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.


From the Monday morning news sites

1 – We here in Canada and the US can, if we so choose, criticize our governments freely in our blogs.  I haven’t done so recently, but when the Conservatives had a minority, more  issues made the news before they were passed and I had no problems ripping into the government if I felt they were wrong, or trying to mislead the public.  I’m sure there are others out there, on both sides of the 49th parallel, who do so as well.   I came across an  item on the CP24 news site this morning that said three bloggers in Vietnam have been sentenced to terms ranging from 4 to 12 years for writing blogs critical of the government.  Sorta helps remind us just how much freedom of speech we really do have, doesn’t it?

2 – There is a big furor at the moment, created by first year art students in Toronto.  Again, from the CP 24 news site (although I’ve seen the exact same article on other sites, so it’s obvious from Canadian Press), these students are, rightfully in my opinion, upset that they are being asked to spend $180 for an art text that contains no art.  Where the art should be, there are blank spaces.  Students are expected to go online and find the art there.  According to someone from the book industry or university interviewed for this, the alternative was to put the art in and charge $800 for the text.  Art class with no art.  About the only thing sillier would be an instrumental music course with no instruments or music.

3 – Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, went to Chicago for two days last week.  This was a city trip and involved himself and some councillors and was intended to improve ties between the two cities.  Robbie hosts a radio show every Sunday on one of the Toronto stations.  As part of yesterday’s show, he claimed the trip wouldn’t cost city taxpayers “a dime”.  Once again, this man is off on his own little planet.  It may not cost “a dime”, but what about the dollars some of the councillors will claim for expenses on this trip.  Robbie is wealthy and could (and may have) paid his own way, but if he thinks other city councillors are going to do that, he’s dreaming.  His visit received little to no media coverage outside of the Toronto media entourage who also made the trip.  NBC Chicago, according to an article on the Toronto Star news site today, posted a blog calling Robbie “obnoxious”.  As a commenter said, “how bad do you have to be to have an American call you ‘obnoxious’?”

And, under “biting the hand that feeds you” file, Robbie and brother City Councillor Doug ripped into media coverage of his domestic screwups, such as improperly using city property and staff for personal uses.  Among the media mentioned was the very station hosting their show.  Dougie is about as dense and self-centred as his brother and mistook a newsbreak for an ad criticizing the Ford trip to Chicago.

Just think – Toronto is stuck with them for another two years.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.