Sunday, 29 April 2012

Loyal Companion Helps a Veteran Regain Her Life After War Trauma,

                                               Toronto EMS, Fire and Police on the scene!

SAN DIEGO — The hovering aircraft was just a plain-vanilla traffic chopper, a benignly common species to Southern California skies. But its mere presence overhead was enough to make Tori Stitt stiffen.

More than a year ago, Ms. Stitt, a former Navy officer who did a tour in northern Iraq, might have made a beeline for her car, ducked under a table or broken down in panic merely from the chopping of rotors — a sound she still associates with combat casualties. But this time, she remained outwardly calm, breathing deep, while silently and strenuously massaging the ears of the service dog at her feet.

The moment was one more small victory in Ms. Stitt’s road back from war. Medications and therapy have helped her cope with, though not overcome, the depression,sleeplessness sleeplessness and anxiety caused by post traumatic stress disorder. But nothing has been more important to her recovery, she says, than Devon, the amiable golden retriever that has become her constant companion.

“It doesn’t matter what bad things are going on, I can pet Devon, give him a hug, and they turn around 180 degrees,” Ms. Stitt said.

Ms. Stitt is among the many thousands of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan whose P.T.S.D. cases are considered chronic: so severe that treating the disorder into remission through standard practices — usually prescription medications and cognitive or exposure therapy — is expected to take many years.
It is not surprising, then, that many of those veterans are turning to alternative treatments like yoga, acupuncture, herbal remedies and massage therapy to relieve symptoms enough so that they can return to work, maintain relationships or simply function day to day. None have proved more popular than service dogs.

Organizations have sprouted up in many military towns to provide dogs at little or no cost to veterans with P.T.S.D. or traumatic brain injury. Businesses and nonprofit groups created to train dogs for the blind or autistic have shifted into veterans services.

And Congress has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the effectiveness of service dogs as P.T.S.D. therapy, with some lawmakers looking to require the government to help finance training, which can cost more than $15,000 a dog.

“America wants to take care of its veterans,” said Lu Picard, founder of east coast assistance dogs, which trains service dogs. “So it can be easier to raise money for a veteran than for a man who has a spinal injury spinal injury from a car accident.”

There is little scientific data showing that dogs relieve the symptoms of P.T.S.D., though several research projects are under way. And skeptics say that dogs cannot possibly treat the underlying disorder, where memories of traumatic events trigger potentially debilitating symptoms. But many P.T.S.D. experts say that there is much anecdotal evidence that dogs make veterans feel better — and that may be enough.

“If the point is to treat a person into remission, we have no evidence that service dogs can do that,” said Alan L. Peterson, a professor of psychistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and director of Strong Star, a research consortium on P.T.S.D. “But in terms of just coping, they might help.”

Ms. Stitt, 31, grew up in Florida, attended Norwich University in Vermont on an R.O.T.C. scholarship and was commissioned as a Navy officer in 2002.

While working on a guided-missile destroyer, she was recruited to join an Army engineering battalion in Iraq because she was familiar with sophisticated electronic equipment. Her job would be to oversee the operation and maintenance of devices used to detect or jam remotely detonated roadside bombs.

She was excited by the prospect of joining a unit that would bring her as close to combat as a woman could get. But her very first mission outside the wire, in 2006, proved disastrous.

Her unit was returning from a patrol when a bomb exploded beneath a vehicle, injuring several soldiers. A firefight broke out, and within minutes helicopters swarmed overhead. Confused and terrified, Lieutenant Stitt froze, unable to react to orders or even get out of her vehicle when the fighting was over.

“The Navy did not prepare me to see that,” she said. “I was completely ineffective in that mission. I couldn’t do anything. I was powerless.”

She asked to be sent home, but her commanders said no. So for the next several months, she went on bomb-searching patrols almost daily. By the end of her tour, she felt toughened. But she had also seen more casualties. And she was racked by guilt and shame for having failed to prevent bombs from exploding and for breaking down emotionally in combat.

“I blamed myself a lot in theater for things that happened,” she said. “Even if I had no control over it.”
Barbara Van Dahlen, a clinical psychologist who works with veterans, said that while many troops feel guilt or shame about events in war, women have the added burden of overcoming doubts about their mettle.

“All soldiers fear that they will freeze up,” Dr. Van Dahlen said. “But women come into the military having to prove that they are as good as a man. There already is an assumption that she is not mentally as tough or physically fit.”

Ms. Stitt started having nightmares and sleeping problems while in Iraq. A year later, she deployed to Bahrain. Feeling alienated from other sailors and increasingly nervous around Arabs, she became a loner, drinking herself to sleep.

When the deployment ended, she stole a piece of furniture from the apartment where she stayed, an infraction that almost got her kicked out of the Navy. Back in San Diego, she drank more heavily than ever, and one night in 2008, she resolved to swallow a bottle of pills with her booze. “I felt so alone,” she said. “I was better off just dead.”

That night, she fed her cats, tidied up her apartment and called friends. One of them became so alarmed that she got her husband to talk to Ms. Stitt until she fell asleep. The next day she checked into the psychiatric ward at Balboa Naval Medical Center.

Alcohol treatment got her back on her feet, and she went through several months of P.T.S.D. treatment. But nothing quite clicked. “I was still dealing with nightmares, flashbacks, sleeping issues,” she said. “And I was still isolating. I needed another avenue to help me get out.”

Desperate for an answer, it dawned on her: “What about a dog?”

She applied to a local organization that charged her $3,000. On one of her first visits, she met Devon, a finicky retriever who had not bonded with other prospective masters. But he trotted right up to Ms. Stitt and responded to her initial commands. Devon, Ms. Stitt says, chose her.

Like other service dogs that work with veterans, Devon was trained to turn on lights, check rooms for unexpected visitors, guide Ms. Stitt through crowds or “block” people who come uncomfortably close. His most important task, though, is to give her emotional sustenance.

She says he can sense when she is nervous and responds by standing close or putting a paw on her lap. If she thrashes in her sleep, he licks her face to wake her. And by the mere fact of needing walks, he forces her to leave her apartment and, along the way, interact with people.

In 2010, she received an honorable discharge and six months later used her bachelor’s degree in psychology to get a job with a nonprofit organization, Interfaith Community Services, as a case manager working with veterans recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.

At work, she can sound like the Navy officer she once was, gently but firmly counseling clients, all of them men, to stick with their medications, attend therapy, stay focused on finding work or complete their studies.
Inside, she counsels herself as well. She sometimes forgets her medications and has been slow to resume therapy, complaining about the waiting list for individualized counseling at the San Diego Veterans Affairs health center. She has made friends, but is still something of a loner. Devon remains her touchstone.

“I would like to spend a little bit less time with him, be less dependent,” she said. “But it’s going to take some therapy to make that happen.”

Still, she is getting through most of her days. At a meeting of homeless men at an Interfaith housing complex, she patiently chided the veterans, many of them from the Vietnam era, to stop bickering, and she then had them clean their rooms in preparation for a weekend inspection.

It was at times tense, and during the session, Devon remained seated nearby, watching his master intently. When she finished and headed outside, he dashed across the grass and painted her hands with his tongue. Had she been nervous? A little, she said. But at this moment, she was laughing, and it was difficult to know as she stroked his mane whether she was the comforted or the comforter. 


                    (dear readers, I have presented this article by James Dao, of the NY Times verbatim so that our soldiers as well as those in our emergency services will not feel so alone after dealing with the unthinkable! There are those around you who care! I am reminded of General Douglas MacArthur at the climax of WW2 as he presided over the Japanese unconditional surrender when he said, "No man hates war, as much as the soldier". I have dealt with many in emergency services and my most memorable comment came from a Toronto Police officer who told me that he "needed his friends outside the force more than his friends needed him." Regardless if it's a dog or a friend outside the force, it is important to reach out. God Bless!) 


Thursday, 26 April 2012

Ontario....voter apathy = dangerous deficit of fiscal sanity??

In Ontario on Tuesday, the minority government of Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty,

Canada's Pinocchio of Premiers, dodged a quick election over his budget by agreeing to the NDP's demands to add more spending to the electorate's burden -- including the always-popular promise to tax the rich. The response? Standard & Poor's has dumped Ontario's credit rating outlook from stable to negative. Turn left for the road to hell. Disaster lies ahead.


                 dear readers, I have provided the above excerpt from a Toronto Sun editorial about how the minority government of Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty just increased our outrageous debt service costs, our third largest spending item, no less by agreeing to NDP leader Andrea Horwath's demands.

Didn't Andrea think to clear additional spending with the rating agencies, like Standard & Poor's, who subsequently dropped Ontario's credit rating outlook from stable to negative? Is it any wonder that when our leaders continue to confuse voters, they breed more voter apathy!

64th anniversary of Israel's independence!

In Ottawa, Ontario, Prime Minister Stephen Harper on April 25, 2012 issued the following statement to mark Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel's Independence Day) celebrations:
"On this special day, I would like to extend warm wishes to those celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Canada, in Israel and around the world. “On this anniversary, we remember all that Israel and its citizens overcame to achieve statehood and we celebrate all that it has accomplished in the past six decades. “As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu during his visit to Canada last month, our Government recognizes it is an especially challenging time in the Middle East. Israel can rest assured that we will uphold its right to exist as an independent Jewish state as we continue in our efforts to promote peace and security in the region.
“Once again, Happy Independence Day!”


                     dear readers, considering continuing security threats Israel faces, Shimon  

Peres is quoted to have said at Yom Ha’atzmaut: "To those who are now threatening Israel I say: Don't repeat the mistakes of your predecessors." "You threaten out of a hunger for conquest. We defend out of an aspiration for peace. That wars, which Israel did not initiate, brought it unexpected gains, causing the aggressors unexpected losses."

Has the time come for young Palestinians, young Egyptians, young Syrians, young Iranians 

and young Israelis to commit to living peacefully together and turn their backs on those who won't?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Alison Redford and Alberta PCs defy polls, a dynasty endures!

Alberta PC Leader Alison Redford celebrates her win in Calgary on Monday.

A dynasty endured here Monday night. But never before had a Progressive Conservative government been elected in Alberta by confounding expectations. The party headed by Alison Redford, now guaranteed more than 45 years in power, has been many things to Albertans over the years, but never had they been the Comeback Kids. All the pols and the punditry, even the talk on the street from voters, had pointed to a breakthrough by the brash, plain-spoken 41-year-old former journalist Danielle Smith and her hard right band of Wildrose candidates.

But under Redford, a party which had trailed by 10 percentage points on the weekend before the vote somehow rose from the dead to win its 12th consecutive majority, casting a pall over Smith’s campaign headquarters at a country club here. The hurtin’ tunes started playing early and never really let up.In the immediate post-mortem, the instant analysis was simple. “What happened,” I asked one veteran of federal and provincial campaigns, who like most of the team around Smith are seasoned and shrewd political operatives.“Hunsperger happened,’’ he said.

That’s as in Allan Hunsperger, the pastor running for Wildrose who had condemned gays to life in a lake of fire, joined by Ron Leech, who said he was a better candidate than his opponent because he was white.
Smith was badly hurt by this outbreak of Tea Party-style, social issues foot-in-mouth disease. But she compounded her problem. She failed to fire either of the candidates, falling back on her libertarianism as an excuse to let them carry on, arguing freedom of speech. But in the campaign’s last week, she had nothing to offer, only playing defence on social issues and her view that the science of climate change remained a work in progress.

“You had a 41-year-old dynasty with a lot invested in hanging on,’’ said one Wildrose strategist. “They threw a lot of furniture at us in the last week.’’ Things shifted, a last-minute surge that pollsters missed. There did appear to be strategic voting, an almost total collapse of the Liberal party and a move to the PCs to block Smith. In essence, Alberta decided to move forward as Redford implored. They would not be pulled back to the 1950s where she said Smith would take them. “Tonight we found out change might take a little longer than we thought,’’ Smith told supporters.

“Am I surprised? Yeah. Am I disappointed? Yeah. Am I discouraged? Not a chance.’’ Redford told Albertans the entire country was watching, waiting to see what this province really thought of itself.
She told them the world was watching, too. She worried aloud about the future of the provincial, and national, economy if a “climate change denier” was trying to open new markets for the province’s bountiful resources.

She dared them to take the next step on the world stage, to show the world that this was a more cosmopolitan province, home to more than Stetsons and stampedes, with a diverse Calgary leading the way.
She had travelled the world herself and made an international reputation for herself. Smith had barely left Alberta. They listened and they clearly worried about Smith and a team of untested neophytes running the show. Redford appeared to head into election day playing a weak hand, looking at polls which showed Smith up to 10 points ahead of her.

She was trying to stave off significant “brand fatigue” after 41 years of PC rule. She was being accused of forsaking the party’s conservative base. She seemed to have missed a window last winter when, had she gone to the polls riding a wave of acclaim as the province’s first female premier, even Wildrose strategists conceded they could not beat her. But she waited, and as she did the problems piled up and she underperformed. Despite the odds, the premature obituaries written on her and her party, despite the national attention showered on Smith, despite the polls, despite the despair even heard from within her party, she prevailed.

Dynasties are hard to kill.


               dear readers, I have presented this article written by Tim Harper, Toronto Star, National Affairs Columnist. Many 'polls and punditry' during the Alberta election called for a Wildrose victory, which makes me wonder if legitimate unbiased public opinion polling has changed to an art from a science? I suspect that some marginal pollsters counted on ignorance while others used dubious methods to test their research. Regardless, instead of being skeptical; which is what pollsters are trained to be, no less, are some just selling 'snake oil' because it's easy? At a time when many forms of science are being questioned; like medical and environmental science, i'm not really surprised that post Alberta election, many political pollsters are now feeling vulnerable but if we continue to confuse voters, we may breed more voter apathy!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

McGuinty agrees to surtax the people who can afford a good accountant!

The wealthy will take a bath so average Ontarians won’t have to wallow through a spring election. “We will not be plunging this province into an election,” New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath said, after cutting a last-minute, budget-saving deal with Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“We’re showing the people of this province that we’re willing to do everything we can to try to make a minority work. But we’re also showing them the sort of Ontario that we want to build.” The deal ensures McGuinty’s seven-month-old minority government will survive a crucial vote on the budget Tuesday.

The new tax, which could be in place by July 1, will slap a two-percentage point increase on income over $500,000 and raise $470 million a year. Only 23,000 Ontarians make enough to pay the tax but on average they’ll shell out $19,000 each.

Horwath had wanted the revenue from the surtax to pay for new spending on cheaper home heating bills, help for day cares and health care but the premier had different ideas.“The NDP want a tax on the rich. We want to reduce the deficit,” McGuinty said. “So under the deal discussed with Ms. Horwath a short time ago, the richest Ontarians — those earning more than $500,000 a year — will be asked to pay a 2% surtax which would generate $470 million next year, all of which will go into reducing the deficit.”

The surtax will expire when the deficit — now $15 billion — is reduced to zero, McGuinty said.
It’s not the only concession Horwath was able to wring out of McGuinty in exchange for saving his government’s skin.

She won small increases for Ontario Works and Ontario Disability benefits, a one-time $20 million for northern hospitals and a vague commitment to help the horse racing industry wean itself off slot machine revenues.

“We said we’re open to suggestions to improve our plan — not just because it’s necessary to do so in a minority parliament but because I think it’s important to be open to good ideas wherever they may come from,” McGuinty said.

Left fuming on the sidelines was Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who predicted last fall as the election drew close that Liberals propped up by New Democrats would inevitably raise taxes.

“I would like to say I am surprised by this deal but I’m not,” Hudak said in a statement. “The choice made by the Premier today leads us further down the same failed path we have been on for the last eight years.

“This is the path of more spending, more taxing, and no plan to create a better climate for private sector jobs. It tinkers with small change when what we need is big change.”

The NDP and the Liberals play give and take:
  • Andrea Horwath asked for tax on $500,000-plus earners to pay for more health care
  • Dalton McGuinty gave her tax on rich for five years to pay down deficit
  • Horwath asked for 1% increase in Ontario Disability Support Program benefits
  • McGuinty gave her 1% ODSP and Ontario Works benefit increases
  • Horwath asked for more money to secure child care spaces
  • McGuinty gave her $90 million, $68 million and $84 million over three years
  • Horwath asked for an 8% HST cut on home heating
  • McGuinty said no, and Horwath dropped it
  • Horwath asked for help for horseracing industry
  • McGuinty provided vague promise of transition support
  • Horwath asked for $100 million in health care funding
  • McGuinty offered $20 million to support Northern Ontario hospitals
  • Horwath asked for $418,000 annual cap on public CEO salaries
  • McGuinty said no to CEO pay cap.

         (dear readers, I have provided this article, written by Jonathon Jenkins, Toronto Sun, Queen's Park Bureau, Monday, April 23, 2012 verbatim about the end of the McGuinty dynasty, as we know it. To save his minority, has McGuinty turned his back on his political contributors when he agreed to Horwath's millionaire's surtax? Will major political donators cut off the 'cash spigot' now that McGuinty has done what he said he wouldn't do? Cut off from funds, the Liberals could be in mortal danger of following their Federal brethren into obscurity! Could this be Horwath's plan?)

Holocaust Remembrance - ‘to keep the promise’

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada at the 2012 National Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony in Ottawa, Ontario on April 23, 2012.
Six million. Six million innocent men, women, and children. We remember this number. It reminds us of the sheer scale of the Holocaust, but one aspect of its singular place in the history of crimes against humanity.
Above all, we remember the individuals included in this number. We remember that each one has a name – precious, irreplaceable, deserving of honour.
“Six million. “Six million innocent men, women, and children. “We remember this number. “It reminds us of the sheer scale of the Holocaust, but one aspect of its singular place in the history of crimes against humanity. “Above all, we remember the individuals included in this number. “We remember that each one has a name – precious, irreplaceable, deserving of honour. And so we gather as a nation on this solemn day.

Today we honour each and every one of the six million who were murdered in the Holocaust. We pay tribute to the courage and solidarity of the Jewish people in that time of gravest peril. We stand in awe of the Righteous. We give thanks for those who survived.

We especially give thanks for those who survived and found their way to our country, and who have enriched its life immeasurably. Ladies and gentlemen, today we remember not only a fact of history.
We rededicate ourselves to the promotion of human rights in our own time. We strengthen our resolve to defend the vulnerable, to challenge the aggressor and to confront evil. And we renew our vow: never again.
But to honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, it is not enough simply to remember. Truly remembering the Holocaust must also be an understanding and an undertaking. It is an understanding that the same threats exist today.

It is an undertaking of a solemn responsibility to fight those threats. We see it in the manifestos of organizations which deny the right of Israel as a Jewish state to exist. We see it most profoundly and clearly in the ravings of a ruthless leader who threatens to wipe Israel off the map, while violating his country’s international obligations and pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. We see it in the slaughter of Jewish children and other innocents, just last month, by a man born and raised in a tolerant, Western country.
And we see it here at home, every year on some university campuses, in the unconscionable slur that is the so-called Israeli Apartheid Week.

Ladies and gentlemen, while the Holocaust stands alone, it does not stand isolated. It is but the most hellish chapter in the long and continuing history of anti-Semitism. We must face this history unflinching.
Anti-Semitism is a sickness, a deadly moral sickness.

Anti-Semitism kills the lives and security of its victims, the consciences of its perpetrators, the integrity of those who fail to speak out, of those who counsel a false peace, of those who seek refuge in moral equivalence. As history and present controversies tell us all too well, anti-Semitism is a threat not only to the Jewish people. It is a threat to us all – a sickness that quickly morphs into a hatred and a desire to destroy anyone – anyone who is different than its perpetrator.

But most important of all, we remind ourselves, we remind ourselves in this moment, that we are neither hopeless nor helpless. This is the message of Yad Vashem, of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, and of all those committed to Holocaust remembrance and education. You take on the painstaking work of documenting and researching the most unspeakable horrors of which humanity is capable. But you do so with confidence that there is a moral compass to guide us surely away from such horrors. You do so with hope, believing in the power of education to foster tolerance, compassion and understanding. You do so with generosity, celebrating the heroes who chose good over evil, even at the risk of their own lives, highlighting the fact that these heroes include people of all faiths.

As a Canadian, as Prime Minister, I thank you for your noble service, your invaluable service, to our country and to the family of civilized nations.

Ladies and gentlemen, in a few moments we will hear the stories of three of the Righteous Among the Nations. It is natural on hearing these stories, not only to be moved and inspired, but also to reflect.
Why did the Righteous choose to do good, even under the most terrifying circumstances? What were the factors which influenced their number in any given place? And in so many places, why was that number not larger? At the end of today’s ceremony will be the launch of an exhibit from Yad Vashem, on Muslim Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. We have much to learn from their example.
Following Nazi occupation in 1943, the Albanians refused to turn over lists of Jews within their borders.
They gave false documents to Jews, to help them avoid detection. The country protected not only its own Jewish citizens; they welcomed an even larger number of Jewish refugees from neighbouring lands. As a result, almost all of them were saved. What is the reason for this magnificent example? It is Besa, a code of honour, the highest ethical code in Albania. Besa means literally ‘to keep the promise’ – to keep one’s word, to the point of being someone in whom a person in need can entrust his or her very life.

Ladies and gentlemen, we too must keep this promise. This is the culture of honour which we must all protect and strengthen, not only in our own country, but also in international forums and around the world.
Historian Sir Martin Gilbert reports that most rescuers believe that they did, and I quote, ‘the only thing a decent person would do.’ He quotes a woman whose father was honoured as Righteous, saying her father would have said, and again I quote, that he did ‘nothing other than any normal human being would have done.’ On this solemn day of remembrance, let us rededicate ourselves to spreading that decency, to making that statement true.

Let us push relentlessly the boundaries of tolerance and respect, until these values are realized the world over. Now can we achieve this, fully and forever? History tells us, sadly, that we should not expect to do so.
But it also tells us that we must eternally try.

This is the mission of Yad Vashem. And this remains the great challenge before us and before the world today.


                 dear readers, well it is laudable for Stephen Harper to acknowledge the Nazi atrocity that infected Europe in the 30's, on this very solemn day, we should not forget our own culpability in the sad story of the SS St. Louis, a ship full of Jewish refugees that was turned away from Halifax in early 1939, simply because ignorance, call it racism or anti-Semitism or hate was rampant in official Canada, too. As Adolf Hitler began his brutish campaign to slaughter all the Jews of Europe, Canada’s highest officials turned their backs on those trying to escape. A handful might have escaped the Nazi killing machine if Canadian officials hadn’t been so rabidly ignorant.

On May 13, 1939, the St. Louis steamed out of Hamburg, Germany on her way to Cuba but when the ship arrived in Havana, the Americans refused to admit the Jewish refugees. The St. Louis sat in the harbour for days before being forced to head north along the eastern seaboard of the United States. The plan was to dock in Halifax, Nova Scotia and hope the Canadian government would agree to take them in but the St. Louis’ passengers were turned away again!

After the War, Ottawa was reluctant to apologize for the wrongdoings of those in power at the time, most notably Frederick Charles Blair, the head of immigration and notoriously racist who did all he could to block the immigration of Jews into Canada., and Vincent Massey, Canada’s high commissioner to Great Britain (and later Governor-General) who worked through external affairs to keep Jewish refugees out of Canada, according to Irving Abella in his 1982 book, 'None Is Too Many'.

In 1938, Frederick Blair wrote that Canada had fought to keep people out who had become stateless as a result of the First World War “for the reason that coming out of the maelstrom of war, some of them are liable to go on the rocks and when they become public charges, we have to keep them for the balance of their lives.” Frederick Blair did not lack for willing helpers. Thomas Crerar was the only member of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberal Cabinet to support Jewish immigration to Canada but even he fell in with his colleagues and supported the unofficial ban on letting Jews from Europe into Canada.

After the St. Louis was denied entry to Halifax Harbour, she returned to Europe, allowed to dock in Antwerp, Belgium, and several countries took her passengers in as refugees. However, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum records that, “532 St. Louis passengers were trapped when Germany conquered Western Europe and just over half, 278 survived the Holocaust.”  

Today, more than 70 years later, at Halifax’s Pier 21, the very place where the ship would have docked, had Canada welcomed it, a memorial designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind has been be unveiled to commemorate this travesty; a steel memorial, titled The Wheel of Conscience which is part of a $500,000 project initiated by the Canadian Jewish Congress and paid for by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for it’s important to remember that it won't happen again!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Ontario Budget: McGuinty agrees to Horwath’s tax-the-rich scheme


by: Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star, Queen’s Park Bureau,

It’s a deal. Premier Dalton McGuinty has agreed to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s “tax-the-rich” scheme in order to ensure the minority Liberals’ budget passes Tuesday, averting a snap election call.

McGuinty emerged Monday afternoon from a 30-minute closed-door meeting with Horwath — his second in as many days — to announce he had made significant compromises to win her backing.

“They wanted a tax on the rich, I wanted to pay down our deficit faster,” the premier told a packed news conference.

“We all gave a little bit,” he said, referring to the new “NDP surtax” on people earning more than $500,000 a year.

Horwath told reporters after McGuinty’s news conference that “our caucus does not intend to defeat the government. We will not be plunging this province into an election.”

She won a huge victory by convincing the Liberals to impose the 2 per cent surtax on 23,000 high-income earners that would raise $470 million in 2013-14 with all proceeds going toward paying down the $15.2 billion deficit.

The tax — which would cost someone making $600,000 an extra $3,120 annually — will be in place until Ontario balances the budget, now scheduled for 2017-18.

Horwath also said the 1 per cent increase to Ontario Works welfare benefits andOntario Disability Support Plan, which will cost the government $55 million, made the budget “a little more fair.”

That will be offset by lowering the price the province pays for its 10 most popular generic drugs by $55 million.

An infusion of $20 million to help hospitals in Northern Ontario, where the NDP holds a majority of the seats, will be paid for by reducing the budget for government consultants.

As well, there is an unspecified plan to help the horse-racing industry once slot machines are removed from racetracks by next March.

Last Friday, McGuinty also pledged $242 million in funding for child care over three years, which will come from the education budget.

Still, the NDP leader could not yet say if her 17-member caucus would actually vote for the budget on Tuesday or merely abstain.

“Did we get everything that we wanted, absolutely not . . . We’ve had some partial wins,” she said, adding New Democrats are still determining their precise course of action in Tuesday’s 11:45 a.m. budget vote.
The mood had been tense earlier Monday at Queen’s Park over concern the province could be faced with a second election just seven months after the Oct. 6 campaign that resulted in a minority Liberal government.

“I really don’t want an election right now. People will be angry at us if it happened,” said a grim-faced Finance Minister Dwight Duncan before the agreement was reached.

Horwath’s proposal is popular with Ontarians — a Forum poll last week suggested 78 per cent support with only 17 per cent opposition — and many Grit MPPs urged McGuinty to adopt the levy.
But last week the premier expressed reservations in part because he still bears scars from raising taxes after the 2003 and 2007 elections despite promising not to do so.

At the Liberals’ caucus meeting last Tuesday, MPPs and cabinet ministers spoke overwhelmingly in favour of making the concession to Horwath — to McGuinty’s chagrin.

On Monday, Grit MPPs confided that they hoped the premier would cede to their wishes.

“It’s a lot easier to ask government workers to take a wage freeze if we’re also asking a little bit from our wealthiest residents,” said one Liberal MPP, referring to plans to freeze wages for doctors, teachers, nurses, and hundreds of thousands of others on the public payroll.

With 52 Liberal MPPs, excluding Speaker Dave Levac, in the 107-member Legislature, the governing party needs opposition support to pass the budget Duncan tabled March 27.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and his 37-member caucus vowed to defeat the spending plan from the get-go.

“I would like to say I am surprised by this deal but I’m not. What I am concerned about is the direction of Ontario,” Hudak said in a statement late Monday.

“We need to reduce the size and cost of government and kick-start growth and job creation in the private sector,” added the Tory leader.

The Conservative strategy of disengagement, which even some senior Tories are now questioning, forced the Liberals to negotiate exclusively with the New Democrats to prevent a $100-million election.
If the government had fallen Tuesday, Ontarians would likely have gone to the polls on May 24.


                               (dear readers, I have presented the above article, written by Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star, Queen’s Park Bureau verbatim to provide a little space for their view of what went down today at Queen's Park. However, in my opinion, when you have overspent on unnecessary Energy projects, wasted millions on Ornge, when you can no longer baffle them with your brilliance, why not dazzle them with a smoke and mirrors surtax. A surprise to absolutely no one, McGuinty caves in on his self-imposed position of no tax increases after a few weeks. The fact remains that McGuinty's budget contains no serious provision for ending his outrageous spending habit on hopeless schemes while Horwath simply confirms there is no substantial difference between Liberal and NDP positions on the Global Adjustment resulting in the escalating cost spiril of electricity, as expressed by the Auditor General. And who makes over $500,000 and votes Liberal anyway? Will the NDP share the blame when this scheme provides little to no additional revenues or will they both just blame Hudak?

A Bipolar


New income support program for parents of victims of crime!

April 20, 2012
Sherbrooke, Quebec

In advance of the seventh annual National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced a new income support program for parents who take time off work as they cope with the death or disappearance of a child which occurred as a result of a crime. The Prime Minister was joined by Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resource! s and Skills and Development, and Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, founder and president of the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared (AFPAD).
“Our Government is taking decisive action to be tougher on crime and to provide more support for victims and their families,” said Prime Minister Harper. “The income support benefit being announced today will ease the financial pressure on parents struggling to cope with the death or disappearance of a child.”

The Government of Canada recognizes that losing a child is a deeply traumatic experience, and that many parents faced with such an ordeal need time away from work to cope and recover. Beginning on January 1, 2013, the new Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children will provide support to eligible parents who suffer a loss of income as a result of taking time away from work to cope with the death or disappearance of a child that was caused by a Criminal Code offense.

This new benefit responds to the concerns and calls of victims’ groups and delivers on the Government of Canada’s commitment to support the parents of murdered or missing children. It is also part of the Government’s ongoing actions to support victims of crime and is in line with the Federal Victims Strategy, which aims to improve the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

War on Women, vol 3,

On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter. And half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.  

Shelter from the Storm, a movement across Canada to end violence against women is challenging everyone to help these women and their children and overcome the greatest challenge of their lives and build a brighter future for our sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends.To this end, an event has been organized.....

Live on Julie and Paula - An Evening for Paula Menendez and Julie Crocker in support of the Canadian Women's Foundation
Friday April 29, 2011
6:30 p.m. Reception
7:30 p.m. Dinner
Old Mill Inn and Spa
21 Old Mill Road, Toronto, ON
Host: Farah Nasser, CTV News Anchor
The Crocker and Menendez families are proud to be hosting the second annual charity event in memory of Julie Crocker and Paula Menendez to support the Canadian Women’s Foundation Shelter from the Storm campaign and raise awareness about domestic violence.

Tickets $150 each (tax receipt for $100) To order tickets visit: or contact

Shelter from the Storm is Canada's largest national fundraising campaign dedicated to ending violence against women. Funds raised will support community violence prevention programs and over 425 shelters for abused women across Canada. The campaign runs from April 16 until May 13, and, during this time, Winners and HomeSense stores across Canada will be selling limited edition Shelter from the Storm custom products to raise awareness and funds for ending violence against women. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit
About Canadian Women's Foundation
The Canadian Women's Foundation is Canada's public foundation for women and girls who empower women and girls in Canada to move out of violence, out of poverty and into confidence. Since 1991, they've invested in over 1,100 community programs across Canada, and are now one of the ten largest women's foundations in the world. Taking a positive approach to address root causes of the most critical issues facing women and girls, they study and share the best ways to create long-term change and bring community organizations together for training and to learn from each other with a special focus on building a community of women helping other women. Helping women creates safer families and communities, and a more prosperous society for all of us by investing in the power of women and the dreams of girls.


Should media be prohibited from re-broadcasting police and other emergency service radio transmissions?

In the Markham Economist & Sun, Friday April 20, 2012, the question was asked whether our media should be prohibited from re-broadcasting police and other emergency service radio transmissions? Readers voted and the results are......
No (34%)

Yes (66%)

Total Votes: 117 
.........dear reader, I have provided this information verbatim in recognition of a fine officer as well as the issues surrounding this travesty that will not end any time soon. Feel free to vote yourself at.....

York Regional Police Const. Garrett Styles was fatally injured during a traffic stop east of Newmarket on June 28, 2011.

York police officer dies after being dragged 300 metres by van.

by: Curtis Rush, Henry Stancu and Liam Casey Staff Reporters, York Region Media Group,

Tuesday, June 28, 2011,

In the last dramatic moments before York Regional Police Const. Garrett Styles died, his colleagues heard him calling for help over the police radio while pinned beneath a minivan. Styles, who had been dragged 300 metres following a traffic stop east of Newmarket just before 5 a.m. Tuesday, was able to talk for several minutes with dispatchers until ambulance and fire arrived.

“I’ve got a car on top of me,” he said. “Help. Help me.” The dispatcher told him to hold on: “We’ve got help on the way, just sit tight.” Styles’ breathing grew more difficult as the dispatcher kept the frantic officer in radio contact. Another police officer joined in: “Garrett, keep talking to us,” he told Styles. The dispatcher tried to assess the situation and the pain became almost too much for Styles to talk. “I’ve got a van on my waist, I don’t know . . . it hurts. And I’ve got some people inside the van. I don’t know how they’re doing.” Styles’ voice grew still just as emergency vehicles got to him. He was still alive en route to hospital, but was pronounced dead at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket.

Styles stopped the vehicle at Highway 48, just south of Herald Rd. in the town of East Gwillimbury at about 4:50 a.m. Police said he pulled up behind the van and ran the plates. Inside were four youths, including an unlicensed 15-year-old behind the wheel. A police source said the van was taken without permission from a family member. Styles walked back to the van and reached inside for the keys when the driver accelerated to escape. The officer was dragged 300 metres before the van lost control and flipped, pinning him underneath.

Later in the afternoon, the 15-year-old was taken on an emergency run to the Hospital for Sick Children with a police escort. He suffered severe spinal injuries that may result in paralysis. The three other passengers in the van are cooperating with officers, police said. Styles, 32, was a seven-year veteran of the service who was working general patrol for A Platoon out of Newmarket. He would have turned 33 on Sunday.

He leaves behind his wife, Melissa, a civilian with York Regional Police, and their children — a 2½-year-old girl, Meredith, and a 9-week-old boy, Nolan. “This is a tragedy for us, his family and his community,” York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said Tuesday afternoon. “His supervisors spoke of him as a dedicated, professional, hard-working officer who always had time to assist others. He was well-liked among his peers and he loved being a police officer,” Jolliffe said. A colleague of Styles was almost too overcome to speak.

“He was a wonderful friend, a wonderful father and a wonderful police officer,” Det. Const. Erin Tester said before breaking down in tears outside Southlake Regional Health Centre. Tester and Styles both have children about the same age. Tester said she has known Styles for 13 years. Tester’s husband, Brad Gallant, also a York Region police officer, was at the Styles’ residence in Keswick in the afternoon to pick up family belongings and take them to a temporary undisclosed location. Gallant said Styles’ wife is “holding up surprisingly well.”

Styles, who comes from a policing family, graduated from Newmarket High School and joined York Regional Police in December 2003. He became a constable in May 2004. His father, Staff Sgt. Garry Styles, just retired in January. Jolliffe said Styles had recently written an exam for promotion to sergeant, scoring an 82 per cent average. Roy Frederick, who lives across the street from the family, said Styles was a good neighbour who would exchange tips with him on lawn maintenance and share weed-cutting equipment. Frederick said he knew something was wrong when he saw a lot of commotion at the house at 5:30 a.m. “I saw three or four vehicles, so I thought something was wrong. At first, I thought a kid was sick or something like that.” Frederick said Styles and his wife moved to the street in 2005. “He was a really nice guy. I saw him (Monday), and I spoke to his wife just after the birth of his son a couple of months ago. I remember two years ago, our lawns were so messed up with weeds and we talked to each other about that. We would just chit-chat.” Styles didn’t make it well known what kind of work he did, Frederick said.
“I knew he worked with the police force, but I didn’t know if he was an officer. He didn’t talk about it much. I think I’ve only seen him once in uniform. “This is so disturbing,” he added. “It’s really sad when nice people like that die, especially through a traffic accident. When somebody is sick, you can accept that a little more.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, calling Styles’ death a “loss to all of us.”
“My deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and to the York Regional Police during this very difficult time. His death is a tremendous loss not only for those who loved him, but for all of us.” The public asks a lot from those who serve as police officers, McGuinty added.
“We ask them to uphold our laws, protect our homes and, if need be, put our safety before theirs. Our police, and their families, agree to protect us and ours knowing that doing so may mean paying the ultimate sacrifice. “Today, we’re reminded once again of the depth of that selfless service.” This is the second York police officer to be struck by a vehicle and killed in four years.

Det. Const. Robert Plunkett was pinned against a tree in Markham on Aug. 2, 2007, after he tried to stop a stolen car. The driver, Nadeem Jiwa, 23, was recently found guilty of manslaughter.
At the beginning of this year Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell, 35, was killed by a man driving a stolen snowplow. The 11-year veteran of the force was the 40th Toronto police officer killed on the job.


With files from Amanda Kwan, Zoe McKnight, Richard J. Brennan, Tanya Talaga and The Canadian Press.

Thousands descend on Queen’s Park to protest McGuinty budget

by: Niamh Scallan, Staff Reporter, Toronto Star,
More than 15,000 protesters from labour unions and community organizations across the province rallied outside Ontario’s Legislature Saturday afternoon to vent their fury over the minority Liberal government’s austerity-focused budget.

“We’re sending a signal to Dalton McGuinty that the budget he’s introduced is grossly unfair,” said Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, the group responsible for organizing the “Day of Action” event.

A sea of flag-toting protesters arrived by the busload early in the afternoon to demonstrate against the proposed budget, a belt-tightening fiscal blueprint that calls for wage freezes for more than a million public servants and pension plan changes as a way to rein in the province’s multi-billion-dollar deficit.

Gathered on the grassy stretch facing the Legislature, the group of public servants and other labour supporters jived to a Bob Marley cover band as union and community group leaders prepared to take the stage for speeches, sporadic cries of “Shame, shame on McGuinty!” filling the air.

“McGuinty has gone too far. We need to support the public sector,” said Don Guest, a Brantford-based millwright and United Steel Workers member.

“They need to step back. Touching pensions, it’s just not the right way to go,” added Cephas Kotei, a Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board employee and president of CUPE Local 1483.

The rally then shifted from the Legislature to the streets as the throng of protesters marched toward Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. A handful of cement trucks, parked near a construction site on Bay St., honked their horns as protesters marched by, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

The protest came just three days before a crucial budget vote that, if defeated, could see Ontarians headed back to the polls for the second time in six months. The Progressive Conservatives under leader Tim Hudak have said the proposed budget fails to create jobs and control spending, and have vowed to vote against it.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, one of more than a dozen speakers at Saturday’s event, called the proposed budget “profoundly flawed” and told to the crowd she planned to continue to press McGuinty for further concessions prior to Tuesday’s vote.

“When this budget was introduced, we saw a lot of things that we certainly did not like. This budget left workers behind. It left people who are looking for work behind,” she said, bystanders chanting “Vote it down! Vote it down” as she left the stage.

The New Democrat leader later told reporters she hoped to avoid another election, but said her party still had a number of unmet concerns.

Horwath said she was “pleased” with McGuinty’s announcement of a number of budget-related concessions on Friday, including the plan to put $275 million toward child care and the disabled. But her party hoped for further compromises, including a wealth surtax of two percentage points on incomes above $500,000, she said.

With hours before Tuesday’s vote dwindling, Horwath said she planned to meet with McGuinty on Sunday to review her party’s concerns.

“I’ve been very, very careful not to have a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude in this process,” she said. “All we want to see is a little bit of fairness. The very least we can ask for is that the very top earners in Ontario put in a little bit more when times are tough.”

“Corporations should be paying their fair share,” added Ryan, noting he hoped Horwath would “stick to her guns” in the coming days.


       (dear readers, I have provided this article, written by Niamh Scallan, Staff Reporter, Toronto Star about thousands of protesters marching on Saturday to Queen's Park showing their displeasure with the Liberal government many voted for just a few months ago which begs the the end near for the McGuinty government? It was a shocking sight to see so many former ardent supporters turning their backs so soon! To save his minority, will McGuinty be forced to turn his back on his political contributors should he agree to Horwath's millionaire's surtax? Will major political donators cut off the 'cash spigot' now that McGuinty has done what he said he wouldn't do? Cut off from funds, the Liberals could be in mortal danger of following their Federal brethren into obscurity! Could this be Horwath's plan?)


Friday, 20 April 2012

U.S. congressman denounces transfer while Khadr's return is a ticking clock!

Security expert Christian Leuprecht looks at what Canada needs to do to ensure Omar Khadr does not repeat his terrorist actions on our soil.


U.S. congressman denounces transfer!


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. congressman Allen West denounced transferring Omar Khadr to Canada as "unconscionable" Thursday, and warned the convicted terrorist and murderer could be back on the battlefield soon.

West, a Republican from Florida who is a rising star in the GOP and also a 20-year army vet who served in both Iraq wars and Afghanistan, has led the charge against sending Khadr back to Canada.

"This is unconscionable and is yet another reason why the Obama administration must be defeated in November," West said in a statement to QMI Agency and Sun News Network Thursday.

"Based upon the reports of recidivism with released Islamic terrorists, we can expect his return to the battlefield."

A year ago, West wrote to his constituents about the plea deal struck by Khadr, which saw him sentenced to eight years in prison for five war crimes, including killing a U.S. Special Forces medic nearly 10 years ago in an Afghan firefight.

The deal allows Khadr to apply to transfer to a Canadian jail after serving one year of his sentence at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which was completed in October 2011.

"Upon his release to Canada, the maximum time he will serve is seven years," West wrote in a March 2011 newsletter. "What message does that send to our men and women in uniform?

"These non-state, non-military belligerents who do not openly declare nor carry their arms are UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANTS and not deserving of any rights under the Geneva Convention. However, out of our Western civilization benevolence, we treat them humanely and rightly so. Still I will not consent to offering constitutional rights to these creatures of abject evil."

Mark Toner with the U.S. State Department told reporters Wednesday there may not be any more steps required for the Obama administration in order for Khadr's potential transfer to happen, but recent reports have suggested that Congress must be notified of the transfer 30 days before it occurs. In 2010, Khadr admitted to throwing the grenade that killed U.S. Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer in a July 2002 Afghan firefight, as well as making and planting roadside bombs as part of an al-Qaida cell, supporting terrorism, spying and conspiracy.

His victim's widow, Tabitha Speer, is declining media interviews at this time, according to her lawyers.

Only 28, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer volunteered to go into into harm's way

Khadr's return a ticking clock!
By Kris Sims, Parliamentary Bureau, Toronto Sun

OTTAWA - One of Canada's most reviled citizens has his papers to return to his country of birth, and it's up
 to the feds to decide when that happens.

Omar Khadr, 25, a convicted terrorist who fought on the side of al-Qaida in Afghanistan is sentenced to serve eight years for murdering American soldier, Special Forces U.S. Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer in 2002.

He has been held in Guantanamo Bay since he was captured in battle.

The federal government and Washington agreed that Khadr is allowed to return to Canada after serving one year in U.S. custody. But analysts say it doesn't have to be an immediate return.

"There is a check list in the International Transfer of Offenders Act, and one of the things Public Safety Minister Vic Toews must do is answer in the affirmative that this prison transfer is not a public danger," said Ezra Levant, Sun News Network host, and author of the book on Khadr The Enemy Within: Terror, Lies and the White Washing of Omar Khadr.

"He's the most dangerous type of individual that you can imagine to take back into your country. He's a convicted war criminal, he's an enemy combatant, he's infected with the virus of radical Jihad, so maybe you don't want him back on your home soil," said retired lieutenant colonel Jeffrey Addicott, former senior legal advisor to the U.S. Army's Special Forces and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in Texas. "If I were a Canadian, I would worry he could become a lightning rod for jihadists in Canada, they'd make him some type of hero, a martyr, it's best to just let sleeping dogs lie and leave him where he's at."

He says Canada could say 'no' to the Obama administration and leave Khadr in the U.S. for his full sentence, since they house plenty of Canadian convicts already.

"The U.S. no longer wants him and has asked us to take him," said Julie Carmichael, spokeswoman for Toews. "No final decisions have been made at this time, however any decision on his application will be made in accordance with Canadian law."

The feds have their fingers crossed that Khadr won't return to his terrorist activities.
"We can never guarantee that a citizen won't commit offences in the future," said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. "At the end of the day Canadians who commit crimes abroad at some point have a right to come back to the country and we certainly hope they don't re-offend.


            (dear readers, I have provided these two articles by Bryn and Kris, two writers from the Toronto Sun verbatim as they detail what Canadians are dealing with, from just their perspectives. Only 28, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer volunteered to go into into harm's way and paid the ultimate price. Chris was a combat medic with a Delta Force team and was mortally wounded during a skirmish on July 27, 2002. Speer, who was not wearing a helmet at the time because the mission called for indigenous clothing, suffered a head wound from a grenade and succumbed to his injuries approximately two weeks later. Speer was awarded the Soldier's Medal for risking his life to save two Afghan children who were trapped in a minefield, on July 21, 2002, two weeks before his death. From Albuquerque, New Mexico. Chris succumbed to his injuries and died on August 7, 2002. It has been a terrible loss for his wife Tabitha as well as their son and daughter. For more information about Chris, check out....
The questions of when will Khadr leave custody, what will be the parameters of his assessment and where will he call home are still to be decided but each, no doubt will be contentious issues for some time to come!)

some final words.......

"I was given the honor of not only knowing Chris, I spent the happiest years of my life with him. We married and had two beautiful children. Chris made all my dreams come true, it was as though he completed me. It has been two years and seven months since his death and I still find it hard to believe that he won't be coming home. Our Daughter is now almost six, she talks about her Daddy constantly, our Son who is three has so much trouble understanding why his Daddy won't be coming home! He asks for his Daddy daily, can he see me? Does he hear me? Can he hold my hand if I reach up to Heaven? Will he come home after he's done in Heaven? My Daughter and I do our best to answer his questions. We miss you so much and love you more than any words could ever possibly express. I can see you in their faces, with each and every smile and silly little smirk. You are so alive in them both, it amazes me! We have a little three year old version of you, he becomes more and more like you every day. They both have your sense of humor and are always smiling. We love you, you are our true HERO! I Love You Today, Tomorrow and Forever!" Tabitha Lee of North Carolina"


Brother Speer. As the world cries for your killer to be free, I cry for you and your family, a hero forgotten by bleeding hearts. Though you may have forgiven, I won't forget you. When your killer, Omar Khadr is freed and returned here as a hero, I, and my brother vets here in Canada, will hold a flag for you, for all to see that we haven't forgotten you. Love, Your Brother Soldiers and Vets of the USAF, USA, and USMC". Jon of Toronto, Canada