Category Archives: Social Commentary

Social commentary

Humans vs Wildlife – The Urban Battle

The other day I saw a mother raccoon crossing four lanes of a busy street with her two cubs following quickly behind.  She looked back briefly at various points to make sure her little ones were still there. I tapped my breaks to signify I was slowing down just in case anyone was behind me, they weren’t, so I stopped. At least in this lane nothing was going to happen.

I have observed the odd idiot driver who appeared to intentionally move towards a squirrel and witnessed the aftermath of an even bigger loser who drove so fast he plowed into a family of geese, killing one of the goslings. This, by the way, was despite three signs warning of geese crossing in the area. The behaviour afterward by the two adult geese, and one small sibling, confirmed my belief that they too feel the pain of loss.

goose-977304_1280Every week I see the bodies of animals that don’t make it. They are left to be a scavengers meal or perhaps picked up by someone who makes them disappear from our landscape. Both wildlife and humans are battling for space and nobody is really winning.

Humans and wildlife are in conflict all the time. With the constant development of roads and homes, displacement is a real threat to their existence. Setting aside the mass destruction that happens when rural land turns into commercial space let’s think about our own backyards and neighbourhoods.

We claim areas that were once wildly full of waist high grass, weeds, shrubs and trees, and make it into a human friendly space. That once natural habitat was home to wild birds and animals who expect to come back to the same space where they have rested, ate, mated, nurtured their young and engaged in all manner of wild but purposeful behaviour. But this is unacceptable to some humans and their response is…HOW DARE THEY!

How dare they come out from their dens with cubs in tow, to show their young this environment, to demonstrate natural behaviour that is integral to their survival like foraging for food or worse yet relieving themselves of that food!

How dare they fly around making noise, picking up our scraps, leaving a mess by digging in our manicured grass for leather jacket bugs and other lawn pests!

How dare they eat our fruit and berries that are usually too numerous for us to consume, or mess up our pretty flower beds!

How dare they come back for more even though we trained them to trust us by leaving out treats and/or meals for our own pets.

Yes, these are desperate times for wildlife. They need to go up in trees to escape the machinery below. Move further away to find food and shelter, risking an unfriendly welcome and possibly a daily battle with others seeking the same basic needs. Displacement isn’t easy for any species.

Some people will not co-exist with animals and for those that find it particularly difficult I have suggestions:

  1. Don’t try to handle these animal problems yourself by cruel means but instead hire a proper trapper and have them removed. Know, and I doubt you care, that they will likely be euthanized or put in an area where they will be unfamiliar and challenged for territory – which also can end in death.  You will likely have to repeat this process over and over again. Set aside money or start your own critter removal business.
  2. Accept some animals, birds and insects are going to invade your territory, (possibly once theirs) or migrate your way for reasons outside of their control. Choose carefully your next steps. A well-informed next step might be in best interests or conversely the wrong next step might be a reminder that karma is a bitch.
  3. Go live in a concrete juggle with pavement all around and move into a suite on one of the highest floors. From there you can look around and see the human species in their dens, foraging for food, teaching their young and on occasion even mating. You can hear noise from their cars, music and squawking or should I say talking. Know that you don’t have to deal with any pesky wildlife as long as you stay up in your ivory tower. Unless, of course, a poor bird happens to land on your railing or hit your clean glass window.


Disabled Refugees – How can we help?

I read an article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper by Tara Carmen,  Disabled refugees languish in new home. The story is about  two sisters from Syria who have a neurological condition that seriously affects mobility. They spend most of their days sitting on a carpet in an apartment  which is obviously not in their best interest both physically and mentally. Despite the best efforts of family, many challenges arise every day in order to support these young women. Where they are living and the cost to do so is not the best situation for anyone involved.

I knew that Canada would have difficulty meeting the needs of the Syrian refugees but this is a whole other level of difficulty. I have witnessed within my own family the amount of work it takes to access services for children with disabilities – as they grow so too does the need for special equipment. Many charitable organizations help families in our communities to meet some of those needs but it is never enough.

We can’t discriminate against persons with disabilities because Canada has to be prepared for a multitude of approved refugees. The question remains, “How prepared are we for those with physical and psychological challenges?”  It is hard to get appointments for specialists and therapist for Canadians so I’m curious as to how we will open up access for refugees.  Individuals, local community groups and government programs need to look realistically at where they are at and what they can honestly provide.

To refugees we are the land of opportunity, a safe haven and a country with plenty to go around but that is not the whole story. We have people here who have experienced trauma and can’t access help. We have new immigrants who still struggle with culture shock, motivation and an openness to learning. We have cut our funding to programs that taught English and have school districts that are overwhelmed by their existing students.

Let’s talk for a moment about what it might be like for a family that is new to our country. To be the father and husband that is no longer the bread-winner or a mother who doesn’t even know the first place to look for support for her children. From being possibly an educated person who is now told their credentials are meaningless. Think about what it would be like to know that the ideas you expressed, the tributes that you had and the accomplishments you cherished are no longer validated. All of this can take an emotional toll on refugees and immigrant families.

There is so much for refugees to comprehend in a short amount of time and for families who have a person with a disability to support there is even more to consider.

For these sisters it is very likely they feel a sense of relief to be away from the bombings and other threats to their life, but clearly they need to be in a better home that meets their personal needs. This is where we drop the ball. We have failed countless times to provide for those that truly need specialized housing and support and up to this point this situation is no different.

Yes, I believe our province has to step up and take care of its citizens who lives are challenged by disabilities as well as support refugees and immigrants. The question I always have though is, “How are we planning to execute and pay for this?”



Not So Green Vancouver

Vancouver’s excessive construction is not environmentally friendly. My husband and I were traveling along Granville Street in Vancouver and couldn’t believe how many homes were slated to be torn down. Street after street we witnessed signs for future construction or the beginning of site construction. They weren’t inhabitable homes. Some were houses were large, stately and would be a dream home for past families. However, the developers and/or buyers of these homes see things differently and their desires are not just effecting the City of Vancouver, but also many communities beyond the GVRD.

Politicians talk about Green Initiatives, each district comes up with plans for Going Green and kids are taught in school about the importance of Protecting the Environment. If we take off our green coloured glasses we will see what we really are and what we have always been is wasteful.

There is so much rubble that gets taken to the dump every time one of us decides to renovate or build our dream home. With every trip a truck takes to remove or bring materials more exhaust fills the air. Some of our homes may even have asbestos so where does that go? It gets wrapped and taken to a special landfill and buried in the EARTH.

We destroy ecosystems above and below just for the perfect square footage that will accommodate our ever-expanding needs. We have not been innovative enough to consider alternatives to such destruction and developers prefer dollar signs towering in front of them over trees. In my neighbourhood opposition to construction is evident. Signs have been erected on many front lawns with a message to developers, buyers, neighbours and the city – Big Trees NOT Big Homes.

From an interior design standpoint, Home and Garden Television has opened up viewers to what is possible to have in a home. It makes many people question why they don’t have the latest and greatest already. What I have noticed is that stainless steel appliances and granite or quartz countertops have become very popular. Where do they come from?

Stainless steel is the combination of many elements found and extracted from the EARTH. It goes through an extensive process and is transported great distances before it finds its way into our home. Granite and quartz are mined and manufactured too. When I hear people complaining about mines I wonder if they thought of that before they ordered the slab of granite for their kitchen?

As we construct homes with wood, bricks and mortar while buying more creature comforts and technical devices we are making an impact on the environment. All the shipping and receiving has huge implications.

Tree 1 []“We have to protect the environment for the sake of our kids future.”

Are these the same kids that sit in these large homes with a need for the newest gadget, iPad or iPhone? Are these the happy children engaged with their plastic, glass and steel products equipped with circuit boards. When I start to see more children playing outside and noticing their surroundings instead of heads staring down at a screen then maybe I will believe our earth will be safer in the future.

Caring for our environment goes beyond putting out green boxes for food waste or blue boxes for recycling. We fill the boxes we live in with all of the mined and grown stuff we can muster. Our need to build and move to larger boxes should be a good enough indication that it is in our nature to want more.

There are large numbers of individuals and communities that are not so eco-friendly and I just think we should be more honest about that.

Otter dies at Calgary Zoo due to human error

The Calgary Zoo is getting some press but not the kind of press it would like. An otter drowned after getting tangled in pants.

Some zoo staff thought the introduction of pants would be a stimulating activity for the otters but apparently they were a death trap. Zoo management is saying it was an “unauthorized enrichment activity” and those involved have been disciplined.

Let’s do a pretend show of hands… How many of you have seen otters in the wild play with pants?


This is what happens when humans place animals in captivity and try to create the illusion of a happy, content life. This isn’t the only death at the zoo. Bad things happen due to transport, feeding, environmental issues along with lapses in protocol.

I have no doubt that the staff involved feel bad and I like to think that anyone that chooses a career as a zookeeper believes they are doing great things. But, as long as the public pays to see cute critters on display some will die and its the reality of that business.

List of Animal Deaths at the Calgary Zoo

Let’s Talk About Mental Illness

Bell Let’s Talk is a campaign that seeks to “reduce stigma and promote awareness and understanding” about mental illness. I tweeted today in support of this cause because Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives for every tweet using the #BellLetsTalk.

As a friend, family or community member we find ways to support those who have cancer and many other conditions through donation, runs for the cure campaigns or something as easy as being a phone call away. When it comes to mental illness many people shy away from talking about it or feel uneducated and therefore don’t know how to approach supporting someone who is struggling with this health challenge.

It is time that we become more educated, myself included, if not for the sake of an individual we care about but for our society in general. Our lack of understanding of and funding for mental health negatively impacts our communities.

Here are some examples of how mental illness is impacting us all:

  1. People are dying at the hands of police because they didn’t know how to deal with a person who is suffering a mental breakdown. Agencies need to be more informed and any response to this type of crisis needs to be in the hands of trained individuals.
  2. Families are being torn apart and are left to make agonizing decisions in an attempt to support their loved one. They are mostly living in isolation because they fear what others will think, feel shame or receive blame. This is not the way to live.
  3. Schools have enough challenges in the classroom but trying to educate a child with mental health issues is a huge undertaking. How many children do you think fall through the cracks?
  4. Drug use and abuse is often seen in people who suffer from mental illness. Whether it’s to numb the pain, lessen the sound of voices or a means to feel good for awhile, it never ends well and everyone around that person pays dearly too.
  5. Prisons are full of those that could not or would not receive help. The fact is, if we don’t start to see the value in investing in in-patient, out-patient, group or individual care, we a doomed to be a society that deals with the problem when it is at its worst.
  6. Mental health impacts our workplaces. Have you witnessed a colleague who was struggling with depression, anxiety or other forms a mental distress? I know I have and it is truly sad to see a good person lose so much. As a career counsellor I have worked with more clients than I can count who have left their jobs due to mental health challenges. Setting aside for the moment the compassion one feels for the individuals there is a real cost to business and through insurance claims that can’t be discounted.
  7. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate or care whether you are rich or poor, female or male, famous or not. When I think of all the people who have bravely talked about their battle it is clear this condition has an ability to destroy a life or challenge someone to manage their life differently.

Bottom line: It is time to talk, contribute and find better ways to support those with mental illness! #BellLetsTalk

iStock_000000930817XSmallFor an additional resource check out:

Mental Health First Aid Canada

The night Paris was attacked

Friday night in Paris and the streets come alive with people enjoying a night with good drinks, a tasteful meal, a game of football and music to their ears. It is like any Friday night  where the intention is to enjoy the things that make people feel happy but this night would be different because Paris was attacked.

Bataclan Concert Hall, Le Carillon, Le Petit Cambodge, La Belle Equipe, Stade de France all became places where gunfire, bombs, screams and sirens replaced the joyous sounds of cheers, laughter and chatter. Many of these places, unknown to most of the world, would become etched into our minds and take their place in terrorism history.

I couldn’t help but think about the many times I have shared a Friday night with those I care about and how I never thought for one moment it would be my last. I transported myself from my warm and cozy home to envision families that sit in their homes receiving the call that will forever change their lives.

An invisible thread binds us all together across this planet. We share probably more in common with each other than not. With this in mind my sympathy travels to those who suffer in Paris. To the those that caused that suffering we will never think like you, live like you or die like you. However, you strengthen my resolve to keep my way of life wrapped in a blanket of democracy, freedom and love.

“Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for another.”

~ Arthur Conan Doyle ~






Can Canada truly help the Syrian refugees?

How can Canada help the Syrian refugees when we struggle to support many immigrants already residing here?

As the world watches the nightly news we continue to see the images of Syrian’s trying to escape the conflict and dire situations that have befallen them. Countries scramble to deal with masses of people attempting to cross their borders in an effort to seek help. It is a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.

Canada has been trying to speed up the processing of Syrian refugees as the demand for safe haven is great and Canadian compassion runs high. Our country must act while still meeting the security requirements that protects all of its citizens. Despite the measures we may take, I can’t help but wonder whether we are prepared for what lies ahead.

Each Province will need to provide orientation, housing, medical, physical, educational, transportation, legal, counselling, interpretation and employment needs. The health of each refugee will now be dependent on our collective ability to support. There is no doubt in my mind that already overburdened services will be asked to take on more with likely little increase to funding.

Let me share with you just a glimpse of what I see at our employment offices with respect to newcomers and/or immigrants.

Individuals who…

  1. Struggle to understand our culture and who often seek refuge within their own very tight communities
  2. Have difficulty learning or lack motivation to continue to learn the English language
  3. Have employment challenges due to the above plus an inability to find employers willing or able to choose them as candidates
  4. Are frequently dependent on community or Government agencies
  5. Expect that things would have been easier in Canada

If we want to help refugees we have look beyond the immediate crisis and address the long-term expectations for support. At the point of arrival they are now on a path to permanent residency so this is a huge commitment.

As far as I know, funding for ESL programs was cut last year in BC so is that going to change? How many times do we hear about the need for affordable housing so I’m wondering where a few thousand people are going to live? In the future, how many local businesses are prepared to supply a job with a good living wage to support a family? Do you trust, in our haste to open Canada, that our national and security interests have been protected?

Are refugees prepared for the substantial investment they will need to make in their own success?

——-Always thinking beyond feeling——-


The Refugee System in Canada

How Canada is helping Syrian and Iraqi Refugees

The Insidious Nature of Porn

It bothers me that porn finds its way into almost everything! Yes, I’m going to talk about porn.

I decided one day to look up some fashion pictures on Google images but what I learned very quickly is just one word could change what I was about to see. I won’t reveal what I typed but at the time it made perfect sense to me to type in what I did to see if items matched together as an outfit. Amongst only a few scattered legitimate images that reflected my query were a whole host of nude images of women.

A person I know that is a computer technician explained to me that this can happen quite innocently in multiple photo related sites. We are all just one search word away from porn. It was also noted that quite possibly the next time you decide to type in a similar query even more images will populate the page. I guess it anticipates that you are interested in such things so why not provide more.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t know this was possible to stumble upon pornography but I was surprised that one misstep could cause me to be assaulted on such a mass scale. Yes, I have the ability to place security measures in place for viewing but up to this point I never felt the need.

How many other industries that have a questionable reputation are given freedom to blanket our pages with their product? Think of an industry that might cause people to be critical of its existence – like maybe tobacco or big game hunting or anything that gets people riled up. Then ask yourself if it was as easy to be bombarded by their images or advertising as you type on your computer? Certainly not in the same way porn has ‘positioned’ themselves.

The Internet may remain open to everything and users may be protective over their right to view anything but don’t kid yourself. Besides data brokers and hackers there is someone else watching you and that is the porn industry. They want the addiction to spread and they are willing to embed their product anywhere and everywhere.

It is designed for consumer manipulation and to draw people towards its use like a drug but I’m not buying it. I resent having my fun activity of researching fashion to be turned into an exercise in strategic key word searching in order to avoid porn’s sly tactics. Sick of it! Truly sick of it!





A Cigarette Smoking Environmentalist

My husband and I went out for drive on a beautiful hot summer day to Blaine, Washington. We stopped at a stop light and I couldn’t help but notice the bumper stickers on the car in front of me. The stickers read like this:

Tree Hugger Dirt Worshipper

Coltrane not coal trains

Corporations are not the people

How environmentally friendly are you when you are driving around spewing exhaust AND cigarette smoke into the air? I guess it didn’t occur to this person that automobiles are designed and manufactured by corporations. Maybe she forgot that cigarettes are made by very powerful tobacco companies. It might be important for her to look up the many ways the United States is dependent on coal. One thing she might appreciate is its use for generating electricity but I’m only guessing.

Hypocrisy – It can pop up anywhere.