Here We Go again – Final

I started this little series following the Kelowna stop of the provincial consultation process on what was entitled the “Disability White Paper”.  I may have come across as demeaning it a little which was not really my purpose.  My purpose was really to show how history is continually repeating itself and that generational shifts happen regularly.  It’s a lot like being a twenty year old and saying you would never parent like your parents.  Usually by the time you are forty most people have come to realize that maybe the way our parents parented wasn’t really that bad.  In fact based on the societal norms, supports and technology they had available to them they generally did a pretty good job.  In the meantime we have wasted twenty years trying to correct things that didn’t really need correcting.

This whole idea was reinforced at the end of the event by a women from my generation.  I am going to take a wild shot in the dark here by saying she had a visual impairment.  Although I didn’t meet her or talk to her that fact that she was wearing dark glasses and using a white cane makes me fairly comfortable in my assessment.  Her closing comment was directed at the younger participants in attendance and it was basically a reminder of all the work that had been done by her generation.  She was really telling them that they didn’t have to re-invent the wheel as much as improve it a little.

The second impressive comment that came out of that meeting was that an accommodation should not be part of a barrier.  This is one that I have dealt with personally in many situations.  Having done some private advocacy work (I’m not part of any non-profit so the government can’t take away any funding from me) I have dealt with to many situations where it was all about the fight.  I have dealt with to many families that have had services denied to their child with a disability and wind up having to appeal.  In the past three years I have done seven appeals and won every one of them.  In every one of those situations it was a two or three thousand dollar service (speech therapy, community integration, etc) being denied.  The appeal process would cost ten to fifteen thousand to complete.  Now where is the logic in that.

My most recent personal situation was the fifty-four weeks process which involved two appeals (the government lost the paper work for the first one is what I was told) to get $3500 in assistance to purchase a new wheelchair.  In too many of these cases the approach from government and often the service provider is adversarial rather than accommodating.  Budget protection becomes more of a priority than the actual delivery of services.  What this kind of approach tends to ignore, using my personal case as an example, is called “return on investment” or ROI.  Now that I have this new chair I can continue contributing to the community for the next five or six years without necessarily having to tap into any social support programs.

Lightweight wheelchair
Over $6000 by the time the upgrades finish.

I know many people would have have just given up and accepted what was given to them.  This chair weights 22 pounds and is considered a premium wheelchair.  The one the government program initially insisted I take weighted in at 47 pounds which is a big weight difference.

When your both shoulders are shot due to over forty years of walking on crutches that decrease in weight can make a huge difference.  What they didn’t really understand fifty years ago was that shoulders were not meant to be a weight bearing joint so eventually shoulders will wear out.  Since I drive my own car every time I go out I am lifting my chair into the car at least four times per trip.  That type of repetition creates added stress to ones shoulders.  Had of I not taken my own actions (a benefit of self-determination) and fought the governments decision I really doubt I would be as ambulatory today.

One of the question this consultative process wanted people to focus on was “What can British Columbians do to welcome the contributions of people with disabilities, and what barriers can we remove”? To me the answer, in my mind, is pretty simple except when you are dealing with government nothing is simple anymore.  It has all become about “risk mitigation“.  Focus on self determination and get rid of the adversarial nature of service delivery.  For example every time I have to access a disability related program I have to bring in documentation from my doctor to prove I’m disabled.  Every five years I have to renew my disabled parking placard and each time I have to bring in a letter from my doctor to prove I qualify as disabled. Trust me people, the results of polio are never going to go away and I will always be considered disabled.  It is a small thing but I am being forced to tap into an already overburdened healthcare service.

And secondly, to make things work utilize the resources that are there.  One of the recurrent themes throughout the day was educating employers.  Well for the past forty years minimum there have been community organizations (Canadian Paraplegic Association, Community Living Association, Independent Living Association, Canadian Mental Health Association and the list goes on) whose role has been to promote community awareness.  The organizations are there, use them.  Quit creating barriers by playing politics with members of society who live with a disability.  Quit trying to reinvent the wheel,  focus on improving it with the new tools and changes in societal thinking.

Just one man’s opinion!

Neglectful Use of Policy

This recent tragedy at the assisted living centre in L’Isle-Verte, Que re-opened an old concern of mine and one I have raised often.  In fact I raised this with the Cowichan Valley Emergency Preparedness Committee in the late 90’s following an extreme storm and major power outage (some places for four days) on Vancouver Island.  Those power outages were not uncommon on many of the smaller islands.  I raised it again with the Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs Emergency Preparedness group following the massive fires in Slave Lake.  And I raised it directly with the Minister responsible for Municipal Affairs following the Calgary floods.

I thought my concern was pretty straight forward and didn’t need a lot of explanation.  I thought wrong!  My concern, were the various emergency preparedness organizations aware of individuals with disabilities using life sustaining equipment at home?  Equipment dependent on electricity like power wheelchairs, lift systems including stair lifts, breathing apparatuses (like night time ventilators), home dialysis machines (yes there are such things), etc.  There are many people living very independently with the assistance of equipment.  You lose your power you lose the use of the equipment.

Much of this equipment has back-up power capabilities but it is time limited.  I have a good friend in Mill Bay who needs to use a respirator to sleep.  He is what they refer to as a gulp breather and when he is laying down he needs the assistance of a respirator.  His equipment has a six hour back-up battery so if the power goes out in the middle of the night the alarm goes off to wake him and he can use his lift system to get sitting back up.  His lift system is ceiling track and the battery will hold a charge for up to 24 hours dependant on how much usage.

In some of the more remote areas of our country (and that doesn’t necessarily translate into far north) there are numerous life extending events that go on in ones home.  Home dialysis comes to mind but some paediatric cardiac equipment also jumps out at me.  The amount of individuals with COPD concerns are also using oxygen at home which is something I think any first response rescuers should be aware of.  If I’m going to ask a bunch of volunteer fire fighters to head into a burning building, knowing there was a tank of compressed oxygen on the premise would be a good thing to know.

Scooter after Calgary flood
This will never be repairable!

During the floods in Calgary many people were without power for days.  Longer than any battery life that I am aware of.  This scooter was in an underground parking lot of a seniors high-rise and it will never be usable again.  Slave Lake was without power for days leaving anyone needing power for their equipment cut off.   It was after the Slave Lake fire that I contacted the provincial emergency preparedness office to see how issues like this were treated.

I received the same type of response that I had received ten years earlier from their BC equivalent.  I was told that due to “confidentiality” this information couldn’t be collected.  I find that answer to be very weak and the whole protection of privacy an excuse for government to ignore some of the most vulnerable members of the community.  They not only jeopardize the vulnerable, they put many of our first responders at risk.  As I mentioned earlier a container of compressed oxygen should be something those first responders should be aware of.

It strikes me as odd that I can type “oxygen supply house, Calgary” into my Google search bar and be bombarded later by related ads for the Calgary area.  And yet governments don’t want to create vulnerable people registries for emergency respond purposes.  It’s not even information that is hard to retrieve.  It is not like you are heading down to the corner Mac’s to get your equipment.  Every medical and oxygen supply house has a database of their customers.  This would not be hard to coordinate but so far I am aware of no one stepping forward to tackle this problem.

As these natural disasters seem to be happening with greater frequency maybe it is time some forward thinking non-profit stepped forward with a revenue generating program.  You know a “here’s a market, here’s a service” type of thing.

Of course government goes on about protecting the information rights of the individual while ignoring the safety factor.  And yet when, say, the Children’s Hospital Foundation wants a poster child for their annual $100 a ticket new home raffle, confidentiality goes out the window.  As a side note have you ever noticed that none of these raffled million dollar homes are ever wheelchair accessible.  To me that really muddies the water around the whole “understanding” issue.

So with this said, does it ring a chord with you?  Do you feel your protection or the protection of your loved ones is better served by NOT having the need for power to their residence identified?  If this is an issue that concerns you contact your political representative on every level.  Start making your voice heard!

Just one man’s opinion!

The New Extended Family – Facebook

People that know me know what a techie freak I am.  Since I am from the border generation (those over 55) people tell me I am an anomaly when it comes to technology with many of my friends coming to me for advice in regards to their computer issues.  And for the uninitiated, the world of computers has as many specialities as health care.  Just because somebody is very good using Word (as an example) does not mean they are a techie.

A computer to them is kind of like a car to me.  I can strip down my computer, install new audio or video cards, put in extra memory, reset or create new settings, etc etc.  If I were so inclined I could access your computer, record your keystrokes and you wouldn’t even know I was there.  The only thing I can do with my car is use the ignition key, make sure it’s kept fuelled and take it in for its regular maintenance.

With that said your computer requires maintenance as well and can be just as dangerous as a car if you don’t know what you are doing.  It can also be a useful as your car when it comes to getting things done and staying in touch with people.

When I was a kid dad would pile us in the car and off we would go to see relatives, yes relatives, members of our extended family.  In today’s day and age you wouldn’t throw the car keys at your kid and tell them to go for a drive without first making sure they were prepared.  The same is true when it comes to technology, proper preparation to computer use and social media is definitely a requirement.

Because I went back to school in 2004 to complete a two year program on e-commerce and business application in a digital world I was able to access Facebook in its very early days.  When it was first released in Feb of 2004 initially it was only available to university students so I have been at it coming up to ten years.  It has been continually morphing since its inception to what it is today.  From my perspective it has become an excellent tool to help maintain the concept of the extended family, something that has been under erosion for the past thirty years.

Lets face it we are a much more portable society today then we were forty years ago.  My family is spread from one side of Canada to the other.  I have relatives and friends all over the world.  Facebook is my primary tool when it comes to maintaining contact with friends or family.  I understand the importance of that extended family so Facebook has done wonders in maintaining that.  The other tool, Skype, has brought a whole new world to long distance grand-parenting.

So when I see a story like the one yesterday about the declining interest in Facebook, it makes me think of a number of things.  However right at the top of the list is how little importance parents over 35 years of age appear to be putting on the concept of the extended family.  What are we teaching our kids?

When I see a young lady on the news (she was probably around 16) telling the world she is leaving Facebook because her generation uses other forms of social media like Instagram, Tumblr, or any other of like programs which should be anybodies option.  However lets do it for the right reasons.  She went on to say she wants to hear from her friends on how good she looks in that picture or how cool her current activity is.  What she doesn’t want to hear is from some uncle or aunt telling her how much she looks like her mother.

I can appreciate her need for affirmation from her peers but I do hope that is not her only avenue for praise.  To me that is frightening.  But it also tells me that she has no concept of the extended family my generation grew up with.  Facebook has the potential to keep that extended family concept alive and well but when you have teenage users who don’t understand that I have to question the parenting.  What are you teaching your children?

I think people have the right to use whatever tools they so desire as long as others are not being hurt.  But when they fail to recognize the full potential of that tool then someone, somewhere has dropped the ball.  Seeing Facebook solely as a way to receive affirmation over your looks or activities is really very shallow which seems to be the direction our society is taking.  Pigeon holing Facebook as a dying social media because some relative you haven’t seen in years shares a family thought with you does not make it useless.  Limiting the scope of the potential of Facebook is right up there with spending $500 on Photoshop so you can scan pictures.

Not understanding the scope of a tool like Facebook is an indication that parents have even less understanding of it than their children.  Facebook has become the biggest contributor to the concept of extended families we have seen in over thirty years.  And parents, if you are serious about your kids growing up to be responsible contributing members of society then learn a little about the tools your kids are using.

Just one man’s opinion!

It’s Not as Simple as it Looks!

Following a great Christmas with family and a close friend coming for New Year’s it’s time to squeeze in one little rant.  I can’t really say it is another matter of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.  It’s more indicative of further erosion of our rights and that right was the freedom to move around this fine country, also known as “portability”.  It is also good example of how a well meaning policy can have a detrimental affect on others.  The following is an example of both issues!

As many of you are aware I recently moved back to BC as sort of a support system to my mother.  Prior to actually moving I stocked up on three months supply of my prescriptions.  Precautionary but I also had a doctor who always gave me a three month supply of medications, after all there hasn’t really been a change to my meds in over ten years with the exception of Codeine Contin.  Those are a long lasting, slow release narcotic that was suggested to a way to manage my shoulder pain.  And they worked very well.  I take two tabs in the morning and I am set for the day.  In fact they worked well enough that I was able to give up Canada Pension Disability benefits and return to the work force.

So now I have left Alberta and come back to BC.  My prescriptions were running low and I needed to have my customary blood pressure check.  I am on a blood pressure medication so I do like to keep track of that.  Having been unable to find a family physician that is taking new patients in the Kelowna area I went to one of the many walk-in clinics (or in my case, wheel-in).  And I only reference the wheel-in because it was pretty obvious this place had never anticipated a wheelchair coming in.  The only place to park my chair was in the aisle of this very tiny waiting area.

Once they had collected the required information at the front desk followed by an hour wait (not bad really) I got into see a doctor.  I had brought my London Drugs prescription containers so the doctor would know which meds I was taking (there are only five of them).  She quickly wrote me out a prescription for four of them however, since it wasn’t offered, I had to ask to have my blood pressure checked.

When she got to the Codeine Contin she told me she would be unable to fill that one because in BC it is a controlled “opiate” and that only a persons family doctor could prescribe that.  These meds require a special prescription in BC but not in Alberta.  With that said it is also a drug a lot of drug abuser use so I do understand that part of the issue.

I explained I did not have a family doctor yet having recently move to BC but that I did need the medication.  When I’m taking it my shoulders hardly ever bother me but give me three days without and I quickly remember why I am taking it.  I explained this to the doctor and enquired why it was not a controlled substance in Alberta, thinking prescribed narcotics were federal jurisdiction.

Well to my surprise it is up to each province to decide how certain drugs will be dealt with.  So BC wants to error on the side of caution and not contribute to potential drug abuse.  I don’t disagree with that but I also have a hard time with any policy that is so rigid there is no room to accommodate those individuals that actually require this drug.  After all the pharmaceutical companies are not manufacturing this drug solely for addicts.   In fact I would put it to the medical community that monitoring me for my blood pressure is probably a better idea than worry about me being a drug addict.  By the time everything was said and done I had three months supply of my other meds and a two week supply of my shoulder meds plus an understanding that I would find a family physician to further prescribe these meds.

Once I was back at my computer I immediately checked the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons website and used their find a doctor page.  This was a process I had already been through twice so I was not surprised to discover that no doctors in my immediate area were accepting new patients.  Well now I’m getting frustrated because when you live with a disability you do want a permanent doctor and with the current issue over my pain meds it has become a little bit more urgent.

So I decide to take it to the next step and fire off an e-mail to the college expressing my frustration.  Well to the College’s credit I had a response the next day from a Doctor Galt Wilson, the Deputy Registrar (Complaints and Practice Investigation).  After exchanging a few e-mails (done over the Christmas holidays for which I very much appreciate this Dr. Wilson) he appeared to have a good grasp of my situation and will make a few enquiries for me.  Doctor Wilson was very appreciative of my concerns and supportive of the need for me to have a primary health provider (I use to just call them doctors) however I am sure if I had not of chased this down I would be no further ahead.  With that said I still don’t have a family physician…yet!

So to boil it down…shoulder pain = inability to function very well and dependence on a government support program.  Introduce proper medication = functional contributing member of society.  Different province = different regulations + no available physician = no medication designed to maximize functionality.  No functionality = dependence back on some government program and loss of independence.  Are we seeing a circle here?  All I want to do is live my life as independently as possible while not having my shoulders screaming at the rest of my body all day.  Who knows, maybe I am addicted but the bigger issue is that I am functional.

Just one man’s opinion and happy New Year!

Merry Christmas 2013

Another Christmas is just about upon us and it is a time of year that has a very different meaning for me.  I spend more Christmases in the Alberta Children’s Hospital then I did with my family.  The Children’s Hospital did everything they could to arrange passes so as many kids as possible could go home for Christmas however that wasn’t always possible.  If one were under ten it was much easier because you were generally light enough to be carried into your family home.  I’m not sure the word access was even a thought in those days.  However once you hit adolescence you tended to be a little heavier which made it much more difficult for your parents to carry you around.

If memories serves, and I have no reason to believe it is slipping yet, there would generally be fifteen to twenty kids spending Christmas in the hospital.  Since the Children’s held about a hundred kids you could look at it as 80% being able to make it home.  However for others it just wasn’t a possibility.  There always seemed to be about a half dozen kids with Perthes Disease being treated with bed rest while being wrapped up in an exoskeleton apparatus to treat the hips.  Others were either to sick or physically unable to get passes for the holidays.

I recall two Christmas’s where I was in casts from my chest to my ankles (this was long before fibreglass so plaster of paris was the only casting material, very heavy) which meant staying in the hospital.  By the time I was sixteen I had had almost twenty surgeries so often that trip home for Christmas was impossible due to surgeries.  Now don’t get me wrong, I did not see this as a big issue.  My preference was always for the hospital.

This was the 50’s and early 60’s.  I was from a family of six kids and my parents had a very tight budget.  I was selfish enough to know if I went home four or five gifts would be it but by staying in hospital we had gifts from every service club in Calgary.  In other words, jackpot!  Ask any eleven year old who has spend a lot of time in a hospital and see which pile of gifts they will go for.  Harsh but true, after all we were children of the Christmas Story generation.

From a Winnipeg newspaper, 5 years old and March of Dimes Timmy
From a Winnipeg newspaper, 5 years old and March of Dimes Timmy

The hospital kept us busy with all kinds of activities.  The usual visit from Santa and all kinds of local choirs or singing groups who would come by to entertain.  However the best part of the day was spend in the third floor solarium.  That took up one wing of the third floor and was equivalent to the community playground.  We would spend hours in there sharing our newly acquired toys, experimenting with new games and just generally having fun.  Nobody knew about electronics in those days so most presents were games or toys that involved interaction with others, like a Roy Rogers gun set.  We were our family.

In those days parents or family visits were very restrictive at the best of times.  Parents were allowed to visit twice a week (Wednesday afternoon for one hour and Sunday afternoons for two hours) and a visit involving siblings was by pre-arrangement which could happen once a month.  Christmas was no different, parents had a visiting window between 1 and 2:30pm.  Whether or not they showed up was often dictated by their activities at home.  When you have a houseful of visitors, relatives and your own family it could be difficult to get that hour put aside while still doing all of the Christmas activities that involved twenty or more other people.  Most of us hospital kids didn’t give it much thought because we were having our own fun.

I don’t believe we felt deprived and I think a big part of that was that we were all the same.  In our family homes we were the kid with the disability which did have an impact on the dynamics of that day.  In the hospital the disability wasn’t the issue, we were just kids having fun.

I never grew up with the traditional family Christmas.  I grew up with Christmases that involved gathering like minded people together who were surrogate families.  By the time I was too old for the Children’s Hospital, Christmas had lost a lot of its shine.  I wasn’t use to the whole family thing at Christmas.  When it did come to my first real adult Christmas with my family, well I had run away at 17 years old to avoid the wishes of the Alberta Eugenics Board.  I was living as a hippie in Vancouver and my first attempt at doing a Christmas dinner involved a trek into Stanley Park at 5:30 in the morning to trap, kill and clean a mud feeding goose.  Not something I would recommend again but that was 1967 and a lot has changed since then.

With that said this will be my first Christmas in Kelowna with my mother.  My son, grandson as well as my ex-wife are coming to town to celebrate with us.  My mother is beside herself with excitement over that.  I will be hosting and approach it with mixed feelings.  Christmas for me has always been a different time of year and I suspect that goes back to my childhood.  However all of the shopping is done, the gifts are under the tree and all I have left to do is go out today and grab a turkey roaster.  I don’t have a pot large enough for that.

Have a Merry Christmas and may 2014 be your best year yet.  I know I plan on being much more regular with my blogs.  Best of the season everyone!

Just one man’s opinion!

Changing Times, Failing Joints

Everyone has points in their life when realities can no longer be ignored.  My most recent epiphany hit me yesterday and it is a hard one to accept.  As a polio survivor my independence has always been on the top of my list of importance, some have told me to a fault.  There were points in my life where my independence has been challenged and never more than the day I finally had to accept total wheelchair dependence.  That’s what happens when a joint (shoulder) that were never designed to be a weight bearing wear out.

The world changed considerably for me at that point.  All of a sudden accessibility became a much bigger issue than I had ever realized.  When I left Calgary in 1990 to move to Vancouver Island I was still using crutches but when I returned to Calgary in 2007 I was wheelchair dependent.  Places I use to go to regularly were no longer accessible to me.  So many places had one or two steps which I had never paid attention to before.  The realization that Calgary was a very accessible city all of a sudden wasn’t true.  However you move on and do the best you can.

On the unfortunate side of things many of the friends I use to have in Calgary were no longer there.  I attribute that to one of two things (possibly both).  First none of them have accessible homes and my days of crawling up steps while my wheelchair is carried in are behind me.  I would like to think that some of these friends were increasingly guilty by my inability to visit.  A few of them felt it was to expensive to visit my condo because of the $4/hour parking fee on Calgary streets.

The other option, which is just as likely, is that I am a bigger prick then I sometimes give myself credit for.  I do know a lot of people that have no desire to hear about advocacy issues particularly if it intrudes on their perspective of the world.  I can understand that.

However yesterday my own failing abilities really hit me as I finished folding my laundry.  It took me three days to get that done.  I could fold four towels then my shoulders would start to let me know just how pissed off they were with me.  I would have to put the rest aside until the shoulders stopped throbbing.  It’s a simple thing however it is the simple things that erode independence.

So with that said I have one set of sheets to finish folding and then I hope to be able to finish off my Christmas decorating.  Anything that requires me to lift my arms above shoulder height takes a little longer these days.

My next hurdle will be my knees.  So far I can still balance on my knees enough to use my inaccessible bathroom as well as my shower.  Once the knees are totally shot (and they are not in that great of shape right now) I will have to give some serious thought to a wheelchair “accessible” place to live rather than a wheelchair “friendly” place.

Just one man’s opinion!

Support Services Spelt SUICIDE!

This morning I read about potentially the fourth suicide in less than ten days by another member of the Canadian military.  There are suspicion that all four were dealing with PTSD.  Yesterday Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire, a true Canadian hero in my opinion, had a minor fender bender on his way to the Senate.  With the twentieth anniversary of Rwanda and his ongoing issue with PTSD he admits he hasn’t been sleeping well and feeling quite exhausted.  The comments on these stories ranged from the absurd (the usual 20% who pass off their ideology as thought) to compassion (the 60% who believe that there are “easily” accessible support programs) to the outrage from the overly informed who work with this kind of thing everyday.

The Conservative speaking notes from the current spokesperson, Laurie Hawn, basically stated these people need to speak out and seek help.  Almost end of discussion.  The reality is that this government is closing down nine Veterans Affairs office across Canada and substituting those services with an “app” that will allow them to interact with “someone”.  Now I don’t know about you but as a 63 year old considered well versed not only to technology but to PTSD as well this solution just doesn’t cut it.

Two quick comments on that.  This government needs to develop a much better understanding of what PTSD is about so they can realize how much frustration compounds this problem.  Anybody with any understanding or experience with various apps knows how frustrating they can be at times, particularly when you have never used one before.

And secondly they need to realize that many vets don’t know the difference between a cell phone and a smart phone let alone how to figure out an “app”.  This comment is not meant as any disrespect to our dedicated military members however it is a reality many of our over 60 year old vets are facing.  Our forces should be more than a photo op for our elected officials.  It’s despicable to think these individuals should return home in one piece but broken and in need of help just to be given an app then pushed out the door.

The dismantling of support services along with the current culture of “stiff upper lip” makes it very difficult to, as Mr. Hawn put it, step forward.  There has been to many incidences where a veterans private file has been passed around government offices while information out of those files has been used to denigrate the veterans in question.  Pat Stogran, the former Veterans Ombudsman, can attest to that.  By the time he was removed from his position he had already identified any substantive change when it came to helping vets as a losing battle.

The actions of the current Conservative government have been nothing but hypocritical when it comes to our Armed Services.  They have invaded veterans private files, eroded support programs, delayed the supply of adequate equipment and now vets return home to nothing.  When they do receive attention it’s either for a promotional photo op by a member of government or because of a suicide and that’s not good enough.

The comment from Mr. Hawn, step up and ask for help shows just how out of touch this government is.  When I listen to the current group of government sock puppets all I hear is that it is the responsibility of the veteran to seek help.  Anybody who understands PTSD, or any other mental health issue for that matter, knows that denial is a big part of the disorder.  Combined with a culture where mental illness is frowned upon, a system where an individuals chances for advancement could be impeded if they come forward with mental health issues and the erosion of support services where is the REAL encouragement to come forward.  An “app” doesn’t cut it!

Even the Veterans Charter, which had been forced down the veterans throat to the disgust of the then Veterans Ombudsman, is now under review and seen as a dismal failure.  None of the actions described above create a situation where a veteran can truly feel safe coming forward for help.

The vets I know, and that is quite a few, tell me they felt safer overseas than they do when they return home.  This smoke and mirrors government is costing some of the most vulnerable of our society their lives and that type of hypocrisy is something no one in a true democracy should tolerate.

The only face of PTSD I want to see is that of a morally corrupt and egotistical government as they march out of Parliament following the next election.  I just hope that our veterans don’t have to wait that long to have their needs met in an honourable and professional manner, not with an app!

Just one man’s opinion!

Tribalism – Worlds within Worlds

In many of my posts I have often mentioned “worlds within worlds” or people “living in their bubbles”. This is not meant in a negative way and actually is not all that uncommon based on social anthropology. It is known as “tribalism“.  The Merriam Webster dictionary defines tribalism as “loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group“.  Like the “fight or flight” reaction that goes back to the days of the cavemen, tribalism is a genetic left over from a previous time.  It is ingrained in our psyche.  A strong tribalism reaction can ignite our fight or flight mechanism.

I first became aware of this term and its affect on society when I was reading “No Small Change” by Dian Cohen.  That was in the 90’s and the global economy was just beginning to be fully recognized.  Dian Cohen is well respected Canadian economists.  She was joined by the likes of Nuala Beck and Jennifer James.  In fact Jennifer James’s book “Thinking in the Future Tense” became a major tool and background document for me.

Dian Cohen spoke of tribalism from her own perspective and its effect on the economy.  She acknowledged and promoted the need for change in tribal thinking needed in the labour movement and the corporate boardroom.  I prefer to look at tribalism and its affect on social justice issues.  Different segments of our community (tribes) have different concepts of social justice and it is often based on the social strata they live in.  Acknowledging tribalism in any adversarial situation is a good risk mitigation tool and one every advocate should be aware of.

I have dealt with too many people and lost a number of valuable friends due to my insistence on social justice.  It is not that these friends are oppositional to social justice.  On the contrary they tend to be very supportive of it.  However they look at it from their own “tribes” perspective and I failed to acknowledge their tribal views.  Most of these people have spend the majority of the last forty years with the same tribe in Calgary.

Over the past forty years I have lived in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria as well as Calgary.  With almost every move I have also changed (I prefer the idea of built on) careers.  Some of my careers have been as a business analyst for Dunn and Bradstreet in Toronto, a hospital mental health therapist in Calgary and a policy analyst for the government in BC.  My careers have been diverse and my social circles have continually changed.  I have socialized with many tribes but never really put roots in any of them.  With that said I have maintained numerous friendships with people from my past in Calgary.

Many of those relationships in Calgary are well entrenched in their own tribal beliefs.  The longer one is with their “tribe” the more complacent they can become.  You trust your tribe which is normal but you should never trust your tribe blindly.  Every now and then you have to review what is going on in your life to see if your tribe still meets your needs and expectations.  That whole process is almost alien to anyone approaching retirement age except to review their financial situation.

Hell they have planned and worked hard to get to get to this point.  Most people work towards retirement with the idea that it will be comfortable and enjoyable.  Being comfortable is not about focusing on all of the downside of our communities.  There is no enjoyment in focusing on the negative side of our community.  However being ignorant of the issues or outright denial of the issues is not the responsible things to do and that same sense of responsibility is what contributed to attaining that positive retirement plan.

My lack of deep attachment to any one tribe is now taking its toll.  There really is no retirement when a big part of your life has been about social activism.  It is difficult to go from having spend the day with a family teetering on the brink of their own sanity due to the continual fight to obtain treatment for their self-abusive child with autism to having a nice supper with an early retirement couple planning their next vacation to Europe.  There is a huge incongruity in those two tribes even though both tribes have their own merit.  Meanwhile I too often find myself stuck in the middle attempting to balance the two styles in my mind.

This has been a very brief overview of the “tribalism” concept.  I am raising it now because I believe what we are witnessing in Ottawa between the Senators and the politicians is tribalism at its height.  If you look at the definition again you will notice the last part of that definition is “strong negative feelings for people outside the group“.  Not just negative feelings but “strong” negative feelings.  The kind of negative feelings that will lead to a tribe circling the wagons in resistance to any tribal status change when it would be much more constructive to sit down and talk about compromise.

Activists and advocates are really out on their own.  I am seeing that now.  Some of my peers from the 80’s who fought for certain rights and conditions stopped fighting once they had accomplished their goal or satisfied their personal agenda.  Traditionally an activist is someone who is pushing for tribal change which is a continual challenge.  The challenge is continual for numerous reasons but can be compared to aging.  We progress and make changes based on the needs of the time.

We battle for change based on issues like technological change, societal thinking, economic issues, political beliefs, etc but we should never accept change that moves us backwards.  I am now watching battles being fought that I thought had been settled years ago.  People become so comfortable with their tribe that they begin to accept the packaged messages of the tribe as unquestionable reality.  And as we reached that hard worked for retirement we don’t want things that may make our lives uncomfortable.  To me in many cases that is just complacency and that is one tribe I will never join.

So to my advocate friends make your self aware of tribalism.  And to my friends who use wheelchairs, never park in a designated disabled spot is a way that your wheelchair could role away in mid-shift.  In other words have your car door between you and the bottom of the hill.  It’s been my experience, repeatedly, that disabled parking spots tend to be located on the side with the hill.

Just one man’s opinion!

And the Fight Continues

I know many of you are already thinking “There’s goes Terry again, picking another fight” but some you can’t just walk (or in my case wheel) away from.  I’m not really known for my complacency so I am taking a big exception to this one.  In part because I was in living in Calgary during the big flood and I saw how many scooters were destroyed because of this exact kind of policy.

Scooter after Calgary flood
This will never be repairable!

There is another scooter related situation going on in Maple Ridge, BC currently which I find particularly upsetting.  Fundamentally it another act of erosion at the basics of our human rights.  And why do I find this particularly upsetting when I have witnessed it happening for the past twenty years.  In part because myself and many of my contemporaries with a disability fought hard and long for the rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Yes there actually is such a document but it is only as effective as it is monitored and I will be damned before I will sit back and watch it slowly be eroded until it is just another worthless government promise.  

The proposed Charter of Values coming out of Quebec is a very good example of just how provinces can erode the basics of Charter Rights but also highlights why we always have to be vigil.  Being vigil means raising my voice over certain issues because we have a whole segment of society that has no idea what “human rights” are.  The fact that Angela was asked to sign a rental agreement forfeiting her rights to reasonable accommodation by denying her access to her mobility aid is a prime example of how little awareness there is out there.

It is maddening and frustrating to accept that much of what my life’s purpose can so easily be swept under the carpet because nobody really wants to know.  If I didn’t raise my voice every now and then why did I spend as much of my life’s energy on this cause as I have.  This is just another example where if you want certain rights you sometimes have to fight for them.  The fact that fighting for them also carries a heavy load of stress which is counter-productive to health is a dichotomy every advocate with a disability has to face.

Now I don’t pick a fight due to every little issue that comes along.   Some are just more important than others.  And what makes them important to me is the erosive impact any particular issue will have the life of the Charter.  The Quebec Charter of Values could result in denying the rights of a large group of the community.  That is erosion on a provincial basis  

Asking someone like Angela to sign their rights away is an individual issue but erodes the whole purpose of the Charter.  When it comes to housing, a topic of great importance to me, nobody should have to forego their rights to attain it.  Unfortunately most landlords have no idea about that kind of thing and the powers that be, the government, don’t seem all that thrilled to actually inform or enforce their own regulations.

As many of you are aware I recently moved to BC from Alberta.  Apartment hunting for an accessible place is difficult enough but to do it long distance complicates it further.  With that said I have one response I would like to share with you.  I saved the e-mail for a number of reasons.  This was the third in a string of e-mails regarding renting this persons two bedroom apartment in Kelowna.

  • Terry, I shall forward some articles recently published on a local news service regarding two condo fires we have just had in Kelowna.  I can’t in good conscience rent to someone in a wheelchair living on the 4th floor who would be reliant on the elevator which wouldn’t be available in the event of a fire.  The building is not sprinklered at all.  Cheers, Carol

Now I could have fought this.  The fact that this lady actually send me an e-mail basically telling me she was refusing me rental based on my wheelchair (disability related) says this is one landlord who doesn’t know the regulations at all.  She did, however, state she couldn’t “in good conscience” which shows good intentions.  However as I have said so many times do not bless me with good intentions.

Yeah this one really pisses me off.  Almost everyone I am aware of who lost their scooters due to the flood in Calgary may never get them replaced because of cost.  These pieces of equipment are not supplied by the provincial government.  However Angela’s rights can be given back to her with the swing of a pen if our government bureaucracy is as serious about individual rights as they are sitting in the Legislature.  Oh right that was cancelled as well!

Just one man’s opinion! 



The Throne Speech, a Compass for Misdirection!

I don’t know about the rest of you but I found the Throne speech to be a real slap in the face to anyone who is capable of individual thought.  I have no idea who actually wrote it but they should have contracted Alice Munro.  After all she just received the Nobel Prize in Literature for her ability to write short stories, the first Canadian female to win this prestigious honour.  This Throne speech read more like a short story rather than a political blueprint.

Governor General David Johnston did what every Harper appointee does which was read the script.  And certainly don’t let context get in the way.  If one were to put all of the self kudos into the proper context of what has actually happened in the past seven years the speech would have been less than fifteen minutes long.  Regardless it still lacks the depth or direction one would expect as a blueprint for a nation.  In fact the only direction I see is MISdirection!

No where in this speech was there a word regarding the important issues facing Canada right now.  When a government is plagued with scandal after scandal then they should return to what got them elected.  If this government is serious about hitting the reset button then deal with the issues at hand.  And it is definitely time to hit the reset button.

This government ran on a platform of economic protection and job creation BUT also to bring a more open, transparent and accountable group of of political leaders to Ottawa.  With the global economy having been in the toilet for the past five years it is no stretch to wave a Canadian flag and say “yay look how well we are doing”.  If job creation is based the results of corporate espionage then lets party in Rio.  I’m sure the agency that does this for us will be celebrating out of their new $1 billion digs affectionally referred to as Project Camelot!

What the government fails to mention is our current national debt, currently sitting at almost $700 billion.  They would also like us to forget about MP’s, a Minister no less, buying $16 a glass orange juice.  This is the same government who two years ago tendered a $20 million 90 day contract to receive economic advice on how to manage the Canadian economy.  This is fiscal responsibility?  If we want our country to be run by a boardroom then why bother with elections.  I am sure that Dean Del Maestro would echo those sentiments!

And yet we are still expected to believe we are dealing with a government that is bringing openness, transparency and accountability to Parliament Hill.  Is it open responsible atmosphere really reflected on Parliament Hill?  Apparently not according to Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault.  And her voice is not alone.  We see these stories everyday in the news but how much actually settles into our conscience.  Anyone else recognizing just how much secrecy is creeping into Canada?

This Throne speech, from my perspective, is a slap in the face to the middle class.  If this government really believes that a sudden interest in the well being of the middle class is really going to change the channel on scandal then that just re-enforces just how out of touch this government is with the middle class.  Just how shallow does this government think the middle class is?  If providing a free “app” to veterans in order to justify closing down nine veterans centres is helping the middle class then we are sunk.

If vague promises to help the “middle class” pushing programs that to date this government has opposed whenever they were raised in the house can sway votes, then people we get what we deserve!

Just one man’s opinion!