Senior copy editor
Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.
He is a member of the Free Press editorial board that decides the newspaper’s stance on newsworthy issues. He writes some of the editorials, writes personal opinion columns and helps edit submitted opinion columns on the Think Tank page in the print edition and Analysis section online.
He tries to apply the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Recent articles by Carl DeGurse
Finding some good news amid all the bad4 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022
GRIM news abounds, including destructive hurricanes, a madman in the Kremlin who says he’s not bluffing about the possibility of using a nuclear weapon, and the ongoing evidence that the climate is warming toward a point that will endanger humans.
Poor optics when police feel unsafe downtown5 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce will try to promote a positive vision of the city’s core at a Tuesday luncheon presentation billed as State of the Downtown. The local police union shouldn’t expect an invitation to speak.
As child was hit, we all watched without intervening5 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 17, 2022
None of us waiting in line with grocery carts at the Superstore on McPhillips Street envied the young mother whose child was throwing a tantrum.
Recruiting doctors? Others don’t see it that way4 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 3, 2022
Manitoba needs more nurses and doctors, and one way of addressing the shortage is by luring medical professsionals who are trained in other countries. We call it “recruiting”; some others, however, prefer the term “poaching.”
Faith communities propel upward mobility5 minute read Preview Monday, Aug. 29, 2022
Faith institutions are places to connect with the divine. But a massive new study finds they are also the best place to pursue upward mobility of the earthly variety.
Too soon to turn off the summer-fun tap5 minute read Preview Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022
Among the iconic sounds of summer are the squeals and shouts of kids playing in public pools and spray pads. That’s what fun sounds like.
Double-double trouble in the workforce5 minute read Preview Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022
One of the most peculiar encounters of our summer has been at a Tim Hortons outlet in Wawa, Ont., of all places. It confirmed for us the gravity of the labour shortage in Canada’s retail sector.
A key question in the abortion debate4 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 9, 2022
As a man, I offer an opinion on abortion only with caution. I understand and respect the views of women on this controversial issue because, after all, it’s inside their bodies that babies grow.
But I hope I can be allowed to contribute to the conversation with an experience that is deeply personal. I will share this disclosure from my past, hoping it will illustrate a crucial aspect of the abortion debate that is often overlooked.
My true story begins with a high-school romance between Debbie and Bill. Their relationship continued after graduation and, when they were 19 years old, they became pregnant. Abortion wasn’t considered, partly because of the Roman Catholic beliefs of the family in which Debbie was raised.
Instead of abortion, they “did the right thing,” as it was called back then, and they got married when they were three months pregnant. Pregnant with me, that is. I was born six months after my parents wed.
Public memorial would honour COVID-19 casualties4 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022
There’s a deep human need to do right by our dead, an imperative often prevented by COVID-19.
Many Manitobans who passed on during the pandemic died alone. In their final hours, as they faced the daunting prospect of transitioning to whatever lies beyond this earthly realm, they were denied a loving sendoff from family and friends, who were kept away from personal-care homes, hospitals and private homes by restrictions on in-person gatherings.
It’s also been hard on the survivors, who were barred from the social rituals our culture has developed to process the trauma of death, such as visting the funeral home to view the laid-out body, sharing tearful hugs with the grieving family, and attending funerals where eulogies extol the virtues of the deceased.
It’s as if we still owe something to the Manitobans who died of COVID-19, that we need a creative way to honour them with due reverence.
For this family, ‘serve and protect’ sounds right4 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 25, 2022
THERE seems to be a rise in recent years of people slagging Winnipeg police as racist and unnecessarily brutal. Some protests have even demanded the police service be defunded.
Bob and Cathy Stewart are aware from news reports of growing hostility toward police but, when they were awoken this week by a violent man who was high on meth and smashing the windows of their home, they had a first-hand opportunity to judge police action for themselves.
By the time police arrested the home invader — they found him naked, lying in a puddle of standing water in nearby bush — the Stewarts had high praise for the sensitivity police showed in quelling the crisis.
“There’s not enough good adjectives to describe their high level of professionalism,” Bob said in a conversation.
We could all use a bit of good news5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 11, 2022
AN acquaintance says she’s decided to stop consuming news because it’s a downer. She aims to avoid all mainstream media and build herself an information bunker that will admit only literature, music and television broadcasting that is uplifting.
I respect her right to shape her world view — we all need to heed our mental health — but perhaps her strategy is too extreme if she cuts herself off from positive news stories that offer hope and encouragement. Here are examples of heartening news items she would miss:
AN ELECTRIC FUTURE — The widespread adoption of electric vehicles seems to be more promising.
Two separate developments week combined to make the economics of the EV option more compelling. First, the price of gasoline soared, to more than $2 a litre in Winnipeg. Second, the sticker price of some EVs seems to be falling, at least in the U.S.
Gender-neutral washrooms create challenges5 minute read Preview Saturday, May. 28, 2022
THE concert at the West End Cultural Centre was good, but even more memorable was an encounter in the public washroom during intermission. I emerged from a stall and did a double-take. There was a woman in the room.
The washroom had been designated for males during my past visits to the West End and I hadn’t noticed the sign on the door had been changed. On that night, the washroom was gender neutral.
I felt surprised by her presence and, to be honest, somewhat uneasy. The washroom is small, and we were the only two occupants. At the sink to wash my hands, we were almost shoulder to shoulder. She was leaning close to the mirror and applying a black tar-like substance to her eyelashes with a small stick with a bristly tip.
I felt inclined to acknowledge her presence because we were so physically close that our sleeves almost touched. To be well inside her personal space and to ignore her might make her feel insulted, as if she didn’t exist. I didn’t want to snub her but, also, I didn’t want to say anything that could be construed as creepy.
What’s good for the goose … is no longer the question5 minute read Preview Saturday, May. 7, 2022
THE comeback of Canada geese from near-extinction has been remarkably successful. In fact, it’s been too successful.
In an appropriate environment, geese are magnificant birds. To watch them from a site such as Oak Hammock Marsh is to marvel at their natural beauty as they ride the wind currents in V-shaped formation, outstretched necks honking their throaty exclamations.
In Winnipeg, though, they’ve become urban pests, soiling parks and playgrounds with excrement, hissing aggressively at people who walk near their nests and creating a traffic hazard as they plod obliviously on roads.
I generally believe we should co-exist peacefully with wildlife including geese, live and let live. The exception is when wildlife poses a danger.
Many motivations behind letters to the editor4 minute read Preview Saturday, Apr. 30, 2022
THE regular writers of letters to the editor obviously agree on the importance of a vigorous public conversation on important issues. Other than that, they disagree on almost everything.
Right wing or left wing, confrontational or conciliatory, heartfelt or headstrong, they are an eclectic bunch who care enough about our community to speak out and put their name to their views.
Why do they bother? What sort of reaction do their published letters get from their friends and family?
We asked those questions of a sample of writers who submit letters consistently. Many responded with lengthy, eloquent answers. Here are some excerpts:
Skipping question period is not the answer5 minute read Preview Saturday, Apr. 23, 2022
CAN we really blame Premier Heather Stefanson for dodging three recent question periods? Which of us would choose to attend a place where we would be taunted and belittled?
Sadly, the important democratic tradition of question period occasionally descends into a fracas where the “honourable members” stoop to hollering and jeering of a type that would get school children sentenced to a timeout in the principal’s office.
Take, for example, the ruckus in the legislature on April 13 when the provincial budget was tabled. The heckling got so bad that Speaker Myrna Driedger was ignored as she called for order and repeatedly urged the MLAs to stop bickering. She might as well have told the wind to stop blowing.
“Democracy will only happen if all of us respect each other in here and bring forward our ideas carefully and listen to them carefully,” she reminded them. The MLAs then heckled the Speaker.
Pothole advice creates sinking feeling4 minute read Preview Saturday, Apr. 9, 2022
I KNOW I speak for many Winnipeggers when I express gratitude to Manitoba Public Insurance for its oft-repeated advice: “Drive to road conditions.” Never would we have thought of that on our own.
The current condition of Winnipeg roads has been compared to roads found in a war zone that was recently shelled. Some people say that’s an understatement.
As we dodge potholes, gaping crevices and crumbling pavement, Winnipeg drivers are forced to weave back and forth, sometimes drifting out of our lanes. Makes it hard to tell whether zigzagging motorists are driving to road conditions, or are intoxicated.
Thank goodness we have the driving experts at MPI to edify us. In search of more detailed wisdom, I checked MPI’s website and found further gems of enlightment about potholes. I decided to go for a drive and follow MPI’s specific advice.
Prayerful moments produce positive results4 minute read Preview Saturday, Apr. 2, 2022
CITY council was criticized this week for opening its meetings with a time of prayer. Let’s hope councillors don’t bow to pressure and end the tradition. Winnipeg needs more prayer, not less.
A report by the British Columbia Humanist Association said Winnipeg council is violating the state’s duty of neutrality and the rights of the non-religious who might attend.
Judging by the criticism, it seems likely none of the B.C. humanists actually attended a Winnipeg council session before slagging it. Council has a definition of prayer that is commendably elastic.
The responsibility for council’s prayerful opening rotates among councillors. Some pray through the lens of their personal faith, but others offer secular meditations, poetry, inspirational thoughts or song. According to Mayor Brian Bowman, “It is a moment of unity for council before sometimes we get into very divisive discussions and debates.”
Foolhardy to resume use of lawn pesticides5 minute read Preview Saturday, Mar. 26, 2022
THREE households in my neighbourhood stand out for separate reasons that are all admirable.
One has an electric vehicle plugged in outside its home. The family obviously has the courage of its conviction to make the switch while most of us agree in principle but remain hesitant.
A second household includes a mother who goes to great lengths to reduce the family’s environmental footprint. She brings her own cup to coffee shops, her family wears bulky sweaters indoors in winter to allow a lower thermostat, and she buys food from bulk bins when possible, bringing her own containers. She behaves boldly in supermarkets, where, shunning the plastic-and-foam packaging on meat, she barges through the swinging doors that say “No admittance” to sweetly ask the butchers to cut the portion she wants and put it in a container she brought from home.
A third commendable household has over the past few years gradually eliminated its lawn. The home is now fronted by an attractive presentation of river-rock paths, trees centred in beds of large wood chips and shrubs native to the Canadian Prairie.
Seeking a more compassionate alternative4 minute read Preview Saturday, Mar. 12, 2022
LET’S think the best of Winnipeg authorities and ascribe honorable intentions to their reluctance to evict bus-shelter squatters.
The officials likely feel compassion for people who feel their best option is to stay outdoors during the winter. Who doesn’t? We all feel sorry for anyone who has to spend nights in temperatures that are dangerously cold.
The prevailing rationale seems to be respecting the rights of squatters to make their own decisions, even when they refuse frequent invitations to come in from the cold and sleep in institutional shelters where, at a minimum, they can rest on mats in a place that is warm.
There’s also the Indigenous factor, an area of particular sensitivity in Winnipeg. Many of the squatters appear to be Indigenous, and their life choices are often related to generational dysfunction rooted in shameful colonial measures such as residential schools.
Athletes have a right to ask questions, too5 minute read Preview Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022
WINNIPEG Jets forward Paul Stastny has no need for an assist from me when his linemates include able puck-passers such as Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, but I support the way Stastny acted this week away from the rink.
He miffed many Manitobans by favoring protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Some people offered public opinions that Stastny should stick to hockey.
Regardless of whether we agree with his views on the “freedom convoy” — and I don’t — the occasion of an athlete speaking on a controversial public issue offers a made-in-Manitoba chance to consider the weight we grant the opinions of celebrities.
Were Stastny a mechanic at the corner garage instead of a Jet in a hockey-mad province, his political opinion wouldn’t grab headlines. The Jets jersey comes with great privilege, but Stastny did not misuse it. In fact, I would argue he acted with integrity.
Some heroes wear lab coats, not capes5 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022
QUICK quiz: name three living scientists.
Sorry contestants, no points will be given for naming the stars of the Oscar-nominated movie Don’t Look Up. They’re not real scientists. They’re actors portraying fictional scientists.
Admittedly, the quiz would be easier to answer if it asked for the names of actors, musicians, politicians or authors. And the Winnipeg Jets are so well-known that even children can name their favourite players, as well as the players’ positions and the numbers on their backs.
But scientists? Most of us are hard-pressed to identify any of the innovative giants who work tirelessly to discover ways to improve our heath and the health of our planet.
It’s time to reconsider safe injection sites4 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022
WINNIPEG already has drug injection sites. They’re also known as bus shelters.
People using drugs regulary squat in several such shelters, mostly downtown. The evidence is as clear as the litter of used needles, empty vials and bags of solvents scattered around the structures. The human casualties are seen first-hand by emergency crews called to attend these shelters, sometimes several times a day, to attempt to save people from their self-administered suffering.
Coun. Sherri Rollins believes there’s something wrong with a city that continues to let such misery transpire on prominent public display in its see-through shelters, as if drug users are in an aquarium for passersby to gawk at. She believes Winnipeg can do better and she’s pushing for the establishment of a safe consumption site.
She might feel like she’s pushing uphill, against the wind. Proposals for safe consumption sites have been turned down in many juridictions, including Manitoba, although there are more than 100 such facilities in Europe and they’ve have started to catch on in some cities in North America.
New way of policing aims to avoid clashes5 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022
WINNIPEG justice officials were criticized repeatedly this week over two matters: an announcement that no one will be charged for toppling statues of British royalty, and allegations that police are too lenient with lawbreakers blockading public roads around the Manitoba legislative building.
Both controversies are related to acts of civil disobedience, and a relatively new way of policing that seems to be widely misunderstood.
Perhaps a helpful context with which to unpack this week’s public outrage is something called the social-contract theory, which students of Introduction to Justice 101 learn is the tacit pact between the community and the police.
For their part of the social contract, police get enormous powers. We must obey their lawful commands. They’re even allowed to carry loaded guns and, in extreme circumstances, can shoot people.
A harmonic convergence of sports fandom4 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022
ASTRONOMERS occasionally gets excited by planets aligning in a special way, and they alert the rest of us that such a rare event will happen only once in our lifetime.
Something similar is about to happen in the world of sports. Several major sporting events are aligning with a rare synchronicity.
It couldn’t come at a better time. Winter in Manitoba is particularly cruel this year, with a double whammy of COVID-19 restrictions and harsh weather. If we’re looking for a mental escape, a convergence of compelling world-class sporting events lies ahead.
Even people who don’t normally pay attention to sports — they include those who greeted this week’s headline about Tom Brady’s retirement with: “Who’s Tom Brady?” — might want to reconsider and give sports fandom a chance to rescue them from the bleakness of another pandemic winter.
Organ donation a gift that lives on5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022
DISCUSSING the dispersal of our body parts after death is not an uplifting conversation, granted, but a noteworthy landmark has been achieved in the field of organ donations.
On Jan. 18, Nova Scotia marked one year of presumed consent, the first jurisdiction in North America to try this social experiment. It means Nova Scotians are presumed to agree to donate their organs when they die, unless they opt out. It reverses the practice of other places, including Manitoba, where consent isn’t presumed and people must opt in to donate.
Nova Scotia released last week statistics on its first year. In a province of one million people, only 57, 382 people opted out.
Meanwhile, officials have seen a sharp rise in referrals, the term medical officials use to notify each other of potential donors. More than 200 referrals were made for organ donations in 2021, a rise of about 130 per cent over 2020. A total of 1,581 referrals for tissue (skin, corneas, bone) were made in the past year, a rise of 228 per cent.
New study explores anti-vaxxer mindset4 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022
WHAT would it take for anti-vaxxers to roll up their sleeves and get jabbed? A new study offers an interesting answer that might persuade them to change their minds.
Any debate about whether to get vaccinated is a no-brainer for the 78 per cent of Manitobans who have had at least two doses. We get the shots to protect ourselves and people within our orbit, end of argument.
What perplexes us and drives some people to frustration is that our responsible reasoning is rejected by other Manitobans.
Anti-vaxxers typically cite a mixture of motivations, some of which seem downright loony: the pandemic is a conspiracy by a cabal of world governments; or, it’s better to medicate oneself with their horse dewormer Ivermectin; or, there are faith-based reasons for Christians to refuse the vaccination.
Let’s dial down our sense of entitlement5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022
WITH Manitoba struggling to cope with pandemic emergencies, perhaps a lack of Grape-Nuts cereal shouldn’t be a big deal.
It was at a supermarket in Winnipeg where a customer ahead of us at the checkout line seemed determined to announce she was not getting the high level of service to which, in her estimation, she was entitled.
Her ire was provoked when the cashier’s faulty scanner didn’t register several of the woman’s items. The cashier had to punch in the numbers by hand and she apologized: “Sorry, this scanner’s giving me a tough time today.”
The customer reacted with a huffy grunt, a theatrical sigh, and a joking retort: “If items don’t scan, do I get them for free?”
Ban on single-use plastics necessary first step5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022
GOOD riddance to “witches’ knickers,” the sassy slang guaranteed to get a giggle out of schoolchildren when used to describe white plastic bags that are blown by wind into trees and subsequently snagged on branches, fluttering like ladies’ underwear.
The knickers joke is soon to be knackered, thanks to the federal government’s plan to ban the use of single-use plastic grocery bags throughout Canada.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced on Dec. 21 a plan to prohibit the manufacture and import of the ubiquitous plastic grocery bags, as well as polystyrene takeout containers, stir sticks, six-pack rings and most types of plastic cutlery and plastic straws. He said he hopes the bans will begin by the end of 2022.
Although some people wish Canada’s ban plan would go even further — it doesn’t prohibit plastic bottles, food wrappers or plastic lids — virtually no one has publicly opposed that current plan as far as it goes. In other words, no reasonable person is speaking up in defence of plastic grocery bags and polystyrene takeout containers, a silence that is understandable given the destructive impact these unnatural products have on our natural world.
Some Christians don’t seem very Christ-like5 minute read Preview Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021
I EXPECT that if Christ shows up to attend his birthday celebrations next Saturday, he will head straight to the bus shelters, and not because he wants to ride Winnipeg Transit.
By all accounts — by which I mean the written accounts attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — Christ had a passion for healing people who are sick and possessed by demons. He’d find many people who need help as they squat overnight in bus shelters, often wrestling with personal demons resulting from mental illness and addictions.
If Christ asked for an update on the state of his followers in Manitoba, those of us who identify as Christians would need to confess we’re doing poorly in popularity polls these days. Some Christians who have lost their way are making choices that seriously harm other people; no reasonable person can deny that.
But, as I will argue, their shameful actions are not on Christ. The disrepute that sullies the reputation of Christianity in Manitoba is not because these culpable believers followed Christ. It’s because they didn’t. Here are three examples:
Eye-opening visit to a family farm5 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021
ROSENORT — An offer to get up close and personal with thousands of chickens was clearly intended to teach me it’s wrong to generalize about industrial livestock production, also known as factory farming.
An invitation to visit Siemens Farms came in an email from owner Kurt Siemens, who wrote, “I am offering you the opportunity to tour our poultry farm. I had the pleasure of reading your Free Press article on Sept. 18, in which you questioned the life and housing standards of animals in rural Manitoba.”
When he wrote it was a “pleasure” to read the article, he must have been joking because that particular column had slagged his livelihood.
Referring to changes to the city’s animal-care bylaw, I had written: “Seems like good times are ahead for animals in Winnipeg. Sadly, animals outside of the city are not so lucky. Council’s jurisdiction is limited to the city and won’t improve the inhumane conditions suffered by millions of Manitoba hogs, cattle and chickens.”
Parents need answers before kids get jabbed4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021
IF we think parents can be persuaded to put the greater good of the community ahead of the personal good of their children, we should ask elementary school teachers. They will smile at our naiveté.
Teachers know from countless parent-teacher interviews that parents are compulsively fixated on the welfare of their offspring. Teachers can talk about what’s best for the class as a whole, outline the latest trends in education theory, and explain at length the mission statement of the school, but parents soon cut to the chase: “Is it best for my child?”
Parents, at least the good parents, are governed by a primal urge to guide their children safely through the dangers of the outside world. It’s this passion that motivates parents to sacrifice the considerable time, energy and money required to raise kids responsibly.
This tunnel vision of parents, which teachers know so well, will likely become a critical factor in Manitoba’s next stage of COVID-19 immunization as this province moves to vaccinate children under 12.
Reconsidering the ‘Road trip!’ urge4 minute read Preview Friday, Oct. 29, 2021
With the U.S. border opening to leisure road traffic on Nov. 8, two words come to mind: “Road trip!”
Many of us are rarin’ to go, perhaps feeling cooped up by 19 months of travel restrictions. We recall the recipe for a memorable road trip: choose travelling companions who know how to enjoy a good time, enhance the mood with a soundtrack of roadworthy tunes, and head for a destination that’s delightfully different than our usual day-to-day routine.
That destination often meant crossing the U.S. border. Road trips to Minneapolis could be timed to see a special concert or a Minnesota Vikings football game, perhaps after visiting the Mall of America. Quick trips to Grand Forks, N.D., were ideal for a getaway weekend that could include shopping for items that were less expensive than in Manitoba.
Now that the border is reopening, the open road beckons. But at the risk of being a killjoy, there are several factors to consider before gassing up and heading south on Highway 75.
Adjusting pronouns involves listening, learning5 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021
USED to be that our pronouns for the rest of our life were assigned at birth by an obstetrician who looked between the legs of the newborn. The declaration “It’s a boy!” meant that person’s pronouns would forever be he/him. Alternatively, “It’s a girl!” meant the infant would carry the she/her pronouns to her grave.
Today’s younger generation has a more enlightened view of gender as a social construct, and many are searching for pronouns that feel more accurate for them. Their generation understands some people don’t fit into the traditional male or female category. For those of us in an older generation, we have work to do if we want to update our understanding.
There seems to be a generational divide on this topic, with the younger side including students in secondary and post-secondary schools, where it’s not a big deal when teenagers and young adults adopt new pronouns for themselves.
Even those of us on the older side of this generational divide have noticed something significant is happening. Everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has noticed many digital signatures and social-media identities now include the writer’s choice of pronouns. We may have even grumbled that “they” seems linguistically clumsy as a singular pronoun. Is it “they is” or “they are”?
Patience is an increasingly rare virtue4 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021
IT’S often said patience is a virtue, but it’s a virtue that doesn’t come naturally for some of us.
The past 18 months of COVID-19 have offered plenty of opportunity to practise patience as we wait for the pandemic to end, wait for normal activities to resume, and wait in the lineups that are now ubiquitous.
I wish I were more patient. When I phoned the city’s 311 hotline this week and was put on hold for at least 10 minutes, I felt a flicker of irritation before I finally hung up in a huff without speaking to a 311 person.
In more reasonable moments, I understand the pandemic is partly to blame for the average 311 wait times soaring to about 11 minutes, according to the latest statistics. They’re short of staff as some employees isolate at home because someone in their personal orbit may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
A good time to be a city critter4 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 18, 2021
SEEMS like good times are ahead for animals in Winnipeg. Sadly, animals outside of the city are not so lucky.
A draft city bylaw elevates the level of care that must be given to animals, but council’s jurisdiction is limited to the city and won’t improve the inhumane conditions suffered by millions of Manitoba hogs, cattle and chickens.
The proposed bylaw mandates animals within the city get treatment that is far more compassionate than required under previous animal regulations in Winnipeg. In fact, animals would be treated better than some Winnipeggers, including those people sleeping rough in bus shelters and on riverbanks beside grocery carts containing their worldly possessions.
The honour-our-animals proposal before Winnipeg council is based on a concept called the Five Freedoms, which began in the United Kingdom in 1965. In part, it aims to give animals “... freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment ...freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions which avoid mental suffering... freedom to express normal behaviour in the company of the animal’s own kind... freedom from pain by rapid diagnosis and treatment (of sickness).”
Constructive thoughts for construction zones5 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 11, 2021
Drivers of reasonable demeanour are patient when their progress is held up by construction workers who are hard at work. Road repairs must be done sometime.
But even drivers of taciturn temperament shake their heads with exasperation when it turns out the traffic jam is caused by a construction zone that is deserted. There’s evidence work has begun, perhaps asphalt is torn up, but the site is devoid of workers even though barricades continue to close a lane and back up traffic for blocks.
In such instances, it’s misleading for road signs to say “Construction ahead,” when no construction is underway. It would be more accurate for signs to say “Abandoned construction site ahead.”
When it happens once, drivers might assume the workers are on a coffee break, but when our habitual driving pattern bring us past the same sites repeatedly and there remains no evidence of hardhat action for days or weeks, the question looms: why don’t they finish the job and stop messing with traffic?
Time to put robocall annoyance on hold4 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021
CANADIANS have long assumed robocalls from telemarketers are irritants we have to live with, perhaps like the wasps that abound in Winnipeg this summer. Someone forgot to tell the U.S. they must be tolerated, however, because that country recently took a hard line against auto-dialled spam calls.
For example, two health-insurance telemarketers in Texas have been fined US$225 million for improper sales calls. Fines this large are enough to make any U.S. telemarketer think twice before trying to dupe unsuspecting victims with the usual array of impersonations and con jobs.
And if the threat of fines isn’t enough, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in July introduced new technology designed to catch the fraudsters as they attempt their mass-call flim-flam.
In Canada, we do it differently. We’re more polite with unscrupulous telemarketers and, as a result, much more ineffective. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has talked nicely about educational campigns and crackdowns against shady telemarketers for almost two decades. The CRTC has also issued paltry fines that average about $50,000 — which, unsurprisingly, haven’t deterred companies from doing their dirty business in this country.
Who’s in control when we’re behind the wheel?5 minute read Preview Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021
WHEN I’m behind the wheel, I like to think I’m in charge. Unfortunately, our car recently rejected its normal subservience and showed us who’s boss.
The vehicle disabled itself on the Trans-Canada Highway at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 17. Four of us in the car were returning from a visit to Saskatchewan when, about 120 kilometres west of Winnipeg, our highway cruising speed suddenly dropped to about 30 km/h, and the car began lurching. We pulled over to the shoulder, rested the car, and tried again, but the engine had almost no power.
For people who have never been stranded on a busy highway at night — a road-trip misadventure I wish on no one, not even anti-vaxxers and Rider fans — I can advise there are immediate and longer-term concerns.
First priority: get us and the car to safety. Kitson’s Towing of Portage la Prairie was hired to tow our vehicle to Winnipeg, but they wouldn’t take passengers. Our son’s wonderful partner, Ali Fulmyk, was available to drive out from Winnipeg and bring us home.
It’s time to cut the grass — forever5 minute read Preview Monday, Aug. 9, 2021
WHAT would you think of a farmer who purposely grows a crop no one wants, and then pays someone to haul it away? Then he does it again, and again. You would probably think the farmer is a few bushels short of a full load.
Yet, many Manitobans do something similar with our personal domestic crop. We call it our lawn. We buy expensive chemicals to fertilize it. We rack up huge utility bills to water it. We mow it with machines that spew pollutants and make noise that irritates the neighbours. We rake up the clippings and stuff them into large bags that must be specially purchased.
Then, through our taxes, we pay city employees to take away the evidence of our slavish devotion to covering our property with a green expanse that is good for nothing.
If I seem cranky, it’s because I’m fed up with lawns. This summer’s drought has been the last straw, and straw is a fitting expression because our lawn is so parched, it is the colour of straw. Walk on our lawn, and the dried-out husks of grass crunch underfoot.
Pandemic has deepened mental-health challenges5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 24, 2021
A FRIEND I’ll call Dave has been forced by government edicts to be alone with his mental illness for much of the last 16 months. He’s deteriorating.
Diagnosed with clinical depression about 15 years ago, Dave had learned to live with his illness thanks to psychotherapy, medication and what he calls “my toolkit.” The tools in his kit included frequent physical exercise, a strong network of friends at his church and regular meetings of a 12-step group.
Soon after COVID-19 hit in March 2020, the stability Dave had achieved was overturned by Manitoba’s provincial restrictions. He lost his job as his employer was forced to follow prohibitions on public gatherings. His church was closed, and 12-step meetings stopped.
Dave lives alone, so the provincial orders to associate in-person only with immediate family meant forced loneliness for many months. Dave’s only contact was, in his words, “the black monster under the bed.”
Very mixed feelings about flying again5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 17, 2021
JULY 2: Receive emailed warning from Air Canada. Says tomorrow’s flight will be “fairly full.” Can change to another flight without extra charge, “although we cannot guarantee your next flight will have more available seats.”
July 3, 11 a.m.: Head to airport for Winnipeg-to-Toronto flight. Usually enjoy flying, but approaching this trip with trepidation. Wonder what airline means by “fairly full.”
11:30 a.m.: Inside airport for first time since COVID-19. Everyone masked up and avoiding proximity to other people but, after 16 months of restrictions, that doesn’t seem weird, just seems pandemic normal.
11:45 a.m.: Here’s something new: looks like a large camera high on a stand; situated at far left of check-in area. Turns out it’s not camera, but temperature screener that somehow takes readings from faces. It’s mandatory. At or above 38 C, you can’t board plane.
New court policy has admirable intentions5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 26, 2021
OF all places, Manitoba’s law courts would seem least likely to encourage people to get real about their gender titles.
Courtrooms in this province are relics of mean-nothing titles and forms of address that should have been shelved along with powdered white wigs, so it’s somewhat surprising — heartening, but still surprising — that Manitoba trial courts will, on Sept. 13, introduce a progressive policy to encourage people in courtrooms to state their gender and preferred title.
The commendable intention is to use titles that more accurately reflect a person’s gender identity. That intention is a bit rich in a venue where judges and lawyers are addressed by titles that long ago lost any claim to an honest and accurate depiction of the person being described.
It’s hard to believe, but in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, judges are still addressed as “My Lady” or “My Lord.” Someone needs to tell the keepers of courtroom protocol that the term “Lady” is as outdated as corsets, and that members of many religious faiths object to addressing another person as “My Lord.”
Future generations may regard us with dismay5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 19, 2021
TWO Free Press letter writers have steered the public conversation in an unsettling direction with predictions that history will judge us and find us wanting.
They were referring to the current zeal to critique historical figures such as Nellie McClung and Sir John A. Macdonald based on today’s wokeness instead of the context in which these people lived.
“It is difficult to judge one period of history with the moral values of another. In 100 years, we will be judged by history,” wrote Jean M. Taillefer.
Such observations won’t make Taillefer the most popular person at parties. When people get a comfortable feeling of superiority by judging others, they don’t appreciate being told to look in the mirror.
St. Ben’s provided space for connections5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 12, 2021
Celtic spirituality calls them “thin places.” The term refers to locations where the veil between this world and the other world are particularly porous. In other words, they are places where connection with the sacred is more likely.
Words can seem too clumsy to describe divine energy, but Mahatma Gandhi tried. In his Spiritual Message to the World in 1931, he wrote: “There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses.”
Some famous “thin places” include Lourdes in France, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and Madeline Island in Lake Superior, which is holy to the Ojibwa and Cree.
Winnipeg has long had St. Benedict’s Monastery, which over five decades has hosted tens of thousands of visits for retreats and encounters of significance. Many Manitobans would like to visit the monastery one last time, now that it’s been sold to a private interest, but pandemic restrictions prevent visitors. Regrettably, the many friends of St. Ben’s won’t have a chance to say goodbye to their treasured space.
With proof of vaccination, the show should go on4 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 5, 2021
Wallets typically contain personal documents such as driver licences, library cards and bank cards. My wallet has a new addition. It’s a COVID-19 vaccination record.
This form states my name and date of birth, and records that I received Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA on April 24, 2021.
It’s easy to get this official document. Go on the provincial government website, and under "vaccine immunization", find the link to sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/test-results. It takes only a few minutes to complete an online form with details of your vaccination and personal information, including your health-card number and a security password. They presumably check your application against the province’s record of vaccinations, and the form can then be printed out.
It would be easy for everyone to get and carry this document. In fact, I wish everyone would.
Hellebuyck, Pallister share unlimited confidence5 minute read Preview Saturday, May. 29, 2021
BOTH Connor Hellebuyck and Brian Pallister exude public personas of extreme confidence. They are high achievers in their chosen fields and both seem allergic to self-criticism. It’s as if they’re committed to the power of positive thinking and don’t allow doubts to creep in and throw them off their game.
Only rarely does the Jets goalie play poorly, but, when he does, sportswriters ask him what went wrong. He invariably replies something like, “I thought I played well,” apparently oblivious to the replays that show him letting in soft goals.
Jets fans first became aware of Helleybuyck’s unswerving commitment to confidence during the 2016-17 season after he had been pulled from a start when he let in five goals. “My game’s the best it’s ever been and if I continue to play this way, it’s going to be good enough,” he said. “If I stick with that game, I’m going to win a Stanley Cup and a Vezina one day.”
Three years later, as he predicted, he won the Vezina award as the NHL’s best goalie. How about his prediction of a Stanley Cup? If he leads the Jets deep into the playoffs, no one will criticize him for thinking too highly of himself.
New tactics for policing protests4 minute read Preview Saturday, May. 15, 2021
A NEWS release from Manitoba Justice on Tuesday announced the issuance of 32 tickets in connection with three protests against the pandemic lockdown.
The tickets were unsurprising. Crowds at the three protests had openly defied lockdown edicts by grouping closely together as they rallied against impositions including face masks.
What may have surprised some people, however, was the timing of the tickets. They were issued more than a week after protests in Winkler on May 1, at The Forks on May 1 and outside the law court building on May 3. Manitoba Justice said it will charge even more attenders of the same events, even though those protests are now only a memory.
How can they ticket people so long after alleged infractions? If the tickets weren’t directly issued at the protests, how did officials know whom to ticket more than a week after the fact? It’s not as if protesters sign a guest book.
Ordering in? Here’s what to skip4 minute read Preview Saturday, May. 1, 2021
PERHAPS a special occasion in our household deserves a special meal. Someone offers a three-word dinner suggestion: “Let’s order in.”
While it may be because no one in the house wants to cook, the suggestion can be bolstered if necessary by an appeal to the greater good: we’re commendably community-minded when we support Manitoba’s eateries that have been hard hit by pandemic restrictions.
The next decision is which app to use for delivery: SkipTheDishes, DoorDash or Uber Eats?
The correct answer is none of them, according to Manitoba’s independent restaurants. Don’t use any of the apps. They’re the faces of food-delivery companies that charge restaurants sky-high commissions, up to 30 per cent, even though restaurants typically operate on a razor-thin profit margin of five to 10 per cent.
Amazon lands in Winnipeg amid controversies4 minute read Preview Saturday, Apr. 24, 2021
WHEN the world’s richest man speaks, people tend to listen. When his company is bringing hundreds of new jobs to Winnipeg, his words may interest people here.
Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is US$198 billion, issued on April 15 a lengthy letter to shareholders of Amazon. He didn’t mention Winnipeg specifically, of course. The new warehouse opening soon in Inkster Industrial Park is a miniscule part of the Amazon empire, which has 1.3 million employees globally.
But Amazon is currently inviting people to interview for jobs at its forthcoming operation in Winnipeg, and the promises made by Bezos in his letter will be relevant to people who are considering whether to apply.
Bezos dealt head-on with criticism of his company’s treatment of its warehouse employees, some of whom say they work 10-hour shifts on their feet, are pressured to pack boxes and move products at quotas that are unrealistically high, with their breaks monitored to the minute.
Silence is golden… but hard to find5 minute read Preview Saturday, Apr. 10, 2021
KILDONAN Park was crowded last Sunday with pedestrians enjoying the calls of birds and the breeze whispering through tree branches. Suddenly, nature’s soundscape was marred by litter of the acoustical variety: a large black truck blared rap music as it trawled near pedestrians walking the park path.
All windows of the truck were rolled down so, clearly, the two young guys in the truck played their music loudly so the raucous thud-thud-thudding would attract attention, perhaps intended as an audio expression of their self-image as tough and rugged.
The din was brief and perhaps not worth mentioning, except that it was reminiscent of several recent letters to the editor of the Free Press, in which writers complained about vehicles that are purposely outfitted with mufflers designed to be extra-loud. One writer dubbed them “look-at-me” mufflers.
Whether the gratuitous noise comes from a vehicle’s music system or from the muffler, both pollute the aural environment. Both types of drivers are purposely inflicting superfluous noise on everyone within earshot.
Positive steps in confronting addiction5 minute read Preview Saturday, Mar. 27, 2021
ONLY a contrarian with decidedly malicious intent would attend a 12-step recovery meeting and, after the Serenity Prayer is recited, stir up trouble by arguing addiction is not a disease.
Recovering addicts invariably maintain they have a disease, a self-diagnosis that lets them believe they are powerless over their addictions. When newcomers attend their first meeting and accept a cup of coffee — perhaps with fingers that are trembling — it can be a consolation to be told they are victims of an affliction. It’s not all their fault that their lives have spiralled down into a mess.
Medical science is not unanimous on this issue. Naysayers note some addicts quit drugs through willpower, by making up their minds to stop. If addiction was a real disease, such as cancer, it couldn’t be cured with willpower.
Dr. Marc Lewis, the author of The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease, writes “…rather than a disease, I would say that addiction is a habit that grows and perpetuates itself relatively quickly when we repeatedly pursue the same highly attractive goal.”
Expanding perceptions of domestic violence5 minute read Preview Saturday, Mar. 13, 2021
THE narrative of the domestic-violence industry relies on a simplistic gender stereotype: men are brutes, women are honourable victims.
The common assumption is that it’s men, not women, who use violence to exert power and control in relationships. It’s women who need to take the kids and flee for refuge in a government-funded network of shelters, programs and counselling. It’s also the default premise on which the legal system usually sides with women who say they have been assaulted and are seeking alimony and custody of the kids.
Of course, there’s lots of truth to this stereotype. Men often initiate domestic violence and it’s certainly a proper use of government funding to help women who are in danger. Women’s shelters and programs deserve every dollar they get.
But women are not always innocent victims. With a frequency that surprises some people, women attack their male partners.
It’s time to talk about ‘ag-gag’ legislation4 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021
CHICKEN and pork will be topics of considerable interest as the Manitoba legislature reconvenes on Wednesday, and we’re not referring to the luncheon-menu selections of MLAs and government staff.
It’s expected the legislative sitting will finally end a four-month wait and let Manitobans see the contents of proposed agriculture-industry legislation commonly referred to as “ag-gag.” Such laws already exist in three Canadian provinces, where they have drawn controversy.
In Ontario, Alberta and Prince Edward Island, “ag-gag” laws aim to protect agricultural producers from two adversaries: undercover whistleblowers and on-site protesters. Whether this legislative protection is a good thing depends on which side of the farm fence you stand.
Understandably, farmers raising both livestock and crops are vigilant about protecting their land from intruders who might spread disease. Financial calamity can result if trespassers — perhaps they have infectious mud on their boots or the tires of their vehicles — contaminate canola crops with an outbreak of blackleg, or devastate a hog operation with porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.
Vaccine passports an essential next step5 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021
PLEASE ponder this pleasant scenario: in the near future, all Manitobans have had their chance to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Public activities have reopened, and you are invited to join a crowd. Perhaps your preference leans to a Blue Bomber game, a concert of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra or an airline trip to visit family or friends.
Will you be more likely to attend if you know everyone in the crowd has been vaccinated?
Most people will likely answer yes. They will be more inclined to gather in close quarters if they know 100 per cent of people in the crowd had shown documented evidence they got their jabs.
Unfortunately, it’s only a theoretical consideration because Manitoba does not issue vaccine passports. We should. The province should make it a top priority to design such cards in both print and digital versions, and give them to people after their COVID-19 vaccinations, and send them retroactively to Manitobans who’ve already got their shots.
Odour concerns are nothing to sniff at5 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021
WHICH city councillors associate the smell of cannabis with pleasant memories? The question is provocative, but not gratuitous.
City council has been asked to banish medicinal cannabis grow-ups because neighbours say they emit a smell that is offensive. The grow-ops definitely emit an odour, no question about that, but whether the odour is offensive may depend on an individual’s emotional responses to cannabis, according to people who study olfaction, the science of smell.
Most olfactory scientists believe our personal history with a smell plays a big part in whether we perceive it as pleasant or unpleasant. The cooking odours from an outdoor barbecue may be mouth-watering glorious to the guy grilling the steak, but gag-inducing repulsive to the vegetarian who lives next door.
This theory — that many olfactory responses are learned and acquired emotionally — is directly relevant to the issue facing city council. The pungent odour emitted by medicinal marijuana grow-ops has prompted 200 Winnipeggers to sign a petition calling on council to make it illegal for these house-sized operations to grow cannabis in residential areas. Council has ordered a report, which is expected in March.
Amnesty plan offers DIY-headache relief4 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021
AMONG Winnipeggers renowned for appreciating a good deal, there are four words guaranteed to grab attention: “I know a guy.”
That phrase is commonly uttered by a friend who is vouching for someone who can provide a product or service we need. The tip is highly valued, because it has our friend’s personal endorsement.
Sometimes, the recommendation is above board. Perhaps it leads to a mechanic who doesn’t take advantage of customers, or someone who can successfully argue a traffic ticket, or a salesperson of electronic goods who gives insider information about when a desired item is scheduled to go on sale.
Other times, however, the recommendation is less ethical. If the phrase “I know a guy” is delivered with a whisper and a wink, it means our friend is offering us entry to the underground economy that flourishes in Winnipeg. Or so I’ve heard.
As restrictions ease, let’s reflect on lessons learned5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021
UNTIL the lockdowns, I began most Saturday mornings for years at a Tim Hortons near our neighbourhood.
The table would include various companions, and we would ease into the weekend by sitting over coffee and sharing at length about our personal lives and the problems of the world. Sometimes the world had so many problems, we needed a second cup.
This tradition will seem unexceptional to readers, and our choice of café will seem downscale to some, but I cite it as an example of a simple pleasure that is missed. Its absence has heightened my appreciation of these people and our outings.
Joni Mitchell was incisive when she wrote the lyric “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
Despite stresses, we still yearn to fly5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021
IF you’re a Manitoban, you likely have pleasant memories of the escalator at the airport.
At the top, incoming passengers feel rumpled and weary from hours of air travel but invariably perk up as they began their slow descent and scan the crowd on the ground floor, perhaps looking for their children or a sweetheart waiting to welcome them with a hug.
Even passengers who don’t expect to be greeted by someone will often set their face in a cheerful expression, knowing that in any Winnipeg crowd it’s possible they’ll be spotted by someone who knows who they are.
The escalator is memorable because it feels good to be home. But the escalator is also welcomed because it marks the end of air trips, which have become dreary, annoying ordeals ever since terrorists in four hijacked jets attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. That prompted countries to beef up airport security to the point that passengers are herded like cattle through chutes and subjected to invasive searches that treat them as potential terrorists until proven otherwise.
Shopping local keeps money in Manitoba5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021
While we may not have a bank account deep enough to pull off a blockbuster deal like James Richardson & Sons did this week, we can — in our own small way — share the sentiment of supporting independent Manitoba businesses.
The Richardsons’ purchase of the trucking firm Bison Transport, which has about $1 billion in annual revenue, was a deal between two Manitoba family-owned companies. It’s a commendable example of keeping a local company’s ownership, and the resulting capital, in the city.
Retail businesses can only hope consumers echo this buy-local sentiment. When the code-red restrictions are lifted, the economy of this pandemic-wracked province will recover more quickly if retail shoppers share the Richardsons’ understanding of the importance of keeping the money in Manitoba.
It’s a cliché to say we vote with our dollars, but such an attitude will be particularly important when the COVID-19 lockdowns lift. Local retailers, at least those still standing, have suffered greatly during the pandemic unpredictability, crippled by health orders that demanded they either close or adhere to restrictions that are strangling their businesses.
Jets skate around Manitoba’s pandemic lockdown5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021
When it comes to exempting the National Hockey League from Manitoba’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, I feel conflict between my head and my heart. My head recognizes it seems unfair. Yet, my heart yells “Go Jets, go!”
The province has granted lots of lockdown liberties to the NHLers, even though ordinary Manitobans are still expected to sacrifice many important activities, such as celebrating the holidays with family and friends.
Under threat of fines, Manitobans can’t welcome visitors to their homes or gather outdoors in groups more than five, but dozens of hockey players and staff will mingle freely at the Winnipeg Jets training camp that begins Sunday.
Yes, Sunday. Manitoba churches can’t hold Sunday services, but the Jets can group together. No official has yet explained why the government feels hockey is essential but church services are not.
Have yourself an essentially Merry Christmas5 minute read Preview Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020
“AN optimist is someone who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery.” — Walter Winchell, broadcast journalist.
With the holiday season threatening to be a downer, even the optimists among us are challenged to find a silver lining in the pandemic cloud.
Humour may help. Perhaps the Manitoba government’s list of what is essential and non-essential should specify that humour is essential at such a bleak time.
Let’s start with the children: they’re not expecting gifts from Santa this year because they know households are restricted to immediate family and, being smarty-pants, the kids realize Santa is a responsible fellow who would never repeatedly come down the chimneys of houses and spread COVID-19.
Nature lovers don’t feed the wildlife4 minute read Preview Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020
IT was troubling to see a woman feed wild deer with pastry from a Tim Hortons bag.
My wife and I were walking along the Seine River Greenway trail in the Royalwood area of Winnipeg on a recent weekend. The trail was more crowded than usual, likely because the temperature was unseasonably warm and lots of people wanted a fresh-air reprieve from the pandemic lockdown.
Along the trail, we saw three separate instances of deer lured out of the trees to eat from human hands.
The first time was when we noticed people on the trail up ahead had stopped walking and were staring into the trees. As we got near, we saw they were watching the approach of three deer. In single file, the tawny whitetails stepped with delicacy until the lead deer reached the outstretched hand of a man and nibbled food from his bare palm.
COVID-19 rules don’t bind Manitoba mavericks5 minute read Preview Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020
MY friend Kyle calls himself a “cranky ol’ contrarian.” People who know him believe his self-description is accurate.
Kyle is independent, stubborn and suspicious of the motives of authority figures, especially politicians. People who have lived in Manitoba for any length of time probably know someone like Kyle, because there are many such characters in this province.
These Manitoba mavericks can be interesting conversation partners. But they tend to ignore rules they feel are foolish, and such reckless behaviour is why the extreme code red restrictions that were supposed to be lifted Friday will likely be extended.
Stubborn independence has deep roots in many family trees in Manitoba, going back to rural pioneers who had to be tenacious to survive long winters and self-reliant to cope with the isolation. This free spirit often seems to come along with its close cousin, distrust of authority, a trait that abounds in Manitoba today.
Pandemic denies us shared rituals of grief5 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020
BY everything that is right and good, Helen Penner’s life should have been celebrated with singing.
Singing was a passion for her and her late husband John, and they ensured their eight children found their melodic voices at an early age. The kids grew up singing in church, blending their voices in the four-part harmony that is traditional in their religious denomination. The gift was passed from generation to generation, and Helen and John’s 23 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren were also encouraged musically from a young age. Old enough to talk, old enough to sing your part.
When Helen passed away on Nov. 14, there was only silence where singing should have been. Pandemic restrictions muzzled her family and friends, preventing them from gathering to pay their respects in the way that would be most fitting.
The Penner clan is certainly not alone in its powerlessness to grieve properly. Approximately 900 people die in Manitoba every month, from a variety of causes, and each deceased person has a circle of family and friends who are now prevented from coming together to process the loss.
Pandemic creates epidemic of loneliness5 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020
THE order to socialize only within our households is a relatively small hardship to Manitobans lucky enough to live with a loving family that enjoys good health and a reliable income. It’s much harder for people whose household consists of themselves and four walls.
For the 135,500 single-person households in Manitoba, it was welcome news on Thursday when the province announced people who live alone will now be allowed to have one other person over. It might help prevent what experts are calling “an epidemic of loneliness.”
The results of severely limiting in-person contact can be serious, including higher levels of suicide and substance abuse. The journal Public Health published a review of 40 studies that found social isolation and loneliness lead to poorer mental-health outcomes and increased rates of death.
Loneliness isn’t restricted to people who live alone. Some people have the misfortune to be cooped up with housemates who are aloof, even callous. And it can get even worse when people are trapped in isolation with someone who is physically or psychologically abusive, but the victims feel unable to leave because the lockdown has eliminated many traditional escape routes.
Care homes need military help4 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020
It was a memorable day on May 13, 1997, when Winnipeggers lined the street to wave goodbye to about 135 military vehicles containing personnel who helped protect the city from the Flood of the Century.
Back then, Manitobans were exceedingly grateful to the military for its emergency help. Today, many of us would be exceedingly grateful if the military returned for a different crisis.
Elderly Manitobans who reside in personal care homes are dying at an appalling rate, victims of COVID-19. It’s so bad, Mayor Brian Bowman and New Democratic Party leader Wab Kinew have urged the provincial government to call in the military.
So far, Premier Brian Pallister has resisted the advice, and his government has been vague when asked why it won’t ask for military help. Some of us suspect the Manitoba PCs would see it as a sign of weakness, as a repudiation of Health Minister Cameron Friesen’s statement last week that “the people in charge have got this.”
Looking for cartoon COVID-19 company4 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020
MY pandemic bubble includes the Free Press funnies.
When I was a boy, I regularly read the strips while lying on the living room carpet of our family home, hunched over the newspaper opened to the comics page. But I lost the habit.
I resumed reading the comics in recent months as a tonic against the bleakness of the pandemic. I don’t know about all of you, but I find mirth and merriment in short supply these days with the closure of most public sources of amusement.
With tongue in cheek, I point out the recreational pursuit of reading the funnies is still allowed under Winnipeg’s code-orange pandemic prohibitions, although I personally fear chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin will eventually express concern the comic-strip characters are so close together on the page.
Giving thanks for life’s enchantments4 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020
TO begin a recent Zoom gathering of friends, the woman who called us together said, “Let’s go around the circle and share about our recent challenges and enchantments.”
I was taken aback by the word enchantment. It’s defined as “a feeling of great pleasure; delight.” That’s a sentiment not often linked to a pandemic.
But she is not the type of person who would use the word carelessly. She asked for our enchantments to prompt us to appreciate the splendors around us, even as our city is covered by the bleak blanket of COVID-19.
The first part of her invitation, to outline our challenges, was the easy part. Everyone has lots of challenges as we navigate anxieties and unprecedented restrictions, both as individuals and as a city.
Community groups depend on faith-based facilities4 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 26, 2020
PEOPLE who don’t often frequent Manitoba’s houses of worship might be surprised to know that before the pandemic, many such buildings were bustling busy throughout the week with visitors whose attendance was unrelated to the in-house brand of religion.
A typical week’s schedule in a church, synagogue, temple or mosque might include meetings of a divorce recovery group, a language class for refugees, meetings of 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, a pre-wedding shower for a bride-to-be and an envionmentalist lecturing on climate change.
Some of the weekday community outreach was organized by members of the faith family that owns the building, perhaps to distribute food to needy people, or run daily after-school activities for neighbourhood children.
But many of the activities were conducted by non-religious groups that only approached the faith facility because they needed a meeting place that is safe, clean and inexpensive — often, free. They weren’t allowed to use spaces that were sanctified as holy, but they were free to use adjoining rooms, the basement or attached halls.
Hutterites surprise teacher on first day5 minute read Preview Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020
THE reports of stigmatization against Hutterites bring to mind the real-life experience of my friend Michael.
He is a teacher who was hired to instruct elementary-level Hutterite kids at a colony about 20 kilometres north of Moose Jaw, Sask.
I initially doubted whether teaching on a religious-based colony was a good fit for my friend, who self-identifies as an atheist. But Michael needed a job and the colony needed an instructor who was certified to teach the Saskatchewan curriculum, which didn’t include teaching religion.
Like many people, Michael knew little about this branch of the Anabaptists beyond stereotypical images. He was understandably nervous on his first day in the colony.
Mandatory masks not needed (yet) in Manitoba4 minute read Preview Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2020
YES, considerate people wear masks when inside public spaces, undergoing temporary facial discomfort because they respect their fellow Manitobans and don’t want to expel respiratory droplets that could contain the coronavirus.
But, no, masks shouldn’t be mandatory in Manitoba, at least at this time.
Quebec recently introduced mandatory face-covering measures for all indoor public places. And many other places, including most large cities in Ontario, have done the same. The COVID-19 infection rate in those places is far higher than in Manitoba, however. People in those places would whoop with delight if their infection rates were as low as Manitoba’s.
Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday he may recommend mandatory masks in all indoor public places as early as fall. He has previously recommended the voluntary, not mandatory, use of masks, but so far his advice has been ignored by most Manitobans.
Online porn problems spike during pandemic5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 11, 2020
IT is dismaying, although unsurprising, that police report a spike in pornography offences during the pandemic.
Alberta’s internet child exploitation unit announced last week it has arrested 18 people for online sex offences. In one month alone, it received a record 243 complaints of online child exploitation — more than double the two-year average.
A police spokesman told the Edmonton Journal the level of online pornography activity has been unparalleled in the existence of the ICE unit, and could be linked to digital dependency during COVID-19 isolation measures.
The arrests reminded me of a young man I know who struggles with porn addiction. I won’t publish his identity, but his story is instructive in highlighting the pervasive grip of online pornography for some people.
Time to lift restrictions on faith gatherings5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 27, 2020
MANITOBA’S religious communities have adhered to public-health restrictions — one could say they have obeyed faithfully — and now some churches want to be in charge of their own pandemic precautions.
A petition called Reopen Manitoba Churches has been signed by 69 churches and 2,517 people. It calls for full freedom for churches to gather without public health restrictions. The sentiment is not unanimous, and some churches have urged their members not to sign.
Faith institutions have limped through the last three months. Alternatives to in-person gatherings have included online services, studies of holy books via Zoom, and telephone trees in which volunteers phone everyone in the faith family to check in.
Such measures are worthy improvisations, but they pale in comparison to the experience that is shared when faith families gather for the transcendent exhilaration of worshipping as one body.
Police body cameras improve accountability5 minute read Preview Friday, Jun. 5, 2020
DISTRUST can poison the relationship between police and a marginalized ethnic community, as Manitoba knows all too well. That’s nothing new. What is new is widespread video, and it’s a game-changer.
The protests wracking the U.S. started only because images of the brutality went viral. Without the video, media reports of the incident would have relied largely on the official police report, likely saying necessary force was needed as the suspect was resisting arrest.
The interactions of police with marginalized communities has changed since video became routinely pervasive through cellphone cameras, dashboard cameras and overhead security cameras. Viral images are instantly accessible on our personal screens, making us up-close witnesses of events as shocking as the final minutes, and final breaths, of George Floyd of Minneapolis.
It’s hard not to feel horror as police officer Derek Chauvin kneels for eight minutes on the neck of the man whose alleged crime was passing a counterfeit bill. We hear Floyd plead, “I can’t breathe!” and we feel outrage as we watch three other police officers stand by without saving the life of the dying man.
Waiting to rejoin the roar of the crowd4 minute read Preview Monday, Apr. 27, 2020
QUICK question: will you continue to rub the toe of the Timothy Eaton statue? The question seems trivial, but your answer has big implications.
Like most Winnipeggers, you’ve probably followed the quirky good-luck tradition of rubbing the left shoe of the 80-year-old bronze statue that now presides over an entrance at Bell MTS Place. But perhaps pandemic warnings have made you wary of how invisible viruses can be remain on an object rubbed by a succession of hands.
If you used to rub the toe, but now plan to forgo the toe, that counts as a change in your public behaviour. The pandemic has made you skittish. And if you’re skittish about this small habit, will you also be skittish about joining crowds at local sports and entertainment events?
The question whether you will continue to steer clear of crowds is likely causing sleepless nights for the people whose livelihoods are invested in the local sports and entertainment industries. They wonder how long it will be before their businesses attract as many paying customers as in pre-pandemic days.
Yes, there are reasons to be thankful4 minute read Preview Monday, Apr. 6, 2020
If gratitude is a remedy for fear, perhaps this is a good time to take a dose.
Fear has abounded since the pandemic came to town. We worry about catching the virus, and also about economic consequences as businesses close, workers are laid off and stock-market investments drop like a shot bird.
The concerns are real. No one should downplay the worry of people who have tested positive, those who can’t visit relatives in locked-down nursing homes, those who were living paycheque-to-paycheque before their jobs ended, or the essential workers who continue to toil in the vicinity of the virus.
But, amid the bleakness, it can boost our spirits to take a wide-angle view that includes reasons for gratitude.
In this battle, the heroes don’t wear capes5 minute read Preview Saturday, Mar. 14, 2020
COMIC-book superheroes wear capes as they fight to save the world. In Winnipeg, the heroes on Arlington Street wear white lab coats.
The coronavirus heroes at the Level 4 National Microbiology Laboratory are reportedly working day and night to test samples that are sent to Winnipeg from provincial labs throughout Canada. They are also part of a global research effort to develop an effective vaccine and treatment drug for the virus that is officially known as COVID-19.
They don’t have superpowers, so microbiologists around the world have to rely on first-rate scientific training and an urgent sense of mission. They were already well motivated by bulletins regarding the pandemic’s rapid spread around the planet, but for Winnipeg scientists, it got personal on Thursday with the announcement that the virus has arrived in the city where they live with their family and friends.
No one has to tell them the coronavirus challenge might be the most important work of their careers.
Boycotts hurt more than the high-profile offenders5 minute read Preview Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020
ALLEGATIONS of sexual misconduct by Jean Vanier and Peter Nygard will prompt some people to show their revulsion by taking action against the empires built by the two men.
They may protest with their wallets. As consumers with a conscience, they make a habit of evaluating the many companies and groups vying for their dollars. They support organizations that are fair and just. They don’t support sexual predators.
After allegations that Nygard ran a sex-trafficking ring, some people will be tempted to boycott Nygard and buy other brands of clothing.
After reports Vanier sexually abused at least six women, some people will be inclined to halt their support for the Vanier-founded L’Arche network of homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities live together.
Have yourself a Conspiratorial little Christmas5 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019
Even people who aren’t regular church-goers likely know enough about Jesus Christ to realize it’s unsuitable to celebrate his birth with a frenzy of materialism.
Christ was never much of a consumer. He was born in a feed trough in a smelly barn, a refugee endangered by a genocide. Throughout his life, the Jewish peasant owned little more than his clothing, preaching from borrowed boats and riding on a borrowed colt. He didn’t worry about where he would sleep or what he would eat, although he was known to cook for his friends and he enjoyed a good dinner party.
He often warned about holding possessions too tightly. He said repeatedly that wealth was dangerous because it often leads to greed, selfishness and injustice.
That’s why it seems strange — downright bizarre, in fact — that many people mark the holiday commemorating his birth by getting stressed out over lengthy gift lists and spending beyond their means to buy stuff.
‘Smart cart’ test prompts other bright ideas5 minute read Preview Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019
While waiting in line at the checkout at a grocery store, I decided there’s plenty of time to ponder ways stores could improve.
One way is the “smart cart,” which Sobeys announced on Oct. 23 it is testing in Canada for the first time. It’s equipped with artificial-intelligence technology that weighs produce, scans items and displays on a screen all items in the cart. It also has a built-in bank card reader so we can pay and get receipts. Shoppers do it all themselves, in the cart. There’s no need to join the queue at the cash register (yahoo!).
Sobeys is testing the “smart cart” in Ontario, and hasn’t yet said whether it will come to the many Manitoba stores it operates through its Safeway, IGA and FreshCo locations. But here’s hoping.
It’s not the first time supermarkets have experimented with alternatives to cash-register lineups. Several years ago, many Manitoba supermarkets promoted self-checkouts as a quick and easy way to pay and go. I tried self-checkouts repeatedly, but the bar codes and coupons didn’t always scan properly, and occasionally flashed the dreaded message “Unexpected item in the bagging area,” which seemed like a robot alleging something criminal. Now, I use real-life cashiers to check out full carts of groceries, and use self-checkouts when I’m buying only a few items.
Pedestrian scrambles would be street smart5 minute read Preview Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019
Like oil and water, vehicles and pedestrians don’t mix easily. Winnipeg has the death toll to prove it.
To improve the chances that pedestrians and cyclists can get home safely, the city recently introduced several proactive measures. Another batch of changes is about to be devised, including the expected introduction of pedestrian scrambles, a measure for which the city’s public works department has high hopes.
“We think this will have an effect on removing the conflict between pedestrians and motorists,” David Patman, manager of transportation, said during a recent committee meeting.
In theory, pedestrian scrambles are a good concept. Signals stop all vehicular traffic simultaneously, and pedestrians and cyclists safely cross the intersection in every direction, including diagonally, at the same time.
Voting good, but informed voting necessary5 minute read Preview Saturday, Sep. 7, 2019
To the voters who plan to park their X with the PCs because Brian Pallister doesn’t take guff from anyone, which these voters consider a positive trait that reminds them of themselves…
To those who aim to vote NDP because it would be cool to have a premier with a ponytail who used to be a rapper…
To those who intend to vote Liberal but have done so little research they don’t know whether Dougald is the leader’s first name or surname…
To those who expect to vote for the Green party because a friend of a friend has met James Beddome and says he seemed like a nice guy...
Parents, teachers need checklists, too5 minute read Preview Monday, Aug. 26, 2019
Students shouldn’t be the only ones with back-to-school lists. Their parents and teachers should also have lists of their own.
While students’ lists include such items as notebooks, pencil crayons and USB sticks, the lists of parents and teachers should include strategies for working together. There’s lots of evidence that students do better if their parents and teachers unite as allies to guide the students.
The relationship between parents and teachers is not always smooth, though. Some parents are too busy to be actively involved in their child’s education, or argue combatively for unmerited advantages for their child, or do their child’s schoolwork for them.
Some teachers don’t recognize the child’s unique challenges, or seldom communicate with parents, or are uninspiring and run classes most kids dread as boring.
Mall blurred lines between profit and public space5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 27, 2019
If it be time for the obituary of Portage Place, let it be remembered this mall served well the community in which it was planted.
There will be people who say the mall failed its initial goal of rescuing the core of Winnipeg by attracting people from the suburbs to go downtown for high-end retail shopping. There’s truth in that evaluation.
Instead, the mall evolved into something better. The mall in the core became a hub for people in the core.
This sanctuary was much valued by Indigenous people who gather downtown, by new immigrants who rent cheap accommodation in the blocks north of the mall, by people working downtown, by bored teenagers who go downtown looking for adventure, by pushers of illegal drugs, by homeless people who need protection from harsh weather and by anyone who needed a public washroom in a downtown where this essential amenity is scarce.
Word nerds react to copy editors’ peeves6 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 20, 2019
Free Press copy editors learned this week there are plenty of people who also care about the location of apostrophes.
In case you missed it, this newspaper’s language police had compiled a list of language crimes that are commonly committed in Winnipeg’s public places. Their list was published in a column, “OMG! Winnipeg’s word nerds are upset” (July 13).
They cited punctuation problems such as rogue apostrophes that are improperly positioned, and exclamation marks misapplied to sentences that are not exclamations. They listed words often used incorrectly, such as “literally” and “ignorant”. They grieved for words that have been misused to the point of being meaningless, such as “awesome” and “totally.” They urged people to think of the relationship between adjectives and nouns before they use such phrases as “free gift” and “fairly unique”.
As a professional group, copy editors rarely get positive feedback. These guardians of linguistic quality hear about it when an error slips through them into publication but generally, their passionate protection of our shared language is conducted in anonymity.
OMG! Winnipeg’s word nerds are upset5 minute read Preview Saturday, Jul. 13, 2019
If you don’t know a professional copy editor — and you likely don’t, because they tend to keep a low profile — you should be aware they have a large vocabulary and they know how to use it. Put it this way: if a copy editor invites you to play Scrabble for money, you should decline.
Although they are wordsmiths, it’s a mistake to think copy editors are nothing more than walking dictionaries who know how to use apps that correct spelling and grammar.
For instance, when a Free Press copy editor is assigned to prepare a news story or opinion column for publication, they typically begin with a deep dive into the content. Edit for fairness, legalities and plagiarism. Translate insider jargon into words we all understand. Add background for context. Sniff out factual errors with the zeal of a customs inspection dog that smells heroin hidden in the wheel well of a vehicle trying to enter the country.
Next, fix the writing. Rewrite clunky sentences. Weed out clichés. Delete weak adjectives and adverbs that are crutches used by unskilled writers. Crown the piece by writing a headline that is compelling but accurate.
Canada has its own abortion concerns5 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 3, 2019
At a recent dinner party, a guest (not me) introduced a passionate denouncement of the harsh abortion laws arising in several U.S. states, calling it a reprehensible reversal of women’s reproductive rights.
When she stopped to take a breath, another guest (me) suggested that, as Canadians, our concern would more effectively be directed at Canada’s law on abortion. We don’t have such a law. Abortions in Canada are legal until the moment of birth.
This assertion seemed to surprise another guest, who decided to fact-check by getting out his phone to Google, a gaffe that made our hostess frown with dismay and say, “Perhaps we can talk about something else.” In retrospect, the abortion discussion accomplished nothing more than making it likely the hostess would invite better-behaved guests in the future.
Canada should not boast of the company it keeps by legally allowing abortions through all three trimesters. The only other two countries that legally allow abortions until birth — North Korea and mainland China — are not noted for their high regard for the sanctity of life.
Calgarians living near rehab facility say residents will have nothing to fear when Bruce Oake Recovery Centre opens7 minute read Preview Friday, Mar. 29, 2019
RCMP probing Nelson House homicide1 minute read Preview Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
RCMP say they are investigating a homicide in Nelson House.
Police are releasing few details, saying only that they were called to a home in the community 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg at approximately 11:45 p.m. Wednesday and located a male who was pronounced dead at the scene. Police did not identify the deceased or his age.
The RCMP is investigating with assistance from the major crime unit as well as the forensic identification unit.
Distracted-driving crackdown is good, but what about aggressive drivers?5 minute read Preview Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018
Live your life with your funeral in mind5 minute read Preview Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018
There’s something about funerals that brings out the best in people.
As cultural rituals that guide us through the most traumatic of experiences, funerals give us structure to bestow compassion on the family and especially on the deceased, who, unfortunately, is not present to hear the accolades.
Funerals also prompt us to consider our own mortality, which is always a good idea, and many people leave the ceremonies with a renewed zeal to spend their remaining years in better ways.
If only we could hold this outlook permanently, treating others with compassion and appreciating anew the preciousness of our own lives. If only we could always live in a funeral state of mind.
Let prisoners develop self-worth through work4 minute read Preview Wednesday, May. 9, 2018
Spring has uncovered a winter’s worth of garbage along Manitoba’s roadsides and parks, including fast-food wrappers, drink containers, plastic bags and much more. Prison inmates could be put to work to pick up this trash.
Inmates could also do yard maintenance for low-income seniors who request the service and shovel snow during winters.
Scrubbing graffiti from the sides of buildings? Doing repairs at churches and non-profits? Weeding community gardens?
All of the jobs mentioned above are done by prisoners in other provinces — but not Manitoba.
Manitoba should get charged up for electric cars4 minute read Preview Friday, Apr. 20, 2018
Like Christmas-gift wishes composed by children, there’s a growing list of ways for Manitoba to spend the windfall from its carbon tax. Manitoba’s electric-vehicle owners want the top of the list to include a network of charging stations needed for electric vehicles.
At the recent Manitoba Sustainable Energy Conference, the Manitoba Electric Vehicle Association challenged the government to use the carbon tax to enter public-private partnerships and build 19 charging stations.
MEVA said it would cost about $3 million. That’s a small piece of the $100 million in revenue that Manitoba expects from the new carbon tax and it will add about five cents per litre to the price of gasoline when it’s introduced later this year.
Of the 700,000 vehicles registered in Manitoba, about 5,000 are hybrids that have the option of electric propulsion, and about 150 are exclusively electric.
Obituaries offer window into lives lived5 minute read Preview Friday, Mar. 23, 2018
It was hard to resist an obituary that was published in last Saturday’s Free Press and started with this sentence: “If you are reading this, I must be dead.”
I didn’t know the man who was both the writer and the deceased: Rev. Canon William Edgar Duff, who served parishes in Fort Garry and Crescentwood.
But if someone distils his 86 years into 500 words of insight, he deserves to be read. He didn’t disappoint.
“I have loved being in this world that is so full of the divine in all its creatures and creativity,” he wrote with an intriguing air of someone who has glimpsed a mystical realm.
Restorative justice puts focus on victims5 minute read Preview Friday, Mar. 16, 2018
When a homeowner awakes to find a thief broke into their house while the family slept, it’s a shock, but it’s not unusual.
Statistics Canada says Manitobans report more than 9,000 break-ins a year.
Such a crime can transform a family into victims. The thief steals household items, but he also steals the family’s sense they are safe.
Fear now infects the home. The adults might lay awake listening for suspicious sounds. The kids might fret when they go to bed, asking if the “bad man” will again come in the night.
Paternity leave is food for fatherly thought5 minute read Preview Monday, Mar. 5, 2018
Previous generations of fathers would have been unlikely to take paternity leave, even given the inducements offered to modern fathers last Tuesday in the federal budget.
Many fathers of the past were manly men, rugged and gruff. They didn’t compose poems about flowers.
They believed it was women’s work to care for crying babies. Their idea of being a good father was to bring home steady paycheques, discipline the kids and teach skills such as skating or driving a stick.
After all, it could be a career blemish. The unwritten culture — and it still exists in some 2018 workplaces — viewed men who took time off for children as lacking commitment to the team. If he was out of the loop for several months, he could fall behind in the race for promotions and be tagged forever as the guy whose dedication to the job was second to babysitting, as some guys view parenting.
Common courtesy becoming uncommon5 minute read Preview Friday, Feb. 23, 2018
Our two sons and I went to see Black Panther last weekend. The movie was good. Some audience members, not so much.
A shouting match between two adults marred the 7:15 p.m. screening at Towne Cinema 8 on Saturday.
It started with a temper tantrum by a preschool girl. She cried and repeatedly screamed “I don’t want to be here!” The woman with her tried to soothe the child with calm words and twice took her out of the theatre. When they returned, the child resumed loud outbursts.
A young man sitting across the aisle then shouted, loud enough for the whole theatre to hear: “Lady, I paid to watch the movie! Get that kid out of here!”
Need to make an apology? Ask the experts4 minute read Preview Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
Plenty of people are saying sorry these days, but their apologies often seem cheap.
Some people do it only after they are confronted with their misdeeds and have no chance of escape. Their apologies are like tapping out during a mixed martial arts bout.
Some don’t apologize directly to their victims, but issue a general statement on social media. It’s as if they’re more concerned with restoring their reputation than restoring relations with people they’ve hurt.
MLA Stan Struthers, a former NDP finance minister, apologized Feb. 8 in a public statement for “inappropriate” interactions with women, but there’s been no indication he offered respectful, in-person apologies to the eight or more women he reportedly tickled and groped in a sexual manner.
Manitoba will see big changes in 20184 minute read Preview Friday, Dec. 29, 2017
Some years pass in routine, offering the same old, same old. But 2018 promises to be a year of significant changes that will directly affect Manitobans. Here are four issues to watch:
All hail ride hailingTransportation habits will shift considerably in 2018 because ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft can compete with taxis beginning March 1.
It would be wonderful if this change results in fewer private vehicles on the road. Ideally, it will work like this: some Winnipeggers currently use private vehicles because they can’t rely on taxis to be prompt and affordable, but ride-hailing is supposed to be less expensive and, we hope, more reliable.
Perhaps it will be enough for some of us to relinquish our personal vehicles, as is common in bigger cities where it’s cheaper and more convenient to get around with a mix of ride hailing, traditional taxis and the rental of vehicles for longer trips.
The gift of Christmas: a teachable moment5 minute read Preview Monday, Dec. 18, 2017
Some teachers in public schools apparently call it “the December dilemma”: how should they teach the Christmas story in an institution that is supposed to be secular?
Teachers can get into trouble when they connect the upcoming holiday with the birth of Jesus. Children repeat the information at home, which can lead to concerned parents phoning the school to lecture the principal about the separation of church and state and the importance of keeping religion out of public schools.
It only takes a few such instances for principals, who dislike being lectured by parents, to suggest teachers play it safe and avoid any mention of the C-word when teaching about the holiday formerly known as Christmas.
With Christ expelled from Manitoba public schools, students no longer enact the time-honoured nativity play, student art on classroom walls can’t portray biblical scenes and choirs are prohibited from exploring the tremendous body of excellent Christmas music, forcing student singers to settle for banal but non-controversial ditties such as Jingle Bells, as if one-horse open sleighs dashing though the snow are the reason for the season.
Maori program helps Manitoba5 minute read Preview Monday, Oct. 30, 2017
In a province where removing Indigenous children from their families and putting them into provincial care has often been disastrous, any proposed alternative should be considered.
Any alternative with a proven track record of success should be cheered.
We can thank the Maori people of New Zealand for a program that, in Manitoba, has a 70 per cent success rate in keeping Indigenous children out of government care.
Sixteen years ago, the Maori gifted the program to Manitoba's Indigenous people though the organization Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata (an Ojibwa expression for “we all work together to help one another”).
Winnipeg can learn from other cities’ Uber experience4 minute read Preview Wednesday, Jun. 14, 2017
Tourists voting against Trump with their dollars5 minute read Preview Tuesday, May. 16, 2017
A couple of buddies and I were thinking it’s time to attend another Minnesota Vikings game, a compulsion that afflicts a certain type of Manitoba guy every few years. It means driving to Minneapolis for the weekend-long hoopla that surrounds a National Football League spectacle. The trip is about watching NFL football, but, perhaps even more appealing, going on a road trip with guys and having a few laughs.
We’ve decided not to go this year, though, on ethical grounds. We don’t want to contribute our travel funds to a country that chooses Donald Trump as its leader.
It’s like fair-trade coffee, in which caffeine consumers only buy from companies that respect the people who pick the beans. It’s like ethical investing, in which investors direct their funds away from industries they oppose on principle, perhaps tobacco or weapons. By postponing our Vikings adventure in Minnesota, we’re trying to be ethical travellers.
It’s not that we think the American economy will be decimated by the loss of the modest sum we spend on Minneapolis hotel rooms, restaurants and football tickets.
Magician facing child pornography charges suspended from part-time provincial government job2 minute read Preview Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016
Christian attitudes on same-sex relationships changing4 minute read Preview Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2016
Sandra Giesbrecht faces abduction charges after brief pursuit4 minute read Preview Saturday, Jun. 25, 2016
Stubborn St. Laurent fire resisting efforts to be extinguished2 minute read Preview Monday, Oct. 1, 2012
Firefighters still can’t turn their backs on a stubborn fire near St. Laurent that has burned about 2,000 acres of prairie grass and bush.
The fire started on Sept. 15 in a gravel pit when vandals targeted an excavator and a four-wheel loader, and flames spread to nearby bush and prairie. About 30 firefighters from three departments extinguished visible signs of the fire at the time, but it has reignited repeatedly in the subsequent two weeks, fanned by dry winds.
“The grass is so tinder dry, it doesn’t take much to get it going,” St. Laurent Fire Chief Real Fontaine said in an interview today. In his 24 years with the fire department, this is the biggest fire he’s fought.
So far, the fire has not burned buildings, or hurt people or livestock. However, in the past few days, it has grown to the point where it could endanger people and homes.
Stubborn blaze now endangering farmsteads, homes in St. Laurent2 minute read Preview Monday, Oct. 1, 2012
Firefighters still can’t turn their backs on a stubborn fire near St. Laurent that has burned about 2,000 acres of prairie grass and bush.
The fire started on Sept. 15 in a gravel pit when vandals targeted an excavator and a four-wheel loader, and flames spread to nearby bush and prairie.
About 30 firefighters from three departments extinguished visible signs of the fire at the time, but it has reignited repeatedly in the subsequent two weeks, fanned by dry winds.
“The grass is so tinder dry, it doesn’t take much to get it going,” St. Laurent Fire Chief Real Fontaine said in an interview today. In his 24 years with the fire department, this is the biggest fire he’s fought.