Sunday, August 1, 2021

In Loving Memory


"It's All Your Fault"

Start at about the 55 second-mark for an uncomfortable look in the mirror. We should all feel a shudder of recognition and realize our collective responsibility is hardly limited to the things articulated by this lady.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Writing Is On The Wall (And In The Newspapers)


H/t Patrick Corrigan

The is such a wealth of good letters to the editor today that I had a hard time choosing what to reproduce. 

They have one thing in common: the need for vaccine certificates is great, Doug Ford's refusal notwithstanding.

Re Vaccine passports should be on Ford’s list, July 28; Vaccine passports can prevent lockdowns, July 27 

Emma Teitel and Matt Elliott have each provided excellent arguments for the necessity and benefits of Ontario having vaccine passports.

I couldn’t agree more.

Let me remind the freedom-doubters there are numerous rights we all readily give up because they support order and public safety.

For example, you cannot legally drive your car out of your driveway without a valid driver’s license and car insurance.

Those who freely choose not to go by these conditions simply forfeit their right to drive on our public roads.

Similarly, those who freely choose not to get vaccinated, and thus obtain a vaccine passport, simply forfeit their right to mingle with the rest of us at a restaurant patio, a movie theatre, or a Blue Jay’s game.

And they certainly forfeit their right to work in our health-care settings or in our schools.

Ivan Brown, Toronto

I disagree strongly with the Ford government’s assertion that Ontario has no need for a vaccination passport.

People refuse to take a vaccine based on conspiracy theories that are unbelievable.

Those who refuse are putting the rest of us at risk, themselves at risk, their friends and family at risk, and most of all, they are going to clog up the healthcare system even more.

If it takes a passport to move some of these people off their unfounded theories, then that’s what we need.

Carl Irwin, Flesherton, Ont.

When most of the public overwhelmingly wants a vaccine passport in place, the premier of our province won’t step up to the plate.

He doesn’t want to offend a small segment of society by implementing the only way we will ultimately beat this virus.

While food service businesses, schools, long-term care, hospitals and scores of smaller service enterprises struggle to survive due to lax vaccine policies, the premier waffles as he refuses to do the right thing and make decisions that will save lives and jobs.

It’s time for Doug Ford to be the responsible parent and do the right thing.

Marion Bartlett, Singhampton, Ont.

Re A big tent of COVID misinformation, July 24 

The best incentive for vaccinations is a person’s job and the capacity to participate in the daily life of one’s choosing — as prescribed elsewhere, where the leaders are actually informed and not like our poorly educated premier, lack of vaccination comes with a price, literally.

No entry to restaurants, concerts, anywhere that crowds gather; no return to working without proof of full vaccination … what kind of privacy or rights come with the risk of infecting others and endangering our city, our province, the world?

Maybe the premier is blind to the reality that we all live. Perhaps his business ties blind him to the world apart from profit and cronyism. Blindness is the theme. But blindness in this case can be cured.

Joel Greenberg, Studio 180 Theatre

Let’s take a critical look at the antivaxxers and anti-lockdown adherents to examine whose civil liberty they are actually protecting.

Putting others at risk of infection and sabotaging vaccine clinics interferes with the rights of others to be protected from COVID-19.

It also jeopardizes the goal of reaching herd immunity and the possibility of going back to some degree of normalcy.

Not only are these people interfering with the civil liberties of those who want protection from the virus, they are also shooting themselves in the foot by increasing the likelihood of more lockdowns.

If the anti-vaxxers adherents are so vehemently opposed to lockdowns, has it not occurred to them that, if they were to get vaccinated, it would be a great way to help prevent the closings?

But that won’t happen as logical thinking is clearly absent among these folk.

Catherine Helwig, Toronto

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Certitude Of The Profoundly Ignorant

Throughout this pandemic, much praise has rightly been given to the tireless frontline healthcare workers who have put themselves and their families at risk trying to keep others alive. The widespread distribution of vaccines has made their jobs a bit easier, except for the fact that many people still refuse the shot based on "their own research" and other such dubious justifications. Indeed, some are adamant that they will not allow the government to tell them what to do.

Were it not for the fact that their refusals put everyone at risk of exposure to new variants against which vaccines may proof ineffective, I would say leave them alone and let nature take its course. Complicating matters, however, is another group that more directly puts vulnerable people at deadly risk: healthcare workers who shun the shot. 

In the following clip (please start at the eight-minute mark), four such people speak with great certitude about their 'reasons' for not getting the jab. Although supposedly educated people, these women seem especially benighted.

Should those ladies have access to The New York Times, I would strongly suggest they and their fellow covidiots read this article about those who wish they had gotten the shot for themselves and their loved ones.

The Upper Hand

 We certainly do live in strange times, eh?

H/t Theo Moudakis

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Theatre Of The Absurd

Who will rescue me from the depths of cynicism this pandemic has ensnared me in? The simplest solution, of course, would be not to watch things like the following, but trainwrecks and covidiots exert their own strange, pernicious pull.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Barbarians At The Gate

My preoccupation of late has been with those who refuse to get vaccinated, people who blithely and recklessly pose a hazard to all of us. Not surprisingly, much of that ilk is also adamantly opposed to vaccine certificates/passports. And for some reason beyond my ability to fathom, their voices have been heard over those of sane people.

This, and a conversation I had yesterday, has led me to wonder about the documentation that will be required when Americans begin crossing into Canada on August 9.  It is a date we should look upon with some trepidation.

Yesterday I walked over to a local store to buy some milk. En route, I ran into the manager of the garage where I take my car for servicing. As we chatted about Covid and related matters, he told me something one of his customers had relayed to him. Said customer has a cousin from the U.S. planning a visit. The cousin, an avid and rabid anti-vaxxer, said he has bought fake vaccination certificates online (most likely on the Dark Web, where they are readily available) for $75 each. Said customer told his cousin that he wouldn't be letting him into his house.

So the question is, what precautions are the Canadian government and Canadian Border Services taking to detect counterfeit certificates? Sadly, the answer is not especially encouraging.

Relying on questioning and 'intelligence' to ferret out the fakes leaves too much to chance. In its zeal to welcome back Americans, the federal government seems willing to put some of the gains we have made in our Covid battle at risk. I doubt the electorate would cheer such recklessness.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A Much-Needed Solution

If you have been reading this blog lately, you will likely know the low opinion I hold of those who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Despite rising cases of the much more contagious and lethal Delta variant, the statistics regarding the vaccine-resistant barely change. 

What is a sane, reasonably intelligent person to do, given that these people seem to be dictating the agenda?

Matt Elliott thinks he has the answer.

Ontario’s public health units have done a bang-up job of getting us vaccinated. But there’s a stubborn percentage that won’t get the shots. With variants circulating and Ontario reopening, it seems plausible this unvaccinated part of the population could give us escalating case counts and — the real red flag to worry about — increasing hospitalization numbers.

If that does happen, a return to general lockdowns would be really hard to take. Those of us who dutifully followed the rules for more than a year and got our shots at the first opportunity will rightly raise hell if this government moves to restrict us again. The obvious thing to do instead would be restrict activities based on vaccination status.

Leave the province largely open for people who have received their vaccines. Limit activities for those who have made the choice to leave themselves more vulnerable to a virus that could overwhelm the hospital system again. And protect those, like young children and people with legitimate diagnosed health conditions, who remain vulnerable to COVID-19 and aren’t able to get vaccinated. 

Unfortunately, here in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has ruled out that option. Whether for reasons ideological, political or cognitive, he has said that he doesn't want a divided society, but that is exactly what he already has, and the problem will only get worse. With his own limited abilities, he may even think that restricting access to restaurants, movie theatres, nightclubs, concert and sports venues, etc. will hurt the commercial bottom line, but if another lockdown becomes necessary, that is exactly what will happen.

We are told by various experts that we need to cajole, empathize with and show compassion toward the recalcitrant. In my mind, once the carrot fails, it is time to wield the stick.

Vaccine passports are the best solution for our troubled times.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Tyranny Of The Minority

A great deal has been recently written in various media about vaccine certificates, both for and against their use. The arguments are pretty basic: such certificates should be required to enter restaurants, bars, movie theatres, etc. so that people know they are patronizing relatively safe businesses. The other side insists they are intrusive and violate people's privacy, that such coercive measures have no place in a 'free' society.

I have no use for the later argument, as this is an issue of public health. While I oppose mandating vaccines, I see nothing wrong with making life harder for those who don't give a damn about the lives of others. This is one of those rare issues that, in my view, is black and white.

The minority should not be permitted to tyrannize the majority. End of discussions.

Following is an assortment of letters to the editor that succinctly and effectively address this issue.

The first two letters, from The National Post, are a response to the dismantling of a website,, which was started to list businesses that offered safe environments to patrons, either by indicating that all staff have been fully vaccinated or requiring proof of vaccination before being permitted on the premises. It was taken down due to a backlash against the businesses from the perpetually aggrieved anti-vaxxers.

Re: Businesses Attacked Over Vaccinated Status, July 22. In a free society, anti-vaxxers are entitled to boycott But when dissent actively censors a website by forcing it to shut down over people sending personal, directed and hateful messages, then society must address such vandalism because it is clearly against the public interest.

Consequently, on behalf of society, including businesses, government should respond by setting up a similar site where knowledge of proof of vaccination is communicated. The government has the resources to withstand such an affront to our rights.

To submit to such a denial of our rights by allowing a vociferous minority to deny or cancel the free speech rights of the majority to advocate for free association with other vaccinated people on is an assault on all our rights.

Society must confront these anti-social outliers with our political will, medical knowledge and legal authority to save as many lives as possible. Safeguarding should be our civic mission statement for today, and the days ahead.

Tony D’Andrea, Toronto.

Just when you think that you have seen it all, this article about the attack on a website listing businesses that have fully vaccinated staff by a minority of hate-spewing, gutless anti-vaxxers, who remain anonymous on social media, proves that the world truly has gone mad. Kudos to Quebec for planning to issue vaccine passports in September. The majority of Ontarians will soon be fully vaccinated and I strongly urge Premier Doug Ford to do the same.

In a democracy the majority rules. The safety of all should never be trumped by a selfish minority.

Bob Erwin, Ottawa. 

The last letter is from The Toronto Star, responding to a column by Martin Regg Cohn in which he opined that all people working in health care should be vaccinated. 

 When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, health and safety should trump job security, July 14

I completely agree with Martin Regg Cohn regarding vaccinations of all medical workers. However, this principle should be extended to all persons age 12 and above.

To me, personal privacy is trumped by the general good. Without a vaccine passport, a person still can order goods to be delivered to their home — just not go out to the stores to pick them up.

People have the right not to be vaccinated, but to attend physically is a privilege they have not earned without being vaccinated. Why should those of us that have been vaccinated be at the health peril of those not willing to protect their community?

Furthermore, a business that fails to enforce that its customers are vaccinated, threatening my health in the process, does not deserve my business.

J. Psutka, Toronto


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Bread And Circuses


No, I am not one of those who begrudge rich people their pleasures and pursuits. Content in my own life, I harbour no ill-will toward those who are better off than me.

I do become bothered, however, when those pursuits both distract us from, and add to, the existential crises our world faces. In that, the billionaires have much to answer for.

Take the recent 'groundbreaking' flights of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos into near-space and the breathless reporting that followed it.

Start at the 9:40 mark of the following to catch Stephanie Ruhle's  breathless, (star struck?) interview with the Bezos boys:

Similar gushing interlocutions can be found online following Branson's Virgin Galactic foray, but I hope the above serves to illustrate that this kind of gushing, lionizing coverage serves merely as a bread-and-circuses diversion away from the many problems we face in our terrestrial sphere.

Now, were you to watch earlier in this broadcast, you would hear how Bezos also talks about seeing our planet from above and how fragile it really is. He opines we must do everything we can to protect our world, as if  his space trip offered a transcendent experience.

And Branson, after his trip, said he wants to spend the rest of his life helping to solve our many problems here.

Apparently, those problems do not include our biggest threat, climate change.

Despite these intrepid innovators' claim that the greenhouse gas emissions from their excursions are no different from those from a jet flight, the truth is otherwise. First of all, both of their business models call for more and more of these inner-space trips, and as they scale up, the price will come down, making them more accessible to more people. Hence, more trips, more greenhouse gas emissions.

Secondly, the nature of these emissions is different from jet trips. Katherine Gammon explains:

Eloise Marais, an associate professor of physical geography at University College London... studies the impact of fuels and industries on the atmosphere.

The carbon emissions from rockets are small compared with the aircraft industry, she says. But they are increasing at nearly 5.6% a year, and Marais has been running a simulation for a decade, to figure out at what point will they compete with traditional sources we are familiar with.

“For one long-haul plane flight it’s one to three tons of carbon dioxide [per passenger],” says Marais. For one rocket launch it’s 200-300 tonnes of carbon dioxide carrying 4 or so passengers – close on two orders of magnitude more, according to Marais. “So it doesn’t need to grow that much more to compete with other sources.”

But the problem is more than simply the amount of carbon spewed, because 

emissions from rockets are emitted right into the upper atmosphere, which means they stay there for a long time: two to three years. Even water injected into the upper atmosphere – where it can form clouds – can have warming impacts, says Marais. “Even something as seemingly innocuous as water can have an impact.”

Closer to the ground, all fuels emit huge amounts of heat, which can add ozone to the troposphere, where it acts like a greenhouse gas and retains heat. In addition to carbon dioxide, fuels like kerosene and methane also produce soot. And in the upper atmosphere, the ozone layer can be destroyed by the combination of elements from burning fuels.

When I was a boy, I imagined a future of endless possibilities. Each liftoff of the Mercury and Apollo missions served only to whet that imagination. But I grew up and saw an increasingly fractured world with no simple remedies. 

Perhaps it is now time for these 'boys of space' to do a bit of growing up as well.



Monday, July 19, 2021

In Florida, It Is "Death By DeSantis"

You need only watch the first two minutes to get the full measure of how Florida is 'dealing' with its Covid-19 crisis.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Heartbreaking Testimony

Elder and knowledge-keeper Evelyn Camille attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School for 10 years. Here is an excerpt of her stirring testimony:

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Little Island That Could


As a long-time visitor to Cuba, I have an ongoing interest in what happens in the island nation, as well as a deep respect for the resilience of its people. Despite having been exploited for centuries by outside powers, they have always found a way to work with the limited resources they have.

Cases in point: for years they have had a vaccine to treat lung cancer. They have also developed what seem to be effective vaccines against COVID-19. They provide free health care for all of their citizens, along with free education, up to and including university.

All of these feats, and many more, have been accomplished despite the crippling U.S.-imposed embargo that has been ongoing since 1962.

Despite that, U.S. news coverage has been focusing upon the large-scale demonstrations currently taking place in Cuba, protests prompted by food and medicine shortages. Most coverage is framed as an uprising against the government. The real culprit? The United States' intractable animus toward the Communist island. 

The following demonstrates the bias in reporting:

I'm afraid Mr. Biden's expressions of solidarity with the Cuban people ring both hollow and hypocritical. The United States has the power to relieve their suffering but clings to the long-cherished fever dream of an overthrow of the government, one that would be replaced by a government just like theirs. (After all, who wouldn't want to be like the greatest nation the world has ever known?)

There is much more to be said on this topic, but I will leave you with the thoughts of a Star letter-writer from today's print edition who puts the blame squarely where it belongs:

Use of Miami Herald piece misrepresents reality in Cuba

Re Thousands demand end of dictatorship in Cuba, July 12 With its source being the Miami Herald, the Star reports that “thousands demand end of dictatorship in Cuba,” although some sources put the number of protesters as “hundreds.” 

 Cuba’s population is estimated at 11,320,000 and I am certain that 99 per cent of Cubans see the U.S. stranglehold on them as more concerning than any other aspect of their difficult lives. 

This past June 23, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” 

This same resolution has passed the General Assembly every year from 1992 to 2021, that is for 29 years. This year, the vote was 184 in favour, two against (the U.S. and Israel). 

A comprehensive economic embargo against Cuba was put in place way back in 1962 by the U.S. after its embarrassing defeat at the Bay of Pigs. It has remained in place. That followed the 1960 cancellation by the U.S. of the annual purchase of six million tons of sugar from Cuba. 

It is not “chronic inefficiencies and paralyzing bureaucracy” that have eroded the country’s production capacity. Any country in the world, such as Canada, subject to an economic blockade by the United States for 59 years would be “in the throes of its worst economic contraction in over three decades” and suffering a plunge in foreign investment. 

Why can the Toronto Star and Canada in general not recognize a huge bully gone berserk as he endlessly beats up the little kid who bested him in a game a long time ago in front of the other kids? This is no game. Millions of Cuban children and seniors are the victims as the U.S. collapses their world out of spite, while insisting it is acting on their behalf. 

Wayne Robbins, Toronto

Monday, July 12, 2021

A Sad Truth

This letter-writer in today's print edition of The Toronto Star states what is ultimately a sad truth about us.

Canadians unwilling to make sacrifices for climate change

Re Western Canada’s heat dome may be Ontario bound.

A climate expert explains what’s next, June 29

The sad fact is that Canadians, like most of the world, will not take any responsibility for climate change if it infringes upon their daily life.

 How many Canadians are willing to give up their gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks or pressure their government to ban the building of large, single-detached homes and outlet malls that contribute to global warming and eat up our precious resources? 

We may moan and groan about billions of baked clams, but that’s about it. We are a consumerist society and we aren’t willing to change. The world will get hotter and we’ll shrug our shoulders. In the end, our children and grandchildren will be left holding the bag. 

This is not pessimism, but reality. 

Paul Boles, Mississauga

Saturday, July 10, 2021

An Examination Of Conscience

When I was a young lad on the receiving end of a Catholic education, we had two regularly-recurring rituals. Once a month we would be led over to the parish church to go to Confession. While sitting in the pews awaiting our turn, we would pore over a booklet called The Examination of Conscience.  

Designed to help Catholics make a 'good Confession', the booklet went over various types and classifications of sins (some of which were a bit beyond youngsters, e.g., Have you ever been a member of a secret society? Have you had impure thoughts about your neigbour's wife?).

After thinking long and hard about our misdeeds, we went into the confessional, where we told our tales of iniquity and were granted absolution by the priest, contingent upon our doing the penance he meted out. (Some priests were more severe than others, requiring part of the rosary instead of the more lenient five Hail Marys. It was always the luck of the draw for us.)

I dredge up these memories because penance has been lately on my mind, as I am sure it has been on the minds of many Canadians these days following the grim discovery, with more surely to come, of unmarked graves at former residential schools, powerful symbols of the racism perpetrated in all of our names.

Some might ask why collectively we should atone for past misdeeds that we had nothing to do with. In my mind, the answer is simple: the fallout of the abuse, neglect and deaths experienced by Indigenous peoples continues to reverberate today, a legacy of ruined lives that is reflected in the poverty, unemployment, alcoholism and fractured psyches experienced by far too many today. Generational pain is not self-limiting.

Where do we go from here? While there is obviously no simple answer, part of the solution has to be  increased opportunities for Indigenous people to pursue higher education.  And in that pursuit, all of us can play a part.

For the past few years I have been contributing to an organization called Inspire. Here is their mission statement:

Indigenous Education is Canada’s Future

Indspire is an Indigenous national charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada.

Charity Intelligence Canada recognized Indspire with their four-star rating and named us a Top 10 Canadian Impact Charity for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and Maclean’s also selected Indspire as a 2019 and 2020 Top Rated Charity.


Vision, Mission, North Star and Core Values

Vision: Enriching Canada through Indigenous education and by inspiring achievement.

Mission: In partnership with Indigenous, private and public sector stakeholders, Indspire educates, connects and invests in Indigenous people so they will achieve their highest potential.

North Star: Within a generation, every Indigenous student will graduate.

Statement of Values: As an organization and as individuals, we value integrity, respect, equity, openness, reciprocity, and inclusiveness in our endeavours and relationships. We are committed to nurturing, sharing, and honouring diversity in First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures and traditions. And we hold ourselves accountable to our stakeholders by honouring our commitments with high quality results, ongoing evaluation and transparent reporting.

Wringing our hands and expressing sorrow and outrage about the past are normal reactions to recent revelations, But the cliched 'thoughts and prayers' must be accompanied by concrete actions if any of us is ever to achieve any measure of penance for the past and hope for the future.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

"A Kick In The Gut"

That's what Alberta's nurses are calling the move by Jason Kenney's UCP to roll back their wages by 3%. 

In Kenneyland, contracts apparently are notional, not legal, documents. In 2020, a four-year contract with a 0% wage increase was signed, but Alberta Health Services, under the obvious direction of a craven, feckless premier, says they just cannot afford the wages they are currently paying. 

Perhaps the government hopes nurses will take some comfort in the fact that people like Alberta's Finance Minister really do like them:

In a statement on Tuesday, Finance Minister Travis Toews commended the “invaluable role” nurses have played in the COVID-19 pandemic but noted Alberta needs to get its finances back on track.

“The need to bring wages in line with other large provinces does not diminish our deep respect for the exceptional work and dedication of public sector workers.

And that 'deep respect' was echoed by the man himself. 

The premier was asked about the negotiations with the nurses’ union on Thursday. While Jason Kenney said he didn’t want to comment too much out of respect for the negotiation process, he did thank all health-care workers for their services, especially during the pandemic.

As the following report makes clear, neither the nurses nor the public are impressed by political platitudes. 

If the political winds are blowing in the direction I suspect they are, after the next provincial election  the United Conservative Party will have ample opportunity to reflect on and review how they do politics. Sitting on the other side of the legislature will, no doubt, be a humbling experience for them. 



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Looking Deep Within

These days, for various reasons, it is growing increasingly difficult for us, as Canadians, to feel smug about ourselves. There are the bleak indictments in the form of unmarked graves, attacks on Muslims, and people living in fear of such attacks.

What is to be done? In my previous post, entitled How Does Canada Atone? I posted some letters to the editor, one of which struck The Mound as especially useful. He wrote,

Of the options presented by these writers I prefer bringing this to our young people through our schools. We have a lot of miserable people in this country who will resent whatever is done, much as BLM triggered pushback in the US. So, let's not leave it to parents or social media or TV. Let's take this directly to our young people because it is, no matter how dismissive some can be, an important part of our history.

I replied,

I completely agree, Mound. Unlike the U.S., where some crazed right-wingers equate teaching about slavery to teaching kids "to hate America," I think educational initiatives will not only be welcomed, but also provide a necessary antidote to national ignorance, whether willful or otherwise.

By chance, Edward Keenan, The Star's Washington Bureau Chief, wrote a very insightful piece that bears directly on this issue. The Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, lays racism at the feet of the Democrats, and refuses to acknowledge that his country is racist.

“Today, the Democratic party has doubled down on this shameful history by replacing the racism of the past with the racism of critical race theory. They continue to think of race as the primary means of judging a person’s character,” McCarthy said, expressing his support for removing statues of Confederate leaders from the Capitol.

“America is not a racist country,” he said. “It was wrong when it was the segregated lunch counters of Jim Crow, and it was wrong when it was the segregated classrooms of critical race theory.”

Keenan found much to fault with McCarthy's 'logic'.

[T]he academic concept of critical race theory he invoked does not teach that race is a means of judging a person’s character, and does not segregate classrooms — it is a lens for understanding racism as a set of systemic legal structures that persist in U.S. society.

However, as usual, American the right-wing media, mainly Fox, are perverting it so as to stir up even more animus than already exists in that beleaguered country. 

The backlash over critical race theory may be real, fed by over 1,300 Fox News mentions in 3.5 months and leading to outraged protests at school board meetings across the country. But the concept of critical race theory being depicted in these attacks bears little relationship to the academic theory. Quickly put: critical race theory is primarily a graduate-school-level concept that has been around for about four decades and was obscure until conservative activists ramped up anger about it. Actual critical race theory basically says that racism is ingrained in U.S. society and institutions. It is not taught in elementary or high schools, or even often in undergraduate university classes.

And it sounds like the fact of systemic racism will not be taught in U.S. schools anytime soon. There has been 

a wave of bills in Republican states governing what can and cannot be taught in history classes to schoolchildren and even to university students.

Teaching the history of racism in the United States as something that infected the structures of government, not just in slavery but in many other ways that persisted through much of the 20th century, and that persist today, is, they say, unfair to white children who might be taught to be ashamed. What’s more, they say it is, in the words of the Trump administration when he was in the White House, “anti-American”; unpatriotic.

In that denial comes a crucial difference in the Canadian response to revelations of racism here, as we ask

whether patriotism and celebrations of national pride can coexist with a recognition of deeply shameful episodes in a country’s history. The discovery of mass unmarked graves filled with the bodies of Indigenous children on the sites of residential schools has made vivid to many Canadians the evil that those schools represented throughout most of Canada’s history as a country — from their founding in the 1800s right up until the 1990s when the last of the institutions was closed.

Following along from Washington, I’ve seen both in news media and on social media, how reflecting on this has led to waves of people calling to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year. You don’t shoot off fireworks to celebrate your country while people are mourning the deaths of their children who were killed by your country’s government, is the gist of the sentiment I’ve seen.

The recent revelations have prompted a response of humility in the majority of Canadians. The next, absolutely necessary step is to make sure that our school curricula reflect not just the pride of Canadian accomplishments, but also the shame of widespread injustice and evil. 

I believe we do have the national character to reach that step.



Saturday, July 3, 2021

How Does Canada Atone?

I have a practical suggestion to partly address the title's question, but I'll leave it for a future post. Today, some letter-writers from the print edition of the Toronto Star offer their views:

All the groups that have been victimized by threats, abuse, violence and death as a result of ignorant hate are sick and tired of hearing the false apologies. They are false because we know the politicians are pressured by the constituents to say something. They need the votes. Other groups may speak up because they feel compelled by general social actions.

But what matters is the real action taken. And there is usually no action. Some protests, some memorials, possible reparations.

The recent horrific findings of Indigenous burials is unspeakable. How these families were treated is abhorrent. The action we need is education. We need to get the education into the schools, teach all our youth from the very start. We need to develop our history lessons to include so much of this real history. English class should include reading lists that focus on books about so many of these tragedies. Every student should have to select two or three books in a term from different cultural tragedies, to read, reflect on and review.

Young people need to understand how others have been targeted and how easy it could be for anyone to be a target.

Corinne Broder, Collingwood, Ont.

We have a national monument, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to honour those who fell in battle but whose bodies were not identified or recovered.

There should be a national monument to the unknown children from the residential schools who died while attending these schools — children who were abused while living and whose bodies were so callously discarded in death.

It won’t change the past, but it will be an eternal reminder of the sacrifice imposed on their families and the children.

Greg Narbey, Toronto

Like many, I am saddened to read about Indigenous children who died in Canada’s residential school system. Fixing this failure in our history will take action, time and resolve from all Canadians.

I propose our federal legislators designate a Reconciliation Day on our calendar, like Remembrance Day observed on Nov. 11, to remember and honour those Indigenous children who perished in residential schools.

On Reconciliation Day, our nation pauses from its day-to-day functions.

Canadians come together as one inclusive people in public gatherings, to learn and show respect for Indigenous people and their time-honoured culture.

Constantine Argiropoulos, Toronto

The tragedy of the residential school system and the racism endemic in our history and culture has created enormous harm, grief, and loss to Indigenous families.

This perfidy stains our national identity and our souls.

I’d like to see a National Day, or a National Week, of mourning, to pay tribute to these children and their families. Why are flags not at half-mast?

I want to see these enormous losses, this enormous injustice, recognized, finally, in the hope that it would have some meaning for Indigenous families.

I would like to see this national acknowledgment followed quickly by meaningful government action on the promises of many years.

Marcia Cannell, Richmond Hill