Women’s March – Jan. 21, 2017
This peaceful protest march caught like a firestorm with over 160 sister city marches across the world. I didn’t join our local city march which attracted over 4,000 people. Instead I was having a hair cut.
The massive march was galvanized first, by American women in protest of their newly sworn-in President Trump, known for his thoughtless and attention-grabbing sexist, inflammatory remarks about Muslims, Mexicans (building a wall to protect U.S.), etc. Washington DC attracted up to 500,000 marchers which were visibly more than the inaugural celebrations the day before.
It was heartening for Calgary to have a strong presence — given reality of a local economic slump and a time when people needed to be encouraged into positive action for the broader community.
Peaceful protest marches are necessary to wake up complacency, inspire a few fence-sitters to action after the march and inject collective support for the few lonely advocates, who work tirelessly long in their jobs or volunteer efforts for the abused, misunderstood, immigrants and anyone who needs a hand, an extra voice to express needs to improve their daily life and well-being.
Would I have gone if I knew several days earlier? While watching fiery tv speeches call to action, I couldn’t help but reflect on my 10 years of volunteer work in Toronto in race relations and immigrant services, then later in cycling advocacy for women to provide skills for personal independence and more mobility choices. Sometimes just being one of a few advocates, you get lost in a sea of majority. Also there were times of volunteer burn-out. I would be re-energized by other volunteers who were incredibly multi-talented and some who became friends beyond the common cause.
Guess Who Came to Stampede Pancake Breakfast: Prime Minister of Canada – Justin Trudeau. Jul. 2016
I had no clue when I lined up with others, for free pancakes, sausage and coffee, outside a community centre organized by local Liberal member of Parliament, Kent Hehr. Sometimes local politicians offer free pancakes during the annual event for their constituents or whoever wants food and chat
with anyone at their table. I like Hehr –he’s so accessible as a politician while buzzing along in his electric scooter on the street and in my local grocery stores. Prior to politics, he was a lawyer who became quadriplegic awhile ago in an accident.
Inside the community centre, I found it puzzling there was a phalanx of tv camera tripods blocking view of a local country ‘n western band. Then suddenly PM Trudeau, strode into the room with his white cowboy hat. I stood on top of a table to take my photos before I trailed out behind to catch him shaking hands with crowds lined at the LRT station.
Calgary’s Flood of 2013
This flood evacuated up to 100,000 people in the region. I was one of the
evacuees who took off to Vancouver at 4:00 am, where already I had booked a vacation flight 3 months prior to the disaster. By luck, I fled at the right time. In less than 5 hrs., after I landed in Vancouver, the electrical power was cut off in our Calgary neighbourhood for a week because it was too dangerous for the rising flood waters.
My office building’s underground parkade with over 6 levels, was flooded with fish floating around. We lost close to 1 million dollars worth of computer equipment stored in the basement.
Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot – Jun. 2011
I woke up in Calgary and read on the Internet, several stores were smashed by angry rioters in downtown Vancouver. This was surreal and inexplicable (to me) since property destruction was over the Canucks’ hockey final game loss to the Boston Bruins team — only a year after the euphoric high of Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The riot was just 5 blocks away from Vancouver home.
Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics
I was living in Vancouver, just 1-2 blocks away from major venues. Here in Cycle Write, there’s several blog posts about prior and during the Olympics.
Needless to say, being part of a host city means a whack of different things as locals –spiralling costs in addition patience because of extra volumes of visitors and celebrants. But I can’t complain about free fireworks every evening close to home.
Air Terrorist Attacks. New York City. Sept. 11, 2001
I was living and working in downtown Toronto for a major global accounting firm. Shortly after I settled into my desk in the office at 9:00 am, another staffer rushed into the library in a panic. While riding the elevator to our 29th floor, she saw on the tiny elevator tv, the World Trade Centre in New York City, collapse after 2 planes rammed through the two skyscrapers. We heard bits throughout
the grapevine for next few hours. However we didn’t want to look as if we weren’t working by surfing the Internet for news. We had heard someone had plugged in a tv somewhere for some staff to watch. This was before the days of Netflix and YouTube.
The whole morning was tight with tension in the workplace. We phoned our U.S. company departmental equivalent in New York City. She was somewhere else in the city, not close to the Twin Towers which had collapsed before horrified locals. Our whole 40-storey building was evacuated at noon. An emergency precaution, since we were located in Canada’s heart of its national financial hub. Queen’s Park, the provincial Ontario legislature, was also evacuated around the same time as building. Union subway and Go commuter train stations were jammed with people anxious to go home.
Later we learned we lost 3 U.S. employees in the terrorist attacks -2 in the Word Trade Centre and 1 on flight that rammed into the Pentagon. For first few weeks, our U.S. headquarters imposed business travel bans to several countries.
Vietnamese Boat Refugee Crisis- 1979
I was in my second year of university in Waterloo, Ontario which coincided with the flood of incoming Vietnamese refugees entering Canada and the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. Coincidentally one of my courses was on history of Canadian ethnic groups, was taught at a Mennonite church college, one of several small colleges on a large university campus. Mennonites have practiced pacificism and fled war conflicted countries. Not surprisingly, several local citizen groups sponsored several refugee families. While studying history of Canada’s track record on refugees and immigration, history was happening right then and inspired the professor in his lectures. Meanwhile I was curious in the public sentiment on the sudden influx of many Asian-looking immigrants.
Canada took in 12, 000 refugees from Vietnam that year which increased to well over 50,000 refugees over several years. It was an enormous leap of faith. As Canadians we were reminded of this act of generosity when later, Canada accepted 30,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 to Feb. 2016.
Neil Armstrong’s Walk on the Moon – 1969
I was 10 years old when I joined my younger siblings to watch American astronaut, take his first step on the moon. It was around 1:00 am in the Ontario with our eyes glued to the fuzzy black and white tv images. We couldn’t afford a colour tv at the time.
Canada’s Centennial Birthday Year – 1967
Both the Canadian federal government and Ontario provincial government did a great job on my impressionable mind along with many other school children on stoking our national pride. We learned to sing the banner songs that celebrated Canada’s 100 years as a country. I sung joyfully the national birthday ditty that began: O Canada, 1-2-3 Canadians, we love thee! We belted out the Ontario provincial song: Give us a place to stand —Ontariarioh! A place to grow….
That year, I learned about Canada’s geography — our provinces, territories and capital cities. There was even a Canadian Pacific Rail train car converted into a mobile educational exhibit with information and posters inside for the general public. I caught the national fever of optimism, a country with possibilities.
Bookending 50 Years of Memories – 1967 and 2017
I now remember all these events, in light of this year 2017, when Canada celebrates 150 years as a country. Optimism is still there, but accentuated against darker political developments in the U.S. with its new president. But even back in 1967, the U.S. civil rights movement of desegregation of blacks and whites, was still hobbling along forward.
Looking back, it’s incredible to have lived through major social, political and technological revolutions. And I haven’t even touched upon when I remembered seeing Martin Luther King fire off his speech, “I Have a Dream” in 1963 or Vietnam War news tv images. Those moments both great and awful, shall light my memories and awareness for events elsewhere in our world that touch our lives.
This blog post is in memory of long-time friend, Madeline – history graduate and fan with a heart in social justice. She passed away last month.