To Carolyn Bennett, Federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs – Please Act On Indigenous Youth Suicide Crisis

To Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs; Hon. Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Health; Hon. David Zimmer, Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs

Dear Minister Bennett:
I spent yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, August 9) sitting with the good people at the ‘Indigenous Youth Suicide Crisis Vigil’ at INAC, 25 St Clair Ave E, Toronto.
Their concern which I share is over the high number of Indigenous Youth suicides that are occurring, especially in northern indigenous communities.  Just over the past few days there have been even more reported youth suicides in these communities. The media reported the terrible news of additional Indigenous youth suicides just this week. See:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-indigenous-suicide-crisis-1.4239790 and http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2017/08/09/toronto-advocates-want-action-on-indigenous-youth-suicide.html
The people I met with said that they are upset that you and other government officials have said that you will ‘meet again’ over this crisis … in the Fall! I agree with them that this is not good enough. Action is needed right now by the Governments of Canada and Ontario to prevent further youth suicides.
I agree that the conditions causing the hopelessness that leads young people to commit suicide are complex, but they have much to do with the way these northen communities have been treated – as second or third class citizens in a wealthy Canada.
As you know, Cindy Blackstock of The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has been calling for the Canadian government to honour the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) that ordered the government of Canada to end the racial discrimination against First Nations Children by immediately increasing payments to these children to equal payments made by Provincial governments to all non-Native children. Cindy Blackstock said in part:
The quasi-judicial tribunal initially found in January (2016) that the government had been discriminating against First Nations children in its delivery of child welfare services on reserve. Two subsequent rulings ordered the government to update its policies and procedures to comply with its original findings.

“You have a group of children who the federal government consciously decides are getting less public services than every other group in the country,” Blackstock said. “They are racially discriminating against them . . . as a matter of law and they are failing to comply with legal orders. That, to me, is pretty clear cut.”  See:  https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/09/20/trudeau-government-on-notice-in-first-nations-child-welfare-dispute.html

To my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong) at this point the Trudeau government has still refused to abide by the order of the CHRC. This makes Trudeau’s words about Reconciliation with First Nations ‘false news’ as far as I’m concerned.
I have lost patience with governments at all levels that still make our First Nations neighbours live in Third World conditions that contribute to the Indigenous youth suicides we are seeing continue. These living conditions are not inevitable. Please listen to the people at the Vigil, mostly mothers themselves who understand how awful it is to lose a child, especially when it is a suicide because of hopelessness.
We must all do better. Please act now!
I would like a reply regarding actions you are taking to make the lives of Indigenous people in northern communites better.
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Have Canadian citizen Dr. Hassan Diab released from unjust detention in France

Dear Ministers of the Government of Canada and my MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith:
This is a copy of my message to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau:
A friend of mine, Dr. Hassan Diab of Ottawa, Ontario, former professor at the University of Ottawa,  was extradited to France and has been jailed there for 30 months based on allegations his lawyer calls the classic recipe for a wrongful conviction. French investigating judges have ordered him released six times, and, in a move that is seen as unprecedented, each time the French Court of Appeal overturned all release orders at the prosecutor’s behest. (see https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/no-evidence-no-problem )
I have joined other Canadians in a ‘chain-fast’, a one day fast (or partial fast) from eating, during Ramadan, while focusing on ways to have Dr. Hassan Diab given true justice and released immediately.
Today, June 3, 2017, I ask you, the  Prime Minister of Canada, to use the full weight of your office to demand the immediate release of Dr. Hassan Diab from custody in France and bring him home to his family and many friends. Thank you for what you are able to do. I would appreciate a reply regarding actions you take on behalf of Dr. Hassan Diab.
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Thaw the Budget (2017); NO Freeze

Dear Members of the Toronto City Council Executive Committee:

I am writing to ask you not to freeze the 2017 City budget at 2016 levels. As you realize a ‘freeze’ actually means a decrease in spending on budgetary items including important social services – due to inflation.
I am part of a grass-roots group of people called Commitment 2 Community who meet from time to time with Torontonians who are living on the economic margins of this wealthy city. I and my church – Danforth Mennonite Church, 2174 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, have supported all of the meetings and activities leading up to the City Council adopted Poverty Reduction Plan. We continue to advocate for more revenues to be allocated to this plan so that it can carry out its mandate to reduce grinding poverty among our neighbours, including children and their families. We also signed the recent open letter urging Council to reject a budget freeze, and instead fully fund the city’s commitments to improve affordable housing, transit, child care and reduce poverty.
I made a deputation at the budget sub-committee meeting held at the East York Civic Centre in January 2017. My main point was that we need to move away from ‘user fees’ to fund most needs including community centre programs, TTC and many more. Even working families cannot afford ever rising user fees. I included the proposed highway tolls put forward by Mayor Tory at the time as a unaffordable user fee for many people.
What I advocated for then and still do, is that the City and even the Province and Federal governments, must find a way to access wealth. Many home owners in Toronto are now holders of undreamed of wealth – in the value of their properties. Others have wealth in investments of various kinds. Canada’s capital gains tax, taxes only 50% of investment gains and 0% from the sale of Primary residences when sold. Canada does not even have an inheritance tax. There is huge potential for small wealth taxes that would allow a necessary increase in the City budget. There is huge economic inequality between those who have more wealth than they can ever spend and our neighbours who essentially have nothing.
All of the research done on economic disparity tells us that where there is more equality there is greater health, less crime and more happiness in general. Isn’t this what we want? Therefore City Council must find a way to access even a small portion of the wealth that exists in Toronto.
Please find a way to ’thaw’ the 2017 budget as we ’thaw our hearts’ and make life bearable for all of our neighbours.
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“Vimyism” – A Discussion Thread with current articles about the ‘Vimy Myth’ by Conscience Canada Members – http://www.consciencecanada.ca  

 

April 10, 2017 – “I don’t know about you but I’m quite disgusted with the Vimy coverage even by CBCTV. It is one thing to remember, but quite another to voice no criticism directed at the 1914 political leaders and generals who had no imagination other than to order bright young men out of the trenches into the German meat-grinder and of course vice-versa. I wonder what kind of world we would have had with the contributions of these young individuals; would there have been a WWII? How can we celebrate the bravery of young men, when we now realize that the then enemies are now our friends and allies. What a damn shame and waste I say.” M.

“Murray, I couldn’t agree with you more!  I too have been disgusted with the coverage of the Vimy anniversary.  As you say, not a word about the stupidity of the war.” E.

“There was one CBC interview with a professor from out West who has written a book countering the myth that Vimy made Canada what it is today.  She argued that many other negotiations and arrangements helped shape the country but that since debates aren’t as flashy as wars, that the 100h year celebration of  Canada leaned too heavily on Vimy for a rationale.” D.

“There was another interview this evening (April 10, 2017) on CBC Radio One’s ‘As it Happens’ with Jamie Swift, journalist and lecturer at Queen’s University – co-author (with Ian McKay who holds the L.R. Wilson Chair in Canadian History at McMaster University) and is the coauthor with Jamie Swift  of The Vimy Trap or, How We Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Great War. http://tinyurl.com/lm28moc 

The further you go from the battle, from the war, the more it appeals to this nationalistic, patriotic bit of mythology fantasyland, as far as I’m concerned,” Swift, a journalist and lecturer at Queen’s University, told ‘As It Happens’ host Carol Off.

He calls the phenomenon “Vimyism.”

He says that contrary to uniting Canadians (only English descended ones) it nearly tore Canada apart – the debate over conscription took place right after Vimy.”

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.4064013/does-vimy-ridge-battle-really-mark-the-birth-of-a-nation-historian-debunks-vimyism-1.4064016

“Another similar opinion piece is here”

Vimy was a triumphant battle, but it was hardly the ‘birth of a nation’

http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/vimy-birth-of-a-nation-1.4060855

M.

“There was a very useful article on Vimy in the Hamilton Spectator, April 5, 2017 by Ian McKay (see above), who cowrote ‘Warrior Nation’.” http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/7227412-honour-vimy-s-memory-not-its-mythology/  W.

“I have been not so quietly swearing at the TV this week. My grandfather died at Vimy. I have seen his marker. I toured the memorial. That experience did not swell me up with pride, rather left me overcome, dumb and speechless. And I know the effects on my father growing up without a father.

As for the birthplace of nationhood – here is a better story that should be at the top of the news:

After Vimy: Did Canada really find its independence in 1922 battle it refused to fight? – Politics – CBC News, by Evan Dyer”

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/politics/chanak-affair-canada-britain-vimy-independence-1.4061740

H.

“All good and important comments.  Will someone —many ones— take on the job of informing or sending similar notes to the various CBC programmes, to the press, to our government…  We need to broaden the audience of a peaceful message. Thank you all,”

B.

“Your point on broadening our audience is well taken. I was struck by a short clip of a student at the Vimy “celebrations” talking about the sacrifice of our soldiers in protecting our freedom. Her words were so obviously repeating what she had been fed by the military-political propaganda machine. How do we change the story? Today’s young people are a tough audience. How do we reach them? How do we make our message resonate with them?”

H.

See also: Vimy Ridge: Birthplace of a nation – or of a Canadian myth? http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/battle-of-vimy-ridge-first-world-war/article34515113/

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Federal Liberal Budget a Disappointment for Millennials

March 23, 2017

To Host Anna Maria Tremont of CBC Radio One’s ‘The Current’:

I was very disappointed in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s responses to your question about the ways his new federal budget is helping ordinary Canadians. He seemed to suggest the budget was doing great things when it saved some citizens a couple of hundred dollars per year due to the Liberal largesse. The elephant in the room for me as an East Toronto resident, a senior living in an apartment, originally by choice (my wife and I once owned a home but could not afford to now) which you didn’t challenge him on, is the exponential rise in the price of home ownership.

This loss of economic ability for young people wishing to buy a home in Toronto or anywhere in the GTA is a staggering setback compared with a few hundred dollars gained in tax reduction. I was shocked that this incongruity was not even mentioned. The numbers of families in Ontario and in Toronto particularly, on waiting lists for affordable housing are contained in a Star article from last year –https://www.thestar.com/…/ontarios-affordable-housing-wait-…
Ignoring these numbers of suffering people is shameful!

Even Ontario Finance Minister Sousa has begun to talk about the need to cool housing prices caused by real estate investors ‘scalping’ whole new subdivisions, making it impossible for young or low income families to ever own a home. And I don’t mean a suburban house with a yard. I am talking about the need for a federal housing strategy that will fund the tear down of old housing stock in Toronto to replace it with perhaps 4 or 5 storey housing units – as in Brooklyn – some of which can be purchased and some rented at affordable rates.

This Liberal government and its tone deaf, blind budget is a disaster. If I were a young person I would be getting ready to revolt against the advantage older home owners have – unless the owners are planning to share their windfall by buying homes for their children.

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Re: ‘Hounded By Canada’s Spies’, NOW Weekly, October 27-November 2, 2016

 

One of the two remaining persons detained under a Federal Security Certificate, signed by two federal cabinet ministers, is a friend of mine and a resident of Toronto. As one who has attended most of his federal court hearings since 2007 I can attest to the unrelenting ‘hounding’ of a person by the servants of the Canadian state, the CBSA and CSIS agents, the well paid government lawyers, judges and other officials who have made this man’s life a living hell for 16 years so far. Since he is a refugee claimant his hearings come under Canadian Immigration law, which does not require a fair trial for this man. He has never been accused of a crime in Canada and whatever the Canadian government has against him they have never revealed to him or his lawyers. They don’t have to. So he has sat in limbo since the year 2000 awaiting the day when his Security Certificate is removed or he agrees to be deported to a middle eastern country where he may well be killed. Unable to work and living on a small disability pension with some assistance from friends, his health has deteriorated. Isn’t this ill treatment of a human being by Canada’s agents a form of torture that we condemn internationally? Is this ‘hounding’ a ‘Canadian Value’?

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Conversation with Davidson’s Valu-Mart Grocery – Woodbine & Danforth Avenue Store, Toronto – about their Nestle’s Bottled Water Promotion

I want to know why you are selling, even having a special sale over a couple of weeks so far of Nestle’s bottled water. Are you unaware of the wide ranging boycott of Nestle bottled water in Ontario right now, spearheaded by Council of Canadians but supported by celebrities on television such as Rick Mercer who a couple of weeks ago presented his ‘Rant’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuVgJ-sgBW4) on the outrageously low price Nestle pays for water, 3.71 per million litres which they then sell for a huge percentage markup in ‘one-use’ plastic bottles which end up in landfills or our oceans. They are taking this water from Wellington-Waterloo Counties, near Elmira. Nestle even outbid Centre Wellington Township for access to their well water and this during one of the driest summers on record. Secondly why are you promoting bottled water when our municipal tap water is completely safe. No-one should be buying bottled water. You need to stop the sale of Nestle’s bottled water!

Rick’s Rant for October 11th, 2016.
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Davidson's valu-mart
Davidson’s valu-mart I understand your concern and I do agree with you but, for the sake of all customers, I should have available product that is featured in the national valu-mart flyer. Please feel free to not support Nestlé by not buying their products and if you would like to reach loblaws, our parent company, please email pr@loblaw.ca or call 905-459-2500.
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Murray Lumley
Murray Lumley Thanks; I won’t be buying any bottled water products and I think I did leave the same message on the Loblaws Website Contact page. I’m really worried about our planet when we allow corporations to privatize water and at a price so low it doesn’t allow for the cost of the loss of this resource that should be a human right. I also worry about the plastic bottles that are just thrown away after one use. Do you know about the Pacific Ocean gyre, a continent sized floating plastic mass? This plastic is also swallowed by sea turtles, whales and a host of other animals. We humans must stop and think about what we are doing or there will be no future for us or the animals that were here before us and live with us.
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