Archive for the ‘History Bites’ Category

Sailing Home
July 6, 2018

I’ve been awake since 5 am this morning. Here I am at age 75 feeling like a kid at Christmas waiting for Santa to arrive as I pace and sip a coffee awaiting Don’s arrival. We are heading to Thunder Bay this morning. A crew of 11 souls. We are bringing the tug “Peninsula” home. The Historical Society of Marathon, ON purchased the tug that shunted pulp logs from the mouth of the Pic River in my youth to Peninsula Harbour. I remember sunny summer days laying on the hot rocks along the shoreline at Cummings Beach watching the Peninsula and her crew tie off immense booms of logs in the harbour.


More on this great adventure can be found at

The Sixties Scoop…
February 15, 2017

My wife and I are the parents of an adopted First Nations Child whose adoption took place within the time-frame of the legal action against the Canadian Government titled The Sixties Scoop. Details of the class action suit can be viewed here: This action, on behalf of indigenous children adopted by non-indigenous families, has been eight years in the process with the Canadian Government taking all legal actions available to avoid having this case heard. The absolute shame was the federal Government wanting to avoid the judgement to enable them to settle out of court-to set aside 8 years of process. I shake my head at our arrogance in attempting to avoid justice in this case.

Government asks judge to postpone ruling in ’60s Scoop case, outraging plaintiffs

This is a case more directly aligned with the concept of cultural genocide than about any other explanation, in my opinion. It is about the assimilation of indigenous children into the society of the day and is an off-shoot of the Residential Schools program in Canada that had it’s roots in “1860[,] Indian Affairs is transferred from the Imperial Government to the Province of Canada. This is after the Imperial Government shifts its policy from fostering the autonomy of native populations through industry to assimilating them through education. (see A timeline of Residential Schools)” In reality it began in the 1600s and the process of assimilation continued well into the late 1900s.

It saddens me that we, my wife and I,  were complicit in the continuation of this abominable program out of our ignorance as non-indigenous adoptive parents and the failure of the Canadian government and its agencies to inform us of their and our responsibilities to our child to maintain her cultural identity. The good news is we live on the doorstep of two First Nations communities, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Pic Mobert and many of our children’s classmates and friends were indigenous children. By osmosis, for want of a better term, our child spent considerable time in Biigtigong Nishnaabeg community with her best friends family. She was one of the lucky ones regularly exposed to her indigenous culture more by luck-of-the draw than by intent on our part or that of the Canadian Government.

I am overjoyed that the courts brought this case to fruition and yesterday, Valentine’s Day 2017 the “Federal government [was] found to have breached its “duty of care” by failing to protect cultural identity of indigenous children removed from their homes”. That we decided to add our voices to this cause, for justice for our adoptive child and all of the children of the Sixties Scoop, as witnesses for the plaintiff might have some small influence on this decision, helps to begin the healing process of right relations between us and our indigenous 10687098_10154816122320118_1482540786689546829_nneighbours and to apologize to our child for our ignorance.

Today, our chosen child is a strong beautiful First Nations woman who has chosen a career path to help other First Nations women of Northwestern Ontario reach their potential as healthy, proud indigenous women. As an aside, I was listening to a piece of music yesterday when a text arrived from a contact at the hearing to say the Judge ruled in favour of the Sixties scoop. The song happened to be Shed a Little Light performed by James Taylor. A prophetic moment indeed.

Farewell Mr. Mayor…
March 30, 2016

Two stories have been dominating Canadian news of late; the run-up to the Presidential nominations in the States and the death of Rob Ford, ex-Mayor and Councillor of the city of Toronto. Both stories have all the elements required to be main features in the likes of the National Enquirer. Most significant to me at this moment is the Rob Ford story.

It is indeed sad that one so young as Rob Ford has died at the young age of 46! No question! But please, please Canada quit making him greater that who he was in life–at best a scoundrel. That is probably the kindest thought I’ve had about Mr. Ford since his rise to fame through municipal politics and his fall from grace at the same time because of his addictions and the antics in council. But please stop with the glorify stuff that is now creating a new-age hero.

I have been taught to respect those who serve in public office. And that Rob Ford presented himself to the people of Toronto as a candidate for council and later as mayor is commendable. And, I respect Mr. Ford for taking on that mantle. Public office is never an easy chioce for anyone to make. But once in office I believe it reasonable to expect our elected officials to behave with some element of decorum. We elect our representatives to represent us in what ever court they are seeking to serve.

That is where Mr. Ford failed.  All the good deeds attributed to him don’t make up for the absolue abysmal behaviour he displayed in council chambers, in the media, and in his private/public life. I was especially dismayed the day he made inappropriate sexual comments about his wife during a media scrum. The media have come 360 degrees in their comments about Rob Ford now that he has died; quite a shift from their villification of him while he as alive.

Mostly I am saddened that such a fuss is being made of a man whose contributions to society are questionalble at best yet we take so little notice of the quiet heros who embed themselves in our lives and leave us without fanfare; often without thanks or any kind of recognition.

March 5, 2010

We live in a resource based community. The two major industries are pulp and gold. Mining, because it is an extractive industry has a finite life. When the gold runs out, the industry is gone. Our  community has been anticipating the decline of the gold mines for some years now. Little did we realize that our forest industry was in greater jeopardy.

The truth is that the forest industry has been under seige for some time now and we have been slow to recognize the signs. As with most industry today the world price of a product aids in the determination of life expectancy; in this case the price offered per ton/tonne of pulp has gone down; the price of gas and diesel to deliver raw materials has gone up; the distance from the harvest has become greater; past practice of not replenishing the natural resource–replanting regularly, deliberately; all culminate in the closure of many mills in Canada and more specifically here in north western Ontario.

I find myself looking at the displaced workers from our mill. Many are people I taught in either elementary school or secondary school at some point in their lives. Memories of conversations with some of them frequently pop into my head as I observe the changes in the rhythms of the community and its inhabitants. “Hey, Sir!” said one of them in a Gr. 12 Law class 25 years ago. “I’m going to graduate at the end of this semester; go to work in the Mill and buy a new TransAm!” And he did; he did; he did. I know because the following year that same student brought his new TransAm to the school to show me. So much for attempting to convince them to stay in school and get their Gr. 13 and go on to College of University. And I thought then, “How do I argue against this?” If only I knew then what I am seeing now!

That student was one of many whose attitude was that the “Company” would always be there; the money is great–I will always have enough; I don’t need more education, my life is set.

For the past year, many of those who saw the mill as a way of life; as a way through life, are finding that they cannot get jobs elsewhere because they have insufficient education to fill the expectations of current employers. Those same people are struggling to go back to school to get high school equivalency or to get sufficiently upgraded so that they can go on to higher education in order to be retrained. All are struggling to do this now on Employment Insurance along with paying the mortgage, put food on the table, heat the house for a six or seven month winter, and on and on… The Insurance should run out shortly.

It says something to me about the need for all of us to become life-long learners. Deliberately! Take a course of some kind every year of your life. Become used to the skill of learning. Make learning a habit! Wake up each day determined to learn one thing new today that will help one grow in one’s life. Plan for the future…for the unexpected. Know that nothing in our lives is carved in stone.                      –GRB

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more…
September 1, 2008

Daily we are hearing more and more in the news media that Prime Minister Harper is going to call a fall election. So here we go again with the expense and hype of an election before the term of the current parliament is up. This minority government was elected for a four year term for the second time.

The message that all parties should have received as a result of the last two elections is that none of the existing parties is worthy of being in power and all lack carismatic leadership with vision. But, mostly I am angry because the government passed into law a rule that elections be on a fixed date ostensibly to limit political whim from calling another election (see: That would make the calling of an election illegal (see:

Last night someone from the Conservative Party called and asked Joy if she would take the time to participate in a poll. She answered that she wasn’t interested and hung up the phone. Now I’m wishing that I had been the one to answer the phone because I would love to give the Conservative pollsters a piece of my mind and let then know how unhappy I am; that “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more…”.

Having said that, I have no idea what I should do about how angry, frustreated and betrayed I feel by our government leaders. They are where they are by the will of the populace and I expect them to do their jobs for the full term of their office. It is my belief that when  a minority government is elected, it is because of lack of confidence in any one party to lead. The message seems to me to be, “cooperate and do your job for the betterment of our society”. So how do I tell them that?

Let’s see. I could:

  1. write to every member of parliament telling of my displeasure
  2. write to each of the political parties telling them of my displeasure
  3. write to local papers about my displeasure
  4. move to Quebec and vote Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe makes more sense than any of the other leaders
  5. Suggestions?

I wonder what else it will take to have our elected officials get the message?             GRB

If I grow up I think I will try archaeology
July 31, 2008

I’ve spent the day working in the sandbox again. Those of you who are wondering what a senior citizen is doing playing in a sandbox, rest assured I am not experiencing my second childhood. Yet! The truth be known, I have not yet left my first childhood. But, I digress. The sandbox is the whole of my backyard and it is part of an ancient raised beach of Lake Superior.

My current project is to reshape the beach so that there is no grass to bother with. I don’t want to water, fertilize or cut backyard grass again. To that end, my wife, Joy, and I have been hand digging out the roots of crabgrass, poplar trees, and sundry other forms of plant life. And ants! Big ants! Big red ants! We have chosen to hand dig for a variety of reasons. A few years ago, (Did I mention this was a big project? Yeah! Really big!) We tried using a gas driven cultivator to clear the vegetable garden. It worked!

The next spring the grasses and other plants came back with a vengeance–especially the crabgrass. It seems that when one uses a cultivator, the big crabgrass roots get chopped into thousands and thousands of little crabgrass roots. Given time, water and sunlight those chopped roots become–you guessed it–more crabgrass. So we dug the whole of the garden with a twisty thing to loosen the soil and roots and a garden fork to separate the roots from the sand. It worked. I now have a crabgrass free garden and the soil is very easy to dig and turn for the next year’s planting. This proven method of root extraction, while labour intensive, is effective. It is also green, quiet (I get to commune with the birds and the wind in the trees, the buzzing of mosquitoes the roar of the motorbikes practicing motocross in the easement) and it is great exercise.

So the project expanded and now we are removing all the grasses one root at a time from the backyard. That’s what led me to thinking about being an archaeologist. This digging is a nostalgia trip. WE are digging up things not only from the ancient past but, we are finding things from our past. Things that became lost in the sands since we built our home thirty years ago.

Today I dug up an aluminium tent peg. It came to be there from the night we had a company of Girl Guides camping in our backyard. My wife was a guide leader and the girls wanted a camping badge. At that time our home was backed by boreal forest and the backyard was the perfect place to practice camping skills in relative safety. The Guides set the tent, built a campfire and cooked their dinner. Later in the evening we joined them around the campfire and sang songs, told stories and ate somemores and drank hot chocolate and watched the stars. It was a great evening.

At lights out, I made certain that the girls and Joy were settled into their sleeping bags assuring them that if they needed me, the doors to the house were not locked and they could come in and waske me. You know the kind of things to which I refer–the tent fell down,; it is raining and everyone is wet;… Sure enough, in the wee hours of the morning I was awakened by a passel of girls running into the house more than a bit distraught and squealing loudly. They heard gunshots in the woods behind the house.

Guess who was sent to check this story out. Just guess. I got up and dressed and headed outside while the girls huddled in our room with Joy. No sooner had I stepped round the corner of the house when I heard the distinct sound of a firearm being discharged in short bursts. In short order I, too, was hunkered down with Joy and the guides wondering if we were under attack.

All that from an old tent peg buried in the back yard. Some of the details are blurred and no doubt I have done some embellishing. But that’s OK. It is my story and my memory. I don’t quite remember the outcome of it all other than it was a young man who had purchased a firearm through a magazine. He was out trying it out!

I wonder if archaeologists feel the same kind of rush when they find a tent peg or a musket ball or a… Yes, I think I will try archaeology when I grow up.                           GRB

The past returns to haunt…
July 20, 2008

I received a call on Friday last asking me if I could edit a photograph and take a person out of the picture. I agreed and the caller dropped the photograph off to be reworked. They want it ready for an up-coming school reunion.

Many years ago I taught with a man who was charged with and convicted on  many counts of sexual assault against children in our community. I haven’t thought about him or the children for some time. The perpetrator died many years ago following his conviction. The healing process has been a long one and I suspect there are some who may never heal. I am reminded of this time in our past when we hear stories of pedophilia in the news.

It was the image of the perpetrator I was asked to remove from a school group photograph. Easily done! But while erasing the image I began to think about what exactly I was doing. Does erasing his image change anything at all? We cannot erase or undo history regardless of how we feel about the content. The man did exist. He still did the terrible things. Erasing his image doesn’t change that at all.

All of this happened about thirty years ago and the message I am discerning is that the wounds are still very deep for some. Perhaps not having this individual’s image in the class photograph of 19xx may allow those who were abused to feel more comfortable with their peers. The abused children are now adults in their 40s with childen of their own and I wonder how they reconcile their lost innocence in relationship with their own children.

I wonder if the abused will ever be free of the stigma attached to this time in their history. Perhaps the electronic eraser I am using will allow them to enjoy their weekend with old classmates without the memories of the bad times. I hope so. How does one heal from something such as this? Is it possible to forgive someone who has perpetrated such wrong on others?

Today I prayed for their healing.                  GRB