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The Virus, the vaccines, the variant and the power in our hands
As we are now hitting many one year milestones around the Covid-19 pandemic, it is easy to give into human nature and let up and get frustrated and feel that we are in a good spot. But are we?
What have the last few weeks brought us? Great optimism as vaccines were rolled out, then some disappointment as inevitable delays due to global pressures have slowed implementation, followed by variants from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil. Each of the variants different, but generally causing the virus to spread even easier. Spring and its inevitable mood of optimism along with the promise of vaccines and the hint of days long gone are all conspiring to cause us to lose our focus.
Even with the impending vaccines and the worry about the variants, there are a few key items to remember: 1. Wear a mask. 2. Wash your hands. 3. Keep your distance.
Regardless of when the vaccine arrives here or if and when we have a confirmed case (like White River, Manitouwadge, Marathon, Constance Lake and Hearst) we can continue to protect ourselves and those we love, and even those we just like and would love to spend some time with soon.
Stay the course, Hornepayne. Every day that goes by is a day closer to the end, but it is in our power as to how soon that end can come for us.
COVID-19 and the North
Hornepayne has been fortunate through the pandemic. It has been since March 13th, and we have not had a case. In the early days of the pandemic, the fear was real, as our hospital would have quickly arrived at maximum capacity, if we had even a few cases. And, during the early rise of numbers in March and April, another fear was if a person required airlifting to a regional hospital, it would have been dicey, depending on how full the typical regional hospitals may have been.
Then April gave to May, and cases in the province began to finally come down a bit. Testing improved, health measures continued to be driven forward, and while much remained closed, including schools, it appeared as if the province was making progress.
However, inevitably, as a society, we become complacent. Especially in an area where there have been no confirmed cases, and no real serious illness, and thankfully, no deaths, it is easy to begin to give in. As the cases declined, the province reduced restrictions, trying slowly to allow us to return to something normal, while scientists rushed for a vaccine, and inevitably, cases began to rise. Summer always features challenges from the point of view, of gatherings, and undoubtedly, across the province, gatherings and socializing began to rise, as did the also inevitable opposition to the rules.
We now find ourselves in late October, having hit record high numbers over the weekend, no doubt from the Thanksgiving surge. There is some good news within those alarming numbers, as hospitalizations and deaths are not as high as they were in the early days, however, COVID-19 continues to be a serious health risk to all of us.
Hornepayne, again, has yet to be hit with a case, however, as most of you know, it is getting closer, with at least 4 cases in the Hearst/Hornepayne region, in the last few days. With the frequency of travel between Hornepayne and Hearst, for both work and to access regional services, it is even more likely that a case will come to Hornepayne. The emergence of a case in Hornepayne, may end up being a work infection, with somewhere around 30 people who work in Hornepayne, living in Hearst. While this is not a fait accompli, of course, it is just logic that it may occur. This is why, now, we must stick to the guidelines laid out to us by public health.
There has been an online campaign to ensure that Hallowe’en is not cancelled for kids, and indeed, there never was any indication from any health official that it would be, instead, just a plea from health officials to follow regulations concerning safety. The next largest concern now, is of course, Christmas holidays. One can easily find an assortment of pleas online to save Christmas from COVID, as it is a time when we traditionally are with each other, and family members. However, if we want something close to a normal Christmas (it cannot be completely normal this year), then we have to act now.
The current spike, is most likely Thanksgiving related. It was just before Thanksgiving that the Ontario government asked us not to visit homes outside of our own home, with the exception of adding a person, who lives alone. What that meant was, no parties with people from other houses. No gatherings of people outside of households. However, the numbers we have seen in the last few days demonstrate to us, that many did not listen. This is a complicated matter, but if we all follow Public Health Guidelines, then we all have a better chance of having a Christmas that is closer to normal. We all know, unless there is a strict lockdown, people are going to get together at Christmas, and cases will spike in early January. We know this is going to happen, so if we can all stay home between now and then, and forgo unnecessary gatherings, then at least heading into Christmas, the numbers will be lower, which will mean we will have less of a spike, potentially, in the month after Christmas.
Please remember, we all have a part to play. Physically distance, remain in your households, wear a mask in any indoor public venue, and wash your hands. We can do this, but everyone must push in the same direction.
We have resisted the urge to preach and tell people what to do, during this COVID-19 crisis, but as the situation develops, and the sacrifices grow, it is even more important to follow all the guidelines laid out for us.
Hornepayne has always been somewhat isolated, from some of the realities of the rest of the world. Generally, it is a relatively stable community, from an employment and income point of view. We have schools that cater to our kids, we have a hospital that has had phenomenal service for years, not to mention our other sectors. While we do not have a fast-food restaurant, or a movie theatre, we have a good standard of living.
As a result, because of our physical distance and some of our distances from other aspects of life, we are a bit isolated. That tends to make people think that we will not be affected by some things. And, indeed, we are not in many cases. We probably faired better than some in the economic crisis of 2008. We are not affected by great natural disasters, and great social upheavals like the migrant crises and socio-political disruption.
However, a pandemic is different. It is crucially different. A pandemic, knows no borders and is moved by humans, and invisible. It is often not until it is too late, that we react. This time is different. This is the big pandemic that everyone has been warning us about, for many years. So, we need to act.
By using the examples of China, and Italy and Spain, health professionals, for whom this is their life work, have created a set of standards for us to follow, to do anything we can to slow the growth of the virus. Please, do not listen to charlatans and social media experts. Listen to doctors and health care professionals, who so far, have been absolutely correct. This pandemic will get worse before it gets better.
Often, in a world with complex problems, we can point to the fact that we cannot help. With the migrant crisis in Europe, other than perhaps donating money to the Red Cross, we are helpless and the same holds true for the homeless in our urban areas. However, this, is different.
Not only can we do something, we must. We have the power to slow the growth of this virus. Yes, it is probably going to eventually infect someone in Hornepayne. Let us all make sure it is not an older person, or a compromised person. Let’s keep as many people safe as we can, under the circumstances. How do we do it? Follow the guidelines: Stay home. Only go out for necessities, and do it as little as possible. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Out of the country? Self-isolate for 14 days. And last but certainly not least, physical distance. Anyone can be a carrier, and not have symptoms, or be pre-symptomatic. So stay 2 metres away from anyone, wherever possible. And when not, wash, wash and wash your hands again.
We can all “flatten the curve” as they say. Our behavior, will have a significant impact, both positively, and potentially negatively, so do what needs to be done.
For those of you with phones, you can get an App from Health Canada. As well, follow this link to have access to Ontario’s COVID-19 information page. Stay healthy, and we can all help to get through this.
Ontario’s COVID-19 information page: https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus
Of course, right now, there is no other news. COVID-19 has turned our world upside down, seriously affected our economy and is making many people nervous about their health, and the ability of our health care system to cope, if the pandemic grows.
However, in light of all of the concern, as a society, we need to focus on the facts and experts. Our society has, in the last several years, witnessed a growth in those who doubt experts and the government and those educated in certain fields. This has been a world-wide phenomenon, where we see people believing actors and actresses, over scientists who have spent years studying and learning about topics. With the advent of the internet and social media, anyone can post anything and build a following, regardless of the science or lack of science behind their claims. This COVID-19 crisis, among other things, has demonstrated how dangerous a virus can be, in the absence of a vaccine.
The news and information is moving at a lightning speed, from the number of cases, to the increase in deaths, to the disasters in Italy, Iran and Spain, but the experience of both China and South Korea, clearly demonstrate the way in which we can, as a society, handle this properly and reduce the affects as much as possible.
This solution is to, as they say, “flatten the curve”, which only attempts to slow down the growth, so that the health care systems can handle anyone who gets the virus. Instead of having X number of cases explode in a week, the goal is to accept the same number of cases will happen, but to spread them out over 4 weeks, or longer, so that the hospitals can keep up. So, how do we do this? We follow the advice of the medical experts who have not only studied the South Korean and Chinese examples, but who are experts in public health and infectious disease control and mitigation. So, here is what we do:
1. Social distance. No large gatherings. No meetings, no religious services, no coffee hours, no play dates, no sleep overs. Literally stay 2 M away from anyone else.
2. Self-isolation: Do you have any minor symptoms? Have you been in contact with someone who may have been near someone with COVID-19? Have you come back from abroad? Find a place, by yourself, for 14 days. If you have to be in contact with others, keep that distance.
3. Wash your hands. 20 seconds minimum. Use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
4. Experience symptoms? Call your local hospital, or the government health line or your local health unit. Explain your symptoms to them and listen to their advice. It seems, even most people who have contracted the virus, only have minor symptoms, so it is then your responsibility to ensure no one else gets it.
5. Only go to the hospital if you are experiencing more than minor symptoms. One of the key symptoms is the cough and shortness of breath. Call if you are experiencing these. Call the health unit, or government number, or in Hornepayne, call the hospital and ask for direction.
The China example is interesting. China, is, of course, a far less free country than Canada. Once the outbreak in Wuhan was clearly an issue, the Chinese government shut it down. They literally closed the city off from anyone coming in and out, and built hospitals in days to deal with the issue. They were able to effectively “flatten the curve” by edict. Wuhan was literally surrounded by the military, no one in, no one out.
Of course, in our democracy, this cannot happen. Neither can it happen due to the size of our country. However, the freedom we have, is also our advantage. Every single Canadian, is free to do exactly what we are being asked to do. We can self-isolate. We can social-distance. We can be sensible with our lives, with our symptoms. Even more so, we can all help others to do the same. We can shop for seniors. We can help those with have small children. We are free to everything we need to do, in order to prevent this virus from being the worst case scenario, much like we have seen elsewhere.
And one further thought: As of Thursday at midnight, California is on lock-down. Residents are not allowed to go out of their houses, other than for basic necessities: medicine, food or health care. California has more than 40 million residents, more than all of Canada. Lock-down is the next stage after our various other measures, such as social distancing and self-isolation. So, we have the freedom to follow these restrictions to the T, and to ensure that we do not have to go to the next step.
We strongly encourage everyone, to take this seriously and use the freedom we have to ensure we tackle this great health crisis, properly!
Stay healthy, we will get stronger at the end of it all!
As pretty much everyone who is connected to Hornepayne knows, that as of January 31st, the municipality's relationship with NWMO came to an end. In brief, the NWMO recognized that our area provided a strong technical case for a DGR, however from a social perspective, it felt that our community was not close enough to being a willing host, within the next three years, when a final site will be announced. Many were disappointed, however, those who opposed the project were of course, happy with the decision.
However, while at the point, the NWMO DGR will unlikely be built in our area, we may still be involved in the process, in particular from a transportation point of view. If the DGR is to be built in Ignace, Hornepayne may very well be on the transportation route, and if it is via rail, Hornepayne will obviously play a major role.
While the NWMO was working towards finding a site for its DGR for high level spent nuclear fuel, Ontario Power Generation was working towards building a DGR in the Bruce Penninsula for low and intermediate level waste. In their process, OPG had always said that it would not go forward without the support of the local Indigeneous people, represented by the Saugeen Ojibwe Nation.
As of last week, the SON has voted and has turned down the opportunity to be involved in the OPG DGR process. As such, the project will not go forward, and OPG is back to square one. It is unclear today, as to how OPG plans to proceed. They may just decide to continue storing the waste above ground, on-site, as it is now, or they may go through the process again.
Which brings us to those communities most recently removed from the NWMO process. White River, Hornepayne and Manitouwadge, having only recently been involved in a DGR process, are well suited to get involved in this process, if OPG plans to go forward. While the decision by SON has put the OPG plan back, it would only make sense, from a technical understanding point of view, for OPG to look to communities that demonstrated an interest, and who have built a great deal of capacity and understanding of the process.
So, while the opportunity and challenge that was the NWMO has moved on, in terms of Hornepayne hosting a DGR for high level, spent nuclear fuel, might it be possible that OPG consider those communities, who already have been involved in a similar process?
Furthemore, with SON saying no to a low and medium level waste DGR, what are the odds, they will support the NWMO process close to their traditional lands. This would mean, the perhaps Ignace ends up as the site for the DGR, which likely means Hornepayne and region remains involved, especially in the area of transportation.
So, as they say, stay tuned!
Here we are, already a month into 2020! Hard to believe really. As the years go on, it is inevitable for those of us who have been around a few years, to remember the past. I refuse to say "good old days" because often past times were not so good, even more so, I do not feel it is a positive message for today.
However, that being said, I remember back in the late 80's and early 90's, when the Pit Stop was roaring, as was Taylor's Hotel, and at times in the summer, there might have been a band at each bar! We would go to one, check them out, go the other and go back and forth.
It was a different time, with different circumstances. Now, as we all know, we only have one establishment in town, the Legion, and it is run by volunteers, and those volunteers, put a great deal of energy and time into making it work. Increasingly, the legion volunteers have become more and more creative in their quest to bring entertainment to our community, while raising money to keep the doors open. From washer toss tourneys, to open mic nights, to wing nights and the superbowl party, they are providing our community with excellent services.
It is indeed a different world, and socially, times have changed, but the legion volunteers do a great job and let's hope that as a community, we continue to support them by attending events and making it worth their while!
www.hornepayne.com would like to thank all of the volunteers for all their hard work, not only in the legion, but also elsewhere in our community!
On this Christmas, Eve, 2019, www.hornepayne.com would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has supported our project in its early stages. We have plans for improving and expanding our service in 2020, but today, it is about the Christmas spirit and thinking of loved ones, some of whom are far away, and some of whom are right beside us.
www.hornepayne.com would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas season and to wish you all the best in the coming year!
As well, do not forget the annual Cemetery Candle lighting tonight!
Merry Christmas to all!
A few weeks have passed now since the announcement from NWMO that Hornepayne was no longer in the siting process. I think it is fair to say, that we have all had our say on the process, how it transpired and how we felt about the ultimate decision. Also fair to say, there is a wide range of thought around.
There is much to be learned from the process that Hornepayne was engaged in, for the last 9 years. Calm and reasoned thought can allow us to reflect, not so much on whether the final project would or would not have been good for our town, but on the process.
There is much to be thought about, analysed and subsequently applied to new processes. The process, despite some of the animosity around it, was capacity building in it of itself. We learned a lot about how to manage a project of this scope; not the DGR itself, but the process of learning about it. We would be seriously remiss if we did not capitalize on our learning and apply it to future project exploration as well as community well-being in it of itself. I, for one, was interested in the possible financial aspects of the project, but I was equally, or even more so, interested in transforming our region into a world class, internationally recognized centre of excellence. Yes, we will not become that in terms of a Deep Geological Repository, but who is to say we cannot become it in another endeavor? We need to leverage our experiences to continue to search for ways to build our region, not retreat into the quicksand of inevitable decline, if only rely on traditional approaches and traditional answers.
However, on to what I want for Christmas, or more clearly stated, what I wish for. As we approach the Christmas season, I would like to suggest, with all due respect, that the community of Hornepayne, at least in the world of social media, take a break from anything and everything NWMO and DGR related. I suggest a break, a time away, a time of reflection.
We are not done with it yet and there are conversations that still need to happen, but how about we take a break? Anyone with me?
Merry Christmas everyone!
At 10:00 AM, Tuesday, November 26th, Hornepayne received the news that it did not make the cut to remain in the siting process for a Deep Geological Repository. To some, it was welcome news, to others, devastating news.
Reaction has been as expected. Those opposed rejoiced, those in favour mourned and many in the middle began to consider whether they should have taken a firmer stand, for or against, in the past 10 years.
To be very clear, the decision was made as a result of social factors, not geology. While many in the geology field believe that our area would eventually have been ruled out based on the fractures in our rock, Hornepayne was clearly eliminated because of social factors.
So, now, the inevitable feelings of animosity and frustration will surface as the community ponders its future, which while the current municipal government has done a lot to set us up for future prosperity, still seems bleak to some, and the absence of a possible 25 billion dollar project does not help that feeling.
I for one, was in favour of the project, to this point in its existence. That is not to say I would not have changed my mind with new information. I was open to the project and also open to the idea that further information could come to light that would change my mind. By that, I do not mean that I think anyone was hiding anything, I just mean that a different scientific set of data may have changed my mind. So, I am disappointed. I am sad to lose the learning. I am sad to not be meeting many people of diverse academic and social backgrounds involved in the project. I am sad that we will no longer be part of a large, international project that was interesting and cutting edge.
It is one’s natural inclination, especially in the age of social media, where there are few restraints on social commentary, to find blame. In quickly reflecting on these last 24 hours, I realize I could have done more, I could have approached activities and learning differently, and perhaps, it would have made a difference, perhaps not. I have personal feelings about some of the reasons why it appeared to the NWMO social researchers, why Hornepayne and its community would not be in a position to build a strong relationship with the NWMO in a mere 3 years. I am tempted to fall prey to my more basal instincts and express those thoughts, if for no other reason than to vent and express my sadness at the loss of this project.
However, I will not do that. I am not going to succumb to the temptation to lay blame, if only to make myself somehow feel better. It is over. The NWMO is moving on, and we as a community need to do the same. Those voices that were so adamantly opposed, as well as those who were so adamantly in favour need to come together to figure out what is next. Thankfully, CN Rail has just settled its contract dispute and Hornepayne Lumber is continuing to provide good employment. That means stability. If we want to diversify and grow, we need all people pushing in the same direction.
While at my age, it will likely not affect me, however I fear that automation in the large industries (such as CN Rail and Lumber) will continue to reduce jobs and slowly bleed population from towns like Hornepayne. We cannot just stand back and expect the status quo to continue. We need to take advantage of new technologies and look past the traditional industry that supports us and provides employment. However, we cannot do that unless we come together as a community and work in the same direction. This will mean difficult discussions and uncomfortable decisions. This will mean many of those who were opposed to the NWMO for a variety of reasons, will have to open themselves to consider other alternatives as well. This is not just about growth, but about survival. The status quo will not serve us for much longers.
Yes, I am frustrated and I could easily fall into the blame game. However, how can I preach the need for all of use to come together and not do it myself? As a result, I will move forward too. I will continue to be involved in pursuing other alternatives for our region, because I do not believe that the status quo will work. We need to reach into the future and find and attract big industry to our area, to provide for ourselves for the next 150 years. I just will not do so, by blaming those who exercised their democratic right to voice an opinion, even if those opinions were so diametrically opposed to my own.
So Hornepayne, time to get to work. Let’s all move on, and open our minds and work towards new and exciting opportunities to grow our region and help turn it into a model the world will be proud of.
As the morning of Tuesday, November 19, 2019 dawned on CN towns across the country, the streets and stations were once again the scene of protests, as workers fight for their security and future, and even more importantly, for rail safety. Meanwhile, all teacher unions are either in a strike position, or moving towards it, as negotiations with the current provincial government are in various stages of difficulty. Making this situation even more difficult, is the nature of negotiations in the education sector, as unions bargain both locally and provincially.
While the rail and education sectors may seem far apart from each other, in terms of workforce and role in society, the issues at stake are share some striking resemblances. Are the issues about money, or better stated, financial issues? Yes, to some degree, but no to a larger degree. We should honest about this. No organization that looks after the rights of its workers, would willingly adopt a stance of not requesting monetary compensation. Inflation is real, it affects everyone and is a feature of the economic system we have built.
The issue at stake is how much is fair, based on employer revenues, whether private revenues, or government revenues. If you expect employees to freeze their pay, and then extrapolate it forward, 3 or 5 years, then they will have lost significant income for their work, and that simply is not fair, in any world. When unions are asking for a raise, near or at the CPI level, they are asking to preserve their pay scale, not increase it.
What is similar between the two though, are requests for non-monetary items. In the Teamsters example, they are on strike because of safety issues, and job security. As automation continues to affect our world, it is more and more likely that massive companies like CN Rail will want to automate even more, and these workers are fighting for their future. I fail to see how anyone cannot understand and respect that.
In the case of teachers, they too are fighting for the preservation of items not directly related to compensation. Whether it is class sizes, the imposition of elearning courses or special education funding, they are framing their labour challenges about the system and its funding.
I will be the first to agree, that in both cases, these employees are well compensated for their work. I do not believe any group is overpaid. Teachers have challenging jobs in challenging environments and require upwards of 6 years of university to become one. CN Rail workers work in a harsh environment, at odd hours, and odd days, and in dangerous conditions. However, they are not fighting for more money, they are fighting for working conditions, and quality of life and safety, and I believe they fighting an honourable fight.
Stay tuned Hornepayne.com for more details on the Teamsters strike in the coming days.
Free Speech in Canada
The uproar over Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada, and his subsequent firing have resulted in a great deal of discussion in our country. One of the themes that has inevitably arisen, is the concept of free speech. So, www.hornepayne.comfeels it is worth having a quick discussion of this right, how it is protected and what limitations we face in Canada. We also need to understand the context within which these comments occurred, within the context of an employer/employee relationship.
Free and democratic countries all have a document or documents that outline basic rights and responsibilities of citizens, as well as how the government structure operates. In Canada, this is the BNA, or the British North America Act, or as it now known, the Constitution Act. It was passed by the British Parliament, and in 1982, our constitution was patriated and we truly became an independent country. These documents, along with the Charter of Rights, outline how our government is structured and what its citizen’s rights are.
For the sake of brevity, we will not explore in great detail the various rights that are guaranteed in our Charter, but be aware, that one of them, is indeed freedom of expression. However, what does that mean? Does it mean anyone can say anything they want about anyone? No, it does not. All rights have limitations and accompanying responsibilities. So, what are we free to say? We are free to speak of our thoughts, and ideas and feelings and hopes and dreams, out loud, but where are the limits? The limits are when our free speech has the chance of harming someone. It also means we are not free to openly lie about people, or attack certain groups of people, especially if our words may harm others, or cause harm. And, you cannot simply say “that is my opinion”. It is not that simple and you do not have that right.
So, the Canadian Charter of Rights, has a clause, or section as it’s is called, which is section 1, that allows the government to limit rights, in view of the larger good. The most well known example, was a case which involved a teacher in Alberta, James Keegstra, who taught Anti-Semetic theories and conspiracy theories. As a result of the obvious problems with such speech, he was charged and the government appealed to the courts, to limit his speech due to its dangerous nature.
So, our government can appeal to the courts, to limit freedom of expression, if it clearly violates other laws. Freedom of expression clearly has limits, however our Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensure that the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that this expression needs to be stopped for good reasons. The government cannot just shut down peoples’ freedom of expression.
So, what about Don Cherry? He lost his job? Yes, he lost his job. However the government has nothing to do with it. This has nothing to do with the Charter and fundamental rights. This has everything to do with an employee/employer relationship.
Don Cherry was employed by Sportsnet, owned by Rogers Media, which is a large, multi-faceted business. They have their standards to which they hold their employees, who also, by virtue of taking their pay, agree to. Rogers, probably for business reasons, felt that Cherry’s comments crossed the lines. He basically said that immigrants do not wear poppies, with no evidence. If he had simply lamented that less people wear poppies than in the past, he would have had no problems, and I for one, would have agreed with him. But by using the phrase “you people”, referencing urban Toronto and people who “come here”, there can be no disagreement as to what he meant.
So, for business purposes, Sportsnet fired him. Funny thing is, the way in which his contract is likely structured, he probably still gets paid, or at least a good portion of his salary. So, Sportsnet fired him to save future business, and to cut ties with racist comments. For anyone who is concerned about freedom of expression, to insist that Sportsnet was wrong to fire him essentially limits a corporation’s freedoms, in an even greater extent.
It has been an ugly incident. It has helped to expose the underbelly of Canadian society that still has prejudicial opinions of immigrants. I have seen people on social media, with last names that are clearly European in origin, openly making racist statements about South East Asians. How soon we forget, because only a generation ago, it was these people’s grandparents, facing the exact same racism when they arrived from Europe. I am not going to use the word here, because it is offensive, but there is not a person of Italian heritage, who has not at least been called a certain word, or had parents and grandparents who did. What does it say when the next generation does the same, but to a new group, a new target?
The sad part of it all, is Don Cherry has done many great things over the years. I have not agreed with all of his statements, especially his racist comments towards all Europeans and even more so, French Canadians (who are as Canadian as he is), but he has also done many a great thing. Sadly, many of his charitable works will be overshadowed by racist words.
My take on the Don Cherry controversy…..so, there appears to have been more of an online reaction to Don Cherry’s firing, than in many days, the election we just went through. I am not sure of exactly what that means, but I want to leave my thoughts on the entire controversy.
I do not have the exact text here in front of me to provide to the reader, but there can be no doubt he was referring to immigrants, in lamenting the lack of poppies. I make this conclusion, because he used a very common trope, used by many more sinister people over the years: “you people”, clearly making a distinction between groups of people, and followed it up with “come here”, so he can only mean visitors, or immigrants. I doubt he was referring to tourists in Canada on Remembrance Day.
So, basically, he was accusing new Canadians of not being patriotic enough to wear poppies, and suggested they were not thankful for their adopted country. Furthermore, he provided zero evidence of his claims.
There are two issues, as I see it. First of all, is the fading of wartime memory. I guess in one sense that is good, that we have had generations who have never known a war like WWI or WWII. But it is also a problem, because as a society, if we forget the horror of war, the devastation, the destroyed generations, we are bound to repeat the error. I suspect that is to some degree what Don was getting at, and I do not disagree. However, to claim only immigrants (many of whom, more recently, come from countries that also suffered great losses, often fighting for the British Empire) are the one who are forgetting, is not only baseless, but is also racist.
The second issue, is the inherent racism in this statement. If he had gone on about the youth, or Canadians in general, losing respect and memory for our veterans, he would probably have been correct. As a school system, we bring our students to the Legion for Remembrance Day, and that is one of the reasons, it is no longer a school holiday. However, it is hard to impress upon young children, may not even have had great-grandparents affected by war, to really understand.
However, anyone who has watched Don Cherry, as I have for years, should not be surprised by his behavior either. He has routinely bashed French-Canadian hockey players (who are every bit Canadian as he….and if you use “time in Canada”, even more so than those of British heritage, however, I do not subscribe to that concept) as being less than manly, because they chose to protect their eyes with visors. The same for Europeans, who he clearly has disdain for, because their playing style generally is not the rough style he prefers.
He has the right to like certain hockey players, but his generalizations are and always have been part theatre, and part ignorance. Nicholas Lidstrom, from Sweden was one of the greatest defenceman ever, and also not remotely physical, in the traditional sense.
As a final point, it makes no sense to frame this as freedom of expression. Freedom of expression does not mean you are free to speak whatever you want. Furthermore, Don earned a great deal of money from a major communications company. He clearly acted in a manner that they did not support and they had all the right in world to fire him for it. If you do not agree, I suggest you walk into your employer and start doing things they do not like, post criticisms of your employer on Facebook, or do other things that are opposed to their values. See how long you last…..And be sure, that Don’s agent, having kept him employed all these years when he could have been dumped many times for other outrageous comments, also negotiated a good parachute for him. Don, his not hurting, however his words have great potential to cause hurt to a large number of people.
I have reached out to LCBO management twice in the last week, looking for an update on the potential closure. I have yet to receive an answer. I strongly urge everyone to continue to pressure LCBO, and more importantly, the government, for an answer Please see previous stories for email addresses and contact information, or contact us, at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will share names and numbers and email addresses with you.
So, the 2019 election has come and gone, and left us with a similar government, although somewhat different. Of course, as everyone knows, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau have maintained a grip on power, but with a reduced minority government. For those who may not be as familiar with the system, what this means is that while the Liberals form the government, they do not have a majority of seats in the house. Theoretically, they can be defeated by two or three other parties, however from a practical point of view, that probably will not happen for 18-24 months. The NDP, in particular, could cause the Liberals trouble, but are in deep debt and literally cannot afford another election soon, so I suspect the government stands for a bit. A more interesting question may be around the party leaders who were not successful, but we will see.
However the way in which the votes fell, has caused some concerns, as the West, in particular Alberta and Saskatchewan, did not elect a single Liberal MP and were overwhelmingly Conservative. There have been concerns that their votes did not count, etc. However, in a constitutional democracy, things often fall this way. For example, when the PC government, under Mulroney won two majorities in a row, there were large swaths of the country that did not vote Conservative, and had to bide their time, and rely on the opposition parties to advocate for them. It is not a failure of the system, it is how the system is set up. And, please remember, when it was set up, there were far fewer parties vying for the seats, so the first past the post system worked.
However, things change and there are other options. In my opinion, one of the greatest disappointments from the last parliament, was the Liberals' promise of election reform, which was shelved. So, what is election reform? One of the most common methods, outside of the "first past the post" system, is to have some sort of proportional representation. In this system, parties get seats based on their popular votes. While it is certainly more democratic, it also comes with its own challenges and would be a radical change. Personally, I would love it, and it would result in coalition governments almost all the time, which would force parties to work together more, hence reducing swings to the left or right.
The other option, is a ranked ballot of some sort. In this system, a certain number of candidates are on the ballot and then are reduced, one by one, until someone has more than 50%. The challenge here, is people have to vote several times, which almost assuredly means it would have to be electronic, which would also bring a whole host of issues.
So, no, the system is not great. However, when you compare to billions of people all over the world who have no voting rights at all, I would argue it is still a much better system. I would love to see more proportional voting and ranked ballots, but all of our parties have to agree to push it, and they will never do so, until you and I tell them to do so!
Brazil, Austria and Switzerland, all have something in common. Yes, they are each countries in the western hemisphere. Two out of three are firmly within the group better known as “western democracies”, but they also share another characteristic. Each of these three countries all share some form of a lower voting age. Brazil allows 16 year olds to vote, and considers it mandatory for citizens over the age of 18 to vote. Switzerland has a voting age of 16 for some regional votes, and in Austria, the legal voting age is 16. Recently whilst in the midst of our own election campaign, the issue has arisen in our election discussions. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? There are many points for and against, and I will take a stab at a few of them here.
One of the first points made in defence of a lower voting age, is voter turnout. The Federal election in 1988, which was a big one, centred on the Free Trade discussion, 75% of voters turned out, giving Brian Mulroney a huge majority. Since then, we have not been over 70% voter turnout and had a low of 58% vote in 2008. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, won a minority government, with 37% of the votes cast, but 37% of 58% is a small number. So, one of the arguments for an earlier voting age, is to teach our youth to vote, and care about voting and how important it is, at an early age in order to create life long voters.
Another argument for the lowering, is based on the world we live in. With our interconnected world, information is at our fingertips, and our youth can educate themselves about the issues so much more efficiently than in years past. It is also argued, that with the changes in education over the last several decades, the growth of information, that our youth are ready. We give them motor bikes, and cars and snowmachines to drive at 16, but do not give them the opportunity to reflect upon those who are going to put policies in place, that in a few years, they will have to live with.
Retractors to the point, use the obvious arguments. The first, is usually that most 16 year olds are not knowledgeable enough to make an informed choice, and will vote either on a whim, or as a result of parental influence. To that, I ask, how many parents find they are able to influence their teens’ opinions on anything? But to the question of voting on a whim, I agree that may be the case, but what better way to learn about politics, than to vote on a “whim” or on one issue, only to find that representative or party let you down? Many would argue, and I agree, that this would be a lesson that would only increase participation in the political process.
There are many who constantly thrash democracy. “There is no one good to vote for”, or “they are all crooks”, and other somewhat populist thoughts and memes all over social media. The fact is, that is exactly what a democracy is. The alternative is not so good. Look at current authoritarian rulers, or historical ones, where democracy was eroded then obliterated. Are we really so badly off, extending voting rights to 16 year olds?
And, as a last thought, as parents, we are responsible for teaching our kids a lot things. Why not how to vote responsibly and teach them, that like anything else, if they do not use it, they seriously risk losing it.
So, I say open it up. I also believe that in our fractured world of multi-party elections, first past the post is arcane and we need proportional representation…..but that is for another day, and maybe, just maybe, our 16 and 17 year olds will demand it. Much like the old adage of “build it and they will come”, perhaps if we “give them the vote, they will use it”.
Please remember the election is on Monday, October 21st. Please vote and participate in a process that billions around the world, will never have the chance to.
As of late Thursday evening, the news has broken, that Andrew Scheer is a dual citizen, carrying both Canadian and American Citizenship. Andrew Scheer is campaigning to be Prime Minister. I will say first and foremost, that I am not opposed to dual citizenship. I am a son of an immigrant, and have been fortunate enough to travel some parts of the world. I consider myself a globalist and believe that small, narrow national views of citizenship are not positive for ourselves, or for the greater world.
That being said, if the Conservatives win a majority and Andrew Scheer becomes our Prime Minister, I have no issue whatsoever with his dual citizenship. However, I do have an issue with the hypocrisy and seemingly somewhat clandestine nature in which all of this came to light.
In 2005, Mr. Scheer was front and centre in criticizing Governor-General Michael Jean for having dual citizenship. Similarly, the Conservative party was quite boisterous in criticizing and using publicly, both Michael Ignatiev's time spent in the US as an academic and Stephane Dion's dual-citizensip as well.
At the end of the day, does it make a difference? Probably not, however, Andrew Scheer knew at the beginning of the election that he was a US citizen and had filed income tax returns in the US. He has begun the process to renounce his US citizenship, at the start of the election, however knowing how critical he was of his opponents who were also dual-citizens, and how he chose not to identify this in the campaign, it certainly raises some questions of honesty, integrity and transparency.
I do hope, when everyone votes, that they take into account the actions of all candidates, and that everyone gets out the vote!!!
Have a great weekend!!!!
Orange Shirt Day
Today, Monday, September 30, 2019 is Orange Shirt day. As there are a lot of days associated with different colour shirts, or ribbons, all intended to bring attention to a worthy cause, today we will explain a little bit about Orange Shirt Day.
In a nutshell, Orange Shirt day is a day to recognize the suffering of our First Nations’ People, as a result of the Residential School System in Canada. Wikipedia explains it as such:
Orange Shirt day is an event that started in 2013. It was designed to educate people and promote awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does today. It is held annually on September 30 in Canadian communities with students and staff being encouraged to wear an orange shirt to school that day.
Many Canadians, especially before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, knew very little about the Residential School System and its affect on First nations in Canada. For generations, we have been quick to point out the inhumanity of the Nazi regime, the Communist regimes around the world, the Khmer Rouge, etc, but were woefully unaware of our own history of colonization and genocide.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was struck to bring to the front of our consciousness this tragedy in our history, and to set goals for moving forward with our First Nation communities in a partnership to continue to build this country. The Orange Shirt day is part of this process.
Why an Orange Shirt you ask? The base of the story comes from a survivor experience from Phyllis Jack Webstad, who on September 30th, was taken away from her parents and put in a residential school. She vividly remembered that on that day, she was wearing an orange shirt, and it was taken away from her, and this memory served as a reminder to her, of the attempted process of assimilation and cultural genocide. She recounted this story in 2013 and the Orange Shirt Day was born.
So, today, and many other days in the year, at school, we wear Orange. Not that wearing orange will undo the damage done in years past, but it will show that as a society we are committed to recognizing the damaging events of our past, and more importantly, that we will move forward to ensure our relationships move forward in a positive manner.
Below is a link to a Wikipedia article, as well as a link to The Truth and Reconciliation.
Fact, opinion and falsehood
Many things have changed since I was an undergraduate student at Western University in the early 90’s. For one, the internet! Not only did we create the largest compendium of human knowledge in the history of civilization, we created devices to allow us to check on it, if necessary, while fishing on a lake.
If, in 1991, I had envisioned this world, I would have been excited! As a novice “academic” who was learning the world of academia and how it operated, I would have been very interested in having access to a database of all of the world’s knowledge, in one simple place.
However, I am thinking about this in terms of the reality of the academic world in 1991, and the reality of the greater world. In 1991, knowledge, truth, facts and opinions were clearly delineated and they each resided in their own space and kept to their prospective spaces, for the most part.
The academic world, the world of universities and research and deep learning, were, and still are, to some degree institutions unto themselves, still in many ways, closed loops of learning. The process of being an academic has not changed. One works their way through a Bachelor degree and learns, and perhaps does a bit of research. However, by the time you arrive at the PhD level, you are creating new learning, and basing all of your assertions on hard data, hard analysis and if your statements and assertions are not provable, they are not considered fact. However, what is the most crucial aspect of this reality, in the academic world, is the judges of your assertions and your ability to prove them are your peers, who are similarly skilled and educated in those fields. They are experts. There are no hurt feelings in academia. There are no lovely platitudes of “you tried”, there is just cold, calculating examination of your assertions, and then either acceptance of all of your findings, some of them, or none of them. And if you fail miserably to convince your colleagues of your assertions, you go back to the drawing board and try again, with new data, new ideas and new proof. This, is the academic world, that produces the knowledge we accept in our society. A pHd candidate, can have his ideas flatly rejected and crushed by a colleague, and then go out for a drink with her moments later. The following day, he will get back at the data and work on proving his theories, or accepting that his assertions are simply not fact. There is nothing in between.
As an academic in the pre-internet age, this was the world you lived in, and if you were a non-academic or a person looking for fact, this is where you went. If you wanted a more recent analysis of the Russian Revolution, you went to a current historical journal and read current research and analysis done by experts. You may even purchase a recent book, or borrow it at the library. We knew where the facts were and we could be reasonably certain of them, because of the rigourous standards these assertions had to go through, or would go through once published, we could have certainty that they were accepted as being truthful and fact. It almost reminds me of the old toothpaste commercials: “3\4 dentists recommend”. The statement making clear that there was a consensus among experts about a fact.
What is also important to understand, is that the areas in which this research is published, academic journals, university publications and general publications, were not open to the average person. In order to get published in The Canadian Journal of History (published by the University of Toronto Press), one had to be an academic. As much as I tried, I could not get a paper of mine, about the early days of Hornepayne and Fitzback, published in this forum, as it was and is, a rigorous academic publication, and to be honest, my level of education, a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in history, just does not cut it.
However, the internet changed it all. Completely. Totally and forever. In a very brief amount of time, everyone one of us, had access to a publishing system that could reach millions of people, and had zero requirements for what we could publish. We can and do publish anything we want. There are no rules about standards for what we say, to whom we say, how we say it or what value it might and might not have. I can share a public space with Jack Granatstein, a renowned Canadian historian, and my thoughts and feelings and assertions, regardless of their merit, can stand right beside a renowned and respected historian. It has created a dynamic, which is almost Orwellian, in the sense that it becomes very difficult to separate fact from fiction, conjecture and rumour from truth. And, what happens then, is the eroding of truth and fact and its intermingling with nonsense.
Social media, is one of the greatest examples of this challenge. Daily, I see assertions, usually in the form of a shared meme, that are ridiculously wrong. One of my favourites, or pet peeves, is one that circulates claiming to be a statement by Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, reflecting on immigrants. It is not true. They are modified words from Teddy Roosevelt, not Laurier and are blatantly anti-immigrant and bordering on racist. However, people see it, believe it is from Laurier and forward it along. I see so many of them, and I know I cannot respond to them all, and in another challenging aspect of our society, I cannot either, because everyone is so often so easily offended when one points out errors. In a rigorous academic world, there are no hurt feelings. So, I ignore many of them. I ignore the meme that claims in a graduation speech, Bill Gates made these 10 points. I ignore that one because while the source is incorrect, the message is good.
However, the battle for truth and fact is playing out in front of our eyes every day, and those who make baseless, outrageous claims, often do so with flash and pizzazz, often framed in some sort of “anti-establishment” message and they resonate more so than the facts and the truth. However, if we have learned anything from the internet, it is that more than ever, as a society, we need to be ever more vigilant in questioning what we see. That, in itself, is one more legacy of the academic world. Academics question everything. Nothing is taken as fact, until it is resoundingly proven to be so, and even then, it is always open to interpretation. Remember, it once was prevailing thought that the sun revolved around the earth. It wasn’t until Copernicus, a great Polish astronomer, actually proved it that it reluctantly became accepted as fact. Today, it is as much of a fact as is water is wet.
The irony of the internet, is that a system that was supposed to put all of the world’s knowledge in our hands, has instead created a platform where true facts, knowledge and cutting edge research, competes on the same plane as conjecture, conspiracy theory, bigotry and opinion based in nothing more than outrageous prejudice. The current battle over vaccinations is a classic example. Our world, through science has eradicated hundreds of dangerous diseases that kill thousands of people all over the world, yet the anti-vax movement has flourished, in part promoted by an actress who believes certain ideas about vaccinations that are resoundingly false. However, her fame has allowed her to peddle nonsense and children are being hurt as a result. Millions in the developing world, would give anything for access to vaccines to prevent millions of children from dying prematurely, and we allow Facebook memes to drive us away from the science.
So, in closing, I will leave you with a quote from an American statesman, who lived in a time long before Facebook and infomercials, but was able to clearly express the reality of fact. At www.hornepayne.com, we hope to ensure his words remain true.
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams.
Welcome to the new www.hornepayne.com! Before I go any further about the plans for this site, let me first thank Ginger Potvin-Latoski for her work here for the last several years, and her willingness to assist me as I go forward with www.hornepayne.com! Without Ginger’s work, this site would not exist today, and without her help, I would not be able to go forwaralso thank her from the bottom of my heart, for her confidence in me, to be able to take www.hornepayne.com forward. I truly appreciate it! As we all know, Hornepayne is a special place. How many small towns, can you speak about in Union Station in Toronto and have someone close by, look at you and say “Hey, are you from Hornepayne?”? In 2014, my wife was in the Air Canada Centre watching a hockey game (the Leafs beat Boston….:D) and she struck up a conversation with people beside her, who low and behold….knew where Hornepayne was, and had spent time here snowmobiling. Just last week, in Ottawa, on a river cruise, she also ran into someone who knew all about Hornepayne. From CN Rail and VIA, to fly in fishing, to snowmobiling, and many other experiences, Hornepayne is known to the world and is a special place. I hope, in the coming few years, to continue with this site and have it reflect the great community that we have. Yes, we have challenges, and we are facing them, but I want very much to make this site, a “go-to” site for our community, and our many ex-pats out there, who live in all corners of the world, not to mention the host of family and friends we all have, all over the world, who are connected to, and interested in Hornepayne!So, what will www.hornepayne.com become? I would like to take a few moments to outline for you, the vision we have for this site in the next several years. There is a well-known quote, that says: “change is the only constant” and nothing reflects the reality of our world more than this quote. The digital revolution, the economic shift from manufacturing to services, and the increasing polarization of our world, are all realities that are not blips in history, but a real change in the way our world operates. As a society, we need answers for a changing world, a future that no one can predict or plan for. Hornepayne, along with the rest of the western world, is planted firmly in this reality and it is up to all of us to find answers and solutions to our challenges. www.hornepayne.com sees this reality, and wants to create a site for all who have a connection to Hornepayne, world-wide, to inform and provide a forum for thinking and problem solving. At the risk of using an old, bygone cliché, www.hornepayne.comsees itself as a “one-stop shop” for information about Hornepayne, within the broader global context. In Hornepayne, we can often turn our eyes away from the provincial, national and international forces primarily as a result of the good economic opportunities that exist here. However, I believe, we have to increasingly look outward and enjoy the benefits we have in our community, but look further and more globally to build a strong future for our community. If we want Hornepayne to be a viable option for our children, grand-children and great grand-children, we need to look outward and be open to change and progress. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, has an old nick-name of Hogtown, because at one point in its history, it was famous for its hog pens. Toronto today, obviously, has no hog pens within the city of Toronto….Many years ago, people in Toronto saw that the future of Toronto was no longer hogs, and they built the world-class metropolis that is today Toronto. The citizens of Hornepayne, who currently hold sway and make political decisions, have to think the same way and embrace the future, whatever that is. Perhaps even more importantly and more crucial, we need to build this future, and keep our minds open to whatever the future may bring, to make our community vibrant and progressive. We believe, that if, in 25 years, Hornepayne is pretty much as you see it today, we will have failed. Now, that being said, the future needs to maintain our strengths: our natural environment, our sense of community and our fun-loving nature, but if we do not evolve, we will stagnate.As a final thought, I am going to get on my proverbial soap box one more time. I have a vision for www.hornepayne.com, but it is a vision that allows for flexibility and innovation. Perhaps, what I see will not happen, and something else will take its place. However, there is one thing that www.hornepayne.com will not become, and that is a forum that feeds into the current political environment of hyper-criticism, character assassination and conspiracy theories. This is a site to work towards our future, to provide information about what is going on in Hornepayne, and to provide information that is factual and based in reason and where necessary, accepted science. This is not going to become a site that allows unfettered criticism and character assassination. Unlike many social media sites and comment sections of other online papers, this site will not become a cauldron of hate for those who rarely, if ever contribute to the better good, but instead criticize from the sidelines, while enjoying the benefits provided by those who work hard for our community. If, that format is of no of interest to the greater Hornepayne community, including its diaspora and global connections, then www.hornepayne.comwill cease to exist!And one further comment. While our main goal is to provide an online platform for all of those interested in what is going on in Hornepayne, it is a business model. It is not, of course, free to run a website, or to run a business, and as such, www.hornepayne.com will feature advertising, like all other online and print publications. This is in part to help pay for costs, but also allows local businesses to advertise their products and services to our community, and to provide residents with a space to learn about those products and services.