Sunday, October 25, 2015


I am sleeping much better since Monday night.  My heart is light, and I am infused with hope.  I smile with pride in my fellow citizens.

Canadians asserted themselves.  Almost twelve million Canadians (11 813 091 according to CBC), 67.4 % of those who cast ballots, voted against the incumbent government.  They reminded any future governments that they are an informed electorate not to be underestimated or manipulated, and that they attack ads and negativity cannot dupe them.   Nor will they succomb to fearmongering.  As for distortions about balanced budgets, Canadians  have long memories; they did not forget the deficits in the first eight years of the Conservative mandate.   Even more important, they refused to turn against each other. 

Macleans journalist Scott Gilmore crystalizes the quandary many Canadians faced in their determination to reclaim their country.   In his article,  “How Stephen Harper Led Me to Do the Unthinkable,” Gilmore tells the story of how he came to vote Liberal despite a family tradition of voting only Conservative.  Although Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism legislation that impinges on individual rights, and the mounting deficits disconcerted him, in the end, the Islamophobia was the turning point.    A snitch line on barbaric cultural pratices was the last straw. 

Now that millions of Scott Gilmores across Canada have elected a majority Liberal government, what role can we play as Justin Trudeau forms a cabinet and prepares to assume the reins on November 4?  In my view, we must support this government as it finds its legs.   Let’s send it information and opinions, but not vitriol; let’s impart fair critiques and suggestions, but not attacks.   We must give our new government the opportunity to succeed.  After all, an effective government benefits us all.

Will the government have to shelve some of its election promises?  Of course.  I consider that normal—not because I am cynical of the election process, but because that’s how life works.  Things never go as planned.  Imagine a home renovation without surprises as walls come down and carpets are rolled away, or a vacation without interventions from weather or illness or just bad luck.  So, I fully expect Mr. Trudeau and company to have to put some plans on the back burner and to alter others. 

On key points, however, I expect Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals to be true to their campaign pledges:

·      collaboration with all members of Parliament to govern well for all Canadians;
·      a positive, inclusive approach;
·      availability to journalists, so they can do their job keeping the Canadian electorate informed and thinking about issues;
·      increase in funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation;
·      increase in funding for research and innovation;
·      increase in protected wilderness lands;
·      action on protection of the environment;
·      respect for scientific research and its role in shaping public policy and direction.

More even than economic decisions, these points set the tone for our country.  They orient us toward a positive, collaborative, respectful society that values information for decision-making, especially dissenting information, and that acknowleges the role of sharing information in keeping the citizenry engaged in the political life of the country.

I am relieved that the government has changed.  I am so proud of Canada as a nation.  The disillusionment I have experienced since 2011 has galvanized me as never before.  Now, though, I must be positive, and remain engaged in the process.  That is a two-pronged approach:  support the new government as it begins its mandate, and communicate to my elected representatives my opinions and suggestions.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


It’s only when I got to the last third of Steven Galloway’s novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo, that I realized the parallelism between that story and the Canadian election, 2015.

The novel is based on actual events that occurred during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990’s.  On May 27, 1990, at 4 :00 p.m., a rain of mortar shells from the hills above Sarajevo killed twenty-two people who had lined up behind a market to buy bread.  For the next twenty-two days, Vedran Smailović, a local cellist of note, played Albinoni’s Adagio in C Minor on the very spot, in hommage to the dead.  The odds were that he, too, would be killed.  After all, the snipers that lurked in the hills and in the shelled buildings picked people off every day.  But he lived.

The bodies of the dead and injured, though, were gone—the factions made sure of that—and the bombed out, disintegrating infrastructure was not enough to incite action.  As a result, the perpetrators of the war continued without reprisal. Galloway says:

When people die, they’re removed, taken to hospitals and graveyards, and before the bodies are  healed or cold the spot where they were shattered is unrecognizable as a place where anything out of the ordinary happened.  That is why the men on the hills are able to kill with impunity.  If there were bodies in the streets, rotting where they fell,
. .  .  then maybe the men would be forced to stop, maybe they would want to stop (164). 

The cellist, then, is a visible symbol of the senseless destruction.  Every day, his act reminds his fellow citizens that people have died.  The other characters in the novel see in his courageous act the resolve of one person not to live in fear, but rather to make a statement to the snipers and the forces all around intent on destruction.  They may kill him, but they cannot control him.

As a result, characters in the novel initiate actions that make a statement of hope in the future of their city, that it can once again be what it was before the war.  They realize that if their city is to die, it won’t be the attackers in the hills that will have killed it.  “If this city is to die, . . .” the author says, “it will be because of the people in the valley.  When they’re content to live with death, to become what the men on the hills want them to be, then Sarajevo will die.”

Our own country has also been eviscerated.   Information necessary for future planning has been systematically destroyed (Macleans, Vanishing Canada, September 18, 2015).  Indeed, in a passage that echoes the Cellist quotation, the article continues: “Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them.” Scientists are muzzled. Studies from the 1970’s on the potential impact of tar sands development have disappeared. The number of protected wilderness areas dwindles. Our public broadcaster gasps for air. Parks Canada funding has eroded. Canadians are pitted against each other on the basis of race. We are being manipulated to be fearful. Fear will not protect us; fear will destroy us in the end.

That’s why we have to vote tomorrow. And that’s why we have to vote for change. No party that purchases a front page ad in the bright yellow of Elections Canada, without a drop of representative ink on the page, to confuse people while that party reminds them to be afraid, deserves to govern.  No party that can create a tip line to encourage citizens to rat on each other for “barbaric cultural practices ” deserves to govern.  This is not Canada.

The lesson Galloway explores in his novel is that powerful forces that would make us afraid cannot control us.  Ultimately, our actions speak for us, as did those of the cellist and the characters his courage influenced.  Although the circumstances are much safer for us individually than they were for the cellist, the consequences of our actions are no less serious.  We are in danger of losing the Canada we have known.  We must neutralize tactics of manipulation and fear.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


My grandson’s eyes hold the essence of life.  In the changing phases of his twelve-month-old eyes, I see the unfiltered purity of what it means to live.  They connect me to core traits I want to find in myself.

His eyes trust.  They meet mine for extended seconds, and in that freeze-framed moment, tell me that he feels safe and knows he is loved.

They return the unbridled joy his parents have in him. 

They share the wonder of minute-by-minute discovery—the cold sweetness of ice cream, the crash of a tower of wooden cube blocks,   

They reflect the delight of a shared activity.  They invite me to play peek-a-boo, to catch the bouncy ball he has thrown me, and send it back to him, to imitate his movements, and, as I do, they scintillate.

They focus attention on the task that consumes him.  He circles a bath tub faucet with hair elastics.  He nests two containers over and over, to be sure the result will be the same.  First a water-filled teether and then a plastic cup,  resonate on the laminate floor, and, seconds later, thud on the carpeted stair.

His eyes declare a mission: let go of Mommy’s finger or the drawer pull to take off on his own, walking down the hall, negotiating a turn, and heading toward the office chair.

His eyes express pride:  I can walk!

They convey his uncertainty around the dried leaves that crunch as he moves in the pile he’s sitting in, and then

they channel the resolve to move through that newness to Daddy waiting on the other side.

They narrow into mischievous intent just before the hand that has grabbed the slice of cooked chicken slides over the side of the high chair and releases.  

I figure if I hang around him enough, some of those very precious traits will rub off on me, and I will be redirected toward the essence of life.