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.

Kellyanne Conway explained

INTENDED AS HUMOUR OR SARCASM AND NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

As a Canadian and not directly involved in the recent American election, I’ve refrained from commenting on the fallout from the results of that election except for the occasional snarky comment of other people’s Facebook posts. To be honest, Donald Trump scares the living hell out of me.  But Kellyanne Conway and some of her bizarre comments are just too tempting to resist.

If you read or watch science fiction, you are no doubt aware of the concept of alternate universes.  This concept goes a long way to explaining her comments, specifically the “Bowling Green Massacre.”    It should be obvious to even the most casual follower of news and/or politics that she is not from this planet.

An alternate universe would easily explain her comments.  In our universe (the “real” universe) Bowling Green is known as the location of GM’s Corvette assembly line.  But, in the universe usually inhabited by Ms Conway, it was the scene of a terrible massacre by terrorists.

The problem isn’t that she’s using alternative facts, it’s that with her ability to engage in interdimensional travel, she sometimes forgets which universe she’s occupying.  There, problem solved and her weird statements explained.  Think about it – what else makes sense.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too, no matter what universe we inhabit.

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.

Wrong way to do it

I’ve held off writing this for a couple of days because I wanted to calm down before I did so. By now you’ve no doubt heard or read of the stunt Black Lives Matter Toronto pulled during the annual Pride Parade last Sunday, July 3.

If you haven’t, here’s a synopsis of what occurred: Black Lives Matter had been invited to lead the Pride Parade this year. At a point about half-way through the route, at the intersection of Yonge Street and College Avenue in mid-town Toronto, they staged a sit-in. The purpose of this action was to have list of demands acceded to by “the powers that be”, but what it did do was piss off a lot of people and cost them whatever good will they had amassed. After 30 minutes of holding up the parade, the executive director of Pride Toronto signed their demands just to get things moving again.

There were many demands from what I could see in a brief screen shot of the document. Among them was a demand for greater representation of black queer youth on the Pride committee. Let’s take a look at this one before I continue on to the one that really had me worked up (still does, but I’m trying to contain my anger). As I understand it, Pride is a volunteer organisation. If there is a dearth of representation in any volunteer organisation from a particular segment of the population, that is usually because nobody from that group is stepping up to volunteer.. If BLM wants more black representation on the Pride committee, rather than demand it be made so, they should instead light a fire under the people they want to see on that committee so they will volunteer.

Their other major demand concerns law enforcement. In their written demands, they stated they don’t want police floats in the parade any more. LGBT members of the force can march in the parade, but not in uniform. An officer interviewed by several of the news reporters in Toronto indicated he was proud of both being gay and a cop. I’ve heard on the news since that BLM modified that demand and now want zero police presence at future Pride Parades, not even for security.

I originally thought the sit-in in was a foolish action, but this last statement just proves their stupidity knows no bounds. This parade attracts in the order of a million people watching it each year. Now, Toronto, and Canada, are usually very accepting, or at least tolerant, of LGBT people. Many of the people on the sidelines come from parts of the world – and yes, I’m looking south of the Great Lakes when I write this – where such tolerance isn’t quite as common. The police are there for crowd control. While it is only a possibility, can you see everything being as peaceful without the police presence? I’m going to jump to the extreme now with this “no law enforcement” thing BLM wants. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked the parade route accompanied by Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Justin was also accompanied by some bodyguards. Would BLM do away with them as well? After all, they are law enforcement.

I’ve seen BLM in action in Toronto before, during another sit-in outside police headquarters. As in the case at the Pride Parade, they seem to make demands they know can’t, or won’t, be met. At the demonstration in the spring, they wanted to know the names of two officers involved in a shooting. The officers were eventually cleared by the Special Investigations Unit, a provincial agency that investigates all cases involving police wjen there is serious injury or death. This time it’s the complete removal of all police from the Pride events. They know in advance that demands like this will be ignored, but that will give them another opportunity to scream “racism” when the demands are denied.

In an interview today, the executive director of Pride Toronto admits he only signed the paper to get the parade moving again. He also pointed out that Pride is much bigger than Black Lives Matter and his signature on that document means nothing until the committee can discuss the issue.

Staging their demonstration along the route to disrupt the parade served only to wash any credibility BLM had down the sewers at Yonge and College. That, coupled with the demands for more black representation and less (zero) police leads me to the conclusion they want to sabotage Pride Toronto. A bit of jealousy perhaps because Pride gets so much public attention while it seems only the media pay attention to them. I would be willing to put money on the possibility that Black Lives Matter isn’t invited back next year.

Yes, black lives matter – all lives matter. But tactics such as they’ve used in two separate demonstrations this year will only alienate, not attract, those people who they want to support them.

Cat.

Walls to the south of us, walls to the north

We’ve all heard Donald Trump talk about a wall between Mexico and the US. But how many of us remember long gone Republican candidate Scott Walker suggested a wall between the US and Canada.

Having spent perhaps three minutes considering his idea, it is very obvious this man is intellectually unable to fulfil his current elected position. Think about the physical problems such a wall would entail and tell me you don’t agree with my assessment. Let’s start with the simple fact such a wall would be at least 5,000 miles long – more if he wants to wall off Alaska from those pesky Canadians. And don’t expect Canada to pay for it.

Did Walker consider that the only road access to Alaska runs through – guess where – Canada! Another little problem there with the wall and land access is Port Robert Washington. It’s stuck on a peninsula on the south coast of British Columbia and once again, the only land access is through B C. If you’re driving, you need to clear Canada Customs at one of the ports of entry south of Vancouver, then go through US customs when you get to Port Robert. Unless there’s a wall in the way, in which case someone will have to institute a ferry service from mainland Washington and avoid customs all together.

Across the prairies there doesn’t seem to be any unusual pitfalls. At least not until you get to the Great Lakes. This vast inland freshwater sea is where his plan really starts to fall apart. Look at a map and you’ll see the border runs approximately down the middle of the lakes and connecting waterways. There are three possibilities – the Canadian shore, the American shore, or follow the border exactly. And there are problems with all three. I can’t see either Canada or the US being willing to cede even one foot of territory for this wall. The third choice – following the border – has the additional pitfall that Lake Superior is 900 feet deep in places. That’s a lot of bricks. The border also runs down the centre, more or less, of the St Lawrence River. Again, same problem.

Now that we’re in the eastern part of the continent, he’d start running into other problems. Straddling the Canadian/US border, as well as the Ontario/Quebec border is the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve. Can’t see the Mohawks agreeing to a wall down the middle of the St Lawrence because it would interfere with their “extra-legal imports”. When the border cuts inland on the south shore, things really reach migraine status for our unthinking politician. Many small towns and villages in Quebec and bordering states actually straddle the border, In some cases, where the house was built before the border was set, it isn’t unusual for the kitchen to be in one country and the living room to be in the other. Derby Line Vermont comes to mind as a place where this happens.

I can’t think of any major problems, other than rivers, between New Brunswick and Maine, to cause our politician grief, other than the mutual co-operation that exists between Calais Maine and the corresponding Canadian city (the name of which escapes me, but I think it might be St, Stephen NB).

So, if three minutes thought gives me this many flaws in his suggestion, do you really want to vote for him again?

Cat.

Be afraid – your future is at stake

I wasn’t sure I wanted to post this, but what the hell.  As a blogger and writer, if I’m not upsetting people and/or making them think, I’m not doing it right. And I’ve taken  flak before.  After one posting I had my intelligence compared unfairly to that of a turnip, but I know that on a good day I can outsmart that turnip two times out of three.  First off, I’m Canadian, so the results of the upcoming presidential election shouldn’t have any direct effect on me.  But, as a thinking human being, I am also aware that what happens south of the 49th parallel will affect my country as well.  As a result, I’ve paid some attention to what is happening in the primaries, especially the Republican campaign.  I’ve stayed away from commenting on the campaigns so, far, but I think it’s time I voiced my opinion.

I’ll admit Donald Trump scares me.  From what I’ve seen and heard, he is preaching a gospel of hate.  Talk of building a wall along the US/Mexican border; banning all Muslim immigrants from the country and now, in the wake of Brussels, increasing police presence in Muslim areas and around mosques doesn’t exactly sound presidential.  Throw in his attitudes towards torture and this is one scary man.  If you notice, he keeps talking about “making America great again” and “getting Isis”, yet I’ve never heard him offer one single detail of how he will accomplish this other than “nuke ‘em”.   Talking with friends, most agree that if elected, Trump would drag the world into another war.  Most put the time frame for that at somewhere between six and fifteen months.  And unlike previous wars, this time America would be in the crosshairs which means Canada would also be hit.

As much as Trump scares me, Ted Cruz absolutely terrifies me. He too favours using nuclear weapons in the middle east (“I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’ll find out”). This man is an evangelical Christian from all reports, which is a dangerous character flaw for a politician because they tend to follow their teachings rather than common sense when dealing with matters of state.  One report stated that if elected, he would establish a national church, which I understand is in direct conflict with the Constitution.  Yesterday, during an interview, one of his aides stated that Senator Joe McCarthy had the right idea with the House Un-American Activities Committee – the “Red Scare” of the 1950’s – and it should be re-instated.

Picture this: If Cruz were to win and establish this national religion; and the aide wasn’t speaking his personal opinion on HUAC, we could be looking at America becoming a theocracy.  And no doubt the reborn HUAC would be used to root out heretics (“are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Episcopalian Church?”).

Cruz also favours increased security in Muslim areas and other xenophobic measures.

Both men seem to favour isolationist policies (other than bombing the middle east) based on their comments about building walls and banning  immigrants.  My view is that  the world would take care of that for them because if either were to actually follow through on their exclusionary rhetoric, most of the world would boycott America.

Those who follow American politics and have a better understanding of how the system works have told me that in the unlikely event either man does become the next President, the system would prevent them from instituting their more radical ideas.  I certainly hope so.

But, in the event they are wrong, Ontario is a nice place to live and winters aren’t really that bad.

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.

From the campaigns

At the moment, there is a campaign for an upcoming federal election in Canada and at the same time the Republicans are trying to decide who will front their party in the next American federal election. As with any campaign, there are things being said that, taken at face value, defy all logic or in some cases, legality.

Let’s look at the Canadian campaign first. Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister (although I frequently call him “King Stephen the first of Canada) is saying that he will increase the size of the army reserve by 25% during his next mandate (should he get one). One problem with making that promise Stevie. The Canadian Army Reserve is a volunteer force. How are you going to persuade 6,000 people to join the reserves? Offer them a signing bonus like major league sports teams do? Where’s the money going to come from – money that could be used to help solve our homeless problems here at home? Sorry Stevie, you’re grasping at straws and tailoring your promises to your audience. This was made in New Brunswick, where Canadian Forces Base Gagetown is a big employer.

Now, south of the border. The Donald (who else) is once again proving you should engage your brain before putting your mouth in motion. According to an article I read, he says he would deport the American born children of illegal immigrants. I don’t claim to be an expert on American law, but as I understand it, if someone is born on American soil, they are automatically American citizens. If so, how could he deport them – they are already in their native land. And how could he revoke the citizenship of natural-born American? They don’t hold dual citizenship – they were born in the USA – so there is no place to send them.

Sounds to me as if he’s doing the same thing as Harper and tailoring his comments to his audience. That won’t work all the time because some people don’t blindly accept what they hear. So, no matter on which side of the border you’re reading this, take anything any politician says with a grain or two of salt. It may spoil the taste a bit, but think about it – how can they do what they’re promising without the co-operation of the rest of the legislative body (Congress or Parliament) or the public?

When the time comes, get out and vote – the future of your country depends upon you having your say at the polling booth.

Cat.

Je suis Charlie

The horrific terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris today was an attack on free speech everywhere. Why so? Can you honestly believe the vicious nature of this attack won’t make journalists everywhere consider what they write, or in the case of editorial cartoonists draw, before submitting it for publication?

Those of us who write blogs here on WordPress or other sites are usually anonymous unless we choose to reveal our identities. Some of us use that anonymity to take shots at various institutions that others may consider sacrostant. We rely on our avatars and screen names to keep us safe from retribution and use filters to prevent adverse or threatening comments from appearing following our offerings.

The journalists and artists at Charlie Hebdo didn’t have that privilege. When you publish a newspaper, of any type, your name appears on your copy. I understand from news reports that Charlie Hebdo made a habit of aggravating the Muslim community to the extent the office was firebombed in 2011. Today’s massacre seems to have been the culmination of that aggravation, especially considering the murderers were heard yelling (in French) “we have avenged the Prophet Mohammed” and, in Arabic, “Allahu akbar”.

Like it or not, or accept it or not, we bloggers are journalists reporting on the vagaries of life around us. Sometimes we talk about major events – in my case I had great fun ripping into the former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford and I have received much praise for my on-going series “Bring him to justice” – and sometimes it’s just the little things that irk us personally. But in any case, we are reporting on news for the benefit of others.

There have been many vigils around the world tonight in honour of the staff of Charlie Hebdo. Many people are holding up pens and signs reading “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). Take a few moments after you read this to honour the memory of these people, our fellow journalists, who paid the ultimate price for freedom of speech.

Cat.

O Canada what have you done?

Stevie and the court jesters have, in my opinion, gone ‘way too far this time.  Here’s the link to an editorial in The Toronto Star of Saturday, January 3, 2015: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/01/03/a_bad_year_for_canadian_citizenship.html

In this article, Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander is quoted as saying “Citizenship is not a right, it’s a privilege”. Um, excuse me Mr Alexander, perhaps you were Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan too long for you seem to have adopted some of the attitudes of that country. Under new rules just brought in, a Canadian citizen who either holds dual citizenship or can claim citizenship of another country through birth or other reasons can be stripped of their Canadian citizenship if they are convicted of treason, terrorism or espionage anywhere in the world.

What is truly terrifying about this is that whereas in the past, such citizenship actions would have to go through the courts, these actions are now at the discretion of the Minister.  No courts, no chance to plead your case, just the Minister’s opinion of whether or not you deserve to be able to call yourself a Canadian.

Let’s get silly here for a moment.  If I were to commit one of the actions listed above (although considering the number of times I’ve ripped into the Harper government in the past, jaywalking might do for a reason) I could be stripped of my Canadian citizenship.  I can claim American citizenship because both my mother and maternal grandfather were born in the US.  That I was born in Canada, raised and educated in Canada, paid Canadian taxes and served in the Canadian Armed Forces wouldn’t matter.  I committed some heinous act and the Minster (who also happens to be the Member of Parliament for my riding) decided I no longer held the privilege of calling myself Canadian.  Fortunately for me I am a law-abiding citizen – except for the jaywalking thing – so I‘m not too worried.  Otherwise I doubt that the next time CSIS came knocking, they would be carrying a pizza and a bottle of wine.

Since they obtained an absolute majority in the last federal election, the Harper government has been running rough-shod over the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and this is just the latest example. There is a federal election next year and I’ll tell you right now that if any party promises to rescind this horrible, discriminatory law, they’ve got my vote.

Have a safe and happy 2015 and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat