Category Archives: Childhood

Time For Canada’s Senate To Die?

Who would want to block the passage of legislation that protects the health and well being of Canada’s children?

In 2016 former Conservative senator and Olympic skiing medalist Nancy Greene Raine was determined to do something to address the high rate of childhood obesity in Canada. So she sponsored legislation (Bill S-228) that would ban the advertising of products high in sugar, salt, and fat from children’s media programming. It would also prevent grocery stores from displaying items like sugar-coated cereals at kids’ eye level.

The bill was passed by the duly elected House of Commons but now faces a quiet death in the Senate because a group of appointed Conservative senators is being influenced by a powerful coalition of advertisers, food processors, and retailers. Even though Canada’s pediatricians, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Cancer Society support the legislation, if it is not approved by the Senate before it adjourns on June 28th the legislation will die.

As much as 90% of food marketed to kids through television, movies, the Internet, video games, and giveaways in restaurants are high in sugar, fat, and salt. Quebec banned all commercial marketing to children thirty years ago. Their childhood obesity rate for 6-11-year-olds is the lowest in Canada.   Is that just a coincidence?

The legislation has already been amended to try to address some of the concerns of farmers, retailers, and the media. For example, while the initial legislation banned advertising for most of the daytime hours when children are awake, now it is only banned on programs where children make up more than 15% of the audience. The legislation has also been amended to allow food and beverage companies to continue to sponsor children’s sports’ teams and events targeted at children. 

Conservative appointed Senator Pamela Wallin says she is concerned about the impact the legislation will have on Canada’s grain and dairy producers and the baking industry but Nancy Greene Raine is quoted in a Toronto Globe and Mail article saying her bill won’t harm the sale or export of any Canadian products. They can still be sold, but can’t be marketed to children.  

Ms. Raine finds it particularly ironic that she herself is a former Conservative-appointed senator and senators from her own party are blocking the legislation because they are worried that its passage might make Liberals look too good just before an election. In a CBC interview, Ms. Raine said she was hurt that her hard work to cross party lines and obtain Liberal support for her bill is now being thwarted by members of her own party. 

As far as I’m concerned I’d like to see all commercial advertising aimed at children banned and I think it may be time to abolish Canada’s Senate.  Bill S-228 is only one of several important pieces of legislation that have been passed by the House of Commons but the current Senate is blocking.

Canada’s Senate Chamber is currently being renovated. Perhaps we should consider renovating it so it can be used for something else once the Senate is abolished.

Bills to protect victims of sexual assault and to protect the rights of Canada’s indigenous people will also likely die because of the ‘sober second thought’ of our appointed Senate. Perhaps its time to see that outdated institution die so it can no longer cause the death of legislation that protects Canada’s most vulnerable citizens. 

Other posts……

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Filed under Childhood, Health

Embracing Anxiety and Handling It

I was talking to a high school teacher not long ago who told me that research shows teenagers are suffering from increased anxiety for a whole variety of reasons.  Teachers try to be understanding of their stress but at the same time, they want to help kids appreciate that sometimes anxiety can be good for them.

1) Anxiety can help you feel motivated and inspired when you face challenges. Athletes who are a little anxious perform better. Anxiety can help you put extra effort into tasks and move you towards a goal. 

2) Anxiety can be a warning sign that you need to make changes in your life.  Do you need to get more sleep, get more exercise, handle your finances more responsibly or eat in a healthier way?

3) Anxiety can help you become more empathetic towards friends and family members who are also facing challenges. 

The young teen in the movie Eighth Grade talks to her dad about her worries

Knowing that stress and anxiety can sometimes be a positive thing means teachers are looking for ways to help kids deal with it. A variety of education and psychology articles offer good ideas. 

  1. Find someone to talk to about your feelings.
  2. Journal or write about your anxiety to help you explore what may be triggering it.

    Volunteering to clean trash off a beach with my high school students 

  3. Volunteer.  Reach out to help others instead of focusing on your anxiety. 
  4. Develop an attitude of gratitude and find concrete ways to express it. 
  5. Learn to emphasize the process or the experience more than the product or the final goal.

    Wilderness hiking with my students 

  6. Make meditation and exercise a regular part of your day. 
  7. Go outside and connect with nature. 

Anxiety isn’t just a challenge for teens these days. An article in Live Science says that in the past we thought anxiety declined with age. Mental health experts are finding that struggles with anxiety in seniors may have been underestimated. Interestingly the same things that can help teens deal with anxiety can help their grandparents’ generation deal with it too. Seniors who volunteer, meditate, get exercise, connect with nature, express gratitude, journal and build relationships with others will also ease their anxiety. 

My Mom doing tai chi in Hong Kong

No matter what our age, a little anxiety can be good for us and there are ways we can handle it so our lives become more rewarding, meaningful and peaceful. 

Other posts………

Go Outside, Go Often

Coloring Books- Not Just For Kids



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Filed under Childhood, Retirement

Vision and Voice

Arthur Slade, David Robertson, and Miriam Körner are some of the most successful children’s writers in Canada right now.  Between them, they have published a raft of books and have won all kinds of awards.  I listened to them last night as they shared their vision and voice in a discussion at a Saskatoon conference for children’s writers. Their exchange of ideas was led by Alice Kuipers a children’s writer who helped to organize the conference. 

Arthur and David listen as Miriam talks about her writing motivation

It was interesting to note what motivates each writer. Miriam is passionate about Canada’s north and loves sled dogs and sled dog racing.  In her books, she is trying to share that passion with others.  

Arthur told us his latest book Crimson was written especially for his daughter who he and his wife adopted from China in 2010. He wanted to create an authentic story for her.

David talked about trying to be an example for young indigenous writers. He wants them to feel that they too have powerful stories they can share. 

As you can see the discussion wasn’t all serious. Alice and her panelists were having a good time.

When Alice asked each writer to talk about how they present themselves to the world Miriam laughed and said she would rather not have to think about presenting herself to the public.  She wishes her books would speak for themselves and she could just spend all her time in her cabin in the bush in La Ronge Saskatchewan with her husband and sixteen sled dogs.  

Arthur talked about the persona he needs to maintain on social media and how it is hard to balance the work that involves, with his need to find space and time for writing.

David shared his thoughts about wanting to present himself as an indigenous writer. He hasn’t always embraced that role but realizes there are many things Canadians need to know about his culture.

Why does each author choose to write for young people rather than adults?

Miriam writes books for young teens because she thinks that is such a crucial time in their lives when everything begins to change for them and the world they had taken for granted suddenly looks so different. Many young people believe they can change the world and Miriam wants to capture those youthful voices in her writing.

Arthur told us he fell into writing for kids accidentally.  He was writing adult novels and someone evaluating one of his manuscripts told him it would be a great teen or young adult novel.

David says he writes for kids because he wants to have some input into shaping the children who will be our leaders of tomorrow.  He thinks about what he wants young people to carry with them so they can create a different reality for our country and the world. What will his books teach them?

The Vision and Voice panel was a great way to kick off the conference and really got attendees thinking about their own motivations, public persona and why they have chosen to write for young people.  

Other posts……….

Reading Pictures

A Top Ten List From a Top Notch Speaker

Writers All Around

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Filed under Books, Canada, Childhood, Writing

And The Crucifixion Has Continued

Faces of children who died in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Photographed at the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev Ukraine. 

Visitors walk in front of a list of more than 5000 names of children who died because of shoddy construction of school houses during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.  The list was created by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and was photographed at the Art Gallery of bottles boil water Don't Breathe Don't DrinkBaby bottles and water glasses filled with contaminated water and bacteria from 96 northern Canadian reserves with boil water advisories. Art piece Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink by Ruth Cuthand. Photographed at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Tricycle ridden by a child in his front yard when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.  Photographed at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima.Image of the cemetery at the Carlilse Residential School in Pennsylvania which operated from 1879 through 1918. Photographed at the Heard Museum in Phoenix Arizona.Memorial stones outside the former home of the Zuntz family.  Children Esther, Harry and Miriam died in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942. Photographed in Frankfurt Germany. 

Child victim of the Pol Phot regime beginning in 1975  during which 2 million people were killed in Cambodia. Photographed at the Killing Fields Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Coffins of victims of the police massacre of apartheid protestors in Sharpville South Africa in 1960. Thirty of the nearly 400 killed and injured victims were children.  Photographed at the Nelson Mandela exhibit at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. 

Other posts……….

Standing Up For Children

Thoughts About Children


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Filed under Childhood, Holidays

Persuade Me

I was visiting a grade five and six class this week where the students were learning how to write persuasive essays.  They had all come up with thesis statements and three reasons why their statement was true.  Now they were gathering information and examples to support each reason.   As I walked around the room I was fascinated by the variety of their thesis statements.

Solar panels are an excellent energy source. 

My parents should buy me a cat. 

Plenty of sleep is good for you. 

They should serve snacks at school.

Good government is important. 

Divorce is a bad thing for kids. 

Shoes are too expensive. 

My old school was better than this one. 

I need a new computer. 

Soccer is the best sport. 

Immigrants are good for Canada. 

My house needs to be more organized. 

All schools should have sports teams. 

I thought it was great that the students were being encouraged to have strong opinions and being taught to defend them in their writing. I loved talking to them about their opinions. 

Other posts……….

Helping Children Become Writers

Writers All Around


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Filed under Childhood, Education


One of the fifth year university education students I supervise is doing a novel study of George by Alex Gino with her grade five and six class. The story centers around a ten year old boy named George who wishes he were a girl.  George auditions for the part of Charlotte, the female spider in the school’s theatrical version of the novel Charlotte’s Web, but the teacher says only a girl can play the role.  That isn’t the only problem George has. George’s mother is clearly upset when she finds George looking at women’s fashion magazines. There are some bullies at school who make fun of what they claim are George’s more feminine character traits. Luckily George has a best friend Kelly who helps hatch a plan to share George’s secret wish to be a girl with family and community. 

I read George to prepare for observing the classes my student teacher will lead about the novel. The book was written in a way upper elementary children could easily read and relate to and when I checked with the guidelines provided by the Canadian Paediatric Society I found out George is exactly the age at which young people who aren’t sure of their gender identity will begin to have stronger feelings about the fact. The guidelines also offer great suggestions for parents of children as they are establishing their gender identity- being supportive and loving their children just as they are and not pressuring them to change- asking gentle questions- being a role model by accepting and interacting with people in the community who are transgender or gender diverse.  

George was lucky to have some understanding supporters- the school principal, George’s brother Scott and of course Kelly a best friend. Although not in an overtly preachy way the novel gives ideas for how teachers  and families and the community can be helpful.  Providing gender neutral washrooms, signs in classrooms that declare them a safe place for all children, allowing children to explore toys and clothes that may not normally be associated with their gender, not addressing groups of children as ‘boys and girls’ but using terms like students or learners or kids and not separating children into groups according to gender.  

I’m glad I read George and I am looking forward to listening in on the discussions about the book my student teacher will have with her class.  I wonder what ideas the kids will have about George. 

Other posts……….

Responding to Changing Attitudes Toward Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

Gender Neutral Washrooms

Teaching Kids About Diversity

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Filed under Books, Childhood

Clay Conversations

robert archimbeau“Hello Robert!”  The children I am taking on a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery greet the photo of eighty-six year old Robert Archambeau.  I tell them all the pottery they see in the room around them was made by Robert. conversations in clayWe go over to look at the name of the exhibit A Conversation in Clay.  I ask the children what a conversation is and they all know. I tell them we are going to have a clay conversation with a friend but first we will practice how to do that together. We walk over to a group of tea pots Robert has created and talk about them using a Clay Conversation guide I’ve made.  The kids contribute so many great ideas. ceramic teapotsThey each know which teapot they like best. They notice that some teapots’ surfaces look smooth like a marble  and others look rough like sandpaper. They point out that one of the pots has a different handle than the rest. They love the rainbow colors on one and wonder if they could put hot chocolate in the pots. 

Then I send them off in pairs with a copy of the discussion guide to have conversations with a partner about the other pieces in the room. Later we get together so everyone can share what they talked about. robert archimbeau ceramicsThey tell me these pieces would be perfect for storing magic potions. pots archimbeauThe pair discussing these pots thinks one looks like a chocolate cake and the other like an apple. They say the containers could be used for cookie jars or cooking pots or for storing rice. bowls archimbeauThe children would eat soup or cereal from these bowls and they notice how each one is a different height and color and has a kind of foot or stand on the bottom. ceramics winnipeg art galleryI am told that one of these pieces looks like a honeycomb, another an acorn squash and still another has a design that reminds them of tree bark or snake skin. salad platesThese plates each with a unique leaf design inside would be perfect for eating salad. clay pot childNow I give the children clay and they fashion pieces of their own. child's clay potI love this tea cup with a happy face inside. flower potThis one is a flower vase. bagel potAnd this one reminds some of the kids of a poppy seed bagel. 

robert archimbeauAs we leave the gallery we go back to Robert’s photo to say good-bye.  His works of art have created lots of great conversations and provided inspiration for our own art. 

Other posts…………..

Stories in Stone

Portraits in Plasticene

A Head Trio


Filed under Art, Childhood, winnipeg art gallery