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
Ladies and Gentlemen, service dog handlers, dog lovers, friends and readers; I am pleased and proud to announce that HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality) has approved funding (via a recommendation from the HRM Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities) in the amount of $20,000. towards the creation of an off leash dog park which service dogs and their handlers will have priority use of. What does this mean? Guide dogs, hearing dogs, special skills dogs, other service dogs and their mums and dads will have a safe, fenced place to go and exercise OFF LEASH. An existing site, already partially fenced has been secured. The funding will allow for total fencing, clearing of the area, addition of some seating and refuse bins and posting signs. The location is more than suitable, with bus and ferry service routes nearby. Service dog handlers who require parking will be accommodated as well. Use is not exclusive to service dogs, however signs will indicated that pet dog owners must vacate when a service dog handler wants to use it. A public awareness and education campaign will hopefully ensure that this is a workable stipulation. The parks department will take care of maintenance.
I have worked on this proposal through its various incarnations over the last two years that I have been on the ACPD, and more so in recent months as the committee’s chairperson. When this dog park is finally established, it will be a first in Canada. We are the city to watch. We will be the model for all other initiatives seeking to establish similar facilities in Canadian cities.
When I finally pronounced the outcome of the motion today, Opal rose and stretched. Sure, I know that she was bored, but I like to think that she was showing a little interest. I KNOW she will when I take her to the dog park next year (hopefully fully functional by then) and let her free run. She will go foolish!
Eighty years ago today, women in Canada became “persons under the law”. Canadians Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Laura Crummy McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards, and Irene Parlby (know first as the Alberta Five, then the Famous Five), fought for the recognition of women as persons under the British North America Act. The ground breaking ‘Persons Case’ was brought before the supreme Court of Canada in 1927, and decided by the Judicial Council of Britain’s Privy Council in 1929, Canada’s highest court at the time. The Persons Case remains their most significant achievement, though the Famous Five dedicated their lives to improving their communities in immeasurable ways. They have come to represent an entire generation’s political activism, including an earlier national campaign for women’s suffrage. More recently, the Person’s Case has generated controversy. Some see the Famous Five as a symbol of women’s political rebellion and progress, and human rights in general. Others have criticized some members of the group as racist and elitist, somewhat tarnished by their connection to the eugenics movement. Reaction to the Famous Five have varied widely, but undoubtedly, they are recognized as significant figures in the Canadian Women’s movement. A bronze statue of the Five, entitled “Women are Persons!” was created by Edmonton artist, Barbara Paterson in 1999 and unveiled and dedicated on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2000.
I have been very hyped about this election. Why? I have chomped at the bit in anticipation of dramatically and meaningfully casting my inaccessible ballot at the polling station. Let me remind you about the core elements of a democratic vote; secret, independent and verifiable. I have gone on and on, to EVERYONE who will listen and to some who won’t, about the importance of these elements, the sanctity of the electoral process, and how I am denied this right by virtue of inaction on the part of Elections Canada. I am blind, as are hundreds of thousands of other voters. We do not have electronic voting in Canada. We do not have telephone voting. We do not have voting machines at the polls. We do not have Braille ballots. I thought that today I would be pumped and ready to let loose my schpeel at the Presbyterian church where I would be voting. I ran through my dialogue, my diatribe, my kvetching complaint, like a Shakespearean actor preparing for Stratford.
Here’s what really happened. I made it to the church, and found myself outside with a woman in a wheelchair attempting to open a monstrously large door (no automatic opener). I opened it for her, but it was not wide enough. A worker from the poll came and helped to open another door. I commented wryly about Elections Canada and their accessible voting sites. She commiserated. By this point, I had, for some reason, already lost my oomph. Maybe it’s the time of year, or ‘my time of the month’. Some one came over as Opal and I walked into the large church basement. The usual useless pointing and “over there” was followed by an arm-grab which I yanked away. Someone else gave sensible directions to the table I needed. My ID was requested and checked. I did NOT give a long-winded lecture on the difficulty blind people have in meeting ID requirements, given that we don’t have driver’s license and many of us have no passport. Some of us choose not to have or use a charitable ID (CNIB) for reasons which are too numerous and complicated for this blog. I provided my stunning photo ID cards which have a photo of Opal and me posing together (CGDB and the Attorney General of Ontario), but my Guide dog ID cards do not have my address on them, so I added a phone bill. I had considered bringing a Braille bill, but I did not want to be turned away. At this point, the DRO asked if I wanted a Braille template. My interest peaked, as I thought I had discussed this ad nauseum with Silvestre from elections Canada and had confirmed there would be no Braille on the ballot, and to expect the usual flaky template. Now I had no idea what they were offering me. I asked (just to confuse them) if it was contracted or uncontracted Braille. The had no clue, so I let them off the hook and told them that I knew both, so it did’nt matter. The DRO put the ballot into the ‘Braille template’ and then came the offer to “come into the voting area with you”. I said I would pass, given that I had this allegedly accessible Braille template in my hand. Opal and I parked ourselves behind the privacy screen at a little table. I started to read the template. Numbers. Just numbers! I called out, “um, there’s no names here, just numbers”. The old lady who had grabbed me when I came in, offered to read the names to me. I said that would not do. The DRO guy came over and offered to read them “as they appear in sequence. then you pick the braille number”, he said with full expectation that somehow this would be acceptable to me. I had PLANNED to make a big ‘to-do’, maybe proclaim myself the Rosa Parks of the voting blind, given that I am repeatedly told that blind people ‘have found this acceptable for years’. Instead, I told him “no thanks”, and ” if I can’t read it for myself”…( in a country where government material must be provided in alternate formats by law), “I’ll have to spoil my ballot”. He apologised (as everyone always does). I scrawled multiple X’s in allthe holes in my template and ballot and handed it to the old lady. She wisely did not attempt to go into the insufferably patronizing routine of allowing me to put it in the box, but quickly disposed of it, stuffing it into the ballot box herself. I walked out, declining someone’s eager offer for me to use the elevator, saying, “my legs are fine, we’ll use the stairs”. I left deflated. I did not call the media, or my party delegate, or the PM (who doesn’t give a flying f…k anyway), or the queen, or Silvestre at Elections Canada (who I’m guessing was pretty busy today). Instead, I went for my routine blood work and called it a day. I wish I was one of those clever musicians, ’cause I’d be writing a tune tonight…’Voting Day Blues’.
STOP PRESS!!! Megan Leslie, newbie NDP canditate and personal acquaiantance declared winner of Halifax riding! Go get em in Ottawa, kid…and remember your roots…and your blind friends…
Ron Sexmith popularised this tune written by Mark Erelli. Today, DW and JM performed it during our (Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax) service. Maybe it’s not ‘traditional’ church music, but if you’re a UU? …well, it works for us. When I learned that today’s service was to be “Pride Sunday”, I groaned inwardly. Didn’t we just get done with Pride Week in Halifax? I asked myself. Isn’t it enough that at the beginning of each UU service, the service leader reads the following: “We are a community which nurtures personal growth, practices inclusiveness, celebrates diversity and affirms individual and collective commitment to community service and social justice” ? I arrived at my church physically tired and mentally weary after a long night of ‘discussion’ with my significant other about the state of our relationship. Sigh. By the time the service began, I was programmed to being cranky and resistant to the presentation. My determination to be bored didn’t ‘take’ . Was it the lyrics to ‘God loves Everyone’? ….“There are no gates in heaven, Everyone gets in, Queer or straight, Souls of every faith. Hell is in our minds, Hell is in this life, But when its gone, God takes everyone….” Can you imagine the wincing and squirming fundamentalist-types would do if they heard these lyrics in THEIR church? The narrow-minded lot who preach homosexuality as ‘sin’ would trip over themselves trying to escape such a scene. But UU’s? Some smiled, some wept (like me) in the clutches of memories of a world that can be ungracious to the its citizens and unaccepting of human NATURE. There has always been and will be, an estimated 10 to 15% of the world’s population who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or ‘other’. It boggles the mind why so many ‘people of faith’ have expended so much determined energy to ‘change’ this reality. What is accomplished by persecuting/criminalizing/alienating/discriminating against non-heterosexuals? Surely it’s not the procreation argument for the ‘unbabies’ that DON’T get cranked out and added to a planet already groaning from overpopulation? That’s a stale, homophobic argument that’s just as irrational as wanting to rid the world of potential child molesters (child molesters and rapists are predominately straight men) . That some countries continue to execute ‘homosexuals’ is, at the very least, sad and more accurately, an atrocious act. How grateful I am that my country (Canada) has entrenched the rights of its citizens protecting them (in theory) from discrimination based on sexual preference. How happy I am that my church performs a myriad of weddings for ALL couples, and that their union is recognized as LEGAL in my country. Former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, is the guy who said “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation”... he got that right.