Category Archives: news

Suspicious Minds

You know that the world’s going to Hades in a hand basket when a sad story, such as the one broadcast all over mainstream media today, leaves people feeling so mixed up. Or is it just me? A woman in Nova Scotia drowned a couple of kittens last summer and got fined $5.00 for it in court today. Yeah, yeah…this initial ‘teaser’ lead bit on the radio leaves you thinking…”You crazy, sadistic b..tch! They should drown YOU”. Then, you hear the sad flip-side of the story; she fed a stray cat, fed it some more (The Cat Came Back is the song that comes to mind- Harry S. Miller 1893), and bing, bang…she’s got one cat+2 kittens… She’s poor, can’t get help from her town’s officials, and decides to euthanize the kitties in a bucket. Groan. Of course, Suspicious Minds (written by Memphis songwriter, Mark James and the last #1 hit for Elvis Presley in 1969- his last) like mine ask, ‘What cat has only two kittens’!? Maybe she lied about THAT too…and actually drowned a litter of 14. Not that it matters much, they’re all dead, regardless. But NOW, the SPCA is crying foul. They want “BIG FINES AND JAIL TIME”! said their head mouthpiece with emotion. My question? Where were you guys when this nutty, albeit well intentioned stray-cat-feeding woman was busy phoning around, trying to find someone to off the felines? Sure, “dangerous precedents are being set”, yada, yada, but NOW you’re worried that everyone is going to think it’s OK to euthanize Fluffo ’cause it’ll only cost five bucks instead of the usual $179.00 at the vet? Sigh. Then, the legal beagle for this woman (gotta be legal aid lawyer) said a bunch of really stupid things (he compared his client’s action against that of the person “who hanged that dog in Point Pleasant Park” …I can do without hearing that sort of thing). It did not endear me to the situation or to this woman…still…she’s poor…she loves the animals…a regular Doctor Doolittle ….who simply done too much. “We’re caught in a trap….”

Wise Advice for RCMP


That’s right. I just had to step out of my incognito state. I’ve been away, not dead! Give me a break RCMP! Mr. Robert Dziekanski is dead, however, thanks to a bunch (one in particular) of Tazer-trigger happy goofs (oops, I mean officers) who zapped the life out of this poor Polish guy who simply had the bad luck to choose the Vancouver airport to land in on his first visit to Canadian soil. I guess he never got to the ‘soil’ part of Canada. He was too busy wandering aimlessly for a zillion hours, lost, tired, jet-lagged, jonsing for a smoke, in a bloody nightmare welcome to the land-‘O-moose- on-a- postcard, imitation- maple- syrup- products-come-Duty Free shops and baggage carousels, trying to get ANYBODY to speak to him in his own language in an INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT! His big mistake was picking up that most dangerous of weapons, the dreaded ‘stapler’. Yeah right, coppers, take down this exhausted guy who’s been on a plane for 15 hours and in an airport twilight zone for 18 hours with FIVE TAZER BLASTS! Then, goof around some more (make sure he’s REALLY dead, eh?) while you all try to decide what to say to the boss (that would be the RCMP big cheeses?… then a public Inquiry)…oh, I guess the whole damn country wants to know now, huh? Who would have thought that it would get all blown out of proportion like this?! I bet that’s gonna put a crimp in your Easter holidays. Ah, shucks fellows. You forgot to watch out for the babe walking by with her dreaded cell phone/video camera! May you (especially you, Millington) all get nailed to some big internal cross of conscience come this Easter time as you celebrate the christian tradition. Frankly, I’m not into that ‘jesus rises’ stuff, being a broad-minded, liberal thinking UU and all…but I still like the chocolate. Sigh. I guess I’m back from Hiatus

From Rant to Rescue…to Remembering

I was about to blog a rant, entitled, “Canadian Tire is Uninspired”… (a rhyming title and a rant to boot). Actually, it was going to be a rant ABOUT boots, or the lack of the allegedly “on sale” boots that appeared in the  Canadian Tire flyer this week. With aching feet,  bad boots in my closet,  and a Canadian Tire gift certificate to put towards anything my heart desires, I thought my problem was near resolution. Yes, I would head into the Christmas shopping fray at CT and buy those puppies for my sore dogs. My sweetie, ever the pragmatist (and maybe not so willing to go into the fray with me), suggested that I check their web site or call ahead to check on availability of my size. ‘Good idea’, I concurred. I entered the item code number into the Canadian Tire web site and yielded nothing except messages to ‘contact store for more information’.  Then I dialed and dialed my phone some more, waiting on hold forever and finally talking to frantic staff people immersed in bedlam over in the Canadian Tire stores throughout Halifax. I thought one guy at the Spryfield Canadian Tire was having a breakdown. Lucky for me I have ‘Crisis phone line’ training and could talk him down from his  counter top. Two hours later, I was back on the phone with the sweetie to announce  “Canadian Tire is lying to me. There is not one store location in town with ANY of those boots in any size. They never had them to begin with. Those shysters just want us to get us into the store to impulse shop…’cause they know we would. What happened to the Canadian institution of my childhood? The one with the catalogues (just the right size)  I would strap to my knees in lieu of real hockey pads ’cause we couldn’t afford the ones they sold in their store? (catalogue about to axed from publication) The ones who gave you Canadian Tire ‘money’ with every cash purchase? (about to be relegated to memorabilia collections too).” Sigh. The boot search continues.

I never got to that sole rant of a blog. Why? This morning I got the Warm ‘n Fuzzy Christmas feeling, not from any success in my search for affordable boots, but from two news items I heard on CBC radio. Very simple. First, a  rescue dog called Ace, found a Hamilton woman, lost for THREE days,  buried in in a pile of snow, ALIVE.  She should have been dead. CBC found the story and put the ‘miracle’ tag on, just in the Saint Nick of time. Good job, Ace! 

This was followed by a moving tribute (given by Jane Kansas) about  a local homeless man, ‘Terry’ who died over the weekend at age 65. He was a colourful Halifax fixture, know as an eccentric, often irritatingly in-your-face kinda guy who could cry crocodile tears on cue if you were ‘nice’ to him, or dismiss you if you had no money or smokes to offer.   The man was an alcoholic and suffered from schizophrenia. He wore dapper suits and sports jackets to panhandle, albeit dirty ones. His death is not the happy note here. The fact that his tribute made it to mainstream media IS. This guy’s passing  could easily have gone unnoticed. If we can’t take care of our unfortunate citizens, we can at least mark their passing.

Yesterday, a memorial service was held at St. Georges Round Church to honour the lives of people who have lived and died homeless and in poverty.  Perhaps more people could make it a point to attend this yearly service in future.

Take it all the way to the Bank

Sometimes, it pays to persevere. For years, I and other individuals have requested, pleaded with, and even demanded that the Halifax Shopping Center branch of  RBC (formerly known as Royal Bank of Canada) install an audible  banking machine. This branch has gone through several managers over the years, and all were less than responsive to the suggestion that accessibility  in banking would be “a good thing” (to borrow a line from Martha Stewart). The branch  went through a major retrofit last year, (INCLUDING INSTALLATION OF A NEW BANKING MACHINE), and despite reminders to the deadheads in charge of the dough (AKA the last manager) to order and include an audible machine, the branch ended up putting in a new, regular INACCESSIBLE machine. People who can’t see the keypad and display, cannot use it for quick, everyday banking, like other bank patrons. Instead, our options included going to the stand-up tellers while trying to juggle papers, guide dogs and privacy, or the grim death march-like wait with the ‘seniors’ at the sit-down service. The latter is the default choice of most blind people who bank alone.  Many a time, I have sat…and sat, and waited for my turn to come. It  irritated me beyond belief to wait endlessly for the privilege of depositing money into the coffers of an already obscenely profitable bank. Tic-toc! My time is valuable too! And to boot, any blind person in need of cash or depositing funds to cover bills etc after banking hours? was screwed! So one day, as I sat vacantly at  the ‘sit down’ service,  eavesdropping on some old geek’s long winded  financial and personal history (in excruciating minutia) , the new branch manager came over to introduce herself. A big sigh went off  in my head, but a cordial greeting coming out my mouth…and within  two minutes, I redirected the conversation. I asked her if  we might open  the dialogue about accessibility problems with this RBC branch one more time.   Result?  Darlene, the new manager, just telephoned  to announce  (a mere three weeks or so after  I sent her a detailed e-mail  about  accessibility, Accommodation, rights and obligations blah, blah, blah), that the RBC Halifax Shopping Center branch will, by April, install AT LEAST THREE AUDIBLE BANKING MACHINES AT THE BRANCH ITSELF AND WITHIN THE MALL!

Now, I can  look forward to cruising  over to the mall at any time,  and being able to go the bank machine (the audible ones) , slip on my headphones, plug in, and listen to ‘bank guy’s’ voice croon his instructions to me, thereby allowing me to conduct transactions quickly….such as depositing my money…. into the coffers of an obscenely profitable bank. Nice going, though,  RBC. 

One Seat, One Fare…Many Victorious

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected an application by Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, and Westjet for permission to appeal the new policy imposed by the Canadian Transportation Agency in January of this year.  The CTA  had issued an order to the airlines to adopt a policy of ‘one person, one fare’. In the past, passengers with disabilities and those that are deemed disabled because of obesity, could sometimes be charged two  fares if they required extra space to accommodate their wheelchair, stretcher, or if they required two seats because of their size or if someone required an attendant.  The airlines argued that the CTA order would cause “undue hardship” (implementing this directive would be too costly…the CTA did not buy it and suggested that costs would be recouped by charging an additional 79 cents per ticket).  The airlines will no longer be allowed to charge a second fare to accommodate anyone who requires two seats because of a disability or obesity. This only applies to flights within Canada.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians president, Robin East, won a  victory complimentary to the “one seat, one fare” decision in a CTA ruling against Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz in June of 2008.  I know this man. He stands over 6 feet 2 inches tall. He travels a great deal…with his guide dog. He explained to me that sometimes, the airlines (Specifically Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz) would not provide him with adequate space for his guide dog when he traveled. (Airlines would  provide an extra seat (or bulkhead seating on Westjet) as a courtesy, only when the flight was not sold out. (I have flown at least once on all three airlines with Opal. Twice I got the extra seat, once I did not. The time I did not? Not too comfy for us…and I’m 5’2″)  Often, Robin would end up scrunched into a center section seat with his dog wedged between his legs, sometimes for hours. This is a horrendous hardship on the dog, the handler and the adjacent passengers don’t care for it much either).  As a result of the ruling, these airlines must now provide sufficient  floor space for registered service dogs who fly with their handlers (within Canada) on all aircraft that have over 30 seats.

Unwedded Unbliss

California voters were swept up by the strong, religious conservative lobby to ban same sex marriages in the recent  American election campaign.  The result? In California, Proposition 8 repealed the right which gay couples won last June, and passed  by a 52% margin on Election Tuesday.  ‘Project Marriage’  was managed by Frank Schubert and was the force which led the Proposition 8 attack. It was backed by huge amounts of  money (Schubert raised 5 million in 5 days) from a united religious alliance of Catholics, Mormons and other predominately white, Evangelical groups.  Same-sex marriage supporters were hurt by the heavy turnout of Black  and Hispanic Obama drawn to Obama’s candidacy. President-elect Obama opposes gay marriage.  I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too, though it seems to me, that the whole point of having cake, IS to eat it. California will now join the thirty other states banning same-sex marriage. Gay marriages  are only legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut. New York and Rhode Island will continue to recognize ceremonies performed elsewhere (“Not in my backyard” philosophy?)

I’m not sure why so many people have put so much effort and money into denying gay couples the  right to marry.  Many of them (like Hilary Clinton, Obama, and others) are quick to claim support for same-sex UNIONS, but cave to the Religious American Conservative Right when it comes to supporting the right for gay couples to marry.  There is something deeper going on here which I’m not sure I really want to think about too much.  Frankly, all I can say to those sisters and brothers in the United States who are in this sad  state of Unwedded Unbliss, is: Keep the faith (not the one dressed up as the Religious Right) and carry on with the fight…or come to Canada.

Halifax City Council Jumps…to the tune of 1.2 Million

I am fascinated with how things get done here in Halifax through Council. I am equally interested in what does NOT get done. Our transit system for example, just scored 1.2 million dollars from HRM City council. How so and what for, you ask? The money is for a ‘security camera system’ on transit buses and ferries. It arose after a number of drivers were ‘attacked’ while on the job and the subsequent outcry from their union, as well as the press around it. I think the media attention on this whole thing is what really propelled HRM Council to move the money through to Metro Transit like greased lightning. After all, the city does not want  to appear negligent or uncaring about the safety of bus drivers. The teary radio interviews (I bet TV stuff was even more melodramatic) with the female compadres of the driver who was attacked,  really cinched it. I don’t  have any objection to driver- safety initiatives or union representation. The problem is, the idea of  cameras on buses for protection, is silly. My informal survey of female drivers has found that they don’t think security cameras  on buses will be effective in keeping them safe from the truly crazy, drunk and doped-up nuts who are the most likely to go spontaneously  berserk and attack them.  These types of live-wire attackers will not pause and reflect on the presence of a camera over their heads before they punch out a driver for not accepting their transfer or refusing to ‘make out’ with them.  It could be that grainy images of an attack, after the fact, will be moderately helpful in getting a conviction in court or  compensation  from the maimed driver’s employer (HRM).

My complaint is that our transit system gets funded, under funded, or not funded at all, in a way that is a  knee-jerk reaction to situations, trends  or public pressure. Spending seems to be totally unprioritized. We STILL, after one year of testing,  do not have a functioning ‘real time go-time’ service.  I can’t recall the price tag on that, project,  but whatever it was, it was huge. It should be given priority to get it WORKING at all costs, over some of  other recent add-on expenditures, like security cameras.  For example the city also purchased  some hybrid diesel  Transit buses last year  because of the push from the HRM’s official environmental geeks (I am a non-official geek supporter). They moved so quickly to tender the purchase of the buses,  that they scored vehicles  which apparently have proven to be defective.  I hear they are going back to the seller. We have no critically-needed voice enunciator system in Halifax,  and apparently no plan to find money for it any time soon. The list goes on.