, in his online discussions with Elam, Perrins seems as angry about the money women’s shelters are getting than he does about the lack of money going to non-existent men’s shelters, complaining several times about what he sees as excessive spending by shelters to provide beds for women.
Frankly, Perrins seems a good deal more invested in his second demand: that those who libel “non-feminists” be arrested and criminally charged.
This is not quite as bizarre a demand as it sounds: in addition to having extremely plaintiff-friendly civil libel laws, Canada also has criminal laws against “defamatory libel.” But, as Ontario’s Law Times reports, “[c]riminal charges for defamatory libel are rare in Canada.”
Further, according to one expert the Law Times spoke to,
[t]he line between what constitutes criminal libel and what constitutes the more commonly used civil libel is often blurred, and there’s doubt as to whether these criminal provisions are constitutional in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms … .
Indeed, the Law Times notes, s. 301 of the Criminal Code — under which “anyone who publishes a defamatory libel is guilty of an indictable offence and can be imprisoned for up to two years” — has already been declared unconstitutional in four Canadian provinces, including Ontario, where Perrins is conducting his hunger strike.
Under section 300 of the Code, Canadians in these provinces can, at least theoretically, still be charged with criminal libel, but only if they know what they are publishing is false.
Perrins, for his part, claims he’s been libelled by Canada’s Sharp magazine, by GQ, and by other publications. He’s evidently angry at Sharp’s Alex Nino Gheciu for saying that
Perrins wrote a hateful missive against [a feminist activist], labelling her “Little Red Frothing Fornication Mouth” and posted her pictures and personal information online.
Well, Perrins did indeed write a hateful AVFM post attacking the activist in question, in which he called her “Little Red Frothing Fornication Mouth.” The post was accompanied by a drawing of the woman. But, as far as I know, Perrins did not himself post her personal information online, though it’s possible, I suppose, that the folks at Sharp know something I don’t.
Perrins seems angrier still at writer Jeff Sharlet, who, in his highly unflattering GQ account of AVFM’s summer 2014 conference, wrote that Perrins claimed to have taken the infamous red pill of Men’s Rightshood on
the day he ended up in jail, after he says he lodged a complaint against his ex, the beginning of a legal battle that led him to a hunger strike. “I should have killed the bitch five years ago,” he tells me. “I’d be out by now.”
Unless Sharlet simply made up the quote, and GQ’s factcheckers let it stand, I’m not exactly sure how this would count as “defamatory libel.” It’s not libellous to quote what someone has said to you.
Sharlet lives in the United States, where Canadian law (as you might imagine) does not apply. But never mind; Perrins (and Elam) want there to be an arrest warrant waiting for him in case he ever crosses the border into Canada.
In one of his discussions with Elam, Perrins also goes on at length, and with considerable anger, about the alleged evils of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Elam reminds him that there isn’t much the Canadian government can do about the American organization either.
It’s not exactly clear to me what Perrins expects the Ontario government to do about any of this alleged libel. The Premier of Ontario cannot order the Canadian police to arrest all of those whom Perrins thinks have defamed him, nor would anyone with any sense want politicians to have this power.
It’s also not clear why Perrins doesn’t simply sue for libel in civil court instead of going on a hunger strike to compel the Ontario government to do things it cannot actually do.
In his discussions with Elam, Perrins talks a lot about how his life isn’t worth any more than that of the Canadian men who commit suicide every day; he also says that if he ends up in the hospital he wants a Do Not Resuscitate order enforced.
It’s hard not to worry that Perrins’ hunger strike — evidently launched without medical consultation and with vague and impossible demands that it’s not clear he’s even presented to government officials — is in fact a form of slow-motion suicide, a bid for Men’s Rights martyrdom.
Those who are encouraging him in this hunger strike are, I think, playing a very dangerous game.
EDIT: I added a reference to the specific section of the criminal code that is still considered constitutional in all Canadian provinces.
EDIT 2: A May 14 post by “Solaris” on AntiMisandry.com, a long-running message board that Perrins now runs, claims these are Perrins’ demands:
Dan has stated that he will end his hunger strike when assurances are made that men in Ontario will receive equal funding for domestic violence shelters as women, and when the Director for Public Prosecutions commits to launching appropriate criminal investigations under Section 300 of the Criminal Code against those libelling MRAs for their support of men’s rights.
Of course, even these slightly more specific demands would be impossible for the Ontario government to fulfill.