Category Archives: manitoba

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

Hecla Hike With A Bird Watcher

We spent a couple of days at Hecla Island last week and one of the hikes we did took us to a lighthouse on a spit of land sticking out into Lake Winnipeg.  There are actually two lighthouses in the same location. The original one closest to the water, which has been beautifully restored, was built in 1898. The larger more modern one was constructed in 1926.  At the time it featured a kerosene lamp, a giant hand-wound reflector, and a foghorn.  A lighthouse keeper was on duty till 1970 when the Canadian Coast Guard took over responsibility for it.  A lighthouse was necessary and important during the era when huge steamships regularly plied Lake Winnipeg carrying passengers, supplies, and cargos of timber and limestone. Dave collected some extra cargo as we hiked through the forest to the lighthouse.  Can you see the trimming of burrs along the hood of his jacket? We were hiking with our friends and we stopped frequently to listen for birds since Dave was eager to get some good photos. He captured a waxwing a Swainson’s thrush a Yellow-rumped warbler a female Mallard a Black-billed magpieCanada geese and a pelican. We passed some marshland and the following day hiked through a marshy area where we spotted deer, frogs, a snake and a fox  The scenery was gorgeous the weather was warm and sunny and our friends Bruno and Caroline were great company. 

We live in Manitoba so fall weather can be unpredictable and this year we know once it gets cold much of our in-person socializing will have to end since we have committed to doing pretty much all of our get-togethers outdoors during the pandemic. 

It was lovely to have this hike with friends on a beautiful day, something to savour during the isolation of the winter ahead. 

Other posts about hikes with friends…………

Hiking the Virgin

A Perfect Afternoon in Gambo

Up to Weaver’s Needle

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Filed under manitoba, Nature

A Different Kind of Folk Festival

At the Folk Festival in 2011

If 2020 had been like other years Manitobans would have been attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Park this past weekend.  The event was cancelled due to the pandemic but the Folk Festival organized a virtual concert for July 11 and encouraged people to get together outside on their yards to watch it on Saturday night. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a country property near Lowe Farm for an alternate Folk Festival evening hosted by our friends Roger and Ruth. A screen and speakers had been set up on the yard for watching the performers and listening to the music. We parked our cars alongside the grain bins. Tie-dyed sheets billowing in the breeze and a painting of a quilt on the barn gave the farmyard a ‘folkie’ kind of feel.


Before the festivities sponsored by the Folk Festival hit the big screen Roger our host favoured us with four numbers he had written himself, accompanied by two members of his family.

Roger tells us about the songs he has written

One of Roger’s songs had been inspired by a trip on the Trans Siberian railroad, another by a trip to South America and one celebrated a barnstorming baseball team from the American Negro Baseball League that came to play a game in nearby Roland Manitoba when Roger’s father was a young man. Roger’s band also shared a piece about his father’s perspective on the world when he was over a hundred years old. The evening included a fabulous meal and………….. an opportunity to explore a labyrinth that had been cut into the field behind the house. You could pick up some stones, that represented your hopes or wishes to hold as you made your way down the paths. I was all alone in the labyrinth as I wound my way through the beautiful wild prairie grasses and flowers.  I basked in the beauty of the yellow fields in the distance, the sound of the wind in the grass, and the endless blue sky above me. 

labyrinth entryAfter the music was over some of the guests engaged in games of catch with ball gloves and balls supplied by Ruth and Roger’s neighbour.  We left as the sun was going down. 

It wasn’t the same as being at Bird’s Hill Park for the Folk Festival but it was a great alternative in a setting every bit as beautiful. Thanks, Roger and Ruth. 

Other posts…………..

Knuckleball- Think Mennonite Corner Gas

Inspiration at the Winnipeg Folk Festival

Winnipeg Folk Festival- It’s Who You Know

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Filed under manitoba, Music

Check Before You Write the Cheque

I was introduced to a young woman last week who works for a Manitoba based NGO (non-government organization) that addresses a pressing and important social issue.  The woman was intelligent, articulate and had an exciting resume in her line of work. She gave me some great insight and information about the social issue that is the focus of her NGO.   I was really interested and thought I might write a story for my newspaper column about her work.    

Canadians donate to charity generously

So I did a little digging on the Charities and Giving website maintained by the government of Canada.  You can go there and type in the name of any organization in Canada with charitable tax status.    Turns out the NGO the woman I met works for, only spends 17% of the funds it takes in on actual charitable work. The other 83% goes for overhead, administration, expenses and fundraising efforts.  

I did a little more research and found out the Better Business Bureau suggests healthy charitable organizations should spend between 25- 35% of the money they take in on administration and fundraising.

I donate my time to a Thrift store that supports Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba

Then I looked up Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba, an organization to which I donate my time and money.  It gives 85% of the money it receives away and only uses 15% for administrative costs.  Almost the exact opposite of the other Manitoba based NGO.   

I did read an article that suggests charitable organizations shouldn’t just be judged on how much money they invest in overhead. You can spend too little money on administration.  

You need to have stable leadership, solid financial planning, evaluation tools in place to determine the impact and effectiveness of your charity’s work, and a vibrant media and publicity outreach if you want to maintain a healthy, worthwhile and viable charity. Establishing those things takes money.  I agree. 

But I think there should be a balance between donations spent on overhead and money actually given to a charity’s work and beneficiaries. Before you donate to a charity it is worth checking out exactly what that balance is. 

Other posts…………..

Is Service Always a Good Thing? 

Monk Chat

Are You A Performance Ally?

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Filed under Canada, manitoba

Black Days in May

The beautiful Minneapolis Art Institute. Photographed during a visit in 2014.

As I’ve been observing the violence and anger erupting in Minneapolis I’m remembering all the good times we have had in that city.

At a Vikings football game in Minneapolis

We have seen plays at the Guthrie Theatre, cheered at professional basketball, baseball and football games, visited the city’s fabulous free art gallery and enjoyed meals at amazing restaurants. We had so much fun with our boys when they were little at the Mall of America’s entertaining Lego Land.

With friends at a wedding in Minneapolis

We attended the wedding of friends in Minneapolis a few years ago which was held in a lovely little historic church and had such a special weekend.  

Minneapolis is a marvellous place but the New York Times this morning reminds everyone that while Minneapolis does have a rich cultural scene and one of America’s highest standards of living, decades of government decisions have discriminated against black citizens. Loan programs for buying homes have favoured white Minnesotans. In order to facilitate new infrastructure black neighbourhoods have been razed. The police force is predominantly white. According to another article in the New York Times, disparities in employment, poverty and education between people of colour and white residents in Minneapolis are among the worst in the country. I worked for the Mennonite Church as a volunteer in a Minneapolis inner-city playground program one summer more than fifty years ago and know first hand those injustices are long-standing. 

Police and Rioters, 12th Street, Detroit, July 23, 1967
Photo from  Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

The last few days I keep thinking about something my husband told me about the race riots in Detroit in 1967 during which some forty people died, thousands were injured and thousands of building were burned.  

Dave’s Mom picking tomatoes in their fields the 1960s

Dave’s family had a vegetable farm just across the border from Detroit in southern Ontario and when they were working in their fields they could see the smoke from the burning buildings in Detroit billowing in the sky.  It reminded them of just how close they were to a place filled with anger over racial injustice and inequality. 

Reincarceration by Kent Monkman- The building in the background is Manitoba’s Headingly Penitentiary

I think we would do well to let the ‘smoke’ we are seeing on our television and computer screens and in our newspapers remind us of how ‘close’ we are here in Manitoba to the same kind of injustice and inequality that is fueling the current violence just across our border in the United States.  Injustices like……

Manitoba indigenous men represent 15% of our general population and 75% of our prison population. Source

90% of the children in foster care in Manitoba are indigenous.  Source

Indigenous children living in Manitoba are the most impoverished in Canada  Source

There are Manitoba First Nation reserves with no indoor plumbing and no clean water supply. Source

Gordon Lightfoot wrote a famous song about the riots in Detroit in 1967 called Black Day in July. Sadly lines from the song still resonate more than fifty years later. 

And the people rise in anger
And the streets begin to fill
And there’s gunfire from the rooftops
And the blood begins to spill
And you say how did it happen
And you say how did it start
Why can’t we all be brothers
Why can’t we live in peace
But the hands of the have-nots
Keep falling out of reach

Other posts…….

Minneapolis Wedding

 

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Filed under History, manitoba, Politics

Kindred Spirits

Last week I spent a morning in Carmen Manitoba talking to a group of some twenty -five women about my life and travels.  Susan Mooney had invited me to speak. She and her husband Tom are long-time residents of Carmen, but Tom’s parents Isaac and Lottie Mooney lived in the Steinbach area from 1944-1980.  One Christmas Lottie gave her son Tom and his wife Susan a gift subscription to The Carillon and they have been subscribers ever since. Susan has been reading my newspaper column Viewpoint since I first began writing it in 1985.  She had always wanted to meet me and decided inviting me to Carmen, as a speaker for her women’s group, would be a way to do that.

I was interested to learn that the group, which meets at the Carmen United Church, has been in existence for almost forty years. Every Wednesday they invite a speaker to make a presentation and then they ask questions and have a discussion. In the weeks prior to my October visit, Theresa Oswald, a former Manitoba Health Minister had been a speaker as had Jean Friesen a university professor and spokesperson for the Treaty Relations Committee of Manitoba. The week following my visit Nilufer Rahman a Muslim community builder and filmmaker was scheduled as the guest and after her retired Canadian senator, Joanne Buth was speaking.  I was told authors Miriam Toews and recent Governor General award winner Joan Thomas had presented in past years.

The women began their meeting by introducing themselves and then answering a question posed by Susan Mooney. She said since she had always wanted to meet me she wondered who might be a person the other women had always wanted to meet. A number thought they would like to meet Queen Elizabeth while several named favorite childhood authors like Lucy Maude Montgomery, Beatrix Potter, and A.A. Milne. Others mentioned the Dali Lama, Michelle Obama, Margaret Atwood, and Eric Clapton. One woman was looking forward to meeting a refugee family that would be arriving in Carmen shortly. Hearing the women’s answers was a great way for me to get to know the group a little better. I told them I already felt like we were kindred spirits. 

In my talk, I used examples from my own life to expand on an idea I was first introduced to at my son’s university graduation many years ago.  On the journey of life we have a choice to be pilgrims or tourists.  Which will we be?   After my presentation, the women asked questions and made comments and their ideas and contributions were thought-provoking and meaningful.  During our lively discussion, I learned more about the women’s families, travels, reading preferences, community work and faith affiliations.

The women take turns bringing soup for lunch each Wednesday, so I was treated to a hearty bowl of hot vegetable soup and some fresh bread before beginning my drive back to Winnipeg.  The women in the group are busy with all kinds of other interesting things.  The woman to my left at lunch had come to our meeting from her yoga class and the one on my right told me she was headed off to a community choir practice.

Before I said goodbye the women posed for a photo with me.  I wanted a reminder of my morning with them. I gave Susan Mooney a hug and thanked her for inviting me. Two other women who also happened to be near the church door as I left gave me hugs too.  I left Carmen enriched, blessed and delighted to have spent a morning with such a group of caring, engaged and intelligent women. 

Other posts…………..

Strong Women

I’ve Been A Newspaper Columnist for Decades

Women Were Honored?  Think Again John Kelly. 

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Filed under manitoba, New Experiences, People, Retirement

Why Do We Have To Blame Someone?

This is my Carillon column this week. 

Who is to blame?  Last week the headlines of provincial news media featured a story about a car accident that occurred during a funeral procession. Thomas Novak a pastoral worker for the Catholic Church was in a procession to a cemetery, when his car was hit on the passenger side at a busy Winnipeg intersection. Novak was shaken up but not injured.

funeral-processionHowever as a result of the accident he is calling for an end to funeral processions.  He thinks they are just too dangerous.  Funeral processions are a tradition still practiced in some rural Manitoba areas, but infrequently in Winnipeg, and consequently many drivers simply don’t know the protocol surrounding them. That invites accidents. I tend to agree with Novak.  If funeral processions are a hazard why have them, particularly at high traffic times of the day? Most families now lay their loved ones to rest in private services before or after the actual funeral. Often cremation has taken place and ashes will be scattered later so no trip to the cemetery is required.

One argument made for continuing funeral processions is that people might have a hard time finding their way to cemeteries without them.  GPS technology and Google Maps make that argument a moot one. 

lyle thomas memorial garden

This plaque near the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg pays tribute to Lyle Thomas a worker who died while it was being built.

Another reason given for funeral processions is that they are a way to show respect for the person who has died. But there are many other opportunities for doing that, including publishing obituaries, making a charitable donation in the person’s name, planting a tree in their memory, erecting a plaque or carrying on traditions they started. 

What really surprised me about this news story was how it became such a big issue and how commenters on media sites immediately looked for someone to blame after reading articles about the issue.

The first targeted group was young people, who according to many commenters don’t have proper respect for traditions like funeral processions. Young people cause accidents because they are so busy texting they don’t pay attention.  Parents were also targeted for failing to teach their children proper respect for the law and for letting their kids spend too much time on their devices, so they become socially isolated and don’t understand social norms.

Another targeted group was elderly people who according to some commenters don’t quit driving when their health no longer allows them to drive safely, and are generally a hazard.  Manitoba Public Insurance was also targeted for not having stringent enough protocols for awarding licences and not making people retake their driving tests more frequently.  The RCMP was blamed for not enforcing laws more strictly to get bad drivers off the road and for not providing police escorts for funeral processions.

Another targeted group was newcomers to Canada who according to some commenters don’t know the traditions and cultural habits of their adopted country and haven’t become accustomed enough to driving here. The federal government was also targeted for letting too many immigrants into Canada.

Organized religion was also a target of blame. Some commenters said without the religious traditions and trappings surrounding funerals these accidents wouldn’t happen.

funeral processionI was struck by the fact that finding someone to blame was uppermost in many people’s minds.  Why do we do that?   The funeral procession issue is just one of a myriad we could use as an example of how finding someone to blame and ranting about them seems to be the first response.   Why instead of laying blame can’t we have meaningful conversations, look at data, weigh possible options, propose alternatives, and find solutions?  Why do we always look first for someone to blame?

Other posts………

Pallbearers

Apartments for the Dead

Dead Yard Party

 

 

 

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Filed under Culture, manitoba, Religion

A Serendipitous Coincidence

manitoba history journalI have a book review in the latest edition of The Manitoba Historical Society Journal and the magazine couldn’t have come out at a more serendipitous time. no man's land

The book I was asked to review was No Man’s Land- The Life and Art of Mary Riter Hamilton, by Kathryn A. Young and Sarah McKinnon.  Mary Riter Hamilton a Canadian artist working in the first half of the 1900s led a fascinating life and was instrumental in helping to establish an art gallery in Winnipeg in 1912. 

easter morning by mary riter hamilton

Easter Morning-La Petite Penitente by Mary Riter Hamilton- c. 1900

The serendipitous thing is that an artwork by Mary Riter Hamilton, painted when she was studying in Europe at the turn of the century, is part of a new show that just opened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention. That means I will have the perfect opportunity to share everything I learned about Mary’s interesting life story while writing my book review, with the people I take on tours at the gallery. 

What a wonderful coincidence!

Other posts……….

Talk About Defying Convention

Women Painting Men

A Serendipitous Sail

 

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Filed under Art, History, manitoba, winnipeg art gallery

Bison Safari

img_3192My brother-in-law Paul and sister-in-law Shirley are visiting us here in Winnipeg.  We took them on the Bison Safari at Fort Whyte. img_3196

Our guide was excellent, a veritable walking encyclopedia of bison knowledge. He hypothesized  that the near annihilation of the bison on the prairies in the late 1800s was actually a way to try to annihilate the Indigenous  people since they depended on the bison so completely for their way of life. bison fort whyteWe rode in a bus out to the large bison enclosure and followed the herd while our guide told us more about the bison.  We learned the difference between bison and buffalo.  Did you know bison are the largest mammal that can jump and get all four legs off the ground or that they can keep up a 60 km. running pace for more than an hour? bison furWe got to touch bison fur and learned it is so warm in winter bison don’t seek shelter even at 40 below temperatures. dave with horn

Dave is taking this sharp bison horn seriously.  The guide told us that competing males at Fort Whyte had once fought and one died after the other bison rammed its horn into his body. Bison horn was used  by the Indigenous people to make musical instruments,cups, powder horns, spoons and toys.         buffalo wallowWe saw the wallows that dotted the field, where the bison roll around on the ground in summer to get rid of biting insects
bison-herd

Our guide told us bison aren’t that smart and have a real herd mentality. Herds are led by cows not bulls. The bison’s sense of sight is poor but they have a great sense of smell and hearing.    

bison fort whyteOn previous visits to Fort Whyte the bison have been more frisky and we’ve been allowed out of the bus to take photos. That didn’t happen this time but hopefully our guests still enjoyed learning a little more about the plains bison the official Manitoba animal.

Other posts about bison……..                                            

Killing a Bison is Hard

There Must Be Fifty Ways to Use a Bison

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Bison

 

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Filed under manitoba, Nature

I Golf For the Scenery

On the long weekend we went golfing in Pinawa and Lac du Bonnet with our friends Rudy and Sue. I don’t keep score when I golf. I’m there for the visiting and the scenery. And some of the scenery on the Pinawa Golf and Country Club course and the Granite Hills Golf Course was gorgeous.

granite hills

pinawa golf course

lac du bonnet golf course

I also discovered this really cool sundial in Pinawa across from the hotel where we spent the night.  sun dial pinawaIt was designed in such a way that you could learn a lot about eastern Manitoba by walking all around it. 

golfing in Lac du BonnetDespite the fact our second round of golf ended abruptly after 12 holes because of non-stop rain I still had a great time enjoying the scenery and visiting with our friends. 

I golf for the scenery and the visiting. 

Other posts……

Visiting the Nikkels in Sarasota

Golfing at a Hudson’s Bay Outpost

Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona

 

 

 

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Filed under manitoba, Sports