Canada has been absorbing this week the revelation of the burials of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential Schools, many of them completely undocumented in our past, and mostly completely unknown to most Canadians. In an important sense every one of these children is a crime victim, the least of which is neglect the most serious of which is genocide. Worst of all, most of us had no clue that this burial ground even existed, although that’s just a little too convenient an excuse.
This week thousands of articles have been written on the subject, news stories broadcast on radio and television. There is much hand wringing and guilty statements about Settler privilege.
What I haven’t heard enough of, or even any of, is the genocide underway in Canada today across the country. Every day children are still being taken away from aboriginal families and forced into “care” where they are neglected, abused and abandoned, with many of these children dying while in care, or shortly after “aging” out of foster care. These kids are removed from families, single parent moms mostly, because of a system that still sees “drunken indians” instead of struggling people who have been largely dispossessed from their tribal history and context by colonial exploitation and continuing subjugation by the settler cultures.
The racial mess in the United States looks pretty grim and is painful to watch. We can be forgiven for being quietly thankful for Canada’s more inclusive society, which has avoided dramas like that in Ferguson, Mo. We are not the only ones to think this. In the recently released Social Progress Index, Canada is ranked second amongst all nations for its tolerance and inclusion.
Unfortunately, the truth is we have a far worse race problem than the United States. We just can’t see it very easily.
Terry Glavin, recently writing in the Ottawa Citizen, mocked the idea that the United States could learn from Canada’s example when it comes to racial harmony. To illustrate his point, he compared the conditions of the African-American community to Canada’s First Nations. If you judge a society by how it treats its most disadvantaged, Glavin found us wanting. Consider the accompanying table. By almost every measurable indicator, the Aboriginal population in Canada is treated worse and lives with more hardship than the African-American population. All these facts tell us one thing: Canada has a race problem, too.
How are we not choking on these numbers? For a country so self-satisfied with its image of progressive tolerance, how is this not a national crisis? Why are governments not falling on this issue?
Possibly it is because our Fergusons are hidden deep in the bush, accessible only by chartered float plane: 49 per cent of First Nations members live on remote reserves. Those who do live in urban centres are mostly confined to a few cities in the Prairies. Fewer than 40,000 live in Toronto, not even one per cent of the total population of the Greater Toronto Area. Our racial problems are literally over the horizon, out of sight and out of mind.
Or it could be because we simply do not see the forest for trees. We are distracted by the stories of corrupt band councils, or flooded reserves, or another missing Aboriginal woman. Some of us wring our hands, and a handful of activists protest. There are a couple of unread op-eds, and maybe a Twitter hashtag will skip around for a few days. But nothing changes. Yes, we admit there is a governance problem on the reserves. We might agree that “something” should be done about the missing and murdered women. In Ottawa a few policy wonks write fretful memos on land claims and pipelines. But collectively, we don’t say it out loud: “Canada has a race problem.”
If we don’t have a race problem then what do we blame? Our justice system, unable to even convene Aboriginal juries? Band administrators, like those in Attawapiskat, who defraud their own people? Our health care system that fails to provide Aboriginal communities with health outcomes on par with El Salvador? Politicians too craven to admit the reserve system has failed? Elders like Chief Ava Hill, cynically willing to let a child die this week from treatable cancer in order to promote Aboriginal rights? Aboriginal people themselves for not throwing out the leaders who serve them so poorly? Police forces too timid to grasp the nettle and confront unbridled criminality like the organized drug-smuggling gangs in Akwesasne? Federal bureaucrats for constructing a $7-billion welfare system that doesn’t work? The school system for only graduating 42 per cent of reserve students? Aboriginal men, who have pushed their community’s murder rate past Somalia’s? The media for not sufﬁciently or persistently reporting on these facts?
Or: us? For not paying attention. For believing our own hype about inclusion. For looking down our noses at America and ignorantly thinking, “That would never happen here.” For not acknowledging Canada has a race problem.
We do and it is bad. And it is not just with the Aboriginal peoples. For new immigrants and the black community the numbers are not as stark, but they tell a depressingly similar story.
If we want to fix this, the first step is to admit something is wrong. Start by saying it to yourself, but say it out loud: “Canada has a race problem.”
I believe that we should all pay attention to the people who make up our world. They are not invisible. Their pain should be all of our pain. Discrimination against one is discrimination against all.
The murder of black men by police authorities in the United States is not unique to America. We must learn to see it in our home cities and provinces. There are far too many black people murdered in Canada, indeed in British Columbia, by government which is supposed to represent all of us, not just the privileged few. I believe we should each put our bodies in harms way to protect the innocent, even protect the guilty. Being drunk should not be punishable by the death penalty. Being young and female and “other” should not be permission to kill or main or rape. Men must see women differently, and enforce a view that says that women own their own bodies, and have the right to choose to be treated any way that they damn well want.
I believe that everyone deserves equal treatment before a fair and just system of governance.
I believe that change begins with me, and I must do better than this. We all must do better than this. We must demand that our government stands up for the weak, the indigent, the powerless, the elderly, the young, the absolutely ordinary black man or woman, and for the rest of us as well.
Our sons and daughters, and grandchildren, and parents and grandparents are all waiting for us to stand up for them, with them, as them.
I can’t breathe. We can and will do better than this.
One of the things that irritates me about life in the 21st century is the constant evolution of laws and regulations designed to improve public safety, and protect people from unsafe practices. In 2018 the British Columbia government changed traffic laws related to how drivers are supposed to react when seeing flashing lights at the side of the road or highway.
I thought I knew the laws regarding flashing emergency lights or a siren from an emergency vehicle. I always do my best to move over to the side of the road, and generally get out of the way of an emergency vehicle when I see one coming up behind me in traffic. I had no idea that my obligations as a driver far exceed this simple behaviour. I always intend to obey traffic laws, within reason, and within safe driving practices on the road. But this new law catches me by surprise, although perhaps it shouldn’t.
In British Columbia, motorists are required to slow down and move over for all vehicles stopped alongside the road that have flashing red, blue or yellow lights. This includes maintenance workers, utility workers, police, fire, ambulance, tow trucks, Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement personnel, land surveyors, animal control workers, garbage collectors and other roadside workers.
Motorists must slow their speed to:
70km/h when in an 80km/h or over zone
40km/h when in an under 80km/h zone
If travelling on a multi-lane road, drivers must move into another lane to pass when passing stopped vehicles with a flashing light, where safe to do so. This provides roadside workers and emergency personnel with greater protection from accident and injury.
Rules and Penalties
Drivers failing to adjust their speed or failing to move over may receive a $173 traffic violation ticket that also carries 3 penalty points. Offences and infractions that include penalty points can lead to a driving prohibition.
This really sucks! Truthfully, when the young police office pulled me over I genuinely thought he was just being an ass, and had pulled me over for no real reason, just to be a smart mouth, not because I had committed an offense. I was so sure he was wrong I told him that I would meet him in court, and fight this wrongful ticket, which will cost me $173 and add three points to my driver’s license.
Unfortunately I was totally in the wrong, in this case, and the young whippersnapper police officer was totally right. So I guess I’ll hang my head and admit that I’m wrong about this, and just pay up.
But that doesn’t actually resolve the issue for me, because it begs the question as to how many other traffic laws have changed without me noticing. How many other people have missed out on knowing the changes in regulations and laws, which could cost them money, and perhaps put other people at risk because they don’t know the law.
There are thousands of new laws and regulations brought into effect in every jurisdiction every year. How in the hell does anybody know what’s illegal or not. Even if you spend every day in the library studying legislation and regulations you still wouldn’t know all of the important laws, let alone the minor irritants and misdemeanors.
“I thought we were going to be dealing with something unprecedented in that region specifically, but then it didn’t happen,” said Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba.
British Columbia’s success story shows how tried-and-true methods — when paired with strong public health agencies — can have sweeping impact, according to Kindrachuk and other scientists. Many governments embraced technology, with the U.K. using drones to help police enforce lockdowns and South Korea tapping location data from mobile carriers and credit-card transactions to track infections.
B.C. stuck to old-fashioned basics, alerting primary care doctors by fax about how to be on the lookout for the novel pathogen and tracing potential transmissions through interviews. Data compiled on May 13 show the province’s Covid-19 death rate was 3 per 100,000 residents, better than almost anywhere in North America and much of Europe.
Henry’s soft-spoken authority — she’s on TV every day, often repeating her mantra, “Be kind, be calm, be safe” — won over British Columbians. When her favorite local shoe designer offered a limited edition Dr. Bonnie Henry Mary Jane heel ($240 a pair with all profits going to food banks), the website crashed.
“She was able to galvanize the public across British Columbia to understand that this was something new and very different,” Kindrachuk said.
Like other countries, Canada has an uneven history with infectious diseases. In 2003, the country’s first SARS cases appeared at hospitals in Vancouver and Toronto on the same day. Vancouver quickly contained transmission, while Toronto would suffer the worst outbreak outside Asia.
An independent commission later noted that Vancouver’s public health system had swiftly put emergency rooms and physicians on the lookout for unexplained fevers and immediately scaled up protective gear for health workers.
In Toronto, Henry, then that city’s associate medical officer of health, tried to issue warning of the emerging SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, but her office’s email-distribution list wasn’t extensive enough and many doctors missed the alerts.
In British Columbia, she became the top health official in 2018 and has been in charge of the province’s rapid mobilization to contain the virus. Within days of Chinese researchers releasing the genetic sequence of the virus on on Jan. 10, the province became one of the first in the world to develop a test. A week later, before Case One in B.C. emerged on Jan. 26, it had the chemical reagents necessary to carry tests out, said Reka Gustafson, deputy provincial health officer.
Early testing helped the province pounce on transmissions before they spiraled, crucially at long-term care facilities. Canada has the highest share of Covid-19 deaths in care homes, according to an international study of 13 countries published on May 3, a disturbing distinction fueled by facilities in Ontario and Quebec that have been ravaged by the virus.Michael Schwandt@MichaelSchwandt
If anyone tells you that massive and deadly #COVID19 outbreaks in #LongTermCare are “inevitable,” please tell them otherwise. We’ve managed 17 LTC outbreaks in Vancouver Coastal Health and have developed some useful measures, which we think are life-saving. 1/
British Columbia commandeered nursing homes at the first sign of infection, barring visitors. Employees were forbidden from working at more than one facility, a move other Ontario and Quebec didn’t make until later in the crisis.
The ability to manage nursing-home outbreaks played a key role in limiting deaths in B.C., said Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coast Health, one of the regional public-health authorities. “We could get in and get in front of it.”
Some steps defied the prevailing wisdom at the time. The province didn’t attempt the mass testing South Korea did and, unlike the government in Wuhan, China, didn’t aggressively hospitalize those confirmed positive, sending 80% of cases home to recover.
Henry has become the public face of the crisis. A former military doctor who helped track down Ebola infections in Uganda earlier in her career, she also personally handled the contact tracing of Patient Zero’s family in Toronto’s SARS outbreak.
“She’s really been trained for this,” says Perry Kendall, her predecessor. “She’s not scared of giving orders.”
British Columbia’s top politician, Premier John Horgan, has taken a back seat in the public eye; it’s Henry who presides over daily briefings.
That has been key, said Peter Berman, a public-health expert at the University of British Columbia. “The same scientist who was empowered to lead this effort also has the authority to issue instructions.”
Henry is the first to caution against complacency. “We don’t know what is going to happen with this virus,” she said at a recent briefing, where she underscored how the province could quickly lose all the gains it’d made by easing restrictions too far. “We need to hold the line.”
During this coronavirus I have been pretty much contributing very little or better said, nothing, to the blogosphere about the pandemic, and how it is affecting my life, or for that matter, how it affecting anybody or anything.
It’s not that I don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation. It is that this thing is a really, really big deal, and I don’t want to diminish its importance to anyone by failing to reflect just how important it really is, to me, and to the world around me.
To those out there who believe that the government is overstating the dangers of Covid 19, and they can cheerfully go on about their business without changing anything, well, thanks for less than nothing, since your ignorance may already be having a serious effect on the lives and well being of thousands of people, some right in your own neighbourhoods, some physically a long ways away. Like maybe even in other countries or even continents.
Like it or not, failing to self isolate yourself is reckless endangerment, and potentially, mass suicide/murder.
You see, normally I’m a skeptic when it comes to government health warnings, and generally dismiss most as merely propaganda to serve the interests of an overbearing nanny state.. Not this time, not now and not ever. This virus kills people, lots of people, including people like me, with immune deficits that mean infection will mean a ferocious battle for my very life.
If I’m really lucky, most people in my own area, Vancouver, British Columbia and Metro Vancouver will have been helping the Provincial and Federal governments by isolating themselves at home as much as is humanly possible, and help slow the disease so that by the time I get it, there will still be hospital resources available, and I’ll get whatever it is I need from medical treatment whether it includes Intensive Care, Respirators or other devices. Hopefully there won’t be so many of us sick at one time that the system simply collapses after being overwhelming by the demand created by our citizens being unwilling to do what it takes to flatten the curves, or plank it.
Because isolating ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean that people like me who are vulnerable in the extreme won’t get it. It might, if I get incredibly lucky, and it passes me by. But most scientists believe that eventually this virus will infect somewhere between 50 and 70% of people in the world. The only real question is whether or not society can slow down the spread to give medical professionals and researchers the time to effect solutions that will reduce the numbers of us that are going to die as a direct result of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Even if everybody does everything right, and socially isolate themselves, a lot of people are going to die from this disease. No matter what we do this is true. All ordinary people can do is take whatever precautions are available to allow treatment by skilled professionals to those of us who catch this damn thing, under circumstances that increase the odds of finding an effective treatment and a vaccine that stops it dead in its tracks.
Neither of these is guaranteed, but we have a hell of a lot better chance if we all follow the best advice. Stay at home and socially isolate yourselves. Help our front line defensive workers, like nurses, doctors, researchers survive and get their work done for all of us.
Don’t be stupid. Wake up. Sometimes you just have to listen, and do whatever the hell somebody who knows a lot more than do you, tell you. Now.
There are only two certainties in life. Death. And, Oh Ya, that other thing, whatever it is. I think maybe it’s called extreme anxiety.
For a lot of us right now, one of the biggest anxieties is about whether or not you or someone you love is going to get the coronavirus and die a horrible painful death. Can you imagine if you carried that level of anxiety about your health with you every day of your life?
This is precisely how I and many other people with serious chronic illness or pain live every day.
Waking up to a good day, when I’m not in so much pain, or simply in less pain, would be a good reason to celebrate. Or so you would think, but it isn’t necessarily so. If I’m not in serious pain right now, I’m probably super anxious about when it will start up again, since it’s seldom very long until the next session. Can you imagine being so fearful of your next bout of pain that you can’t ever be rid of the sense of dread that hangs over you.
And people who come in contact with me try to cheer me up by saying something like, “Don’t worry it, it can’t last forever, can it?” “Just get over it, you’re too obsessed with it.” As if I, someone with serious chronic pain wouldn’t part with anything I have to make it go away. And, well, yes, it can bloody well last forever, well, at least until I die from it, or some other condition that doesn’t happen to hurt, right now.
If I seem focused on feeling sorry for myself, just leave me alone. If you just can’t provide some comfort to me, exactly as I need it right now, then please get out of my face. I hardly need you to tell me to cheer up. And if you can’t handle it to see me suffering in pain, then just don’t. Leave. Piss off.
For me, and a lot of people with chronic pain, the coronavirus is just more thing to worry about, and make me more anxious about everything I have to do, everybody I have to see, and also more fearful about being able to obtain the bare necessities of life.
As if there isn’t enough to stress out about already, without the Damned Tsunami Pandemic, sweeping over the whole world.
To someone with a serious disease and chronic pain, death isn’t the scariest thing, it’s just the most certain.
I’m going to miss her, Bella Luna, our beautiful thirteen year old German Shepard, who we lost today to old age, after she reached a point where she could no longer walk without falling down every couple of minutes. Climbing stairs, or getting into or out of the car had become difficult lately, and she was periodically losing control of her bowels.
Clearly it was time, as she’s been near the end for a few months. As long as she appeared to be enjoying her life, and not in too much pain, we were happy to accommodate her in her final days, and celebrate the four years or so she had lived with us. But it was time when she was no longer able to get around comfortably, and it became painful to watch.
I could tell that she was happy, despite everything, which made it even more difficult to make the decision. She had lost mobile and muscle mass in her hind quarter, but she still looked so happy to greet us both, that we felt the pull of her love and friendship in our lives. But it would have been unkind to let her continue to suffer. Saying goodbye was agony, and I wept when I left her with the vet. I couldn’t bear to be there with her when she was put to sleep. I hope that she just went to sleep, without any more pain.
The funny thing about how emotional I feel about having to say goodbye is that I never really wanted a dog, once I had a family with kids. There were too many allergies among our children for us to bring a dog home, so the only way we ended up with a dog is that she was already in the family with my adult daughter, who became unable to care for her when her health declined and entered care. Bella was pretty emotionally fragile when she came to us, but she’d had good care for along time, before it became too much for our daughter to handle it.
So Bella was our accidental member of the family. Kath complained about the dog, frequently, but I could tell that she loved her, as much as Bella thrived under her care. She and I both spent a lot of time with Bella, although Kath was really her mistress while she lived in our home. Kath fed her, and was with Bella almost every all day. I only saw Bella at night after work, and pretty much spent the evenings with her, and walked her after dark. Kath has restricted vision so night time walks were tough for her.
Bella was always so present for Kath and less so for me, but she was constantly aware of our slightest movement, and her ears would perk up when either of us said anything, or got up out of our chairs. She pestered both of us for treats, and challenged us to take her out, all the time. She was a delicious nuisance. I’d grumble a little bit when I had to take her out, or feed. I’ll admit that giving her a bath was a highlight, as she really enjoyed having me wash here and rub her down after. She was wide aware and alert, and you could tell that she was always paying attention to whatever was going on around her.
She was a real member of the family, and I’ll miss her a lot. She really left only love and good memories behind. Damn.
I was listening to a CBC podcast the other night, and there were a couple of people talking about their feelings about various famous authors and musicians. The conversation was really about whether or not our judgements about the behaviour of artists should influence how we feel about their art, and if we should decide to like or not like their art because we don’t agree with the conduct, opinions or morality of the artist.
My political opinions are progressive within the Canadian meaning of that word meaning that I tend to share and support the politics of liberal leaning parties, and instinctively tend to feel sympathetic and supportive of anyone who self identifies as an outsider, whether as result of ethnicity, race, gender, ethical, sexual and religious views, appearance, etcetera. Which generally means that I’m somewhat judgemental about other people who I perceive as judgemental against all those people I’ve previously mentioned. So I’m inclined to be pretty judgemental about myself, since I know perfectly well that my own behaviour over my life has failed at times to live up to my own ethical, moral and social standards.
So the questions being raised are important to me. Is it safe for me to listen to music I like or even love, if it has been created or performed by someone I judge to have behaved badly? Say, like Michael Jackson, who now appears to have been a pedophile. Should we erase all of our collective memories of his music and dance, and never moonwalk again? Should we ban any mentions about Sir John A. MacDonald, who, in addition to being a drunk, a racist about first nations peoples and their rights, an outright unapologetic sexist. The fact that our nation exists because this man, and other similarly flawed men founded it continues to be true, even if I don’t like it. History is made by flawed men and women. Music is sung by creepy assholes. Great classical art was drawn by perverts we wouldn’t allow in our living rooms.
Should we hide the Mona Lisa, because her painter was a narrow minded bigot who was probably gay but denied homesexuality over and over again to gain social acceptability, not to mention contracts that paid for his work and allowed him to survive in times we can barely imagine.
I found it fascinating that these two commentators came to the conclusion that excluding people from your life because they happen to have been flawed, made terrible mistakes in their relationships, or even committed heinous crimes, should not necessarily mean that you deny the value and beauty of their art as fruit of the poison tree. Doing so would deny human beings the ability to grow, to make amends and try to do and be better than their worst selves. Doing so could remove the incentive for people to change and reflect on their worst behaviours, and thereby learn something.
Should I forever hate my father because of what he inflicted on me as a child, even in the certainty that he committed himself to looking after my younger sister for most of his life after she became a quadriplegic in her early twenties. He did bad things when he was younger, but did amazing things that made her life possible when it had become impossible. So I try to hate the behaviour I judge offensive and admire his enormous contributions to my sister. So I will never forget either, but I judge him to have been a deeply flawed man who showed the capacity for love. I love my father, but see him clearly for all that he was in his life, not just those things that harmed others but also those things he did that contributed.
Which is how I think we should look at historical and living people alike. We should make every effort to be our better selves, no matter how damaged we are or have been in our pasts. We should be as transparent as we can be, without expecting it of others. Fight for equality, justice and freedom, but make allowance for human frailty, both for ourselves and for others.