Touching the Old World in the Balkans

Written by Harold McNeill on February 6th, 2023. Posted in Travelogue, Adventure

It was hard to bid farewell to Venice as it is such an amazing city. The water, the art, the culture of old and new. Plus, just by chance we happened to meet a couple we had shared time with in the Swiss Alps on our way to the Top of Europe.  Saying good-bye is difficult so we stopped saying that and now just part with “cheers, see you at some future stop.”  We wave and board the high speed ferry.

1. Across the Gulf of Venezia to the Adriatic.


The feelings of melancholy on leaving Venice do not last long. We have luxurious seating on the upper deck of our high-speed catamaran. We were no more than 25 minutes into our four-hour trip when we chanced to meet a young couple from Queens (New York). He, a deeply tanned, ebullient young man (perhaps Sean at a more mature age), who grew up in the Dominican Republic. She, from a small town just a few minutes from where our friends from Victoria are staying with their families near Labina in Istria.

They travel back to Croatia each year to spend time with her family and then return to the bustle of New York, where their lives are centred. We exchanged travel tips (places to go and things to see) and shared stories of our varied families, homes and views of the world. Ah, she also mentioned she is a skydiver, and they loved the pictures of our experience paragliding high over the Alps when in Interlaken visiting friends. It would be great to meet this young couple again. 

Croatia appears in the north as we travel past Pula, near the southern tip of Istria and glide into Rabac harbour. The hillsides are covered with colourful homes and great bursts of flowering shrubs. The harbour below is filled with boats, and the sidewalks with people. We are greeted at the terminal by our friends Adriano, Rosana and their daughter Vanessa. They never expected we would one day meet them in the country where they grew up.

2:  Meeting  the Families of Friends from Victoria

Our trip to meet Adriano’s mom and dad (we met them ten years earlier when they visited Victoria – his dad and I are only four months apart in age) is very quick as Adriano is free to drive in his preferred style (fast and furious with traffic control signs acting only as a very loose guideline that can be observed or not as impulse might dictate.

After a short visit, we are off to meet Rosana’s parents, who are also just visiting from Victoria (also our neighbour’s Royal Oak)) who maintain a home where Rosana grew up (5 minutes from Adriano’s childhood home). Present is her grandfather, two uncles, an aunt and several other relatives and friends.

Her parents are leaving the next day (after six weeks) and heading back to Victoria. They kindly offered us the use of their home for a couple of days while we got oriented. They have been in the process of renovating over the past few years, and it is a lovely place in a farm setting alongside other relatives.

Even though we have a language barrier, we feel most welcome. To give you a sense of this small farm area (as compared to our homes in Alberta, these homes and large tracts of land have been in these families for 400 500 years or more – no one knows how far the families stretch back. It is clear that all things being equal, these homes will stay in the families for hundreds of years into the future as they pass from family to family, and even those that live in other countries maintain a share.

The homes themselves are built to last hundreds of years as the walls are nearly a foot thick, and the tile on each roof looks to last a hundred years after an installation and periodic repair. They also have smoke and curing rooms that are not used as much now but still serve the families well. There is also the “vina room”, where each family prepares ample quantities each year from grapes grown on their vineyards with meticulous care.

The wine flows freely, and the food is sumptuous. Lynn has even taken to having a glass of wine at the most unusual of times (did I catch her having a little vino at breakfast?). In the early afternoon of our second day, Adriano and Rosana leave to drive her parents back to Zagreb for their flight back to Canada. The parting is touching as tears are evident in the eyes of the whole family – they all maintain close family connections even though they spend most of their lives living thousands of miles apart.

Lynn and I will long treasure meeting with these families and count the visit to Istria as among the highlights of our travels over the past several months.


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Halloween 2022 at the McNeill’s

Written by Harold McNeill on November 9th, 2022. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts

Lynn sketched this welcoming sign

October 31, 2022

Over the course of the afternoon and evening we received a hoard of kids and adults (estimated at 150-200), all in a variety of great costumes. To get to the treats, they had to travel through the yard to reach the front door where they were greeted by a “schoolmarm” who questioned them about “have you completed you homework?” to which she was given all manner of answers (mostly yes, as they knew that likely meant an immediate treat). For the younger ones, perhaps intimidated by the sights and sounds, mom or dad supplied a reassuring hand to the front door. It was fortunate we purchased all those extra treats as by 8:45 the well was dry.

This was “Year 1” of expanding the Halloween scene to the full front and side yard.  The whole family, including Jay and Jeff, Avery, Lynn, shared in creating many of the new caricatures and ghostly scenes.  For some supplies Jay and I made a couple of trips to the Salvation Army on Quadra where we collected costumes and masks as well as other miscellaneous articles used for the various scenes. At home we used straw to stuff the body costumes, with the pumpkin heads being attached to a small shoulder board before being attached to a support pole driven into the ground.

To hold the black pumpkin ghosts, we used the same method to attach the pumpkin head, then placed the head over an inverted wire garden trellis (we forced the three wires into the bottom of the pumpkin, then rolled down a heavy-duty black plastic garbage bag. The inverted trellis was pushed down over a large, inverted plastic plant pot (photo description in the album). For the white ghosts we attached a stiff wire circle to a shoulder board and secured the wire head with two screws. We then folded over white sheets (purchased from the Salvation Army).

We completed the night scene by placing red, white, and yellow bulbs of various sizes in and around the scenes.  This gave the entire yard an eerie feel when accompanied by Halloween music found on YouTube and played moderately loud on the external trailer speakers.

As you might guess from the scenes, over the summer and fall, the front yard was transformed into a summer camp spot for family and guests, complete with trailer, gas campfire and BBQ, swings, swing ropes, sandbox (the Pirate Ship), a well as a tree house and lookout tower attached to a 30-foot slack line.

We rather expect this will become an annual practice back by popular demand.

Link Here to Facebook Photo Album


The McNeill’s


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The Limits of Freedom

Written by Harold McNeill on February 16th, 2022. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials

While two of these five leaders have lost their job since the last election, our democracy remains strong because leaders can only lead as long as they are supported first by their party and then by Canadians in an election.  In many countries around the world, leaders remain in power regardless of the wishes of their party or general population.  A danger can arise when domestic and foreign interests seek to undermine our democracy. Although we maintain a solid right to protest, we must all accept some limits on that right. Those limits kick in when they interfere with the rights of the majority

National Post, February 15, 2022

Two excellent articles in the Post today. The first, a joint comment by Peter McKay, a former senior Conservative during the Harper years, and a retired Ottawa Police Chief, Vern White, titled “This is Anarchy. Order must be restored.” The article provides an unequivocal statement that using every means necessary to dismantle this protest is not a strike against democracy; it was a way to preserve it.

Having a senior Conservative thinker and former senior member of the party, taking a solid stand like this, speaks well for the view of the majority of the Conservative Party membership as well as the entire Left side of the political spectrum.The challenge faced by the majority of Conservatives is that the extreme right of their party carries a much louder, in your face, voice. This is clearly demonstrated in the current protests. It’s also a side of the party that attracts extremist groups whose agenda is often far beyond the far-right led by Maxime Bernier and the Peoples Party of Canada.

As we’ve all observed, the moment a centrist Conservative leader emerges (e.g. McKay, Sheer, O’Toole), it’s not long before the loud voice of the extremists takes over. Those groups start a fight that soon leads to those centrist leaders being dumped as “not Conservative enough”. In all this in-fighting, the good news for Canada is that the majority of people in Canada, be they Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green or Bloc, supports the rule of law and our freedoms in a way that makes Canada a democratic leader in the world along side Australia, New Zealand, and others that have taken a similar stand.  That fact that that Conservatives breath fire and brimstone when speaking about the party in power and its leader, is just the way politicians play the game.  Article in the National Post Article on Press Reader

The second article, Civil Servants, NASA workers among donors, provides background on the hacker who gained access to the US Christian GiveSendGo site that intended to funnel millions into the Ottawa protests. While I generally don’t support ‘hackers’ as they most often gain access for the purpose of enriching themselves, others do it for altruistic purposes, as was done in this case. We all remember the Panama Papers and how those documents provided by Edward Snowden, opened the doors for many countries to chase down money hidden by some of the most powerful “men” in the world.

In the present case all those millions of dollars are now locked away by the hackers and cannot be used by the GoSendGo group.  Further they have placed a scrolling message on the site outlining their aims.  Again, if you have a chance, read the background on the GiveSendGo page. I cannot find a link to the National Post article, so I’ve included a few screenshots. One of the most disgusting and lasting symbols of that extended protest was the way the protestors abused the Canadian Flag as they dragged it through the mud as they cried for “Freedom”.

A few screen shots provided below

Foreign funding of political activism


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Protected: McNeill’s, Wheeler’s, and Elliott’s in 1600s NA

Written by Harold McNeill on March 21st, 2022. Posted in Family History 1700 - 2000

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Protecting Public and Personal Rights

Written by Harold McNeill on January 26th, 2022. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials

Across Canada, the truckers protest is picking up steam.
Please take some time to see who is funding this protest, a fund that now holds $7,000,000. That’ll buy a lot of gas. Also, check which radical group is supporting those truckers and I bet the majority of the truckers have no idea how they are being used.

First, on the subject of vaccines

 In a recent FB Post (an edited copy posted below), I spoke to the issue of the Ottawa-bound truckers who refer to themselves as “Freedom Fighters”. In effect, they want the vaccine mandates dropped because it interferes with their “right” to be free. Before I launch into that subject, I will first clarify my position on vaccine mandates. To be clear, I do not support mandatory vaccinations. There are many folks who have valid medical reasons for not doing so. We have members among our extended family and friends who fall into that category. But, I do not stop there. 

Some folks have deeply held beliefs that cause them to shy away from getting a vaccine (e.g. phobia, fear, religion, family pressure, etc.). If they are being honest, I consider their reasons to be valid. They are no different from conscientious objectors who refused to go to war. The vaccine-hesitant in Canada can most certainly skip the vaccination. Still, they must then live with the restrictions applied to protect our fellow citizens, particularly the unvaccinated who are vulnerable because of a medical condition, and the elderly. However, in order to skip that vaccination, they will face restrictions, some of which will be significant (e.g. loss of work, inability to travel, restrictions on entering many establishments – restaurants, gyms, theatres – and the list goes on).


Some years back, I wrote a longer post on vaccines.
(Vaccines and the good old days) 

Now to the subject of “Freedom Fighters”

These Freedom Fighters, be they those in a trucker-convoy or those protesting in front of hospitals, at other public locations, or who force their way into businesses and attack the staff, you get not one ounce of sympathy from me or the majority of Canadians. There may well be a small cost with disrupted supply lines; however, those will be small costs compared to the costs we inflict because of prolonging this pandemic. Take a few minutes find out who is funding this protest? (Truckers Protest)

Tamara Lick and B.J. Dichter of Wexit (Link) fame, are running the GoFundMe page.  There are many other links about how they latch onto the activities of others as a means to raise funds that get filtered through their organization. I’m  pleased to see GoFundMe has at least temporarily frozen the trucking funds. Yet, at the end of the line the WEXIT folks and others who support them, get what they want – discontent.

For the truckers, what is happening appears to be confusion about what ‘rights’ and ‘personal freedoms’ mean. Within a democracy, we certainly have many ‘rights and freedoms as defined in our Charter, but those rights and freedoms are constrained in many ways. Our statute books, along with case law (civil and criminal), could fill a library with books that define those constraints, and they are significant. Without applying many limitations, we could not come close to maintaining a civil society (our democracy).

Part of those constraints revolves around a government (federal, provincial and local) right to help protect people from spreading contagious diseases into which Covid falls. That same thing happened many times in the past when our society faced killer outbreaks of highly infectious viruses. We all have family members in the past (perhaps in the present) who died or suffered lifelong disabilities because of no vaccine or effective treatment. 

No one has a legal “right” to disregard the constraints, and if they do, they may very well suffer consequences beyond a threat to their health. I cannot imagine anyone, other than a select few religious sects, who would deny themselves an invasive treatment if it could save their life or help to give them or someone they love, relief from a debilitating disease.

I appreciate these truckers may think they are fighting for their “rights” and their “freedom” to choose; however, they are doing the opposite. They are no different than anarchists who maintain “a political philosophy and movement that is sceptical of authority and rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of hierarchy.”

 What happens when folks carry their protests beyond reasonable limits is that the building blocks of our democracy are slowly chipped away. One only needs to look south of the border to see how that “beacon of democracy” in the world is teetering on the brink of self-destruction. That country need not be overly worried about what is happening on the Ukrainian border as much as they need to worry about what is happening within their own. We have not yet reached that brink in Canada; however, these truckers and publicly active ‘anti-vaxxers’ are not protecting our democracy. They are damaging it by thinking only about themselves and their interests. I wonder how many people understand the fragile line that divides public and personal rights and freedoms. 

 You may disagree however, don’t think for a minute that it is because the majority of those who are riding on the backs to those truckers are protecting our ‘rights.’ They’re not, and I don’t want them pretending they are protecting mine.

Harold McNeill
Victoria, January 26, 2022

Update: January 27, 2022 @ 3:51pm

I just received this email from the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Erin O’Toole, along with the following video Link attached.
His flip-flop in this video by now pandering to the extremes of his party, many of whom have more or less taken over the truck convoy, makes it abundantly clear why so many in the party are calling for him to step down.  If everything in Ottawa goes sideways over the week-end and it becomes a Canadian edition of the US January 6 riots (as many in the video’s I’v have watched are calling for), I wonder if the Honourable Leader will follow the lead of another by calling for them to “Stand Down and Standby”.

Considering Mr. O’Toole’s current position on the truckers protest, I appreciated this cartoon.

Update January 28, 2022

Full article on above link to CBC News

This from the Truckers Association

“The vast majority of the Canadian trucking industry is vaccinated with the overall industry vaccination rate among truck drivers closely mirroring that of the general public. Accordingly, most of our nation’s hard-working truck drivers are continuing to move cross-border and domestic freight to ensure our economy continues to function.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges. CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed. Members of the trucking industry who want to publicly express displeasure over government policies can choose to hold an organized, lawful event on Parliament Hill or contact their local MP. What is not acceptable is disrupting the motoring public on highways and commerce at the border.

“The Government of Canada and the United States have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”


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Protected: Christmas 2021

Written by Harold McNeill on December 30th, 2021. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts

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Oak Bay Retirees 1994 – 2020

Written by Harold McNeill on November 26th, 2021. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Travelogue, Slide Show and Video

Hello Everyone,

The photos contained in this slide show were taken between 1994 and 2019.  The inaugural meeting of the Oak Bay Municipality Retired Employees was held in 1994 at the Imperial Inn (now the Capital City Centre Hotel), at 1961 Douglas Street.

Ruth Milling, who retired as Payroll Clerk in 1991, was the primary organizer of this group and for 25 years was the person who scouted out locations, discussed menus, organized helpers, figured out door prizes and did all the things that make for successful get-togethers.  For that, and so much more, all the Oak Bay Retirees owe her many thanks.  She cared about us while we were employees, and she continues to care about us now.

Patricia Walker
Treasurer (Retired)

Music Credit:  ABBA, I Have a Dream, and, Joan Baez, Forever Young.

The photos in the album were in pretty good shape, however it’s nearly impossible to copy them without losing some quality.  Because we tried to include every photo, some will not be as good as we might have wished.   If anyone has an interest in getting more information on names, please send an email to Patricia or myself.

The blog site on which you are watching this slideshow includes a number of police stories from over the years.  They are included in the index section on the left side.

Harold McNeill
Oak Bay Police (1964 – 1994)


Oak Bay Raeside Cartoons


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Protecting Canada’s Health Care

Written by Harold McNeill on September 17th, 2021. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials

What choice in Health Care will be available to you?

“Telus Health” is just one example of how Big Business is moving into the lucrative market of health care as more and more doctors exit the public system in favour of career opportunities in the private system.  Don’t blame the doctors and don’t blame big business.

Update: June 3, 2022

Many will be aware of the challenges posed by a shortage of private practice family doctors. To this point, our family is lucky, we’ve had the same family doctor for thirty years, and our doctor has mentored dozens of young women moving into the medical field. Over the past five years, as she has moved slowly away from full-time practice, she has gradually transferred her practice to young doctors entering the system. As we age, there is a feeling of security in knowing we can turn to those young women at a moment’s notice, either by phone or in person.

Yet, tens of thousands of people in British Columbia and across Canada do not have that same security. Each day, family doctors leave private practice and move to a “fee for service” clinic where doctors can assure timely service and reduced wait times. However, this availability comes at a steep cost to our society. It will not be long before much of our daily health care is transferred to a “for-profit” system similar to that in the United States. If you have the ways and means to enter that system, you can get the best treatment in the world, but if you don’t, you will have no choice but to enter the cash-starved public system. Now is the time to give a boost to the public system.

It’s Time to Protect the Public Health System

Canada’s Healthcare System Explained (Watch) 

This video is of US origin, however it is an interesting perspective from an outsider, particularly one from the United States. There are other equally interesting health care video’s in the series.

1. Canada and Public Health Care

One of the many defining features of Canada is our Public Health Care system. While the system continues to provide high-quality care to a broad cross-section of Canadians (rich and poor), funding cuts have led to longer wait times and other shortfalls in service. This has become particularly evident during the current pandemic as Covid19 patients fill beds normally be set aside for ongoing treatments. (What is happening in our hospitals Ref Part’s 3 and 6)

While trying to balance decreasing budgets, many hospital boards have were forced to.. “contract out services deemed outside the “core mandate” of the hospital system such as food, cleaning and laundry services. Despite extensive complaints about the quality of services they provide, global corporations draw billions of dollars from Canadian hospitals, turning them into conduits for public taxpayer dollars for Wall Street and major stock exchanges. In 2015 alone, one health authority, Vancouver Coastal Health, forked over nearly $35 million to Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management company, amidst rising complaints about the awful food in BC hospitals. One investigative reporter who tried to get information about what was in Sodexo’s food and where it came from was blocked by Coastal Health, which said that the information was subject to the commercial confidentiality clause of its contract with the company.”

Note: August 30, 2021 

Province reverses privatization of cleaning and dietary work in B.C. hospitals

“Health Minister Adrian Dix announced on August 30, that privatized hospital cleaning and dietary workers will be brought back in-house as health authority employees. The Hospital Employees’ Union says the move will help restore fairness and stability in the health care system.” (BC Reverses Privatization)   


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  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • 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:

  • 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.