Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

19 November, 2015


I have spent most of the last 64 hours researching terrorism, the reasons for it over the centuries and contemplating the almost impossible task of defeating it in the world today.  I have not been alone in this exercise...A young woman by the name of Jamie Khoo, like me, is not impressed with the superficial commentary that overtook social media after the terrorist attacks on Paris this past weekend and suggests a more meaningful and supportive approach to the phenomenon that has reached global proportions.  I think her words are worth digesting.

By Jamie Khoo
I won’t be adding the French flag filter to my Facebook profile photo.  I’m also not writing condolence and prayer messages on my Facebook feed, tagged with #PrayforParis.  It is not because I don’t care, or that I don’t feel the profound shock and sadness for what has happened.

Jamie Khoo
Jamie Khoo has loved writing and words
 from the moment she started to read. After
getting her MA in English, she went on to
pursue a career in writing and has her work
published in Elle Malaysia and Time Out
Kuala Lumpur. Sick of  being told by mass
media and society what "beautiful" is or isn't,
Jamie founded the website "a beautiful mind"
 to challenge conventional beauty ideals and
create new definitions and conversations
 about what beauty can mean for everyone.

In fact, it’s because I find it so absolutely awful that I’ve chosen not to engage in this way. I feel that just changing my photo, writing a few words and a hashtag on social media minimizes (even cheapens) the tremendous, horrific reality of what is going on all around the world, not just in Paris. From suffering arises another trendy social media gimmick, another way for us to show the world how “clued in” and “with it” we are.

Why do we change our photos, really? To show solidarity? But what does that even mean and how does a temporary Facebook photo do it? I’m not trying to be provocative, insulting or offensive toward people who have changed their photos. I understand that people have of their own reasons for doing so. In saying this, I’m not saying we shouldn’t participate or that it’s all and only a bad thing.

I’m saying: Can we please just be a little more mindful as to what we are churning out on our feeds?  Personally, my own Facebook settings are highly private, so only my friends see my posts. For me to change my profile photo or make a statement will only be seen by my friends; I don’t think I need to prove my stance, solidarity or affiliations among people I call my friends.

The people I know in Paris—or any other place that is hit by tragedy—are in my thoughts and in my messages; I just don’t feel the need to broadcast this to the world. I’ve found ways to reach out to them directly to find out how they are, and offer support in whatever way they need now. This is my way of responding to a conflict that I feel is more meaningful than merely changing my photo.

Again, just because my profile pic remains un-filtered, doesn’t mean I don’t care or that I’m not engaged. A large part of my work now involves reading about and researching the violence that is implicit in our everyday lives, the insiduous harm that is done to people just like you and me in every corner of the world—in first or third worlds, in peaceful cities or conflict-ridden states, to every class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and age.

Every day, as I sit with the reality of all this violence, I wonder what it would feel like to have a truly equal, peaceful, respectful, loving world; and how we can begin to make that happen in our own small sleepy villages or heaving city centres, wherever we call home and whatever may be happening there.
I believe that’s the question we should be asking every single day if we really want to do something to show solidarity and support for France, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, the refugees, Syria, Palestine, the Yazidi community, the Nigerian girls, the shootings in the U.S., the Nepal earthquake victims, the women in your neighbourhood who risk assault every time they leave their homes, the young girls destroying their bodies trying to fit into the world.
Let me be clear again that I’m not saying you shouldn’t change your photo, or post a prayer for Paris (or anywhere else). By all means do. But please don’t let it stop at that. Please don’t just get swept up in a social media frenzy and do it because it “looks good” or “feels” like the right thing to do. Pause for a moment just to ask what it means to you to filter your pictures and hashtag your posts: What do you hope to achieve with it and will you be able to achieve it fully in this way?

Would you also change your photo if there had been an option for Lebanon, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey, Palestine…or any other country in the world that suffered just as incredible a loss, even if you’d never heard of the place?  Why or why not?

What else could you be doing—whether or not the news is filled with distressing headlines—that would be (more) meaningful, bring about tangible support, in your world right now?

Please let those millions of lives lost in conflict be worth more than a quickie photo change or an easy hashtagged prayer.  Let them be the reason you do something different and really kind today, to share support and effect change for even a single person.


15 November, 2015


Bulletin:  French police have issued a warrant for 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam's arrest. French officials and the Islamic State group had both said there were eight attackers initially. Police said seven died.

While those responsible for the despicable terrorist attacks in Paris. France, Friday night were unknown, there was initial concern that they might be traced to Islamic State (ISIS) extremists, the very group that Canada and other nations are battling in Iraq and Syria.  The shocking incident ensures that the issue of terror and security will be thrust onto the Canadian agenda once again.  And rightfully so!

In a country where multiculturalism is holy writ and political correctness keeps many cowed, it will no longer take audacity to ask whether the presence of Muslims in Canada is a threat to Canadian society.

Woman with candle at a "silent gathering" in Toronto shows
support for those slain or injured in Paris.
Since September 11, 2001, a growing chorus has warned that Western society and its values are at risk of being overrun by a tide of Islamic immigrants. The Eurabia movement has popularized a set of assumptions about Muslim immigrants to the West: that they are disloyal, that they have a political agenda driven by their faith, that their high reproduction rates will soon make them a majority. These beliefs are poisoning politics and community relations in Europe and North America and have led to mass murder in Norway. Rarely challenged, this movement’s claims have slipped into mainstream politics.

Canada is rapidly changing culturally in ways our political elite, media elite and academic elite do not want to discuss. But the fact that this is not discussed, or is swept under the carpet, does not mean the public is not keenly aware of how much the country has changed in great measure in a relatively short period, and if this pattern continues for another few decades there is the likelihood that Canada will have changed irrevocably, and not necessarily for the better in terms of its political tradition as a liberal democracy.

The flow of immigration into Canada from around the world, and in particular the flow from Muslim countries, means a pouring in of numbers into a liberal society of people from cultures at best non-liberal. But we know through our studies and observations that the illiberal mix of cultures poses one of the greatest dilemmas and an unprecedented challenge to liberal societies such as ours.  Problems are imminent when there is no demand placed on immigrants to assimilate into the founding liberal values of the country to which they have immigrated.

National security threats do exist within refugee populations, and there are particular reasons to be concerned.  I am all for giving refuge to those fleeing the ravages of war in their homeland, but it is now worth spending time to carefully make sure that those being resettled into Canada will not bring tribal feuds or radicalism along with them. Canada is fortunate to have greater screening and selection abilities than the European nations scrambling to meet the demands of refugees on their doorstep and we can only hope and pray that those procedures are effective enough.

It goes without saying that it would be a tragedy if doors were locked against desperate refugees, and law-abiding Muslims were treated like criminals.  We need to ensure that those selected for resettlement in Canada intend to live peacefully and that they are committed to assimilation.  The new government’s first responsibility is to the Canadian public and to ensure its safety. That is why the Trudeau government could be forgiven if it did not fully deliver on the promise to rapidly bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada this year.

The hijab, burqa and niqab are not the real issue

Now on to a related topic.  Unlike a certain segment of society and especially on the heels of this week’s terrorist attacks on Paris, I cannot get myself bent out of shape over Muslim women covering their faces and bodies when immigrating to Canadian soil.  The hijab, burqa and niqab have become a topic of much controversy and heated debate.  A number of countries have banned the wearing of these religious garments, while others like Canada have considered banning or limiting their use.

Many arguments have been made against the wearing of the burqa and niqab, claiming they are anti-social, backward, oppressive, and not part of Islam.  “When in Canada do as Canadians do,” is a favourite anti-burqa and niqab chant.  Unfortunately, we have allowed this issue to overshadow the much more pressing and serious matter of Muslim immigration being a demographic and political threat to Western culture

I simply feel that a degree of tolerance is warranted in this one regard because we are talking about deeply-rooted religious beliefs that are not easily discarded overnight.  Having a debate over whether to ban a well-established religious practice is in itself discrimination, and goes against the very values which ought to be protected. Being tolerant does not only mean accepting people who look and act exactly like us; but accepting the choices of other people, especially, if we do not understand or agree with them. 

We are also talking about a double standard here because other religious symbols and clothing are not only tolerated in Canada, but respected.  If we are going to take an anti-stand in this matter we should at least familiarize ourselves with the three main types of Islamic dress relating to women when in public and the reasons for them:

  1. Hijab: This is the most common type of Islamic dress, which covers the woman’s body, leaving only her face and hands visible.
  2. Niqab: This type is like the hijab, except it also covers part of the face, leaving only the eyes visible.
  3. Burqa: This type is the least common, and involves covering the whole body as well as covering the face with mesh, so that the eyes are not visible.

The hijab can generally be found amongst Muslim women all over the world, while the niqab and burqa are more common in specific regions.  It is not obligatory for a Muslim woman to dress in one of the above fashions in front of other women. It is only obligatory in the presence of men who are not closely related to them, as prescribed in Islam.

The literal meaning of hijab is to veil, to cover, or to screen.  Islam is known as a religion concerned with community cohesion and moral boundaries, and therefore hijab is a way of ensuring that the moral boundaries between unrelated men and women are respected. In this sense, the term hijab encompasses more than a scarf and more than a dress code. It is a term that denotes modest dressing and modest behaviour. For instance, if a Muslim woman was wearing a scarf but at the same time using bad language, she would not be fulfilling the requirements of hijab.

The majority of Muslim women wear hijab to obey their God and to be known as respectable women. (Quran 33:59) However, in the last 30 years hijab has emerged as a sign of Islamic consciousness. Many women see wearing the hijab as indicative of their desire to be part of an Islamic revival, especially in countries where the practice of Islam is discouraged or even forbidden.

While those who seek to ban hijab refer to it as a symbol of gender based repression, the women who choose to don a scarf, or to wear hijab, in the broadest sense of the word, do so by making personal decisions and independent choices. They view it as a right and not a burden. Nor do these women regard hijab as a sign of oppression. Women who wear hijab often describe themselves as being “set free” from society’s unrealistic fashion culture.

Hijab, ideally, frees women from being thought of as sexual objects of desire or from being valued for their looks, or body shape rather than their minds and intellect. No longer slaves to consumerism, hijab is said to liberate women from the need to conform to unrealistic stereotypes and images dictated by the media. Women wearing hijab have expressed that dressing modestly and covering their hair, minimizes sexual harassment in the workplace.

It is true that in some families and in some cultures women are forced to wear hijab but this is not the norm. The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256).  A woman wearing hijab becomes a very visible sign of Islam. While Muslim men can blend easily into any society, Muslim woman are often put on the line, and forced to defend not only their decision to cover, but also their religion.

Islamic scholars have agreed that both the burqa and niqab are part of Islam, but have differed as to whether they are also compulsory or optional acts of virtue. This explains why some Muslim women wear the hijab, while others decide to wear the niqab or burqa.  To me, this is not only a freedom of religion issue facing Canadians today, but one that boils down to women’s rights – and fashion.

But lest not allow the hijab, niqab and burqa to detract from terrorism and national security discussions in the crucial weeks ahead…Personally, it will be the least of my concern.  The far greater matter of our country’s security, on the other hand, is of grave concern and we can only hope and pray again that our government is capable of protecting it.  Given harsh realities, we must make the best of a looming messy conflict that defeats easy analysis.

A “veiled” threat is one thing…The real McCoy is quite another.

Vigilance is of the essence as terrorism reaches deadly global proportions.

14 November, 2015


FRIEND: noun. One who is personally well known by oneself and for whom one has warm regard or affection...Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary.

To me, a "true friend" is someone who has touched your heart and will stay there. Someone you care for, who cares for you. Someone you can do the stupidest things around and always be forgiven. Someone you'll instantly remember in 10 years because they are in your heart and not just your mind. They have the ability to change you, even if they don't. They will be etched in your memories forever.

Of course, we use the word "friend" very loosely in our society today. Dictionaries define it as "attached by affection and esteem". You can usually count those on one hand. "Acquaintance" is often a better description of a relationship, but it sounds awkward and cold. But Facebook has redefined the word to include people you worked with years ago but haven't spoken to since, people from high school that you weren't even friends with then, and someone to whom you gave your business card 12 minutes earlier. And of course, people you simply do not know.

Over the course of the eight or nine years that I have subscribed to the social media network "Facebook", I have accumulated a consistent average of 170 "friends" (give or take a couple of dozen or so who have either died or defriended me, or whom I have defriended for various reasons) which pales by comparison to some who have lists of friends numbering in the thousands. Because in all honesty, I can literally count on one hand the individuals on my list who meet the aforementioned "friend" criteria, I decided today to analyze my list of Facebook "friends".

But first, I had to overcome an inferiority complex resulting from the fact I had so few FB friends compared to others amassing far in excess of 500 (some as many as an almost unbelievable 3000). The Facebook obsession of collecting "friends" creates the impression that some users are wildly more sociable than others but in truth it is either an obsession or indicative of the fact that an individual is subtly marketing something -- a special interest, a product, themselves.

Oxford University Professor Robin Dunbar has conducted a study of social groupings throughout the centuries, from Neolithic villages to modern office environments. His findings assert that size of the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language, the neocortex, limits us to managing 150 fiends, no matter how sociable we are. Dunbar also applied his theory to determine if the "Facebook effect" has stretched the size of social groupings.

He compared the online traffic of people with thousands of friends to those with hundreds and found that there is no discernible difference between the two. "The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see that people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 individuals that we observe in the real world," he stated in defining "maintained" friends as those you care about and contact beyond Facebook at least once a year.

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to learn that I am not the social outcast that I had come to think I was. In fact, taking Professor Dunbar's theory into consideration, I probably have at least 25 more Facebook "friends" than my mind can comfortably manage. With that in mind, I set out to take a closer look at my list of FB "friends".

Off the top I have two daughters, one son-in-law, four adult grandchildren, four second cousins and two third cousins, a sister-in-law and a niece (a total of 15) who I consider to be more than just Facebook "friends". They are, after all, family/relatives. So remove them from the equation and I come pretty close to Dunbar's manageable limit of 150 Facebook "friends".

Interestingly, I have never officially met 55 of my so-called Facebook "friends" and have only met another dozen very casually or briefly on just one occasion. Some of those I invited to become Facebook "friends" because of mutual interests and, likewise, they me. Every single one a great person in their own right, but have they touched my heart?...Will they still remain friends down the road?...Would they be there for me if called upon, or vice versa? In a few special cases, I think that I can genuinely answer in the affirmative. In the majority of the cases however, probably not! So friends in a Facebook sense -- yes; but friends in real life -- no. I am sure the feeling is respectfully mutual.

Just as in real life where I am a relatively private person, I have never outwardly solicited Facebook friendships. Personally, I have been very selective in who I have welcomed to my inner-circle of Facebook "friends". Often to my detriment, I become too familiar with Facebook friends and begin talking to them like they are real friends, forgetting that they do not really know me nor do they understand my tell-it-like-it-is personality and strange sense of humour (a dangerous combination). I am not the easiest guy to get to know but I am always gratified when someone accepts my infrequent reaching out for friendship in real life or otherwise and in my mind a private bond is created that is difficult to explain.  That is just me.  I am either all in, or all out!

I am of the old school that considers a friend a friend, regardless. I want to hold on to them. I loose sleep over differences. I celebrate achievements. I grieve when I lose a friend in real life...and on Facebook too.

07 November, 2015


I find myself understanding the need for a certain amount of political correctness in Canadian society today but on the other hand I find myself being somewhat uncomfortable with its premise.
Who determines what is politically correct and what is not?  Who says we have to be politically correct and who, if anyone, polices political correctness?

Political correctness is loosely defined as "avoidance of expressions or actions that can be perceived to exclude or marginalize or insult people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against."

...Believe it or not!

I even came across the phrase "politically incorrect", when researching this post...Now there's an oxymoron for you!

Political correctness is a hugely successful campaign that has effectively altered traditional standards of behavior in order to advance the political agenda of mostly left-leaning groups (the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system). From gay rights, to feminism to open borders, rules dictate that you conform with the prevailing group-think at the risk of social ostracism.  Christian traditions on which this country were founded (prayers at public assemblies, references to God in pledges of allegiance, the celebration of Christmas and Easter), are the latest targets of the political correctness movement.  This is where I have a problem.
Interestingly, a group of some 600 Canadian academics has stated that they do not deny that there is room to discuss and debate how contemporary democracies should respond to religious, cultural and linguistic pluralism. Indeed, Canadian legal and political theory is at the forefront of exploring such matters. But a common point of departure for these debates and discussions is a commitment to civility, decency and toleration. Toleration does not require that one like or endorse the cultural or religious practices of others, but it does require that we refrain from insulting the dignity of those with whom we disagree. 

I tend to side with African-American author and economist Thomas Sowell who when faced with politically correct statements made by self-righteous busy bodies, asks himself four questions that will determine the validity of any statement:

  1.  At what cost?
  2. Compared to what?
  3. According to whom?
  4. What hard evidence do you have?
By Sowell's standard, pretty much every politically correct statement and/or idea does not pass this simple test. If you're content to allow others to define you, by all means, keep playing by the politically correct rules. If you're OK with allowing others to manipulate your sentiments to achieve their own agendas, feel free.

As a society we are always making judgments about what language and ideas (not to mention people) are acceptable and which ones are deemed unacceptable.  I agree that once we acknowledge this, it becomes clear that “political correctness” is an inherently biased meme.

How did all of this come about? Over the last 40 years, North America has been conquered by the same force that earlier took over Russia, China, Germany and Italy. That force is ideology. Here, as elsewhere, ideology has inflicted enormous damage on the traditional culture it came to dominate, fracturing it everywhere and sweeping much of it away. 
So runs the controversial thesis of a collaborative book recently published by the Free Congress Foundation—a U.S. conservative think-tank—on its website, entitled “Political Correctness:” A Short History of an Ideology.

The authors of “Political Correctness” attempt to trace the movement back to its origins—Marxism and the Frankfurt school of thought. By so doing they claim to uncover the true and sinister purpose of political correctness—the complete eradication of traditional Western Culture. They also attempt to demonstrate how deeply political correctness has penetrated into every aspect of Western Culture, and how damning its presence is.

Russia will take a generation or more to recover from Communism, if it ever can. The ideology that has taken over our country goes most commonly by the name of “Political Correctness.” Some people see it as a joke. It is not. It is deadly serious. It seeks to alter virtually all the rules, formal and informal, that govern relations among people and institutions. It wants to change behavior, thought, even the words we use. To a significant extent, it already has.
Whoever or whatever controls language also controls thought. Who dares to speak of “ladies” now? Just what is “political correctness?”  A predominant theory is that “political correctness” is in fact cultural Marxism – Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. The effort to translate Marxism from economics into culture did not begin with the student rebellion of the 1960s. It goes back at least to the 1920s and the writings of the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci.

In 1923, in Germany, a group of Marxists founded an institute devoted to making the translation, the Institute of Social Research (later known as the Frankfurt School). One of its founders, George Lukacs, stated its purpose as answering the question, “Who shall save us from Western Civilization?” The Frankfurt School gained profound influence in American universities after many of its leading lights fled to the United States in the 1930s to escape National Socialism in Germany. The Frankfurt School blended Marx with Freud, and later influences (some Fascist as well as Marxist) added linguistics to create “Critical Theory” and “deconstruction.” These in turn greatly influenced education theory, and through institutions of higher education gave birth to what we now call “political correctness.”
The lineage is clear, and it is traceable. The parallels between cultural Marxism and classical, economic Marxism are evident. Cultural Marxism, or political correctness, shares with classical Marxism the vision of a “classless society” i.e., a society not merely of equal opportunity, but equal condition. Since that vision contradicts human nature – because people are different, they end up unequal, regardless of the starting point – society will not accord with it unless forced. So, under both variants of Marxism, it is forced.

Classical Marxism argues that all of history was determined by ownership of the means of production. Cultural Marxism says that history is wholly explained by which groups – defined by sex, race and sexual normality or abnormality – have power over other groups.  Classical Marxism defines workers and peasants as virtuous and the bourgeoisie (the middle class) and other owners of capital as evil. Political correctness defines Blacks, Hispanics, Feminist women, homosexuals and some additional minority groups as virtuous and the white race as basically evil.
These types of parallels are neither remarkable nor coincidental. They exist because political correctness is directly derived from classical Marxism, and is in fact merely a variant of Marxism. Through most of the history of Marxism, cultural Marxists were “read out” of the movement by classical, economic Marxists. Today, with economic Marxism dead, cultural Marxism has filled its shoes. The medium has changed, but the message is the same: a society of radical egalitarianism enforced by the power of the state.

Political correctness now looms over or society like a colossus. It has taken over political parties and is enforced by many laws and government regulations. It almost totally controls the most powerful element in our culture, the entertainment industry. It dominates both public and higher education. It has even influenced the clergy in many Christian churches. Anyone in the Establishment who departs from its dictates swiftly ceases to be a member of the Establishment. Correctness then, is in fact Marxism in a different set of clothes.
That, to me, is extremely troublesome.  When we allude to political correctness with an air of self-satisfied nobleness, we should remind ourselves of from whence it came.

Personally, I and most people I know were raised to embrace and practice Christian principles of respect, decency and toleration.  I resent being pressured to be “correct” by someone else’s self-serving, flavor-of-the-day cause, politically legislated or otherwise.  Likewise, I resent being placed in the position of having to prove that I am not sexist, racist or homophobic and having to suppress the fact that my beliefs are Christian in nature.
After Remembrance Day on the 11th of November, without apology, I will resume the custom of wishing a "Merry Christmas" to the people I meet in the course of my day! 
God willing, I will also continue to express myself freely without fear of reprisal.

04 November, 2015


Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope presented certificates of recognition at the launch of an Immigration Partnership Network.  Marie Carter of Dresden, representing the Migrant Workers' Ministry, is shown second from the right.
I am glad they they get it in my home community of Chatham-Kent!
Chatham-Kent's population is declining, with fewer economic opportunities and some people now considering the municipality a retirement location.  The key to reversing this trend may just lie in international immigration.

Regional council, along with the Chatham-Kent Local Immigration Partnership and business representatives across the municipality, met Nov. 4 to launch the Chatham-Kent Welcome Network. The CKWN’s aim is to present Chatham-Kent as welcoming community for international immigrants.  Mayor Randy Hope spoke passionately about the project.

“It’s important to understand what Chatham-Kent was all about,” Hope said. “It originated from immigrants. We held festivals, to demonstrate that we are a group of nationalities … it’s an important ingredient to our [municipality].”

Chatham-Kent’s population dipped 4.2 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Hope is working to reverse that trend, especially with disappearances of major employers like Navistar.  “Immigration is a key element [to creating jobs],” Hope said. “Take a look at Streetsville. What’s that? Mississauga … the fastest growing municipality in Ontario. We want to take that title from them.”

The federal government launched a project in 2010, encouraging local communities to advertise themselves to immigrants. The municipality of Chatham-Kent became involved soon after, and started the CKWN project in 2014   

In the official launch of the network this week, representatives of a number of community organizations received special recognition certificates, including my friend Marie Carter of Dresden who on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of London, promotes and supports the development of effective, practical outreach to the 20,000-plus migrant agricultural workers living and working in the nine county area of southwestern Ontario that is encompassed by the Diocese. She works in conjunction with parish-based outreach groups and with community partners who share the Migrant Workers Ministry's vision.

01 November, 2015


The common values decreed by the great religions, such
as “love your neighbor as yourself,” are universalized
as the next step of human behavior beyond any dogma.
I cannot bring myself to be either pro or con when it comes to the issue of immigration in Canada. I am prepared to trust that our new government will do what is right and in the humane interest of all Canadians -- old and new. I also place trust in the new selection system for immigration to Canada that separates the "good" from the "bad" of the would-be Canadian citizens.  " Express Entry", which came into effect exactly a year ago, changed how Canadian immigration is managed by moving it from a supply-driven system to a demand-driven one and, as such, new screening practices have been implemented to catch those whose entry applications are ill-conceived or dangerously politically motivated. 

What bothers me, however, is the unhealthy division, hate and venom that this matter has generated in the buildup to the federal election.  American-style, cruel, insensitive things have been expressed in the public realm without due consideration given to the ramifications on our national identity. I strongly contend that we must ensure that immigration enforcement is conducted in a humane manner that respects human dignity. That is what we have to continually impress upon our members of parliament.

A Canadian election campaign that began amid widespread concern over a faltering economy turned into a national referendum on the rights of immigrants. The so-called “niqab issue”, inspired by the ruling party’s legal campaign to prevent one Pakistani immigrant from veiling her face during the ceremony held to formalize her new citizenship, remains powerfully divisive even after the October 19 election.

Although polls show that a substantial majority of Canadians supported the government position, opponents have denounced it as a dangerous and even “disgusting” attack on the country’s fragile multicultural harmony. The matter, in my mind, boils down to rights that can only be settled in Canadian courts. Meantime, the real needs of refugees were pushed to the backgound.

As the debate heightened, there was a tendency in some quarters to paint all immigrants with the same "they want to come here and change our country" brush. Forgotten in the concern for national security, was the fact that there is an immediate desperate need to relocate displaced Iraqi and Syrian refugees in western countries, including Canada. Truth be known, just one per cent of the 630,000 Syrian refugees and about five per cent of the 50,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan stand a chance of being resettled in a new home in the West. The rest are expected to wait out the war, and then return to the devastation and certain unrest that will exist in their homelands.

It has been my contention that Canadian religions should be playing a more active role in all of this and I was encouraged to read a Toronto Star item today by Nicholas Keung, a native of Hong Kong who writes about immigration, refugee, migrant and diversity issues.  In his report Nicholas tells about members of Maple Grove United Church and Shaarei Beth-El synagogue in Oakville and Mississauga's Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) mosque, coming together to give a family of seven from Jordan a new life in Canada.

Christians, Jews and Muslims do not always share a common cause, especially in the Middle East, but this is most certainly a case of the three groups finding friendship in their goal of serving humanity through a Syrian refugee sponsorship group called Abraham's Children Together. Although they already had a working relationship through the Interfaith Council of Halton (County) they were brought together earlier this year by the Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need, a grassroots Muslim organization formed in response to the refugee crisis in Europe.

"This is what organized religions can do," said Rev. Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes of Maple Grove.  "We are all brothers and sisters in terms of our origins. We felt that we could make a statement to the family leaving behind conflicts and coming to our country, where all the Abrahamic religions bond together out of active love (an allusion to the fact that all three religions are based on the teachings of the Prophet Abraham)."

The project was not without skeptics in the beginning, admits Rabbi Stephen Wise.  Some members of his congregation were hesitant about helping people from Syria, a longtime enemy of Israel.  Then there was the United Church of Canada's decision to boycott products made or linked to Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.  

"There was initially some discomfort in working with other groups," Rabbi Wise said, "but we have built strong bonds and trust with the United Church and the Muslim community over the years through honest dialogue.  Most of us (Jews) came to this country as Holocaust survivors...In the 1930s we were the refugees...The world turned its back on Jews, we just cannot do that to somebody else today."

The project set out to raise $27,000 but has so far received $120,000 in donations.

Dr. Aliya Khan of Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need (CSRDN), an endocrinologist and professor at McMaster University, says she likes the idea of religions bonding together in an act of generosity, especially for a family fleeing conflict in their homeland.  She hopes this initiative will show the world how different faith groups can work together and live in peace through universal humanity.

CSRDN is an organization dedicated to upholding the principles of peace, justice and mercy towards all irrespective of race, colour or religion. It assists in the arrival of refugees to Canada and in their resettlement and integration into Canadian society.  The organization also supports the government in bringing relief internationally and in providing an opportunity for a new life and hope for those in desperate need.

To my mind, we should remember that refugees do not have ulterior motives at times of crises.  They do not abandon their homes out of choice, and they are not unaware of the risks they face.  It is out of desperation that they flee war and torture, misery and poverty and persecution, seeking only a safe haven for their children and families in a country that was built on the immigration of people just like them over the course of the past couple of centuries.

It is up to you and me to show newcomers to our country that the Canadian way is the best way.

28 October, 2015


News from my Grey-Bruce neck of the woods does not always make it into the Heartland of Ontario.  Here is an item that should be of clean-energy interest to the entire province.  It could come soon to a town or city near you.

Partnering with Plug’n Drive, the University of Waterloo, local communities and the Asthma Society of Canada, Bruce Power has announced a series of collaborative initiatives to promote clean, electrified transportation in Ontario. These initiatives build on the foundation of Ontario’s low-emissions electricity system, which support achieving long-term climate change targets in the province.
Bruce Power's electrical car.

"While we continue to focus on playing an important role providing Ontario with emissions-free power, we also believe we need to do our part to support innovation and build on a modern, clean electricity system to help reduce emissions," said Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Power’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  "We believe supporting these initiatives, in collaboration with a number of key partners, will produce positive and tangible results." 

The phase out of coal-fired electricity in Ontario has significantly reduced emissions from the electricity sector, making it the single largest climate change initiative in North America, and Bruce Power’s increased output provided 70 per cent of the replacement energy needed to support this.  While the progress to date is significant, there is an opportunity to do even more by linking the province’s clean energy sector to help reduce emissions from transportation, which is the largest greenhouse gas contributor in Ontario.

"Ontario is committed to being a leader in the fight against climate change and one of the areas essential to achieving this is by supporting clean, electrified transportation in Ontario from an emissions-free electricity system," said Hon. Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. "These initiatives by Bruce Power, Plug’n Drive and others are the kind of partnerships that are essential to make this vision a reality."
Cara Clairman, President and CEO of Plug’n Drive, hosted the first ever Electric Vehicle Day at Queen’s Park today, October 26.  "Plug'n Drive is proud to be the champion for the electrification of transportation bridging, together industry, government, academia and consumer interests," Clairman said. "Today's Electric Vehicle Day will showcase the environmental and economic benefit of driving electric in Ontario."

Key initiatives announced today by Bruce Power, in conjunction with Plug’n Drive’s Queen’s Park EV Day, include: 

  • The release of a free iPhone App in partnership with Plug’n Drive, built from Bruce Power’s existing platform, that will have a number of interactive features for people who want to switch to electric vehicles. These include interactive maps of charging stations, and information on grants and vehicles available, along with a unique calculator where people can determine the economic and environmental benefits of going electric. The free App is available for download at the App Store.
  • Bruce Power and Plug’n Drive are supporting the installation of electric car charging stations partnering with communities around the Bruce site. Two dual wand charging stations have been installed at Bruce Power’s Visitors' Centre, while additional stations have been installed in Port Elgin, Southampton, and Wroxeter. Further stations are planned for Kincardine, Sauble Beach and Owen Sound.
  • Bruce Power, Plug’n Drive, the University of Waterloo and the Asthma Society of Canada will commence a joint study to examine the economic and environmental opportunities associated with clean, electrified transportation in Ontario by leveraging the province's clean electricity supply mix. This report will build on the expertise from all organizations and will be released in 2016.

As of 2012, only nine per cent of Ontario’s emissions come from the electricity sector, an advancement enabled by the phase out of coal-fired generation. The largest contributor to emissions in Ontario is the transportation sector, which accounts for 34 per cent of all emissions. The Ontario government has set a goal to reduce emissions from 1990 levels by 15 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. On an annual basis, the Bruce Power site avoids 31 million tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of taking six million cars off the road. 

25 October, 2015


A touching photo appears on Facebook showing young parents hovering over a two-year-old child in a hospital bed.  The caption reads: "She has cancer..!! Can she get an 'Amen'?"  I hardly know how to take this one.  Why would I want to give an "amen" to a child having cancer?  I hate the mere suggestion that anyone has cancer, let alone a two-year-old girl!

I have no doubt that the original publisher of the photo was well intended, but this is an example of how so many ancient biblical words are misused in the 21st century.  American televangelist preachers in particular, have been largely responsible for the over-use of "Amen", using it liberally for emphasis but frequently with little provocation. I would have much preferred that the caption of the subject photo read "She has cancer..!! Please pray for her!" or "She has cancer..!! God help her parents cope!"...Then an "Amen" would have been appropriate and meaningful.

Here is a bit about the word "Amen" and how it was originally intended to be used.
Definition: "Amen" is an exclamation acknowledging the genuineness or veracity of a statement, petition, benediction, or doxology. Amen means "truly", or "fair dinkum".
Note: One of God’s names is "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Revelation 3:14).
Greek References: αμην ameen translated by Luke as αληθος aleethos, truly (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27).

1 What is the Origin of “Amen”

The word “Amen” makes its first appearance in the Bible under the most solemn circumstances. When a husband accused his wife of adultery, and she protested her innocence, and she had not been caught in the act, the matter was settled by God under the test of bitter water (Numbers 5:12-31).
The woman was taken to the priest, and the priest put her under oath. She submitted to a ceremony in which she drank some water containing dust from the tabernacle floor. If she had committed adultery, she was be cursed with a wasting disease, but if she did not get sick, then she was proven innocent and her husband was proven wrong.
During the ceremony, when the priest pronounced the curse, the woman was required by God to say, "Amen, Amen". (Numbers 5:22). That is the first occurrence of the word in scripture. The LORD commands it to be said by a person who is yielding herself to examination by Him in His presence.

Egyptian god Amen-ra?

The word “Amen” probably goes back a long way. Some it goes back to an Egyptian god called Amen-Ra, and that Moses introduced this name into the worship and religious language of the people he led out of Egypt.
However, in the Bible we first found the word “Amen” commanded by the LORD(Numbers 5:22). It is not credible that God would invoke the name of an Egyptian god when he regarded himself as the only true God and His own name as above all names. “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other...” (Isaiah 42:8).

2 Why do we say “Amen”?

The word is almost always used to end a solemn statement, as in the example cited earlier. We find the word “Amen” as the last word in several instances in the Bible.

3 What Does “Amen” Mean?
Oddly, to get a scriptural answer to what “Amen” means, we go to a place where it is used not as the last word but the first word. Jesus would often start a solemn statement by saying"Verily" or "Truly". In John's gospel (eg John 3:3) Jesus is recorded as using the word twice in succession, "Verily, verily, I say to you...". This is actually the word “Amen”.

When we compare an instance of this in Mark, with the same statement in Luke, we find Mark has left the word untranslated (just as αμην “Amen”), but Luke has translated it using the word αληθος "Truly". (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). This shows us that the underlying meaning of the word “Amen” is truth and verity. It is a solemn affirmation. When we say, “Amen” we are saying, "Yes before God I agree with that, I believe that to be true, I want that to be so".

To that little cancer-stricken girl in a hospital bed, I say: "God be with you and your mom and dad...Amen!"


24 October, 2015


A "hut" photographed by Tiffany Wilson.

I follow the Saugeen Times online news site fairly closely and earlier today read a submission by high school correspondent Tiffany Wilson.  In reporting on a Bluewater Athletic Association football game between Saugeen District High School Royals and St. Mary's Mustangs she used the word "hut" several times.

It is not common to see the word used in game write-ups and the fact that Tiffany actually knew what a "hut" is, impressed me sufficiently to send me off on an impromptu research project to determine the origin of the word.  In my day playing scrub football, the "hut" was called a "hike".  Today, of course, footballers talk about the "snap" between a centre and quarterback at the start of a play. 

I remembered that in honor of the start of the football season some time ago, the television show "NFL Films Presents" put together a segment on the word hut, an interjection shouted by quarterbacks when initiating a play. Producers asked a number of National Football League players and coaches their theories about the origin of "hut", and then called upon a linguist to set the record straight. That linguist happened to be a chap by the name of  Ben Zimmer who found himself unaccountably sharing air time with the likes of announcers Don Shula and Tom Coughlin.
The short answer, which he gave in the interview was that the hut of the quarterback's cadence ("hut 1, hut 2, hut 3...") almost certainly comes from military cadences for marching, where hut is used to accent a syllable. The military-style hut has been in use since at least World War II, when drill sergeants also began yelling "Atten-hut!" as a call to attention. By the 1950s, quarterbacks had borrowed this technique to develop their own cadences for calling the snap count. Hut is a short, sharp syllable that can be heard clearly over a distance, so it serves the quarterback just as well as a drill sergeant leading a march.
The long answer, Zimmer later explained in a write-up of his own, actually goes back deep into the pre-football era. For centuries, monosyllables likehip, hup, and hep have been used as interjections to draw attention, particularly for animals. Coachmen called out these words for goading horses, and herders used them for steering their flocks.  Hup has been recorded in this usage since the 18th century, and hut from the 19th century. Then in the early 20th century, drill sergeants' rhythmic cadences for marching began to take the form of "hip/hup/hep 2, 3, 4." (I've found military examples of hup from 1919, hip from 1923, and hep from 1928.) As hut (and "atten-hut") became popularized in World War II, the military bark got taken up by drillmasters for marching bands, drum corps, and pep squads. For instance, a 1941 guide to marching band drills reads, "Some substitute 'Hup!' or 'Hut!' for 'one,' to gain accent."
The sport of football, meanwhile, was developing its own interjections. Back in the 1890s, John Heisman — of Heisman Trophy fame — introduced the word hike to football. Originally, the center (who puts the ball into play) used one hand to flip the ball under his legs to the quarterback. To alert the center that he was ready to start, a quarterback would use a touch signal, often scratching the center's leg. When playing as a center for the University of Pennsylvania team in 1890-91, Heisman got tricked by an opposing player who scratched his leg. He flipped the ball back, and the quarterback missed the pass. Heisman's solution was to have the quarterback use the word hike to put the ball into motion so that everyone was clear when the play started. Hike was a good choice, since it can mean "to pull or raise with a sudden motion," and that's what the center does with the ball.
Soon after, as a coach, Heisman introduced the "direct snap," where the ball is "hiked" in the now-familiar way. Previously, the ball would be rolled back along the ground or snapped end over end (a "snapback"). In 1893, when Heisman was the coach at Buchtel College (now the University of Akron), he had a very tall quarterback who had trouble with the ball being rolled to him. So Heisman invented the direct snap to allow the center to toss the ball directly up to the quarterback. Every other college team followed Heisman's lead.
The signal calling of quarterbacks then got more and more complex. By the 1920s, "shift formations" had developed, most famously Knute Rockne's "Notre Dame shift." The quarterback would call the signal and then say hip to indicate that the offensive line should shift to new positions on the line of scrimmage. The whole backfield would move when hip was called. The hip of the Notre Dame quarterback ("1, 2, 3, hip!") had a clear kinship with the military marching cadences of the time ("hip 2, 3, 4"), but for onlookers the shift also evoked the hippity-hop of jumping frogs. Various rule changes were enacted to slow down the shift, and the constant motion punctuated by hip became more subdued after the Knute Rockne era of the '20s.
Unlike the hip of Rockne's teams, the hut of the post-war era (for college and professional teams alike) did not necessarily signal a shift of the offensive line. The quarterback could signal for the center to snap the ball on the first, second, or third hut without any shift being called. One early print example of hut (discovered by word sleuth Barry Popik) comes from the Sporting News of Oct. 20, 1954: "Mitchell snaps into position, starts his call and is ready to give it the 'Hut-two, hut-two." 

The Los Angeles Times of July 9, 1955 explained hut in an article about the streamlined system of signal calling used by the L.A. Rams under the coaching of Sid Gillman: "When the quarterback gives the snap at the line of scrimmage ('Hut-one... hut-two... hut-three,' and so on) he sings it out in a nonrhythmic tempo so that the enemy cannot anticipate the center's snap."  Since then, quarterback cadences have evolved even further, though hut has remained a common feature.
Of course, this was far too much history to fit into in a brief television interview, but Zimmer said it was a lot of fun digging through the archives to piece together the elaborate back-story of a powerful little word.

One thing for sure...He certainly saved me a lot of work.

Ben Zimmer is executive editor of and the Visual Thesaurus. He is language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to his regular "Word Routes" column, he contributes to the group weblog Language Log. He is also the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society