Wednesday, June 30, 2010


This past year I did some intense lobbying to have Michaëlle Jean elected Queen of Canada, (okay, only two blogs, but I did chat up a few friends.)

Despite these valiant efforts on my part, our government has apparently opted to stay the course with the British monarchy because the English queen was seen floating around Halifax Harbour yesterday, inspecting the Canadian Navy.

I guess that's okay. Lots of other foreign leaders come and check out our hardware. It seems to be what world leaders like to do when they are not planning new taxes, having illicit affairs, or fighting off their own military .

The problem is that Elizabeth II thinks the Canadian Navy is hers.

It wasn't until the time of the first Quebec Referendum in 1980 that I questioned the British Monarchy's role in Canadian politics.

I was quite frightened by the events of that year. It was a close call and after it was over I watched a tearful René Lévesque promise a 'next time', to his supporters. That was too much. I didn't believe that we could get through a 'next time'.

Rather than lose Quebec, I decided the Queen had to go.

I became an anti-monarchist.

Silly me. Of course we went through it again - fifteen years later and it was a terrible shock when I realized that the Separatists didn't care whether we had the Queen of England or Captain Kangaroo as our head of State. They just wanted out.

"Jeesh!" I thought. "I almost gave up my heritage for nothing!"

But when I went to reclaim those emotional ties to Britain, I couldn't find them. Somewhere in the struggle for a new Canada - I had become a very different Canadian. Not an anti-monarchist anymore, simply indifferent to the machinations of the English nobility. And according to the media, my apathy was and is shared by many others.

So I say, let's get it over with quickly.

Ditch the Queen. Make the Governor General the Head of State.

We've got more important things to worry about, like how to get those ships bobbing around in Halifax Harbour up to the Arctic before the Russians start building houses outside of Pangnirtung.

But, gee whiz, Michaëlle Jean would have been a great queen.


Monday, June 28, 2010

A Bittersweet Memory

By September of 1983 I had been teaching grade five in Dawson City, Yukon for several years. I was in my early thirties and single. The north can be a lonely place for an unattached person so I was quite interested when a fellow teacher told me that her friend, John, had asked her to find out if I would go out with him.

I knew him slightly. It is hard not to know someone when there are only 500 people living in an isolated community. He was my age - a tall, bushy haired, bearded carpenter who did some exquisite cabinet work for people around the Territory.

I told her that I would.

I waited, quite nervously at first, for him to call. When he didn't I started showing up places where I knew he'd be, smiling like an idiot and generally trying to look approachable. It was a lost cause.

Eventually I gave up. Women weren't as assertive in those days as they seem to be now. I went back to my usual life of socializing with the teachers and watching Dallas. Winter slowly disappeared from the Klondike Valley, the ice went out of the rivers, the sun came up and didn't go down and tourists started to reappear.

One Saturday night in May I was caught in a crush of people at one of the local watering holes that was having its grand opening for the summer season. Quite by accident I found I had been pushed against John. We laughed about it and after all that time something clicked.

But it was close to the end of the school year. I was busy with report cards and with planning a trip to B.C. and Ontario to see my family as soon as school ended. We managed to see each other whenever there was time. I wasn't worried, there was always the long winter to get to know him.

The night before I left we had dinner at the Midnight Sun Restaurant. It was a wonderful Yukon evening full of good food, good wine, strange characters and plenty of laughs.

But it was the last time I saw him.

John died in a car accident just outside of Dawson City a few days later on Canada Day .

Friday, June 25, 2010

Toronto's Gay Pride Parade - A Commentary from Somewhere in the Middle Class

I hate seeing clips of Toronto's annual Gay Pride Parade being broadcast on the news. It makes me cringe and squirm.

I find it hard to believe there aren't a lot of gay people out there who cringe and squirm, too. Although part of the parade's mandate is that they treat each other with respect and dignity, to this viewer the emphasis seems to be on cheap, casual sex and that doesn't jive with my understanding of what the gay and lesbian community is looking to achieve - the right to lead productive, loving, spiritual lives, without fear or prejudice.

So, do I think the parade should be banned?

Absolutely not.

As a teacher I can tell you that there is too much suffering around the issue of sexual orientation especially for the children of a gay parent. The more often we see non-heterosexual people in mainstream lifestyles and activities the sooner attitudes will change.

Do I think the parade's mandate to celebrate with 'provocative, racy and outrageous events' should be toned down?


The more in-your-face sexuality people see, the more attitudes will stay the same.

Get a room, guys. Pierre Trudeau said the state has no business being in the bedrooms of the nation. I say the bedrooms of the nation have no business being on main street.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Every Canadian Needs to Read

I was flummoxed by an e-mail I received this morning. The statement at the top informed me that the message within was so important that every Canadian with a computer needed to read it. (Canadians who don't own computers aren't in need of this information apparently.)

"Now what," I said to myself, "does every Canadian need to read??

Well, here are a few of the things this Canadian would like to read:

1. I would like to read that the first women physicians graduated from medical school in Afghanistan because Canadian troops were there to ensure their safe education.

2. I would like to read that Terry Fox's mother announced that a cure for cancer had been found.

3. I would like to read that the Leafs won the Stanley Cup.

4. I would like to read that someone finally found the identity of the Mad Trapper of Rat River.

5. I would like to read that the Yukon became a province. (Actually I'd like to be there when it happens.)

6. I would like to read that Clifford Olson passed away in his sleep and was no longer an evil presence in our land.

7. Ditto Paul Bernardo.

8. I would like to read that the HST has been cancelled.

9. Since I've never met a First Nations person who attended a Residential School and could talk about it , I would like to read that they had the courage to speak out, that we listened/learned and that we all moved on together.

10. Finally I would like to read that people with hidden agendas had quit writing idiotic e-mails.

For your edification here is the latest subtle effort to increase bigotry and hatred against visible minorities in Canada. This is what arrived on my computer screen this morning:

This one needs to circulate. I think this is one email that needs to be forwarded until every Canadian with a computer receives it.

The year is 1907, one hundred and 3+ years ago

Sir Wilfrid Laurier's ideas on Immigrants and being a Canadian in 1907.

'In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes a Canadian and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet a Canadian, and nothing but a Canadian...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is a Canadian, but something else also, isn't a Canadian at all. We have room for but one flag, the Canadian flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the Canadian people.'

Sir Wilfrid Laurier 1907

Every Canadian citizen needs to read this!

I'll say we do. In my opinion this message from the first French Canadian Prime Minister - toadying to the English Canada of his time, has no relevance to the reality of our multi-cultural nation of 2010.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Green Garage Sale Blues

Do not take this woman's financial advice.

I arrived all bright eyed and bushy tailed at the Green Party Garage sale just before 8 a.m. on Saturday. I off-loaded a few things from the spy car and presented myself to my betters.

"Here to help!" I announced, proud to be finally contributing some of my time.

"Good, you can stand over there," She motioned in the general direction of a table that was piled high with a collection of medieval torture devices.

"Wow!" I thought as I slid behind the table. "Here's the actual instrument the Inquisition used to rip fingernails off the Satan worshippers." I looked at the small metal contraption with interest.

Luckily before I could stick one of my own fingers into the thing to see if it still worked I was distracted by a pair of garage sale shoppers.

One lady picked up a brown mug that came with two plates and a bowl.

"How much?" she asked.

We both spotted the $12 price tag at the same time.

Now I don't know about you, but when I think garage sale I don't think dollars, I think cents. I actually thought that was the whole point.

"Oh ignore that price!" I said reassuringly to the rather shabbily clad woman. I'll sell it to you for a quarter.

"And the plates and bowl?"

I ignored those price tags too. "Oh give me a dollar for the whole bunch."  I was beginning to feel just like Mother Theresa - doing good among the leprous poor of Beamsville.

Her pal picked up a solitary blue mug.

"You can have that for a dime," I said happily, peeling off the original price tag. I was really getting into this garage sale thing.

As a matter of fact I was so into it I didn't notice the two Green Party Members who descended on me the way the RCMP Swat team descended on the nudists at the 'Naked People Against BP' protest march in Toronto last week.

Turned out the prices were real and the ladies I thought were homeless bag ladies knew exactly what they were doing.

I made it to the end of the sale but as I pulled away in the spy car I think I saw them taking up a collection to bribe the NDP to take me back.

And that Medieval torture device? I remembered to ask before I left.

Pasta maker.

Jeesh!  I gotta get out more.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dangerous Gas Emissions in Niagara

During the recent Niagara - Glanbrook Green Party Garage Sale, a faithful party worker was spotted during his break learning everything he could about dangerous gas emissions.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Unbendable Cello

Being Greenish, rather than true blue Green, I occasionally feel a bit guilty that I have joined the party and haven't been very active.

So I was feeling quite good about myself after I agreed to pick up a few items and deliver them to our Green Party Garage Sale this weekend. The woman in charge put me in touch with a party member named John who said he had a few things to donate, including a cello.

A cello?

My spy car is not only the most non-descript car in the parking lot, it is also very small. I pictured myself driving from North Pelham to the garage sale in Beamsville with the cello lashed across the hood of my car the way Yukoners carry a dead moose home for butchering.

"I hope it's bendable," I e-mailed him.

"I'm donating some books, some tapes and my unbendable cello," he e-mailed back rather crossly.

I was surprised to find out that the cello fit comfortably across the back seat of the spy car. And it came in a cello shaped back pack! I was impressed. If I any musical talent or knowhow and was twenty again I would have bought it myself.

Anyway, as these things are wont to happen the cello never made it to the garage sale. A friend of a friend wanted to buy it after she saw a comment I made on Face book.

I e-mailed the local Green Party headquarters.

"See if they'll make a cheque out to the Green Party for $50. They'll get 75% back in income taxes."

"Ha ha," I wrote back. "These are dyed-in-the-wool, card carrying members of the Conservative Party. We aren't going to get a cheque from them written out to the Green Party!"

"CONSERVATIVES! Make them pay cash through the nose because of the fake lake in Muskoka!" came the directive from on high.

"Sir! Yes, Sir!" I strapped on the sword of righteous indignation and snapped a salute at the monitor.

A lovely young couple turned up at my house a few days later to look at the cello and the sword of righteous indignation evaporated.

"Well," I said tentatively after they had examined the cello and were making happy sounds.

We all looked bashfully at each other.

I tried again. "Wellllll, John said it's worth $50.

Long pause.

Finally the young man said, "How about $35?"

"I'LL TAKE IT!" I said a little too loudly, relieved the painful twenty second money ordeal was finally over.

"$40," cried the young woman.

We looked at her.

I was almost certain that this wasn't the way it was supposed to work, but I'm a Canadian and we haven't had to barter for things since beaver fur hats went out of style.

"Well, it's just because I don't have any change," she said cheerfully.

It made sense to me.  

We parted on a very happy note. They with the unbendable cello and me with $40 for the Green coffers.

Green Headquarters e-mailed to ask how things had gone.

"Great. I got $40 for it. I'll bring the money to the garage sale or if you would like, I can run it up to Ottawa!"

The humourless reply came back that the money was to stay in our riding.

Jeesh. Ottawa is a two day car ride away.

Don't politicians ever get a joke?

I feel unappreciated. Which way to the Rhinoceros Party?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Soul Work

Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

In grassy meadows he lets me lie.

By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.

He guides me in paths of saving justice
as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death

 I should fear no danger, for you are at my side.

Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table for me
under the eyes of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me
every day of my life.

I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.

Psalm 23

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Something Fishy

I was really intrigued by a letter to the editor that appeared June 7th in the St. Catharines Standard. R.D. Bowman asked why the G20 Summit Meeting, which is scheduled to take place in Muskoka, Ontario, later this month, isn't being held in the Diefenbunker.

For non-Canadians or people under forty-five who happen to read this, the Diefenbunker was a top secret facility built at the height of the Cold War to house Canada's top politicians and military personnel in the event of a nuclear attack. The name Diefenbunker comes from the name of John Diefenbaker who was the Prime Minister at the time.

I have to tell you that I did not know that Diefenbunkers existed until a few years ago. (I say Diefenbunkers with an 's' because I just read that there are quite a few of them spread around the country, most located near major cities. The main one, an underground four storey behemoth, is located outside of Ottawa and is now a museum.)

Silly me. I thought if we were going to be obliterated, we were all going to be obliterated. I didn't know that the politicians and generals, i.e., the people who caused the problem, had made arrangements to save their own sorry behinds.

Maybe it's a good thing that I didn't know because at times it was darn scary growing up in Niagara during the Cold War. Air raid sirens were our occasional creepy lullabies and we were taught to duck and cover from our first days at school. The fear of a Russian missile attack on the hydro electric power plant at Niagara Falls was palpable for years.

But I digress. Sorry. Back to my topic.

R.W. Bowman says that we may end up paying more than a billion of our tax dollars to protect 20 people and their entourages during the G20. Ouch!

He says the main Deifenbunker was built to accommodate 256 Members of Parliament and their families for weeks and could have been easily used by the Summiteers at big savings to us. R.W. Bowman has a point and it's a shame it won't happen because, financial reasons aside, there is also the small matter of the Diefenbunker's address.

This is where the most powerful, cantankerous politicians in the world should meet.

This is good...

The main Diefenbunker is located on Carp Street in Carp, Ontario.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I saw a cartoon a few years ago that, at the time, struck me as very funny.

Two old guys were sitting in wheelchairs in an old folk's home. One said to the other, "Just think, If I hadn't quit smoking thirty years ago I would have missed all of this."

I decided to quit smoking in the early 1980s. The first strategy I tried was called, 'total humiliation'. It can only be used by teachers, but I suppose it could be adapted to any workplace or household where there is a captive audience.

I was teaching grade four and as a math problem, I had my class work out how much money I was wasting on cigarettes each year. We also estimated how much I had spent since I started smoking at age fourteen. Even in those days when a pack of smokes was relatively cheap, it was a staggering amount. We all decided what we would buy with such a large amount of money. To this day I can still see the looks on their little faces.

They thought I was a total dunderhead.

For an addict, humiliation and shame only last as deterrents for so long. I soon had to implement the second part of my campaign which was the 'alternative medicine strategy'.

Acupuncture was right up there with witchcraft as far as health care went in those days, but I was desperate. It cost me $15. The acupuncturist, who was also a physician and the rather unusual Mayor of Whitehorse, gave me a great big vitamin B shot along with the acupuncture. It worked. I went home from his office feeling free for the first time in years.

Three months later the craving returned.

As a last resort I launched stage three, 'the dangle a carrot in front of your nose strategy'. I promised myself that it wouldn't be forever. I would light up again on my 65th birthday.

I can start smoking again in four years and the closer it gets the more attractive the prospect of becoming a born again smoker becomes. That cartoon about the ex-smoker in an old folk's home isn't funny anymore . I'm willing to forgo the dementia and incontinence of old age and help ease the health care crisis of the 2030s - but guess what? I can't afford it.

Do you know how much a pack of cigarettes costs these days?


Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Death of Johnny Two Rivers

My last blog got me thinking about Christianity and from there I started thinking about something that happened a few years back when I was teaching in Dawson City, Yukon.

There were only about 500 people living in Dawson when I was there. For excitement we occasionally took a trip down the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse. Depending on the weather and who was driving the trip took anywhere between 8 and 12 hours. If possible we drove in a convoy. The highway was a dirt road, the conditions could be treacherous and you never knew what could happen.

On one trip back we were surprised to see a woman standing at the side of the road, crying and waving her arms at us to stop. We were a little north of Carmacks, which is maybe about 1/5 of the way to Dawson and like most of the Yukon it was complete wilderness on both sides of the road.

I can't remember how many vehicles were with us but we all pulled over and followed her into the bush. Her father wasn't well she told us and she didn't know what to do.

When we arrived at their fish camp, it looked as if the old man's time was over. It was Johnny Two Rivers, a well respected Yukon elder. He was lying on a blanket on the ground, he looked comortable but he wasn't conscious and was having difficulty breathing. There wasn't much we could do for the old fellow so we were standing commiserating with his daughter when there was a sudden disturbance in the bush behind us.

Now I wouldn't have been too surprised to see a bear wander into their fish camp or even a few Russians who had made a wrong turn somewhere up near Tuktoyaktuk but I totally taken aback to see a group of young white people suddenly appear out of nowhere and race at full speed toward us.

The man in the lead screamed, "Stop! Don't anybody touch anything! I'm a Christian!"

" Well, thank heavens!" I thought, "He's a..."

By the time it had registered that he hadn't said doctor, he had thrown himself on the dying old man, and was shaking his fist at heaven (?) and shouting," SATAN, I COMMAND YOU TO LEAVE THIS MAN!"

In the next instant while the exorcist was still doing his thing, and we were all standing around dumbstruck, a small car appeared at the camp. I have no idea how they managed to get it so far into the bush. They literally stuffed the unconscious old fellow into the car with his daughter and they all took off back to Whitehorse in a cloud f dust.

It happened so fast and was so strange and even violent that I have never forgotten it.

We wandered sadly back to the road and our vehicles and continued on to Dawson City. I heard on the radio the next day that Johnny Two Rivers had died in the hospital in Whitehorse. I'm sure the old man would have preferred to die at his fish camp.

It was as if we had witnessed a five minute lesson on the history of the dark side of Christianity.