28 September 2013

A Primer for Veterans

A Primer for Veterans

I’m sorry great soldier; you were lied to and fooled
When you enlisted and we told you the rules
We promised you value, we promised you care
We gave solemn promise to see to your affairs

We said if you worked hard, were loyal and true
If you served your country then we’d care for you
You had but to be strong and do as you should
Defending our nation and standing for good

If you gave good service, then you would be set
Good jobs awaiting for you to accept
Canadians would treasure one such as you
There’d be parades and honours and many thank-you’s

We’d all support you, should you get hurt
Sacrifice in service being the noblest of wounds
We’d carry you home and see to your care
If it be crutches or braces or a limb or a chair

By chance if your mind went, lost in the horrors
Of witnessing things no one should observe
Then we’d be here to catch you, to hug you, to cry
To get you whatever to takes to survive

Or if you are unlucky and pay the ultimate price
Be awarded the Last Post, make a noble sacrifice
Leaving behind children and parents and a spouse
And a great lousy void in their life and their house

We promise to fill that, as best we can
To care for your loved ones, to look after your Nan
To provide for your children, see them through school
And support your wife - or husband - like you’d do

We make all these promises, we give solemn oath
If you serve us all, then we will protect you
The great social contract, an agreement so strong
It will never be broken, not by bullet nor bomb

You just sign here and say these few words
And our nation will guard you, just like you’ve heard
For there’s nothing so noble as the troops’ sacrifice
Guarding the country from bumps in the night

Remember those you protect, as you stand in the rain
Or the snow or the sun, on the hills or the plains
On deck of a ship in freezing below
Or sitting in aircraft, staring out the window.

Away from your family, away from your dog
Away from your comforts and living high on the hog
No beers on Fridays, no Saturday games
No sleep-lates then breakfasts-in-bed, more’s the shame

You’ll go where you’re sent; you’ll do as you’re told
You’ll hold your tongue and don’t be so bold
For service is obedience, it goes with the job
The rights you’re protecting ain’t yours, you poor slob

But be a good soldier or airman or sailor
Do your job well and earn what we pays ya
Or be a true Mountie and maintain the right
Even when we curse you for tickets at lights

Do all of that and we’ll do our bit
We’ll see to your needs when you’re no longer fit
To serve us all, it’ll be all so right
When it’s our turn to offer comfort at night

With pensions and schooling and job grants and aid
You’ll have so much support, why, you’ll have it made!
We honour our veterans; we support our troops
‘Course we’ll provide when you get cut loose!

You all believed us, you believed all those words
Who’d lie to a soldier or Mountie but a turd?
The Queen and the Maple Leaf, a promise so proud
A golden contract, a sacred vow

You poor, poor fools! We had no intention
Of keeping that contract, so don’t even mention
We can’t believe you believed US! How foolish you are!
We sat at home and sent you afar!

To work until broken, in body and mind
And crushed in spirit, and you all were blind
To our crossed fingers, to our dirty deals
When we couldn’t give you bullets or decent meals,
What made you think we had pensions waiting?
That wasn’t a contract; it was just fool-baiting.

We bilked you for service. We exploited your oath.
We took all you had and just left you with hope.
A hope so futile that we can’t believe
You still think we can fill it. Why, we’re nuttin but t’eives!

We stole your best years, your futures, your lives
Ripped you from children and husbands and wives
Gave you low pay and little more
And when you were broken, we gave you the door

Now you want something from us? You’ll see what you get.
Your job-skills are useless in the private set
We don’t want to hear ‘bout your stories of war
We put ribbons on our cars, you want something more?

Prove that we owe you, go ahead, and just try
We’ll fight you in court til the day that you die
That sacred contract is not written in stone
And when you fight now, you fight us alone

You say you were promised, that you are not lying
Well that social contract? It’s not legally binding
It’s not in the big books of our legal code
And our vast legal team says we need not uphold

The promises made, for we are in charge
We can do what we want to the veterans at large
We don’t even have to pay one red cent
You cannot make us, we’re the government

So you go and sue us, and you get your ruling
By the time we pay out, you’ll be sitting and drooling
We have greater concerns that ones such as you
We have a great crop of fresh new recruits

All ready to sign up, to take the oath
They believe all our words, as they are spoke
They’ll do their duty like you did before
And when they return, all broken and sore

They’ll find even less support than you got
They’ll be left on the streets, to live there and rot
It’s cheaper that way, and cuts must be made
There’s a recession and we’ve bills to pay

But not to you folks, we owe you naught
You signed of your free will, you know what bought
Go read the fine print, with your arse in a sling
You know what we’ll pay you? Not one goddamn thing.

You took us at our word, more the fool you
Our word means nothing, so what can you do?
You can beg for our help, you might appeal to our pride
But don’t you get it? We won’t pay ‘cause WE LIED!

08 September 2013

Release/Communiqué: Citizens' Group Calls for Settlement of ‘Obscene’ Lawsuit / Citizens' groupe Appels à Règlement d'un litige «obscène»


Le français suit

Citizens’ Group Applauds Court Decision, Calls for Settlement of ‘Obscene’ Case

St. John’s, NL - On Friday, a BC Supreme Court justice ruled that a group of veterans can sue the federal government.  The Attorney General of Canada had argued the suit should be tossed out because it had no chance of success, and that government has no duty to care for those injured or killed in service.  Justice Gordon Weatherill denied the government’s arguments, ruling, in part, “that the Crown solemnly undertook to act in the best interests of injured veterans upon their return from battle... That makes sense when one considers that it is the Canadian Forces members and veterans who fought and in many cases died and continue to fight and die for the freedom of all Canadians and the fundamental principles that all Canadian citizens treasure."[p67]  The court approved the lawsuit by 6 Afghanistan veterans, who say the lump-sum payments they received under the 2006 New Veterans Charter are inadequate.

Our Duty agrees: “One day, you are patrolling in Afghanistan, secure that, if you are injured, you will be looked after for the rest of your life,” said Jeff Rose-Martland, President of the citizens’ group, “The next, you are patrolling that area, knowing the best compensation you would get wouldn’t buy a house in most markets.  You weren’t even asked if you wanted your benefits changed, weren’t given an option to quit the Forces when they were, you just got stuck with what the government handed you and sent off to dodge bullets.”

Our Duty notes that the New Veterans Charter was introduced as the fight in Afghanistan was heating up.  “The lump-sum award came into effect on 1 April 2006, just as the spring offensive was starting.  Six weeks later, the Harper Government announced it was sending more Canadian troops and extending the mission for at least two more years - now seven and counting,” said advocate Rose-Martland, “One month, the government is saving money by cutting benefits to injured veterans; the next month it sets out to create more injured veterans.”  Rose-Martland also notes that, of the 158 Canadian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan, 147 died after the lump-sum payment plan was implemented.

Our Duty backs the veterans’ lawsuit: “We support the Equitas Society, who is fundraising to offset the legal expenses.  As citizens, we are tired of watching our government fighting our veterans in court.  These people served us, served Canada, and they should be looked after,” said the President, “The idea of wounded veterans, and families of those killed, having to go to court to get fair treatment is obscene.”

In light of the Friday decision, Our Duty is calling on the government to concede defeat. 

“Our government stood in court and declared that Canada doesn’t owe veterans for their sacrifices,” said Jeff Rose-Martland, “That’s not only grotesque, it’s also patently false.  Canadians know what we owe our troops; we know that we have a duty to provide for those who have sacrificed for us.  All citizens know this. 

“But the government argued otherwise, and used us to defend their position, saying that it can’t put the needs of veterans before taxpayers.  Why not?  We ask the Forces and RCMP to put Canada before themselves.  We put them between us and harm.  When they are harmed, it is only just that we put their needs before our own.   Fortunately, Justice Weatherill agrees with the rest of Canada and dismissed government’s argument.”

Rose-Martland added: “The federal government has now seen that they will lose this case, so why drag it out for another decade?  The lump-sum payment is unfair, everyone knows veterans deserve better, and Canadians would be better served if government would give in now.  The federal government should work towards fixing this mess, instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on a legal battle.  Canadians honour our veterans; we don’t fight them in court.”


Our Duty has launched an online campaign confirming the social contract with the Forces and RCMP, confirming the obligation to care for those who are injured or killed in service to Canada, and demanding government cease court battles with veterans.


The decision rendered by the BC Supreme Court, along with transcripts and other documents, can be found at:


Le Groupe de Citoyen se réjouit de la décision de la Cour, les appels pour le règlement de l'affaire «obscène»

Saint-Jean, T.-N.-L.  -  Le vendredi, un juge de la Cour suprême de la C.-B. a jugé qu'un groupe d'anciens combattants peut poursuivre le gouvernement fédéral. Le Procureur Général du Canada avait fait valoir le costume doit être jeté dehors parce qu'il n'avait aucune chance de succès, et que le gouvernement n'a pas l'obligation de prendre soin de ceux blessés ou tués en service. Justice Gordon Weatherill a refusé arguments, la décision du gouvernement, en partie, «que la Couronne solennellement engagé à agir dans le meilleur intérêt des anciens combattants blessés à leur retour de la bataille ... C'est logique si l'on considère que ce sont les membres des Forces canadiennes et les anciens combattants qui ont combattu et dans de nombreux cas sont morts et continuent à se battre et à mourir pour la liberté de tous les Canadiens et les principes fondamentaux que tout trésor Canadien des citoyens. » [P67] La cour approuvé le procès de 6 vétérans d'Afghanistan, qui disent que les paiements forfaitaires reçus en vertu de la Nouvelle Charte des anciens combattants 2006 sont insuffisantes.

Notre Devoir est d'accord: «Un jour, vous êtes patrouiller en Afghanistan, sûr que, si vous êtes blessé, vous serez pris en charge pour le reste de votre vie», a déclaré Jeff Rose-Martland, président du groupe de citoyens, «La prochaine , vous êtes patrouiller cette zone, connaissant la meilleure compensation que vous obtiendriez serait pas acheter une maison dans la plupart des marchés. Vous étiez même pas demandé si vous vouliez changer vos prestations, n'ont pas eu la possibilité de quitter les Forces quand ils étaient, il vous suffit coincé avec ce que le gouvernement vous a remis et envoyé à esquiver les balles. »

Notre Devoir notes que la nouvelle Charte des anciens combattants a été présenté comme le combat en Afghanistan se réchauffait. «Le prix forfaitaire est entré en vigueur le 1er Avril 2006, un peu comme l'offensive de printemps commençait. Six semaines plus tard, le gouvernement Harper a annoncé qu'il envoyait des troupes canadiennes et plus l'extension de la mission pendant au moins deux ans de plus - maintenant sept ans et compter» a déclaré défenseur Rose-Martland « un mois, le gouvernement économise de l'argent en réduisant les avantages sociaux à anciens combattants blessés;. le mois prochain, il vise à créer des anciens combattants blessés plus» Rose-Martland note également que, sur les 158 soldats canadiens qui ont été tués en Afghanistan, 147 morts après le plan de paiement forfaitaire a été mis en place.

Notre Devoir soutient la poursuite des anciens combattants: «Nous soutenons la Société d’Equitas, qui recueille des fonds pour compenser les frais de justice. En tant que citoyens, nous sommes fatigués de voir notre gouvernement lutte de nos anciens combattants en cour. Ces personnes nous ont servi, servi le Canada, et ils devraient être pris en charge » a déclaré le Président « L'idée de vétérans blessés et les familles des personnes tuées, ayant pour aller au tribunal pour obtenir un traitement équitable est obscène » À la lumière de la décision de vendredi est de notre devoir appelle le gouvernement à reconnaître sa défaite. «Notre gouvernement se tenait dans la cour et a déclaré que le Canada ne devait pas les anciens combattants pour leurs sacrifices» a déclaré Jeff Rose-Martland «Ce n'est pas seulement grotesque, c'est aussi manifestement fausse. Les Canadiens savent que nous devons à nos troupes, nous savons que nous avons le devoir de fournir à ceux qui se sont sacrifiés pour nous. Tous les citoyens le savent »

«Mais le gouvernement a fait valoir autrement, et utilisé nous pour défendre leur position, en disant qu'il ne peut pas mettre les besoins des anciens combattants avant contribuables. Pourquoi pas? Nous demandons aux Forces Canadiennes et de la GRC de mettre Canada avant eux-mêmes. Nous les mettons entre nous et le mal. Quand ils sont lésés, il est juste que nous mettons à leurs besoins avant les nôtres. Heureusement, le juge Weatherill est d'accord avec le reste du Canada et a rejeté l'argument du gouvernement »

Rose-Martland a ajouté: «Le gouvernement fédéral a maintenant vu qu'ils perdront ce cas, pourquoi faites-le glisser pour une autre décennie? Le paiement forfaitaire est injuste, tout le monde sait anciens combattants méritent mieux, et les Canadiens seraient mieux servis si le gouvernement donnerait maintenant. Le gouvernement fédéral devrait travailler à la fixation de ce gâchis, au lieu de gaspiller l'argent des contribuables sur une bataille juridique. Canadiens honorer nos anciens combattants, nous ne nous battons pas en cour »


Notre devoir a lancé une campagne en ligne confirmant le contrat social avec les Forces et de la GRC, ce qui confirme l'obligation de prendre soin de ceux qui sont blessés ou tués en service au Canada, et exigeant gouvernement cesse batailles judiciaires avec les anciens combattants.



La décision rendue par la Cour suprême de la C.-B., ainsi que les transcriptions et autres documents, peuvent être consultés à l'adresse:  http://equitassociety.ca/media

Jeff Rose-Martland (anglais seulement)
President, Our Duty Inc

10 August 2013

Nation Peacekeepers Day address

I  thought I had posted this someplace already, but it seems not.  I wrote this for delivery to the crowd on National Peacekeepers Day in 2011.  Unfortunately, the day was windy, rainy, and cold, and turnout was poor, consisting of veteran peacekeepers, Our Duty members, and a lone reporter.  Given the conditions, I opted for brevity and shortened this on the spot, but kept the most important bits near the end.

Today being National Peacekeepers Day 2013, I felt I should share.  My opinions have not changed. - JRM

When Lester Pearson first proposed peacekeeping to the UN in 1947, I doubt he realized how much this would impact our national character.  Nor would he have seen the development of an entirely different type of soldier and RCMP officer. 

64 Years ago, faced with a crisis in Israel, Pearson presented the world with a brand new concept, with the idea that soldiers, could be engineers of peace instead of weapons of war.  Through the Israeli conflict and the Korean War, Pearson continued to prove that his idea was reasonable and practical, but it took the Suez Crisis before the world was ready to accept the proposal.  To end Suez, Canada led soldiers from Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, India, Indonesia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Yugoslavia into Egypt with the goal of stopping the belligerents from fighting, with force if need be.  The United Nations Emergency Force - UNEF - became the first real peacekeeping mission.  And it would not have occurred, had not a balding, bespectacled, round-faced, son-of-a-methodist minister had the vision that soldiers could bring peace. 

In the decades since, despite our relatively small and frequently under-equipped military, Canada has led the world in peacekeeping.  Canada has been a significant contributor to missions in:

the Middle East,
West Sahara,
Central Africa,
East Timor,
Sierra Leone,
Democratic Republic of Congo,

And it is a well known fact that, regardless of where the troops come from, a Canadian is wanted to lead any peacekeeping mission.  Such is the legacy of Pearson. 

There is more to peacekeeping than saying “Please stop fighting” - It takes a special individual to fill this role.  Aggression is at the core of the human animal.  To hold one’s own aggression in check, in the teeth of conflict and chaos, requires depth of understanding, determination of will, and total dedication to the mission. 

Such qualities set peacekeepers apart from the rest of us, but if we are not diligent when planning their missions, those virtues will destroy those who serve.

In 1993, Canada sent General Romeo Dallaire to lead the United Nations Assistance Mission For Rwanda.  At its conception, UNAMIR was to oversee the implementation of the Arusha Peace Agreement.  The UN’s role was to witness the parties peacefully settle their differences through powersharing.

But in spring of 1994, in the middle of chaos and insanity, General Dallaire was ordered to do the impossible: to maintain the original mission and rules of engagement.  To stay uninvolved.  To only fire when fired upon.  Despite Dallaire’s arguments and reports of mass murder, he was ordered to stay out of the conflict - he was there to bear witness.  Dallaire did as he was ordered.  General Romeo Dallaire bore witness to 800 thousand deaths in 100 days.  He witnessed a genocide because that is what we ordered. 

The special qualities of the peacekeeper - understanding, determination, dedication - turned against Romeo Dallaire when we required him to place duty above principle.  We asked him to do the impossible.  And one thing we SHOULD know is that when you ask the impossible of a Canadian Peacekeeper, they deliver.  Dallaire delivered and suffered.  We destroyed a peacekeeper with his own virtues.

From Pearson’s idea to Dallaire’s ideals, we see the transformation of the peacekeeper from fighting man to defender of humanity.  What Dallaire understood - what you fellow peacekeepers understand - is that peacekeeping is not like national service.  Soldiers and police serve their country, caring for and defending their citizens.  Peacekeeping is vastly different.  You are not police, for often there are no laws to enforce.  You are not warriors, for there is no war to win.  The people involved are not your people. 

Peacekeepers serve humanity.  Humanity without division by nation or ethnicity, skin colour or language, religion or politics. 

Peacekeepers serve a principle.  A principle that transcends national interests.  A principle that goes beyond borders.  The principle that peace is not an ideal, but attainable, for all people.

You who have been peacekeepers, and those who were before, and those who will be later, know that to serve as a peacekeeper is to put yourself in harms way for that principle.  You serve to protect the innocent and to calm belligerents.  Peacekeepers are there to bring reason to the unreasonable, to bear witness to the unbearable, and to be human amongst the inhumane.  You are willing to sacrifice yourself in the name of humanity.

Therefore, on behalf of humanity, I want to thank those who are here and those who could not be, for your service, your dedication, and your sacrifice.  You have made the world better and the world thanks you for that.

(Coverage of that day can be found here.  Thanks to Ashley Fitzpatrick for turning out, not only with notebook, but also with video.)

To find out more about peacekeeping,
visit the UN.

20 May 2013

Democracy Crisis In Canada

An Open Letter to His Excellency the Right Honourable Governor General of CanadaDavid Johnston C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.


Canada is in crisis.  Citizens need you to exercise your authority and preserve our system of responsible government.

Canadians have become aware that, amid scandals and anti-democratic activity, Prime Minister Stephen Harper intends to request proroguing of Parliament in early June.  In as little as two weeks, the Prime Minister intends to silence debate, thus avoiding answering for his government’s actions. 

If successful, this will be the third occasion Prime Minister Harper has used prorogation avoid responsibility.  In 2008, PM Harper used prorogation to avoid a non-confidence vote.  In 2009, he used it to avoid answering for the Afghan Detainees scandal.  Now, he appears set to use prorogation to duck questions regarding his Chief-of-Staff buying a Senator, among other issues.

The Government of Stephen Harper has become the least-democratic and least-responsible government Canada has had.  Its offences against democracy are varied and numerous: Charter Rights violations; intimidating advocates; bullying government employees; terminating bureaucrats for exercising their duties; hindering or halting investigations; and much more. 

PM Harper denies the core principle of responsible government - that government be responsible to Citizens.  His actions have shown contempt for Canadians and for our democracy.  Stephen Harper uses omnibus budget bills to avoid debating legislation; even as Parliament readies to vote on the current budget, we still lack information on Budget 2012.  This Government stalls or blocks Access To Information requests, hides behind legal privilege, and, in the new Budget, will restrict Citizens from participating in public hearings.  The Conservatives routinely move committee discussion behind closed-doors, away from our scrutiny.  This Government has repeatedly refused to provide information on multiple issues, from the treatment of Afghan detainees to the cost of new fighter jets.  It has shut down departmental archives, thereby preventing Citizens from checking facts.  The Harper Government is now moving towards direct control of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, thereby eliminating a key public accountability service.

The Conservatives have implemented frightening restrictions on our civil service.  The new Code Of Conduct policy requires all employees of the Government of Canada to be loyal to the Harper Government; to not speak against it, even in private; and to obtain approval for public statements.  Failure to comply results in loss of employment.  This policy not only violates our Charter Rights to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression; it also violates the Canada Labour Code, as it prevents union members from disagreeing with the government.  This Duty of Loyalty policy has already seen extensive use against our scientists and librarians.  And recently, civil servants received emails linking them to the Harper Government’s Economic Action Plan, and inquiring how they will vote in future - an obvious attempt at voter intimidation, and a gross offence against democracy.

The Harper Government has also targeted Canada’s volunteer sector for loyalty.  The Canada Revenue Agency has notified charities that engaging in activities deemed ‘political’ will cost them charitable status.  Not-for-profits risk audits for similar activity.  Step by step, this government is stifling dissent, stamping out discourse, and erasing the rights of Canadians.

This government is acting against the best interests of Canadians, is refusing to be responsible to the Citizens, and appears bent on creating an autocracy in the person of Stephen Harper.  The Loyal Opposition is unable to hold this Government to account.  PM Harper has engineered and manipulated the Senate to guarantee his domination. Citizens who protest are either ignored by Harper or targeted for intimidation.  The voices of Canadians are being silenced.

We cannot simply wait two years for election day.  By then, irreparable damage will have been done to our democracy.  Stephen Harper will have made it difficult, if not impossible, to oppose him.  In two more years, we may no longer have elections at all.

Excellency, Canadians need you.  Citizens cannot themselves legally stop this Government.  Action must be taken now to preserve democracy.  Otherwise, our future is bleak.

As a Citizen, I humbly request, Excellency, that you discharge the duty entrusted to you: to preserve our democracy.  I request that you exercise your authority as Head of State for Canada to remove from office those who have violated the sacred trust placed in them by Citizens.  Please, restore balance to our system. 

Do not prorogue parliament and permit another loophole-escape from public accountability; ensure that we Citizens learn the truth. 

Under Section V of the Letters Patent, please remove from office such Senators, Ministers, Members of Parliament, or other individuals - of any party - who have acted against Citizens, who sought personal gain over duty, or who have otherwise disgraced the values of responsible government and democracy. 

Withhold or withdraw Royal Assent from any and all legislation which runs counter to the Charter, or to the principles of democracy. 

Act within your power to lift policy and legislative restrictions on dissent and discourse, as all Citizens should be able express their political views without fear of retribution.

When Citizens have been able to review the actions and behaviour of those who act in our names, and when democratic balance has been restored, please dissolve Parliament that Canada might have a proper, free, and fair election. 

As you noted recently, Excellency, a Governor General’s reserve powers are rarely used, but are of supreme importance to preserving democracy.  The time to act has arrived.  Canada needs you.  Democracy needs you.  We Citizens need you.

Please, save our democracy.


Jeff Rose-Martland
Citizen of Canada

08 May 2013

The Re-birth of the Stupid Newfie

[A version of the following was published by The Telegram on 8 May 2013]

The Re-birth of the Stupid Newfie
Jeff Rose-Martland

The Dunderdale government likes to yammer on about investing in our future: hydropower and industry and jobs galore.  A future of resources and trade and high employment.  A debt-free future, according to their budget.  But do they care what kind of Newfoundlanders will live that future?

Harken back to the early- to mid-20th century.  Newfoundlanders were the butt of jokes throughout
Canada, if not the world - The Newfie Joke.  The jokes revolved around a central theme: the Stupid Newfie.  Sometimes, the protagonist was someone so dense that simple situations were beyond their grasp.  Most often, the Stupid Newfie had a great deal of common sense, but was ignorant, unworldly, and uneducated.  The character would attempt to apply this simple reasoning to complex situations.  Oh, the hilarity.

Those jokes had some basis in fact.  After all, Newfoundlanders during that time were, by and large, uneducated academically.  They fled poverty to distant locations for jobs.  Newfoundlanders brought our hard working nature, but also our tendency to dive in, even when over our heads, especially if there’s money involved.  Anyone faced with a brand-new situation is likely to say or do the wrong thing, and Newfoundlanders are an especially humorous people, so it is easy to see how comic situations might result.  But the Newfie joke quickly morphed into a vehicle of bias and intolerance, with the people of this province branded ‘stupid’.

We have had a long, hard fight against that reputation.  We object to the term ‘Newfie’ as offensive.  We are quick to point out the cutting-edge medicine, science and engineering being done here.  We boast of Memorial University’s rank as a top-notch school.  We push the message that the Stupid Newfie is no more.  We are winning, but have not yet won.

The Dunderdale government is going to resurrect the Stupid Newfie.  Amongst all the talk of resource projects and deficit reduction, the PCs are acting to turn us ignorant again.  And, with only limited objections, we are happily boarding the train with them back to Stupid Newfoundland.

Adult Basic Education – a program designed to help anyone who dropped out of high-school.  Not so many years ago, ABE had been handled by private institutions.  They dropped the program because they couldn’t make enough money.  It was government that moved ABE into CONA, to ensure the program would be available throughout the province to those who need it.  By dumping ABE back to the private sector, Kathy Dunderdale has effectively killed the program - it won’t be too long before private schools announce - again - that Adult Basic Education is not profitable.

Lack of ABE programs will mean more people stuck with whatever education they got when they quit grade school; low education is a primary qualification for the Stupid Newfie.

Then there’s the libraries.  We have 96 of them.  We need more because libraries are wonderful places.  First, everything is free – something one appreciates in this crazy world of unreliable income.  Second, libraries don’t just have books; they have videos and music and Internet.  The are one-stop-shops for entertainment.  Libraries also host courses, sessions, groups, lectures, readings – all sorts of ways to have fun and learn more. 

Also, the Librarian.  (That’s capitalized because it should be a title, not a job description.)  Librarians are rare people.  They not only know things, they know how to learn more about things.  They hold the keys to finding out anything you ever wanted to know.  They might appear to spend their time tidying the books and calling the overdue borrowers.  They may seem to be quiet people armed with date-stampers.  But Librarians are some of the most important people in our society.  Librarians are the guardians of all our accumulated knowledge. 

Disagree?  Go ask one a question.  Any question.  You’ll get the answer, in detail, with annotations and cross-references.  And an Librarian doesn’t care if you are 6 and in Grade 1, 46 and a doctor, or 86 and a war vet.  They will help anyone, free of charge.  Because a Librarian is your guide through the Kingdom of Knowledge. 

But Kathy Dunderdale doesn’t think that’s important.   She must feel that librarians are not important for our future, since she laid off 40% of them.  Plus support staff - assistant librarians and IT people.  And she cut the modest wages of those who remain, making this an even less-attractive field.  Libraries, we have been assured, will still have funding for books and will remain open.  How that is going to work?  There won’t be a Librarian to buy the books, nor assistants to man the counter and keep the doors open.. 

The system has already been scuttled; the Conservatives have rendered libraries unsustainable.  In five years, maybe less, government will be able to closing the doors, claiming lack of use.  Which there will be, as out-of-date materials, lack of programming, erratic hours, and, above all, no Librarians to guide people all combine to drive patrons away.

That doesn’t matter to the PCs.  After all, libraries don’t generate revenue.  Neither does sitting in a classroom - one need only look at the number of education cuts to see government’s view on that.  Dunderdale is promising jobs while slashing away at the tools we need to obtain that employment.  Are we to become janitors at Muskrat Falls?  General labourers for rich, Come-from-Away bosses?  Is she planning on making a personal fortune selling Newfie Joke Books?

If we really are concerned about our future, if we really want to excel and exceed, then we need to have smart, educated people.  The way to get them is to invest in education and libraries.  Learning needs to be available to all, not just those with funds.  Otherwise, the rich get educations and the poor get ignorant.

The Dunderdale Government says it cares about our future, but its actions are ensuring we will only have one role in it: The Stupid Newfie.


Jeff Rose-Martland is an award-winning author, member of the Newfoundland Writers’ Guild, and recipient of the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work advocating for veterans.

03 March 2013

How to Destroy the Senate

“For the Senate must change.  And we intend to make change happen.”
         – Stephen Harper, address to Senate, 7 September 2006

The Senate has long posed a problem for Government and for Canadians.  Here we have an unelected body, with long terms, and pensions after, that appears to serve no real purpose other than to rubber stamp legislation.  What use is it?

In many situations – particularly when there is minority government – the Senate doesn’t readily appear to do anything.  (During minority governments, bills have generally been debated and amended extensively before reaching the Senate and are usually well-thought-out or at least consensus-building.)  The point of the Senate is to be “the chamber of sober second thought” – its purpose is to review legislation while taking the long-view, looking past the next election, seeing the impact of these changes on Canada over the next 10, 20, 50 years.  It needs to be appointed so that Senators will not be distracted by running for election, or indeed, party politics, but can stay focused on their role as protectors of the future.  That role becomes even more crucial when there is majority government. 

Majority government can legally do whatever it wants.  Opposition cannot block legislation or enforce changes.  Nor can they bring about the fall of government except, perhaps, in the most extreme circumstances and/or if they somehow manage to get government MPs on their side.  Otherwise, the Government can pass any law it wishes. 

Who protects the people in such circumstances?  Should a majority government pass a law which the whole of the public hates, who stands up for the people?

The Senate.

The Senate has the ability to refuse to ratify any legislation, to keep sending it back to the Commons for debate, effectively stalling the bill until it dies.  The Senate can do the same with the budget – keep sending it back for debate.  If that is done repeatedly, if the Government cannot get its budget passed, that triggers a confidence crisis and an election.  In other words, the Senate serves as the safeguard of democracy and the protector of the public.

Which is why Stephen Harper hates it.

For years, Harper lobbied for Senate Reform, for limitations on its power, for changes to how Senators get their seats, even for abolition of the Senate.  He was vocal, pointed, and attacked the Senate at every opportunity.  Especially when he led a minority Government and had problems getting legislation through the Senate; or, worse, when the Opposition got its own bills passed.  He famously attacked the Senate for being an unelected body interfering with the elected government.  He painted them as undemocratic.

Then he got a majority government.  Many people thought that would be the end of the Senate.  Except Harper faces one problem: the Commons cannot abolish the Senate.  In fact, the Commons cannot do much other than bad-mouth them to the media.  Because the Senate represents half of our system of government and we cannot have one part abolishing the other.  It’s illegal.  Which is why Senate reform suddenly disappeared from Harper’s agenda.

What confuses many is why Harper, who hates the Senate so much, should be appointing so many Senators.  Why is he defending the ones who are misusing public funds?  Why should he care at all?

Simple:  Harper wants the Senate gone.  He can’t get rid of it himself.  So he has to make the public demand its dissolution.

How would you do that?  If you wanted to eliminate the final opposition to total control of Canada, and you needed the public to do it, how would you bring it about?

First, you might appoint devoted followers and yes-people to the Senate so that, no matter what, your bills would be rubber stamped.  This would be a good way of showing how ineffective the Senate is: effectively removing the Senates ability to be independent.

And you might not care about the quality of your appointees.  In fact, it might be more useful if you appointed unqualified people, people with issues, people who would abuse the system, who might cause public scandal, or simply say asinine things.  After all, nothing turns the citizens quicker than an endless string of headlines about Senators misbehaving or being stupid.

Then you might want to leak some information to the press about how expensive the Senate is, about how some Senators are claiming expenses for things they don’t need, about how the rules permit this.  Trust the media to do all the digging and pull up the facts you know are there – after all, you appointed people to behave that way.

You might leak info on Senators who are fighting Alzheimer’s disease, or cancer, or addiction – enough for the scandal-press to start questioning the competence of these individuals.  Enough to show that Senators cannot be removed by the public, even if they are incapable of doing their jobs. 

Then you might publicly defend the Senate, or particular Senators.  You give sound bites about how they are following the rules, how it is the rules that might be the issue, how it is the un-elected process of appointment that keeps the Senate unaccountable.  After all, you don’t want to appear like you are against Canada’s system of government.  You want the public to reach its own conclusion, despite your leading them by the nose.

So you keep up that charade: appearing to support the system while, at the same time, working in the background to shred it.  You appoint more and more Senators, until the upper chamber is bloated beyond belief.  You slip more dirty information to the media.  Perhaps you even have some of your Senators fall on their swords, abuse residency status or expenses, knowing that they will be rewarded later with board appointments to multi-million-dollar corporations or, at least, with a nice Senate retirement package.  You keep up the front while tearing out the back and increasing public outrage.

Until, eventually, the public cannot remember what the Senate was for, and can only recall headline after headline about Senators behaving badly.  When the public is ready and demanding action, only then will you have YOUR senators, the ones YOU control, stand up in their seats and move that the Senate be abolished.  Your Senators will vote the entire body out of existence, at the demand of the people.  While you, apparently, had nothing to do with it. 

That will remove the one thing that stands in your way.  The one body which had the ability to bring you to heel.  With a majority government and no Senate, you can now rule Canada with an iron fist and the citizens cannot object, interfere, or stop you.  You will be the democratically elected tyrant.

Stephen Harper may be many things.  But he’s not stupid.

“But the only way you end up with more comprehensive reform is if you destabilize the status quo to the point where Canadians say, ‘This is a mess, and we’ve got to sort this out.’ ” - Roger Gibbins, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, MacLeans, 7 October 2011

More academic discussion of Senate reform can be found here.

13 January 2013

Whaddyamean, You Can't Boil Water???

During this week's stormI was - and still am - appalled to hear the number of calls to local radio from people bemoaning the blackout and their consequent lack of hot beverages.  My opinion on being prepared I will share further down, but I will say that it is a horrific state of affairs when a Newfoundlander can't figure out a boil-up!

So, in order to preserve the dignity of our culture, here are some links to help you poor things:

Stoves - These can be easily made with stuff you have on hand already and will at least boil a cup of water and/or heat some soup

Pocket Stove

Large Can Camp Stove

Pet-food Can Stove

Stay-Warm Stove

Super-Easy Can BBQ

Boil your kettle with tea lights!

Lamps - Say you don't have any candles or spare batteries for the flashlight and your cel phone is about to die because you've been using it as a light source.  Don't sit in the dark!  Here are some easy emergency lamps.

Popcan Lamp

Shortening Lamp - Basically, you stick a wick in a tub of lard.  You can also do this with butter, bacon fat, or any other solid fat.  You can use practically any woven string or cord for a wick, provided it is natural fiber - nylon, for example, just melts.  Your wick needs to burn and drawn the melted oil into it.  If you are desperate, POWs in WWII used to use twisted strips of cotton shirt.

Improvised Oil Lamp - This is the simplest of the simple: something to use as a wick, a bit of wire to hold the wick, a mug, and something flammable (oil, vodka, etc).

Think you don't have ANYTHING to make a lamp out of?  How about a orange?  (Yes, I've tried it and it works.)
Citrus Candle

And, of course, if you can get enough heat from your lamp, you can probably boil water over it.  Be patient, though.  Low-heat lamps/candles take time to cook things.


No matter where you live or how modern your city, sooner or later, the electricity will go out - that is a fact of life.  Look around you.  See all those things running on batteries and plugged in to the wall?  Consider every one of them useless in a blackout.  What are you going to do now?

First thing: don't panic.  Good advice at any time.

Second thing: remember that humanity has survived for hundreds of thousands of years without electricity, so you should be able to last a few hours or even days.

Third thing: Be prepared.  You know this is going to happen, eventually.  So take a few minutes and a bit of money and get ready for it now.

Fourth Thing: Make a list of what you will need, then get it.  Don't forget to include 'luxury' items.  It's fine to have canned food (don't forget the manual can opener), but what about your morning coffee?  Some way to make toast?  Something to DO during the blackout?  These are all important.  Otherwise, you will find yourself just sitting around staring at the oil burning in your orange.

Fifth Thing: Keep your emergency kit stocked and accessible.  Over time, if it has not been used, there is a tendency to dip into the kit for bits and bobs and/or to bury it in storage under the xmess decorations and old toys.  Don't do either of these.  Once you have build your kit, keep it stocked.  Rotate the batteries for fresh every year.  Leave the canned goods alone - they are good for 50 years.  Keep your kit in 1 place, don't keep moving it.  Keep it someplace you can find in the dark.  

Emergency Kit Items

How you fill your kit is up to you, but here's some ways to get started.

What will I need to be able to see?
What will I need for heat?
How/what will i cook?
How will I make my morning coffee/tea?
What will i do to occupy the kids?
How will I keep myself busy?

(You get the idea, i'm sure you can think of more.)

Low-cost Options:
If money is an issue, here's the basics:

- A large package of tea-light candles

- A tea-light fondue set (or one of the DIY stoves above)

- a can of Sterno (jellied alcohol fuel, provides heat and an alternate way to cook)

- 2 decent LED flashlights+batteries (stored separately)

- A battery powered AM radio+batteries stored separately (if you check you local stations, you'll find at least 1 AM station that delivers mostly news and that stays live during storms.  FM, not so much, although markets vary.  In any event, get a radio that gets AM or both AM and FM.  FM stations frequently just run computer programs which don't much care if your lights are out.)

- a pack of cards / travel chess / book you-always-mean-to-read-but-never-start

- if you have small kids: several packs of plastic animals/dinosaurs/soldiers, teddy bears, toy cars, doll, etc.  The important bit is that these be new to the kids (buys you several hours peace) and will occupy their imaginations (which you may need to pull-start as the video games are not working).  New teddys/dolls etc can give your kids a new friend to share the blackout with; a friend you can declare is not afraid of the dark and that's why they live in the emergency box.

- canned & dried food: beans, weiners, soup, instant oatmeal, etc.  Get stuff you like, enough for 2 days.  Packets should be stored in a ziplock bag to keep it dry (and to block interloping bugs).  Anything which can be cooked as-is or just-add-water.  Sure, you will have food in your house already, but you may not be able to cook that frozen roast.  And there's no need to be eating cracker sandwiches just because you generally avoid pre-made meals.  Don't forget the canned milk.

- Manual can opener - Get a crank-handle one.  Also get a 'church key' punch/bottle opener.  Leave them in the kit!

- Matches+lighter - get some of each.  You can turn normal matches into waterproof matches by showing them in a ziplock bag.  Lighters work better for some things and they last longer; matches work better for others.

- Most important: tea bags and instant coffee and hot chocolate.  It may not taste as good as usual, but if you need your morning caffeine, you'll drink it and be grateful.  Hot chocolate makes a good treat for anyone, especially kids.

- 1 plastic bin with lid to keep everything in

Most of these items can be purchased at your local dollar store, so start there.  Sterno is available from most camping/outdoor/kitchen supply stores (its used to warm food trays and in fondues).  If you are frugal, this entire kit should come in between $20-$30CDN.

Higher Cost Options:
One you have your basic kit, you can add options to it over time so as not to break the bank.  Pick up 1 or 2 things a moth, or a quarter, and you will soon be set.  Look for post-season sales: oil lamps are popular xmess decorations so get those Boxing week; camping gear goes on sale in August; etc.

- Oil (hurricane) lamps or lanterns + oil.  Price varies, but you can readily find lanterns for $5-$10 and small lamps at dollar stores, large ones run $10+.  Get enough to cover the common areas of your house, bathrooms can use candles or flashlights.

- Propane-, butane-, and other fuel-lamps are available.  The advantage of your basic wick-and-oil lamps is that it will burn a variety of fuels, from lamp oil to alcohol, whereas the others can only handle 1.  However, propane lanterns give off a great deal of light and heat. But they also produce CO, so you need to be careful.  There as also napatha lanterns, but read under stoves for the reasons to avoid.

-Flashlights - thanks to advances in LED technology, flashlights now run for a very long time on small batteries.  You can also get big versions, which will serve as lanterns and lamps.  Make absolutely sure that you have at least 3 sets of batteries for each and that you change the batteries in the kit every year.  Downside: you don't get heat from a flashlight.  Other options will keep your home warm and perhaps even provide a means for cooking.  Still, since you don't want to send a 5-year-old to bed with a candle, keep a few flashlights in the kit.

- Propane camp stove - these vary greatly.  The single-burner, no frills variety runs $15-$25CDN.  It will boil a pot of water, a kettle, or heat a frying-pan.  The common 2-burner type behaves like a typical gas-range and runs $40-$100 depending on brand and options.  Stoves go up from there with more burners and frills, but unless you are expecting a gourmet chef to be hosting your blackout, a 1- or 2- burner will do find.

- Other stoves include butane-powered burners, which operate much the same.  You can also use a fondue set (not just for New Years Eve anymore!) as a single-burner stove.  you can even substitutes a frying pan for the normal pot.  "White gas" - napatha fuel - camping gear CAN be used, but should be avoided.  It produces more carbon monoxide than propane and the pressuring pumps can create a fire hazard.  (Not such a big deal in the great out doors; definitely a big deal in your great kitchen).  You can also find units which run on pressurized alcohol, which produces no CO (same as fondue fuels) if the media has you terrified about carbon monoxide.  (Really, these things are safe if you are sensible.  Don't run the stove all day.  When in doubt, open a window.)  And there's always your backyard grill!

- Tea/Coffee pot.  Depending on your preference, you may need to provide for this.  You can get all sorts of metal teapots which can sit on a burner or on your regular stove.  They will boil your water for bagged tea, instant oatmeal, dehydrated food, etc.  If you prefer something fancier, there are a variety of tea-diffuser options.  Just make sure you have a way to boil the water.  Coffee is a bit trickier.  If you like instant, you are off the hook (and out of your mind).  If your tastes are more refined, here's your options: French Press (Bodum), old-fashioned percolator, drip, or simple espresso.  I prefer the espresso: a pot can cost as little as $8 and works all the time, just add heat. (Note: I once saw a camping item for coffee - it was a thermos that you filled with boiling water, coffee in filter, and hung from a tree.  It used gravity to drip your coffee.  unfortunately, i can't find it online.)

- battery powered radio with mp3 player or bluetooth options - you can flip between the news and your own music.

- Battery powered DVD player, laptop computers, etc, can all be useful, but you will want to invest in some sort recharging method.  Simplest one is a power-inverter for your car - plugs into the cigarette lights and you can plug normal things into it.  (It also gives you an excuse to sit in the car and avoid the whining inside.)  Just remember to run your car engine, or you'll soon be needing a charger for that as well.

-As your budget expands and your children grow, you can dump the toys in favour of Monopoly, Scrabble, or other family-games, and add books for them as well.

Cool Gadgets

Tea-Light Grill - I've seen a variety of versions of this.  The best one folds up into a package about 6"x3"x1/2" thick - perfect for sticking in a pocket or glove compartment or backpack and forgetting about... until you need it.  The one shown is being used to melt cheese, but they will also cook eggs, bacon, fish, chicken, beef, burgers....basically, if it is less than an inch thick and will fit on the pan, you can cook it.  You should also be able to boil water by resting an appropriately-sized can or small pot in pace of the grill.  Price is around $10.

Zen Fireplace - There are a wide variety of these, designed for indoor use.  They run on gellied ethanol/fondue fuel.  Look great and provide heat. Prices start at $15.

There are a whole lot of cool/interesting gadgets for providing heat and light, for cooking, and for re-charging your cel phones/media players/notebooks.  Check your local military surplus stores, camping suppliers, and any place that sells products for going 'off the grid'.

Final Word

While we may live in a modern, electronic world, it does not take much to send us back a few hundred years...or a few thousand.  A downed power line, a car stuck in the snow, any number of situations can put us back to the old days.  How far you are willing to be pushed back is up to you.  With preparation, you will only have to slide a few decades, perhaps not even that far.  But unprepared and unthinking can drive you all the way back to prehistory: sitting in the dark, eating cold scrounged food, and trying to keep warm.  And you are even less-prepared than an early human, since you don't have their skills.

So take a few hours and get ready.  You won't need the kit often, but you will need it.  And when you do, you will be extremely happy to have made the investment.

And for the Newfoundlanders:  Lardtunderin b'ys!  Gitoffyerbutts n git yer gear!  Doan be callin' da media complainin'.  Yer a h'embarassment!  Our h'ancesters came here wit frig all n made it tru; yer moanin' cause ya can't do a boilup???  Whadahells wrong wit ya????