A Canadian Perspective – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

After I opined strongly about Trump’s abominable behaviour toward Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I began to wonder how the people of Canada viewed the incident.  I asked Canadian friend John if he would write a guest post for me, and he graciously agreed.  Thank you, John!


Trump’s Treatment of Trudeau – A Canadian Perspective

By John Fioravanti

 

For many months since the inauguration of Donald Trump, I have watched him behave poorly as he played to his base of supporters. I am dismayed that his enablers in the GOP party in Congress refuse to exercise their constitutional duty to oversee his decisions that are often based on ignorance of the facts and outright lies. I don’t think Donald Trump has many supporters or admirers in Canada.

Figure 1: President Donald Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

Figure 1: President Donald Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

To be honest, I am a supporter of Canada’s Liberal Party, which is ideologically in line with American Democrats. I voted for our local Liberal candidate and was overjoyed to see Justin Trudeau win a majority government in the House of Commons in October of 2015 – despite the smear campaign launched by the Conservative Party (like the American GOP) that featured many attack ads that belittled Trudeau personally. Trudeau ignored those attacks and ran his campaign on the issues.

Figure 2: Trudeau & Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

Figure 2: Trudeau & Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

It is fair to say that many Canadians were in shock and somewhat uneasy when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. His campaign attacks on the NAFTA accord have been unsettling. Free trade has been an economic boon to all three countries involved. Two facts that are irrefutable about our bilateral trade history: one, the USA buys more goods from Canada than from any other country in the world; and two, Canada buys more American goods than from any other country in the world. To say that the collapse of NAFTA would not hurt the US economy is preposterous. However, it would hurt Canada more.

Thinking about our historical relationship with America, I’m reminded of a quote by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who was Prime Minister from 1968 to 1984.

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Figure 3: Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau 1968-1984

Figure 3: Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau 1968-1984

No country in the world has impacted Canada more than the United States. In the late 18th and 19th Centuries, annexationist American troops invaded Canadian territory during the Revolutionary War and then three times during the War of 1812. After the Civil War, American negotiators demanded that Britain hand over the Canadian colonies in compensation for damages incurred when the British helped the Confederate government. These occurrences bred feelings of unease, suspicion, and outright fear of the United States among Canadians.

In the 20th and 21st Centuries, the relationship changed to a close friendship as we became more than business partners, but also military allies through two world wars, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the War on Terrorism. On 9/11, Canadian airports accepted flights unable to land in the United States. Gander, Newfoundland, a town of just 10,000, residents took almost 7,000 passengers into their homes for five days and treated them like family. The Broadway play “Come From Away” immortalizes this extraordinary act of kindness to total strangers. Canadians and Americans have a shared history in North America and now we have a shared popular culture – it is no wonder that Europeans cannot distinguish us from each other.

I have been a student of history my entire life and in my adult years, my focus has been on Canadian and American history. My second academic passion is the study of politics, so I am fairly familiar with the constitutions of both of our countries. In my lifetime, I witnessed nothing but deference and respect between our Prime Ministers and Presidents. Sometimes friendships sprang up between our leaders when they were ideologically in tune – like Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan, and Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama. On the international stage, we have always had each other’s backs.

It is for these reasons that I am shocked and dismayed by Donald Trump’s abysmal behavior towards Justin Trudeau. Yes, I felt personally offended by Trump’s outright lies and insults. At the same time, I felt extremely proud that Trudeau did not respond, in kind, to Trump’s remarks nor to the vile remarks made by Trump’s minions in the aftermath.

Figure 4: Trump warning Trudeau about the PM's remarks at the G7 Summit

Figure 4: Trump warning Trudeau about the PM’s remarks at the G7 Summit

As an aside, my wife, Anne, and I had the good fortune to meet and chat briefly with our former Prime Minister, Paul Martin. He was PM for three brief years before being defeated by Conservative Stephen Harper. Since then, Martin has remained active within the Liberal Party and was a guest advisor at the G7 Summit. When I shared my views about Trudeau’s handling of the G7 fallout from Trump, he nodded sagely and assured me that he would pass that along to Justin Trudeau. It was such a thrill to spend a few moments alone with this kind and generous former prime minister!

Figure 5: Former Prime Minister Paul Martin 2003-2006

Figure 5: Former Prime Minister Paul Martin 2003-2006

My anger and disgust are not aimed at the American people. I understand how Trump operates. I followed the presidential election campaign very closely and I’ve seen how many Americans are also angry and disgusted with him and his abominable tactics. I also understand that Trump was defeated in the popular vote and that he has the approval of a scant 40% according to polls. By the way, Trudeau has the approval of 80% of Canadians according to recent polls for his stand against Trump’s tariffs. I can’t remember the last time a Canadian PM got an 80% approval rating for anything!

Many of my American friends have apologized and are concerned that this trade debacle will do irreparable damage to Canada/US relations. My response is that no apology is necessary – most of the American people did not behave badly. Trudeau and our Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, have continued to work towards a resolution of the tariffs and the NAFTA accord. It is our hope that our American cousins will lobby their Representatives and Senators to dissuade Trump from the path of a trade war with Canada and the other G7 countries.

Figure 6: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to reporters in Washington after meeting with members of the Senate after the G7 Summit.

Figure 6: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to reporters in Washington after meeting with members of the Senate after the G7 Summit.

Donald Trump will not change. He will continue to behave as he sees fit until the American electorate takes away his majorities in Congress and then removes him as President. I’m losing faith that the Mueller investigation will bring Trump down. I do not think Congress would impeach Trump no matter what Mueller reports. The remedy to the problem of Trump is to be found with the voters of America.

Another Open Letter to Donald Trump

Mr. Trump,

Once again it seems that I need to set you straight on a few things.  You are rather like the child who has been allowed to play with the bully down the street, and now you are beginning to act like him.

On Tuesday you met with Kim Jong-un, the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea as it is commonly called.  You seem to have come home with some wildly mistaken notions about both Kim and your own role in the U.S.  I am not sure why your many highly-paid advisors are failing to advise you, leaving it to me to do.  Have you simply surrounded yourself with stupid people who do not understand global relations any better than you do?

First, allow me to set the record straight.  Kim Jong-un is a dictator.  He is not elected by the people of his nation, but rather inherited his position from his father.  Kim will stay in power indefinitely until either he dies, chooses to step down, or is overthrown.  You, on the other hand, are an elected official and answer to every citizen of this nation.  Your term of office will end – sooner than later if you don’t change your attitude toward We the People.  So, when you say of Kim, “He’s the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same,” you are asking for trouble.  We are not “your people”.  We are, quite frankly, your employers!  You do not have the same power that Kim has, and never will, for the United States is a democratic republic, a nation guided by a Constitution that gives the power to the people, the citizens.  It is imperative that you understand this, for comments like that are offensive to every citizen of this nation!

Second, contrary to your inane comment, Kim Jong-un does not “love his people”.  In order to consolidate his power, Kim had his uncle executed and ordered the murder of his half-brother.  There are as many as 100,000 people being held in gulags in slave-like conditions in North Korea. These are not murderers, thieves or rapists – they are simply people who crossed Kim in one way or another. He orders public executions and allows ‘his people’ to starve to death.  And have you forgotten Otto Warmbier?  Mr. Warmbier was a 22-year-old U.S. citizen who was held prisoner in North Korea for over a year on orders by your buddy Kim. Warmbier’s crime?  Trying to steal a propaganda poster. Last year, he was sent back to the U.S. in a coma and died just a few days later.  Remember way back when you called Kim a ‘madman’ and a ‘killer’?  You were spot on then, but now you are either blind, stupid or simply don’t care about the human race.  Which is it?

Third, your treatment of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is despicable.  You have acted just as I would expect a five-year-old child to act – a spoiled brat!  Trudeau has, I’m certain, bit his tongue on more than one occasion, has tried very hard to be nice to you and to compromise on issues such as trade between our two nations.  But it seems that the word ‘compromise’ is not in your vocabulary and you insist on a game of winner-take-all, where you are the winner.  That is not how politics work, not how international relations work, and is not, in fact, how life works.  Your parents must have been very self-focused people, for they failed to teach you manners, failed to teach you that there are other people in this world and that life is not all about you and what you want.  While you were campaigning for the office you now hold, you said one of your goals was to make America safer, and yet, by pushing away all our allies, you have done just the opposite.  You brag and take credit for a strong economy, for low unemployment numbers, even though they are not yours to take credit for, but allow me to speculate that since you have imposed unreasonable tariffs on Mexico, Canada, the EU, and China, that economy will not remain strong for much longer.  I anticipate prices of goods and services will rise, people will be unable to afford to buy those goods and services, companies will lose money and begin laying off people, and there you have it – a new recession.  And believe me when I say that you will deserve every bit of the credit for that!

To summarize, Mr. Trump, you are doing a lousy job as leader of the United States.  Were it up to the majority in this nation, you would be fired today, but democratic processes take time.  I realize that you are not much of a reader, but the best advice I can give you at this time is to read about the French King Louis XVI and the fate that befell him for ignoring the needs of “his people”.

Sincerely,

Jill E Dennison, citizen/voter

Our Shame … Our Embarrassment

My single largest fear, when it appeared that Donald Trump might actually win the 2016 election, was not about internal or domestic policies, though they certainly do weigh heavily.  My single greatest fear, however, was in the area of foreign relations and foreign policy, for it was already obvious that Trump had no inkling about how nations interact, and it was also obvious that he was unlikely to take advice from anybody else.  Although he swore his intent to surround himself with “the best people”, we all knew that he defines ‘best’ quite differently than most of us.  So, when he was declared the winner of the electoral, though not the popular, vote in the wee hours of November 9th, 2016, I was bracing for a series of foreign policy catastrophes and hoping against all hope that Congress and high-level advisors would be able to contain the worst of the damage.

That said, I was in no way prepared for the calamity that Trump has wrought upon our nation in the last 16 months, and most especially in the last month … actually, the very worst may have come in the last 3 days, though it may be followed by worse on the morrow. For you see, not only is Trump acting out of ignorance, but he is acting out of malice, out of an obvious desire to destroy long-term alliances and either isolate the U.S. in a way that is not sustainable, not in our best interests, and very dangerous in today’s global environment, or he seeks to realign with our nemesis, Russia.

What he and his advisors have done in a short 24-hour period to our relations with our closest neighbor, Canada, is appalling and unconscionable.  Last week I expressed the opinion that it might be best if he did not attend the G7.  This week I am thoroughly convinced it would have been better.  Trump, who does not understand global trade, but thinks of himself as a master ‘wheeler-dealer’, put the final straw on the camel’s back of our relationship with Canada and the EU, particularly Canada.

Trump came to office proclaiming, incorrectly, that the U.S. has been taken advantage of by its trading partners. He has sought to renegotiate trade agreements and threatened to impose tariffs on countries that resisted.  Trump sees international trade agreements as a win/lose situation and he is determined to be the winner.  In reality, such agreements as NAFTA are not a win/lose proposition, but a win/win one in which each side makes some concessions and both sides gain.  But Donald Trump is willing to make no concessions, not willing to budge one inch from what he perceives as his rightful win.

Trump left the G7 meetings early, skipping out on the discussions about climate change, which was just as well, since he had nothing positive to add and would likely have derailed any serious discussions in an effort to take center stage as he always does.  At the conclusion of the G7, there was a press conference where a reporter asked Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau about the U.S. tariffs and whether Trudeau was taking seriously Trump’s threats to cut off trade with any country that failed to do Trump’s bidding.  Trudeau responded …

“I highlighted directly to the president that Canadians did not take it lightly that the United States has moved forward with significant tariffs on our steel and aluminum industry, particularly did not take lightly the fact that it’s based on a national security reason that for Canadians, who either themselves or whose parents or community members have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in far off lands and conflicts from the First World War onwards, that it’s kind of insulting. And highlighted that it was not helping in our renegotiation of NAFTA and that it would be with regret, but it would be with absolute certainty and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures on July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied to us.  I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do, because Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.”

Although it was a very reasonable and well-reasoned comment, when Trump heard of it he went into a rage, tweeting …

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!”

And …

“PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”

There was nothing either dishonest or weak in what Mr. Trudeau said – and he was well within his rights to say it.  But even that wasn’t the worst of it.  On the Sunday morning talk shows, Trump’s minions took the whole thing to the next level of idiocy and most likely cost us the friendship of a treasured ally.

Canada wall-2On CBS’ Face the Nation, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow:  “So, he holds a press conference. The president is barely out of there, on the plane to North Korea, and he starts insulting us. You know, he starts talking about U.S. is insulting Canada. We are not — we, Canada, are not going to be pushed around.”

Then Kudlow hopped right over to CNN’s State of the Union, where he said: “Potus is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around – push him, Potus around, on the eve of this. He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea. Nor should he.”

Trump’s Twitter finger was apparently bored in Singapore, and he jumped back in …

“Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!”

But possibly the most obnoxiously insulting barb came from Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro appearing on Fox News Sunday:

“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door, and that’s what Bad Faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”

Trump, Kudlow and Navarro all sound like a bunch of West Side thugs, which is just about all they are.

Canada, however, responded to the assaults in an adult manner with diplomacy and tact.  Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Quebec City:

“Canada does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks … and we refrain particularly from ad hominem attacks when it comes from a close ally.”

At this juncture, I would like to humbly and sincerely apologize to Prime Minister Trudeau and all Canadians on behalf of myself and the majority of citizens in this nation for the inane and unfair language and behaviour of our representatives.  We would not blame you if you closed your borders to U.S. citizens and you would be well within your rights to do so, but we hope that you won’t.  Please forgive us.

Don’t Know Much About History …

history bookGranted, they probably don’t focus much on History at Wharton Business School, from which Donald Trump allegedly graduated in 1968, but surely he attended high school?  Surely he has read … oh wait … I forgot … he doesn’t read.  Well, folks, let me tell you a little secret.  Donald Trump is illiterate about the history of the nation he purports to lead.  The evidence has been mounting ever since before he even took office, but yesterday … yesterday he made himself look like the most ignorant person on the North American continent.

In the past, he has made a number of faux pas when speaking of historical events, and I’m really surprised that his staff have not reined him in and admonished him not to speak of history, but perhaps they are no more enlightened than he.  I mean, think of Kellyanne … do you really think she knows what D-Day was?  Or that she could name five leaders of the Civil Rights movement?

In February 2017, for example, during a televised speech in honour of Black History Month, he spoke of Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, as if he were still alive today.  He referred to Douglass as, “… an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

During his campaign rallies in 2016, Trump claimed that during the Moro rebellion in the Philippines between 1901 and 1913, U.S. Gen. John Pershing executed Muslim insurgents with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. Trump’s retelling of the myth has changed each time, but no matter, for the story is untrue to begin with.  Yet last August, after a terrorist attack in Barcelona, he revived the myth, suggesting that Islamic terrorists should be executed with bullets soaked in pig’s blood.

Are you holding your head and groaning yet?  But wait … the best is yet to come.

In March 2017, on a tour of Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville, Tennessee:  “I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the civil war. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the civil war. He said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’”  Did Jackson, who died in 1845, speak from beyond the grave, then?  And perhaps Trump forgets that Jackson himself was a slave-owner and firmly believed in the institution of slavery?

Alright … proof enough that he’s no history buff, right?  But this week took the prize.

history for dummiesTrump was having a phone conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding the ridiculous tariffs that Trump had implemented against Canada, Mexico and the EU last week.  The conversation was not going well, from all indications, and Trudeau was trying to explain to Trump that the tariffs were not a good idea.  Trump replied that it was “necessary for national security”.  Well, Trudeau reminded Trump that Canada and the U.S. had a familial relationship and how did he figure that Canada was a threat to the national security of the U.S.?

Trump’s response … wait for it, folks … he said … “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” referring to the War of 1812 when the BRITS … the British troops … burned down the White House!!!Trudeau laugh.jpgAnd as I was drifting off to sleep last night, in the back of my mind I could almost hear him saying this one:

When Louis XVI won the popular vote in France, his wife, Marie Antoinette, threw a big bash … a party … with lots of fine food, and she stood up and said to everyone, “Let them eat cake!!!”

Granted, nobody gets everything right all the time, but wouldn’t you think he would accidentally get something right once in a while?  Wouldn’t you think his advisors, some of whom surely studied or read history at some point, would coach him, give him a script to follow?

Trump’s ignorance of history is certainly not the most serious of all his actions, but it points to the fact that he is not a thinker, doesn’t care if what he says is right or wrong, as long as he says something.  It is embarrassing and reflects poorly on his administration … on this nation.

Tell Him to Stay Home!!!

statement by aidThe G7 summit, a meeting of the leaders of the world’s seven largest advanced economies, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is scheduled to start next Friday, June 8th, in Quebec, Canada.  With just a short five days left, one would think that the agenda would be set, yes?  Well, it is not.  Not even close.  I will give you only one guess as to the reason the summit plans remain in chaos.  Think hard, now …

Ugly TrumpYou got it!  None other than Donald John Trump, the one who notoriously acted as a stubborn, unsupervised toddler at last year’s G7 in Taormina, Italy, when after three days of meetings and countless discussions, he refused to reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. In addition, he scolded Germany for its trade practices and lectured NATO members, saying they don’t pay their fair share. But this year is even worse … apparently he has single-handedly blown up the entire agenda!

My humble opinion is that, since Trump has, by his actions, ceded a global leadership role, the summit should be changed to the G6 and Trump considered of no value to the summit.

Initially, the agenda was slated to include such topics as climate change, women’s empowerment, peace, economic growth for all and jobs for the future.  Well, while the other six leaders are in tune with those goals, they are not in keeping with Trump’s “America First” agenda.  The only topic on which Trump did not disagree was ‘women’s empowerment’.  That Trump agreed to this topic is one of life’s great ironies!  Think about it … he calls for de-funding Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of women’s health services in the nation, and froze the equal pay rule, aimed at fighting employer discrimination against women and minorities.  Not to mention that he is currently embroiled in a scandal over paying ‘hush money’ to a porn star after an extramarital affair, and has been accused by … I think the number is up to 19 now … women of sexual misconduct.

As if trying to find common ground for the agenda wasn’t hard enough, Trump’s decision last month to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal left our allies scrambling to try to salvage what was basically a working agreement.  And then, just a few days ago, Trump imposed harsh and unnecessary tariffs on Mexico, Canada and the EU, further angering other G7 nations.  Boy, he sure knows how to make a party fun, doesn’t he?

Then there is the concern that Trump will use the G7 to publicly take Germany to task over its military spending, for it is a known fact that he has no filter and blurts out whatever he is thinking at any given moment.

trump-bully-3The purpose of the G7 summit is to serve as a forum for highly industrialized democracies to coordinate economic, security, and energy policy.  It is a venue where ideas are exchanged and problems discussed.  It is a venue for global cooperation, not for one player to bully all the rest.  These seven leaders are on equal footing … they are each elected leaders of their nations and their interest is in global cooperation to help make the world a more prosperous, safer place.  When one player comes to the table believing that he is somehow superior to the rest, believing that he, somehow is the leader of the group, then nothing good can come out of it.

I seriously think it would be in the global best interest for Mr. Trudeau to call Mr. Trump and rescind his invitation, rename the summit the G6 summit, and move on with an agenda that addresses the pressing issues of the day, starting with climate change.  Let the bully stay at home and spew his hateful bluster here … the rest of the world should not have to contend with him, and when he leaves home, he does nothing but cause us shame and embarrassment anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I just realized, after a comment by friend Emily (Eschudel of Zombie Flamingoes) that today is Thanksgiving … in Canada!  Action de grâce!

Now, for those outside Canada, I thought I would look a bit into the history of Canada’s Thanksgiving.  We all know the lovely little story about the pilgrims and the natives and the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., which is basically a myth, but whatever.  So, I wondered if Canada has such a feel-good story too.  Well, turns out it’s confusing, but … let me tell you what I found, and then perhaps some of our Canadian friends will either correct me, or fill in the gaps.

According to Wikipedia …

“Thanksgiving is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, from 1604, also held feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and held feasts with their First Nations neighbors, at which food was shared.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

During and after the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year.”

But then, I found an article in The Star (Toronto) that I think is more likely to be authentic …

“In the case of Thanksgiving Day, the critical actors were a group of Protestant clergymen in what is now Ontario. In 1859, these men petitioned the Canadian colonial government to declare a mid-week day of thanksgiving in recognition of the harvest. The government agreed to the ministers’ request, and it would do so again four more times before 1866, and annually beginning in 1871.

Protestant leaders had dual motives in lobbying for an autumn holiday. First, they wanted to reassure Canadian Christians, whose faith had been shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.

Second, they felt obligated to mould Canadian identity in light of the prospect — and after 1867, the reality — of Confederation. To clergymen, an abundant harvest provided proof of God’s hand in nature, and evidence that Canadians were a chosen people. As such, a holiday that celebrated the harvest would give them the opportunity to remind Canadians of both their material prosperity and their divine national destiny.

Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was a solemn and pious occasion compared to its American namesake. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. Ministers delivered sermons that blended nationalism with religious dogma. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, they hailed the superiority of British political institutions and praised Canada (incorrectly) for having avoided the evils of slavery.

Overall, their Thanksgiving sermons celebrated Canada for being a white, British, Protestant country — a perspective that pointedly ignored the presence of French Canadians, Catholics, Indigenous people, and non-British immigrants.

In time, however, the Protestant conception of Thanksgiving Day, and the narrow definition of Canadian identity that it promoted, gave way to other influences. From the 1870s onwards, holiday church services lost ground to secular community events and commercial amusements.

Meanwhile, Canadians began adopting American Thanksgiving traditions, such as family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football games. Such activities enabled previously excluded groups to stake their own claims to Thanksgiving, and by extension, to Canadian citizenship.

By 1957, when the government permanently fixed the timing of Thanksgiving Day, the holiday’s domestic focus was firmly established. While many Canadians used the occasion to close their summer cottages for the season, others devoted the day to family get-togethers and turkey dinners.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving shows few hints of its religious and nationalist beginnings.”

Interesting … things are rarely as they seem on first glance, and it is always fun to delve into the traditions and history of other nations.  At any rate, I wish all my Canadian friends & readers a very Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de grâce. You have one very obvious thing to be thankful for:  that you have Justin Trudeau instead of Donald Trump! I hope you were all able to celebrate with loved ones, much laughter and good food.

t-giving-3.jpg

Good People Doing Good Things — Maggie MacDonnell

This is actually the second ‘Good People’ post I have written for today.  The first will appear sometime soon, but likely not as a ‘good people’ post, though the subject is indeed a good person. I debated and soul-searched about its appropriateness for the Good People post, and decided rather than perhaps stir some conflict and controversy, I would shelve it and write a different post.  Today’s good person is a teacher … the winner of this year’s Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize of $1 million.  I did not know there was such a prize, did you?  Well, allow me to introduce this year’s most-deserving winner, Ms. Maggie MacDonnell!

Imagine, if you will, that you have just earned your college degree and are now a certified teacher.  The world is your oyster; you can teach anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?  I am betting not too many would choose a town of only 1,347 people, accessible only by air, in the Canadian Arctic, but that is exactly where Maggie MacDonnell has been making a difference in young people’s lives for the past six years.

SalluitMaggie MacDonnell grew up in rural Nova Scotia and after completing her Bachelor’s degree, spent five years volunteering and teaching in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. After completing her Master’s degree, she found her country was beginning to wake up to the decades of abuse that Canadian Indigenous people have lived through, including assaults on the environment and enormous economic and social inequality. As such, she sought out opportunities to teach indigenous communities in Canada and for the last six years has been a teacher in a fly-in Inuit village called Salluit, nestled in the Canadian Arctic. This is home to the second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec, with a population of just over 1,300 – it cannot be reached by road, only by air. In winter, temperatures are minus 25° C (-13° F).

Salluit-2Most teachers who go to teach in the Arctic don’t stay long … many do not even make it halfway through their first year.  Conditions are harsh, added to by the sense of isolation and limited resources.  But Maggie has stayed for six years now, determined to make a difference in the lives of the young people in the village.  There are many challenges for Maggie to confront. Teenagers, in the face of deprivation and isolation, frequently turn to drink, drugs and self-harm. In Salluit alone there were six suicides in 2015, all among men aged 18 to 25. Teenage pregnancy is common, levels of sexual abuse are high, and gender expectations see young girls burdened with domestic duties.

Maggie-with-students.jpg

It takes a remarkable teacher just to work in such an environment. But, to do what Maggie has done requires something quite extraordinary, something very special. She has worked assiduously to raise funds for the community, particularly her students, focusing on nutrition and fitness, and created a life-skills program specifically for young women that has seen a 500 percent growth in girls’ enrollment because previous programs were designed to help mainly boys. With the help of her students, the community and contributions from individuals, companies and government agencies, Salluit now has a thriving fitness centre and the villagers have helped other communities create their own.

Maggie-1.jpgOutside the classroom, she spent time as a coach for the Salluit Running Club. Seven Inuit youth travelled with her to Hawaii in 2016 to run a half marathon. Her projects include taking students hiking in national parks, having them run a community kitchen, a second-hand store,  and fundraising for diabetes prevention programs. She has also temporarily fostered some Salluit youth. Maggie does not simply see herself as the teacher and the kids as students, but sees their lives as being intertwined with hers.  One of the biggest myths about teaching is that the school day ends at 3pm, says Maggie: “I think as a teacher in a small Arctic community, your day never ends. The school doors may close – but the relationship with your students is continuous as you share the community with them.”

The Life Skills program Maggie implemented is three-pronged:

  1. It has motivated young people to return to school, by engaging them in projects that interest them – from cookery to mechanics.
  2. These talents and interests are used to tackle and address issues in the community.
  3. Her students then receive praise and acknowledgment. They have low confidence, and are viewed negatively by the community. But “giving them a new positive platform to stand upon while contributing to the community is transformative for both my students and the community,” writes Maggie.

A bit about the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize

The Varkey Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for underprivileged children around the world. The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million award presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession. The prize serves to underline the importance of educators and the fact that, throughout the world, their efforts deserve to be recognised and celebrated. It seeks to acknowledge the impacts of the very best teachers – not only on their students but on the communities around them.  Why teachers?  Lack of education is a major factor behind many of the social, political, economic and health issues faced by the world today. We believe education has the power to reduce poverty, prejudice and conflict. The status of teachers in cultures across the world is critically important to our global future.

MacDonnell was selected from among 20,000 nominees representing 179 countries. The Nobel-style award was set up three years ago by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. The prize is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years.

award ceremony.jpgThe award ceremony, held in Dubai, is a glitzy affair. The winner was announced by astronaut Thomas Pesquet, speaking from the International Space Station, who said: “I’d like to be the first person in history to thank all the world’s teachers from space.” The award was handed out by adventurer Bear Grylls, who jumped from a helicopter to deliver it to the ceremony. Italian singer Andrea Bocelli took part in the prize giving. A video message from Prince Harry was screened and the ceremony was attended by the vice president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Maggie was even congratulated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

“You chose to teach at the Ikusik school in Salluit, a remote village in the Canadian Arctic. There are no roads to Salluit – it is only accessible by air and it gets cold, really cold, -20c this time of year. I’d like to say thank you to every teacher out there.”

My hat is off to this amazing young woman who is helping to make a big difference in the lives of the youth in Salluit.  Her approach, rooted in respect for her students, their culture and the particular challenges of their community, is a model for teachers everywhere. Her conviction that kindness breeds hope holds a lesson for us all. This, my friends, is how we make the world a better place … one person at a time.

Note to Readers:  If any of you know of a person or organization that you believe qualifies for a “good people” post, please feel free to send me a suggestion via email at dennisonjill@aol.com.  

The Canadian Guy Has Class!

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to visit and to discuss ongoing policies with Trump.  Trudeau had hoped for an audience with the President of the United States, but in lieu of that, he got Trump.  Of course, the U.S. was embroiled in the scandal of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and whether he did or didn’t give Russian ambassador Kislyak a heads up about impending sanctions by President Obama back on Christmas day, so it is understandable that the U.S. news outlets were too busy to cover more than the barest details of Trudeau’s visit.

trudeau-trump-shakeNonetheless, there were some pretty great moments, like when Trudeau got to have his picture taken standing to the left of Ivanka Trump, with a beaming proud Papa Trump on her right.  And speaking of Ivanka, let us not forget the iconic photos of Ivanka gazing with adoration at the handsome, young Trudeau!

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The take on the visit depends entirely which side of the border you are on.  The U.S. press called the meeting boring, but the Canadians were thrilled.  Both reactions seem to be a result of the fact that Trump didn’t throw any of his bombastic temper tantrums during the Trudeau visit.  U.S. citizens seem to have come to a point where they look forward to these daily, sometimes hourly events, but Canadians, having a bit more sense of propriety, find them unamusing, to say the least.

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Their major differences are in the areas of immigration, trade and climate change.  As we all know, Trump is determined to have his way in banning refugees from at least seven Middle-Eastern nations from entering the U.S. and is not above verbally abusing judges and others in order to see his ‘orders’ carried out.  Meanwhile, Trudeau welcomes refugees and the cultural diversity they bring.  Asked for his opinion on Trump’s refugee ban, PM Trudeau tactfully declined to opine, saying instead, “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves.”

us-canadaCertainly the main point PM Trudeau came hoping to come to an agreement with Trump about was regarding trade, given that Trump has repeatedly said he would either ‘rip up’ the NAFTA agreement, or renegotiate it in terms more favourable to the U.S.  Canada counts on trade with the United States for about 25 percent of their country’s gross domestic product and 73% of their exports.  PM Trudeau and President Obama had forged a mutually beneficial working relationship, so it is no wonder that Trudeau was a bit unsure what to expect from the contentious Trump … heck, those of us who live in the U.S. do not know what to expect of him from one day to the next!

A little known episode from last month:  a group of six Canadian women and two French nationals tried to enter the U.S. in order to attend the Women’s March on 21 January, but after a two-hour ordeal at the border which included a search of the car, their mobile phones being examined, each person fingerprinted, and their photo taken, they were denied access and told that if they attempted to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested.  Another Canadian and a British citizen were also turned away after informing border patrol agents the reason for their visit was the Women’s March. The same day, a resident of Montreal was turned away after being asked by border patrol agents whether he was ‘pro-Trump’ or ‘anti-Trump’.  He was then fingerprinted, photographed, and denied entry.

At least one Canadian school district has ceased their periodic field trips into the U.S., citing safety concerns in light of Trump’s immigration ban and the unpredictability of what might happen next. We certainly can no longer claim to be a nation of hospitality, can we?

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PM Justin Trudeau welcoming newly-arrived refugees to his country

Justin Trudeau is a class act, much the same as was President Obama.  Though we have the impression that he strongly disagrees with Trump’s stance on immigration and his ‘executive order’ to ban mostly Muslims from the U.S., Trudeau has never specifically criticized Trump.  He has merely stated the importance of welcoming more refugees, without mentioning Trump by name.  As I said, the man has class, something which is sorely lacking in Trump.

On a final note, the day after the meeting and press conference with PM Trudeau and Trump, Sean Spicer had this to say in the morning White House press briefing:

“Yesterday the president set — had an incredibly productive set of meetings and discussions with Prime Minister Joe Trudeau of Canada, focusing on our shared commitment to close cooperation in addressing both the challenges facing our two countries and the problems throughout the world.” Um, Sean?  It’s Justin … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Not Joe.

I asked one of my Canadian friends if we could trade leaders … just for a year or so.  Her response, verbatim, was: “Over my dead body (and those of millions of Canucks!!) Sorry…”  Guess that means ‘no’, huh?  And I was even willing to throw in Bannon, Miller, Spicer, Conway, Sessions and DeVos as a bonus!  Well, can’t blame me for trying.  Sigh.

The Woe of Trudeau …

Guess who may be going to Canada?  No, it isn’t me … and I’m not going to tell you who just yet … I will get to that in a moment …

Of all the world leaders today, I think I most respect Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.  He is wise, gracious, and most of all, he is a humanitarian.  PM Trudeau and Donald Trump are as different as night and day:

  • Trudeau is a self-described feminist who appointed his country’s first gender-balanced cabinet. Trump, currently married to his third wife, has cheated on the first two, and has been accused multiple times of sexual misconduct. There are very few women among Trump’s cabinet picks.
  • Trudeau has sought to champion trade deals such as Ceta (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, with the EU). Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal last month and has threatened to rip up the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) trade deal.
  • Trudeau said, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength”. Trump signed an executive order to ban all immigrants from seven Middle Eastern nations that are primarily Muslim nations, for no apparent reason.
  • Trudeau is well-educated and speaks intelligently.  Trump can barely string a sentence together on his best days.

So it is understandable that as Justin Trudeau plans for a visit to the U.S. to meet with Trump next Monday, he is consulting with other world leaders for advice on how to proceed. In preparation for the upcoming meeting, PM Trudeau has contacted both British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President François Hollande to discuss how best to engage with Trump. Two of the key points that will likely be discussed are trade and the Keystone pipeline.

While other leaders have, understandably and justifiably, criticized Trump, Trudeau has notably refrained from doing so.  In part this is because of his nature, but more importantly, the economies of Canada and the U.S. are closely tied, with some 73% of Canada’s exports going to the U.S. Trump has threatened to ‘rip up’ NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and re-negotiate to be in the best interest of the U.S., as well as impose border tariffs on imports from both Canada and Mexico. Trudeau, familiar by now with Trump’s inconsistent and irrational rhetoric, must be concerned for the future of Canadian-U.S. relations.

Earlier today, asked how he viewed his relationship with the United States, Trudeau said, “Canadians expect their government to have a constructive working relationship with the incoming American administration, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. But there are things that we hold dear that the Americans haven’t prioritized. I’m never going to shy away from standing up for what I believe in — whether it’s proclaiming loudly to the world that I am a feminist, whether it’s understanding that immigration is a source of strength for us and Muslim Canadians are an essential part of the success of our country today and into the future.”  I wonder if Canadians would be willing to trade leaders?

Now, as if that weren’t enough for PM Trudeau to have to worry about … word has it that Trump is seriously considering none other than America’s #1 Bimbo, Sarah Palin, as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada!!!  Take a minute to savor that one!

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Canadians are not exactly jumping for joy at this news. Democrat MP Charlie Angus tweeted, “Sarah Palin as ambassador? Well that would show how little Steve Bannon and his pal @realDonaldTrump think of Canada.” Some thought it was an early April Fool’s joke from the White House, while still others thought it must surely be fake news.  But no, a White House spokesperson confirmed that she was being considered.  Some reactions from Canadians:

  • “Appointing Sarah Palin as the US ambassador to Canada is, like, ultimate trolling.”
  • “If he makes Sarah Palin the US Ambassador to Canada. I say we keep our oil and hockey players. BTW … does she speak Canadian?”
  • “This is entirely because Sarah Palin can see Canada from Alaska, isn’t it?”
  • “Just cus @SarahPalinUSA ‘probably’ knows the difference between a moose & a beaver shouldn’t make her a Canadian ambassador option.”
  • “Palin as ambassador is an insult. To any country.”
  • “Dear Mr. Trump: Rather than appoint Sarah Palin as ambassador to Canada, please bomb us. Signed, all intelligent life in Canada.” (This was my personal favourite!)
  • “Stop laughing, little known fact – she speaks almost fluent Canadian.”
  • “I know #Trump is cruel and heartless but making #SarahPalin #US #Ambassador to #Canada would be going too far.”

Last week I wrote about Trump’s choice of Ted Malloch as ambassador to the EU, a poor choice, as Malloch has expressed disdain for the European Union.  The appointment of Sarah Palin as ambassador to Canada would be an equally poor selection, not only because she is a brainless twit, but because her ideology, to the extent she can be said to have one, is quite the opposite of that of PM Trudeau.  Andrew Cohen, a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, summed it up best: “In Canada, Palin would have to learn to speak one of our official languages. She would have to live in a land of naïfs who favour immigrants, gay marriage, the United Nations and NATO.”

Ambassadors serve as a liaison in communications between the two countries, and Palin sorely lacks the intellect or the filter to be an ambassador to any country, let alone our nearest ally, an ally with whom we have historically had cordial relations and with whom we share a border.  It seems to me rather a slap in the face to even consider her for the appointment. But then, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that Trump seems intent on destroying relationships with allies while cultivating relationships with contentious dictators such as Putin and Erdoğan.

Welcome to the new United States, Mr. Trudeau … enjoy your visit!

Trump: A Global View

The United States, since the end of World War II, has been considered a world leader, and for a long time has had, for the most part, the respect of other nations around the world. Since U.S. intervention in Iraq and, to a lesser extent Afghanistan under George W. Bush, the respect of the global community for the U.S. has been waning.  In the past year, the rise of Donald Trump to GOP presumptive nominee has done nothing but to further tarnish that image. Similar to the reactions of many here in the U.S., the rest of the world first saw Trump as a clown, a joke, and thought we were too smart to fall for this particular joke.  Then, as the snowball began rolling ever faster down that slippery slope, other nations began to express concern and doubt.  But still, they thought, Americans are too smart … they are just having a moment from which they will wake up soon.  Today, the general reaction from other nations ranges from mild disdain to outright contempt to fear that this madman may be the catalyst that brings doom to, not just the United States, but the world.

make fascism great againWhile WWII and America’s role gave rise to the U.S. being seen as a ‘superpower’, President George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began to change that perception.  Donald Trump may well be poised to finish what Bush started in stripping the U.S. of the respect of our allies.  Trump’s first ‘foreign policy speech’, alarmed our allies far more than our enemies.  His ‘America First’ rhetoric is often seen on the other side of the globe as a threat to retreat from the rest of the world, or to back out of commitments we have to our allies.  Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said “The world’s security architecture has changed and it is no longer based on two pillars alone. It cannot be conducted unilaterally. No American president can get round this change in the international security architecture…. ‘America first’ is actually no answer to that.”  Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister and U.N. foreign minister said he heard Trump’s speech as “abandoning both democratic allies and democratic values. Trump had not a word against Russian aggression in Ukraine, but plenty against past U.S. support for democracy in Egypt.”

In some circles, Trump has been dubbed “America’s First Isolationist Candidate”.  Prior to WWII, a large portion of the U.S. population was isolationist, preferring to stay out of the struggle in Europe to stop the madman, Hitler.  In fact, had Japan not bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, it is doubtful that FDR would have been able to drum up support to enter the war in any official capacity. ‘America First’ was also the phrase used by those who called for the U.S. to stay out of WWII, rather than to support its allies.  If there is a lesson to be learned from WWII, it is that the world is now a much more global community and no nation can stand alone, isolationism leaves a nation vulnerable.  Former South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Sung-han noted, “Saying the U.S. will no longer engage in anything that is a burden in terms of its relationships with allies, it would be almost like abandoning those alliances. It will inevitably give rise to anti-American sentiment worldwide.”

reallySo, what does the rest of the world think of Donald Trump?

Germany’s Der Spiegel has called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. Britain’s David Cameron says his plan to ban Muslims is divisive and unhelpful.  The French liberal newspaper Liberation has described him as a nightmare turned reality. JK Rowling tweeted that he’s worse than Voldemort. A recent Economist cover has a picture of Trump dressed as Uncle Sam with just one word, “Really?” That pretty much sums up the mood of global elites.  A few comments I think are noteworthy:

“Trump does for the U.S. what ISIS does for Islam.” – Phil, BBC, 05 Mar 2016

“Oh, I think it does matter what the world thinks of US candidates and presidents and it matters even more how the world views Americans at large. Can we be a trend-setting nation and global leader when a third of nation falls for a histrionic foul-mouthed populist with fascist tendencies? The US has many friends around the world but many often wonder about our lack of common sense.” – Bob Williams, BBC, 05 Mar 2016

“Speaking from a Canadian view, people that I know and that I speak with about this think that Trump is one or any combination of the following:  dangerous, scary, moronic, rude, racist, inciter of hate, bigoted, misogynist, unfit for politics, narcissist, sketchy, womanizer, angry, hateful, etc etc etc” – Catherine Durnford-Wang, Quora, 16 Mar 2016

“The inability of politicians to connect with voters and get things done was part of what made authoritarianism so appealing in the interwar years.” – Heather Horn, The Atlantic, 03 March 2016

ban trumpHundreds of thousands of Britons signed a petition calling for Trump to be banned from Britain for hate speech, which was taken up in parliament. Cameron declined to ban Trump, but said: “If he came to visit our country, I think he would unite us against him.”  The UK is arguably our #1 ally.  A Trump presidency “would be a disaster for EU-U.S. ties,” said one senior EU official involved in shaping foreign policy in Brussels, headquarters of the EU. “Right now, we and the Obama administration generally understand each other. I don’t think we understand Donald Trump. He has no understanding of the delicate, complex nature of foreign policy on Europe’s doorstep.”

While the UK may be considered our #1 ally, Canada is #2, and has the added distinction of being one of only two countries that actually share a border with the U.S.  So what does Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada think of Trump?  For the most part Trudeau, ever the diplomat, has responded to questions about Trump simply by saying that he has faith in the American people.  However, on at least one occasion he made a stronger statement when asked his opinion of Trump’s hateful rhetoric: “I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric. I think Canada—indeed, any modern society—does best when we understand that diversity is a source of strength, not a source of weakness, that the elements on which we are similar are always far greater than the elements on which we are diverse, and if we allow politicians to succeed by scaring people, we don’t actually end up any safer.”  And of course we already know how Trump is viewed by the leaders and citizens of the other nation that shares a border with us!

So, why should we care what the rest of the world thinks?

When President Obama travelled to the United Kingdom and encouraged the UK not to leave the European Union (EU), a large portion of Britons were up in arms, basically saying the U.S. should stay out of their politics, their decisions.  I do not necessarily agree, nor do I agree with the naysayers here in the U.S. who believe it does not matter what the rest of the world thinks of a candidate who could potentially become the next U.S. president.  We need our allies and our allies need us.  A president who does and says everything in his power to alienate those allies is not an asset, but a liability.  Global issues, such as the ongoing fight against terrorism, the fight to protect the world from the tyranny of such rulers as Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the deteriorating environment are all extremely important issues on the world stage today and for the foreseeable future.

Our allies have a right to expect that the leader of the nation they look to for global leadership at least understands those issues and is likely to make decisions that will benefit not only the U.S., but also its allies.  Donald Trump has already, in essence, declared himself ‘persona non grata’ throughout the Middle East.  Latin America and Mexico certainly have no reason to love him.  Europe is leery and frightened of the effect his presidency would have on global peace.  In fact, the only leaders who have shown any degree of support for him are the three I named as tyrants above:  Jong-un, Putin and Erdoğan!  To me, this speaks volumes.  Think about it.