August 2003
August 19th 2003
August 13th 2003
August 4th 2003

August 19th 2003
I  A M   C A N A D I A N !!!
I am not a lumberjack or a fur trader,
And I don't live in an igloo or eat blubber or own a dogsled,
And I don't know Jimmy, Sally, or Susie from Canada,
Although I am certain they are really, really nice.
I have a Prime Minister, not a President.
I speak English and French, not American.
And I pronounce it "about" ... not "a-boot".
I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack.
I believe in peacekeeping not policing;
Diversity not assimilation;
and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal!
A toque is hat; a chesterfield is a couch.
And it is pronounced ZED not ZEE, ZED!
Canada is the second largest landmass,
The first nation of hockey,
And the best part of North America!
“Je m'appelle Charles et je suis Africain-Canadien”

As of 11h15 on Thursday 7th August 2003 I officially became a Canadian Citizen

Two months ago I went down to Hamilton and proceeded to sit the Citizenship test with about 50 others. This is comprised of twenty questions that test your knowledge about Canada and the Province in which you live!
Actually I am pleased that I read, and reread the questions, even if in hindsight the actual test was not that hard. The amount of time the adjudicators spent on telling us what would happen if we didn't pass and what the criteria were for passing began to make me think that this was not going to be a quick affair!!
Until I received the 20 questions that is!
At which stage I wondered why I had 30 minutes to finish and would they be terribly insulted if, once I had read through my answers a million times, left after 10 minutes.
Apparently though, there were many people who wrote that day who did not pass so perhaps I should be a little more respectful of the process. Being one of the early ones to finish, and knowing that I had passed, all I had to do was wait until I was called up to take the Oath.
Then two weeks ago I received the final notice. After 11 months of waiting and having written the test, I was officially informed that my presence was required before the Citizenship Judge in order to take the Oath.
And so 65 of us immigrants, from 25 different countries, all gathered in the court at the Immigration Offices in Jackson Square on King Street in downtown Hamilton.
The Judge read out all the different countries that we came from and the variation was huge. We came from all over the world. Including another South African family of four that were there as well. So five South Africans at least! The Gall family had apparently written the test with me, although we only discovered that when I made mention of the time and place in the local South Africans in Ontario Newsletter. This time we did recognize the accents at last and had a quick chat during the photo taking session. As I was using their camera to take a few photos of them I can only hope that the photo's came out!!
And I was impressed to notice that all of us had made an effort to dress accordingly. Even the little 4-year-old girl had on her best dress. And smile as well! Especially when she strode up to the Judge to shake his hand and get her Certificate!
Those of you who know me a little will realise that I have a penchant for loud ties. In keeping with the occasion I donned a suit and then put on a tie made out of the Canadian Flag! If nothing else it was certainly bright enough to blind the Mountie standing to one side. I noticed him give me a look early on in the proceedings. Being “on parade” so to speak he didn't blanch, or raise an eyebrow, but his gaze did linger on the tie for a lot longer than normal.  
It did however receive favourable comment from the Judge so I feel vindicated at my choice at least. Although in keeping with his speech to us, it may just have been his Canadian tolerance coming out!
The Ceremony itself was very moving and made me feel very proud to have chosen this country as my “home and native” land! Even the sunshine came out for the day.
The Judge and Mountie came in and every one rose. He then proceeded to sit and we all listened to a talk by him on the rights and responsibilities of being a Canadian Citizen.
Personally I would have liked to hear a lot more about the “Responsibilities” but the gist of the speech was that we had chosen wisely and that there were many rights that we, as new Canadian Citizens, could now have, and that there were a few responsibilities that we should bear in mind.
After the Judges initial remarks, we all rose again, and had to swear the oath in both official languages. In fact I became a French Canadian before an English Canadian, as that was the order in which we affirmed our allegiance to the Queen and Country!
This was done as a group and then we had to proceed individually to greet the Judge and receive our Certificates of Citizenship and the plasticised wallet sized Card that no doubt allows us to annoy U.S Customs as we drive through.
Which brings me to the obvious question. Why is it that no matter what official document you have a photo taken for, it always looks like a Police mug shot taken after you have been arrested for drunken driving and been chased through a bush? Backwards!
Unless I really look like that! Which would be a terrible blow to my ego!!
After which we had to sign the actual Oath at a different table. Apparently because we weren't actually Citizens until such time as our signature was appended to whatever legal form was placed before us. I, and I am sure every one else there, haven't a clue what was actually on the form. I merely signed happy that I was a citizen at last!!
Ja well no fine eh?
After all 65 of us had spoken to the Judge, shaken his hand, received the Certificate and then signed the other document we all rose once again and sang “O Canada! I noticed that whoever runs the show had thoughtfully provided us with a handy card which had the words printed on. Which then allowed us to sing, or in some cases bellow, the song properly! At which stage the Judge and Officials exited the courtroom and we were all officially Canadians!
No. Not quite. Apparently there is one last thing that must take place before you can truly call yourself a Canadian. You must have your photograph taken with the Mountie! And the Judge as well! So they troop back into the room, stand by the desk and everyone takes turns in standing with them while loved ones try to get through a roll of film as quickly as possible.
My Son Murray came with me and was tasked with the job of “Official Photographer”! I wait with baited breath for his efforts to be revealed. And my sartorial elegance to be displayed in all its splendour. I just hope that neither the Mountie nor the Judge have pained expressions on their faces!!
Actually when we were driving back my Son mentioned that he thought the ceremony was very good as well. Enough to make him decide to go the same route as me and take out Citizenship as well. At which time I will act as the official photographer. We are still debating the tie though!
Now that I am a Canadian the voyage of discovery that I have embarked upon in this land continues. I am really looking forward to it!

(By the way the words at the top come from a Molson “Canadian” Beer advert called “The Rant”. I have merely changed a few words obviously!)

August 13th 2003
It's the slow time of the year again.
Which means that either I report on the shenanigans taking place in the Liberal Party leadership race, which is close to it's most sleep inducing phase, or else I tell you about some more of the absurd laws and regulation that we have on the statute books here in Canada.
Stupid laws win hands down on that one!!
This time I have managed to find a few that apply to Canada and Alberta as well.
In fact I was pleasantly surprised to find that in Alberta when you are released from prison you must be given a handgun and a horse so that you may ride out of town!
The handgun must have bullets as well!!!! It's enough to make you want to commit a crime there!
“Hello there Son. Your incarceration for Bank Robbing has finished. Here is a .45 and a horse! Bullets there?? Good. See you soon!!”
Which considering that there is another law that states that businesses must provide a rail to hitch horses too means that at least the bank will have some form of parking outside for the horse as you test out your new found freedom and state sanctioned gun!!
Mind you, you can be sent to jail in Alberta for playing craps with dice! So I guess that a gun and horse is a pretty good reward for playing a traditional dice game with dice.
How do you play craps without dice I ask you?? The mind boggles.
Meanwhile the geniuses up in Ottawa who dream up these things have come up with a few gems themselves.
Apparently Canadians may not remove bandages in public. The real compelling question here is why this law appeared in the first place? Was there a rash of people running around removing their bandages? Did people remove their bandages in public to examine the contents thereby frightening others with the gross sores contained therein? We will probably never know.
And speaking of frightening people it is also illegal to kill a sick person by frightening them. Like rushing up and arresting them when they begin to remove their bandages for instance!
Or pretending to practice witchcraft!
Yes. It is illegal to “pretend” to practice witchcraft. Note please that actually practicing witchcraft seems to be perfectly legal. You may just not “pretend” to practice it.
Otherwise off to jail with all those people who have removed bandages. At which stage a horse and a gun looks like a nice option later on!!
Of course the one that has obviously crossed many a persons mind, and even more obviously has been tried on a few occasions, was the reason for the law that states that you may not pay for a fifty-cent item with only pennies!!
Unless you say “sorry”.
No! I put that in. Canadians seem to think that saying sorry absolves them of any wrongdoing and so I guess if you pay for a fifty-cent item and say sorry you may get away with it! I wonder whether paying for a $50 item with pennies is penalized? There are one or two Government Departments that I wouldn't mind doing that in!!
But I live in Ontario and this is one Province that is no slouch when it comes to absurd laws and regulations that seem to have no basis in reality never mind common sense!!
Guelph for instance is a designated “No-Pee” area.
Everyone can go and urinate in neighbouring towns!! Every night there is this long queue waiting outside Flam boroughs' only public urinal, strategically placed on the border and charging enough money to make it worthwhile for both Town Councils!!
Catheters being an optional extra in the Welcome Wagon goody bag when you first move into the town.
I wonder whether they have Pee Police in Guelph? Prowling the empty street at night.!!
Which I guess would be reason enough to look for a transfer to Oshawa over on the East side of Toronto where as a policeman your major area of concern is looking for people climbing trees.
That's right! You may not climb trees in Oshawa!!
Every young kid in the area is a potential lawbreaker.
This is also Canada isn't it? Trees appear to be a major part of the scenery all over the place….Oshawa being no exception. In fact last time I drove through there I noticed many trees. Many, Many trees!
From what I have read I believe that there are probably quite a few young children living in the area as well!
Trees and children being an irresistible combination this should make for many an amusing chase throughout the streets of Oshawa. No to mention the dilemma introduced when Mrs. Tibbs favourite pussy gets caught up the nearest tree. Oh! Wait a minute the Fireman can use ladders and so they won't be breaking the law after all!
So we go back to Mr. Plod chasing down young miscreants for daring to ascend the lofty heights of the local apple tree.
Forget stealing the apples! Book `em for the climb!
And it appears that children are the prime target of many of these law making joy killers.
In Ottawa it is illegal to eat ice cream on Bank Street on a Sunday!!!
Aside from the fact that Ottawa, being where Parliament is situated, has the biggest collection of useless curmudgeons around, why on earth would it be necessary to actually pass a law forbidding eating ice cream??
What rash of ice cream incidents forced such a debate in City Hall?
In Kanata though they have city bylaws that regulate the colour that your house, and garage doors, may be. Garish colours getting you a fine. A yellow house with purple garage doors getting you a fine. As well it should.
But that does mean that if you colour code your interior fixings you have a problem.
You see Kanata also has a rule that you may not have a clothesline in your backyard. So even if you wanted to colour co-ordinate your washing with the house you have a problem. A purple pillowcase to go with the garage doors netting you a visit to the courthouse on two counts!!
Actually Kanata has a rather sensible rule stating that you can't work on your cars in the street but which seems to provoke a lot of anger amongst Canadians and it is often cited as a “weird” law…which makes me wonder about the average Canadians idea of what is their right.
After all why not strip down a car and work on it in the middle of a street eh? Wouldn't want to do that in the backyard. The neighbours might complain.
And then we come to Wawa. I have no clue where Wawa is but I can tell you this. The local council is a true representation of the pedantic mind.
In Wawa you may not paint a ladder because it will be slippery when it is wet!!!!!
The Department of the bleeding obvious thanks you for your indulgence at this stage!! I do believe that what we are talking about here is that when it “gets” wet it will be slippery to climb on. As opposed to say the paint being wet when it is freshly painted.
At least I hope that is what they are saying!!!!
You see Wawa also has a law that states that it is illegal to show public affection on a Sunday. No doubt it scares the churchgoers.
Any other day feel free to hold hands and generally frighten the assembled populace but never on a Sunday!! Sunday is the one-day of the week that affection is put aside in favour of hellfire. brimstone and damnation!!  
At least most South Africans are used to that type of law. Although it was fishing on a Sunday in the Free State that caused the biggest furore wasn't it?
And just for the record while discussing painting things. In Alberta it is illegal to paint wooden logs. I have absolutely no clue as to why this is so! I can't even begin to think up a reason because I am sure that no matter how stupid mine might be, the real reason will be more idiotic!
But at least we know you get a gun and a horse for disobeying that little law!
So having noticed that Canada is quite capable of putting ridiculous laws into action as well as any other country I am intrigued to see what new laws and regulations will be enacted in the coming years.
People tend to laugh at these laws and assume that they are throwbacks to the “old” days but in many cases these are new laws instituted by the do-gooders currently enacting anti-happy legislation.
I suppose one day my Grandchildren will look at the current crop and shake their heads as well.

August 4th 2003

Over the last few years I have written on a few occasions about Tim Horton's. The Canadian Doughnut Shop chain.
I think I even made mention that I had noticed lately that the donuts at the chain had definitely shrunk in size. Well I am not the only one apparently.
A “spokesman” for Tim Horton's admitted that the donuts had been resized to the original 1964 size in order to “rationalize” and “standardize” across all the stores. 1964 being when Tim Hortons first opened it seems like a reasonable marketing ploy if only they had gone back to the 1964 prices as well. In 1964 25c bought you a coffee and a doughnut!!! And a dozen doughnuts cost 89c. Which is of course less than one doughnut today!! Even at 1964 sizes!!
Now being South African I am more than used to Corporate Bull when it is shoveled on so thick that even the spokesman sounds semi-embarrassed.  And all this really is as another attempt to soak the traditional customer base so that the little grey suits up at the top can wallow in the obscene profits.
Having now shown that Tim Hortons has joined the ranks of the greedy fat cats I thought it might be instructive to have a look at the Man behind the myth and the whole story surrounding the start of the empire that currently is synonymous with Canada's love of coffee and donuts.
Miles Gilbert "Tim" Horton was a famous hockey player who was born in Cochrane Ontario. Oddly enough he got his start in the NHL playing in Quebec but in the end he had played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and finally the Buffalo Sabres
Even odder is that initially Tim had a string of Hamburger restaurants! In fact if they had been a little more successful then today we might be eating Tim Hortons Puckburgers instead. But they weren't and so Tim had a look at a store that only sold coffee and doughnuts.
The first Tim Horton Store (note that it was known as Tim Horton then. It was later changed to Tim Horton's with an apostrophe and later still changed back to Tim Hortons without the apostrophe.) was opened in 64 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton, Ontario
near Dunsmure Rd in 1964 and true to his word it only sold doughnuts and coffee. MUCH smaller doughnuts in those days obviously!!
Over time Tim introduced two of his own personal creations - the Apple Fritter and the Dutchie. These soon became the most popular choices of customers to the store and have remained so ever since. I have heard rumblings that TH has changed them as well and these were serious rumblings from the customers so I think that they have a minor rebellion on their hands shortly.
Also in 1964 Tim Horton put an ad in the local newspaper stating that he needed help. Ron Joyce, who was, or had been, a Hamilton policeman approached his credit union for a $10,000 loan, which he invested in the store.
A year later Joyce took over the original store and even then had plans to expand the chain to a further ten outlets.
By 1974 this had expanded to 40 or so stores when Tim Horton was killed in a car crash on the QEW near St Catherines. He was playing for the Buffalo Sabres at the time and ironically coming back from a game in Toronto. As he was going at 160km when he lost control of his car the outcome wasn't in doubt.
At this stage Joyce offered Tim Hortons widow $1 million for her shares in the TIM Hortons chain and when she accepted became the sole owner!
While $1million was a large amount at the time Tim's widow has twice tried to get more money from the deal by going to court when the Tim Hortons chain became larger and obviously more lucrative. In 1993 she lost the lawsuit and in 1995 was declined for appeal as well.
I was under the impression that the Timbit was a fairly recent invention but it was actually introduced in 1976. Despite what many people believe it is not the centre part of the doughnut nor for that matter was it inspired by the crash that took Tim Hortons life!!
Oddly enough for a store that started out with the aim of providing only coffee and doughnuts the Tim Hortons chain has had some interesting ideas over the years
Clam chowder, chili, muffins, pies, croissants, cookies, cinnamon buns, bagels, soups, sandwiches and even macaroons. Including some million-calorie strawberry tart type thing that can only have come from the twisted mind of an evil genius.
And Ice Cream Stores!!
Imagine a Tim Hortons Ice Cream Store?  Most sold flavour? Coffee or cappuccino!
Unlike the “Break Away” stores (which only sold soup and sandwiches) this idea was canned when some one worked out that a seasonal business probably wasn't a good idea!
As for the “Break Away's”?  Well 9 were opened and all shut down later!
Another interesting idea was opening their first non-smoking store in 1983. The theory was that there were so many stores around that smokers would only have another minute or two to travel before they found another Tim Hortons where they could smoke. This of course didn't stop quite a few irate patrons being evicted by the police!!
By the way with over 1500 stores in Canada the idea that they are on every street corner isn't that far fetched!
That also means roughly 25,000 employees as well, which not only keeps the Government employment figures low but also means that Tim Hortons ahs opened a “Doughnut University”!! Well actually it was merely a place in Hamilton that taught employees to bake around the clock and “provide freshness” to customers. Nowadays the Corporate Head Office is in Oakville and the freshness aspect appears to be delivered from there!
 This is especially true for someone who wishes to open a new store. They must attend training sessions at the company headquarters in Oakville for fifteen days where they are taught how to make doughnuts and how to manage a store successfully
I was interested to learn that the first drive through was only set up in 1985 and I wonder how 95% of Canada would actually get to work if they couldn't stop for their drive through double-double on the way to work!
In 1995 Wendy's (hamburgers) of the US and Tim Hortons. merged to set up a combined organization in both the US and Canada. Which is why you will notice so many Wendy's and Tim Hortons fast food stores in the same building!
I think that Tim Hortons may have got the better end of the deal overall as they not only had a place in the US to open up (and they did with a vengeance!) but they seems to be imbued with a need to start a serious run at franchising in every possible area where there was an opportunity.
Non-traditional storefronts (such as in Food stores like A&P Dominion), carts, drive-through-only locations, and small outlets in universities, sports arenas, the CN Tower, and duty-free stores at the U.S.-Canadian border. Everywhere where some thirsty Canadian may need to get a cup!
I had a quiet chuckle when I read that “A plaque hangs on the wall of the first Tim Hortons store, reading: "Built on hard work and dreams, the Tim Horton chain takes pride in its history..."
Not only did they pull down and rebuild the first Tim Hortons building in Hamilton but I wonder whether this infatuation with 1964 sizes has anything to do with that as well??
Ah well that's probably because I haven't had my coffee yet today and I didn't win anything in the “RRRoll up the Rrrrim to Win” competition.
In fact Roll up the Rim to win is probably as famous as the Hockey Night in Canada theme!!!
Time for my caffeine fix at last!