Special Updates

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Jim Hume will no longer be posting to his blog. He died at 3AM on the morning of April 13, 2022 at the age of 98, after a brief illness.

He thanks his loyal readers for many decades of support. Comments are still welcome.

When Lessons of History are Denied

It is said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a student of history. If that is true, he must have skipped a few study sessions during the years he was climbing the ladder in the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs – better known as the NKVD, later as the KGB, the “secret police” of Russia much favoured as the ultimate disciplinary arm of Joseph Stalin and treasured by Russian leaders including Putin.

Had he been paying attention during his years as a rooky cop, Putin might have learned from the ill-chosen suggestions written by Stalin in the early 1930s on how to control an unhappy peasantry and, later in the same decade, how to prevent a defeated, but not conquered, military force from rising against you.

In the opening paragraph of a detailed report on the great famine in Russia in the 1930s, Wikipedia tells us: “About 5.7 to 8.7 million people are estimated to have lost their lives. Joseph Stalin and other party members had ordered that “kulaks” were to be liquidated as a class and became a target for the state. The richer, land-owning peasants were labelled kulaks. They were portrayed as class enemies, which culminated in a Soviet campaign of political repression, including arrests, deportations, and executions of large numbers of the better-off peasants and their families from 1929 to 1932. Major contributing factors to the famine included the forced collectivization of agriculture as a part of the first five-year plan, forced grain procurement combined with rapid industrialization, a decreasing agricultural workforce, and several severe droughts.”

It happened before Putin was born. But the lesson remains. “Liquidating” a class of people is not an acceptable form of birth control; and will never erase a memory of betrayal and murder among those fortunate enough to survive.

Readers interested in more details should check Wikipedia. They should also carefully consider the daily reports coming from today’s international reporters in Ukraine that President Putin’s invading army is concentrating on breaking, then controlling, civilian morale with terror.

Which brings me to a military force that Putin needs to fear as Ukraine resists. Poland sits just across the border and has a military much smaller than Russia’s, but an alliance (NATO) with other nations and a memory for old grievances Russia has been trying to deny since 1945, when the Second World War ended.

Putin appears determined to muscle Russia back to the power it once held under Stalin by posing a threat to Poland. Nothing definitive at the time of this writing, just a few rocket launchers, military close to the border and one missile fired from a distance and exploding just inside Ukraine. In the navy, it’s called “a shot across the bows.” On land, it could be a version of “false flag” – a warning shot that could be construed as a threat.

If that was Putin’s intent, Poland didn’t winch. It just opened its doors a little wider to refugees. It has good cause to look Putin in the eye. Back in the Second World War, Germany invaded Poland and launched an air attack on Warsaw that shocked the world. Such attacks became routine in the destruction of property and the deaths of citizens.

Among the many savageries of that conflict is one still under discussion … still high on Poland’s settlement list. Old-timers may recall it. Several generations may have forgotten. But not Poland. It will never forget the Katyn massacre of more than 20,000 Polish military officers captured when Russia invaded Poland two weeks after Germany launched its Blitzkrieg.

Russia denied the charge until 1990 but still refused to accept its classification as a war crime or act of murder. In November 2010, the Russian State Duma officially condemned Joseph Stalin as being responsible for the massacre. But, you can follow the detailed trail of little truth and fewer consequences with a reference to Google and these depressing historical footnotes: “Russia and Poland remain divided on the legal description of the Katyn crime;” and “archive searches are continuing” to hopefully provide “complete disclosure of Russian documents.”

I don’t know how much longer the United Nations can tolerate Putin’s strutting determination to destroy another nation, but I think history should tell him – Poland has a long memory.

A Never-Ending Tragedy

Thousands of years of history have established, beyond challenge, that battlefield conquest has never brought lasting peace to the victor or the vanquished. True, many mighty empires have risen, flourished and lived triumphantly as world powers – but not for many hours on the great Clock of Time.

Today, we are witnessing yet another example of the wrong way to find peace on our fragile planet as Russia tries to force Ukraine to rejoin the once-great Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which had seemed to collapse overnight as the rest of the world rolled from the 1900s to the troubled 2000s.

Ukraine has rejected Russia’s demands, preferring to keep its own elected government, to enjoy a free press and other perks of democracy.

Consequently, a daily diet of death and destruction has unfolded as Russia launched its brutal attack on Ukraine and tanks rolled across the border. Thousands of citizens have fled their homes, clutching whatever they can carry. Young men have stayed behind to fight the invaders while their wives, many of them young mothers carrying young children, have stumbled onto trains and busses and safety.

Television news has become a daily serial of rockets, shells and machine-gun fire from inside the battle lines. With warnings that we were about to see scenes that might upset us, TV crews brought us the reality of a young mother lying sprawled on the road, a child in her arms. Both dead. Killed by shrapnel. On the same broadcast, we were shown older men digging graves to bury their dead because there was no other service available.

I watched with dismay, not for what TV was displaying but because not one network emphasized that this is the way wars are now fought. What Ukraine is suffering is not new. That is the saddest fact of today’s unfolding tragedy. We – the human race – haven’t learned a thing from the procession of tragedies we have tolerated to settle our differences.

The world had hardly recovered from the First World War when we were embroiled in Korea, then Viet Nam, then a couple of middle east wars and the never-ending war in Afghanistan where three empires were sent home defeated. England lost an entire army there; Russia didn’t fare any better, and the USA has quit for now.

I have written before on my own experience as a civilian under heavy wartime fire in Coventry on November 14th, 1940. A month shy of my 16th birthday, I was just off shift, waiting for my bus to get home, when the sirens sounded. The first incendiaries from the bomber pathfinders of Luftflotte (Air Fleet) 3 fell shortly after 7 p.m. The all-clear sounded little more than 12 hours later. Coventry is remembered because Germany coined a word for the raid, “Coventration,” total destruction. Many of the dead are buried in a mass grave now part of a contemplative park.

But Coventry was not the most frequent target for bombardment. Neither was London – a fact some Londoners still challenge. The most bombed city in England was Hull, on the east coast, where 1,200 were killed and another 3000 injured. It was under red alerts for 10,006 hours; 95 per cent of its residences were destroyed as well as 27 churches,14 schools and hospitals. And, I have a feeling only the English would record among the wreckage 42 pubs and eight movie theatres.

Where did they shelter? They called it “treking” (cct). By 1941, one-third of the population hiked out into the country when the sirens sounded. Having lost 400 killed in raid shelters, the people of Hull preferred the fields, and they knew the German bombers didn’t fly in bad weather.

Across the channel, German cities fared even worse as the RAF built in strength and the U.S. Air Force joined to complete round-the-clock bombing. On Feb. 13/14, 1945, an all-night raid on Dresden by 800 RAF bombers followed by a daytime attack by 210 aircraft from U.S. 8th Air Force created a firestorm. Estimated deaths were as high as 30,000. Critics of the raid insist the death toll, in a city jammed with refugees fleeing from the advancing Russian Army, was closer to 250,000 and that most of the dead were women and young children.

Attempts were made to charge the men responsible with war crimes, but their defence that “the attack was necessary” was accepted as valid.

In Ukraine, there has been criticism of the Russians for using “rocket attacks.” In England, I remember the first of the evil “flying bombs,” the V-1, which would fall to earth when its noisy engine ceased to pulsate. The brief silence that followed was hypnotic. If the rocket was at low altitude and flying away from you, you could stand and watch as its nose dropped. Wherever it exploded, it was going to be away from you. If it was on course toward you, you raced for any cover available – or prayed. In Germany, it was called Vergeltungswaffe – the “Vengeance Bomb.” At the peak of its use, 100 V-1s a day were fired across the Channel.

Then came the V-2 – the Vengeance 2. It was supersonic and exploded on contact. The missile now being used to crush Ukraine is a vastly superior V-2 – which was designed by German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. Most of his team was offered sanctuary with him in the USA if he would share and develop his V-2 building skills. He would, and he did. The Russians had pirated the factories making the parts and assembling the V-2s and scooped up enough scientists to keep stride with the USA.

If it ever comes to a shooting war between Russia and the USA, they will both be firing rockets similar to those originally designed by von Braun’s team and built by 12,000 factory workers from concentration camps who died in their thousands during the late war years from sickness or starvation and were replaced with other camp victims.

So, fret and shudder as we will – as we must – at the happenings in Ukraine, let it not detract us from facing the fact that generations of us have allowed the shape of modern warfare to develop as it has. Readers interested in following the numbers can Google on Casualties of the First World War and History of Western Civilization. 

The opening paragraph on “Casualties” notes that total numbers may vary because “many deaths went unrecorded.” However, there is general agreement that they are close when they say “some 70 million people died … including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians died” in World War Two. Many other civilians died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation.”

Whatever way you interpret the stats, the numbers point to a lot of mothers dying with dead children in their arms on bomb-destroyed streets, just more victims of a world that has lost its way. And with twice as many deaths as the military.

I am reminded of a verse learned many years ago: “War begets poverty, poverty peace. Peace begets plenty and riches increase, but riches bring pride and pride is war’s ground, and war begets poverty, and so we go round.”

Still More Questions Than Answers

I had been hoping to resist ever again writing about Donald Trump, the disgraced man who dreamed of becoming King of the United States of America; a man so immersed in his gold-plated illusions that he couldn’t believe “the people” had rejected him at the ballot box in 2020.

He exalted when a riotous mob attempted to take over the seat of government in Washington DC on Jan. 6th, 2021 and is now facing possible trial on charges related to that event.

Unfortunately, while we wait for the ponderous wheels of justice to turn, we suffer more inane comments from a man who still has a chance of running for the presidency in two years. Observers of U.S. politics say Republican Party support for Trump still runs strong while his supporters shrug off his continuing outrageous verbosity.

His most recent successful smash and grab for headlines came in an interview with the Washington Examiner in which he told interviewer David Drucker that, while he was “surprised” when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he thought “it was a tough way to negotiate, but a smart way to negotiate.”

They were not his first words of praise for Putin. During his short time as president, Trump openly admired his Russian counterpart, especially Putin’s move to be elected “for life.” Trump would have loved a second term at the top and might have used it to lobby his Congressional supporters in the House of Representatives and the Senate for a more lasting grip on the U.S. presidency.

On the far side of the vast Atlantic Ocean, the English people aren’t quite sure what to do about Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Note: I write English, not British, which would include Scotland, Wales and a chunk of Ireland where the home folk might appreciate the distinction.)

The PM, hair carefully coiffed astray, was recently described as “not famed for being a man of conscience, but (with) a solid grasp of optics.” In an opinion piece, Maya Foa, director of the human rights charity Reprieve, focused on Johnson’s meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss oil exports and imports.

She said: “He surely knows that shaking hands with an autocrat who has just overseen a mass killing will harm Britain’s moral standing on the global stage, at a time when this could not be more important.”

Britain is seeking ways to buffer its loss of oil supply from Russia because of the latest round of trade embargoes protesting Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Saudi Arabia could solve Johnson’s supply problem, but the article points out his timing was bad. Just days before his visit, Saudi Arabia executed 81 men. The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) claims there have been more than 900 executions since 2015. Should an English PM want to shake hands with such a business partner?

And, what’s happening in my own town and province while the lingering pandemic continues to threaten in faraway places? Well, on Saint Patrick’s Day, enough COVID-19 restrictions were lifted to make green beer almost – I repeat “ALMOST!” – attractive. We are told to rejoice and enjoy the “new normal.”

At the same time, the UK, France and Germany are reporting a new, “disturbing wave” of infections and have alerted North America to that fact. I understand Premier John Horgan’s problem and the pressures he must have been feeling from a tired public and business community.

I hope his “new normal” is the lasting kind.

Will Fiscal Sanctions Stop Putin?

It came in more silently than a screaming bomb or shell; it left no dead or wounded. But, it could prove to be the one “missile” that can change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s present mindset on the right of the people of an independent country to choose their leaders.

Fitch Ratings, a company that keeps tight watch on the borrowing and spending habits of public bodies and rates them at specified times throughout the year, fired the shot.

On March 8, it released its latest findings on Russia’s Long-Term Foreign Currency program, bluntly stating: “Fitch Ratings has downgraded Russia’s default rating to ‘C’ from ‘B.’” Expertise in high finance is not required to explain what ‘C’ means on any report card. It is a red light flashing. In the international markets where governments go to borrow money, it is a warning that there will be a critical increase in the cost of borrowing due to poor repayment of previous loans.

To get the best borrowing rates, a Triple-A rating is the coveted goal. Dropping to ‘B’ isn’t desirable but can be handled. ‘C’ is getting close to the edge of the cliff where financial disaster looms.

Fitch acknowledges such rating reviews are “subject to restrictions and must take place according to a published schedule – except where it’s necessary for CRAs (the examiners) to deviate from this order to comply with their legal obligations.”

“Fitch interprets this provision as allowing it to publish a rating review in situations where there is material change in the credit worthiness of the issuer that we believe makes it inappropriate for us to wait until the next scheduled review date to update the rating.” The extra emphasis is mine with two key phrases (change in credit worthiness) and (makes it inappropriate to wait) indicating the red light is flashing at high tempo.

Fitch needs no emphasis boost from me when the rating bluntly states: “The ‘C’ rating reflects Fitch’s view that a sovereign default is imminent.” A master’s degree in accounting is not required to understand that “sovereign default is imminent” means that recent sanctions make it hard for Putin to pay his bills.

In the gentle language of the accountant, Fitch says that since early March, “developments … have, in our view, further undermined Russia’s willingness to service government debt.”

Fitch kindly sums everything up with terse statements even Putin and journalists should understand. Under a sub-headline: “Factors that could lead to negative rating: Failure to fulfill commercial debt payment within stipulated grace periods.”

And a final advisory headed: “Factors That Could Lead to Positive Rating Action/Upgrade: Improved confidence in Russia’s willingness to repay debt, for example, due to implementation of policy that is consistent with its continuing servicing of debt obligations alongside expectations there will be capacity to execute debt payments.”

Read it again. Carefully. “Improved confidence in Russia’s willingness to repay debt …” Can that mean some of the weapons of war being used in Ukraine haven’t been paid for? Weapons like the thermobaric weapon – the “vacuum bomb” spotted among the armoured columns featured daily on television?

It’s the huge 24-rocket launcher mounted on tank tracks for mobility. It is sometimes called the “aerosol bomb” because it’s a two-stage explosive. The Guardian tells us: “The first stage distributes an aerosol made up of very fine material – from a carbon-based fuel to tiny metal particles. A second charge ignites that cloud, creating a fireball, a huge shock wave and a vacuum as it sucks up all surrounding oxygen … The blast wave can last for significantly longer than a conventional explosive and is capable of vaporizing human bodies.”

While it is not clear if the weapon has been deployed in Ukraine, Dr. Marcus Hellyer, senior analyst at Australian Strategic Policy, says the weapon is “pretty standard in terms of Russian tactics. It is not illegal even though its effects can be horrific because of the effect of creating a vacuum and sucking the air out of the lungs of defenders.”

And its use in Ukraine and anywhere else in the world is in the hands of a reputed billionaire who has already let it be known that he controls some nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

Maybe if fiscal sanctions can bring him into line, we change our clocks this weekend and settle down for a quiet summer.

“False Flags” and Ultimate Failure

I was a little disappointed a few nights back when USA President Joe Biden launched his carefully worded critique of Vladimir Putin without once chiding the Russian leader for using one of the oldest lies ever spoken by a dictator to justify the conquest of a neighbour.

Maybe President Biden isn’t quite old enough to remember the last days of summer in 1939 when Germany parked what was the best trained and armed military machine in the world as close as it could to the border of Poland. Just a military exercise, German leader Adolf Hitler said, nothing to worry about. He had used the same response in the past and had never been seriously challenged – not even when his border exercises got a little wild, and several small European countries awakened one morning to find their own national flags replaced by the swastika.

The great powers – France and the British Commonwealth – were concerned, but not unduly, and the USA was resting in contented isolation. England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had been over to Germany for a man-to-man chat with Hitler and returned to England waving a piece of paper and proclaiming “Peace in our time.”

In mid-August 1939, Chamberlain’s promise got lost in a flood of speculation on the new Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The pact, signed August 23, pledged non-aggression between Russia and Germany for at least 10 years and plans for a joint invasion of Poland by separate armies but under their national commanders.

In late August, Germany started reporting attacks on their in-training troops by Polish army units. Following one such attack, they invited a few American reporters along to see a scattering of Polish uniformed bodies repelled by vigilant German soldiers. It was later established the Germans had set up a “false flag” unit to stage the attacks.

In 1939, when the Germans finally launched their attack on Poland, they said it was simply to expand Germany’s “living room.” That attack started on September 1, and two days later, at 11 o’clock on an English Sunday morning, the nation listened to Prime Minister Chamberlain, in a fragile voice, inform us that diplomacy had failed and “we are at war with Germany.”

I remember how loud the kitchen clock ticked when the radio was turned off. And, the calmness of my Dad’s voice as he assured his wife, his 18-year-old daughter, and 15-year-old son that “everything will be okay, they’ll never get this far.”

He was wrong. They did get “this far,” but not for six months or so and then only by air. After the brutal conquest of Poland, Hitler took a break for a few weeks (known as the “phony war”), then launched his “blitzkrieg” that ravaged the Netherlands, Belgium and France and almost destroyed the entire British army before it was plucked from the beaches of Dunkirk.

We did wonder from time to time if it would ever end, especially during those never-ending nights of sirens, explosions, fires, shattered homes and broken people.

Then came a series of events, each more momentous than the last in human and financial costs. But none of those costs were big or painful enough to convince humanity there must be a better way.

To continue as a big guy on the world stage, Hitler – tired of trying and failing to bring England to its knees – inexplicably turned his attention on Russia. Remember, he had a 1939 non-aggression pact stipulating that there would be no aggression between Germany and Russia for at least 10 years.

On June 22, 1941, Germany stunned the world with a surprise attack on Russia. The German army comprised three million foot soldiers, 19 Panzer divisions, 3,000 tanks, 2,500 aircraft, and 7,000 artillery pieces. What followed was a Russian “scorched earth” retreat … nothing left for the Germans but charred remains.

The onslaught of Russian winter and inadequate supply line provisions did much to defeat the invaders. The vast German army never made it home. In its charge across the steppes of Russia, the Germans used a three-pronged attack column formation. The right column reached as far as Ukraine and died there.

I wonder if it would have helped if President Biden had reminded Mr. Putin that Ukraine once played in the big leagues and won? And that even though mentally unbalanced Hitler was an expert at “false flag” tactics, he was ultimately a loser.

Not Endorsed By Organized Labour

A recitation of a few facts buried in the untidy mess left behind when an angry mob – poorly disguised as champions of righteous indignation – was eventually herded off the streets of Ottawa in ugly disarray and with minimal violence.

The protest had started with triumphant cavalcades of vehicles from heavy-duty semi transports to modest pick-ups favoured by small-acre market gardeners. They all seemed to be flying Canada’s National Maple Leaf flag and plentifully equipped with eardrum-challenging airhorns to make sure onlookers would follow the sound and note that many of the flags were flying upside down – the international signal for distress.

These blaring convoys departed from Vancouver and Halifax, heading east and west for Ottawa and picking up more airhorns and flags en route, with the goal of paralyzing the Capital and shutting down a few important trade links between Canada and the United States of America. 

National and international TV networks loved them for their colour and their noise, especially when they rumbled into the heart of Ottawa to disgorge drivers, a few families with playpens, pets and occasional grandparents to jam every available parking spot and disrupt or shut down normal business operations.

For a while, television relished its coverage of the great “Freedom Convoy” of hard-working truck drivers rising in wrath to protest COVID-19 mandated vaccination. Convoy organizers tried to portray the protests as a denial of human rights issues, with grassroot truckers challenging health authority claims on the best ways to control infectious disease. And, for a while, it appeared to be working until someone started asking how many full-time union-accredited truck drivers were driving in the protest convoy.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents big-rig truckers on both sides of the Canada-USA border, had denounced the Ottawa excursion; so had the Canadian Labour Congress. The CLC left no room for speculation when the blockades were moved into place:

“Canada’s unions have fought for generations for the right to protest. This is the cornerstone of our democratic system. But, what we have witnessed on the streets of Canada’s Capital … is something different altogether. This is not a protest; it is an occupation by an angry mob trying to disguise itself as a peaceful protest … We have seen right-wing extremists spreading messages filled with racism and intolerance, flying the Nazi and Confederate flags alongside other symbols of violence and hate. We have seen organizers not only demand the end of all public health rules but also call for the overthrow of our democratically-elected government. This is an attack on all of Canada and not just the people of Ottawa.”

The CLC had equal criticism for what it felt was a delayed and inadequate early response to the invasion, which “has also raised serious questions about an uneven application of policing. Authorities spent the first week taking a hands-off approach to the occupation of city streets and parks, not even handing out parking tickets … This is a far cry from the kind of crackdowns we have seen toward Indigenous land protests …”

Federal and civic governments responded to these strong labour union proclamations, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declaring the Emergencies Act and Ottawa’s city council appointing a new acting police chief. And 48 hours later, a police presence bolstered by law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions had restored relative calm to the streets.

I can hope that this calm is of lasting quality, but in this world where guns and violence long ago replaced butter and the ability to compromise as the preferred way to resolve problems, I fear my hope is in vain.

Does Your Home Town Offer Sanctuary?

There was a time when humankind got along with minimal legal encumbrances.

In biblical times, what we know today as the Middle East was exploding with population growth. Ten tribes of Israel were carving up the land and agreeing that the Levites among them would own no land in the new country but would be its new overall 10-tribes “administrator.”

The Levites, as multi-generations of governing bodies have discovered since, soon learned being in charge of things may briefly be good for the ego but can also be painful.

One of the festering sores facing the Levites in their new role was a law as ancient as humanity itself: The old Mosaic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” The Levites were wise in their ways which is why they were asked by tribal brothers to take on the toughest of tasks, that of persuading fellow Israelites to give up the power to slaughter – without trial or examination – a person who had been responsible for the death of another. Any blood relative of the dead, even if the death had been obvious accidental manslaughter, could openly kill the killer.

“So they (the Bible tells us) set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. And beyond the Jordan (River) east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh.”

And, thus, were created the first six Sanctuary Cities of Israel, scattered throughout the country with each one reachable by not more than one day’s journey from anyplace where one human being had taken the life of another and could automatically, without trial, be executed by a member of the victim’s family. The Sanctuary City Law decreed that if an accused could reach “sanctuary” before the family took its lawful tribute, the accused could not be harmed until charged with murder and found guilty. 

Readers may justifiably be wondering why I’m delivering a weekend sermon on a law several thousand years old and involving long-forgotten Sanctuary Cities and the unpopular protection they were offering. I have a few reasons, among them the fact that Sanctuary Cities still exist, and Canada has several. They don’t deal with life-for-life vengeance anymore, not in Canada, anyway, where the death penalty was banished years ago.

So how come Toronto, Hamilton, London, and Montreal have “Sanctuary City” designations while Vancouver modestly dropped the title “Sanctuary City” but has an officially adopted Access to City Services Without Fear for Residents With Uncertain or No Immigration Status. That designation has earned praise from the Canadian Labour Congress “for Vancouver taking action to support non-status migrants beyond the standard designation.”

Sanctuary Cities may no longer be needed to protect the precious belief in Canada that every person is innocent of any charge until proven guilty, but they obviously have a role to play in an expensive humanitarian effort.

Residents of Canada “with uncertain or no immigration status” are hard to count.

The Canadian Institute of Health Resources admits: “There are no accurate figures representing the number or composition of undocumented immigrants residing in Canada. A guesstimate of about half a million has been proposed nationally, but this number varies among other sources that suggest there are anywhere from 20,000 to 200,000 undocumented workers.

“In 2003, Ontario’s Construction Secretariat claimed there were 76,000 non-status immigrants in Ontario’s construction industry alone. Other sources assert that at least 36,000 failed refugee applicants had never been deported, and another 64,000 individuals overstayed their work, student, or visitor visas in 2002. If it is assumed that workers are accompanied by family, the numbers in Ontario would rise to the highest figure previously estimated for all of Canada. With respect to settlement, Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto have the highest number of undocumented migrants with nearly 50 per cent residing in Toronto alone.” 

Why the hang-up with the numbers? Simple answer: Hiding in our major cities are a minimum 200,000 refugees from other countries seeking a Holy Grail called “Canadian landed immigrant status.” Some are here having crossed a remote border without detection. Others have watched official study visas or limited work permits lapse, and on being rejected for landed immigrant status, they have quietly found work somewhere and blended unnoticed into our cosmopolitan population.

Racism is something they have to live with; incidents they have to nurse quietly at home, and bullying and derision about accent or colour are tolerated without complaint. There are no health care benefits or unemployment benefits, just social isolation and the constant fear of discovery and deportation by federal authorities.

The Canadian Labour Congress has been a steadfast friend of the would-be Canadians and has had some success getting smaller municipalities to remember that Sanctuary City policies are consistent with Canadian Charter protected rights to equality and security of person; and that many municipal services can be provided with the promise of “access without fear.” 

The United States of America has a wonderful Statue of Liberty at the entrance to its main harbour on the East Coast. Its inscription once earned the USA worldwide admiration – and a little envy here in Canada: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” The USA seems to have lost sight of the message and its meaning in recent years.

Maybe we could build on the Sanctuary Cities foundation and offer the world a Sanctuary Country with the first huddled mass to be welcomed being the one that’s already here but afraid to show its face.

Cast Away and Left to Die

“A middle-aged, motherly little woman with her hair in a neat bun answered our knock at her screened-in veranda door. Inside we found a friendly warmth about the modestly furnished room. In a corner, a bowlegged wood stove crackled. The smell of baking was strong in the room.

“There was a cake in the oven,” she explained. It was for ‘the boys,’ the one-eyed Chinese and the Japanese. Last week she had baked them a jelly roll. This week, for a change, she had baked them a cake. We had arrived a little too early to ‘have a piece,’ she said with a twinkle. But, the humor was the kind that struck at the heart …”

The writer was Cy Young in the telling of the story for Maclean’s Magazine readers in 1948 of – “three of the loneliest people in Canada” – serving a life sentence of isolation on Bentinck Island roughly 12 miles by sea from Victoria BC (with Race Rocks a close neighbour) because they were suffering from leprosy, a disease loathsome in appearance and, since Biblical times, thought highly infectious. Because most victims were Chinese, it was known in Canada as Chinese leprosy.

The three survivors on Bentinck were a middle-aged “matronly woman who has been a missionary in Africa, an old Chinese who talks pidgin English and a 29-year-old Japanese who is studying carpentry by mail. They have only one pathetic thing in common – they are lepers.”

It was back in March 1891 that the City of Victoria’s health inspector was first asked to check on reports of Chinese males sleeping on the sidewalks of the Chinese quarter. Renisa Mawani, University of BC Sociology, in a detailed Historical Account of Pandemic: Health, Colonialism and Racism in Canada, informs us the inspector discovered five Chinese males thought to be inflicted with leprosy. It was recommended that the city establish a leprosy colony on D’Arcy Island.

With provincial government assistance, D’Arcy became home for 49 lepers until 1924, when the federal government assumed control, closed D’Arcy and opened Bentinck Island as a new site.

With the passing of the years, D’Arcy faded from memory until reporter Kim Luman writing in the Globe and Mail in October 2000, visited the old site and reported: “The bones of Ng Chung lie here. And although the grave is unmarked and his story may never entirely be told, his name is being remembered now for the first time in more than 100 years since he was sent to this small island off the coast of British Columbia to die. Ng Chung was one of the first five Chinese men banished to D’Arcy in 1891.”

Now in charge of providing care for lepers, the federal government didn’t try to hide its racist policies. Canada already encouraged segregated Chinese schools and openly admitted only white people contracting leprosy to a leper colony in Tracadie, New Brunswick, operating as a hospital with doctors and nurses. Any leper with Chinese ancestry was sent to D’Arcy or, after its closure in 1924, to Bentinck, which continued to operate until 1956, when the last man died. In total, 10 died in Bentinck and 14 on D’Arcy.

Only a few were possessors of what reporter Cy Young described as the warm humour shown when his hostess said her cake was too soon out of the oven to cut them a slice, a gentle apology for the rules they had to observe.

It had been agreed that the nameless “hostess” should remain so, known only to relatives, staff and the government records branch, the fear of leprosy being so great that patients and close relatives needed protection from an easily aroused and prejudiced public. The lady revealed she had contracted leprosy while working as a missionary in Africa. One day, she noticed a loss of sensation in her left leg, and a medical diagnosis confirmed leprosy.

When she was moved to Bentinck a year before Young’s visit, she was a bed patient. She still had partial paralysis in her left leg, a lack of sensation in several parts of her body and some weakness in her forearms. But she was no longer confined to bed.

“The disease itself is not so bad,” she said. “Nor is the isolation. It is being cast out that hurts. If people took a different, more sensible attitude to our disease, there is no reason why we should not be allowed to live in an institution such as a tuberculosis sanatorium. My friends have stood by me. They think more of me now than they ever did. But some of my acquaintances will not visit my family anymore because I am here. That hurts me very much.”

And what did she do with her time day after endless day?

“Oh, we have our little times,” she said, motioning to her fresh-baked cake. “Sometimes I write for the church paper or sew or knit. Sometimes I read or sit listening to the radio.”

We lose track of the nameless hostess after Bentinck closed down and can only hope she had many more “little times,” cakes cool enough to cut and the calm example of how to handle adversity.

100 Days – and Still No Housing

Well, we do indeed live in interesting times as the headlines in our daily newspapers, news broadcasts between inane commercials, and the ever-growing chorus of mini online news outlets wash our minds “with news of fresh disasters.”

Every morning I mutter imprecations as the always busy gnomes of the national and provincial word factories clutter up my inbox with blurbs of little interest. But, alas, a news junky not yet old enough to know better, I scan the daily offerings and, once in a while, stumble over one which disturbs an otherwise comfortable retirement.

It was one of the smaller items in my daily dosage, just three or four paragraphs beneath a headline reading: “One Hundred Days And Still No Housing.” The 100 days being the last time any number of governments assured us they were aware of the crucial shortage of affordable housing from coast to coast to coast and were determined to do something about it.

It is, of course, a lie repeated not for just 100 days, but for a thousand years or more since the great industrial revolution that brought us the welcome comforts many of us enjoy – comforts so many more thousands are denied.

This leads me, nicely, to another breaking news story these past few days that has been attracting far more attention than “100 days and still no housing,” the great project so sorely needed but never affordable.

Pause and reflect on this story rampaging across our TV screens: A story of tumult; a story of bully-boy horn-blowing; a story of thousands of protesters thoughtlessly littering the streets with garbage, defiling the grave of a dead soldier and thinking it funny to make a joke of a statue tribute to an extremely fine human being named Terry Fox.

At the heart of this protest – billed “the Freedom Convoy” – is the amazing willingness of thousands of Canadians to back it with cash, the stuff we can’t find for housing, to the tune of $10 million and growing with every dollar raised via GoFundMe, legitimately and quite openly.

Just Google GoFundMe, and you can find the names of the people who run the show and what they charge for their services. Wikipedia confirms “payment processors collect 2.9 per cent plus $0.30 from each GoFundMe transaction.” GoFundMe’s home page and board of directors may surprise you.

Last Thursday, Feb.3, the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee issued a call to GoFundMe to appear before the committee to explain what safeguards it has in place when it comes to releasing $10.1 million raised for the truckers’ convoy.

The committee says it is seeking assurance that none of the money will be used “to promote extremism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate that have been expressed among prominent organizers for the truck convoy.”

GoFundMe has already paid $1 million to the truckers but, at this writing, had suspended the balance pending further investigation.

Strange, isn’t it? All that cash floating around out there with multi-millions up for Lotto grabs each week, other millions just waiting for a GoFundMe blessing – but not enough to build affordable housing.