Lift the burdens, heal the pain


No justice can there be

While others are not free

No peace within the land

Without reaching out a hand

To learn; to understand

The privilege we have known

Has come at such great cost

One which we have never paid

Let’s quiet now our tongues

And listen, really hear

About the burdens brought to bear

Upon those we have silenced

Time and time again

Can we turn it all around

Heal the hurt and heal the minds

Of all these blessed ones

Who never deserved our sins

Of great indifference

Let us open wide our eyes

See the pain caused by our lies

And by our willful, stubborn stance

We have refused responsibility

For all the blooms we have crushed

Beneath our rushing heels as we walked on by

Never looking, never seeing

But that time now has passed

It is time for peace at last

For we know we cannot go on

Participating in this game

This great insanity

It is time to build anew

And let go of what we knew

Today is a brand-new day

Let us never walk away

Or be blinded by the greed

In the midst of such great need

No longer can we stride

Blithely blind and unconcerned

The cost’s been much too high

No more should others die

For these lives we live

Never thinking of what they give

Over and over, day after day

For too long, too many years

Let kindness be our guide

So we do not overlook

The pain in other eyes

Or the heaviness they carry

It is time

It is time

Wounds revisited


Some days are heavy. It is what it is. My brother is very much on my mind today, as are his children and his granddaughter. Some news just opens up wounds and we feel the hurt anew. It’s been nearly three years since he died tragically in an event that was wholly preventable. Three years. It’s hard to believe – it doesn’t seem that long ago. We go on with our lives – what else can we do? As most of you know he was killed by an impaired driver as he was driving home from work. I am searching for peace as I write this and trying to let the heaviness go. Life sometimes seems so hard. I just found out that the man who killed him has been granted day parole – he has not served even a year of his four-year sentence. I am trying to process this information. I am trying to fully forgive. One step at a time, I guess, and one day at a time. And in the end, it really doesn’t matter whether he serves one day or several years – nothing will bring Chris back to us. So, what to do? There really is nothing to be done is there? Chris was a generous, kind, and loving individual with a terrific sense of humour. Hopefully I will find a way to channel these personality traits and live life as fully as I can, both for myself and to honor my younger brother who was the epitome of selflessness.

Why I believe in human rights


Several years ago, I was studying journalism and as part of the program we students were tasked with creating and writing a blog – of which this is a continuation. I had decided to make the nucleus of my blog human rights. My instructor wanted to know why I chose that as the key reference point for my blog.

Now, I have never traveled outside of Canada. The knowledge I have gleaned about human rights and the abuse of same has totally come from books and newspaper stories and from people I have met. I grew up in rural Newfoundland, on Canada’s east coast, not a locale well known for human rights activity. However, I was also raised Roman Catholic and the emphasis on brotherly, sisterly love and the ‘golden rule’ was often preached at the school I attended as a child. Added to that was my mother’s faith and belief in the equality of people everywhere – regardless of skin color, religion, or nationality. I took these messages to heart.

When I was eleven years old the family moved to Ontario. I experienced “culture shock”, if you can call it that. I was horribly homesick. I missed my classmates, the sisters who taught me at my old school, and the ocean that cradled our island home and the trees that surrounded it. Added to these challenges was the horrid bullying that made going to school a miserable experience for me. Yet, I am thankful for it because I learned what it feels like to be judged on where you’re from and to be stigmatized and labeled. It made me passionate about speaking out for others who may be experiencing unjust behaviors based on the color of their skin, religious belief, or their nationality.

I also remember watching the television commercials that showed images of starving children and the abject poverty so many were living in, when I was just a child myself. It ripped my heart to pieces to think of children living in squalor and hunger.

I believe passionately in human rights; in the just distribution of wealth; that every person deserves dignity; that we are indeed sisters and brothers of millions of different mothers and fathers, but one human family nonetheless.

I am grateful to live in Fort McMurray, a city populated by peoples from all over the world. I may not have it in my power to change the world. But I hope I do all I can to make my little corner of the world a happier, better place for my neighbours, family, and friends. For “there, but for the grace of God, go I’.

Ancestry: My Search


The mystery of ancestry

“There are many people who could claim and learn from their Indian ancestry, but because of the fear their parents and grandparents knew, because of past and present prejudice against Indian people, that part of their heritage is clouded or denied.”
–Joseph Bruchac, ABENAKI

In 2013 I learned that one of my great grandmothers was a Mi’kmaq woman. This all came about in 2008 when the Mi’kMaq nation in Newfoundland & Labrador were finally recognized by the Canadian government and struck a deal to become a landless band under the Indian Act. Many families, mine included, began investigating birth, marriage, and census records. My cousin did much of the work and found evidence in the census of the early 1900s. It came in the form of my grandfather’s brother admitting he was a Mi’kmaq descendant. However, I do not know if it was his mother or grandmother who was Mi’kmaq. I know his mother’s name, but not my great, great grandmother’s. It saddens me.

In 1949 the Dominion of Newfoundland became a province of Canada. At that point in time the federal government was in the midst of negotiations with several First Nations bands.  Because the leader of Newfoundland & Labrador, Joey Smallwood, wanted to join confederation he vehemently denied there were any indigenous peoples there, in order to reassure the federal government they would not have to face the same challenges there.

For all intents and purposes indigenous peoples were discriminated against in every corner of the country. It was no different in Newfoundland, where indigenous people were forced to hide their identity in order to gain employment. This, coupled with past colonial biases, and patriarchy, meant that many Mi’kmaq people denied who they were and identity became a closely guarded secret in many families, including mine.

Unfortunately, I have little information regarding my native ancestors, their culture and ways of life are foreign to me. However, I have always held certain sympathies with indigenous peoples around the world, long before I knew the truth of my own heritage. This is partly due to the way I was raised, but also, I think, to the mysteries of ancestry. There has been much written about cellular memory and I cannot help but feel there is truth to the thought that our ancestor’s experiences are written in our DNA. It certainly explains the phenomenon of déjà vu!

I have learned more about the Mi’kmaq people since 2013, and have much more to discover. I am grateful to have made the connection, thanks to my cousin’s hard work and generous sharing of information.

I attribute my passion for nature, the environment and human rights to my Mi’kmaq ancestors. For although I never knew them their innate connection to the earth and collective cultural ways do live on through the mystery of ancestry.

“Oh Great Spirit, today I am ready for You to use me as a channel of Your peace. Let my walk today be visible so the people will say “There goes a Man of God.” I want to know what He knows. If they ask, I will tell them to go out into the wilderness and pray for You to guide them.” – Native Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark days


Cold heart without empathy

Power has rotted your soul

And lost you your humanity

As you sit on your golden throne

And cast others into a hell

Of your unfeeling choosing

No caring exists in you

What will it cost?

This ambitious climb you’re on

Where people crushed beneath your feet

Have no recourse at all

Warnings come from all corners

Still your heart is hard

Your ears deaf to intense pleas

And neither entreaties sweet

Nor humble begging heard

Corruption fills your veins

Where once warm blood did flow

Your mind turned black and rotten

What hope survives is in this only fact

That one day you too shall fall

From your gilded altar

No cronies then

Nor bloodless worshippers

Primed to do your bidding

You alone shall drink the bitter wine

Of acrid fruits you sow

And know the heavy discontent

You’ve woven across the land

Like some vast and stinking cloak of darkness

The once proud bird of prey will seek you out

For all the hurt bestowed

As it stretches forth its talons

And confines you in its grasp

Woe to you

Oh pitiless one

When that day does come

 

 

Every life matters


This morning I read a post on Facebook about a mother who took her children to the zoo. Her son is autistic. While there her son became agitated and a man yelled out, ‘some people should not be out in public, they ruin it for society’ or words to that effect. It’s not an exact quote, but you get the drift. That poor Mom! I grew quite angry reading her story.

The mentality of the man who yelled at that family in the zoo just boggles my mind. And he was there with his own children. It worries me that they, too, are being raised in a household that is biased, intolerant, and down right ignorant. How is that going to influence their lives and world views?

I don’t have anything profound to say, but I believe every life does matter. Every person in society deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. I am grateful to this Mom who was brave enough to share this unfortunate incident on social media. I am thankful for the insights she imparted. Unfortunately, ignorance abounds, but so too does kindness. Another gentleman took this imbecile to task and told him to leave the autistic boy and his family alone. Well done, sir. Well done!

What is a life worth?


Several months ago I wrote a victim impact statement, unfortunately it was not usable so today I sat down to write another. It has been fifteen months since my younger brother was stolen from us in the most heart breaking and totally senseless way. It has been fifteen months of anguish. Fifteen months of being unable to truly lay him to rest as the criminal trial loomed and then began with each day a day from hell as we were all submerged into the depths of grief anew. And it is not yet over. On the 4th of May my family will meet once again in the coldness of a court room to witness the defendant being sentenced. On the 31st of January the defendant agreed to a plea bargain, which says he will be incarcerated for 4 ½ years and will have a 10-year driving ban. This is the human cost of one person driving under the influence of alcohol.

Was it worth the beer he drank I wonder? Was it worth incarceration and being banned from driving for a decade? Was it worth my brother’s life? Was it worth the agony he put my family through or the long-standing painful memories it has wrought?

What is a life worth?

 

Let go, let go


Let go, let go

Fear

A heavy and grotesque gargoyle

Perched upon my shoulder

Its sharp claws digging into my flesh

Making me weak

Anger

A boiling cauldron of toxic soup

Bubbling and spewing forth hateful thoughts

Making me weak

From deep within, though soft and low

A voice repeats

Let go, Let go

But I hold tight to my pain

Feeling justified

Feeling righteous

White-knuckled I scream

At all the injustices done

And the voice whispers again

Let go, let go

With herculean effort I toss them high

The fear and anger and burdens heavy

I watch them go

Lifted higher and higher

I watch them burn as they near the light

To finally explode into a million pieces

What sweet relief

To finally let go

And I thank the voice

That guides me true

And brings me back

To life anew

Choices, Consequences, and a personal Confession


I am old school. I believe that there are consequences to the choices we make. I was taught to own up to my “mistakes”. If I did something wrong I was expected to apologize and to make amends. I am glad I was taught this from an early age.

Like most children I had an innate curiosity about everything and (from my mother’s viewpoint) a never ending list of questions. I am sure I tried her patience considerably and I will be forever grateful for her enduring love and the lessons she taught me.

I remember when my mother caught me pulling the wings off house flies. I remember the frustration I had felt with the flies that were bothering me. I remember wanting to exact revenge on these creatures that were tormenting me. I remember my mother’s anger with me and her deep disappointment with my cruelty.  She killed the flies to put them out of their misery, and I, in turn, was horrified that she killed them. I hadn’t wanted them dead – I simply wanted them to stop flying around and pestering me.

I was very young; I don’t really know exactly how old I was. But I was old enough to be taught a lesson: A lesson about choices and about consequences. And although I don’t remember the words my mother said I do remember a long lecture.  And I remember the gist of the lesson: all creatures great and small deserve our respect; no creature should be abused in any way; life is precious, even the life of an insect. I learned that I, as small and as young as I was, could inflict pain. And I learned it was definitely not okay to do so. The consequence of my choice to pull the wings off the flies resulted in their deaths, for which I did feel very badly. That was my consequence – to feel the weight of my choice, my decision.

We each have an innate goodness and we also have a shadow side, a darkness that dwells within each, or so I have been told. And it makes sense to me. I lived it! But my point is not to dwell on the darker aspects of human nature; conversely it is to reflect on how we overcome it. There have been many books written on the subject by authors much wiser than I. So I will not attempt to answer this great mystery of good and evil in a mere blog post.

The events of the past year with its emphasis on death, on law, and the criminal justice system has caused me to think more deeply about life, love, and forgiveness. It has also given me much to consider as far as the consequences of our choices go. I think one of the reasons I have been so angry with the man who caused my brother’s death was his decision to plead not guilty, when it seemed abundantly clear to me that he was indeed guilty. I felt he should “man up” and confess to his decision to drink and drive and take his lumps.

I cannot speak for this man. I don’t know why he made the choices he made. But I do understand the very human inclination to self preservation. I am quite certain none of us want to know what the inside of a jail cell looks like. I am also quite certain that none of us want to experience what prison life might be like – from what I’ve seen represented on television and in movies it sure does not seem pleasant. So it makes sense that his man wants to avoid an education on life behind bars. Regretfully, by making this choice he has inflicted more pain on a grieving family.

Perhaps, like the small child I once was, I have wanted revenge; to inflict pain, as I have felt pain; to play God; to decide this man’s fate.

Thankfully that is not my job. Though God knows I have judged him harshly enough in my mind.

I still don’t have any answers. I am not God – I am not all-seeing or all-knowing. I just hope that as I walk this road I find the willingness to forgive – even if I can never forget.

Choices, not mistakes


I am struggling once again. Every single time we have to revisit that trial, and in tandem, my brother’s totally needless death,  I wrestle with rage and heartbreak all over again. We have all heard it said, “but they made a mistake”. NO! It was not a mistake, it was the worst of choices – to drink and drive. Every time a person gets behind the wheel after tipping back a bottle or a glass they become a potential killer. Think about that for a moment. Every. Single. Time. Perhaps the man who took my brother’s life also thought he was sober enough to drive. I don’t know. I am not that man and I will not assume to know what he thought as he climbed into his vehicle that fateful day. So we had that conference call with the crown attorney this morning. I am not at liberty to discuss it at this time. I just needed to release some of the pent up anguish and anger that is trying to consume me.

I will say it tears the heart out of me to hear my brother’s child in tears as she responds to the events of a court date or a conference call. And I ask you, if you are a person of prayer to keep Chris’s children in your prayers. I and my siblings will deal with it the best ways we can, but his children are still in their teens and have been given a life sentence of living without their Dad.  So please, pray for them, that they will receive all the help and comfort they need. Thank you for reading my blog and my sincere apologies that I have not written something uplifting. I am, like all of us, only human.  And please, never, ever, drive while impaired in any way.