Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We found a stuffy old house

Planning a wedding in the Ottawa Valley is easy. There are a whole three photographers to choose from, you can host it at either the Best Western, or Thee Place (We chose the former - much more tasteful), and as for catering, there's simply no question; Willy Schmidt's schmorgasbord of jello salads is the only way to go. Pick up your dress and tux from My Fair Lady and your dream Valley wedding can be seared into the memory of your attendants for the rest of their miserable lives. This was our plan, and it was progressing splendidly up until about a month ago, when our fantasies of tying the knot in the mystical land of snowmobiles and smoked sausage were razed to the ground by the news of Katie's family's moving to Port Colborne. With a mere five months until the Big Day (The reverberations will bring the world to a standstill, I'm sure), we were suddenly without a hall, without a photographer, and without Willie Schmidt.

What we were given, however, was a beautiful Lutheran Church in Port Colborne, two God-preaching pastors (our wedding is so epic, we need two), and two loving families to help us figure it all out. It is only because of these that we have finally, after two cancellations, found our wedding hall. If any of you are familiar with Thorold, you'll probably know of the Keefer Mansion Inn. It's a lovely Victorian (or Elizabethan? I don't know the difference; maybe all you architects out there can help me out) restaurant/inn that has a rich history that includes an instrumental participation in the Underground Railroad. It has a very close and intimate feel to it, and the history of the place makes it right up both our alleys. The food is supposed to be fantastic, and the rooms, especially the bridal suite, look fairly catchetore (sp?). Check our their website and tell me what you think! http://www.keefermansion.com/

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Do The Means Justify the Ends?

Things we talk about in school occasionally get my mind running. Today in PR Principles, we discussed Corporate Social Responsibility. The increasing trend of large corporations to be ethical and contributing members of the global community is one that I believe represents something of a social shift in thinking regarding how we care for those less fortunate.

Corporations, perhaps because they have been largely vilified by the “99%” have taken recently to supporting charities, enforcing better labour practices, championing environmentalism, and trying to be an overall positive influence on the world economy. Basically people have called out large corporations for being corrupt and money-hungry, and in response, corporations are trying to be the agent of positive change in our world. This is of course primarily a tactic to stabilize the bottom line, and pander to a new society of informed consumers, who demand the companies they buy from be ethically and socially sound and productive, and who have even placed an onus on them to be the caretakers and guardians of the poor, disabled, and dispossessed.

This is a change in responsibility I find fascinating. For 1500 years, give or take a few, the task of caring for the less fortunate among us was taken up by the Church (This is a fact the proponents of the Church’s identity as a power-hungry machine of brain-washing oppression conveniently ignore). Since its inception, the Church has seen the care of the poor and the education of all (another fact the previously mentioned detractors of institutionalized Church pay little attention to), as an essential function of its vocation on earth. With the decline in the financial and social influence of the Church and the eventual advent of socialism, this responsibility shifted to the state, and has largely remained there to this day (welfare, Medicare etc.). Over the past few decades however, this responsibility has more and more been taken on by corporations and various independent charitable organizations, and the implications of this have yet to be seen.

While the Church was motivated to care for the less fortunate because it saw doing so as a living out of its calling and vocation, and while one could argue the motivations are the same for the government, the actions of corporations are primarily motivated by financial gain. Where this will lead us remains to be seen.

What do you think? Do you see an increase in the social advocacy and charity of corporations as a positive change? Do the corporations’ motives for such actions nullify the positive outcomes of their efforts? I suppose I could ask – do the means justify the ends?

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Some of you may have seen a recent report by CBC detailing the story of a British Columbia family who had their four children methodically taken away from them by the Ministry of Child and Family Development, and who were just this last August able to take custody of their children. For those of you who haven't, here's a brief synopsis (from the CBC):

"The Baynes were accused in 2007 of shaking their six-week-old daughter. They’d brought her to hospital with inexplicable injuries, so the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development took her away.
No criminal charges were laid. The couple always insisted their daughter's injuries, which included internal bleeding, were not caused by shaking, and several medical experts agreed. 
In 2008, after the parents protested publicly about the baby’s removal, the government seized their two boys, then about four and three years old, for involving them in the publicity. The couple later had a fourth child, a son, who was taken away at birth.
After a lengthy court hearing — with repeated delays and adjournments — Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree of the B.C. provincial court ruled the baby was not shaken, calling her injuries “unexplained.” Crabtree's ruling came four months after he finished hearing the evidence. 
A psychological assessment was then done on the Baynes, which was favourable, and in August 2011, the government returned the children, with no explanation or justification for why it took so long."

To any parent, current or potential, this is worrying, to say the least. The MCFD's actions, as well as the Court's, have removed from this family the opportunity and right to be a family, when that family needs to be the most. Paul and Zabeth Bayne will never have the chance to raise their now four year old daughter through her most crucial stages of childhood. They will never be able to fully form the deep bond that develops between the parents and child so early in life.

The Bayne's story is that of a series of bad judgments, reactionary measures, and unwarranted delays. Why did it take the state four years to return the Bayne children to their parents, especially in light of the one-year limit for temporary separation? Why didn't the MCFD try to work with the parents to find out if their daughter really was shaken? This family's story reflects a serious and growing problem within the legal system, as well as the childcare system, that needs to be addressed. Read through the comments at the bottom of the article and you'll find plenty more complaints about the MCFD (though I am reluctant to give credence to unverifiable stories put forth by anonymous internet posters).

So why did this all happen? My take on it is that this problem flows from a cultural undercurrent in the Western world that is slowly becoming more prominent and more aggressive; it is the idea that the state must protect children from their parents, who are no longer seen as the positive and primary caretaker, example, authority and guardian of the child --that responsibility now belongs to the state-- but simply as financial providers. Parents are to house their children, feed them, and send them to school (as early as possible, or earlier, it would seem). Beyond those basic responsibilities, parents cannot be trusted to educate or guide their children academically, socially, morally or religiously, nor can they be trusted to adequately care for their child's physical, social or mental well-being without close supervision by the state.

The quick reactionary measures of the MCFD to immediately take away the Baynes' first child can be seen as a symptom of a growing paranoia surrounding parents' ability to care for their children. Rather than give the parents the benefit of the doubt, investigating further, and working with the parents to find out if they were caring for their child properly, the MCFD resorted to the knee-jerk reaction of ripping the child away.

They took this to the next level by taking away their fourth child at birth. Up until that point, all the parents had done in relation to that fourth child was give it life, and yet they were denied even a chance to raise him properly, all because of a misdiagnosis and a failure on the part of the MCFD to properly investigate and assess these parents' ability to care for their children. Apart from the fact that this family was denied four years of their life together, I think this part of the story worries me the most. It is morally reprehensible and indefensible to take a child away from its parents at birth, purely on the basis of the state's conjectural opinion of the parents' ability to care for the child.

What's your take on it? Are parents not to be trusted with their children's health and education? Are they a dangerous influence that needs to be kept in check by the state? Is the state more fit than parents to care for our children?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hello World

First blog posts are always a little awkward. There are two basic ways to go about them. You can post nothing of substance at all, ("hey guiseee, im here, defs excited bout my new bloggg lol"). This, while I suppose it is an effective introduction, really leaves no incentive for the reader who just clicked on your link on Facebook to actually stick around a while and subscribe, as you haven't given them any content to digest and enjoy.

On the other hand, you can post a magnificent diatribe on how you would solve the Euro crisis or bridge the vacuous gap in the American economy, load it with links, pictures, quotes from stuffy political analysts and the like, and go do all those chores you neglected by spending five hours on a blog post. While this will give your readers a nice sampling of things to come, all your work will probably go to waste, as you have few or no readers to begin with. This is what I struggle with.

This blog will never be mindless drivel, nor will it be random brain-waves I have, nor will it be an exposition of my thoughts or feelings of the day. I hope by this blog to initiate and participate in meaningful discussion and debate about social issues that face people of my generation. I had a few ideas of awesome, polarizing, get-people-foaming-at-the-mouth-type posts, but I soon realized that this would largely be a lost cause, as I have as yet no followers. There is also the problem that I don't really know my audience yet. I want to engage in discussion with you (whoever you are. At the moment, you're nobody, since I haven't even posted yet. Ok, this is getting way too meta), and to do that, I have to know who you are.

So, this is neither a "Hey wassap I'm hereee" post, nor is it a politically-charged masterpiece of social reflection. It's a roll call. I want to know who you are, what interests you, and what your favourite colour is.*  So sign in, comment, and let's get the discussion started!

*Bonus points go to whoever can tell me the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.