Free speech not always free

I met the man at a party. He told me he’d just experienced the worst week of his life. He said he’d been rounded up in a Quebec City dragnet and that the police told him they had the authority to keep him in jail indefinitely. I was all ears. I figured I could somehow benefit from listening to his story. Better than that, as the host of a regular radio broadcast, I hoped I could get his story on the air.

“I was a victim of the War Measures Act,” he told me.

“Would you come on my radio show?” I asked him. “I’d like you to tell your story.”

As it turns out, his experience was indeed one that every Canadian wanted to hear at that moment. [more…]

What is the benefit?

It was that time of the night. The host had told plenty of jokes. The volunteers had completed most of the preparations. The event was unfolding the way most had hoped. Even the chair of the fundraising committee had a smile on her face. It was time for the pitch. So, out came the president of the charity that was the beneficiary of the evening to speak.

“Time to dig deep folks,” he said. “It’s why we’re here, right? To make some money.” [more…]

Inside out

It must have something to do with age, but instead of waking up and getting out of bed refreshed, last Sunday morning, I was hurting. Nothing very complicated. It was just a knot in my back. I chalked it up to a tumble during a late-season hockey game or maybe carrying home too many bags of students’ papers to mark.

Anyway, soon after, I took my coffee up to my office and began editing and evaluating those papers. But it was hard to ignore the gorgeous day unfolding outside my office window. So, eventually, with all that blue sky and long-overdue warm air, I gave in.

“I’ll just rake the lawn for a while,” I thought to myself. “At the very least, it’ll clear my head.” [more…]

Making history then and now

Sometimes, achievement comes in very small packages. And sometimes it arrives when you least expect it. In this case, a friend of mine, a teacher who’s been working diligently to pull together a major event this weekend, was in the middle of something else. Suddenly, one of her students interrupted to show her his latest piece of work.

“He was completely covered in sawdust,” my teacher friend Tish MacDonald said, “and he showed me this wooden silhouette he’d been working on. It was incredible.”

The silhouette is the outline of a soldier, a First World War Canadian soldier, whose figure will join the décor and displays that, in a few days, will transform the local high school in Uxbridge, Ont., into the site of “The Samuel S. Sharpe Gala” fundraiser. [more…]

Above and beyond the call

One of a number of interviews Const. Massey experienced on Awards Night for Toronto Police Services.

One of a number of interviews Const. Massey experienced on Awards Night for Toronto Police Services.

The CP24 reporter had been hovering for a few minutes waiting for her turn to do an interview. She approached one of the evening’s featured award-winners, a constable and his partner just an arm’s length away. She waited for the cue from the studio that she was on the air, looked into the camera and introduced the “live” segment from Toronto Police Headquarters. She asked the constable why he was being recognized with a special award.

“Well, if it wasn’t for Jetta,” the constable said, motioning to his partner, “none of this would be possible.” [more…]

All in the details

Uxbridge Oilies hockey club got some unexpected news at end of the old-timers tourney.

Uxbridge Oilies hockey club got some unexpected news at end of the old-timers tourney.

We were just peeling off our hockey gear. We were considering a little refreshment after what we thought was a Pyrrhic victory; in others words, we had won our final game of the oldtimers’ tournament, but figured we were out of the running to win the championship in our division. Then, suddenly, in came the tournament organizers – members of the Uxbridge Islanders hockey club – and they were carrying what looked like a box of prizes.

“You guys won!” they told us. “The other team got too many penalties in their last game and you won on points.” [more…]

Fewer settings at the table

Second World War RCAF Lancaster bomber crew.

Second World War RCAF Lancaster bomber crew.

When I got there, members of our organization, including myself, clustered the meeting chairs into a smaller grouping. It appeared there would be fewer people coming today. Indeed, the president pushed the lectern closer to the chairs since there wouldn’t be as large an audience.

“Not very many here today,” one man said.

“Getting worse too,” said another, noting the recent passing of a friend and regular member. [more…]

To build a birthday party

The Confederation Train in 1967 - Tim Reid Collection.

The Confederation Train in 1967 – Tim Reid Collection.

As I recall, it was a summer morning. It might have been around the July 1 anniversary. It didn’t matter. That whole summer of 1967 had had a birthday feeling to it. In any case, I was just rising from a rare sleep-in. But even in my half-conscious state I remember hearing a sound in the distance. It was the diesel whistle of a locomotive approaching the level crossing in Pontypool, Ont., just south of where I was rising from bed.

“Daa. Daa. Da-da,” the diesel horn announced.

“What the heck is that?” I called out to my folks. And just as quickly as I asked, I realized that it was the first four notes of “O Canada” coming from that train whistle. About 15 minutes later, when I’d arrived at the station, where coincidentally the train stopped for a visit, I discovered it was the Confederation Train. [more…]

Breaking barriers and ceilings

Lovinya Reid, left, and her mother Kervinya, enjoying Centennial College student awards night.

Lovinya Reid, left, and her mother Kervinya Driscoll, enjoying Centennial College student awards night.

Her mother told me that she was shy. Kervinya Driscoll said that when her daughter Lovinya was young, she didn’t like speaking in front of other people. She was quite content to stay at home because it was out of the limelight and safe from the rest of the world.

“As a child my daughter was painfully shy,” Kervinya Driscoll told me the other night. “But then suddenly she came out of herself … and her world got very busy.”

On Tuesday night this week, I presented an annual scholarship to Lovinya Reid for both her academic excellence as a student at Centennial College and her activity as a volunteer making a difference. The June Callwood Scholarship is the college’s way of recognizing a student’s initiative both in the classroom and in the community. (As full disclosure here, I’d point out that I am on the faculty of Centennial and while I sponsor the June Callwood Scholarship, I have no hand in choosing the student who wins it.) [more…]

Escape south to where?

Traffic crossing the Peace Bridge from Canada to USA. Photo

Traffic crossing the Peace Bridge from Canada to USA. Photo

I’ve seen the ones with the blinds closed tight. There are others where the lights are clearly on night and day. And then there are the telltale driveways – particularly after snowstorms – that haven’t seen a car tire or truck tire tread since New Year’s. Their occupants won’t be back until April at the earliest. And they might as well have posted a sign on their houses:

“Gone to Florida for the winter!”

I don’t know whether it’s because the weather has suddenly been normal and delivered us the snow, wind and cold that February and March are generally supposed to. Or, maybe it’s because the March break is just around the corner. But a lot of my friends, neighbours, some of hockey buddies, a few members of my family and a number of my working colleagues have all bailed and gone south. I can almost hear them testing their snorkels or whipping their golf drivers in practice swings. They’re into escape mode. [more…]