Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

We are truly graced. We are truly advantaged. We know it and we're immensely grateful for that. That our loved ones are able to live well and with some satisfaction in their lives. That they have evolved into reasonable, intelligent and compassionate people. With sound values and priorities.

What more could a couple, married for 53 years, wish for life? We've good health, a comfortable life, and enjoyment in all of that.

Moreover, it's spring! Our gardens are hastening their blooming process; everything is colourful, alive, resurgently beautiful. The weather is delightful, and we appreciate everything that we have achieved together. Our two little companion dogs were barbered in our backyard yesterday and subsequently shampooed.

When there is a need outside our own within our broad community - and beyond - we do out utmost to offer what we can to help. Which leads me once again to the ugly need to agree to venture outside our front door, canvass kit in hand, going house to house for one charitable enterprise after another.

It's truly a downer, knocking on someone's door, or ringing their doorbell, presenting a bright and shining face, introducing the charity you happen to be representing at that particular time and cheerily asking if your neighbour would be interested in donating...? Some do, generously and with a kind heart. They will also, some minority of them, thank you for coming by.

Others will retain you, for conversations that seem to last forever, while you're anxious to get out there and get on with it - there's a lot of doors to knock at. Of course, you know most of those doors, and the people behind them. Little wonder, since you've been canvassing for so many charities for so many years, on this very same street. Other streets where you've been domiciled elsewhere, before this one.

But despite having done this for decades, it's still a cringe-inducing pursuit. Many people simply don't take kindly to anyone appearing at their door to encourage them to give up money. As a result there's a broad 40% - 50% refusal rate. Those among any population who simply will not support charitable enterprise that supports and benefits their community. Even when they themselves have had obvious needs of some of those services.

Some refuse with insouciance, some with truly ill grace, some regretfully, some with nasty artifice, playing little games of come back another day please, and you do, and they don't. It's disappointing when there are people you genuinely like, interact with on occasion, have good relations with, yet they cannot see their way clear to releasing a few disposable dollars in support of charity.

All the more so when you're very well aware of their superior economic condition. Their response is confounding. Very much unlike the gracious generosity of others for whom spontaneous giving becomes a valued way of life; those people you wouldn't mind hugging for their humanity.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Oblivious To Harm

One might well ask what exactly it should take for parents to be more cognizant of the potential danger their blind trust in kind fate exposes their children to when they permit children as young as 8, 10 and 12 to drive all-terrain vehicles, convinced this is a fine way to entertain them.

If safety is not uppermost in a parent’s mind as he or she glows with pride in the mechanical capability of their clever budding adult, they’
ve managed somehow to shed the most basic of parental instincts.

Yet every year news media regale the public with sad and very avoidable stories of the death of another child whose parents - by all accounts, simply had no idea that their permissiveness in the face of a child’s insistence that he be permitted the freedom to operate a potentially danger vehicle - were instrumentally complicit in that child’s death.

Children driving ski-
doos during the winter, and fatally losing control, hitting an immovable object, or being submerged into a semi-frozen lake. In the summer months, the issue of children operating motorboats, endangering themselves and others seeking leisure and recreation on holiday lakes.

The latest edition of the sad saga of parental oblivion to the dangers their children face when permitted to drive powerful machines comes through the auspices of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons in their statement published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery.

“As the professionals who must deal with many of the injuries sustained by children and the grief experienced by their families, we are first witnesses to this serious yet preventable problem. When recreation becomes lethal or results in permanent disability and heartache for a family, then it can no longer be considered fun.”

Amazing, is it not, that a community can be aware of the dangers inherent in permitting youngsters under twelve years of age to operate powerful machines, yet remain comforted in the belief that some misfortune obviously befell an injured or deceased child with the fatal combination of childish incapacity and brute force yielded disaster.

couldn’t possibly happen to one of their children, who just happen to be more capable and trustworthy. And these parents have the full support and encouragement of - who else? - the all-terrain vehicle industry.

A spokesperson of the ATV industry summarily shrugged off the appropriateness of the suggested ban by the pediatric surgeons. Formal instruction, closer supervision by parents, use of size-appropriate vehicles are all that is required to ensure no injury and fatalities occur.

“…these machines are fun, family, recreational machines” claimed Jo-Anne Farquar of the Canadian off-highway vehicle distributors council.

With sales in Canada alone topping $1-billion - representing 89,000 units sold, both in 2006 and 2007, little wonder they might bristle at the very thought of cautious parents eschewing the wonderful opportunity to entertain their children at the cost of their limbs or lives.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that numbers of individuals injured seriously enough to require hospitalization rose to 2,800 annually up to 2004, a rise of 66% from 8 years previously. Researchers at the University of Alberta alone recently reported the number of overall deaths attributed to ATV-use soared 83% between 2005 and 2006.

The critics - spoil-sports all - who argue against the use of children using ATVs point out the obvious. Children don’t possess the necessary cognitive skills or sound judgement, let alone the technical ability to manoeuvre the vehicles safely, as compared to adults.

Not that adult operators - those fun-seeking enthusiasts - have themselves been immune to death and injury. Which is why, although they cannot legislate for adults, medical-health authorities do recommend a prohibition on children under 16 operating ATVs.

Nor should children younger than 16 be passengers on these all-terrain vehicles, most of which have been designed for a sole rider, no passenger. But then there’s that mind-set of people valuing their individualism, their maturity to make sound decisions for themselves and their beloved children.

Who are unwilling to be boxed in by fear tactics engendered by people who don’t quite appreciate all the fun and enjoyment their children would be denied. They just don’t believe harm will come to their children, until it happens.

In the word of one sorrowing mother: “We kept thinking it was a freak accident because this was never publicized back then (in 2002). But there was nothing freaky about it.”

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Very Public, Toxic and Noxious Risk

As though there isn't enough to worry about when it comes to life-threatening risks in this world we inhabit.

All things in their proper perspective; it's far more likely that we'll risk life and limb crossing a busy street at the wrong time, climbing a ladder in the prosecution of some household task, slipping on an icy sidewalk during the winter, driving through fog with inadequate care, become the recipient of an harmful incorrect dose of medicine while recovering from surgery in hospital - or any number of other incidental, yet life-threatening occurrences.

And then there are the imponderables, the issues we rarely think of as being anything but rare and unlikely events such as being hit by lightning, attacked by a shark in ignorance of their presence at a holiday destination, have a piece of equipment detach from a passing truck and hit your windshield sending your vehicle out of control with predictably dire consequences, or a hot-air balloon collapsing precipitously and directly over your back lawn while you're blissfully napping in the sun.

The latter category might also be a good fit for a stranger suddenly directing his disturbed attention at your person while out in a public venue, and attacking you with malevolent intent. Certainly unpredictable, as much as the event that occurred last week in the Toronto subway system when a woman tripped over a bag placed dangerously at the bottom of an escalator as she descended, causing her to fall onto the train tracks.

Back to the stranger hoisting a deadly weapon and stabbing you repeatedly, then walking calmly by as though nothing untoward had occurred. Such things do happen. One such event did in fact occur, in Toronto last week, when a man by the name of Samad Dabiri was apprehended and charged with attempted murder, assault with a weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.

He had committed an unprovoked attack on a 26-year-old woman who just happened to be passing by on the same street upon which he stood. He stabbed her three times, then sauntered off, while stricken passers-by did their best to come to the woman's aid, saving her life in the process. She is now listed in serious but stable condition in intensive care at St. Michael's Hospital.

What's telling about this singular event is that five years earlier this same man, an immigrant from Iran, had walked up to a 65-year-old man seated on a bench, stabbed him in the stomach and then unconcernedly walked on. For this assault, Mr. Dabiri was found not criminally responsible, and he was committed to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in July, 2003.

He was released on a conditional discharge in 2006. He was diagnosed with a delusional disorder. "He consistently maintained that he had been followed by Iranian and Canadian Intelligence services and by the RCMP and CSIS and that these services were against him." It was on record also that he had earlier threatened to kill other tenants at the Toronto rooming house where he then lived.

Yet the Ontario Review Board saw fit to have this man out on day passes in 2004, giving him a conditional discharge in 2006. Centre officials' report to the review board described him as having "flawless" behaviour. "It is the unanimous opinion of the clinical team that Mr. Dabiri no longer poses a significant threat to the safety of the public."

Oops, after his absolute discharge, free to leave, no criminal record, they also noted "the accused's imperfect insight" into his mental illness. "He continued to endorse his persecutory delusions. He continually stated that he did not have a mental problem." Logically, wouldn't alarm bells go off? This mentally unstable, violence-prone, and conscience-free man roaming the streets at will.

Diagnosed with mental illness violent offenders are not held to account for their actions. They may maim, torture, murder innocent people, but because they are held to a different standard than others deemed to be in full possession of their mental faculties, they are not held responsible for what they do. Where does that leave the rest of us?

And here's another alert to the dysfunctionality of this particular system of diagnosis and release: Area police had no information with respect to this man being out in the community. No criminal record, no official alert, no ability to track his whereabouts in protection of the public at large.

"There's absolutely no entry on our police data system... Nothing comes up; no warnings, no cautions. He's never actually been convicted per se... He's found guilty but not criminally responsible, so nothing actually goes onto his record. Once he received that absolute discharge ... he's a free man with no restrictions on him whatsoever."

This, from a spokesperson for the Toronto police. Evidently Immigration Canada officials have an eye on this case. Obviously, his entry to this country might have been better vetted. Fact is, Canada has more than enough home-grown severely mentally compromised individuals posing threats to the community at large.

Need we really import more? But the full story is that regardless of where these unfortunate people were originally hatched, our woefully inadequate system linking the medical-mental-health community with security enforcement officers are not adequately protecting society at large.

The fact that people exist whose mental instability equates with a very real threat to the public is in and of itself a profound worry. That they will be excused of responsibility as a result of their mental incapacity to fully understand the implications of what they do, is another cause for concern. Surely we can do better than this...?!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Certain Provenance

Life is just so full of surprises. You never know when you'll come across a fresh surprise. And there you are, mouth agape, wondering at the unpredictability of happenstance. As when you confront an object that is intimately familiar to you. Echoing times past and personal effort. And although you thought highly of that object as a milestone, an accomplishment, a finished product of creativity, it wasn't a cherished object, and you were not loathe to let it go.

In the house we owned, previous to our current home, much attention was lavished by my husband on its inner appearance. He, an artisan at heart, with an advanced aesthetic all of his very own, transformed a mediocre interior into an expression of his own artistic talents. Although it's been almost twenty years since we lived in that house, its memory is still fresh enough to recall details.

We did, after all, spend almost twenty years inhabiting the house, raising our three children there, as a happy, comfortable and devoted family. Over time, the house we bought which had been pre-owned by another young family moving elsewhere, bore the signature of a house owned by an aesthetic adventurer, one for whom the pedestrian would never suffice.

In time, the basement of the house was finished, and our little family spent many hours there, in what we called our recreation room, a fairly large space equipped with a wood stove, and the only television set in the house. It was a place of leisure and comfort, with several walls at one end of its long depth lined with bookcases, full of reading material.

We've always been fond of wallpaper, and searched assiduously for wallpaper that expressed a certain sophisticated elan, although we made no claims ourselves to sophistication. Our bedroom was papered with large blush-pink chrysanthemums on a silver background, which always took me into the Orient.

Our older boy, so fond of medieval history had his bedroom wallpapered with a motif reminiscent of Greece, replete with sepia-toned noble statuary. His bedroom boasted a huge old pine armoire from Quebec, circa mid-19th Century. He had a passable telescope, large enough, with decent lenses.

Our daughter merited a more delicate atmosphere, and her choice was delicately floral. The emphasis of her interest at that time was sewing, and shelving was installed for all her fabrics and materials. Her bed was one her father had designed and made especially for her, a four-poster, when she had outgrown her infant bed, back when we lived in an earlier house.

Our younger boy loved nature and had a studious yet athletic bent, and his room was anchored with a desk his father designed and built, a hatchwork design of cubby holes above, the desk midway, and shelving alongside. He eschewed wallpaper. His collection of butterflies, carefully mounted and displayed, went into an antique pine bookcase with doors.

The front door of the house was constructed of West Coast pine, with a stained glass insert, of a historically-inspired, albeit notional coat of arms. It was solid and beautiful, one of the first stained glass efforts which we deemed highly successful. Between the small entry and the central hallway, a set of stained glass doors was installed, with clear glass background, festooned with a delicate tracery of flowering vines.

To separate the large living room from the smaller dining room, a set of four stained glass doors were designed and put together, with an outdoor, quasi forested motif, complete with small lake, swans and frogs, bulrushes. Fanciful in the extreme, it also boasted in its wide sweep, a hilly range in the background, and a lightly forested interior.

The original wrought iron stair rail was replaced with a turned-wood rail and spindles carefully turned downstairs in that portion of the basement beside my washer and dryer reserved for a small workshop. We invested a lot of love and living in that house. And then our children grew older, attended university, left home.

We also moved on. And surprise! when we dropped by our local Sally Ann thrift shop today, there among the superior items set aside for their silent auction were a number of stained glass door sets. So familiar looking. After all this time someone taking possession of our old house decided to de-install them and to gift them to a charitable institution.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Difficult Relationships

The personality has always been there. There was such a notable and noticeable difference between the personality of the first and the third as opposed to the second-born in this family. From the very moment she was born our daughter confounded us with her state of being, so radically unlike that of her two brothers.

They were easy to care for, placid, rewardingly manageable as children, while she was always temperamental, demanding, dissatisfied, disgruntled and unhappy. I can vividly recall how, as a young mother I trusted to the future, that she would "outgrow" her continual chafing at just about everything in her life, but above all, at the fact that she was our beloved daughter, and we were her too-solicitous parents.

At each milestone in her development it became clear that not much was about to change. Her personality had been set in stone, a forever thing. There seemed nothing we could do to settle her into an atmosphere of happiness, it just was not about to happen with this child. She was not born to be light-minded and optimistic; there was something permanently lowering on her horizon that was dark and brooding and unreachable.

There was no time at which we didn't stop trying to satisfy whatever it was in her that remained perpetually dissatisfied and unhappy. If we could do something that gave her a brief moment of satisfaction, of happiness, of fulfilment in some way, it remained just that: brief. And then that cloud of miserable brooding would settle back in, and there seemed nothing we could do to alleviate it.

Some people, it would appear, are born with those very particular characteristics, an unhappy inheritance from genes unknown to us, some time back in our families' history. In fact, I wouldn't have to look too dreadfully hard to recognize many of my own mother's personality traits in our daughter.

These traits did not gradually surface, as our child patterned herself after her grandmother. They were there, deep in her essence. She was always of a morose, lugubrious temperament, quickly learning how to manipulate us.

There was always within her a deep unbending condemnation of any expectations we might remotely voice related to personal responsibility on her part for her moods, her value judgements and lifestyle choices, as she matured. She would be held to no one's standard but her own.

Her will indomitable; she would do what she would, and there could be no discussions. Her outright refusal to communicate, to engage in a reasonable discussion, to clear the air through a mutually beneficial debate with all of us stating our positions and apprehensions would not occur. If we expressed doubts or cautions with respect to her behaviour, her anger climbed to impossible dimensions.

We would be exposed to the darkness descending, then shrieks of outrage, condemning us for our sins in trying to control her. We would stand by in helpless disbelief, aghast at yet again unwittingly unleashing her implacable fury on us. From childhood rages to a grown woman's frantic ranting at parents who somehow stunted a daughter's growth opportunities.

Unspeakably vile language would be hurled at us; learned not at home, but in her teen years adopted as a measure of revolt against our measured language and attempts at reasonable discourse. Epithets which, had they been hatefully directed against us through any other source would be unforgivable, would fade with time, although fresh, we reeled from the assault.

She is inordinately gifted. Capable, efficient, intelligent, and beautiful. Anything I was able to master, any lifestyle skills whatever, she could effortlessly outdistance. She became a master gardener, a seamstress, an amateur psychologist, a lover and protector of animals - rescuing far too many and burdening herself with the expense in time and funds, of their care.

She is an experienced professional in her field, earning a very good salary. She has become an inordinately good mother, particularly in view of the fact that her daughter exhibits many of the traits she herself does. And, ironically, she has for years complained to us about her daughter's character so like her own in so may ways, and how difficult it is to raise such a child.

She is now approaching 50 years of age. An accomplished multi-tasker, indefatigable, ambitious to own life on her own terms. Between us, not much has changed. She prefers not to see us when things go well with her. When circumstances become difficult, she contacts us. When she requires practical help, we're called. So many things have gone wrong for her, and we're then in the thick of helping her turn her life back on track.

We live in a constant state of mute truce; careful not to draw her anger, careful not to appear to be blaming her for the results of lifestyle choices which she has been cautioned against, but proceeded with regardless. We cower, drained of resolve and unable to muster the fortitude to stand our grand, but meekly accept what she delivers.

Otherwise, all bets are off and she slams accusations at us one after another, unremittingly. She seems, somehow resolved at these thankfully rare but powerfully upsetting times to diminish us, as revenge for some real or perceived past slight or assault on her autonomous sensibilities.

I harbour now the firm conviction that gloomy people inhabit a perpetually gloomy world. No outside source can deliver them from this malaise. People who peer through the prism of darkness seem incapable of envisioning the light of full happiness and contentment in life. Satisfaction eludes them; if it breaks into their consciousness, it is appreciated for a short period of time, then dissipates.

These people cast a dark pall of misery over everyone they come in contact with. Their world is two-dimensional, sepia-coloured, devoid of the conviction of hope. Inviting disaster of any and all proportions to enter and inhabit their lives, their personas, their souls. Their insidious dark moods despoil joy and pleasure.

The contagion of their discontent threatens others' state of well-being. Their truly psychic disorder blanches out the colour of happiness, leaving the grey dross of misery. The bleak winter of their discontent colours all seasons, bereft of rhyme or reason. They seem incapable of recognizing the saving grace of moderation.

Those who attempt, through love and compassion, to placate their inalienable right to smothering misery find themselves helpless under an onslaught of anger, blame, hate, revenge. Which wears itself out in a final helpless paroxysm of self-pity and grief.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Silver Hairs Among The Grey

I'm prematurely aged. My hair a helmet of silver-grey. I know I should still have a cap of burnished dark brown hair, healthy, shining, robust and curly. My genetic inheritance predisposes me to such a luxuriance of hair. Hair that stubbornly refused all my earlier-years' encouragement to become more docile, more laid-down, more, well, straight. Dark brown, with auburn highlights. That's me. That's what I should still look like.

Instead, innocently surveying my image in the mirror - in a house rife with mirrors, they make marvelous decorative and room-enlarging features - someone else's head of hair is there, perched in my head. Oh that's right, I've also got a few wrinkles here and there, nothing serious. Laugh and sun-squint marks on my smooth and tender skin. Honourable wrinkles. At least I don't have anything resembling a turtle's neck, which is what some 71-year-olds end up with.

My eyebrows too, always dark, nicely arched and neatly set on my brow have suddenly - well, not so suddenly - become grey and kind of scattered looking, they've lost their orderly appeal. My teeth, oh good grief, I can still remember what they looked like to me - talk about shattering illusions - when I happened to be brushing my teeth the same time as my granddaughter, standing before the mirror in the powder room and we both smiled.

Hers, gleaming white, perfectly arrayed in her lovely young mouth. Mine? When did they assume that ghastly yellow cast for heaven's sake? Well, that's life, isn't it? Her supple young body as opposed to mine. Ha, gotcha! Mine is still supple. Enough so that I can bend over easily, and place the palm of my hands flat on the floor before me. And when she tries to do that very same thing, she can only succeed by bending her knees.

She's lovely and fresh, I'm kind of worn, but there's some freshness in there anyway. That's life.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Gleeful Floral Rampage

Too soon, too soon, warn those killjoys, all those people who know, from painful experience, that to plant tender annuals in the Ottawa Valley before the 24th of May long week-end - celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria, as a Commonwealth country - is to invite disappointment. Night-time frosts occur with amazing regularity, despite day-time highs that belie their potential. Nipping the tender new growth and buds of annuals more accustomed to tropical climes. But the temptation for some is just too great.

Not that our gardens are utterly devoid of colour. The tulips are still blooming, but fading, as well as the narcissus and the hyacinths, although the grape hyacinths are still good for quite a while with their bright purple clusters. Our bergenia plants have sent up their long plummy stalks of bright purple-pink clusters. The fritalleries in the rock garden are still bright with colour. The paschal violets are still brightly blooming, and the bleeding hearts are full of bright pink blooms. The white-petalled anemones are happily abloom.

Still, I'm one of those tempestuous creatures who simply cannot sit idly by and let time waste when the days are long, sunny and inordinately warm for the time of year, just begging to be additionally brightened with the aspect of newly-planted annuals. And so I succumb, and begin the process of investing our tight little urban green space with bright annual colours. Surveying the tabula rasa and plying an artist's palette of vibrant colour, texture, aromas.

All those garden pots that we station here and there on the cobble hardscape so laboriously laid out by the spear-side of this gardening tandem. So handily filled with a mixture of garden dirt, sheep manure and peat moss only the day before. Tempting me beyond endurance to go ahead, be of brave heart, and plant. The dirt, manure and peat moss procured from a big-box store; their floral offerings rejected as weak pretenders, wilting under the heat of the sun, poor specimens to inhabit our ambitious landscape.

For the floral flats we go elsewhere, to a nearby farm setting, Cleroux Growers, there to feast our eyes on the offerings. Gorgeous flowers: gazania, trailing lobelia, ipomea both red and lime green. Geraniums, a dozen for $18, and we're able to select the colours we want; which is all of them. We select red-leafed, pink-flower fibrous begonias, and those with green leaves and red flowers, and also green-leafed white flowers. They thrive in our gardens, and bloom all summer long, spreading their splendid presence to their utmost ambitions.

And waxy, ever-blooming begonias, in enrapturing shades of pale pink, bright red, sunny yellow, emphatic orange, paper-white, startling fuschia. They're destined for the garden pots, not the gardens. Along with ivys, large-leafed and small. Impatiens, million bells, bacopa. Transcendingly beautiful, a gift to the eyes. One large fuschia plant with its drooping complex pink-blue bells, because the hummingbirds especially love them.

We've got seeds for nasturtium, zinnia, sweet basil, godetia, black-eyed Susan vine, and huge sunflowers. They'll shortly be going into the ground, as well. We've got a passion flower vine awaiting release from our light-filled basement, and a large assortment of other begonias, kept over from past summers, stored down in the basement. Some of them have already sprouted, a few even have the sweet minuscule beginnings of flowers.

They're as anxious to get outdoors and do their thing for the summer as we are to get them out there, planted and ready to bloom the season long.


Give Us This Morning Our Daily Walk

Our daily ramble in the ravine has become a lifestyle institution for us. A very personal and valued touchstone event with nature in all seasons, all kinds of weather.

There's scarcely a walk through the ravine when we don't notice something new and refreshing in the landscape that is so readily available to us; a slight walk up the street where our house is located, a slight diversion and we're then able to dip into the ravine via a long and gradual hillside. Then there appears the ravine, with its many ascents and descents, its cols and its valleys, its creek and tributaries.

Birdsong at this time of year - early spring - in the ravine can be a rapture in sound, wafting into our ears from every tree top and hosting branch. From the raucous sounds of the crows, to the high trill of the cardinal, the chorus of mimicry from the chickadees, the haunting melody of the white/black-stripe-capped Whitethroat sparrows whose bright yet lugubrious sound we recall hailing us close to dusk as we descended hills in Gatineau and mountain tops in New Hampshire. Robins, with their brightly happy trill, and the chirping of sparrows.

We're at that point where the poplars are loosing their pendulous fuzzy-white seed pods. Any slight breeze sends hundreds of bits of fluff through the air, and when we look up the sun illuminates the falling fluff as though it were yet winter and snow is falling. There is such an abundant accumulation of that poplar fluff down on the ground now that as we walk along the action of our booted feet lifts the bits of fluff high into the air. Falling poplar seeds nestle in our hair and the hair of our two little dogs.

Among the crimson trilliums - the only colour of this provincial flower that we've ever seen in the ravine - we suddenly espie a bright white trillium and can hardly believe its insouciant presence. Wherever did it erupt from, that stand-out of three-petal white perfection? It seems to us that there are fewer trilliums this year, as though those areas long familiar to us as trillium territory have been overtaken by the more vigorously clumping trout lilies, lifting their saucy bright yellow heads toward us.

As we slowly ascend another long hill, a pair of blues drift and spiral about us, alongside the pathway. This is also the time of year when dandelions look their perky best. They're in good health here amongst the other wildflowers. Detested in orderly, well-manicured lawns, they are in their honoured element here. Not native to this country, they were brought over by British immigrants as human forage for fresh greens, just as those brave settlers brought with them flower seeds and herbs to introduce into kitchen gardens in North America.

False Solomon's seal is beginning to unfurl their step-ladder leaves, just as the ferns too are beginning to unwind everywhere they've taken possession of the fertile ground. Red baneberry is already sending up its compound white floral heads. And then there are the meek yellow, stark white, wildly luscious purple, and fainter mauve violets poking about here and there in discrete and pretty clumps. Interspersed with the white-cup petals of wild strawberry plants.

Huge bumble bees rocket their way through the offerings. We've seen a few woolly-bear caterpillars labouring their way along the trail - taking care not to squish their tender bodies. Now and again Mourning Cloaks drift by, and occasionally in pairs, spiralling headily overhead before finally flitting into the trees. Staghorn sumach are slow to come to life; there's some top-notch fuzz beginning though. Hawthorne and wild apple trees are setting their darling pink-white buds of May. Already we can detect their fragrance on the air.

Lilies of the Valley cluster tightly about the feet of trees. We can already see the slight faery bells being lifted above the glistening green leaves. The Serviceberry trees are still in full bloom, appearing as cloud-clustered white blossoms huddled over dark branches. Horsetails, Indian pipe, advertise their ancient lineage; base and unlovely. And finally, the first sight of the first of those delightfully mysterious Jack-in-the Pulpits. The flowerhead with its pale green petal streaked with plum, shyly folded over itself, admiring its secret beauty.

The creek below steers itself lazily down stream. Water striders breaking the surface calm. Dragonflies flit purposefully about, tasked by nature to diminish the presence of animal-loving, offensively blood-sucking mosquitoes.


Monday, May 12, 2008

When Are Children Adults?

Childhood seems to be more extended as the generations progress. So that when young people emerging into adulthood at one time were thought to be independently responsible before the age of 20, they no longer appear to be. They're less self-reliant, more dependent than their parents. Young people graduate from high school, then leave home to attend university in search of higher education, to prepare for their working lives.

It can't be anything but exciting for young people to embark on this new experience, away from the stultifying atmosphere of a young person living at home, having to give due regard to parental authority, living in an atmosphere where a certain amount of discipline is anticipated, a modicum of assistance given to parents struggling to maintain a home, while both adults are away at work all day.

Then, suddenly, day-to-day life changes, not subtly, but radically. There is no one to be answerable to but themselves. All of a sudden social freedom is theirs. They can go to bed whenever they feel like it, go out socializing at hours their parents would never agree too. Study if and when they get around to it, and drink more alcohol than might be good for them. Keep their own circle of friends, not vetted by a worried parent.

And then there's the additional stress for students of adjusting to the reality of truly being self-reliant and responsible for their actions. Responsible too for attaining passable grades, for attending lectures, for producing work that draws on what they've imbibed through the academic semesters. Colleges and universities have rules of conduct and civil behaviour, and those too must be adhered to.

Young people, once the first heady atmosphere of freedom has passed, can find themselves adrift from purpose, unhappy with the social environment they find themselves in, unable to adequately keep up with the learning process. They can suffer self-doubt, and begin to spiral into a melancholy they're unable to share with new friends, and unwilling to relate to their parents whose concern might insist they return home and abandon their studies.

Universities and colleges find themselves burdened with a growing percentage of young people suffering emotionally with depression and mental illness. Campus counsellors and medical personnel become involved when students seek help, but not all do. Even those who realize they have a distinct problem and look for help, are pretty well on their own after diagnosis and a prescriptive regimen has been recommended.

And then, on occasion, personal disasters occur. Parents discover, too late, that their child, their adult child attending university has a severe mental problem they have been unaware of. Suicide among young people has increased over the past 50 years to approximately 19 per 100,000. It's been estimated that up to 10% of first-year students at university present with mental health problems that can have them attempting suicide.

School officials and mental-health experts do what they can for these vulnerable students. Informing parents about the state of their child's health is not generally one of them. The idea being that this is a personal matter that the authorities do not feel free to divulge to parents. And most young people don't want to have their parents informed.

It's a dilemma, that stark reality. What recourse do parents have when mourning the death by suicide of their beloved son or daughter, away at university? How aware can parents be at a remove? It isn't easy being a parent at any stage of a child's development. Becoming an independent adult is obviously not easy for many young people striking out for the first time on their own.

It's a bedevilling conundrum.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Choices, Poor and Otherwise

The young, the sophisticated, the beautiful, the hip. Do they Google one another's names before they commit to a relationship? Many, I am assured, do. Others doubtless prefer to attach themselves to those of the opposite sex whom they perceive to share their interests, their values, their backgrounds. Those who pique their interest through their many attributes, physical and intellectual. So they take their potential companions at face value.

For people in the public eye there are always repercussions if they're perceived to have behaved in a manner considered unorthodox in a social venue. Or if they perchance seek out partners in romance whom the general public might consider to be unsuitably indecorous, too colourful, publicity-seeking, or trailing behind them an unfortunate past which eager critics are only too happy to dig up and place on full tut-tutting display.

Good grief, have Canadian parliamentarians nothing better to do than dig about assiduously for alleged nasty scenarios they can hoist to the national view, to point admonishing fingers of denunciation on? We've so many serious issues to be addressed in this country, from the faltering economy, to the inadequate health care system, to serious security threats from both within and without the country, to job losses through disappearing manufacturing.

One can only suppose that the continued efforts of the Bloc Quebecois to tarnish the image of a member of the Conservative governing body, a federal Cabinet minister, speaks to their desperation to find an issue to engage Canadians in, to assault the government with. A tawdry, inconsequential issue at that, one that the Liberals have been quick to pick up and run with. Earning a response from Prime Minister Harper that put the issue in perspective.

The prissy nose-sniffers from those two political parties and their leaders who have voiced their hysterical denunciations and apprehensions of indecorous presumption of trading state secrets were treated to a well-deserved lecture from Mr. Harper: "I hear that one of my Cabinet ministers has an ex-girlfriend. It's none of my business. It's none of Mr. Dion's business. Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Dion are quite a group of gossipy old busybodies."

As for Maxime Bernier, the object of their smear tactics, he proclaims himself puzzled by the close examination of his personal life, deploring its "nasty and low" countenance. "This is about my private life, the private life in the past of my ex-girlfriend. People's private lives are none of the members' business." he said. Well, he's right, and he's wrong. When it's the life of a public figure, discretion is the order of the day, but the media will always be on the ready.

And the media joined in the chorus of condemnation, publishing a photograph of Mr. Bernier and his beautiful companion wearing a low-cut dress revealing her cleavage. I've seen photographs of the wife of the prime minister, another beautiful woman, with similarly-revealing garb, but in a different, more formal setting. Question: why didn't the media use easily-available photographs of Mr. Bernier and his friend wearing a modest outfit?

The young woman in question had a history of unfortunate acquaintances among biker gangs. She was married to one for a while, a decade earlier; intimate with another, on another occasion. People live their lives, then move on to other things, as she did, finding another kind of life for herself. Including a close and intimate relationship with Mr. Bernier. They looked very well matched, very happy together.

Until a manufactured scandal that the news media revels in intervened, thanks to the concentrated effort of an antagonistic political party looking for victims. You'd think that as elected lawmakers, parliamentarians, they'd have more noteworthy items on their minds. For example, to question a few of their own members who consorted publicly in the near past with people overtly supporting outlawed terrorist groups in Canada.

Instead, they chose to sit in moral dudgeon, smearing character of an unblemished, hard-working and creditable Member of Parliament. And in the process dredge up old misfortunes that befell a close friend of his, as though he was guilty by association of her one-time poor choices in companions. As though, by his association with Julie Couillard, a woman who has worked hard to make a new and different life for herself, he has diminished his honour.

The NDP has remained aloof from this absurd charade of self-righteous scandal-mongering, to their credit. They, obviously, have better things to do with themselves, rather than squander their own credibility as elected officials - as the Liberals and the Bloc have done, in rushing to judgement and attempting to slander their social superiors.

Shakespeare might have a whole lot of fun writing a comic play about that little scenario.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Abandoning Israel

Not Canada, not ever, not as long as this government is in power, not as long as this prime minister remains head of this country. How long will that be? Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won the hearts and minds of Canadian Jews by his heartfelt endorsation of Israel's right of existence. Not that other governments of Canada previous to his haven't done the same. But there's something about words that aren't backed up by deeds that tend to make them lack credence.

In the instance of this particular prime minister, and this particular Conservative-led government of Canada, deeds actually presaged the words. We saw a turn-about in the actions of Canada's representative to the United Nations, not only in condemning outright the usual slanderous accusations that emanate from various committees of the United Nations, but standing four-square with Israel and her handful of supporters against the Israel-phobic cabal that usually cater to her Arab and Muslim opponents.

At a celebration held in Toronto, for Israel's 60th anniversary as an independent country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with great clarity and unequivocal understanding of the perilous position Israel finds herself in, historically to the present day. "Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada because as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk."

He spoke of the present, just as, during the Second World War which brought European Jewry to the brink of extinction, Pastor Martin Neimoller made his grave and succinct estimation of the manner in which the world disowned the plight of the Jews under the Nazis, making no secret of his own responsibility as a man of the Church to rage against the black night descending upon Europe's Jews:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

In an earlier interview Mr. Harper stated, "I guess my fear is what I see happening in some circles is [an] anti-Israeli sentiment, really just as a thinly disguised veil for good old fashioned anti-Semitism, which I think is completely unacceptable." During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war Mr. Harper unequivocally supported Israel's right to self-defence, and accounted her actions as being "proportionate" in nature. Bringing down howls of condemnation from Liberal Members of Parliament.

All of whom clamoured to be heard denouncing the Prime Minister's rashly unbalanced words of support for Israel, claiming that Canada's historical "even-handedness" in approaching the conflict was being undermined by the Prime Minister's approach. And when Mr. Harper outright accused some Liberal MPs of encouraging anti-Semitism during the summer of 2006, he was blistered by the outrage of the Liberal Party functionaries.

Some of whom did more than encourage anti-Semitism by their blighted statements about the Israel-Lebanon [Hezbollah] conflict that summer. Michael Ignatieff, an aspirant to the Liberal leadership and ultimately the prime ministership, made very public statements equating Israel's defensive incursion into Lebanon as committing a war crime against civilians. Breaching international laws and conventions of war-time activities.

While blissfully ignoring the obvious, that Hezbollah terrorists deliberately hid behind civilians, launching attacks in their midst, and with the distinct purpose of tantalizing Israel to respond, willingly sacrificing Lebanese civilians so they could later denounce Israel as a murderer of innocent women and children. And during that conflict Hezbollah displayed its talent for public relations ploys, staging outrageously horrendous events as Israeli atrocities.

Mr. Ignatieff has attempted to make amends, but he's twisted between his demands that Israel be more noble and moral than her attackers, and condemning Israel when she reacts as she must, to protect herself and her population. And then there's another Liberal, Denis Coderre, who saw nothing amiss in marching in solidarity with Palestinians, other Arabs and their supporters, in Montreal, during that same conflict.

As a neutral Member of Parliament, supporting neither Hezbollah/Lebanon, nor Israel, but rather, echoing the Liberal party line, in favour of human rights and entitlements of freedom and security for all, Mr. Coderre evidently did not notice the Hezbollah flags boldly held aloft in that same solidarity march, replete with banners condemning Israeli murderers of Lebanese civilians.

So when Prime Minister Harper's Conservative government's ambassador to the United Nations walks out of a UN Human Rights assembly whose purpose is to condemn human rights abuses in one sole country of the world, as yet another obvious anti-Semitic, Israel-phobic tactic in the world body, he is placing Canada's moral objection to that travesty on record.

And when votes come up regularly in various United Nations committees which, year after year, have agreed to condemn the heartless occupation by Israel of the Palestinians. And in the process name Israel as the world's single-most-egregious corrupter of human rights, equating Zionism with racial discrimination, painting Israel as being engaged in ethnic cleansing and having an Apartheid agenda, the Government of Canada no longer supports those risibly immoral votes, unlike its Liberal predecessors.

"All of my life, Israel has been a symbol - a symbol of the triumph of hope and faith", said Mr. Harper. Following the cataclysmic upheaval of the second of the world wars, when the world was inundated with homeless refugees, he said, humanity required a symbol of renewal and the Jewish people's determination to outlive their tormentors gave inspiration to a war-weary world, by finding "the way home".

"Israel blossomed into one of the most successful countries on Earth; a land of ingenuity and enterprise, an oasis of agricultural genius, a well-spring of fine art and high sculpture, a model of democracy", he explained. "Israel is truly the 'miracle in the desert'.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. You've made this Canadian proud.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Oh Say, Can You Caw?

Isn't it amazing how those wonderful aerial creatures humankind holds so in awe fascinate us to the extent that we strove to emulate them, leaving us with the legend of Icarus, with the remarkably instructive drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, and with the eventual era of human flight through aeronautical design and manufacture.

We love birds, and we hate them. We swoon over the voluptuous colouration of tropical plumage, the trilling of songbirds, of nesting pairs and their chick-raising aptitudes, but we detest the "dirty" emissions of seagulls, geese and pigeons and other 'less attractive' and eminently urbanized of the species.

And the cleverness and adaptability of birds, simply amazes us. Their ability to reason, to solve puzzling situations, to differentiate and to enhance the natural world we so admire. Birds have been known to select specific sticks, to use them as devices with which to pry into crevices - proving they are technologically inclined, right?

We humans adore birds to the end-degree, capturing them and incarcerating these aerial wonders in tiny cages to enslave them to our own desires. To own their enrapturing birdsong for our very own, to admire their brilliant colours close up and personally; objects of desire and ownership, living creatures as objets d'art.

Animal behaviourists learned through experimentation that the tongues of blackbirds and crows, if slit, could create the potential for birds mimicking the vocal chords of human beings, and birds could be taught to "talk". To talk, to emit verbal expressions furthermore, in the most seemingly appropriate, occasionally, inappropriate ways.

Konrad Lorenz wrote lovingly of his favourite bird, a crow whom he taught to speak, and who became his companion on his woodland jaunts. He often treated his pet crow with raw meat tidbits as a reward for good behaviour. He recounted, in one of his books, how he had been on a woodland walk, unzipped his pants to urinate, when the crow swooped down to retrieve that special treat.

I've always personally loved the sound of crows. And thought it odd that a collection of the birds would be referred to as a "murder" of crows. I've seen crows heartlessly harassed by flocks of blackbirds, and felt pity for them. We often see crows in our daily walks in our wooded ravine, beside the street we live on. And when we occasionally see or hear, or both, northern ravens, we find it simply thrilling.

When we lived in Japan, the small, enclosed street on which our house was located had a water tower just at the end of the street's circular drive. The top of the water tower was always crowded with crows. And these crows were much larger than the North American crows we'd long been accustomed to. These birds were large enough and heavy enough so that when they walked on the metal roof of our house, it sounded as though a large man was tromping about up there.

That was in the mid-1980s. Since then, I've read, Japan has experienced a real problem with a growing crow population. Their nests, often located on hydro poles cause blackouts. The crows have been known to peck away at wires and at fibre cable networks to take the pieces back to their nests, as nesting materials.

They're also numerous in the many parks, leaving messes behind, and even attempting to take candies away from children. I can remember being in Ueno Park, amazed to see a crow swoop down and fly away with one of the many wild cats that populate Tokyo. No one made a move to prevent the abduction, and we attributed that to the Japanese peoples' belief in fate.
Small zoo animals are often preyed upon by the burgeoning crow population.

Crows (like the feral cats) are ever-present, and they feast on garbage left out for collection. That's hardly surprising. I can recall from when we lived in Tokyo that garbage collection was nothing like what we have in North America. Residents of a street would be assigned an area to which all householders would take their garbage bags and simply pile them up in a huge pile for collection, once a week. Easy pickings for crows and cats. And an assured food source.

The country has instituted Crow Patrols through their utility companies, who hunt for crows nesting on hydro poles. Blackouts have become a nationwide occurrence as a result of crows pecking at hydro wires. A crow has even caused a blackout by having stuck its beak into a high-voltage power line. It won't, in any event, repeat that feat of derring-do and suicide. One blackout caused a shut down of the high-speed bullet train.

"Japanese react to crows because we fear them", according to Michio Matsuda, a board member of the Wild Bird Society of Japan and author of a book on crows. "We are not sure sometimes who is smarter, us or the crows." To my recollection, the Japanese are devout nature lovers. It amazes me that they fear crows. But then, since the time we lived in Tokyo, the crow population, already sizeable, has expanded exponentially.

Figures reveal that in the late 1980s a count found approximately 7,000 crows in large parks, while in 2001, a similar count added up 36,400 of the adaptably-clever creatures. They're omnivorous, and they can live from ten to fifteen years. And yes, they represent a "murder" of crows.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Binge-Out Time!

Well, time to renew our wardrobes for Spring. We've re-arranged our clothes cupboards, our bureaus, taken out those items we consider redundant to our needs, our tastes, and taken them to the Sally Ann Thrift Shop. But we're also there to shop. To look around, to move the clothes hangers about, to scrutinize the wares and weigh their interest to us. Amazing how many items of costly clothing people purchase, shove to the back of their closets, never wear, then give to charity. And good on them.

We shop separately; he goes over to the men's wear, of course, also to the books and the DVDs. I spend most of my time over at the ladies' apparel, and a wee mite of time, when we're good and ready to leave, scouring the books. I look for items that may appeal to our favourite - and only - grandchild, and come away with an aqua la Senza hoodie, a copy of Jack London's "The Call of the Wild", another of Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth".

Mind, I've also picked up several pairs of shorts, a pair of long black pants, and a number of nifty little summer jerseys; several long-sleeved, the rest short-sleeved or sleeveless, and I feel them to be more than sufficient to restore my wardrobe. Nothing that I purchase is anything but cotton, it's breathable, comfortable, eminently washable, and feels good, looks good. I avoid like the Plague, anything with lettering on it.

As for him, he isn't that particular. Most of the summer short-sleeved shirts he picks up do have lettering on them. Here's the run-down: a long-sleeved shirt with a detailed map of Afghanistan printed on it; one yellow short-sleeved shirt with the legend "I Climbed The Great Wall", another in black, same legend. One shirt reading "New House NinJa", another with "2005 Alberta Centennial. How about "Eastwood Division: Growing and Guiding Together."

But the most appealing would have to be a shirt with the following printed on it: "Joint International Observer Group, 1998 Election, Cambodia". Now, can't you just imagine? Wearing that in public, the respect you'd engender, and then the awkwardness that would result when someone feeling fairly bold, might question how you came by it, and was it interesting to be in Cambodia? Most expensive item at $12.95, a hooded yellow and black rainjacket.

When I'm feeling really bored, all these shirts will constitute reading material. Something like the fascination with reading all the hype on cereal boxes; nutritional values, constituents, recipes, that kind of thing, while having breakfast. Wait, there's more, there's the black shirt with the small print on the front: "we're cool", and on the reverse, "We Live At School"; under it the graphic of a notional globe, and inside it, a figure of a girl, a boy.

Ah, but he's also tried on several pairs of trousers, and the dark-brown cotton twill trousers with the Versace label is impressive. Fits nicely, as does the tan-coloured RW & CO pair, and the beige Denim Riders. That'll do him for a while. Our wardrobes nicely beefed up. Oops, there's that other short-sleeved, drab green shirt, the word "DUKE" emblazoned in camouflage colours, and below it a leering devil silhouette.

A trifling matter, wearing clothing replete as conversation pieces. Gauche, by some estimates, including my own. You'd never guess this is the same man who once dressed daily with excruciating attention to detail, in suit and tie, glossy shoes and pocket puff. That was then, this is now. We're not budgeting, we're simply succumbing to the urge to recycle.

He's amassed quite the collection of detective novels. Along with a veritable tome of a volume, "The Western Heritage", replete with glossy impressions of the great art and architecture of the world down through the ages. The publication covers western heritage - from early civilizations to the civilizing event known as the Holocaust.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Know No Evil

How can it be even remotely possible that a woman would not be aware that the father of her children has been abusing them? It's fair to say that a man who would abuse his children would also be in the habit of abusing his wife. That having been said, wouldn't it be natural for a mother to become more aware, as an abused woman, that her children would also be in danger of abuse? Women have an almost instinctual understanding of what occurs with their children.

One supposes that a degraded human being like Austrian Josef Fritzl represents the ultimate psychopath, a man so self-involved with his individual needs as he perceived them, that the pain and suffering he imposed upon his vulnerable family would be of no moment. When he spoke with the Austrian police after he was apprehended as a result of his vile behaviour becoming public knowledge, he claimed there was no abuse.

He cared well for his daughter and their children, he insisted. He saw to their daily needs. He ensured they had food, clothing, entertainment, the basics of life. That most basic of life's requirements, freedom, was withheld. With the lack of freedom went the spark of life itself. The opportunity for the children born of incest to become their potential, instead of caged and helpless beasts.

It has latterly been reported that this man, who horribly victimized his daughter over a period of twenty-four years left an indelible clue to his personality even before her birth. He was accused and found guilty of raping a 24-year-old woman, a nurse whose apartment he had broken into. He spent a year and a half in prison. His wife, the mother of their children, made the decision to stay with the man.

Offering him ample future opportunity to bully and belabour her, to impose a lifetime of servitude upon herself, and an intolerable lifetime of concubinage on her daughter whom her husband had been sexually molesting since she was eleven years of age. A mother of seven children must of necessity be a very busy woman. But any mother knows her children. Some may choose not to know, not to further complicate their lives.

But viscerally, there must surely be the knowledge that something is not right. A mother has a duty to come to the aid of her children. Instead she was complicit by her lack of curiosity and concern, in the destruction of her daughter's life. She agreed to accept the fiction of her daughter's disappearance, and the appearance of a succession of her daughter's children. A most trusting, albeit abused woman.

Most women would have compassion for a beloved pet animal, coming to its rescue at the uncaring hands of a life-companion. Causing them to address themselves to the reality of life with a monster who would seek to destroy the life of a harmless dog. Yet, this monster of a father held his daughter on a leash in an underground bunker, until her resolve to escape had been broken.

Most women - and children - living in a house with a multitude of rooms become familiar with all those living spaces. Attics and basements are no exception; they may not be pleasant places, but they are places to be explored, to become familiar with. Yet threats and demands were sufficient to allay any suspicions, and to keep a wife and mother from venturing where she was denied access.

Can any degree of normalcy result from the horrendously maimed lives and stunted opportunities afforded these poor people as a result of their dreadful exposure to such a beast?

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Balance, Perspective = Idiocy

If anyone doubts that the various Human Rights Commissions in Canada have lost sight of their original design and purpose, a case recently brought before the British Columbia Human Rights Commission proves it rather conclusively. Unless the general public is in collective agreement that to claim a job for which the applicant cannot supply the most basic of requisites can be considered a right, in the prosecution of which, that "right" becomes an endangerment to others.

The British Columbia Health Act and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, in recognizing that sanitary food preparations and personal habits of those who handle food for public consumption must meet specific standards, set out those very standards with the expectation that employees of restaurants will adhere to them. A restaurant employing personnel who don't respect those basic hygiene practises in the handling of food is aware that they are susceptible to being fined.

In fact, if they have been proven over a number of subsequent visits by health inspectors not to have complied with those requirements those same restaurants can receive additional fines, they can be forced to comply with standards, they can face the potential of having their establishments closed until they can prove compliance. Furthermore the very bad publicity surrounding non-adherence to basic hygienic standards in food preparation and presentation will most certainly affect their business, as customers may stay away in droves.

Owners of food establishments, understandably, see it in their best interests - as well as in the best interests of their customers - to comply with reasonable standards of cleanliness. Yet here is an instance, yet again, where a Human Rights Commission felt it necessary to intervene to represent a woman whose skin condition left her incapable of compliance with the necessity to wash her hands when required.

Which meant this woman would be handling foods meant for public consumption, without taking steps to ensure that no bacterial contamination might imperil the health of the consuming public. This woman had a skin condition so severe she was unable to even wear protective gloves; her disability was such that she was unable to wash her hands, while all other employees of the McDonald's outlet where she worked washed theirs, hourly.

Bearing in mind that people normally touch surfaces that can be contaminated, including touching other peoples' hands, touching door handles, cooking implements, and other possible sources of contamination. Before entering the food preparation areas, hands must be washed; and thereafter, every hour, to ensure that the hands that prepare and distribute foods that are consumed by the paying public do not constitute an inadvertent health hazard.

This woman was unable to comply. Her dermatologist agreed that if she attempted to continue working to cleanliness standards her "hands would disintegrate in a week". What's the problem here? Someone not suited for a job, should not be attempting to cling to that position. Most people wouldn't want a general practitioner attempting to conduct a precise surgical procedure for which they have never received training.

Yet the woman complained to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal who, in turn appointed a lawyer to adjudicate the complaint. This former family law practitioner was no more qualified to judge the issue - one might venture, on reading her conclusion - than was the complainant's "right" to a job whose basic qualifications she was incapable of fulfilling. The adjudicator recommended that a position be created for the woman which would not require hand-washing.

At a fast-food outlet whose business it is to capably and efficiently prepare meals for a demographic accustomed to placing an order and having it speedily delivered. A customer base that believes that the most trustworthy standards of hygiene are exercised and which trusts that botulism will never result as a consequence of their ordering their meals at McDonald's.

There are no positions in that establishment which would not require basic hygiene be practised. As a result, the complainant, Beena Dat, was rewarded when her employer was found liable by the adjudicator, Judy Parrack, for not making an effort to create the recommended position. An imposition of $50,000, including $25,000 for injury to Ms. Dat's "dignity, feelings and self-respect" was directed against McDonald's.

McDonald's was also ordered to "cease the discriminatory conduct or similar conduct and refrain from committing such conduct in the future". Amazing, simply amazing.

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