Category Archives: Canada

Abortion and Summer Jobs

Will faith- based camps lose funding for summer student workers?

Member of Parliament Ted Falk and other social conservatives are actively fighting  a new government regulation regarding funding for Canada’s summer jobs program. Justin Trudeau says they are creating an unnecessary “kerfluffle”. A new requirement means organizations requesting money must agree to respect all human rights including reproductive rights. Faith groups who oppose abortion are actively protesting the regulation. They believe they will lose the financial support they have received in the past. The prime minister describes their reaction as alarmist. He suggests program applicants whose primary mandate isn’t denial of abortion access will still receive grants. The new directive will just target organizations that actively and openly lobby against reproductive rights.

I will follow the story of how the new regulation is applied with interest because I agree with our prime minister that  reproductive rights are human rights. I believe giving women full control of their bodies is fundamental to them having an equal place in society. The television series based on Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale imagines the frightening possibilities when we fail to defend a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions.

Research shows that protests like this one at the University of Toronto are not effective in reducing abortion rates

That being said it would be ideal if no woman ever felt she needed to have an abortion. But we will not reduce abortion rates by criminalizing abortion or denying women access to it. Equally ineffective in reducing abortion rates are attempts to make people feel guilty with graphic billboard pictures or 100,000 memorial flags for aborted fetuses planted in a public park. Research by the World Health organization and other groups tells us exactly what things will effectively reduce abortion rates.

  1. Provide comprehensive sex education in schools. Teens that receive medically sound sex education and learn about many forms of birth control, not just abstinence, are 60% less likely to become pregnant. Since 30% of women who have abortions in Canada say the reason for their choice is they are too young and not ready for the responsibility of a child, it makes sense that as teen pregnancy rates are lowered, abortion rates will go down. In Canada sex education is different in every province and even varies between school districts. Is it time to create national standards for comprehensive sex education?
  2. Provide free contraception whether birth control pills, condoms or intrauterine devices. When Norway provided free birth control their abortion rate was cut in half. Irene Mathyssen an NDP Member of Parliament has been lobbying the government to make birth control free in Canada. Politicians who are serious about reducing the number of abortions in our country should give her their unstinting support.

    Photo of Canadian child living in poverty from the website of Member of Parliament Ted Falk who is one of the politicians most harshly criticizing the new regulation for summer job grants

  3. Reduce poverty. According to the Abortion in Canada website, financial concerns are the number one reason women in Canada have abortions. If we reduce poverty, we will reduce the number of abortions. Manitoba has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. We obviously need to search for more creative and effective strategies to address this disgrace.
  4. Better childcare. Many women choose to have abortions because they can’t balance child rearing with pursuing higher education or a successful career. Logically if families had assured access to quality affordable childcare they would be less likely to choose to have abortions. In 2005 Prime Minister Paul Martin negotiated just such a national childcare program. When Mr. Harper’s Conservatives came into power the following year they scrapped it. Nothing as comprehensive has been proposed since. Could all political parties work together to create universal, affordable childcare for our country?

If people who consider themselves anti-abortion advocates are serious about reducing the number of abortions in Canada there are plenty of effective things to do. Fighting a government grant regulation that requires respect for women’s reproductive rights is not among them.

Other posts…….

Should Young Women With Children Be Politicians?

Thank Goodness For The Battle of the Sexes



Filed under Canada, Health, Religion

China’s Unsung War Heroes

gravestone for chinese laborer in noyelles sur mer public domain

Gravestone for a Chinese Labourer in a war cemetery in France.

Did you know a hundred thousand Chinese men from Shandong province were shipped to Europe during World War I to support the troops in various ways?  According to an article in the South China Morning Post they dug trenches, unloaded cargo ships, repaired vehicles and tanks, assembled artillery shells, worked in munitions factories and carried water to the troops.  The Chinese Labour Corps maintained docks, railways, roads and airfields. As late as 1919, Chinese labourers still remained in France and Belgium helping clear the rubble, bury the dead and clean up the battlefields.

chinese workers help recover a wrecked tank Teneur 1918 public domain

Chinese workers help recover a wrecked tank in Teneur, France

Thousands of them died on the transports that brought them to Europe from China because of the cramped, inhumane conditions or because their ships were attacked by German submarines.  Thousands more were killed during battles. 

chinese workers stacking oats at Boulogne France supervised by a British officer 1917 public domain

Chinese workers unload oats at Boulogne France under the supervision of British officers

I am reading the biography of an artist from Winnipeg who went to France right after the war to paint the battlefields where so many Canadian soldiers had died.  She writes about traveling and staying with these Chinese military support workers.  I wanted to learn more about them. 

chinese workers at a timber yard in Caestre public domain

Chinese workers and British soldiers at a timber yard in Caestre, France

Of course I knew it was largely because of a Chinese labor force that Canada’s railroad had been built in the early 1880s and that hundreds died in the process. Interestingly a CTV News story says that during World War I many of the Chinese workers shipped to Europe via Canada.   More than 80,000 labourers landed in Vancouver and travelled by train across the country to Halifax, where they boarded ships for France, Belgium and Britain.  It was a top-secret operation so Canadians didn’t even know about it. 

entrance to the chinese cemetry of the british army noyelles sur mer

Entrance to the Chinese cemetery of the British Army in Noyelles-sur-Mer.

In recent years there has been an effort to recognize the contributions of the Chinese war support contingent particularly in Britain where a permanent monument will be erected in the Chinese workers’ memory next year and where educational workshops are raising awareness of their contributions.  I am wondering if something similar shouldn’t be done in Canada. 

Other posts………

Those Who Went to War and Those Who Didn’t

Remembrance Day Through My Camera Lens

Wars- Dread of Mothers



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Filed under Canada, History

Why Did You Say That?

At the beginning of each tour we give at the Winnipeg Art Gallery we provide this welcome.

” We acknowledge the Winnipeg Art Gallery in located on Treaty One land, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Dakota and Oji-Cree Nations and the homeland of the Métis.”  

Treaty One by artist Robert Houle

At the beginning of November I gave a drop- in guided tour to about twenty five gallery visitors and after the tour was over one woman stayed back to ask me a question.  She was from a small rural community some distance from Winnipeg.  “I was just wondering,”  she said, “why you made the statement you did at the beginning of the tour.”

The Delegate- Portage and Main by indigenous artist Jeffrey M. Thomas

 I said that kind of acknowledgement was now common place at many Winnipeg venues.  I told her I’d heard similar statements before concerts at the Centennial Concert Hall, at Winnipeg Jets games at the MTS Centre, at plays at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, before morning announcements at public schools I visit and that in my church such an acknowledgment was either announced or printed in our church bulletin each week. She seemed surprised to hear this. 

Treaty Map of Canada

I told the woman indigenous people had lived on the land where the art gallery stands for thousands of years, long before settlers from other parts of the world came to Canada.  I explained the importance of respecting that and recognizing that although treaties regarding land use were negotiated with indigenous groups their understanding and the settlers’ understanding of those treaties was very different. I said acknowledging the original inhabitants of the land was a way to work towards a more respectful relationship with indigenous Canadians and to actively pursue a path of reconciliation.  

Treaty medal on display at the Glenbow Museum

The woman thanked me for my explanation.  She said she had learned something new.  I had too because I’d really had to think about how I could best answer her question.  And maybe that’s exactly why we acknowledge our presence on Treaty One land before every tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery………… because it makes us all take a moment and think about something really important. 

Other posts……..

Gone But Not Forgotten

Ojibwa in Paris

Build Your Own

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Filed under Art, Canada, History, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Images of Steinbach

This week a Facebook friend who is working on a project connected to my hometown of Steinbach asked me if I could send her some photographic images of the community.  I wasn’t sure I if I had many but when I started looking I was surprised to find quite a few.  Here are five I sent to my Facebook friend.

church mennonite heritage village museum

Church at the Mennonite Heritage Museum. When I was a little girl my grandparents’ attended a church like this where men and women sat on different sides of the sanctuary.

love for learning sculpture steinbach

Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre- site of the first public library in Steinbach with a sculpture that pays tribute to learning and education in the community. The centre was once the site of the Steinbach high school. I attended junior high there.

bridge ad penner park steinbach

Bridge at AD Penner Park. On my early morning walks in Steinbach I always stopped at this beautiful spot to think about my family and pray for them.

kornelson school mural- steinbach - davey penner

Mural in downtown Steinbach of Kornelsen School. I attended grade three and four there.


Windmill at the Steinbach Mennonite Heritage Village Museum. When the original mill was destroyed by fire the community rallied together quickly to build a new one. 

I haven’t lived in Steinbach for over a decade but it is where I grew up, where I raised my children, where I spent the bulk of my teaching career, where I continue to write for the local newspaper and where we still have so many friends. Finding these photos reminded me of that!

Other posts…….

A Lovely Day in Steinbach

Steinbach Pride- Homecoming, Forgiveness and Hope


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Filed under Canada, Childhood

They Look Like Photographs

portraits of the northA generous person just donated this beautiful book Portraits of the North by Gerald Kuehl to our church library.  Gerald has done these absolutely amazing pencil portraits of an older generation of indigenous people.  Each sketch which took him between sixty to a hundred hours to create looks so real you will think it is a photograph.    

gerald k portraits of the northOpposite each portrait is a short story of the person’s life. You learn about their childhoods raised in the traditional lifestyle of the north, and then how that life was changed often by residential school experiences, a stay in a TB sanatorium or the development of hydro projects. Finally you learn of each person’s accomplishments and contributions and receive additional information about what life has brought their way.

portraits of the north kuehl

There are well over a hundred  portraits and stories in the book so to really appreciate them I’d recommend you only read one or two at a time so you can think about the stories and study the pictures closely.  

You can go on Gerald’s website to see more examples of the wonderful portraits from his book.  On his website I learned he is currently working on a collection of portraits of people from the Inuit community called Portraits of the Far North.  I will look forward to that as well and think it will be a great resource for the Inuit Art tours I give at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Gerald’s book provides an intimate portrait of the effects colonization has had on indigenous men and women, but we are not left feeling sorry for them.  As we study the lines in their faces and look deeply into their eyes we are moved. Here are people with a resilient spirit who can inspire us. 

Other posts………..

Are You Sure They Aren’t Photographs?

Inuit Fashion Show

Dave’s Vision Quest

Hopi at the Heard -Pottery


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Filed under Art, Canada

Time to Stop Honoring People With Statues?

This whole controversy about the statues of famous people and whether they should be removed has me thinking.  Should we stop honoring people when we erect statues and rather honor ideas?  I’ve featured many statues on this blog of famous Canadians I actually thought were worthy of praise, but now I’m wondering if they all had a dark side?  A little research makes it clear many of them did.  For example……..

with emily murphy on pariliament hill in ottawaHere I am with Emily Murphy on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  She was instrumental in achieving personhood for Canadian women so they were no longer considered their husbands’ or fathers’ property.  Yet according to the Toronto Globe and Mail Emily wrote articles attacking Chinese immigrants, American blacks, Jews and other Eastern Europeans who had chosen Canada as their home.

joey-and-meHere I am in Gambo Newfoundland with a statue of Joey Smallwood. He is credited with bringing Newfoundland into the modern age and into Confederation but there are many people who saw him as autocratic and interested mainly in self promotion. They criticize the way he often sided with bankers and industrialists rather than unions and laborers. 

emptyfull sculpture winnipeg millenium library reading garden

emptyful by Bill Pechet

Perhaps it is time to stop honoring people with statues and just honor ideas instead.  For example the  statue emptyful at the Winnipeg Millenium Library honors the beauty of the wide open spaces of the prairies.  Who could quarrel with that? feather-in-the-hand-statue

This sculpture in Quebec City honors the idea of education.  An outstretched hand sits on a pile of books.  The hand has a feather. This shows how an education helps us learn to read and write and become literate people. Who could quarrel with that? 

Perhaps its time to stop honoring people with sculptures and focus on honoring worthwhile ideas instead.  

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Holding Joey Smallwood’s Hand

A Pen or a Wing?



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Filed under Art, Canada

Giving Slaves a Modern Humanity

turner and prbhai

Did you know slavery was legal in Canada til 1834?  The ad above was one of many placed in Canadian newspapers by owners looking for their runaway slaves.  In the Art Gallery of Ontario ‘s exhibit Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai have tried to restore humanity to these runaway slaves by dressing them up and photographing them in modern day costumes that compare to the 1800s style clothes the slaves are described as wearing in the ads.   

photo turner and prbhaiThis woman is sheathed in a calico gown, holding a silk hankie and wearing a dress hat just like the runaway slave described in the ad.  But the black woman in the photograph is free and no one’s slave. Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai hope portraying the runaway slave this way will make people more aware that slavery was part of Canada’s history. 

Other posts………..

A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife

Jamaican Slavery

A Black and White Religion


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Filed under Art, Canada, History, Toronto