57 Women Thrown Out of Elected Office by the McNeil Liberal Government

Since the McNeil Liberals have done away with local school boards  throughout Nova Scotia, 57 women have been pushed out of elected office. 

Of all the school trustees in the province, 55% were women.

Running for and (if elected) sitting on school boards is often the first rung on the ladder for women who want to enter the political arena.    Of course NS does not bother worrying about women in politics — as 33% of MLAs are women, and only 7 are in the Liberal government! 

Though not everyone thinks a lot about school trustees, they are a conduit for parents  to connect with their children’s schools and to raise issues about education in the province.  School trustees are  democratically elected  — people  in short supply across Canada and especially in Nova Scotia.  They are responsible for how school boards implement policies and practices.  Each school board member is paid   between $13,000 and $21,000 a year, and receives a per diem, for eligible expenses, to attend  meetings.  Last time I checked, all told, school board members’  pay and expenses amounted to less than $1.2 million per year. Hardly a king’s ransom. 

So why is McNeil getting rid of them? Why are the Liberals centralizing and controlling  health care and education? One health board for 1 million people and 1 school board for the same.  Damn right the teachers should strike — what else will wake up this neo-liberal and nasty government?mcneil

 

 

Where did the years go? life at age 100

In Japan there are more than 66,000 Centenarians, in a population of about 125 million– which is .05% of the population. 

In the UK there are 14,400 Centenarians in a population of 66 million. That’s .02% of the population.

In Canada there are 8,200 Centenarians in a population of 36 million.  That’s .02% of the population

Japan must be the greatest country in the world to grow old, and in fact has the oldest citizenry. Japan has TWO AND A HALF times the percentage of Centarians as the UK or Canada.   

Why is that? You could do worse than listen to this half hour BBC podcast Japan: New Ways to Grow Old

Happy Hour in Western Canada…

 

First it was Gerald Stanley, a 56 year old white Saskatchewan farmer, who managed to beat the charge of murdering 22 year old unarmed Colten Boushie. Boushie, an Indigenous man, drove onto Stanley’s farm. Boushie was with four friends in a car with a flat tire. In the farmyard, Stanley shot Boushie at point blank range in the back of his skull by Stanley. The jury of his ‘peers’ (meaning all-white) decided that Stanley was not guilty around 7 pm on Fri. 9 Feb. The jury deliberated about 18 hours, and their not guilty verdict was delivered just in time for Happy Hour at the local bar.

Then it was Raymond Cormier’s turn. On Thursday 22 Feb. Cormier, a white man, also age 56, was found not guilty by a Winnipeg jury of murdering 15-year-old Tina Fontaine. There was plenty of time to get to Happy Hour in this case. The jury had deliberated for only about 13 hours, and everyone was discharged before the weekend.

In terms of the prosecution, in both cases the crown seemed to be “phoning it in.”

Bill Burge was the crown in the Stanley case and presented what appeared to be a lackluster case. “He should never have been appointed,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron.

Sheldon Wuttunee, a former Chief of the Red Pheasant First Nation where Boushie lived echoed Chief Cameron’s concerns. “We had to encourage the crown prosecutor to prosecute and not help the defence,” he told reporters gathered in a tightly packed room. “It was very frustrating.”

Eleanor Sunchild a legal representative for the Boushie family claims the family was mistreated right from the start, as there was “little communication from the Crown to the family. There was no relationship there at all.”

In the Cormier case, the Crown and police had set up at least one “Mr Big” sting operation in an effort to entrap Cormier. It did not work; despite the police collecting hours of taped phone calls, Cormier never really confessed. The Crown also adduced no forensic evidence, and the Defence did not mount a case at all. Yet Cormier and teenager Fontaine had been seen many times together before she was found dead in a Winnipeg river. Her body was wrapped in a similar duvet to the one Cormier had and it was weighted down with stones.

There were many similarities in both cases but, oddly, the Crown prosecution services disagree. In each case, a white middle-aged man thinks nothing of ‘getting rid’ of his “problem” by committing a crime. Stanley didn’t want the Indigenous kids on his land. Cormier didn’t want to be charged with having had sex with an under-age girl. In the Stanley case, the white killer is 2-1/2 times the age of the victim. In the Cormier case, Cormier was four times older than Tina Fontaine. Both victims were poor and Indigenous, from First Nations’ reserves. If an Indigenous person is murdered, it seems the benefit of the doubt goes to the white guy.

The problem with the criminal justice system is that it’s rigged. The justice system tends to look at each crime in isolation and individually. It rarely looks at crime in terms of systemic issues. What happened in the Stanley case was that white jurors found it reasonable that when Stanley saw the Aboriginal kids drive onto his farm, he went to the shed to get a handgun and load it with two if not three rounds (bullets). Cormier’s defence managed to show that there was no direct link between Cormier’s behaviour, his phone conversations taped by police, and the murder of Tina Fontaine. Cormier’s defence argued the evidence was entirely circumstantial and no one should be convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence. What came out at both trials is the following: no white person should be convicted of murdering an Indigenous person – even a child — based on circumstantial evidence.

Looking back thru criminal cases, I note the following famous murder convictions based on circumstantial evidence:

Steven Truscott, age 14, was convicted of murdering a school-girl Lynn Harper (1959);

David Milgaard was convicted of murdering nursing student Gail Miller (1969);

Peter Demeter was convicted of murdering his wife (1974);

Colin Thatcher was convicted of murdering his ex-wife (1984);

Guy Paul Morin was convicted of murdering his 9-year-old neighbour Christine Jessop (1984);

Thomas Sophonow was convicted of murdering Barbara Stoppel, a clerk in a donut shop (1981);

There are many cases of conviction based on circumstantial evidence—unless, apparently, the victim is Indigenous.

 

 

 

Heritage Day in NS has come and gone — but did you get a paid holiday?

 

Heritage Day is one of six – only six – paid “holidays” in Nova Scotia. We have to treasure the paltry six we get, seven including Remembrance Day, even though if we were in Saskatchewan we would be entitled to ten, in Ontario and Quebec nine. We tie with PEI for the lowest number of public holidays every year; even New Brunswick gets two more days than we do.

Heritage Day in NS is also a “retail closing day” which means that almost all stores excluding drug stores, restaurants, cafes, bars, and gas stations must remain closed.

parsonsThis year Heritage Day commemorates Mona Parsons, a World War II hero from Middleton, NS.

If there is a union where you work, you will be paid for this holiday.

However if there is no union, it’s a little more tricky.

If you have the day off because your shop or restaurant or office is closed, you will get paid a regular day’s pay if you qualify. You qualify for the paid holiday if

1) you’ve been paid for at least 15 of the last 30 days,

and

2) you’ve worked your last scheduled shift the day before Heritage Day, and you work your first scheduled shift after the holiday.

If you do work on Heritage Day, you are entitled to a regular day’s pay plus one and a half times your regular rate of pay for the hours you worked on the holiday. Let’s say you earn $11 per hour. If, over a month, you work for an average of 8 hours a day, you get paid $11 times 8 = $88, which would be your regular pay. Added to $88 you also get paid time and a half for the hours you work on Heritage Day. Let’s say that you work 4 hours: $11 x 4 =$44 plus half again as much, which is $22.00. You should be paid $88 + $44 + $22 = $154.00, for working on Heritage Day.

The Verdict in the Boushie murder case: Are we going backwards?

 

Item: In winter 1990, 17-year-old Neil Stonechild, who was Indigenous, was found frozen to death in an industrial zone near Saskatoon. He was wearing a jean jacket, and only one shoe. Everyone recognized that he had been the victim of a ‘Starlight Tour’ – code for the police picking up Indigenous youth from the city streets, driving them to the edge of town and telling them to walk home. The police picked up young Indigenous men for the crime of ‘walking while Indian’ or being intoxicated while on foot — plunking them, often in handcuffs, in the back of the police cruiser.  The cops usually took away the youths’ coats and shoes before dumping them on the edge of town. After a significant public outcry, two cops were fired, but no one faced criminal charges in Stonechild’s murder. Everyone knew the outcomes of many “starlight tours.”starlight2006 book 

In fact, the “tours” were first detailed in a 1997 issue of a free advertising flyer called the Saskatoon Sun. In it, a Saskatoon police officer wrote a column called the Blue Lagoon.   bluelagoonHis article “Beligerent [sic] drunk gets ride to highest power in land,” described two city cops who deliberately drove  a “drunk” Aboriginal man to the city’s Queen Elizabeth power plant, miles from downtown late one night. Once at the remote location, one cop opened the back door of the cruiser and ordered the man out. The cop called out after him “one less guest for breakfast.”

In 2000, another Aboriginal man, Lawrence Wegner, was found frozen in a field near the Saskatoon dump. He was wearing only a t-shirt, socks and jeans, though it was the dead of winter. The RCMP refused to interview two witnesses who said they saw two policemen push Wegner into a police car early that evening. The police conducted no photo lineups, no lie detector tests and no further investigation. The police insisted they never picked Wegner up. The police theory was that the victim simply took a long walk on a sub-zero night; yet his socks showed no dirt or holes. No one was charged in Wegner’s death.  Since 2000, at least 5 Indigenous men were found frozen to death just outside Saskatoon.

Are we going backwards? From 1990 into the 2000s there were no charges and no trials held in connection with the Starlight Tours – yet Indigenous youth  likely had been abducted  by the police and left to freeze to death in Saskatoon and many other prairie cities.

Item:  In 2018, white farmer Gerald Stanley stands trial  for the murder of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.  An all-white jury of farmers and town folk from the Battlefords area just north of Saskatoon deliver a not guilty verdict. At the trial, a ballistics expert testified that the handgun could not have fired without someone pulling the trigger. But the jury refused to believe that  Stanley, a neighbour and ‘one of them’ , had pulled the trigger (at point blank range), which killed Boushie instantly.boushie1(Memorial sign left in front of the Court House, Halifax at the Demonstration “Justice4Boushie”, Sat. 10 Feb.)

Item: In 1991, a 43-year-old Cree trapper, Leo LaChance, walked into a pawnshop in Prince Albert, Sask. He wanted to sell his pelts. Carney Nerland, the white store owner, refused to buy. He was drinking in the shop with two friends who worked as prison guards. As LaChance was leaving the store, Nerland shot him with an assault rifle; LaChance managed to stagger out the door and a few steps on the sidewalk before he fell into the deep snow of a bitter January night. Nerland, a self-described white supremacist, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and leader of the Saskatchewan branch of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nation. He was also a police informer. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, and served fewer than 3 years in jail. He served time in the same jail where his guard friends worked. He was released into the witness protection program.

Item: “There is [are] two justice systems: one justice system for the white; one justice system for the Indian people. It’s all right for a white person to kill an Indian person.” Those were the words that Chief Lindsay Kaye told reporters. He didn’t say this last night or today, but more than 22 years ago. Kaye represented the family of Pamela George, a 28-year-old, mother of two from the Sakimay First Nation, near Regina, Sk.map-sask-better

In 1995, two white male University of Regina students, both aged 20, picked up Pamela George, who worked part time as a sex worker in downtown Regina. They drove her to a ditch near the airport. There they forced her to fellate them and then they savagely beat her to death.

Justice Ted Malone instructed the jury to remember that George was “indeed a prostitute,” when considering whether she consented. The defence insisted race was not a factor in the case. In fact one defence lawyer stated, “These are a couple of pretty damn good boys as far as I’m concerned. Had it not been for the alcohol, they would never have found themselves in this position, and that’s why the whole racial thing sort of burns me.”

After 10 hours’ deliberation, the all-white jury found the students guilty of manslaughter; each served fewer than four years in prison.starlite

Item: In 1996, an elderly white farmer from Alvena, Sask shot and killed Leonard Paul Johns, 33, from the One Arrow First Nation, west of Saskatoon. The police said the shooter acted in self-defence, as Johns had attempted a break-in. No charges were laid. But the then-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations said, “If the roles were reversed… would anybody believe that the Crown would not prosecute?”

The mainstream media in Canada tell us that each murder of an Indigenous person is unique, and each tragedy stands on its own. But we cannot look at these cases in isolation. There is a pattern here, which becomes more and more weighty and oppressive with each death.  We, as white settlers, have to see the murders of Indigenous people in Canada the way Indigenous people see them —as genocidal. I could make a list of shootings and killings of Aboriginals by police and others for every prairie province. Because Boushie was killed in Saskatchewan, I decided to make a partial list for Saskatchewan, which has a population of 1 million people. Somehow, as Canadians, we see the pattern of the US cops’ shootings of nearly 1,000  African-Americans every year as racially motivated, and genocidal. We need to see that pattern in relation to the killings of Indigenous people in our own country. But too many whites refuse to see what has been a deadly pattern for  Indigenous people  — a pattern which makes true reconciliation an impossibility.boushie2Drumming on the Court House steps, Halifax.  Taken on 10 Feb. at the demonstration against the verdict and in support of  Justice4Boushie.    

 

*As a matter of interest, I lived in Saskatoon from 1989 to 2000.  

What’s a good book– or not

the-millStill reading this one — brilliant. About the mill at Pictou NS, can’t stop reading it.  And Coles even cancelled the author’s book launch in their  store in the mall there because the mill told them to do it, in so many words…

MacIntyre’s new book is riveting.  It has to do with the Toronto media, the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps (1982), the Falange and Israel.  Look up what the Falange is.   Women’s roles pretty rocky, yet the book ‘works’...

onlycafeallendeThis book does not work quite as well.  If you liked “The Help” which was all the rage about 4 yrs ago, you’ll like this book. 3 different characters, one less likeable than the next — but it all works out in the end.  Plus there is a bit of murder and mayhem in the middle. raceThis book by Eddo-Lodge works and works well.  In a straightforward and delightful way she explains exactly why, as a black person in the UK, she’s not talking to whites– even well- intentioned ones –about race. Highly recommend it.

drabbleIf you wonder about getting old or are already there, you must read this brilliant book.  You’ll never forget the characters. You’ll want to meet the narrator and travel with her on her social work rounds which concern seniors’…

brotherA family of two, one from the Caribbean and one born in Canada, lives in today’s Scarborough, the suburb of Toronto. This is a novel that flags race, class and entitlement.  It’s wonderful.  Chilling and honest. jen

This book is by a new friend and first time author, Jen Powley. She  has drawn a fine and  deliberate picture of what it’s been like for her to live with MS.  Clever, funny and radical. Her spirit and her understanding of chinks in the spirits of others is amazing.

Marshall’s book is also an autobiography and a bit humorous.  Marshall, a Toronto actor formerly in the DeGrassi series, had a tumour on her spine which was removed. Still, at 45 yrs of age her life in Lyndhurst — arguably the best rehab hospital in the country — is very harsh.  The book reveals a lot about physical and psycho-social therapy. Her relationships with her husband and sons is portrayed in an intimate way.  I felt the book was a bit slick — but for people who have never suffered a serious illness or injury, it’s a very useful read. marshall

 

finklesteinYou can never go wrong with Norman Finkelstein.  Gaza now ignored by the media — was all over the news during Israel’s various sieges, massacres and destructions of the largest open air prison in the world.  When we read about 17 yr old Ahed Tamimi and her jailing on 12 counts of assaulting an IDF soldier on her front steps– you see what the Israeli state is doing to Palestinians – in the West Bank, Gaza and at home in Israel where Palestinians make up 20% of the Israeli population…  

The Man Who Drove Over Wray Hart

 

Let’s look at two lives; let’s look at Wray Hart, aged 62, and Dennis Patterson, 23, the man who allegedly killed him.

Patterson allegedly struck Hart in the early hours of Saturday morning near the Sobey’s store on Queen Street in south-end Halifax. Patterson was charged with drunk driving causing death.

We read that Hart went out to look for some returnable bottles so he could buy some cigarettes for a friend. Patterson was likely wrapping up a night of drinking and partying when he got into his car and drove. Hart was on the sidewalk when he was struck.

photo by Gary Julienwray-hart.jpg

Hart collected bottles and cans to earn what must have been a meager living. I saw him every couple of days, wheeling a shopping cart loaded with blue bags stuffed with recyclables. We used to smile at one another and sometimes I’d hand him a bag of empty bottles. On sunny summer mornings I used to see Hart sitting on the low stone wall at the old library, quietly asking for change from passers-by.

What do we know of the man driving the car, Dennis Patterson of Quispamsis, NB? We read he is an MBA student at Saint Mary’s University, where I taught in the same business school for 17 years. I often taught MBA students. Most were full of privilege, intent on making lots of money, and short on life experience.

We know that Quispamsis has a population of 17,656.[1] The median family income is $101,907 — 34% higher than $76,000 — which is the median family income for all Canadians.[2]

There are 170 “Blacks”, and 585 “North American Aboriginals” according to the 2011 Census.

dennis-patterson.jpgphoto by CBC

Immigrants make up only 5.6% of the town’s population, compared with 20.6% in Canada as a whole. More than half of Quispamsis’ 995 immigrants are from the US and the UK—that means they are probably white. There are also 50 Chinese and 190 from S. Korean immigrants but not one from India or any country in Africa.

More than 3650 people in Quispamsis have at least a bachelor’s or undergraduate degree or diploma;    another 1035 have completed apprenticeships and are employed in their trades. Nearly 5,000 have taken courses in business, management, architecture or engineering.

In Quispamsis, 5705 of the 6175 homes are owned, only 465 are rented. Half of the homes have 8 rooms or more in them.

We know that Wray Hart had recently had moved to an apartment with his own fridge and a radio. Those who knew him said Hart was the “kindest man you’d ever meet,” others said he was “the hardest working man in Halifax”. Lorraine Glendenning, who was a friend said, “he told me he had arranged his bed so he could look out the window at the stars when he was listening to the radio at night.”

What do we make of Dennis Patterson’s background? The Census statistics tell the story of Quispamsis – a white, professional, and solidly middle class suburb of St John. A possible parallel to Patterson’s accident takes place in the 1985 bestselling novel Bonfire of the Vanities[3]. Author Tom Wolfe called the book’s hero, Sherman McCoy, a “master of the universe” because he was a Wall Street financier or trader, rich and powerful. McCoy was out on the town with his mistress Maria, who was driving his car, when she struck a black teenager. McCoy was charged with the hit and run accident which left the teen in a coma. Maria lied to police and said McCoy was driving. McCoy’s life spun out of control — he lost his job, his home and his family. In the end, someone quotes the Bible, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?”

Let’s hope it’s not too late for Dennis Patterson. He’s got to think about his own privilege and the fact that he, like others in his MBA cohort, are supposed to make “ethical and socially sustainable decisions”[4] and understand “the role that ethical and socially-sustainable factors play”[5] while studying for his MBA. Maybe now he needs to question his own privilege and consider why he ever believed it was OK to drive while under the influence.

 

 

 

[1] According to the 2011 Census

[2] http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/wealthiest-1-earn-10-times-more-than-average-canadian-1.1703017

[3] Also made into a movie in 1990.

[4] http://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey/mba-learning-goals.html

[5] http://www.smu.ca/academics/sobey/mba-learning-goals.html