Remembrance Day 2012

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


November 11, 2012: Remembrance Day

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 they married shortly after. After spending one night together, Earl shipped out for combat in Italy where he spent the rest of his war years fighting in the Italian Campaign. The couple were not reunited until after the war when Earl returned to Canada and Edna joined him shortly after as one of the hundreds of young war brides. Chapter 1 of Black Friday (see notes below) provides more of the history of the Davis Family as they criss crossed the Atlantic.

Remembrance

Nations have always found many reasons to go to war and although worldwide conflict has decreased significantly since the end of World War 2, conflict between nations and ideologies still take far to many lives. Perhaps within this century, a lasting peace will be attained.

November 11th is set aside as a day too remember the millions of military personnel and civilians (men, woman and children) that have been killed, injured, orphaned, displaced or otherwise had their lives drastically changed as a result of war.

The following articles trace some of the history as well as well as the experience of one soldier, a bomber pilot, Bert Ramsden, now 92 years of age and living in Victoria:

A Pittance of Time (For Video Link Here)

Black Friday in Norway (Link Here)

Chapter 1:   The World at War: Remembering our History includes a bit of the history of Lynn’s Mom, a War Bride from England who came to Canada after the war with her Dad who served in the Italian campaign during the closing years of World War 2.

Chapter 2:   Meeting a World War 2 Veteran, Bert Ramsden

Chapter 3:  In The Early Years Bert traces his path through High School and into the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941.

Chapter 4:  Basic Training in Alberta and Saskatchewan

Chapter 5:  Off to War with Prime Minister Winston Churchill  (as surprise passenger on the ship that took Bert to England)

Chapter 6: Black Friday (An Attack in Norway)

Chapter 7: Allied Losses on Black Friday

Chapter 8: End Notes

Link to an Amazing Coincidence

Remembering Viet Nam

Photographs (Link Here)

 

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Twenty-First Chromosome Leads to Enlightenment

Written by Harold McNeill on November 7th, 2012. Posted in Editorials


Adults-with-learning-disabilities-sing-Merry-Christmas-to-County-Councillors

Photo (Web Source): Several young people, a few of whom share a quirky 7th or 21st chromosome, gather
for a Christmas Party.  Within the group can been seen a few like our son who has a quirky 7th that is commonly known as
Williams Syndrome (I)

January 3, 2015:  I brought this post forward for two people we met in San Francisco at our B&B. We were chatting about discrimination and how some people simply do not discriminate of the basis of race, creed or colour. For those people (and they are they are in the minority) discrimination would only be based on what is generally held as ‘right’ or ‘wrong”.  (For those who read this, take a moment and try to define this difference – it is very difficult as it all gets tied up in personal values.

Re: Open Letter Penned to Anne Coulter

On October 23, 2012, a young man, John Franklin Stephens, an Olympian, posted a letter to Anne Coulter on the Special Olympics blog. In the letter John chided Anne for her insensitivity by referencing President Barack Obama as a retard. John, a very inquisitive and sensitive man who entered life with a mix-up in his 21st chromosome, inquired of Anne as to why she choose to use the word ‘retard’ to describe President Obama. John’s comments include:

… I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarky sound bite too the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income, and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift…

… After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.   Link here for Letter

John’s words struck a chord, not only with my wife and me (reference footnote 2), but also with the general public. His remarks were shared widely across the internet and in news reports around the world.

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Quebec Election Results

Written by Harold McNeill on September 7th, 2012. Posted in Editorials


Cartoon: When Renes Levesque became the PQ Quebec Premier in 1976, the rest of Canada became apoplectic. Not only was Levesque very popular across Quebec, but, over time, Canadians in other Provinces came to admire the chain smoking, outspoken work-a-holic.  Levesque initiated the first major charge for Quebec independence which was then carried forth by the PQ party, a charge that nearly succeded in 1995.

Following loss of the referendum by vote of 50.6 to 49.4 (less than 53,500 votes), then PQ Premier Jacques Parizeau, blamed the loss on money and the ethnic vote. Following the loss, he quit in a fit of anger while giving a speech that was nothing short of racist. Since that time the PQ party has carried the separtist banner in which open racism bubbles just beneath the surface.  

September 4, 2012 Vive le Canada!

Interesting election results in Quebec, although that tragic shooting certainly threw a pall over the emerging results.  With 68.1% of the population voting against them, and relegated to a rather weak minority position, the PQ certainly have their work cut out for them. 

From my perspective, if the PQ remain intent upon creating ‘winning conditions’ in any vote for a separate state, they must attend to the following:

Cartoon: Quebec Separtists continue to fight a battle that was lost nearly two and one-half centuries ago. It is time to move on.

Federal Handouts: Over the next eight years (assuming they stay in power), reduce their reliance upon Federal handouts by ONE BILLION per year. A tough financial hit, but without first weening themselves from those generous federal handouts, theyh would be reduced to third world status.

Balance the books.  At present Quebec is almost on par with Italy in terms of indetedness, yet they are a very rich Province in terms of natural and human resources. The PQ will need to begin reducing the funding for many programs (e.g. child care) and may even need to increase University fees above that which the Liberals imposed.

Increase immigration. Quebec, with an extremely low birth rate, must bring in many more immigrant workers willing to take jobs that no ‘self respecting’ Quebecer would consider. This is a problem that is shared with the rest of Canada.

Drop talks of linguistic crackdowns.  With the absolute need for more foreign workers, few of those new workers will be French speaking. If those workers do speak a second language, it will very likely be English. To seek both linguistic purity and independence is an oxymoron unless the PQ intend on forming a dictatorship in which the majority of Quebecers would have no voice (except French).

Secular Province: If there is an intent to become a fully secular Province, do so, but do not give Christianity a free pass. With the demise of the power of the Catholic Church, Quebec has already moved from being the most Christian Province in Canada to the most secular.  Trying to legislate back something that has been lost in the sands of time is a ‘lost cause’. Prohibiting only non-christians from displaying religious symbols is pure racism. It is either all or nothing.

With the economic drivers of Canada having moved westward over the past two decades, Quebec will find that fewer and fewer Westerners and, for that matter, other Canadians who are much worried about Quebec pulling the pin. The advantages to Quebec in staying are far to numerous. The was reflected by the percentage vote in the election.

The PQ, holding barely 30%, need to spent all their time cleaning house before anything close to “winning conditions” might be created. Of course, in trying to do that they would alienate all Quebecers. I don’t think the PQ has the fortitude to follow that path, so the only path they can follow is by creating as much dissension as possible. They have learned that lesson well from the Republicans, Tea Party and other fringe groups within the United States.

Take a few moments and read the PQ Platform for Quebec (remember they carry this platform while, at the same time, reap the benefits of being a part of Canada):

Quebec

  • Achieve sovereignty for Quebec following a public consultation by referendum when deemed appropriate.

  • Use any means at Quebec’s disposal to fully assume all powers for the development of Quebecers, particularly in the areas of education, culture, social programs, health, justice, the environment and immigration.

  • Develop a new Quebec secularism charter.

  • Establish Quebec citizenship.

  • Create Espaces Québec to spread the expertise of Quebecers to countries where we have economic, political, scientific or cultural interests.

  • Strengthen teaching and research in history at all levels, from elementary schools to university, with a focus on the national history of Quebec and its institutions.
  •  
  • Strengthen Quebec’s presence within the Francophonie.

Cartoon: There seems little doubt the PQ will continue to whine and cry about how unfairly Quebecers are being treated in Canada and will bait Ottawa at every opportunity. Creating as much dissension as possible rather than improving conditions for the majority of Quebecers many be the PQ’s only chance for success. 

In that quest, I think (and hope) the PQ will fail as the majority of Quebecers have come to realize their future is inextricably linked to a united and prosperous Canada. The new battle cry in Quebec could very well become:

“Vive le Quebec! Vive le Canada! Vive le Canada libre!  Vive le Canadian Dominion! Et vive la Canada!”  

 

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I am a Liberal

Written by Harold McNeill on August 13th, 2012. Posted in Editorials


This photo, which places Bob Rae in a diminutive position in front of the large Liberal backdrop and with a rather sad, resigned look on his face as he gives a farewell wave, captures, in a poignant way, the current status of the Liberal Party of Canada. Any new party leader will need to change the face of the party by bringing an inspired vision and indefatigable confidence about the future.

February 2015.  This post is brought forward from the summer of 2012.

I am a Liberal.  There, I’ve said it again. It sounds suspiciously like the preamble to a confession of having had an addiction, does it not?  Also, is it not funny how saying those words out loud has a better feel when sitting at the top of the heap rather than at the bottom?  Well, not exactly the bottom, we are still above the Greens and the Block, but as the Greens are in an ascendency period, they are still savouring the euphoria of success.

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Quebec Student Protests

Written by Harold McNeill on May 27th, 2012. Posted in Editorials



 

March 25, 2012.  Thousands march in Montreal in protest of Bill 78, a Quebec law designed to crack down on street protests. I doubt if you will see any masks in this crowd.

Note: Bill 78 was passed on May 18.  For a general discussion of the timelines and events, the follow Wiki links is recommended by a FB friend in Montreal, Gilles Arpin: BILL 78

Comments

It was the Quebec student protests that spurred me to get busy and write the Prague travel post (Link). This was mainly because I felt the people of the Czech Republic and other former satellite states of the Soviet Union (as with those in Egypt, Libya, Syria and others) demonstrate a dogged determination to change their world for the better. In Eastern Europe, nearly 80 years of death and destruction were visited upon those Easter Block countries before peaceful co-existence became a real possibility. (Reference the Prague post for more details). For Africa as well as other countries of the world, it remains a work in progress. Now, back to Canada.

While the vast majority of Canadians, both young and old, demonstrate a strength of character that continues to help shape a peaceful, productive society, a few, shall we say a privileged few, take much for granted. Perhaps, in many ways, I do the same thing with my Pension Plan, Health Care and general services that provides me with a standard of living that is second to none in the world.  

Recently, in Quebec, one small but vocal group of University students suggested their fragile, privileged world would fall apart if the Government applied a $325.00 per year increase in student fees in each of the next five years. The protest began with a small degree of public support, but that turned sour when masked intruders invaded University classrooms in an attempt to intimidate teachers, students and staff. On the streets, mask thugs usurped the peaceful intentions of the majority of protesting students.    
 
Those who know me or have read some of the editorials on this blog, know I am a staunch advocate, both of the rule of law but also of vigorously protecting civil liberties and freedoms entrenched within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our Charter is a document for which many people around would be willing to forfiet their lives and, in many cases, thousands have already paid that ultimate price. Each day in Libya, Syria and Egypt we seen hundreds seeking just a small measure of the freedoms we enjoy.  

That challenge in Canada is that infringments of our Charter by various levels of government are often let to slip by with nary a word of protest. An example was the mass arrests that took place at the Toronto G20. All three levels of government as well as three levels of police (Local, Provincial and Federal), not only acted badly, but, in several cases, committed criminal offences for which they will likely walk away scott free.

Photo (Web): Police car on Queens Street West was left to burn, then smolder for hours as the media played and replayed the clip.

From the moment marked police cars were strategically placed within the protest zone, then left to burn for media camera’s, the stage was set for mass arrests that included hundreds of well intentioned protestors. The result, a significant  percentage of the Canadian public was justifiably outraged. Since that time little has been done to properly review these matters and bring the culprits, particularly the police, before the courts. 

In Vancouver on the other hand, the public overwhelmingly supported the police in the actions taken to quell the hockey riots and that support has continued as the worst perpetrators are being identified and brought before the courts. I do not recall one police officer being accused of a criminal offence or even abuse of power.

While police cars in Vancouver were also burned, the situation evolved so quickly, police had little chance to protect the cars as roaming crowds outnumbered them at least 1000 to 1 as there had been no real expectation (perhaps that was their greatest error) that rioting would erupt. I am still amazed at how quickly and efficiently the police managed to bring that very dangerous situation under control without loss of life or serious injury.

The student protests in Quebec are an entirely different story. While the students initially had what they felt were legitimate concerns (student fees), the public turned solidly against them after the invasions and the actions of masked protestors. 

Photo: Masked individuals marched through Montreal University distrupting classes and threatening students. Can you imagine how you would feel if these thugs invaded your study or work-place. With scenes likes this, it was easy to understand why action of some sort was needed.

The Government, sensing they had gained full public support and the upper hand, introduced Bill 78, which, as it turned out, had a completely unexpected outcome. Both public and the students massively attacked the intent of the Bill, which was, in effect, to curtail public protest. The whole issue suddenly switched from being about student fees to one of civil liberties and freedom.
 
While very few have sympathy for masked protestors (they were responsible for most of the damage and disruption), no one thinks the government response will do anything other than push more protesters onto the streets, just as we have witnessed over the past few days. We now see mom and dad, old and young now taking to the streets in the thousands with pots and pans in hand. The original student protests have been relegated to a non-event except in the hands of the media and a few diehard students.

A cynical person might suggest it would have been an ideal for the Montreal Police to strategically place a few unprotected, marked police cars along known protest routes and wait for nature to take it’s course. A burning police car and a couple of masked men jumping on the roof could certainly become a defining moment as it was in Toronto.

A friend of mine in Quebec predicts that by mid-summer, if the Government does not find a way to maneuver out of this situation, if police continue to make mass arrests and if the students do not back off, it will eventually take the army to restore order. Some may remember the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) and the crisis of October 1970. At that time civil liberties were suspended across Canada and police given massive powers to arrest and detain. No one wants a repeat of that sad month in Canadian legal history.

Photo (Web): Peaceful, but now illegal, ‘pots and pans’ protest moves along Bernard Street in Montreal. Such protests are taking place all over Montreal and Quebec.

As this matter has now evolved, I stand fully with the protestors on the issue of civil liberties and would be on my front law banging pots and pans (maybe I can start something here), not because I support a few spoiled students, but because of what the Quebec Government did in response. It demonstrates clearly how a Government can, with little thought for future consequences, can introduce legislation that goes against common sense. We have all watched as the Federal Government has doing the same thing for the past several months. In the long the Federal ruling party will most certainly pay a big price for the liberties they have taken with the Charter, just as will the Government of Quebec.

While I do not support civil disobedience or mass protests except in extreme circumstances, I would be much more concerned if no one in Quebec or the rest of Canada for that matter, took issue with the legislation as it stands. I would also be marching and banging a pot if I lived in that Province, but I don’t so the best I can do is write a short post that a few might read and reflect upon.

As for those Quebec students and their tuition fees – get back to class, find a better way to bring your concerns forcefully to the government and then get on with life. Save your energies for a real issue.

Harold

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His Holiness, the Dalai Lama: An Open Letter

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


tibetan-man-new-delhi-1

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 of 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 an 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.

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Rogers Communications: Deceptive Business Practice

Written by Harold McNeill on March 17th, 2012. Posted in Editorials


Rogers Communications

This was the attitude that greeted me when I took my complaint
to the Rogers office in Vancouver.

January 2015.  I brought this post forward as this scam is still active with Rogers.

The Scam: Originated from a Call Centre in Ohio (March 2012)

A few days back I was caught short during a Rogers Communications Customer “Satisfaction Survey” being conducted from a Call Centre in Ohio. Although I don’t usually take these calls near dinner, I was in a bubbly mood so decided to let the woman ask away (ah, I can be led so easily).

After a few questions about my degree of satisfaction with Rogers, she went on to ask if it was OK to check and see if any savings could be found in our account (a reward for doing the survey I suppose). Well, why not, I had fun with the survey? She then spent considerable time (20 minutes or so) going over various options and I was feeling bad for taking up so much of her time trying to find so little in savings. She stated: “no problem, Rogers is here to provide you with the best service we can” or words to that effect.

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Rarefied Beef and Deep Fried Sushi

Written by Harold McNeill on March 7th, 2012. Posted in Editorials


Happy Meal

Who, in their right mind, could resist the
MacDonald’s Happy Meal pictured above?

I picked up on this story from an article in the National Post last week (Rarefied Beef) as it has long been a mystery to me why the lowly hamburger, one of the five main foods in the Canada Health Food Guide and sold by the billions across Canada, is only considered to be safe when it is cooked to the consistency of shoe leather. From my perspective, the hamburger ranks about even with a morning coffee at Tim Horton’s coffee as an essential part of the Canadian diet.

Personally, I like my hamburgers thick, juicy and cooked to a point where there you can still see a small ribbon of pink after that first delicious, mouth watering bite. When I was little, I used to snipe bits of raw hamburger when mom was mixing the ground meat with egg (also a raw ‘no-no’), onions (you can eat them raw, but I recently learned they suck in bacteria after being sliced), breadcrumbs (to make the meat go further), salt and pepper (pretty safe). A few of you may cringe at knowing at my mom let me have a bite of raw burger?

Well, my mom was a professional cook (today we would call her a Chef) for her entire life (she passed away in her early 90s) and never once did she turn a burger into shoe leather and, guess what, in some eighty years of cooking (she started young) she never poisoned anyone.

Photo (Web) The Violetta Burger, served up by the Rollin’ Etta food van in Portland, Oregon, is reported to be the best of the best in the Pacific Northwest: Link here

Cooking a thick burger until the pink is gone means the surface is likely charred to a crisp and most of the juice long since disappeared into those BBQ flare-ups. I have even watched as people squished the meat down to get rid of the final threat in that juice. Yummy, another hamburger sacrificed to the temperature police. You may just as well have picked up a Big Mac, or taken out one of those thin, frozen patties, thrown it in the microwave and nuked it until every little critter that might have at one lived in that burger, was dispatched to the great beyond. Most certainly, that burger will be totally safe, but what’s the point? Does it sound like a burger you would enjoy?

My mother-in-law (I loved her dearly), a war bride from England (the English wrote the book on overcooked meat), was a person who played it safe with every cut of meat. In true British tradition, she cooked a roast until the inside was as crisp and colourless as the outside. Mind you, it was mildly OK if you cut it very thin, smothered it in gravy and used plenty of ‘hot’ horseradish. One thing it could never be called was succulent to the last bite.

It took the better part of ten years to get her daughter (that would be my buddy and life partner), to slowly make the switch from over cooked to a touch of pink, then a rich, red in a roast. She now has no idea why she even liked meat that was cooked to a colourless, dry mass.

Photo (Web) This Prime Rib leaves the mouth watering.

My Dad and his friends seldom cooked anything beyond the point of searing the surface. Unless the meat was running red, it was considered over cooked. Perhaps their impatient hunger was partially the result of the half pack they had each consumed before deciding they were hungry!

For North America at least, the explanation seems to lie in the fact that someone, somewhere, sometime, suffered from food poisoning that was traced to a piece of infected meat. A recent article in the National Post mentioned a 1993 case where 73 Jack in the Box outlets suffered an outbreak of E. Coli poisoning in which four people died and 700 taken to the hospital. The story went virile, food-safe scientists jumped on the bandwagon, a minimum internal temperature of 70oC (160oF) was declared necessary to kill E. Coli and the rest, as they say, is history. It is a good thing those same scientists did not look at people killed or injured in car wrecks or we would all be walking.

A National Post reporter also spoke to one restaurateur, who said he was more than willing to cook burgers that leave a band of pink, as well as a little food value and taste, still intact. That restaurateur had no concerns about E. Coli as he felt basic cleanliness was the key to safe food. If you find a restaurant that overcooks everything, perhaps you should have the health inspectors check out the kitchen.

Also, as pointed out in the article, restaurants in many countries around the world serve various cuts of fish, chicken, meat and similar products, raw, the belief being, I suppose, that raw foods, including vegetables (many with skins), taste better and provide the best food value.

Photo (Web): Consider for a moment how much safer the Sushi in this display would be if it had first been cooked to a temperature 70oC!  

In North American cities and towns, the fear capitals of the world, tons of raw fish are sold in Sushi Bars each day. Just watch, some day, someone somewhere will suffer food poisoning after eating their favourite sushi lunch. The media will pick up the story, the fear will spread, the Sushi Scientists will become involved and shortly thereafter, all Sushi Bars will be required to buy thermometers to make sure the fish has been cooked to the magic 70 mark. For the connoisseur of fine sushi, the world will be forever changed.

Apologies to my sister Dianne, you will have to become accustomed to pan or deep fried sushi when you visit our home as we do not wish to take a chance on poisoning you. Yummy!

In closing, I think John stated it best in one of his many hits:

C’mon, everybody’s talking about
Ministers, sinisters, banisters and canisters
Bishops and Fishops and Rabbis and Popeyes and bye-bye, bye-byes
All we are saying is give food a chance
All we are saying is give food a chance

Harold McNeill
Victoria, BC

Link to National Post article: Rarefied Beef

The temperature police in downtown Victoria

 

 

 

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  • 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.