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Sunday June 27, 2021
When parliament recesses for the summer, members who do not expect to run again have an opportunity to speak about their experience. Most of them praise the institution and their colleagues effusively.
Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq didn’t.
Ottawa’s only Innu MP, she launched a blistering attack on the racism and prejudice endemic in a system built around aging white males in suits.
“Every time I walk on to House of Common grounds, speak in these chambers, I’m reminded every step of the way I don’t belong here,” Qaqqaq began.
Even as an MP, she said, “I have never felt safe or protected in my position.” Security guards follow her, suspicious about a seeming outsider – young, female, and non-white – wandering in those hallowed halls.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: parliament, racism, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, Innu
Thursday June 24, 2021
Sofie Hartwick is an anomaly – a gifted pianist who doesn’t read music, doesn’t know what she’s going to play before she starts, and never repeats herself.
And plays beautiful music just the same.
Sofie – I’m using her first name because I think of her as part of my church family – is somewhere on the autism spectrum. Where, doesn’t matter. Typically, she plays a totally spontaneous piece for about three minutes at the conclusion of our church’s sermon/reflection/homily.
Something in the minister’s words sets up a musical thought pattern for her. Perhaps it defines the tempo she’ll play at, or the key she’ll play in. And then she starts playing.
And the rest of us listen in awe.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: piano, Sofie, CD
Sunday June 20, 2021
Father’s Day feels somewhat hypocritical.
On the one hand, we’re supposedly praising fathers for all the contributions they make to children’s growth and emotional stability.
And on the other hand, fathers are the only social group that can safely be ridiculed, scorned, and denigrated without inciting some kind of mass protest.
Tags: Father's Day, Father Knows Best, fatherless
Thursday June 17, 2021
It’s Father’s Day this weekend.
My daughter, a single parent, is trying to be both a mother and a father to her children. She asked me, the other day, “What does it mean to be a father?”
There are only two things I can say for sure.
One is that being a father is not limited to being male.
The second is that supplying sperm does not make one a father. Indeed, any male who later claims that merely having provided an aggressive sperm gives him a right to control a child’s life should be run out of town on a rail.
I learned about being a father from – who else – my own father.
Tags: Fathers, Fathers'Day
Sunday June 13, 2021
Last Sunday evening, a young man who doesn’t deserve to have a name aimed his black pickup truck at a family taking their evening walk along a sidewalk in London, Ontario. He bounced over the curb and smashed into them.
They were Muslims. The women were wearing hijabs and traditional shalwar kameez -- loose, pleated trousers with a long shirt. “They were visible,” said a family friend.
The grandmother died on the spot. Father, mother, and daughter died in hospital. Only the boy, nine years old, survived his injuries.
What that young man did seems abundantly clear. But the motive for his actions remains (as I write this column) unclear.
Why there, at that particular time?
Tags: Muslims, Islamophobia, London killing
Thursday June 10,2021
Only 14 days to go. This shouldn’t be difficult. I don’t expect quarantine will be much different from daily life in these Covid-restricted times.
I live alone. Covid rules won’t let me invite people in for dinner or coffee. The only germs I have to deal with are my own. So keeping the house spotless doesn’t need to be a high priority.
I have a freezer full of frozen food. I’ve got more books than I can possibly read. The cable is working, and Google awaits.
This could be almost like a mini-vacation.
I can see the routines shaping up.
Tags: COVID-19, quarantine
Sunday June 6, 2021
Something snapped inside me when I heard about 215 bodies, buried in mass graves, on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School. The news ripped apart any veils of excuses or equivocations, revealing the residential school system as an atrocity.
I have to admit that in the past, although I considered the residential schools genocidal in intent, I have nevertheless not condemned them utterly and totally.
That’s because I have known many who served in those schools. Generally, they were dedicated, caring, self-sacrificing individuals. My church celebrated the commitment of its doctors, nurses, teachers, matrons.
Granted, some of them held colonial attitudes towards their indigenous charges. But in the 1950s, who didn’t?
I failed to recognize that good people might work within a diabolical system.
Tags: Residential schools, Kamloops, burials, 215
I have worn mismatched socks for most of 2021. Deliberately.
The idea came from a reader in England, a retired Methodist minister named Ken Nicholls who admits to “being a little eccentric at times.”
I decided some time ago to make a statement with my socks. I NEVER wear what is usually considered a pair. Socks are bought often from large stores selling them in packs of seven pairs. Often, seven different colours.
“So I may wear one green sock and one yellow. Or one blue, one purple. People I meet tell me that I have odd socks on. My reply is that they are wrong. This IS a pair. The socks have the same size, the same material, the same shape, the same manufacturer, and the same thermal value.
“They only differ in colour. And colour is irrelevant to the way they are loved and valued. Why are you judging them by colour?”
I liked his idea enough to try it. But as a symbolic act, my mismatched socks were an utter failure.
Tags: Prejudice, socks
Anger does not produce good poetry. But poetry can reduce anger. So here you are. It’s certainly not the best of my poems, but I needed to write it. So here are a few lines about the 215 bodies discovered undergrouind at the Kamloops Residential School:
And now we lie, mouths gagged with soil,
silenced witnesses to a system
that robbed and stole and deprecated
in the name of a loving God.
Who did not breathe new life into our clay.
Yet we shall rise,
and point with fleshless fingers
at your pious posturing...
Tags: Residential schools, silence, anger, Kamloops