Tag Archives: Justin Trudeau

Open Letter to Justin Trudeau, New Oil Pipeline Owner.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Dear Justin,

Donald Trump took the USA out of the Paris Accord, you are now an Oil magnate, Elizabeth May linked arms with the anti pipeline crowd and was convicted of contempt of court, Europe depends on Russian gas and oil, oil keeps the Sultans of the Mid East in power, the hurricane season is about to start before the damage from last year is repaired, BC is already burning, reports from Greenland, the Arctic, and the Antarctic are all a bit spooky.

It is time we accepted the fact that we humans will not give up our reliance on coal, oil, gas, or our taste for meat, in time to save the planet.

But there is an opportunity here and you are just the leader to seize it.

Convene a meeting of international scientists to discuss carbon capture. Make it a goal of this convention to settle on the most promising technologies and theories. Then meet with the leaders of China, Japan, California, and Western Europe to develop a spectacularly well funded international consortium tasked with making carbon capture a reality. Invite American scientists to participate. Do this before 2020. The clock is ticking.

Reading about these technologies I was discouraged by the problems of sequestration, the energy required to take carbon from the air and convert it into usable graphene, and the problem of scale. But then it occurred to me that in only a few short years we have erected sufficient towers to ensure my cell phone works almost anywhere in the world.

It is not within our nature to give up our reliance on oil soon enough. But it is in our nature to build a pipeline through the Rocky Mountains, lay cable across the Atlantic Ocean, have highways crisscrossing our lands and build sufficient communication towers for me to be writing this almost anywhere in the world.

So do this now Justin. Play to our human strength of innovation and industry. Let Canada take the lead. We are major polluters yet late on the list of nations that will be rendered uninhabitable by climate change.

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A New Years Message to Justin Trudeau

by Dr David Laing Dawson

I have in my head an image of three generations of a family fleeing in an oxcart from the destruction of war. Today they may be boarding a bus leaving Aleppo.

We respond emotionally to the images of children, wide-eyed, dusty, confused. But it is the older generation I think about, frail, arthritic, failing. The children may live to see the fighting stop and the country rebuilt. At the very least they can hope for this. But the grandparents know they are unlikely to live to see another round of peace and prosperity. They are unlikely to live long enough to see what becomes of their homes, their lands, and their grandchildren.

I was a university student during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Oddly I remember it as spring, but it must have been a warm October in 1962. I should have been studying for mid-terms, but with Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk at the U.N., Kennedy not backing down, nuclear missiles deployed in Cuba, armed Soviet vessels steaming toward the American blockade, it looked like the end of the world was approaching quickly, and I decided that sitting in a library poring over books was no way to spend one’s last day on earth. Instead, I spent much of it sitting under a tree on the campus watching the leaves and the drifting clouds beyond.

We now know some of the strange details of those ten days of brinksmanship. Khrushchev overestimated Kennedy’s maneuvering latitude in a democracy. The Joint Chiefs wanted to invade Cuba. Kennedy knew the Soviets would have to take Berlin if the US took Cuba and killed some Russians in the process. And he knew where that would lead. Thank God Khrushchev knew as well, and he was not a madman, not an outrageous narcissist. Khrushchev blinked. And I went back to studying for my mid-terms.

I am no longer young, and like the grandparents on that oxcart, I wonder what is in store for the world and for my grandchildren. I am trying to gauge my anxiety about this. I have written about The Donald’s threat to democracy, but what do I know? I am neither historian nor political scientist. But many more qualified than I are seeing the same trend, the same threat to American democracy that I see, the same rise of an amoral international oligarchy, the chipping away at the fundamental tenets of democracy. And as it is for the crabs in a large pot of warm water on the stove, and for the subjects of a gradual desensitization program, each increase in temperature, each aberration becomes the new normal. The CNN pundits frequently say it has no “precedent”, (and in one of the best Freudian typos of all time, as we know, Mr. Trump wrote “unpresidented”), and that these are “new times, new realities”. Of course each of these erosions of American democracy does have a precedent. One need but look beyond our shores to the oligarchs of Russia, the nepotism of both Koreas, the mix of business and politics in China, the collapse of democracies in the past, and 1930’s Germany.

But let me get to my point before I dig too deep a hole. There are a few good democracies in this world, most notably Canada, capable of punching above their weight in international affairs. The next few years we must not succumb to the disease affecting much of Europe and America. We must instead shout loud and clear, we must participate, we must join whatever rational and sane leaders there are left in this world to get us through this. We must negotiate, mediate, and speak for morality.

So, Prime Minister Trudeau, it looks like we must try to survive four years of Mr. Trump and his cohort of oligarchs and plutocrats, impulsive tweets, regressive policies, a continuing increase in income disparity, further deterioration of the American public education and health system, along with Vladmir Putin baring his chest and flexing his pecs, Kim Jong Un playing lego with his nukes, Netanyahu digging in his right to the expansion of Israel, Brexit turmoil in Europe, Duterte unleashing the hounds of hell…

We need adults at the table. We need somebody to raise the flag of sanity and compassion. It will be okay by me if you and your team neglect the home front. By and large we Canadians are doing just fine. But we need to know our voices are being heard when Putin and Trump square off, or some idiot is about to trigger another mid east conflagration, or Putin and Trump team up and piss off China…..or…..

In a world of delicate balances, a world of compromise, a world in which we know that the written or spoken word, even if it is merely the public pronouncement of an obvious logic, truth, or morality, can trigger retaliation or war – in such a world the impulsive tweet, the school yard taunt, fake news, the inattention to detail,  the folly of self-importance, the fragile ego, and a horrible combination of ignorance and grandiosity can spell doom for us all.

You have a job to do Mr. Trudeau, you and all the other sane voices on the international stage. I wish you God speed.

On the Death of Fidel – Putting Cuba into Perspective

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Fidel Castro’s death is being mourned in Cuba, celebrated in Miami. Justin Trudeau is being chastised for his praise of Castro. Putin says Castro was a friend. Trump calls him a brutal dictator and he wants to reset the American/Cuban relationship back to 1962.

It is important we remember the history that gave us the man Fidel Castro, be he hero or villain, or a bit of both.

Here is that history in much abridged form:

Cuba was a colony of Spain until 1898. There had been uprisings against colonial rule before but this time America joined in after the war-mongering of the Hearst papers and the mysterious sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor.

At the Paris treaty (1898) the US paid Spain 20 million dollars for Cuba and the Philippines (400 million in today’s dollars). Cuba became a US colony until 1902. It achieved independence in 1902 but never full and complete independence because the Americans retained veto power over every decision the Cuban government made, the option of military intervention, and, of course, the military base of Guantanamo Bay.

Over the next 50 years Cuba remained feudal in its organization, this time with American landlords and plantation owners. It was transformed into a single crop (not counting tobacco) farming economy depending almost entirely on exports of sugar to the US. American business controlled this one cash crop and American criminals (the mafia) controlled the nightlife in Havana, a playground for the rich and famous. The Cubans themselves, well, they remained poor, without access to education, health care, or stable housing. At least 40 percent were illiterate. The men worked in the fields, the women in the service industries. Batista was the dictator in charge following a military coup in 1952. He was propped up by American politicians, with ties to American business and the Mob. Arthur Miller described Cuba under Batista as “hopelessly corrupt, a Mafia playground, a bordello for Americans and other foreigners.”

Batista was brutal, using torture and executions; he had investments in Florida, greatly enriched himself and his friends before fleeing to the Dominican Republic to join his friend and fellow dictator, Trujillo, as Castro’s small band of revolutionaries approached in 1959.

Peoples, socialist, communist revolutions and insurgencies have occurred throughout Central and South America. Each in response to brutal dictatorships, corruption and poverty. The United States and notably the CIA have managed to undermine, thwart, defeat them all with the exception of Fidel’s revolution in Cuba. Many of these other states returned to military rule, or dictatorships, or seesawed between these and nascent democracies. For some the insurrections have continued for years. On at least two occasions the Americans have overthrown democratically elected governments with socialist leanings to return countries to brutal dictatorships. And they murdered Che Guevera, and another physician trying to redistribute wealth and make education and health care available to all, Salvador Allende.

Today the homicide rate in El Salvador is over 100 per 100,000 people. The same in Guatemala and the Honduras. To put that in perspective that would be over 34,000 murders per year in Canada.

The prison population in Cuba is about 500 per 100,000. In the US it is 700 per 100,000. Canada about 100 per 100,000, The Netherlands, about 50 per 100,000.

The USA tried to undermine and stop the Cuban Revolution many times, notably with the invasion at the Bay of Pigs, and failed.

After the revolution Castro turned to the US to continue buying its one crop, now nationalized. The US said no, broke off relations and trade, embargoed Cuba. With ties suddenly severed with its only market for its one crop, and its source of equipment and medicines gone, Castro turned to Russia. Russia jumped at the opportunity.

Fast forward. There is no question Castro has been brutal in his suppression of dissidents. Cuba is a police state with much surveillance and control. But the literacy rate of Cubans now exceeds that of the rest of the Americas. Cuban people have food, housing, education and medical care guaranteed. They keep their 1950’s era automobiles running. They ride Chinese made bicycles. All the children go to school. Day care is provided. School is mandatory up to grade 9. University is also free. Medical care is of high quality save for the shortage of equipment and supplies and pharmaceuticals otherwise obtained only from the US. The casinos are gone, though private prostitution once again flourishes for the tourists. Private enterprise is creeping back in small ways. Gun violence is almost nonexistent. The crime rate is very low. Far more tourists actually visit the island now than did in the 1950’s.

In Cuba, Mental Health Care is integrated with public health care. Just as we began reforming our mental hospitals, and creating community care in the 1960’s and 1970’s in North America so did Cuba. Only they stayed with the program. Today the Mental Health Care in Cuba is much as we (in the 1970’s) envisioned it should be in Canada.

http://www.academia.edu/639455/The_organization_of_mental_health_services_in_Cuba

It is a complex world we live in. Power corrupts. Revolutions don’t usually achieve the high-minded goals expressed in their pamphlets. Our systems of governance are always at odds with the baser instincts and desires of humans.

But here is an interesting question I ask myself: If I were, say, 40 years old and raising a family of three children, and had no delusions of grandeur, fame and wealth, would I rather be (a doctor, labourer, bricklayer, farmer, construction worker, teacher, nurse, child care worker, lawyer, musician, taxi driver, bus driver, shop keeper, butcher, baker, police officer……) in Cuba or the Honduras, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia….?

My solution for Cuba many years ago was that it become a Canadian Province. That way as it evolves gradually into a full democracy with a mixed economy, free education and health care, and an independent judiciary we might be able to protect it from American excesses and exploitation.

Family Day, Serious Mental Illness and Murder

By Marvin Ross

I’m posting this on Family Day in Ontario. This is a new statutory holiday promised by former Premier Dalton McGuinty during the election campaign of 2007. It was, of course, part of his platform so that he could win re-election by giving people an extra day off between New Year and Easter and sold as an opportunity for people to celebrate family.

Unfortunately, families with serious mental illness in them lost out when the recommendations of an all party Select Committee on Mental Illness and Addictions Report of 2010 was largely ignored by that government. There is little for many of these families in Ontario to celebrate as you will see from my Huffinton Post blog that follows. It was published on February 9 and I will update it at the end.

Was Ontario Complicit in a Father’s Murder?

Last Spring, I mentioned the problems that a Richmond Hill, Ontario family was having with acquiring adequate service for their son with schizophrenia in one of my Huffington Post blogs. That was one of the many blogs I write on the pathetic state of care that we have for the treatment of those with serious mental illness.

Sadly, the father in this case, Bob Veltheer, was murdered on Sunday evening February 7 and, the next day, his son Jacob was arrested. Bob and his wife talked to me before I wrote the blog wanting to reveal just how badly people with serious mental illness are treated by the health system but decided to remain silent other than what I reported then.

Before I outline what I know of the care their son received, I should mention that Bob was the founding member and president of Home on the Hill, an agency set up to try to get housing for the mentally ill when their families could no longer keep them at home. I had been invited to speak at their monthly meetings a few times as had my blogging partner in another blog we share, Dr David Laing Dawson.

Last year, Jacob, who suffers from schizophrenia, was found sitting on a bus at the end of the line in Newmarket, Ontario presumably having failed to get off when it passed through Richmond Hill. He was suicidal, so the police were called and he was taken to South Lake Hospital. After a week and still suicidal, according to the family, he was discharged against the wishes of his family and that is what I reported.

Upon discharge, he ran off, as do many people with schizophrenia, and the York Regional Police went looking for him. He was found after three days and returned home only to disappear again. This time, when he was found, he was admitted to MacKenzie Health in Richmond Hill. After a brief stay, he was discharged with a community treatment order to a residence. A community treatment order is a legally binding order that the individual must accept regular medical help and medication. If they fail to abide by this, they can be returned to hospital by police.

Jacob, it seems, was too sick for the residence to cope with (but not sick enough to be in hospital) and was evicted from the residence. What should the parents do but what all parents do and that was to take him home. Just recently, the team that supervised his orders (the South Lake Assertive Community Treatment team), wanted him discharged to the care of the family doctor. His mother had just made contact with a local Richmond Hill psychiatrist and was waiting to hear back to see whether that doctor would see him.

Friday night, Bob had a meeting with a member of Home on the Hill executive at his house and I was told that Jacob was so distraught that he was pacing about the house talking to himself (or his voices or demons) in a loud voice. That Sunday night, the police allege that Jacob murdered his father.

This horrific tragedy could probably have been prevented had Jacob been kept in hospital long enough to stabilize him properly and, if that was not possible, to give him a secure place where he could live. The number of psychiatric beds in Ontario has been declining considerably over the past few decades but the total extent is not available since statistics on that can’t be found. And I’ve tried. The most recent Ontario report released in December of 2015 called Taking Stock found that access to services varies across the province and is inconsistent.

Late last year, the brand new psychiatric hospital in Hamilton closed a ward because of budgetary problems although that hospital has 6 vice presidents, 31 directors, a medical director earning $500K a year and a CEO making $750K a year. And, as I wrote a year ago, Ontario has had 17 reports on the sad state of mental health care between 1983 and 2011 but little has been done.

This is not the first preventable death, nor will it be the last unless we finally start to care. In my book on schizophrenia, I describe a case where a family in Mississauga, Ontario desperately tried to get help for their son. They could not and he ended up killing both his parents. I met the son a couple of years ago and found him to be a very pleasant and sane individual. But that was after years in a forensic psychiatric hospital where he has been getting treatment. Imagine if his family were able to get that when they first tried.

I am not Emil Zola nor was Bob Veltheer, but I accuse the complacency of the Ontario government for his death. Government bureaucrats have been informed repeatedly both verbally and in writing about the need for accountability, program evaluation, transparency regarding mis-spending, mis-use of privacy legislation and the historical resistance to partner and collaborate with families. The Central Local Health Integration Network where Bob resided, I’m told, had recently been notified about the profound need for hospital beds by Home on the Hill.

Home on the HIll has been attempting to meet with the new Health Minister, Jane Philpott, whose constituency is near Richmond Hill but have not heard back yet.

I would like to see either a Coroner’s Inquest or a Royal Commission into the circumstances that led up to this horrific event. And I would like to see Ontario finally do something other than commission studies which they then ignore.

Update

This blog received a great deal of attention as it was distributed widely and to a number of politicians where the Veltheer family live. I attended the funeral on February 13 along with politicians from the all three levels of government. The local town councillor who is a supporter of the work of Home on the Hill plans to bring this to the attention of the Ontario Minister of Health as is the local representative in the Ontario legislature. The representative who sits in the Canadian House of Commons is planning to raise this event in the House of Commons and a meeting has been arranged with the Federal Minister of Health.

We all hope that Bob’s death and the pain that his family is going through will result in some positive changes. Ontario which has direct responsibility for providing health care needs to get off its duff, stop generating reports which they ignore, and start providing the services that have been recommended so many times by so many reports.

The Federal government needs to take the money they are wasting on a Mental Health Commission that has no direct authority and does nothing but generate its own reports and put it to providing funding programs in the provinces. And just maybe, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whose mother, Margaret suffers with bipolar disorder, will understand and do something.

Doing something would be a welcome change and would honour the memory of Bob and all the others who have been sacrificed by our lack of resources.

On Putin, Bush, Trump and the Canadian Election

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We must pick our leaders wisely.

Russia currently has Mr. Putin, the Macho Man. He loves nothing more than to bare his chest, let his pectorals ripple, to hunt large animals, display his strength and resolve. He feels he embodies his country, and many of his countrymen feel the same.

This is dangerous.

Then we had George W. Bush. As I watch Donald Trump I am gaining some sympathy for George. George wasn’t smart, but he tried. When he mangled our common language, when his words issued from his mouth in stumbling contradictions and malapropisms, one felt he was trying to say something intelligent and reasonable but he just didn’t have the skill or the mastery of language. When he talked in black and white terms, and borrowed his language from young adult fiction (“evildoers” for example), I felt he would be more nuanced if he could. When he backed stupid policies I felt he wouldn’t do this if he actually grasped the probable consequences of them. He probably did actually believe one could just invade Iraq, destabilize the Middle East and set them all on a path to democracy.

He was dangerous.

And now we have Donald Trump. His use of language is even less sophisticated than that of George W. Bush, but I get the feeling it is a pose, a performance. A performance by a very narcissistic man with no scruples. None whatsoever. Willing to play on every base fear of a semi-educated American public. Appealing to the adolescent super-hero fantasy that plays, occasionally, in everybody’s mind. Willing to play on fears, prejudices, pride, and myth. I think he loves the idea of being president like he loves the idea of having his name on large impressive buildings.

The pundits don’t think he can be elected. They hope he will crash and burn. But he might not.

He is very dangerous.

So (God help us) we may have Putin and Trump at their respective helms in the same decade.

This will be extremely dangerous.

If Canada is to ameliorate this danger to any degree we must have a leader who could do so. A Mike Pearson maybe. Not Mr. Harper. Mr. Harper is smarter than Trump or Bush, and more civilized than Mr. Putin, but his instinct is boldness, brashness, assertion of power and control; he would like to be emperor. He is not dangerous within our parliamentary democracy, but should he find himself sitting at a table with Trump and Putin, could he avert disaster? Or would he too thump his chest and get us all killed?

Mulcair and Trudeau have not been tested. But either of them, at that table with Trump and Putin, is more likely than Harper, I think, to suggest a peaceful solution, to negotiate, to mediate, to avert disaster, to be a second Mike Pearson.

And either would probably be better for mental health policy.