Go Away, Ghomeshi

Some news stories are like burrs that won’t let go. In 2014, CBC radio host, Jian Ghomeshi, took a precipitous nosedive from media star into notorious pariah when his penchant for rough/violent sex was revealed. Voracious national conversations and debates ensued, including those around sexual violence, rape and the shortcomings of Canada’s judicial system.

At first I supported Ghomeshi. If you read his Facebook post explanation it sounded sane and rational, it led you to the conclusion that he was the victim of a vindictive ex-girlfriend who was twisting the truth of their kinky sex life. Then days later he was fired from his high profile job at CBC as beloved host of the morning program “Q”. I thought, no doubt it’s because of staid, prissy mores, which is a relatively easy conclusion to make in Canada; sexual permissiveness is more about theory than practice and plenty of repression still hunkers down at the margins. But soon more women came forward with accusations and shocking details and the full story began to emerge: Ghomeshi is no self-aware, safe-practicing kinkster who always had his partner’s consent, he’s a manipulative predator and serial abuser, a narcissist who needs violence in order to get off. And like many others who followed and watched this gong show, I sat in muddled amazement and horror and asked myself, why wasn’t this guy outed sooner?

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A Letter to Canada Post

July Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

~ Post newspaper publication comment: This Op-ed created some conflict in the small, remote town where I live and I learned some important things, including: It’s important for the writer to be tested occasionally; is your skin thick enough to bear the effects of your words; even after writing for decades, the writer is still learning the craft; best to offer a direct and sincere apology to those who felt they were wronged; if you believe your words to be fair and accurate, then let go; those who object are fewer than those who thank you for speaking up.~

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            Gratitude is the back door into positivity so I’m reminding myself how many years I’ve enjoyed great postal service, especially all those years when my letters and postcards arrived safely from far flung locales such as Australia, Nepal, and China. When you think of the transportation logistics, all the mail handlers involved, and the pittance it costs, postal service is miraculous.

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Happy in Cougarville

April Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

One night in winter when my dog was still a puppy we went outside about two a.m. and while he did his business I walked to the fence to look out at the street. I inhaled the crisp, clean air and searched the sky for the Big Dipper and then from the darkness about ten feet away something uttered a warning growl. My abdomen muscles clenched. The hairs on my neck stood up. My puppy also heard it and we both dashed for the house. I’m not sure who made it back indoors first.

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I Heart Technology

February Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

Valentine’s Day is difficult for those who’ve lost—or are losing—someone they love. And it’s harder when that person is far away, like my close relative who’s recently been diagnosed with a life-shortening disease.

For now we are connecting through technology, which is a blessing except for the texts I was receiving. The first time she punctuated a text with a black heart my own heart squeezed in empathy and sorrow: she’s grieving the loss of her future, the black heart must signal the bleakness and dread she’s feeling.

Afraid she was giving up hope, I texted back loving and supportive messages loaded with colourful hearts. Red, purple, blue, gold, green and of course the many pink ones. I’d stack them together like a sentence until they looked like a chain of candy. I hoped the dose of colour would lift her spirits, however briefly. And maybe they would nudge her toward replacing the black one.

But not so. They kept coming. Within a couple of weeks I developed a Pavlovian response. Seeing one would literally make me feel nauseous. But I censored myself from saying anything. How much time does she have left? How could I object to anything she was choosing to do?

Finally I texted a mutual friend and asked if she was also receiving black hearts. No, she wasn’t, just the coloured ones. That made me feel worse. Did she have unspoken grievances, had I failed her too many times over these many years? I needed to ask but didn’t; she was dealing with so much, my insecurity was irrelevant and selfish. Then I thought, maybe she only sends me the black heart because she believes I’m strong enough to handle her darker feelings.

Which is accurate, usually I am that strong person. But that isn’t so right now. I just had to say something. That night I got little sleep as I tossed and turned and wrestled with the decision. In the morning she sent another text and there were no words, just one black heart.

So I sent the text. Is there a reason that I’m receiving the black hearts, I asked, they are like little black darts and I’m worried enough already. I waited for her reply. The minutes that passed were very long and very silent.

Her text was stitched with exclamation marks. She was so sorry I’d been feeling bad! She would never ever do that to me! The hearts were supposed to be gold, red, or purple!!

Some of my worry lifted. Then I cast around for the right explanation and soon realized that the problem had to be with my cell phone, which has been doing strange things for a while and at six-plus-years old is dinosaur technology compared to her brand new iPhone. My cell sends out colourful hearts just fine, but incoming hearts that should be full of colour and love were all defaulted to black. And that’s already further into the symbolic than I ever wanted to go.

Protecting Our Nurses

September Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

There’s an urgent need to upgrade the way health care is being delivered—and not to patients. Nurses are now more likely than law enforcement to have a violent injury claim—and, according to the BC Nurses Union, violent incidents are being under-reported by as much as 70%. In an attempt to raise public awareness and support, the BCNU recently released a series of videos so shocking and graphic it makes me wonder how many nurses have post-traumatic stress disorder. (“Violence. Not Part of the Job” on YouTube)

Some hospitals, especially rural ones, have no security guard on staff so entrance doors have to be locked after hours. People who go to the Emergency Room must ring the nighttime doorbell and the nurse on duty decides whether or not to let the person in—or call the RCMP to attend first.

That decision is complicated by the severity of the person’s injury: if someone is bleeding heavily, for example, the nurse’s instinct to protect life can override her instinct to protect herself. And on the night shift in a small hospital when only two nurses are on duty, if the nurse lets the person in and then finds herself in danger, the other nurse can be in a different area and way out of earshot.

There’s been so much shame and silence around mental illness in our society that there are gaps in our collective knowledge and awareness. I don’t like to talk about the mental illness in my family, but my elderly mother is mentally ill and now living in long-term care. Despite being medicated, she can have sudden violent outbursts if she gets frustrated or triggered. And she is still physically strong so I sure feel for the nurses who care for her. Yet they do their job with such steely, cheerful professionalism—not to mention kindness and compassion. Maybe their professionalism is another reason why we don’t realize just how risky a nurse’s job can be.

When you ponder what needs to change, some questions arise. How it is that WorkSafe BC has policies which protect workers from violence in the workplace and yet hospitals can sometimes be so dangerous? What’s the hold-up to upgrading safety? Shouldn’t there be a security guard on duty during the night shift? Shouldn’t it become standard practice that nurses work in pairs? And what about providing nurses with alert communication devices they wear on their uniform (such as Vocera) which instantly calls for help if the nurse finds herself in danger?

If the healthcare industry was adequately funded by the federal and provincial governments there would be more money to invest in safety measures. It’s time to let our elected representatives know that we stand with nurses and want a better job done to protect them from violence.

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Provincial Liberal MLA Jackie Tegart’s phone number is (250) 453-9726. Her email address is jackie.tegart.mla@leg.bc.ca

Federal Liberal MP Jati Sidhu’s phone number is (604) 814-5710. His email address is Jati.Sidhu@parl.gc.ca