Author Archive

Our Schools are Failing Us

Written by Harold McNeill on February 9th, 2017. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


CL-Cover-for-III

Photos (family files as well as from a High School buddy, Guy Venne). Yes, that’s me in the lower right (left) with another buddy, Aaron Pinsky.  Aaron’s dad’s Caddy, in which we spend many a lost night, and on the right one of our girlfriends, Dorothy Hartman. The photo centre top is three more High School buddies performing at one of the school 50’s dances that became so popular.

Are Schools Really Failing?

Never a week goes without some FB post, newspaper article or TV program lamenting the abysmal state of our education system. These discussions often spike when teachers threaten to strike, or a ‘think tank’ such as the Fraser Institute disparages public schools when comparing them to their private school counterparts, or when the government implements some policy mandating an action that is not pleasing to all.

Others rail about a lack of discipline among students or point to cell phones and texting as destroying the ability of our youth to socialize. Many suggest kids today are mollycoddled to the point of graduating without having achieved the slightest degree of competency in “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” If only, they suggest, we could get back to basics as was present in an earlier age (presumably their age).

Then, I happened upon an English Literature textbook written in 1974, in which one essay clearly articulated the criticisms being levied against students and the system “back in the day”. Some may recognize the problems as first witnessed in our misspent youth at the Cold Lake High School. The article was first published in the early 1950’s, a time when I was just entering Junior High.

(The essay was copied from the book as an online link could not be located).

Cheers,

Harold

Let’s Take Bubble Gum Out of the Schools

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Canada: Myths about Immigration

Written by Harold McNeill on July 23rd, 2017. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


Immigration Chart 4

Chart (2011): Statistics Canada tends to
Perpetuate Myths about Immigration

One of the many strengths of Canada is in the diversity of its ethnocultural mix and the fact a majority of Canadians take pride in that mix.  Because we have never expanded our economy much beyond being the “drawers of water and hewers of wood” (1) and because our birth rate of the past fifty years has steadily decreased (more below), Canada still needs a steady intake of immigrants and foreign workers to help keep our country moving forward.

This gives rise to the question of why Statistics Canada plays games with the immigration numbers and how much influence do governments of the day have in shaping graphs, reports, and summaries towards political ends? The above chart is but one of many examples suggesting the influence is strong.

Perhaps the canceling of the Census Long Form in 2010, an action that gained considerable public attention, was just a smokescreen to cover the deeper manipulation of census numbers and summaries in a manner better suited to ideological purposes of the day. Going back to 2006 brings forth many more changes that skewed the manner in which the number of immigrants was counted.  

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The Rice Paddy

Written by Harold McNeill on November 24th, 2016. Posted in Travelogue


Boy in School3

Student at a Cambodian Country School (photo by Esther Dunn)

We had the good fortune to visit an elementary school in a remote area along one of the tributaries of the Mekong River, a place where welcoming and exuberant children could barely wait to demonstrate their English language skills. “What’s your name.” and “How old are you?” were the favourites, but that was just the opening of two hours of interaction with the students.

NOTE:  Three Videos of our time in Viet Nam and Cambodia are linked at the end of the story.   For those seeking more background of our travels with Uniworld, link here.  Regards  Harold and Lynn

Lynn and I spent part of our time with a ten-year-old boy (photo above) who appeared to be the oldest in the class. Although a bit shy, he focused intensely on getting the wording of his questions correct, then intently listened as we answered. Had he been born forty years earlier, he could well have been the boy featured in part of the story below.

Part I: Introduction to SE Asia and a Short Story from Cambodia

To gain an understanding of the progress the people of Indochina have made over the past 25 years, take a few minutes first to watch the three slideshows linked in the footer. While incredible natural and manmade beauty greet you at every turn; the happy, healthy and carefree people you see at school, work and play today, contrasts sharply with immense challenges the people faced from 1940 – 1990. Perhaps you are aware of these challenges and the progress made, but we weren’t and the more we learned, the more amazing it all became.

This series begins with a short, personal story which took place in Cambodia in the late 1980’s, a story of one boy’s quest to survive. His story was similar to that experienced by thousands of men, women and children whose lives were taken or shattered by war, genocide, starvation and disease. This story was related to us over several parts by our Cambodian guide and takes place during the height of Pol Pot’s campaign of genocide.

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The Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990

Written by Harold McNeill on November 12th, 2016. Posted in Travelogue


Southeast Asia – Colonial Powers

Southeast AsiaPS

Colonial Powers, as listed above, played a large role in the ebb and flow of the fortunes and misfortunes of Southeast Asia from the early 1800’s onwards.  The French played a dominant role in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos and while it ended in war there are still many positive reminders of the occupation.

Part I:   Introduction and the Rice Paddy
Part II:  Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit (passcode required as post under revision)
Part IV:  The Future Belongs to the Young
P
art V: Travelling with Uniworld (In progress)

Part 11. Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990

Introduction

Ordinary people do not start wars unless they are oppressed. Governments or dictators make wars with an ideological or expansionist purpose in mind. When this happens, ordinary citizens are pushed to fight whether they want to or not. This was no better expressed than in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”:

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”p18aCharge of the Light Brigade
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
    Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.   

Such was the case in Indochina where not six hundred, but an estimated 8000 times that many would be driven into the valley of death. The Viet Nam or Second Indochina War, was just the second part of fifty years of war that began when the Japanese occupied French Indochina in 1940. Following the departure of the Japanese and the French again occupied, then Communist North Viet Nam (formed in 1945 after the war) (3), began a push to remove the French who resumed their Colonial control status that was ceded to the Japenese for a few years.   One occupying force simply replaced another.

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Resilience of the Human Spirit

Written by Harold McNeill on November 7th, 2016. Posted in Travelogue


Buddhism Dance

These young women were part of a group of Cambodian folk dancers who performed during our time in Siem Reap. The gentle movement of these dancers and their male counterparts was mesmerizing and clearly express the inner strength and peacefulness of the people.

Photos in these albums were selected from those taken mainly by Esther and Harold. In a few cases, representative photos selected from the Web.

November 11, 2016:  Least We Forget
Remembrance Day in Canada (Link Here)
Veterans Day in the United States  (Link Here)

Part I:   The Rice Paddy
Part II:  Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit
Part IV  The Future Belongs to the Young

Part V    Cruising the Mekong with Uniworld   (being written)   December 4.  This part was split off to Part V. Part IV is being readjusted.

Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit

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The Future Belongs to the Young

Written by Harold McNeill on November 14th, 2016. Posted in Travelogue


Young People – A Majority in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos

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The photo was taken in front of the Presidential Palace in Saigon (October, 2016 hdm).

This group of young people wanted a photo with two of our group from South Africa with whom they had been chatting. Virtually everywhere you travel in Viet Nam and Cambodia you will find young people eager to exchange a few words and to have a photo taken with a tourist. Look at those wonderful smiles.

Part I:   An Open Letter
Part II:  Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit  (in progress, Password Protected)
Part IV  The Future Belongs to the Young
P
art V   River Cruising (in progress)

Part IV: The Future Belongs to the Young

The title, of course, is used in a figurative sense.  As I grow older and particularly over the last 25 years (50-75), I have become convinced that forging a better world must be placed in the hands of positive, forward-looking young people. You might also include older people, but only if they have not become jaded and are willing to debate the issues with an open mind. Any discussion that focusses on Us versus Them is going nowhere.  

Lynn and I have travelled to many countries that have only recently emerged from war or were controlled in whole or in part by vicious tyrants.  It was pretty easy to tell how well the country was doing by simply talking to young people. If the young are happy and forward looking, we felt assured the country was moving in a positive direction, but if they were looking for a way out, it was a good bet the country was not doing all that well.

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Precious Memories: The West Coast Trail

Written by Harold McNeill on February 25th, 2016. Posted in Adventure


Happy Birthday Kari

Kari at Falls

The beautiful Tsusiat Falls where father and daughter took a well-deserved rest.
All that is left of the father is his boots and socks. “Yaa! But you’ve made it over halfway Dad. That’s good isn’t it?”    Guess who helped him?
January 1, 2018  (337) (April 17, 387)

 

Dear Kari,

It’s hard to believe twenty years have slipped by since we completed that magical eight-day trek on the West Coast Trail with David and Jenn.  What inspired me to prepare the following slide show and write this post was finding that old slide tray tucked away in one of the storage boxes.  It brought back so many fond memories for me and I bet it will do the same for the three of you.  As I was writing this post I spoke several times to David, as well as to your Uncle Barry and Auntie Agate.

Before getting into the details of the trek, take a few moments and enjoy the slides as they slip by.  I tried to find music that expresses the love a Dad has for his children and, as well, displays the sense of pride that comes from having one of your children lovingly act as a mentor and guide in taking on a difficult challenge.  The three songs were selected after pouring through dozens of father/daughter/son lists posted on the web.

Precious Memories, J.J. Cale
When You Need Me, Bruce Springsteen
Wildflowers, Tom Petty

The photos in this slideshow have also been uploaded link to the
McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page

Opportunities arise but once.

Life provides many opportunities for adventure, but when one declines an opportunity for any reason, it is most often gone forever.  Having achieved a Golden Age in retirement and understanding this, when our oldest daughter Kari phoned and ask if I might like to join her and a cousin from Montreal, David McGregor and his friend, Jenn D’Aoust, in challenging the West Coast Trail, the answer came without a second thought, “yes”. Sure I had concerns about my ability to tackle that particular trail, but if my daughter thought I could do it, who was I to argue?

Also, it gave me comfort knowing she was an experienced backpacker, held an Industrial First Aid Certificate (just in case pops packed it in), had tackled that trail twice before and, being an extraordinary backcountry trekker had at one time considered taking up a career in the emerging field of Eco-Tourism.

When this opportunity arose I was nearly two years into retirement, in fair shape and while I hadn’t recently attempted any long-distance wilderness hiking, I remember Kari’s comforting words: “Don’t worry Dad, you can do this and, besides, I’ve got your back.”  Hmmm!  Of course, it was a done deal as when someone, particularly one of your children, offers to share a moment like this, It must be taken as the memories will last for the rest of your life.

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World at War: Remembering our History

Written by Harold McNeill on November 9th, 2016. Posted in Editorials


earl and edna davis

Edna and Earl Davis (Lynn McNeill’s mother and father) at their Wedding in August 1943.  Earl met Edna while serving in England and soon married. After spending one night together, Earl shipped back to the Italian Campaign where he was stationed for most of the War. For the next months and years he and his troop mates fought their way up the spine of Italy from their original posting in Sicily.

His war years were primarily spent fighting in a number of bitterly won battles including final assignments in France, Belgium, Netherlands. When the war ended, Earl and his bride were not reunited until after the war when Earl returned to Canada where Edna was waiting after having emigrated with dozens of other war brides from England.

The World at War: Remembering our History1

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email: Harold@mcneillifestories.com)

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.