Why Do Women Stay? (Reblog)

If you have not been in an abusive relationship, you might wonder, “Why do women stay with abusive men?” Ten years ago abuse against women was not even on my radar. It was not something discussed or ever mentioned in my social circles. Now, I know not only does it exist, but it is a far greater problem than many people recognize.

The recent focus on women coming forward after being sexually harassed, especially in the workplace is so very important and long overdue.  Awareness of human trafficking is leading to an understanding that mistreatment of women can be more evil than many of us ever imagined. Of course these issues need addressing.  My concern is for some reason relationship abuse and domestic violence have been placed on the back burner.  I don’t understand this. Has society slumped back into thinking that women abused by their partners chose their situation and if they don’t like it they can leave?

I have heard, “Why didn’t you leave before?” and “He’s changed, so why won’t you go back?” and “Why can’t you forgive him?” Before I recognized that I was a victim of abuse, I would have asked the same questions. If you have not walked in our shoes; then you won’t really understand the effect of constantly being with a negative, critical and controlling person. The short answer:  A woman might not even realize that her partner is abusive, particularly if the abuse is mental and emotional rather than physical.

Everyone’s personality is a combination of positive and less favourable characteristics. When we fall in love we tend to see only the positive behaviours. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying:  Love is blind. When we first meet people and enter into a dating situation, most of us put our best foot forward to try to make a good impression. So, during the first days, weeks and even months of a new relationship, we’re actually seeing the façade the other person wants us to see. (It sounds very contrived, but in fact many of us are not even aware we are doing this.) By the time some negative characteristics surface, often we’re already ‘sold’ on the person. We are, therefore, no longer objective. We consider the pros and cons. If we’ve already vested a lot in the relationship and decide the pros outweigh the cons; we continue the relationship. From that point on it’s human nature to see mostly the positive characteristics. Why? Because we’ve made the decision and we like to be right; we’re going to consciously, or unconsciously, seek and ‘collect evidence’ to prove ourselves right. In other words, once we make a decision, our brains look for patterns – ones that support that decision.

In some cases, abuse sneaks in and we don’t really acknowledge or even notice it at first. Then, at the first signs we make excuses. “Oh, he’s having a bad day” or “He’s under a lot of stress” or “He’s had too much to drink”. In my case, it was “He’s mentally ill, so it’s not his fault”. We convince ourselves it’s a minor issue compared to all of the wonderful qualities of the man we chose (remember, we want to prove ourselves right).

We also put bad behaviour into the category of ‘give and take’ in a relationship. We tend to see ourselves as putting up with the bad things on a scale of ‘pros and cons’. We think if the pros outweigh the cons, then the balance is good.

Last, but not least, we think we can ‘fix’ it. That’s what I thought. I believed that if I continued to accompany my ex-husband to his psychiatrist, if I made sure his environment was stress-free, if I made sure he had lots of exposure to his family, if I paid attention to him and fed into his ego; then surely he would get better. None of that worked. 

The answer, in my case (and I suspect I’m not alone in this), is that these pernicious behaviours crept into our relationship slowly – slowly because I was vested in my husband’s positive characteristics. He had many good qualities. He was outgoing, charismatic, intelligent, the life of the party, and was a wonderful family man. I loved his children and was so deeply entangled into the family, by the time I started to notice the negative characteristics in his personality I had decided overall the positive parts of his personality and the circumstances outweighed the negative. His negative characteristics were noticed and forgiven by the rest of his family. Sometimes, they even joked about them. When he didn’t display the negatives ones for a while, I believed he was changing or returning to the man I had loved. I was wrong. By the time the negative behaviours were more prevalent, 15 years into our relationship, I felt trapped.

The biggest regret I have is that for years I modelled ineffective weak behaviour to my granddaughters. I wanted them to look at me as a role model of a strong, independent woman. Instead, as children, they saw Nana succumb to their grandfather’s negative critical behaviour.  At least as teenagers, and now young adults, they have witnessed their grandmother draw the line, leave the abusive relationship and fight for what is right.

If you are an abused woman, please reach out and ask for help. At best, leave your abuser. At minimum put a safety plan in place. Stay safe.


Recognizing Abuse

Some people ask why I blog.  The simple answer is that I want to share what happened to me so that other women might be helped – to start anew, to pick up the pieces, to leave an abusive relationship, to perhaps even recognize that they are in an abusive relationship and above all to stay safe.  I wrote the following several years ago after leaving an abusive relationship:

It was a weeknight in October with a thunderstorm threatening.   As I parked the car in the parking lot of the Abused Women’s Centre, the clouds opened up and it started to rain.  I had hesitated about one minute too long.  I was here at the behest of good friends, not because I thought I needed any help or counselling.  Feeling invincible and determined, I thought I could make a run for it; but as I dodged people and umbrellas along the busy downtown street, the heavens burst apart and dumped relentless buckets of water on me.

I arrived at the centre in totally soaked clothes sticking to my skin and hair completely flattened by rain.  I stood in reception and asked if there were any towels.  Helpful women scurried around and brought me towels, a baby blanket and a hair dryer.  Still feeling invincible, I went to the bathroom, stripped down and wrapped myself in my temporary donations.  A woman came, collected my clothes, and told me they’d be in the dryer. I apprehensively walked down the hall and into the meeting room with several women. As she saw me draped in towels, one of the counsellors said, “You deserve the prize for having the most moxie!”

The information session’s purpose seemed to be threefold – to inform:

  1. The services offered,
  2. The definition of abuse, and
  3. How to implement a safety plan.

I was keenly aware of my attire being an attention-getter. There might be times when I would relish being the centre of attention, but this was certainly not one. So I just sat silently hoping the others’ interest would be diverted to the leader rather than me. “Services provided by our Centre….blah, blah, blah.” 

I wasn’t really listening. In my typical fashion, I was skimming ahead in the written pamphlet. Third or fourth page in was a wheel diagram called the Abuse Wheel (adapted from the original Duluth Model  https://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheels/).

I looked at it. It made sense. I was still looking at it as an observer, gathering information. And, with my teaching and curriculum design background, I was reading it as an editor. I hadn’t truly taken it in, personalized it or reflected upon it. I was more concerned that each of us would be asked questions that I wasn’t prepared to answer. I didn’t want to share. I didn’t even want anyone to know who I was. Thankfully, our anonymity was respected. No questions were asked.

We were asked to look at the Abuse Wheel and check off anything that related to us and our relationship with our abuser. I took a second, closer look. “Humiliating you in front of others.” Check. Frank had always tried to. “Name calling”. Check. Frank used to call me ‘tubby’ or ‘plumpy’, because I had asked him to stop calling me ‘fatso’. I continued reviewing the chart. “Controlling what you do”. Check. Yup, that was Frank. “Controlling how you look”. Check. When he didn’t like what I was wearing, he’d tell me I looked like a farmer. To him, that was an insult. “Controlling who you see or communicate with”. Check. Frank didn’t like me spending time with girlfriends. In fact, whenever I spoke with Katherine on the phone, he would say, “I don’t know why you call her. You hardly ever see her and she never calls you.” I continued on.

Preventing you from physical care.” Check.  In the last two years, in spite of the fact that I had one tooth that bothered me, he wouldn’t let me go to the dentist.  I felt a well of emotion rise within me. “Slapping, hitting, punching, pushing”. Check. Until recently, this hadn’t been an issue, but that horrible night flashed through my head. I stared at the booklet in front of me afraid to make eye contact with anyone. My mouth became dry and I felt a lump in my throat. Tears started welling up in my eyes.  Through the blur I continued reading. “Using threatening looks”. Check. “Destroying your property”. Check. The tears started to run down my face. “Forcing you to watch pornography”. Check. My innermost secrets and the darkest part of my life stared back at me from the page.

I could barely swallow. I could barely breathe. I felt naked. I wanted to cry out loud. How did they know how he treated me? I wanted to scream, “That fucking bastard!”  I wanted to kill him. Instead, I just sat there.  It was as if time had frozen. I don’t even know if the presenter was still talking. Maybe the room was quiet.  Maybe others were asking questions – I’m not sure.  I have no idea how long I sat there looking at that Abuse Wheel.

Epiphany:  “Oh, my God, I am an abused woman. It wasn’t just that one night of domestic violence. I have been an abused woman for years.”

My head was whirling. I felt so stupid. How could this be? Suddenly I was cold. I wanted to be invisible. At first, I wanted the earth to open and swallow me up.  I wanted Scotty to beam me up and transport me to a happy place. I wanted to travel back in time. I wanted to push the ‘redo’ button. Suddenly I noticed that no one was talking. I finally had the courage to look up. I wasn’t the only one crying. 

I drove home with more questions in my head than answers. How did this happen? How could I not have realized Frank was so controlling and abusive? Was I an enabler? Was I to blame? Did others know? What will the rest of my life be like? What got me here?

The only way I could figure out what to do next was to understand how and why this had happened.  The only way to do that was to commence an analytical review of my life.  Maybe then I would discern the causes and not repeat my errors.  As part of my search to discover how I had become a victim of abuse, I delved into my past. Was there something about my heritage, my childhood or my personality that contributed? I needed to understand myself. I needed answers. And so began my mission. 


On Being Positive

I believe there are naturally positive people and naturally negative people. I have been told by others that I am a positive person. I have no formal education regarding ‘how to be positive’ – merely my personal observations in life. My first real teacher on how to be more positive was my friend Katherine. Many years ago when her son was a toddler, she observed how he would get easily frustrated when something he was trying to figure out didn’t work. I’m sure you’ve all witnessed small children throw some inanimate toy and say, “Stupid _______”. She would instantly pick up the toy and say, “Darling, the toy isn’t stupid. Here, let’s try this again.”  It was through observing Katherine with her son that I started to frame my awareness of how we all have negative and positive thoughts about daily activities; and it’s how we approach those activities that will shape our attitude, our beliefs and our ultimate success.

Many of us, by nature, think of the negative first. That’s okay, if we’re aware of it. In fact, negative thinking can keep us out of trouble.  In a stressful situation, it’s very likely the first thoughts will be either negative or emotional. Those are ‘self protection’ thoughts and they are not bad thoughts. If, however, one is stuck in those thoughts; the results are unlikely to be positive.  If we’re aware of it, then we can consciously turn it off and think about the situation positively. We’ve all lain in bed at night reliving some mishap of the day. The secret is to recognize that you’ve got this never-ending Ferris wheel happening in your thoughts and to mentally tell yourself to stop.

If you cannot think positively about that particular situation then try thinking of something else….and keep doing it. For some people saying prayers helps – saying thanks for the positive things that happened in your day and perhaps asking for some guidance with unresolved issues. My friend Elizabeth, a staunch atheist, would say that if you fall asleep thinking about all of the aspects (both positive and negative) of a problem, you will wake up in the morning with potential solutions. She believed that your brain worked through the problem as you slept.

In my years working as a consultant, our focus was on positive and negative language that affects the reaction of the listener. This is relevant with everyone. If you think negatively, you will likely speak negatively. If you speak negatively, you will likely get a negative reaction. Let me give you a simple example. As consultants, we listened to hundreds of telephone calls. We found that many company reps were saying, “You have to mail us the form.” Often, the reaction was negative. “Why should I have to do that?”, or “How long will it take?” or “Why can’t you just issue the cheque?” We suggested to this particular company that they’d have less resistance if they said, “If you mail us the form, we can issue the cheque right away.” Bingo. The resistance was minimal. People didn’t “have to” do anything and they understood the benefit immediately.

We may or may not have control over what happens to us. We do, however, have control over how we react.  Only you have the power create happiness. Maybe that happiness will come from changing your own situation. Maybe it will come from helping others change theirs. Likely you won’t be able to master your personal challenge on your own. Over the last five years, I have had the good fortune of many positive friends and professionals who made my journey easier. I have surrounded myself with positive people. I continue to surround myself with positive people. Build your own support network of positive people.  Whatever your journey is, know that you can be strong and that there are others out there who will help you.

A Canadian’s Perspective on Covid

I watch the news daily. I watch Canadian news, American news, British news and European news. When I see what’s going on around the world, specifically regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, I shake my head in disbelief. I have never been more proud to be Canadian. We, as a nation, have done well in battling this virus.

Admittedly, we had two key advantages at the onset:

Advantage 1 – Canada’s population spread: Although Canada is the second largest country by land mass in the world, our population of a mere 38 million means that other than a few large cities, our people live farther apart; so spread of disease over the entire country is less likely. This has been evidenced by how well our Atlantic Provinces and Territories are doing.

Advantage 2 – Canada’s Health Care System: Not only does our Health Care System allow most to get ‘free’ medical services, which fosters early testing and attention; but also hospitals can shift money around within from one department to another enabling them to react quickly.

We’re not perfect and we have some shameful blemishes on our Covid-19 track record. We should be conscience-stricken by the conditions in our long-term care facilities and Indigenous populations. While we’ve made some headway in these areas, there’s still a lot of improvement required. And, yes, (insert eye roll) we have some ‘anti-mask’ yahoos.

So, why has Canada done so well? For starters, we listened to the World Health Organization. Our politicians paid attention to the scientists. Our doctors heard the early reports of an overwhelmed hospital system from Italy. Then our ‘first lady’, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive. Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, self-isolated for 14 days.

Where Donald Trump failed, Trudeau led by example: Trudeau appeared daily socially distanced on the steps of Rideau Cottage (where he lives), let his hair and beard grow, and held online meetings all to model effective behaviour to Canada and the world.

The rest of the world should take note. In Canada, our major political parties all came together to show solidarity in the fight against the pandemic. There might have been some jeering back and forth, but for the most part: left, right and middle; federal, provincial and local, politicians have shared in the common goal of making sure Canadians knew exactly what was happening and what they could do about it. Lawmakers but their party lines aside to work together. Even right wing Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, praised federal actions; and although not well-liked by all, continues to exhibit leadership.

It’s not over yet. Now we’re in the second wave. American journalist Brian Williams recently said, “It’s been theorized the Canadians these days must feel like the people living in the apartment over the meth lab.” Did he ever get that right! As daily positive test ratios are above 5% in many States, and they’re still at 2.6% in Canada; we were getting nervous about the potential spread over the boarder. That’s been alleviated by the election of Joe Biden who we are confident will do everything possible to eradicate this pandemic. (Good on you, America!) The trouble is, we still have two months before he takes office.

We have learned so much about how the virus spreads and how to stay safe. Yet, the re-opening phases just before wave two hit have led some people to be lax in their safety practices. With Diwali now and American Thanksgiving approaching, so many folks are ignoring scientific advice and travelling for holidays. What is wrong with people? We’re in the home stretch and we must be vigilant: hunker down, socially distance when you’re out, stick to your familial bubble, wash your hands…and WEAR A MASK!

105 Days In and I’m Angry

Where l live, we’re 105 days into lockdown from the pandemic. Although we’re slowly re-opening, with caution; it’s obvious that we’re not going to see ‘normal’ any time soon.

I haven’t written a lot lately, perhaps because I’m not in a real positive place. I’m tired. I’m tired of 2020. I want 2019 back, or 2021 to be here. I just don’t like 2020. While all of my emotions are close to the surface, the one that I find most difficult to control lately is anger.

On a small scale, I’m angry at the local fool who, even though wearing a mask is mandatory, goes to the grocery store without one and then mouths off because she’s not allowed inside. I’m angry at the halfwit Canadian politicians who can only criticize our leaders’ efforts to minimize and control Covid-19; which they’ve done, by the way, quite effectively.

On a larger scale I’m angry at the violence of some police against marginalized populations – in Canada it’s against Indigenous Peoples just as often if not more than Blacks. I’m angry at ignoramus claims that “All Lives Matter” as a retort to “Black Lives Matter” – they just don’t get it. I’m angry at any buffoon who thinks Trump is doing a good job. All I can do is shake my head in disbelief and pray that they change their minds before the U.S. election.

Right now, at this moment, I am most angry at what is happening in the United States vis-à-vis the Covid-19 Pandemic. Come on! Take a look at what the results of your actions are! In one day, look at the new daily cases for June 24th statistics:

  • Florida (21.5 million pop.) 5,508
  • Texas (29 million pop.) 5,489
  • Arizona (7.3 million pop.) 3,592
  • Canada (37.5 million pop.) 279

Canada and other countries have managed this virus by staying at home, washing our hands frequently, socially distancing, and wearing masks when we cannot. Although we were slow, in some areas, to test; we are now testing the general population. The results in my home city of Windsor is less than 1% – and this is a city where over 6,000 Canadian nurses have crossed the border every day to work in Detroit hospitals.

I don’t think that Americans are less intelligent than Canadians, so why have they not figured out the action/result connection? I think it’s got to do with compliance. Canadians are known as more polite, more easy-going, selfless, and, yes, even compliant. Because we’re polite, I won’t say what many worldwide are thinking about Americans right now. Just read between the lines and look up the antonyms of polite, easy-going, selfless and compliant. You’ll get the drift.

Right now, Canadians are scared. We’re afraid that the sheer massive numbers of Covid-19 cases will somehow cross the border from the United States and start wave 2 of the pandemic in this country. We love you. We’ll do (and have done) anything for you. Please mask up and stay home! Please do this for your Canadian brothers and sisters.

Don’t Skirt the Real Issue!

When will we learn that racism is rampant in our world? Yes, I’m appalled by Christian Cooper being accosted by that dog-walking bitch in Central Park. Yes, I’m disgusted by a jogging Amaud Arbery being chased and shot in Georgia by two idiots who blindly assumed the poor man was a criminal. And yes, I’m mortified by the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. These terrible examples of blacks being mistreated are just the tip of the iceberg. I can assure you that thousands of examples of racism to varying degrees of offensiveness occur each and every day. Either they just aren’t noteworthy by the press, or they just aren’t caught on camera.

Sadly, the root of the issue of racism is being sideswiped by political hogwash. The press has once again targeted Trump’s malarkey and misguided use of power to redirect the focus away from the true problem. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked what he thought of Trump’s handling of the U.S. Black Lives Matter protests, he purposefully paused for 21 seconds before finally saying:

“We all watch in horror and consternation at what’s going in the United States. It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen. It is a time to learn what injustices continue despite the progress over years and decades. But it is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges, that Black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day….it is something that many of us don’t see, but it is a lived reality…we need to see that…we need to be allies in the fight against discrimination….and figure out how we can be part of the solution.

Instead of paraphrasing what Justin Trudeau said or analyzing what he meant, the press focused on the actual pause. Canadian opposition leaders called him out for what he didn’t do…i.e. slam Donald Trump. People, wake up! Trudeau took the high road! He refused to jump on the bandwagon of Trump bashing and tried to refocus on the real issue: RACISM.

Until each and every one of us opens our eyes to what really goes on, and does something about it, not one of us can claim we are not racist. I’m talking about the time you laughed at a that racist joke; or maybe didn’t laugh, but missed the opportunity to say aloud that you found it disrespectful. I’m talking about the time you might have not befriended someone because the colour of their skin was different from yours. I’m talking about the time you perhaps hired ‘the white’ job candidate even though you consciously weren’t aware that the ‘race card’ was a characteristic in your personal selection toolkit. I’m talking about the time your child brought home a black friend and you asked them questions about their family and background thinking you were merely curious. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Making changes to the political, criminal justice, policing and social systems are imperative, but they are just the foundation of the new world we must build. Of course systemic racism exists and we need to fix it. In the last 60 years some of us tried, albeit clumsily. We had the Civil Rights Movements. Back in the late 60s and early 70s we thought we were changing the world. We didn’t. Black History Month was established. Before affirmative action, tokenism was the fad. Non-whites (often female – two birds with one stone) were promoted to a positions for which they were ill-equipped. The result was the individual failed and criticism ensued. Then we followed with formal affirmative action. Although successful in some cases, it failed in others being misunderstood and poorly administered. Then U.S. elected Barrack Obama! On the surface, things were looking promising; but we didn’t really fix anything.

So, why are we racist? This week, appropriately timed, PBS Detroit aired a show about Henry Louis Gates Jr., renowned author, teacher, filmmaker, who has delved into the history of black people and then last night began Gates’ groundbreaking documentary series Africa’s Great Civilizations. The former (aired on Tuesday night) touched upon the hypothesis that racism is based on the myth that Africa was nothing more than a collection of tribes -uncivilized groups meandering the deserts and jungles with face paint and spears. Africa’s Great Civilizations debunks the myth by showing the people of Africa as anything but uncivilized. They were advanced, intelligent groups who were great builders, had culture and strategic battle savvy . I recommend everyone watch the series to gain new perspective of Black History.

Until we take a serious look at how and why we treat Blacks differently, nothing will change. As Michael Jackson once sang, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways…If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Domestic Violence Rising Amidst Covid-19

In Canada, we’re mourning the lives of 22 people who were senselessly murdered by a lone gunman in quiet, friendly rural Nova Scotia on April 19, 2020. At the time, the mass shooting accounted for more deaths than Covid-19 had in the province with a population of almost one million. For the first few days, that was the only correlation made. A week into the investigation, it is becoming clear that this horrific rampage began as domestic violence. In addition, statistics are showing that violence against women has increased in Canada by 30 percent. We have more than one pandemic of which to be mindful.

Canadian Minister for Women and Gender Equality, Maryam Mosef is concerned about the increased danger women and children may experience while on Covid-19 lockdown: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/domestic-violence-rates-rising-due-to-covid19-1.5545851

Domestic violence - Wikipedia

Think about it. The coronavirus pandemic is empowering abusers. Many support groups have shut down. Victims are afraid to call help lines because their abuser is watching. Alcohol has been deemed ‘essential’. Abusers have their victims where they want them – isolated. The situation is a nightmare.

What can you do? In our polite society, we have a tendency to not get involved. If you suspect potential for violence, call the person and ask if they want help. Let them know that you are there and that women’s shelters are open. You may save someone’s life.

Abuse is all about ‘power’ and ‘control’. Case in point: The Nova Scotia gunman had a distinct admiration of power. He wanted to appear as an RCMP Officer. As a society, we need to start acknowledging the correlation between domestic abuse and violence. We need recognize and record homicides that have their root causes in domestic violence. Only then will we be able to address the problem.

Mending Wall

We all know that the world sees Canadians as being polite. Over the last several weeks I’ve often thought this as I watch our Prime Minister, our Deputy Prime Minister, our Health Minister and our Chief Public Health Officer in their daily press conferences. As journalists try to bait each federal representative to openly criticize other politicians, other countries, the W.H.O. over how the Covid-19 pandemic has been handled or mishandled. Journalists continue to ask the same questions umpteen different ways and our Canadian politicians just won’t take the hook. They continually tow the line and reiterate that while there may be a time in the future to review information received and steps taken that the focus remains on maintaining current restrictions for quite a while.

The situation has become particularly delicate as fears grow in Canada that the high numbers of virus cases increase in the American hot spots of Detroit and New York City while Donald Trump talks about restarting the economy and opening the borders. Canadian officials are simultaneously telling us that if we prematurely reduce restraint, we will unleash a second wave of the virus.

In the midst of the hum-drum daily briefings, enter Chantal Hébert:

Chantal St-Cyr Hébert, author, journalist, political commentator and recipient of the Order of Canada, has long been taken seriously by Canadians.

Chantal Hébert is known for shooting from the hip, and so she did on CBC’s National News segment ‘At Issue’ segment. You know the type – people who say what we’re thinking but don’t say out loud?

Last night, when asked by CBC Anchor, Rosemary Barton, about the U.S. opening for business and how Canada should manage the border and our relationship with Donald Trump, she refreshingly replied, “I think it’s wise to let U.S. dynamics play themselves out, as they have this week… I’m guessing the wise thing, and Canada’s government has been doing that, is to allow the President to talk, but then to have discussions with adults.”

She slammed him – the Canadian way. The other panelists repressed their laughter and after a few brief smirked faces continued on with serious discussion. The reaction in my livingroom, and I’m sure many others, was more like the winning goal had just been played in a U.S. Canada hockey game. Woah! We just publicly outed Trump as a child!

To be clear, Canadians love our brothers and sisters south of the border. We feel the greatest empathy towards what is happening in the United States. We continue to send our health care workers across the bridge from Windsor to Detroit and will do what we can to help. Neverthess, Canadians see the dreadful numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the United States as well as the Michigan protesters and fear is brewing. That said, as our Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland said yesterday, “Decisions about Canada’s border will be made by Canadians – full stop”.

As Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors”.

The Calm in the Storm

Finally, some good news: Canada can vaunt immobilization of thousands of companies that have quickly transformed manufacturing and assembly lines to create ‘Made in Canada’ solutions for personal protective equipment including masks, gowns, face shields, ventilators and testing kits which will be available in the coming weeks and long into the future. As our Ontario Premier Doug Ford said, “Never again in the history of Canada should we be beholden to countries around the world or companies around the world for the safety and well being of the people of Canada“. We can also tout our assertive approach has resulted in not only release of 500,000 of the three million 3M N-95 masks that were stopped at the U.S. border earlier this week but also receipt of millions from other countries. Somewhat appeased, my earlier rant in Trump is Asking for Backlash from Canadians’ is still pertinent.

Now that I can take a breath, I wish to take a moment to salute those who have piloted Canadians through this ugly storm. First, in spite of a difficult election year in 2019 and now maneuvering a minority government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has risen to the call of a true leader.

Self-isolated in his residence as his wife recuperated from the Covid-19 virus, for the past few weeks he has provided daily news briefs before the portico of Rideau Cottage.

Mr. Trudeau has opened each briefing with the latest pandemic news, continued with details of a variety of sub-topics from government assistance to health recommendations and typically closed with a statement of hope before opening up to a question period. Despite grueling and repetitive questions from the press (sometimes I wonder if they can hear or listen to each other during the question period), Mr. Trudeau has maintained his cool and stuck to what were clearly rehearsed responses, continually referring specific medical questions to Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer indicating he would continue to take the advice of experts. Our Prime Minister has continued to take the high road by not taking the bait to say anything negative about anyone with phrases like, “We have had constructive conversations...” and “We will continue to help the United States Administration to understand the benefits…”.

Last Sunday morning Prime Minister Trudeau (casually sitting on his front steps) and Dr. Tam appeared on a Canadian children’s television show to discuss how social distancing has affected our youth. What world leader has done that? And, he has in several of his daily news briefs addressed the children directly letting them know he understands how challenging this new world has become for them. Canada’s Prime Minister has been the calm in the storm. The New York Times has labelled him as the “moral leader of the free world”. Today, when speaking about the personal protective equipment Canada is manufacturing, Mr. Trudeau said, “…and we will share with other countries.”

In addition to Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has shouldered leadership responsibility skillfully. She has chaired the daily governmental press conferences that follow the Prime Minister’s briefing and too has fielded many probing questions from a variety of journalists with composure, grace and obvious determination to keep the topics on a results-oriented, positive and hopeful track. Ms. Freeland, a Rhodes Scholar and former journalist herself, clearly displays her intelligence and leadership, drilling down into detailed responses. When commenting about the recent issues with release of N-95 masks at the U.S. border, our Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, assured the public that a group effort was taking place in negotiations with the United States, commenting that, “Chrystia is a firecracker”.

In all of this, Canadians are not hearing of bickering between parties or disagreements between federal and provincial governments. In fact, we are hearing support statements from one about the other – and they ring true. Prime Minister Trudeau is right. We will get through this together. I have never been so proud to be a Canadian.

Trump is Asking for Backlash from Canadians

Throughout the Covid-19 fiasco, I’ve kept quiet.  Every day I’ve watched Prime Minister Trudeau give his 11:15 press conference, modeling effective behaviours of social distancing, self-isolating, and not being tested for the virus because he remains asymptomatic.  I’ve thought to myself how his drama background prepared him for this daily exhibition of compassion and sincerity.  I have also watched the follow-up conference of a variety of Canada’s national Ministers eloquently offer transparent information and skillfully respond to questions.  Regardless of one’s politics, this team has done a good job.  

On the other hand, I have also watched the nightmare unfold south of the border.  Thank goodness most States seem to have strong leadership in their Governors.  They have a tough road ahead and they are seemingly approaching their task with a sense of urgency.  Their national leadership, unfortunately, does not serve Americans well.  It seems Trump has little sense of ‘team’ and doesn’t heed the advice of experts.  Little Donnie Trump couldn’t have done very well in kindergarten.  He never learned how to share. 

This week Mr. Trump (he’s no President) has tried to invoke the Arms Export Control Act on 3M to prevent them from shipping N-95 masks to Canada.  Ontario Premier Doug Ford glared into the camera as he expressed his disappointment in Trump, while our ever-polite Prime Minister Trudeau says, “It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back and forth trade of essential goods and services, including medical goods across our border.”  Don’t let their stoic demeanor fool you. They are infuriated.  Canadians are enraged. 

Nor does Donnie Trump have a very good memory.  He’s seemingly forgotten how the Canadian Embassy sheltered and saved the lives of Americans during the 1980 Iran Hostage Crisis.

Trump has forgotten when Gander, Newfoundland allowed 37 diverted flights during 9/11 and housed some 6700 people.  He’s also forgotten the many times Canadian firefighters have helped the United States fight wildfires. 

Maybe Trump isn’t aware that thousands of Canadian nurses and healthcare workers cross into the United States daily and are continuing to do so during the Covid-19 crisis.  Even though many of them are returning home sick, the remainder continue to risk their lives to save Americans.  They don’t see them as Americans.  They see them as people who are in need, and we Canadians help others in need. 

Even though some Canadians were disgruntled when we sent China masks several weeks ago, they have reciprocated by sending us masks and other medical equipment this week.  See?  The Chinese know how to play nice. 

3M has a large presence in Canada with its London, Ontario headquarters employing 1800 staff.  Here in Canada they make abrasives, adhesives, automotive parts and even personal protective equipment…just not N-95 masks.  As someone who worked with large international companies during my career, I can tell you than most folks don’t really see it as ‘Canadian’ or ‘American’ when they are employed by these companies.  Therefore, I’m not surprised and very pleased at 3M’s initial response to Trump indicating there were humanitarian implications and possibly even…retaliation.   

So, let’s say the gloves come off.  We’ve been nice ‘til now.  It would start with trade stoppage.  Many countries don’t realize that Canada could be self-sufficient.  We’d have some adjustments to make, but Canada would fare just fine.  Most of what we import is because we don’t want to pay the transit costs to take our products across our vast country – it’s cheaper to import them from the U.S.  I’m always amazed that we import lettuce from California when Quebec and Ontario grow perfectly good lettuce.   

I wonder, though, how many Americans (particularly Donnie Trump) realize how much they rely on our products including fuel, hydro, etc.  What about natural resources?  What about water?  Canada has the third largest renewable water supply in the world.  We’d have a definite battle over the Great Lakes, but what about the Milk River that flows into the Missouri River, and the Columbia River that flows from British Columbia into Washington State, and others?  We’ve got the resources that Americans need!  Those 3M N-95 masks were even made with pulp from Canada! Canada and the United States have shared forever. We are brothers and sisters in disasters.

Mr. Trump, you don’t want to start this fight.  Someone, please, talk some sense into him! 

Child Brides at Home – Shameful

As you might know, there’s very little good television between Christmas and New Year’s.  Those of us who spend quiet holidays are left to surf the channels or stream.  This year I had not seen A&E’s new series The Untold Story.  If I had noticed it through the year, I would have likely assumed it was yet another detailed reality murder show and skipped over it.  On Thursday my partner and I happened upon the show’s ‘I Was A Child Bride’ episode first aired on April 25, 2019.  The host, Elizabeth Vargas, interviewed several now grown American women tell unbelievable stories of how they were forced into rape, childbirth and marriage at young ages.  We’re not talking 17 or 18.  We’re talking 13, 14 even 9 years old!

We were spellbound for a full two hours while these brave women recounted the appalling steps their families took to dispose of them into ‘Catch 22’ situations where they were too young to know what was happening or do anything about it.  And, when they did understand, they were all too young (under 18) to go to a women’s shelter, acquire a lawyer, or get a divorce.  From 2000 through 2015, there were over 200,000 child marriages in the United States – most under aged were females married to an adult male.

Currently in the U.S., only two States have passed laws preventing under age marriages:  New Jersey and Delaware.  Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Vermont, Connecticut and Maryland have put forward bills that failed.  Some States have done nothing, other States have legislation pending.  The worst, in my opinion, is California that recently passed a law to allow children of any age to marry with some ‘safeguards’ that are basically not enforceable.  Wow!

Why have these efforts failed?  It seems that the ‘old boys club’ in politics thinks that allowing young pregnant females to marry helps stop unwanted births to single girls.  Yet statistics have indicated that these young girls have increased chances of experiencing violence, a 70% chance of eventual divorce, and an 80% chance of dropping out of school.  Basically, the laws allow adult men to get away with statutory rape.

Vargas also interviewed in depth Fraidy Reiss, Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last – an organization working to prevent and free these poor young girls from their horrible situations.  They are systematically going through each State to change the laws.  If you want to help, visit unchainedatlast.org to see what they’re doing and what you can do.  There are even job postings on the site.

Canada’s Civil Marriage Act sets marriage age at 16, plus our Criminal Code states that anyone involved in or having knowledge of under age marriage is guilty of an indictable offence.  There have been 3,382 under age marriages in Canada since 2000.  Heck, my own grandmother was married at 16.  That’s not good enough!  In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is working towards ending child marriage internationally.  What hypocrisy!  Of course, it’s an issue world wide.  Some countries have no laws.  Shamefully, Iran allows marriage at age 9.

Please write to your Ministers of Parliament to change the laws in Canada.  Let Trudeau know that we are not in favour of our young girls being trapped.  They deserve freedom to grow up and make their own decisions.

Secularism in Canada

Last week I attended a Council Meeting at City Hall.  The older, smaller indoor pool I frequent was on the chopping block and I wanted to represent my fellow swimmers’ opinion that this relic was worth saving.  As I sat through other agenda items waiting to see if I would have the opportunity to speak, half paying attention and half thinking to myself that it had been ages since I’d been at a council meeting of any city or personally spoken publicly; I noticed that the mayor was being addressed as “Your Worship”.  Say what?  You’ve got to be kidding me!  There’s no way on earth I’m addressing him as “Your Worship”!  This got me thinking about the separation of state and religion.

For a bit of history, although still part of the British Commonwealth, in 1982 Canada adopted its own constitution and became an independent country.  The Canadian Charter of Rights outlines freedom of religion and freedom of belief.  There is no official religion in Canada.  We do, however, have some ties to Great Britain.  Even though the Queen is ceremoniously “Head of State” and “Defender of the Faith”, she doesn’t really have any power in Canada.  However, most of our courts and laws (except for Quebec) can be traced to Great Britain, and we have held some of the decorum in practice.

Basically, Canada is secular.  I say ‘basically’ because depending on where you look for definition and to which province you refer, the definition might be different.  I believe that government and religion should be separate.  Unfortunately what I’ve seen in the past couple of years is scary.  On one extreme, in the States, we have a President who until very recently was openly supported by Evangelists.  On the other extreme, in the Canadian Province of Quebec, we have Bill 21, which by aiming for total separation of state and religion bans any government worker from wearing any religious symbol.  This includes any public employee: police, wildlife officers, judges, court employees, teachers and school workers, social workers, etc.  The intent is that no one served by a government employee should feel they are being treated with bias.  The Bill affects Muslims who wear hijab, niqab and burka, Sikhs who wear turbans, Arabs who wear keffiyeh, and Jews who wear kippah.  In keeping, the Province of Quebec has removed many crucifixes from political buildings.  Furthermore, the Bill states that no one receiving public services (speaking with their social worker, attending school, riding a public bus) may have their face covered.  This targets the wearing of the niqab.  This is where the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and much of the pubic take issue, citing it targets minorities and is sexist.

Where is the balance?  In our ‘inclusive society’ can we not find a secular state in which government and religion are detached without excluding those who wear religious garb?  Iain Benson, author of Living Together With Disagreement: Pluralism, the Secular, and the Fair Treatment of Beliefs in Canada Today, defines inclusive secularism as: “The state must not be run or directed by a particular religion but must act so as to include the widest involvement of different faith groups, including non-religious.”

Wouldn’t that translate to having obvious representation of every faith or belief group?  I’m not sure how that might pan out for, say, atheists or humanists.  Wouldn’t it be worth the effort though?

I’ve veered away from my original thought.  Personally, I don’t care if the mayor of my city is Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, or whatever.  I don’t care about the colour of his or her skin.  I don’t care if he or she was born in Canada.  I do care about his or her political beliefs and the actions he or she takes to improve my city.  Regardless, I won’t be calling him or her “Your Worship”.

16 Days of Activism: Montreal Massacre

It was December 6, 1989.  It was the first time I felt the wrath of antifeminism when I learned of what later became known as the Montreal Massacre.  A very sick man, whose name I will not glorify, entered École Polytechnique with mass murder as his intent.  The school, associated with Université de Montréal, ranks first in Canada for its scope in engineering research.  This monster walked into a classroom, told the men to leave and brutally gunned down the female students.  Fourteen women died that night: 12 engineering students, one nursing student and one employee.  The murderer made it clear he wanted to kill women, shouting “I hate feminists” as he walked through the school looking for his next victims.  A suicide note found in his pocket after he turned the gun on himself revealed that he had intentions of killing even more women. After witnessing the horrifying event, an additional two students later committed suicide.  May they all rest in peace.

In Canada, we honour 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence that starts on November 25 with International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women through to December 10 International Human Rights Day.  Included is Canada’s unique National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6 to honour those that died at the Montreal Massacre.

Violence against women is a violation of human rights.  Every woman and girl in the world deserves to live a life free of intimidation, threat, mutilation, sexual control and fear.  Physical, sexual and mental abuse not only prevents women from fully participating in society but also costs in health care, legal expenses, lost productivity and social development.

Awareness is only the start.  Eliminating abuse and violence against women requires leadership as well as efforts from women, men, parents, politicians, you, me…everyone.  It will take police vigilance in dismantling Incels (self-proclaimed involuntary celibate online men who incite violence against women) and stopping human trafficking.  It will take legislation to catch up on rape kit backlog and change gun laws.  It will take countries to stop female circumcision.  The list of contributing changes that need to occur is overwhelming.

Where do we start?  It doesn’t matter.  Just start somewhere.  Support your local women’s shelter.  Volunteer.  Donate.  Write a letter to your local politician.  Keep an eye on your neighbour.  Believe victims.  Keep watch on your children’s behaviour and the behaviour of their friends.  Question the schools your children attend.   Interject into sexist berating.  Condemn sexist humour.  Inquire if you see questionable behaviour.  Educate yourself.  Do something.  If you do nothing, nothing will change.