Category Archives: Personal

Oh Canada

July 1st. The first “true” weekend of the summer for most Canadians. Where I’m from, though, July 1st is one of two things: moving day or simply a day off. We’ve had our national celebration a week prior, on June 24th.

Since I moved out West, it always feels weird to me to think of Canada Day as a celebration. Despite the fact that I don’t get my St-Jean-Baptiste anymore, for me, it’s simply a day off. And this year, I feel, there are even fewer reasons to celebrate Canada.

Well, the Canada of today, that is.

Because there’s a Canada that was I taught, and raised in, that believed in strong social services, privacy and income security. A Canada where the poor, albeit poor, could still have a roof on their heads and some food on the table. A Canada where people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own were not forced to get new jobs beneath their skill level and salary expectations. A Canada where old age started at 65, and that’s old enough, thank you very much. A Canada where people’s computer aren’t spied on without a warrant–like their phones wouldn’t be bugged without one either.

There’s a Canada that I was taught, and raised in, that believed in protecting its environment. A Canada where pristine natural environments like northern BC and the Arctic were kept away from industries that would destroy them for profit. A Canada where the livelyhood of thousands of fishermen and women would be safe from oil spills. A Canada where the traditional way of life of its First Nations would be possible. A Canada where our major national treasure, our natural beauty, would remain as beautiful as it has ever been.

There’s a Canada that I was taught, and raised in, that believed in democracy. A Canada where a prime minister couldn’t just do whatever he wanted but had to face debate, checks and balances. A Canada where omnibus bills didn’t mean making sweeping changes to an entire country’s legislation heirloom with a single sleight of hand. A Canada where an abundance of public employees delivered essential services the same way, no matter the party in power. A Canada where the government is the people’s, not the prime minister’s.

Canada - for Bill, Dayan and Linda

Wonderful collage of Canada, coast to coast, by robynejay on Flickr

So, you’ll excuse me if I don’t celebrate Canada this weekend. I will celebrate the courageous MPs who stood for 24 hours voting in the omnibus bill amendments. I will celebrate the many not-for-profits and NGOs, like women’s rights advocacy groups and environmental groups and anti-poverty groups, who have seen their funding unfairly slashed for so-called “partisan activities”. I will celebrate each and every individual who has tried to do something in the last year to inform, convince and move the Canadian people against Harper.

I will mourn the Canada that was, the Canada that I hope we haven’t lost forever. I will mourn a fair, open, transparent, conscientious Canada. I will mourn concern for the less fortunate, strong environmental regulation and, despite its faults, a democratic system that hadn’t betrayed us yet. I will mourn its bilingualism, its multiculturalism, its diversity, its openness to the world, its generosity, its peacekeeping mission.

Le Canada est mort. Vive le Canada!

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Dignity

One advantage of listening to the radio all day long is that I’m pretty much the best informed I’ve been in my life.

Last week, you may have missed this very important judgement from the BC Supreme Court.

And more recently, the woman who won this judgement spoke out to the public.

Smith [the judge] ruled that because suicide is not illegal, banning assisted suicide discriminates against the disabled and is therefore unconstitutional.

It’s high time that we have a discussion about the dignity of death in this country.

As the daughter of a father who committed suicide, I feel strongly about this notion of being able to have the choice to end your life as you see fit. In the case of an able-bodied person, it’s not that difficult. You hang yourself, like my father did, or you poison yourself, or find another way. There are many ways to do so, some messier than others, but still most people can do it themselves.

I cannot imagine what it is to have a life-threatening disability, and I don’t pretend to be able to put myself in their skin. But as Canadian citizen with a modicum of empathy, I can see why the ban on physician-assisted suicide is unfair.

Controversial and delicate

Dignity

True2Source on Flickr

I will say right away that I understand the difficulties that such a judgement can bring. What kind of checks and balances will there be? How do we make sure that nobody, doctor or family member, abuses this? What does religion have to say about this, if its opinion matters (I would rather religion stay out of it, honestly)?

The thing that makes me happy for Gloria Taylor and, hopefully, all the Canadians who will eventually have the right to ask for a physician-assisted death (she wants us to stop using “assisted suicide”, and I agree with her), stems from the basis of our democratic society: freedom of choice.

At least in Canada, people are free to do with their body as they choose. Women can choose to end pregnancies, everyone can choose to end their lives. Suicide is not illegal, but what do you do with someone who wants to die, but is not physically able to do so? Are they condemned to suffering just because they suffer from a disability?

Why extend the life of someone who has a fatal disease and who is suffering immensely? What good is there in prolonging suffering in loved ones, in fellow human beings? Which causes more harm, letting someone who wants to die live on in pain, or help them die on their own terms?

We euthanize our pets because we don’t want them to suffer needlessly when they are sick or hurt. Some people may feel like it’s a moot point; why compare human to pets? But ask yourself: if we consider that prolonging suffering in animals is inhumane, then why do we still let it happen to humans?

The travesty is being kept alive without dignity  –Gloria Taylor

“Wrong reasons”

As I listen to Ms Taylor talk on the radio about the argument that some people might choose assisted death for the “wrong reasons”, I can’t but agree with her argument that there are no wrong reasons. The reasons are the patient’s alone, nobody else’s. The reasons may seem “wrong” to observers, but why do they matter? Throughout our lives, and especially at the end of it, the only person we are accountable for is ourself.

I may miss my father, every day, but my desire to see him alive doesn’t trump his desire to die. It was his choice, not mine. He was suffering–maybe not physically, but mentally, and I’ve always accepted his death as a way to ease this suffering in a way that no medication could ever have. I choose to be merciful and accept his choice.

There is no “wrong reason” to choose to die when you have a fatal illness. There are only personal reasons.

Although no one can really know what they would do until it happens to them, we can show compassion, and, I believe,trust, in our fellow humans’ decision to wish to end their life on their own terms.

I hope that my fellow Canadians will show compassion and support this judgement if it ever goes into appeal. If you were to be sick and disabled, wouldn’t you like to choose the time and the manner of your death?

Wouldn’t you want to retain your human dignity, in death as much as in life? What’s your take on phyician-assisted death?

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Addiction

I must admit it: I have an addiction.

addicted

Rick on Flickr

Is it drugs? Not really. Alcohol? Nah. TV? Maybe. But I want to talk about addiction to school.

I’ve been more or less vocal about it on social media, but now I can make it official: I am leaving my full-time job and going back to school, full time, in September.

It might come as strange for some of you. After all, I left school with a bit of anger about a year ago. But I know myself enough to realize when I don’t belong; and I certainly do not belong in an office.

I belong in a classroom, either as a student or, eventually, as a teacher.

Now, I’m starting back from the bottom: an undergraduate diploma in applied lingustics to teach ESL. Undergraduate. Like 100-level coursework. Easy peasy, right?

Probably. But even then, it will make me happier than sitting here, day in and day out, translating stuff I don’t really care about. I feel no personal involvement in either the company or the work itself. Translation (or at least the type I do) is boring. And I’m not even a trained translator, so I’m still wondering how I got the job in the first place. I’m actually not that good at it.

So, yeah, maybe I’m going back either because I’ve simply been institutionalized and I can’t imagine myself outside of the system… or maybe my unconscious is telling me that I DO have something to bring to the academic world. I just needed to find it. And as I find myself increasingly reflecting on my situation as a bilingual/bicultural individual in Canada (especially in far-off BC, where French is akin to exoticism), I think that linguistics might be the way to go. Literature wouldn’t have let me explore these questions, and I want, WANT, to work with both my languages and make a positive contribution to the state of French in Canada. And without this experience, without this dip in literature and this work as a translator, I couldn’t have figured it out.

Here. Federalist, but no assimilated Anglo. Simply a believer in a better future where English and French Canada have more open and honest communication, where the language barrier is slowly taken down, brick by unilingual brick.

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The Tyranny of Happiness

Yesterday on Q, Jian Ghomeshi had the author of This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, Augusten Bourroughs, on the air.

Curious, I downloaded the sample from Amazon.

After a few pages, my thought was “Finally! Someone who understands that ‘thinking positive’ is a load of crap”!

I’ve never pretended to be a particularly happy or positive person. I have a bit of a tendency towards negativity and brooding. In a weird sense, I’m usually pretty hopeful about life, but in general I need something really special to make me feel happy.

According to all the self-help books and articles, everyone should try to be happy, all the time. Showing up at work with a frown on your face is, well, frowned upon. Sometimes I walk on the street and people tell me “Smile!” and all I want to do is to punch them in the face.

Something else about me: I’m blunt.

the cranky cat

“Feed me and leave me alone.” Eesti on Flickr.

Once, I was told how people with different moods can handle each other through a blood transfusion metaphor: positive rhesus can accept positive AND negative rhesus; negative rhesus can only accept negative rhesus. Just so with people: happy people can handle both happy and unhappy people, but unhappy people can only hang around other unhappy people. Pity likes company, if you will.

So let’s be honest: if I’m in a bad mood, I don’t want to hear your “be happy” comment or read your “how to feel awesome every day” article. I want to wallow in my bad mood, complain and bitch at the world without people telling me I should “look on the bright side”. When I feel like looking on the bright side, I will, thank you very much.

It’s similar to how society views depression.

It’s risky to admit to depression. People will secretly consider you weak, unable to cope, and think that you should simply “get over it”. As countless studies have shown, one cannot just “get over” depression.

If I’m in a bad mood, for whatever reason, I cannot simply “get over it”. If I was meant to be a good mood, I would probably be already. But it’s risky to admit to a bad mood. When asked “How are you?”, the person doesn’t really want to hear how you really are. They want to hear “fine, thank you, how are you?”. So you slap a fake smile on your face, and muster an “I’m okay, how are you?” that doesn’t betray how much you don’t want to talk to that person. Or to anyone.

So today I want to declare for the right of all the crankies, bad-moodies and meanies of the world to be allowed to freely feel and express their mood, or at least to not to have to slap on a fake smile to pretend that they feel awesome.

No, it may not make us socially attractive, but we probably don’t want to be social anyway. So that’s a win-win.

How do you act around others when you’re in a bad mood? Do you find that faking it makes you feel worse? Tell me your stories of crankiness!

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*chirp chirp*

Silence and quiet.

Sometimes they can be good. They let you heal, let you reflect and think.

Sometimes they can be bad. They are a sign of repression, fear and loss of control.

silence

silence by AlicePopkorn on Flickr

Even though nobody’s been sending me emails asking me to write more (hint hint), I have been missing writing. I have been sick, you see, and lived through a harrowing physical and emotional experience that I may share with you one day, when I’m ready to talk about it.

For now, though, just know that I haven’t forgotten about all of you who have been loyally following me. I didn’t mean to let you down. I’m going through an intense period of rethinking and reevaluating my life, you see, and sometimes I need to silence the voices in order to think clearly.

But I am on the right path, I think, and I feel I am finally getting a grasp on what I want my life to be.

I have a few projects that popped up in my head, a few clients to work with, but I will always do my best to make space here. I think this blog will change, again, as much as I am changing. Change is good. I hate routine.

So let’s see where this leads us. I’d be glad if you came along!

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I am an effing superstar

A Street Called Awesome

A Street Called Awesome by moonlightbulb on Flickr.

Short post to whet your appetite!

So, since March, I’ve been working at a 40-hour-a-week job. I’ve also been taking an online course. And grading 2 sections of a writing course, which means about 50 students.

Well people: IT CAN BE DONE. IT HAS BEEN DONE. I am exhausted, but I AM DONE.

This means that I can do anything I friggin want in this life. Seriously. No more excuses. 3 summer courses? Bring them on! Developing a communication business? No biggie! Reading and writing more? Why not! Losing 30 pounds? Easy!

Maybe it’s the elation of finally being finished the grading, but I FEEL AWESOME.

I also haven’t eaten anything in 5 hours.

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Québec and Canada: More solitary than ever before

I’m an optimist. I like to think that it’s possible for my home Belle Province to take its rightful in this country, that I also love. But the latest events around the student strike tell me that this might be too much of an idealist approach.

It’s more than a matter of language, of course, but it all begins with it. It begins with Québec’s more socialist leanings compared to the rest of the country. It begins with the fact that we’ve developed a strong local cultural, political and media apparatus that doesn’t really communicate with the rest of the country.

CanCon and strikes

Quebec Walls

Melbow on Flickr

Let me put this in perspective. Yesterday afternoon on CBC Radio, I was listening to the archival show that’s on every

Thursday afternoon. They were discussing CanCon, or the famous Canadian content requirements for Canadian media broadcasters. The instigator of this CRTC bylaw, whose name I can’t recall right now, was arguing that only in Québec did you have local theatre, local television shows and local musicians being played. The rest of Canada presented mostly American content.

There’s always been a sense that Québec is, indeed, different, and that what affects it has no influence on the rest of the country. And that’s why the English Canadian media is not covering (maybe not caring) about the now 11-week long strike against tuition hikes.

In 2004, I was at UQÀM during the 7-week strike against cuts in the loans and bursaries program. Basically, the (same) Charest government wanted to stop giving a certain amount of money in bursaries and turn it into loans instead. Back then, the government backed down and the students got most of their requests.

There are hundreds of thousands of students taking to the streets every week. They are requesting a long promise of the Révolution Tranquille: free post-secondary education. You see, Québec sees education as a social good rather than as a personal investment, as the rest of Canada does.

Mutual ignorance

_MG_2112

Socialist Québec, Socialist Canada on Flickr

In any case, this isn’t about why the English media isn’t covering the strike. It’s about how the English media (except for the CBC and local stations) isn’t talking about Québec at all. It’s about how the two cultures are really different, and not really compatible, despite being geographically close and politically joined.

I get it, this is a big country. Most interesting news are either of regional or national importance. What happens in other provinces is often overlooked by the media, especially when it has to do with Québec. However, see what happened with Alberta’s election: it made national news because what happens in Alberta is seen to affect everyone in Canada. Why is this not the case for Québec?

Québec and the rest of Canada live in mutual ignorance. Québec has its own cultural and media infrastructures that makes it more or less independent at this level. I feel extremely disconnected out here, even though I do make an effort to follow on Québec news and issues. But it’s not as easily accessible as simply watching the news or listening to the radio.

Can we talk?

Ottawa

Marcio Cabral de Moura on Flickr

I don’t know if English Canada will ever care about talking with Québec. Maybe this narrow but deep abyss will never be bridged; maybe the language and political barriers will never be broken. I’m no separatist, but sometimes, I get their point. If the rest of Canada doesn’t believe that Québec has anything of value to give them, can you blame them for wanting to try developing on their own? Québec feels like it owes nothing to English Canada, that it doesn’t have any influence on it and thus can live without it. Or, at worst, it believes that Canada has a negative influence.

From the other side of this, would English Canada be willing to sit down and think about what Québec brings to this country? Are there mutually positive contributions that could be discovered or enabled? Is there anything that can be used to bring the two solitudes just a bit closer? Should we introduce, like in Switzerland, mandatory bilingualism for the entire country?

Québecers don’t really like to get out of the province because they don’t think that Anglo-Canadians want to see them or hear from them. They feel irrelevant, especially culturally, when they get out of the province. I’ve felt this way; I still do sometimes. And sometimes I still hope that I will feel like I somehow belong without totally giving up my culture, but it seems increasingly hard, and I’m forgetting more and more every day.

Push and pull

I’m homesick, and I feel like home is calling me. But I don’t think I can ever see Québec the same way again; closed unto itself, with its own cultural, racial and political issues, unwilling (or unable) to participate in the larger life of this country. I wonder how many Québecers who leave eventually come back, unable to stand losing their language and their culture because there is no community to cultivate it here. Beyond the ability to eat poutine and listen to Céline Dion, is there a place for Québecers in Canada?

When we come back home, to our land and our roots, what are we? Traitors, translators or monsters? Are we ever able to take root again?

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