Fighting Words Archive

This is the archive page for “Fighting Words”, in which area residents offer their opinions on the issues of the day, from the serious to the whimsical. The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stanley Bridge Centre.

It’s time to start treating people with respect again
By Michelle M Arsenault

Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February. Learn more at She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire.

I’m currently looking for an apartment. For some reason, I assumed I’d have my pick of the litter since I’m mature, responsible, quiet and have great references. I’ve always believed that whether I’m contacting a landlord, a potential employer or someone in customer service, it made more sense to talk to them in a respectful, friendly and direct manner. Makes sense, right?

As it turns out I was wrong. In fact, my honesty almost appeared to turn them off. It didn’t matter if I told them I was mature (ie. not partying every weekend and therefore not likely to vomit in their front yard every Sunday morning), responsible (I can pay the rent!), quiet (I won’t have music or the television blaring at midnight) or what I was looking for as a tenant (a central location where I could walk to most amenities) because what I was met with was quite unexpected.

Many were abrupt, rude, ignoring most of my message and questions and tossing a ‘so when are you gonna come see the place?’ at me. Others simply disregarded my message or coldly responded that the place was ‘already taken’ even though it continues to be advertised online. My favourite was a lady that literally wasted an entire week with a series of hoops that I had to jump through; all of which I did, providing her with terrific references, proof that I could afford her place and yet, with each response, she seemed to stretch out the amount of time before replying until, yes, an entire week passed and I was still no further ahead.

But that’s fine; it’s not as if I have a life to figure out or anything.

The point is that this experience is becoming quite dehumanizing. However, this shouldn’t surprise me since this has become the theme in our society over the last few years. Try calling for customer support anywhere and you will probably get a robot-like voice on the other end of the phone and I don’t say that to put down the people working at call centres; I’m saying that because many businesses want their personnel to be like machines. I once, briefly, worked at a call centre where I was expected to read from a script and we were chastised if we didn’t follow it. I remember asking a customer one day ‘What can I do for you today?’ rather than ‘How can I help you?’ and being raked over the coals. I didn’t sound professional enough and perhaps I sounded like a real human being. This was apparently a problem.

And then there’s social media and the comment section of…well, anything online. People rip each other apart. It could be the journalist writing the story, the topic of the story or another person’s comment on the story. It doesn’t matter. People feel justified to do so and yet, if they were standing in front of that other person, I almost guarantee they would scurry away like frightened mice.

I’ve actually had a couple of situations in my life where men I dated took the liberty of attacking me in emails. I found it interesting in both cases because when challenged to say the same words to my face, they declined. It’s not cause I’m a large, massive woman with mixed martial arts training or that I carry a weapon in my purse, it’s because most people can’t look each other in the eye and say what they are willing to say online.

We’ve become a society of people taught that human life doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is because violence and death are so regularly highlighted on the news that we forget that there are actual human beings behind that bombing in Syria or the murder in Toronto. Then again, maybe some can’t think about that because if we started to see each other as humans and not faceless people on the Internet, a ’moron’ on the other side of the phone or ‘just another dead body’ on the news, we might have to feel something that isn’t terribly convenient, which is compassion.

Perhaps life is easier when you’re disconnected. Maybe discrediting someone is the ideal way to not feel guilty or accountable. Anyone who’s ever had a ‘close friend’ ignore them during a bad time knows exactly how that feels and, of course, they do it because it’s easier to not extend themselves.

The good news is that sometimes it simply takes a little boldness to get these people back down to earth. Sometimes the solution is to let people know that they are, in fact, dealing with an actual person in these circumstances.

Many years ago I had to speak to someone in IT about my hacked website. Back then, I had a terrible host that essentially put me in the position of talking to an uninterested employee at a call centre. He was giving me attitude, talking to me like I was a moron and generally making me feel more frustrated, even though I was sincerely attempting to understand all the tech talk. Finally, I grew angry and said, “You know what? You can speak to me as if I’m a real person. Not everyone has been trained in this area like you and I’m sorry that I’m not a tech expert but you don’t have to talk down to me.”

I’m not exaggerating to make a point, I really did say that to him. He immediately changed his tone and became helpful. I’m thinking that we all should be doing that exact same thing a little more often. Maybe its necessary to give those disconnected people an abrupt and direct reality check and bring them out of their apathetic, disconnected world and back down to earth.

The Passover Day Massacre: From Zionist Dream to Nightmare?
Avrim ben Ezra, aka Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B. Stanley Bridge, PEI – originally published April 6, 2018

We in the Jewish community recently celebrated Passover, the secular holiday commemorating our escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. As well, it celebrates freedom as an important political value for all people. But it is necessary for us to take stock of what is now occurring in Israel and at what cost to Jewish values.

The Passover Day Massacre which was recently carried out by the Israeli army (IDF) against unarmed civilians in Gaza who were demonstrating for their right of return to Israel was premeditated murder. Palestinians in the Gaza exercised their freedom of association, and no demonstrator came close to breaching the Israeli border. Yet 17 people were shot, two in the back, and more than a thousand others were wounded.

When the former white South African government committed the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 the world was outraged. Israel has now had its Passover Day Massacre. History will remember it. It marks a turning point. But the international community does nothing. We in the Jewish community have forgotten our history and have forgotten how to empathize with the oppressed, despite our Passover seder platitudes. Israel has gone from being the oppressed to being an oppressor.

Today Israel is engaging in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Any internal political or cultural dissent or criticism of its racist and expansionist policies against the Palestinians is being crushed. Israel is increasingly becoming a theocratic police state. And many of its policies against the Palestinians are similar to those of the former white South African government. It is no accident that Trump and Netanyahnu support one another.

Good Jews must speak out. Zionism is not Judaism. For too long Jews who have been critical of Israel’s repressive policies against the Palestinians have allowed themselves to be cowed by the Jewish establishment by being called “anti-Semites”, “self-hating Jews”, or worse. However, Mordecai Richler, Canada’s leading Jewish author, was an outspoken critic of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories in his book, This Year in Jerusalem (Vintage, 1995). The Canadian Jewish establishment hated Richler. One of the main characters who moved to Israel put it bluntly: “Something has gone wrong here.” And what has “gone wrong” with the Zionist experiment are Israel’s repressive, vicious, and racist policies towards the Palestinians that undermine and corrode Jewish values, and fuel a perpetual cycle of violence.

Israeli PM Netanyahu has adamantly refused to endorse a two-state solution (Times of Israel, Feb. 16, 2017). However the World Jewish Congress (WJC), representing over a hundred countries, is a strong advocate of such a policy. WJC president Ron Lauder, as early as 2015, endorsed new peace negotiations based on a two-state solution (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 24, 2015). More recently, Lauder warned Israel’s PM the lack of a two-state solution and a lack of religious pluralism within Israel would endanger its very existence (Haaretz, March 19, 2018).

The Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers (2012, dvd), interviews the six surviving heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, all of whom bluntly state the occupation has been a disaster for Israel. Significantly, they relate that Israel over the years has systematically undermined and sabotaged any peace negotiations

In order for Israel to expand territorially it must remove the Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem. This has much in common with the US strategic hamlet program in Vietnam and the white South African government’s Zulustan strategy. The situation has significantly deteriorated since President Donald Trump unilaterally reversed long standing American policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, not withstanding worldwide condemnation. Consequently, in March 2018 Israel passed legislation allowing them to unilaterally revoke the residency of any Palestinian living in Jerusalem, contrary to international law. Those residency revocations have begun.

Israel is now trying to forcibly “transfer” Palestinians from three areas in the West Bank (Area C) to build housing for Israeli settlers (B’Tselem, March 22, 2018). As well, the Israelis are demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran and expelling its residents to provide liebestraum for Israeli settlers (IMEU, March 22, 2018). The white South African government passed the 1950 Group Areas Act specifing where blacks could live; Israeli policies will have the same effect for Palestinians.

Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is driven by an increasingly overt racism. For example, the Jewish village of Kfar Vradim recently passed a bylaw withdrawing plots of land for sale since they were being purchased by Arabs and Palestinians. The mayor said this was done, “to preserve the community life and [Jewish] character” of the town (Adalaah, March 18, 2018). The US Supreme Court struck down racially-based restrictive covenants in 1948. In some towns Palestinians have been banned from muncipal swimming pools. As well, gangs of Israeli thugs go around beating up Palestinian men who date Jewish women (Haaretz). Recently, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef called blacks “monkeys” ( Haaretz and Times of Israel, March 20, 2018). Recently Israel’s PM said that, “[black] Migrants are a bigger threat than terrorism” (Haaretz, March 20, 2018), Israeli settlers beat up Palestinian farmers with impunity. There is a reason why some say that Zionism is racism.

Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories violate the spirit of Passover and formal international law. For many Jews Israel is rapidly becoming the God that failed. The draconian Israeli measures against the Palestinians are negatively affecting the attitudes of many American and Canadian Jews towards Israel, especially young Jews. The schism between Israel and North American Jews will inevitably widen, both politically and religiously. Israel will soon have to make a decision as to whether it wants to be Jewish or democratic.

If you were a man, would you even be asking this?
By Michelle M. Arsenault – originally published April 2, 2018

A friend recently commented that she felt the need to hold back announcing her amazing accomplishment on Facebook. She feared it would seem like bragging and it would turn people off. I asked her one simple question;

If you were a man, would you even be asking this?

Certainly not to suggest men are the ideal that women should be modeling themselves after, but the idea behind the question is to change your perspective. For example, you might ask someone what the 5-year-old version of themselves would think in the same situation or if this issue would matter if they were currently on their deathbed. The angle for which we view things can sometimes change everything.

During this particular conversation we decided the male version of her wouldn’t hesitate to announce these accomplishments; in fact, he would probably relish doing so and have little concern if it ruffled anyone’s feathers.

I think one of the biggest mistakes women make is worrying about what others think. It’s almost like there is a set of unwritten rules for females that are cryptic and assumed to be common sense, and you’re judged when you don’t comply. I certainly have felt the pressure over the years and where it once weighed me down, it no longer does.

At any rate, I’ve used this change in perspective experiment to work through a recent issue that was lurking in the back of my mind.

I had a concern regarding some people in my life who regularly lie. It’s obvious and I’ve caught them on it more than once. So I used this different perspective experiment and here’s what I discovered;

– The male version of me just shrugged it off with ‘that’s just how they are’ mentality and didn’t let it bother his day.

– – The 5-year-old version of me didn’t understand, assumed these were bad people and went on to play with a Barbie doll, quickly forgetting the issue.

– – The person on their deathbed felt pity for those not strong enough to face their own truth or to be honest.

When you look at things that way, it really gives you food for thought. I believe that, as a woman, I often over think and over analyze both people and situations that are often not worth the time and energy that I end up wasting, not to mention the mental frustration.

So next time you’re in a troubling situation, ask yourself; What would you think if you were the opposite sex? What would the 5-year-old version of you think?
What would you think on your deathbed?

See what you discover.

An Open Passover Letter to My Rebellious Daughters
Avrim ben Ezra (aka Richard Deaton), Ph.D., LL.B., Stanley Bridge, PEI – Originally published March 23, 2018

Mes Chouettes,

For PEI’s small Jewish community the Passover holiday this year starts at sunset on Friday, March 30th. Passover is an important political and family holiday. And since Passover is very much a family celebration, it’s time for you to know and understand your own family background. Your (late) mother and I tried to instill you with secular Jewish values: a sense of right and wrong, a love of social justice, and to champion and fight for the underdog.

As young professional women in the helping vocations, now with your own families, I have faith that you will be in the vanguard of a new, progressive generation. We did not bring you up to be spoiled, entitled, suburbanite princesses! We always expected, no, demanded, that you make a serious contribution to the greater social good.

Passover is a secular and political holiday that celebrates the Jews’ escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. The Seder dinner is characterized by its historical ritual and symbolic foods, such as the matzah (unleavened bread) and the assortment on the Seder tray. The Haggadah or Passover story, is often customized by each family.

Passover, however, is probably best known for its requirement of asking the Four Questions. The youngest child is expected to answer them, showing off their intellectual acumen and dexterity. The most important question is the first one which asks: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Because, we are told, “Tonight we celebrate our exodus from Egypt to escape slavery.”

The Haggadah also contains the important Story of the Four Sons. The Story of the Four Sons (not withstanding its dated title) is central to the spirit of Passover and Judaism. The four sons represent different traits and are called Wise, Simple, Ignorant, and Rebellious. We always encouraged you both to question things so you were allowed to interrupt the Seder dinner with questions about Jewish history, politics, or culture, which you did with gusto, especially after you were old enough to do your own reading and thinking. You always enjoy the cut and thrust of a good pilpul (argument).

Both of you were rebellious children who had the intellect and chutzpah (nerve) to challenge conventional thinking, authority (including mine at times), and the religious and political status quo. Most importantly, you have learned to do your own thinking.

It is “right to rebel” is the real meaning of the story of the fourth child – son or daughter.

Your great-grand parents and grandparents were poor Jews. They immigrated to North America at the beginning of the 20th century from Hungary and Galicia. Your paternal great-grandmother was very interesting. She ran a Jewish home with five children, while her professional gambler husband was out making a living. After he died during the Depression she went to the synagogue for the High Holy Day services. But she was refused admittance because she couldn’t afford the tickets.

She refused to accept this situation. She renounced her religion, read Das Kapital, and became an organizer for the Steelworkers Organizing Committee (SWOC-CIO), while selling the Daily Worker outside of steel mills in Pittsburgh. She believed that we are all one human family and that the money changers should be driven from the temple.

Your grandmother, (step-) grandfather, and father, were all active trade unionists, while your great uncle was a criminal defense lawyer with high profile clients during the McCarthy period. You inherited your radicalism honestly. Wear the badge proudly.

Jewish history over the ages has had many rebels and revolutionaries, men and woman, such as Joshua (Jesus Christ), Baruch Spinoza, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera, Hannah Arendt, Joe Slovo, Isaac Deutscher, Phil Ochs, Salvador Allende, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky, and Bernie Sanders, to name a few. Being a “Jewish atheist”, a “non-Jewish Jew”, a Jewish radical or trade unionist (like many family members), is integral to the Jewish tradition.

In keeping with Jewish custom, against my better judgment, you were bat mitzvahed when you turned aged thirteen, but were never accepted by the Jewish community because your mother was a very lapsed French-Vietnamese Catholic, who spent two years in a Japanese concentration camp as a child. She became a sociologist and union organizer who was influenced by the French worker priest movement and liberation theology. The fact that you speak fluent French made you ethnically suspect to some within the Jewish community. And you learned that the Jewish community can be as intolerant, ignorant, and bigoted as anyone else.

Passover is about freedom – personal and political – and our responsibility to speak out against social injustice. The Talmud says that, “Those who do not speak out against injustice condone it.” You understood this when you organized a protest at your Hebrew Sunday school against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. You learned that Zionism is not Judaism, and that it often violates many Jewish values. And you understand that it is repugnant for any group to claim special victimhood status to rationalize their repression of others.

This past year has been particularly difficult for progressives and progressive politics. The ascendency of far right, nativistic politics in the U.S. by Donald Trump has brought racism and chauvanism to a new ugly level. Trump’s support of Israel’s creeping expansionist policies in the West Bank, and the increasing violence directed at the Palestinians by Israeli settlers, culminating in the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem, contrary to all previous U.S. policy, has all but destroyed any hope of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

A one state solution is all that is left for the Palestinians. Israel makes a mockery of Jewish values and willl have to decide whether it wants to be Jewish or democratic.

So we shall again celebrate Passover as a family by recalling the struggle of people everywhere to live in peace and freedom. I am delighted that you took my young grandchildren to their first political demo awhile back to express solidarity with our Muslim and Arabic brethren.

Remember: the family that protests together, stays together. Protest is a family tradition. Progress only comes through struggle.

I look forward to seeing you all for Passover. Save me some matzah.

Shalom and salaam, Dad.

Trump’s followers are lining up at the Kool-Aid punchbowl
By Michelle M Arsenault – Originally published March 14, 2018

Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February. Learn more at She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire.

I’m a big believer in the theory that people show you who they really are in actions rather than words.

To me this is common sense. It’s easy to say something but actually going through with those words often proves difficult. However, I’m starting to think I’m in the minority and this reality hit home after the US presidential election in November, 2016.

It didn’t seem to matter what Trump did in the past; whether it was his terrible business decisions, mimicking a disabled man or cheating on his ex-wives. Everything appeared to be acceptable to those who voted him in.

Not that anything he said was much better; quite the contrary. It almost felt like every time he opened his mouth, the entire human race slid down a few notches in morality and intellect.

It’s as if we were all participating in a drunken frat party that never ended. That’s when it became clear to me Donald Trump wasn’t just a cartoon version of himself, he was also participating in the most pathetic and insane reality show of his life – and the rest of us were forced to watch.

Although some may argue that we aren’t obliged to watch this insanity as it unfolds, it’s nearly impossible to avoid a man who dominates the news, Twitter and any other medium he feels he should be showcased on.

Any attention, whether good or bad, appears to be terrific in his eyes. He’s kind of like a neglected five-year-old who throws his own excrement on the wall when he doesn’t get what he wants. And, really, is there much difference? In the end the world is forced to look at what Trump excretes every day, knowing someone else will be left to clean it.

Meanwhile, we are bombarded with intense negativity and a sense of hopelessness every time we turn on the news. It’s become a poison streaming through our society, regardless of whether we are American or not. It was a sadness that started the morning after the election and has persisted on some level ever since. Even on days when things are good there’s always that underlying fear that someone with more mouth than intellect will start World War Three; an unsettling prospect that’s difficult to ignore.

Of course, fear and hopelessness create a society that is easier to control. We’ve all seen it on a smaller scale; the company that lays people off periodically just to remind the others they could be next on the chopping block, is an obvious example. When people feel they are powerless they are much more compliant. Don’t believe me? Think of cults. A powerful, controlling leader that makes the others believe that the best thing they can do is to drink the Kool-Aid he gives them. And if we’ve learned anything since the 2016 election, it is how fast people are lining up at the punch bowl.

Michelle M. Arsenault

Time to cut Trump and his supporters loose
By Jim Brown

Lately I find myself thinking of a provocative book on entrepreneurship that turned the whole mantra of “the customer is always right” onto its head – The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.

He argues the customer is often not right and by doing everything possible to keep cranky, difficult customers satisfied business operators are planting the seeds for their own demise. Customers who constantly fly off the handle and make irrational demands will never be happy and by trying to cater to their impossible needs great damage can be done to a corporation or a small business. Too much time, resources and money are spent on a futile chase for difficult customers at the expense of other customers who will actually buy products and services without throwing hissy fits.

Now let’s substitute the GOP for the business owner. The Grand Old Party, also known as the Republican Party, has twisted itself into knots trying to justify the continued support of millions of its members for someone who doesn’t even share the party’s ideology or many of its core values.

Really, can the GOP survive as a legitimate political party if a large share of its supporters are drawn from the ranks of angry, older white men and women (but especially men), who are poorly educated, hold racist views, are firearms fetishists and conspiracy whackjobs and who display an appalling lack of curiosity about the wider world around them. The GOP establishment courts these supporters at their peril and risks pissing off people of color, the educated, younger voters, independents, moderates of all kinds and even entrepreneurs and businesspeople who don’t see the benefits of erecting walls and trade barriers which isolate America from the rest of the world.

The GOP, by not cutting loose (impeaching) a president who attracts racists and ‘dumb as posts’ Tea Party fanatics, risks losing the kinds of supporters every party wants to court – ordinary, decent folks who can actually add something of value to America’s social fabric, rather than greet everyone who doesn’t look and behave like them with suspicion and outright hostility. They also collapse the so-called “big tent” to the approximate size of a pup tent.

It’s possible Trump might max out the angry, poorly-educated, racist white man (and woman) vote in the next election if turnout is depressed in other key demographics.
He did it before, but I don’t see how it’s possible he can bottle lightening twice.

For one thing he won’t face a Democratic nominee as universally reviled as Hillary Clinton.

The GOP is losing valued “customers” every day by sticking with the kind of people who would dip themselves in a sewage lagoon if their leader asked them to. There just aren’t that many suckers in America.

Angry, racist white men who have less than Grade 12 education are getting fewer every day. Republican lawmakers can’t rejig enough district boundaries to exclude enough minority voters to keep the GOP in power. They can’t make up for growing numbers of voters who want nothing to do with what they perceive as a party friendly to white supremacists and the rich. Sooner or later will come a reckoning, probably after Trump destroys the American economy and all the values most Americans hold dear.
When the reckoning comes the Republican Party could suffer a fatal blow.

Unfortunately, it may already be too late to cut loose Trump and his motley base.

Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B. Stanley Bridge – Originally published March 4, 2018

A long time ago I learned that you can tell the mettle of a person by the enemies they make. So let me be blunt: I make absolutely no apology for condemning and calling out those racists who were involved in the disgraceful incident at the Canadian Legion hall in Tignish a few weeks ago. Nor do I have any patience with those apologists who defend them, regardless of their rank or position, either in their missives to the Guardian or in their tirades and threats left on The Guardian’s FB page comments board. Racists should be confronted for their intolerance and ignorance, rather than being “built up” as suggested by some.

The Guardian’s editorial on the issue, “A thin veneer” (Jan. 24, 2018) got it right: we have a bigotry problem here on the Island. Time to face it. Fortunately, I am not alone in my reaction to the deplorable racist behaviour exhibited in Tignish; however, I am probably more upset by the behaviour of the majority in the Legion hall that night who stood by without intervening. I expect such behaviour from British football louts, but not here on PEI. I was wrong. These were just good old boys having fun, right?

So let’s take the gloves off. First, and most important, is the fact virtually none of the angry commentators in The Guardian or comments left on its FB page addressed the main issue raised (there were at least 143 hits on FB), namely that there was a racist incident at the Tignish Canadian Legion hall (Note letters and op-ed, Feb. 9, 2018). But no one wants to acknowledge or deal with this issue – that is, that a number of residents of Tignish engaged in overtly racist behaviour directed at two Sikh men, including hurling insults at them, and no one had the decency to intervene to defuse the situation. Indeed many, judging from the video, thought this situation was amusing. Take a look at yourselves in the mirror folks, it ain’t pretty. This was more than an “unfortunate incident.” It was rude, boorish, and racist. Just the image people want of friendly, rural Tignish, right?

In short, the people who are angry with me and venting on The Guardian’s FB page for making an issue of this are in a state of denial that any such a racist incident ever took place in their fair town. Indeed, their ravings hardly mentioned what happened. Why?

A second impressionistic observation is that probably 60-70 percent of those who left comments on The Guardian FB comment board were women. Most were critical of me and postured about how “proud they were to be born in Tignish.” But what does that have to do with this racist incident and the intolerance it reflects? Other people opined that I don’t have any familiarity with small town life here on the Island. Wrong, again. For the past five years I’ve lived in a small, rural town of 266 sturdy folks on the North Shore of PEI. And during my life I have become all too familiar with those narrow-minded, bigoted people in small towns who turn gossip into an art form. As well, I have a new appreciation of how hard rural people work and what one social critic called “rural idiocy.” My community had the generosity to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. What about Tignish?

But there are some brave women (and a few men) on The Guardian FB page who understood what the key issue was: racist behavior and abuse. And these folks give me hope because right up front they said I “had it right.” That took guts given the social pressure in a small, rural town. But what is most troubling is that most people want to give the issue the mushroom treatment and want “to move on.” Does racism exist in PEI, or is Tignish just an “unfortunate incident”? The Guardian in its editorial (Jan. 24, 2018) cited the results of a survey, albeit with its flaws, which found that 54 percent of all people found nothing wrong in what happened in Tignish, while 31 percent were shocked, and 15 percent were not surprised. This information suggests Tignish is just the tip of the iceberg here on the Island.

Leaving aside decency, courtesy, and common sense, the Canadian Legion policy regarding religious head coverings has existed since 1986, yes, 1986. The Canadian Forces (CF), the RCMP and a number of large urban police forces in Canada allow religious head coverings for both men and women. What happened at the Tignish Canadian Legion hall unfortunately reflects an organizational malaise that tolerates racist behaviour by its customers (note the video), in the same way that CF and RCMP organizational culture has tolerated systemic sexual harassment over the years. Why no politician or clergyman has commented on the Tignish situation and the need for tolerance is beyond my comprehension.

But why should the Canadian Legion allow its reputation to be sullied by the behaviour of a few racist yahoos? It should have a no tolerance policy regarding racist behaviour and language, in the same way in which drunken patrons are hopefully removed. Why would the Canadian Legion want to defend such behaviour or people?

Personally I am delighted that the beer money generated at the Tignish Legion hall is being used for good deeds. Let me also suggest a major contribution to liver research. That said, all public grants going to any Canadian Legion branch that doesn’t comply with federal and provincial human rights legislation should be terminated. And while the manager’s apology is certainly welcome the manager might have also made a reconciliatory gesture and asked those offended to come in for a beer and a talk.

Racism and harassment have no place in the modern world, or on PEI. But racism in some ways is like alcoholism, you first have to recognize that the problem exists before you can deal with it. Denial of the problem just puts off the day of reckoning. And as someone once said: “You are part of the problem or part of the solution.”

Why not have Trump’s military parade on PEI?
By Jim Brown – originally published February 13, 2018.
Jim Brown can be reached at

Donald Trump wants a military parade filled with tanks, and rocket launchers and massed soldiers in sparkling dress uniforms moving as one. Washington DC, which is his preferred host, doesn’t want it because the city’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure can’t handle the crushing weight of all those tanks and other military hardware.

So here’s a modest proposal: Why doesn’t Prince Edward Island approach POTUS and let him know we’re interested?

Say goodbye to horrible roads, like this one in Cavendish during spring breakup season, that are a cash cow for repair shops across PEI.

Don’t laugh. Or cry hysterically. There’s more than a grain of common sense in my proposal.

Anyone who has lived on the Island knows our roads and bridges are in terrible shape, and really, is it that much of a stretch to imagine they would be much worse after a military parade, even if dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers and an ICBM system or two, plus thousands of soldiers were to pound them to rubble?

Now, it’s a pretty big undertaking organizing a military parade and making sure nothing catastrophic happens, like maybe an ICBM falls off one of those transports, so there would likely have to be more than a few practice parades to shake out the kinks. Just imagine the tremendous one-time boost that would provide to coffee shops, restaurants and the hotel/motel sector across the Island.

America’s troops have to eat and sleep somewhere.

Missile launchers at Province House?

We all know Donald is a narcissist who would love nothing better than to have a huge military parade pass in front of his reviewing stand. It really doesn’t matter to him if the troops and artillery pieces and missiles and tanks were to go past him on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, or Province House or the Tignish Legion parking lot.

He’s like a kid looking at a Christmas stocking filled with candies and toys. His eyes light up, the wattles in his cheeks vibrate like jello, his tiny hands clasp together in rapturous excitement.

“I’ve got my parade! I’ve got my parade! I’ve got my parade,” I can imagine him squealing in delight.

“I’m King of the United States!”

So why not indulge him on America’s dime?
Let him have the world’s biggest and baddest parade, right here on the Island. Let the F-35 Lightning IIs and B-52 and B-52 bombers scream overhead, wagging their wings for the Commander-in-Chief of the Free World. Take that North Korea, China and France!

Imagine Trump reviewing the parade at the Stanley Bridge Centre while Melania looks on.

And for good measure why not invite Trump’s bestie, Vladimir Putin? He could even send a few of his tanks and ICBM transports.

But an Abrams M-1 tank weighs close to 70 tonnes and its heavy tread will crunch our roads like they were tortilla chips! Do we want one, let alone dozens, perhaps even hundreds of these mechanical monsters on our beautiful, enchanted Island?

How about yes, and, Oh My God, YES!!!

A parade along the North Shore?

The only thing is we’ve got to get something out of Trump’s vanity project. Like maybe half a billion dollars to fix our entire infrastructure. Or why not shoot for the sky and ask for a cool billion sawbucks? Why the hell not? That’s just a rounding error in a US budget that already boasts a deficit of more than a trillion dollars with “T”. That’s after Congress passed a super-expensive spending bill just a week ago that included tens of billions extra for America’s military.

The money PEI would request to make Trump’s wet dream happen is just a fraction of what he wants to spend on his Mexican wall.

Right after the parade work could start on all the bridges and roads destroyed by Abram tanks and rocket launchers and ICBM loaded transport trucks.

Who wouldn’t love to see rocket launchers on the streets of Summerside?

With all those Trump dollars every single highway, cottage road, cycling lane and dirt path could be upgraded or replaced with the best materials available. We could get rid of all those horrible roads that have driven locals to the edge of insanity during the spring break up season and tourists to other, vastly more car and bike friendly destinations.

If Trump has his military parade on PEI we could replace the Stanley Bridge roundabout with something much larger.

We could have brand new bridges and culverts and sidewalks and widened boulevards and wonderful, state of the art roundabouts. Why our much maligned Stanley Bridge roundabout could be ripped out and replaced with one five times larger and big enough to easily accommodate a community garden!

Think of the thousands of construction jobs that would be created overnight, and if tourist operators and other business owners suffer during the infrastructure rebuilding period the PEI government could easily compensate them with surplus Trump dollars.

So a tourist season is ruined – just imagine how many more tourists will come here when we have much better roads for them to drive on, for all seasons and not just the summer.

Yep, Washington, DC doesn’t want the military parade so Trump will be casting his eye far and wide for an appropriate substitute. Why not here? This would give Trump an opportunity to right a glaring wrong since his election. He has yet to set foot on Canadian soil. It’s almost as if he’s treating Canada like a drug-resistant STD.

But I have a feeling we better act fast, since the mayors and city fathers of many other communities in America are likely thinking the same thing, especially in ruby red states.

We don’t want to lose out to Podunk, USA, do we?

Thoughts on Tignish:
All’s Well in Anne’s Land?

Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B. Stanley Bridge – 0riginally published February 5, 2018.

Further to the Guardian’s editorial (Jan. 24, 2018) and Rick MacLean’s op-ed piece ( Feb. 3, 2018) dealing with the racist incident in Tignish it is painfully clear that all is not well in Anne’s Land. It’s time Islanders had a serious discussion about racism.

The recent incident in Tignish where a Sikh patron was told to remove his religious head covering at the local Canadian Legion post was more than an embarrassment, it put all our dirty little secrets out there for the world to see. We Islanders are a complacent, smug and judgmental lot. We view ourselves as friendly and neighbourly, but in reality all too many people here are small-minded bigots who are afraid of change and are disparaging towards outsiders, especially those who aren’t native Islanders and come from away, or those who aren’t white, God-fearing Christians.

We have lived in our cloistered world far too long. Our siege mentality, and narrow world view, have become barriers to adapting to the global changes that are going on around us. Anne may have lived in a small, closed, isolated, rural world. We do not. Time to grow up.

The racist incident that transpired in Tignish was considerably more than a mere “unfortunate incident” requiring “sensitivity training” or an apology to rectify it. And many people will be tempted to give it the mushroom treatment and ignore what happened. But what happened in Tignish identifies the soft and ugly underbelly of Island values. As an old Pogo cartoon said, “We have seen the enemy and they are us.”

The Tignish incident exposes the underlying intolerance, racism, and hypocrisy that exists and subtlety permeates Island life. The veneer of welcoming openness and civility is all too thin and is a mirage. We’ll take your tourist dollar, now move on, please. What happened does not reflect well on us. But it is unlikely Tourism PEI or the PEI Real Estate Association will use that incident for their tourist advertising.

The following observations will make me few friends. First, it must be said when we scratch the surface here there is little to differentiate us from the Yahoos and crackers in the American south who are claiming racial entitlements based on white nationalism, and blame immigrants for their position in life.

The remarks on the old, now defunct, Guardian electronic comment board attest to this. Here, just below the surface, there is the same simmering anger, and the need to feel superior to someone else by putting their foot on the back of someone’s neck. Until recently the history of PEI was in many ways similar to that of Northern Ireland, with its continuous, ugly religious disputes. But now it is easier for Islanders to identify an outsider by the colour of their skin, language, or dress code. But what happened in Tignish is not about political correctness, it’s about common sense and decency.

Second, what happened in Tignish reminds me of that meme on social media where some fat, beer sucking biker-type with tats says: “Now that we got rid of them there immigrants, I’m goin’ to get me one of those hi-tech jobs they took.” In Canada and the U.S. immigrants were used as cheap labour to track the CPR (Chinese) or build the Rideau Canal (Irish). But now immigrants are uppity and have more doctorates and grad degrees, according to the recent census, than do most locals. As well, they have a higher incidence of home ownership. And immigrants do something the locals have forgotten to do: they work hard to get ahead. Immigrants value education and work hard to succeed. So it’s easy to resent them in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Third, in terms of Island culture, it is quite telling, based on the video, that other patrons at the Canadian Legion saw nothing wrong in what was happening, and were yelling obscenities at and giving the Sikhs the bird. In other words, what happened was acceptable behaviour directed at outsiders. The other message that was implicitly given off was that outsiders, especially if they are “foreigners”, have no business in the Legion hall. In brief, it’s a closed club for locals who want a cheap beer.

Fourth, and last, as the dust settles, we are entitled to ask: Where are our political, community, and religious leaders in all of this? Where is Premier MacLauchlan, where is Bishop Grecco, and where are the local MP and mayor in condemning this type of intolerant behaviour and promoting tolerance? What leadership or understanding have they provided to the public in all of this? And if all the Canadian Legion can do is provide cheap beer for big mouth, racist punks, maybe they have outlived their organizational usefulness, because it is painfully clear that they don’t understand why their members fought and died in our wars for democracy.

PEI has a lot of great folks, but what happened in Tignish embarrasses us all.

Tyranny of the Majority
by Zane Affa – Originally published January 26, 2018

I guess it’s now obvious why the Liberal government has trashed proportional representation, one of many promises Justin Trudeau has broken.

2015 Federal Election Results – Absolute Majority – No Accountability. Liberal legislation cannot be blocked by the opposition.

Proportional Representation would threaten his absolute majority.

His “majority” government has refused to continue an investigation into his ethics regarding his paid holiday by a foreign wntity. It is appalling considering his friend, the Aga Khan, (whom he had not been in touch with for over 20 years) has benefited from the “gift” given to the Trudeau family.

His foundation has since received millions of Canadian taxpayer money.

He is allowing dirty energy to be extracted from the earth again. He is playing all sides against the middle in order to stay in power. This broken promise to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint will continue to cause us hardship in this country. We are just beginning to enjoy our bizarrely warm winters mixed with stretches of subarctic type days.

We have passed the tipping point to reverse the effects of what is happening to our planet, and still our prime minister refuses to do what is right to keep us all safe.

For the past three summers we’ve had a drought on this island. The last two summers we have been plagued with ants and this trend will likely continue with them and other insects. We are also seeing animals and plants not native to the north migrating here.

Right now we are experiencing a winter that has been bitterly cold, forcing us to bundle up as though we still lived in Manitoba.

I don’t understand why Canadians are being fooled by Justin Trudeau. Sure unemployment is down, but at what cost?

The Liberal Party is no longer the party my family supported for decades. Justin Trudeau is a Stephen Harper in sheep’s clothing, pretending to be for all Canadians, when in fact, by his own actions, has shown he is only for himself and his friends who are the only real beneficiaries from his election.

What 2015 Election results would have been under Proportional Representation – Accountability. Liberal legislation could be blocked by a united front of opposition members.

The Liberals, like the Conservatives, don’t want to share power. Our majority system allows them to do whatever they want without repercussions.

One of the only ways to get honesty into politics is to vote for someone who doesn’t take money from big business or unions. Our government should be working for all Canadians, not just for the rich.

Zane Affa is an artist and observer of politics and lifestyles living in
North Granville, PEI. The world according to Affa can be found at
For comparisons of different voting systems click here


The winter of 2018 is driving me mad
By Jim Brown.
Jim Brown is the editor of the Stanley Bridge Centre website

With apologies to Ed Anger (defunct Weekly World News columnist), I’m pig-biting mad!

I’ve been trapped at my home on Sutherland Lane in Stanley Bridge for the better part of a week by this horrific cold snap.

I just don’t trust my car to safely get me past my driveway to a treacherous, ice-laden laneway that connects to the Rattenbury Road. It’s almost as long as the Rideau Canal and the ice seems just as thick.

I’m tempted to run outside and shake my fist at Mother Nature and yell obscenities.

I look out my door and gaze upon an icy ribbon stretching as far as the eye can see and my heart sinks. If I brought out an auger and fired it up I could probably go smelt fishing.

Sutherland Lane has been encased in ice for more than a week.

So I’m stuck. Fortunately I’ve got plenty of food laid in to keep me from starving and CNN to keep my brain from atrophying (although I am running alarmingly low on kitty litter and toilet paper).

I run my car’s engine five minutes a day, just to keep it warm. Thank God I had the good sense to gas up before last Thursday’s ‘bomb cyclone’ hit.

But it’s frustrating being stuck in a home at the end of a long driveway attached to a very long laneway.

We’ve had worse winters in PEI, and in Stanley Bridge – that’s what nearly all my Facebook friends have told me. The snow was deeper, the cold snaps sharper and longer. But honestly, I can’t remember a stretch like this. Even the record-shattering winter of 2015, which is one for the memory books, wasn’t this bad.

I do remember passing exquisitely sculpted walls of snow as I drove to Kensington and Summerside along Highway 6 and feeling at any moment they could shift and collapse onto my Corolla, but I don’t think I felt as frustrated and helpless as I do this winter.

The bone-chilling cold has seeped into my soul, stealing all the joy out of life.

In 2015, despite the record snowfall and blizzards which arrived every other day for weeks on end, there was still some respite between the storms to get out of Stanley Bridge, to drive somewhere and get it away from it all.

I don’t think I missed more than a couple of Saturdays worth of hiking with the Trails 4 All Hiking Club, based in Charlottetown, whose members travelled to beautiful, snow-draped trails all across eastern and central PEI, topped off with a visit to a local eatery for brunch.

Not so, this year.

Funny, until just recently I had stashed a Tupperware container with a sample from one of the last retreating snow patches of 2015 in the back of a freezer. The snow was peppered with needles shed from nearby trees and whenever I opened it I could smell the fresh pine scent.

I recall travelling to Kensington and stopping at my usual haunt, Bakin’ Donuts, to read my Globe and Mail newspaper, warm up with a couple of cups of coffee and enjoy the company of fellow travelers on the road of life, all with interesting stories to tell.

One day I looked across the street from the Bakin’ Donuts parking lot to see a huge mountain of snow burying all but the roof of the Frosty Treat dairy bar and a struggling, overmatched man with a shovel wedged into a snowbank and crawling around like a beached crab. He must have been at least 10 feet off the ground.

For much of the winter it was mild enough to walk the family dog down the Rattenbury without risking severe frostbite. I actually enjoyed the crisp crunch of new-fallen snow underfoot.

But there’s nothing good about the constant, chest-tightening cold this winter. Nothing at all. In my darker moments I wonder what archeologists will dig up in about 10,000 years from now when the ice finally retreats.

Even my dog, a seven-year-old German Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, who would walk to Hunter River if I didn’t turn her around, barely sticks her nose out the door now before whimpering and rushing back in. In the winter of 2015 she would spend every snowstorm pouncing into fresh drifts, all but disappearing except for a wagging tail.

The unending deep freeze and accompanying mix of snow, rain and fierce winds, has at its peak affected millions of Canadians and half of all Americans. But that brings small comfort.

I don’t care whether it’s a polar vortex driven weather phenomenon, or it’s caused by La Nina, or its an inevitable by-product of climate change. I just want it to end. Now.

And I won’t be saving any ice in a Tupperware container as a souvenir.

Scenes from Stanley Bridge and Kensington in the winter of 2015.


‘Tis the Gift Giving $eason: Time for Fe$tive Celebration?
Originally posted December 18, 2017

‘Tis the season to be jolly, we are told, or is it? Are those who are religiously observant culturally insensitive and politically incorrect for not acknowledging those of different faiths during this holiday season? Should we, in the interest of religious tolerance and “inclusiveness”, now extend a religiously neutral “Season’s Greetings” to others, rather than the traditional “Merry Christmas”? And should the annual Christmas school play, based on Christian theology and mythology, be a more socially inclusive pageant?

These have become volatile issues, especially when mixed with political correctness. Should we provide for “reasonable accommodation” for all religions, or should we only acknowledge the religious majority, irrespective of minority rights? Canada has generally opted for a “live and let live” approach when it comes to religion.

We are repeatedly told that Canada is a diverse and multi-cultural society. As such, there is no official religion – that is, we live in a country characterized by religious pluralism. According to census data 67 percent of all Canadians are Christian (Roman Catholic and Protestant), while Muslims account for 3.2 percent of the population, and Jews one per cent percent; significantly, people with No Religion (atheists and agnostics) now represent nearly 25 percent of our population. The importance of religion in modern secular society however, has steadily declined as evidenced by dwindling church attendance.

Does one have to be Christian in order to enjoy the holiday spirit and the camaraderie associated with Christmas? In the first instance, Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, not a Christian one. And its beginnings have more to do with the winter solstice, and having an excuse for a good party, than with the origins of monotheism or Christianity. And given the weather conditions shepherds would not have been in the fields at that time of year. St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) didn’t appear until the fourth century, and didn’t arrive in North America until the late 18th century.

Second, many people in recent years have rebelled against the crass commercialism now associated with Christmas. This commercialism is viewed as being antithetical to the religious message and spirit of Christmas. Christmas started to become commercialized in Canada towards the end of the nineteenth century when Eaton’s issued its first catalogue (1884); Toronto’s first Santa Claus Parade was in 1905, while Sears Canada’s “Christmas Wish Book” (1953) excited youngsters in the post-war era. Christmas has since evolved into a massive one- trillion dollar industry in North America; the average consumer will spend nearly $1,000 on gifts, although this will vary by socio-economic group. Interestingly, Reform (liberal) Judaism in Germany around 1890 resurrected Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, which became the Reform “Jewish Christmas” in North America after WW II.

But Christmas has been permanently transformed into Xma$, with the result that there has been an important shift in values from giving to getting. But there are days when I’ve had enough of the consumer blitzkrieg, and just want to sing, “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” and get it over with. Today, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, and Neil Sedaka represent the Christmas spirit as much as Bing Crosby and Charles Dickens.

A few years ago I was involved in spirited exchanges with three journalists (two of whom were Jewish) at The Ottawa Citizen (Dec 24, 2011 and Dec 23, 2013) regarding the values underlying Xma$, and whether other religious groups should feel excluded or discriminated against. Andrew Cohen, a highly respected professor of International Affairs and Journalism at Carleton University, brought many insights to the subject saying that, “The truth is [we] Jews love Christmas. Many feel the loss of [traditional] Christmas. …Like so many unobservant Christians, Christmas is not religious but cultural… As a Jew, Christmas was never about exclusion for me… The annual Christmas pageant did not threaten my identity… It was hard to be a Jew at Christmas, [but] it wasn’t because of prejudice (Ottawa Citizen, Dec 23, 2013).” And Benita Siemiatycki writing in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin said, ” I love this time of year… I see it as a holiday for humanity ( Dec 2010, p.7).”

Jewish Canadian writer Fredelle Bruser Maynard’s essay, “Jewish Christmas”, in her book Raisins and Almonds (1989), captured the conflicted feelings of a young Jewish girl living in the prairies caught between two religious worlds. My own experience and outlook is quiet similar to Cohen and Maynard’s. I grew up in a decidedly secular, if not anti-religious, Jewish home, where my parents wanted their children to be part of the broader society, rather than being an outsider. We also had a Christmas tree, and we never temporized by calling it a “Hanukkah bush,” as some do today. We enjoyed Christmas cards (remember them?), carols, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and, of course, the gifts. Most importantly however, Xma$ was never a religious holiday for us, there was no Christ in Christmas, rather, its observance was intended to promote good will on earth, enjoy food, exchange gifts, and extend glad tidings to all people. Clearly, one can enjoy the Yuletide spirit and rituals without being religious, or Christian.

Personally, I’ve never been particularly impressed by those, regardless of denomination, who feel the need to publicly advertise their piety; it’s a form of exhibitionism. For me, actions are always more important than words, regardless of religion or holiday. And I am not impressed by those narrow-minded, judgmental people who celebrate Christmas, but have little charity or good will in their hearts, and disparage others for being different. For them, religion has become nothing more than a social club for gossips and yentas. It’s time for believers of all faiths to practice what they preach.

The Japanese have it right as far as I’m concerned. According to my son-in-law who has lived there over a decade, the Japanese celebrate an outrageously consumerist Christmas without any pretense of it being a Christian holiday, except in name, especially since Christianity is foreign to them. In Japan this is called, “The Gift Giving Season.” Buy, buy, buy, and give, give, give. This is linked to office politics. At upscale department stores one asks for colour-coded gifts: a Gold wrapped gift for the big boss worth $300, a Red wrapped gift valued at $200 for one’s immediate supervisor, and green gifts of lesser value for one’s workmates. The commercialism is right up front, and it isn’t confused with religion.

For myself, I plan to spend Chri$tmas day the same way I have for many years: listening to carols from the King’s College Choir, Handel’s Messiah, and Bach’s Oratorio, and maybe Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.” This is the greatest music ever produced by western civilization, and I make no apology to anyone for my listening to it, especially those suffering from terminal religious or ethnic parochialism. If the headlines of our newspapers tell us anything, it is that we need more fellowship, understanding, and peace, not more ethnic or religious dogma, minutia, and divisiveness. Let us celebrate what brings us together in our common humanity.

Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas, Salaam, and Shalom,

Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B
Stanley Bridge, PEI

‘Come from Away’ label not going away
by Eleanor Hora. Originally posted November 10, 2017

“You’re not an Islander, are you?“

After five years in Stanley Bridge, you’d think I’d be used to that question by now, but it still bugs me. The truth is I’m more of an Islander than you are! I was born on Vancouver Island. When I was five we moved to the island of Newfoundland, my parents’ home province. I grew up there and still consider myself a Newfie. True, I lived in Ontario for most of my adult life, but when I retired, I moved here, to my third island.

So yes, I’m an Islander…three times more than you are! There’s just one problem, and we both know it: I’m not one of you. I’m a dreaded CFA – a Come from Away. And because of that, no matter how long I live here, I’ll never truly belong.

Being a CFA is a strange feeling for me, because as a child growing up in Newfoundland I lived on the other side of the divide. I was one of the locals who laughed at mainlanders who moved there because they loved our way of life and then, even before they were unpacked, would go about trying to “improve” things.

“I love this beach,” they’d say. “It just needs a big parking lot, some change rooms, a couple of nice restaurants, and maybe a hotel or two so people don’t have to drive so far.”

A Newfoundland beach.

To their faces we’d smile and nod, but behind their backs we’d complain that they were trying to turn us into Ontario East or USA North, and we resented them.

We had a Sunday School teacher, the wife of an American army officer posted to St. John’s, who told us all how thrilled she was she finally had a chance to “do missionary work in a backward country” and treated us, even our minister, like a bunch of ignorant hillbilly bumpkins.

We listened to her bible stories, laughed at her jokes, visited her home on the base and devoured all the American goodies we couldn‘t get in our stores, but we resented her, too, and she was never invited back to our homes.

Looking back now, I wonder: why didn’t our parents or our minister challenge her? Why didn’t they point out that we weren’t all that backward, that some of them knew more about God and religion than she would ever know? They were educated; they read; they watched television; they traveled; they kept up with the news. They knew what was happening in the world.

I think it was because of the old Maritime inferiority complex that’s still alive and kicking today, here as well as in Newfoundland. She was from away so it was all right for her to be condescending and insulting. She probably was better than we were, after all.

Some CFAs in Newfoundland truly meant well and joined local organizations or formed new groups to make what they saw as necessary improvements to their new community. They did a good job, but what right did newcomers have to take over the groups we could have run ourselves? True, we’d never have thought of a starting those groups ourselves and wouldn’t have wanted to be in charge anyhow, but we still resented them, just on principle.

Is any of this ringing a bell so far? It should be! I see it here every day.

But you know what? While you’re complaining that Island CFAs are too pushy and opinionated, they’re talking about you, too. They say you’re too judgemental and that without their pushing, you’d be far too slow to keep up in our changing world. In many ways they’re right, and I think I know why.

In Newfoundland everyone knew everyone else, and everyone minded everyone else‘s business. The first question a stranger asked was, “What’s your last name?”

That was the key to finding out everything they needed to know about you: your religion, your home town, your extended family, your family’s social class and income level and the political party they supported …and you were judged accordingly. Here, the question is “Who’s your father?” but it seems to me that the results are pretty much the same.

If I ever said or did anything wrong when I was out with friends, chances were that my parents would have heard about it before I got home, and in the lecture that followed there’d always be the question, “What would your grandmother (or your teacher, or the neighbours) think if they heard about this?”

Directly. or indirectly, I was always reminded that my actions reflected on my entire extended family. Child or adult, “Remember who you are” seemed to be the rule that we were expected to live by. That’s a lot of baggage to be carrying around all your life.

In some ways being a member of such a close-knit group can be a positive thing; it certainly keeps kids under control and keeps the crime rate down. But it can be a negative too. It hides family abuse and mental illness and addiction under a protective cloak, it creates a false pride that keeps people from asking for help when they need it, and it keeps people from speaking out to make changes they’d like to see in their lives.

It smothers individuality, too. You may believe in everything a politician stands for, but how can you campaign for them when your family supports another party?

What would your father say? How can you speak out against the fertilizers and pesticides that keep you sniffling and wheezing for weeks every summer? What would your farmer relatives and neighbours say? You may have supported a loved one who had to sneak across the bridge to end an unwanted pregnancy, but how can you speak out to demand similar services here? What would your grandmother say? What would your religious leaders say? What in the world would people think? You’d be judged for sure.

Eleanor Hora views a mural in her home.

In short, sometimes a local might just be too close to a problem; your family ties may be too tight for you to break away from what’s always been done and speak out in favour of change.

Sometimes it’s good to have an outsider without the baggage, someone with less to lose than you do. That’s when you can give us a chance! Don’t just let us take over while you watch your way of life get whittled away until you wake up one morning to discover that you’re living in Toronto by the Sea.

Don’t put up with the condescending, insulting Sunday School teachers of the world, either. Speak out! Talk back when you disagree, but let’s learn to work together as Islanders who have chosen to live in this beautiful place, no matter when or how we got here.

Stop looking at newcomers as CFAs and instead start seeing us as IBCs: Islanders by Choice.

We love it here, too.