Canada Love

Today this blog might as well be called Canada Love.

It’s all love, all day.  That’s because it’s Canada Day!  The one day where Canadians go wild with red and white pride and plaster that classic maple leaf everywhere (except maybe during the Olympics).

And we have good reason to be proud.  We have an embarrassment of natural riches in this country, and so much space to roam that it’s ridiculous.  We are the second largest country in the world, with the largest amount of water area and the most coastline.  It’s no wonder we’re such water-loving fools.  Our landscape is also incredibly diverse: from the red clay soil of PEI to the forests of Quebec to the expanse of the prairies to the majestic Rocky Mountains to the lonely arctic tundra.  It’s all impossibly beautiful.

People like to find fault with the places where they live.  It’s natural.  To complain is human.  And that’s one of the ways we make things better.  Canada is not perfect, but we have freedoms and opportunities that some people in the world can only dream of.

We should never forget that.

In Canada, girls are free to go to school and become whatever they want to be.  We are free to protest the decisions of our government without fear of persecution or death. Our country is run by people that we elect.  Medical care is considered a right, not a privilege.  People are free to love who they choose.

There is a quote about Canada on the wall of the Peace Tower in Ottawa that has always resonated with me and so beautifully sums up our country:

“No Canadian can stand and look at this cluster of buildings (…) without feeling that somewhere on this Hill, perhaps by a happy accident, architects, masons and stone carvers have managed to grasp and materialize the beauty of Canada, the vastness of its land, its loneliness, its youth and its hope” – Bruce Hutchison, The Unknown Country, 1944.

I love this country.

I love it for its beauty but also for so many other things.

I love our commitment to living peacefully and helping others to do the same.  I love our diversity.  We are a mish-mash of cultures and backgrounds and I love that we are always ready to welcome more.  I love that we believe the less fortunate of our population deserve to have their basic human rights met, and we are willing to work a little harder to ensure it.  Mostly, I love Canada for its hope.  A hope that there is a future where many cultures can live harmoniously together through mutual respect and cooperation.  As Bono famously said recently, “The world needs more Canada”.

I couldn’t agree more.

Here’s a song I usually play every Canada Day, from a proud Maritimer and Canadian, Classified.  Happy Canada Day!

Springtime Dreamin’

Beware the Ides of March, indeed.  As winter pounds us with yet another snowstorm, just 5 days from the official start of spring, I think everyone is over it.  It’s time for you to go, Winter.  You’ve overstayed your welcome (if there ever was one).


I’m dreaming of springtime in the Maritimes.  I love all the vibrant colours that come with the season.  Everything seems so vivid after the monochromatic winter.  People emerge from their homes as if from bomb shelters, squinting in the bright light.  The birds will sing in the early morning; there will be an obscene amount of light in the day. It will be sensory overload.  I can’t wait.


Springtime is a Van Gogh’s dream:

Emerald green carpets,

Sapphire skies,

Blooms of ruby, citrine and amethyst.

Golden evening light;

There’s a fire in the west.

A gentle breeze whispers,

Like two lovers with a secret.

It’s coming, folks.  It’s coming.

Saints Rest Beach at Irving Nature Park on the city's West Side.

A Message to My Mothers

Today is International Women’s Day.  Some people may say that women have achieved equality, and that there are no more battles to be won.  I would disagree.  The brave women and men who have fought for our right to be human, to vote, to own property and to work outside the home have indeed achieved a great deal.  But the fact is that no country in the world has been able to achieve true gender equality.  And the conditions that some women face around the world absolutely appalls me on a daily basis.  The recent gang rapes in India spring to my mind as particularly horrific.

But let’s take a look at what women’s lives in the Maritimes are like.  According to the Government of New Brunswick, in 2011, women earned 88.3% of what men did, creating an 11.7% wage gap.  That is slightly better than the national average wage gap of 13.7%. In 2009, 12.4% of NB women and 10% of NB men lived below the poverty line. However, 45% of single female parents and their children live in poverty, compared to 25% nationally.  This is astonishing to me.  What is perhaps even more shocking is that teen pregnancies in NB are significantly higher than the national average and actually increased from 2005 to 2009.

In Prince Edward Island, women made up just 29.3% of municipal councils and one in four PEI MPs were women in 2010.  These are actually higher than the national averages, however, women in management positions earned only 67.8% of men in the same category in 2005.

In Nova Scotia, 708 sexual assaults were reported to police in 2011, where 82% of victims were female and 97% of suspects were male.  The number of sexual assaults actually increased nationally between 1999 and 2009 from a rate of 21 per 1000 women aged 15 and older to a rate of 24 in the same category.  The situation is even worse for Aboriginal women, whose self-reported violent victimization is almost three times that of non-Aboriginal women.

I think these numbers prove that even in a country as great as Canada and a region as wonderful as the Maritimes, women have still not achieved gender equality.

I feel very blessed to have had so many amazing female role models in my life.  My parents are both from families of 4 girls and 1 boy, so I have a lot of aunts.  Add to that a couple of grandmother’s it was a privilege to know, a sister and two sisters-in-law, three nieces, numerous cousins, countless friends and a mother who is the epitome of self-sacrifice and generosity.  Each of these women, in their own ways, have shown me the strength and resilience of women.  In a way, each of them have been mothers to me, as I take each lesson they have taught me and carry it forward into the world, to try to make a difference in the next generation.  The field of work that I have chosen, in women’s health, which seemed like a coincidence at the time, is not really a coincidence at all.  The well-being and standing of women has always been a passionate subject for me, it’s quite natural that I ended up here, in helping to improve it, in one small way.

So on this International Women’s Day, let us thank all of our mothers, for paving the way.  And let us be mothers to each other at home and to those women fighting far bigger battles in far-flung places.  We hear your stories.  You are not alone.

Note: If you would like more information on any of the statistics I quoted here, please see the following sites:

Click to access Women_Stat2010.pdf

Click to access 2012FS_Sexual%20Violence_FINAL.pdf

Click to access EqualityProfile.pdf


The Bandstand

I stand at the heart of town, in the square, surrounded by stone monuments, pretty flower beds and welcoming, tree-lined walkways.  In the growing months, the square is lush with colourful blooms.  At Christmastime, brightly lit fir trees replace the flowers and little green and red LED trees and bells adorn the light poles.  From my perch I can see straight down King Street, past its pretty brownstone shops and restaurants, all the way to the sparkling water of the harbour.  Behind me sits one of the most beautiful Victorian theatres you’ll ever see, the Imperial Theatre.  Across the square is the remains of the Paramount Theatre, once grand – left crumbling for many years – now just a gap-toothed space and some rubble.  This is a city of contrasts.  I have been here for over a hundred years and I have witnessed so much in this little square.  I am the King’s Square Bandstand.

I have recently had a makeover.  I was starting to get a bit drab, with peeling paint and a rusting rooftop.  The water fountain beneath me hadn’t worked for many years.  I was covered in construction tarps for many months and could see little of my beloved square.  But the long wait was worth it.  On the day I was unveiled, I felt like a brand new penny, with my shiny new copper roof.  A new copper spire and cornet tops my roof, honoring the City Cornet Band that first gifted me to the city of Saint John in 1909.  I’ve also got a fresh coat of glossy green paint on my iron arches and the fountain under me works again, creating a soothing, bubbling song.  On weekends in the summer, music played by bands on my upper level floats across the square and bistro tables nearby draw people to have lunch in my cooling shadow.

I have witnessed countless festivals and events over the years.  Somber Remembrance Day ceremonies, now held inside because it’s too cold in King’s Square in November.  But people still come to the War Memorial, surrounding it singly and in pairs, until there is a crowd.  They draw near the stone structure, topped by a large angel with outstretched wings, turned mossy green with time. They come from all walks of life – it’s a city of contrasts in its citizens as well as its buildings.  Some in heavy wool coats and soft leather gloves; others in dirty jeans and thin jackets, ineffective against the biting November wind.  When the bell tolls, one-by-one, they take the red poppies from their lapels and place them on the monument, all the while I watch.  No one told them to do that, but they do it anyway.  They celebrate lives they never knew.  They are fascinating and curious.  They are beautiful.

My whole world is this little square and those who visit it.  The warm weather months are my favorite, because so many people come to visit me.  Winter is cold and lonely.  People rush by with shoulders hunched, coats pulled up around their chins, just passing through.  I have watched this city grow and change.  I have stood stoically by through war-time rallies and peaceful protests.  Any important event in this town eventually finds its way to my square.  Decades have passed, fashions and customs have changed but the people themselves have remained the same hard-working and humble people they’ve always been.  I cannot speak to you.  I know your names only when I hear them overheard.  It’s a lonely life I lead but I draw comfort from helping you find solace in my quiet strength.

Most of the time it’s happy memories being made around me: graduation celebrations, with shining, young faces in satin caps and gowns, emboldened with the arrogance of youth.  Their parents wear proud smiles and yet sad eyes, as if they’re watching a piece of themselves slipping away.  Wedding photos, with happy, smiling couples at the height of their love.  And proposals, with all their hope and tears and screams of joy.  I’ve seen it all.  In recent years, even Zombie walks, where ghoulish creatures in white makeup and torn clothing limp slowly along, heads lolling to the side, some with their arms stretched in front of them.  These are interesting times.

I am the heart of noisy celebrations and quiet contemplation in this town.  I watch silently as you go about your lives.  I do as I have done for over a hundred years: I celebrate with you and comfort you with my constancy.  In the people who have and continue to visit me, I have been able to experience life in all its beautiful and tragic aspects.  I have seen the best and worst of you.  I have seen your capacity for compassion and your ability to overcome adversity.  You grow older, your lives change with the ebb and flow of life but I remain very much the same.  Steady and true, always watching.