Archive for the ‘Social Issues’ Category

Update on my Canadian Charter Rights case

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Some of you have been asking me for an update on my case. This is what has happened thus far.

On December 3, 2009 I had a meeting at the QHRC to discuss the failure of the mediator Mr. G to return my messages, after the breakdown of the mediation session on September 15, 2009, the dismissal of Mr. Niemi as my advocate and Mr. G’s request that I submit another offer of settlement to Les Ailes de la mode and the legal firm they hired, Heenan Blaikie.

I met with Mr. G’s supervisor Mr. B and we discussed some of the elements of the case. On December 11, 2009 I received an offer to continue discussions on December 14. I accepted and Mr. B and I met again, in his office, to discuss the case. Once again, it started off with Mr. B asking me what I wanted, even though I had made copies of the emails messages between myself, Mr. Niemi and the QHRC mediator, Mr. G, available to him.

The emails state, in no uncertain terms, what I am asking for.

Our meeting was fairly brief (about 40 minutes) and ended with Mr. B promising to get back to me on December 18, 2009.

The 18th of December came and went with no word from anyone at the QHRC.

So what am I going to do?

Stay tuned…

If you want to read about some of the details of the case you can download the pdf files below.

Something is seriously wrong in the Province of Quebec right now. As an English-speaking, African Canadian, it seems as though I am going to have to fight even harder, to obtain a just settlement, even after I won my case.

This could make for a very interesting documentary.

The following are pdf files, for you to download and read regarding some of the details of my case.

The Montreal Gazette coverage:
Winston Wood human rights complaint

Media releases from the July 2009 news conference:
1. WinstonWood Case Summary
2. Com. Wood E 07-09
3. WinstonWood Chronology

Support Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Since June 2003, I have been involved in a Canadian Charter Rights case involving discrimination, harassment and the non-payment of my salary against Les Ailes de la Mode (Les Ailes), a retail chain with stores in Montreal and Laval Quebec, Canada.

In 2005, Les Ailes was purchased by an Ontario corporation, named in Canadian newspapers as the INC or Fairweather Group. As far as I know, it is a private company that also owns several other stores and chains across Canada. The legal firm that the owners of Les Ailes have hired, to defend their desire not to pay me my salary, use racial slurs and harass me, is the prestigious law firm of Heenan Blaikie.

I have been through a great ordeal over the past six and a half years=eighty months. How long is that? Well, these are just a few of the events that have occurred, since I first filed my complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

April 2003 – Current Quebec Premier, Jean Charest, won his first election. For the previous nine years, the Parti Quebecois had been in power in Quebec, Canada’s second largest province.

The Invasion of Iraq was into its second month.

George Bush was still in his first term as President of USA.

Claude Julien was the head coach of the Montreal Canadians.

June 2003 – Premier Jean Charest takes office.

Jean Chretien was Prime Minister of Canada.

Since June 2003
The Montreal Canadians have had five head coaches.
The USA has had two Presidential elections.
Quebec has had two Provincial elections.
Canada has had three Federal elections.
Quebec had its Bouchard-Taylor hearings, concerning the rapidly changing, visual demographics of Quebec and how the various, new linguistic and cultural communities are integrating, into the Quebec culture.

From June 2003 to August 2006, my case was transferred 5 times. The Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC or CDPDJ in French) agents assigned to my file were (in order):

Ms. G
Ms. B
Ms. M
Mr. M
Ms. G (for the 2nd time)
Mr. T

In October 2004, I agreed to and participated in a mediation session, which ended when Les Ailes made a offer for settlement, that was completely unacceptable and rejected my attempts to settle the case, for a more reasonable amount.

In June 2009, I received a decision/judgment, which supported my allegations and statements that I was discriminated against by Les Ailes and that my case had enough proof to be sent to the Human Rights Tribunal. However, in a very strange twist, the decision of the QHRC did not assign damages to Les Ailes (in their terminology, also known as the respondent, I am noted as the complainant or the “Haitian” – more about that a later date) but referred the case back to mediation.

I was now dealing with my 7th agent. Mr. G was the mediator assigned to my case, supposedly with a mandate to bring this case to a successful conclusion in mediation, as my Charter Rights were clearly violated.

In September 2006, after three years of transfers and unexplained delays by the QHRC, I hired the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) as my advocate, to help me win my case. As many in the Province of Quebec know, CRARR is often cited in the Canadian media, particularly in the Montreal region, for its efforts in dealing with cases involving discrimination, racial profiling and other Charter Rights cases.

CRARR’s strategy succeeded in my case getting some minor media attention but no real movement from the QHRC in terms of improving the efficiency, with which they handled my case. In fact, there have other cases submitted to the QHRC after June 2003 (including cases submitted by CRARR) which have been settled before mine, sent to the Tribunal and have had damages assessed, while my case still lingers, in some sort of strange limbo.

Following the QHRC’s and the corporate world’s 7th summer vacation, the second mediation session was finally held on Tuesday, September 15, 2009. That session, while starting with much more promise, quickly degenerated. I am going to reserve commenting on what happened on September 15, 2009 – for now. But what I will say is, that I was more than disappointed, at the end of the session.

There was no agreement signed. But a promise of continued negotiations was agreed upon.

On Monday, September 21, 2009 I fired Mr. Niemi, who is listed as the Executive Director and co-founder of CRARR and sent a copy of the email dismissal to the mediator, Mr. G, on the same day. Mr. Niemi had been personally working with me on my case versus Les Ailes, since I first hired him and his agency CRARR, in September 2006.

Since October 9, 2009 I have contacted the QHRC mediator, Mr. G, four times for an update on my case, following his promise to inform me of Les Ailes’ position, after a meeting with Mr. G on September 21, 2009 where he asked me to resubmit an offer to Les Ailes, after I fired Mr. Niemi and a phone conversation between Mr. G and myself on October 6, 2009. He has not replied to any of my attempts to contact him.

Following a letter I wrote to him on November 26, 2009, someone from the QHRC finally decided to contact me. I received a message from Mr. G’s superior Mr. B, as well as a phone call and email from the assistant to the President of the QHRC. A meeting was scheduled and held on Thursday, December 3, 2009. Mr. G was not present and I met with his supervisor Mr. B, ironically in the very same office, where my mediation session on September 15, 2009 took place.

During the meeting, Mr. B said that I was discriminated against and that my offer was reasonable – albeit the offer I made in his office was substantially lower, than what I believe I deserve but higher than what anyone has previously offered to me, to settle the case.

The following day, I received an email from the Heenan Blaikie lawyer assigned to the case who sent me a copy of a letter that he had sent to the mediator, Mr. G, dated November 13, 2009. Apparently, they had a meeting on November 5th, where Mr. G and the lawyer discussed my new offer, as well as some of the other things that I am not going to mention – for now.

The letter dated November 13, 2009 stated that Les Ailes were withdrawing from the mediation session.

Despite the fact that I received a letter in Mr. B’s office on Thursday, December 3, 2009 from the QHRC, stating that they wanted to try mediation again with another agent (the same one who was involved in the 1st mediation session of 2004 – Mr. M) Les Ailes had already clearly indicated, through their Heenan Blaikie lawyer, that they no longer wished to be involved in any further mediation session with me…

Now the question I have is, when was the QHRC planning on letting me know that?

Thus far, I have not been impressed with the lack of efficiency and transparency from CRARR and the QHRC. There are also some questions I have regarding any influence, a prestigious legal firm like Heenan Blaikie, may have over the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

Richard Colvin’s testimony and the personal attacks he has endured, while he was trying to keep all of us informed of serious international abuses and neglect, under the leadership of the current Federal government, has opened the door to questioning Canada’s international image, versus its reality. It seems as though Canada’s reputation for fairness and respect for Human Rights, should not only be examined abroad but here at home as well.

Over the next few days and weeks, I will be sharing my experiences with all of you (unless the QHRC, Les Ailes or Heenan Blaikie contact me with a respectable offer), including some very curious behaviour and responses from Mr. Niemi of CRARR, other strange encounters with the QHRC and the evidence I have, that supports some of my suspicions, that something is indeed rotten in this state of ……

Those of you who know me, also know that I am not someone prone to hotheadedness. I am only interested in justice and respect for the Charter. I have sought through many different channels and attempts to meet with Les Ailes and their current owners, to settle this case, in a respectful manner, without acrimony. I have been constantly rebuffed, or the offers from Les Ailes or their lawyers, have been below what common sense would allow me to accept.

As always, I remain open to receive any sincere offer of settlement that takes into consideration both my material losses and my violated Canadian Charter Rights.

Former Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, have always been men that I admired. I do not believe that I have ever voted for any other party than the Liberals, whether it be in Federal or Provincial elections. I do not think that any other party running for office, has the vision of the Liberal Party nor its commendable record in dealing with our diverse, multicultural country over the past 45 years. For almost 30 years, both Trudeau and Chretien have led a country, where despite its obvious challenges and stumbles, has seen considerable improvements over what our parents, grandparents and older ancestors, have had to endure to survive.

Nevertheless, the legislative freedoms we are supposed to enjoy as citizens and respect for the Canadian Charter, which those two men had a personal hand in creating, are the fabric of our nation. The defense of those principles and values, have to remain forever in the minds, responsibilities and actions of elected officials. If they do not use their authority, to ensure that the statues and laws, their former leaders argued over and negotiated over for years, are respected and upheld, then all of us (men, women, minorities: religious, linguistic, sexual or others) are weakened and diminished.

Those who stand on the shoulders of Trudeau and Chretien, who use the names and legacies of Canada’s two pivotal Prime Ministers to further their own political and commercial endeavours, must be very careful that they do not sully nor tarnish the reputation of a nation, for a few favours from corporations.

More to come…

Richard Colvin

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Thank you Richard Colvin. Your willingness to stand up for your principles and share your knowledge, in the face of bitter criticism and personal attacks have inspired me.

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Afghanistan

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Well, what to say… There are couple of things on my mind. First of all, I would like to inform all of you that I am currently involved in a very serious Canadian Charter (our civil/human rights legislation) in Montreal, Quebec. I am the complainant, meaning that I am the person who filed the charges against a corporation for discriminatory practices that have violated my Canadian Charter Rights.

On Friday, December 11, 2009. I will be informing anyone who cares about human/civil rights in North America about the status of my case. There is a lot to be said on how it has been handled thus far and the people involved…

It is going to be very informative as to the practices and legal issues that are ongoing in Canada, in the 21st century. Please refer to my posting on July 10, 2009 (title: Civil Rights and Justice) for some background info on my 6 1/2 year ordeal for justice in the Province of Quebec.

The other thing that I am thinking about is President Obama’s Afghan decision. From my comments on Obama thus far, it is clear that I am a staunch supporter of both his politics and vision. I have read both of his very well written books and was moved and inspired by them. I truly believe that Obama is the right person to be on the political stage right now. He is worldly, positive, smart, recognizant of the world’s view of the USA over the past 70 years or so and how much of the anxiety that exists, revolves around that, even though many citizens in the USA are not aware of how others around the world have viewed the USA’s foreign policy in recent historical times.

He is using diplomacy for its correct purpose, to calm down tensions while seeking a progressive ground that is in the best interests of his country and the larger world. It would be an honour to work with his team.

That being said, Obama recently made a speech regarding his decision to increase the troop levels in Afghanistan. I think it is the right thing to do and this is why:

In the years following the USA’s departure from training the Taliban rebels in Afghanistan the lack of direction for the nation allowed terror to plant its violent seeds. The terror from the Taliban also allowed the Al-Qaeda terrorists to gain a very strong foothold in Afghanistan and the fear they brought to the Afghan people allowed them to establish a base there to plan a execute the horrible actions committed on 9/11.

The reason to go after Al-Qaeda is because their existence threatens the safety of all of us in the western world. Anyone who understands how wars are fought must know that this war will end because of battlefield success as well as diplomatic success. But in order for the diplomatic success to really stick as it did in Germany, Japan and Italy after WWII, there has to be a very convincing military win for the NATO allies against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

In my opinion, that is why President Obama’s strategy is once again working ahead of the game to protect the USA first while meeting his military and diplomatic goals. As many of you have noticed in the news, there has also been requests to the other NATO Allies to increase their troop support, as well as efforts from the Pakistani government and military who are putting the squeeze on Al-Qaeda/Taliban sources hiding out in their country.

I applaud President Obama’s carefully thought out decision and as someone who abhors the thought of needless suffering and the pain of war also realizes that history teaches us if those who plan to hurt us are left alone (Al-Qaeda, Nazi Party, etc) then they will find the resources to spread terror, fear and violence.

Despite the anti-Obama rhetoric, he is not acting alone, this is a NATO mission and together the allies will be able to overpower and defeat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Give the President some support. He has a lot of very good ideas and has the work ethic and drive to see them through.

Civil Rights and Justice

Friday, July 10th, 2009

“Powerlessness and silence go together. We should use our privileged positions not as a shelter from the world’s reality, but as a platform from which to speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used.” – Margaret Atwood

By now some of you may have read or viewed a news story this week about racism and discrimination in downtown Montreal, Quebec. The case, which has been ongoing for the past six years since I filed it in June of 2003, is something personal and at times, has been hard for me to talk about. But I am going to do it now.

Before I do, I think that I should explain why I have been fighting this case for six years. I feel that I owe the people who have come before me, (my ancestors who were slaves and fought for their freedom, those who struggled to survive and defy the whip, the denigration of their existence for the profit and comfort of others) a duty to stand up for my rights as well. They survived so that others would remember what happened to them and survived because they hoped that things would get better and were willing to put themselves on the line and work to make it so.

Hope is why people fight for justice. Hope that the country and society they live in will live up to the principals of its Charters and declared moral standards, hope that the declarations of politicians at election times also have weight and strength inbetween the time they want our votes again. That is why I am still pursuing this case after six years – hope. Hope for myself and hope for Canada.

A few people I’ve met suggested that I must be special or have some deep reserve of inner strength to be able to fight and publicly stand up for my rights. While I am flattered, I am not able to take credit for all my determination and resolve. Being someone who has read a bit about historical figures and struggles of the past, I understand that all that I enjoy today is because others have come before me suffered, fought, marched, petitioned, sang, prayed for and demanded the Civil Rights for all us that are written on our Charters and Constitutions.

Every female professional owns her career to the women who were the first ones through the door and who put up with the scorn, put downs and prejudice from those who wanted to keep women from being doctors, lawyers and whatever else they wanted to be. Every female politician in Canada owes her career in part to women like Agnes Macphail, the 1st female MP elected to parliament and her courage and determination to live her life as she saw fit, not by the limits others wanted to place on it.

Black people in the Americas would still be slaves if it wasn’t for the efforts of a people in Canada, the Caribbean, England and the United States challenging the will and racist policies supported by millions of others in Europe, North America and South America, who kept telling those who demanded their place at the table of freemen to wait just a little bit longer.

In the previous century, the many of the countries of the world twice banded together to challenge and defeat tyranny in Europe and Asia during WWI and WWII. They were fighting for the rights of freedom and justice of the common man and those efforts encouraged and inspired men and women around the world to fight and work for their place as equal citizens in their own countries.

Many countries in Africa and Asia would still be colonies if it wasn’t for the efforts of the freedom fighters and the other brave people who pushed back and demanded their freedom, demanded respect and their Human Rights. From Algeria to South Africa, India to the 1980′s in Poland, millions have done much more than I am doing. That is where my resolve comes from.

For the eighteen months I was employed at Les Ailes de la Mode, I was subjected to harassment and discrimination by my supervisors and the administration of the store. I took my case to the Quebec Human Rights Commission and after six long years, they decided in my favour. The case was referred back to mediation and while I have accepted that option, I have yet to hear anything from Les Ailes de la Mode/Fairweather Group. As it takes two to negotiate, it leaves the case once again in a stalemate of sorts. The question is what happens next? And what does this case say about what is really going on in Canada?

A few days ago, there was a shocking news story about a black man who was attacked by three white men in Courtney B.C., as well as a report of discrimination in Toronto towards non-whites looking to rent apartments. Earlier this year, there were reports of White Supremacist marches in Alberta. These types of stories and incidences lead me to have serious doubts as to the political will of our leaders to defend Canadians from abuse and discrimination.

Has the tension that has engulfed most of the world for so long finally reached us or is the veiled myth of a multicultural and peaceful Canada finally being lifted, exposing the real deeds and attitudes that have long been hidden due to lack of critical self examination of Canada’s identity by governments and the media?

Have the often repeated statements that Canada is a multicultural society and was the refuge of the American slaves via the Underground Railroad, during the mid 1800′s, blinded us to the real problems of discrimination and prejudice that exist within our country?

So far, I have listened to and read three of the news reports regarding my case. While I am sincerely grateful that the various members of the media have covered the story and broadcast it, I was disappointed that in the CBC News at Six broadcast on Wednesday July 8, they translated the meaning of the word Negre to Negro. Black and white people in Quebec know that using the word Negre – while being a literal translation of the word Negro – has the same weight and hateful meaning as the word Nigger. In light of the controversy surrounding Bye Bye 2008 and the racist jokes directed at blacks and Obama by Radio-Canada, I thought that the CBC would be more sensitive. Maybe there needs to be more positive images of blacks in Canada’s media for the news editors and writers to view their role as information providers with greater care and recognition of the pain that hateful slurs and acts cause. The on-air journalist also mispronounced my name by adding an “s” to the end of it. It is a minor detail to some, but when I listened to the report, I couldn’t help thinking about how many other names he has read correctly over the past that are much more complicated than mine, yet “Wood” was not pronounced correctly, he said “Woods”.

It shouldn’t be hard for any news organization (especially one with the important, long standing legacy of the CBC) to properly report on this story. From what I have seen thus far, the Montreal Gazette got it right in terms of the basic issues of the case, based on the information they received from the press release and the interview I had with them and other journalists. I thank them for their report and encourage them to continue their attention to details when reporting other stories.

This story is a big deal to me. It is what happened to me. It is part of my life story. I was repeatedly told by various people while working for a Canadian corporation to step aside, while other, white employees were hired after me and place above me. I wasn’t paid my salary, my hours were reduced by 2/3, while the company continued to hire and place more people in the department I was working in. Six years later, I received validation from the Human Rights Commission and now the case has been sent back to mediation. I am annoyed and frustrated by the time it has taken the decision to come out however, I remain confident that the Quebec Human Rights Commission can successfully fulfill their mandate and that if Les Ailes de la Mode and their current owners, the Fairweather Group are really serious about dealing with this case, a suitable settlement can be arrived at – perhaps before the next Federal election?

I do not know where the journey of my life will lead me but what I can say is that there is no way that I am going to turn my back on my Civil Rights because it is something difficult to do or that I might be met with scorn, jeers, threats or ridicule. If our Charter stands for anything at all, if Canada is really wants to be a world leader, point its finger at other nations, criticizing them for Civil and Human Rights abuses, then our leaders better make sure that the citizens who live in Canada, receive their full protection under the Charter.

This is time of the year when the world looks to Canada during the spirit of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, other music and film festivals that occur in our city, as well as the numerous festivals across our country and soon, the upcoming Winter Olympics. The diseases of racial discrimination and colour prejudice weaken and undermine the efforts of all of those who work to bring people together to celebrate our cultural differences under the banner of our common humanity and it also diminishes the credibility of politicians who are slow to act, when citizens are denied their Civil Rights.

To those of you who think that claims or discussions of discrimination, and prejudice are over exaggerated, I would contend that very often people live with their pain, misery, frustrations and embarrassments regarding this form of abuse in silence. For those of us who live in the western world where our governments and media fill our eyes and ears with the sweet sounds and sights of freedom, liberty, opulence and lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, when people are shut out of the everyday world due to the discrimination and prejudice that violates our hard fought for Civil Rights, many people simply retreat within themselves and hide their pain with bravado and other destructive behaviours to mask the shame they have at feeling powerless. I know because at times, I felt powerless too.

For whatever reason, my spirit will not allow me to become embittered nor wallow in despair and hopelessness. I am an optimist by nature and that is also why I persist. I believe in justice and the principals in our Charter that defend the rights of every Canadian to live a life without discrimination and persecution and to seek restitution against those who would violate those rights.

Good things come to those who work for them.

What is going to carry me through this is my brain, my heart, my will, my optimism and my faith in justice. Those are the fabulous gifts that have been given to me, that have allowed me to make good and dear friends from all walks of life, have wonderful experiences, share with others and guide my heart to a place of love, hope and strength. To those who are struggling with their own doubts, those gifts are there for you to claim too. You were born stronger and more resilient than you know, embrace it, meet the challenges of life head on and you will be rewarded with a sense of self-worth and the true possibilities of life. Do not worry about stumbles and setbacks, they happen to everyone. Just focus on your life and the things you really want.

Harmony, peace and love is the natural order of life. That is why people have fought and worked to defend freedom and Civil Rights, it is the natural law of life. But we must be vigilant and make sure that our laws and actions remain consistent with our true values of equality, liberty and justice.

“We who live in fortunate lands where we have inherited good things, are prone to accept good things, are prone to accept freedom, the most important of these good things, with an indifference which is the greatest threat to its continuance.” – Lester B. Pearson

To those who have fought and paved the path before me, working for the rights of others and their own with actions, words, songs and determination: thank you for the courage your inspiring stories and efforts have given me.

Lincoln Alexander – 1st African-Canadian elected to Parliament 1968
Thurgood Marshall – Lawyer, Supreme Court Judge
Sidney Poitier – Actor
Norman Jewison – Director, Producer
Denzel Washington – Actor
Lester B. Pearson – Politician, Winner 1957 Nobel Peace Prize, 14th Prime Minister of Canada 1963-1968
Pierre Elliot Trudeau – Politician, 15th Prime Minister of Canada 1968-1979, 1980-1984
Gordon Parks – Artist, Director, Photographer
Fredrick Douglas – Activist
Martin Luther King Jr. – Activist
Rosa Parks – Activist
Gandhi – Activist
Malcolm X – Activist
Bill Cosby – Comedian
Andrew Young – Activist, Politician
Jesse Jackson – Activist
W.E.B Du Bois – Activist, Writer
Muhammad Ali – Athlete
Steven Biko – Activist
Nelson Mandela – Activist, Lawyer, 1st Black President of South Africa
NAACP – Civil Rights Organization
Berry Gordy – Founder of Motown
Duke Ellington – Musician
James Brown – Musician
Miles Davis – Musician
Richard Pryor – Comedian
Dave Chappelle – Comedian
Eddie Murphy – Comedian
Oprah – Journalist
Quincy Jones – Music Producer
Jackie Robinson – Athlete
Maya Angelou – Writer
Stevie Wonder – Musician
Bob Marley – Musician
Krishnamurti – Teacher
Spike Lee – Director, Producer
Tyler Perry – Director, Producer
Will Smith – Actor, Producer
Robin W. Winks – Writer
Robert Johnson – Founder of BET
Barack Obama – Politician, Teacher, 1st African-American President and 44th President of the United States of America
and so many others…

Below you will find the press leases on my case. I thank CRARR for helping me with this case thus far and putting the press releases together. I encourage any and all of you to read them, reflect on them and come forward to your local Human Rights Commissions with your own stories and file complaints. The best way to deal with colour prejudice, discrimination and racism is to denounce it and expose it.

Press Release: com-wood-e-07-09 winstonwood-case-summary WinstonWood Chronology

Time for solar power to take the lead

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

What is the delay with bringing solar power to the average consumer on a massive scale? We have had solar powered calculators and even watches for many years. It seems as though governments who stand to benefit the most from solar power by reduced costs thereby having more money in the budget for healthcare, education and infrastructure investments are doing almost nothing to promote its widespread adoption and usage.

The question is why?

The answer could be infrastructure.

In the case of electricity and oil there are lots of middlemen who receive government money and support from the industry to build and maintain refineries, processing plants, parts companies and all the other aspects of electric and oil companies. Ethanol has received major funding and tax breaks even though it has caused major devastation in the world by using food (corn) to fuel machines, thus causing millions of people to suffer as the price of corn rises while their standard of living decreases. That means millions of families are having a harder time putting food on the table while multi-billion dollar corporations receive money to convert food to fuel.

One of the best ways to save the planet and use the best free, renewable resource that we have available, would be to go solar.

1. Government buildings should be converted to run at least 20% of their needs on solar power.
2. Cars paid for by the government should be hybrids.
3. An incentive such as a rebate or low interest rate loan should be given to all homeowners and builders to make/purchase/renovate homes and make them solar energy friendly.

Some more stories on the issues surrounding ethanol:
Technological Review

More stories on solar energy:
Triangle Business Journal
New Energy
UB Reporter


Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

The world wide web is a big place, full of lots of information about people, places and things but many people still don’t know a lot about Canada. So I thought that I would list and provide some links to some of the interesting people and events in Canada’s history and present. Enjoy.

Musicians / Bands:
Leonard Cohen, Michael Buble, Alexisonfire, The Dears, Jacksoul, Jully Black, Barenaked Ladies, K-OS, Sam Roberts, Nickleback, Nelly Furtado, Diane Krall, Oscar Peterson, Celine Dion, Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir, Avril Levine, Billy Talent, Nathaniel Dett Choir, April Wine,
Guess Who, Bryan Adams, Anne Murray, Simple Plan, Buffy Saint Marie, Luc Plamondon, Alanis Morrisette, Mario Pelchat, Oliver Jones, Paul Anka, Glenn Gould

Performers / Directors / Producers
/ Painters:
William Shatner, Christopher Plumber, Donald Sutherland, Keifer Sutherland, Jay Baruchel, Ellen Page, Gordon Pinset, Sarah Polly, Sandra Oh, Trey Anthony, Ngozi Paul, Jim Carrey, Brent Butt, Atom Egoyan, Norman Jewison, Lorne Michaels, Wayne & Shuster, Al Waxman, Dan Aykroyd, Brent Butt, Mike Myers, Nia Vardalos, La La Human Steps, Robert Bateman, Alex Coleville, Group of Seven

Bombardier, McCain Foods, Power Corporation, Hudson’s Bay, Canadian Pacific Railway, Bank of Montreal, Simons, Eaton’s, Molson Brewing, Seagram Company Ltd, Tim Horton’s, Research In Motion (RIM), AECL (CANDU reactors)

Media / Newspapers:
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – (CBC), CanWest, Montreal Gazette, Globe and Mail, Le Devoir, National Post, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, National Film Board – (NFB), TV show – This Hour Has Seven Days, Alliance Films, CTV, Cinar, Muse Entertainment

Pierre Burton, Margaret Atwood, Farely Mowat, Douglas Coupland, M. G. Vassanji, Robin W. Winks, Marshall McLuhan, Peter C. Newman, Mel Hurtig

John A MacDonald, George Etienne Cartier, Wilfred Laurier, Pierre Trudeau, Lester B. Person, Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker, Robert Borden, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Jeanne Sauve, Jean Drapeau, Claude Ryan, Agnes MacPhail, Maurice Duplessis, Ralph Klein, Rene Levesque, Robert Bourassa, Tommy Douglas, Charles Tupper, Louis Riel, Lucien Bouchard, Mel Lastman, Brian Tobin, Ed Broadbent, Sheila Copps, Preston Manning, Hedy Fry, Louis-Joseph Papineau, Robert Baldwin, Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine

Personalities / Athletes:
Laura Secord, Roberta Bondar, Jean de Brefeuf, Huron, Private Leo Major, Romeo A. Dallaire, Donovan Bailey, Mark Tewksbury, Don Cherry, Guy Lafleur, Marie-Joseph Angelique, Rick Mercer, Adrianne Clarkson, Terry Fox, Dr. Henry Morgantaler, Dr. Norman Bethune, Samuel de Champlain, RCMP, Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, Bobby Orr, Darryl Sittler, Chantal Petitclaire, Jacques Plante, Bob Gainey, Rick Hansen, Steve Nash, Ken Dyrden, Wayne Gretzky, Israel Asper, June Callwood, David Suzuki, Michaelle Jean, Jean Beliveau, Ed Mirvish, Edgar Bronfman, Valerie Pringle, Bruno Gerussi, Toller Cranston, Crazy Canucks (Alpine skiers), Patrick Watson, Barbara Frum, Ted Rogers, John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Sieur de Maisoneuve Paul de Chomedey

Events / History / Canadiana:
The Quiet Revolution, Bill 101, 1970 October Crisis, Oka Crisis, 1837 Rebellion, Canada Arm, Canada-Russia ’72, 1867 Confederation, 1759 Plains of Abraham, Death of Dudley George, Underground Railroad, Expo 67, 1976 & 1988 Olympics, Quebec Referendums 1980 & 1995, Queen Charlotte Islands, Quebec Act 1774, Responsible Government, Chinese Head Tax, Slavery in Canada, Women’s Suffrage Movement

Bye Bye 2008

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Well, it has been a strange start to the new year. The bitter cold, war in Gaza and the fallout from the mean spirited attack on people by Radio-Canada, the French language division of Canada’s national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aka CBC. This is what happened:

Two popular entertainers in Quebec (the 2nd largest province in Canada) Veronique Cloutier and Louis Morrisette co-produced the annual satirical TV show “Bye Bye” from Montreal (the 2nd largest city in Canada) on December 31st, 2008. The two producers are a couple and have been married for a few years. They performed in the skits and Mr. Morrisette co-wrote the show.

The show Bye Bye 2008, was seen by approximately 4.1 million people and was also filmed before a live audience. Several of the skits were of very poor taste and included the mocking of a popular former Quebec child star Nathalie Simard who was sexually abused by Cloutier’s father who was also her agent at the time. He was convicted many years later, after Ms. Simard courageously spoke out against her abuser and he spent some time in prison.

The show also descended into a vulgar attack on Obama and black people. The comments included referring to Obama as a N—er, (the word used was n?gre which is a literal translation of the word Negro but in French has the same hateful connotation as n—er, and it is common knowledge in Quebec that to address a black person as n?gre is the same as using the word n—er in English), a comment about shooting him, comments about his penis size and reassuring people at home that he would not steal their purses because he was on TV, then stating that he might steal their televisions.

This was the best that Radio-Canada had to offer the world on Dec. 31, 2008? These were their best ideas, the ideas that made it through the discussions that TV writers have when they put a show together?

Fortunately many Canadians were disgusted by these rude and hateful comments and sent complaints to the CBC as well as the regulatory board, the CRTC. Initially, the producers and the CBC said they had done nothing wrong but after a week of complaints, Veronique Cloutier and Louis Morrisette held a Mea Culpa news conference (clips one, two and three) where they admitted to not being funny.

One of the other things I found most disturbing about the racial slurs used in the show is the complicity of the CBC. When they were reviewing the script for content and when the writers were putting it together, apparently no one said that they shouldn’t refer to black people as N—ers. No one sat up and said that a skit that refers to Obama’s ideas as “N—er Plans” isn’t funny and is just wrong, no matter what the context…

It is very disappointing that the CBC chose to be so insensitive and vulgar. It seems that those who wrote and supported the script choices should be sanctioned or fined in some way. The USA is our largest trading partner and our closest cultural and social influence. Almost the entire world is celebrating the intelligence, measured tone and potential of the President Elect Barack Obama, the first African-American elected to the Presidency and the CBC’s response to all of this goodwill, hope and optimism that Obama’s election has brought is to refer to him as a N—er!?

There is something very wrong in Canada right now if people in power think that the words N?gre or Nigger are funny. They are not. They are words of hate and ugliness. They are words meant to subjugate blacks and an attempt to reduce them to the status of slaves, of property, of something not human. It is not a joke. It is not credible that adults working at the CBC and their francophone affiliate Radio-Canada do not know that.

The response from the Union des Artistes (aka UDA, the francophone actor’s union) was to challenge the criticisms as attacks on free speech. The UDA accepts the limitations on language when it comes to swearing or using sexually explicit language but thinks that its performers and writers should be free to insult blacks and use racial slurs whenever they want? That is simply not acceptable.

The response from the Conservative Party of Canada was to say, “c’?tait insultant, mais ce n’?tait pas le fin du monde”, which translates to: “it was insulting but not the end of the world.” I wonder what he would have said if the group attacked by Radio-Canada was part of another minority group that the Canadian government wants to have good relations with. The comments from the Conservative Heritage Minister James Moore might have been slightly less vague.

The hateful words used on Bye Bye 2008 and Radio-Canada are not the only that have been made about black people by Quebec comics. Another so-called comedy team Les T?tes ? Claques produced this where they mock blacks again, using the name of the main character from the story Roots, depicting him as a cannibal. It seems to be a trend with Canadian comics in the province of Quebec.

This is the letter from Radio-Canada regarding Bye Bye 2008. They are words that are basically defiant and it seems as though the CBC/Radio-Canada thinks that the audience has a problem if they do not like racial slurs used against them. It is not a very thoughtful or sincere effort to recognize the hurt that has been caused and how the words used undermine efforts of everyone to move past hatred and intolerance towards a common sense of purpose and an acknowledgment of our shared destiny.

The letter is weak and speaks ill of the administration of the CBC.

Here are some of the comments by others in Canada’s media. Montreal Gazette, Media portal Canoe (in French) and a Google search using the words Radio Canada Bye Bye 2008.

There is also a facebook group to protest the show and an online petition to sign.

Let’s hope that this sad episode leads to some serious changes in how blacks are represented in the media in Canada and more respect to all citizens regardless of their cultural and ethnic origins.

Perhaps having more black actors (especially men) in Canadian movies and TV shows in positive roles instead of the butt of racist jokes and news reports, would help to counterbalance the one-sided point of view that continues to be broadcast on Canada’s airwaves. There should be black actors with talk shows or starring in TV series on the CBC, CTV and Global or even on Showcase and Bravo but Canada still lags behind the rest of the western world in depicting blacks as the everyday man in the 21st century.

Did you watch the show? What did you think about it? Do you have any American friends who might have seen the English translation of the clip on YouTube or via digg?

The following article contains some hope and intelligent comments from the media, courtesy of The New York Times.

abortion rights

Friday, December 12th, 2008

My thoughts on what I find to be a disturbing article I came across in Canada’s National Post, one of the nation’s two national newspapers. The article was released this week, when our parliament is shut down so that no one can discuss it in our parliament and the rest of the Canadian media has been completely silent about it.

The article supports various efforts in the United States to make abortion more difficult for women. Maurice Vellacott a MP of the Conservative Party who is in power right now sent the article to all the members in parliament. Harper doesn’t want parliament to vote on his horrible economic statement but his MP Vellacott is sending out season’s greetings to everyone with a newspaper article that supports making abortion more difficult for women.

Unfortunately it is not one lone MP expressing his point. It is the actions of a MP of a Conservative government whose sole purpose has been to spread fear and disdain throughout the country. Most people in Canada have been nervous about the Reform / Alliance / Conservative Party for precisely this reason.

Canada’s Conservative government has done no work for 6 months, Harper called a surprise election after the summer break. When the majority of MPs came back and didn’t support of his economic plans to literally bankrupt them, reduce women’s equity and do nothing else for our economy, Harper shut down our democracy and the parliament will not return before the end of January 2009. We are the only country in the western world who has done almost nothing in the past 6 months.

Now on the same day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has an interview with the CBC, where he states that he wants to work with others and wants their ideas (because he has none of his own), the National Post prints an article that supports one of the basic (if understated) principals of the Reform / Alliance / Conservative Party, restricting Canadian women’s right to safe abortions.

It is an article that seeks to make women feel ashamed for getting abortions regardless of the circumstance and praises the more restrictive access in various regions in the United States. The National Post is the same newspaper where former Bush speechwriter David Frum regularly writes for, where he supports Bush and Harper.

It is not an innocuous article, it is part of the philosophy of a divisive, sneaky government that has reduced funding to women’s groups across Canada, canceled our National day Care program brought in by the Liberals, in favour of a cash handout, that still leaves families struggling to find adequate care for their children (our country’s future).

The fact that the rest of the media is silent about this, actually empowers and enables the Conservative Party in creating an atmosphere where the abortion rights could be attacked and reversed. I am a man, I’m not the one going to carry the baby. But it seems really evil to sneak the possibility of a restrictive law back into the mindset of a country where the issue has been pretty much decided and do it during a time of nearly unprecedented economic stress and fear.

Attacking women in Canada regarding their own bodies is cowardly, immature and a government that encourages its members to do so is only showing their true stripes as being misguided and frankly not worthy of the trust its citizens place in them to work for the good of the country.

Once again, the Conservative Party has shown that they have nothing to offer except for dividing the country and using their faulty, abusive reasoning to undermine the rights of the citizens they swore to work for.

To deny women’s right to clean, safe medical abortions would put Canada back to the days of the recent past (1940s-1970s) when many women died, ran off to “houses” to have their babies in secret and then abandon them to religious organizations (with all the problems that we are still not dealing with in terms of abuse and neglect of thousands of children over the past decades who were brought up in orphanages run by nuns, priests and religious lay people), or kept the babies and had stilted lives mired in regret and frustration, while men who also made the children left them and our society condemned the mothers as “loose women”.

There is a reason why birth control is so popular and why the revolutions of the 1960s happened: women were being put down, black people were being put down and ignorance was considered to be bliss. Respect, justice and equality are things that we should never take for granted. We must always be vigilant for there are many who seek to place limits on the freedoms of women and others, keeping them from their true potential due to their own fears and insecurities, which they want to force down on the rest of us.

If you believe in a women’s right to have a life of her own, not controlled by the whims of ideologues in government, then you have to stand up and say so. Cheering at a sports game or singing the national anthem are not the only things you can do to be patriotic. There are some serious questions to ask when huge portions of the population are in danger of losing their rights over their own bodies and the rights to make decisions in their own best interests because a few people in the media and in power in the government are testing the waters to see how watchful the population is during the holiday season.

If the National Post is advocating restricting access to abortion and is supported by the sitting government of the day, who waits until after they win the election to openly talk about it, that’s evil and cowardly and if you support the women in your lives, it is something we should all speak out against.

What do you think? Are you ready to let your sister, daughter, lose the rights the previous generation used to improve the quality of their lives? If your wife, girlfriend, business partner, friend had to quit work or school (like millions of women did before abortions were safe and legal) because they couldn’t get a legal abortion or it became much more difficult how would you deal with it?

Canada’s Right Choice (is the Coalition)

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Coalition Members,

I believe that the goals of the coalition are valid and just. Harper has violated every democratic principal we hold dear. The Conservatives must be voted out of office. It is your responsibility as the MPs of the opposition to defeat the government when they lose the confidence of parliament.

Unfortunately, the media is choosing to interview people who seem to be mostly against or neutral on the coalition. Many Canadians do not even understand how our parliament works. They think that because Harper won the election and then accuses the other parties of being socialists and selling out the country to separatists, that he might be right. It is your job to explain how parliament works to the average Canadian so that they will appreciate how difficult a decision it was to form a coalition but how necessary it was to do to defeat a minority government, who has done nothing to help the economy of Canada over the last six months.

The election has only given Harper a sense that he should rule Canada with an iron fist, like Charles the First of England, or regime leaders in countries Canadians have read about and seen on the TV news over the past 40-50 years. Harper seems to be confused as to which country he is the head of. If he can’t run a minority government, then he should be defeated and if the other parties can find enough common ground to put a coalition government together to run the country for a set period of time, then that is what should be done.

You should take out ads and list the reasons why the coalition is valid and necessary based on the situation and Canadian parliamentary rules. It is time to stop letting the biased media define your coalition and for you to do so. If you truly believe that you are on the side of common sense and what is right for Canada (as I do), then you must inform Canadians why you have taken this decision (,,, or, party web sites, printed press, radio and TV).

Like a well oiled machine, you should work together to put a united front out and make sure that you have a solid economic plan to counter Harper’s, so that the average Canadian will see how different your visions for the country are and why Harper needs to go.

Some of us understand that a minority government whose first order of business is to prevent civil servants from striking and attempts to cripple the funding of the majority of the house right after they have benefited from that same funding, then closes parliament to avoid losing a non-confidence vote, is an illegitimate government. But honestly, many other Canadians do not understand this. They do not know that their dollars help you campaign, pay for advertising, posters and signs during by-elections and federal elections. It is just wrong. They don’t understand that once the election is over, that it is parliament that decides whether or not a minority government is competent and working in the best interests of the country.

It is your job to properly explain it. Canadians need your voices of reason to counterbalance the never ending campaign of Harper and the Conservative Party who are supported by the media in Canada (the CBC, CTV and National Post have all been pro Harper and very anti-Dion).

The Harper government called the election supposedly because he claimed that parliament did not work (to his satisfaction). The lowest voter turnout in history cost Canada over 300 million dollars to give him 22 more seats. Harper’s first order of business was not to work on the country’s economic problems but to try and rule as a King and insult the members of parliament and voters. Harper caused the problem. He still has produced no leadership on the economic difficulties that we are facing. He is simply focussed on destroying the rules of parliament, as we know them in general and the Liberal Party in particular.

If the coalition will succeed without Dion, then he has to step aside. The coalition is more important than him being leader of it. The Deputy Leader of the Liberals could take his place without any problem. Dion could still be part of the cabinet but his English language issues seem to be irritating Canadians and it is becoming a focus instead of what he is saying (of course, this could also be part of the media spin – but it has to be addressed, if everyone supports Dion, then show us that you do). Personally, I think that Dion should stay, but if there is a serious issue between the coalition working better without Dion as the interim Prime Minister for three or four months, then he needs to step aside for the good of its success and the country.

I think that Dion would be a great Prime Minister. I really do. He has a sound, responsible vision for the country and its untapped potential but the coalition needs to focus. Do not be cowardly about it. If all of you support Dion then come out as leaders and say so. If you do not, then privately negotiate a sharing of responsibilities with the Liberal Deputy Leader or ask him to step aside.

I remain an ardent supporter of the coalition and confident in the mission of the coalition to defeat the Conservative government that has lost the confidence of the house of parliament.


P.S. The letter that Harper wrote in 1997 that explains his current efforts and philosophy.