Monday, July 6, 2015

Sid Ryan Has A Plan

Given the odious, intrusive and likely unconstitutional nature of Bill C-377, the 'private member's' bill covered with the indelible palm prints of Stephen Harper that forces labour unions to publicly disclose how they spend their money, it would be surprising indeed if unions did not have a plan to fight back. Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which represents 54 unions, has no intention of letting this blatant sop to the Tory base slip by unopposed.

In the following, Ryan explains what could be an effective strategy going into the October election:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Earth's Future Is Our Future

While I have deeply-held spiritual beliefs, I do not for a moment think that transcendent agency was involved in humanity's appearance on the earth. In my view, we just happened to arise owing to the potential inherent in the universe for development toward greater and greater complexity. To assume otherwise is to embrace a hubris that is largely responsible for the degradation, despoliation and perhaps ultimate destruction of our habitat.

In today's paper, a Star reader Kevin Farmer effectively expresses the situation that we find ourselves in today:

Re: Cooler planet, better health, Editorial June 29
In his recent column, (“Was Rachel Dolezal on to something?”), Rick Salutin poetically captured a basic truth: “Each individual is hewn organically from material reality and returns there eventually.”

Without wanting to co-opt Salutin’s discussion of race and group identity, I wonder why we do not identify more with that “material reality” from which we are so clearly hewn; namely living Earth. In fact, I would argue we are not “hewn” from living Earth at all; rather we are expressions of it. Only our fleeting sense of self makes us feel separate.

To paraphrase Alan Watts: Life did not appear on Earth like a flock of birds alighting on a barren tree; rather life came out of that tree as its flowers. In the same way that some trees are simply flowering trees, Earth is simply a life-ing and, at least for now, a people-ing “rock.”

This claim might seem like new age fluff, but it is supported by hard science. Life simply might have been inevitable on a planet such as Earth. And while it might be fluffy to think of human life as an act of self-expression by living Earth – to think that living Earth currently “identifies” as mostly human – it is entirely reasonable to wonder why human self-expression is increasingly devoid of identification with living Earth.

So, I am perplexed by the prevailing norm to timidly frame calls for environmental action in terms of furthering our self-interest; as though there were ever any such distinction. It is true that “healing the planet will make us healthier.” But the real issue is that destroying living Earth is making us sick – more than just physically.

We do not have a clear definition of “life,” but, whatever it is, Earth is bursting with it. We are all temporary patterns in the incomprehensible flow of matter and energy that is the ecosphere of living Earth. As we disrupt and destroy this flow on a planetary scale, it should come as no surprise that what we are doing to living Earth, we are doing to ourselves.

Life on Earth might have been inevitable. But that does not mean that human life was, or is, inevitable. And, unlike birds on a tree, we cannot fly away after fouling our nest.
Ironically, as we struggle with the concepts of identity and self, it is our selfishness as “individuals” that is destroying the very wellspring of our selves: living Earth.
Who are we, really, if we knowingly continue to do this?

Kevin Farmer, Toronto

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Barbaric Practice

I have written before on the ugly and wholly indefensible slaughter of sharks so that their fins can be enjoyed as a delicacy, but now seems a good time to remind people of this barbaric practice. I just received notice of a petition from calling on the Canadian government to ban the distribution, consumption and sale of shark fins.

Please take a moment to watch the following brief video, read the ensuing explanatory text and then consider signing the petition, obtainable by clicking on the above link.

Sharks – the apex predators of the oceans – have survived 400 million years of evolution, yet many species may face extinction within our lifetime. Up to 100 million sharks are being killed every year, most often their bodies are discarded and only their fins are kept to be used in Shark Fin Soup – a delicacy in some Chinese restaurants. Over hunting of the world’s largest fish has caused severe declines among many shark species, including the iconic Great White. Currently a third of shark species are threatened with extinction, and some populations have plummeted by over 90%. Sharks are essential to the health of our oceans. As apex predators, sharks maintain a critical balance in the ocean. When sharks are eliminated, disastrous effects have been documented further down the food chain, including the collapse of commercial fisheries and the degradation of coral reefs. If sharks were to become extinct, this would have massive unintended consequences for our ocean ecosystems worldwide. Time is running out for the world’s shark populations. It is time to take a big step in preserving the world’s vital oceans by banning the sale and distribution of shark fins and shark fin products nationwide.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Shaming Those Who Deserve It - The Case Of Kim McArthur

Every picture of that I have seen of her shows Kim McArthur sporting the same smile as above, conveying the image of someone without a care in the world, a woman of clear conscience. Yet she should be troubled, just as Robbie Yuill, the subject of yesterday's post, should be. Like Yuill, it would seem McArthur is yet another deadbeat employer, refusing to pay money owed to a former employee, Chelsea Phelan-Tran.

The story begins in June of 2012, when Phelan-Tran
landed her dream job at Toronto-based book publisher McArthur & Company, run by award-winning entrepreneur Kim McArthur. Phelan-Tran, who owed $38,000 in student loans, was thrilled.

But by September, she was no longer being paid. For two months she worked for nothing, hoping things would turn around at the increasingly beleaguered business.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, expecting their first child, went into debt to the tune of $10,000. Getting no response to her email requests for payment from McArthur, Phelan-Tran finally took her complaint to the Ministry of Labour, which failed her badly.
According to ministry documents, McArthur “could not be located,” and it took until Aug. 22, 2013, to hold a fact-finding meeting on Phelan-Tran’s file. McArthur did not attend.

By that time, the publishing company had closed. But the ministry ruled that Phelan-Tran was still owed $3,500 and issued an order for McArthur to pay. The matter was sent to a private collection agency, and for a year, Phelan-Tran heard nothing.

Losing patience, she called the agency herself. The collection agent said she too had failed to locate the employer, at which point Phelan-Tran provided McArthur’s phone number and home address herself.

“She was like, 'Oh, you have that?” Phelan-Tran recalls.
This inability to locate McArthur is perplexing, given that she has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn page. As well, The Toronto Star
located McArthur’s phone number, email and home address. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and did not answer the door of her Brantford house — where her 2001 Canadian Women Entrepeneur of the Year award leaned against the front window.
Clearly, neither the ministry of Labour nor the collection agency tried very hard to find her, and this has left Phelan-Tran disillusioned:
The ordeal has left the 31-year-old Ajax mother shocked at the lack of support from those meant to work on her behalf.

“It’s a criminal act that she committed. She broke the law,” says Phelan-Tran. “She could just do it again and get away with it.”
I have nothing to add to that damning assessment.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Shaming Those Who Deserve It

Many of them probably sleep quite well at night in the belief that their unethical, criminal behaviour is likely never to see the light of day, and even if it does, it will at worst be exposed on a somewhat obscure Ministry of Labour website. Taking advantage of people seems to come naturally to them; denying workers their rightful wages perhaps even gives them some pleasure. They are employers no one should ever have to deal with. And now, some of them are finally being exposed.

Guided by the Atkinson principles (A strong and united Canada, civic engagement, individual and civil liberties, a necessary role for effective government and the rights of working people), The Toronto Star takes its mission seriously, as recently demonstrated by its exposure of two people, Robbie Elpueppeto Yuill and Kim McArthur, for their refusal to pay their employees the wages they are owed.

Let's start with the experience that Kris Kadas had at the hands of Mr. Yuill, the operator of a small restaurant called Grilled Cheese in Toronto's Kensington Market. Kadas says he is owed backpay of $856.75, part of what he says are thousands of dollars owed to a handful of workers:
In a string of text messages Kadas showed the Star, between himself and a phone number that former workers identified as belonging to The Grilled Cheese owner Robbie Yuill, Kadas repeatedly asked for the owed money.

The texts he got back included: “Hey why don’t you come over here stand right in front of me my brothers want to talk to you too.”

Kadas fought back, telling Yuill: “you need to treat your workers better,” but he still received no pay.
Kadas went on to post his experience on Reddit, advising people not to patronize the business, now temporarily closed owing, one assumes, to the adverse publicity generated. Kadas sees this closing as a ploy:
As of yesterday the doors have been locked and the owner is nowhere to be found. He has done this before and reopened with a new team only to screw them over as well. When and if the place becomes operational again please do not give your money to a terrible person.

Global News took up the crusade, and filed this report:

After that report was aired, other former employees came forward:

Exposing corrupt practices to the light of day through both social and mainstream media may be the best way to remedy them. As you will see in my next installment, which looks at the shameful behaviour of Kim McArthur, orders issued by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to pay wages owed often go unheeded.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

..... Canada Day

I wish that I could have inserted 'Happy' in front of today's title, but for reasons too obvious to discuss, I couldn't. However I will say this: may next year find all Canadians in circumstances whereby we can freely use that adjective in a heartfelt salutation to our country.

Meanwhile, allow me to offer the following to observe this day:

And my most heartfelt wish: