DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Key Piece of Canadian Rural History

On our recent motor trip, we had just left Owen Sound heading north toward the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. We were adviced to take the "scenic" shore road" along the sound. At a turn in the road we spotted and stopped at a small scenic lookout spot, which proved to be the only scenic spot on the route. Below is the road sign.

(click to enlarge photos)

This lovely little spot by the side of the road was created by the local Kemble Women's Institute., as a memorial to the women of this rural area who have addressed the concerns of rural women: educational, social and political. I learned on the plaque below that this branch of the Institute is the oldest active branch in the World, founded in 1897, the year Women's Institute was founded.

Central to this parkette of a lookout is this wonderful sculpture of a table set for tea and cookies with an open book upon the table. It represents the countless gatherings of rural women around kitchen tables to discuss issues of importance to them.

I love the line at the bottom of the plaque on the side of the table.

"The table is set. Come sit and ponder our Kemble women, past, present and future making a better community for all."

I did just that for a moment. I thought of how the Women's Institute began at a time when so many rural women were isolated on farms, some still on the frontier in Canada. The Grey and Bruce counties are still very rural and for those who cling to the cities just 1 1/2 hours drive away is seems like wilderness. This was a time of few paved roads and no telephones in rural areas. Through the Women's Institute rural women connected with each other and had a voice. Local branch groups to this day continue to find ways to meet the needs of rural women, families and communities. As the plaque below notes there are 500 branches in Ontario and 9 million members around the World.

This is the plaque on the table. Click on it to enlarge it.

I was interested to notice on the plaque that Agnes Macphail and Nellie McClung, two early social activists were also from this rural part of Canada. Agnes MacPhail was Canada's first female member of parliament and largely responsible for improving Canada's prisons. ( The link about Agnes MacPhail has several interesting historical vignettes about famous early female activists, I encourage you to watch). Nellie McClung was responsible of getting women the vote in Manitoba and she was part of the five women who won the famous "person's case" when women we declared persons and thereby eligible to sit in the Senate.

When I read about the struggle for political rights in the early part of the 20th Century I need to remind myself that it wasn't that long ago. Women in many places in the world have yet to acquire such rights. We should not be so quick to judge their cultures. We are not that far ahead of them. In Canada women got the right to vote in 1918, following Manitoba and some other provinces. It was not until 1940 that Quebec finally ratified the act that gave women the vote. Hopefully, in places were women are just acquiring their "rights" progress going foward will be faster than it was for us. Women in Canada still have not achieved full and equal status with men.

The Women's Institute was founded in Stoney Creek, Ontario. A small rural community on Lake Ontario, at the beginning of the Niagara Peninsula. It was founded in the home of Erlund and Janet Lee with the inspiration of Adelaide Hoodless. The Erlund and Janet Lee Homestead is a museum today.

I was glad I stopped at this lookout overlooking the Sound for it reminded me of this important bit of Canadian history and the history of women's stuggles lead by rural women. Living in a rural area I am aware of the Women's Institute locally. I also once drove by an historic plaque in Stoney Creek that told me it was started in that small community. Beyond this I knew little. I did not know that it spread around the world, particularly among British Commonwealth counties. I think of how many places in the world where women could find such a women's institution useful in overcoming rural isolation through social, educational and political common learning and actio

I am always impressed by the local historical plaques as we drive around the countryside. So many people rose to do great things out of modest rural settings and situations. May it always be so.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Ontario Trip

Just over a week ago, I took advantage of an offer to ride south with my sister and brother-in-law to spend some time with my friend Lynne. I dropped Heidi off at my blogging friend and neighbour, Jenny. Here new farm property has lots of safe space for Heidi as well as her five dogs. I am very comfortable leaving her here. Jenny is as fond of her as I am.

After a couple of days with Lynne at her home in Mississauga, debating what we should do with our time together. It came down to a few days at Niagara Falls seeing the sites, eating well, touring a winery and perhaps taking in a theatrical production at the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, or, a motor trip to the shore of southern Georgian Bay and a few days finding our way home to my place by a very scenic route. We finally agreed upon the latter.

We drove due north from Mississauga to the resort (skiing and boating) area around Collingwood, on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay, the southern shore of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Lynne grew up spending her summers in this area. As an adult, she brought her children here to her parent's summer cottage . One of her brothers still owns their parent's cottage on the waterfront. For nearly 50 years, her extended family have held a reunion and golf tournament in this area. She wanted to share with me this area she thought of as "the North" where she has spend so many years and cherishes so many memories. This is a lovely part of Southern Ontario within an easy drive of Toronto. It is still a rural farming area with strings of small towns along the shore where industry and tourism flourishes.

The skiing area is adjacent to Collingwood in an amalgamated community know as Blue Mountains, the largest community in this area is Thornbury. In this area is the skiing on the ridge of hills know as Blue Mountain.

(click on photo to enlarge) (I hope you take some time to link to some of the many sites I mention)

View from the top of a ski run at Blue Mountain, overlooking Nottawasaga Bay. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will just get a glimpse through the trees of the ski village resort at the base of the hills.

Lynne standing on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay on a windy day.

She love this shore and I had hoped to take a picture at the family cottage but my camera battery died at the wrong moment.

After two days around Blue Mountain we travelled west thought Meaford to Owen Sound, the small city in this area. Hwy 10, knows a Hurontario Street, runs from Port Credit, on Lake Ontario, (where Lynne and I grew up) to Owen Sound on Lake Huron, 135 miles. When we were young these two small communities where linked in this way. Owen Sound is still a small community but Port Credit has been gobbled up along with the rural farm area west of Toronto in what is now the city of Mississauga.

Leaving Owen Sound we headed for Wiarton at the base of the Bruce Peninsula. This is the small town central to the Southern Bruce Peninsula. The other significant community on the Bruce is Tobermory, 50 miles north at the tip of the Peninsula. Here we spend the night at the Princess Hotel, enjoying a lovely meal and viewing this unique harbour community.

The inner harbour of Tobermory.

The next morning we boarded the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry to cross Lake Huron from southern Ontario to Northern Ontario

Here is a view from the ferry of the beautiful blue water of Lake Huron. Yes it really is that blue.

It was a calm day and a lovely crossing to South Bay Mouth on Manitoulin Island. It was a time long ago when I thought I would have liked to have moved to Manitoulin, this largest freshwater island in the World. I have been here a couple of times before but never for long.

Lynne and I took an indirect route across the island so we could see a couple of communities on the Island. We went to Providence Bay, Mindemoya, M'Chigeeng and Little Current. At this community we crossed onto the main land over the North Channel via the historic swing bridge.

One cannot cross here without thinking of the voyageurs. les coureurs de bois, who passed this way paddling the great fur trading route from Montreal to Thunder Bay.

This area on the mainland in the shadow of the ancient La Cloche Mountains , is a stretch of very rugged pre-Cambian Shield of rock and water. From here we passed thought Espanola, a paper mill town. I once brought a young american girl here so she could see the town her favourite hockey player, Alan Secord, grew up in. As it turned out she got to spend a couple of days with him as we rented a cabin from his parents. He was home for the summer and very generously shared some time with this young girl who was a hockey fan. (It is too long a story to recount here). It was this experience that made me think to myself, "Why should only 15 year old girls have their dreams fullfiled?" I had dreams, too. One of them was to own a farm. Within a few months I had purchased my place here on the Temagami River, leaving a suburban life behind.

From here we drove on to Sudbury, the city about an hour's drive west of where I live. It is a large city geographically, with 350 lakes within the city but modest in size, by population, as cities go. It is still a mining center but it has diversified into being a regional center in education, medicine, government services and tourism.

It would have been nice to have an extra day travelling so we could have spend more time viewing the sites, particularly on Manitoulin Island and in Sudbury. Unfortunately, travelling always takes more time than you plan.

This trip we took has many things to view and experience along the way, if you have the time and energy. Here are some of the things than interested me most.

Around Blue Mountain even in the summer there is much to do. On the mountain there is hiking and bicycling. There is also a suspension bridge and a tree top walk ,a zip line ride and the scenic caves.

In Meaford, there is a museum to Margaret Marshall Saunders who wrote "Beautiful Joe" a book I read as a child and in fact my mother read as a child. It was a great Canadian child's story long before Anne of Green Gables. In Meaford, there is a park and statue in honour of Beautiful Joe.

In Owen Sound, there is a museum and memorial to Billy Bishop, a great flying ace in the RCAF during WWII.

Throughout this region there is the northern half of the Bruce Trail, a hiking trail from Niagara Falls to Tobermory roughly following the Niagara escarpment. There are lots of opportunities to hike portions of the trail , and side trails in this area. Here is the map.

Wiarton is the home of Wiarton Willie, the albino ground hog who is celebrated on Ground Hog Day.

Tobermory besides being the southern port of the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry is also a wonderful scenic area above and below the waterline. It is the diving capital of Canada with a diving park so scuba divers can dive on old ship wrecks off this rugged coastline. There is large National Park in the area and some dramatic scenic caves.

Manitoulin Island has more than I can mention of things to do. What makes it most interesting to me is the number of First Nation's communities. 40 percent of the people who live on the island belong to First Nations. Their rich culture is alive and celebrated on the island. These Anishinabi people are made up of Ojibwe, Adawa and Potawatomi, the Three Fires Confederacy. At one time the Iroquois drove the tribes off the Island so they might control the fur trade route . For about 150 years no one lived on the island. After the war of 1812 between Britain (Canada) and the United States, the people of the three fire confederacy came to populate the island again, returning as the US government took their lands in the United States and Canada encouraged native settlement on the island

In Sudbury, one could spend several days, enjoying the environment, the cultural opportunities such as its fine Science Centre.

I look forward to returning to some of these regions and communities again to enjoy a more leisurely visit with what they have to offer.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11: Our Lost Border

It is a sad and grieving day today. Thinking of the relatives of the victims 10 years ago, is a reminder of our frail humanity. I also think of all the victims of the wars on terror as American seeks revenge. How come I do not feel safer and prouder of the state the world is in.

Canada lost 46 citizens and residents that fateful day. I read the brief notes on their live: in their prime, family oriented, productive people with whom so many of us can identify.

Life has changed for all of us in greater or lesser ways. Americans have changed more than Canadians. Americans have become less sure of themselves, fearful, less open to the World.
Before 9/11, Canadians admired Americans, even envied them in many ways, but now I think most Canadians feel badly for Americans and what their country has become. Some of us now pity our American cousins and hope they may overcome their fear and regain some of the best of the soul of America.

An ongoing affect of the tragedy of 9/11 ten years ago is the tranformation of the Canadian/American border. What was once a lightly guarded "picket fence" of a boundary has become a heavily guarded "wall" of a barrier. We were once neigbours who often spoke of each other as family and now we are foreigners to one another. This is particularly true from the American side. The US has been fear driven these past ten years, willing to sacrifice liberty for security. The Canadian government followed suit, not so much out of sense of fear of Canada being a terrorist target, but more out of a need to convince the Americans that we can match their concern for security. This has resulted in a thickening of the border. The changes to the border have made people crossing and commerce crossing more complicated. I miss the old border and the easy relationship across the border.

During the Winter Olympics Tom Brokaw presented a view of Canada for the benefit of Americans. It is the view, most Canadian's grew up with (Canadians are much more aware of the border than the US as most of us live within 100 miles of it.) I suspect many Americans know little of Canada and give little thought to our relationship. I enjoyed this video
recognizing that in many ways it is only an introduction of what is a very complicated relationship.

I have crossed the border many times: at Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Detroit, Northwest, Ontario, the Akwesasne First Nation, an unguarded border crossing between Quebec and Vermont, and Calais, Me. Usually, the biggest worry I had was whether I would be asked to give up my oranges in order to cross (Canada get citrus products from many countries so the US protects it's citrus industry by banning these products). I once was questioned closely at a sleepy crossing because I had my tool box in the back of my truck The border guard thought I was going into the US to work illegally. The most dramatic moment I had was returning to the US at Calais, Me. This was the first time I ever saw a border agent wearing a side arm. He searched our vehicle thoroughly included making us open up our tent. He was looking for drugs I guess although he did not know what he was looking at when he looked in the glove compartment in which he saw a hash pipe. Luckily my friends buried their marijuana on the Canadian side to be picked up the next year on their way to PEI. With a birth certificate you usually were allowed to enter the country. I once forgot mine and was refused entry at the bridge at Detroit. I tried to prove my citizenship by saying I pronounced Toronto a "Traawna" just as I know the was an American by the way he called Detroit as "Da troit". Rather than drive four hours back to Toronto to get my ID I drove drove a few miles and crossed through the tunnel with no problem. Crossing the border was usually relaxed and routine: no lists, no passports, no detailed questioning.

Apparently, there were lists but no one seemed to care about them. When I went to St John's NB to pick up my green card to live and work in the US, I was asked if I belonged to any subversive organizations. I asked what was on the list. The agent said he did not know. So I said, in that case, "NO!" I chose to not name any of the left wing organizations I belonged to. They let me in.

Immediately, after 9/11 I got the impression that when the US improved its borders creating "Fortress" America, Canada would be inside the walls as a result of our special relationship but we found ourselves outside the wall.

It seems the regulations to cross the border continue to be increased by a fear driven border security agency which had no limits to the funds available to it.

Our Conservative government seems to want to follow the US. It cannot seem to form an independent position on anything.

We should have known we were in trouble when G.W. Bush called Mexico and the most significant neighbour of the US. In the speech on 9/20 he gave thanks to a long list of countries that helped the US over 9/11. It did not include Canada, in spite of people knowing how wonderful Canadians were in treating airline passengers who were grounded in Canada, particularly in Gander Newfoundland. Soon American officials began saying the 9/11 terrorists came into the US, through Canada. This was repeated as late as when Janet Napolitano became head of the Homeland Security. It seems Canada had to continually prove itself strong on security. Our Conservative government has fallen all over itself to please the Neo-Conservative government of G.W. Bush. Canada joined the US in tightening the border. Passports, lists of people kept and exchanged, more paperwork, and the most troubling for me was the arming of Canadian border agents. Apparently, we had to look as tough as the American Border Patrol.

The border between Canada and the United States we proudly used to speak of as the longest unfortified border in the World. Well it is fortified now in many ways from strengthened crossing points , to drone aircraft flying overhead. Crossing the border has become a more fearful experience. I always hated that no mans land between the two counties border posts where you seemed to have not right to just turn around and go home. Now the worry includes wondering if you name will appear on some list and you might get arrested and end up in jail before it is sorted out. There are such horror stories. Even the American Ambassador to Canada has been stopped as someone with the same name is on a list.

The unique of the border can only be appreciated if you read about the small communities along the border, some even straddle it having been communities prior to the border firmly being established. The best know case is Derby Line Vermont/ Stanstead, Quebec. But there are others. My favourite is Estcourt Station, Maine. Americans have to pass through Canada to travel to the rest of the United States and the only local gas station is on the American side. Also,
I would love to visit Whitelash, Montana to cross. Places like Point Roberts, Washington, and Alburgh, Vermont are physically cut off from the rest of the United States. One unique place on the border is Akwesasne First Nation, a Mohawk community along the St Lawrence River that borders on New York State, Ontario and Quebec . The list is longer if you want to read about such places. These communites have been greatly inconvenienced by the new border regulations. In some cases streets have been blocked off, not to mention building and even private homes having the border run through them. A way of life that largely ignored the border has been interrupted.

I would hope that as time goes on, perhaps in another 10 years, there will be some relaxing of the the border restrictions. Canada is not an enemy of the US. We once were "kin" but it seems officially Canada cannot trusted. Sadly, no one feels more secure and their are fewer of us crossing into each other countries. This cannot be good.