President Obama’s speech to the Canadian Parliament yesterday was inspirational. He extolled the values of tolerance and equality and said these weren’t just Canadian values or American values but needed to be universal values. He warned of the danger of a brand of politics that scapegoats others- immigrants, refugees, those who seem different from us. He complimented Canada in this regard and said the world needs more ‘Canada.’
President Obama talked about standing up for our Muslim neighbours, about ensuring true equality for LGBTQ citizens, and creating a society where women are paid equally, treated equally and given the same opportunities as men. His speech received thunderous applause and numerous standing ovations from members of the Canadian Parliament of every political affiliation. Some were even chanting ‘Four more years!’ They wish President Obama did not have to leave office.
No American president has addressed the Canadian Parliament in two decades and Mr. Obama made the most of his only chance to do so. His message of tolerance and equality resonated with Canadians. The rhetoric of some American politicians aside, the President’s words no doubt echo the sentiments of the majority of citizens in his own country who too long for a world where tolerance and equality are the values that guide all our interactions with one another.
Barack Obama is a Good Writer
Five Things I’ll Remember About American Sniper
In My Lifetime
In Africa women spend 40 billion hours a year walking to get water for their families. Women are responsible for 72% of water collection in Africa. When they no longer have to collect water they have time to start businesses, go to school or grow food for their families. (Information from Charity: Water )
Dave and I just watched the French film The Source. It tells the story of a group of women in North Africa who want the men of their village to use the money they make from tourists, to build a pipeline to their community to bring water from the mountains. That will mean the women no longer have to walk miles over hilly rough terrain to get water.
When yet another pregnant woman suffers a miscarriage on the difficult trek to get water, her fellow female villagers band together in a love strike to force the village males to build the pipeline. The women refuse to have sex with their husbands till the pipeline is built. The men are fearful of how the pipeline will change traditional gender roles and how those changes will impact family life, religious life and societal power structures. They refuse the women’s request for a pipeline. What will happen?
The Source is an engaging drama, sometimes funny, often heart-breaking, full of music, and thought-provoking. It makes you realize how in many parts of the world access to clean water isn’t a reality and how its availability can improve so many aspects of life especially for women and their children.
Le gamine au velo or The Kid With A Bike
Love in a Lunchbox
Mennonite Names at the Movies
We have a number of guests coming over in the next few weeks who haven’t been to our Winnipeg home in the Exchange District before. One of the things I plan to do is take them on a walking tour to see the art and architecture in our neighborhood.
We will check out the amazing sculptures around the Richardson Building.Seal River Crossing was created by Peter Sawatsky, an artist from the village of Sommerfeld. Seal River is a very remote place in northern Manitoba and only a handful of people have actually seen the caribou making the perilous crossing of the river. Sawatsky is one of them and thanks to his artistry we get to see what it is like too.
North Watch is by Ivan Eyre a well-known Manitoba artist. It is made of over 2500 pounds of bronze and more than eighty pieces that took several months to assemble.
Tree Children is by Leo Mol one of Canada’s most prolific and well- known sculptors. Tree Children stands at the corner of Portage and Main in the very heart of Winnipeg. Then we’ll head down to Waterfront Drive to check out Grain is King by Jordan Sewell in Steve Juba Park. The sculpture gets its name from the fact that the Grain Exchange was established in 1887 in the area of Winnipeg where the sculpture stands. Agricultural products from across the west were sold through the exchange. I like to take visitors by this sculpture of the Scottish Settlers who came to Canada in 1813 after being forced off their land. Already bereft of possessions and property they were duped by Lord Selkirk and his promises of free land and an easy life in Canada. Many died on so called ‘coffin ships’ on the trip to Canada.
If we have time we will cross the impressive Provencher Bridge.The bridge spans the Red River and the pedestrian part is called Esplanade Riel after Louis Riel the founder of Manitoba. There is some aboriginal art on the bridge. Canada’s First Nations people came to the spot where the bridge stands for over 6000 years to trade with one another, so it is fitting they would be recognized on the bridge.
At the end of the bridge we might wander through Joseph Royal Park. The arches there honor Joseph Royal a journalist and lawyer who defended Louis Riel and his men both in editorials in his newspaper and in court. Joseph Royal was the mayor of St. Boniface, a member of the House of Commons, the Attorney General of Manitoba and the province’s first superintendent of education. There’s a statue in the park honoring well known Canadian writer Gabrielle Roy and a plaque with a quote from one of her novels that references the area around the park.
On our way back across the Provencher Bridge we might stop for a minute at a pocket park that honors sixteen year old Lyle Thomas who was killed working alongside his Dad on the construction of the bridge. The park provides a great view of the bridge.
If we have time we might make a quick detour to snap a photo with the statue of Gandhi just beside the Human Rights Museum, certainly the most impressive building in our neighborhood skyline.
If you’ve never visited us or you have and we haven’t given you a walking tour of our neighborhood. Come on down. We’d love to have you!
Too Young to Die
Seal River Crossing
Filed under Art, Winnipeg
We received many messages of condolence after my father-in-law passed away earlier this month. One friend had written, “We will continue to hold your family in the light.”
Seeing the light at a Bedouin camp in Israel. Two of my students woke me up early and we sat on rocks watching silently as the sun rose and spread its light across the desert .
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
― Martin Luther King Jr.
We were waiting in line to pass through security in the airport in Delhi India when suddenly the lights went out. The entire airport was plunged into immediate and total darkness. I grabbed my husband Dave’s hand and we waited for the lights to come back on. It took nearly five minutes. I was surprised how frightening it was to not be able to see anything. How reassuring and comforting to have someone I loved to hang onto till the light returned.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how light gets in. Leonard Cohen
The Taj Mahal at dawn
It is so dark. It is 5 am. Monkeys are chattering, pigeons cooing and high- pitched calls to prayer echo around us. I look up to see a fruit bat flying overhead, its huge wings flapping loudly. A rose light seeps into the sky casting pink shadows on manicured trees and lawns. I can see the Taj Mahal perfectly reflected in the long narrow pool that leads up to it. A lone hawk is circling the top minaret, stopping for a moment to hover at its pinnacle. As the dawn’s light washes over the masoleum I think how beloved the woman it was built for must have been. The light of her husband’s life.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. John 1:5
Sun Dogs lighting the sky at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg
We are celebrating our first mid autumn festival in Hong Kong. We head down to the ocean with hundreds of other people all carrying paper lanterns. The children are waving light sticks and have on phosphorescent necklaces and bracelets. Even the dogs wear “glow in the dark” collars. At the beach, we pick a spot to sit down and put dozens of small red candles in the sand. We light them and sit around our burning circle of light visiting and singing. The moon is gorgeous and the seashore is full of families, each with their own little candle fire enjoying the light of the moon and one another’s company.
We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.- J. K. Rowling
Letting in the Light
The Light Between Oceans
I had lunch at the new Stellas restaurant on Pembina Highway yesterday. I used the gender neutral washroom and really didn’t think about the fact that it was gender neutral till I came out of my private stall and a man was washing his hands at the sink. Sure it seemed a little strange because it’s not something I’m used to. But I had no problem with it. It made me wonder how segregated bathrooms had started in the first place.
Apparently there never used to be public washrooms for women since they weren’t encouraged to ‘go out’ in the world of men. Their place was in the home. “How archaic,” we think now. So in the early 1900s when laws requiring public restrooms for both men and women came into effect it was really a step forward for women.
I suspect my great-grandchildren will read one day about gender specific bathrooms in public places and say, “How archaic!” Many newly constructed public places are installing gender neutral washrooms and as older buildings are renovated their owners are making the change too. Within a generation or two gender specific bathrooms will be a thing of the past. As we continue to learn more about the science and sociology of gender identity, gender neutral bathrooms make sense and besides they save space and are more practical for families with young children.
The Most Beautiful Bathroom in Winnipeg
My Dad’s Fathers Day events began at our church where he joined a choir that sang during the morning service. My husband Dave is part of The Men of Song group and their director asked each choir member to invite their sons, grandsons, fathers and fathers in law to perform with them during the Sunday service. Since our older son and grandsons live in another province and our younger son was traveling for his job, Dave was glad my Dad could join him to sing. The intergenerational choir sounded great and got hearty applause from their audience.
At supper time by brother and his partner had invited our extended family to their lovely home and had made a delicious meal for us. My Dad received cards and presents from his family. My brother had decorated a cake for Dad with his and my mother’s initials in the centre and the initials of Dad’s four children in each corner of the cake.
The recent death of Dave’s Dad was a good reminder that our fathers won’t always be with us and so we need to celebrate their important role in our lives when we can.
My Dad Hasn’t Lost His Green Thumb
“Thousands of little girls are being told they are not important every time they stand up to sing it.” I used that quote in my newspaper column in The Carillon in March of 2002. I was advocating for a change to more inclusive language in Canada’s national anthem.
My column came at a time when Vivienne Poy had introduced a motion in Canada’s senate to have the words of the anthem ‘in all our sons command’ changed to ‘in all of us command.’ Her motion was defeated. Now fourteen years later the Senator’s suggested change will become a reality thanks to Mauril Belanger, a longtime Liberal Member of Parliament who drafted the legislation that will make the words of our national anthem include all citizens. Parliament passed Belanger’s bill on June 15. After the legislation receives approval from the Senate it will become law.
My 2002 column recognized the work being done by a Steinbach woman Sybil Shaw Hamm. She had started a petition supporting the proposed changes to the anthem. In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press Sybil said she was trying to garner as many signatures as possible for her petition before sending it off to Senator Poy. Sybil wanted the senator to know there were people in Manitoba who supported her move to have the lyrics of the anthem altered. It was Sybil who gave me the quote that begins this column. Sybil went on to say she wanted her granddaughters not to feel left out when they sang the national anthem. In a wonderful piece she wrote for CBC radio Sybil speculated how people might respond if the anthem’s lyrics were changed to ‘in all our daughters’ command.’
In last week’s Carillon newspaper, columnist Michael Zwaagstra, the former President of the Provencher Conservative Association, stated that public hearings needed to be held before changes were made to the anthem. One has to wonder why public consultation on inclusive anthem language is required, when during the last election Zwaagstra’s party felt another important feminist social issue; that of murdered and missing aboriginal women, needed no further public inquiry.
O Canada in English, French and Inuktutuk
Zwaagstra’s other opposition to the anthem change is the way it will alter the poetic cadence of the song. That didn’t seem to bother Robert Stanley Weir who while writing the original English version of O Canada in 1908 actually used the phrase ‘thou dost in us command.’ He only changed it to ‘in all thy sons’ command in 1914. An article in the Canadian Encyclopedia suggests this change may have been made as a way to counteract the growing strength of an increasingly vocal group of suffragettes lobbying for women to be given the right to vote.
A statue on the Manitoba Legislature grounds of the famous five who fought to have women recognized as persons in Canada
Patty Hajdu, Canada’s minister for the status of women in our nation’s first gender balanced cabinet, has said changing the words to the anthem is a symbol of our country’s strong commitment to gender equality. I agree. I think it is very fitting we are changing the words to our national anthem in the same year we are marking the one hundredth anniversary of women getting the right to vote in Canada. It is one way to honor the work of those who fought valiantly to obtain suffrage for women. It also honors the contributions of millions of skilled and creative Canadian women who have contributed to our country in a myriad of important ways thus displaying their true patriot love. Altering the words of the anthem is a small but significant change that will show new generations of Canadian girls they too are important to the future of their country.
The Famous Five
Inequality at the Wailing Wall
From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander