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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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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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 16, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

Get lost, Covid-19

 

Warning. If you are offended by salty language, you may want to take a pass on this post. This will absolutely ensure that every one of you will read this to the very last word!

This is an open letter to Covid-19.

Dear Covid-19.

Like an unwelcome party crasher who arrives with garlic breath, drinks too much and hogs the conversation, you made your appearance ten months ago. It doesn’t matter much where you came from but at this point in time the entire world wants you to go to hell.

There are some well known politicians who have been dubbed disruptors but no one in our lifetimes has done so much harm to so many people in so many countries around the world. When people speak of Covid fatigue, just hearing your name (like that of a retiring politician) makes us weary.

Let’s see. The list of people you have pissed off is too long to post here but let me offer a few.

You have ruined celebrations of life and death. Births, weddings, special events, anniversaries, cherished holidays have all fallen victim to your unyielding cruelty. The sight of seniors peering through the windows of nursing homes wondering why their families have abandoned them is soul crushing. And when these same people eventually succumb to your fury, we haven’t been able to give them a dignified farewell.

You have put incredible strain on everybody but maybe none more so than health care workers who are exhausted, overwhelmed and distraught as you make your second pass around the globe.

Back in February, you started off as a minor irritant, a curiosity of sorts. Most of us enthusiastically got on board and embraced protocols to limit your spread and flatten the curve but you are one tricky bastard. You knew you would wear us down over time. You seemed to take a hiatus in the summer, a time that you knew we would lower our defenses, giving us a smugness and false sense of security that we had whipped your ass.

Now you are back with a vengeance. You have single handedly managed to do what no superpower has been able to do: bring the United States to its knees. Fifty thousand cases a day south of the border have leapt to 150,000. Hospitalizations and deaths are soaring. Canada and many other countries are on perilous trajectories. You have caused untold problems with the global economy as tens of thousands of businesses large and small have failed and closed up shop.

You continue to keep us socially distanced from families and friends. The mental health toll is incalculable.

It’s pretty sad when Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy all have a bounty on your hide.

Most of us have embraced the idea of wearing a mask. For some of us this is a mixed blessing. It keeps us safe and also hides the wrinkles on our faces. Those of us with sensitive skin sure appreciate the need to use hand sanitizer which causes or skin to split and bleed. Among your many charms you are sadistic.

Covid-19. You are the ultimate bed sore. You are the boil on our arse. You are a canker on our tongue, an abscessed tooth and a migraine headache all rolled into one. Let’s throw in arthritis for good measure – constant, unrelenting pain.

I am here to tell you that, we the people, are bent and beaten up but not broken. The good news is that help is on the way and no, it’s not Joe Biden. A vaccine is on the way. It won’t eliminate you, you testy son of a bitch, but it will relegate you to the shadows.

In the meantime, I think I can speak for most people and want to tell you to take a hike. I was thinking of using much stronger language, but you don’t seem to be listening to anyone. The F Bomb was on my lips. We are tired of hearing your name.

With warmth and affection.

Len

 

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