The Andrew Lawton Show = Stigma In Stereo

Here in London, Ontario we have several radio stations one of which is AM 980. For most that are unfamiliar with this branch of CFPL AM, it is a species of FOX. Normally when I want to hear something stupid I watch the parliamentary question period but today I was informed of a program on Not Criminally Responsible. The host Andrew Lawton seems proud to boast that his is London’s most irreverent talk show.
I completely understand the meaning of irreverence but a lack of respect for individuals suffering from serious and persistent mental illness is beyond irreverence. It is shameful and worthy of listeners or any who are affected by mental illness to make a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. As compassionate and informed citizens we need to take responsibility in not perpetuating stigma and for people with a public platform that responsibility is imperative if not implied. To vilify people with mental illness cannot be excused by claiming irreverence. If Londoners were subjected to this disrespect directed at any other marginalized and disadvantaged population we would be outraged. These individuals have no voice so it falls to those of us who can stand up to take a stand.
I call for a public apology from Mr. Lawton for the one in five affected by mental illness. This would be a significant and necessary step for Mr. Lawton to take in the discontinuation of mental health stigma. As citizens any apathy is a continuation of the destructive and irresponsible attitudes that have contributed to the suffering of all individuals with mental health difficulties. To see no harm is the foul.
The best part of The Andrew Lawton Show is the 40 second lead in where Andrew is mute. It is as the opening song states “the show that never ends” but if we care about mental illness it clearly should.
The forensic system is made up of highly trained and educated individuals who specialize in this often obscure area of mental health. I could call Andrew Lawton on not including a lawyer or psychiatrist but even I know these people would have to be further specialized to be of any significance to the exchange of proper and significant information.
Andrew Lawton is a liar. In a past show he tells us that a lot of work goes into preparing stories and lining up guests. Maybe for locksmiths but for the complexities of forensic mental health we have only the breath and brain of an ignorant broadcaster.
I’m not sure if it ironic or just sad that Andrew Lawton took the time to interview a locksmith who deals with door handles but found no reason to include anyone with forensic relevance to his so called show on Not Criminally Responsible (NCR). I don’t know whether to be angry or laugh at the fact that a show that involved the intricacies of the Canadian Criminal Code, The Mental Health Act and forensic psychiatry was sewn together with only Mr. Lawton’s delusions, while the segment that followed involving locksmiths actually involved a locksmith. I can in no way shine a brighter light on this man’s arrogance, stupidity and irresponsibility.

I do not believe irreverence or any other excuse precludes responsibility to the truth in airing publicly opinions or anything near information. Mr. Lawton begins his program in a mire or misinformation. He seems to want listeners to think that individuals found Not Criminally Responsible “never have to spend time in jail.” I spent 10 months in a detention centre or jail and was exposed to all the punishment and more because of my delusions. If Mr. Lawton wants to confirm my confinement he can ask the guard who refused me a shower and toothbrush for 7 days. He can look up in the records how long I spent in solitary confinement and he can even interview the other prisoners who took advantage of my illness. Mr. Lawton seems disappointed that I was sent to a mental health facility for treatment and not for punishment. Sorry.
To assist Mr. Lawton in his ignorance I would point out that guilt is not the act but the act of knowing. When someone is found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder it is because experts have found that they could not appreciate the nature of the act or omission. They are not sentenced according to a code of punishment but are placed under forensic mental health care. Forensic mental health facilities are secure, humane, progressive and therapeutic. Interdisciplinary teams are used to progress patients through rehabilitation and treatment. These facilities are hospitals and not jails because Not Criminally Responsible offenders are not criminals they are patients. They require not our judgement or fear but rather our assistance.
It is not a chosen path so it makes no sense to punish the traveler for being where they are.
It is difficult for many to reconcile illness with atrocity. It needs to be kept in mind that without the illness there may have been no crime. We recognize the defendant but we cannot see the culprit. The culprit is mental illness.
Not Criminally Responsible in my case was not a chosen defense. If I had my way I would have been a brilliant lawyer at my own trial. It was a defense of default for me. I was incapable of any other defense. The courts and medicine intervened to protect justice and my mental health. If we are to be merciful it is imperative we do not punish illness. It is pointless and cruel.
If it is an eye for an eye, Christ`s words were wasted.
Mr. Lawton seems to think treatment is a “mentality” and rehabilitation is an “argument.” I would suggest getting off your high horse as both are in fact science and medicine. They are both carried out by people with years of experience and expertise. I suggest that Mr. Lawton is in fact deflecting his own inadequacies. He is in no way qualified so he assumes the same of others. Unlike himself, these practitioners are universally recognized as experts. Were he to give them this credit he would be forced to submit his conservative worldview to information and science which we know is like oil and water.
Mr. Lawton simply states the obvious when he says he has “very little place in my heart for people like this.” People like what? People with serious and persistent mental illness? People caught up in circumstances they never imagined? People who are marginalized and disadvantaged? I can only state the obvious and point out that people like Mr. Lawton have no heart. Theirs is a world of retribution where answers are only found in anger and indifference.
Mr Lawton seems proud of the fact that he covers stories that “you won’t hear from mainstream media.” Could it be because they have scruples, integrity and a responsibility to the public to present researched information or at least investigate a story rather than jumping from the horse with a mouthful from the one in front? Just because a thought enters your cowboy hat does not abdicate you of being responsible with your platform. I find it ironic that a whole story devoted to the distaste of people being found not responsible is carried out by an individual who is nothing more than irresponsible himself. Canadians spend millions to combat stigma and a man with a microphone sweeps much of it away with his own personal ignorance which he disguises as opinion.
Andrew Lawton seems to think it is some sort of public service to illustrate an individual case and circumstance and call into question broad and pointless arguments. Calling into question rehabilitation and treatment in general because of a mentally ill individual’s personal oversight is irresponsible and imbecilic. It is as logical as asking if police should be allowed to carry handguns after a civilian shooting. Each officer is unique as are the civilians and circumstances that bring them together. In case the analogy escapes you Mr. Lawton each person who is found to be Not Criminally Responsible is unique as is their treatment and rehabilitation.
With regard to Thomas Brailsford I can only use my own experiences to dispel Mr. Lawton’s ignorance. I was held on a medium secure unit for roughly one year before I was allowed passes on the hospital grounds and it was well over a year before I entered the community on indirectly supervised passes. Extreme caution is exercised in the issuance of passes and privileges. If Mr. Brailsford was released on a pass the public’s safety was paramount. If he was considered a danger or even a threat to himself or others he would never have been granted a pass. This news story is basically about a non-dangerous individual breaking a curfew.
I am taking Mr. Lawton to task because these individuals in most cases are disabled. We cannot see the limp but the disadvantage is obvious if we look beyond our misconceptions. Mr. Lawton can be proud of the fact that he devoted half his show to spouting stigma and disrespecting people who struggle with day to day life. Again, I call on Londoners and others to voice their disapproval of this man and his show. Would we stand silent if it was homeless people in wheelchairs? I think not and that is the slippery slope of stigma.
Mr. Lawton asks if these offenders “should even have rights.” I hate to be the one to break it to this man but as Canadians we all have rights in all instances and they are protected in the Charter and the Constitution. Even free speech which Mr. Lawton seems to have swindled someone into paying him for is a right until it becomes hate. You sir are close to that edge.
I would never call Mr. Lawton a moron so I will let him say it himself. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” In case this stupidity seems some typographical error I will once again type it word for word. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” One can only wonder which parts Mr. Lawton wishes people to be responsible for. The temperature? The day of the week?
Andrew Lawton seems to think Not Criminally Responsible is “not of the criminal code but of the justice system.” I hate to point this man to a book but in fact Not Criminally Responsible has been part of the criminal code for over a century. There are no illustrations but even Mr. Lawton could read the print if he was willing to expend the energy or had the intellect.
For Mr. Lawton the designation of Not Criminally Responsible has “gotten people treatment the community would not like to see them receive.” Only the community that is totally callous and without compassion which clearly includes Mr. Lawton.
Another lie made by Mr. Lawton is his insistence that David Carmichael who killed his son “did not know what he was doing and was then released.” In fact he was held in the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital for 3 years if memory serves. Should people in public broadcasting be allowed to promote lies to perpetuate their opinions and mental health stigma? I think we could ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that one.
To further Mr. Lawton’s ignorance he calls on his listeners. Adam believes, “the general public doesn’t know what is best anymore.” They never have which is why we have legal and medical experts. It might be fun to stone people on a whim but we have come to the conclusion that justice is best served otherwise. Emotions are not logic or legal and justice remains blind so that evidence precludes emotion.
Blinded by his own belligerence Mr. Lawton turns to Mark who digresses into some story about Nazi’s, the Japanese of WW2 and further peppers his ignorance with words like bonkers and crazy as though he isn’t. Mark states that he doesn’t trust psychiatrists to see the difference between a murderous mindset and mental illness as though he can.
For any who are not intimately insulted as they have not been found NCR take heart as Mr. Lawton “completely recognizes that, by the way, if you are dealing with mental illness you are not operating at full capacity, you are not operating in a sense you are completely responsible for your actions.” He must mean people like Churchill, Lincoln, or Patton. “I completely recognize that, by the way, but that doesn’t excuse you from doing whatever you want.” Like anyone would want to kill their 78 year old mother or their child? Mr. Lawton believes NCR individuals are not being called to account for their actions. Those actions are usually a result of delusions and hallucinations which are not asked for or rationalized. No one wishes to be involved in any of these sad circumstances. A tragedy is sometimes simply a tragedy.

Andrew Lawton wants to bring our attention to Thomas Brailsford who he claims ran away. Mr. Lawton believes he was handed an unsupervised pass. In fact it was first decided by a judge, a lawyer, a crown, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a member of the public and a health care team to grant this privilege and it would not have been issued outright but in incremental degrees as trust and health dictated. Mr. Lawton asks “what would have stopped him from hurting himself or others.” It is something that completely escapes Andrew Lawton; rehabilitation and treatment. Hundreds of NCR individuals are integrated back into communities without incident but thanks for shrouding one instance in stigma. It furthers your political agenda and perpetuates public misconceptions. There’s a media award for that right?

Dear John Kastner: Medicine Is Not Media and Therapy Is Not Theater

(http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/forensic-psychiatric-patients-are-ill-not-evil—and-we-should-stop-hiding-them/article18205568/?utm_source=Shared+Article+Sent+to+User&utm_medium=E-mail:+Newsletters+/+E-Blasts+/+etc.&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links)

Re: Forensic psychiatric patients are ill, not evil – and we should stop hiding them.

According to the great documentarian John Kastner, “it’s time for forensic psychiatric patients to stop hiding; stop the apologizing; stop begging for understanding and start demanding that people recognize they are called patients…”

I’m not sure whether to weep or wail at John Kastner’s ignorance. As a past forensic patient I have had a well followed blog for near three years. I have been nominated and chosen as a Champion of Mental Health at a regional and national level. I speak publicly at universities, hospitals and conferences. I have been on TV and radio as a past forensic patient. I’m not exactly famous but for a documentarian I’m basically hiding behind a toothpick. I can only guess Mr. Kastner’s blindness is a direct result of his myopic movies.

It seems incongruent that a national note to empower forensic patients included not a word from one. Thanks for the disrespect and disempowerment.

Even the title of Mr. Kastner’s “new documentary about “THEM”: Out of Mind, Out of Sight: inside the Brockville Psych.” Is an affront to forensic psychiatry and mental health care in general. Anyone with the internet can discover that it is not “Brockville Psych” but it is in fact called and known as The Brockville Mental Health Centre. I know nothing about documentary films but shouldn’t the title be the actual name of the facility? Leave the name out if you have no constructive way of wording it. Further, a truthful title would add to Mr. Kastner’s insistence that his craft is other than sensational like the media he accuses of the same.

As an individual who has lived as a forensic psychiatric patient and was found to be Not Criminally Responsible on Account of a Mental Disorder I take great offence at Mr. Kastner’s so called defence of individuals similar to me. Mr. Kastner’s article doesn’t even make it out of the first sentence without draping readers with the derogatory. Mr. Kastner mentions that these individuals were once referred to as “criminally insane” which is as offensive as reminding readers of how we used to refer to African-Americans.To further the insult it is not even correct. Criminally insane connotates psychopathy which is excluded from forensic interventions as these individuals are presently incurable. The insult is truly ignorant when we consider that in the past these individuals were in fact referred to as Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.

The second sentence of Mr. Kastner’s so called salve to stigma is not offensive but revealing of the underlying ambition of self promotion which he reiterates twice more in an article of eleven paragraphs. Do Canadians a favour and take out an advertisement which can’t be confused with information or objectivity.

Mr. Kastner faults mental health professionals in Canada for keeping forensic patients hidden from public view as though cancer patients can be found in the flyers on my doorstep. It must be inconceivable for someone who puts anything on film to consider that privacy and peace are integral to healing. Privacy and peace are therapeutic, progressive and necessary. My physician does not have a projectAtron in the waiting room but apparently my psychiatrist should. The public needs to better understand the instances and individuals affected but Mr. Kastner’s tone would have me next to the bearded lady in a carnival. Most forensic patients, me included would rather return to the regular and have jobs, friends and families. I forgo the camouflage of the ordinary so people like Mr. Kastner can become informed and leave those I know and understand to the lives they choose. Medicine is not media and therapy is not theater. Filmmakers should focus on their own art and leave the art of healing to clinicians.

Upon first reading Mr. Kastner’s words I figured he had only fouled his first two sentences but he followed with a third. “Here’s how the hiding works: a person suffering from mental illness commits a horrific act of violence.” There are instances of horrific acts of violence but many are involved in forensic mental health care for less serious situations. If Mr. Kastner wove a story about prison we would only be familiar with murderers. There are no headlines or horrors in many instances so Kastner does not cast them. They do not fit into his worldview or preconceived notions. Whether it is a documentary or a newscast we see only bloodshed because it is about blockbusters. Even a documentarian wants to have people watch his film. We would be barely curious to the reality, so it is formed and fashioned into film and footnotes for consumption. The myriad of avenues for coming into conflict with the law are overlooked in the name of ratings and reviews.

Mr. Kastner in his one man battle against stigma refers to me and all other forensic patients as “glassy-eyed people in jail jump suits. Scary as hell.” Less than a paragraph later he describes himself as “a filmmaker who has helped de-stigmatize many of his subjects…” I would add, at the expense of all others. It all becomes documentarian doublespeak. Mr. Kastner is doing no more for forensic patients than Sun Media themselves.

Mr. Kastner thinks “the secrecy is a terrible idea. You cannot de-stigmatize people by hiding them away.” It makes for easy filmmaking and spectacular shots but few who struggle with mental illness are helped by promotion and publicity. Do you want to see anyone when you have a headache? As a filmmaker I can forgive Mr. Kastner for being ignorant to mental health but he obviously needs reminding of that ignorance.

Many of the advances that were made with me took place behind closed doors. I went to the mall, I went to the library and I went to the park. I sat in a psychiatrist’s office, I sat with a psychologist, I sat with a social worker, I sat with a nurse and I sat with an occupational therapist. I worked through my mental health challenges in privacy, not secrecy. If I took Mr. Kastner’s recommendation I would be on the front steps of the hospital with well wishers honking as they drove past my pain and struggle.

Mr. Kastner’s logic seems to be that practitioners are unhelpful and hide patients. The message they are sending is that “these people are such freaks we dare not show them to you.” I have been around enough mental health practitioners that I have diagnoses for Mr. Kastner. He suffers from projection. As a filmmaker he will be familiar with one of its meanings but it has nothing to do with documentaries. Mr. Kastner concisely and conclusively attributes his own ideas, feelings and attitudes to other people. Here follow his own words; “criminally insane, glassy-eyed, scary as hell, Vincent Li’s, literally raving lunatics, spouting gibberish, often potentially violent, and the Jekyll and Hyde transformation.” I may be spouting gibberish but I can only wonder how Mr. Kastner’s words can be extrapolated from stigma itself into any semblance of a “filmmaker who has helped de-stigmatize many of his subjects.” Mr. Kastner is stigma in action and voice.

I can’t imagine someone so completely blind to the workings of forensic psychiatry or the feelings of those who live and work in it. According to Mr. Kastner he spent 3 and half years in the forensic psychiatric system. Showing up on Tuesday with a TV clearly doesn’t make you informed. I am reminded several times in Mr. Kastner’s article that he has made two documentaries on forensic psychiatry. Mr. Kastner will likely never know what it means to be confined for father’s day without a card or call, family day without family or Christmas without either. I suggest Mr. Kastner has little to no insight into the patient experience which enables him to cast his wounding words. He similarly has no insight into clinician care, knowledge or expertise. Mr. Kastner is a filmmaker. If Canadians need to know about cartoons or colour filters we can call him but when it comes to being a voice for forensic psychiatry or forensic patients he should do us the favour of keeping his mouth shut.

Mr. Kastner believes that hospital staff, who he admits desire to protect their patients are in a “large part responsible for the stigmatization of their patients.” Please Sir, take some credit yourself. Have any of those hospital staff used a national newspaper to call their patients Hyde or lunatics? Save us the sanctimony.

Mr. Kastner has become familiar with some extreme cases and rolled them up into a story he considers complete and most ashamedly now the public considers the same. His focus, language and footage have in no way illuminated anything but a figment of his imagination and a projection of his paltry and pathetic brush with the forensic system and sadder yet forensic patients.

Mr. Kastner calls forensic patients out to “start demanding that people recognize they are called patients…” In approximately 10 paragraphs he did not call me or my friends a patient. I was “criminally insane, hidden, a resident of a psych, someone who has committed a horrific act of violence, glassy eyed, scary as hell, Vincent Li’s, monsters, freaks, raving lunatics often potentially violent and someone who spouts gibberish. If ever he reads this, gibberish may not be the first descriptor he uses.

Mr. Kastner offers me and my friends hope and allays the public’s fears by explaining how “after just two or three injections of anti-psychotic ‘drugs’…many literally returned to their senses.” What he calls the Jekyll and Hyde transformation. I have been a consumer of mental health services for over 35 years and not once have I been injected with a “medication.” I was found Not Criminally Responsible but before, during or after I have been no more Jekyll than Hyde.

I can only hope Mr. Kastner’s documentaries and words do something for himself for they are of little use to those he claims to champion. If a person wants to find fame by filming the forensic please leave your delusions at the door.

I am and we are so much more than Mr. Kastner has ever stopped to imagine.

“Let them drink Scotch”

I read with fascination about the prime minister’s visit to the arctic. I have read about John Franklin’s expedition that disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage in 1845. I’m happy the prime minister has a history hobby but as a Canadian it raises some serious questions. One headline read “Scotch tumblers were raised last month on the bridge of HMCS Kingston to the search for Erebus and Terror.” Many Canadians are interested in Franklin’s ships but outside of the prime ministers personal obsession, I fail to see the national significance.

Stephen Harper and the conservatives should be paying attention to the terror of the 21st century not the ‘Terror’ of the 19th century. Someone should point the prime minister to a newspaper and highlight a few current concerns. We have a war in Syria, the Ukraine-Russia crisis, conflict in Israel and Palestine, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Ebola, global warming and closer to home the economy, murdered and missing indigenous women, prostitution laws, marijuana laws, the tar sands, the torture of mentally ill offenders and poverty, homelessness and hunger.

It is time the prime minister pulled himself away from the pages of history to take a glance at the misery faced by many Canadians and their children. I’m not sure I could raise a tumbler of Scotch to a dead explorer being the leader of one of the few developed countries without a national meal program for children. It is not liberal or in any way political to ensure all children have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Fifteen percent or almost 4 million Canadians are considered “food insecure.” While the prime minister is drunk on his hobby many Canadians are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. These people can be sure that next meal will not come from this prime minister. Stephen didn’t say it out loud but his actions and attentions scream, “Let them drink Scotch.”

The conservatives are drunk on perpetuating their power. Stephen Harper is politically shrewd and has clearly calculated a balanced budget is his only key to re-election. He has also calculated that 4 million hungry people don’t stand in line to vote because they are across town in a food line. The prime minister would rather drink Scotch on the bridge of a ship with his conscienceless cronies and imagine an explorer who risked it all for the benefit of a nation. “You sir are no John Franklin. Nice mittens by the way. Take them off and roll up your sleeves. Your nation needs a builder not a bookworm.”

It is not frivolous to feed people and it is fiscally responsible. Hungry children are sick more often and struggle academically. The medical and social costs are future expenses but you were elected to look ahead not look back. Children under 18 represent over 40% of food bank clients in Canada. If the prime minster wants to look back he should travel back to 1989 when Canada made an all-party resolution to end child poverty. I am not geographically gifted but the answers are not in the arctic.

The search for Franklin is a joint public-private partnership. I’m not sure what the unemployed or hungry think but I feel this historical hunt could and should be entirely privately funded. This government can’t find food for families but they dredge dimes from Canadians to find Franklin. With respect to the dead the man and his mission are beyond saving. The voices of the past are important but meaningless in comparison to the voices of hungry children. This prime minister needs to toss the tumbler and drink in some empathy and social responsibility.

We have two Canadian Coast Guard ships propelling past the permafrost on government gas. What exactly are we giving Canadians? I usually save my swear words for when I’m through the drive thru but Canadian school children don’t give a FROSTY about Franklin when they can’t find food.

Sucking back Scotch with the prime minister were Industry Minister James Moore, Environment Minister Leona Aqlukkaq, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and billionaire and Blackberry profiteer Jim Balsille was there to represent common Canadians. The Inuit on shore who pay $8.99 for a head of lettuce and the rest of Canadians were too ashamed to participate, or, a shameful reminder. Billionare Balsille “was very proud. It was a nation-building moment.” Anyone familiar with Jim Balsille or Blackberry might question his perception of building.

There’s nothing wrong with being a geography geek, a history hound, a billionaire or a bureaucrat but when your interests are at the expense of taxpayers and citizens without work or food, you become a “figurehead” of folly. The ass end of a ship is the best place for such individuals. Presently we can’t do much about many of these idiots but when the conservative ship capsizes we won’t have to yell “man overboard” as there weren’t any to begin with.

Canadians will no doubt sleep better when we find splinters of these historic hulls. Too bad the prime minister and his cronies will be the few who have food in their teeth to make use of the toothpicks.

OPSEU

Several Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) correctional officers have finally been fired and or suspended. According to the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) which protects these officers, the justice system has been undermined.

OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas says “we find it gravely troubling that front-line officers are being held as the scapegoats for a broken correctional system that the government fails to address.”

Firstly, the only thing grave is the death of Adam Kargus. He was the 29 year old inmate who was beaten to death in the institution.

Secondly, I’m not sure scapegoat is the proper term for those who placed Adam with a historically violent offender. I am also unsure if scapegoat should refer to individuals who failed to perform a count at shift change and likely at other times. Five minutes may have saved a life. Coffee and kibitzing.

Thirdly, the government has failed to address issues in corrections in general and specifically at EMDC but OPSEU can’t deny the failure of their members to address issues only they are responsible for.

OPSEU has long maintained that this murder “did not happen in isolation of conditions.” I have been an inmate at EMDC. I am only familiar with one unit but I suspect they are all similar. Each cell on the unit was within screaming distance of an area the guards could safely access. Other inmates have testified to the screams of Adam Kargus but it is argued by the union that design is the issue not negligence.

Adam Kargus died on October 31 and his bloodied body was dragged across a common area to the showers where he was discovered the next day. I have been in 5 different jails and in each one I was counted every half hour. Does design interfere with arithmetic? According to OPSEU president Warren “Smokescreen” Thomas it does.

OPSEU likes to argue that 2 officers were working in a situation that required 3. My only question here is if officers took union breaks and meals? Police and fire unions have bargained for breaks but they too would be fired if they used caffeine when we need courage.

The whole situation becomes even more tragic when we consider that we are talking about a minimum level of care. The officers and administrators weren’t required to get these individuals ready for a carnival, they were required to look through a window in a door or bend an ear to an open area. Even in jail the necessities of life are a societal standard. Many of these men and women are on remand and their cases are before the courts. Many people assume guilt but I have seen innocence and as a society we have agreed that convictions and sentencing is left to an impartial judiciary and jurists. One of the systemic issues with corrections is public perception and correctional officers with unhelpful attitudes. As we have seen with Adam Kargus they can become dangerous and we as a society are culpable.

I can agree with Warren “Smokescreen” Thomas in that the correctional system is broken. What “Smokescreen” Thomas seems unable or unwilling to see is that correctional officers and managers are part of the correctional system. We need more cameras, better designs, less overcrowding and more capable staff but people, presumptions and personalities are part of the problem.

According to Dan Sidsworth who has swallowed too much OPSEU Kool-aid as well “the very people who raised concerns are being fired.” Seriously? Several have in fact been charged with much more. These individuals are not whistleblowers in need of amnesty. They have been investigated and found to be the problem not the pointers out of problems.

In response to the firing and suspensions OPSEU has brought about another lock-down at the jail through work refusal and they are threatening to have it extend throughout the province. A union becomes dysfunctional when wrongdoers and their cronies issue grievances and work to rule in the face of true grief. I fear we have lost sight of Adam Kargus and his family.

It’s Not About Bullets, It’s About Bull!

As a writer one dreams of putting their pen to a national headline with a national news service. I stumbled out of bed yesterday and for a moment I thought I had done just that.

“Stephen Harper takes big words, small stick to NATO summit”

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Thank you Terry Milewski. With my foot close to illiteracy others would discount such words coming from me.
I’m not sure how Prime Minister Harper chooses his ministers but it can only be from physical attributes since they lack all others.

“We need a Minister of Science and Technology” says Stephen.

Everyone slides down in their chair as we know conservatives have an aversion to information, knowledge, statistics and studies. Scientists are suspects.

“Worry not children, I don’t expect you to listen to, let alone understand science. Is there anyone in the room who looks like Einstein? Ed Holder; you have glasses and an out of control perm. Fantastic! It says here your background is insurance sales. Fantastic! You must have a knack for convincing people they need unnecessary policies. Hell, you should be Prime Minister.”

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“While I’m nominating nincompoops we need a Foreign Minister. Everyone show me their best scowl. Now shout, sweat and wave your hands. Beautiful! John Baird here’s your map. It’s not tainted blue like the ones you’re used to but just keep giving us your ‘ugly’ look and I will feed you with politically provocative phrases.”

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John Baird was the first minister no one had to ask to swear on the Bible.

The prime minister and John Baird liken the Russians to Nazi’s all the while doing the Goosestep themselves. People don’t refer to the conservatives as the “boys in short pants” for no reason.

Big Bad Baird tells us “no other government has ‘stood’ up more forcefully and aggressively against the Russian aggression in Ukraine.” Possibly that is the problem itself. We have nitwits like John Baird who can’t order French fries without being forceful and aggressive. Shouldn’t a Minister of Foreign Affairs be a statesman rather than a belligerent statement?

Stephen Harper and John Baird stand proud of their phrases while Greece and Estonia contribute more muscle to NATO than the conservatives. For the conservative government it’s not about bullets it’s about bullshit.

The Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) has different numbers for Canadians. They aren’t trying to get re-elected so their statistics are no doubt suspicious. The CDA concludes that “the Canadian Armed Forces’ operational readiness is dropping, its purchasing power is being eroded, and future military capability is being reduced.”

Do you think Vladimir Putin listens to John Baird’s bull or does he see the same things as the Conference of Defence Associations? I’m sure Putin trembles at photos of the prime minister and his wife on a ship in the arctic. He laughs because it’s one of the few we have.

As Terry Milewski says “if words are needed, Canada stands at the ready.” If this government wants us to consider Russia invading our sovereign arctic, frigates are better ideas than phrases. This government is identical domestically and internationally. They have more sentences than sense.

If Vladimir Putin watches Canadian content he must be convulsing in the Kremlin watching the Three Stooges. If he lived here he would realize its 39 stooges.

Laying Eggs, Lifting Lumber and Other Painful Moments

I went to visit my mother and step-father today. Being a quadragenarian makes one susceptible to the company of septuagenarians. I don’t know about others but such terms make me feel like something with a pin through its back on a specimen board. Earning my grade 12 diploma in my thirties obliges me to borrow obtuse and pretentious phrases but in my heart I mean forty and seventy.

My mother mentioned she had a couple of errands in town and since I had ingested a meal I felt obliged to assist. Our first stop was a TSC store which is a farm store. I like TSC stores. My roots are rural and I have pleasant memories when I can browse work boots, pellet guns and fencing. Mom wanted to pick up some chicken feed for her several hens. I was there just to check things out but I found myself next to a 50 pound sack of chicken feed. It suddenly became clear why chickens produce more poop than protein. I’m fairly logical and literal and I stood in disbelief at the size of the bag. I was expecting something about the size of an egg carton. If what goes up must come down then it stands to reason that what goes in should come out. Apparently I had failed agricultural arithmetic.

I looked at my mother. I looked at the feed and again looked at my mother. I waited for what seemed like minutes expecting her to grab the bag and get on with it. She didn’t budge. She mentioned that she usually uses one of the carts which were in the vicinity. It was a subtle challenge and I grabbed the bag and awkwardly threw it over my shoulder. It became a bad idea about halfway to the checkout. I struggled with the weight and my legs were wobbling. I bumped into the display of garden seeds and frantically searched for my mother. I have never wanted to pass an object as much since I was running down the football field in high school with fierce athletes on my heels. Like then I was on my own. I suddenly didn’t want to be at TSC. Normally I would be cursing but I kept telling myself there are eggs in butter tarts and biscuits. My mother is an exceptional cook. I wanted to explain she could obtain the same results with store bought eggs but I needed to save what little breath I had.

I made it to the checkout sweating profusely. I wanted to ask the cashier why the damn batteries were near the door but the 50 pound sacks of cat, dog and chicken feed were in the back corner. Fighting back tears of frustration I asked the woman if they guaranteed that my dog would lay eggs if I fed this to her. Not missing a beat she retorted with “not in writing.” It seemed she was trained to deal with difficult customers.

I was spent but we had to make a stop at the local lumber store. I like lumber stores. Trees are one of the few things that smell good when they’re dead. I entered the store without trepidation as I know they have employees who load your larger purchases.

We backed up near the loading bay with our slip of dead tree which is used to inform the yardman that you want more dead tree. I turned the car off and looked at my mother. She didn’t budge. I flung open the door. “Seriously?” “This is ridiculous and repetitive.” I met the yardman with curses on my lips and we nearly ended up with lattice and a bag of cement. I finally sputtered darn board and he clued in and climbed the shelving to fetch some barn board. I couldn’t quite understand why he was making money sliding two boards off a shelf while I had to drag it across the parking lot to the car. I pinched my hand between the boards which sent me off on a tirade. “She probably wants me to cut and nail this crap as well…I’m in hell.”

Joking aside and as lazy as I am there is a degree of defeat in doing favours for my family. I give up on any sense of balance when I look back at all the jail visits and court appearances. I can’t compete with lawyer’s fees, canteen money and a roof over my head. There have been so many meals and forms of love that can’t even be logically listed.

Chickens are like children. We put bags of food into them and usually end up with more crap than accomplishments but love isn’t logical. Like an egg it forms naturally and sustains, fortifies and is often made into something nearly as wonderful as my mother’s butter tarts.

Found In Translation

I attended a birthday meal for a septuagenarian this evening. I wasn’t the cook so it was this side of better. It seemed a breeze was breathed on us continuously which was relief from the humidity I seemed to experience everywhere else I was present for the day. We were sitting talking before the meal which for me means listening to predominantly Chinese phrases. I am sometimes isolated by my vocabulary which consists of ‘xie xie’ or “thank you” and ‘dou bu qi’ which means “I’m sorry”. I have had a six year relationship with my Canadian Chinese fiancé knowing nothing more and needing not much else. There is some English when we visit her family which provides me the opportunity to put my foot in my mouth and say ‘dou bu qi’ and practice my Chinese.

Someone asked what time it was. My initial reaction was to suggest it was time to eat as BBQ almost everything was already on the table but something struck me. Someone reached into their pocket and siphoned the time from their cell phone while I turned my wrist and glanced at my watch. If I want to know the time I look at the microwave, the oven or my watch before I even think about the cell phone in my pocket. As far as I’m concerned cell phones are for music, EBay and confirming how few of you read this blog. I don’t even use mine to make calls as I have one of those old phones you have to travel half way across the house for. I would like to argue that I like the exercise but there are people I know who do read this blog and they could only laugh at such an argument.

Time means something different to each of us. To the 8 year old at the table it was an eternity until we cut the cake. The chef at the BBQ toiled for hours marinating and turning several forms of flesh and I ate most of it in a fraction of the time it took others. This slight failing falls squarely at the feet of my parents who birthed four hungry boys. Last one to the table scrapes the bowl. My swiftness to swallow was further fine tuned among inmates who would ask “are you going to eat that?” If it was on your tray you didn’t want it.

Like time, life experiences are subjective and subtle. Money for someone who experienced the Great Depression is something different from the 13 year old with the X-Box, IPod and Dr. Dre Headphones. Homelessness is a foreign concept to one and a reflection and reminder to the other. The 8 year old waiting for the cake will likely never fathom his grandmother passing her portion of rice to her children.

If you were to ask one about food, the stories, memories, impressions, meanings and experiences would be as far apart as the years themselves. I hope neither know hunger again or ever but there is nothing like it to add to appetite and to colour food with flavour and celebration. It becomes not something we do three times a day but something we are blessed with in the moment.