Category Archives: Canada

Does a Female Finance Minister Make a Difference?

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland

This is what you get when Canada appoints its first female finance minister-a proposal for a national system of high-quality early learning and childcare, that is great for kids, pays for itself in long term benefits to society, creates jobs, reduces poverty, assists parents in unprecedented ways and helps women remain in the work force. 

Last week, at the Liberal Party policy convention Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that a nationwide early learning and childcare system will be a key piece in the Liberal government’s COVID-19 recovery plan. 

The pandemic has made it difficult for women to continue working while providing childcare

Ms. Freeland pointed out that the pandemic has caused a frightening decline in female workforce participation. Literally hundreds of thousands of Canadian mothers left their jobs to look after children when schools and daycares closed.

Prior to the pandemic women were providing 40% of household income. They were vital to their families’ financial security and the nation’s economic health. Experts agree it is not possible, for Canada to have a successful economic recovery post-pandemic without women going back to work. A universal daycare system in Canada will be a huge incentive and support as women seek to return to their jobs.

A national plan to provide quality early childhood education and daycare almost became a reality in 2005. The Liberals had crafted a ground -breaking agreement for universal childcare in Canada that had been officially agreed to by every province.  Unfortunately, in 2006 Stephen Harper was elected and dismantled the plan. Since then, political expediency has stood in the way of bringing it back. 

Ms. Freeland says the pandemic has created a childcare crisis for women and this gives our country a window of opportunity to finally provide federally funded affordable quality universal childcare to every Canadian family that needs and wants it. 

Leah Gazan NDP Critic for Children, Families, and Social Development

I know the New Democratic Party will be behind the plan because last summer my New Democratic Member of Parliament Leah Gazan was circulating a petition calling for a universal childcare and early learning program in Canada. I not only signed her petition but agreed to make regular donations to help Ms. Gazan in her quest. 

Conservative Members of Parliament that are anti-abortion as identified by Campaign for Life

 I hope the Conservative Party will lend support as well.  The Toronto Star has reported that more than 40 members of the current Conservative caucus are publicly anti-abortion supporters. Ms. Freeland’s proposal is their chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Research repeatedly shows that two of the most frequently cited reasons women give for having abortions are financial concerns and the impact the pregnancy could have on their careers. It makes sense that the availability of quality childcare would help ease those concerns and could conceivably further lower our country’s abortion rate which is already at its lowest point in more than a decade. 

I am only speculating that one of the reasons the Liberal government is making a federally funded childcare program a priority is because we have our first female finance minister. But I am sure it didn’t hurt. Ms. Freeland spoke for thirty minutes at the recent Liberal policy convention and spent almost the entire time talking about childcare. Our Deputy Prime Minister is the mother of three and well knows the challenges of managing both parenting and a career. When she was negotiating Canada’s NAFTA deal, she told a reporter that sometimes figuring out childcare arrangements for her three kids was almost as tricky as figuring out a trade agreement. 

I will be thrilled if the Liberal party goes through with their plan for an affordable national childcare and early education plan.  It will be good for kids, good for women, good for families and good for our country. 

Other posts………….

Politics is Tough

Paternity Leave- A Winning Scenario

Pro-Choice and Pro-Life- What Might We Have in Common?

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Filed under Canada, Family, Politics

He Looks Kind

When I take my granddaughter for walks in her stroller we often make our way through Vimy Ridge Park near her home. There is a statue of a young man there that always attracts my attention. He is crouched down, his hand stretched out and he looks so concerned and kind.

Portrait of Andrew Mynarski by Paul Goronson

I found out the man is Andrew Mynarski the son of Polish immigrants to Canada. He grew up in Winnipeg and attended elementary school and high school here. Andrew joined the Canadian Airforce when he was 25. He had been working as a leather cutter since age 16 when his father died and he needed to help support his family- his mother and five siblings. He is described as a quiet man with a good sense of humour who enjoyed woodworking. He liked to design and build furniture.

Artist Charlie Johnston created the sculpture of Andrew Mynarski

On June 12 his airforce crew was setting out on their 13th mission over France when Andrew found a four leaf clover in the grass by their plane. He insisted on giving it to his good buddy Pat Brophy who was a rear gunner on his crew.

On the mission their plane was hit and the pilot ordered everyone to bail out. Andrew was just about to jump with his parachute when he noticed that his friend Pat was trapped in the back of the plane. Instantly he turned away from the plane door and crawled on his hands and knees through blazing hydraulic oil to help Pat. By the time he reached his friend his parachute and uniform were on fire.

Andrew grabbed an axe and tried to smash Pat free but it was hopeless. Pat kept telling him he should just jump and get out. Finally Andrew did. French villagers found Andrew but he was so badly burned from trying to save his friend Pat he died a few hours later.

Pat however survived. The explosion caused when the plane hit the ground blew Pat safely away from the wreckage and he was rescued. Later he told the story of how his friend Andrew had tried to save him and Andrew was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage and kindness.

Andrew’s statue makes me think about what a horrible thing war is. That a caring brave young person like Andrew had to die is such a tragic loss. I think about the contributions a man of Andrew’s character could have made to his family and community had he lived. It makes me so sad.

When I push my granddaughter’s stroller by Andrew’s statue I always say a little prayer that she will never experience the tragedy and sorrow of a war.

Other posts……….

James Bond is From Winnipeg

Canada’s Women Soldiers

Wars Dread of Mothers

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Filed under Art, Canada, History, Winnipeg

German POWs in Manitoba

Did you know during World War II there were 27 prisoners of war camps in Canada?  One such camp was in my home province of Manitoba.  Reading the 2013 Stanford University thesis of Adrian Meyers helped me learn all about it. Meyers carried out an archaeological dig at the former site of the camp on Whitewater Lake. Meyers also interviewed surviving prisoners and waded through a thousand related government documents. His thesis is full of interesting information.

German Prisoner of War Camp- photo from Parks Canada

The 450 German prisoners, most between the ages of 16 and 22, viewed their time at the Manitoba camp as an idyllic interlude in their wartime experience. Many were captured after a battle in North Africa. They worked hard cutting trees for lumber and firewood but were paid 50 cents a day for their labours and allowed to use the money to order things from the Eaton’s catalogue.   Photos of the prisoners show them neatly groomed and dressed smartly.

german pows riding mountain national park

Some of the prisoners at the camp- photo from Parks Canada

The Canadian government tried to re-educate the prisoners teaching them courses in Canadian history and democratic government and carefully selecting the books they read and films they watched. The POWs were under surveillance and were labelled on the basis of a colour-coded system that evaluated their allegiance to Nazism.

POW In canoe- photo from Meyers thesis

The prisoners had an active social life, playing soccer, carving dugout canoes they paddled to an island for picnics, skating on the frozen lake and being allowed to venture into neighbouring communities to attend dances.

bear with german prisoners of war manitoba

Photo from the Riding Mountain National Park collection

Some took in stray dogs as pets, while one man even adopted a juvenile black bear he named Moses.

band.jpg

Photo from the Winnipeg Free Press

They distilled alcohol for personal use and put on stage shows where the men sang, played instruments and some dressed up in women’s clothes. Myers’ thesis includes examples of paintings done by the prisoners and they were provided with a ping- pong table, playing cards, craft supplies and a piano.

Painting of the camp by one of the POWs- photo from the Meyers thesis

Ironically not many years before the POW camp was built in Riding Mountain National Park, the Canadian government had evicted the Ojibwa people who had long inhabited the area.


Photo of Suyoko Tsukamoto by Bill Redekop for the Winnipeg Free Press 

Suyoko Tsukamoto one of the Brandon University anthropology students who helped Meyers with the archaeological dig noted another irony. She could not help but compare the relatively luxurious lifestyle in the German POW camp to the much more trying conditions endured by her father, a full-fledged Canadian citizen who was sent to one of the government detention facilities for people of Japanese descent during the war.

Painting of the camp by a POW – photo from the Meyers thesis

 The Canadian government’s rationale was that they hoped by treating the German prisoners kindly the Germans would reciprocate with similar treatment of captured Canadian soldiers.

 More than 33,000 German soldiers were in prison camps across Canada during the war. The fact nearly 20% of them asked to remain here after the war is perhaps at least partially a testament to the humane way they were treated. All their requests were denied.

To explore Adrian Meyers’ fascinating research for yourself read his thesis entitled The Archaeology of Reform at a German Prisoner of War Camp in a Canadian National Park during the Second World War (1943–1945)

Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Larry Verstraete whose novel Missing in Paradise piqued my interest in this camp and inspired me to learn more about it. 

Other posts about World War II……..

Sleeping With Torpedos

Remembering Hiroshima

Meeting a Holocaust Survivor in Hong Kong

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Filed under Books, Canada, Germany, History

The Great Canadian Nanaimo Bar

Cookbook on display at the Nanaimo Museum

Legend has it that in the 1930s the women of Nanaimo British Columbia started putting a sweet chocolate square in the lunch buckets of their miner husbands. The recipe for the square first appeared in the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital Women’s Auxilary Cookbook under the title Chocolate Square. In 1953 the recipe was reprinted in Vancouver’s Edith Adams Cookbook and named Nanaimo Bars.

I did a little digging into the history of the Nanaimo Bar because it is currently at the heart of a social media controversy. It started when the New York Times put the above post on Instagram. It created a great hue and cry from Canadians who said the AMERICAN newspaper had falsely represented the dessert which a 2006 National Post poll had found to be CANADA’S favourite confection. The New York Times kitchen had made the base of the Nanaimo Bar too thick. The chocolate icing should not have been rippled but according to some Canadian critics “smooth as newly Zambonied ice.”

My Nanaimo bars on a plate I inherited from my grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt

I didn’t think I had ever made Nanaimo bars before, so after reading about the controversy I decided to try. I used the recipe of fellow children’s writer and popular Winnipeg food blogger Harriet Zaidman. I think my bars turned out pretty well thanks to Harriet’s great photos and instructions. My husband said he could tell they were made with love.

Canada stamp featuring a Nanaimo bar

I have learned some cool facts about Nanaimo bars………

  • They served Nanaimo bars for dessert at the White House the night Michelle and Barack Obama hosted Justin and Sophie Trudeau at a state dinner in 2016.
  • The city of Nanaimo’s mascot is a walking Nanaimo bar named Nanaimo Barney.
  • On an episode of Master Chef Canada contestants had to make a dish inspired by Nanaimo bars.
  • In 2019 Canada Post issued a stamp featuring a Nanaimo bar
  • Different locations in and around Nanaimo serve maple bacon, peanut butter and deep-fried Nanaimo bars, Nanaimo bar spring rolls, Nanaimo bar waffles and cheesecake and Nanaimo bar coffee and cocktails.
  • Nanaimo bars were a huge hit at Expo 86 in Vancouver and are a popular sales item on BC ferries.
  • Nanaimo bars have their own entry in the Oxford Dictionary

Other posts…….

More Than A Cake- It’s a Memory

Chocolate is Essential

Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

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Filed under Canada, Culture, Food

Human Rights and February Holidays

In February we recognize two important holidays.  Both remind us we are making progress towards respecting diversity, but each should also remind us we need to continue to be vigilant about protecting human rights. 

Lion dancer I photographed during Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong

We are in the midst of the Chinese New Year celebrations which run from February 12 -26th.  Canada is home to more than one and half million people of Chinese descent. I learned to thoroughly enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations during the six years I lived in Hong Kong. Some of my colleagues at the international school where I taught were Chinese Canadians.  I was interested to learn that their families had been in Canada longer than mine.  

Sculpture illustrating the important contribution Chinese workers made to the construction of Canada’s railroad at the Winnipeg Millennium Library

My Mennonite ancestors immigrated in the 1920s but in the early 1880s 17,000 Chinese workers came to Canada to help build the railroad.  Many stayed here and prospered despite the virulent racism they faced. Their families continue to make valuable contributions to our country in politics, culture, business, science, education, technology and sport. 

Sadly, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, in the last year more than 600 incidents of hate related crimes have been reported to Chinese Canadian organizations. Although some of these incidents are related to historical anti-Asian racism many are the result of the racialization of COVID-19. Vancouver police have reported a real spike in cases. They investigated seven racist incidents in 2019 and sixty-six in 2020. 

Dr. Theresa Tam- Canada’s Chief Medical Officer

Although it is easy to point fingers at the United States where their former president’s continual reference to COVID-19 as the Chinese virus has caused a massive increase in anti-Asian hate incidents, we have a similar problem in Canada. One need look no further for an example of such anti- Chinese sentiment than the comments of former Conservative Party member Derek Sloan. He accused Dr. Theresa Tam our country’s chief medical officer who is of Chinese descent, of being more loyal to China than to Canada. This kind of dishonest racist rhetoric has no place in a respectful society.  

I photographed Winnipeg’s Metis mayor Brian Bowman at the opening ceremonies for Folklorama in 2019

On Monday we celebrated Louis Riel day. Louis Riel was a staunch defender of the rights of Manitoba’s Metis people. The mayor of our capital city Brian Bowman is Metis as was a former provincial premier John Norquay. Think of hockey player Theoren Fluery, writer Katherena Vermette, artist Joe Fafard, actress Tantoo Cardinal and members of Parliament Dan Vandal and Shelley Glover and you will get some idea of just how many important contributions the nearly 90,000 Metis Manitobans have made to our province.  

Yet it doesn’t take long to find stories about Metis people being discriminated against in many different areas of society.  In September of 2020 a CTV news story reported that David Chartrand the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation had sent a letter to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission alleging systemic discrimination against the Metis people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Chartrand said the provincial government had been unwilling to work with the Metis nation in an information sharing process that would have benefited both the Metis and the Manitoba health care system.  

I photographed this sculpture titled Manitoba by Metis artist Joe Fafard at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

In 2018 almost the entire Manitoba Hydro Board, whose members had all been appointed by Premier Brian Pallister, resigned to protest the decision the premier made to not honor an agreement the board had negotiated with the Manitoba Metis Federation. Clearly there is still work to do in addressing discrimination against the Metis community. 

A pair of holidays we celebrate in February recognize the rich contributions of two diverse communities in our country. Those holidays should also remind us we need to continue to work at respecting the human rights of those communities.  

Other posts………

Making Chinese Dumplings

Manitoba is Metis

It’s Louis Riel Day

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Filed under Canada, Culture, History, Holidays, manitoba, Politics

I Read Canadian

Did you know it is I Read Canadian Day, a national celebration of Canadian books for children? You can read more about that on the I Read Canadian website. Our prime minister even sent out a special message this morning reminding everyone how proud we should be of all the wonderful books by Canadian authors for Canadian kids. My blog today is dedicated to books by Canadian authors that were always a big hit with my students when I was a teacher.

I saw award-winning author Jean Little speak at a reading conference in Winnipeg in the 1970s. I remember how impressed I was by this blind author for young people who travelled with her guide dog and wrote books for children by speaking into a tape recorder. Two of her novels about dogs were popular read- alouds in my classrooms.

Different Dragons featured a boy who had many fears and a huge dog named Gully who helped him overcome them. Lost and Found was about a girl who moved to a new city and a dog named Trouble who eased the difficult transition.

Kenneth Oppel is such a popular Canadian author. I was intrigued by his most recent book Bloom which was a huge hit in 2020 but a novel he wrote in the 1990s was an equally huge hit with my elementary school students. Silverwing is the story of a young bat named Shade who gets lost on his family’s migration journey. Kids loved all the fascinating things they learned about bats from reading the book and were thrilled by its danger and suspense. I liked the way Silverwing taught kids to value friendship and family.

Although Farley Mowat is more famous than his wife Claire, she was also an author and books by both of them were must-reads each year in my classroom. Owls in the Family is a rollicking tale about a boy named Billy who adopts two great horned owls Wol and Weeps. It’s a heartwarming book that often had my students laughing out loud.

The Girl From Away was a book I read to my students each Christmas. It is about a girl named Andrea who is sent to stay with Newfoundland relatives while her mother is off on her honeymoon with her new husband. Andrea learns a great deal about Newfoundland history, culture and wildlife but also learns to appreciate her family.

Jacob’s Little Giant by Barbara Smucker was a book I read every fall to my early years’ students when we were learning about Canada geese and their migration. It is a story about a boy named Jacob who plays an important role in saving a family of Canada geese who make their home on a pond on Jacob’s family’s farm.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery was a favourite childhood book of mine. It was one of the first chapter books I read aloud to my older son and my upper elementary students never failed to respond with empathy and enthusiasm to the story of the young red-headed orphan from Prince Edward Island.

When I taught high school one of the novels we studied was The Kite Runner by American author Khaled Hosseini. The book is set in Afghanistan. To help my students become familiar with the situation in Afghanistan I had them read three books by Canadian author Deborah Ellis- The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey and Mud City. Particularly for my struggling high school readers, this trilogy about a girl who pretends to be a boy provided an easy, interesting and informative avenue to help them understand the Taliban and their reign in Afghanistan.

I know the books in this blog post are older ones by Canadian authors. I love these classics but I also love all the new wonderful novels for young people by Canadian authors being published right now and I read them voraciously. You can check out what I have written about some of them in the links below.

Coop the Great

Sadia – A Muslim Girl From Winnipeg

You Don’t Have to Die in the End

Family of Spies

My Long List of Impossible Things

Me and Me

Miles to Go

No Fixed Address

7 Generations

The Marrow Thieves

I Just Won A Cache of Great Children’s Books

The Lotterys Plus One

The Crazy Man

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Filed under Books, Canada, Childhood

Life, Liberty and Family

When The Carillon, the newspaper I work for, posted my latest column on Facebook I received lots of feedback. My column questioned the wisdom of Canadian politicians showing public support for former President Trump. I was called delusional, leftist, a liar and someone who should be ashamed of herself by various people making comments.

One respondent said he would vote for any politician who defended life, liberty, and family even if that government leader’s personal conduct wasn’t always moral. He implied he could forgive someone like Donald Trump his outrageous behaviour because the former president was a defender of life, liberty, and family.

This photo was taken at a family celebration some fifty years ago with my Dad’s extended family. Family is an important value for me.

I said I agreed life, liberty, and family were very important values. And…… that got me thinking about what exactly those values meant to me. At first, I was going to articulate that by making a list of all the ways I believed President Trump had caused considerable damage to those ideals, but then…….. I decided it might be more helpful instead to figure out what I thought a country would look like if life, liberty and family were truly valued.

Celebrating our son’s university graduation. Post-secondary education should be available to all.

Life

Life is respected by making sure affordable housing, clean drinking water, universal child care, good schools and free post-secondary education are available to everyone.

Life is protected when fair laws are enforced in the community by a highly-educated, sensitively trained, scrupulously vetted, mature group of individuals. These wise and experienced professionals serve in a just manner that is equitable for every person no matter their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or income level.

Life is enriched by well funded public spaces like parks, libraries, museums, art galleries and sports facilities. The arts receive public funding as do amateur athletics and there are accessible opportunities for everyone to further their education and skills in a variety of ways.

Marching in the Pride Parade in Steinbach. Photo credit- Grant Burr

Liberty

People have the liberty to marry the person of their choice, apply for the job of their choice and live in the neighbourhood of their choice regardless of their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Capital punishment is a thing of the past and steps are in place to reduce and perhaps even eliminate the prison population.

Women have the liberty to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

People have the liberty to make their own end of life decisions.

Four generations by Pitaloosie Saliaone of my favourite pieces from the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection depicting a family

Family

All jobs pay a fair living wage that makes it possible for someone who works eight hours a day to provide adequately for the needs of their family. If for some reason no one in a family is able to work at some point that family would still be guaranteed a basic living income.

Families are supported by free health care that addresses their medical needs no matter at what stage of life their family members may be.

Workers have employment agreements that allow them to provide necessary care for their infant children, sick family members and elderly parents.

The painting The Scream by Kent Monkman shows Indigenous children being taken from their families and sent to residential schools. Life, liberty and family have not always been respected in Canada. Those are values we still need to work at.

The values of life, liberty and family will mean different things to different people. What are some values you would add to my list or change about the ones in my list?

Other posts………..

The Scream

Pride in Steinbach

A Very Personal Story

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Filed under Canada, Politics

James Bond is From Winnipeg

On Memorial Boulevard in Winnipeg, you can see this statue of William Stephenson. 

Ian Fleming the author of the James Bond novels once said, “James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is … William Stephenson.”  

Ian Fleming went to a training school for World War II spies operated by William Stephenson.

Fleming said he used about 15 different spies as models for his character James Bond, but William Stephenson was definitely one of them.  Apparently, Bond’s love of martinis, magnetic personality and skill at hand to hand combat were characteristics the literary hero inherited from William Stephenson. 

Stephenson was a Winnipeg native, born in the Point Douglas area. He taught math and science at the University of Manitoba and before he died he bequeathed $100,000 to the University of Winnipeg to fund scholarships for outstanding students.

Winnipeg has an official fan club for Stephenson called The Intrepid Society. As part of their agenda, they’ve not only erected the statue on Memorial Boulevard, they have also successfully lobbied to have a street in Winnipeg named after their hero and a statue of him installed in CIA headquarters in Washington. DC. A public library in Winnipeg also bears his name.  

As this plaque on his sculpture indicates, William’s code name was Intrepid when he worked for British intelligence in New York during World War II. A book about his life titled A Man Called Intrepid was a best seller and later was turned into a TV mini-series starring David Niven and Barbara Hershey. 

William Stephenson as a young man

Orphaned as a young child and then adopted, William was fascinated with Morse code as a teenager and was good at boxing.  He served as a pilot during World War I and was shot down and captured by the Germans. He managed to escape after three months and won several medals for bravery. Stephenson went on to study at Oxford University. 

A 1954 photo of Sir William Stephenson. (AP Photo).

William accomplished many significant and impressive things in the next couple of decades. After teaching at the University of Manitoba he moved to Britain where he invented the process for sending photographs over the wire electronically, purchased a radio manufacturing company that made him a millionaire before he was thirty and then diversified into film, coal and oil refining, the steel industry, television and aircraft production. He helped to found the British Broadcasting Corporation. (BBC).  

Thanks to his broad base of industrial contacts in Europe by as early as April 1936, William began voluntarily passing confidential information to Winston Churchill about how Adolf Hitler was building up his armed forces while hiding his military expenditures. 

 In 1940 Churchill asked him to become the head of British security in New York coordinating counter-espionage efforts together with the Americans. William hired hundreds of people to work for him, many of them Canadians and he paid for their salaries out of his own pocket. He set up a school in Whitby Ontario that trained more than 2000 covert operators including Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books.  

The sculpture of William Stephenson on Memorial Boulevard was created by renowned Winnipeg sculptor Leo Mol and was unveiled by Princess Anne in 1999.  

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Filed under Canada, History, Winnipeg

Indigenous Canadians and Mennonite Canadians

I was struck by a comment recently that echoes others I’ve frequently heard in the past, something like…….. “We Mennonites managed to survive the horrors of our history and flourish.  Why can’t Indigenous people do the same?”    

The gist of these comments is that the Mennonites who came to Canada during the 1920s from Ukraine had suffered through famine, war, tremendous economic loss, and family tragedy yet they managed to rise above all that and build a successful life for themselves in a new country. Why can’t Indigenous people do the same thing?

Ovide Mercredi at Thunderbird House – photo University of Manitoba website

Whenever I hear people talking in that vein, I remember a presentation I heard Ovide Mercredi give at Thunderbird House.  Mr Mercredi, a lawyer, and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations was speaking at a program organized by Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Church Canada, as part of their mission to build mutually beneficial relationships with Canada’s Indigenous community. The theme of Mr Mercredi’s talk was how Mennonites and Canada’s Indigenous people are the same.

Mr Mercredi said both Mennonites and Canada’s Indigenous people know what it means to be oppressed. Mennonites left Ukraine where they had been for about 250 years and fled to Canada to be free from oppression. Mr Mercredi noted that unlike Mennonites, Canada’s Indigenous people couldn’t flee from oppression because it was happening to them right in the place where they had lived for more than 6000 years. 

My grandparents on their farmland west of the Red River which they acquired after immigrating to Canada from Ukraine. It was once the homeland of Indigenous people although I doubt my grandparents knew that at the time they began farming their land. 

Upon their arrival in Manitoba, the Mennonites were given two large reserves of land both east and west of the Red River, land which had been the traditional homeland of Indigenous people for over six hundred generations.  Manitoba’s Indigenous people were also given reserves of land by the government. Mennonites were given prime agricultural land, while Indigenous people were given mostly muskeg.

Children at the Brandon Residential School

Mr Mercredi explained that another thing his people and Mennonites have in common is strong religious beliefs and abiding faith in the Creator. The Canadian government allowed Mennonites to practice their faith freely and even granted them special dispensation to remain true to their religious belief in pacifism, exempting them from military service.  Indigenous people, on the other hand, had their spiritual practices outlawed by the Indian Act and the government tried to convert their children to Christianity by forcing them to attend residential schools.

Although Ovide Mercredi had said he was going to talk about how Mennonites and Canada’s Indigenous people were the same, he essentially talked about how vastly more privileged and entitled Mennonites have been. 

Mennonite Central Committee has a program called Indigenous Neighbours that provides opportunities for people to learn about Indigenous history and rights. It works towards building respectful partnerships with the Indigenous community and collaborates with Indigenous partners to ignite positive social change. 

Tomorrow is the day for the We Are All Treaty People celebration in Manitoba co-sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee.  You can read about what has happened at the celebration in the past.  This year the celebration has taken to the airwaves and will be broadcast on the University of Manitoba radio station at 3 pm. 

Other posts………

Doctrine of Discovery

Starvation- Kent Monkman Style

We Will Stand Up

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Filed under Canada, Religion

Universal Child Care-A Wise Investment For Canada

This was my Carillon newspaper column this week.

My Member of Parliament Leah Gazan recently asked me to sign a petition calling for the establishment of a universal childcare program in Canada. I not only signed the petition I also agreed to make regular donations to help see universal childcare become a reality. It is something I have long believed is a wise investment for our country. It would make Canada a better place for everyone.

Photo by Naomi Shi on Pexels.com

Ms Gazan who is the families, children and social development critic for the NDP party is adamant the Liberal government needs to invest 2.5 billion dollars for universal childcare and an early learning system in Canada. The pandemic has only served to highlight the reasons why a universal childcare program would be good for Canada.


First of all, we need parents in the workforce. According to Statistics Canada data, daycare closures due to COVID-19 have created a significant exodus of parents from the ranks of the employed. This has impacted women more than men. A recent article in the Financial Post provides clear evidence that making it possible for parents to return to their jobs is vital to the recovery of the Canadian economy and providing childcare plays a vital role in that happening. 

Photo  on Pexels.com

Women are most highly represented in essential service jobs and in the health and education sectors of the economy. Canada needs them. 2019 reports from Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Public Service Alliance suggest that providing quality daycare to every family in Canada could boost the country’s GDP by between 8 billion and 13 billion dollars. It could help raise many families out of poverty and off of welfare.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Secondly, a universal childcare program would make childcare accessibility more equitable. The current hodgepodge of provincial childcare programs in Canada disproportionately impacts poor families, indigenous families, families where parents do shift work and in particular those living in rural or northern communities.

Affordable, quality childcare services should be uniformly available across Canada. For some children whose home situations are in crisis for a variety of reasons, daycare provides them with the support and early learning that are so important to their future health and wellbeing.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Writing in the Calgary Herald last week Catherine Ford said it is incumbent on wealthier parents who can afford private childcare arrangements or afford to have one parent remain at home, to fight for quality care for all children because it helps create a healthier society. In many cases, the pandemic has placed wealthier parents in a situation where perhaps for the first time they are able to see how difficult it can be for lower-income families to try to balance work and parenting. Hopefully, they have come to realize that universal childcare is not a luxury or convenience but an absolute requirement.

Our son with two of the child care workers in the Headstart program in Kykostmovi Arizona where we lived for a year

As a young mother with a busy career as an educator in the 1980s, I relied on a variety of childcare arrangements for my two sons, but both spent at least one of their pre-school years in daycare. My grandchildren have also benefitted from the services of childcare facilities. I know firsthand the importance of universal daycare.


The value of quality, affordable childcare for Canadian families was the topic of a letter to the editor of The Carillon I wrote in 1985. It led to me being hired as a regular columnist for this paper. Sadly, thirty- five years later it is still a topic I need to write about.

Other posts………..

Paternity Leave- A Winning Scenario

The Work My Mother Does

I’ve Been A Newspaper Columnist For Decades

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Filed under Canada, Childhood, COVID-19 Diary, Education