Monday, 3 April 2017

Crisis with Aboriginal Youth in Canada

Dec. 2016
                    Crisis of Aboriginal Children in Canada’s North
These are personal observations and opinions from this 81 year old lay person. 
I have observed, and had a deep interest in Canada’s Aboriginal/First Nations people for over a half century.
My first contact with the Native Indians, (as they were known at the time) was in the early 1940s as a young boy in the city of Saskatoon. About once or twice a year an elder from an area reserve would come to our neighborhood, dressed in beautiful aboriginal regalia, and preform some form of Tribal dance. He would sing in his own language, and often would play a small drum and a rattle. Adults would, I believe give him coins. 
Other than this, the only contact I or my friends would have with the Indigenous people was at the entrance to the Saskatoon Exhibition grounds at the fair every summer. Often one or two families would camp out there in their teepees, for the duration of the fair. I believe they were part of the Exhibition. Whether they received any compensation, or not, I do not know!
Later, after the end of World War Two in 1947 when I was twelve years old, my Father took me deer hunting on what he believed, (I think) was the closed Dundurn Army Base. It was in late November or early December. We took back roads/trails and eventually just bounced over the sandy, undulating, moonscape like pockmarked cratered land. Everywhere the landscape was crisscrossed with the destructive evidence of Heavy Tanks maneuvers. We parked the car on top of one of the hundreds of small hills that equaled the number craters. Dad assured me it was OK to be in this God Forsaken Place. Despite the signs that said something like:
As we left the car it was getting rather late, maybe around three PM, the temperature had dropped, and a very fine snow was beginning to fall. We started out, each with our Winchester 30-30s. With all these small hills and craters it was hard to keep each other in sight, and of course the snow didn’t help, but it wasn’t too bad. After about thirty minutes or so I lost track of Dad, and soon had no idea of my direction or which way to go. Dad had told me to go around the other side of a larger hill, (that by some fluke had a few trees on it) but when I got to the other side there was a steep cliff and a gully dropping away. I thought the gully would come back to where I had last seen, or in actual fact only heard Dad. As I followed the gully I heard a few dogs barking, and as I came around a slight bend I was startled to see several teepees scattered along both sides of the gully. As I walked along the trail between them, I was amazed to see several very small children very scantily dressed peering at me from the flaps of the tents. It was like being in another world. The dogs had stopped barking. There was no sound. No adults in sight. Just as I left the small settlement behind the snow picked up and I was getting a little worried, just then I heard a loud shot and there not more than thirty feet away was dad – looking very worried. I told him what I had seen, he just nodded.
My next encounter with our Native peoples was as a 23 year old, newly married, young man living in Richmond BC.
My friend Doug a fellow Air traffic Controller, and I, had decided to go gold prospecting (which  neither of us knew anything about) one July day in 1958.  We parked our car outside of the village of Yale, and walked straight up the mountain along a barely visible path, just north of one of the new highway  tunnels just being constructed.
 Within a few hours we were totally lost, but hey that was part of the adventure. However when it got dark and we had no sleeping bags the adventure part lost its glow. Lying there on our backs looking at the bright stars, cold and miserable, one found it very, very easy to believe in the Sasquatch. Doug had bought a surplus Jungle Carbine rifle for nineteen dollar on the way, but it didn’t seem to give us much comfort.
However, we survived the night, and after eating a few chocolate bars we continued tramping along, picking up a few rocks, hitting them with our little hammer, walking, getting hot, and all the time realizing we were lost and would have to find our way out of there pretty soon.
At about the hottest time of the day a young Aboriginal man, maybe about thirty years old, seemed to appear from nowhere. We started to chat, and it appeared he was the Son of the Chief of the Tribe in this area, and we were trespassing. He didn’t make a big deal out of it, except to say he could easily shoot us, and no one would ever find our bodies. He guided us back to our car – it seemed much closer than we thought. On the way he mentioned his younger sister was to arrive at the bus station in Hope within a few hours, so we all decided to go pick her up and bring her back to Yale.
This I know is a long way around to get to the actual reason I mentioned our little adventure.
As it turned out His sister had come from Bellingham Washington, she had run away from an Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
 Neither Doug nor I had ever heard of the Residential School system. She had been living with some relatives just across the border. She and another girl (also an escapee from a Residential School) had come up to Yale for the funeral of one of their relatives. On the way back to Yale they told us a little about the school, none of it good.  They invited us to stay for the funeral.
                                                 We did
It is hard to decide where to start when talking about the problems of Canada’s Aboriginal/First Nations people, there have been so many for so long. The latest, and worst in many years, is the epidemic of suicide among the very young on Reserves throughout northern Canada.
There have been many commissions over the years, the latest and probably the best is “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” This Commission was chaired by the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair. Many excellent recommendations have been made to the Government of Canada by this commission.
Unfortunately, concrete results resulting from prior commissions reports, in most respects have resulted in very little, if any results. I personally do believe this one, will bring meaningful, and positive action, within a relatively reasonable time.
Now in November, 2016, the media are full of sad stories of very young children in Northern Saskatchewan killing themselves.
LOON LAKE — Another indigenous girl has taken her own life in northern Saskatchewan — the fifth this month.
Four other girls between 10 and 14 have taken their own lives this month in northern communities, including Stanley Mission, Deschambault Lake and La Ronge.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is calling the suicides a crisis that requires more action from the federal and provincial governments. › News › Local News
This has been happening in all the Territories and provinces within Canada for many years, the causes are of course complex, and there can be no quick fix. But there is no doubt, help for individuals is required as soon as humanly possible. By this I mean one on one consultation, not any broad brush, theoretical, lets get a royal commission appointed, type of response.
There is obviously a dire need for professional assistance with the Mental and Emotional health for this needy segment of the Canadian society. The Federal Government has made an effort in this regard, with recommendations from the “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.”  Unfortunately, this help appears to only aimed at survivors of the “Indian Residential Schools’, with some rather unspecific criteria re who qualifies. One thing though appears true – it is not helping the latest teenage group.
Our First Nation people have been mistreated by successive Federal Governments since confederation. These people have grown through generations, hearing stories of broken promises, and with personal observations that continue to this day to reinforce the belief that they are not only treated as second (or third) class citizens, but are. There have been recent reports by First Nation people, of RCMP abuse.  This is not new. Neither is having their account of the abuse rather summarily dismissed in court. A police officer’s word always carries more weight at court (without video) than an average citizen. The word of an Aboriginal person against a police officer appears to have considerably less. Accounts of this sort over the years will not tend to reinforce a strong self image.
Fortunately, this attitude that First Nation People are in anyway inferior, is being dispelled by many up and coming First Nation women and men, who are using the various media and information technology outlets to great advantage. These educated people are about to change the playing field of federal politics in Canada forever.
Getting back to the deaths of young people on Reserves, I of course do not have the audacity to claim what the reason is for these desperate cries for help. What is obvious to me though, whatever all the various and maybe never known reasons – a very, very deep depression must be present within the hearts of these fragile, lovely, young girls.

Monday, 27 February 2017

DON BEGG, A FRIEND LEFT US 5pm Jan. 25 2017

We use the term "friend" often. Normally I don't think we give it much thought. It just flows off the tongue, is gone into the either, and never given another thought.

There are all kinds of friends one makes over the years. Some we meet at primary school, college or other educational sources. Friends you have worked with, often for many years. Of course for many there is church, playing sports, and friends of friends, often play an important source.

However for me, as I look back over my eighty two years, (so far so good) it has become apparent as time goes by that the friends I have made from my first eight years of school, and those through my thirty year professional life, as an Air Traffic Controller, have been special.

Why have I made the previous statement? It just popped into my little brain. I didn't give it much thought. No big analysing or second guessing.

However I will do that right now.

 I have many fond memories of my early youth, and the core group of friends I grew up with. But what makes them special? Of course over the formative years you spend with friends means just that - formative - we all evolved into the adults of later life. As we evolved we talked - a lot - about a lot of things. We made many mistakes together, laughed together, and at times cried together. We got into situations. We grew up, many of us moved many miles away. As time grew we all saw less and less of each other. We often lost contact with one another for several years. From time to time, I believe most of us had some little event trigger a clear memory of some little thing, that brought a flash of a friend and life event. It is when you meet these friends after many years, they don't seem to have changed. They have all had a million experiences in a life you have not been involved with - but to the two of you, neither has changed.

Working together as an Air Traffic Controller was in a lot of ways like playing on a sports team. We looked out for each other. We often worked very hard together. We had four lines - we called them crews. There were normally about eight men (later and women) to a crew. We overlapped with two other crews part of the time. We worked strange shifts, originally in the late 50s I believe we worked an 8 on and 3 off schedule, a bit different from today, which I think is more like 5-4. We went out for drinks after work together. We went to baseball games, hockey games, played golf, etc. We had interesting times together. We could relate.  We didn't get paid what we wore worth!
Here again after retiring some of us sort of drifted away, some stayed close through events arranged for the old farts, by some dedicated retired Controllers. When you meet one of these old friends, even after many years, it is like time has not changed them - except in appearance. Even their voice seems the same. Was reminded of this when talking to Jim and Terry on the phone recently, recognizing the voice instantly.

Don Begg

Don was one of my best friends, he just was. We didn't have a lot in common. He though I was crazy to play hockey, he would always laugh when I would limp around after a game. I had four kids - he was single. Politics we did agree. I always kidded him about his use of the cursor.We were just friends for over sixty years.
Don Begg was one who I believe stayed relatively involved with the retired group. I was less involved after retirement, but have always had such fond memories of that wonderful group of dedicated men and women.
Don and I didn't see much of each other, maybe once every three or four years, until five years ago. He called and we went out for lunch a few times that year and he came for Christmas dinner with our family a few times.  I called him this December a week before Christmas to invite him, but he said he was not feeling well enough to come. He said he didn't feel up to visitors. I phoned again right after Christmas and he again said he was not well enough to have a visit. So I went over the next day, after all he did not have to let me in!

Don did let me in, and I am glad to report we had many laughs together, despite the fact he advised me he would not be around much longer, since he was in line for a Doctor assisted Death soon.
He wasn't sure just when, but he believed in the near future. I think the prolonged discomfort of his brother Jake's passing had a profound affect on him. I visited him every week for the next few weeks. A few days after my last visit, Jim Paxton, one of Don's good friends, phoned me to let me know he was a patient at Peace Arch Hospital in white rock. Either I or my wife Beth, and Daughter Carol visited him almost every day until Jan. 23 when he said I should take a few days off since he was going to get the proceedure on the 27th of January. I knew Terry and Greg were to visit him on the two other days, so I kept away.
Beth and I arrived at Don's room about 11am Jan.26. He was not in his bed. I asked the nurse where Don Begg had been moved.
"Are you a relative?"
"No, just friends for over 60 years"
"I'm afraid I can't say much since you are not a relative."
"We are aware of the procedure Don is to have tomorrow."
"OK I will have to talk to the supervisor." And she left for a few minutes.
She came back.
"I' can tell you that Mr. Begg had the procedure yesterday at 5PM. Evidently he moved the time up so as to not inconvenience anyone. Even the nurses were not advised."

Although on one level Beth and I were expecting a death, it still came as a shock, we didn't have time to say Good By. Or say a little prayer, although Beth had prayed over him previously.

It is strange how life often throws us a curve ball when we least expect it. For the last two days I had been going over in my mind what I would say, if Don asked me to be with him at the end.
I had made up my mind I would stay with him.

I didn't have to make that decision!


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Little Things that stick in my mind!

As we travel through this short life on this beautiful planet many times
                                               I wonder.

     Why we allow our politicians (particularly our Prime Minister Harper) to give an answer to a reasonable question that is totally off Subject. Do not these role models to our children realise what they are teaching the young?  And not in the usually ineffective,  "follow what I say" method, but in the very effective, pattern a life after what they see and hear how those in respected positions respond to a question. A question I might add that is about a position or quote, the respected person has made or defended. He/she should be proud to discuss and enlighten the great unwashed about his/her reasoning. But no, so often they stand there, looking sheepish, silly grin, or worse proud smirk on their face, all the time knowing (in the case of our Current Prime Minister Harper) there cannot be any follow-up questions. These politicians, if they have any brains at all, or conscience,  should know the detrimental  effect their actions have on the young, and the deep seated ridicule most citizens of this country, regardless of party, will hold them for the rest of their lives.

Why we have a major refugee world crisis. It is often heartbreaking. Millions of innocent families trudging from one country or boat to another. Fleeing bombs and fanatical Islamic groups destroying their country.Trying to make a better life for their children. Little children washing up on the shores of strange countries.

From Iraq - where we, the good guys destroyed thousands of homes, water plants, sewer systems,
and farms, not to mention hundreds of thousands of civilians killed. We killed thousands of Iraq soldiers, disbanded their army leaving a vacuum - that has been filled with new evil.

From Afghanistan  - see above

From Syria  - Very tragic - Bad dictator - country not in civil, war no refuges - still in office. The good guys tell Dictator to step down?  We start supporting various strange Groups - including ISIS   - the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria  with Arms and logistic support. Syria now a broken State. Millions of refuges have left their homes and are trudging and dying across North Africa and Europe. We are bombing Syria.

Why are we today, using Drones in Pakistan (an independent supposedly friendly Nation) to target and kill " militants"  and untold innocent children and adults by blowing up suspected private homes.

Seeing that little boy washing up on the beach was heart breaking. Took years of paper work to try and get him to British Columbia - why?

I am now writting this after the last Federal election - the Harper tories lost - it is like a breath of fresh air flowing through this country.

I wonder what the world would think if a slow motion camera inside a poor little home in Pakistan, or Syria, or Iraq, took a picture of a sweet little three year old girl as she slowly disintegrated from one of nice little missiles, fired from the western controlled see no evil, see no blood, hands off, cute little drone.

Monday, 10 March 2014


                               My computer is acting up - and I am not in the mood !!

I am positive Beth had small stroke on the morning of May 4th 2013. Returning home after three days in Peace Arch Emergency, I definitely noticed a slight loss of some of her physical abilities.  Again I am sure she had another one about Feb. 6th. She since then has been having considerable trouble with her speech, and lately her walking has become more of a shuffle - this from a woman that for most of her life has been a dedicated (and fast) walker. And very lately (yesterday afternoon at watershed park) was stumbling with the shuffle. All the while very, very tired.

These small strokes (TIA's) can be very serious and portend to a potential full blown stroke.

I had a small stroke about ten years ago.

I had another - rather more serious  on Feb 28th 2014. Sandra insisted (like a good daughter should) I got to Peace Arch the morning of March 2nd. Was treated very seriously (not like Beth) have had several tests - still am - and some blood pressure medication. I do notice I am slipping a bit.

Again - there is a relatively high probability of one or both of us having a serious stroke within the next year or so.

This is why I am writing this while I am functional - relatively in any event.

If either of us has a stroke the changes within our -( and our family's lives) will be - well lets face it - catastrophic. Both Beth and I have been visiting friends lately that have had strokes. It always leaves one with a profound feeling of deep sadness, leaving a friend that is slowly drifting  further into a shell they cannot escape, although it is so obvious they are trying so very hard!

We both are so worried about the other. Neither of us want to be a burden on the other. Both of us would gladly look after the other.

                  Neither of us want to become helpless and unable to communicate to those around us.

We lived through Beth's  Wonderful  Mother suffering for years in a vegetable state.

We don't want that for anyone.

Glad I did this   all for now.

Monday, 30 September 2013


Imagine the following.

A wonderful woman in her eighties, who has had very full life is lying on her bed, she is
suffering from a particularly painful form of bone cancer. She is alert and articulate.
She has loved ones scattered far and wide. She believes in her God. She is not afraid to die.

Her doctor says " Mable, as you know you do not have much time left on this earth, in fact
with the latest technology, we can tell you will die within twenty days".

Mable Says, " Doctor I am in great pain, my family from all over the world are here to be
with me, some must leave soon. I am finished with this world, I would love to leave
peacefully with my loved ones present when I depart".

Doctor, "No, I'm sorry Mable, that is not possible, you must suffer to the end, what you or
your loved ones wish is not important, the State has decided you must suffer."


The above may be a little over dramatic - however day in and day out a form of this scenario
is being played out throughout Canada.

There has been a rash of 'talking heads' on TV lately discussing 'assisted suicide'. or the right
to a personalized death, meaning the patient deciding how long she must suffer, before being
"allowed" to die.

I has for many years amazed me that individuals, governments, and their many agencies, have
for hundreds of years had the audacity to believe they should have some right to decide how
much pain, or humiliation a person MUST go thorough before being allowed to finally
                                                   rest in peace.

 Many people, (or probably most) believe that a person who is at the end of their particular life
 span is afraid of dying.

 I for instance was one.

Having reached a relatively advanced age myself, and having been close to loved ones in their last days, I now feel convinced in the vast majority of cases, that is just not true.

As one gets closer to that time to leave this life, the less the threat of death has a hold on one.

As a so called advance society, to insist a loved one, and their family, who knows death is close
must suffer unnecessarily, often for days or weeks is barbaric.

We as a society must grow up and recognize that death is inevitable, indeed it is just the natural
resolution to our wonderful, relatively short, time on this special planet.

After you or your loved on one has passed away, whether you died on the tenth of the month, or the twentieth, really makes no difference, all is over. Why should we as a society insist the time of death
must always be the one that inevitably comes with the most pain and lose of dignity?

Sunday, 29 September 2013


This post is a continuation of the thought process of the last post re the brain.

I did not mean to imply in the brain post that I was at the present time in the
 midst of a crisis.

However one can never know what the future may bring, and if whether by a
slow progressive nature or a sudden stroke, the loss of ones mental and verbal
abilities usually leaves important thoughts unspoken, particularly to loved ones.

So I thought, since I do have the majority of my marbles at this time, it was
 important to express my feelings on the subject now.

I still read a couple of books a month - mostly non-fiction, I think a bit, I discuss
at times a little heated various subjects, religion, etc. and I write a bit, not as much
as my talented wife, but a bit.

So friends, although I am seeing signs of the aging process, I think I have a few
 more productive ( a relative term) years ahead.

Monday, 23 September 2013


               This little note is for my family. Hopefully it will be of some use, and I hope may  be
                     some comfort to them, for the present,and into the foreseeable future

I have for at least the past year or so, noticed a distinct deterioration in the workings of my brain. Actually now that I give it some thought I believe I started to notice little things about a year before I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in Oct. 2007.

Where at one time as an air traffic controller I could keep track of several things at once, and did have
virtually total recall, I now at times have great difficulty remembering what is right in front of me.

 A perfect example of this was the other day, Beth and I were at the store when I found a cute picture frame and called to her to tell her we should buy this ????? - I could not for the life of me remember the word 'picture frame'. So since I did not say another word, we of course did not buy the frame.

This is very disturbing.

I know you may say, "we all have examples of not being able to remember little things from time to time", and I agree, but this I believe is much more serious.

We went to visit an old friend today who is suffering from a rather advanced form of dementia, it was a very sobering, and yes in fact scary experience. Our friend has lost his strength, and his memory for  many experiences is poor, he does not know where the washroom  is in his home, etc etc.

However he is very aware of his situation, knows he is going downhill rapidly, yes and he still can make jokes about his condition.

I believe the above sentence is extremely important for friends and love ones to remember. That person locked inside hers or his prison is still that same person. At times they can, and will make it very clear indeed, that they are still there, but always remember even when they cannot make it clear
                                       THEY ARE STILL THERE

As for me, I have no idea of how fast or indeed how severe my brain is going to degenerate.
However if it becomes a severe problem for Beth and the family, I just want you all to know, even if at the time I may not be able to express the words, I will always trust you to do the proper thing for all concerned, which I know would include me. 
                   Great Grampa
                                           And Friend