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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Poverty and Single Mothers

It was a fateful decision that this weary mother of three tired children took, and Fortune just happened to be looking the other way.

This mother will live with the anguish of an innocent decision, trying to cope with life and opting to shorten the time of inconvenience by a few minutes' worth of chance-taking. That decision and the coincidences that followed in its wake took her youngest child from her and left her living in a psychological maelstrom of blame.

She is blamed because she is poor, because she is a single mother, because she is exhausted with trying to cope, because she tried to have a shopping expedition with her children, and then get them home expeditiously to face another day. A day burdened with more cares, with work, with having the children cared for.

She lives in a densely-occupied multiple dwelling where hundreds of other poor people find they can pay the rent; the elderly and others like herself. Close to a bus stop where these under-privileged can count on inferior service.

To service the large apartment block where so many people live in close proximity to one another there should have been a cross-walk where they could cross the expanse of highway safely to their home destination after disembarking from the bus that carried them there. The nearest cross-walk to that bus stop was a short walk away; a long walk if you're tired and your children cranky.

Raquel Nelson, who lives in Marietta, Georgia had just got off the bus that had taken her and her three children home from a shopping expedition. They were late, the children were tired, and they were anxious to get home. Her youngest child, four, watched as another child ran onto the road and he followed.

He, his frantic mother and a sibling were all hit by a speeding vehicle. A hit-and-run. That's how Raquel Nelson lost her youngest child. Killed on impact by a van driven by a young man who shouldn't have been driving, and who was later apprehended. She was given a citation for jaywalking.

And because of the gravity of the results of that jaywalking she was convicted of homicide by vehicle and reckless conduct, by a jury. She anticipated she might receive up to a 3-year jail sentence. The young man who killed her son got 6 months as his penalty. He is sight-impaired, had no driving license, was inebriated, and fled the scene.

Jerry Guy, like most drinking drivers who cause accidents and death got off pretty lightly, and he's free to resume his life. He may never think again of the child whose life his vehicle took.

Raquel Nelson will think about her child forever, her mourning will never stop. The anguished time she spent awaiting trial and judgement was one of misery, thinking of the potential of separation while incarcerated, from her remaining children.

In the end, she has been spared that; she will not go to prison for her lapse in judgement; an entirely explicable lapse that most people would most likely choose to make, under those same circumstances.

Judge Kathryn Tanksley decided on a year's probation for the 30-year-old mother of two remaining children, along with 40 hours of community service. Lastly, offering her a new trial. Where, perhaps, a jury of her peers the second time around, might think a little deeper about convicting her, as the previous one did.

The jury that convicted her was made up of individuals who evidently had, according to Raquel Nelson "never been in my shoes"; none had ever taken public transportation.

The combination of poverty, inadequate municipal services, three tired children out at night later than anticipated, their mother anxious to get them settled for the evening, a precipitous decision, and intervening events sealed the fate of this small family.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Excessive Humbug

More nonsense; inexcusably lavish public spending to genuflect toward political correctness, in a process that over-serves one demographic while victimizing another, much larger group of tax-paying citizens within Canada.

Recently, a Yukon court judge has taken it upon himself to sanctify the need of a handful of francophone students by ordering that $15-million be spent to build a special school for them, while ignoring the needs of a far larger group of under-served aboriginal students. A small group of francophone high school students will now enjoy an arts studio, separate classes for each grade, space for a student radio station.

That the Yukon Supreme Court Justice, Vital Ouellette, seems to have had a personal-professional background of favouring outcomes on behalf of francophones, even before his current appointment seems not to make much of a difference. Despite that it appears more than obvious that Justice Ouellette has an agenda that is positive toward francophone entitlements beyond reasonableness.

All done in the interests of 'protecting minority-language rights', as enshrined by Canadian law, and as interpreted handsomely in favour of francophone communities. The result being that 41 French high school students will now be favoured with a new school where the pupil-to-teacher ration will be 10 to 1, and the students will have the stimulation of entitlements denied others.

This ruling has the effect of creating an unsupportably unfair inequity between other students in the territory who comprise 30% of the territory's student population, whose schooling needs are already miserably underfunded, while a handful of francophone students receive a gold-plated education.
"If another high school has to be built in the Yukon Territory, I'm, not sure it should be in the City of Whitehorse for the francophone population that already has a high school, a very good one." Maxime Faille, lawyer representing the Yukon government
The Yukon government plans to appeal the case to the Yukon Court of Appeal. And so it should.

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Mandatory Bilingualism

It isn't just the Province of Quebec that glorifies the ascendancy of the French language. Thanks to Canada's official bilingualism policy enshrined in law, French-language proficiency is considered a must elsewhere throughout the country as well. To the point of absolute absurdity.

Hard to believe in a majority-English-speaking world, where just about anywhere English speakers can be found and it is generally agreed that English has become the universal language of the Globe, that there are unilingual francophones needing to be served in their language in majority-English Canada.

Go anywhere in the Province of Quebec and even on public thoroughfares in a province that welcomes big-spending visitors from abroad, from the U.S. and elsewhere in Canada, there will be no signage translation for the edification of puzzled tourists. Only in Quebec is the polite and considerate acquiescence to demonstrating welcome ignored through signage meant to make people feel comfortable.

No concessions to the primacy of French.

And for Anglophones living in Quebec it's far more complex, since business and shop owners are not permitted by dint of the province's Draconian language laws to have English-only signs, much less signage where English appears larger than French. Quebec Anglos cannot be guaranteed to be serviced in the language of their choice in government offices, in hospitals, at the workplace.

French is the sole language of communication through idiotic lawful decree.

And now, the federal government's Official Languages Commissioner, Graham Fraser, has initiated a hunt for inadequate bilingualism offering in the National Capital. He plans to have specially hired "secret shoppers" launch out into the area as innocent unilingual tourists asking to be served in their mother tongue.

Public institutions will be visited repeatedly to ensure that there are no employees incapable of responding smoothly in French as required. Exemplifying the kinds of political and politically-correct pressures that ensure that English-speaking-only job applicants really need not apply anywhere in the National Capital Region.

And private businesses, particularly those located in what is considered to be prime tourist destinations will also be visited repeatedly by these undercover, covertly-operating 'secret shoppers' to determine whether bilingual services are available. Canada, on the face of it, being treated like a police state.

Stupid, unnecessary, embarrassing and socially immature.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Clockwork Orange Reimagined

Teens seem somehow to have been afflicted with an attitude that they can do whatever they feel inspired to, that rules, regulations, laws are to be flouted and that's all right because they're expressing themselves. And because they've been taught over their formative years that the world revolves about them and their interests they're convinced that anything they conspire to do among them will be overlooked.

And so far, for the most part, they're perfectly correct. There is little social condemnation of young people who decide to act out in a manner that is clearly destructive as society attributes these lapses in conduct to youthful restlessness, and adults reminisce about their own youthful days when their own gang of teens went about confounding the adults that cluck-clucked about their refusals to submit to authority and pay tribute to social expectations.

It's recently come to light that a house party in Alta Vista somehow attracted the attention of no fewer than 150 teens who converged on the house, somehow failing to understand that a group of that number would have some difficulties fitting into anyone's home. They made a good deal of noise resulting in neighbours complaining, since no doubt the bulk of the teens were on the outside, celebrating their youthful freedoms to disport themselves as they felt inclined to.

When the police arrived in response to the complaints, the crowd evidently dispersed. An estimated 60 of the original number gathered at Alta Vista Drive and Bank Street, in front of an Independent Grocer supermarket. Doubtless, the bored kids, aspiring nihilists among them, goaded one another into a collective act of public disobedience. To act out dispassionately in a violent manner in full view of onlookers.

Twenty of the assembled teens appear to have taken up the challenge and entered the store which was full of the usual grocery shoppers; mothers with young children, the elderly, just people going about their normal, everyday business of living. In an obvious sign of contempt for the orderly, for respect we all have engrained in us for private and public property, the teens went about knocking items off the shelves that contained them.

Jars of foodstuffs broke, sending their contents everywhere, on the shelves, over the floors, leaving sticky, gooey messes wherever the marauding teens disported themselves in full view of incredulous shoppers, as well as store employees. When the teens had accomplished what they set out to do in defiance of social convention and civility, they simply removed themselves; no great rush to depart, simply a casual departure.

The message clear enough: if you have any argument with what we've done to the order of your day, to the orderly assemblage of food items on neat shelves, to your conception of teens representing immature adults, stop us. No one did. They left, to reassemble with the larger group outside a convenience store, no doubt to relate what they'd done, what the expressions of the bystanders looked like, to the immobility of those who watched, disbelievingly.

And another group later did some damage to a bus at a transit station. Satisfying their impulse to strike out at society, for whatever non-reason. Teens, aimless, valueless, bored, ignorant. Demonstrating their casual contempt, their distaste and their dismissal of societal norms and expectations. These actions don't quite fit into the category of juvenile pranks by restless youth relieving the tedium of a summer evening.

They do express the shiftless, utterly egotistical mindsets of those lacking initiative, respect, imagination, enterprise, and self-restraint. So what are we doing wrong? Deferring to youth, offering them the kind of respect that must be earned. Forgiving unforgivable lapses in social and civil manners.

Raising juvenile delinquents.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011


There's a certain daredevil demographic that will engage in pursuits that most people conceive of as flirting with death. Most of us don't instinctively shrink from activities that are onerous or dangerous because we feel death lurks around the corner, ready to pounce, but we do exercise more than an ounce of caution when embarking on a venture that could threaten our safety and security.

Others actively seek out engagements with an element of danger that appears to present them as alluring.

Added to that, many people like to have photographs of themselves in unusual situations or places, as though the photo itself is the reason for becoming a tourist. One comes away with a memento of the unusual with oneself placed squarely within the landscape.

It's often been commented on that there is no human condition as mind-numbing as boredom, and to dispel that feeling of being bored people seek out opportunities to indulge in extreme activities.

If someone has the disposable income and the requisite defiance-of-danger attitude and is in reasonably good physical shape they can sign onto a mountain-climbing expedition in the Himalaya, get those fabulous photos of themselves suited up against the elements, plodding and pulling themselves up glaciers, oxygen tank at the ready to compensate for the height and thin air.

The adventure is not one they contrive on their own, expert climbers and Sherpas encourage, service and literally haul them up.

And here's another offering closer to home for those who live in Toronto where the CN Tower beckons for a new extreme-adventure opportunity to experience the otherworldly thrill of a far, wide view, one more safely obtained seated in a helicopter, but lacking the thrill of circling a platform 1.5 metres wide, 356 metres from ground level.

True, there's a special suit to be worn, a 'jumpsuit', although that's not to be taken literally either, and true there's a harness, and true there's an experienced guide.

But that's a long, l-o-n-g way up, to be walking tentatively along a steel-grate flooring encircling the CN Tower, one of the tallest structures in the world. For people who fear heights this is not recommended. A vertigo-inducing, mind-over-terror experience for the young and the presumably foolish.

A half-hour experience with four other curious people willing to spend the $176 fee to achieve the thrill of a lifetime. If hang-gliding, parachute-leaping and bungee-jumping aren't thrill enough, this one is also on offer.

And the guide will entice those who take the plunge - not the literal plunge, but the decision to disport themselves at such a high altitude over the city, to be able to look down over Lake Ontario on one side, or the wide and generous expanse of the city and its environs on the other - to experiment a little, have trust in the harness to secure them from an actual plunge.

To lean forward off the grate, as though prepared to fling themselves into the ether, a prospect that would fill most people with horror and terror, but those who trust, with the thrill of the pretense, their faith in the security of the harness intact.

And when it's all done, there are those photographs to cherish, of themselves performing the seemingly impossible at the top of the CN Tower, grinning, or something approximating a grin, while emulating Spiderman.

Point? Overcoming natural fears of challenging nature? Or enjoying a source of spine-chilling challenges to one's aptitude to facing danger ... at the very least the perception of danger.

Something could always go wrong, after all.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Storm-Ending Bluesfest

On a steamy hot summer day, with a nice cooling breeze, cold beverage in hand, viewing a large open-air stand with a favoured musical performance, it seems the crowd in attendance had good reason to feel happy with the occasion. It was the very last day of Bluesfest, and the end of a long, hot day.

Environment Canada had issued a warning of possible thunderstorms, around midnight. And it was a long way to midnight.

Of course, they had also said that there was a 30% chance of pop-up showers, or thunderstorms, given the deep humidity, the searing heat and high UV index. But nothing like that happened throughout the day. Good weather for an open-air concert series with fans enjoying themselves and the bands being featured rising to the occasion.

The band that rose to the occasion just after seven in the evening finished their hit I Want You to Want Me, and from their viewing platform on stage, able to see the steadily relentless arrival of black thunderheads coming in over the Ottawa River, they exited expeditiously. Good decision- making on the part of Cheap Trick; they left just in time.

Had they lingered a few moments longer they might have been awfully surprised. And perhaps dreadfully hurt, as well. As it was, their driver did sustain some physical harm; a broken leg, a head injury, cuts and along with two other people was taken directly to hospital for care after the Ottawa Paramedic Service had given initial treatment.

Almost simultaneously to having left the stage, high winds gusting up to 95 kph knocked down the stage, and the crowds of people assembled evacuated the area as swiftly as they could. Emergency vehicles began to arrive, security staff worked to guide people calmly out of the area, directing them to the nearby War Museum for shelter from the wind and rain.

It was exceedingly fortunate that no one was seriously injured, much less fatally. Elsewhere in the city mature trees were blown down by the fierce winds. Debris was picked up and flown through the air. Boaters were stranded, and power lines fell, leaving thousands of people without electricity.

Police responded to over 300 calls for assistance, everything from a townhouse fire, marine accidents, power outages, to downed hydro lines and trees and signs. For most people, sitting at home after the dinner hour, it was surprising to note a sudden whipping increase of wind, shoving backyard trees almost perpendicular to the ground.

There were great rolling booms of thunder and sheet lightning lit up a sky that had been light blue with a fiercely over-heated sun all through the day, and which had suddenly turned densely black with rolling thunder clouds in an unexpectedly short time. But it was the sudden onset of the wind that grabbed attention.

And that wind packed quite a punch.

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Inadvertent Neglect

It seems inevitable. With summer, the arrival of hot, steamy weather, child casualties occur.

Parents and child and infant caregivers think they have their eyes on children in their care, then suddenly a split-second passes and they don't know where the child is. A frantic search is conducted and the child is discovered in the backyard family pool, and bleak despair descends as the child battles for its life. Is the acquisition and possession of a personal family swimming pool of that great importance?

Do parents ever ask themselves which they would prefer: peace of mind knowing that their child is not exposed to the potential danger of curiosity combining with lack of understanding of danger that may see them tumble into a pool without the presence of an adult to monitor their safety - or the great summer pleasure inherent in possessing your very own pool, a luxury that is affordable for greater numbers of two-earner families.

It's a fundamental question: which has more value to the deciding adults, the care and safety of a child or the cachet and pleasure of having a swimming pool right in your own back yard? Parents know they cannot be at close attention at all times when their children are small. Accidents occur, and for the most part they are minor occurrences. There is nothing minor about a near-drowning.

And a fatality in a family when a child, momentarily unsupervised, falls into a pool and drowns brings that family to the brink of self-destruction. A marriage, with the parents mourning a treasure they cannot recover, teeters on the cusp of dissolution, and often slips over into being sundered with each parent blaming the other, where both are inconsolable and irreconcilable.

In this instance, in Stittsville on Sunday, an alert parent momentarily distracted, was able to save her two-year-old son who had re-entered the family pool without her immediate knowledge. The child will survive. He is being held in hospital for observation purposes, but is in stable condition.

There will be many more infants and young children who will not be as fortunate in the outcome of their unsupervised adventure. There were 89 drowning occurrences in Ontario between May and September in 2010.

Ontario's deputy chief coroner would like to see firmer rules on guarding backyard pools in child and infant death prevention. A good start might be a bylaw that all such pools - in-ground and above-ground - be mandated to have four-sided fencing directly around the pool itself and within the fence surrounding the backyard.

This type of preventable accident reflects the mindset seen in parents and caregivers leaving vulnerable children alone in a vehicle strapped into an infant car seat, windows securely rolled up, and doors locked in blistering heat. The child who was rescued by police in Orleans by having the family vehicle's window smashed to reach the child was spared death.

And it would seem the child's parents, who left him seated in their vehicle in a commercial parking lot while they went off to do some shopping, will not be charged with child abandonment or failing to provide the necessities of life to a child, or any other charge demonstrative of neglect, however unintended.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Irresponsibly Careless Caregivers

Sometimes it's hard to figure what people use for brains. Of course that's just a facetious little statement. The honest truth is that people too often lack common sense. Obviously some people are aware, but all too many simply are not. They seem completely oblivious to exposure to situations that may prove unsettling at best, downright dangerous and life-threatening in the worst-case scenario.

And as far as small children and even domestic pets are concerned, the worst-case scenario on a really hot, sunny day is the danger of suffocation and heat stroke when left unattended in a parked vehicle. How something this obvious could escape the notice and the concerned mind of someone who presumably has a care for infants and for pets, is beyond understanding.

But invariably it will happen; a passerby notices a child struggling in the car seat of a locked vehicle for air, and the infant is experiencing trouble breathing. Alarm sets in, the passerby attempts to open the car door, to reach the child, but it is locked. A quick 911 call is made, or they enter a nearby store to report the problem, and police arrive.

An ambulance is dispatched and paramedics make an attempt at assessing the rescued child's vital signs. On occasion there are none, and the paramedics struggle to revive the child, and rush it, horns blaring, to the nearest hospital emergency room. The child survives, and sometimes it does not.

The caregivers, perhaps parents, are devastated, full of grief and guilt, hardly knowing where to turn for comfort. They make an effort to explain themselves; they were only gone for a moment, there was something that had to be attended to, just dropped by a shop for a quick look around, who might have imagined that the heat would be so deadly? Well, just about anyone but they.

Sometimes charges of child abandonment or failing to provide for the necessities of life are laid against the parent. Including parents who have parked in a casino lot, and gone in to play a few games of chance, and simply lost track of time, while their child was left alone in that parked car, to survive ... or not.

Pair that with the case worker with Family and Children Services, working for Renfrew County, driving with two children in her car, under the influence of alcohol. A traffic complaint was received by the OPP in the early afternoon of someone driving erratically. She was administered a breathalyzer test.

The woman, 32 years of age, charged with driving with a blood-alcohol level surpassing the legal limit. Not a thought for her responsibility, driving under the influence of alcohol with two young children in her care? That she was held to be a responsible adult, deserving of employment with Family and Children Services, demolished by this act of errant stupidity.

No word in the paper whether the two children were wards of the Crown, or whether they were Cynthia Racine's own two children. Either way, the children were placed in a potentially dangerous situation by the action of someone who most certainly should have known better than to flout the law and common sense, and imperil the safety of minors.

Just as the baby that was left unattended at a shopping complex at Trim and Innes roads just after the noon hour in 30-degree-Celsius heat, when in fact there was an extreme heat alert out was placed in danger of losing its life.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Afghan Emigrants To Canada

Seems as though one useful initiative may come out of Canada's Afghanistan mission that may have long-lasting, and positive results. Assuming that those Afghans who had courageously (and usefully) agreed to act as language interpreters for the Canadian Forces would be willing to leave the tribal, ancestral verities of violent hostilities behind and accept that Canada is a land dedicated to equality and egalitarian opportunities.

We might assume we are getting the cream of the crop; Afghans with sufficient education to enable them to have acquired a foreign language. Afghan citizens with initiative and aspirations to becoming greater within themselves than their culture and their governments might allow for them to achieve. A certain amount of vision and ingenuity would be involved in presenting as a language interpreter, even in a place where good-paying jobs are scarce.

Uppermost in anyone's mind would be the chances of surviving the opportunity for employment that being engaged as a foreign-troop language interpreter represents. After all, the country is battling a long-term, violent and vicious insurgency, where the deaths of civilians have become rather banal occurrences. Where it makes sense to wreak vengeance on those deemed to be aiding the enemy, working alongside foreign troops.

Easy and obvious targets for revenge by the Taliban. So by Canada agreeing to commit to what the United States, Britain and Australia already do, invite interpreters to apply for emigration to their respective countries as a way to express gratitude and responsibility for their well-being, after withdrawal, is only the honourable thing to do.

The announcement that Canada is prepared to re-settle hundreds of Afghans who have worked for the Canadian military in Kandahar, is a just and fair decision, one we should all be able to live with, with full equanimity. "We are expecting we'll end up re-settling 550 people who qualify for the program", Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced.

Heaven knows, Canadians need something to feel good about, related to our venture in Afghanistan. We cannot make much of a long-range difference in the country, aiding those within Afghanistan to live better lives, but we can and should assist those who have helped us to help them, help themselves.

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Friday, July 15, 2011


Brothers Dubé – Canada’s youngest rock band playing for kids, one riff at a time.

When a mother of three young children dies tragically young of the effects of a dread disease, the results are an inconsolable loss. If the father of those three young children left without a mother has the great good sense and the foresight to imbue in his children a sense that they can accomplish something that their mother would be proud of them for, and give them a sense of purpose and a link with their dead mother, he has hit the jackpot of parental accomplishment.

And that, precisely, appears to be the genius of Rob Dube, the father of Quinn 10, Jan 12, and Liam 14. Who as a trio present as the Brothers Dube. Kid rockers, as they term themselves. With more than enough talent between them to impress not only the audience at Ottawa's Bluesfest but seasoned bands like Arcade Fire as well.

The boys have created their own tradition of releasing a white balloon into the atmosphere in memory of their mother who died in 2008 of breast cancer. The release of the balloon goes beyond remembering their mother; it also serves as a way to reach her, to remind her they're still there, and they'll never put her memory aside.

When she was ill, receiving cancer treatment, the boys began to tinker with their father's musical instruments, playing their mother's favourite music. That was four years ago, and they've never quite set those instruments aside. They do a lot of busking, livening up the music scene in Ottawa, and at the same time raising funds for charity.

They drew the attention of an impressed impresario, who now represents them as a producer. And with that encouragement they wrote songs and began recording, and they've now got a CD, titled One. With their father's help and encouragement the Brothers Dube have raised over $100,00 for charitable causes, through corporate donations primarily.

The boys honour their mother's memory by producing music that attracts the attention of popular music enthusiasts. And Ottawa-based developer Claridge Homes has stepped forward to sponsor the Haitian-relief charity Kanpe to the tune of $10,000 on their behalf. A portion of the sales of their CD is set aside to benefit the Boys and Girls Club during Bluesfest; so far $1,600.

An upcoming tour in their ancestral Ireland before the summer is out will see them playing bars, pubs, clubs, festivals and street busking in over a dozen Irish towns and cities, as a result of their Irish grandparents' arrangement of a busy schedule for their talented grandchildren. Pretty fantastic to see young boys aimed in such a positive direction.

Good on them.

Ottawa Citizen Photos Photo: Ashley Frazer

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Language Violations

Finally, a true Canadian hero. Someone who will stand up to the bullying of our national airline. Someone, it would appear, who has discovered an inner talent in these difficult economic times, of identifying alternate sources of income. Just get outraged, so damn mad that you simply won't take it any more, and threaten a lawsuit. Better yet, launch a lawsuit. You might win.

Go for it big time. You've a legitimate grievance, be innovative and forward-looking; you have suffered a grave injury and dammit, someone's got to pay for your suffering. So none of this placebo stuff, of a nominal sum in damages, just to make a point. Those guys have got to learn that they cannot simply do as they wish, with their eye on the bottom line.

Customer satisfaction, they never heard of that? In an industry geared to service and delivery? Give us a break. So none of this low-balling the extent of the anguish suffered by francophones unable to get service in the language of their choice, as guaranteed by the laws of this country. This is, after all, an officially bilingual country. Needs and expectations must be met.

Unequivocally. No arguments, no equivocation, service in French, and that's that. So if a flying customer on Air Ontario orders a 7-Up from a sadly unilingual flight attendant and she brings along a (shudder) Sprite instead, the depth of the insult must be recognized and she should either grovel in sincere apology or resign her position on the spot.

Failing that, a man with the courage of his convictions, completely outraged at the shabby treatment he and his wife received on four occasions in 2009 travelling via Air Canada, decided to sue in Federal Court for $525,000 in damages. And didn't that make those bounders sit up and take notice?

All the more so when Michel Thibodeau's arguments details the extent of the suffering he and his wife experienced as a result of not one attendant on those flights from Toronto to Atlanta, for example, would respond to his queries in French. For heaven's sake! This is Canada, officially bilingual Canada, and every francophone has a right to receive service in their language of choice.

Let's face it, what Mr. Thibodeau and his wife Lynda experienced was absolutely intolerable. Unfair, unjust and the height of bad, bad manners. No one should be subjected to such a situation.
"When I boarded the plane at 11:00 a.m., I said hello to the flight attendant. She replied in English. I asked her whether she spoke French, and she said 'no' in English. She said that there was no service in French. So, no active offer of services in French, and no service in French on that flight.
"I asked her name as I was going to file a complaint about the lack of service in French."
The Official Languages Act is there for a purpose. Surely it qualifies as a gross abuse of human rights not to acknowledge that? And how insulting and mean-spirited and a gross violation that there was no translation available for on-board announcements! On one flight there was a bilingual attendant and she failed to translate duly...!

But guess what, every dogged pursuit of honest retribution has its day. And Mr. Thibodeau, to our great relief, had his. The court ruled a breach of duty on the part of Air Canada, awarding the Thibodeaus $6,000 each representing $1,500 for each breach of the law (plus costs). Of course the Thibodeaus thought that was inadequate, but life's so unfair sometimes....

There are other awards, somewhat mollifying, when one's stalwart courage is duly noted and this rights crusader who found words (almost) inadequate to describe the hurt he received characterized the service given him as "malicious, oppressive and reprehensible". Leading Justice Marie-Josee Bedard to write:
"The applicants' language rights are clearly very important to them and the violation of their rights caused them a moral prejudice, pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of their vacation."
This man's battle on behalf of language rights was also honoured by the French-language rights group, Imperatif francais.

Alas, the court dismissed the claim for $500,000 in exemplary and punitive damages. But did castigate Air Canada for its laxity in proffering the required services. The airlines has promised to behave far, far better in future.

Now perhaps some personage of note will take the initiative and nominate Mr. and Mrs. Thibodeau for the Order of Canada?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Give Them A Chance

One of the dogs brought to the Saskatoon SPCA following the death of their owner.
One of the dogs brought to the Saskatoon SPCA following the death of their owner. Photograph by: Courtesy of Saskatoon SPCA, handout

When human beings are faced with the dread condition of starvation they have been known on some notable occasions to turn to cannibalism to survive. There is historical, ritualistic cannibalism practised by some isolated tribes in Africa, and there are modern incidents of recorded events where people having suffered catastrophic accidents which left them isolated and struggling to survive, succumbing to the horror-inducing need to consume the bodies of those among them who had perished.

Although such acts are horribly repugnant to us, we find it in ourselves to forgive them, as desperate acts of survival. We speak in hushed tones of such events and view them with disgust, but a part of us also acknowledges that if, by consuming a dead body, some can manage to survive, then the act speaks for itself as a life-saving retreat from visceral disgust. We bring compassion to the news of such occurrences, not condemnation.

In Saskatchewan seven dogs had been left to their own devices. Dogs that had been well looked after by their owners. Fed well, exercised, groomed, cared for. For some reason not yet divulged the elderly couple died suddenly and mysteriously. The RCMP have information, but have decided to maintain a silence, for the present time. The death of the couple left their five shelties and two mixed breeds without the most basic of care.

Dogs, after all, are highly domesticated animals, dependent on their humans to look after them, to see to their daily needs. And with the death of the two owners there was no one to be concerned about the dogs' well-being and nurturance. Eventually a neighbour decided to call on the couple and he discovered the situation. What he also discovered was that the dogs, having no other source of sustenance, had begun to consume the decomposing bodies of their former owners.

The dogs were found to be in fairly good condition, other than the state of their haircoats. They were turned over to the care of the Saskatoon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The man (who also happens to be a breeder), who had discovered the dead bodies of his former neighbours and their dogs, feels little compassion for the plight the animals found themselves in and insists they should be put down.

The Saskatoon SPCA feels the dogs should be rehabilitated and eventually put up for adoption. Their feeling is that the dogs merely did what was natural to any animal species; they sought a means to prolong their lives since, after all, this is what nature has programmed us to do: survive. The staff looking after the seven dogs have not noted any manner or behaviour that would betray the onset of any kind of averse psychological condition.

When the dogs are placed for adoption, the authorities at the SPCA have every intention of disclosing to prospective adopters the situation that the dogs found themselves in and how they responded to that situation. They feel there is no reason whatever to destroy these animals. And it's difficult to understand why, given the circumstances, anyone would want to. Apart from our natural aversion to what occurred, they are due our care and concern.



One of several photos released on July 12, 2011 by the Saskatoon SPCA of two sheltie blend type dogs that were brought in for cleaning by shelter staff

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Infamy, Impunity

The law of the land presumably accounts for law and order and everyone is treated equally under the law. At least it would be reasonable to assume that to be the case. Particularly since Canadians have been assured that such is the case repeatedly by our politicians who point to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Are we speaking of generalizations, beyond which exceptionality begs the case for different treatment?

Canada's aboriginals claim that they represent a nation exempt from Canadian law, since they have their own laws. They also have their own territories, although Canada presumes the conceit that this is one nation equal under the law and one geographic spread divided into provinces and territories upon which live various populations, including tribal populations comprised of First Nations peoples.

Who are not Canadians first, but rather First Nations, period.

They are a law unto themselves. If they decide that it is to their benefit to import/smuggle guns or drugs or tobacco into the country and their reserves this is their affair and no government need seek to intervene or to claim those activities to be unlawful. For what they do is performed on Indian Land. And if treaties have not been signed it is a mere formality awaiting a solution that may never arrive.

Land developers who believe they have a license through lawful application to municipal governments to proceed with building housing units on contested land will henceforth be on notice that all is not quite as smooth sailing as it would appear to be. Particularly when an Indian Band lives in close proximity to the proposed housing development.

For the simple reason that tempers flare and Indian Warriors are summoned and what results is a stand-off between the Warriors and the Law, in the persona of policing agents, both provincial and municipal who find themselves between that rock and that hard place, because government leans on the law to apply a variant on the kind of justice and law and order that most of us take for granted.

After violating the law, confronting police, disturbing the peace and performing a myriad of unlawful, violent acts the 'native occupation' of the Douglas Creek Estates hard by Caledonia, disrupting peoples' lives, terrorizing citizens, displacing many and causing the Ontario government to waste millions of taxpayer dollars buying off a developer, unrest remains.

The land in question has, by default, been ceded to the protesters, all $16-million-worth. Add to that an additional $20-million to be paid out and divided among 440 residents and 400 businesses - who had their lives upturned by the strident, unlawful and violent protests - as an ameliorating gesture from the government to the citizens involved.

The police, frustrated beyond words that they were given strict orders to stand down and stand back and allow lawlessness to prevail, for no one in government wished to confront the native protesters who claimed their human rights and rights under the Charter would be violated in the process, and no one has forgotten Ipperwash, burn with indignant frustration.

Too bad. That swath of land once quaintly named the Douglas Creek Estates is now, it appears, irrevocably Six Nations territory. They claimed it to be so, and lo and behold, it came to pass...!

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mechanized Recreational Fun

People who are attracted to country living, to hunt camps and to sport-recreational vehicles for land and water seem to harbour a death wish.

There are so many who drive all-terrain vehicles in the summer, ski-doos in the winter, and motorized watercraft, who don't quite seem to understand either the terrain in which they find themselves along with deleterious weather conditions and their ability to control a motorized vehicle. Failing to take conditions into account, they obliviously imperil themselves.

To the extent that one can only conclude that this is people, in effect, coming a cropper due to nature culling the unfit. They themselves seem to symbolize that old adage of "survival of the fittest", in their ignorance of their responsibilities to themselves.

As each season takes the place of the previous one, we are given stark reminders through the news media that all too many people appear to be inherently careless of the gift of life.

In the winter it's people drowning in lakes and rivers that aren't completely frozen, sinking along with their snowmobiles, or driving too fast for complete control and colliding with immovable objects. In the Ottawa area no fewer than four people have met death driving ATVs over the space of a week's time.

Usually the focus is on children getting hurt or killed driving these vehicles. But adults are not exempt from such fatal accidents, and five that recently met death were 18, 36, 38, 50, and 83 years of age. One a woman, the others men.

They crash into trees, overturn their vehicles, hit logs driving downhill. There were over 300,000 licensed ATVs in the province of Quebec alone in 2009. And in 2004-2005, almost three thousand admissions to hospitals in Canada for ATV-involved incidents.

The prediction by safety groups is that as the popularity of these machines rises, so too will the the number of accidents and deaths. The Canadian Institute for Health Information and Smartrisk, a national safety charity, speak of most deaths being caused by head injuries.

It is mandatory in both Ontario and Quebec that helmets be worn. But deaths due to head injuries occur with and without helmets.

How to ensure that morbidity due to such accidents diminish is anyone's guess. People become addicted to speed, to the prospect of enjoying themselves, having fun, and in the process forgetting caution.

Editing and further tightening the gene pool.

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Sound Police Work versus Racial Profiling

There is little doubt but that Ottawa's current chief of police is the best of the lot that we've had in a long while. It was rumoured that he is in line to be tapped as the new head of the RCMP. He appears to have the requisite background experience. And there is little doubt that he knows policing backward and forward. Besides, how can anyone fail but to be impressed by a big burly man who exemplifies the best in police work confessing that earwigs give him the creeps?

That aside, he knows when to convey his belief as a professional in his field when his men have acquitted themselves well, and when to cast doubt on the perceptions of a judge who has in her turn cast doubt on the quality, forthright declaration of experienced technique, and denouncing of the blight of racial stereotyping in a display of acquired wisdom battling left-wing political correct righteousness.

So, in actual fact, according to Chief Vern White, there is reason to be proud of the manner in which Constable Robin Perrie conducted himself using deductive reasoning as his guide when he pulled over two young black men, Loik St-Louis, 24, and Jordan Noel, 22, in downtown Ottawa at night, in an area known to be used by drug dealers.

They were driving a 1997 Cadillac DeVille, evasively looked past the policeman in their view eliciting his attention and when the constable ran a check on the vehicle plate, discovered it to be owned by an older woman. Concerned it may have been taken without permission as in 'stolen', he called in for back-up, and when the car was searched a drug scale, marijuana and cocaine were found along with a substantial amount of cash.

That could be said to represent an Eureka! moment, the apprehension of drug peddlers But the two young men denied knowledge of the drugs' ownership, and suggested during the court hearing that the drugs were planted in the car by the very police who searched it. And because Ontario court Justice Dianne Nicholas was so devoted to the idea of being outraged at her perception of 'racial profiling', Const. Ferrie was roundly berated and the prosecution withdrew.

Police Chief White rendered his opinion that his officer had comported himself well, carrying out "good police work". "People can disagree or agree with the behaviours but (Ferrie) identified the behaviours that concerned him. He did a behaviour-based investigation that's supported or corroborated by what he finds. I find it challenging to get from there to 'this is racial profiling'. I have no idea how you end up there", he commented.

Mind, police can sometimes come a cropper when they rely on clues that turn out, after all, not to be the red-hot clues they interpret them as. As when, for example, Ottawa police tactical unit officers tracked a bank robber via a GPS signal which they took to having emanated from a bag of stolen cash, tracing it to a nearby home. Only to discover that it was the homeowner's portable telephone that was signalling.
Ottawa police surround a home on Aster Street as they search for a suspect in a bank robbery Friday, July 8, 2011.

Ottawa police surround a home on Aster Street as they search for a suspect in a bank robbery Friday, July 8, 2011.

That can be embarrassing. But it was police doing their work in response to a perceived signal that might, after all, have led them to the presence of the bank robber, though it did not. This was police relying on electronic devices to give them the heads-up on the presence of a criminal. In the other instance, it was a policeman relying on informed experience leading to a hunch. Sometimes human intelligence trumps artificial intelligence.

It's without doubt that the enthusiasm that greeted the news that the Ontario Police Services Board has renewed Ottawa police Chief Vern White's contract to June 2015 was completely genuine. The Ottawa police may run into problems from time to time, with a public perception occasionally based on the reality of the occasional officer overstepping the bounds of authority, but under Chief White's guidance and responsibility the public remains confident.

It's the troubling aspect of how the courts perceive their mission in weighing evidence put before them through the professional conduct of police, coming to the unwarranted conclusion that as a result of imputed behavioural misdemeanors, that evidence is to be set aside that should concern us. The police doing their professional best and the courts insisting on leniency based on political correctness.

And never the twain shall collaborate.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Spending Money to Make Money

That can be understood to a certain degree. The Canadian Cancer Society probably qualifies as one of the oldest-existing health charities within Canada. There was a time when it depended largely on volunteers agreeing to canvass door-to-door for charitable donations from householders.

I can recall fifty years ago as a young housewife being canvassed at the first house we owned. And it might have been twenty years or less later when I began canvassing myself for them.

Legions of Canadians have gone out year after year every April, designated as "Cancer month", when public awareness is heightened by public relations campaigns and advertising, and when people anticipate being canvassed, many welcoming the presence of people at their doorstep, inviting donations.

For decades now, the Canadian Cancer Society like many other similar groups, has turned to professional fundraisers.

They've also launched high-profile events selling $100 tickets giving people a chance at winning big-ticket prizes like homes, cottages, vehicles, boats, exotic vacations. And with the advent of the Internet have appealed to donors through that resource. Little wonder that their campaign which incorporates so many different fund-raising elements enables them to collect hundreds of millions in charitable donations.

For the Canadian Cancer Society, total revenue through fund-raising in 2011 came to $233-million. A whopping increase over the $102-million total raised in 1999. People in their 70s and 80s are still committed to going out into their neighbourhoods, knocking on doors to solicit funds for the yearly canvass, myself included.

Now it has been revealed that a relatively small proportion of the funds raised are being spent on cancer research. Dr. Brian Lichty, a cancer researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton took it upon himself to analyze the charity's financial statements. He did this in the wake of the Cancer Society's decision to cancel its annual research funding competition, launching a new program for short-term, non-renewable grants.

He discovered that while revenue has more than doubled over the past decade, the research budget has remained flat. "There's been this dramatic increase in how much money they're spending every year [it] just keeps marching up and up and this hasn't transferred into the envelope for research."

The Cancer Society does spend money on palliative care, patient support, colon cancer screening and other medical-ameliorative initiatives to benefit the public. But this has always been part of their mandate, along with education and the funding of cancer-related research. What appears to have changed the most is that spending has increased on fundraising and administrative costs.

An analysis conducted by the CBC's Marketplace pointed to the fact that the proportion of funding spend on research has dropped to just under 22% in 2011 from $40.3% in 1999, of charitable revenues collected. Moreover, researchers are puzzled that only 18% of research grants were found to have been accepted in the latest competition, a sizeable drop from past years.

"That's an 82% failure rate. I review these grants for the Society. We see lots of great proposals, things we would really love to be able to fund, but there isn't enough money", explained Dr. Lichty.

It would be interesting to know how much charities waste in their advertising schemes, from sending unwanted packets of greeting cards, address labels, holiday wrappings to potential donors through the post. Along with quarterly solicitations for donations from donation-weary supporters, as well.

Seems that more than ever, charity has become a business, one that feeds on itself, and is more concerned with establishing itself as a corporate-interest entity, hiring more staff, building more suitable office accommodations, investing in more advertising, and scooping up ever more public donations.

Not what most donors and certainly most volunteers envision.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Sure Sounds Like Judicial Harassment

"Racial profiling", a pejorative phrase beloved of lefties and human rights activists (one and the same...?) to denote the unfairness of using one's cerebral intelligence and past experiences to arrive at the conclusion that some physically identifiable groups have a tendency to go askew of the law, frequently and deliberately.

Young black males have a propensity to make trouble, to get in trouble with law enforcement agencies because they are drawn to crime, both petty and major, in excess of their representative numbers in society. Young aboriginal men have the same problem. And young men of Middle East and North African descent are disproportionately seen as allying themselves with terror groups.

To single out these groups for suspicion when trouble occurs is simply common sense since they have already, as a group, demonstrated that this is what they are both capable of, and drawn to. Yet this common-sense recognition is considered by all too many within Western society as being unfair, unjust and anti-humane.

What it is, is stupid, not to use the intelligence one has to aid and assist in apprehending felons.

Ontario court Justice Dianne Nicholas most emphatically does not agree. During a preliminary hearing for Loik St-Louis 24, and Jordan Noel, 22 on charges of possession of drugs, along with a drug scale and a significant amount of cash (connect the dots there; not at all difficult, is it?) she aggressively queried and accused Constable Robin Ferrie, the arresting officer, of "racial profiling".

He offered a reasonable explanation, that two young men were driving a Cadillac DeVille in a high crime area, and took pains to avoid his eyes as they drove past him. Leaving him with the instant impression that the car might be stolen. It does, after all, happen. Police are there to ensure that all is as it should be.

Call it a hunch, but all was not quite as it should be.

The vehicle in question was owned by a woman, Jordan Noel's mother, who affirmed in a telephone call from the police officer, that it was her car, but that her son hadn't asked permission to take it out. Two young males driving in a high crime area in a Cadillac aroused the suspicion of a seasoned police officer. "It sure sounds like racial profiling to me", Justice Nicholas said.

"I stop a lot of people your honour", Constable Ferrie responded when the judge asked "How many white women do you stop in the market just because they are driving a car?" Provocative, damning, is it not? "How many?", she insisted, "How many in the last month?" "Your honour, I don't, I couldn't even tell you", responded Const. Ferrie.

"I felt I was disrespected, discriminated against and judged because of my colour and because I was driving a Cadillac", young Noel said, pushing the colour discrimination issue, because it works, and it certainly worked extremely well in this courtroom. "Racial profiling has happened all my life", added St-Louis, as the reason he doesn't trust police.

Obviously, that mistrust is mutual. These young men don't represent clean-cut, black youth interested in sports and being responsible members of society. But they know the right buttons to push and they indulged themselves shamelessly:
"Maybe it's not whips and everything but for sure there is still slavery out there. It might be mental. It's everyday living. It's not supposed to be, but that is how it is."
Noel and St-Louis, two innocent young men who were just out for an evening drive, like normal, law-abiding citizens, were arrested. Not because they were young and black and driving a vehicle owned by one young man's mother. But because there was marijuana, a drug scale, cocaine and a sizeable amount of cash in their possession.

"You're going to check whether he has permission to drive the car and two other police cars show up, like come on?" pressed Judge Nicholas. "Because two black guys in a car don't look at you, you're calling for backup?" The Crown withdrew drug charges against the two men as a result of the judge's acerbic comments and obvious bias.

"I think that is an appropriate use of your discretion", the judge responded. The cash has been returned to the two men, although they claim they have a grievance that the police had taken several hundred more than the amount claimed in court documents, and subsequently returned to them.

The drugs that were seized? No way was that theirs, not the drugs nor the scale. "These guys search the car and then there are drugs there. They are not my drugs, no", Noel said, completely without guile, utterly innocent of the unfair charges brought against him and his friend.

The drugs most definitely did not belong to the two young men who were so unfairly targeted and apprehended. The cash that went with the drugs and the scale, on the other hand, did belong to them. Not only did the police plant the drugs to incriminate two innocent young men, but they also cheated the young men out of several hundred dollars that rightfully belonged to them.

So much for justice, right?

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Abuse of Process

To the ordinary person on the street, the individual who reads newspapers, someone who is not familiar with the letter of the law, nor the manner in which our local security agents proceed in assembling evidence and data to enable criminal prosecutions to take place to make ours a better and safer community, it comes as a shock to read that a judge, upholding the law, tosses critical evidence to try a case.

It's happened often enough, and each time it does occur, it seems like a surprising outcome. Criminal prosecution cannot proceed without the critical evidence, or prosecution proceeds, but fails to make the impact it should, to produce a meaningful result, holding criminals to account for their actions. So why does this happen? Police officers unaware of the need to secure a warrant?

Police officers in such hot pursuit of evidence that they feel side-lining lawful requirements will be overlooked? Whatever the cause the end result is unfortunate. Ontario Superior court Justice Julianne Parfett issued a written ruling that two police officers, detectives Kevin Jacobs and Doug Edgar, committed acts that would "shock the conscience of the community".

One suspects the judge attributes far too tender a sensibility with respect to the community's conscience in this instance. More people are more likely shocked by the fact that she has decided to set aside evidence against four men accused of running a massive drug ring. So the bricks of cocaine and the handguns unearthed are to be exempted from the evidential file.

The search the two detectives undertook of a private home that they were informed had been vacated, and indeed presented as empty of its former residents, was unlawful according to Justice Parfett, for they hadn't secured a prior warrant. The detectives testified that there was no response to their knock at the door. A neighbour informed them the house was empty of occupants.

They discovered the doors to be unlocked and decided to enter, they testified, to see if squatters were present or whether a break-and-enter had occurred. What they found in their search was 12 kilograms of cocaine along with wrappings from other bricks of cocaine, cocaine and handguns on a closet shelf, along with ammunition and $900 in cash.

The discovery not totally unexpected in light of the fact that the former occupants were well known to the detectives as being involved in drug activities. Furthermore an internal police database indicated drug activity. Nonetheless Justice Parfett ruled the evidence to be excluded:
"A private residence is sacrosanct. It is trite law that 'a man's home is his castle' and that residents are free from state interference when they are in their homes."
This was evidence to be used as part of a 16-month undercover operation targeting a network distributing drugs, with ties to the Hells Angels and the Montreal mafia. The men involved have pleaded not guilty to 35 charges, including conspiracy to traffic drugs, association with a criminal organization, weapons offences, drug trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime.

The judge decided to exempt the evidence from use at trial, understanding quite well that to do so would lead in all likelihood to the dismissal of some of the charges. How does that benefit society and justice?

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Proposed: From Majesty to the Indigent

The pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow - or is it the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? - hasn't much on the fabulous wealth discovered a few days ago at a temple in the southern state of Kerala in India. The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Hindu temple in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala, was well endowed hundreds of years ago by the immense riches of the princely few in a land of numberless people living in endemic poverty.

Sacks brimming with diamonds and other precious stones, along with gold and silver bullion dating to the 17th Century, along with works of art and jewellery intricately entwined and inlaid with thousands of diamonds, rubies and emeralds have been discovered in a series of vaults built deep within the inner bowels of the temple. An excavation team has been working to uncover the vast riches and to audit them.

Wealthy devotees of the temple and the royal family whose personal temple it represented, stated their fealty to their lords and overseers as loyal and devout Hindus over a period of centuries. Gifts that were carefully stored within six stone vaults, three of which are reputed not to have been opened and examined since 1872.

Now, religious officials, archaeologists and the current maharajah's majordomo, the temple's caretaker, are taking pains to uncover and to categorize the treasures. Considered to be of huge intrinsic value, and related historical values as well; thousands of kilograms of gold coins recovered from those vaults; gold ropes, idols festooned with gold chains, and encrusted with diamonds, emeralds and rubies.

Several vaults have yet to be opened and the treasures they contain assessed. But experts seem to feel that the entire treasure when it is unearthed will prove to be in the realm of $20-billion in value, aside from their cultural-historical-artistic-religious significance. And, in a land where hundreds of millions of people remain excruciatingly poor, suffering ill health, the disposal of such wealth to help alleviate social and economic ills might seem a fitting use.

But Oommen Chandy, the chief minister of the state stated that the treasure is destined to remain in the temple. That there will be no debate about selling it off. "The wealth of the temple will rest with the temple", he proclaimed.


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Monday, July 04, 2011

Let Them Eat Bread? Naw...

"Most people, when they heard it was for the fighters gave many onions, tomatoes, tuna and olives, all for free." Emad Daiki
Who says there's no universal cuisine? When it's abundantly obvious there is at least one. Some call it fast food, convenience food, but it is also nutritious and delicious food. On a slab of bread dough the imagination can run rampant. Sprinkling over that flattened bread dough any number of food combinations from chopped vegetables to meat products, cheese and herbs, glued together with tomato paste.

How could that combination not represent a healthy repast? How could it fail to be mouth-watering? How could it fail the test of satisfying a famished fighter? Even someone busy lobbing mortars and rockets over at an enemy base. Did we say that? Surely we meant kids at a high school celebrating after a big sports meet with their team coming out a winner.

Well, no. In Misrata volunteers deliver hot pizza to rebel fighters on the front line. It's hungry work operating a rebellion and escaping death by chance when regime battalions send rockets and sharp-shooters out to settle things down. And 8,000 pieces of pizza are delivered daily to the three front lines battling Col. Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Inspired by a returned Libyan chef, Emad Daiki, who ran a pizzeria in Stockholm and decided to do the same, after a fashion in Misrata. "We have to keep the fighters strong and their morale up, they cannot just eat bread", he explained.
A Libyan rebel fighter distributes pizzas to his comrades inside a mosque taken from forces loyal to <span class="A Libyan rebel fighter distributes pizzas to his comrades inside a mosque taken from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi"

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Living Well

Another sensational crime-ridden story out of Mexico. How sensational this story actually is in comparison to the bloody violence ongoing in the streets and towns and cities of Mexico on a continual basis is questionable. It makes front page news in Canada because yet again it is a Canadian that was targeted.

Yet Mexicans have been slaughtered by other Mexicans at an unprecedented rate. All because of the drug trade and drug cartels. Drugs are smuggled out of Mexico across the border into the United States where their huge market for these illegal drugs is eagerly awaiting their fixes, ready to hand over whatever it takes for their purchase.

The gangs invested in increasing their territory by challenging one another for territorial supremacy are busy slaughtering one another, and by default, any innocent Mexicans who just happen to be in the way. Torture, decapitation, mass slaughter, public hanging of bodies. Areas that were once considered safe from crime are being consumed by fear.

Lawmakers, mayors, police are targeted and slaughtered. No one appears to be safe from the monstrous carnage that has overtaken the country. Mexico had more than enough problems with endemic poverty and mass unemployment. It is a country struggling to bring itself forward, to advance its economic, social and political future.

And it is a country for which tourism ranks high in economic stability and increasing the GDP. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. A climate the envy of the rest of North America. And people love to vacation there, from elsewhere in North America. And because of endemic and rampant crime, many tourists have become victims.

In this latest instance this was a part-time resident, Judy Baylis, a mature woman who had lived in Mexico for years, the owner, along with her husband, of a very nice residence in an area that was once so safe doors were never locked. It must seem like a paradise to those unaccustomed to such a forgiving climate where living is inexpensive and hired help affordable.

The wealthy live in their protected enclaves and the poor struggle to maintain themselves. With high levels of unemployment the drug trade alone is not responsible for all the crime that exists. Robbery, break-and-enters, beatings-and-thievery, and anger that claims lives.

It is, to begin with, a conundrum of human values and behaviour, to live well as a guest in a country whose population is in distress.

In so doing taking chances with one's own physical well-being, if to begin with, one can surmount a personal psychological aversion to living well while others struggle.

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

"A Van On My Waist"

Why don't the parents of 15-year-olds know where their children are, in the wee hours of the morning? Why don't they care enough to know what their kids are up to? Why haven't we figured out that if the parents of these kids are held to account for the damage that their offspring cause to society through fines and even prison terms for failing to hold up their part in the greater social contract, it might convince them to care?

How is it that a 15-year-old boy, in the company of another three teens, out and about before the crack of dawn, driving unlicensed, in a stolen vehicle on a lonely stretch of highway, is there at that time, in that company? Exercising an assumed freedom to steal, to endanger, to kill? How is it in a civilized society young boys bent on mischief and finding their place in the world around them, are absent the checks and balances of caring parents?

How is it that another young man, married with two infant children, who assumed the maturity of responsibility by following his father's career as a police officer, is now dead? A unfortunate confluence of circumstances, most certainly. But certainly avoidable; an accident of fate. Two children left without a father, a woman left without a life partner, an extended family devastated by irremediable loss.

"I got a van on my waist ... It hurts" Constable Garrett Styles radioed in to the 911 dispatch centre. "I got these people inside the van. I don't know how they're doing." His response to the dispatcher's questions for clarification was that it was a "long story", and he desperately needs help: "Just get somebody to get this thing off of me, please."

'This thing' just happened to be the 2005 Dodge Caravan that the 15-year-old driver whom Constable Styles had stopped for questioning, and who had, as the Constable reached toward securing the van keys, stepped on the gas, dragging the man with it, before spinning it out of control and rolling it over and pinning the man securely under it.

And so, one man did not live to see his 33rd birthday. A 15-year-old boy is in hospital being treated for serious injuries caused by a crash he committed during the operation of a criminal act, and York Regional Police are in the throes of a deep mourning phase.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Rolling Thunder, Lightning, Torrential Rain...

So then, what conceivably might Uganda and Canada have in common? Brutal weather. Canada, in North America, and Uganda in darkest Africa. The skies over Ontario have grown incessantly dark of late with an unaccustomed and extremely violent series of rolling thunderstorms. Never have we seen the skies grow quite as dark and threatening as those black clouds roll in. And never can we recall experiencing such a succession of loudly rumbling thunder with accompanying lightning strikes.

News comes out of Kampala that a lightning strike at an elementary school in western Uganda killed 19 students and injured 50 more. The Runyanya elementary school was hit by lightning in a violent thunderstorm. "In Uganda we have had these events and these strikes before but never as severely as we have seen over the past few weeks", according to Charles Basalirwa, head of the meteorological unit at Makerere University in Kampala.

A sharp increase in the frequency and power of lightning strikes represented yet another signal, along with droughts and flooding events, of extreme weather conditions obviously caused by climate change in the region. Mr. Basalirwa feels the Uganda government must put in place measures to deal with such weather extremes, such as building more lightning rods.

In Canada lightning rods are commonly installed in all domestic buildings, inclusive of private homes. In Canada, it has been an inordinately wet spring, with far more violent storms and torrential rainfalls resulting, sometimes with huge hailstones, than might be considered normal. In Uganda too, the country is experiencing unseasonably heavy storms. Ugandans are demanding answers.

Here are some answers given to Ontarians by environmental engineers and climatologists. That's life, and weather. Nothing can be done about it. Lightning will strike where it will and lightning rods won't solve the problems of unpredictable lightning patterns. "It strikes where it wants to strike. I don't think that there's any foolproof method of protecting yourself against lightning", according to an Ottawa firefighter.

For a storm that hit a few days earlier had set five houses on fire, with lightning setting fire to their roofs, and putting eleven people out of their burned-out homes. Granted, this is not comparable to the deaths of 19 schoolchildren, but the issue is still one of violent, unaccustomed-violent thunderstorms and the damage they wreak. Over 2,000 lightning strikes an hour hit during that massive storm.
"The scientific evidence is that there has been an increase in the number of intense precipitation events in Canada and in many other places in the world." Gordon McBean, member of Ontario's expert panel on climate change adaptation.
A series of extreme thunderstorms the week before had created immense washouts on the road systems, cutting off access and closing down highways. "We saw a series of thunderstorms tracking over the area hour after hour. That's why we saw the differences, even between locations that are not that far away", of rain between 200 and 240 millimetres falling in the area.

The torrential rain and its frequency has caused massive erosion and sinkholes to appear.

Firefighters work to contain a house fire caused by a lightning strike during Tuesday evening's storm.
We feel threatened, insecure and vulnerable. And that's just the way it is, and the way it seems to be increasingly going. One can only suppose we shall have to become accustomed to it, and most certainly hope for the very best. Defending ourselves as best we can.

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