June 24th 2002
One of the more interesting aspects of living in a multicultural city like Toronto is how so many of the different communities here tend to group together in certain areas.
Open up any directory and you will come across organizations dedicated to the support and fostering of a community spirit for members of so many different nations.
Walk down many of the main streets around Toronto and you will come across whole areas that could to all intents and purposes be in another country altogether. And I do mean totally. Down to the language and even the signs for the merchandise.
I may have made mention of this before but I still find it interesting that so many people are unable to speak either of the two official languages of Canada.
You know. The two languages that, unless you are fluent in one or the other, you supposedly are not able to immigrate to Canada.
French and English for the record. Not Tamil or Ibo or Cantonese or Spanish or combinations thereof. There is a Chinatown in the Spadina area, and another one in Cabbagetown, where every sign, every price tag, every notice is written in Chinese. Everyone gabbles away in their own dialect. You could be in Hong Kong or Taipei rather than the heart of Toronto.
Trying to get someone to translate is a major endeavour. At least until school is out and the grandchildren are forced to work behind the counter when at least you get a rudimentary if very grudging explanation. Which is not always right either I might add!
I find that most of the other communities tend to make an effort at least to put up English signs. And for the record their grandchildren's explanations can be just as wrong as well! Although this is a result of trying to impress, rather than ignore, you.
Of course the fun part of all this is that you can at least get an amazing array of different foods and other stuff from all over the world.
You will also be bombarded ad nauseum with articles trumpeting the “multicultural” diversity of Toronto's make up. Articles that “celebrate” the “trendy country of the week” week! Most of which have the backing of the local “community council” and actually are fairly interesting as far as understanding of the country and its peoples goes.
Except, interestingly enough, when it comes to certain areas. I will leave out the shameful neglect of it's own First Nations members and their own cultural heritage that is shown by all the “liberal” social re-engineers as they hammer multicultural diversity down your throat. I will every so often make comment on this disgusting treatment but this isn't the time.
The other area is, oddly enough, that of Africa. Yes, I am aware that there are large “African-Canadian “ organizations in Canada and more especially in Toronto but in the main these revolve around the people from the West Indies!
Canadians tend to have a very shaky grasp on a lot of the world out there as it applies to local affairs. I am constantly amused at how they mock Americans about the Americans lack of knowledge outside the USA's borders and yet most Canadians are not much better when it comes to world affairs.
So we have every person of colour being lumped under the ubiquitous “African- Canadian” banner when the majority who actually use this title are, as I said, from the Islands, South America or descendants of Black Canadians from many years back and who should be calling themselves Canadian by now.
Of course the best way to throw a cat amongst the pigeons is to point out that I am an African. The hypocrisy inherent in the reactions to that comment is amusing. This deserves a column on its own as well
Hmmm. I think I've been a bit sidetracked looking back at what I've written. I actually intended this to be about the South African Community here in Toronto and I've carried on about all sorts of other issues so that the whole South African community issue is invisible.
Very much like the South Africans that actually live here in Ontario. There are well over sixty thousand South Africans that live in Ontario. Probably a lot more than that as it is estimated that unofficially there are over a hundred thousand already. More than half a million in Canada as well.
In fact according to the official Government figures the largest group of Africans, in Toronto at least, comes from South Africa. Far and away the majority percentage of Africans.
Now for the million dollar question.
How much community visibility and information is there on this huge group of immigrants that provide such a big presence here?
Yes that's right. No big visible community centres. No local newspaper that caters to the local community. No pressure groups to demand councilors hand over “guilt” money to staff “help” centres. No half hour weekly TV talkathon with bloody bad advertising for local characters.
OK! Sorry! There's a business association that hides itself very well. There's a Council of South Africans that does the same. And once a year we have the South African Day celebrations at Mel Lastman Square where for a few hours at least you get the feeling that there may be a viable, visible community lurking here after all. Suddenly there are literally thousands of people of all races, colours and creeds mingling over the boerie rolls and castles.
So what the hell happens the other 364 days??
A lot actually. Mainly in isolation from each other.
It may be as a result of South Africa's past but it seems as if we tend to clump together in little isolated groups all over the countryside. And then moan that it is impossible to get together with other South Africans!
Or, and this has been said to me too many times for it to be an isolated thought process, there is the belief that “ I had to kak-off boet, so the newcomers must learn as well”!
Ah Yes! Probably the major reason why so many newcomers do struggle badly to assimilate here. No one to guide them through the pitfalls.
Well that is starting to change.
For the first time I am about to make a plug and a plea. A few years ago I started a website to address these issues and slowly it has been growing to the stage where at the moment we have hundreds of South Africans signed up for the newsletter and as members. This year I have been receiving advanced warning of many of the meetings and gatherings that take place in and around Ontario. More and more people are getting out to these events and meeting others.
We are slowly evolving as a South African community. One of these days I expect to see all the visibility that other communities have, becoming part of the South African expectation. Just maybe the old motto of “Unity is Strength” may come to mean something.
So if you live in Ontario go to http://members.tripod.com/saontario
and sign up. It's free, I don't sell any information and probably even more important to the cynical out there I do it for free. I don't make any money out of it. But I do get a lot of enjoyment!
And interestingly enough a month or so ago, thanks to the site, I was nominated as a “Volunteer of the Year” for the New Media Awards 2002. Didn't win but it was heartening to know that someone was taking notice.
At least we are on track to have a more prominent spokesperson for our community than Russel “Cashman” Oliver!
No I can't explain that but any South African living in Toronto will know what I am talking about!
Time to start being proud of who we are for a change and telling the other communities that we are a major player as well!
Time to be South African Canadians!
June 18th 2002
My life is complete!
I have at last tracked down, and seen, the last remaining Public Toilet in Toronto!
For reasons which had best remain nameless, I will merely report that various members of my family thought that this action was hilarious, if not a little in character.
Of course this hilarity, and many unseemly comments, were tempered a little by the knowledge that this bastion of public decency is in fact closed. Which is typical!
Mind you I didn't really track it down either.
I was at a meeting last Saturday which culminated with an organized walking tour of the Danforth area of Eastern Toronto. Denise and Brian, two friends, of mine are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to all matters pertaining to the “hidden” parts of Toronto. Every so often as part of a Mensa outing they take the members on a walking tour of different areas in and around the GTA.
As we were in the Danforth, or to be more precise, on the Danforth, this tour was set to take in the sites on the eastern side of the Don Valley.
The Danforth itself is actually a road. As in Danforth Road?! A bustling thriving community that prides itself on being the home of the Greek community.
Souvlaki, Feta and bloody bazouki's on every corner!
Not that it always was a Greek community. In the beginning it was composed of mainly British immigrants and even then mostly Irish for that matter.
Judging by some of the houses off the main road there, it was also an area where certain favourable politicians and their friends were allocated land too. Actually thanks to our knowledgeable guides we know that for definite.
I suppose that at the time this area was quite some way from the original city centre. Considering that the Don River and its valley separate both, and that at the time this valley would have been quite an obstacle I suppose you could even think of it as another little dorp until the bridges came along.
Which is why no doubt the Don Jail and then the Hospital for the Criminally Insane were also positioned there. And while we are being politically incorrect as benefited those times they also decided to install the Hospital for the Incurably Ill. All of modern-days societies new causes neatly encapsulated in a small area far away from the Toffs of Toronto. Which is probably why the politicians were nearby as well!
I had a good chuckle at the story of the entrepreneurial chap who decided to build a bridge over the Don River in order to help facilitate a steady flow of traffic. Of course in those days whoever built the bridge could actually charge people to use it so this budding capitalist did just that.
Then he went one step further and set up an “inn” for travelers to rest their weary bones. Considering that it was generally considered to be a house of ill repute I should perhaps rephrase that comment!
No doubt it was also part of the reason for the later need to build larger bridges up river to span the Don River at what we should really call a gorge. In typical political fashion building the current bridge that links the Danforth and Bloor Street was voted on for a good few years. It was thrown out every year until the cost had risen to horrendous proportions and then passed. A way of getting Government projects approved that is practiced by the Canadian local and Federal Governments to this day!
The one interesting part of the bridge is the platform underneath that is used by the TTC underground to link the Bloor Danforth lines. This platform was included in the initial erection at the behest of a very forward thinking City Councilor who explained that they should do that for the very reason that in future there may be some form of underground train! Which given that this was the early 1900's, and the underground wasn't actually up until the sixties, was extremely prescient. No doubt he wasn't a lawyer! Might have been a railroad tycoon though.
The bridge itself claims to be almost a mile long. I think it misses it by six feet or something. I missed that part because I was watching the traffic far below attempting to emulate lemmings. Which is when I noticed the different train tracks along the valley as well and was astonished to be told that they were owned by different companies. Even more interesting was the knowledge that in order to use the tracks you have to pay the owning company fees! Which explained why it was that VIA Rail, the GO train and others all use only certain lines when coming into Toronto station.
Anyway the Don Bridges claim to fame lies less with its length, which incidentally is a bit of fiddle considering that it is actually three bridges that join each other, as with the fact that it is a popular venue for suicide jumpers. The current Toronto council having just voted millions to set up a suicide barrier to stop would be jumpers.
Why they don't just put people at each end with directions to hand the jumper's car keys and directions to the racetrack below I don't know. Judging by the imbeciles that I saw on the highway below me that seemed a logical Kervorkian assisted suicide.
And so as you cross the Don Bridge going east you come to a small red brick building on the south side of the road.
Built to look like a house this is the famous “Last Uithuis”.
Apparently in the early years when there weren't any of these cloistered retreats the citizens of Toronto used whichever bush, tree or even house that was available as their own personal toilet. Which is why these buildings were erected. And which makes it quite puzzling as to why they are no longer in use. There are no Public toilets in Toronto at all. Either Canadians have excellent bladder control or else there are enough Tim Horton's for everyone to use. Considering the amount of coffee Canadians drink maybe that is the TH Chains penance!
The story is that this particular toilet was monitored by the council at some stage and they discovered that each flush was costing the city $17. That finding intrigues me. Did they take into account the salaries of the people paid to go and count the people using the toilet? Did they measure each volume of water consumed? How did they come by that figure?
Even better of course is the question as to how many people they scared away by having clipboard-toting officials standing in the urinal taking notes! Can you imagine the impact that could have on a gentle soul? Having to use the ablutions while having someone taking notes.
In St. Petersburg I once went to the toilet in one of the hotels. The attendant in the men's room was an old Babushka. Who, I might point out, only let you have the only roll of toilet paper on receipt of a fistful of roubles. If you think that some men have trouble when other men are around think of what it is like when you have the “Mother of the Revolution” and all her medals muttering songs of the Steppes while you are occupied. Cultural differences indeed.
Actually aside from the position right on the road the toilet itself was large enough, and still in good enough nick, to make a pretty good little house. It's even for sale. The only forty toilets, one room house on the block.
Which my kids tell me would suit me fine.
But that's another story!
June 12th 2002
Ah yes! It's wonderful to live in Democracy. Where rules and regulations ensure that the politicians don't take the electorate for granted and live by a stringent set of ethical standards that ensure that they are accountable.
Not like all those African Dictators and Governments that are only in it for their selfish interests!
It has been very interesting watching the Liberal Government implode over the last two weeks. Corruption, back-hands, graft and the Prime Minister showing his true back alley fighting style as he attempts to keep control.
I suppose the most amusing part has been the knowledge that the Liberals were elected on the “so-called” ethical clean Government ticket in 1993 and have been going steadily deeper into the trough since then.
Of course they have been helped by an apathetic electorate, and an amazingly inept opposition, that almost seemed to want to hand ammunition to their enemies to use against them. Most of the time the media spent analyzing the opposition, or, more correctly, demonizing them, was time that allowed the Government to get away with stealing the public blind.
I suppose that this type of action would have gone on for quite some time if it weren't for two interesting changes that took place.
Steven Harper was elected to Leader of the Opposition. A fairly solid right wing policy type he has acted like a strong leader and possible future PM. His handling of question time in Parliament has been strong and direct and very good at making certain of the ruling clique squirm.
The other interesting change was that the Liberal Party fight as to who would succeed Chretien became a lot nastier. Dirty tricks became the order of the day. Which in itself wouldn't be that newsworthy except for the purported tactic of passing on information to the opposition about your enemies.
There is still some debate as to who tipped off whom but whoever did certainly started an interesting chain of events. One that culminated this week in the Prime Minister firing his Minister of Finance.
Who just happened to be the person he defeated in the last Liberal Party leadership election. And who just happened to be a major contender of the current leadership race. And who just happened to be the person that was becoming decidedly more favourable to the electorate as the person to replace Chretien.
Whose dictatorial attitude to the public was wearing a bit thin in areas.
When the Toronto Star runs a cartoon critical of the Liberal Parties Leader then you know that things are very bad indeed.
To have followed that up with a leader page editorial that was scathing, to say the least, means that our dearly beloved dictator has lost it totally.
And now, sadly for him, his oft-repeated claim that no one has been removed from office for corruption is being challenged.
Well actually Martin, the Minister of Finance, wasn't removed for corruption. He was hoofed for ostensibly making a comment to the effect that he was re-evaluating his option after a particularly stormy “uitkak” session with His Holiness Chretien.
The person who was hoofed for corruption was Boudria. In a strange case of the biter being bit Boudria was one of the original “rat pack” of Liberals who acted like a pack of rabid dogs baying for the blood of Brian Mulroney's corrupt Government.
Turns out that our friend Boudria wasn't above a bit of snuffling at the trough himself. Paying $800 for a weekend at a “cottage” (read mansion!) with his family. Except that the cottage was owned by a prominent supporter of the Liberals who just happened to be a receiver of certain Government grants etc. Except that the cheque wasn't actually cashed until the whole sordid little business came to light. And even then it took quite some time for that to be done.
No. Wait a minute Boudria wasn't really hoofed. He was demoted.
Eggleton the Minister of Defense was hoofed. He merely used some of his slush fund to pay an ex-girlfriend to prepare a report on post traumatic stress syndrome in the Army. $35.000 for a 14-page report that most people believe wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Although to be honest that was quite expensive paper at a couple of thousand dollars a page!
Even the original corruption target wasn't hoofed. Merely made Ambassador to Denmark. Which considering all the pig farms in Denmark was probably a fitting post. Although not as lucrative, snuffling at those troughs.
And through it all the blustering from Chretien was particularly disgusting. However like a true street fighter he came out swinging.
At everyone. And everything.
Best of all was the attempt to blame it all on the press. Whenever a Leader begins blaming the press you know that they are in trouble.
Especially when you are talking about the Canadian press, which takes the term sycophancy to new heights as regards the Liberals!
So what can we make of all this? That the days of Chretien and the Liberals are numbered? That Canadians are sick and tired of corruption and are just waiting to elect a different Government?
Uh! Not really!
In a poll taken after all this nastiness came to light it was reported that the Liberals would still win an election if one was held tomorrow!
So much for accountability.
And a so-called educated first world electorate!
Or maybe all those immigrants and refugees who can't speak English or French and are eternally grateful for all the handouts are indeed the mainstay of the power base in Ontario where the Liberals reign supreme. No wonder nothing will be done about the immigration policy for many years.
And you all thought I was being nasty when I remarked earlier that the only reason Chretien was in Africa was to teach the African leaders how to get away with corruption properly. And find some new sheep to vote for him!
June 3rd 2002
Carrying on from the unfortunate incident of the death of the four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan we have had a number of debates over the last few weeks about whether or not they should be seen as “heroes”.
Amidst all the pomp and ceremony of State Funerals, Private funerals and long extended eulogies that covered more column inches in the papers than any other news we started to see the term “hero” being used. These soldiers were “heroes” according to the media.
Normally I would not be too fussed about the semantics involved if it wasn't for another incident over a completely unrelated matter, which has taken up much of the press time and where, once again, the term “hero” was used as well.
Some time ago a gay student at a local Catholic School decided that he wanted his boyfriend to attend the Prom with him. So, being an absolute genius, he decided to ask the School Principal for permission.
Which of course was turned down. While the Catholic Church may turn a blind eye toward the priests fiddling around with the alter boys, they have a strange belief that condoning this activity is not appropriate. Actually, as one of the Board members said, they condemn the act and not the person. In other words having two men dancing and kissing on the floor of the Prom was not wanted but they didn't actually have a problem with the young man attending. Alone!
Which, given the furore over the actions of various Priests, is hypocritical to say the least.
Now normally I would not pay much attention to this either. However thanks to a very strong politically correct lobby here in Canada this case got far more attention than it deserved. Including I might add a court case and far too much airtime on the TV.
Which is where I noticed that this young man was in fact only in this whole affair to create a stir and find his “fifteen minutes of fame”. Down to the carefully tinted blue hair!
And the carefully controlled tears.
In fact after a while I moved from feeling a modicum of sympathy to wondering when someone would remove this self-centered sniveling little git from the news.
Unfortunately all the usual suspects decided that this was a wonderful opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and so we had the whole circus being prolonged and embellished.
Down to the point where certain of these fools now started to use the term “hero” to describe this idiot. He was a “hero” to take on the Catholic Church! A “hero” to go to court to get permission to do so, conveniently forgetting the supposed dictum about Church and State. Which oddly enough was what the Judge appeared to do too but then it was to be expected when this turned into a human rights debacle.
Ah! The beauty of Canada! Where any fool with determination, a cause and a Lawyer prepared to seek publicity, is afforded the opportunity to waste taxpayer's money merely by whispering the word “rights”!
So sniveling git went to the dance. Blue rinsed hair and all. Including a posse of media photographers to record the occasion. And ask classmates stupid questions, which they were all sooooo diplomatic in replying too.
The next day the liberal newspapers had more column inches about how wonderful it was to have the Church being told that all their tenets and beliefs were wrong and should not be allowed to be practiced in education. Which, given that this was a religious school, was interesting to say the least. The main theme being that religion and state should not mix and that religion should be banished from schools.
Until the next week that is, when, without a thread of shame, or even displaying a modicum of the notion of irony, the next religion and school issue surrounding a schoolboy “hero” raised it's ugly head.
This time it involved a Sikh boy out in Quebec who was expelled from school for refusing to leave his ceremonial dagger, or kirpan, at home. The concealed weapon fell from his shirt while in the playground and the authorities felt that it wasn't the sort of toy that a 10-year-old boy should be lugging around the hallowed halls of academe.
The usual suspects felt different. How dare the school demand that the rest of the student's safety over-rule that of the individual rights of a visible minority and his religion?
Better yet, and as I said earlier, without the slightest trace of irony, all the usual suspects decided that schools had no right to stop this boy from practicing his religion.
So on the one hand a religious school may not practice it's basic reason for being, while on the other, we have the right to inflict religion on a state school where technically religious teachings are outlawed.
And nobody seemed to see the total absurdity in the situation either. Especially the media, which went so smoothly from decrying religion in schools to demanding that it be upheld! About the only message that stayed the same in this 180degree turn was that the boy was a hero. Oh yes! Now we have 10-year-old heroes merely because they have to carry daggers.
Mind you I do know which of these two schoolboy “heroes” I would prefer to back me in the schoolyard. Powder puffs at forty paces just doesn't cut it for me.
The denigration of Billy Bishop, a true hero, a few weeks before had puzzled me at the time but I am beginning to understand a few aspects of the social re-engineering crowd. Kill off the true heroes and you are able to concoct heroes out of the chosen minority of your choice in order to indoctrinate the masses.
Which is why we have reworked histories and biographies suddenly appearing in which the object is to paint the past with as much mud as possible.
Heroes, as I understand it, are people who attempt to do a deed that is to the betterment of others. They do it without thought of themselves or, more properly, they do think of the consequences as it applies to them, but ….do it anyway! Without the expectation of publicity or reward either.
I have known many heroes in my life, which is why it annoys me immensely to see the term loosely applied to every idiot around. There are so many better people around Canada who can truly be termed heroes. But the sad fact of life is that true heroes don't want the glare of publicity and so it is that we have plastic heroes being artificially manufactured. Even sadder is that the youth will probably grow without knowing what constitutes a true hero. Which is sad.
Now, for true irony, wouldn't it be interesting if blue-headed git was stabbed in a playground fracas by Kirpan boy? Imagine the angst that would produce!