Bullied student tickled pink by schoolmates’ T-shirt campaign: CBC


In this report from CBC, read (and see a video) about two Nova Scotia high schoolers being hailed across North America for the imaginative way they supported another student being bullied for wearing pink.

Kudos to The Chronicle Herald for first bringing this story to light.

Way to go, Travis Price and David Shepherd! This is about making life liveable for everyone and the support of your peer is an inspiration!

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Continued student debt (in English or French) – ‘That’s Our Canada. Voilà Notre Canada’: Cons


Among the many ways the French language uses the new Harper government’s budget title “Aspire” are:

yearn for, yes, but also breathe in or inhale, or – worsesuck in or suck up.

(Check the Dictionnaire Français-Anglais at wordreference.com if you don’t believe me.)

This would account for the Bloc’s strategic no-brainer to support the budget.

Let’s see if the Harpocrites get a re-elected Charest government they would like in the Québec election or a minority parliament, like their own, the governing party to be determined later.

I also wait to see how federal Liberals in Québec justify, via endless nuance, voting against the Harper-Flaherty budget which makes such strides in addressing the ‘fiscal imbalance’ that is such a sore point in the province.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily want a federal election, at least not in the short-term (nor, let’s be real, do any of the opposition parties). In that sense, the Bloc is taking one for the entire opposition team. Frankly, I don’t want a vote in the fall, either, when the Ontario general election will be in full swing.

Sigh.

So, as of this evening’s respective party stances, the NDP can oppose the budget – and, by extension, the government – while delaying a federal election for tired partisans like me. Even better (for them), the Liberals can do the same. If ever there was a time for the Conservatives to break another little promise, and ignore their fixed election date way down the road, it would be soon.

The oft-repeated applause cue for sleeping Conservatives, during the Finance Minister’s budget speech today was, “That’s our Canada. Voilà notre Canada.”

Whither the environment and climate change? Enough with the green screens and EcoTrust™ feel-good announcements, Stephen (or Ballistic Baird)!

What about First Nations? Nothing!

Oh, and what’s Stephen Harper’s solution to high tuition fees now (and student debt for years to come)? Let parents sock away more money, and earlier, in RESPs.

The young parents I know, even the two professional income parents, are paying off mortgages or lines of credit needed to have one of them stay home with the kids since there’s precious little licensed, affordable day-care. There is no money, or very little, to sock away for the little tykes’ university years which – don’t kid yourself – are coming on quickly!

The ones who can afford to do such sock-stuffing, the über-wealthy, will get a nice tax break while the student loans for the rest will maintain a debtors’ economy for generations.

And, for that, we still can’t get a break on ATM fees?

Thanks to Jim Flaherty et.al., “That’s our Canada. Voilà notre Canada.”

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Book Review: Healing Our World – Inside Doctors Without Borders


Update coming: I’ll be updating this, probably under a new title, after interviewing David today, March 17.

–Kenn 

My friend David Morley, for seven years the Director of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (Canada) and now President and C.E.O. of Save the Children Canada, has released a book chronicling some of his experiences with the Nobel Prize-winning MSF.

It is, at 120 pages and in good-sized font, very accessible to young and old alike and, in fact, would serve well as a manual for anyone, from school children on up, considering a volunteer position or career in MSF or similar endeavour.

David has been in the field, and the book includes some of his journal entries and photographs, as MSF has responded, both proactively and in the face of unexpected calamity, to people impacted by AIDS, civil wars, tsunamis and other natural disasters. MSF I count among my heroes.

The publisher, both in Canada and the U.S.A., Fitzhenry & Whiteside highlights, on the book jacket, a quote from David which I’ll repeat here:

“When I tell friends at home about my missions with Doctors Without Borders, they often say to me, ‘It must be so depressing.’ But it doesn’t feel depressing. Working with Doctors Without Borders, I get a chance to make things better for people who are suffering and need medical care. Our volunteers don’t have to sit by helplessly, wondering what on earth we can do. The gift of action is ours.”

Again, the book is called Healing Our World – Inside Doctors Without Borders. It’s by David Morley and is published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. I enthusiastically endorse it!

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Mother’s Day music


As I wrote here there will soon be, in the plans anyway, a seat in a new concert hall with my retired music teacher Mom’s name on it.

My siblings have come on board thanks to my unbridled enthusiasm which – as I admitted to them – might have been comparable to the contagion of a good winter cold. But, hey, they have plenty of payment options.

Besides, I just know it’s going to make Mom weep with joy on Mother’s Day (and me, too, when that starts!)

I booked my train ticket today to be with her then, if not some time before too. In fine fettle she said, not knowing this would be no ordinary bouquet of roses weekend, “If I’m still around, I’ll be glad to have you,” to which I replied, “Well, and if you’re not, I’ll make the trip anyway!”

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Students Day of Action


“Chanting ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire! You said fees would go no higher,’ thousands of college and university students marched through downtown Toronto today calling on the Dalton McGuinty government to lower tuition.” –Toronto Star

“The murky world of government funding must be cleared to give all students access to affordable post-secondary education says a national student body campaigning for sweeping change to the system.”

–Globe & Mail

Opening lines from this afternoon’s newspaper website updates indicate some of the MSM got the message.

Congratulations to all who mobilized and raised hell today! Here’s hoping you can be the deciding factor in many individual election fights to come.  (To that end, it was great to see such a good turnout on Parliament Hill as well.)

Hopefully some NDippers will post photos from the various demos.

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HIV/AIDS stigma still cuts to the bone wherever it manifests


I’m feeling the effects of emotional jet-lag today living stewing, as I was for a few hours last night, in Los Angeles time (minus three hours from here in the eastern timezone of Canada).

The last weeks of Dean’s life, as chronicled through the eyes of one of his long-time friends, (I said a prayer for you this morning, for what that’s worth) bring up so many things for me – sad memories, sure, but also the stark realization that, 25+ years after the discovery of what would become known as HIV/AIDS, it is still an emotionally explosive syndrome packed with projectiles like secrecy, fear, shame, sexuality and morality.

Thirteen years after my best friend Jim died (I stopped counting the total number of lost friends, or acquaintances, when it hit 30) I think back to that night. For one thing this weekend’s bitterly cold “windchill factor” here is exactly the sort of weather we experienced the night of Jan. 13-14, 1994. Of course that’s just a minor detail in the memory bank.

Unlike Dean’s family, everyone in Jim’s circle knew that he had been HIV-positive for a few years. However the fact that the ‘presenting illness’, which led to his death, was lymphoma revealed just how uncomfortable some family members, in particular, were with Jim’s HIV status. Maybe Jim soft-peddled that with them, as much as they wanted to hear, I don’t know. In any case his parents, and one of his two sisters, seemed to take some consolation in calling Jim’s illness either lymphoma or cancer.

To those of us in the room with full-blown AIDS, or at least this one, this felt like a stigmatizing slight – no matter how unintentional it might have been.

Complicating matters in Dean’s case – here in 2007! – is the fact that so much of his personal life was a secret to members of his immediate (biological) family.

None of this, sadly, is unfamiliar to me. One of the first guys I knew with AIDS – who knows he may have even been the one who infected me back in the 1980s (I do not know) – was completely shunned by his family. Bad enough that he had AIDS, went their Jehovah’s Witness logic, but to be gay – good-bye! (In fact his mother, threatened with ex-communication from her congregation, made the blatant choice to cut off ties with him – and told him so.) These were also the ill-informed days, reinforcing the stigma, when some hospital employees would leave meal trays at the door rather than touch or breathe the same air as the AIDS patient.

I remind myself, as my heart stretches to Los Angeles today, that I have been really blessed with family, friends and support (including faith communities) who have walked with me every step of the way – so long as I let them in. Sometimes I may even show more stigma toward myself than do most people I call friends. Just like being gay is not always easy to live out, having HIV/AIDS – whether gay or straight – still packs a lot of stimga, whether we are conscious of it all the time or not.

Such stigma even exists in the gay community. And, where AIDS is much more prevalent in the heterosexual community, the stigma and myths fester there, of course, too – often unchallenged.

Again, Dean, rest in peace.

With friends like AIDS Project Los Angeles, Project Angel Food and Pissed Off Housewife, I know you are leaving this world in better shape than you found it.

‘Two-tier education?’ Even Global TV is asking!


The graphic, over the local Global News headline teaser a few moments ago, read “Two-tier education?”

Coming from Global, the (cough)hype-free, (cough)leftist television branch of the (cough)liberal canada.com empire, the story has the potential to last at least until the late news tonight. (Something tells me it may also be close to top-of-mind at this weekend’s Ontario New Democratic Party Convention, too, where there is already to be debate on the constitutional mine-field of the “public” – public/Roman Catholic – education system.)

Global’s story is, of course, about the day’s earlier headline in the Star concerning York District School Board’s “effective, affordable alternative to private learning centres” – a pilot program offering students, in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, sixteen hours over eight weeks of after-school instruction for $190. This is believed to be the first instance of a school board in Ontario charging students for extra help after regular school hours.

Is this a way to boost YDSB’s provincially-mandated test scores or yet another method of raising money for provincially-starved school boards?

Or is it both and more?

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Letter to the Editor, The Gleaner, Huntingdon, Québec


Dear Editor:

With the start of another school year upon us I have been waxing nostalgic over Septembers long past with many fond memories of life at C.V.R. (Chateauguay Valley Regional) – and Gault School in Valleyfield before that.

This trip down memory lane was prompted by a phone call to Mom, during which she reported having driven from her place of retirement, Perth, Ontario, to the funeral of a family friend in Ormstown. Honestly, it sounded like she met more people I would like to have talked to than I even might have seen at a C.V.R. reunion! (I graduated in 1977 and have yet to attend one such gathering, but I suggested Mom call me the next time someone in the valley from her generation dies, as I might have the opportunity to visit with just as many people – and from a cross-section of age groups to boot!).

When I think back on C.V.R., I relive my involvement with Lindsay Cullen’s band (both at school and in the town over the summer); and the drama club production of “Oliver!” – a club whose vitality was cut short by the untimely death of Bob Walker, when I was in grade eight I believe, in that horrible Christmas time accident that killed four teachers. (I thank Gerry Taylor who chaperoned a group of us on a memorable trip to London, substituting for Mr. Walker.)

At the risk of naming influential teachers, and inadvertently omitting equally important ones, may I send greetings to Donna Erskine and Vernon Pope (who each encouraged my writing career); Harley Bye and Mrs. Blake who gave me an appreciation not just for Canadian history but for the local history of wherever I have happened to be – the Chateauguay Valley, then later the Niagara region, and now Toronto; Mr. (I think it was Jack) Dawson who – despite his very British name – imparted a style of conversational French I still call upon at times; David Hadlock, the only teacher in elementary or high school who made math seem interesting and relevant to me.

I no longer have my C.V.R. year books, the decision to leave them behind somewhere a cause of some regret now, but I remember many class-mates who shaped me as well.

Finally, this list would not be complete without mentioning my very first teacher, and these were days when kindergarten was not offered: Mrs. (Jean) McClintock who used to drive to Gault School from Ormstown to teach first grade every day.

I hope that whoever is teaching nowadays has a good year and best wishes to the children, and probably even grandchildren, of my classmates.

Kenn Chaplin