A Sunday Pot Luck


You ready, Canada?

Legal weed can go on sale at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2018. Cue the screaming and yelling from those who have never seen a Reefer Madness poster that didn’t give them a semi-erotic frisson of fear.

reefer madness man.gif

I’ve talked about this over and over .. I’ve researched what’s gonna happen until I’m blue in the face. Nothing I say is gonna move a real pot hater to change their opinion by Wednesday. And I know that. I’m not even gonna try.

But, this is my prediction; those people who fear pot and of the possibility of losing control after ingestion, will one night be talked into trying an edible. Or someone they like will dare them to take a toke, and they’ll feel kind of cool and cutting edge. Then they’ll find that an edible, or maybe some CBD  or THC oil, will help with a health issue, or send them off to a lovely sleep, and within a few years, we will be wondering what all the freaking out was about.

Patch-Smoke-EmBecause, whether you knew it or not, whether you liked it or not, a very large percentage of Canadians have been quietly enjoying pot in one form or another for decades. World didn’t end. Won’t from this either. That’s not how we’ll go.

It’s not that big a deal.

Just wait until we inevitably decriminalize personal possession of all drugs.. like they did in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, and the Netherlands.

Then you’ll realize that freaking out over this tiny loosening of our cannabis laws just shows that a small group of Canadians have never really gotten over their fear of the unknown, or of any kind of intoxicant, be it alcohol or cannabis.

Bill Hicks talking about pot

There’s just so many more, far more, important things to worry about. Like, Why are the United States and Canada suddenly turning back the clock on the civil rights of Native  Americans?

voting right PO Box Oct 2018 N DakotaOn October 10, the American Supreme Court ruled to uphold a decision by the state’s courts that requires a residential street address in order to vote in North Dakota’s elections. Since much of the state’s Native American population, which lives largely on tribal land and whose IDs typically feature P.O. boxes, cannot comply, the decision is expected to steal away the right to vote of thousands of Indigenous North Dakotans, along with those who share their residences.

“While North Dakota claims that tribal IDs qualify under its law, most tribal IDs do not have a residential address printed on them. This is due, in part, to the fact that the U.S. postal service does not provide residential delivery in these rural Indian communities. Thus, most tribal members use a PO Box. If a tribal ID has an address, it is typically the PO Box address, which does not satisfy North Dakota’s restrictive voter ID law.” (Rewire.news)

We have ways of legally stopping a fair vote.N Dakota new tactical vehicle

This is an utterly unacceptable ruling. It should be noted that new Justice, Kavanaugh, did not participate in the decision, and that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan dissented.

As America turns back the clock on progress for it’s most vulnerable citizens, the larger concern to America’s Native Americans becomes – how long will it take until other states follow suit?

no vote no taxesIf that’s not enough to make you howl in frustration, Canada actually one-upped that stance, when our own Canadian Supreme Court ruled that politicians do not need to consult First Nations when drafting new legislation that may affect Indigenous rights.

“One judge wrote such a duty would be “highly disruptive” to the lawmaking process.

The decision came just over a month after a federal court reversed Canada’s approval of Kinder Morgan‘s Trans Mountain pipeline over a lack of meaningful First Nations consultation. In response, the feds have appointed a former Supreme Court judge to redo the project’s consultations.

… Canada’s commitments to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supersedes today’s ruling. Canada signed onto the UN declaration in 2016, and in doing so committed to obtaining free, prior and informed consent on all matters impacting Indigenous rights. “That’s the principle piece,” Clogg told VICE. “We would be expecting Canada to live up to its obligations, particularly around obtaining consent.”” (Vice.com)

trudeau on native rightsNow .. is it just me, or does that not sound an awful lot like the democracy and the civil rights are being drained out of Canada’s interaction with First Nations people?

It started with Harper; in two omnibus bills, he jiggered water and fishery protection laws so that he could ram through whatever measures energy companies needed to start digging and drilling.

But with this new, egregious disrespect for the rights of the people to determine what happens ON THEIR OWN LAND, we’re starting a descent very like that of America’s, where wealthy corporations can push forward whatever process benefits the corporation, at the expense of the people living on the land being exploited.

And the government is complicit.

I think most Canadians thought that rejecting a decade of Harper’s hard right, capitalist/corporation friendly government would lead to a kinder, gentler form of governance. After all, that is what we were promised on the campaign trail.

But that’s the thing about campaign promises – they often disappear when the cold reality of day to day management of a country is involved.

Remember this, from 2015? ” As part of his 32-point plan to “restore democracy,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that if elected, he would create a special, all-party parliamentary committee to study alternatives to the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, including ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting and online voting.” (CBC.ca)

Trudeau FPTP memeAnd in Febuary, 2017: ” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned his promise to reform Canada’s electoral system on Wednesday, claiming no consensus has been found on an alternative system.

… Trudeau’s decision shelves months of work by a special House of Commons committee, two separate public engagement and consultation exercises, numerous MP town hall meetings and one cross-country ministerial tour.

The move was called a “betrayal” by the opposition New Democrats, who accused Trudeau of lying to progressive voters when he made electoral reform a central promise in the 2015 election.”   (TheStar.com)

And then there’s the recent reveal, via The Guardian, that exposed a disgusting bit of information; “The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), which manages $366.6bn in pension funds on behalf of some 20 million Canadian retirees, holds US$5.9m of stock in Geo Group and CoreCivic, immigration detention firms profiting from Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ Mexico border policy.

The move to increase holdings comes despite criticisms from Canadian politicians about US detention policies and following international outcry over the US “zero-tolerance” crackdown this summer on the US-Mexico border that led to children being separated from families.”

Most Canadians would not agree to an investment into the incarceration of children in Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, and the separation of families. But most Canadians also have a real problem with how the government is dealing with our energy resources. Sure feels like we’re not being listened to much, between elections.

Prior to the purchase of the pipeline, the majority of Canadians were onside. After the purchase, and the follow-up reports that proved we’d just invested $4.5 billion into a proverbial white elephant, the majority shrank quickly to a minority.

And that’s without taking into account the protests of environmentalists, scientists, and the people of BC who just couldn’t reconcile profit over losing their clean air and water.

I just find it sad, now. When the UN released it’s report this week, saying that we have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe, that would include extreme heat, drought, floods, forest fires and poverty, I wondered which country would blink first.

We knew it wouldn’t be the United States; Trump has always contended that global warming is a Chinese hoax, put into place to trip up any possible manufacturing competition. Trump’s cancellation of climate policies that might have cut U.S. carbon emissions by about half of what was necessary, mean that they have NO plans in place.

mountie-on-a-bearBut we in Canada seemed to be talking a better game; our image involves mountains, lakes, lumber jacks and mounties, for pete’s sake!

In reality, we are little better than America. Canadian Petroleum Producers say oil production will surge 33 per cent by 2035.

” New exploratory drilling permits for fossil fuels, publicly owned pipelines for oilsands bitumen, and the endorsement of highly questionable mega-projects like British Columbia’s Site C dam. And now LNG Canada.

Just this week, Canada’s environment minister appeared on Vancouver CBC. As bright, articulate and telegenic as she is, Catherine McKenna came off more like the minister of finance or fossil fuels than the person leading the war against global warming.”

…. The reason that politicians like McKenna, and her counterparts around the world, don’t get it, is that getting it means taking serious hits to the gross domestic product and employment.

Trudeau Notley Climate Change

The PM talked about 10,000 jobs, even though, when the construction phase is done, the real number will be tiny. 

In making the announcement, Trudeau sounded more like former B.C. premier Christy Clark than the man who told the world in Paris that Canada was back on the environmental file.

Government decisions marketed by big jobs numbers can sometimes be a path to policy hell.

In the 1990s, the Mulroney government wouldn’t reduce quotas or close the cod fishery off Newfoundland because 100,000 regional jobs depended on it. The overfishing continued until the northern cod collapsed and disappeared as a commercial fishery.

The jobs carrot can also leave a government stranded on the moral low ground. After the disappearance and suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a group of bipartisan U.S. senators lobbied to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Trump opposes that idea, saying it would hurt American jobs. “(Michael Harris, ipolitics.ca)

existenceeconomySo here we are, then. A stalemate where our self-interests outweigh what would seem to be our possible demise.

It’s like that old joke, where the robber says to the victim, “Your money or your life!” and the victim says, “Take my life. I’m saving my money for my old age!

It really is that insane. We can do nothing without the politicians being far braver than they have shown themselves to be. On the campaign trail, politicians come on strong, promising to save the world, but once in power, the focus moves from changing the world to keeping power via re-election.

Doing the right thing is hard. And it’s rarely rewarded come election time. So those in power, the ones we need to make the power moves, fear strong moves will get them booted out of their cushy jobs.

Better, they think, to keep the focus on bringing money in to the country’s coffers, by hook or by crook. We can think about the future .. .in the future.

child internment campsAnd, c’mon … be honest … no matter how virtuous and outwardly concerned we are about the planet, or about the morality of investing in Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, or about the ethos of denying Indigenous people a voice on the discussions on how best to destroy their land …

at the end of the day, we tend to turn a blind eye to what goes on around us. We don’t want to see the blood on the diamond. We don’t want to know how the hamburgers are made. We’re saving our money for our old age.

Not a one of us is individually capable of doing the sacrificing necessary to save the planet, and no one person or country can do it alone.

Which means – it’s over. You can give up now. Once a full blown climate catastrophe hits, there will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. According to the UN’s scientists, that could be as soon as twelve years from now. We will also see more and more extreme climate events, like the recent disaster in Florida, as we build up to the real weather horrors that await.

Make your peace with whatever deity you subscribe to, and be glad you’re not gonna have to worry about outliving your money…

And be grateful for small mercies, like the legal cannabis you can enjoy starting Wednesday,  ‘anywhere cigarettes can be smoked‘, in Ontario.

Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. You’re gonna need it.

Our Flag is Red and White


biggest protest in canadaCanadians … we love our country, but that’s never stopped us from having our beefs with how it’s run. Unlike many other countries, we feel free to speak up about what angers us. For all our reputation of being a polite and respectful people, we reserve the right to disagree with those who would impose their will upon the nation.

We love our healthcare, but are aware it needs tweaking to be all that it should be. We know that it is not ‘greedy’ or ‘entitled’ to demand that the healthcare that we pay for with our taxes, works for every Canadian.

We love our democracy, but want to ensure that we remain democratic, which calls for electoral reform. We don`t want to run the risk of any party taking control of the system and bending it to it`s favour – we won’t accept trickery or gerrymandering in our elections.

don't do it againMany were angry at the direction we took in the last decade, under the Conservative prime minister . We now have a Liberal prime minister, and likely just as many have issues with his party. In our Canadian way, we will protest against what we dislike, and in due course, vote for the direction we would like to have in the future.

Because this is not a “my country – love it or leave it‘ place, we can and will criticize those in power, and insist upon our right to do so.

On July 1, we honoured the establishment of Confederation in 1867. But the interesting thing about the adoption of the July 1867 date is that, at that time, Canada consisted of only four provinces; Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. While Canada Day acknowledges an important national milestone, it’s not really celebrating all of the country we now call Canada.

Nor does the concept of Canada Day include the indigenous peoples who were here before the settlers came from Europe. Even our national anthem ignores the fact that this is not our native land. Instead, we live ON native land, 89% of which is Crown Land administered by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and still in dispute, hundreds of years after the first treaties were written.

resistance150The First Nations people have been here for over 13,000 years, and for many, the celebration of Canada Day amounts to ” celebrating resource extraction of our territories. The Indian Act is still in place. The government is not allowing First Nations to have a voice. So why would I ever celebrate?”” (Anishinaabe traditional storyteller and teacher Isaac Murdoch.)

The #Resistance150 movement was created nearly eight months ago by Murdoch, Michif visual artist Christi Belcourt, Cree activist Tanya Kappo and Métis author Maria Campbell, as the group discussed the festivities planned by the Liberal government for Canada 150. They found it increasingly difficult to accept that the government, while giving lip service to plans of reconciliation, continued to ignore the ongoing fraught relationships between native Canadians and the rest of Canada.

Canada150 protestTheir resistance movement was developed to inspire other indigenous people to reclaim what they lost during colonization; their land, language and traditional ways.

The group created a camp for indigenous children and youth to attend called Nimkii Aazhibikong on Ompa Lake, located about 20 kilometres north of Elliott Lake, Ont. this year. Here the children can immerse themselves in traditional languages, explore their culture, and discover their environment under the tutelage of visiting local elders.

“Beyond attention to culture, Murdoch`s group also wishes to send a strong message on the negative effects of climate change and the First Nations longstanding dispute with the government over land ownership.

All over the country there’s this free-for-all in resource extraction that’s happening,” he said. “First Nations people are screaming and saying, ‘No’ and Canada just keeps saying, ‘Yes.’”

first-nations-elections-law-oct15-9-638On top of sounding the alarm over how resource extraction and pollution is hurting the environment, Murdoch said the #Resistance150 movement is also calling for the abolition of the Indian Act, which was first introduced in 1857 by the British colonial government, and reads very much like a treatise from the Southern Baptist religionists banning dancing in the 1984 film Footloose. Cruel, vindictive and petty, the Act aimed to crush the people and their culture, by any means available.

” Over the next hundred years the Indian Act was amended a number of times but each time was aimed at a more efficient means of assimilating First Nations into white society. The Act was amended to ban the “Sun Dance” an important ritual among the Lakota and other Plains aboriginal cultures. On the west coast the “Pot Latch”, an elaborate ceremony of feasting and gift giving was also banned. With an eye to forced assimilation, the Act authorized the forced removal of children to Residential Schools and stripped any Indian who obtained a University Education or Ordination of his rights under the Act.

The act vested title to reserve land to the Crown represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs deeming it “Crown Land set aside for the use of a Band of Indians.”

The 1876 act also made it illegal for an Indian to sell or produce goods without the written permission of the local Indian Agent, who became the de-facto ruler of Indians on reserve. (this includes fruits, vegetables, and farming, to this day.) Indian Agents had to give written permission for Indians who wanted to leave the reserve for any reason.

Status Indians were not allowed to vote until 1961.”

When I speak with many middle aged to older Canadians about the past, present and future of our First Nations people, whether status or non, it’s clear there is a confusion in what is believed to be true and what is fact. Sadly, the contents of the Truth and Reconciliation documents mean little if you’ve already made a pre-judgment on the nature of a people.

However, fairness and justice is what we should be working towards, for all Canadians. There are specific problems that need to be addressed amongst indigenous people. Some of these problems are brought about by where the reserves are located. There are currently about 150 long-term and short-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities that are difficult to reach in good weather, and impossible to reach in winter.

In some of these far flung communities, suicide rates, especially among the young, are five to seven times higher than the national average.

First Nations and Metis are 2-3 times higher at risk for diabetes than the non-Aboriginal population, while tuberculosis – almost nonexistent among non-Aboriginals, is 26.4 times more prevalent in First Nations Canadians.

Canada Day 20170701I am proud of my country, but I know that my country has to include ALL of it’s people – those who came before us, and those who will join us in the future – to be strong and united. As a country, we can do so much better. And I have faith that we will work towards being a better, stronger, fairer country in the coming years.

In an article on what it means to be a Canadian, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, ” “This is something we are able to do in this country, because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background, but by a set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians but people and the world share.”

And as writer Mike MacNeil responded to those concerned that the Canada Day150 celebrations ignored Canadian history and absolved us of our crimes against the First Nations people, “ It”s not the pilfering and genocide that’s being celebrated. It’s instead – and finally – the recognition that something positive is being done to correct decades of misuse and mistreatment. It’s slow, granted. It’s imperceptible, granted. The pace of change could be infinitely faster, granted. But the change – however it’s characterized – is there.”

And that’s Canadian, eh.

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!

 

Privilege …. is Such a Lonely Word


I already had a column drafted and ready for editing this morning, but my muse took a hard left turn and demanded a re-write.

I wanted to talk about how important it is to be true to yourself; in your own life, in the way you present to your loved ones, and the realities of pursuing the path by which you pay your bills. But all of that sounds rather pretentious, in the face of current events.

What I came to realize is that the only reason that old, white women like me can spend any time at all dreaming of improving themselves and their surroundings – never mind assuming that anyone else would be interested in reading those thoughts –  is that we have ‘privilege.

privilegeI know that’s a dirty word to many. “If I’m so privileged, why can’t I get a decent job? Why do I struggle just to make ends meet? Tell ME about privilege, when I grew up poor, with an abusive family, and no chance at a decent education!?”

And all of that is valid. You probably DID and ARE getting a raw deal on some aspects of your life. We live in troubled times of massive fiscal inequality. That you were able to fight your way through the obstacles, and are currently reading this on your cellphone/laptop/desktop/magic mirror, shows that you drew on all of your resources, and triumphed.

But what you didn’t do, if you were born white, was wake up every day, look into the mirror, and see visible proof that you were a minority, with all of the attendant prejudices that an accident of birth conferred upon you.

privilege types.pngJust by being born white, in Canada or the U.S., you won a lottery you never knew you’d entered. If you were also born male, able-bodied, straight, and into a family that was financially stable, you lucked into a super bonus.  Something you had no say in, no choice, granted certain privileges on you from the day you entered this world.

Not all privilege is exactly the same. Where we are in terms of ‘class,’ as an economic indicator, also affects what we can expect to access in higher education, and with whom we can expect to interact. justice fishcartoon.jpgOne kind of privilege doesn’t add or subtract from another – being discriminated against for having non-white skin doesn’t negate being discriminated against for being female, or non-straight, old, or disabled … all of these factors have bearing, and cannot be minimalized.

But if you woke up this morning, and a white face looked back at you from the mirror, you faced one less challenge than those who saw a face of another colour in their reflection. As rich and famous as Oprah Winfrey is, she still encounters those who think her unworthy of holding corporate power, and is not immune from discrimination in a luxury Zurich handbag store.

And you can just get off your high horse of pretending that systemic racism is only a problem in the U.S. Yes, their problem is more visible, and more violent, and yes, the spectacle of an openly racist presidential candidate whipping up the basest of armed citizens, potentially leading to Civil War II, is horrific.

But Canada’s treatment of First Nations people is despicable. Denying that it isn’t our own flavour of racism doesn’t address the very real injustices perpetrated against the people who were here before us.

Consider this commonplace incident that occurred yesterday, in Calgary. RCMP, making an arrest, entered a home on the Siksika First Nation around 6 a.m. The RCMP are alleged to have battered an Alberta First Nation man, hauling him naked from his home and bringing him to a detachment before realizing he needed an ambulance.

christian-duck-chief.jpg“Christian Duck Chief, 23, is recovering from a broken eye socket, fractured cheek bone, fracture to the back of his head and a broken nose.

Duck Chief and his wife say they were sleeping in their home on the Siksika First Nation southeast of Calgary Friday when RCMP from the Gleichen detachment entered their home around 6 a.m. to arrest him.

They acknowledge Duck Chief struggled at first, saying he was on his stomach when woken and didn’t know it was police. But they allege an RCMP officer hit him at least 20 times after he stopped struggling and shouted that he wasn’t resisting, even as he lay handcuffed on the floor.

Duck Chief — who has been charged in connection with the incident — and his lawyer said the force used by the officer was excessive.
….
(The couple) suspect the arrest occurred either because a friend had visited them the night before in a stolen vehicle or that RCMP wrongly believed Duck Chief was still under a bail condition that he not be in the home with his wife.

Duck Chief said he struggled at first because he thought someone had broken into their home and was attacking them, and initially bit the officer’s finger. He has been charged in connection to the incident.” (cbc.ca)

That scenario is almost as Kafkaesque as the spectacle of Philando Castile’s girlfriend talking calmly and calling the officer ‘Sir’, as he forced her out of the car and onto her knees after he shot her boyfriend dead in front of her and her four-year-old daughter during a routine traffic stop.

who police killed in 2015Do either of those scenarios, of the First Nations man in Alberta, or the man in Minnesota who died from a broken taillight, strike you as something that would happen to a white citizen? That this would be the subject of a discussion heavily loaded with justifications to decide if the victims deserved what happened to them? No. Privilege.

The people of colour in the U.S., and the First Nations people in Canada, are both being told that their very real fear of the police and authorities must be addressed in calm, respectful, and reverent tones.  While those who beat and kill them are not held to anywhere near the same standards.

blm-torontoThe us-against-them-against-who now?  arguments that broke out last week over the actions of BLM-TO (Black Lives Matter – Toronto) at the Pride parade exemplifies how divided even minorities have become, and how quick we are to pick a side. As emotions subside, speakers from both the BLM community and the LGBTQ community have moved to a middle ground of understanding. There have been talks, apologies, and re-commitments to values.

Except for white people. White people are still using real and imagined information about the actions of two beleaguered minorities, adding in the public attitudes on policing, finally declaring one side or the other a villain. It’s not even their battle! But that’s how privilege works … you still expect to not only have a right to an opinion on something you have not personally experienced, you believe your opinion should be heard and agreed upon.

Privilege.

Earlier this week, the executives in charge of Toronto’s CNE events made a disastrous faux pas, and announced that disabled patrons would no longer receive complimentary entry, citing a need for ‘equality.’

CNE.jpgThe CNE has posted the policy change on its website, saying it strives to respect “the dignity and independence of all of our guests, including those with disabilities.” Caregivers can still get in free.

Am I reading that right? The disabled will pay, but their (presumably non-disabled) caretakers will get in free? What an odd definition of equality!

Their publicity department insisted, self-righteously, that their decision was solely based on allowing all fair-goers equal entry, despite the reality of the thousands of free passes that are given to city councillors, employees of other attractions, anyone famous enough to be recognized at the Gates, and, ultimately, their own friends.

While the City weaseled out of the fight by fobbing off critique while they ‘discussed’ the situation, it fell to disability advocate and former Lieutenant Governor David Onley to lead a charge of harsh criticism, which forced the CNE to reverse their decision. They caved, as bullies will, when their petty actions are shown to be discriminatory, and potentially illegal. Public opinion, bolstered by social media, brought too much negative attention to the parsimony.

“The CNE had argued it simply wanted to treat people with disabilities the same as everyone else. But Onley said the decision was purely economic and if the CNE was truly concerned with equality, it should look at the number of people with disabilities it employs — a figure general manager Virginia Ludy didn’t know when asked on Wednesday.

Onley also said some 1.8 million Ontarians have some kind of disability and, of those, more than 400,000 live on Ontario Disability Support Program payments. That amounts to about $14,000 a year plus medical benefits, “meaning that you live in a state of virtual poverty … it’s not a good state,” Onley said.“

Privilege puts money above compassion and empathy. It bandies the word ‘equality’  about, while ignoring the reality of those who are physically or economically challenged.

Canada Post.pngNothing is too low for those who use blunt force to achieve their ends. Look to the actions of Canada Post CEO, Deepak Chopra, who has forced his will upon postal workers by refusing to continue talks. He’ll lock out the workers, and impose a stoppage of mail, eventually forcing the workers to take whatever he’ll decide to give them.

Some of the issues? Equal pay. In 2016, the same 2016 that Trudeau used as a banner and a reason to have a gender-even counsel, we’re dithering on whether men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. But for Canada Post, apparently equal pay is just not ‘this year’ enough.

“”Our rural and suburban mail carrier unit, which is predominately made up of women, get paid 28 per cent less than their predominantly male counterparts in the urban operations unit for doing the exact same work.””

Pensions are also on the table. “a two-tier pension system might become the reality for postal workers. Canada Post wants the union to accept a defined contribution plan for new employees. “The proposed change would alter the plan such that the contributions made by each worker would be set, but there would be no guarantee of the benefits they would receive in retirement,” wrote rabble labour reporter Teuila Fautai”

No guarantees in retirement. Well …  isn’t that comforting. Tell me how this can be justified by CEOs and government officials whose handsome pensions are locked down and guaranteed, ensuring they’ll live out their golden years in comfort.

Privilege.

Check-Your-PrivilegeIt’s all around you, and tied up in bows that dissolve in your hands, leaving those of visible and invisible minorities with nothing but slime to show for the strident claims of equality and justice for all.  Those with privilege point to laws and regulations designed to create a level playing field, and dismiss the cries of those who note that those fields are often studded with landmines, and protected from access by the high cost of pursuing justice in the courts.

No one is saying that it’s a crime to be straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied or male. There’s no need to don hair shirts or self-flagellate for the circumstances of your birth, no need to feel guilty for enjoying those privileges. In fact … please DO enjoy them! They are your birthright!

What those who have been denied access to the same privileges simply ask for is an acknowledgment of those differences. They ask that we be aware of how much more difficult it can be to compete in a world where others will never comprehend what it’s like to have to work twice as hard, just to be considered almost equal to a peer who has never known the same adversities or discriminations.

tolerating-intoleranceb.jpgUntil then, it seems we’ll live in a world where ‘tolerance’ is defined as not immediately killing those who don’t look like you.

 

(first published July 10/16 … bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/roxanne-tellier-privilege-is-such-a-lonely-word/)

 

It’s Time To Take Back Our Canada


To those of us who are .. let’s say, pushing sixty or older. It’s a bitch. Every day, another wheel falls off, we need another new ‘script, and our everything hurts. So why are we still here, eh?

older canadians2It’s because we are needed. We have education, information, insight, perspective. We’ve seen history. We have assimilated what’s gone before, and we aren’t easily fooled.

We have the opportunity to change the direction that our current government has pursued. Canadians are a proud people, and we should be; the list of accomplishments in our history is lengthy and laudable. And yet we’ve remained modest and true to our values.

But, as Ralph Nader, a man who has seen Canada from both the inside and the outside, recently noted,

“When you’re modest, as a culture, you begin taking it for granted, and when the counter-attack comes, when the corporatists come in, and the militarists come in, you’re not ready. And I think that’s what’s happened to Canada in the last decade or so.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB7ZvVEm5XU

Canada needs us now, not to be cynical or to brush aside the value and power of our voice or vote. It’s OUR time to rally the troops, to cast a jaundiced eye on the last decade, and to say, “Enough’s enough. This is not the Canada I love. This is not the Canada I want to leave to my heirs.

I’ve felt for some time that this is the most important election of my lifetime. Canada is at a crossroads. It could go either way. We’ve jumped into a war with the Middle East that’s done little but bring us to the attention of extremists, putting our country in jeopardy for the sake of an egotist’s photo ops.

tarsands before afterOur beautiful land has been raped and pillaged, sold to the highest bidder, and left ravaged. Our First Nations people, from whom we essentially rent the land, have been threatened and silenced as they have striven to honour the Earth, and keep the land and water safe for all of us.

The Trans Pacific Partnership, which the Harper Government has been so eager to sign, “effectively subverts and substitutes commerce over democracy, in all the signatory countries. It’s not about tariffs or quotas; It is a trans national autocratic system of government, a subordination of environment, labour and consumer rights to the supremacy of commercial trade. And they call consumer protection, and environmental protection, non-tariff trade barriers, that can be reversed by secret tribunals – not Canadian courts, not U.S. courts, special secret tribunals, whose judges are really corporate lawyers. “

It’s time – right now – to call a halt to corporate interests taking precedent over the rights of citizens and tax payers. We’ve enjoyed the best this country could give us. It’s time to show our politicians what made the Baby Boomers a force to reckon with. It’s time to take back our country.

We weren’t afraid when we stuck those flowers in the muzzles of soldier’s guns. We weren’t afraid when we grew our hair long, smoked pot, went to booze cans, and stood up to the cops. We can’t be afraid now, either.

young_vote_infographicWe need to inspire our kids and our grandkids, and show them that fear, prejudice, racism, xenophobia, austerity, and inaction are NOT what we stand for. We stand for a Canada –

strong and free, and unafraid.

We, who were privileged to shared in all the benefits past prime ministers have secured for us; the social safety nets for the vulnerable, the freedom to unionize without corporate interference , a respect for the land and each other, a health system once the envy of the world, now threatened by proposed cuts … we took all of that for granted. We can’t do that anymore. We need to stand up for our country and the values that made Canada the peacekeepers, the forward thinkers, and the envy of the world.

Let’s show the kids that their world doesn’t have to look like the Hunger Games, Canadian pitted against Canadian  ..  it can look like a Canada that values every citizen, and that looks to the future, without shrinking from what’s to come.

oh canada song

The Bare Necessities


(originally published August 8, 2015 – https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/roxanne-tellier-the-bare-necessities/ )

Happy Face RoxI woke up in a great mood this morning. With reason – the last few days have been filled with music and food and friends and more good food. I’m a simple person. My needs are few. Oh, I may grumble and stew and frown at times, but overall … I’m pretty much a human happy face emoji.

I fell off the career ladder at least a decade ago. These days, I can’t even manage the bottom rung. So, like so many others of my generation, I’ve got less work stress, but a heck of a lot more money stress. You take the good with the bad.

Not having a ‘real job’ means, unfortunately for those who read my columns, that I have a lot of time to spend on reading and researching and analyzing what goes on around the world. Not liking a lot of what I’m seeing, these days.

They say that time is money, but I don’t know that I’d make a very good rich person, no matter how I came by the moolah. Money’s pretty much useless once you’ve covered the basics, like water, food, shelter and clothing. After that, you have to make an effort to find things to spend on. It’s all relative. No shoes to new shoes is nice. No shoes to Louboutin’s is nice too, who doesn’t love a red sole? But shoes is shoes is shoes, really.

no shoesIn an ideal world, no one would go hungry or homeless. Sadly, our world is not ideal, largely because of a lack of empathy and a lack of will. If you see a homeless person begging for food, your empathic response may be mitigated by an inability or an unwillingness to help.

In an ideal world, people who amassed wealth would be spending their efforts and money on finding solutions to real problems, like inequality or climate change, rather than casting a gimlet eye on what others are doing with their bodies (and especially private parts,) that offends their senses. yoda offended

If what drives you to get up in the morning is a need to regulate other people’s uteri … get over yourself. If your face gets all red at the thought that there might be even one destitute person on welfare who’s using that whopping $25.00 a day to buy illegal drugs, you seriously need to re-consider calling yourself a Christian.

(Saddest of all – the average welfare payment in the U.S., at about $9,000.00 a year, is in the top 20% of all global income earners. That’s some pretty astounding inequality.)

California water not equalIn Friday’s closing monologue, Real Times’ Bill Maher talked about entitlement amongst the very wealthy, citing the Washington Post headline, “Rich Californians balk at limits: “We’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

“Now, I’m sure that the majority of very rich people have always been greedy and selfish, but, this crowd today takes it to a whole new level. Somehow it’s not enough to spend lavishly on themselves, they have to actively take from others;  their water, their benefits, the last bits of beauty in the world.

psychopathsIn his non-apology apology, Dentist the Lion Hunter used the word ‘legal’ over and over; what he did was ‘legal.’ Sure. Because the rich buy politicians to write laws to say that whatever they want, is legal. Like our elections now. More than half the money given to presidential candidates so far has come from just 400 families. Perfectly legal. But you know, for that kind of money, the rich shouldn’t just get to tell politicians what to do. I think they should get to hunt them. That would be the ultimate trophy to go with your trophy kill, and your trophy car and your trophy wife. What could be better than a trophy Republican’s head on your wall? Scott Walker’s eyes already look like cheap taxidermy, and Chris Christie’s leg would make a lovely umbrella stand. And if that sounds wrong, we’ll make a law that says it’s legal.”

The machinations of elections in the U.S. and Canada are in full swing. It’s interesting to see that the would-be leaders are more passionate about how they’d save the economy than bigger and more pressing issues like climate change and inequality. I believe neither issue was raised in the first presidential nominee debate, and in the Canadian debate, Harper could not have been more indifferent to aggressively tackling either.

No, the sexy issue on the table is ISIS. Fear mongering has replaced any pretense of responsible leadership. The horrors of potential terrorism on our own soil, as unlikely as being hit by lightning while in the process of cashing your winning lotto ticket, have superseded the harsh realities that we actually do live with every day. Draconian laws that take away our rights and freedoms; irresponsible spending of tax dollars on politicians’ egos, while our infrastructure crumbles; the very real consequences of ignoring climate change while forest fires rage in B.C. and severe drought in the Prairies threatens our breadbasket… Nope … let’s talk about terrorism, regardless of the facts that the odds are 1 in 20 million that you’ll be in a terrorist attack. Because … fear is a thrill, just like a roller coaster ride. rollercoaster fear

What successful politicians understand, beyond how to spend other people’s money, is the soft underbelly of the public. Capitalizing on what motivates every soul to get up and get through another day. As the great prize fighter Rocky Marciano once said, “Hit the heart and the head will follow.” We like to think we’re level-headed, intelligent people, able to logically decide who will next lead our country. But in all of our choices, there are really only two choices – the rational reason, and the real reason. And the real reason is always … fear.

sleazy sales dudePoliticians today work from the same Bible as super salesmen. Rather than have voters change their behaviour and opinions to adapt to their vision, they adapt to their constituents, learn their thought processes, and find out what keeps them awake at night. Sly, but effective.

Forget the separation of church and state, as important a concept as that may be. What we’ll hit ‘em with is fear. Fear that someone is doing something they shouldn’t be allowed to do, or that their home, family, religion, or money is under attack. And we’ll umbrella that message with a cry to patriotism, and a shout out to a God that is clearly always on our side. (He’s a multi-faced dude, that God.)    god on side

What that message means to every voter, whether in Canada or the U.S., is that the really important ‘things that really do happen and shouldn’t’ issues, are swept under the rug. Your odds of being in a terrorist attack are miniscule, but if you’re a First Nations youth, your odds of being fostered out from your family, or of your being arrested, are staggeringly high. In the United States, 49 percent of black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males and 38 percent of white males have been arrested by the age of 23. There’s some day to day stuff I’d rather see addressed.

I’m all for protecting the country, but not at the expense of the freedom of those of us who live here, and who physically and financially support the country. There is something indescribably obscene about a Prime Minister who fills Parliament and the media with carefully controlled images of himself, at a cost of billions of taxpayers’ money, while 1 in 7 Canadians (4.8 million people,) live in poverty.

Any would-be politician who told the truth to the people, who straight up said, “hey, we’re in big trouble. The party’s over. Time to clean up the mess,” would never get elected. Carefully controlled and contrived issues aimed at election and re-election sweep the bigger, inevitable crises in the making further under the rug, to be dealt with, sometime, somehow, by someone other than themselves.

There’s no better way to describe this sort of pandering and lala land thinking than with Donald Trump’s words on ‘ObamaCare’ at the debate. “It’s gotta go,” Repeal and replace with something terrific.”

trump-quotes“Something terrific.” Nothing that actually exists, or that may even be possible to create, just “something terrific.” I’ll get my interns on that , stat.

Here’s the thing. Politics used to be about choosing a leader who was smarter, more informed, with hopefully a better grasp on their emotions than you have, and a driving need to improve the well-being of their country. Now it’s about galvanizing dispirited, frustrated voters with rhetoric and appeals to base fears, by politicians who regard spending time actually running the country as detrimental to their real job of getting elected and then re-elected. It’s hard not to see the ridiculous squabbles in Parliament and Congress as anything but an unruly classroom of bratty twelve year olds, killing time until recess.

And what that ends up creating is a country where millions of voters can’t even cover the basics, like water, food, shelter and clothing. We’re so busy fighting an imaginary enemy that we don’t see the real adversary right in front of us; apathy, and surrender to whatever distorted messages corporations and politicians funnel into our increasingly empty heads.    milk on head

It’s remarkable, really. From prosperity to austerity, from hope to despair, from security to nameless fear and dread. Quite a feat, when the most that the majority of us want to attain is a relatively bump free ride from birth to death.

I’ll take my bare necessities, seasoned with music, good friends, and the occasional delight of a delicious meal. And I’ll wash that down with a cold beer and a gratefulness for what I have.