Ruminations

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

"In Demand" Caregivers

In child rearing and child management issues the clear priorities for many families remain who will tend to the needs of these children while their parents are out of the house, both working at paid employment? The search for day-care alternatives for these children of parents, neither of whom see the need to remain with their children to offer them the care, emotional support and stimulation that growing children require to attain their full potential, consumes their time and their thoughts.

So that when, finally, a source is discovered where the child or children can be left in the care of someone other than themselves, it presents as a huge relief. Relieving the parents of the responsibility of looking after their own children, and permitting them the option of leaving their home to travel to and from their workplace, knowing that their children are secure in the capable hands of a day-care caregiver, a child-minder.

How many women are functionally capable of looking after five children at various stages of growth and maturity, emotional needs and age-appropriate stimulation? With the required patience, the reflexive action to respond as and when needed, the fond need to fulfill for these children the parental duties that their natural parents have chosen to abrogate. Someone who is not related to the children by blood.

Someone for whom this is a paid occupation, however much that someone may declare themselves to be fully committed to the welfare of other peoples' children. Five children under the age of ten, excluding the caregiver's natural children, is the limit to which the province will legally permit child care caregivers to have in their home. This applies to registered and unregistered home care situations alike.

Does a parent, eagerly searching for a handy and reliable place to park their child while they're off working, really want to know all the necessary details, other than to be shown the play equipment their child will be using, the food-quality of the menus that will be served (perhaps surpassing in nutritional quality the convenience foods used at home) and the medicine cabinet usage in the event of trivial little accidents.

Unlicensed day-care givers are swamped with requests. They reach the maximum they can accommodate, then reluctantly turn away all others anxious to make use of their services. Some registered childcare service agencies will not permit their licensed providers to own pools. Which practise is a sound and sensible one, neatly discounting the potential for child drownings. They do, however, encourage their caregivers to 'get together' for play dates with the children in their care.

Resulting in a situation where a handful of caregivers, four for example, assemble with their charges, say four to five for each caregiver for a total of 16 to 20 children of various ages, in someone's backyard for a get-together for the caregivers, and a 'play date' for the children. If that backyard has a pool within it, then all those children are placed in a situation of potential danger.

Which is precisely what occurred at a home on Rougemount Crescent in Orleans, when a two-year-old child drowned while all those caregivers were present, discussing what women will discuss when they're together, while children play together. Despite the death of the young child, one of the mothers of one of the youngsters in the care of the woman in whose backyard the pool is installed, swears by her trust in the capability of her child's care-giver.

A care-giver who enjoys an excellent reputation in the neighbourhood, whose services are zealously sought after, and who, unfortunately, has her child-roster full at the moment, and has been turning away enquiries from other parents anxious to find minders for their children so they may be free to do as they will.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Children: Values, Priorities

What is the matter with people? They delegate their children to the care of others because they feel their own time is too valuable to be wasted looking after their own.

Perhaps instead of relegating children to second-place importance in their lives they might be more advantaged and so would their children, having their parents more present in their lives. The problem is one of economics. Not so much that a traditional two-parent family struggles to get by on one salary, but that on that one salary it becomes a struggle to live in the manner they have accustomed themselves to.

The children are given over to the care of licensed, and unlicensed day-care-givers. Parents entrusting the well-being and welfare of their responsibilities to others. Largely strangers who have undertaken to open a family business. And who likely do a fairly good job of it in the process. But there remains a huge gap in the lives of these children.

When people undertake to present as 'professionals' - which they are, when they are paid to produce a service - they are practical and detached, not emotionally involved. That deep emotional attachment to a child, assuring the child that someone very close is involved because of love, and who offers emotional support and stimulation and encouragement is absent.

How positive is that for a child's development? Add to that the failures inherent in the process when day-care providers are occasionally charged with abuse, and innumerable other instances where too many children are taken into private day-care for a single attendant to properly and adequately supervise them; a failed and flawed process ensues.

These are the same parents who, to 'compensate' for their absence in their children's daily lives, speak of 'quality' family time. When the focus, in brief evening-together times is 'being together'. The very same parents who spend a fortune in buying expensive toys and electronic games and cellphones and computers and televisions and motorized bicycles and ATVs for their children.
Parents cannot possibly be ignorant of these anomalous lapses into quasi-parenthood.

Nor are they unaware of the risks involved in having others care for their children, people whom they beg to take on their child, even though there are already too many in that establishment for the number of supervisors. But they prefer to overlook the inconvenient facts. Or to look for alternate day care, or to commit themselves to their own children's welfare.

And then there are those dreadful instances where a child-care provider's attention is distracted from the vital need to watch a very young child, and the worst possible scenario results.

Backyard pools and young children make for a lethal mix. And irrespective of how careful child-minders are in the proximity of pools, including those which have the requisite safety features of fencing and self-closing gates, the potential for disaster remains. Children are determined, fearless and curious, and the need to watch and guide them constantly is too great to be compromised.

Five minutes' attention otherwise engaged than on routinely and automatically checking the whereabouts of a toddler is all that is required to allow that child sufficient time to accident himself out of existence. Which is precisely what occurred at an east-end Ottawa private day care when a number of adult supervisors were assembled, along with 22 children and a 2-year-old toddled into an above-ground pool.

Society's values and priorities have become sadly skewed. The tragedy of yet another child death might be inevitable in the greater scheme of things; even young children entrusted to their own parents' and grandparents' care sometimes meet the same sad end. But we can weight things more favourably toward a child's welfare.

Yet personally selfish and deliberately oblivious 'needs' dictate otherwise.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Flagrant Parental Abdication

When parents abandon diligent responsibility for the welfare of their children, it does represent as child abuse. Society doesn't see it that way, however. Instead, parents who present their children with gifts that are a potential danger to them, are thought to be loving, indulgent parents. And most certainly the children accept it in this manner. That their caring, emotionally supportive parents assent to gift them with the latest that mobile technology offers because they are loved.

Parents and care-givers whose attention span is all too often challenged beyond adequate response, later lamenting the loss of infants and young children for whom the cool water of an accessible backyard pool was simply irresistible. Parents who indulgently give their very young children motorized vehicles to dash about with, on their rural property.

And then the papers are rife with sad stories of under-age children dying in snowmobile accidents because they were too immature to properly drive the vehicles. Stories replete with sorrowful parents describing the adventurous nature of their dead children. Lingering on the fun-loving spirit of a lost child.

In the summer, it is all-terrain-vehicles in rural areas given to children to amuse themselves with. Children who lack the physical strength, manual dexterity, spatial understanding, and realization of the danger that they may be placing themselves in with uncontrolled speed, and who end up in hospital emergency wards.

Worse, those like the 8-year-old girl crushed to death in Cheneville, Quebec, under an ATV when the vehicle she or her 7-year-old sister was driving flipped.

What is wrong with these people? They have children and with parenting they have the solemn obligation to mentor and nourish and cherish their children, not place them directly in harm's way, feeling they are privileging their children by hurrying them into situations they cannot control.

Where is their common sense, in being alert and capable of visualizing danger to their children?

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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Defintion of "Parent"

How contemptible, how utterly unforgivable, the very thought of the possibility of the abandonment of children, by their mother.

In their formative years, needing a parent's guiding hand and emotional support, to be left to their own devices, to puzzle out how they could conceivably look after their immediate needs. Shelter and food the uppermost needs of survival. No manner of shelter or food nourishes a soul that has been left adrift, a young boy or girl bereft of parental oversight and caring guidance.

How could such abandoned children, having grown to adulthood bear anything but a shrivelled and dry memory of such a parent?

No possible room for any memories other than the time they were summarily left on their own, to rise to an impossible occasion, to be responsible for their well-being in a world that would have become suddenly bleak and strange and unwelcoming. Which such children, become adults would have any curiosity whatever about the whereabouts and well-being of such parents?

Ken Anderson, fifteen years old when his mother informed him she had no further use for him and left him on his own, following his father who evidently also had no further interest in this boy. Furthering his education was out of the question; his first priority was to keep body and soul together, whatever there was of each. With a number of casual jobs at gas stations. And no permanent home.

Thirty-one years later, he is made aware that his mother, now 71, has expectations that he and four of his five siblings will care enough to ensure she is well looked after. Not that she is counting on their kindly memories of their loving mother. Instead, she is suing them, using British Columbia's Family Relations Act that has an obscure section legally obliging children to support 'dependent' parents.

One wonders, is it too late for Mr. Anderson and his siblings, all of whom loathe the very thought of the woman who left them to fend for themselves, to sue their mother for damaging their lives, for abandoning them, for leaving them to stumble about fearfully in a world without adult direction and support? "The only time she ever called was to ask for money", Mr. Anderson says of his mother.

Even so, he has not spoken with her for almost twenty years, up until the time she decided to sue them for support; before the lawsuit. A lawsuit hanging on an 80-year-old section of the law when no public pension program existed, unemployment was rife, and governments were anxious to ensure the poverty-stricken and the ill did not become state wards.

As far as Mr. Anderson and his siblings are concerned they have no feelings of concern whatever for the welfare of the woman who abandoned them as children. They cannot even afford a lawyer, but they have determined between them that they would fight this affront to decency.

They feel they have no moral or legal or empathetic obligation to raise a finger or to donate scarce funds to a woman purporting to be their mother, but representing in the words of Donna Anderson, the "mother we never had."

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mind-Boggling Sophistry

"As callous and cold as it sounds, there was nothing that could be done. The life wasn't endangered by the activity." Lawyer Norm Boxall
" When you hit somebody with your car and drive away you are exposing them to danger, harm and risk. The fact other people happened to be present doesn't mitigate the danger he left Mr. O'Neil in." Prosecutor Assistant Crown Attorney Jason Neubauer
Two lawyers. One the crown prosecutor, the other the lawyer for the defence. One wonders, if their positions were reversed, would they also have forwarded the same arguments? Is there any honour among lawyers, or is the law only there to be manipulated to make it seem as though the defence is reasonable, and the prosecutor too wedded to the letter of the law?

And it is for Ontario Court Justice Heather Perkins McVey to plod her way through the arguments to arrive at a decision thought to be precedent-setting on whether a man brought before a court of justice in Canada, Andrew Wieczorek, who drove under the influence of alcohol, and speeding, struck and killed an 18-year-old pedestrian, and then sped from the scene. Mr. Wieczorek pleaded guilty to the charge of leaving the scene.

After he had struck and killed the young man he drove home. He likely took a shower, cursing the inconvenient turn his life had just taken, took another shot of alcohol to steady his nerves, and made his way to bed. In the morning, he contacted his father, hired a lawyer, and turned himself in to the Ottawa police. Here I am, guilty of leaving the scene, nothing more, nothing less. Analyze my breath for alcohol now, if you wish.

The victim had himself been celebrating his 18th birthday, drinking with friends. He did not sit himself before the steering wheel of a car. He undertook to walk home. Un-alert to traffic, he crossed against the light, was hit by the 22-year-old man who had enjoyed a night of alcoholic beverages with friends, was tossed over the median and into the northbound lanes of traffic. Most unfortunate.

Failing to remain at the scene of a collision, argued the prosecution, constitutes a "serious personal injury offence" under the Criminal Code. Leaving someone injured at the side of a road without bothering to stop, or to call for help is criminal negligence. The defence, however, contends that the busy intersection was full of people and other drivers, any of whom might come to the aid of the young man struck by the driver who drove off.

His client should be sentenced to no more than 90 days, perhaps intermittently served on week-ends. The value of a young man's life.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

An Earned Rest

Archbishop Desmond Tutu seemed, at a geographic remove, and from the reportage coming out of South Africa, like a decent, well-intentioned and compassionate man. With a puckish sense of humour that always has an important place anytime in human relations. He's getting on, and stepping away from formal public life. His placid demeanor and earnest dedication to conciliatory relations between the races in South Africa echoed that of Nelson Mandela.

They both appeared as extraordinary figures of human decency during the vicious era of Apartheid. Neither opted for violence to attain justice, both represented a peaceful turnover of administrations, and they did not seek revenge on their former tormentors, but invited them to become part of the new South Africa.

They shared a vision of South Africa that elevated the ugly to the sublime. A country of equality and opportunity and freedom to achieve what could be achieved; a huge move forward for an important country in a neglected, strife-torn continent of huge, teeming tribal animosities and brutal dictatorships.

And then, for a while, it looked as though everything would come to fruition. While Nelson Mandela presided over the African National Congress, the country seemed to move toward its goal, of providing employment to all, decent living accommodations, education and equal opportunities to advance everyone into another, advanced century of attainment. The advance stalled.

Poverty remains endemic, unemployment is rife, and so are infectious diseases. And while violent crime in South Africa has a wide scope, its people have also become xenophobic, unwilling to aid their desperate brethren fleeing from untenable institutionalized violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, in Somalia and Pakistan. The government is doing its best to embrace the need to give haven, the people are resistant, forgetting what neighbours did for them.

The country has its political, social elite, an entitled and wealthy minority, while inadequate housing, medical treatment and job opportunities plague huge segments of the country. Yet the country splurged on inviting the world to come and celebrate with it, at its coming-out party hosting the World Cup of Soccer where no expense was spared to throw a lavish display.

How conflicted men like Desmund Tutu and Nelson Mandela must have felt, yet full of pride at the same time, that South Africa could command the world's attention at such a festive event, yet in the background the seething mess of a country in dire need remained, to return to the forefront. Yet there is just so much and no more that one man can do.

And Archbishop Desmond Tutu has done more than one single man's turn. Still, it must pain him horribly to witness the descending mess of the African National Congress, and its stupendous failures.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reality Brief: Obesity and Pregnancy Don't Mix Well

Doesn't take a genius to understand that when a woman decides to undergo a pregnancy she should be in good physical shape. The hormonal changes that alter her body, the adjustments required to ensure a healthy pregnancy to produce a healthy baby are paramount to the process.

If a woman is severely overweight, she stands a risk to her own health, one that includes a likelihood of hypertension, of gestational diabetes, delivery problems, pre-eclampsia, and of course, neo-natal complications. The entire enterprise can be placed in dire jeopardy.

That, related to the growing incidence of obesity among the general population, including young people, and certainly including young women aspiring to motherhood, leads to a dangerous situation. The greater weight the woman carries, the greater the risk to her health and that of her fetus. Including the heightened risk of premature delivery.

Premature babies are at increased risk of breathing problems, infection, feeding problems and a plethora of other significant health-averse problems. Data from Statistics Canada indicate that fully 29% of women living in the country are overweight. That's a staggering statistic. Obesity rates are rising to the extent that babies born prematurely has doubled in 25 years.

With that risk comes a higher percentage of cesarean sections, a procedure which itself can lead to high rates of mortality, both mother and child. Yet cesarean sections are becoming increasingly common as a mode of delivery. Babies born to obese mothers (23% of Canadian pregnancies) are more likely to be at increased risk of obesity and diabetes themselves.

A sudden rise in blood pressure in obese expectant woman can be life-threatening to both mother and baby. Obesity can lead to blood clots and diabetes. Overweight women, more likely to undergo a C-section, are also at higher risk of uncontrollable bleeding and destabilizing infections.

The higher costs associated with tending to the needs of obese, pregnant women and their babies over-burdens an already-overstrained health care system. Add to that the fact that new equipment is required, given the new demographics of overweight women in their childbearing years. Maternity wards having to be entirely retro-fitted to care for these women.

Operating rooms outfitted with stronger tables capable of bearing the weight of obese women, wider wheelchairs, and sturdy lift devices to cope with the increase in obese expectant women. Representing yet another cost to hospitals and to taxpayers, taking funding away from other needed areas, simply to be able to cope with the needs of the obese.

The long-term prognosis for a continuation of the rising tide of obese mothers and at-risk babies is nothing to celebrate. But there is more, newer research that appears to demonstrate the higher risk of spontaneous pre-term births where date-averse contractions begin, bringing labour to a conclusion, or where doctors intervene by performing a C-section to prevent complications.

The risk of induced preterm births (before 37 weeks) rises to 30% for obese women with a BMI of 35 or over. For the extremely obese the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery rises to 70%. These women also share a 25% higher risk of delivering before 32 or 33 weeks' gestation. Placing their babies at high risk for complications related to premature birth.

Where's the sense in that? When women are desperate to conceive, turning to IVF procedures, and those failures leave them bereft of hope, when in many instances they might be exercising restraint in their food intake, why seek sympathy and financial support from the health care system?

It's past time that people take responsibility for their choices, and becoming morbidly overweight, then deciding to proceed with a pregnancy is not a responsible decision.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Property Management Aspirations

Well, that's great news. Crime in Canada, according to new data from Statistics Canada, is steadily dropping. Homicide rates have gone down, as have robberies. A substantial decrease in both areas. Alas, break-ins represent the most serious category of property crimes committed in the country, also the most common, accounting for 15% of all property crimes. They too, however, appear to be decreasing.

Not an awful lot of consolation to those who have suffered break-ins. Particularly in light of what appears to be a growing trend. Disaffected, anti-social youth not only conspire to break into properties to avail themselves of other peoples' hard-earned trophies, but also to express their contempt for those unknown individuals whose inner sanctorums they are invading.

They do this by leaving behind in their wake, quite unmistakable symptoms of their aggrievement with life, with society and with the unknown people who inhabit the homes they have trashed. Imagine returning to your home to discover the signs of illegal entry, and then realizing that valued items are now gone, your privacy invaded, and your sense of security damaged beyond repair.

Go a little further and try to imagine what people returning to their homes discovered through a spate of break-ins in the Ottawa area: everything within brushed with paint, holes punched in the television screen, your computer monitor smashed, ditto pictures on the wall, and the walls themselves dented. Keepsake jewellery, clothing? Taken or trashed along with Xbox video games.

Your fearful, cowering little dog? Covered with paint. Your pet gecko? Fried in the microwave. Kitchen cupboards and bedrooms ransacked, items tossed everywhere. Flat-screen TV, DVD player, stereo system, BlackBerry, all gone. An LCD flatscreen TV taken away while the resident slept. Not merely your trust in security destroyed but your total peace of mind. All of these intrusions in broad daylight.

What kind of sociopath would enter someone's house and view it as an opportunity to be so boldly assertive in their despicable attitudes that they haul along with them gallons of paint for the specific purpose of dumping it everywhere? And then for good measure, leaving human feces as a final comment on the state of their mental disability.

One of the victims, in fact, a counselor who works with the developmentally-disabled. Who likely might never have imagined the prospect of her privacy, her possessions ever being trashed to the extent of complete destruction at the hands of the intelligence-disabled. As it transpired, in this particular instance where seven houses were broken into, police lifted incriminating fingerprints.

And they now have in custody two teens. A 17 and a 16-year old, whose identities are protected through the Youth Protection Act. Youth whose incendiary contempt and hatred for society so deeply entrenched that they have already amassed a criminal record. Whose parents have thrown in the towel, attempting to promote curfews and assert control with whom their boys consorted.

Crimes of robbery and assault. Fingerprints matched to an empty beer bottle, a sliding window. On three separate probation orders at the time of arrest for the latest spree. Charged with five counts of break, enter and theft, one of killing an animal, two counts of failing to comply with a youth sentence.

"What kind of a world do we live in?" asked one of the victims.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Elderly and Missing

A personal tragedy become public news. An elderly couple, long married, on a destination to meet with other family members, a granddaughter with whom they would do some camping. Setting out from their home in Alberta, heading toward British Columbia. An adventure, something to look forward to. A capable elderly man and his wife with whom he had spent a lifetime, depending on him to look after both their needs. He was that kind of capable.

They travelled in comfort, those two, both approaching their 80s. The comfort of a motorhome, and a SUV they towed behind for those times when they would leave the motorhome parked in a camping ground and motor off somewhere temporarily. It was clear they'd done this kind of thing often, in the past. They had made arrangements to meet their daughter, and they did not appear at the appointed place at the time expected.

Their motorhome discovered abandoned and in flames. Police attempted to contact the owners but there was no response. A huge shrug, property was stolen, destroyed all the time. A common enough occurrence. They would wait until they had a report filed of stolen property. Or try to get in touch with the owners again. A week later a report was filed, not stolen property but missing people. Then the search for the couple's SUV.

A person of interest, someone with a violently unsavoury reputation was being sought. He was elusive, and people thought the worst of him, that he might have been involved. Involved? The elderly couple unlikely to be found alive. Though their extended family hope otherwise. Waiting to grab the telephone, to hear the familiar voice at the other end, laughing off the series of events that had led to their missing the meeting date.

Not likely to happen. The man police warned people not to approach, but to immediately call the RCMP on sighting has been taken into custody. A man whose own father describes him as dangerous, warning people not to confront him lest they place themselves in peril. A man whose father disowns him, who has cut off contact with him. A man who has a wife, relieved to no longer be living with him.

A man wanted on earlier warrants. A man now in custody. Two elderly people whose whereabouts have still not been established. A private tragedy, a public mystery.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Unnatural Resources

Treasures from the ocean floor. Beyond the bright, colourful tropical fish whose sizes and shapes and hues delight those who descend to view them in their natural habitat. And beyond the seafood that human beings consume, the fish and shellfish that are so much a part of a healthy human diet. Yes, there are aquatic plants, corals, and wonderful underwater scenes representing a world below our own.

Yet who knew that man-made treasures abound there that may also be consumed with pleasure?

Premium brand Veuve Clicquote, to be precise. Thirty bottles of which have been brought to the surface, assessed by a wine expert to be "fabulous", despite their 240-some-odd years' vintage. Making them the most elderly of all champagnes, yet potable. This is what ideal conditions can make of venerable vintages, and the cold of the ocean floor is what has preserved this inestimable wine which never reached its original destination.

Knowledgeable historians have concluded that these bottles most likely represent a shipment forwarded by King Louis XVI, to the Russian Imperial Court. On the basis of their having been identified as Veuve Clicquot, first produced in 1772, augmented by the identifying cork, and the fact that the wine makers have no record of the delivery ever having reached its intended destination.

Intrepid, and duly rewarded Swedish divers discovered the sunken vessel and its cargo off the Finnish Aaland island, between Sweden and Finland. Drunk with success and eager anticipation, they sought expert advice and were doubly rewarded. There are additional bottles waiting to be brought to the surface but their exact location will remain a well-kept secret. Logically so.

Since those precious bottles which have reached the surface are expected to bring their finders a veritable fortune. The auction firm Cromwell-Morgan has estimated the opening price for each bottle to be $69,000 U.S.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Humane" Misnomer

Amazing how language is used to project an image. The word "humane" is one that is generally acknowledged to express an idea, a philosophy of the right and the only way to go about challenging the difficulties faced in an unjust world. The word "humanitarian" one that conjures up images of caring, concerned people doing their utmost to make a better world for us all.

In society there are always people who use and abuse one another. As human beings, that is. Those who have somehow not been apportioned a requisite and fundamental emotion linked to care and compassion. These are also people who bring animals into their households as companions and who neglect them and abuse them. Society looks to institutions like area human societies to look to the interests of such animals who need help and rescue.

And then there are the well-meaning people who adopt animals without realizing that there is an economic cost to so doing, that accompanies the emotional investment. And who, at the end of the day, when their pet becomes ill or becomes the victim of an unfortunate accident, are unable to pay for costly veterinary care. One can imagine that veterinarians are loathe to offer free services too broadly. For fear of being taken advantage of.

Veterinarian fees are extremely costly. There are protocols and surgeries, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic equipment that can easily match the cost of anything available to cope with human ill health. And many people simply cannot afford these services. The Ottawa Humane Society evidently informs pet owners that they will undertake to provide required veterinarian services if the pet owners sign over ownership to them.

Someone who loves a pet and who finds themselves in a truly desperate situation will obviously do anything to protect the life of that pet, even if it means abandoning that beloved pet to other owners. And so it was with Sari Paluna, whose female boxer was pregnant, but unable to give birth to the apparently still-born pups she carried. Initial veterinarian care the owner sought was unsuccessful.

She was informed that her pet would require emergency surgery if the hormone used to induce labour did not perform. The surgery would cost $2,100. A sum the woman did not possess. Her veterinarian said she would agree to performing the surgery with half the cost given upfront, but there wasn't even half the cost of the surgery available to the woman, given the urgency of the situation.

Finally, she agreed in desperation to sign over her companion dog Holly, to the Ottawa Humane Society. A veterinarian there did perform emergency surgery. And then Ms. Paluna was informed the next morning by a humane society veterinary technician that Holly had been 'put down'. "The whole point of bringing her there was for her to get surgery. I ran out of time for getting the money to do it myself", she said.

The veterinarian who performed the surgery explained that though Holly "was stable", her "vital signs normal", when brought in, complications ensued during surgery, persuading the society to euthanize Holly to avoid what they claim would have been a prospective painful and prolonged recovery. Obviously the society was not willing to invest time and labour to nurse the dog back to health, post-surgery. But the previous owner, Ms. Paluna, certainly would have.

She was not offered the opportunity. The Humane Society appears to have a policy where it does not re-unite pets with their previous owners, when the pet has been given over to them. The decision to take the dog's life was cavalier, uncaring, unaffected, emotionally remote. A disgrace to both the veterinary profession and to an institution that claims it is humanely involved.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Now That's Precocious!

The world truly, really is going to hell in a handbasket. Cruelty imposed upon humankind by humankind continues apace. Horrific outcomes as a result of catastrophic weather conditions, tempestuous storms that bring bleak misery in their wake continue to plague humanity.

The resulting mass migrations of desperate people attempting to escape the misery and threats to their lives gather in vast refugee camps that offer scant relief to the masses of people huddled for safety, living tenuously on humanitarian rations.

And then, in summertime cities like Ottawa, there are music festivals in celebration of life and the allure that music has to us in reminding us that there are pleasures in life we are able to take advantage of. Bluesfest for one, is calling out large numbers of residents of the city and beyond, to sit in the outdoors, to enjoy their favourite Indie-rock sensations.

And outside the assemblage, there was another kind of performance.

Three young boys busking. Busking is common enough in the Ottawa area, particularly where people tend to throng; the Byward Market and Sparks Street Mall in particular represent favourite venues.

But on Wellington Street outside Bluesfest, drummer Quinn, bassist Jan and lead guitarist Liam, brothers ages 9, 11 and 13 respectively were giving it their all. And their all appears to be extremely impressive. To the extent that Arcade Fire just completing their gig, noticed the small band outside the gate and jumped in to join them, singing along with the Dube brothers.

These obviously talented kids, overlooked and obviously encouraged and led by their father, Rob Dube, have been bitten by the performance bug. More than just performing, they busk to raise money, and raise it they do, emphatically.

"When the earthquake happened (in Haiti) lots of kids lost their parents just like us. So we wanted to help them out and give them hope. We wanted to give them a chance to have a better life", Liam explained. They lost their mother to cancer two years earlier.

And since the devastating quake that hit the Isle of Hispaniola that brought such misery to Haiti, they've been performing fundraisers. They've managed to raise a whopping $83,000 for Canadian Feed the Children, inclusive of a corporate donor having added $33,000 to their total.

"The focus for the money is House of Hope Orphanage and Grace Children's Hospital in Haiti", explained Mr. Dube. Who has obviously played a huge hand in helping his children find their direction in life, and imbued them with an inclination to follow their life-affirming instincts.

These gifted, compassionate youngsters appear to be launching a career, and at the same time, launching themselves into the world of humanitarian appeal to benefit those less able to realize the potential that life offers the fortunate.

It's one of those really good stories we never get quite enough of.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Elusive Edens

People have their dreams. They work hard, and anticipate their recreational release. In the sense that they look forward to opportunities to relax, to engage in restful retrospection, looking back on their lives in retirement. As they sit comfortably in the confines of a home overlooking a lake, with a garden they tend outside, and beneficent woodlands surrounding this Eden of theirs.

This is where they have planned to spend their retirement years. This is the cottage they bought, and which they spent almost two hundred thousand of their hard-earned savings to winterize, modernize. And they have indeed enjoyed that dream of their golden years, together, comfortably ensconced in a place of their own devising that satisfies all their aesthetic longings.

Their wonderfully-ideal four-season home. Away from the accursed hustle-and-bustle of city life. They had their fill of that. Back to the land. Their land. Upon which sits the home of their dreams. A lake beyond and the forest abounding about. What more could anyone ask for to complement and complete the years of their lives?

A little bit of caution, perhaps. For while the home that they have grown to love, the house that they have spared little cash to transform, and which now reflects their needs and aesthetics is most certainly the reflection of their proud ownership. The land, the land is not. The land is rented.

Owners of land may do as they will with their land, they have the legal right to do so. They may rent out portions or the entirety of their land, or they may not, as the wish takes them. And if the land is rented but not on anything resembling a long-term lease arrangement, but based on simple trust; alas.

The current owners of the land upon which the retired couple live alongside Mississippi Lake have decided they no longer wish to rent out their land to the handful of city-dwellers who make the property their summer residence. Apart and above from the retired couple who have planned to make the property their final residence.

They are disbelieving about this turn of events, and they feel bereft of what had such great value for them. They have few options left to them. Abandon the cottages and the four-season home they have invested their dreams and holidays in, or pay the exorbitant fees it would take to move them.

In other words, buy land of their own, clear it, build a foundation, hire a trucking company specializing in moving homes and set themselves up elsewhere. Some of those cottages, unfortunately are in no condition, despite the loving care and upgrades given them, to be moved. All will be forfeit.

The moral of this unfortunate story? Have a care, alongside the carefree emotions of living your dreams. Read the small print. Take nothing for granted. Do not invest your life or your life-savings in someone else's property. Or, perforce, upon property owned by others.

Unless taking risks represents part of the allure of comfortable residency. And yes, most certainly, sometimes life can be dreadfully unfair.

Caveat emptor, good people.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Dirty Politics"

One supposes that depends on whose ox is currently being gored, calling down 'dirty politics; that kind of characterization, when it's a politician him/herself who claims foul behaviour is being engaged in, and tch-tch, that's not very nice and civil. Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien's wife took it upon herself to express her outrage that a video taken of her husband declaring his intention to offer his superior talents once again to the citizenry of this fair city, has been posted to YouTube.

That whoever posted that video was playing dirty tricks, and this was not at all acceptable in polite society. Now, thank you very much, people who had no iota of awareness that such a video existed and was posted in the handiest of all venues, after reading the article in the Ottawa Citizen, have gone out of their way to view it and have themselves a fine chuckle of appreciation for the wit that posted it. Who had also added a few little gems to the video.

Mocking a candidate who was having some problems getting his thick tongue around the sentence construction and verbiage he meant to use and having an even more difficult time plying his memory to divulge the wording of the metaphors he meant to display his sense of purpose and dedication to the common weal. Tongue-tied over the grand vision of himself as saviour of the city.

"The Liberals are so dirty. Look, we would never send somebody to a Jim Watson event and tape them. I just find it appalling. Do we have to stoop to this level? Where's the moral compass?" wailed the mayor's wife when she contacted the newspaper to complain that the opposition was lowering the tone of municipal politics.

For his part, Larry O'Brien obligingly explained his wife's distress: "She was very disappointed that the campaign seems to be getting off to a dirty-tricks start even before we've entered into the (it). A campaign is supposed to be tough. You're supposed to say things to each other and call your opponent out, but I think this kind of activity is really inappropriate. I don't think that's how politics should be done here."

How superior. No longer an apprentice politician, learning on the job, and failing at each test as it surfaced, Mr. O'Brien is a seasoned veteran and knows how the game should be played. He exemplifies the fine art of diplomatic speaking; say one thing, do another. And he believes that everyone running for office has an obligation to match his fine performance. Which, it appears, is precisely what Jim Watson has done.

Oops, Mayor, dear soul, we will miss you. Your public pronouncements, your romps in the media, your effusive promises, your superb working relationship with council, above all your fine understanding of what's best for this city and its residents. Your craven subordination to a 'promise' you gave during your China trip, resulting in seeing no evil anywhere, and dumping the Falun Gong was truly an impressive bit of statesmanship.

But the public did have a hint of such things to come when you were embroiled in a criminal trial brought against you as a result of illegally attempting to buy out a candidate first time around, and you got lucky on that one. We weren't as fortunate when you were voted in as mayor on the strength of your promise not to raise taxes, though, were we? And the on-again-off-again public transit imbroglio to bring high-speed rail, another bit of jolly fun.

You thought that Lansdowne Park would resolve the issue of an accomplish-nothing mayor, and then leaped into the ring. And you don't think that a satirical take on your fumbling speech is fair game? Aren't you the very fellow who characterized the guy you're now accusing of uncivil behaviour, of being a wimp? Isn't he the guy you called a "little old lady", and "scaredy cat"?

Um, O'Brien, grin and bear it. We're grinning and can hardly bear it, it's so well deserved.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Work Permit Renewals

Canada speaks of its need for enterprising immigrants, individuals who will arrive in this country prepared to integrate and become valued citizens. People who see themselves as independent and responsible, unwilling to be a charge on society, and determined to make their own way.

As Ahmed-Sghir Guettaoui has been struggling to do. As an immigrant from Algeria, one who had been in the nursing profession there, he sought a better life for himself, and chose Canada. He left his native country to escape civil war and later violent unrest. His original application for refugee status in Canada was turned down.

He turned instead to other immigration channels, to become a landed citizen, and to be allowed to remain in the country with a view to taking out citizenship. He has been living and working in Canada with a work visa, one that must be renewed continually.

His application for permanent residence has been in the works for years and any decisions with respect to its status have been somewhere in the dark, as far as this man is concerned. He has been steadily employed within Canada, and pays taxes. But his status is unsettled and that's quite unsettling, would be for anyone.

In fact, he owns his own barbershop in Aylmer. From which place of work he was arrested, placed in handcuffs by three uniformed Canadian Border Services Agency officials, and taken to a detention centre where he was held for two days, until an immigration judge finally freed him. His sin? A lapse in the renewal of his work permit.

The problem related to some of his related documents being in the hands of the immigration office, despite his requesting their return. In a Kafkaesque display of impossible bureaucracy when he attended the office in an attempt to secure his new work permit, he was informed he required his old one, which in fact the office had in its files and hadn't returned.

Until his arrest. And then he was informed he had waited too long to effect a renewal through normal, ongoing channels, and he would instead have to re-apply for the permit through the immigration office located in Vegreville, Alberta.

The Border Services Agency officials had arrested Mr. Guettaoui while he was working in his barbershop. Slapped handcuffs on him and marched him away, in full sight of his customers, including a few children. The hard-working owner of the barbershop, hauled away; who was supposed to mind the shop?

"I have a business. I am healthy. I want to work. I do not want to go on welfare", he said when he was informed he is eligible for welfare, while awaiting the renewal of his work permit.

This man's file for permanent status in Canada has languished in immigration offices since 2003, with no activity since then. He is a fully contributing member of this society, committed to living in Canada, hoping for eventual citizenship. How insulting this kind of incident is, how unbelievable that a bureaucracy can be so disinterested in performing its function as it should.

Mr. Guettaoui has forwarded a pleading letter to Citizenship and Immigration, asking of them "Please let me be all I can be." And for heaven's sake, why ever not?

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Living The Life

Isn't this what defiant, anti-social, too-clever-by-half teen boys dream of? Getting back at everyone who ever pissed them off. Making it on their own. Achieving a reputation that other guys would just die to reflect off their own exploits. Having the guts to go out on their own and make it. Defying probability and chance. Bold and enterprising, unafraid of consequences. His own man, and don't you forget it.

And even Mom is back there, where she was left, sick and tired of his acting out, but cheering him on, anyway. Her boy. Go to it, Colton! Show them the value of an independent mind, the challenge of someone who dares. Proud of his brilliance, now that he's out of her hair and on his own, challenging authorities other than her. That's the stuff, my boy, that's what a man is made of.

Admirers in the general public? Yep. Lots. A huge Facebook presence. And this kid gets around. Only 19, but he's lived life to the fullest. In a sense, that is. Defying authority, cocking his leg and urinating all over societal conventions, values, legalities. Not reflective of his values, after all. He's an individualist, a proud and clever, unique and bright, self-sustaining outlier.

The adrenaline rush, the euphoria of challenging law and order types who don't know their arses from a hole in a wall. He left hints, plenty of them, but they're too stupid to follow up, to even catch his drift, let alone the wind he blasts as he takes off. The "Barefoot Bandit", yeah! Catch me if you can, losers!

Over 70 investigations reflective of the width and breadth of his enterprising spirit of self-discovery, ranging from residential and commercial break-ins, thefts of vehicles, boats, airplanes. From southern British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest - onward to the Behamas. Nice scenery. Great geological features. Good hideaways, too. And no complaints about the weather, chumps.

You want romance and exotic exploits? Just watch me! Smart? You betcha, even taught himself how to fly planes, now that's clever, adaptively well suited to a life of free-enterprise, huh? Ask Mom, Pam Kohler, bursting with pride over his IQ "three points below Einstein". Of course Einstein never went out of his way to bring squads of police after him, he only theorized physics into an entirely new dimension. Boooring!

"They're going to kill me!" That sounds suspiciously like the frightened wail of a kid caught out. Now Colton Harris-Moore knows what the despair of discovery feels like. Naughty boy. He's had seven years of criminal, anti-social, illicit and nasty behaviour behind him, proving he's his own man, take it or leave it.

Now he's in custody he will have ample time to re-think his strategy. Sad kid, after all.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

All Things To All Readers

There hasn't been a slow-news day for ages. Things are happening everywhere, from the late-unlamented FIFA World Cup, to earthquakes, to floods, to terrorist attacks in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, to 'humanitarian' aid-Gaza shipments confronting Israel, to Iran threatening the balance of the world, to wild and wily M.Ignatieff spouting heartfelt lies in China, and the Canadian economy bouncing nicely, yet threatened by economic entropy in the U.S.

So why the hell does the Ottawa Citizen send a photographer and a reporter out to Georgia to cover a non-story? Newspapers are bleeding money as they lose customers to the new electronic media. Their expenses are on the rise as their advertisers fall by the wayside, and yet they splurge for a chase-for-two in Greensboro, Georgia? Do they really think that love-struck females will abandon their Harlequin novels and day-time soap operas to crack open a newspaper?

Oh, it's a big story, all right, just not very newsworthy; rather it should be reported on in a celebrity-obsessed tabloid, a 'people' magazine. What's it doing dragging down the front page of the first section of the newspaper? Who the bloody hell cares about some hockey player and his actor or singer wife who have decided to marry?

Right, people with no life of their own to speak of, who gaze longingly at photographs of 'beautiful' people, at people with celebrity writ large on their foreheads, at people who live lifestyles that the ordinary population feels is glamorous. Refusing to believe the reality that these celebrity-alliances are stunningly brief, too often dysfunctional, and totally irrelevant to their own lives.

This fascination among the public - perhaps mostly teen-age girls imagining some husky dark-haired stranger riding a hockey stick and a whopping big salary coming to rescue them from the obscurity of their ordinary lives - is nothing short of pathetic. This is what 'popular' reflects and what intelligent introspection does not. Short of value and big on thrills. And fairly meagre in the department of priorities and aspirations.

The breathless excitement and inspiration! As though people curious and fascinated with this tripe feel they have a personal investment in this kind of reportage. What the wedding cost, the wedding gown, the happy couple flying off to their honeymoon destination, the frustration of the reporter having to guess at what transpired; poor thing, she had no personal invitation.

Can anyone working as a reporter really take this stuff seriously, and still have some measure of self respect? This reflects our society's values and our women's aspirations? Sad stuff, no kidding.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

When Words Fail

Celebrating the lives, the extraordinariness, the exceptionalism, the courage and the very humanity of the dearly departed seems to exact its toll from those who were the closest, those with the most intimate connections to the deceased. It is absurd the lengths to which people will go to memorialize surface traits of character and personality, likes and dislikes, and extol the most extraneous episodes in an effort to express their grief.

Individuals whose antic behaviours have somehow led to their deaths, by driving while under the influence of alcohol, by surrendering to rash and impulsive acting out that results in death by misadventure. And those, needless to say, whose lives were spent in exaggerated celebration of themselves, driving other people insane by their miserable behaviour. And then, of course, there are those who die in service of one kind or another, to others.

From the young adult who indulges in the sport of high-diving off a cliff, and never surfaces from his watery grave; he won the contest for boldness of spirit and having ascended the furthest - to the driver who just couldn't resist taking the challenge to race the other one whose souped-up vehicle couldn't conceivably be as fast on the pick-up as his own, and who managed to take the life of another driver in the oncoming lane, along with his own.

It was their high-spiritedness, their love of organized sports, their wide circle of partying friends, the fun they sought in life that set them apart, in their great enthusiasm to live as though there was little else to life but partying; life in the fast lane with all that connotes. They lived for their friends, we hear, and also, in the end, died for their friends.

To the beautiful young woman who was a medic in the armed forces and who met her inglorious end along with a partner in the profession through the atrocious blast that rent their bodies into pieces resulting from an improvised explosive device laid with the connivance of local tribal people and the equally-local Taliban, they all seem to end with eulogies that are sadly wanting.

Much too much is made of their spirited love of partying. Their sense of fun and enjoyment of guzzling liquor, enabling them to present as the life of the party. How about their near and dear companionship? The sensitivity of their sensibilities? Their love of life itself and the people who made life so dear to them? Their appreciation of the natural world around them?

"Humorous" anecdotes are related during the course of the funeral ceremonies. They're more often not all that humorous, but represent the feeble effort of a trite and feeble mind that cannot conceive of the deep value of the relationship that is now lost. And then someone manages to save the day by saying "I'm trying to remember one day when Kristal wasn't smiling. I can't remember one."

This captures the essence of a particular human soul, not the glib and meaningless referrals to partying. Something wrong with our collective value system in human relations?

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

AgriRecovery Relief

What is a country without the capacity to feed itself? A fairly feeble entity purporting to independence, capability; dependent on seeking sustenance for its masses elsewhere than within its own territory. Resulting in insecurity, since the agricultural activity and success of any country is its primary responsibility to ensure that the population it represents can be maintained.

In a vast, rich and low-population, natural-resource-endowed country like Canada, we have many options. Our prairie provinces are legendary for their crop yields, and the country exports wheat and other grains to countries incapable of producing sufficient internally. Even so, there are uncertainties. Our mega-farms in the Western provinces are still dependent on the vagaries of weather conditions affecting crops.

And while the country itself has huge numbers of farmers particularly around its urban centres, who produce all manner of crops other than grain; vegetables, fruits, along with the management of livestock operations, we are so jaded as a largely urban population because of our remove from the elementary need to produce food that we take everything for granted.

We go no further than our area supermarkets to pick through a huge selection of food products. Food that emanates from countries outside our Hemisphere, let alone that food that enters the market from the entire Continent of North America. And much of the food that Canadians eat, beyond the fresh produce we take for granted, has been altered beyond recognition.

We have dairy and egg marketing boards, and poultry marketing boards, and wheat and grain marketing boards, and vast networks of exporting and importing industries that bring food to our kitchen tables via the supermarket. Our only contact with the industry of food production is what we survey as we enter our area supermarkets.

But we cannot be entirely ignorant of the fact that securing these food resources that have their base within the country itself is of primary importance. Certainly the government is fully aware, as they should be. Since apart from ensuring security of food internally, the country's trade in exporting primary food and products represents a fairly stable and large factor in our wealth-production.

That, after years of serious drought, the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are in difficulty because of incessant heavy rain conditions resulting in the flooding of agricultural lands, imperilling crops, is of great concern for the country. The result has been the largest and fastest agricultural aid program in the country's history.

$450-million has been pledged in farm aid as a result of the flooding that has assailed the prairies. It sounds like a lot of financial help, but it results in $30 per acre for troubled farmers, and it will help, but not save many from ruinous lack of production and income. It will help farmers to rehabilitate and manage their crop land, in hope that the following growing season will be more productive.

This is one issue that is of paramount importance to the entire country. Little spoken of, other than in circles where primary food production and its state is of the utmost relevance. The rest of us take everything for granted; government will solve everything. They don't, though they try, at both the provincial and federal level. Using tax dollars to ameliorate what nature and circumstance have wrought.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

His Mother, Old Biddy

Amazing what perspective does for the direction that minds take in assessing positions pro and con just about anything. People with children seem to feel that everyone will adore their darlings on sight, just as they do. And generally they are quite correct in this assumption; most people do enjoy the sight of those precocious little dears, and quite appreciate the emotions of their parents.

Everything has its limits, however, and there is a time and a place for everything.

Perambulating in a public park, witnessing parents attending to their children's every joyfully demanding whims is one thing; it is an assurance that life and generations go on, as they must.

Planning a night out and carefully making reservations at the restaurant with the reputation that you've always been curious about trying, anticipating a quiet evening of good food and conversation in a fashionably adult ambiance does not pair well with the presence of a cranky child.

The recent brouhaha over three righteously-enraged sisters who had planned to attend a birthday celebration with their mother and the darling infant of one of the sisters, and who had been gently dissuaded by the restaurant-and-wine-bar owner, is a telling case in point. The sisters, offended by recommendations that they not bring tot along, have brought a suit against the hapless restaurateurs to be heard by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Feeling that it is their constitutional right to have the freedom to impose upon the owners of this new restaurant, Taylor's Wine and Food Bar in Ottawa, the burden of witnessing the quiet elegance of their establishment turned into a baby-wailing scene, while other customers have their expectations of an evening out for relaxation and pleasure disrupted. Never, perhaps to return.

Faced with the threat of the Rights Commission finding them in breach of guarantees of freedoms - although theirs is a private establishment and surely as such they have the right to establish rules they wish to have recognized for the greater good of the business and the pleasure of their clients - which will cost them dearly in legal fees and reputation, what are they to do? Lobby for the dismantling of human rights commissions.

The issue has gone beyond merely being reported in the Ottawa Citizen, having been picked up latterly also by the National Post. And the reactions and responses of two columnists with that national paper are instructive. Columnist Barbara Kay with her rapier wit and intellect, posits that it is not reasonable to impose one's children upon innocent bystanders, or restaurant-goers as the case may be.

Telling stories about her own agony as a young mother raising a young boy with a picky appetite and a stubborn character whose unrestrained lapses into wilful and disruptive behaviour caused her and the child's father no little amount of wearying bother at those times when he was introduced to eating out. Difficult enough, doubtless, pleasing a child with a monotonous, uncurious palate at home.

Sharing the page with her is that very same boy, now grown to manly adulthood, himself now the parent of a young child, who takes umbrage at the very thought that he and his spouse might be questioned with respect to their social intelligence when taking their darling into a restaurant. For his part, he describes having taken their infant into a pub-restaurant at mid-day when a gaggle of "old biddies" took offence.

The columnist-mother describing the agony of attempting to placate the churlish child refusing to eat what was placed before him, and the familial disagreements that followed to the great entertainment of other restaurant-goers. And the now-grown child, equally certain that his preferences must be credited, that it is his indignant right to impose upon others; nothing has changed in his world-view.

So much for the achievement of maturity; once self-obsessed, intransigent and uncompromising, always thus.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Value of Self-Help

Canada has proclaimed itself a champion of Haiti, determined to assist that vastly underprivileged country to haul itself into the 21st Century, to a place and time where its people can look toward the future with some degree of confidence that they will no longer be left behind by misfortune and ill governance. The Government of Canada, like governments all over the world, look upon the social-political-structural failure of Haiti with true regret.

And Canada, like many other countries of the world has responded generously to Haiti's need for assistance, particularly after the devastating earthquake that took the country's infrastructure back to its beginnings, killed far too many innocents, and made millions homeless. Canada has invested quite a lot of its treasury in Haiti, along with its hopes that through its humanitarian efforts the country will sooner, rather than later, achieve some measure of success.

Canada's current Governor General, a Haitian-Canadian, has accepted a United Nations post as overseer of a UN mission to help with Haiti reconstruction. And the many Haitian-Canadians living in Canada continue to have hope that their original country may eventually become more than an unfortunate footnote in the Western Hemisphere. Now, news surfaces that we may be aiding Haiti in ways never quite imagined.

A former employee of the City of Ottawa has become newsworthy in the nation's capital.
Accused of stealing over a million dollars from a charitable organization she was employed with. This is a woman in whom trust was placed to be invested in the smooth operation of a charity for the care and oversight of people incapable of caring for themselves.

She migrated with her family to Canada from Haiti when she was 17, lives now with her mother and her own 17-year-old daughter in her very own $530,000 home.

Yolande Knight, formerly director of finance for Total Communication Environment, an agency funded by the province to provide care to roughly 90 adults with disabilities, has been charged with fraud, theft, breach of trust, forgery and possession of the proceeds of crime for using corporate credit cards to pay for personal purchases over an eight-year period.

An audit in 2009 disclosed the fraud, where a total of $1,114,827.40 appeared to have been misappropriated. The city-issued credit cards this trusted employee used to pay for hairdressers, gym memberships, groceries, gas, clothes and landscaping for her home, along with airline tickets and limousine rentals enabled her to live a peculiarly inappropriate lifestyle. Yet she still appears to be in debt to the tune of $500,000.

Much of the avails of her ill-doing appears to have been transferred to her boyfriend, Rene St.Fort. Mr. St.Fort, another Haitian-Canadian, was found guilty in 2002 of fraud over $5,000 and sentenced to a year and a half in prison, having defrauded Canadian banks. And now, Mr.St.Fort is the head of the National Reform Party of Haiti, though still residing in Canada.

Mr. St.Fort was not the sole beneficiary of Ms. Knight's largesse, for Mr. St.Fort's brother and three other men also received wire money transfers. "The accused was identified in sending 12 transfers resulting in suspicious transaction reports being generated under the Proceeds of Crime Money Laundering and Terrorist financing Act", the court was informed.

Ms. Knight's lawyer, Jean Claude Dubuisson, argues "She has no criminal record. She's been living in Canada since she was 17 years old", insisting she be seen as eligible for bail and does not represent a flight risk. And the sitting judge, Justice of the Peace Beverly Souliere, in the laudable spirit of of open-minded fairness pointed out that the court hadn't heard Ms. Knight's "side of the story".

That side obviously being that people who migrate to Canada from underprivileged countries are not expected to behave in accordance with the same ethical and moral codes that compel other Canadians.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Too, Too Sad

The downside of celebrity is that you are so visible. That when societal sins such as drunk driving and possession of serious narcotics and violations of probationary terms are levelled against you, you are then required to be instructed in no uncertain terms that the court is not amused.
"I did the best I could to balance jobs and showing up. I was working.... I was working with children. I wasn't taking it as a joke... I wanted to come back and make you happy."
That this young woman is sincere in her grief at having to pay the price of taking insufficient notice of what she was doing with her life - how it impacted rather deleteriously both on herself and on society at large, and now, as a result, she was being sentenced to the horribly ignominious sentence of a 90-day jail sentence - seems genuine enough.

We all feel rather sorrowful over events in our lives which, through a sense of inattention or perhaps blase disregard of the harm it could do, came back to haunt us in ways we could never have imagined, and which we truly regretted. Not the acts themselves perhaps that caused the consequences to be imposed, but the fact that the consequences imposed themselves.

Drunk driving and cocaine possession are no mere illicit trifles. Nor is the fact that a beautiful young woman with sufficient talent to make a name for herself in her profession as an actor, succumbed to becoming an alcoholic. Obviously, much has gone wrong in this young woman's life. Perhaps expectations that she might achieve a level of success beyond her abilities.

Perhaps that her life would become a magical fairyland. Frustration and disappointment can ruin lives, even lives of young and comely and talented individuals. Whom the public views as 'having everything', so what could they conceivably want that they didn't already have? The human mind and consciousness is a strange, ungovernable beast.

She is only 24. She can learn from this event that appears to her now to be so immediately catastrophic. She now knows for a certainty that actions have consequences. Privilege and celebrity will not shield anyone from paying for those stern lessons.

Poor Lindsay Lohan, poor child. I'd hear the name before, but would never have been able to guess whether she was a popular singer, or perhaps an actor. Now I know. And now she is aware that the laws that govern all, govern her as well.

And yes, her plight, slight as it is, does stir the heart.

Actress Lindsay  Lohan reacts beside her attorney Shawn Chapman Holley (R) as Judge  Marsha Revel rules that Lohan had violated her probation on a 2007  drunken driving charge in Beverly Hills, California July 6, 2010. Lohan  was sentenced to 90 days in jail on Tuesday after the Beverly Hills  judge ruled that she had violated her probation by missing a string of  alcohol education classes imposed for a 2007 drunk driving arrest.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

One Extended Family

Canadians have welcomed their Royal Head of State to the country on yet another trip that solidifies for those Canadians who warmly regard the country's heritage and traditions based on its colonial British connections to be a vital one, well worth honouring and maintaining. Queen Elizabeth II's grace under adversity, her kind regard for the well-being of people everywhere, her gentle manner and attention to duty have won her admiration around the world.

But to Canadians she always has been and currently represents the sovereign presence in a country which, while itself sovereign, remains indebted to its historical status as a proud member of the British Empire. The British Empire itself is now history, a product of the decline of imperialism and colonialism, where former colonies were officially decolonized to become sovereign and independent states. But the historical ties remain, and proudly so.

All were left with an invaluable tradition of British values; the democratic ideal, dedication to human rights, good governance, jurisprudence, liberty and egalitarianism. While the Empire has vanished into the annals of history in its place rose a coalition of independent states which were previously part of the British Empire, now calling themselves the Commonwealth of Nations, with 52 of the original member-states of British colonialism.

The Commonwealth of Nations celebrates its common past, and looks at the future with an emphasis on their collective striving toward the achievement of multilateralism and free trade; above all the struggle to achieve world peace. This intergovernmental organization while representing nations with varied cultures and backgrounds, does share a common goal, spearheaded by their past connection to Britain.

Queen Elizabeth has honoured status wherever the Commonwealth countries exist, and no less so in Canada, a favoured step-child. Her patrician gregariousness endears her to Commonwealth populations everywhere, irrespective of grumblings to the contrary that erupt invariably with those who prefer to put history behind them and look toward an tradition-unencumbered present. She looks fondly at Commonwealth countries and they look back with equal fondness.

It still represents a celebratory occasion when a member of the Royal Family visits, all the more so when the Queen herself mounts a trip to re-familiarize herself with her vast dominion, and re-acquaint a respecting public with her smiling presence. It is an occasion when the grand notices the ordinary. The crowds that turned out irrespective of weather and personal convenience, travelling great distances to catch a glimpse of the reigning Monarch put the proof to the test of our historical links.

Although Canada is now a true and colourful blend of people hailing from everywhere in the world - its continents and nations representing customs and traditions far from that of the original British Empire - the traditions that the great original stock of British-origin-settlers cherished are still respected and honoured, none more so than the respect and honour proffered to Queen Elizabeth, still the Canadian Head of State.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Desperation

"This is not a lot different than any other government. I remain extremely optimistic about a government being formed here that will be representative." U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden
"Iraq is still not out of danger, is still not a normal country." Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
The general election took place back in March. The popular choice of the majority of voters is a secularist Shia who has the trust of many of Iraq's Sunnis. The current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki is reluctant to leave his post. His party disputes a vote count giving a mostly Sunni bloc, Iraqiya, that humbling narrow edge over the current mostly Shiite bloc. Iraqis are looking for responsible leadership, but hopes for a government forming before fall seem remote.

This appears quite a bit different than any other government. What reason is there for optimism, one might wish to ask Mr. Biden. It is abundantly clear that Iraq, the people of the country, the factions, still harbour suspicion and hatred toward one another. Why would they not, since this simply reflects their traditional history of sectarian vitriol that latterly flamed into deadly violence?

Which continues, on a more subdued, but still horribly-mangled, malignant level to the present day. With suicide bombings erupting one after another, taking helpless civilian lives, wounding hundreds of people, destroying government buildings, and destroying trust and reliance in that government's ability to get itself together and deliver the country out of its ongoing crisis. What makes Joe Biden so confident?

Wishing. Because, come hell or high water America is preparing to pull its troops out of Iraq by December 2011, with its remaining 94 bases closing down. This is also precisely what the current government of Iraq demands. Whether its armed forces are up to the task of protecting the country from the violent attacks of the disruptive insurgent forces within is another story. And there is always neighbourly Iran, waiting on the sidelines.

Iraqi citizens are tired of the threat of viciously-present, imminent death. They are sick of insufficient civic amenities, fed up with an energy grid that cannot supply their needs. Above all, the threat to their safety, continually imperilled by a government, modelled Islamic-style on a working democracy, but not working out all that well, unfortunately.

All that oil production, and not enough potable water. All that petroleum fuel going out to furnish the international community with their energy needs, and the country that produces it through their great natural resources cannot yet manage to give its people security, afford them peace, and the basic necessities of a durable lifestyle; above all, hope for the future.

An invasion rescued them from a tyrant who kept the gears of civilian life operating fairly smoothly, with all its inequities and sporadic eruptions into state-sponsored population-mutilations and massacres. With foreign troops in protective place, and an influx of Muslim infiltrators determined to bring Islamist control to the country of a Sunni Salafist variety, violence between the sects was unleashed.

The country, divided into thirds - with the functioning Kurdish portion, and the pitiful spite-filled, hate-gushing murdering Shia and Sunni waging their eternal battle for dominance - is not a 'normal' country in the general sense of normalcy and nationhood.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Bilingual Labelling

Now is this rational? Or is it the expression of a society governed by a bureaucratic idiocy, all in the name of placating the childish plaints of a portion of society that insists it is unique and exceptional and that the rest of society representing a whopping majority must continue to do obeisance to its hurt feelings? Canada is recognized as an officially-bilingual society. An unearned and unneeded courtesy that complicates the lives of far too many people, while scarcely providing a band-aid of mollification to the incessant squeals of complaint from an unappeasable minority.

Why do we bother? Why is this country so obsessed by a historical event dating beyond Confederation when one occupying imperial force managed to upset an equally occupying imperial force? To the historical survivor go the spoils. Those left to pick up the pieces and make of the country a whole, should be required to do so over time with goodwill and a shared purpose. Nursing an ancient grudge that serves only to divide people, to create a sense of ongoing opposition, has done no one any great good.

Two founding nations, two separate languages. Two cultures, two types of heritage. Great Britain and France have always historically been at martial odds, social division, political disarray one with the other. To import that unease of two peoples to another country, recognizing that those differences exist rather than urging the dissolution of differences in the larger interests of an integrated society recognizing its strength in co-operative alliance, represents a failure.

(It is a failure that we see being repeated currently, in other areas, with the migration of people from highly diverse cultures, backgrounds, countries, religions, actually following suit. Canada feels itself to be a country with a prevailing culture, a common heritage, shared values and respect for multiculturalism. Multiculturalism grew out of bilingual blackmail, legitimizing unworkable demarcations between people, allowing ethnic groups to remain distinct, and veering away from assimilation. Only aboriginal peoples were spurred to assimilate.

Multiculturalism, alas, although seeming to be positively inspired at the time it was initiated as an official government position - urging people to cling to their sources, while expecting them to become fully-fledged 'Canadians' - created emotional detachment and social conflict, representing a social dysfunction. While earlier waves of immigrants did successfully assimilate, it is clear that later groups have not done so to the extent that should be anticipated for the greater good of the country and its population.)

That the federal government has been so invested in guaranteeing that the two solitudes remain so has been quite unhelpful. The tradition of selecting a French, then an English prime minister to balance the official situation of two sources equally represented has outgrown its usefulness. Punishing the majority of Canadians who do not speak both official languages, although English prevails country-wide and internationally has only resulted in pushing people further apart, and raising resentment.

Quebecois have never been quite satisfied with any accommodations made by the majority of Canadians to secure their trust, in an ongoing bid to assuage their historically-hurt feelings. A generous-minded decision to give equal status to French and English has not, in the final analysis, proven to be beneficial to the country. French Canada's insistence that it must have sovereignty, while still nursing at the financial teat of the country has done this land ill.

And Canadians who speak the majority tongue, who are skilled professionals are left to languish while government employs far-lesser-professionally-endowed workers to fill vital employment positions simply on the basis that their mother-tongue is French. This dedication to equalization of the languages is hardly apposite. And how is equality in job-opportunities, in the insistence that French be available to perfectly bilingual francophones in areas of small francophone presence useful?

It is costly in the extreme to reproduce everything in two languages, from the federal to the provincial to the municipal level. Quebec, Canada's unique province, with its own self-acknowledged exceptionalism, insists that the federal government assent to giving it independence in areas not normally allotted to provinces, from immigration to a UN presence, affording it a political-hierarchical respect it hardly deserves in a confederation.

As an illustration of just how absurd the entire situation is, nothing stands out quite so quixotically as a a raid by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on a small local grocery store located in Vancouver, specializing in the products and produce of local micro-farmers in the surrounding British Columbia area. The agents looking for contraband items, found them; cheeses, jams, pickles, beef and baked goods, all locally produced.

But horror of horrors, the products were inadequately labelled, many not printed with French translations, or missing nutrition tables. The owner of the grocery, Deb Reynolds, can be excused for feeling hard done by, with the invasion of her Home Grow-in-Grocer market, where over a hundred products were picked over, and she was handed seven pages of infractions. Representing labels absent of bilingual or nutritional data

Eleven suppliers, all local producers, were flagged, in particular one dairy producer whom the agency appears to have a grudge against. Can you imagine, locally baked bread, freshly delivered daily, and with no label!? Ms. Reynolds, cited for unlawful stocking of illegal local products, donated most of the products the inspectors pounced upon to a local transition house. She is more than a little bemused by the affair. Who in B.C. has been hard done by with the lack of bilingual labelling?

"I'm just somebody who is trying to support the local B.C. economy", she explained. Surely, there must be fewer than 10% of Vancouver residents speaking French? And of those who are French-speakers, who among them would complain of inadequate bilingual labelling? Do we even want to know?

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

How Little Do We Know

When the world became aware of the devastation following the earthquake that struck Haiti, quite specifically, sparing the Dominican Republic which was in far better shape on the Isle of Hispaniola, international aid was swift in arriving. Countries from around the world sent humanitarian aid, sent their first-responder-emergency-aid-workers, as efforts were made to save as many people as possible from suffocation, buried under the rubble of Port-au-Prince and surrounding suburbs and towns.

Haiti, the most poverty-stricken country in the Western Hemisphere, a country peopled by slaves whose lives were exploited by empire-building ambitions of the West who viewed black Africans as personal property. After Haitians finally fought for their liberty, then suffered under a succession of their own dictatorships caring nothing for the people, the country finally appeared on the verge of stumbling toward responsible independence.

But the friable state of the country continued to fail as a nation capable of looking after its own, as one impostor of a governing elite after another simply took over, and took over as well the vast sums of "guilt-reparations" that developed countries sent to help the country's administration establish a sound and working civil infrastructure. Only to see that money find its way into offshore accounts proudly owned by the country's native overseers.

Now, post-quake, Haiti finds itself still with a vast number of its people living hopelessly in the most stark conditions prevailing in squalid, temporary refugee camps. It's just that to the people, attempting to make some sense out of the collapse of their formerly-adequate lifestyles on the cusp of realizing greater aspirations, wonder whether they will ever see a decent future for themselves and their children.

Irrespective of the billions of emergency funding poured into the country, the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who are not of the scanter middle- and privileged-classes fear the future, their hopes dimmed by long delays with little improvement in their day-to-day lives. In which case, perhaps it is just as well that Canada's current Governor General, Michaelle Jean, has taken a post with the United Nations to oversee and direct its mission in Haiti.

As a native Haitian, and Haitian-Canadian, she may be capable of producing a United Nations-sponsored program of value to the people who need it so desperately. On the other hand, perhaps that's too much to hope for any United Nations-affiliated enterprise. She can but try, and in her position there, buttressing Canada's huge interest in Haiti's eventual well-being, she may yet do herself and us proud.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Exporting Death

It is surely long past time for Canada to put a stop to its production of asbestos. Asbestos of any kind, including the type mined in Quebec, chrysotile asbestos, is outlawed for use in Canada. It is immoral for this compound used now in third-world countries where construction safety practises are spotty at best, to continue to be a valued export item.

There are a relative few number of people employed in the industry, in Canada, and the trade amount represented is not all that impressive, leaving little reason to defend its continued extraction and sale. Fully 52 countries of the world recognize asbestos as a carcinogen, and ban its importation.

Within Canada, the government itself has been busy eliminating asbestos from all federal government buildings, to ensure safety and health guidelines are met. One of the first questions a commercial-property sales agent must ask of home or building owners preparing to put their property on the market, is whether there is any asbestos present in the building.

It defies logic that anything so dangerous to the health of those in the extraction industry, to those in the construction industry, to those who live in buildings in which asbestos is used as a fire retardant, could be seen as a valuable commodity. It is unconscionable that a country like Canada still permits the province of Quebec to mine and sell asbestos.

Even though the industry, pointing out that chrysotile asbestos is considered safe under controlled conditions, the reality is that it is sold to third-world countries where worker protection is not vigorously pursued. Those who understand quite well that all forms of asbestos are harmful understand the dangers of exposure to the substance to over 125-million people worldwide.

"It is just not possible to work safely with asbestos, especially in developing countries where social controls are weak", emphasized Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and head of the Collegium Ramazzini representing an independent group of academic experts in occupational and environmental health, involved in calling for a ban of the substance.

Despite the dreadful reputation of the substance as a building material, developing nations still value the mineral for its properties. It is a cheap and effective but deadly material used commonly in construction. Workers in countries like India take little notice of its deadly effects, and no precautions are taken by them. The penalty for this will be people falling deadly ill with cancerous lung conditions.

A huge population base and consequently cheap labour in countries like India means that construction labourers are 'expendable', in such emerging economies' struggles to increase their economic clout and gradually enter the special club of advanced countries' territory. If a tiny proportion of their workforce is sacrificed in the effort, it is handily overlooked.

But that Canada is also prepared to overlook the plight we are directly responsible for placing foreign workers in, while protecting our own, this is another story altogether. A shameful one, with a dreadful ending.

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