The Trump Factor: Warding Against Hate Across the Border

It’s been kind of a crazy week.  To put it mildly.

In my last post, I implored the American people to kick Trump and his hateful rhetoric to the curb.  So sure was I, that they would do the right thing, and do it decisively that I never even bothered to think what would happen if I was wrong.

And I was sooo wrong.  I watched stunned, as so many across North America did, as Donald Trump became President of the United States.  President.  Of the United States.

Now, some Americans might wonder why Canadians care so much about the outcome of their election.  It’s simple for all the reasons I stated in my previous post.  What happens in the U.S. almost certainly will have impacts on the lives of Canadians, in direct and indirect ways.

Some people are calling Trump’s win Whitelash, or white supremacy’s last stand in America.  And when I see how women and minorities are being targeted and assaulted post election, it’s hard to disagree with that.  It’s like every hateful thought anyone has ever had has been validated and normalized.  I’m afraid these behaviours will seep across our border, into our neck of the woods. We’ve fought so hard to become a more accepting and inclusive society, we must not step backwards.  My Canada includes all races and cultures. My Canada is kind.  My Canada supports all its citizens.

Sometimes it feels like Canada is an island of hope in a sea of hate and ignorance.  Not that we don’t have racism and discrimination in this country, we most certainly do.  But we decided during our last federal election what kind of country we wanted to be; one in which the persecuted of the world could escape to and be safe.  We must be vigilant in protecting these ideals.

Experts say that white America feels threatened, like they are losing their country.  And I’m sure there are people who feel that way here.  But where did this idea come from?  A place cannot be owned by any one group of people.  It can’t be owned by anyone.

We belong to this place, this place doesn’t belong to us.

We are its stewards; its caretakers only.  Canada doesn’t belong to us, and it never did.

As if Trump’s win this week wasn’t enough to send you over the edge, Leonard Cohen passed away, at the age of 82.  The Canadian singer/songwriter/poet extraordinaire, who gave us such iconic classics as the much-covered Hallelujah, among so many others.

It’s a melancholy song that perfectly matches many of our feelings this past week.  So much so, that SNL decided to have Kate MacKinnon open with it, in character as Hillary Clinton.  It was a powerful and cathartic moment.

We can take some comfort from the last verse of the song, with its themes of resilience and hope for the future:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

 

 

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Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: New Maryland, site of the last fatal duel in NB

On a recent trip to Mount Carleton, my husband and I drove past a highway sign for New Maryland, New Brunswick.  The sign proudly states that New Maryland is the site of the last fatal duel in the province.  Being the curious person that I am, I couldn’t pass that up, so off we pulled into the village.

Unfortunately, once in New Maryland, I couldn’t find any monument or site dedicated to the duel.  Perhaps I missed something?  I scoured the internet for information on where I could go to commemorate this strange historical event.  I couldn’t find anything about a landmark in town but I did find the story of the duel online, on the New Maryland village website.

The story itself is fascinating, and really quite shocking. Of course, I realize that duels were once the way conflicts were dealt with and that they no doubt occurred here, but to be faced with such detailed facts of the story, made it seem much more real.

For those who are interested, I encourage you to go to the Village of New Maryland website and read the full account, as written by Connie Shanks, published in the Atlantic Advocate in 1991.

Here’s my ‘Coles Notes’ version:

It was really all a case of mistaken identity.  In 1821 in New Maryland, an attorney name George Frederick Street, mistakenly told the sheriff to arrest Jacob Smith Sr. instead of his son, Jacob Smith Jr.

Papa Smitty wasn’t on very good terms with Junior, and wasn’t too impressed with being dragged in on false charges, rightly so.  He got himself a lawyer, a fellow by the name of George Ludlow Wetmore.

Some lawyer-ey stuff went down in court and the two George’s (Street and Wetmore) went at it in a heated argument that included insults and possibly physical violence, outside the courtroom.  

Now, young Wetmore just couldn’t seem to let the whole thing go and had his good buddy John Winslow go to Street’s house the next morning and challenge him to a duel.  It was all terribly formal.  Street agreed and the plan was set.

Wetmore’s buddy Winslow tried to talk the two of them out of it, as any good buddy should, but pride being what it was between men in the 1800’s (or anytime, for that matter), both vehemently refused to offer an apology or take any blame in the matter.

The duel took place in the early morning of October 2nd, 1821, on Maryland Hill, four miles from Fredericton.  As dueling was at this point technically illegal, the families of both men had no idea what was about to go down.

 The two men faced each across the field, aimed and fired their pistols.  Both missed with their first shot.  Now, at this point, you’d think they’d quit while they were both ahead (and alive),  but damn it if Wetmore didn’t insist they tempt fate one more time!  

Murphy’s Law being what it is, Wetmore of course took the brunt of the damage in the second shot and quickly went down.  He was hit in the arm and the head with the same bullet.

Winslow ran to the farmhouse to get some help for his friend.  Street took off as soon he heard help coming and headed for the safety of Robbinstown, Maine.

Wetmore died from his wounds and Street surrendered in December that same year. There was a trial, but in the end no real charges were laid, presumably because both men were dumb enough to enter into a duel.  Street even went on to practice law again and become a judge of the Supreme Court.   He continued to insist that his actions on that fateful morning were justified.

The family of the fallen Wetmore carried on, one son became a judge of the Supreme Court and then later, premier of New Brunswick.

The story goes that the Streets and Wetmores never spoke again, becoming what I can only envision as the Capulets and Montagues of New Brunswick.

If anyone knows if there is actually a monument of some kind to the duel in New Maryland, please let me know.

If not, I would encourage the people of New Maryland to capitalize on this unique history! Your highway sign brings people in, but there should be some place they can go to learn more about the duel.

If you know of something that’s a Surprising Find in the Maritimes, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

Canada’s Symbol: The Maple Leaf, A Photo Exploration

As Canada Day 2016 approached and I was in my backyard practicing photography in the evening light, I started wondering about the maple leaf and how exactly it became the most widely recognized symbol of this country.

In 1834, at the inaugural meeting of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montreal’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, called the maple leaf, “The king of our forest;…the symbol of the Canadian people”.

After this, the maple leaf slowly became used more and more as a symbol of Canada. The golden leaf was often used to represent Ontario, and the green leaf was often used to represent Quebec.

It wasn’t until the maple leaf was incorporated into the national flag in 1965, that it was officially cemented as the central national symbol.  The maple leaf represented on the national flag is a generic, stylized version, with 11 points and does not to represent any specific type of maple tree, of which 10 species grow naturally in Canada.

As I examined the trees around my neighbourhood, I saw several types of maple trees, including red, silver and Norway maple.  I noticed that no two maple leaves were exactly alike.  The choice of the maple leaf as a national symbol seems therefore rather appropriate, given our rich history as a country of immigrants.  Just as no two maple leaves are the same, no two Canadians are the same, either.  We are all as unique as the symbol that represents us.

Here is my photo exploration of the maple leaf, as a symbol of our Canadian culture.

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No two maple leaves are the same
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Not the classic 11-point leaf, but a maple leaf all the same
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Layers of maple leaves
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Sun soaked maple leaves
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Canada Day festivities on the Saint John boardwalk.  The maple leaf is everywhere.
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Take a leaf
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The leaf flys proudly at Market Square
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Canada Day parade.  This is Canada.  We all wear the leaf.
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Carrying the leaf
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Even Spider-Man carries the maple leaf.
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Draped in the maple leaf.
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Boardwalk maple leaf
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Streetscape maple leaf
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The leaf flys at Fort Howe
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The classic 11-point leaf

Canada Day ’16: Love is Louder

With Canada Day just a couple days away, we Canadians have so much to be thankful for and proud of, every single year.  But I have to say that this particular year has made me more proud than ever to call this country my home.

With Donald Trump spewing all sorts of venomous hatred on a daily basis to the south and Brexit across the pond, with the anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric of the Ukip party, it feels like Canada is being surrounded by insanity.

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Dangerously toxic rhetoric of the Pro-Leave camp in the UK

Credited in no small part to Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways leadership, Canada has welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past year.  Some provinces, including my own, have significantly increased their population size.  In fact, since they started arriving last year, New Brunswick has settled more Syrian refugees per capita than any other province, by about double the national average (CBC).

And for the most part, Canadians have not only allowed these people into our country, we have welcomed them.  There were crowds at airports, holding signs of welcome, there were groups of people whose sole job was to make our new residents comfortable and to make their transition as easy as possible.

welcome to canada

And our newest residents have already started improving the communities they live in. Stories poured out of Alberta when the wildfires devastated Fort MacMurray earlier this year, of refugees coming together in support, and giving what little they had to their neighbours and new friends who had lost their homes to the fire.  Because they understand what it means to lose everything, and they wanted to help.

We live in a scary time.  A time when there’s no way to know where or when terror will strike next.  A time when even a night out dancing or going to the movies can end in a living nightmare.

Fear is a natural response.  Fear usually keeps us safe; it keeps us from doing stupid shit, like jumping off a cliff (for most people). But sometimes fear holds us back.  Sometimes it clouds our judgement, and closes our minds and hearts to the truth.

The truth is that our differences do make us stronger, not weaker, and they will help lead this country into the future.

Multiculturism

We were afraid, but we didn’t let fear win.  We refused to let thousands of people suffer a horrible fate, through absolutely no fault of their own.

We are Canadian.  We welcome all.

I’m so proud to call myself Canadian, more than ever before.

And we have to believe that love is louder than all this noise.

 

Maritime Love for Fort McMurray

Most of you will know by now that wildfire swept through Fort McMurray, Alberta yesterday, forcing the evacuation of the entire city.  Many people escaped just in time and with only the clothes on their backs.

The fires within the city have been put out for now, but the wildfire still looms threateningly nearby.  Some 1600 structures have been lost to the fire; entire neighbourhoods are gone.

I know I speak for many when I say that we grieve for you, Fort McMurray.

The Maritimes has always had strong ties to Alberta, and Fort Mac in particular. Every Maritimer has a family member or friend working in the area.  We keep you in our thoughts; we pray for a speedy and safe resolution to this nightmare you find yourselves unable to wake up from.

If you would like to help, you can donate to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Appeal here or by texting ‘REDCROSS’ to 30333.

If you are still trying to locate family or friends in the area, you can contact the Red Cross, or Facebook has activated its safety check feature.

Fort Mac
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Michael De Adder

 

We Remember

Today, we remember.  We remember sacrifices made and lives lost.  We celebrate courage and bravery.  We practice gratitude for our remarkably free lives.

We also remember those innocent lives lost – the victims of war.  Those legions of men, women and children not in uniform.  We remember those who toiled in support of the war effort, and those who waited at home for loved ones with trembling hands and hearts.

We remember those who fought on the front lines and those who fought in the shadows.

And those who fight still.

The poppy is our symbol of remembrance – our tremulous link to a shocking past. Pinned on our breast, we wear it with pride and with trepidation.  We gather once a year to honour all those brave souls who risked it all, but also to prevent a history that repeats itself.  As if by gathering at a cenotaph each year, we can ward off the demons of war, by standing together as one, a united front of peaceful intentions.

So, for me, Remembrance Day is not only a remembering of all those that fought, but a remembering of all that we wish to gain.  And that red poppy we so proudly wear? It’s a symbol of hope as much as loss: of what we could be, of what is possible, of what is necessary.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scare heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

John McCrae

A brief history of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance: Inspired by the red poppies that stubbornly grew over the war torn fields of Flanders, Belguim, Canadian field surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel John Alexander McCrae wrote his famous poem 100 years ago.  In 1918 an American woman, Moina Belle Michael, read the poem and was so moved by it’s message of keeping the faith that she came up with the idea of wearing a red poppy as a way of remembering all those who died.  But it was a French woman by the name of Madame Anna E. Guerin who took the symbol of the poppy worldwide.  Today, millions of poppies are worn in Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and in 120 other countries worldwide.

I love this response to In Flanders Fields that I found while doing research, written by Moina Belle Michael:

We shall keep the faith  

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet – to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.


We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields.


And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields we fought.

Canada Votes 2015: The Most Important Thing You’ll Do Today

It’s finally here: Election Day 2015.  The moment that everyone has been waiting for for 78 long days.  And I, for one, am very happy to see the end of the longest election race in this country’s history.  I bet the federal party leaders are happy too.  I’m sure that if they had had to hold one more baby or take one more selfie, there was going to be a major incident.

I’m ready to vote.  I’ve got mine and my husband’s voter cards in my handbag so that we can swing by the polling station right after work.  I know who I’m voting for and have for quite some time, making the length of this election particularly tedious for me.

I hope everyone is prepared to vote.  It’s the most important thing you’ll do today.  And frankly, it’s a Monday, so it’s probably the most productive thing you’ll do today as well. The huge turnout numbers from the advance polls are promising for a large voter turnout.  I’m hoping that more people than ever are engaged in the political process and are excited to have their say.  In the 2011 election, only 61% of eligible Canadians voted. We can do better than that, Canada. There is really no excuse for not voting, unless you are in a coma or something.  Elections Canada does their very best to make it possible for people to vote.  If you are still not sure how and where to vote, please visit their website.

This election is by no means a forgone conclusion.  This means that your vote really will matter.  And if you are still not sure who to vote for, my advice is to look at the vision each party leader has for this country and see which one most closely matches your own.  This does require that you take some time and think about what is most important to you and what you wish for the future of this country.  If you haven’t done this yet, go ahead, take a few minutes before casting your vote.  It could make a difference in your decision.

On the East Coast, we have the privilege of having the first say in this election.  And this time around, people on the west side of the country will be able to see how we have voted before casting their own.  This could be a real game-changer.  Or perhaps they’ll just ignore us and do their own thing.  I can’t wait to find out.

Regardless of what happens and who is elected, the most important thing is that you have had your say.  That you have contributed to the political future of this country.  It really is the most important thing you’ll do today.

I’ll leave you with Rick Mercer’s brilliant rant on the election and why it’s so important to vote.  Remember: “This is not their election, it is ours”.  Happy voting, Canada!