childrenIn Manitoba as teachers we stand for Inclusion. A place where not only children can be safe, valued and accepted, but everyone. As a teacher that is what we are supposed to stand for when we are at school. We have an obligation as teachers to work towards creating learning environments where every child can be successful. With the diverse needs in our classrooms, in our schools that is certainly a daunting task and standard to be held accountable to. It is however one of the standards a successful school is held to.

Do we stand for the same things 24/7?

Are we role models inside and outside of our classrooms?

Manitoba Teacher’s Society President was quoted recently as saying “Teachers are Teachers 24 Hours a Day.” He went on to talk about how as professionals we are held up to a higher standard when it comes to what we do and say at school as well as after school. Manitoba Teacher’s Society President went on to say that ‘Teaching is not what I do, but who I am.

If we are teachers 24/7 what does that require our societal role to be outside of our classrooms?

I agree with our MTS President that we are teachers 24/7. This means as ‘Teachers’ as well as an effective Manitoba Teacher’s Society we then have an obligation to advocate for the rights of children whose voices are either not heard or ignored. Every day we as teachers work closely with children, families and communities and get to witness first hand their struggles as poverty amongst children and families continues to grow. Child Poverty is having a devastating effect that is impacting children in and outside our classrooms. We also witness first hand children and youth and the negative effects of many aspects of social media from cyber-bullying to the exploitation of children through child pornography. We also recognize that even though the policy of ‘Corporal Punishment’ was banned in Manitoba in 2004; in practice uncommon long before that; we still have a society where too many people believe it is okay, it is their right to use physical means to punish children. This despite all the evidence to the contrary and that it harms rather than helps.


We as teachers need to have a voice that supports children and families 24/7. We as teachers need to promote a society where every person is safe, valued and accepted. We need to advocate for the human rights of all people. We need to help create societies that strive to be inclusive of every individual not only in school, but in our communities.

We shouldn’t be afraid to have our voices heard but rather make sure our words and actions support our belief of building inclusive classrooms, schools and communities. We need to advocate for a society built on human rights as the cornerstone for all government policies. It is one of the reasons I am proud of the fact as teachers as the Manitoba Teacher’s Society we so actively supported the building of the Canadian Human Rights Museum as it put our words into action.

Being a teacher 24/7 can at times seem like a tremendous responsibility and it is. However, there never has been a time in my career as an educator where children and families needed our voices more.


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Calling all Fathers: Taking Action in 2015

sitting bullIf the events of 2014 have taught us anything it is that our children are in need of our help to keep them safe, valued and accepted. It doesn’t matter where you live, the news in 2014 have been inundated with previously unthinkable crimes against children.

The year 2014 marked the 25th Anniversary of Canada’s commitment to end child poverty. However rather than see the end of child poverty we have seen unprecedented numbers of children and families living in poverty. Here in Manitoba the numbers are twice the national average. It is time we gave a voice to the voiceless.

Gandhi called poverty “the worst form of violence.”  Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear how poverty beats people up, beats them down, oppresses, enslaves, poisons, erodes self-worth, defeats.

We need to call on fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters on all our voices to demand a commitment from everyone to at long last put an end to child poverty. Demand that we as a society and governments at all levels meet our responsibilities to provide children access to shelter, food, freedom from violence, health and education.

stopThe year 2014 also saw headlines locally and globally of children being victimized through Cyberbullying and Child Pornography. Many of the perpetrators of this crimes are in positions of influence or in charge of protecting children. It has become harder to keep our children safe from those individuals who target and take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens. We as a society must come to terms with our desire for individual freedoms at the expense of protecting our children against unspeakable crimes. These crimes against children are preventable. We have the technology to protect our children. The question is: Do we have the will? The political will? We need all our voices to have lawmakers and society create an environment where reporting these crimes is viewed as positive. Where we are no longer bystanders to the violence against children but take an active role in creating an Internet free of violence and exploitation against children and woman.

help meThe year 2014 also saw a Ferry Captain abandon his ship but more importantly his passengers (mostly children). The Captain and his crew left those in their care to perish off the coast of South Korea. We were witness to the more than 200 Nigerian Girls kidnapped and brought into slavery. The #Bring Back our Girls campaign brought our voices to this tragedy but the girls still remain captive. In November CBS News reported, “Imagine the worst and it has happened.” A new report by the United Nations Children Fund estimate that over 15 million children are caught up in armed conflicts. A December article in the editorial section of the Register-Guard called “2014: A bad year for kids” discusses the numerous conflicts world-wide affecting children. We often do our best to ignore or think these atrocities as we say to ourselves they are not close to home or it couldn’t happen here but it is time we call for action not only locally but globally.

The face of war has also seemed to change. There has always been a risk that children would fall victim to the violence of war. The term used to be referred to as collateral damage. However recent incidents indicate that children and schools are being targeted by terrorists. In Pakistan an attack on a school by the Taliban resulted in 141 people dead with 132 of them being children. The Taliban indicate this was in retaliation to bombings earlier in the year that killed innocent children in their communities. It is hard to imagine at any time for any reason, any society or individual committing acts of violence against children.

‘The images are absolutely gut-wrenching: young children carried away in ambulances, a teacher burned alive in front of the students, a house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror.’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

The Pakistani Taliban killed 141 people, including 132 children, in an attack on an army run school in Peshawar, a city in the country’s north-west. The attack was the deadliest in Pakistan’s history.

It would be easy for us to ignore the data that indicates there are currently almost 30 million people living in slavery, many of them children. When we think about data like this we often think this is a third world problem. It is not happening here. In the report it indicates that there are over 60, 000 people in the United States living in slavery. This does not include those people who suffer in poverty which in its own way enslaves people. In an article in the Washington Post:

We think of slavery as a practice of the past, an image from Roman colonies or 18th-century American plantations, but the practice of enslaving human beings as property still exists. There are 29.8 million people living as slaves right now, according to a comprehensive new report  issued by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

Closer to Canada we have recently had an RCMP report about “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Woman” that not only points out the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal woman but of woman generally. We have unspeakable acts of violence be committed against the mothers of our children and we can not remain silent in protecting all women.

In one of my previous blogs called “Bystanders to Violence and Neglect” I discuss the still unsolved murder of Tina Fontaine that brought outrage to all of Winnipeg. The murder of this young fifteen year-old girl brought light to the often poor services provided to our most vulnerable citizens, be it through Child and Family Services, the Police or in our local communities. Then of course yesterday in Edmonton we have two more children murdered as part of eight people murdered in what is initially reported as a domestic dispute. 2014 has been certainly a difficult year for children.


Let us do more however than just remember these tragedies, make them a part of our history or an archive to the year of 2014. Let them serve as a call to action. A call to fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, to everyone in fact to give a voice to the voiceless and the vulnerable. To speak loudly and often to our communities, our governments, our police, to each other about the need to create policies that create safe, respectful communities that provide all our children with the basic human rights that should be afforded every citizen. Let us each remember that alone we are one voice, but together we can be a powerful voice that can change the world we live in. Let us remember that each of us can make a resolution to take care of each other, but to most of all take care of our children.

History will remember us not for what we have but for what we’ve done – James W. Hoddinott

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A Time for Family

educationIt is often said ‘This is the time for Family’. Thinking back to the Christmas’s of the past it is the memories  with my friends and family that I remember. With each year that passes it seems the struggles of families increases. ‘A Christmas Carol’ should not be a timeless classic but rather a historical perspective about the struggles of the working poor. There are too many people like ‘Bob Cratchit’s living amongst us. People working hard, for low wages, while others get rich from their labours. There are Bob Cratchit’s of all races, cultural backgrounds. There are too many people like Tiny Tim who can’t access medical care. People who can’t put food on the table. People who go to work everyday, yet live a life without. People and families who often work two or more low paying jobs, yet fall further behind.

It is 2016 and once again this is a time to put family and especially children first. If we want a strong country, strong communities, it will start with families, youth and children. It will start by allowing everyone a place at the table. It will start by all of us understanding our role as grandparents, parents or community members is to create a better, healthier world for everyone, not just the few. Are we doing that? Are we having our voices heard in support of the future, in support of people? Are we fighting for good paying jobs for everyone?

childrenPutting families and children first doesn’t just mean filling their stockings once a year. It means committing to creating long-term jobs. It means making families and young workers strong. It means creating the healthy society where we recognize our responsibility in making a better world for the generations that follow us. It means us understanding the world isn’t always about what I want. It means our generosity at this time a year, our commitment to everyone enjoying a holiday meal and opens a gift, needs to be how we think all year.

WebpageIn my novel ‘The Fates’ I wrote about a future where we just took care of that top 1%. A future without family, a future without children, a different kind of immortality. A world where all that mattered was ‘the one or the few’. What a world would look like if we put our own needs, our survival above everyone else’s. This dystopian look at the future is less science fiction than one would think as our society in one way or another puts the needs of a few ahead of the needs of the many. Wealth without responsibility or purpose is creating a social inequality that is keeping far to many people in poverty. Yet our culture seems to not only teach this as the way of life but makes the Scrooges of the world the heroes of today.

cree proverbIf we remember the story of ‘Scrooge’ we recognize it is about a businessman that does well but pays his workers poorly. Scrooge’s wealth grows but his life is empty. It is the vision of his Christmas past, present and future that changes what Scrooge does and brings him back to who he was before greed took him over.

It is the story of George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ where no one would ever want to be Mr. Potter. Yet we have a world full of Potters where we now live in a time where we need a world full of heroes like George Bailey who focus on building communities and recognizing that people need to work and have a decent place to live even if it means lower profits. George Bailey understood life was more than just money. He refused to sacrifice who he was and the quality of life of others, just so he could have more. In the end George Bailey understood life is about family, is about friends, is about community.

These days I find myself wanting less but wanting to do more. I find myself thinking more about the families and children in my school and the struggles many of them are having to make ends meet. I find myself thinking not only about the poor but the working poor. I find myself wondering how we have let ourselves stray so far from the values that make us Canadian. I find myself knowing we need to put families, children and our young people first. I find myself knowing that if we all stopped and thought about those things that are truly the most important, we would worry less about things we had and put more into the people in our lives.

legacyThis time of year and all year it must be about putting people first. It must be about each of us doing even the smallest action to help each other. It can be as small as a smile, or shovelling the neighbours walk, to coaching a team, to hiring new workers, to investing in your local community, to volunteering or babysitting a friend’s children so they get that needed respite to stay strong for their children. It is about remembering our parents and our grandparents as we create a strong world for all of us to live.

Let us all visit our Christmas past, reflect on our present and how other people are living. Let us then think about the future, not for us, but hose generations that will follow. Let us remember what we do now will change the future. It will be our actions or inactions that will determine what that future will be like.

So let this holiday be a time we spend and cherish our families, our friends, and our communities. Let us work together to make 2017 the time we focus on families, children and our youth. Let’s make putting an end to poverty our top priority by creating jobs that give everyone the chance to build strong, healthy families and children.

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Crazy Economic Policy

trickle downThis week our Prime Minister was quoted as saying ‘That would be crazy economic policy’ when discussing the issues in regards to Carbon Taxes on oil at this specific time. I have never been a big fan of old adages as they tend to generalize rather than look at specifics but in this case it is clear this is ‘The Pot Calling the Kettle Black’. If we are to look at the data; at the evidence; this would certainly be a case of one individual responsible for a litany of crazy economic policies calling another economic policy, crazy.

kettleOur Prime Minister seems stuck on economic policies that he insists are creating jobs and are better for Canada. What is missing from his statements is the evidence to back his claims and the constant rhetoric used to try to bring truth to untruths. There is however a mountain of evidence from a variety of sources inside and outside Canada to support the fact that his economic strategies are not working and in fact could be called ‘Crazy.’ Our Federal Governments commitment to as another old adage ‘Putting all your eggs in one basket’ has put in Canada in a very dangerous fiscal position both now and as we move into the future. Diversification has always been a key component to any long-term sustainable economic policy. A balanced approach.

Eggs in a basket

Our current Federal Government’s economic policy of supporting oil has been at the expense of the majority of Canadians as has been the results of another of their tax policies which lowered taxes for Corporate Canada in hope of creating jobs.

The goal of creating jobs is certainly the correct one, it is how it is being accomplished that is the problem. If we just take a look at one of the tax issues ignored by our current Federal Government we can see how ‘Crazy’ this economic and tax approach is.

According to an article by the Canadian Press on May 2, 2014 called Canadians’ use of tax havens grows to $170B. Other countries globally  are working hard to reduce this loop-hole but not in Canada. According to Canadians for Tax Fairness this costs our government 8 billion dollars annually in revenue. If our goal is to create jobs let’s just do a quick calculation of what this means. First of all it doesn’t matter if the jobs are created by the corporations or government. It is only important we take that 8 billion figure as an example and use it to create jobs.

Question: How many jobs paying $50 000 a year would be created?

Answer: If all the money was used to pay salary

8B divided by 50, 000 dollars is:

160 thousand jobs

That means 160 000 people with full-time jobs making 50 000 dollars a year. That means 160 000 new jobs. That means if we took all that money and invested in youth and young adults between 20 and 30 it would be a substantial reduction in youth unemployment and child poverty. It would help children, families and the economy and here is why.

Question: How much tax would the government get from those 160 000 new workers?

Answer: If we use the tax rate of 20% it means 1.6 billion dollars of tax dollars to spend on health, education, investments, pensions basically whatever we need.

Question: Are there other benefits?

Answer: Yes. Take away the amount the 160 000 new workers paid in taxes you are left with another 6.4 billion dollars that will be spent on food, shelter, clothing and so on. That is an additional 6.4 billion dollars working for Canadians. We also often choose to forget the other side of the equation. We now have 160 000 people not unemployed and becoming self-sufficient. We will have healthy and happy Canadians which helps reduce health care costs. In the end our expense side of the ledger benefits. We also have more people contributing to all our social programs as well as the economy in general which is good for business.

This of course is just looking at one tax issue of how current tax policies are hurting Canada not only now but in the future. Prime Minister Harper is right about a healthy economy means jobs. It means good paying jobs. Where he is wrong is in everything he is doing. Nothing he is doing is helping achieve the goal of creating jobs. Most would also argue especially in regards to ‘oil’ current policies are also hurting the environment. Our deficit is growing, our economy is less diversified, we have increased child poverty, larger gap between the rich and poor and an environment at risk. Despite what some would claim, Canada survived the last global recession not because of policies of our current government but as a result of banking regulations by previous governments. We need to ask ourselves when was the last time we didn’t have a deficit budget? It certainly doesn’t have this current administration attached to the budget.

Call me crazy but if you stop listening to the words, the rhetoric, the untruths and look at the evidence it is easy to say our Government’s current Economic and Tax Policies are ‘Crazy’.

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Blowin’ In the Wind: Changing Culture

folkDoes music shape culture or does culture shape music? Music like other art forms is a powerful way for individuals to find their voice and as with ‘Folk Songs’, bring people together. People like Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary would create songs with powerful lyrics which often served as political speeches put to music. Bob Dylan often referred to Phil Ochs as a journalist rather than a musician. Songs that conveyed the truths of the day to people though a form they could hear but also become a part of. Their music brought political action into the mainstream and united hearts, bodies and most importantly our souls.

In the song ‘There but for Fortune” written by Phil Ochs and made popular by Joan Baez as well as Peter, Paul and Mary the issues of poverty and equality are raised.

Show me the famine, show me the frail
Eyes with no future that show how we failed
And I’ll show you the children with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I.

Historically musicians and artists that try to popularize issues surrounding human rights or make statements against political policy are characterized as communists or left-wing. Songs like ‘Blowin’ in the Wind” that ask us to question what is happening in an effort to bring human rights, environment or political issues to the forefront.

Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Today there are efforts of musicians to bring issues of the day to the forefront through their voice or music have not seemed to capture and unite people to the important causes of the day. Today their voices continue to be characterized as leftist and against the government. At times it seems the media, politicians and the public seem to try to silence the voices that speak out. Musicians and other artists often put their reputations and therefore livelihood at-risk by stepping out of the mainstream music of the day. Canadian and music legend Neil Young who stands-up for his beliefs takes that risk by putting the needs of people, the environment, ahead of his own personal gain, in his political statement:

“It is a basic matter of Integrity on the part of Canada. Canada is trading Integrity for money”

neil young

Neil Young on the Tar Sands

We are at a turning point in our history, in our culture. Our democracy is being threatened as Canadians remain silent or their opinions are ignored on important issues. Canadians time after time have said they care about the environment, we care about our children and the future. Canadians want action to stop violence against all woman and children. Canadians want to build better relationships with our First Nations People. Canadians want better paying jobs, jobs for our young people, strong health care and education. Canadians want a society based on Human Rights for everyone.

We need the voices of our musicians, we need the words of writers and the images of moviemakers and artists to unite Canadians to the important human rights and environmental issues. We need the music that brings political action to Canadians and unites our hearts, our bodies and most importantly our souls to build our vision for our Canada.

How many jobs must be lost
Before we help our youth?
How many woman and children must be murdered
Before we say too many people have died?

How many times must the Prime Minister speak
before he tells us the truth?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

Other Reading:

Ten Reasons Why Neil Young is Right About the Tar Sands

From Pete Seeger to Phil Ochs to oblivion: Folk music’s westward drift

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Canadian Human Rights Museum More than a Building

_DSC3524A visit to the Canadian Human Rights Museum is a teacher’s dream come true. It will open your eyes to the educational possibilities not only for our students but for everyone. There are no words that can accurately de-scribe the architectural splendour of the museum as it quickly becomes apparent the thought that went into the design of this building inside and out. As a teacher when you enter the museum you will see the Donor Board which recognizes ‘The Manitoba Teacher’s Society’ as a major contributor to the museum. We should be proud of our financial contribution but also proud of the ongoing commitment we as teachers make daily in creating inclusive environments that are welcoming for all of Manitoba’s students.

The Human Rights Museum is located where people, cultures, history and business all come together in a picturesque backdrop allowing us to better understand our journey to-wards a fair and just society. The view from the Tower of Hope is as awe-inspiring as is the architecture throughout the building from the limestone complete with the imprints of fossils from long ago, embedded in this magnificent Manitoba stone. The ramps made from the shimmering alabaster, known for its mystical healing powers, imported from Spain meanders through all exhibits finally leading you to the Tower of Hope.

_DSC3523As you await your tour silhouettes will write ‘Welcome’ in a multitude of languages as you stand in the lobby anticipating what lies ahead. Your journey will begin opposite the ‘Donor Board’ as you are moved from the darkness of the lower levels to the light offered through the over 2000 panes of glass that make up the museum. The sun shining through each unique pane of glass offers the image of a glass cloud as you walk through the museum eyes wide open. Despite the museum’s architecture that has unmistakably altered the Winnipeg skyline, it is the content of the galleries that makes this national treasure a must visit. It is the powerful stories of human suffering, mixed with perseverance and hope which guarantees the CMHR as a must see for Manitoba schools and educators. We would be remiss, if we didn’t ensure all our students understand humanity’s experience with human rights as told through interactive displays and endless hours of video clips. The technology used to tell each story brings the human element to every story told.

_DSC3534Experiencing each story helps one realize that the time has come where we need to re-define the world we live in. We are living in a time where despite a world with endless potential we are mired in war, poverty, environmental issues and where many people’s human rights still remain unrealized. In our current world we have over 30 million people still living as slaves. We live in a world where the equality, dignity and freedom of too many people are compromised.

Every person should live in equality, dignity and freedom. Towards this end, the global community recognized that it had to go far beyond simply prohibiting genocide, but instead develop a vision which protected the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all people.

United Nations

_DSC3579Teachers and schools throughout Manitoba have not only financially contributed to the building of the museum; we are also contributing to creating an inclusive society that is founded on recognizing the Human Rights of every student in our classroom. Schools throughout Manitoba are founded on the ‘Philosophy of Inclusion’ by developing an environment where everyone feels safe, valued and accepted. In Manitoba schools we differentiate, adapt or modify our instruction so that all students can access an appropriate education. By creating a positive school climate based on developing respect for self, others and property we teach our students the importance of building communities that our safe. Schools in Manitoba participate in community and global service learning initiatives that address issues surrounding poverty, education and equality. Schools are active in Education for Sustainable Development as we help students understand the value and importance of our planet. We do not only speak of Human Rights, we make them an integral part of our classrooms.

_DSC3588The Canadian Human Rights Museum will soon be the most sought after educational field trip. Each of the galleries is interactive and engaging for students and adults alike. The galleries that I was able to see will certainly not only provide information but encourage those important conversations as we think about what is happening in our world and communities in regards to Human Rights. Each gallery could be a stand-alone lesson, as it would be easy to spend all day in one gallery exploring and discussing the information and concepts shared. As a visitor, you are not a passive participant as each gallery encourages you to become engaged and interactive. It is hard to imagine this museum is in our back door and we will not need to go to Ottawa to benefit from one of our national museums. One of Canada’s National Museums is found right here in Manitoba. It is in our backyard and is something for all of us to be proud of.

_DSC3574When we are finally able to take our students into the Canadian Human Rights Museum the first Gallery called ‘What is Human Rights’ will augment all those values of citizenship we teach in our schools. The journey in Canada and the world to recognize every person’s human rights has been long and difficult. Students will be able to interact with the timeline that helps them understand the important people and times in our past where Human Rights have been advocated for. The visual image of the video which is in French and English as well as has two images of people signing the narrative point out quickly this museum was designed with access for everyone in mind. The staircases and elevators ensure that each gallery can be accessed by students and adults with disabilities. The museum like our schools strive to be inclusive.

 The last stop before leaving the museum you will be offered the time to relax in the ‘Garden of Contemplation’ which offers a breathtaking view of the ‘Golden Boy’ sitting atop the Manitoba Legislative Building. This is a time for all us to reflect on what we have seen, what we have experienced. The pools in the ‘Garden’ are encased by basalt which serve as a perfect resting place for visitors to contemplate our world, the stories and possibilities which the museum brings out.

_DSC3583Without a doubt the Canadian Human Rights Museum will guide our conversations that as a society we seem reluctant to have. We need to allow our students to see the world through a different filter. Our students need to see the historical and current struggles of humanity. Our students need to see there can be a future with a society founded on the principles of Human Rights to create a world that is more thoughtful, a little kinder and recognizes every individual’s right to equality, dignity and freedom.

The Canadian Human Rights Museum is more than a building. It is a place filled with the stories of our history, but more importantly a place that offers us the lessons needed to bring us to a future where Human Rights matter.

This Blog was published in the November issue of the RETTA Record the River east Transcona School Division’s Monthly Newsletter



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Human Rights Musuem Opens New Exhibit


NEWS RELEASE: November 21st, 2054

Opening ahead of schedule is the controversial new exhibit which is part of the ‘Breaking The Silence’ Exhibit found in the Canadian Human Rights Museum. The new exhibit exposes the Canadian Governments involvement in increasing Global Carbon Emissions that has resulted in catastrophic flooding in the densely populated California West Coast as well as is being held partially responsible for the melting of the polar ice caps and through seepage from the ‘Alberta Tar Sands’ into Lake Winnipeg’s water basin creating toxic algae that has rendered the water undrinkable.


A 12 minute documentary outlines Canada’s former Prime Minister’s role in developing policies that resulted in Canada’s economy being solely based on oil production. The documentary was made possible with the closure of Corporate run news media which had created misinformation to silence scientific evidence. It was just two years ago that through a United Nations ‘Freedom of Information Act’ which created the Global News Network much of the information in the exhibit became available to the public. The Global News Network gained access to documents and agreements between the Canadian Government and three of the World’s largest energy producers exposing the agenda of misinformation. Also on display are the initial finding by Canada’s scientific community warning of the upcoming global catastrophe. The former Prime Minster is surprised at the public outcry. “I never said this would be good for everyone, but hey I’m doing okay.”

no science

The new exhibit is nestled beside the ‘Smoking is Good for You’ exhibit which exposes the tobacco industries deception of the public. The ‘Smoking is Good For You’ exhibit has on display the actual corporate documents that silenced scientific findings in regards to the harmful and addicting effects of nicotine. Through the use of holograms and computer generated models museum participants are able to experience the effects of nicotine on the lungs, the respiratory system as well as the throat. Through actual 4D imaging museum-goers can have all their senses exposed to second-hand smoke as they watch life-like images spit tobacco. Patrons are warned not to get to close or they will get wet. Patrons of the museum will also get to sit in on a re-enactment of a Tobacco Company’s Board Meeting where it was decided to ignore the findings that identified the risks of nicotine being a part of cigarettes. You can actually sit in the seat of the ‘Whistleblower’ who lost their job, house and family when they are quoted as  saying, ‘Don’t you think we should tell someone?’


Canada’s former Prime Minster, who since retirement as spokesperson for ‘Oil will Make us All Rich’, has been relaxing at a tropical coffee plantation located just outside Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island remarked,

‘Before Global Warming’ Canadian Seniors left home to retire south. Thanks to me, Canadians don’t have to be snowbirds anymore.’

The former Prime Minister is also concerned that unbiased journalism is creating an unhealthy bias in the Canadian public to want government to do what is right for human rights and the environment. The former Prime Minister is concerned that it is difficult for today’s politicians to get anything done as misinformation is an essential strategy for governments to pass policy that favours one group over another.

Without misinformation governments are forced to act in the best interests of society, which can’t be good for anyone.

The former Prime Minister goes on to say,

The concern over Global Warming in the first part of the 21st century made it very difficult for the energy sector to expand. Had it not been for the government and media’s ability to manipulate information and ignore scientific data there is no way the major pipelines that now make-up North America’s landscape could have been built.

The former Prime Minister has still not visited the Human Rights Museum blaming the creation of a society based on human rights and social responsibility as the major cause for the demise of Canada’s Energy Sector.


Warning: This is a Fictional News Article

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Defining My Canada: Climate Change

climate change

I think almost everyone growing up at one time or another watched Sesame Street with or without our children. I use to love watching the “one of these things is not like the other” segment. I am not sure it is entirely my fault when I heard that Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia were grouped together that I  thought we were playing a game of one of these countries is not like the other. You know something like warm countries or perhaps countries where you would find camels. So it was much to my surprise that it was these three countries that were not like the other seventeen  G20 Countries at the Summit held in Brisbane, Australia.

There were many issues on the G20 Summit Agenda and climate change being one of them, despite host country Australia’s strong desire to keep if off the agenda. It must be noted that Australia is one of the world’s leading emitters of Carbon per capita. Oh did I mention that apparently in the unique underground town of Coober Pedy currently known as the Opal Capital of the world is potentially sitting on over 20 Trillion dollars with of oil. So Australia may have other interests. Kudos to President Obama and sixteen other countries for pressuring Australia to put this issue on the agenda. It certainly must also be noted that Canada has the Alberta Oil/Tar Sands which is currently involved in a couple of highly controversial pipelines being developed and one being proposed. Then of course we have Saudi Arabia who has long been in control of this non-renewable resource.

Pushing the global financial issues aside for a moment, here in Canada, we seem to have a current government who has closed discussions and research on anything to do with oil. Our Canada which has a reputation for its natural beauty, fresh water and penchant for discussion and diplomacy has become ‘Oil Dependant’. My beloved Canada has decided to choose oil over Maple Syrup.

oil flagWho is the Government Listening to?

It is difficult to understand that here in Canada, a country that has always been known for being strong on human rights issues, the environment and building a peaceful democratic society is being silenced when it comes to Alberta’s Oil. Scientists who were looking into the climate change have lost funding, so essentially been silenced. Environmental groups are not getting the ear of the government while the voice of oil seems to be the voice of our Prime Minister. Canada seems to be a country ruled by lobbyists and big business and has lost the voice of the people.


The War On Knowledge: Is the Harper Government Canada’s Taliban?

In our schools we teach about developing a sustainable planet, alternate resources, water issues, poverty and all the climate issues of the day. When this is what everyday Canadians are doing as well as recycling, CFL lights and low flush toilets to try to make a difference, why is our government not doing the same? Doesn’t it make you wonder why our Federal Government doesn’t believe Climate Change is important? If not why not? Let’s see what the data tells us…oh wait information is silenced.

Did you know that:


Did you know that:


Did you know that Canada’s image is changing. Other countries are asking Canada to stop doing things to hurt the environment. There are protests against Canada being held globally. Our image is changing. How we are viewed globally is changing.

Is this the Canada we want?

Is this the Canada we voted for?

It has taken decades for Canada to build our reputation as a fair and just society. We are seeing that disappear before our eyes. I want a Canada that I can trust. I want a Canada the world can trust.


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Lest We Forget: Human Rights

Remembrance Day

‘Lest We Forget’ is the time to remember and give thanks to all those that have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for Canada as well as the other side of the ‘Lest We Forget’, as a reminder to all of us about how fragile our world, our freedoms are. ‘Lest We Forget’ also asks us to never forget what has occurred and what we have fought for so we never repeat the horrors of our past.

Each Remembrance Day it is with deep appreciation that I honour and remember all that was sacrificed to create a Canada that enables me to have the freedoms which I cherish. It is also with that regard that a November 11th visit to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights was a natural way to not only honour our history but gain a deeper understanding of what was fought for.

The CMHR is more than a museum. The eleven galleries are now all open and provided me the opportunity to interact with our history through the human stories that are part of the human experience which served to deepen my understanding and appreciation of how fragile our freedoms are.

Canadian Bill of Rights

Canadian Bill of Rights

‘Lest We Forget’ the sacrifices made so we as a nation were free to develop our Canadian Bill of Rights that along with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines into law the society all our soldiers fight for. Through our peacekeeping missions to the times we must stand-up to those countries who oppress the human rights of others. One can not visit the museum’s ‘Holocaust’ exhibit and not come to a deeper understanding about the connections between World War II and the struggle for human rights.

The CMHR captures this time period by sharing stories of the atrocities committed against not only Jewish people, but the disabled as well as those for their sexual orientation. It tells the story of John Dafoe of the Winnipeg Free Press as he petitioned unsuccessfully for our government to allow Jewish people to find refuge in Canada.

Genocide and War

War and Genocide

World War II was a time of great heroics but also a time where we as a nation remained intolerant to the struggles of Jewish refuges; who the politicians of the day; refused to provide Canada as a safe haven.

The telling of our human stories is very powerful, as you visit the four exhibits that make the fourth floor of the museum their home. Despite the struggles and atrocities of our past, humanity often ignores the human struggles that continue today. Taking the time to listen to the story of Mary Courchene and Residential Schools, as well as the stories of other local and global atrocities, helps one appreciate and understand the journey for equality is not yet realized. Seeing Romeo Dallaire’s  uniform with the grim words ‘failed mission’ is a stark reminder of how fragile our freedoms are. It was a failure of the United Nations which was to serve as the symbol and protector of Human Rights, but instead allowed politics to hide the truth from themselves and the rest of the world. It is Dallaire and others who served as witnesses to a genocide which now is a remembrance of our inhumanity as well as reminder of what happens when our voices remain silent to human rights abuses.

Genocide in Rwanda

Genocide in Rwanda

Spending the afternoon at the museum allowed me an opportunity to honour our history as a country and a global community. It helped me remember the importance each of us have in protecting our democracy. The ‘Lest We Forget’ reminds us of the sacrifices that have been made to bring our country to where it is today. A Remembrance Day where once again we find our soldiers protecting our freedoms and the human rights of others.

The museum also brought me back to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike where our soldiers returned from the Wold War I battlefield to low paying jobs. In made me wonder how as a nation we allowed the soldiers who fought for our freedoms in Europe and made our country so proud, only to return to a Canada and have to once again fight for their rights, only now as workers instead of soldiers. ‘Lest We Forget’ not all our battles for freedom are fought on the battlefield but are also the ongoing struggle for recognition of the human rights for everyone. It is about ‘Breaking the Silence’ so we all have a voice.


The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is a place for everyone. Visitors were young, old and included many people with special needs interacting and discovering the importance of human rights. Each visitor having the freedom to share and experience the human stories of all people. Stories you may have never heard before but now can see, interact and experience through video, life size images and technology that brings our history to life.

‘Lest We Forget’ our country’s  struggles and all our champions of freedom.  Let us remember the battles were fought for our freedoms and the struggle will always continue for as humans we are fragile and so often place our individual needs over the human rights of others. Let us not allow ourselves to get to a place where we take our Human Rights for granted. Let us make sure that in Canada we remain a country that stands up for the equality of others. Let us not only do this for ourselves and future generations but in deep reverence for all those who have sacrificed so much so we could live in a country founded on human rights.


All of us are Equal

All Pictures taken by James W Hoddinott at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights


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Truth, Propaganda, Misinformation or Outright Lies?

orwell1Everywhere we turn, our minds are being inundated with information. People, business, government and media are trying to get us to hear what it is they have to say, buy what it is they are selling or offer us their ‘Point of View’ on what s happening in the world or needs to happen. The struggle is trying to work through all these messages to determine what is Truth, Propaganda, Misinformation or just an outright lie. This is not an easy task because it seems harder and harder to get the actual facts on any given situation. If you are presented with facts it is often altered or spun or presented from only one Point of View rather than a range of perspectives.

mediaIt appears that our media is at risk of losing its ability to report issues in an unbiased way. Information and perspective can be controlled or limited. It is often only those in power or with influence whose voices are heard. The information or perspective those people provide are tainted by their experience and offer simply one point of view. Growing-up I believed the news, be it on television or in the paper, was filled with truth. It is only when you examine the stories that are reported, the information sources provided you discover that the news we are getting is often very one-sided and is not necessarily the truth. The effort to add comments to the news stories has only enhanced the perpetuation of societal political myths as these opinions by the readers are often filled with messages of intolerance and anger. Is the purpose of the information provided to inform, manipulate or control? Can we tell?


In the news recently was Stephan Poloz’s statement that unemployed, well-educated youth needed to volunteer or intern for free rather than sit in their parent’s basements looking for work. This work for free statement has caught the public eye and has put a much-needed issue into the media. One can ask with the depth of unemployment of our youth: Why it isn’t already a hot button issue? If we don’t solve the problem of youth unemployment, wasted talent, the long-term human costs will be enormous. This issue like many is filled with truths, propaganda, misinformation or outright lies.

The politicians or at least the politicians in power and media report a stat as simple as 43, 000 new jobs created.  They won’t tell us what the jobs are, how much they pay or who got them. We have been told by Stats Canada that youth unemployment is twice that of every one else. We are not told how many are not reporting or actively looking for work? How many youth are not working and not part of the stats as they have part-time, low paying jobs? We are not told how many youth decide to go back to school, despite already having at least one degree because they can’t find work which only increases their debt and forces their financial independence and ability to contribute to our society to be delayed or lost. We are not told the costs to families to support their children who can not find employment.


We are told in order to get people back to work we must create a business friendly environment in Canada. We are not told what that means? We are not told that Canada’s business tax is less than that of the United States. We are not told that businesses can increase profits but still cut jobs. We are not told how many jobs are lost as we provide free-labour through intern programs. What’s wrong with paid Intern Programs?

We are often told we can not afford to pay for health, education, job training, infrastructure or to create a more sustainable planet. We are not told that are deficit Federally is increasing. We are not told that decreased taxes to business has not resulted in more well-paying jobs for Canadians but rather increased profits for the lucky 1% who seem to benefit financially as well as control policy and media. The propaganda, misinformation and outright lies associated with the ‘Urban Myth’ that ‘Trickle Down’ economics works for everyone has resulted in many Canadians blaming each other or the poor for our country’s economic woes.  Do we examine and report on the data that indicate whether this policy works or doesn’t work? Do we report on the evidence? Do we even know what is truth, propaganda, misinformation or lies?

We are told that the Tar Sands are essential to saving the Canadian economy and putting people back to work. We are not told about the environmental implications surrounding our reliance on oil and gas. We are not told of the pollution seeping into Lake Winnipeg. We are not told the high personal debt of all Canadians, except those living in Alberta. Does this government policy help all Canadians? What are the actual costs to our current oil and gas policies? Where is the evidence? The research? Is oil and gas where future jobs for Canadians are?

The Future of Jobs in Canada   

From poverty, to crime, to how we live is guided by the information we receive. We are told creating a sustainable country, a sustainable world is impossible. We are told it will put people out of work. We must ask ourselves who is giving us this message? What is the truth? History tells us that when we don’t adapt to the world around us we risk extinction. If times and systems change and we use the same policies and believes we always have they are doomed to failure.

Our country is diverse and requires more than just a narrow one size fits all approach. We need to find our way through all the propaganda, misinformation and lies to the truth for our country, our communities and our people. We must demand more from our media. We must demand unbiased reporting. We must stop having our hot news item of the day. We must as individuals demand the answers and demand the evidence to support what we are being told. We must demand the truth.

truth 2


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