Author: theoldislander

About theoldislander

retired journalist blogging on word press at

Can We Rise Above Party?

A lot of speculation in these nervous post-election days as to how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will handle his continued life as PM – or if he will quit.

I wonder if he’s given any thought to the time Winston Churchill came close to being turfed from high office within days of being given the keys to No. 10 Downing Street.

I will let the New York Times bring readers up to date on events in the spring of 1940 “when British forces in Norway were overwhelmed by the Nazis. On May 7 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain faced a critical motion by the Labor opposition in the House of Commons. His Conservatives had a big majority. But a respected Conservative backbencher, Leopold Amery, rose and addressed to Chamberlain the words that Cromwell had said to the Long Parliament 300 years before:

”You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go!” Forty Conservatives voted against Chamberlain, and another 60 abstained. Three days later he resigned. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. And many would say that the response of the Commons to crisis, its ability to rise above party, saved Britain.”

You will need to be getting along in years to personally recall those days in May,1940 when the world was falling apart. The German army and Luftwaffe were sweeping across Europe and heavy duty politicians with powerful Lord Halifax as peace maker were urging the war cabinet to seek peace with Hitler.The War Cabinet met to decided the next step – to seek peace  or fight a long war with a mighty foe?

Churchill, so recently appointed  won that battle then set about organizing a full strength war cabinet. He appointed Clement Atlee, already Deputy PM, as deputy head of his War Cabinet. As leader of the Labour Party, Atlee had often been the target of Churchillian wit (“He’s a sheep in sheep’s clothing.”) but; was obviously was highly regarded.

But, the appointment of Ernest Bevin, a tough working-class trade unionist and Churchill’s chief opponent in the bitter general strike of 1926, was a real eyebrow raiser. He was appointed Minister of Labour in 1940. He knew the trade union leaders; had been a leader among them for longer than a generation. He knew the employers, too. It was said of him that he respected many big business owners – and feared none.

That preamble brings me back to PM Trudeau and the immediate road ahead for himself and a new cabinet. He knows he will need support from losing parties – but how to get it without an eventual sulky separation like BC’s NDP and Greens after their brief fling as dance partners?

He can try for a similar deal with the NDP or, though less likely, the Bloc Quebecois, or the distressed Conservative Party preoccupied with its own failures and the breakaway of a renegade People’s Party which couldn’t win a seat but established base foundations in almost every riding and remains an embarrassing threat..

But, he might do better to try a Churchill and offer a cabinet post to a couple of New Democrats including one for Jagmeet Singh.

That was war time, for Churchill you say, and we all had to pull together. Precisely. We are in a war now – on two fronts against COVID-19 and global warming. Time to blure the party lines a little if we want to win. It would help to remember the NYT comment that it was “the Commons ability in time of crisis to rise above party” that saved Britain.

Think;Pause;Make Your Choice

Ten years ago, while still gainfully employed by Victoria’s Times Colonist, I wrote: “A long time ago, when the world was a much calmer place and I was young enough to believe I possessed enough wisdom to tell people how to vote, I co-authored a front-page election-day editorial with instructions to the electorate as to how to conduct themselves when they cast their ballots.

“The publisher of the Penticton Herald in those halcyon days of endless Okanagan summers was the late G.J. (Grev) Rowland. I was his senior scribe, managing editor, fearless and always confidently right. Together, just as the citizens of Penticton would choose a new mayor, we laboured on our front-page directive to the voters.”

It was time, we thundered, to recognize that vaudeville had no place in civic politics and that it was “time to end the sorry circus of civic administration” overseen in recent years by then-mayor Charles Oliver.

“Our directions were clear. Penticton’s mayor was making the city the laughingstock of the Okanagan. He had to go. Our readers were told, in no uncertain terms, that it was their duty to bounce him. No wavering. No doubts. Only one way to vote: Just get out there; cast a ballot; get rid of Charlie Oliver.

“The voters read, turned out in record numbers – and returned Mayor Oliver to of­fice by a three-to-one majority vote margin. It was a salutary lesson learned more than half a century ago in the late 1950s and never forgotten over the next 50-plus years of writing columns on elections and election candidates.”

I have pontificated, advised, and expressed opinions for and against candidates and their policies. I have said why I could support one candidate and not another, but I have never since the voters of Penticton cracked my knuckles so hard, dared to tell any electorate it had only one way to vote – my way.

As this may well be the last federal general election I’ll be privileged to comment on (at 97, I no longer buy green bananas), I tread carefully, advising my readers only to think what party leaders have been promising in the current election campaign. If you feel they make good sense, mark your ballot in favour of that party’s candidate.

If you agree with Maxime Benier of the People’s Party – splintered from the Conservative Party – that climate change warnings and vaccination policies are examples of a “tyranny that justifies revolution,” – a reflective pause might be wise before endorsing.

If you agree with established Conservative leader Erin O’Toole when he proclaims as part of his battle cry, “it’s time to take back Canada,” you might recognize it as an echo from Donald Trump when he won the presidency of the United States chanting “let’s make American great again.” It is not the only “tool” borrowed from Trump’s “How to Win Elections” manual.

New Democrat Jagmeet Singh is difficult to challenge. He looks great on television, whether walking with a crowd, chatting on a street corner or more than holding his own in formal but dull leaders’ debates. He would be easier to support if he could explain where the cash to pay for NDP projects would come from.

Then there’s Annamie Paul, who wears – not well – the crown as leader of the Green Party. There are no serious questions for her, and none for likeable Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of Bloc Quebecois, with no pretentious desires to be prime minister. He represents Quebecers and does it well.

I’ve forgotten Justin Trudeau? Not really. He’s still young, still learning. Not old enough to be as arrogantly confident as his father displaying a single finger salute, but confident enough in the continuing COVID-19 crisis to show the world Canada with a brave face in time of crisis. Critics claim his election call, while an epidemic threatened the world, was an unwarranted “grab for power and unjustifiable bother and expense.”

Does that mean an election two or three years hence would have cost less?

My forecast for a first to the finish tape? Just a guess, really. Canadians, being a cautious people, will opt for the horse that’s been steady under fire –

the Liberals. But, not enough for a 170-seat majority government. I think that desired objective may be just beyond Trudeau’s grasp on Monday.

Make my day. Prove me wrong!

Being Careful What We Wish For

So where are we as we march resolutely, if confused, towards the privacy of the ballot box and mark our individual choice for the person and party we would like to govern our affairs, national and international?

It’s never an easy decision. Never has been. And, come September 20 – or sooner if I opt for an advance poll – it’s going to be tougher than usual. This vote is a little different from most being held in the midst of a great pandemic in which we appear to be fighting a holding action with little to cheer about. 

What’s different about it? Well, the prime minister who called it could have chosen a better time than the middle of a pandemic that has half the voting population worrying about more than where to mark a cross on a ballot paper. They would have preferred to wait until we got COVID-19 under control before trying to thrash their way through a jungle of election promises from political party leaders – promises that will be quickly forgotten once the final votes are counted.

PM Trudeau may have forgotten that he didn’t win the election of 2019. Maybe you have forgotten, too, that nobody won two years ago. True, the Trudeau Liberals won the most seats – 157 – but they needed 170 to command a majority. At the time of dissolution, they were down to 155 with byelections pending.

The Conservatives were in second place in 2019 with 121 seats – but are quick to point to their victory in the “popular vote.” They picked up 34.34 per cent support over the Liberals’ 33.12 per cent.

Fast forward to 2021; all polls are claiming the Liberals are losing ground, with the Conservatives picking up the slack. The pollsters put the Tories “slightly ahead” of the Liberals. While pollsters haven’t earned many gold stars in recent election forecasts, it’s reasonable to assume the odds are at least even and that they’re getting it right at this stage.

If they are, on September 21 or shortly thereafter, we should see ourselves back at Square One as in 2019 with a Conservative majority of seats but falling short of the 170 seats required for majority control.

But there is one factor that could change the possibility of another minority government repeat: Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada (PPC.)

One of his nicknames is Mad Max – earned as a maverick during his years in the Conservative Party, where he had once sought the leadership. In August 2018, he announced his departure from the Conservative Party, declaring it “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed” and afraid to address important issues.

His departure speech was quickly condemned by former Tory Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney. Harper said he was a sore loser. Mulroney felt the new party Bernier had formed would siphon votes from the old party and assist the Liberals.

His presence on the ballot in most ridings will undoubtedly attract anti-vaxxers and those who see a conspiracy of scientists on climate change. He is also anti-immigrant. The PPC once sponsored billboards with an “END MASS IMMIGRATION” message.

The PPC claims a membership of over 30,000 – 4,135 are in BC, a thousand in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 4,822 in Alberta, 6,229 in Quebec and 10,871 in Ontario.

Watching the results come in on the 20th will do more than give us a new government, major or minor. I hope we elect a majority government with the party chosen to run our affairs for the next few years having enough seats to govern with the confidence we need in troubled times. A government with confidence in its public health services and science advisors and capable of passing that confidence on to the people they are sworn to serve and protect..

And above all else I hope Canada can wake up on September 21 pleased with its decision.

Needed With Compassion

In the war that has ended in chaos in Afghanistan, Canada lost 159 soldiers and seven civilians over a period of 12 years.

In the war against illicit toxic drugs in British Columbia, it took just six months this year to register 1,011 deaths.

In the words of Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for the province, the record-breaking death total is “a tragic reminder that the toxic illicit drug supply remains a significant ongoing threat to public health and safety in communities throughout our province.”

Of more immediate concern for our political leaders and wannabe leaders is getting elected or re-elected, and that involves selective bribery of voters. Promises of rich funding for community programs that the promise makers hope will fulfill their hopes of gaining or retaining power.

Chief Coroner Lapointe says her latest release of data highlights “the immensity of this public health emergency and the need for a wide-scale response.” As of this writing, I can’t recall any politician adding a plan to end or even curb the ever-growing “immense health emergency.”

How immense? Chief Coroner Lapointe: “Drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in BC for those aged 19 to 39.” This is from a front-line observer who records the horrors of an addict’s death and the agony of family survivors.

“We must continue to urge those in positions of influence across our province and the country to move to urgently implement measures to prevent more unnecessary suffering and death.”

Local candidates seeking Member of Parliament status Sept. 20th could reasonably be asked for their thoughts. So could BC MLAs – especially those with cabinet rank.

“We are studying the problem” seems to be the best we get.

Better – if not popular – would be Chief Coroner Lapointe’s plea for “removing barriers to safe supply and ensuring timely access to evidence-based, affordable treatment and providing those experiencing problematic substance use with compassionate and viable options to reduce risks and save lives.”

Would you support “safe supply” and “timely access” to save someone’s dad or mom, son or daughter, from an addict’s ugly death? More important, would you support a political candidate who did? Or didn’t?

When we lose more lives in BC in six months from poisonous street drugs than we lost in 12 futile years of battle in Afghanistan – we need a solution – NOW – and administered with compassion.

Compromise For Peace and Safety

How long would it take for chaos to descend on Canada if we were suddenly relieved of all the burdensome laws and regulations that deny us contented lives? Or, put another way: How long would Democracy survive without consistent faith in our ability to compromise when great problems face us?

It may seem sometimes that every day our cherished democratic freedoms have been chipped away at ever-increasing speed, since Sir Robert Borden’s Conservative government rattled through Parliament a new tax on business profits and personal income tax. It was, Sir Robert assured Canadians in September 1917, just a “temporary measure” to help meet the massive expenses of the First World War.

September 20th is the anniversary date if you’re toying with the idea of dropping “Infernal Revenue” a line to suggest “temporary” is well past its best before date.

Not that many of us even think of protesting our unhappy annual income tax battle. The few who do are either caught, fined, or jailed – or are rich enough to hire a battery of accountants to hide their wealth.

Most of us grew up long ago and understand that our democracy constitutes a pretty decent way of living compared with life under a dictatorship or, heaven forbid, an Afghanistan-style regime. We grumble about the cost, pay up reluctantly – and by and large enjoy lives with a balance of liberty and equality.

Not a perfect balance, but one we have learned to live with and appreciate because as we look around the world, we know we have a lifestyle to be envied with the right to complain without fear of retribution – and the ability to reason together and compromise.

A few days ago, British Columbia Premier John Horgan made public his government’s “proof of vaccination” card, without which citizens of BC will be banned from attending large audience events, from sports venues to dining out. Visitors to the province will also be required to provide proof of vaccination before they can enjoy all BC has to offer.

The bold move by Premier Horgan has been welcomed by 75 per cent of Canadians polled by Angus Reid’s company but was rejected by a small but noisy hornet’s nest of anti-vaxxers who see the move as a grave intrusion on their rights and freedoms.

And, of course, it is. Even as it is with seatbelt buckle-up laws, no smoking bans, laws prohibiting driving a motor vehicle or operating a water vessel while impaired or without a licence, laws regulating fishing in the oceans, lakes and rivers, and hunting of deer or big game with guns or crossbows.

My list is only partial, but each of these government mandates is an infringement of my personal rights – like my right to get drunk on alcohol or drugs and drive a car or boat or carry a high-powered rifle and go hunting. But if I do get drunk and kill someone, they’ll put me in jail and thus deprive me for a prescribed period of most of my rights – and make the roads just a little safer.

Over the years, national and provincial governments have decided that “the people” are not quick when it comes to voluntarily abandoning “rights” they have become accustomed to abusing. At such times statutory rules and regulations may be required to convince citizens that boundaries of acceptable behaviour where public safety is concerned are clearly needed and declared.

Premier Horgan’s NDP government decided that it was time for some new rules to fight COVID-9 and its variants. He was acting on the advice of our chief public health officer. The distinction is important: Dr. Bonnie Henry is “our public health” protector; protector of “we the people,” not the government.

Dr. Henry, who remains the calm presence in the centre of a great pandemic, tells us that 93 per cent of British Columbians hospitalized by COVID-19 were not vaccinated. She adds the warning that those who continue to reject the vaccination lifeline run a risk of infection 10-times higher than those who welcome two shots of vaccine to block its advance.

Those who reject vaccination represent fertile stock upon which the COVID-19 invader can prey unchecked. Accepting vaccination is as easy as accepting seatbelts. Honest citizens will remember how strongly the seatbelt law was fought until it finally sank in – fastened seatbelts save lives. So will vaccination. We should remember that every time we buckle-up willing join the fight against a fearsome but defeatable foe.

And remembering that compromise is not a weakness in a true democracy.

“It All Depends On Whose Ox Is Being Gored”

A mild knuckle-rap from Ivan Crossett questioning my reference to 19 young “warriors” in the air raid that 20 years ago on Sept. 9th destroyed the twin World Trade Centre towers and part of the Pentagon and killed close to 3,000. Wrote Ivan in his usual polite, brief but clear opinion: “Good blog, but don’t like the term ‘warriors’ – they were terrorists.” 

For sure, “terrorists” is the word preferred by “The Press” under which umbrella I include the never-ending hammer of television and radio. And equally sure is that at day’s end, it was “terrorists” firmly lodged in the minds of free-thinking, free-speaking people.

I was discussing this issue with my firstborn son Stephen (he’s in his 70s if age is important), a retired editor, feature writer, columnist, national award winner, author of half a dozen books, and teacher of writing when COVID-19 allows. He’s the son who, years ago, when an interviewer suggested “conversations around your dinner table must have been fascinating,” answered: “Conversations? I don’t think so. We had a hell of a lot of arguments, though ….”

I mention that because nothing much has changed over the decades. It came as no surprise when the once-young fellow also weighed in on my use of “warriors” in my last week’s blog about a former “hero’s” (Rudy Giuliani) fall from grace.

Stephen: “As for the uselessness of labelling people “terrorists” or “heroes” for that matter, consider:

“Nelson Mandela was a “terrorist” until he became the heroic president of South Africa who ended apartheid.

“Jomo Kenyatta was a “terrorist” to the British until he became president of Kenya after ending colonial rule..

“Menachem Begin was a “terrorist” to the British in Palestine until he became the prime minister of Israel.”

“Louis Riel was a “terrorist” and was hanged for it, but now he’s now a hero of indigenous rights in Canada.”

Stephen also reminded me of the farmworkers in Dorset, England, who tried to prevent draconian wage cuts and were labelled “terrorists” by parliament and exiled to Australian penal colonies. Now the Tolpuddle Martyrs are among the heroes of the human rights movement in the U.K.

Mohandas Gandhi was deemed a “terrorist” by the British authorities in India, who responded to his independence movement with massacres in which the British Army shot down unarmed crowds. Gandhi won the first Nobel Peace Prize.

Michael Collins was thought a “terrorist” in Ireland and was jailed by the British for participating in the Easter Rising in 1916 until he became a leader of the Irish Free State and a national hero. He was assassinated by extremist Republican “terrorists.”

Simon Bolivar was a radical revolutionary “terrorist” to the Spanish, but the South Americans named a country after him. 

And Emmeline Pankhurst was a “terrorist” who the Brits jailed for her revolutionary tactics in the women’s suffrage movement. Now there’s a statue in her honour.

His long list of “terrorists” reminded me of one of Dave Barrett’s favourite rejoinders when similar situations arose during his leadership of the NDP. Anyone with memories of Dave in full rhetorical force will remember his: “IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHOSE OX IS BEING GORED!”

It is worth remembering today as we watch the frightening debacle of the mighty USA and less mighty Canada scrambling to get out of Afghanistan and while wondering whether to renew contact with the Taliban, the “terrorists” they helped remove from governing 20 years ago.

Or have we let memory wipe out the tracking of Osama bin Laden, leader and commander of the militant Al-Qaeda. It was a squad of 19 Al-Qaeda soldiers who had been a “sleeper” cell in the USA for at least 12 months, calmly taking flying lessons before being trained well enough to hijack four commercial passenger jets loaded with aviation fuel and crash three of the four into pre-selected targets. 

The search for Osama bin Laden, under U.S. President George W. Bush, tracked bin Laden through Afghanistan to Pakistan and eventually to his family compound in Abbottabad. It was there that a squad of marines found bin Laden with several of his wives and children, shot him with two bullets to the head and a third to confirm death while then-President Barak Obama and members of his cabinet watched on television.

There’s a wealth of detail available on the Internet. None of it is pleasant or comforting but may be summed up by two radio messages from Abbottabad minutes after 1 a.m. stating: “For God and country – Geronimo-Geronimo-Geronimo.” Seconds later, the battle report entry: “Geronimo – confirm EKIA” – code for enemy killed in action.

A final thought for today: Geronimo was an Apache Nation warrior who went from “blood-thirsty savage” in the 1800s, launching devastating “terrorist” attacks against invaders of his homeland, to inspirational saint. He once had about a quarter of the entire U.S. Army hunting him and his 34-warrior “scourge of the west.” He was never conquered but was arrested when he agreed to peace talk meeting. For several years he was used as a side show exhibit. By WW2 and D-Day, he had become a heroic USA figure, his name proudly worn as a shoulder patch by a U.S. airborne regiment. Decades later, Geronimo was the inspirational code name given a small group of U.S. warriors for the raid that killed bin Laden. Geronimo was still officialy a prisoner of war when he died on Feb.17,1909,in Fort Sill Oklahoma.

Remembering 9-11 and a sadly fallen hero

In a few days, TV viewers will be reminded of American’s great disaster, a day remembered best by two numbers, 9 and 11 – the 11th day of the 9th month – when 19 young jihadi warriors joined in rebellious suicidal cause hijacked four large commercial aircraft and ended the lives of 2,996 people in one cataclysmic New York air raid. They believed, as do most people fighting a war, their cause was just.

It was an event recorded on live television and viewed with hypnotic fascination by multi-millions as three huge jetliners held steady courses to their targets. One struck the heart of the USA military – the Pentagon – leaving 125 dead in the wreckage. The other two were locked firmly on course – one for the South Tower of the World Trade Centre, the other for the North Tower in the business heart of the city. 

A fourth hijacked airliner, believed to be headed for the White House or the Presidential Retreat known as Camp David, crashed with the loss of seven crew and 33 passengers in a meadow near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A group of passengers had fought the hijackers until final impact. The crash site is now a state memorial park – a place set aside for peaceful meditation.

All four aircraft had been carefully selected as routine transcontinental flights loaded with high octane aviation fuel … in effect, huge flying bombs. Both towers were ablaze as they collapsed. Among the close to 3,000 dead were 343 firemen and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 NY Port Authority police and rescue workers.

Amid the more dramatic shots in the late afternoon was the moving image of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, covered in thick dust from the still collapsing towers. He was walking through the wreckage, calm and confident, a reassuring example for the men and women putting their lives on the line in the ever-shifting mountain of concrete and twisted steel.

World leaders viewing the scene were as impressed by Mayor Giuliani’s calm, with his head high in the face of disaster, as were his fellow countrymen. England’s Queen Elizabeth II gave him an honorary knighthood. On home soil, he was awarded the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award created by the former president and regarded by many as one the highest awards the USA can offer a private citizen. Other countries offered similar tributes.

For a while, Mayor Giuliani stayed high profile until his term as mayor ended. He regained the spotlight briefly when he dabbled with the idea of running for president but discovered that 9/11 adulation did not extend to the White House.

So, he faded from high profile until the arrival of one Donald Trump, the man who would be king. Giuliani became a member of the Trump team of conspiracy freaks and an active participant in imaginary plots and fertile fabrications.

He was happy to be back on television again but had become as vain as the man whose banner he now carried, whose lies he endorsed. And those who had once admired watched in dismay as one of greatest shames of the USA was on full display – an out-of-control mob storming the home of government with death threats and violence, and Giuliano, a slack-jawed caricature of man once praised for his calm confidence, now urging the mob to carry on. If the government wanted a fight, “let’s give them one.”

As we remember 9/11, let us also remember we sometimes anoint our heroes too soon.

First Footprints 13 Thousand Years ago

The 29 footprints are pressed into soft clay that once surrounded a fire pit or primitive hearth. There are three distinct sizes, including one child and two adults.

They were discovered several feet below a sandy beach on Calvert Island, a small island 100 km (62 miles) north of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. The footprints were found by a research team from Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria and were reported in 2018 in the journal PLOS One. It was estimated the clay-preserved prints were 13,000 years old.

(PLOS One is an inclusive journal community that published research in more than two hundred subject areas across science, engineering, medicine, and the related social sciences and humanities.)

The human footprints are the oldest so far to be found in North America. The researchers ascertained the age by carbon-dating preserved wood embedded in the tracks that the PLOS One article describes as “two side-by-side left and right foot footprints (which give) a picture of a figure standing with feet slightly apart and facing inland with his or her back to the wind.’’

It adds: “The footprints were impressed into the soil just above the paleo-shoreline, possibly by a group of people just disembarking from a watercraft and moving toward a drier central activity area.”

Lead archeologist on the UVIC-Hakai team, Duncan McLaren, had discovered a dozen single footprints on Calvert Island in 2012. The later discovery revealed three different shapes and sizes, including at least one child and two adults. They appear to be left by bare feet gathered around a focal point, possibly a fire pit or hearth where the small group had paused after leaving the canoe or raft they had been travelling on.

At the time of the discovery, McLaren wrote that it would be added “to the growing body of evidence that people who used watercraft were able to thrive on the Pacific Coast of Canada at the end of the last ice age. It also provides new information to those who subscribe to the theory that migration from Europe to North America was made via the then still ice-bound Bering Strait linking East Asia with what is now Alaska and Northern BC.”

A recent New York Times article presented the argument of a body of archeologists supporting the claim that the founding Indigenous people of North America began their occupation some 36,000 years ago.

It is a theory rejected by distinguished archeologist Dr. Paulettte Steeves, of Cree and Metis descent, who grew up in Lillooet and is an associate professor at Mount Allison University. She doesn’t disagree that some migration between Siberia and North America took place, but in a CBC TV interview, she said, “that was likely only one of many migrations. The Bering Strait theory is often presented as the only way the Americas were peopled, and that can be damaging.”

In the same TV program Nisga’a elder Willard Martin dismissed the Bering Strait theory because it challenges Nisga’a oral history told over centuries of the Raven that brought the Nisga’a from a world of darkness to where they have always lived and still live. Elder Martin says bluntly: “We don’t agree that we came from another continent.”

It is not surprising that other Indigenous leaders like Tahltan Oscar Dennis, a language conservationist who keyed his research to Tahltan oral history, had a personal DNA test to check his lineage. Parts of his bloodline led to Siberia, and he believes now in the migration of his ancestors via the Bering Strait and possibly by watercraft. He also notes the Nisga’a legend of the Raven making light is basically the story of the Nisga’a migrating as the Arctic’s six-month night ended and the Ravens returned at the start of summer.

The home page of Canada’s First Peoples informs us: “Less than 500 years ago, the only people living in Canada were the aboriginal people. ‘Aboriginal’ means the original inhabitants, the people who were here first spoke different tribal languages, held different social values, believed in different creators and held the nature of things in great reverence.

It is sad that we newcomers spent so much time and evil energy demanding our Indigenous people speak the way we speak, worship the Gods we worship or face the fires of Hell – and so little time listening to what THEY have to say.

Is it too late to start?

Just a Bloke Who Parked Alongside

Here I am, well over a week into the 2020 Olympics and still trying to adjust to high-energy team games being played in cathedral silence.

I try to make up for the empty grandstands by shouting instructions for players and imprecations at referees, but modern electronics do not yet permit my curses (or occasional praise) to be heard. I should have known better because I was told 70 years ago by a man who played soccer before multi-thousands in the great sports arena of the world that players on the field could never isolate single voise curses or praise from the massed voices in the stands.

My advisor on great spectacle crowds and their vocabularies was a young man named Stanley Matthews, still regarded by many as the greatest soccer player of all time. I hold no claim to long-life friendship with “call me Stan” Matthews.” He was just the quiet bloke who parked his car in the next bay to my truck in a South Shore Blackpool parkade in the immediate years after the Second World War. He played football

My first job after the war, driving medium to long-distance freight from Blackpool to London in the south, Glasgow or Edinburgh in the north. Day trips with a crack of dawn start; back home by around 5 p.m.; park the truck; catch a streetcar for a 20-minute ride home.

Stan lived in South Blackpool in those days and, with his wife, ran a small hotel near the seafront. He would be parking his car around 5 weekday afternoons, then walk home after a brief pause waiting for my tram to arrive. We talked about anything and everything, but rarely about football. It was during one of those rare chats that he talked about his decision to leave his hometown club Stoke City and join Blackpool, where he had been stationed with the RAF during the war. 

The transfer was a big story happening just after Great Britain had played a Best of Europe team in Glasgow on May 1, 1947. Stan had been selected to play. The first 11 players selected received 14 Pounds each – a little more than $50 each for the game. For league play in those days he got $20 a week during playing season, roughly half that in summer.

Stan was 32 when he was traded fom Stoke City to Blackpool, and some were suggesting he was getting old for the game. I asked him how he handled the “getting old gossip.” He just smiled and said: “We’ll see.” The end of play record for his football career shows Stan was the oldest ever to play in England’s top division (50 years and five days); the oldest player to represent his country (40 years and 104 days). On January 1, 1965, he became the first footballer to be knighted for services to the game.

I never got the chance to call him Sir Stanley, having joined the flood of post-war immigrants to Canada in 1948.

I did get the chance to ask in a last chat-walk before I sailed West for “one great outstanding memory” in his playing career, and he surprised me. I was sure it would be what went down in the history books as “The Matthews Cup Final – 1953,” a classic story with a classic Matthews ending.

Stan was already famous for having won just about every honour the international world of soccer could offer – except the highly coveted FA cup winner’s medal. Twice Blackpool had been to the finals – and failed.

At halftime, on May 2, 1953, Bolton Wanderers were leading Blackpool at Wembley 2-1. Ten minutes into the second half, it was 3-1 with Bolton fans planning victory parties and Blackpool fans trying to hide their team colours to avoid verbal abuse from their north-of-England neighbours.

Twenty-three minutes into the half, Matthews decided that if he wanted the gold medal it was time for high gear. The magician came to life. He danced down the right wing almost to the corner flag with the ball at his feet and then crossed an immaculate pass to Stan Mortensen, his striker. Mortensen made no mistake with a thunderbolt volley into the Bolton net. Score 3-2.

Mortensen scored again on a perfectly placed free kick with two minutes remaining, adding his tying goal to his first Blackpool goal before halftime, thus completing a rare hat trick of goals for an FA Cup Final. Score 3-3 – with only seconds to play. Those were gut-wrenching seconds. Matthews had the ball again and was ducking and weaving his way for a clear pass to Mortensen.

His cross was a fraction off target and behind Mortensen but fell at the feet of teammate Bill Perry who struck the ball fast and very sure. Final score: Blackpool 4, Bolton 3. Stan Matthew’s medal collection was complete.

So, what was the one great memory that stayed with Sir Stanley if it wasn’t the Matthews FA Cup Final? He thought for a few seconds and asked if I had ever heard “the Hampden Park Roar?”

I had indeed read about the legendary hundred thousand voice scream designed to intimidate visiting teams when Scotland takes the field and at double volume when it scores. But I had never heard it the flesh.

Stan said on the field you felt the roar more than heard it; that it was like goose-pimples or a light cool breeze on the skin. An assurance to the home side that the house was full of friends and a warning to visitors to be on their best behaviour. He said “I shall never forget feeling the breeze of the Roar the first time I heard it and trembled.”

I wonder what today’s athletes feel in the great silence from 60,000 empty seats. Pleased and encouraged by Instagram and Twitter posts no doubt, but I have a feeling they would prefer a Hampden Park Roar.

(Foootnote: For a fascinating review of Sir Stanley “in life and on the field” check “Sir Stanley Matthews Remembered” on It’s a review of his life from his 1915 birth in Stoke-on-Trent to his death in 2000 at the age of 80. He returned to Stoke for his final playing years. The program is rich with movie clips including the famous 1953 cup final. For good measure while in YouTube you can check The Hampden Roar. Turn the sound up. Put the cat or dog out. Don’t try to interpret the words. It’s a 100 thousand voice ROAR not Evensong.)

USA Giving Up As Top Cop?

It was in back in May that USA President Joe Biden announced he was calling the US Military force home from Afghanistan. Throughout the months of June and continuing on an almost daily basis since, has come news that the Taliban – the main force the US hoped to control when it began its role as an occupying army 21 years ago, has regained control of much of the country.

The United States is not the first foreign power to give up on trying force feed Afghanistan on a  form of government differing from ancestral beliefs. The English tried but finally game up in despair; The Russians gave it go after the second world war but went home defeated by climate and rebels with different ideas to both great nations.

 Both Russia and England thought Afghanistan unwise to reject their kind offers of how to expand their economy with, in their day, a great power to show them how, but accepted the Afghan final decisions, sulked a little but got over it.

It doesn’t seem to be going as smoothly for our good neighbours to the south.

Just a few days ago the once influential New York Times addressed itself to the problem facing President Biden as he brings the men and women fighting the longest war in American history home without a winner’s medal.

The headline on the NYT was in the form of a blunt question: “Is the US done with being a world cop?” It doesn’t post a definite answer but it does suggest that things are not as happy for USA as they were when they ruled the roost – or believed they did.

The article admits “for better or for worse, military engagements abroad and U.S. dominance more generally have become unpopular with the American public.” It adds that “national security” as the justification for USA supremacy by military intervention no long packs the the response it did back in the days following the terrorist  attack on the twin towers in New York on Sept.11, 2001.

For me the most telling quote in the most thoughtful and challenging article is from the book “Clear and Present Safety” by Micah Zenko and Michael A. Cohen: “Decades of fear mongering about foreign threats by Washington insiders have obscured what truly harms Americans: substandard education and health care systems, dilapidated infrastructure, gun-violence,inequality,congressional gridlock and climate change.”(my emphasis)

If the NYT is right it’s the general population of the USA that needs some serious mind changes before their nation can offer any other nation USA held notions of the good life. Affordable health care (a recent edition of Sixty Minutes on television exposed a multi million hospital bill for two months of Intensive Unit care for a Covid19 victim) would be a good place to start followed by desperately needed gun control laws. For far too long the nation that so desperately seeks recognition as the champion of rights and freedom has let the gun rule its homeland psyche.

I wish President Joe Biden well. He has a tough job maintaining Top Cop role for the USA –  some would say impossible unless he can bring peace to his own cities and streets.