Mental Illness by Another Name

Written by Harold McNeill on August 31st, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


Photo (Web) It makes little difference whether Chiheb Esseghaier suffered from the onset of mental illness nor not,  he has served his purpose in the greater scheme of things.

As the trial after a trial of Victoria’s infamous Canada Day Bombers case awaits its fall continuation, the sentencing hearings in that earlier terror scare, the VIA Train guys, is slowly being derailed by controversy.

The court appointed psychiatrist leaves little doubt the main protagonist was rapidly slipping off the rails well before he actually did any planning to derail that train.  Early stage schizophrenia? Probably and, as many have observed, just the sort person to be targeted in:

“… an FBI sting that has been used dozens of times in the U.S. to nab prospective terrorists … It’s a method adopted from the war on drugs and the FBI’s battle against the Mafia, and one that critics charge has routinely and deliberately served to ensnare the mentally vulnerable or the insane.” (Globe and Mail). You many not recall, but it was The FBI who ran the VIA Rail sting and who agreed to pull the pin hours after the Boston Bombing (see Terrorism, Another Perspective). (also, Link Toronto Today article)

It appears our own Government and Security Service Agencies have learned their lessons well, but at this late stage in both cases, it makes little difference if the three men and one woman are sentenced to life in prison or if they are released to a mental hospital. They have dutifully served their purpose in helping the government to pass several pieces of terror related legislation that would never seen the light of day without those cases and, in addition, has lead to the gifting of our security service organizations with truckloads of money to enhance the largely illusionary war on domestic terrorism.



Globe and Mail Editorial Cartoon, August 31, 2015:


Choices:  If you ask me to pick only one of following five as being the one person who has done the most harm to our democracy over the past several years, and they were named Nuttall, Korody, Esseghaier, Jaser or Harper, I would pick Harper without ever giving it a second thought. The other four were just bit players in the terror game.

Conspiracy to Bomb the B.C. Legislature: The Grand Illusion  The Nuttall/Korody Case.

Terrorism, Another Perspective   Reference Part 2 for background on the Esseghaier.  Note absolute precision of these back to back arrests, then the tabling of new terror legislation in the House of Commons. A short section in Part 2 discusses the VIA rail case.  You haven’t read Shock Doctrine? Read it!

Living in the Shadow of Mental Illness:  As many families have learned, the nature of the illness makes it difficult to reach out for assistance as the attached stigma casts an ugly net. This story continues to track those who have been caught at the margins of our society where failure to provide timely and ongoing assistance can have tragic consequences in the mainstream.   (22)

New Orleans: Peeling back the Mask

Written by Harold McNeill on August 26th, 2015. Posted in Editorials, Tim Hortons Morning Posts

Peeling Back the Mask

Photos (Web Source, then merged and wrapped in Photoshop)

This post is actually a Tale of Two Cities. While New Orleans is widely known as the Big Easy to tourists and the well healed who call the city home, for a large and ever growing number who work and live in the city, life is anything but easy. When the tourism mask is peeled back it becomes a city in which nearly half the population lives in poverty, yet it is a city that sits proudly among the Top 10 tourist destinations in the United States attracting over ten million visitors each year (Link)

August 27, 2005: On this day New Orleans was engulfed by Hurricane Katrina, a storm that carried a surge which breached the old and inadequate levees and flooded much of the city. It was one of New Orleans most devastating natural disasters.  How is the city doing today?

1. The Mask: What the tourists see.

For visitors, the city presents a year-round fantasyland of boisterous, round-the-clock carousing that caters to every taste and where musicians, singers, and various other entertainers compete with the best. For anyone who loves music, particularly jazz, statues-1366142999you will love New Orleans. Just spend an hour sitting in the open air Café Beignet (Three Statutes in the Musical Legends Park) on Bourbon Street and you will be treated to the sweet sounds of jazz as ever-changing groups of local artists pick up the beat.  (photo)

Wander along the Quarter to the north end where, on Frenchmen Street, you will likely find an ad hoc group of young men playing in a random brass group that will blow your socks off. Then, one day, walk along Basin Street to get a feel for the history of that famous city.

For the more adventuresome, including the Catholics in our midst, Mardi Gras, “beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three King’s Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday,” is a celebration you should not miss. (Link)  The celebration, also referred to as “Fat Tuesday, reflects the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.”  Whether anyone has ever fasted in New Orleans is questionable, and whether this is destination of choice for the Lenten season is doubtful, but if, by this point, you have not struck the city struck off your ‘bucket list’ it will likely remain at or near the top until you finally decide to wade in. For most Canadians, it is little more than a five-hour flight from any of our major centres. (30)

A Warning to Immigrants Entering Canada

Written by Harold McNeill on July 31st, 2015. Posted in Editorials, Tim Hortons Morning Posts


This Victoria, B.C.  Big House is illustrative of a proud Aboriginal past where wealthy, prominent hosts would use it as longhouse for potlatching and housing guests. Potlatching was an innovative way for re-distributing wealth between families and clans, but the practice was brought to an abrupt end in 1884 in Canada through an amendment to the Indian Act. The same was done in the United States a decade later.

This was done at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered the cultural practice to be “worse than a useless custom that was seen as wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to ‘civilized values’ of accumulation of wealth.” (Wiki Source). For those who didn’t know or may have forgotten, and that likely includes at least a third of the Canadian population, the Aboriginal people of Canada and the United States were the first to claim the Northern part of this continent as home.       


This post may offend some (e.g. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Middle Class, Whites, English, French, Immigrants, non-immigrants, Americans, British, French, Mexicans, Greeks, Aboriginals, Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Greens, etc.) Ah, never mind, if you are easily offended, don’t bother reading the post.

Introduction: A Warning to Immigrants  

I felt compelled to write this post after receiving another of those wide circulation emails that spoke harshly of Muslims and others whose religious and cultural practices differed from that of white, english-speaking, middle class, Christians. Also, the fear mongering about the target groups and the harsh legislative agenda of various conservative leaning governments around the world over the past ten to fifteen years, has reached hysterical proportions.

In that vein, many Canadians may think Donald Trump an outlier, but it remains clear a significant number of people support him.   “This is our country not yours” is a refrain repeated over and over and fear mongering on a wide scale is a tactic used to cement the concept (e.g. “Mexicans are rapists”, “Muslims are terrorists”, etc.).  Make no mistake, when it comes to racism, Canadians can play that card with the best of them. (276)

A Bad Fire Year?

Written by Harold McNeill on July 8th, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts

sucker river fire- tammy cook-searson- june 7, 2015

Photo (Web Source): A fire burns out of control in Northern Saskatchewan, north of Prince Albert. Across western Canada wild fires have consumed millions of acres of timber and killed an untold number of wildlife caught in the path.  While only one death has been reported, that being a firefighter, Johnny Phare of Roberts Creek, on the Sunshine Coast, thousands of homes are threatened and many have already been destroyed and the danger level is extreme.  Over 7000 people have been evacuated from several native communities in Northern Saskatchewan with an undisclosed number being relocated to my home town in Cold Lake, Alberta.  (More photos in footer)


On watching the local and national news tonight I listened as the Premiers of British Columbia and Saskatchewan commented on the challenge being faced by firefighters across their Province.  Resources were being stretched to the limit and in some areas of Saskatchewan the military have been called in to assist.  The Premier of Saskatchewan stated on Global National that he has placed a call to the Prime Minister, but did not elaborate on what he intended to ask the P.M.  My goodness, the Province is burning, the military have been called in, 7000 people evacuated and the P.M. has not yet checked in with the Premier to see what national resources might be needed?

On the local news, a citizen from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island reported that earlier today a fire had started across Sprout Lake across from his home.  11666312_10153348533261041_6025522279400697740_nThe fire was not threatening his property, but the man felt it needed immediate attention or would soon be out of control.

Photo (Nichele Studios, Port Alberni) This photo was taken by Paulette a day after the fire started.  A giant Martian Mars water bomber sits idle under a smoke shrouded noonday sun on Sproat Lake just outside Port Alberni.

All but for the want of contract approval  by the BC Government, that bomber would have been available it to tackle the Dog Mountain  fire minutes from where it was moored shortly after the fire was called in.  A contract was eventually signed and when the smoke cleared for a brief period under light winds, the bomber hit the fire with everything it had. However, by that time the fire had spread and done an incredible amount of damage to the pristine forests of Dog Moutain (more photos in footer).  Update: Five days later that fire is still not fully extinguished. (173)

Finding a Balance in Society

Written by Harold McNeill on July 6th, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 2.57.38 PM

Richard Buckminster Fuller, an amazing man who published 30 books and during his lifetime he worked tirelessly at finding conditions that would lead to a balance in society. Check the section on ‘Depression and epiphany’ in the link.


All I need do is start reading a comment such as that above or the cartoon and linked articles in the footer and I’m off on a new venture of trying to put my own thoughts in some kind of logical order.  Because these posts often ‘evolve’ over time, this article will likely change as I do more reading and correct some of the logical errors. However,  most of you who choose to read this will get a pretty good idea of where I stand ideologically.  Why do I do it?  Well, it’s fun and I like trying to make sense of the world around me.  Perhaps Greece is melting down, but, then again, perhaps the challenges the Greeks face is just a symptom of the greater socioeconomic challenges that face mankind.  Some friends on FB make reference to the bloody ‘socialists’ in Greece as being the problem, others blame the banks.  I rather suspect they all contribute an equal share.

Finding a Balance in Society

The above meme was originally posted by the Occupy Wall Street group.  It was then re-posted by a FB friend Ted Godwin, a generally quiet and non-controversial guy.  His comment: “Now, somebody needs to point out to the 1% how land “ownership” is simply a paradigm for organization of physical space agreed to by society rather than an inviolable right.”

While the above comments do not wholly match the content below, they did prompt me to think more about the manner in which people are governed and how we seek to find a balance between competing societal social interests. As we approach an election (for that matter any election) people seem to sink to the lowest common denominator with their meme’s and comments. It seems that once we have set our minds on an ideological course, that ideology sticks like crazy glue. As for attack ads and posters, every political party does it, but some are much better at it than others.  I suppose that is why we end up taking extreme positions on just about every issue. Distill it down to one sentence or one photo and that is our position.  This demonstrates why we so often fracture on overarching issues. (141)

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama: An Open Letter

Written by Harold McNeill on May 10th, 2012. Posted in Editorials


This photo provides a stark reminder of the challenges faced by Tibetans and how a few young Monks have sought to bring attention to the plight their people.  The letter that follows encourages His Holiness the Dalai Lamas to return to Tibet to stand with his people as others have done when their people were being oppressed and brutalized.

“Tibetan culture, religion and identity face “extinction” and (the) residents of Tibet (are) living in ‘hell on earth’.”  A quote by the Dalai Lama made at the Dharmsala Conference, India, on March 11, 2009. (Reported by Emily Wax, Washington Post)

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
May 11, 2012

Dear Holiness,

Re: Has the time come to go home and stand shoulder to shoulder with your people?

During your recent visit to Canada, I noted Prime Minister Harper warmly greeted you (photo left), but did so in a rather low key fashion. I suspect that was because he did not want to offend the Chinese Government as China has become extremely important trading partner for all manner of Canadian resources, goods and services. Your reception by other world leaders seems to follow the same general trend – respectful, but low key and not likely to influence China one way or the other regarding their harsh treatment of the people in Tibet.

I also note your status as a media darling has grown substantially in recent years and while you grant many interviews, those interviews must be closely scripted as I cannot remember hearing one hard question ever being asked of your Holiness. In a recent clip broadcast on a Canadian News Network station and in other interviews, the hosts were extremely deferential and never came close to asking a probing question. In this open letter, I will take a few lines to pose a few questions and make a few observations, some which beg for answers from your Holiness. I choose this medium because it is the only one available as I am unlikely to ever have the chance to speak with you personally. (948)

Visions of the World

Written by Harold McNeill on June 22nd, 2015. Posted in Editorials, Tim Hortons Morning Posts

Harold holding new Canadian Passport

Harold holding his new Canadian Passport that was issued a few days back and is now valid until 2025.  About 53% of Canadians hold a passport, whereas the US stands at 20%. Given that most new Canadians apply for a Canadian passport (reference comments in footer), there must be a high percentage of natural born Canadians that have never bothered.

As many Canadians only use their passports for travel to the United States, Mexico, Cuba and other the Caribbean states, a large percentage of our population have never visited other parts of the world.

Visions of the World, was first written and posted on Facebook in early 2014. It is now updated and includes the following introduction. What prompted this re-post was a horrendous act of domestic terrorism in South Carolina carried out by a White Supremacist.  The case might make the front page of media outlets for a couple of days and will then drift off into history. (182)

Conspiracy to Rob the BC Ferry Terminal at Swartz Bay

Written by Harold McNeill on May 16th, 2015. Posted in Editorials, Police Notebook

Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal 1980

Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal (Web Source) c1980′s. On the May Day long week-end, 1983, a dozen police waited patiently with weapons at ready. The gang that commanded their attention had amassed a small arsenal of handguns, shotguns, rifles and even considered mounting a machine gun in the back of a stolen van. They also collected a box of dynamite and purchased blasting caps, radio transmitters, scanners, balaclavas and sundry other equipment to pull off a major heist. The leader of the gang was a convicted bank robber from the Lower Mainland who made no bones about killing if that should become necessary.

The gang had their planning down to the minute with their goal being a small fortune in cash that flowed through the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal on every long week-end. The only thing that stood between the gang and their goal was a small group of police officers and civilians who quietly, deliberately and surreptitiously inserted themselves into the gangs planning process.

Link here to Part I of this Series: Oversight of Police and Security

Link here to Part II of the series: Conspiracy to Bomb the BC Legislature

Part III Conspiracy to Rob the BC Ferry Terminal at Swartz Bay

An earlier post about BC Ferries posted on McNeill Life Stories: Thank you BC Ferries

1. Introduction

In Part II, Conspiracy to Bomb the B.C. Legislature, the crime was developed over a five month period by 250 RCMP Security Service officers, a few of which had close personal ties with two two criminal suspects as they (the police) coached, cajoled, encouraged, threatened and supported the couple along the path towards committing a serious crime at the Canada Day celebrations in July 2013. It was a crime the police defined, not the suspects.

In this post, an Armed Robbery and a Conspiracy to Commit an Armed Robbery, a half dozen suspects take the lead while an equal number of police officers (Note 3) take turns following the group, listening to their conversations and collecting evidence as it was produced along the way. During the five week investigation, the suspects had no idea police were dogging their heels. It was a classic conspiracy investigation. (695)

Stay up to date

* = required field

Social Bookmarks


  • McNeill Life Stories A Warning to Immigrants Entering Canada - McNeill Life Stories

    August 2, 2015 |

    [...] in the original. I know this is rather presumptuous on my part, as I am a white, middle class, a one-time practicing Christian with immigrant forefathers, but the racist texture of that original text demanded a strong [...]

  • sharad

    July 28, 2015 |

    Tibetian People we need learn from Israel History.

  • McNeill Life Stories A Bad Fire Year - McNeill Life Stories

    July 9, 2015 |

    [...] Dad, Dave McNeill, at one time in the early 1940′s, worked at a fire lookout station near Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, an area not far from the current mass evacuation. In those years [...]

  • Harold McNeill

    July 8, 2015 |

    The above comments obviously became attached to the wrong post.

  • Al Balisky

    July 7, 2015 |

    Hi Harold:

    We made the trip on the Martineau River – great time and enjoyed your blog site. A link to our website is below.


  • McNeill Life Stories Visions of the World - McNeill Life Stories

    June 22, 2015 |

    [...] Some years ago I also wrote a series on Cold Lake in which parts examined the experiences of another immigrant family to Canada.  I still follow that family on FB and they continue to take a big bite out life that many Canada born citizens have never chosen to experience. (Link and check footer of post) [...]

  • McNeill Life Stories Visions of the World - McNeill Life Stories

    June 22, 2015 |

    [...] States and the world.  Think back to what happened in the United States and Canada after the Boston Bombing.  Make no mistake, what happened in Charleston, North Carolina was a clearly defined terrorist [...]

  • Harold McNeill

    May 2, 2015 |

    Thanks for the kind comments Angie. Indeed I have several memories of Rhyersons Store and Mrs. Rhyerson as we used to pop in regularly to spend whatever change we shake loose. Don’t think I have any photos, but will post a note on my FB page as I have several school friends from back in those days. Will send you an email. Cheers, Harold

  • Angie

    May 1, 2015 |

    Hello Harold!
    I came across your website a month or two ago while doing some research on Cold Lake History, and have enjoyed travelling back in time with you! I moved here for my nursing career about 9 years ago, and since I’m now raising at least two babies down the street from your old high school, I though it would be good to be able to picture the old town how it was from its inception until now. And now that I’ve started, I can’t stop! It’s fascinating! You paint pictures with your words! Friends of mine just purchased the D&B convenient store that you knew as “Rhyason’s” in your blog, and they want to pay tribute to its history! I’d be interested in what you remember about the old store, if you have memories!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 28, 2015 |

    Hi Kimberly, So glad you found the story. I very much enjoyed working with Garth and we even socialized a lot over the years. We also had common interests in photography and dark room work as he was very good. I don’t know which story you read as there were two or three about cases that Garth and I investigated. The long story using alias names “A Matter of Principle” and a shorter ones “Gotcha A.Hole (#9 in the Police Story Index); “Abducted: the First Twelve Hours” (#18), and “Burglar with a Conscience” (#1). There were many more investigations, but they have not yet been written up as it seems every time I write a story, the list grows longer rather than shorter as each reminds me of others so I add them to the bottom of the list.