Month: April 2014

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers…

I always thought young Bill Shakespeare was being harsh and unkind when he penned that line in Henry VI. I mean we all need lawyers at some time in our lives whether to unburden our sins, seek a defence for unwise actions, or draft a last will and testament.

We expect, and trust, that whether male or female our guide through the intricacies of law will be of the highest moral standards, without malice or greed. But even as we expect those high standards we remember humorist Will Rogers once said in his skitHob Nobbing With Leaders of the Bar: “Went down and spoke at some lawyers’ meeting last night. They didn’t seem to think much about my little squib yesterday about driving the shysters out of their profession. They seemed to kinder (cct) doubt just who would have to leave.”

Given our needs for legal guidance, usually when we are nervously, maybe fearfully, passing through troubled waters, it is understandable that we seek that guidance from a lawyer imbued with “honesty. civility, truthfulness, generosity and integrity.”

If those words seems familiar it’s probably because you read them recently as part of the Community Covenant Agreement students – not just law students – are asked to sign if they wish to become a member of the Trinity Western University.

They are among the words the Law Society of Upper Canada found so unpalatable that it voted against permitting any future Trinity University graduates in law to become eligible for admission to the Ontario bar. Seems that the ruling body of Ontario lawyers was more than a trifle upset about a University declaring itself a Christian Institute and calling for its student body to “cultivate Christian virtues such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, compassion, humility, forgiveness, peace-making, mercy and justice.”

Easy to see why some lawyers might be uneasy to find men and women with such high ideals in their midst. To be fair the “goodness and mercy” aspect of TWU’s Covenant Agreement wasn’t the most upsetting for Upper Canada’s Law Society. What really turned them off was a clause requiring all students (again not just law students) to refrain from gossip, obscene language, prejudice, harassment, drunkenness and “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Ah, the old too often bitter same-sex marriage debate that has split church organizations around the world now raising its emotional debating head in legal circles. Lawyers in Ontario and Nova Scotia have already voiced their displeasure while others, like those in BC are still pondering which side they want to be on – although a BC petition with 1,777 signatures has been forwarded to the appropriate authorities to clarify and possibly change BC’s earlier decision to allow a faculty of law to be established under existing WTU rules.

The Law Society of Upper Canada voted 28-21 with one abstention to refuse admission to the Ontario bar to WTU graduates. The Canadian Press reported the Society’s Treasurer saying the decision had not been an easy one “(but) as members of the legal profession, we recognize the entrenched values of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Ontario’s Human Rights Code, including the right of equality and the right to freedom of religion, and the foundational nature of those rights to our democracy.

WTU President Bob Kuhn used much the same rights of freedom argument in his reply to the Law Society of Upper Canada which, he is reported as saying, is sending a signal to millions of sincere Christians that their beliefs would preclude them from practicing if, in five or six years time they graduated in Law from WTU.

Confused? You’re not alone – and it isn’t much use asking a lawyer for guidance. If, as now seems likely, the less than Christian-quality debate ends up in Supreme Court, who will present WTU’s case? A high priced Toronto lawyer, maybe? One who voted against the right of WTU law graduates to practice but will argue brilliantly for their right to do just that – for a fee. We are, after all, all entitled to the best legal minds we can afford and as Ogden Nash said so aptly back in the 1930’s: “Professional men, they have no cares; whatever happens, they get theirs.”

(You can find the full text of WTU’s Community Covenant with a quick Google. It’s inspiring and frightening, whichever side of the fence you’re on)

Sometimes when the wind blows

Ten or dozen people were taking the short cut across a small park wedged between two main streets in a small industrial town in the Midlands of England.

It was around 11 o’clock in the morning. Overnight rain had drifted away to the west but the broken cloud held threat of more to come.

It was quiet in the park, the quiet often felt in the early years of World War Two in the hours after German Luftwaffe bombers had gone home and the anti-aircraft guns that had tried to blow them from the sky had fallen silent.

I was one of the dozen people crossing the park when we all paused for the briefest of seconds, then hit the ground, legs tight up against the chest, hands and arms covering head and shoulders. Waiting.

 Waiting for a high explosive bomb to increase the intensity of its scream as it plunged earthward from far above the clouds.

But no intensity of scream followed. All we heard was the sound of a heavy duty, heavily loaded, truck dropping into a low gear to whine its way down one of the main streets. Enough to sound like the first whine of the terror that flew by night. Enough to send a dozen people, nerves rattled by nightly air raid alerts, seeking cover where there was no cover – and none needed.

As we had gone to ground together, so we rose, embarrassed – but happy to know we were not alone in our fearful, triggered, response to an imagined threat. We looked at each other as we struggled to our feet, grinned a little foolishly, someone gave a thumbs up and we went on our separate ways.

I hadn’t thought about that long ago incident for 70-years until just a few weeks back when I read about the terror of the great March 22 mudslide that roared the small community of Oso in Washington State taking “at least” 41 people to eternity. One story quoted a survivor, Amanda Skorjanc, and her continuing struggle to shake off the memory even while safe in hospital.

She told reporters:“If the wind blows too hard. If someone pushing a bed past me and it rumbles the floor a bit it brings back the same sight, over and over again.”

Time will quietly put some of Amanda’s memories to rest. Life will again become normal. But there will always be occasions when the wind blows too hard and the rumble of a passing truck will trigger flashback reaction. Many of us have walked with memories we would rather shuck.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing if we come to understand that being able to remember is a cause for giving thanks.

On the buses

Amazing! The folks running the transit system in Greater Victoria came up with this fine idea that drivers should make an announcement just before the bus arrives at a designated stop. It would, said the wise ones, enable passengers, even visually handicapped ones, to gather their belongings and be ready to hop off the second the bus stopped.

The driver would make the announcement via a hand-held microphone.

Simple, especially while driving down Douglas Street at any time of the day let alone rush hour. Simple, in a day when other authorities are seeking to end the rash of accidents being caused by drivers more intent on clicking their smart phones than they are on other highway traffic.

It’s true that Transit’s heavy thinkers have since withdrawn the hand-held mike idea – but only after drivers pointed out the hazards. And the embarrassed withdrawal – at least I hope it was embarrassed – doesn’t detract from the cluttered first thoughts.

I can only assume the Transit “thinkers” have never ridden “The BUS” in Hawaii where every stop is announced well ahead, not by the driver but by an automatic computer controlled system. Works like a charm. Hear your stop announced, pull the overhead chord and seconds later get off right where you want to be.

A similar system is used on trains in the UK but with an added wrinkle: You get the automated announcement, plus the flashing, streaming,  name of the station stop.

It must be something in Victoria’s water because whether we in the Capital Kingdom are considering bridges, sewage treatment or improved transit systems, we seem incapable of rationally considering how others faced and resolved similar problems – years ago.

Wake up guys and gals, there’s a whole world out there willing to show you the way.

Time to stop talking

Around the world countries, counties, states and cities, large and small, design and build bridges. Throughout British Columbia we have outstanding examples of the engineering skills required for innovative design and construction.

We have majestic spans crossing harbours, rivers, spectacular ravines or modest rivers. Most are of aesthetic design, as pleasing to the eye as they are practical.

In other countries we pay top tourist dollars to admire the bridges across the Seine in France, Tower Bridge and modern London Bridge spanning the Thames in England; and the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge down in California.

Bridge building is not exactly new when spans are needed to cross a stream or an ocean. Which leaves me wondering why the crossing of the whiff and spit at the foot of Johnson Street is taking so long to design and build at seemingly ever increasing cost?

Is it because Victoria has a city council that appears to be, at the slightest hiccup, framing apologies for decisions almost fearfully made? Do we have here a council too timid to make key decisions until it receives guidance from “the people” who elected it to govern on their behalf but who now want to run the show?

Or is it because in Greater Victoria we appear to have an abundance of citizens who, lacking expertise, wade into any new major program with advice based on emotion rather than reason? They demand public hearings to air their “concerns” and appear at those hearings to claim expertise they don’t possess. They become “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals signifying nothing”, but those elected to govern tremble and appear to waver on decisions already made.

It’s time, I think, for governments to end the vaudeville of endless public hearings, not just on bridges, and do what we elected them to do – govern. Better, I think, that elected governments should lurch to an occasional mistake than they should shamble along, hesitant, and failing to exude the confidence their people seek.

As former PM of England Clement Atlee, once said back in 1957: “Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.” It takes courage to tell people to shut up – but it’s time local and provincial governments started.

Moving right along…

Things seem to be progressing well on the health front.

The early ride to Victoria General Hospital for a 7 a.m. appointment with Urologist Dr.Iain McAuley is fading, as are the anxieties that face old men when confronted with problems they can’t themselves control or resolve.

We hear so many stories on our health care system’s faults and failings that I hesitate to write I found none. Admittance was smooth, the handover to the pre-op preparation crew the same. I even appreciated the repeated asking of name and date of birthday, as they made absolutely sure they had the right guy heading for the right surgeon.

It all moved quickly but calmly to a brief chat with an anesthetist to confirm I had requested a spinal anesthetic rather than the dream-sleep method. With the spinal you are conscious throughout the procedure and I was looking forward to casually chatting with the crew during “the procedure.”

Alas, they removed my hearing aid. I was awake – but voices were a distant mumble. Being unable to join the conversation – probably a good thing all round – I just lay back and didn’t feel a thing.

Somewhere along the way someone asked me how I felt and I mumbled “not ready for the marathon” as they wheeled me away to “recovery”. Waiting for the lower half of my body to come back to life was the worst part of the day. There was no pain, but every time the nurse checked to see how I was doing she asked me to wiggle my toes.

A strange feeling to try to order your toes to move when you can’t feel your feet. It was lunch time before I was deemed flexible enough to be rolled from recovery and whisked down corridors to ride the elevator to the seventh floor and post-op care.

Wasn’t  there long. Just an afternoon, night and morning before I was told I could go home. And for the record the nursing care was excellent. Throughout the entire period I was carefully checked and charted to identify any repercussions trying to interfere with orderly progress. I felt protected, cared for, by nurses who were not only good at what they were doing, but cheerful although short staffed and facing incredible pressures.

Schoolteachers should take note when they talk about class sizes and the pressures of the classroom.

And that’s enough health care news. Roughly 36 hours after arriving at Vic General I was rolling back down the highway with son Nic driving to be welcomed home by long time friend, fellow traveler, care-giver, Anne who believes only the finest balanced diet will restore me to full health.

I’m lucky. I know it. And am thankful to be around to celebrate the renewal Easter brings.

Home again

Hi! I’m back as promised by son Nic, but not quite raring to go. No complications so far following my challenge to medical science and a personal test of health care facilities, and none expected..

Promise to not burden you with too much medicine but I do have a few things to say about the system in the next few days.

In the mean time my post op instructions are to NOT to sit in one position for any length of time, to do a bit of walking and wait patiently for the body to do what it does.

So this is just a brief note to let you know I’m home again and to thank all who sent e-mails or Blog notes to wish me well.

They were appreciated and encouraging and my thanks are sincere.

A few days away …

I can hardly hope to write as eloquently as my father, who one family friend refers to as my “esteemed parent,” but have been asked to post a brief note, explaining that Jim Hume will be going “under the knife” for a minor medical procedure tomorrow morning (Monday, April 14th). His doctors say he should expect to stay in hospital for up to 48 hours afterwards. He hopes to be back home, and writing, by Wednesday or Thursday.

Well-wishes would be very much appreciated, and can either be posted in the “Comments” section just under the headline for this post, or directed to jhume@shaw.ca .

–Nic Hume (Jim’s son)

Be prepared – But remember Murphy’s Law

When Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard unveiled the mobile ultra modern Emergency Command Centre the other day local government took a major step in preparation for The Big One.

It has all the bells and whistles police, fire-fighters, and paramedics need to direct a major rescue and control mission when, as it surely one day will, nature puts on one of its most violent, uncontrollable, displays. It’s a $970,000 taxpayer’s purchase which will prove to be worth every penny – if it can be deployed as planned.

Thirty or so years ago I stood at what was once Ground Zero in Nagasaki, chatting with a Japanese government official while trying to imagine the chaos, the death, the complete destruction, triggered by man in the blink of an eye one summer day in 1945. Even though I had survived many air raids and witnessed firsthand what seemed at the time major destruction, it was difficult to comprehend an entire city shattered or on fire with thousands lying in or underneath the rubble.

There was no eye to pity, no arm to save; no medical aid, no water, no policemen, no firemen, no medics to offer hope. I asked my friend how the city could have been so ill prepared for disaster. “We were well prepared,” he said. “But we couldn’t get to the injured and dying, every street was blocked with wreckage, water mains were shattered. Our first need was bulldozers. Ambulances, doctors, nurses, medics were useless. Fire trucks that survived the blast couldn’t reach fires. No ambulance, no medical aid could move until we cleared the roads.”

So, congratulations to Mayor Leonard on the new invaluable tool to fight nature or man-made disasters. I just hope he has it parked somewhere where it can’t be trapped by collapsed buildings, and with a bulldozer nearby to lead the way to where it can be most usefully deployed.

And I hope anyone reading this has a safety and survival kit all packed and ready with enough mouthfuls of water, food and other key essentials to sustain you and yours for a several days. It could be quite a while before the Command Post can direct Firefighters or Paramedics through the wreckage to the street where you once lived in “it can’t happen here” comfort.

So let’s all be prepared – but remember high-tech Command Posts or not, if anything can go wrong, it will.

Throw out a lifeline

John Horgan, now the apparent if not yet quite anointed leader of the BC NDP, says he and his party are now not only fully re-united following the recent cataclysmic fall from grace but are “ready to govern.”

Yes,well, that’s what Adrian Dix thought and convinced mass media to think last May. And the electorate in resounding fashion told he and the pollster-following media they didn’t agree. The voters said we don’t believe you’re ready – and will not believe you’re ready until you show a clearly drawn, affordable, blueprint for stability and progress.

Affordable is the key work. The NDP has penchant for ideas but all too often comes up short on how to pay for them

Dix, commenting on Mike Farnworth dropping out of the leadership to leave Horgan with a lone clear reach for the brass ring said the NDP’s most successful leaders had won their roles by acclamation. And added: “We are strong, our base is strong, all we need is to do some extra things to get over the top.”

Fully recovered from the thrashing he received less than a year ago? I don’t think so, even though he seemed to proudly stressed the NDP has only lost the last three elections, including last years, “narrowly”.

True, but then the NDP in BC (apart from one really calamitous drubbing when Gordon Campbell’s Liberals won all but two seats in the Legislature) has always produced a strong base vote even in the two decades in which they lost every election until 1972 to W.A.C. Bennett’s Socreds

It was Dave Barrett who led the NDP to victory that year, not because the people thought New Democrats ready to govern but because the people thought WAC had lost his touch and were willing to gamble on change. In later years Dave would tell the story of the first cabinet meeting he chaired, opening with:”What the hell do we do now?” and Ernie Hall answered “We frame an agenda.”

And they did, but one which proved too quickly done, too expensive to maintain ,and in less than four years ended. But far more honest and far less arrogant than today’s NDP leaders.

Dave Barrett wasn’t ready to govern, but neither was WAC in his first term. Neither was his son Bill when he took over from Barrett. Mike Harcourt, who became BC’s second NDP Premier after Bill Vander Zalm presided over the collapse of Social Credit, learned on the job and was doing reasonably well until dissidents brought him down.

Horgan, says he’s going to repeat the claim he’s ready to govern every day until election day in 2017, the day he boasts he “will roll over the Liberals”.

Boasting  victory, alas, doesn’t make it so and come election day 2017 the voters will want to see less boasts and firm, as I said earlier in this piece, affordable plans.

Could the withdrawal of Farnworth leaving Horgan the clear run for leader really mean the NDPs internal woes are over, that the old Party stands united and “ready to govern?”

I don’t think so. The NDP is too strong, its party members too faithful to fade away as did the Socreds after Vander Zalm. But it should be careful to whom it looks for restoration. It needs action, not rhetoric. In its present shaken state the Party reminds me of a Charles Laughton line in the movie Witness for the Prosecution when he describes a troubled client as being like “a drowning man clutching at a razor blade.”

New Democrats should make sure the lifeline Horgan claims to be throwing them is sound and free of dangers before they grasp it too tightly.

Game fit and ready

I think. Or at least the doctors and pharmacists who have been checking me out these past few days say I’m game fit and ready for surgery.

It started with a pre-op check by my family doctor David MacNaughton. Routine stuff on blood pressure, heart, breathing. None of them as robust as when I was 19 but functioning well enough for him to pass me to the next team of experts at Victoria General.

Seemed to be a long drive out and I recalled the days when the late heart specialist Dr. Peter Banks led the fight to get Victoria’s second major hospital built on the site of the old St. Joseph’s. Planning experts from the east came to town, took a look and said the new hospital should be built out in the Helmcken area where it would be better located to service a growing western sector.

Some thought was given to the Tillicum area where a drive-in movie took up a lot of space, but in the end the planners won and Vic General is where it is and, as the Western Sector continues to grow, probably wisely so.

Anyway, there I was a few days ago rattling along the highway grumbling about the distance but happy to  get there with relative ease.

Only one complaint and that about the cost of parking my car before I could find a medic of any kind. I know health costs have been spiraling ever higher for decades and that every heath care unit in the province needs to raise or save all the cash it can, wherever it can.

But I don’t think a parking lot already jammed at 8:30 in the morning with out-patients with problems, or friends visiting the hospitalized sick, is the ideal fund raiser.

We find a spot, buy two and a half hours – just guessing at time needed – and head for the main lobby and admittance desk. There’s a long queue and the first hurry-up-and-wait session looms. Then comes a friendly wave from a volunteer manning an information desk. I tell him I’m looking for pre-admittance but was told I should check in at the main desk first.

“Not so”, he said. “Straight along this corridor, right to the end. Yellow tower, elevator on your left, third floor, turn right off the elevator.”

Done and done. Check in – 20 minutes before my appointed time. And hurry-up-and-wait phase two begins. It would be easy to complain but  watching other people soon demonstrates that there are quite a few with greater need than mine.

So we wait and watch people coming and going with the clock inching its way at alarming speed to meter violation time. I have passed one hurdle – a detailed conversation with a pharmacist taking notes of every prescription drug I take and warning me that should I be hospitalized for any length of time the drugs administered could have different names – “but they will be the same in content as the ones you are taking.”

The clock says 10 minutes to penalty to time. My support staff, navigator, supporter and travel companion Anne trudges off to the elevator, down to ground floor, along the long corridor, out into to an inclement cold day to feed the meter.

I wait for the next hurdle, the anesthetist. He’s a busy man with an endless flow of patients answering his questions. My turns comes for questions and answers. I’m offered two choices; general anesthetic or spinal. Opt for spinal. Understand recovery is a little easier for 90-year olds. We’ll see.

Then its off for blood tests and being attached to electronic sensors to make sure the central engine is pumping as it should. It seems to be and I’m told we’re free to head for the parking lot before the meter dings us again.

Elapsed time – little over four hours. And, apart from the parking, super efficient

The ride home seems shorter than the ride out. Hope I have the same feeling on April 14 after surgeon Dr. Iain McAuley, MD, FRCSC, restores to reasonable health a malfunctioning prostate.