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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Increasing Smoke-Free Venues

I can still vividly recall, as a young girl, hating the odour of cigarettes in our home, my father an incessant smoker, even rolling his own with the help of a small device. That stench infiltrated everywhere. My father's fingers and his teeth were coloured streak-orange from tobacco. His clothes reeked from the smell, and so did much of the house.

When I had my first job working in an office, another older woman worked at a desk alongside my own, and she was an dependent smoker, one after the other. She was a good-natured, friendly woman, who should have noticed my aversion to the thick smoke that enveloped me at times, wafting over from her cigarettes, so I would take to waving it away, but she didn't seem to.

And when I was older, and in the hospital to have my babies delivered on one occasion I shared a room with a woman who smoked, even though she too had just had a baby, and her visitors smoked as well. I choked on the bitter, nasty odours that were prevalent. And I would also see doctors on their rounds casually smoking as well.

How things have changed. Only ten years ago I recall having words with another supermarket shopper whose cigarette had smoldered dangling in his mouth while he was leaning over the meat counter, leaving bits of residue all over a number of meat packages. I remonstrated with him, reminding him that a notice at the doors warned of a no-smoking policy.

He reciprocated by telling me to mind my own business, which of course was precisely what I was doing, since health and hygiene is everyone's business. But there was no enforcement back then. Food stores often had those signs prominently displayed and many people simply ignored them. That was then, and now Ottawa and many other cities reflect provincial regulations against indoor smoking.

Now, in federal government buildings, smokers hang around the outside perimeter in all kinds of weather, dragging and puffing on their cigarettes. No one need now ever return home from work with their clothing having to be changed and washed to remove the odours of the day's cigarette smokers. And people can finally be assured that they are not being exposed to the morbidity of second-hand smoke.

It killed my father; I've achieved an age he never realized because he had cancer of the throat thanks to his cigarette habit. And now new regulations are being proposed by Ottawa public health officials to ensure that city parks, outdoor patios, beaches and other areas close to the exterior of city facilities, like arenas and even City Hall, will be free of smoke.

The existing smoke-free by-laws are to be extended to exclude smokers even from outdoor venues. Offenders, should they ignore the new by-law, if it does become law, will face a $305 fine for violating a new, extended prohibition. With the prohibition on smoking in certain designated areas there will be a partnering of assistance to help people with smoking cessation techniques.

This is something that the public wants to see addressed; the extension of non-smoking areas. And it would appear that it's not only non-smokers, concerned about public health, but smokers themselves, 50% of whom agree that this new direction has their support.

Where once smokers protested that their rights were being infringed upon, unwilling to admit that their habit constituted a threat to other peoples' rights and health, that appears to have changed. And society is far better off for it.

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In Sympathetic Mourning

A popular local television news anchor, accustomed to informing the public of the news of the day, a personable, attractive and obviously empathetic figure suddenly discovers herself to be at the centre of public curiosity and sympathy at the disappearance of her husband. Her husband of many years whose absence cannot logically be explained.

She, the television news anchor is stricken with a sense of impending doom, asks for distance from the public and takes time off from her job.

Her husband, a well-known and -liked pharmacist, has long-term health problems, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and stricken as well with cancer. They, and their children, struggle to find normalcy in their lives, determined to face each day as it comes, and to dredge out of each day of sunshine and living together in love and harmony, the joy that the shadow of fear over the future has shielded them from.

In Greg Etue's mysterious absence, Carol Anne Meehan has pleaded with the public to bring forward any information anyone may have with respect to her husband's whereabouts, a possible sighting.

And she leaves a plangent message for her husband as well, to please, please return home to those who love him and are desperate for his reassuring touch, to re-establish their small family unit, telling him the children are confused and desperately miss their father.

The time has dragged miserably on without his presence. The worst that can possibly be imagined is thought of. A feeling of hopelessness, helplessness floods their consciousness during their bleak night-time hours without him. The restoration of hope resumes with daylight hours.

Family, friends and well-wishers tenderly offer comfort, but comfort eludes when the presence of a loved one is anxiously awaited and no news is forthcoming.

And then, the dreaded news, courtesy of the Ontario Provincial Police who discover this husband and father's body within his vehicle, parked on a lane in a small community in the Killaloe area, a two-hour-drive west of Ottawa.

A devastating personal tragedy turned into a news item, and countless people, aware of how profound a loss it represents, are overcome with sadness.

The family is now in mourning for the loss of their 'wonderful father'. There is a yawning, deep emotional gap that nothing can now replace with the comfort of a fulfilling and treasured family life.

The loss immeasurably profound.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Serial Academic Romances

Don't we like to think that public servants take their positions extremely seriously?

Paid from the public purse as it were, that they perform their jobs with a sense of personal responsibility and purpose, with great rectitude and dedication is something many take for granted. All the more so when we're talking about the professional elite among public servants. Medical personnel, educational personnel.

These are well-remunerated professions, and the public expects that those who qualify and who are engaged to represent their professions for the greater good of society do so with sobriety and creative intelligence. And most undoubtedly do. And then there are those who do not for whatever reason. They may rise to the occasion in some respects, then falter and fail in others.

A good teacher is capable of imparting knowledge to students through exposing them and inspiring them to want to seek out the founts of knowledge themselves; to make them curious and enterprising enough to seek out information. Teachers should be capable of stimulating that natural sense of curiosity that makes students such amazingly adept absorbers of knowledge.

And some, like Ottawa teacher Joanne Leger-Legault are able to inspire their students. Sufficiently so that in her case she was lauded and awarded for her efforts to enthuse students at Merivale High School with a love for French-language literary arts, winning an arts recognition award in 2010.
"Her enthusiasm, dedication, and long hours of hard work inspiring her students in oral and written French have been outstanding", read a news release. "Her promotion of French Literary Arts with her students and staff members has been congenial and tireless."
She also taught at A.Y. Jackson Secondary School, in Kanata. Ms. Leger-Legault was one of 230,000 members in good standing of the Ontario College of Teachers. Of that total number 254 complaints were registered with the College, ten of which resulted in the revocation of a teaching certificate.

Ms. Leger-Legault was one of those ten; hers one of several related to sexual misconduct.

The Ontario College of Teachers discipline committee heard a case accusing this teacher of violating the student-teacher boundaries. She chose of her own free will to engage in inappropriate relations with at least four of her students over a period of time that spanned 2001 - 2002, and 2005 - 2006.
"By engaging in inappropriate relationships with, and sexual abuse of students whom she taught, the Member committed acts of professional misconduct as alleged. The Member failed to maintain the standards of the profession, committed acts that would be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional and engaged in conduct unbecoming a Member."
The facts are uncontested; Ms. Leger-Legault waived her right to a hearing, and as well the requirement that the College prove its case against her.

The public is accustomed to being shocked and disappointed when the occasion arises when a male teacher is proven to have violated the teacher/student pact of trust. We tend to think of female students as being extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Sometimes we're exposed to the reality that this issue is an gender equal-opportunity one.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Can They Appeal Murder Most Foul?

Of course they already have appealed. The Shafia trial of father, mother and oldest son on charges of first-degree murder of three daughters/sisters and wife/aunt is over. The jury was not out very long before returning with their verdict, after having been painstakingly instructed in the minutiae of the law by Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger, in Kingston, Ontario today.

Mohammad Shafia, Tooba Mohammad Yahya and Hamed Mohammad Shafia were found guilty as charged of first-degree murder. The evidence against them was overwhelming. Mohammad Shafia contended that his Afghan culture was misunderstood in Canada; what they say when they curse is not what it seems like; wishing one's daughters dead, as whore-spawns of the devil merely represents a casually-flung endearment.

And, as Tooba Mohammad testified tearfully, time and again, she is a mother, nothing more, nothing less. And mothers do not murder their children. Not even when they create dreadful havoc in the family by irremediably staining the family's honour through their odious behaviour, flaunting themselves shamelessly for all to see and gossip about the Shafia family.

The evidence amassed against the Shafias was simply overwhelming. Their defence, on the other hand, was underwhelming. Forensics identified shattered car parts from a vehicle that they vehemently insisted was not at the scene of the tragedy, but which matched the shattered portion of the family vehicle that went into the water at the Kingston Mills locks, when one vehicle nudged the other into the locks.

To have it appear, as the parents claimed, that a disobedient daughter took a family vehicle for a joyride with her two sisters and her 'aunt' in tow. Their original story was that they had no idea where the missing four family members were, until evidence put them at the scene, and then it was purportedly the brother Hamed, who had noted his sisters in the wee hours of the morning leaving and following them.

Following them, he claimed in an interview, too closely, and ending up inadvertently 'nudging' the back of their vehicle with the one he was driving. Stepping out of the vehicle to view the damage, and hearing simultaneously, a splash as the other vehicle entered the water, while he frantically called out his sisters' names, attempting to toss a life-saving rope into the water for them. Finally, shrugging fatalistically and leaving the scene. An accident. Unfortunate, but an accident.

As it happened, a young Afghan engineering student at Queen's University offered to act as their official interpreter from English to Farsi, while on the side he was engaged by Mr. Shafia to 'investigate' the crime, and uncover evidence that would prove their innocence, since the police were doing such a dreadful job of it by accusing them of murder in the guise of something they'd never ever heard of before: "honour killing".

Moosa Hadi, the amateur sleuth, inveigled his way into receiving a complete copy of the hard drive containing "Crown disclosure"; all the evidence that had been amassed throughout the investigation, including video-taped interviews, wiretapping conversations, witness statements and a forensic report. All of which he scrutinized and shared with the three accused to whom he had both authorized and unauthorized entry to their cells.

Moosa Hadi, clever young man, claiming he was convinced of the Shafias' innocence of the charges brought against them - for he could see they were good people, unjustly charged - together with the trumped-up evidence, created his own interpretation of what had occurred. And he patiently and exactingly spent hours in Hamed's jail cell coaching him on the scenario as he envisioned it, that led to the four women's deaths.

They died, according to Moosa Hadi, not because some truly evil skulduggery had taken place where they were first drowned or incapacitated, then placed in the family vehicle, and nudged by the other family car into the canal, where they 'drowned', but by misadventure. An eight-year-old boy who lives nearby the canal happened to have witnessed the event, seeing both vehicles, hearing the "splash" of vehicle entry into the canal.

Moosa Hadi's scenario took all the available evidence into account and gave a logical explanation for the trajectory of events, as far as he was concerned. And, as he claimed when he insisted the trio would eventually be acquitted and his assurance of their innocence validated, "it was not because of predictive power, rather it was because of my truthful, responsible, careful, extensive and lawful investigation."

This interfering little menace of a charlatan should be brought to justice himself, for tampering with evidence, and unduly influencing the guilty to pleading for a story that the evidence made hash of, prolonging the trial unnecessarily and trifling with justice through his concocted, egotistical, fanciful version of events.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Listen To The Man

Give that man a cigar. It's simple enough, as far as Elijah Harper is concerned. And given his experience, his background and where his heart lies, he deserves to be heeded and his recommendations taken seriously. He can be right and he can be wrong, but so far over a hugely expansive period of time, no other considered actions have given proof that they could succeed.

What we have seen, in contrast, is the aboriginal peoples of Canada having been disadvantaged by history and the introduction of white settlers to the land they once inherited from their forefathers, generation after generation. In a way it's a pity that it isn't possible to imagine how Canada and its native peoples would have progressed - or not, socially, technologically, politically, religiously, economically in their own right - without the interference of what was then a foreign element.

Since much has happened in the past three hundred years and Canada's First Nations did not have the opportunity to develop themselves, either in accord or discord with one another, we will never really know. To many it makes perfectly good sense for total integration. If we could only manage somehow to extinguish the past with its countless acts of ill will, the prejudices and discrimination, the alienation and distance between the cultures.

But we cannot, so we have to work with what we have. And what we have is not very attractive. We have polarities. A people so offended by the self-assuming superiority of a foreign element to their land, white men who took it upon themselves to claim for themselves in perpetuity the lands that the native populations depended upon for their livelihoods; fishing, hunting, agrarian enterprises, and leaving them with discrete tracts of land.

Where formerly they roamed free as they wished in the abundant space of the geography, they were, under duress and the force of superior arms, forced to settle for what they were offered. And they, determined to honour their ancestors and pledged to their traditional way of life, convinced themselves that by so doing they would persevere and prosper with the avuncular government forwarding tribute by way of supporting subsidies.

First Nations would not be obligated by taxes, nor private ownership as long as they lived in their traditional way, since these were not traditional functions; private land ownership and the paying of taxes on income. What income? It would be their right to hunt and to fish where they would, with no interference, where others would be hampered by requiring special licenses to do so at specific times of the calendar.

Hooked. The Indian Act, says Elijah Harper, infantalizes aboriginals. Echoing the words of Grand Chief Shawn Atleo. It is past time to recognize and to agree that the federal Act is unworkable and has brought no benefit to First Nations. A third order of government, beyond federal, beyond provincial, is required throughout Canada to allow aboriginals control of their own lives, and their destinies.

Render to First Nations that which is due them. Settle all land treaties. First Nations are entitled to the benefits that accrue from natural resources on First Nations land. Allow them to look after their own financial affairs, from federal transfer funding and from managing their own resources. The individual nations within First Nations would act much as provincial governments do.

And they will be accountable to those to whom they are accountable. Accountable for the success they may lead their people toward. And accountable for the failures. When band councils do not have the best interests of those whom they are responsible for uppermost in mind, and concern themselves instead with their own perceived entitlements, an neutral, just arbiter must rule on the matter. In a democratic manner.

If a tribe is beset with social misadventure; abandoned children, addicted adults and children, malfunctioning civil structures, inadequate housing, absent employment, health problems, it is the tribe council that should be held accountable. People must be taught to be responsible for themselves. Private property and property rights should be established. Health care and education should be a priority.

But they already know all of that. Let them take the reins.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Taking Domestic Disputes To Mexico

Endlessly wide sunny beaches with soft, white sand and the blue-green surf of the ocean, the immense, beneficent blue sky above, and warming sun on exposed skin remains the holidaying dream of Canadians. Most particularly in the cruel winter months of snow and ice and a wan sun in a frigid sky. Be it Cuba or Costa Rica, Belize or Florida, sun and sand beckons.

Have we forgotten Mexico? Well, then, Mexico too. Mexico especially. Canadians adore Mexico. Those who have been to the various sumptuous resorts with their outstanding service and carefree days and nights of rest, relaxation and dreams fulfilled, vow to return. And return again. The experience of being so fulsomely welcomed in a country so dependent on tourism is itself self-validating.

That Mexico has many problems, not the least of which is a large demographic of extremely poor people, is simply incidentally of little account. That Mexico has an alarming problem of drug cartels whose power and vicious greed has grown to such an extent that in their bid to grow their empires nothing daunts them, not the laws of the land, the justice system, the police or the military.

And nor do they respect human life. Just as the lives of the gang members, trading on assembling wealth for themselves while distributing contraband over borders and battling territory with competitors in deadly conflicts that so often take the lives of innocent bystanders are carelessly dispensed with, so too are those of Mexican politicians and police who try to intervene.

But all this conflict takes place elsewhere, in geographic areas and provinces far from those which bewitch tourists and entice them to return and return yet again. Canadians also hear, from time to time, of dreadfully sad and final events taking the lives of Canadian tourists. But one and a half million Canadians flock to Mexico yearly, and those lives lost represent a minuscule number.

The reasoning being that crossing the street in Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver could cost your life. The resorts are privately patrolled, and off limits to any Mexicans other than those employed in the service industry. Completely safe. Except for those who come afoul of Lady Fortune. The latest being a young married woman who, with her husband, opted for a winter Mexican holiday.

At the luxury all-inclusive Hotel Riu Emerald Bay resort. Where she was savagely beaten, so that every bone in her lovely young face was broken. And, as so often happens, when Mexican authorities are called upon to investigate, the police immediately suspected "domestic violence". It would be oh so much more convenient if the troubles could be traced back to the tourists themselves.

For the simple fact is, when these things occur, and they seem to occur with amazing regularity, it is concerning to Mexican authorities that tourism may be hampered by this kind of very bad publicity. They needn't, actually, be all that concerned. For the simple reason that Canadians themselves are not. Not yet.

And if all else fails, it would be awfully convenient if another guest at the hotel, another Canadian ideally, could be found to be the culprit.

Sheila Nabb and her husband, Andrew, were staying at the Riu Emerald Bay resort in Mexico when she was attacked.

“The government reiterates that safety and security are top priorities for tourists and citizens alike and that this was an unfortunate and isolated event; Mexican hotels and resorts adhere to the strictest of security standards."
Can't blame Mexico or Mexicans after all; this is simply the way the world is. A matter, actually, of tensions between the advantaged and the disadvantaged in life.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remembering ... Forgotten

The gentleman will please remember that when his half-civilized ancestors were hunting the wild boar in Silesia, mine were princes of the earth. Judah Benjamin, in reply to a taunt by a Senator of German descent.
None could have been more greatly taken by surprise and mortally offended than secular Jews in civilized, cultivated Germany - who considered themselves more affected and deeply steeped in modernity and creative energy and intelligence by their venerated generations of German citizenship than their Jewish heritage - to discover that they were regarded as mere Jews, fit for nothing but eradication by the Third Reich.

Their steep complacency at having attained acceptance at the highest levels of German society, academia, political life and wealth would be shattered by the reality of the military-political juggernaut that would overtake Europe and reach out to Asia, enveloping as it progressed, the near east and North America.

The intellectual vastness and social connections to the master race admitted of a moral certainty of racist exceptionalism that excluded Semites from the stellar genetic superiority of the Aryan race of supermortals.
You call me a damned Jew. My race was old when you were all savages. I am proud to be a Jew. John Galsworthy, Loyalties, Act. II.
Hungarian and Czechoslovakian Jews considering themselves culturally superior to Polish and Italian Jews never imagined their countries would accept that they were dross too, to be disposed of summarily along with their Latvian Ukrainian, Bulgarian and other European countries' Jewish counterparts.
The massive round-up, degradation, humiliation, scorning, enslavement in ghettoes and death-camps located around Europe with infamous names like Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka, with their slave labour, their medical experiments, their punishments and starvation rations, their gas chambers and chimneys puking the dark detritus of burnt bodies in a ghastly parody of orderly convention, bespoke the Nazi ideal of eradicating the impediments to the attainment of human perfection.
The Jews are among the aristocracy of every land; if a literature is called rich in the possession of a few classic tragedies, what shall we say to a national tragedy lasting for fifteen hundred years, in which the poets and the actors were also the heroes. George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
The quietly determined theatre of extermination became a subterranean affair of cleansing the world of a plague, a dread scourge of those posing as human whose subhuman facade had been revealed by Nazi ideology that wallowed in the worship of pride, pursued perfection, and visualized a very exclusive and choice Utopia. The very physical characteristics of the perfect Nordic male would effectively have excluded the German chancellor.

And the Jews, en masse, no offence, merely acknowledgement of the most appalling inferiority soiled by genetic traits betraying their unworthiness of sharing the air, the water and other precious natural resources, were specifically chosen, in their totality, for annihilation, to make the world of the truly entitled by nature and inheritance, a better place.
Who hateth me but for my happiness?
Or who is honoured now but for his wealth?
Rather had I, a Jew, be hated thus,
Than pitied in a Christian poverty.
Marlowe, The Jew of Malta
One might think that a collective representing the world's religious leaders would seek to intervene. They did not, presumably on the presumption that God would look after His own. The saving grace being that a small but noted number of religious and their laity took it upon their consciences and moral certainty to act on their own to save whom they could among Jews.
Suavity toward the Jews! Although you have lived among them, it is evident that you little understand those enemies of the human race. Haughty and at the same time base, combining an invincible obstinacy with a spirit despicably mean, they weary alike your love and your hatred. Anatole France, The Procurator of Judea
As in medical science, when an anomalous, sinister, threatening bacteria or virus emerges to threaten humanity as a horrible existential pandemic, all scientific and technological means must be harnessed toward the imperative of destroying the threat to the well-being of humanity's continued existence...
And, since time immemorial Jews, with their strange religion insisting on an especial status with their Maker, and exhibiting typically hideous traits offensive to others already held a tradition of suspicion and rejection, there was little problem in reaching international consensus that Something Must Be Done.
When people talk about a wealthy man of my creed, they call him an Israelite; but if he is poor they call him a Jew. Heinrich Heine

If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew. Albert Einstein
That 'something' emerged as an exquisitely planned and executed genocide. So expertly dedicated to its task, it succeeded in destroying resources to the military deeply engaged in challenging and overcoming resistance to German fascism's indomitable need to conquer the world and to dominate it for at least a thousand years.

And while it hampered the military, it succeeded in its exemplary mission to rid the world of a menace. The Jews sacrificed for the salvation of world civilization.
A hopeless faith, a homeless race,
Yet seeking the most holy place,
And owning the true bliss . . . .
Or like pale ghosts that darkling roam,
Hovering around their ancient home,
But find no refuge there.
John Keble, The Christian Year: Fifth Sunday in Lent
The tradition of a two-millennium-old story of sacrifice and redemption repeated. World Jewry has never recovered its numbers. The Jewish population of Israel, established post-war as the traditional homeland of the Jews, and considered by Jews to be its only safe haven on Earth, is now roughly reflective of the numbers that perished in the Holocaust.
And Israel shall be a proverb and a by-word among all people. Old Testament: 1 Kings
The invidious scourge of ethnic hatred known as anti-Semitism lives on, succeeding once again in the temporary wake of post-Holocaust remorse. The world and its affairs returned to normalcy.
Still on Israel's head forlorn,
Every nation heaps its scorn.
Emma Lazarus, The World's Justice

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lucy The Goose

There is nothing quite like embarrassing a government department and with it, the Cabinet Minister ultimately responsible for its actions, to get attention and in the end, a sheepish response at the very highest political/governmental level, along with an apology and a righting of that wrong. In fact, you've got to hand it to the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His own personal rectitude and empathy (which many insist does not in fact exist) extends to those whom he has selected to his Cabinet, for the most part.

And Peter Kent, the federal Environment Minister, is no exception. He has personally apologized to Diane Vander Wiel, who lives on her family farm in northern British Columbia. Who committed a dreadful sin against the Migratory Bird Convention Act when she compassionately brought an abandoned, vulnerable days-old fluffy yellow goose chick to her farm in Fort St.James two years ago. That chick was nurtured and carefully tended, and it grew and matured became a full-size goose, as nature intended it to.

Lucy became accustomed to life around the farm and was imprinted in fact, on Diane Vander Wiel whom she trusted and accepted as her human mentor. Lucy lived in one of several barns on the Vander Wiel property, along with other, domesticated birds and farm animals, finding her place comfortably among them. Ms. Vander Wiel described how she had attempted at times to introduce Lucy to other wild geese when she became mature, but Lucy expressed no interest in them whatever.

Whenever Lucy spent the night somewhere else on occasion, she always returned home to the farm. Ms. Vander Wiel described how Lucy would occasionally visit with the neighbours, then eventually return home to the place she knew best and was obviously comfortable with. During the fall migration, Lucy would see geese flying overhead heading to southern climes, but she evidently experienced no inclination, no natural urge to join them. She was content living with her mentor on the family farm.

Until one day on January 11, Conservation authorities who said they had been informed by an anonymous caller that a wild goose was being kept a 'prisoner' on the Vander Wiel farm, showed up and confiscated Lucy. They took her away in a crate, informing Ms. Vander Wiel that it was possible they would have to euthanize Lucy. Whereupon Ms. Vander Wiel posted her story on FaceBook and people were upset and rallied behind the cause to return Lucy to her home.

It seems the rallying cry and peoples' indignation helped along by the emotional distress that Ms. Vander Wiel was expressing more than adequately, reached the sympathetic ears of Member of Parliament and Environment Minister Peter Kent. Who telephoned Lucy's caregiver and assured her that the Ministry of the Environment law prohibiting people from holding migratory birds in captivity, would be eased in her case. After all, what kind of sense would it make to euthanize a goose that was happily ensconced on a farm?

"Had [the wildlife officers] come out and seen [Lucy's set-up], none of this would have transpired", Ms. Vander Wiel explained. Instead they had informed her loftily that she would be facing a fine under the Migratory Bird Convention Act - which Minister Kent waived. She will now receive an agriculture permit, allowing Lucy to return home. Wings unclipped. Free to fly off into the wide blue yonder should she opt to.

"I said it would be cruel to clip her wings and [Mr. Kent] agreed with me".

Lucy is a Canada Goose that was rescued as a "ball of fuzz" on a road near Diane Vander Wiel's farm outside of Fort St James. After nearly three years of life with Diane and her family, Lucy was plucked away because of rules barring ownership of migratory birds. Diane says Lucy's always been free to come and go as she pleases and is mounting a campaign for Lucy's return. (courtesy Diane Vander Wiel)

Congratulations, Diane Vander Wiel. Mission Accomplished!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Self-Defence

In Canada, as in most western, civilized democratic countries of the world, citizens like to think of the police as being society's lawful protectors of public safety and private security. For the most part we trust those who find their vocation and their professional life in being part of a police force. On any level; municipal, provincial, federal.

We think of police and what they assure us within our society with a sense of trust and satisfaction that they are present, and we are relatively safe because of their mission - to serve and protect.

They are human, just as the rest of us are. They are, in our modern era, and in our civilized society, representative of public reliance on the assurance of lawfulness, order and secure management at every level. They have a respected role to play in society and for the most part they do it fairly well.

There are times, however when some among them seem to lack sensitivity and a certain level of sensibility and the public, in recognition of these lapses, protests and demands a re-set. In these enlightened times police forces are charged with knowing something about human psychology and the manner in which best to control ugly situations where violence is present.

Without doubt, there exist rogue elements within police forces and sometimes they betray their presence, sometimes what they do is subtle enough to escape the notice of the public, and if their colleagues know, solidarity often rules. Those among the forces who take it upon themselves to destroy public trust by their brutal conduct and contempt for others do no favours to any of us.

There is a civil trial pending by a woman who lives in a Bells Corners townhouse. Lisa Olszewski has launched a civil suit revolving around a violently traumatic event that changed her life five years ago. The occasion was an Ottawa police search of her home in what she describes in her lawsuit as a "wanton and reckless manner, with blatant disregard to her property and to her dogs".

For thirteen hours on September 13, 2006 her home was the scene of a stakeout. Police were convinced, despite her denials, that her friend, Trevor Provost, who was wanted with respect to domestic violence-related charges and for uttering threats was in her home. The police felt assured that this man was hiding out with Ms. Olszewski, at her townhouse on Richmond Road.

They hadn't a search warrant, but assigned several officers to keep watch on the townhouse that night. When they secured the search warrant the next morning and entered the townhouse they discovered that the man they were looking for was not present. And they assumed that he had managed, somehow, despite the presence of two officers on watch duty, to slip away at some juncture during the night.

Ms. Olszewski repeated that the man was not in the house. He was an individual whom she had dated.

A tactical team stormed the house on September 14. Ms. Olszewski claims she had been assured by police that her dogs would not be harmed. Her dogs were her companions and she loved them. Two pit bulls who would respond just like Chihuahuas or Toy Poodles if strangers entered the house by barking furiously and rushing toward the intruders; the house was, after all, their sanctuary, their home where they lived with the house owner, their trusted and loved person.

Seconds after the tactical team stormed the house using grenades called "flash-bang" types and gas canisters, gunshots could be heard. Ms. Olszewski hadn't been permitted to enter her home to restrain her dogs. Police officers made no effort to contact the humane society nor did they take any other steps to ensure the dogs' safety. A police spokesman claimed at the time that officers believed the dogs were trained to attack.

The police "teased, tortured and killed" the dogs "recklessly and without cause"; the wording of Ms. Oszewski's claim. In the claim Ms. Olszewski makes note that one of the officers urged her to "enjoy her dogs", as they left the house with the dead dogs. "When Ottawa police entered the plaintiff's residence, two pit bull dogs that were in the plaintiff's residence attempted to attack the Ottawa police officers", reads the police statement of defence.

"Accordingly the Ottawa police officers had no choice but to kill the dogs in self-defence."

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