Not this year

Today is June 29. On this date I usually change my profile picture on Facebook to a Canadian flag, or a photo of a maple leaf and leave it up until July 5 because that brackets both Canada Day, July 1 and Independence Day in the US, July 4. But not this year.

I’m still a proud Canadian, but this doesn’t seem like the year to celebrate this country. Here are three numbers to help explain why: 215 – 104 – 751. If you’re among my followers and readers from other countries you might not grasp the meaning of these numbers, but if you’re Canadian, I’m quite certain you understand at least the first and last of these.

For those who for various reasons – COVID 19 takes up much of most newscasts – aren’t aware, those three sets of numbers represent the numbers of unmarked graves recently located by various means, including ground penetrating radar, at the sites of now defunct residential schools.

215, Kamloops B C at a school run by the Roman Catholic Church.

104, southwestern Manitoba. None of the news articles I can locate mention which church ran this school. This didn’t seem to receive the same amount of national coverage as the other two.

751, southeastern Saskatchewan at a school run by the Roman Catholic Church.

Following is an abridged definition and history of the residential school system from The Canadian Encyclopaedia:

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools that were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. Although the first residential facilities were established in New France, the term usually refers to schools established after 1880. Residential schools were created by Christian churches and the Canadian government as an attempt to both educate and convert Indigenous youth and to assimilate them into Canadian society. However, the schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Indigenous peoples.

… residential schools became part of government and church policy from the 1830s on, with the creation of Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic institutions in Upper Canada (Ontario). The oldest continually operating residential school in Canada was the Mohawk Institute in what is now Brantford, Ontario. This began as a day school for Six Nations boys, but in 1831 it started to accept boarding students.

Survivors of these schools speak of harsh conditions: forbidden to speak their native languages upon threat of punishment; the boys forcibly having their hair cut, and physical and sexual abuse. A survivor from the Kamloops school, in an interview, said that if a child suddenly vanished overnight, it was assumed they had simply run away, and the schools would encourage that assumption. The overall aim of these schools, in the words of one survivor interviewed, was “to take the Indian out of the child”.

The Roman Catholic order than ran the Kamloops school has announced they will provide whatever documentation they still have to aid in the identification of these 215 poor unfortunate children. I’ve not read or heard of any such offers regarding the Manitoba and Saskatchewan sites. Both the Ontario and federal government have announced they will make funds available to help in the search for unmarked graves and identification of the remains.

I realize that now, in 2021,society’s attitudes have changed greatly since these schools were introduced, but I can think of nothing at any time in history, not just the history of Canada but the history of the world, to justify such treatment of children.

I can’t say if the news of these discoveries in Canada had any bearing on it, but Deb Haaland, the American Secretary of the Interior this past week announced an investigation into the American version of residential schools. I’d like to be optimistic, but I fear that investigation will reveal similar events in the US.

As a result of these sad and tragic announcements, many cities and towns are cancelling their planned Canada Day celebrations. They too find it hard to celebrate this nation’s birthday.

We as a nation have failed these children and I personally don’t think we have anything to celebrate this year. Maybe next year.

Cat.

Random and various

1 – Let’s get the big one over with first: Justin Trudeau. How many of us, excluding Andrew Scheer who claims to have never done anything, did some kind of dumb-ass shit in our twenties? For me, that was the sixties and personal video cameras and social media didn’t exist then, so there’s no proof I was anything other than an angel. (And I’m sticking to that story.)

2 – Sticking with the upcoming Canadian election, I won’t try to influence how you vote – there are plenty of fake news sites already doing that. I’m just going to suggest that rather than just accept a single source for information, check other legitimate sites as well and if it is a third party ad google them to see if they have any obvious bias. You may find that ad you saw that said so-and-so is a complete incompetent idiot is a troll site based in some foreign country. CPAC, the channel that provides coverage from inside the House of Commons, is also offering election coverage and I would think their election reporting would be as even-handed as their Commons coverage. But, where you choose to get your information, and what you choose to believe of that information, is up to you. Question claims, no matter the source and vote according to your conscience, but vote.

3 – I’ve seen some ads on television lately for Quickbooks, an online business accounting system. One of the claims of these ads is that you can get paid quicker. I must take exception to that claim. Yes, you can issue an invoice faster, but you have no control over when it gets paid. Unless the terms of the invoice are “2% 10, net 30 days” I’m not paying it until I have to.

4 – I got an interesting text message last night claiming to be from the Simcoe County District School Board, a legitimate school board in Ontario, telling me my phone number has just won me $3,000,000 US funds. Several things wrong with this. First, Simcoe County is north of Toronto, so why would they choose a telephone number with a Toronto area code as a “winner” in a contest I never entered. Second, this is Ontario and Premier Doug Ford is slashing education budgets on a grand scale, so I highly doubt Simcoe County could afford to give away three million. If they had that kind of money lying around, they’d sink it into the system, not award it to some random stranger. I forwarded the message to the School Board. They thanked me and said they were aware of the scam and are investigating.

Okay, rant finished. Since this is the first day of autumn, treasure the few warm days that remain and enjoy the fall colours. Winter will soon be upon us.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Whatever strikes my fancy

I’m a writer and photographer. I’m working on my autobiography. Funny thing, but if people learn this they will often ask “is it finished yet?” Umm, unless you’re using a spirit board to ask that, the answer is obviously “No”. I’ve stopped it at the point I received my new birth certificate with new name and gender, but I’m still here so it could continue.

I write speculative fiction, also called science fiction and mystery and these pieces usually start with asking myself “what if …?”, then answering that question. That “what if …” could be on any topic – as the title indicates “whatever strikes my fancy”. I’ve destroyed cities and other planets (usually with classical music playing in the background as I write) and in the late nineties I chronicled a war that destroyed this planet. What prompted that was the debate over whether the 21st century would start January 1, 2000 or 2001. I think the answer depends if you ask an historian or a mathematician.

With my blogs, again I write about any topic that strikes my fancy or irritates me. I enjoy writing about various online scams as warnings to my readers. For the most part I stay away from American politics. I’m not American so unless what’s-his-name in the White House had done or said something exceedingly stupid, I ignore it. Having said that, living in Canada and being reasonably intelligent, I am aware that events in the U S may and can have a tremendous effect on us as well, so I do pay attention to American politics. I have however taken Canadian federal politicians to task on many occasions over their pronouncements or actions. And with the current regime in Queen’s Park, I can see that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will become a frequent target.

I prefer to write and edit in longhand, then once I’m satisfied I transcribe to the computer. By doing so, if inspiration strikes while I’m out I can capture the thought at the moment as I usually carry paper and pen.

I use this same approach with my photography. If something catches my eye, I’ll take a photo. A flower, a sign, interesting architecture, a scenic vista or sometihng whimsical such as this shot below taken outside a local shop on my phone, it doesn’t matter. There are occasion , such as grocery shopping, when carrying a camera is too awkward, by my phone has an excellent camera.

I use digital cameras (Canon ever since my first film SLR in the seventies) and have what I consider to be good software – Corel Paintshop Pro for processing. I can usually find something in the raw image to turn into a photo. And of course, by using digital cameras and processing, “undo” and “delete” have become my best friends.

I’ve had various people who like my work suggest to me I should give courses in both writing and photography. Such course would be very short indeed for here’s what I’d say:

Writing: write about what interests you. If that requires research, great – you’ll learn something new. If writing fiction or topical blogs, write the way you speak. If people who know you read it, they’ll hear your voice speaking the words and for others, it will sound more natural. Don’t use what I call “ten dollar words” in an attempt to sound more intelligent. If you don’t normally use them in everyday vocabulary, you’ll probably use them incorrectly.

Photography: if it catches your eye, snap it and sort it out later. Remember, “delete” can be a powerful tool.

There’s the essence of any courses I’d give.

Now, go create something and remember to hug an artist, no matter what their field of endeavour, for we need love too. And to my Canadian followers and visitors, have a safe and happy Canada Day weekend.

Cat.

Inform me, don’t threaten me

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Canada is preparing for a federal election this October. While the official campaign hasn’t begun, I’ve seen some third-party ads claiming one leader or the other – Scheer or Trudeau – is unfit to govern.

In advance of the start of campaigning, I issue the following plea to the leaders of the four main parties, Ms Elizabeth May and Messrs Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau: I don’t want to hear your opinion on how bad the other party will be for Canada, I want to know how you plan to improve our lot.

For the most part in the last election the Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties took the high road. The Conservatives, then under Stephen Harper, tended toward scare tactics, smear campaigns and dirty tricks. Remember the “Robocall Scandal”?

The current leader of the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer has, from comments made since assuming leadership, apparently modelled himself after Donald Trump. Andy, you don’t mind if I call you “Andy”, such an election campaign is guaranteed to lose my vote. Also Andy, extravagant claims and promises like we heard from south of the border in 2016 and 2017 won’t help either.

I address to the all parties and candidates: Don’t threaten me with doom if the other guy wins. Present me with reasonable, attainable options. I’m sure I speak for others when I say this.

It has been my observation that Canadian voters don’t vote a certain way because their parents did or they have in the past. They consider the issues and options before casting their ballots.

Just remember dear followers and readers, when October comes, vote for who you consider the best candidate.

Cat.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

I am really starting to be concerned about the future of the Province of Ontario for the next four years. On June 7, the citizens of Ontario will elect a new Premier (our version of a state governor).

The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is Doug Ford, brother of the late mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. When Doug was a city councillor during his brother’s term as mayor, he proved himself to be a bully toward other councillors and had some very different views. Among his pronouncements was an idea to close libraries to save money. Apparently Doug had never read a book and could see no reason why anybody should. Another instance that springs to mind was his opposition to a proposal to put a home for autistic children and young adults in his neighbourhood. His objections to this proposal were that it would lower property values in the area and that these people would be allowed outside.

Doug Ford has said he admires Donald Trump and some of his ideas and comments during this election campaign so far seem to show he’s taken a page from the Trump campaign playbook. (In comments on Facebook, I’ve referred to him as “Trump North”.) Like Trump, Doug likes to portray himself as “a man of the people”, but he counts his wealth in the millions. He claims he can save the province billions by finding “efficiencies”. No plan, no exact amounts disclosed, just “efficiencies. Sound familiar to my American readers? Figures pulled out of thin air, proposals to reduce business taxes, all the while not revealing how exactly he’s going to save this money that won’t involve raising taxes and cutting people. During a leadership debate yesterday, in response to a question on hiring immigrants to work in northern Ontario, Doug said “We should take care of our own first.” I think I heard all this stuff sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign in the US. According to the polls, Doug Ford and the PC party are leading by about a 14 point margin, so obviously there are people who like what he has to say. Oh yes – one more thing. It is tradition that the party leaders also provide a press bus. Doug isn’t doing so which is one way of controlling what the media reports on his campaign.

There is one thing that gives me hope he won’t be able to run unfettered over Ontario. In Canada, both federally and provincially, the leader of the party must win a seat in the legislature. Doug is running in a riding (electoral district for my American readers) that includes the city ward the Ford family considers a fiefdom and is the headquarters of “Ford Nation”, so it seems unlikely he will lose. But, in the Canadian political system, both federally and provincially, there are three major parties, In Ontario those parties are the Progressive Conservatives, led by Doug Ford; the Liberal Party of Ontario, led by Kathleen Wynne, the current Premier, and the New Democratic Party led by Andrea Horwath. This is what gives me hope. With three major parties and only a fourteen point lead, it appears to me that if Doug does become the next Premier of Ontario, he will have a minority government. Having the most seats will make him Premier, but not having a clear majority of those seats means he’ll have to offer some concessions to the other two parties to get legislation passed.

Personally, I have no idea at the moment how I’m going to vote. As I wrote, Doug Ford scares me. While Andrea Horwath and the NDP are saying some interesting things, the last time the NDP formed the provincial government during the ‘90’s, they almost destroyed the province. Auntie Kathleen and Liberals are also saying nice things, but they also have had some problems during their reign. Further complicating my decision is that the MPP for my riding, a Liberal, was of great help to me when I had some problems with my documents a couple of years ago. So, do I vote for the local representative who helped me as a form of reward for his help, knowing the spotty record of his party, the NDP who did so much damage in the past, or take a chance Doug won’t turn out to be a Trump clone?

I have about three weeks to decide, so I’ll be paying close attention to both the provincial and local campaigns.

I don’t care if you vote PC, NDP, Liberal, Green or some other party. But, on June 7, you must vote.

Cat.

Raandom thoughts inspired by television

1 – Winters in the west can be especially nasty. Just ask anyone who lives in Manitoba or Minnesota if you doubt me. It wasn’t a fashion statement that the Winnipeg police wore buffalo hide coats in winter, it was because they were warm. Yet this week alone about 50 people have braved sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit, not Celsius) and walked across snow-covered field in hope of finding refuge in Canada. These people are, or were, all refugees living in the US, some of whom had already been granted the right to live there. They are taking this difficult trek and risking hypothermia because they are aware that if they presented themselves at the border crossing at Emerson Manitoba they may be refused entry. In this particular area, there is no physical barrier separating our two nations, so it is easy to gain entry to either country.

When asked, many of these refugees state they are afraid of what is happening in the States right now and don’t feel safe. And given this week’s shootings in Kansas and Washington state, I don’t blame them. The election of Donald Trump appears to have triggered a wave of xenophobia among many of his followers and emboldened them to the point these followers feel they can shoot or kill anyone who looks or dressed differently with, if not impunity, expectations their actions will be feted by others with the same mind set

Had these people tried approaching the customs house at Emerson, they would have been refused as I wrote above. There exists an agreement between the US and Canada that in essence says that refugees who arrive in one of these two countries cannot use that country as a jumping off point to the other. I’ve heard on the news this may be called a doctrine of “First Safe Country”. But, these people no longer feel America is a safe county, hence a two hour walk across snowy fields in temperatures as low as twenty below F – around -35 Celsius – to seek sanctuary in Canada.

On the news this morning I heard an interview with the Canadian Immigration Minister who stated both the RCMP and Canadian Border Security Agency have sufficient resources to deal with these arrivals. But rather than round these people up and ship them back to Minnesota, the Minister (and this makes me proud to be Canadian) has given the town of Emerson $30,000 to help with the costs of hosting these new arrivals. Further, the news reports that most of these refugees do qualify for Canadian residency. There may be charges after the applications are processed for entering Canada illegally, but I don’t think these people are worried about that too much. We the north – home of the free.

2 – Earlier in the week I watched a documentary on the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent manhunt for those responsible. Just after this happened, I wrote a piece in which I voiced the view that we, journalists, bloggers and anybody who writes opinion pieces are also Charlie. Charlie Hebdo is a publication that relied heavily on satire and while we who also write may not resort to that particular form of writing, we sometimes venture into sarcasm or some other form, such as allegory, to make our point. As someone who is willing to put their point of view “out there” for others, we are bound to upset some of our readers. It may be said that if we’re not upsetting someone, we aren’t doing our jobs properly. In the gatherings after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo many people held signs reading “Je suis Charlie”. For people who write and post their views and opinions on various topics, and I include myself in that group, I think we could modify that sign to read “Nous somme Charlie”, for in our own way we may be just as controversial.

Cat.

Everyone needs a hero

Everyone needs a hero. Whether it be a fictional character such as Superman; an historical figure, or someone from our own lives, there is usually someone who inspires us enough they deserve the label “hero”. For me, there are five people I esteem enough to call heroes, whose actions and attitudes lift them beyond the everyday.

For me, the first of these is my best friend, someone who loves me without reservation. I won’t go into detail to preserve her privacy, but in her short forty-something years, she has survived much that would break lesser humans. And no – being my friend is not one of those things.

Another person is also a personal friend named Angelena Bonet. She has suffered so much in her life – devastating heartbreak; sexual assault as well as being beaten and left for dead. This amazing, strong woman has turned her misfortune to good. In her Facebook profile, she describes herself this way: Documentary Filmmaker, Singer/Songwriter, TV Host / Producer & Humanitarian.

Being trans, obviously I consider Caroline Cossey a hero. This lady has, over the years, broken so much new ground for the trans community it would be criminal to leave her off my list.

And there are a couple of Canadians I include on my list. The first of these is retired General Romeo LeBlanc. General Leblanc was in charge of the UN force in Rwanda. He did his best to stop the massacre but was handcuffed by unreasonable orders from the UN that prevented him from taking effective action. Still, he did what he was able.

Finally, just to show that as I’ve aged I haven’t lost my rebellious streak, I include Louis Riel. For those unfamiliar with the name, or are not versed in Canadian history, Louis Riel led the Northwest Rebellion in the late 1800’s that eventually led to Manitoba becoming a province of Canada. He was later elected to Parliament, but fled to the US to avoid prosecution. He eventually returned to take his seat in the House of Commons. Unfortunately he was arrested, tried and found guilty. He has the distinction of being the only sitting member of Parliament hung for treason for his role in the Rebellion. (And yes, I’m sure we can all think of a few politicians we’d like to see swinging from a gallows.)

As I said, everyone needs a hero. Why not share yours in the comments, along with the reasons you feel they are heroic. Be certain to get their permission before you use their names, please.

Cat.

We must support our US friends in their fight for equality

In a posting on her site dated December 31, 2016 editor Jillian Page mentioned that she had considered shutting down LGBT Perspectives. In that posting she mentioned something that I’ll admit I take for granted and that is the incredible advances the Canadian LGBT communities have made in the decade since same-sex marriage became law of the land.

At both the federal and provincial levels laws have been enacted that give us the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every other citizen of whichever province in which we live. As well, at the federal level, and not widely publicized, in February 2016, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration quietly announced that Canadian citizens would be allowed to self-identify when it came to changing gender on federal documents, except the passport. You still have paperwork to fill out for that one. Otherwise, all you need is provincial documentation showing the changes to change any other federal ID.

While we revel in our new-found recognition, we must remember that our sisters and brothers south of the Canada/US border aren’t so fortunate. The different system of government in the US gives each state power to make its own laws. Consequently, members of the LGBT communities, especially the trans community, face a patchwork of laws with which to conform and hoops of varying sizes at different heights to negotiate to accomplish anything. This is true even with the Obama administration and from what I’ve seen, the difficulties will only increase under Trump.

I have seen estimates that put the number of trans Americans at 10% of the population, which translates to about 30,000,000 people. To put that in perspective for Canadian readers, that’s only slightly less than the population of Canada. Thirty million souls. Think about that number for a moment. According to pronouncements, both now and in the past, a Trump federal government and states governed by members of Trump’s party are declaring war on these people, either reducing or removing whatever protections previous administrations put in place. Perhaps one of the ,most egregious of these laws was North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, the so-called “bathroom bill”. From other reading I’ve done – and no, I don’t just rely on a single source for information – this is typical of what our sisters and brothers can expect to face over the next four years.

While we sit here north of the 49th parallel or Great Lakes, perhaps smugly because we haven’t had some of these struggles, we must not forget those who went before us that are the reason we have what we do. We must support our counterparts in the US in any way we can, even if it’s only to offer moral support so that even if they fail, those who follow will enjoy our freedoms.

Cat.

Am I or aren’t I?

Here’s something for those of you who think they are knowledgeable on American citizenship law:

I’m Canadian – born in Ontario, raised in Ontario and went through the Ontario school system (which doesn’t seem to have left any permanent damage). I worked here, paid taxes here and served in the Canadian Army in the Royal Canadian Engineers. In short, a typical Canadian.

Here’s the question I pose to you: At the time of my birth, my mother was an American citizen, having been born in New York state. My maternal grandfather was also an American citizen.

My status in relation to the US seems to vary according to what I read. One article stated that America follows a doctrine of “citizenship by bloodline” (I can’t recall the proper Latin term) so under this doctrine I would be considered an American based on my mother’s birthplace.

Another source tells me I qualify for US citizenship for the same reason.

Yet another source informs me that my mother did not meet residency requirements, therefore I would have no claim on American citizenship. This source stated that she would have had to have lived in the US for at least a year for me to qualify. I know she didn’t.

I’m the oldest surviving member of my family, so I can’t find out from anyone else, but as near as I can surmise, my grandparents were on their way to visit family in the US when my grandmother went into labour shortly after crossing the line. Given this circumstance, I suspect the infant who would become my mother spent perhaps a week living in the US before being brought to the family home in southern Ontario.

So my question is, as stated in the title, am I entitled to claim US citizenship or not?

This question is academic now, but had Harper won the last federal election I’d be considering it seriously. Oh yes, blame the Ted Cruz birth controversy for starting this line of thought.

Cat.

New fiction Yorkland Part 3 Xaja

Yorkland 3
© 2009 gch
Xaja
Almost two centuries have passed since the events in “Partition.” The dissidents have changed their focus from reuniting with Canada to regaining the personal freedoms lost after the Stoney Creek massacre.

Xaja put down her writing instrument and massaged her hand. “I can’t believe people actually used this method to prepare hard copy. I’ve been at it for thirty minutes and all I have to show for cramped fingers is my name. Look!” She picked up the piece of paper and waved in the direction of her brother. “Adon, turn around and see what I’ve done.”

Adon turned the sound down on his terminal and swivelled his chair around. “Hold it still so I can see it.” He saw a piece of paper from the printer, blank except for the messy word X A J A printed in the centre. “Not bad, but if you wanted a sign, why not print one up? It’d be faster and, if you don’t mind me saying so, a damn sight neater.” Turning back to his computer, he continued, “Why this sudden interest in that – whatever it’s called?”

“You know I don’t like talking to your back. Turn around, please.” He swung around again, then she continued. “According to something I saw on the computer today, this is how things were printed before computers. It’s called . . . let me think . . . “ she paused. “Let’s see. ‘Handwriting!’ That’s it. And people used it to prepare documents.”

Adon laughed. “Right. Next you’ll be telling me Shakespeare did all his plays that way. Xi, think about it. You just spent half an hour on those four characters. At that rate, old Willie would never have finished one play. Just the title ‘King Gord’ would have taken an hour. Trust me on this sis, William Shakespeare used a word processor.” He laughed again. “One more thing to consider: how else could he have made copies for the actors? You can’t honestly believe they were all done by hand? Sorry sis, whatever you read was wrong.”

Xaja sat, still rubbing her hand. There were times she thought her brother purposely tried to belittle every single thing she tried and she was certain this was one of those times. His logic was flawed. It was common knowledge the first computers didn’t arrive from the Orient until the late eighteenth century. That being the case, it was impossible for Shakespeare to have used one. Nothing else made sense, despite Adon’s comments.

She stated at the page she had laboured over and tried to imagine a world without computers; a world where all documents were prepared by hand. How would such a world function? First, a logical assumption would be than not everyone had mastered the art of handwriting. There obviously would be specialists in the field, just as there were specialists now. More than likely, people would visit this “writer” and dictate their message to a disc recorder. They would then return later for the hard copy. Yes, that made sense. The longer she considered it, the more sense it made. These professionals would do the actual handwriting, while other people carried on in their own areas of expertise. After all, there was a university degree called “Doctor of Letters.” It was mostly honorary now, but at one time it must have been granted to the “writers.” The thought staggered her. These ancients had doctorates to ply their trade and here she had been thinking it would be easy.

“Hey, Xaja. I found something interesting here about your new hobby. Come see this.”

“Read it to me.”

Adon peered at the screen. “This says that handwriting was first invented in the nineteenth century by somebody named ‘Job’. Hey! Seeing how long you took with just four characters, maybe that’s the origin of the saying ‘the patience of Job’!” He paused and glanced at his sister. Seeing no reaction, he continued. “It says the invention (or discovery) caused a panic among printer manufacturers.”

“Dear Adon. Sometimes you are so gullible. What, are you hooked into some fantasy site? Brother mine, think back to your school history. Job invented the telephone in the late 1600’s.” She shook her head. Adon had always been the one to believe everything he saw on the screen, even if it completely contradicted the previous screen. But this was something special in that he was researching her latest interest rather than laughing at it. She picked up the writing instrument. “According to the antique dealer who sold me this, um, ‘pen,’ handwriting predates computers. He said . . .” Xaja paused as both computers chimed. The screens blinked as their data disappeared and was replaced with an image of the Parliament Buildings, which had the words “Special Bulletin” superimposed.

“Now what?” grumbled Adon. “Did the PM pass gas or something?” As he spoke the image changed to show the minister responsible for the Bureau of Investigative Activities. She looked up from her notes.

“Good evening. This will be a brief statement and there will be a few questions afterward.

“Today, we have decoded the disk found taped to the front doors of Chatham City Hall two days ago. At this time we will not release the contents of that disk. From our inquiries, we have determined this was the action of a single individual. Thank you.”

The reporters gathered before her were silent for a moment, then “Madame Minister, could you perhaps tell us if the disk contained one document or several and, do you have a suspect in mind, and if so, would you tell us the name of this person?”

The minister smiled. “When I said a few questions, I didn’t think they’d all come from one person in one breath. There was one document with a total of ninety-five clauses or demands. An eyewitness has identified one Marter Luthin of Tilbury as the person responsible.

“I think that should answer all your queries. We will issue further bulletins as more information becomes available. Now, good night, ladies and gentlemen of the media.”
The screen went blank.

Xaja stated at Adon. “Marter! What has he gone and done now?”

Adon shook his head. “Who knows Xi. With him it could be just about anything, but from the tone of the announcement it sounds as if he’s stirred up major trouble for all of us this time, although I certainly hope it’s just a case of the government over-reacting.”

Adon turned to his computer and set about surfing the newsnets, searching for more information. His search revealed only that all the private nets as well as the public one, were carrying repeats of the Minister’s brief announcement. Of course, they all had their own tame talking heads attempting to decipher “what it all meant.” That none of them had seen the disk or its contents didn’t matter. They were being paid by the net to sound intelligent and knowledgeable, so they were going to earn their keep.

A little icon in the top corner began flashing. This was tied to an e-mail address that very few people knew of and messages could only be left after the sender entered a special code. Adon suspended his surfing and clicked on the icon. “Xaja, you need to read this as well.”

Xaja turned from her monitor and joined her brother. “Who’s it from?”

Adon looked at the coding at the top. “Wes.”

“What’s he have to say for himself?”

Adon quickly scanned the message before answering. “He says it wasn’t Marter, that Marter was nowhere near Chatham that night. They were both in Toronto. He doesn’t know who did it, but says he’s confirmed the so-called “eyewitnesses” are employed by the Bureau of Investigative Activities. He feels this is a set-up and they’re using it as a pretext to go after Marter.”

Xaja sighed. “Poor Marter. If he’d only learn when to shut up, he could accomplish so much more. But, for some reason he seems to think that by being loud and disruptive, he can effect great changes.

“Hasn’t he learned anything from the past? Didn’t the ill-fated revolt Louis Riel Dumont led have anything to say to him? Did he not scan the history of Yorkland at the time of the Dumont Rebellion and see how thoroughly it was crushed? Or look at the first citizens’ revolt, the Albert Johnston uprising, the one put down by Vanessa Anderson?”

Adon shook his head slowly. “I don’t think Marter is even aware Dumont tried to overthrow the government or that there was a previous attempt. Maybe I should send a link to his website.”

“And how do you plan on doing that without getting caught? By carrier pigeon? Come on Adon, you know how dangerous that would be, especially now that they’re looking for Marter.”

“Xi, Xi, I’m not that stupid. I’m just saying it might be an idea if someone could teach Marter a bit of history. Don’t worry little sister, I won’t do anything foolish.” That last was more a dig at her size than the fact he was the older of the two. She was petite while he towered close to two metres tall. Adon resumed his surfing and Xaja returned to her handwriting, each thinking their own thoughts.

Since the abortive Dumont attempt, Yorkland had increasingly become a police state. Vanessa Anderson’s stated goal of a standing army equal to five percent of the population had long ago been surpassed. Adon and his sister were involved with – in fact were the actual leaders of – a group dedicated to restoring the personal freedoms enjoyed prior to the appearance on the scene of one Louis Riel Dumont. Both siblings were aware that Marter Luthin was a loose cannon and was advocating another citizen’s revolt, and both were also aware that, especially in view of the restrictions placed upon the citizenry, such armed revolt would meet the same fate as the first two. Their plans were more subtle and of a longer range than a simple uprising.

They were also aware that the second Riel Rebellion had been brought down through the actions of a mole on the central committee. That mole had been their great-grandfather, Paul Milton. Politics being a family heritage, Adon and Xaja worked within the system, near the edge of legality, but strictly within the system. Several decades ago, the government had relaxed some of the restrictions imposed and allowed “free” elections again, although in most ridings, there were few opposition candidates. The only similarity between their plan and that of Louis Riel Dumont was that theirs too depended upon an election being called. The group headed by the brother and sister team wasn’t concentrated in Toronto, but was spread out across all of Yorkland. It, unlike the Dumont cabal, was overt rather than covert.

The siblings were able to function openly because they had registered as a political party, which they called the New Freedom Party. At the moment, neither was head of that party, but were listed in the documents as members of the executive committee. This is why their final success or failure depended upon an election being called.

Finally, the government did call an election. The polls, rigged of course, showed the government had an approval rating of over sixty percent, so there appeared to be no danger of losing power. This was the moment the group had been waiting for. The day following the dropping of the writ, the head of the NFP resigned and named Xaja leader pro tem and the executive committee very quickly made that permanent.

One reason the government had run without opposition was their use of strong-arm tactics. Opposing candidates were bullied or frightened into withdrawing from the race. On some occasions, particularly stubborn candidates met with unfortunate accidents. As much as they were reluctant to do so, after losing several candidates to fatal incidents, such as brake failure on winding roads, Xaja and Adon agreed they would have to adapt the same tactics if they were to stand any chance at all in the upcoming election.

The campaign was more a verbal donnybrook than reasoned and impassioned rhetoric. The candidates for the governing party, rather than tell the people what they would do, spent most of their time smearing the New Freedom Party candidates. While the NFP candidates for the most part stuck with the party platform, rather than retaliate directly, there were allusions to the past performance and heavy-handedness of their worthy opponent and the party they chose to represent.

For most voters, the campaign couldn’t end soon enough. While they were interested in what the New Freedom Party had to say, they couldn’t take the mudslinging from the ruling party, not could they take the intimidation factor.

Political gatherings, as with churches, had been excluded from the ban on assemblies, but were monitored closely. All-candidate meetings often consisted of the government candidate, the NFP candidate, loyal supporters of the government, the family and close friends of the NFP candidate and a dozen or so soldiers around the assemblage. Cowed by the presence of the military, those few ordinary voters who did venture in usually remained silent.

Among the supporters of the NFP were some members of the military. These came from all ranks and had formed a loose association. When the election was called, they were aware that, should the NFP actually win a majority, they may have to take quick action to prevent the newly defeated government attempting to stage a coup. Consequently they had made plans that those they considered loyal to the NFP, or to Xaja herself, would be not only on base, but armed, on election day.

The day of the election was bright and sunny, belying the tension felt by the citizens of Yorkland. The media, who had been keeping track of the campaign, were saying this could be the most important election in the short history of Yorkland. At the polling stations, the government’s intimidation continued, with armed soldiers being very visible at the entrances. There were few incidents, although several people were hustled off in custody before they had a chance to cast their ballot. A reporter on the scene noted that those who were detained all wore campaign buttons from the NFP candidate in that particular riding, but wisely did not include that fact in his report.

Yorkland, because of it’s size, was all in one time zone, so all the polls closed at the same time, therefore the results began flowing very soon after that hour. Initial results showed the government would retain its hold on power. The major media outlets, never willing to bite the hand that feeds them, or in this case allowed them to exist, were quick to declare the government had won the election. Thirty minutes later the talking heads and pundits were scrambling to explain the sudden surge in votes for the NFP and the fact they appeared to have taken several key ridings. Many variations of “it’s not over until it’s over” were heard through the media over the next hour or so, as the NFP collected riding after riding.

Keeping tabs on the election results, the ranking officer of the NFP cabal in the military mobilized his men, ordering them to keep the commanding officers of their respective bases under close confinement. This resulted in several irate colonels yelling at lower ranks when orders to stand down were refused. It also brought a few surprises when the base commander revealed that he too supported the NFP and would cause no problems for the other supporters.

As had been expected, when the Prime Minister learned that not only was his party being soundly trounced by this upstart New Freedom Party, but that he’d lost his own seat to the NFP candidate, he called the man who had been his Minister of Defence, only to learn that person had also lost his seat.

The PM’s next call was to the Army Chief of Staff, General Walters. This worthy was sitting in his study listening to the election results and working on his computer when the telephone rang. He answered it to hear the Prime Minister’s panicked voice.

“General Walters! Have you been watching the election results? We can’t let this happen! We can’t lose power! Order your troops into the streets. I want the NFP ground into dust by morning. I want Xaja Milton in chains at my door by dawn!”

General Walters saved what he’d typed and turned his full attention to the former Prime Minister. “I’m sorry sir, but you are no longer the head of government according to the will of the people. Therefore you have no right to order me to do anything.” General Walters lived in the riding Xaja had contested and had in fact voted for her with a smile on his face.

General Walters had received his officer’s training at Sandhurst in England and had always disliked the way the government had used and abused what he called “his men” to maintain an iron grip on Yorkland. He couldn’t see staging a coup, which some of his junior officers had proposed on more than one occasion, but now that a truly free and honest election had ousted the regime, he was damned if he’d help it maintain power illegally. “It appears that Xaja Milton is, or will be in a few hours, the new Prime Minister of Yorkland, so I will wait and see what orders, if any, she has for me. Now, good night sir.” He hung up and returned to the monitor screen, quietly reading what he’d written.

Effective immediately, 2200 hours on this date, I order all members of the Armed Forces of Yorkland to stand down. Under no circumstances is any person of any rank to accept an order from a member or former member of the just defeated government.

As the people have chosen to elect a majority of members of the New Freedom Party, the loyalty of the Armed Forces will be to Yorkland, the Armed Forces, and the New Freedom Party.

Failure to obey this directive will be considered grounds for court-martial.

Nodding and smiling to himself, he clicked on “send” and all base commanders, as well as certain members of the cabal who’d been sent blind copies, received their instructions.

The people had also been following the election reportage with more than great interest. Once it became clear that the NFP had defeated the government, they congregated in the streets, ignoring the soldiers on patrol. The soldiers themselves, having been made aware of General Walters’s directive, in turn ignored the gathering masses, and in some cases joined them. The civilian police, reasoning that they would be unable to control these crowds without help from the army, which they could see wasn’t going to happen, contented themselves with watching and directing traffic around the mobs.

Those people who lived in Toronto gathered, not on the streets, but on the south lawn of Queen’s Park. As with those in other cities, they were peaceful, just revelling in the fact they could congregate without the soldiers disrupting or arresting them. The police on duty, after an initial slight panic over the gathering mob, resumed their normal task of guarding the entrance.

In two campaign offices, the reactions to the media coverage of this gathering were completely different. In the office of the now former Prime Minister, he was shouting “Why aren’t the police or army breaking up this demonstration? Why are they gathering at Queen’s Park anyway? That ground has been forbidden to them!” He reached for the telephone and called the Chief of Staff again. General Walters answered, heard the voice screaming at him, and hung up silently. Understanding at last that he had lost the backing of the army, and thereby his means of controlling the people, the Prime Minister accepted defeat and reached for the telephone once more. “Get me Xaja Milton.”

In Xaja’s campaign headquarters she, along with her brother and her workers and supporters were overwhelmed by the show of support and quicky decided to make an appearance. Contacting various people, they made their way in a small motorcade to Queen’s Park.

The arrival of the motorcade didn’t attract much attention from the gathered throngs until Xaja stepped out of one of the vehicles. Immediately the quiet was broken as, with one voice, the crowd shouted out her name. While they had been in transit, Xaja had accepted a call from the former Prime Minister acknowledging his loss – ungraciously, but he acknowledged it – and wishing her well.

Making her way to the steps of the legislature, Xaja waited patiently until the crowd grew quieter. One of the officers on guard duty appeared carrying a microphone for her. She accepted the offered device and thanked the officer with a smile. Turning to the crowd, she was silent for a moment, then:

“Thank you all for your support tonight. While I was on my way here, the former Prime Minister called to wish me well as I embark on my new journey.” She turned to look at the people gathered behind her on the steps. “Let me introduce to you some of these people up here with me, for some of them will play a role in how Yorkland proceeds from here.” As she called each name, the party named stepped forward. Finally, there were only two people left. “Next is my brother Adon, without who’s encouragement I couldn’t have made it this far. And finally, we have the Governor-General, who has graciously agreed to administer the Oath of Office on short notice.”

Xaja handed the microphone to the Queen’s representative and stood back while that lady stepped to the edge of the top step. “Thank you. While it is unusual for a successful party leader to be sworn in on the same night they were elected, it is not unprecedented. I won’t bore you with the historical incidents where this has happened before rather, since I can sense you’re in no mood for rhetoric, I’ll just get on with it.”

With those words, Xaja came forward once more, this time to take the oath of office, then began her inauguration speech:

“Good evening. My name is Xaja Anna Monoghan Milton. My great, great grandmother was Anna Milton, one of the architects of Yorkland. Tonight, almost two centuries after she and Vanessa Anderson started this great country on its path, we are once again at a point where Yorkland needs new direction.

“The New Freedom Party made many promises during this campaign and it gives me great pleasure to act on the first of those promises tonight. As of midnight, the imposition of the National Security and Anti-Terrorism Act, under which we’ve lived for the past one hundred and fifty years, will be repealed.”

Anything else Xaja might have had to say was lost to the roar of the crowd as the import of her words sunk in to the watchers. Thirty minutes later, once the applause and cheers had subsided, she continued “This does not mean a suspension of all laws. It means that those restrictions on assembly; on freedom of expression, and the other limitations imposed by that act will no longer be in effect. If you’re drunk in a public place, you can still expect to sober up in jail.” The crowd roared with laughter at this. “All the civil laws are still in place and will be enforced. So behave yourselves accordingly.” She paused again, surveying the crowd, then

“Since I can tell you’re all in the mood for a party, I’ll stop now. The Speech from the Throne to be delivered next week will contain more details on what the New Freedom Party plans.

“Once again, thank you all for your love and support, and Long Live Yorkland!”

The media covering this event turned off their audio equipment lest it be destroyed by the sheer volume of sound from the crowd.

Later, in their apartment, a very exhausted brother and sister watched the replays. “I can’t believe we actually did it Adon. I can’t believe we got rid of that dictator.”

Adon watched the screen. “Don’t be too sure he’s gone for good Xi. Rats like that have a habit of turning up where and when you least expect them.”
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