Tag Archives: canada

Making Your Own Appointment to Die

At the Walrus, Dave Cameron profiles David Forsee, a man with a fatal lung disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), who chose to end his life under Canada’s right to die legislation. As his time diminishes, Forsee and his friends and caregivers struggle to be at peace with the choice he made and the time he has left.

Forsee says he’s trying to be “conscious of being curmudgeonly,” but he can’t deny that dying, and the ipf in particular, has made him impatient with small talk. In his prime, he rarely hurried a thought, and in his illness he can’t afford to. “It’s not always necessary to fill the air with empty words,” he once scolded Ollmann during a drop-in.

Truman again appears at Forsee’s back. “It’s strange, rooting for someone to be able to die,” she says. “He could be with us, cognizant, for a couple more months, but it’s not up to us.”

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Immoral or Merciful? Canadian Doctors Divided on Medically Assisted Death

Before assisted suicide was legal in Canada, there was a secret society devoted to helping Canadians end their lives on their own terms. As Nicholas Hune-Brown reports at Toronto Life, even though medically assisted death has been legal in Canada for a year, it remains controversial. Although some palliative care doctors — who believe in providing physical and psychological comforts to patients, but not in hastening death — are vehemently opposed to what they view as an immoral act, other doctors are slowly coming to terms with the patient’s new right to die in cases where death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

In April 2016, four months after his diagnosis, Jack went to the hospital with pneumonia. When he got out two weeks later, he needed a feeding tube and a suction machine for his saliva. He could no longer look after himself, so he moved in with April, her partner, Robert, and their two-year-old daughter, in Smiths Falls, Ontario. The man who had always been a blur of activity suddenly needed his daughter to help him out of bed. The professional smooth talker had trouble speaking, a single sentence sometimes stretching out over excruciating minutes as he struggled for breath. On more than one night, he’d begin to choke, and April would have to call an ambulance to help clear the mucus building up in his throat, watching helplessly as a look of utter horror spread across her father’s face. When she took him to the bathroom each morning, he would say the same thing: “I want to die.”

Since Jack Poelstra, Gerald Ashe has overseen nine more deaths. He’s been there as Canadian families have invented new rituals for a new way of dying—reading poetry and listening to favourite pieces of music, watching as family members have taken turns giving their final hugs and kisses. When I asked Ashe if he was ever upset by the process, if it ever felt like a burden, he thought for a moment. “You know, I think I’m a pretty sensitive guy,” he began. “But I don’t feel upset about it.” The patients had been so sure, so appreciative. The families were so relieved. To Ashe, it was clear that it was something that needed to be done, and he was glad that he was able to do it with care and empathy.

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Inside the Canadian Credit Bubble, Where Too Many Canadians Live Beyond their Means

The credit cards that once empowered many Canadians are now allowing people to bury themselves in debt they can’t recover from. In The Walrus, Raizel Robin writes about this new middle class. It’s an aspirational one that lives paycheck to paycheck, is not always willing to give up certain lifestyle choices and luxury activities, and relies on Payday loans that only compound their problems. Some financial analysts warn that the day of reckoning is approaching.

Indeed, while the largest chunk of our household expenditures goes toward groceries, transportation, and shelter, many Canadians seem uninterested in prioritizing needs over wants—according to a recent cibc poll, only half of those surveyed were willing to cut spending on non-­essential items in order to keep up with bills. Our debt load is, in a sense, the result of an aspirational burden. “Middle class” once meant exactly that—the ­median in household net worth, or the point at which half the population has a higher income and the other half a lower one. A 2013 ­internal government document deemed middle-­class incomes to be anywhere between $54,000 and $108,000—that’s quite a spread. Middle-­class status has thus become more of a state of mind than a demographic bracket. Federal finance minister Bill Morneau recently admitted as much, defining middle-class Canadians, in part, according to the “lifestyle they ­aspire to.”

But it’s hard to deny the fact that such lifestyles tend to be defined by consumption, or what one American sociologist has dubbed “upscale emulation.” A bankruptcy lawyer I spoke with has helped clients in just this fix—clients such as the Toronto architect crushed by $105,000 in tax debt and $75,000 in credit card debt who still managed to vacation in the tropics four times a year with his wife. Or the divorced, ­self-employed Toronto chiropractor who made $4,900 a month and insisted that both her kids attend private school—until the Canada Revenue Agency froze her ­accounts. We spend our way into the standard of living we feel we deserve, buying stuff that makes us who we think we are, or want to be.

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How the Canadian Government Tried to “Remove the Indian From the Child”

Betty Ann Adam was three years old when she was taken from her mother in what is known as the “’60s Scoop,” a period spanning 30 years in which indigenous children in Canada were removed from their homes to be placed with white families as church-run residential schools were closing. “The government’s stated intention with the residential schools was to ‘remove the Indian from the child,’ by removing them from their parents and having them educated by white Christians” — another horrific, government-endorsed attempt at cultural genocide.

At the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Betty Ann Adam recounts her abduction, her trials fitting into white society, and her trepidation — and eventual joy — at being reunited with her blood relatives.

I’m in a police car. It’s a hot summer day and the seat is burning my legs. The woman puts me on her lap. Next, I’m in an airplane looking down at tiny cars on the road. Finally, I’m at the farm where I find myself, without knowing why, living a new life.

I was part of the Sixties Scoop. I’m an indigenous woman who was raised as a foster child in a non-native home. My birth mother, Mary Jane Adam, attended Holy Angels Indian Residential School in Fort Chipewyan, Alta. She left the school in her teens but never returned to the reserve to live.

I realized my indigenous identity had felt like a shadow that followed me and that I had feared all my life. When I stopped running and turned to meet it, I saw a friend. I saw my family. I saw myself.

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The Complicated Power of DIY Justice

Don’t you ever get tired of waiting for the system to deliver justice? In Esquire, Suzy Khimm enters the underworld of Canadian vigilantes who hunt pedophiles and make popular videos of busts. They have names like Creep Hunters and Creep Catchers. Some members were molested themselves, and they’re done waiting for authorities to help. But going rogue requires walking the line between avenger and criminal, and mistakes have led to widespread changes in the movement. Now some are asking what they want more: to be famous or effective?

When he took over the Creep Hunters last fall, Brady boasts, he created a culture of professionalism for their work: All chats and videos were required to be posted to the “head office” (a virtual workspace) and vetted by a “legal team” (a law student) before being published online. The group required members to sign a service agreement and complete a training program, using a manual called The Book of New Blood. The group even appointed an “office manager,” a 55-year-old former HR assistant who organized all the chat logs—the smutty propositions, the overwrought confessions of love, the dick pics—to send to the police.

So far, Creep Hunters hasn’t gotten anyone convicted, and only one catch—snaring a deputy sheriff in British Columbia—has resulted in charges of child sexual exploitation. But Brady insists that Creep Hunters could be the ideal complement to traditional law enforcement. Compared to the U.S., Canada has been slow to toughen its laws on child sexual exploitation: In 2008, it raised the age of consent from fourteen to sixteen years—the first time it had changed since 1892. Brady believes that the country needs to take America’s lead in cracking down on sex offenders, and that groups like his can help close the gap. Since predator catchers don’t have the ability to make arrests, they aren’t subject to the same entrapment laws that limit how police carry out their own sting operations; they can go where the police don’t, then turn their evidence over to the authorities.

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Month 13: What Happens After the Year-Long Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Ends?

It’s a year-long commitment to privately sponsor a Syrian refugee family in Canada, where sponsorship includes funding and helping the family navigate Canadian culture and society. Sponsors assist newcomers with daily tasks of living, including grocery shopping, banking, getting jobs, learning English, and ferrying families to appointments and activities. In the fourth and final installment of Refugees WelcomeThe New York Times’ year-long series on Syrian refugees in Canada — Jodi Kantor and Catrin Einhorn profile the Hajj family and members of their sponsorship group, reporting on what happens at month 13 — the point at which the sponsorship agreement officially ends.

Still, with the deadline nearing, the Hajj sponsors faced uncomfortable, nagging questions: Were they doing too much for the Syrian family? Should they stand back and stop acting as chauffeurs, planners and all-around fixers? Were they willing to let the family make mistakes? Even if they wanted to stop helping, would they be able to?

The sponsors, mostly retirees, had the time to help, and they thrived on their shared sense of mission. They wanted so much for the Hajjes: not just the basics, like language and literacy, but for them to participate in the mainstream of Canadian life. They could not bear the thought of the family becoming isolated, the parents marginalized, the children missing out on activities their own children had taken for granted.

One morning in February, Moutayam’s school bus failed to appear, so the boy dialed one sponsor after another until he got Ms. Karas, who rushed right over instead of letting his mother figure it out. She feared the boy would miss a day of school if she did not step in.

“The dependency comes from both sides,” said Sam Nammoura, a refugee advocate who observed similar situations in Calgary, Alberta, where he served as a liaison between sponsors and Syrians. “The newcomers fear taking risks, and the minute they take a risk, the sponsor thinks, ‘They don’t speak English, I will help them,’” he said.

Across the country, as Month 13 turned into Months 14 and 15, the early results of private sponsorship of Syrians looked a lot like Mr. Hajj’s progress — still tentative, but showing forward motion. According to early government figures, about half of privately sponsored adults were working full or part time.

As a group, they were outpacing the thousands more refugees who did not have sponsors and were being resettled by the government — only about 10 percent of them had jobs (on the whole, they were less educated and had higher rates of serious health problems and other needs). Previous refugees to Canada over the past decade — a mix of Iraqis, Afghans, Colombians, Eritreans and more — had followed the same pattern, with privately sponsored refugees more likely to be employed after a year at similar rates.

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I’m on a Boat, Y’all! (With Canada’s Hyper-Conservatives)

In The Walrus, Canadian writer Peter Norman spends a week with followers of Canada’s fear-mongering conspiratorial conservative Ezra Levant to explore how Trump’s nationalistic fervor has taken hold across the border, and what it portends.

How does an ordinary Canadian become a Rebel? During my week at sea, I began to classify Rebels according to the issues that made them angriest—the ones that had originally brought them into Levant’s orbit. Fear of Islam and a distrust of mainstream climate-change science were the most prevalent. Rebels might start out as temperate conservatives, centrists, or even leftists (Faith Goldy said that her conservatism had emerged from the ashes of a youthful hard-left zeal). But at some point, a gateway issue draws them in.

Maybe a sudden spike in a tax bill is what enrages them, or they lose their job. It could be a workplace incident in which they’re accused of exhibiting some stigmatized trait—racism, sexism, transphobia—that they don’t believe they possess. Or, watching the news, they are overcome by the horror of an Isis terrorist attack.

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An Emotional Tour of History: Naming Lakes After the Fallen

At the Winnipeg Free Press, Bill Redekop profiles Des Kappel, the toponymist in charge of naming the 90,000 remaining land features and lakes in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Currently tasked with matching land features to casualties of the First World War, Kappel’s work is often an emotional tour through history as he collects letters and photos of the fallen for inclusion in his database.

The commemorative project was about more than just naming. The province also asked for photographs, biographical information and any other documentation from families who suffered war casualties. These are included in a database. Kappel communicated with many of the families during the process.

“For some people, (the commemorative naming) is closure because the person died overseas, or right in the sea, and are buried overseas, if formally buried at all. We have families go up to the commemorative lakes and build cairns or put down plaques.” And some family members request that their ashes be spread on the lake that bears the name of their loved one.

The compilation of people’s stories brings home the insanity of war. It includes names, photos, biographies, the geographical features commemorated in their name, and very personal information, such as their letters home.

Take the example of Pte. Ralph Aandal of St. Vital. “I had a nice trip out here. We rode on the train for quite a ways. Then we got off and rode on camel for miles and miles.” He was joking. He had arrived in the Carberry desert to train at the nearby Shilo military base.

His last letter was postmarked the day he died: “We are still on the German border,” he wrote. “I haven’t been sick at all out here. It’s funny we all haven’t gone to the hospital. We are laying in water day and night… Love Ralph (14 December, 1944).”

That’s just the first name in the commemorative edition. Aandel Lake, northeast of Reindeer Lake in northern Manitoba, is named after him.

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Refugees Welcome Here: Bringing ‘Family No. 417’ to Canada

In Maclean’s, Michael Friscolanti reports on the 14 everyday Canadians who — galvanized by the sickening image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi face-down on the beach — banded together to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees whose names they did not know, in a bid to “do what’s right. To do something.” In a story reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, Friscolanti travelled to war-torn Beirut to find and interview Amal Alkhalaf, the single-mother and her three children, dubbed “family no. 417.”

“I have not been outside since the explosion,” the woman says, speaking Arabic. “If you didn’t call me to meet you, I wouldn’t have come outside. It is too scary.”

Her name is Amal Alkhalaf, and although she doesn’t realize it yet, that name alone means so much to so many. On the other side of the world—in Peterborough, Ont., a city that could not be further away from the armed checkpoints that surround Bourj el-Barajneh—a group of strangers has made it their mission to sponsor her family and bring them to Canada, despite never seeing her face or hearing her voice. All they know is her name, and that she and her three kids, living somewhere in Lebanon, are among the many millions of Syrian refugees who fled for their lives.

A single, sickening image—a three-year-old boy dead on a beach, when British Columbia could have been home—became a nationwide rallying cry. Hundreds of private sponsorship groups mobilized in a matter of days, each one determined to rescue the next Alan Kurdi.

Near the end of the call, Amal asks a question: “Who is doing this for me?”

A collection of families, Serout replies, explaining how the sponsorship group will cover her family’s first year of expenses in Canada. “They don’t care if you are a Muslim or not a Muslim,” he says.

“At last, we are humanity,” Amal answers. “There is no black or white.”

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Risking Severe Frostbite and Death via The New Underground Railroad into Canada

At Maclean’s, Jason Markusoff reports on refugees who, in the face of tighter U.S. immigration restrictions, are risking their lives to find safe haven in Canada and on the network of people helping them do it. Desperate to flee persecution in their home countries, refugees are taking cabs to a remote section of the U.S.-Canadian border and walking for miles in perilously cold, snowy conditions, knowing not where they must go, following only a dim beacon of red flashing lights to safety.

The taxi stopped at the side of the I-29 interstate after cruising north for about an hour. Their $400 in the cabbie’s pocket, he dropped off Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal a two-minute drive short of the North Dakota-Manitoba line. The driver pointed the men toward a darkened prairie field and a row of red blinking lights, wind turbines in the distance. Walk toward those lights, and they could grasp freedom.

“We didn’t feel any sign, but we could feel we are in Canada, because of the cold—very, very intense,” Mohammed recalls. By this point, they were a couple of hours into their trek through field and brush, unsure exactly where to stop. It was Christmas Eve, and fields outside Emerson, Man., were smothered in waist-high snow.

A trucker eventually rescued them, and a month later they were on a new, safer road, toward possible refugee status in Canada. But their frostbitten fingers are gone. Iyal has one thumb and a half-thumb left. Mohammed has nothing.

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