Ruminations

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hatch and Dispatch

"I think people are feeling a little, either lost -- that 'this is just how the system is[' -- or they are expecting that support is going to be there when they get to that age or that situation and finding out that it's not."
"The majority of our clients come to us in a crisis, and they're shocked ... or people who need home care, or are going to a retirement home. People don't realize this stuff isn't covered."
Kyla Cullain, registered nurse, founder, Next Step Transition

Age happens. What could be more inevitable? Life's journey takes us on a slow but steady transition from birth to childhood, maturity to old age. Old age is the precursor to the finality of life. When existence becomes an issue of how much longer, when each day is precious and not to be wasted, and when the aging body starts its own journey of breakdowns and the mind becomes troubled with the certain knowledge that time is an essence beyond our control.

Proportion of population aged less than 15 years old and 65 years old and over, 1982 to 2036, Canada

Of a population of 35.9-million people there are now 5,580,900 Canadians 65 years of age or older. An amazing statistic when it is paired with the fact that there are now fewer Canadian children of 14 years of age and under than there are adult Canadians over 65. That proportion of the elderly population in the country comprises 16.1% of the total. But wait: by 2055 that number is set to rise to a projected quarter of the population: 25%.

At the present time the median age for women overall in Canada stands at 41.4, while for men that median age is 39.6. This does not bode well for the future of a country in need of youth to take their place in society, which is to say replacing the elderly who move from productivity in society to the temporary stasis and eventual disintegration when they depart this mortal coil.

Gloomy thoughts, all. But a reflection of reality. And so, with an eye to the future, little wonder it is that a country that was built on immigration continues to count on ongoing immigration to build up its population and its workforce. Immigrants from other countries bring to Canada their youth, their skills, their growth prospect in having families, all contributing to the welfare of the country.

All provinces are not equal; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan had a median age of 34.5 years in comparison to that of Ottawa, the capital in Ontario, at 39.1. New Brunswick, points out Statistics Canada, has the largest proportion of people age 65 or older at 19 percent, while Nunavut has the smallest at 3.7 percent. According to StatsCan, the general population is "aging more slowly in the territories and Prairie provinces" with more children age 14 and under than elsewhere in the country.

health expenditures per capita by age group
Needless to say, the elderly are more costly to society, requiring medical care at a greater rate, more frequently than other portions of the population, as they age. The care and concern for their well-being is a problem that governments at all levels focus on because there is an obvious need to do so. Problem is, with fewer people available to be employed, pay taxes and ensure that the wherewithal to continue social programs benefiting the elderly, the issue of affordability arises.

Canada is certainly not unique in its ageing population and the relative decline in birth rates resulting in a lopsided population base; too few youth, too many aged. Of the industrialized countries of the world, this is an issue that is common to all, one that Japan, as an example, has been struggling with for many years. Among G7 nations the United States alone with 15 percent of its population in the elderly category is lower than Canada's 16.1 percent.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sociopathic Manipulation

"[The youth jail prisoner is] helpful, thoughtful, engaging, extremely intelligent, and someone who makes friends fast."
"[She also has a great sense of humour, along with an] infectious smile."
Unnamed jail official
Kailey Oliver Machado sentenced as an adult
Kailey Oliver Machado, who has been sentenced to 6.5 years as an adult, is shown in this Facebook photo.

Prison officials and social service workers outdid themselves with fulsome praise speaking of the special qualities inherent in the 18-year-old's personality. One of the jail teachers spoke of her as being a "pleasure to have in the classroom". While she was incarcerated, she took the time and made the effort to be involved in some sixteen education programs on offer, ranging from financial literacy to anger management.

She had "significantly matured", according to 2014 court filings, in the opinion of her probation officer. The jail official who was so taken with her smile, claimed her to represent an asset to youth-jail programs. Staff recognized her as caring and supportive. Another male jail official reported his approval on witnessing that she was "rounding out to be a very nice young lady."

Without a shadow of a doubt that would be of great comfort to the teen-age girls she had coerced and threatened into prostitution. One of whom thought more about committing suicide after what she had been through thanks to this girl with the infectious smile, than about what a nice  young lady her tormentor was seen to be.

Another young girl was so traumatized by the experiences forced upon her that fear has left her feeling unsafe in the city where she had always lived, and where she had been beaten, drugged and forced to have sex with men who paid handsomely for the pleasure they took in what amounted to juvenile rape -- profiting the girl with the infectious smile.

One imagines that although the now young woman was herself more than capable of presenting as a prostitute for hire, she found it far more agreeable to force others as young as thirteen into the degrading profession, leaving herself as their pimp, who collected payment and made all the arrangements for the business she had established for herself.
Kailey Oliver Machado sentenced to 6.5 years
Kailey Oliver Machado, who has been sentenced to 6.5 years as an adult, is shown in this Facebook photo.

And yes, she was indeed intelligent if one is to judge from her school records, a class valedictorian and cheerleader. Who planned, she informed her probation officer, to attend university. She obviously had the brains required to achieve grade results in the 80s in her studies undertaken while in prison. Perhaps she was considering social work as her line of profession.

That was their opinion of her; an exemplary young woman, with good manners and an interest in educating herself, and being helpful to others. Presumably her violence and threats against other  young girls represented a mere lapse in youthful judgement. For which she paid the price imposed by a judge who spoke of what she had done to young girls as a "vile enterprise", sentenced as an adult to  prison, serving 7 months accounting for pre-sentence time served.

Her opinion of society's disciplinary justice imposed upon her for her business acumen was that prison time was "horrible". She did not appreciate her jailers "controlling every aspect of your life", and amazingly, she had established no friendships there. Moreover, she had nothing in common with other inmates whom she spoke of  as "drug addicts from the North".

She, on the other hand, had pleaded guilty to prostitution recruiting, luring and child pornography. When she was released from prison in 2014, her probation officer felt she would benefit from counselling for an "adequate time period". Those whom she criticized in prison for their use of hard drugs were "scary"; she just couldn't relate to them.

However, the model inmate who had performed a "80-degree turn", was arrested last week on two counts of crack-cocaine trafficking and one count of proceeds of crime.


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Monday, September 28, 2015

Suicide Run Amok

"I think the word 'contagion' scares people, because people do start to be worried about young people in their family catching suicide -- or it to be an epidemic in that way -- but suicide doesn't work that way."
"But that we do have evidence of is exposure. Where, if you are a young person and you know someone that has ended their life by suicide, there is an elevated risk that you will, in turn, end your life by suicide."
"The government [of Nunavut] deserves to be shamed for this [not funding anti-suicide strategy]."
"Child sexual abuse is another huge problem. But nobody is willing to talk about it."
Dr. Allison Crawford, psychiatrist, Nunavut

"I had never been exposed to suicide before that [1977 suicide of his two older brothers]. To me, that seemed to be the beginning, and it was usually young men committing suicide."
"Look, we have the highest suicide rate in Canada. Our leadership should be shouting about it from the hilltops."
"Let's make suicide prevention our number one issue."
Jack Anawak, 64, Repulse Bay, Nunavut

"The rates of major psychiatric illness found in this study were higher than in the general Canadian population. The rates of major depressive disorder among Inuit in our study were higher than the national average."
"There's no one single cause for suicide. What the study showed is that suicide is the outcome of a process that starts much earlier."
"Protective factors are also very, very important and they're also part of the picture. Our study is not able to give precise answers because the data we collected could not identify the causes. But there's definitely a pattern there."
"I don't think we could implement a suicide prevention strategy without tackling the mental health problems and substance abuse and childhood adversity."
"This is a process that starts at some point early in life, which in a way tells us there's different windows of opportunity to intervene on suicide prevention."
Eduardo Chachamovich, lead author, report on Nunavut suicide study, 2013
The sun over Iqaluit at noon in December. An inquest into Nunavut's devastating suicide rate has laid bare the territory's lack of capacity to cope, but to trigger federal help, a territory has to ask, writes Laura Eggertson.
The sun over Iqaluit at noon in December.  (Jeanette Gevikoglu) 

The territory of Nunavut's coroner, Padma Suramala, decided to initiate an inquiry/inquest into the prevalence of suicides among aboriginal Canadians, and specifically the high rate of the expression of hopelessness leading to suicide in the far North of Canada. Statistics show that since 1999, 479 Inuit have taken their own lives. The methods used range from hanging themselves, shooting themselves, overdosing, and stabbing themselves.

That number of Inuit children attempting suicide aged 11 to 14, represents 50 times the national average, out of a population of roughly 28,000. A young boy of 15 and older is almost ten times likelier to commit suicide than someone living in the south. In 2013, 45 suicides took place, a dozen of whom were women while 33 were men mostly in the age range of fifteen to twenty-five. The oldest committing suicide that year was 72 years of age, the youngest 13.

The soul-searing emotions of depression, substance abuse, emotions of utter hopelessness and despair can occur to vulnerable people anywhere, and they do, and they are responsible for taking lives everywhere, but the sheer volume of suicides taking place in Canada's far north speak of a far more fundamental issue that drains people's will to live. Researchers speak of the connection of child sexual abuse with later suicidal impulses among the young. Offenders in Nunavut are charged with sexual violations against children and youth at 10 times the national rate.

Research conducted not only in Canada's north but also among troubled youth in Alaska and Greenland reflect similarities. What all three places where Inuit live have in common is the transition in lifestyle, when beginning in the 1950s a social experiment took place with grave consequences seen today. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the federal government decided to change a society of hunters and gatherers into an urbane collective; people living in isolated settlements, becoming accustomed to shopping for their food.

As an example, Jack Anawak speaks of the rapid social transformation responsible for confusing traditional roles. He himself grew up with the tradition of hunting and trapping. He already had a family of his own by age 17, with all the responsibilities that normally accompany such a familial status. The food his wife and children relied upon was food he was responsible for providing, and not through a trip to the local grocery; he set traplines and he hunted.

When the social transformation took place, he witnessed the deterioration in purpose that struck his brothers, leading them to suicide in 1977. Additionally in that same generation many young Inuit were sent to residential schools, taken from their families and exposed to a modern lifestyle for the purpose of wrenching them away from a traditional Inuit lifestyle, where they lost memory of their heritage, their language, and were taught instead practical European lifestyle skills.

It isn't that the high suicide rate is being ignored. Years earlier the government of Nunavut, along with the Nunavut land claims organization, a suicide prevention group and the RCMP studied how they might best develop a suicide prevention strategy. In 2010 the completed strategy was announced, consisting of better access to improved mental health services along with suicide-intervention training for responders, including police, teachers, community leaders and parents.

Government departments were supposed to mobilize to "transform the way suicide prevention happens in Nunavut". But adequate funds were never set aside specifically for that purpose, and the plan was never fully implemented. If financial assistance was required to augment whatever the Nunavut government was prepared to allocate, there is a mechanism whereby, if requested, the federal government is prepared to help.

Canada has an Emergency Management Act, and an Emergency Management Framework. Ottawa is prepared to respond to any request for assistance, and to do so swiftly. The federal government has committed to a federal role in suicide prevention or any other emergencies that must be addressed. Requiring "resources beyond their capacity to cope in an emergency or disaster" is a recognized responsibility of the federal government. But it will act only if and when aid is requested of it.

So while the inquest mapped out the situation prevailing, in the process revealing the territory's inability to cope with the epidemic of suicide, federal assistance has not to date been requested, though it obviously should be. There is an atmosphere of malaise that is acknowledged but not much appears to be done to combat it, and that is the issue of sexual violence aimed primarily at women and children, although men too suffer such abuse in the territory.

Some 52 percent of women and 22 percent of men reported sexual abuse in childhood of the most severe nature; according to data from the Inuit Health Survey of 2007-2008. Cases of children presenting with sexually transmitted infections, along with other evidence of sexual abuse are identified by psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists, according to Dr. Allison Crawford, director of the Northern Psychiatric Outreach Program for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto.

"The degree of childhood abuse is something that I think is talked about even less than suicide. It's still present and prevalent in communities", she testified at the inquest. "We have a new case that's come to the attention of mental health at least monthly, and sometimes more frequently. Social services do become involved automatically, and often the RCMP will become involved. But often the outcome — there are very few consequences."

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Post-Intensive Care Syndrome

"Back when I started, everybody was heavily sedated. We didn't want to wake them up until we thought they were getting better."
Louise Rose, TD nursing professor, critical care research, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto

"I'll tell people 'I can assure you that you were not sexually assaulted in the ICU', and they'll say, 'How do you know that for sure'?"
"I think this is why we're on a crusade about this -- why on Earth do we invest so much in the ICU, and the critical illness portion of this person's care, but we're not investing in their recovery? It makes no sense."
Dr. Margaret Herridge, professor of medicine, University of Toronto

These are the sickest of the sickest of the ICU survivors."
"It's almost as if they have survived the acute illness but now suffer from the consequence of every last reserve in their body being drained."
Dr. Ian Fraser, respirologist, medical director, Toronto East General Hospital

"...It was when I was being brought out of the drug-induced coma that I became fully psychotic [convinced one of her doctors was attempting to kill her]."
"[Being on a ventilator] was awful beyond belief."
"We owe it to our most vulnerable patients that their care doesn't stop when they exit the doors of the ICU."
"These things can happen to any one of us."
Cheryl Misak, patient, Toronto
Fotolia
Fotolia

As a patient, Cheryl Misak experienced a life-changing episode post-surgery when she hosted an infection that caused acute respiratory syndrome and septis, in 1998. Her profession as an academic guaranteed that she had a rational mind and was highly intelligent, as a philosopher and formerly provost at University of Toronto. Her ordeal in the ICU, however challenged her rationality, leading her to believe she had become a victim in a conspiracy to murder her in hospital.

When she did leave the hospital, frail and emaciated, the slightest exertion led to searing nerve pain in her body, shooting up from the soles of her feet to her neck. Sleep eluded her with the sound track of the ICU fixed in her mind and memory; the sound of the ventilator she was hooked up to, and other patients suffering the agonies of the same kind of "utter insanity" that had afflicted her. What afflicted her and the others is being identified by scientists, but little understood by them.

It is a phenomenon that afflicts mind and affects body, called "post-intensive care syndrome", where a full range of symptoms that may include muscle weakness, cognitive dysfunction similar to the onset of Alzheimer's disease or traumatic brain injury, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder sets in. A study published in April concluded that 25 percent of patients who survive an ICU admission present with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder between one and six months following their hospital stay.

Some of these people suffering the symptoms of paralyzing depression struggle with thoughts of committing suicide. It is a problem of immense dimensions since over a quarter-million people are admitted every year in Canada to ICUs. Of the seventy-five percent who survive and are discharged from hospital, up to half of the patients will go on to experience symptoms of post-ICU syndrome, a situation that knows no age boundaries.

In a hospital's intense care unit, physical restraints and the overuse of sedation is common. And this can result in patients' impressions that they are being tortured, an impression that it is conjectured could lead to the after-shocks of intensive care. Cheryl Misak recalls that she hallucinated improbable scenarios from her hospital bed in the ICU while she was being treated from the devastating infection that put her there.


The protocols used in the ICU were led by the medical profession being convinced that deep sedation has the effect of decreasing patient agitation, making them less likely to withdraw breathing tubes or otherwise interfere with care given them. It was believed that patients would be more psychologically disturbed to be fully alert than to be under the influence of drugs. And yet high doses of some sedatives could contribute to ICU delirium, the widespread brain dysfunction capable of promoting paranoid delusions.

Distortion in apprehension occurs, however, when people are heavily sedated and also physically restrained, leading to "persecutory" delusions in the belief that someone is determined to hurt, perhaps even kill them. Now, research shows that lucid and accurate memories can be dealt with, however uncomfortable the situation, whereas delusional memories become harmful to the patient's mind. Leading to a move to use less sedation.

People can leave the ICU feeling anxious, depressed and weak, unable to return to normal life. The situation can be responsible for ruining marriages. Moreover, there is no best-practices standard of followup care for ICU patients. What brought Ms. Misak then 38, and the mother of two young children to hospital, was an invasion of group A streptococcus, the toxic bacteria known to 'eat' flesh, leading to amputations and sometimes death.

Follow-up research now suggests that one in three ICU patients requiring mechanical ventilation experience PTSD symptoms that can remain with them up to two years following discharge from hospital. Hundreds of ICU beds are filled daily with medically stable patients on a ventilator for 21 days or longer, and where the use of heavy sedation can cause an increase in the time that patients are on ventilators.

A "weaning" centre at Toronto East General Hospital is where a skilled team works to have patients breathe on their own again. And there, with the specialized weaning program, for patients who have been on ventilators for an average of two months there is minimal or zero sedation. The longer someone is on a mechanical breathing machine, the more likely the risk of dying, or never being able to breathe on their own.

The program that Dr. Herridge and her colleagues have organized is called the RECOVER program, teamed with the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group. Their focus is on minimizing the use of powerful sedatives, and to have an knowledgeable health care team screen for  symptoms of delirium in the ICU, to treat it aggressively before it makes its mark on the patient. The team is intent on establishing national standards for organized ICU followup and rehabilitation.


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Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Small Town Tragedy, A Universal Event


Mourners hold a candlelit vigil in remembrance of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Natalie Warmardam in Wilno on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015.
Mourners hold a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Natalie Warmardam in Wilno on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

"She [Mary Ann] states that the marriage and Sahra's conception were Basil's strategies to manipulate the court."
"His mission was to marry and conceive another child, thinking that no judge would send a married, expectant father to jail -- particularly when the wife was in support. Mary Ann's mantra throughout her testimony was that she did what she was told because the underlying message was that no one would believe her and the threat that if she disappointed, he would take the children."
Justice Rick Leroy, December 2011 judgement

"I've tried to take the children from him [Borutski], not allowing any access whatsoever. I have made false statements about him to convince authorities he should not have custody. I have destroyed the children's lives unknowingly ..."
"I want to make sure my husband has the right to take care of the children and all financial decisions. I believe he's the only person that I can trust to do what is right and fair for everyone concerned. I am doing this on my own free will and I am not being coerced or threatened."
Mary Ann Mask, 1994 marriage contract
Mary Ann Mask informed a judge in 2011 when she was obtaining a divorce from her husband Basil Joseph Borutski, now 57 and facing three charges of first-degree murder, that the man "destroyed her spirit by relentless threats and abuse". It's beyond difficult for onlookers to understand how and why it is that any woman would commit to a relationship that is horribly abusive. But that this is a commonplace occurrence is beyond dispute.

Whether it is love that inspires women to stand by men who have challenged those women's determined belief of respect and equality and tender love in an intimate relationship, or the fantasy that the quality of their own love and their patient personalities will be ample to the task of persuading the men to become better human beings, is beyond anyone's ken. Women seem, to begin with, to be all too often attracted to men whose characters are of a dubious, black nature.

Clearly, Mary Ann Mask was attracted to the man who later abused her dreadfully over the 26 years that they had such an intimate relationship that after he had been charged by her with brutality, they were reconciled three times, were later married and conceived and raised two children together. Until the final break came when it was no longer possible to live with a man whose degrading violence, threats and psychotic control destroyed the love that was present, leaving only fear.

Mary Ann Mask sought legal defence for domestic assault for the first time in 1985. At that time Basil Borutski defended himself successfully at the cost of $20,000 in legal fees. Despite that history of co-habiting dysfunction the common-law couple moved back together to a home, separating in 1993 when he was once again charged with assaulting Mary Ann Mask. Yet she was persuaded and bullied once again to reconcile with the man, marry him in 1994, and have a second child with him.

After the acrimonious divorce Borutski continued the fiction of his innocence the victim of false allegations by a mentally ill, vindictive woman. He'd had her copy out and sign a marriage contract in 1994 wherein she 'admitted' fault, and authorized his complete custody of their children and all their finances All charges of assault and uttering death threats were withdrawn time and again, with Borutski informing court that his wife's injuries had been self-inflicted.

This week, three women with whom Basil Borutski had had intimate relations were found murdered in the span of a few hours, in and close to the community of Wilno, some few hours' distance from the nation's capital, Ottawa. Carol Culleton, 66, had been strangled in her cottage on Kamaniskeg Lake Road, Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, had been shot dead at her home on Szezipior Road, and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48, was shot dead as well at her farmhouse on Foymount Road, on Tuesday.

Basil Borutsky is in custody. A man whose long predation on women and violence toward them had gone unpunished and unchecked.

Video thumbnail for Raw Video: Candlelight vigil for slain women in Wilno, Ontario

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Putting Children's Welfare First

"We don't know [why it is that children who have grown up in Quebec's universal childcare system have such poor outcomes in later life]. Not quite sure what it is about the program, whether it's staffing, whether it's curriculum, whether it's funding. I don't know the answer.... But I think the important thing about our [study] paper is that it really does focus in that these non-cognitive skills are ones that maybe we ought to think about targeting."
Kevin Milligan, one of three authors of recent Quebec study

The Importance of Early Childhood Attachment
Numerous studies conducted in varied settings show clearly that the only way to build strong independence in children is to indulge their strong needs for dependence when they are very young. As Margaret Mead put it, "we do not know -- man has never known -- how else to give a human being a sense of selfhood and identity, a sense of the worth of the world." The path to the sturdy self lies directly across the lap of mother and father. There is no other route.
Parents who push their children out into the world before they are ready do them no favors. In my years of working in parent-cooperative play groups and nursery schools I myself have seen a number of strikingly disturbed and protestful children in this situation. I remember one two-year-old in Washington, D.C., for instance, who would shake and whimper, frantically clutch her stuffed animal, and finally curl herself on the floor in a tight crouch, refusing to be comforted, on many mornings when she was dropped off. Usually it was her babysitter who delivered her, only occasionally her mother, never her father.
Children in Classroom
Pre-school debate ... Has nursery care become so accepted that people no longer question it? Photograph: Mika/Corbis Mika/Corbis

"Human attachment" research has demonstrated that the early relationship between infants and preschoolers and their parents is the "foundation stone" of all subsequent personality development. It has also shown that even very marginal parental care is better for a young child than institutional care. As John Bowlby, the only psychiatrist who has twice received the American Psychiatric Association's highest award, warned, "a home must be very bad before it is bettered by a good institution."

Sometimes social experiments that are taken up with great enthusiasm and preconceived ideas of what they will lead to in enhancing society, don't quite live up to expectations. There was one great experiment that involved most of the forward-looking, economically advanced Western countries that coincided largely with the emergence of feminism. When women looked around them as their bold leaders in the new field of freeing women from the restraints of custom led the way, and wondered why it was only they who were bound to home and children, and began agitating for more respect.

That respect simply eluded because, they said, they were stay-at-homes, rather than forging careers in the public sphere of the workplace. Women concluded that they had sacrificed too much of their own aspirations for satisfaction in life by having children and then dedicating their efforts, their time, their attention and their energies solely to raising their children. While other women who chose not to raise families joined the workforce and gain respect because they were earning salaries.

Somehow it escaped everyone's notice that someone has to raise the new generation and who would be better equipped than the women who brought those children into being? Yes, it is difficult to cope with all the stresses of looking after the needs of young children, to guide and protect them, to ensure they have all their needs, both physical and emotional looked to. It is exhausting, time-consuming and all-encompassing. The rewards should be inherent in the very act of doing so, since children are helpless and vulnerable and it is the natural duty of parents, mother and father to fulfill their obligations.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, value and respect were solely the province of those whose labour merited financial compensation, and no one was paying mothers to stay at home to look after their children. The transformation that took place when families began to farm out their children to day care meant an expanded workforce, where women re-entered the arena of paid work and paid others to look after their children's needs while they did so. Tellingly, daycare workers have always earned a pittance; the women who feel the grinding work of child rearing is unappreciated, express in this way their lack of appreciation for the women who take on their responsibilities for them.

Rationally women should have realized that they had sacrificed again, this time their children's well-being for the discomfiting reality that it wouldn't be their mother as primary caregiver, giving care in every sense of the word. But society succumbed to the notion that this was a more equitable sharing of child-rearing responsibilities; that neither mother nor father would lose opportunities to earn money, and both would pool resources to pay others to raise their children.

And this, at a time when their children were most impressionable, from ages six months to six years when the human brain and mind are patterned and formed, when strangers imbue the process with their own personal stamp. "Quality time" was what parents comforted themselves with, to describe those harried times between work and bedtime that they spent with their children, when the entire family would be tired and irascible.

This was all done with free will, in the choices that people made for themselves, and just incidentally for their children as well. In socially-advanced Sweden which initiated universal daycare in the late 1970s the performance of children socially and academically has plunged; where once 15-year-olds scored high in mathematics, science and reading well above the OECD average in 2000 and 2003, that performance has since plummeted, by 2012.

According to a study published by the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada, it has been pointed out that mental health among Sweden's 15-year-olds has declined from 1986 to 2002 faster than in eleven comparable European countries. And now, a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, indicates that children who have experienced Quebec's universal child care program are likelier to commit crimes, they have poor health outcomes and lower levels of life satisfaction as adults than children elsewhere in Canada without access to a similar system.

A 2007 study published by the Quebec think-tank CIRANO stated that exposure to daycare produced "no evidence, up to now, that it has enhanced school readiness or child early literacy skills in general", finding that the attainments in education of four- and five-year-olds actually decreased in the first decade of Quebec's daycare program, so envied and lauded for its universality, accessibility and reasonable cost, at $7 a day.

In the United States, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care, found that the greater the amount of time spent in child care of any type or quality, the greater aggressiveness children involved exhibited. This was a $100-million survey of 1,100 children's post-childcare outcomes. Children took their cues from their peers; the guidance from their parents was absent, and since peer pressure and competition does not bring out the sweetest in our natures perhaps that outcome might have been predictable.

Children have a dire need that must be fulfilled; it is one programmed by nature. Children have a deep emotional need to be bonded with their parents. In their parents' care, they find emotional support and stability; the guidance in every sphere of life that they obtain through not necessarily being directly taught by their parents, but by interacting with them, observing them and inheriting their values, this is what will guide them throughout their lives.

Without that direct hands-on and continued close support from and with their parents they are frustrated and unfulfilled and unprepared to launch themselves into any kind of social setting with confidence. Parents are meant to be the primary source of care for the children they bear. It is as simple as that. And when that natural order of human development is disturbed the end results are all too often -- not always -- but often dysfunction. If the parents haven't imbued them with the values that will carry them through life, they will look for validation at their peer group, unsavoury associations included.

What it means is that society should readjust its periscope vision in the realization that children's welfare should come first. Farming them out to caregivers -- outside the family, irrespective of whether this is through registered daycare facilities or neighbourhood entrepreneurs whereby one woman will contract to look after far more children than is reasonable for anyone, may help the parents earn a family income that enables them to 'live well', but their child is not living well.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Long Overdue: Recognition of Animals as Sentient Beings

"The laws around cats and dogs often focus on humans' motives [e.g., cruelty] rather than on what the animals are actually feeling."
"Recognizing sentience [as Quebec plans to do] acknowledges that abilities to feel pleasure and pain are widespread, even in those groups of animals who have not been very well protected as yet. That is to be welcomed."
Georgia Mason, behavioural biologist, University of Guelph

"If I was going to court [in Quebec] to argue about it, what I would argue is, 'Your honour, it's not new to recognize that animals are sentient, our laws have recognized that for a long time."
"What is new is the people of this province have decided it's time to recognize that. Their sentience has been hidden behind many forms of industrial exploitation for a very long time."
Lesli Bisgould, adjunct professor of animals and the law, University of Toronto

Violators of Quebec's new animal-rights bill can be fined up to $250,000.
Violators of Quebec's new animal-rights bill can be fined up to $250,000. (Francis Vachon /AP Images for Humane Society International)

The National Assembly in Quebec City is continuing to debate Bill 54 proposing that animals be recognized as "sentient beings", and not merely property, within the province. This recognition has been acknowledged in New Zealand, with the legal recognition of animals having sentience. And there are movements elsewhere to recognize animals as "persons" with rights to be recognized, attached to that status. 
Quebec's Bill 54 proposes:
  • protections for certain species of animals not covered under current legislation,
  • requirements in relation to psychological welfare for certain species,
  • increased penalties for infractions, including jail time,
  • and a permit system for pet stores, fur farms, and persons with 15 or more horses under their care.
The bill also includes an amendment to the Civil Code of Quebec that would explicitly recognize animals as sentient beings, but nonetheless still subject them to the property regime.

Anyone who has an affection for animals cannot be unaware that they are sentient. And those who value companion animals, living with them, observing them, interacting with them, providing for them, and caring deeply for their welfare, is aware that humans communicate with animals; animals in other words are more than capable of understanding what their human companions want of them and having deciphered the animal-human mode of communication, generally comply.

Needless to say, the communication works in reverse as well. Animals are more than capable of informing the humans with whom they live of what their wishes are. Could any animal that is not sentient know when it is time to awaken their humans, to remind them that it's time they were fed, walked, display affection and interact in any number of ways with them?


Animals in the wild among whom we live in North America understand very swiftly what has happened when food is put out for them. Squirrels, chipmunks, chickadees, pigeons, crows and doves will gather around people they recognize. And they recognize them because they have experienced other events with those people, where food is proffered and accepted.

If food is left in specific cache-places in forested areas on a regular basis the animals and birds know where to go to retrieve it. They know also from familiarity who it is that is placing it there, and will confront them directly in expectation of being given that food. Animals in distress will on occasion approach people for help. Does any of this not speak of the obvious sentience of animals?

The ability of primates and porpoises to communicate and their willingness to do so is well enough known. The obvious intelligence of primates has been studied and confirmed. Some of them exhibit the intelligence of a human child of six. They are capable of mastering a level of intercommunicative language; they are able to manipulate tools. They have proven repeatedly how intelligent they are.


"Calling animals sentient beings is going to have legal implications. [The Quebec] bill is going to have to address the fact there are some things  you can do with property that you can't do with human beings such as buying, selling and killing]", points out Josey Kitson, executive director of the advocacy group World Animal Protection.

In fact, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia can boast some of Canada's most robust animal rights laws. Passing Bill 54 would only bring Quebec in line with what pertains in those other provinces with animal protection. The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits cruelty to animals. And most provinces employ the equivalent of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act: "No person shall cause an animal to be in distress".

A legal statement in and of itself which implicitly recognizes the obvious fact that animals think, and they have emotions and they feel. The unfortunate thing is the law and the application of it do not quite match; enforcement is questionable. The Canadian Council on Animal Care in Science states that animals should be protected from pain and distress "which only makes sense if laboratory animals are assumed to be sentient", observed Georgia Mason.

The National Farm Animal Care Council has acknowledged sentience status for livestock. Laboratory animals, albeit sentient, are not viewed nor treated in a manner equal to the protections given to companion animals and for fairly obvious reasons which doesn't make their treatment acceptable.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hospital-Acquired Post-Surgical Infections

"I expected the number to be high, but not quite that high."
"As a surgeon, infection is your worst complication. It is clear that bacteria are brought into the operating room by the OR personnel and can potentially cause surgical wound infections The best way to monitor traffic is to count door openings."
"[Entry to an OR should be considered] a privilege and not a right. Before entering any OR, OR personnel should ask themselves this question: is my presence really beneficial to the patient?"
"Infection following total joint arthroplasty remains a disastrous complication for both the patient and surgeon."
"Once the bacteria is in contact with metal, it is very difficult, if not impossible to eradicate with antibiotics alone."
Dr Martin Bedard, orthopedic surgeon, Hopital de l'Enfant Jesus de Quebec

"The misery -- because I see a lot of these patients -- is significant."
"We would all like to ask ourselves, how do we get to zero [infection rates]?"
"The staff are gowned and gloved. But the patient is there, giving off their skin cells as we yank and pull and do the surgery ... we all know from the Pigpen theory of infectious diseases, the more people in the room, the greater the risk."
"Does opening and closing a door make a difference? We don't know."
Dr. Dick Zoutman, professor, Queen's University, Kingston
New research suggests it may be best to limit the amount of people coming and going into the OR.
Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia    New research suggests it may be best to limit the amount of people coming and going into the OR. 
 
A new study points to the rather cavalier disregard of medical personnel to hygiene practises during surgical procedures in operating rooms being responsible for the incidence of surgical infections. The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery, the work of Dr. Bedard and his co-authors, followed orthopedic surgeries in particular, since this is Dr. Bedard's specialty. What pertains to this type of surgery would also hold true for all other type of surgery, unless some, like triple-heart-bypass observe stricter entry/exit rules for the operating theatre, and with good reason.

There is a fallout from the incidence of such infections. The most obvious is the pain and inconvenience caused to the patient who must then struggle to overcome infection with the use of antibiotics or whatever protocol is then called upon to rid him/her of the hospital-acquired infection which can be extremely pervasive. Avoidance is a far more effective tool, obviously. Re-admission to hospital may result, and sometimes additional surgical procedures to correct the inadvertent complicating results of the original surgery.

The estimated additional cost to the health care system in the treatment of an infected prosthetic joint can go up to $60,000. Inherent in the cost may be repeat surgeries and on occasion temporary removal of the prosthesis for the purpose of sterilizing the affected knee. The risk of such infections is about one to two percent: "one percent times thousands of surgeries per year is not insignificant", points out Dr. Zoutman. Humans "slough off" millions of cells from the surface of the human skin. The more people in an operating room, the more likely infection may be to occur.

Efforts are extended to ensure that the operating room is as sterile as possible. Medical personnel don gowns, masks and gloves. But those who exit the room during the intense procedure, then return, have a greater opportunity to spread infection. There are obviously sound reasons for people leaving or entering the operating room; from retrieval of an instrument to fetching a component of the joint. On the other hand, other people leave to "chat with a friend" in the corridor outside, to ask questions unrelated to the operation, or to pick up personal items.

Bacterial count is directly proportional to the number of people in the room; the greater the number in the room, the more frequently traffic flows in and out. And frequent door openings are capable of disturbing the positive pressure airflow system in the OR "possibly introducing more bacteria into the OR and potentially contributing to contamination of the wound", the study concludes. Over 200,000 Canadians become infected in a health-care institution annually. Surgical site infections are  responsible for one-third of all such hospital-acquired infections.

Hip and knee replacements, as the most frequently performed surgeries in Canada, account for up to 105,000 surgeries combined between 2012 and 2013, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. A total of 7,110 door openings were recorded for the study, relating to 100 surgeries. On average, a dozen people and up to 19 were present in the operating room for each operation performed and examined for the purposes of the study.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In Doctors We Trust -- A Cautionary Tale

"I would express to doctors how I would feel, and they would write in the report that it's just fine."
"I paid attention that when I came out from the surgery the other patients that were with me in the room for recovery were able to stand up, to walk around, to move, and to eventually go home with the help of their family members."
"I could not move. Something was very heavy and pulling wherever the surgery was on the right upper abdominal side."
"This is when we felt betrayed, confused, and very bitter, because we did not know where to go for help."
"We felt relieved, we felt validated. At the same time we felt very puzzled how nobody would even click that something so simple can cause so much trouble, and such a deteriorating state of existence where I would be just outsourced to go home and to live on morphine."
"It’s obvious, mistakes happen in the medical community. My expectation as a patient is that you don’t run away, that as a doctor you come back and you help me to get better instead of closing yourself in your own insecurity shell."
Kapka Petrov, 40, Toronto
Kapka Petrov, the Toronto woman who suffered excruciating pain after a metal clip was left inside her stomach during gall bladder surgery.
FAMILY PHOTO    Kapka Petrov, the Toronto woman who suffered excruciating pain after a metal clip was left inside her stomach during gall bladder surgery.

Surgeons are focused, certainly they must be, since much depends on it. A wrong move on the operating table and they could be the cause of a death. In the case of Toronto mother Kapka Petrov, there was no death, but her experience most certainly did alter the chronic state of her health and with it her life. In 2009 she required gall bladder surgery. As the old saying goes, the surgery was successful, but the patient will remain forevermore a patient.

Post-surgery she was assailed with excruciating stomach pains. She required help to shower, to dress, even to eat. But that help was not forthcoming from the medical community; her husband lost his job needing to focus on his wife. The medical team looking after her seemed unmoved by her condition, much less her complaints. Finally she did get some attention; it must have occurred to someone in the medical community that eight hospitalizations in the course of a single year indicated something awry.

But no, it didn't. She left Canada at her parents' concerned behest, to travel back to Bulgaria where she had emigrated from, to look for medical care there. And there, in Bulgaria, with a health-care system that Westerners sneer must surely be inferior to what pertains in North America, doctors discovered a metal clip left unharvested after her surgery. The clip held together the main nerve of her liver and an artery and had abnormally crimped her liver.

In Toronto, Ms. Kapka's surgeon described the removal of her gallbladder teeming with stones, so inflamed that a minor hemorrhage of the liver resulted, but everything would be fine, just stay home and take the prescribed painkillers. But nothing was fine; she experienced rising discomfort accompanied by vomiting, so she had returned to the hospital where a second surgeon met with her and her husband, concerned about a possible lawsuit.

Another surgery ensued, an ERCP liver procedure along with a sphincterotomy in case remaining stones were responsible for her pain. Once again she was discharged from hospital and a jar of morphine accompanied her home. As the months went on, the pain did too, along with gastro problems. To this, her original doctor denied there was a surgical issue involved, and she was not to bother them again.

She was convinced she was about to die. But she underwent surgery in Sofia, Bulgaria, after which she recalled her father comforting her: "I just remember his face coming to me and saying, ‘You made it. They saved you. They discovered horrible things, but you’ll make it. You’re alive and you’ll keep living’." Horror story over. But not so fast; two years later, as she continued to recover from her original ordeal, she fell ill again, requiring an emergency hysterectomy.

After this surgery she was once more subject to severe pain, in the pelvic and rectal regions, and the solution once again was the prescription of painkillers and anti-depressants. She experienced partial paralysis on her left side when six months later a surgeon diagnosed damage to the pudendal nerve, giving her a nerve block injection. It was all too, too familiar. 

Back she went to Bulgaria where surgeons discovered a huge endometrial nest in her left ovary and severe burns to the sigmoid colon and urinary tract resulting from the laparoscopic hysterectomy. Her ordeal has been listed in a recently published report by Health Quality Ontario and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute which examined international cases, did a survey of Canadian nurses, doctors and other health-care professionals and held an online public consultation.

A 2004 study the last time it was done, indicates that 7.25 percent of patients, amounting to one in 13 people, had undergone unintended harm through admissions at Canadian hospitals. Topping the list of errors are surgeries that were unsuccessful when doctors have operated on the incorrect body part or even the wrong patient; carrying through the wrong surgery; and overlooking medical equipment left in a patient's body. 

Toxic gas wrongly administered is also on the list. The report speaks also of unsterilized equipment, the placing of incorrect biological material, inclusive of wrong blood type, incompatible organs and wrong donor sperm into a patient as well as giving patients drugs they have a listed allergy to and burns and failure to prevent attempts at suicide. Infant abductions and baby swaps also made the list.

On a personal note and hardly applicable as being in the same serious category as these is a recent experience of a 78 year-old woman who fell down a full flight of stairs, slammed her cranium against the marble floor at the bottom of the stairs, sustaining half-face bruising and a closed left eye with the eyelid swelling and drooping over the eye. She decided not to see her family doctor. A month went by and the swelling reduced but the bruising remained, albeit fainter.

She went to see her family physician over another matter, an inflamed cyst that had appeared on her outer stomach wall, that was becoming infected. Her doctor is a pleasant, personable younger man, trained in eastern Europe, and practising in Canada. She had been concerned that he would ask whether she was a victim of familial abuse. No worry. The doctor, though examining her and speaking with her congenially, never seemed to notice her bruised face.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Transgender and Delayed Sexual Identification

"I was born at home instead of in a hospital. They didn't know what sex I was. I went to school and I used to wear my skirt."
"I never liked to dress as a girl. When they bought me girls' toys, I never bothered playing with them. All I wanted to do was play with the boys."
"When I changed I was happy with my life."
Johnny, 24, Salinas, Dominican Republic
Johnny, who was seemingly born as a girl but turned into a boy aged sevenJohnny, who was seemingly born as a girl but turned into a boy aged seven The Daily Telegraph

In North America there is a sex-freedom movement that insists it is counter-productive to assume that when babies are born with genitals identifying them as either girl or boy, these babies will grow emotionally into their roles as female and male. The proponents of leaving a child's sex identity gender neutral until he/she grows to maturity and asserts which of the sexes he/she prefers to be, feel that birth certificates should be absent gender identity.

They point out that there is much confusion among children in how they identify emotionally, and that societal streaming and expectation is responsible for creating even greater confusion. That children should be treated in fact as though they are asexual, androgynous, giving them the space they need to make their own determinations. They believe that this is appropriate for all children, not just those whose genitals have not fully developed one way or the other.

That for parents and society to presume to identify their children firmly as boy or girl is tantamount to child abuse.

In a decision -- after much discussion at the board level respecting the claims of transgendered oppression made inroads on the tender consciousness of the socially compassionate which one is forgiven in believing such a transformational decision could only happen in British Columbia -- the Vancouver School Board passed a policy in 2014 that the needs of the transgendered must be officially recognized.

Vancouver pronoun changeCBC News  Vancouver public school student Rowan Reimer spoke at the school board's hearing, explaining how she snuck into bathrooms in fear of other students catching her using the "wrong" one.

From that debate comes gender-neutral bathrooms, and the right of students who reject gender expression they feel does not match their biological sex to be addressed in the language of their choice, and to opt to play the sport that appeals to their emotional sex. Rather than misleading gender-binary descriptives such as "he or she", "him or her", and "his or hers", henceforth it will be "xe, xem and xyr" (pronounced "zee", "zem" and "zare".)

In the Dominican Republic, in a small isolate village, Salinas, there is a phenomenon of men who are born with all indications being that they are female. This is a result of a shared genetic deformity puzzling to science. Though they appear at birth to be girls, these boys are biologically male and the evidence of their true identity appears as they approach puberty when they develop male organs. They are called the "machihembras" ("first a woman then a man").

Johnny is one among the many affected children where in this village instances of little girls becoming boys are by no means rare events. Now 24, Johnny was named Felecita when he was born, and he was raised as a girl. A BBC documentary is on its way, titled Countdown to Life -- The Extraordinary Making Of You. The documentary, produced in two series, is meant to examine just what has occurred in Salinas.

There is a missing enzyme (5-α-reductase) preventing the production of a form of the male sex hormone, dihydro-testosterone, in the womb. In utero, all babies, male or female, have internal glands called gonads, and a small bump between their legs called a tubercle. Male babies carrying the Y chromosome at eight weeks begin to produce dihydro-testosterone which in turn transforms the tubercle into a penis.

Those babies in whom the enzyme is absent so the hormone surge required to turn the tubercle into a penis does not occur, and they appear to be female at birth. And then, at puberty, another large surge of testosterone occurs, when the male reproductive organs emerge, and it is then that the children's voices deepen. In other words, for these children, it takes twelve years for their sexual organs to appear, unlike others with normal enzyme production where the appearance is present at birth.

Johnny's transformation occurred at age seven. The condition is referred to often as the Guevedoces -- translating to "penis at 12", discovered by an endocrinologist, Dr. Julianne Imperato, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in the 1970s. Roughly one in 90 children in Salinas is affected. Eventually, though these children appear to be sexually normal males subtle differences do follow them into adulthood; less facial hair and smaller prostate glands, as an example.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Delusion of Permanence

"We decided to move, and then we were in a position deciding whether to rent or to buy and so, Colin sold his townhouse and then we bought a house in Calgary together."
"Marriage was never part of the conversation."
"I don't feel entitled to something that I didn't earn. And it's not that I don't feel like this is half my house, it is ... When I have more solid work and as time goes by, it will end up being a more equitable purchase."
Charmaine Ferguson, Calgary

"Marriage is going to be a decision, to me, which is entirely based on your love to [sic] that person, your commitment for that person, your willingness to go forward and support that person."
"It's not in any way a financial decision for me."
Colin Andrews, Calgary
Chris Bolin for National Post
Chris Bolin for National Post   Charmaine Ferguson and Colin Anderson bought a house together, but they're not married, or even engaged
"We live in a time where people don't necessarily see marriage as necessary for making all kinds of commitments."
"I think for a lot of young couples, buying a home is an economic decision and it's a better idea than renting. I say this not as a sociologist who studied it, but also as someone who did this personally."
"For me, buying a home with someone felt like less of a commitment than getting married. It's relatively easy to sell a home if you decide you want to do that, but getting divorced is a much more complicated thing."
Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology, New York University

"The Supreme Court of Canada case that was in the last couple of years says if you live as husband and wife, legally you should be treated the same way when it comes to property."
"However, as is their wont, they didn't give any guidelines at all."
"The longer you live together, the deeper the roots and the more you will resemble a legally married couple."
"Not to have a road map as to what you're going to do in the event of a breakdown, whether it be common law or marital, in my mind is crazy. You're really taking a big chance that you know what the odds are."
Donald S. Baker, family law specialist, Baker and Baker, Toronto
0916commonlaw

The odds are in the commitment a couple has decided to mutually invest in. Assuming that it is mutual respect and love and companionship and a wish to live together as a family that motivates them. Conventionally, it has always been marriage first, followed by the acquisition of a home in which to live and presumably, raise a family. It certainly is no casual decision for a couple to decide to couple their lives with one another.

And nor is it a casual commitment entirely to buy a home together, since that too is a hurdle to be passed; investing in their common future. Which makes it all the more puzzling that the woman, 31, gives the impression of being content with the more casual relationship rather than one that is legally and emotionally binding, with all the responsibilities to one another inherent in the marriage covenant.

All of which makes a hash of the man's statement that marriage represents a decision entirely based on love, since love is their prime motive for living together and making a home investment. The decision does speak of independence for the woman, and a more hazy commitment on the man's part. Both represent a spillover from the movement for female liberation. The alliance is a tendentiously uncertain one, not entirely beneficial to the woman.

This is a couple who met at age 28 and who have been involved in a common-law relationship for the past three years. Three years should be ample time for a man and a woman to determine whether they are suited to one another to the point where marriage seems desirable. They are among the growing trend of young Canadians preferring to live common-law, though research indicates that these relationships are more fraught than traditional marriages.

But according to Statistics Canada, the number of people who choose that route is rising, and has done almost 14% over the years 2006 to 2011, the last years for which that data is available. Of the common law couples, a study conducted in 2013 by a real estate company in the U.S. found 17 percent of such couples bought a home prior to marriage; among a younger cohort that number rose to 24 percent.

In Canada, common-law marriage does not appear in the legal code; automatic rights to property in marriage-like relationships are not assured, with provinces and government agencies having their own interpretations of how such relationships are to be parsed as far as property rights go. For those whose relationship reflects that of marriage, who buy property together, most of the same protections under the law are similar to legally married couples.

For a married couple from the day of the wedding, however, the law recognizes their legal bond as a true partnership irrespective of who pays for what, and if a breakdown of marriage occurs, everything is equally divided. For an unmarried pair this protection is afforded insofar as their relationship fits a mould: Do they use a joint bank account? How long have they been a couple?

For the couple in question, the man provided the entire down payment, while the woman contributes to the monthly mortgage and maintenance payments, proportional to her income. Were they to dissolve their relationship, the courts would be likely to hand over the house to the man, and the woman's contributions to date considered rent, without claim to the property. In marriage, this would not be the case.

This speaks to the brevity of their relationship thus far. Should it endure, the longer the couple live together the deeper the investment is assumed to be, more resembling a traditional legally married pair. No federal legislation as yet speaks to common-law couples and couples who together buy property.

The solution may be to examining the issue closely before committing to a dual purchase of anything as substantial as property, to write up a cohabitation agreement as a legal document, setting out the mutually-agreed-upon rights and responsibilities of each of the principals.

Video thumbnail for What to do if you buy a house before a ring

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Feeding Birds


"He was so kind. They were in the teens, the number of times that he got arrested."
"He would pay for his rent and food and have nothing left over for the birds. Eventually, the police stopped charging him, and they just called me directly."
"He would try to climb out of his window [at a home for the aged] to feed the birds."
Cheryl Scott, friend

"I once told him, 'Marian, you must have some friends. You should join some organization to get out, meet people. He said, 'I don't need that. I have my birds'."
"He was before the court on [several] occasions for stealing bird seed. He stole nothing else -- just bird seed."
"I'm often called upon to recall those cases that impacted me the most, and that is one of those."
"He was a gentle soul, not a malicious bone in his body."
Michael Lerner, London [Ontario] lawyer
Marian Lamprecht cuts a stylish pose on Parliament Hill in post-war Ottawa, where he lived with his late wife Stefania before moving to St. Catharines and, later, to London, Ont. Childless, and widowed, the Nazi labour camp survivor from Poland died recently at age 100.
The Free Press/Postmedia Network    Marian Lamprecht on Parliament Hill in post-war Ottawa. The Nazi labour camp survivor from Poland died recently at age 100
 
In his later years, the Polish-born man who had immigrated to Canada with his wife some number of years after World War II, had a friend in a woman who worked as an assistant to his lawyer, who represented him in court. Cheryl Scott originally befriended the elderly Catholic man with his sad memories of incarceration at age 17 in a Nazi labour camp, and then her relationship with him deepened.

Every week she would bring Marian Lamprecht birdseed for him to distribute to his beloved birds. By this time, he was living in a home for the aged in Strathroy, Ontario. Eventually he succumbed to dementia and she had to restrain herself from bringing seed to the man obsessed with feeding the birds because no one could restrain him from attempting to clamber out of the windows at Strathmore Lodge, the home for the aged, to feed the birds. She feared for his safety.

He died a week ago, at age 100. There was a small service in his memory at St. Peter's Cemetery, attended by Ms.Scott, her husband, and a physiotherapist who had also befriended Marian Lamprecht, at the retirement home. He was laid to rest in small-town Ontario, a man whose experience as a boy and young man never left off haunting him.

He had taken a photograph of a German soldier in his native Poland and that transgression landed him at age 17 behind barbed wire at a hard labour camp. He watched as birds flew freely beyond the wire that caged him and other prisoners, marvelling at their flight and their beauty. And he vowed during that bleak time in his life that he would never forget the birds, that if he was ever delivered from his own cage he would honour the birds, as a symbol of hope that kept him alive.

With his wife Stefania he emigrated to Canada. They lived in Ottawa and St.Catharines, Ontario, finally settling down in London, Ontario. When Stefania died thirty years ago, her husband Marian was left alone; they had no children. Back in 1967 there is an Ottawa record that he had been charged with theft under $5,000. The assumption is that it was for stealing birdseed, for that is all he ever was charged with anywhere, at any time over the years.

A dozen arrests followed over the years. In 1989 the London Free Press wrote a story about Marian Lamprecht, the 'Bird Man of London'. It was the occasion of his tenth arrest for shoplifting bird feed. The value of what he stole was $4.99, from a Valu-Mart store. He was 73 at that time, on probation for a similar conviction that had occurred five months before.

His lawyer informed the presiding judge that his client used his pension money to gas his car, using it to volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society and the CNIB. He drove patients to their medical appointments. His pension provided him with just enough to pay rent and food, leaving him nothing to feed the birds and continue to fulfill his promise. Thoughts of birds freezing on cold winter days without food haunted him.

Special to Postmedia Network
Postmedia Network   Marian Lamprecht, a Polish native forced into hard labour by the Nazis during the Second World War.

The sight of the elderly man feeding birds along the Thames River in London was one familiar to many people. An agreement was forged between the lawyer and the Crown that Mr. Lamprecht would perform 25 hours of community service as an assistant to the zookeeper at London's Storybook Gardens, feeding birds and animals.

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