November 28th 2001
Having just spent a week on a forum, arguing with a rather humourless individual, who accused me of being a coward for having run away from South Africa, I was rather interested to notice my reaction to the events surrounding Nelson Mandela's visit to Canada this week.
For those of you still unaware, Mandela was in Canada to be made an honourary citizen of the country. This is only the second time ever that a citizen of another country has been given this honour.
Officially that is. Illegal refugee claimants don't count apparently, even though the process appears to be the same. As do the people behind this sycophantic little Liberal Party morale booster.
The whole dog and pony show annoyed me immensely. Not because of the fact that Mandela was made a citizen. I believe that he has shown a very diplomatic statesmanship since his release from prison and subsequent leadership of South Africa.
No! What annoyed me more than anything else was that the reason behind the whole show was more of a propaganda exercise than anything else. I got the impression that Mandela was merely along for the ride. To add legitimacy as it were.
It started with Mandela having an inner city school named after him on Friday, Mandela and his wife Graca receiving honourary Doctorates from Ryerson University for their work with the children of Africa on Saturday and then going to Ottawa on Sunday to receive the citizenship.
Of course in order to gain maximum exposure His Masters Voice -TV division was ordered into full swing. CBC covered all the events. Ad nauseum in the news as well.
On Saturday all normal shows were preempted to provide coverage. Special “multiculturals” were chosen to anchor and host the event and the Governor-Generals husband was bought in to provide commentary as well. This was probably not a wise choice as he spent some time actually being the voice of reason. At one stage even going so far as to point out that Mandela was actually jailed for calling for the violent overthrow of the Government. Without making the mandatory “illegal regime” excuse either I might add.
The lady at Ryerson doing the MC stunt was introduced as a South African who as a six-year-old child cried at the “for whites only” signs outside the Durban schools which is why her parents fled to Canada. Shock! Horror! It then went downhill from there. The Chinese host in the studio along with her, was so sickeningly effusive in the sanctification of Mandela that I am surprised a host of heavenly angels didn't descend with a message from God asking for an audition. Probably why Saul felt it necessary to provide a little reality back to the proceedings.
Then I noticed the first of what I will gently refer to as insults.
No South African flag! Now I don't know about you but this was Nelson Mandela and if they can prominently display the Canadian flag then with a little effort a South African one could have been arranged. I am pretty sure that asking one of the “invited guests” from the good old anti-apartheid lobby would have produced one. After all many of them paid enough to attend anyway. Not to have had a South African flag up, for what was after all, an ex-head of Government is a bad breach of protocol.
The second insult was quite breath taking in its effrontery. Of course Ryerson, bless its little homemade, left-wing bobby socks, decided to get a black member of the faculty to introduce Mandela. Terribly politically correct and all that. Except that he was the one who, and I will be kind here, probably unintentionally, insulted Mandela. Aside from totally mispronouncing his given name, Rohihlahla, he then went on to make a supposed joke about why he had to change this to Nelson. Part of the comment stated that it was considered undignified and unpronounceable!!
Rule number one of good public speaking states that you learn how to pronounce difficult names beforehand. Especially peoples names. Even the slightest query would have produced a viable phonic way to do this. As for insulting the guests name! Well I got quite incensed. It was not a good start I might add.
That night Mandela was whisked off to face the usual suspects at a $5000 a head fund raiser set up by Heather Reisman. It was interesting to see the angst displayed by the press the next day as they weighed up whether to lead with the Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones attendance or the disgusting opulence displayed by the other attendees. What is it with left-wing, but rich, trendy socialites and revolutionaries anyway? And what is it with stuffing your face to feed the poor?
Then it was off to Ottawa to attend the Liberal Party adulatory, self-congratulatory, wank-fest. Mandela being there to add legitimacy only it appears. A passing necessity in the need to feel good once again about themselves. I actually felt sorry for the disgusting way he appeared to be passed around as some prize trophy to be photographed with, so that it would grace office walls later.
The only reason I realised that so many of the Cabinet was there, was from their names written on the bottom of their shoes. And the Hollywood smiles as they looked around to see if the cameras were on them.
Chretien hung on to Mandela's arm at every opportunity. And I do mean hung on! I realise that Mandela is old but he really didn't need Chretien acting like a Boy Scout at the traffic lights. In fact I got the distinct impression that Mandela was getting annoyed at times but good `ole Teflon Jean wasn't going to miss this photo-op. After getting away with gatecrashing a Bush photo session he seems to have realised that this is the way to be prominent.
I would be really interested to find out what Mandela really thought about all these white fawners with their insincere smiles though. Somehow I think that he probably despises them.
In fact learning that he asked to speak to the only MP who opposed his citizenship, and who, incidentally, was the only one to not attend, I think he was probably looking for someone who at least had convictions for a change.
So we now have Citizen Nelson Mandela and a whole bunch of back slapping people reliving the massively insignificant part they played in freeing South Africa. It must have been so hard not to have a cause any anymore. Never mind though. I note that most of them are showing the “poor Afghanistan” symptoms.
In a few months all they will have left is the picture of the fifteen seconds of glory when they used an old man to bolster their poor self-image!
Lets see what history has to say in a few decades.
November 19th 2001
In the spirit of now living in North America where litigation for the utmost ridiculous things take place I suppose I had better start off by putting in a disclaimer as to what it is that I am about to write about.
So for those of you who may read what I am saying and be tempted to try it out may I point out that the following is merely a report on aspects of the refugee system as it stands in Canada at the moment and any South African attempting to follow the actions I point out does so at their own risk.
Canada has a yearly quota for immigration that allows in about 250,000 people a year. This fluctuates quite a bit but generally the people who actually follow the procedures have a fairly stiff set of regulations that they must follow. The actual process can take anything up to two years. This depends very much on which country you come from it appears. South Africans being at the far end of the scale by all accounts. Some countries seem to have it easier, to judge by some of the comments I have heard. Especially those countries where forged documents are the order of the day!
Landed immigrants normally having something to offer in the way of skills. Whatever they may be. I don't know any country that doesn't follow the attempt to bring in people who can add to the economy and long-term future of the nation. This means, of course, that there are many people who fail to meet the criteria necessary to qualify for proper landed immigrant status.
The trouble is that Canada appears to be the only country that has stringent criteria for correct immigration procedures, while being absolutely lax when it comes to refugees. So lax in fact that the word has spread that abusing the refugee system in Canada is the easiest in the world. No wonder then that so many shady characters keep popping up here. Despite the protestations of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration to the contrary!
There are many ways to get into Canada but the favourite appears to be to hop on a plane, destroy any documents you may have with you and then march up to the authorities at the airport and claim refugee status. At this stage you get a cursory discussion, are given the names of lawyers and “human rights” organizations, showed to a place of refuge, given allowances for food and clothing and waved off into the night. I say discussion because it would be so un-Canadian to actually interrogate any of these people. I note that they are also eligible for immediate healthcare coverage unlike normal immigrants who have a mandatory three-month wait.
The other more perilous way is to come in vie the “Snake heads” and leaky ships, containers or dinghies that leave you and your worldly possessions on some lonely shore. Actually most of these people hope that they will be caught by the Canadian Coast Guard because they can then claim refugee status and get all the help that they wouldn't be able to claim should they merely walk ashore and have to find their own way.
In fact so incredibly ridiculous is the Canadian refugee system that last week it was reported that foreign students in the United States were driving up to Niagara, walking across the border and claiming refugee status. After processing they then gave an address in Toronto where they were “staying” and went back to the colleges that they were studying at in the States. The Canadian authorities then send them their welfare cheques to the address that they had used. These cheques were then cashed and the money forwarded to these “refugees” in University in the States! I bet most were in Law School too!
Of course the Minister of Immigration, Elinor Caplan, claimed that there was no proof of this. Despite evidence from the RCMP and Customs authorities to the contrary. Mind you along with the PM she was one of the staunch advocates that there are no terrorists in Canada. Which tune, when provided with evidence, was changed to, none of them came in as refugees. Which when provided with evidence that most of the terrorist links in the September 11th massacre had been refugees, has so far been met with an obstinate silence or the great Caplan answer to everything. The critics are closet racists!
Caplan is remarkable when it comes to trotting out the “racist” taint. Anyone who points out faults in the policy is automatically branded a racist. Of course this stems mainly from the Liberal policy of being “kind” to visible minorities and thus turning a blind eye to abuses of the system, and Canadian hospitality, that would have other “invisible minorities” rejected at the merest suggestion of impropriety.
Ask the Pole who was deported for not paying the full amount of money needed to stake an immigrant claim here. After twenty years, two Canadian born children and a shortfall of fifty dollars.
Meanwhile the Arab arrested for terrorism last year was not only on welfare here, but supplemented his income by stealing! As, I might add, are many of the criminals that get caught in and around Toronto. It is, of course, racist to allude to this!
So far, and despite massive attempts by the Government and its media propaganda arms, it is very apparent that virtually everyone linked to September 11th was in Canada as a refugee!
Has September 11th changed anything? Not a chance! Over the last few weeks hundreds of people have been turning up at Pearson Airport and being given the same refugee status and handouts as before.
According to CSIS there are over twenty thousand known, failed, refugee claimants that have “disappeared” over the last few years. The Government of course seems particularly uncaring about this.
So what has Caplan's great plan been to overcome this stupidity? Well actually all she has come up with has been identity cards for immigrants and an increase in the refugee quota! That's right. Legally landed immigrants must get identity cards while refugees don't! And of course we allow more of the dubious types into this country! Absolute Liberal insanity working overtime!
To understand this whole mess though you have to realise that the Liberal party is only in power due to the Ontario vote, which is where the vast majority of immigrants and refugees live. So I guess rocking the potential power block is less important than thinking rationally.
To put all of this into perspective there is a rather nasty comment (I hesitate to call it a joke!) going around to the effect that the only way for Osama Bin Laden to survive is to turn up at Pearson and claim refugee status!
And now for a small caveat with regard to my comments that all a potential refugee needs to do is make sure that they get into Canada and then claim refugee status. I n light of the particular slant that racism has in Canada I wouldn't put my money on South Africans being given the same care and attention as people from certain other countries!
November 12th 2001
Halloween this year was a bit of a washout. In both senses! It rained during the day and was threatening rain again that night so it was a smaller bunch of ghost and ghouls who came around, clutching their loot bags and intent on getting enough sugar to get every diabetic in North America high for weeks.
Of course the other reason was probably the local hysteria and paranoia that was whipped up by the media. No doubt thousands of Mommies had this terrible foreboding that Osama was about to send out his minions to poison every sweet around. So little Johnnie was kept inside and force fed the loot stashed away from last year. Except for those parents who were obviously forced to walk around with little Johnnie to protect them from heck alone knows what. I say forced because of the scowls that appeared out of the mist behind the junior blackmailers hoping for a huge haul. More scary than any thing dreamed up by the mask people in some cases!
Mind you after my Daughter had put up all the decorations the rain started and what was once a trickle of stage blood emanating from a bloody arm stump in a pumpkins mouth, turned out to be a large puddle of thin red goo. It actually looked a bit better that way but she wasn't amused.
All my children have enjoyed Halloween since arriving here even though they are what I would classify as too old really. As my Daughter says, “You are never too old to have a happy childhood”. She spends ages carving pumpkins into the most hideous shapes and then setting up the outside of the apartment with spiders, webs, blood, tombstones and even the odd skeleton hanging in the tree.
This year the spelling was even correct. Much merriment was caused last year by the word “boo” being carved out of the back of the pumpkin. The light inside is supposed to then cast the word onto the wall behind in a ghostly sort of way. It is very effective with the candles flickering in the wind causing words to ripple on the wall in a very scary way. Except of course if you don't carve the words backwards! The whole effect last year was ever so slightly spoiled by the word “oob” being projected instead. Even with the poor spelling amongst the youth we couldn't make excuses for that one! We didn't make the same mistake this year.
There are generally two waves of trick or treaters that come around. The young ones, early on from about six, and then the teens about two hours later. Technically when they ask “trick or treat?” you are at liberty to ask for a trick. We do this and in over three years worth of asking only two or three have ever made an attempt to comply. Mostly you get the blankest stare ever seen. You can almost see it crossing the brain. “Why are you making my life hard? Where are my sweets? If I was old enough your house would get egged!” Which incidentally is what is supposed to happen to those people who are classified as being stingy. I don't know anyone who has had this happen though.
So what is this whole Halloween thing then?
Halloween started thousands of years ago. It is actually an offshoot of a Celtic festival called Samhain, which apparently means Summers End. At this time the living were able to communicate with the dead. The dead being spiritual advisors to those still alive. In addition this was the time when the souls of the living would travel to the otherworld. To honour them the living would light bonfires both to welcome them and to keep away the less friendly spirits.
Later on when the Christians came to power they attempted to make out that all the fairies and ghosts were ghouls and demons. They also moved All Saints Day from May to November to try to stop the pagan customs. This was on November 1st. and eventually it became a day to celebrate all souls. Obviously October the 31st was then known as All Hallows Eve. Hallow means to sanctify and over time it has been shortened to Hallow Even and later Hallow'en.
As more and more people emigrated to North America the customs associated came along. Bear in mind that many of the early settlers to North America came from the Celtic countries such as Scotland and Ireland and you can see the links.
I did some research and have uncovered a lot of information as to why certain customs take place as well.
Trick or treating came from the Celtic custom of leaving food as an offering to honour the dead. At the same time going around and begging food was also rife. Sometimes a performance was put on in order to be rewarded, either with food or even money. In some communities in Ireland people would go around begging for food and material for a communal feast and bonfire later. If people gave a lot they would be well rewarded for the coming year. If, however, they were stingy then they would be threatened with plagues of bad luck. Tricks mainly! After a while these tricks became mere vandalism and so children were used to collect the treats instead. A custom still in vogue if you listen to all the parents telling you how they sort through the sweets later. You just know that a percentage of little Johnnies loot is kept apart as a sort of Parent Tax!
Costumes seem to be either a way to scare off the beasts or as a way of welcoming back their ancestors. Who being dead would probably look like some of the nasties being paraded.
I have seen a lot of mention of bonfires but since being here have not seen one bonfire actually being made or lit. Bonfires were mainly a part of village life. One large bonfire being lit and then the whole village would gather round and consume the food or treats from the earlier gathering. This is one custom that seems to have died out totally. Perhaps the whole bonfire custom has been moved to Guy Fawkes celebrations instead.
Lastly you have the pumpkins or “Jack-O-Lanterns” as they are known. Apparently the early trick or treaters would place a candle into a vegetable to help light the way when they were making their rounds. In England these were turnips or beets actually. It is only when Halloween was transplanted to the America's that pumpkins replaced turnips. The early settlers found that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve. Although probably not as easy to carry as a turnip. Although I have this weird vision of a bunch of people going around carrying lit turnips. Even carrying pumpkins seems quite odd!
After a while the carvings on these pumpkins came to represent souls of the dead trapped in the living world because of them having committed some foul deed. If the candle flame inside the pumpkin flickers then it means that spirits are present. The only way to scare them away is to carve an even more hideous face on the outside of the pumpkin. I have seen some incredibly detailed carvings and must admit that my Daughter is extremely good at this as well. Her latest effort was admired by all.
Witches, Cats and bats seem to have been added to the mix purely because of their black colour and being night creatures. They also seem to be fairly recent additions to the mix.
Halloween now surpasses all the other holidays in Candy consumption. Pumpkins too, although I think that more pumpkins are actually eaten at Thanksgiving. Most of the pumpkins used for Halloween seem to have the insides thrown away. Probably because after all that pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving no one wants to see more pumpkin for at least a year.
Having never had Halloween in South Africa I was surprised to get a message from my Sister to the effect that their area had organized a trick or treat outing this year. Without the normal guns involved I might add! Last year they were surprised to have the doorbell ring and hear a query. Some little girl in the neighbourhood was going around. Luckily for her, because no other house even answered the bell or her plea's, there was some candy available to at least make it worthwhile. I had to laugh at the typical South Africaness of the scene though. This little girl, going around trick or treating, was accompanied by the Maid! No parents, just the ever-present maid! I wonder if she had a scowl. Or for that matter whether she was allowed to share in the loot bag?
Which come to think of it is what I missed this year. As I said earlier the children are now too old to go trick or treating themselves and so this year I missed out on the loot sorting exercise afterwards.
Bring back trick or treating for adults I say!
November 5th 2001
It's time to defend Canada a bit here.
One of the nice things about writing articles is that you are guaranteed to annoy someone sometime. This time, for a change, it appears that I'm not the one responsible. Even more interesting is that the people complaining are annoyed because of the positive aspect of the articles.
I am of course referring to Robin's weekly outlook on life in Canada. Although I am reliably informed British Columbia is only nominally a part of Canada!
What has annoyed me a bit was that twice I noticed a comment to the effect that Canada is a boring country! There is no such thing as a boring country! Only boring people! And they can either be living there or, more importantly, merely visiting!
There is however a reason for picking Canada precisely because it may be seen as boring. So let's start with a look at the most obvious reasons. If by boring you mean that there are fewer murders in a year in Canada than in a day in South Africa, I am more than happy to have boring thanks. That goes for rape, burglary and assault as well. It also goes for the fact that the Police in this country actually fight crime and catch the crooks. South Africa still leads when it comes to criminals getting back onto the streets before their sentence is up but that is as a result of them escaping rather than being let out by the bleeding hearts.
I won't even go into unemployment, healthcare and social security. Yes it is a nanny state but at least it allows the citizens to enjoy all the opportunities available.
So if being alive for longer in a “boring “ country is the price I have to pay then so be it.
As I said earlier though, Canada is not boring. I am always told by Canadians that South Africa is such a beautiful country. Yes it is. And so is Canada. The scenery alone is breathtaking. From the Rockies to the Lake District in Ontario to the Islands on the East Coast it truly is majestic. It is at this stage that I should probably sing out the Canadian National motto, which is “from Sea to Sea”. Mind you it really should be from sea to sea to sea actually.
It is going to take me years to visit every sight that I have already identified as places that are a must to visit! I am reasonably sure that I have only scratched the surface of interesting places as well. There's the trans-continental train trip from Montreal to Vancouver that goes through the Rockies for a start. Mind you that start would really be Montreal, which is a brilliant city to visit for a whole host of reasons. In fact Montreal and Quebec are so essentially European in outlook and architecture that you could almost be in France rather.
If you want the new city feel and look, then go to Toronto. Once described as New York run by the Swiss! While you are there check out the cultural activities. Opera, theatre, dance troupes and a whole host of avant-garde clubs, galleries and other places. Interestingly during summer Toronto becomes a mini Hollywood of the North and walking around certain areas you are almost guaranteed to see some or other star trying to act cool.
I recently purchased the Dummies guide to Canadian history and have been reading through it to gain an understanding of the background to this country.
As an aside, I also bought the Idiots guide as well. Written by a woman with strange feminist tendencies it was quite funny comparing the two. From the distaff point of view no man did anything of importance and a woman shaped every aspect of Canadian history! Odd. But revealing as to some of the viewpoints that are around. The other author was far more cynical and very unbiased and presented the facts both good and bad. In a humorous way too, I might add, which is probably why I enjoyed reading it so much. Mind you he also wrote a book called “Bastards and Boneheads” which is all about the Canadian Prime Ministers. And not very flattering!
Anyway the history of this country is very interesting. The wars, the struggle to adapt, and adopt. Which First Nations tribe was allied to whom and why. It gave me a whole new perspective on the country and it's peoples. One of which is that the broad mass of Canadian people are a strong, brave and tough lot. It is only recently that Canadians seem to have been hornswoggled into letting the wimps take over.
For instance, Canada has fought three wars against the United States. And won them all! Even getting as far as Washington where they burnt down the White House. In fact it only became known as the White House after the blackened outside was whitewashed later!
If you are into military history then there are plenty of places, forts, battle-sights and memorials to go and have a look at. Not to mention all the museums!
I realise that I could go on and on here if given the opportunity. I haven't even touched on the sporting and leisure side of life here. Remember too that we have four distinct seasons and so you can get a varied outside sports experience.
In essence what I am trying to say is that anyone who finds a country boring, and here I will extend my comments to any country, is actually the person at fault.
Meanwhile I will carry on looking for all the exciting things that can be done here in Canada.
At least I know I am not bored!