Good People Doing Good Things — Teresa Gray and Mobile Medics International

It was less than a year ago, April 2022, when Teresa Gray and her wonderful organization, Mobile Medics International came onto my radar and I wrote a post about their origins, and also about their trip to Romania to help refugees fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February.   Ms. Gray was a CNN Hero last year for her efforts.

Once again, Ms. Gray and the Mobile Medics are back on the radar as they traveled to Turkey last month to help deliver care to Turkey’s earthquake survivors.

On February 6th, 2023, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake and a series of strong tremors and aftershocks devastated southeast Turkey (officially the Republic of Türkiye) and northwest Syria.  There have been more than 46,000 deaths and 115,000 people injured.

By February 7th, Gray had received permission from Turkey’s Ministry of Health to join the relief efforts, and she flew out early the next morning.  She packed up supplies to help hundreds of patients, ranging from trauma dressings to antibiotics to acetaminophen. She also prepared the equipment her team would need to be self-sustaining in freezing winter conditions.

“The buildings have been substantially damaged, so you can’t stay inside, it’s too dangerous. We’re going to be sleeping in a tent, eating MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) … This is not going to be a good time.”

Gray also did a video call to touch base with her team, which included a paramedic from London, a doctor from Malaysia, and a nurse anesthetist from Missouri. It was a hectic time for Gray, who says she gets “hyper-focused” before each mission, trying to anticipate problems that might arise.

“We need to find a safe place to be. What if somebody forgot their sleeping bag? We don’t speak the language, so I need to find some interpreters. These are the things that run through my mind as I’m getting ready to go to the airport.”

After an epic journey through Seattle and New York, Gray finally landed in Turkey late on February 9th and met up with her team. They made their way to Hatay Province and once there, began doing mobile clinics on the streets of Samandag.

For Gray, the destruction she saw was difficult to comprehend.  At least 13.5 million people and 4 million buildings have been affected. About 345,000 apartments were devastated.

“This is the 28th mission for me probably. The most destruction and human suffering I have ever witnessed. … Not a single structure was undamaged, and we are talking about a town the size of Anchorage, 250,000 people. Nothing was spared.”

Since so many structures were unstable, the government had mandated that all families must sleep outside in tents. In a cell phone video made on Valentine’s Day, Gray described how she and her group would go street to street, stopping at tents to offer their help. She reported treating people for earthquake injuries, including a girl who had been trapped in the rubble for more than 12 hours, as well as sicknesses like the flu that had been exacerbated by the living conditions.

“Whatever they need us to look at, we will. Then we go back, sleep in our car. Get up the next morning and do it again.”

They treated hundreds of people during their 10-day mission, Gray said. One of their interpreters, a high school teacher who they called K.T., became an essential part of their team. In a cell phone video, K.T. told Gray what the people they were helping had said to her.

“They told me, ‘Say them thank you. It’s really good for us because … we can’t see any doctor, we can’t go any hospital.’”

K.T. had also suffered a great deal. Two of her students had been killed in the earthquake, and the school where she taught had been destroyed. She and most of her extended family – a total of 15 people – lost their homes and were forced to take refuge in a greenhouse on their property.

Despite their own hardship, K.T.’s family adopted Gray’s group as their own, Gray said – letting them stay on their property, making them tea and coffee, and sharing meals with them. Their generosity served as another reminder that, even in desperate times, humanity shines through.

On February 19th, Gray got back to Alaska. When a 6.3 magnitude aftershock hit Turkey the next day, she immediately reached out to K.T. and others she befriended on her journey to make sure they were all okay. She’s working to send another team of volunteers very soon.

If Ms. Gray and all those who volunteer with Mobile Medics International aren’t a prime example of good people doing good things, then I don’t know what is.  My hat is off to these fine folks.

Channeling my inner Stephen King

While I don’t deny the importance of the issues on the table today, issues that if left unchecked could result in the destruction of our nation as we know it, we tend to sweep the single most important issue under the rug. WHY? Probably because a) it’s harder than most to deal with, requires a bit of sacrifice from us all, and b) it’s not as ‘exciting’ as the clown show, the mudfest that occupies so much of our attention. I’m as guilty as any of pushing the environmental issues back in order to focus on the latest exploits of our politicos, but we really do need to open our eyes and work together, else none of the political disputes will matter 50 years from now when humans are gasping for breath, searching for food & water, and trying to stay alive. Our friend Keith has a not-too-subtle reminder for us today …


Amid all the contrived and exaggerated banter by one of the US ‘ political parties about fairly pedestrian topics, I am sure a story out of Australia was missed about the Antarctic ice melting at an even faster pace. This is not good for our planet, especially the billions that live in our coastal cities.

Citing the lead character Johnny from Stephen King’s book “The Dead Zone” might help get people’s attention. After an accident, Johnny could see a hazy future when he touched someone which could be altered if people acted differently when told of his prediction. An arrogant father chose to ignore Johnny as he told the father his son and other kids would drown at a hockey practice on a frozen lake that afternoon. Johnny hit the table with his cane and said you know who I am, don’t you? You investigated me before letting me tutor…

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Now About Our Vice-President …

Vice President Kamala Harris isn’t front-and-center in the news very often, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t working.  Like President Biden, she quietly goes about her job rather than spend her time on a media blitz trying to keep her face on everyone’s news feed as some politicians do on a daily basis.  And, like the president, she is often the subject of criticism.

Donna Brazile, a political analyst who I have long admired, is a professor and contributor to ABC News, and she has written a thoughtful assessment of VP Harris that I found enlightening.  Certainly we all hope that President Biden remains hale and hearty throughout his presidency, but regardless of age, things sometimes happen to the human body, so we need to know more about the person who would step into his shoes if he were to die or become unable to fulfill his duties.  Ms. Brazile gives us a bit of insight into Kamala Harris and her path to the vice presidency.

The Excellence of Kamala Harris Is Hiding in Plain Sight

Donna Brazile

02 March 2023

Vice President Kamala Harris occupies an office that can be the butt of jokes and criticism. The only duties of the vice president spelled out in the Constitution are to cast tiebreaking votes in the Senate and to become president if the office becomes vacant.

I’ve never run for government office, but as a Black woman who has spent my life working in politics — including as manager of Vice President Al Gore’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2000 — I know what it’s like to be underestimated, over-scrutinized and unfairly criticized, just as Ms. Harris has been. Yet I’ve never been under such a glaring spotlight as hers.

I have watched politicians up close for decades. And‌ I have known Vice President Harris for years and urged Joe Biden to make her his running mate in 2020. I ‌believe that the criticism of her is unrelated to her performance as vice president and fails to account for the role she plays in the White House.

As a consequential and successful vice president himself for eight years under Barack Obama, President Biden has a keen understanding of the job he once held and he has tasked Vice President Harris with major responsibilities. She has done an outstanding job and her record in two years stands up to that of her predecessors. Has she solved every problem? No, but name me one vice president who has.

We should think about our expectations for the vice presidency. It was only starting with the presidency of Jimmy Carter, and the role Vice President Walter Mondale played in foreign and domestic policy, that the job became more than a ceremonial position. Vice President Harris ranks third in breaking Senate ties (and first in the first two years in office), after John C. Calhoun and John Adams. While some claim that her duties breaking ties in the Senate have limited her scope of influence, the reality is that Ms. Harris regularly traveled the country to meet with Americans even as she cast the tiebreaking vote on key legislation to better the lives of the American people, including the Inflation Reduction Act.

To advance President Biden’s objective to strengthen America’s foreign alliances, Ms. Harris has met (mostly in person) with more than 100 world leaders to repair damage to our international relationships caused by Donald Trump. At the Munich Security Conference in February she announced that the Biden administration has formally concluded that Russia is guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its war against Ukraine and warned China not to assist Russia in its invasion. Through public-private partnerships, she helped raise over $4.2 billion to address the root cause of migration from Central America.

Ms. Harris has pushed for federal legislation to secure voting rights, worked to expand access to the child tax and earned-income tax credits, is co-leader of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, was an integral part of the White House’s push to get Americans vaccinated against Covid, and is the chair of the National Space Council.

Questions have been raised about the fitness of just about every vice president to move into the Oval Office should the president die or is unable to continue serving for another reason. Mr. Biden knew what he was doing when he selected Ms. Harris to be his vice president and had confidence that she would be up to the task of succeeding him if necessary. I hope that never happens, but if tragedy strikes, Mr. Biden’s judgment will be proven correct.

Ms. Harris has more experience in elected office than several past presidents and vice presidents — a successful record beginning in 2004 as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general and including four years as U.S. senator. By contrast, Presidents Trump, Dwight Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover and Zachary Taylor never held elected office before becoming president. Many other presidents had fewer years in elected office than Ms. Harris has had.

Ms. Harris has been derided by some as an affirmative-action hire, perhaps because Mr. Biden pledged to select a female running mate when he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination.

On many occasions when people of color and women have climbed the career ladder we’ve heard criticism that they advanced only because of their race and/or gender. This was the case last year during the confirmation process for Ketanji Brown Jackson, a brilliant and extraordinarily qualified jurist who is the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

For too many Americans, the idea that nonwhites and women actually got their jobs because of their qualifications, experience and talents is hard to believe. Maybe that’s because for most of American history, white men were the only people considered for high-level jobs in what amounted to affirmative action for them.

And as the first woman, African American and Asian American to serve as vice president, Ms. Harris has arguably faced greater — and a different type — of scrutiny than previous vice presidents.

The clothes and shoes she wears, the role of her spouse (Doug Emhoff, America’s first second gentleman), the way she sometimes laughs, her cooking skills and staff turnover in her office have all drawn greater attention than her predecessors experienced.

Mr. Emhoff summarized the challenges confronting his wife in a 2021 interview. “She has faced challenges as a groundbreaker her whole career,” he said. “When you’re breaking barriers, there’s breaking involved and breaking means you might get cut sometimes, but that’s OK.”

Vice President Harris is fulfilling the dream of the empowerment of Black women advanced by the Rev. Willie T. Barrow, a Black woman who was a field organizer for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a co-chair of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and supporter of his presidential campaigns.

Ms. Barrow, who was an inspiration to me when I was a young member of the staff on Mr. Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign, died at age 90 in 2015. She was a mentor to Mr. Obama before he entered the White House but didn’t live long enough to see Ms. Harris become vice president.

Ms. Barrow never received the accolades and fame she deserved for her work because the most visible leadership roles in the civil rights movement, government and elsewhere were reserved for men. But I have no doubt that she and other Black female civil rights pioneers paved the way for Ms. Harris to climb to the second-highest office in our government.

Vice President Harris stands on the steely, unbowed shoulders of Black women like Willie Barrow and others who broke barriers before her. It shouldn’t be so hard for a leader like Ms. Harris, so visible in the office she holds, to get some credit where credit is due.

Ukraine and Russia. The Tragedies, Histories, Hubris and Hypocrisies.

I have had an interest in history since I could read words on a page, but in truth I am no more a scholar than anybody else and I often struggle to understand the many ways in which the past has led to the present. Conversely, our friend Roger, well-versed in the history of our world, has an analytical mind that never ceases to amaze me. Today, I share his analysis of the Russian war against Ukraine that I found very enlightening and I think you will, too. I was not surprised to find that he put over 22 hours of work into this excellent post. I do hope you’ll take a few minutes to read and ponder his words, for they have value in understanding what is happening, why it is happening, and the likely outcome. Thank you, Roger!

The World As It Is. Not As It Should Be

UkraineAn Introduction

The 24th February 2023 marks the 1st Anniversary of the War between the nations of Ukraine and The Russian Federation. In military terms this is a continuation of The Russian Federation’s annexation of the Crimea and support of ethnic russian separatists in what was the south-east of Ukraine both commencing in 2014. An anniversary commentary though is not one which lends itself to shortness, not when History weighs in.

The Tragic Tides of History

History is not something that simply happened decades ago, but has cause and effects that stretch back over the centuries. If you cannot accept that don’t read anything further. This is not a post for the blinkered. We are looking at another chapter in the annals of Human Tragedy. One whose pages arguably were already laid out and just waiting for words to be written, in of course red; no not ink.

Each war, …

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Sunday Morning Political Humour

I thought a good way to start out this Sunday morning would be with a few of the week’s most spot-on political cartoons, followed by a humorous monologue by one of my favourites, Seth Meyers.  I’ll get back to you later with the serious stuff, but for now, have a few chuckles with your morning coffee or tea …

This is my favourite of the lot!!! So very apt, don’t you think?

A few nights ago I stumbled across this video of one of my favourite comedians, Seth Meyers …

In the Grass Roots Begin

Many of us are “armchair activists”, by which I mean we support causes like racial equality, LGBTQ rights, holding law enforcement accountable, etc., but for one reason or another, we are not able to take place in marches and demonstrations, our voices are not, we think, loud enough to make a difference. Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to one of her posts from last year with a poem that I found both beautiful and inspirational … I think you will too! Thank you, Ana, for allowing me to share this today!

Troubador of Verse


Recorded Poem:


In the Grass Roots Begin

I ask now: What is activism’s
Most important goal?
Be it perhaps to liberate
Each person to be whole

In any way that person feel
The need their whole to be
Manifest individ’ually
Truly completely free?

I think it is.

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The Right Thing To Do

When I woke up yesterday morning and the first thing in my newsfeed was that President Biden was, at that very moment, in Ukraine, I was surprised, to say the least.  I knew he had hoped to visit, but last I heard, the trip was unlikely to take place due to security concerns.  The news of his time spent with President Zelenskyy reinforced my views that President Biden is a good and decent man.  It also reinforced what I’ve been saying for a while – don’t judge him by the number of years he’s been on this earth.  Biden has a reserve of energy that would put most people half his age to shame. Former policy advisor and political journalist Taegan Goddard said that the trip “will likely go down as one of the most important moments of his presidency.”

Eugene Robinson, writing for The Washington Post, gives us a bit of insight into Biden’s trip …

Biden’s Kyiv visit shows Putin seriously misjudged his courage and resolve

Eugene Robinson

20 February 2023

As President Biden walked the streets of Kyiv on Monday beside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, air raid sirens began to wail. A Russian fighter jet had reportedly taken off from Belarus, carrying the type of hypersonic missile that Ukraine’s defenders cannot shoot down. The two leaders did not flinch.

Say what you want about Biden, he lacks neither courage nor resolve. His surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital might be the first time a sitting president has braved an active war zone — with no inviolable U.S. military cordon around him — since 1864, when Abraham Lincoln went to see the fighting at Fort Stevens, near the northern tip of the District of Columbia, and came under fire from Confederate sharpshooters. “Get down, you damn fool!” shouted a young Union officer named Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who later served as a justice on the Supreme Court.

No one took a potshot or fired a missile at Biden. But to reach Kyiv he had to endure a 10-hour train ride from Poland — followed, after his visit with Zelensky, by another 10-hour journey back to safety. The president spent a full day exposed to potential Russian fire.

What many people fail to understand about Biden, the oldest president in our history, is the extent to which he is guided by a sense of mission. He came out of retirement and ran for the White House only because he believed he had the unique ability, and thus the obligation, to save the nation from another four years of Donald Trump. And he has faced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the same burden of duty imposed by history.

“I’m a great respecter of fate,” Biden said last year, having seen so much of it during his long and eventful life: He lost his first wife and daughter to a car accident, lost his first son to cancer, almost lost his second son to drug addiction. And in 1988, he suffered two brain aneurysms and was given no better than a 50 percent chance of survival.

In his 2007 book, “Promises to Keep,” Biden wrote: “Maybe I should have been frightened at this point, but I felt calm. In fact, I felt becalmed, like I was floating gently in the wide-open sea. It surprised me, but I had no real fear of dying.”

In Kyiv alongside Zelensky, Biden walked with the cautious gait of an 80-year-old man. Perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin, in deciding to launch the invasion, thought Biden’s age meant his response would be one of weakness or vacillation. If so, he neglected to take into account Biden’s deep and abiding Roman Catholic faith, his belief in destiny, his commitment to the rules-based international order — and the fact that Biden is rarely more animated than when he talks about drag racing in his Corvette at triple-digit speeds. He is a man with considerable tolerance for risk.

Biden and Zelensky reminisced about the awful moment when the war began. “Russian planes were in the air and tanks were rolling across your border. … You said that you didn’t know when we’d be able to speak again,” Biden said. “That dark night one year ago, the world was literally at the time bracing for the fall of Kyiv. … Perhaps even the end of Ukraine. You know, one year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”

Other world leaders allied with Ukraine have visited Kyiv, as have other high-ranking U.S. officials, including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But Zelensky said Monday’s was “the most important visit in the whole history of the Ukraine-U.S. relationship” — and that was an understatement.

Without Biden’s leadership and diplomacy, it is hard to imagine how the NATO alliance could have been made stronger by Putin’s invasion, rather than weaker. Without Biden and Congress providing what almost amounts to an open spigot of military and economic aid, it is hard to imagine Ukraine not only surviving the Russian onslaught but also reclaiming lost territory and inflicting massive casualties on Putin’s forces.

I should also mention Vice President Harris, who last year, at the annual Munich Security Conference, warned of the “imminent” Russian invasion at a time when some allies were still skeptical that Putin would pull the trigger. Last week, at this year’s Munich gathering, she laid out a compelling case for holding Putin and his soldiers criminally responsible for “crimes against humanity.”

It would be no surprise if Putin reacted to the Biden visit with a deadly barrage of missiles against civilian targets. No one can keep Putin from waging his war. But Biden can — and will — keep him from winning it.

There will be critics of Biden’s trip, both within the U.S. and from outside, but in my book what the president did was courageous and was the right thing to do.  Full stop.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy embrace after their visit to the Wall of Remembrance to pay tribute to killed Ukrainian soldiers, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 20, 2023. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A Welcome Break

I didn’t set out to do a Saturday Surprise post this week, for I’m working on two posts of a more serious nature.  But, when I popped over to The Guardian to get some additional information for one of those posts, I was drawn by their weekly feature, The Week In Wildlife, for its teaser had a giant panda resting in a tree, and I’m a sucker for cute pandas!  So, after scrolling through the pictures, finding several delightful ones, I decided the serious stuff could wait for a bit and we would start our weekend off with a bit of appreciation for the wonders of nature!

A bee is attracted to the pollen of poppies at Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Los Angeles, US. Officials announced that the popular poppy fields will be closed until the wildflower bloom has subsided Photograph: Ringo Chiu/Sopa Images/Rex/Shutterstock

A male wreathed hornbill in Khao Yai national park, Nakhon Ratchasima province, Thailand, just before Valentine’s Day. The hornbill is the symbol of eternal love in the country Photograph: Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

A koala at a rehabilitation centre in Namadgi national park in Canberra, Australia Photograph: Jonas Ekströmer/TT/Rex/Shutterstock

An endangered white-tailed sea eagle flies through the snow after capturing a fish in the Namdae stream in Gangneung, South Korea Photograph: Yonhap/EPA

Horses on the Yudaokou pasture in Chengde, Hebei province, China Photograph: Xinhua/Alamy Live News

A robin welcomes February sunshine in Duddingston, Edinburgh, UK Photograph: Arch White/Alamy Live News

Wild goats roam close to the city in heavy snow near Tehran, Iran. In cold weather wildlife comes closer to urban areas looking for food Photograph: Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images

A woman takes a photo of a swan on the Grand Canal in Portobello, Dublin, Ireland Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Tawny owls at the SSPCA’s national wildlife rescue centre in Fishcross, Clackmannanshire, UK Photograph: Colin Seddon/PA

A flock of birds flies past the silhouettes of pedestrians crossing Saint-Pierre bridge in Toulouse, France Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Plum blossom in the snow at Xiangshui Lake scenic area in Beijing, China Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

A giant panda dozes in a tree at the conservation and research centre for giant pandas in Wenchuan, China Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

A monkey eats yoghurt from a clay pot discarded by people at a marketplace in Delhi, India Photograph: Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

A flock of snow geese about 50,000 strong takes off from the Middle Creek wildlife management area near Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania, US. A new strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus is spreading through flocks Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

An endangered monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar prepares to shed its skin as it starts to form its chrysalis in a garden in Christchurch, New Zealand Photograph: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Milu deer forage in the snow at Daqingshan national nature reserve in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

A yellow-vented bulbul feeds on an insect at Garden by the Bay in Singapore Photograph: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

I hope you enjoyed the critters this morning … isn’t nature awesome?  Have a wonderful weekend ahead, my friends!

Black History Month In Canada — Viola Desmond

February is Black History Month in both the U.S. and Canada.  While systemic racism was codified into law in the U.S., it was more of just an ‘understanding’ in Canada, but no less lethal.

She was a successful Black businesswoman. All she wanted to do was watch a movie in a theater.

Instead, she was told by the ticket seller that he could not sell a ticket “to you people.”

When she refused to move to the segregated section of the theater, she was confronted by the manager who then called the police to brutally drag her from the theater.

She was arrested. For Wanting. To Watch. A Movie. In A Theater.

When people read true stories such as this, they immediately think of “the bad, old, U.S.A.” But, this didn’t happen in the U.S.

This happened in Canada.

Viola Desmond is now a civil rights icon in Canada, someone who confronted the racism that Black Nova Scotians routinely faced and brought nationwide attention to the African Nova Scotian community’s struggle for equal rights.

But, when she died on February 7, 1965 at the age of 50, not many Canadians knew about her or her story.

“Her dignified stand against racism—a decade before Rosa Parks—is a curiously little-known part of Canadian history,” according to writer Shannon Proudfoot.

Viola Desmond is now known as Canada’s Rosa Parks, and her image now officially graces Canada’s $10 bill, something that Canada’s neighbor to the South still has not made official with its own $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, now scheduled to be released in 2030.

Before her arrest, Viola Desmond was a successful “entrepreneur, who achieved financial independence and became a role model to African-Canadian women through the success of her enterprises, which included skin and hair care products for Black women that had previously been unavailable to Nova Scotians,” according to Parcs Canada.

“To be a black entrepreneur was ground-breaking,” Henderson Paris, a New Glasgow town councillor and founder of the Run Against Racism, said in 2015.

“She was building her business and through this – this incident unfolded. Being the strong woman she was – she wasn’t standing for it. It was not right, and something needed to be done.”

“I didn’t realize a thing like this could happen in Nova Scotia – or in any other part of Canada,” said Viola Desmond after her arrest.

Desmond was no stranger to systemic racism, according to Amanda Coletta of The Washington Post. When she left her teaching job to launch a career as a beautician, Desmond was forced to travel out of the province for training because beauty schools in Nova Scotia barred black people from enrolling.

“Canada had no Jim Crow-like laws, but it did have policies that enforced segregation,” said Constance Backhouse, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has written extensively on Desmond.

“Canada, like the United States, had a history of segregation. Viola Desmond herself attended segregated schools. And in the 1910s, the Canadian government considered banning Black immigration completely. Under the Immigration Act of 1910, Canada could prohibit ‘immigrants belonging to any race deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada.’”

The policies were “just as bad as Jim Crow,” Backhouse said, but they were written in a way that “masked” their racist intent.

“I was under the impression — when it came to education — that racism and that slavery stuff didn’t happen here in Canada,” says Tony Ince, the minister for African Nova Scotian Affairs.

According to Backhouse:

“We pride ourselves: We’re not like the bad old U.S.A. where they had segregation, whites-only fountains and washrooms and hotels. We think we were the capital of the Underground Railroad, we were the place to where the slaves escaped, we were a much better country. But in fact, some of the black people in Canada at the time said, ‘You know, it’s actually much easier in the United States because you know which hotels, restaurants, theatres won’t let you in because the signs are there. In Canada, you never know.’

“We hide our racism. We just go on about our lives—may I say, white Canadians go on about their lives. African-Canadians understand racism, Indigenous Canadians understand racism: they see it all the time, they live with it. But white people are so unappreciative, they don’t even acknowledge and understand what it means to be white in Canada, and all the layers of privilege that come with that. So they’re shocked when somebody says, ‘What just happened is racist,’ and they said, ‘Oh no, couldn’t possibly be.’ They see racism as people with KKK gowns and pointy hoods with eyes cut out. And we had those too.”


Because Desmond couldn’t be arrested because she was Black, she was instead “charged with tax evasion for failing to pay 1 cent — the price difference between the floor and balcony seats [the segregated section],” according to The Washington Post.

Let us emphasize that again:

“She was charged and convicted of tax evasion – over a single penny,” wrote The Globe and Mail.

“Her arrest and conviction on spurious charges . . . concealed racial discrimination behind the arrest,” according to Parcs Canada.

“We had no laws in Canada actually requiring segregation, like they did in the United States. But here we had people using the law—the amusements tax act—to enforce segregation, and our courts allowed them to do that,” according to Backhouse.

“Protests from Nova Scotia’s black community and an appeal to the provincial Supreme Court proved fruitless,” according to The Globe and Mail.

“Now a symbol of the struggle for equal rights, Viola Desmond’s defiance in the face of injustice became a rallying cry for Black Nova Scotians and Canadians determined to end racial discrimination,” according to Parcs Canada.

She died in 1965 without any acknowledgment of racial discrimination in her case, according to The Globe and Mail.

“It would take 63 years for Nova Scotia to issue Desmond . . . a posthumous apology and pardon,” according to Global News Canada.

Desmond’s story went largely untold for a half-century, but in recent years she has been featured on a stamp, and her name graces a Halifax harbour ferry.

“More than 53 years after her death, Desmond [also] became the first black person and the first woman other than a royal to appear on the front of a regularly circulating Canadian bank note, replacing Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, as the face of the new vertically oriented $10 bill,” according to The Washington Post.

“She was an everyday person… this tiny little woman, it’s such an example of strength and determination and education and dignity, respect that was this whole little woman,” Desmond’s sister, Wanda Robson told the Cape Breton Post ahead of the first Nova Scotia Heritage Day in 2015, which honoured Desmond. Robson is the author of “Sister to Courage: Stories from the World of Viola Desmond, Canada’s Rosa Parks.”

“She laid the foundation in regards to justice and how black people were being treated in Nova Scotia. Even though it happened in New Glasgow, similar incidents were happening all over the province,” said Crystal States, an educator with the Black Educators Association and the representative for the African Nova Scotian North Central Network told The News in 2015.

“It was a breakthrough in social justice that had predated the civil rights movement in the (United) States,” States said ahead of the first Nova Scotia Heritage Day, which honored Desmond.

“At the end of the day, we’re all just human beings,” her sister Wanda Robson said. “We’re just people. There are people with different colours, different skin shades, different hair, but at the end of the day, as I said, we are just people.”


Said Backhouse:

“The Nova Scotian black community always remembered Viola Desmond—they didn’t lose track of her, ever. Her memory was very much alive there, but the rest of us didn’t know anything about her.

What’s exciting, especially in the horrible times we’re living in right now, is that this feels like a moment of inspiration. It’s actually somebody (who) fought back, and she fought back in a way that can make so many of us proud. She lost, but she left a record of what she did.”

Story courtesy of the Jon S. Randall Peace Page