Perspective

•October 17, 2009 • 1 Comment

There was a going away party last week, which I did not attend, for a friend of a friend whos unit is headed off to Afghanistan. There is one coming up, which I will attend, for my extremely loveable friends Nick and Andrew. Nick is Russian, was on the wrestling team with me and loves wrestling. Andrew is tall, gawky, with ginger hair and an awkward demeanor. He was responsible for some of the best times I had in Drama. I write this because here in Canada, we recently reached 131 soldiers killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
The latest was Jonathan Coutourier from the VanDoos. That’s all I can tell you about him. He was un Québécois. From the thumbnail, I can tell you he had blue eyes, brown hair, and an innocent and surprised look on his face. I can’t tell you if he joked around in the back of the van. I can’t tell you if he always holds the door open for people and buys the entire sports team coffee. I can’t tell you if his hair stands up straight on end, that his nickname was Saskwatch, or that he liked to spend his entire drama class lying under the table.
One hundred and thirty-one
That’s the most of any NATO country (in Afghanistan), mostly because until recently, the American and British troops were highly concentrated in Iraq, with only a few deployed to Afghanistan, and other countries are deployed mostly in the much safer north, around the capital city of Kabul. We claim we’re going to change our mission next year, form combat to ‘peacekeeping’, whatever that means. How you can keep peace when there is no peace to keep is a question worth asking. Even doing nice things like building roads and wells, providing education and medical care isn’t a safe business in a country riddled with landmines and in the midst of a guerilla war. People will still die. Or perhaps we will be so afraid of the loss of life in the service of the mission that we will simply become accountants, witnesses of the horrors wreaked on innocents. I’m not a diplomat, nor am I a soldier. But I would like to tell you about a flag that stands on the wall of my history classroom. It is the only flag you will see that has poppies on it. Why? Because my teacher, a former military man, puts a poppy on the flag for every life lost in the service of the Afghan mission. He takes them off every Remembrance Day, and starts again. There are over thirty poppies on that flag now, and with the recent spike in violence it is hard not to see that number growing. And yet, as a country, we have become hardened to the loss of so many young lives. For other countries, who have lost 10 soldiers, or 20, the shock is still fresh, the national outpouring of grief still raw. Here, it has gotten so that the death of a soldier is no longer always front-page news, and the maiming almost never is. Soldiers fight and soldiers die. It’s what they do, what they have always done, and, until mankind figures out a better way to deal with it’s conflicts then throwing the blood of the young at it, it’s how it always will be. They fight for different reasons- for some, like Nick, it is because they are truly, intensely patriotic- some because it seemed like the natural route. Very few fight and die for King and Country, or to please a far off politician. We’ll never know what Pte. Coutourier fought for- what he believed or cared enough about to lay down his life. We can make a guess, and say it probably wasn’t the politician who lives to 100, or the general who dies in bed.
Rest in peace. Rester en paix.
First name Last name Rank Province Date of Death
Jonathan Couturier Private Quebec September 17, 2009
Patrick Lormand Private Quebec September 13, 2009
Jean-François Drouin Corporal Quebec September 6, 2009
Yannick Pépin Major Quebec September 6, 2009
Mathieu Allard Sapper Quebec August 1, 2009
Christian Bobbitt Corporal Quebec August 1, 2009
Sébastien Courcy Private Quebec July 16, 2009
Patrice Audet Master corportalQuebec July 6, 2009
Martin Joannette Corporal Quebec July 6, 2009
Nick Bulger Corporal Alberta July 3, 2009
Charles-Philippe Michaud New Brunswick June 23, 2009
Martin Dubé Corporal Quebec June 14, 2009
Alexandre Péloquin Private Quebec June 8, 2009
Michelle Mendes Major Ontario April 23, 2009
Karine Blais Trooper Quebec April 13, 2009
Jack Bouthillier Trooper Ontario March 20, 2009
Tyler Crooks Corporal Ontario March 20, 2009
Corey Hayes Trooper runswick March 20, 2009
Scott Vernelli Master corporal Ontario March 20, 2009
Marc Diab Trooper Quebec March 8, 2009
Dennis Brown Warrant officer Ontario March 3, 2009
Dany Fortin Corporal Quebec March 3, 2009
Kenneth O’Quinn Corporal Newfoundland and Labrador March 3, 2009
Sean Greenfield Sapper Manitoba January 31, 2009
Brian Good Trooper Ontario January 7, 2009
Gregory Kruse Sergeant Ontario December 27, 2008
Gaetan Roberge Warrant officer Ontario December 27, 2008
Michael Freeman Private Ontario December 26, 2008
John Curwin Private Nova Scotia December 13, 2008
Thomas Hamilton Corporal Nova Scotia December 13, 2008
Justin Jones Private Newfoundland and Labrador December 13, 2008
Demetrios Diplaros Private December 5, 2008
Mark McLaren Corporal Ontario December 5, 2008
Robert Wilson Warrant officer Ontario December 5, 2008
Prescott Shipway Sergeant Saskatchewan September 7, 2008
Andrew Grenon Corporal Ontario September 3, 2008
Chad Horn Private Alberta September 3, 2008
Mike Seggie Corporal Manitoba September 3, 2008
Shawn Eades Sergeant Ontario August 20, 2008
Stephan Stock Sapper British Columbia August 20, 2008
Dustin Wasden Corporal Saskatchewan August 20, 2008
Erin Doyle Master corporal British Columbia August 11, 2008
Josh Roberts Master corporal Saskatchewan August 9, 2008
James Arnal Corporal Manitoba July 18, 2008
Colin Wilmot Private Alberta July 6, 2008
Brendan Downey Corporal Saskatchewan July 4, 2008
Jonathan Snyder Captain British Columbia June 7, 2008
Richard Leary Captain Ontario June 3, 2008
Michael Starker Alberta May 6, 2008
Terry Street Private Quebec April 4, 2008
Jason Boyes Sergeant Manitoba March 16, 2008
Jérémie Ouellet Bombardier 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Quebec March 11, 2008
Michael Hayakaze Trooper Alberta March 2, 2008
Étienne Gonthier Corporal Quebec January 23, 2008
Richard Renaud Trooper Quebec January 15, 2008
Eric Labbé Corporal Quebec January 6, 2008
Hani Massouh Warrant officer Quebec January 6, 2008
Jonathan Dion Gunner Quebec December 30, 2007
Nicolas Beauchamp Corporal Quebec November 17, 2007
Michel Lévesque Private Quebec November 17, 2007
Nathan Hornburg Corporal Alberta September 24, 2007
Raymond Ruckpaul Major Ontario August 29, 2007
Christian Duchesne Master corporal Quebec August 22, 2007
Mario Mercier Master warrant officer Quebec August 22, 2007
Simon Longtin Private Quebec August 19, 2007
Jordan Anderson Corporal 3Nunavut July 4, 2007
Cole Bartsch Corporal Alberta July 4, 2007
Colin Bason Master corporal British Columbia July 4, 2007
Matthew Dawe Captain Ontario July 4, 2007
Jefferson Francis Captain New Brunswick July 4, 2007
Lane Watkins Private Manitoba July 4, 2007
Stephen Bouzane Corporal Newfoundland and Labrador June 20, 2007
Christos Karigiannis Sergeant 3Quebec June 20, 2007
Joel Wiebe Private Alberta June 20, 2007
Darryl Caswell Trooper June 11, 2007
Darrell Priede Master corporal Ontario May 30, 2007
Matthew McCully Corporal Ontario May 25, 2007
Anthony Klumpenhouwer Master corporal Ontario April 18, 2007
Patrick Pentland Trooper April 11, 2007
Allan Stewart Master corporal Brunswick April 11, 2007
David Greenslade Private New Brunswick April 8, 2007
Kevin Kennedy Private Newfoundland and Labrador April 8, 2007
Donald Lucas Sergeant Newfoundland and Labrador April 8, 2007
Brent Poland Corporal Ontario April 8, 2007
Christopher Stannix Corporal Nova Scotia April 8, 2007
Aaron Williams Corporal New Brunswick April 8, 2007
Kevin Megeney Corporal Nova Scotia March 6, 2007
Robert Girouard Chief warrant officerNew Brunswick November 27, 2006
Albert Storm Corporal Ontario November 27, 2006
Darcy Tedford Sergeant October 14, 2006
Blake Williamson Private Ontario October 14, 2006
Mark Wilson Trooper October 7, 2006
Craig Gillam Sergeant Newfoundland and Labrador October 3, 2006
Robert Mitchell Corporal October 3, 2006
Josh Klukie Private Ontario September 29, 2006
Glen Arnold Corporal Ontario September 18, 2006
David Byers Private Ontario September 18, 2006
Shane Keating Corporal Saskatchewan September 18, 2006
Keith Morley Corporal Manitoba September 18, 2006
Mark Graham Private Ontario September 4, 2006
William Cushley Private Ontario September 3, 2006
Frank Mellish Warrant officer Nova Scotia September 3, 2006
Richard Nolan Newfoundland and Labrador September 3, 2006
Shane Stachnik Sergeant Alberta September 3, 2006
David Braun Corporal Saskatchewan August 22, 2006
Andrew Eykelenboom Corporal British Columbia August 11, 2006
Jeffrey Walsh Master corporal Saskatchewan August 9, 2006
Raymond Arndt Master Corporal Alberta August 5, 2006
Kevin Dallaire Private Alberta August 3, 2006
Vaughan Ingram Sergeant Newfoundland and Labrador August 3, 2006
Bryce Keller Corporal Saskatchewan August 3, 2006
Christopher Reid Corporal Nova Scotia August 3, 2006
Francisco Gomez Corporal Alberta July 22, 2006
Jason Warren Corporal Quebec July 22, 2006
Anthony Boneca Corporal Ontario July 9, 2006
Nichola Goddard Captain Alberta May 17, 2006
Matthew Dinning Corporal April 22, 2006
Myles Mansell Bombardier British Columbia April 22, 2006
Randy Payne Corporal Ontario April 22, 2006
William Turner Lieutenant Ontario April 22, 2006
Robert Costall Private Ontario March 29, 2006
Paul Davis Corporal Nova Scotia March 2, 2006
Timothy Wilson Master corporal Alberta March 2, 2006
Glyn Berry Diplomat Wales January 15, 2006
Braun Woodfield Private Nova Scotia November 24, 2005
Jamie Murphy Corporal Newfoundland and Labrador January 27, 2004
Robbie Beerenfenger Corporal Ontario October 2, 2003
Robert Short Sergeant New Brunswick October 2, 2003
Ainsworth Dyer Corporal Quebec April 18, 2002
Richard Green Private Nova Scotia April 18, 2002
Marc Léger Sergeant Ontario April 18, 2002
Nathan Smith Private Nova Scotia April 18, 2002

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Why Accessibility Should be a Federal Issue

•July 31, 2009 • 2 Comments

It seems to be a no-brainer: everyone should have access to public buildings, regardless of disabilities or province. A kid in a wheelchair in Newfoundland should be able to get to Biology, and a blind man should be able to file an income tax return. Yet when accessibility is left to the provinces, it often doesn’t measure  up. My gt;high school; has, in total, five flights of stairs to get from Student Services, in the basement, to the History classrooms, on the top floor. It also, incidentaly, has no elevator. Which means that when a student with a physical disability is required to use a cane, crutches or a wheelchair, it becomes…how shall I put it… difficult. It becomes evident when one tries to, say, apply for a driver’s license, or mail a letter in the Post Office, that our supposedly equal rights are not very equal at all.

When one applies for a summer job with the province, included in the application is the following:

The Government of Ontario is an equal opportunity employer, and will not discriminate by race, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability.

But when one cannot get into the Post Office to mail the application, it becomes evident that the discrimination is institutional.

The standards are not universal, either. Accessibility to public buildings (municipal, provincial and federal) varies from province to province and city to city. Victoria, BC, does very well when it comes to accessibility; Guelph, ON, does not. The rights of the disables are protected in the Charter of Rights, a federal document. Accessibility has to meet a universal standard, across the country, or those rights are simply words, nothing more. As a provincial issue, it is vulnerable to changes in budgets and governments, to disagreements between the municipality and the province, the province and the Federal government, and to funding mishaps. Therefore, accessibility and the rights of the disabled needs to be a federal issue, with a universal standard of accommodation for the disabled and  evaluated nationwide by a single set of standards. We have long ago accepted that every person in this country should be judged, not on race, religion, gender  or sexuality, but on their individual qualities. Ostensibly the same applies to the disabled, but it’s difficult for that to be proven when one can’t even get into the door.

Literally.

Close Encounters of the Grit Kind

•June 24, 2009 • 1 Comment

Exams are done, I can obsess over politics again without feeling guilty. Fathers day, Michael Ignatieff held a townhall in my riding and I went and geeked it up a bit.

He struck me as smart, serious, a good speaker- and very, very depressing. He didn’t want to promise the earth, he wanted to be realistic- and I *get* that, really I do, but the thing is, people want to feel good about things. I appreciated the realistic view- but, frankly, it was a bit of a downer.

I asked a question, which can basically be summed up into: “Hi! Genocide! What will you do? ”

It was longer than that, but I wanted to know what a Liberal government would do about the genocide in Darfur.

The answer? Whatever Romeo Dallaire thinks should be done.

Not. Kidding, and frankly, Mr. Ignatieff, thats a fantastic answer. Basically, he can’t forsee a combat mission, but he could forsee a mission to protect the refugees and people in their homes.

Good answer, I felt.

Learning

•June 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Yes, I should probably be asleep, or studying, or both, but instead I am watching the excellent mini-series on Rene Levesque that is on the CBC tonight. Watching it, it struck me just how much our politicians could learn from the late separatist:
1. He believed passionately that the people were the ultimate arbitrator
2. He stood up for what he believed in.
3. He was a strong democrat.
4. He believed in the power of youth- many of the PQ workers on the ground were under 21.
5. – And this is perhaps the most important- he was willing to listen. He negotiated. An extraordinarily intelligent man, he knew how to speak from the heart and think from the head.

If he weren’t a separatist, I would lament his absence from politics today. We need him or someone like him (preferably a federalist) to step up and carry out the ideals to which he was so committed. Not, perhaps, sovereignty-association, but the idea that the people, ultimately, are the most important part of the equation of power- we need more of that nowadays.

Election Fever!

•June 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Or, it seems like 2008 all over again.

Yargh.

Tomorrow at 11 am, Michael Ignatieff is going to announce whether or not we, the Canadian public, (or  you, Canadian public over 18!) are going ot the polls this summer. In purely selfish reasons, dear God I don’t want an election in the summer. I have to work outside during the day- I have no desire to get double sunburned in the afternoon and evening knocking on doors. Don’t get me wrong, if there is an election I will be there with bells on and am prepared to fight until we win, but stilll…

Do I think there will be an election?

I honestly don’t know. I keep waiting for someone to tell me, but I can’t seem to locate the Liberal mole from the 2006 election. If we do go to the polls, I can’t see it ending much differently than it began: we will doubtlessly have a minority government, we will still be in recession, and not much will change. If one looks back at voter turnout, the highest turnouts have been over real i ssues: The Flag, Free Trade, the Cold War, Conscription- you know, stuff that actually mattered.

The thing is, it’s not as though we’re at a loss for issues today. We’re at war, there’s a genocide in Darfur, America is growing protectionist, there’s a massive economic crisis, AIDS, cancer, and ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, and people dying all over the world- but God forbid we should talk about that. Instead, it’s: ‘Look! The Leader of the Opposition was outisde the country for awhile and may even have written a book!’ or ‘Look! A Cabinet Minister’s DComm is incredibly incompetent!’

Hate to break it to ya, fellows, but we. Don’t. Care.

Talk about the issues (haven’t heard about the environment for a while, guys, hint hint.) and maybe we’ll listen.

Or you can continue on the hamster wheel path of Canadian Politics, where noone proposes policy and nothing is changed, with just the illusion of moving forward.

Close Encounters of the Tory Kind

•June 14, 2009 • 1 Comment

I ran into the Honourable Minister of Human Resources last night. If by ‘ran into’ one means ‘cornered at the Kinsmen’s 25th anniversary and relentlessly browbeat her with questions’, which I do. I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask the Honourable lady about the cuts to CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency. Her response?
“We’re taking the money away, not from the people, but from the guys I like to call the RBGs- the really bad guys.”
Thank you, Minister, for that enlightening comment. Would you like to chuck my chin and call me a cutey face while you’re at it?
After realizing that I wasn’t getting anywhere, I asked about Omar Khadr. She claimed that we couldn’t bring him home because he was forbidden from all air travel.
Here’s the thing: the UN Terror Blacklist, to which I think she was referring, allows air travel only if the terrorist is being returned to his home country.
When I mentioned this, she went into a small rant about media bias, then said “You know, if you take one thing away from this tonight, it’s this: there are three sides to every story.”
No, Minister, there are two. The truth and the lies.
Seriously, if I could simply say “There are three sides to every story’, or, ‘I could convince you but I’m not allowed to (I’m paraphrasing)’ do you have any idea how much crap I could get away with?
A lot.
In the end, after my anger and frustration dissipated, I just felt sad. This woman is representing me in Ottawa. She is in charge of EI. She represents a riding in which 1/7 people are out of work ‘temporarily’. Moreover, she is a member of the government. All I ask is some honesty.
As an employee, it’s the least she and any other Member can do.

Sodomy Yay!

•June 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Or: Why the Yes on Prop 8 people need to get a life,

Now, as you may or may not know, during the American election, a lot of barriers were broken. Perversly, however, for the gay citizens of California, a lot of barriers returned. Gay marriage was repealed on the same day the first ever african-american US President was elected. Such is progress.

Now here’s the thing: The ‘family values’ crowd say things like ‘marriage is sacred’. Oh really? When more than 50% of marriages end in divorce? When there are women (and men) everywhere stuck in abusive relationships but because their religion prohibits divorce, God forbid (excuse the pun) that they should put their personal safety and that of their children above all else.

Marriage is sacred, huh?

Or the next one: ‘It’s against it in the Bible.”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of things God seems to disapprove of. Just looking at the two sections of the bible where sodomy and homosexuality are prohibited, John 11 and Levticius- if we abided by the rules set down in those two lovely texts, we wopuld never cut our hair. We would never wear clothjes made o fmore than one fabric. We would frequently sell our children into slavery. We would throw stones at adulterers. We would never cut our hair. Um. My personal favourite: if a man dies, his wife becomes the property of his brother.

Kay, we don’t do that any more. Not even the most hardocre of the religious do. So why should we apply some sections of the  Bible to the modern world? The fact is, the Bible, regardless of who wrote it or why it was written, is a text of its time, and what was practical in 200 BC is no longer realistic.

Also, it’s an issue of personal privacy. Why should anyone care if a couple of lesbians in Lethbridge get hitched? How does it affect you?

I wouldn’t dream of banning prayer in the home, or communion, Confession, or anything else that is, to be honest, a private matter. It doesn’t affect me at all. Therefore, would it be too much to ask that the millions of mostly religious anti-gay marriage people extend the same regard to the rest of the world and, I dunno, leave everyone alone? Honestly, I fail to see why it should be an issue. It distracts from the real issue sin the world of poverty, homelessness, and, I dunno, maybe that war we’re in. Get a life, s’il vous plait.