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.

No Sleep Til Brooklyn …


When I mentioned that I was going for a sleep apnea test a while back, I was surprised at how many people I knew that had already undergone the polysomnogram. Was this an aging thing, something that happens as our bodies rebel against all the indignities we’ve put them through?

Time for a PSA! Here’s what you need to know …

sleep-apnea-riskSleep apnea is a disorder that anyone can experience, even little kids. But it’s more likely to happen if you’re male, over 40, overweight, and have a family history. It’s also common in those who suffer from gastric reflux, or who have a history of allergies, sinus problems, a deviated septum, large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone. Having a larger neck (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women) may indicate problems as well.

Basically, apnea is when you stop breathing, or have difficulty breathing. Naturally, this can create problems, since your brain would prefer you breathe at all times. And there are two kinds of sleep apnea – one involves a blockage of the airway, when the soft tissue (that big tongue or tonsils) collapses at the back while you sleep, and the other kind, which is when your brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center. If you snore, you may have experienced the same sort of temporary breathing cessation.

Beyond that pesky “needing to breathe to live” thing, problems with sleep of any kind can lead to everything from headaches, and being distracted at work and school, to depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart failure. Oh yeah, and to top it off, poor sleep makes you more likely to be overweight. So really, this is something you don’t want to ignore.

On the day that I was to take the test, I was told to abstain from caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, but to otherwise eat as normal, and report to the clinic for 8pm machine that goes pingwith my jammies. And so, one cold and snowy night, me and my footie pyjamas were ushered into what looked like a budget motel room, where I filled in numerous forms and was then weighed and measured, before being hooked up to the machine that doesn’t go ‘ping!’

 

Here’s what happens next: “About two dozen sensors are applied to the skin of your head and body with a mild adhesive. These small metal discs are called electrodes. They are connected to a computer and record the vital signs of your sleep. The wires are long enough to let you move around and turn over in bed. Flexible elastic belts around your chest and abdomen measure your breathing. A clip on your fingersleep study or earlobe monitors your heart rate and the level of oxygen in your blood. None of these devices are painful. They are all designed to be as comfortable as possible. The sensors may feel strange on your skin at first. But most people get used to them very quickly. They should not be an obstacle that keeps you from falling asleep. After everything is hooked up, you will do a test to make sure it is all in working order. You will be asked to move your eyes, clench your teeth and move your legs. Once it is all ready, you are free to read or watch TV until your normal bedtime. Then the lights are turned out and it is time for you to go to sleep.

Yes, it’s a tad intrusive. But I’m game. So in a fairly short time, I fell asleep. Between the electrodes, the strangeness of the room, and the howling winter winds bouncing off the building like sonic booms, I’d guesstimate I got about 4 hours sleep total. I’ve never been so glad to get up and go home at 6 a.m. in my life.

And then, you wait. The analysis of a sleep study is a complex and time-consuming process. A typical sleep study produces about 1,000 pages of data. This information includes things such as brain waves, eye movements, and breathing patterns. It requires hours of work from a trained professional to accurately analyze the results. A sleep technologist processes or “scores” all of this data.  A sleep study is not somethisleep-clinicGlobeMailng that you pass or fail. The scored results are simply given to a doctor for further evaluation. At an accredited center, this doctor must be a board-certified sleep specialist. The doctor will review the study to find out what kind of sleep problem you may have. Because of the detail and amount of time involved, it usually takes about two weeks for you to get the results. The doctor who ordered the study will discuss the results with you. If your primary care doctor ordered it, then the results are sent to him or her. If you met with a doctor in the sleep center, then he or she will tell you the results.”

So it was about a month later that I heard from the sleep centre. Both my husband and I were fairly certain that I hadn’t a problem, but since we lack those twelve plus years of actual med school, thought we’d defer to a professional’s better judgment.

As it turns out, I do have a mild case, along with some moderate snoring. It could easily be relieved by stopping smoking, dropping ten pounds, and getting some exercise now and again. However, if I chose not to clean up my act, or if my particular apnea had been more severe, I would have been advised to first test drive, and then purchase, a machine called a CPAP.

CPAP six CPAPsThis is a mask that will either cover your nose or your nose and mouth. Another version has soft silicone tubes, called nasal pillows, which fit directly in your nostrils, and provide a steady stream of air that gently blows into the back of your throat. This treatment is called positive airway pressure (PAP). While there are three kinds of PAP, the most common uses a level of pressure that remains continuous (CPAP.) In Canada, Health Insurance subsidizes a percentage of the cost, but, depending on the model you choose to buy, you’re looking at shelling out somewhere between $200 and $1000.

(Apparently there’s a thriving ‘black market’ for ‘gently used’ CPAP masks on Craigslist and Kijiji as well … though some might find it a little spooky to buy grandma’s old hand-me-down contraption.)

Bottom line, sleep is important for everyone. Getting older often means accepting certain health problems, but sleep disturbance should not be one of them – the brain and body simply cannot function properly and efficiently without being refreshed nightly.

So if your doctor wants you to have a sleep study, go for it. Worse than can happen is that you’ll lose a few hours of rest in your own lumpy bed. Bpsaest case scenario might mean a vast improvement in your health and overall enjoyment of life.

And that concludes our Public Service Announcement.

At the sound of the tone, you may go back to your regularly scheduled activities … ping!

 

Greece Is The Word


The outcome of the election in Greece is sending shock waves across Europe. Syriza, the left-wing, anti-austerity party led by new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, won 36% (149 of the Parliament’s 300 seats,) and, by forming a coalition government with the center-right Independent Greeks’ win of 13 seats, will have least 162 seats, a viable majority.

Greece new govt plansThe new government plans to raise the minimum wage, and create 300,000 new jobs, reverse the bank bailouts and stop banks from foreclosing on home owner’s principle residences, close corporate loopholes and offshore havens, and bring in a voucher system to help seniors in need receive food and healthcare.

For more than five years, the Greek citizens have been crushed under austerity policies imposed by the Economic Union’s “troika” of creditors; the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Greek foreign debt currently stands at 175% of Gross Domestic Product.

Almost a third of Greece’s economy collapsed under the restrictions. Since June 5, 2011, when the “Indignant Citizens Movement” or the “Greek indignados“, held a demonstration of between 300,000 – 500,000 people protesting in front of the Greek Parliament, a change in government thinking has been pre-ordained. greek protests 2011

The Greek protest was non-violent for about a month, but on June 29, 2011, the police cracked down viciously on the protesters. Three people were killed, and accusations of police brutality, excessive use of tear gas, as well as the alleged use of other expired and carcinogenic chemical substances, led to an outcry by international media and Amnesty International.

austerity greeceWith half the population in poverty, and no end in sight to continued austerity and misery, it was inevitable that the people would rise up, and demand change.

“Both Syriza and Independent Greeks have detailed emergency economic programs that will commit their government to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe left by five years of the hated Troika policy. The damage has been unprecedented short of wartime, and has led to unemployment officially at 28%, but considered by experts to be actually as high as 45%; pensions and salaries have been slashed by 25-45%. The destruction of the health-care system has increased the child mortality rate, the suicide rate, and the death rate.” (http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2015/4205grk_elex_eup_new_deal.html)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech  at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, ScotlandEuropean leaders were swift to denounce Greece’s audacity. British PM David Cameron tweeted, “The Greek election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe.” (Britain’s membership in the European Union is a major issue in the campaign for the upcoming May election.)

russia-greeceGerman Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann told ARD network that he hoped “the new Greek government will not make promises it cannot keep and the country cannot afford.” But Germany’s opposition Left Party l called the Syriza victory a “sign of hope for a new start in Europe.” And today, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told CNBC that Russia would consider giving financial help to debt-ridden Greece.

The EU is shaken by the possibility that Italy, Portugal and Ireland, also horribly impacted by austerity measures, will follow Greece’s lead. Fiscal conservatives fear that Greece’s demand to write off up to half of their of €240bn debt will create a “Global Event,” on the scale of the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers Holdings, who went bankrupt with $600 billion in assets.

German Economics 1953But there is precedent in countries restructuring debt. In 1953, Germany was in a similar position to Greece today. With debt from pre-and post-war, they owed nearly 30 billion Deutschmarks to around 70 countries. With no access to capital, and creditors who didn’t believe the country could turn the economy around, Germany was desperate for cash to begin the country’s reconstruction and growth.

Despite budget cuts and laborious repayments, the economic burden was crushing their population. FinanDebt-Accord-290cial negotiations were begun by banker Hermann-Josef Abs, who led a German delegation in London in 1953. He hoped to turn the creditors of today into the financiers and investors of tomorrow. But the foreign creditors felt his first offers were insulting.

The London Debt Agreement, finally signed on February 27, 1953, saw half of Germany’s debts written off, with the rest restructured for the long-term. Germany was not to be economically overburdened. Today, our view of Germany’s economy is paired with the idea that the German people are just a very hard-working people. But none of what Germany accomplished would have been possible without the Agreement.

Greek beach NaxosThose who believe that Greece’s new vision is childish and selfish stereotype Greece’s economy as being irreparably rife with corruption and greed, and fed by an indolent, Mediterranean lifestyle. Those same people once thought that all Germans were Nazis.

greek protests 2014In fact, the average Greek retirement age is nearly 65, but the pension is quite small, requiring many retirees to continue working as long as they are physically able. According to Eurostat statistics, the Greeks work 40.6 hours a week, the highest of all 27 EU member states. The ordinary Greek citizen in not lounging on the beach drinking ouzo, they have been protesting in the streets, as tax increases and social security cuts destroy the peoples’ hope, and the public sectors are privatized to serve as collateral to service the European debt.

The Eurozone finance ministers have no intention of continuing debt relief negotiations unless the new Syriza government promises to honour all existing austerity agreements. Meanwhile, the Euro is trending downward, and the Podemos in Spain, a year-old political party that has surged to the top of the polls promising to reverse austerity in Spain and impose a levy on banks, are poised to join Greece in challenging the stranglehold of the Troika. As Tsipras pointed out during his victory speech, the old ways of doing things in Europe are doomed.   debts are not destiny

Running On Empty


It’s minus -21C today – that’s 5 below zero in Fahrenheit – and it’s so cold my cats have cat I has a sadgone beyond being angry and have become despondent, either staring sadly into space or denying the existence of the world with their heads smacked up against a wall. I’m sitting at my desk, wrapped in a black flannel poncho, and wondering where I’ve left my fingerless gloves.

I sprang from my bed this morning, rested and brimming with ideas of ‘great social and political import,’ but instead of researching, I’m waiting for oatmeal to cook – this is not the sort of day you face on an empty stomach.

On days like this I am very grateful for the science and technology that allows me to stay warm. I’m over the moon that I can flip a switch and have light to see by, and flip another switch to start up my computer and read mail and messages from family and friends. I’m really pleased that I have warm clothing that just rests in my closet until I want to wear it, and I’m grateful for the closet being part of a house that has walls and a roof that keep out the worst of the cold.

Silly-HolidaysWe often take for granted what less fortunate people would consider luxuries. We set aside a day here and a day there to give lip service to the giving of thanks, the honouring of lovers, parents, veterans and a host of others to whom we see fit to throw a bone. “Here you go, secretaries. It’s not much, but we’re calling today National Secretary Day! As soon as you’ve read that card, I’ll have a coffee with two sugars. Thanks for being you!”

Our culture has moulded us into people that can never have enough. Everywhere we turn we’re told that we’re missing out on something – a new power drill, an iPhone6, a bigger or tidier home, a more luxurious car, vacations in the sun, and most importantly … money, money, money!

and then we'll get himEven though studies have definitively shown that those with heaps of money are not significantly happier than those with enough to comfortably cover their needs, we’re still told that it is only with the amassing of wealth that we can really be content.

In reality, rich people are not all tanning by their dollar-shaped pools while chatting casually with the men and women we’ve elevated to media stardom. They’re far more likely to be spending their time trying to get yet more money, in any way possible, and are probably more anxious and hostile than you are when trying to decide whether to go with a name brand tin of peas or the generic house brand.

Scrooge-PorpoiseBeing addicted to money is like being addicted to drugs; at first, a small amount gives you a buzz, but as time goes by, you need higher and higher doses to maintain the high. And if money is your drug, that upward spiral contains another component – a need to have more than anyone else, to have it all, regardless of whom it damages. Exorbitant, mindless wealth precludes empathy towards those who struggle to survive on minimum wage or government assistance.

“The peasants have no bread!” “Then let them eat cake,” tittered Queen Marie Antoinette. Her joke, rather than having them rolling in the aisles, soon had heads rolling from the guillotine instead.

That anecdote is likely only the fabrication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiographical, “Confessions,” but has been used ever since as a cautionary tale of the perils of great wealth and self-indulgence in the face of social unrest. One would think the lesson would be self-explanatory, but apparently the accumulation of wealth does not always translate to the accumulation of historical knowledge.

In Canada, we can point to arriviste Kevin O’Leary, who, with a net worth of US$300 million that the true 1% would consider pocket change, can’t seem to stop patting himself on the back. When he’s not crowing over his own wealth, he’s exhorting the poor of the world to pull themselves up by their socks – even if they don’t own any socks.

But of course, that’s the dream we’ve been sold since the Industrial Revolution. “Come, work for me, make me wealthy and I will share my largesse. You too can be like me, all you need do is work hard, save your money, and keep your nose to the grindstone.” And we bought it, for decades. We called it the Protestant work ethic, and called anyone who didn’t agree lazy and stupid.

scrooge silly pleasures“The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and diligence as a constant display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition.

The phrase was initially coined in 1904–5 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” (Wikipedia.org)

We forget that his essay was his observations on the Germany of his time, and not a ‘how-to’ manual. Weber considered himself agnostic. His argument was that Catholicism, with its emphasis on doing good works in the hope of eternal salvation, rather than pursuing wealth for its own sake, impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West.

Capitalism depends upon everyone in the society believing in the same goals. When the West had a booming middle class, there was room within the prosperity to dream of a country free of traditional constraints. We could reach out a hand to those who needed help, be they poor or infirm, or young or old. That sense of community resulted in government safety nets and a surge of infrastructure building that connected and included all of the people, regardless of their economic place.

North America looked at what they had wrought in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and found it good. Good enough to not make a priority again until it started to collapse around us.

glittering TorontoIt’s been decades since the roads and bridges and communities were put in place, decades in which the needs of the wealthy became more important in politics than the needs of the tax payer. In Toronto, once Canada’s most glittering city, our highways are clogged with commuters, while our transit system is woefully inadequate to shuttle workers from their homes to their jobs. The local politicians have been arguing about whether to tear down the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway since the 1990’s. And the majority of our subway system, which opened in 1954, is held together with patches and prayers.

business and politicsThere’s blame enough for everyone at this sorry state. Although we love to complain about ‘the system,’ every aspiring politician has to present a platform that will be seen to not only address community issues, but cost the tax payer less. Once in office, the newly elected official can point to budgetary concerns, and remind us all that there aren’t any funds since he’s cut taxes, just as we requested. Or that they are working on a solution, but we mustn’t hope to see real change until some year in the future where they will hopefully no longer be held accountable for the project and the additional costs incurred during the delay.

Politics on crosswordFor corporations, political concerns are less about the community, and more about expediting the accumulation of more wealth. Despite needing an infrastructure that allows workers to arrive at the work place on time, and roads and other delivery systems to get product to consumers, the emphasis is placed squarely on tax cuts that they have convinced politicians, and even many consumers, will result in a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Corporations spend billions on pushing forward measures that will deny workers fair wages and benefits, and will spend yet more on media essentially blackmailing consumers into giving them what they demand. Health care, no. More tax cuts, yes. Or we’ll take our ball (company, franchise) and go home. Many even believe that we have no other alternative but to agree.

The last several decades of austerity for the general public, but unheard of wealth for the few, is slowly shaping us into a timid, obedient mass, who are only valued as long as we are able to further enrich business through our labour and consumption of goods and services.

hedonic-treadmillThe pursuit of happiness has become a joyless pursuit of money, dooming its followers to an endless treadmill of greed and desperation. You’ll never catch up to the 1%, no matter how hard you try, but real happiness and satisfaction can be had in a life that encompasses empathy, generosity, and gratitude for what you’ve achieved.