Our national parks – Credit cards or don’t go there

While on our honeymoon in beautiful Ucluelet, B.C. Claire and I thought we’d do a bit of hiking in the nearby National Park called the Pacific Rim National Park. Claire and I are both Canadians, born and raised so to speak, but not particularly the athletic types. Okay, long walks are alright, and occassionally straight up a hill, but not all the time. I say this to observe that we are what I would describe as average walkers, just wanting to drive to the park and walk around a little.
I’ve wandered off a bit in the story, so let me say that we hop in the car and drive to the park, a few clicks down the road. We pass a sort of administration building, but it appears to be closed, and there’s no sign to suggest that we should stop there. We get to the parking lot where a short hike is alleged to be available, and there…. well… there’s where the problem starts. On pulling into the lot, there is a sign directing us to buy a ticket. I think it’s about $8.00 each. That’s okay, not going to break the bank or anything, and I’ve got the cash to pay it. But…. (yeah, there’s usually a … but … in there or I wouldn’t be writing the article” you have to have a credit card. No, not a debit card, not cash, but a credit card. The machine will only take a credit card. Respectfully, as North Americans, there’s too much reliance on credit, and we just got a good look at what excessive reliance on credit does with the crash the U.S. suffered, and our National Park requires it? I do have a credit card, but I don’t take it everywhere with me, and I didn’t have it with me, and frankly would have been annoyed at having to use it. What’s wrong with cash? Vending machines take it. What’s wrong with debit? Just about everything takes that. My credit card, no, it’s back in our room. We left.

Royal Bank of Canada Customer Service – A new corporate priority


Hmm, after a near 40 year relationship with the Royal Bank of Canada, I receive a letter from them saying (short version) a banking relationship requires trust on both sides, and we no longer feel that trust both ways. They cancel all my accounts and credit.
I’ve never, to the best of my knowledge, done anything inappropriate in my banking. This letter comes out of the blue, with no prior issues of any kind with the Royal Bank of Canada or any other bank. As one can expect, I write to them, and ask them why they take such a view. What pray tell is their reply?    It is …… we don’t have to tell you…. yep…. we don’t have to tell you. Sure, I allow that as a matter of law they don’t have to tell me, but as a matter of basic human conduct it’s the decent thing to do. It’s been almost 40 years! I recall as a little boy taking my piggy bank there with my parents and grandparents to open my first bank account. I was so very proud as a little fellow. I didn’t hold it against them when they commingled my account with my dad’s account, even though our names are spelled quite differently. I had dealt with them for my entire life. I write to them and tell them that we’ve dealt with each other for life, and that a basic courtesy is to tell me why they no longer wish to do business, and why they don’t they want to maintain that relationship, and their reply is in the nature of . … we don’t have to tell you. I go to the banking ombudsman, again looking only for a reason for this decision, and get the same reply … They don’t have to tell you. I can allow that this is so. Fair enough as a matter of law you don’t have to tell anyone what your reason is for any business action, but as a matter of practise, well, I would have thought after 40 years you’d have the courtesy to at least be fair, which includes being up front about what your issue is. nice job guys. RBC sucks.

A small victory in the tragic murder of Robert Dziekanski

A fellow by the name of Robert Dziekanski was coming to Canada to join his mother, who already lived here. It would seem that he was irritable on arriving, perhaps after having flown half way around the world. He was approached by four police officers, and within moments was dead on the floor. He was tasered, and tasered, and tasered, and tasered some more. He was tasered standing up, tasered laying down, and tasered until he was dead. Today, I read in the news “The RCMP officer who stunned Robert Dziekanski with a Taser at Vancouver’s airport lied at a public inquiry into the Polish immigrant’s death, a judge ruled Friday.
Const. Kwesi Millington fired his Taser multiple times after he and three other officers were summoned to Vancouver’s airport in October 2007. Dziekanski, who spoke no English, had been throwing furniture in the international terminal.”. You can read the full article at
Three others are still facing this matter, incluing Benjamin (Monty) Robinson who is still waiting for a verdict from the judge who heard his trial, and Const. Gerry Rundel, who is in the midst of trial as we speak. One other was acquited, Mr. Bill Bentley, though Crown is appealing that acquital.
It took years to get this far, but today there was a small step in righting the wrong that was done to Mr. Dziekanski and to his mother and to our society.
(Update – Monty Robinson was convicted on March 20, 2015. Gerry Rundel was acquited on April 30, 2015. Bill Bentley was acquited and after the matter appeared in front of the Court of Appeal  Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie wrote the decision of the 3 person court approving the acquital. Monty Robinson was sentenced to two years less a day (a sentence that would place him in the provincial jail system) on July 24, 2015 but appealed that conviction on the same day).

* update His appeal of his conviction was dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal on January 11, 2017, with 2 judges of that court confirming the conviction and one dissenting.

Update July 14, 2016:Kwesi Millington was convicted of perjury, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. That puts him in a federal institution. He appealed that conviction, but his appeal was dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal. Castanet covered the story here: http://www.castanet.net/edition/news-story-170723-3-.htm#170723
Interestingly, Kwesi takes a much different view, saying on his own website: “However, in 2011, I was charged with a crime that I did not commit.”. I say interesting because Kwesi manages to skip over the fact that he was found guilty, not just charged, and was subsequently sentenced for the offence. That’s a far cry from “charged”.

Update July 17, 2018:  Kwesi Millington is not one to lay down.  He  appealed his 30 month sentence as well (that’s a sentence that places him in a federal institution), though in July of 2018 abandoned that appeal as reported by the CBC.

Frank Paul, a chance to make a difference

Picture the actions of a civil servant, a collection of civil servants in fact, that fail to protect the very public they are charged with protecting.   Actions that have the effect of hunkering down and protecting the status quo from an early start.   I draw to your attention the near murder of Frank Paul.

Frank was an alcoholic.  Frank was a mess most of the time it would seem.  He’d get messed up, sleep where he shouldn’t (and probably would rather not have) and would be a bit of a pain in the a**.   Frank got scooped one night by a couple of City of Vancouver Police Officers, who took him to the local lock up in Vancouver British Columbia.   After some time, it was determined that he’d be more trouble than he was worth, and so the decision was made to take him out of the local lock up.  Frank was really a mess that night, barely conscious.   The cops had to drag him out, and they did, and they dropped him back on the street.  Frank was dragged out of the lockup, clearly not aware of much of anything around him. Frank died of exposure a while later after he was left in a back alley.

Everyone denies responsibility, heck, no one today is really responsible for much of anything at all these days, but the matter just won’t go away.  The native contingent is asking something in the nature of  “what the heck, how could you drag him unconscious out of your cell block and leave him to die”.   Frank Paul was a human being.  A troubled human being to be sure, but a human being nonetheless.

The matter goes before the courts in a review, because the native contingent, and more and more of the public activist contingent, just won’t go away. In part, the review considers a background like:

“Although she had just arrived on the job, Crown prosecutor Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten said she was asked to review the file in 2001, but told the inquiry she didn’t even view the video until after she had handed in her legal opinion. She expected her boss, Gregory Fitch, to also review the file and add his opinion to her recommendation, which she completed in three days.  Understandably, DeWitt-Van Oosten didn’t expect to be the final word since she had just arrived on the job in Victoria and acknowledged her first assignment was to pass judgment on three of her superiors who had backed the no-charge stand.   “Everyone was more senior than I,” she said.  Yet Fitch, then director of legal services, rubber-stamped her report, adding none of his own thoughts or independent research.  Do I close my eyes and see Mr. Paul?” DeWitt-Van Oosten asked at one point during the trying interrogation she was put through.  “Yes. It was sad, absolutely, but my role was to engage in a legal analysis and I did that to the best of my ability, and ultimately reached the decision I did.”  Gillen acknowledged Fitch took far too long to finish his review of the file — dragging his feet for seven months after receiving Van Oosten’s report.  “You don’t have many cases like this,” Gillen said. “It’s an unusual case.””

These quotes are all drawn from an article on Canada.com at http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=6c999760-cae5-413c-a35f-1ee8a0be913d&sponsor=

There’s a lot of dressing up in this case, and the quotes above give a good feel to it.  You don’t have too many cases like this”  or “my role was to engage in a legal analysis….”   at the end of the day everyone in the Attorney Generals department for B.C. decided that nothing criminal had been done.   I’ve thought about this for some time, I’ve read the articles, and it’s time someone just said it.  What was criminal here was the absolute failure of the lawyers in the AG’s department in assessing this matter.  The police, well…. frankly it’s not real surprising they are a  bit dodgy, they have a culture that is all about the thin blue line and similar crap, but the AG’s department is the backstop, the office that is supposed to stop and set  a standard,  a place where someone says no, it’s not right.    This time, the entire thing went through hearings, and lo and behold, it would seem that everyone did their best.   Yep, no wrong doing here, good intentions and good faith and all that.  And…. at the end of the day, the police dragged Frank Paul out of the lockup in an unconscious state and left him to die on the cold and wet streets of Vancouver, and those responsible for review of that conduct… well, their role was to engage in a legal analysis, and that’s just what they did, completely divorced from any of the human condition that was Frank Paul.

Update January 2017.   In a bizarre turn of events, both of the crown officers cited above were elevated to the position of Justice (that’s a judge) in our superior courts.   Mr. Gregory Fitch sat on on the British Columbia Supreme Court from 2011 to 2015 at which time he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.   Ms. Dewitt-Van Oosten was elevated to the British Columbia Supreme Court in November of 2016.    In light of the foregoing rather surprising appointments, well, rather than making unpleasant observations, I will just hope that both can do a little more looking out for guys like Frank Paul this time around.   Don’t stand up for the status quo, stand up.

Home based informers?

I’m reading an article on Castanet.net, my local online news service, (the article is located at http://www.castanet.net/edition/news-story-135678-4-.htm#135678) about a youth in Alberta who is charged with “terrorism related” offences. In that article, there’s a quote:

“RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the force’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team handled the arrest. The team was established last year to simplify and streamline the collection, sharing and analysis of intelligence on potential threats to national security.
He said the investigation focused on safety and protection of the public. He would not provide more details.
“While it may be difficult for parents to come forward to the police, it is important for families and communities to contact police as soon as they suspect that an individual is being radicalized,” said Pfleiderer.””

I am astounded when I read this. To me the idea of informing on one’s family members is reminiscent of something out of Nazi Germany. Let us be very clear on this point, Sgt Harold Pfleiderer and the “Integrated National Security Enforcement Team” is in the business of prosecution. They are not about helping the person who’s become “radicalized”. What is “radicalized” in any case? Is that an all or nothing state or?? The good Sgt. and the team are about building a case and looking for the foundations for a conviction. They surely are not about looking into counselling or providing said family member with alternate viewpoints.

Now, I’m not suggesting that one stand idly by while one’s loved one heads off to the World Trade Centre with a trunk full of explosives, but there’s a broad range of view before we get quite to that point, and I don’t think I’d be phoning the “team” much before that.

New Hiring policies – Corrections Canada

So I’m reading the news the other day, and I come across this ad:
“Corrections Canada is now hiring for prison correctional officers. Officers will be tasked with the day to day duties of interacting with inmates and managing security. Corrections Canada is commited to maintaining a particular standard that has been established in the service. As such, applicants will be required to take an IQ Test as part of the application process. Corrections Canada regrets to inform that only those applicants scoring in the lower 50% will be eligible for employment. As well, only those candidates scoring in the bottom 10% will be eligible for management positions.”
As one would expect, other government agencies keep a close watch on the hiring practises of one another. Both the RCMP and BC Corrections confirmed that they had adopted this hiring policy decades ago.

Shaw Cable – Fewer features for the same money?!?

So I get a call from a family member, she’s received a notice from Shaw Cable, which is her internet service provider. The notice provides in part:

Dear XYZ, [name deleted]

Starting on March 6, 2017, the following services currently included with your Internet plan are being retired:
Photo Share
Video Mail

We understand that the information and assets stored on your accounts are important to you. You will continue to have access to the contents of your account until March 6, 2018. After this date, your contents will no longer be accessible. “

I looked and looked at the notice. For the life of me I cannot find a single mention of a price reduction. There’s links to click and all kinds of other help, but not one word about a price reduction?? How’s that? There used to be a lot of talk about the importance of using plain language. It’s clear that Shaw Cable has determined to shy away from that sort of thing entirely. Had they been interested in actually communicating clearly, they could have said something like:
Dear XYZ
In early March we are going to eliminate some of your services that we had contractually agreed to provide. This will reduce the overall value of our service to you. We intend to continue to charge you the same amount of money each month. Yes, that’s right, we’re going to do less for you and charge you the same amount. Thank you so much for helping improve our bottom line”
Yep, that’s what they could have said, and it would have been a lot more up front.

The necessity of vaccinations – don’t let the witchdoctors lead the way

I’ve lately heard some rhetoric against… of all things…. vaccinations.   Some examples:

  1.  A young guy that I used to work with just a few months ago told me that he had avoided vaccinations throughout his childhood years, believing that they were not “natural”.  He told me that he believes that a healthy balanced diet was what was needed, together with lots of sleep, and that vaccinations were really just an unnatural stopgap.  He tells me this is his opinion.
  2.  I heard from someone else that vaccinations are linked to autism.   The study that suggested this has been debunked for some time now, but continues to be referred to by those who refuse to stay current on science.

I’m all for a healthy lifestyle, and natural living, and whatever the heck it might be that you’re into.  I’m not at all for outright selfishness, and conduct that puts everyone else, and more importantly the children of others, at risk.    These assertions are put forward as “opinion”.  Opinion is considered thought, taking into account knowable information.   Opinion is not whatever stupid thing might fall out of the speakers mouth.

Since it seems a bit difficult to make the importance of this stuff clear I’m thinking  a series of questions might help lead to a sensible conclusion:

  1.  How many people do you know who have died of tetanus poisoning, also known as lockjaw?   Roughly 59,000 people died in 2015 of Tetanus.  It’s almost unheard of in the western world.  Why?  Immunization.
  2. How many people do you know who have died of whooping cough?   It’s a highly infectious disease.   In 2015 roughly 58,000 people, lots of them young children, were killed by it.  Again, it’s almost unknown in the western world, except in pockets where religious kooks won’t get their children vaccinated.  Vaccinations put this one away for most of us.
  3. Met anyone that’s had smallpox?   In the 1700’s in Europe it’s estimated that 400,000 people per year died of smallpox.  You won’t see it now, there has not been a known case since 1977.  That’s right, not since 1977, because the disease was eradicated with.. get this, vaccines.    Before that the disease had existed for hundreds upon hundreds of years, killing millions of people, and we got rid of it.
  4. Seen any survivors of polio walking around?   Also a disease almost unknown in the western world, but still active in developing nations.  The disease causes muscle weakness that can be lifetime crippling.

These diseases are a public health threat to everyone, and particularly to babies and children.  You may be able to avoid these, just as you may be able to avoid the flu or a cold.  We’ve all had the flu or a cold, all of us.  Maybe not very often, but we have all had them.   Saying you’re going to live a healthy lifestyle and that will be as good as a vaccination is to straight up be putting your head in the sand.   Even an ostrich does not actually put its head in the sand.   Be part of the solution, and prevention, and get your vaccinations.  Get your kids vaccinated to so that they’re not a health threat to others and can live long enough to do their own research.



* – thank you to the nice people who have worked to establish Wikipedia.org.  It’s a site that greatly speeds research, though fact checking is still necessary.


Maxime Bernier – he too just doesn’t get it

A work in progress, started on August 25, 2018

As of August 2018 Maxime Bernier was very nearly elected the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.  That’s the head guy of what is essentially a two party system in Canada, operating in the federal (nation wide) sphere.   He lost, and over time posted a number of comments, and in late august of 2018 purported to leave the conservative party to start his own party, entitled the Mad Max party.   Are you kidding me??/  Maxime Berniere is frightening.   His comments are everything about Canada that Canada is not.  What is astounding is that he was very nearly “guy number one or guy number two”.   It’s essentially a two party system in Canada, and he almost made it to the top spot.   What the heck happened???????????   I’d like to talk about some of his recent posts:

In August of 2018 he “tweeted”:

“3/ The vast majority of Canadians rightly expect immigrants to learn about our history and culture, master one of our official languages, and adopt widely shared Canadian values. Instead of spending M$ on multiculturalism programs, we should focus on integration.”

Why would the majority of Canadians “rightly” expect immigrants to “master” one of our official languages?    With the greatest of respect the writing and spoken language skills of many persons that I meet that have been born and raised in Canada are quite poor.  Mastery?  Not a chance.  What if a new immigrant learns enough to get by day to day?  Is that okay?  That’s what my grandparents on my fathers side did.  They certainly didn’t master the english language, or the french language either.They lived here for roughly 40 years after they came over.   They worked hard, paid their taxes and committed no crimes that I’m aware of.       That’s a great member of the community.   If we accept Maxime’s view, they didn’t do it right.

How about learning about our history and our culture?  What is our culture?   It’s a pretty diversified thing that is not easily defined.    How many of those of us who were born here can readily explain the process by which laws are passed in Canada.   The current premier of Ontario Doug Ford was not able to when he was asked.  How many are able to explain what the division of powers is?  Or how the Constitution came to be?   These are things that are pretty fundamental to our history, but frankly I say that the majority of Canadian’s don’t have much of an understanding of.  Is that pretty awful?  NO!  It’s just fine.  I don’t care, and I hope that others don’t care, about how detailed someone’s knowledge of Canadian history is when I assess whether they are a good citizen.   It doesn’t matter at all.   I think about whether they contribute to our community and refrain from causing harm to others.

What are “widely shared Canadian Values”?  Let us be careful here, I’ve recently seen a number of internet videos where Canadian’s are yelling things like “why don’t you just go home”! to slights like not being served in the language they like, or being commented on when they park ridiculously.  I’m not entirely clear what those values are, since those most likely to offer comment on them seem to be the most obnoxious amongst us.  Canadian Values are, in my respectful view, respectful of most values, provided that they lead to no harm of others.

Also in August of 2018 he tweeted:

“1/ Our immigration policy should not aim to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada, as radical proponents of multiculturalism want. Of course, society is transformed by immigration. But this has to be done organically and gradually.”

As I understand it, Maxime resides in a community with very little diversity indeed.   Is he really suggesting that the goal of someone’s immigration policy is to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada?  Who?  Who is doing this dastardly thing?   I think Maxime is propping up a straw man here.   Where’s the master plan or who’s the master planner that’s trying to forcibly change this character?

As part of the same string of tweets in August of 2018:

“Successful immigration depends on social acceptability and the maintenance of social harmony. Many people have asked how do I know that there is “too much diversity.” When I see that half of Canadians believe immigration levels are too high, I know we’ve reached that point.”

What the heck is “too much diversity”??   Who defined that one when they asked the question?   Is this sort of saying there’s too many people around who don’t look like me?   Or that don’t sound like me?  Or maybe that don’t share my particular faith in whatever deity makes me feel secure?  Actually, that’s apparently not the question they were asked at all.  Maxime says that half of Canadians believe that immigration levels are too high, and then concludes “there’s too much diversity”.    What if all the immigrants looked and sounded like Maxime, but there were a huge number of them?  Would he conclude that there’s too much diversity?

Then he tweeted, also in August of 2018:

4/ Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.

Still is August of 2018, and tweeting some more:

“3/ But why should we promote ever more diversity? If anything and everything is Canadian, does being Canadian mean something? Shouldn’t we emphasize our cultural traditions, what we have built and have in common, what makes us different from other cultures and societies?”

Here’s where Maxime goes astray again.  He’s seeing Canada as a static thing.   He’s suggesting that we’ve reached a point of “being” Canada, or “being” Canadian.   No society is a static thing.  No person is a  static thing.  We are all continually being informed and developed by our experiences.  He’s trying to hunker down and make everything stay the same, everyone stay the same, and he’s promoting hatred against others to do it.

Maxime Bernier left the conservative party in August of 2018.   He’s now started his own party.    It’s absolutely frightening that he was very nearly elected as the leader of a major political party.  I would hope that very few indeed would be prompted to follow this obvious racist xenophobe.

Disastrous Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

2018.09.11  Sometimes democracy has some real problems in it’s outcomes.   Case in point, Doug Ford.   This is a guy who ran for the position of Premier of Ontario.   Ontario is the second largest province in Canada, and has roughly 40% of the total population of Canada.  Ontario carries some weight so to speak.  Then…. along comes Doug Ford.   Part of his platform..??  Let’s reduce the minimum price that beer can be sold for in Ontario to 1 dollar plus deposit.  Really?  That’s part of his platform?  That’s the most transparent and superficial thing I think I’ve heard of in a long time.   It’s an obvious attempt to appeal to the guy who would otherwise not be all that likely to vote.   It’s a way to expand the voting base.   During the campaign a reporter asks him if he can explain how a bill gets passed and becomes law and  he replies with

“You know something my friend, we can run through that,” Ford said. “And I know this is a gotcha question and everything because that’s your game, big smile on your face.

Then..  can you believe it?  It worked!   He got in.  So now what does Ontario have?

Ontario has a Premier who within weeks of getting into office takes steps to cut the number of City Councillors in Toronto in half.   Now have in mind that Doug’s extensive experience with city council, prior to being elected as Premier of the Province of Ontario was a grand total of one term in office.    This is a guy with a pretty limited political background.   It’s absolutely obvious that he has quite an axe to grind with the City Council for Toronto.

Doug Ford brings forward the legislation to make this reduction, and the Court tells him in no uncertain terms that the legislation is unconstitutional.  His response..   he says he’s going to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter.   CBC gives a pretty nice explanation of the Notwithstanding Clause here.  I’ve gone on about the Charter from time to time here.    It’s a very important document that sets out the absolutely fundamental freedoms that we in Canada enjoy.   Those rights are synonymous with what it is to be Canadian.      The very idea of invoking the notwithstanding clause to override the fundamental rights of Canadians on an issue such as the size of the City Council of Toronto is astounding.  The idea is reflective of a shocking pettiness, an immediate willingness to use the “nuclear option”, and a complete failure to understand the real meaning behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Disastrous Doug Ford is indeed a disaster and he’s only in the first months of office.   His conduct perhaps puts him in commonality with President Donald Trump in that they have similar styles.   Surely no one in Canada thinks that’s a good thing?   Given his performance thus far I would hope that the next time around the polls even the beer drinkers of Ontario have the good sense to kick him beyond the curb and out to the street.

2018.09.12 Today I learn that Doug is complaining that the courts have usurped the function of the legislature.  Doug still doesn’t get it.  It’s not about the courts trying to usurp the legislature.  It’s about a premier of a province only attempting to use the notwithstanding clause in the most compelling of public circumstances.    Trying to pursue a tiff with the City of Toronto City Council is not a compelling public circumstance.   The size of the city council is the business of the people of the City of Toronto and were the people of Toronto all that concerned they could bring that forward by way of a plebiscite or something similar.