For Romeo Saganash, MP, a turning point

I am touched by the frankness and honesty with which New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash has chosen to address his “medical problem”, alcohol dependency, and I hope that he can work his way through the first acute phase of treatment with personal integrity and with the knowledge that millions of Canadians have his back.

Both as a Member of Parliament and a member of the New Democrat caucus, it is my duty to follow a code of conduct in keeping with my role as a Member of Parliament and the confidence that my constituents placed in me when they elected me.

Last Friday, my behaviour caused an unfortunate incident that delayed an Air Canada flight between Montreal and Val-d’Or. I want to apologize to the other passengers and staff for what happened and for any inconvenience I caused them. I would also like to offer my sincere apologies to Air Canada and the Aéroports de Montréal.

Neither fatigue nor stress can justify what I did. I need help to overcome a medical problem, a dependence on alcohol, like far too many other Canadians.

I am not looking at excuses, but I know that profound scars were left on me because of my time in residential school. I never shied away from that. The death of my friend and mentor, Jack Layton, also greatly affected me. Like him, I needed a crutch. The leadership race wore me out, on top of taking me away from my children and my loved ones even more often.

Life on Parliament Hill can be hectic and exciting, but it is also full of obstacles and pitfalls. Many of my colleagues can attest to this.

I have asked my leader to give me leave so that I can take the necessary time to treat this illness. I am deeply grateful for his support and the support of all my colleagues in this difficult period of my life.

I would like to thank the citizens of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for their constant support in this difficult period of my life and ask for their understanding. I can assure them that my office will continue to serve them and that my New Democrat colleagues will be available to help while I’m on sick leave.

My priority is to serve my constituents to the best of my abilities and it’s with deep humility that I say thank you and see you soon.


Youth for Christ partners with Winnipeg City Hall; Stephen Harper and ‘the Theo-cons’ – are we way past ‘scary’?

A dog-eared, repeatedly-read copy of The Walrus from a few years ago sits beside my comfy chair. Its cover reads “Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada’s religious right”

(Simon, in comments, points us to news of the author’s forthcoming book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada)

I was reminded of the piece by my friend John in Ottawa who has a link, sans commentaires, to the article on his blog.

I commend it to your reading.

The article came to mind, again, when the Harper government’s scariness, again, broke through the Olympic celebrations.

I was invited to join a Facebook group which, too late this time, mobilized against government funding of a building in Winnipeg to be operated by the oh-so-inclusive name of Youth for Christ.

They’re not a new name in the conservative, evangelical Christian milieu and, as they themselves describe their work, they see nothing wrong with receiving public funds while proselytizing in any number of ways to the poor – immigrant, aboriginal, “at risk”.

Columnist Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free Press, noting “the big-box Christian churches peppered around Winnipeg regularly mix politics and religion” takes us through some of the strongest misconceptions for and against public funding of such a centre.

Existing service providers, far from declining additional help in the troubled downtown, reasonably argue against this proposal.

With all the hallmarks of a George W. Bush “faith-based initiative” (which also received public money as often as Congress allowed it) this Youth for Christ initiative has some high-ranking government cheerleaders including Justice Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

Check out Youth for Christ (Winnipeg)’s website and see if this sounds like your favourite municipal community centre.

Poilievre’s loose lips too close to ‘billions’ of misfiring brain cells

His normally booming voice hushed and his head bowed, Conservative school-kid Pierre Poilievre followed Principal Stephen Harper’s instructions today and apologized.  This apparently secured his position as a parliamentary secretary and the Principal gave him his Blackberry back.

The kid has made a habit of getting attention, bullying where necessary, always quick with an insult if it will get him on the news.

So, the morning of Parliament’s historic apology to survivors and family members of Indian residential schools, the whiz kid couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be on the never-controversial CFRA Radio in Ottawa:

His forced apology is not enough, although it seems to meet Prime Minister Harper’s standards. Like the much larger apology on residential schools, this one needs to be followed up with real change. I would suggest he spend part of his summer recess with the people of the Ardoch Algonquins and the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium. Or maybe do a house-swap with a family for some vacation time in Kasheschewan or Fort Albany.

He might learn something.


The quiet horror of residential schools

As good a starting point as any, as the full gravity of the truth begins to come out, points assigned according to abuses suffered:

“Repeated persistent anal or vaginal intercourse — 45-60 points. Penetration with an object — 36-44. Repeated, persistent fondling –11-25. Simulated intercourse — 11-25. Nude photographs taken — 5-10.”

“One or more physical assaults causing injury that led or should have led to hospitalization — 11-25.

“Permanent or demonstrated long-term physical injury, impairment or disfigurement, broken bones. Examples include severe beating, whipping and second-degree burning –11-25 points.

“Being singled out for physical abuse by an adult employee which was grossly excessive in duration or frequency and which caused psychological harms … — 5-25 points.”


Gathering of Mother Earth Protectors and Aboriginal Day of Action: For the grandchildren

As today’s Day of Action march, from Queen’s Park to Toronto’s waterfront, brings to a close the Gathering of Mother Earth Protectors I am struck by the images and words of grandparents enjoying their rich First Nations culture with grandkids, something residential schools stripped away from them, of course, in their youth. Time and time again, speaker after speaker this week invoked their grandchildren as being uppermost in their mind as they fight to uphold treaty and basic human rights to carry on their way of life on sacred ancestral lands.  

A procession of First Nations representatives and settler supporters marched from Queen’s Park to Little Norway Park at Queen’s Quay and Bathurst.  Bob Lovelace spoke at the post-march rally just hours after he, along with the “KI-6”, was released from prison.


Join First Nations in demanding respect for indigenous rights

I hope to see some like-minded friends at Queen’s Park Monday. I’ll be as close as I can get to the northwest corner of the gathering. The week’s tentative schedule is available here.


Naming colonial arrogance

I’m going to try to be more deliberate in following the issues of aboriginal rights which, frankly, don’t get the detailed national media coverage they deserve. 

The summer tourism season will present other opportunities for members, and settler allies, of the Algonquins of the Sharbot Lake area to engage in protest as they act against mining companies and also try to get legislation like the Mining Act revamped.

With Bob Lovelace and the KI 6 in prison, this video is a good primer on the dispute over uranium mining on First Nations’ land north of Kingston and why more settlers need to get involved in getting some action out of our governments.

On my last visit to the Perth area, in Lanark County to the east of Sharbot Lake, it was heartening to see signs of support for the First Nations on lawns and in fields.  The same can be said in other counties around eastern Ontario.  The mining of uranium is of concern to many people there – native and settler alike.

Here’s a link to the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium

Then there are the on-going disputes over a gravel pit in Tyendinaga (the Deseronto area) and a new settler subdivision on disputed lands of The Six Nations of the Grand River in Caledonia.