Perspective


by Roxanne Tellier

I blame social media and reality TV.

I blame reality TV because the flood of singing, dancing, housewifing and endurancing series that became ubiquitous during the early 2000s were the catalyst for too many narcissists to believe that their big fish in a small local pond anonymity was only an audition and a bunch of ‘likes and shares’ away from stardom. And that belief, that, in the past, would have been knocked out of them by cruel reality, has gone right to our collective heads.   

I blame social media because it gave us a forum, a place where we could not only display our new found talents, but that also laid down a platform from which some of the worst ‘thinkers’ and ‘philosophers’ imaginable could find the like minded, and share their convoluted and wrong headed ‘theories.

Having seen people who seem ‘just like us!’ achieve a little traction, if not actual fame, on the television, and on social media, many seized on the idea that this gives everyone not just the right, but the obligation, to get our own talents and ideas out there.

We really want to have our say on things. We insist, in fact, on others hearing our every opinion, on every subject, regardless of our relative knowledge or ignorance of a given subject. And we not only want you to hear what we think – we insist you agree. And we’ll hound you to the ends of the earth, if that’s what it takes, to pound our truth into your skull. (Just LIKE them .. maybe then they’ll go away.)

The belief that, despite lacking education, training, or experience, any of us is capable of being anyone from a Kardashian sibling to a POTUS – couldn’t have come at a more chaotic moment in time.

We are living in an exceptional period, when external pressures – a global pandemic, that brought about an economic freefall, that then coincided with an onslaught of videotaped police overstepping and brutality, which has drawn worldwide attention to systemic racism – has rocked the planet. It’s a powder keg.

There are some huge issues being discussed. The status quo, economic and social inequality, and the sense that injustice and poor governance were simply the way things are and would never change, has been challenged.

And that’s hard to get our head’s around, on some days, because in the bigger picture, life might feel off kilter, and like we’re living in BizarroWorld, but we don’t see all that much difference in our day to day circumstances. I adjust. You adjust. We all adjust, and the changes slowly become the new normal.

On my street, there’s little difference between this June and last. It’s not like every second house has someone who is ill or has died. Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone walking up the street that wasn’t white. Most of the vehicles on my street are of current vintage, and the guy that comes around to root through the recycling bins for empties always finds a treasure trove, because people in this neighbourhood can afford to be generous with what they discard.  

No one that we’ve spoken to, in this area, has lost anyone to COVID. They might know someone who had a winter flu/cold that just wouldn’t go away, but few know of anyone affected personally.

Contrast that with the people who work in the health care industry, who have had to face the ugly reality of illness and death by this virus. Those who are living in the belly of the beast reach out to us, on the television, on the radio, on social media, warning us of the horrors possible during our 2020 plague.  

And since those two realities – one in which one is unaffected, and the other in which one is soaking in misery – are so very different, many just don’t know what to believe. How does the reality of millions infected, and that hundreds of thousands are dead, equate with the lack of concern we see in our every day lives?

This is a time when, instead of ‘sorry’ being the hardest word, actually saying ‘I don’t know’ has become anathema. And yet, it’s also a time when literally NO BODY, despite not knowing what is going to happen next, can stop talking about what they think might happen. We know that we would like our lives to go back to pre-COVID normalcy, we know that there are going to be some hard economic times ahead, and we really wish that police in Canada would stop mistreating and killing indigenous people, and that police in the US would stop torturing and murdering people of colour.

But not a single one of us – and that includes all of those people who have spent their lives studying disease, economics, politics and racial issues – knows for certain what tomorrow is going to look like.  

Which still doesn’t stop many of us from weighing in on what we believe is happening, what we would personally like to happen, rather than admitting that we just don’t know what is happening.

There’s a meme going around on social media that suggests that everyone should just do whatever they want to do, and leave everyone else alone to do what ever those other people want to do. Which is the kind of thing that kids say before they’ve spent much time out in society and learned that there are rules and laws in every civilization that are put into place to protect us from well-meaning idiots.

Despite all of that, social and mass media are afloat in the uninformed spouting their theories on how best to tackle COVID, the economic crisis, racism, and what should be done in the event that we fall into either a second wave of COVID or another global Depression.  

As America confronts it’s racial injustice and systemic racism, under a president that seems to revel in his own racism and bigotry, Canada has to look to its own self to see what can be done within our own country to root out the sins and crimes that allowed our nation to grow and thrive, often at the expense of our original people.

There’s never been a time when we’ve been more in need of generous, empathic, and wise leaders. Sadly, leaders of such calibre are rare.

But there sure are a lot of ‘experts’ on social media that think that they alone have all the answers. Say – isn’t that how trump got the POTUS gig? How’s that working out for you so far, kiddies?

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Comedian Dave Chappelle released this short, heartbreaking commentary on American racism on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon it had been viewed over 13 million times. I may watch it 13 million more times.

Putting the ‘Wow’ in Pow Wow


2017PW-PosterThe Na-Me-Res (Native Men’s Residence) lucked out with the weather for the annual traditional Pow Wow held Saturday, June 24th, at the Fort York historical site. The day was sunny, yet breezy, and very well attended.

Barbette Kensington and I were early to this celebration of song, dance and ceremony. From the impressive Grand Entry, through an entire day filled with the pounding heartbeat of the drums competing to be heard over the cheerful chatter and laughter, the old Fort was a sea of smiling faces of all shapes and colours

Powwows honour Native tradition, and I was grateful to our emcees, Steve Teekens and Jay Lomax, who outlined the elaborate etiquette and protocol that is integral to understanding the rituals and colourful regalia.

The Grand Entry, for instance, is not to be photographed nor videotaped, since this is a sacred moment during which the members of the procession may be praying for loved ones or members of the community. The regalia, often the work of many hands over a long period of time, represent the totems of the wearers, with the colours reflecting their spirits. No one may touch any part of a dancer’s regalia without first asking permission. rox at pow wow June 2017 with dancer

” The moment you take on the role of an initiated dancer, a great deal of pressure is put on you by the people, not only to perform, but to be a role model, to be honorable. When you put on regalia, you take on the essence of the sacred animal, honor culture, tradition and the Creator.

“Being humble should be the number one priority for any dancer, thankful that you are allowed to dance with the animals you wear, your sweat and suffering are for the people, making people proud of who you are, showing your respect, because you represent them,” said Elder Antoine Littlewolf.

One of the unwritten rules of powwow is that no one should touch another’s regalia without first being given permission by the maker or owner.

Eagle feathers, which traditionally are earned, and all feathers, for that matter, should be treated with special care. It’s necessary to be humble and respectful to each feather being worn. The spirits of all animals being worn must be respected above all else.

Care and respect of the sacred circle extends, not only to respecting the arbor, sacred objects and other dancers, but to the whole atmosphere, the ground themselves, mother earth.”     http://ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/powwow-etiquette-dictates-respect-tradition-0)

Arena Director Earl Oegema handily kept the dancers in line in accordance with all of the tradition and protocol. “Powwow etiquette and tradition dictates that the Grass dancers be the first to enter the arbor, symbolically stomping down the grass to provide a flattened circle for the rest of the dancers to follow. They enter the arbor from the south entrance and go clockwise with the drum, following the wheeling movement of the sun, moon and stars.”

The Grand Entry is next, followed by songs and prayers, during which the attendees are asked to stand as a sign of respect. The beauty, colours, and the dignified spirituality on display before us brought tears to my eyes.

Bill and Vicki Wood PowWow June 2017We’d run into Vicki and Bill Wood (the Woodies, Eye Eye) on our way in to the Pow Wow, and spent some time chatting with them. Now it was time to begin our walkabout through the 50 craft vendor and information booths on site, chatting with old and new friends.

We were on a mission to find the Anishnawbe Health Toronto booth, as Barbette had some questions for the staff. On the way, we flirted and chatted with some of Toronto’s finest, part of the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit, established in September 1992 , the first major urban police service in Canada to establish a unit to deal specifically with the issues faced by the Aboriginal community.

pow wow at pow wow June 2017With lunch on our minds, we were happy to see our friend Shawn Adler‘s Pow Wow Cafe was represented with a food booth on site. From the moment the Cafe opened, the foodies were lined up for blocks; the food IS that good. So we were lucky to see the multitalented artists, Annalee Orr and Nancy Beiman, close to the head of the very long line up for his Indian Tacos. They asked us to join them, and with little persuasion, and some apologies to those we’d line cut, we did, and soon had our plates of bannock smothered in beef, vegetables, salad and sour cream clutched in our hands.

Annalee and son Daniel had established a little ‘camp’ under the one tree in the Fort, and there we quickly polished off the tacos. Bellies full, it was time to visit the vendor booths.

Barbette knows many of the craftspeople and vendors from Native Centre encounters, so we made a very slow promenade, admiring the jewellery and artwork, being inspired by the craftworks, and chatting with some of the artists.

dancers pow wow June 2017Dancers in full regalia drifted through the crowds, brilliant visions of colour and sound as the jingles attached to heels rang.

We were delighted to run into Leslie Saunders, former manager of The Meeting Place, a community drop in centre for those in need in the Bathurst/Queen area. Nearly half of the centre’s participants are First Nations people.

rox barbette david de poe Pow Wow June 2017And it is always a joy to encounter David DePoe, community activist, retired teacher, and Kensington Marketeer, best-known for his activities in the late 1960s as an unofficial leader of the Yorkville hippies, and founder of the Diggers movement in Yorkville.

What a pleasure it was to be introduced to the legendary, multi-disciplinary, artist, Stella Walker. The woman’s energy is breathtaking! She’s a singer, writer, actor, producer, comedian and painter, and in the middle of producing a new musical comedy that includes content from award winning Newfoundland writer, actor and comedian Andy Jones, and will be directed by John Mitchell. Barbette appears in one of Stella’s many videos – Under the B .. Busted.

As the day wore on, my energy was starting to flag, and we made our way out of the Fort, stopping briefly to watch the talented hoop dancers and inter-tribal dance exhibitions. If we had stayed, we would have been welcome to join in the Feast, and to enjoy the evenings musical offerings, which included Crystal Shawanda, the award winning country music artist.

aboriginal celebration June 2017

If you’ve got Pow Wow envy, you’ll have another chance to join the fun on Wednesday, June 28th, when the 8th Annual Aboriginal History Month Celebration at Yonge & Dundas Square begins at noon.

There’s a great line-up of entertainers, including Amanda Rheaume performing at 7 pm, along with an all day Kid’s Arts & Crafts Tent, craft vendors, and Indigenous agencies showcasing what’s available in the community. Hope to see you there!

 

Legalize It!


charlie-brown-footballI’m sure it wasn’t the Canadian government’s intention to play Lucy snatching the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it. But it’s getting harder and harder to trust that the Trudeau government has any intention of following through on promises to legalize and/or regulate marijuana use, medically or recreationally.

Canadian voters feel betrayed. We all had our own reasons to reject the Harper government, but the Liberal election campaign put the pot issue front and centre as a large part of the Liberal Party policy initiatives, that “breath of fresh air” we were told was coming to Ottawa. A lack of action on this issue betrays the constituency that voted the Liberals into office, and paints the party as no different to the Conservatives, who at least made their rejection of legalization cut and dried.

Health Canada MMAR_CARDOn Wednesday, roughly 500,000 medical cannabis users in Canada over the age of 25 got a small reprieve from the fear of imprisonment for possession, when a Federal Court judge struck down a ban on home growing. The previous government had put that into place when Ottawa moved to a system of large-scale commercial producers, once more putting commerce before citizens’ needs.

Justice Michael Phelan ruled that those new bans were “over broad and arbitrary,” effectively forcing patients to choose between their medicine and prison, and added, “I agree that the plaintiffs have, on a balance of probabilities, demonstrated that cannabis can be produced safely and securely with limited risk to public safety and consistently with the promotion of public health.”

There are around two dozen commercial producers right now, who ship legal, dried marijuana and cannabis oils to about 30,000 patients. Even under the new math, that still means the other 470,000 patients are getting relief elsewhere.

One of the arguments put forward has been that if people are allowed to grow their own, ‘everyone’ will do it. Really? Just like ‘everyone’ brewing their own beer and making wine in their homes has decimated legal trade in alcohol? Neither the Beer Stormarijuana_poll_c_mfe nor the LCBO seem to be hurting for customers.

Having the right to grow your own doesn’t mean every user wants to do so. Not everyone wants to tend to plants, even if they’re looking forward to the harvest. The plants stink, for one thing, which might be a big deterrent to someone with cancer treatment induced nausea. And it’s hard to imagine that someone with a long-term or terminal illness wants to spend much of their precious time worrying that the plants are getting enough light, or that they’ve remembered to water and fertilize regularly.

But more importantly, a large percentage of Canadians admit to using marijuana, whether medically or recreationally, for the same reasons their parents used alcohol – relaxation and pain relief. The Liberals won the last election with a promise to legalize pot. We were told that process could take more than a year. What we didn’t expect was that Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and Toronto’s former police chief, would be put in charge of the task force to consult and craft new laws around marijuana.

Blair, a by-the-books hard ass who famously oversaw the utilization of violent repression against protesters at G8/20, has insisted the government will take proper time to consult and proceed with caution — and he wouldn’t even commit to passing legislation before the next federal election.

At the same time, licensed producers have been lobbying the government for a role in recreational production. The big pharmacy chains like Shoppers Drug Mart are drooling over the chance to sell the drug. Municipalities, meanwhile, are dealing with the proliferation of illegal dispensaries.

Clive Weighill, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, is begging the government to clear up the confusion his officers are facing.

“Right now it’s just a big fog,” he said. “We know it’s going to be legalized, but we don’t know how it’s going to happen, who’s going to be consulted. If they could just come out with a real bare bones action plan, just so the Canadian public can say OK, these are the steps we’re going through.” 

cannabis-flag-crowds-560x420Enforcing a law that the government has declared it will eliminate is not just confusing, it’s unethical. There is no moral basis for enforcing a law that remains on the books, even as the government moves towards repeal. The people spoke to the ethical standards of the community when they elected the Liberal Party with a very strong mandate. I’ll say it again: It is unethical and immoral to continue enforcing a law that is in the process of being repealed.

As Blair fiddles, thousands of users keep getting burned for possession, and the black market continues to thrive.

BillBlairL4LBlair has said that the goal is to strictly regulate the drug, restrict its access to minors, and to take billions of dollars in black market sales away from organized crime groups. He’s just going to need … oh .. about four years … to do that.. Blair, it’s shit or get off the ‘pot’ time, indeed.

The Trudeau government needs to take a long, hard look at Blair, and admit he’s just not the right choice for the job. You’re allowed to make mistakes in hiring, as long as you admit to the mistake and correct it. Blair himself called the number of Canadians charged with possession “shocking,” noting that in 2014 alone there were 22,000 charges laid, and that minority and aboriginal communities are disproportionately affected.

alcohol-vs-marijuanaBlair says his concern is ‘public health.’ That flies in the face of science, as both Canadian and American scientists, amongst others, determined more than thirty years ago that marijuana was not dangerous and in fact had many scientifically-documented, medically beneficial, uses.

Ah, but it’s not that simple, says Blair. Why yes. Yes it is. It’s as simple as buying a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes. Alcohol and tobacco are 100% legal and have risks for ALL users, and often, those around them. But they’re legal.

It is that simple. This was a hot button, contentious, election promise and it needs to be kept. Sell cannabis at liquor stores or pharmacies or dispensaries, tax it, and require government issued ID to purchase it. weedmarket_29001We already have an existing legal framework for the regulation of alcohol and tobacco. States in the U.S. have hammered out regulations, and are reaping the tax benefits and new employment from the sales.

It took Colorado 34 days, from November 6th, 2012 when the citizens voted to legalize, until December 10th, 2012 when it became legal. This is not a four year process unless you make it one.

Crocodile tears don’t cut it, Blair. What’s the real reason you’re dragging your feet on this, beyond your own bias? What’s your basis for continuing to prosecute and persecute people who use a substance less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, or even over the counter aspirin? pot-law-300

Cannabis activist Jodie Emery may have nailed the problem. “We need a moratorium on arrests and we need amnesty for two million Canadians since 1965 who have been given criminal records,” she told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

Well, that just flies in the face of our bloated, inefficient prison system, doesn’t it! Continued arrests and prosecution of cannabis are a waste of taxpayer money, but they sure do keep the police and prisons busy! Why aren’t the police instead focused on pursuing hard drugs like meth, and cracking down on large importers and its producers? Is it because the low hanging fruit just looks so much juicier? cannibis charges

And devising complicated new laws and regulations covering every possible misuse or abuse of marijuana is nothing but a ‘make work’ project. There are already laws in place that cover every possible scenario. Some kid creeps into your backyard and steals your plants? That’s trespass and theft. Charge the kid. Some guy has 100 stinky plants growing in his house, or gawd forbid, his rented apartment? That’s a commercial business, not allowed on personal property. And destruction of rental property carries some hefty fines, if not jail time. Step away from the grownup blowing a joint, and go bust the real criminals.

pot smoking mountieThis is not rocket science. Every nitpicking argument has been discussed and discarded, to the satisfaction of everyone but the most self-righteous and sanctimonious pearl clutchers. There will always be those who are against the legalization of anything, be it booze, pot, or completely naked strippers. Get over it. This is supposed to be a democratic nation, where adults make choices at their own considered risk. Continuing to ‘police’ the consumption of a drug less harmful than most of the ‘prescribed’ drugs on the market is outrageous and condescending.

Legalizing it should be done arbitrarily and without debate, the same way that it was originally criminalized in 1923, when it was added to the list of dangerous narcotics. High handed prohibition based primarily on a need to control and on personal bias, disregards the people’s right to self-determination and denies them the right to make personal choices in their own lives.

charlie brown Oh no not againSimply taking what was once illegal and rendering it legal by government proclamation has been done throughout Canada’s history. Dragging out decriminalization/legalization as a policy point necessary for re-election will ensure the Liberals lose the ground they won in the last election. Just another promise not kept, the voters manipulated for political gain. The current government ignores that reality at their own peril.

***

Speaking of ignoring the voice of the people, the ‘unelectable’ Bernie Sanders continues to pick up momentum in the United States, despite a media that focuses on an increasingly bombastic and power mad Donald Trump, who very much seems to be in the grip of a psychotic break.

Sanders’ followers are as desperate to get out from under their current government as we Canadians were during the last election. His latest campaign ad captures the excitement and creativity inherent in his promises. Is asking for transparency in government, and real equality for all, doomed to failure? I guess we’ll find out in November.

Bernie’s new campaign ad rocks!

 

(first published Fe 28/2016 -bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/roxanne-tellier-legalize-it/)

If You’re Canadian – It’s Hard to Laugh


emperor HarperIt used to be so easy to mock the North American political process. Comedians had a field day, lampooning gaffes or silly political correctness amongst candidates and politicians seeking or in office. Most pols can be counted on to screw up at some point. The joker outing the naked Emperor poked fun without fear of reprisal.

That all changed for Canada, yesterday. Bill C-51 – the so called “Anti Terrorist Act,” was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate, despite vocal opposition from everyone from Margaret Atwood to Ralph Nader .

Harper secrecyOver nearly a decade, Canadians have seen Canada’s world image plunge from a once lofty high the envy of the free world, to a race to the bottom. Since 2006, the Harper government has governed with an iron-fist, hidden public information and political subterfuge in cumbersome omnibus bills or simple denials, and has become the most secretive administration in Canadian history.

How do you find anything funny about an increasingly militaristic and confrontational police presence that ‘serves and protects’ only those steely, unsmiling, hand-picked minions to the Prime Minister?

before-after-tar sandsWhere’s the laughs when our scientists have been muzzled, and precious and irreplaceable environmental books and documents have been trashed? Where’s the irony in watching the Boreal Forest, which represents more than half of Canada’s landmass, and which plays a critical role in mitigating global climate change, be threatened by logging, hydrodams, mining and the tar sands? (Industrial development and forest fires in Canada’s tar sands region has cleared or degraded 775,500 hectares (almost two million acres) of boreal forest since the year 2000.)

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt remained seated, silent, and cross armed while others broke out in a standing ovation at the conclusion of the six year study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the “cultural genocide” of Aboriginal peoples through Canada’s residential school system. The commission pushed for a national inquiry and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and requested 94 wide-ranging recommendations. Valcourt seated

“Federal Conservatives have suggested they will reject calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for both a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and Canada’s implementation of a landmark United Nations document on First Nations’ rights.” (Huffington Post)

It’s very hard to find something even vaguely funny about such overt contempt.Harper editorial cartoon Jeep splashing natives

gmo_appleAs people become more concerned about the very food they eat, the Conservative Party continues to support genetically modified foods and Monsanto, fighting tooth and nail against every citizen action requesting even so much as the labelling of foods. (Canada and the United States are the only two nations in the Free World that do not require GMO labelling.)

And then there’s Bill C-51 itself, an act so heinous that everyone from former prime ministers, to constitutional lawyers – and hundreds of thousands of Canadians – have begged, cajoled and screamed for it’s demise.

C51 6 waysThe Bill allows the police to ignore Canadians’ rights, and rides roughshod over civil liberties. It eviscerates the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms, and inherently stomps on Canadians’ constitutional rights.

It defines ‘terrorism’ as “activity that undermines the security of Canada.” Those activities include advocacy, legal protests, threats to “public safety” and the “economic or financial stability of Canada.” It also creates a new speech-related criminal offence of “promoting” or “advocating” terrorism.

And it allows information sharing across very broad areas, from the Department of Immigration, to the financial sector, from the Department of Transport to your own doctor and Public Health, besides the usual suspects (the police, RCMP, CSIS, or Border Control.) Bill C-51 effectively neuters the core protections found in the Privacy Act, and also permits additional use and disclosure of information “in accordance with the law…to any person, for any purpose.”

Let me put this even plainer. If, for some reason, a conversation yoC51 Naderu have – in person, by email, or on social media – triggers the interest of ANY government official … or even a spurned lover or a miffed colleague with a grudge … you could be arrested and detained for up to seven days without charges on mere suspicion of future criminal activity.

“Bill C-51’s gives powers of “preventive detention,” which means jail time for individuals even when there isn’t any suspicion criminal activity has taken place.”

So, I’m finding it a little hard to laugh, or even smile. In what dystopia would these dictatorial and fascistic measures call for a chuckle?

Rick Mercer HarperOh, sure, we’ve got Rick Mercer’s weekly jabs and rants, but honestly – how do you poke fun at a Canadian government blindly led by an evangelistic dictator set on destroying the country he rules with an iron fist?

Our only hope for a re-discovery of our political comedy mojo under such an oppressive regime is a resounding “NO!” to Stephen Harper and the Conservative Government in the coming election.