Does a strata council work? My answer would be: it depends.

It depends on who is on council, how determined they each are to governing according to Bylaws and whether they are afraid for controversies or not.
It depends whether council members are in it for their own gain, or interest, whatever that might be, for instance have their own unit repaired, or to know what is going on with the finances.
It also depends on the characters and types on council. Are they conservatives, sit on your hands types defending the status quo, or active let’s do it types. Are they scattered brained, or organized and well thought-out, practical people? Are any having mental health issues, or personality – type disorders?
It depends on how these people from all walks of life and with different opinions interact and whether they gel as a team, or whether a power struggle breaks out. Sometimes one person prevents the proper functioning of a council: it happens and then the strata councils earned their bad reputations.

Our strata’s latest development is that we lost two members, due to a split in views on the council’s approach to governing. The vote broke down on the issue of Bylaw enforcement; members were split on the issue of when to respond to breaches of the Bylaws.
The conservative view was that a council should only take action on Bylaws, after somebody else complained about another unit owner or occupant. Some did not agree with that and wanted a more active and preventatively operating council that encourages occupants to stick to the Bylaws and written rules when obvious infractions were occurring without others complaining about it.

A related issues was how to govern and make decisions. Some in council wanted consensus as the method for decision making. Others did not agree and had different opinions, wanted to be heard, and found that voting is an acceptable method to come to a decision by majority rule.

To clarify how our council works: our council members are elected for a year’s term in the spring. Our fiscal year’s end is April 30. The financial report is completed about a month later under the auspices of the Strata management company by a certified accountant. When the report is completed, the time then is set for the AGM. At the Annual General Meeting the budget is presented and voted on by the membership. New council members are voted in for a year’s term at the AGM. As well, new expenditures must be approved by the general membership.
Any council member is elected from the membership—that is all the owners of the strata complex, at the AGM, and cannot be elected more than 3 years in a row.

The AGM is useful as it informs the general membership of the current and past issues. It is in the owners’ best interest to attend, to be infirmed on what is going on. If a strata council does not share details, for instance of repair issues at hand, the membership will not know what is going on, or able to vote on it.

The overall issue as I saw it playing out this year was that an inactive stance of the council and the strata management, with a laissez-faire attitude, led to the current situation where 15 years of leaking roof parts led to a much bigger bill for the strata to pay on repairs. As well, in my view, the owners had become selfish and were apparently ignorant of the bylaws and rules. That was not completely their fault, as Strata Bylaws and its Written Rules were not enforced, or very seldom, and only when somebody else complained about another occupant.

I found that most people with a peeve grudgingly kept their mouth shut, as they feared retaliation if they would rock the boat and file a complaint against another occupant. The response to bylaw infractions that I frequently heard since I moved in, was that there’s no use calling the strata management with a concern, as nothing will be done about it anyway.

Although that was the perception, I believe that this last council was not half-bad. The previous council had initiated a depreciation report by an engineering firm, as per the Strata Act. The report laid out the state of the complex and what funds should be made available now and saved up for the future, to maintain the structure and keep up with repairs over time. As the building is 18 to 20 years old, built over three phases, some repairs were overdue, but had not been initiated in any substantial manner yet. At the AGM in June this year, the membership approved the report, as well as its recommendations to increase the Strata fees slightly to meet future repair bills.
So far so good. A new manager was hired by the Strata management company that manages a number of complexes around the city. Indeed, the previous one did not seem to act on directions from council: nothing did get accomplished.

It had come to the new council’s attention that over the summer the Bylaws and Written Rules were pretty much ignored by a significant (and annoying) number of residents. We as council dealt with the pool incidents by writing letters of warning with a copy of the Bylaws to those “offenders” that significantly contravened the rules. It was an action that did not make council any friends, but the intended goal was to make people aware of the rules, and that action succeeded, for most part. And isn’t it always so that approving residents do not speak up, and that only the opposing forces speak out?

We came to know about those opposing forces in our next action dealing with the outside looks of the building. As approved by the AGM this June, the planned repairs were under way for the units that had extensive water damage inside the units from years of roof leaks that were not in any substantial way addressed by previous councils. The leaks had just been patched up with caulking by the contractors council hired. This went on for 15 years!
Last year’s council had decided to have it fixed once and for all and had the roof replaced of the leaking part of the building. That was wise, but to be frank, this action was undertaken under duress, due to the threats from the owners involved that they would go to court to sue the strata council. It was without doubt the strata’s responsibility to fix the exterior of the building that includes the roof. The roof has been leaking for a long time and each council dealt with it with half-measures. Strata would have lost any law suit, if it had come to that. Work on the roof and the pair of the units affected is now almost completed.

As well, the pool was renovated after the health inspector advised the pool should be closed, if the existing cracks and crevices, where bacteria could grow, would not be repaired. The membership voted to approve the expenditures on council’s recommendation at the previous year’s AGM for renovating the pool. However, the Jacuzzi was not included, and kept leaking this summer, losing 2 inches of water with chemicals every day. We have no idea where that water went, as the molded tub is embedded in the cement slab of the pool deck. This year’s council voted for closing the Jacuzzi and to investigate what the cause of the leak is. We now know that a major expense will be involved in repair or replacing the Jacuzzi. The AGM will present the options to the membership in our next AGM. We are working on a priority list for the repairs that are tagged for the future.

Last year’s council contained the same members as this year added on with two female owners (female) members that were elected as well. The new council inherited the issue of decks and what people put on them, as well the state of disregard for Bylaws and rules among residents and the outstanding repairs. Yes, don’t be surprised: we have Bylaws about decks indicating what can and what cannot be put on our decks. In short, just patio furniture and limited plants are allowed. No BBQs and no storage, etc. Each owner has a storage locker in the underground parkades.

A few owners that had not complied previously, had received letters of warning to remove those items and comply with the Bylaws (that last year’s council had amended, and was approved in the AGM) to reflect the wish to keep the exterior nice-looking and decks tidy.
We had seen this summer while addressing the pool misuse that it was hard to convince strata residents to comply with the Bylaws. Added to that is the council’s reluctance to enter into conflicts, and likes to avoid conflicts at all costs.

The issue of fairness was debated. The thought arose that if we address one deck issue, and not another, that would not be fair. Then who determines what is too much and what is not in compliance with the Bylaw? And what if one resident complains about a neighbour’s deck while somewhere else in the complex another resident has a deck that looks much worse: is it fair to leave the latter deck untouched, because nobody complained about that one?

After a rather heated discussion the agreement was reached in strata council that we should address all of it. A committee of three council members went around the complex one day and made a note of all decks and the associated infractions of the deck exterior Bylaw.
Although we voted fair and square, the vote broke the council in two. The majority voted for sending all deck owners that contravene the bylaw a warning letter with the concerns and advised occupants they could send their response to council via the strata manager and appeal, if so desired.

Did we ever get a response! Most were by phone to the Strata manager (who gets paid to do this job) from occupants wanting clarification and questioning what was so wrong with their decks. Most calmed down after talking to our manager, who appealed to their common sense and pointed out that strata bylaws exist for a reason, and were voted on by the membership and passed at the AGM. He requested the occupants to comply.

Two of the owners did choke on their anger. They not only sent a letter of response to the manager, but posted a copy on the complex notice boards.
The gist of one letter was: Did council have nothing better to do than sending letters about decks, what nasty people are they to address this with occupants, this little sorry kitty she has on her deck, was abused and should be free to roam the complex, what monsters are council members to try to stop that. And she thought that a test should be passed for people to be able to live in the complex: that they be “nice people”. She thought that the person that complained had two cats herself and was in violation herself, as one can only have one small pet.
I wondered if she thought she would be considered a “nice person”.

Another response was from my neighbour who posted her letter as well, accusing me of having two cats and having a bamboo trellis on my deck, and she accused the council of “discrimination” by addressing her on her deck issues, but not me, and a bunch of other not so nice accusations to council and to me personally.

That was the point that our council president quit. He was back peddling on the decision we had made by voting. He said he could not stand for this and could not support the decision, but only said so, after the response of the complex was coming in.

Before the next strata meeting, one other council member quit; he had voted against the plan to send the Bylaw offenders a warning letter. He also would not be able to follow through and panicked by the idea of having to live with the response of occupants. Both council members backed out of actively trying to address the need for Bylaws and that we as a council would like everybody to comply with all of those Bylaws.

The bottom line was that most responses from residents where reasonable. However, as usual, nobody wrote a letter stating agreement with our action: the silent majority. Only two occupants out of 74 units were initially angry. Yes, that is to be expected, as they have not had any direct action to have the bylaws enforced from council before now, regardless of what they did with their deck. That is, in my view, no backlash to be concerned about. I believe that if a council makes decisions, there will always be some opposition. You can’t please everybody!

The people with a letter complied, as did my neighbour. But, she was angry and admitted that. As she is my neighbour, I thought I should address this with her on a personal level. I wrote her a letter back privately, inviting her to talk to me. We agreed to be polite to each other and say hello when we bump into each other in the complex.

Yes, living in a strata requires that one has to give up a few small privileges for the good of all and the whole building. If owners do not come to AGM and do not vote, and leave rule and Bylaw development up to others, then that right is given away to your council and the right to address your misuse with you as well. I would encourage anybody to join your strata council and see how that is for a while. Then try to change what you absolutely don’t like and can’t live with: maybe others think the same. I still find it an exciting job and rather difficult, but rewarding.

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SUMMER LIVING IN THE STRATA – Asian-Caucasian Relationships

One Friday evening at 9:30 after a hot day I went to the pool. When it is 35 degrees centigrade I stay out of the sun and wait till sundown to swim. The added benefit is an empty pool, which is always heated to 30 degrees. At that time, parents with kids are happy that the little ones have finally zonked out, so they have some time for themselves, and the oldies are down for the night.
It is extremely lovely, the sun completely disappeared behind the mountains, but a glow still hanging back in the west and the water still and backlit from under water spotlights. I glided into the water; my skin does not even pucker up with goose bumps, that’s how balmy the temperature of the water is, silky and therapeutic.

I swim, most times, for about 20 to 30 minutes. This night I was joined in the pool by a women of Asian descent with a strong accent that I noticed when she said hello and commented on how nice it is to swim at night. We talked for a while while enjoying the smooth, salty pool water and our buoyancy. Salt water carries the body, making swimming effortless and this is immediately noticeable with the first steps out of the water, when my body reoccupies its usual space and limbs seems heavier, as if each arm and leg gains two pounds instantly.

The lady’s name was Didi. We talked about living in the strata. She had already six years of history here with her man in one of the largest and most desirable units, on the corner with three bedrooms and a large deck on the sunny side. We talked real estate; she was comparing prices and was looking to buy a condo for her son. She invited me to be at the pool the next day and bring some dish, as she and some friends were going to have a potluck dinner at 6 PM. She assured me I would be welcome and I committed. She emphasized six again when she left the pool and went home, pointing to the unit where she lived, right across from the pool area. It was about ten at night; all was quiet in the neighborhood.

The next day I went shopping as usual for the whole week and bought chicken to turn into sateh for the potluck. I marinated the meat and soaked some bamboo skewers, so they would not burn right away on the grill and put some spicy peanut sauce in a plastic jar. I made sure everything I brought was in plastic or metal containers, as glass is not allowed in the pool area. My usual glass of wine with dinner I poured into a plastic water bottle, not fancy, but it works. I had no idea who the other guests would be and was kind of curious.

I was ready at 5:30 PM and went to the pool, as my food needed to be grilled yet. The way Didi emphasized 6 PM made me thing food would be served at 6. No Didi yet to be seen; I guess in Asian terms maybe 6 is not quite six. I fired up the communal BBQ and when it was hot enough, I started grilling the skewers.

At ten to six some other people arrived at the pool, carrying large coolers and dishes, heading for the BBQ patio. I approached them: two Asian women and two Caucasian men.
“Excuse me, are you here for the pot luck with Didi? She invited me too and told me to be here at six, but I haven’t seen her yet,” I explained. The ladies were immediately friendly to me and introduced themselves and their male companions. They were couples, calling the men their boyfriends. The men were rather aloof, in contrast to the women, all of mature age, although the men looked remarkably more aged.

Technically they had no right to be there in the pool without Didi, as the rules stipulate. Lucky for them I was there; they could have been my guests. I did not think about this at the time, but it dawned on me later. Smart Didi, making sure I would be there at 6!

The guests also happened to bring chicken skewers and the two women started cooking those as well on the hot grill. When Didi arrived about forty minutes later, all the food was ready to be eaten; the guests had brought everything, a rice dish, vegetables cooked in foil on the BBQ and home made curry sauce for the skewers. It was a delicious meal that we ate from the picnic table on the lawn by the pool. Much mutual compliments passed back and forth about the food and questions asked about what spices and methods each used to cook the dishes. Ages were disclosed and what we each did for a living, natural and easy flowing conversations.

The two men were blue collar workers, a long haul trucker and a worker in the Fort McMurray oilfields, usually working away from home. For some reason they acted towards me with suspicion, right from the start, the Canadian born guy even with marked skepticism, if not hostility, especially after I suggested he should drink his beer from a plastic glass, as glass bottles were not allowed in the pool area. During and after the meal, the men sat together, apart from the women. The other guy was an Austrian immigrant, more jolly and friendly; he later shared jokes with the women in the pool.

We women chatted away and as women do, anything is a good subject for conversation. We stumbled into an interesting discussion, or really, it wasn’t even that, just some remarks about Caucasian men and Asian women, instigated by Didi. She commented that Caucasian men think Caucasian women want too much. “They say give me half of everything and then bye bye.” I couldn’t help myself and laughed, so did the other women. Another continued:”They like Asian women better, as they are nicer to them and easier to get along with,” commented Vicky, whose English was fluent and with an accent like a born Canadian.
Then it was time for me to say something. “Yes, that’s right, that happened to me with my husband, who now has a girlfriend from Malaysia.” The silence was a sign that the girls were quite shocked and their faces showed it. After a few beats, Didi asked me carefully with empathy in her voice how long ago that was. I responded that we split up a long time ago and that my ex found his Asian girlfriend about 5 years ago or so. They took their cue from me and, as my tone of voice had been light-hearted, we moved on to other subjects.

Then we girls went for a swim and the chatting continued. Didi’s guests were originally from the Philippines, while Didi originated from Vietnam. Her partner was not to be seen, but he is a Canadian Caucasian, I was informed. Vicky shared with me when I asked about him, that Didi’s partner was not feeling well lately, so wasn’t in the pool. What a good coincidence, Didi was a caregiver by trade; she had been living here for 6 years in the strata with her Canadian man. Vicky worked in the hospital, a care aid as well. All three women were fifty years old. They were startled to know I was their senior and had 15 years on them. Didi commented that Caucasian women did not show their age as much as Asian women do. I protested and said they did not look a day older than maybe thirty five. They did not believe me.

Eventually the Austrian also came into the pool and the women circled around him in the pool while they were telling jokes, really innocent and lighthearted, delightful, really.
I marveled at the easy atmosphere and the simple enjoyments of good home made food, good will, and good-hearted banter. I set out to finish my daily swim and then bade them good night. I felt somewhat chastised for my ideas about the coupling of Asian women and Caucasian men from before tonight. I felt grateful for having been part of this group of women that unexpectedly had invited me into their circle and treated me as a human being, one of them.

A few nights later the three women were again in the pool when I went for my daily swim and enthusiastically greeted me. We chatted and swam again together; they invited me to go out on the town later, but I declined, as I had other plans. The Strata is a community, as diverse as the world is, in miniature. In the close quarters of the pool, it is sink or swim metaphorically speaking and being social while swimming is really a lot of fun.

Posted in Dating, Dealing with aging and dating, Diversity issues, Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Global immigration, Immigration, International politics, Kelowna event, Strata Living, travel, Uncategorized, world issues, Writing life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments



After a month of exploring, confronting and swimming while receiving information and an education from my fellow Strata council members, I now have a bit of an understanding what strata life is like in summer. As with everything else in life, there are positives and not so good things at the strata. For those who are contemplating to downsize their homes and thinking that the communal life might be for them, this blog might be helpful, although personality plays a big part on how you might like or detest it. I say: never say never. I am trying it out. I still have a home to return to for now, if I don’t like it.

The first choice anybody probably would make on entering a strata home is to get involved, or stay watching at the side lines. For those who have some initiative and hate to be unoccupied, it pays to get involved and feel some satisfaction from helping solve problems. If you like to be busy and would miss your maintenance projects of a house, this is a good alternative, at a lower level of intensity, and still using your expertise. In a practical way, all repairs are completed and outstanding decisions finally made, such as about water damage. The pool was fixed nicely and looks great with new lounge chairs and a wonderful professional class BBQ.
Most council members are male and some of them just love to do things, fix minor maintenance issues themselves, or get a service to fix it and monitor the contractor and the work to be done. Others are more talented in the area of coordination, and with a calm and authoritative presence get people to focus and collaborate on the jobs to be done.
I just like to see things solved and put the conditions in place to ensure that most people can enjoy the facilities. I think that people, who are selfish and disrespectful of the other strata owners and residents, should be stopped and called on their attitudes and hopefully, change their errand ways.

My experience so far is that lots of residents would complain and grumble, but not file an official complaint with the strata council or the strata manager. So, nothing will change, because an official, preferably written, case need to be forwarded for it to be heard. I know the Canadian saying: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I do not agree with that at all.

Pardon me, but that is just a cop out to keep people down and not change things. How do you think things get solved, or how would anybody get any satisfaction from grumbling to a few friends? Unless of course that is your inherent goal and seeking people who will listen, is your pleasure. I doubt that it would get you any new friends.

As I found out, rules already are laid down in Strata Bylaws and in Written Rules and are backed up by a provincial Strata Act and those are sufficient to deal with most issues. As far as I can see, the problem is that nobody was enforcing those rules. Council members closed their eyes, probably not wanting to be the heavy and not really be willing to stand up. People living in the strata assumed they won’t get help if they do speak up, so the status quo remains. Yes, it is not easy to speak up, but one can forward problems in writing to the strata manager. If the strata manager is not functional, then things would deteriorate even more. That is what happened last year, but we have a new competent manager now.
My thing this summer became the pool.
During the winter as a new strata resident I developed an interest first. Next, I needed to self-identify as a resident and a strata council member to feel justified to address others (for instance in the pool). I was added to council in this spring at the AGM where I heard other had concerns about pool use as well. I needed to try to identify the people that are breaking the rules, what unit they live in, and who their guests are. The members who have lived here for many years know most people, but still did not feel justified somehow to file a formal complaint. Then here comes this newbie resident with a big mouth and a social conscience who is oblivious to the gossip and starts asking around, introducing herself to everybody she talks to, and causing a lively discussion about the strata rules: what are these, should they be enforced and who is responsible for that? At least I caused some new signs to be produced.

Those who have read the two previous posts on this blog: well, let me enlighten you what happened with the swimming pool guests that annoyed me.
The people of my first story that were being loud and obnoxious and increased their numbers each time I was in the pool: they had no business being in the pool at all, we found out. One written rule is that any guests must be accompanied by a resident, whether that is a strata owner or a renter. In this case, the owner did not want/could not come out to be in the pool. The absentee owner and the resident (the owner’s mother) received a letter after the strata manager had inquired and spoken with the owner. The guests were the owner’s sister and her whole family with 5 adult children and their children, in town for a 2 month vacation. They thought it would be nice to use the strata as their home basis, but grandmother (90 years old) was unfortunately not able to sit poolside. However, they did not think twice of dropping their little ones off with Nana to babysit, while the adults had fun in the pool.
As the guests so far had broken all kinds of other pool rules as well that are clearly displayed on a sign within the pool enclosure, such having glass beer and hard cider bottles in the pool area, were clogging the pool with big blow up pool toys and taking their kids with diapers on in the hot tub, we did not grant them approval for an exception to that rule when we finally received a request from the owner for two more weeks of this. Strata rules should be enforced; the strata owner and resident were responsible for their guests and needed to abide by the Rules.

The group of my second story proceeded to use the pool extensively with different groups of young guests. They started drinking in the pool, smoking and swearing. Although alcohol consumption is allowed, rules state that glass in the pool is not, or smoking, nor is being a nuisance to other residents and interfering with their enjoyment of the pool as a Bylaw describes. Although the unit resident was listed as the owner, her parents indeed had co-signed the mortgage. The young lady had taken a roommate to help pay the mortgage fees. Her guests were in the pool legitimately, as well as her roommate’s guests, but the owner did get a warning letter with the infractions that were observed and complained about by other residents and a copy of the Bylaws, as she was blatantly unaware of them.

What if the people that got a warning letter just don’t care, you ask. As I studied the Bylaws and talked with the manager, I learned that the council has more tools in their kit to enforce the written pool rules and Bylaws.
1. If the strata council gets more complaints about a certain unit, the owner/resident can lose their pool privileges and the key taken from them.
2. If the locks have to be changed, as people do not surrender the key, or the owner provides the key without being there with their guests in the pool, the costs of re-keying the locks are charged back to the owner.
3. If uninvited guests or others who are illegitimately at the pool do not leave when requested, the strata council member can call the police to have them removed from the premises.
4. If the person continues to be a nuisance and is breaking the Bylaws and written rules more frequently, fines can be imposed with amounts from $500 to $1000 for each new infraction, and eventually, a procedure could be started to have this person evicted.

So, I am enjoying the pool regardless, and swim every day. Because I am a person who speaks to people socially, I also take initiative to inform people of the written pool rules and the Bylaws when I see a need after I introduced myself. I do not want to be hypocritical and complain about them behind their backs, I would rather do it in person. I point out to the lady with her little lap dog that dogs are not to be in the pool enclosure, as their defecation and urination is unhygienic were people walk barefoot. I inform parents with babies who sit in the hot tub, that having baby in the pool (with diapers on) is unhygienic and against Interior Health rules. I do not let people into the pool that come to the pool without the resident, and when they have a key already, I do ask whose guests they are and inform them they should not be there without the resident. Yes, it seems a bit of a job, but that’s what I signed up for. I try to be not too intrusive about it, and sort of pick my timing. Hopefully word gets around what the Bylaws and the written pool rules say.

We need to share our resources, because each of us individually don’t have the funds to build our own pool. But here at the strata we have the luxury of a pool and a hot tub. I have taken to it very well en enjoy it a lot, as I could not have anticipated. As well, community life is earth friendly. It is more responsible to use less gas to heat one pool shared with twenty people than just with one or two, considering also the water and use of chemicals, and the amenities. Life is cheaper as a community.

I have not mentioned the social aspects that can be a boon to people who are shy and not inclined to leave their home. In a strata, you meet new people all the time, in the pool, yes, and also just walking around the development where people walk their dogs and stop to chat, and especially when serving on the council. Yes, I like living here.

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Thanks for all those who responded to my cry for feedback on the Strata swimming pool abuse by so-called guests. Although I knew I have rights as a Strata owner, I am not always sure whether I should assert myself, and how.

After the last trip to the swimming pool, I decided to try again and go for a dip in the pool after work at 5-ish. Thank god, the loudmouth wasn’t there this time. I met an elderly couple on the path towards the pool. They replied to my friendly greeting with a taciturn soft spoken “Hello”. Their faces looked not peaceful, nor upset, possibly a bit startled; I had trouble interpreting their mood.

Arriving at the gate I saw the possible reason. Instead of elderly people quietly reading or chatting, a clan of nubile maidens were draped over the lounge chairs by the pool in various states of undress, mostly much bared, wearing some minuscule bikinis. Six girls had taken possession of the pool, although much more tentatively and a whole world less self-assured than my previous nemeses.

I had thought about my predicament of the last time using the strata pool. I had started on the wrong foot, I realized. I should have asserted myself in a friendly way at the earliest possible moment. I had learned from that time and addressed the girls with a friendly “Hello!” They said “hi” back in unison. That sounded lovely, like a mini choir of young voices. Continuing the conversation, I asked them if they lived in the complex. A young woman with chestnut brown hair replied. “Yes, I do, I live on 104, no, 105, in the first building. We just moved in.”
“Oh, that’s where I live too. Welcome to the neighbourhood”. I was cheery and I think I struck the right tone. Let’s wait and see, I told myself, be friendly, and get the information.

I went to the other end of the pool away from the girls and put my stuff down on a chair, then changed into my bathing suit, showered and returned to the pool. I slid into the balmy water, enjoying the soothing, salty water that embraced me and made my body feel buoyant and light. Ahhhh, how wonderful. I swam laps using as much of the pool as possible.

Yes, the girls were somewhat boisterous, talking loudly and then suddenly whispering about…what else: boys. In particular one girl, (hate to say it, but she was the typical ditsy, booby blonde) was rather present and loud. Whenever I looked in their direction while swimming towards that group, she was adjusting her breast, one or the other, by putting her hand inside the cup and resettling the breast in their little jacket, the purpose of which was lost on me. She loudly exclaimed in response to another girl’s remark “I might as well kill myself!”
If I were unkind, I could think that she looked and sounded like a woman that indeed might attempt that, when a bit older. Dramatic, exhibitionist, needy for attention, and what would she do when she did not get it anymore from her boyfriend? I hope she learns a thing or two before she makes this scenario a reality. Anyway, they did not bother me as much as the clan of guests of mothers in their thirties of my previous post.

I swam for a while, and when I had enough, changed and went to the exit gate. I told the girls goodbye, that my name was Johanna and that I lived in 206. The brunette said, “Hey you are my neighbor, I am Lucille, nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you too. I had met your partner before. Ask me if you need anything, just knock on my door.”

It is going to be an interesting summer. This is a live show, my life is going to be played out here in this strata building pool in all its different life stages. A mirror is held up and I am judging myself how I have aged, or not aged. With the previous group in the pool, I was reminded of my days as a young mother. We, mothers of the ‘hood, went to the beach as a group once a week: our Moms and Tots group, an informal collection of young women of the neighbourhood, eager for some socialization. Except for a couple of teachers who were off for the summer anyway, most of us had the luxury of being stay-at-home moms. We let the kids play in the sand on our wide, natural beach. The water was a long way out and impossible for any little one to reach without being spotted, and then, still at toddler had a ways to walk before the water would be over her head. We were social, but the focus of attention always was on the children–it was the ruling attitude in that group.

What I saw happening today was the ageless ritual of courting, and the specific way young people learn to bond and form couples. An hour after I had left the pool, the group of girls arrived at the condo, joined by a couple of young men. They stood around for a short while, chatting and joking, and then most disappeared inside the condo. One couple sat on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette passing it between them. They were talking, calmly and quite seriously, by the looks of it.
Then a car drove up, a shiny black, beefed up two door, the music pounding loudly through the open window–it wasn’t my kind of music. It shut off after a short while, having testing the limit of my patience. This happened right in front of my condo, while I am enjoying my meal ‘al fresco’ on my deck. I will have to invent some strategy to block the neighbours out, maybe earphones?

After a while, the last young man drove off with another blond girl shot gun in his black car, with a lot of evidence of the car’s horsepower and ear-shattering acceleration, and the man’s assumed virility. Guess what, they went to the Starbucks on the corner on the other side of the building, to get a coffee. I know so, because a few minutes later they arrived with it. Five minutes later, he sped off, again with the same show of noise, with the girl.

I finished my dinner and got up. I smelled smoke, not just smoke–it was marijuana. I looked over the deck railing and saw the group of girls and guys on the corner, comfortably spread out on the lawn, about ten meters away from the condo building. Oh yes, it is pretty much legal now, so what do I care. The new condo rule is no smoking (anything) in and around the building. The group did abide by the rule, just, by the distance they kept. I stopped my first impulse to do something. What could do? And, on second thought I reminded myself not to be hypocritical: in my days I smoked pot too, and I inhaled. So here presented another item itself to confront me with my current life stage. I had not anticipated this at all. I thought condo living meant old people in a condo–that suits me. In addition I get an education as well. Who knew!

I didn’t count on foolish parents when moving in here. I had seen th parents on their arrival at #105, a couple of weeks ago, together with their kids. I had assumed they would be the residents, not their daughter. What boggles the mind is how some parents are giving their children everything, such as a condo to live in, or maybe a car when they graduate. These kids do not learn to improvise and build up a little resiliency by having to make do, and work at a job, or two jobs, or share homes with roommates. No, the condo I am talking about was bought by the parents for the purpose of letting their daughter and boyfriend live in it, for the time being, until the parents are old enough and on retirement, and would move in themselves.

The previous owners of this condo did just that. They had bought the condo for their offspring and when the daughter moved on, the parents occupied it themselves. Unfortunately, they moved out again last month, because the husband recently retired and was bored silly. All I saw him do since my arrival last fall is smoke cigarettes and pout on his deck, and read crime mysteries. Although the wife liked it here, they sold the condo anyway within 3 weeks of the decision to sell–it had not even been advertised yet. They moved into a motel, until they would find a house. Their reason was that he “would have something to do” she said, “and he might even go back to work”.
How sad to have no interests beyond work and a spouse, and no friends. Even their old dog went to dog heaven, just before their move. At least, now the grass in front of their condo can recover.
For now, it looks like condo# 105 is doomed to repeat its history as a young people’s pad. That serves me right, to think I was going to seniors’ paradise!

I guess this will be a blog that documents the trial and tribulations of a newbie at CONDO LIVING, at least for a while. Please, send me a message with your suggestions or a comment. I would love to hear your experiences, I could learn a great deal. I need some survival skills….

Posted in adolescents, Dealing with aging and dating, drug use., Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Green living, Retirement, Uncategorized, Writing life | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment



Last fall I moved into a condo complex, consisting of three separate blocks of town houses. No, it is not a gated community, because I do not like to be fenced in or keep visiting friends out, but it’s an adults only designated complex. Of course if grandchildren visit together with or without their parents, that is generally acceptable and within reasonable parameters for length of time to stay. This is all laid out in the Strata rules.

Now to my delight this complex of only three floors also has a swimming pool, recently refurbished with a new coat of paint on the bottom and walls, and freshly tiled around the skim line. The Barbecue patio by the pool is freshly painted as well and we have a brand new professional (5- burner) monster of a grill built into a brick console. So lovely, and so convenient, as the rules prohibit BBQs on the private decks of the units, as a fire prevention measure. It is totally fine with me, as I am not a daily griller.

On day one of pool opening, Monday, I had a day off and decided to try out the pool. On this sunny day, the pool was empty, except for a woman, maybe in her thirties, with a toddler in her arms standing in the water; her child had wing floaters. Two ladies my age sat in lounge chairs by the pool across from, chatting with each other.

I sat by the pool for a while, mustering enough courage to try the water. It turned out to be a balmy 22 degrees and I felt no cold shock at all when I glided into the water, absolutely lovely! I swam for a while, then dried up and enjoyed the sun, then swam again when I felt warmed up. I had called a friend to join me who was also on her day off, and she arrived.

The woman with the child started to annoy me. She had a very loud voice, speaking to her son, as if she was on a theatre stage, for all to hear. Maybe the child is deaf, I thought. I rejected that idea quickly when I heard what she was saying. It was just that type of woman who likes to hear her own voice and want to be noticed.

The child was not that happy, being held all the time, so the mother put him on the rim of the pool on the cement deck, while she stayed in the water, beside him. The child did not like that either and started fussing and was becoming louder. “Use your words honey” she loudly told him, although it was clear from having observed the two of them for a while, that this child had no language yet.

The mother was pretty much unresponsive to his needs, which were pretty obvious to anybody who knows about, or had children. Alternatively, she was giving the wrong response, making the child even more testy. I cringed by each conversation piece I could not avoid witnessing. She threatened the boy to leave the pool (take to Nana) if he wasn’t happy.
My friend went to have a swim. She tried to lighten the mood by asking the mother how old the child was. The mother happily answered and commented that she is using Nana’s pool and suggested that our day was spoiled with them being there. By simply not talking to her, I guess she had gotten my vibes. I replied that I would take my chances coming here. I was thinking I am just so done with little kids, especially other people’s kids, and their mothers that seek vicarious attention through their kids.

When I was swimming, she moved backwards into my space, child by then still out of the pool, by itself on the pool deck. An unused pool air mattress was in my way; I lifted it out and put it on the deck. A number of pool noodles were floating around, unused. This little boy was only barely running and surely would not know what to do with a pool noodle. The child started a fuss and tried to put the air mattress back in the pool.
The mother got out of the pool and took her son to the other end of the pool. As long as she was there, I could ignore her voice, as it was far enough away.

The rest of the week I did not really have a chance to go swimming after work, with other activities on the go.

Today, on a Sunday afternoon after lunch, I thought I’d catch a few rays and swim a bit. Who was there? You guessed it, that same mom and her toddler. One other person of my age sat by the pool. To my horror, two more friends of the woman arrived within five minutes, together with husbands and more children, before I could use the pool. There went my quiet Sunday afternoon by the pool.

The two women that were speaking at the same level of loud, were obvious sisters, and one man was a brother that was quiet and stayed on the side. All three had the same built, chunky and square, while the third woman was quite tall and skinny, the brother’s wife. The other man left as soon as he could, after ten minutes, slamming the gate behind him that sounded like a shot being fired right beside my chair. There were now three kids. Lots of yelling across the pool from the two loudmouths to their children and to the brother, who came closest to my end of the pool, farthest away from the women, with the toddler and the older child, I guessed about 4 years old. The new child, a baby, was held by her mother, the sister-in-law. Daddy is babysitting his nephews, good man.

The two sisters and the brother were now drinking from beer cans.
From what I could gather, the sister-in-law was the most clear headed and responsive parent of the bunch. I heard her explaining things about kids to the other two in their conversations together. At one point the 4 year old was alone on the stairs at the 4-feet-deep end of the pool without life jacket, far away from the adults. He refused to wear a life jacket, his mom had explained earlier, so. She got his way. Yes, of course, what could happen, right?
Suddenly, lots of yelling from the oldest child tore at my ear drums. I had to look up from my book that I was trying to read. His uncle had left him there, while he took the toddler to his loudmouth mom. The 4 year old had more sense than his uncle and was afraid, with cause, left on his own there in water that would be over his head had he stepped off the steps. The uncle went back to the screaming kid, to do something with his nephew. Great, the screaming stopped.

More people, all mature residents of the complex, settled by the pool and watched the happenings. It was not over yet. At the next moment, the toddler stood by his loudmouth mom, no floats on his arms, and a sudden very loud scream from her demanded everybody’s attention, again. I guess when she really looked at her son for a rare moment, she realized that he was close to the rim of the pool at the deep end. She grabbed him roughly, so that he almost fell in the pool. The woman apologized loudly to everybody in general, “Oh sorry! That was louder than I meant. I thought he would fall in.”

I stayed for about an hour, and swam once trying to avoid the woman that had also entered the pool then; she stood in the pool at the 4 foot end, holding a beer in her hand. Then I tried to just get a bit of a tan and turned on my stomach. I no longer could stand the intrusions, and felt they had taken over our pool, and then left.

No Nana had been in sight, not the first time and not the second time. I have suspicions that maybe there is no Nana at all and they got their hands on a pool key somehow. Why else is there no Nana at the pool, and how come nobody visits with Nana, if she can’t leave her townhouse? The next time when I will see this mom (because I am sure she’ll be back) I am going to ask her in what unit her mother lives.

I am amazed that I have become so territorial about a place that I have barely lived in for half a year. My quiet time and limited space are so important that I felt almost hostile to those that interfere with that and spoil it for me. As far as the “guests” go, I think visiting your mom is great and if Nana was there too, it would feel different for me. This was not the case today and not the previous time.

These people exploited the pool space in my view. Even if they have a mother living in the complex, unlimited use of the amenities by adult children of residents is not alright with me. As well, the pool is definitely unsuitable for small children and is strictly an adult amenity, or at the very least, for older children and adults. There is no shallow end, no water toys for kids. The local beaches have play grounds, lots of sand to dig in, and a water park for kids. That’s we’re most young families that are child focused take their small children.

What do you think? Did you have similar experiences? Do you have any advice or good tips for me, so I will survive condo living?
I would so appreciate your feedback and comments to this post.

Posted in Children, Children and child protection, Dealing with aging and dating, Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments



Many retired people and those close to it are looking for ways to make their dollar stretch and still have a nice environment, preferably warm, to live out the non-employed part of their later years. After a life of working hard, those with limited retirement budgets are looking to implement such cost-cutting measures as moving to a warmer and especially cheaper area in the world. Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, or France and Spain (for those who live in Europe’s north), are names of refuge countries for the not-so-wealthy that I have heard discussed among people my age. It is a bit difficult to decide which part of the world to choose, because often the country where one has vacationed catches the imagination. How can you tell what permanent living is like–so different than just spending a short time on vacation. Doing research first is a requirement.

This blog post is about the ten most murderous countries in the world, so one knows to skip those when considering a place to live, at least if you are not tired of living yet. The list is from the Huffington Post, that most useful news resource with original content. Does anyone still reads paper newspapers? I have gotten used to on line news resources. The Huffington Post has published the list of the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) valid for the year 2012. Some of those nations with a high murder rate are small and deaths are indicative of local strive and a high crime tolerance, and/or poor government.
The list is from the highest murder rate to lower murder rates, of course still very high at # 10. It’s all relative. These are all in the Americas and Africa. Europe and Asia have lower rates and also have better conviction rates for the murderers.

# 1. Honduras: murder rate is 90.4 murders per 100,000 residents, almost double than any other nation on this list.
# 2. Venezuela: murder rate is 53.7 murders per 100,000 residents.
# 3. Belize: 44.7 per 100,000 residents
# 4. El Salvador: 41.2 per 100,000 residents
# 5. Guatemala: 39.9 per 100,000
# 6. Jamaica: 39.3 per 100,000
# 7. Swaziland: 33.8 per 100,000
# 8. Saint Kitts & Nevis: 33.6 per 100,000 residents; few people live there, actual murders: 19
# 9. South Africa. This nation has gone down tremendously in deaths per 100,000 residents: from 64.5 in 1995 to 31 per 100,000 in 2012.
#10. Colombia: 30.8 killings per 100,000

Posted in Babyboomer, Dealing with aging and dating, Diversity issues, Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Global immigration, Immigration, International politics, latest news items, Mexican life, Relocation to mexico, Retirement, travel, Uncategorized, world issues | Tagged , | Leave a comment



One of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic religion is the confession. Before you could go to mass, the symbol of participating in the religion community and Highlight of the week, your heart had to be pure and you needed for that reason to go to confession first and be absolved from your sins.

From a young age on, I envied my friends who were Catholic. They could go to confession and when they came out, had to pray a few hail Maries and then were free to live the rest of their life with a clean slate, while I and my Protestant peers had to live for the rest of our lives with the sins we knew we had committed. We were taught that as Protestants were had our conscience we had to consult before we did something wrong. You might hope for forgiveness, but there was no guarantee.

At my Christian high school, our philosophy class teacher went through all the major philosophies of the world with us, explaining what the dogmas or principles were of each philosophy and religion, and how it would be applied in everyday life. The knowledge from that class and how I came to interpret the information made me think I belonged to the school of Nietzsche: only belief what you see, there is no life after this one on earth, and you have only oneself to set your standards and direction of life, the truth is not objective and is “in the eyes of the beholder”, to be seen in context, dogmas and religions are to keep the followers from thinking. I was thirteen when I soaked up this kind of information that widened my horizons; I was already convinced that there was no god, or God, or Gods. Yes, I experienced my family’s religion as well as the Catholic belief system as a system to prevent people from thinking. I was hell-bent to do my own thinking.

In my life as a child I was told a set of rules that I had to follow. No need existed for working out what was acceptable, wrong, or good. Our religion’s beliefs were: no sex before marriage; no lying; no stealing; no swearing; no killing people. Our dogmas: no statutes or pictures could be a focus for praying; all three parts of God were invisible and equal (God the father, God the son, and god the Holy Ghost). It was too hard to understand. If you didn’t know something you could ask the minister and he would tell you. (There were no females in the leadership then). Or your parents would tell you, to which you had to be obedient; if you were not, you were committing a sin. How convenient for parents!

However, the rules were rough and global and did not tell us everything you could be doing wrong. When you were playing with a bunch of neighborhood friends outside and you needed to defecate urgently, were you sinning when you did it in a bush or ditch, instead of running home? Were you supposed to play doctor as a child, just like you played hide and seek, and house, or was that a sin? Just in case you would get heck, you would not tell your parent. Many acts went unnoticed and untold. We did not confess, and that was a good thing; we could have plugged up the confession box with our minor “sins” had we been Catholics. As we grew up, each went their own way and lived their lives mostly as our parents did anyway.

I heard a discussion on CBC Tapestry that some pope, Pius X in the early 20th century, (according to John Cornwell) changed the rules in the RC religion: all kids had to go to confession as well. From seven years old on, kids had to confess, otherwise no mass and no place in the community’s warm embrace.

The British author, John Cornwell, wrote an in-depth study of the many dogmas in the Roman Catholic religion that conspired to keep sexual abuse of children by priests a secret. Those rules within the church in fact facilitated continuation of the abuse for many decades, ruining the lives of many children. Confession is one of those dogmas.

Imagine, the abusing priest has absolute protection.Then, for the other priests that heard the confession, to break the confidentiality of confession, would be another sin. For priests who abused, confession absolved them and the receiving priest had to forgive them. No informing the police took place. I wondered how that would be if someone committed a murder or beat up his wife every saturday, or one who commits fraud, or sexually abused his step daughter.

Then imagine, the priest who was looking for a child to abuse, he would go after one of these little ones who confessed having sinful thoughts, or did sinful deeds, like playing doctor, the child would fall in their laps as ripe fruit. Often the abuse took place after confession, in the priests’ territory. Talk about predatory behavior!
And still,this new pope and the priests who took the confessions and knew, those who moved the sex offender to a new parish, those that accepted him knowing what went on, all of them not doing anything different, still condemning it, but not reporting those priests to the police for persecution. No, the victims have to do that themselves, if they survived and if they have enough stamina to go through it. It is disgraceful.

Some individual priests confessed thousands of incidents of sexual abuse, one person with that many offenses. It is in my view the biggest rationale for leaving religion behind, when it protects the destroyers of the most vulnerable and offers nothing to the many, many victims.

I hope that every Roman Catholic buys this book and takes action. What anybody could do is:

1. insist with their local priests verbally, send a letter to their bishop, and to their MLA and MP requesting that the RC clergy hands over their offending child molesters that they are hiding now to the police for appropriate prosecution.

2. As well, the Catholic confession dogma contravenes our Canadian Charter of Rights that states that every one is equal for the law, as children apparently are not. In British Columbia the public is by law required to report child abuse. No clergy is exempt from that. They should be prosecuted. You can state that also in your letter.
3. It is time that all clergy taking confessions start reporting the parishioners that abused children to the police. Religion CANNOT and MUST NOT condone the breaking of our country’s and province’s laws. Not Muslim practices, not Mormon church laws, not sharia law, not Catholic dogmas, not ANY religion can go against the law of the land. You could add that as well to your letter to your MLA and your MP.

I would love to hear your reactions. Please share whatever you like about this or other posts on this blog.

Posted in Author circles, book review, Children, Children and child protection, Diversity issues, Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, International politics, latest news items, Parenting, righteousness, sex slaves, sexual politics, Slow torture of children, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment


THIS IS COPY FROM A POST IN THE HUFFINGTON POST by Johanu Botha that struck a cord with me. I have been trying to say many of these things, just not as eloquent as Johanu does it.

Johanu BothaPublic Policy Pracademic

7 Things Canadians Might Not Know About Canada
Posted: 04/19/2014 11:22 pm

Canada, Canada Politics, Charter Of Rights And Freedoms, Federalism, Multiculturalism, Peace, Canada Politics News

Canada Flag

If beer companies advertised countries, Dos Equis would rep Canada — it is the most interesting country in the world. But many of those living here would never guess it. Hence the need for an internet list to all Canadians. You’re welcome.

1. Your fixated relationship with status quo healthcare is kinda weird.

Canadians hold onto their current version of healthcare like it’s the world’s last Montreal bagel. They somehow don’t notice the following: it’s not really universal (it mainly covers physician and hospital services); it costs more than a downtown of Vancouver condos (almost $193 billion total in 2010 and often close to half of all provincial budgets); other countries revamp their systems to provide better outcomes without going through a national existential crisis; and comparing our system to the United States is like lauding a gender equality policy because it compares well to Saudi Arabia’s. (The U.S. is the OECD country that spends the most on healthcare while leaving over 16 per cent of its massive population uncovered.)

Healthcare in Canada, compared to other OECD countries, gets a solid “meh.” Improving it could include greater universality, increased standardization among the provinces, or a two-tier system à la Switzerland, but it certainly does not include the tired status quo.

2. Your Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a robust protection of individual rights. Kind of.

This is old fodder for #CdnPoli geeks and constitutional scholars, but a surprisingly large chunk of Canucks don’t know the following: Section 1 of the Charter guarantees all the rights described in the Charter as long as they fit within a “free and democratic society.” This usually means two things to two different groups of people.

One side sees it as a slap in the face to a legitimate bill of rights that guarantees your right to this or that no matter what. The more skeptical crew insists that the beauty of the Charter is that it recognizes that no right is absolute, that rights sometimes conflict, and that in some cases the common good should prevail. This latter perspective is built into Section 1 and its temperament has allowed Canada to talk about things like free speech, gun control and healthcare without the conversation being monopolized by “But the 1st/2nd/etc. Amendment…”.

3. You’re so much younger — and so much older — than you think.

It’s always weird when a backpacker returns from a Europe trip and proclaims “There’s so much history over there,” as if nothing happened in North America before the white folks showed up. Canada changed relatively recently — 1999 saw the territory of Nunavut delineated from the Northwest Territories. But this change only brought Canada’s old and new — or First and Later — into stark contrast. The name of this ‘newest’ territory means “Our Land” in Inuktitut, language of the Inuit people that have legitimately called the place their land centuries before Confederation.

4. Your provinces are more powerful than a polar bear on steroids.

Here’s Cdn Poli Sci 101 — the Fathers of Confederation got together. They began the great Canadian tradition of accommodating disagreements by convincing a motley crew of colonies to form one political arrangement. To ensure the longevity of this arrangement they gave all the oh-so-sexy policy areas (like taxation!) to the national government and all the can’t-possibly-become-important policy areas (uh, education and healthcare) to those lowly provinces. Shake, bake, and fast forward a hundred years or so. Ta-da! The provinces oversee many of the areas most important to the daily lives of Canadians. Provincial Premiers can, within their provinces, hold almost as much sway as leaders of nation-states do in their countries.

5. You’re even more multicultural than you think.

When paranoid American right-wing politicians fear The Immigrant, they need only look at Toronto. Half of Canada’s biggest city is foreign born — more than L.A. or New York — and yet it usually manages lower crime and unemployment rates. It is a unique mark of the Canadian political scene that nowhere on the political spectrum — even the far right — will you find a serious anti-immigrant party. The provincial Parti Quebecois comes closest, but look what happened to them during the last Quebec election (i.e. even breaking up the country can be more popular in Canada than intolerance).

6. You’re less partisan than you think.

There will always those who think that the mere whiff of their party near Parliament will magically yield super policies that erase income inequality or gets the Leafs into the play offs. Canadians in general, however, don’t guarantee their political allegiance to anyone. The research on this is contested, but it does suggest that a main theme in Canadian partisanship is its flexibility. Voters change their minds depending on the context. Just because Party A managed to align those suburban voters with these coastal ones by selling a particular conservative message does not stop Party B from doing the same next time around by putting a new spin on a progressive message. Canadians, it seems, do not suffer from absolutism.

7. Peacekeeping may be a dish half-baked.

Canadians love to contrast the peacekeeping focus of Canada’s military missions with an American imperialistic approach. There is a healthy stream of International Relations research, however, that understands the emergence of Canadian peacekeeping in the ’90s as nothing more than a marketing ploy to sell the massive budget cuts of the Chretien government to the Department of National Defense (i.e. our soldiers are keeping peace, ergo we don’t need to buy expensive weapons systems). The silver lining here is perhaps that the large-scale acceptance of the peacekeeping narrative by Canadians points to something in their political culture that prefers steady accommodation versus guns-a-blazin’ solutions.

All that to say that beavers, mounties and ostensibly indefatigable politeness does not cut it — if they ever did — when it comes to the Canadian political soul. It’s a big, exciting and complex country. Stay interesting, my friends

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What does political will have to do with the care we have for our children, you ask? Plenty, really everything.

Canada is a nation that since 1978 is part of the G8, also called the Group of Eight (now I guess G7, after Russia is kicked out due to taking over Ukraine’s Crimea). These are industrialized nations that have banded together in a group to protect the rest of the world (and of course themselves) from any influences that can put their welfare and wealth at risk. They met last month in Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

One could say much about the disparities within those nations and between those nations. I won’t get into those, except as it relates to children and child welfare. As a part of the G 7 club, it is well accepted that Canada is a rich county, with the federal government talking about ending the deficit next year, if not this year, and Canada not having had the 2008 financial crisis to the extent of other nations have.

We prided ourselves on that fact and thanked god for our regulated banking system that prevented the extensive fraud and consequent failure of banks, as took place in Britain and the US.
Those of us that invested in those American banks and lost a good part of our savings in our RRSPs were not happy; now we have to work longer before we can retire, or go back to work, even. To be clear, our public services and our social programs, that are funded by tax revenues of the nation designed to protect the most vulnerable, are in reality quite minimal, and are not that much of a drain on the government coffers, because business reigns in Canada. “Canada is open for business,” as our prime minister Harper likes to say. Evidence is his most recent trip last year to China where he took about 200 people with him including 30 oil executives, all on the tax payers’ dime, to talk trade. He announced with much fanfare (and diverted attention from an exploding Senate scandal of fraud by senators appointed by him) by announcing a deal with the EU that would bring jobs, jobs, jobs to Canada, contrary to what the pundits thought this deal would do for the nation.

Our federal government and the provincial governments are catering to the business world by keeping minimum salaries low. If needed, we can import even cheaper labour from other countries and employ temporary workers that are paid even less and have no protection from unscrupulous employers. Environmental standards are broken all the time to advance production of oil and gas, and governments justify breaking their own laws in that respect “for the good of all and creating jobs”, supposedly.

So, what’s with our children then? You’d think they should rank high on the welfare scale, one would think with all this economic benefit. So who’s on top? On the list of all countries in the word, Sweden is on top, next The Netherlands, and so on, and on, until Canada……ranks 60 from the top on the list of child well-being in the world. Yes, you read that correctly, # 60 from the top on the long list of all nations in the world.

On a UNICEF list of child wellbeing of the 29 richest, industrialized countries, Canada ranks 17, in the middle. The Netherlands (my home country) ranks first on this list, all of its measures consistently scoring in the top five. See more on

This number represents all children in Canada, included First Nations’ children. It is estimated that a 13.3% of Canada’s children live under the poverty line. The United Nations has commented on that in the past, and called for the Canadian government to address this scandalous situation. It has not happened yet.

How can that be? I will try to explain.

Children’s welfare is measured on five dimensions: education; health and safety; housing and environment; family income (material well-being); behaviours; and risks.
The legal minimum income in various provinces is so low that even when two parents are working at minimum wage, they still cannot meet the high costs of living and have to resort regularly to visiting the food bank to get free groceries. They will have a combined income that is under the poverty line.
I had never heard about food banks, until I came to Canada, and was flabbergasted when I first heard of those. Who in Canada needs to get handouts for food to prevent going hungry? And another question: what sort of food is that? That, however, is a question for a blog post on another day.

For now, it is sufficient to know that not only “lazy, no-good people” go to the food bank, but also those working families with children who rely on income assistance, as their salaries or income assistance benefits are not enough to cover the costs of basic living. Unemployment benefits (a federal responsibility) run out quicker each time the government makes a change–never more weeks, always less, never fewer weeks of continuous work time to qualify, always more. People with a disability, when unable to be accommodated in the workplace and unemployed, have that same low level of income as welfare (unless they were employed and fall under an insurance claim of some sort through their employer). If they have children, those children live under the poverty line.
Benefits for returning soldiers from Afghanistan have been cut back, and stopped when they cannot return to work due to PTSD or severe depression. Their children end up living in poverty on welfare. We hear of fathers shooting themselves in the head out of desperation.

Education is a cost that is paid for by public funds. We pay provincial and municipal taxes to fund education services. At the current movement towards more conservative policies, in an attempt to lower deficits, governments cut here: education, welfare and child protection. These areas fall under provincial jurisdictions and concern the most vulnerable people in society.

Education is in dire straits. Classes are full and teachers bunch up kids 33 to a class at elementary level, as the staff levels have been cut; this is not an unusual situation. For some years already, parents have had to chip in for school supplies and other fees. School buses have been cut back further and parents have to chip in with fees for transportation, or take their child to school. Children get only extra help in the class room when they are “designated” with a certain classification of the problem they have. If they don’t fall within the criteria, they are out of luck–and so is the teacher, having to accommodate all these children regardless of their challenges and disabilities together in one class. Children are on wait lists to be assessed by the school psychologist, sometimes waiting for years. Without an assessment, they get no help, a real catch 22 situation.
University and vocational schools for youth are not free for anybody, except for the few that are at the top and earn grants and scholarships. Most others start their working life with high levels of student loan debts, not secure in the knowledge of finding a job to pay those debts off. Unless their family is well off, completing a college, vocational, or a university education means hardship and is not accessible to everybody.

What other public funds are allocated to children?

Yes, we have Medicare in Canada – medical insurance for everybody. But, it is flawed in many ways. Regardless of income, it covers everybody. I wonder why rich people should not pay themselves for their costs, when health care costs are spiraling out of control and more and more treatments are requiring payment of some user fees and waits are getting longer for important and urgent matters.
As well, the costs of dental exams and treatments are not covered by the medical services plan, nor are cost of medications prescribed by physicians.
People on welfare get only their mental health medications paid for and basic dental care. Children living on welfare and in families under, or just above the poverty level do not get their medications paid for, as they should; there are no Medicare funds for that. So if little Tommy has the sniffles and a bad cough and bronchitis and it’s not all that bad, or if Johnny’s ADHD medication runs out and the rent is due, guess what? They do not get their needed medication.

By the way, fully employed people in good positions might have a separate, added insurance for medication and dental treatment, such as through Pacific Blue Cross that pays part of the most commonly prescribed medication and dental treatments. I have that, but we pay in for that off our salaries. I clearly am not talking about this segment of our society, the middle class.

Canada’s Medicare system and government social benefits are often quoted in the US as an example of better. The trouble is that those people have not looked farther than their horizon. Yes, compared by the barbarian situation in the US that lately has come to light with Obama trying to implement some sort of medical benefit for its population, Canada looks good. I suggest that they get in a plane and fly to Europe to see how people live and work and how their children fare, or do their research on the beautiful world wide web at their desk and include other nations in their searches. The US ranks on the list of all countries somewhere lower to the bottom, below Canada, on the global child well-being list. Concerning is that on the UNICEF list of the richest 29 countries in the world, Canada ranks on the measure of Health and Safety of children on # 27, near the bottom.

Canada’s population is concentrated in the southern part, in urban areas, as well as in agricultural and wooded areas between the urban centres spread out along the border with the US. Now, if we are widening our view and look at people that live beyond that southern stretch of land in more remote communities in the northern half of Canada, mostly on First Nation reserves, we see a different picture. Little known is the fact that these towns and communities might have electric power, but most often have no good drinking water. Children and adults get sick. TBC has been a recurring disease. Life expectancy there is so much shorter. Suicide rate among the young is high. Substance abuse is high as well, with little safety for children in those homes where substance abuse is a problem. This situation has been there since forever, since soon after the Europeans introduced alcohol and disease and
the Canadian government dismantled the existing societies with their own ways of healthy living to establish the mandatory “education” efforts and boarding schools for children according to European model. (The British model I wonder, where kids as young as seven get sent to boarding schools to learn the “stiff upper lip” lack of expression?) This situation of poverty and lack of drinking water and affordable food and housing is not fixed yet; it is a third world situation in a rich nation.

Our Aboriginal children and the Canadian government.

The federal government is responsible (under the antiquated and patronizing Indian Act, established in 1876) for all First Nations’ people in all of Canada, living on or off reserves. Funding issues are like ping pong balls batted back and forth between jurisdictions and deferred to the other authority. Provincial governments sit by idle and the federal government said it is a local issue; the politicians sit on their hands. Negotiations with First Nations’ representatives go on and on, without much impact.
Until last year when the grass roots movement “Idle No More” started, appealing to the general public and Canadian governments to stop being idle about these inequities between poor en rich that are getting larger, the average citizen feeling estranged and alienated from the governing process in Canada. The call is made by young and old, the First Nations’ activists among them prominent, to end poverty, and to end apathy among Canadians about this situation.

People on reserves and their children often live in poverty with, at some places, 98% unemployment, while the old ways of living off the land was destroyed in many places, due to environmental degradation and loss of habitat and wildlife. Half of all First Nations’ children live in poverty. Nationally that compares to 13.3% of all Canadian children living in poverty (according to a report from the UNESCO, also quoted on CBC website). The children on reserves have already many more strikes against them, due to our government ‘s history with forced assimilation and removing children at age 5 and over, to be brought up in Catholic and other religious boarding schools, far from their families for years, where the Indian-ness was beaten and “educated” out of them. Many were sexually abused as well, a shame that the Catholic church officials long covered up and still, the new pope is not clear and decisive about what to do with those priests that prey on children. A whole generation grew up that way and lost their cultural and emotional foundations. Their children pay for the Canadian government’s mistake to leave that education in the hands of the religious schools with their own agendas.

While services and funding for on-reserve children are clearly a federal responsibility, the federal government also provided some funding to urban Aboriginals. The off-reserve social support and services are distributed in the urban areas through so-called Friendship Centres that gets a core funding from the Government of Canada.

Children living off reserve fall under provincial child welfare policies. How are the authorities dealing with poverty, lack of housing and other systematic inadequacies, such as those that need help trying to find out which authority funds what services?
This systemic abuse and neglect of our First Nations is continuing and First Nations children are falling farther behind. First Nations’s youth (and adults) are over-represented in jails, as well as in foster care. It is clear there is a problem that is not going away.

The national Truth and Reconciliation Committee was established after advocacy from First Nations’ national organizations and some prominent Canadians with political clout.
The Truth and Reconciliation committee worked over the last 4 years to hear testimony from all over Canada from residential school survivors about the abuse perpetrated on First Nations’ children. The committee worked much like the South African committee of its namesake after the end of apartheid, to purge the evil and get the truth out, in this case about the terror and injustices of parents and children, and the abuse the children suffered at the hands of government agents and school staff. This major undertaking only was allocated $60 million to organize these hearings. In addition, each victim got allocated $3000 as compensation, to get some counseling.

Now those hearings are ended; the last one took place last Friday. And the results, you ask? How do you think such a person would feel, child victims then, after a life of suffering now in their sixties? I heard many felt bought off with a symbolic price that put value on a wrecked life of a First Nations person at the amount of $3000. Never mind the wrecked lives of their children, also adults now who did not receive the parental care they needed, because they
were too damaged and alienated from their history and culture to raise their own kids, and so on. Hence poverty and child abuse, children being taking int care, and so on.
What are those victims, their families and children going to do, get on with their lives? Is five years, $3000 and an admission by government they are sorry, and victims reliving the trauma leading to going to heal decades of hurt that affected at least two generations of First Nations people? How could they heal themselves when most are still living in poverty and are daily experiencing devaluation and many are not living in healthy families, and don’t have their children living with them, in many cases?

It needs to be said that at no time in history was a greater number of Aboriginal children in government care than at present, including the time of residential schools that affected roughly 150,000 children. At least 5100 died while in those schools. The number of dead children might grow, as documents are slowly obtained through court actions from government possession. At some schools 60%’of children died.

In the 2011 census, only 4.3 % of all Canadians were Aboriginal.
Almost half (48.1%) of all children aged 14 and under in foster care were Aboriginal children.
Nearly 4% of Aboriginal children were foster children, compared to 0.3% of non-Aboriginal children.

More information at the website and

Are we currently perpetuating a disaster to even to greater proportions than the residential schools disaster?

Just to provide some perspective on government spending, the following facts are enlightening: the British Columbia provincial government spent in the last few years $180 million on a new computer system for social services and child welfare that still is not working to keep BC’s kids safer, and makes it even more difficult than before, as it still is working poorly for that purpose, according to a report published by the children’s Commissioner of BC, Marie Turpel Lafond.

The BC government freely allocated millions to the capacity development of First Nations, to help them develop their own delegated child welfare agencies, so they could start managing their own child protection agencies in the future. These fund were provided without clear guidelines for the time frame of the funding and what the objectives in measurable terms were. Marie Turpel Lafond also reported on this in her report. Suddenly, this funding was cut recently and the plans towards First Nations organizations and authorities taking over the delegated child welfare work in BC has stopped, without notice. It it any wonder that government is perceived as “talking out of both sides of their mouth”?

In February 2014 the Canadian federal government cut the core funding of the Friendship Centres without notice. For forty years that funding had been in place. During that time programs improved and urban First Nations’ people that needed counselling or parental supports, etc. came to rely on those programs, delivered by staff of Aboriginal ancestry, for most part. The excuse is that the government of Canada isn’t into delivering programs and wanted to get out of that.

On the other hand, the Government of Canada subsidized the Olympics and athletic participation. Yes, that’s nice. Each year 62 million is provided, as is proudly explained on its website Own The Podium. So, for 4 years to work towards the Olympics, that is 248 million for the last one.

These government actions put spending towards child well-being in perspective, and it clearly shows where the priorities lie within our governments.

Prime minister after prime minister (federal), and premier after premier (provincial) promised to fix this situation and take care of all Canadians, not just the ones living in urban centres and/or non-Aboriginal, and promised to finally include equity for First Nations children in their mandate. It has not happened. Yet, as Dr. Cindy Blackstock, prominent advocate of First Nations and a member of the Salish First Nation of Canada’s west coast, points out: no area is too remote when it comes to mineral and oil exploitation. I guess oil is more important than water for the children of northern and First Nations’ residents.

Knowing all of this, it then becomes quite clear that it is obviously acceptable to Canada’s politicians that children get sick from the contaminated and undrinkable water, and it’s OK that they do not get access to clean water. It’s acceptable that First Nations children are not as valuable as other children and that when they live on a reserve, they get less health care and less education funding.
Children on FN reserves do not get the same medical insurance package and care as children living elsewhere: fly in doctors once a week, maybe, or the nurse will look after medical issues, as we can’t afford to station someone there. Handicapped kids can only get one implement or wheelchair part per calendar year, and not what they would need with no maximum, as under MSP for non-Aboriginal children: if they need it they get it.

First Nation children on and off reserve, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children of low income families, children of unemployed or low income workers, these all do not get equitable care.
When children of low income families stay sickly, due to poor food, and when not having their prescriptions filled, or do not get dental care, and do not as well in school, this all causes them as adults to have lower education, poor health, and have no, or low paying jobs, (if they do get work), and the cycle of poverty continues.

If children are hungry or sick, or even if they are healthy, but cannot participate in sports and expensive other recreational activities due to lack of parental income, the result will be that they are left behind, and again this puts them even lower on the grid of well-being.

This post tried to explain why Canada is doing so poorly on ensuring children’s well-being and ended up number 60 from the top on the list of all countries, and I am deeply ashamed for Canada. It needs to change.

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FIVE IN BLOOM: Strong Women and Complex Heroines

FIVE IN BLOOM: Strong Women and Complex Heroines.

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