Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 30, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Jennifer Qupanuaq May #E8-2571

 

For most Canadians, having a Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) is a birthright. If you want to work anywhere in the country, it is a requirement. Not only does it give Canadians access to a variety of social and medical programs, but it also gives us the privilege (!) of paying taxes. Many people grumble about paying taxes. I am not one of them. I realize that there is a cost to run government programs and taxation by and large funds these activities.

Not all Canadians have been treated the same. The story of our indigenous people is still being written and there are many chapters that tell a story which many Canadians find shameful. I have already written several articles about colonialism, forced relocations, residential schools and the killing of the sled dogs. Today I want to focus on “Eskimo Identification tags”, another example of questionable treatment of our founding people.

One could argue that the Federal Government had good intentions when they started to issue these tags in 1941. They began requiring Inuit to wear tags stamped with unique identification numbers. The Inuit word for the system was ujamiit. In English, the tags themselves, leather coin-sized disks, read “Eskimo Identification Canada”. The perceived need of the program arose from the inability of white people (Qallunaat), including Christian missionaries, government officials and the RCMP, to understand, pronounce and spell Inuit names.

The Canadian government issued the ID tags stamped with unique codes, starting with a region code and then an individual ID number, and instructed the recipients that they were to keep the disks on their person at all times. The numbers were also used in official government correspondence instead of names.

I certainly don’t pretend for a nanosecond to have the knowledge or expertise to explain how important names are to Inuit people. They carry many names reflecting family, ancestry and community.

Meet Jennifer Qupanuaq May, number E8-2571. She was born in 1982, one of the last Inuks to ever receive an E-number.

Jennifer is a 38 year- old Inuk woman, a single mother of three young children, originally from Kuujuuaq, now residing in Pointe- Claire, Quebec. She is an associate producer for a radio show and online marketing assistant for a film production company. She is a media arts student at John Abbott College. She is also involved in a mentoring program in the Inuit arts.

From all accounts, she is a remarkable woman. In 2017, she suffered a devastating injury which left her paralyzed. She was told that she might never walk again. With great faith and determination and a lot of rehabilitation, she was able to walk again. She suffers from chronic pain. Despite these tribulations she considers herself lucky and lives a life of gratitude.

She also has some strong feelings towards the “Eskimo Identification tag” program. “The Canadian government considered the Inuit as “primitive” people who they knew nothing about,” says Jennifer. “It’s getting better, but it’s still misunderstood. We tend to repress that but our social issues stem from this repression; people have PTSD from being sent to residential schools, the sixties scoop, having to wear these tags, and being just a number in their government’s eyes. It has caused our people to question their own existence when we realized these weird symbols, which we know as numbers, represented who we were.”

Initially, some Inuit regarded the Identification system as a positive. “We saw it as a new way of life, that something the government was “doing for us Inuit” at the time. Only after the passage of time, we started to recognize it as Government colonialism, just like killing of dogs, Residential Schools, Forceful Removal and Forceful relocations.” These comments were passed along to me by an Inuit friend who is now in his 70s.

Young Inuit children should feel grateful for people like Jennifer Qupanuaq who benefit by her mentorship. Life has not been easy for Jeniifer but her positive attitude can do nothing but help Inuit youth.

Education remains our best hope in understanding Indigenous people who have occupied these lands for over 4,000 years.

It’s just a number but numbers mean something.

Have a great week.

 

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 26, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

You need running shoes to teach in elementary

 

“Running on, running on empty,

Running on, running blind,

Running on, running into the sun,

But I’m running behind.

Running on Empty – Jackson Browne

I never thought I would be chasing a bunch of 11- year olds around a school at the age of 69. This might be one reason why I seem to be perpetually ‘running on empty’.

I had planned to write a serious piece today about “Eskimo Tags”, a program ushered in by the Federal Government in the 1940s as a way of identifying Inuit people. Looking through the lens of history, this was yet another example of “colonialism on steroids”. I plan to interview someone with intimate knowledge of this topic and hope to post the story next week.

In the meantime, I have absolutely nothing to write about which I seem to do well with this, my 1,169th post. So, I’’ just ramble on about nothing for 500-600 words.

Will I start with a rant about Bell? I have done several already but this one takes the cake. My faithful readers already know about my debacle getting a landline from Bell and then trying unsuccessfully for three months to pay my bill until they threatened to cut me off. Then they took three months’ worth of payments out of two different accounts which should result in a credit. However, my November bill hasn’t shown up so I’m expecting more drama and confusion.

But this is not why I just wasted about 62 words. You see, the fine workers at Bell were in the village a week and a half ago doing some line repairs. Somehow, they managed to sever the competitor’s main line that provides cable to just about every household in the village. I’m not suggesting subterfuge but the only other provider of cable in the community (drum roll….) is none other than Bell. They provide satellite TV. I am not a subscriber! We’ve been without cable for 10 days. Did Joe Biden win the presidency? Has Coronavirus been eradicated? Did the Leafs win the Stanley Cup? Oooh. That was a cheap shot. Sorry Leaf fans.

I must say that I have been missing my daily fix of news and sports reports but not all the ads. Honestly, I think that TSN has more ads and promos than CNN, and that’s saying something. Truth be told, I don’t get CNN or Fox which suits me fine. The only thing more annoying than ads are the talking heads. The networks are probably very sad to see Trump leave office although it looks like he’ll have to be dragged out of the White House kicking and screaming…once they get him off the golf course.

No television and very sketchy internet. I was mentioning this to some colleagues when one couple came to the rescue. “You can have our DVD player and several hundred movies.” This sounded like an amazing offer. The bad news is that my television, given to me last year is ancient… like me. No, it doesn’t have rabbit ears but the screen is small and the picture isn’t the best. My friends tried to hook up the DVD player but the TV was so old that there were no ports to plug in the cords. One of these friends suggested that I up my game and treat myself to a new flat screen television. As fate would have it, my neighbor in the upstairs apartment (who is away on paternity leave) has a 50’ flat screen TV. With his return to the north uncertain, I reached out to him and within 10 minutes, I bought his television. Some people would call this purchase impulsive, but I choose to use the word decisive!

I am NOT a movie buff. I think the last movie I saw was ET. I’m joking, sort of, but I don’t go to a lot of movies and the names of actors and actresses don’t come easily especially when I’m looking for a solution in a crossword puzzle.

The first evening that I had my new (used) TV, I binged and watched two full length movies back to back – Collateral with Tom Cruise and Rainmaker based on the book of the same name by John Grisham. Over the past several days I have watched Pulp Fiction , possibly one of he worst movies I have ever seen along with Silver Linings (Bradley Cooper), Notes on a Scandal (Dench and Blanchett) and Goodfellows (De Niro and Pesci). And one of my all time favourites, Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks is masterful in this role. Do you have any recommendations?

I rarely talk about school for reasons of discretion and privacy, but I don’t mind telling you that my students have been very excited lately receiving the very first letters of their lives from pen pals across Canada. Many of you reached out when I came begging for stamps a month or so ago and several of you also agreed to correspond with my students. Getting a real handwritten letter in the year 2020 is a rarity. Thanks to all of you for this act of kindness.

My students are incredibly artistic, their teacher, not so much but I do my best to bring an art project to class once every few weeks. While they create, I always have music on in the background. Sometimes it’s even live! I usually let them choose the music. Lately I have been combining classical music with art. Mozart and art, anyone? The other day, I gave them a taste of Beethoven. They tell me it’s “boring” but then again, they say that about everything I do. It does seem to have a calming effect.

Wow! I’ve outdone myself. Just about 1000 words on nothing at all.

I’m running on empty. Have a great weekend and see you next Monday.

P.S. Thinking about doing a Christmas Pillow Talk someday soon. Any takers?

 

 

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 23, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

 

My Corona Tree

(Many thanks to Pete MacDonald for cutting down this exquisite Corona tree from the old growth forests near Metchosin on Vancouver Island )

 

This will surely be a Christmas unlike any other as the world deals with a second wave of Covid-19. Many of the traditions that we hold dear will be swept aside for at least one year as the pandemic rages on. But people are nothing if not resilient and creative so here’s a sneak peek at a Coronavirus Christmas.

In normal times, skeletons, ghosts and other Halloween paraphernalia have scarcely been removed from store windows (the ones still in business) before Christmas decorations festoon these same shop windows. This may take a few days longer to happen this year as employees clean and sanitize the display windows.

It doesn’t take long for Christmas music to come pouring through speakers in the stores and it’s almost impossible to tune into a radio station without hearing Jingle Bells or The Little Drummer Boy. It is charming and heartwarming to hear festive music for about five days. Then you are ready to take a drumstick (a wooden one or one from a turkey) and start laying waste to the little drummer boy. Christmas 2020 is likely to produce new classics like “I’ll Be Alone For Christmas” (to the tune of I’ll Be Home For Christmas) for those forced to self- isolate. “Everybody Was Contact Tracing” (Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting) is sure to be a hit and we will end up every concert and sing song (virtual of course) by singing “We wish you a Covid Christmas and a Happy New Year”.

Outdoor decorations are of so important to create a festive atmosphere. I can almost see it now as people place flashing hazard signs on their verandas along with signs that say “Do Not Enter”. Kind of gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. The joy of a Covid Christmas knows no bounds.

Many people can’t wait to put up their Christmas tree. I am not one of those. I have a small artificial tree that stands about 2 feet high. If I’m ambitious, I’ll put it up a few days before Christmas. I thought that I would be home for Christmas and didn’t think to pack the tree when I came up here in August. I live above the tree line so not much chance of getting a nice balsam fir. Hey, maybe Scott MacKinnon can ship one up! This year I will have a virtual tree crafted my multi-talented son, Peter. I will use my Corona tree (see above) as the screen saver on my new 50 inch flat screen television. No star on the top of this year’s tree.

What to give for that someone special? I am told by good sources (Santa’s elves) that Covid-19 vaccine gift cards will be a popular stocking stuffer along with wipes and individual packets of hand sanitizer. Handmade masks are sure to please even the Scroogiest of people. Board games are always a crowd pleaser at Christmas. “Flattening The Curve” will undoubtedly be a big seller. You make your way around a board trying to avoid other people. No touching, kissing or hugging. Participants must wear color coded masks to avoid infecting granny.

Food is such an important part of Christmas. I can hardly wait to try Covid Chicken and Pandemic Pecan Pie. As tighter restrictions become the norm as Christmas fast approaches, family bubbles may be even smaller. Everyone might be relegated to their own bedrooms as their own private dining area. Mom or dad will just leave a plate of food at the bedroom door. Reminds me of the classic John Prine song, “Christmas in Prison”.

Many Christian churches have a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Some of us actually remember when midnight meant midnight. Now “midnight” can be 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. During a pandemic, time seems to lose its importance. Many people have already adjusted to watching a church service online and the diminishing number of people actually attending church these days makes social distancing in a place of worship a non-issue. It certainly is not like the old days, when we were jammed into pews like sardines.

Of course, Christmas is for the younger people in our lives. Can you imagine the permanent trauma of a child experiencing their first Christmas wondering why mom and dad are wearing a mask and surgical gloves helping their child unwrap a Hasbro toy, after they have sprayed the outside of the package with disinfectant?

Of course, I am merely “toying” with you. Christmas will be just fine. It will be “tree mendous, as ever. As usual, I am trying to “mask” my enthusiasm.

There’s an old song from the 70s rattling through this old brain. Surely you remember “My Sharona” by The Knack? Let’s gather round the Christmas tree, hold hands (No. Under no circumstance are you to show any outward sign of affection) and sing “My Corona”.

Happy Holidays!

Have a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

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