RESPECT to ALL the mothers out there. I was trying to resist posting to this, but my own family has relied on Barb, our mother, for so much lately, I could not let this opportunity to recognize her pass. I’ve been reflecting so much on my own mother, Violet, and what it means to be a mother. Violet gave up everything gladly for her family. It meant something; even as advanced dementia set in, keeping her long-term memory as Alzheimer’s victims do, Violet talked with pride about her career making engine parts during the war and working in the Bay downtown. She got called into the manager’s office one day and got fired because she got married, because they didn’t want to deal with maternity leave; how far we’ve come. But in Barb’s era, we had much better benefits. In our case, we made a more conscious decision to keep Barb home. She put her dreams of being a nurse, like her mother, on hold- in order to raise a family. We had four children, and we believe that keeping Barb home for 14 years, to be there when they had lunch, for extra-curriculars and just to be there helped them greatly. Barb stayed home, and also helped support my policing career and all the crazy overtime it brought, and later she helped me through my masters degree. For a person who quit school for work when I was 15, what are the chances I could achieve my educational goals later in life? When I was done my Masters degree, the kids were older and we put Barb through nursing school and she went to work part-time. This didn’t happen in Violet’s era, mothers just gave up everything for family. Once Barb was established in nursing, she supported me through my PhD, so we both actualized our life-long dreams. But the children and family always came first, and they still do. None of this happens without the self-sacrificing and supporting role that mothers play for all of us. To this day, I do not know how my friends and colleagues in policing fulfill demanding policing careers while raising kids. I certainly am bewildered how so many single mothers in all professions raise children successfully. HERE’S TO MOTHERS EVERYWHERE, ON MOTHERS DAY, FOR ALL THAT YOU DO TO KEEP FAMILIES AND SOCIETIES TOGETHER.
Renditions of the famous quote, “Society will be judged by how we treat our most vulnerable citizens,” are often referenced and commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. While the exact origin of the famous saying is unclear (see Atkins’ article below on the potential origin), it rings true. Indeed, people in future generations will look back and assess how we did in 2020 to support and assist those most vulnerable in society. Tragically, while statistics might say something different about standards of living, from my own ground-level observations, on the streets of Winnipeg, I am forced to say things seem to have gotten worse over recent decades. The tent cities that are being erected by homeless people in Winnipeg are reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, in which he described the gut-wrenching struggle for survival of impoverished people across the United States during the great depression. Closer to home, my grandmother, who lived to be 100 years old, was born into a large family on the Saskatchewan prairies, sent away from the family farm because her parents could not feed her. Even at close to 100, she used to cry when she described the despair of people in that era, hitching train rides back and forth across Canada looking for work.
Even more on point, Wiseman’s book, Stations of the Lost, described her study of the infamous ‘skid row’ of Los Angeles in the late 1960s. It was brilliantly written from the perspective of skid row alcoholics who described how they navigated staying alive and the fragmented assortment of organizations providing various services for them. I drew on Wiseman’s approach for my study of human sex slavery in Canada, for my dissertation and my forthcoming book, Sex Industry Slavery: Protecting Canada’s Youth. Wiseman’s book describes the rotted core of a city, inhabited by people lost in the despair of hopeless poverty, anesthetized by alcohol, to numb the pain of having no hope. Wiseman’s account eerily resembles what we are seeing in the streets of Winnipeg, and most likely across North America.
While most people in the City are social distancing to stem the spread of COVID-19, during the worst pandemic of the century, people with fewer means are crowding into bus shacks to stay warm, and huddling in makeshift tents. Below is a picture of people gathered around a soupline, many with no home, the thought of social distancing to avoid getting sick pushed down by the soul-crushing pain of hunger. Paramedics, first responders, medical personnel and police are overwhelmed with trying to help people in the constant and relentless cycle of substance abuse and violence related to alcohol, meth and whatever people can lay their hands on to numb their pain. Who is responsible for addressing these major social issues? I would argue we ALL are, and our most significant barrier is the attitude that these are all someone else’s problems. Ironically, emergency services did not create these problems, but they get the brunt of responding to the side-effects. They can play a significant role in their solution. My first book, Canadian Policing in the 21st Century: A Frontline Officer on Challenges and Changes, mainly focussed on how we can all pull together and collaborate on the root causes of social problems. Our Shared Future: Windows into Canada’s Reconciliation Journey (Reimer & Chrismas, 2020), dives deeper into positive examples of how Canada’s deep divides can be traversed.
What are we doing about the root causes of these massive and growing social problems? The only viable solution seems to be greater collaboration and focussing the larger society-wide discourse on the fact that we ALL are responsible. If homeless people erected a tent city anywhere in the suburbs, I’m quite sure it would be dismantled within days; but in the core, it seems acceptable. These are certainly some of the most vulnerable people in the greatest need in our community. If we are to be judged by future generations on how we looked after our most vulnerable, surely this will be one of the measures.
Steinbeck, John. (1939). The Grapes of Wrath. The Viking Press
Chrismas, R. (2013/14). Canadian Policing in the 21st Century: A Frontline Officer on Challenges and Changes. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press. https://www.mqup.ca/canadian-policing-in-the-21st-century-products-9780773542747.php
Chrismas, R. (coming in fall of 2020). Sex Industry Slavery: Protecting Canada’s Youth. Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto Press. https://utorontopress.com/ca/sex-industry-slavery-2.
Reimer, L. & R. Chrismas. (coming in May of 2020). Our Shared Future: Windows into Canada’s Reconciliation Journey. New York: Lexington Books, Rowman Littlefield. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781793603470/Our-Shared-Future-Windows-into-Canada’s-Reconciliation-Journey
Wiseman, J. (1970). Stations of the lost: The treatment of skid row alcoholics. Prentice-Hall.
Public Lending Rights Program (PLRP) is a Federal Government program, funded by the Canadian Council for the Arts, that pays authors for making their works available in libraries. Every year, they check seven libraries across Canada and pay authors about a set amount for each library they find your registered works in. You get the max amount if your book is found in all seven. Once you do, you have to nothing further except register new books in the future and they send a small cheque each spring.
Access Copyright, is a program that pays authors and creators (artists and writers) for the number of pages they create. Once you register, you receive a small cheque each spring.
Just watched MUDBOUND for the second (or third) time, and totally immersed in the tragic racial divide of the American deep south, the divide that has tentacles that reach the far corners of continent. I can’t imagine the gut wrenching racial and economic oppression that so many people in North America have lived with/through. This movie captures the pain of war, the brutality of racial divides, and the humanity, anguish, and dignity of living with impoverishment.
It makes me wonder what we could each be doing more to eliminate poverty and racial injustice, and move towards reconcilation.
“Every day is a new opportunity to begin again. Every day is your birthday” (from The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Viking Press, 2016).
Both of these men lived through difficult times, and both are spiritual leaders with something to say about how to be happy in a changing and often difficult world. I sensed the love and compassion when I visited Tutu’s church in Cape Town, South Africa, and had the same feeling when I had the privilege of visiting the Dalai Lama’s home base in Dharamshala, India. I once stood in the cell that Nelson Mandela resided in for 27 years, at Robben Island Prison, South Africa- during Apartheid, and I visited Mahatma Gandhi’s home of many years in Mumbai, as well as the prison he was detained in for many years in South Africa- for his leadership in non-violent resistance that we’ve all learned so much from. Mandela and Gandhi remind us that principles are worth dying for, and they can guide us to rise above the challenges of everyday life.
Absolutely humbled and inspired today, to speak with a graduating class of the Health Fitness Protection Program; 24 young ladies who have climbed out of a life of sex industry slavery and exploitation, forging new lives for themselves, and for each other. My sisters, dreaming new dreams, starting new lives and accepting a helping hand from many good-hearted people along the way. It is a good day.
I was honoured and enjoyed making this series of videos for PROJECT 11, to help young kids (and adults), deal with stress through standing meditation/Tai Chi/Qi Gong. Terry Apostle and the whole gang were fun to work with on it. The Videos were released for teachers across Winnipeg to use in classrooms starting this fall.
Remember- we all have stress, but you do not have to react negatively to it; when things are bugging you, get in the moment, be present and let your worries go for a few minutes.