Remembrance Day – My Canadian Perspective

I am generationally defined as a baby-boomer. I was born at a time of relative global peace and unlike my father and my grandfather before me, I have never been compelled to join an armed force and go to war. I can complain about a lot of things but I belong to a very lucky generation, a generation of Canadians who truly benefitted from the sacrafices of those who went before.

My grandfather, at the age of 36 married my grandmother in Vancouver BC and then headed off to training and eventually found himself in early 1916 in and around Ypres digging trenches and tunnels.

Roger and Elizabeth - 1915

Roger and Elizabeth – 1915

Spend any time online looking at the history of the First World War and you will see that this part of the battlefield was a daily orgy of killing and destruction and then attempt to imagine what this must have been like for someone whose weapon was a pick and a shovel and whose theatre of operation was the daily rebuilding of the trenches and roads and related tunnel systems thick with the remains one’s comrades in arms. My grandfather was eventually buried in an attack while underground and in the fall of 1916 was send away from the front being declared unfit for active duty. He was sent home diagnosed with “shell shock”. He became an unemployable veteran who was shamed by his siblings and others and yet somehow he managed to maintain his dignity through the rest of his 90-year life. I remember him as a richly engaging man who smiled often and always had something joyful to say to his grandchildren.

Sadly, as with many of my grandfather’s generation who believed that they had fought the war to end all wars, 20 years later they were forced to witness another global war and to sadly watch their sons go off to face another enemy in another horrendous conflict.

Charles in Cairo 1943

Charles in Cairo 1943

My father joined the Canadian air force in 1940 at the age of 18 and although he found himself as a member of  a bomber crew over Europe and then in a similar capacity in the Mediterranean Sea off Malta in fall of 1941, he always felt that he had (in his words) “a good war” as he was moved to an Air Sea Rescue Squadron in Egypt at the end of 1941 and spent over 3 years in North Africa rescuing people from both land and sea. I gather it was not always as pleasant as he would portray it but after 4 years in Europe and Africa he came home with few apparent physical and/or emotional scars. His two brothers (one in the navy and the other in the army) did not fare as well. Their scars (not visible) haunted them for the rest of their lives.

My father made a career of the Air Force (RCAF) as he loved his military life. I was raised in this environment, moving from air base to air base and as I knew no different, I too loved the life. I was lucky to have parents who loved each other and worked well together and I was given the gift of their love and their love of life.

I was also given the gift of peace in my time, the peace that neither my father’s nor my grandfather’s generation knew. It is this peace that is so powerfully felt yet extends with a heavy weight. I hold on to this gift especially as we approach Remembrance Day – November 11. It is a symbolic date but it is one that I hope we can hold on to and one whose meaning and significance can remain part of the fibre and fabric of this country well beyond the lifetime of any who may have a shred of connection to the more challenging events of the twentieth century.

The twenty-first century has exposed us to challenges that past generations may never have imagined. However, by attempting to keep the stories alive and to continue to help a new generation find ways to connect with their history and help them find their place within the richness of our lived experiences, we can hope that the message of remembrance might be one of understanding, peaceful and shared coexistence, and a belief that our future is tied to our willingness to work together.

In Flanders Fields the poppy grow beneath the crosses row on row...

In Flanders Fields the poppy grow beneath the crosses row on row…


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We the living…

I just don’t get it. “Jane Doe had a long and memorable career in ‘x’ and she will be sadly missed by those whose lives she touched…. As per her wishes there will be no memorial service

I see this over and over again and I don’t understand. Maybe this is because of my personal circumstance. My father passed away at the age of 64 and he “instructed” my mother that there was to be no service or memorial of any kind. My dear mother loved my father and executed his wishes as requested and spent the remaining 25 years of her life as a sad lady who repeatedly commented that she never got to properly mourn the loss of her beloved. Now I know many might suggest that this was of my mother’s making but I would respond by suggesting that it takes a particularly strong and different type of person to say “screw this – I’m doing my own thing” especially during a time when one’s life has been torn apart through such a loss.

My feeling is that this responsibility lies with all of us. What are people concerned about? First of all, you, the deceased are not going to be at this memorial, other than in spirit. No one makes anyone attend these things so only those who wish to gather and remember are present anyway. OK maybe there are limited funds to have such an event but come on folks, there are many places where such an event could be held where there would little to no cost: what about gathering in a park, a coffee shop or even a drinking establishment. After all, the human experience is one of continual growth and enlightenment (or at least I like to think so) and the death of a loved one or of a friend is part of our human experience.

Yes I will remember Jane Doe but it could have been a richer remembrance for all.

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I live in a world of words however sometimes they are not enough

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Dear #Metchosin BC

I do not live in the municipality of Metchosin (I live, own, and pay taxes in a neighbouring municipality) but I recently read about a decision by your mayor and council that ought to cause everyone in Metchosin to shake their heads and question our future as caring stewards of our environment both rural and urban.

The story is contained in this link ( ) and it speaks of the shameful refusal of the mayor and majority of Metchosin council to endorse the entrenchment of a Declaration for the Right to a Healthy Environment in our Canadian Charter of Rights. According to the news article the mayor indicated that such an endorsement “would lead to “unintended consequences” that could see “urban” demands legally brought against rural communities like Metchosin, a situation he said would lead to higher taxes.

Oh dear rural do-gooders – please pull your heads out of the sand. What the heck are “urban demands” especially when we are talking about air, water, and healthy food sources? Have you spent any time reading exactly what this proposed declaration is about? The David Suzuki Foundation created an organization called The Blue Dot Movement ( ) which ultimately seeks to have enshrined rights for all Canadians with respect to breathing fresh air, drinking clean water and eating healthy food and to have these rights legally recognized at all levels of government in Canada. When did this become an “urban demand” and what makes your rural community so special as to stand apart from a very real set of challenges for all Canadians.

Could this lead to unintended consequences and higher taxes – Ahh yes just maybe, but are we all supposed to run away from the prospect of higher taxes, for example, if just maybe we could begin to address fundamental issues that impact our environment across this country? Do we believe that air, water, and food sourcing stops at the boundaries of each of our respective communities? Come on people, whether you are a fan of the David Suzuki Foundation or not, take a moment to begin to understand the broader issues that this movement is attempting to address.

We have allowed our governments to sell our resources and damage our environment with little consequence for the future. How do we stand up and show that we care about these issues if we do not become informed citizens and begin to push our governments to become accountable. Might all of this cost money or might this open up issues we have yet to think of or imagine – again maybe – but how terribly arrogant and narrow of us to get panicky about a potential concern when we might be missing the bigger issue of whether our fresh air, our clean water sources, and our potential food sources may be damaged beyond repair. These are boundaryless issues that affect us all. Look at the big picture for all of us – look at what corporations are being permitted to do with OUR resources and then ask yourself do you care – do you believe that by sitting by and letting powerful external forces influence governments, and believe that your little rural enclave will be safe for you and your children? Wake up Metchosin and show some global leadership rather than building walls around your hermit kingdom.

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Yes – today is your birthday! (OK I couldn’t wait – a day early but…)

I have a million pictures and we could scroll through them all with awe and amazement but I have only put up a few. You have given us a wonderful gift and in turn we hope you will appreciate a few moments in no set order.

I have added this special link (song) to help you celebrate

Happy birthday you wonderful young lady – You are beautiful!

Gpa2 9yrs IMG_1274 Grandpaandariana-valentineday P1020063 P1040473 P1040532 cm2 copy Ari01 Ari2013 Grandpa and Me Calif2012GFriver-aug27photoIMG_2071IMG_3482

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At some point, enough ordinary people will have had enough

As a member of the Royal BC Museum Society I recently received the following note from the RBCM Board Chair.

You may have read media stories around Professor Jack Lohman’s employment contract, which was negotiated in good faith over two and half years ago. As Board Chair, I want to be clear that Professor Lohman has the Board’s full support and that we feel very fortunate to have him leading the Royal BC Museum. He is a strong representative of the values of public service and has an impeccable record. On behalf of the Board, I am sorry that our fine organization is currently under some negative scrutiny. I want to assure you that as a public sector organization, we are committed to transparency and accountability and will  do our best to properly fulfill changing policy guidelines issued by government.

We have a lot of exciting initiatives in progress under Jack’s strong leadership and I look forward to us working together to fulfill the museum’s vision.

Yours sincerely,

Suromitra Sanatani
Board Chair, Royal BC Museum

It seems that during the hiring process of the new CEO of the RBCM in 2012 the rules with respect to spending in the hiring process of executives in British Columbia taxpayer funded organizations created a problem so the best way around this was to hide any additional monies needed to bring the “best” candidate in. Please read Les Leyne’s article – I am not making this up.

Now I am not suggesting that the new CEO is or is not the right person and he alone should be kept out of this discussion. Any further discussion about his abilities and/or competency is moot and becomes a distraction in this conversation. The real issue is that it seems that either the rules around money in the hiring process are either too restrictive for the type of hiring being conducted with taxpayer monies (Hmm ask the teachers about restrictive rules) or it is a case of who cares about the rules at the top end and if we want person “X” then we do whatever is needed to hire the person and just hide what was done to accomplish this task. After all, the task was to hire the best person – and gee aren’t we lucky to have such a great person.

BUT WAIT – when all of this backhanded behaviour is brought to the public’s attention we quickly talk about transparency and accountability and “changing policy guidelines issued by government”. Ahh come on – there is no hiding behind corporate double speak at this point – after all, first we find out about the behaviours of the board at Kwantlen Polytech and now the RBCM. There is a pattern here and I am sure at some point the public will hear of another magical hire with taxpayer monies.

Please Ms Board Chair of RBCM do not play fast with your words and do not disrespect your membership. I do not question the character of the current CEO and I also believe that the RBCM is a world class organization. I do believe however that the board’s behaviours are suspect and that you make this situation worse by weaving in language such as transparency and accountability and this only serves to suggest a level of obfuscation in your letter. Let us separate the actions of the board from the organization as a whole.

I was taught, as I believe most of us were that we “cut our cloth accordingly” (my mother’s words) however it seems that in the power circles of this province this rule does not apply. Dear Ms Premier – if you want the teachers and every other citizen to work with you and you want all of us to work for a common good then this must apply to everyone in this province. We know that it does not apply to all because each new day we find egregious examples of disrespect for our systems and an apparent belief that there are multiple sets of rules for different classes of citizens in this province. Examples from Kwantlen Polytech and the RBCM are just symptoms of a much larger problem in this province.

Let me try some words that might ring a bell for some: how about trust, ethics, and respect. We have done a fine job of twisting what is meant by these terms but let’s cut the crap and recognize that most of us do understand the truth and do understand the difference between the truth and the twisted language of politics and corporate double speak.

Yes, at some point enough ordinary people will have had enough.


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Dear Girl Guides of Canada – Where is your leadership?

Please do not let an amazing teachable moment slip through your fingers.

I read that some of your girls have raised the issue of genetically modified (GM) ingredients in your famously branded Girl Guide cookies. I also read that your response to this issue pits ethics against profit and you appear to be telling your girls that profit trumps all else. Shame on you!

Girl Guides is the largest and most powerful girl and young lady organization in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Your mission, in part states that Girl Guides “enables girls to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world” and it seems to me that your girls are clearly exemplifying this mission by standing up for their beliefs around the removal of GM ingredients from your cookies.

How dare you permit your spokesperson to suggest that your organization is “way down the totem pole in who can make a difference”. Each and every one of your Guides should be taught and encouraged to know that they individually and as a group can make an enormous difference. This is a ridiculous PR response to a very important issue and if the guiding movement cannot teach ethics and values and the right of everyone to stand up then what hope do we have.

Yes there is a money side to this story but when you put money first you will always come away on the lesser end of any issue.

Stand up to your supplier and show leadership and be proud of your girls for raising such an important issue. You are larger and much more powerful than your spokesperson dares to suggest. Stop being so condescending and show leadership. This is the least you can do for your girls and for the future of our society.

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A Canadian Thanksgiving Reflection

Our good friends at Wikipedia tell us that the Canadian Thanksgiving celebration has existed in various forms since the late 1500’s, it moved to being a fall harvest festival in the 1870’s, and finally in 1957 the Federal government passed legislation making the official date the second Monday in October. Not all Canadian jurisdictions recognize this time as an official statutory holiday however this date is deemed to be a national day of Thanksgiving.

So what’s the big deal in this 21st century, urban, globally interconnected world we live in? I would liken Thanksgiving to a purposeful reflection – not necessarily religious but possibly spiritual. Maybe for some this might seem forced (and maybe it is) however the whole idea of a purposeful reflection is that it should allow for a slowing down, it should allow for a time to enable us to look large beyond our daily lives and look small or close at those things which are at our feet and see who we are and where we are in relation to the world and to those around us. When else do we do this?

For example I am thankful that I can quietly sit here in my office on a sunny and warm Sunday and peacefully write this blog. I am also thankful that I am graced with the richness of a loving and supportive wife and family and I am also thankful that I live in a society that is not at war and I do not have to have bars on my windows or live in a guarded compound. I am thankful that my granddaughter can run around and happily play in our neighbourhood without great fear or concern for her well-being. And I am thankful that I have been able to become well educated and be employed in an industry that gives me great freedom of expression and thought.

The sheer fact that I have taken the time to write this and reflect as I am writing is truly a gift worth taking the time to be thankful for. What about you?

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At what point does a country care about its future?

Interesting Al Jazeera opinion piece – What do we really care about in this country – at what point will it be too late?

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The Siren of my life

There are too many days where I am vexed by the siren’s call of this little box of horrors. There is some pretty good stuff going on upstairs but the gentle hand of distraction plays havoc with the much needed daily contribution. I shall hang up now and try for a few more words…

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