Monday, March 31, 2008

VIA offers free travel to CF members and veterans this July


But not all people are happy about this offer. A lot of negative comments were left on the CBC news story. The third comment got a lot of people riled up.

For a limited time only, VIA is offering one qualifying adult passenger complimentary travel within Canada on any VIA Rail train. You can even book up to five immediate family members for travel on the same trip – and save 50% on their tickets as well. Travel must be completed between July 1 and 31, 2008.

To buy your tickets, please call 1 888 VIA-RAIL (1 888 842-7245), or TTY 1 800 268-9503 (hearing impaired).

Bill Savary:
Since when is it VIA's mandate to expend funds to support DND employees? They are not a gifting organization. They are a rail service; a Crown Corporation that benefits from federal programs and probably federal funding as well. I hope the Auditor General slams VIA and everyone along the line who had a part in this decision. It's a misappropriation of funs [sic].

For those of you hanging your hat on the tired "oh it's because our soldiers are fighting for our freedom" excuse, the VIA freebie extends to people who have never worn a uniform and who have no stake at all in any military or humanitarian actions or work whatsoever. It's ridiculous!

It would make far more sense to offer a freebie to seniors on a fixed income, or unemployed people traveling to attend a job interview, or parents of sick kids who are in remote hospitals, etc. DND personnel are general very well paid with all sorts of perks already, compared to a great many non-DND employees.

The Harper government with their American style 'patriotism' in the interests of supporting conservatism in all its forms has mobilized a great huge PR machine and plays with the sympathies and emotions of Canadians. I have no doubt this is part of the program.

Phil F:
Wow, we're truly turning into another America. Harper's conservatives are trying to turn us into a military state where members of the military machine are treated with special favours.

I do have respect for the men that risk their lives at our government's choice. But come on, I've worked plenty of jobs that are statistically more dangerous than the military. And why do National Defense employees get special privileges compared to other civil servants? Aren't all civil servants working for a common a goal?
I hope these "free" trips at the taxpayer's expense will at least be considered a taxable perk. Seems to me like the government is seeking ways to increase spending on its military without actually having it show on the budget. Because Via Rail is a crown corporation, its finances aren't part of the government's regular budget. But every person (non-military) that uses Via Rail is now going to pay for this military spending.

I'm totally disgusted by this promotion by our crown corporation.

What the heck, Hillier, Mackay and their gang are bilking us for billions with their payoffs to military contractors, why not a few bucks more for train tickets. I pray though that I don't have to sit next to one of those military goons on a Via trip

Update to Early French Immersion in NB Story

I recently blogged about how I learned that the only bilingual province in Canada is cutting their early immersion program. The story has grown.

The Globe and Mail has picked up the story generating lots of discussion on the message boards and it reiterates a lot of what I said in my first post about the issues.

The parents' message has been gaining traction. Former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, who has just completed a national report on bilingualism, calls the action a mistake. Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser says the government's decision to end early immersion is a disappointment.

"I think it's unfortunate that this tool and opportunity - which has proven very successful in other jurisdictions - is being eliminated," he said in an interview.

Research is conclusive that the earlier the better when it comes to teaching young minds a second language.
A report that fuelled the government's decision found that New Brunswick children weren't staying with the immersion program, and weren't graduating with proficient French skills. So, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock decided to shake the system up.
Several academics hotly dispute the findings that justified Mr. Lamrock's decision and call the report statistically flawed. They argue the government should fix French immersion rather than eliminate it.
French immersion courses are offered in every province in Canada, enrolling 309,000 students or nearly 8 per cent of all eligible students nationwide. Participation rates climb to 36 per cent in Quebec and 26 per cent in New Brunswick, according to Canadian Parents for French.
Fred Genesee, a psychologist at McGill University and world authority on immersion, says research is conclusive that children learn a second language best at a young age. "Early immersion is more effective than late immersion. It gets kids when they are more receptive to learning." Prof. Genesee said. Children's "neuro-cognitive" abilities also favour early learning. "We know it can work," Prof. Genesee said. "If it's not working in New Brunswick it's not about the program - it's about how they're delivering the program."

Take a look at this (PDF) "Beyond Hysteria: The Facts about FSL and the Lamrock Plan" which talks about the statistically flawed report, which backs the decision the NB government made.

Facebook groups/campaigns have also started.

And Crux of the Matter also picked up the story (Thanks for the link).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Raising the Drinking Age to 21Will Not Reduce Teen Alcohol Consumption or Car Accidents

A London (Ontario) health unit wants to raise the drinking age to 21:

A local health unit in London, Ont., has narrowly approved a resolution calling on the provincial government to raise the minimum drinking age from 19 to 21.

The Middlesex-London health board voted 4-3 in favour of the resolution, which its proponents say would significantly reduce alcohol consumption by teenagers and result in fewer motor vehicle collisions involving young drivers.

How about lowering the drinking age to 16 and raising the driving age to 18? Kids are going to drink when their 16 anyway. It is a lot easier to get access to booze than get access to a car. Kids will do their experimentation will alcohol no matter what the drinking age is. Teens learn their limits and after a few years the majority grow out of it. (Those who don't join law or engineering programs in university *wink*). I stopped binge drinking and began social drinking around second year of university. I just bought my first car at 23 years old, and never drink more than one drink if I know I have to drive home. I'm often the DD and I don't mind. I no longer see the need to go out and get loaded on the weekends.

By raising the drinking age, but keeping driving at 16 years old you're not reducing the number of collisions involving young drivers. Young drivers get into more accidents because of inexperience. So raising the driving age to 18 may not be a good solution either, as they will still be inexperienced.

I say let's lower, not raise the drinking age. Kids will learn to drink responsibly earlier. It seems to work in Europe. But I don't claim to be an expert in this, but some of it is common sense.

Short Sighted Education Policy in New Brunswick will have Terrible Consequences!

"Two-tiered system" and a "segregated school system" already exist in Canada. New Brunswick is axing an early French Immersion program to end the "segregation" and "two-tiered system" because the (20% of NB students) students are excelling but the rest of students (80% who are in core-French) are falling behind and coming last in national test score. This short-sighted policy will have terrible consequences.

Some background:

Early French immersion beginning in Grade 1 has created a segregated school system in New Brunswick, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock told angry parents Thursday night — and that's why he's axing it.

Lamrock defended his plan in front of about 300 concerned parents and educators Thursday evening at a CBC townhall in Moncton, saying he had to think about the majority of children in elementary school who are not in French immersion and are doing poorly academically.

The minister blamed their lack of progress, in part, on the unusually high number of special needs children in the regular stream.

"Every kid who struggles winds up in core French. Too many kids with difficulties wind up in one class, none of them get the attention they deserve and, as a result, they fall through the cracks and we remain last in literacy," Lamrock said.

He said the 20 per cent of children who are enrolled French immersion beginning in Grade 1 are doing well academically, while the other 80 per cent in the regular system are lagging behind.

In fact, Lamrock said, students in the regular stream, with core French instruction, score the worst grades in Canada on national tests.

For more information and related articles about this click here

As a personal note, when growing up I was one of those kids in the 20% group. Initially I was in an English Catholic school from JK until grade 1. I have memories of leaving class and having to go for "gifted testing" and other tests because my teachers wanted me to skip a grade. See, I would finish my work so quickly, then talk to my peers, and end up "disrupting the class" (I have report cards with this wording.

When advanced students aren't challenged they could fail because they simply don't both trying. As a girl, I didn't mind doing extra work, and trying to stay quiet wasn't too dificult. But for boys, I believe this might be a different story. I have memories growing up with male friends who were really smart, but actually did poorly in school because they didn't try, even though if they put their mind to it, they could have done very well. But schools and the classroom setting are set up with girls in mind. Sitting still and quiet isn't a natural boy function. Our school system has dismissed this problem and created a new one. Increased diagnoses (primarily in boys) of ADD-type "disorders" which is what happened to my brother.

My mother did not want to me skip any grades. She wanted me to be at the top of my class, instead of just above average in the next grade up. Not to mention the social implications of being away from your friends, in a new cohort of students you don't really know. My teachers insisted we do something to challenge me in the classroom as disrupting other students certainly wasn't helping them learn. So I was place in French Immersion as a challenge. I changed schools for grade 2 and did very well. However, at the end of grade 2, I remember having go down and do more of that gifted testing again. Thankfully, this school had 3 other students in my grade like me, so I was in a gifted program.

While I did not remain in contact with these students, I've learned through Facebook that the four of us have become very successful. One is in med school, one is a nurse, one is an Engineer and well almost done school to embark on an exciting career in the Canadian Forces or Public Service.

So what to do? The problem is the mentality that inequality in education is a bad thing. Why should we lower the bar to the other students and not give the opportunities to excel? While yes, 80% is a large number of students falling behind; however, I suspect that there are other issues, other than this French Immersion program contributing to the problem of NB students coming last in national scores.

Also from my experience, I know that in high school, us Frenchies (French Immersion kids) thought we were smarter than the other students, in the regular English high school program. This sense of superiority was partly arrogance, but I did believe it had some merit. For example, we excelled in English classes, because we understood the structures of grammar from having done it over and over in French class. I did math all the way through from grade 2 to OAC calculus in French! Another example, not only was I in enrichment math, but I was doing it in another language! You may think that math is only formulas, symbols and numbers, so it wouldn't matter what language it was it, which is partly true; however, there are always word problems and vocabulary you need to know as well. Doing stuff in other languages than your mother tongue stimulates your brain in many different ways, and in effect, makes you smarter? Why would NB cut a program that will help some children advance?

Cutting early French Immersion in the one province that has two official languages is short sighted policy that will have serious consequences. Students entering French Immersion in grade 6 (instead of grade 1) will not be able to pick up the language as easily as they could have when they were younger. While I am not expert in linguistics, I know that the younger you expose a child to a new language, the easier it is for them to pick it up.

Bye Bye Telemarketers

I know Telemarketers have a job. I know I should be nicer to them. After all, (after I'm done school) I'm going to make a lot more money and they will continue to make peanuts. But when they call, there is just something in me that turns me into "super bitch." I know I shouldn't be this way, as I was technically a telemarketer/survey caller for 2 months one summer several years ago, and I remember how it was great to have the super nice people tell thanking me for my call instead of the people hanging up and yelling at me.

In the same situation as me? Want to get those pesky organizations to stop calling you. Sure, there is that Do-Not-Call Registry taking effect this summer. But we all know how charities, newspapers and political parties (who have prior relationship) got to be exempt from the list. Hence the complete ineffectiveness of the legislation.

Someone thought of a solution!

Law professor Michael Giest from OttawaU came up with a website, and you can manage your own Do-Not-Call list. I opted out of everything except for polling (I don't mind those). I do not get a lot of telemarketer calls because I only have a cellphone, but it's worth putting forth the request.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"The Canadian Forces Spend Millions to Recruit and Target Your Children"

Ok, so the title is my rough translation of this blatantly ignorant article about the Canadian Cadet Movement. A (rough) English translation is available here. A snippet of the March 13th article published in Le Devoir:

The end of the primary school or the beginning of the secondary arrives, and know that there may be a recruiting agent in your entourage. The parents of a young neighbor or a friend, a trainer or even a member of the school's staff are perhaps instructors in a cadet corps. As absurd as the thing can appear, the Canadian Forces approach the children as of the age of 12. To some extent, don't we thus have our own child-soldiers?

Of course, it is nothing comparable with the child-soldiers mobilized by force in some countries at war. But all the same, it should be known that through Canada, 50 000 young people are recruited in cadet corps by the Army, the marine or the Air Force. The "instructors" of these juniors are soldiers belonging to your local reserve unit of the Canadian army. The young people carry the military uniform, are conditioned to obey military orders by the officers and to learn the handling of weapons.

Pour ceux de vous qui peut lire en français, cliquez ici pour le premier article dans Le Devoir et ici pour une réponse "Les cadets ne sont pas des enfants-soldats".

While the sheer ignorance and lies of Normand Beaudet does not even deserve a response, I feel it is imperative to tell you about my positive experience in cadets.

Cadets taught me things that a public classroom couldn't teach. Cadets taught me:

The value of friendship.
Joy of shining boots.
Respect for history and traditions.
Importance of communication.
Pride in my country.
Improve my public speaking skills.
Love for silent drill routines.
Acts of good citizenship.
How tough it is to be a good leader.
Respect is earned not demanded.
Passion for physical fitness.
Understanding of group dynamics.
Necessity of teamwork.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Did I want to join the CF at some point during my cadet career? Yes. But having come from a family with CF on my maternal and paternal side I considered joining the CF long before I joined cadets (which was at 16 years old). Would I want my child to join cadets? Of course! Being as both my partner and I were cadets in our youth, this is likely in our future either as volunteers ourselves and/our with our (future) children.

Cadets is a free program and you get paid to go to summer camp. For low-income families who couldn't afford to put their kids in organized sports or send them to summer camp this offers them an opportunity to be leaders and be socialized in a 'family' that will embrace them where it doesn't matter what label is one your jeans or shoes. But this is by no means a way to recruit "impoverished youth." You don't have to be 'poor' to join and in my experience, we came from all types of families. At summer camp you can learn how to play an instrument, sailing, archery, photography, or flying a plane.

During my five years in cadets I saw this youth program became watered down to be so de-militarized that it began to lack some of the most important aspects: discipline. Many of my fellow cadets and staff would complain that the standards were being lowered or "slack." I was too young to know about the real politics going on at the time, but I do know about movements like this one have continued to paint cadets to be a child soldier movement. It is unfortunate because there are very few opportunities for youth that offer the same experiences of leadership, physical fitness, respect for the outdoors, and discipline.

Reaction from RCSU(E):

We are familiar with Mr Beaudet's group, which, for several months, has been using disinformation to express its opposition to the Canadian Forces (CF) and to various CF recruitment campaigns. Until now, the media and the general public have shown no interest in Mr Beaudet's allegations concerning the Cadet program. After a discussion with NDHQ, I adopted the approach of not responding to the letter published in Le Devoir, in order to avoid giving the author an opportunity to reply. The Cadet Leagues were informed of this approach.

Were any of my fellow bloggers out there cadets?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Oldie....But a Goodie...

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very Liberal, and was very much in favor of 'the redistribution of wealth.'

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harboured an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the addition of more government welfare programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Click here to read the rest.

Oh, what a crock

Oh, what a night?

The people of Toronto Centre, Willowdale, and Vancouver Quadra have voted decisively in favour of Liberal Party Leader Stéphane Dion’s vision for Canada.

Hardly. The two Toronto ridings were certainly not going to go Conservative with those 'star' Liberal candidates that were 'carefully' hand picked from the Liberal 'great leader'. Vancouver Quandra, a riding that is usually a liberal stronghold winning by thousands of votes, the Liberal candidate won by 151 votes. If that's what 'decisive' is, then I guess Rick Mercer is right, "Liberals: We're adaptable."

We can all be assured that tonight’s successes show Canadians that the Liberal Party is primed and ready for whenever a Federal election is called.

Ahahahahhaha. "whenever" an election is called. We have fixed election dates, so unless Stephane is pressured enough to step down as leader, we won't see an election until October 2009. Stephane Dion is the best thing that could have happened for Stephen Harper.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Activist Graffiti

This post over at Freedom is My Nationality got me thinking:

On the 9th floor of Robarts Library, University of Toronto, there is a poster in the men’s bathroom. This poster advertises the benefits and opportunities of enlisting into the Canadian Forces. As a soon to be graduate I appreciate any option for future employment (anyone reading this hiring?). Some of my learned fellow students disagree.

On the poster there is penned in graffiti. “Say ‘No’ to army recruitment on campus. This is Outrages!”

Currently around the 11th Floor of Dunton tower at Carleton University has three posters:

Don't Extend it, End it: War in Afghanistan

Walmart: The high cost of low prices (put on by CUPE of course!)

(some other poster about communism, I can't remember)

I am a big enough person to not write graffiti on these posters, sadly, many of my colleagues (should they be advertisements advertising the opposite) cannot refrain themselves. I will never forget one of my undergrad class experiences. It was early in the 2006 election campaign (which actually started in 2005). My local conservative candidate put a considerable number of signs up in the first days of the campaign (Dean Del Mastro ended up winning the riding). Two of my colleagues were commenting on this, especially seeing them along the Trent Express bus route up to the university. One of them pipped up in all seriousness that she wanted to tear down all of the signs. In my head, I immediately thought to myself, "Hm, that's funny, I thought we lived in a democracy." If I speak up I'm considered a bitch, if I bite my tongue, I'm seen as spineless. A class of 19 other sociology students and a prof (who would write your letter of reference for grad school) would have you bite your tongue as well.

Academics are no better. Sadly, academics beat their chests about being critical thinkers, but when I criticise the way I'm taught to think, I'm the one ostracised. I shouldn't be surprised, but I do have one prof this term who manages to hint at fascism with conservatism twice in the past month and spends the entire lecture poking fun at c/Conservatives. I've got tougher skin than to actually be offended. I'm just sick of paying the salaries, of profs like this, where I am not learning anything.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Honour Student Suspended for buying Skittles at School want to buy some contraband? What's the kid pushing on your grade 8 son or daughter? Extacy? Pot? Booze? Cigarettes? Nope....Skittles! That's right, Skittles.

You know, that hopped up leprechan telling you to taste the rainbow. Hmmm...something told me he was up to no good:

School spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo said the New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a districtwide school wellness policy.

Michael's suspension was reduced from three days to one, but he has not been reinstated as class vice president.

Superintendent Reginald Mayo said Wednesday the principal was just trying to keep students safe, but he would review the decision to suspend Michael.

File this under Education policy at its worst. This is the problem with administrators running our policies.

What's next? Have you had your trans fat quota for the week? Yes childhood obesity is a problem, but banning products isn't the solution. How about we put more gym back into the curriculum (instead of worrying about everyone's feeeeeelings about feeling included in gym class). As someone who hopes to work in education policy, I hope we can learn from these rediculous cases (this one is by no means an isolated incident) and see how one policy causes more problems.

Paul Martin visits Brenda Martin in Mexico

Bravo to Paul Martin for visiting Brena Martin (not related), the Canadian who has been imprisoned without a trail for two years. Say what you want about Paul not being in the HoC and doing various international projects, arguable outside the scope of duties to his local constituents, but I admire his ability to make a timely decision (since his nickname was Mr. Dithers...this should be especially admirable to his critics) to visit Brenda since he was in the neighbourhood, so to speak, when her story hit the news this morning. I give credit when credit is due. I really hope his influence will release this poor women and bring her back to Canada.

After the numerous media stories about Canadian deaths in Mexico and general bad experiences from friends and family about vacationing there I've decided I will likely never travel there.

While I can't imagine what this woman is going through, however, seeing movies like Brokedown Palace and hearing stories like Brenda's reminds me how lucky I am to live in a country like Canada. We talk a lot in this country about "rights" but we forget the other part of citizenship, which is "responsibilities." One of the fundamental duties of being a citizen is to exercise your voice/vote. With the latest voter turnout rates and the willingness people trade trash reality to TV to watching political engaging shows, it's clear that citizens are not engaged in current politics. (And really, who can blame them when our politicians play partisan games all the time).

But there comes a point where we must acknowledge and not take for granted the democratic rights, freedoms and responsibilies we do have. I hope my generation can place more emphasis on the democratic responsibilities and less about rights. Perhaps the mentality of the enviornmental movement will help in this regard. On the other hand, I am in the "me" generation, which has been generated being characterized as being very selfish.

So, the next time you consider whether it's worth you're going to go out to the polls or you're trying to convince a family member that never votes, tell the story of Brenda Martin and realize how grateful you should be to live in a country like Canada. Sure, we're not perfect, we have issues, but it's not a country that will lock you up without trial for two years for no wrong doing. (Then again, counter-terrorism legislation and Git-mo could counter this argument).

Ralphael Alexander has written more about this with some interesting links.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Did we break the snowfall record yet???

I'm not sure how much fell last night here in Ottawa; however, as you can see from the pictures we definitely got the full dumping

Beginning to wonder whether "spring" forward will need a new name.

Stupid groundhog...

Here are some pictures of the big dig out in Ottawa this weekend. This is our third storm this week. Monday morning's commute had freezing rain. Wednesday morning I got snowed in and couldn't go to school or work. Friday night we 'only' got 10-15cm. It snowed all day yesterday and finally stopped late last night. Today's dig out was even worse than this week's both storms combined.

This is my car:

Digging my way to the driver side door:

I am looking forward to the day I will get a garage:

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Meme: Six unimportant things!

I've decided to join in on the fun, even though I haven't been tagged.

Share six unimportant things/habits/quirks about yourself. Ok we go.....

1. I love to sing in my car, loudly, with the music loud too because I'm not very good and I only sing while driving alone in my car, never as a passenger, or if I have passengers;

2. My toilet paper must roll over, not under, always!

3. I shudder at the thought and sight of spiders (I just did rereading this!)

4. My favourite crayon when I was a kid was Periwinkle.

5. I name my plants with old lady names. Current status: Gertrude is recovering from an incident with the cat, Esmeralda passed away last year, so this spring I will get a new plant. Haven't picked out her name yet, but I'm choosing between Agnes and Beatrice and Ester;

6. I can't sleep with socks on and my feet cannot be under the covers. If I'm sick and go to bed early, my partner G tucks me in and he knows to fold up the end of the blankets near my feet, so they can 'breathe'.

I tag 6 Canadian Bloggers:

The War Room
Optimist Realist
The Natural Society
My Left Wing Girlfriend
A Step to the Right