Category Archives: Social Commentary

Social commentary

Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Happy International Women’s Day! The significance of International Women’s Day may be different depending on where you live, how old you are and how you are treated but its value is not diminished.

According to the Oxford Dictionary EQUALITY is, The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.”

Do you feel that as a woman you have attained equality? OR If you are a man reading this blog post, Do you think that the women and girls in your life have equal status, rights and opportunities?

It is because of the obstacles still positioned in front of women that such an event becomes important. History – as we are taught – has not been very good at recording the stories of women. Their role in the development of our countries has been largely ignored. With this in mind, the organization of women has become necessary since the early 1900’s.

We do have so much to celebrate in life but this is one day when women can feel less alone with their challenges. It is good to honor each other and those that came before us.

There was a time when a women’s appearance in a public space was mostly limited to being on the arm of her man. Oh, have the times changed.

There are those that will question why we would need to gather and celebrate women.

It is because their achievements – despite what has been stacked against them – need validation. It is because the faces we see today may inspire the next generation of women to reach their full potential. The testimony we hear today may shape tomorrows laws. There can be one defining moment in a girls or woman’s life when she feels most powerful and it might be TODAY that such an experience occurs.


Status of Women Canada

Women’s March 2017 – Wisdom needs a voice

Women’s March 2017 – Wisdom needs a voice

Women – and men who share the vision – are united today.

Women march to enhance and protect women’s freedom.

To remind those that think they are better or more connected to a higher power than women… You Are Wrong.

Because the road to anything that is worth having or protecting is better traveled together.

Because wisdom needs a voice and time has not healed all wounds.

To inject hope into the lives of sisters across this planet.

They have marched for generations because they had no choice.

A Random Act of Violence vs. The Deliberate Act to Share Violence Live

On Tuesday, November 1, 2016 a young Abbotsford, BC school girl is stabbed in a random act of violence. She died. Another girl was injured and taken to hospital where her family and strangers continued to pull for her recovery. Authorities report that this was a random act of violence perpetrated by a young man who by all accounts is suffering from a severe mental breakdown.

While the attack took place another student grabbed their phone and captured  the mayhem on video and what is likely to be the last moments of another human beings life . Within seconds a button was pushed and that horrific act of violence was uploaded to social media.

From behind a screen crimes are recorded without the viewer taking a second thought about their choice to stand idly by filming. These types of people are removed from the subject matter personally and engaged technically. The use of phones for this particular purpose has taken the device from being an instrument of distraction to a weapon of mass desensitization and destruction.

To film such events, no matter your age, and upload it to social media is despicable and an admission of ill-intent. The intention was not to document the act for purposes of sharing evidence with police but instead to be the first to upload the images to an awaiting curious and quite possibly perverted public. As the images circulate so to do the comments – stirring up a frenzy of negative energy. For the record I have not seen the video.

This is not a case of citizen journalism and in my opinion the news media that chose to air the video were wrong to do so. The community was not under threat, the suspect had been apprehended and the nature of the video doesn’t shed any more light on the issue of mental health than any other example of violence. How the video is obtained, by whom, and the impact it would have on family should have been given more consideration.

student-1397451_1280This random act of violence is truly tragic but the deliberate act to share that violence live is unconscionable.

Yes, there are larger issues that must be considered but how to set the tone for discourse and successful interventions will not be made easier when we reward those who expose such material solely because they can.

For me,

I want to understand how the student who filmed the violence came to lack decency and compassion.

I want to know if the person who committed the crime had a documented illness that was untreated and why? and What are we going to do about it?

I want to know why we say our kids our mature enough to watch so much violence via media but then turn around and say they lack the maturity to make better choices when they participate directly in violence or indirectly as an active witness?

Most of all I want to extend my condolences to the families of everyone involved and the community of Abbotsford, which I know so well.

Disability Parking and Intolerance

My sister and niece had arrived from out-of-town to spend two days at Ronald McDonald House and then enjoy a Thanksgiving weekend with family.

We decided it was time to do something fun – something we don’t get to do very often together – and that’s go shopping. We drove to one of our favourite stores at the Southpoint Exchange Mall and looked for an available handicap parking spot. After finding none available, we had to double-park.

Immediately, we received dirty looks from an older couple who were just pulling up to park in a stall in front of her. I figured they must not have seen the handicap sign hanging but my sister said, “I get those looks all the time.”

We proceeded to open the sliding side door in order to get the ramp down for my niece to exit in her wheelchair. She is totally dependent on her mother and it is not an easy process to unhook the chair, fold down the ramp and organize all the items that travel with her. Even after seeing what we were doing, the couple stared as if they were the parking police and then walked away.

After enjoying a nice time in the store we came back to a note on the driver side door that said, “Nice parking selfish.” I couldn’t believe it, but my sister could. She has experienced this time and time again.


Despite a handicap sign clearly visible, people seem to jump to conclusions that this is just a selfish person taking up two parking spots.

Well, she is not a selfish person; she is a person who is constantly problem solving and adapting to her surroundings. If anyone is guilty of lacking consideration for others it is the mall for not providing adequate parking for persons with disabilities.

As my sister pointed out, this isn’t a low-mobility issue where one could park in a stall one or two over from handicap parking, open their door and walk – albeit maybe in some discomfort – to the doors of a store. When no handicap parking spot is available, she has no other option but to provide the space necessary to safely deploy the ramp.

To those who stare and who leave nasty notes, I say shame on you! You don’t have all the facts and have no idea what it is like to consider your every move based on accessibility.

My niece might not be able to communicate verbally, but she knows what her mother goes through. An insensitive and intolerant world is not what I want her to encounter as she grows older.


This was also published in a local paper under Letters to the Editor. My intention in writing this was to provide a reminder about the attitudes and challenges faced by persons with disabilities, parents of children with special needs and the impact it has on their families. I would also like to acknowledge all those who provide support and work tirelessly as advocates. The following are links to some of those services:


British Columbia Support and Services Directory

Ronald McDonald House

BC Children’s Hospital

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

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