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.

For a young peoples’ video look at the history of the Tay Canal please click the link below, by which I mean…

this one!

I am so proud! Not that I had anything to do with this (and I didn’t) but because the video shows how the appreciation of Perth (Lanark County, Ontario, Canada) history is, and will continue to be, alive and well!

Congratulations to everyone, particularly the young people and their mentors, who made this possible.

Wherefore art thou, Cardinals? – Oh!

This was a landmark day in the lives of Ontario high school students who have been exercising their democratic rights, without the vote even, for the passage of Bill 13, the Ontario provincial government’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) initiative.

It passed in the Ontario Legislative Assembly with 65 votes in support, from the combined efforts of Liberal and New Democratic Party members, and 36 votes against from the Conservatives.

No thanks to the Cardinal!

Of course, besides the horrors of bullying, I empathize strongly with victims of sexual abuse, be they school children or the prey at Penn State, where the nightmare continues with today’s farcical early developments in the trial of accused coach Jerry Sandusky.

As I’ve written before, my greatest personal bully was in elementary school, a teacher (who would become principal), but my peers picked up where he left off, particularly on the 40-minute bus rides to and from high school.

So I have “issues”, many of them similar to those at the heart of the GSA debate. The work continues – which makes me so happy that GSAs are growing in popularity.

While their red-capped overlords protest, it is wonderful to know that Catholic teachers back GSAs!.

Order in the Court!

Reading today (when I’m not writing)


When I read it’s a bit like grazing in front of the dessert table (minus the diabetic considerations).

So it is that I am currently reading, roughly a chapter or section at a time:

The Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada, 1784-1855: Glengarry and Beyond
by Lucille H. Campey
Robert Bourassa
by Georges-Hébert Germain (texte en francais!)
Those Who Save Us
by Jenna Blum (on the recommended list in the recently-read Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay)


It’s the paper book version of channel surfing but with far greater results.

I bought the Bourassa biography (still available only in French) after seeing the author on Tout le monde en parle several weeks ago. It is a pleasure to recognize the neighbourhood in Montreal where he grew up, went to school (later across town in Outremont), and acquired a taste for the cut and thrust of politics with which I can so identify. His father was a painfully shy civil servant, his mother a more boisterous lover of singing – all during a time, in the thirties, marked by the Great Depression and the foreshadowing of war. It was, in fact, his keen interest in the day-to-day developments of World War Two which helped make Bourassa the walking atlas he would become.

That’s as far as I’ve read thus far.

In the novel Those Who Save Us, a university researcher is helping a Holocaust researcher interviewing German-Americans who experienced the war in their homeland. Meanwhile her mother’s story, including the disappearance of the narrator’s Jewish father, is being told in flashbacks.

The Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada, 1784-1855: Glengarry and Beyond appeals to the historian-genealogist in me. I am finding plenty of references to the life my ancestors must have shared, some coming to the named-for-home Glengarry region in the south-easternmost part of Ontario and others to Lanark County in the military settlements of the townships around Perth, on land assembled by treaty with the Algonkian (Algonquin) people as wood and farm land for immigrants and, in the case of Perth, as a military settlement for half-pay and retired soldiers from the War of 1812, including both the European battles and those along the border with the United States.

I haven’t bought an e-reader yet, still enjoying the weight and touch of a book’s pages – three books even!

So three lawyers walk into the Ontario Legislature…

…but this is no joke!

There’s a friendly exercise each morning that the Ontario Legislature sits when Members have the opportunity to introduce guests seated in the gallery – family members of one of the high school student pages, perhaps a visiting township reeve, or dignitaries representing other governments, be they in Canada or elsewhere.

It must have seemed surreal, then, for Toronto Centre Member of Provincial Parliament Glen Murray, his voice choking up even as he began to speak, to introduce (to a standing ovation from all sides) two fellow lawyers – Douglas Elliott, representing EGALE Canada, and Adrian Jjuuko of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda. This is the organization that has been leading the opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill often called the “Kill the Gays bill” in the media which, though delayed last year, was reintroduced a few weeks ago with all of its worst provisions, including the death penalty. It could become law in Uganda within 30 days and the government has continued its harassment of LGBT groups while it waits.

Mr. Jjuuko, although heterosexual himself, risks persecution when he returns home later today just for being the strong advocate that he is.

Whatever other pressing matters may have been discussed at Queen’s Park following these introductions today I did not hear them.

For further information and to positively agitate see:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

The New Civil Rights Movement

A letter to Canadians from the Honourable Jack Layton

August 20, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

June 18 proclaimed as Pride Day in the Town of Perth, Ontario!

Imagine my delight, and yes pride, to learn that LGBT Lanark County had won its bid for a Pride Day proclamation in Perth for June 18. (This was also the first I’d heard of LGBT Lanark County. Their web site is pretty impressive!)

The Perth Courier, and an advertiser-householder known locally as the EMC, both had news during my recent visit of the April 19 town council meeting where, just as proceedings began, Mayor John Fenik made the proclamation (among others, including Parkinson’s Awareness and International Building Safety). The Pride proclamation was greeted by applause from members and friends of LGBT Lanark County.

The proclamation will be celebrated with a dance at the Civitan Hall on June 18, featuring both a live band and d.j. Tickets are $15 in advance (available at Shadowfax) or $20 at the door.

Congratulations to LGBT Lanark County. Community events in small towns are an amazing affirmation of the founding spirit of Pride!

Licence to drive, licence to vote

When I vote in advance polls this weekend I will not be asked to dip a finger in purple ink.  Armed guards will not be inside or outside the polling station.  My vote will not be influenced by bribes or intimidation.  Sad then, isn’t it, that so many Canadians, having seen the struggles for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa this winter, will not exercise their democratic right between now and May 2nd and yet will feel free to complain about the outcome!

If barely sixty percent of Canadians old enough to vote will do so, all the more reason – among others – to lower the voting age to sixteen.

As difficult as it is for this 51-year old to imagine that 16-year olds were only born around 1995, the fact is that they are in school, and have hopefully had at least some compulsory lessons in Canadian history and social studies.  What a great environment of debate and discussion to spark an interest in How Canadians Govern Themselves .

Only as an adult, hearing of the distance so many people feel from our democratic institutions, could I truly appreciate growing up as close as I did to Ottawa (and spending summers even closer).

Map picture

Going to high school near the site of the War of 1812 Battle of the Châteauguay, which thwarted an over-land invasion by Americans bent on conquering Montréal, I was gifted to have a couple of very enthusiastic history teachers who placed a lot of emphasis on local events.  As this also coincided with the Parti Québecois’ historic first election to government in 1976 there was no shortage of material – and of course there was lots of study of the October Crisis of 1970 a few years before.

Each year of high school included a day-trip to Ottawa where we would tour Parliament, at least one museum, and the Experimental Farm.  Setting off from Ormstown, we’d travel through my home-town of Valleyfield (or its formal name, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, which honoured French-Canadian lieutenant-colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry, hero of the aforementioned La Bataille de la Châteauguay), up past the sprawling horse farms of St-Lazare and the Ottawa River-side town of Hudson (home of NDP leader Jack Layton) to Highways 40 and the 417 which sped us to our destination.

I know that when it came to history and politics I was definitely a nerd but I look back on these opportunities with gratitude.

During the summer I split my time between Portland, Ontario on the Rideau waterways and Perth which, as a War of 1812 military settlement, has a great deal of history in its own right.

In the grand old court house across the street from my grandmother’s, at the time, there sat a judge for many years (John Matheson) who, as a local Member of Parliament during the Lester B. Pearson government, handled the political sausage-making which led to Parliament adapting our much-loved Maple Leaf flag.  Matheson, so my grandmother boasted, is a distant relative.  My great-grandmother was a sister of Judge Matheson’s grandmother.  (The Scottish side of my family make it our life’s work to trace our bloodlines back centuries to the Highlands – roots which I always blame, without evidence admittedly, for my fair, irritation-prone skin.)

All of which is to bring me back to the fact that it was in my youth, even before learning to drive, that I also was most intensely learning about politics and how government works.  I’m sure the same is true today so, with so much pathetic apathy among adults, let’s thrown open voting to young people.

Old enough to drive?  Old enough to vote!

Inaction on Champlain Bridge not just a tempting symbol against Ottawa for pols

A quick family story: During the summer of Montréal’s Expo ‘67, far and away Canada’s best centennial project, an aunt and uncle from Portland, Ontario along with a great-aunt from Lancaster, were on their way to our place for the night after seeing a Scottish tattoo at the Autostade on the edge of the Expo site.  Situated where it was, I’m sure my uncle was not the only stranger in town to mistakenly head on to the nearby Champlain Bridge, missing the turn to Autoroute Décarie.  At the time the bridge charged tolls, and in the old-fashioned way with collector booths, and Uncle Homer was not a believer in road tolls of any kind so it was bad enough to pay to go where he didn’t want to go but paying again to retrace his way back to the correct route was a major piss-off!  In today’s parlance he did not “let it go” for a long while (nor could the rest of us resist teasing him about it!)


The Champlain Bridge would not dare charge tolls nowadays given the need for its replacement, as the CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault reported on The National last evening.

This bridge is not merely a commuter artery, as important as that is, but is also the island of Montréal’s main connection to the autoroute which carries goods to and from the United States.  Does that not give it an importance which all levels of government (and their would-be successors) can agree on, the perils of doing too little (“repairs”) in the short-term just too stupid to contemplate?

An early political rally


It seemed, in hindsight, to be less of a political rally, such as go on during an election campaign, and more of a small-town welcome to a Prime Minister.  It might well have been both.

On the lawn in front of a specially-built stage across from the band-shell, between beautiful Stewart Park and the stately old Town Hall of Perth, Ontario, my grandmother and I unfolded lawn-chairs and watched as final preparations were made for the arrival of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his wife Margaret, whom he had just married the previous March.

This was the summer of 1971.  My grandmother was a Conservative voter, though never a party member as far as I know.  “My father always voted Conservative,” seemed to be her reasoning.

Having retired as a school teacher only a few years earlier, my grandmother took pride in her town, kept up on civic and church affairs, and rarely let a good lesson slip past her grandchildren.

Still a few months shy of turning 12 I had experienced a bit of a political baptism by fire with my family.  It had been less than a year since the October Crisis and our home was not in Perth but rather in Quebec.  Mom and Dad had settled in Valleyfield in about 1957, towards the end of the Duplessis era, when Dad’s specialty textile plant moved from Perth to be closer to its Montreal owners.

By 1970, with four children, Quebec was home but I can only imagine how the events of that October must have shaken Mom and Dad.  What I remember was a lot of army vehicles around town and soldiers with heavy artillery, at buildings even remotely connected to the provincial and federal governments, and especially at bridges which crossed both the St. Lawrence River and Seaway.  This was considered to be a plausible escape route by FLQ members to quiet U.S. border crossings or to Ontario.

All of this seemed like a lifetime ago on this warm evening.  I don’t remember how the guests of honour arrived.  I don’t remember who else was there but can say with near certainty that prominent Perth families such as the Crains would have been among them, the local MP, the perennial Member of Provincial  Parliament Doug Wiseman, as well as local judge John Matheson who made a name for himself steering the Maple Leaf flag through Lester B. Pearson’s Parliament and to whom I am distantly related through MacDonalds and McIntoshes.  (He’d occasionally walk across from the court house to my grandmother’s veranda for a visit during those years.)

Words of welcome to the Trudeaus from everyone nearly completed, it came time for presentation of gifts.  The only one that I remember, to this day, was a large package of disposable diapers.  There seemed to be a mixed reaction, whether Justin Trudeau’s expected arrival the next Christmas had not been made public yet or perhaps the proud people of Perth thought it was a gift in poor taste.

I think my grandmother might have voted Liberal a couple of times before she died, and that’s how my Dad always voted, Mom will do so until her last ballot is cast.  My first vote was Liberal, when Joe Clark’s government was defeated in 1979, but I went on to be a New Democrat for many years, a Green for a few more, and now I think I’m circling back…

Rest assured I’ll never vote Conservative.

Michael Lucas and the ‘pink-washed’ liner notes of “Men of Israel”

His fans might be forgiven for not actually knowing his name. Michael Lucas has made millions from gay men who have bought, or otherwise paid to view, one of hs 100+ films – roughly eighty percent of which he has starred in.

Lucas touched off a controversy last week when he threatened to pull his money, and influence over many fundraising events, from the LGBT Center of New York after he learned of the “Smash Israeli Apartheid” party scheduled for tomorrow night or, as Gay City News put it, Firestorm Over LGBT Center Jettisoning Critics of Israel. The Center gave in; the event was cancelled but plenty of other events for New York’s Israeli Apartheid Week are underway.

Torontonians, who also have many events to take in, are familiar with the anti-free speech lobby which tries to shut down events drawing attention to Israeli Apartheid. Just think back to the months leading up to last year’s Pride Week.

(The discussion isn’t over.)

Michael Lucas, who also writes a conservative column for The Advocate, doesn’t hide his contempt for anti-apartheid activists.

A proud accomplishment of his was the production last year of an all-Jewish porn film in Israel. In the notes (in bold below) he couldn’t resist taking digs at Arab neighbours or Israeli Palestinians for that matter while waxing poetic on Israel. It’s called pink-washing.


(Click “About” to see the original rendering on the website)

Lucas Entertainment’s MEN OF ISRAEL is a landmark for its namesake nation, and the production has pioneered a new level of accomplishment in history.

Besides the throbbing hot men, Israel is a beautiful country with a beautiful culture. It is a phenomenal country where people can truly be liberated and live as they please.

In a sea of hostility and intolerance of the Middle East, Israel is the beacon of freedom. In every surrounding country homosexuality is illegal, often punishable by flogging and even hanging. Presently Israel remains the only country in the Middle East to provide legal protection for gays. Many LGBT individuals have relocated to Israel, often fleeing cruel intolerance that includes physical abuse, exile, or death.

The nation is a trailblazer in the area of gay rights, and the only nation in the Middle East and Asia to recognize same-sex marriages. “This is a liberal country where gay people have all the rights, actually more rights, than gays in the United States,” states Lucas, “There is no ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy. Israeli gay men have been able to serve openly in the army since 1993 and gay couples are granted the right to adopt children.” Israel draws its population from over 90 countries, creating a truly progressive, multicultural society.

The global media has created an image of Israel as war-torn nation, which streets are lined with destroyed debris and crumbling ruins. Publicly broadcasted footage is always filmed in either Gaza or the West Bank, regardless of whether or not the story has a pro or anti-Israeli angle. Never are we shown Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea resorts, the beautiful beaches, the amazing architecture and the embracing culture that allows its citizens to thrive.

For this reason, other than showcasing the raw, sexual prowess of Israel men, Lucas also has completed MEN OF ISRAEL as a bold move to promote Israeli culture and tourism. As with the tourist boom in countries like Czech Republic, which became popular gay travel destinations through movies of this type, Lucas aims to parlay the MEN OF ISRAEL’s success into a tourist hike for the nation. Eastern European countries had little to no promotion for the savvy excursionist. “These places did not exist on the map as a destination locale until Bel Ami came along. With their representation through adult movies, these countries were exposed to the realm of gay travelers,” states Lucas. “Through porn, people will enjoy not only watching hot men having hot sex, but also seeing them in their remarkable natural environment, and this is what I intend to do for Israel.”

Here are just a few of the unique attractions that Israel boasts:

  • Israel has an abundance of historical sites that you will not be able to see all of in one visit
  • Stunning architecture
  • Wide array of intriguing arts & museums
  • Amazing natural resorts and national parks with hot springs, spectacular wildlife and beautiful gardens. Israel boasts seven climate zones, ranging from dry to tropical and hot to cold
  • Gorgeous waters like the Mediterranean, Red and Dead Seas, and Sea of Gallilee, with beautiful beach and great availability of outdoor activities, ranging from scuba diving to fishing
  • Delicious organic food with fresh meat & fish, as Israel has wonderfully developed agriculture
  • Eclectic restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world.
  • Israel a paradise for young gay men and women with numerous modern clubs, bars, and other outdoor activities specifically for our community.
  • Friendly and warm people who speak fluent English
  • Short distance to travel from one location to another without taking planes (one can travel anywhere in the country by car).
  • On top of that, traveling within Israel is much cheaper than traveling through the United States or Western Europe.

Lucas will use the rare scenery along with the stunning locals in MEN OF ISRAEL. The film showcases the unforgettable and entrancing mountain ranges, the extraordinary sunset hues over the desert, the Dead Sea and the pristine views of the Mediterranean Sea and modern Tel Aviv as a backdrop. Of course, the film also features the beauty of Israeli men. What we have captured on film is a groundbreaking sexual revolution.

Recording resistance and history through music in Palestine

Songs from a Lost Homeland, which originally aired on Al Jazeera English last year, is in the programming rotation again this weekend.

Is there a song in the west right now with even a small percentage of the punch of these musicians? I hope you get a chance to see the entire documentary. There’s another absurd segment where Israeli forces, tipped off that a Palestinian musician had a bunch of his CDs in his car (that can’t be good!), pull him over at a makeshift check-point and take them away.

While I’m sure I will look in on the Oscars presentation Sunday night it’s not hard, what with what’s going on in Libya, northern Africa and the Middle East, to see how completely shallow this is.

To say nothing of Charlie Sheen.

We just don’t know how good we’ve got it, do we?

Music of the movement

One of the first activists’ songs that had any resonance for me was “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” (1961) and then “Give Peace A Chance” (1969). Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” (1963) was an anthem, if ever there was one, and I remember making a connection with “One Tin Soldier” in 1969. While grown-ups were worried about missiles in Cuba and a war in Vietnam I was learning a little bit of French watching “Chez Helene” and trying to figure out matters of proportion and size with “The Friendly Giant”. My only brush with war, more than young Canadians in other provinces mind you, was during the October Crisis of 1970. Riz Khan, a television figure new to me since I started receiving Al Jazeera English, spends just under half an hour with Yusuf, formerly known as Yusuf Islam and Cat Stevens during my youth (“Peace Train” 1971) as he releases a rallying song to commemorate the sea change underway across the Middle East and northern Africa.