9 December 2010

Mature students and the disabled: fast tracking (cheating?) through university

Revised June, 2012

More insights come to us from the press in the UK and Canada, related to mature students and the disabled.

First, from the UK, an article in the Times Higher about the USA's innovations in university education.' In 'Older, wiser, jobless . . ,' a new program endorsed by City University of Seattle commends and rewards the older student who has gained experienced in life in various kinds of ways, apparently, though the article itself mentions only the valuable contribution of the older wiser person who has previously had a career.

It seems that the original meaning of 'mature student' that was familiar to many of us at Western, that of the older student who was permitted to register for a BA without having a graduation certificate, has now been changed, or gotten lost in the intricate application program that neglects to mention this aspect of 'mature student.' True, this article is about the United States, not Canada or Britain. And the emphasis seems to be on the older person who has previously had a career and now wants a degree so she or he can use it to advance their career or regain one. The essential part of this process - the PLA or Prior Learning Assessment - is based on the candidate having an advisor. But I wonder how easy it is to get an advisor at university who could understand the value of one's life experience and want to see the student progress. I never had such a person, who was willing to take the time to understand and go through it with me, and despite having graduated from high school, and achieved a BA and MA, never got to either continue my education or have a career. This kind of mentoring is the foundation of the Prior Learning program in the USA.

It seems to me that the focus will be on only those students the advisor can relate to, can understand without it having to take up too much time or thought processes. That sounds as though a good many qualified individuals will be excluded, for not having the right network, or not living in the right neighbourhood, or having the right husband (not the mention not previously had the right kind of life experience - the career.) How do we know this isn't just another program created for the benefit of a certain segment in society, or certain individuals, so they can be fast tracked through the educational system, while their initial lack of qualifications stand a good chance of getting lost in the process.

In Canada, a related matter has occurred, whereby a student at the University of Manitoba was given a PhD despite not being able to handle certain situations, as he suffered from ‘exam anxiety.’ If all PhD candidates' weaknesses and deficiencies are overlooked or forgiven, then what would be the state of those who get to educate the next generation.

What of favouritism in higher education? Is it what we want? Or if we are one of the favoured would we, too, look the other way. The comments sections following the article 'Older, wiser, jobless' offer insights into what the people think.

Added June, 2012

Continuing on from the battle over the right of the disabled to be granted exemption from completion of requirements for degrees, in ‘Lessons from Lukács,’ 2011, Todd Pettigrew draws a divide between the administration and the professors, as though this is where the problem lies in differences of opinion about who is deserving or not. I’m not convinced of that. The second new piece, ‘Infamous University of Manitoba Professor,’ 2011, comes from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Justice Studies (CIJS) in Winnipeg, bringing into focus once again the decision-making powers of the administration in areas in which they apparently lack expertise. They may have made the final decision, but along the way surely other professors gave their own views on whether it was appropriate, in their view, that the anxiety-ridden PhD candidate be granted a PhD.

Whether it’s older students who have already had the opportunity to prove their worth in the ‘real’ world, or disabled students who wouldn’t stand a chance otherwise of competing, here are two groups from society that are receiving special treatment. Somebody’s making the decision, as to who gets it and who doesn’t. If exams don’t matter any more, or the ability to think, or do research, or write exams under stress, are universities being fair?

Court battle over PhD
By Aldo Santin
Winnipeg Free Press
Oct 30, 2010

Infamous University of Manitoba Professor Ends Battle for Academic Integrity
By R. Jochelson
CIJS - Justice Blogs
Nov 15, 2011

Lessons from Lukács: How the traditional university is under attack from all sides
By Todd Pettigrew
Nov 14, 2011

Older, wiser, jobless: US adults drawn by degrees
By Jon Marcus
THE (Times Higher Education)
Dec 2, 2010

University defends giving PhD to student who failed
By Nick Martin, Winnipeg Free Press
Vancouver Sun
Nov 18, 2010

Links updated June, 2012

2 November 2010

Russell Williams: voices of authority and privilege dictating on his right to live

Revised June, 2012

News coverage of the Russell Williams murder case has been deemed to be appropriate (Majority feel, Globe and Mail, Oct 25). Viewers comments have occasionally been restricted, yet it is under the auspices of one of the national newspapers itself that the greatest injustice and perhaps even, crime, has been committed. Of the three pieces in the Full Comment pages recently, on the murderer and former colonel Russell Williams, only one expresses worthwhile ideas.

Barbara Kay has judged Russell Williams's sense of morality, based, I suppose, on her own scarcity of it. If we examine that piece in more depth, we realize it is not the fact that he killed that bothers her most, for she herself is advocating that he be killed; it is something else that concerns her. If not the fact that he committed murder, what it is it exactly that she objects to? She doesn't care for his manner of carrying out his crimes, with efficiency, premeditation, and lack of feeling (see Russell Williams deserves, National Post, Oct 25, 2010). In my comments on a different piece (Should we kill, NP, Oct 31, 2010), I referred to Kay's column on the subject as being similar to Hitler's sense of morality, a point of view that was not warmly received. Let me explain further.

It has struck me that there's something not quite right about someone using their position to advocate a certain position, and one that involves executing someone. Yet this is what Barbara is doing, and apparently with the approval of the National Post. If Williams is seen to 'deserve' the death penalty, then in Kay's view it seems it would be morally acceptable to execute him if done 'humanely.' If this is the case, how do you cause someone's life to end humanely? Is it best to sneak up on them and hit them over the head from behind, or not tell them that you're going to inject them with a drug that will end their life, as Harold Shipman did in England? Or should one place them on death row for years on end, so they will know for certain (almost) that they will never live a normal life ever again but must simply wait for the grim reaper, though when he does come, presumably the physical pain the death row convict will feel will not even come close to what his own tortured victims suffered. It is the physical pain Barbara Kay is concerned about, isn't it? Not the emotional pain of the condemned man, or possibly even that of his victims and the families of his victims. Is Kay's aim to see justice done, or to present her own views for others to consider, or to try to convince readers of her own beliefs, at the same time ridding herself of the emotional distress caused by hearing what this man Russell Williams did.

Kay refers to Williams as evil, thus deserving of capital punishment in her view. But who is she to decide who is evil or not, or even whether evil truly exists in our world or whether anyone is wholly evil. Which one of us is wholly evil, or wholly innocent? No one. Williams conducted himself well doing his job; in fact, he had a highly successful military career (Col. Russell Williams, The Record, Feb 13). Should this count for him, or are the bad deeds men do the only ones people should remember? Should a man who has committed such atrocities be given the death penalty so that others learn from that, or to rid the world of people like him, or because he is seen to be evil and morally inferior?

If anyone focuses on the weaknesses or moral frailties of any other person, is that acceptable? If we advocate death for that person, in a country where the death penalty is not lawful, and if we do so in a forum which is read by countless readers, is that permissible? Is that 'freedom of speech' or is using the power of one's position to pursue one's own agenda, one that involves the killing of another human being, an action that should be deplored? Who, indeed, has the right to determine who should have to die (see Williams doesn’t, NP, Oct 27, 2010).

Russell Williams is being made a scapegoat, someone to take on all the hatred and emotional turmoil that can't be placed elsewhere, by people who have the power to address this situation rationally and sensibly rather than as something 'evil. The fact that his escapades involved sexuality, however warped and deviant people may see that, suggests that what we need from this man, and his family, friends, and colleagues, is as much information we can get so we can understand this better. Furthermore, setting up a dichotomy between execution and brain malfunction doesn't even make sense (Should we kill, NP, Oct 31, 2010).

Are Opinions' pages of newspapers permitted to present views that could incite hatred? How is it that individual writers or journalists are allowed to write on subjects they know nothing about, or are permitted to present their thoughts on important topics in a disoriented, or thoughtless, yet persuasive manner. If, as they might well claim, these are simply their opinions, why is it such a newspaper as the National Post pays them to promote such meaningless thoughts or possibly dangerous ideas? It seems what counts most is selling newspapers.

Added June, 2012

Two additional revelations may lead to further considerations on discussion of the death penalty vs life for Russell Williams – the fact that he is receiving a pension (Russell Williams collects pension, 2011) and his reluctance to accept responsibility for the attack, coercion, and emotional harm to one of his victims (Maclean’s exclusive, 2012).

Col. Russell Williams: Who is this man?
By Raveena Aulakh, David Bruser and Katie Daubs
The Record
Feb 13, 2010

Maclean’s exclusive: Russell Williams offers a defence
By Michael Friscolanti
June 14, 2012

Majority feel Russell Williams coverage struck ‘right balance’
By Jane Taber
Globe and Mail
Oct 25, 2010

Russell Williams collects pension yet owes $8,000 in victim fines
By Valerie Hauch
Toronto Star, & thespec.com
Mar 8, 2011, & Mar 9 2011

Russell Williams deserves to die
By Barbara Kay
National Post Full Comment
Oct 25, 2010

Should we kill a serial killer, or does the fault lie within his brain?
By Paul Russell
National Post Full Comment
Oct 31, 2010

Williams doesn’t deserve to die
By John Moore
National Post Full Comment
Oct 27, 2010

Links updated June, 2012

24 September 2010

Jessica Dunkley: exceptional achiever and champion for women, Métis and the deaf, or a misuse of funds?

Jessical Dunkley is a high achiever, a role model, and a champion for more than one social group. But is there a limit to how much money should be given to support her high career aspirations?

Jessica is an example to the deaf everywhere, and to Métis, having shown how well these groups can do in the educational system, and in the workplace, with the necessary support to help deal with their physical limitations. Within the category 'women,' many role models, champions and achievers over the years have made their way into the public sphere and are considered role models for their achievements and/or contributions to society. The deaf community and aboriginals, however, are fairly new in their quest for recognition within society, and acknowledgment that they, too, have the ability not just to succeed but to surpass achievements made by most Canadians.

A recent article on this topic appeared in the Globe and Mail (Skilled-interpreter shortage, Sept 22, 2010), followed by a discussion which is also available online. Since then, I have come across three websites online (see list following), which refer to Jessica's struggles and achievements as a deaf person and an aboriginal.

According to the Globe and Mail article, Jessica wants to be able to pursue her ambition to become a dermatologist, and is seeking funding to do so. What it fails to mention, however, is that Jessica is a physiotherapist (see 2008 Recipients). She has already trained and found herself a career, so what would be the advantages and disadvantages of her continuing.

As the article from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine informs us, "there are six Aboriginal students in this year’s graduating class, the second cohort since the inception of the program, whose goal is to graduate 100 Aboriginal students by 2020." If each of these students require funding, and are seeking careers, will any of them be disadvantaged by Jessica's need for training for a second career? It looks as though NAAF only provides the Métis award one time only (see Special One-time Métis Health), so all students get an opportunity to have one, and perhaps that is why the Globe and Mail article was written, to take the matter to the wider public and try and get support for it.

Read the comments at the link provided at the end of the G&M article to see what others think about the issue as it was presented.

I can't help but wonder if this is a matter for the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF), rather than other groups such as the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) or members of society in general. There are so many students seeking funding who don't get it despite their ability and need, and in fact, so many deaf people, probably, who never receive educational assistance, that it creates a real dilemma as to whether or not granting Jessica the money for a specialized signing interpreter throughout her dermatology program is a wise decision.

Certainly, having persons who can be looked up to, in the deaf community to in the Métis or aboriginal community, is a worthwhile cause, but at whose expense, and how many others? Jessica uses two sign languages, Quebec and American (see A glimpse at the class of 2010), and can speak English (see 2008 Recipients). The cost of having signing interpreters for her program could be as much as $250,000 a year (Skilled-Interpreter shortage). And what happens after that, when she is working with the public, we don't know. How much financial assistance a deaf person could receive due to her disability while working as a dermatologist is another issue.

On the other hand, would it be worthwhile for the deaf and for aboriginals to have this role model who will have exceeded even her own original aspirations when she has completed the degree, being qualified then not for just one, but two careers. If it would help bring down barriers to people with disabilities and to aboriginals, would it be worth the cost? Or would it better to finance more students, so more of them can achieve their goals, even if they are lesser? What does our country value more - helping one go as far as she can, or helping many so that they can work and earn a living?

Added April 13, 2012:

How is Jessica doing? According to the now 2-year-old article in the Globe and Mail, “As a student, her disability would have been accommodated by UBC, which provided interpreters for her at no charge when she pursued an undergraduate degree in physical therapy. Similarly, the University of Ottawa supplied sign-language interpreters during her studies for a medical degree. . . But as a medical resident in B.C., she’s an employee of Vancouver Coastal Health, a provincial health authority” (Skilled-interpreter shortage, Sept 22, 2010).

The costs of supporting her would be enormous, as the same article suggests. “Because she would require the services of more than one interpreter, and because those interpreters would themselves require extensive training, it could cost as much as $250,000 a year to provide her with the help she needs to complete the program” (Skilled-interpreter shortage, Sept 22, 2010).

I’m sure no one would not want her to achieve fulfillment, and to be able to contribute, but as a physiotherapist she would have a lot to offer, particularly in the area of aboriginal health, perhaps more so than being a dermatologist, at far less cost. As one commenter wrote, on Sept 22, 2010:

"Just because we are a relatively rich country does that mean it is OK to be stupid and wasteful of public resources? Just because we can do something does that mean that we should? The reluctance of individuals in the medical ‘establishment’ to say one word about whether this experiment makes any sense or not demonstrates their lack of common sense and most certainly their lack of integrity and courage. Enough of this PC nonsense! This is the country, after all, that somehow thinks that a long gun registry would prevent a murderous rampage by a demented citizen, so I don't hold out much hope. No doubt there are many opportunities for this intelligent woman to shine in modern society, just let's be sensible about it."

Stacey Levitt Women And Sport Memorial Scholarship Recipients
Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS)
accessed Sept 24, 2010

Faculty of Medicine celebrates 147 graduating doctors
University of Ottawa News Releases & Announcements
May 19, 2010
accessed Sept 24, 2010

Special One-time Métis Health Careers Award recipients
National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF)
http://www.naaf.ca/node/211 accessed Sept 24, 2010  Link no longer available

Skilled-interpreter shortage presents hurdle in deaf MD’s quest to become dermatologist
By Wendy Stueck in Vancouver
Globe and Mail
Sep. 22, 2010
This is no longer a direct link to article, although it is available through Globe & Mail

Links updated April 13, 2012

12 September 2010

Mature Students: getting a degree, or a lifetime of 'continuing education'

A recent article in the Globe and Mail (Kickin' it old-school, Sept 3, 2010), about mature students going to university to get their degree, brought forth discussion about two kinds of education later on in life. Students are permitted to go to university after they have been out of school for a number of years, their life experience counting towards their acceptance into the undergraduate programs at many universities. The other kind of education for older, or mature students, would be for night courses and other types of 'continuing education' courses, often held at high schools or perhaps colleges as well as universities.

The 'mature students' you might run into at university, taking regular classes along with the younger students, might not always be mature, within themselves. Most of us at Western were not, as I recall, when I went there in the late 80s and early 90s. But we were older than most. Some of us might have had the proper qualifications, the high school graduation certificate, but it seems to me we were all lumped together, regardless.

The idea of 'continung education' encompasses all kinds of education that adults get into later on. It is, in fact, a concept that encompasses the cultural norm in Canada of being involved in education practically from birth to death. It is encouraged by one and all in our society to value education and to partake of it at every opportunity, especially as one grows older and has time on one's hands. To negate it seems to oppose all that we have been brought up to appreciate and believe in. But the reality is, don't expect that it will automatically improve your life. Mature students who return to get their higher education after years away from education may find it tough going trying to make use of their credentials afterwards.

Another recent newspaper article focuses on the new full-day kindergarten programs that are starting up in Canada, another aspect of the idea of 'continuing education,' this time, the decision being made by our government to introduce full-time education (or baby-sitting as some commenters wrote) for 5 year olds. Really, does anyone think our children need this? (See All-day kindergarten, National Post, Sept 8, 2010).

All right, so one more article is required at this point - on home-schooling, or 'unschooling' as some call it! (See More families are deciding, Globe and Mail, Sept 10, 2010). Viewpoints in the article and the comments section on both sides of the issue - worth a read, considering the cultural norm on education that currently presides in Canada. This article rounds out the discussion on education per se, as being of great value according to most people, though what the proponents of unschooling think of mature returners or continuing education classes I wouldn't know.

Finally, this article (The new girl power, Sept 9, 2010) from a British newspaper, The Independent, brings in gender, and youth. In these matters, there couldn't be that much difference between Canada and Britain. I agree - it is a young woman's world. That doesn't mean it's good for our world, and it may not even be good for women. If the women aren't working at what they're good at and enjoy, and if they're constantly struggling for something that's not going to happen - pay parity with men - will they ever be content with what they have achieved?

The baby boomers had better have something more substantial to tell the younger generation, other than the value of 'continuing education.' What have we achieved. What is our legacy? And what happens next?

All-day kindergarten is a waste of money
By Marni Soupcoff
National Post
Sept 8, 2010

Kickin' it old-school: The rise of the mature student
By Natalie Stechyson
Globe and Mail
Sept 03, 2010

More families are deciding that school’s out – forever
By Kate Hammer
Globe and Mail
Sept 10, 2010

The new girl power: Why we're living in a young woman's world
By Alice-Azania Jarvis
The Independent
September 9, 2010

See, also, this article added Sept 15, 2010.

Not everyone needs a debt-financed university degree to be complete
By Matt Gurney
National Post Full Comment
Sept 14, 2010

links updated April 12, 2012

23 August 2010

Survey: can Canadian baby-boomers survive our health-care system?

A heavy topic in today's newspapers. Each time the subject crops up the babyboomers are in for it again - taking the blame for the inadequacies of the system and the ageist attitudes of health-care workers, the media, and the government itself.

Following are three comments I have left in comments sections of various newspapers today, before I go off the local swimming pool to get some exercise.

It's no wonder people surveyed see the babyboomers as the ones responsible for the problems of the medical system. It's the only perception of this important social issue that news and opinion articles impart to the public. I don't believe the CMA really wants a national debate (see article - "on the kind of health-care system Canadians want"). Why, otherwise, have they waited so long to say this. I became interested in aging while a student at university in the early 1990's. Even then, we could see there would be a problem at some point, if nothing was done. And so now, finally, when Canada's citizens are riled up from reading about the problems "caused" by the babyboomers, the CMA says it wants to hear what Canadians have to say? One thing that would help would be if health-care workers did their jobs to the best of their ability (and got them in the first place on that basis - that they were good at what they did). (Canadians bracing, National Post, Aug 23, 2010).

Mary wrote "The health care system in Canada gives each patient a rating when admitted."

I had thought it was more informal than that, that it was the hospital staff, or the doctor's, who rated the patient according to the knowledge they had on hand at that moment. They must look at social ratings - does this person work, have children, a husband, own a home, or is well-established within the community. All these things count. Then, of course, we have to deal with the biases of hospital staff themselves. If I break an ankle, can I, an older woman without a husband, a job, or home that I own, expect to be treated fairly by an orthopedic surgeon who got his training at a university in Libya? Not only am I dealing with ageist, sexist, and class-based biases from people who grew up Canadian, but I also have to deal with foreign attitudes of the medical staff.

Being able to walk and have the independence that allows is important for older people. To have that taken away at the whim of the medical staff, and other health-care practitioners, is the fault of the attitudes that actually seem to be encouraged in our country. Canada is not a nice place to live, for many of us. (comment, Most Canadians, CTV, Aug 23, 2010).

pkmills (8/23/2010 8:57:16 AM) has hit the nail on the head. Not just politicians, but anyone who is not liked, for whatever reason - the work they do, where they live, their beliefs - can end up having inadequate or dangerous decisions made about them by health-care workers. It's such an arbitrary process that some people without insurance can get what they need from the medical system, without paying extra, while others just won't get it no matter how hard they try. I'm talking about people such as unliked political figures, people who raise controversial issues about society, immigrants, the homeless, the unemployed, and so on.

What I would hope is that people who work in the medical system would do their job as best they can, and not let personal or political biases get in the way. For older people getting helpful treatment in the community is not always that easy, when ageism and other factors result in games being played that place obstacles in the way of their getting what they need. In the end, what causes an unnecessary drain on the system is having increasing numbers of babyboomers who don't get the proper information and so become less able to remain mobile and independent in their homes and out of them. (comment, Survey finds, G&M, Aug 23, 2010).

4. added Aug 28, 2010
Possibly there's something to this 'Charter for Patient Centred Care'. It might seem obvious to most of us, but to citizens age 30 and under it might not. Just as every new generation has to learn the basics, perhaps this generation of young men and women in docs' offices and hospitals also have to learn. Hence the 3 items listed in the article.

If all health-care workers followed these guidelines instead of current norms in society which encourage the playing of mindgames and language games, and using one's power in whatever way one chooses, hospitals and doctors' offices would be better places. When there are no religious beliefs to direct a person through their lifetime - a sense of alienation, Marx would say - anything can happen. Health workers have the ability, knowledge, and skills for the job they are hired to do. So it's a matter of using them the right way to get the job done. (comment, Baby steps, Nat Post, August 26, 2010).

Aug 29, 2010
One of the ways people manage to silence the ones they wish would stop talking is to make life so hard that it becomes a real struggle to survive.

Continuous obstacles set in one's path take up most of one's time and energy. Some cause one's health to suffer. Even those who should be on your side end up benefiting by making life harder for you. When they can't win by intimidating, or by skillful or not-so-skillful manipulation of the English language, they do so by lying outright, turning people against you and destroying your reputation. I know people this has happened to. Some commit suicide, some suffer silently, and some conform and laugh about it while in public. Some kill. But still the world carries on, blindly. Why doesn't anyone listen?

Baby steps to better health care, but still a long way to go
By Tasha Kheiriddin
National Post Full Comment
Aug 26, 2010

Canadians bracing for health-care system 'silver tsunami'
By Meagan Fitzpatrick, Postmedia News
National Post
Aug 23, 2010
This article is no longer available; nor are the comments (April 9, 2012). See Edmonton Journal, below, for the article.

Canadians expect health-care strain as they brace for 'silver tsunami': poll
By Meagan Fitzpatrick, Postmedia News
Edmonton Journal
Aug 23, 2010

Doctors and medicare
Toronto Star
Aug 27, 2010

Most Canadians fear for health system: report card
By CTV.ca News Staff
Aug 23, 2010

Survey finds most fear boomers will cripple health-care system
By André Picard, Niagara Falls, Ont.
Globe and Mail
Aug 23, 2010

'You can’t be cured by an idea’
Toronto Star
Aug 28, 2010

Links updated June 2012

22 August 2010

Immigrants and refugees - and Canadians: cultural norms, health care and employment

Revised July, 2012

On the individual level, people from other countries can be lovely people, but what about our attitudes towards them in general, we - as self-perceived true Canadians, and what do they think of us and being in Canada? Furthermore, is it being foreign that matters, or is what matters what such travellers bring with them when they come - money, resources, access to culture in foreign lands, or important connections. Are foreigners disliked because we don't understand their culture or their goals in coming here, or are they disliked because they are strangers, a burden on our medical and employment systems, or just because they are different.

Ratna Omidvar claims that "While recent immigrants are more highly educated than previous cohorts and the Canadian-born, they earn lower wages and have more difficulties entering the labour market in the first place" (Immigrants want success now, 2010). I first became aware of this problem on the job at Western’s career centre, while a student. I spoke to immigrants who were waiting to earn accreditation in courses or exams that would raise them to the level of Canadians in the same profession, a really unfair situation, it seemed to me, with no easy solution at hand. Now I see things differently, having been unable to get the support I needed to follow through on a career, or even to complete my education the way I would have wanted.

Even Canadian university grads often have a hard time finding decent work, as opportunities so often depend on one’s family background and social network. If an immigrant can manage to enter Canada, through marriage or association with friends already here, or through having the kind of reputation that would do them good here, they can get a head start on a career. But to assume that any Canadian who has any ability at all will automatically find work is to ignore the politics of the workplace.

Nowhere is this more obvious, to those willing to open their minds, than in the experience of Marc Lépine, who was excluded from university as feminists opened up male-dominated fields of education – and the careers that followed - to women (Remembering tragedies of today, 2008). Whether he had merit or not, or the ability to complete the engineering program, is no longer the issue I once thought it was, as it takes something other than merit for a man or women to be accepted into program of higher learning and to get to complete it. Anyone who attempts to use Marc Lépine’s supposed lack of ability to do the work is indeed misguided, (and that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt).

One commenter said on Aug 20, 2010, in the comments’ section following Kelly McParland’s article (Poll shows Canadians are nasty, 2010), "Canadians are welcome to those that can come here and look after themselves and contribute. We're not and never have been welcoming to those that want to sit on our system costing us even more money."

But it’s not just immigrants who get accused of shirking their duty, being lazy, or not trying hard enough. Having to listen to the privileged in society, who got their careers going through people they knew or married or had relations with, or who their parents were, can be annoying. I know from my own experience, of being treated well and getting jobs I felt I deserved, and then later on in my life of not getting anything at all, despite the knowledge and ability I had acquired, that getting the job often has little to do with merit. There are dozens or even hundreds of qualified applicants for any decent job nowadays, but it takes something extra if one is going to be the person who gets it.

George Jonas uses four categories of immigrants: "gold digger," "exile," "homesteader" and "conquistador," which focus on the reasons they come here, or their expectations (Scenes from a Canadian gold mine, 2010). It was the fourth category he saw as problematic, and about which he wrote another article, Beware the colonizers, 2010, the title of which says it all.

More recently, ‘Sweeping Immigration changes’ (2012), tells of plans to address the criminal element in Canada, which threatens to ‘invade’ us, legally, that is. The last paragraph of this article also addresses other matters, to do with health coverage for immigrants and although unsaid, immigrants who might be applying as seniors for OAS. Two articles that address the immigration and refugee healthcare issue are ‘Health groups urge Ottawa’ (2012) and ‘Kenney rejects refugee health care’ (2012).  Not a word, however, on how introducing foreigners into Canada might be affecting opportunities for work, for Canadians themselves.

Beware the colonizers
By George Jonas
National Post, Full Comment
Aug 18, 2010

Health groups urge Ottawa to save refugee services
By Maureen Brosnahan
CBC News
May 18, 2012

Immigrants want success now, not tomorrow
By Ratna Omidvar
Globe and Mail
Aug 04, 2010

Kenney rejects refugee health care concerns from provinces, doctors
By Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau
June 29, 2012

Poll shows Canadians are nasty, anti-immigrant SOBs
By Kelly McParland
National Post, Full Comment
Aug 20, 2010

Remembering tragedies of today and yesteryear: Oshawa and the Montreal Massacre
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 6, 2008

Scenes from the Canadian gold mine
By George Jonas
National Post, Full Comment
Aug 11, 2010

Sweeping immigration changes to give new power to minister
By Laura Payton

CBC News
Jun 20, 2012


Links updated July, 2012

13 August 2010

Cory McMullan: Belleville police chief victim of a violent incident

Belleville, Ontario, police Chief Cory McMullan suffered a broken arm in an incident one week ago. She says she was the victim of domestic violence, but it is likely that it was simply an 'incident,' using police terms, and not the kind of violence against women that so many women in society have to endure, due to powerlessness in their home circumstances. One has to wonder what her retired 53-year old husband has experienced himself, in this new kind of society where men are more likely to leave work early, while the wife continues the family career.

Mrs McMullan apparently stated that, "given her position in the community, 'it is important to acknowledge that I am the victim' " (Belleville police chief victim, CBC, Aug 11, 2010). But it may well have been that there were two victims in this case. It is hard to believe that the husband, retired police officer Dave McMullen, would use violence intentionally to try to control his police chief wife. If this was a situation of domestic violence, it wasn't the traditional kind that many wives experienced before they gained financial independence in their lives.

In my comment submitted to the CBC online article, at 8:53 am ET Aug 13, I wrote the following:

Eliza Doolittle writes, "I suggest we wait until the other side of the story is told before jumping to any conclusions."

The problem here is that her arm got broken, and in our society, that kind of violence is usually the deciding factor in any cases of abuse. Psychological, emotional, sexual, or economic abuse is less likely to be recognized, particularly as is applies to men being victimized. Our society has changed so much in the last 30 or 40 years, with women often working past the time when their husbands retire. We don't know the situation here, but we do know how difficult it can be for any man who retires at an early age. The woman, Cory McMullan, has apparently stated, "it is important to acknowledge that I am the victim." Like many women of today, and men of yesteryear, it may be difficult for her to see that there might be another side to the story.

Belleville Police Chief speaks out as a domestic abuse victim
By Natalie Stechyson and Adrian Morrow, Toronto and Belleville
Globe and Mail
Aug. 12, 2010

Belleville police chief victim of 'domestic incident'
The Canadian Press
CBC News
August 11, 2010

Belleville’s abuzz over police chief as victim of domestic violence
By Carola Vyhnak, Staff Reporter
Toronto Star
Aug 12, 2010

Domestic Violence’ narratives: the murders of Lois Mordue and Dave Lucio
By Sue McPherson
Sue's Views on the News
June 9, 2010

Ontario police chief says she was victim of domestic abuse
By QMI Agency
Aug 11, 2010

Public life, public victim
By Joseph Brean
Financial Post
Aug. 12, 2010
no longer available through this link

Added Aug 24, 2010

Belleville Mayor denies affair with police chief
Carola Vyhnak, Urban Affairs Reporter
Toronto Star
Aug 23 2010

Belleville mayor denies having affair with police chief
By W. Brice McVicar, QMI Agency
Peterborough Examiner
Aug 24, 2010

Belleville mayor denies rumours of affair with police chief
By Adrian Morrow, Belleville
Globe and Mail
Aug. 23, 2010
available online through Globe&Mail

links updated April 11, 2012

30 July 2010

Motherhood, aging, and resentful adult children: Shirley Anderson's story

Updated Jan 1, 2013
Feb 3, 2013 - Edited and 4 additional references added

Shirley Anderson is suing her adult children for support. An ancient law based on English poor laws throughout Canada, except for Alberta, regards this as the children's duty (Payback time, MacLeans, June 24, 2010). The media has picked on an example of bad parenting, committed by Ken Anderson's mother and father when he was just 15 years old to support the argument of the four adult children being sued, that they shouldn't have to pay support (A bad mother's right to support from her children, National Post, July 27, 2010).

Ken was left behind when his parents moved from Osoyoos to West Kootenay in BC - abandoned, as they describe it. Shirley Anderson took her second-youngest son, Darryl, with her, apparently against her husband Gary's wishes (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010). Shirley Anderson raised five children, developed lupus along the way (Payback time for parents, MacLeans, June 24, 2010), and never worked. At age 71, she now has nothing. Gary, her ex, gave her alimony when they divorced, though his boss, Labbatts, needed encouragment to split his pension with her. He has since died.

Shirley went into debt with her credit card. Her attempts to get support have been going on for ten years now. Darryl has been in and out of jail and is not being sued. Ken is 46, married with children, not wealthy but hard-working, and resents the additional burden supporting his mother presents. Daughter Donna Anderson "breaks down in tears when she recalls her tumultuous childhood with the 'mother we never had' " (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010). She went to university and is raising two children.

Son Brian bought her a fridge once, in an attempt to build a relationship. Donna and her mother attended counselling together. But nothing worked, the children say. Keith hasn't talked to her in years. "She doesn't even know we're alive," he is quoted as saying (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010), though it appears she does. He adds, "She never worked and she's never worked at her family either."

It's suprising that she managed to raise such enterprising children - none got put into foster homes, only one in trouble with the law. They have educated themselves and worked hard, formed relationships and raised families. They also seem to have little tolerance for women of that era, who often did stay home with the children while the husband worked - cooking, cleaning, driving the children to school functions, community events, and to the doctor and dentist - shopping, sewing, mending, filling out forms for school, getting them their shots at the doctor's, putting on birthday parties, and so on. And she had five children to worry about! At the time Shirley was raising her family, the one-salary family was the quite typical, the man being the breadwinner, his earnings enough for the entire family. That changed, in the 70's probably, until we reached this time where it takes two incomes for a family to feel they have enough.

There is uncertainty about this kind of law, though Surrey, BC, lawyer David Greig says that a child must have means to pay support before they are made to (Payback time for parents, MacLeans, June 24, 2010). Unfortunately, it's part of the human condition for people to always think they need more. And whether the reason the children are so critical of their mother is, in part, due to their not wanting to have to pay her, we don't know. Whether it should be the children's responsibility or the system's, is the larger question.

Shirley's lawyer, Donald McLeod, says "My interest quite frankly is to see that someone is treated right, and that's all I care about . . . I don't know very many people that would not be happy to support an aged parent. The duty to support and assist an elderly parent transcends everything else" (What do we owe our parents, Vancouver Sun, July 24, 2010). And finally he says, "What kind of mother she was, or is, shouldn't matter. To engage in any analysis of who is at fault, I think that is a useless exercise."

"Do vengeance and vindictiveness have a place in the lives of otherwise decent people?" is the question asked in another piece on this subject (Forgiveness for an errant elder, Vancouver Sun, July 29, 2010). If Shirley was as bad as the children's stories suggest and this was not simply about money, the eye-for-an-eye retribution seems to be a little extreme. It is a symptom of our times - this hatred towards the older generation, especially women or anyone who is isolated and cannot defend themselves. Read the comments with the articles, for an idea of how our society thinks about them. It makes one wonder just how civilized we are.

Added Jan 1, 2013
A recent international news piece in the National Post, about Palestinian women being denied their rightful inheritance, raises a related matter. It may apply to Shirley Anderson’s situation, or may not. It simply is not mentioned – and why would it be – if the children received an inheritance from one of their mother’s relations through plans made for it to skip a generation. Such plans would no doubt be legal, though if some coercion had occurred, of an elderly relative, to perhaps ensure that certain descendants be left off the list of beneficiaries, then could this be considered an ethical digression, if not outright illegal? (see Tradition, social pressure keeping Palestinian women from their inheritances, Dec 27, 2012).

It is easy for people on the outside to judge, especially if they don’t know all the circumstances. False accusations or distortions of events made against the mother may hold little if any truth. It is far easier for those who hold power to have their word taken as truth than a mother fighting for survival. Some of what has been said I find shocking, particularly as one who found it necessary to leave the marriage I was in, the effects of it following me for a long time afterwards. No one is a perfect parent or spouse, but the odd one may cause harm that lasts. So much is talked about of women being able to choose to be stay-at-home mothers, but that works if she has a husband who will treat her like a human being, during the marriage and if it should end for some reason, then afterwards too. As we see here, from children who surely must have taken a huge amount of their mother’s time to raise, Shirley Anderson deserves more than what she got, from her family and from the legal system.

A bad mother's right to support from her children
By Adrian MacNair
National Post, Full comment
July 27, 2010

Adult children won’t have to support mom, court rules
By Ian AustinThe Province
Jan 31, 2013http://www.theprovince.com/news/Adult+children+have+support+court+rules/7896113/story.html

Anderson v. Anderson, 2013 BCSC 129 (CanLII)
Court case result

Forgiveness for an errant elder
By Catherine A. Mori
Vancouver Sun
July 29, 2010

Payback time for parents
By Nancy Macdonald
June 24, 2010

Runaway mom who sued adult children for support after abandoning them as teenagers NOT entitled to money: judge
National Post Wire Services
Feb 1, 2013

Shirley Anderson, Mom Who Sued Kids For Support, Loses Case
The Huffington Post B.C.
Jan 31, 2013

Tradition, social pressure keeping Palestinian women from their inheritances
By Diana Atallah
National Post - The Media Line
Dec 27, 2012

What do we owe our parents?
By Denise Ryan
Vancouver Sun
July 24, 2010

Links updated Feb 3, 2013

19 July 2010

What's wrong with the Pamela Anderson PETA ad: plus the Rylstone and District Women's Institute calendar and the female Czech politicians calendar

revised Apr 23, 2010

The ad depicting bikini-clad Pamela Anderson as a piece of meat, the names of the cuts such as 'rump' and 'breast' displayed on her body, has been denied a public display by a Montreal agency. An animal rights group, PETA, had wanted to use the poster to gain interest in its cause, animal rights. On the basis of it being sexist, PETA was denied a permit, thus forbidding the group to use the poster, officially, in the launch of its campaign in Montreal at Place Jacques-Cartier in front of the City Hall. Instead, the launch is scheduled for a local restaurant.

Check out the double entendre in this McDonald's ad which illustrates its meat in a manner opposite to the way the PETA ad does (Piece of meat, Slang City, 2005). Ingrid Newkirk and the PETA group don't seem to have any regard for human females, only female (and male) animals. If they did, would they use sex in this manner to draw attention to animal rights. Continuing to perpetuate the idea that women are pieces of meat in men's eyes is harmful to women - not to women who have the financial means and the support to remain safe but to the ones who have to rely on men for their survival and who have little power on their side.

Will people buy the PETA poster just because the proceeds go to PETA, or because it is a poster of a beautiful Pamela Anderson, or do they enjoy the joke behind it more, that women are often talked of as being pieces of meat for the sexual use of men and here it is, in a poster endorsed by PETA? This is not the first time controversial images have been used by PETA (see PETA women-as-meat, June 14, 2008). No doubt the poster will enhance Pamela Anderson's reputation, as the PETA site claims, giving her the opportunity to show off "her outer-and inner-beauty to promote a vegetarian diet and point out the similarities between humans and animals" (Pamela Anderson shows that all animals, July 17, 2010). But the effect on the women within society, and on men, is still debatable.

Scantily-clad women are all over the internet. Female Czech politicians have made the news recently, promoting their risqué 2011 calendar (Czechmates, July 9, 2010) to highlight the presence of women in politics. One of the women who appears in the calendar is Marketa Reedova, a 42-year-old Prague city councilwoman now running for mayor. She says "Women's political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren't afraid of being sexy? . . . Czechs are open-minded."

Why not show it? Maybe because being sexy isn't simply about showing it. Surely it's closer to being porn than being sexual, if we see porn as something men seek for their own needs while women perform, while being sexy is more to do with the person and her partner. Nevertheless, Czechs are following the lead of the west, the article claims, resisting "the unglamorous trappings and enforced unisex treatment imposed by socialism" (Czechmates, July 9, 2010). Taking steps to 'prove' they are sexual, in such a public manner, would surely be a sign of insecurity, not like the kind of behaviour shown by Pamela Anderson, who surely has nothing more to prove in that respect. For more on the calendar, see Backlash Begins, July 19, 2010.

A decade ago another group of women, members of the Rylstone and District Women's Institute, published a nude calendar (see Calendar girls galore, April 24, 2010). It was a tremendous success! The article tells how the calendar, still being published, has changed over time, and explores the effects of the calendar on various groups also using nude calendars to raise money for a cause. I found the calendar to be a sensitive yet bold way of capturing older women's qualities and strengths (see Beer and Tea, July, 2001).

Pamela Anderson has said, "In a city that is known for its exotic dancing and for being progressive and edgy, how sad that a woman would be banned from using her own body in a political protest over the suffering of cows and chickens" (Pamela Anderson's sexy, July 15, 2010). Women's embodied presence can be a source of power to them. But it can also be exploited, and the images as well as the thoughts behind them might do harm to others. As society continues to deteriorate, under the guise of progress and freedom, especially in the areas of economics and sex, it could be helpful to pause and reflect on some of these issues.

Added Apr 23, 2012

The PETA ad with Pamela Anderson is sexist, but if it isn’t being displayed in a way to intentionally cause offense, and isn’t overly large or imposing, or in the wrong neighbourhood, is there a problem. As others have stated, this display was set up in Montreal, not in a place where sexual images are not seen on a daily basis. The one part of it that is problematic, as I see it, is what is implied by showing a woman’s body as pieces of meat.

As images of sex become more overt, sometimes in unexpected places (see Public displays of private matters, July, 2007), and more women appear to accept that using their sexual attractiveness to achieve their goals is the norm in society today, while men respond to that the way men will, do we need strategies that prevent this from becoming the new form of ‘merit.’


Backlash Begins for Czech Calendar MPs
By Leos Rousek
New Europe (US edition)
July 19, 2010

Beer and Tea: Harmony and Contradiction Among Two Unlikely Counterparts
By Sue McPherson
July 2001

Calendar girls galore
The Guardian
April 24, 2010

Czechmates: These Political Figures Star in Their Own Racy Calendar
By Gordon Fairclough and Sean Carney
Wall Street Journal
July 9, 2010

Pamela Anderson Shows That All Animals Have the Same Parts
July 17, 2010

Pamela Anderson's new PETA ad branded 'sexist' and banned in Canada
By Mail Online Reporter
Daily Mail
16 July 2010

Pamela Anderson's sexy body-baring PETA ad gets banned in Canada
By Kristie Cavanagh
NY Daily News
July 15, 2010

PETA women-as-meat demonstration
By Gwen Sharp
Sociological Images by Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp
June 14, 2008

Piece of Meat
Slang City

Public displays of private matters - Irene Mathyssen and James Moore
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 7, 2007

Links updated Apr 23, 2012

3 July 2010

Men's rights versus children's safety: BA deals with the possibility of perverts

BA Airline has been in a spot of trouble for its handling of a delicate social issue. My response here is mainly to the National Post article on the subject - 'You’re male. You must be a pervert,' by Barbara Kay.

I almost didn't respond to this in the section following the article, but I did, in response to another commenter, then got drawn into the topic of discussion - men's rights versus children's. I found the title to be unsettling - an exaggeration of a social problem men don't like to discuss.

I thought this was worthy of telling about here as it is an example of men who cannot see beyond their own needs and their own egos.

It was also an example of how women (one woman - Barbara Kay) can dismiss anyone else's concerns in order that her favourite cause - men's rights - be upheld. I say, Good for the airline for doing what they can to protect children travelling alone!

Finally, it is an example of how rules should not always be followed blindly (though they are good as guidlelines, in certain circumstances, letting them go is best for everyone). There can be extentuating circumstances which following the rules leading. (I know; I came to Oshawa as a stranger and was treated like a criminal, a threat, as someone worthy only of second-class treatment, or less, often by people doing their jobs which means followng the rules without thought.) In this case, the man had been travelling with his pregnant wife and they had switched seats so that she could be more comfortable by the window. The flight attendant was either unable or unwilling to consider the situation in its entirety. He ordered the man back to his original seat.

According to the Daily Mail, the male passenger said "I was made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers. It was totally humiliating. Neither myself or my wife dared to speak to the boy in case the cabin crew forced us from our seats. The poor child must have thought we were extremely rude and unfriendly."

The male traveller backed off, which was the only thing he could do without looking like a - well - pervert, demanding to be seated next to the unaccompanied child. He did the right thing, and was recompensed for it later, so I fail to see why the situation is still being treated as problematic. The rule itself was not the problem, but the way the situation was handled. He was lucky to be able to sue and recieve justice. There are many people in this world - in Canada - who get treated badly every single day, who dare not speak for fear they will be punished, or who get blamed for anything bad that happens.

The discussion itself raised another issue, of conflicting rights. Sometimes, one person's rights (or one group's) can be stepped on by another person (or group) demanding theirs. In the discussion following the article, one of the commenters argued that if he had been accosted by airline staff about sitting next to an unaccompanied child he would have loudly complained then and there that he was being discriminated against, for being a man, or as news articles have put it - a pervert. Quite a lesson for the boy travelling alone to have to contend with. The male passenger did the only thing he could - he backed off, and was able to sue later.

My final comment on the National Post article was one I had submitted earlier in the discussion but which had been ignored, the commenter accusing me of being a "feminist propagandist" and needing a psychiatrist. So I will leave readers with this.

"I don't know how much feminists have had to do with such rules being created, but there has been increased awareness in society of how boys and girls can be taken advantage of, sexually, when they are left in close quarters with men who are sexual predators. Do you have a better way that the airline can deal with this?" (Sue McP)

Added June, 2012

Another good article explaining the fiaso is one by Dhruti Shah (BA seat policy, 2010). And finally, BA announces a change in policy! (Mirko Fischer winds again, 2010). A third piece, posted onto a Men’s equality website, is included, even though I think their perspective needs to be a bit broader than simply seeking ‘equality’ (Mirko Fisher is a men’s equality hero, 2010).

I have often said and will continue to say, about feminists, and now about men’s rights activists, that there never can be complete equality. Women need to listen to men’s concerns, and men need to listen to women’s (looking at it from a gender perspective.) Rules are made, or decisions made, then something comes up that puts the rule into question, and further adjustments are made. That’s how it works. And I see this case as being an example of that process. I imagine the people who made that policy weren’t doing it to intentionally embarrass men or make flying more difficult, or to lose customers. They were just thinking of the children.

BA seat policy made man 'feel like a child molester'
By Dhruti Shah
BBC News
June 24, 2010

Businessman sues BA 'for treating men like perverts'
By Sophie Borland
Daily Mail UK
Jan 16, 2010

Mirko Fisher is a men’s equality hero as British Airways continues its sexism against men
Posted by Skimmington
The Rights of Man
June 25, 2010

Mirko Fischer wins again
By NB, Washington, DC
The Economist, Gulliver
Aug 22, 2010

You’re male. You must be a pervert
By Barbara Kay
National Post Full Comment
July 2, 2010

Links updated June 2012

26 June 2010

Lost in Translation: theories of breasts and breast milk of Saudi women

A story from Saudi Arabia has people amazed at responses of high-up clerics to the problem of women and their 'foreign' drivers in this land. Traditional law seems to state that the women shouldn't be on such a familiar basis with men who are not part of their family. In order to rectify this problem, a high-up cleric has issued a fatwa stating that by sharing her breastmilk with her driver, the women, who are not permitted to drive themselves, can ensure that all is on the up-and-up and not a matter of questionable behaviour, with a foreigner (stranger?).

In the Los Angeles Times, and in many comments online following the National Post article, the emphasis is on the right of women to drive themselves. Saudi women have taken the gist of the fatwa one step further and said they will breastfeed their drivers if they cannot be permitted to drive the cars themselves.

The AOL article refers to the discussion between the two Saudi clerics. Sheikh Al Obeikan, "adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice", stated that the women "ought to give them their breast milk so they will be considered relatives". But another high-profile sheik, Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini, then apparently announced that "men should suckle the breast milk directly from a woman's breast."

At this point I am wondering if it is a matter of miscommunication, of something lost in translation, as it just doesn't seem to make sense that a cleric would advocate women allow men to suck at their breasts. More detail is given in the articles, but not specifically about what the clerics meant.

The second cleric, Al Huwaini, sounds as though he is stating hypothetically that, if a man is to be considered a member of the family, then the men "should suckle the breast milk directly from a woman's breast." I don't see that as a directive, or even a suggestion. It looks more as though he is discussing traditional laws and what they mean, and the significance of them - these were simply two scholars discussing the theoretical implications of women and family, and laws on sharing breast milk versus actual breastfeeding.

Added June 2012

Writing from her perspective, Anushay Hossain concludes, “These women should be congratulated for using the issuing of yet another insane fatwa and flipping it into an opportunity to maybe one day, finally winning their right to drive” (What’s Up Saudi?, June 2010).

Saudi Clerics Advocate Adult Breast-Feeding
By Dana Kennedy
AOL News
June 5, 2010

Saudi women threaten breast-feeding revolt [plus comments]
By Kelly McParland
National Post, Full Comment
June 23, 2010

Women threaten to breastfeed drivers if they aren't allowed to drive
Los Angeles Times, Babylon & Beyond
June 22, 2010

What’s Up Saudi? The Kingdom Insists on Keeping Women in the Stone Age
By Anushay Hossain
Anushay's Point
June 24, 2010

links updated June 2012

9 June 2010

Domestic Violence’ narratives: the murders of Lois Mordue and Dave Lucio

'Violence against women' came to be a women's issue when feminists realized the term for violence between intimate partners - 'domestic violence' - did not acknowledge the differences from men that women who were abused experienced in their relationships. I first learned about this in the mid-eighties, doing women's studies at university, at UWO in London, Ontario. Since then, the subject of violence in relationships has arisen once more, in the context of two separate homicides, first of Lois Mordue, second, that of Dave Lucio, both of whom had been in an intimate relationship with their killer.

In 2005, I read about the homicide of Lois Mordue on August 8, 2005, had taken place in my hometown, Woodstock, Ontario. At that time I wrote letters to the editor of the Sentinel Review in response to the articles, giving my own views on the murder and on the subject of domestic violence in general. As time went on, I saw that it was being referred to as domestic homicide, woman abuse, and domestic violence, as Robert Alexander, Lois Mordue’s brother, increasingly became involved, claiming that “violence against women won’t stop until both sexes are involved.” (Moving forward, April 19, 2007).

More recently, an article in the National Post (Myths of Domestic Violence, June 2, 2010) brought to my attention another case of homicide, of Dave Lucio, in London, Ontario, on June 6, 2007, which may or may not have been ‘domestic violence.’ A second article reinforced the idea that Doug Lucio, the father of the victim, was referring to the killing of his son as domestic violence (Lucio vigil, June 7, 2010). “Violence is violence, whether it’s men or women. There is no difference” he was quoted as saying. Once again, I felt compelled to write in, to the comments section of the article, as much of what I was hearing, just did not ring true to me.

To summarize, these were two homicides, one male, one female, both killed by individuals with whom they were in intimate relationships but both of which had ended before the murders took place. In the Mordue case, one article refers to the victim's brother, stating "While the Crown prosecutes an alleged domestic homicide, Alexander is trying to find some answers to why domestic violence is happening." (In Honour, Dec 28, 2005). Doug Lucio, the father of Dave Lucio, the male homicide victim, not happy at the way the Police handled the murder case, has been quoted as saying, "there needs to be more equal treatment in cases of domestic violence" (Vigil, June 6, 2010).

Controversy surrounds the Dave Lucio/ Kelly Johnson murder-suicide, apparently due to the neglect of Chief Faulkner to name this a 'domestic' homicide (Myths, June 2, 2010). Erland Mordue, however, was apparently alleged to have committed 'domestic' homicide (In Honour, Dec 28, 2005), although whether that stuck or made any difference to local statistics is not known to me. As it happens, Erland had intended to kill himself also, making that a murder-suicide, but failed in his attempt. He was convicted of first-degree murder and is now serving his sentence.

Both these men - Doug Lucio and Robert Alexander - have turned to domestic violence narratives as a means of dealing with the trauma of the violent deaths of their family members. Yet I wonder how well the circumstances of the cases fit into any version of this narrative. The term narrative is used to suggest a theme, a cultural understanding or norm that is accepted in society as a way of explaining a social phenomenon. When survivors ask themselves Why?, they seek some kind of explanation, and domestic violence is a term that adapts fairly easily to a number of different situations. But I wonder how good the fit is.

Cases that are placed in this category due to the fact they immediately fulfil a basic definition of domestic violence will become subject to the wider implications of domestic violence - domestic abuse, for one, or 'violence against women', the kind of situation women have had to endure historically as the second-class person in the relationship.

Killing one's intimate partner might well be seen as an example of domestic abuse to the extreme - violence resulting in death. But if the relationship had not been abusive earlier, does the end result of murder make it fit the description, on looking back?

If one believes that power has a lot to do with it, and that abuse only happens if one partner has control over the other - financially, emotionally, psychologically, sexually - is it possible to determine whether or not the victims had previously been abused in their relationship, forced to comply with the wishes of the abusing partner? Seeing the misuse of power as the underlying basis of an abusive relationship, we can ask whether the perpetrator of violence, as seen by investigators, might actually be the partner fighting back from their position of powerlessness against a more subtle or insidious form of domestic abuse. Sometimes only the ones involved know whether coercion or other forms of abuse were being used as a means of control. If the killer had also planned to die, making it a murder-suicide, does that change the way they are viewed, as victims as well as victimizers?

Dying a violent death doesn't mean one has been a victim of domestic violence, except in a very narrow meaning - a police definition, or a statistic to be included in a particular set of stats. But on its own it isn't proof that the victim was in an abusive relationship. If domestic violence is used as an excuse - a reason for a murder taking place, the real reason it happened might not be being recognized. So when the victims are happy, fulfilled, independent and financially secure, and not noticeably vulnerable, one could look to other reasons for problems in the relationship and the end result of murder.

Violence against women came to be a feminist cause because any woman who was vulnerable in her relationship was at risk of being subjected to controlling, abusive behaviour from her partner if he didn't know how to act with maturity in the relationship, or chose not to. If not financially independent or holding down a job it might be difficult for her to leave. Now, in Canadian society, more women are working and able to support themselves. Staying in an abusive relationship would no longer be necessary if the man wasn't agreeable to changing abusive behaviour. Hence we have such programs as the White Ribbon Campaign and Changing Ways, for men.

The other side of violence against women has now turned out to be the growth of men's groups aimed at assisting men who are the victims of women's acts of violence in their intimate relationships. If this was a problem previously, it received virtually no attention, but since the growth of the women's movement, and possibly due to increasing numbers of women gaining financial independence and working outside the home, some men have become vulnerable to abuse by their female partners. The pendulum has swung from one side completely over to the other. Thus, as well as groups and programs geared towards assisting women in particular, there are now the same kinds of groups, etc, formed to assist men. One emphasis of such groups is on the legal side of it. Where once women needed feminist lawyers to comprehend and fight for their rights, now men need to have lawyers who can understand the issues addressing their particular circumstances.

But even where there is no abuse, unresolveable relationship problems happen. Not all problems get to be labelled abuse even if they are. If Kelly Johnson hadn't killed herself after killing Dave Lucio, no doubt she would have ended up serving time for murder. But it still would not have meant that Dave Lucio had been a victim of domestic violence, except in the narrowest sense of the term, apparently used in Police Department stats, according to Barbara Kay (London, Jan 28, 2010). Although the definition of domestic violence used by the London Police Dept indicates that a single act of violence by one spouse towards the other constitutes domestic violence, as well as multiple incidents, I wouldn't agree. One incident might be an indication that an abusive relationship has begun, or it might simply be one isolated incident.

There was no indication that the relationship between Dave Lucio and Kelly Johnson had been abusive. The 12-page report (Report, 2008) put out by the London Police Department does not suggest that the relationship between Dave Lucio and Kelly Johnson was characterized by domestic violence. That the two were both members of the London Police Department obviously has made a difference to the way their relationship and deaths were perceived. But any omissions or errors in judgment made by Police Chief Faulkner, or favouritism in treatment of his officers, cannot change that aspect of the relationship between the two involved in the murder-suicide, that it did not involve systematic abuse. One spouse committing adultery, making unreasonable demands regarding sex, work, community activity and friendships, spending, and /or committing repeated physical acts of abuse, are the kinds of behaviour that make a relationship abusive, not the extreme act of homicide only.

In one of the first newspaper articles, it was stated that there was no history of abuse between the Mordues (Murder investigation, Aug 11, 2005). Later, however, it was implied that Erland Mordue was abusive, at least on one occasion, the week before he killed his wife Lois, phoning her several times, according to Lois’s new boyfriend, Zeke Postma, so that he offered to drive her to the Police Station to get a restraining order (Tears flow, April 05, 2007). A separate article mentions what is possibly related to that same incident, one of information-gathering’ the only one on record (Mordue wrote, March 28, 2007). The suggestion is that Erland Mordue was an abusive, controlling husband, creating a threatening, unhappy environment for his wife who was powerless to change her circumstances and leave. Luckily, Lois was not affected greatly by his treatment of her and quickly began a fulfilling life, with a job she enjoyed, a new home purchased for her by her son, and a new boyfriend, resulting in a questionable assessment that she had ever been a victim of abuse during her relationship with Erland Mordue. Abuse generally has an affect on the one being abused. But Lois appears to have been a well-adjusted person (Mordue’s zest for life, Aug 12, 2005). Normally, if a person is lacking family or community support, the potential for abuse is greater.

The world is filled with abuse and violence. Abuse affects a person's psyche, but how can we tell if it's due to the pitfalls of everyday life, of doing a difficult job, unthoughtful colleagues or an uncaring community, or illness, isolation, unfulfilled dreams, or fear of the future?

There was some resistance from women’s advocates and local citizens to Erland Mordue being allowed out on bail, due to his propensity towards cold-bloodedly planning murder, apparently (Mordue granted bail, Feb 13, 2006; Justice System, Feb 28, 2006; Erland Mordue, Sept 19, 2006). But if it is being argued that Erland was guilty of domestic homicide, of murdering someone he was in an intimate relationship with, then that would reduce the likelihood of him committing further acts of violence while out on bail. Women’s activists seem to want men who kill women they are in relationships with to be treated the same as any other murderer (Debunking stereotypes, Mar 13, 2006), though I argued against that line of reasoning (Murder cases, Mar 22, 06). However, it does appear, from the murder-suicide case in London, that treating cases individually instead of generalizing towards them, regarding granting bail, for instance, might be a more compassionate approach. Had Kelly Johnson lived, I wonder if she would have been treated the same as Erland Mordue was. As it is, Kelly Johnson is being pictured as a troubled woman, rather than as a cold-hearted killer.

The references listed below, which are those I have mentioned in this article, are included in the longer Bibliography list, which will be available on my website but not on my blog. For readers interested in this subject of domestic violence, Statistics Canada provides online a document on Violence Against Women (see Measuring violence, 2006), which provides valuable information that goes beyond the purely physical aspects of domestic violence, and that may also be of interest to men who are victims. The Comments sections of some newspaper articles can provide insight from everyday readers in the community and not just journalists. Local news articles about the Mordue case may be available through the archives of the newspaper if no working link is available. Links to letters I wrote to the Sentinel Review - Compassion (2007), Murder cases (2006) and Domestic violence (2005) - are also included here. Academic Jessica Eckstein has done some relevant work in the area of abuse and intimate relationships, a link provided below to one on men who experience violence from women (Masculinity of Men, 2010). Lastly, by chance, an article just out now announces a program intended to help women become aware of abuse in their relationship, apparently, though it does make one wonder, not just about the controlling effect it will have on how women will start to think of themselves, routinely, but the effect on men in their lives (Groundbreaking, June 2010).

List of References

Compassion and Humanity (Response to 'Guilty', S-R, Apr 13, 2007, and 'Society . . . humanity', S-R, Apr 18, 2007)
By Sue McPherson
Letter to the Editor
Woodstock Sentinel Review
submitted April 20, 2007

Debunking stereotypes
By Susan Houston
Letter to the Editor
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Mar 13, 2006
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2083927 Link unavailable

Domestic Violence: the Mordues (Response to 'In Honour of Lois', S-R, Dec 28, 2005)
By Sue McPherson
Letter to the Editor, submitted Dec 28, 2005
Woodstock Sentinel Review

Erland Mordue back in jail
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Sept 19, 2006
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2085150 Link not available

Family Violence in Canada: a Statistical Profile
Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics

‘Groundbreaking’ project helps abused women
By Kate Dubinski
The London Free Press
June 8, 2010

In honour of Lois
By Jon Willing
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
December 28, 2005
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2083435 Link not working

Justice system in need of change
unnamed author
Letter to the editor
Woodstock Sentinel Review
Feb 28, 2006
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2083832 Link not available

Lucio vigil meant to draw awareness to domestic violence
By Geoff Turner
The London Free Press
June 7, 2010

London, Ontario Police statistics on domestic violence show classic signs of abuse
By Barbara Kay
National Post, Full Comment
January 28, 2010
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2010/01/28/barbara-kay-london-ontario-police-statistics-on-domestic-violence-show-classic-signs-of-abuse.aspx Link no longer working

Masculinity of Men Communicating Abuse Victimization
By Jessica Eckstein
Western Connecticut State University

Measuring violence against women
Statistical Trends 2006

Mordue granted bail
Woodstock Sentinel Review
Feb 13, 2006
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2083731 Link no longer works

Mordue’s zest for life never surprised family
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Aug 12, 2005
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2082573 Link no longer available

Mordue 'wrote it all down in letters'
By Carla Garrett
Woodstock Sentinel Review
March 28, 2007
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2086560 Link no longer works

Moving forward
By Carla Garrett
Woodstock Sentinel Review
April 19, 2007
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2086746 Link not available

Murder cases must be handled differently (Response to Debunking Stereotypes, Mar 13, 2006)
By Sue McPherson
Letter to the Editor
Woodstock Sentinel Review
March 22, 2006

Murder investigation continues
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Aug 11, 2005
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2082563 Link no longer available

Myths of domestic violence
By Barbara Kay
National Post, Full Comment
June 2, 2010

Report to the deaths of David Lucio and Kelly Johnson
By Antoon Leenaars, Peter Collins, and Deborah Sinclair
for London Police Dept
May 28, 2008

Tears flow at Mordue trial
By Carla Garrett
Woodstock Sentinel Review
April 05, 2007
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/News/298996.html broken link
http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2086649 link unavailable

Vigils marks Lucio death
By Geoff Turner
The London Free Press
June 6, 2010

Links updated Apr 12, 2012

See also, for further information, the bibliography following 'Domestic Violence Narratives' at http://samcpherson.homestead.com/files/EssaysandWriting/2010_June_DomesticViolenceNarrativesRefBiblio.doc