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

20 August, 2017


Earlier last week I commented on the sudden increase of asylum seekers from the U.S. taking the illegal entry route into Canada at crucial points along the border, particularly in Quebec (see item below).  At the conclusion of the post I sought explanations from readers on the sudden exodus into Canada, going so far as to request rational, unbiased and factual responses.

I cannot speak for Facebook, but I know for a fact that more than 90 individuals have viewed the item on my Wrights Lane blog, yet I have not heard from a single one.  This suggests at least one of three possible scenarios: 1) People cannot, or are reluctant, to comment on political issues if they are unable to call on biased opinion; 2) while the populace is divided down the middle on the acceptance of illegal immigrants, there is a general confusion on the matter and the implications for Canada, or 3) nobody takes me serious and there is little merit in responding to anything I write or feedback I solicit.

The answer to my original question, of course, lies in U.S. President Donald Trump’s tough stance on illegal immigration that has forced many undocumented immigrants to live in the American shadows and, subsequently, to seek illegal asylum in Canada.  The problem is, our Canadian government is doing nothing concrete to deter the practice of people entering Canada illegally. In fact, their silence on the matter — and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tweet in January welcoming all asylum seekers into Canada — has had the effect of encouraging the practice. And that’s most unfortunate

If only Justin had added the words "...providing they go through proper legal immigration channels open to them" and continued to stress that point. Entering Canada through unofficial border crossings is illegal, period. And the federal government should announce and reinforce that Canada does not condone such action. Otherwise, it undermines the very laws that we demand new Canadians follow when they settle here.

We either have secure borders or we don’t.

Of course once border jumpers have crossed into Canada illegally, it’s not a simple matter of arresting them and sending them back (at taxpayer expense) to the U.S. Under Canadian law, based on Supreme Court of Canada rulings, everyone in Canada has protection under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to seek a refugee hearing.

No matter what action is taken by the federal government to crack down on illegal border crossing, there will always be some leakage. But that’s not the point. The point is, there is a growing number of people crossing the border illegally and the federal government, apart from setting up temporary living accommodations and bringing in more immigration staff to process the thousands of entries, has done little to discourage the practice, nor are they trying to find solutions with U.S. officials.

There are many options, including revisiting the Safe Third Country Agreement, that Ottawa could be looking at to discourage illegal crossing.

Under the STCA, asylum seekers must make refugee claims in the first safe country they arrive at. Under the agreement, Canada heretofore has considered the U.S. a safe country. As a result, asylum seekers fearing deportation in the U.S. who attempt to enter Canada at controlled border crossings are turned away. That’s why they enter illegally. Perhaps it’s time to change that to promote a more orderly system that encourages people to seek entry at controlled border crossings while discouraging illegal crossing. The Canadian (I hesitate to say Trudeau because he does not make decisions in isolation) government has so far refused to even discuss revisiting that agreement.

Canada has a long-standing reputation for its welcoming immigration policies...Asylum seekers are nothing new to Canadian soil.  But a disregard for the rule of law currently on file is undermining our border security as we speak.

I am all for the humanitarianism that our welcoming Prime Minister is advocating, but as a country we can't have it all ways.

Nice guys uphold the law!...Even federal governments.  Canadians ask for nothing else!

18 August, 2017


Three families that claimed to be from Burundi walk across into Quebec at the U.S.-Canada border in Champlain, N.Y., on Thursday.
I read in the Toronto Star today that the tide of migrants crossing into Quebec in search of asylum has grown into a rolling wave, as the federal and provincial governments face pressure to deal with thousands of newcomers who have arrived in just the past six weeks.  Newly released figures show the number of people crossing into the province has skyrocketed this summer. The RCMP intercepted nearly 3,000 people as they walked across the border in Quebec last month. A further 3,800 have come in the first half of August, the RCMP said.

That's a big jump from June, when there were 781 RCMP interceptions in the province. It's also more than 10 times the 245 people intercepted by police there in January.  And that's not taking into consideration countless other illegal entry points across Canada.

Speaking to reporters Thursday in St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the government will open a new shelter for migrants in Cornwall, a city of 46,000 in eastern Ontario near the Quebec border. Hundreds of asylum seekers crossing from the U.S. have already been housed in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, as well as in emergency tents set up at the border by the Canadian military.

Garneau also said there would be 20 new staffers in Montreal to help process asylum applications and that there will be a ministerial task force, which includes Quebec's immigration minister, Kathleen Weill, her federal counterpart, Ahmed Hussen, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, to help manage the situation.  "There's no crisis, but it's a situation that is extraordinary," Garneau stated.

How can this borderline exodus be explained?  What is happening south of the border to warrant such an unusual phenomenom? I ask, knowing full well the disturbing answer.  But maybe I'm missing something.

Rational, unbiased, first-person fact-supported responses to the above mentioned questions are most welcome...And don't implicate the media for reporting fake news because that is a dead giveaway from whence you come.

16 August, 2017


Oh boy...or Oh girl! the case may be":

A sign placed outside a café in Australia has created quite the stir. The “Handsome Her” coffee shop had only just opened when it was thrust into the limelight – but not necessarily in a positive sense. The female-owned and operated café put out a sign listing three “house rules”:
  1. Women have priority seating.
  2. Men will be charged an 18% premium to reflect the gender pay gap (2016) which is donated to a women’s service.
  3. Respect goes both ways.
As is often the case these days, it didn’t take long for the backlash to begin. A picture of the sign went viral and generated a storm of criticism online. Detractors jumped on the 18% tax, calling it discriminatory against men and totally antithetical to the feminist movement.

Why Tax Men?

The café’s slogan is “a space for women, by women.” And they’re serious about it, says manager Belle Ngien. The tax, she explains, is intended to spread awareness about the wage gap between men and women. Why 18%? Well, an official study found that men earn an average of 17.7% more than women in Australia. Ngien and her coworkers simply want to even the playing field a bit by charging men more for coffee.
Ngien has reported that as of yet, no one has declined to pay the tax. Many patrons have even offered more. “18% is actually not a lot. Our coffee is $4, so 18% of that is 72 cents,” she explains. And that does not really surprise me...There will always be poor fool, patronizing men who will pay a "man tax" just to show that they are good guys and in the process win favor with the opposite fairer sex that is so necessary in meeting their macho needs.

Not Everyone Is Buying It
However, this explanation proved less than satisfactory for many online critics. They argue that it’s a classic case of reverse discrimination. Instituting a “gender tax” is not a step toward progress, they insist. If anything, it might actually make things worse.

I laugh to think about how Donald Trump would react if he ever found himself walking into Ngien's coffee shop.

13 August, 2017


I know it is difficult for some of us, but for the time it takes to read this post try putting aside political biases and concerns with the way our country is governed.  Take just a few minutes to clear your mind and to consider the often taken-for-granted benefits of living in the land called Canada.

A week or so ago I talked a bit about about the simple tranquility of sitting on my front porch on a warm July afternoon and enjoying looking out under a lush foliage canopy of maple trees casting shadows on an expanse of green grass as rays of the Lake Huron sun filter through, birds singing as squirrels and a baby rabbit scampered about.  Scenes such as this, and many more, are a constant reminder that the character of this wonderful nation is blissfully entangled with the great outdoors.

You have to look no further than to first and second generation Canadians to express what it means to live freely in a country abounding with natural resources and beauty.

To emphasize that point, 60 years ago Steve Galea's father chose Canada as the place where he would live out the rest of his life.  He left the old world for the benefits offered in the new one.  "My father came to Canada because he loved the thought of wilderness, prosperity and peace -- a place where he could raise his kids," Galea writes eloquently in the July issue of Ontario Out Of Doors magazine.  "He had lived through years of brutal bombings, horrible destruction and near starvation, all the while dreaming of better places."

Somewhere down the line, all our ancestors had similar experiences.  Whether by accident or good judgment, our forebears left discontent behind and gambled on hope.  They came to a fertile land blessed by broad expanses, limitless forests, countless waters and few people, given its immensity.

Due to the adventurous spirit of all who settled here, and the freedom provided, it was only natural that Canada became a nation of people who carry an innate love and appreciation of the outdoors.  "Show me a Canadian who has not slept on the floor of an old pup tent, paddled in a canoe, spent time at a cottage, sat by a campfire, fished with a red and white bobber, donned a back-pack, or marvelled at the incredible beauty of a clear night sky, and I'll show you a rare bird indeed," says Galea.

"We hold dear the idea that our waters are owned by all.  We cherish our wild areas and do our best to protect them.  Crown land and other progressive ideas have made this country the envy of the world."

He also points out that our national character was sculptured by rock, tree and water, and by diversity of the seasons, then adds: "But it was polished by practical ideas, that tolerance is a virtue, that old-country grudges have no place here, that peaceful resolution is better than war, and time outside does a person good."  Truer words were never written!

As nations go, Canada is still young...And with our youth comes the idealism that there can be justice and fairness and a place for everyone at our national table. I have reached a point in life where I am prepared to leave the fortunes of my home and native land to those who are younger, smarter and better positioned to govern our national affairs than me.  Each new generation builds on the previous and I have every reason to believe that will continue to be the case.

So, time is up my friend!  You can now go back to worrying about immigration policies, government spending and what is happening south of the border, if that is your inclination.

As for me...I'm heading out into that wonderful outdoors we just talked about.  My front porch, an easy chair, the birds and squirrels and Lake Huron sun beckon.  Think I'll take along a glass of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc while I'm at it.

I'll probably fall asleep eventually...and let the rest of the world go by.

09 August, 2017

Nuclear powers life-saving Gamma Knife technology

SUPER GIRL: Nuclear technology has saved Jadyn Schill's life

For me, this remarkable close-to-home story qualifies under the category "You learn something new every day!"

Jadyn Schill, 14, is known as "Super-Girl" at Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto for her bravery in an ongoing, nine-year battle with cancer.
"I'm going to kick cancer in the butt!"

Having undergone the maximum radiation treatments that can be given to an individual and several years of chemotherapy, Jadyn recently underwent a technology known as Gamma Knife surgery. The technique uses High Specific Activity Cobalt 60 that will be harvested from nearby Bruce Power's nuclear reactors next year.  The non-invasive surgery concentrates on tumors, sparing the surrounding healthy brain tissue, killing cancer cells and shrinking tumors in a precise and powerful method that results in little after effects.

First diagnosed when she was five years old, her mother Christie took her to the hospital when she lost movement in the left side of her face. She was first diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, but after an MRI, a tumour was found. She was subsequently diagnosed with Ependymoma, a rare brain cancer.

Jadyn’s mom says the teenager doesn’t really remember her life before cancer.  Despite this, Jadyn remains positive about her future.  “I just want to go to school like a normal kid,” she told the CBC last year. “...And try to get back into sports. I used to play soccer really well.”

Now, thanks to Gamma Knife Surgery, she's going to "kick" cancer just like she kicked that soccer ball.

View the following video to get a better feeling for Jadyn's story and her chance at a new life.

02 August, 2017


Despite the lingering taboo surrounding drug use, researchers had little trouble finding religious volunteers to participate in their study.
I read the other day where researchers at John Hopkins University and New York University have convinced a group of religious leaders to try “magic” mushrooms in the name of science. The researchers will give two dozen priests, rabbis and pastors controlled doses of psilocybin, the active ingredient found in psychedelic mushrooms.

Their theory is that taking hallucinogenic substances will spur deeply religious people to have extraordinary spiritual experiences – somewhat akin to the “vision quests” undertaken in some Native North American cultures.

What next, you ask?

Lead researcher William Richards explains that the hallucinogenic drug naturally evokes spiritual imagery, even with laypeople:  “People see incredible things with their eyes closed that are often very, very beautiful,” including visions of Jesus. “That seems to happen whether people are of religious training or not. It doesn’t seem to be something that’s learned.”

However, the hallucinogen has never been administered to people with formal religious training before. Perhaps the visions will be even more intense – that’s what researchers are hoping, anyway.
Many religions frown upon illicit drug use, even if it’s “for science”. Certain religions like Islam and Mormonism ban all intoxicating substances outright. Although most Christians denominations take a softer line on the issue, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pastor or priest that would encourage experimentation with drugs.

Despite the lingering taboo, researchers had little trouble finding volunteers to participate in their study. On the contrary, members of the clergy were eager to partake in the hallucinogenic drug to help investigate his psychological hypothesis.

Some are commending these religious leaders for their brave foray into the unknown. But who knows, perhaps they’re just bored.  William Richards thinks that there is a very fundamental link between the effects of psychedelic mushrooms and the “mystical” experiences of religion.  He’s convinced that, far from being a sinful activity, drug trips can actually be a force for good. Williams thinks it will motivate clergy to pursue meditation and be more in-touch with their compassionate spiritual sides. “They know there is a top up on the mountain, and now they’re willing to hike up there,” he explains.

If the claims prove to be true, there actually might be a connection between the mind-bending drugs and the way in which people experience religion.  It’s certainly an interesting idea to consider. Should hallucinogenic drugs prove a reliable avenue to spiritual enlightenment, perhaps more people would consider experimenting with them.

But what would that mean for traditional houses of worship? If someone could get closer to God with a few mushrooms, why bother going to church in the first place? Sitting at home on the couch is certainly more comfortable than hard wooden pews.

Although there is plenty of hype surrounding this study, the experiment has its share of critics. Some people are skeptical that feeding drugs to religious leaders will produce any interesting results, and could cause lasting mental effects. Others argue that that religion is a strong enough drug on its own so what’s the point in adding more drugs to the mix?

I do not take this bit of news too seriously, but some wise apple recently contended that Eve did not really tempt Adam with a fruit of some description from the Garden of Eden, rather the actual product was in fact a mushroom.

All I can say to the religious leaders participating in the afforementioned drug study, is "be careful!"...The mushroom you experiment with may well be the Bible's forbidden fruit.

Sacraficial wine could pale by comparison.

29 July, 2017


My view of Grey Street North from my favorite front porch vantage point.

Lucy waiting for me to join her on our front porch easy chair.

Is it just me, or have front porches become a thing of the past?

Being of the old school and appreciative of the best things in life that do not cost a cent, my front porch is what helps keep me sane.  It is a solice and a place to relax on the lazy, hazy days of summer and a comforter when the rigors of life threaten to get the best of me.  A front porch, for me, can be a place where life stands still for as long as you sit there enjoying the nature of your surroundings, mind wandering aimlessly -- reflecting one minute and projecting the next.

Whenever possible I take time to have my morning coffee on that blessed outdoor shelter that surrounds half of my house.   Same with lunch at noon.  There's also nothing like a glass of wine on the porch as the sun goes down in the small town quiet of the evening hours, with Lucy girl snuggled into my side on an old recliner that has survived four years exposed to outside elements. Generally, in most cases, we end up having a catnap.  It is not unusual for me to wait out thunder storms too, hypnotized by the beat of rain hitting overhead porch eves and the driveway pavement below.

More often that not as I gaze across a large expanse of green grass and shadows created by the warm sun filtering through a dense canopy of overhead foliage teased by a gentle breeze, my mind drifts back to my childhood in Dresden, ON, in the 1940s when alternate evenings were spent on our front porch on Sydenham Street and at my Aunt Hattie Sharpe's on nearby Hughes Street with cousins Jim and Norma.  Neighbors out for a stroll, would stop by for a chat -- Mrs. Ruttle, Mrs. French, Mrs. Henderson, Mrs. Hughson, Mrs. Henderson, Andrew and Dorothy Rigsby with daughter Margaret, Mrs. Tassie, Mrs. Craven, Mae Sharpe and the Tedford family (to name but a few).  More often than not, a treat of some kind would enter the equation before the night was over.

It goes without saying that porches are a bridge to my past and there is something comforting about that.

With the exception of an odd cursory wave exchanged with a passerby who happens to glance our way, Lucy and I sit alone these days.  I see a lot of cars, but rarely anyone I recognize.  It is like we have Grey Street North all to ourselves.  People are otherwise occupied doing what, I really do not know...Busy, busy, I guess! Porches, if in fact they do exist, are stoic and unused reminders of days when livin' was easy -- and more social.

But do you know what?...I really do not care.  I'll continue to enjoy my little bit of Heaven in peaceful solitude on my front porch.  This, after all, may be as good as it gets -- and it may not last that much longer.  I'm never that busy!

28 July, 2017


The Grey Bruce Health Unit has published its mid-season Tick Surveillance Map showing the distribution of Blacklegged ticks throughout Grey Bruce. Based on data from ticks submitted from humans and participating veterinary clinics, the map illustrates the widespread distribution of Blacklegged ticks throughout Grey Bruce. Blacklegged ticks are the known carrier of Lyme disease in Ontario, so this post could be of wide-spread signicance.

Of the 112 ticks submitted to the Grey Bruce Health Unit for identification, 55 (49.1%) were identified as Blacklegged. At the time of this report, none of these ticks had been found to be positive for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and no human cases of Lyme disease had been reported. However, the widespread distribution of Blacklegged ticks means there exists a significant risk of exposure to Lyme disease in Grey Bruce. Note too that the absence of ticks at specific locations on the map does not necessarily mean they are truly absent there. Ticks may not have been submitted for identification from those sites.

The best way to protect against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites.
• Wear light coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants to spot ticks more easily.
• Tuck your shirt into your pants and pull your socks over your pant legs.
• Use bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing (always follow the directions on the label).
• Walk on cleared paths or walkways.
• Following outdoor activity, do a full-body check for ticks on yourself and your children.

If you find an attached tick, remove it with tweezers immediately. Removing it within 24-36 hours can help prevent infection.

27 July, 2017


Jennifer Bieman, journalism's Greg Clark award winner.
I am always encouraged to see talented young people with solid investigative reporting and writing skills, breaking through in the field of newspaper journalism.  It augers well for an essential industry struggling to maintain credibility and profitability in an era of cheap online news, controversial social media sites and opinion writers ad nauseam.

It was interesting to learn that Jennifer Bieman, a former reporter with my old St. Thomas Times-Journal in St. Thomas, Ont., was chosen as this year's winner of the Greg Clark Award for early-career journalists. The Canadian Journalism Federation selected Jennifer for her proposal to explore how the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshall and its counterpart in Alberta, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, conduct investigations.

The Greg Clark Award, unique in Canadian journalism, offers working journalists a $5,000 stipend to spend a week gaining insight, gathering strategic information and meeting key decision makers on a specific issue or beat.  Jennifer is a graduate Lord Dorchester Secondary School in her hometown of Dorchester and also graduated from the Masters of School Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario. Previously, she worked briefly as a general assignment summer reporter at the London Free Press and news writer and editor at Sun News Network. She returned to the London Free Press earlier this month as a multi-media writer.

"Fires are an essential part of community coverage, and Jennifer Bieman provided a solid proposal that would explore an area that traditionally isn't given much attention," says Susan Harada, a jury
member and associate director of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication. "Bieman is right to note that coverage of fires often ends with the line, 'The Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate.' The project she proposes would provide insight into that process and a range of fire-safety issues. Her work will benefit any reporter, especially those with a regional beat."

With this opportunity, Jennifer plans to explore how these investigative agencies' findings shape legislation and how their recommendations impact fire-prevention strategies. She will also seek to understand the offices' role in emerging issues like fire prevention in First Nations communities or in homes of vulnerable populations such as low-income families, newcomers, seniors and adults with disabilities.

This award was created in memory of Greg Clark, one of Canada's celebrated journalists, a war correspondent, an avid outdoorsman, a humorist and a great reporter who excelled at storytelling.
Bieman was honoured by the CJF Awards at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, June 8.

Established in 1990, The Canadian Journalism Foundation promotes excellence in journalism by celebrating outstanding journalistic achievement. Signature events include an annual awards program featuring a must-attend industry gala where Canada's top newsmakers meet Canada's top news people. Through J-Talks, a popular speakers' series, the CJF facilitates dialogue among journalists, business people, academics and students about the role of the media in Canadian society and the ongoing challenges for media in the digital era. The foundation also fosters opportunities for journalism education, training and research.

The good news is that there are more Jennifer Biemans out there...The bad news is that with the closure of news rooms across Canada, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to find jobs -- and you cannot make a living on Twitter. 

24 July, 2017

Ye cannae shove yer Granny aff a Bus

Here's a different and fun version of "Ye Canna Throw Yer Granny Off a Bus", a one-act play which will be produced soon in Bruce County as part of an elder abuse public awareness initiative.

20 July, 2017


I am currently involved in an interesting program that will fill a public awareness need within Bruce County communities. "Ye Canna Throw Yer Granny Off A Bus" is a lively play with music that tackles the tender issue of elder abuse by identifying the emotional, financial, physical, spiritual and sexual aspects of the issue.

Elder abuse is sadly under-reported today. It is estimated that only 20 per cent of instances of abuse ever get reported and once abuse occurs, it is likely to be repeated. I will be reporting periodically on the progress of this travelling production which is funded by the Government of Canada and developed under the auspices of the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.


A new study conducted by researchers in Belgium sought to find out how open-minded atheists and agnostics were compared their religious counterparts – and the results were surprising. There exists a common stereotype that people who are highly religious are unlikely to embrace other points of view or different belief systems. However, according to the researchers’ findings, those who hold strict religious beliefs are actually more tolerant than those who aren’t religious at all.

Nearly 800 adults from the United Kingdom, Spain, and France were selected at random to participate in the study. The participants first gave their religious affiliation, then answered various questions to determine how tolerant they were of other belief systems.

According to the researchers, the findings illustrated that religious believers “seem to better perceive and integrate diverging perspectives.” At the same time, these respondents were quick to acknowledge that they were probably biased because of their deeply-held faith.

Atheists and agnostics, on the other hand, consistently denied being biased against other religious beliefs. However, their answers showed otherwise – this group displayed markedly higher rates of “subtle intolerance” than did the religious group.

After the study was released, criticism began to mount concerning the motives behind it. For starters, the research was conducted at a major Catholic university, spurring claims that the results were predetermined by the powers that be. After all, critics insist, it’s in their interest to paint secular people as close-minded. Claims of the Catholic university pushing a religious agenda were compounded by the confusing nature of some of the questions posed by researchers. Skeptics contend that the questions were meant to intentionally mislead participants into giving “intolerant” answers.

The study fundamentally challenges the negative stereotype of religious folks as “bigoted zealots” convinced that their path is the right one.

Despite these assertions, no overwhelming evidence has emerged to confirm that the study was biased. So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume the results are entirely accurate. What does this mean going forward?

For one, the findings fundamentally challenge the negative stereotype of religious folks as “bigoted zealots” who are convinced their path is the right one. If you ask the average person walking down the street: “who is more likely to be close-minded toward outside ideas?” chances are they’ll choose a highly religious person over someone who doesn’t ascribe to any particular set of beliefs.

But according to the study, atheists are not exempt from believing their worldview to be the only correct one. In fact, if the findings are accurate, they are even more guilty than religious people of assuming a “my way or the highway” approach.

In addition to measuring tolerance, this study also touches on a larger issue: which religion is the right one? It’s a question that humankind has been struggling with since time immemorial. Is there one all-powerful God? Or perhaps many different gods? Is it possible that religion is simply a human construct and there is no right answer?

We may never know. However, the study’s findings go to show that there is room for everyone to become more accepting of other belief systems.

18 July, 2017


It is a scary thought but do you realize that the United States and Russia possess nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons between them — more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal — and keep almost 2,000 on hair-trigger alert? It goes without saying then, that the extreme danger of nuclear war can be reduced only through cooperation between the two countries.  And we in Canada can only sit with crossed fingers and ultimate faith in an upholding of "the American way".

Currently, the era of cyber warfare has arrived without any of the agreed-upon rules that govern traditional wars or, for that matter, nuclear deterrence. There is now a rising threat of hackers breaching not only emails and elections but also power grids, strategic warning systems and command-and-control centers. For years, there has been discussion of the need to establish clear rules of the road for cyber warfare. Now, reports of escalating interference make it imperative that cyber weapons, like conventional, chemical or nuclear arms, be controlled by treaty. Again, however, this cannot happen without a more constructive U.S.-Russia relationship.

Given these significant threats, the escalation of tensions with Russia, rather than de-escalation, serves neither the American interest nor national security. This moment calls for diplomacy and dialogue, not moral posturing and triumphalism.

Needless to say, rebuilding a working détente with Russia will not be easy. It will take skill and persistence. Russian President Vladimir Putin heads an authoritarian government that tramples basic rights. U.S. President Trump has demonstrated that he has neither the temperament nor the advisers to sustain a coherent policy initiative. But the nations come to negotiations with the governments they have, not the ones that many wish they had. There is simply no other choice.

For Democrats, whose understandable desire to resist Trump has helped fuel the anti-Russia fixation, there is also another reality to consider. Focusing on Trump’s ties to Russia alone will not win the critical 2018 midterm elections, and it will not win meaningful victories on issues such as health care, climate change and inequality. Moreover, cold wars are lousy for progressivism. They strengthen pro-war parties and fatten defense budgets while depleting funds that could be put to better use rebuilding infrastructure and expanding social programs. They empower the worst forces in both parties and, importantly, close off space for dissent. This is as true in the United States as it is in Russia.

The bottom line is that opposition to Trump cannot become the same as opposition to common sense. Common sense dictates protection of democracy by strengthening election systems to counter outside interference. It dictates an independent investigation of claims of Russian meddling in last year's presidential campaign. But it also tells Americans that they cannot address many of their most urgent challenges — from Syria and climate change to nuclear proliferation and cyber issues — without the United States and Russia finding ways to work together when it serves mutual interests. North Americans in general do not have to embrace the Russian government to work on vital interests with it. And we cannot afford a revival of Cold War passions that would discredit those seeking to de-escalate tensions. Efforts to curtail debate could be a disservice to security in the U.S.A.

As editor of the Nation, a magazine with a long history of adopting alternative views and unpopular stances, especially on matters of war and peace, acclaimed commentator Katrina vanden Heuval correctly writes that she believes it is important to challenge conventional wisdom, to foster rather than police debate and to oppose the forces that vilify those advocating and pursuing better relations. And while arguing that both the United States and Russia have serious interests in maintaining a working relationship may not be popular, it also is not radical. It is simply sober realism.

07 July, 2017


During my time as News Editor and Managing Editor of three Canadian daily newspapers, I had the privilege of meeting and/or interviewing four Prime Ministers -- John Diefenbaker (PC), Lester Pearson (Lib), John Turner (Lib) and Joe Clark (PC) -- two provincial premiers, Saskatchewan's Ed Blakeney (NDP) and Ontario's Bill Davis (PC); in addition to a number of federal and provincial politicians who were noted party leaders in their day (including Robert Stanfield, one time Federal PC leader; Stephen Lewis, Ont. NDP leader in the 1970s, Attorney Generals Roy McMurtry, PC Ontario and Roy Romonow, NDP Saskatchewan and Canadian Solicitor General Bob Kaplan, PC).

While in all fairness I am sure they realized that I was a media lightweight in those days, they were all extremely forthcoming, treating me with utmost respect which, of course, was appreciated and reciprocated.

Without exception and allowing for certain personality traits, I found all of the foregoing to be individuals of character and principle, with brilliant minds and deeply committed to to serving their constituencies, country and respective provinces.  I have no reason to believe that anything has changed in today's politics nor that politicians have suddenly become the idiots, liars, dummies, crooks and laughing stocks we currently read about in the news and on the Internet.

While we must always try to counter politicians’ excesses and expose them individually, just as we would in the workplace with executive indulgences, we should not let the abuse of politicians become the national sport it now appears to be. The current frenzy is for demeaning every elected representative and we need to say ‘enough’.

Deriding politicians in print (whether on paper or on the Internet) has become par for the course. It has gone way beyond the satirical cartoon or the tabloid front page, both of which have their place in an open democracy. However, we need to understand when humour is replaced by clear malice and we need to stop that malice. Too often we portray our politicians as uncaring, vicious and vindictive when they are obviously not.

Be seriously honest would you feel if you read somewhere that your character or heritage was in question?  Would you want to lash out in defence at the dozens of unwarranted insults coming your way on a daily basis?  Personally, I wouldn't last five minutes under those conditions. My skin is just not that thick.

We tend to forget that those in public life are people just like us...they breath the same air, they have families, they bleed red, they have feelings, they try their best to fulfill mandates...and, being human, they make mistakes from time to time, as do we all.  They do not win office, and stay in office, by hiding their light beneath a bushel and they understand that, try as they may, it is impossible for them to be all things to all people.  Damned if they do and damned if they don't is a fact of political life.

We tend also to take isolated cases of political dishonesty and indiscretion and forever tar with the same brush.

Of course, we might all have strong views about various policies, from the carbon tax to recent media reforms and the reported outlandish compensation package for accused terrorist Omar Khadr. Certainly, if we have something constructive to contribute to an issue, by all means we should express those views if we think someone in a position to give a damn is listening. But since when have we become so critical, hateful and mean-spirited in Canada?  Why all of a sudden are those who oppose certain political views considered delusional and ignorant, prompting bitter social media attacks?

Is it the American influence or have we naturally become so skeptical that we have lost respect for all things and all people? If our party did not form a government in the last election, let's stop being poor losers, politically speaking, and accept the will of the majority in this wonderful democracy of ours. P-C, Liberal, NDP, Green -- all parties exist to serve the best interest of Canadians in general with little to choose between them or their respective leaders. Remember that when you hide behind your computer and take social media liberty to engage in one-upmanship, directing insults and distasteful language, you are demeaning some one's character and hurting feelings....and contributing to a divisional Canada where no one ever really wins.  It is simply wrong on so many levels.

Our politicians deserve better from us than this. Collectively, they are serious, hard-working people who, unlike most of us, have been prepared to accept very serious costs to their own and their families' lifestyle for the sake of furthering the public interest as they see it. The public has a reciprocal obligation to show a measure of comprehension for the difficulty and complexity of the issues with which elected people must regularly deal. These issues touch us all, and if the penalties of public life ever become so great that first-rate people shun electoral politics, we will all be the worse for it.

Perhaps we are already starting to be the worse for it...and that is a shame!

Canada used to be better than that.

02 July, 2017

Yesterday we reported on Port Elgin resident Jane Mara Bernardi Thede (see item below) who was about to embark on her Canadian citizenship ceremony on Canada Day. The ceremony took place in Etobicoke at the Centennial Park Ski Lodge. Three Etobicoke MPs attended along the the Honourable Kristy Duncan, MP of Etobicoke North and Minister of Science Mandate Letter, who represented the Federal Government. "Everything was simple and kind of fun with the Town Crier and bagpiper dressed in period costumes. I love Canada and being a Canadian citizen is very important to make me feel more attached to Canada and the people. I never, ever, regretted coming here," commented Jane.

01 July, 2017


Bob and Jane Thede epitomize serendipity. 
(With thanks to the Saugeen times)

Okay kids...Do you want to read another nice Canada Day story?

Well, here it is...

Sometimes, it seems as though two worlds are meant to come together and such was the case with Bob Thede of Port Elgin and Jane Mara Bernardi of Brazil.

Bob was born and raised in Bruce County as were several generations of the Thede family.  Jane was born in Brazil of Italian ancestry.  Their story, however, only begins in 2006 when Jane was traveling through Europe with her daughter. On their last night in Venice, her daughter went out with friends while mom went to the hotel dining room on her own.

With fate in the making, Bob had just arrived at the hotel that day.

Sitting alone at the table in the dining room, Jane and a "gentleman" made eye contact and, after determining that she was in fact alone, Bob made his way over her table and asked if he could join her.

"I thought he was American and he thought I was French," says Jane, "but I said yes he could join me. We talked for hours and found we actually had much in common and agreed to exchange email addresses."

The next day, Jane and her daughter continued their travels.  Jane and Bob however, continued their conversations through emails.

After returning to Brazil and having continued their electronic correspondence, Jane received an email one day from Bob asking if he could come visit her. "Oh my," she thought. "Now what do i do?" Her son advised her to say 'yes' and that, if it did not work out, she could simply end any correspondence.

One thing lead to another and the couple ended up dating for three years, back and forth between Brazil and Canada, until a decision had to be made.  After the three years of back and forth Jane, with a law degree and assistant to the Brazilian President of the Court system, decided to give up her career and follow her heart with a Canadian.

In 2009, the couple married and Jane applied for permanent residency in Canada. Unknown to many are the restrictions around receiving Canadian citizenship.  Foreign applicants must remain in the country for 1,460 days or four years consecutively. Any travel days outside of the country are then deducted from the total, which extends the qualifying time.

Therefore, because Jane traveled back to Brazil to spend time with her son and his family each year, the days deducted meant that her qualification time, even though married to a Canadian, added up to eight years.  During that time, she had to study and test in English, history and geography of Canada and prepare and submit many documents.

After the waiting period, Jane applied for her citizenship in 2016 and, after much anxiety, learned that her application had been accepted.  It was not only accepted but she was to be one of those receiving their citizenship papers on July 1st, Canada Day and on Canada Day's 150th anniversary Celebration of Confederation.  "What could possibly be better than getting my Canadian citizenship on this special day," Jane asks.

As you are reading this piece, Jane will have already received her Canadian Citizenship in a colorful ceremony at Etobicoke.

Today, incidentally, she is an active member of the Chantry Island Cham-bettes, a fundraising group of women in Saugeen Shores and, since they are both retired, she and husband Bob continue their world travels -- together.

Good for them!  

Stories like this make me feel good about life in general.  How about you?

21 June, 2017


Truth be known, I am perplexed and torn on the issue of immigration.  My Christian upbringing tells me that we should welcome newcomers to Canada with open arms.  On the other hand, while I oppose a fortress mentality, I am not so naive as to not understand that there are certain ramifications inherent in open borders.
Those on opposing sides of the political aisle as well as economists offer pros and cons for keeping borders open and also exercising caution on border policy.  Supporters of open borders say they help keep the balance of free trade going with other countries, allowing for the free flow of goods and services.
From a human rights standpoint, they argue that "free migration" helps to cut poverty around the world, allowing those who live in underdeveloped nations and who need work to move to places that have more opportunities. Typically, workers who move tend to send part of their income or wages back to families in poorer countries.

Opponents charge that in an increasingly dangerous world, open borders threaten national security. They also note that "large scale migration across open borders can result in demographic changes that can result in demographic shifts that change a country's political power structures in favor of the new demographic and against the existing people of a region or country."
Economists point to infrastructure deficit as large groups of people migrate to a new country but infrastructure is not in place to support them there.

Immigration issues and border policies have long been contentious issues in politics, but they are also creating a significant divide in the Christian community.
Many Christian houses of worship have embraced a “love thy neighbor” stance, arguing for benevolent treatment of immigrants seeking a better life. Some churches have even begun harboring illegal immigrants to prevent them from being deported.
However, there is a distinct sub-group of Christians who have taken the opposite position, throwing their support behind more stringent border policies that limit immigration to Canada and the U.S. Cracking down on immigration is not only in the best interest of the country, they argue, but it’s also in complete accordance with biblical teachings.

Time and time again, Pope Francis has been a champion for immigration rights. He advocates for relaxing immigration policies and moving in the direction of an “open border” approach. Just last week, in fact, the pontiff reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to protecting immigrants.

Francis’ views reflect a compassion-minded Christianity, an ideology shared by many within the faith that focuses on promoting goodwill and kindness — no strings attached. Indeed, this overarching theme of benevolence toward foreigners is present throughout scripture. To give just two examples:
  • Exodus 23:9: “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
  • Leviticus 19:34: “You will regard the stranger who resides with you as the native-born among you.”
Seems pretty clear cut, right? Well, not exactly.

“The Bible Supports Stronger Borders”

By its very nature, the Bible is interpreted differently by different people. In sharp contrast to the papal position, there are those Christians who insist the “compassionate” view is both naive and misguided. Not only do they disagree with the concept of open borders on political grounds, but these folks argue the Bible actually supports stronger borders.
To understand this point of view, let’s examine a few other biblical passages:
  • Matthew 5:42: Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
  • Deuteronomy 15:11: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
  • Luke 10:25-37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
On face value, these verses seem to advocate kindness and compassion toward everyone. Not necessarily, say opponents of immigration. First of all, they point out that such passages use the word “you” – a direct personal appeal to the individual. Thus, they should not be taken as policy recommendations for the government. Rather, they are instructions for how one should conduct themselves on a personal level.
Secondly, such verses emphasize proximity. “In your land,” “your neighbor,” etc. Proponents of tougher immigration laws argue these verses do not refer to people living in other countries oceans away, just those nearby. So while the Bible does call for generosity toward the needy, they believe we should focus on helping those already in the country before trying to solve the world’s problems.

Which View is More Compelling?

Where do you stand? Does following the teachings of the Bible mean helping others no matter what, or would Jesus approve of deportations and turning people away at the border as a matter of federal policy?

Above all, perspective is needed but there may never be consensus on this matter.

19 June, 2017


I have written extensively about the injustices suffered by our First Canadian brothers and sisters in residential schools over the years and the subsequent apologies and reconciliation efforts initiated by the church organizations that operated the institutions.

It was with a great deal of interest recently that I learned of native-born Canadian and historical expert Baron Alexander Deschauer’s new, Concentration Camps of Canada book that examines the little-known fact that long before Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, the Canadian residential school system aimed to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples by taking children from their parents. Abuse and exploitation were rife, and many children died during this time.

I had never before considered the Hitler concentration camp connection, or similarity. 
Unknown to most, and utilizing techniques that inspired Hitler’s concentration camps of  Nazi-era Germany, in the 1880s Canada waged a genocidal war against its Indigenous people. In his new book, Deschauer tells the fictional story of Migizi Baswenaazhi, a young Indigenous boy, who is taken from his home and placed into one of these harsh schools, where he’s assigned the name David Bass.

The inspiration for the book’s title is from Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin’s 2015 lecture to the Global Centre for Pluralism, during which she stated that Canada attempted to commit “cultural genocide” against Indigenous Canadians. “Many individuals, Canadian or not, have no clue of the injustices visited upon the Indigenous peoples by the Canadian government,” says Deschauer. “I was one of those Canadians until very recently and hope that through Concentration Camps of Canada, I can further inform others of the injustices Indigenous people have endured and continue to endure.”
In an eye-opening and thought-provoking interview around the release of Concentration Camps of Canada, Deschauer discusses:

• The Canadian residential school system, which aimed to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples by taking children from their parents.

• What life was like for the wards inside these school systems.

• The Canadian government’s recent efforts to apologize to the victims of these residential schools of the past.

• How these institutions may have acted as a model for Hitler’s own concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

ABOUT BARON: Basic training with the Canadian Reserves, entering a monastery, and sleeping on the sides of roads while hitch-hiking through Europe are just a few of the moments from the life of Baron Alexander Deschauer. Sanity, university, and the need to earn a living led him to a B.Ed., BA, and LLB before embarking on an entrepreneurial life in London, England. Although he can order food, look for a toilet, and find directions in German, Mandarin, French, and Hebrew, he follows the wise words of Clint Eastwood — “A man should know his limitations.” — and now only writes in English.​ In his quest to better understand the world around him, he has written a number of books exploring existence (Revelation and Faust), capital (The Art of Wealth) and the complex interplay of will, luck, fate, and hope (his Man on the Run series).

AN UPDATE ON GOVERNMENT ACTION: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently asked Pope Francis to apologise for the Catholic Church’s role in what has been described as an act of “cultural genocide”.  Pope Francis is reported to be considering the possibility of an apology. The request for an apology is a significant landmark in a long campaign fought by One Young World Counsellor and human rights campaigner Senator Murray Sinclair over the damage caused by the infamous residential schools system.

The request for a papal apology came as Amnesty International announced that its prestigious Ambassador of Conscience award for 2017 was being given to Canada’s Indigenous Rights Movement, shared with the singer and refugee rights campaigner Alicia Keys.
Senator Murray Sinclair

Senator Sinclair was named as one of six individual indigenous rights activists chosen to accept the award. The One Young World Counsellor, who attended last year’s Summit in Ottawa and addressed a Special Session on peace and reconciliation, was chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which gathered stories of residential school survivors. The Commission produced a 2015 report which recommended ways for the country to come to terms with the legacy of the schools system.

“The evidence is mounting that the government did try to eliminate the culture and language of Indigenous people for well over a hundred years,” Senator Sinclair told Canadian broadcaster CBC, prior to the Vatican meeting. “As commissioners we have concluded that cultural genocide is probably the best description of what went on here…they did it by forcibly removing children from their families and placing them within institutions that were cultural indoctrination centres.”

Senator Sinclair told the Globe & Mail newspaper in 2015 that it was crucial that the Prime Minister personally secured the apology from the Pope. “That is a request that, we think, has got to come from the highest official in the country because it is almost a nation-to-nation request,” he said. “So I would hope that that request would be communicated at that level.”

In its 2015 report, the commission recommended that the Catholic Church issue a formal apology for its part in the residential school system. Similar apologies have been issued by Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches, who along with the Catholic Church helped run the schools as joint ventures with the Canadian government.  In the early going I sat on a Presbyterian Church in Canada "Truth and Reconciliation" committee.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of Canadians, calling it “a sad chapter in our history”. A year later, Pope Benedict offered a personal apology to the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, Phil Fontaine, expressing his “sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church”.  But the apology was not accepted by the TRC as the meeting was private and the apology was not offered to the survivors of the school system.

03 June, 2017


A Facebook friend of long standing, and I, have been exchanging thoughts on what constitutes good journalism.

Right off the bat, I should clarify that I am an old-school journalist. Printer's ink runs through my veins. I came by my training the hard way, with the seat of my pants firmly planted in front of an old Underwood typewriter on a battle-scarred, institutional gray metal desk occupied by countless others before me -- rewrite after rewrite, learning from my errors which were plenty and developing a thick skin as a defense mechanism against an editor's sharp barbs and critiques.

My bible was always the Canadian Press Style Guide -- authoritative, principled, sometimes capricious, a mixture of sombre injunctions and practical rules. My friend, oddly enough, suggests that "journalists do not make the rules".  Of course they don't, but they sure as hell are required to live by them; otherwise risking losing their jobs. The fundamentals of good journalism are constant -- a sharp eye, an inquiring mind, a passion for accurate information and appropriate words...and working long hours any time of the day or night.

Now here's where the general perception of journalism goes a bit awry. Someone has said that the difference between a journalist and a reporter is a little like the difference between a police officer and a homicide detective; the second is just a specific instance of the first. While there are many different kinds of careers in journalism, a reporter's job covers a narrower scope and requires a specific skill set.

21 May, 2017


Facebook has reminded me that I published the following piece exactly two years ago today (5/21/15) and, as suggested, I resurrect it because the premise is still applicable.

I recently took a five-month sabbatical from writing of any kind and refrained from involvement in the social media scene. It was a time of reflection, soul-searching and coming to grips with the person I had become – or had not become, depending on how you look at it. A truly revealing and rather humbling exercise, to say the least. It is a process that some of us engage in with more intensity than others.

It has been said that the transition to true adulthood occurs when you recognize that you won't get most of what you dreamed about in childhood. Childish dreams are always lofty -- every child imagines themselves climbing to the top of society's hierarchy, usually inspired by a particular hero. Almost none of them will make it.

Some will go very far, but still fall short.For the rest of us, peace comes from putting away these childhood fantasies and all the imagined future versions of ourselves that never came to be. We finally accept our place in the world, knowing that we tried our best and did what we could. That is when we truly become an adult. In that context, I cannot help but think that there are some individuals who may never completely achieve adult status per se. It has taken me most of my life to come to that conclusion.

I know people who have clung to youthful dreams and ambitions all their lives. They live out their fantasia by embellishing certain experiences and accomplishments to the degree that they come to believe the embellishments. They will go to their graves convinced that they are legends in their own minds…And God bless them for that! Far be it from me to rain on any parades.

For me, I’m just the opposite, however…I have never tried to fool myself and have bought in to the theory that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. An honest personal appraisal tells me that I have never fully realized the expectations that I had for myself as a young man and I am left having to rationalize the person that I am as I write this on the 20th of May, 2015. The chore is to stop telling myself that I have under-achieved and fallen short. To dwell on this any further would only serve to be unnecessary public self-debilitation and dear knows I have done enough of that when exposing innermost thoughts and feelings in past writings.

I am by no means a perfectionist, suffice to say I concede that there were times along the way when I could have applied myself more to the task at hand and done a better job. That is simply a live-and-learn admission. I regret that in my 78th year, time has just about run out for me and I will never have a chance to do some things over again. That has been the downside to the aforementioned period of self-examination.

Too little, too late, I understand that expectations are meant to be energizing, motivating and serve like a guiding light towards living a purposeful life – very much like a lighthouse is to a ship sailing in dark seas. As people mature from infancy to adulthood, they begin to understand the differences between appetite satiety, and the deeper emotional appreciation of fulfillment, after accomplishing a cherished goal.

I accept too, that goals are based on what is valuable at certain points in life and they vary according to personal priorities, relationships and professional challenges. People change from being self-centered as infants, to meeting needs and expectations from a wider perspective, so much so that family, friends, and work are all factored in as we mature. Far from being static, expectations are ever changing in value, and, should be viewed as being based on a life continuum.

Failing to come to terms with unmet needs or not being able to achieve a goal is the perfect set-up for frustration, anxiety and stress. Whether to raise the expectation bar or lower it a bit for the moment is a personal decision, but it is a choice. All people want to experience their efforts inching towards getting what they desire, the dream, and the expectation. What truly matters is the sense of fulfillment that we receive at the end of the day which reinforces the fact that efforts were not in vain. This also means staying grounded and focused as failures have a way of eroding self-confidence.

I have had to recognize that stress and anxiety are part of the process of attaining any goal and I am trying not to let accumulated pressure erode the sense of inner joy with at least having tried my hand at more than my share of life experiences and challenges. I was going to itemize the things that I have tried with varying degrees of achievement over the years, but the list is far too exhaustive to include in this space.

We all need to forgive ourselves for having some shortcomings. There is no need to beat yourself up or be needlessly embarrassed over a failure or some imagined ill-doing.

The strain of constantly trying to measure up to fit a certain mold, just to get adulation or approval, triggers an uncomfortable feeling that does not go away. This feeling of not measuring up gnaws constantly until some people despise themselves just a little bit, and then, a little bit more. The craving for love, acceptance, belonging and approval is normal, and is ingrained in our psychological makeup, but the cravings may go on overdrive, if we cannot cope or accept our own humanity in a kind, mature, rational manner. Simply put, no one of is perfect!

Certainly not me…I have a record to prove it! And I now accept that fact as I get on with what is left of the “mellowing out” stage of life.  After three-quarters of a century of living, none of us are able to go back in time with the hope of doing certain things differently.  All we can do is simply be thankful that we made it this far, in spite of circumstances -- and ourselves.  That in itself is a major accomplishment.

In the end, leave it to others and our Heavenly maker to pass judgement, as they ultimately will do anyway.  That's the way it is with life!  Mercifully, we get to leave it all behind.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Thanks for sticking with me dear readers…and for hearing me out. Hopefully, you know some of whereof I speak.

14 May, 2017


As Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 14th, Isabelle Underwood’s 1986 article published in the yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society and adapted by Bob Johnston is a timely acknowledgement of what she saw as the unrecognized role of women in Canadian history, particularly her Bruce County.

"Although tales of our pioneer women are conspicuously absent, let us never forget the contribution they made to the early history of our country. Because women are seldom mentioned in history, there is a tendency to believe that their time was completely absorbed by their families and home, areas which have traditionally received little recognition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many women were active in community organizations and political associations. Too often, then as now, they worked behind the scenes while men held the office and received the credit.

"My own paternal grandmother, Mary (Leeder) Clazie, was a good example of this kind of woman. In an era without household conveniences, she raised seven children, all of whom were educated and well read. She was an ardent supporter of Nellie McClung and Agnes McPhail. I can still remember as a little girl being taken to hear Miss McPhail speak at S.S. #4 Saugeen. What an exciting evening!

"My grandmother was a worker for the United Farmers of Ontario and Farm Forum. During family gatherings she presided over lively political discussions. Her eldest son fought in the trenches during World War One; her youngest son was severely wounded during World War Two. During that war she knit hundreds of pairs of socks and almost two hundred sweaters for the war effort. The surprising thing is that my grandmother’s life and the lives of many women were not considered unusual---certainly not unusual enough to record.

"A hundred years from now when our great grandchildren write the history books of their day, will they think women played no significant role in this age? The time has come for women to more actively seek positions in our society for which recognition is given. So many girls are growing up with aspirations that are totally inadequate for living in the 21st century. We, as women teachers, have a vital role in helping to shape their future, both in guiding their education and by the example we set for them.

"Too many of us wait for the men to make the decisions or say we haven’t the time. Each of us is capable of achieving more than we know. We owe it to our children."

Here's to all mothers, past and present, on their special day -- and every day!

28 April, 2017


This happy group photo taken 53 years ago was sent to me by an old newspaper chum, John Hus of Sarnia.  I really have no reason to post it other than the fact that I have a soft spot for old photos and old friends.  Pictured here are St. Thomas Times-Journal newspaper employees and their families at a company picnic in Pinafore Park in the early fall of 1964.  I have gone over the photo with a magnifying glass countless times, fondly remembering the faces and recalling mutual relationships. Sadly, a good 60 percent of the adults in the photo have passed away.  I am the young fellow with dark hair on the extreme left of the photo and my late wife Anne can be seen approx. five bodies away. Daughter Debbie is the little one front and centre in the photo, sitting between the legs of an older girl who happened to be the granddaughter of owner/publisher George Dingman Sr.  Newspaper publishing was at its peak in the 1950s and '60s and it took a staff of 68 people to turn out the T-J's six times weekly daily editions. Community dailies of similar size still in business today, produce a newspaper with a staff of no more than two dozen employees.  I can honestly say that if I could turn back the clock, I would return to this time in my life when I was fueled by passion and energy and the world had potential to become my oyster.

25 April, 2017


When I was a kid growing up in Dresden, ON. we (my dad and I) raised Angora rabbits, chinchillas, hamsters, and chickens, all with the thought of "getting rich quick".  Only trouble was, the furry and feathery creatures all became pets to one degree or another.

It broke our hearts when the cute little chinchillas were ravaged in an ugly attack by a pack of wild dogs. We learned the hard way that clipping the rabbits for their fur at minimal financial return was extremely labor-intensive.  We were never able to get the chickens to lay eggs in spite of our efforts to stimulate them by placing egg-like ivory door knobs in their nests.  The hamsters simply outgrew us by multiplying so fast that we ran out of space to cage them in our garage and had no choice but to eventually get rid of them as best we could, in any way possible...But that's another issue.

Long story made short -- in-town or urban farming was an ill-advised, losing proposition for the Wrights! Our chickens never laid eggs, but we ourselves sure as heck laid more than one!  Ever since that early experience, my philosophy has been: "Leave farming to the people who do it best -- the farmers!"

In all fairness, however, we did enjoy some success with our substantial vegetable garden; particularly our golden bantam corn which became a well-known and sought-after summer dinner table delicacy in town.

With the preceding still lingering in the recesses of my mind, I have been interested in following the recent "Chickens Come Home to Roost" developments in Saugeen Shores, my place of residence for the past 17 years.  All I can think is, the more things change, the more they remain the same and I should add, the more they become complicated.  It seems that there are still people who want to raise chickens in their backyards and they are prepared to fight town hall in order to do so.

I suspected that this is all in keeping with the growth of the "locavore" movement in North America.
The past couple of years in particular saw the popularization of a trend in using locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives.

Locavore encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation.

“The word "locavore" shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment,” said Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. “It’s significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way.”

"Locavore", Oxford's word of the year, was coined several years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. Other regional movements have emerged since then, though some groups refer to themselves as “localvores” rather than “locavores.”

Saugeen Shores Town Council (which includes Port Elgin and Southampton), after a third discussion on the subject and in a recorded vote, has approved a two-year pilot project to allow chicken hens within the urban settlement, albeit with several restrictions, that include a registry of hen owners and owners of the property on which hens will be kept.  While I think that a Registry is a wonderful idea, I cannot believe the hoops that would-be backyard chicken raisers will have to jump through in Saugeen Shores in order to realizes their ambitions.  For instance:

The Registry will contain the following information: a) The name of the owner of property on which hens are kept
b) The street address of the property on which hens are kept
c) The mailing address of the owner of property on which hens are kept
d) A statement from the owner of property on which hens are kept which affirms that all requirements are this by-law will be adhered to

No person shall keep hens on a property except in accordance with the following provisions: a) The owner of the land has paid any applicable fee as authorized by this By-law to register the hens with the Town
b) The owner of the land has provided the necessary information to the Town in respect of the Registry outlined in this by-law
c) The owner resides on the property
d) The property on which the hens are located is zoned R1-Residential One, R2-Residential Two or PD-Planned Development, and any special provisions for the listed zones in the Town’s Zoning By-law
e) The property on which the hens are located is within the Settlement Area of the Town’s Official Plan
f) The property on which the hens are located contains a lawfully existing single detached dwelling unit
g) The property on which the hens are located is 1000 m2 or greater
h) Hens can only be located in the rear yard, as defined in the Town’s Zoning By-law
i) The owner abides by all provisions of this by-law."

All permitted hens are to be kept in a fully enclosed coop or run in a manner that contains the hens on the property and prevents their escape from such coop or run and are to be tagged with sufficient information to identify the owner of the birds.  All of which is as it should be.

To me, Saugeen Shores is bending over backwards to accommodate a handful of chicken enthusiasts, dare we call them "locavores", and the aforementioned Registry will go a long way in maintaining a degree of control, but town council would be well advised to take a long hard look at other communities that have implemented such programs.

Granted, it is an idyllic scene from the locavore movement: Plump speckled hens clucking around tiny municipal backyards, laying organic, free-range eggs that can be scooped up mere steps from the doorway.  But municipalities across North America are just now starting to see the unforeseen consequences of allowing hipster farmers to raise chickens in their urban backyards: Hundreds of birds are being abandoned by their owners after they’ve become more of a burden than a blessing.

As Canadian cities from Vancouver to Victoria, Montreal to Guelph get used to their new laws allowing urban backyard chickens, animal shelters in these cities are bracing for a future flood of urban chicken refugees.  “People don’t realize how much work they actually are,” said Barbara Cartwright, the CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies based in Ottawa, while acknowledging people who attempt to raise backyard chickens are driven by good intentions -- to be more environmentally conscious, humane and to eat healthier.

“Certainly what is not on people’s radar screens is chickens live eight to 10 years. They don’t lay that whole time,” she said. “So what’s going to happen is we expect to see an influx over the next couple of years as chickens stop laying, people don’t have a humane slaughter plan or haven’t thought through an eight to 10-year plan to take care of chickens that aren’t laying.”

Sayara Thurston, a campaigner for Humane Society International Canada, said hens and roosters have already started appearing in Montreal animal shelters on an almost weekly basis. Abandoned chickens have also been found in boxes behind restaurants.  Harsh winters make it tough to have backyard chickens, she added.

“It’s completely understandable that people want to remove themselves from [factory farming],” Thurston allows. “But then the reverse of that is people needing to actually care for these animals, which is something you have to do every day and you have to do it for several years.”

It’s been two years since Vancouver passed its bylaw allowing backyard chickens -- and the law is quite thorough, said Geoff Urton, manager of stakeholder relations at BCSPCA: Residents can only own four hens and no roosters. There’s a minimum distance from your neighbour’s backyard that you can build a chicken coop, and that chicken coop needs to protect the fowl from predators like coyotes and raccoons. The chickens need to be registered online, and an inspector could drop in on you at any time. Urban chicken farmers are also barred from slaughtering the birds themselves, he said, in order to curb botched jobs.

Since chickens only lay eggs for two years, Urton expects to see urban chickens trickling into animal shelters soon.  “We’ll need to keep monitoring the situation to make sure as time progresses we don’t end up with an influx in chickens because of this fad,” he said.

Good bylaws can certainly help curb urban chicken abandonment because the farmers will be more dedicated and educated about what responsible chicken farming entails.  Meantime, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is beginning to tell its shelters to keep an eye out for chicken orphans and be prepared should any come into their care.

All I can say to my neighbors in Saugeen Shores is "let's be careful in counting our chickens before they are hatched."  The trial project may not be what it is cracked up to be!  We may well end up with more than we bargained for and resultant egg on our collective faces!

If you ever have a chance, I would encourage you to watch the old "I Love Lucy" television episode film clip where Lucy, Fred and Ethel Mertz attempt to get into the chicken raising business, with hilarious consequences.